Close
Close

Setting Personal and Professional Boundaries for Your Blog

This gust post is by Sarah Baron of of Anonymous8.

Boundaries in blogging are more important than you can imagine, because they set the tone for your blogs and for your relationships on and off line.

I never considered the concept of setting personal boundaries on a blog until a guest-blogger asked if he should publish a particular article on my site. His fear was that his story could hurt his wife’s feelings. It was our ensuing discussion that clued me in to how many personal boundaries I had set with my own blog.

Want to know why that sounds weird? Because my blog talks a lot about relationships, physical intimacy, and other “taboo” topics. Somehow we have managed to walk a fine line.

Here are some boundaries you may want to consider for your blog, based on those I’ve set for the creation of my blog.

Personal relationships

I rarely speak in a way that refers specifically to my family or to my friends. This protects their identities and protects the integrity of my relationships with them offline. In addition, I can tell you that my family and friends are not going to want their personal experiences shared with the world in a way that identifies them.

Experiences that we share are often discussed and hidden behind third-person tales. Those relationships are sacred, and I don’t want what I do to hurt them. That is my bottom line.

Be careful what you write about your family, including your mother-in-law. Assume that what you say will be read one day. Those little ones will be teens one day and may not appreciate every one of their embarrassing school moments told to their mother’s 15,000 closest friends.

Language

We choose our language carefully. Using curse words seems to be a strong line. Your basic four-letter words set tone. I do not curse on my site. Do you see a lot of curse words on ProBlogger?

I sum it up this way. Do you want to be the New York Times or the National Inquirer? Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of profitable tabloids. However, language sets the character of your blog. One is taken more seriously in some circles, and is avoided in others.

I can tell you that if I used curse words, I would lose my more family-focused followers. So that is a conscious decision for me. Curse words set off alarm bells in certain readers just as they attract others.

Tone

To judge or not to judge? That is the question. Here we are referring to people, mostly, and the things they do. ProBlogger is an incredibly positive and reinforcing site. Even when sites review products, it can be done respectfully or harshly and critically. Both approaches have their pros and cons.

When we speak about taboo topics, it is done in a respectful tone without degrading others, and while being open to lots of different perspectives. This philosophy of tone can be applied to just about any subject.

What if you cross a boundary?

If you cross a boundary, admit it. The most powerful blog posts I’ve seen arise when a blogger admits his or her mistakes. Another approach is to set yourself up for making mistakes from the beginning, by laying out expectations on your site. One place to do this is on the Mission page of your site.

Now, it’s time for you to choose your boundaries. You probably already have subconsciously. Make your own set of rules. Make them on the basis that one day, your blog and its contents could be the center of a large group’s dinner discussion that you are attending. The conversation that follows with friends should be interesting because of your work, but not embarrassing…

Do you have any personal rules or boundaries you have successfully made for your site?

Sarah Baron is the creator and founder of Anonymous8, a site which brings smart discussion to taboo topics. She recently released her first book Getting Lucky with the Wife (yes, THAT kind of lucky). She can be found on Twitter as @a8forwomen.

5 Ways Blogging Can Make You a Better Person

This guest post is by Jamie Martin of Steady Mom and Simple Homeschool.

When I first began blogging over two years ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I started merely as a way to promote the book I had written and thought of it as another chore to squeeze in between an already full writing schedule, three young children, and loads of laundry.

Image is author's own

How wrong I was! Looking back, I stand amazed at the ways blogging not only launched my writing career, but also transformed my life. I know I’m not the only one who stumbled into the blogosphere for one reason, only to discover other blessings and benefits as well.

Here are just a handful.

1. No doubt about it: blogging improves your writing

Many of us who read ProBlogger started our blogs with the hope of growing a readership and eventually earning an income. Blogging opened doors for me I didn’t even know existed (Who knew it could be a job?), but it also has done wonders for my writing ability.
Am I the only one to inwardly cringe while rereading some of my earliest posts? Two years into this gig, I now feel much more comfortable in my blogging skin and my virtual corner. The daily act of writing cannot help but improve our skills. With each act of pressing Publish, we gain experience, insight, and feedback we didn’t have the day before. Collectively, this momentum refines and improves our abilities as encouragers and providers of information.
William Zinnser, author of the bestselling On Writing Well, said that “writing is a craft, not an art.” Craft improves with practice, practice, and more practice.

2. All that practice rubs off on your character

Just like a runner training for a marathon, we learn about endurance on the race to better writing. Fitting blogging into an already busy life has taught me both perseverance and self-discipline. It has also thrown insecurity and self-doubt my way, at the same time giving me the urge to overcome them.
Haven’t you had days when you wanted to shut your laptop and call the whole thing off? Days when the stats don’t add up or readers aren’t responding? Yet those of us in this for the long haul, sense a deep conviction—something within that pushes us to keep going. That resolve can’t help but spill over into other parts of our lives.

3. Blogging increases your life span (well, if it encourages you to change your eating habits)

I have the blogosphere to thank for introducing me to the whole foods movement. I’d always attempted to feed my family well, but had never seen nutrition presented in a simple, manageable way until I began following links from one foodie’s blog to another.
Coconut oil, brown rice syrup, tofu? These once-strange substances now feel like familiar friends. I even found the courage to make my own yogurt and become a vegan for 30 days earlier this year.
Bloggers add a personal voice to the nightly news statistics we hear about food, health, and disease. A snapshot inside someone else’s kitchen transformation serves to inspire our own.

4. An active presence in the blogosphere can transform your real-life relationships

There’s no question that I am a better parent since I started my first blog.
As a blogger who writes about motherhood, I expected to share my knowledge and experience with others. But I never imagined the depth of inspiration I would find myself. Whether it comes from a comment someone leaves, a random link that points me to a much-needed resource, or a post that reminds me of the bigger perspective in the midst of the daily grind, there’s no end to the ideas I’ve gathered. My three young kids have the blogosphere to thank for the mother I’m becoming.
On top of that, I now have a built-in community—virtual kindred spirits to approach when life gets tough or questions arise. Our fellow bloggers become friends in every sense of the word, and mentors too.

5. Blogging and social media raise your awareness of global need and give you the chance to respond

Anyone who doubts the power of the blogosophere hasn’t heard of Compassion Bloggers. Comprised of over 30 writers who have traveled to seven countries, Compassion has proven that blogging gives a personal face to massive global issues, releasing children from poverty in the process.

Or consider the example of Love146, a global charity seeking to abolish child sex trafficking and exploitation. My husband serves as CEO of this organization, whose blog and social media presence have sparked a worldwide movement of abolition. William Wilberforce didn’t have Twitter on his side when stirring up advocates against slavery; we do and we can use its power to influence the world for good.

I would never have believed that blogging would become my job, alter my eating habits, improve my relationships, and help me fuel global change. To those who think blogging is dead, let me reassure you otherwise. We’ve only just begun–to grow, to change, to influence, to become better.

Each of us reading today has been influenced in some way by the blogosphere. How has it changed you?

Jamie is mom to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool and writes about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Check out her book Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood.

A Blog Commenting Strategy

This guest post is by Joe of Web Programming 360.

When I first started my blog, about two months ago, I had a hard time getting five visitors a day. I got so tired of doing so much work to end up being a nobody on the side of the highway. One lucky day, I decided to convert all of the popular blogs traffic to my little blog.

Why and how? Well, readers of the popular blogs are high converters and very targeted to my blog. More than likely, they will stay on my blog for more than five minutes. Chances are that my content, which I work so hard to produce, will finally pay off into thousands of subscribers!

There are two different ways to get traffic from those A+ blogs. While one is more valuable than the other, the other is easy and fast. First is guest posting. Yes: guest posting. But have no fear! The next source of blog traffic is blog commenting.

Blog commenting is so easy, even leaving a sentence can supply you with an excellent 50 unique visitors. Then possibly another ten subscribers will come out of that group, since it’s so targeted. What are the steps for driving traffic through commenting on other blogs?

1. Find popular, targeted blogs

Before commenting, you need to know exactly where to comment. If your blog’s about dog training and you comment on Web Designers Ledger, you should know the amount of traffic will be little and the SEO gain may be zero. The most important thing in blog commenting is the blog you comment on. If you get that wrong, then your whole comment traffic strategy collapses.

Let’s find the blogs you want to comment on. This is really easy. What’s your niche? For example, if I was trying to find blogs for Darren at ProBlogger to comment on, I’d Google “blogging blogs.” He’s in the blogging niche and we’re looking for blogs. Combine that to get “blogging blogs.”

blogging blogs search

Searching for blogging blogs

The first result actually gives us a huge list of the top 25 blogging blogs. You can comment on every single one of those blogs every day to receive an extra hundred—or possibly thousand—visitors a day.

But wait! How will you know when they update those blogs? You may not want to be constantly checking 25 blogs every day. That’s a time- and work-waster.

2. Receive blog updates automatically

RSS is a life-saver here. RSS, Really Simple Syndication, gives you instant updates for any blog whenever they occur. To start using RSS you need an RSS reader. I prefer Google Reader as it seems to be fast efficient and checks for new listings in the RSS feeds constantly. My Google Reader is a great example…

google reader

Google Reader

I am subscribed to eleven blogs that are updated around once a day. What do I like best about Google Reader? The related RSS feature gives you RSS feeds similar to the current RSS feeds your subscribed to. If I looked under Recommended Items, I would find a bunch of related blogs to comment on. I think that’s really helpful when you have trouble finding popular blogs related to yours—finding one and adding it to Google Reader will give you other similar blogs to comment on.

3. Consider quality and placement

I hope you’ve realized that in order to drive traffic to your blog through commenting, your comment needs to be in the top five or three comments. Being first counts more than you think. It’s just like Google: you’re trying to rank #1, #2, or #3.

Sometimes in order to complete a tough task like that, you might think you’ll need to rush through the article and just say something random. Wrong! Don’t ever do that. It will be obvious that all you’re trying to do is get traffic. Being third is better than being first if your comment makes relevant sense and provides a valuable bonus for the readers.

One other thing: always read the article. If you don’t read it, you won’t be able to comment with relevance and insight. Headlines may be misleading so always read the article.

What about replies? Some blogs allow you to reply to other comments. If you were too late and there have already been 20 comments on a post, why not reply to the first comment to get an awesome position, plus a great quality comment? Replies are only helpful when the quality of the comment is super-high, though. It must be an actual reply to the first comment, not just a comment for the sake of commenting. While it doesn’t have to be long, your comment should contain very valuable information.

4. What fourth step?

That’s how easy commenting is: it only takes three steps to build your traffic through blog commenting. Here’s the proof, from my own experience implementing this commenting strategy:

comment traffic

The traffic my comments generated

These aren’t the best comments I’ve made—they’re just the results from the most recent comments I’ve made. 19 high quality visitors stayed on for an average of four minutes. This was my comment, “I’m not much of a JavaScript programmer, but using JavaScript on the client side rather than on the server side seems better to me.” That one tiny sentence brought me 19 visitors.

Are you commenting on blogs? Do you have a commenting strategy you’d like to share with us?

Joe is web designer/developer. He enjoys programming with HTML, CSS, PHP, Javascript, and MySQL. On the side, Joe blogs about programming, SEO, traffic and conversions at Web Programming 360. Follow him on Twitter at @WebProgramming1.

Leverage the Long Tail of Search on Your Blog

This guest post is by Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting.

Not getting all the search traffic you would like to get to your blog? One way to improve your results is to tap into long tail search terms to use in your posts. This is not always that easy to do, so today I will explore some ideas of ways to tap into that data.

One reason why this is such an attractive thing to do is that the long tail actually has more traffic in it than the major “head” terms which are the first thing we all think of for a particular topic. The popular theory is that the long tail represents about 70% of all search traffic. These are the search terms that we don’t normally think of. Here is the four-step process I usually use to explain it to people:

  1. Take your executive staff (or your writing/editorial team) into a conference room. Tell them to list search queries people might enter in at Google or Bing which might indicate that they are interested in your product, service, or content.
  2. In the first five minutes, they will write the most popular terms (these are “head” terms and represent about 10% of all search volume). These terms will generally be one word or two word phrases. An example phrase in the e-commerce world might be “digital cameras.”
  3. In the next ten minutes they will record the next group (“chunky middle” terms that represent 20% of search queries). These terms are a bit longer, two to three words. An example here would be “canon digital cameras.”
  4. After that they will get tired and start checking their emails, texts, go to the next meeting, or whatever. What did they leave behind? The long tail! This is the remaining 70% of search queries. These are longer phrases, using three or more keywords. Examples include: “canon powershot sx230,” “buy digital camera seattle,” or “I want to buy a digital camera now.”

Since this long tail has so much volume in it, let’s figure out how to tap into it.

Develop the right mindset

First and foremost, let’s define the way we should be thinking about the problem. We are discussing how to leverage the long tail within your blog. Blog posts are natural gold mines for long tail search, simply because they contain lots of unique original text that is presumably related to the topic of the post.

The search engines are naturally going to process all of that text to figure out what user search queries your post may be relevant to. They do an excellent job of matching you up with a variety of potential searches already. Our task is to make their job easier and help them match your post up with more relevant queries.

In addition, you probably don’t want to spend several hours doing keyword research for each post. This post is going to focus on the strategy for accessing the long tail, but how to do it with about 15 minutes of keyword research.

Makeup of the long tail

How can I quickly get a sense as to what will be in the long tail for my topic? It turns out that this is pretty easy to figure out. For example, if you are writing a blog post about the deficit in the USA, and you do some keyword research using the Google Adwords keyword tool, you will find that the phrase “balanced budget” has more search volume on it than “deficit reduction.” Let’s look at the numbers for “balanced budget:”

Next, here is the output from the Adwords Keyword Tool for “deficit reduction:”

Notice the correlation. “Balanced budget” has 1,600 total searches, and the largest variant of “deficit reduction” has 880 searches. In addition, all the variants of “balanced budget” had 7,256 searches and all the variants of “deficit reduction” had 3,341 searches.

This is our first important conclusion: the most long tail terms are associated with the biggest head term. So the first step in leveraging the long tail of search is picking the right head term. You should use this head term in the title of your web page in which the post appears, as well as the post title itself.

An important note on using the Adwords Keyword Tool

I really like this tool because it does give us a crude window into the real data from Google. However, to get the right data from it, you need to configure it properly. To see how to do that, reference my screen shot below:

First, notice that I checked the box up top marked “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms”. For purposes of this analysis, I don’t want to have terms which are not closely related in my list.

Also, over on the left, notice that I have picked the “Exact” match type, and unchecked the other boxes. The tool will default to “Broad” match when you first run it, and you can’t even configure this option until you run the tool the first time. So to do the query on “balanced” budget I had to run the tool once, it gave me broad match results, then I was able to scroll down and set the results to exact match.

The reason for doing this is that the broad match setting means that the total query volumes shown for each keyword will include all the derivatives. I tested this and the phrase “deficit reduction” showed a volume of 12,100 instead of 880. The result is that the broad match setting tends to obscure the real data, from my perspective as an SEO.

Implement major synonyms and similar terms

We have already given a good example of this. If we have titled our article using “balanced budget,” we should also find a way to include “deficit reduction” in the title, or if that is not possible, include a discussion of that in the post in a prominent way. That’s a good start, and that was one I was able to think of off the top of my head. How can I find more?

Go back to the keyword tool and uncheck the “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” box, and repeat your search. Here is what you get for “balanced budget:”

Note the two items I circled. Two strong additional terms have emerged. Can I work a reference to a budget surplus or fiscal responsibility into my article? Once again, as we showed with the head terms, strong synonyms will feed a solid long tail.

Understand the chunky middle

The rationale here is the same: a solid chunky middle will feed a fat tail. Looking back at our “deficit reduction” screen shot we can some examples of chunky middle terms:

These are three great phrases that you might want to include in the article.

Leverage the long tail

The best way to leverage the long tail of search in your post writing can be summarized as follows:

  1. Pick the right head term.
  2. Find major synonyms and closely related terms.
  3. Selectively leverage the chunky middle.

But, the most important thing is not to lose sight of the main task, which is to create great engaging content. Don’t let keyword research be the “tail that wags the dog.” Do some selective keyword research as outlined above, write a great article, and you will surely leverage the long tail effectively, and not had to spend three extra hours doing it.

Also, if you use contract writers, make sure you keep them focused on writing high quality content as well. One of the dangers with providing keyword instructions to a writer before they begin writing an article is that it can bend their mind, and they start writing low quality articles no human wants to read. If you are using writers that can’t maintain that focus then consider replacing them. Another alternative is to not give them the keyword info and have that added in during editing the article after the first draft is written.

Are you leveraging the long tail of search on your blog?

Eric Enge is the President of Stone Temple Consulting, a 20 person SEO and PPC consulting firm with offices in Boston and Northern California. Eric is a crusty old veteran with 30 years working experience in technology and the Internet. STC provides Strategic SEO and PPC services to companies ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies.

How to Turn a Blog Post into a Press Release

This guest post is by Erika Gimbel, a Chicago freelance writer.

If you’re an ace at writing blog copy, you can write an excellent press release. Both have many of the same elements: strong headlines, top-down format (most important stuff up front), etc. You already know that press releases are a powerful way to promote your blog, and they’re an effective way to get your message out without duplicating content.

So, if you’re ready to put your news out there, here’s some basic steps to re-writing your blog post into a press release. To get started, take a newsworthy blog post and…

1. Make sure it’s news

A press release has to announce something. Unlike most blog posts, it’s not commentary, a how-to guide or a numbered list. However, the following blog post topics would work perfectly as the basis for a press release:

  • launch of a new company
  • client success story (“Client Doubles Income After Completing Online Course”)
  • new product, service or event announcement (e-book, webinar, meetup, seminar)
  • awards, either that you’ve won or awarded to others (invent some!)
  • new employees/hires/contributors
  • milestones (one year in business, subscriber growth of 500%, etc.)
  • survey results

If you don’t have any of the above news, come up with your own, like predictions (“ProBlogger Announces Top Blogging Predictions for 2012”), or a response to current news (“Company Provides Immediate SEO Assistance for Google’s New Algorithm”).

2. Change everything to the third-person voice

Both the headline and the body of the press release should be in the third person. Instead of “we” or “I” use the company name. Instead of “you” use “customers,” or “clients.”

3. Revise the headline

Both blog posts and press releases ideally should have keywords within the first few words of the headline. Unlike most blog posts, press releases also have a subhead, which either emphasizes the headline’s point-of-difference—whyyour news is so important—or provides factual backup for the headline.

To format the headline and subhead…

PRESS RELEASE HEADLINE: IN ALL CAPS
Subhead in Title Case, Except the Little, Non-Important Words

4. Rearrange the post to contain these press release elements

  • Dateline: If you use a press release distribution service they’ll make sure you get this right, but if you’re writing it on your own, the format is: “CITY NAME [all caps], State abbreviation (Month Day, Year) – “ So as an example, you’d have “POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y., (Aug. 31, 2011) – [First sentence starts here.]”
  • Lead: The main news. You can be creative with your first sentence, but make sure you get the who, what, where, why and how in the first paragraph. Your keyword/s should be in the lead as well as the headline.
  • Quote: A quote isn’t required, but it always helps to illuminate the press release and give it some personality. Go ahead and use “I”s and “you”s here. The quote is usually the second paragraph, but again, not required.
  • Boilerplate: At the end of every press release, include a short paragraph about the company, again in the third person. Your website and phone number go here, too.

5. Get familiar with AP Style, at least the basics

AP (Associated Press) Style is the writing blueprint for journalism—every grammar and punctuation question you have, the AP Stylebook has the answer. When I’m working on press releases, several unique-to-AP rules come up again and again.

For example, the AP Stylebook says that state names should be shortened like the old-fashioned mailing names. Florida is not FL, it’s Fla. And some cities are so well known (Chicago, Denver) that it’s not necessary to include the state. “Email” doesn’t have a hyphen but “e-commerce” does.

For a concise guide to the most relevant AP style notes, see this online AP Style guide from Purdue. AP continues to update its guidelines, so for the latest you can follow the AP Stylebook on Twitter.

6. Look at other people’s releases

For examples of press releases, go to sites like PR Newswire and PR Web and see what others have done.  Some of these press releases are not great, so use a critical eye. 

Many do not follow the “third person” and “AP Style” advice that I recommend (you’ll spot them right away … they look like blog posts), but please take a few minutes format your press release this way: it reflects expertise and professionalism, and in the end, isn’t that the image you want to portray with your blog?

Have you converted a blog post into a press release?  What else would you recommend?

Erika Gimbel is a Chicago freelance writer who writes press releases as well as articles, brochures, newsletters, websites and blog posts for business and nonprofit clients.  She loves helping clients figure out what to write about: if you’re stuck for topics, download her free report, 50 Ideas for Business Articles and Blog Posts.

7 Habits of Professional Bloggers

This guest post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.

Your blog isn’t growing as fast as you’d hoped.

You’re working hard—and trying to follow all the advice which you’ve read online—but you’re not seeing the traffic or subscriber levels that you’d like, and you’re not making quit-your-day-job levels of money. Actually, you’re not making much money at all.

Professional blogging isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme—and I’m sure you’ve discovered that for yourself. But although building a successful, income-producing blog might take a bit longer than you wanted, it’s far from impossible.

In fact, it’s just a case of slowly but surely improving your game. These are seven habits which top bloggers share. Are you missing any of them?

1. Learning

Being willing to learn, consistently, is crucial to success in today’s fast-moving world—but that’s especially true in blogging, where technological changes mean that last year’s top sites are this year’s has-beens.

As I’ve met more and more great bloggers, I’ve been struck how much they invest in learning. They go to conferences, they read ebooks and take ecourses, and they make sure they keep improving their skills in the two areas which matter most: being able to write well and being adept with technology.

First step

Become a regular reader of great blogging and writing related blogs. My top three are:

Take it further

Buy an ebook or take an ecourse that’ll help you take your blogging further. A great one to start with is 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, because it combines solid theory with practical exercises, and it covers a wide range of beginner-friendly topics.

2. Sustainability

Your blogging needs to be sustainable. While you might not be making much money to start with, you should aim to make enough to invest in some learning materials—and to cover your hosting, domain name registration, and other blogging expenses.

You also need to make sure that you’re being realistic about the time you can spend on your blog. Sure, you might have the energy to write all weekend when you first start out—but will you be able to do that month after month? An awful lot of would-be probloggers give up after a few weeks because their blogging schedule just wasn’t sustainable.

First step

If your hosting and other expenses mean that your blog’s currently running at a loss, find one simple way to monetize it. That might mean finding a great affiliate product to recommend, installing a donation button, or putting up Google AdSense.

Take it further

Plan out major purchases—like ecourses or conference tickets—in advance. Look for ways to cover the costs from your blogging income, rather than out of your own pocket. The first time I went to South by South West, I released an ebook which paid for the cost of my trip (you can read how I did it here on ProBlogger).

3. Consistency

Can you imagine reading a post like this on ProBlogger?

Sorry guys, I know I haven’t updated in a month, I’ve just been really busy…

Of course not. In fact, if even a couple of days went by without a ProBlogger update, I bet Darren would be inundated with emails from worried readers asking what was wrong. Professional bloggers post consistently—whether that means once a week or three times a day.

Posting consistently shows that you take your blog seriously. It gets readers into the habit of coming back to read new posts—and it gets you into the habit of writing regularly.

First step

Decide on a sensible, sustainable posting schedule. It’s fine if that means one post a week—readers would rather have one great post every week than seven rushed posts one week then nothing for a month.

Take it further

Write posts ahead of time, so that you’ve got some “banked” for busy periods. You can schedule a post to publish in the future using WordPress, so your posts can keep going up consistently even if you’re jetting off on holiday.

4. Self-discipline

The sun’s shining outside. There’s a show I want to watch. And I really should do the dishes…

It’s all too easy to think up excuses to leave your desk and your blog. Even if you love writing, you probably find it hard to sit down and stay focused while you’re working on a post. I write for a living and I still find it challenging!

That’s why self-discipline is so important for professional bloggers. You need to be able to work on your blog without checking Twitter every two minutes, and without getting distracted by everything else that’s going on around you.

Self-discipline doesn’t just mean sitting down and working, though. It also means knowing when to stop working. That might mean being self-disciplined enough not to check your emails during dinner, or not obsessing over Google Analytics.

First step

Next time you sit down to write a post, close your internet browser first. Don’t open it up again until you’ve been writing for at least 30 minutes.

Take it further

Find ways to bolster your self-discipline by changing your environment:

  • Take your laptop to a coffee shop that doesn’t have wi-fi.
  • Get up earlier so you can blog before work, rather than struggling to have motivation to blog when you get home.
  • Block websites which you find yourself accessing too often.

5. Integrity

This might seem like an odd habit to include on the list, but I think integrity is extremely important for professional bloggers. The best bloggers I know are people who I put a lot of trust in. I buy their products—and I’m confident that these will be worth my money. I buy products which they recommend—and I know that the blogger isn’t just hyping something in order to get a few dollars in commission.

I can’t tell you what integrity means for you and your blog. But I suggest that you give it some thought. It’s very easy to lose readers’ trust—and once you’ve lost it, they won’t be coming back. Worse, they might warn other people to steer clear of you.

First step

Make sure you always disclose affiliate links. This isn’t just to help readers trust you—it’s also a legal requirement if you live in America.

Take it further

Think through any moral grey areas carefully. For instance, would you run a sponsored post on your blog—and if so, would you disclose its status? Would you promote a product which you hadn’t tried out yourself—and if so, would you make that clear to your readers?

6. Courtesy

I’ve seen a few train-wreck situations in my time in the blogosphere, where comment threads have got out of hand, or where two bloggers have attacked one another in their posts. It’s never a pretty sight, and it always gives me a dim view of the people in question.

So courtesy is a vital habit. That means responding politely and pleasantly to people—even if they’ve said something which makes you angry. If your blog is still small, courtesy might also mean replying to all your comments. If your blog is too big to do that, courtesy might prompt you to explain on your “About” page that you can’t reply to everyone but that you do value their comments.

First step

If you’re ever tempted to post a blazing angry comment, stop. Walk away for a while—at least an hour if you can.

Take it further

Consider having a comments policy which encourages (or requires) all your blog’s readers to interact respectfully. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree—but they have to avoid using aggressive language or posting personal attacks. Remember that many readers may read the comments, even if they never post one.

7. Growth

Finally, professional bloggers don’t stay in the middle of their cozy comfort zone. If they did, they’d never have got far. They keep on growing—stretching themselves, trying new things, bringing in new readers, and launching new products.

Growth isn’t always easy. There’ll be plenty of times in your blogging journey where you’re nervous about taking the next step. Perhaps you’ve never sent out a guest post, because you’re worried about being rejected. Or perhaps you’ve not made a start on that ebook you’ve got planned, because you know it’ll be a lot of work.

But every single problogger had to write their first guest post, launch their first product and go to their first conference. I’m sure they were all nervous—there’s nothing wrong with that—but what matters is that they did it anyway. And that’s how they, and their blogs, grew.

First step

Try something which challenges you: maybe emailing a blogger who you admire, or sending out your first guest post.

Take it further

Keep looking for new ways to grow. That might mean trying a joint venture, taking an ecourse, going to a conference, writing an ebook, hiring a personal assistant … or almost anything. It’ll probably feel scary the first time you do it, but it’ll quickly get easier.

So—which of these seven habits could you work on today? And if you think I’ve missed out a vital habit, add an eighth (or more!) in the comments.

Ali Luke has just released a (totally free) mini-ebook, Ten Powerful Ways to Make Your Blog Posts Stronger. It’s packed with great advice, clear examples and quick exercises to get you to take action. Click here to grab your copy now.

How My Blog Landed Me on Yahoo’s Homepage (Twice) in the First Year

This guest post is by Jaime Tardy of EventualMillionaire.com.

Within six months of starting my blog I was contacted by a reporter from CNN. Less than a month later I was on CNNMoney.com and did an interview on CNN Newsroom with Tony Harris. A week after that, my story (and face!) was on Yahoo’s Homepage. Since then I’ve been in Kiplingers Personal Finance Magazine, iTunes New and Noteworthy list, MSNMoney.com, Probloggers Top 40 to Watch List, and on Yahoo’s homepage again.

If someone told me this would happen a year ago, I would have said they were crazy. I started EventualMillionaire.com in March of 2010 as a way to talk about my story of getting rid of $70,000 in debt and quitting a job I disliked. Plus I have a goal to become a millionaire and I wanted to chronicle what I was learning in business to help others increase their net worth too. I was one out of hundreds of new blogs in finance and business, but I really wanted to learn about online marketing and blogging so I figured I would give it six solid months of trying.

Here are a few important lessons I learned in my first year of blogging:

Lesson #1: Believe your story is awesome, then tell it often

We all have a story. Before you ever get mentioned in other blogs or press, you need to believe your story rocks. You are telling your story for a reason on your blog. Is it awesome? Sometimes we are too close to our own story so it sounds easy or not good enough. What do others think about your story?

(If they don’t think it’s at all interesting, then go out and create a more interesting story in your life!)

I asked the journalist from CNN how she found my blog and why she contacted me. She couldn’t even remember how she found my blog, but she did say that she loved my story. She said she was always on the look out for great stories.

Most of the media has found my story from my guest posts on large blogs like Get Rich Slowly. I’ve also used Helpareporter.com to submit to journalists.

Action #1: Believe that other people need to hear your story. Then: Tell your story. Tell your story. Tell your story.

Lesson #2: Don’t quit

The month before all of this press, I was so close to quitting blogging. I had done it for six months and had less than 500 subscribers. It was a ton of work, and I wasn’t getting much in return for all of the time spent.

I even told my coach that I would email my subscribers to tell them I was going to put all of my blogging on hold for awhile. For some odd reason, I could not send the email. Logically it made sense to quit. After six months I didn’t have a lot to show for it, but I couldn’t pull the trigger.

A week after that feeling the first journalist contacted me.

Action #2: Listen to your gut! If you feel pulled to continue, do it.

Lesson #3: Some tech stuff is important: SEO and shared hosting

Yahoo is mostly a content aggregator and takes stories from other sites like CNNMoney. So the first time I was on Yahoo it was a repeat of the CNNMoney story, and there was no link back to my blog. That meant there were a lot of people looking up my name.

When someone looked up my name on Yahoo, my blog didn’t show up first. First was my LinkedIn profile. Then there were links to comments and forums where I had posted. Then my blog. People couldn’t find me! It was a huge mistake.

Action #3: Make sure your websites are first when you look up your name.

The second time I was on Yahoo because Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine did a story on me when they found my blog. This time I had a link. I was so excited, but within two hours and over 9,000 visitors my site crashed and was down for the two days I was on the homepage.

I never thought I would be on the homepage of Yahoo the first time, let alone twice. This mistake cost me all of the visitors to my website, but also my image. There were people commenting about how my site was down for two days. The worst part was that I never fixed my SEO so when you looked up my name my blog wasn’t even on the first page!

Action #4: Prepare for traffic just in case. Now I have a VPS but there are services like Cloud Flare that help with traffic spikes too.

Lesson #4: Prepare as best as possible

I was asked to be on interviewed on CNN on a Friday. The interview was going to be live on TV on Monday. My husband was out of town so I asked my Mom to watch my two small children so I could prepare my blog.

I set up an Aweber account, created a 49-page ebook with worksheets called “The Eventual Millionaire Starter Kit” and created the best blog post I could to greet the new visitors.

The preparation paid off. I received about 5,000 new visitors from mentioning the site, and I converted almost 500 people to my email list.

Action #5: If a guest post or media outlet will mention you, find out ahead of time when it will go live. Then prepare your site to make your new visitors have the best experience possible. (And have a way to contact them in the future!)

Lesson #5: Figure out how to make any success even better

Usually we are just so excited to get attention we don’t think about what more we can do afterward. I wanted to capitalize on the appearances as best I could. I brainstormed and spoke to my mastermind group and mentor. I ended up sending out a press release to local newspapers and TV stations. I even sent a note to RIT, the college I went to.

It took about an hour or so to write the press release. It landed me on the cover of the local newspaper, and an interview with the TV station. I’ve also been in RIT’s magazine and newsletter.

Action #6: Capitalize on the successes you already have. Ask yourself, “How can I take advantage of the success I’ve already had and make it better?”

This past year has been incredible, and it was all because of my blog. Even if your blog isn’t financially rewarding yet, it can open up a lot of new opportunities that you never would have found without it. It’s a long road with twists and turns but it’s an amazing ride and I highly recommend it. Keep on blogging!

Have you had any rollercoaster rides following coverage of your blog? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Jaime Tardy is a business coach and consultant who helps you make and keep more money. You can find her at the blog at EventualMillionaire.com, and listen to her interview millionaires about business and finances at the Eventual Millionaire Podcast.

Set Up Your Blog for Product Reviews

This post is by Mike Essex of Koozai.

Regardless of the niche a blog operates in, it is possible to convince brands to provide free products for you to review.

If it’s a well known niche, such as trainers, then the brands will already have products available for review, as that’s the same way they gain exposure in the media, so the issue becomes more about standing out from the crowd.

Alternatively, if a niche is smaller (such as high-powered lasers), the focus shifts to educating the brand owners on why they should send you a product, and the exposure they can get in return.

In short, every product is crying out for exposure, whether it be from a big brand or a really obscure niche. This creates a need for bloggers to spread the word, and is where you can step in by talking about the product in the form of a review.

Through this article I’ll outline some of the best ways to build this connection with a brand through blogging, and how to turn that connection in to free stuff.

Step 1: Preparing your blog

The first step is to make it clear that you accept products to review on your blog. This can be done simply by adding additional modules of text on the template of every page to include:

  • Your reviews policy: A short paragraph that states you are sent products to review on the blog and that all opinions are your own.
  • Contact details: Include an email address on every page so it is as easy as possible to contact you. This can be written in the format of mike (at) blagman (dot) co (dot) uk if you have fears about spam.
  • A tag line: Under your site logo / title make sure you include a line of text such as “Product Reviews of X” or “X News and Reviews” to make it clear you offer that service.
  • About Me box: Include a paragraph about yourself that explains why you blog about that particular niche and that you are looking for products to review.
  • A Twitter feed: If companies can find you online in other places this is another indicator you are a real person.

Having these elements in place will help your blog stand out and make it explicitly clear what you can offer.

Step 2: Creating sample content

Next we need to prove to the companies that we can write, and that we understand their niche. If you’re writing good, regular content then you’re already half-way there. Alternatively, if your site is new, or you want to refresh the content, you should include the following:

  • Prior reviews: If you already own anything from the niche, review it. It doesn’t matter if it’s an old product as this can be called a “retrospective” article rather than a review, and is still a good way to prove yourself.
  • Up-to-date content: Make sure your newest blog posts is never more than three days old. The more freshness your blog has, the easier it will be to appear as an active blogger in your niche.
  • News: This is a nice way to get on the good side of companies early on. If you find any news in your niche, then write your own take on the events and email it to the company.
  • Opinions: By writing opinionated content on your blog you become part of industry conversations and will start to become a voice that brands want to engage with.
  • Guest content: If you are struggling to get a good amount of content then invite people to write for your site. You can then build up several reviews on your blog before approaching companies.
  • Tweets: Every time you write content be sure to tweet it, and link to other content. This makes your Twitter account stronger before you contact companies.

Although there are a few steps in this process, the more of these items you complete, the higher your chance of success when contacting companies. It’s better to do the preparation rather than putting a company off the first time you contact them. All in all, about ten good posts will be enough.

Step 3: Contacting brands

With the content in place, and a blog that screams “I review stuff!”, it’s time to contact companies. An email which simply asks for a freebie won’t go down very well, so instead focus on what you can offer the company and why they should give a product away for a review. This could be a mixture of:

  • your number of visitors or average traffic levels
  • your expertise in the niche
  • a list of the pasts brands you’ve featured (people love to be places their competitors are)
  • how quickly you can write a review
  • your number of Twitter followers
  • your number of posts (if it’s high)

I call this the “unique offer” and it’s about selling the brand on the idea of your blog. So an example for a website that reviews photography equipment could read something like this:

“Hi X,
I’m writing from Blog X, a photography website that reviews any photo equipment we are sent. Our URL is http://www…com. In the last month we have featured Cannon, Sony and FujiFilm and would really love to run a feature on Camera X.

In the past month, our blog has been viewed by 1,000 visitors in the photography community, and although we cannot return products after they have been reviewed, we offer a three-day turnaround for all coverage. The article will also be sent to our Twitter readership of 1,000 followers.

For more information please call or email me using the details below,
Kind Regards
NAME
PHONE
EMAIL
POSTAL ADDRESS”

Short emails work a lot better, and you just need to layer on a few core benefits of your blog to get them to visit it. If you’re lacking in one area (e.g. visitor numbers) then don’t talk about it.

When the company rep reaches your blog, they’ll then find the other content we prepared earlier, and your review policy information. We’ve also told them the product can’t be returned, which I always like to get out of the way in the initial email. If it’s a niche with very expensive products, you can try to get a long-term loan instead of a freebie if you wish. It’s worth trying your luck either way.

If they like your offer, they can use the address you’ve given to send it over, or as we’ve provided a phone number, they can call you if more information is required. You’ll get a lot more products if you’re not afraid to take a phone call or two, but if you are shy, you don’t have to include it. There will almost always be a second form of contact after your initial email so if you hear nothing after a week, be sure to send a follow-up.

My best tip is to always find contacts at brands’ PR or marketing departments. This is the ideal type of person to deal with and most sites have a press area that lists these details. Find the person’s name and add them on Twitter and Linkedin. You can email them and engage with them on social networks at the same time. They’ll then be more aware of you, and it can be nice to re-tweet a few of their comments before you email them. The more personable you can appear, the more likely your chance of success.

Over time, as your blog grows, this process becomes easier. Track everything on a spreadsheet so you know who was contacted, when, and if they sent a product. You can return to previous companies who have sent you products and see what they’ve got coming up next. Plus, the more brands you feature, the stronger your site will appear to other brands. Eventually you will get to a point where brands find you through word of mouth and then contact you first asking for a review (which we prepared for in step one)—and that’s when things really get interesting.

How do you seek products for review on your blog? Share your tips with us below.

Mike Essex is a search specialist at Digital Marketing Agency Koozai and author of the book Free Stuff Everyday which explains how anyone can stuff for free by blogging. He can be found on Twitter as @Koozai_Mike.

How to Blog Without Comparing Yourself to Others

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

Is your blog the best in the world?

Often when we want to blog, we can struggle with what we see in the blogging universe. These blogs are doing better than our blog. Why is that? This blog has more followers on Twitter, has better and longer comments, has more views, has more Likes…

Just calm down.

Why should you be upset that a blog has more of something than your blog has? Is it really that bad that they are, technically, “better” than your blog?

ProBlogger has more of a lot of things than my blog does, but that doesn’t frighten me and make me want to hide away. No, I carry on blogging, leaving comments on other blogs, and writing guest posts for sites such as ProBlogger.

A lot of the time, I see bloggers get frustrated with themselves because they’ve just encountered a blog that they think is superior to their own. One such blog post from Blogging Bookshelf illustrates this envy. Some bloggers realize that another blog might have something that their blog doesn’t—in this case a better About Me page—and then they become frustrated or overwhelmed at the task that has suddenly appeared before them.

“How can I get my ‘x’ to look as good as their ‘x’?” they ask themselves.

The simple answer is, you don’t.

Just let go

Do you really want to go through your blogging career, come to the end, and then have everyone remember yours as the blog that often tried to emulate other blogs? Do you really want to be known as someone who studied other blogs, tried out their best features and improved their own blog to match theirs, only to find that nothing really worked?

I’m sure you don’t want this, no-one does. Sure, you can study others and what you perceive them to do well, but that’s something entirely different from getting annoyed with yourself and seeking to emulate them.

For example, Steve Jobs and Apple studied from Bill Gates and Microsoft. This is good. But did Apple then get annoyed with themselves for not being as good as Microsoft, and then start doing what Microsoft did? No, they studied from the best, then did their own thing anyway.

Another example, Martin Luther King Jr. studied Mahatma Gandhi and his quest to achieve peace. Again, this is good, but did MLK then become frustrated with himself because Gandhi did things better than him? No, King learned about Gandhi, and then did things his own way.

I could give you some more examples, but I’m hoping you’ll see my point. By all means, study what others did that you admire, learn what you can, but never sacrifice your own individuality and authenticity in an attempt to be like others. You travel in a downward spiral by doing this. Remember, studying and learning is a different concept than comparing and self-doubting.

The comparison trap

The real trap that will ensnare you every time you compare your blog to another blog is fear: fear that this blog will somehow overtake you and reach your goals faster than you. Or that they will become so big that none of their readers will want to go anywhere else to get their blogging fix—and that includes your blog.

The fear that our blogs will somehow “miss out” drives us to keep pushing harder and harder in order to get our deserved recognition, our dues. With the amount of work that we put in, we deserve to have 20,000 subscribers, we deserve to have at least 100 comments on each post, we deserve to have 25,000 followers on Twitter.

We feel that we deserve to have whatever success we can conceive, and that if it isn’t delivered to us, then life isn’t fair and why should we even bother? That’s the awful trap of comparing your blogs to other blogs.

But there is another way of thinking.

To blog for blogging’s sake

The whole idea of a blog (short for web-log) is that we chronicle our thoughts and musings down onto computer form, so that we can share this with the world. It started out as an online diary, but has now become a multiverse of niche websites, content marketing tips and funky YouTube clips.

Blogging has come a long way, but what’s important to realize is that now, there are so many different blogs out there, and so many different successful blogs, that it’s nearly impossible to emulate everyone in the blogging universe. There will always be someone successful who you can’t emulate.

With that in mind, why bother emulating at all? We’ve seen that practically any kind of blog can make it today, so why not your own blog? It’s meant to be creative, and written in your own voice, as it’s your own blog. So why not blog for blogging’s sake?

The idea of blogging for pure enjoyment has become a little lost over recent months. Bloggers need to make money now, they need to be successful. Did Leo Babauta of ZenHabits need to be a mega-blogger? No, he blogged because he loved to blog, and success happened anyway. Even if Leo only got 100 subscribers after two years, I don’t think that would have derailed him. So find something that you enjoy blogging about. Whatever it may be, I’m sure it’s got the potential to be successful anyway.

This means that you need to have some creativity. Creativity is tied in with originality and innovation. You create something that’s not only good, but original and unique, and that can help others. Sound tough? It doesn’t have to be. Helping others is something that comes naturally to us all, no matter how much we hate the world. And you’re being creative every minute of the day, especially if you blog regularly. Publish a post twice a week? That’s being creative twice a week. And originality and innovation? That comes with speaking your own voice. No other voice but your own.

Granted, if you’re struggling to get your blog going and you’re constantly looking to others’ blogs for inspiration, being creative and innovative may seem a little alien to you right now. But at least try. Everyone has got inspiration and genius within them, they just need to dig in and find it. Going back to Leo, he didn’t believe that many people would find his work interesting at first. He just wrote what he felt like writing, and the rest followed. Go back to his first posts, and you’ll see what I mean.

If you’re really struggling to be creative after reading those first entries, then check out this post from Darren, where he discusses nine attitudes of highly creative people.

Your blog is you

Whatever you write about, realize that your blog is your “avatar” in a way. It’s how you’re going to be recognized by the online community, it’s how you’re going to be marked and labelled. Darren has been labelled as a blogging guru. Leo Babauta has been labelled as a Zen guru. It happens to us all, because it helps others to remember you more easily by. Don’t reject it, but don’t pay much attention to it either. Just do your own thing and keep doing it.

This will ensure that you are recognized for being you, and for being no-one else in this world. If you’re known as the blogger who copies from others, then that will be your label, and no-one wants to buy a cheap imitation copy. Just be yourself, every day, every hour, every minute.

How do you bring yourself to every aspect of your blogging? I’d love to hear your stories!

Stuart Mills is an experienced writer who wants to help you improve at life. He thinks you’re awesome. You can often find him at Unlock The Door, where he writes constantly to make it a better day for everyone, and you can subscribe to his content here.