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Four Ways to Make a Captivating First Impression with Your Blog In a Reader’s Market

This guest post is by Bill Post of 123Print.com Business Card Design.

In real estate, first impressions are everything. Even though the color of the front door would be easy and affordable to repaint, it’s one of the first things a potential buyer notices. If your door is red and the buyer doesn’t like it, most likely she isn’t going to bother looking at the interior. Maybe she doesn’t even know why she doesn’t like the house. She’s on to the next one before yours had a chance.

Blog readers are just as finicky as house buyers—not that there’s anything wrong with that. There are simply so many choices in blogs and other online publications that it’s a reader’s market. A blog that doesn’t pass the front door test doesn’t attract readers willing to go farther inside the blog to look around. Think about these four ways to make a first impression with your blog so it becomes a hot property.

Create curb appeal

Junk in the home’s yard, or old and battered features are a quick turn-off.

On a reader’s first drive-by of a blog, they will keep moving if your blog is cluttered with an over-abundance of information or too much distracting formatting. Use a clean and open format that is easy to read and in which important information is easily identifiable. Choose your content selectively. Don’t recycle other people’s used articles. Use fresh and relevant content that is easy to see and access.

Be a good neighbor

Put some rocking chairs on the porch. Invite readers to share, comment, and interact. Ask them questions. Link to and connect with other blogs.

Realtors always advise baking fresh cookies so buyers feel like they’re at home in your house. Do the same for your blog. Make it a welcoming resource and a positive exchange of information that gives readers a sense that they belong. A blog that is all talk without any listening or interaction is like a big tall fence that reads Stay Out.

Look at comps on other houses in the neighborhood

Search the terms that you believe your best visitors will be searching so you can see what other blogs and sites your targeted audience reads. What do the blogs with topics similar to yours look like? What do they seem to be doing well? What could you do better? What differentiates your blog from the others? What niche within your topic could you be filling for readers that no one else seems to have developed yet?

Once you’ve figured out what your blog’s strengths are compared to the competition, play up those assets. Give your posts titles that speak to these strengths and originality. Put your best material where everyone can see it and include a “most popular” posts list to show off your best features.

Show some character

Nobody wants a cookie-cutter house that looks like all the other houses on the street. Stand out with details that give your blog character and originality. Give your charming cottage or svelte condo of a blog a name that attracts your targeted visitor. Give your headings and posts engaging and creative titles. Write entertaining content that makes you stand out and that exemplifies your unique take on your topic of expertise.

While you don’t want to get too fussy with formatting and features, do try to be original with color and design. Walk that fine line of visitors feeling as if they are experiencing something new and different while simultaneously feeling a sense of comforting familiarity. Charm them with what makes your blog like all the best blogs, and delight them with what sets your blog apart.

Behind the shutters

Once you feel ready for an open house, be prepared on the back end. While the first impression is essential, you wouldn’t want your blog to be like the house in the Tom Hanks movie The Money Pit. It looks like everything the buyers ever dreamed of in a house, but after only a little living, the underlying structure begins to fall apart board by board, and bathtub-through-ceiling by bathtub-through-ceiling. Be sure your foundation is sound with all the bugs worked out.

Test your comment process and archiving. Be sure you have enough content to sustain your blog. If you get one week in and you’re already out of material, it’s all going to come crumbling down. Prepare your blog with extra posts for times when you get in a jam. Prepare to spend time on your blog and not leave it on its own without diligent maintenance, upkeep, and tweaks as necessary.

When trouble does arise, work to fix the problem quickly. Then write a post about the misstep or problem and what your learned from it. Readers can relate to that, and in a reader’s market, they’re the ones you’ve got to impress.

What tips can you add for creating a great first impression with your blog? Share them in the comments.

Bill Post, Small Business Research Analyst, has been providing research on issues of concern to small businesses for 123Print.com Business Card Design for three years. A former business owner prior to his involvement with 123Print Custom Business Cards, Bill spent several years after receiving his degree in the fast-paced corporate world before going out on his own to provide marketing and branding services to other small businesses in the Washington, DC metro area. In his work for 123Print Business Cards Online, Bill works to help small businesses get ahead and assist the little guy to prosper.

Everything’s Already Been Said. Now What?

This guest post is by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence.

Over the course of human history, nearly everything has already been written about extensively. Despite this, more people are writing than ever before.

It’s because there will always be more to say.

It is very challenging to write completely original content. Quite often, the best we can do is present known content in a new way or combine it with another idea. There is no limit to the number of ways you can say something, and yet some approaches are vastly superior to others.

Consider the following sentences that carry the same basic message (hint: one of them isn’t any good).

  • I want to have good sentences.
  • I want to convey information in a manner that is enjoyable to read and accurate to my intent.

Teach an old idea new tricks

A recent 50-word article from the brilliant Seth Godin laid out a single concept: you can’t have success without being willing to fail. I can prove this isn’t new. My second post was titled, “Are You Willing To Fail? It Is The Key To Success,” and you’ll find about 100 more posts like these via a quick Google search.

What Seth did to make his article unique was tie in the concept of innovation. He replaced “success” with “innovation” in the formula, and people loved it. They hadn’t thought about how innovation and failure relate to each other, even though it’s a simple derivation from the failure/success concept.

As soon as you say, “failure is not an option,” you’ve just said, “innovation is not an option.”
—Seth Godin

Overwritten, tired topics can be re-energized with a fresh perspective and choice words. Seth’s post was 90% recycled information, but the 10% of new material changed it as a whole. A nasty analogy is that of adding a few drops of gasoline to a gallon of water—it has a dramatic effect!

One way to say something old in a new way is to leverage yourself. Great writers are cherished for their unique style. Every single person on this planet is unique (an amazing fact of reality). In an effort to write “correctly,” we may miss out on opportunities to be our more interesting selves.

Here’s an example. The personal development niche is one filled with serious writing. Changing lives is serious business! This observation and some incorrect assumptions about how a personal development blogger should write were stifling my creativity. Namely, I wasn’t injecting steroids humor into my posts like I naturally would.

Imitation = Limitation?

How about imitating the greatest writers? Most articles and books I’ve read recommend this. There are some things that you absolutely should imitate, but be careful about taking it too far. If you’re unique in some way, it could be a mistake to disguise that with imitative writing (unless your unique writing attributes are poor). Blogging is a medium that allows for wild creativity and individuality.

I believe that Steve Pavlina is currently the best in personal development blogging. He “gets it.” However, I’m not going to try to be a clone of him. Steve Pavlina is the best Steve Pavlina out there. I may pick up some great ideas or techniques from him, but I’ll be incorporating them into Stephen Guise’s writing style and ideas.

I want to be the best and most innovative voice in personal development and believe I have that potential. What if I fall way short of that? No problem, I’m willing to fail in order to succeed and innovate! You can’t become the best or anywhere close to it believing that 45th best is your upper limit. Do not put a ceiling on your ambition. Imitate great writers on this point—they don’t believe in ceilings unless it is raining outside.

Your ceiling is too low

When you put a ceiling on your potential before you’re exhausted from trying to reach it, you artificially ruin your chances. Like a nervous fan walking up to Jay Z, you’ll be timid about what you’re saying, thinking that successful people have magical powers. In your posts, maybe you’ll throw in some power words to feign confidence. Unfortunately, when the problem is underlying, it will bleed through to the actual content of your writing. You can’t hide it. You’ll play it safe and lose to those who are going all out … like me!

The answer, as I mentioned before, is to leverage yourself and your voice. Nobody can be you better than you. Darren Rowse can’t. Seth Godin can’t. Steve Pavlina might be able to. Their voices are different (and awesome, to their credit). Bonus: If your unique voice is terrible, you’ll find out sooner by trying really hard.

This has been said before

Oops! I’ve just rehashed a couple of cliches in this post.

  1. “Believe in yourself.”
  2. “Reach for the moon, and if you fall short, you might land on a star.” Side note: How did this catch on? The moon is closer to us than any star is….

Those are very common sayings. A possible reason you’re still reading this post is that maybe I’ve found a better or more interesting way to say those things (in just a few more words). Do you think I am audacious to invite comparison of my writing to a couple of the most well-known phrases? Me too, but it’s because I refuse to have a ceiling. I will never rule myself out before the umpire makes the call—and neither should you.

Maybe this post did fall short of those popular sayings and it will be forgotten tomorrow. I accept that as a possibility.

But maybe my perspective of this topic connected with you. Maybe my unique construction of words and ideas had an impact on you. That’s what I hope for. That personal connection is what makes blogging beautiful. That’s why we do it.

Stephen Guise lives happily outside of the box and enjoys sharing his ideas for positive life change. At Deep Existence, you’ll find an irresistible combination of critical thinking, creativity, and humor. Say hello to Stephen on twitter!

Why Bloggers Should Also Be Freelance Writers

This guest post is by Ali Hale of DailyWritingTips.com.

Blogging can feel like a long, hard road—especially when you’re starting out. You haven’t hit 100 subscribers, let alone 1,000, and it feels like you’re writing into a vacuum.

And even when you’re a little way down that blogging road, it can still be tough. You might be spending two or three hours a day on blogging—writing content, answering comments, building up friendships on Twitter and Facebook. Chances are, you’re not making much money from it, though.

I’m not going to suggest that you give up. I’m not going to suggest that you work harder, either, pouring more and more hours into your blog.

Instead, I’m going to suggest something which you might never have considered before: becoming a freelance writer as well as being a blogger.

This might sound like a huge step. But really, you just need two key things:

  • the ability to write well
  • some contacts who’re willing to pay you.

These might well be challenges—but they’re not insurmountable hurdles.

Prerequisite #1: Being able to write

You certainly don’t have to be a budding Shakespeare in order to write a competent, professional blog post—but you do need a strong grasp of grammar, and the ability to write engagingly.

There are certainly a few sites out there which will pay you for sloppy, lazy content—but the rate of pay will be abysmal. If you’re going to write for a good, reputable blog, your writing needs to be solid. That doesn’t mean flawless (even professional authors have copy-editors) but you should know:

  • how to construct an engaging blog post, with a gripping introduction, clear message, and strong conclusion
  • how to format your posts for easy readability, using subheadings, short paragraphs, bold text, and bullet pointed lists
  • how to adapt your writing style for different purposes—some blogs will want a much more casual approach than others.

I firmly believe that writing is a skill. It comes more easily to some of us than to others, but everyone can learn and improve. (Reading the posts here on ProBlogger is a great start.)

Prerequisite #2: Contacts who can pay you

You might not have many contacts yet, but if you’re thinking about freelancing, you’ll want to start getting to know editors of big blogs and websites. Sure, plenty of jobs are advertised (you may well have taken a look at ProBlogger’s own job boards), but most higher-paid positions never get publically advertised.

If you feel a bit intimidated by the idea of networking with editors and blog owners, take the pressure off. Believe it or not, big bloggers are human too! I’ve met several of my blogging heroes—like Darren Rowse and Daniel Scocco—and they’re lovely, friendly, normal people.

A great way to strike up contact is by using Twitter or Facebook to send a friendly message letting an editor know how much you enjoyed a recent post. Don’t be smarmy or fake about this—focus on blogs which you personally love.

My first few blogging jobs all came from sending in guest posts. A well-written, targeted guest post is a great way to get an editor’s attention. It proves that you can write, and that you know their audience. (And even if you don’t land a paying job as a result, you’ll still get some traffic to your own blog, plus great exposure.)

You’ve probably got your hands pretty full with just your own blog. You might think it’s not worth taking the time to improve your writing ability, or to build up your contacts.

But here’s why you might want to think again.

You’ll make money (fast)

Of course, money isn’t everything, but if you’re in the problogging game, chances are that you’d like to see some financial reward for your hard slog. Problem is, you can’t attract big advertisers and you don’t have any products to sell yet.

If you write a piece as a freelancer—whether that’s for a blog, a magazine, or a newspaper—then you get paid. For a typical freelance blog post, you’ll receive around $40–$60.

Doesn’t that sound a lot more efficient than watching the pennies trickle into your AdSense account?

The money from your freelance writing might let you quit your day job, so you can put more time into your own blog or other projects (that’s how it worked for me). Or, if you keep your freelancing as a job on the side, it’ll at least let you afford hosting, premium themes, and training materials for your own blog.

You’ll build your blogging network

When you’re Joe Newbie in the blogosphere, you’re probably used to big bloggers ignoring you. It’s not personal—they just don’t have the time to reply to every single comment and tweet.

But when you’re a freelance writer, your editor will definitely know your name. In fact, they’ll probably get to know you while you’re building up your freelancing contacts—perhaps you’ll have been a regular commenter on their blog, or you’ll have sent them a couple of guest posts, before landing that paid gig.

Plus, when you’re regularly having work published on large blogs or websites, other big bloggers will start paying attention to you, too. Instead of trying to get attention to your own blog, you’ll be able to leverage an existing audience—quite possibly one of tens of thousands of readers. And you’ll be getting paid to do it.

Even if you only freelance for a few months, you’ll have made contacts which you can maintain throughout your blogging career.

You’ll get audience feedback

When you publish a post on your own blog, how many comments do you get?

It’s probably not as many as you’d like. Maybe most of your posts seem to sink like pebbles dropped into an ocean—no-one ever sees them, and they don’t make any ripples.

If you write for a blog that’s big enough to pay writers, you’ll get feedback. That might be:

  • comments from readers who loved the post
  • comments from readers who hated the post—this can be tough to take, but it can also teach you what doesn’t go down so well
  • tweets about your post, or Facebook “likes” for it
  • indirect feedback from the editor—if bits of your post were edited, try to work out why the changes were made
  • direct feedback from the editor—they may tell you to do more of the same, or they may ask for something different next time
  • emails from readers—there’s nothing better than a heartfelt message from someone who was really touched by your writing.

As a writer, you need to get feedback on your work: this is how you know what’s going well, and what’s in need of improvement.

You can write about anything you want

This might seem like an odd reason to freelance—but it’s one of the reasons I love it: you get to write on a whole range of topics, and you can often choose exactly what you write about.

If you find it hard to stick with one interest—perhaps your own blog is suffering because you post about several diverse topics—then freelance writing will give you an outlet. You might be writing one post every week or every month, so you won’t run out of things to say.

Plus, writing about lots of different topics is a great way to stay fresh and to continually hone your writing skills. You might end up researching an area that you knew very little about—or writing for an audience of people who have a very different background from yours. Getting out of your writing comfort zone is an essential part of your growth.

I know that the problogging dream is to have your own huge, successful blog with hundreds of thousands of readers, a line of products, some great advertisers and lots of affiliate income. The truth is, though, that it takes an awful lot of time and hard work to get to that stage. So while you’re working your way up, why not give freelance writing a try?

Have you done freelance writing? Share your experiences in the comments—I’d love to hear about them.

Ali Hale is a writer, blogger and writing coach. You can read more from her on DailyWritingTips.com, where she also offers a course for those who want to get started with freelance writing.

9 Ways to Better Protect Your Blog

Warren Wooden is the owner and CEO of PLR Internet Marketing.

When I think of the amount of time that I’ve invested into my blog and its resources I’m absolutely staggered by the thought of losing any part of it. So I’ve taken certain steps to protect myself, as well as my blog.

Everyone’s blog is at a different level, but regardless of which one you look at, we all have one thing in common: we’ve poured our hearts and souls into them. Here are a few things you can do in order to protect them.

Back up your website

security

Image used with persmission

You’ve heard that advice before, and if you’ve ever had a catastrophic loss of data that took your website offline for a few hours, or—worse—a few days, I’m sure you’ve remembered it.

Backing up your website is protection from server crashes or hacker attacks, but the only way they are fully effective is if you do them religiously. Determine how often you are going to back up your data, and then simply schedule some time to do it. It takes no more than the click of a mouse usually, but can save you a ton of heartache and grief down the road.

As someone who has experienced a hacker attack, I can tell you it’s not only important to keep the last few copies of your blog, but also a known clean copy in case your backups become corrupted. Often, a website owner may not find out about a virus on his site until he’s already completed several backups. If those are all he has, he’ll be no better off than if he didn’t have any at all.

The majority of hosting companies have cPanel installed for their users. If yours does, simply log in to your control panel, and scroll down to the backup icon. Once you click it, you’ll be taken to the Backup and Restore page, where you can then click on the Download or Generate a Full Backup button. This will provide you with a full backup of the website, emails, and databases, as well as any “custom” email setups you’ve configured such as forwarding. Once the backup has finished you’ll receive an email notification and can then download the backup file to your home or office computer for safe-keeping.

It’s important to note that if you ever do run into a crisis, and do not have a current backup, most hosting providers will generate a copy from their end for a nominal fee. These backups are usually only performed weekly so you could end up a week out of date with your site’s data.

Back up your resources

Backing up your website is only half the battle. Most of us have a ton of resources sitting on our hard drives in the form of ebooks, video courses, guest posts, graphics, podcasts, competition analysis data, as well as programs we use to promote ourselves, build our social networks, or track our keyword rankings, and so much more. I’d recommend creating one master folder that contains all the individual files, so that it can be easily zipped up, labeled and stored on a separate drive or CD.

If you’ve ever downloaded materials off of the Internet you know that files are compressed for both sending and storage. Two of the most popular programs are Winrar, and Winzip. With these, you can simply right-click on the file or folder you’re looking to compress for backup, and choose Add to archive. You’ll then end up with a compressed version of all your important files and programs.

Back up your list

“The money is in the list” is another phrase I’m sure you’re aware of and many internet marketers would assert that it is their most valuable asset, yet very few people bother to back it up. Having your list under a third party’s control leaves you with no recourse should the unthinkable happen, and your list end up being lost forever.

For more information, see Are you protecting your blog’s most valuable asset?

Install protective measures

Using anti-virus measures should be a no-brainer these days, but in case you’ve missed the message, there are literally hundreds of thousands of different viruses out there, and these nasty bugs can not only crash your system, they can also steal passwords, banking information, and much more. Protecting your computer system will ensure that you’re still online tomorrow to make that post, and promote your blog.

Here’s a list of antivirus solutions listed in my personal order of preference.

I’ve used each one of these at one time or another, and they each do a commendable job of keeping you and your computer protected the majority of the time. However, it is worth noting that no antivirus program will protect you from every virus 100% of the time.

Protecting your system is only half the battle. It’s important to also protect your blog from attack. There are several methods you can choose to use to keep the bad guys out. Here are just a few to look into.

  • Antivirus plugin for WordPress. This monitors your website for changes to the code, and alerts you with an email letting you know when they’re found.
  • Exploit plugins, which scan your WordPress blog for known exploits and alert you.
  • Change the default login page. Everyone knows they can usually find the admin page of a WordPress blog by simply adding /wp-admin after the domain. By changing its location, you can effectively thwart would-be hackers.
  • Make sure file permissions aren’t set to 777 if you can help it. You can change permission settings once you’ve logged in to your site via an FTP client. If you are unsure how, contact your hosting provider and they can direct you, or most likely simply switch them for you. It literally takes a second! See a more detailed set of instructions here.
  • Use brute force protection so that if the wrong password is entered in too many times the person’s IP address is locked out for a pre-set duration.
  • Keep up to date with the latest WordPress version. WordPress is great for letting you know when there is an update to any of your plugins, make sure to heed the alerts and update as soon as possible.
  • Use complex passwords, and limit access to consultants you can trust. A strong password will include upper and lower case numbers and letters as well as a special character mixed in. I’d hate to be the one trying to guess #4Rrtx37EE
  • Actively monitor your log files to see if anyone is trying to access your site. Hosting panels provide analytics and log files. By checking these from time to time, you can spot unnatural activity and take action to protect yourself!

These are just a few measures you can look into implementing on your blog, but obviously the more secure you can make it, the better.

Find a good web designer

I’m sure many of you have the skill and talent to recode your website from scratch, but there are also many like myself who are at risk of ruining everything each time they try and manipulate the code within their site. While this doesn’t stop me from constantly tweaking and enhancing my blog in order to continually improve it, it does mean that I keep a designer’s phone number on speed dial just in case.

Protect your brand

It’s a simple matter to setup a few Google Alerts to inform you whenever someone mentions your name, your company name, or the name of your blog. These alerts get conveniently delivered to your inbox where you can take a look to see what is being said about you, and can then respond almost instantly while the effect will be maximized.

If you head over to Google Alerts while you’re logged in with your Gmail ID (you will need to have a Google ID, but don’t worry, they’re free and easy to set up), you can enter the terms you’d like to be notified about, and Google will start keeping an eye out for those terms while it’s going about its daily business. Once a website is published or updated with that term, you’ll be sent a notification letting you know.

Protect your content

Unfortunately plagiarism is one of the threats we face as bloggers. Unscrupulous individuals scrape content and reuse it on their own thin sights in order to try and outrank sites such as yours. Fortunately Google does a fairly decent job of choosing the original work and ranking it accordingly. Placing a copyright notice at the bottom of your pages is the first step, but you should also actively scan for stolen articles using sites like Copyscape.com.

Find a blogging buddy

This is just someone you trust who can take care of posting for you while you are away, perhaps on holidays, or an unforeseen absence of another sort. Just as you’d have a neighbor look in on your house, it’s a good idea to have someone you can trust to look in on your blog.

Make a blogging will

Your blog is an asset, and should be treated that way. Even if it’s just a case of creating a document instructing your wife who to contact in case of the need to sell it, or perhaps a full-fledged document that details how everything works, and how to continue running things in case you yourself are unable to do so.

While this might be a morbid thought for some, the thought of losing all the work you’ve invested after a few missed hosting bills is even more unbearable for many. Darren recently wrote a detailed post on the subject.

Getting yourself into a few healthy habits such as the ones listed above can save you time, stress, and money. The peace of mind that will likely result from these actions will more than make up for any inconveniences you incur implementing them.

What tips can you add from your own experience protecting your blog? Share them in the comments.

Warren Wooden is the owner and CEO of PLR Internet Marketing. If you’re an entrepreneur, or would perhaps like to learn how to make money online through Internet marketing, blogging, or affiliate marketing, please stop in for a visit, or to grab your free copy of his 79-page ebook.

7 Ways to Rescue Your Business Blog From the Blahs

This guest post is by Jennifer Brown Banks of Penandprosper.

A recent Google search in preparation for this piece revealed over 40 million entries for the term “business blog.“ That makes for a whole lot of niche competition. A compelling reason to seek strategies to stand out to stay in the game. Or as I like to put it, to break from the blahs!

Contrary to popular opinion, your business blog doesn’t have to be bland to be taken seriously.

It can be “professional” and still be entertaining, informative and engaging. In fact, this is one example of when you should “mix business with pleasure”. Because ideally you want readers to enjoy their experience when they visit, and to share your content via social media forums and link love. Regardless of your industry, tone, or target audience, injecting a little “personality” into the mix can make for great results and increased readership.

Here are four key reasons why:

  1. The more engaging your content, the longer readers are inclined to stay. The longer they stay, the lower your bounce rate, which enhances your Alexa ratings.
  2. The more engaged readers are when they visit your site, the greater the likelihood they’ll return.
  3. Repeat visitors often become loyal customers. Loyal customers often refer others.
  4. It’s a savvy way to be remembered and to distinguish yourself from the vast competition.

Now that you have the 4-1-1 on why, here’s how!

Provide variety

In addition to quality articles, consider placing polls, surveys, and study findings relative to your products or services. Some companies I’ve done business with even “entertain” customers with trivia questions or posts related to national observance days or “awareness themes. For example, “Women’s History Month” or “Poetry Month,” or even Mothers’ Day.

One site that epitomizes variety in terms of content, presentation, and approach is One Woman Marketing. Here you’ll discover video posts, pod casts, lively commentary, and provocative titles to boot! For certain, you’ll never leave bored.

Speak in a conversational tone

Talk “to” readers, not “at” them. Also, if you use acronyms, abbreviations, or tech terms, have a glossary for those who may not be in-the-know.

There’s no better example of this than Tia, over at Bizchickblogs.com Her style of expression, her distinct voice, and her warmth resonates with each post. When you read her words, it kinda feels as if she’s sitting in your living room having a one-on-one. She knows her stuff without being stuffy.

Don’t hide from humor

As long as it’s applicable and in good taste, it’s almost always acceptable. Humorous anecdotes can be a great technique to draw audiences in, illustrate a point, and hold them captive. A good example of this blogging technique would be Naomi at Ittybiz.com. She’s fabulously funny and fiercely popular for being herself. Heck, even popular pastor and best-selling author Joel Osteen starts every sermon with a joke.

Along the same lines as Naomi, when it comes to having a knack for humor and “working a (virtual) crowd”, is innovative blogger, Princess Jones, of Diaryofamadfreelancer.com She reigns supreme in this area! No matter what topic she tackles, she’ll tickle your funny bone and help you to see the lighter side of the freelancing life. Here’s a recent quote: “So what’s my point? Once again, I don’t have one. But this is my blog and the rule says I don’t have to have a point every time I sit down to write.”

Don’t neglect visual appeal

Sure, “content is king” in the blogging world, but looks are important as well. I like to compare it to a stimulating meal. If it’s not presented well in terms of colors, textures, and arrangement, it loses its “flavor.”

Aesthetics are important. Choose hues, fonts and graphics accordingly. This attention to detail is what makes the site Workawesome.com so awesome! Not only is the content engaging and well-written, every post is accentuated with just the right image to reinforce the message. Always clever and creative. They’ve actually won awards for their graphic design as well.

Provide case studies

Show how your company helped to solve a problem or save the day for a client in need. Testimonials speak volumes as well. In promoting her financial services and professional speaking business, expert Kembala Evans, allows the testimonials of former clients do the talking. Visit her site, and it’s clear that talk is not cheap when it comes to the recommendations of satisfied customers!

Toot your own horn

Have you achieved an important milestone? Won an industry award? Been recognized in the local paper? Share. Everybody loves a hero. Check out Jobacle.com, and on your visit you’ll likely see various awards and commendations from places where the site has been featured, linked to, or talked about. And the host’s periodic appearances at U.S. News and World Report and other prominent places.

Remember the K.I.S.S. principle

Know that, sometimes, less is more. Overkill can be the kiss of death. This philosophy is one that’s well observed at Vistaprint. Known by many entrepreneurs for its stationery and marketing products, it also has a blog that features useful tips and tools for maintaining a successful business. It’s brief, but substantive.

Follow these seven tips to enhance your business image, your following, and your bottom line. You’ll have more sizzle fo’ shizzle!

Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, relationship columnist, entrepreneur and pro blogger. Her work has appeared at Daily Blog Tips, Technorati, Search Engine Journal, Workawesome, and Being Single Magazine.

What to Do When a Commenter Goes Rogue

This guest post is by Gail Brenner, Ph.D. of A Flourishing Life.

It started innocently enough. Heartfelt comments, sharing a personal story, and a genuine interest in the topics I write about. But as the postings got longer, rambling, more personal, and more frequent—up to four a day in addition to emails—something had to give.

I was dealing with a commenter gone rogue.

Anyone who reads my blog, A Flourishing Life, knows that I take great care to respond to comments. I love interacting with my readers and cultivating a community in which everyone is welcome. Well, almost everyone, as I was soon to discover.

It becomes too much

The breaking point was when he asked me for a date—on my blog. He lives just over 200 miles from me and was willing to make the drive. I immediately blocked the comment and wrote him an email explaining that the purpose of comments is to discuss the subject matter of the post. He responded by letting me know that he removed my site from his favorites and requested that I delete all his comments from my blog.

There was no way I was going to go through all the comments from older posts as well as my responses to him, so I declined. Then, for some reason, he had a change of heart, and he was at it again—multiple, rambling comments per post.

It was getting out of hand. He stalked me when I commented on other people’s blogs and wrote me emails about these supposed relationships he was developing with other bloggers. I was ruminating during the day and losing sleep at night. “It’s just a blog,” I kept telling myself. But I needed to take action.

The steps I took

I contacted some of my blogging friends and asked for advice. Mary Jaksch of GoodlifeZen recommended I blacklist him. She wrote, “Please don’t feel bad about banning a commenter. Your blog is like your house—you decide who is welcome!”

Jonathan Wells of Advanced Life Skills agreed. Sibyl Chavis from Alternaview suggested a more moderate approach as did Sandra Lee of Always Well Within—even when he started commenting on their blogs. And Christopher Foster of The Happy Seeker was full of compassion for all concerned.

I had already set up my blog so that I could review his comments before approving them (more on the technical details below), and I decided to let nature take its course. A few days later, I simply could not bring myself to approve his comments any more. I had reached my edge, and I was finished with him.

But was he finished with me? 200 miles away is too close for comfort, and I didn’t know how unbalanced he could be. When he realized I had stopped posting his comments, he didn’t become angry, as I had predicted. Instead, he begged and pleaded. He expressed remorse and said he would be good from now on. He told me he loved me. He wrote daily for a while with diary entries about the activities of his life. Yes, these were all written as comments to my blog posts.

A resolution?

When I failed to respond, he made one last request. He asked me to say “yes” to one of his comments if I wanted him to leave, and he promised he would be gone forever. I figured I could give him that. So I posted his comment and my “yes,” but he didn’t keep up his end of the bargain. He posted 12 more comments over the next month before he left for good. That was mid-January, and I haven’t heard from him since. I mean it when I say I wish him well, but I am relieved that he is gone.

I still have 26 unposted comments from him sitting on the “comments” page on the back end of my blog. If I’m truthful, I’ve been holding them as evidence of his instability in case he showed up at my door and actually started stalking me. But I am close to being able to let them go.

What did I learn? I don’t think I could have prevented this situation, but others might have been much less tolerant than me. And I’m certain I would take action sooner next time. I can’t say enough about the support I received from fellow bloggers. It’s a true community of real people out there.

The technical details

WordPress gives us the capability to blacklist comments or moderate them before they are posted. On your dashboard, click on Settings, then Discussion. At the bottom of the page, type the email address in the appropriate box—for moderation or blacklisting. Click Save Changes, and you’re good to go.

If you are moderating, you will receive an email letting you know when a comment is available for your review, and you can choose what to do with it.

What if you blacklist? On WordPress, the comment ends up on the spam page. The blogger doesn’t receive an email about it, and the commenter doesn’t know he has been blacklisted. I have heard from others with different platforms that the commenter receives an email letting him know he has been blacklisted. If you go this route, I recommend testing it first so you know.

I’d love you to visit my blog and leave a comment, but please don’t go rogue on me. I may not be so forgiving next time.

Gail Brenner, Ph.D. is a psychologist who blogs at A Flourishing Life about untangling self-defeating habits and realizing happiness. Stay in touch by subscribing to her feed or by following her on Twitter at @aflourishinglif.

Curing the Dreaded Blogger’s Malaise

This guest post is by Steff of steffmetal.com.

Right now, your blog is still new and shiny and everything is awesome, but one day, you’ll be hit with an unsettling dread at the thought of writing another post; the sudden realization that you just don’t care about deleting all the spam comments; the sense that you have nothing left to say to the Internet.

But you love blogging, right? So how come you feel like quitting? Don’t worry—you’re not alone. I could come up with a catchy name for this malaise, like the “blog-bonic plague”, but “Blogger’s Burnout” is now practically an industry term, being written up in the medical journals as I type, so we’ll stick with that.

Signs you’ve caught the dreaded Blogger’s Malaise (or Blogger’s Burnout, or Blog-bonic plague):

  • You haven’t posted in a couple of weeks.
  • You’re out of ideas.
  • Looking at your backup list of posts ideas doesn’t inspire you—you’re still out of ideas.
  • You want to do something else.
  • Anything else.
  • Writing your blog feels like a chore.
  • I mean, you’re looking at seven weeks of smelly, sweaty, unwashed laundry and thinking “that looks like fun.”

I’ve been there—oh lordy, have I been there. I write six posts a week over three blogs, plus blogs for my writing clients. I love blogging, but it’s like eating chocolate every day—sometimes you wake up and think, “chocolate is great and all, but I’d actually rather have … a pony.” And so you go out and eat a pony instead (this is a hypothetical example).

And that’s all well and good, except that if you’re out eating ponies every day when you’ve got a year’s supply of chocolate stashed in the fridge, eventually the police and pony-rights activists are going to come after you, and all your chocolate is going to go yucky and then you don’t get any chocolate or any ponies.

If you really, truly want to be a serious blogger, you have to keep going through the malaise. If you allow yourself to be distracted by the ponies for too long, your readers will get bored of waiting for you to post the chocolate and answer their comments and they will find some other blogger to follow. But how can you post if you have nothing to say? Here are my tips for kicking the backside of Blogger’s Burnout.

Go out and do something that inspires you

I never fail to be inspired by the world around me, so when I feel bored or uninspired, I get out of the house—I read art books at the library, watch a play, visit an art gallery or craft fair, listen to a poetry reading, or bang my head at a heavy metal concert.

With this giant pot of amazing human talent and creativity bubbling over around you, how can you help but feel a new zest for your own creative outlet?

Buy an ebook about blogging

Most of what I learned about blogging I sort of figured out by accident, and when I started reading about other blogger’s techniques, I felt like slapping myself on the forehead and saying “Duh.”

Just reading about another blogger’s struggles in books like 31 Days to Build a Better Blog (ProBlogger), You Don’t Need a Job: You Need Guts (The Middle Finger Project), and the Blogger’s Guide to Freelancing (Aliventures), and learning how they solve their problems shows us we’re not on our own. You feel like you’ve made a friend.

Expand your scope

Sometimes, bloggers feel burntout because they realize they’ve written just about all they can on a topic.

If this is you—if you’ve written 400 articles about dog handling, or wedding planning, or tying balloon animals, and you just can’t face the thought of writing another post, it’s time to expand your scope.

Do you have room on your dog-handling blog for other dog topics, too? What about breeding, or housing, or reviews of dog-related products, or profiles of dogs and owners? Could you expand your blog to include training for other pets?

Do you think the readers of your balloon animal blog might also like to know about other party tricks and games? Maybe some quick and fun recipes would go down a treat. Or a “bloopers” column with reader pictures of balloon animals gone horribly wrong?

Expanding your blog’s scope allows you to open the door to fresh ideas and content. Don’t think you’re locked into a rigid niche or topic—you’re free to write about whatever you please!

Take an “Official Break”

I know you’ve been neglecting your blog for … too long now. But you obviously feel you need a break. So take one. Write a quick post to say you will be taking a breather from posting for the week, and do just that.

Don’t look at your blog. Don’t think about your blog. Don’t check your emails or moderate your comments or source new advertisers. Instead, go out to dinner with your partner, have a sleepover with some friends, go shopping, see a movie, go to a gig—hang out in the real world.

And when your week is over, come back, fresh and ready to post again. You could start with a post about all the amazing things you did over the last week.

Be wary—this is a last-ditch tactic for a quick pick-me-up. It is like sleeping next to a live hen to cure the bubonic plague—chances are once you start, you won’t be coming back. Don’t take mini-breaks all the time, and don’t take longer than a fortnight, or readers may forget about you.

Revisit your schedule (or make a schedule, if you’re one of those silly people who doesn’t have one)

Are you trying to do too much? I am always trying to do too much, so whenever I feel overwhelmed, I take a look at everything I’m doing on my blogs and decide what will give.

Are you trying to push yourself too hard? If you’re constantly letting yourself down, it’s time to reassess your schedule.

Perhaps you’re putting unrealistic demands on yourself. If you want to write five posts per week, but you can only manage two, then set your schedule at two posts per week for three months. Maybe when three months are up you can decide to increase your post rate to three or four per week.

Remember, it’s better to do one thing really well than lots of things not so well. Write one amazing article instead of four blah ones.

Whether you’ve got the Blogger’s Malaise, the Blog-bonic Plague or the Multiple Blog-personality Disorder, the best cure is to change up your normal routine and inject a little inspiration into your life.

Bloggers, what do you do when you catch the blogger’s malaise?

Note: no ponies were harmed in the writing of this post.

What can a blind metalhead chick teach you about finding your audience and kicking it with your creative business? Steff Metal might surprise you.

Finding Your Blog’s Unique Voice

This guest post is by Jeff Goins of Goins, Writer.

Your blog needs a voice.

Like Pavarotti, it can resonate with power that is full of sophistication.

 Or, like Dave Grohl, it can scream and shout with disenfranchised angst.
 It can even sing sweetly like your grandmother or quietly hum in the background like the Andy Griffith Show theme song.

But make no mistake. If you are going to build a tribe—if you’re going to relate to your audience and make a difference at all—your blog will need a voice.

Why your blog needs a voice

Your blog is not you. It is not your personality.

 It does not have your brain or your body or the sum of your life experiences. It cannot think for itself. It doesn’t have a soul.

But it needs a voice.

Your blog, regardless of how you’ve branded it, is separate from you. It can, by no means, represent all the complicated nuances of your persona.

Even if your blog is about you, it’s not you. It can’t be. Your blog is an entity that is separate from you and needs to be treated as such. Give it a voice. And make it unique.

A blog’s voice is exclusive

If you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ve probably already realized that there are certain topics on your blog that get more attention than others.

You may have even seen that people have started to associate your blog with a certain idea or theme.

 You may have vented on your blog in a burst of uncouth sarcasm and anger only to find that your influence grew, albeit accidentally. You acted ridiculous, and your audience loved you for it. Who would’ve thought?

These are all examples of blogging voices.

A voice, with respect to your blog, is a feel or style evoked in your writing that causes the reader to personalize what she is reading.

 Your readers begin to construct a person based on the voice of your blog. And
when that happens, your blog ceases to be all things to all people and becomes something very particular to a certain group of people.

And that is okay. That is the whole point.

How to create a voice for your blog

If you’re already blogging, look back at some of your most popular posts and ask yourself, “What kind of mood was I in when I wrote this? What emotions am I portraying here?”

Observe the vocabulary you used, even the punctuation and formatting style. These are all essential elements in creating a voice for your blog. The trick here is replicate what you were doing when you were successful and do it again (and again).

If you haven’t started blogging a lot, you can start from scratch: ask yourself what you want your blog to sound like.

The voice of your blog should be a natural tie-in with its goal. Here are some examples:

  • If you are selling real estate online, your blog voice might be personal, attentive to customers, and professional.
  • If you are doing technology reviews, your voice may be snarky, clever, and terse.
  • If your blog is a personal blog about your life, your voice might be sincere, passionate, and vulnerable.

A good exercise (whether you’ve been blogging for a while or are just getting started) is to brainstorm a list of 10-20 personality attributes that you want your blog to have, and then cut it down to three to five key aspects that represent your blog’s voice.

The next time you write a post, consult that list and use it as a checklist to ensure you’re writing style fits the personality you’ve created for your blog.

Next steps

If you’ve effectively created a voice for your blog, you will inevitably exclude some people (because you simply can’t write for everyone), but you will also create a more loyal readership.

A writing voice on your blog will strengthen your brand and give you focus. Furthermore, it will create a lasting impression with your readers, allowing you to better fulfill the long-term goals of your website in a more sustainable
way.

Does your blog have a unique voice? What does it sound like?

Jeff Goins is a writer, innovator, and marketing guy. He works at Adventures in Missions and blogs at Goins, Writer. You can connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

7 Valuable Lessons Bloggers Can Learn from Construction Workers

This guest post is by Joseph Wesley of Blog Tweaks.

Did you know there are similarities between blogging and construction work? It’s true. I learned this while working as an electrician during the first six months of 2010.

You may be wondering how a marketing grad from UT Austin ended up doing electrical work, but that story is too long to tell here. More important for this post is that I also started blogging during that time.

On the job site, I dreamed about blogging while cutting wire, bending conduit, and connecting matching colored wires. I also took notes about how the construction lessons I was learning applied to blogging.

This post is a collection of those notes and reveals valuable lessons that bloggers can learn from construction workers to become better bloggers.

Lesson #1: The best way to learn is by doing

Construction workers aren’t typically reading types. Instead of reading about how to use a saw, they just start using it. A foreman never hands you a book; he hands you a bandsaw and tells you to get to work.

When it comes to blogging, the same is true. There’s only so much you can learn by reading. Eventually, you have to learn by doing.

You’re not going to start the next great blog just by reading about it. ProBlogger is a great resource for improving your blogging skills, but to really learn, the best way is to just do it.

Lesson #2: Learn how to use your tools

On a construction site, tools are a worker’s best friend. If you have 1,000 screws to screw in, using a screwdriver drill bit is faster than using a screwdriver. A lot faster.

In blogging, you also want to know how to use your tools. You need to know how to use WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Feedburner to your advantage.

The more you know about how to use these tools, the more effective you will be at blogging. To become a better blogger, take some time to become familiar with your tools. In the end, you’ll be a more effective, more successful blogger.

Lesson #3: Make sure you get it done

In construction work, you don’t get paid for thinking. And you definitely don’t get paid for talking. You get paid for the amount of Sheetrock that gets nailed into the wall, or the number of lights that get wired.

This is what construction workers call “getting it done.”

As a blogger, you need to pay attention to getting it done. You can think and talk and tweet about blogging, but that’s not what builds a successful blog.

What builds a successful blog is the time you spend writing, re-writing, promoting, guest posting, and networking. What builds a blog is accomplishing goal-oriented tasks; not just making noise on Twitter or talking to friends on Facebook.

The point is this: consistent output is more important than over-thinking or over-planning. Instead of dreaming about having a great blog, put in the hours that it takes to create great content and build meaningful relationships.

In other words, get it done.

Lesson #4: Learn from a master craftsman

In the construction world, if you want to be a great carpenter, electrician, or plumber, you need to learn from a master craftsman. If you learn from the best, you can become one of the best.

The same is true with blogging. Do you want to become a problogger? Then you need to learn from probloggers. You need to pay attention to Darren Rowse and Gary Vaynerchuk and any other probloggers that you look up to.

You need to read their posts and study how the headlines and copy are crafted. You should pay attention to how they lay out their blogs, and how they build their email lists.You need to learn everything that you can from the best
bloggers.

To become a master craftsman, you need to learn from a master craftsman; to become a problogger, you need to learn from the probloggers.

Lesson #5: Don’t forget to plan ahead

On a construction site, it’s very important to plan ahead. You don’t start tearing walls down or bolting panels in without a plan.

First, you visualize the steps and figure out what tools and materials you’ll need. Then you plan what to do first and what to do after that. Otherwise, you might cut through the beam that you’re standing on or bolt in the wrong panel
first and need to tear it out. It happens.

When you first start a blog, you may not have planned that much. But once you’ve been blogging for a while, you need to learn how to think ahead.

Maybe you need to post twice per week, and you need to write one guest post per month. Maybe you need to devote time to write a series of posts.

Whatever dream destination you have for your blog, eventually, you need to plan how you’re going to get there.

Lesson #6: Become a craftsman

Craftsmen don’t settle for just getting the job done. Craftsmen pay attention to details. They line up every screw and level every pipe to make their work look good and work as well as possible.

As a blogger, you want to be a craftsman. You want to pay attention to the details in every post. I once heard someone say that if you edit your writing 50 times, it’s 2% better than the version edited 49 times.

In blogging, you want every post to be 2% better. This means that you need to take time to craft better headlines. And it means that you need to edit every post more than once before hitting Publish.

Martyn Chamberlain of Two Hour Blogger says that you need to put at least two hours into each post. That’s a good rule of thumb if you want to be a craftsman. If you’re writing a guest post, you should take even more time than that.

If you want to create memorable content, you need to become a craftsman.

Lesson #7: Building something worthwhile takes time

Building a conference center that seats 5,000 people takes time. You look at it month after month, dreaming about the day that it will be finished. That’s what its like to build something, and that’s why Rome wasn’t built overnight.

Building something worthwhile takes time. If you want to build a popular blog, it won’t happen overnight.

Your first posts lay the foundation. The posts after that build the framework. Each guest post puts up more walls. Eventually, the blog gets built. But a blog with 10,000 or more subscribers doesn’t get built overnight. Blogging takes time and patience.

Sure, you can take some shortcuts and drive traffic to a blog in a short amount of time. You can also put a tent up in a couple of hours. But if you really want to build a blog that will last, you need to take the time to do it right. In the end, it will be worth it.

Bonus Lesson: Don’t forget your hard hat

Construction workers are required by law to wear hard hats. Hard hats protect construction workers from hitting their heads on steel beams, and from falling objects like wrenches and drills. It’s a good law.

In blogging, hitting your head is the equivalent of making a mistake, and falling objects are the equivalent of negative comments. Here’s the thing—it’s going to happen. You can’t blog without making mistakes or being criticized. You might write a post that you regret. Or a subscriber may write a hate email that you want to digitally burn.

Don’t worry about it. That’s why you’re wearing a digital hard hat. Interestingly, the more successful you are, the more haters there will be. Don’t worry about being criticized or making a mistake. That’s what your hard hat is for.

So what do you think? Are you ready to get it done?

Joseph is a marketing grad from UT Austin who started blogging at JosephWesley.com exactly one year ago. Recently, he started Blog Tweaks to provide technical services for bloggers. Check out the site to see how you can get your blog tweaked.