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Efficient Blog Commenting: Save Your Time and Energy

This guest post is by Jane Sheeba of Find All Answers.

Commenting on other blogs is an integrated part of blogging, and it’s vital. You need people for successful blogging and blog commenting is one of the coolest ways to build loyal relationships.

This post is based on Joe’s guest post here at ProBlogger, where he wisely gave a strategy for commenting on other blogs. I want to add more to it, to make the strategy energy- and time-efficient.

Effective blog commenting

Commenting on other blogs can be overwhelming if you try to combine it with your regular blogging activities. Let me tell you my regular blogging activities: writing blog posts, moderating comments on my blog, replying to those comments, reading other blogs in my niche, writing guest posts, dealing with guest post submissions, dealing with paid projects, commenting on other blogs, participating in social media … you get the idea.

So even though I know the importance of commenting on other blogs, I just cannot devote a whole day to it. It’s part of my strategy, though, so I need to be efficient in my commenting. “Effificent” means working smart (rather than hard), getting more done in less in less time, and making things easy to handle.

I recently wrote about an effective blog commenting strategy at my blog, so I won’t rehash the details here. Instead, we’ll focus on making your blog commenting strategy more efficient.

Using RSS feeds and organizing them

RSS feeds are not dead! Many people use them—in fact, I prefer to subscribe to a blog via the feed before going for an email subscription. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Reading a blog through feeds is less distracting, even if I have email notifiers turned on.
  2. I don’t want to submit my email address to a blog without analyzing the content first. Reading a blog’s content via feeds help me examine the quality of the content and makes me decide if I will submit my email or not.

In fact, RSS feeds are not just for reading your favorite blogs—they will help you greatly with blog commenting. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to practice a regular blog commenting schedule via your Google reader.

I find this method to be very organized. I allocate 30 minutes every day to visit my Google reader and comment on unread posts.

There is one more benefit to it: if the feeds are full (that is, not partial feeds), you can save yourself a click. I read the post in my RSS reader, and click through to the article online only if I want to leave a comment. That saves me loads of time!

I also have added an extension to my Chrome browser that displays the number of unread items in my feeds (this is not notification, and hence no interruption to my day). For Firefox, there are a handful of extensions available to help you monitor your feed list.

Use social media, especially Twitter

I use Twitter to engage with others and promote my content. Again, commenting is about relationships first—then promotion.

I follow a tight number of people, so there is little chance that I’ll be distracted. At the time of writing this post, I have 870 followers and I’m following 60 people. Call me crazy, but I really don’t want noise on my timeline—and that’s one of the reasons I’m not being followed by masses of people. They follow me, wait for me to follow them, then unfollow me if I don’t.

I use Twitter as a tool to find good blogs to comment on. One of its advantages is that, unlike the RSS reader, where I see only the blogs I visit, Twitter helps me find new blogs.

And, if I’m impressed by the content of a blog, I can add it to my RSS subscription list and become a loyal reader and commenter. This approach has brought me some good traffic.

Use Paper.li

If you are a regular user of Twitter, you should have encountered Tweets like these:

You can create a newspaper, or “daily,” out of your participation at Twitter and Facebook. Don’t worry about creating content for your daily—it’s all automated. You don’t even have to create an account: you can use your Twitter or Facebook accounts to log in to the service.

Once you’re logged in, you can create some specifications and hastags that form the focus of your daily. A typical paper will look like this:

I skim my own daily and collect a handful of new blogs that I rapidly check out to see if they’re worth commenting on, and adding to my Google Reader. I also skim others’ papers to see if they’re following any blogs I should investigate.

How do you find these papers?

Your daily can be set to be automatically tweeted once it’s created, as the image above shows. So if you’re following your timeline, you should be easily able to capture two or three dailies that the people you’re following have created. This will introduce you to a good number of new blogs.

Use Google Alerts

Setting up Google Alerts is an efficient way to find highly targeted blogs in your niche. You could set up an alert for a particular keyword, and ask Google to notify you of only blogs that talk about that topic.

I normally set a weekly frequency for these email notifications, as daily is a bit too much for me. You can find more details about setting up Alerts here.

Focus on quality

Always focus on quality in your writing, whether it’s a blog post or a comment. I personally put the same amount of effort into writing comments as I do my blog posts.

The content is content—and it is your idea. With comments, you are providing opinion, tips, and suggestions in the same way you do in blog posts. I don’t see a real difference between them, other than length and the location of the finished content.

Your comment brands you and your business. It speaks for you. If you leave shabby, spammy, useless comments, you’ll ruin your reputation and your blog’s identity. For this reason, I don’t find it compelling or mandatory to leave a comment on every post I read. Not even on those blogs at which I am a regular reader, including ProBlogger.

Sometimes, we just don’t feel like we need to say something. In such situations, reading the post and leaving without commenting is far far better than pushing yourself to make a comment.

Do you use any of these tips already? How have you made your blog commenting strategy as efficient as possible?

Jane writes about Blogging Tips, Relationships and Self Improvement at her blog Find All Answers. You can grab your copies of “Problogging for Newbies” and “Your guide to Better Time Management” upon subscribing to her blog. She has a working strategy for successful guest posting.

Writing to Attract, Retain and Engage

The written word is a powerful thing.

Used responsibly, it can educate people about the possibilities that they face, inspire them to improve their circumstances, and empower them to take the necessary actions.

Used irresponsibly, it can cheat and manipulate.

And used badly, it’s just dull, boring, and pedantic.

Which do you want your writing to be?

I’m going to guess that we’re on the same page about wanting our writing to be educational, inspiring and empowering—is that a fair assumption?

There are three main functions of good writing in the context of blogging and copywriting, and those are to attract a reader, to retain that reader, and most importantly, to engage that reader. Let’s explore all three.

Writing to attract: make it sexy

The first thing that you need to do is grab someone’s attention, and you do that by making your writing sexy. I don’t mean sexy in the “appealing to sex” sense of the word (though that certainly works, as in the case of Stacey Herbert’s 5 Things You Should Do To Lose Your Blogging Virginity Like a Slut or Demian Farnworth’s Dirty Little Secret to Seducing Your Readers).

No, I mean sexy as in excitingly appealing; something that just grabs the reader’s attention. You do this by appealing to a core human drive, which is one of the following:

You’ll notice that the sexiest part of the post is the headline—because that is the part that draws people in. You’ll also notice that it’s possible to target several drives with the same headline!

Of course, the selection of which drive to target isn’t random—it’s a function of figuring out who your audience is, and then identifying what their most burning desires and drives are.

Writing to retain: make it useful and entertaining

Getting attention is great, but it’s just the beginning. Once you’ve attracted readers to your content, you’ve got to retain it. There are two ways to do this: you can be useful, or you can be entertaining. Ideally, you should do both.

You make content useful with language, because language is basically the “packaging” that you use to deliver your ideas to the reader. Putting your ideas in a simple bulleted list is one way of doing the packaging, and imparting the information as a story is quite another. One way allows the reader to skim and skip over your content, whereas the other can get them to read, think about, and engage with your information.

Don’t get me wrong—you’ve got to have useful information in there, too. If you’ve got nothing useful to offer—whether it’s an insight, a strategy, a process, or a tool – then no matter how much you “dress it up”, it still won’t have much value. But assuming you do have some good information to share, it’s often the packaging that makes it truly valuable to the reader.

Rather than speaking in generalities, here is the formula that I use to package my own information in guest posts (I try to start each section with a heading):

  1. Start with a hook. The first thing you need to do is grab the reader’s attention. Start with a short sentence that will pique curiosity, and then build it into an opening that will make people want to keep reading. You can do this by telling a story (they keep reading to see how it ends), by painting a picture of an outcome (they keep reading to learn how you got there), or by being confrontational (they keep reading because they disagree). Keep your paragraphs short, and make sure to hook their attention before the tag.
  2. Pivot to the problem. First thing after the tag, pivot from your hook, which might only be related to your post’s core concept as an illustrative example, to the problem that lies at the heart of the matter. Explain the problem—what are the symptoms, and what are the outcomes?
  3. Explain the cause. Next, explain the underlying logic behind the problem—what is causing it, and why do people do things that way? What are the mistaken assumptions that are leading that to happen?
  4. Share the solution. Having uncovered the mistaken assumptions, and core processes that are causing the problem, you can now share the solution. By now, people should be super-eager to read it!
  5. Call to action. Don’t end the post without pivoting back to the reader, and their own situation. Ask a question about their experience as it relates to your post. Try to make it a question that is easy to answer—my first post on Copyblogger got tons of comments (208 at last count), mostly because I asked people about their favorite business books, and everyone has one to share!

No joke—I follow this formula 80% of the time when I write, and it works like a charm; my guest posts are consistently commented and shared, and I’ve had repeat appearances on many of the larger blogs that I post for (this is my fourth appearance on ProBlogger).

I want this to be super-concrete, so here are five examples of guest posts that I’ve written following this formula. If you really want to get a sense of how it works, try printing them out and then noting the sections:

  1. Desperate Housewives on Writing, Storytelling, and Selling on Big Girl Branding
  2. Steak or Peanut Butter—How to Land Authority Blogs on E-Junkie
  3. Write From The Heart: Does Authenticity Really Work? on Write Speak Sell
  4. The Viral Content Formula That Could Double Your Readership on Think Traffic
  5. How to Chain an Elephant: Breaking the Shackles We’ve Placed on Ourselves on Steve Scott’s site.

Writing to engage: make it resonate

If you’ve attracted and retained an audience, then you’re definitely on the right track. But let’s face it: the real sign of a successful blog isn’t just traffic—it’s comments and subscribers. Both of these things require that your audience not just like what you’re doing, but engage with it.

So how do you get people to engage?

This is where the science becomes more of an art, and sometimes the best art is created by breaking the rules. I was recently berated about a grammatical error by a commenter who argued that “grammatical accuracy is a prime need when we claim to be authentic writers”.

I disagreed—the line in question, while technically grammatically incorrect, mirrored normal conversational speech patterns, and I don’t think there would have been any confusion in the mind of my readers.

And that is my advice to you: to engage your readers, write as though you were talking.

Here’s how to do it. When you sit down to write, imagine your target reader sitting across the table from you, in rapt attention. Then write exactly what you would say to them. Edit out the “ums” and “aahs”, and make yourself just a little more eloquent than you might otherwise be, but other than that your writing should read like a conversation.

Since I’m a big fan of examples, let’s start with some of my favorite authors: pick up books by Malcolm Gladwell, A.J. Jacobs, and Patrick Lencioni—these are authors whose writing carries you through, even if it’s a whole book about reading the encyclopedia!

Read and enjoy their books, but pay attention to their styles.

Another great place to look for inspiration and lessons is the dialogue of your favorite TV shows. I particularly like the West Wing and Gilmore Girls for this – the dialogue is witty and clever, and does a great job of simplifying and communicating complex ideas. Watch the shows, pick your favorite characters, and try to imagine how they would explain whatever it is that you want to write about.

Attract, retain, and engage

Okay, I think that about covers it—we’ve talked about how to attract the attention of your audience, how to retain them as loyal readers, and how to engage them in a conversation that will grow your audience in size and profitability.

So, what do you think? What part of the attraction, retention, and engagement triad do you find most challenging? Do you have a favorite trick for doing them?

Danny Iny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the definitive marketing training program for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-marketers. Visit his site today for a free cheat sheet about Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK… and What Does!, or follow him on Twitter @DannyIny.

How Having A Blogging Coach Changed My Life

This guest post is by Peter Sinclair of http://www.motivationalmemo.com.

I have been in business for well over 25 years. I in fact owned my first business at the age of 18. Though for many of those years I never, ever thought about the importance of having a mentor or a coach.

My dad was not a businessman. My granddad was not a businessman. So I simply had to learn everything from scratch in the wonderful University of Success, otherwise known as the Academy of Failure.

So it was a couple of years into owning a web design business that I thought about franchising. I suddenly realized that I needed up-skilling fast, and so I hired a business coach.

coach

Copyright Rob Byron - Fotolia.com

I hired him for twelve months. We had a sort of love/hate relationship. I hated the fact that he would ask me tough questions that only a coach could ever dare to ask—questions that I had for many years avoided asking myself. But I loved the results, because the very next year we doubled our income.

But after seven years and three months of running that successful business, I decided that my passions lay elsewhere, and that I needed to explore them with a greater level of concentrated effort and focus.

So I sold my web design clients, and as of December last year I started on my exciting journey of turning an existing blog, that I had been writing just for the fun of it for a number of years, into a business—once and for all turning my passion into profit and becoming pre-eminent in my “personal development” niche.

I immediately started looking for a blogging coach online. I also listened to my colleagues who were familiar with people in the industry with that title.

Why did I look for a blogging coach?

Well if a coach had helped me transform my web design business, it made complete common sense to me that the same would happen in the blogging industry.

What is a blogging coach?

It’s simply someone who has made a lot of money through blogging.

Generally they have courses that run concurrently with their main blog, and are designed to help other bloggers make money (no matter what niche you’re in) by teaching the same principles that brought them their success.

My concept of a coach in any field is simple. Do what they say. Be what they are. And make what they make.

No matter how successful one has been in another field, he must become a student in the field of blogging if he wants to become a successful blogger.

Where can you find a blogging coach?

Google is a great place to start. I ended up finding three that caught my attention: Leo Babauta, Darren Rowse, and Yaro Starak.

Now each was commendable with what they had to offer. But as an Australian I decided I wanted to be trained by an Australian (no offence to the Americans—many of your countrymen have taught me a lot about internet marketing and real estate). Now I knew that Darren was probably more experienced than Yaro, but Yaro’s writing style and video presentations really connected with me.

And what topped it when I was making my final decision, was an email I received from Yaro offering his course, which was normally anything up to $97 per month, for one payment of less than $300.

I snapped it up and found out that from that one email Yaro sold 100 subscriptions before New Year’s Day. That was a whopping $30,000 from one email. And that was just about what I had spent on a year’s coaching when I owned my web design business.

How does blog coaching work?

Well it was vastly different to my coaching sessions for my web design business, where we had met weekly for an hour in a coffee shop for an entire year.

Once I paid my money, Yaro simply sent me an email by autoresponder containing my username and password, and I now had complete access to all the videos, audios, written PDF tutorials, and action sheets that made up the course. This course contained six training modules with four lessons per module.

In addition to that, I was invited to attend monthly Skype sessions where I, along with people from all around the world, could ask Yaro questions directly. I really enjoy these. Yaro can look at our individual blogs and give immediate feedback and suggestions to improve them.

What does my blogging coach do?

Well, he obviously put an online course together. The one I was taking had been created a couple of years before I ever saw it.

That’s enough to inspire a future blogger. Do the work once, do it well, and then put it on auto-kerchink-pilot.

But the great thing is that Yaro has responded personally to my emails whenever I needed some one-on-one advice.

What’s changed as a result of having a blogging coach?

  • After five months I have developed a substantial separate database in addition to my regular RSS feed from my main blog. I publish three articles a week on Monday Wednesday and Friday on my blog which frees me to do other writing, like this article, on other days for other blogs.
  • I am now preparing to send out a survey containing five questions that will give me all the vital information that I need to create my new mentoring program. If all goes according to the plan that Yaro has presented to me, I will launch my paid program within a short period of time and start making monthly income.
  • I have been published by many major blogs in my niche and was even picked up by The New York Times because of this. I am gaining pre-eminence in my niche little by little.
  • I have opened an AWeber account and use it regularly to send out my weekly newsletter. Clickbank is soon to follow.
  • I interview people in my industry and associated industries via Skype or email, and by being associated with people even more successful than myself I am gaining further pre-eminence.
  • I have continued to develop relationships with other bloggers in my niche—and many of these will be my main affiliates once I launch my mentoring program. I am firmly convinced that I have laid strong foundations, built upon the experience of my blogging coach, that will ensure financial success through blogging.
  • Every post that I write gets posted on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and my team and I are constantly testing and measuring other social media outlets in order to get the word out to an ever-increasing audience.
  • I have always had a team around me in business. Even though I owned a web design company I still don’t know how to create a website. So my main web designer has become my right-hand man for all things design and technical. But the cool thing is that although he is still my employee, we have entered into a joint venture with another blog project that he has created while he has been working on mine. Now that’s cool. My plan for him is that he earns more money in the very near future from this blog than I currently pay him.

Oh and by the way, now that I am pursuing my passion through blogging, I’m having a ball. Life is fun. So in that sense alone, my blogging coach has changed my life. Thanks Yaro!

To become a leader, follow in the footsteps of another leader. Have you found this to be good advice in your blogging journey?

Peter G. James Sinclair is in the ‘heart to heart’ resuscitation business and inspires, motivates and equips others to be all that they’ve been created to become. Receive your free copy of his latest ebook Discovering The You In Unique at http://www.motivationalmemo.com and add him on Twitter @PeterGJSinclair today!

Traffic: Stop Thinking in Numbers, Start Thinking in Words

Recently I’ve been writing down the frequently asked questions from my SEO clients. Here’s a few you may recognize:

  • How much traffic do I need to make $10,000 a month in revenue?
  • How do I get people to click like on my Facebook page?
  • Why is no one following me on Twitter?
  • Are the only people online successful because they are famous?
  • How many links do I need to hit page one on Google?

These questions are asked on nearly every incoming call. Sure, the keywords and markets are different, but it’s my job to manage the clients’ expectations and to give them the facts. Most of the callers just want straight answers, but every once in a while, one of them will listen and start to understand what you really have to do to achieve good search rankings. I know that the community on ProBlogger is full of great listeners and learners, so here’s my advice from are three years of SEO knowledge.

Forget the numbers look at graph shapes

Okay, you can use numbers as a guide, but unless you’re starting a magazine or advertisement-driven website, why are you worried about figures? The difference in sales you’ll generate from 5,000 visitors a month or 10,000 per month is very small. Trust me—it is!

What you need to do is look at the graph shape for the past six months. Is it going up in the right direction?. If it’s not, see where your best source of traffic is, and look to add content to that source. For instance, if your Facebook page brings in 500 hits a month, add a couple of photographs a week, and maybe a video or two.

Look at integrating share buttons after a transaction

A fresh visitor doesn’t know you, but a buyer probably does. I read ProBlogger for two years before I gave Mr Rowse any cash, but when I purchased his audio book from iTunes I recommended the product afterwards on Twitter to 5,000 people.

I think that’s much more powerful, in terms of buying traffic, than quickly sharing a story. Have a chat to your web designer about this. integrating a share button after a transaction on your blog may take five minutes of coding and be cheaper than you thought!

Build your story

It’s surprising how many of the business owners I speak to are scared of the Internet. When I suggest they should have a photograph and a brief story about themselves on their sites, they shy away from the idea.

Look at every successful business out there, and you’ll quickly see a trend: there will be a face attached to the logo on the company’s website and other media. In most cases, a short story is included to make the owner more memorable. An example is GaryVaynerchuk—from his story, you quickly get to know he’s a family guy, wine expert and loves the New York Jets.

I always ask my clients to start slow and build up to that—maybe begin with name and photo, or even an illustration of their faces. Over time, as they become more comfortable, build up to mentioning their hobby or hero, for example. It’s a great exercise that will improve your whole website. I’m working on mine at the moment!

Imagine you’re the visitor

We’ve all seen thousands of websites. So these days when we visit a site, what goes through our minds? “Nice logo? Not interested.” (Well, maybe graphic designers are.) “Blog posts? Not that great.” Most bloggers aren’t that great at writing compelling posts, and good content on its own isn’t going to stop a visitor pressing the Back button.

My advice is to think of it like this: your mission is to keep a brand new website visitor on your site for two minutes. I’ve found that’s a pretty good incentive to get a client to make the changes I’ve mentioned here. Try that for yourself, and let us know how you go in the comments.

David Edwards is the founder of www.asittingduck.com and now working as a freelance consultant, finally!

7 Ways to Make Testimonials Work Harder for You

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

While some of us are true trailblazers, the rest of us a’re happy to walk a path previously traveled. Yes, our individual journeys will be unique, but the tracks were already there—we just chose our own route.

This is never more evident when we’re buying stuff. We look for validation, primarily from a trusted source or, if that’s not available, through the words of strangers.

testimonial

Copyright Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com

That’s why testimonials can be a powerful addition to the converting power of your site—particularly pages where you’re attempting to persuade readers to do something, such as fill out a form or buy a product. As a case in point, Darren’s sales pages have comments from external sources plastered all over them.

So as a basic starting point, if you’re sales or conversion pages don’t have testimonials, add some! But that’s just the beginning…

As much as people need validation, and see safety in numbers, they’re also getting smarter online, realizing that testimonials are easy to manufacture. This means that the true credibility of a plain, old-style text testimonial is diminishing. We need to get smarter.

Here are seven ways to make your testimonials work harder for you.

1. Steal trust from the famous

Look at the reviews on Darren’s copywriting scorecard. Brian Clark, Leo Babauta, James Chartrand are just a few of the names that appear. The common thread is that these are individuals who have their own audiences. Darren’s leveraging the trust a reader might have with those people, to give the words much more meaning. It’s what I’d call critical acclaim rather than a testimonial—and it works.

2. Show there’s safety in numbers

It’s sometimes easier to simply show your best three reviews, however you can wow your audience with an avalanche of testimonials—this product has over 21 pages of customer reviews! Not only are most of them glowing, they show that hundreds of customers have felt like they’ve got value for money. Amazon takes a similar approach with its review count.

3. Keep it real

We polish and polish our sales pages to perfection, but with testimonials, polishing can actually have the wrong effect. You want to ensure your testimonials are a down-to-Earth as possible. If your reviews contain the odd typo, it’s only going to serve to humanize the message.

4. Validate the authenticity

Reviews from even the average Joe can be given extra impact if you can show the reader that Joe’s a real person. It might be a link to his LinkedIn profile, Twitter page, or website—but if you can, facilitate a person-to-person connection. You want to avoid links to a generic website—that’s faceless and has a low impact. So if the CEO of a company provides you with a juicy quote, link to the About page where the CEO’s name and picture are on display. Amazon’s real name attribution is another approach to validating the authenticity of customers who make comments.

5. Take it off your site

People know you can control what’s on your own site, but they also know you can’t control what’s on others’ sites. If you can show that not only are your testimonials glowing on your own site, they’re glowing all over the Internet, the impact of those comments will go much further.

6. Show the bad and miss-aligned

When I suggest this, I normally get my head bitten off, but hear me out! People accept the fact that not everyone will be happy with your product, so if you don’t show the bad with the good, the reaction might be, “What are you hiding?” If you carefully pick the right negative comments to show, you’ll do more good than harm.

Say you’ve got a beginners’ ebook, and a more advanced reader is critical of the content. A bad review saying, “I felt like I wasted my money, the book wasn’t for me, it’s more for the beginner,” turns a negative comment into a positive for your target market.

7. Turn testimonials into advocates

You can take testimonials to a whole new level by turning your great reviewers into advocates. This might not work for low-priced products, but it’s great for premium products. Take your five best reviewers and ask them if they’d be happy to talk with potential customers. Providing that option to a potential buyer can be a deal-maker. Setting this up can be as simple as asking your best reviewers if they can stop by your forums or comment thread every so often to provide feedback.

Testimonials are a great way to lift conversion rates on your most important pages, but if you’re not making them work hard for you, you might be leaving money on the table. Are you using testimonials to their best advantage on your site?

Stay tuned for more posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja — a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger.

How to Win Readers and Make Them Stick

This guest post is by Gabrielle Conde of Mission Engage.

“Create a memorable experience.”

That’s great advice for businesses and large retail chains, but you’re wondering how it applies to your blog. You probably started blogging because you know something about an industry like technology or writing. You want to share your information with the world and they certainly need it. In today’s blogosphere, there are hundreds of blogs for readers to visit and read about those subjects.

What makes your blog so special?

You do—and the experience you create for the reader. It’s not really about you. It’s about them.

What if visitors land on your blog and read one post? They not only read it, they gobble it up. They read another and another and soon, they’re hooked. You, your blog is feeding them the information they want. They wantto connect with you on the major social media networks to get more from you. And when they go and find you, you’re telling them about your cat or complaining about the weather … again.

experience

Image is author's own

How do you create a memorable reader experience they’ll enjoy and keep them coming back?

Much of what we read about creating the memorable experience ties into technology. A few years ago, Flash videos were the attention-grabbers for visitors to websites. As a result, companies spent fortunes producing new videos each week—and still do.

Readers have gotten smarter. They demand good content, inspiration, tips, advice, and more. If your blog doesn’t have that overall experience they’re looking for, you’ll lose readers.

I’d like to change that. After working with clients’ websites and paying attention to other sites I enjoy reading, I’ve made a list of nine ways to create an experience for readers on your blog. There are plenty more, but this list should give you enough impetus to make the changes that will see readers stick to your blog.

1. Have them at hello

Give readers a headline that promises to deliver information about what they want. If you read Reader’s Digest online or just visit their website, you’ll find some of the most eye-catching headlines geared toward health and family.

Headlines are everywhere. Pay attention to the ones that catch your attention and try them on your blog to entice readers to click through to read the story.

2. Listen to them

The customer is always right. People complain about problems in person, on a blog, in a forum—anywhere they can speak freely. They’re putting their problems out to the world, and want someone to help solve them. Be the person who helps them through your blog, on social media, and in person. Say what you do for them in your blog’s header, so they know what to expect as soon as they land on your site.

3. Walk them through it

We, as bloggers, are sales people, writers, webmasters, and marketers rolled into one. We have to remember what our readers want and walk them through the steps to achieve it. If you’re showing someone how to do something in a blog post, walk them through it step by step, and make the action clear during each step.

4. Be a part of their daily lives

Lisa Barone of Outspoken Media, Inc made this point in a recent article, and she’s right. Do you check your daily horoscope on your favorite magazine website or the news in the New York Times? If so, then you’d know each of these companies have found a way to be part of your daily life. How can you make your blog a part of your readers’s daily lives?

5. Speak to their highest desires

Everyone wants something. Understand the one reason why people come to your blog. If you blog about marketing, your readers want you to help them get more clients and customers. If your blog is about blogging, your readers might want to know how they can monetize theirs. Everyone wants to pursue their dreams and know they’re needed.

Be indispensable. Remind readers of their desire. Then help them achieve those goals.

6. Be you

You don’t have to be anyone else—you’ll just waste everyone’s time and look like a fake. With billions of people in the world, and over 25 million of them online, you’re bound to run into at least 10% of readers who get you. They’ll love your humor, products, and inspiration. Mix authenticity with a little writing practice, and they’ll love you for the experience.

7. Make top-of-page navigation easy to understand

Here are some tips to keep top-of-page navigation simple for your readers.

  • Keep navigation tab wording as simple and to the point as possible.
  • Line up navigation tabs in order of importance to help readers find what they need quickly.
  • Direct users to a few pages, not twenty.

8. Let them contact you

If you’re for hire, give users the easiest ways to contact you—including phone number (even if it’s a cell), a contact form (that works—test it), plus social media buttons and links to accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, and YouTube. Have accounts created across each relevant channel to make it easy for your readers to find and communicate with you.

9. Write good content

Think of your readers when you write. What do they need to hear? If your readers aren’t sticking around, then try practicing with a few techniques to help you write better and keep eyes glued to the page.

Most of all, you want your readers’ experiences to reflect you. Some people will disagree with your points of view and that’s fine. Everyone has a right to be heard, and you’ll have to make a stand on some issues. However, if you’re having a bad day, your car is leaking oil, your computer keeps crashing, or the neighbor’s dog won’t let you off the front porch, then the last thing you want to do is go postal on your readers.

Creating that experience

You want to win readers.

You want readers to stick with you.

You want to help people.

So give them an overall experience of you. It’s the right thing to do. Because there are so many people out there that need your help. And they’re looking for you.

Are you creating that experience for your readers right now? Tell us how you’re doing it in the comments.

Gabrielle Conde is an online marketing strategist in social media, copywriting and search engine optimization at Mission Engage. If you’d like to learn more about what it really takes to get found online, check out this free video and report on internet marketing strategies and social media marketing.

The Tortoise and the Hare: a Blogger’s Tale

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

I was out living the Internet lifestyle a little bit ago(you know, cruising to Bermuda) and I started talking to a random stranger at a bar on the boat we were sailing on. I had some time to kill while I waited around and we started chatting about how rough the ride was and other small talk.

Eventually, the man asked me what I did for a living, and I told him that I was a professional online writer, a.k.a. a “blogger.” You should have seen how wide his eyes got, as he apparently blogged about his hobbies, fishing and hiking, although it obviously wasn’t his real job. He asked me how I was doing as a blogger and once I told him, oh boy did the questions start coming.

I had a little bit to drink, so my answers were somewhat on the silly side, although in retrospect they were actually surprisingly insightful. His number one question was how I had so many subscribers so quickly on my sites, even though he had been working at it for almost six months and had virtually nothing to show for it. I asked him if he had ever heard the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. He replied that he had and then I told him:

“Have you ever considered that maybe you’re the Tortoise and I’m the Hare?”

He sort of looked at me strangely, blinked twice and then said: “What do you mean?” I explained to my new friend that the Tortoise is slow and careful because he is persistent. However, the Hare is fast paced and rushed because he is whimsical to the point of risking his success. The blank stare continued, until eventually he asked me whether I started off as a “Hare.”

I told him certainly not and went on to explain that although the Tortoise is slow at first he picks up speed as his careful persistence leads to wisdom. The wise Tortoise, after building up enough experience, eventually can trade caution for risk taking and let loose the creative, whimsical nature of the Hare. Had I started off as a Hare, I explained, then I would have ended up just like the rabbit in the story: completely off course and losing the race for success.

His next question was obvious, and I had the answer ready for him right away. He asked me how he could go from being a Tortoise to a Hare and I replied:

“You can’t transform yourself into a Hare until you’ve mastered being a Tortoise.”

After a small curse at me, my friend began to get up and leave. I said hang on a moment, I still have a few minutes here, would you like me to explain what I’m talking about? I waited for him to sit down and let out a sigh before I continued with my alcohol inspired story.

To become a Hare, you need to master the elements of a Tortoise that make him so successful at racing the rushed, whimsical Hares. First off, a Tortoise is cautious but he’s always trying to learn new things, which is exactly what makes him wise. The Tortoise is not afraid to try new endeavors but he understands that experience is more important than what anyone else says online. This mentality allows the Tortoise to absorb new information and remain open to trying new things without sacrificing his primary goal: winning the race for success. If you, as a Tortoise, cannot stay focused and maintain a strong work ethic while being open to new ideas then you are never going to be able to successful morph into a Hare.

Once you’re ready to become a Hare, it simply happens. You become more social and far more creative because the vast majority of your time is spent taking risks outside of your own blog. You put yourself out there and you build relationships, but it’s your attitude and wise yet helpful manner you acquired as a Tortoise that brings the masses to your blog daily.

My friend at the bar left with a big smile on his face, I just hope that he was sober enough to remember my words. Maybe he’s even reading this post, I never did get his name!

How can you take the best of both approaches and create the ultimate successful blogger? Are you a Tortoise or a Hare? Are you too afraid to come out of your shell and become a Hare?

Chris is a self proclaimed expert at showing bloggers how they can get traffic, build communities, make money online and be successful. You can find out more at The Traffic Blogger.

How to Keep Your Blog Hacker, Spammer, and Spyware-free

This guest post is by Sean Sullivan of F-Secure.

It’s a notion that strikes fear deep in the heart of every blogger. No, we’re not talking about getting dooced (fired for blogging). We’re talking about waking up in the morning, loading up your blog, and finding a screen that looks something like this:

The website has been blocked

The website has been blocked

Or perhaps it wasn’t as overt—you just discovered links injected into your site footer containing the anchor text of a certain famed pharmaceutical brand.

In any case, these kinds of scenarios aren’t good news for bloggers. Those fickle web users you work hard to attract can easily be put off by a hacked site and never return. Or, just as bad, being hacked (and not fixing it) risks the search engine equity you’ve built up over years of blogging, and which is time-consuming to restore.

If your site has been hacked or spammed, you’ve likely been through the tedious and time-intensive process of combing through MySQL databases, theme files, and directories on your server. If you’re lucky, you found the problem, removed it, and got things back up quickly (without having it replicate again, which we’ve seen). Or perhaps you had a backup copy and completed a restoration process.

But even then, this situation is not ideal. If you’re anything like us, you feel it’s unacceptable for your blog to be brought down, even for a moment—and especially by hackers.

The single most important tip? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

In no area other than security is that adage more important. This is simply because hackers, both the automated and the manual kind, choose the path of least resistance.

To a large extent, many are playing the numbers game to try to build black-hat links or manipulate website content for the benefit of helping illegitimate companies rank higher in search engines. To accomplish this, hackers frequently send crawlers searching around the web, to seek out the most vulnerable sites.

So how can you stay safe?

1. Keep your blogging software up to date

As we know, most bloggers here use WordPress (and definitely most professional bloggers use a self-hosted installation). Keeping it up to date is critical. Since WordPress is so popular, unfortunately that means it’s frequent prey for hackers. By keeping up with the latest updates, you’ll ensure security, and get vulnerability fixes straight from the source, as the WordPress community actively seeks to maintain security of the software.

2. Choose secure logins and passwords

Brute force attacks can easily be prevented: choose a secure login and password. By “secure login” we mean change it from the typical “admin” to be more specific. For a “secure password,” use something that is at least ten characters long, and contains at least one upper-case letter and one symbol, such as an exclamation mark. This will make it virtually impossible for either a human or computer to guess your login details.

3. Beef up security with WordPress plugins

There’s a huge number of free WordPress plugins written by Good Samaritan developers looking to keep their blogging peers safe. A few must-haves include Secure WordPress, which removes some critical meta information that a hacker could use against you from your WordPress install, Limit Login Attempts, which makes a brute-force attack basically impossible, and WP Security Scan, which provides a report about your specific configuration of WordPress and suggests corrective actions.

4. Only blog from a system that is safe, secure, and spyware-free

Computer virus

Computer virus

For those who aren’t so tech savvy: your WordPress install (or any blog install) is software and runs on an operating system, similar to how your own computer runs.

One of the easiest ways for malicious code to find its way onto your blog is through an infected system. In reality, your blogging software is only ever as safe as the system you access it from. The best way to keep your system safe is with a comprehensive Internet security and anti-virus product. Alternatively, you can check with your ISP—many of them now offer Internet security to their subscribers.

5. Automated backups: set it and forget it

You can setup backups to be made easily via a simple plugin. Alternatively, for those who run popular sites and are very serious about the safety of their posts, Automattic (the makers of WordPress) recently started to offer a premium service called VaultPress, which provides the dead-simple backup of not just databases, but all files associated with WordPress. Frequent snapshots of your install are critical and, aside from providing peace of mind, will ensure even if you ever get hacked, you don’t lose your work.

6. Stop spammers in their tracks

You can use Akismet (which analyzes comments via hundreds of tests) to quickly and effortlessly deal with spam comments, or use Bad Behavior (which references bad IP addresses via Project HoneyPot) and block them from even reaching your site in the first place.

What to do in the worst-case scenario

Even with prevention, code compromise is always possible. It happens to even the savviest bloggers. If you ever do get hacked or find webspam on your site, and aren’t sure what to do, don’t panic and start deleting files. This can make the situation much worse.

Instead, take screengrabs of the issue, and send them to someone who specializes in WordPress (or whatever your blogging software is) along with the most recently known good backups. This issue is very common, so there are many who specialize in helping fix just this situation.

Of course, these are just basic tips for prevention that everyone should take. There are more advanced tips (for example, locking down the /wp-admin/ directory with an .htaccess file) but if you can start out by implementing the tips above, you’ll already be a notch safer than most.

Has your site been hacked? Tell us what happened—and how you rectified the problem—in the comments.

Sean Sullivan is security advisor for F-Secure, a provider of award-winning anti-virus and computer security software. You can find more great security tips like this on F-Secure’s Safe and Savvy blog and stay at the cutting edge of the latest online threats via the F-Secure labs blog.

A Superior Writing Method

This guest post is by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence.

Picture this: you have just finished writing and editing a magnificent piece. The next morning you sit down with your favorite warm beverage to read your masterpiece once more. But as you reread the post, you realize it is about as eloquent and insightful as a concussed football player. Oops. This has happened to all bloggers in some degree—we have off days.

Thankfully, I’ve found the solution to this conundrum. Unfortunately, I forgot to patent this system, so I suppose it is free for everyone to use. You may still send me royalty checks.

Why this solution works

Before I tell you exactly what it is, I will explain why it works. This method is superior to the default one-post-in-one-sitting method because it utilizes the fact that your mindset changes every day in small, yet potentially significant ways. This change occurs because we are constantly being exposed to new information/ideas and a lot of other neurological reasons that I don’t know about.

The great posts that you read on ProBlogger today will have a greater impact on your psyche today than tomorrow. Maybe you’re going to be different and say that the true impact doesn’t hit you until the next day. In either case, the important thing is that your thought patterns change in some way on a daily basis.

When you write, the writing that flows is from a snapshot of your current thoughts and mindset. I’m writing under the same mindset that I started with. If the snapshot happens to be hazy or convoluted, how do you expect your writing to turn out?

It is often recommended to walk away from a problem if you’re struggling with it. Why? Walking away gives you a chance to “reset your mind” and look at the problem from a new angle. Waiting until the next day almost guarantees this effect. Here is how I do it.

The (simple) two-day blogging method

  1. When you decide to write about a blog post idea, furiously write the bulk of the idea or post down. The important part of this step is to fully cover the topic as well as you possibly can. You’re dumping your mind out onto paper or a computer.
  2. (Optional) Once you have written your rough draft, you may edit and revise it a little bit. Now your main idea is on paper and just needs to be edited, revised, and conceptually organized to be completed. Do not try to perfect it at this point.
  3. Finish revising and editing another day. The reason you do not bother to perfect it in step two because you’re probably going to tear it apart in this step.

Final tips, additional benefits, and conclusion

Flexibility bonus: This system will work regardless of how often you write blog posts and how many you write per day.

  • If you write five posts a day, start this process for all five posts. The next day you can finish the five posts and start five new posts that will be finished the following day. If you can’t afford the one day gap needed to get into this routine, do the first two steps and wait a few hours instead of a full day to finish the post(s).
  • If you write one post per week, try breaking up your writing time across two days instead of writing it all in one day.

The benefit? When I start writing a post, I have found it comforting that I don’t have to finish it that same day in the same session. My effectiveness in the following categories fluctuates every day to some extent: content ideas, writing style, humor, editing skill, organizing concepts, and one more than I cannot think of. If my writing style is great the first session and my sense of humor is at full capacity in the second session, I can combine these temporary strengths to make a better article.

Another benefit is that using this method is like having two opinions. Two minds can accomplish much more in tandem if they work together effectively and combine their best ideas. In the same way, two different mindsets are superior to one.

And there’s a third benefit: this is a less stressful way to write because it isn’t all-or-nothing like single writing sessions typically are. When you’re attempting to write a flawless guest post, you don’t have to get it perfect the first time. If you’re having writer’s block and forcefully write a terrible article, you can fix it later and salvage what is worth salvaging. You’ll have that second round of editing and revising to make it sharp.

This method, however, is not the only way you should write. I use this method frequently because of the many benefits mentioned, but there are still times when I complete posts fully in one writing session and they turn out just fine. One post I wrote on multi-tasking took me 15 hours over three sessions! It all depends on the material and length of the post.

Do you always write your articles in one sitting? If so, do you see the problem with that approach now?

Stephen Guise typed this guest post using the THREE day blogging method. He writes at Deep Existence, specializing in changing lives through the power of deep thinking. There was once a small goat that lived in a field. He began to eat grass fiercely. A pilot flying overhead looked down at the field and saw “Subscribe to Deep Existence or you’ll feel empty inside” carved out in the grass. The goat ate the grass because he hadn’t subscribed yet. The pilot was amazed.