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The 5 Forgotten Keys to Extraordinary Blogging Success

This guest post is by Mr. Self Development of Mr. Self Development.com.

Success is not the result of luck, chance, or coincidence.  Success comes when an individual decides to follow the principles of success.

The principles of success will produce success every time.  So today I want to talk about five success principles that will result in successful blogging.

1. Get motivated

“Motivation is the fuel necessary to keep the human engine running.” ~Anonymous

Motivation is like water: you don’t fully understand its importance until you don’t have any.  Nothing happens without motivation.  You can have all of the talent, all of the time, and know all of the blogging success principles, but if you don’t have the motivation to turn your blogging dream into a reality, it doesn’t matter.

You must have a vision that motivates you.  If you’ve lost your passion, get a new vision to re-ignite the ashes so your blogging dreams burn bright again.

2. Work harder

“Success comes before work only in the dictionary.” ~Anonymous

Successful bloggers don’t just work harder than other bloggers: they work much, much harder.

To be the best, you have to give your very best.  One of my favorite quotes is by Greg Evans. He said, “I do not have superior intelligence or faultless looks.  I do not captivate a room or run a mile under six minutes.  I only succeeded because I was still working after everyone went to sleep.”

There is no success without very hard work.  Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and it looks like work.”  Don’t miss your opportunity because it looks like work.

To succeed in blogging it’s going to take hard work, and a lot of it.

3. Fail

“If at first you don’t succeed, try not to look too surprised.” ~Anonymous

In blogging as in life, failure is not only certain, but it’s necessary.  It’s necessary for your growth, and it’s necessary for progress.  Your failures will make you better, sharper, and more relevant; your failures are your teachers and they will qualify you for success.  So embrace failure, learn from failure, fail some more, and then dust yourself off, look up, and succeed.

Les Brown has a saying: “When life knocks you down, try to land on your back, because if you can look up, then you can get up!”

You will certainly encounter failures in your blogging ventures, but remember, if you can look up, you can get up.  You can learn from those failures and emerge victorious.

4. Do what you ought

“If you would live your life with ease; do what you ought, not what you please.” ~Anonymous

It’s easy to do what you please, but to succeed you must do what is necessary.  You must create the habits that cause success.  If you can create the habits that produce success, then success is assured.  Labor to understand the habits of the successful, and then work to make their habits your habits.  Study the successful bloggers, and then get in the habit of doing what they do.

5. Be willing

“Success: willing to do what the average person is not willing to do.” ~Anonymous

Anyone can write a good blog post, but everyone’s not willing to write a good blog post every day.  Successful people do what the unsuccessful are unwilling to do.  Not what they are incapable of doing, but what they are unwilling to do.

To succeed in blogging, you must do what others are unwilling to do.

And it’s not about discipline; discipline is a highly overrated limited resource.  To succeed you must be willing and committed to creating the right habits.  When you create the right habits, your habits will carry you to blogging success.

What other factors do you believe play into your success as a blogger? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Mr. Self Development is an author who teaches a motivational and practical guide to success. Please visit him at Mr. Self Development.com.

A Journalist’s Approach to Blogging

This guest post is by Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

Journalists and bloggers are doing double duty these days. With massive layoffs and fewer staff, many are publishing press releases word-for-word. It’s been nicknamed churnalism. It’s when we get a little sloppy and use press releases as our own words.

As a freelance journalist and blogger who covers pets and wildlife, I get the same press releases as other pet and wildlife bloggers. I’ve often seen the same press release appear on different pet blogs. What’s wrong with this is that it doesn’t set our blogs apart, and what’s worse is that press releases always praise a product, person, or company. The press release on the dog-friendly hotel never talks about size and weight restrictions for dogs. (Some hotels only welcome small and medium sized dogs.) Or the release about cat food fails to talk about a recent recall. Usually press releases are one sided—and that point of view doesn’t tell the whole story.

A while back, I received a press release about a new organic human grade dog food created by a husband and wife team. The wife was feeding her husband dog food for one month to launch the product and they were raising money to fight canine cancer. I didn’t want to run their press release verbatim, so I called up the wife and started asking questions. I found out that they were also going to serve the food at a local upscale restaurant, and that the chef was pairing their dog food with different wines. I got a fun blog post from that interview, and my story was different from the others who ran the press release.

An easy out

A colleague of mine is working with a company that has 11 web sites. He complains that 80 percent of the copy on each of them use recycled press releases. He writes more than a dozen stories a week—many where copy gets pulled from press releases.

Public relations people love it when you run their press releases word-for-word. Unfortunately, you are not serving your readers.

As a freelance journalist and blogger, I have written hard news stories, features, and have gone over to the other side (public relations) to write press releases. The money over there is better. And as a journalist, I like getting press releases. Many fuel ideas for future stories. I do hold the line on printing press releases word-for-word. As a blogger, I cover animal welfare, pet care and people who work with and on behalf of animals. Pet and wildlife bloggers are a growing niche. There are thousands of us, and the same can be said of other niche blogs.

How to use a press release

If the press release seems like it would make an interesting post, look for a different angle. I may call or email the contact on the press release with questions.

Depending on the story, I may contact other experts to broaden the scope of the post. I just wrote a story that started from a press release about the negative effects the TNR (Trap Neuter Return) policy has on the environment. The Wildlife Society is against TNR programs. I’ve been hearing about this for a long while—and not just from The Wildlife Society. Veterinarians, wildlife professionals, and many birders deeply dislike feral cats.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t want to cover this point of view. I love all animals, and cats are at the top of my list. Still, I thought I should explore this fairly. I contacted The Wildlife Society and got quotes on why they are against TNR. Since this is a blog, I told my readers my side of the story. And because I love cats so much and disagree with The Wildlife Society’s point of view, I ran a follow up—this time with quotes and data from Best Friends Animal Society and Alley Cat Allies supporting TNR.

Thinking like a journalist and blogger

As a journalist, I need to present well balanced stories. Since it’s a blog, my opinions are often evident. Still, I think it is essential to get the entire picture. So, I email contacts and call them too. I usually start out by coming up with a list of questions. That has always been easy for me; maybe because I can be nosey.

If you have trouble doing this, go online and read other stories. Check out your favorite blogs and see if you can come up with a different angle on a story that you have enjoyed reading. Then ask yourself questions about the story. Is there more information that you would like to read? What questions are forming in your mind? Write them down.

Use the press releases; just don’t run them word-for word. Write your list of questions. If you have trouble coming up with them, talk to a colleague or friend. It’s easy to email questions to the people you interview. This way they can write down their answers and send them back to you.

At the end of all of my interviews, I always ask, “Is there anything we didn’t cover that you want to mention?” This is a good way to make sure you are not missing anything important.

I also like the person-to-person interview. When you are talking to someone, other thoughts and comments come up. This always leads to more information that is not covered in a press release. Personal interviews also build stronger connections. Many of the folks I’ve interviewed read, subscribe and comment on my blog.

Have you used press releases to create blog posts? How did you do it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Michele C. Hollow is a journalist who writes the blog Pet News and Views. Her blog covers animal welfare, pet care, and profiles people who work with and on behalf of animals. She is also the author of “The Everything Guide to Working with Animals.”

A One Month Guide to Money Blogging

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

A desperate reader of mine recently asked how she could make the most amount of money her first month blogging. In order to help her I decided to share with her my “secret” method.

Before I had even begun to explain the same guide I’m about to share with you, she worried that her lack of experience blogging and time to work on the project would limit her success. As I explained to her, this method doesn’t take a lot of work, it takes a lot of “smart” work. Using your time wisely to do the most good in a single month is the key to success. When I told this reader that she could make as much as $800 in her first month, well, her response was classic:

What?! $800 in my first month of blogging!?”

As I explained to her, you have to keep in mind that your mileage is going to vary when you adapt this strategy for your own endeavors. For starters, this may be the very first time you venture forth writing for any audience, let alone knowing how to write as a blogger. What took me a month could very well take you a year depending on how accomplished you are as a writer, blogger, community leader, and communicator.

Therefore, think of this guide as a grand, overarching strategy which you can attempt to slowly implement and learn from in your own blogging career.

I did make $800 my first month blogging with this strategy, but I may have just gotten lucky. I wrote the right stuff on the right forums and the right blogs at the right time. I had a blog of 187 subscribers in a single month, sold a product worth $37 to this beginning audience (I made $20 per sale) and if you do the math you’ll realize that I sold 40 of them. Possible? Yes. Plausible for your current level of experience? Maybe.

Regardless of your skill level this strategy will teach you how to think correctly when it comes to planning, building up to and executing a sales pitch online.

Week one

Well, if you’re really starting from scratch, you’ll need to create a blog. With a number of automated blogging sites out there, like blogger.com and wordpress.com, this really isn’t all that difficult.

Granted, you won’t have anything beyond a free template to start with, but you can still get a minimalistic site up and running without too much effort. I would recommend having an RSS Feed-subscribe widget, contact page, and an archive widget as a bare minimum.

Once that is complete, your next task is creating content about your subject area—enough that you will have posts for the rest of the month. I would recommend a minimum of two to three posts per week of 500 words each. Leave out the last week’s posts, however, as those will be reserved for your sales pitch.

In a single week, I definitely think that you can write six posts. All you do in this week is write posts and set up your blog, so you will most likely not have any traffic coming to your blog from these efforts.

As you write, cross-link all of your posts to each other, so that when your site does start getting traffic, both users and bots will find themselves being sent to many of your posts from any one location. As new posts go live, go back to old ones and keep cross-linking. Obviously you cannot start linking posts until they have gone live, so going back to cross-link will be a must over time. This does two things: makes robots happy and also makes your blog look much bigger than it actually is to first time readers.

So what kind of content should you focus on writing? For starters, I would recommend anything that is timely, easy to follow, and useful to your audience. Be concise (after all, you only have 500 words) but try your best to make people think when they come to your blog. Be unique, be yourself, and create enough well-thought-out content that you will make a great first impression on the people you send to your blog in this first month of writing.

The best way to make this first impression worth a return visit is to provide something no one has ever seen before. This could involve putting a new spin on old dogma in your niche, or coming up with something completely revolutionary by thinking outside the box.

Do a great job of building excellent content and you’ll have enough subscribers to feed that $800 target earnings you’re hoping for. Honestly, this takes a lot of experience in the subject area you are focusing on. You either have the knowledge and personal skill to write for an audience in your chosen niche, or you do not, and if you fall into the latter category then you need to focus on improving that before you can implement this strategy to the fullest.

Week two

Now that you have all your posts finished and they are being published on a biweekly basis, you can start focusing on more than just cross linking new and old posts together. It’s time to get traffic, and I’ll leave much of this up to you.

If you want to participate on forums, send guest posts, write comments on blogs or any other form of traffic, feel free to do so with your free time now.

Don’t advertise yourself per se, but if the opportunity arises then you can leave a link or two to helpful posts you have written on any one subject. Just do your best to engage in conversation with leaders and non-leaders alike in your particular niche. Be helpful, ask great questions, and give even better answers.

Focus all of your efforts this week on guest posting, developing a reputation in your niche, and going to where your potential audience gathers. Most of your week should be spent on places outside of your own blog in order to maximize your exposure and get your name out there. This could mean you spend an entire day in conversations on various forums in your niche, or you take the time to look up related blogs and leave constructive comments on them.

Of all the things you focus on, however, guest posting will most likely be your most effective traffic driver. For this reason alone you should be putting your largest effort into contacting fellow bloggers and writing great guest posts for them. Explore their blogs, read their comments and figure out what information you can share with their audience in order to enrich the experience that is their blog.

Week three

While continuing with cross-linking posts and building exposure for your blog, you should also look into finding a product which you can sell to your initial audience.

Realistically, you probably won’t have more than fifty followers by the end of the month, but the ones you do have will hopefully really love your work. As long as you do a good job of coming across as someone who understands your niche and loves writing, you should have no problem pitching a recommended product by the end of the month.

Your job now, in week three, is to find that product and also talk to the creator of it. What you want to ask is for some sort of interview, whether that be a Skype recording, a written interview done via email, or any other form of communication that will show your audience that the person who made this product is not only a real person but knowledgeable about their subject area as well. Get the conversation started and have the interview asap.

Be sure to communicate with your audience throughout the month, and don’t be afraid to ask for their questions and/or feedback in a post at some point. This will enable you to build a deeper connection with your initial readership as well as get conversations started on your own blog in the comments section.

Week four

At this point, you have a starter blog that is getting some traffic from whatever methods you’ve chosen and you may even have a decent number of followers. With your interview in hand, you will now want to write two posts for the end of the month that both lead into the product you hope to sell to your audience—as well as actually sell the dang thing. Here’s how you should break these two posts down.

Post 1

Write about the problem that this product can solve. Don’t solve the problem, just write about it and ask your audience for solutions. Above all, be honest. Tell them that you have a solution in hand and that you are trying it out.

Actually do this, please—do not pitch a product you can’t honestly recommend.

If the problem is something that your audience can relate to and which they want solved, then this post should be aimed at whetting their appetite. Tell them that you have found a product creator with the solution to their problems and that you are setting up an interview with that person very soon. Again, do not reveal the product just yet.

Post 2

Now show the interview, write about your personal experience with the product and ask for feedback from anyone who ends up buying it. Gather the feedback (you should get some if you ask for it) and if you have enough then I would recommend that you also write a third post for the following day. Include in this third post your audience’s reviews of the product, good and bad, and then thank those that chose to leave reviews.

That’s the whole strategy and yes, you honestly can make quite a bit of money if you master it. Really, what you’re learning is how to build a presence and sell to an audience, which is a simple marketing concept adapted to blogging online. Do you think that you could follow this strategy and be successful?

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.

3 Simple Changes to Increase Your Subscribers by 50%

This guest post is by Goddess Leonie of GoddessGuidebook.com.

In blogging years, I’m approaching my mid-life. Instead of having a crisis though, there’s life (and new tricks) in this ole goddess dog yet! In the last three months I’ve increased my subscribers by a whopping 50%. All with three simple changes. Because simple is fun and good, and really, it’s the best way to do things.

Are you ready to hear them? Hurrah!

1. Getting people in

I’ve SEO’ed the heck out of my website. I’ve commented like a fiend on all my favorite blogs. I’m aTwittering and FriendFace-ing with the best of them (a li’l “IT Crowd” joke in there for those playing at home). Want to know the thing that’s lovingly ushered people through the doors into my blog?

Guest blogging.

I had it on my to-do list for a bazillion years. “Yus yus yus, sooo important. OMG must be all ova dat! But mmm, can’t be bovered.” Every week, I put it off. Until I kicked my own butt (somewhat lovingly) into guest blog town.

  • I asked all my affiliates if I could guest blog for them.
  • I popped an “Interview me!” button on my blog.
  • I contacted all the places I knew that accepted guest blog submissions.
  • And I asked all my favorite blog peoples if I could write for them.

Whenever I wrote the guest blogs, I made sure I infused as much of my trademark ridunkulous silly and soppy language in them. Just to shoot up a little beacon of a freak flag so my right people knew I was a ginormous raving hippy, and that I was one of their kind.

And people spilled through the doors, and it was grand.

Mission Getting People In a success! Hurrah!

2. Making them welcome

But the next mission is just as important, and it’s one that we totally ignore.

We all know that the bounce rate on our websites is super-high. When you jump on a blog for the first time, it’s hard to know where to begin, or if you belong. We need a better doormat, people. And a lounge room to welcome them into. We need to help them recognize instantly that our blog is a home for them.

Some ways we can do that:

  • Add a New Here page to your blog introducing yourself, explaining what your blog’s about, and sharing some of your best posts to get them started.
  • Add a YouTube video to your sidebar welcoming new readers, and introducing yourself and your blog.
  • Do some brainstorming. If your blog was a magazine, what themes would it cover? Then make those themes prominent on your blog—whether that’s written in your banner, or as an image.

Here’s the one I popped together:

Mission Make Them Comfy complete! *confetti*

3. Helping them stay

How do we get our guests to become regular drop-in-aholics?

The best way I know is the What Would Seth Godin Do plugin. It appears the first five times a new friend visits your blog, and asks them if they’d like to subscribe by RSS or email.

Since using it, I’ve noticed a 20% increase in subscribers alone. Happy days!

Mission: Stay foreva, my one true reader-love = done.

3 simple changes = 50% more delight

It’s been dang glorious. And I’m pretty sure it’s been way more fun than having an existential blogging mid-life crisis!

Let us know your secrets for upping subscribers in the comments.

Goddess Leonie is the creator of GoddessGuidebook.com, a popular creativity and spirituality blog for women. She’s also the creator of the upcoming Become a Business Goddess ecourse.

7 Ways Guest Posting Can Boost Your Reputation

This guest post is by Mathew Carpenter of Sofa Moolah.

I’m an avid blog reader. My Google Reader is packed with hundreds of different blogs, each one covering a subject that I may or may not be directly involved in. There’s the work and marketing category, the finance blogs, and then the blogs that deal with subjects I really don’t know anything about, nor do I have any interaction with in my work or personal life.

Every time I scan over these blogs, I’m reminded of how I came into contact with them in the first place. It wasn’t through search, or even social media. It was because the authors of these blogs—ones that I would never have found on my own—went out of their way to pen a guest post for another blog I followed.

There’s a slight stigma attached to guest posting, at least in the field I work in. When most people see a guest post their immediate reaction turns to working out what the writer is promoting. Sure, it’s not entirely commercial—most guest posts have great content and an interesting take that you might never otherwise see—but the assumption that guest posts are commercially motivated is a pretty tough one to shake.

Part of the reason for it is that throughout the last few years, or at least up until the most recent line or Google search shake-ups, posting on other blogs was a great way to provide link diversity for your website. It was the solution of choice for SEOs and bloggers alike, with both eyeing up blogs not as sources of information or worthwhile outlets, but as link resources waiting to be exploited.

Today, I’m going to look at a different side of guest posting, one that’s completely unrelated to search engine benefits or PageRank juice. Today, we’re going to look at the brand and reputation that can be created through smart guest blogging. From building an audience for your own blog to increasing awareness of your product, here’s why you should guest blog for reputation alone.

1.Fresh faces often become the best readers.

Amongst bloggers, there’s a belief that the longer someone continues to read your website, the more they’re worth, at least from a purely business standpoint. The idea is that by building trust with your readers, they become more likely to view your future projects as a serious possibility.

For some bloggers, this could mean more ebooks sold, more opt-in leads generated, or a greater amount of referred readers. But amongst experts in online advertising, the opposite belief is true. Online ad experts value fresh visitors significantly higher than they do returners, largely because they’re more responsive to new content, and more likely to be interested in advertising.

You don’t need to sell advertising space on your blog, nor do you need to have something to sell in order to understand the value here. Fresh faces may not have a deep level of trust with you, but they have a newness to them that can often lead to valuable action. From selling products to converting a clickthrough reader to a subscriber, gaining fresh readers from guest posting really does work.

2. Guest posting improves your search visibility.

In the earlier days of search engine optimization, bloggers desperately sought out other high-traffic blogs in order to gain link juice from their websites. The assumption was that by linking to their own websites from a more influential source, they would gain approval from Google, in turn increasing their own website’s search visibility.

That may still be true, but the benefit of guest posting appears to be decreasing somewhat over time, particularly as content farms and other search exploiters milk the strategy. However, the real strength of guest posting isn’t just its ability to increase your website’s search visibility, but your own.

When you have an archive of guest posts, perhaps five published on five different blogs, a search for your name reveals multiple angles of your online publishing, multiple resources that a reader can learn about you from, and an entire results page of content. That’s definitely worth more than a single, solitary result for your own website in the first position.

3. Purely business? Take an opportunity to share your interests.

One of the blogs I find myself reading most often, and one that I’ve gained a lot of information from, is Tim Ferriss’ blog. Equal parts business blog, travel guidebook, and sports nutrition cheat sheet, it’s an eclectic mix of different subjects joined to create a very popular, very acclaimed blog.

But what makes it so great isn’t necessarily the mix of styles, nor the quality of the content, but the fact that despite technically being one man’s blog, it’s been opened up to a range of high quality, no-nonsense guest posters. For every post by Tim there’s generally another from a guest poster, often one with little to do with the previous post.

It’s tempting to be purely business online, often in an attempt to promote the suit-and-tie image that so many people think is essential in a “professional” role. But online readers aren’t interested in just the business side of you. Every successful business blog I can point to has used guest posts and an assortment of other smart techniques to be just as much personal content as it is pure business.

4. Great guest posts can quickly open doors.

I’ve noticed that many bloggers have started offering consultancy services, often with a portfolio or order page linked to in the sidebar of their own blogs. It’s a great idea, and one that can produce a useful form of income for full-time bloggers and professionals alike. But why stop at using your blog as a promotional outlet? Why not indirectly advertise your services using another blog?

I’m not suggesting you take over someone else’s blog with a purely promotional post, nor am I suggesting that you buy advertising space on other blogs. What I am suggesting is that you view each guest post as an opportunity to extend your brand onto other people, and as a change to add another knot into your online net. Even a non-promotional post can work wonders when it comes to helping other readers remember both you, your blog, and your services.

5. It can take several encounters for a reader to start listening to you.

It’s always disheartening to see a great blog that’s been given about a week’s worth of attention. It’s not an uncommon sight online – blogs that have received a week of consistent content are left to die by their authors. The reason? They didn’t receive the “instant hit” status that far too many bloggers expect to experience.

There’s an old ad industry saying, that it takes anywhere from six to ten impressions for any single advertisement to have an effect on you. If your first guest post doesn’t hit home, relax. It’s the first of many chances to capture the reader’s attention. Write consistent content, not just for your blog, but for others too, and eventually you will build an audience that’s interested in listening to you.

6. Yes, there are SEO benefits to writing guest blog posts.

While guest posts, published articles, and other content-driven SEO strategies may have lost a little bit of their search influence in recent months, they’re still an effective strategy for driving your blog or website up the search results. However, there’s a catch—one that may not have been around in the earlier days of search engine optimization.

Instead of posting your articles anywhere and everywhere, it’s now more important than ever for you to pick outlets that are authoritative, reliable, and trusted by Google. Aim for blogs with high quality audiences. Not only will these produce the best search-related benefits, they’ll also bring in significantly better short-term results from your post’s readers.

7. Guest posting builds long-term online connections.

If there’s one true benefit of guest posting, it’s this. While guest posting is great for getting a leg-up in the search engines, boosting traffic, and expanding your online influence, it has one benefit that outweighs all of its others: the connections it can create with other bloggers, online publishers, and influential people.

Not all bloggers are based in their bedrooms. Many have offices, businesses, and connections with very important people. Guest posting opens this world up to you, at least in the small slice you can gain by interacting with other bloggers. It also opens up long-term terms connections, ones that are capable of producing guest posts on your blog, and a publishing network that’s second to none.

Recommended resources

ProBlogger’s own guide to guest posting may be a year old, but it’s every bit as relevant today as it was when it came out. Read this to get your guest posts polished, professional, and reader-friendly.

Copyblogger shares ten simple tips for getting “in” with A-list bloggers and networking your way to great guest posting opportunities.

My Blog Guest is a great way to network with other bloggers and find guest posting opportunities.

Have you written a guest post recently? Did it boost your reputation? I’d love to hear how it went in the comments.

Mathew Carpenter is an 18-year-old-business owner and entrepreneur from Sydney, Australia. Mathew is currently working on Sofa Moolah, a website that teaches you how to make money online. Follow Mathew on Twitter: @matcarpenter. Follow Sofa Moolah on Twitter: @sofamoolah.

Should You Even Be Blogging?!

This guest post is by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.

Blogging is dead.

In fact, if you ask some people, it was never really alive.

Sure, there are a gazillion blogs out there, and sure, some of them have tons of followers and make lots of money.

But let’s face facts. Most of the blogosphere consists of ghost blogs with single-digit audiences, about topics that nobody really cares about. Most blogs make zero dollars, and even cost the owners money, as well as lots of time.

So really, it’s just a matter of time before the world wakes up to the reality that blogging is dead, or was never really alive, and returns to the comfort and security of print newspapers. Right?

Umm … no, not really.

I don’t think blogging is dead, and I’d like to think that I wouldn’t make such blanket statements about anything (I’m not a big fan of Twitter, but I recognize that as being my opinion, rather than the gospel truth). The above was a quick caricature of the crotchety, ain’t-never-getting-on-board-with-this-blogging-thing sort of naysayer.

And it’s nonsense. Not just because this is ProBlogger, and if you’re reading this, then you probably disagree with almost everything I wrote. But because you’re a smart person, who knows that absolutes like “blogging is finished” or “Facebook doesn’t work” may be right for some people in some contexts, but can’t be right for everyone in every context.

So let’s try another absolute on for size. Tell me how this one grabs you:

Blogging is awesome.

In fact, it’s so awesome that I find it hard to believe people still waste money on anything else!

There are loads of blogs out there with tons of followers making lots of money—these aren’t just hypotheticals, There are tons of easy examples that come to mind, like Problogger, Copyblogger, and Firepole Marketing (okay, so Firepole Marketing isn’t in the same league, but watch this space!).

Sure, there are some ghost blogs out there, but that’s just a testament to how incredibly accessible the world of blogging really is—there are practically no barriers to entry, which means that anyone can do it, and anyone can win big.

Blogging is the ultimate level playing field, and it’s just a matter of time before the whole world wakes up and realizes that blogging is where it’s at. Right?

Umm … no, not really.

Why blog?

There really are tons of great reasons to be blogging. Here are just a few, off the top of my head:

  • Blogging is rewarding. It feels really great to write a post that you know is solid, and then have people read it and agree in the comments.
  • Blogging is educational. To keep on putting out good content, you’ve got to be reading good content, and thinking about interesting things. This makes blogging a powerful learning experience.
  • Blogging builds community. For your blog to do well, you need to connect with others like you. They will have experiences that you share, and that is the start of community. This isn’t just a web 2.0 buzz word—community provides support and momentum, which are both critical resources.
  • Blogging builds credibility. Creating solid, relevant content on a regular basis is a great way to communicate to your audience that you know your stuff.

These are good reasons, but they aren’t the only ones—I’m sure that with a bit of time, you could come up with five or ten more to add to the list!

But rather than expanding that list for several pages, I want to discuss one terrible reason to blog: all the cool kids are doing it.

Too many people start “me too” blogs, because it seems to be the thing to do. Everyone and their sister has a blog, so you should, too. It’s the magical path to freedom and riches, right?

Wrong!

Just because others are growing an audience and making lots of money doesn’t mean that you will. At the same time, just because others aren’t growing an audience and aren’t making a penny doesn’t mean that you won’t.
Each person, blog, and situation is different, and you can’t just copy-paste someone else’s successes or failures onto your life.

So … should you be blogging? Let’s explore that in a slightly roundabout way.

Back to business school

I think it’s safe to assume that if you’re reading ProBlogger, then you’re after an audience, money, or both.
Let’s go back to business school for a moment, and talk about your business model. Fundamentally, your business model answers two questions:

  1. What are people going to pay you for?
  2. What will you do to make them want to pay?

Now, whether they’re paying you in eyeballs or dollars depends on what is important to you. Either way, getting them to do it depends on giving them something that they want.

And how do you know what they want? Well, first you have to know who they are—who are you writing for?
I read somewhere that when Stephen King writes a novel, he has a specific reader in mind—someone that he knows. When the novel is done, he gives it to that person to read, and if they like it, he knows he hit the mark.

Now, if this were a post about writing, then I’d talk about how you should be thinking about a specific reader for each and every post—how to make sure you’re writing what they want to read, using language that will resonate with them, and so forth. But this post isn’t about writing (but leave a comment if you want me to write that post!).

Where does your tribe hang out?

This post is about whether you should be blogging. So here’s what I want you to do. First, choose the person that you’re writing for. See them clearly in your mind, and don’t continue until you’ve got it.

Second, ask yourself this question: “Do they read blogs?”

If the answer is yes, then great. But for too many blogs (read: the ones who never hit the traffic numbers that they want), the answer is no. Like an organization for anarchists, they’re targeting an audience in a way that the audience will never respond to—even if the audience would love all their stuff if only they read it.

It takes courage to admit it, but if that’s you, you have two options: write for a different tribe, or write somewhere else (wherever it is that they do hang out).

Let’s say that the answer is “yes”—they read blogs. The next question is: “What blogs do they read?”

That’s the answer to where you should be commenting, engaging the community, and guest posting.

Who is that one person?

It all comes back to that one person that you’re writing for. Take the time to think about who that person is, and what they want to read. No complicated tricks or frameworks—if you know them, then you know what they like, right?

So who are you writing for? Who is that one person? What are they like? Do you know who that one person is for you? Share it with me in a comment…

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!

2 Blogging Myths: Traffic Measures Success and Content Is King

This guest post was written by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence.

Admit it. You think I’m crazy for dogging the two most commonly cited blogger goals—traffic and great content. Allow me to explain before you throw your mouse at the screen, please.

Busting the myths

Blog traffic is very important. With no traffic, how will anyone see your masterpiece on writing blindfolded for enhanced focus? Your blog needs traffic.

But traffic is not a valid measure of success. If traffic were a valid measure of success, every blogger starting out would be an instant failure for months, if not longer.

Success metrics must be applicable to people at all levels of experience. High traffic later on is a great indication that you have succeeded (like ProBlogger has), but it simply isn’t relevant to new bloggers who want to know how well they’re doing.

Traffic relative to experience and time online is also a moot statistic, because it has more to do with luck and/or marketing than anything else:

  • The better marketers will have better traffic—especially in the beginning.
  • I’ve seen horrendous blogs (messy layout, weak content, horrible grammar, etc.) with thousands of subscribers.
  • I’ve seen great blogs that are practically invisible online because they don’t know how to, or care to, gain exposure.
  • Time separates the wheat from the chaff (unless you never market your blog at all, in which case, good luck).

For a beginning blogger, it can be tough to see the big-time bloggers pull in thousands of visitors on a daily basis while you’re reaching for 50 on a good day. It takes time and effort to get your name out there so that you can get the chance to be fairly evaluated by web users. I know that many quality bloggers have simply quit because they equated low traffic with failure.

63,494 blogs were started in the last 24 hours (according to blogpulse.com at the time of writing) and many of those bloggers will quit in the first few months. The first few months are important.

We’ve all heard the classic “content is king” viewpoint as well as the opposing, “unseen content is useless” perspective. In reality, both have some truth—you need great content and you need to make sure people know about it.

However, saying that content is king gives the writer the wrong focus.

How to measure success at any level

So then, what is the best measure of success?

Success is measured by what readers think of your content.

I have only been blogging (on my website) for a month, and as such, my traffic is hilariously low. However, I am very hopeful for retaining and gaining new readers because of how I’ve been measuring my success.

When I read articles about content being king, I get the impression that we should write the best content we can create. The problem is that the writer’s opinion of “best content” doesn’t matter too much.

Content is not king, and neither is traffic: your readers are king!

Some might say that this is what “content is king” actually means, but that is up for interpretation. Saying that readers are king leaves no doubt.

Readers decide what they want to read, how much, and when. They determine which blogs soar to incredible popularity and which blogs bite the dust. They are king because they control the destiny of every blogger. So how do we cater to their interests? How do we know what they want?

  1. You want to shape your content to your readers. Okay, but how do you do that?
  2. You do that by listening to what your readers are telling you.
  3. You listen by measuring the number of tangible positive responses (Facebook likes, tweets, comments, new subscribers, etc.) relative to the number of people who viewed a post (individual post views can be seen with Google Analytics, but make sure you’re blocking your own IP address views to prevent skewing the stats).

This approach is primarily geared towards people starting out such as myself, but it is relevant to all bloggers.

When you’ve “made it” and are getting tons of traffic, the positive responses in relation to your traffic (and increased traffic itself via reader sharing) will be pretty obvious indicators of how your posts are received. You have a much bigger sample size in that case, and precise calculations aren’t necessary. But I’m sure you’ll do them anyways because of how much fun they are.

Low traffic … but high hopes

I believe that I am going to be a successful blogger. It isn’t because of my traffic—on Saturday I had a whopping six unique visitors (ouch, weekends).

My readers, not my traffic, have been foreshadowing my success by responding positively. In the first week, a couple I’m friends with told me my blog was changing their lives. I’ll take that over 1,000 visitors.

My last post was seen by only 22 unique visitors the day I posted it, but from that it received seven Facebook likes. My subscriber count doubled from seven to 14. About 32% of the readers liked it enough to share it with their Facebook friends.

If I were attracting 2,000 visitors a day and maintained that 32% sharing rate (unlikely, but interesting), it would translate to 640 Facebook likes on that post, which could obviously boost my traffic substantially.

I’ve had other posts that were seen by a much higher number of people with a much lower response—that is a huge statement by the readers. I would be a fool to ignore it and write whatever I want.

As a blogger, you need to have a willingness to adapt your vision and content to the marketplace. Let’s face it: blogging is a business. You have to promote your product (blog posts), network with other businesses (bloggers), and create value for your customers (readers).

Consider the variables

It is important to note that there are many other factors that come into play here—the time the post was published, the length of post, topic interest, marketing, statistical variations, the influential power of who shares your post, and so on.

It isn’t an exact science because of the variables involved, but it remains the best measure of success for a blogger at any level. This is why I recommend allowing comments on your posts, or at the very least adding social sharing options, to bloggers starting out. Disable comments because it looks bad to have no comments, and you’ll miss out on a chance to get valuable feedback.

Even at low traffic levels, I’ve found you can still get a good feel for your winners and losers. For example, the aforementioned post with fewer views had a much greater response than every other post with more views on my blog. The readers have spoken.

Keep in mind that different posts will have different reactions. The popular post I mentioned has zero comments, but people were sharing it and subscribing as a result of it.

Another post I wrote on deep thinking was shared less, but has more comments. Both posts were successful based on the number of views.

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences, and get your thoughts and feedback on this idea. After all, if you’re reading this, your feedback is king!

Written by Stephen Guise. See my website for more deep thoughts and follow me on twitter!

Two Email Marketing Strategies that Work

This is a guest post by Shaun at Ultimate Mailing List.

As I’m sure many of you know, building a mailing list can greatly benefit your business.

Bloggers harp on all the time about how much money you can make if you have enough subscribers, and how great it can be in terms of social proof. While this is true, what’s often left out is what you should do once you have your mailing list up and running.

This means bloggers are left paying their $19-a-month Aweber fees, with no real idea of how they’re going to make that money back.

I want to share with you two great ways to get your email marketing campaigns off the ground.

The first strategy will help you get more subscribers and build your authority in your niche, while the second will help you get more page views and affiliate sales—all in an ethical manner, of course. Both of these methods will also help build stronger relationships with your subscribers, and get them to trust you. This is vitally important, as the better your relationship is with your subscribers, the longer they will stay around.

So, let’s get into the methods shall we?

The short course strategy

The method

The short course method is pretty much what is sounds like: you set up a short course which your website visitor is enrolled in once they sign up to your mailing list. Over the next few days (usually seven, but the course duration can be more or less depending on what you have to offer), your subscribers will be sent a new part of the course. This is done automatically via your autoresponders, so you don’t have to physically be around for your course to be delivered.

What it achieves

Depending on the niche I’m catering to, I often prefer this method to sending out a one-off ebook in exchange for an email address. This is because it achieves a few objectives:

  • It helps build up a strong relationship with your customers in a short space of time. While it can take a while for subscribers to fully trust you, if you send them top-quality emails every day for a week, this trust is built up a lot faster.
  • A short course can offer higher perceived value then a one-off ebook, meaning you’ll get more subscribers.
  • It’ll get people used to opening and interacting with your emails. A subscriber who doesn’t open your emails is pretty much useless, so sending them daily emails (initially) will help them to associate your emails with quality. This’ll mean they’re more likely to open future emails they receive from you.

Why it works

With this approach, each email acts as a reminder.

While ebooks are good, many people tend to read the first chapter, put it down for further reading later on, and never get back to it. With an email course, however, they’re sent a new part every day, so they’re always reminded that they have reading to do. This means they’re more likely to read each part, and they’ll be reminded to go back to any part they miss when a new email comes through.

Another good thing about short courses is that they can quickly help you to establish your authority in your niche. If everyone else in your niche is offering ebooks, and you offer a course—something most other people will likely be charging for—people will look at you more favorably than your competitors, and they’ll be more open to seeing what you have to offer.

An example

You can see an example of this strategy at work here. In the sidebar, a seven-day course is offered to anyone who enters their email address. If collecting email addresses is your primary aim, you may want to make the opt-in box appear at the top of the page, though.

While it’s not essential, it may be a good idea to incorporate this next strategy into your seven-day course, too…

The further interaction strategy

The method

In this strategy, you’re looking to get your subscribers to further interact with you once they finish reading your emails. This is a method that can be applied to your existing email marketing campaigns, and although simple, it can drastically increase your website’s page views, reader loyalty, and more.

With this technique, you send subscribers short- to medium-length emails. In these emails, you will include a guide or something else that’s helpful to the reader, and at the bottom, include a link to more on this subject. The link will lead back to a page on your website, getting you more page views as you point the subscriber in the direction of further assistance. Note that it’s important to not include any ads in these emails.

This strategy can be applied to any email you send out for which you have additional information about the subject on your website. I tend to use it a lot in my autoresponder series, but it can be applied to any email you see fit.

What it achieves

  • More page views. As you will include a link back to your website, you will have more people visiting your site.
  • More sales. While you’re not selling anything directly in your emails, some of the pages you link to from your emails may promote affiliate products or have ads that you can make money from.
  • More visits to your hidden gems. If you have a big website, there are often articles that will be helpful to visitors that they don’t end up seeing. Using this method you can show people about your less-visible but just as helpful articles.
  • A higher open rate. If your emails are helpful and genuine, more people will continue to open and interact with them.

Why it works

I’ve been using this method effectively for quite a while now. It has led to me having top-quality open rates and a high percentage of clickthroughs—both are well above the industry average.

This method works because people don’t feel like they’re being sold to. If you constantly sell to people in your emails, your subscriber turnover rate will be very high. While people may open the first few to see what you have to say, after a while they’ll catch wind of your game and start ignoring your messages.

If you’re being helpful to them in every email, however, people are more likely to look forward to your messages and interact with them regularly. On top of that, they can make you sales if you have an affiliate offer or other monetization method in the linked page on your website.

What if you don’t have any extra information on your website?

I’ve often written emails for my autoresponder but not had anything to link back to. So what did I do? Well, I added the email to my autoresponder anyway, as the information was still valuable by itself.

The good thing about this method is it always gives you ideas for new subjects. You may want to make a note of any emails you send that aren’t further documented on your website, and in future, write an article or post about them. You can then go back and add a link to your emails (If they’re in an autoresponder) so any future subscribers will have that further bit of interaction.

Email marketing that works

So there you have it—two ways you can greatly improve your email marketing efforts. Using these methods will help build your authority, get you more subscribers, build up a better relationship with your customers, and get your more sales.

What other methods do you use to effectively build up your mailing list?

Shaun is the owner of Ultimate Mailing List, a site dedicated to help you build a responsive and profitable mailing list. Not sure how to build a list or want more email marketing tips? Then check us out.

WP Troubleshooting Tips From the Trenches

This guest post is by Dan Sheehan of DSConstructiontahoe.com.

I’m one of those types who believe when something’s working fine, it’s a good time to mess with it. After all, isn’t that how progression and innovation happen?

My construction business had been slow so I decided to build my own website during some down-time.

I learned a lot about WordPress and SEO through my toying, tweaking, and dismantling of this website, and I think my tips might help newbies and seasoned WordPressers alike!

Google Webmaster Tools

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend that you sign up for a free Google Webmaster Tools account.  Much of the following post is based on the information you can get from this extremely important tool.

It is never fun to go to your Google Webmaster Tools account to find that the Googlebots have been discovering pages of your site that you never knew existed, or URLs that are non-existent. Or to find that your home page isn’t being indexed because there’s a trailing slash on the end of your home URL. The worst was when I found that both the www and non-www versions of my URL were being indexed—that’s not good for SEO.

Redirection and link juice plugins

Along the journey, I’ve tried many plugins. One thing I have tried to do is use as few a plugins as possible in an attempt to make my site as fast as possible (since Larry Page is such a speed freak).

I present here are a few plugins that I have found help my site play nice with Google, and are well worth the weight they add to my WP installation.

After changing my permalink structure four or five times and my domain name twice, I had a mess that Google pointed out to me under the “crawl errors” and “html errors” sections in the Webmasters tools.

Two plugins helped clean up a lot of this mess: Redirection and Link Juice Keeper.

The Redirection plugin allows you to place a 301 redirect on any URL within the domain. To tell you the truth, in many cases I had no idea where these bad URL’s came from—I only knew that Google was telling me they were crawl errors. And the reasons as to how I got all those errors are beyond the scope of this post.  When you use a 301 redirect, any PageRank from that homeless page transfers to the page you are 301-redirecting to.

Link Juice Keeper (or LJK) is what I use to basically clean up all the bad URLs for which I can’t find a page to redirect to. LJK automatically redirects all non-existent URLs and 404 errors to your home page. So after you go through and 301-redirect URLS that can be pointed to good, specific pages, you can let LJK pick up the rest—plus any others that pop up.

However, keep in mind that any of the subsequent redirections that LJK makes might be better replaced by a redirection to a more appropriate page on your site, so it’s good periodically to check for any new errors, and properly redirect them if possible, rather than just letting them go to your home page.

By giving a home to all these “homeless pages” you are preserving any link juice that those pages have within your domain. If a page with a bad URL can be found on the ‘net, then it has value—but not if it goes to a “page cannot be found” page. Why not make use of all those pages and have them become paths to the content that you want to rank for?

Anti-spamming plugins

Another great plugin I came across is cbnet Ping Optimizer.

Did you know that every time you make an edit to a post or a page on your WordPress blog, you’re pinging a bunch of update services like Google, Technorati, and many more? This action lets them know that you have some new content and that they should send over their crawlers to take a look.

That’s great … unless you’re like me, and are constantly correcting some spelling, or tweaking your pages on a very regular basis. Maybe you’re reformatting a post, and keep updating and publishing over and over until it looks just right.

While you’re consciously improving your content, you’re also making yourself out to be a spammer in the eyes of those update services. What cbnet Ping Optimizer does is control those pings so that you only ping the update services when you create something new (a post or a page)—not when you edit an existing post or page. If you’ve made a bunch of edits that have significantly changed the page or post, then you can go ahead and manually force-ping the services.

A Firefox addon that’s been helpful to me is SEO Doctor.

SEO Doctor provides great SEO-related information about the page that’s displayed in your browser. It will let you know, for example, if you are using two H1 tags (not good), as well as many other SEO blunders.

SEO Doctor told me that an important page on my blog was not being indexed because of a canonical link issue. In the end I found that the plugin All In One SEO was the culprit. Once I unchecked the Canonical URLs option, the issue resolved. I still love AIO SEO and find it invaluable, but without SEO Doctor, I’d never have found this problem.

Site Meter: a handy watchdog

The other day, I had noticed from my Site Meter account that Google was indexing my site with both www and non-www URLs.

Site Meter, unlike many other trackers, shows Googlebot visits, which I love. I was able to see that Google actually came to my site using specific keyword search terms! Tracing these back to the SERPs, I saw that there were both forms of the URLs in the search results. After an unrelenting research, I came across a website that mentioned the same WordPress problem. The author disabled the plugin W3 Total Cache and the problem was resolved.

I cleaned up my .htaccess file and reordered the rewrite rules and that seemed to fix it, but I’m skeptical.  To be sure it does not happen again, I made the non-www URL (www is my preferred format) the link I use to check out my site from my desktop and bookmarks. So when I click the link, I look in the Address bar of the browser to be sure that the non-www URL resolves to the www version.

The last thing you want is to make Google unhappy with you. For the beginner I think it is important to monitor all these things vigilantly until the dust settles. If you do not think you need to monitor your site then you must be doing nothing to optimize it. If you are, you’ll have no feedback about the search engine, and your progress could be hindered.

These are my favorite WP troubleshooting tips. What are yours? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Dan Sheehan is a snowboarder, general contractor, and jack of all trades.  His hobby with PCs has also turned into a small computer repair business on the side. Typically he works on something until it breaks and then he improves on it.