Close
Close

The Better Blogging Formula: Think, Do, Write

This is a guest post by Tyler Tervooren of Advanced Riskology.

Have you ever gotten an amazing idea for a blog post, spent hours putting it together, and then released your work of art to the world … only for it to fall flat on its face? No comments, no re-tweets, no interest whatsoever—just crickets chirping.

*Chirp… chirp*

No worries if the answer is “yes.” It’s happened to me dozens of times. Maybe more. It’s so darn frustrating because you pour your heart and soul into your work, and get seemingly nothing in return for it.

I still suffer form this phenomenon occasionally, but it doesn’t happen often any more, because I’ve learned over the last two years (from some incredible bloggers like Darren, Jonathan Mead, Adam Baker, and Tammy Strobel) a blogging formula that practically guarantees success for any blogger who puts it to use.

It’s simple to understand, but actually using it proves challenging for writers working on deadlines and trying to balance life, work, blogging, and a million other things. But it pays off big for those who adopt it.

The think/do/write formula for blogging success

A big mistake that a lot of bloggers make, and I made for a long time, is that their whole writing process consists of only two steps:

  • Think of a great topic.
  • Write it, and hope for the best.

What’s missing from that process?

An authentic experience, that’s what—a story that, as a reader, makes me care that you were the one who wrote it. In this approach, there’s no story telling me why I shouldn’t just read one of the million other bloggers who could have written the same thing from the same information that you gathered.

By actually doing the things you want to write about, and reporting on the results, you add a whole new level of proprietary information that brings your blog post to life.

When you do this, all the humdrum theory is replaced by a real experience that shows people you have the authority to write on your topic. All of a sudden, people want to listen to you.

  • Think of a great topic.
  • Actually do something related to the topic.
  • Write about the results from your own experience.

Last night, I went through all the articles of my nine-month-old blog and separated them into ones that were simple “think/write” posts, and the ones where I actually used the “think/do/write” formula. Then I compared the number of comments each one received. Look at the results:

I expected the think/do/write articles to fare better, but I didn’t realize that they’d average almost 100% better. That’s pretty telling, isn’t it?

If you blog about business or money, quit writing about how to make a million dollars online until you’ve actually done it. If you want to make a million dollars online, but haven’t yet, go make $10 and then report back on how you did it. Build up from there.

If you’re a travel blogger, write about the unique experiences you’ve actually had, rather than about the places you want to go but haven’t gotten to yet.

When Darren writes, he doesn’t publish posts about how he’d like to grow ProBlogger, or how he’d like to try an experiment on Digital Photography School. He goes and actually does it. Then, he comes back and shows you how he did it—and talks about why it did or didn’t work.

Think, do, write.

Doing the do

So, how do you actually do this process, when life is filled with so many balls to juggle? Here’s the process I use to make sure I’m not just doing stuff and writing about it, but doing important stuff that people will want to read about.

Create a personal goal

Why do you blog? It probably has to do with a lot more than just getting attention, right? You set out on a journey to inform the world about something, didn’t you?

In my case, I want to show the world all the benefits of risk taking. That means I set out on a regular basis to do things that most people think are too risky. The challenges are what keep me going, and keep things interesting on the blog.

You probably have some big goals for your blog, like getting to a certain number of subscribers or a particular amount of page views per month, but those are arbitrary goals. Unless you write specifically about blogging, no one really wants to read about those.

What challenges are you taking on that are related to your niche and would inspire your readers to do something similar?

Set a deadline

We lead busy lives, and the famous Parkinson’s Law says that however much time you allow yourself for a task—that’s how much time it will take to do it.

Let’s face it: if there’s no deadline, I’m probably not going to do it at all. If I give myself plenty of time, I’ll eventually get bored and probably give up. Or, the deadline will be so far away that the goal isn’t really compelling.

But what if I give myself a really short deadline that I’ll have to work my tail off to meet? Not only do I stay engaged, it’s a much better story for readers as well. Even if I fail, the story is fun to follow and people learn something.

Document the process

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done something I thought would be worth writing about only to realize that I never recorded any of the details. I end up struggling to make any sense out of it when I sit down at the keyboard.

Nowadays, I carry a small video camera almost everywhere I go, because who knows when the opportunity to capture something compelling will come along?

Don’t just write about what you’re doing. Find ways to incorporate video, audio, pictures, or other media into your story. Not everyone learns or makes connections by reading even though most of us, as bloggers, probably do.

Using mixed media in your blog posts gives readers a more complete picture and creates a deeper connection between you and them.

Edit the useless details

The age of reality TV and airing your life unedited is an interesting concept, and if every second of your life is like a soap opera, maybe that’s the best way to present yourself. But, for most of us, we’re just not that interesting 24 hours a day.

Focus on the most important aspects of your goal and what people really need to see/hear in order to:

  • learn something, and
  • make a connection with you.

Be useful and tell a good story, but don’t bore people with every little detail. Do your audience a favor and edit out all but the essential points.

Hype the important

If all that’s left is the most important pieces of the story, don’t hesitate to add dramatic effect. That’s part of being a good storyteller.

Sometimes, I have a hard time doing this myself because, when I look back on a story I’m telling, I’m seeing it from a new perspective—one of experience—that my readers don’t have access to yet. That makes me want to downplay interesting parts of the story because I now see it as routine. But, to someone living the experience for the first time through your words, they’re seeing it from a whole different angle.

Play it up, make it fun and don’t cheat them of the experience.

That’s my think/do/write formula for blogging success, but I’m just one person. How do you accomplish this with your own blog? Even more importantly, what you doing?

Tyler Tervooren is a thinker, doer, and writer for a team of highly skilled risk takers at his blog, Advanced Riskology. Get his newsletter for more tips on how to be interesting.

Mastering the Moments that Matter

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!

Ask any seasoned marketer which is easier—finding new customers, or selling to existing ones—and you’ll always hear the same answer: it’s easier to sell to people who’ve already bought from you.

Ask what’s the most powerful form of marketing, and nine times out of ten you’ll hear the answer, “word of mouth referrals.”

Yet still so many marketers fail to focus on being exceptional on both fronts.

Delighting your customers in such that they’re likely to buy more stuff from you, and—even better—tell all their friends how cool you are, isn’t rocket science. It’s all about mastering the moments that matter.

What’s a moment that matters?

Let’s image you go to the same cafe for lunch every single day. Today, you order a slice of pizza.  You slice arrives and you dig in.  After the first mouthful you realized that the pizza is cold, so you flag down the waiter.   What happens next is a moment that matters…

  • The good: The waiter apologizes and organizes a new slice of pizza post haste.
  • The bad: The waiter sticks his finger in your slice, says “There’s nothing wrong with this pizza,” and walks away.
  • The magic: The waiter apologizes, organizes another slice, organizes another round of drinks for you and your friends, and slips you a voucher to come back tomorrow so they can make it up to you.

Which of these outcomes do you thing is likely to drive repeat business and a customer referral?

Moments that matter for bloggers

As bloggers, we’ve got a mountain of moments that matter.  Here are just a few…

  • First impressions: Does your content make an impact?  Is it relevant to what visitors expect they’re going to be reading about? What types of ads are appearing on your site? Do they benefit a reader or will they leave a bad impression?  Do you encourage engagement with, and promotion of, your content?
  • Trust and email addresses: When someone trusts you with their email, do you honor that trust not to share it or spam them with irrelevant messages?  If you promise something in your newsletter do you deliver?  Do you allow people to unsubscribe if they wish to?
  • First conversation: If someone reaches out to engage you in a conversation with a comment, an email, or even face to face, do you ignore them, acknowledge them, or make the extra effort to make them feel special?
  • First purchase: If someone decides to spend money with you, does their dollar deliver what is promised? If it doesn’t, will you return their money? Will fulfillment of the product purchase be seamless and will their details be protected?
  • When something goes wrong: When something goes wrong, how quick will you react and how will you turn a frustrated customer into your strongest advocate?

How you perform in each of these moments can have a long lasting effect on a customer.  You can’t make everyone happy, but if 100 people tell five of their friends about your product, that could mean 500 new sales, and if you repeat the performance with those 500, you could be looking at an extra 2,500 sales.

If you’re selling a $20 product, that’s $50,000 extra in your pocket.

If you want to make money the easy way, then referrals and happy customers are important. How do you rate on the moments that matter? I’ve shared five moments that I think matter for bloggers, but I’m sure there are more.  I’d love to hear from your own experience how you’ve turned a good situation into a great one by mastering the moments that matter.

Stay tuned from most 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.

Choose a Blogging Niche You Can Expand On for Life

This guest post is by Ronique Gibson of Freshome.

After one year, I have written 773 blog posts about one topic: your home. After 240 posts for Freshome, 430 posts for Stagetecture, and 103 posts for various ghost writing and personal blog clients, the numbers don’t seem real to me, but I feel I have at least 250,000 good posts still left in me!

I am daily asked how I come up with new content and topics, and my response is always the same, “When you are passionate about a certain area of your life, you can write about it for the rest of your life.”

The real question isn’t “what niche should I write about?” It is, “what moves you to write for an audience that may or may not be there, forever?” Here are my tips to help you be happy with writing for yourself, and choosing a blogging niche that you can expand on for life.

Write for yourself

When choosing a blogging niche, choose a subject that you don’t need an audience to listen to. Instead, write for yourself. While this may sound crazy, many bloggers fall into the trap of worrying about what readers will think, how they will respond, and how they will seek a high approval rating to validate their writing.

Image is author's own

The reality is, yes we all want to have a faithful audience who praises us, but if you can write for yourself and be happy with your content, this is the key to sustainability in your blogging niche. Let’s face it—blogging is tough work and those that have kept it up will tell you that not hearing feedback, and not receiving comments can be devastating.

My remedy to this is to create my own self-validation: write for yourself, critique yourself, and give yourself proper respect when you create a masterpiece! The more you enjoy your own writing, the better, and the more your blogging audience will appreciate you for your unique self.

Choose an expandable niche

What seems on the surface to be the hardest challenge, may actually be one of the easiest to solve. And that challenge is: How can you find a blogging niche?

Image is author's ownI’ll tell you why this is an easy problem to solve: because you already know the answer. Now, if someone asked you that question right now, you may not be able to spit out an answer. Instead, look through the magazines on your coffee table, the television shows you watch in your free time, and the influential figures in your life. I bet this will help you figure out where your passions lie.

Finding an expandable blogging niche is about choosing a niche that you already know about, or are dying to find out more about. You don’t have to be an expert; you just have to want to immerse yourself into it enough to want to share your knowledge with others. Once you find it, you will know it, and you won’t be able to stop writing
about it!

Fundamentals for choosing a blogging niche

As you choose your blogging niche, consider these fundamental elements.

Is your blogging niche broad or narrow?

Your goal should be to choose as broad a niche as possible, to provide full range to your mind, abilities, and to your audience. Let’s look at some examples.

If you enjoy writing about dogs, are you only going to write about how much you love them and the different activities dogs enjoy? That would be a narrow niche. Can you expand that niche to include: dog species, how to train your dog, planning your dog’s home space, dog diets, websites for dog fanatics, preparing your family for care of a dog, owning puppies, aging dogs, and more?

You’ll need to be able to expand upon your topic in multiple directions for lifelong blogging interest and success.

Could you talk about your niche morning, noon, and night?

While this sounds excessive, speaking and writing about dogs will need to become second nature for you, if that’s the niche you choose. This is why you need to have a passion about your blogging niche. If you find you aren’t passionate about it, consider finding another, undiscovered niche that other bloggers aren’t writing about.

For example if you’re a dog trainer, think of all of the knowledge you can share with fellow dog owners! This could be a great niche for you.

Don’t be afraid to tweak your niche along the way

Believe it or not, you don’t have to know your blog niche on Day 1 of your blog. In fact, it takes many bloggers years to discover what they truly love. Step out on faith, and just start. You will learn as you go what excites you—and what topics you can’t stand to write one more post about! This is all part of the blogger’s life. Accept the challenge, “go big or go home.”
Image is author's own
I’m sure you’ve heard the old cliché, “Find your inner voice to guide you.” That’s my advice to you when you’re choosing a blogging niche. Write as though no one will ever read your blog, and as though everyone will read your blog. Therefore, be happy with yourself before you try to please the masses. Once you can do this, finding a niche will come to you easily.

Lastly, enjoy yourself. Don’t start blogging as only a means to an end: sales, increasing a following, or for marketing purposes. Enjoy writing your blog and have fun with it, every time. Then the late nights, and 773,000 posts later, you will still be able to write for a lifetime and love it!

Ronique Gibson is an Associate Architect and a LEED Accredited Professional, who has been in the design industry for over 13 years. Her writing at Freshome and Stagetecture encompasses her love for architecture, interior design, and family solutions to help make your home the best place it can be.

Leveraging 101: Make the Most of Others’ Skills

This guest post is by Brandon Connell of brandonconnell.com.

Leverage is something I have used my entire life. It was what I used when I bought a 5,000 square foot mansion with zero down, bad credit, and had the seller finance the deal 100%. Fortunately, I was easily able to adopt the idea of leverage for my online businesses as well.

The funny thing about blogging is that many people give up too easily. They abandon their blogs because they don’t see the progress with it that they envisioned. That progress may have been in the form of traffic, commentary, or something else. By using leverage, you can have all of these things, and more, instantly!

One form of leverage that I have been using more of these days, is Fiverr.com. If you aren’t aware, Fiverr is where you can go to hire people to do something for $5. I like to use it to get some extra stumbles on StumbleUpon, or some permanent backlinks. You can also use it to have text or video reviews created for your new product. The possibilities are truly endless, and you need only explore the site for ten minutes before you come up with some ideas.

Fiverr will definitely help you launch your new blog and get that needed traffic, but it’ll also save you time that you can spend writing valuable content for your blog. And you thought outsourcing was too costly for your small operation…

The use of leverage vs. the traditional DIY method

The do-it-yourself method is what I started out with. I worked my behind off building up traffic to my blog. I worked extra hard pushing out seven articles every single day. I went blog hopping 100 times every day. It was a rough experience, and I recommend against it to any newbie or established but struggling bloggers out there.

I am not saying that DIY learning was a bad thing. I think that it added character and first-hand knowledge to my blogging arsenal. I do, however, believe that if you can combine the learning process with the use of knowledge learned from others right away, then you can go much further in a shorter time period.

By utilizing others to do the tedious tasks that take hours of your time, you can really focus on quality, and learn from their work at the same time. You can learn what works and what doesn’t by paying someone else $5 to actually do the work for you.

Leverage comes in many forms

I want to dive deeper into some of the steps you can take to make leverage work to your advantage, so you can build your blog faster.

To keep this simple, I’m going to focus on the Fiverr.com website, so you know where to go and get started right away.

  • Articles – I would say it is a must to write your own articles for your blog, except in the case where you’re using guest posts. However, you don’t need to write your own EzineArticles, if you use that service. Instead, why not hire someone to write five or ten unique articles for EzineArticles? It will only cost you $5. Of course you’ll have to check the posts’ quality—they’re representing your blog, after all. But this could be a good way to reduce your workload if you find the right service provider on Fiverr.
  • Stumbles – I hired a guy the other day to stumble 33 of my blog posts and pages on three separate accounts, and it brought me some easy traffic. You can find lots of people to do something similar on the cheap.
  • Twitter followers – Why go through the tedious task of following and unfollowing non-followers every couple of days, when you can have someone get the followers for you? It’s even better if you hire someone to get you non-reciprocal followers—and, depending on your strategy, can be more personal and targeted than using an automated service.
  • Facebook likes – Do you have a Facebook page with only 50 likes or so? Hire someone to get you 200 at a time for $5. Remember, this is a numbers game. The more people who like your page, the more people will see it on their walls and follow suit.
  • Promotional materials – Outsource the collection of video and text reviews about your product or service. Then you can focus more on the launch of the product or service, and generating maximum sales.
  • Traffic – You can hire someone to tweet your message daily for a week to their thousands of followers on multiple accounts. That will get some traffic to your product or blog article quickly. It will also result in new followers. No, the traffic levels may not last over time, but as a means to get a launch-period boost, this can be a tactic worth considering.
  • Offline marketing – There are people who will put your message on a billboard sign and stand in front of Grand Central Station for $5! Let’s not neglect the power of offline marketing—which can also be procured on the site.
  • Design – Looking for graphic design? Guess what. Someone will do it on the cheap if it’s a small project.

Beyond Fiverr

Are we seeing a pattern here? The power of leverage is an amazing thing, and you can master it in a short period of time.

Don’t let me make you think that Fiverr is the only place to use leverage, though—it’s just one example of outsourcing, which is just one example of leverage. There are many things you can do to access the benefits of leverage, such as sending out a newsletter to a targeted double opt-in list, and having a mailing list company deliver it, too.

If you are already using leverage, please share your experiences with us below.

Brandon Connell is a full-time blogger and internet marketing expert who teaches you how to make money blogging. You can also hire him for consulting and coaching services.

New Bloggers Beware: 3 Traps You Need to Avoid

This guest post is by Roman of how this website makes money.

After more than two years of blogging, I’m happy to be still around. Most new bloggers do not survive longer then six months.

Because of their lack of experience, new bloggers make assumptions about blogging that are completely wrong. They start blogging with these assumptions and are surprised six months later when their assumptions turn out to be incorrect.

These assumptions—or traps—give the false impression that becoming a successful blogger is easy and fast.

Trap 1: All blogs are successful

As a new blogger, you eagerly learn everything you can about blogging. You Google every question that pops in your head. Clicking on one of the first few results, you land on a blog that answers your question perfectly.

You have lots of questions so you visit lots of blogs. After a while you start to notice something exciting. Every blog you visit looks good, has lots of posts, has lots of comments and has thousands of RSS subscribers and hundreds of retweets for every post. Basically every blog you visit is a success!

This trap is really difficult for most new bloggers to notice. While they’re researching blogging they get the impression that all blogs are successful blogs. But what the new blogger never sees are the thousands of unsuccessful blogs. They never see them because they’re on pages three (or later) in the search results. New bloggers only see the blogs on page one and two of Google. So after a few days of researching blogging via search engines, the new blogger forms the false impression that all blogs are successful.

It is not just the search engines that create this mirage: it’s also the blogs themselves and the blogs they link to. Successful blogs link to other successful blogs. So the new blogger is bouncing around from one blogging success to another thinking, “Wow this is great, look at all these successful blogs—blogging must be easy.”

It doesn’t take the new blogger long to notice this trap. After a few days or weeks struggling to get traffic to their blog they begin to ask, “Why did I think this was going to be easy?”

Trap 2: Success is as easy as following the yellow brick road

When Dorothy landed in Oz she had a problem: she needed to get back home. The munchkins told her that the Wizard would solve her problems. “How do I find the wizard?” she asked. “It’s easy,” they replied, “just follow the yellow brick road.”

The trap for new bloggers is that they believe in a yellow brick road—a path that leads directly to a successful blog. They think that by following a few simple steps, they can achieve success. Write compelling content, have a RSS feed, post often, reply to comments, create backlinks—do all these things, and you will succeed.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

Steps can be laid out describing how to create a blog and suggestions can be made on how to improve a blog, but there is no direct path to success for any blog. There is no system to follow that will result in a successful blog. There is no yellow brick road to success.

There are a lot of products for sale that guarantee you will become a successful blogger. They promise to lay down a road to success—all you need to do it buy it and follow it.

Save your money. Dorothy did not need the yellow brick road or the Wizard to bring her back home. She discovered that she had the power to get home all along. I wasted a lot of time looking for a yellow brick road, hoping that it would lead me directly and quickly to success. Instead of looking for the easy road, my time could have been better spent creating compelling content.

Trap 3: Success comes quickly

The brick-and-mortar world is a lot slower then the Internet. A blog takes five minutes to set up. In twenty minutes, you have your first page of content lined with AdSense ads. If you are really lucky, you can make your first dollar in an hour.

Compare that with opening a fruit stand. First you have to build the structure—preferably with bricks and mortar. Then you need to purchase fruits to stock your stand. Finally you will need a cash register and a sign on the highway directing traffic to the store. It will take weeks before you can sell a single apple.

The trap that new bloggers fall into is thinking that because the Internet works fast, success will come quickly. They expect visitors and revenue to pour into the business just as fast as the blog was built. Then when it doesn’t happen that fast, disappointment sets in.

Do not fall into this trap. Just because it takes five minutes to create a blog, do not expect it to take two days to become successful. The Internet is fast, but when it comes to having a successful blog, brick-and-mortar rules apply.

Imagine spending years getting up early, opening shop, selling a couple fruits and going home. At first there are no profits, and most likely your days end in loss. But with perseverance and hard work, more and more people come to you for their fruit needs. It could take months until word gets around that you have quality fruit and good prices. This is how blogs work, too.

More traps?

Did you make any assumptions about blogging that turned out to be wrong? Tell us about them in the comments and prevent other bloggers from falling into the same trap.

Roman will be the first to admit that he fell into all three traps. Fortunately, he got away. On his site how this website makes money he proves that success is not just a stroll down the yellow brick road.

How Do You Know if You’re Succeeding?

This guest post is by Josh Klein of Digital Strategy with Josh Klein.

You had an idea for a blog. You developed a smart blog strategy. You wrote a compelling about me page. You learned how bloggers make money, and you even followed some examples of how Darren makes money with his blogs. Then you picked up a “how to” guide, like the excellent free ebook from Michael Martine, “How to Start a Business Blog.”

And then you blog, and you promote, and you make some cash on the side. You’re up and running! But how do you know you’re succeeding? How do you know you’re heading in the right direction, and simple patience and dedication will turn your hobby into a profession? When do you know if you’re a problogger?

Amateurs can make choices based on their raw enjoyment, their traffic numbers, their comments, and their links, but professionals need to measure their return on investment (ROI). Probloggers need to pay their rent. But you’re not cashing big checks yet, and you still need a way to see if you’re on the right track.

I want to tell you about four things you can do, right now, to understand your business goals for blogging and test whether or not you’re achieving them. Because the truth is your follower count and your page views won’t pay your rent.

1. Measure your influence

Whether you’re selling your own product, promoting affiliates, offering a service, or advertising, your ability to make money is dependent on your ability to successful convey to your audience the value you offer them in such a way that they take action. Ideally, you’d measure your actual profits as a way to see if you’re succeeding, but you may have just started to get traction. There are other ways to test your influence.

Followers—be they RSS subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, or something else—are not a great way to measure your influence, at least not at face value. The reason for this is that the volume—reach, in marketing-speak—is less relevant than the quality of these relationships. You could message a million people, but if none of them were the right people, you’d be done for.

PostRank is a great service to measure influence in an effective way. Not only will it track the views your blogging gets, it will follow “social events” as they happen across the web, as people discuss and share your posts. This is the kind of activity that really demonstrates your growing influence, and as a practical matter, you can use it to follow up directly with the people that have “pre-qualified” themselves as interested in what you have to say by sharing your posts.

Instead of tracking how many people follow your blog, you can track—and take action based on—the people actually doing something with your blog that brings them closer to becoming customers. If your posts are spreading beyond the initial push you give them, you’re starting to make things happen.

2. Solicit and test feedback

When you ask your audience something, do they answer? It’s easy to forget, since blogging is a broadcast medium (you write, others read), that comments and emails are from real people who took a real chunk out of their day to not only pay attention to you, but to give you something in return. Compared to your average fly-by reader, make sure you cherish these people, and try to take to put their interest to good use.

When your audience gets in touch with you, don’t simply thank them and send them on their way. Instead, try to solicit their opinions on the direction you should be taking things, test their feedback on the blog, and build a lasting relationship with them.

There is a bigger difference between zero true fans and one true fan than there is between one true fan and 1000 customers. Again, it’s important to emphasize “true fan” rather than “follower” here, because these are people that go out of their way to engage with you.

If you’re gaining and interacting with true fans, you’re starting to make things happen.

3. Understand the sales funnel

A sale is good news, no matter how you look at it. But some sales are better than others. How so?

If you make some money, but don’t know exactly how it happened, you’re not likely to repeat the process. That old adage applies here: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.”

A problogger has a system—a repeatable methodology of reaching sales—that makes him or her a pro. There are many different systems, and you’ll ultimately have to try a few and find what works for you, but the point that you need one can’t be overemphasized. Even a single sale is a monumental achievement if it goes according to a preconceived plan.

You don’t need to write down a lengthy business plan, just to understand the funnel. For instance, “I’m going to sell a course. I’ll promote this course through a sales page, which is driven to repeatedly throughout a free ebook, which I will distribute by guest posting on blogs in my niche and offering as a download.” This certainly could benefit from more detail, but the outline is there. Then you can measure each step of the process; if 10,000 people read your guest posts, about 5,000 download your ebook, but only ten click through to the sales page … well, maybe you need to change the way your ebook promotes your sales page.

Once you have a system, and it succeeds once, you have all the proof you need that it is possible. Your next step is to make it better. Remember that the first sale—at least, the first measurable sale—is the hardest to make. After that, it’s just incremental improvement.

4. Stay true to your one goal

You were smart enough to think strategically about blogging when you first laid out your plans for world domination, but how often do you get mired down in the details, losing sight of your original goals? I’ll be the first to admit that opening Google Analytics to see whether yesterday’s post got as many views as the one from the day before is an addiction. But probloggers know that information is only useful insofar as you can actually take action based on it.

Here’s a novel suggestion: try to boil down your goals to one sentence, maybe a paragraph if necessary. Blow it up into big letters and print it out on a piece of paper, then tape it somewhere that is within your line of sight as you work.

As you write and promote your blog, grow your influence, interact with fans and partners, and watch your sales, always look back to this goal and ask yourself, “is what I’m doing right now getting me there?” You goals can change—they almost certainly will—but you can’t get get “there” if you don’t know where “there” is.

If you do this, all that time you spend replying on Twitter or reading other blogs will start to take on a new dimension. You’ll start to question the value. These activities may very well turn out to be worth pursuing, but at least you’ll have made it an active choice based on our strategic goals.

Over time, what you’ll find is that you naturally gravitate towards the things that matter, and as importantly, you’ll understand why those things matter. This is how you know you’re succeeding, even before the paycheck arrives in the mail—you know you’re working towards a goal you care about.

How do you measure your success? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Josh Klein is a marketing consultant with experience working with major brands on Madison Avenue and small businesses around the country. He writes about marketing and business in general at his blog, Digital Strategy with Josh Klein.

Why Your Newsletter Incentive is Repelling People

This guest post is by Amy of Harrisonamy.com.

We’ve seen recently how you can help pay the rent using your email list, so making sure that as many people as possible sign up is critical to increase your earning potential.

Most bloggers know that one way to encourage people to sign up to their blog is to offer an incentive. Some kind of free report, or ebook or other gift that is a tempting reward for a visitor to transform into a newsletter subscriber.

But having a gift isn’t enough. And what’s more, all free gifts are not created equal.

If you’re struggling to create your incentive, or your incentive doesn’t seem to be converting well, read this article. We’re going to look at how to quickly create an incentive that works as hard as possible to get you the right audience—and get them wanting your freebie.

Don’t give them what they need

It goes without saying that your freebie needs to be valuable to the customer, but giving too much can overwhelm them to the point that they can’t be bothered to sign up for it. Even if it’s something you know they desperately need.

For example, let’s say you run a blog that teaches people how to create a business from making homemade gifts. You know that people who come to your blog really need to know about how to sell their gifts, the best places to source materials, and a great-looking website to showcase their designs.

So you decide your incentive is going to be an auto-responder course over ten lessons, covering a different business foundation subject in each lesson.

Sounds great. Sounds useful. And it would be.

But it also sounds like a heck of a lot of work, which means you’re more likely to procrastinate over it. And it doesn’t take into account what most visitors want when they come to your site.

They want something quick that can potentially solve a problem there and then.

So don’t base your sign up incentive on what they need, base it on what they want.

Make it quick (to create and consume)

Valuable content that can be applied straight away is a very attractive offer for someone with limited time, but with a problem that you can solve.

Think about the kind of quick freebies you’ve signed up for in the past. Which ones have really stood out to you as being valuable?

It’s probably one that solved a specific problem there and then. So you might want to reconsider developing an in-depth product, report, or course for this kind of freebie.

What problem do you pick to solve?

With your visitors all having slightly different interests, and with you knowing so much about your chosen subject, how on Earth do you decide what problem to solve, and what kind of freebie to give away to encourage people to give you their details?

Well you might be surprised what “off the top of your head” knowledge you have that is valuable for your audience’s most common kind of problem.

To identify the perfect subject for your sign-up incentive , the first step is to write down the top five problems you see your audience having.

Ask yourself why your audience is coming to your site and what information are they looking to learn.

For example, if you teach social media marketing for small online businesses, your customers might be coming to you because they want to:

  • get more clients
  • build brand awareness
  • improve customer loyalty
  • increase viral marketing for the company
  • learn more about social media for businesses.

Once you have your top five, pick the one problem that you feel 70-80% of your target market is having. Let’s say in this instance it is: “getting more clients.”

Now you ask: what are the most common questions or problems surrounding this problem in relation to your business?

For “getting more clients through social media,” the most common questions might be:

  • How can you use social media to get clients?
  • What are the most popular social media sites for businesses?
  • How do I find my target market using social media?
  • What is Twitter and can I convert customers with it?
  • Is FaceBook advertising worth the investment?

Now you have five starting points for possible products, which are probably quite “basic” questions for you, but really useful to your customers.

For each of the above, you could create one of the following products for your sign-up incentive:

  • 10 ways to attract clients through social media
  • The top five social media sites for business (and how to use them for your business)
  • 12 steps to simple market research using social media
  • Understand how Twitter can add to your profits (in under 20 minutes)
  • 7 ways to profit from Facebook advertising

The incentive doesn’t have to be a lengthy report. In fact, checklists, bullet points, simple steps, and quick how-to guides are very attractive for people who are interested in your subject area, but want a solution there and then.

If you create your incentive this way, you’re coming from the core problems your target market is probably always going to have, and you’re giving them a short, sweet fix that makes them more likely to sign up for your content.

That means they can become more familiar with your expertise, and are likely to remember and recommend your site because of the instant value they received in your newsletter incentive!

What about you? Have you experimented with sign up incentives? What have you found working for you? What has been your favorite sign-up incentive that you’ve registered for?

Amy is a copywriter for entrepreneurs and in addition to writing for clients, she coaches others to smash through their copy obstacles and get their message out to their audience. She provides free copywriting and content marketing advice on her website Harrisonamy.com

Is it Time to Quit Blogging?

Blogging ain’t easy. Just ask the hundreds of bloggers that quit within the first three months.  You might have lurked around your favorite blogs and thought that you could do it too, so you started your blog.  You’ve now you’ve hit a wall and want to quit.   So what do you do?

Reflect on why you started

Ask yourself, “why did I begin blogging”?  You must have an absolute passion for the idea behind your blog.  It has to be something that you surround yourself with, and wouldn’t mind talking about endlessly.  Because ultimately, if your blog is to make it, that’s exactly what you will do.  If you’re  not motivated enough to talk about your topic all the time, your readers will sense it and they won’t come back.

Reevaluate your expectations

If you had hoped to have 100,000 readers a month within the first year, and did not have an absolutely killer marketing plan, your expectations might be too high.  Lots of great blogs get around 100 visitors a day after they have been blogging for some time.

If you thought that you would make hundreds of dollars each month in  advertising revenue, and you are not, ask your fellow bloggers what they are doing to earn revenue so that you can learn from the best.

Upgrade your knowledge

Increase your knowledge not just in your particular subject area, but on the craft of blogging itself.  Sites like Problogger and John Chow make hundreds of thousands of dollars each year teaching people how to blog professionally.  There is always something to learn.

Take a break

Sometimes you just develop writer’s block.  It happens to the best of us.  Solicit guest posts or articles from your fellow bloggers.  Good bloggers are always willing to cross promote, and you can gain some new readers from sharing your web space with a new writer.

Is it time to quit?

Stuff happens!  Life intervenes, you get busy, you add a new child to your family, you move, or your interest changes.  The best part about being human is the ability to make decisions for yourself.

If after taking a break you decide that blogging is not for you, it’s okay to quit!  We won’t judge you for it.  Just be sure to tell your fellow bloggers and readers good-bye in a post. As bloggers we forget that our readers feel as if they know us, and when you disappear without saying that you are gone, they feel as if you left them standing at the altar.

If you need help, always remember that your fellow bloggers are here to help you.  I hit a major wall and stopped blogging for about a month after receiving a whopping tax bill, but it was with the help of my fellow bloggers that I made it through that time.  We can, and will, do the same for you.  Don’t quit!

Have you ever thought of quitting blogging? How did you get through it?

Sandy runs the blog Yes, I Am Cheap where she is chronicling her methods of getting out of debt and sharing some stories about her tenant from hell in the process.

How to Run Two Blogs in the Midst of a Busy Life

This guest post is by Jennifer Fulwiler of ConversionDiary.com.

When I announced to readers of my regular blog that I had accepted a paid blogging gig for a national newspaper, my email inbox was flooded with one question: “How do you do it?” I have four children under the age of seven and am also working on a book, so, needless to say, before I accepted this new blogging position, I had to think carefully about how to write quality blog content with minimal effort.

I am happy to report that everything is going well: I’m able to keep up with both blogs without taking time away from my other priorities, and I’m getting great feedback from readers.

So how do I do it? Here are my top five secrets.

1. Keep a clean list of post ideas and update it frequently

When fellow bloggers tell me that they have trouble updating their blogs frequently, my first question is always: Do you keep a list of post ideas? I’m surprised at how often the answer is no, since I find this to be the key to regular blogging.

When the blank screen looms in front of you, there’s no way you’ll be able to recall every good post idea you’ve ever thought of. It’s critical to have a clean, well organized list to turn to. If you update this list frequently, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you amass great ideas (the list for my personal blog includes 87 items). The more ideas you have to choose from, the easier it will be to find a topic that inspires you when crunch time hits.

2. Have ideas for easy posts at your fingertips

There are times when life gets crazy and I simply don’t have time to write a regular post. That’s when I turn to my trusty list of easy post ideas, each of which allows me to touch base with my readers in a short amount of time. Some of my favorite go-to techniques are:

  • asking readers a question (I keep a separate list called “Questions to ask readers” for this purpose)
  • posting a roundup of my favorite links from around the web
  • creating a “best-of-comments” post, where I highlight the most helpful comments from a previous post
  • posting an interesting excerpt from a favorite book, with just a couple paragraphs of commentary (I highlight favorite passages in the books I read, which makes these posts especially easy)
  • asking a question on Twitter and posting a screenshot of responses
  • doing a photo post with one or multiple pictures with minimal commentary
  • answering a series of “getting to know you” questions and asking readers to do the same (e.g. “What time do you get up in the morning?”, “What is the most dangerous place you’ve ever visited?”, etc.)
  • reviewing the top products that make my life easier in the area related to my blog
  • asking a fellow blogger to write a guest post
  • writing an “awards” post where I name my favorite people in a certain category (e.g. “My 8 favorite female bloggers”)
  • rerunning an old post.

3. Embrace deadlines

My new blogging job requires me to write three posts a week, on a set schedule. This has been a new experience, since with my personal blog I could updated whenever I felt like it. To my surprise, having deadlines has been a great benefit to me. It’s taught me to cultivate self-discipline, stay organized, and stop wasting time. Consider setting deadlines for your own blog, even if you don’t have to—you’ll find that it transforms your mindset from “amateur” to “professional” overnight.

4. Let go of perfectionism

One of the most fascinating discoveries of my new blogging venture has been seeing the benefits of lowering the bar. In order to keep up with both blogs, I’ve had to pull items from my post ideas file that I normally would have skipped. I’ve had to publish posts that I didn’t think were perfect. And you know what? My readers have loved it. I’m now sharing information that I would have normally kept to myself, and the response has been fantastic. In fact, my four most popular items within the last month have all been posts that I never would have written if I weren’t under deadline pressure.

My new motto for whether a topic makes the cut to write about is simply: If it’s interesting to me, it’ll be interesting to someone else.

It doesn’t have to be a magnum opus. It doesn’t have to include mind-blowing commentary that will change the world. It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to include tons of links. If I’m doing nothing more than conveying a simple insight or tidbit of information that I found helpful, that’s enough; there are undoubtedly many other people out there who will find it helpful as well.

5. Remember that it’s not all about you

Before I had so much blogging to keep up with, I felt like everything had to come from me. Each post had to be based solely on my own personal wisdom. With my new workload I’ve been forced to share: I link to other bloggers’ content, ask for guest posts, share excerpts from good books, interview interesting people, post link roundups—and a bunch of other things that highlight someone else’s talents. The result has not only been a grateful response from other bloggers and writers, but my own posts have been better as well.

What tips can you add to help others run multiple blogs as part of their already-busy lives?

Jennifer Fulwiler is a freelance writer as well as the chaos manager for her busy household, which currently includes four young children. Her personal blog is ConversionDiary.com.