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How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World

This guest post is by Jon Morrow of Copyblogger.

After all, that’s the dream, right?

Forget the mansions and limousines and other trappings of Hollywood-style wealth. Sure, it would be nice, but for the most part, we bloggers are simpler souls with much kinder dreams.

We want to quit our jobs, spend more time with our families, and finally have time to write. We want the freedom to work when we want, where we want. We want our writing to help people, to inspire them, to change them from the inside out.

It’s a modest dream, a dream that deserves to come true, and yet a part of you might be wondering…

Will it?

Do you really have what it takes to be a professional blogger, or are you just being dumb? Is it realistic to make enough money from this to quit your job, or is that just silly? Can you really expect people to fall in love with what you write, or is that just wishful thinking?

Sure, it’s fun to dream about your blog taking off and changing your life, but sometimes you wonder if it’s just that: a dream. This is the real world, and in the real world, dreams don’t really come true.

Right?

Well, let me tell you a little story…

How I quit my job

Jon's van

My van

In April of 2006, I was hit by a car going 85 miles an hour.

I didn’t see him coming, and I don’t remember much about the accident, but I do remember being pulled out of my minivan with my shirt on fire. The front end of the van was torn off, gasoline was everywhere, and my legs were broken in 14 places.

For the next three months, I had nothing to do but endure the pain and think about my life. I thought about my childhood. I thought about my dreams. I thought about my career.

And overall, I decided I didn’t like the way things were going.

So I quit.

I sold everything I owned. I stopped paying most of my bills. I turned in my letter of resignation, worked my two weeks, and then disappeared without saying goodbye.

Hearing about my insanity, a friend called and asked me, “Well, what are you going to do now?”

“I don’t know,” I told him. “Maybe start a blog.”

And so that’s what I did.

For the next three months, I didn’t just tinker around with blogging. I dedicated myself to it. I started work at 8 AM in the morning, and I kept going until 11 PM at night. I didn’t watch television. I didn’t see my friends. From morning till night, I was writing, reading, and connecting with other bloggers. Nothing else.

Within a month, I had On Moneymaking off the ground, and within two months, it was getting 2,000 visitors a day and Performancing nominated it for the best business/money blog of the year. A couple of months after that, Brian Clark asked me to become the Associate Editor of Copyblogger, and so I sold On Moneymaking for five figures and went to work at one of the most popular blogs at the world.

And amazingly, that’s just the beginning of the story.

How I moved to paradise

Have you ever woken up one day and realized you secretly despise everything about where you live?

The weather is horrible. Your neighbors are jerks. You don’t like inviting anyone to your home, because it’s always a wreck, and you’re ashamed of how it looks.

Well, that’s exactly what happened to me in January of 2009. I was sitting in my pathetic apartment, wrapped up in blankets to keep warm, trying to get some work done on the computer, when it struck me how monumentally stupid it was.

I was a full-time blogger, for God’s sakes. I could do my work from anywhere in the world. Why on Earth was I living in this hellhole?

The only problem was I had no idea where I wanted to go, but a couple of weeks later, the telephone rang, and it was an old friend who had retired to Mazatlan, Mexico. As usual, he was calling to gloat about the weather and the food and the general superiority of the Mexican lifestyle, but instead of just suffering through it this time, I stopped him and said, “No, don’t tell me any more. I’m moving there.”

Jon's office

My office

“What? When?” he stammered.

“I don’t know exactly when,” I told him, “but I’m starting right now.”

Two months later, I took a one-week trip to scout it out and look for places to live. When I got back, I started selling all of my stuff, packing the rest of it into storage, and saying goodbye to friends. Almost one year to the day after our phone call, I hopped in the car and drove just shy of 3,000 miles to my new beachfront condo in the finest resort in Mazatlan.

As I write this, I’m sitting on my balcony with my laptop, watching (no kidding) dolphins jumping out in the Pacific. It’s a sunny day, there’s a nice breeze, and I’m thinking about ordering a piña colada from the restaurant downstairs.

Lucky me, right?

Well, what might surprise you is I left out a piece of the story. It’s the part where I have a fatal disease, I can’t move from the neck down, and yet I essentially get paid to help people. Let’s talk about that part next.

How I get paid to change the world

You know what’s funny?

Jon

Yours truly

The worst part about having a disease like SMA isn’t how everyone treats you like a charity case. It’s not the frustration, anger, or depression. It’s not even the inability to reach over and pinch a cute girl’s butt when you want to (although that’s pretty bad).

No, the worst part is the freakin’ bills.  The doctors. The medication. The nurses.

I added it all up, and the total cost of keeping me alive in the US was $127,000 a year. That’s not rent. That’s not food. That’s just medical expenses.

Granted, I didn’t actually have to pay all that. I had private insurance, Medicaid, other government aid programs, but all that support comes at a price: they control you. The government allotted me only $700 a month to live on, and I had to spend every single cent above that on medical expenses, or they would cut me off.

So for years, that’s what I did. If I made $5,000 one month, I set aside $700 for living expenses, and I spent the other $4,300 on medical bills. Nothing was left. Ever.

And eventually, I got sick of it.

I wanted to make money without having to worry about losing my healthcare. I wanted to take care of my family, instead of them always having to take care of me. I wanted to actually live somewhere nice, not some ratty little apartment built for folks below the poverty line.

The only problem was, it just wasn’t possible for me in US. No matter how I played with the numbers, I couldn’t make it work. So, I did something crazy:

I quit Medicaid. I moved to Mexico. I stopped worrying about myself at all and started a business based on one simple idea:

Helping people.

I found up-and-coming writers who wanted a mentor, and I trained them. I found businesses who wanted to cash in on social media, and I developed their strategy. I found bloggers who wanted more traffic, and I created a course on how to get it.

In exchange, they paid me what they could. Some folks gave me $50 an hour and others $300 an hour, but I treated them all the same, and I dedicated myself to making their dreams a reality.

The results?

Within two months, I was making so much money so fast PayPal shut down my account under suspicions of fraudulent activity. Today, not only am I making more than enough to take care of myself, but a couple of months ago, I got uppity and bought my father a car.

Do you understand how precious that is? For a guy who can’t move from the neck down to buy his father a car?

And the best part is, I’m not making money doing mindless drudgery. I’m changing people’s lives.

Every day, I get emails from readers who say my posts have changed their thinking. Every day, I get emails from students who say my advice has changed their writing. Every day, I get emails from clients who say my strategies have changed the way they do business.

I can’t really believe it. Normally, a guy like me would be wasting away in a nursing home somewhere, watching television and waiting to die, but here I am speaking into a microphone and essentially getting paid to change the world. If my fingers worked, I’d pinch myself.

And here’s the thing:

I don’t want it for just me. I want it for you too.

The reason I told you this whole story wasn’t just to brag but also to convince you of one incontrovertible point:

YOU CAN DO THIS!

You want to quit your job and become a professional blogger?

You can.

You want to travel around the world, living life to its fullest?

You can.

You want to dedicate your every hour to helping people and making the world a better place?

You can.

Because listen … I know it’s horribly cliché, but if I can quit my job, risk the government carting me off to a nursing home because I can’t afford my own healthcare, convince my poor mother to abandon her career and drive my crippled butt 3,000 miles to a foreign country, and then make enough money to support myself, my mother, my father, and an entire nursing staff using nothing but my voice, then what can you accomplish if you really set your mind to it?

My guess: pretty much anything.

No, it won’t be easy. At some point, I guarantee you’ll want to quit. I guarantee people will treat you like you’re insane. I guarantee you’ll cry yourself to sleep, wondering if you made a horrible mistake.

But never stop believing in yourself. The world is full of naysayers, all of them eager to shout you down at the slightest indication you might transcend mediocrity, but the greatest sin you can commit is to yourself become one of them. Our job isn’t to join that group, but to silence it, to accomplish things so great and unimaginable that its members are too awed to speak.

You can do it.

I believe in you.

So get started.

Right freaking now.

Jon Morrow is Associate Editor of Copyblogger. If you’d like to learn more about what it really takes to become a popular blogger, check out his free videos on guest blogging.

5 Tornado Ingredients that’ll Ensure Your Next Post Turns Viral

This guest post is by Martyn Chamberlin of twohourblogger.com.

You know what it’s like to blunder into an article that seizes your attention?

I do mean seize. Not something that charms your gaze for thirty seconds, then falls apart. I mean something you are absolutely compelled to read. Don’t misunderstand me to mean flicking through the bullets and skimming some juice. I’m talking about the business of being perfectly glued to every word.

Image used with permission

In such a construction, the blog post is a dense nugget of gold that cannot be ignored. It forces you to leave a red-hot comment. It induces you to shout and thank the writer from the bottom of your heart. It literally changes your day. It refuses to be forgotten.

Content that demands such behavior is termed viral. If you ever encountered such content, I need say no more—you know precisely what I’m talking about.

You don’t grudge reading this sort of content. It reads itself to you. You don’t guiltily sense a squandered ten minutes’ precious living. You return to your labors fresher and jubilant.

Have you ever contemplated the fate of viral content? I tell you, it spreads. It gets an unholy amount of likes and retweets. It hogs traffic and steals comments. It snatches email subscriptions and hugs them forever.

In the opening three months of my blog, I experienced the sensation of having more than a thousand people read a single article. It was enough to kill a better man than I.

Traffic is power, and power is addictive. If you resemble the average healthy blogger, you crave to write just one article that spreads like wildfire. If you more resemble the likes of an obsessed writer, you dream of constituting wildfire every single time you hit Publish.

Regardless of how gravely Blogging Syndrome has stricken you, there are five tornado ingredients that ensure your next post turns viral.

1. Steal your first 50-100 subscribers in solid guest posting

If your blog already has subscribers, you can skitter past this step. But the opening prescript to viral content is building an audience. It doesn’t have to be a big one—but it’s important in getting step two right.

Play your cards wisely and you’ll breeze through this step quickly. My brand-new blog had 89 subscribers after I appeared on ProBlogger. Even if you’re a painter or dentist, write a guest post for ProBlogger. You don’t have to be “professional.” If you’re a blogger at all, you’ve some fresh fodder to share with the community. Readers will subscribe to your blog because after all, some of them are painters and dentists too. I know this for a fact!

2. Write what your audience is passionate about

Hands down, this is the single most important component to viral content.

Nobody cares what you’re passionate about. If you write with gusto and expect every one to catch your enthusiasm, you’ll fail. As Sonia Simone likes to say, just because you’re a serial fangirl of broccoli ice cream doesn’t mean you’ll be able to persuade anybody to buy it. Don’t bleed your dreams and enthusiasm on the screen and assume it’ll rub into your readers. It usually doesn’t.

The fundamental key to crafting viral content is to write what your audience needs to read.

Pay close attention to what your subscribers talk about. Read their comments and blog posts. Talk to them through email and Twitter. Tickle their pulse. Learn what keeps them awake at night.

Once you have a sense of their problems, write about it. Confirm their suspicions. Allay their fears. Encourage their beliefs. Support their ambitions. Reveal their mistakes. In a word, be viral.

3. Develop a smashing headline

Ninety percent of bloggers don’t understand the crucial job their headlines play. On social networks and email subscriptions, the headline is the first or only thing people see. It needs to be bang-up for them to click. There’s lots of noise on the Internet and you need to dynamite your way into people’s attention.

Take your time. Do research. Analyze synonyms. Write and rewrite. Sleep on it. Choose nouns, adjectives, and adverbs that are clever, unique, evil, exciting, extraordinary, provocative, or stimulating. Example: it’s not every morning you see “tornado” in a headline. It catches your eye, see?

4. Don’t write for just your audience

In order for your content to spread outside your own network, craft it to suite a large audience. This doesn’t mean you become generic and lose your flavor. Rather, make the article stand alone without a lot of necessary introductions and inside information.

In short, a total stranger needs to be able to understand and benefit from your article without having to read six preceding articles. I visit blogs that don’t make sense because there’s too tight a flow from the last five months. It’s very difficult to get bulky, presumed knowledge off the ground. Viral content must stand alone.

Write with a newbie’s eyes. Those are the ones you need to attract. Once you get a complete stranger to properly relate to your content, your regular readers will relate to it too. If you wordsmith your content correctly, everything falls into place beautifully.

Part of writing for a larger audience means you cannot talk about yourself much. Don’t begin your posts with “Lately I’ve been thinking” or “here’s my opinion.” Cut out the Is and mys. When you refer to yourself, make sure you’re doing it to create value for the reader, not just mumble your diary. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Never forget that.

5. Don’t blog too much

Write your hands off, but don’t blog too much. It’s impossible to offer viral content on a daily basis, so don’t publish often. Instead, spend more time writing each article. Jon Morrow, the associate editor of Copyblogger, spent four hours on a recent headline—just the headline. I spent a good five or six hours on this article.

As you become renowned for publishing viral content, people will eagerly read everything you write. The viral strength of your work will build on itself. Publishing less often requires patience, but the rewards are worth it.

Get with it

Maybe you’re asking yourself, “If it’s this easy, why don’t more bloggers go viral?” In a word, most bloggers are lazy. Being viral isn’t extremely difficult, but you have to know your plan and stick with it. If you’re serious about writing a blog that’s read by thousands of people, I can assure you from experience that you’re only a few weeks away.

Have you had your posts go viral? What are your tips for making viral content?

Martyn Chamberlin is a fiercely passionate blogger who recently wrote an eBook called “Everything You Know About Traffic Is Wrong.” Get your free copy today.

Setting Personal and Professional Boundaries for Your Blog

This gust post is by Sarah Baron of of Anonymous8.

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

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

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

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

Personal relationships

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

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

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

Language

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

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

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

Tone

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

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

What if you cross a boundary?

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

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

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

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

5 Ways Blogging Can Make You a Better Person

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

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

Image is author's own

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

Here are just a handful.

1. No doubt about it: blogging improves your writing

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

2. All that practice rubs off on your character

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Blog Commenting Strategy

This guest post is by Joe of Web Programming 360.

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

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

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

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

1. Find popular, targeted blogs

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

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

blogging blogs search

Searching for blogging blogs

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

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

2. Receive blog updates automatically

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

google reader

Google Reader

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

3. Consider quality and placement

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

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

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

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

4. What fourth step?

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

comment traffic

The traffic my comments generated

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

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

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

Leverage the Long Tail of Search on Your Blog

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

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

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

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

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

Develop the right mindset

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

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

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

Makeup of the long tail

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

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

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

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

An important note on using the Adwords Keyword Tool

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

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

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

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

Implement major synonyms and similar terms

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

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

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

Understand the chunky middle

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

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

Leverage the long tail

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Turn a Blog Post into a Press Release

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

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

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

1. Make sure it’s news

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

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

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

2. Change everything to the third-person voice

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

3. Revise the headline

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

To format the headline and subhead…

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

4. Rearrange the post to contain these press release elements

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

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

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

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

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

6. Look at other people’s releases

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

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

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

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

7 Habits of Professional Bloggers

This guest post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.

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

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

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

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

1. Learning

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

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

First step

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

Take it further

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

2. Sustainability

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

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

First step

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

Take it further

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

3. Consistency

Can you imagine reading a post like this on ProBlogger?

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

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

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

First step

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

Take it further

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

4. Self-discipline

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

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

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

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

First step

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

Take it further

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

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

5. Integrity

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

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

First step

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

Take it further

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

6. Courtesy

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

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

First step

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

Take it further

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

7. Growth

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

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

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

First step

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

Take it further

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lesson #2: Don’t quit

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

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

A week after that feeling the first journalist contacted me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lesson #4: Prepare as best as possible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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