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A Blogging Exit Strategy: Sell Your Blog

This guest post is by Chris of www.freelancepf.com.

Just this past February I had a guest post on ProBlogger detailing the joys of: co-blogging with your spouse.  Now here I am just a few months later with a new guest post about selling that site.

What happened?  Why did I sell a blog I loved and got to work on with my wife, no less?

I’ll give you the hint that I still love blogging as much as ever.  So why?  More importantly for you, how did I sell my blog?

Exit

Copyright MAMZ Images - Fotolia.com

Too often I see people abandon their blogs when they tire of blogging or have to stop because of outside forces.  If there’s just one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: even newer blogs might have some value.  Perhaps even significant value.  That is true even if your blog has never before been monetized.

If you ever want or need to quit blogging, consider a sale as your go-to blogging exit strategy. It’s a little more work than abandoning the blog, but the extra money should more than make up for it.  This guest post is going to examine the mechanics of selling a website using my experience as a guide.

Making the decision to sell

The personal finance site I sold was my first blog.  It detailed my wife’s and my struggle to pay down six figures in student loan debt.  In just a few months—and with no budget aside from a Thesis theme and a dedicated IP address/hosting—I had taken the blog from brand new to more than 5,000 visitors per month.  The blog was my pride and joy, but there were beginner’s mistakes I did not know how to fix.  My biggest mistake was that no matter how hard I looked, I could not envision a business plan.

I kept delaying fully monetizing the site for this reason.  My student loan debt made me feel guilty about partaking in such a time-consuming hobby—particularly because it was costing me money each month.  I started blogging because I love to write, but I thought I would at least break even financially. in fact, I felt I had to in order to justify the expense—financially, things were getting really tight because of my student loan debt.

More importantly, I wanted to focus on starting my own freelance writing business—but I knew my old blog would take away from that endeavor.  I started to look for my blogging exit strategy.  Eventually I decided the best option was to sell.

Selling a blog: overview

Selling blogs is actually a fairly new concept.  There are no hard rules in selling a blog, although it is generally accepted that one to two times the blog’s annual revenue can approximate the standard sales price.  This expectation makes it difficult when your blog has not been fully monetized.  Remember, however, that if you have a solid inventory of hundreds of archived posts—as I did—your website might still have significant value.

There are a ton of considerations involved in the valuation of a website.  Some of them include the stand-alone value of the domain name, the traffic and other statistical information, the Google PageRank, other generally accepted blogging/website metrics, the blog’s yearly percentage revenue growth, monthly or yearly revenue, and the number of archived posts.

Buying or selling a blog involves negotiating skills not dissimilar to that of selling a car.  Another thing to know in advance is whether you will simply sell to the highest bidder or if you will consider other intangibles such as which prospective buyer is the best fit for taking your blog to new levels. I personally sold my blog to a lower bidder because I loved her enthusiasm for the project and her writing talent.  I would never fault someone for taking the highest offer, either.  It’s a personal choice.

How to sell your blog

There are a number of ways you can get the word out to perspective blog buyers.  There are various websites that specialize in blog sales, such as flippa.com.  You can also post about your intention to sell on your blog itself, although I wouldn’t do that unless I was absolutely certain I wanted to sell.

You can write about the intent to sell on various forums to help spread the word.  Perhaps the most effective method is to simply reach out to people in your blogging network whom you believe might be interested in purchasing the blog.  In my case, I put out word in a blogging network I was involved in and ended up having at least three bloggers contact me inquiring as to price.  I eventually sold my site to one of these bloggers.

A quick word to prospective buyers: it’s important as a blog purchaser that you verify all of the metrics the blog seller is claiming.  It is important that both sides properly contract—and perhaps even put the terms in writing—so as to have a smooth transition from seller to buyer.

As a buyer, you may want to consider negotiating certain “royalties” as part of your deal.  For example, you could ask for $10,000 and 10% of the blog’s profits for the next year.  In the alternative you can “front-load” the deal and take all the money upfront.  So, instead of the above deal, you might just ask for $12,500.00.  The great thing about negotiating is that you can be really creative.  Will you accept installment payments?  Will you throw in social media accounts?  Remember to figure out all the details up front.

Exit strategy complete … but there’s still work to be done

Remember, just because you have a contract for sale doesn’t mean that the blog is now magically in the other party’s possession.  You still have to go through your web host and domain provider, and work with the seller to effect the transfer of title.  According to the terms of the sale, you may have to provide the seller with various passwords, such as the one to your Twitter or other social networking account.

There is also the matter of post-sale exit strategy.  I felt I owed my loyal readers an explanation.  I also agreed to stay on as a staff writer at my prior blog and write a certain amount of posts each week so as to smooth the transition.  This scenario is ideal for the seller and also the smoothest transition for the readership.  You should negotiate these terms and the expected compensation as part of the sale of the blog.

Remember too that you could always partner up with another blogger or company and sell a percentage of your blog.  Be careful in that scenario that you are selling to a legitimate “partner,” as partnership laws where you live might be more-encompassing than you would expect.  You may even want to consult with an appropriate expert to see the legal implications, if any, of entering into such a “partnership” or selling your blog in general.

An exit strategy for you?

Selling your blog can be very stressful.  Almost any serious blogger feels a sense of ownership or pride in their blog, and it’s not easy to “sell your baby.” However, for me, the sale has been a blessing.

The sale of my former blog has allowed me to start a profitable online freelance writing and copywriting business. Most times I visit my old blog, I don’t even feel sad that it’s no longer mine.  I just feel grateful that it allowed me to start a business I love.

The other great thing about blogging is that you can always start again.  I even have my own new personal finance blog.  It barely gets any traffic and it feels lonely compared to the active community I sold, but in my freelance business I get to write for major blogs that have vibrant communities and I still get to visit my former blog’s readership as a staff writer.

Again, if you are thinking about simply abandoning your blog, consider selling it and potentially making some money out of all your hard work.

If you have any questions about buying or selling a blog, send an email to [email protected], or visit FreelancePF’s blog.

How a Blogger Landed His Dream Job

This guest post is by Brad Dowdy of JetPens.com.

I had no expectations when I started The Pen Addict that it would turn into anything more than a fun hobby. There were no monetezation goals, I didn’t focus on SEO, and I didn’t take my brand into consideration.

But what I did have was a passion. A passion for pens, a passion for paper, and the drive to find the best products available for myself.

As it turns out, there were many others out there looking for the same answers. The search for those answers led The Pen Addict to become the top blog in its niche, and recently led me to taking a full time job with the online retailer JetPens.com, where I can live and talk about my passion every day. Here are some of the steps I took that allowed me to make the jump from blogger to my dream job.

Do it for yourself

I have a thing for ultra-fine pens, but as it turns out, those are very hard to find on your local office supply store shelves. I was strolling the aisles of one of those retailers back in 2007 and came across a pen with an 0.38mm tip size (the smallest you normally see is 0.5mm, with 0.7mm and 1.0mm being the norm). At the time, that was almost a holy grail find for me. I had no idea that type of pen even existed.

I took to the Internet and found there were other options and even smaller tip sizes. I couldn’t wait to order, but I was curious, how would those pens perform? Trying to answer that question for myself was how The Pen Addict was born.

Tell and show

There are a lot of blogs out there that will tell you what the product they are discussing looks and feels like, but how many take the next step and show you? And by “show you,” I don’t mean adding in some stock photos or promotional shots. I mean fresh content of the product actually being used in real life situations. If you do that, then what you are telling the reader becomes more believable, and the more believable you are, the more of an expert in your niche you become.

In my particular case, pens are easy to photograph and talk about, but I found almost no writing samples online of the pens I was interested in. I made it my focus with every pen review I did to include at least one photo of the ink on the page so readers could get a glimpse for themselves. What can you show your readers?

Become a regular

Blogging was never my full-time job, so I had to set aside the time in my busy schedule to accomplish everything I wanted to with it. For me, a single blog post consisted of (at a minimum) a hand written ink sample review, a typed review, and a photograph to be taken and edited. This is before I even logged in to my blog platform to layout and upload the post.

I knew with the amount of time it took for me to complete one post, The Pen Addict could never be a blog that posted every day, much less several times per day. I settled on three content posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then one additional link/conversation post on the weekend. This worked out well for me and was a pace I was able to manage successfully for almost three and a half years. The readers became used to my work flow and always knew when they could expect a new post.

Along with posting on a regular schedule, which I know readers of ProBlogger don’t really need to be told about, I made sure I responded to nearly every question, comment, or email in a timely fashion. If I had to take an hour before bedtime after putting my kids to sleep to catch up on those things, I did it. I wanted the readers to feel that I was regularly available to them, which again led to me becoming a valuable resource in my niche.

Everything you do matters

There are endless social media outlets these days, and an equal number of articles about how to handle them in relation to your blog, but I can’t stress one point enough: Everything you do matters. Every blog post. Every comment. Every email. Every tweet. Everything.

Within six months of starting my blog, JetPens reached out to me and asked if I was interested in receiving some pen samples. Being the fledgling blogger that I was, I jumped at the opportunity. They liked the work I had done so far, and definitely put me on their radar.

Over the next three years, I kept churning out the content, and of course, that expanded to social media sites like Twitter, Flickr, and more recently, YouTube. Anything I ever typed, photographed, or took video of for any of those sites became a reflection of The Pen Addict, and most importantly, me as a person.

They say it is hard to convey your true personality online, and I agree that it is on a small scale. But if you take the sum of my entire body of work—blog posts, Twitter feed, photos, and videos—you can start to put together the picture of who Brad Dowdy really is, and get some insight as to who I am as a person.

Not to put words into my new employers mouth, but they didn’t hire a blogger or a marketer, they hired a person. They had seen me in action on my blog, in my comments section, on my Twitter feed, and were able to see the passion I had for their product, and the way I related to their current and potential customers. When interviewing for this job, I was up against candidates with much more marketing experience than myself, but I believe my personality, my passion, and my work ethic came through on the virtual pages, and I got the job.

My blog helped me land my dream job with JetPens, and I sure am happy to be here.

Has your blog landed you a gig—a job, a speaking engagement, or some other big bonus? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Brad Dowdy is a Marketing Associate for JetPens.com, an online retailer of Japanese Pens and Stationery. The Pen Addict is where he honed his online chops, and can be found tweeting regularly @dowdyism and @jetpens.

Is Twitter a Waste of Time?

This guest post is by Dona Collins of CreditLoan.com.

For anyone starting a revolution, or a business, Twitter can be a success. For the rest of the world, it can be a waste of time that doesn’t get the message out to people they want to reach. And for some, it’s no more a bunch of nonsense limited to 140 characters—as this infographic shows. I’ll discuss it in more detail below.

Twitter infographic: is Twitter a waste of time?

Is Twitter a waste of time?

Twitter was very popular during the crises in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen earlier this year as it worked to spread the word about where protesters could meet, and tell the world what was happening. Indeed, it and other social media platforms (mainly Facebook) have been attributed with helping to keep the revolutions moving.

Businesses also prosper from Twitter by keeping in constant contact with their customers—within limits. The Flowtown blog recommends posting tweets every few hours, not every few minutes, and planning promotions a few weeks out with videos and other links. Having conversations with customers on Twitter is better than preaching to them.

Most Twitter users spend their time on the service getting information about companies, with 42 percent learning about products and services, and 41 percent providing opinions about products and services. A good—and bad—point about Twitter is that 33 percent of its worldwide traffic is inside the United States. That’s great if you want to reach a global audience, but not so good if you only sell domestically.

Twitter, like Facebook, is also a popular way to learn about news. The death of Osama Bin Laden was all over social networks before news agencies reported it, and some Twitter users have used it as a way to report news live, before websites do.

Still, having thousands of followers may still be a colossal waste of time, especially since Facebook has three times as many accounts as Twitter, and 20 percent of Twitter’s users produce at least 80 percent of the site’s content. It looks like a few are preaching to the masses. Looking at the statistics, it seems that a lot of people get on Twitter and give it a try, then give up: 25 percent have no followers, about 20 percent have been followed by no more than 11 people, and only five percent have more than 50 followers.

As with any form of communication, how well you use Twitter will determine whether or not it’s a waste of your time. Blogger Darren Rowse says Twitter benefits him by acting as a research tool, expanding his personal brand, promoting content, and finding new readers, among other uses.

Twitter can definitely be a way to get things done. The UFL conducted its draft by live tweeting on Twitter. The United Football League isn’t as widely known as the NFL, but UFL coaches Dennis Green and Jerry Glanville make it a league worth following on Twitter with their updates on what their teams are doing.

Beware that famous people have been phished on Twitter, including people as disparate as President Obama and Miley Cyrus. Twitter, like any other website, can be hijacked by hackers. And remember, Twitter messages are archived and searchable, so anything you say is online forever. Just ask anyone who has been fired over a tweet.

Do you consider Twitter to be a waste of time?

Dona Collins, a part-time financial blogger, along with CreditLoan.com, helps to unravel these fascinating complexities.

Experiment Your Way to Blogging Success

This guest post is by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence.

Forming an emotional attachment to any component of your website is dangerous and unwise. Did you know that the smallest changes can have a massive impact on your results? Human psychology is very sensitive to minute details—this means that your visitors are picky!

If you don’t believe small details can make a difference, you probably haven’t heard about split testing. Briefly, split testing allows you to split your traffic towards two landing pages with only slight differences, and then analyze the results. Taking a look at some of the published results of split testing should be all the motivation you need to start experimenting.

Trying new things

Since fine-tuning our blogs can make such a difference, we have to experiment to see what works. What if we were so happy with cars and boats that we didn’t consider flying? Thanks to the Wright brothers, we now have the airplane.

But why would we stop at flying? Next up might be teleportation—and you’ll likely laugh at the idea of teleportation, but is it much more absurd than a 1.41 million-pound machine flying around? I hope we can reassemble the molecules of people after they teleport. Maybe we should try sending a bagel through first?

Header tweaking

I do practice what I preach. I’ve made more modifications to my website in two months than some people make in years. It has paid off as I have finally found a design that I’m very happy with. Improvements can still be made. Here is my header image evolution. I have spent dozens of hours on this one aspect.

Note: Some of the following header images are moderately to terribly embarrassing, but I’ll do anything to prove a point.

first header

My first header ... was awful

Second header

I upgraded the acorn so it wasn't a pixelated mess

Third header

I scrapped the acorn and went with a smart squirrel (Samuel)

Fourth header

I ditched the squirrel and nuts for good. I thought this shadow effect was cool, but it was a failure

Fifth header

I wanted to simplify everything and have a nice sunset background

Sixth header

My current header. I think it looks very nice and professional with my menu in it

So my current header image is 1.41 million times better than the previous ones. You’re actually looking at hundreds of changes big and small (not all headers were included here). It took a great deal of experimenting to get a header image that I love. Maybe you love your design already or had it professionally done. Good news! This applies to everything in blogging—traffic building, SEO practices, content, and style.

It is important to mix up your writing content and style enough to be able to home in on what your readers want. Writing about the same things in the same way is a great way to bore your readers. You might be writing the wrong things anyways. Are you a brilliant fiction writer only writing non-fiction material? To find that out, you’ve got to experiment.

Experiment and win!

  • Success win:I run a personal development blog that focuses on deep thinking for positive life change. I wrote about an incident I had at the beach with a freaking stupid, cute little puffer fish. I had reservations because it had nothing to do with personal development, but I thought the story was too funny not to share and wanted to see what happened. My readers loved it.
  • Failure win: It isn’t all guns and roses! I wrote an article on analyzing 10 step articles a couple months ago and I’m still waiting to hear how the readers liked it. So I learned a lot about what my audience is not interested in by trying something new. That is just as valuable as finding out what they like.

In writing this article, I am experimenting with a new writing technique. I habitually tend to examine my writing very carefully as I write it and try to make it nice the first time through. I’ve heard and read that it is best to write the rough draft quickly and come back and edit it later—so I’m trying this. (Update: I think I like this new method more. What is your writing process?)

Final Experimenting Advice

  • Scared about ruining your website somehow? Run a backup first.
  • Worried about regretting an experimental post? One blog post will not make or break you (unless it goes viral?) and you have control over that delete button.

Like in scientific experiments, it is helpful—but not always pragmatic—to have independent and dependent variables. Your independent variable is what you’re experimenting with (e.g. header image). Your dependent variable is what you’re observing for material change (e.g. bounce rate, subscriptions, etc.).

Many of us will naturally resist experimentation because it is unfamiliar. To overcome this fear, I’ve found success with forceful action—making myself experiment. When you see positive results from your experiments, you’ll be encouraged to do it more. The unfamiliar is not something to fear.

Albert Einstein (or Rita Mae Brown) famously said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Do you really think you’re going to get lucky and have your blog appear on CNN for a 10,000% increase in traffic by doing the same things? Don’t be insane—experiment instead. The unfamiliar holds the greatest potential for improvement.

(CNN, I know you’re reading this…pick me!)

Text by Stephen Guise. One evening a young shepherd saw a group of wise men gathered in a nearby field. They were all using their laptops, naturally. He walked over and asked them what they were doing. The man with the whitest beard said: “We’re subscribing to Deep Existence, where deep thinking is in style.” The shepherd was amazed.

Is “Ooh, Shiny!” Destroying Your Blog?

This is the story of a blogger. He started his blog, taught himself about copywriting, and figured out who the one person he was writing for really was. He worked his tail off creating content.

But his blog was a ghost town. There were no visitors, no comments … nothing.

In a mad rush to find traffic, he created a Twitter account and followed every blogger he could think of. He tweeted and tweeted, but didn’t get much traffic.

A week later, he realized that Facebook might be a better way to go. He created a Fan page, added a Like button to his blog, and messaged all of his Facebook friends about his latest post.

It didn’t go viral, so he moved on to SEO. He bought a couple of courses, got himself listed in a bunch of directories, and created a linkwheel or two.

This went on, and on, and on—to commenting, social bookmarking, PPC, email marketing, and back to content. And still, no traffic. Even worse, when anyone would search for him, they would find a dozen different half-finished social media profiles and pages.

And this could all have been avoided…

Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS)

This fictional but archetypal blogger suffered from Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS).

SOS is a serious problem, particularly for online entrepreneurs. Here’s the general definition from Karen Greenstreet: “It’s not quite ADD/ADHD. It’s more that a new idea captures your imagination and attention in such a way that you get distracted from the bigger picture and go off in tangents instead of remaining focused on the goal.”

Why is this so common for new bloggers? It’s a combination of two things:

  1. You care about your blog, and really want it to succeed. You want to make the very best use of limited time and resources, provide for your family, travel around the world and live the exciting Internet lifestyle, and your attitude is that you just need to be shown what steps to take, and you’ll take them.
  2. You’re inexperienced, and don’t really know what works and what doesn’t. Everything you know is by observation and hearsay—you believe it’s true because you heard it from this authority blogger or that Internet marketing guru.

That second item is a huge problem. They say that the person in an argument who has the strongest frame wins, and whenever it comes to traffic or blogging, no matter which authority blogger or guru you’re reading, their frame will always be stronger, because they’re farther than you are. The only problem is that their advice all seems so contradictory!

What’s the best strategy?

There are tons of strategies out there for growing a blog audience. Here are some of the big umbrella strategies:

  1. Content is king. You’ve heard this before—very simply, it means that your strategy starts and ends with creating truly awesome content, which Corbett Barr calls “epic.” To implement this sort of strategy, you need to understand your readers, and learn how to write really, really well.
  2. Community is king. This strategy is all about being a part of a community—finding the communities that you want to be a part of, and getting involved in the conversation until you’re a fixture there. To do this you have to build relationships with larger and smaller bloggers, eventually leading to content exchanges and guest posts.
  3. Social media is king. This strategy is all about being on Twitter, Facebook, and using all of the latest apps and solutions like Buffer and Triberr to make the most of them.
  4. SEO is king. This strategy is all about writing content that will get ranked on search engines, so that your traffic will ultimately come from there. To do this you have to steer clear of sleazy “black hat” tactics in favor of honest and effective strategies, and maybe find some good SEO software to help.

Of course, each of these strategies comes complete with a host of different tactical options for you to choose from as well, and they aren’t mutually exclusive (for example, even if you aren’t a “Content is King” purist, you probably agree that great content has to go with whatever strategy you choose).

Now, I do have my own favorite blog growth strategy, which is a combination of some of the above, but the most important thing is to avoid the worst strategy…

What’s the worst strategy?

I like some strategies more than others, but the absolute worst strategy is to keep on jumping from strategy to strategy and tactic to tactic.

Whether your strategy of choice is content, community, social media, or SEO, it will take time, respectively, for your writing to get really good and in tune with your audience, the community to get to know who you are and what you’re about, your social networks to notice what you’re doing, or Google to realize that your content is good and you aren’t a fly-by-night operation trying to game their algorithms.

Whatever strategy you choose, you’ve got to give it the time to really start getting some traction, and gurus proclaiming astronomical overnight results notwithstanding, these things really do take time. Just as a for example, I’ve written over 20 guest posts since the beginning of the year, and only now am I starting to feel the benefits of a tiny bit of name recognition on the Internet.

These things take time, particularly in an environment that is so shell-shocked from scams and empty promises bandied about by self-proclaimed gurus.

What’s your strategy?

You’ve got to pick a strategy, and stick with it—for two to three months of intense work, at the very least. But which strategy should you choose?

Here is a checklist that you can use to evaluate whether a strategy is right for you:

  1. Does it make sense? Marketing hype aside, does it really make sense that this strategy will work, based on your understanding of how the internet and your audience function?
  2. Is it compelling to the audience? Imagine that you’re on the receiving end of the strategy—would it be compelling to you? Would it drive you to subscribe, engage in a conversation, or become a customer? Or would it just annoy you?
  3. Do you understand what is involved in making it work? Is everything clear to you, or are there questions that you still need answers to?
  4. Is the time commitment realistic? Different strategies require different investments of time—do you have the time to invest that this strategy will require?
  5. Is this strategy consistent with your skills and temperament? Will you have to do things that you either don’t know how to do, or don’t like to do, in order for this strategy to work?
  6. Is it consistent with your brand? This is important—if it will give people the wrong idea, then it doesn’t really matter if it drives traffic, does it?
  7. Will this strategy have a broad enough reach? If everything goes well (or not so well, because no plan works out perfectly), will it reach enough people in a compelling way to get you to your objectives (or at least to the next step towards those objectives)?

Is it time to find a new strategy?

Having chosen a strategy to focus on, it is absolutely critical that you stick with it long enough for it to make a difference and get some traction, and that usually takes longer than you think. Here are some questions that can guide you in deciding whether it’s time to move on to a new strategy:

  1. Have you given your current strategy two to three months of hard work? An hour or two per week doesn’t count—however you’re measuring your effort, you should have put a lot of it into the strategy for a significant amount of time before bailing on it.
  2. How is this new strategy different from the old strategy? What are the fundamental assumptions that suggest the new one will work when the old did not?
  3. If you’re planning on adding the new one to the old one, instead of replacing the old one, is that really practical? Will you be able to spend the time that both strategies need to be effective?
  4. Have you asked for help to make the old strategy work before jumping to a new one? There are lots of talented, generous, and very capable people out there who would be more than happy to give you a pointer in the right direction when you need it.

Okay, over to you. Can you think back on a strategy that you might have abandoned too soon, or that you never should have tried in the first place? What motivated you to do it? What strategies are working for you now? Please leave a comment and let me know.

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

How to Get Your Guest Posts Accepted Every Time

This guest post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.

Maybe you’ve written guest posts, but they’ve been turned down.

Maybe you don’t feel brave enough to target a big blog, because you’re afraid of rejection.

You might see names popping up around the blogosphere with guest posts everywhere: I remember Glen Allsopp doing this a year or two back. And you might feel a little bit envious. How come they can get their posts on sites like ProBlogger and Copyblogger?

Guest posting

Copyright Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com

Well, it’s not black magic. It’s not about twisting arms, or offering bribes. It’s not even about name recognition—I was getting guest posts published when I was a total newbie in the blogosphere.

It’s about writing a great, targeted post that stands a very high chance of acceptance.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to teach you to do here.

Step #1: Get into the right frame of mind

A great guest post doesn’t start with the words you type. It starts with your attitude.

Some bloggers see guest posts as an opportunity to get a link from a high-PR site. I get pitches from these types of bloggers regularly, and I always turn them down. Their posts are uninteresting, regurgitated content—the sort of thing I’d expect to find in a huge content mill. Theirs certainly isn’t the vibrant, engaging writing which I want on my blog.

A guest post is so much more than just a link back to your site. It’s:

  • an opportunity to reach a huge audience of readers
  • a chance to establish a connection with a powerful blogger
  • a learning experience—especially if you rarely or never get comments on your own blog
  • a way to get your name known in the blogosphere.

Your guest posts should be your best work. That way, they’ll be much more likely to get accepted—and they’ll bring you an awful lot of benefits.

Step #2: Choose your target blog carefully

I know this is obvious, but I’ve had pitches from bloggers who clearly don’t quite get it.

Only target blogs that actually run guest posts.

Many smaller blogs don’t ever have guest posts, or very rarely accept them. Those bloggers might be keen to build up their own audience with their own voice—especially if they’re blogging to promote their businesses.

Look for a page aimed at guest posters, or look through the individual posts for any that say “This is a guest post from…”, or that have a bio for someone other than the blog’s owner.

Of course, you’ll probably know of plenty of blogs that accept guest posts. The tough part is deciding which blog to target. I’d suggest:

  • Don’t go after the A-list straight away. If a blog has 100,000 readers and you’ve never guest posted before, you might want to aim a little lower.
  • Look for bloggers who’d welcome some help. If a blogger mentions an upcoming vacation (or house move, for example), then they’d probably be very grateful for a guest post.
  • Choose a blog which is in your niche. Not only will this get you better results, it’ll make your post more likely to succeed because you’ll have a great grasp of your subject matter.

Step #3: Read the guest post guidelines

Not all blogs have submission guidelines for guest posts, but many big ones do. Look for a page called “Submission Guidelines,” “Guest Post Guidelines,” “Write for Us,” or similar.

The guidelines will usually let you know:

  • How long your post should be. Many blogs will want at least 500 words.
  • Whether you should pitch an idea or the completed post. Some bloggers prefer you to approach them with an idea in the first instance, though many others will be happy to receive completed posts.
  • What you’re allowed to do. Are affiliate links okay? Can you link to your own blog in the body of your post?
  • How to submit your post. This may include the file format, who to send it to, and other details.

Here are a few examples:

Step #4: Study your target blog

If the blog doesn’t have any submission guidelines, then you’re going to need to do a bit of homework. And even if you do have a page of guidelines, it’s still worth taking this step to maximize your chances of getting your guest post accepted.

Go through the most recent five or ten posts on the blog. Find out:

  • How long are the posts, on average? What’s the shortest? What’s the longest? This will give you an idea of what word count to aim for, and will indicate how much leeway you have.
  • What stylistic features are there? For instance, Copyblogger tends to have a lot of short, punchy sentences and paragraphs.
  • Which topics have been covered recently? You’ll want to avoid writing anything too similar.

You can take this analysis even further, and look for anything which seems to be missing: perhaps you’ve got an idea for a post which would be on-topic and which fills a gap in the blog’s content.

Studying your target blog also means finding out any unwritten rules. For instance, do guest posters tend to pitch their own products, or is that clearly a no-no? Is it okay to link back to your own blog once or twice in the body of the guest post? Is bad language acceptable?

It only takes a few minutes to find these things out, but by doing so, you’ll avoid wasting your time by writing and submitting an unsuitable post.

Step #5: Come up with several ideas

When you’re trying to write a great guest post, you need to start off with a strong idea. Don’t pick the first thing that comes to mind—write down several possibilities, and decide which is going to give you the best chance of acceptance.

There are plenty of different ways to generate blog post ideas. A couple of my favorites are:

  • Mindmapping. Write the name of the blog, or a particular topic, in the centre of a page. Start jotting down ideas as they come to you, and draw links between anything that seems connected.
  • Making a list. It’s pretty old-school, I know, but still very effective! Try writing the numbers 1 to 10 on a sheet of paper (or a computer document) and come up with an idea for each.

If you have a couple of good ideas and you’re not sure which to pick, try asking on Twitter or Facebook to see what your existing audience would find more useful.

Step #6: Craft your post carefully

There’s plenty of great advice on ProBlogger about crafting posts (including Darren’s excellent series), so I’m just going to run through some basics as a refresher.

  • Your post should have an introduction, main body and conclusion.
  • The introduction needs to draw readers in and set up your post.
  • The main body is the bulk of your post, and it should be easy for readers to take in. That might mean using subheadings, lists, bold text and other formatting to help improve readability.
  • The conclusion to your post should round things off and provide some call to action which will help the blog—perhaps encouraging readers to leave a comment.
  • Your post should have a great title (though don’t be surprised if the blogger changes it).

A great way to add value to your guest post is to include links to other posts on your target blog. This creates a much better impression than trying to stuff your posts with links back to your own site—and it improves your chances of getting your post accepted.

#7: Edit and proof-read your post

When you publish posts on your own blog, it’s not a disaster if a few typos sneak in. You can easily edit those posts, and your readers probably won’t mind the occasional slip.

When you’re sending in a guest post, though, you want it to create the best possible impression. If a blogger is faced with the choice between a well-edited and typo-free post, or a hastily-written post with grammar and spelling mistakes, it’s pretty obvious which one they’ll pick.

If grammar, spelling and proof-reading aren’t your strong points, you might want to ask a friend to take a look at the post for you, before you send it off.

Don’t be surprised if your post gets accepted and then edited: it doesn’t necessarily mean that there was anything wrong with your writing. Bloggers know their own blogs better than you do, and they may well tweak your post to make sure it’s firmly on-message for the audience.

#8: Include a short bio

Don’t forget to include a bio with your post, and a headshot, if the blog uses them. This saves the editor having to get back to you to ask for extra information. While this in itself won’t usually stop them taking your post, it can mean that you’ll have to wait longer to have that post published.

Make sure your bio conforms to any guidelines. If you don’t have guidelines, look at other guest post bios on the blog. You can normally assume that you’ll be allowed:

  • one to two sentences about yourself/your blog
  • one link (often two) to your own site(s).

And you’re done!

All you have to do now is send in the guest post. I know this can be a scary step (my first guest post for Copyblogger sat on my hard drive for days until I got up the courage to send it in). Don’t agonize over it: just write a short, polite email and attach your post, then take a deep breath and hit Send.

I’d love to hear about your own guest-posting successes (or disaster stories!) in the comments.

Ali Luke has just launched Blog On, a hands-on ecourse that teaches bloggers how to write four popular types of post, through step-by-step guidance and focused exercises. (There’s even a prize draw at the end, to help encourage you to get all four posts written.) You can find out all about it here. Registration is only open until Friday 3rd June.

5 Product Creation Mistakes Most Bloggers Make

This guest post is by Henri Junttila of WakeUpCloud.com.

Creating your own products can take you from earning a few dollars a month to a few thousand. It can be scary, but as you learn to take action, and learn from the feedback you receive, you get better and better.

There are many mistakes I see beginning product creators make. The good news is that these mistakes are very easy to avoid if you keep them in mind.

Painting the World

Copyright photocreo - Fotolia.com

Most bloggers know exactly what these mistakes are but don’t incorporate that knowledge into what they are doing.

Don’t let that be you. Take control of your life and your blogging by avoiding the most common product creation mistakes.

Mistake 1. Not asking what people want

One of the biggest mistakes I see new bloggers make when they are creating the first product is not asking their audience what they want.

This can be as simple as surveying your audience and asking them what their biggest frustrations and problems are in the area of your expertise. I also suggest you drill down from their answers to get even more specifics about what exactly it is that they want a solution to.

For example, you may discover that people want to learn how to blog, but as you drill down, you discover that what they really want is to learn how to create their own products.

You just never know until you ask.

Mistake 2. Aiming for perfection

Another big obstacle is perfection. It’s easy to believe that you need to get everything perfect in order to get your product out there and selling.

The truth of the matter? You can do a pre-launch, where you give your audience a discount and tell them that you want feedback on how you can improve your product before you release it fully.

The beauty of the Internet is that you can tweak and revise your product at any time. Don’t be afraid to get your product out there even if you don’t think it’s perfect.

Often our minds play tricks on us. It’s impossible for you to know what “perfect” means for your audience. You might as well get your product out there, and ask them.

Mistake 3. Pricing and value misperceptions

If you feel that you’re not ready to create your own products, instead, you may want to create a short and to the point report that you sell for $7.

This will give you confidence—if you’ve surveyed your audience and you’re solving a problem, people will buy, and they will be happy to do so.

After you’ve gotten a few sales, you can set up an email autoresponder that automatically asks your buyers to give you feedback on your product. Ask them to rate your product on a scale from 1 to 10. And if they answer anything below a 10, simply ask them the following: What would I have to do to make this product worthy of a 10?

This is a simple way to build on what works. As you do this with more and more products, you’ll see patterns around what people like and don’t like. But the only way to learn how to do this is by taking action and getting feedback.

Mistake 4. Failing to build anticipation

A great way to get people fired up about what you’re doing is to build anticipation. Just look at how Apple does this with each new product they launch: they tell you about what they are doing long beforehand.

You don’t have to make this a big show. You may just want to tell your audience what you’re up to and what they will be getting once you launch your product.

As you do this more frequently, you’ll notice new insights about what your audience likes and how you can make the whole process better and more effective.

Mistake 5. Trying to make the perfect launch

Last, but not least is the launch. I see a lot of people having problems launching their products, because while the content of the product may be good, they just don’t know how to go about launching it.

The truth is that you probably won’t have a perfect launch on your first try. You may not even need to get affiliates for your products right away. I personally love to focus on getting things done instead of trying to get them perfect. It helps me learn and make progress that much faster.

Creating your own products can be highly profitable and a great way to monetize your blog. And always remember: the only thing standing in your way is you.

What kinds of mistakes have you seen beginning bloggers make when they create their first products?

Henri writes at Wake Up Cloud, where you can get his free course: Find Your Passion in 5 Days or Less. And if you liked this article, you will enjoy one of his top articles: How I Made $46,305.38 in My First Full Year Online.

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

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

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

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

Create curb appeal

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

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

Be a good neighbor

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

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

Look at comps on other houses in the neighborhood

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

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

Show some character

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

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

Behind the shutters

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

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

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

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

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

Everything’s Already Been Said. Now What?

This guest post is by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence.

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

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

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

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

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

Teach an old idea new tricks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imitation = Limitation?

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

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

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

Your ceiling is too low

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

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

This has been said before

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

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

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

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

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

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