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The Tortoise and the Hare: a Blogger’s Tale

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The website has been blocked

The website has been blocked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how can you stay safe?

1. Keep your blogging software up to date

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

2. Choose secure logins and passwords

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

3. Beef up security with WordPress plugins

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

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

Computer virus

Computer virus

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

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

5. Automated backups: set it and forget it

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

6. Stop spammers in their tracks

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

What to do in the worst-case scenario

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

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

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

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

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

A Superior Writing Method

This guest post is by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence.

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

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

Why this solution works

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

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

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

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

The (simple) two-day blogging method

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

Final tips, additional benefits, and conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Traffic Potential a Good Proxy for Link Quality?

This guest post is by Mark of GiftedSEO.com.

Since Google’s recent Panda Update, the world of SEO and blogging has been buzzing, and while there have been some innocent sites caught in the crossfire, the one thing most people will agree on is that Google has once and for all let the world know that poor quality, spammy content is not okay.

A side-effect of the update is that if you have a lot of links to your site from poor-quality sources, those links probably just lost most of their value, too.

statistics

Copyright Frank Gärtner - Fotolia.com

Basically, as far as SEO link building is concerned, quality is more important than ever right now. But after years of directories and article submissions, some people seem to have forgotten what a quality link actually is!

What does “good quality” even mean?

SEO has always been about trying to second-guess Google and create links and content that check all the right boxes. But sometimes, this can be taken a bit too far.

Chasing an algorithm is like chasing a carrot on a stick: every time you get close, the stick moves, and the carrot moves a step further from your grasp. Why not just aim for wherever the carrot is headed and meet it when it gets there?

If you aim for the same goal that Google is already moving towards, every future algorithm change is only going to make your blog stronger.

A world without SEO

Let’s just pretend for a minute that we don’t care about SEO or search engines at all. Before SEO existed, back when links were just links, what exactly made a link “good”?

Put another way, if you were trying to make money blogging, and SEO wasn’t in the picture, what links would you care about getting?

As I see it, the amount of relevant traffic generated by a link is the purest possible indicator of whether it’s a worthwhile link or not.

A quick analogy for the Internet

There is an actual, actionable point here: whenever you gain a new link, rather than trying to guess what the almighty Google is thinking, why not just check your own analytics and see whether you are actually getting any traffic from it?

Links are essentially the bridges of the Internet. And for some reason, people have started to worry more about making them look nice for the big guy in the sky, than about getting people safely across the water. (In this metaphor, the water is the parts of the Internet that are full of nasty spam sharks.)

This is the equivalent of a small high street business caring more about their advertisement getting some industry award than whether or not the ad actually generates any sales. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Action plan

If you don’t have it already, install Google analytics (or something similar) and start looking at where your traffic is actually coming from. You should be able see which specific sites and pages are sending you traffic. If you visit those pages, you can see the links that are sending you traffic.

By doing this, you’ll get an unparalleled insight into which links are providing you with real traffic, and which areas of your site are the most popular.

Next, look at the pages on your site that are popular, and try to figure out what you did to make them so. Also look for unpopular pages and try to improve them.

If you can learn what makes good content for your site, you can start building more of it. Any time you get a lot of links from a page, try to build on that success and repeat it.

You can also start to spend more time looking for and connecting with the sorts of people who own the types of sites that are linking to you. Ask for links if you like, but you might soon find you don’t even need to!

A final thought

SEO and link building have a bad reputation because there are a lot of ways to do it, and let’s face it, some of them are pretty scuzzy, as Mr. Cutts would say. But in my opinion SEO can and should be a positive thing.

In the last few paragraphs, I discussed what I think is a powerful new way to think about SEO. It’s not so much about pleasing the algorithm as it is about finding new ways to build real links and at the same time improve the quality of what you are offering to the Web.

What do you think about this approach? Are you already using it? How’s it going for you?

This post was written by Mark from GiftedSEO.com, a new kind of SEO company for a new Internet. We get by by helping good sites be better sites and in doing so earn the rankings they deserve.

5 Reasons to Be Authentic Instead of Generic

This guest post is by Nihara of Doing Too Much.

I’ll never forget what my sister said when I showed her the first iteration of my blog.  “BOH-ring!,” she announced after scrolling through the first few posts.  “It’s all so very dull and generic.” Fortunately, she did have some constructive advice: “You always have the most interesting stories. Why don’t you try telling some of those instead?”

At first I wondered why anybody would be interested in hearing about the little snippets of my life, and what I have learned from my experiences. But after I started writing in my own voice, an amazing thing happened: people started to respond.

I haven’t been blogging long, but I have already learned how to blog better. Here are five good reasons why you, too, should aim to be authentic instead of generic.

1. Being authentic brings something new to the conversation

There’s not much you can write about that someone else hasn’t already covered. But by bringing your unique personal angle to the topic, you can add something new to the discussion.

Rachel Meeks, the voice behind Small Notebook, offers this advice in her ebook, Simple Blogging: Less Computer Time, Better Blogging:

“Everything you could possibly write about has been written about before, but none of those ideas have been written about from your perspective. Nobody else has that special combination of life experiences which influence the way you think. You can weave a unique, personal thread into every story.”

2. Getting a little personal can help you get your point across

When you tell people a little about yourself and your experiences, it’s easier to convey your message. It gives your readers some context—a framework in which to understand what you are trying to say.

Gretchen Rubin, the cheerful writer of The Happiness Project, has found that she “often learn[s] more from one person’s highly idiosyncratic experiences” than she does from “sources that detail universal principles or cite up-to-date studies.” This is why she regularly posts interviews with “interesting people about their insights on happiness.”

If you want to get your message across, it helps to share your “highly idiosyncratic experiences” with your readers.

3. Being authentic inspires and engages people

Opening up and telling people a bit about yourself, in your own words and in your own voice, gets people interested and engaged. They want to jump in and join the conversation!

Here’s what Ken at Mildly Creative has learned: “the more honest you are, the more people seem to respond. I guess there’s something about being human that attracts other humans.”

4. It’s so much easier to be yourself than to be anyone else

When I first started blogging, it felt like I was hearing an echo … of other people’s blogs. I had been reading so much of other people’s writing that I had forgotten the sound of my own voice.

What I wish I had stumbled upon sooner was this advice from Tsh Oxenreider, editor of Simple Mom and the founder of Simple Living Media:

“Be you. Write like you. It’s way more fun. You’ll definitely stick with it longer, and people will enjoy reading you more.”

Once I changed my blogging style to write from my own perspective, a small miracle occurred. Writing blog posts suddenly became incredibly easy.

When you write as yourself, writing isn’t hard work anymore. It’s just telling a story to your friends … and that isn’t very difficult at all.

5. You’ll learn about yourself in the process

Blogging in your own voice can put you on a path to self-discovery. When you open up and let your personality shine through on your blog, you can learn a little bit about yourself with each post.

Just ask Arsene Hodali of The Good Life? | dancePROOF, who blogs just as much for himself as he does for others. He has found that blogging can help you “get your ideas in order” and “find yourself.”

Honest blogging “forces you to … be specific, and take sides,” he writes. “And in doing so, it makes you learn about yourself.”

Do you blog authentically? What other benefits has it given you? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.

Nihara is (slowly) figuring out how to make the most of her time and her life—and you can too. Read Nihara’s thoughts on how to live a better, saner life at Doing Too Much.

How to Use Private Label Rights to Get Content for Your Blog

This guest post is by Pawel Reszka of Affhelper.com.

For the time-strapped blogger who’s constantly struggling to write fresh, unique content, PLR can seem like a godsend.  Pre-written copy that you can claim as your own?  Sign me up—right?!

Of course, as most of us know, it isn’t that simple.  Although PLR can be a useful tool in developing content for your blog, it isn’t a “copy and paste” solution (at least, it isn’t if you don’t want the Big G to come down hard on you and your search rankings!).  To understand why, let’s take a closer look at what PLR content is and how you can use it effectively to develop content for your blog.

First of all, if you aren’t familiar with the acronym, PLR stands for Private Label Rights.  Essentially, when you purchase PLR content, you aren’t just getting the text—you’re also getting the rights to claim the content as your own and use it in whatever way you like.  For example, PLR content can be used in your blog posts, converted into audio or video formats, or even incorporated into your blog’s email autoresponder series.

Now, savvy bloggers have probably already picked up on the biggest problem with PLR content—that if you can buy the content for use on your website, so can every other site owner on the Internet.  And what’s the point of buying PLR content if there’s a good chance it’s already been published on another site?

In fact, PLR can be a great resource and a huge timesaver, but only if you use it correctly.  And the two keys to doing so are selecting good PLR content in the first place and modifying it to suit your needs.  Let’s look at each of these concepts in more depth.

Finding good content

First, if you want to use PLR effectively, you simply can’t use the same old PLR article packs that have been passed around the Internet since the dawn of the digital age.  You know what I’m talking about—those packs of “10,000+ PLR articles” that are sold for a dollar on PLR clearinghouse sites or included as bonuses with the sale of Internet marketing products.

The truth is, there’s a reason these packs are sold for a few dollars or less, and it’s because they really aren’t worth much more than that.  These articles have circulated for so long and been published on so many sites that it’s nearly impossible to transform them enough to be effective blog content.

Instead, look for PLR content that meets the following criteria:

  • recently developed
  • written by a reputable author
  • published in limited circulation.

Out-of-date PLR content is the worst—imagine buying a pack of PLR articles for your “make money online” blog only to find out that the articles were written in 2001 and still contain references to the Overture search engine!  Rewriting out-of-date PLR content isn’t impossible, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to check that the content you’re purchasing was written in the last few years in the first place.

You’ll also find that the quality of the PLR content available for sale today varies widely based on the author.  Much of the PLR content in the “10,000+ article packs” mentioned earlier is written by outsourced workers whose native language isn’t English.  Transforming this sometimes barely intelligible content into coherent text that flows nicely is often more work than simply writing original content yourself!

But how do you know which authors write good quality PLR content?  First, look for recognizable names in the PLR industry. Nicole Dean, Tiffany Dow, and Jimmy D. Brown are three PLR authors whose reputations for quality content precede them, although there are plenty of other great writers in this industry.  You can also purchase PLR content through forums like the Warrior Forum’s “Warrior Special Offer” section where customer reviews will tell you whether or not the PLR content for sale is good quality. As an example, take a look at Edmund Loh’s PLR package.

Finally, it’s also to your advantage to seek out PLR content that’s available in limited circulation.  By this, I mean looking for content where only a set number of licenses are available—for example, maybe only 25 or 50 copies will be sold before the product is pulled from the market.  The fewer people that have access to the same PLR you’re using, the easier it will be to make the content seem unique on your blog.

If you follow these guidelines, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding good PLR content—but then, how do you use the content you’ve purchased effectively on your blog?

Making good PLR content great

Obviously, the last thing you want to do is to copy and paste the content you’ve bought to your blog as is.  Even if you don’t believe in the duplicate content penalty, remember that your goal as a blogger is to provide unique, interesting content to your readers.  How will your perceived authority suffer in the eyes of your readers if they happen to stumble across the same article being published—word-for-word—on another blog, under another blogger’s name?

At the very least, you’ll want to rewrite your PLR content to add your own voice and to make the content appear unique in the eyes of the search engines.  There are plenty of experts out there who will give you their opinions on how much you need to rewrite your PLR content, but at the very least, I recommend aiming for at least 30-50% uniqueness.

Alternatively, instead of rewriting each individual PLR article you purchase, you can also use them as a jumping off point to create your own content.  Typically, good PLR authors write content based around profitable niche keywords and information that people in the niche are actively seeking.  You can use their insights and PLR content as research sources, and then write your own blog posts based on the information they provide.

But don’t just think of PLR as a source for your blog posts.  PLR articles strung together can form the basis of a free giveaway report or email autoresponder course that you use to entice readers to sign up to your email list. Although you’ll still want to rewrite these articles, using PLR content to create these bonuses is a lot cheaper than outsourcing the products to be written from scratch.

Using PLR content to create videos and podcasts—whether they’re posted on your blog or used in your promotional strategies—is another great idea.  Because the articles won’t be indexed as text using these formats, you can be less concerned about duplicate content and invest less time in rewriting your PLR.

Really, when it comes to using PLR content on your blog, the sky is the limit—anywhere you need fresh content, you can use PLR sources to save time and money.

Do you use PLR content on your blog?  Have you used it in a format other than the ones described in this article?  Share your experiences and recommendations in the comments.

Pawel Reszka runs Affhelper.com, a blog dedicated to providing tips and techniques on how to make money online.  If you are looking for affiliate marketing tips makes sure to check out his website.

Advertising Your Blog: Go Viral on a Blogger’s Budget

This guest post is by The Blog Tyrant.

Until now you’ve been relying on organic methods to grow your blog’s traffic—search engine rankings, guest posts, social media and word of mouth. But now you are thinking about stepping into the league of the the big boys (and girls) and spending some money on advertising your blog to the world.

Where do you start? Where do you find the money? How much do you spend? And where?

photo credit: x-ray delta one

In this article I am going to show you the ins and outs of advertising your blog on a budget. I am going to show you how to raise the money and then where to spend it to reap the most rewards. And trust me, if you haven’t thought about spending money to promote your blog you really should. The potential benefits are mind boggling. You might even go viral.

Why you should start spending money on blog advertising

I’m not sure how it started (it is probably Old Man Rowse’s fault) but bloggers seem to be afraid of spending money on advertising. For over a decade now there has been a real aversion to spending money and instead people focus on organic methods only.

Now don’t get me wrong, organic methods are super important. They are the backbone of your blog promotion. But adding some paid advertising is like adding adamantine to that backbone and becoming the Wolverine (non-comic readers please ignore). With just a little bit of cash you can totally change the speed at which your blog grows, the audience it reaches and the income you earn.

  • You can go viral more easily
    One of the major benefits to spending some money on advertising is that you can go viral so much easier. Normally you’d write some amazing content and hope it gets Tweeted by some big shot but with a little bit of money you can give it a major kick start. All the big guys do this.
  • You can laser target the right people
    Forget about all the tire kickers, with modern online advertising you are able to promote your blog only to the right people; people who are interested, ready to interact and possibly pay for something that you might end up selling.
  • You bypass the beginner stages
    We all know the beginner stages. The first few months where no one visits your blog and you have no subscribers. With a bit of advertising you can totally bypass those annoying months.

Like I said, you should never forget about the unpaid, organic ways of promoting your blog. You need to continue with them as you have always done. But why not try something new and spend a little bit of money on kick starting your blog and potentially launching it in to a whole new category of amazingness?

Proof is in the Fortune 500

If you still need proof you just need to turn your attention to the biggest companies in the world. Do you think they just rely on free methods of advertising? No. They spend millions of dollars promoting their websites, blogs, and products. Even their viral campaigns have a lot of money behind them.

“But we don’t have millions of dollars, Blog Tyrant!” I can hear you say.

Well, neither did they. Or, if they did, those millions are a proportional spending to what they earn. And that is all I am asking of you. Spend an amount of money that you can afford. But I’ll get more into that in a minute.

The strategy, advert and landing page

photo credit: sarihuella

Please keep in mind that these topics really are limitless. If a marketing student came on here they would be able to talk for hours about these matters. My goal is not to educate you on every possibility that you could think of but rather to give you an idea of where you can start.

1. The strategy

So, to develop a strategy for your blog advertising you need to do a few things:

  • Solidify your goal
    What is the goal of this campaign? Are you trying to reach a certain number of subscribers, sell a certain number of books, etc. Make sure this is very clear before you start.
  • Know your target market
    Who are you going to pitch to and why? Is it stay at home moms who are looking to make money online? Is it 18 year-old students who spend all day on Facebook? Who is your target market?
  • Research the competition
    Spend some time finding out what your competitors are doing. What is working and what is failing? Where are they advertising and how are they doing it? Try to get a very detailed picture about what is going on.
  • Find a point of difference
    You want to find a way to stand out from the rest, something that will make people sit up and pay attention. This point of difference is very important for the viral aspect.
  • Solve a problem
    The best viral campaigns solve a problem. It doesn’t matter how trivial the problem might seem, chances are it is being experienced by millions. If you can solve that problem in a new, clever or funny way and then kick-start it with some paid advertising you are well on your way to going viral.

The goal here is to come up with an idea about how you are going to talk to these people and get them interested in what you are doing or selling. You need to get a complete picture of the environment before you jump in.

2. The advert

Once you have developed some sort of strategy you need to take a look at the advert itself. These has several components to it and it can be in the form of an image, some text or a mixture of both.

  • Use a call to action
    Your advert needs to have a strong call to action. This is where you tell people what to do next. It is important because people often get confused or forgetful and without a specific command they will fizzle out. Show them what to do next.
  • Show social proof
    Social proof is where you alleviate people’s anxiety by showing them that other people are doing this as well. No one likes to be first, make sure they know they aren’t. Amazon do this really well.
  • Develop scarcity
    Your product isn’t limitless. This offer isn’t going to go on forever. To encourage people to interact with your advert you need to make it seem scarce. This is extremely important for conversions because people hate to miss out on things. Here is how I use scarcity to get a huge amount of comments.

If you aren’t very good at crafting ad copy you should check out a lot of resources. If you are really crap at it you need to hire someone to do it for you. Small mistakes can mean huge losses of interest and/or money.

3. The landing page

We are not sending all this traffic to the homepage of your blog. Nope. We are sending it to a specifically designed landing page that is built perfectly to deal with these new visitors. It needs to be specific and it needs to address all of their concerns. It is here that you will do things like:

  • Pitch the idea and the benefits
    Tell them why they are here and what the benefits are. Now, I said benefits for a reason. We are not telling them about the features of whatever it is you are advertising. We want these people to know what will happen to their lives if they get involved. Will they make more money, sleep better at night, or progress towards enlightenment? Tell them the benefits.
  • Reiterate all the advert copy
    You want to reassure people that they are in the right place and reiterate what your advert promised. This is very important if you want to keep the people on the page. Make sure they know they are in the right place doing the right thing.
  • Give something
    Before you can get you need to give. So give them something free. It might be a video or an eBook, it doesn’t matter. The act of giving helps to establish trust, good karma and gives you an opportunity to hit them with a little bit more sales speak. Increase the pressure so to speak.
  • Convert your goal (virus)
    It is here that you need to convert the visitor so that they do whatever it is you want them to do. If you want them to sign up to your newsletter make sure that is strong. If you want them to just share on Twitter or Facebook then tell them and make sure they can do it easily. It is from here that you want the virus to start happening.

Your landing page is the thing that starts it all off. It needs to be tweaked, refined, changed, and improved constantly. Everything you’ll ever need to know about landing pages can be found right here on Copyblogger.

Where to advertise your blog

photo credit: Daveness_98

Now we need to get into some of the fun stuff. Where exactly should you advertise your blog? What works best? What is cheapest? Over the years I have tried all of these methods with varying levels of success. Hopefully I can save you all some time and money.

1. StumbleUpon Ads (Paid Discovery)

StumbleUpon Ads, which is now called Paid Discovery, is basically a platform where you pay for other Stumble users to view your page. Let me be clear from the outset, this does not work for every niche. In fact, some of the results I’ve had have been dreadful. But, if you do it right, you can get those paid viewers to give it a thumbs up and potentially send it on the hundreds of thousands of other users … for free.

How does it work?
Basically you just sign up, pay them $20 minimum and then show them which page on your site you want them to send traffic to. You can also set the demographic (age, sex, location, etc.) of the people or you can let them choose the best ones.

What works well?
The best thing to use StumbleUpon for is super cheesy link bait articles and interesting photos. Stumble is all about sharing so you have to find something that is both interesting but generic enough that everyone would want to read it. I have had health and fitness articles get

Resources
Check out the StumbleUpon Ads Blog, Darren’s tips on running a Stumble campaign and a good discussion from the Warrior Forum about the ads.

2. Facebook Ads

Years and years ago Google AdWords was the best platform. They allowed anything, you could get really cruddy landing pages approved and make lots of money really easily. Then they made things harder. Well, Facebook Ads are a bit like that old AdWords except they are now getting more strict and controlled. If you want to get in on the action with Facebook, now is the time.

How does it work?
Facebook Ads are done through your own personal page by clicking Ads in the left side bar and then following the prompts. Basically you just create a text or text and image advert and select a target group or set of keywords. You have much greater control over who you target as Facebook collects a lot of information about its users. You then choose whether you want to pay per impressions or per click (perhaps we can talk in the comments about which is best) and then they invoice you once week.

What works well?
Facebook Ads work really well for anything that targets young people. High school kids. Why? Because these guys aren’t completely blind to ads yet and they love to click on things that will help them through their high school days. I have also had success targeting women looking to save money but, for some reason, I haven’t done well with the male demographic.

Typically you want to send traffic to a well designed Facebook landing page as this allows them to like it and then send it on to their friends. Also, if you send people to an outside website you might get the warning “You are leaving Facebook” which can put people off.

Basically, if you can design a page or site that promotes something that is valuable and to do with pop culture you will do well with Facebook. Remember, people are paranoid about what will show up on their wall so they won’t look at anything even slightly confrontational or iffy.

Resources
Some great tips from All Facebook about how to improve your campaigns, an interesting step by step guide from the world’s most evil blogger, a good first time try and more goodness from Zac.

3. Google AdWords

Google AdWords is, for those who don’t know, the reverse side to Google AdSense. This is the part where you pay to appear in the paid section of Google’s search results, or on the ads that appear in people’s websites and blogs. It is the largest online advertising method and is extremely well evolved.

How does it work?
You sign up for an account, add your bank details and then develop a campaign. This means doing all the regular things like creating an advert, setting a daily budget (important), setting your keywords or target sites and your locale. Always run a cheap $5 campaign first to get the feel for it and learn some of the downfalls. There is a lot of room for error with AdWords as the speed at which you can spend money is immense.

What works well?
In my experience local stuff works really well. If you want to target downtown Melbourne in Australia you can do it. This is extremely good news for people selling things from a local shop or to specific group of people. Football shirts, for example, can be targeted by city.

Landing pages, squeeze pages, affiliate pages, etc. won’t get approved so don’t even bother. If you want to sell a product through AdWords you better make sure you have a whole site of useful information before trying to apply. The good news is that most blogs already have that.

AdWords is not great for going viral but it is very good for targeting people ready to buy. Don’t bother paying for ads on people’s websites, just go for search results. Those people are looking for solutions to their problems and have their wallets ready. If you can solve a problem quickly, Adwords will work well.

Resources
Shoemoney has a good one here about an arrow ad, a great post about improving your quality score, something about increasing conversions and a great Adwords guide.

4. Private Advertising

Private advertising is where you contact other blogs or websites and pay for a spot on their site. For example, all those small square buttons on the right hand side of ProBlogger are either private ads or affiliate programs. Yaro also sells space all over his blog.

How does it work?
Sometimes these blogs will be partnered with an ad network that does all the deals and payments for them. This can get expensive. Other than that, you simply send them an email and ask for a spot. Generally these prices are fixed but you should always try to negotiate because often they are pretty keen to just fill a spot. Try coming down on the price 40% and then bargaining up if needed.

What works well?
Directly relevant is the key here. If you are running a viral campaign about becoming a millionaire then look to get ads on pages, posts and sites that are directly relevant to that. Why waste money appearing on pages about dogs if your product is about Porches? Keep your advert simple (no flashing rubbish) and to the point. Ask people a question or introduce your scarcity right away and make sure your landing page welcomes them directly from that blog.

What doesn’t work well?
Don’t ever pay for in-post links because Google will ban you as soon as they find out. Sidebar advertising is about as far as I would go in this regard.

Resources
For this section I just want to give you an article on how to haggle. It’s where its at.

Raising the money for paid advertising

photo credit: Ed Yourdon

So how do you raise the money for paid advertising? Well, it is as simple as you want to make it. And it is all about reinvestment.

Reinvesting for advertising

Remember I talk about my millionaire uncle who told me to have various projects on the go? Well he also told me to reinvest part of everything you earn. You want to set aside 5% to 20% of everything you earn to put back in the business and part of that goes on advertising.

So, if you make $100 writing a freelance post you should put aside your tax, your savings, your spending amount, and your business reinvestment amount. It takes a lot of mental toughness but you have to (just like with tax) imagine that part of that cash is not yours, it belongs to the business.

This allows you to advertise and actually grow your business further. Soon you’ll be getting more $100 jobs or more authority and as such be able to raise that fee to $200 and above. This is how advertising works. If you can go viral with clever campaigns you will find that you will be able to grow your authority, Google rankings and sales figures all at once and the momentum from that campaign can carry through for a long time.

Tax deduction
Remember that almost everything you spend in the course of earning money is a tax deduction. Advertising is usually included in that so make sure you keep records and reciepts and talk to your accountant about it. The more money you can get off your next bill the better.

Will you spend some money?

I’d really like to know whether you are open to spending money on your blog. Have you done it before? Will you try it after reading this post? Please leave a comment and let me know, especially if you have any stories, experiences, or advice to offer. I would love to make this comment thread a resource-rich stop for anyone wanting to advertise their blog on a budget.

Lastly, if you aren’t going to ever spend money on advertising your blog, why not? I find that really interesting.

The Blog Tyrant is 25 years old, works from home full time and sells blogs for $20,000 plus. Subscribe to his feed for a free eBook on increasing your email subscribers by 120% overnight or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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.