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Bloggers Don’t Predict the Future

This guest post is by Chris Kahler of BloggerITUS.com.

Unless you believe in your abilities to have prophetic visions, you likely can’t predict the future. As a blogger (or hopeful blogger), you need to realize that attempting to see what your future business has in store is a waste of time and effort. Rather than trying to predict the future of your business, you should be pacing the future of your business.

Bloggers don’t predict: they pace the future

Future pacing is a crucial part of blogging. The most valuable traffic, that comes in the highest quantity, is from those who have decided to tag along with you on your blogging journey as subscribers both to your RSS feed and newsletter, friends on your Facebook page, and followers of your Twitter account.

So, the thing you should be asking yourself if you want to build a whopping reader list is this:

What do I need to do to get people to stick around?

For starters, you can follow the simple guidelines I’ve outlined for you here, and for your long term improvement (if you really want to get good at this) you can subscribe to my RSS feed using the link below.

I just gave you your first example of what future pacing is. If you click on the Subscribe link with the thought that you’re going to receive great content in the future, then you’ve become a reader of my blog not only at the present, but for the future as well.

Here are the other future pacing guidelines that will keep people constantly coming back for more. These aren’t the only rules, but they are a good general set to keep in mind when planning out ways to keep your readers involved at present, and coming back for more.

Never blog it all at once

Keep your blog posts centralized around your chosen topic. If you are blogging about general ideas regarding a topic (as I am in this blog post), don’t get so specific on the blog post that you make it a novel. Keep your job at being general.

Here’s why you want to do that: your blog is a continuing project. You will have many days in the future to cover the specifics. Make sure to mention these things in your blog posts. People like the idea that such value is ongoing and that they can discover something new at frequent intervals rather than being pounded in the brain by a novel-length blog post.

Don’t be afraid to ask

When you start a blog, keep in mind the primary point of it. You are not blogging for computers, income, or business. You are blogging for people. Having content that helps people is primary goal number one. When you hit that goal, the others will follow accordingly, and by focusing first on people, you’ll never step across the line. After all, people can sniff a blatant marketing scheme from miles away.

When you find yourself creating content for people that you know is valuable, you will not only want people to read it, but you will feel obligated to encourage them to read. Asking for subscribers is not a bad thing if your intent is focused completely on helping them. Honestly, by not asking you might be doing them more harm than good … what’s one more quality feed or email going to do to hurt them? It won’t do any harm, but never knowing your awesome ideas will bring more long-term suffering than not finding the knowledge at all!

Every blog post should plant seeds

What do a good blog post and a good television show have in common? Well, when you watch a series you really like and it ends, what’s the next thing that comes up (besides the credits) that always keeps you coming back for more?

Of course, the “On the Next Episode” tidbit. Great blog posts follow the same principle of seeding people’s interest, though they do it more subtly than a television show. Sometimes it’s okay to highlight the next post, for a series or something, but generally speaking, you want to drop cues here and there on your blog about upcoming content that readers should look out for.

In the last post I wrote, I mentioned in a general sense the three components that are always involved when it comes to earning money online. Now, that was a general post that set the stage for future content that digs deeper into that idea. Readers can come to expect those posts, I can plan to write them, and together we can unfold concepts for practical money-making applications.

Just like a television show, my audience knows what’s likely coming up, they’ve got “scenes” or ideas that have been planted in their minds … but also, like a television show, they don’t know what to fully expect. That is what keeps people coming back! The lure of great future content, the consistent reason to stick around, keeps them sitting on the edge of their seats feeling for the next amazing post that’s bound to hit the RSS feed!

Next steps

I’m not one to leave you hanging. I’ll give you a few starting points and things will unfold from there:

Step 1: Find the top five

Assuming that you know what you want to blog about, find the top five general topics in your blog’s category. For example, the five general topics I have for blogging are: Systems, Profit Equation, Instant Massive Action, Pacing, and Content Generating. I’ve covered the first three on my blog, the fourth I’ve obviously decided to branch out, and the fifth is on the horizon.

Step 2: Break it down

Take each general topic and break them down into between three and five general sub-parts. Remember, your first posts need to generalize your upcoming content. You have plenty of time to home in on specifics. That doesn’t mean your posts need to lack quality, originality, or be a waste of time for the reader. That just means you need to give a little info but also reserve a little info; save the details for more specific, later posts.

This tactic is especially good if you know what needs to be covered on a general basis but don’t really know the specifics yet. You’ve set pacing for future content and have given yourself time to learn what you want to blog about.

Step 3: Plant the seeds

Determine ways to incorporate seeds of the later topics into the present topic you’re discussing. In my first blog post about creating systems I mention in the introduction that “you are about to learn how to apply my methods for systematizing your productivity work flow, building each system you create around the profit equation needed to grow your income.” The italicized part was future pacing for the next post about the profit equation. Inside that post I drop seeds as well.

Step 4: Create action

Create an action for each of the three to five sub-parts of your general topics. If you can find a way to create applicable steps for not only learning but doing the parts that make up your five main topics, then you haven’t wasted your readers’ time.

Bloggers are meant to deliver information that’s not only informative, but useful. Always try to find relevant actions that others can take, even if those actions might seem trivial. If you can tie in a good reason why readers should complete the action, you are not only building your own ability to call a person to a specific action, but you are conditioning your readers to taking action on your ideas.

Do you pace your blog for the future? Please share your techniques with us in the comments.

Chris Kahler is an underground marketer diversifying his business into the field of blogging. He has years of experience online, and is currently focusing his effort on his new pride and joy, BloggerITUS.com. You can subscribe to his RSS and follow his recently created Twitter account to legally stalk him and learn everything you need to know about making money on the internet.

How to Build a Thriving Blog by Being Yourself

This guest post is by Natalie Sisson of The Suitcase Entrepreneur.

When you first start blogging it can be difficult to find your real voice. It can also be unnerving to put yourself out there and say what you really think. Like many blogger,s you probably try to be appropriate, politically correct, and inoffensive in your blog posts.

Well, let me tell you that if you want to be just like everyone else, that’s a guaranteed approach to get you there.

personal blogging needs you

Image is author's own

Of course though, you don’t. You don’t want to be like everyone else because you are unique. You have important things to say and you need to say them in a way that’s true to who you are.

If you want a thriving blog, one where your adoring fans come back time and time again, and hang off your every word, you need to be you.

Unabashedly, shamelessly, wonderfully, completely transparently, totally, authentically you.

Why?

People relate to people. They’ll relate to a real human being, telling their story, living their life, and sharing it in a creative, amusing, entertaining, and truthful way. That way, they get to come along on the journey.

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” —Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde was a smart man, and he knew what he was talking about when he said this. The biggest failure I see among bloggers is trying to fit in. I’ve been guilty of it myself. You get caught up in reading other people’s blogs and trying to emulate what they’re doing, and as a result you end up with a mix of nothing spectacular at all.

In order to be yourself you have to take risks, to accept that you are not perfect, and to be courageous enough to say what you really think. People will love you for it. It takes a huge amount of bravery to be original instead of a pointless replication of someone else.

“Be who you are, and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”—Dr. Seuss

I personally have seen the most success when I’ve written from my heart. My community resonates most with me when I tell them how I screwed up, that I was scared, that I didn’t achieve something I set out to do.

It makes me more human. It shows my vulnerability and people get that. They want that. They buy into your mission and your vision, and want to follow your steps and see you succeed.

I’m not talking about writing a revealing post about your recent trip to the hospital or penning a long relationship saga. I’m talking about revealing just enough to build loyalty, respect, and admiration among your followers for baring yourself, admitting your hard-fought battles and costly mistakes.

Follow that up with the lessons you learned, pass on your new-found wisdom to your readers, and you’re on a sure path to blogging success.

Authenticity + creativity + massive value + key takeaways = a thriving blog

My winning equation above has taken me a long time to solve. I don’t always get it right (see vulnerability and truthfulness in action right here), however, I do look to solve a problem every time I write and this equation helps immensely in keeping me focused. I also aim to be engaging, genuine, and grateful.

Here are some examples of bloggers who I believe have a truly unique voice and use it extremely well to create a community of raving fans unique to their personality and writing style. Warning: Some of these people may offend with their use of swear words or abstract opinions. But for me, tt’s all part of their charm and what sets them apart.

With a blog named The Middle Finger Project you already know that Ashley Ambirge is going to deliver up some serious attitude and in-your-face content. That’s what’s so refreshing about her candid, quick-witted posts about leaving corporate America behind to do your own thang!

“Become known for something–rather than trying to become known for everything. Because frankly, that’s impossible.”—Ashely Ambirge

John Falchetto appears to have a wonderful life, living in the French countryside and coaching expats on how to become immensely successful in business even if they feel isolated living a world away from home. The thing is he genuinely understands their problems and challenges and writes compelling content on his blog Expat Life Coach that speaks to the heart of those who read it and need it.

“When I first started out in business in 2003, I was foolish. Although I had quit my corporate job in PR and I am all for quitting when things really don’t go your way, looking back I would have done it differently.”—John Falchetto

Kent Healy is a creative thinker who is always questioning why things are as they are in the world and challenging you to do the same. He blogs about unconventional ways of thinking, acting and living and makes you focus on what matters on The Uncommon Life.

“There is immense value in being able to think and act independently in a world of conformity and convention – in fact, all innovation and novelty depend on it. It can be challenging to free ourselves from the explicit and implicit forces that keep our brain in the box, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.”—Kent Healy

Emergent by Design is the brain child of futurist Venessa Miemis who has an entirely unique take on the intersection of technology, communication, and culture, and attracts intellectuals, academics, and big-picture thinkers to her blog and with them a wide array of opposing comments.

“Then I started poking around in Twitter and wondering if it’s a complex adaptive system and if it might actually grow to become a global human consciousness, of sorts. Lately I’ve been looking at how design thinking can be used to better understand human behavior and facilitate innovation.”—Venessa Miemis

I could not leave out my idol, Seth Godin, who really needs no introduction. On his self-titled blog Seth has the uncanny ability to write the shortest blog posts with the most substance I’ve ever witnessed. His straight-up, insightful, brilliantly worded daily posts draw thousands of views and shares because he creates art and then ships it, and inspires you to do the same.

“What I am writing about is the ability of each of us, without authority or permission, to do work that matters, to have an impact and to create a place for ourselves in a society that’s brainwashed us into doing something that’s an easily replaced commodity. A big part of that is acting like an artist. Being personal, making change, communicating a vision.”—Seth Godin

What makes you unique?

While it’s not for me to tell you what your “special sauce” is, you do need to find it and then cook up a fantastic recipe that allows you to create mouth watering content for your blog that readers devour.

If you’re nervous to hit Publish on a post that you’ve really put a lot of thought into and that reveals a little bit more of you than normal, then congratulations. That’s a great sign. It shows you’re developing your USP—Unique Special Proposition.

When you get clear on what that is, you’ll see how imperative it is to making you stand out. You’ll also witness your blog community react strongly by sharing your content across the social media sphere and commenting like crazy. Then you really know you’re doing the right thing—you are in fact being yourself.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and others who know you to develop your USP:

  1. What are you better at than anyone else?
  2. What do you enjoy doing the most?
  3. What do (or could) you provide that no one else is providing?
  4. What annoys people the most about your industry or blog area?
  5. What is remarkable about you?
  6. Do you have an unusual combination of elements?
  7. Do you have a big personality?

Now write your USP statement. Take action. You can look to this as the reminder of what makes you distinctive and unique by following this format:

I am unique and different because I provide [USP] which no one else in my field provides. No one else can or will provide this because [insert reason].

Put yourself into the equation

I talked about my winning formula above. Now it’s time for you to write your own. So how do you go about sharing your new-found USP on your blog straight away?

Get personal

There’s nothing like sharing a personal experience you’ve had and relating it to the topic of your blog. If you write on health and fitness, for example, then talking about your own journey of going vegan or training for a marathon will be much more inspiring then simple how-to tips. Break this out into a series on how you achieved the results you did and you have a reason for people to come back to your blog.

Listen to your instincts

If you believe strongly about a topic related to your blog, but you’ve been nervous about sharing it with the world, then there’s a good chance other people will find your personal stance interesting. Strong opinions always illicit a response—good or bad. The point is you want to get people talking, and you want them to engage, to think critically, and to respond because they care.

Get trendy

One of the best ways to show your USP is to take a current popular topic and put your spin on it. Justin Bieber may not be of interest to you, but is there something that particularly irritates or fascinates you about his meteoric rise into music stardom? Is there a post you can write that takes a lesson from his story that other people just aren’t seeing?

“If you do things well, do them better. Be daring, be first, be different, be just.”—Anita Roddick

Natalie Sisson is a Suitcase Entrepreneur and Adventurer who shares creative ways to run your business from anywhere in the world. She is passionate about using online tools, social media and outsourcing to create more freedom in business and adventure in life.

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

This guest post is by Jon Morrow of Copyblogger.

After all, that’s the dream, right?

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

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

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

Will it?

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

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

Right?

Well, let me tell you a little story…

How I quit my job

Jon's van

My van

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

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

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

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

So I quit.

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

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

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

And so that’s what I did.

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

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

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

How I moved to paradise

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

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

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

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

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

Jon's office

My office

“What? When?” he stammered.

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

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

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

Lucky me, right?

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

How I get paid to change the world

You know what’s funny?

Jon

Yours truly

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

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

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

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

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

And eventually, I got sick of it.

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

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

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

Helping people.

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

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

The results?

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

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

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

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

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

And here’s the thing:

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

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

YOU CAN DO THIS!

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

You can.

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

You can.

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

You can.

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

My guess: pretty much anything.

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

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

You can do it.

I believe in you.

So get started.

Right freaking now.

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

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

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

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

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

Image used with permission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Write what your audience is passionate about

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

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

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

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

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

3. Develop a smashing headline

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

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

4. Don’t write for just your audience

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

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

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

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

5. Don’t blog too much

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

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

Get with it

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

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

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

Setting Personal and Professional Boundaries for Your Blog

This gust post is by Sarah Baron of of Anonymous8.

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

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

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

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

Personal relationships

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

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

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

Language

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

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

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

Tone

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

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

What if you cross a boundary?

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

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

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

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

5 Ways Blogging Can Make You a Better Person

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

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

Image is author's own

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

Here are just a handful.

1. No doubt about it: blogging improves your writing

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

2. All that practice rubs off on your character

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Blog Commenting Strategy

This guest post is by Joe of Web Programming 360.

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

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

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

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

1. Find popular, targeted blogs

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

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

blogging blogs search

Searching for blogging blogs

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

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

2. Receive blog updates automatically

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

google reader

Google Reader

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

3. Consider quality and placement

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

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

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

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

4. What fourth step?

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

comment traffic

The traffic my comments generated

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

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

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

Leverage the Long Tail of Search on Your Blog

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

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

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

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

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

Develop the right mindset

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

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

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

Makeup of the long tail

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

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

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

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

An important note on using the Adwords Keyword Tool

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

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

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

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

Implement major synonyms and similar terms

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

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

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

Understand the chunky middle

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

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

Leverage the long tail

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Turn a Blog Post into a Press Release

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

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

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

1. Make sure it’s news

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

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

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

2. Change everything to the third-person voice

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

3. Revise the headline

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

To format the headline and subhead…

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

4. Rearrange the post to contain these press release elements

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

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

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

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

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

6. Look at other people’s releases

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

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

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

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