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How to Harness Your Email List to Help Pay Your Rent

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

Wouldn’t it be nice to send out an email or two and pull in $10,000+ to pay your rent or mortgage payments for the year? It is actually possible using your own products or those of selected affiliates. And while some of you will be thinking that word “affiliates” sounds dirty and underhanded, I’m here to tell you that affiliate marketing is actually one of the most honest ways to make money on the Web.

In this post I am going to show you how you can make $10,000+ a year using your email list and a product or affiliate program. I’ll even do a bit of math to prove it.

eMail
Creative Commons License photo credit: Esparta

How it works

Let me start by giving you a little overview of how this all works, in case you’re totally new to the idea. I’ll go in to more detail later on.

  1. Use your blog to grow an email list
    If you’ve read any of my other guest posts on Problogger you will notice that I have a pretty (un)healthy obsession with email lists. I’m constantly telling my readers to focus on growing a list of active, engaged, and interested email subscribers. It should be the main focus of almost every blog.
  2. Provide value
    The most important thing to remember with this process is that you need to provide value. You need to enrich the lives of your subscribers. You need to solve their problems. Without this step you will find that your list grows largely unresponsive.
  3. Create a product or find affiliate programs
    The next steps is to create a product of your own (ebook, ecourse, etc.) or find a product of someone else’s that you can promote and sell to your email list. It needs to be highly relevant, valuable, and helpful.
  4. Promote it to your email list
    This stage is actually rather complex and can involve a pre-launch and launch, as well as automated messages and so on. The net result is that you make a lump sum of money during a launch period, or an ongoing stream of income from automated sales that happen over time.

The whole thing can be a very exciting process and, if it’s done correctly, it is an extremely ethical way to make good money while enriching the lives of your subscriber list.

Doing the math

Now, let’s do a little math to see if $10,000 per year is really possible. In fact, if you really catch a hold of this concept you’ll find that $10,000 is actually rather conservative. The possibilities with this type of marketing are endless.

Let’s take a look:

  1. Capture four email subscribers per day
    Let’s assume you are able to capture four email subscribers per day. It is a very small amount that any one can do with ideas like this and this.4 x 365 = 1460 subscribers per year.
  2. Sell a $37 ebook to 20% of your list
    If your followers are loyal and engaged you should be able to sell to around 15% to 20% of them.1460 subscribers x 0.2 = 292 sales @ $37 = $10,804

Now, for those whose lists are significantly larger than this, the estimates are conservative. For those who have smaller lists, this can serve as inspiration to keep going with your blogging work. Remember, an ebook is just one example of the multitude of things you can promote to your list.

How to make $10k+ per year with email subscribers

George is Keeping an Eye On You!
Creative Commons License photo credit: peasap

The wonderful thing about this process is that it can be expanded upon to incredible levels. For some bloggers, $10,000 is a tiny sum of money. My hope is that this post serves as a catalyst for you to learn more about the field and really take your blog to its full potential.

1. Grow the email list

The email list is the backbone of all good blogging income sources. If you can capture a large number of email addresses of readers who love what you write, trust your advice, and look to you for help and new information, then you are setting yourself up to be in a very profitable situation.

I know what you’re thinking: “But isn’t it rude/annoying/spammy to sell stuff to my followers?” This is a very common question. I encounter so many people who don’t want to sell anything to their subscribers but, to be honest, the logic doesn’t make sense to me. Why? Because, like everyone else, you also have bills to pay, you aren’t trying to rip anyone off, and with the right products, you can help your subscribers to better their situations.

Don’t get me wrong: some people abuse their lists. I don’t condone this at all. But guys like Darren, who only sell high-quality ebooks or training courses that can help you grow a bigger and better blog, are helping their subscribers. Why shouldn’t Darren make some money selling a product that has taken him years and years to acquire the knowledge to create—and helps you in a big way?

How can you grow your list quickly?

  • Focus on value and quality information
    Your blog needs to publish high-quality content that adds value to the lives of your readers. Every time someone sees a post on your blog, they should leave feeling like a problem is solved. This is important.
  • Have an angle
    There are hundreds of millions of blogs out there. You need an angle. Why should people read your stuff over someone else’s? Without an attached story or angle, you give a person no reason to subscribe to your blog.
  • Use Aweber to add subscription boxes and send a free ebook
    I recently wrote a post about why I switched to Aweber and the reasons are simple: you can add a subscription box to your blog in about five minutes, you can send out a series of automatic follow-up emails and, best of all, you can send out a free ebook automatically. This is a tried and tested method for capturing a lot of email subscribers: write a highly valuable ebook that appeals to your niche, and give it away in exchange for their subscription.
  • Write guest posts related to your niche
    Once your free ebook offering is up and running, get out there and start guest posting on as many of the top blogs as possible. Darren has a thorough post on how to do this, so the only thing that I’ll add is that you should make your posts as good as possible, and in some way relate them to your free ebook. This ensures that all the visitors that trickle through to your site are interested in your stuff.
  • Engage people in email, Twitter, comment threads, etc.
    If you want your email subscribers to be loyal and engaged, you want to make sure you engage them in as many places as possible. As a general rule, I reply to every comment on my blog, and Twitter and Facebook accounts. I work from home so it’s easy for me to do this, but even if you work in an office, you should make an effort to reply to contacts and commenters each evening when you get home.

As a general rule of thumb, the number of email signups you attract is a good indicator of how successful your blog is. You might be getting all the traffic in the world, but unless you can convert it somehow, you probably aren’t making much progress. Capturing as many email subscribers as possible is the first and most important step in affiliate marketing.

2. Create a product and/or find an affiliate product to promote

This section is broken up in to two parts—your two different options. The first option is to create your own product and sell that to your list. I prefer this option because you can tailor it to suit your readers’ needs and wants. The second option is find someone else’s product to promote to your list for a commission (i.e. an affiliate program). Let’s take a look at both.

Creating your own product

The wonderful thing about the Internet is that it allows you to create your own product without much in the way of difficulty or start-up costs. In a recent article on how stay-at-home moms can make money, I said that a product launched off the back of an expert blog is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to make an honest living online. This is true.

Your product could take one of many forms:

  • an ebook
    Creating an ebook is one of the simplest ways to make money from your blog. All you do is brainstorm a concept, write it out in Word or Open Office, tizzy it up with graphics and pictures, and then convert it into a PDF. Instant product. The problem? There are a lot of them out there. People have become a bit blind to them. If you are going to sell an ebook, you have to make sure it is of an outstanding level of quality and addresses a problem that’s massively relevant to your blogging audience. Ideally, it will cover a topic that hasn’t already been heavily written about.
  • an ecourse
    Another popular option is to develop an ecourse that teaches your readers how to do something. It could take the form of a series of emails sent out every week, or it could be an ebook mixed with video and delivered in module form. This is sometimes a better option because, the course content can be created or amended on the go, to respond to the feedback you get from users.
  • a membership site
    This is new black: it seems like everyone is creating membership sites nowadays. A membership site is basically a password-protected area of your blog that people can only access by paying. It could contain tools or courses or a forum of experts, for example. Some of the more successful membership sites are SEOBook and SEOmoz.
  • a physical product
    If you are one of these talented people who have an actual real-world skill like painting or designing clothes, you might want to make your product a physical one. This can work extremely well if you have a big list of people who admire your work.

Whatever you decide to create, you have to make sure it appeals to your readers and continues to add value as you’ve done on your blog. People simply will not pay for something unless they know that it will add to their lives in a meaningful way.

Promoting someone else’s product

If you don’t have the time, energy, or ideas to create your own product, you can start out by promoting other people’s—by becoming an affiliate. For example, if I created an amazing Blog Tyrant ecourse, I would offer people the opportunity to sell that ecourse on my behalf and earn a commission (usually 40% to 80%) on every sale. If you believed in that product (trust me, it’d be awesome!) then you could sell it to your list. Money for jam.

There are a few prerequisites to generating an income through affiliate sales:

  • The product must be relevant.
    If you run a dog-training blog there is almost no chance that my amazing Blog Tyrant product would sell to your list. You need to find affiliate products that are highly relevant to your blog.
  • You must believe in it/use it yourself.
    Personally, I never promote an affiliate product unless I use it myself. My site is all about helping people dominate their niche and grow an online business that allows them to work from home. Why would I risk my reputation (and in some cases friendships) promoting a product that I’ve never used?
  • It must be reputable and safe.
    Some affiliate programs out there really do not offer good protection for their customers. It’s getting rarer and rarer, but every now and then you come across a program that gets people involved with spam, or makes it difficult to get a refund. If you are going to promote something to your list, you want to make sure it comes from a reputable source that you know and trust. Shoemoney says that he never promotes an affiliate unless he has met the owner in person. This is a good rule.

Please do not think that affiliate programs are all dirty. They aren’t. There are some really solid brand names out there who are promoting very valuable tools and information. Darren’s one of them. With a little bit of research and planning, you will be able to find something great for your crew.

Finding affiliate products to promote
There are so many different places to find affiliates out there—some good, some bad. What you often find is that it is best to locate the product you want to promote first, then figure out what company that product creator is using to sign up affiliates. Some of the main ones you might want to look at include:

A lot of the larger companies run their own affiliate programs. In this case you want to visit the sites of the sellers themselves, scroll down to the very bottom and look for the Affiliates link that will direct you to the signup page.

3. Sell the product to your email list

The final part of this post is all about selling your product, or your chosen affiliate product, to your email list. This topic could be studied for a lifetime, but here, let’s look at a rough game-plan.

Pre-launch

The first step is to generate some interest among your subscribers around the product launch. You want to prepare your readers for the big sale day. There are lots of different ways to do this, and many different schools of thought as to what works and what doesn’t. Some ideas include:

  • a free give away
    Having a free give away that is related to your product launch can be a good idea because people circulate the free part to their friends and on their blogs. It can also help you capture more email addresses to use for the actual promotion.
  • a time-sensitive signup area
    Something else that can work is to have a time-sensitive signup area. For example, if you are releasing a membership site you might only want to release it to 100 members. Having an earlybird signup area on the blog a week in advance can get people motivated to join, rather than risk missing out.
  • create an affiliate program
    Around this time, if you’re selling a product you’ve created yourself, you also want to set yourself up as affiliate seller so that other bloggers can sell your products. Email your list of high-profile blogging contacts, letting them know about the product launch and the affiliate program, and ask them to help you out.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure it really does generate some buzz. The idea is to get as many people talking about the product, and sharing news about it, as possible.

Launch

The launch stage is where you actually send out the email to your list promoting your new product. You should also do a post on your blog to ensure your RSS readers hear about what’s going on. Make sure your launch email:

  • has a strong call to action
  • details all the specs of the product
  • uses social proof
  • focuses on benefits, not features.

As I said, this is only supposed to be a rough game-plan. There are some amazing articles out there that give you specific details on this process. I’d recommend starting with Copyblogger’s landing pages tutorials, Darren’s video on product launches, and Yaro’s article on creating an ebook.

Automate follow-ups for affiliate products

One thing to remember is that if you’re promoting someone else’s product you don’t have to do all this launch stuff. You can actually just set it to be entirely automatic. How? Well remember we talked about Aweber’s automatic messages earlier? What you can do is create a series of follow-up emails that go to every subscriber that you get on a sequence of set days.

For example, let’s say you subscribe to my Dog Training blog. On day one I might send you an automatic email thanking you for subscribing. Then on day three, you get an email with a highly useful dog training tip or tutorial. A week later, you get another training tip and then, maybe a day after that, I send you an email with an affiliate product that relates to the tips and tutorials, and really helps you solve the problem. It’s all automatic, and it works extremely well.

Remember, don’t flood your subscribers with emails, and don’t send anything out unless it’s highly valuable and useful to your subscribers. Don’t risk compromising your relationship.

Have you done it? Will you try it?

I’d really like to open up the comments now and ask you guys for any advice from your own email campaigns. Have you tried these kinds of approaches before? Did they work well? I’d also really like to know whether you will give this a try on your own blogs. Do leave a comment and let me know.

The Blog Tyrant is a 25 year old guy who makes a full time living from blogs and online businesses. He has sold several blogs for $20,000 plus and answers every comment he gets on his blog. Subscribe by email or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or RSS.

Bible Thumping, Brainwashing, and Pimping—Your Keys to Blog Success!

This guest post is by Jason Towne of TopThreeDaily.com.

I’m new to the blogosphere, but thanks to tips from ProBlogger and a few others, I decided to make the plunge and start my own blog. It’s only been a little over a week. The day after my site went live I had nearly 2,000 pageviews and 500 unique visitors. Within the next 24 hours those numbers doubled and then I soon passed 8,000 unique visitors and 20,000 pageviews. In the week that we’ve been up, the site rose over 2.4 million spots on Alexa.

Keep in mind I had no experience whatsoever with blogging, social media, or technology. How did I do it?

Optimizing the WTF? factor

The first and most important thing I did was to research what, and how, blog posts go viral. I began by researching the concept of linkbaiting, starting with ProBlogger’s classic post, and then continued to study Buzzfeed, Popurls, and other sites to get a feel for what gets spread around. One thing I learned is that titles that make people say WTF? are winners. For instance, my first viral article, 6 Bible Thumping Tips that Will Save Your Butt!, only had a chance because the title was so intriguing. I know this because I sent out that exact same article twice, with two inferior titles, and it went nowhere. When I changed the name, it took off like a rocket.

Now that I’ve had several viral articles in a row, I’m confident that a quality title is everything. Here’s a trick that I use.

First, focus on either list posts or how-to guides. Both of those bring amazing results over and over. Second, think of something that’s traditionally considered a “negative,” combine it with a “positive,” and you’ve built instant interest. For instance, “Bible Thumping” is usually used in a derogatory way, but “saving your butt” is a good thing. You could do the same with any negative and any positive. For instance, diseases are bad and money is good. So how about an article titled, 5 Diseases I Would Pay Money To Get. Then go research and find some rare, cool disease that has positive benefits. I would click on that.

Ask yourself this question when considering titles: “Would this title make a person say ‘WTF?’”

Befriending Reddit

Keep in mind that I was new to social media and blogging, so I was working by trial and error. What I’ve learned pretty quickly is that Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and StumbleUpon are great if you already have a presence on those sites. If you’ve been using them for some time and have a lot of friends and followers, then you should definitely submit your stuff. However, if you are a newbie like myself, then Reddit should become your instant best friend.

The reason is that Facebook and Twitter are only as good as the number of friends you have. If you have no friends, then you’re submitting your work to nobody. Digg and StumbleUpon are great if you already have some time put in. I didn’t, and when I submitted my articles to those sites they were seen by absolutely nobody. If you’re new, you’re better off not submitting your stuff to them—let someone else (who is established) eventually do it for you.

However, Reddit is a different story. The great thing about Reddit is that when you submit an article, picture, video, or whatever, it is posted instantly for all Reddit users to see. If they like the title then they click on it, and you’re in business. The better your article/picture/video is, the more they will then share it with their friends, and so it starts to go viral.

Here’s an example. I posted an article called called How Bad Boys Control Women (The Real Jedi Mind Trick) on Digg and StumbleUpon, and it wasn’t looked at even once. Then I posted that same article on Reddit and it blew up. I was swarmed with visitors and it began to spread like wildfire. Reddit gives you the initial chance that all the others just don’t offer.

Browsing the Web

Unless you’re a creative writing machine, you probably can’t write blockbuster linkbait articles every day, so the next-best thing is to browse the web for material. I found lots of good material that was a bit older, but very well written. I then got permission from the author to either repost it on my site in whole or repost part of it with a link back to their site. Since the article was out of favor anyway, everyone agreed. What this did was allow me to create a new post on a cool topic, reword my title, and submit it to Reddit. This gave me a massive pageview boost, and helped the original site the article came from get a new lease on life. Everyone won.

Here’s the best example. I was short on creativity the other day, but I remembered hearing on the radio about the police arresting this pimp and finding his business plan. I tracked it down online, put it in a brief article I wrote, then posted A Pimp’s Actual Hand-Written Business Plan. I then tossed it on Reddit and within 12 hours I had gained 15,000 new pageviews. Pimp = negative, business plan = positive. If you’re still not convinced the title strategy works, go back and take a look at the title of this article. You clicked on it. It works.

Have you tried writing titles like this? What title tactics have worked best for you? And what’s your experience with Reddit? Let us know in the comments.

Jason Towne is a published author and former Hollywood script doctor. He currently runs the best-of-the-web blog, Top Three Daily, which came online on Jan. 26, 2011 and is already starting to have an impact on the blogosphere. Towne is also a freelance article writer, consultant, father, and husband. You can follow his posts through his RSS feed.

How to Impress Blog Visitors Before they Start to Read

This guest post is by Darren of Findermind.com

Isn’t the best way to impress readers by providing great content? My answer would be yes, because most people come to your site for your content.

There are, however, some things you can do to impress and build credibility among your (first-time) readers even before they start to read what you have to say. How? Let me explain.

Provide quantitative instead of qualitative statements

People are not stupid. Messages like “we are the best blog providing blogging tips” won’t work. Your visitors are skeptical. They want evidence to show you’re the best blog for blogging tips. That’s why it’s important to provide quantitative instead of qualitative statements. Here are some examples of quantitative statements:

  • 116 new subscribers daily
  • over 56 new twitter followers every day
  • join over 170, 000 subscribers (this example’s from ProBlogger!).

In conversion rate optimization, using statements such as these is considered a best practice. Why? Because it consistently produces higher conversion rates.

There is, however, one good way to provide believable qualitative statements…

Let somebody else do the bragging for you

This concept is used a lot around products releases, where it’s known as “providing testimonials.” But, of course, you can use the same concept for your own website? If, for example, Darren mentioned something nice about your blog, why not showcase it to your readers? An example might be:

“Absolutely the most useful blog on WordPress Tips”—Darren Rowse, ProBlogger.com

As you can notice, this is a qualitative statement (without any specific evidence). People won’t believe you if you brag about yourself. “We’re the best, the greatest, the cheapest…” Sorry, that doesn’t work. Do you believe it when the author of a specific blog says they’re the best in their niche? One of the first questions that comes to mind after reading this is, “Why are you the cheapest, greatest, and best?”

There is some research, however, to support the claim that if you let another person do “the bragging” for you, then you can establish credibility quickly. In chapter 22 of his best-selling book 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, Dr. Robert Cialdini mentions a study he’s done with Jeffrey Pfeeffer (you can view the study here in PDF format).

The pair asked study participants to imagine themselves in the role of a chief editor for a particular book publisher. Their current job was dealing with a particular author. To get an impression of that author, they had to read an excerpts of a negotiation for a sizable book advance. The results showed that the participants rated the author more favorably in every area when his bragging was done by his manager, than in those areas where the author bragged about himself.

If you mention a quote from someone else (like in the above ProBlogger example), then it’s best to put it above the fold—next to your logo, for example. There’s often a lot of empty space there, and some people use that for ads, but you can use it for building credibility among first-time visitors.

Put a universal Like button on your blog

The above screen shot is from Mashable.com. At the top of their sidebar, they display a universal Like button which is visible on every post and every page.

This can communicte significant social proof, and has one big advantage: it’s very easy to click on. Also, it’s very easy to locate—more on that later.

Why use this instead of the Facebook social plugin? After all, Problogger does:

The answer is that the Facebook social plugin has several disadvantages :

  • It has to be placed below the fold and in the sidebar. Space above the fold is most commonly used for ads.
  • The Facebook Like button is a lot harder to find, with so many elements competing for users’ attention. I would estimate that the single Like option on the universal button is at least three times easier to find because there’s a number next to it, and eyetracking studies tell us that people’s attention focuses on numbers (mostly because they are an indicator of facts, and people love to read facts online).
  • Why would I like to “Find the Blog on Facebook” if I’m already on the blog? That instruction simply doesn’t make sense. It’s not one of the things I want to do. The thing I want to do while on a blog is read its content, and if it’s good, I can either like it or not. As such, a simple Like button is more relevant to users’ intentions.

The universal Like button creates credibility very quickly. Everyone’s on Facebook. By seeing your Like button—and the number of people who like your blog—visitors will understand that there are real people reading your blog. This further establishes social proof: the bigger the number of people who Like your blog, the better.

When to apply these principles … and when to ignore them

Are these principles applicable to all blogs? No. It  all depends on what you blog is about, and who’s in your audience. For example, I blog about people search, and I can’t really apply these principles to great effect, because I can’t built a loyal audience. My audience members’ goals are pretty short-term: they are looking for a person’s details, and once they find that information, they’re gone.

But I would recommend these principles to owners of blogs that have a potential to build long-term audience relationships, like people trying to build a more successful blog, people trying to make money online, people trying to save money, and so on. I would recommend these principles for people trying to build a loyal audience—and I’m pretty most of you are doing that.

What other techniques have you used to impress visitors to your blog as soon as they arrive? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Darren loves to do guest posts on blogging/social media. His current project involves teaching people how to use social media to successfully re-unite with friends and family members. If you ever wanted to do that, start by reading this article, titled 25 Free People Search Engines to Find Anyone. Good luck!

Personal Blog Monetization Perils and Pitfalls

This guest post is by Brooke Schoenman of Brooke vs. the World.

I write for two blogs that are both travel-themed, yet very different from one another. Brooke vs. the World has been my personal travel blog for the past four years, while WhyGo Australia is more of a travel guide blog which is part of a larger travel network, and focuses on making money. Because of their different natures, I approach the way I write and promote each of these blogs in a different manner.

Brooke vs. the World has been around for a while now, and since I have a bit of clout in the online travel community, it does draw the attention of advertisers and has various avenues of making money. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to come to terms with whether or not I want to take it a step further to a point of it becoming a real money-maker. In considering my options, I’ve realized that this process would involve overcoming several challenges.

Prioritizing commercial topics over personal topics

Most personal bloggers choose to write about topics that only pertain to them, and do it in a way that requires them to talk about themselves. This approach can help build a following of people that truly can relate to you and what you’re doing, but it’s likely that focusing more heavily on broader topics that a more general audience can relate to from time to time will mean you can monetize your blog more successfully. There’s also the need to choose topics that fare better for SEO and purposely cause discussion. In other words, if you monetize your personal blog, you might have to blog about topics that aren’t as near and dear to your heart all the time.

For example, on my personal blog, I’d find it a bit bland to write an article on the “5 Best Budget Hostels in Antigua, Guatemala.” I’d much prefer to talk about my experiences with meeting new people there, perhaps in an article called, “The Amazing Friends I Met in Hostels in Guatemala.” Obviously, the first topic is going to appeal to a larger audience, maybe perform better with the search engines, and produce a better way of introducing affiliate programs with direct calls to action (think: “book your stay now”).

Censoring personal feelings

If you’re like me, you might use a personal blog as a way to vent and share your personal feelings. There’s nothing wrong with that—in fact, it can be a good way to connect with readers. However, if you monetize your blog, times may arise when it is best to not show your deep-down honest feelings—perhaps when you really dislike something. That’s a factor that can change in a blog when it starts to become a business: being openly judgmental can drive some potential advertisers away.

I let my personal feelings about traveling in New Zealand slip out on my blog last year. Sure, there were plenty of reasons why my feelings on the subject were negative, but by not censoring myself, I may have killed any chances of landing a media-related trip to New Zealand, or of working with New Zealand-themed advertisers in the future.

Broadening the horizons

Along with prioritizing commercial topics, the personal blogger looking to monetize their blog may need to broaden their scope. Talking about travel experiences and telling travel tales is one thing, but to gain a larger audience, you may try to provide experiences and tales for more than the countries that you’ve visited yourself. In addition, tackling list-style posts and easy-reading type articles can be a great way to draw in different types of readers. But are they your thing?

I think Darren touches on this point by talking about how his video posts do better when he has both the video and the transcription together. There are simply different kinds of audiences: some are visual (preferring photos or videos); others like to read about it. Some visitors are looking for a personal tale from a travel blog, while others want to know how exactly they can do the same things you did in a step-by-step guide. Each of these visitor types means that you may gain by branching out from your normal style. But personally, I find list posts and how-to guides feel less personal and unique (the majority of the time), and video blogs time-consuming.

Opening it up to others

Although it’s not necessarily essential, opening up a blog to focus more on others (another step in broadening the horizons) is beneficial when it comes to gaining more interest from your audience. You can achieve this by writing interviews, accepting guest posts, and linking more frequently to outside resources. Any way it happens, it will draw more attention to your blog. Yet it is a task that can be difficult to do smoothly if, so far, you’ve been focusing solely on your own story.

Brooke vs. the World, for example, has been a blog about my personal journey; the title pretty much says so. The objective has always been to share my travels, so the thought of adding another voice to the mix through guest posts would seem to break the continuity of what has now been years in the making.

Getting over the fear of selling

If a blog doesn’t start out to make money, it can feel as though the blogger is selling out by changing their focus to monetization later on. I think this is my number one issue with taking my personal blog to the next level—the fear that what I do and say will be only taken at face value, instead of genuinely. So, while I may feel strongly about the benefits of a certain product I’m writing about, I often fear making the initial call to action to achieve the response I’m looking for.

The fact that I struggle with this aspect could be all in my head, or it could be because the selling tone just doesn’t fit in with my personal blog’s voice. I’ve tried several times to write articles that are focused on the sale, but it just sounds out of place and inauthentic. I often worry that people will think that I’m only saying that I like a specific tour or travel product because I’m hoping to make some quick money from the sales.

Getting over the fear of selling yourself

Self-promotion is essential for making yourself stand out in a crowded niche such as travel, yet for many people, it’s not easy to do. You have to be able to tell people why you are interesting to follow and, most importantly, how they can gain from it themselves. Otherwise, you’ll be just another fish in the big Internet sea, swimming around waiting to be discovered.

Part of the process of drawing attention to yourself, however, can feel like bragging. Since most personal blogs have just a person behind them, there’s no business name to hide behind. So selling yourself seems very much like talking yourself up to others, which is what we were raised to think is impolite and annoying. I’m sure there is a fine line here, but I often find myself questioning whether it’s worth the risk of crossing that line.

I generally have no issues doing any of these activities with WhyGo Australia, since it’s a part of my job and I’m backed by a really awesome independent travel company. Overcoming these challenges with my personal blog is another story—and one that I continue to struggle with.

Have any of you felt the same when it comes to trying to make the change from personal blog to money-maker?

Brooke Schoenman is a long-time traveler and full-time travel blogger, originally from America but now in the process of becoming an Australia expat. For travel inspiration, subscribe to her feed at Brooke vs. the World, and for Australia travel tips be sure to bookmark WhyGo Australia.

Don’t Go It Alone: Relationship-building for Bloggers

This is a guest post by Jane from Problogging Success.

Let’s get it straight. Blogging is not a standalone job. You cannot blog in a space that doesn’t exist and to a group of virtual people. You need people—yes, living human beings, not just pairs of eyeballs—to read your
blog.

You don’t just need people to read what you write; you need people to:

  • agree/disagree with you
  • give you different perspectives/thoughts/suggestions
  • follow as role models/examples
  • endorse/recommend you to the public
  • share things with
  • buy your stuff and so on.

So you need people in the blogosphere. Period.

Blogging has evolved so far, so strongly, and in an awesome way because of relationships. Just imagine the number of people who hunt blogs for information these days. A big number is just on and around blogs. So you need to make good use of that number.

Let me give you three tips (surely the not-so-trivial kind) to get along with people in the blogging world.

1. Comment

Commenting—not spamming, but giving out your genuine thoughts and views about a particular blog post—will help you to develop an excellent relationship with the author of the article. Everyone knows this. So how can you comment to build relationships (apart from links) effectively?

Reach out to growing bloggers and to those bloggers who are in the same stage as you in their blogging journey. Every comment you make on your favorite A-lister’s blog will indeed help you make friends, attract new visitors, and sometimes even attract subscribers. This is conventional wisdom.

My suggestion is to make a habit of commenting in the not-so-big, yet growing blogs (apart from the A-list blogs that are your favorites and those you comment for link-building purposes). Spend some time to find out a handful of blogs in your niche that are just growing, and comment in them in a consistent and useful way.

Your first friend will be the blogger, of course. And he or she will return the favor. You become blogging buddies and comment on each others’ posts regularly.

Here’s what you can do after that:

  • Communicate personally with the blogger. Give suggestions, ask for advice, help each other, and so on.
  • Trade off Tweets and Facebook shares. This works great for me. I share their posts, and the favor is returned. So if you have ten blog buddies like this, the exposure you’ll get can be fairly decent. I have also gained new subscribers and friends who are friends of those buddy bloggers.
  • Endorse each other’s products/services.

2. Guest post

Guest posting is great for link building and for traffic—quite true. But how about guest posting for developing strong relationships?

Among various other benefits of guest posting, developing relationships with others is one of the main benefits. How can you achieve that? Again, aim not only for the A-list, but go for the growing blogs. This time you need to filter a bit more. Find out blogs that are doing great with readers and comments, and simply forget about the PR for this moment (I say this because I personally know and follow many blogs that have excellent content, and a great number of loyal readers and fans, but the blog’s page rank is 0).

Write a very useful post (you know that!) and close it by opening the topic up for a discussion. Given that the blog has decent number of readers who comment, a call to action should work great. Now it’s your turn to build relationships. Make it a point to respond to every comment in your guest post. But go further. Encourage discussions in the comments. And give out additional tips and secrets in replies to the commenters.

Tip: Look for CommentLuv-enabled blogs. They normally have good number of people who comment.

CommentLuv is a cute little WordPress plugin that fetches the recent post of the commenter (from the website feed) as he/she types the comment, and displays it after the comment. If a blog has the CommentLuv plugin enabled, there should be a little checkbox below the comment Submit button, as shown here.

Checking the box will display the recent post. If you have registered your blog at the ComLuv website, you can choose to display any one of the ten most recent posts.

That ‘s not all. You also have a search option at ComLuv website. You can search for CommentLuv-enabled blogs in your niche by entering appropriate keywords.

Download CommentLuv plugin here, and register your blog at comluv.com.

3. Linking

Write round-up posts on your blog that link to other posts. Do this periodically: once in a week or two, write a round-up post. This time, you need to aim only for the big players: A-list blogs. Your post can be centered around one post from a particular A-list blog, or a collection of posts from different blogs with either the same or different topics.

You can follow any or all of the following strategies:

  1. Write one blog post agreeing/disagreeing/appreciating/casting your extra views on one popular blog
    post. Caution: Don’t be tempted to get dirty and disagree with popular bloggers just to gain attention.
  2. Write one blog post on a topic and quote four or five related blog posts to validate your thoughts.
  3. Pick four or five popular blog posts of A-list bloggers, not necessarily in a very narrow topic, and write a list post that ties them all together.

You have got to try it and see. You will get a lot of exposure, friends—and loyal readers.

The bottom line? You cannot blog alone. You need the support of nice people to blog successfully. Don’t just be obsessed with SEO and link building; rather, seek to develop true and long-lasting relationships.

Just ask this to yourself: “Why do I blog?” There can be many answers, but this will be surely one of your answers: “to create relationships with others.” Unless you’re writing a blog that’s entirely private, you blog for relationships. You write for people—your friends, your students, your clients, your community, your gender, or people with particular interest or issues. So make the most of those relationships.

What methods do you adopt to develop blogging relationships? And what works best for you?

Jane is a blog consultant and the founder of Problogging Success. She has authored two e-books Problogging Action Plan (winner of the Small Business Book Awards, 2012) and Guest Blogging Champion to help bloggers become successful in their blogging business.

6 Fiction Writing Techniques to Improve Your Blog

This is a guest post by Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn

Many people want to write a book and maybe you’re one of them. Perhaps you don’t want to write a novel, but these fiction writing techniques can still help you improve your blog.

1. Character

At its core, fiction is about characters and how they live, who they are and what they go through in the course of a book. If a reader doesn’t care about the character, why should they bother reading on? The same is true of your blog. If readers don’t care about you as the main character, they will go elsewhere. If your content is dry and devoid of personality, people will click away.

You can show character through the use of personal anecdotes about you and your life, either on your blog or through social networks. You can use video or audio to present a more rounded view and incorporate the rich variety of your life to infuse blog with character.

2. Setting

All books have a setting, and so do blogs. In fiction, it might be a faraway planet, ancient Rome or a vampire’s lair that give a sense of place. For blogging, the equivalent is your blog design including use of images, color and theme. This will set the tone for your blog or your book and is just as important for either.

A blog on finding true love is unlikely to have a dark, Gothic theme; a sports blog will probably not be pink and fluffy. Setting and blog design influence how the content is perceived before people even start reading so it’s critical to consider what people experience when they first arrive at your site.

3. Genre

It’s important when writing fiction to consider the genre you are writing in, because the rules and expectations differ widely. Consider romance, science-fiction, and horror. The readers are different. The books sit in different places on bookshelves. It’s the same with blogging. You can try to span multiple areas but you will find your message diluted. Decide on your genre or niche and stick with it. It’s the only way to make an impact.

4. Plot

The plot of a novel is the story that pulls a reader through the book to the climactic finish and leaves them wanting more.

On a small scale, every blog post needs to act this way. You want people to read to the end so try to pull them through with a story or save your best information to the climax. On a larger scale, your blog needs to have a plot that keeps people coming back over time. That can be a posting schedule based on delivering specific information on different days of the week. It can be categories of posts that spark areas of interest, or a series of blog posts that tie a whole subject together. It might also be sharing compelling aspects of your life that function as a plot over time.

5. Dialogue

Dialogue between characters is critical in bringing a novel to life. It allows us to glimpse the people behind the story and watch interactions between the characters. As a writer, dialogue can sometimes be surprising when your characters behave differently than you expected. You can also give a problem to characters to explore in dialogue and often find your writing issues solved.

Comments on your blog and interactions on your social networks are the dialog between you and your reader. You can use this dialog to glimpse your readers behind the text of your blog and use the information to adjust your content accordingly. You may be surprised at who your readers actually are.

6. Show, don’t tell

This is the cardinal rule of fiction writing. The point is to always demonstrate a character through action or dialogue, rather than exposition. So instead of saying “Jane was kind to animals”, you show Jane rescuing a wild bird from barbed wire, speaking in a calm voice while carefully separating the torn feathers.

In blogging these days, you can use multi-media to show, not tell. For example, if you’re doing a post on how to perform a perfect golf swing, make a video that shows the exact steps instead of writing a text post. That will bring your site to life as well as providing valuable information for your audience. You can also create audio interviews and information on topics that demonstrate your expertise and enable your audience to know, like and trust you.

So embrace your fiction writing skills and improve your blog at the same time! How are your fiction writing skills coming along? Do you use these techniques on your blog?

Joanna Penn is the author of Pentecost, a thriller novel. Joanna is also a blogger at The Creative Penn: Adventures in Writing, Publishing and Book Marketing. You can connect with Joanna on Twitter @thecreativepenn.

How to Troubleshoot WordPress

This guest post was written by Neil Matthews, a WordPress consultant at WPDude.

Over the years, I’ve developed a troubleshooting methodology while working with my WordPress technical support clients.  My methodology helps  to solve the majority of WordPress crashed sites I’ve come across, and I wanted to share it with you, the good readers of ProBlogger.

I cannot claim that I invented the process, but I have brought together a number of useful tips from the WP community and combined them to create a repeatable and verifiable way to isolate and troubleshoot WordPress problems.

The process

This methodology isolates the various layers of a WordPress site one at a time, tests a layer by removing its component parts, and then, if the problem still exists, moves down to test the next layer.

Once you have isolated the problematic component, you can remove it from your site and troubleshoot the problem itself.

I recommend doing this in a slow and ordered manner, incrementally testing each layer as you go. Look at a layer, disable all of the components, and slowly restart them to find out where the problem lies.

The layers

I like to divide WordPress into four layers:

  • plugins
  • theme
  • WordPress core
  • database.

This methodology looks at the first three layers only.

What can this process fix?

This methodology can be used to fix a variety of WordPress issues including, bit not limited to:

  • the dreaded “white screen of death” where all you can see is a white screen and nothing else
  • “Header Already Sent” errors
  • “Fatal Plugin” errors
  • “Out of Memory” errors
  • …many other WordPress problems, too.

Back up first

Even if your site has crashed, it’s important to stop, take a moment, and back up your site as it is now.  You are about to embark on a journey which will make a lot of changes to your site.  Taking a backup of the site as it stands means you can fall back to your starting position if you need to, without making the situation any worse.

Troubleshooting plugins

I always start at the plugin layer when I’m troubleshooting a WordPress problem. In my experience, about 80-90% of system crashes are caused by plugin issues. This is because there are so many plugins (sometimes of questionable coding quality) available to WordPress site owners.  Combining these plugins with other plugins, themes, and WordPress itself creates an untested mix that can very easily crash your site.

This is how I troubleshoot plugins:

  1. Disable all plugins.
  2. Has the problem gone? If it has, you have an issue at the plugin layer, if not, move down to next layer the theme.
  3. Re-activate plugins one at a time.
  4. Test your site after each reactivation. Has the problem returned? If so, you have now found the suspect plugin: go to point 5. If not, rinse and repeat from point 3.
  5. Disable that plugin.
  6. Re-activate the other plugins to ensure you don’t have multiple plugin problems.
  7. If the problem is still cleared, you have isolated and remove the problem. Go to the Getting Support section below.

Sometimes plugins cause such a problem that when you try to log into the dashboard to disable them, all you get is the same error message. If you cannot log into the dashboard, all is not lost: I have a work-around for you.

What you need to do is connect to your site via FTP and navigate to the wp-content folder.  If you rename the plugins directory, to plugins_temp for example, WordPress no longer knows where the plugin files are, and stops running them.  Now if you try to log in to the site, you’ll find that the issue has probably gone.

If you then proceed to the Plugins section in your Dashboard, you will see an error message that the plugin files cannot be found and have been disabled. Rename plugins_temp and you plugin files will be available again. Now, incrementally start from point 2 above to see which one caused the problem.

Troubleshooting themes

Once you have tested the plugins to rule them out, you need to move down a layer to the theme. This is how I troubleshoot themes:

  1. Disable the current theme.
  2. Activate a default theme such as Twenty ten.
  3. Test. If the problem has gone, you know the theme is causing issues. If not, move down to the WordPress core layer.
  4. Re-activate all of the plugins individually to make sure there is not a composite problem. If the problem doesn’t recur, you’ve isolated the theme as the problem area.

Next, I’d try to rule out any changes I’d made to the theme by removing any code I had recently added. If I have updated the theme, I’d roll back to a previous version. If I have just added a new widget, I’d try to back this out.  As you can see, the process is all about back-tracking methodically so you can repair the issue.

Again, if you cannot log into the dashboard there is a work-around. Connect to your site via FTP, and navigate to the wp-content/themes directory. If you now rename your currently live theme directory to themdir_temp for example, WordPress won’t know where the theme files are. All you’ll see at the front end is a white screen, but the dashboard will be available. Go to point 2 above and activate a default theme.  Remember to change the name of themedir_temp back to themedir to help troubleshooting.

Troubleshooting WordPress Core Files

The last layer to check are your WordPress core files.  This is the last layer because it is the least problematic, but I have seen incidents where files have become corrupt, stopping WordPress from working correctly.  The easiest way to troubleshoot WordPress core files is to re-install a clean copy.

This is my process for troubleshooting WordPress core files:

  1. Download a clean version of WordPress from http://wordpress.org/download/.
  2. Connect to your site via FTP.
  3. Rename wp-admin and wp-includes to ensure you are uploading clean copies of these directories.
  4. Back up wp-config.php just in case. This files holds your database connection details (amongst other things).
  5. Upload your clean version of WordPress.
  6. Test. Is your issue fixed? If so, you have isolated the problem at WordPress core. If not, it’s time to call in the experts.
  7. Re-activate your theme and test it.
  8. Re-activate your plugins and test them.

Fixing the component

At this point, you have hopefully isolated the component of your site that was causing issues.  So what do you do now?  Here are your options:

  • Visit the plugin or theme developers’ site and check to see if they have a support forum to search or request support from. Any developer worth his or her salt will be only too happy to provide support, and premium plugins and themes should provide top-class support as part of your fee. Remember to be nice to them if it’s a free theme or plugin and they don’t reply in five minutes.
  • Find a replacement for the plugin or theme. There is usually more than one implementation of a plugin, so if you can, swap out the problematic plugin with another one.
  • Request some support from http://wordpress.org/support/. This is excellent for core WordPress problems, and you will often find forums for individual plugins there, too.
  • Set the social media monster to work on your problem. Sometimes it’s as easy as sending out a tweet to your network to find a solution to the problem.
  • Get the pros in—hire a WordPress technical support team or consultant to solve your problem.

Wrap up

I use this methodology on a daily basis—it’s proven in the field on crashed sites.  The key is to methodically work through the layers, eliminating as you go, until you find the root cause. Then, fix that issue.  Remember to constantly test, though, because sometimes there are composite problems with multiple plugins, or the theme and a plugin.

Do you have any WordPress bug horror stories you can share? Who solves your site’s bugs and problems—is it you?

Neil provides WordPress technical support services at WPDude.com. He has also created a mini video course on this methodology over at wptroubleshooting.com.

6 Ways to Sell a Website, and 4 Ways Not to Sell One

This guest post is by Mathew Carpenter of Sofa Moolah.

It’s gotten harder and harder to generate a stable income as an affiliate over the past two years. From Facebook’s decidedly anti-affiliate mindset, to the lengthy list of regulations that search engines such as Google have released, generating stable, consistent, and stress-free paid traffic isn’t as simple as it once was. For thousands of affiliates, it’s been a major frustration and a potential business killer.

But alongside the “Google slaps” advertisement disapprovals and the massive flock to second-tier ad networks is a change in the mindset of many affiliates. Instead of focusing on the hustle of direct-response advertising, many successful affiliates and product owners alike are looking to search or socially-powered websites as a source of traffic, a source of sales, and as a source of income.

I’ve been following this same formula—alongside some other online business models—for the past few years, and while it’s far from the cash cow that a giant advertising campaign can be, it’s a form of income that’s significantly more reliable and steady. Advertising and sales checks from blogs and search-powered websites tend to be quite constant—at least more so than the average ad campaign.

Six steps to a successful site sale

These six rules—and four anti-rules—can help you develop and sell your own web properties, to generate a strong and reliable sideline income in addition to your main online venture. Despite the comfort of steady and recurring passive income, it’s often the case that you need short-term cash to fund other websites or advertising projects. In that case, be sure to put these six tips for selling your website into action.

1. Understand your website’s long-term value in advance

The average sales price of a successful website tends to range from six to ten times its profit on a monthly basis. While this can sound fairly hefty—particularly for a website that generates several thousand dollars monthly—it’s really a fraction of the type of value assigned to offline businesses.

Think about Facebook’s current valuation—the ludicrously high $50 billion. Does this reflect the website’s current earnings? No. While the website is profitable by all accounts, it’s far from those levels of profitability. The valuation reflects the website’s long-term value—something that can be applied to your own websites too.

So instead of thinking in terms of short-term revenue for your website and monthly profit, think in terms of your website’s potential for revenue growth over time. If you’re trying to sell a site that’s a real social media hit, for example, or a website with a growing search presence, use this potential as an indicator of its value and price it accordingly.

2. Know your audience, and know how to sell them

The biggest mistake I see being applied to website sales is one that’s repeated in almost all aspects of online marketing: using the same tactics for very different audiences. Just as you’d use different sales tactics to sell a car than you would to sell a bag of candy, you need to use different tactics to sell different types of websites.

Know your audience, and understand how they’re going to respond to your website auction. On one of the bigger marketplaces like Flippa, it’s important to remember that people value revenue data or profit information above anything else. For an independent website investor, information about your website’s potential for growth may be more important.

3. Research successful website sales before listing your own

When asked about how he acquires new skills quickly, productivity guru (and now fitness author) Tim Ferriss explained that it’s best to look at people who have achieved massive success in a short amount of time. It’s a philosophy that can be applied to everything from online marketing to selling your own websites, and it always produces good results.

Instead of going with your gut when deciding on how to present your website for sale, look at other websites that have achieved high sales prices in the past. What information do they disclose? Which sales tactics and pitches do they use to frame the auction? By reverse-engineering sales information from successful website auctions, you can vastly improve the results of your own.

4. Take steps to optimize profits before making a listing.

There’s nothing worse than seeing a website for sale that’s barely been optimized. From blogs that lack even the most basic advertising to affiliate websites that reek of poor conversion testing, if an online property hasn’t been optimized, it’s never going to reach its true value at sale. If your site is on the market without any profit optimization, you’re making a huge (and potentially costly) error.

Test different advertising networks, different ad creatives, and different affiliate offers on your site before you put it up for auction. Test different ad placement, different monetization methods, and a lengthy list of different lead capture strategies. Unoptimized (or poorly optimized) websites can be great deals for buyers, but they’re never a good option for you as the seller.

I’ve optimized many of the websites I’ve sold to increase profits by as much as 415% before making a sale. Small changes, particularly to the wording surrounding your call-to-action text or ad placement, can make a huge difference in the amount of income that your website generates.

5. Use a popular outlet that attracts the right audience

There are hundreds of auction sites out there that allow you to list your website, but only a select few are worth your time. The most popular is Flippa, which, despite its reputation for occasional shady websites, is actually the best option out there. I’ve sold two websites on Flippa for mid four-figure sums recently, one of which achieved an ROI of over four hundred percent.

Don’t, however, confuse a large audience with a good audience. If you own a website in a specific niche, for example, it’s almost always better to appeal to others in your niche directly instead of an all-purpose outlet like Flippa. As I said in step two, it’s important to know the type of people you’re marketing to, not just the amount of potential buyers that you have access to.

6. Minimize “fluff” statistics, and focus on the substance

“Fluff” statistics are, to me, information that’s impressive when explained in an auction, yet utterly meaningless when it comes to your website’s ability to generate income or influence change. The types of statistics I’m talking about are total pageview information—generally information that has no tie to real profitability—or data about how much traffic your website generates in total.

Instead of offering this type of information to potential bidders, highlight your website’s strengths and offer real data to buyers. Talk about how many unique visitors your website gets, your biggest traffic sources, and the value of a visitor to your website. “Fluff” statistics are only worth mentioning in one situation: your website is overvalued and you’re desperate to complete the sale quickly.

How not to sell your website

I’ve mentioned what you should do when selling your website. Now, it’s time to cover some of the most common errors that are made by those auctioning websites. While some of these tactics can help you, particularly if your website isn’t valuable, most will push away the types of buyers you want to attract. Ignore them at your own peril, as they’re definitely techniques to be avoided.

1. Load your auction with worthless data and needless hype.

Nobody cares about your blog’s unique design, its flashy navigation system, and the level of praise it has received from others in your niche. They do care about its potential for generating revenue or, in rare circumstances, its level of influence in its niche. In most cases, it’s best to leave subjective data such as critical praise or “best blog in ___” type feedback off your website’s auction page.

On the same note, don’t load your auction page with fifty-point red headers and sales copy. Look at rule two again—you’re marketing your website to other marketers. Instead of pulling out every last direct response trick in the book, offer information that’s of value to people. It’s very hard to sell to marketers, and it only gets worse when you employ the same tactics that they use on a daily basis.

2. Capitalize on temporary fads, short-term events, and crazes

I see this type of mistake all the time on Flippa. Marketers—typically newbies—buy a domain that is loosely related to the latest celebrity death, put up a generic two-page WordPress site, and think it could be the next big thing. These auctions tend to be loaded with potential-driven sales copy and an overwhelming contempt for their potential customers, all in an effort to make a quick buck.

Here’s what they all have in common: they rarely, if ever, make a decent profit. While the owners of these websites may make a few dollars on the sale, it’s rarely enough to even consider. The best type of website for onward sales is one that’s loaded with long-term potential, not some hyped-up spur-of-the-moment domain name.

3. List your website but make little or no effort to monetize it

The only thing worse than overselling a website, as above, is underselling it by failing to spend any time on monetization. This mistake is constantly be made on Flippa, although unlike many of these errors, which are made by newbies, it’s the professionals that tend to make this one. Always short on time and challenged by other projects, they list websites without even trying to monetize them.

Any signs of profitability—even a Google Adsense block atop your page—are a good thing for lifting your sales price. While websites occasionally sell based on their unrealized potential alone, it’s not at all a common occurrence. Take the time to test your website’s profitability level, and even when it’s not a winner, let people know that it’s at least capable of generating income.

4. Defining your website’s potential without thinking long-term

Browse any auction website and you’ll see descriptions where the merchant has been, shall we say, a little too optimistic about their website’s future. No, it probably won’t become the next Facebook, and no, it probably won’t triple its revenue in two months. While these examples take long-term prediction to its extreme, they’re a good indicator of how a little long-term thinking can help with your sales.

Website aren’t bought to immediately be flipped—at least, not in most cases. For the most part, they are bought as a fairly long-term investment (by online standards). Be upfront and clear about how your website is performing now, but don’t forget to include a description—even quite a salesy description—of how it could perform in the future.

Have you successfully sold a website before? If so, how did it go? Did you break even, lose money, or make a profit on the sale?

Leave your own experiences in the comments and let me know if you’ve got any suggestions on how to sell websites more effectively. I’ve seen plenty of very different techniques do well in this field, and it’s always an interesting to experience how well people are doing with less orthodox tactics.

Mathew Carpenter is an 18-year-old-business owner and entrepreneur from Sydney, Australia. Mathew is currently working on Sofa Moolah, a website that teaches you how to make money online. Follow Mathew on Twitter: @matcarpenter. Follow Sofa Moolah on Twitter: @sofamoolah.

How Your About Page Can Make or Break Your Blog

This guest post is by Lea Woodward of www.DotNetConnector.com.

Did you know that the second place many new readers go after hitting the home page of your blog is your About page? Go and check your stats and you’ll probably see that if it’s not up there at #2, it’s probably still pretty high up on the list of “most viewed” links. Chris Brogan noticed this, so it must be true!

This isn’t really a surprise—most people are curious to find out more about who writes the blog they’ve just landed on. While they’re looking for this information, they’re probably thinking three things:

  • Who is this guy or girl telling me all about how to make money blogging?
  • Should I stick around and read more?
  • Is it worth me bookmarking or subscribing to this site and coming back again?

If you don’t lose readers at the home page (which you can avoid by compelling headlines and killer content to browse around), the second most common place to lose them is at your About page.

Here’s how to avoid that—and how to ensure your About page makes your blog, rather than breaks it.

Introduce yourself

Tell us what your name is, and include a photo. This sounds simple but I can’t tell you how many About pages I’ve read where the blogger frequently mentions “I” and “me”, or “we” and “us”, where the username is “admin” and there’s no mention of a name (or names) anywhere on the site—not even the About page.

The exception of course is if you’re blogging anonymously, but even so, it’s nice to give yourself (or your alter ego) a pen name. People like names and they like to put a face to a name, even if it’s cartoon one.

Remember the mantra: WIIFM?

Somewhere up near the top of your About page, it’s a good idea to tell readers what’s in it for them if they stick around on your site and even subscribe. They’ll be scanning your page thinking, “What’s in it for me? Should I stick around?” If you can answer that succinctly early on, you’ll save them time and attract the kind of audience you’re actually looking for.

About them

If your blog covers a wide range of topics and it’s not super-targeted, it can be useful to actually state who your blog is for. You can even be as obvious as to include a “Who this blog is for” section listing a few items describing your ideal readers. It’s a fast, simple way to help readers figure out whether they want to stick around or not.

Be personal, but not too personal

It depends upon the topic of your blog, but it’s usually a good idea to share your credentials or expertise in the topic you’re blogging about. If you don’t have any, and you’re writing more of a “share your journey” blog, then say this. It helps people figure out where you are on the path in relation to them, and whether they’ll get something from sticking around.

The depth and level of personal information you share will depend upon the type of blog you’re writing—whether it’s a topic-focused blog or more of a personality-based blog.

Determine the goal of your About page

As you’ve probably gathered by now, your About page isn’t just a place to tell people more about you: it can be so much more. You need to determine the goal(s) of your About page, and then make sure that your page achieves those goals. For example, your About page can:

  • be an ideal place to highlight your best content, allowing you to share links to deeper content within your site
  • encourage people to sign up to your newsletter—which works especially well for “behind the scenes” newsletters and those which are used to share more personal information from the blogger
  • give readers other ways to connect with you, by sharing links to your social media profiles and encouraging readers to connect with you there, too
  • provide readers with social proof and testimonials, helping to establish your credibility and authority from the start.

Always end with a call to action

Your About page is a great place to encourage those who’ve stuck with you until the end of the page, to keep going … but you do need to give them some direction. This goes hand in hand with the point above: once you’ve determined what you’d like your About page to do for your site and your readers, make sure you end strongly by giving readers pointers about the next steps to take, should they be interested.

The above advice can be summarized in the following three points. Your About page should, at the very least, achieve the following:

  • Introduce the person and personality behind the blog.
  • Help new readers easily identify whether your blog is for them.
  • Direct them to do something specific once they’ve read it (whatever it is you’d ideally like them to do next).

Take advantage of this golden opportunity to make another great impression on new readers and create an About page that helps your blog stand out from the others.

What does your About page say about you?

Lea Woodward helps bloggers and online entrepreneurs craft About pages that make stronger, deeper, longer-lasting connections with readers at www.DotNetConnector.com. You can connect with her on Twitter @leawoodward or on her personal blog, www.LeaWoodward.com.