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How Bloggers Can Make Money from Brands

This guest post was written by Mark Pollard of MarkPollard.net.

Let’s face it, how you make money from blogging is in serious flux right now. The thing is, flux brings opportunity. If you’re thinking differently enough to everybody else, chances are you can stand out. That’s what this article is about. How to get you standing out in front of brands and agencies, and find new ways to make money from your blogging pedigree along the way.

Old models are struggling

It’s not just “heritage media” that’s trying to work it all out right now. Bloggers everywhere need to rethink their approaches:

  • display advertising needs reinvention: who’s it working for?
  • Google just downgraded content farms
  • guest posting is the new content marketing
  • selling ebooks is a hit-and-miss affair for most
  • affiliate marketing: how do you pick a product and make it worthwhile?

Establishing an audience and then releasing a book as your monetization tactic is challenging when such a small percentage of books are actually profitable. So, do you make an app? Do you go Kindle? Do you put on a conference? Should your revenue come from the very content that you pour your soul into or from something else, like a better salary, fees for speaking at events or a new business venture?

Just where will the money come from?

As a blogger, you need to make some serious strategic calls on where to put your focus because content-making is heavy going.

Why listen to me?

I work in advertising. It took me a long time to be able to say that. It’s not something I identify with—”advertising,” that is. I’m in it to disrupt it for the better. I’ve been publishing content online since around 1997, since the days of Angelfire, Tripod, and Geocities; since the client request of “Can we have an animated .gif on our homepage?” To which one would reply: “I’m not sure the modems will be able to handle it.”

I made my first website to publish interviews with hip hop artists that I liked at the time—underground ones. I’d network on IRC and ICQ, email my questions to them and put them up on a very ugly Geocities-hosted website. Within 2 years, I was hosting the main hip hop radio show in Sydney, Australia, and started publishing the first full color hip-hop magazine in the southern hemisphere: Stealth Magazine.

Since then, I’ve worked in digital agencies, dot-coms and advertising agencies. Most recently, I’ve been working with Aussie Bloggers Conference. One of the questions that Sarah Pietrzak asked was, “What should brands expect of bloggers and where do you see this relationship going?”

I started listing all the benefits that I see available from working with bloggers, and they fell politely into these four buckets.

1. Perception

What a marketer wants from you is to look better and more relevant to the people they’d like to sell to—as many as possible, too. Once they’ve finished a campaign, they will screengrab the blog posts and other media for a case study. They may use a sentiment analysis tool to establish the reach and positivity (hopefully) of what you made.

To be honest, this is where a lot of agency and marketing types finish. But it’s not enough in most cases. If I were their boss, I’d be asking about the results. This brings us to:

2. Action

What a marketer should really be measuring and focusing in on (at least in the medium term) is working with you to get people to do stuff. My perception of Bugaboo strollers is that they look and work great but they’re too expensive, so I wouldn’t buy one. Great perception, no action. Having said that not all actions have to be “sales.”

When I work with a brand over an extended period of time, the first step is about establishing credibility, respecting the existing communities, engaging with them. These are softer metrics—they will harden over time.

Examples of four common actions that you can sell:

  • sales: work out how you can sell their stuff directly within a matter of clicks
  • high-quality website visitors (defined by a conversion or engagement)
  • increasing their email/RSS subscribers, followers, fans
  • consumer reviews: no, not fake, astro-turfing stuff—legitimacy or nothing.

Now, if you want to be professional, you need to work out up-front exactly what you want to be held accountable for, and how to measure it. If you bring this rigor to your approach, you will get taken seriously, you’ll start having conversations with more senior people, and possibly get access to more serious budgets.

3. Contacts

This isn’t often something a marketer will ask for, as they may have a PR agency that gets paid to do this, but if you can act as a connector, then you have value to sell or exchange. You may connect them to other bloggers like you, bloggers not like you but with a potentially relevant audience, readers, media, event organizers, and so on.

4. Knowledge

Every brand is working out how to do this right. Business is typically a very alpha-male environment—things are rigid, political, and bureaucratic. And, yes, “male” more often than not. Marketers are always under the pump to prove they have something to offer—typically, the CEO is a sales or logistics guy, and the sales teams always tease the marketers about doing the fluffy stuff compared to their frontline activity. They have to compete for budget.

New leaders understand the values of transparency and vulnerability. These are values one needs to have to succeed in social (I believe). However, these values are not widespread—they involve admitting that you don’t know stuff, that you made an error, that you’re learning.

Some of the things you know that you can package:

  • what topics are hot-button topics in your community
  • how to talk, write and deal with your social media world
  • what ideas you believe are likely to succeed or flop.

How to get out of the monetization rat-race

If you’ve explored any of the ideas below, I’d love to know how it went. They all aim to set you apart from the rest by making you more of a strategic partner with a brand—not just a place for ads. It can take time to earn the trust of a brand to be able to implement it all. If you’re contemplating giving it a shot, have a go at doing one of these for free so that you can approach your key targets (and their competitors) with something in hand and a 30-minute offer to see it.

1. Research and research groups

Marketers spend thousands of dollars every year on research groups. The most common way to do this is to get eight people together in a research room with mirrored windows and for a facilitator to ask questions. Now, it’s important to realize that the people you recruit to these groups—if based on your audience and connections—will not be representative of the population at large, so don’t pretend they are.

How much money is there in this? A typical range would be $2500-$10,000 per group. The higher fees are charged when it’s harder to recruit people and they expect bigger incentives (e.g. doctors, CEOs).

Your costs? A venue, food, drinks, stationery (butcher’s paper, cards, pens), a projector, recording the session (video, audio), phone calls, incentives (for 60-90 minutes, you may pay $50-$70), printing of disclaimer forms, and your travel.

How can you make money?

  • Bring your audience together for your own research groups.
  • Bring bloggers together for a research group (incentives will cost more).
  • Create your own side-business focusing on a handful of key audiences that you can credibly claim to know better than anyone else and have ready access to.
  • Undertake depth interviews, where you spend a day with a person and document everything relevant.
  • Complete desk research, preparing white papers that pull together audience-specific trends (what they like, where they are, how they communicate, with text, photos and/or videos).

2. Online surveys

Marketers often conduct surveys about their brand, competitors, trends in the market, ideas, and advertising. They use online research companies who may have built up a database through cheap banner ads.

How much money is there in this? It depends on the speed of turnaround required, the number of people they need, and the dashboard/tools and analytics you’re offering. My gut feeling is that a typical bit of online research and interpretation would be worth $5,000-$20,0000.

Your costs? If you have ready access to an audience, your costs would simply be in the technology plus your time to make it all happen, perhaps an email blast if you don’t use free tools.

How can you make money? By producing:

  • fast-turnaround surveys based on hot topics—especially brand-specific topics (e.g. if a brand gets bagged out by a celebrity, perhaps you can run a survey about sentiment and seek ideas about what to do)
  • rolling surveys: a survey that repeats itself, capturing data about the same questions every few months
  • bespoke surveys: when needed, when asked for (but don’t be scared to suggest)
  • Facebook insights, polls, surveys (although Facebook may not appreciate it)

3. Conversions

Instead of selling blanket advertising space, what about selling more relevant and useful space on pages that tend to convert well or get a lot of quality search traffic? Obviously, you don’t want to cut off your nose to spite your face and stop selling your own products to do this, but, again, it positions you as someone who takes how you work with brands seriously. Offering deep links with correct title tags is another little bonus you can throw in.

How much money is there in this? You’d either charge per acquisition (trial, sale, registration, fan, follow), by the impression or by time period.

Your costs? It depends how you do it—they’d range from simply time to upload images/text through to costs associated with creating high quality content.

How can you make money? By providing:

  • video content that helps them sell better and fits with your values ($500-$20,000 depending on quality, if they are allowed to re-purpose and syndicate the video, etc)
  • a whitepaper or ebook on behalf of the brand ($1000 to $10,000 depending on design, contributors)
  • designing good performing advertising ($200-$20,000 depending on what’s required and how much is required, whether they can use it elsewhere)
  • additional pages on your website: there’s no reason for advertising to have to lead away from your site when people are at your site to stay on your site
  • advice about how a brand should optimize their landing pages for your audiences (if you know; also a research opportunity).

4. Shortcuts via statistics, data and numbers

This is a combination of a few points above, but if you do your own research, you can re-package it all and re-sell it. Your sources may include: website analytics, search behavior (keyword search volumes, trends, seasonality, geography), bit.ly analytics, PostRank, Twitter, social bookmarking websites, and so on. With this data, you’ll help brands understand what content, which headlines, what time of day, and which days work. You may build a report on who comments the most, who Stumbles, how people use the key, relevant Facebook pages.

How much money is there in this? This sort of data is very precious. You could shortcut a brand to beat you at your own game if you’re not careful. If you did an annual report, you could try to charge a few thousand dollars for it, but you may need to collaborate with an existing research company. Perhaps the value in this is really to only share it with senior marketers and CEOs (to be honest, I’d use this directly only, not with agencies).

Your costs? Your time, perhaps you can buy others’ research to use in your own (transparently), perhaps a venue to present your findings to key targets.

How can you make money?

  • You’d possibly use this tactic as a way to set up selling everything else.
  • You could sell a teaser (a top-ten list, for example) and then sell other services to unlock the rest.

5. Affiliate marketing

This is something I’m exploring: how to help brands that are typically sold in supermarkets sell online on your blogs. Brands have guns at their heads right now. The chain stores and big supermarkets have so much power: they bully price changes, and reduce shelf positioning, all while introducing their own competing home brands. If you can solve this problem, you win.

How much money is there in this? What did Groupon sell for?

Your costs? How much did Groupon cost to make?

How can you make money? How does Groupon make money?

In all seriousness, there are free tools out there to help you do this—you just need to work out the logistics with the brand (that is, delivery), as well as how to make them feel that the big stores won’t come for payback.

6. Talent and representation

Like everyone else, you have blogging friends. Like everyone else, you’re getting approached by PR companies, agencies and marketers. Like everyone else, you think it could all be done much better. Well, do something about it! Set up your own company and systems to help your friends get paid more doing stuff they want to do and help the people with the money achieve their goals.

How much money is there in this? If you’re serious about this, then it’s a completely new business for you so the possibilities (and risks) are as big you want them to be.

Your costs? Time, legal fees, business setup costs, and so on—unless you can trial the idea using firm handshakes as contract-makers.

How can you make money?

  • Coordinate book proposals with publishers you’ve built up relationships with.
  • Talent agency for advertising agencies.
  • Event-speaking representation.

7. Band your ads together

You could also set up your own ad network via Adify. You’d need to work hard to establish credibility and scale. You’d also need to decide whether you will do the sales or whether you’ll hire or outsource that responsibility. Either way, it’s worth exploring.

What do you think?

If you have questions, need clarity, want to collaborate or simply debate … let me know in the comments.

Mark Pollard blogs about account planning, digital strategy and Twitter and Facebook.

Blog Monetization Outside the Box

This guest post is by Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site.

Someone once told me that the only way to make money with a blog is to sell massive amounts of text links. “There’s no other way,” he said, and he was resolute in his opinion.

I couldn’t change his mind, so I just listened and nodded my head. I didn’t bother to argue, even though I knew he was wrong. I know plenty of people who make money online and they don’t do it by selling text links. Yet lots of people seem to think that the only way to make money with a blog is through text link sales. When I hear people say this, I often think to myself, “You only think this way because you aren’t thinking outside the box. You aren’t being creative enough.”

Don’t get me wrong. Text links can be good money. I’ve sold text links in the past, and I know many sites that still do. Those sites still rank highly in Google, and they still have good PageRank. Sites that sell text links are controversial, especially after the JC Penny controversy, and I won’t get into whether or not you should sell text links.

This post is about a larger issue: the idea that without text links, you can’t make money online. I think that is a great fallacy and it is a line of thinking that is perpetually argued by those who are stuck in the box.

Outside the box

When most people think of the phrase, “think outside the box,” they imagine a big boardroom of people brainstorming the next big idea. There’s some guy at the head of the table going, “Come on, people, we need to think outside the box on this one!” and then everyone at the table looks around nervously at each other, unsure of what to do.

However, thinking outside the box, as contrived of a statement maybe, is the only way to succeed with a blog.

When most people think of monetization, they think AdSense, sponsored posts, affiliate sales, or text links. But the biggest sites in the world don’t use any of those techniques. They get more creative than that.

Let me give you two examples.

First, take a site like Zen Habits by Leo Babuta. It’s a popular site on simple living that probably gets over 500,000 visitors per month. But it didn’t start that way. Leo grew the site every day, and he has made it a point to never sell advertising on the site. It is completely ad-free, and his site eventually allowed him to quit his job and focus on what he loved doing.

So what is on his site? Ebooks. Leo created a trusted brand and now people buy his books to learn more. The site even got him a real, physical-book deal. By focusing on delivering what his readers wanted, Leo was able to develop a following of loyal fans that supported him by buying his products.

Everyone has an ebook these days, but the most successful ebooks are completely unique. For example, everyone seems to have an ebook on how to travel the world these days, but I decided to think outside of the box. I launched a new ebook that offers a bit of a spin on the traditional travel ebook by lining up travel companies and offering exclusive discounts in the book worth over $700 USD. Now, my book is more than just another travel book on the internet. I found something people weren’t doing, I did it, and I also created a better way for my readers to save money.

Secondly, look at the lifecaster, iJustine. All she does is video-blog her life. She didn’t just start a website and think, “I’m going to sell text ads.” No, she did something unique and cutting-edge. She thought outside the box. (And the fact that she is a beautiful blonde certainly helps!) She started doing crazy stuff online like singing and dancing in Apple stores and she got a great following. Now, she gets sponsorships and speaking deals. (After all, you can’t put text links on YouTube!)

Take guest blogging, for example. I focus on travel, but this isn’t a travel site. I guest blog on finance blogs, life hacking sites, and a wide range of other topics. I do this to leverage my knowledge into other fields, because, after all, everyone likes to travel and everyone likes to save money. So when I blog on other niches, I let people know I’m an expert in travel to people who would never have come into my own niche on their own. But many bloggers never do this. They only stay in their niche—but if you do this, you have nowhere to grow. Think laterally. Blog in niches that are similarly related. Don’t always get stuck in your niche.

Experimentation pays

It’s important to continue acting outside of the box. You should always be trying something new. In the words of Thomas Edison, “I didn’t fail; I just tried 1,000 ways that didn’t work.” You must be willing to experiment, take risks, and lose in order to finally win. I’ve tried Facebook ads, AdWords, guest posting, using AdSense, not using AdSense, Facebook ads again, different hostel booking engines, and flight engines in order to see what works and what doesn’t. I’ll try new products and services. I am always testing. I’m always experimenting to find that perfect mix.

If you limit the online game to text links and banner ads, you will fail. My friend is right. You won’t make any money. Even with over 100,000 visitors a month, I still have trouble attracting banner ads. The ad space in travel just isn’t there yet. So I got creative, I found ways to expand my audience beyond just travel blogs, and I figured out how to expand my income beyond text ads. I experimented. I tried. I failed. I keep trying. I keep failing. I keep experimenting. And in the long run, I succeed.

There are many ways to make it online. Those who have made it have done it by bucking conventional wisdom and thinking outside the box. They got creative. They went right when everyone was going left. If you also want to make it with your blog, you must do the same. Narrow thinking won’t help you last on the Internet. Be bold. Be daring. And when you are, you’ll be successful.

Do you think outside the box when it comes to monetizing your blog? Let us know in the comments.

Matthew Kepnes has been traveling around the world for the past four years. He runs the award winning budget travel site, Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site and has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian UK, AOL’s Wallet Pop, and Yahoo! Finance. He currently writes for AOL Travel and The Huffington Post For more information, you can visit his Facebook page or sign up for his RSS feed.

How to Be a Successful Creative Sprinter

This guest post is by Catherine Caine of cashandjoy.com.

There are people who can do the old slow-and-steady routine, but I am so not one of them.

When it comes to big creative endeavors, I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner: my new, best-ever-work physical product was created, start to finish, in one month. (That’s nothing! My first ever product was created over one weekend.)

Image by vestman, licensed under Creative Commons

If you too are a creative sprinter, here are some techniques that can spell the difference between failure, mediocre meh-ness, and success.

Reduce all other commitments

Say, “Sounds great, but this is a busy month for me” to everything possible. This might include money-making opportunities, especially if they’re with draining clients or involve a lot of detail work.

“But … the money!” you say. It is very important! Absolutely. But it’s far better to turn down a bit of work (professionally) than to:

  • turn up, do a distracted job, leave customers unimpressed
  • have to push back the delivery six times because you underestimated how much time you could devote to the project
  • get sick midway through because you’re neglecting your self-care to get the job done.

One of the keys to successful sprinting is to carry as little as possible. Over-burdened sprinting becomes desperate shuffle-jogging shortly thereafter.

Your memory is not to be trusted

Your brain is juggling as you create: the audience, the goals, the tone, the impact, the benefits, and a half-dozen more. Double-spirals, over-and-unders, your brain has it all covered.

Now imagine that I throw in a pile of confetti into your juggling. Disaster! While trying to keep track of the tiny bits of paper, the big balls fall everywhere.

To avoid having to juggle confetti, get everything possible out of your head. To-do lists are a must. Outlines and mind-maps and Post-It notes and tables of contents are your friends. Any time you think of anything extra—”Ooh, must get the banner image done.”—write it down immediately. It’s stunning how much mental bandwidth you regain by dumping everything into a Google Docs spreadsheet.

Get all project manager in the hizzouse

Okay, you don’t need to be a full-time project manager … generally you’re only managing yourself and one or two people. But the project managers have a few useful strategies to share.

Manage resources

One of the most heartbreaking sights in sports is ultra-marathoners who break down with the finish line in sight. We don’t want that for you, no sirree.

The most important resource you have … is you. Self-care needs to be scheduled, and scheduled before any other work. Yep, walks with the dog, buying fresh vegetables, regular reminders to get out of the chair and go drink some water … these are your first priority, not something that’s pushed in here and there as your schedule permits.

Of course, you need to manage other limitations too: a running budget avoids terribly unpleasant surprises later. But it’s not as important as managing you.

Communicate

If you are relying on any other people—VAs, designers, beta testers, whatever—then make sure that you spend the extra time to be absolutely clear about what you mean on any terms that could be interpreted in multiple ways. “Soon” is a word that has destroyed many relationships. It can mean “in the next twenty minutes” or “before Friday”, depending on who you ask.

Other words to be careful with: usual, some, and any sentence construction that doesn’t make it crystal clear whose responsibility a given task is.

Dependency management

If you’re looking at your to-do list with a sinking sense of logjam and paralysis, here’s a fun activity. (Okay, it’s not actually fun for most people. But it’s effective and satisfying, which looks similar in hazy lighting.)

  1. Using a media where you can move items around—spreadsheets or Post-It notes are best—write down your action items.
  2. Sort through and see how many of them are items you could do right now. Put them in their own pile.
  3. For items that you can’t complete, figure out what needs to happen first.
  4. Make sure that action is recorded. Could it be done now?
  5. If not, what needs to happen first? Make sure that action is recorded.
  6. Et cetera.

Often what you end up with is fifty times more action items than you started with, but every item feels a thousand times more doable. “Sales page” is horrifying, but “Sign up for shopping cart provider” is easy, and so is “Create product listing”, “Copy button code and paste in sales page”, and every other small step that leads to a completed sales page.

Write the sales page early

Speaking of sales pages … if you are going to be the person writing yours, do it early.

If you’re a creative sprinter then you tend to burn all your energy in one glorious three-stage-rocket burn, and end up with empty fuel tanks after. If you’ve completed every single task on your list before the needle hits E, then good. (As long as you aren’t launching your new and shiny thing the next day, because you won’t have the fuel to do more than wave a flag weakly and say, “Hurrah.”)

But if you burn it all up in product creation and you’re still the only one who can write the sales page … well, we’ve all tried to write on the meh days. The results are often workmanlike, but rarely inspiring. You often end up with a glorious radiant kick-ass product, and a boring grey sales page to promote it. So no-one buys and finds out how much amazingness is inside. Booo.

Have fun with it!

Creative sprinting is amazing fun. Grab that idea and run! If you’re a creative sprinter, I’d love to hear your tips for making it work in the comments below.

Catherine spends her days helping world-changers create marketing from their magnificence. If you need a coach for your creative sprinting, she guarantees epiphanies within 15 minutes in her free 30-minute Marketing Check-up (or your money back!).

Why I Deleted All of My Blogs

This guest posst is by Kole McRae of Chilled Soda.

Four months ago, I had 15 blogs. I had blogs about net neutrality, writing tips, technology news, and more. They we’re all things I was passionate about and loved writing them but one day I deleted them all.

All but one.

I didn’t back them up. I didn’t think twice about it. I simply clicked Delete and never thought about them again. Each one had an audience. Some of them even brought in a little money. But none of that mattered.

That day I discovered a simple truth about myself—a truth that expands to absolutely everyone. The idea was simple, which is kind of the beauty of it.

The less you spread yourself, the better your work

Though I worked hard on those blogs, I knew that the quality of the posts wasn’t high. I tried my best but I just didn’t have the time to do the in-depth work I wanted to. At first I blamed it on my day job and other priorities, but over time I realized it was the sheer number of projects that was holding me back.

With each new project or blog I started, I spread my resources a little bit further. I had less time to devote to each one, and because of that the quality suffered.

The day I made that realization, I deleted them all and focused on a single blog. I was finally able to devote the time required to do the detailed, high-quality posts I’d always wanted to.

Because of this I was able to get that blog mentioned on Consumerist.com, Time Magazine’s website, Howstuffworks.com, and many other A-list websites. All it took was dedication to a single cause instead of many.

Take a look at your current list of projects. Are you able to devote the amount of time necessary to make each one a raging success? If not, why are you working on them?

One at a time

You’re probably looking at this article with an expression of shock. I can hear the objections now:

“You mean, you want me to kill my babies? But all my ideas!”

I’m not asking you to delete everything and never work on those ideas again. As naturally creative people, we want to create. Here is what you should do instead: work on each project, one at a time. Put all your focus on the first one, then, once that’s complete, move on to the next.

It’s up to you to decide what “complete” means.

Not only will this approach ensure that the quality of each project is incredibly high, but you’ll also get a lot more done.

In small doses

You don’t have to do it all at once, like I did. I know that deleting something you’ve worked hard on can be incredibly daunting task. It can even be depressing at first.

Instead, cut out one project at a time.

You’ll find that with the removal of each project, all the others become better in terms of quality. The more you delete, the more you’ll want to delete as you see how much better your other projects get. It’s like an endless loop of quality.

In the end it just proves the point: “Less is more.”

Have you got multiple projects running at the moment? How do you juggle them? Are you giving every single one your best?

Kole McRae started Chilled Soda, a resource for those working 9-5 jobs that want to reduce stress, get more done, find more time for the things they
love, and all around become happier.

Three Reasons Your Blogging Resolutions Are Doomed to Fail

This guest post is by Eugene Yiga of eugeneyiga.com.

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavour.”
—Henry David Thoreau

It happens every year. We wake up on January 1, and decide that this is the year things will finally change. But a few months later, all the gyms empty out and life goes back to normal. It’s the same with our blogs. All our intentions to finally succeed are met with nothing but more of the same. What’s up with that?

In this post, I’ll cover three reasons your resolutions are doomed to fail (assuming they haven’t already) and what you can do to avoid this:

Reason 1: You don’t know what you want

The problem here is that most resolutions aren’t specific. We say we want to grow our subscriber base or make more money but never actually define what this means. You wouldn’t go to a restaurant and say, “I think I want some food. And maybe something to drink. Or whatever.” So why do it when setting goals? We need to know exactly what we’re working toward. Otherwise we’ll keep wandering around aimlessly in the dark.

So what exactly do you want for your blog? Exactly how many subscribers do you want? Exactly how much income would you like to make? Sit down and put some concrete numbers to your goals. What’s also essential here is to attach a date. Not having a deadline means no urgency to get things done. Ultimately, if you don’t know where you’re going or when you want to get there, how can you possibly know you’ve arrived?

Reason 2: You don’t know why you want it

Once you know what you want, you need to figure out why you want it. This is probably the most important part and yet it’s one a lot of people skip. As Carl Jung said, “There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion.”

Spend some time figuring out the motivations behind your goals. Saying you want to increase your subscribers by 20% in the next year isn’t very motivating. But discovering what achieving that will mean to you is. This is why having a mission statement for your blog is critical. For me it’s all about sharing my love for reading. That’s why everything about my new blog is focused on books. It’s also why I was particularly pleased when my first Twitter follower joined my quest to read the 100 greatest books of all time.

So close your eyes and visualize exactly what success looks and feels like. What would achieving this goal mean to you? And why does this matter so much? Getting in touch with the positive emotions of where you want to be (as well as the negative emotions of where you currently are) creates a compelling picture that will guide you day by day. Once you have a strong enough “why,” the “how” is much more achievable.

Reason 3: You don’t know how to get there

Once you know what you want and why you want it, you’re ready to get going. But most of us blindly rush out with giant leaps, installing all sorts of plug-ins, only to find ourselves exhausted and unmotivated to try again. You wouldn’t start your first day of exercise by running a marathon. Remember to take your blogging actions one small step at a time.

Schedule your life so you can do one thing every single day that takes you a little closer to your goal. Nowadays you can outsource your tasks and free up time to focus on what you do best. You can also surround yourself with the right people and a supportive environment when you subscribe to websites like Copyblogger or enrol in courses like the A-List Blogging Bootcamps.

Create healthy rewards to motivate even the slightest progress as you constantly strive to learn, adjust, and improve along the way. Most importantly, always remember why you’re working on this goal. If the reasons you created were strong enough, finding the motivation to overcome obstacles won’t be hard. Soon you’ll gather momentum; before you know it, you’ll be there.

Are your resolutions doomed?

We all have a desire for growth and development, and this must be satisfied throughout our lives. Yes, it’s scary to try for something better, but wouldn’t you rather risk failure than guarantee regret? We live in a world of tremendous opportunity. That’s why we all have the potential to be, do, and have absolutely anything. As long as we know exactly what we want, know why we want it, and know how to get there, it doesn’t have to be more complex than that.

So let’s go out and make this year a success. It’s never too late! Are your blogging resolutions in need of some tweaking? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.

Eugene Yiga shares his love for reading by publishing book reviews at eugeneyiga.com. He also gives away free stuff without making you join his mailing list. Follow him on Twitter for instant updates and alerts.

Why Mom Didn’t Make it as a Blogger

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

We always hear stories about the people who eventually succeeded as bloggers … but what about the ones who didn’t?

What of those millions of people who heard that you could make money online, tried it, and eventually gave up? Why aren’t those stories shared and, more importantly, why don’t we discuss the reasons these people failed? Here is but one story in a sea of millions that can shine some light on the subject.

What does it mean to fail as a blogger?

For some, money is not everything in this life. They value relationships, connecting with others and sharing time together more than anything. This is exactly the mentality my mother had when she began her own blog. She wrote about life as a mother of five children, her incredible ability to cook great food with awesome wine pairings, and her love for her faith.

Her articles were well written and thought-provoking, funny sometimes, and even touching. Having read through her first few posts, I thought to myself, “Wow, my mom is really going to do this and be an awesome blogger.”

However, she failed.

Having seen myself making $10,000 a month with a video gaming blog, my mother thought that she could try her luck at it as well. After eight months and only $2.14 for her efforts, she simply gave up. To her, yes, blogging was fun, but it was too much like a job and she still had a little one to take care of at home. There just wasn’t enough free time for her to justify writing as a hobby with no income to show for it. Despite my best efforts to show her how to draw traffic to her site, she simply gave up due to the learning curve and time involved.

My mother didn’t fail because she couldn’t write, or because she didn’t have a revenue stream. She was an excellent writer and had AdSense/affiliate links on her site in good locations. She failed because she lacked connections and social interaction with her potential audience.

Where things went wrong

Here are how the conversations went with my mother, and here are the responses she had to them. If this sounds like you, stick around because I’m going to show you how to be successful with your blog traffic.

Me: You need to sell something.
Mom: But I have nothing to sell. I don’t own anything.

My mother thought that because she didn’t have a pre-written ebook that she couldn’t make money online.

First off, I didn’t have an ebook when I first started out. What I had was grit and determination to find my audience and market products to them. My mother lacked this, nor did she want to start to learn how to do it. Her fundamental argument is flawed, however, because she did have something to sell: her opinion. Mom had great ideas, great outlooks on life, she was entertaining, and often made people think with her posts. That’s what she could have sold.

Maybe that would have taken shape as an ebook on how to pair wine with food, or maybe it would be life lessons from a mother of five children. I don’t know, but she did have something only she could sell and I’m sad it never came to be.

Me: Mom, you need to read other blogs and forums, then post comments on them.
Mom: I don’t have the time and they don’t know me.

Despite my mom’s expertise in three separate niches, no one knew about it. All she needed to do was start visiting blogs and forums and comment on them, and she would have started developing a following rather quickly. She’s a smart, witty woman with a lot of talent, and it would have been obvious to everyone she interacted with that she knew her stuff.

Sadly, she equated leaving comments at these locations to knocking on doors like a salesman, or preaching in front of random people on the street corner. She didn’t see it as the networking opportunity it really was.

Me: Hey Mom, did you contact any bloggers this week?
Mom: Yes, but I haven’t checked my email in over a month.

When Mom was first starting out, she did make an effort to contact bloggers … well, at least the ones I found for her, and whose email addresses I sent to her. But she never followed up (one even wanted to do a guest post swap!).

Due to time constraints, my Mom never was able to do the essential tasks necessary to manage her PR efforts. Following up seems like a no-brainer, but when you don’t check your email more than once a month, it’s virtually impossible to have a conversation with anyone!

Mom can still succeed

This is it: the part where I show you how she (and you, if you sound like my Mom) can turn things around.

Let’s say my Mom can spend three hours per week blogging. Here’s how I would change her schedule from 100% writing to a different setup, and get her on the path towards blogging success.

1. Spend one hour emailing and responding to emails.
2. Spend one hour commenting on blogs and participating on forums.
3. Spend one hour writing posts.

Yes, she would write one-third of what she was creating before, but she would have a far greater number of interactions with people. Simply improving your own blog is not enough—you have to get out there and connect with your potential audience.

In fact, that’s all you need to do: go out there and find your audience. It seems simple, but to many it feels like added work because they spend all their time writing. Freeing up time solves half of this issue. The other half is getting over the fear of sounding like a salesman. Entering into a conversation and leaving your intelligent opinion on the matter is all you really need to do to avoid sounding like a salesman.

If you need help finding your audience, try searching Google for “[your niche] + forum” or “[your niche] + blog.” Then, after you find a few sites, try looking through their links and blog rolls for additional sites to check out. Get involved, build relationships, and most importantly, have fun! That’s what it’s all about!

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

Inside the Compendium Blogging Platform

This guest post is by Jenny Dean of Business Blog Writers.

If you run a business that sells a product or a service, you need a strong online presence. If you’re considering blogging, or if you are blogging and it’s not doing what you want it to do, then you might look into a different blogging platform to help you achieve your online goals—Compendium.

Seeing that the distinction between blogs and websites has become blurred in recent years, many online visitors don’t even realize whether they have landed on a blog or a website. In fact, static websites are becoming less desirable, since a blog has a fluid ability to target specific visitors with the most up-to-date and relevant information.

Email and searches continue to dominate the online market, so you have to be equipped with the best ROI-producing tool available. Compendium’s blogging platform targets organic keywords in search engines, helps businesses acquire new customers, and serves as a hub for your social media strategy.

Compendium’s platform involves a SEO strategy approach that targets the organic side of the search engine results page (SERP), and is designed to win keyword searches.

If your business has these three qualities, then Compendium may be a great fit:

  • a business domain with some age/authority
  • an understanding of analytics and how you make money online
  • an understanding of what types of key phrases blogs are best suited to win vs. PPC or traditional SEO tactics.

As of March 2011, Compendium’s pricing ranges from $3,500 to upwards of $50,000 a year, based on the needs of the client. Their packages are scalable based on keyword selection and services, as well as any upgrades that you might request.

Why would you want a blog as a business?

  1. To increase search engine traffic
  2. To create an online community of fans of your product or service
  3. To increase awareness of your  product or service
  4. All of the above.

No matter what your company’s blogging goals are, Compendium’s platform is set up to make them happen.  Of course, Compendium’s approach to Third Generation blogging has to do with more qualified search traffic and lead generation online. There are millions of searches around almost every business, topic, industry, etc. every day, week, and month. If your business has a product or service, then someone is out there searching for you.

In my business, we write content for a number of blogs, but our favorite platform to write on is Compendium and here’s why.

Please note: I mentioned in my ProBlogger post, How to Brand Your Blog’s YouTube Channel that I have another website called Floppycats.com, and I purchased the Compendium platform for that site. All the photos and examples below are taken from Floppycats.com’s Compendium blog).

Strategy

  • Compendium has nearly 500 relationships with savvy marketers and business leaders all over the country. These leaders are just like you—they want to increase their ROI without a lot of effort.  So when you have a platform through Compendium, you are set up with an Account Manager who can share tips and ideas among clients, allowing you to save time and money.  It’s like having a marketing firm behind your blog that is also well-versed in SEO.
  • Compendium helps you offer a conversion point or a call-to-action (CTA) to your blog These CTAs can include requesting more information, signing up for a free demo, downloading a document, or even a “buy now” option.
  • Compendium helps to create a blog that has strong key SEO elements like informative page titles, consumer-focused keywords, recent and frequent updates, strong inbound links, and relevant content.  Their platform allows your blog to target thousands of organic keywords in a search.  It automatically organizes your blog’s keyword-rich content into lots of unique landing pages that are found in an organic search.

Monetization

  • Many of Compendium’s clients are generating 400% marketing ROI with only minutes of effort each day.
  • Compendium’s easy-to-use blogging and search engine optimization (SEO) tools help you achieve aggressive lead generation and revenue goals with less time and money than other marketing activities.
  • Compendium llows you to make a true investment in your marketing dollars. The more content you create, the deeper and richer your search results become. In other words, the blog data never goes away; rather, it gets compounded and enhanced with new content.  It’s not like PPC marketing that you pay for, where it’s up and then it’s gone forever.  What’s more, 80-90% of all clicks happen in the organic section of a results page.

Optimization

  • Compendium can be set up on any domain, even WordPress.
  • You won’t find an easier or more efficient way to target a huge search market and get the highest return on their marketing efforts.
  • Search engines look for the following when determining the rank of organic search results:
    1. titles
    2. keywords
    3. recency/frequency of content creation
    4. links
    5. volume
    6. relevance
  • Compendium partnered with two industry-leading SEO companies (Distilled and SEOmoz) to make changes to their platform to enhance organic search benefits.  You may have read a recent article about the Google Algorithm change that affected many blogs and many companies’ efforts to bring in search engine traffic.  Search engine algorithms love Compendium’s system, and Compendium clients are unscathed by such search engine modifications.

Social Networking

  • Compendium’s platform includes social media integration that allows you to push content to your company’s accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, all from within the platform.
  • There are upgrades available with the system that allow for your blog to be built entirely on user-generated content.  It’s one of the most incredible marketing strategies I have seen to date.  To explain it would require a whole other blog post, so here’s a link to one I wrote a few months back explaining it.

Analytics

  • Compendium’s platform allows you to log in at any time, track how the platform is driving traffic to your website, and see how your different calls to action are converting.
  • The Account Manager who is set up for your account also integrates your blog with Google Analytics, so you will benefit from Compendium’s own internal tracking system, as well as an external tracking system.

Content report

Link activity report

Link activity chart

Ease of Use

  • You do not have to be technically savvy to use Compendium.  If you can login into an email account, you can login into Compendium and create a post.
  • The Compendium gods were on our side when they delivered the Keyword Strength Meter! It’s one of my favorite things about Compendium (see image below).  The Keyword Strength Meter is a bar that appears at the top of every post as you’re composing it, and goes from red to green, helping you know when you have used the optimal number of keywords for a specific post.  In other words, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you have used the proper number of keywords, or guess what the search engines will like.

    The keyword strength meter in action

  • You can schedule your posts to release on the blog on different days and times. In other words, you could write five posts on Monday and schedule them to post on every day that week without having to sign into the system again (WordPress has this capability as well).

Protection

  • Compendium is backed by SaaS security.  There’s no IT or plug-ins necessary.  Compendium is a fully hosted SaaS company, so Compendium hosts all of its clients’ blog pages.  Compendium is built on an enterprise-level structure with all the security necessary to work with even the largest corporations.
  • One of the clients that we write for mentioned to me that they chose Compendium because of the security measures involved—they knew their content would be protected on Compendium, whereas they couldn’t obtain a similar level of protection on other blogging platforms.
  • Compendium is not an open-source platform (on an open-source program anyone can develop plug-ins or add-ons to the platform). Compendium is specifically built for enterprise and the security that they require.  This includes features like SSL (for users signing in—think of a bank-like sign in), backups, redundancy, 24-hour monitoring, SLA (service level agreements), and more.  All of these features, and the architecture on which Compendium is built, are far easier to control and monitor than freeware, giving an added level of security to this platform.
  • Compendium allows for unlimited users that are all attached to an administrator.  When a user submits a post it doesn’t go directly onto the company’s blog. Rather, the admin of the blog gets an email notification letting them know there is a new post ready to go. The administrator can then go in and read, edit, or decline the post, and offer feedback to the author without leaving the system.  If your company has a PR department that would like to review the posts before they go live, then Compendium is a great option because it allows the user to input the posts and the PR department to edit and approve them as needed, without excessive back-and-forth comments with the writers.

Customization

The platform can look however you want it to—and you can have it easily match your website.  I use my Compendium blog as a way to find potential subscribers for my main site, which is on WordPress.  That may seem funky, but it has allowed more people to find me.  It also allows me to post things with which I wouldn’t want to bug subscribers to my main site, but that I still think are worthwhile to have on my site in some manner.  Below is a screen shot of the home page of my Floppycats.com website and a screen shot of my Compendium blog site.

The site on WordPress

The site on Compendium

Updates

Compendium is constantly improving the product, making enhancements every week to service the needs of clients.

The main reason I like Compendium is because with any business, it is important to get referrals as well as retain clients you already have.  It has been my experience that when Business Blog Writers write on the Compendium platform, we are more likely to retain the client, because the content we provide on that platform actually works, delivering the results the client was looking for. Therefore they find the value in continuing their content creation agreement with us.

If you are interested in checking out Compendium, you can request a demo through the website. One of their fantastic sales representatives will schedule a time to show you a demo of their software.

Does your company use Compendium?  How do you like it?  What advantages have you seen from it?

Jenny Dean is a 31-year-old-business owner and entrepreneur from Kansas City. Jenny is currently working on Business Blog Writers, a company that supplies blog content specifically for company’s blogs, Floppycats.com, an informational website about Ragdoll cats and Antioxidant-fruits.com, an informational website about the antioxidant powers of fruit. Follow Business Blog Writers on Twitter or on Facebook.

Ditch the Job Mentality and Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset

This guest post is by Caz Makepeace of y Travel Blog.

Having success in the blogging world is attributed in large part to your own thinking and the mindset that you bring to this new avenue of making money.

Most people arrive here wanting to break free from the rut of a nine-to-five job that they’re no longer passionate about. The hours are long, the work is never-ending, and the pay is poor. Huh! On second thoughts, it sounds very similar to the beginnings of blogging.

What many people don’t realize is that the major hindrance to success in their blogging niche has nothing to do with technique or value, but with the job mentality that they have brought along with them.

Crossing over from a job to blogging is not just a physical move—it also involves a complete change in your mindset. It is a completely different world to what you’re used to in the cubicle farm. I often see arguments break out online which immediately make me wonder whether the people involved have an entrepreneurial mindset or a job mentality.

To cross over to the entrepreneurial world, you need to adopt the following ways of thinking.

Change is evolution

Job people become stuck in the way things are done, and always have been done. They are used to rules, schedules, and procedures. When they cross over into the blogging world, they discover that the rules have changed—and often, they can’t handle it.

Entrepreneurs understand that in the business world, the rules are always changing and if you don’t evolve with them, you’re going to die.

The major arguments that always emerge within the travel blogging community arise between those from the journalistic world and those bloggers whose success has had less to do with their linguistic ability than with their ability to market and network.

Really I just want to shout, “Listen up! The rules have changed. You are not in the journalist world any more. You are in the online world. The place where degrees and awards don’t matter. Anyone can start a website and have massive success with it. Whether you like it or not, doesn’t count. This is the reality of online marketing and building your own business. You either become an entrepreneur and adapt to the new world, or you sink—fast.”

How many highly successful entrepreneurs do you know who were never great at school and didn’t get a college degree? Let’s see. There’s Bill Gates, Andrew Carnegie, Walt Disney, Richard Branson … They have gotten where they are because of their entrepreneurial mindset. Entrepreneurs don’t try to fit the square peg into the round hole—they become a round peg instead.

Think big

Entrepreneurs think big and focus on the ultimate vision of what they are doing. They think outside of the box to look for new and unique ways to be successful and make money. They do not follow the herd. They watch and learn, and then say, “How can I make this better? How can I do this in a different, yet bigger way?” When you think outside the box, you create things that make you move above the crowd.

Job people concentrate only on the tasks at hand, and follow what most other people are doing. They are not used to focusing on the bigger picture as it has never been their vision to worry about. Bringing that limitation over to the entrepreneurial world can stifle your creativity and restrict your ability to handle and solve the many challenges that will arise.

Quitting becomes an easier option. Entrepreneurs know that the road to eventual wealth and success can be long and difficult, and the bigger vision helps move them through that period.

One of my favorite Donald Trump quotes is, “If you are going to be thinking anyway, you might as well be thinking big.” If you think small, you receive small.

We began our travel blogging world with the intention not to make a few ad bucks here and there, but to look towards a bigger picture that can lead us to earning vast amounts of income from many different sources. This bigger picture has an impact our strategy.

We haven’t made much money from our blog yet, and we’e okay with that. We have had success with the bigger picture we have focused on: building our brand and online presence, building a strong community, and networking with the right people. That will become our springboard for future projects that will bring in bigger rewards.

Self-promotion

I know people who are afraid to hand out their business cards, or tell people who they are and what they do. When you are able to do that confidently, you have made a big jump over into the entrepreneurial mindset.

No one is going to promote you for you. No one is going to care about what you have to offer more than you.

If you want to have success in an entrepreneurial world, you have to learn to promote yourself. Think of all the big brand people you know: Richard Branson, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey. What are all these people good at? Self-promotion.

Entrepreneurs are willing to do whatever it takes. Hand out those business cards, shake that person’s hand, and speak confidently about what you do and how you can offer value to others. Invite people to check out your website and connect with you via your networks. Share your work and successes.

You are guaranteed to receive criticism for doing this. Concentrate on your bigger picture and understand the criticism comes from those who want to do what you do, but have not yet broken free from the job mentality.

Networking is vital

Job mentality people tend to call this a “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of deal, and in some ways it is. But, in my entrepreneur mind, I never see it as being the case that if I do something for you, you have to do something for me in return.

It has more to do with building relationships and from those, interacting with those you like and trust. A natural extension of a relationship with someone you like and trust is to read their work, use their products, and recommend them to others. People do business with those they like and trust, just as they are friends with those they like and trust. There’s nothing shady about it.

Entrepreneurs immediately start building their networks of professional and business contacts. They understand the power and truth in the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Networking is not just about what others can do for you, but what you can do for others. Being an entrepreneur means helping out others and providing value when you can. It means creating a mastermind group of people you can share and bounce ideas off of. You don’t hold your cards to your chest for fear of losing out and having others rise to the top over you.

Learn from those you want to be like

In the job world, we are taught that to move up the ladder and get that much-desired promotion, we need to prove we are better than the rest. It becomes a dog-eat-dog world: the knives come out and we are prepared to stomp all over those beside us in order to get to the finish line first.

Entrepreneurs have the intention to be the best at what they do; they are competitive and like to win. But, they know they don’t have to destroy others in the process. They understand that we each have a unique perspective or value that we can offer.

They understand that the best way to get to the top is to learn from those who are where you want to be. They don’t look at the person in the mansion on the hill and feel jealous. Instead, they find out that person’s name, they give them a call, and they say, “Hey. I really like what you have achieved. I want to be like you. How can I learn what you know?

And usually that successful entrepreneur replies, “Well, how about we meet up for coffee and I can go over a few things with you?”

Entrepreneurs understand the concept of abundance. They understand what it takes to get to the top and they are more than happy to take the time to help someone do the same. As with everything in life, there will always be anomalies, but I have never met an entrepreneur yet who I have not had an interaction with that’s similar to what I have just described.

Making money is a good thing

“I think it’s scammy … dirty. I don’t want to ask for it. I feel funny asking for freebies.” These are just some of the comments I hear thrown around in the blogging world when it comes to making money.

I recently stayed in a hostel in Sydney free. It wasn’t really free, because in return for that I tweeted about the hostel the whole time I was there. I wrote a really great review of the place. I also wrote a couple of other spin-off articles on my site that linked to that piece. I promoted it through my social sites.

I had at least six people say to me that they would definitely stay in this hostel when they come to Sydney. That was on the day it was published, and from those who spoke. But let’s keep it at six and say that for one night’s stay in the dorm room where it costs $40, the hostel would earn $240. It cost them $140 to give us a private room for the night. We made them money.

Entrepreneurs think like this. They believe they can offer value and know they deserve to be rewarded for it. Because of this, they are not afraid to ask for the money and they don’t believe it’s dirty when they get it. They approach all transactions from a win-win perspective and there’s nothing bad about this.

On a similar level, I hear many bloggers say they feel they are selling out on their readers by selling advertising. Really? If your readers expect you to spend countless hours every day writing valuable content that informs and entertains, without receiving any compensation for it, then you need to get new readers.

Do you think they feel the same way when they pick up a magazine, a newspaper, or turn on the TV? Why do people think that when you enter the blogging world, suddenly you should start writing and work for nothing? If you have a job mentality then you may not get past these uncomfortable feelings of “selling out.”

You are doing this for the passion—yes! But you are also doing this for the income you originally craved so you could start living your life by your desires.

Think like an entrepreneur: “There is nothing wrong with making money. Making money enables me to move forward and grow, so I can in turn provide more value.”

If this article has struck a raw nerve with you, then ask yourself, “Could this perhaps be a sign that I have not yet crossed over?” Well … have you crossed over?

Caz Makepeace has been travelling and living around the world since 1997. Along with her husband Craig they are the founders of y Travel Blog. You can visit her Facebook Fan Page or sign up for herRSS Feed.

8 Strategic Blog Home Pages that Draw Readers Deeper

This guest post is by The Blog Tyrant.

One of the hardest tasks a blogger can face is getting readers to stick around. In actual fact, its one of the most important things you’ll ever learn to do. Why? Because unless those visitors delve deeper into your site you are essentially wasting your time with all that amazing content, social media effort, and SEO work.

Bloggers often forget that we need to use things like design, layout, colors, format, and so on to help visitors delve further in to our sites.

In this post I’m going to show you eight blog home pages that make readers click deeper. Hopefully it will give you some ideas for your own.

8 Home pages that draw readers deeper

I wanted to start off by letting you know that each of these pages was chosen for a different reason. Now, I’m not saying that these are the best blog home pages in the world. What I am saying is that each one does something extremely well that encourages new visitors to become more loyal readers.

1. Mashable

Mashable is one of the world’s biggest blogs and has a massively high page views. The main reason they are able to do this is through social proofed elements of their layout. Let me explain.

Social proof is where you provide some kind of assurance that other people have used your service. Testimonials, for example, are a common form of social proof. These things reduce anxiety in the reader but also serve to encourage a group mentality whereby people want to be involved in what other people are doing. It’s just human nature.

Mashable is all about social media and you see items like the “most shared this week” and the number of Facebook “likes” featuring prominently. The “buzz” this creates gets people to go deeper in to the site—people want to read articles that hundreds of others found interesting.

2. Digital Photography School

Digital Photography School is Old Man Rowse’s biggest blog. It has hundreds of thousands of subscribers and is one of the most heavily community-based blogs you’ll ever read. The activity in the comments and the forums is really quite wonderful.

I remember when Darren first released the new DPS design; I was blown away by how efficient and enticing it was. The old site was a straight up one column blog but this is a multi-level blog that divides the areas up by different sections of interest. Want to read about photography? Just go to that section. Want to read about equipment? Go over there.

This is a fantastic way to ensure photographers find areas of interest at the home page. It gives very little room for people to get bored and move on.

3. Huffington Post

Huffington Post. The blog turned worldwide news source. Sigh. Whatever you might say about the quality of the news that comes out of the site, the layout is extremely captivating. And it’s not because it’s pretty. Here is an example of a site on which the visuals aren’t necessarily pleasing, but they are very effective.

The area of the home page above the fold is dedicated to the most shocking current story as well as a pop up bar that asks you to get involved. It also uses a series of highly placed headers to show you what news is trending at the moment. Again, this is done to capitalize on people’s need to know what other people are interested in.

Scroll further down the home page and you see more engaging items like author profile photos to build loyalty, huge comment counts on featured articles and a mix of featured articles from different topics.

4. Zen Habits

Leo from Zen Habits is one of the nicest guys in the world. A few years ago he gave me some free advertising space and helped me launch a new blog. His new design is totally minimal and fits in extremely well with the branding of the site. Lots of space.

This type of strategy works extremely well for a blog with amazing content. Why? Because it is entirely focused on that content. You read that first amazing article and you feel compelled to delve deeper.

This is a brave design that takes a lot of courage because if each and every post that appears on the homepage is not amazing, you will see a lot of people drop off.

5. Smart Passive Income

Speaking of nice guys, Pat from Smart Passive Income is one of the nicest. Recently when I was setting up my podcasts he gave me a lot of time-saving tips. And that is a big theme in Pat’s design: help.

See the top level of menu items? Each one has a sub heading that gives you more information about what to expect inside. I remember the first time I visited Pat’s site, I spent ages clicking through each menu item to browse the contents. That is something I don’t normally do. The navigation is extremely “sticky”.

Similarly, there is a little space below the menu where Pat gives little random messages or tips. This takes the “tutorial” vibe of his site even further and definitely makes the experience feel more personal and intimate.

6. Tumblr

The guys at Tumblr are extremely good at design. In my article on the 12 Best About Us Pages I confessed that I thought theirs was the best one of the lot. And while the blog homepage isn’t right up to that standard, it is still worth a look.

The reason I included Tumblr in this list is because they use simple graphical elements to draw the eye down. Each post is very simple and usually only includes a picture or a bit of text. And each alternating post has a different background. Mixed with the fact that the emphasis is on showing which staff member wrote each post and you have an extremely addictive blog home page.

7. Fail Blog

Fail Blog, in case you have been living under a rock, is part of the LOL Cat empire. These guys build sites with funny pictures of cats and dogs and people getting hurt and make a small (read: large) fortune out of it.

Again, the homepage design is not beautiful, but it is extremely addictive. You can navigate through all their sites from the top as well as getting in on the action by voting for the best fails. They also have a little “random fail” generator, which is the kind of gimmick people on this site love to use to waste more of their day.

One of the cleverest ideas here is the fact that every can have a go at re-captioning the fails. This builds on the community in a massive way by getting everyone interacting with each fail multiple times. People write new captions and then come back to see what other people are saying about it.

8. The Onion

The Onion is quite literally one of the funniest websites on the Internet. And aside from hilarious content, great titles, and a home page that lets you see a plethora of content all at once, one thing they do really well is have an interactive and changing header that gives you access to new information.

Normally blogs just have a static header but this one moves and changes based on what’s going on at the blog. Sure, they still have the same logo and colors to keep the branding recognizable but they also use the variation to get people involved in new areas. Very clever.

Lessons to apply to your own blog

So what are the take-aways from these eight blogs home pages? What are some concrete things you can apply to your own blog today to increase the amount of pages people view?

  • Focus on social proof.
    Make sure your homepage always has elements that relate to social proof. Use testimonials, popular articles, high comment counts, and social media followers to show that your blog is busy. This is something that you should never underestimate.
  • Know your audience.
    It is really important to know who is coming to your home page and why. Are they coming for this topic or that topic? Do they want to read articles or listen to podcasts? Make sure your navigation allows them to find what they want instantly.
  • Let your story show.
    Make sure you use photos or text to tell your story. Let people become loyal to you and your message. Tumblr does this with staff profiles, Pat does this by showing himself with his baby, etc. You want to make sure people feel like you are different from everyone else they’ve seen today.

As I mentioned in the post about the best about us pages, it is a really good idea to occasionally take a look at what the big guys in the industry are doing. Quite often they are doing it for a reason. The most important thing, however, is to make sure you don’t leave it as an idea but apply it to your own blog right away.

What draws you in?

I’d like to open up the floor now and find out what parts of a website’s home page draw you in deeper? Is it something to do with the layout, the content, the colors—or something totally different? Please leave a comment and let me know.

The Blog Tyrant hasn’t revealed his name yet but we know that he is a 25-year-old guy from Australia who works from home and has sold several blogs for around the $20,000 mark. Now he’s teaching you how to dominate your blog. Subscribe by email to get his free eBook on capturing 120% more email subscribers overnight or follow him on Facebook.