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Why You Should Charge Money to Review Guest Post Submissions

This guest post is by Darya Pino, Ph.D of Summer Tomato.

Three months ago I started charging $10 to consider guest blog post submissions, and it changed my life. Not only did it clear out many of the most annoying emails in my inbox, it elevated the quality of posts I receive and reduced the time I spend editing them to levels I would never have dreamed possible.

When your blog reaches a certain size and level of popularity, you can expect to receive regular pitches from other bloggers, product people, book writers, and all sorts of random folks looking to contribute to your site in exchange for links back to theirs. Guest posts are a wonderful way for up-and-coming writers (or products) to get exposure, and for experienced bloggers to publish more diverse content.

The problem

But the problem is that everyone is playing the same game, and there are many more small blogs than there are successful ones. Another problem is that successful blogs get popular because they put out consistent, high-quality content, so anything contributed by a guest writer needs to meet those standards—otherwise, you’ll lose you audience. That puts pressure on the blog owner to be a fierce editor, which often results in more negative conversations than positive ones.

Tired of spending hours every week explaining to mediocre writers why my site isn’t a platform for selling lame calorie counting apps, or that “7 Vegetables You Should Know About” isn’t an interesting headline, I knew I needed to change my workflow.

I considered hiring an editor/assistant, but not being a big media blog, I couldn’t fit it in my budget. I also considered paying for higher quality writing—I write for several blogs that pay me for my work—but I didn’t want to encourage people to send even more pitches. I just wanted the pitches I do get to be better. So I nixed these options.

The solution

Finally I settled on requiring a $10 minimum donation to my Charity Water campaign to even consider a guest post. The donation does not guarantee the post will be published—it only guarantees I will read and consider it. I chose a charitable donation rather than a for-profit charge because I didn’t want to make it seem like I was charging for links or taking advantage of writers. The only purpose of the donation is to save me time and make sure that anyone who sends a pitch is a serious writer willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Charity Water has a fantastic online system that makes donations easy to track. I added my donation requirement to the top of my Guest Posting Guidelines (the most likely landing page for someone wanting to submit a guest post). I also created a canned response in Gmail explaining my policy, which I can easily send to anyone inquiring about guest posts.

The results

The results were staggering. Email pitches instantly dropped in number dramatically. The amount of pitches I receive from self-promotional link seekers (the ones I always reject) fell from about 90% of pitches to about 20%, and none have opted to donate and have their post considered. Most importantly, the few who have taken me up on my offer have written fantastic posts that I was happy to edit for clarity and publish at Summer Tomato.

Even more amazing has been the responses to my new system. The self-promoters almost never respond to my canned response (win). The less experienced writers apologize for their inability to donate and leave me to my business (double win: these guys require the most back and forth emails and editing). And most remarkable of all, the ones who have stepped up and contributed have been overwhelmingly positive about my guidelines, saying things like “it looks like a great charity, I would have happily donated anyway” or “all sites should require this” (Charlie Sheen-style #winning).

The reality is good writers know when they have something valuable to contribute and have no problem stepping up to the plate. Weaker writers (the ones who send you drafts with ten exclamation points peppered throughout) know when they’re reaching out of their league, and risk-aversion prevents them from moving ahead with the submission.

Be careful, though: required donations are not for every blog. If you aren’t currently spending a lot of time responding to pitches or editing guest posts, charging isn’t necessary. Also, new bloggers can benefit from accepting guest posts and going through the experience of editing them. Know your audience before making any big changes to your blog policies.

All that being said, I don’t charge everyone who contributes to my site. If I invite someone to submit a post because I think they have something interesting to share, then the donation isn’t necessary. Likewise, I do not charge people for sharing their success stories or their farmers’ market updates (this is a weekly segment on my blog), because I don’t have the same problems with quality and insincerity that I get from raw pitches.

Required donations are an excellent deterrent to self-promoters seeking links from high-profile sites. They also save you tons of time by raising the quality and reducing the number of the pitches you have to read. Best of all, it feels great knowing all that time you saved helped build a well and give hundreds of people access to clean water.

Would you consider charging a fee for guest posts on your blog? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Darya is a scientist turned food blogger who shares healthy eating tips for food lovers at Summer Tomato. She is also a contributing writer at The Huffington Post, KQED Science, Edible SF and SF Weekly. Follow here on Twitter @summertomato.

5 Techniques to Create Raving Loyal Fans

This post is by Brad Branson of Lessons in Lifestyle Development.

Most people walk through life in a living daze. Most people live their lives vicariously through television, sports, or the gossip section. They are afraid to take action, afraid to take a risk. Why? Be average and you don’t risk embarrassment.

So, how does this relate to writing compelling blog articles and creating a devoted, enthusiastic fanbase?

You need to be polarizing. You need to set yourself apart from the masses, and be willing to take a risk in your writing. It’s not hard to find the vanilla ice cream out there; what people crave are the unique flavors. Be the jalapeño mocha light frappuccino, and they will come in droves. Create something different, dynamic, something unexpected.

What follows are five techniques to step outside of the box, cultivate a unique voice, and create an infectious website that compels readers to become subscribers.

1. Become an authority

One of the main problems of a non-remarkable blog is that the writer is afraid to step up and be a voice of authority.

As Seth Godin writes in his book, Tribes:

“Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead. This scarcity makes leadership valuable.”

When you lead, you take a risk. Risk can lead to failure. But because of that risk, people will reward you for taking action.

How do you become a leader? Set yourself apart. Be an expert on your topic. Do extensive research, and become obsessed about your writing. Or create a unique niche, and do it better than anyone else. Then start sharing it with the world.

Remember that leaders talk authoritatively, and make sure your writing follows suit. Here are a few examples:

WEAK: “I think one of the most important aspects of a successful blogger is the writing style they use.”
STRONG: “One of the most important aspects of a successful blogger is the writing style they use.”

Don’t use mitigating words such as: just, I think, like, might, or should.

WEAK: “You just have to write about topics you should enjoy.”
STRONG: “You have to write about topics you enjoy.”

Keep your writing forceful and authoritative. People give more credence to decisive leaders.

2. Use emotion in your writing

The demographic I write for is mostly single men looking for dating advice. One question I get often is how to continue the conversation after the initial interaction via text messaging. The problem is that you can’t create emotion or dynamics in a digital format.

One technique to combat this is by using emoticons, ALL CAPS, and vernacular to convey some personality and emotion. Haha ;)

It’s been said before, but in the blogosphere, the more colloquial you can make your writing, the better. Your readers want to feel like they know the person writing the articles. It’s about the relationship you create, not the professionalism of your writing.

Now that doesn’t mean punctuation, grammar, and diction aren’t important. To the contrary, they’re even more important, when you’re dropping curse words, to make sure people know you take the writing process seriously.

3. Be vulnerable

When I teach my weekend seminars, one of the main things we focus on is taking the client’s personality, “placing it on a volume knob, and turning the knob UP TO ELEVEN!”

Most people hear this and think, “Alright, I need to amplify all the cool things that I have going on in my life.” But, counter-intuitively, the true power is in amplifying the weird idiosyncrasies.

Do you like studying vocabulary words? Do you have a secret penchant for World of Warcraft? Do you have a fear of heights? Talk about that. Especially if you start cultivating the authoritative tone I mentioned earlier.

When people see both sides, they develop a stronger rapport with you. Vulnerability is a sign of authenticity. Authenticity creates trust. You become more human, not just words on a computer screen.

4. Create consistency in your blog’s message

Your main focus has to be on the content of your site, but every aspect—from font color to picture captions—adds to your “voice.”

Image is author's own

Feel like creating a specific ambiance as someone reads your article? Add a youTube video with a correlative song to set the mood. Pictures are great for breaking up text, and can either reinforce a concept, or offer a little comic relief.

Font formatting, color schemes, picture choice, picture captions, headlines, comments, and widgets all play an integral role in conveying the overall message of your blog.

5. Ostracize people. You can’t write for everyone.

Some of the content on my site may be considered “controversial.” When I started the blog, there were always persistent thoughts like, “If my family were to view my website, would they approve?” But is my readership my parents? My colleagues? (Well, for me, yeah I guess it is. Heh.)

My niche happens to be early 20-something to late-30-year-old single men, so a decent amount of “locker humor” is what resonates best with them.

As I slowly interacted with my audience, through comments, emails, and looking at their feedback and favorite articles, I realized that the more I took a risk, the more I pushed the boundary of what I thought was acceptable, the more I ostracized certain readers. And yet my subscription levels kept rising.

It’s marketing 101: write for everyone and you write for no one. Find your niche and focus your writing style and “voice” to those people. They’ll feel more of a connection and relationship, which is what blogging is all about.

Is there something holding you back? A fear that you might not be well received? Do you censor yourself ?

I’m sure I just ostracized a few readers, but for those left, how did you develop your voice, and how has it evolved as your blog matured?

Brad Branson has taught dating advice and personal development in over 30 countries on 4 continents. His site, Lessons in Lifestyle Development, takes you through his journey around the world and the insights gained from the teaching process.

What is Google +1 … and What Does it Mean for Your Blog?

This guest post is by Jacob of BlogRevolter.com.

On March 30th, Google announced the release of its latest addition to the search engine, a small button called the +1. As with any Google announcement, there are always going to be implications—both great and not so great—for the average and professional blogger. Understanding the potential effect of Google’s new +1 feature can better help you prepare for the next six to twelve months of your blog.

What is Google’s +1?

In essence, Google’s +1 is a way for people to vote up the results in Google without making it appear like a Digg setup.

In other words, if someone likes the result that they found on Google, they hit the +1 button, then go on with their lives. When someone makes the same search that person made, they’ll see that there’s a +1 attached to the particular search result, and that, at least in Google’s eyes, will encourage them to click on that result.

Should you decide to allow your name to appear, people within your network will see that you, specifically, liked this result. But this last aspect is voluntary.

Why is Google’s +1 important?

For some time now, Google has been talking about how social media and social networking is going to directly tie in with search engine optimization. It used to be that we just built a bunch of links to rank for keywords. But, what I’ve noticed as a SEO is that other aspects are becoming increasingly important, including how a site deals with social media.

We can tie this increased reliance on social media to Google’s quest to provide the absolute best results possible. Here’s an example.

Darren Rowse runs this site about how to make money blogging. He’s got 173,000 readers via RSS, 128,000 Twitter followers, and nearly 23,000 people who like his Facebook group. In other words, he has a ton of readers.

Now, you’re Google and you’re trying to figure out who to position as the top results for the keyword “Professional Blogger.” Sure, someone might have a ton of backlinks, all containing that anchor text, to back up the claim that they deserve the number one result.

But how does Google know that those backlinks are genuine and not, say, purchased? It doesn’t.

The only way for them to truly know if that website is considered an “authority” is to see what people believe. And what better way to do that than track how Darren is doing in the social media and networking world?

The implications of Google’s +1 for bloggers

I look at this update as a powerful move for bloggers. Because we are taught that we shouldn’t put all of our eggs in one basket, we’ve all been focusing on social media, search engine optimization, and other aspects to bring traffic to our blogs.

Now that social media is, in part, connecting to search engine optimization, the amount of work that we do now doubles for both social media growth and search engine growth. But, there is still more to it than that.

Google will be releasing a button similar to the Facebook Like button. And if you click the +1 button, you’ll have automatically given your vote to that search result. You are saying to Google, “Yes, I like this.” And the search engine will remember that.

What this means, as a blogger, is that you need to produce the highest level of quality that you can. If others are getting that +1 and you’re not, are you going to be missing out on potential search rank? I’d say that you are.

If Google believes that it is important enough to create a new button and include it on their SERPs, they are definitely going to take it into consideration when trying to decide which site to put as number one. And, if it’s a difference of +1s that determine who should be first, I’d wager everything that the person with more +1 votes will get the number one ranking.

Since 34% of people click the first result first, and the second to fourth results get less than 34% of the clicks, total, it’s very important to get that number one rank.

How to get ready

Since it was just announced on the 30th, this is obviously a component that will take some time to roll out. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be getting ready for its complete implementation. Here are a few steps to getting prepared.

  1. First, ensure that you are publishing content that is high quality. No longer can you get away writing garbage content, or ripping content from other sites. Google’s Panda Update slammed people with this kind of content and no one will give you a +1 for it.
  2. Second, play around with it yourself when you start seeing it pop up. If you head over to Google’s experimental page, you can join the experiment and be put into the program to start working with it.
  3. Third, don’t start abusing it. One of the things that I think will play a major role in the success of +1 is who’s voting with it. If it’s the same few people, Google might not give those votes as much credit as other pages that get votes from random people. So, don’t start searching for every article you wrote to give it a +1.

Google’s +1 is not a social network, per se. However, it is a voting system that will give Google a better idea of what content people like and don’t like. And, when they release the button for inclusion on your web pages, you’ll have the chance to encourage your readers to +1 your site.

With Google’s love for social media growing, this is definitely an important step in your blog’s growth. How do you see +1 affecting your blog?

Jacob is a 22 year old SEO who works in Manhattan. When not managing SEO for a company, he works on his own network including BlogRevolter.com. He discusses topics such as link building and blog monetization. He is giving away a free ebook on how to get people to your website as well as how to keep them there. Be sure to follow him on Facbook.

How A Few Tweets Led to a 370% Increase In My Traffic

This guest post is by Tom Meitner of The Practical Nerd.

The other night, I found out author/marketer Chris Brogan was in town. I am a big fan of his and his book Trust Agents, so I wanted to go meet him. I’m not going to go through all of the details of the tweet exchange—you can read about how I wound up not meeting him after all on my blog.

Photo by Aidan Jones, licensed under Creative Commons

However, as a result of trying to meet him, I had a conversation with him via Twitter. So, I wrote up a post about what I learned from not meeting him, and I put his name in the title when I tweeted it out to my followers. Chris was notified, and he retweeted it to his followers, with the tag, “Very nice story.”

That doesn’t sound that interesting, does it? I mean, Chris doesn’t know me, has really never met me, and it was one tweet. But by putting his stamp of approval on it, Chris was publicly inviting people to read my article—and he has over 177,000 followers. In a matter of minutes, I had an influx of traffic (see the screenshot below). These are by no means numbers to write home about, but when you average 50-60 visitors a day, 185 sure is a big jump—especially in the span of a couple of hours!

The "Brogan Effect"—An hourly breakdown of traffic that day

It never would have happened if I had decided to go meet Chris but didn’t tell him about it. I had to break the ice with him first and give it a shot. Through that, I got on his radar, and that’s how my post was tweeted out to his followers.

It also taught me a few very important lessons about networking:

  1. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to the big dogs. Chris Brogan, in the small interaction I’ve had with him, seems to be a pretty genuinely nice guy, and my post only brought more people who told me the same thing about him. Twitter has such a low barrier to entry that it gives you the opportunity to connect with just about anybody who’s there, and most of them are just normal people.
  2. You have to be genuine. If I had gone into this interaction with Chris and was purely motivated by the thought, “Hey, maybe I can score some free traffic to my blog,” he would have sniffed that out pretty quickly. He wouldn’t want anything to do with me—and he’d be right. Sometimes you have to catch it, and remind yourself of the motivation for your actions. The rest of it will take care of itself. Just focus on building the relationship. That was the opportunity I saw when I found out Chris was in town.
  3. Be proactive in your efforts. One of my favorite stories of networking is my friend Jacob Sokol’s adventure of taking author and well-known entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk to a New York Jets football game. He reached out to Gary proactively and regularly to get noticed—and on Gary’s terms. Sometimes it will feel like a throwaway; I tweeted Chris that I was heading downtown to see him just on a whim in case he checked his Twitter feed while he was out. I never thought he would reply, let alone do any of this. But that happened because I took action.
  4. Don’t ask for anything. This goes along with being genuine. I did not ask Chris to tweet my post. I did hope he would read it, but I didn’t ask him to read it. I merely let him know it was there. It’s the same thing I did when I got 19 other people to share their small achievements with me: I told them, “Here it is, it’s done, read it if you want, and thank you.” Most of them took it upon themselves to share it with their followers. Instead of asking for something, work hard to make what you are doing to be noticeable and different. Let your sincerity show through, and that’s what motivates people to share your stuff—not because you asked, but because they want to.

As a result, I have new readers and a few new followers on Twitter—and I never even met the guy.

Have you had any experiences like this, where a small contact led to a traffic burst for your blog? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Tom Meitner is a writer who helps people break through their boundaries at The Practical Nerd. Check out what he’s reading and sharing on Twitter @TomMeitner.

Are You Protecting Your Blog’s Most Valuable Asset?

This guest post was written by Neil Matthews of WPDude.

Are you protecting one of the most valuable assets of your blog—your email list?

The majority of us rigorously backup the content of our blog, but do we give the same thought to our email lists?

Why back up your email list?

“The money is in the list.” is a mantra we often hear in Internet marketing circles, and we hear it so often because it is so true. An email list is still the best way to communicate with your tribe and to make offers to them. Those people are on your list because they know, trust and like you, and are prepared to give you their attention.

Our attention is the most valuable thing we can give to a marketing message. Bombardment with online ads and the resultant ad-blindness means your list is incredibly valuable. You should be protecting this golden asset: the details of those people who have given you their attention.

You email list also represents a huge investment of time. Over the months and years, your list has slowly grown because of all the work your have done creating quality content on your blog and sending great newsletters.

Don’t let your list slip through your fingers! What would happen to your business if you no longer had that asset?

How you can damage your list

There are a number of ways you could kill your email list.

User error

You could accidentally delete all of your subscribers. Email software systems such as Aweber or Mailchimp are not the easiest user interfaces to navigate. You could accidentally wipe your email list.

Being banned

If you go against the terms and conditions of your email provider, there’s a chance that you could be banned from that service and lose access to your list. This is not a far-fetched as you may think: one time I sent out an email to my list which generated a 1% unsubscribe rate, and Mailchimp temporarily suspended my account. I was given the IT equivalent of a call to the headmaster’s office so I could explain my actions before my account was re-instated.

Persistent breaking of your mail service’s terms and conditions will result in your being banned from that service—and the loss of your entire list.

Non-payment

Your list is held by a third party, and can be taken from you if you fail to pay for the mail service because, for example:

  1. you have no cash
  2. you forget to make the payment—perhaps when your credit card expires.

Don’t loose your entire list because of a temporary glitch in your finances or oversight with your credit cards.

How to back up your list

All of the mail services I have used have an Export function. When you create an export, your email data is exported from that mail service as a CSV (comma separated values) list, which can then be stored away from the email provider as your secure archive.

Here are links to the major email providers’ support documents on exporting a CSV of your email subscribers:

  1. AWeber
  2. Mailchimp
  3. Infusionsoft
  4. Getresponse

Once you have your CSV file, you can re-add your subscribers should you accidentally delete your list or move it to another hosting provider if you’re banned.

How often should you back up?

The answer to that question really depends upon your list. If you are adding a substantial number of subscribers to the list per day, you’ll need to back up your list more often; personally, I do this once per month.

But if a recent marketing effort has added a large number of people to you list, do an ad-hoc backup to protect this work.

Even though your list is one of your most important blog assets, I bet many of you don’t back your list. When was the last time you backed up your list. And how did you do it?

Neil provides WordPress coaching and technical support services at WPDude.com.

Launch a Brand New Blog … with Authority

This is a guest post by Jane from Problogging Success.

Launching a new blog today is not the same as it was a few years back. Things were a lot easier and diluted in the past decade, but now, the competition is dense, given that thousands of blogs are launched every day. Every niche has become competitive, forcing bloggers to try to rank highly for less-competitive keywords.

How can you stand out in that sea of competition? Authority!

Authority makes you notable and noticeable. Authority can be built over the time, as the blog gets older and gains readership.

But how about new blogs? Can you launch a new blog with authority? Yes, you can.

Launch a second blog

When you already have an established blog, it will not be hard for you to launch your second blog with all authority. A very good example was the launch of FeelGooder. Even though it’s not a second launch, it’s among the most successful launches Darren has done.

We all know how authoritative are ProBlogger, Twitip, and Digital Photography School.

With this mighty empire on hand, Darren didn’t need to do much when he launched FeelGooder! Just a post on ProBlogger about how FeelGooder had come about was fine: people rushed to FeelGooder. Even without worrying about PageRank, and despite the newness of the blog, authors were eager to guest-post on it, myself included.

Well that’s the magic. When you already have one or more established blogs, it’s easy to authoritatively launch a new blog. People will believe you, trust you, and know about your content even before the new blog goes live.

Building your social empire

You don’t have to have an established blog to launch a new blog with authority. You can launch your first blog with authority. The key is simply to make yourself known on the Internet. Create your social empire. Be one of a kind.

Social media

Let’s make one thing clear: building your social empire doesn’t mean creating accounts on every social site out there. Anyone can create multiple accounts in Twitter as long as they provide unique email addresses for all of them. But that will not build your authority.

You have to provide value wherever you are, even without a blog. Share high-quality content in your niche, among your followers and friends. Do not go on an auto-follow or auto-friending campaign. Do not go on a “follow me and I will follow you” campaign. I know that’s tranquilizing, bit it’s important that you don’t lose control. If authority is your goal, you must always aim at quality.

Tweet and share the best of the blog posts you have read on the Internet within your niche. Occasionally be funny, make personal tweets, share and comment on others’ shares, retweet good information, and so on. These are the components of social engagement. This is about building relationships online.

Guest posting

Can you write guest posts without having a blog? Absolutely. If you can write high-quality, unique articles, submit guest posts to blogs you already know. Aim for publication on the blogs whose content you promote to your social networks. They should be able to identify you, and if your post is on-target, they’ll let you in.

In the author bio, include links to your Twitter or Facebook page to gain more followers and friends.

But don’t be impatient and start writing and submitting articles just like that. You have to guest post effectively, even if you don’t have a blog.

Launch with authority

I think there are four essential steps involved in launching a blog with authority.

1. Keep your blog offline until you post enough content

How can a new blog have “enough content”? It’s possible… Depending on how often you post, the time it will take you to develop “enough” content will vary. But if you’re posting every day, you might keep your site a “secret” for, say, about two weeks. Here’s how.

  • Do not submit the blog to search engines until you have enough content.
  • If you’re using WordPress, go to the Dashboard and click on the Settings tab, then on Privacy. Click on “I would like to block search engines, but allow normal visitors,” and save the setting.
  • If you’re using Blogger, go to the Settings tab of the Dashboard and take care of the two items shown in the figure below.

Caution: Don’t forget to change those second and third options once you launch the blog officially, or it will never be found!

2. Remove dates and time stamps while launching

All major blog platforms will allow you to remove dates and times from your posts. Select this option as you launch your blog, and turn it on later, down the track, once your blog is up and running successfully.

3. Launch without comments

One of the factors that decide the authority of a blog is the number of comments the content attracts. And we all know that a newbie blog will most likely not get a good number of comments. Instead of showing a poor number of comments in the early stages of your blog, it may be better to shut down comments altogether. Once your blog gets momentum, you can open up discussions to readers.

You can get more comments at the initial stage while your blog is still not officially “live” (as I explained above). For this, I assume that you have built your social empire already.

  1. As soon as you launch the blog, let your friends and followers in all social networks know. Ask them to make comments on your blog.
  2. Join a commenting tribe—a small group of people who share links to their posts. You give and get. For instance, if the group at the tribe has 20 members, you leave comments on those 20 links and you’ll receive 20 comments on your posts. It’s a good thing to do!
  3. Find a handful of blogging buddies; again this is a give-and-get proposition.
  4. Register your blog at ComLuv.com and do a search for CommentLuv-enabled blogs in your niche. While leaving comments on those blogs, you can display of the last ten of your posts after your comment (I have given some more details on this at my earlier post on relationship building for bloggers). This will give you good exposure and kills two (or three) birds with one stone—you get backlinks, you make buddies, and you create an online presence.

4. Launch with a premium theme

If you are willing to spend some extra money, I strongly suggest you launch your blog with a premium theme. It’s worth it.

Wait! Don’t rush yet to search Google for “Premium WordPress Themes.” Not all premium themes will do what you expect.

I can suggest two premium themes that makes blogging easy and elegant: Genesis and the Thesis frameworks. I recommend Genesis even though I have not used it—Darren seems to be doing great with it. I recommend Thesis because I use it at my blog and am extremely happy with it.

What will a great premium theme do for you?

  1. It makes your blog look professional.
  2. It comes with clean coding.
  3. It takes care of basic—and some advanced—SEO.
  4. It comes with elegant skins and designs.
  5. Professional support is available when something goes wrong—you don’t want your blog to look amateurish, with broken layouts and code. We’re talking about authority here, after all!

These are the basics of launching a new blog with authority. What other tips and advice can you add?

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.

The Four Os: a Four-Step Guide to Successful Blogging

This guest post is by Adam Best of FanSided.

I spent the previous decade figuring out how to “make it” online as a writer. Led Zeppelin’s “Ten Years Gone” comes to mind. Eventually, with the help of my brother, I made a bit of a splash on a Kansas City Chiefs blog called Arrowhead Addict. That effort went so well we decided to make a business out of sports blogging and started the FanSided Network. What started as one lonely Chiefs blog is now a family of 175 sites, with over 300 bloggers and millions of readers.

I’ve gone from figuring out how to blog to figuring out how to make bloggers better. As FanSided’s Editor, that’s my job. In a day and age where Charlie Sheen has dubbed himself a “genius warlock with tiger blood,” I’m gonna take the high road and just say that I know a thing or two about blogging. Ah, screw it. I’m a Blogfather and I’m here to make you a blogger they can’t refuse.

My blogging philosophy, the Four Os, has guided FanSiders for years. Hopefully, this blogging code will now help guide some of you. The Four Os are:
Blog Original.
Blog Often.
Blog Outstanding.
Blog Obsession.

Drumroll please (I picture a grand total of six of you tapping your pens on your desks…).

Blog Original

Elvis. Bowie. M.J. Madonna. Kanye West. Lady Gaga. All talented musicians? Yes, but it was their originality, even eccentricity, that allowed their talents to come to the forefront. Am I saying that you have to wear one glove, paint your face, announce that George W. Bush hates black people, and then die eating a sub on the toilet? No. What I’m suggesting is for your blog not to be a carbon copy of the existing powerhouse blogs in your category of choice.

Because almost anybody can jump online and start a site, it’s a copycat world out there. Everybody is involved in the same rat race to be first to get to the same story, the same video, the same meme, and then be first to market that post. What happened to establishing your own voice? What happened to being a trend-setter?

You don’t want to be viewed as a walking, talking spambot. Nobody really breaks news at this point. C’mon, everybody already heard about it on Twitter. My little sister broke the story on her Facebook page before most blogs did. Your focus should be on crafting original content that’s well written and different from anything else you can find on the Net. Research your niche; figure out its staples and what’s missing. Look outside your niche for inspiration. Put together a game plan to make your site one of a kind. Don’t be afraid of trial and error either. Your audiences will eventually only remember your hits, not your misses, and if you compile enough hits you’ll be well on your way.

Say what you will about Lady Gaga and her idiosyncrasies, but there’s only one of her and her schtick feels more natural than gimmicky. She’s made herself an indispensable part of the music scene. You’d be wise to do the same in your category.

Blog Often

Let’s say you own a restaurant. Let’s even say your place has spectacular food, a convenient location and great atmosphere. The problem? You only serve one meal, lunch, and only serve it Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If that was the case, you’d expect patrons to visit somewhat frequently during those times, but not during other times. Most bloggers serve up content about as infrequently, yet expect different results—great daily traffic. That’s unreasonable.

If you are only doing three, four, even five posts per week, you are contributing on strictly a hobby level. Those who write that infrequently yet experience a great deal of success are often either already famous or write like Hemingway. Most blogs need to average a post per day. Sometimes a daily post isn’t enough. FanSided is like Office Space. We can only ask our writers to wear so many pieces of flair, but our writers who wear the most pieces (post the most) get the most out of their blogs. I’ve been staring at analytics for years now, and there is definitely a strong correlation between post quantity and traffic.

Blogging isn’t just writing—nobody alive can write four or five opuses every day. Blogging is part writing, of course. But curating, or mining the Internet for gold (news, videos, links, images, stats, quotes, tweets, etc.), is equally as important. Yes, your blog has to be your own voice, but it also has to be more. The best blogs serve as hubs that keep readers from having to surf the web. Besides, you can still Blog Original and voice your opinion when you are curating. Just make sure you interject original insight, even if you do so in rapid-fire fashion.

Another suggestion is to add a staff around you once your blog is established. There are plenty of talented writers out there who don’t have the time to spearhead their own site, yet want to receive great exposure. Adding staffers will also allow you to focus more on quality over quality. Most importantly, any knucklehead can start a site by themselves. If you have a dedicated and talented staff serving under you, then you and your site must be legitimate. That’s not always the case, but a blog staff presents a façade of success and perception is everything—or at least very damn important.

Make sure you have at least one quality post on your site every single day. If you’re not doing so already, try it out for a month. If you already do one, do two or three for the next 30 days. If your traffic and comment numbers don’t increase, tweet to me @adamcbest and let me know it didn‘t work. I’ll tweet to all my followers that I don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s how confident I am in the Blog Often approach.

Blog Outstanding

Part of the problem with trying to Blog Often is that we are all pressed for time. As a result, visual appearance, formatting, grammar, title and promotion often are overlooked aspects of blogging. Compare posting a blog post to selling a house. When you sell a house, you do everything possible to get potential buyers inside, where they can envision being there on a day-to-day basis. You don’t get sloppy or take shortcuts. You make sure the house is painted, the yard is mowed, and that there is no trash anywhere on the premises. You put up yard signs and get the house listed.

Most bloggers, however, don’t think of blog posts as houses for sale. They assume that as long as the message is there, that’s what matters. Those bloggers couldn’t be more wrong. Blog readers often scan new sites before digging into articles. If your formatting sucks, they’ll probably just close the tab. If you have huge blocks of text without breaks or images, they’ll probably bounce. If your post is chock-full of errors, they’ll assume you are either unintelligent or lazy and won’t come back. If you don’t promote your posts and site in general, nobody will even show up in the first place.

That brings us to promotion. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Likewise, if a blogger posts brilliant content that no one ends up reading, was it really brilliant content? “Post and ghost” is a systemic plague that has killed blogs off for years. The Internet is vast. Bloggers can’t just post, step away from the keyboard and expect for readers to miracle their way to their site.

How do you promote your blog? Start with Facebook and Twitter accounts, and make sure they are personalized. Do not just use these accounts to aggregate new posts. Network with other bloggers in your niche, introduce yourself, link their site. You might think of them as competition, but most fans of any category read multiple sites. From experience, kindness in the blog community is typically repaid. After that, look at social media content communities like Digg and Reddit, and see if you can get any traction. I no longer digg, but as a former “power digger” I can assure you that these sites can point a traffic firehouse at your site.

This section is simple: if you don’t take pride in your blog, how can you expect anybody else to? If you’re proud of the way posts look and read, you won’t feel uncomfortable promoting your site. Also, the more you promote, the more you’ll stop worrying about the shameless self promotion you’re doing and do what needs to be done. In reality, almost all promotion is at least partially self promotion anyway. Take pride in your blog. Eventually, you’re audience will, too.

Blog Obsession

Ultimately, your success will depend on your topic, your niche. If you think too small, your earning chances will be extremely limited, and you’ll have a hard time getting noticed. On the other end, if you think big, bigger opportunities could present themselves, but so will bigger challenges. For those of you who have seen Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, let’s call it Ramona Flowers Syndrome. Your new beau might seem fine at first, but a bunch of dudes were there before you and all of them are formidable. You will have to work your way to the top—if there’s even room for you up there. It’s kind of like making a decision between entering the main World Series of Poker event or a smaller WSOP satellite tourney.

Not only do you have to be passionate about your topic of choice, other people have to be passionate about it as well. If you’re not passionate, fans of your topic will see right through you. If nobody else is passionate about your topic, you might as well print your blog posts and stick them on your mom’s fridge. The number of folks who are enthusiastic about your topic will determine the ceiling of your blog venture. Some topics will leave you stranded on a deserted island with a few friends. Trust me, you don’t want to be a Blog Gilligan. I’ve been there and there’s no Mary Ann or Ginger.

When I think about the choices I make, a scene from Blow pops into my head. The one where Diego says to George, “You failed because you had the wrong dream.” Your blog could fail the second you choose your topic, as many relationships often fail because the pair was just wrong from the start. Make sure you and your topic are a good match for both you and your audience, and that there is an actual audience. It’s like an NFL franchise choosing between quarterbacks with a No. 1 overall draft pick. Choose wrong and it will cost you down the road, possibly for a long time. You want to pick Peyton Manning—not Ryan Leaf.

Take your time mulling your topic over before you launch your blog. If you’ve already launched, reevaluate your blog and ask yourself if you’re covering the right topic. If you figure out you’re wasting time, that’s okay. You’ll be saving time in the future.

So what do you think? Are you following these Four Os of successful blogging?

Adam Best is an entrepreneur, blogger/writer and artist from Austin, TX. He founded FanSided and currently has a couple other start-ups in the developmental phase. He has covered sports, film, pop culture and blogging all over the Net. Follow him on Twitter at @adamcbest.

7 Tips for Bloggers with Learning Disabilities

This guest post is by Leigh Stevens of whereapy.

If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid with regard to external things.
—Epictetus

Image is author's own

“Are you stupid? You sure look stupid. Everyone else in this room handles this level of work. If you can’t do simple conjugations you shouldn’t be in my classroom.”

That’s what you get when the middle school basketball coach is also your advanced language arts teacher. Much to my eternal frustration, I was that “stupid” kid. I am dyslexic with an auditory processing disorder, which means I don’t understand verbal instructions very well, but at the time, the school didn’t know that. As a first-grader in the early 80s I was placed in the special education classes: the “speds”. It didn’t help much that I came from a financially poor family, relative to my peers. And I was a girl. And blonde. There was just no escape from the stupid jokes.

I was inspired to write this post after reading a piece by the Blog Tyrant a few weeks ago. As far as marketing goes it’s a standard emotional headline tactic designed to pull you in. It’s a good post. Except that, at the time, it frustrated me in a big way, bringing back all the garbage I went through as a kid. So here’s my response.

Persistence pays

A learning disability can hamper your blogging practice. Not so much functionally—there are people who can help you write cleaner prose. The real kicker is the emotional baggage created by years of verbal abuse, of people insisting that you’re not very bright. It’s hard to have confidence in your writing abilities when it was always assumed that you just weren’t smart enough to succeed.

My experience in school followed the same pattern, over and over. At the end of each school year, I would graduate from the special education reading class, and be placed in the advanced class for the beginning of the following year. Once my new teacher noticed that I couldn’t take verbal instruction, spell, or abstractly conjugate, I was sent back down to the special education class, so I could graduate again, be promoted again, and be rejected, again. Rinse, wash, repeat.

By third grade I had developed strategies to compensate for my dyslexia that made reading very easy for me: I memorized everything through pictures. I process visual and kinaesthetic information beautifully; it’s like when the blind develop greater acuity in their other senses, creating alternatives for making their way in the world. My brain created another way for me to learn, unique to me. Brilliant, right? Not according to my teachers.

Unlike more visible disabilities, atypical styles of learning don’t garner much sympathy or support. If I had a dollar for every time I was accused of “not living up to my potential,” I’d be rich; the ability to pass as almost “normal” can produce massive anxiety.

I hire a copy editor to clean up my posts, and while the ideas, connections, turns of phrase, overall structure and layout are mine, it still feels inauthentic. The fact that I need another person to help me when it comes to writing makes me struggle to feel complete ownership over the work that I create. And that can be difficult. But I suck it up and keep on trying, because that’s what needs to be done.

Tips for blogging with a learning disability

  1. Write with a copy editor. It may take some time to find a writer who understands you and with whom you can develop a “voice.” Learn how to collaborate to create a product you can be proud of.
  2. Strive for publishing only one or two good posts a week. Don’t get too aggressive with your posting schedule, especially when you’re just starting out. Putting too much pressure on yourself will only lead to frustration and burnout.
  3. Ignore all the advice on how to write a blog post in 20 minutes. Accept the fact that it may take you five hours to produce an imperfect 600-word post while an adept writer can whip something up over lunch.
  4. Ignore all the jingoistic advice that says “you can do it if you just try harder!!!” You can’t grow back a leg that’s been amputated—you need to learn to use the tools available to you to get where you want to go. The same thing applies to your brain: if you’re old enough to read this, you’ve already forged new pathways to circumvent the ones that weren’t working so well. If something feels good and works for you, stick with it, regardless of what everyone else is doing.
  5. Continue to read challenging blogs and try to participate in the discussion, knowing that your comments will likely be full of skipped words, switched letters and other indicators of how your brain works. The grammarians may complain, but that doesn’t mean that your contributions are any less important or interesting.
  6. Deal with your past and present emotional issues surrounding your learning disability. Rejection is a standard part of blogging for everyone: guest posts get turned down, comments in the forums get misinterpreted or misunderstood. When you have a learning disability you can expect to experience even more of this, and maybe even by people you respect and admire. A lot of smart people with learning disabilities respond to this by turning inward and developing a rugged and individualist persona, but still feel isolated and alone. Strangely enough, the experience of social rejection causes a 25% drop in IQ—an astonishing effect in a pernicious cycle that actually perpetuates “stupidity.” To counter this effect, I encourage you to keep participating: reach out to people, make meaningful contributions, even if you risk looking silly or being misunderstood. In the right context, it can be good to be vulnerable. Another way to cope with rejection is by practicing emotional resilience processes.
  7. Tell your readers that you have an issue on your About page (and tell them how they can help). You don’t have to write a long soppy story like me; you can just say, “Hey, I’m dyslexic. I’d appreciate it if you’d send me a message if you find a mistake on the blog. Thanks!”

One last note. Because Problogger has such an international audience, I feel comfortable mentioning that bloggers with processing disorders are a lot like bloggers for whom English is a second language. The stigma attached to grammatical and spelling mistakes in the blogging world is palpable, and if you’ve ever felt bashed for having less-than-perfect English, I want to let you know that you’re not alone! Kudos to everyone who blogs in a second language.

Your turn: Do you consider yourself to be a “‘real” writer? What kinds of limitations have you run across in your practice? How do you work past them? Feel free to comment. I’d love to hear what you have to say, no matter how you say it.

Leigh Stevens is a certified massage therapist, artist, humorist and co-founder of whereapy. Special thanks goes out to Heather Gaskill, social worker and copy editor extraordinaire.

3 Ways to Use Twitter Favorites

This guest post is by Ryan Barton of The Smart Marketing Blog.

Until I began receiving notifications of Twitter followers “favoriting” my tweets, I admittedly hadn’t thought much of the Favorites feature.

Some use it as a reminder to follow-up on a tweet’s topic. Others favorite a tweet they find funny. And some users go as far as importing favorite tweets on their Facebook page, email signatures, or even packaging them as an ebook.

There’s no wrong way to favorite a tweet (unless you’re favoriting every single update you read), but it’s worth considering a few other applications.

1. Completing your profile

I’d make a case that your favorite tweets tell a follower as much about you as your bio does.

Your Twitter bio tells followers what you want them to know about you, while your favorite tweets are a visual representation of what’s actually important. And more often than not, what’s important to you (humor, follow-ups, etc.) is more telling than any marketing copy.

Especially as Twitter continues to explode with spam bots, follow-backs aren’t obligations: they’re earned. And that earn process now includes more than a bio, a few tweets and a URL. Even bots have those.

But filling your stream with @ interactions and marking some of your favorite tweets, visually-demonstrate that you’re more than a casual stalker observer.

2. Word-of-mouth recommendations

It’s no secret—social media is the digital form of testimonials and word-of-mouth marketing. And that means platforms like Twitter are hugely-effective methods of growing your brand.

I’ll trust my followers’ opinions about a product exponentially more than I would an integrated marketing campaign for the same.

So using Favorites as a way to establish my authority through others’ tweets is my primary use of the feature.

Should a user check my favorite tweets, they’ll see kind words about my guest posts and the same about my book release.

I didn’t solicit their tweets, but now that they’re out there, I’m capturing them—curating them—in an online presentation of some of my favorite things.

It’s significant when those tweets are coming from some of the Internet’s most influential players. And if it means a lot to me, chances are it’ll mean a lot to a user who’s considering following me.

Seth wrote a post a while back about a prospect’s first impression of your digital self. In his case, it was watching reading his blog. It was tempting to run over and tell them to ignore this one or that one, but look at that one because he really put a lot of thought into that one.

It’s similar with Twitter. “Noooo, I didn’t want you to see those tweets, look at these … over here, instead, these tweets are more representative of who I am.”

Using Favorites like your digital refrigerator— showing off your A+ work—ensures that no matter where you are or what you’re doing and saying, your best side will always be showing.

3. Encouraging others

I’ve had followers favorite some of my most random tweets. But I’ve also had followers favorite some marketing advice they thought was valuable, or a link to one of my latest blog posts they wanted to reread at a later time.

Often, seeing the way users favorite my tweets tells me what’s resonating with my community. It’s a valuable real-time feedback mechanism. It’s also a new form of encouragement.

I think of encouragement like a fuel tank. I fuel my late nights and long hours from the tank; eventually it’ll run low. But through one form of encouragement or another—in this case, as simple as favoring a tweet—my encouragement tank is refueled a bit.

Think of favoriting as a new form of Twitter interaction that’s perhaps more meaningful than any @ reply. It’s more than “nice article,” it’s validation that your writing struck a chord; you’re on to something.

What’s more, you’re encouraging the user to continue producing quality content—and that makes the Internet a more intelligent place.

Do you use Favorites differently? Are the rules different for a business account? Leave a comment and share your thoughts below.

Ryan Barton is the author of the “Smart Marketing” eBook and he writes at The Smart Marketing Blog for Small Business Success; you can follow him on Twitter, where he shares entirely too much information. He wrote “Smart Marketing” with the intent that small businesses would glean insightful information and tangible marketing strategies so they too, could compete competitively with industry giants.