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Leveraging 101: Make the Most of Others’ Skills

This guest post is by Brandon Connell of brandonconnell.com.

Leverage is something I have used my entire life. It was what I used when I bought a 5,000 square foot mansion with zero down, bad credit, and had the seller finance the deal 100%. Fortunately, I was easily able to adopt the idea of leverage for my online businesses as well.

The funny thing about blogging is that many people give up too easily. They abandon their blogs because they don’t see the progress with it that they envisioned. That progress may have been in the form of traffic, commentary, or something else. By using leverage, you can have all of these things, and more, instantly!

One form of leverage that I have been using more of these days, is Fiverr.com. If you aren’t aware, Fiverr is where you can go to hire people to do something for $5. I like to use it to get some extra stumbles on StumbleUpon, or some permanent backlinks. You can also use it to have text or video reviews created for your new product. The possibilities are truly endless, and you need only explore the site for ten minutes before you come up with some ideas.

Fiverr will definitely help you launch your new blog and get that needed traffic, but it’ll also save you time that you can spend writing valuable content for your blog. And you thought outsourcing was too costly for your small operation…

The use of leverage vs. the traditional DIY method

The do-it-yourself method is what I started out with. I worked my behind off building up traffic to my blog. I worked extra hard pushing out seven articles every single day. I went blog hopping 100 times every day. It was a rough experience, and I recommend against it to any newbie or established but struggling bloggers out there.

I am not saying that DIY learning was a bad thing. I think that it added character and first-hand knowledge to my blogging arsenal. I do, however, believe that if you can combine the learning process with the use of knowledge learned from others right away, then you can go much further in a shorter time period.

By utilizing others to do the tedious tasks that take hours of your time, you can really focus on quality, and learn from their work at the same time. You can learn what works and what doesn’t by paying someone else $5 to actually do the work for you.

Leverage comes in many forms

I want to dive deeper into some of the steps you can take to make leverage work to your advantage, so you can build your blog faster.

To keep this simple, I’m going to focus on the Fiverr.com website, so you know where to go and get started right away.

  • Articles – I would say it is a must to write your own articles for your blog, except in the case where you’re using guest posts. However, you don’t need to write your own EzineArticles, if you use that service. Instead, why not hire someone to write five or ten unique articles for EzineArticles? It will only cost you $5. Of course you’ll have to check the posts’ quality—they’re representing your blog, after all. But this could be a good way to reduce your workload if you find the right service provider on Fiverr.
  • Stumbles – I hired a guy the other day to stumble 33 of my blog posts and pages on three separate accounts, and it brought me some easy traffic. You can find lots of people to do something similar on the cheap.
  • Twitter followers – Why go through the tedious task of following and unfollowing non-followers every couple of days, when you can have someone get the followers for you? It’s even better if you hire someone to get you non-reciprocal followers—and, depending on your strategy, can be more personal and targeted than using an automated service.
  • Facebook likes – Do you have a Facebook page with only 50 likes or so? Hire someone to get you 200 at a time for $5. Remember, this is a numbers game. The more people who like your page, the more people will see it on their walls and follow suit.
  • Promotional materials – Outsource the collection of video and text reviews about your product or service. Then you can focus more on the launch of the product or service, and generating maximum sales.
  • Traffic – You can hire someone to tweet your message daily for a week to their thousands of followers on multiple accounts. That will get some traffic to your product or blog article quickly. It will also result in new followers. No, the traffic levels may not last over time, but as a means to get a launch-period boost, this can be a tactic worth considering.
  • Offline marketing – There are people who will put your message on a billboard sign and stand in front of Grand Central Station for $5! Let’s not neglect the power of offline marketing—which can also be procured on the site.
  • Design – Looking for graphic design? Guess what. Someone will do it on the cheap if it’s a small project.

Beyond Fiverr

Are we seeing a pattern here? The power of leverage is an amazing thing, and you can master it in a short period of time.

Don’t let me make you think that Fiverr is the only place to use leverage, though—it’s just one example of outsourcing, which is just one example of leverage. There are many things you can do to access the benefits of leverage, such as sending out a newsletter to a targeted double opt-in list, and having a mailing list company deliver it, too.

If you are already using leverage, please share your experiences with us below.

Brandon Connell is a full-time blogger and internet marketing expert who teaches you how to make money blogging. You can also hire him for consulting and coaching services.

New Bloggers Beware: 3 Traps You Need to Avoid

This guest post is by Roman of how this website makes money.

After more than two years of blogging, I’m happy to be still around. Most new bloggers do not survive longer then six months.

Because of their lack of experience, new bloggers make assumptions about blogging that are completely wrong. They start blogging with these assumptions and are surprised six months later when their assumptions turn out to be incorrect.

These assumptions—or traps—give the false impression that becoming a successful blogger is easy and fast.

Trap 1: All blogs are successful

As a new blogger, you eagerly learn everything you can about blogging. You Google every question that pops in your head. Clicking on one of the first few results, you land on a blog that answers your question perfectly.

You have lots of questions so you visit lots of blogs. After a while you start to notice something exciting. Every blog you visit looks good, has lots of posts, has lots of comments and has thousands of RSS subscribers and hundreds of retweets for every post. Basically every blog you visit is a success!

This trap is really difficult for most new bloggers to notice. While they’re researching blogging they get the impression that all blogs are successful blogs. But what the new blogger never sees are the thousands of unsuccessful blogs. They never see them because they’re on pages three (or later) in the search results. New bloggers only see the blogs on page one and two of Google. So after a few days of researching blogging via search engines, the new blogger forms the false impression that all blogs are successful.

It is not just the search engines that create this mirage: it’s also the blogs themselves and the blogs they link to. Successful blogs link to other successful blogs. So the new blogger is bouncing around from one blogging success to another thinking, “Wow this is great, look at all these successful blogs—blogging must be easy.”

It doesn’t take the new blogger long to notice this trap. After a few days or weeks struggling to get traffic to their blog they begin to ask, “Why did I think this was going to be easy?”

Trap 2: Success is as easy as following the yellow brick road

When Dorothy landed in Oz she had a problem: she needed to get back home. The munchkins told her that the Wizard would solve her problems. “How do I find the wizard?” she asked. “It’s easy,” they replied, “just follow the yellow brick road.”

The trap for new bloggers is that they believe in a yellow brick road—a path that leads directly to a successful blog. They think that by following a few simple steps, they can achieve success. Write compelling content, have a RSS feed, post often, reply to comments, create backlinks—do all these things, and you will succeed.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

Steps can be laid out describing how to create a blog and suggestions can be made on how to improve a blog, but there is no direct path to success for any blog. There is no system to follow that will result in a successful blog. There is no yellow brick road to success.

There are a lot of products for sale that guarantee you will become a successful blogger. They promise to lay down a road to success—all you need to do it buy it and follow it.

Save your money. Dorothy did not need the yellow brick road or the Wizard to bring her back home. She discovered that she had the power to get home all along. I wasted a lot of time looking for a yellow brick road, hoping that it would lead me directly and quickly to success. Instead of looking for the easy road, my time could have been better spent creating compelling content.

Trap 3: Success comes quickly

The brick-and-mortar world is a lot slower then the Internet. A blog takes five minutes to set up. In twenty minutes, you have your first page of content lined with AdSense ads. If you are really lucky, you can make your first dollar in an hour.

Compare that with opening a fruit stand. First you have to build the structure—preferably with bricks and mortar. Then you need to purchase fruits to stock your stand. Finally you will need a cash register and a sign on the highway directing traffic to the store. It will take weeks before you can sell a single apple.

The trap that new bloggers fall into is thinking that because the Internet works fast, success will come quickly. They expect visitors and revenue to pour into the business just as fast as the blog was built. Then when it doesn’t happen that fast, disappointment sets in.

Do not fall into this trap. Just because it takes five minutes to create a blog, do not expect it to take two days to become successful. The Internet is fast, but when it comes to having a successful blog, brick-and-mortar rules apply.

Imagine spending years getting up early, opening shop, selling a couple fruits and going home. At first there are no profits, and most likely your days end in loss. But with perseverance and hard work, more and more people come to you for their fruit needs. It could take months until word gets around that you have quality fruit and good prices. This is how blogs work, too.

More traps?

Did you make any assumptions about blogging that turned out to be wrong? Tell us about them in the comments and prevent other bloggers from falling into the same trap.

Roman will be the first to admit that he fell into all three traps. Fortunately, he got away. On his site how this website makes money he proves that success is not just a stroll down the yellow brick road.

How Do You Know if You’re Succeeding?

This guest post is by Josh Klein of Digital Strategy with Josh Klein.

You had an idea for a blog. You developed a smart blog strategy. You wrote a compelling about me page. You learned how bloggers make money, and you even followed some examples of how Darren makes money with his blogs. Then you picked up a “how to” guide, like the excellent free ebook from Michael Martine, “How to Start a Business Blog.”

And then you blog, and you promote, and you make some cash on the side. You’re up and running! But how do you know you’re succeeding? How do you know you’re heading in the right direction, and simple patience and dedication will turn your hobby into a profession? When do you know if you’re a problogger?

Amateurs can make choices based on their raw enjoyment, their traffic numbers, their comments, and their links, but professionals need to measure their return on investment (ROI). Probloggers need to pay their rent. But you’re not cashing big checks yet, and you still need a way to see if you’re on the right track.

I want to tell you about four things you can do, right now, to understand your business goals for blogging and test whether or not you’re achieving them. Because the truth is your follower count and your page views won’t pay your rent.

1. Measure your influence

Whether you’re selling your own product, promoting affiliates, offering a service, or advertising, your ability to make money is dependent on your ability to successful convey to your audience the value you offer them in such a way that they take action. Ideally, you’d measure your actual profits as a way to see if you’re succeeding, but you may have just started to get traction. There are other ways to test your influence.

Followers—be they RSS subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, or something else—are not a great way to measure your influence, at least not at face value. The reason for this is that the volume—reach, in marketing-speak—is less relevant than the quality of these relationships. You could message a million people, but if none of them were the right people, you’d be done for.

PostRank is a great service to measure influence in an effective way. Not only will it track the views your blogging gets, it will follow “social events” as they happen across the web, as people discuss and share your posts. This is the kind of activity that really demonstrates your growing influence, and as a practical matter, you can use it to follow up directly with the people that have “pre-qualified” themselves as interested in what you have to say by sharing your posts.

Instead of tracking how many people follow your blog, you can track—and take action based on—the people actually doing something with your blog that brings them closer to becoming customers. If your posts are spreading beyond the initial push you give them, you’re starting to make things happen.

2. Solicit and test feedback

When you ask your audience something, do they answer? It’s easy to forget, since blogging is a broadcast medium (you write, others read), that comments and emails are from real people who took a real chunk out of their day to not only pay attention to you, but to give you something in return. Compared to your average fly-by reader, make sure you cherish these people, and try to take to put their interest to good use.

When your audience gets in touch with you, don’t simply thank them and send them on their way. Instead, try to solicit their opinions on the direction you should be taking things, test their feedback on the blog, and build a lasting relationship with them.

There is a bigger difference between zero true fans and one true fan than there is between one true fan and 1000 customers. Again, it’s important to emphasize “true fan” rather than “follower” here, because these are people that go out of their way to engage with you.

If you’re gaining and interacting with true fans, you’re starting to make things happen.

3. Understand the sales funnel

A sale is good news, no matter how you look at it. But some sales are better than others. How so?

If you make some money, but don’t know exactly how it happened, you’re not likely to repeat the process. That old adage applies here: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.”

A problogger has a system—a repeatable methodology of reaching sales—that makes him or her a pro. There are many different systems, and you’ll ultimately have to try a few and find what works for you, but the point that you need one can’t be overemphasized. Even a single sale is a monumental achievement if it goes according to a preconceived plan.

You don’t need to write down a lengthy business plan, just to understand the funnel. For instance, “I’m going to sell a course. I’ll promote this course through a sales page, which is driven to repeatedly throughout a free ebook, which I will distribute by guest posting on blogs in my niche and offering as a download.” This certainly could benefit from more detail, but the outline is there. Then you can measure each step of the process; if 10,000 people read your guest posts, about 5,000 download your ebook, but only ten click through to the sales page … well, maybe you need to change the way your ebook promotes your sales page.

Once you have a system, and it succeeds once, you have all the proof you need that it is possible. Your next step is to make it better. Remember that the first sale—at least, the first measurable sale—is the hardest to make. After that, it’s just incremental improvement.

4. Stay true to your one goal

You were smart enough to think strategically about blogging when you first laid out your plans for world domination, but how often do you get mired down in the details, losing sight of your original goals? I’ll be the first to admit that opening Google Analytics to see whether yesterday’s post got as many views as the one from the day before is an addiction. But probloggers know that information is only useful insofar as you can actually take action based on it.

Here’s a novel suggestion: try to boil down your goals to one sentence, maybe a paragraph if necessary. Blow it up into big letters and print it out on a piece of paper, then tape it somewhere that is within your line of sight as you work.

As you write and promote your blog, grow your influence, interact with fans and partners, and watch your sales, always look back to this goal and ask yourself, “is what I’m doing right now getting me there?” You goals can change—they almost certainly will—but you can’t get get “there” if you don’t know where “there” is.

If you do this, all that time you spend replying on Twitter or reading other blogs will start to take on a new dimension. You’ll start to question the value. These activities may very well turn out to be worth pursuing, but at least you’ll have made it an active choice based on our strategic goals.

Over time, what you’ll find is that you naturally gravitate towards the things that matter, and as importantly, you’ll understand why those things matter. This is how you know you’re succeeding, even before the paycheck arrives in the mail—you know you’re working towards a goal you care about.

How do you measure your success? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Josh Klein is a marketing consultant with experience working with major brands on Madison Avenue and small businesses around the country. He writes about marketing and business in general at his blog, Digital Strategy with Josh Klein.

Why Your Newsletter Incentive is Repelling People

This guest post is by Amy of Harrisonamy.com.

We’ve seen recently how you can help pay the rent using your email list, so making sure that as many people as possible sign up is critical to increase your earning potential.

Most bloggers know that one way to encourage people to sign up to their blog is to offer an incentive. Some kind of free report, or ebook or other gift that is a tempting reward for a visitor to transform into a newsletter subscriber.

But having a gift isn’t enough. And what’s more, all free gifts are not created equal.

If you’re struggling to create your incentive, or your incentive doesn’t seem to be converting well, read this article. We’re going to look at how to quickly create an incentive that works as hard as possible to get you the right audience—and get them wanting your freebie.

Don’t give them what they need

It goes without saying that your freebie needs to be valuable to the customer, but giving too much can overwhelm them to the point that they can’t be bothered to sign up for it. Even if it’s something you know they desperately need.

For example, let’s say you run a blog that teaches people how to create a business from making homemade gifts. You know that people who come to your blog really need to know about how to sell their gifts, the best places to source materials, and a great-looking website to showcase their designs.

So you decide your incentive is going to be an auto-responder course over ten lessons, covering a different business foundation subject in each lesson.

Sounds great. Sounds useful. And it would be.

But it also sounds like a heck of a lot of work, which means you’re more likely to procrastinate over it. And it doesn’t take into account what most visitors want when they come to your site.

They want something quick that can potentially solve a problem there and then.

So don’t base your sign up incentive on what they need, base it on what they want.

Make it quick (to create and consume)

Valuable content that can be applied straight away is a very attractive offer for someone with limited time, but with a problem that you can solve.

Think about the kind of quick freebies you’ve signed up for in the past. Which ones have really stood out to you as being valuable?

It’s probably one that solved a specific problem there and then. So you might want to reconsider developing an in-depth product, report, or course for this kind of freebie.

What problem do you pick to solve?

With your visitors all having slightly different interests, and with you knowing so much about your chosen subject, how on Earth do you decide what problem to solve, and what kind of freebie to give away to encourage people to give you their details?

Well you might be surprised what “off the top of your head” knowledge you have that is valuable for your audience’s most common kind of problem.

To identify the perfect subject for your sign-up incentive , the first step is to write down the top five problems you see your audience having.

Ask yourself why your audience is coming to your site and what information are they looking to learn.

For example, if you teach social media marketing for small online businesses, your customers might be coming to you because they want to:

  • get more clients
  • build brand awareness
  • improve customer loyalty
  • increase viral marketing for the company
  • learn more about social media for businesses.

Once you have your top five, pick the one problem that you feel 70-80% of your target market is having. Let’s say in this instance it is: “getting more clients.”

Now you ask: what are the most common questions or problems surrounding this problem in relation to your business?

For “getting more clients through social media,” the most common questions might be:

  • How can you use social media to get clients?
  • What are the most popular social media sites for businesses?
  • How do I find my target market using social media?
  • What is Twitter and can I convert customers with it?
  • Is FaceBook advertising worth the investment?

Now you have five starting points for possible products, which are probably quite “basic” questions for you, but really useful to your customers.

For each of the above, you could create one of the following products for your sign-up incentive:

  • 10 ways to attract clients through social media
  • The top five social media sites for business (and how to use them for your business)
  • 12 steps to simple market research using social media
  • Understand how Twitter can add to your profits (in under 20 minutes)
  • 7 ways to profit from Facebook advertising

The incentive doesn’t have to be a lengthy report. In fact, checklists, bullet points, simple steps, and quick how-to guides are very attractive for people who are interested in your subject area, but want a solution there and then.

If you create your incentive this way, you’re coming from the core problems your target market is probably always going to have, and you’re giving them a short, sweet fix that makes them more likely to sign up for your content.

That means they can become more familiar with your expertise, and are likely to remember and recommend your site because of the instant value they received in your newsletter incentive!

What about you? Have you experimented with sign up incentives? What have you found working for you? What has been your favorite sign-up incentive that you’ve registered for?

Amy is a copywriter for entrepreneurs and in addition to writing for clients, she coaches others to smash through their copy obstacles and get their message out to their audience. She provides free copywriting and content marketing advice on her website Harrisonamy.com

Is it Time to Quit Blogging?

Blogging ain’t easy. Just ask the hundreds of bloggers that quit within the first three months.  You might have lurked around your favorite blogs and thought that you could do it too, so you started your blog.  You’ve now you’ve hit a wall and want to quit.   So what do you do?

Reflect on why you started

Ask yourself, “why did I begin blogging”?  You must have an absolute passion for the idea behind your blog.  It has to be something that you surround yourself with, and wouldn’t mind talking about endlessly.  Because ultimately, if your blog is to make it, that’s exactly what you will do.  If you’re  not motivated enough to talk about your topic all the time, your readers will sense it and they won’t come back.

Reevaluate your expectations

If you had hoped to have 100,000 readers a month within the first year, and did not have an absolutely killer marketing plan, your expectations might be too high.  Lots of great blogs get around 100 visitors a day after they have been blogging for some time.

If you thought that you would make hundreds of dollars each month in  advertising revenue, and you are not, ask your fellow bloggers what they are doing to earn revenue so that you can learn from the best.

Upgrade your knowledge

Increase your knowledge not just in your particular subject area, but on the craft of blogging itself.  Sites like Problogger and John Chow make hundreds of thousands of dollars each year teaching people how to blog professionally.  There is always something to learn.

Take a break

Sometimes you just develop writer’s block.  It happens to the best of us.  Solicit guest posts or articles from your fellow bloggers.  Good bloggers are always willing to cross promote, and you can gain some new readers from sharing your web space with a new writer.

Is it time to quit?

Stuff happens!  Life intervenes, you get busy, you add a new child to your family, you move, or your interest changes.  The best part about being human is the ability to make decisions for yourself.

If after taking a break you decide that blogging is not for you, it’s okay to quit!  We won’t judge you for it.  Just be sure to tell your fellow bloggers and readers good-bye in a post. As bloggers we forget that our readers feel as if they know us, and when you disappear without saying that you are gone, they feel as if you left them standing at the altar.

If you need help, always remember that your fellow bloggers are here to help you.  I hit a major wall and stopped blogging for about a month after receiving a whopping tax bill, but it was with the help of my fellow bloggers that I made it through that time.  We can, and will, do the same for you.  Don’t quit!

Have you ever thought of quitting blogging? How did you get through it?

Sandy runs the blog Yes, I Am Cheap where she is chronicling her methods of getting out of debt and sharing some stories about her tenant from hell in the process.

How to Run Two Blogs in the Midst of a Busy Life

This guest post is by Jennifer Fulwiler of ConversionDiary.com.

When I announced to readers of my regular blog that I had accepted a paid blogging gig for a national newspaper, my email inbox was flooded with one question: “How do you do it?” I have four children under the age of seven and am also working on a book, so, needless to say, before I accepted this new blogging position, I had to think carefully about how to write quality blog content with minimal effort.

I am happy to report that everything is going well: I’m able to keep up with both blogs without taking time away from my other priorities, and I’m getting great feedback from readers.

So how do I do it? Here are my top five secrets.

1. Keep a clean list of post ideas and update it frequently

When fellow bloggers tell me that they have trouble updating their blogs frequently, my first question is always: Do you keep a list of post ideas? I’m surprised at how often the answer is no, since I find this to be the key to regular blogging.

When the blank screen looms in front of you, there’s no way you’ll be able to recall every good post idea you’ve ever thought of. It’s critical to have a clean, well organized list to turn to. If you update this list frequently, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you amass great ideas (the list for my personal blog includes 87 items). The more ideas you have to choose from, the easier it will be to find a topic that inspires you when crunch time hits.

2. Have ideas for easy posts at your fingertips

There are times when life gets crazy and I simply don’t have time to write a regular post. That’s when I turn to my trusty list of easy post ideas, each of which allows me to touch base with my readers in a short amount of time. Some of my favorite go-to techniques are:

  • asking readers a question (I keep a separate list called “Questions to ask readers” for this purpose)
  • posting a roundup of my favorite links from around the web
  • creating a “best-of-comments” post, where I highlight the most helpful comments from a previous post
  • posting an interesting excerpt from a favorite book, with just a couple paragraphs of commentary (I highlight favorite passages in the books I read, which makes these posts especially easy)
  • asking a question on Twitter and posting a screenshot of responses
  • doing a photo post with one or multiple pictures with minimal commentary
  • answering a series of “getting to know you” questions and asking readers to do the same (e.g. “What time do you get up in the morning?”, “What is the most dangerous place you’ve ever visited?”, etc.)
  • reviewing the top products that make my life easier in the area related to my blog
  • asking a fellow blogger to write a guest post
  • writing an “awards” post where I name my favorite people in a certain category (e.g. “My 8 favorite female bloggers”)
  • rerunning an old post.

3. Embrace deadlines

My new blogging job requires me to write three posts a week, on a set schedule. This has been a new experience, since with my personal blog I could updated whenever I felt like it. To my surprise, having deadlines has been a great benefit to me. It’s taught me to cultivate self-discipline, stay organized, and stop wasting time. Consider setting deadlines for your own blog, even if you don’t have to—you’ll find that it transforms your mindset from “amateur” to “professional” overnight.

4. Let go of perfectionism

One of the most fascinating discoveries of my new blogging venture has been seeing the benefits of lowering the bar. In order to keep up with both blogs, I’ve had to pull items from my post ideas file that I normally would have skipped. I’ve had to publish posts that I didn’t think were perfect. And you know what? My readers have loved it. I’m now sharing information that I would have normally kept to myself, and the response has been fantastic. In fact, my four most popular items within the last month have all been posts that I never would have written if I weren’t under deadline pressure.

My new motto for whether a topic makes the cut to write about is simply: If it’s interesting to me, it’ll be interesting to someone else.

It doesn’t have to be a magnum opus. It doesn’t have to include mind-blowing commentary that will change the world. It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to include tons of links. If I’m doing nothing more than conveying a simple insight or tidbit of information that I found helpful, that’s enough; there are undoubtedly many other people out there who will find it helpful as well.

5. Remember that it’s not all about you

Before I had so much blogging to keep up with, I felt like everything had to come from me. Each post had to be based solely on my own personal wisdom. With my new workload I’ve been forced to share: I link to other bloggers’ content, ask for guest posts, share excerpts from good books, interview interesting people, post link roundups—and a bunch of other things that highlight someone else’s talents. The result has not only been a grateful response from other bloggers and writers, but my own posts have been better as well.

What tips can you add to help others run multiple blogs as part of their already-busy lives?

Jennifer Fulwiler is a freelance writer as well as the chaos manager for her busy household, which currently includes four young children. Her personal blog is ConversionDiary.com.

Between Google and Bing: Positioning a Blog Using Social Media

This guest post is by Tricia Lawrence of Realbrilliant.com

I’m not one of those people who relies solely on search engine optimization to get me to the top of the heap. I am paid to write blogs for clients every week, and they focus on their SEO enough for the both of us.

Positioning has another meaning to me. It’s content-focused and deals only with how my content and expertise is positioned in my audience’s head.

You can’t get those results from a Google or Bing search. You can only get that from positioning yourself, either weakly or strongly. Either way, you’ll learn quickly.

Learning about this “mental positioning” may seem like it has no place in social media strategy. After all, it’s not exactly a social media tool per se. But there’s more to blog marketing than just loading content onto your Facebook and Twitter profiles. If you’re using social media to talk without giving any thought to who is listening, you’re not positioning yourself whatsoever.

What’s your story?

This is what you feel compelled to share, to write a blog about, to speak about, to share with others. What is the best way to communicate that story? Is it social media? (I always suggest yes, it is.) But what about other channels: public speaking, webinars, or teaching what you know to an entire company? Social media works well when you’re presenting ideas and links as teasers to your platform. Social media should point the way to you and your story.

What’s your audience?

Who you’re speaking to has a lot to do with how you will present your message. A lot of the younger generation may not use email, but if you speak to any other generation, you’ll want to use email. If you’re teaching people how to be Luddites and to stick to typewriters out of protest to the wasting of bandwidth whenever someone tweets about Britney Spears, then yes, you can stay off of social media quite easily. How does your audience use social media? What do they look at online? What kind of solutions are they looking for when they come looking for your story?

What’s your influence?

When you are positioned in your audience’s mind, your influence can reach quite far. How far? Your core audience shares you with their core audience, who in turn share you with theirs. Sometimes it’s who you know, but sometimes it’s not. Your goal is to be visible to many, but to attract a chosen few. Sure, we’d all love everyone to pay attention to us, but that’s just not going to happen. Let’s be realistic and focus on the audience we can influence toward our solution and our expertise.

What’s your engagement?

Positioning yourself online is mistakenly viewed as just about Twitter followers and just about retweeting what you find interesting. Successful positioning includes much more. As your story is communicated over and over and over, you’ll learn how to say it differently; you’ll also learn your audience’s lingo. As they interact with you, you’ll learn more from them. Engaging is not getting something or giving something more than the other: it’s about the even exchange, the leverage both parties give to make the other successful. As you learn what your audience wants from you, they learn more about your story and what you can give to them. Both parties benefit.

One last word: Even if you’ve been positioned or have positioned yourself weakly (notice I use the words weak and strong versus right and wrong; I hate for people to view this as being black and white, because the Internet is much more a gray area), it’s never too late to reposition. You can always strengthen your position by going back to these four questions. They are at the core of a strong position.

Let Google change algorithms every hour if they want to! Let Bing see the traffic coming to your site every day! You just keep right on strengthening your position. Have you positioned your blog strongly on social media?

Tricia Lawrence is an author, teacher, and speaker, helping the publishing industry, specifically authors, position their blogs and books to sell. Tricia’s book, The Social Network(s): A Field Guide for Writers will be out on Kindle in March and she’ll appear at several tech and writing conferences in 2011. Sign up for Tricia’s biweekly eZine, Please Write Like You Talk at http://www.realbrilliant.com. Tricia is on Twitter @realbrilliant.

The 5 Elements of Authoritative Content

This guest post is by Tito Philips, Jnr. of MADphilips.

Authority, in case you’ve forgotten, still rules!

ProBlogger is still relevant because of its authoritative content. If you’ve ever read an article on ProBlogger about a concept that is not relatively new, there’s an unusual approach the writer adopts that makes you wonder if you’re just learning about that very concept for the first time.

The same thing applies to mainstream blogs like ChrisBrogan, SethGodin, ZenHabits, LateralAction, and so on. You just can’t get enough of their content. Why? Because they’re authoritative!

Before you say what’s on your mind, let me help you out. These blogs are not authoritative because they have hit the mainstream, no. They are authoritative because they have certain attributes that makes their content authoritative.

1. Insight

Insight is the personal understanding gained as a result of coming in contact with particular information. Insight is the understanding gained from your own point of view. It is knowledge or information mixed with your personal experience.

Using that insight involves presenting information you gathered from somewhere else in such a way that it’s difficult to trace the similarity between your version and the original source, except when you make a direct reference. Insight is writing your own thoughts about the subject and not the author’s. It’s basically telling us what you think of the information or knowledge you’ve gathered on any particular subject.

Blogs, in most cases, are read because of the fresh perspective the authors bring to their chosen niches. This fresh perspective can only come from insight. It is the fresh perspective that makes your articles authentic, new, and authoritative. Remember: when knowledge passes from one source to another, it appreciates, rather than depreciating.

Here’s what I’ve noticed over time: people will never have enough of simple truths told in a simple manner with an unusual insight. While it is true that there’s nothing new under the sun, I believe there’s always a different angle for presenting information. After all, the only difference between how you present information you read or learned from someone else, the way they present it, is by communicating it in your own way. That is, saying it based on the unique insight you’ve gained as a result of taking in such knowledge.

Blogging would have been a joke if not for this key factor. What good comes from reading about the same stuff over and over again if it’s not appreciating in the transfer from author to author? It is the totality of your knowledge base as a writer, and the unique insight gained as a result of learning about a concept, that makes blogs worth reading.

2. Simplicity

Simplicity is about presenting information in an easy-to-understand manner. Simplicity is about making the information easily memorable by breaking it down from a complex whole to tiny understandable bits. Simplicity is the evidence of insight.

Your readers know how well you know your stuff by how simply you’re able to write about it. Complexity is evidence of incomplete learning and insufficient insight. After all, you can only give as much as you’ve received. Simplicity is the integration of the different aspects of an idea or concept in understandable and memorable manner.

Simplicity is important in blogging because people’s attention span is low. So, presenting your information in a simple manner not only shows you know your stuff, but also helps your readers to comprehend the insights you are sharing through your articles.

However, simplicity must not be confused with brevity. Simplicity deals with the presentation of the information in order to aid comprehension, while brevity refers to the length of the information in order to save time. Simple doesn’t really mean brief, and brief doesn’t really mean simple. The goal of simplicity is aiding understanding. So, if you have to say more in order for your readers to understand what you’re trying to say, you owe it to them to do so creatively.

3. Depth

Depth simply refers to how detailed your content is. Depth is about how well you’re driving home your point. Depth is the extent to which you break down the concept you’re writing about. It’s a matter of not leaving any stone unturned. I have a simple question I use to evaluate the level of depth an article has. Here’s that question:

If the reader had only till tomorrow to live and has to get something important done that my article is supposed to help them accomplish, will they be able to get that particular thing done well in such a way that when they eventually pass on the next day, those left behind can say, “Thank God he did this before dying?”

I know this is an unusual question to ask and answer with just one article or blog post. But what good is a solution that only half-solves the problem? What we must all realize as bloggers is that each post or article we write is supposed to help our readers get things done. So when we leave out any detail, no matter how insignificant it might seem, we have failed in helping them solve the problem they came to our site with. So, stop the assumptions and touch on all the vital areas of the concept you’re writing about.

The source of this problem is that we are always too quick to assume that the reader already knows about the subject in question, and they only need a little reminder. So we undermine the importance of details, and leave our readers hanging and wondering how and where else to go to in order to fill in the blanks.

The solution is to put yourself in the reader’s shoes and ask yourself, “If I were searching for information on this particular subject, what would the perfect or ideal information entail?”

Then go ahead and provide all the details of such information in your article.

I know what you are thinking right now: brevity rules right? Not all of the time! Brevity only rules if within your article you have hyperlinks to other articles that will help your readers find answers to the incomplete information you’ve provided. Besides that, you have only succeeded in making your readers more unsatisfied. Why? Because you provided incomplete information as a solution to a problem. So help your readers solve the problem you’re writing to solve. Don’t just provide a teaser, go the whole nine yards!

4. Breadth

If depth is about details, then breadth is about association. It answers the question, “How do the insights you’re sharing relate to other relevant concepts/subjects/principles/ideas familiar to the reader?”

Breadth helps the reader to move from abstract to practical. It bridges the gap between theory and practice. It helps the reader to make sense of what your content is all about, as they can easily associate your idea, concept, or principle with one that’s already familiar to them.

There are three key ways to bring breadth into you content:

  • Storytelling helps your reader to associate the information you provide with a similar concept that’s familiar to them. It helps your readers get familiar with the ideas, concepts, or principles your content is trying to get across to them. The way our mind works is by associating new information with that which we already understand. So by telling a story in your article, you help readers to better apply the content to their own unique situation.

    Storytelling adds to the authoritativeness of your content as it helps the reader answer the question of whether your argument is valid or not. When you relate an idea, concept, or principle with a story, the reader gets a feeling that you are not the only one who invented the idea or principle you’re sharing. As humans, we are configured as social animals. We validate things based on how much acceptance they’ve gained from others. So a story helps readers to trust your information, as they can associate it with reality.

  • Referencing others is another approach to bringing in breadth into your content. This is a very powerful way of increasing the credibility of your content. That experts other than you also share the same opinion or views about the topic helps to make your readers put more trust in you.

    The mere fact that you have read the work of some other person your readers consider an authority on a particular issue puts you in a position of authority yourself. Why? Because it suggests to the reader that you do your homework well. You don’t just come up with solo ideas, but build up on the ideas of others that your readers consider experts. In other words, if the reader thinks the idea you’re sharing makes sense, then it really does make sense, and they will be grateful you took the pain to make the reference available. As a blogger, your content must be built on solid and credible principles for which you can creatively provide sources of reference. Also, it means you have to be an avid learner and acute observer, taking notes and keeping in touch with thought leaders in your particular industry.

    Your reference could also come in form of statistical information about certain phenomena. Facts and figures and their sources are also great ways of adding breadth to your content through referencing.

  • Using Analogies: this is similar to storytelling. But analogies are not as lengthy as stories; they are short and to the point. The use of analogies can help your readers grasp the underlying message in your content.

5. Relevance

The whole point of providing authoritative content is to help your readers solve a pressing problem. People don’t read for the mere fun of reading: they read because they want to learn and apply knowledge or information creatively in order to solve a problem.

So here’s the big question: are your contents relevant to the audience you are writing them for?

All of the techniques listed above will be totally useless if you’re providing a content that is not relevant to your readers. For example, I basically write about business development and entrepreneurship. When the idea of this post came into my mind, there was no way I was going to write about this on my blog, because of its unique audience—entrepreneurs. As you know, entrepreneurs are not limited to online businesses alone, so I had to find some other place where this content would be relevant. The first two places that came to my mind were ProBlogger and CopyBlogger. Why? Because that is where Internet entrepreneurs gather to learn about blogging and Internet marketing.

This point is pretty clear and needs very little explanation. The basic thing to keep in mind is this: write the right content for the right audience. Guest blogging, apart from its marketing intention, was created for this purpose. Let your blog as a whole stick to what it has promised readers.

Your turn. Are there other ingredients to writing authoritative content? Please share your views and ideas below.

Tito Philips, Jnr. is an unusual Nigerian that is passionate about helping people, businesses and lives become significant [different and making a difference]. He’s the CEO of MADphilips and the publisher of naijapreneur! a business development blog. Connect on twitter @MADphilips

Reddit Blog Marketing 101

This guest post is by Antriksh of Right Now In Tech.

Reddit is a great way to drive traffic to your blog. It’s hard to classify Reddit as a type of site. It could be a social news site, or a social bookmarking site, but in fact it’s just a place where people can share interesting stuff from the Web. You can post links to blog posts, news articles, videos, photos—anything you like. The content doesn’t need to be new. You can also write “self” posts, where you just talk about something or ask for opinions. So the content doesn’t necessarily have to be a link.

Reddit is made up of a number of smaller reddits. I know, it’s confusing initially. The reddits are simply different categories you can post your content to. Throughout this post, I will refer to the site with a capital ‘R’, and the word for categories with a small ‘r’. When you have an account, you can add certain reddits to your frontpage, so that fresh content and hot links from those categories appear on your Reddit homepage. The frontpage (that’s Reddit terminology for your homepage) is personalized when you are logged in: Reddit will show you content that arises from the reddits you’ave added to your frontpage.

There are all kinds of reddits for all kinds of topics on Reddit. Any link (or comment) that’s posted to Reddit can be upvoted and downvoted. This determines how popular it will become.

How effective is it?

I started blogging just this year, so my blog is still pretty new. After a lot of marketing attempts and lots of trying to improve traffic quantity and quality, I was thinking about closing down my blog and quitting blogging.

But then I found Reddit. I loved the community and the interesting stuff that always keeps on coming along there. I primarily joined Reddit to promote my content, as Darren had suggested a number of times. Twitter wasn’t (and still isn’t) working very well for me.

So Reddit started getting me getting a trickle of traffic. Slowly it increased. There were a number of reasons why people were seeing my links and clicking them (I’ll tell you why in a moment). Then I experimented with different ways of drawing traffic. I tried various link bait methods, and I started learning what does and what doesn’t get traffic from Reddit users.

Why Reddit can help you

There are a number of reasons Reddit will outperform other ways of promoting your content. Maybe it still won’t be the best means of getting traffic, but it has many advantages. Here are some of them.

The community is just awesome

The Reddit community is really great. There are all kinds of people interested in so many kinds of topics. And unlike the case with paid ads like AdWords, the Reddit audience is looking for links to click on.

There’s a place for all kinds of blogs

Reddit, being a really diverse community, has people interested in a huge range of topics. So no matter what niche your blog is in, you probably have a wide audience waiting for you.

Targeted marketing

As I mentioned in the intro above, you can add certain reddits to your frontpage. Most people add reddits of the topics they are interested in to their frontpages. Then, when you post your links in appropriate reddits, the people who are interested in that topic will see your content on their frontpage. Reddit is thus totally targeted.

Everyone likes free—and you do too

Reddit, apart from being so efficient, is completely free. So you get loads of targeted traffic, and you don’t pay a dime.

Tips for Reddit success

If you are convinced to try using Reddit for promotional purposes, and if you are ready to start posting links, then learn the following things that you must take care of before you do anything else.

Use the right title

If you haven’t already noticed, Reddit users often type in really long titles for their links, since there is no opportunity to enter a description. You can do that too, so take it as a plus. For titles, you can remember the acronym CD-R (I know that also means recordable CD—I’m a tech blogger!): Catchy, Descriptive, but Relevant. Here’s an example.

I had an article titled “Wait! Dual-core CPU required for Android Honeycomb?” This post explained that the upcoming version of the Android OS for mobile phones may require a dual-core processor to run. This could be a bad thing, as the phones could potentially become expensive. So instead of posting on Reddit something like: “Android 3.0 Honeycomb may require a dual-core CPU,” I wrote, “I want to see just where this goes for Android…” and easily attracted over five hundred views for that particular article.

Post in the relevant reddit

This point is really important. Before you post a link to Reddit, make sure that you choose the correct reddit for it. If you post it in any random category, don’t expect a traffic spike anytime soon. Make sure that you post to specific reddits. But there’s also another aspect to it.

Remember to check how many people have added the reddit to their frontpage. Just open another tab, and after the regular Reddit address, type in /r/reddit-name. For example, to see the reddit about technology, you type http://www.reddit.com/r/technology. To the right, you will see the number of people who have the reddit on their frontpage. Make you sure you choose a reddit that’s relevant to your link, and has a lot of subscribers.

If you can’t find a reddit that is relevant to your article, or if your relevant reddit has very few subscribers, use a reddit with a broader topic.

If that doesn’t work, try to make the title fit into the reddits “TodayILearned” or “YouShouldKnow.” Both of them have a lot of subscribers (even me). TodayILearned is for links with stuff that is informative and interesting to learn. It requires that your title start with a “TIL” or “Today I Learned.” The latter reddit is for stuff that you should know (self-explanatory!). The titles of the items you post there need to begin with a “YSK” or “You Should Know.”

You can probably fit your article into either one of these if it won’t fit elsewhere. But take care: both these reddits have amazing content, so make sure you’re posting a link to an interesting article.

No shortened URLs please!

This is something I have noticed over time. When I post a shortened URL to my article (for the purpose of tracking clicks), very few people use it. When you submit the link, the main domain of the link appears beside the title. So maybe people don’t like to click on short links, as the website it redirects to could potentially be malicious.

When I post links from my domain directly, it usually goes viral.

Have fun, interact, and post other stuff as well

I have noticed that at times, people even visit other Reddit subscribers’ pages. Your page has records of your links and your comments, so you need to make sure that it doesn’t make you look like a leech. Remember to post links to other interesting content on the Web—not just your own blog posts.

Remember also to comment and upvote others’ links, too. Interact with other people in the community and help others when they post calls for suggestions, opinions, and surveys. Visit others’ links and have fun.

That last point was really important. Remember that you are joining Reddit not just for promoting yourself. You are doing so to meet new people and have fun!

Have you used Reddit? What did you think of it? Share your experiences in the comments.

Antriksh is a high school student and author of the tech blog Right Now In Tech. Visit his blog to get interesting news about the tech world, reviews, opinions and loads of computer tips, tricks and software.