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10 Little-known Ways to Get Traffic to Your Blog

This guest post is by Onibalusi Bamidele of YoungPrePro.com.

Getting traffic to a blog is the major challenge a blogger faces. Many have read about various traffic generation strategies, but they find it difficult to get traffic to their blogs because these tips are no longer as effective as they once were. For example, guest blogging used to be very effective, but now that a lot of people are doing it and talking about it, it’s no longer as effective as it used to be.

Here are ten little-known tips to get traffic that I’ve discovered from my own experience. Implementing all ten tactics at the same time isn’t that effective; the way to get the best from these tactics is to choose two or three tactics that you think you like, and focus all your efforts on them for a period of time. You will be amazed at the results you will get.

1. Secret blogging clubs

A major and underutilized way to get traffic to a blog is by joining secret blogging groups or clubs. Very few people are using this particular method, but it can be very effective if you focus your efforts on it.

Secret blogging clubs consists of a group of bloggers with one aim: to help each other spread the word about their blogs with a view to generating traffic for each others’ blogs. The concept is simple: you join a club with around 50 members, share each others’ post with your fans and followers (around once a week), and this will generate more traffic, since it exposes your blog to a wider audience.

You dont need to worry about spamming and the likes, because groups like these are heavily moderated. Also, it is not necessary to share every link that is posted to the group—you only need to share the links related to your niche, that you feel are valuable.

A great example of an effective secret blogging club is the DailyBlogTips Retweet Club by Daniel Scocco. A post of mine that went viral through a secret blogging club was my guest post on getting more blog comments—it presently has 97 comments and 87 retweets on a site that averages 15 retweets and 40 comments per post.

2. Social blogmarking sites

Another underutilized but effective way to get traffic to your blog is by making use of social blogmarking sites. Even though this concept looks similar to social bookmarking sites like Digg and Reddit, it operates differently.

A social blogmarking site can be useful irrespective of whom you are and your status on the network. All you need to do is write your best post and give it the best title. Submit it to your favorite social blogmarking site and, if it’s voted onto the site’s homepage, it will send a stream of traffic to your blog. The articles that make it to the front page are not determined by the authors who submit them, or dependent on the domain name of the author’s site. The quality and title of the article is all that matters.

I also respect social blogmarking because of the quality of traffic it sends. The visitors that come from the blogmarking site I’m involved with (Blokube) spend an average of ten minutes on my blog. Presently, this is one of my best traffic sources, as far as traffic quality is concerned.

3. Ning communities

Getting traffic to your blog through Ning communities is a great way to get traffic to your blog, yet few bloggers use this method. I learned this formula from Kim Roach and it keeps on sending me traffic, even months after I use it.

Like blogging, a lot of people have a version of themselves or their business on Ning.com. You can create a portal in the form of yourusername.ning.com, which can also be a great way to get traffic to your blog.

All you need to do is help community members with their questions, and reference your blog if necessary. There is also a place where you can submit your blog posts for the whole community to see—another great traffic source. If you plan on doing this, you don’t necessarily need to write new posts: you can submit some of your old posts with a link back to your blog.

Not all Ning communities bring results. Some communities will send you zero visitors, while some will send you hundreds, so it’s important to be wise when choosing a community you want to join. I have discovered that what works is to make sure you join a Ning community that’s related to your niche, and has over 5000 members.

4. Free, no-catch ebooks

This is another powerful but underutilized tactic to get more traffic to your blog. I didn’t use this strategy until recently, but when I did, I got awesome results.

To use this technique, write as many free reports as you can. A report is a simple, seven-to-ten-page ebook. Make sure you embed links to your blog in the ebook, and encourage readers to visit your blog. Then, distribute the ebook to free ebook directories, post it to your favorite forums, ask other bloggers to help you share it, and do as much as you can to spread the word about it.

What has worked best for me is sharing it on my favorite Internet marketing forums, like Digital Point Forums. After utilizing this particular strategy, I saw a spike in my traffic: I got an additional 60-80 visitors per day for some days, and over 100 new blog subscribers.

5. Content syndication

I’ve noticed that a lot of people are not using this particular strategy, but it can be highly effective to syndicate your blog content to big online portals in your niche. Most of these portals are visited by countless people every day, and syndicating with them will go a long way to give your blog a traffic boost.

Great examples of some of the best content syndication sites I’ve found are Alltop and The Daily Brainstorm.

6. Blogging collaboration

It pains me to see that this particular traffic strategy is not better utilized. In 2010 I collaborated with a lot of well-known and respected bloggers to give my readers some entrepreneurial advice.

I was able to work with 24 successful online entrepreneurs, who contributed to the post, and shared it with their Twitter followers and Facebook fans when it went live. This sent me double my usual number of daily visitors and, eventually, more subscribers and followers. It is also one of the most shared posts on my blog.

Collaboration is a great tool and every wise blogger will use it sometime. Try to get some of the top bloggers in your niche to contribute to your blog; once the contribution is live, encourage them to share it.

7. Online podcasts

This is another great and underutilized way to get traffic to your blog. Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income is very popular for his podcasts, and has been able to build a successful blog based on this and other methods.

While the podcasting technology is not new, very few people utilize it. Yet you can get more eyeballs to your content by creating a great and informative podcast relating to your blog. Submit it to the iTunes podcast directory and as more and more people search for podcasts relating to your topic area, they will end up discovering yours and, if it’s good, might end up visiting your blog.

8. Online groups

This particular approach is almost as old as some of the biggest websites on the Internet, so I’m amazed to see that very few people use it. I didn’t realize the power of this tactic until the day I woke up to see a spike in my website traffic generated by a LinkedIn group.

A lot of people still congregate and look for solutions to questions in online groups; many of these groups are also highly respected by Google, so they are indexed and ranked quickly. Thus, you have a great potential of getting traffic to your blog by utilizing good groups. The post I published to the LinkedIn group I mentioned attracted over 200 visitors from that group in the week it was published.

Two of the most popular online groups are Yahoo groups and LinkedIn groups—check them out.

9. Authority sites

I didn’t realize how powerful authority sites were until I interviewed successful entrepreneur Raymond Lei. He wrote a Wikipedia page in which a link to my interview with him was listed as one of the resources. This link sends me continuous traffic from Wikipedia even today.

You can use this strategy with some of the biggest websites on the Internet; since most of these sites find it easy to rank for competitive keywords in the search engines, you may find it easy to get traffic from them. For example, you can read and review some of the top books in your niche on Amazon while including a link back to your blog. Or interview the top bloggers in your niche, then include your link as a resource in their Wikipedia page.

10. Webrings

This is also a very effective traffic generation strategy that many people overlook.

A Webring is a collection of websites that are linked to each other. A major advantage of using a Webring is that it also helps you get high quality links which means both short term direct traffic and long term search engine traffic for you. Probably the most popular Webring is Webring.com.

These are my favorite little-known traffic tactics. What are yours? How have you got traffic to your blog? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Visit YoungPrePro.com to learn how Onibalusi makes over $3000 online monthly and how he gets over 10,000 visitors to his blog every month. Download his guest blogging guide to learn how to get thousands of visitors from guest blogging. Also, make sure you follow him on twitter @youngprepro.

Let a Launch Buddy Help Boost Your Blog

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

While I write blog posts, I don’t really refer to myself as a blogger. I’m just someone who likes sharing my experience to those who want to listen (or read), hoping it will help you in some way. My real passion is in sales and marketing, online and offline, and in all honest.y I’d prefer working with a designer to craft a set of optimized landing pages, or spending an entire morning massaging some email copy, than figuring out how to best communicate the result to the world.

I know that it’s a bit of a contradiction, but I write because I like helping people, and more than that, I like helping people I trust and respect. I don’t get paid for these posts; I post under a veil of secrecy so there’s no impact to my personal brand; and, most importantly, I don’t expect anything in return. And as a result of my willingness to help, I discovered something last week:

When it comes to launches, two heads are so much better than one.

Two heads…

A friend of mine—let’s call him Bob—was preparing to launch his first product of the year: an ebook. He’d reached out a couple of times to get my feedback on things like the title, cover, and interior design. A long time ago, I’d offered to help out where I could, to help him build a framework for his product launches. So as the launch loomed, we caught up one evening and went through the plans. We were able to cover a fair bit of ground in a short period, and we didn’t change the entire approach—just tweaked things here and there.

Instead of describing the what, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the why. Why did this collaboration help shape something good into something better?

  • I was able to take a first-impression viewpoint of the product and promotional messages.
  • I was able to read at the copy as someone who might buy the product, not someone who’s intimately involved in it.
  • I was able to add layers from my own experience to the launch, from a foundation that was already strong.
  • Collaboration on thoughts and ideas resulted in progressive, actionable outcomes.
  • We were able to validate or question each others’ unsubstantiated opinions.
  • We were accountable to actually put things into a documented plan.

I hope the launch goes well for Bob, and that in some way, my contributions will help him achieve his goals.

Break the isolation

One thing I’ve learned from being closer to bloggers than ever before is that while you’re a well-connected group, when it comes to launches, product development, and money, a lot of bloggers work in isolation. I’d like to see that change.

To me, launching a product is a critical step in your blogging journey—one that turns all your hard work into your reward. Having a buddy who not only brings objectivity to your approach, brings fresh ideas so something you’ve been probably obsessing over for months (or years)!

It doesn’t need to be a money thing—it’s a favor thing. You help them, they help you.

Finding a launch buddy

Finding your launch buddy is not about finding the most experienced marketer or product launch expert you can. It’s about finding someone you trust, and are happy to open up to.

All your challenges, your strengths, your weaknesses, all your commercial agreements, targets, traffic, audience, your ability to pay expenses—you need to be able to share them all. You also need to find someone who’ll respect that as the product owner, you get the final say, and someone who, when your opinions differ, will let you both move on quickly.

My anti-technology Mum, given the full picture, would be able to help you more than the best product launch expert in the world if you only gave them half the story.

So if you don’t have one already, for your next launch—or perhaps your first—consider adding a launch buddy to your team. Or have you already used a launch buddy to help perfect and finesse a product launch? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Stay tuned for more posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger.

Niche Travel Blogging Demystified

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

If you look at all the travel blogs out there, you’ll notice many common themes. People tend to write a blog that falls into an overarching category like cruises, backpacking, solo travel, or digital nomad travel. They don’t refine their offerings any further. What readers are left with is thousands of blogs about the same thing, and a crowded field where no one really dominates. There are no leaders, no experts, and the bloggers’ voices get lost in the crowd.

For some bloggers, that’s fine. They simply blog because they like blogging. They want to interact with others and have no intention of ever making their blog into a business. If they make three hundred dollars selling an ad, they’re probably ecstatic; if they never make any money, they’re probably not fussed.

Yet there are a lot of bloggers out there who do want to make money. Some of them want to make a living, and most would just love for their blog to pay for their travels. In a sea of sameness, though, it’s hard to get the traction you need to become an expert, distinguish yourself, and gain traffic. And as we all know, it’s only then that you can make money from your blog.

The worst mistake

A few weeks ago, a travel blogger I read said that we travel bloggers should look to companies like Lonely Planet and be like them. “Copy the big companies,” he said.

I think this is the worst mistake you can make. You can’t be Lonely Planet, Boots n All, Orbitz, or the like. These companies have decades of experience and money that you don’t have, as well as huge budgets that allow them to stay ahead of the game.

Moreover, there’s no way you’ll be able to get ahead of their brands. Google didn’t wake up saying they want to be Microsoft. They said, “we want to be a new tech company.” That’s what you should aim for. You should aim to be something new. Don’t follow. Lead.

Leading a niche

To be a leader, you need to be niche. That word is thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean?

In simple terms, being niche means that you focus on a narrow topic. For the purpose of this article, I am going to talk a lot about backpacking as a niche. If you look at most travel blogs, you’ll notice that they all focus on backpacking or long-term travel. It seems to be a trend. How do you make yourself different when everyone is writing about the same thing?

Recently, I gave some advice to another travel blogger. He had just come back from a long-term trip to Central and South America, and he wanted to make his website bigger and earn some money from it, so what did he do? He followed the conventional line of thinking and turned his site into a general backpacking blog, and in the process he made his blog just the same as all the other blogs out there. They offered the same tips, advice, and stories that everyone on the Internet does.

I asked him, “How many sites do you see about backpacking in Central and South America?” That made him stop and think. He couldn’t think of any blogs that covered these regions, and he had just spent two years living, learning, and traveling that region of the world.

I told him that he is an expert on that area, and I asked him why he’s trying to cover the whole world. “Cover the area you know about!” I said. “When people ask other travelers where they look for information on a specific region, you want your name to come up first. Be the backpacking site for your area of expertise.”

Your niche matters

One of the greatest things the Internet has done is that it has made all niches marketable. With millions of people on the ‘net at any second of the day, even the smallest hobby or niche has an audience. You may think you are the only one with a passion for photos of horses doing stupid things, but with the Internet, you’ll find that you aren’t. You can bring all sorts of people together with your niche site.

The same is true in travel. No niche is too small. There are blogs covering RV travel, consumer issues, cruises, seniors’ cruises, gay cruises, gay seniors’ cruises, backpacking, long term travel, couples travel, and Asia travel—you can always find interested followers within your area of expertise.

Look at the “top travel blogs.” Out of the top 20 blogs, the majority deal with backpacking, independent travel, or families. Everyone is talking about the same thing.

When you looked at the numbers of those sites, did you notice something? There are a few with really high numbers, but the most are simply in the same area. They are talking about the same general topic, and thus they all share the same traffic.

Now take a look at the site Travel Fish. This is a destination-based site. It’s not really a blog, but it focuses on one thing: Southeast Asia. What kind of traffic does it get? It has an Alexa rank of 33,000 and a Compete rank of 144,000, which averages 88,500. That puts the site at #5 on the list of blogs.

Why does being niche help?

By going super-niche, your blog gains a single purpose. Everything you do focuses around one central theme. It helps focus your content, your marketing, and your audience. Don’t be everything to everyone. Be the best at one thing to some people. You want people to reference your name when people ask where they need to go for help. Travelfish’s single-minded nature allows that site to be the expert, and dominate one field. The owner doesn’t compete with anyone. People compete with him.

There are many travel websites out there. If you don’t go niche, you won’t be able to create a name for yourself. If you really want to make a stellar travel blog, monetize it, and be successful, you must pick one small genre of travel or location in the world, and be the expert on that. Otherwise, you’ll never break out of the crowd.

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

Use YouTube to Build Your Blog’s Audience

This guest post s by David Edwards of Candy.

For most people who are in their first year of launching a blog, it seems like a headache just to reach 1,000 unique visitors. I would have been in the same boat if it wasn’t for You Tube. I put more effort into building connections on there than anywhere else, and now I’m enjoying the fruits of my labors!

I no longer have the dreaded problem of getting email subscribers as I have a steady flow of sign ups. Here’s how I did it.

Making friends

When people talk about making friends on-line you instantly think of Facebook, but Facebook’s geared more towards socializing rather than promoting videos, where as YouTubers love to get their hands on a good video and share it!. If you make a friend on YouTube they usually stick with you and will also check out your future videos.

The best way to find potential friends is use the search box to find channels that are similar to yours. I usually search: animation.

Remember to click Search Options underneath the Search box, and click on Upload Date.

This will filter the videos and channels to show you the most recent. By doing this, you can ensure that any friend requests you make are placed with active users.

After you make ten requests, a notice will pop up to notify you that you have contacted too many people.

As you can see, this isn’t a quick way of building up contacts, but after a month or two you should have a couple of hundred friends. And for some reason, once you have friends, you start to get friend requests from other “youtubers” (I have around 50 friend requests a day now, and it only takes one click to confirm them!).

Favorites are gold!

If you’ve watched some of the top channels, you’ll notice that the site places a big emphasis on subscribing to the channel. A YouTube partner receives a small commission for new subscribers, and that can add up to thousands of dollars a year for the top guys.

As a beginner, you’re going to want to get subscribers. In fact, the only thing you have control over is the number of friends you have, and the number of videos you own.

If you check out the Show Video Statistics button below one of my videos, you’ll see that the Favourites have almost hit 2,000. This is the equivalent of having 2,000 bloggers link to a post you have on your website (imagine the traffic!). With this video essentially posted on 2,000 channels, we have a steady stream of people discovering the video every day which has a knock-on effect on all the other metrics: traffic, email opt-ins, and so on.

There are a couple of things you can do to get favorited by YouTubers:

  1. Post your video in HD: this will future-proof your work, and if a video is well-lit it is more likely to be enjoyed.
  2. Use YouTube’s Annotations feature to ask people to add the video to their favorites.

“Your video will never go viral”

This is something that I heard a lot when I started making animations. The thing is that viral videos can sometimes just be embedded on a popular website, and be viewed but not interacted with.

The way my partner Luke Hyde and I have set up our videos involves a much slower way of going viral, but the foundations are much stronger, with a great network of friends and subscribers pushing our videos out to their friends.

This is something that you could replicate with your topic to access an additional stream of traffic to your blog. For us, it’s the main source of traffic, but for you it may just be an extra bonus!

How are you using YouTube to build your audience? What advice can you add?

David Edwards is the founder and executive producer of “Candy, and currently is the SEO Director at Webfactore Ltd. You can follow him on Twitter at @asittingduck and on YouTube.

Use Google Reading Level to Improve Your Blog Message

This guest post is by Rhys Wynne of the Winwar Media Blog.

Last month, Google launched its new Google Reading Level feature. What this does is algorithmically work out the reading level of the search results, to help users more easily decide which search results to click on.

How is it worked out?

Like everything with Google, I’m not entirely sure how Reading Level is calculated. I do know that teachers were paid to grade web pages, and an algorithm was worked out using that data.

There’s been a bit of debate in cases where examples of queries (such as the trashy UK talent show “X Factor” having an “Advanced” readership) don’t necessarily mix with the content, but I think that the following factors determine whether a piece of copy is basic:

  • short sentences and paragraphs
  • common, non techincal words, acronyms, and phrases (using the phrase “http” rather than “Hypertext Transfer Protocol”, for example)
  • possibly even page structure—the use of headers, bullet points, and so on.

Using more technical phrases, longer sentence structure, and creative writing techniques such as hyperbole may cause your writing to be ranked as more “Advanced.”

How can you access Google’s Reading Level for your blog?

To view your blog’s reading level, go to Google’s Advanced Search (the hyperlink is located next to the search box on Google’s home page). Type your search query in the first form box—the one annotated with “all these words”—and make sure that the Reading Level drop-down box shows “annotate results with reading levels”. You should see the results for my old blog’s home page below:

Reading Level is calculated on a page-by-page basis, so if I take the page for my WP Email Capture plugin (which caters to a more technical audience), its results show as follows:

Using Reading Level to improve your blog

The ways in which you can use Reading Level to improve your blog will depends on your blog itself. Generally speaking, you want to keep it as simple as possible to make it accessible as possible—be it creative writing, a how-to post, or a sales page. Having a high basic rating is generally a good thing, but obviously you don’t want to patronize your audience by speaking to them like they’re three years old.

Ironically, by maintaining a simple language form, you can actually end up complicating things. For example, if I was to explain my day job to the computer-illiterate in a way they would understand, I would describe it like this:

“My day job is that I’m somebody who spends time writing, sending emails, and working on websites in order to help push them up to the top of the first page of the search engines, hopefully leading to more people seeing the website.”

To you, I’d say this:

“I work as an SEO.”

Immediately you know what my day job is, as many bloggers know what an SEO does (or rather, should do). The previous education of your readers is important too, but how can you find that out? Well, you can find that out by using Google’s Reading Level feature again.

Attracting the right audience for your blog

Instead of searching for the reading level of your readers, instead search for the reading level of competing sites. Search for your competitors’ blogs and also for keywords that your blog’s associated with. Searching for the phrase “beginner blogging tips” shows this reading level as heavily basic. Problogger shows a more advanced reading level:

Therefore if Darren wanted to attract more new bloggers, he would write in a similar style to his Blogging Tips for Beginners page (which does rank in the top ten):

Ultimately, though, your readers are you best source of feedback. If you are constantly having to explain terms in post comments or over email, you should tone down the complexity of your writing, which will lower your Reading Level ranking. If, however, your readers respond with intelligent comments, you may be able to write in a more advanced style. Just ensure that not too many people are left scratching their heads when they visit your blog.

What’s your Reading Level? Are you happy with that, or do you think you need to tweak it?

Rhys Wynne is an eight-year blogger, four-year professional search engine optimizer, and occassional professional wrestler. He is the senior writer and editor on the Winwar Media Blog, where he shares his thoughts on SEO, social media, and WordPress tips. Subscribe to their free blogging newsletter today.

Understanding the Difference Between “Want” and “Want to Buy”

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

As I was sitting at a café over breakfast, the couple nearby flipped through their Sunday paper. As I tend to do, I eavesdropped on their conversation.

“Will you look at that bedding? That’s wonderful!” “Oh my God, I’d die for those shoes.” “I love that movie, and it’s on sale!”

Aside from my habitual eavesdropping problem, the conversation’s simplification of the “want” impulse is vital to your online success.

Buying versus browsing

There’s a significant, actionable difference between admiration and buying intent.

The first is an attraction, a respect, a good feeling. “That car has beautiful lines.” “Wow, a front-facing camera and it supports Flash?” But regardless of all those positive thoughts, admiration lacks a fulfilled need.

The second says, “not only do I admire this service or product, but it’s exactly what I’m looking for.” “My New Year’s resolution was to focus on marketing, so this is perfect!” The product satisfies a real need—not a flighty want.

Earlier this year, Lemon and Raspberry subscribers said they’d absolutely love to win my ebook, Smart Marketing, during Amy‘s New Year’s blog party.

“Ooooh I’d LOVE to win this! I’m always up for some good marketing insight!!,” said one reader. Another agreed, “I would love to read this book. Maybe I can count it as one of the many books I resolve to read this year.”

That’s flattering; really, lots of kind words. Yet, after the contest ended and the book was awarded, some readers suddenly didn’t want the book; or, more accurately, they didn’t want to pay for it.

This is the “want” gap in action—the difference between liking a product and actually wanting to pay for it.

The “want” gap

Amy’s readers may have liked the idea of reading my book, but they didn’t realize a present need for it. It’s a great idea, and it’d be a nice addition to a library, but there wasn’t enough of an internal need to get them to pull out their wallets.

We see the same principle, but to a greater extent, with larger giveaways. Sure, I’ll take the car, the free cruise, the year’s supply of coffee—but I’m not going to pay for it.

Image by Austin Kleon

Friend and artist John T. Unger experienced something similar with a book of poetry he wrote; the “want” gap was later brilliantly illustrated by Austin Kleon.

John’s poems had a real, emotional impact on a reader; the reader admired the author. Yet all the admiration in the world couldn’t compete with the prospect’s lack of buying intent.

Asking the right question

Businesses tend to forecast and allocate advertising monies based on consumer feedback, which is unfortunately more “do you like?” than “will you buy?”

That’s what focus groups have become, haven’t they?

“Do you like this new and improved artisan sandwich? How ‘bout this car? Pretty isn’t it? Would you go on vacation with this airline?”

None of those questions ask, “would you buy?” And that’s the question that makes or breaks most launches.

Understanding this gap and how you can bridge it is your way to converting admiring prospects into paying, satisfied, and loyal customers.

How to bridge the “want” gap and boost sales

What you may not realize is that admiration is a big step forward in closing the sale. The prospect has already indicated they appreciate you and your product, but they don’t think they need it. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck; you can fix this.

Here are five steps I use to effectively bridge the gap between admiration and convincing a prospect to buy.

1. Establish your authority

Chances are, before reading this article, you’d never heard my name. If you’re launching a product of your own, you may face the same challenge—obscurity.

If I had released my ebook under Darren’s name instead of my own, the sales would’ve been drastically different than my initial figures. Darren’s an established figure in the industry. Over 167,000 subscribers and 19,000 Facebook fans are testament to this. His community buys into his history of success. My own success isn’t global like Darren’s, but that doesn’t mean it’s not as relevant.

That’s why the endorsement of Hall of Fame speaker and bestselling author, Scott McKain, was so powerful. Scott had a lot ofkind words about my book—and his review told new prospects my book wasn’t a scam, it was real and unique, and they needed it.

That’s the power of word-of-mouth marketing. But it’s leveraging these words that helps you confirm legitimacy and close the sale.

2. Create value

It’s pompous to assume that because you have a product, it’ll be bought. Give prospects a reason to buy. What’s in it for them? Show them value and security in their purchase.

For my own book campaign, my value offering included free quarterly updates. Every quarter, I send my customers an updated digital file that highlights new industry trends and developments. This makes my ebook a living book—it doesn’t gather digital dust, it’s a constant resource.

Plus, it maintains my personal brand awareness among my clientele in a most personal manner.

I also went so far as to include a 100% results-and-satisfaction guarantee with every purchase. Yes, I’m that confident in my content. It works, so why wouldn’t I offer a guarantee?

And as for the prospect, why wouldn’t they buy? There’s absolutely zero risk in making the purchase. If they were apprehensive or worried they’d get burnt, this guarantee eliminates those fears. What’s more, I’ve never had a request for a refund—it’s a guarantee I’ve never been called on.

What type of value-added element can you include in your launch that convinces your prospect that they can’t afford to not buy from you? Can you offer a limited-time price reduction to create a sense of urgency? Or a creative incentive to reward multiple purchases?

3. Put their needs in lights

You launched your product for a reason: you recognized a demand, a need. So don’t be ashamed to tell your audience that you know it. Speak directly to them.

In my case, that meant telling small business owners and first-time entrepreneurs that I understand the daunting challenge they face in marketing themselves. What’s an effective strategy? What offers the greatest ROI? I know the thought of their business failing keeps them up at night. Moreover, I understand that heavy feeling—I’ve been there. And it’s difficult to navigate through new business decisions.

But simply telling prospects you understand their need isn’t enough. You also need to satisfy it. Which brings us to your solution. In my case, I hold the marketing road map to their success.

4. Spell out your solution

For my small business owner audience, it wasn’t enough to say, “Don’t worry about your business failing, I wrote a book on marketing.”

I needed to take a step back and detail the topics I’d covered—targeted marketing, brand differentiation, social media ethics, blogging, and so on—and explain how each topic plays into their success.

Andy Nulman uses the analogy of “virgin contact lenses” as a great way to remove yourself from something you’re deep into, to gain valuable perspective. You, yourself, are in-the-know. You understand what you offer, since you’re the product creator. But for the first-time prospect, you need to say exactly what you do. Assume nothing on their part. Look at your product the way a first-time prospect would, taking nothing for granted.

You’ve highlighted their need, and you’ve detailed exactly what you’re providing. Now, explicitly tell your prospects with confidence, “I am the solution. My product will fix your problem.”

5. Show them what others have

You’re at the mall; you’re hungry. You walk towards the food court, and as you get closer, you begin to smell the variety of foods. “What do I want? What am I in the mood for?” you ask yourself.

And as you arrive at the food court entrance, before you stand 15 different restaurant choices, people with trays of food rushing to and from tables. Your gaze moves across the large room, scanning the signs and lines of each of the restaurant choices. Asian food? Not bad. Pizza place: ghost town. Sandwiches … not really in the mood. But the burger joint is hoppin’.

Without saying a word, every person in each line is telling you their preference—the majority favored the burger over the pizza. And that makes you wonder, what is it about the burger that everybody loves so much? You don’t want to miss out on what the people in the burger line are enjoying. Now, your decision is made: burger it is.

In the digital food court, it’s similar; it’s the online equivalent of, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Show prospects how much your customer base supports you. Show them you’re popular, show them what other customers are buying and how they’re benefiting from it, and force the inactive community to buy in and be part of the “next big thing.”

The hype, the tangible energy in your community, your popularity—they’re all extremely powerful selling tools.

What people want

Your blog, your business, your campaign, your new product—should be less about what you think people want, and more about what your prospects will actually act on. Want to be profitable? Then that’s your focus: what people want.

Save yourself time and money. Understanding this “want” gap and bridging it—conquering it—improves your conversion rate, it motivates you through your new-found success, and it takes your efforts to a competing level.

How have you experienced the “want” gap in your blogging efforts? And how have you bridged it?

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.

Will Your Blog Be Big? Or Great?

This guest post is by Marjorie Clayman of Clayman Advertising.

Recently, it was announced that Richard Thompson was going to be awarded the OBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Your response, in any order, might be, “Who cares?” and “Who is Richard Thompson?”

Richard Thompson has a career in music that spans 40 years. He is a brilliant lyricist, but even more, he may be one of the best living guitarists out there. He was a member of folk rock super group Fairport Convention and he partnered with his ex-wife Linda in the 70s to make some fantastic albums. He wasn’t much of a vocalist back then, but now, even his vocal stylings are outstanding. And yet, Thompson plays small theatres and “intimate” concerts, and has a hard time enticing record labels to keep him on.

Richard Thompson is great, but he is not big.

Big? Or great?

Over the years, at any moment, Richard Thompson probably could have chucked his own particular style and his own particular skills out the window. He could have promised himself and his fans that it was for just one album, so that he could get his name out there. Then he’d come back to being himself.

So it is with blogging. You bring your own particular voice to your blog. You bring your own unique experiences and skills to your readers. But at any moment, you could say that honing your skills is not nearly as important as getting a lot of traffic. It’s so easy to think that aiming for “big” may be better than aiming for “great.”

Let’s face it—it’s probably easier to achieve “big” in comparison to becoming great in this competitive space. Write a few posts attacking big names, offer link bait, be controversial—you’ve seen all of those tricks in action. But are those bloggers great? Will you remember them in 40 years?

Aiming for greatness

If you want to aim for greatness instead of trying to be big, here are some tactics you could try.

  • Look at how you can improve. Richard Thompson probably realized that his vocal work needed improvement. Instead of resting on his laurels, he worked hard, and it paid off. Look at your posts from the last month. What would you do to improve each post just a little bit?
  • Blog outside your comfort zone. Stretch your limits. Attack new areas that will enrich your experience and that of your readers.
  • Look at the content of the comments you receive, not the number. Are people saying that you helped them out or helped them see things in a new perspective, or are they just saying, “nice post”?
  • Track your subscribers. Although this can be a metric for size as well, subscribing is an action people take when they are confident every post you write will be of interest to them (though they won’t read every single one). Are people placing that much confidence in you?
  • Become a cult classic. While Richard Thompson may not be “big,” his followers are about as loyal as they come. Look at your readers. Do you have people who are not just reading your posts but gushing about them to their followers and their community?

You can be big and great

This is not to say that everyone has to be like Richard Thompson, toiling away in the genius room while only the Queen of England cares. But becoming “big” is often a function of elements that are out of your control.

If folk rock had really become popular, Richard Thompson might well have become king of the world. The Beatles became as big as they did in part because they caught a new sound just as it was growing.

But aiming for great? That’s entirely under your control. It is defined by you, it is measured by you, and it is something you do from the heart. It’s important to remember that greatness can help pave the way for getting big. Getting big does not promise greatness.

Have you been concentrating on getting big lately or have you been working on honing your craft? Which do you value more? I’d love to discuss it with you in the comments section.

Marjorie Clayman is Director of Client Development at Clayman Advertising, a full service marketing communications firm located in Akron, OH.

You Have a Niche! You Just Don’t Know It Yet

This guest post is by Heather Eigler of HomeToHeather.com

Yes, you do have a niche. You’ve likely read it a thousand times on blogs about blogging. Two of the number one pieces of advice are ‘choose your niche wisely’ and ‘write what you know.’

So what if you aren’t wise and don’t know anything? What could you write about that qualifies as a niche? And what does having a niche do for you anyway?

Having a niche has its benefits

Your niche gives you focus. It gives you identity and purpose. A blog with no niche is like a magazine with no cover model. The model on the cover of a magazine tells readers instinctively what they are likely to find on the interior pages. A fashion model indicates articles about celebrities and shopping can be found inside. An athlete tells us we can likely learn how to improve our golf swing.

The same goes for blogs. A niche is our version of a cover model. We include it in our headers, our buttons, our posts and our SEO. Readers who land on our page will instinctively know what the blog is about—if we’ve done our jobs well.

There are blogs about food and blogs about cameras. Blogs about travel and blogs about sports. But what if you just write about your everyday life? What if there is no core subject matter and your blog is a grab bag of this and that.

What can you do then?

You have a pre-made, bona fide, built in niche

Yes, you do! It’s your location. Everyone lives somewhere. And there are other people who live where you do who might be searching for information on local events or restaurant reviews. And there are many people who don’t live where you do who might be interested in visiting someday … but how would they know if they can’t come across anything on the web that tells them what a great place it is?

When I rebranded my site, HomeToHeather.com, to be more of a personal blog, I knew that I was going to have issue expanding my readership because of my content—it’s a mom blog. Only so many people are going to want to read about my kids
and they certainly aren’t going to surf in from search engines to do so. Yes, I write about other things, too—like blogging and products.

I’ve had a small bit of success with traffic from StumbleUpon but not enough to keep the site growing. Since I live in a fairly large, dynamic city I decided that incorporating a local slant could be my niche. So I started incorporating a few posts here and there about Calgary. I added my city to my title tags and banner. Then I sat back and watched my stats to see if anyone arrived via search.

And they did.

What topics can you take local on your blog? How about:

  • events
  • restaurants
  • parks
  • wildlife
  • sports
  • local celebrities
  • local schools, clubs, and associations
  • tourist info.

If they’re talking about it, they’re Googling it

What’s going on right now that people are talking about? Read through your paper and write a post on the opposite view on a major topic. What are people talking about at work? Write about it.

I get a smattering of Google traffic every day for phrases such as Calgary Daycare, Calgary Blog or Calgary mom blog. I’ve attended a few events as a “local blogger” and have had one or two advertising inquiries from local
businesses. The new local focus is working and I’m excited about what’s next for me.

While HomeToHeather is still a small blog—very small, I am slowly working my way towards establishing a local readership, with local content. It’s a great way to round out the rest of my more random posts about blogging, motherhood and creativity. So try it yourself and take advantage of your built in niche—you never know where it will take you.

Have you done any local posts on your blog? Could this technique work for you? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Heather lives, parents and blogs in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Grab her rss feed for more posts on local blogging.

Social Media … or Social Blogmarking?

This is a guest post by Devesh of Blokube.

What is “blogmarking”? Many of us already use and understand social media, but very few of us tap into the great and growing potential of social blogmarking sites.

Blogmarking is the process of you bookmarking your blog post on a blog bookmarking site. Blogmarking can also be referred to as blog bookmarking.

How blogmarking works

The blogmarking process involves you writing a post on your blog, looking for a great and active blogmarking site, and then submitting your post to the blogmarking site.

Your post will be ranked on the site based on the number of votes it gets from users. If your post has a great title there is every chance that it will get a lot of eyeballs. If it’s good, it’ll likely get a lot of votes, and moved to the front page of the blogmarking site.

While blogmarking works just like social bookmarking, the concept is different. A social bookmarking site is highly influenced by power users who determine which posts can be promoted to the homepage. Most of these power users have been on the site since its inception, and they read and work on the site rigorously. It’s not easy for just anybody to become a power user.

The concept of a social blogmarking site is different from this, as any post can be promoted to the front page on the basis of the votes it receives from site users. If you’re not familiar with blogmarking, here are a few blogmarking sites:

Social media … or social blogmarking?

There are many ways to spread the word about your blog while building stronger relationships online. Currently, the key most popular options are social media sites. So let’s look more closely at the pros and cons of social media sites in comparison to social blogmarking sites.

Social media sites

You’re undoubtedly familiar with social media sites and are using them to promote your blog. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and so on, allow users to create a profile, providing photos, website links, biography information, and a host of other personal details.

To get solid traffic from social media sites, you usually have to be very active on those sites, and that can take lot of time.

Advantages of social media sites

First, let’s look at some advantages of social media sites.

They’re open to anyone: A major advantage of social media sites is that they’re open to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new blogger or you’re already established, you can easily open an account on any social media site you love, and you can begin to interact with others immediately.

They foster community: Social media sites also encourage discussion and community interaction—that’s the main reason why they were established. Take Facebook as an example: a lot of your high school/college friends probably have a Facebook account and you can easily get in touch with them through the site. Another community-related advantage of social media sites is that they encourage personal discussions and people will be encouraged to discuss and interact with you if they know a lot about you as a person.

Disadvantages of social media sites

Even though making use of social media sites has strong advantages, it also has disadvantages.

They can help build relationships and brand loyalty, but take time and dedication: If you observe how marketing is done on social media sites you will notice that influence matters. Those with bigger audiences, greater popularity, and stronger reputations will have more success with social media sites than those of us who don’t. Social media sites also require you to spend a lot of time building your profile, especially if you’re a new blogger, and even though the results you will get will be great, this takes considerable time.

They’re littered with ads and spam: Another major problem with social media sites is that they can be havens for spammers, and many are laden with ads. Since it’s very easy to join social networks, a lot of people who are just using the site for spamming purposes join, and this can lead to a lower-quality service.

Social blogmarking sites

Social blogmarking is the process of submitting your blog content to social voting sites and blogging communities.

Many bloggers don’t utilize the power of social blogmarking yet, but it’s a great way to get traffic and connect with other bloggers.

Advantages of social blogmarking sites

They’re less time-consuming than social media sites: A major advantage of social blogmarking sites is that they tend to consume less time than social media sites. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new or established blogger, you have an equal opportunity to gain exposure. What matters most when trying to get attention for your blog is not your influence or reputation, but the title of your post and its content.

They help you connect with other bloggers in your niche: Another great advantage of social blogmarking sites is that they allow you to get in touch with other bloggers in your niche. Since these sites are mainly used by bloggers (where social media sites are used by a much broader audience) they make it easy for bloggers to get more targeted traffic. For example, I notice that I get more links to my articles when I submit them to social blogmarking sites because most people reading my content there are bloggers, and they’re more likely to share it on their blogs if they like it.

They allow users to comment and vote on their favorite articles: Another major advantage of social blogmarking sites is that they allow people to comment on blog posts through commenting systems like those we see on everyday blogs. It’s also easier for bloggers to connect with others using this feature.

They’re a great way to share favorite blog bookmarks: Social blogmarking is a great way to share your favorite blog posts with friends, family members, and your readers. Content can easily get lost in the social media space but with blogmarking it’s easy to share your content with other people who care about your blog.

They champion quality content: If your main aim as a blogger is to find quality content to link to, or you’re a reader who wants to read more about a niche subject, social blogmarking sites are highly effective because they are always moderated. The quality of the blog posts you’ll find there is usually high, and the sites are spam-free.

Disadvantages of social blogmarking sites

They’re very specific: The major disadvantage of social blogmarking sites is that they’re very specific, and they don’t yet have broad appeal among general or mass audiences. For example, most of the current blogmarking sites focus on blogging tips and making money online, so it’s often difficult for bloggers in other niches to make effective use of these sites.

They’re not well-known yet: Social blogmarking is a relatively new concept, so although social blogmarking sites are growing their audiences, the concept hasn’t yet gained the same traction that social networking sites have achieved.

Getting started with social blogmarking

Social blogmarking has its drawbacks, but it also offers a lot of advantages. You don’t have to have a high profile or a huge following to succeed at social blogmarking.

Have you tried social blogmarking? Where do you think this field is heading in future? Feel free to share your views in the comments.

Devesh is young entrepreneur and author of Blokube, a social voting site for Bloggers and Intenet Marketers. Follow him @blokube and join Blokube on Facebook.