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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.

5 Lessons from an Internet Millionaire

This guest post is by M.Farouk Radwan of http://www.2knowmyself.com.

As of August 11 last year, I celebrated making my first million selling books and products online. I’m not saying that I’m an Internet guru, but I do believe that my experiences in making money online might help you get to your first million.

1. People are sick of marketers—especially online marketers

How many times did you close that long sales copy page a few seconds after it popped up unexpectedly while you were searching for something? People are already sick of such pages, and they would never want to come across one unless they were intentionally searching for it.

This means that in order to sell something, you should never let people land on these pages without warning. Instead, consider providing some kind of free content first that can assist in building trust. Once trust is built, you can sell anything to your customers.

2. Provide something different

How can trust be built online while the Internet is full of copycats, amateurs, and inferior websites? The only way to establish trust is to provide some kind of different content. You don’t have to be Einstein—you just have to do things differently.

  • You can provide more in-depth information.
  • You can organize your information in a better way.
  • You can back your information with research, numbers, and charts.

It won’t make any difference how you decide to be different; what really matters is being different.

3. AdSense can help you buy a small car, but not a Lamborghini

I make less than $1,000 a month using AdSense, even though my site gets 500,000 page views per month. Okay, maybe my website is under-optimized, but even so, I don’t believe there’s enormous potential in AdSense. How much could I have earned if I’d optimized my site? $2000? $2500?

Four months after introducing on my site three ebooks that I wrote, my earnings increased almost ten-fold. Unfortunately, this is not some kind of magic tip that will help you become a billionaire over night—before I launched these books, I was busy building trust for two years, by applying the points above. But ultimately, you’ll need more than AdSense to make good money from your blog.

4. There’s no such thing as getting rich quickly

When I started my blog three people were working on it and we were all partners. After to years of very low earnings (a few dollars per day), the people who used to work with me decided to quit.

Fair enough. But today, one of the popular search key phrases on Google is “how to become a millionaire overnight” or “how to become rich fast”.

Blogging is not like the lottery, nor is it close to gambling. It’s the art of building with small bricks, and being patient to wait until the building is finally completed.

It might take a year or more before you start making a decent income from your blog, but as long as you’re following a plan and seeing good signs along the way, you’ll know that you’re on the right track.

5. Don’t listen to negative comment

In 2006, I was mad enough to tell people about my intentions. I was inspired by bloggers who made a lot of money at that time, so I told people what I was about to do. Here are some of the responses I got:

  • A close friend: People don’t like to read. Starting a website is a bad idea
  • Relatives: Focus on your career, son, and stop wasting time on your site.
  • A friend behind my back: Farouk is wasting his time on projects that bring him nothing.

There were others. I received condemning email. My website was banned from Wikipedia because an editor their didn’t trust the information, and told me so in a horribly sarcastic email. We all have examples of discouragements like these.

Today, my site attracts 500,000 impression per month, makes me a five-digit income, made me a dot com millionaire, and silenced all of those who said bad things about it. Believe in yourself, forget about what others say, and you will succeed.

What other lessons can you add for the beginning blogger?

M.Farouk Radwan is a full time blogger who makes a living selling his Ebooks online. He is the founder of http://www.2knowmyself.com a website that has more than 1200 self help, psychology and personal development articles and that gets more than 500,000 monthly hits.

Want More Readers? Read More Blogs

This guest post is by Jeremy Myers of www.tillhecomes.org/blog.

Every blogger wants to be read. While some of the keys to attracting readers include writing valuable content, having error-free text, and using a clean blog layout, one of the most overlooked elements in getting people to read your blog is being a good blog reader.

Here are five tips to make this happen.

1. Read your own blog

Just because you’ve written a post doesn’t mean you’re done with it. After you post, you should read and respond to people who make comments on your blog.

One of the reasons people comment about your posts is because they want to interact with you, the author. If you do not reply, they feel ignored, and will likely not comment again. People will not continue to read what you write if you ignore what they write. The best bloggers out there try to respond to nearly every comment, even if they get dozens of comments per post.

2. Read your readers’ blogs

Another way to encourage your readers to keep coming back and commenting is to reward them by reading and commenting on their blogs. People like to be loved, and those whom you love will love you in return. Also, it helps to know what your blog audience is writing about. This enables you to write more targeted posts.

3. Comment on other people’s blogs

You should comment on at least five other blogs per day—more if you have the time. You should chose “target” blogs that you want to comment on frequently, ideally those that have similar content as your own. This gets the attention of the blog author and other blog readers, and some of them will come over to see what your blog is about. Also, if you comment enough, the writer of that blog may eventually add you to his or her blogroll, which will generate even more readers for your blog.

4. Repost excerpts from the blogs of others

When you read a good blog post, repost an excerpt of it on your own blog, providing a link back to the author’s blog. Don’t repost an entire entry—that’s plagiarism, and is illegal. But reposting a brief excerpt and linking back to the original is an easy way to get big-time bloggers to “guest” on your site, and if you use trackbacks, to get them to notice your blog.

Occasionally, they will even make a post on their own blog that you have reposted some of their content on your site, and that also sends traffic to your blog. Maybe that other blog author will eventually return the favor, and quote you on their blog, thus generating even more visits.

5. Repost the comments of others

Write an occasional post about the best discussion or blog comments you read that week. Include some of the comments people made on your own blog, as well as some from other blogs you read. If there is good interaction and dialogue taking place on a blog, either yours or some other blog, write a blog post about it. This gets more of your own readers involved in the discussion elsewhere, and frequently, they will mention that they found the discussion on your blog, which causes many of those involved in the discussion to come check out your blog.

Again, one of the reasons readers comment is because they want to be read. Nobody writes comments hoping they will be ignored. So show them you’re reading by replying and reposting.

A better blogger…

In today’s blogosphere, it is not enough to just write a great blog. You also need to read great blogs and interact with their bloggers in a meaningful way. This is the Golden Rule applied to blogging: Do unto other bloggers as you would have them
do unto your blog.

Do you read others’ blogs? Do you think it makes you a better blogger?

Jeremy Myers left the established church to follow Jesus into the world. Though he has advanced degrees in Bible and Theology, and over a decade of pastoral experience, he left all that behind to hang out with people who generally aren’t found in church. Jeremy writes about his ongoing journey at www.tillhecomes.org/blog. He also contributes Scriptural research at www.gracecommentary.com.

He’s a Rogue … that’s Why He Blogs so Well

This guest post is by Graham Phoenix of Male eXperience.

Okay, let’s be clear about this: I am a man and I am a blogger. In fact I’ve turned it back on itself—I blog about men!

Now, some men are rogues. We all know rogues: they are focused, calculating, dedicated, and only want one thing. These are the qualities of a real rogue—and the qualities of a successful blogger.

Look at what Chris Guillebeau, at Art of Non-Conformity, said:

“The reality that I need to work more than I thought has required some sacrifices I did not expect in the beginning, and it took me a while to become comfortable with this.”

I’m not surprised! Surely we all came into blogging because it was an easy source of income that we could work at from home.

Corbett Barr, at Think Traffic, really blew the whistle when he said:

“I’m saying you have to look fear in the eye, realize that fear is hiding some of your richest potential material, punch fear in the face and take whatever it was hiding from you and put that in your writing.”

What a rogue! Where are his good manners?

Darren Rowse, here at ProBlogger, really made it sound easy when he said:

“I’ve had my fair share of luck, I worked insane hours, and I started out at a time that was a lot less competitive than it is now—all of these things have contributed to any success I might have had.”

There it is in black and white: they are all men, and had to be rogues to succeed as bloggers. None of them had an easy ride—or not one they will admit to, anyway! So they took every chance they could get, and stomped on the competition, as they strove to make their harsh journey to the top that little bit easier.

What is the secret to blogging well? Why do you need to be a rogue?

You need to be focused

Any successful blog dominates a niche. Most blogs fail because they wander around the mind of the writer. They often start as musings and end as a no-show. We all have a few good posts in us, but we need to sustain that over a significant period of time.

“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.”
—Tony Robbins

You need to be mad

Really: why else would you do it? As a blogger, you expose yourself, day after day, to an unforgiving world only to have people knock you down in the comments. You spend all your time on it and earn precious little.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
—Albert Einstein

You need to kill the competition

At the very least, you need to kill them with kindness. Supporting your competition is a great way to get noticed out there. You do, nevertheless, need to dominate: readers need to see yours as the blog to read, the one that’s hot.

“Kill the competition is the only way to think about your business and especially your competition. Most people do not desire competition in business but then do little or nothing to eliminate it.”
—Grant Cardone

You need to be opinionated

How many blogs have you read, and returned to, that don’t have anything to say? Blogs are about opinion. In the world of men’s issues, the blogs that stand out are the ones that are most outrageous, such as Citizen Renegade. They may not be the best, but they get the visitors.

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.”
—Albert Einstein

You need to be like a man

You need the qualities of a man. You need to dominate, be tough, and be true to yourself and what you believe. Being compassionate, open, and receptive are great qualities but in blogging, like in business, you need to shine and stand above the rest.

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.”
—John F. Kennedy

In talking to men about men, as I do, I’ve realized that I need to hit them between the eyes to get them to listen. I think the same applies to all blogging niches.

What do you think?

Graham Phoenix writes about the Male eXperience of Men, Women, and Relationships. He has created a sizeable following in the area of men’s issues and men’s groups and while doing so has learned a lot about the art of blogging. Get his feed here.

Chocolate to WordPress: 6 Lessons Learned Blogging for Dollars

This guest post is by Jules Clancy of Stonesoup.

Ever dreamed of tasting chocolate for a living?

Image is author's own

Well I’ve been lucky enough to live that dream, and while is was hard to beat as far as jobs go, it doesn’t hold a patch on blogging for dollars.

Last year, I quit my day job designing chocolate biscuit—cookies—for Australia’s most loved biscuit company because I knew it was holding me back from my dream of writing cookbooks and blogging professionally.

Twelve months on, I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am I made the leap. Waking up every day to do what I love—cook, take photographs, and write, is the biggest motivator ever. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m living this life.

My business is blossoming and I’ve learned a few things along the way. It will be a while before I start getting phone calls from my accountant asking if I’d robbed a bank, like Darren. I’m still on a huge learning curve but I wanted to share the six most important lessons I’ve learned so far.

6 lessons learned

1. People are willing to pay to learn new skills online but not for information

Think about your own online browsing and spending habits. With so much free information, there’s no need to pay. But learning new skills is a whole different situation. As Martyn Chamberlin wrote recently on ProBlogger, you need to teach, or your blog will die.

While my ecookbook sales have been okay, the response to my Virtual Cookery School, where people take cooking classes from the comfort of their own homes, has been way beyond my expectations.

2. Publishing a print book without a clear benefit statement and target market is a bad idea

The year before I left my job, I self-published a cookbook of my mum’s recipes. I knew it would appeal to some people, but it didn’t have a strong reason for being. While the thrill of becoming a published author was wonderful, having a stack of books in the garage isn’t a great outcome. Even though I have more than broken even, I’m really hesitant to jump into a print book again.

3. It’s a great idea to offer a super-premium product as an anchor

People aren’t rational when it comes to spending money. Having a premium product will make your standard offering seem much more affordable. And from my experience, you’ll still sell a few units of the premium product, which is a nice cash injection. For more on this I highly recommend reading Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.

4. Pricing is complex and cutting price isn’t necessarily going to drive sales.

When I launched my ecookbook last year for $37, I got quite a bit of feedback that the pricing was too high. So a few months later, I repackaged it and launched a premium video version for $77, the standard book still at $37, and individual chapters for $4.50 each. Surprisingly I sold more units of the standard book after that launch than I sold of the much cheaper individual chapters.

We’re all on a learning curve when it comes to pricing. Don’t be afraid to back yourself and charge for quality.

5. It’s much easier to sell people a subscription than a large one-off fee.

Since January, I’ve moved to a subscription-based model for my online cooking school. People can still pay for individual classes if they like, but most people opt for the $20/month membership. Making the membership brilliant value, with access to all the previous classes that have been run at the school, also helps. And the regular income is certainly a bonus.

6. Being a full-time blogger is the best fun.

I feel so blessed to be making a living doing what I love. Sure, it isn’t always easy, and there are times I’ve doubted my ability to make it work. But I keep asking myself, what’s the worst that can happen?

How about you? Any lessons you’d like to share from the business of blogging?

Jules Clancy is a qualified Food Scientist, the creator of The Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School. She blogs about her commitment to only cooking recipes with no more than five ingredients over at Stonesoup.

How to Blog, Muppet Show-Style

This guest post is by Marjorie Clayman of Clayman Advertising.

There are a lot of things that shows like Friends didn’t warn teens and twenty-somethings about. For example, you seldom saw, on any episode, scenes where the characters’ bodies randomly decided to become overweight or broken down. Monica and Chandler never said, “Yippee! A Saturday! More time to do work!” They certainly didn’t hint that sitting down to watch The Muppet Show for nostalgia’s sake would inspire a blog post. Life is full of surprises!

A lot of people, just like me, have been revisiting the original Muppet Show, which is available on DVD now. What is most interesting about checking back with Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, and the rest of the muppets is that you discover that the show has an entirely new but equally brilliant meaning when you watch it as an adult. Somehow, Jim Henson was able to create a show that works as well for toddlers as it does for adults.

This kind of nuanced, multi-level storytelling can also convert a good blog into a great one. Here are some ideas on how to blog Muppet Show-style.

Begin on the surface

How did The Muppet Show work for kids? Well, as a kid, how could you not fall in love with the-ultra cute Fozzie Bear and Rowlf the dog? How could you not admire Kermit’s tiny flailing arms and Miss Piggy’s penchant for punching everyone out?

As a blogger, cuteness will probably not work for you unless your target audience is kids. However, what you can concentrate on is the group of people who pass by your blog by chance. They don’t know you, they aren’t connected with you on Twitter or Facebook, but they end up at your blog anyway. How can you entice these people to stick around? You could try:

  • using a conversational tone so that they feel welcome right away
  • using strong images that help emphasize key points in your blogs
  • using a highly legible font and enough spacing so that your blog is easy to read.

Just as adults are not turned off by the cuteness of the muppets (I still melt when I see Kermit’s nephew Robin), your regular readers will not be turned away by efforts like these.

Be conscious of your audience

One of the most masterful aspects of The Muppet Show is that Henson and his team were able to write jokes that were horrible, and then they made fun of their own jokes in their script. The horrible jokes probably are hilarious to kids, and adults appreciate the fact that the writers aren’t huffing and puffing as if they’re sending out the best comedy sketches ever.

When writing a blog, the challenge is not entertaining kids and adults; rather, it is making sure that people familiar and unfamiliar with your subject matter find your blog valuable. How can you accomplish this goal?

  • Use your blog to spark conversation rather than using your blog as a soapbox.
  • Write so that you can invite knowledgeable readers to participate while educating readers unfamiliar with your topic.
  • Invite comments and questions at the end of your post so that everyone feels welcome to contribute to the conversation.

Create variations on a theme

You’ll see a lot of advice about how to pick the mission of your blog. There is no doubt that this is essential. However, you also need to be able to venture into new ways of bringing those objectives into reality while maintaining your readership.

The Muppet Show accomplished this primarily through the guests that they brought on every week. You’d be hard-pressed to find two people more dissimilar than Alice Cooper and Raquel Welch, but both were guests on the show. In both episodes, the show maintained its core integrity—The Muppet Show was still The Muppet Show. How did Henson do that? The infrastructure of the show didn’t change. The main characters didn’t change. Only the details were altered.

How can you do this on your blog?

  • Invite people to guest-post on your site.
  • Stretch the range of topics you write about.
  • If you gravitate towards list posts, try a story instead.

What stays the same is your tonality, your promise of quality, and your voice. But like The Muppet Show, the details can vary.

What do you think?

What other lessons can you learn from watching The Muppet Show? How else can you bring that nuanced storytelling to your blog? I’d love to talk about it with you in the comments.

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

Launch Your Product Without Losing Your Mind

This guest post is by Krizia of the Blog Income for Women Blueprint.

At the end of August 2010, my business partner and I made the decision to document the steps I had taken to turn a blog that was earning $20 per month in AdSense money into a $500-$5000-per-month blog (all from natural traffic). Our goal was to show other female bloggers that there was a way of earning income with a review blog.

The journey from idea to actually launching our product was a long road and I’ll admit that some days, I thought I was going to lose my mind in all the details required to execute a proper product launch.

Now that the product has officially launched, I’ve had a chance to sit down and take note of the lessons I learned during the process, so I could share them with other bloggers, and also learn from other bloggers who might use a better process.

It’s no secret that most bloggers who earn six-figure incomes do so by launching their own digital products or services. This means that learning the ins and outs of product launches is a natural progression in any blogger’s career.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve received a string of emails from different gurus claiming that I can launch a product in 48 hours and start living the Internet marketer’s dream life by end of the month. Trust me: the last few months of hard work have proven that’s just not happening unless you have an army of virtual assistants helping you.

The process of launching your own product is very hard work and it can be both challenging and stressful at times, but the end result is simply magical. I don’t think that up to now in my blogging career, I’ve been this proud. So let me explain the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Lessons in ecourse content creation

  • In general, people will tend to be more willing to buy a video course than a 400-page document that they have to download, print, and read. If you’ve ever bought a multi-media course online, then you’ll know that it’s a lot more engaging than a simple ebook.
  • Creating a multi-media course is no more complicated than creating a solid presentation on PowerPoint. Then, use a screen capture tool like Camtasia (for PC) or Screenflow (for Mac) to record each module and convert those files into flash files (for PC) or Quicktime files (for Mac). It’s not so hard after all!
  • Once you’ve recorded all of your modules, you’ll just need to host your videos on Amazon s3. If you have not yet discovered Amazon s3, you’ll be happy to know that you can store video and audio files at a very affordable price, and the whole process is very easy.
  • The end results of a multimedia course is quite impressive. After all, you’re allowing buyers to learn in three ways (audio, video, and text—if you offer a PowerPoint presentation, buyers can download and print that too).

Lessons in building a brand

Building a brand that stands out from the crowd is really and Internet marketing basic. That said, when you first launch a product, funds can be tight and it’s not always obvious how you can find talented graphic designers you can actually afford.

I really cannot say enough about Fiverr.com. We’ve successfully used Fiverr.com to create the following graphical elements to brand our products:

  • logo:
  • ebook covers and DVD covers: the designer also created the group shot (showing all the elements of the product in one shot) for us for $5! We would have paid at least $25 per ebook or DVD cover had we hired someone from Elance or Odesk. Here’s an example:
  • banners for our affiliates to use to promote our product: although banners don’t convert nearly as well as text or video, we still had banners created in four different sizes for our affiliates
  • Facebook fan page: We actually had a Fiverr.com vendor create a video welcome page that looks amazing.

Each job you promote on Fiverr.com will cost you $5 (hence the name). I’ll admit that originally, my expectations were fairly low, but I’ve been proven wrong time and time again. It’s possible to find great talent on Fiverr.com. Our experience with Fiverr.com has been very positive, and the vendors have turned the work around very quickly.

That said, I would advise that you need to be crystal clear on what you are looking for when submitting a job, and it’s worth spending the time time to surf the ‘net to find examples of what you like so you can show them to the person you hire. You should also expect that you might have to spend $10-15 in jobs that don’t suit your requirements before landing on a few really great vendors. I’ve found Fiverr.com to be a good way to get a brand for my product at an incredible price.

Lessons in teamwork

Unless you are super-talented and possess all the different skills needed to put out a product, you’ll have to create a solid team that can help you successfully launch.

To give you an idea of what’s involved, here’s a list of the team members who helped us create our product and launch it:

  • a virtual assistant: she uploaded all the videos on Amazon s3 and checked a lot of the work and links that had already been checked. She’s also been instrumental in helping us get traffic to the blog as we were building out the product.
  • webmaster: he designed each page of the site and each sales video page.
  • graphic designer: we outsourced all this work to different Fiverr.com vendors.
  • Facebook fan page designer: again, we outsourced this to a Fiverr.com vendor.
  • copywriter: I wrote most of the copy.
  • editor/proofreader: we had the copy revised by a few editors.
  • PowerPoint creator: one of those editors also set the entire project out in PowerPoint.
  • customer service: this task is a collective effort between my business partner, our virtual assistant and myself.
  • affiliate marketer: because of my background as an affiliate manager, I took on this role and managed all activities surrounding affiliates.
  • video marketer: I’m the one creating videos, but our virtual assistant is the one publishing them to video sharing sites for maximum exposure.

When you are first starting out, you might not have a budget to outsource all the functions needed to launch a product, but I’d highly recommend you outsource any kind of technical work that’s not your strength—otherwise, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time.

Furthermore, having a site that works perfectly is essential for a product launch and you’ll surely want to hire qualified people to do the job.

Lessons in copywriting

There is far more copy to write for a launch than you expect. Throughout the launch, you’ll also be writing quite a lot of copy. Here’s a list of all the copy we needed to support our product launch:

  • copy for the PowerPoint presentation (aka the course)
  • copy for the video sales page (some stats show that video converts 12% better than a text-only sales page—there are some experts who say it’s up to 25%)
  • copy for the text-base sales page
  • copy for the affiliate toolkit (this is the copy affiliates will use to promote your product)
  • copy for the affiliate auto-responder (to keep affiliates abreast of what’s happening)
  • copy for the buyers (weekly emails to walk the buyers through the course)
  • copy for the leads (people who opt-in to our list, but don’t buy … you’ll need to keep building a relationship with them)
  • value-added messages (after reading a number of sites, I decided to add a string of value-added messages in my auto-responder for both buyers and leads)
  • copy for guests posts (to get the word out on this product, I’ve written a lot of guests posts!)

As you can see, if you don’t like to write, or you’re not comfortable writing, you’ll have to hire a copywriter because there is quite a lot of copy needed to properly launch a product—and that’s not taking into account the work you’ll do writing the product itself.

Lessons in marketing

To help market our product to the largest possible audience, we’re using the following strategies:

  • affiliate marketing: we’ve formed alliances with a number of marketers who will help us promote our product to their lists
  • video marketing: we’re using video marketing to reach a wider audience with less effort
  • article marketing: our virtual assistant is posting articles to article directories to get us back links and additional traffic
  • forum marketing: because our product targets women, our virtual assistant has been commenting on a number of forums and because our URL is in her signature, we’re able to attract new leads.

Do you still want to launch your own product?

I know this list must seem endless—when you are in the middle of it all, it really does seem endless! But it is doable. If you are able to chunk things down and keep working towards your goals, you’ll succeed.

I’ve found two aspects to be key in moving your concept from an idea to a final product: persistence and seeking advice and guidance.

Without persistence, you won’t make it because there are so many challenges along the way and the work often seems like it will never end. You’ll have to have a strong vision of the finished product that you keep in mind at all times in order to help you keep moving forward. Otherwise, you may abandon your dreams of launching your own product online.

I’m lucky to have had a large pool of experts who were willing to offer me help and advice. My years as an affiliate manager have paid off really well. If you don’t have access to those kinds of contacts, I’d suggest you ask friends and other bloggers for help. If you’re part of Darren’s ProBlogger.com Community, that’s another great place to get support, feedback, and ideas.

Launching your own product online is hard work. You are probably going to have to sacrifice a lot of things in order to make this happen, but the end result is spectacular! After all, you’ll have accomplished something that most people will never do.

If you’ve launched your own product and have more tips to share, I’d love to heard about them—share them in the comments so we can all learn from them.

Krizia is the co-creator of The Blog Income for Women Blueprint which teaches women how to turn their blogging efforts into blog income. You can watch a free video tutorial and download a free report here.

7 Good Things that Blogging Brings

This guest post is by Arsene Hodali of The Good Life? | dancePROOF.

Why should you blog? I can’t tell you. I don’t like telling people what to do, or why they should do something.

Instead, I want to show you a couple of things that, through my own experiences and research, I’ve deducted happen to the majority of people once they start to blog.

1. You become a better researcher

Trust me, I’m the last person I’d expect to find doing proper research. Yet for this post alone I spent an hour on ProBlogger purely researching. I researched past posts to see which did well, which didn’t, and why. I researched to see which topic I could bring a little more clarity to. I researched the comments and archives to see how people responded to each post. And I looked at at least 35+ posts on 20+ other blogs to narrow down the few unspoken benefits that each of them have gained over time.

Basically, I did my homework.

The current me is drastically different from the person I was a year ago. Back then, when I started blogging, I disliked research. In fact, dislike is too soft a word. It reminded me too much of college essays and citations.

But as I got more skilled at blogging, I noticed that in my quest to provide better content, I was spending less time writing than I was researching. And soon research became the back-bone of all my posts, the edge I had over others who were unwilling to put in the time. And in all unlikeliness, I became that which I once hated: a researcher.

2. You become less pushy and more helpful

I reached a point about six months ago where I stopped blogging completely. I stopped because I started getting more traffic and thus started connecting with more people on a personal level. And this scared me.

What gave me the right to tell someone what to do? Nothing. But, over time, I realized that my breakdown was actually a break-through. I realized that although I have no right to tell someone what to do, I do have an obligation to inform others of what I believe is the best solution available, and to let them take it from there. I have no right to tell you what to do. But I do have an obligation to share information that’s been instrumental to me bettering my life, in hopes that you’ll be able to use it to better yours.

The changes become noticeable once you learn that blogging is less the hand of the strict teacher, than of the helpful friend. The teacher force-feeds knowledge, expecting people to learn everything they teach (and quickly), while the helpful friend offers a guiding hand, one which shows the correct path without laying a hand on the peoples’ backs.

That’s why good bloggers learn how to improve the user experience of their sites, why they increase their site’s searchability and navigation, why they spend an inordinate amount of time coming up with the best headlines, why they learn SEO, and why they obsess about all the methods of content delivery. Because the teacher expects you to come to them to learn, while the helping friend seeks you out. Because the friend doesn’t necessarily want to teach, but help with information (there’s a subtle difference).

3. You become a better speaker

I’ve always been a sucker for skills that help us in more than one aspect of life.

Blogging has helped people understand the importance of good communication. It’s shown the ignorant that yes, content is key, but content without voice might as well be non-existent.

It’s shown the geniuses of the world that if they spoke as they thought (non-linear and chaotic), they’d forever be misunderstood. It’s shown them that taking out a piece of paper and jotting down the main points of a concept is not something the stupid and forgetful do, but an act reserved for the wise.

Blogging has shown the world that clarification and simple words matter most. That big words don’t necessarily impress; they confuse. And that taking pride in someone else’s confusion about your message is shameful.

It’s taught the world that a good, clear, strong voice is something to be desired and worked towards.

4. You get your ideas in order

Half the time I blog, I don’t blog for others, but for myself. I blog to find out what my beliefs and standings on a particular topic are.

To publish a decent blog post, you have to go through the research and clarification phases I mentioned above. Once that’s done, and you hit Publish, you get to see how people react to your ideas, whether they agree or not, and why.

Through research, I’m finding information that supports and goes against my ideas and notions, and I’m bettering my understanding of current topics even more. Through revision and proofreading I’m clarifying the ideas, making them less abstract and more concrete. Through blog comments I’m seeing how my ideas and notions vibe with others. And through my replies to those comments I’m seeing my own standing on an issue more clearly.

This is the main reason why I blog. I don’t see myself as truly grasping a concept until I’ve blogged about it.

5. You find yourself

It’s always fascinating to see how blogging and personal development are so strongly intertwined.

I think it’s because blogging forces you to take sides. It forces you to niche if you want to succeed. And thus you go through the journey of finding what your personal interests are, what you’re passionate about, and what makes you the person you are.

When I started blogging I wrote posts that angered or excited people—posts that made people take a side. I blogged with a strong and demanding voice. But in finding my niche, and thus myself, I turned my act around 180 degrees.

I realized that I’m more inclined towards the calm and personal approach. I found that I’m much more at peace talking with a gentler voice, showing people my ideas and why I think they’re whorthwile rather than forcing them upon others. And I found that I disliked separating my career from my personal life. I don’t separate them in real-life (one feeds the other), so why should I separate them on a blog?

Blogging makes you be specific, and take sides. And in doing so, it makes you learn about yourself.

6. You become your own motivator when you’re down

Face it: we all have those days (sometimes weeks) when we’re down. We stop trusting our own skills, our own judgments, and our own ideas. Guess what helps you keep the gloom at bay? Blogging.

Using myself as an example, whenever I feel I’m no good at writing, I open the browser, visit my blog, and read some of my past posts. You wouldn’t believe the power this simple act has on my mood. In reading my past blog posts I realize that I’m not in fact as horrible a blogger as I think I am.

Sometimes your best motivator is yourself, and your past actions. But you can’t start motivating yourself until you start recording your good work—until you start blogging.

7. You become a better writer

This is quite obvious, but so often overlooked. I think it’s because being a good writer in itself has so many titles.

A good writer could be a good conveyor of resourceful information, so that those seeking specific resources find them. A good writer could be someone who abbreviates large amounts of text into one tiny paragraph without losing any content, so that people who are too busy to read get the gist of it. A good writer could be someone who tells a story with emotion—one who connects with the audience on a emotional level. And a good writer can be someone who takes the reader on a journey up the valley of the rising plot, over the hill that is the climax, and finally to the destination that is the denouement.

Every writer has each of the above traits in different amounts. And thus being a good writer is different for everyone because what you believe makes a good writer could be entirely different from what I believe. All the points I’ve mentioned above are what I believe make a good writer, and a good blogger.

What good things have happened to you since you started blogging?

About the Author: Arsene Hodali examines life through whimsical thoughts, questions, and actions over at The Good Life? | dancePROOF. From surviving the Rwandan Genocide to living on two hours of sleep a day, he’s experienced some pretty wild things. To quote a certain hippy, “He’s seen things man.” Outside of whimsical ponderings, you can find him running “Quotes” Clothing. He asks you to ponder life’s mysteries with him.