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Don’t Go It Alone: Relationship-building for Bloggers

This is a guest post by Jane from Problogging Success.

Let’s get it straight. Blogging is not a standalone job. You cannot blog in a space that doesn’t exist and to a group of virtual people. You need people—yes, living human beings, not just pairs of eyeballs—to read your
blog.

You don’t just need people to read what you write; you need people to:

  • agree/disagree with you
  • give you different perspectives/thoughts/suggestions
  • follow as role models/examples
  • endorse/recommend you to the public
  • share things with
  • buy your stuff and so on.

So you need people in the blogosphere. Period.

Blogging has evolved so far, so strongly, and in an awesome way because of relationships. Just imagine the number of people who hunt blogs for information these days. A big number is just on and around blogs. So you need to make good use of that number.

Let me give you three tips (surely the not-so-trivial kind) to get along with people in the blogging world.

1. Comment

Commenting—not spamming, but giving out your genuine thoughts and views about a particular blog post—will help you to develop an excellent relationship with the author of the article. Everyone knows this. So how can you comment to build relationships (apart from links) effectively?

Reach out to growing bloggers and to those bloggers who are in the same stage as you in their blogging journey. Every comment you make on your favorite A-lister’s blog will indeed help you make friends, attract new visitors, and sometimes even attract subscribers. This is conventional wisdom.

My suggestion is to make a habit of commenting in the not-so-big, yet growing blogs (apart from the A-list blogs that are your favorites and those you comment for link-building purposes). Spend some time to find out a handful of blogs in your niche that are just growing, and comment in them in a consistent and useful way.

Your first friend will be the blogger, of course. And he or she will return the favor. You become blogging buddies and comment on each others’ posts regularly.

Here’s what you can do after that:

  • Communicate personally with the blogger. Give suggestions, ask for advice, help each other, and so on.
  • Trade off Tweets and Facebook shares. This works great for me. I share their posts, and the favor is returned. So if you have ten blog buddies like this, the exposure you’ll get can be fairly decent. I have also gained new subscribers and friends who are friends of those buddy bloggers.
  • Endorse each other’s products/services.

2. Guest post

Guest posting is great for link building and for traffic—quite true. But how about guest posting for developing strong relationships?

Among various other benefits of guest posting, developing relationships with others is one of the main benefits. How can you achieve that? Again, aim not only for the A-list, but go for the growing blogs. This time you need to filter a bit more. Find out blogs that are doing great with readers and comments, and simply forget about the PR for this moment (I say this because I personally know and follow many blogs that have excellent content, and a great number of loyal readers and fans, but the blog’s page rank is 0).

Write a very useful post (you know that!) and close it by opening the topic up for a discussion. Given that the blog has decent number of readers who comment, a call to action should work great. Now it’s your turn to build relationships. Make it a point to respond to every comment in your guest post. But go further. Encourage discussions in the comments. And give out additional tips and secrets in replies to the commenters.

Tip: Look for CommentLuv-enabled blogs. They normally have good number of people who comment.

CommentLuv is a cute little WordPress plugin that fetches the recent post of the commenter (from the website feed) as he/she types the comment, and displays it after the comment. If a blog has the CommentLuv plugin enabled, there should be a little checkbox below the comment Submit button, as shown here.

Checking the box will display the recent post. If you have registered your blog at the ComLuv website, you can choose to display any one of the ten most recent posts.

That ‘s not all. You also have a search option at ComLuv website. You can search for CommentLuv-enabled blogs in your niche by entering appropriate keywords.

Download CommentLuv plugin here, and register your blog at comluv.com.

3. Linking

Write round-up posts on your blog that link to other posts. Do this periodically: once in a week or two, write a round-up post. This time, you need to aim only for the big players: A-list blogs. Your post can be centered around one post from a particular A-list blog, or a collection of posts from different blogs with either the same or different topics.

You can follow any or all of the following strategies:

  1. Write one blog post agreeing/disagreeing/appreciating/casting your extra views on one popular blog
    post. Caution: Don’t be tempted to get dirty and disagree with popular bloggers just to gain attention.
  2. Write one blog post on a topic and quote four or five related blog posts to validate your thoughts.
  3. Pick four or five popular blog posts of A-list bloggers, not necessarily in a very narrow topic, and write a list post that ties them all together.

You have got to try it and see. You will get a lot of exposure, friends—and loyal readers.

The bottom line? You cannot blog alone. You need the support of nice people to blog successfully. Don’t just be obsessed with SEO and link building; rather, seek to develop true and long-lasting relationships.

Just ask this to yourself: “Why do I blog?” There can be many answers, but this will be surely one of your answers: “to create relationships with others.” Unless you’re writing a blog that’s entirely private, you blog for relationships. You write for people—your friends, your students, your clients, your community, your gender, or people with particular interest or issues. So make the most of those relationships.

What methods do you adopt to develop blogging relationships? And what works best for you?

Jane is a blog consultant and the founder of Problogging Success. She has authored two e-books Problogging Action Plan (winner of the Small Business Book Awards, 2012) and Guest Blogging Champion to help bloggers become successful in their blogging business.

6 Fiction Writing Techniques to Improve Your Blog

This is a guest post by Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn

Many people want to write a book and maybe you’re one of them. Perhaps you don’t want to write a novel, but these fiction writing techniques can still help you improve your blog.

1. Character

At its core, fiction is about characters and how they live, who they are and what they go through in the course of a book. If a reader doesn’t care about the character, why should they bother reading on? The same is true of your blog. If readers don’t care about you as the main character, they will go elsewhere. If your content is dry and devoid of personality, people will click away.

You can show character through the use of personal anecdotes about you and your life, either on your blog or through social networks. You can use video or audio to present a more rounded view and incorporate the rich variety of your life to infuse blog with character.

2. Setting

All books have a setting, and so do blogs. In fiction, it might be a faraway planet, ancient Rome or a vampire’s lair that give a sense of place. For blogging, the equivalent is your blog design including use of images, color and theme. This will set the tone for your blog or your book and is just as important for either.

A blog on finding true love is unlikely to have a dark, Gothic theme; a sports blog will probably not be pink and fluffy. Setting and blog design influence how the content is perceived before people even start reading so it’s critical to consider what people experience when they first arrive at your site.

3. Genre

It’s important when writing fiction to consider the genre you are writing in, because the rules and expectations differ widely. Consider romance, science-fiction, and horror. The readers are different. The books sit in different places on bookshelves. It’s the same with blogging. You can try to span multiple areas but you will find your message diluted. Decide on your genre or niche and stick with it. It’s the only way to make an impact.

4. Plot

The plot of a novel is the story that pulls a reader through the book to the climactic finish and leaves them wanting more.

On a small scale, every blog post needs to act this way. You want people to read to the end so try to pull them through with a story or save your best information to the climax. On a larger scale, your blog needs to have a plot that keeps people coming back over time. That can be a posting schedule based on delivering specific information on different days of the week. It can be categories of posts that spark areas of interest, or a series of blog posts that tie a whole subject together. It might also be sharing compelling aspects of your life that function as a plot over time.

5. Dialogue

Dialogue between characters is critical in bringing a novel to life. It allows us to glimpse the people behind the story and watch interactions between the characters. As a writer, dialogue can sometimes be surprising when your characters behave differently than you expected. You can also give a problem to characters to explore in dialogue and often find your writing issues solved.

Comments on your blog and interactions on your social networks are the dialog between you and your reader. You can use this dialog to glimpse your readers behind the text of your blog and use the information to adjust your content accordingly. You may be surprised at who your readers actually are.

6. Show, don’t tell

This is the cardinal rule of fiction writing. The point is to always demonstrate a character through action or dialogue, rather than exposition. So instead of saying “Jane was kind to animals”, you show Jane rescuing a wild bird from barbed wire, speaking in a calm voice while carefully separating the torn feathers.

In blogging these days, you can use multi-media to show, not tell. For example, if you’re doing a post on how to perform a perfect golf swing, make a video that shows the exact steps instead of writing a text post. That will bring your site to life as well as providing valuable information for your audience. You can also create audio interviews and information on topics that demonstrate your expertise and enable your audience to know, like and trust you.

So embrace your fiction writing skills and improve your blog at the same time! How are your fiction writing skills coming along? Do you use these techniques on your blog?

Joanna Penn is the author of Pentecost, a thriller novel. Joanna is also a blogger at The Creative Penn: Adventures in Writing, Publishing and Book Marketing. You can connect with Joanna on Twitter @thecreativepenn.

How to Troubleshoot WordPress

This guest post was written by Neil Matthews, a WordPress consultant at WPDude.

Over the years, I’ve developed a troubleshooting methodology while working with my WordPress technical support clients.  My methodology helps  to solve the majority of WordPress crashed sites I’ve come across, and I wanted to share it with you, the good readers of ProBlogger.

I cannot claim that I invented the process, but I have brought together a number of useful tips from the WP community and combined them to create a repeatable and verifiable way to isolate and troubleshoot WordPress problems.

The process

This methodology isolates the various layers of a WordPress site one at a time, tests a layer by removing its component parts, and then, if the problem still exists, moves down to test the next layer.

Once you have isolated the problematic component, you can remove it from your site and troubleshoot the problem itself.

I recommend doing this in a slow and ordered manner, incrementally testing each layer as you go. Look at a layer, disable all of the components, and slowly restart them to find out where the problem lies.

The layers

I like to divide WordPress into four layers:

  • plugins
  • theme
  • WordPress core
  • database.

This methodology looks at the first three layers only.

What can this process fix?

This methodology can be used to fix a variety of WordPress issues including, bit not limited to:

  • the dreaded “white screen of death” where all you can see is a white screen and nothing else
  • “Header Already Sent” errors
  • “Fatal Plugin” errors
  • “Out of Memory” errors
  • …many other WordPress problems, too.

Back up first

Even if your site has crashed, it’s important to stop, take a moment, and back up your site as it is now.  You are about to embark on a journey which will make a lot of changes to your site.  Taking a backup of the site as it stands means you can fall back to your starting position if you need to, without making the situation any worse.

Troubleshooting plugins

I always start at the plugin layer when I’m troubleshooting a WordPress problem. In my experience, about 80-90% of system crashes are caused by plugin issues. This is because there are so many plugins (sometimes of questionable coding quality) available to WordPress site owners.  Combining these plugins with other plugins, themes, and WordPress itself creates an untested mix that can very easily crash your site.

This is how I troubleshoot plugins:

  1. Disable all plugins.
  2. Has the problem gone? If it has, you have an issue at the plugin layer, if not, move down to next layer the theme.
  3. Re-activate plugins one at a time.
  4. Test your site after each reactivation. Has the problem returned? If so, you have now found the suspect plugin: go to point 5. If not, rinse and repeat from point 3.
  5. Disable that plugin.
  6. Re-activate the other plugins to ensure you don’t have multiple plugin problems.
  7. If the problem is still cleared, you have isolated and remove the problem. Go to the Getting Support section below.

Sometimes plugins cause such a problem that when you try to log into the dashboard to disable them, all you get is the same error message. If you cannot log into the dashboard, all is not lost: I have a work-around for you.

What you need to do is connect to your site via FTP and navigate to the wp-content folder.  If you rename the plugins directory, to plugins_temp for example, WordPress no longer knows where the plugin files are, and stops running them.  Now if you try to log in to the site, you’ll find that the issue has probably gone.

If you then proceed to the Plugins section in your Dashboard, you will see an error message that the plugin files cannot be found and have been disabled. Rename plugins_temp and you plugin files will be available again. Now, incrementally start from point 2 above to see which one caused the problem.

Troubleshooting themes

Once you have tested the plugins to rule them out, you need to move down a layer to the theme. This is how I troubleshoot themes:

  1. Disable the current theme.
  2. Activate a default theme such as Twenty ten.
  3. Test. If the problem has gone, you know the theme is causing issues. If not, move down to the WordPress core layer.
  4. Re-activate all of the plugins individually to make sure there is not a composite problem. If the problem doesn’t recur, you’ve isolated the theme as the problem area.

Next, I’d try to rule out any changes I’d made to the theme by removing any code I had recently added. If I have updated the theme, I’d roll back to a previous version. If I have just added a new widget, I’d try to back this out.  As you can see, the process is all about back-tracking methodically so you can repair the issue.

Again, if you cannot log into the dashboard there is a work-around. Connect to your site via FTP, and navigate to the wp-content/themes directory. If you now rename your currently live theme directory to themdir_temp for example, WordPress won’t know where the theme files are. All you’ll see at the front end is a white screen, but the dashboard will be available. Go to point 2 above and activate a default theme.  Remember to change the name of themedir_temp back to themedir to help troubleshooting.

Troubleshooting WordPress Core Files

The last layer to check are your WordPress core files.  This is the last layer because it is the least problematic, but I have seen incidents where files have become corrupt, stopping WordPress from working correctly.  The easiest way to troubleshoot WordPress core files is to re-install a clean copy.

This is my process for troubleshooting WordPress core files:

  1. Download a clean version of WordPress from http://wordpress.org/download/.
  2. Connect to your site via FTP.
  3. Rename wp-admin and wp-includes to ensure you are uploading clean copies of these directories.
  4. Back up wp-config.php just in case. This files holds your database connection details (amongst other things).
  5. Upload your clean version of WordPress.
  6. Test. Is your issue fixed? If so, you have isolated the problem at WordPress core. If not, it’s time to call in the experts.
  7. Re-activate your theme and test it.
  8. Re-activate your plugins and test them.

Fixing the component

At this point, you have hopefully isolated the component of your site that was causing issues.  So what do you do now?  Here are your options:

  • Visit the plugin or theme developers’ site and check to see if they have a support forum to search or request support from. Any developer worth his or her salt will be only too happy to provide support, and premium plugins and themes should provide top-class support as part of your fee. Remember to be nice to them if it’s a free theme or plugin and they don’t reply in five minutes.
  • Find a replacement for the plugin or theme. There is usually more than one implementation of a plugin, so if you can, swap out the problematic plugin with another one.
  • Request some support from http://wordpress.org/support/. This is excellent for core WordPress problems, and you will often find forums for individual plugins there, too.
  • Set the social media monster to work on your problem. Sometimes it’s as easy as sending out a tweet to your network to find a solution to the problem.
  • Get the pros in—hire a WordPress technical support team or consultant to solve your problem.

Wrap up

I use this methodology on a daily basis—it’s proven in the field on crashed sites.  The key is to methodically work through the layers, eliminating as you go, until you find the root cause. Then, fix that issue.  Remember to constantly test, though, because sometimes there are composite problems with multiple plugins, or the theme and a plugin.

Do you have any WordPress bug horror stories you can share? Who solves your site’s bugs and problems—is it you?

Neil provides WordPress technical support services at WPDude.com. He has also created a mini video course on this methodology over at wptroubleshooting.com.

6 Ways to Sell a Website, and 4 Ways Not to Sell One

This guest post is by Mathew Carpenter of Sofa Moolah.

It’s gotten harder and harder to generate a stable income as an affiliate over the past two years. From Facebook’s decidedly anti-affiliate mindset, to the lengthy list of regulations that search engines such as Google have released, generating stable, consistent, and stress-free paid traffic isn’t as simple as it once was. For thousands of affiliates, it’s been a major frustration and a potential business killer.

But alongside the “Google slaps” advertisement disapprovals and the massive flock to second-tier ad networks is a change in the mindset of many affiliates. Instead of focusing on the hustle of direct-response advertising, many successful affiliates and product owners alike are looking to search or socially-powered websites as a source of traffic, a source of sales, and as a source of income.

I’ve been following this same formula—alongside some other online business models—for the past few years, and while it’s far from the cash cow that a giant advertising campaign can be, it’s a form of income that’s significantly more reliable and steady. Advertising and sales checks from blogs and search-powered websites tend to be quite constant—at least more so than the average ad campaign.

Six steps to a successful site sale

These six rules—and four anti-rules—can help you develop and sell your own web properties, to generate a strong and reliable sideline income in addition to your main online venture. Despite the comfort of steady and recurring passive income, it’s often the case that you need short-term cash to fund other websites or advertising projects. In that case, be sure to put these six tips for selling your website into action.

1. Understand your website’s long-term value in advance

The average sales price of a successful website tends to range from six to ten times its profit on a monthly basis. While this can sound fairly hefty—particularly for a website that generates several thousand dollars monthly—it’s really a fraction of the type of value assigned to offline businesses.

Think about Facebook’s current valuation—the ludicrously high $50 billion. Does this reflect the website’s current earnings? No. While the website is profitable by all accounts, it’s far from those levels of profitability. The valuation reflects the website’s long-term value—something that can be applied to your own websites too.

So instead of thinking in terms of short-term revenue for your website and monthly profit, think in terms of your website’s potential for revenue growth over time. If you’re trying to sell a site that’s a real social media hit, for example, or a website with a growing search presence, use this potential as an indicator of its value and price it accordingly.

2. Know your audience, and know how to sell them

The biggest mistake I see being applied to website sales is one that’s repeated in almost all aspects of online marketing: using the same tactics for very different audiences. Just as you’d use different sales tactics to sell a car than you would to sell a bag of candy, you need to use different tactics to sell different types of websites.

Know your audience, and understand how they’re going to respond to your website auction. On one of the bigger marketplaces like Flippa, it’s important to remember that people value revenue data or profit information above anything else. For an independent website investor, information about your website’s potential for growth may be more important.

3. Research successful website sales before listing your own

When asked about how he acquires new skills quickly, productivity guru (and now fitness author) Tim Ferriss explained that it’s best to look at people who have achieved massive success in a short amount of time. It’s a philosophy that can be applied to everything from online marketing to selling your own websites, and it always produces good results.

Instead of going with your gut when deciding on how to present your website for sale, look at other websites that have achieved high sales prices in the past. What information do they disclose? Which sales tactics and pitches do they use to frame the auction? By reverse-engineering sales information from successful website auctions, you can vastly improve the results of your own.

4. Take steps to optimize profits before making a listing.

There’s nothing worse than seeing a website for sale that’s barely been optimized. From blogs that lack even the most basic advertising to affiliate websites that reek of poor conversion testing, if an online property hasn’t been optimized, it’s never going to reach its true value at sale. If your site is on the market without any profit optimization, you’re making a huge (and potentially costly) error.

Test different advertising networks, different ad creatives, and different affiliate offers on your site before you put it up for auction. Test different ad placement, different monetization methods, and a lengthy list of different lead capture strategies. Unoptimized (or poorly optimized) websites can be great deals for buyers, but they’re never a good option for you as the seller.

I’ve optimized many of the websites I’ve sold to increase profits by as much as 415% before making a sale. Small changes, particularly to the wording surrounding your call-to-action text or ad placement, can make a huge difference in the amount of income that your website generates.

5. Use a popular outlet that attracts the right audience

There are hundreds of auction sites out there that allow you to list your website, but only a select few are worth your time. The most popular is Flippa, which, despite its reputation for occasional shady websites, is actually the best option out there. I’ve sold two websites on Flippa for mid four-figure sums recently, one of which achieved an ROI of over four hundred percent.

Don’t, however, confuse a large audience with a good audience. If you own a website in a specific niche, for example, it’s almost always better to appeal to others in your niche directly instead of an all-purpose outlet like Flippa. As I said in step two, it’s important to know the type of people you’re marketing to, not just the amount of potential buyers that you have access to.

6. Minimize “fluff” statistics, and focus on the substance

“Fluff” statistics are, to me, information that’s impressive when explained in an auction, yet utterly meaningless when it comes to your website’s ability to generate income or influence change. The types of statistics I’m talking about are total pageview information—generally information that has no tie to real profitability—or data about how much traffic your website generates in total.

Instead of offering this type of information to potential bidders, highlight your website’s strengths and offer real data to buyers. Talk about how many unique visitors your website gets, your biggest traffic sources, and the value of a visitor to your website. “Fluff” statistics are only worth mentioning in one situation: your website is overvalued and you’re desperate to complete the sale quickly.

How not to sell your website

I’ve mentioned what you should do when selling your website. Now, it’s time to cover some of the most common errors that are made by those auctioning websites. While some of these tactics can help you, particularly if your website isn’t valuable, most will push away the types of buyers you want to attract. Ignore them at your own peril, as they’re definitely techniques to be avoided.

1. Load your auction with worthless data and needless hype.

Nobody cares about your blog’s unique design, its flashy navigation system, and the level of praise it has received from others in your niche. They do care about its potential for generating revenue or, in rare circumstances, its level of influence in its niche. In most cases, it’s best to leave subjective data such as critical praise or “best blog in ___” type feedback off your website’s auction page.

On the same note, don’t load your auction page with fifty-point red headers and sales copy. Look at rule two again—you’re marketing your website to other marketers. Instead of pulling out every last direct response trick in the book, offer information that’s of value to people. It’s very hard to sell to marketers, and it only gets worse when you employ the same tactics that they use on a daily basis.

2. Capitalize on temporary fads, short-term events, and crazes

I see this type of mistake all the time on Flippa. Marketers—typically newbies—buy a domain that is loosely related to the latest celebrity death, put up a generic two-page WordPress site, and think it could be the next big thing. These auctions tend to be loaded with potential-driven sales copy and an overwhelming contempt for their potential customers, all in an effort to make a quick buck.

Here’s what they all have in common: they rarely, if ever, make a decent profit. While the owners of these websites may make a few dollars on the sale, it’s rarely enough to even consider. The best type of website for onward sales is one that’s loaded with long-term potential, not some hyped-up spur-of-the-moment domain name.

3. List your website but make little or no effort to monetize it

The only thing worse than overselling a website, as above, is underselling it by failing to spend any time on monetization. This mistake is constantly be made on Flippa, although unlike many of these errors, which are made by newbies, it’s the professionals that tend to make this one. Always short on time and challenged by other projects, they list websites without even trying to monetize them.

Any signs of profitability—even a Google Adsense block atop your page—are a good thing for lifting your sales price. While websites occasionally sell based on their unrealized potential alone, it’s not at all a common occurrence. Take the time to test your website’s profitability level, and even when it’s not a winner, let people know that it’s at least capable of generating income.

4. Defining your website’s potential without thinking long-term

Browse any auction website and you’ll see descriptions where the merchant has been, shall we say, a little too optimistic about their website’s future. No, it probably won’t become the next Facebook, and no, it probably won’t triple its revenue in two months. While these examples take long-term prediction to its extreme, they’re a good indicator of how a little long-term thinking can help with your sales.

Website aren’t bought to immediately be flipped—at least, not in most cases. For the most part, they are bought as a fairly long-term investment (by online standards). Be upfront and clear about how your website is performing now, but don’t forget to include a description—even quite a salesy description—of how it could perform in the future.

Have you successfully sold a website before? If so, how did it go? Did you break even, lose money, or make a profit on the sale?

Leave your own experiences in the comments and let me know if you’ve got any suggestions on how to sell websites more effectively. I’ve seen plenty of very different techniques do well in this field, and it’s always an interesting to experience how well people are doing with less orthodox tactics.

Mathew Carpenter is an 18-year-old-business owner and entrepreneur from Sydney, Australia. Mathew is currently working on Sofa Moolah, a website that teaches you how to make money online. Follow Mathew on Twitter: @matcarpenter. Follow Sofa Moolah on Twitter: @sofamoolah.

How Your About Page Can Make or Break Your Blog

This guest post is by Lea Woodward of www.DotNetConnector.com.

Did you know that the second place many new readers go after hitting the home page of your blog is your About page? Go and check your stats and you’ll probably see that if it’s not up there at #2, it’s probably still pretty high up on the list of “most viewed” links. Chris Brogan noticed this, so it must be true!

This isn’t really a surprise—most people are curious to find out more about who writes the blog they’ve just landed on. While they’re looking for this information, they’re probably thinking three things:

  • Who is this guy or girl telling me all about how to make money blogging?
  • Should I stick around and read more?
  • Is it worth me bookmarking or subscribing to this site and coming back again?

If you don’t lose readers at the home page (which you can avoid by compelling headlines and killer content to browse around), the second most common place to lose them is at your About page.

Here’s how to avoid that—and how to ensure your About page makes your blog, rather than breaks it.

Introduce yourself

Tell us what your name is, and include a photo. This sounds simple but I can’t tell you how many About pages I’ve read where the blogger frequently mentions “I” and “me”, or “we” and “us”, where the username is “admin” and there’s no mention of a name (or names) anywhere on the site—not even the About page.

The exception of course is if you’re blogging anonymously, but even so, it’s nice to give yourself (or your alter ego) a pen name. People like names and they like to put a face to a name, even if it’s cartoon one.

Remember the mantra: WIIFM?

Somewhere up near the top of your About page, it’s a good idea to tell readers what’s in it for them if they stick around on your site and even subscribe. They’ll be scanning your page thinking, “What’s in it for me? Should I stick around?” If you can answer that succinctly early on, you’ll save them time and attract the kind of audience you’re actually looking for.

About them

If your blog covers a wide range of topics and it’s not super-targeted, it can be useful to actually state who your blog is for. You can even be as obvious as to include a “Who this blog is for” section listing a few items describing your ideal readers. It’s a fast, simple way to help readers figure out whether they want to stick around or not.

Be personal, but not too personal

It depends upon the topic of your blog, but it’s usually a good idea to share your credentials or expertise in the topic you’re blogging about. If you don’t have any, and you’re writing more of a “share your journey” blog, then say this. It helps people figure out where you are on the path in relation to them, and whether they’ll get something from sticking around.

The depth and level of personal information you share will depend upon the type of blog you’re writing—whether it’s a topic-focused blog or more of a personality-based blog.

Determine the goal of your About page

As you’ve probably gathered by now, your About page isn’t just a place to tell people more about you: it can be so much more. You need to determine the goal(s) of your About page, and then make sure that your page achieves those goals. For example, your About page can:

  • be an ideal place to highlight your best content, allowing you to share links to deeper content within your site
  • encourage people to sign up to your newsletter—which works especially well for “behind the scenes” newsletters and those which are used to share more personal information from the blogger
  • give readers other ways to connect with you, by sharing links to your social media profiles and encouraging readers to connect with you there, too
  • provide readers with social proof and testimonials, helping to establish your credibility and authority from the start.

Always end with a call to action

Your About page is a great place to encourage those who’ve stuck with you until the end of the page, to keep going … but you do need to give them some direction. This goes hand in hand with the point above: once you’ve determined what you’d like your About page to do for your site and your readers, make sure you end strongly by giving readers pointers about the next steps to take, should they be interested.

The above advice can be summarized in the following three points. Your About page should, at the very least, achieve the following:

  • Introduce the person and personality behind the blog.
  • Help new readers easily identify whether your blog is for them.
  • Direct them to do something specific once they’ve read it (whatever it is you’d ideally like them to do next).

Take advantage of this golden opportunity to make another great impression on new readers and create an About page that helps your blog stand out from the others.

What does your About page say about you?

Lea Woodward helps bloggers and online entrepreneurs craft About pages that make stronger, deeper, longer-lasting connections with readers at www.DotNetConnector.com. You can connect with her on Twitter @leawoodward or on her personal blog, www.LeaWoodward.com.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

This guest post is by Justin P Lambert of Words That Begin With You .

Quick question: are you having fun?

I mean, you’re sitting here reading Problogger, so you’re likely a blogger, or at least thinking about jumping in. And you’re likely interested in making some money from your efforts. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.

But are you having fun?

He looks happy to be writing...
Courtesy
of Douglas R. Witt (flickr)

Maybe you’ve been at it for a while, or maybe, like me, you’re just a babe learning to crawl at this point. Either way, there’s a universal truth of blogging you’ve probably already figured out: it ain’t easy.

A tough gig

If you’ve done what you’re “supposed” to do blogging is tough. Editorial calendars, social media, building a list, seeking subscribers, tweaking the theme, ads or no ads… Wow.

Back in the ancient days of online journals, (you know, like 1996) most of the folks who “blogged” before “blogging” was even a word did it for fun. They had a particular interest, or just a desire to share their thoughts and activities with the world long before status updates and tweets were even on the horizon.

These folks probably didn’t think about making money from their online activities at all, or at least not seriously. Not long ago, Skelliewag wrote a really beautiful post about the transition that happened later on.

Darren also shared a quote from his wise-beyond-his-years son: “tell the world something important.”

Together, these two uber-experienced bloggers taught me a valuable lesson, grabbing my metaphorical wheel just before I hit the metaphorical guardrail, if that makes any sense.

You see, I started my blog just over six months ago, and I learned quickly that it was hard work. But good writing always is. The payoff, for most of us any way, is that we enjoy writing. Or, at least, we enjoy getting our thoughts out there for others to read/see/hear and interact with. This is something I lost track of, somewhere around post #13.

I started getting so wrapped up in my posting schedule and my analytics, actually writing the posts became an annoyance. “Man,” I’d think, “I wish I could get this over with so I can get back to Twitter!” It got to the point, only four months into my blogging, where I burnt out and suddenly went from posting daily to three posts in a month!

I spent most of that month kicking myself and desperately trying to figure out what happened. The answer blew me away when it finally arrived: I had sucked every ounce of enjoyment out of writing a blog because I had gotten too involved in “blogging”.

So, I ask you again: are you having fun?

How to have fun

Now I’m not going to sit here and try to preach to you about how to fix this issue. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. But since I realized how close I came to giving up, I’ve done a lot of thinking about why things changed. And I’ve come up with a few items that I know are going to help me.

I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts in the comments too, because most of you are far more experienced than I am in struggling with this issue, so I know you’re going to have more ideas to share.

Relax

You know what? While consistency is important and your readers deserve to receive what they’ve come to expect, no one’s going to lynch you if your post is a day late every now and then.

I had a tough time figuring this out, and when life got in the way and I missed a post or sent it out late, I felt the need to fire off apologies to my subscribers and wallow in self-pity.

Give me a break. Do your best. Then relax. It’s just a blog.

Converse

I quickly morphed from sharing interesting information that I thought would be of real value to my readers to slicing off chunks of pre-made content and stringing it out over weeks in order to ensure that a post on a particular subject would go out every Monday for the next four weeks.

This approach is kind of like inviting people over for a turkey dinner and then serving them Spam. I was short-changing my readers and my conscience was nagging me like mad, which is no fun. I lost the conversational aspect of my blog in favor of a series of mini-lectures that (not surprisingly) got little if any comments.

Make sure you give your readers what they deserve: your best every time. Even if that means you can’t post as often. Make sure it stays a conversation, not a choppy lecture. Who has fun at a lecture?

Focus … or not

I struggled for a long time with the question of niches and specializing, and felt like a failure from the start because I just couldn’t narrow myself down to a niche.

I created my blog as a means of sharing my expertise and engaging an audience in connection to my work as a freelance writer. But I don’t specialize on a particular writing format or project group, so how could I blog on just one niche? Yet the experts say I should. Oh woe is me!

It took me a long time to realize that my generalist scope is who I am. Anything less would be boring to me and that would automatically become boring to my readers. So if you’re like me, having a tough time finding a niche that satisfies you,

Get over it!

Think about what you want to write, then think hard about how to connect it all in an understandable frame that your readers can latch onto. It’s better for everyone involved. Like I said, I’m still learning. But I’m finally having fun with my blog, like I was back in June when I first started. I hope you’re doing the same. Because if you’re not, it shows. Believe me.

Please, share in the comments your suggestions for having fun with your blog, how you overcame issues that were keeping you from having fun, or how you plan to do so starting now!

Justin P Lambert is a freelance writer who has been blogging for seven months and has enjoyed it for two. He’s working on it. Drop by Words That Begin With You to see how it goes. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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.