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Why Writing Every Day Isn’t Enough

This post is by Michelle of Wicked Whimsy.

One of the most common pieces of advice given to aspiring writers and, by extension, bloggers is to write every day. The idea of a daily writing practice is thrown around as though it’s a cure-all for any malady.

Don’t get me wrong, I try to write every day, but the advice as it’s given is missing an important component. And it can be downright harmful in its closely related form: “Write every day—it doesn’t matter what you write, so long as you’re writing”.

The problem

Recently, I had a stint of a week or two where I was writing almost constantly, and all of it was for the viewing of others: blog posts for my blog, guest posts for other blogs, client work.

When things slowed down a bit, I took a week long breather since I had a backlog of blog posts‚ I was still writing daily at 750words.com and my private journal, but that was it.

And, to my surprise, when I sat down to write again, I found it nigh impossible. The words simply refused to come. I couldn’t figure it out—I had found it so easy to write only a week before!

The new version: write for others every day

There’s a big difference between writing something that you know will be private, and writing something that others will see. I propose that if bloggers want to keep the ideas coming, keep writing, and most importantly, keep improving their writing, then writing every day isn’t enough.

Instead, you should be making it a point to write for others every day. Why?

There are two main reasons:

  • You hold your writing to a higher standard. If something is private, you have no pressing motivation to keep improving it aside from your own drive. Sometimes that’s enough, but sometimes it’s not. If you know that your writing will be in front of hundreds or thousands of people (or even just the one paying client), you definitely want to make sure it’s up to scratch.
  • It keeps you in a quality writing mindset. Writing for yourself is often an entirely different experience than writing for others. It gives you a moment to pause and reflect on your day, tease out thoughts you might not have known you had, and record your experiences. These are all totally fabulous things in their own right, and doing these on a regular basis might (eventually) make you a better writer. But they’re not the same thing that you need to be taking into consideration when you’re writing for other people. When writing for others, you need to think about headlines, subheadings, ease of reading, and how well you convey your message. If you’re not actively practicing writing for others and maintaining the mindset that comes with it, then chances are your improvement will be nonexistent or marginal.

It could also be argued that writing for others makes you more creative, but several other talented bloggers have recently addressed that idea here on ProBlogger, so I’ll just point you towards those posts for that debate.

You don’t have to write an entire, polished post every day. Depending on your schedule, that might not even be possible. But do try do something like writing a post draft or editing another post, just to keep you in the groove of writing for others. You could even make commenting a part of this practice—as has been proven in several ProBlogger posts, commenting is a vital part of growing your blog and your brand. A well-crafted comment makes both you and the blog you left the comment on look better.

Do I think a daily writing practice is vital? Definitely. I also think that bloggers are in the business of writing for other people—so that’s where our focus should be. I still write for myself every day, but now I know better than to fail to put the focus on writing for others every day.

Michelle Nickolaisen is a rainbow-haired writer, blogger, and all-around creative maven making her way in Austin, TX. She writes at Wicked Whimsy about saturating life with constructive creativity, among other topics.

Five Ways to Become a Better Writer and Take Your Blog to the Top

This guest post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.

Does great writing matter in blogging?

It’s a debate that isn’t over—yet. But it’s one where more and more blogging experts are emphasizing that your writing does matter, and that readers are drawn in by a strong, engaging voice.

Great writing will:

  • encourage people to share your content
  • persuade readers to subscribe for more of the same
  • get a powerful response—like comments or sales
  • make you look like a big player in the blogosphere, even if you’re just starting out.

You might not think of yourself as a writer, but your writing skills will make or break your blogging career. Here are five ways to improve.

1. Blog regularly

If you talk to any writer, they’ll tell you that you need to write regularly. We bloggers, of course, have an advantage here; there are a bunch of good reasons to produce frequent posts (encouraging search engine traffic, and keeping readers engaged, for instance).

Blogging regularly doesn’t necessarily mean daily. In fact, you’ll almost certainly do better by writing slightly less often and putting more time and effort into your posts: after all, wouldn’t you rather your readers were eagerly looking forward to your next in-depth post, instead of skipping past yet another mediocre 300 word piece that you’ve churned out?

To get into a regular blogging habit, try setting up a blogging calendar. Once you’ve found a comfortable routine, it’s easy to keep going.

2. Learn actively

Just writing regularly won’t get you far. It’s also important to actively learn about writing—to look for areas where you want to improve.

You need to slow down when you write. You need to think about what you’re writing, and how it works to capture reader attention. You need to devote conscious attention to improving your work to make it more effective. More readable. More captivating and compelling.

—James Chartrand, Why You Shouldn’t Write Often, Men with Pens

So how do you give your writing that “conscious attention” which James is talking about?

  • Read writing blogs. Ideally, subscribe to them so you get daily tips and inspiration. I’d recommend Daily Writing Tips, Copyblogger, and Men with Pens, for starters.
  • Invest in great ebooks. The Copywriting Scorecard for Bloggers is a fantastic resource to have to hand. And if your grammar and spelling could use a bit of work, get 100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid (from Daily Writing Tips).
  • Read brilliantly-written blogs, and learn from them. All the writing blogs are great examples, but it’s also a good idea to find blogs in your own niche. If you come across a particularly engaging or well-written post, print it out and go through line-by-line to see how it works.
  • Go to a writing class or course. Try your local college, or look online—for instance, Darren and Chris run Creating Killer Content.
  • Form a writing circle with blogger friends. You might not be experts, but you’ll probably be able to point out the potential flaws or trouble spots in one another’s work.
  • Get one-to-one support from a writing coach. Although this isn’t cheap, it’s an incredibly effective way to get advice specific to you and your writing.

3. Read widely

How much reading do you do outside the blogosphere? When did you last read a book?

Although blogging is a particular form of writing, you can learn a lot from other mediums and styles. You might find a great technique in an advert in a newspaper, for instance, or you could use a brilliant headline that you took from a magazine.

Most books have been through a number of gatekeepers before being published—agents, editors, marketing boards, and so on. Not all books are well written, but many are, and they can give you a sense of what’s possible. Try out some novels (ask friends for recommendations)—novelists have the toughest job of all writers, because they have to convince us to care about imaginary people in made-up situations.

Look for good non-fiction books too—I particularly like the writing style of Richard Wiseman (Quirkology and 59 Seconds) and Chip and Dan Heath (Made to Stick and Switch).

4. Write creatively

As well as reading outside the blogosphere, try writing outside it. Okay, you may not have any ambitions to be the next J.K. Rowling, but by trying out different writing styles, you’ll find yourself becoming more comfortable and fluent in your blogging.

A great place to start is with the Creative Copy Challenge, run on Mondays and Thursdays. You’re given ten words or phrases as prompts, and you have to work them into one short piece of writing on any topic you like.

You could also try these ideas:

  • Write short pieces of fiction. These can work incredibly well on blogs, particularly when they offer a different way of looking at your usual topic. A couple of examples are How to Attract The Most Awesome People Into Your Life by Vlad Dolezal and What Hope Really Means by Alex Blackwell.
  • Write poetry. I’m really not a good poet (I wrote such awful poetry as a teen that I swore off it for life!), but occasionally I’ll try out poetry because it encourages me to focus on the full value of each word.
  • Write the same post or page in several different styles. This is a great exercise if you’re struggling with how best to write something. Your “About” page is a good one to try this with. How about:

5. Use feedback

I’ve touched on feedback above, suggesting that great ways to learn are by working with friends or by hiring a coach. But you’re probably already getting plenty of feedback on your writing.

This feedback might come through:

  • Tweets (either directly at you, about you, or retweets of what you’ve said): what gets a great response on Twitter? Look at the way you phrased things, and the content, and see if you can figure out why it engaged others.
  • Comments on your blog: which posts get the most comments? What do readers seem to particularly like? If you’re experimenting with different styles—maybe writing a short story with a point, like Alex and Vlad did in the examples above—then pay attention to the comments and see what’s resonating with your readers.
  • Emails that you receive: these may give you ideas of particular topics to write on (and choosing the right subject for your post is an important part of writing well). In some cases, they may also indicate when your writing has touched someone deeply.

Want to get more in-depth feedback on a particular post? You could ask on Twitter—making it clear that criticism is welcome—or ask on a forum. If I’m working on a high-impact piece of writing, like a sales page, I often ask in the Third Tribe for feedback and suggestions—and I’ve seen lots of other bloggers do the same.

How are you going to take your writing forwards, today?

Ali Luke blogs about writing and the writing life at Aliventures, covering topics like Finding Your Writing Voice. You can grab the Aliventures RSS feed here.

How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel for Success

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!

As online marketers, we often devote a large amount of time to finding ways to attract eyeballs to our online assets. We put such effort into simply get the readers there that we allow the rest to take care of itself. Money will flow, Ferraris will be purchased, and we can all retire nice and young…

Then we discover the concept of sales funnels.

You may already know what a sales funnel is, but if you don’t, let me quickly describe it for you.

A sales funnel is a simple map of your lead-to-sale process.

  1. Let’s imagine you start with 1,000 leads (visitors to your web site).
  2. 100 might click on a sales page link for of one of your products.
  3. 50 might click your Order Now button and enter your shopping cart.
  4. Ten complete the checkout process and buy the product.

So your sales funnel starts and 1,000 and ends in ten sales—that’s a 1% conversion.

That’s a bare-bones view of a sales funnel, but as you can see it takes four steps, not one, to increase the amount of sales your site delivers. If we put all our attention on attracting new visitors, we’re essentially forgetting 75% of the puzzle—and we’ve all done that.

But that’s not where online marketers go wrong!

It’s not hard to sell people the idea of the sales funnel—it’s simple to understand and easy to quantify. It’s also been around for a long time. Offline sales professionals have been using it for decades.

The problem with the sales funnel is that in the offline world it’s a simple and straightforward methodology, but in the online world, it’s not.

The image below is a quick process map I prepared for a Managing Director of a large retail operation, who’s focusing heavily on online strategy.

As you can see, that organization’s sales funnel is a lot more complicated than the simple four-step process I mentioned above. There are some key points I want to highlight in this map:

  • Seven different types of traffic that visit the site.
  • There are multiple behaviors that we need to analyse: what pages visitors view, how long they stay, the navigational path, and their user profiles (locations, browsers, etc.).
  • There’s a connection outcome, as well as a buy outcome.
  • A visitor can become a customer in a range of ways.

Now my idea of a funnel resembles something I use to fill my car with oil, and this looks nothing like it. This depiction reminds me more of the tubes game I play on my iPhone. In even more bad news, I made this process map in five minutes. The reality is that this business’s online sales funnel is probably twice as complicated!

The key to sales funnel success

The key to creating a more successful sales funnel is: step away from the keyboard. While I work in an office, I actually have a whiteboard in my house. I actually use it, and it’s better than any online tool I’ve seen for laying out the bare bones of a real, live sales funnel.

I start by detailing every single way people can enter the funnel, identifying where they have come from, what their persona is, and where they’re at in the purchase cycle.

Then, I identify every activity that someone can undertake on the site: read some content, read some more content, subscribe to a newsletter, view a social media profile, buy something, or exit the site.

Finally I detail the measures I can put on each activity: time on page, entry path, exit path, and so on.

Then I start connecting the dots and putting together all the different pathways a visitor can take thought my funnel. The key here is not to change anything about your site yet.

Putting theory into practice

Once the funnel is mapped, and the measures are in place, I start collating reports at every step. What I’m trying to do here is understand how my funnel works in practice, not in theory.

Try this on your blog. Once you’ve collated enough information to start making decisions, I guarantee there will be obvious points of failure in your process, and they’re likely to arise in two main areas:

  1. a page that does a great job at encouraging a secondary behaviour (that is, rather than keeping someone in the sales funnel)
  2. a page that fundamentally fails to move a customer to the next step in the funnel.

Initially, you’ll probably feel like there is a lot to do, so you’ll need to prioritize the changes you want to make. Focus on the areas that are costing you the most sales (which might actually be at the bottom end of your funnel).
With time, effort, and focus, you could see huge improvements in the performance of your site, without your having to attract one new visitor to your site. Sounds good to me!

Have you tweaked your sales funnel recently? What changes have worked best for you?

Stay tuned from most 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. Questions? Suggestions? Email him.

10 Blogging Myths You Must Ignore

This guest post is by Onibalusi Bamidele.

I’ve been blogging for almost a year now, and like every other new blogger, I spend a large percentage of my time reading other blogs. While there are some great blogs out there, I have also read blogs that are otherwise. Most of these blogs are misleading and some helped contribute to a delay in my blog’s success. I also discovered that most of these blogs are owned by those who have no experience building a successful blog—they’re either blogging just for the money, or they’re simply copycats.

There are many blogging myths that, if followed, will lead to the death of a new blog. Many new bloggers read and follow these rules religiously because they heard it from someone they respected, but the end result is that they quit out of frustration—the frustration of not getting results from their efforts.

From building a successful blog and observing other successful bloggers, I have realized how dangerous and deceitful these myths can be, so I’ve decided to bust them in this article. Some of these myths will be shocking, and some will spark debate, but they represent what I’ve learned from experience.

Myth #1: Content is king

How can this be a myth? I knew it’d surprise you, but the majority of bloggers have been made to believe it. Yet highly successful blogger and copywriter, Brian Clark, says himself that a word has no life of its own if it is not read. It doesn’t matter how great your content is: you need people to read and share it. The truth is that even if people share your content, or a post on your blog goes viral, you still need a community to give it a lasting boost.

Through the emails I get, I’ve been able to discover lots of awesome content on my readers’ blogs. That same content might have gone viral if it were published on mine, since I have a stronger audience. But they don’t, and no matter how great their content is, it still can’t go viral, or bring them success, if they have no audience.

Many new bloggers spend the whole of their time crafting great content, based on the “content is king” myth), yet they can’t achieve anything, why? Content is not king!

Myth # 2: Marketing is king

I know I’m not the only one who disagrees with the myth that content is king. Yet many who doubt that content is king argue that marketing is king. It’s not. You can’t market nothing, and no matter the type of marketing you use, if you have a mediocre blog, you will end up with little in the way of results.

I once wrote a guest post that sent me over 1000 visitors in a day (before I wrote the guest post, I was averaging 150 visitors a day). But after two days of attracting those 1000+ visitors, my blog returned to the 150 visitors a day average. I was of course disappointed. But I realized that the traffic had fallen because I didn’t have solid content to back up that initial guest post, and sustain those traffic levels.

It doesn’t matter what your marketing budget is: if you don’t have solid content, it will end up being wasted. So marketing is not king.

So if content is not king, and marketing is not king, what is king? You might not expect this answer, but I believe the blogger is king. The blogger should be able to strike the right balance between content and marketing—this is the only path to true success.

Myth #3: SEO is bowing to social media, so neglect SEO and focus on social media

While Stumbleupon or Digg can send you 1 million visitors in one day, have you ever sat down to think about the value of those visitors?

Online success has nothing to do with the quantity of traffic you receive—what matters is its quality. While a social media site can send you several thousands of visitors in one day, the same number of visitors from a search engine may be far more effective. I discovered Problogger from Google, and I discovered Copyblogger from Google, but I can’t remember a blog I discovered it from a social media site, and now read loyally.

Also consider that more traffic from search engines can lead to greater social media success. I wrote a post on success quotes weeks ago, but I got little to no social media traffic to it. I spent a few days doing some SEO for it, which generated more search engine traffic, and that lead to thousands of visits from Stumbleupon thereafter.

In a nutshell, social media traffic hardly leads to more search engine traffic, but more search engine traffic leads to more social media traffic. After all, more visitors means there are more people sharing your content (social media), but more visitors won’t lead to an increase in your search engine rankings (more backlinks do this).

Myth #4: Social media is useless

I have heard this myth more than once. Most of the bloggers who promote this myth are bloggers who rely on search traffic.

While I said earlier that SEO does not trump social media, Im not trying to rule out the importance of social media. There are a lot of bloggers who started with nothing, but have been able to take their blogs to celebrity status using social media sites. Things are becoming better with the advent of Twitter and others—what matters most is not social media traffic, but how it’s being used.

You shouldn’t just focus on gaining more social media traffic; rather, focus on converting the traffic you do attract into repeat readers who will yield more dividends for you in the long run. Social media is the future of the web. A good blogger will not put all his or her eggs in one basket—we have to adapt to these kinds of changes and make them work for us.

Myth #5: More traffic = more money

This is probably the greatest myth of all. If it takes Darren 100 visitors to make $1000, it will take me far more than that number of visitors to make the same amount.

A lot of factors come into play when it comes to getting the best from your traffic and one of the most important is the authority and reputation of the blogger. If people see you as a mediocre blogger, attracting more traffic won’t make much of a difference, but if people see you as an authority blogger, you get a bigger bottom-line impact from every new visitor you capture.

I know some bloggers whos sites have less traffic than mine, but have several times the number of subscribers I have. What matters most is not the sheer number of visitors, but your relationship with them.

Myth #6: Not responding to comments means you don’t respect your readers

I have always wanted to be a successful blogger, but I never knew it could be a burden. With countless emails unattended to, and comments awaiting my reply, developing quality content starts to become a burden. Replying to comments doesn’t generate traffic: quality content does!

One of the best decisions I’ve made in my blogging career was to make sure I only reply to comments that really need a reply—after all, my content is what my readers want. This decision sparked a lot of debate. Some of my readers stopped commenting and one of them even went to the extent of ranting over my decision.

Yet, months later, the average time people spend reading my posts has increased from 2 minutes to more than 7 minutes.

Don’t waste your time doing things that are not necessary because people think it is a must. Rather, spend your time on what matters: developing great content that will keep your readers coming back. If you always strive to give your best, your “true” readers will stick with you, and invite their friends. But if all you can manage is to write sloppy, slap-dash posts, even those commenters you’re always replying to will eventually stop reading your blog.

Myth #7: Longer posts bring more traffic

I have been a victim of this myth not once or twice, but several times. I have observed some successful bloggers who write longer posts and this led me to write single posts as long as 5,000 words. Even though I fell for this myth, I was fortunate to learn an invaluable lesson in the process: your best post is what comes freely from your mind, nothing else. It doesn’t matter whether a post is short or long: its success has nothing to do with its length. What matters most is the uniqueness and consistency of the blogger.

A good example of someone who has great success with short posts is Seth Godin. Seth can write successful posts as short as 100 words. Someone who has great success with longer posts is Glen Allsop. Glen rarely writes posts less than 2,000 words, yet all his posts go viral and bring the desired result.

From these examples we can see clearly that what matters most is finding your voice. If you do better with short posts then stick to it; if you have more success with longer posts, don’t look back!

Myth #8: Selling ad space is the best way to monetize a blog

Another blogging myth that dominates the blogosphere is the belief that selling ad space is the best way to monetize a blog. In fact, I think selling ad space is one of the poorest ways to monetize a blog.

The problem is that many people are only blogging for the money—they are not ready to focus on building a true community with which they can later turn their blog to a business. You won’t make any real money from your blog until you have a community, so, instead of spending your time on ads that don’t work, focus on building a community. Once that community is there, you won’t find it difficult to make money blogging.

I’m not trying to rule out the possibility of making money from online ads—in fact, there are several successful bloggers (like Darren) who are making thousands of dollars from selling ad space every month. But the reality is, Darren has several hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors to his blog and unless you have visitor levels like that, you shouldn’t expect to make a solid income from selling ad space.

Myth #9: The best way to get traffic is by implementing as many tactics as you can

While there is nothing bad in learning and trying many traffic generation tactics, you should also remember that the greatest traffic-generation secret is to master that which you know.

I regularly hear people advise learning various traffic generation tactics. I’ve tried several tactics, such as blog commenting, guest blogging, forum posting and other methods, but only guest blogging seems to be working for me, and the moment I dropped other methods and started focusing on guest blogging I began to get incredible results.

If you’re a new blogger, try to start with three or four tactics. Observe which one works best for you and stick to it. Drop other tactics: they won’t take you far.

Myth #10: The key to blogging success is getting backlinks from an A-list blogger

It doesn’t matter if you’re expecting a link from an A-list blogger or a major media site: your success shouldn’t rely on any one person other than yourself.

Recently, I was reading a blog post by Brian Clark in which he said he didn’t get links from any A-list bloggers before his blog became a success. Stop waiting for the golden bullet (or link): don’t let your success depend on anyone but you! The key to blogging success lies with you, it lies in you giving your best and being consistent with it.

What blogging myths can you bust? What hasn’t—or has—worked for you?

Onibalusi Bamidele is a 16-year-old entrepreneur and founder of young entrepreneur blog, YoungPrePro, who writes practical tips to help you succeed online. Subscribe to his blog for more from him and get his guest blogging guide for practical tips on getting success from guest blogging.

How Boring Is Your Blog?

This guest post is by Julien Smith of inoveryourhead.net

Are you repeating the same things every other blogger is saying? Are your valuable visitors turning away as soon as they see what you have to offer? Is your blog great, or is it boring?

How would you know?

Very few blogs turn you away with their design. You may have a custom theme or you may have something you just plopped on there for free. But what matters is getting people with your words and your ideas. Are they any good? Only an outside force can tell you.

Boring by numbers

If your blog is boring, your numbers will tell you. Google Analytics has a bounce rate, will teach you which posts keep readers around longer. What matters is not where your bounce rate is right now (it could even be in the 90% range), but that you work constantly to bring it down.

Test different titles. Put videos or images at the beginning of the posts to see if people stick around more. Try anything, but assume nothing about your visitors! If your blog is boring, then obviously, you can’t trust yourself to know what works. Trust the numbers instead, experiment a lot, and see what brings them down.

Another way to tell is looking at your subscriber numbers—are RSS and email subscribers slowing down, or stopping entirely? Your content is your entry point, and people won’t subscribe if they don’t believe more great stuff is coming.

If this happens, your blog is probably boring. Sorry.

Boring by consensus

You can’t tell boring by yourself, but you can’t tell good, either. Thankfully, this is the Internet. We have access to others, and we can bounce ideas off of them. Use that to its full advantage! Your network is an asset, and if your blog is boring, the network will tell you. But you have to see the signals, not ignore them. You’ll never hear it straight.

Your regular commenters will dwindle and maybe disappear. They won’t tweet your stuff out as much. Traffic will stall while you continue to work just as hard.

Absence of activity is implicit consensus, too. If nobody wants to buy a house on a certain street, or go to a certain restaurant, that’s telling you something. Are you getting traffic, but no comments? If comments appear only certain posts, maybe you need more of that type. But watch the signals, they will tell you.

If there’s less and less activity around your blog, it might be getting boring.

Fixing the boring blog

1. Admit you can’t see the problem.

Both your network and your numbers will give you an idea of what’s going on, but you might not be able to see it yourself. You’ll probably keep chugging away, thinking you’ll eventually hit the tipping point.

But this is wrong. You are spinning your wheels and getting no traction.

Last weekend, I created a website called Shut Up and Get to Work. In its first day, it got 200,000 pageviews, and now it’s close to a half million. This proved to me that you don’t need a big network or a huge audience to get things rolling—you only need a good idea. And you probably have good ideas, so what it’s really about is the hurdles between them and their execution. But you can never see that clearly.

2. Break your patterns. Often.

Is the problem your delivery? It’s possible. Is the content itself just not new enough?

These questions go beyond boring. There are several problems with content that we can solve just by looking at what we do from another point of view.

Try writing as if you’re someone else. Use another style. Emulate a blogging style that you admire for a while and see if it works. Or, take another blogger’s style and parody it.

No matter how successful you are, you probably have bad habits. It’s possible that just one of these things is cutting into your momentum. Find out what it is by changing, maybe even dramatically.

3. Push your work closer to the edge.

You may sound the same as everyone else because you’re not taking any risks. Blogs need a strong editorial voice to compete—something that cuts through the din of similar-sounding talking heads. Maybe you’re not doing that.

What is it going to take? Is it a better, more compelling story (as Chris Guillebeau would say)? Is it a different voice? Think of what your friends like about you—are you portraying that in your writing?

Stop being mediocre with your writing. Maybe even offend people a little. Polarizing opinions get heard when much of the rest does not.

4. Start now, and put in the work.

The biggest hurdle to all of this is that you think it doesn’t apply to you, and that you’re doing fine. If you don’t take this advice today (or you think it doesn’t apply to you), it may be months before you figure it out yourself. Do you really want that to happen? Make the hard decisions today, put in the hours, and you’ll come out stronger.

Do it now. Your audience deserves it.

Julien Smith is the co-author of the bestselling book, Trust Agents. He normally blogs over here, and it’s pretty awesome, so you should take a look.

Will You Build or Buy Your New Blog?

This guest post is by Andrew Knibbe of Flippa.

When most of us think of blogging, we think about starting from the ground up. Having researched a niche, we search for a good domain, choose a blogging platform, apply a template, and prepare our first post…

But there are other options for the beginning blogger. One of the least talked about, and most often overlooked, is to buy an existing blog.

This post isn’t intended as a prescriptive how-to: what I’d like to do is introduce the idea of buying a blog, and talk about the key considerations that bloggers and would-be bloggers might address before they go down this path.

Why buy a blog?

There are plenty of reasons why you’d consider buying an existing blog:

  • it will already have been populated with content
  • if it’s a known blog with valuable information, it’ll have attracted backlinks, and should have search engine presence
  • it may come with a ready-made audience—hopefully, a loyal one
  • it may have a great domain name and/or a strong unique brand
  • it may already be generating an income
  • it’s all set up: rather than starting from scratch, you can simply tweak or amend the blog’s layout and design to suit your needs.

The thing to realize about buying a blog is that you’re unlikely to find a blog that perfectly suits all your needs from the get-go. The blogs you consider probably won’t offer you all of the benefits listed above, and they may offer these advantages to varying degrees.

In short: buying a blog isn’t an instant solution for those who want to start a blog, but if you choose the blog well, it can offer a number of advantages over starting a new blog from scratch.

Blog-buying pitfalls

Like any market, the blog property market has a range of pitfalls for the beginner, and buying a new blog as a way to get a head-start on a new blogging niche isn’t for everyone.

Obviously the great appeal of building your own blog from the ground-up is that it costs you nothing but time. Buying a blog, on the other hand, costs money.

The paradox here is, of course, that your time is money. If you can afford to buy a blog, you may reduce the time it takes you to reach a point where you’ve attracted a loyal readership—you may be able to monetize your blog much sooner than you would if you were starting your won blog. Basically, if you buy a good blog, you can minimize the leg-work, and fast-track your operation.

You will need some kind of budget to buy a blog. You’ll also need to feel comfortable that the blog you’re buying lives up to the seller’s description of it.

The person who owns the blog may mis-represent any of the information they give you about the blog, from its age and search rank, to its traffic levels and profit potential. You want to be able to trust the person you’re buying the blog from, and that you believe the information they’re giving you—including the reason why they’re selling.

Bloggers may sell a blog that they’ve lost interest in, or a blog that doesn’t align well with their future goals or direction. Perhaps other offline interests—family, work, and so on—have left them with no time to maintain their blog. Or perhaps they underestimated the time it takes to build it up a blog, and now they want to offload what they see as a burden to someone with a real passion for the niche.

Each of these reasons has different implications for you as a buyer, and for the blog you’re buying, so it’s important to get as many facts as you can.

Buying a blog doesn’t just take money: it takes research and care. You’re making an investment in your future by buying a blog, so you want to ensure that the choices you make are well-informed and wise.

Who should buy a blog?

Buying a blog may have greater appeal for those who have some experience in blogging, and know that they have the stamina and dedication to build the blog they buy into something amazing.

If you’ve never blogged before, you may find yourself unable to sustain blogging over a period of time, and that’s ad additional risk you’ll need to take into account if you’re investing money in a blog.

That said, blogs can be purchased for very reasonable prices in online marketplaces, though the less expensive options are unlikely to have established audiences or much unique content. If that’s the kind of thing you want to focus your attention on (rather than choosing blog templates, functionality, and so on), then paying a couple of hundred dollars for a fledgling blog with a good domain mightn’t be a bad idea.

Buying a blog may seem most logical for those who are looking to monetize their site itself, but bloggers who want to establish their credentials and authority in a particular field, engage with a certain audience, or develop their offline earnings potential with the support of good online representation may also consider buying a blog.

What you’re really looking for when you spend money on a blog is an opportunity. More experienced bloggers may be able to spot opportunities more easily, but that doesn’t mean beginning bloggers can’t see, or make the most of, opportunities themselves. Imagine if ProBlogger was up for sale—what would you change to make it better or more profitable? A site that’s underdeveloped has potential to be better.

If you can spot that potential—perhaps the site could do with some keyword optimization, regular well-written posts, and some promotion through social media as well as more niche networks—you might be able to take the good foundations that someone else has put in place and build on them to make something great.

Have you ever bought a blog? Have you considered it? What are your feelings about buying a blog?

Andrew Knibbe is the Marketing Manager at Flippa, the #1 marketplace for buying and selling websites. He blogs at the Flippa blog. Follow him @flippa.

Use Photos to Stand Out in the Facebook News Feed

This guest post is by Tommy Walker, Online Marketing Strategist and owner of Tommy.ismy.name.

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? This old cliché has become especially true in blogging. It’s statistically proven that by inserting compelling photographs into your blog posts, you’re able to better retain your reader’s attention.

So what if photos are also exactly what you need to stand out on the world’s most popular social network?

On Facebook, Photos are the most used features of the site (after status updates of course). You may have already known that, but did you also know that Facebook is one of the most used photo sharing platforms on the entire Internet?

So how can we tap into the power of Facebook Photos to separate your Page from the rest of the noise on Facebook?

If you’ve been using Facebook ads to perform inception on your blog, you’ll have a good idea of the psychographic profile of your readers. We can use this information to create (or find) compelling images that will resonate with your audience.

Let’s imagine I run a blog about creating Hollywood movie props on an indie movie budget. Normally I build simple props that are pretty general, like ray guns, or jet packs. But lately I’ve been running Facebook ads and I’ve learned from the Responder Profile report that the majority of the people who clicked on my ad have listed “Iron Man” as a favorite movie in their profile.

Knowing this, I create a tutorial for my blog that gives instructions on how to make an Iron Man mask.

To really draw attention to this step-by-step tutorial and stand out in my fans’ news feeds only requires a little extra thought and attention to detail. Just a little more work, and I get a result that looks something like this:

Now let’s break down what I did here, so you can create results like this, too.

Step 1: Breaking up the image

Take the main image that you would like to show up in the News Feed and break it up into two or three parts using a photo editor. For the Iron Man album, I broke one photo up into two separate images, with each image highlighting a different element of the build.

The original image looks like this:

To break it up, I simply opened the image in Gimp (although you could use Photoshop or even Paint!) and selected the Battery and Arc Reactor. Then I copied and pasted it into its own image file, and did the same for the mask.

I then very quickly created the album cover by typing “Become” over the Iron Man logo, and saved that as its own image file> I then saved everything to its own folder on my desktop.

Here are two quick notes about album covers. Firstly, selecting the right image is important for two reasons:

  1. The album cover is the first thing people see when someone clicks on the Photos tab on your page. By default, Facebook also displays the two most recent photo albums on the left-hand sidebar underneath the list of people who like your page. When they visit a page, it’s only natural for people to check out the number of people who like that page — for social proof. Take advantage of this curiosity by creating an eye-catching album cover. Even with a small number of likes, you’ll appear to be ahead of the game, as this is valuable real estate that most pages simply aren’t taking advantage of.
  2. The album cover will always appear in the furthest left-hand corner when you publish an album to the news feed. Selecting the wrong image for the album cover can make the entire update completely pointless. take a look at the images below. By default, the photo titled “Step 5″ would be the album cover here, but it’s not a great image. To have the most impact on the News Feed, you’d want to make sure that the album cover shows the image titled “Step 10.” We’ll talk about this more in the next section.

Step 2: Selecting the album cover and organizing your photos

Go to the Photos tab on your Business Page and click on Create a Photo Album.

A dialog box will appear, giving you instructions on uploading your photos.

Click Select Photos and choose the photos you would like to be included in the album.

Click Open once you’ve selected all of the photos for your album. The photos will begin to be uploaded to the album. By default, the album is named with the date and time that you’re uploading the photos. Change the name to reflect the contents of the album. Also, check the High Resolution button (just because you can!).

Once the photos have finished uploading, click Create Album.

From here, select the image you want to use for the cover of your album. Also feel free to add descriptions to your pictures. If it makes sense, insert links to relevant pages within your blog (this will depend on the content of your album).

Once you’re satisfied with your Photo descriptions, click Save Changes. A dialog box will appear prompting you to Publish or Skip.

Do not click publish!

Click Skip. You will be brought to the album and all of the images will appear in the order in which they were uploaded. This isn’t always ideal if you’re really looking to stand out in the news feed.

It is vital to note the arrangement of the photos in the album, as it will determine their order in the news feed.

As I said earlier, Facebook automatically puts the album cover as the far left image of the three in the album preview in the news feed—regardless of how the images are arranged in the album. Facebook then takes the two images after the photo that’s designated as the cover, and assigns them as the middle and far-right images in the news feed.

So if the photos are arranged like this in the album:

They will look like this in the news feed:

To achieve this landscape effect in the news feed, simply drag the two images that are meant to follow the album cover in the order in which you’d like them to appear in the news feed.

Then, your album will look like this:

And the feed will look like this:

Once you have your photos arranged the way you’d like them to appear in the news feed, all you have left to do is create an album description and publish the album.

Step 3: Entering your album’s description

Underneath your photos, you’ll see an Add a Caption link. Click it to open the popup where you can describe your album and include any external links.

Facebook will allow a total of 320 characters (including spaces) in your album description before it hides the content and adds a See More link to the end of your description.

Keep your descriptions around one to two lines, and always put a line break between your description and link so that the content appears cleanly in the news feed.

After you’ve clicked Save, click Edit Album Info to see the Album Description page. Click the Edit Photos tab on the top right of the gray box. Then, click Publish Now.

And there you have it! Your album will have a good chance of standing out in the otherwise really crowded news feed!

What’s that you say? You don’t make props? There are all sorts of other creative ways to use Facebook Photos to promote your business. What are some ways you’ve used this tool? Are there other Facebook Photo ideas you can share?

Tommy is an Online Marketing Strategist and owner of Tommy.ismy.name. He is about to release Hack The Social Network, the ultimate guide to Facebook Marketing, and is currently developing a “mind hacking” course.

How to Write a Press Release that Gets Attention

This guest post is by Frank Strong of PRWeb.

Writing good content for a blog is only half of the equation: promoting your blog to drive traffic is the other half.

Previously we offered five reasons to promote your blog with press releases as part of an overall content marketing strategy. This post provides a few tips on how to write a press release for maximum media exposure.

1. Create compelling headlines.

Should you use a sexy headline that attracts eyeballs or a headline stuffed with keywords for search? We’ve always found that people read content, not search engines, so while it’s important to include keywords in your headline where possible, only use them when they make sense in context.

Just like the subject line of an email invites a recipient to open a message, headlines should compel a reader to consume your content.

2. Draw the reader in with the lead.

The first sentence of the body—the lead—should compel the viewer to keep reading (think: time-on-page). Traditional PR pros will tell you to write using an inverted pyramid, where the content flows top down and the first paragraph explains the five Ws: the who, what, when, where and why.

There’s nothing wrong with that, however, we think the use of press releases has evolved, where they once were primarily used to provide a news hook to the media in order to reach an audience, they now can also reach that audience directly.

As such, in some cases, the press release is the story and the better performing releases (in terms of page reads) we’ve seen read like the story—complete with a powerful lead.

3. Use anchor text links.

It’s a fundamental, but often overlooked, point: anchor text links are pivotal! Be sure to hyperlink your keywords to pages on your blog that are optimized for the same key words.

This ensures that when press release syndication network distributes the content, your keywords are still hyperlinked to the content you’re promoting. Once again, people read content, so ensure that the keywords make sense in the structure and flow of your copy.

4. Include a powerful call to action.

You’ve written a release with compelling headlines and copy that drew the reader in. Now, what action would you like people to take? Invite them to take that action. For many blogs, this would be to visit the blog, subscribe via RSS, or sign up for email alerts on new posts.

5. Choose a strong press release topic.

Stuck for press release ideas? We have a list of hot topics for press releases. When you’re coming up with an idea, the trick is to think like a PR pro—what about your blog, personal life, or business could you see being picked up by the mainstream media? What is the “remarkable” story you have to share?

While those are big-ticket themes, a more tactical approach would be to publish a release about your most popular posts—the top ten of the year, or the five most read every quarter (or month if you’re a prolific blogger). Your release content should focus on the trend. For example, why are readers consuming those specific posts?

For further reading on creating great press releases, try:

Have you used a press release to promote your post? What tips can you add to this list?

Frank Strong is director of public relations for PRWeb.

7 Powerful Ways to Get Your Blog Post Noticed

Stanford obsesses about how to get passionate people’s blogs noticed and promoted at Pushing Social.

Great posts often get ignored.

It shouldn’t happen. Literary masterpieces should be revered but that just isn’t the case in the blogosphere.

On a blog, a post has a few seconds to capture and pull in a reader. The writer needs to state their idea and immediately begin to persuade, entertain, and motivate.

For many, writing a successful post is a game of chance. They write hundreds of posts only to see a few do well. On the other hand, some seem to have a gift a supernatural ability to publish one blockbuster after another.

What’s their secret?

After spending more hours than I can count analyzing popular posts on top blogs, I’ve been unable to unearth a pattern. I saw that the best writers consistently followed a blueprint for increasing their post’s chance for success.

After studying this blueprint, I found seven factors that can immediately pump more power into your posts. Take a look…

1. “I” focus instead of “you” focus

One unsavory quirk about human beings is that we instinctively focus on ourselves first. This means that your visitors immediately start scouring your blog for posts that mean something to them. If you start your post with:

“I just spent the day washing my kitchen floor.”

…your readers will ignore it. After all, the post is about YOU and YOUR kitchen floor and not about them.

Try this instead: Start your posts with a statement or question that uses the second-person perspective:

“Do you hate washing your kitchen floor? Is a mop the last thing on Earth you want to hold in your hand?”

See what I mean?

2. A focus on solving problems

Human beings are natural-born problem solvers. From the moment we wake-up to when we lay down to sleep we are finding answers to problems. Your readers will adore you if you can solve a problem that has been haunting them. Work hard to find these solutions and offer them often.

On the other hand, if your blog posts are getting ignored, it’s likely that you are solving your own problems and not your readers.

Give this a try: take out a sheet of paper and write down 11 big problems that keep your readers up at night. Now think of five posts that you can write for each of those problems. Sit back and look at your list of 55 blog posts. That looks like a solid editorial calendar for 2011, doesn’t it?

3. One idea per post

Research has shown that most people can’t hold more than one or two ideas in their head at one time. The more ideas you try to stuff in, the more likely you are going to get ignored.

Focusing on one idea is a sure-fire way to immediately boost the punching power of your post. If you have more than one then consider writing a series of posts. But, whatever you do, don’t shoehorn a thesis into your post. That’s a certain recipe for obscurity.

4. Excellent packaging

You know what? Blogging is a visual game. If your post is packaged well, it will get read. I’m sure you’ve found yourself reading a poorly written post wrapped in a great package! So, at least spend a little extra time to clean up look and feel.

A few pointers: use short paragraphs and one-line sentences to make your paragraphs visually interesting. Add mini-headlines throughout your post to help people who skim before they read. Last, find a picture (preferably of people) that grabs attention and helps tell your post’s story.

5. Down-to-earth practicality

Blog readers are a practical bunch. Like you, they want to be able to use what they learn. That means, they absolutely hate Ph.D. dissertations in blog-post clothing. Dense, fact-laden, verbose, diatribes repel readers and get ignored. Save this document for the place where it belongs: in an academic journal.

On the other hand, work to place relevant and practical information in each post. Your goal should be to illustrate your point in simple how-to pieces. Not only will people thank you in the comments, but they will also share your content.

6. Careful research

I’ve made the mistake of thinking that my readers shared my interests. I was wrong. The ghost town around my blog post provided all the proof I needed.

Research is the process of pinpointing what interests your readers. These days, research is pretty simple to do. You can simply ask for topics on Twitter, do a Google search with your topic and the word “help”, hang out in online forums, or survey your own readers.

Once you get the research right, you’ll soon be perceived as the go-to person in your niche. You’ll have the answers and your posts will attract eager readers by the bushel. Trust me. (By the way, if you are competing in a competitive niche, research is the number one way to get an advantage)

7. Rapport

When I started writing professionally, a mentor told me to write as if my reader was sitting on the bar stool beside me. That advice has been worth a fortune to me.

The best way to build this type rapport is to write with your natural voice. You know, the voice you use when you talk to yourself in the shower. The voice you use when you want to say something snarky but think better of it. Yep, that voice.

Once you start using it, your posts will stick in the minds of your readers. Lurkers start commenting and people start sharing. Got it?

Can you do this?

Did you put your finger on a few things your can improve in your next post? Which one of these “pitfalls” causes you the most problems? Comment below and we’ll chat about it.

Stanford obsesses about how to get passionate people’s blogs noticed and promoted at Pushing Social… except when he’s fishing for monster bass. Follow him to get the latest about his new ebook “Get Noticed.”