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Stop Writing for Free and Launch Your Own Profitable Blog

You’ve spent countless hours crafting article after article. Your articles have generated thousands of page views. You feel pretty successful in terms of exposure, but large media companies are not knocking down your door to hire you. That paying gig you have been dreaming of still seems just as far away as it always has. Your writing hasn’t earned you a dime, and your exposure hasn’t done anything but bring you momentary comfort. Sound familiar?

There has been a long-raging debating about the merits of writing for free. Some have spoken out heavily in opposition of doing so, saying it devalues the writer’s work. Others have supported it on the condition that the writer is either getting somewhere or is comfortable writing as nothing more than a hobby. In reality, a writer must make the decision that best fits her circumstances. Does she have time to write for free in addition to her paying job? Does she have a clear goal in mind and a path toward a full-time, or part-time employment in the writing field? These are all tough questions, but the decision to write is often one made from passion as opposed to logic. Passion is funny like that, driving us to do things that often don’t make sense.

There’s a way to have the best of both worlds, though. While there is no shortage of sites that will give a blogger the potential for exposure, not many offer pay. Even if some do offer pay, the money is insignificant. The allure of being read is strong, but writers can get the same (or similar) exposure while generating far more income. All they have to do is launch their own site.

Simple, right? Set up an account with Blogger or WordPress, throw up some ads, and start making some money. Not quite. Launching a blog, whether it be in sports, fashion, technology, or any field is difficult. You have to have a clear understanding of the market, of the steps necessary for success, and of the resources at your disposal. In my guide to launching a profitable sports blog, the focus is clearly on sports, but the steps to go from unpaid writer to founder of a site generating a profit can be applied for just about any other topic.

To see the traffic and the success necessary to justify launching your own site, you’ll need to focus on a few key areas:

  • Content Quality
  • Costs
  • Promotion
  • Quantity

Each area, if handled properly will ultimately lead to a blog that generates enough traffic to make a good amount of money. The sites I launched using these strategies have generated thousands of dollars. So, let’s get into it.

Content Quality

The most common pitfall in blogging is poor quality. For some reason, this is overlooked by those just starting out. It may be the rush to get thoughts out in the form of a blog, or it could be a lack of education in proper grammar and style, or it could be any number of things driving the quality of the content down the drain. If that’s happening with your blog, you’ll never build up a traffic base that will sustain any sort of revenue stream. Focus on quality first.

You can do so by taking your time. Read your articles out loud. Have others read them. Read them again yourself. Only after multiple reviews should you hit the publish button. But what if you don’t feel like you have the writing background or skills to ensure top-notch quality. Don’t worry, there are plenty of resources at your disposal. Some will cost you a bit of money (like Coursera’s class on Crafting Effective Writers), but others are completely free (a Google search will yield plenty of free results). If you struggle with your writing quality but want to run an effective blog, you should seriously consider classes. The improvement in your writing will pay dividends in the long run.

When you are launching your blog, trying to attract readers, and trying to get people to share your content, the quality of your blog will set you apart. Invest in that quality, and you won’t be disappointed. Ignore quality, and you’ll be just like the vast majority of blogs out there – ignored.

Costs

Blogging can be very inexpensive, but the costs can rack up fast depending on what you’re looking for. The most likely cost you will incur is hosting. If you use Blogger, you will not have to worry about hosting. All you’ll pay is your domain registration costs. Those are generally inconsequential. However, if you decide to use a content management system (CMS) that requires you to pay for third party hosting – WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are good examples – you’ll want to make sure you monitor your costs closely.

Hosting providers will generally offer three types of hosting; Shared Hosting, Virtual Private Servers, and Dedicated Servers. Each comes with an increasing monthly cost. Let’s start with Shared Hosting.

Shared Hosting simply means you will be sharing a server with numerous other websites. If your blog is not attracting a ton of traffic this should be a perfectly acceptable option. In fact, if you are just launching, I highly recommend starting with a Shared Hosting plan. If you end up needing to upgrade, that should be easy. However, if you spend more money up front, you can never get back those wasted expenses.

A Virtual Private Server is similar to Shared Hosting in the fact that you will still be using the same server that other websites are using. However, unlike Shared Hosting, your site will be given a partitioned section of that server which helps improve performance. That improved performance means your blog can handle more traffic and will likely be more secure. This service will come with a steeper cost than Shared Hosting, so upgrade wisely.

A Dedicated Server should only be considered once your blog has reached the big time. If you are doing millions of unique visitors per month, you may need to look into a Dedicated Server. This set-up is exactly as it sounds. Your site will have its own server to itself. No sharing, no partitioning just to get a little privacy. A Dedicated Server will also offer the most security since you won’t be as vulnerable to attacks on other websites that may share a server with the other plans. The cost for a Dedicated Server is hefty, so make sure you truly need it before going this route.

Managing the costs of hosting is just one part of managing your blog’s overall costs. Running your site should be inexpensive, but you can gradually scale spending up as you’re generating more and more revenue. I would not recommend immediately going out and paying for advertising on social media or any other channel. Keep costs down to improve profits early. Reinvests those profits for future expenditures.

Promotion

Speaking of future expenditures, you may want to spend a little money on promoting your site once you’ve laid the early groundwork. While Google AdWords is the go-to method for advertising other types of websites, your site will be generating revenue from ads. Spending money on normal pay per click advertising just to generate traffic that may or may not stick doesn’t make much sense. If you decide to spend money on promotion, social media advertising may be your best option.

With the sites I launched, Twitter was my best friend. Twitter referral traffic often ranked in the top-three of all traffic sources. It can be difficult to build a following, but it’s possible to do so without spending money. First though, I’ll explain the paid route. By paying for promotion on Twitter (or Facebook for that matter), your site’s account will show up in the feeds of those who do not follow you. This can generate some quick follows, and those follows are likely to stick. However, beware of non-Twitter services. There are sites out there offering to get you thousands of followers for just a few dollars. Those followers will be robots and they will do nothing to help drive traffic to your site.

If you decide not to spend money on social media advertising, that’s perfectly fine. You can do so pretty easily with Twitter. In order to build a following without spending money, you’ll have to give up the notion of “being cool” on Twitter. If you look at most brands and plenty of individuals, they will have thousands of followers but will be following very few. Don’t worry about being cool. Connect with your potential readers. Follow back anyone who follows you. Seek out those who might be interested in your content, and follow them. Most people are willing to follow back, but be careful how often you do it. Twitter has a policy against “aggressive” following. They don’t explicitly define this, but if you are not following hundreds of people per day, you should be fine. This process takes commitment, and it takes time, but it pays off. The Twitter accounts for the sites I launched now have over 70,000 followers combined. That was the result of almost exclusively non-paid promotion.

You want real, engaged followers. You want those followers to click on links to your articles. Use a service like TwitterFeed or Dlvr.it or something similar to automatically post your content to Twitter as soon as you publish. If you build up a solid following and automate the delivery of your article links to your social media profiles, you’ll see social media suddenly become one of your top traffic referral sources.

While social media traffic is a great source of readers for your site, it’s not the only option. Perhaps the topic you’re covering has a network you can join. For example, in the sports blogging world there are networks like Bloguin and Yardbarker. By joining, you carry some of their approved ads and split revenue with them, but you more than make up for the revenue split with increased traffic viewing your non-network ads (think Google AdSense ads). If your topic of interest does not have a network like this, fear not. You can network on your own. Reach out to similar sites. Share links, offer to share their links, build a connection. While it all seems minute initially, these types of connections build up over time.

Finally, running contests and forging partnerships is a great way to promote your site and see an increase in traffic. With the sports sites I launched, I reached out to other sites who were not direct competitors that I knew I could drive traffic to. We arranged simple link deals where I would put a call to action at the end of each article sending traffic their way, and they would either do the same or promote my site on social media. Contests worked even better, though. If you can afford the cost of a giveaway prize, you’ll be amazed at how much interaction you’ll get with a giveaway. Make those who want to participate share your site’s link, follow you on Twitter or Facebook or do something else that helps build a long-term following. Then, you can randomly select a winner. As long as it’s fair, people will love it, and you’ll see a spike in traffic.

Quantity

We already discussed the importance of quality, but another driving force for your blog’s traffic will be quantity. Quality is far more important that quantity, but the amount of content you produce can usually be directly correlated to the volume of traffic your site sees on a daily basis. The articles all still need to be of a high quality, but you should strive to produce as much content as you possibly can.

Think of it this way, if each article maxes out at 500 views and you produce one article per day. That equates to 182,500 page views in a year. If you double that production to two articles per day, you might see a leap to 365,000 page views in a year. What happens if you produce 10 articles per day or more?

10 per day = 1,825,000 page views in a year

15 per day = 2,737,500 page views in a year

20 per day = 3,650,000 page views in a year

Obviously, there is no guaranteeing you’ll hit 500 views or more for each article, but it seems like a reasonable goal, doesn’t it? When you break it down by views per article, you can focus at a granular level that should help keep you motivated. But wait, you can’t possibly write that much, can you? It depends on the topic you are covering. If each of your articles is a 2,000 word in-depth analysis of something, you’re probably not going to hit 20 articles per day no matter how much help you have. However, if your articles are more quick-hit, you can certainly recruit a staff of writers to help you and easily hit 20 articles per day.

With my sites, we routinely hit 20 to 30 articles per day. It wasn’t always like that, of course. My co-founder and I were originally the only ones writing. We didn’t want to recruit a staff until we could pay them something. We were able to pump out quite a few articles per day, but it wasn’t until we brought on additional writers that we started really producing a lot.

If you choose to bring on a staff, just keep in mind the reason you started this blog in the first place. You were tired of writing for free. Don’t make your writers writer for free. Even if you can’t pay them much, pay them. It will help you build long-lasting relationships, and you’ll be able to bring on quality writers that will help you maintain the quality you worked so hard to enforce early on.

Conclusion

Launching a blog is easy. Launching a profitable blog is hard. If you follow the guidelines above, you won’t be guaranteed success, but you’ll certainly have a leg up on most other people launching new blogs in the area in which you’ll be focusing. The key to making sure your site is profitable is making sure you dedicate yourself. This is not going to be passive income. You’ll have to write, promote, recruit, promote, write some more, and hustle all around. If you do, you’ll love the results.

 

Justin Hunter co-founded Sports Injury Alert and Sports Rumor Alert. He is also co-authoring The Guide to Launching a Profitable Sports Blog. If you enjoyed this article, the guide will provide far more information and go into far more detail.

 

How to Make Friends and Influence People at the ProBlogger Event

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This is a guest contribution by blogger Johanna Castro.

Day one of the ProBlogger conference dawns, and butterflies are probably winging around your stomach as if making a bid for freedom.

For many of us this day has been eagerly anticipated for about 6 months, and it represents one of two days in which you’ll meet some of the biggest names in blogging: Presenters, bloggers, media celebrities and a heap of new friends.

But first. You walk in, you register at the front desk, and then you face a sea of people. That sea of people seems to be undulating like a wave mingling effortlessly with yet another wave of people and the worst thing is that they all seem to know each other.

Crikey!

While you, on the other hand, are standing there on your own without a friend in sight.

I know. Because I’ve been there done that, and at my first ProBlogger event in 2011 I cringed with embarrassment and wondered how I’d dared to bring me and my little blog out into the open to such a huge conference.

After registration I clung to the nearest wall like a boggle-eyed wallflower and actually shook to the souls of my pink suede boots.

Added on to the anxiety of meeting people I had little idea about What to expect at a Problogger training event.

You might also like: Problogger Event 2013 and The Meaning of Life

Be Prepared

Forearmed is forewarned as they say, and since then, and after many brazen ‘fake it till you make it’ occasions, I’ve been continually reminding myself that a conference is not just a fabulous place to learn (Problogger Perth), it’s also a great way of networking in real life with others from the online world.

So it’s a really good idea to be armed with some strategies to put yourself ‘out there’ in order to meet new friends and influence people.

This year I decided I’d up the ante with my networking, and at my local library I found a book called “How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends” by Don Gabor (Simon & Schuster) which gave me the idea for this post, as well as some prompts for conversation openers. I’d like to reference it because it incorporates a lot of great advice and echoes many of the thoughts I’d been having about making the most of a Problogger event and getting to know as many people as possible.

Help I don’t know Anyone!

So you’re standing there hoping that your make-up isn’t smudged and you haven’t got lipstick on your teeth, or as a bloke maybe you’re hoping that in this meadow of mostly women you might find a friendly male face.

You look around the room, feel slightly overwhelmed, and don’t know where to start.

How to introduce yourself

Relax. Have a walk around. Smile, and look for smiling faces. Also keep an eye out for small groups of people. You might think that these people know each other already and are chatting about old times, but in reality you’ll probably find that they’ve only just met.

Hover close by (keep smiling won’t you) and when there’s a gap in the conversation, take a deep breath and say: “Hi, I’m … this is my first ProBlogger event. May I join in?”

Tip: Don’t leave it too long to introduce yourself in a group situation, because if you do it could make the other people feel uncomfortable.

Better still look out for anyone standing alone. They’re probably in the same boat as you and longing to chat with someone, but they don’t know who to approach for fear of butting in on a group of friends.

Perhaps you could say, “Hi my name is … I’ve never been to a ProBlogger event before. Have you?” and if they say “Yes,” then follow with something like, “How does this one compare to previous years?”

Getting a conversation going

Keep a look out for bloggers that you’ve met online. Smile, make eye contact and say something like, “Hi, I’m … and I’ve been longing to meet you.” If they’ve given a presentation you could add, “That was an awesome presentation you gave and I really related to X or Y comment you made.”

Remember that what you say doesn’t have to be clever or witty. As long as you come across as smiling and friendly you’ll be surprised how willing other people will be to talk to you. They’ll also probably be sighing with relief that someone has approached them. A simple, “Hello, my name’s …” offered with a smile and a handshake and followed with, “Nice to meet you,” should do the trick to get a conversation flowing.

Body Language

Body language is also important. I try not to cross my arms when I’m chatting and even if the conversation veers away from my own interests I think it’s important to keep engaged – so I nod and maintain eye contact – because soon you will hit common touch-points or shared interests, and it’s important not to have turned the other person off by then due to bad body language.

Influence

Influence begins by being noticed.

To be noticed you need to make new friends and acquaintances. Just as you might comment on other people’s blogs in the online world, you need to carve out a ‘belonging’ in the real life world too.

In time you’ll be noticed as ‘one of the in-crowd’ or ‘one of those in the know’ and bit by bit you’ll become viewed as someone with influence rather than an unknown newbie who needs befriending.

So make a point to meet, introduce yourself and chat to as many new people as you can because these are the relationships which are likely to continue online as well as offline.

It’s this connectivity which leads to influence.

And ultimately, influence leads to making money blogging.

Remember people’s names.

You’ll meet tons of people at ProBlogger and Don Gabor says that five seconds is all the time it takes to make a good first impression. Remembering a person’s name makes them feel important and adds warmth to the conversation as well as helping to build rapport.

Author and public speaker Dale Carnegie said, “The sweetest sound in any language is a person’s name.”

Darren Rowse is very good at names, and I’m sure he employs lots of useful strategies.

5 name remembering tricks

  1. When you’ve been introduced to someone, try to repeat their name back to them in the conversation.
  2. Focus when you’re introduced to people. Don’t think about what you’re going to say, and don’t worry about what people are thinking of you, or if your clothes are ok … just focus.
  3. If someone has an unusual name, mention that it’s unusual or unique and ask them to spell it.
  4. Don Gabor suggests trying to use a person’s name at the end of your conversation so you’ll better remember them next time you meet. “Ronelle, it’s been lovely chatting to you. Here’s my card, it would be great to keep in touch.”
  5. If you’ve forgotten someone’s name, don’t fudge over it! Just be honest and say something like, “I do remember you, and we’ve been introduced. But I’m so sorry your name has suddenly escaped me.” We’re all human after all ;)

Other conversation openers

At coffee or lunch breaks – where the food is likely to be awesome :) you could start with an opening gambit of, “Wow, doesn’t the food look fantastic! What would you recommend trying first?”

Or … “Hi, my name’s … Isn’t this a great event? What’s been the best bit of the conference so far for you?”

Most people like being asked for advice or information, so if there’s someone you admire then ask them something. “Excuse me. My name’s … and I love your blog/I loved your presentation … may I ask you a question?”

Be interested in others – remember people like to talk about themselves. “May I ask you what your blog’s about?”

If you’re sitting next to someone you don’t know then don’t just stare ahead. Strike up a conversation. Ask them something like, “Which speaker have you enjoyed most so far?”

Tricks to keep conversations going

  1. In group situations keep your ears open and listen to what other people are talking about, then respond with a positive comment that shows you’ve been listening. Note: “Negative comments are conversation stoppers,” says Don Gabor.
  2. Don’t give unsolicited advice unless you are expressly asked for it. It’s always better to ask questions and respond accordingly.
  3. Remember that most people like talking about themselves and bloggers like to talk about blogging.
  4. Have an opinion but don’t be overtly opinionated.

Compliments

Sincere compliments make people feel good. Notice something interesting about the person you are talking with, and then weave your compliment into a question which will ease any embarrassment. “You’re always dressed so stylishly. I love the dress/shoes/top you’re wearing – may I ask where you got them?”

If you’re given a compliment then smile and say thank you. Don’t dismiss it, belittle it or make light of it in any way.

Mrs Woog (Woogsworld) and Liz Lennon (Life Dreaming) taught me a lesson quite recently on Twitter about receiving compliments gracefully, when inadvertently I’d made light of one.

“I’ve worked with 1000′s of people and one thing I say is ‘just say thanks’ to the gift of compliments,” said Liz.

“I learnt years ago from someone who took compliments well. It is grand,” added Mrs Woog.

Okay. QED!

And I was grateful for being pulled up on that one.

So … Thank you for reading to the end of my post today :) Any compliments will be received most graciously ;)

I really hope if you’re attending ProBlogger Event that you’ll use one of the techniques I’ve written about and pop over for a chat with me. I’ll probably nervously be wondering a) if anyone will come and speak to me or b) who I could approach to engage in conversation!

Anyway, it’s your conference. Make friends and start influencing people. You deserve it.

Do you have any tips to add for attending a blogging or social media conference?

Jo Castro is freelance writer who also facilitates blogging and writing workshops. She’s the founder of two blogs: Lifestyle Fifty, an inspirational blog empowering women to live life to the full as they get older, and ZigaZag a Travel and Leisure blog. A gypsy heart and geologist husband keep her in search of utopia – a tropical beach, a simple shack, and a fridge filled with chilled champagne would do nicely.

 

5 Tips From a Bestselling Author (and Former Luddite) on Overcoming Blog Phobia

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This is a guest contribution from author Eileen Goudge.

There’s no such term as “blog phobia” as far as I know, but the condition is very real, I assure you. I know authors who quake at the mention of blogging, as I once did before I got a handle on it. My professional writing career began in an era when authors were expected to do only one thing: write a kickass book. And maybe go on tour if there was a marketing budget for said book. My first novel, Garden of Lies, was a New York Times bestseller and my publisher sent me on a cross-country tour that was a blur of TV appearances, print and radio interviews, and book signings.  

All of which seems like a dream, looking back. 

Flash forward to present day. In traditional publishing, marketing and publicity budgets for all but a handful of top tier authors are practically nonexistent. For indie authors it’s DIY all the way. This puts enormous pressure on the author to produce more than just the requisite book a year. We not only have to write the books, we have to spread the word in a crowded market when we have something to offer. Mainly this is done through blogging and social media, which go hand in hand. Back when I was a Luddite and proud of it, I would reason that I didn’t have time for all that nonsense. Also, it goes against our nature. We writers tend to be loners. Who else would spend most of his or her waking hours holed up alone, toiling away? Finally I wised up and got with the program. I realized if you don’t make the time, you might as well not bother writing the book in the first place. Few people will read it because they won’t know it’s there.

“To blog or not to blog,” is no longer the question. It’s a matter of how often and how best to target your audience. A blog is an essential tool in every author’s tool kit.  It’s the best way I know to introduce new readers to your unique voice and engage with existing fans so they don’t forget about you or think you died. So you find the time, even if you have to pull it out of thin air.

The challenge then becomes getting those all-important views and click-throughs. 

Not long ago, I read a blog post by an author who compared her site when she first started out to a “dusty billboard on a back-roads highway.” Traffic was so thin, why bother? she bemoaned.  Her posts became more and more infrequent and traffic to her site dwindled further, a vicious cycle that had her feeling utterly defeated.  I know the feeling! I used to think it was enough just to throw a blog post into the Vast Unknown and simply hope for the best. Search Engine Optimization? I didn’t know what it meant much less what it could do for me. I still wonder sometimes if the time and effort I put into blogging is worth it, given that I don’t have millions of subscribers and I’m competing with a gazillion other author-bloggers. Then I tell myself, “One step at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.” 

My own page stats were downright embarrassing when I first started blogging. So I read up on what other, more successful bloggers had to say on the subject. I consulted with marketing experts. I learned some tricks that helped increase traffic to my site and learned a little about creating keyword-rich content, inbound and outbound links and search engines. My blog still isn’t where I’d like it to be, but at least it’s no longer a “dusty billboard on a back-roads highway.” 

Here are my top 5 tips to developing a successful author blog: 

Direct traffic to your site by making it a fun destination

As the author with the “dusty billboard on a back-roads highway” learned, you can’t expect to see much traffic to your site if a) people don’t know it’s there or b) it’s a snooze-fest. She solved her dilemma on both counts by making it fun for herself. She’s a history buff and she wrote historical novels, so she started doing blog posts about cool historical stuff along the lines of “Did you know…?” She built a following by reaching out to other history geeks and playing to her audience. And her specialized or themed posts also helped people more easily discover her site when searching for related keywords in Google.

For me the ticket was to write about my life experiences, which are the stuff of my novels. I come from a big, contentious Irish Catholic family in which addiction runs rampant. I was a single mom, on welfare at one point. I’ve been divorced a few times. I found my “Prince  Charming,” and present husband, Sandy Kenyon, while on book tour, fittingly enough, when he interviewed me on the radio talk show he hosted at the time. My son, Michael, is schizoaffective. The list goes on and on. If I had to sum up my life in a sentence it would be, “Never a dull moment.” From the comments I’ve gotten on my blog confidentials, it would seem viewers respond to candor, even when it portrays you in a less than flattering light or reveals a skeleton in the closet. The more approachable you seem, the more followers you’ll attract, which leads to more clicks of those all-important “buy” buttons. 

Come up with provocative blog headings

You have all of a nanosecond to grab someone’s interest. Use it wisely. Ann R. Allen, in her successful blog, named by Writer’s Digest as one of the top 101 most influential blogs, uses “Is Your Office Cubicle Haunted?” as one example of a provocative blog heading that poses a question. Providing answers is another way to go. “Spend Ten Minutes Doing This Every Day And You Could Transform Your Blogging” is the title of a recent post on this site. That is definitely one I want to read!

The heading of my most recent blog post is “The Nitty Gritty on Beach Reads, in which I tell of the life-altering, real-life stories behind my women’s fiction novels that are often billed as “beach reads.” I got close to a thousand Facebook views and a flurry of retweets on that one. I think the title had something to do with it. 

Choose headings with social media in mind. I was recently hooked by the heading of a post written by bestselling author Claire Cook for the popular Jane Friedman site.Why I Left My Mighty Agency and New York Publishers (for now),” not only sparked my interest, it generated over a hundred comments and a gazillion retweets as well as posts on Google Plus and Facebook. 

Don’t neglect to add links

I used to think—naively—that since any information relevant to my books was easily obtainable on my website, two or three clicks away, why bother adding links to my blog posts? Well, guess what? Two clicks is one too many for the majority of people reading your blog. In today’s digital-driven world I’m amazed by the number of authors whose blog posts contain not one single link, much less a buy button or clickable book cover image! Why bother if you don’t make it easy—as in a single mouse click—for a potential customer to sample your wares? Be sure to include the link to your website, and whenever you mention a particular title, link to that title’s book page on your site or, better yet, directly to a retailer page. I also recommend incorporating outbound links and linking to the sites of other authors mentioned in your blog post. The same goes for major products, places, or attractions related to your subject matter. I find that this is helpful for my readers and easily provides them with a richer experience when reading my story. 

Keep it fast-paced

Studies show the average blog viewer tends to skim rather than read every word. A snappy hook, short sentences, short paragraphs, bullets, and images are your best defense against short attention spans. Luckily I learned this early on in my career when I wrote for tabloids (anything for a buck!). If I didn’t keep it short and punchy, I didn’t make the sale. This doesn’t mean you can’t write a lengthy post. As long as it’s engaging and easy to understand (as in not wordy or too many big words) it will hold the reader’s interest.

Comment on other blogs and offer to do guest blog posts

I’m not ashamed to admit it: I’m a mere piker compared to veteran bloggers like Anne R. Allen, Jane Friedman, and my friend and fellow author, Julie Valerie. They have huge subscriber lists that dwarf my own. And rightfully so—they offer good content, and I always learn something from reading their posts. I make a habit of always commenting on the blogs I follow. Oftentimes this sparks a dialogue. The blogger remembers and appreciates your participation, and some of his or her fans may trickle over to your site. Once I get to know a blogger, I offer to do a guest blog post. Usually they take me up on it. Content is king, and when the burden is on the blogger to keep up a steady supply, it’s nice to take a break once in a while.

These are just a few basic guidelines. If you’re smart you won’t make the same mistake I did, which was to blunder through initially without doing my homework. Better to learn from other people’s mistakes. (Lucky for you there’s a ton of information on the Internet on how to do it right.) Pay attention. Revisit the resources here on Problogger, such as this useful round-up of tips and tutorials for beginners 7 Strategies for Growing Community on Your Blog. Bone up on the use of SEO keywords and the like. Be smart. Don’t be a dusty billboard on a back-roads highway. Be the neon sign that beckons from the four-lane freeway.   

New York Times bestselling novelist Eileen Goudge wrote her first mystery, Secret of the Mossy Cave, at he age of eleven, and went on to pen the perennially popular Garden of Lies, which was published in 22 languages around the world, and numerous other women’s fiction tiles. Bones and Roses is the first book in her Cypress Bay Mysteries series. She lives in New York City with her husband, television film critic and entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon. Keep connected with Eileen at her website, www.eileengoudge.com

How to Use Your Blog to Leverage Social Proof and Increase Your Authority

This is a guest contribution from Adam Connell.

Have you ever wanted your readers to take more notice of what you have to say?

You’re not alone.

And have you ever wanted other bloggers, journalists and writers to reference you as an expert in top publications on the web?

Countless others have done this and you can too.

But HOW?

The answer is social proof.

With social proof comes authority, and all the benefits that it has to offer.

And authority is an awesome thing to have because most of us are inclined to trust authority figures implicitly.

In this post you will learn exactly what this social proof thing is, how to avoid negative social proof, and the specific steps you can take to leverage positive social proof – starting today.

What is this social proof thing all about?

Social proof is a psychological concept which highlights how people look to those around them in order to make decisions and decide on a course of action.

This is based on the assumption that those actions are indicative of the correct course of action.

A popular example of social proof is how nightclubs limit the number of people that can come in at a time. When others walk past, it appears that the night club is more popular than it actually is.

You can use this concept on your blog and it’s easier to do than most people realise.

And there are different types of social proof that you can leverage, including a large number of email subscribers or even testimonials from industry influencers.

But, you have to be careful to avoid any negative social proof because there is the potential for social proof to hurt you, when you do it wrong (more on that in a moment).

The key to successfully leveraging social proof

Social proof can be positive or negative.

Negative social proof can have very damaging effects.

A good example would be going into a restaurant at peak time only to find that you and a few other people are the only ones there – this sends the message that nobody else enjoys going to the restaurant and usually prompts the thought of “is there something wrong with the food?”

The same can happen with your blog.

Telling people about your 165 email subscribers or drawing attention to a post of yours which has only had 15 tweets will send the wrong message to your readers.

So, if you don’t have the numbers – leave them out.

On the other hand, if you do have something to really shout about then it’s worth letting your readers know.

We’ll talk about exactly how you can do this in a moment.

6 ways you can leverage social proof right now

It only takes around 1/10th of a second to form a first impression.

So, first impressions are a big deal and you need to take every step you can to ensure that the first impressions your blogs visitors get is a great one.

Social proof will make a difference (when it’s done right).

#1 – Your home page is an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted

If you check your blogs analytics, chances are that your homepage will be one of the most visited pages.

Instead of a standard blog page, you could try something different, something that would place higher focus on social proof elements.

Try creating a landing page with key social proof elements.

The added benefit of this is that you can use this to funnel more subscribers into your email list. 

It’s a win win.

A great example of this in action is the home page of Noah Kagan’s blog; OKDork.com:

okdork-home-page-noah-kagan

This page screams “I know what I’m doing and you should listen to what I have to say”.

Here’s why:

Noah highlights exactly how successful he has been (2 multi-million dollar businesses and growing a 700,000+ email list).

Noah has two fantastic testimonials from big names and these names are 100% relevant too.

Studies have shown that pictures increase trust, Noah includes a smart picture of himself so you can put a face to the text.

Another good example is Ian Brodie’s homepage.

ian-brodie-example

Here’s why this works:

Ian includes logos of publications where he has been featured, they hyper relevant to his audience and big names in general.

Ian has incorporated two testimonials, these speak volumes about what Ian can do for his readers.

There is also a picture of Ian for added which increases trust.

How to implement this yourself:

You need to decide on how you want the page to look; the best thing to do here is to create a wireframe – just a rough example of how you want it to look.

You could do this with Microsoft Powerpoint, a free image editing tool like Canva or something similar.

Once you know what you want the page to look like there are two main options.

You could either hire a developer via a site like PeoplePerHour.com or Elance.com (for example).

If you’re a WordPress user, there are plenty of plugins on the market that will allow you to create your own landing page.

Joe Fylan discusses some of the best plugins you can use in this post.

Hiring a developer is more expensive but will require less work on your part, although using a plugin to do this means you can tweak the page without having to go back to your developer. 

#2 – Social share counts can be more than a vanity metric

If someone comes to your site and sees that your posts are being shared by lots of people, this acts as a very positive form of social proof.

On the flip side, it takes a few seconds to share a blog post, so if visitors see that your posts aren’t getting shared then this is where negative social proof will come in.

A rising trend is to display a total share count rather than individual share counts. A great example of this in action is Mashable:

social-proof-mashable-example

This is really powerful for several reasons, first of all there are a lot of social shares and secondly displaying the total social shares has a higher impact than showing individual social share counts.

How to implement this yourself:

For WordPress users, there are a number of social share plugins available that will allow you to accomplish something similar (most are free), you can find a few examples here.

If you don’t use WordPress, AddThis have several solutions available. Aside from the free options, the most effective would be the “Jumbo Share Counter” however this requires a monthly payment.

#3 – Use your sidebar to create a positive first impression

Take a look at the sidebar on your blog and ask yourself this:

“Does everything in my sidebar really need to be here?”

The first step to using your sidebar to create a positive first impression is to remove anything that doesn’t provide a function or doesn’t help you achieve your goals.

What should you consider removing?

The answer is; it depends on your goals but there are a number of things to consider:

Adverts – If your site relies on adverts, keeping them is a must, but you have to ask yourself whether the money you receive is worth sending visitors away. If ads aren’t performing, remove them.

Badges – If you have badges that mention article directories or web directories, these provide no benefit and just serve as a distraction. On the other hand, if you have won an award that would be difficult for other bloggers to attain, that is a keeper.

Facebook like boxes – I’m personally not a fan of these, but if you have a large following they can provide a significant level of social proof. Also Facebook displays pictures of your friends who are also fans which can be very powerful.

Twitter widgets – Again, if you have a large following these can be worth including but if you don’t, they are worth removing.

Blog rolls – These will only distract your readers from your content and send them away from your blog.

How can you leverage social proof in your sidebar?

If you have the numbers, display them.

A great example of this is social widget Darren uses on Digital Photography School:

dps-social-proof-sidebar-example

If you don’t have those sorts of numbers, don’t worry because there are more ways to display social proof.

You could display a testimonial from a big name in your industry like Derek Halpern does on Social Triggers

social-triggers-sidebar-testimonial

Another option would be to display the logos of blogs you have written for or been featured on like Marya Jan does on WritingHappiness.com:

social-proof-example-writing-happiness

#4 – Highlight how many people comment on your posts – engagement matters

Blog comments are a great way of determining how engaged a blogs audience is.

If you get a lot of comments on your blog, its well worth drawing as much attention to that number as possible.

Pat Flynn does this by displaying the comment count in an eye-catching bubble:

comment-bubble-example

How to implement this yourself:

If you use WordPress and your theme runs on Genesis, Josh Kotsay has a great tutorial which shows you how to do this (and style your bubble exactly how you want).

For other themes and platforms, you may need a developer to help you.

#5 – Leverage social proof to build your email list

One of the smartest things you can do as a blogger is to build your email list.

It will provide you with a method of selling products, courses or even your services at the click of a button while serving as a reliable way to get more eye balls on your latest blog posts.

Francisco Rosales does a good job of leveraging the number of subscribers he has in his sidebar on SocialMouths.com:

list-building-social-proof-socialmouths

Brian Dean displays an incredible testimonial from Neil Patel on the homepage of Backlinko.com:

list-building-social-proof-backlinko

I especially like this because while it may be a testimonial from one person, it’s from a relevant influencer and the testimonial itself is relevant to Brian’s audience.

How to implement this yourself:

First you need to identify an element of social proof that you can use.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Testimonial from an influencer.
  • Reader success story.
  • Number of subscribers.
  • Total number of followers (including email, RSS and social media).
  • Total number of monthly visitors.
  • Logos from other influential sites you have been featured on or written for.

Once you have identified an element of social proof you can use, it’s time to add it to your opt-in forms or in close proximity to them.

#6 – Invite key bloggers in your niche to contribute to your blog

There are countless bloggers in your niche that already have an established audience.

If they were to contribute to your blog, they would not only expand your existing audience, the mere fact that they are contributing to your blog would act as a form of social proof.

Expanding your audience, increasing traffic and social proof – how could you say no?

The reality is that this does involve some leg work but the payoff is huge.

How can you try this for yourself?

Find out who the popular bloggers are in your niche, these tools will help.

Identify whether they are actively writing for other blogs.

Start engaging with them via blog comments and social networks.

Drop them an email and invite them to contribute – this is the most challenging step of all, you have to highlight the benefits while avoiding any negative social proof. This post by Kristi Hines includes a good selection of resources to get you started.

Over to you

When you do this right, you will eventually get to the point where your blog acts as its own social proof.

Your authority will increase and opportunities will appear, as if by magic.

And the biggest sign that things are moving in direction is when other bloggers start using your logo as an element of social proof.

What are you doing to leverage social proof on your blog?

I’d love to hear more in the comments below.

About the author: Adam Connell is the Founder of Blogging Wizard and spends most of his time helping bloggers to increase their traffic and email subscribers. If you want to blog smarter and not harder, download his free guide and learn how you can leverage the influencers of others to climb to the top.

Business Led by Technology: How Mobile Commerce is Dominating Total eCommerce Activity in 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 4.26.49 pmThis is a guest contribution from online journalist and entrepreneur Megan Ritter.

Every year, tech companies continue to roll out dazzling new smartphones and tablets into the market. Depending on personal preference, people have the option to choose from an iOS, Android, or Windows device, and you don’t necessarily have to break the bank anymore to have the latest and greatest in technology. Simply put, today’s tech makes even the most grueling daily tasks, like banking, as easy as tapping a screen a few times. 

And while we continue to jump back-and-forth between the sizes of our devices (big to small, to big again), both smartphones and tablets are evolving to meet at a 7-inch “SmartTab” form factor, allowing the two different functioning capabilities of a smartphone and tablet to become one. In addition, there will be wearable smart devices, so there will be multiple ways that a person can participate in mobile commerce.

Mobile Tech: Pros and Cons

The number of features built into a tiny device like a smartphone are nearly endless, and with those features come plenty of opportunities, particularly for those in the mobile commerce industry. The bulky PC desktop and even the laptop have largely been shrunk to a fraction of their size, and now a mobile phone can perform nearly all the functions of a PC or a laptop. Mobile commerce allows the consumer to purchase from a business at their own convenience. Retailers have adjusted their services to cater to the mobile customer, including redesigning their websites to cater to mobile visitors along with company-specific apps.

Consumers who participate in the on-the-go, mobile shopping experience expect the entire process to be quick, so it is essential that businesses also make their websites easily accessible and compatible with mobile shoppers as well. Near field communication (NFC) can also assist in mobile commerce. This allows a mobile device to broadcast information over short distances and uses this technology by taking your digital financial information to make payments online. 

However, there are a few roadblocks to be overcome regarding this technology—many devices still do not have NFC, and those that do are a bit more expensive than a regular smartphone. These barriers to entry are causing both consumers and businesses to find cheaper alternatives in the meantime while NFC is being phased into smartphones.

Mobile Revolutionizes Marketing and More

Mobile devices have also caused a marketing revolution. No longer can marketing be done by traditional methods alone—many businesses should have a strategy where they can market their products and services via mobile device. Businesses have started using QR codes so that people can use their mobile devices to find out more about a certain business and its products and services. Mobile devices also play a large part in loyalty programs—you can get discounts or free products for checking in on Facebook, for example.

In addition to business, pleasure and entertainment have become largely active on mobile devices—many games today offer the option of in-app purchases, and people can easily watch their favorite shows, movies, and YouTube videos in the palm of their hand. If technology can tell us anything about what consumers want, it’s convenience. That means that you need to make your brand’s services available when your customer wants them, and by making your business mobile-friendly, you’re giving them a reason to keep coming back. 

Director, Anybody?

People love using their smartphones to consume content; now they can use it to create content as well. Whether it’s a seven-second Vine or a YouTube video a few minutes in length, creating content via mobile devices will increasingly become the norm as their specifications come to match those of several devices: desktop PCs, cameras, and even sound recording equipment. You don’t necessarily need a studio or a movie set to become a content creator—just whip out your smartphone and let your creativity (and your device) get things rolling.

The Next Step

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. As the demand for mobile commerce increases, businesses must adapt to their consumers’ wants and needs, which will lead to new innovations in the field. Unlike some previous inventions, however, all of us can participate, and we should all be trying our best to move mobile commerce forward for the economic benefits and the sake of innovation.

The 6-Step Guide for Crafting an Effective Content Marketing Channel Plan

CREATE AN ACTION PLANThis is a guest contribution from freelance writer Kanika.

With businesses employing multiple channels for marketing, it can quickly get overwhelming. To stay across everything without losing your head, you really need to have a plan of attack for each channel. Only then will your business be able to get the best results from its marketing projects, campaigns undertaken across various channels, and comprehensively achieve its marketing objectives.

You have to ensure that the content created suits its targeted audience and is appealing and informative enough to hold the people’s attention. But the same content cannot be presented on different channels in the same format – t has to be moulded and revised to best fit into a situation, so it can deliver the goods. This is so important for the success of a business’s marketing projects and campaigns.

Follow this 6-step approach and you will be well on your way.

 

Research your chosen channel

Before a business goes ahead with putting its content on a chosen channel or channels like Twitter, Linkedin, etc., it needs to conduct deep research on various factors. The timing of publishing a content, what type of people it wants to target, the tone of content, and team members who will be writing it, and the budgetary limitations all need to be looked at. You also need to consider an estimated number of people who will respond to the content, what action you want them to take, devices people would be using for seeing the content, their time of accessing it; whether they would be at work or holidaying, and similar other factors. Only then will you be able to mold the content to best fit a situation and hold the interest of your target audience.

Choosing the right channel at the right time

It’s great that a business can maximize its content promotion efforts and use every available channel for promoting itself, its products, and solutions, but you need to use these tactically. Choosing some channels over others is best, as it enables a business to devote enough time and energy on few specific channels rather than spreading too thin across all. This is helpful for those businesses who have a limited number of personnel for doing various tasks like content creation, SEO, etc. For maximizing their output, it is better to selectively utilize a couple of channels you think will work well. After that, you can try others – but just starting with every channel and leaving many of them silent is not going to work. Moreover this will burn out team members who have too much work to do than they can easily handle. Failure to follow up with maximum channels is bad for a business’s reputation. People who have posted their comments and are waiting for ages to get their questions answered will get annoyed. This does not do much for your reputation – dissatisfied people can be pretty vocal about being ignored.

 

Formulating a content management plan

A business has to get created quality content in a time bound manner and this can be done by making a content management plan and executing it systematically. It has to devise a content strategy which will decide what type of content needs to be created for various channels and which type of audience will be targeted by the content. The team members who will be writing the content, submitting, promoting and marketing it, have to be identified and assigned their respective tasks. They should clearly know the deadlines of their tasks and milestones. Once content has been submitted and promoted on various channels, the results obtained need to be analyzed. This will help a business to know if its marketing efforts are succeeding as intended or do they need to be improved. This will give an idea what new or extra it needs to do for achieving the desired results. Thus it can better plan for its future content marketing projects. 

Executing the content management plan

After the content management plan for a project or campaign has been formulated, it needs to be executed in a streamlined manner. Activities of team members assigned with various content creation, submission and promotion tasks have to be coordinated. Their progress at their tasks needs to be tracked and critically assessed. A business has to know if they are completing their tasks within the stipulated time or if they taking more than required time for their execution. This helps it to know if a project or campaign will be completed within the allocated time and budget. If a business discovers some inconsistencies in the smooth functioning of such projects and campaigns, it should be able to take corrective measures in a timely manner.

This calls for improved organization, communication, collaboration and precise monitoring of tasks and projects. This is something which cannot be achieved manually. The reason being team members are often based in different locations and it becomes difficult to update them on latest developments happening in such projects. It becomes difficult to keep them at same page over a project. So better solutions are needed – and usually web-based.

Web-based project management tools enable smooth and proper execution of content management projects. These will improve communication and collaboration among globally dispersed team members so projects can be completed within time and budget. 

You might like to try some of these:

Basecamp: A popular project management tool enables enhanced management in projects in a simple manner. Team members remain well aware of any new activities happening in projects.

ProofHub: Team members can communicate, collaborate fast and transparently with this enterprising project management tool. This tool enables smooth implementation of projects and these can be completed as scheduled.

Trello: This collaboration tool boosts communication and collaboration among group members by making it smoother. Work, projects can be better organized and managed with this solution.

Asana: This project management system enables team members to work together without using emails. Their efficiency improves and they are able to achieve more at work with minimum effort.

Molding content as per the context

After content has been created, it has to be molded so as to fit into the right context. A business may witness new developments like it launching new features or solutions, redesigning its website, upcoming festivities like Christmas, New Year and others where it becomes quite necessary to mold the content to best fit to a given situation, context and the targeted audience. Thus the business would be able to present the latest and updated information to the people and they will respond more actively to the business’s needs. 

6. Creating an editorial plan

For properly using a chosen channel and for getting the maximum results, a business needs to create an editorial plan. This will get mapped to its global editorial calendar. The editorial plan enables a business to determine velocity, tone, intended action and structure for the content it needs to put on a specific channel. As an example, a business wants its Twitter page to consist of following things: 


Velocity: One post per day
Tone: Conversational, friendly and occasionally laced with humor
Intended Action: A business wants subscribers to click through to its guest post
Structure: 140 worded post with a business’s logo

An action plan means you get your business marketed effectively and quickly. I hope these six steps have helped you.


Kanika is a freelancer content writer who likes to delve deep into technology, tools, and making people aware about utility of such aids through her informative write-ups. In her spare time she enjoys sketching, cooking, travelling and spending time with her family and folks.

Solving the Content Management System Standoff: Drupal, Joomla or WordPress?

CMS Comparison Graphic

This is a guest contribution from Kyle Metcalf, of Rackspace Digital.

Choosing the right vehicle all depends on the trip you have in store. Just as you wouldn’t take a Formula One racing car off-roading through the Rockies, a rugged 4×4 Jeep wouldn’t stand a chance on the track against an aerodynamic one-seater.

Similarly, the same approach should be taken when it comes to choosing the best open-source content management system (CMS). Whether you’ll be running a company blog or a site that’s jam-packed with graphics and video, making the right choice depends on your content. Of the three open-source choices, each one has its own advantages, and making the right choice will be a crucial step in creating a dependable website that delivers an engaging user experience. 

Checking out the contenders

If you’re in the process of building a new site for your business or revamping your current one, you’ll need to begin with some questions. Are you presenting a purely informational help site or an ecommerce marketplace? Will your content be staying the same for long periods of time, or will it need to be updated multiple times a day? Keeping these questions in mind will help you match up your online goals with the characteristics of these three open-source CMS choices. No one wants to spend more than they should, so knowing the essentials of these three platforms can help you make the best choice.

Drupal: Sophistication and usability in one package

Robust is one way of describing Drupal. Both the White House’s website and the British government’s site, data.gov.uk, utilize Drupal, which provides a sophisticated means for delivering video, text and images in a user-friendly design. The following are the top reasons for using Drupal: 

Advanced content: Large-scale multimedia websites have some serious drawing power, yet they need a platform that will be sturdy enough to handle these capabilities. If you’ve got a site in the works that will showcase different kinds of content, this will be a good way to go.

Multiple sources of input: If your site is an ongoing collaboration among many different employees, you’ll need a platform that will enable a variety of input from different users. If you’ll be posting new content around the clock from many contributors, Drupal will give you an effective means for doing so.

Stability and flexibility: A large amount of traffic isn’t a bad problem to have, as long as you have the capability to handle it. Drupal is built to provide a stable performance with a great deal of content versatility. It also can be scaled up or down to accommodate your needs depending on the flow of activity to your site, such as traffic spikes during certain times of year.

Drupal is best for those with a strong background in Web development, and for a complex multimedia site that will need to be SEO-friendly.

Joomla: Your online storefront starts here

Of the three, Joomla’s the latest arrival to the CMS scene and occupies the middle ground between Drupal and WordPress, offering the best characteristics of each. Let’s take a look at Joomla’s top benefits:

Simplified installation: Even if you’re not pressed for time, you’ll be able to get this up and running quickly and easily. Although Joomla isn’t for beginners, its setup is user-friendly and straightforward.

Versatility: Whether you’re planning to build a basic site or jump into the digital marketplace, Joomla will allow you to cover many different options. You can also create forms and surveys for collecting info from site visitors. Whatever you have in mind, you’ll find the right extension for it among the thousands that are available for customizing your site.

Easy management and updates: For those with solid tech experience, Joomla will allow you to make updates to content or design quickly through helpful control tools. You’ll be able to have all the administration tools in one place for generating and tweaking content efficiently.

Joomla is best for ecommerce sites or organizations who want a solid but basic site that features multimedia. It won’t require the expertise that Drupal demands but still demands some development skills and will be a dependable solution for those looking for something less complicated than what Drupal offers.

WordPress: 20 Million and Growing

From its beginning as a humble blog platform, the latest edition of WordPress now boasts over 20 million users and is the basis for everything from The New York Times blog to the Lollapalooza website. For those interested in creating a simple blog or getting their new startup online, WordPress will be a straightforward choice. The following are the best reasons for choosing WordPress:

Ease of use: You don’t have to be a coding whiz to use WordPress. Its accessibility is part of the reason why it’s such a popular format and can be easily customized to create the right look and feel for your business.

Plugins abound: If you already have an idea of the user interactivity you’ll want, you’ll likely find a WordPress plugin that will take care of it, many of which are available for free. Internal linking and embedding external video can all be handled perfectly to increase the usability of your site, whether it’s SEO or broadening your social media activity.

Help is always available: As an open-source tool, and a popular one, WordPress has an enormous community of users, so finding help when you need it is easy. Whatever version you use (each one’s named after a jazz musician), you’ll be able to find answers to questions from experienced users online.

WordPress will be a good choice for simple websites for small to medium-sized businesses and text-heavy blog sites. 

And the Winner Is . . . 

Once you’ve gathered the facts and weighed the possibilities, match up your goals with the available systems and then prepare for a winner to emerge. Consider the content you plan to generate and what your audience will best respond to, as well as your own coding skills. More information on which open-source platform is right for you can be found through an open-source CMS infographic provided by hosting service Rackspace on each of these three open-source CMS tools. 

Great content can be the deciding factor in winning over a consumer, and making the right choice when it comes to content management will help make a good first impression. Making sure you have a strong foundation for your site will be the first step in creating an effective website that will be the nerve center of your online marketing goals.

Kyle Metcalf is the General Manager of Rackspace Digital, focused on delivering best of class services and support around WCM and commerce applications.

10 Steps To Help Turn Your Blog Into A Number 1 Bestselling Book

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Image via Flickr user triedandtruetutoring

This is a guest contribution from entrepreneur and author Niall Harbison.

Although not everybody wants to make money from their blog, it is undoubtedly the goal for many. To make a living from writing at home often features high on the list of dream jobs! I’m lucky enough to have just published a book which got to number one in the charts, sold a business, as well as running a couple of businesses today, and most of the success can be put down to blogging. I wanted to share some of the tips that helped me first of all get the book published, and secondly, how blogging helped it to the top of the book charts. The book is called Get Shit Done and if you start using these tips that is exactly what you will be able to do. Hopefully you too can turn your blog into a bestselling book…

10 Steps To Help Turn Your Blog Into A Number 1 Bestselling Book

Find your niche

The really good blogs focus on one thing and they do it well. It doesn’t matter if you are a pig farmer in Russia, or a fashion student in New York, because whatever you do you will have an audience. The biggest mistake that most people make is they try and be to generalist and start straying away from their topics in order to get more traffic. Even though things won’t explode in terms of visitors at the very start, if you keep on doing what you are doing and writing in your niche with authority, you will eventually see the results and the audience grow.

Let Your Personality Shine Through

Think about all the big blogs that you read and the chances are there will be a strong personality or character shining through in the writing or through the content. Readers have millions of pages online to choose from so in order to keep them coming back and engaging with what you do there needs to be a part of you that stands out. It doesn’t mean you need to share your deepest darkest secrets like I did, but do try and be personable in your writing and give your readers something to latch onto.

Invest In Professional Design

The one thing that I think sets the truly great blogs and the average ones apart is great design. In my own early days of blogging I made the mistake many make trying to design the blog myself and using templates. If you are to be taken seriously and to get a book deal or start driving some serious revenue then invest $500-1000 on getting somebody to design your blog professionally. A badly designed messy blog will put people off straight away and make people think you are small-time.

Connect With Other Bloggers

This was the best advice I got in the early days and it has paid off over and over again. Some of you might think that people within your own niche should be seen as competition but the reality is that there is room for everybody. Like-minded bloggers within your niche will help you grow your audience, refer business to you, add value to your content, and share what is working for them. Most people ignore this tip but the community of bloggers is so strong and you’ll be surprised at just how welcoming most are.

Help People

There is no more effective tool in the world than helping other people. It could be advice. An Intro. A Retweet. A link in a post. For the first five years that I was blogging and on social media, all I did was help other people and give out favours to others. What that does is create a huge base of people who are willing to help you in return when you need it. As soon as I launched my book, I was able to nicely ask all the people I’ve been helping over the years to share my link, review the book, or even just buy it. Helping others is the best way to help yourself in the long run.

Network At Offline Events

You probably think that because you have a blog you can do all your networking online and that you never have to shake another hand in your life. The reality is very different. Some of the best connections and your biggest fans will come from the real world. I got a publishing deal by meeting people in the flesh. I met commercial partners in real life. You have to get out from behind the laptop sometimes and put yourself out there and meet people who are going to help you achieve your dreams.

Use Traditional Media And PR

Although the likes of print media are certainly dying, there is still huge leverage to be had by appearing in traditional media. I often write newspaper columns for free (newspapers love filling space for cheap these days) and I’ve found PR to be one of the most effective tools in terms of building brand. Your blog might be the best thing since sliced bread but people still put a lot of weight on seeing a photo or a name in a byline in a newspaper. Use traditional media to take your own brand to the next level.

Think International

Another big problem that most bloggers have is that from day one they pigeonhole themselves within a certain country. We live in a connected world where the internet knows no boundaries, so don’t limit the size of your potential audience by nailing your colours to the mast in your own country. Think big and talk in an international tones and you’ll be surprised at just how big your blog can get all over the world.

Speak At Conferences

I’ve found nothing more powerful in all my years of blogging than speaking at conferences on the subject that you are blogging about. If anybody is willing to give you a microphone stand up in a room even if there are only 10 people there. If you’ve never done it before you will be nervous the first time but get over that because speaking at public events is the quickest way to build your own credibility and take you to the next level. If you don’t have any conferences to speak at simply ask organisers. They are always stuck for speakers and you’ll be surprised just how many people say yes!

The 70/30 Social Rule

It used to be seriously hard to grow an audience for a blog. Now we have social media. The quickest way to grow an audience is not by constantly pushing out links to your own content but instead by interacting with people on social. Answering their questions. Sharing links. Showing your expertise. The way I think about it if you want to build a really big audience you should be spending 70% of your time creating content and interacting on social media compared to 30% creating content on the blog. It really is that important. Do that and people will slowly start coming back to your longer pieces over time and your audience will be huge after a while.

These are some of the tips that I used for the last 6 years and repeated over and over again. The end result was selling a business for a couple of million and publishing this book which has all the tips and which just got to number one. Enjoy.

Niall is an entrepreneur who has sold a business for millions and author of Get Sh*t Done published by Penguin. 

Increase Your SEO By Appearing on Google News

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This is a guest contribution from business/tech writer Nick Chowdrey.

Getting on Google News

Everybody knows that the world of SEO is changing. As Google’s algorithms get ever more efficient at filtering out good content from bad, more and more companies are turning to content marketing and guest posting to increase their Google page rank and appear higher up searches.

In the world of content marketing, creating high quality posts is just part of the story. You could write the most fascinating and informative article, but with so many other companies now employing writers to do the same, it’s still hard to to get the attention you need.

The goal is to become a trusted and respected commentator in your niche, but this can often take a huge investment in both time and resources. As such, one content marketing strategy that has surfaced recently is to try and get ones site featured on Google News.

What is Google News and why is it important?

Google launched its full news service, Google News, in January 2006. Aggregating content from over 25,000 publishers worldwide, the service uses Google’s algorithms to search for and promote the top news stories of the moment. Users can customise what topics and publications they’d prefer to see and can order stories using various filters.

Getting listed on Google News is not easy. They have extremely strict standards and a publication can only register for consideration once every six weeks. Google then uses its web crawlers to scan your site and determine the journalistic integrity, authority, accountability and readability of your content.

The rewards for getting listed, though, are substantial. Not only will a listed site benefit from the huge amount of traffic that goes through Google News, the added authority that a site gets from being listed means that more sites will start linking to your articles, which bumps you up the Google search rankings.

Being featured on Google News will not only boost the domain authority of your page but, as other businesses and professionals begin to rely on your site for news that’s relevant to them, your actual authority as a commentator in your niche will also increase. This should increase the amount of shares and trackbacks to your articles and, ultimately, your visibility on Google.

So, how can you get featured on Google News?

Quality of content

Google states in its Google News guidelines that its main aim for the project is “to organise all the world’s news and make it accessible to its users, while providing the best possible experience for those seeking useful and timely news information.” In order to achieve this, they maintain strict quality controls, which were briefly mentioned above.

Google are very strict on what constitutes news and what doesn’t. Google state that they don’t include how-to articles, advice columns, job postings or strictly informational content such as weather forecasts and stock data.

They also only accept genuine, original news stories with high journalistic values. The best way to make sure that you fulfil these criteria is to write about what you know. Find stories that are relevant to your industry and, specifically, your niche in that industry. Not only will this improve the originality of your content, it will also mean your news stories are more relevant to your target audience.

Accountability is also a must. Google wants to know that you’re a reputable site, so they require a degree of transparency on your part. Your office address should be easily viewable and all of your editorial team should have profile pages with images and email addresses included.

Finally, the quality of the writing itself matters greatly. Here are some tips on how to write news content to an excellent standard.

Quality of writing

You’ll need to make sure that you and your team, if you have one, have excellent news writing skills. News writing may seem straightforward – especially if you’re already writing a blog – but it’s actually hard to do it right. the quality of your news writing is one aspect that Google will assess when considering you for Google News, so it’s important to learn to do it properly. Just republishing press releases isn’t going to get you anywhere.

A few quick tips on how to write a decent news piece: First, in terms of structure, you should always write your news with the most important facts at the top and the least important at the bottom. This is called the “inverted pyramid of news” and is designed for the way news is read, making it easy to skim lots of pieces and get a general jist of a story as efficiently as possible.

Deciding on what’s important is very much a judgement call on your part, but you should choose the content that’s most likely to get readers interested in the rest of the piece at the top. This will usually be some kind of statistic or statement, such as “X% of young people suffer from headaches, according to X professional body.”

Headlines are very important because they not only influence the searchability of your articles, but also the readership. The BBC are strongly credited with writing the most searchable headlines in the business. Here are some tips from their SEO guru, Martin Asser:

  • Use words that people would use in search in order to find the information being provided
  • Avoid words that people would never use in search to find that content
  • Put the most searchable elements at the front
  • Proper names are often used in search, so – following rules 1 and 3 – names should be included in the headline and if appropriate at the front

Finally, it’s also important to include first-hand information, correctly sourced and referenced, in the form of quotations. One of the best places to obtain these is from press releases, which you can find in the press sections of most big organisations. If you lift a quote from another news site, be sure to reference them, otherwise you’re just stealing other people’s work, which Google definitely won’t like.

Technical requirements

Your articles will need to meet certain technical requirements in order for Google’s web crawlers to be able to tell which of your site’s pages are news articles. If these requirements aren’t met, Google will not be able to automatically aggregate your stories, which is a requirement of being accepted onto the News site.

Technical requirements are as follows: Article URLs must be unique, permanent and contain at least three digits. This is so that Google can tell when an article is new. Links to the articles on your site must be in HTML with anchor texts that include at least a few words. Google is unable to crawl JavaScript, graphic links or links found in frames.Articles themselves must also be formatted in HTML, because Google is unable to crawl articles in other formats, such as PDF.

It’s generally accepted that articles made using popular content management systems like WordPress will be crawlable by Google without you having to make any manual changes.

A full list of technical requirements can be found in Google’s webmaster guidelines.

Other considerations

You then need to make sure that you’re covering as many news pieces from your niche a day as possible. Perhaps dedicate the first hour of every day to source, write and publish relevant news pieces that you think your audience would be interested in. Google don’t only assess quality of news, but quantity also.

You need to start building your position as a news provider. Make sure you diligently share all your news stories across all social media platforms. The amount of views your news site is getting will also influence Google in their decision on whether or not you’ll be featured.

Once you think you’re ready, go ahead and apply! But make sure you really have done as much as you can, otherwise there’s a six week wait to apply again.

Improving your rankings

Although the mere fact that you’ve been accepted onto Google News will most likely do wonders for your organic traffic, you can still take positive steps to climb up the rankings.

Firstly, it stands to reason that the more stories you write, the better chance you’ll have to get them read. At least three articles a day is recommended. Google also look to filter out duplicate content, so making the titles of your news articles unique will help to get it ranked. A unique title is also more likely to be clicked on by readers.

Finally, be diligent and get your news published quickly. As was mentioned above, if you make a routine of writing news pieces in the mornings, this will improve your chances of being the first. Start making a habit of keeping up with all relevant current affairs in your niche. Keep checking influential commentators and trade bodies regularly for press releases. You might also want to watch live broadcasts of political debates, such as Prime Minister’s Questions in the UK.

Nick Chowdrey is a staff and freelance writer specialising in business and technology. He is currently Technical Writer at Crunch Accounting. Follow Nick on Twitter @nickchef88.