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How A Simple Blog Led To Writing For Forbes, Mashable, and TechCrunch (and 7 Tips to Help You Do it Too!)

How A Simple Blog Led To Writing For Forbes, Mashable, and TechCrunchThis is a guest contribution from Josh Steimle.

I’ve had the privilege of my writing being published on Forbes, Mashable, TechCrunch, Time, Fast Company, VentureBeat, Entrepreneur, and several other publications, and if you aspire to see your writing in mainstream publications like these, perhaps there is something in my story that will help you get there.

The writing I’ve had published has brought me speaking opportunities, a book deal, and more than 1000% growth for my business. I’ve been able to interview and network with my marketing and business heroes, all in the last two and a half years. Prior to that, my writing had never appeared in a mainstream publication. I was just a guy nobody had heard of, posting here and there on my blog, with a small handful of readers. This is the story of how everything changed. 

10 Years of Solitude

I started blogging before blogs existed. There wasn’t any strategy. I didn’t have a plan. I just enjoyed writing. When I started blogging I didn’t care if anyone read what I was writing. I wrote for myself, and if anyone else enjoyed it, that was icing on the cake.

In the first 10 years I wrote over 700 blog posts. I didn’t write consistently. I might blog 10 times one week, and then not blog for a month. Sometimes I didn’t blog for several months, and then I would return with a flurry of activity.

I wrote about entrepreneurship, and the experiences I was having. Most of my writing didn’t attract any comments. Occasionally some of my writing, like my post about 75 ways to tell you might be an entrepreneur, seemed to strike a chord. But my blog never brought me any business. No client ever contacted me and said “I was reading what you wrote on your blog and I want to hire your agency!” No publisher ever asked me to compile my blog posts and turn them into a book. As near as I could tell, the people reading my blog were mostly family and friends, and I was ok with that.

Dumb Luck

Sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time and despite this, you almost mess it all up anyway.

In 2012 I was talking with Cheryl Snapp, a friend of mine who runs a PR agency. She had helped me get an article published on the Fast Company website after I told her I wanted to get some logos from big publications to display on my company website, you know, in an “As seen in…” section. I noticed Cheryl had written some articles for Forbes, and I casually asked her how she landed that gig. She explained to me that Forbes had a few hundred paid staff writers, but several hundred unpaid “contributors” who wrote for free. She told me she thought it was worth asking to see if Forbes might be interested in me as one of their contributors. “If they take you on, you need to write an article once a week. My editor from Forbes is coming to town in two weeks, I’ll introduce you!” she told me. That sounded cool. There was just one problem. I was really busy already. I didn’t think I had time to write an article every week. Thank heavens I kept my mouth shut.

Two weeks later I went to the event where I met Tom Post, then-editor of the entrepreneurship section of Forbes. Cheryl arranged for me to talk to him while he and I were in line dishing up lunch. I assume he didn’t know anything about me yet, so I was surprised when he said “I read your article in Fast Company. I wish you had published it in Forbes.” I wasn’t able to get more out than a stammered “Thanks…” before he followed up by saying “I’ve also been reading your blog. I like what you’ve got there. We’d like you to write the same stuff for Forbes.” All I could say was “Sure, I’d love to!”

10 years of blogging with nothing to show for it but my own self satisfaction, and the next thing I know I’m writing for Forbes.

But then the real work began.

Diversification

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. But if you only have one basket, take good care of that basket [tweet that!]. My first goal when I started writing for Forbes, the one I repeated to myself every time I submitted a new post, was “Don’t mess this up, don’t mess this up, don’t mess this up.” But I did mess up–twice. The first time was when I posted something about politics. Tom told me to never do that again. He made it clear I was brought on to write about entrepreneurship and I should stick to my subject. Another time I mentioned in a public forum that I was getting too many requests from startups that wanted me to write articles about them. The way I worded my complaint made it sound like I was too busy to write for Forbes. Tom found my comments, and told me since I was too busy we might as well part ways. I pleaded my case, explained what I meant, and he gave me another chance.

With Forbes I had all my eggs in one basket, which was a distinct improvement over having no basket at all. But I realized it could disappear at any moment, and it would be a good idea to branch out and write for other outlets and leverage my work at Forbes to do so.

My first attempt was to get into TechCrunch. I wrote an article about a tech company, submitted it, and it was rejected without comment. I asked for feedback, and I got one sentence. I didn’t understand what the sentence meant, and still don’t, but I recognized one thing–different publications are looking for different things. What works for Forbes isn’t what works for TechCrunch or Mashable, and as a writer it’s best to respect those differences rather than try to convince an editor they don’t know what they’re doing. As it turned out, the article that wasn’t the right fit for TechCrunch was the right fit for VentureBeat.

Which Way Is Up?

Each publication sits within a hierarchy of sorts. Forbes is a top tier publication. Your hometown newspaper is somewhere lower. Even though I could publish everything I wrote in Forbes, I tried to spread my writing around as much as I could, just in case. I figured even if I somehow lost Forbes, I would then have evidence of my writing in many other places, and I could use that to pitch other top tier publications. I moved downward in the hierarchy and wrote for regional and niche publications you may not have heard of, like the South China Morning Post (the “New York Times of Hong Kong”), Hong Kong Business Magazine, Marketing Magazine, and TechinAsia.

At the same time I kept trying to make lateral moves. VentureBeat was one of those. Then I got in with Entrepreneur, which has been another great outlet for me. One of my recent articles on Entrepreneur was syndicated by Time, allowing me to claim that publication as another big name in my quiver. And I kept on pitching TechCrunch, as well as Mashable, but to no avail.

Sometimes It’s Who You Know

My intro to Fast Company and Forbes came through a friend. Similarly, when I got into TechCrunch and Mashable it would also be because of who I knew. I had submitted work to Mashable before, but without any response. Then, through pure serendipity, my agency hired a part-time writer who happened to have written some pieces for Mashable. I told her about my desire to write for Mashable, so she put me in touch with her editor. I pitched the editor on a piece I had written, it was well received, and then…that editor went on maternity leave for two months. I’m all about maternity leave and babies, but I wish I would have gotten my article submitted a week earlier. For the next two months I couldn’t do anything but wait.

When the editor returned she reviewed my article again and published it. I was in! Now that I have a relationship, I still have to submit articles, but I get feedback rather than the silent treatment. But that doesn’t mean everything I write gets in. One of my pieces was rejected, due to Mashable having published too many articles on a similar topic lately. No problem, I just published it on Forbes instead, where it has received 30,000 views. For me, that’s pretty good, since most of my posts attract around 4000 views. That’s another benefit of writing for a bunch of places–if it doesn’t work in one place, you can pitch the same content somewhere else. And Forbes always has my back. That’s why they end up with 80% of my writing.

TechCrunch was also a personal connection. After reaching out to several writers there and trying to get feedback on why I was getting rejected, I gave up. But then I happened to meet a TechCrunch writer, started a correspondence with him, and then met him in person for dinner. My intent wasn’t to pitch him on anything, but I was curious to know more about TechCrunch. It wasn’t until months later when I was writing a story for Forbes that I realized I had something that might be a good fit for the big TC. I sent it to my friend and asked him if he thought it was something TechCrunch would be interested in. The next thing I knew he had given it to his editor, his editor contacted me, and then it was published. Oh wait, that’s not quite how it happened. In reality his publisher told me the article wasn’t the right fit but, but…he said if I rewrote it (and he gave me some specific tips) then it might be. I rewrote the article, resubmitted it, and then it got published.

Your Story

That’s the start of my story. But yours doesn’t need to take 10+ years, or even two, to come to fruition. Things are a bit clearer in hindsight, and if I had to do it over again, here’s the 7-point plan I would put into action.

  1. Blog. Yes, I would still set up a blog, but I would focus in on one niche topic. Become the expert on that one topic, and resist the temptation to write about anything else. Do this well enough, and the publications may come to you and you can skip all the other steps.
  2. Start niche. When you start reaching out to get published elsewhere, start locally, or with a niche publication, and work your way up. Use your blog as evidence you can produce the kind of content they want.
  3. Leverage. As soon as you get three or more pieces published in one place, leverage that to get into another, slightly up the totem pole, until you get to a top tier publication. Then leverage your work sideways. At this point, it’s easier to approach editors because they can see they don’t have to test you, because someone else has already done that for them.
  4. Educate yourself. I got a pitch today from a company that wants me to write an article about them for TechCrunch. The problem is, their business is definitely not something most TechCrunch readers would be interested in. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the guy who sent me the pitch doesn’t read TechCrunch, or he would also know this, and he never would have pitched me. If you don’t regularly read a publication, don’t count on being able to pitch them successfully.
  5. Network. Get to know who the writers are at the publications you want to write for. Read what they write. Follow them on Twitter. I create Twitter lists for each publication, like this. If you can meet writers in person, so much the better. Never introduce yourself to a writer by saying “I really want to write for your publication, can you help me get in?” Writers introduce friends, not random strangers, to their editors. What writers are more willing to do is give advice, so ask for advice. Write an article, send it to a writer, and ask “Do you think this is the type of article your publication would be interested in? Why or why not?”
  6. Keep pitching. I gave up too easily with TechCrunch and Mashable. I was saved only by coincidental meetings with people who could and were willing to help me. What I now realize is that I probably could have gotten in with both of them two years ago if I had been willing to write five articles for each one, rather than writing one or two and then giving up. Remember, it’s never a waste to write an article. If it gets rejected, just publish it somewhere else. If nobody else will publish it, you’ve always got your blog.
  7. Once you get in. For good heavens, feed the editor! She didn’t bring you on so you could write one article and disappear. Keep sending content on a regular basis and keep the relationship alive.

If you’re focused, you can execute this plan within six months and be writing for just about any publication you want.

Josh Steimle is the CEO of MWI, a digital marketing agency with offices in the U.S. and Hong Kong. Pitch him @joshsteimle.

A 3-Step Blueprint for Smart Affiliate Marketing

A 3-Step Blueprint for Smart Affiliate Marketing: get the best out of affiliate sales with these tips on ProBlogger.netThis is a guest contribution from Anil Agarwal.

Building a blog that gets huge traffic isn’t necessarily hard, but converting that traffic into sales can be.

Most people think they can make a living online by increasing their website traffic. In reality, though, it’s not about any old traffic- it has to be targeted. You have to bring laser-focused audience to your sites to grow your sales and overall monthly income.

There are literally hundreds of genuine ways to make money online but if you want to make money even while you sleep, you need to consider affiliate marketing.

We all know affiliate marketing is a great income source for most successful online marketers. Pat Flynn, John Chow, Zac Johnson are just a few who are using affiliate marketing to make a living from, and doing very well at it.

If you are wondering how to replicate this success for yourself, I’ve outlined a 3-step blueprint that most that could see success for you. Are you ready? Let’s jump into the details.

Step 1: Position yourself as the go-to guy in ONE field

You want to be the EXPERT and be known as the go-to guy in your field. Not just any random marketer or blogger who is looking for ways to make a living by selling affiliate products.

You should become an authority in your field. But here’s the thing: online is heavily crowded and getting past the noise to set you as an expert is really hard.

So how can you be the go-to guy?

Simplify your niche. Pick one topic and become an expert at it. Position yourself as the number-one person in that field. People should think about YOU when they are looking for solutions to the problems relating to your field.

Everything starts with a niche. Truth be told, you are more likely to be successful if you’ve honed in on one topic, and you do it well. If your blog is too broad then you may find a more diluted audience is reading it.

So pick ONE topic and become a pro at it.

Why pick a small field? The number one reason is it is much easier to get noticed as an expert in a small field. You may ask if you can really make more money by serving small audience, but yes, you can. I’m not suggesting you to stick to ONE topic, once you build your expertise at one field, you can broaden your content, but you’ve got a foothold by starting small.

Step 2: Help others, build trust, and increase social proof

Before you start your affiliate marketing journey, make sure to ask yourself “Am I doing this just for the money?”

Whether you know it or not, the money you make online is directly proportional to the people you help. If your blog audience thinks that you are forcing them to click on your products, you won’t succeed.

They won’t buy from people whose intentions are just about making more money. Instead, if you add value and promote products that truly solve their problems; they will become more interested in your offer. That’s what really counts in creating a successful affiliate marketing strategy.

Your affiliate marketing journey should start from helping people and making your audience feel better. The byproduct of doing that is making more money from your efforts. Successful affiliate marketers are the ones who serve first.

Trust is the online currency. If you want to make more money? Start building trust and make others like you. How can you do that?

Building an email list is one of the best ways to directly engage with your audience, and below are three simple yet effective ideas on building a huge email list.

#1. It all starts with amazing content:

Content is king, they say. It’s really true and your primary focus should be on creating epic content for your audience. Your blog readers should have a compelling reason to visit your blog often and there’s no other better way to do that besides creating valuable content that addresses their problems.

And how do you actually create informative content that your readers would love to comment on and share with their friends?

Do extensive research.

Research backed and in-depth articles always perform well in search results. Also too, plenty of readers are now looking for one stop guides to find solutions to their problems in one post.

For instance, if someone is looking for ways to lose 4 kgs in 4 weeks, they would happy to spend their time on reading an in-depth article that covers everything from proper diet to weight loss tips. This not only helps you serve your audience in a better way but you can gain instant trust if they find your content valuable.

Put in more time when creating content. Give priority to quality over quantity. Make sure your content is well researched and backed by data and also includes several images.

Include email opt-in forms in the most visible places on your blog (I highly recommend you to put them in the top of your sidebar and end of your blog posts) to sign up for your email list. If your audience read through all the way to the bottom, they will sign up to you if they find actionable strategies from your content. That’s the way to grow a high quality list without irritating your audience.

And send a newsletter to your email list when your post goes live. Ask them to share with their network, if they really find your content informative, they will bring you more exposure by spreading the word.

#2. Put your email optin forms in the right places:

If you want to boost your email subscribers, find the most converting places on your blog to add your email sign up forms. Here are few of the most visible places on your blog that helps you quickly grow your email list.

Feature box: Derek Halpern introduced the feature box that helps you put a prominent optin form that sits on top of your blog home page. If a visitor lands on your site, they can’t ignore your feature box. If you give them compelling reasons to subscribe, you’ll be amazed with the results.

Sidebar: Your blog’s sidebar is the most visible place, don’t ignore it, grow your email list! Instead of using random ads or articles, use an optin form. If you are giving a free eBook, include a compelling image and it helps you convert more visitors into subscribers. Also use strong call to actions instead of using “sign up”, “subscribe” etc.

Hellobar: Hellobar helped DIYthemes to gain 1180 additional email subscribers just in 30 days. Hellobar sits at the top of your site and no one can ignore it and most probably it’s the first thing everyone will see after landing on your site.

Slideup box: One of the remarkable ways to grow your email list is to use a Slideup box. Buffer uses this amazingly and it performs extremely well for them. Over 30% of their signups come from their Slideup box alone.

Below is a breakdown of a typical month and the sources that help Buffer to grow their email list.

anil

So don’t forget to place your email optin forms in the right places if you want to quickly grow your email list. Just in case, if you are interested in seeing Buffer’s Slidup box, here’s the screenshot:

A 3-step Blueprint for Smart Affiliate Marketing

#3. Give an incentive:

One of the simplest ways to quickly turn your visitors into email subscribers is by offering something free. Almost every blogger gives away an eBook, video, plugin etc as an incentive to grow their email list. Do you know why? Because it works.

But make sure you are not building a list of freebie seekers. The only problem with a free incentive is that the people who subscribe to your email lists are mostly freebie seekers. If you don’t build awareness about the products you promote, they won’t buy anything you sell. So make sure to carefully use your free incentives while building your list. Educate them about the products you promote and more importantly increase your social proof to turn freebie seekers into loyal customers.

Increasing social proof isn’t easy. But if an authority blogger in your industry says nice things about you or what your site offers, it immediately builds trust.

Everyone including the authority bloggers like Pat Flynn and Neil Patel use social proof really well on their blogs to increase their conversion rates.

A 3-step Blueprint for Smart Affiliate Marketing

If you are wondering about increasing your overall brand awareness, here’s how to build your social proof so your conversions will go up:

Include visual testimonials. Ask for a testimonial from an authority blogger in your niche. If they share even a nice little sentence about you or your blog, it will help you skyrocket your conversion rates. Make sure to include their image while using them on your blog. This also immediately builds credibility to your landing pages.

Use logos. If you write a guest post for an authority blog or someone mentions you, include them in a logo format and place it on your homepage and landing pages. Neil Patel does this very well; he uses this to increase his conversion rates. Did you know that his conversion rate went down by 10% when he removed all the logos from NeilPatel.com? So add logos that include mentions or the guest posts you’ve written so far, it instantly builds trust among your readers.

Step 3: Find the right products that solve your audience’s problems

This is the key that helps most successful online marketers to make plenty of cash: choose the right product to promote. Don’t promote a product just because it is offering you high commissions. It’s the surefire way to spoil the bond with your audience and email subscribers, unless it truly helps them too.

So how to find the right affiliate products to promote?

There are two simple ways.

  1. Find out what other top bloggers are promoting on their blogs.
  2. Go to affiliate marketplaces and carefully choose the products that are highly related to your blog audience and topic.

I suggest you to filter the affiliate programs like this one on ClickBank in the following way:

A 3-Step Blueprint for Smart Affiliate Marketing

Make sure the Gravity of the products you want to promote is a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 100+ and the average commission are a minimum of $25 and a maximum of $150+.

That can do the trick; it can help you choose the RIGHT products for your audience, also helps you make high commissions for every product you recommend.

You can also check out other marketing places like CJ.com, ShareASale.com etc where you can find great products. 

In a nutshell, you need to pick the products that suit your audience needs and wants. And use your email list and blog as a combination to talk about the products you promote. Don’t forget to network with the influencers in your niche if you want to grow your audience and brand awareness.

So what are you waiting for? One of the top indicators you will become successful at affiliate marketing is how fast you implement the strategies you learn. So don’t wait for the right time and take immediate action. 

Final Thoughts

There’s no magic formula for making a living from affiliate marketing. Every successful online marketer starts with the one thing: they provide incredible value to their audience. They know their readers wants and needs and they promote the right products that help them make more sales even while they sleep.

Let me know your thoughts on the affiliate marketing. Do you have any more strategies that help people to increase their sales? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Anil Agarwal is the guy behind Bloggers Passion blog where he is helping readers in building their first professional blog and at the same time, helping them build high quality traffic to their blogs.

The Complete Bloggers’ Guide to Web Hosting

This is a guest contribution from Jerry Low.

Blog hosting can be a confusing thing to navigate, particularly if you’re new to the blogging game or just striking out with your own domain. If you look at WordPress’ previous official web hosting company recommendations, there are three hosting companies suggested – DreamHost, Laughing Squid, and BlueHost.

While I fully agree that these three are quality hosting companies, I wouldn’t label them as the best WordPress hosting choice for every blogger.

For example, DreamHost is a bit pricey for someone looking for an option that fits into a tight budget. The servers at BlueHost could be too packed for someone looking for extra reliability and CPU power. Laughing Squid is not a choice I’d recommend for a newbie or a non-techie.

Just because one host is one man’s meat, it could be another man’s poison. A lot depends on your specific needs as a blogger, your budget and even which features you may want to add to your site in the future.

With that in mind, I want to teach you how to pick the right web host for your blog instead of following others’ recommendations blindly.

What makes a good web host? 7 must-know factors

1. Reasonable Price

Some hosting providers target uninformed shoppers and are extremely overpriced. This is why it is important to compare multiple web hosting companies and what they offer in their packages.

User Friendly Control Panel: Both cPanel or vDeck are easy to use and there are many online tutorials on various blogs to talk you through their use. Beware of a customer built dashboard. They are very hit or miss and can be downright painful to use sometimes.

2. Helpful Customer and Technical Support

Make sure you can contact the host 24/7 for tech support. In addition, there should be multiple ways to contact the hosting company, such as via email, a ticket system on their website, and via telephone.

3. Reliable Server Uptime

There is no excuse for repeated downtime. The site simply must be up most of the time. It is best to try for a site that has a 99.9% uptime guarantee. 99.5% is (just) okay, but the 99.9% is preferable. Make sure they offer a guarantee. Don’t just take their word for it either. Track your site’s uptime with tools like Uptime Robot and Pingdom.

4. Payment Plans

You have to be comfortable with the payment plan. I’m okay with a yearly subscription if there is a decent discount, but other people want more flexibility. Just because you don’t mind a yearly subscription now doesn’t mean that’s the way it will always be either. Look for a host with more flexibility, such as 1-, 6-, 12-, 24-month subscriptions.

5. Easy to Manage

The control panel should allow you to easily install WordPress or the content management system you want with a few clicks. If it is too complicated to install the software, you’ll wind up paying fees to have a techie do it and then your budget will be blown. Check out the demo control panel before signing on with a hosting company to be sure you can easily complete the tasks you’ll need to.

6. e-Commerce Features

If you need or think you might need in the future e-Commerce solutions, make sure you have access to SSH access, SSL certificates and even easy to install shopping cart platforms.

7. Room to Grow

Is the hosting company one you can grow with as your site grows? Can you upgrade to a VPS or a dedicated server? While it’s smart to start off with a good shared hosting account, you may quickly grow to a point where it just makes sense to upgrade. You don’t want to have to move your whole site if you don’t have to.

Understanding your hosting needs

It’s important to evaluate the specific needs you have for a hosting company. Otherwise you may fall into the trap of blindly following the advice of others and wind up with a hosting company that doesn’t meet your needs as a blogger.

Questions to ask yourself or your hosting provider:

Do you need email hosting?

Do you want [email protected]? If yes, then you will need to stick with hosting companies that provide email hosting. Keep in mind that an email with your domain name looks more professional.

Do you need large storage for media files?

For example, do you plan to upload unique videos, infographics, or high resolution photos? If yes, you will need to get a host that offers large storage solutions. However, be wary of hosting services with unlimited storage as some of them will limit your storage usage by capping on your inode usage. Ask your web host before signing up about inode usage. Anything below 100,000 inodes on a shared web host is unacceptable.

Do you expect the site to grow fast?

If yes, then you probably need to stick with a web host that provides room to grow. More traffic = more data transfer and CPU power. Look at the cost of bigger packages and private hosting. Some hosting companies offer a cheap rate for small packages, but charge much more than they should for larger ones.

What other additional services you need?

Do you need server root access? Do you need someone to backup your site for you or automated backup? Do you need automated malware scanning? These could be deciding factors on your hosting choice.

What is your level of hosting knowledge?

Do you need spoon-fed support or you can pretty much cover everything yourself? Do you prefer phone calls over live chat; or vice versa? If you have very little knowledge, look for a hosting company that caters to newbies or offers inexpensive tech support packages.

Can you tweak and secure the WordPress yourself?

Do you need a developer to do it for you instead (some hosting companies provide web development services)? Check carefully the cost of such developer services. Does the company charge by the hour or by the task? Will they teach you to manage your own backend on the server or will you be paying them for all eternity to update your site?

Is the server location important?

If you are not planning to use a CDN, then you probably want a server that is closest to your blog targeted audience so your blog loads faster for them.

Protecting yourself from a bad web host

There is nothing worse than paying for a year upfront only to realize your blog hosting company is downright horrid. There are some things you can do to protect yourself from a bad web host, though.

  • Register your domain name with a third party registrar even if the hosting package comes with a free domain name (use that free one for a domain to park on top of your main one). NameCheap and GoDaddy are my two favorites for registering a domain.
  • Check if the web host IP is black listed – use Spamhaus Block List.

Once you’ve already committed to a website:

  • Track your site uptime using free tools like Uptime Robot and Pingdom.
  • Backup your site regularly. Even if the web hosting company offers a free site restore/backup option, backup your site anytime you do a major update. There are many nightmare stories about complete websites being lost forever.
  • Ensure that all files are using the correct CHMOD permissions. CHMOD permissions range from 000 (no access) to 777 (full access). You can use a FTP tool to check and set the right permissions on each folder and file. Filezilla or Cute FTP are two examples, but there are many free and paid FTP software solutions out there. Choose the one that is easiest for you to use. Typically, you can right click on the folder on your web server within your FTP program and see what the permissions are set to.
  • Use a strong password and change it regularly just in case your password is stolen by someone working in the hosting company.

So how do you pick a good host for your blog?

types of web hosting

If you are just getting started with blogging:

  • Pick a web host that you can afford for at least 2 years. Your blog may not make any money at all, particularly at first, so you want to be sure you don’t have to shut the blog down because of lack of funds.
  • A reliable shared web host should be good enough for now. Just remember to check about space limitations and check uptime.
  • Right now you should focus on building useful content and growing your community. You should spend more on marketing and content. Get a good newsletter service and start building your email list, start social media marketing ads, get in touch with local bloggers and hire them to promote your blog, etc.
  • Ask questions about customer service and if they will help you understand running a website because you are new to blogging.

For seasoned bloggers:

  • As part of your job now is to make sure your readers can navigate smoothly within your blog. You need a very reliable and fast web host.
  • You should track your site uptime and response speed with tools like Pingdom and Uptime Robot.
  • Monitor your blog memory usage and know your limit – once your blog hits 80% of the allocated memory (this the usual bottleneck you’ll first bump into with shared hosting), then it’s time to consider upgrading to VPS hosting.
  • Also, consider using an SSD hosting for faster site speed.

Do hosting reviews matter?

As someone who makes a living writing hosting reviews, even I would say that it depends. Sometimes reviews don’t matter at all, because:

  1. Hosting reviews are sometime useless as reviews are affected by commission payouts (although many of us try to keep things unbiased as much as possible).
  2. Real users who are not affiliated with web hosting companies and write feedback are either very upset with the service or extremely happy with the web host. Those in the middle, who likely can easily see both the pros and cons, may not comment at all.
  3. Haters gonna hate. People tend to leave feedbacks when they are angry. Big companies – with tens of thousands of customers – are bound to have negative comments. Pay attention to the negative reviews, but understand that may not be the whole picture.
  4. Some web hosting shoppers have unreasonable expectations. When those demands aren’t met, even if they are unrealistic, they are angry and leave bad reviews.
  5. This is why every hosting company – no matter how good they are – will have negative reviews. Weight the positive and the negative to get a clearer picture.
  6. What’s important is to see how these hosting companies handle critiques and negative comments. Are they trying to improve? Are they polite to the complaining customer or dismissive?
  7. But in reality, most of the time, the hosting service is doing okay – slightly better than expected or plain mediocre. Perhaps the hosting service is nothing to shout about, and yet nothing awful enough to complain about. You seldom see hosting reviews that say the service was average.

On the other hand, hosting reviews can help you get a clearer picture of whether a hosting company will work for you or not:

  1. A good hosting affiliate will give you the inside picture and let you decide if the host is right for you. I am not going to tell you to sign up for a web host I personally didn’t think much of, because that would impact my reputation and trustworthiness. Most hosting affiliates feel the same way.
  2. Don’t want to read those small texts in TOS? Want uptime records for a web host? that’s what good reviewers do for you. They dig down into the important information and share anything you really need to know to make up your mind. For example, the following images are uptime record I made for my InMotion Hosting review at WHSR.

hosting uptime sample

The Big Picture

The bottom line is that you have to look at many different elements to figure out whether a web host is right for you. Read hosting reviews to discover what others think about that host. Then, run your own test and ask your own questions.

Trust your gut instincts when making the final decision about which host is most suited to your needs. Never be too lazy or afraid to switch hosts when things turn bad. Even a great host can grow too fast or all under new management and become the opposite. If you’ve given a host a few months for things to settle and things aren’t improving, then it’s probably time to shop around.

Jerry Low is a geek dad who enjoys building web assets. You can get more of his blogging tips here

5 Ways to Ramp Up Comments on Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Alex Ivanovs.

Comments feed the writers soul with proof of work well done. It’s easy to think that not everyone likes comments, but the truth is that comments are what makes us believe in our content and its usefulness. The feeling you get from not receiving any comments on the content you write can be pretty devastating. You invest so much time into writing and publishing a post, and in the end it seems that you wrote it just for yourself.

The idea that nobody cares is quite painful. Comments are the blogger’s currency, and how long can you keep going on for when you’re broke?

Copyblogger, CNN, and Michael Hyatt are some of the most known names that have decided to abandon comments altogether, which puts more pressure on social discussion and sharing.

It’s important to remember that blog comments are not a metric of success, even some of the most popular blogs today are struggling to keep up with consistent comments, and the following concept shows what’s true for any blogger:

5 Ways to Ramp up Comments on Your Blog
(photo credit: CoSchedule)

I think it’s unrealistic to have a blog where 50% of readers would also be commenters, this would mean that a post that is read 1000 times would yield 500 comments, which is quite unheard of. If 1% of 1000 readers leaves a comment, that makes for 10 comments — a much more realistic number.

What are the options to stirring up the pot and getting more comments out of the content we publish?

1. Blogger mentions (name-dropping)

Name dropping is the act of giving someone credit for the work they have done, which in many cases is going to be a specific person who may or may not be influential. By giving someone else credit for the work they have done, you can utilize that mention to reach out to them and tell them where you credited them.

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Jasmine Henry from Writtent shared a post about formatting blog posts, and throughout the post she mentioned several content sources that verified her claims, including our very own Darren Rowse.

Remember to:

  • Mention bloggers only if their opinion is truly relevant. Don’t do it for selfish purposes.
  • Reach out to the bloggers you have mentioned in your post by asking them to participate in discussion, respect their decision not to.

2. Comment to get comments

Having trouble being seen by others? Perhaps the issue is not the quality of content, but your lack of presence on other important blogs and platforms that could yield new visitors and commenters. Sites like BizSugar and Inbound are great for discovering new blogs, both new and seasoned.

Once you discover a previously unknown site that has content that’s relevant to yours, start engaging the writers in insightful discussions to form basic relationships. If successful (you get a reply), start aiming towards building a more serious relationship, such as: social media follows, link out to your own content, reach out to propose a guest column.

What you need to keep in mind that it’s important to know which blogs you’re leaving comments on. Big media sites like TechCrunch, Huffington Post, and Entrepreneur are all very active content platforms, but leaving comments on these sites isn’t going to yield any reasonable results, the reason why is because these sites write about every topic imaginable, which results in the audience being more widespread, whereas an audience that’s looking for specific niche content is more than likely to engage in discussion.

3. Share valuable content

Sharing valuable content can be misunderstood. You don’t have to aim for 2000 words, or name-drop 20 influential bloggers, what you need is to ask yourself, “If I was a visitor to this site and I read this piece of content, would it make me want to leave a comment? Do I feel like I have to respond?”.

A piece of content that’s organized and easy to digest, is naturally going to attract comments. A piece of content that’s a wall of text is going to be ignored. It’s that simple.

4. Confident opinion

New bloggers can get the wrong impression on the way blogging works. The idea that we have to write big posts with lots of information is well-known amongst the marketers, but is it really something that WE need to do? An honest and confident opinion will go much farther than a post that’s built around the idea of living up to the 2000 word limit to be a contender for the Google’s first page.

If something can be said in 1000 words and still provide immense value to the reader, why should you force yourself to find an extra 1000 words to feel safe about your rankings? Ask yourself, “Who am I writing for, a real human being, or an algorithm?”.

This brings us to the next point:

5. Love what you do

Why do you blog? Is it for growth purposes, to promote your business, to keep track of what you have learned, or to strive for financial freedom? All are good causes, but we must learn to find balance between all, otherwise we risk putting too much focus on one thing and forget about the rest.

New bloggers will inevitably struggle with the idea of having to get good rankings to be successful and popular, when in fact there are so many other ways to promote oneself.

The lesson here is that people can tell the difference between content that’s written passionately, and content that’s written for the purpose of gaining something back. You should not write about topics that you don’t feel connected with on some level, otherwise you will be chunking out content that lacks one of the most important ingredients; passion. When you’re passionate about what you do and what you write about, it can spark a passionate response in the reader.

Benefits of passionate writing:

  • Readers can identify with you on a deeper level, which in turn attract likes, shares and subscriptions.
  • Writing becomes an experience of joy. It’s easier to write about the things you love.
  • We develop deeper connection with our writing and that helps us to stay empowered and full of enthusiasm.

The lessons in this post are very clear, we must focus on providing value that comes from a place of transparency, rather than a place of need and want. We should give before we get, and we should not waste our and others time by forcing invaluable actions.

ProBlogger is is a great example of how readers feel connected and engaged in the published content, neither Darren nor the editors of this blog would encourage forceful content, it has to be insightful and spark a train of healthy thought.

What do you do to ensure readers share their thoughts with you on your blog?

Alex Ivanovs is a passionate writer who works in the field of technology, personal growth, and blogging. You can find his other work on SkillCode, and you can follow him on Twitter: @skillcode.

The Secret Weapon That Levels the Playing Field for Every Blogger

The Secret Weapon That Levels the Playing Field for Every Blogger - on ProBlogger.netThis is a guest contribution from Ryan Biddulph.

7 years ago I was a broke, depressed, recently-laid-off security guard.

My life had no direction.

I had no purpose.

My self esteem was in the toilet.

I was lost, swaying to and fro on a sea of circumstance.

Today, I am a pro-blogging island-hopper. My wife Kelli and I blog from paradise. We’ve traveled the world for 51 months straight, living in places like Fiji, Bali, Thailand and Costa Rica. I am an Amazon bestselling author. I’ve written too many Blogging from Paradise eBooks to count. I publish a podcast. I may even start Blabbing after seeing Darren’s inspiring Blab sessions.

I’ve lived my dreams because I discovered the secret blogging weapon years ago.

This secret weapon helped me to gain recognition in a crowded, star-studded blogging field.

This secret weapon levels the playing field for every blogger on earth.

Yes….even you!

The Secret Weapon?

My story.

Your story.

Every blogger’s story.

No two human beings are alike, just like no two snowflakes are alike. Every creation is unique. This miracle of life does not exclude bloggers. Nor does it exclude their stories.

Nobody has lived your story and nobody can tell your story in your voice. Only you have lived your special, inspired life, and only you can write in your special voice.

This is why storytelling levels the playing field for every blogger.

Nobody has lived Ryan Biddulph’s life and nobody in human history can tell my story in my voice, as I can. Which is why I’ve lived a neat life in paradise. I use the one branding tool, the secret weapon, that makes me stand out from all bloggers: telling my story in my voice.

What if Your Story Has Been All Struggles So Far?

Tell your struggle-laden story. Then share your dream.

If you’re new to blogging your story needs to include a dream. Nobody wants to follow a pity party. We’ve all been through nightmares but we’re all inherently hopeful. Share your dream. Hook readers.

Your story becomes your secret weapon, leveling the blogging playing field, if it ends with a dream. I want you to inspire me. I want to root for you. I want to watch you overcome the odds. I enjoy watching you crush obstacles.

Once you add your dream to your struggles, you have set the stage for a happy ending that we all want to see. You’ve whetted your blogging dagger. You’ve hammered your blogging scythe.

Billion Dollar Industry

Readers and viewers buy into stories. Literally. Books, movies and TV shows are billion dollar industries. Everybody has a billion dollar story within them just screaming to be told. Be bold. Tell your story.

Practical Tips for Telling Your Story

  1. Write for at least 30 minutes daily. Writing regularly helps you to find your voice. Writing regularly also inspires you to let go the self conscious “my story is not significant” limiting belief.
  2. Read voraciously. Skilled novelists can teach you how to write emotional, inspired stories. I am reading George R.R. Martin and Lee Child now. These two bestselling authors inspire me to become a better storyteller through their masterful writing skills.
  3. Tell your story regularly, offline. Get comfortable chatting up your story with strangers. For example: I drop my blog name and personal story casually into conversations with strangers I meet during my world travels. Doing so gives me greater confidence to tell my story regularly through my blog.
  4. Surround yourself only with confident, inspired bloggers. Allow their transparency and faith in self to rub off on you. Bloggers like Darren freely share both their successes and failures. If he only spoke of his successes his story would be boring because good stories need highs and lows. Learn from him. Follow one of his great success secrets: transparent blogging.
  5. Weave some part of your personal tale into every blog post. Blogging from Paradise readers often comment that they love when I share my personal travel stories. My stories are unique. Nobody on earth can re-create my experience with my writing voice. I remember this before I publish any blog post.

Do You Think that Nobody Cares about Your Story?

7 years ago I was a nobody. I didn’t even know what a “blog” was.

Today I am a fulltime income-earning, island-hopping blogger.

My metamorphosis started with one story. One day I just decided to blog about how I became a pro blogger. I thought for years that nobody cared about my story. Who would really be interested in a security guard turned blogger? It turns out, a lot more folks than I initially thought. Everything changed the moment I opened up. I had to speak up. It took courage to tell my story. It took a willingness to accept criticism. But I am so happy that I chose to tell my tale.

We care about your story.

We want you to tell it.

You have the great equalizer in your blogging arsenal. It’s begging to be used.

Tell your story.

Your Turn

Are you telling your story?

Why?

Why not?

Ryan Biddulph is an Amazon best selling author, blogger, world traveler and the creator of Blogging from Paradise.

5 Things to Pay Attention to When Considering Local SEO and Your Blog

5 Things to Pay Attention to When Considering Local SEO and Your BlogThis is a guest contribution from Larry Alton.

People are always talking about how SEO affects the quantity and quality of traffic your blog receives, but you’ll rarely hear local SEO discussed in terms of blogging. Most people feel like local SEO is reserved for physical businesses, but your blog could also benefit from some strategic tweaks and adjustments.

Understanding Local SEO

Local SEO is essentially a sub-segment of search engine optimization that focuses on enhancing local visibility within a specific geographical market. By following certain tips and including specific data and information, pages can rank higher in these markets. While you may want to hire an SEO company that’s skilled at local search engine optimization, there are some important things worth knowing if you’re considering local SEO for your blog.

  1. Domain authority. While there are a lot of different nuances to local SEO, one thing doesn’t change: the importance and significance of domain authority. The strength of your blog – in the eyes of the search engines – directly impacts local and organic rankings. Some of the factors that go into determining domain authority include the age of the website and the number/quality of links pointing to the website. Domain authority is constantly being updated to reflect changes and developments, so it’s important to keep an eye on this aspect of SEO.
  2. Accurate NAP info. The biggest issue for blogs – if they aren’t directly connected to a physical business – is the challenge of listing accurate contact information. Local SEO depends on this to verify location and geographically organize search results for users. NAP stands for “name, address, and place” and it’s an important factor for local searches. If at all possible, it’s helpful to secure a local phone number and mailing address for your blog.
  3. Local content. Google pays a lot of attention to the keywords and topics you discuss on your blog. While you should avoid keyword stuffing, it’s helpful to include valuable local content on your blog. By discussing topics that are rich in local keywords, you’ll naturally enhance your local SEO efforts.
  4. According to the 2015 Survey of Local Search Ranking Factors, the fourth most important localized organic factor is the click-through-rate of your search results. In other words, when users do click your SERPs, are they bouncing or sticking around for more? The only way to ensure users click through is to offer valuable content that answers questions and provides fresh insights.
  5. Domain wording. If you have a geographic keyword in your domain name, you have a much better chance of ranking for that location. This isn’t possible for every blog, but it is something worth considering when launching. If you can’t get the geographic keyword in the domain name itself, consider including it in as many titles and headers as you can.

While local SEO is designed for pointing users to local businesses and services in their area, bloggers should also be paying attention to these techniques. By studying some of the ranking factors and understanding what goes into local SEO, it’s possible that you can enhance your blog’s visibility.

The Inverse Relationship

On a related note, it’s pretty interesting to study the inverse relationship between blogging and local SEO. While up until this point we’ve discussed how local SEO tweaks can impact your blog, it’s important to note that blogging can also impact local SEO for physical businesses. We’re at a point where many local businesses are investing in blogging, but very few are doing it well. By mastering blogging and giving it the attention it needs to thrive, a business can really excel in this area.

The biggest thing blogging does for local SEO is attract relevant traffic. By writing timely, local content that pertains to a particular geographical market, you can encourage natural back linking and sharing. This is how you begin building organic traffic.

Looking at the Big Picture

Whichever angle you look at it from, blogging and local SEO are intertwined. Local SEO impacts a blog’s visibility and quality of traffic, and a company’s blog can directly impact local SEO efforts.

It’s a very real, tangible relationship that all bloggers and business owners need to be aware of. By looking at the big picture and understanding this connection, you can better understand the value behind what you’re doing.

Do you pay much attention to local SEO?

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Pitches and Get More Freelance Writing Work

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Pitches and Get More Freelance Writing Work - we've got all the tips on ProBlogger.net!This is a guest contribution from Jorden Roper.

You know you’re a good writer, so why aren’t you landing the gigs that you want?

Well, it’s probably because you aren’t pitching your ideas properly.

Because – let’s face it – even if you’re the best writer in the world, you’ll get rejected every single time if you can’t craft an effective pitch.

If you’ve ever pitched, you already know the drill. You email the editor at the website you want to write for. Then…

You wait.

Hours turn into days. Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months, and by that point, you’ve probably given up.

But don’t let yourself give up on pitching completely. With a few simple tweaks to your pitching process, you can get more freelance writing work. Here’s how:

1.    Spend time researching and preparing.

Crafting a good pitch takes time.

It’s not as simple as sitting down at your computer, throwing together an email in five minutes, and crossing your fingers in hopes that you’ll get a response from the editor. I mean, you can do it that way, but you aren’t going to get the results you’re looking for.

Instead, you’ll need to prepare quite a bit. The idea here is to gather the information you need to write the best pitch email possible.

I’ll give you an example. The post you’re reading right now is obviously a guest post. Here are a few things I did to prepare before I pitched my ideas to ProBlogger’s editor:

  • Looked through lots of their existing blog posts to make sure I pitched a unique idea
  • Followed the Problogger Twitter feed and interacted with their tweets
  • Figured out ProBlogger’s target audience and started researching to pinpoint exactly what that audience would be interested in reading about

Make sure you take similar measures to prepare too. Doing so will help you get in the right mindset to create the most effective pitch.

And yes, the preparation process can be a bit time-consuming. But, preparing shows the editor that you aren’t just a random stranger looking for backlinks or any available writing job, which can make all of the difference!

2.    Optimize your subject line.

Your subject line could determine whether or not your email is ever opened, so you need to make it good. But maybe you’re wondering – what do editors want to see in a subject line?

Kelsey Libert, VP of Marketing at Frac.tl, surveyed over 500 digital publishers to find out their preferences. Her survey showed that 42% of editors (the majority) preferred to see the content title and type in the subject line over anything else.

That means you can simply use this format:

Title of Content [Content Type]

Here’s an example:

5 Surefire Tips for Improving Your Pitches and Getting More Freelance Writing Work [Blog Post]

Doing this helps the editor immediately understand what type of content and subject matter you plan to write about, saving them a lot of time and frustration when they’re digging through a full inbox to look for a worthwhile pitch.

But what if you’re simply pitching yourself for a recurring gig (as opposed to pitching an article idea)?

In my experience, this subject line formula works best:

Hi [Editor’s Name], I’m A [Niche] Blogger Interested In Writing For You

So, if you’re pitching your ideas to an editor named Bryan who is looking for a blogger to write about travel topics, your subject line would look like this:

Hi Bryan, I’m A Travel Blogger Interested In Writing For You

This works for three reasons:

Personalization

First of all, personalized subject lines have been proven to deliver higher open rates. One Experian study showed that personalized emails delivered 26 percent higher open rates, and a MailChimp study on personalized subject lines yielded these results:

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Pitches and Get More Freelance Writing Work - on ProBlogger.net

So, it’s definitely worth your time to track down the editor’s name. Not only does personalization give your email a higher chance of being opened – it shows the editor that you’ve done some background research on their publication.

Capitalization

While capitalizing every word in a subject line may seem like an insignificant detail, it actually does boost the chances of your email being opened. Take a look at MailChimp’s results when they tested the effect of capitalization on open rates:

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Pitches and Get More Freelance Writing Work - on ProBlogger.net

Capitalizing every word might not affect open rates as much as personalization, but it’s still significant enough to matter. So, capitalize every word in your subject line next time you pitch, and see what happens!

Relevance

By adding your niche to the subject line instead of just calling yourself a writer or blogger, you immediately show the editor that you have the relevant experience they’re looking for. This immediately puts you at an advantage over applicants who force the editor to dig around in their email inbox to figure out which writers are a good fit.

3.    Put yourself in the editor’s shoes when you write your email content

Ready for some tough love?

No editor wants to know your entire life story in your pitch email. You don’t need to use multiple gigantic paragraphs to explain why you’re an ideal choice – be brief and get straight to the point. Here’s what you should include in your email content:

  • 1 or 2 short introductory paragraphs – These should quickly show that you’ve researched the publication and explain why you’re a great fit (focus on what you can offer the editor – not what they can offer you)
  • A few brief bullet points explaining the extra benefits of working with you – Customize these as much as possible. For example, if an editor’s job posting says that they want an SEO whiz who is reliable and communicative, show how you meet all of those qualifications in three bullet points. (Tip: Grouping things in threes provides a greater impact, so always aim for three bullet points.)
  • Some way you’re connected to the editor – Do you follow the publication on Twitter? Have you commented on their previous blog posts? Mention any connection to the publication/editor here to show that you’ve put effort into building a relationship.

Keep in mind that you’ll also need to follow any pitching instructions outlined in the publication’s guest post guidelines. If you don’t, you’re sure to frustrate the editor, which won’t exactly make a good first impression.

Now that we’ve covered what you should include while writing your email, let’s talk about what you shouldn’t do when trying to impress an editor and win more work:

  • Be impersonal – Don’t open your email with “Dear Editor” or “To Whom it May Concern.” Take the time to figure out the editor’s name, and use it.
  • Come off as arrogant/use meaningless jargon – Don’t say something off-putting like “I am a revolutionary writer who will write a life-changing post for you.” Instead, show how awesome a writer you are by including your best writing samples.
  • Talk negatively about yourself – Don’t advertise your lack of confidence and what you can’t do, your pitch should show what you can do for the editor and why you’re a good choice to do it.
  • Pitch a press release for your business disguised as a blog post – Do I really need to explain how tacky this is? Ugh… Just don’t do it.

4.    Pitch the right article ideas.

Remember, editors aren’t in the business of helping writers get published – they’re looking to provide their readers with useful content. Keep this in mind the entire time you’re writing your pitch, and show them what they’ll get from working with you by:

Including multiple pitches

Unless you’ve been specifically told otherwise, you’ll want to include several ideas for the editor to choose from. In fact, Frac.tl research shows that 70% of publishers would rather receive a set of ideas than a finished product on first contact.

And it’s easy to understand why – when you pitch several ideas, the editor has options and the ability to collaborate with you on the piece.

Keeping it relevant

Make sure that all of your ideas are relevant to the site, haven’t been done before on the publication you’re pitching to, and are likely to get results like social shares and traffic from the publication’s specific target audience.

Crafting compelling headlines

Your headlines have a huge effect on how your article will perform on social networks, so it’s important for you to make them good. You should pitch blog post ideas that solve a specific problem that the publication’s target audience is facing.

For example, 5 Tips for Freelance Writers wouldn’t be a good headline because it’s too vague and doesn’t solve a specific problem.

A better title would be Feeling Stuck? Here are 5 Productivity-boosting Secrets to Get You Writing Again because it addresses a common problem that the target audience (in this case, writers) faces. It also includes a number (list posts will always work) and an adjective (“productivity-boosting”) to entice the reader to click.

5.    Proofread your email several times.

Yes, even the best writers make mistakes, but your email is the editor’s first impression of you, so you want it to be perfect. Make sure you get your grammar/spelling right!

Even one simple error could send your email to the trash can. So, always use a tool like Grammarly or the Hemingway App to check over your email before you send it.

That being said, you shouldn’t rely solely on writing tools. We all know that spellcheck isn’t immune to error, so if you’re unsure about your spelling/grammar, have an editor look over your email or do some quick research online to make sure your email is correct.

In Conclusion

If you’re a strong writer, you should be able get a steady flow of work. Put the tips outlined here into practice to start sending out better pitches, and you’re sure to see your success rate improve.

That being said, keep in mind that not every publication will respond right away, even if your pitch looks great. Don’t be afraid to follow up with the editor if you know your pitch was solid but you haven’t received a response.

And, most importantly, avoid letting rejection discourage you. Remember – just because one publication isn’t interested in your work doesn’t mean that the countless other publications out there are going to feel the same way!

What strategies have you used to land more freelance writing work? Let me know in the comments section below!

Jorden Roper is a blogger/copywriter for hire and the founder of Writing Revolt, where she writes about finding success as a freelance writer. Stay in touch by connecting with Jorden on Twitter!

5 Tips for Optimising Facebook Ad Campaigns

This is a guest contribution from Luke Moulton.

Blogging about something you’re passionate about? Chances are there are others just as passionate as you, and chances are, a high percentage of these people hang out on Facebook and share the stuff they’re passionate about. Using Facebook ads to reach your target audience can get people Liking and sharing your content, and kick-start your traffic if you’re just starting out.

If you’ve dabbled with Facebook ads and not seen much success or traction, here are a couple of techniques to try to improve performance.

1. Laser Focus on Your Target Audience

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make with Facebook ads is to go too broad with their audience targeting. You probably have a good idea of your target demographic. For example: new Mums living in Los Angeles. So when you setup a Facebook Ad Set, make sure you target your audience accordingly.

1-Facebook-Audience-Targeting

Recently I was helping an Australian e-commerce client with his Facebook ad campaigns. He has a range of items that are season and weather-dependent. Digging into his campaign,s I found that performance varied for cities in the north of the country compared to the south. Give it was winter in Australia at the time, he was wasting money trying to promote warmer climate items to those in the souther states (remember, we’re in the Southern Hemisphere). Segmenting his campaigns down into regions (such as cities or states) help him to target products according to the weather in that region.

2. Boost Facebook Posts that are already getting traction

You may already have a healthy bunch of Facebook followers who share and like your content. When you notice a new piece of content you’ve posted getting more traction than usual, this is a good indication that the content could be popular to a broader audience.

This is a great opportunity to broaden you follower base.

2-friend-of-people-who-like-your-page

The trick that will ensure you get maximum engagement for you spend is to boost your post to “Friends of people who like your page” AND share a similar interest to what you blog about.

Doing this means that the “Friends of people who like your page” will see a little social proof on the ads that appear in their news feed. And social proof is a powerful motivator.

3-social-proof

3. Test vastly different images

Facebook is a very visual medium and the right image can make a huge difference in engagement and clicks to your ads. When you setup a new campaign, make sure you test at least two different ads that are identical except for the image.

Try adding a call to action to your image, making sure you your copy takes up 20% or less of the image space, as specified in Facebook Ads terms and conditions.

4. Setup Facebook conversion tracking

Wether you’re building an email list or selling product, Facebook conversion tracking gives you the ability to see which audience segments convert better, therefore giving you the ability to focus on getting more of those people to your website.

Running a Facebook ads report with Conversion metrics will show you (for example) which age range are converting best.

4-running-reports

In the example above, Women aged 55-64 are converting the best and costing the least. If you see something like this as an on-going trend, it can be worthwhile separating this audience out into their own Ad Set so you can try to better tailor your ads to this demographic.

5. Rotate your ads

If you’re targeting the same audience on an ongoing basis, eventually they are going to get sick of seeing the same ads week in week out. Try to set a monthly schedule to refresh your ads, or focus more on promoting your better performing posts.

Luke Moulton is a digital marketer specialising in Facebook Ads campaign management. Checkout more tips on his blog at Plankton Digital.

The Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social Media

The Step-By-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social Media - on ProBlogger.netThis is a guest contribution from Beth Hayden.

Ever want to pull your hair out when you try to share one of your posts on Facebook?

Yep. Me too.

When you put you hear and soul into publishing a piece of content on your site, it’s frustrating when you try to share it on Facebook and it shows up in other people’s feeds looking really….well….weird.

Sometimes Facebook shows the wrong image when you share your post. Sometimes it doesn’t show an image at all. Occasionally it grabs the correct image, but crops the photo in an awkward way.

And it’s not just Facebook that frustrates content creators.

Sometimes we have the same problem on Pinterest. Will our readers pin the right image to their boards? Will that image be cropped strangely, or will it be too small to view correctly?

This is not only a common and annoying problem, it’s a big one. If your posts don’t show up the “right way” when people share them on social networking sites, your social shares are going to decrease dramatically.

Here are two examples of how things can go wrong when sharing links on Facebook:

The Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social Media2FacebookWrongWayExampleMinusTide

Luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent these types of Facebook headaches.

To take control of how your posts show up on social media, you need to harness the power of social metadata .

Don’t freak out – we’re going to talk about metadata

I’m going to make a confession. My eyes usually glaze over when I hear the word “metadata.”

If you feel the same way, I want you to bear with me for just a bit.

A couple of years ago, I learned some metadata basics so I could perform some (very) simple search optimization on some of my posts. After that, I just didn’t have the patience to sift through confusing and overwhelming jargon about meta descriptions and keywords, so I stuck my head in the sand and hoped metadata would just….go away.

But it turns out, metadata’s more important than ever – so we’ve got to talk about it. But I promise you, I’m going to be brief, clear and practical in this section.

Metadata is simply the key words and phrases that describe the contents of a particular web page. Essentially, it’s data about data, and when we’re talking about writing blog posts, that means it is data about your blog posts.

Most metadata isn’t easily visible to your readers, but it can be detected and read by other websites and tools (like Google’s search crawlers).

If you’ve ever changed the meta description of your post (in order to optimize it for search engines), then you have edited metadata.

The social metadata of a post is designed specifically so social networks like Facebook, Google+, Twitter or Pinterest can detect and read it. Social metadata determines how your post will appear when people share your content on one of those social networks.

For instance, Facebook reads metadata to determine what image will show when people post it on their walls. Metadata also determines how that image is cropped, and what words will be shown in the “title” area of the Facebook post.

Unfortunately, social metadata can cut both ways – your post might look amazing in social network feeds, or it might be a hot mess.

For instance, if Facebook can’t find Facebook-specific metadata within your post, it will grab any data it can find. Then it will use that random data to cobble together a Facebook post when together when someone shares your post with her friends.

That cobbled-together post is what leads to strange photo crops, odd post descriptions, and other social media faux pas.

Manipulating metadata for fun and profit

So if you don’t want to be at the mercy of Facebook, you need to take action. You’ve got to grab the social metadata bull by the horns, and decide exactly how your posts show up when people share your content.

Here’s what you need to do:

Step One: Install a WordPress plugin that lets you edit your social metadata.

Yoast’s SEO for WordPress plugin is a great choice, but there are other options, too. You need a plugin (or a set of plugins) that lets you edit social metadata for Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
To install the Yoast plugin, click Plugins > Add New from your WordPress dashboard, then search for “Yoast SEO” in the search box on the right side of your screen. It should be the first one listed.

Then install and activate the plugin.

Step Two: Configure the Yoast plugin for social metadata.

Next up, you need to edit the plugin settings so you can view and edit the social metadata from your WordPress visual editor for each page or post on your site.

To edit your settings, click on SEO > Social from your WordPress dashboard.

Edit the following settings:

    • Facebook: Click on the Facebook tab and make sure the box next to “Add Open Graph meta data” is checked. If you checked it, click “Save Changes” at the bottom of the page.
    • Twitter: Click on the Twitter tab, and make sure the box next to “Add Twitter card meta data” is checked. If you would like Twitter to display an image when people share the link to a post on your site, select “Summary with large image” in the “Default card type to use” dropdown menu. Then click “Save Changes” at the bottom of the page to save your updates.
    • Pinterest: No setting changes needed.
    • Google+: Click on the Google+ tab, check the box next to “Add Google+ specific post meta data,” then click “Save Changes.”

Step Three: Edit the social metadata for your next post.
Next time you write a post, here are the steps you need to take to edit the social metadata:

Edit the Facebook metadata.

After you’ve written your post, scroll down to the “WordPress SEO by Yoast” box, underneath the main content area in your WordPress visual editor. Then click on the “Social” tab.

The Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social Media

Enter a title in the “Facebook Title” field. If you’re following the rules of smart headline writing, you’ve already created an attention-getting headline for your post, so you can add that here.

There’s no need to add a “|” and the name of your site – your headline will stand on its own.

For instance, this:

The Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social Media

Is better than this:

The Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social Media

Add a short description to the “Facebook Description” field. Again, short and sweet is better here.

Upload an optimized image for Facebook. The Yoast plugin tells you the current optimum size for the image (currently the best size it 1200 x 628 pixels). You may want to create a special image that is sized specifically for Facebook – experiment a bit and see what works best for your audience.

Edit Twitter metadata.

Enter the Twitter Title and Description fields. You can either use the same title and description you used for the Facebook fields, or you can edit them to suit your Twitter audience.

Keep in mind that the information you put in these two fields is going to show up below the tweet in which your post is shared (not within the tweet itself) so you don’t need to adhere to the regular 140-character limit. See the example toward the bottom of this post to see how a Tweet will look when people share a link to your properly-optimized post.

Upload an optimized image for Twitter. The Yoast plugin tells you the current optimum size for the image (currently the best size it 1024×512 pixels), but in my experience, I’ve found you can often get away with using the same images for your Facebook and Twitter metadata.

Edit metadata for Google+.

Enter a Title and Description for Google+. Again, you can use the same information you used for Facebook and Twitter, above, or you can edit them for your Google+ audience.

Upload an optimized image for Twitter. The current optimal size is 800 x 1200 pixels.

Step Four: Make your post Pinterest-friendly.

You don’t need to make any specific social metadata changes for Pinterest, because Pinterest’s Rich Pin validators will read the social metadata you’ve added for other social sites.

However, there are a few things you need to consider to make it easy for people to pin your post. Make sure to:

    • Embed at least one large image in the content of your post. Images at least 700 pixels wide are best for Pinterest, so plan on including one somewhere in your post.

Need some ideas of how to do this?

Michael Hyatt makes his posts exceptionally Pinterest friendly:

The Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social MediaSelect an image as the “Featured Image” for the post. In most cases, a regular Pinterest “Pin It” button within a post will allow your readers to select and pin any image on particular page – but some “Pin It” buttons (particularly ones that are built into social sharing toolbars) only let your readers pin one particular image within the post.

The simple and elegant Genesis Simple Share plugin, for instance, only lets readers pin one image from any given post.

The Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social MediaThe Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social Media

If that’s the case with your social sharing buttons, you to select the individual image you want your readers to pin from your post.

To do that, you need to select a “Featured Image” for your post, in WordPress. It’s a quick step that will make things far easiest on your Pinterest-using readers.

Click on “Set Featured Image,” then select an existing image from your Media Library or upload a new image.
The Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social Media

Check your work and make sure everything looks share-worthy

Bottom line: If your post doesn’t show up in an attractive, readable way in social media, it’s not going to get shared. That’s the practical reality of our current social networking climate.

So after you’ve edited your metadata and optimized your content for Pinterest, you’ve got to check your work and make sure your images and post information are rendering correctly.

Yes, this is a bit of a pain at first, but it’s worth it. You really don’t want to kill your chances of going viral before you even start promoting your post.

Here are the steps you need to take to check your work:

STEP ONE: Use Open Graph Debug on Facebook.

To see how your post will look when readers share it on Facebook, use the Facebook Open Graph Debug Tool.

Paste the URL of your post in that debug field, and it will give you a sneak peek at your post’s metadata code, and give you a preview of how the post will appear when someone shares it on Facebook.
The Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social Media
STEP TWO: Validate your Twitter Card.

Use the Twitter Card Validator to see how your post will appear when people share it on Twitter. Just copy and paste the URL of the post into the Card Validator and click on “Preview Card.”

The Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social Media

STEP THREE: Check your Rich Pin Status on Pinterest

To make sure your content is rendering correctly as a “Rich Pin” in Pinterest, run your URL through the Pinterest Rich Pin Validator. For more information about Rich Pins on Pinterest, check out this post.

The Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social Media

STEP FOUR: Share your post manually.

Your last step is to share your post on all four of the major sites (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest), if possible. This is the very last check to make sure everything looks great during the sharing process.

It will also get you in the habit of promoting your own content after you publish it – which is always a good idea!

Here’s a basic idea of how your posts should look on each of the social sites, if you’ve done things correctly. Keep in mind there will be variations in how your content will look, depending on your specific images and post text.

The Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social Media14CorrectTwitterShareThe Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social Media

The Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social Media

If anything looks strange when you run your posts through the social validators (or when you share your post manually), go back to your original content and update the appropriate metadata. You may need to wait a few moments for your new metadata to propagate before you run the tests again.

Practice makes social metadata perfection

If this process sounds arduous, take heart. It will get easier with every post you publish, and you’ll get faster at it each time.

It’s a good idea to create a checklist for yourself, so you can whip through these steps in just a few minutes before you hit “publish.”

The one thing you can’t do at this point is ignore the importance of social metadata.

Visual marketing on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest is here to stay, and if you close your eyes and keep wishing it will go away, you (and your clients) will suffer the consequences in terms of fewer social shares and decreased traffic to your site.

So dig in, use this post as a primer on how to conquer this process, and get comfortable going through these steps for every piece of content you publish.

Start practicing today, and before you know it, you’ll be a social metadata rock star. 

Beth Hayden is an author, speaker and content marketing expert. Want to find out how to build your list and get more traffic to your blog? Get your copy of Beth’s free report, “How One Smart Blogger Doubled Her List by Taking One Brave Step.”