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How to Hire an Ace Blogger for Your Company: A Blueprint

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Image via Flickr user Brizzle Born and Bred

This is a guest contribution from Steff Green of WorkflowMax.

Having been a freelance blogger since 2009, I’m used to looking for ways to improve my pitches and blogging job applications. However, recently I got to sit on the other side of the desk. I’ve landed the dream job – writing the awesome business blog at WorkflowMax – a cloud-based job management software for creatives and other service businesses. But we wanted to expand the blog from 3-4 posts a week to 7+, as well as start to work on some other cool content projects, and for that, we needed to bring another full-time blogger on staff.

It was up to me – and our Marketing Manager – to find this blogger. Mission: Accepted.

Having never hired a writer before, I turned to the internet for some advice, but didn’t really find much beyond very generic job-search tips. So, based on our experiences flying blind through the application process, I’m writing two posts for Problogger. The first is advice for companies like ours who need to hire a blogger. The follow-up post will be advice for bloggers who are looking for a full-time, steady job as a content creator at a company like ours: what to expect, and how to ensure you have the best chance of landing the gig.

 

Step 1: Write an Enticing Job Ad / Description

The first thing you’ll need to do is create a job ad that appeals to bloggers. This will be the first clue to prospective applicants that this job could be a good fit for them. Most bloggers that I know aren’t looking for a full-time job at a company (they are freelancers looking for several clients or making their income off their own blogs), but remember that you could be offering something that is quite unusual: a regular, monthly income as a writer. That stability for writers can be quite rare, which will mean you’ll definitely have a lot of interested candidates.

Because I’m the writer on staff, I had to take care of writing the job ad. I tried to highlight:

  • Different types of writing the job would entail – such as blogging, ebooks, EDMS, social media.
  • A sense of who the audience for the blog was, and the voice of the company.
  • A sense of who the company are, and the benefits and learning experiences gained from working for them.
  • Some of the perks the blogger could expect, such as flexible hours and their own laptop.

I wanted to attract writers who were used to writing B2B content, who had some knowledge about cloud-based software, service businesses and have the ability to quickly learn, adapt and write about a wide range of topics.

 

Step 2: Narrow Down Your Candidate List

We received a huge number of applications. HR sent us only 10 or so of the more likely candidates – so I didn’t get to see many of the real doozies. Our task was to narrow down our list to 3-4 candidates to interview.

If you are like me, you may never have had to choose interview candidates before, especially not based on resumes, cover letters, and writing samples. If you’re not a writer (like my manager), this can be even more terrifying. How do you know if someone is a good writer or not?

Here are my tips for narrowing down the herd:

  • Think of the resume as a blog writing sample. After all, they are quite similar in structure – lots of headings, lists, and bullets to make it easily scannable, highlighting key points, an eye-catching opener to entire you to read more. We received one resume that was literally a laundry list of points (“Studied Communications. Led 20 person team for International project, A in Social Media Paper, Good Communications Skills”) with no apparent order or hierarchy. If a candidate can’t properly structure a resume, what hope will they have to properly structure a blog post or ebook?
  • Look for creative thinkers. We had one candidate who wrote what would be considered a “risky” application – she made her cover letter into a blog post – with subheadings, bullets, a call to action, everything that is a blogging cliche. For any other job, this kind of application wouldn’t fly, but I found that in the sea of other candidates her writing stood out as fresh and different.
  • Remember not to judge the cover letter too harshly. We were looking for quite a chatty, personable tone, and many of the cover letters we received were stiff and stilted. I tried not to judge them on this, as it’s the normal tone for a cover letter. Instead, I judged their writing ability on the strength of their samples.
  • Ask for samples! We asked candidates to supply 1-2 writing samples with their applications. We also visited candidates websites and blogs to get an idea of the work they were producing. If a candidate lists a personal blog or website, go and check it out, because you can find all sorts of things you might not discover otherwise!

 

Step 3: Interviewing the Candidates

Now that you’ve narrowed down your applicants to a shortlist of candidates, it’s time to get those people into the office or on Skype for an interview. This is the most daunting part of the process, both for candidate and for company, because you’re no longer simply assessing if they can do the job – you’re trying to figure out if they will be a good fit for your team.

We narrowed our list down to five candidates, and interviewed four in the office and one over Skype. We were given a list of questions from HR that we could use, but we also had created a few of our own questions. Here are some of our tips for successful interviews:

  • Start by talking through their CV. I’ve never seen this at an interview before, but I found it an extremely useful thing to do. Often, our candidates had many different jobs listed – from social media internships, to project-based work, to permanent roles, and long stretches of freelance work. Talking through their work history (all candidates were quite young) gave us an overview of where they were going in their career, and helped pinpoint skills they had picked up and unique experiences they could bring to our team.
  • Ask about daily word count. An interesting question I asked each of our candidates was how many words they thought they could write in a day. I’m a solid 2000 word girl myself, and it was interesting hearing responses from 1000 words right up to 4000+. Wordcount definitely isn’t everything (quality over quantity, of course), but as writing is so subjective it gave us at least one solid metric with which to measure candidates.
  • Put them on the spot about their blogging knowledge. For example, we would give them a scenario where they had just written and published a post on our blog. Now, how would they get lots of eyes on that post? I was much more interested in those candidates who talked about forming relationships with other industry bloggers than in those who said, “um … social media?”
  • Ask about their future plans. Future plans can be a good indicator of whether the candidate is looking for a role they can grow into, or something to bridge a gap while they look for something better. We had one extremely strong candidate whose goal was to move into a strategic role, and her current role was already placing her in this type of work. Because our role is primarily production (writing blog posts), we decided she probably wasn’t right for the position in the end.
  • Get to know their personality. You’re going to be working with this blogger for a huge chunk of the week, so make sure you’re looking for a candidate that is a good fit for your company. See how they respond to your questions. Ask them about their working style. Talk about their career so far. Do they seem like a good fit?

 

Step 4: Create a Writing Test

This may not be a necessary step in every company, but we were really struggling to choose a candidate. All four candidates were strong writers according to their samples, and they had great personalities that meshed with our team based on the interview, and different strengths and experiences. We decided to create a writing test that was specific to our company’s blog. Our company regularly sets tests when we employ developers, so it wasn’t so out of the ordinary.

I set three questions that related to different aspects of our blog. It would require candidates to read through some articles on our blog and get a feel for our voice and our audience.

First, I asked the bloggers to write a list of topic ideas for one of our verticals – creative agencies – to help promote an ebook. Then I asked them to choose one of their topics and write a 500-word blog post based on their idea. To do well in the exercise, the candidate would need to look at a few posts on our WorkflowMax blog, and write some ideas that fit our tone and audience (A lot of guest bloggers approach us with general business advice articles, which is NOT what we’re after, so I was interested to see if our candidates would make the same mistake. Some of them did.

The test was the single biggest indicator that helped us choose our first-choice candidate.

When creating your own test, think about:

  • What activities your blogger will need to do regularly (idea generation, creating tweets, blogger outreach, writing posts, submitting guest blogs) and design simple exercises around these aspects of the job.
  • Keep the test short – it should take the candidate less than an hour to complete.
  • Give the candidates a few days to complete the test from home.
  • Look for ideas and writing that could easily work alongside what you’re currently producing. Look for the structure of a blog post. Look for details like linking to other articles, using headings and lists, and having a call-to-action.
  • But on the other hand, don’t discount a blogger because of features that could be learned – such as post formatting or compelling headlines. Have they got the basics right?

 

Step 5: Create a “points” system

So you’ve finished your interviews, and you’ve got notes written about each candidate. But now you’re stumped. They all have their strengths and weaknesses – how do you decide who is right for your company?

One thing I did is create a points system. We created a spreadsheet with a list of different factors, including:

  • digital marketing experience
  • copywriting / blogging experience
  • WorkflowMax writing sample
  • Other writing samples
  • WorkflowMax topic generation
  • Output – words per day
  • Unique, engaging voice
  • Future goals aligned with role

We then went through and rated each candidate out of five for each of the factors. Adding up the points gave us a score for each candidate. This helped to give us something with which we could measure candidates with different strengths against each other, rather than simply saying, “Well, Clara has experience in the cloud computing industry, but Doris’ sample was better. Now who do we choose?” This helped us single out two candidates who stood out.

 

Step 6: Talk to a Writer

If you don’t have a writer on staff already, then hire one to look over the writing samples and give you their honest opinion. If you are not a writer, it can be difficult to understand what makes a good one, and what makes a great writer stand out from the good.

 

Step 7: Make the Offer!

You’ve done it! You’ve found the right blogger for your position. You can now dance on a table and go out for a beer. But not before you’ve made them the offer, of course! We’re really happy with the blogger we chose, and she’s fitting in nicely with our little team.

Finding a blogger for a full-time position can be a real mission. But it’s important to find the right person for the company, because you are stuck with them for a long time.

Have you ever gone through the process of hiring a blogger? What advice could you offer other companies?

Steff Green is the content manager for WorkflowMax, cloud-based job management software that tackles everything from leads, quotes, time sheeting, invoicing, reporting, and more. You can find her writing business advice for creative agencies, architects, IT companies and other business that bill by time on the WorkflowMax blog.

How Your Business Can Make the Most Out of Google Updates

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This is a guest contribution from Emma Henry of True Target Marketing.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), when executed well, can reap significant results for an online business.  It can boost search engine rankings and increase targeted website traffic, resulting in more sales leads and paying customers. If you have plans to implement an SEO campaign, it pays to be aware of the latest Google updates to ensure that you adapt your online business as required in order to boost your search engine rankings and avoid being penalised.

The Search Engine Landscape is Changing

The latest Google Algorithm update has had a substantial impact on the way the search engine is now ranking sites. This update has been one of the most significant in the last 2-3 years. 

We are seeing a trend away from keyword-based search into query-based search. Google is now delivering search results based on what people would ask or say in conversation rather than on specific keywords. So, for example, “Where can I find …?” Or “How to ….?” Or “What is the …”

Google is attempting to return better search results that provide a more direct answer to these query-based searches. Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in a search query, ensuring that the whole sentence in the search query is taken into account, rather than specific keywords. The result is that website pages matching the entire query will rank better than website pages matching just a few key terms in the query.

Does this mean SEO is dead?

No. In fact Google says the fundamentals remain the same, and it comes down to having original, high-quality content on your site. Signals that have been important in the past remain important. Hummingbird just allows Google to process webpages in new and more relevant ways. Gone are the days when it was all about choosing specific keywords and manipulating your content and onsite SEO around these. Content is king. This has always been the case and has never been as important as right now.

So what does this mean you need to do?

You need to create good quality, relevant and unique website content on a regular basis around search queries relating to your niche. 

Google will reward websites who display the most relevant answers to these types of queries. The more query-based content you create, the more likely that Google will boost your search engine rankings. Answering common industry questions will not only get you additional search engine traffic, but it will boost your rankings for your primary geo-target keywords.

Where to find query based content ideas

The originality of your content is very important. It’s about digging deep and creating good content around sub-topics within your niche. Here is a good trick to generate content ideas: type your seed keyword into Google (that is, one of the primary keywords you would normally try to rank for). If you scroll to the bottom of the search results page for this keyword in Google, you will see “searches related to your keyword”. You can then create an informative article relating to a query around those related search queries.

For more content ideas, continue clicking through each related search term and see what other related searches appear, and create more content based on the most relevant phrases. 

Another idea is to note down all of the common questions that your customers ask you.  Or even get friends or family who are not in the business to list out as many “typical” questions that would be asked in your industry. 

These types of questions provide excellent opportunities to create informative website content. It is the language that your customers speak. The best thing is that you are in control and can put a spin on all of your articles that position your company as the industry expert. 

There are many other places to find new content. You can look at industry forums and see what questions people are asking. You can go to Yahoo Answers to see what sort of questions people are asking there. Another idea is go to Wikipedia and have a look at the categories and sub-topics of major categories for inspiration. 

Is Onsite SEO still important?

Yes! Page titles and meta-descriptions are still very important to help you rank in the search engines. It is important to write your articles naturally around the long tail search queries. You can optimise images for your articles with the Alt tag, however do not do this for all images and all articles. Label some as generic names such as building-contractor l001.jpg. Google are on the lookout for sites where the SEO lines up too perfectly and that appear to be manipulating the system and they may just penalise your site for that. You want to get the balance right, by helping Google to understand what your content is about without lining everything up perfectly.  

What does this all mean? 

Educate your market and become a leader in your industry – in the eyes of your customers and in the eyes of Google. The informative articles based around real-life questions will drive traffic to your site for people who are genuinely interested in a specific topic. People really do type industry-specific questions into the search engines. Many of those searches could result in a lead or an inquiry or a sale for you. The traffic that you get from targeting longer query-based keywords probably won’t be as much as for primary broader keywords, however you might rank very, very quickly, and if you attract that right buyer, you are more likely to convert than someone who is just typing a broad term. 

A combination of good query-based content and a strategic offsite SEO strategy to target the prime keywords is the winning formula to reach the top of Google this year.

Emma Henry is an Online Marketing Specialist and the owner of True Target Marketing. Emma tailors bespoke online marketing strategies for her clients. She specialises in lead generation, customer conversions, increased website traffic and improved website responsiveness. 

Theme Week: Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost

We welcome Rand Fishkin to the ProBlogger Theme Week today to talk us through all things SEO. While this week we’re exploring all the things you can do with a post after you hit “publish”, Rand is reminding is to take a second before we do and have a look at the things you can do to optimize your post before it even gets into the hands of your readers.

For days, you’ve been agonizing over this post. The hours of guilt for not starting it sooner, the toil of finding the right topic, the relentless editing and re-editing, and now, at long last, the publish button is there, tempting you to end the struggle and at last declare this tiny battle over.

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(above: the blogger’s tantalizer, teaser, needler, and tormenter)

If you give in to that sweet release, it will feel good, at least for a little while. But in the months and years to come, you’ll look back at that post and, perhaps in revery, read it again, and think to yourself:

“That was a really excellent post I published. Why has it had so little success?”

It started so well. The post had some retweets on Twitter. It got shared and liked a few times on Facebook. Maybe it even got a bit of traffic from Google+ or Pinterest. But, then, the traffic stopped. Your post wasn’t “new” anymore, and the web world, it seemed, no longer cared for something more than 24 hours ago. In fact, the data backs this up – social sharing half-lives across networks are <7 hours.


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There is another way.

The vast majority of content consumed on the web isn’t actually found through social media. In fact, the largest driver of traffic to web content (outside of direct navigation) is still the same source it was 3, 5, and 10 years ago, and remarkably, in spite (or perhaps in part because) of the rise of social & mobile, this source is still growing.

You’ll probably recognize it:

google-search-box

Search, and Google in particular (with 90% of worldwide share), still drive vastly greater quantities of traffic than all the social networks combined (some good research from DefineMG here). Given Google’s 3.5+ Billion searches performed each day, that shouldn’t be a surprise, but to many bloggers, thinking about search, Google, and all that “SEO stuff” has been put aside in favor of Facebook shares, likes, tweets, +1s, and the more visible feedback and applause that come from social sources.

That bias is understandable – a visit from a Google search doesn’t have a fancy embeddable counter you can show off. 30,000 visits a month from search engines doesn’t carry nearly the same social proof that 30,000 Twitter followers does.

But, it should.

The vast majority of visitors who come via social have a browsing-focused intent. They’re looking for something interesting, distracting, temporal, and, only rarely, directly or immediately applicable to an activity that will lead to them accomplishing the goals you’re hoping for on your website (a subscription to your posts, a following of your social accounts, purchasing your products, etc).

On the other hand, searchers know exactly what they want and when they want it – right now. Almost no searches are entirely serendipitous, but most every social visit is entirely so. A searcher is seeking to find information, accomplish a task, or transact in some way right this minute. That’s why they performed a query. If your blog post (and your website, more broadly) helps them achieve this goal, the value of that visit to both parties can be fantastic.

Here’s the tragedy:

When you look over those past posts, you might realize that yes, dammit! It’s time to do some SEO! No more ignoring Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the rest. But, sadly, that ship has probably sailed. One of the harsh truths of blog-focused SEO is that a few hours after a post is published, 90%+ of the ranking ability is spent. Sure, you could go back and tweak some titles, language use, or even URLs (depending on your CMS), but those don’t have a good chance of helping the post perform moving forward.

It’s that first burst of activity – of social sharing and people emailing it around and links coming in – that set the stage for ranking success in the search engines. The words, particularly the title, of the post are how others will describe it when they share, link, tweet, and pin. Those words are strong signals to search engines of how and whether to include your page in the search results. Likeiwse, the first few hours are when you’re most likely to earn that attention and awareness of potential linkers. Links are still a huge part of how search engine algorithms rank pages, and without them, you’ll usually struggle to perform. Both of these are short-lived opportunities on which you need to execute if you’re going to have SEO success with your blog.

Thankfully, you can resolve to make this a priority in the future. It may sound like a bad infomercial, but you can substantially upgrade your blog’s SEO potential with less than 5 minutes per post. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Keyword Research
  • Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion
  • Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Step 1: Keyword Research

Earning additional search visits from the content your blog produces over a long streth means ranking for a keyword term or phrase that gets at least a few queries each month. You probably don’t want to tackle competitive phrases where you’ve got little chance to rank on page 1, but you also don’t want to to be ranking brilliantly for a search term no one ever types. In general, phrases with fewer searches are going to be less competitive (if you want to get more data-driven about analyzing the relative difficulty of ranking for a keyword, there’s a tool for that).

Google’s Keyword Planner Tool is still the best one out there to show relative volume levels. Here’s what it looks like:

adwords-kw-planner1

I plugged in a few possible searches related to the post you’re reading now (which is, in a very meta way, about doing SEO for blog posts). The suggestions you see above are what Google’s keyword tool returned. They expanded on a few of my ideas and showed me some terms I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to put in. But, before we go further, there’s four important points to be wary of when you’re looking at the Keyword Planner:

adwords-kw-planner2

A) These aren’t ALL the terms and phrases Google knows are related to your keyword(s). For whatever reason, they’re not comprehensive and, on any given search, may omit numerous good options. This is why it pays to refine and rerun once or twice, and to expand your brainstorm list of terms. It’s also why I’ll suggest using another methodology in combination with Keyword Planner below.

B) The numbers you see are not accurate. We’ve seen them show numbers that are 1/4 of the actual searches for a term and we’ve seen them show 4X the real figure. What is useful are the relative quantities. If Keyword Planner says term XYZ gets twice the searches that term ABC gets, you can be fairly sure that XYZ > ABC. Don’t panic about choosing a term with only 10 or 20 searches/month. These low numbers are actually where we see the least competition and the least accuracy from Google in under-reporting real volume.

C) This “competition” does not refer to how hard it might be to rank in the organic results for a given keyword. Keyword Planner is showing a competition level that’s related to AdWords bids and how many campaigns are targeting these terms. Don’t be too discouraged if it says “medium” or “high” as the organic results won’t always reflect what the paid ads do.

D) Likewise, the cost column can be mostly ignored when thinking about SEO. The one area it can be helpful is to provide a sense of how transactional in nature the search query is, and the value of that traffic to others. If you’re thinking about offering ads on your blog, for example, you might want to note how much advertisers are paying to be in front of searchers for a keyword related to your topic(s).

The other keyword research source I’d encourage you to pursue is Google’s autosuggest. It often illuminates keyword ideas that you may not have seen through AdWords Planner. In fact, some of the best terms and phrases to target are those Keyword Planner hasn’t listed, but autosuggest does (this is because many other SEO-focused content creators have likely missed them).

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Start typing, but don’t hit enter!

Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion

Once you’ve found a few keywords that might work, modify your blog post’s title to include it if you can. For example, when I started drafting this post, I titled it “Publish Now And 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost.” It had a catch and it matched the tone I was aiming for with the piece, but it didn’t target any of those lovely keywords that can help it potentially earn visits for years to come. So I thought up three more:

  1. Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost
  2. Your Amazing Blog Post – SEO = 1000s of Lost Visits
  3. These Simple SEO Blogging Tips Will Save You 1000s of Lost Visits

Even though I don’t like #3, it’s probably the best optimized title (note that Google is pretty smart these days about interpreting modifications of words like “blog” and “blogging” that have the same meaning/intent). But, that doesn’t mean I’ll choose it. As I noted above, a lot of a post’s potential success is based on its ability to get in front of the right eyeballs. A title that’s optimized for keyword placement but doesn’t resonate with social sharers and potential linkers isn’t worth compromising for. Instead, I’d go with #1 or #2 and I happened to like #1 just a bit better.

The only other part of this step is to make sure the post itself has at least a mention or two of the target keyword phrase and is actually about that topic (nothing infuriates searchers more than discovering a page ranking in Google that’s not actually about what they wanted – and those user/usage metrics will, eventually, hurt your rankings).

Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Chances are that when writing your post, you mentioned someone, used a graphic or image from somewhere else, linked to some reference-worthy content on another site, or called out a service or organization in some way. If you believe there’s any chance that they (the referenced party) would be interested in reading what you’ve written about them, don’t be shy – let them know.

Twitter makes this incredibly easy (and Google+, too, for those of you using that service). In this post, for example, I referenced a study from Bit.ly, some search stats from Statcounter, and a great post from Define Media Group. Immediately upon hitting publish, I should tweet, G+, and/or email all three of them and say thanks, making sure to point them in the direction of this post. Maybe they’ll share it, maybe they won’t, but they’ll know I appreciate their work, and that goodwill might be valuable in the future, too.

Likewise, if I know there’s a few people in my network or among those that I follow/interact with on social media or the offline world who might benefit from or enjoy this post, I should drop them a line, too.

This might be 30 seconds of thinking about who to contact and another 2 minutes sending the messages, but the reward for that effort could mean the difference between a post that spreads, earns links, and ranks, and one that falls into the tragic “Flatline of Nope.”

———–

A few last pieces of advice:

  • Don’t worry too much about targeting a keyword phrase in more than one post. If at first you don’t succeed, try again! Google has no penalty for a blog that publishes 3-4 posts all chasing the same keyword. The only time I might not do this is if you’re already ranking very well for a term/phrase, in which case, I’d consider updating the old post vs. writing a completely new one.
  • Updating & re-publishing can be a super power! If you’ve got a post that did well, but didn’t quite make it to the first page of results, consider revising it, adding in the most modern information, and publishing a new post to replace the old one. You can use a 301 redirect or rel=canonical tag to point search engines from the old version to the new one.
  • If you need inspiration for titles or content in niches where you think there’s just nothing exciting to write about, I can’t recommend Buzzsumo enough. Give the tool a spin with a few searches related to your potential topics and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Not every post needs to be or should be SEO-targeted. Writing for your audience, for yourself, or simply to court serendipity is a wonderful thing. But every few posts (or at least every few dozen), think about all those poor souls who are searching and finding none of your amazing work – do it for them :-)

p.s. A couple years ago, I created a presentation centered around my love for bloggers and blogging entitled: How to Earn Traffic Without Selling Your Soul. If you’re worried that SEO means sacrificing the beauty of your work, check it out – it may just restore your faith that the two can live in harmony.

How to Identify Social Media Demographics & Target Viewer Interests for Better Social Reach

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Image via flickr user Jason Howie

This is a guest contribution from Larry Alton.

There are social media demographics in general, and then there are your social media demographics for your business. You need to know the details of both in order to garner this platform for optimal gain. For instance, knowing that the majority of your followers are women in a certain age group means you can write your posts accordingly. Knowing that the majority of your fans live in a certain region means you can connect with them on a local level.

When it comes to identifying social media demographics, it’s all about using that data to hone your online presence. It doesn’t matter the platform; there are nuggets of gold in this data that can seriously boost your business. Start with considering the basic facts about social media in general. For example, the most popular platform is Facebook, followed by Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+ in a constant neck and neck race.

Back to basics

Facebook leans young, but there’s been a 45 percent spike in those ages 45 to 54 joining the site sine 2012. In total 73% of people who make over $75,000 per year are on Facebook, as opposed to just 17% on Twitter. However, a shocking 86% of FB users aren’t based in the US, making this prime pickings for businesses looking to go global.

With Instagram, now a part of Facebook, 68% of users are women. Twitter draws a young crowd with 27% of people in the US aged 18 to 29 using it, but only 16% of people who are in their 30s-40s tweet. If you’re looking to market to a younger crowd, your efforts might be better spent on Twitter rather than Facebook.

Juicy tidbits

LinkedIn is largely male but has a global appeal. Of course, it’s a more professional network, so you might want to steer clear of it if you’re trying to monetize a Paleo blog or other similar pursuit. However, for the more traditional startup or business, having a LinkedIn profile is nearly a necessity. Google+ takes the cake for male domination with 70% of users.

Pinterest is the social media platform of choice for tablet users, with 84% of users being women. Tumblr is another strong contender for teens, so it’s no surprise that only eight per cent of users have incomes over $75,000. What can you do with all this data? Manage it, analyze it and use it to craft your social media presence.

Know your users

There are analysis programs for certain platforms, including many provided (free) by the platforms themselves, which give you valuable information. For example, you can easily see which posts are most popular and which were most widely seen. You may also be able to get reports on the most active users in your network or other basic information on them.

Some of the most reputable social media analytic tools include Brandwatch, Google Analytics (a freebie), Local Response, and Moz Analytics. If you’re on a tight budget, Google isn’t fancy but it works, and the big social media platforms offer a variety of free analysis tools such as the free Facebook Competitive Analysis Report, Free Twitter Customer Service Analysis, or the Free Instagram User Report. Money can often play a role, but consider what information you need, not just the bottom line, to choose the right reporting tools.

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

 

How To Double Your Revenue By Giving Your Work Away For Free

Image via Flickr user FutUndBeidl

Image via Flickr user FutUndBeidl

This is a guest contribution from author Tom Morkes.

I know what you’re thinking: what’s the catch?

If you’re like me, you’ve read dozens (okay, thousands) of blog headlines that pique your interest, only to find out the headline comes with an asterisk:

Quandruple Your Opt-in Rate!*

*you just need to be featured on a massive blog, first.

Make 6 Figures in 6 Months*

*you just need 5 figures and a subscriber list of thousands to start.

I could go on, but you get the point.

So let me assuage your concerns: there’s no asterisk here.

No need to hustle affiliates, join an MLM, or pepper your site with Google Ads.

When I say you can double your blog revenue by not charging, I mean it.  I’ve done it.  And I’ve seen dozens of others do it too.

But before I get to the details, I want to tell you the story of a guy who stopped charging clients altogether (and his surprising results)…

The Generous Designer

Meet Adrian Hoppel.

Adrian is a Philidelphia-based web designer.  He’s been doing professional web design for years.  And while Adrian is incredibly talented and creates amazing websites, what’s truly remarkable about him has less to do with what he does rather than how he does it.

You see, Adrian doesn’t charge for his web design services.  He never has and he probably never will.

Instead, he offers everything as a gift to his clients.

If you want to work with Adrian and you both agree it’s a good fit, Adrian will design your website and give it to you.  No deposits.  No contracts.  No strings.

Just a simple gift – here you go.

Remarkable, no?

How Adrian Makes More Money Giving Away his Gifts than He Did by Charging a Fixed-Rate:

Okay, so you might be wondering: how in the world does that work?

How can he make a living if he just gives his work away for free?!

The answer is simple (although certainly not conventional):

While Adrian gives his work away freely as a gift, it doesn’t mean he works for free, nor does it mean his work is valueless.

Adrian built his business on a foundation of trust.  You trust him to build you a great website.  He trusts you that you will support his gifts and his giving.

In Adrian’s words:

“Working in the gift does not mean that I work for free, or that I give my work away without care. It means that people trust me to build them a website, and I trust them to support my work as they believe fair.”

A beautiful premise, but does it work?

Again, from Adrian himself:

“I ended up doing 22 websites in 2012, all by myself, all in the gift…every single client has supported me in whole.  

Every. Single. One.

Most clients gifted me with payment, and the payment is more than I ever received in the traditional model…” (source)

In other words, by removing a fixed-rate price from the equation, and giving away his talents, skills, and work as a gift, Adrian has made more per client than he ever did before.

I Want More Examples!

Adrian isn’t the only person letting people choose their price and finding incredible success.

Here are just a few examples (of hundreds that I’ve researched) of people using the gift-economy and Pay What You Want pricing to make a killing:

The Vennare brothers of TheHybridAthlete.com have been running a PWYW store for over a year now, and in an interview I did with them last year, they explained that they make hundreds per DAY using this strategy (do the math: we’re talking 6 figures from no set price).

Disconnect.me is a new tech startup that just raised over $3 million in funding and they run their entire operation using Pay What You Want pricing (and have no intentions to change)

Humblebundle.com makes millions for video game producers and charity by releasing limited-time PWYW videogame bundles every few weeks

Joost Van Dongen, a videogame developer I had the opportunity to interview several months ago, released a hobby project (Proun) and let his customers choose their price – and made over $20,000 from it

Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and Amanda Palmer all have made millions from their PWYW album offers (in the case of Radiohead, they made more on their PWYW album than all their previous online album releases combined)

Weinerei Perlin is a Berlin-based winery that sells all their wine using PWYW pricing (and has for over 10 years)

Matt Homan is a consultant that offers blank invoices – and has doubled his income in the process

And this is just a small sample.

There are literally hundreds of other people and companies using this pricing technique and finding great success with it…

But there are also a few people I’ve interviewed who tried and failed.

The question is: what is it that separates successful PWYW offers from those that don’t work out?

Let’s get to it:

How to Remove Fixed-Prices from Your Blog and Increase Your Income

Before you go removing prices from everything on your site, you still need to understand a couple things:

#1. This ‘pricing model’ (or lack thereof) doesn’t work for everything.

Adrian is selling a premium service with a credible range of prices.  He’s not selling gasoline or In-N-Out Double-Doubles.

Commodities* don’t work in the gift-economy.

*if you find a gas station that lets me choose my price, please let me know.

#2. Letting people choose their price only works if you pitch it the right way.

Just because you slap a ‘Pay What You Want’ sticker onto your recycled beer coasters or set the price for your ‘Rapid Pet Grooming’ eCourse at $0+ doesn’t mean people will be generous.

You need to give them a REASON to contribute.

That’s why I created a simple-to-follow framework for anyone looking to apply the gift-economy (and in particular: Pay What You Want pricing) to their products or services (a framework I’ve used to make thousands in book sales and consulting in the past few months).

So consider this your personal crash course in Pay What You Want pricing:

How to get People to Contribute Generously to Your Work: The 6 Step Perfect Pitch Framework

Okay, I know the name is corny, but, as you’ll see, it works.

Here goes:

Step #1. Clarify the Offer

Common sense, but not common practice.  How can people be generous if they don’t know what you’re offering?

In reality – this same rule is just as important when selling a fixed-price product or service.

For more information on how to present a clear offer, listen to Brian Clark.

Step #2. Show the Customer You’re Human

People don’t give to machines (or corporations).

We give to people.

If you want the gift-economy to work for you, you need to connect with your readers, customers, clients, and guests.  You need to show them there’s a person behind the product or service whose blood, sweat and tears have gone into creating it.

Online – that means including pictures and videos of yourself, and writing in an authentic, passionate, and sincere voice.  For more practical tools, The Copywriting Scorecard for Bloggers will help get your writing on track so you come across like you (and not a robot).

Step #3. Appeal to Idealism

When it comes to Pay What You Want and the gift-economy, we still need to give people a good reason to contribute.

Appealing to idealism creates the spark people need to reflect on why they’re contributing.  When we make references to generosity, karma, good-will, etc. we are more able to activate the generosity of others (and yes, people are generous – we just need to give them the opportunity).

Step #4. Anchor the Price

Price anchoring is important for anything you’re selling, but it’s especially important for Pay What You Want offers.

When we price-anchor, we get people in the proper frame of mind for contributing larger than usual sums (or at least, larger than they would have had the price anchor not been present).

Two powerful ways to price anchor a PWYW product is by showing:

  • the itemized costs of materials or resources, or what equivalent amounts would look like on the high-end (e.g. “similar custom designed websites go for $7,000”)
  • the top-tier price points of competing products or services (e.g. “company X charges $20,000 for a new website)

Step #5. Steer the Customer to the Right Choice

Alright, so people have a reason to give (you’ve clarified the offer), they are comfortable with giving something (thanks to price-anchoring), and they want to give (because you appealed to their idealism)…now what?

PWYW and gift-economy is confusing stuff for the majority of the population since they’ve never experienced it.  A lot of people are immediately turned off by it because it confuses them.

You need to remove these fears by being very clear and helping people to the right choice.  You can do this by showing any or all of the above:

1. Total number of contributors (this a form of social proof)

2. Top-tier contributor prices (what did the top 10 people pay for this product?  This can be another form of price-anchoring)

3. Average contribution price (although this may lead to more ‘average price’ purchases of your PWYW offer)

Any (or all) of these will help people recognize what’s a fair offer and give them ample opportunity to be generous (if the average is ‘x’ then I will give ‘x+1’)

Step #6. (Bonus Step) Add Charity to the Mix

This is a game changer.

Want to skyrocket your PWYW income?  Add charity to the mix.

People don’t pay money for a product or service, they pay money for the story.  When we integrate a congruent charity into the mix (something that makes sense in the context of what we’re selling, like teaming up with Kiva.org for The Creative Entrepreneur journal) we multiply the effect of appealing to idealism.

A quick warning: assigning a random charity to support won’t work.  You’ve got to make sure it’s consistent with your message and the intent of your product or service.

The beauty of including charity?  It’s win-win. You make more income, a worthwhile charity gets a cut, and the customer is happy to contribute.

Call me biased, but this is a strategy I’d like to see every business adopt.

Putting the Gift Economy to Work

This is a basic framework for incorporating the gift-economy (specifically Pay What You Want pricing) into your work.

By no means does it mean you must offer EVERYTHING as a gift, nor as Pay What You Want.  I’m also not saying that fixed-pricing doesn’t work better in some cases (it does).

But, as you can tell from the examples above, this stuff works incredibly well when implemented the right way.

I hope you enjoyed the article and if you have any questions – leave them in the comments below!  I’d be happy to answer any and all questions.  This is an important topic and deserves a good conversation going forward.

Thanks for your time, and I’ll see you in the gift-economy…

Tom Morkes is an author, publisher, and pricing consultant, and you can get inside his brain at www.tommorkes.com/problogger where he applies what he learned leading troops in combat to entrepreneurship, art and writing.

Online Marketing: Why Email is a Richer Cousin to Social Media

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This is a guest contribution from Mike Swan of Markupcloud Ltd

Let’s put it without masking – email marketing is facing challenges unbridled;  not in terms of its effectiveness as an online marketing endeavor, but in a way it is being adopted and used. While the new players on the block have more or less ignored this still-most-effective way of web-marketing , there are others whose email marketing strategy is chaotic and restlessly roaming around the pillars of spamming, non-targeted emailing and bulk-emailing.

The influx of social media into the marketing realm is just an influx, nothing more. If you are led to believe that social media has invaded the way we are supposed to advertise our products, you would end up doing a  be a great deal of disservice to your business if you begin to bank heavily on social media with that belief. Emails are still much more effective than any social media platform. They are more personalized, more relevant, and stand a greater chance of being visible. And there are reasons to claim and believe so. And then, there are questions:

“I have 300 followers on Facebook, Why Would I Need Email-Marketing?”

Let’s say you post an article on your website, which is delivered duly to folks in your email subscription list. You post URL of the same article on your social media page. What does have a better conversion rate? Well, thanks to a platform like Facebook, if you have 300 fans on your page, you won’t get more than 30 fans to see your post on your luckiest day – unless you are adopting some alternate way to promote that post. As for the email subscription, your post is delivered to the inbox of every single subscriber. While not all might go ahead and read the article, the conversion rate is apparently much higher because of the greater visibility.

It’s Easier to Miss an Update on the already-flooded News Feed Than it is in Inbox

Again, this applies to the two most popular platforms, Twitter and Facebook. Thanks to the deluge of people your fans follow on Twitter, your tweet gets lost before it’s noticed. And same goes for Facebook and other social media platforms. But, irrespective of how many emails we receive in a day, we always scan for the ones which can be relevant to us.

So, you don’t need hotshot digital marketing professionals to formulate strategies, you don’t need to post the URL a dozen times a day, you don’t need to keep coming up with different ways to promote that single post (Well, you can do email marketing AND all this as well for meatier results).

One factor that underlines the above is that you have the permission of your readers to send your site’s updates to their inbox. So, you are not prying or spamming by any means. Email marketing, however, is not all about subscribers.

Social Media is Not the Only Way People Share

Not everyone is super keen to share what they see and like on their Facebook timelines. There is a huge chunk of people who still prefer sharing their favorite bits with people through emails. Now, because these shares are not on a public platform, and are shared through emails, they aren’t visible to all. However, they are more likely to evoke response because they are sent by the sender exclusively to few contacts in his/her email. And because it gets delivered to their inbox, we go back to the point number one of it being standing a better chance of being converted into a visit.

“How Do I Extract More Email Addresses?”

Now, this is where social media can prove to be handy. You do not have to solely rely on the traditional methods of extracting the emails of your visitors. There are easier and more effective ways to do so. You can, for example, use Facebook Connect to fetch the email addresses of those who have already been visiting your site. Facebook Connect displays a pop up on your site wherein a visitor who is already logged in to their Facebook account only to click a button on the pop up and his/her email address is automatically recorded into your subscribers list.

Get Your Subscription Forms Displayed Everywhere on Your Site

You can also create a separate website on your website that is dedicated to subscribing visitors to your blog. You can promote the page and drive more traffic towards it to improve your chances of getting more and more subscribers. In addition to this, let a subscription form appear below every post. If your readers are bothered enough to read the article down to its last word, there is a good chance that they would like to keep themselves attuned to your updates.

The Call-to-Action

You don’t always have to display the text “Subscribe to our updates” on the subscribe button. Sometimes, a clever use of words gives better results. Let’s say, you can use “Download Now” to signify that any update on the site would be downloaded on your visitor’s email.

Get All the Spam Rules in Order

Spamming can do more damage than you had expected. And there are more ways that qualify as ‘spamming’ than you had evaluated.

Here is the CAN-SPAM act for your consideration. Make sure you read it thoroughly to understand how you are contributing to spamming and why you should change your approach. Your subscribers signed up with you for a free giveaway you had promised, you should not use their email for marketing purposes unless this was a condition explicitly charted out at the time of signing them up. Also, you need to include a way for people to unsubscribe form your blog

Draft Them in Words that Stand Out

for delivering even better results, you need even more people noticing your emails, for which, you need to choose your words wisely. Going with the humdrum of a language isn’t likely to bring any result. Let the subject of your emails intrigue then. If your visitors are getting the updates about the latest articles on your blog, keeping the title of the article in the subject might just do the trick for you. Irrespective of the title you chose, it is going to be unique and different than the other emails they receive.

The email marketing results ways are good enough to make you aware of all the ways email marketing is good. As it continues to march ahead in top gear,  sooner you catch the wagon, better it would serve you in the long run.

Mike Swan is a creative web designer in Markupcloud Ltd with vast experience in Research and development vertex of web design technologies. He use to write  on various Markup conversion  processes and socialize it through social media platforms. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and G+. 

Optimize Blog Content for Social Media with These 4 Effective Tactics

social media

Photo Credit: ePublicist via Flickr

This is a guest contribution from freelance blogger and writer Alicia Rades.

When you get a notification that someone tweeted or liked your latest blog post, you get excited. You can’t help but crack a smile and do a little fist pump because someone shared your content.

If you feel like the king (or queen) of the world and you do a little dance every time someone shares your blog post, get it out of your system now. Today you’re going to learn how to optimize your blog posts for social media, and when your notifications are ringing off the hook, you’re simply not going to have the energy to do a little dance every time someone shares your blog post.

Why do social shares matter? Well there’s the obvious. Social shares help spread the word of your content and brand, which helps drive more traffic. But what you should really care about is the fact that Google cares about social shares, so the more shares you can get, the better your pages will rank in search engines, which drives even more traffic to your site.

Check out these four effective tactics to help you optimize your blog content for social media to better promote your business.

1. Craft Your Headlines Wisely

Your headlines are perhaps the most important part of your social media strategy. Since your post title is the first thing your followers read on social media, you have to hook them so they’ll move on to read and share the post.

You can learn all about crafting powerful headlines for social media on Social Media Today. As this post mentions, it’s important to use emotion to grip your readers, but let’s dig deeper into optimizing your titles for social media.

First, let your readers know what the post is about so you can better connect with their interests. Someone who sees this title on Twitter isn’t likely to click on the link because they don’t know what to expect:

Trial and Error: How to Know When You’ve Got it Right

Okay: what exactly are you going to be talking about? This article could easily cover a range of topics, from learning how to parent and trying different recipes to discovering what works for you on social media. Instead, incorporate keywords that will connect with people’s interests. Some alternative titles include:

  • Trial and Error: How to Tell if Your Parenting Methods are Effective
  • How Using Trial and Error Can Help You Create Tastier Recipes
  • Discover Which Social Media Tactics Work for You with Trial and Error

Another important headline tactic is to keep it short. Most bloggers try to keep their headlines under 70 characters. Why do bloggers do this? Because any longer than that and your entire headline might not show up alongside your links. This means readers could lose valuable information that’s meant to hook them.

2. Use a Photo with Your Content

Social media websites like Facebook and Google+ usually feature a picture when you share a link to your content. But when you don’t set a photo for your post, your link doesn’t look as appealing.

Don’t think it matters that much? According to MDG Advertising, blog posts with compelling images receive a whopping 94 percent more views than those without. [Tweet That Stat!]

To make the most out of this, you have to consider a few things.

First, where can you find compelling photos? Glad you asked. You have several options:

  1. Take your own photos or hire a photographer to take photos for you.
  2. Find free photos on sites like CreativeCommons.org or Compfight.com. (Most of the time you have to attribute the image within your post.)
  3. Purchase photos on stock image sites like CanStockPhoto.com (photos starting at $2.50) or Getty Images (images starting at $25).

Once you’ve found an awesome image, you have to make sure it will show up properly when you share it on social media. In some cases, the social network won’t associate the image with your link if you simply insert the photo into your post. If you’re using WordPress, you can set a featured image, and Facebook and Google+ will usually use that photo alongside your link. To make sure, consider downloading the Facebook Open Graph Meta Tags for WordPress plugin, where you can choose which photo will show up with your link on social media.

3. Create Meaningful, Strong Quotes within the Content

When you have something interesting or meaningful to say, you can make it easy for your readers to share the quote by offering a “click to tweet” link. Since this tactic doesn’t require a lot of work for your audience and it easily draws attention to the sharing option, people are more likely to tweet your post.

A few ways to do this include:

  1. Head to ClicktoTweet.com and create your tweet. Generate and copy your link to incorporate it into your content. Easy peasy!
  2. Install the Click to Tweet by Todaymade plugin onto your WordPress site. In the CMS, click on the Twitter icon in your edit bar. Input the text you want people to tweet, and the plugin will create a box with your text in it and a “Click to Tweet” link.

Creating meaningful quotes isn’t only helpful for getting people to tweet your content. You can also use these quotes as a marketing tool to capture readers’ attention. Simply include the quote in your updates when you share the post on Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn to draw readers into your words.

4. Include a Call-to-Action

If your main purpose is to increase exposure on social media, ask people to share your content.

But it’s not always effective to simply say, “Please share my post!”. You sound desperate.

Instead, connect with your readers and make them want to share the content by focusing on how they feel or have felt reading your piece. Don’t just tell them to share your post, either. Tell them exactly what to do by mentioning which social media platform to share on so you don’t leave them with too many options.

Here are some examples of good calls-to-action:

  1. Loved these ideas? Let everyone know by liking this post on Facebook.
  2. Do you share these same views? Tell the world by sharing this post on Facebook.
  3. Rise to the challenge and help spread the word by tweeting this post.

Make it easy for readers to share your content by offering easy-to-find sharing buttons (because let’s face it, no one wants to waste time copying and pasting). A few excellent plugins that offer easy-to-find buttons include:

Let’s put some of these strategies to the test. Enjoyed these tips? Do your friends a favor and let them in on these blog writing tactics by Tweeting this post with the share buttons above.

Alicia Rades is a freelance blogger and writer. She manages a blog called The Writing Realm and offers blog writing services on her website at AliciaRadesWriter.com.

Creating a Virtual Community to Build a Better Blog

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Image via Flickr user Steve.Garner32

This is a guest contribution from Sarah Loomes of licoriceandolives.com

There are many online communities available for your readers to reach out to, on all manner of topics – so how can you fill a need that isn’t already being taken care of out there?

I was stuck in a bit of plateau in my blogging and found myself re-reading the “31 Days to a  Build a Better Blog” and brainstorming about a problem that my readers might have that I could solve. It was January, and New Year’s resolutions were aplenty, so having a health and fitness blog I needed a way to help my readers achieve their goals. I am notorious for losing motivation around March (if I am lucky enough to even make it as far as March), so I figured many of my readers would be in the same boat. I had been wanting to host a fitness challenge for some time but there were hundreds of different variations already out there that were all much the same – short term.

That was where my Virtual Race Series came in. I created a series where 12 virtual races occur across the world throughout the year. A Virtual Race can be done anywhere around the globe within a fixed timeframe, and the GPS data from a sports watch or smart phone is submitted for your time.  

I found it built a wonderful community on my blog, and provided a place where readers could come together to cheer each other on and support each other. It had the added benefit of creating a sense of collaboration and real engagement – something every blogger wants. This is how I made sure I made the most of that momentum:

Interact with the Reader

Due to the engagement of everyone involved with the race series, once there is a great community environment then the interaction starts to become self-perpetuating.  Before launching the race series, I found myself spending a lot of time on sharing my content, trying to find readers and I really wasn’t seeing any significant increase in my readership. Now I can concentrate my time on those elements of the blog that will actually lead to engagement. 

Finding the Time

I am not a full-time blogger, so finding the time to develop new ideas for the blog and stick to a consistent posting schedule can be tricky. I generally post two to three times a week and schedule my posts ahead of time including automatically posting to social media. Finding the time to consistently post on the same days at the same time has definitely seen an increase in the engagement of my readers and the visitors to my site.

Dealing with Challenging Readers

This is the internet and, let’s be honest, there will always be people who don’t like what you are doing or saying and want to be vocal about it. There have been a few people not happy with the rules and requirements that I have placed on the participants of my race series. I am the first to admit that I am no expert when it comes to hosting Virtual races, in particular an entire series. So honesty is my policy, I ask for feedback from the readers and implement what seems fair and equitable.

Social Media Platforms

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have been the primary gathering place for the community of runners – platforms that are easy to use and allow easy conversation.  For the particular group that I am appealing to, I found Facebook to be the best way to create that sense of involvement. I have set up a group for all the race participants where everyone can post their run pictures and running events. There is a lot of communication and encouragement between the runners including information sharing on all running related questions.  Instagram has quickly become a gathering spot for all things health and fitness. So naturally I have a hashtag that the runners can use to share their photos of their run.

Key Points:

Know your reader – why would they come to your site and gather around it? How can you cater to that?

Take your reader into account when targeting social media – use what they already use.

Remember you are human – everything you do won’t be perfect.

Sarah Loomes blogs at Licorice and Olives about her newfound love for running, biking, and OzTag. You can join her Virtual 5k race here.

What Defines Blogging Success For You?

imageThis is a guest contribution from blogger Carly Findlay.

One day, during a ProBlogger Twitter Chat, I got into a debate with a blogger who placed all their worth on statistics. Small page views meant they did not feel successful. I tried to tell them that success is more than just page views, but it was hard to convince them in 140 characters.

One big ‘mistake’ I made with blogging was wanting to monetize and feeling left out when brands didn’t approach me or knocked me back when I asked them.

I was getting nowhere with sponsorship pitches. It seems no brand wants a chronic illness blogger. Even the brand who make products that save my life didn’t want to work with me. I’d hear bloggers talk about how easy it was to create a media kit and get flown around Australia to view product launches and receive beautiful jewellery in the mail. And I wasn’t getting those opportunities. I was despondent, measuring my worth on a lack of press releases. I’ve since learnt blogging success is so much more than monetizing. Comparison is the thief of joy and all that.

I was annoyed for a short time. But then I realised, I am successful without fully monetizing my blog and getting millions of hits. While I wasn’t being inundated with offers to review products, I was getting offers from influential people that wanted to work with me. Editors, CEOs, teachers, charities, and causes. These offers of work – both paid and unpaid – have been more related to my blog niche and personal values that solely working with brands could ever be. Occasionally I will do a sponsored post for a brand that I value, but for the most part, I created my business plan to make money away from my blog.

Since I’ve started this blog (it’s one of many I’ve had since 2001) I’ve created a freelance writing and speaking career. I have written for The Guardian, DailyLife, Mamamia, ABC Ramp Up, News.com.au, BlogHer, The Daily Dot, Essential Baby, Kidspot, and Frankie Magazine. I’ve won numerous writing awards and been selected for The Guardian’s diverse writers workshop. I’ve spoken at conferences in Australia and the UK. I have also lectured in genetics and media at the University of Melbourne. I will run a number of sessions on writing and self advocacy at the Emerging Writers Festival this month and next. I’ve also competed my Masters thesis on the way blogging has helped me form a sense of identity.

Blogging success has also come from being asked my opinion on topics around disability advocacy and being invited to participate in events such as judging film festivals for organ donation and disability awareness. I reached out to Sam Johnson when he began Love Your Sister, asking him if I could blog his journey. He said yes!

One of the biggest things that has happened to me because of my blog was being asked to speak at a university conference in the UK after the university program found my blog. They tweeted a link to my blog, I thanked them, we formed a working relationship and they invited me to speak. My hospital helped fund my trip – I was their first academic patient that they sponsored to speak at an international conference!

Lastly, I receive messages from blog readers who are struggling with their appearance, or a new parent to a baby with Ichthyosis (the same skin condition as I have), telling me that my story has made a difference to them. Occassionally I receive an email from a reader telling me they felt alone until they found my blog and can now see some hope for themselves or their child, and have been encouraged to seek medical or psychological help. Through blogging I’ve come in contact with so many people from around the world, and I’ve personally met a few other people with Ichthyosis. I have had so many people write to me saying they’re confident to tell their story about Ichthyosis to their families, friends or wider communities (or even online) now. Hearing about empowerment like that is better than huge numbers of page views.

I believe that statistics don’t necessarily equal success. Bloggers can look for other ways to reach success, form communities, and feel intrinsically rewarded through knowing their blog makes a difference to readers.

My Top Five Tips:

  1. Find your niche
  2. Don’t become focused on or despondent with page views
  3. If you want your business to be blogging, see how you can diversify to make money beyond your blog
  4. Value your readers and celebrate that you’re making a difference to them
  5. Keep at it!

Carly Findlay is a blogger based in Melbourne, Australia, writing about what it’s like to look different. She blogs at carlyfindlay.blogspot.com and tweets at @carlyfindlay