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3 Reasons to Stop Relying on How-To Lists for Information (and What to Do Instead)!

 This is a guest contribution from Daryl Rothman.

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The truth is out there.

At least, we hope so.

How-to lists are all the rage in the burgeoning blogging world. And many are good, but there is an absolute deluge. The list of lists is growing.

Who has it right? How do you choose? What lists you should rely on?

Simple. None.

Before you loose the slings and arrows of recrimination upon me, hear me out. I didn’t say you shouldn’t read any how-to lists. There are some great ones. Read away! I am saying you need to stop relying upon them. Here’s why.

  • We are so inundated with lists it is easy to get overwhelmed. You are busy. You have important things to do—including writing, especially writing—and you don’t have unlimited time to be navigating your way through the vast sea of offerings. Have you ever been excited about an idea and set about researching related pieces, only to find there were so many that it was impossible to know where to begin or how to prioritize? Did you feel the motivation slowly ebbing away? The ability to strategically focus—in our writing and in our research—is critical, and if you get overwhelmed it is easy to succumb to exasperation and become paralyzed into inaction.
  • “Expert” advice may not in fact be just that. Again, a caveat: questioning one’s expertise is not to suggest they are unmeriting of admiration and respect. But you must be judicious, and proceed with a healthy dose of skepticism. What are this writer’s credentials? Has she presented certain things as fact which are, in fact, opinion? Are there other perspectives she’s neglected? “Expert” advice can be that shimmering mirage in the desert, but danger lurks just beneath: in our anxious quest to be enlightened, to find that quick fix, the holy grail of literary wisdom, we all too often sublimate and diminish our own power and expertise. Be wary of “gurus,” particularly self-appointed ones. Look past the accolades and glitz and learn to be persuaded by—well, persuasion.
  • Most lists are by their nature prescriptive and one-size fits all. And, inevitably, too good to be true. Diamonds are formed about 100 miles beneath the earth’s mantle, and even after they finally breach the surface only a little bit shows—we have to dig to get at the rest. So too with your best literary gems. Lists are inherently dismissive of the myriad and often subtle dynamics and variables unique to each writer. The gurus know we’re busy, and not only crave answers, but prefer them in bite-sized morsels which are easily digestible and immediately applicable. You are jolted with a surge of motivation, and it may even last for a few days, sometimes longer. But then what? Unless the list happened to be the best way lists can motivate you eternally, the magic ultimately begins to fade. And no wonder– little in life is that simple or easy—nothing meaningful or enduring, anyway. Your writing, I hope we agree, is meaningful. And we want it to endure.

So What Now?

Well, I would be negating every point I’ve just raised above if I tell you precisely what. But I do have some suggestions which have been helpful to me and which I believe —if you contemplate and tailor them within the context of your unique goals and experiences—will be useful for you too.

Determine why you may rely upon lists.

Are you short on time? Out of ideas? Struggling to get organized and get started? These are common challenges and it is normal to seek easy answers.

As I’ve said all along, there are good resources out there, including some terrific lists, but once you understand the reasons behind your reliance, you will be better able to address them in more enduring ways.

Seek information which focuses on you, which helps you find your own voice. This WTD article, while admittedly a list, does just that. It is a great example of deferring to your own wisdom, which is in the end, the best kind of advice.

Just the Facts…

Learn to find valuable, credible, reliable information which aligns with your needs and your goals. I am a writer and an early childhood advocate, and in the latter arena, the term “evidence-based practice” is bandied about quite a bit. Evidenced-based, not, “opinion-based.”

There is nothing wrong with reading and enjoying opinion pieces, but if you are reading something with an expectation of expertise and actionable information, you must be judicious. Take a moment to read the author bio and credentials, and evaluate critically that which is being presented.

Embrace your inner expert.

Learn how to build your own cadre of reliable information. Or, as I sometimes call it, “getting your nerd on”.

I do it (it’s really not a big leap for me), and it can be emboldening and fun. Rather than seeking that Holy Grail which contains all the answers for which you’ve thirsted, recognize that “truth” is not conferred upon us through the waving of that wand, and that a good deal of effort is required.

We are lifelong learners, and truth is never quite ours, but we move closest to it when we recognize it is a matter of the journey itself, which can sometimes be a bit of a grind. Writing, reading, networking, researching. But there is a fair bit of magic and community along the way. Keep notes as you go. Seek and consider a diversity of ideas and approaches. Commune with other literary spirits.

Consider the challenges for which you seek counsel and jot down how you would answer if someone else queried these things of you. I’ll bet you have some pretty good thoughts. A simple reminder that the best and most enduring ideas reside within you.

You are an expert in your own right. Embracing that, and sharing it with others, can be very rewarding.

So what do you think? Have I just committed anti-list sacrilege? Please comment and list a few thoughts. 

Daryl Rothman’s debut novel is being published by Booktrope in 2015. He has written for a variety of esteemed publications and his short story “Devil and the Blue Ghosts” won Honorable Mention for Glimmer Train’s prestigious New Writer’s Award Contest. Daryl is on Twitter, Linked In and Google + and he’d love you to drop in for a visit at his website. Daryl is not sure why he is speaking of himself in 3rd-person. And, like George, he likes his chicken spicy.

The Structure of a Proper Client Proposal That Will Land You a Blogging Gig

This is a guest contribution from Karol K.head

Struggling to make money blogging, aren’t you?

SEO doesn’t seem to work for you.

Neither does social media.

And don’t even get me started on commenting on other blogs and online forums … it’s just noise.

Maybe you even subconsciously hate people like Darren, Jon Morrow, or Brian Clark, purely because they’ve succeeded and you haven’t (yet).

First of all, it’s okay. Don’t worry, not being satisfied and trying to look for outside reasons to justify our problems is a natural human reflex. It will pass.

Second of all, maybe you’ve been putting your efforts in the wrong place…

I don’t want to sound too much like a preacher of some kind, but there really are different ways of making money through a blog out there, and they don’t all revolve around: (1) creating content, (2) building an audience, (3) selling info products to that audience. This is just one of the possible methods. A very sound method if executed properly, but still just one among many.

For instance, a counter approach I’d like to present to you today is based around freelance blogging. In other words, it’s about offering blogging services to other website owners. Or to say it even more plainly, it’s about getting paid to blog.

So naturally, the most important question here is how do you convince anyone to hire you, and why would they even want to hire you to write for them if they have a pair of perfectly good writing hands themselves?

This is what we’re going to answer today. Namely, we’re going to discuss how to craft a proposal that will win you freelance blogging gigs.

The method I like to use is something I call the hungry carnivore tactic.

The Structure of a Proper Client Proposal that will Land You a Blogging Gig / problogger.net

Corny, I know. But it works. It’s a four-step process:

  1. Induce hunger.
  2. Serve the appetizer.
  3. Serve the meat.
  4. Serve the dessert.

Let’s take it from the top.

1. Induce hunger

The Structure of a Proper Client Proposal that will Land You a Blogging Gig / problogger.net

It all starts when the carnivore enters a restaurant – your restaurant.

(The carnivore is just a metaphor for your client, by the way.)

The first thing you need to do when you set your eyes on that prospective client is to induce hunger in them.

You want them to feel exactly like a person feels when they enter a restaurant and see everybody eating. In such an environment, they will become hungry right away and inevitably order something.

So how do you do this to a client?

A very good starting point is identifying their problem and talking about it openly. You want to appeal to them by making things tailor-made.

For example, you don’t actually want to offer a standard blog writing service. Instead, you should identify the areas where the prospective client’s blog is lacking and point those areas out. When you do so, the client will start craving a solution.

As much as possible, try using research data when talking about problems. For instance, if you’re pointing out that the client posts irregularly, try looking up a study about standard blog ROI vs. posting frequency; just to name one possibility.

In general, the more you can help your client to understand the issues that need to be addressed, the more they will want to hire you.

2. Serve the appetizer

The Structure of a Proper Client Proposal that will Land You a Blogging Gig / problogger.net

This is the time to start serving up your solutions.

So to grab your carnivore and make them pay attention to you, serve an appetizer that presents a good overview of what’s to come – the meat.

This is about listing goals and objectives – the main vision of what you can provide as a freelance blogger.

Focus on the following:

  • what’s the most important business goal for your client in relation to their blog,
  • what benefits you bring to the table that can make this goal achievable,
    • list specific benefits that are measurable and easy to grasp and be confident about it (in a way, you’re telling them what dish you’re going to serve them),
    • emphasize why those are the benefits the client should be looking for.

Doing all this might sound like a lot of unnecessary work. I mean, after all, why wouldn’t you just send a standard pitch and offer a simple writing service, right? Well, you can do that, but you’ll be leaving a lot of business on the table.

And it’s not just me talking. Here’s what Ruben Gamez – the founder of Bidsketch (client proposal software for freelancers) – thinks about the no.1 mistake that freelance bloggers make when building a pitch or a proposal:

Almost everyone does the minimum in their proposal. Do more than what has been asked.

They’re looking to get more traffic? Research content for their audience, show a couple of popular posts, and suggest similar topics that will do well.

Whatever their goal is, spend a little time doing research, and include your recommendations.

Ruben surely knows what he’s talking about here, considering the fact that he’s built his whole business based on his client proposal skills and years of experience in that area.

Essentially, this is what appetizers are about – getting someone more excited about the main dish that’s to come. Which brings me to:

3. Serve the meat

The Structure of a Proper Client Proposal that will Land You a Blogging Gig / problogger.net

This is “the what” of your offer. In this part, you need to take the things you’ve talked about in the appetizer and list a specific solution that you’re going to provide.

There’s a handful of important elements you should focus on here:

  • Define the scope of the project. Talk about what you will do as part of the project. For example, writing X articles, each one Y-words long, and so on.
  • Describe your process. How you’re going to deliver the articles. How many revisions are possible. The goal here is to secure yourself from any sort of scope creep.
  • Provide the timeline. When each article is going to get delivered. Is this done in one large package or will you be delivering in batches?
  • The payments. Break down what the client is paying for and how you expect to get the money (PayPal, wire transfer, 50-50 split, etc.).

Now the tricky part.

Try offering more than one possible option. The sweet spot is three. Here’s how:

  • Tier #1 (let’s call it that). Consisting of just the minimal number of services that the client needs. Let’s say this one has the price tag of $2,000 – for the sake of this example.
  • Tier #2. The advanced package. This is Tier #1 plus some additional service that the client already mentioned and will consider useful. For example, this can be an overall WordPress blog management service if you’re into such things. This one could be $3,000.
  • Tier #3. The trickster package. This is Tier #2 plus one more additional service. Again, something valuable. Like social media management for their blog posts. The price tag: $3,000.

No typo there, by the way. Tiers #2 and #3 have the same price tag. This is the whole trick. The goal is to convince the client to always go for the most expensive option. If I’m not mistaken, I first learned about this in Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.

The reasoning behind this tactic is that comparing each option is hard for the human brain, so we need to provide a common denominator. In this case, it’s the price. So when the price for both options is the same, it’s easy to tell which one is a better deal. And that is most likely what the client will end up selecting. This is the meat.

4. Serve the dessert

The Structure of a Proper Client Proposal that will Land You a Blogging Gig / problogger.net

Now the final part. At this stage, the carnivore should already be fairly satisfied with what they’re seeing, so we just need to give them this final nudge.

Some possibilities:

  • List an expiration date. Say that your offer is only valid through {date here}.
  • Provide an early action bonus. Say that if they act today, you will give them one extra service (but make it a simple one – something you can take care of relatively quickly).
  • Display testimonials. This is a good moment to reference some of your previous clients’ opinions. Just two quick testimonials with names and pictures will be enough here.

Finally, conclude with a good call to action.

Just tell them what to do next. You can even use a sub-headline like “Next Steps.” Tell them how to accept your proposal and make it easy. You don’t want the client to get stuck at this point.

In short, list the bare minimum of things you need from the client in order to get started with their project.

The cut-out-n’-keep template

Okay, so that’s it for the theory. But I do have one more thing for you. If you’d like a complete proposal template – built on the principles explained here – just go ahead and click this link.

Finally, what’s your take on this? Is freelance blogging something you’re planning to do in 2015 to grow your blog business in a more direct way?

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a freelance writer, published author, founder of NewInternetOrder.com and a blogger at Bidsketch.com (delivering some cool freelance blogging and writing tools, advice and resources just like what you’re reading now). Whenever he’s not working, Karol likes to spend time training Capoeira and enjoying life.

Why Should I Make My Webpage Interactive?

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This is a guest contribution from Ben Shwartz.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover… but does that extend to eBooks? How about webpages? In the current state of our globalized, media-saturated society, it’s difficult—if not outright impossible—to live by this seemingly antiquated adage. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the World Wide Web, appearance often conquers content in terms of user retention, which makes your landing page the golden ticket to your website’s success.

“If you had one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted, one moment… would you capture it, or just let it slip?”—Eminem on landing page optimization… or a rap battle.

Generating a home page with interactive features (think layered multimedia and on-site social networking) allows the fireworks to come directly to the customer, instead of having the customer waste his or her precious time searching for what exactly it is that you have to offer. With that said, put your best foot forward and take advantage of all the…well, advantages, an interactive site can procure.

Capture the social media-unfriendly.

For better or for worse, social media often gets a bad rap. For the stubborn old-timers, social media shy, and those who are proud to have never given a virtual thumbs-up or double-tapped to “like,” having an on-site source for communication can be an easy (and potentially covert) transition to get these hesitant folks more inclined to digital networking.

If you’ve already won the first battle by getting them to your site in the first place, the immediate presence of focused content and engaging topics relevant to their interests may compel them to take part in the conversation. Easy, automatic signup options (i.e. via your email account) saves time and gets the user directly apart of the conversation. As a bonus, user profiles are limited within the site’s perimeters, ensuring an extra level of privacy that will be happily received by any reluctant recluse.

For the sake of organization.

If you’re a startup or an e-commerce retailer, chances are you have a string of social media accounts representing your business all around the web. From obvious mainstays like Facebook and Twitter to the more professional LinkedIn and less structurally restrictive Tumblr, there’s a whole pond full of big name outlets for one little fish to navigate. Streamline key topics of interest to establish your site as the primary source of discussion, so as to provide a clear, exact, and timely authority on your site’s content. Allow your social media links to direct traffic back to your site, whether they target new customers with catchy captions or retain existing customers with reminders regarding updates to the content with which they are already familiar.

On the contrary, if you’re looking to give your customers some extra context that you find may interest them (and thus further establish yourself as a thought leader), multimedia tools are available on the market to create centralized hubs of outsourced interaction. Simple, customizable icons link to related and relevant content. Should one recommendation prove beneficial to your customer, there’s a good chance you’ve converted him or her into a repeat user on your own site.

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Enjoy the benefits of live personal presence in real-time.

Social networking, especially within a particular niche, can quickly get to look a lot like a high school cafeteria. You have a few cheerleaders on the hunt for prom dresses, a gaggle of brainiacs preparing for the next Comic-Con, and devoted group of traveling Phish fans. While each individual adheres to a different class schedule, eating at the lunch table affords a precious punctual platform from which to vocalize their hopes, needs, and desires.

While these “lunch tables,” or online outlets for communication, do currently exist (and in great numbers), the current state of cyber affairs stimulates the desire for instant gratification, or feedback in real-time. While alerts and notifications on other outlets can remind you of existing conversations, having an on-site communication tool allows a more organic flow of communication. Customers can feel that they’re actually a part of a dynamic conversation, rather than uttering anonymous nothings to the wind. Users can create more substantial relationships with one another and in turn, return to the site to continue these budding interest-based friendships. Topics will be more likely to stay on course given their placement in a centralized, authoritative position, and you will be more likely to sustain P2P relationships given that your site will be the common link (literally) shared between viewers.  Just like in high school, everyone wants to be a part of a group and their conversation. Your on-site social network will give your viewer a voice and heighten the likelihood that he or she will be heard.

Educate others while educating yourself.

In terms of building a community, user retention is more likely to increase if your viewers feel at home. If they’re already engaging in a conversation, they’re more likely to resume input if they feel that they’re in a group consisting of thoughtful peers based on mutual interests and respect.

Having one (or several) of your team members as an active social presence on your site is a win-win for all parties. From a customer’s perspective, they can gain insight from interaction with a thought leader, and the informal setting in which it takes provides a more humanized and less formal or mechanical component.

Additionally, it goes without saying that a business needs to determine its customers’ desires and interests, and having an inside source on the front lines is one of the easiest ways to do just that. By learning the popular topics in your forums, you’ll have a better idea of what can be added, edited, or removed to maximize your website’s potential and propel your future business goals.

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In essence, an interactive website prioritizes and centralizes not only the products by also the discourse associated with your brand. Your landing page is your money maker, given its status as your company’s official authority. If we stay with the times and realize that consumers must be efficiently engaged to ensure conversion, then we must recognize how important it is to create a visually appealing product that provides a one-stop shop for your audience’s needs.

Finally, consumers strive for a human connection rather than a technical, formalized response to their social networking input. Combine winning visuals with interactive, informal discussions to ensure that your site is one worth reading from one day to the next.

Ben Shwartz is the VP of Marketing for Spot.IM. He loves to buy and sell websites, and immerse himself in anything and everything in the realm of online marketing.

30 High-Impact Ways to Level Up Your Writing

This is a guest contribution from freelance blogger and email copywriter Hassan Ud-deen.

Ever feel like your writing could be better?

If you’re a blogger, there’s no way around writing.

It’s critical to everything you do, and shapes your reputation online. 

This makes a lot of us dread writing. 

We approach it with a heavy heart full of anxiety and minds clouded by doubt.

But what if you could ensure that your writing is at least decent every time you hit that publish button?

 30 High-Impact Ways to Level Up Your Writing

You’d be less worried about the mechanics of writing, and more focused on your message to your audience.

Making you a more powerful blogger.
So here are 30 high-impact ways to supercharge your writing chops, boost your blogging confidence and finally slash those paralysing doubts swirling in your brain.

Let’s go.

1. Develop a Strong Foundation 

Before you can produce writing that leaps out of the screen and grabs the readers attention, you’ll need a good understanding of the basic principles of writing.

Things like grammar, spelling and sentence structure. 

One of the most highly recommended books for this is The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Its a short compact book that’s crammed with everything you need to ensure your basic writing is tight. 

2. Take Your Reader to Starbucks 

Imagine you’re sitting in a class with about 30 students. You have a speckled professor droning on about a scientific topic. 

Now imagine having coffee with a friend sitting across you at Starbucks, explaining the same thing.

Who are you most likely to listen and learn from?

Your friend, right? Because it’s more personal.

Your friend will:

  • Ask you questions to make sure you understand
  • Fluctuate his tone of voice to emphasise points
  • Give you analogies, similes and metaphors to explain better

Similarly, you can do same thing with your words.

  • Ask readers questions to break the monotony and keep them engaged
  • Emphasise important points by making your text bold, italic or underlining
  • Provide vivid metaphors, similes and analogies that help your reader understand what you’re saying with speed and clarity

So next time you sit down to write, don’t think about thousands of eyes gazing at your screen. Think about the reader you’re having a delicious coffee with.

It’ll instantly add a more conversational flow and inject personality into your writing.

3. Have an Outline Before Writing 

Top bloggers like Neil Patel, Carol Tice and Michael Hyatt all swear by the time slicing power of outlines. 

Not only will outlines improve the speed at which you can dish out blog posts, they also improve the flow and quality of your posts.

A good outline covers the following points:

  • The introduction, where you tell your reader what your post is about, and how it’s going to make his life better to make him want to read on.
  • The main body or meat of a post, where you deliver most of your tips and advice
  • The conclusion, where you finish your post with a summary and a call to action 

If you feel that your writing could be better and faster give outlines a try.

4. Don’t Edit and Write at The Same Time

Writing and editing involves two different sides of the brain. Writing is a more creative process and editing is more logical/analytical.

Editing while you write is like continuously switching up and down gears in your car. You’re going to be slowing yourself down.

Putting your foot down all the way instead of switching speeds will work better.

When you start editing while you write, you slow down your writing speed, lose momentum and are more likely to doubt what yourself.

Basically, don’t write and edit at the same time, it disrupts the creative process.

5. Your First Draft Will Suck

It’s tempting to think that your favourite bloggers are magically creating stellar content on their first drafts, but thats not true.

Your first draft is all about getting your thoughts down on paper.

Accept that it will suck.  It will free you from the mental chains of doubt, and prevent you from being overly analytical.

6. Give your Brain a Break before Editing

Once you’ve written your draft, give your brain a break and distance yourself from it for a day or two.

This will increase your objectivity for your first round of editing and will let your mind sift through the ideas you wanted to express during your write up.

Related: Thee Stephen King Drawer Method for Writing Better Copy

7. Snap Your Brain’s Adaptations in Half 

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” (Stephen King)

Think of your brain as a muscle. It needs constant stimulation to grow and become stronger. 

Therefore, you have to train your writing muscles rigorously by continuously reading. You’ll expose yourself to different words, sentences, styles and steadily absorb good writing habits. 

I’m a little gym obsessed, and one thing you learn when building muscle is that you have to attack the body with different types of training.

Doing the same routine day in day out leads to you hitting plateaus. Your body eventually adapts to your routine and stops growing. 

Similarly, when it comes to reading… try to vary what you read.

If you normally read fiction, switch to non-fiction once in a while. If you normally read action/adventure try out romance. 

Reading something different will break your brain’s adaptation pattern, consequently strengthening your writing muscle and leaving you stronger and more well-balanced writer.

8. Embed Awesome Writing into Your Brain by Handwriting 

Sounds odd, doesn’t it? 

Well, it’s how many great writers started off.

Journalist Hunter S. Thompson started by copying the The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms on a typewriter.

Robert Louis Stevenson, author of classics like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island, honed his chops by taking a passage from a great writer and reading it. Then turning over the passage and trying to re-write it again from memory.

Dan Kennedy bloodied his nose in the marketing world by copying out 500 sales letters by hand in order train his mind to absorb the rhythm of good copy.

I’ve used this technique myself. It ain’t easy, but it’s an excellent way to quickly absorb good flow and wording and sharpen your skills.

Try it, I dare you.

9. Take a Literary Hammer, and Smash Your Favourite Writing into Pieces 

Everyone has a writer they look up to. And what better way to learn from those that you admire right?

Find a piece of writing that you admire. It could be from a book, a blog post, or a sales letter.

Now take the piece of writing that impacted you and break it down. Analyze what the writer does to make it so powerful.

Ask yourself: 

  • Why does this part of the blog post, book or sales letter stand out so much?
  • What techniques does the writer use to make the piece stand out?
  • What effects did the words phrases and style have?
  • How does it make you feel?

By closely analyzing an excellent piece of prose, you gain a deep insight to what the writer was thinking and the techniques they used. You can then use the techniques for your own purposes.

10. Print Out what You’ve Written

Sometimes it can be harder to find your mistakes on a computer screen. Printing out your work can make it easier for you to spot grammar and spelling mistakes in your writing.

11. Hit Your Reader Reader’s Senses Where it Hurts 

To keep your readers straight-jacketed to your post, engage their senses.

What can they see? Smell? Hear? Feel?

Here’s what a sentence looks like before engaging the senses:

“Your writing has to make an impact on your readers.”

Yawn. 

It’s a normal, tasteless, sentence that has surface level impact on the reader.

After engaging the senses:

“Your words have to creep up on your audience and sucker punch them into paying attention.”

See the difference?

By using the sensory experiences, the sentence latches on to the readers attention and forces them to feel what you’re saying.

12. Keep Your Writing Active 

The passive voice butchers your writing. Whereas the active voice, adds strength and vigor to it.

Take a look at these passive sentences:

The bat was swung by John

The ball was thrown by James

The door was broken by the dog

Look at what happens after a little makeover…

John swung the bat

James threw the ball

The dog broke the door 

Not only are the sentences more concise, clear and strong. But they also carry more impact with less words.

If you want your readers to effortlessly slide down your posts, keeping your writing active is a must. 

13. Use Shorter Paragraphs and Sentences

Nobody wants to process large chunks of information. They want easy digestible pieces of information they can easily understand.

That’s where having shorter sentences and paragraphs can help a ton.

Keeping sentences and paragraphs short quickens the pace of your writing; makes it easier to understand, and makes your writing less intimidating. 

Aim for one main point per paragraph and one main idea per sentence.

14. Supercharge Your Brain With Words

“I often read for 5-10 minutes. Out loud.” Was Jon Morrow’’s response when asked what his pre-writing rituals are. 

We all know that any writer worth his salt is a serious reader.

But, did you know that when engaged in a powerful reading session, you receive a boost in connectivity in the part of the brain that is associated with the receptivity of language? 

Yup, scientists from Emory University proved that reading heightens your brain power when it comes to dealing with language.

Try reading before you sit down for your next writing session and see if you don’t improve.

15. Develop a Brain Pumping Routine

High performers in any profession develop a routine to get in the “zone”.

Developing a routine for your writing trains your brain to expect to write, which warms your mind up and makes the act of writing much easier in comparison to writing cold.

Jack Kerouac would kneel, pray, light a candle and write by it’s light, then blow it out when he was done.

John Carlton would slip into a different of writing clothes to get him in the zone. 

Ernest Hemingway liked to write first thing in the morning.

Experiment with different routines and see what sticks, because once you have a solid routine to get you in the mood, you’ll no longer be a victim of writers block.

16. Sharpen Your Headline Chops

When writing headlines, you have to make every single word count. Or you risk your reader turning a blind eye to your post.

Headlines force you to be selective and squeeze the power out your words. This transitions into your ability to create hard-hitting sentences that flow smoother, and read better.

17. Write Like it’s Your Job

As Stephen King said, writing is “just another job like laying pipe or driving long haul trucks.”

Let’s imagine that you’re a plumber, and it’s your first day on the job.

You wouldn’t expect yourself to be amazingly skilled at what you’re doing, right?

But you know that becoming better is inevitable. Thanks to the fact that it’s your job, and you’re doing it almost every single day.. 

The same applies to writing.

Write when you feel like it. Write when you don’t. Prioritize your time around writing. 

Write like it’s your job and you’re guaranteed to level up your skills .

 18. Get enough sleep

Ever tried to build muscle? 

An important principle that people skim over is rest. 

They pack themselves into gyms and break down muscle tissue to get stronger. But, the body doesn’t get stronger during exercise. It starts repairing and adds extra muscle tissue during sleep. 

So activities like: writing and reading. Studying different styles, and analyzing great writing…are the literary equivalent of pumping weights. 

They’ll challenge your writing muscle and force it to grow stronger.

But despite your attempts to sharpen your skills…something as simple as sleep could be killing your progress.

Sleep is vital for survival,and keeps your nervous system functioning properly. And according to biological psychologist Namni Goel, “there’s plenty of research showing how a lack of it cripples your mind.”

Writing is hard.

It forces you to dig deep in your brain and extract ideas, information, and feelings. Then communicate them to another human being. 

Don’t make it even harder by not getting enough sleep. 

19. Get Moving 

Henry David Thoreau said: “the moment my legs begin to move my thoughts begin to flow – as if I had given vent to the stream at the lower end and consequently new fountains flowed into it at the upper” 

As mentioned before, writing ain’t easy.

That’s why its important to keep yourself in shape. Your body is your temple, and you want it to be operating at its peak (don’t you?).

Exercise can help you do that. 

Many great writers swear by exercise being a helpful tool for boosting creativity and preparing you for the act of writing.

There’s even research that proves exercise fires up your neurons and switches your brain on.

Research conducted by cognitive scientist prof colzato showed that “people who are doing exercise on a regular basis outperform those who don’t. We think that physical exercise trains your brain to become more flexible in finding creative solutions.”

I like to hit the gym or jump rope for a while before writing.  It calms me down, boosts my mood and clears my thoughts.

But you don’t have to do anything strenuous, you could walk, run, or even do light stretching… just get your blood moving.

20. Release Your Inner (Doodling) Child

Sounds odd doesn’t it? 

But at times, rules, regulations and emotional baggage can weigh you down and stifle your  creativity. 

In her book the doodle revolution, Sunni brown says that doodling helps you focus by “anchoring” a task. Especially when it comes to things that require attention for extended periods of time. Things like lectures, meetings, calls and writing.

“We think doodling is something you do when you lose focus, but it’s really a preemptive measure to stop you from losing focus,” 

Find yourself feeling mentally clogged up at times? Grab a pen and blank paper. Let your thoughts flow freely.

21. Have an Editor Read Through your Work 

No one ever writes the perfect draft.

And even though your second and third ones might be more polished; nothing beats a fresh pair of eyes.

An editor can also highlight your weaknesses and strengths so you can objectively look at your writing and decide what to work on.

22. Join a Group of Writers

Writing is a solitary activity.

And unfortunately, not everyone understands what it’s like to bleed thoughts from your brain into crisp, compelling words that communicate your ideas.

Surround yourself with people who write. 

You’ll get ongoing feedback on your progress, and you’ll always have someone who can sympathize with your writing pleasures and pains.

23. Study Great Sentences

Sentences are the backbone of your writing.

The stronger they are, the stronger your writing will become and the more impact it will have on your readers.

If you encounter a sentence that catches your attention, stop for a second.

Go over it again. Handwrite it. Study it. 

Break down why it’s such a good sentence. Is it concise and powerful? Does it contain a metaphor with killer clarity? Is it crammed with power words? 

Take notes on what makes other sentences good. You’ll discover useful lessons that’ll strengthen your own writing.

24. Cut Out Anything Repetitive or Boring

This applies to both your words and the ideas you express.

Instead of using the same word to describe something; aim for a variety of accurate words to make your writing blossom inside your readers mind.

Below is a short action scene I wrote. 

Before cutting out boring phrases and using different words to create vivid images, this is what it looked like… 

“He fired the gun. The bullets reached each target. One bullet hit the guards head and left a bloody mess. The other bullet hit the second guard square in the jaw and left an explosion of teeth. By the time he reached his next point of cover, both guards were dead.”

Here’s what it looks like after:

“The gun rattled to life. Each shot reaching its intended destination with blinding speed. One cratered through a guards forehead, the second exploded into an anatomical firework of teeth and jaw bone as it smashed into the 2nd guards mouth. By the time he reached his next point of cover, both guards were dead.” 

See the difference? 

I removed everything that was repetitive, and replaced boring words with high power verbs to create a more vivid image that hits where it hurts.

25. Play with Your Words

Instead of settling for the first few words that come to your head, whip out a thesaurus and get digging.

Try using different words and phrases instead of the ones you’ve chosen.

By regularly practicing this, you’ll expand your vocabulary and develop the important skill of choosing the right word at the right time to create the perfect image. 

26. Your Reader’s Cursor is Hovering on the X button

It’s easy to think your readers are browsing for fun and enjoyment. That they’ll read every word of your post; but that’s just not true. 

It’s better to think of your reader like this: 

Your reader is juggling a screaming baby on his lap, has dozens of tasks to finish, and is ready to click on that big red x button the second your post doesn’t provide the solution to his problems. 

Now, that may not be 100% true… but this simple mindset shift will help you create more reader friendly content from the get go.

You’ll be sure to keep his pains and problems in mind, which means you’re less likely to have fluffy, bloated writing that bores his ear off.

27. Kill Cliches with Lethal Analogies

Cliches suck.

They’re tasteless phrases that readers shake off like dirt on their shoulders.

Aswell as making you look like a lazy writer, they butcher any hint of personality in your writing.

So, what to do instead? 

Kill them…with high power analogies.

28. Keep it Dead Simple

Want to instantly power up your posts?

Make them easier to read by simplifying your writing.

Now, simple doesn’t mean limp sentences that pass readers by… it means taking out unnecessary ten-dollar words that make you look like a pompous show off.

Don’t say:

Utilize when you can say use

Extrapolate when you can say estimate

Desiderate when you can say desire

And cut out words like very, really, almost, probably etc.

Keeping your writing simple allows you to communicate with your readers better. It smoothly slides information into their brains without them having to make too much effort.

29. Jump into Your Reader’s Bed

What sites does your reader like to visit? What type of content do they like to read? What do they struggle with the most? 

Answering these questions gives you a deeper insight into what your reader’s most troubling problems, hopes and desires are.

Use polls, surveys, or emails to find out what they want and need.

Knowing your reader well will help you improve on the main purpose of your writing, which is…

To add value to his life through your content.

30. Dissect Bad Writing

You’ll often hear that one of the best ways to improve your writing is to… “read widely and read great writers.”

But what about bad writing?

Think about it.  When you’re engrossed in reading a blogpost, novel, or article that is good, it stealthily washes over your eyes and sneaks into your brain. Because you’re enjoying it. 

But when you face writing that is bad, it’s hard to read. 

You notice that it’s bad instantly. The sentences might feel bloated. The flow might feel horrible. It’ll be completely boring. Making it easier to analyze. 

You’ll spot exactly where the writer went wrong, and how you could improve it. 

Reading bad writing also has another sneaky benefit. 

It’ll give you a little confidence boost and make you feel better about yourself, because constant exposure to writing to higher level writing can lead to doubts sprouting in your brain. 

31. Skyrocket Your Productivity with a Deadline

The less time you have to do something, the faster you’ll get it done. 

When you don’t have a deadline, it’s tempting to think that you can keep on editing and improving your work. But after creating one, you’re forced to complete your work in a given time frame, which will increase your chances of getting it done quicker.

32. Set a Daily Writing Goal

Yes, daily.

Why? 

Well, imagine a gymnast performing in front of thousands of eager eyes. 

Effortlessly flipping through the air and performing feats most only dream of. 

He didn’t learn how to perform on the day of the performance, did he?

He had to constantly drill the movements into his brain. Day in, day out…until they became second nature.

Similarly, the popular writers that you look up to experienced the same thing.

They had to continuously suffer creating humiliating sentences, weak content and limp paragraphs to gradually get better. 

Constant practice is what sands the edges off your lack of skill. 

That’s where writing daily will help you tremendously. 

Set aside a small chunk of time to write everyday. Don’t concern yourself with writing thousands of words. Just be sure to write every day and make it a habit. You can increase your targets later. 

Eventually, you’ll be able to produce hard hitting writing with less effort because it’s ingrained in your mind and body.

It’s no longer something takes a ton of energy and has to be scraped out your skull. It’s an embedded habit. 

There you are, 30 high-impact writing ways to level up your writing. Your next step?

Pick 1-2 tips from this post and try them out for a at least a couple of weeks. Improvement will be inevitable.

Hassan Ud-deen is a freelance blogger and email copywriter (who likes to be called “The Wordslinger”). He helps businesses use content to grow. You can find out more about at www.f-bombmarketing.com or if you need help with your blog posts or copy, shoot him an email or connect with him on Facebook.

7 Effective Tips To Grow Your Social Media Presence The Right Way

7 Tips to Grow Your Social Media Presence The Right Way / problogger.netThis is a guest contribution from Adam Connell.

Have you ever wondered how to gain a significant advantage with social media? Not just in terms of growing a following but growing an engaged following?

I have too, and so have countless others.

The truth is that you can, and it’s easier than you might think.

If you’re serious about growing a more engaged following, you’ll find this post helpful. You’ll learn how to focus your efforts, boost engagement, monitor your progress and ultimately start seeing real growth.

Ready? Let’s dive in!

1. Get to know your audience

Your audience should be the focal point of your entire blog and everything you do should be based around helping them and solving their problems.

In order to do that, you need to know as much as you can about them.

Once you learn more about your audience, you will be able to use that knowledge to guide your social media efforts and create a more personal experience.

Start off by putting together personas for different segments of your audience.

Consider the following:

  • Demographics
  • Questions they have
  • Problems they’re facing
  • Their dreams
  • Preferred social networks
  • Preferred content types

You can conduct surveys and other types of research to find out more about your audience. There are plenty of tools you can use as well.

The important thing for the purpose of social media is that you get an understanding of which social networks your audience prefers, and what they prefer to share.

It’s worth having a read of Darren’s post on creating reader profiles to more tailor your content to fit the needs of your audience.

2. Identify when your audience is most active

Have you seen any of those infographics floating around the web saying when the best times to publish social media messages?

There are a bunch of them and they look smart, but the reality is that they were created using someone else’s data – not your data.

Everyone’s audience is different, so if you want to truly know when your audience is most active you need to use your own data.

Using tools like Tweriod (for Twitter) and Timing+ (for Google+) you can get a good idea of the times when your audience is most active. You can also check the “insights” section of your Facebook dashboard to find out when your audience is online, and also what types of posts they are interacting with the most.

This is an important ingredient in any effective social strategy.

3. Help people instead of selling to them

The point of social networks is to be social, and real success means helping others without asking for anything in return.

Your followers are real people and should be treated as such.

By helping people you’ll be able to stay top of mind, so when someone does need a product/service you offer, chances are that they’ll still come back to you – because you helped them.

“If you sell something, you can make a customer today. If you help someone, you can create a customer for life.” – Jay Baer

4. Focus on building real relationships

The key ingredient to making social media work is a focus on building real relationships.

This quote from Ted Rubin explains it best:

“Relationships are like muscle tissue. The more they’re engaged, the stronger they become. The ability to build relationships and flex that emotional connection muscle is what makes social so valuable.”

Instead of focusing on getting as many followers as possible, focus on creating fewer and more meaningful relationships.

Sure, you won’t get the same social proof that having a massive following will give you, but you’ll find that you get more engagement and a more loyal following. That’s what will make the difference.

This comes back to my previous point on helping.

Help people without asking for anything in return, and you’ll start to build up goodwill. In the long term the impact of this can be huge.

5. Engage, engage and engage some more

You could leave social media on autopilot – but you shouldn’t.

If you’re serious about building a loyal following, you need to engage with as many people as possible, as often as you possibly can.

Don’t just wait for others to engage, kick start the process yourself. Start a conversation.

6. Go visual and get more traction

Visuals are a powerful social media tool.

For example, Buffer found that tweets with images get 150% more retweets. And there is data to confirm this on other networks.

Before you share a text-based social message, consider whether you could share an image instead.

Thanks to free tools like Canva, it’s now incredibly easy to overlay text onto an image or create unique graphics. A great example is the use of quotes and images.

There are also plenty of sites like IM Creator and StockSnap which you can use to find high quality stock photos that won’t cost you a penny – just be sure to check the license details first.

7. Monitor your progress with the right tools and find what really works

Monitoring your social media efforts is important for a few reasons:

  • You’ll find additional opportunities to engage and build relationships
  • You can monitor your competitors and understand how their strategy fits together
  • You can monitor your own growth and gain insights into what’s working for you

There are several tools you can use to monitor your social media presence more effectively.

Cyfe

cyfeCyfe makes it easy for you to setup custom dashboards to track the metrics that matter to you.

You’ll have access to plenty of widgets which you can add to your dashboard. There are tons of other widgets that can help you with a variety of other things, not just social media.

Price: Free to use for up to five widgets, paid plans start at $19/month.

Mention

MentionMention is a great tool that is purpose built for monitoring across social networks and other websites in real time.

It’s easy to use, and you’ll get straightforward alerts whenever you get a new mention.

Once inside the platform you can respond to mentions directly so there’s no need to jump over to another social tool.

Price: Free for up to 250 mentions/month.

Oktopost

OktopostOktopost is a solid all-round social media management tool but the way it groups social messages together is extremely helpful from a monitoring perspective.

You can use the platform to share your social messages and engage with your audience directly.

The twist here is that when you add social messages, they’re added to campaigns. Those campaigns are grouped together in the reporting tab to show you the progress of each campaign.

This makes it incredibly easy to see how campaigns are performing from a birds eye view.

Price: Starts at $49/month.

BuzzSumo

BuzzSumoContent plays a big part in the social media landscape so it’s important to have a tool that makes it easy to find out which content people are sharing.

Using BuzzSumo you can search for your competitors, topics and more – the results will show you which pieces of content are getting shared the most.

You can also find out who is sharing that content and engage with them from within the platform.

It’s a great tool to find out the key influencers in your niche too.

Price: Starts from free with limited results, paid accounts with reporting/analysis features start at $99/month.

Conclusion

If you want to get ahead on social media you need to focus on building lasting relationships.

Your focus should be on long term, sustainable results rather than looking for an immediate payoff.

Keep the focus on helping your audience and you will grow an engaged following.

Do you have any tips or insights to add? Let us know in the comments below.

Adam Connell is the Founder of Blogging Wizard, a website devoted to helping bloggers grow their traffic, email subscribers and online presence. If you want to get ahead on Twitter, download this free checklist to learn how to rapidly grow your following (the right way).

 

3 Secret Weapons I Used to Launch My Fulltime Blogging Career

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This is a guest post by Jeff Goins of Goins, Writer.

“I’d like to be a writer,” I told my friend one day when he asked what my dream was. “But that’ll never happen.” And I quickly went back to moping around, waiting for my big break.

At the time, I was working for a nonprofit as a marketing director, secretly wondering what it might be like to write for a living. Little did I know how close I was to my goal.

My was staring me right in the face the whole time. I was just blind to it.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer,” Harriet Tubman once said. “Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

That’s absolutely true. Your dream lives inside you, not somewhere out there. And instead of waiting for someone to come along and give you permission, you need to realize that you have everything you need to do this right now.

So let’s look at what you already have at your disposal and how I launched my own full-time blogging career using these same tools.

Secret Weapon #1: Listen to Your Ache

Have you ever felt jealous of someone else’s success? Of course you have. You’re human, aren’t you. But don’t feel bad. Envy isn’t always a bad thing, if you know how to use it.

Being jealous of what someone else has or has done is a sign of somethign you don’t have. You’re not living the life you dreamed of, not making the money you want, or simply not getting the credit you think you deserve.

Left unchecked, those feelings of missing out can get nasty really quickly. But when properly channeled, they can be a means to you discovering what you’re meant to do.

Here’s what I mean.

What bothers you that you see in the world? What problems in your industry or social ills do you see that you think should be fixed? When you see someone publishing their words or getting paid to pursue a passion, does it stir something in you? Does it make you a little angry, even a tad frustrated?

Good. Listen to that.

All dreams begin with frustration. But they don’t end there. It takes a person of action to do something with that feeling. Because really, frustration is just a surface emotion. It’s just pent-up passion with nowhere to go.

So pay attention to what makes your heart ache. When you’re feeling frustrated, remember it’s a sign of what you’re missing out on. It means you need to get to work.

Secret Weapon #2: Take the Long Road

Once on a webinar, I heard Darren Rowse say his first year of professional blogging had only made him something like $30,000. When I heard that, it sounded like a dream come true.

His intentions were to set our expectations low. He explained how hard he worked, staying up late and getting up early, how difficult it was. Not everyone can make six figures in the first month was his point. He was trying to keep us grounded. But it gave me hope.

I didn’t want fluff. I wanted someone to tell me exactly what I needed to do to pursue my dream. And for some reason, telling me it was going to be difficult and not very rewarding made it real. It made it attainable.

Sometimes, you have to hear someone else describe the life you long to live before you can begin to visualize it yourself.

Darren’s words spoke to the frustration I felt. They made me realize I was going to have to work hard if I wanted to live my dream and that patience was going to be an important factor in my success.

When I started my blog, I was determined to not worry about stats for the first two years. I would just write. The audience would come as my craft grew. If that took years, so be it. Six months later, I had more traffic than I ever could have imagined—hundreds at first, and then thousands of daily readers.

It would be a long while before I’d start making money, but still, seeing it was possible changed everything. Right around that time, my wife and I decided to start a family and began counting down the days until our son would be born.

At that same time, I started to hatch a plan for how I could make money with my blog.

Secret Weapon #3: Don’t Neglect the Past

When you decide to go full-time with your blog, you may be tempted to make the biggest mistake most dreamers make. You may think that dreaming is about looking forward.

It’s not. Dreaming is about looking backward and remembering what it is you have always loved to do. “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it,” Parker Palmer wrote, “I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”

So before I could even figure out what I wanted to sell, I was going to have to figure out what value I had, what strengths I possessed that could benefit someone. And the answer to that was buried deep in my past.

“Jeff,” my friend said to me that day I announced my dream was to write, “you are a writer. You just need to write.”

He was right. I had been writing. All these years. In various capacities. But somehow, it just didn’t feel like enough. I didn’t feel like enough. But when I heard those words, I knew they were true.

Maybe, I thought, before we can do something, we have to become someone. Activity follows identity. It was a simple principle but one I’ve come to embrace in all areas of life.

What that meant for me was looking honestly at my life and identifying what strengths I had to offer. I had spent the past seven years as a marketing director and before that as the leader of a music group.

I couldn’t remember a time in my adult life in which I hadn’t been working with creative people. That was a bigger clue than I first realized. Maybe, I thought, I could do that online.

So I gradually turned my new blog, which had been more of a leadership blog, into a writing-focused resource. First, I tested out posts on writing to see if they appealed, and I was amazed at how much people connected with the content.

What Derek Sivers says is true: “What’s obvious to you is amazing to others.” The secret to discovering the value that you offer the world is hidden in the strength you’re probably taking for granted.

The Finish Line

A year after starting my blog, I launched my first eBook on writing and made $1500 from it.

A few months later, I launched an bundle product and made $16,000 in the first six weeks.

Several months after that, I launched my first online course, Tribe Writers, and made $25,000 from it.

By the end of that year, I had made over $150,000 blogging.

I couldn’t believe it. This was my dream, and it had come true in ways that completely astounded me.

But the truth is the process took two years from start to finish, plus another seven years of preparation. It required all those things Harriet Tubman mentioned: passion, patience, and strength.

If you’re going to come face to face with your dream, you’re going to need them, too. You’ll have to:

  1. Turn your frustration into passion.
  2. Be willing to take the long road, understanding that good things come in time.
  3. Embrace your past, using whatever strengths you’ve accumulated along the way and putting them to use.

Yes, it will take time and it won’t be easy. But the good news is you don’t have to sit around feeling frustrated or like you missed out. Everything you’ve done up to this point has prepared you for what you’re about to do.

Now, it’s up to you to get started.


Jeff Goins is a full-time blogger at Goins, Writer, where he shares tips on writing, creativity, and making a difference. His latest book, The Art of Work, is all about discovering your calling.

7 Commonsense Tips to Improve Your Next Expert Roundup

expert roundupThis is a guest contribution from Neil.

Are you wondering why your expert roundups are not living up to your expectations? Why you are never getting the level of response some other people are getting?

After all, the idea behind creating an expert roundup sounds foolproof on paper.

  1. Get eminent experts to answer a question for you.
  2. Gather the responses and publish the ultimate answer to that question.
  3. Get your experts to share the content and then leverage their audience to get a viral post.

There is no way you can fail!

But the reality is a bit different.

My first expert roundup (January, 2015), featured the likes of top guys like Rand Fishkin, Neil Patel and Yaro Starak. In terms of quality, it was great. But it got me only around two hundred shares and a few backlinks.

Disappointed by my failure, I felt that “expert roundups” are overhyped. I looked around to get some expert roundup tips.

After a while, I realized that there was no flaw core idea of an expert roundup. The problem was in the execution of it. Actually, I was so excited about the roundup, that I overlooked certain things, which are just common sense.

Today on Problogger, I would like to share these commonsense tips so that you can organize a better expert roundup.

Do keyword research to focus on the right terms

You may create the grandest expert roundup (in terms of quality). You may even generate tons of backlinks. But unless it is properly targeted, it will never fulfill its potential.

By proper targeting, I mean that you should target the right terms or keywords for search engines. After all, the backlinks and shares that will get showered upon your roundup must help it to generate organic traffic.

If you have not chosen the right keywords, then what is the point? Your backlinks may help you rank #1 for your keyword, but if people do not search for that term, it is of no use.

In my last expert roundup, I made this mistake. The overall topic was good. It was about “blogging mistakes made by top bloggers”. I was quite sure that new bloggers would be very interested in learning about it.

But I did not consider the fact whether users would be using the same term in the search engines.

As it turned out, the main keyword “blogging mistakes” did not have an appreciable search volume. Even if I had been able to rank for the keyword, the benefit would have been minimal.

Ultimately, I got around this by naming my blog pos “19 expert blogging tips to avoid blogging mistakes”.

But this is not the right way to do it.

The approach should be very simple. Try to find the hole in the available information. Once you have found something that is asked a lot, but not answered well, you have struck gold.

Now you need to grab the topic and do a little keyword research to get the right term to use in your question. There are only two factors that you need to consider:

  • The keyword should have at least moderate search volume.
  • The keyword should not be too competitive.

In case you have already committed the error of choosing a low search volume topic, you have to improvise. Re-frame your question so that it includes good keywords.

To get the best out of your keywords, make sure that you use the keywords in the title of your post (obvious thing). A huge chunk of your backlinks will have the title of your post as the anchor text. Including your keyword in the title will go a long way in helping you to rank for that keyword.

Increase your reach by approaching more people

An expert roundup always results in a quality piece of content. But for the person conducting the roundup, there is much more to it than just the content. As the host blogger, you are banking on the expert’s reach to spread the word about your roundup. You are dependent on the expert’s popularity to have an influence on your roundup.

The idea behind an expert roundup is to leverage influence of the experts. Your aim is to ride the influence of your experts to gain as widespread popularity as possible. So it is pretty commonsense-the more experts you have, the better it is for you.

More experts mean more followers. More experts mean that your content will get shared to a wider audience.

So the message is very clear. Get in as many experts as possible.

And it is beneficial to the experts too. If your expert roundup does really well and ranks high in the search engines, each one of the experts will also be on the receiving end of a highly relevant and quality back link.

POINT TO NOTE: get in as many “experts” as possible. Here, “experts” is the crucial term. I’m not asking you to include just anybody in your expert roundup to fill up the numbers. There no point in doing that. In fact, doing that will dilute the experience of your expert roundup.

Finding experts is simple:

  1. Do a Google search with your niche’s keywords.
  2. Find experts on existing roundups by searching: “keyword” + expert roundup.
  3. Find highly followed people on social networks.

Get people to respond by gradually building trust

So now it is clear that you need to get as many experts as possible to participate in your expert roundup. But obviously, it is easier said than done.

Experts are busy people. They get tons of e-mails and expert roundup invites. They cannot respond to all of them. To get answers, you have to do the obvious things:

  1. Approach them with a short and concise e-mail.
  2. Pose a question that is interesting to them.
  3. Pose a question that is relatively easy to answer and so on.

But the easiest way to get someone to respond to you is to build trust with that person.

Imagine for yourself. If you are in a rush, you may skip over an e-mail from an unknown person. But if you know that person, you will be compelled to at least have a look at the e-mail. You will try to respond to the person it possible.

Same thing happens with the experts (and for any human being). It is human psychology. One can easily say no to an unknown person but rejecting a familiar person is harder. Our subconscious always tries to maintain and honor preexisting relationships.

Your task: build familiarity with the expert before approaching with the invite.

Simple ways to build familiarity:

  1. Follow the expert on social networks.
  2. Comment and discuss on the expert’s blog.
  3. Send a “thank you” email for a helpful blog post.

Use a deadline to get more responses

Not using a deadline was a big mistake for my last roundup post. I thought that the experts, being busy people, may not appreciate the idea of being given a deadline.

But I was wrong! It is always better to specify a deadline for submission of expert entries.

There are two reasons:

Firstly, deadlines promote actions.

An expert may read your email but if you have not mentioned a deadline, he or she may postpone the reply. And in that process, the busy expert may forget about your e-mail altogether.

On the other hand, if you do specify a deadline, the expert may reply immediately or at least mark the email to be replied before the deadline.

After all, itís a good deal for the expert. The expert is getting a highly relevant back link in exchange of a simple answer to a question. That is why, using the deadline works. The deadline serves to remind that the chance to get an easy back link may be gone soon. Thus it promotes a prompt reply.

Second benefit of using a deadline is that it will demonstrate your professionalism and seriousness about the expert roundup. Without it, some people may think that you are not sure about how and when you’re going to post the expert roundup. That may lead to loss of interest in your expert roundup.

Moral of the story: Use a deadline. 7 to 10 days is good in my opinion.

Have higher expectations from the experts

If your expectations are low, you’re most likely to be getting the same. This is one blunder I committed while conducting my first expert roundup.

I was not sure whether the experts would have time to look into my question and answer it. So, I tried to make it easier for them by saying that even a single line opinion would be fine.

MISTAKE!

I was doing an expert roundup and it deserved expert comments.

I understand that it is not reasonable to expect the experts to write long explanations. But a single line opinion conveys hardly any value.

Suppose I ask someone about his/her biggest mistake as newbie blogger and the person responds “not doing this or that”. It is a technically correct answer but it hardly adds much value. A little explanation is expected at least.

So settle for a middle ground. Writing 50 to 100 words does not take too long and is quite reasonable to ask for.

So nowadays I write:

A short 50-100 word opinion would be fine although you can elaborate your experience if you like.

Here, I am using the word “short” to make it seem easy to the experts but at the same time I am also specifying them the minimum length I expect.

Coming back to my story: I failed to specify this minimum limit in my first roundup post. As a result, few experts did provide single line opinions. But obviously, the mistake was mine. It was me who said that “even a single line opinion would be fine”. And this is one big problem in asking your expert on Twitter. That is why I always prefer e-mail.

That said, I’m very grateful that most of the experts did leave longer and valuable comments on my expert roundup. And this also tells you that the experts are also okay with writing a few words.

Don’t be shy to ask for a “proper and meaningful” expert opinion on your roundup.

Use author bio to allow users to connect with experts

When you’re conducting an expert roundup, it is essential that your readers connect with the experts. Not everyone will know all the experts. You must give them a reason why they should listen to the expert.

For example, I know Darren and the great work he has done with Problogger. But a new blogger may or may not know (although it is unlikely). Without knowing about Darren’s expertise in blogging, a new blogger may not pay heed to his advice. That is why it is essential to do a short introduction of your expert.

Writing a short author bio is a nice way to do it. Just a couple of sentences are fine. Tell who the author is and a little about his/her achievements and specialization. This will give enough reasons to your readers to listen to a particular expert. And this will also allow everyone to appreciate and value the comments made by the experts.

Here is a sample:

Darren Rowse is one of the first bloggers to blog about how to make money blogging. He is the man behind the hugely popular blog Problogger and popular books like “Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income”. He is regarded as one of the foremost authorities on blogging.

Promote more or more to get the most out of your roundup

Last but not least, put serious effort in promoting your expert roundup.

Creating a highly informative and useful expert roundup is only half the battle. If you stop there, it is no good. After all, you have invested so much time and effort in producing an amazing piece of content. Why stop when it is the time to reap the rewards?

Promote your expert roundup like crazy.

  1. Start with your expert panel. Show them your gratitude for taking out time to participate in your expert roundup. E-mail all your experts letting them know that the post is up. Thank them and ask them to share the content. Not everyone will share it but some of them will.
  2. If your experts do not reply back, remind them after a couple of days. Talk to them on Twitter and let them know.
  3. Promote your post on Twitter, Google plus and Facebook.
  4. Use hashtags to make it easier for people to find your post.
  5. Mention your experts on twitter and google plus. Here is a template that you can use:

    Tip no #: “Insert tip here” -By @expertname <Insert link to post>

  6. Share multiple times on your social networks: the day of posting, the day after posting, one week after posting.
  7. Share your post on social bookmarking sites. Encourage your readers to share your post on social bookmarking sites. Reach out to friends and acquaintances and ask them to share your post.
  8. And obviously, do not forget the e-mail list. You can write a couple of e-mails to build up anticipation for to the roundup post. This will ensure a better response from your email list subscribers.

These are just some ideas. Be creative and find out more ways to promote your post.

Are you ready for your next expert roundup?

So, I have shared my tips for creating a better expert roundup. These expert roundup tips work great. Now, it’s your turn – apply these tips and let us know how your next expert roundup goes. And if you have your own secret tip, feel free to share with us in the comments section.

Neil test drives new blogging tips and strategies on his blog and then lets you know what works. He shares his blogging experience on Blogician and you can read his first expert roundup at blogging tips for new bloggers.

Building Your Audience From Zero to Traction

This is a guest contribution from Brian Casel.

If there’s one common thread among many of those who build successful businesses online, it’s this: They’ve been able to build an audience, which has helped them gain traction and spread value with a farther reach.

But what if you have no audience yet? Zero subscribers. Little to no traffic. How can you get started, when nobody knows who you are?

I was there about 18 months ago. My blog received less than 20 visitors a day. My newsletter did not exist. I had been blogging for years, but couldn’t connect with an audience, let alone create a product they might buy.

Since then, I’ve turned it around by embracing a three-step strategy I’ll share with you today. As of this writing, my newsletter is up to 5000 subscribers, the blog receives hundreds of visitors per day, and my course has sold multiple five-figures since it launched four months ago.

These aren’t groundbreaking numbers. But to me, they represent the difference between blogging as a hobby (where I was at a few years ago), and meaningful part of my business today.

Now—I’m sure you already know the mechanics of building an audience: Blog posts. Landing Pages. Email lists. Autoresponders. Yadda Yadda. Those are the tools and tech, and there plenty of resources where you can find the right ones for you.

But those things won’t actually get people to stop, take notice, and give you their email address because they want more.

So how do you do that, when you’re still unknown?

Let me break it down with four important concepts:

  • Your “Who”
  • Their “Why”
  • Resonate
  • Exposure

Your “Who”

The most important thing in building an audience, or marketing a product, is to know who you’re writing (or selling) to. The more you know your audience, the easier it is to resonate with them. (tweet that)

But how can you possibly know who your target audience is when you don’t have an audience yet?

A lot of advice out there tells you to hunt for your audience. Do keyword research… Analyze buzz trends on social media… capitalize on current news headlines. They’re telling you to spot a herd of people and catch that wave.

To me, this always seemed like a monotonous and uninspiring way to create content. So I never followed this advice.

In fact, I’m pretty sure none of the folks that I subscribe to — who happen to have very large audiences — never followed this advice either. Probably for similar reasons. They just didn’t want to.

This brings me to my first point: You get to choose your who.

Your who is the person you care about and the person you genuinely want to help. They’re probably a lot like you. Maybe you’re further along in your journey, or maybe they’re further than you. Either way, you guys are probably on the same path.

Do this:

Give some thought to who you want as your readers / listeners / subscribers. This part is totally up to you. At the end of the day, if you don’t care about the people you’re writing for, then you won’t be able to help them, which means you won’t get very far anyway.

In my case, I was a freelance web designer, and I transitioned to a products business. So I decided the my who are my peers — freelancers and consultants who work on the web and want to transition to a products business.

By the way, lots of different people will stumble across your site over time. The vast majority of them won’t be your who. Only a small slice of those new visitors are. Those are the ones you want as subscribers and they’re the ones who you want to see again. So focus your attention on them.

Their “Why”

Finding your who is up to you. But creating content that resonates with them is not.

Now you need to reconcile your who with their why.

Everyone is on a journey. Everyone wants to get to a destination that is different and better than where they’re currently at. This is always changing. For everyone.

If you asked me 10 years ago where I wanted to go, I would have said I wanted to find my career path, and meet a girl.

Five years ago? I wanted to get more clients, and find a home for my wife and I to settle down.

Today? I want to build my products business so my growing family can live comfortably and travel.

Next year? Who knows…

How would your people answer that question? What is their why?

Do this:

Set up a welcome email autoresponder sent to every person who joins your email newsletter. Here’s a screenshot of the email I send to every new subscriber who joins my newsletter:

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 11.21.23 am

Keep that welcome email short and to the point, which is: Ask your new subscriber, “where they want to be one year from now?” I recommend adding, “What’s your biggest hurdle holding you back?”

In the beginning, you won’t have many responses. That’s OK. You’ll get plenty of replies over the course of year.

The fun part is to watch how your audience’s why changes over time. Your understanding of it will change too. The more in touch are you are, the easier it is to write things that help them get ahead, and the more likely your posts will resonate.

Writing stuff that resonates

So you know who you want to be reading your blog, and you’re in touch with the journey they’re on (their why). Now how do you actually speak to that, and create content that truly resonates?

I found a very simple method: Just answer questions.

Every blog post / podcast episode / video / whatever you create should be your answer to a question that your people are seeking an answer to. They have a very specific problem, and your post is the solution. In fact, it’s the best solution they’ve come across in a very long time.

That’s what it takes for a blog post to resonate.

Do this…

Start every new blog post with a question. Have you noticed that the first few paragraphs of this article contained several questions? The idea for this article literally came from a question that one of my subscribers asked me a few weeks ago.

Here are some places I go to identify questions that I could answer in new articles:

  • Questions people ask me when replying to my newsletter.
  • Questions people ask me when I’m out at a conference.
  • Questions that come up in forums and communities that I hang out in—particularly the ones that I feel eager to hop in and answer.
  • Questions found on Quora and Reddit, and similar question/answer sites.

Spend an hour and come up with a list of 5 (or more) questions that your people are asking. Make sure they’re questions that you’re eager to answer. I’m sure there are many that fit this criteria for you.

Exposure

Now I don’t want to give the impression that if you simply write great content that could resonate with the right people, then it will.

It probably won’t.

Unless… you get exposure in places where your people are already hanging out.

Here are the common “tactics” that most people focus on. These have never worked for me:

  • Cold email a popular blogger and cleverly include a link to your new post, in hopes they might tweet it. I tried it. Sometimes it gets that tweet. Great… For a minute. I stopped doing this because I hate the idea of “pushing” my stuff on someone who didn’t ask for it. Plus, they’re super busy and I want to respect their time.
  • “Go viral” on Hacker News, Reddit, Digg.com. I have submitted posts to these a handful of times. Maybe twice my hit the front-page for a while and brought a spike in traffic. Almost none of those folks ever subscribe and return.
  • SEO Keyword Optimize my posts. Have some of my posts done well in search engines? Sure. Do I know how or why that happened? Not really. My goal when I write is to help my people get ahead, and hopefully get them to subscribe so they’ll come back again. SEO traffic typically doesn’t play out this way. The channels I’ll list below do.

So here’s what has worked for me, and what I think you should focus on when you’re just getting started:

Answer questions in forums

I suggest focusing on just one or two online communities that you personally feel connected to.

Find a question you’re eager to answer and post the best response you can possibly fit in the reply box. Then finish by including a link over to your blog post on that same topic.

Don’t simply reply by saying “Good question, I wrote a whole article on it: LINK”. You should actually answer the question right there in the forum, then provide the link for more. Build credibility and earn their trust with your thoughtful reply, then invite them to your site for more.

Case Studies

Readers love hearing about real-world examples of a problem being solved. You still want to be sure you’re answering a question, but your answer (or solution) can come in the form of a case study.

I found that these types of posts tend to get shared and passed around a lot. One of my post popular articles from last year on my System For Selling, where I covered how we set up Trello as our CRM, and our process for handling inbound sales leads. This continues to get passed around, and even wound up getting mentioned on Trello’s blog!

Podcasting

While you won’t get thousands of listeners overnight, podcasts are much less competitive and easier to reach people than a new blog. There simply aren’t as many podcasts as there are blogs.

I also found that podcasts seem to build a more intimate relationship with your audience than readers of a blog. Plus, it’s fun!

Paid acquisition

I wouldn’t recommend this if you’ve never managed an ad campaign before. But if you know you’re way around Facebook ads or Twitter ads, then you might try it as a way to jump-start your email list. Point this traffic at a landing page for a free, educational resource, that is highly relevant to the people you want to reach, and the topics you write about.

I’ve had better success with Retargeting ads, since those are seen by folks who have already found you through organic channels first, but maybe didn’t opt-in to your list on their first visit.

Related: Tips and Tricks to Nail Facebook Advertising With Jon Loomer
The Lowdown on Facebook Advertising, and What We’ve Found Works Really Well

Return Visitors

Now, to be clear: The ideas I just listed above won’t bring in tidal waves of traffic. They’ll be more like drops and splashes. That’s OK for now. They’re only intended to get things going.

What will really move the needle are getting those first visitors to return and to share your content. That’s where your email list comes in.

Here are some ways I found work well attracting those first subscribers to your email list:

  • Offer a free resource, like an email course, highly relevant to your people’s why.
  • Point everything to the free resource: Bylines on your guest blog posts, link to it from your Twitter profile, mention it when you go on podcasts, this is your “gift” that you’re proud to share with anyone who might benefit from it. So promote it.
  • Include bonus content on some of your posts. For example, in my System For Selling post, I offer the exact setup instructions for anyone to download when they subscribe to my list.

The small breaks

As I’m sure you can tell, none of this audience-building stuff happens overnight.

The reality is it’s a long series of “small breaks”. A high profile Retweet. A guest post opportunity. An invitation to be on someone’s podcast. All of these add up and build exposure over time.

Some might see these as “lucky” breaks. But I see them as inevitable opportunities that arise when you repeatedly put yourself out there, serve your audience, and stick with it!

Brian Casel was a freelancer who turned productized business owner. Today he writes his newsletter and blog to help you do the same. Get Brian’s free email crash course on Productizing Your Service.

The 3 Building Blocks of a Blockbuster Blog

This is a guest contribution from digital marketer Pratik Dholakiya.

Whether it is to pour out your musings in black and white, or to promote your business among your target audience, or even to create a record of important events that future generations can look back at years later, the reasons for blogging are as numerous as there are blogs on the internet.

The-3-Building-Blocks-of-a-Blockbuster-Blog

Of the millions of blogs currently online, a very tiny handful can claim to have any real level of success. Success can be measured in readership, virality, monetization, and many other different interpretations based on the primary purpose of the blog itself.

What Your Blog Needs to Be Successful

Here we’ll take a look at what it takes for a blog to be successful from the perspective of building a strong reader base and earning revenue from one’s blog.

1. Pick a Blogging Platform That Gives Your Blog Wings

A blog that you intend to build and nurture for years to come ought to be strong enough to bear the vagaries of time and tide on the internet.

By this, I mean your blogging platform needs to be easy to use, a pleasure to browse through, while simultaneously offering the right level of security to prevent any mischievous hackers from breaking in.

Trouble is – once you start looking the mind-boggling variety of options available – WordPress, Tumblr, Medium, TypePad, and more – will soon confound any beginner.

So before you dive headlong into creating a bunch of blog posts on the first platform that you stumble upon, here are a few basic metrics you must compare these platforms on:

  • Ease of use – Does it take you forever to even figure out how to open the blog editor? Is the reading experience painless? Is it mobile-friendly?
  • Customization – Doe the platform allow you to personalize your blog? Can you install plugins, change the themes or layouts, or even write your own CSS and HTML code if you so please?
  • Security – How secure will your data be? Will the subscriber email IDs that you’ll collect from your blog readers be safe and sound? How easy is it to back up your blog?
  • Cost – Is it completely free? Does it need you to buy hosting separately? Can you afford to pay for hosting?
  • Storage Space – How much free data storage is offered by your platform? Would you need to keep upgrading your storage every now and then? Would you need to move to a completely new platform when you run out of space?

Matt Banner of On Blast Blog has put together a very handy comparison of the best blogging platforms currently available. Weigh your options very carefully before you arrive at a decision.

2. Craft Each Post Like Picasso Giving Birth to Cubism

The best way to build a blog that really resonates with readers is to write about a topic that you are an expert about.

You don’t have to write about some complicated technical field, just because it’s in vogue. Are you a good cook? Start a recipe blog. Love to tinker with your car? Share your automobile expertise with the mechanically challenged people in the world through a blog.

Take Neil Patel’s QuickSprout blog, for example. Patel is a SEO and content marketing wizard, and he writes primarily about his core competence in his blog. His complete ease with the stuff he writes about and deep knowledge of his domain are reflected in every single post that he puts up. This particular post answers the question “How long should an ideal blog post be?”

Patel turns this rather mundane question into a detailed, well-researched and scientific analysis of different post lengths and their impacts on readership, conversions and shareability. By quoting live data points like the one below, Patel makes his post educational, interesting and highly readable.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 12.02.35 pm

Source

And that is exactly what a blog needs to be successful – valuable content that is important to its readers, presented in a sharp, yet easy-to-digest manner.

Why, the best bloggers have readers forking out good money to read content that a lot of others give out for absolutely free – that’s the power of strong writing combined with solid research!

3. Make Your Blog Findable – By People and Search Engines Alike

Creating fabulous content and leaving it to fend for itself is doing a gross disservice to your blog and to potential readers out there.

To begin with, make sure you stick to one central topic in each blog post. This topic would typically be something your users really care about.

How do you find out what users want to read? By using tools like the Google Keyword Planner, KeyWordTool.io or the Moz Keyword Analysis Tool, you will discover the most popular keywords that users are looking for in your specific domain. Write dedicated posts about one or at the most two keywords – thus automatically making your content keyword rich.

Optimizing your on-page SEO is another critical part of having your blog discovered. Invest in free (or paid, if you can afford them) SEO plugins like Yoast or All-in-One SEO, which optimize various aspects of your page without too much manual effort from your end. If you want to take your on-page SEO a notch higher, make your meta data work for you.

Spend time on creating great meta descriptions for each post that will inform your reader what your post is about straight from the search results page.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 12.02.51 pm

Make it a habit to cross reference posts on your blog in new posts that you write, and link to them – this increases visibility for old content and makes it more authentic from the point of view of a search engine.

A key platform that you MUST harness to promote your blog is social media. Put up links to your latest blog post on social networks like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn depending on what type of audience you’re targeting. Organic posts on social media can only take you so far. If your budget permits, create a serious advertising plan on social media platforms to market your blog.

Related:
Tips and Tricks to Nail Facebook Advertising
The Lowdown on Facebook Advertising, and What We’ve Found Works Really Well

One of the first steps you need to take once your blog is live is to work towards collecting a strong subscriber list. A prominent subscription widget on every page accompanied by maybe a lightbox message as the reader moves to exit your blog are good options to start quick. All it takes is one email to your entire subscriber base to jumpstart your readership.

Take up speaking opportunities at local events in your field to widen your audience and raise your reputation in your niche. Attending workshops related to your field exposes you to experts who can help you through both information and contacts from their industry networks.

In Closing

Data shows that 77% of all internet users read blogs.

With half the world’s population now online, that makes it 2.3 billion people who form your potential audience.

Equal portions of hard work and digital marketing savvy tempered with a dash of patience result in a smash-hit blog. Give it a shot. Your blog will thank you for it.

Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder and VP of Marketing of E2M, a digital marketing agency and MoveoApps, a mobile apps development company. Pratik has contributed on sites like Moz, Fast Company, Social Media Examiner, KISSmetrics, and Content Marketing Institute to name a few. He’s a ‘must follow’ SEO expert according to Search Engine Watch and has been named one of the top content marketing influencers by Onalytica. He’s passionate about fitness, entrepreneurship, startups and all things digital marketing.