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5 Fundamentals That Determine How Fast Your Blog Grows

This is a guest contribution from Tim Soulo.

This year I’ve managed to grow a photography blog by 500% in about 6 months and I think I’ve learned something along the way.

I was following five fundamental things that you can learn from any marketing blog, but I like to think that I’ve made a few personal discoveries about each of them.

And the most important of all the discoveries is how these five fundamentals unite into one solid strategy. Once you comprehend it ­ your blog will start growing.

So let’s see if I’m good enough in sharing what I’ve learned.

1. Write Mind Blowing Content

Writer's warm-ups

Image copyright Robert Kneschke – Fotolia.com

I know it’s been said thousands (if not millions) of times how much the quality of your content matters. But let me try and give you a deeper understanding of this matter.

Poor content doesn’t get shared on social networks.

Of course you can always trick people into sharing your articles with all these “Social Locker” plugins (those will hide the content from readers unless they click on social sharing buttons). But this will only get you so far.

If your content is poor ­ there’s no motivation for visitors to click the “tweet” button.

Unless of course you have a raving community of fans, who will support just about anything you do. But…

Poor content doesn’t attract fans.

How can you expect a person to stick with your blog if he can hardly make himself read the first few paragraphs of your boring article?

Remember this: every time you allow yourself to publish a mediocre article, you lose a few potential fans (and maybe a few existing ones as well).

Most free content is poor content.

I think many blog owners will support me on this one. How many guest post offers do you guys get per week? And how many of them are actually worth being published at your blog? Hardly a few.

And that is one of the reasons everybody hates SEO guys.

They order cheap content from freelance copywriters (like $5 for a 500 words article) and then send out canned emails to every blog they’re able to find, offering this poor content.

In their turn, lazy blog owners are often tempted by the chance to publish a ready­made article on their blog. Somehow many of them still think that the more posts you publish, the better your blog performs.

And, to be honest, it’s not just SEOs. Many bloggers will challenge themselves to something like “write 3 guest posts per day for 30 days” in order to promote their blog.

But can one write 90 awesome articles in a month? No. Maybe 30? Sorry, but No. I guess this very post will take me 2­3 days to be finished (but I’m not doing this full time of course).

Even the content you pay for can be lame.

At a certain point you may feel you need to hire a few people to help you with your blog. Well, the fact that you pay them doesn’t mean they will write great articles.

Unfortunately most of the so­called “freelance copywriters” will treat their work as a routine, where they exchange a certain amount of words to a certain amount of money. While in an ideal world, they should be looking for someone to pay them based on their level of expertise and the amount of effort they put into their work.

So now you understand why poor content won’t get you anywhere. Here’s what you can do about it: learn to write awesome articles.

2. Get Serious About SEO

SEO flow chart SML

People should be able to find your awesome articles. And Google is where they will search for them.

But you have to do quite a few things to make your articles rank well in Google.

On the photography blog, that I was talking about earlier, the traffic from Google was growing by 10­15% each month. And surprisingly I didn’t do much to achieve that.

So what are the basics to get you started?

Learn to pick relevant keywords.

As they tap into SEO, most bloggers will always go for very broad and popular keywords… and fail miserably.

I mean for a post titled “10 Leather Camera Bags Reviewed”, newbie bloggers will pick the keyword “bags” ­ as it’s more popular and should bring more traffic once you’re on the first page of Google.

But what they don’t understand is:

1. Shorter, broader, more popular keywords are much­much harder to rank for. So you’re doomed to stick somewhere at page 15 of Google’s search results with no visitors.

2. A person searching for “bags” is not necessarily interested in “camera bags”, with even a smaller chance of being interested in “leather camera bags”. So why do you want to show him your article anyways?

Think logically. You want to show your post to people that search for “leather camera bags” or, to be even more precise, “leather camera bag reviews”. That’s the keyword you should go for.

Learn to optimise your articles.

I guess the majority of you guys know it already, but I can’t just make gaps in this article, so…

In order to optimise your article for a certain keyword, you should put it to:

  • Title of your article;
  • Headline of your article;
  • URL of your article;
  • Meta Description of your article;
  • Content of your article.

And there’s a handy free plugin for WordPress that will help you do this ­SEO by Yoast.

Build links.

The last ingredient of your success in Google is links pointing from other sites to your article.

Where do you get them? Just reference your articles all the time!

  • Writing your next post? ­Reference a few of your past articles.
  • Writing a guest post for another blog? ­Put a few links to your own articles.
  • Writing a comment somewhere? ­See if a link to a post of yours would be relevant.
  • Writing a post on forums? ­Well.. you’ve got the idea.

The more trusted links your article has coming in, the better it ranks in Google. So you should get serious about your SEO starting today!

Ask any blogger and he will tell you that Google is responsible for 40% to 70% of his total blog traffic. That’s definitely something worth investing some of your time.

3. Master the Art of Guest Blogging

jimmy-stewart.jpg

Google is huge, but it takes lots of time to build traffic from it. How about some instant visitors?

You can get them quite easily by tapping into the existing audience of relevant blogs that dominate your niche. How? Just write them a guest article.

But not every guest article will bring visitors to your website. Only those that follow the next two principles:

Make readers care about you.

Your writing style is super engaging ­ good for you. You’re sharing tons of tips and giving out lots of value ­ well… I guess… thank you? But why should readers care about YOU anyways?

Here’s the thing: people won’t read your author byline and follow the link to your personal blog, unless they are interested in you.

Take Problogger per se. There are dozens of people, who write exceptionally well, but do you remember all their names? Most of them share super valuable advice, but again, can you recall if they have personal blogs?

So how do you make people care about you? The answer is damn easy: tell stories about yourself!

Did you notice how I started this article? ­ “This year I’ve managed to grow a photography blog by 500% in about 6 months…

This is a part of my personal story which helps me to differentiate myself from the rest of the guys who share cool articles at Problogger.

To be honest, this particular fact is not too memorable, but you can always add some extra information about yourself later in the article.

So since we’re speaking about guest blogging… The very first guest post I wrote got published at Moz.com (a very popular SEO/Marketing blog) and to my sincere surprise it became a Top Post of 2010 in three categories: “thumbs up”, unique visits & retweets. Which makes me kind of a big deal (just kidding).

See how it works? Now you are interested in my persona a little bit more, so there’s a better chance you will check my author byline.

It’s not that hard to tell stories about yourself, unless of course there’s nothing too exciting that you can share. Well, why don’t you DO something exciting, get some impressive results and go tell everyone about it?

PS: I didn’t know about the storytelling trick back in the days, so sadly this huge guest post I wrote for Moz.com didn’t land me much traffic.

Reference your articles.

Most bloggers don’t like it when you “self promote” too much. But hey, everyone understands that the primary reason why you’re contributing an article somewhere is to promote yourself and your own blog.

So just don’t go overboard with linking out and you’ll be fine. Make sure you’re referencing only articles that truly deserve attention and make sure they fit nicely into the post.

I think the best way to link out is when you mention something that deserves an article of its own and by a lucky coincidence (hint! hint!) you already have that article published earlier on your own blog.

And yeah, the actual article that you’re contributing should be perfect in all senses! This way the blog owner won’t resist, even if there are a few of your links here and there.

Just to wrap it up, don’t waste your time writing numerous guest posts if you don’t know how to make readers interested in you and don’t have any solid articles on your blog to reference.

4. Outreach Is Your Gun Powder

Let’s say you have a friend with 100k followers on Twitter. You’ve just published a new article and you ask him for a tweet…

Bam! A couple hundreds of visitors land on your newly published article immediately! You wish you had more friends like that, right? So just work on it!

Connect with other bloggers.

I’m not necessarily talking about the big guys. They are already overwhelmed with people, asking them for “small favours”.

You can start with bloggers that have the same size of the audience that you do, or maybe a little bit bigger. They are much easier to connect with and who knows, maybe in a year some of them will grow really big.

Oh, and by the way, once you contribute a guest article somewhere ­ that’s a perfect way to start building a relationship.

Later you can exchange tweets, reference each other in your articles and maybe even mention each other in your email newsletters.

Mention people and let them know about it.

Surprisingly enough this doesn’t necessarily refer to mentioning other bloggers in your articles (though this tactic has proven to work really well).

When I was running a photography blog, we did a series of articles like:

  • 50 Brilliant Photo Sites of Professional Photographers
  • 50 Awesomely Inspiring Tumblr Blogs for Photographers
  • 100 Incredibly Tasty Instagram Accounts for Foodies to Follow

And then we went ahead and reached out to everyone saying that they were featured in our article.

As a result, most of the guys “liked” and “tweeted” the articles they were mentioned in. Their friends saw that and did the same, which was kind of a chain reaction.

In other words, when you mention 100 people in an article and let them know about it ­ prepare for a noticeable traffic spike.

But remember, at the end of the day it all comes down to the quality of your content. If your articles are lame ­ people won’t care about them, even if you point them personally.

5. Make Your Visitors Stick

stickier-velcro.jpg

Most bloggers refer to it as “community building”, but you won’t build a community unless you make your visitors stay at your blog right after their first visit.

When you’ve mastered the first four fundamentals that bring a plethora of visitors to your blog, it would be really silly to just let them bounce and never come back.

Take their email address.

Once you have it, you can bring back a person to your blog anytime you want (and do all sorts of other cool things).

But most people won’t just give you their email address for nothing. That is why most pro bloggers are offering tons of free stuff in exchange for your email: pdf ebooks, email courses, free downloads, exclusive updates, etc.

Three best locations for your email capture form with a freebie are:

  • pop­up email form upon first visit;
  • sidebar email form;
  • email form below the post.

If you ask me, I use all three of them on my own blog, with pop­up form bringing me the most email subscribers.

Interlink your articles

Remember the trick with mentioning something that deserves an article by itself and actually linking to your own post?

Well, each article on your own blog should be full of such cliffhangers that make it impossible for readers to get a feeling that they’ve already learned everything they needed.

Show them your best content

Most visitors are likely to leave after reading the article they’ve landed on. So your job is to advertise them your most amazing content till they’re still here.

I’m talking about:

  • “popular posts” section in your sidebar;
  • “related posts” section at the end of your article;
  • resource pages that list the best articles of your blog.

Once they read your best work they are much more likely to stick around and follow the future updates of your blog.

Get rid of the clutter

I don’t remember where this thought comes from, but I like it a lot:

“If people don’t click a certain element on your website you should either replace it or remove it.”

Learn analytics and put tracking everywhere. Try to make your website a black hole where people can easily get in, but can’t get out. Everything on your blog should be carefully crafted to make people stay longer.

That’s all Folks!

I honestly believe that these five fundamentals will make your blog grow once you put enough effort there.

And I hope I was able to demonstrate that they heavily rely on each other. Once you drop one of them, the whole system will slow down.

Want to talk about that further? See you in comments!

­­­­­

Tim Soulo is a blogging experimenter and conversion junkie. Check his free email course if you want to grow the traffic of your blog or check his free online tool that will show you the most popular articles of any blog you put there.

My Top 5 Blogging Blunders You Can Avoid

This is a guest contribution from Gary Newell.

guest-post-mistakes.jpg

I started blogging almost two years ago and since then, my blog has grown considerably.

I have learned a lot in a relatively short period of time and I want to share five of my biggest mistakes so you can avoid falling into the same traps.

1. I didn’t link to my own articles

For well over a year, I would write articles and post them on various news sites and social media networks.

This isn’t a bad thing to do but I never linked to other articles I’d written so people bounced off my website very quickly.

For a while I couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t click on the menus at the top or click on the links in the “most popular posts” section in the side bar of my blog.

The truth is people clicked on my article in the first place because they may have been mildly interested in the title. I needed to give them a reason to stick around. And so do you.

It is up to you to sell your blog posts with great titles but then you need to try and sell other blog posts on your site. By not linking to your own articles you are just giving readers an excuse to leave.

2. I sold an outbound link to another site

There are various ways to make money from blogging but selling outbound links is not one of them.

There are a huge number of sites that provide lists of how to make money from your blog and some of them suggest selling links. I think this is bad advice.

Selling links is a sure fire way of annoying Google so selling one link for $10 isn’t worth plummeting to the bottom of Google’s rankings.

Another danger I discovered when I sold outbound links is other sites selling the same link, reducing the value of the link. I also realised the site I was linking to had a dozen pages of bad reviews. I quickly retracted the link and refunded the purchaser!

3. I spammed social networks with links

If you read the get-hits-quick guides for getting visitors to your blog, they will often say that you should embrace the social networks. I posted all my blog posts on social media before I realised the “trick”.

The “trick” behind getting value from social media is actually engaging with the people. You need to have conversations with people before they trust you enough to follow you and share your links with friends!

For many of you, this won’t be a surprise.

You have to get involved and comment on other people’s articles and build up a comment Karma. You also have to post not just your own links but link to other people’s articles.

4. I randomly posted affiliate adverts all over my site

For a while I became disillusioned with affiliate schemes. I placed adverts across my site but nobody was clicking them.

Then one day, I realised why. I was doing it wrong.

Placing an advert at the top of the page is just eye candy. Hardly anybody clicks through to them.

I found that if I provided an ad for something that was related to my content, that wasn’t easy to find elsewhere and was something people needed then they would click through and purchase goods. I’m not making millions but I am getting a good return now.

I also found that Amazon links don’t work when sporadically splashed around the site. If you link to content and write articles that link to items on Amazon without overly selling the item then people click through and buy goods.

5. I kept all the best articles for my own blog

This is a recent one really. I have only written a couple of guest articles because as a blogger I wanted to keep my best content for my own blog.

I thought that if I want people to visit my site then I need to have the best content on my site.

The truth is, however, that to get people to click through to my site I needed to have great content on other people’s sites as well. I also accept guest articles and they often attract a great number of new visitors.

Summary

Be careful about following advice on how to get rich quick from blogging or advice thats tell you how to grow your blog ridiculously fast. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

My five blogging blunders have helped me become a better blogger . I have learned that if I write good content and build relationships with other people in my niche area, my blog grows naturally. And it has.

I’d love to know…. what have your big blogging blunders been and what did you learn?

Gary Newell lives in Scotland with his wife Stephanie and three children. Gary runs the blog Everyday Linux User which provides news, reviews and technical how-to’s.

 

7 Blogging Mistakes That Will Give You Zero Traffic

This is a guest contribution from Ness.

Everyone wants more traffic to their blog, don’t they?

Image courtesy Moyan_Brenn, licensed under Creative Commons

Image courtesy Moyan_Brenn, licensed under Creative Commons

If you’ve been staring at your analytics wondering what’s going wrong, you might be making a few mistakes that are holding you back.

Not Having a Marketing Strategy

The first thing that should be thought about when blogging is how you will be marketing it. There are so many different ways to promote and market your blog, but without a good strategy or plan, you won’t be successful. This is extremely important at the start of your blog because you won’t have many viewers, so you won’t get any word of mouth visitors. All of the people you will be attracting are from your marketing efforts.

Rushing Content

Content that is rushed will always get very few viewers. Other blogs provide their viewers with quality content, so why would people want to stay and read a rushed post that isn’t as valuable? They won’t.

Take your time and create the best content as possible. You will attract more people and you will also be ranked higher (long term). The better the content, the more chance you have at ranking higher.

Improper Branding

Branding your blog can have some major effects on your traffic. Everything that you post for the public to see can be used to benefit your brand or the reverse. Bad branding will decrease your chances of attracting traffic, drastically.

Remember, branding your blog is more than the look and feel - it’s the tone of voice and the content too. You should be doing everything in your power to try and help your image and increase your authority.

Not Using Keywords

Keywords should play a big part in every blog post that you create because if you don’t know the phrases people are using to search, how can you expect to match those searches? Start by doing keyword research to find the keywords that will attract reasonable traffic for your topic. Keyword research can also help you find great blog ideas!

No SEO

If you want to rank higher, you need to apply search engine optimisation. Although I mentioned a few aspects of SEO so far, there are plenty of other techniques that you will need to learn and implement into your content. The truth is, if you want to rank higher you shouldn’t be posting content that is not properly optimised.

SEO is a long term strategy but once you have the basic SEO techniques down, you will see your blog posts creep the search engine results.

Not Understanding Your Competition

To be successful in your blog, you are going to need to know what your competition is up to. Research the marketing strategies they are using, what kind of content their audience enjoys, where their traffic comes from, and everything else they are doing to give you some ideas on how to improve your own blog. Using the information to come up with a better strategy will give your blog a better chance at being successful and attract more traffic.

No Social Media Presence

Billions of people log into their social media accounts every day and share content with their friends and family and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become an incredible way to gain a large amount of traffic to your blog – if used correctly.  If you can target an audience and provide them with something they want to read, then your blog’s traffic will see a massive increase in no time.

There are plenty of ways to attract more traffic to your blog, even if no one knows you yet, but if you’re making any of these 7 mistakes you’re sabotaging your own success.

Have you made any other mistakes when it comes to building your blog? Maybe you can help others avoid them!

Ness writes articles for MakeAWebsite – a site providing reviews on hosting companies allowing users to compare the performances of each host. You can go ahead and visit their website if you need any help in choosing the perfect host for your domain.

5 Reasons Why Blogging is Not Working for Your Business

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer, Jawad.

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Over the last few years, the significance of high value content, in generating qualified sales leads, has increased tremendously for businesses.

More than ever before, businesses are now focusing on generating regular content for their target markets to keep a steady inflow of customers.

This, of course, cannot be done without a well-managed and regularly updated business blog.

However, over the last few months I have come across a number of business owners who have not managed to get a single client despite regularly updating their blogs with useful content.

At first, their arguments about the ineffectiveness of blogging seemed to carry weight. But a closer look revealed certain patterns behind the failure of all those business blogs.

In this post I’ll try to sum up the reasons why some businesses find it hard to achieve success through blogging.

This post assumes that,

  • Your business takes blogging seriously and has either hired permanent blogger or contracted a professional freelance blogger to manage your blog.
  • You follow a fixed posting schedule and update your blog regularly.

1. Your Blog Doesn’t Have a Clear Objective

This, in my opinion, is the biggest reason why a number of business blogs fail to make an impact.

They seem to lack focus. There’s no set pattern to their content and it is difficult to understand what they’re trying to achieve through it.

Like everything else in business, you need to have a clear objective that you want to achieve through your blog. You can’t expect a blog to get you customers if it is only updated with your latest corporate event pictures and news.

Your blog should be a part of your greater business strategy. You should be clear about the objectives you want to achieve through it.

There should be a reason why you’re putting so much effort into your blog.

Are you looking to attract customers? Or are you focused on creating awareness about your product?

Whatever the objective is, you need to be clear about it. Because your objective will ultimately give direction to the type of content you post on your blog and the type of marketing channels you choose for promoting your content.

 

2. You Don’t Have a Blogging Strategy

Blogging alone is not going to get you customers. You need to have a broader strategy and use blogging as a key component of that strategy.

Your strategy should not only include the type of content you’re going to create for your target market, but it should also include a comprehensive plan to promote your content so that it reaches the right audience at the right time.

The same goes for your social media strategy. Blogging, content promotion, social media etc. are all connected with each other and cannot be used in isolation.

Each of these components has a unique role in achieving your objectives and they should complement each other in your overall content marketing strategy.

What I see with many business blogs is a random set of posts that does not contribute to any particular direction.

Develop a sequence in your content and connect it with the greater strategy. That is the only way to move forward

3. You Are Not Blogging for Your Target Market

One of the most obvious, yet common, reasons for ineffective business blogging is the lack of focus on your target market.

You don’t want irrelevant people to come to your blog. Traffic alone is useless if it is not converting into regular visitors.

For example, if you are a blogging agency or a freelance writer, why would you want to write about freelance writing on your blog if your objective is to get clients? The only people who are going to read such content are freelance writers themselves. And they are certainly not your customers.

Identify your customers and write content that provides solutions to their most common problems.

That is the only way to not only get their attention but also to convert them into regular visitors and, eventually, loyal customers.

4. Your Blog is All About Hard Sales Pitches

If you’re trying to make sales through every post on your blog, then you’re probably better off without any blog at all.

Nothing damages the credibility of a business in the eyes of potential clients more than hard sales pitches. It simply shows that you’re not concerned with the problems of your target market.

Blogging is NOT a direct sales channel.

By its very nature, blogging should be focused on developing a credible image of your brand as a company that cares about its customers and offers solutions to complex problems.

Once you establish this image, getting sales is not an issue.

Look, customers are not afraid to spend money on the right solutions. Your job is to convince them, through your content, that you indeed ARE the right solution.

And that can never be done through hard sales pitch content.

Offer solutions, the clients will come themselves.

5. Your Blog Content is Not Driving Action

You might not be making any of the mistakes I’ve listed above.

You have a great plan for your blog, you have a great strategy that compliments your business goals and you realize that hard sales pitches never work.

Then why is your blog still not bringing results?

Chances are that you’re being just a bit too neutral in your content.

It’s obviously recommended not to push sales pitches in every blog post, but that does not mean that you leave your readers with no clue about your services.

At the end of the day, your blog is a part of your business strategy and businesses need sales.

What should you do then?

Make sure every post on your business blog makes your readers take action. For example, if have a product that can genuinely solve the problems of your readers, then there’s no harm in adding a link to the product page at the end of your post.

Similarly, never forget to drop hints to your readers within your content about how you can solve their problems.

Like your overall blogging strategy, have an objective for every blog post as well.

You’ll be amazed how small signals within your content can help your readers take the actions you want.

Conclusion

There’s absolutely no question that the significance of blogging for businesses is only going to increase in the coming days.

However, unlike the old days, blogging is much more about long term planning than short term gains.

Get your strategic hat on and develop a plan around your blog. If done correctly, it will be the perfect catalyst for achieving your business goals.

If you are a business, online or offline, that is using blogging to drive sales, I would love to hear your comments about the strategies that work for you.

Jawad is a freelance writer and professional blogger with a keen interest in content marketing, blogging and wordpress. With professional experience in Web Project Management, he also provides content and design consultancy to a number of tech companies. He blogs at WritingMyDestiny.com

Five Lessons Any Blogger Can Learn from Organized Crime

This is a guest contribution from Steven Gomez.

Image courtesy of Boaz Yiftach / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Boaz Yiftach / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Crime in America has many names. There is the Mafia, the Mob, the National Crime Syndicate, or “La Costa Nostra” – Italian for “This Thing of Ours.” In addition to the colorful names and faces are the larger-than-life personalities that turned crime in America literally into a “booming” industry.

Figures like Lucky Luciano, John Gotti, Meyer Lansky, “Bugsy” Siegel, and Scarface Al Capone grew the mob from a bunch of small-time criminals to an empire.

What can a blogger learn from the worst criminals in America? Well, loads of bad stuff, but also some truly epic lessons in how to create a great blog.

1) Provide Your Tribe with an Identity and a Brand They Can Care About

Crime is neither glamorous nor attractive, and criminals tend not to be society’s best and brightest. No one brags about being a drug pusher, a purse snatcher, or a mugger. Yet the idea of being a “Made Man” has an allure and mystique that even Hollywood finds irresistible.

An associate is brought into a dark basement filled with shadowy figures and his finger is pricked. Blood is drawn and a lit prayer card is placed in his cupped hand, the ashes mingling with his blood. He is told that he now has a family that supersedes the one he was born into. A family that values honour and loyalty above all, demands total obedience, and offers prosperity, wealth, and respect.

The reality of the Mafia is decidedly different, but the appeal of being “Made” by the Mob has a romance that is hard to ignore.

It is an identity that promises distinction.

Author Scott Sigler calls his long-time readers “Junkies” and the Noir Factory, my blog, refers to its subscribers as “Confidential Informants.”

While no one is suggesting that you set prayer cards on fire, and – depending on your blog – it may be very inappropriate to demand blood-letting, you should instill that same kind of identity in your tribe.

If you can capture that sense of romance, that same loyalty in your readers, then you not only have a tribe, you have a “family.” Let the identity serve as a badge of honour.

2) Work with Your “Competition” to Create New Opportunities

For years after the Mafia came to America, they were ruled by the Capo di tutti capi, also known as the “Godfather” or “Boss of Bosses.”  This worked well for the Mob if the Capo was an intelligent and sensible man who was interested in the organisation’s well-being and growth.

More often than not this was not the case.

In 1929, Meyer Lansky gathered the heads of the strongest Prohibition-era gangs in America. Combining his wedding with a business conference (he was a romantic at heart) Lansky brought together diverse faces in the crime world, including many who had never worked together before. For the first time, the Irish mob, the Italian mob, and the Jewish mob all sat down together.

Lansky made them see that the Prohibition Wars caused them to lose business as well as manpower and was something that they could avoid. By working together the bosses from Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York formed a governing body, called The Commission, which would meet every five years and would also decide on internal issues as needed.

In one of the Commission’s first exercises of power, Dutch Shultz questioned their authority to have prosecutor Thomas Dewey killed.  Shultz was killed by Murder Inc. shortly afterward for challenging the Commission.

Again, while we do not recommend that you enter into illicit partnerships with criminals, it’s important to remember that YOURS in not the only voice in your chosen niche. You might not form a Commission with those other voices, but imagine the kind of effect you can have on your readers by partnering with the leaders in your field.

Even if you aren’t a leader in your niche yet, by reaching out to the “bosses” of your niche you can increase your sphere of influence exponentially, and increase your readers’ engagement.

3) Network with Your Peers Outside Your Comfort Zone

Like the Atlantic City Conference that built the Commission, the men who would become known as the “Crime Syndicate” chose to meet in interesting places not only to talk business but to build their relationships.

In places like Havana, Atlantic City, and Apalachin, New York, mobsters met with others of their kind to drink, tell jokes, and talk business. In other industries, branding strategies and logistics might be the main topics. With the mob conventions, it was all about hostile takeovers.

At the Apalachin Convention, the mob discussed the distribution of gaming interests throughout the US. In Havana the bosses made decisions regarding working with the Sicilian crime lords and how best to deal with the high profile, money skimming liability that was Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.

You (hopefully) won’t engage in the same kind of networking, but you can connect with the movers-and-shakers in your niche and work towards solving common problems and cementing relationships.

For many entrepreneurs and bloggers, making acquaintances and building friendships lead to interview opportunities, traffic building exercises, and even the odd friendship or two.

4) Always Look to Expand Your Empire

Before Bugsy Siegel became a liability to the mob, he was seen as a young man of vision. A rising star in the east, Siegel was a close friend of mob boss Meyer Lansky and a boyhood pal of Al Capone. His lasting contribution to the mob, however, led him into the west.

Moving to California and embracing the Hollywood lifestyle, Siegel made the acquaintance of William R. Wilkerson, who was building the Flamingo Hotel. Shoe-horning himself in as the liaison between Wilkerson and the mob, Siegel became a guiding force for the mob’s gambling presence in Las Vegas.

While Siegel’s vision led him to a less-than-happy ending, as a blogger, when you are looking to expand your presence, you can learn from Siegel’s example.

Look for new territories that are complementary to your niche. If you write for single mom entrepreneurs, look for other markets that would interest a single mom, and connect with the voices in that field. If you are writing about weight loss with a focus on Italian food, then Italian travel, particularly active-travel, is something that should be on your radar.

Finding these growth opportunities for your blog will allow your voice and your empire to flourish.

5) Always Reward Loyalty

One of the reasons the community tolerated the presence of the mob was that they protected the neighbourhood from small-time criminals and contributed lavishly to local charities. Sometimes those charities were orphanages and churches, and sometimes those charities were policemen and district attorneys.

When someone gives you the gift of their attention, be it by subscribing to your email list, your blog feed, or friending you on Facebook, they honour you with that attention. Never take it for granted.

When you implement a campaign for new readers, make sure that you reward those have been with you for the long haul. If you offer a give-away to new subscribers, email your current subscribers to let them know how they can get in on it as well. If someone is constantly sharing your content, give them a shout-out.

Reward the loyalty of your readers and they will become evangelists for your blog, and from there it’s a small step from evangelist to enforcer.

I’m just saying.

Steven Gomez is a pulp writer in the best (or worst) tradition. He lives and dies with his favourite football team, enjoys old movies and older pulp novels, and writes constantly about pulps, blogging, and crime. To sign up as a Confidential Informant, as well as get a FREE copy of his Knockout Noir Novel – THE STANDING EIGHT – visit the Noir Factory! You can also swear at him on Facebook!

Inspire, Interact & Inform to Create Thought Leadership in Your Niche

This is a guest contribution from Will, a young entrepreneur slash marketer.

We can all agree that the most popular blogs have a few things in common – they all inspire, interact with and inform their readers. As Darren has discussed before, these three pillars should form the foundation for your blog’s content plan.

I’m not much of one for introductions, so let’s just jump right in…

As you continue reading, you’ll learn specific tactics and strategies to utilise inspiration, interaction and information on your blog.

How to Inspire Your Audience

Remember that both positive and negative emotions are inspirational; what matters is that your readers are provoked. Not in a manipulative way, but so that they genuinely want to learn more and take action.

Here’s how to create that inspiration for your fans:

Be Enthusiastic

You’ll be amazed how far simple enthusiasm gets you. When you’re genuinely excited about your niche, people notice.

So, how do you show your passion to your audience? Just think about how you’d identify an enthusiastic person:

  • An enthusiastic person loves what they do
  • An enthusiastic person works hard and takes initiative
  • An enthusiastic person wants to share their ideas and experiences

How can you display these qualities to your audience?

Tell Your Story & Share Your Own Inspirations

One of the best ways to inspire your readers is by telling them who or what helped you become the expert that you are today.  This shows them that everyone starts somewhere, plus it makes your current authority that much more believable.

If you credit another expert in your niche, all the better! You’ll be giving your readership another resource to learn from. Remember that the other authorities in your niche are your partners, not your competitors.

Leverage Controversy

Some people might call this a moral grey area, but nothing inspires people to take action like controversy.

Controversy doesn’t always have to be negative, though. For example, my buddy Kyle wrote a great post on our blog titled The Harsh Truth: Why your Side-Business is Failing and How to Fix It… While the message is controversial, the end result is that our entrepreneurial readers were inspired to work smarter and harder on their startup ideas.

How to Interact with Your Audience

Interaction only happens when your audience feels completely comfortable. So, whatever platform you push your readers to interact on, be personal, friendly and natural.

Here are a few ways to create more interaction opportunities for your audience:

Interview Other Experts

Interviews allow your readers inside the mind of an outside expert. You can discuss your own strategies and ideas while giving your readers a look at another recognized authority’s success story.

On top of that, if the person you’re interviewing has a blog, then suddenly you’ve both doubled your interaction potential by getting in front of each other’s readership. Used strategically, this can do wonders for both blogs’ traffic.

Be Available

Social networks are the obvious place to make yourself available, but remember that there isn’t a single platform that works in every single niche. It’s up to you to identify where you’ll get the best ROI… And the answer isn’t always Facebook. For example, we’ve had great results from niche forums and Reddit.

In addition, make sure you keep up with your email! Hire someone to help you, if you must, but your readers want a quick response when they contact you. Every loyal reader matters, which means that every email matters too.

Make Your Blog a Club

One of the best ways to turn a visitor into a reader is to make your blog feel like a club.

For example, Darren’s Digital Photography School and ProBlogger.Community both encourage interaction through their very name. Marketing Profs is another great example, and their membership base is staggering. Our blog, Startup Bros, also has that built-in feeling of camaraderie.

Don’t stress if your domain name doesn’t evoke community, though… An exclusive-feeling email list or Facebook group (or any other membership platform) will do just fine.

How to Inform Your Audience

The information section is last because, honestly, most of us are already pretty good at keeping our audiences informed. Usually, that’s the easy part.

However, since we tend to prioritise information, it can sometimes feel like you’ve run out of new stuff to teach. Writer’s block sets in, you start settling for sub-par content, then nobody’s having a good time.

So, here are six quick ideas you can use to maximise the information you provide your readers:

  1. Use industry news to keep your readers in the loop. Feedly.com is a life-saver after Google Reader shut down earlier this year.
  2. Use case studies and real-life examples to re-teach old lessons to your readers
  3. Create a recurring blog series so that you have a pre-filled content slot every week. Works great with industry news.
  4. Use mixed media to make old information consumable in different formats. For example, make your blog posts into videos, slideshows or podcasts. This also gives you more platforms for interaction!
  5. Publish your own surveys and discuss the results.
  6. Keep an eye on social networks – there are tons of new ideas out there if you can listen well and ask the right questions.

Your Audience is Waiting…

Each one of these content pillars – inspiration, interaction and information – could’ve each received their own full-length blog post. Instead, this post showcases some of my best ideas taken from personal experience, then leaves it open to the awesome community here at ProBlogger to fill in the gaps.

So, what other strategies have you used to inspire, interact with, and inform your audience? Share your wisdom in the comments below!

My name is Will, and I’m a young entrepreneur slash marketer living in Tampa, FL. I’ve been launching successful online businesses since 16, some of which you’ve probably heard of. If you’re curious, learn more about me and my story from the StartupBros About Page, or you can follow me on Twitter or Facebook to get my latest entrepreneurial advice.

The ONE thing your written content needs. (And it’s not what you think!)

This is a guest contribution from karen gunton is a blogger, teacher, and visual marketing specialist.

Bloggers hear a lot of advice about content marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing, but you may have noticed something new pop into the online landscape lately – visual marketing.

So yes, even though you are a blogger and your job is to create written content, I am here to tell you that you need some visual content too.

Visual marketing is simply using images to communicate a message about your blog or your business. The images you use can come in a number of formats (jpeg, video, PDF, slide, print etc.) and can contain a wide variety of content (text, photographs, diagrams, icons etc.) so the definition of visual marketing is actually a lot wider that in seems. You can create visual content that suits you, your blog, and your audience… the key is to get visual.

Here’s why:

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1. Social is visual.

If you are using social media platforms to engage with your audience and market your blog then you need visual content.

Social media is visual: brands that share visual content on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ get more engagement than brands that do not; and visual platforms like Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram drive traffic back to blogs.

2. People are visual.

Visual content catches people attention: it often resonates in a way that words alone do not, and it is generally more memorable. The saying “A picture is worth one thousand words” came to be popular for a reason! People are visual, so it makes sense to incorporate visual content along with your written content as a way to engage with your audience.

3. Visual stands out.stand-out-from-crowd-blog.png

We are bloggers. Words come easy to us! But I am sure we all experience a similar problem in our respective niches: there are a number of bloggers blogging about the same topics we blog about. Visual marketing is your chance to stand out, particularly if it is not popular yet in your niche. And visual content is a great way to share your message in some new and engaging ways.

So how do you get started?

Number 1 imageStep one is to realise that any type of blog, in any niche can use visual content. You do not need to have “product photos” in order to do visual marketing. Think outside the box to come up with ideas for visual content that suits your blog, your brand, and your niche: before and after photos, behind the scenes photos, sketches, maps, flow charts, diagrams, humorous memes, inspirational quotes … there are many ways to get visual!

Number 2 imageStep two is to go beyond the typical blog “stock photo” and use blog images that double as social media images. Creating an image with your blog headline, a quote from your blog text, or a helpful tip from your blog content will give you something to post to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, even your email… any place where your audience is hanging out!

When you post your image to social media, include the link back to your blog and a call to action to click for more. If your images resonate with your audience they will do they sharing for you – that’s why I call these types of images “shareables”!

Number 3 imageStep three is to look at content that you already have and think about how you can make it visual. Repurposing existing, popular content is a great way to engage with your audience in new ways, plus it doesn’t have to take a lot of extra time.

Consider creating a slide show and sharing it on Slideshare, adding your voice to the slide show and uploading it to YouTube, turning your content into a printable PDF guide or checklist, or creating an infographic.

Think back to when you were in school and you realised that kids learn in different ways – adults are the same. Sharing your written content in new ways will help you engage with your audience. Not to mention that these different formats give you the opportunity to share content on new platforms, and include your own visual branding to build brand recognition.

It is win-win-win.

I know that one of the big things that holds many bloggers back from creating visual content is the whole “But I am not very creative!” thing. We are into writing, and that sometimes means we aren’t as comfortable with images.

But I bet that there was a time when you didn’t feel like a writer either! You have probably heard the advice that the best way to learn how to write is to start writing. It is the same for visual content. The more you play with creating images the more comfortable you will feel with it, and the more you will learn what resonates with your audience.

And with so many amazing free tools and tutorials online, this is indeed something anyone can learn. To get started, try picmonkey. It is my favourite online tool: it’s free, it is very user friendly, and it is a fun way to create social media shareables that will help you promote your blog posts.

Go on, give it a try… give your audience something they can pin, share, tweet, and print – they are waiting for it!

karen gunton is a blogger, teacher, and visual marketing specialist. she is passionate about helping micro business owners SHINE online. take her FREE visual marketing class to learn how to create your own branded shareable images for social media – no photography or design skills necessary!

5 Actionable Tips to Grow Your Blog’s Traffic

This is a guest contribution from Scott Purcell, co-founder of Man of Many.

People often speak in very broad terms when giving tips or suggestions to improve blog traffic.

We may hear unspecified suggestions, such as: “be active on social networks” or “partner with other blogs”.  If you are attempting to launch a new blog it is likely to prove difficult and frustrating putting these things into practice, and all too often with limited success if not implemented properly.

One of the reasons I believe the 30 Days to a Better Blog is so successful is that it gives you clear, actionable and step by step advice regarding WHAT TO DO.

It seems that it’s all too rare these days.

So while the five tips below may not be a set formula that works for everyone, at the very least we hope they give you some ideas or inspiration to use on your own site. These steps below helped us grow our blog Man of Many from zero to over 100,000 page views in only three months.

Let’s jump in.

1. Participate in Group Boards on Pinterest

Images are vital to our blog. Typically it is the visual imagery rather than the descriptions or written content that attracts visitors to Man of Many. Consequently, obtaining maximum reach with images of our feature products via social networks is essential to generating hype around our blog and reaching as broad an audience as possible.

Everyone knows Pinterest is absolutely golden for bringing in traffic, but it can often prove difficult to build up a following in initial stages of usage.

If you Google “Group Pinterest Boards” you are bound to find a few Group Boards related to your blog or niche. These Group Boards are a great way to share your posts with a targeted demographic, rather than simply starting from zero with your own board. Group Boards can often already have a large following (usually 1,000+ people) which can provide an excellent starting point for generating interest.

Usually the page description will contain an email address for you to contact if you would like to contribute. Alternatively just leave a comment on one of the pins requesting that someone invite you.

Steps

  1. Google “Group Pinterest Boards” or go to http://www.pinterest.com/pingroupboard/
  2. Press Ctrl+F and search for keywords on the page related to your niche.
  3. Contact the Group Board owners to request to contribute.
  4. Share your content with a new community.

Pros

  • Easy and quick to implement.
  • The audience fits perfectly in your niche and is hyper-targeted.

Cons

  • Your pins can be drowned out by others if the board is active.

 Alternatives

  • Start Group Board of your own and ask others to contribute

2. Automate Your Social Network Sharing

A big problem people many face is the significant amount of time it takes to individually upload an image, write a title and share the post on all of the social media networks you may wish to utilise (of which there are many!).

To simplify this process, we have been using a free WordPress add-on called NextScripts Social Network Auto-Poster. As soon as each post is uploaded via WordPress, this tool automatically shares the featured image (or whatever content you like) with your social networks.

The plug-in can publish nicely formatted messages to your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Blogger, LiveJournal, Delicious, Diigo, Stumbleupon, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Plurk, VKontakte, WordPress, and Tumblr accounts.  You can even customise the accompanying description, links to your page or title and even set a delay to sharing on your social media accounts. Best yet, there’s no annoying “Shared via NextScripts.com” or “Posted by SNAP for WordPress” messages as the posts will be 100% white-labelled and come directly from your own account.

**EXTRA HINT** Nextscripts can be used to share your content with Group Pinterest Boards as well but requires a Pro Account (see point #1 above).

Steps

  1. Go to Nextscripts and follow the clear and well laid out instructions here: http://www.nextscripts.com/installation-of-social-networks-auto-poster-for-wordpress/
  2. Customise how you want your posts to be shared using the plug-in. Think about if you want a Title? URL? Image? Tagline?

Pros

  • Hugely time saving and efficient to achieve maximum social reach with your posts.
  • Very little maintenance required once set up properly.
  • Extra options to set delayed, random or repeat postings.

Cons

  • Less personal than well crafted and unique posts.
  • Posting to Pinterest and Google+ requires a pro account.

 Alternatives

3. Set up Profiles on other “Product Sites” and Upload your Content

A lot of our traffic comes from other “product or sharing sites” that are very similar to Pinterest. You can simply set up profiles on each of them and usually include a URL (+1 for link-building!), and share your posts or use them as a place for research and inspiration.

Examples of such sites (in order of traffic generation for Man of Many) are: Svpply, Tapiture, Gentlemint, The Fancy, Allmyfaves, Springpad, Punchpin, Manteresting, Stasham, Storemate, WeHeartIt, Wanelo, Polyvore, Lyst, Sumally, Gimmebar, Nuji, Lookk, Likabl.es, SocialBro… and the list goes on (do some googling for your niche!)

Steps

  1. Go to one (or all!) of the URLs mentioned above.
  2. Register your profile. Make sure to include your logo, URL, description etc.
  3. Install the Bookmarklet. Most of these sites will have a bookmarklet that you can easily drag up to your bookmarks bar in Chrome or Firefox in order to easily share your posts. I keep all of mine in one bookmarks folder.
  4. Go through each of your blog posts and click on the bookmarklet to share your content.

 Pros

  • Allows you to share your content with an entirely new and broad audience.
  • Extra opportunity to share your brand/logo/URL on your profile page and provide an in-bound link.

Cons

  • A lot of these sites tend to be very product or fashion focused.
  • Can be time consuming and difficult to build an audience unless you remain active.
  • Certain sites require extra info like price/colour or categories which can get annoying

**HINT** Open your posts up in a few tabs and use Ctrl+Tab to work through them quickly with repetitive tasks or clicking.

Alternatives

  • Fiverr / AirTasker / Task Rabbit / Amazon Mechanical Turk – Get someone to share your content on these networks or other for you (at a cost)
  • Search for other social networks or forums related to your niche.
  • Got a spare PowerPoint, PDF or Keynote slidedeck lying around? Why not upload it to Slideshare with a few links back to your target site.

4. Share your Competitions with other Comp Aggregators

When you run a competition on your blog, make sure you do not just share it with your Facebook followers or social networks. Sharing it with a wider community via Competition Aggregator sites can be an excellent way of pulling in some extra traffic to your blog.

There are veritable smorgasbords of them online where you can submit your competition and include a backlink to your site.

Steps

  1. Set up your competition page and make sure you have a set of Terms and Conditions (these can easily be amended from other blogs running similar giveaways).
  2. Simply Google “online competitions”
  3. Check out some sites where you can register
  4. Share your competition URL with the site and make sure to include appropriate descriptions, links to the T&C’s or any extra information.
  5. It does not hurt to also tweet a link to this page as well as the post itself.

Pros

  • Competitions, if done correctly, can be used to build engagement with your site (comments, sharing, collaboration)
  • Many brands will be willing to do a giveaway for free in return for promoting their product.

Cons

  • Certain countries may have different laws/regulations when it comes to running competitions.

5. Submit Your Blog to Startup Review Sites or other Blog Directories

“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.” – Jay-Z, ‘Diamonds From Sierra Leone’.

Just because you run a personal or part-time blog, it doesn’t mean it can’t be thought of as a business.

A lot of people are unsure where to start with promoting their blog other than sending it to their friends and family. We initially focused promoting Man of Many on other fashion blogs or related sites, but it often proved difficult partnering with them, having such a small following in the early stages.

A beneficial alternative we discovered was although we were not your typical “start-up”, many entrepreneurial sites and directories were willing to cover us, or at least allow us to submit a profile which was critical to building sustainable traffic and SEO.

Steps

  1. Prepare written information on your blog in a word document so that it is easily accessible to copy over when you are signing up to directories. This will include the usual information like Name of Company, Site, Address etc, but you will also need a short description (or tagline), a longer description and answers to questions like who is your ideal customer or what makes you unique? While it might take a bit of time in the first instance, it will be a thousand times easier to copy it over than type it out each and every time you are submitting your site.
  2. Prepare an image file containing logos, screenshots, and author profile pictures and keep it updated.
  3. Work your way through this list of sites to submit your blog to: http://productivewebapps.com/blog/list-of-places-to-submit-and-promote-your-startup-or-site/ (Disclosure: I also wrote this article).
  4. Register to the sites and copy over the appropriate information for your profile.
  5. Once it is posted it is always nice to share or tweet out a link to the profile as a thank you.

 Pros

  • Extra opportunity to market your brand/logo/URL and provide an in-bound link.

Cons

  • A lot of these Startup or Directory sites tend to be very tech focused.
  • Can be time consuming working through the list.
  • Not all sites will accept your submission.
  • Certain sites charge for submission but most are free.

Alternatives

  • Many companies that will perform SEO and directory submissions services for you but they often prove very expensive.
  • For $47 Submit Your Startup will submit your site to over 30 of these for you (No affiliation).

Conclusion

One thing to note with all of the tips listed above; none of them will work if your content is not of the highest standard, engaging, exciting or useful to readers.

In the blogging business Content Is King and there is little point in sharing your content with people unless you have something of value to offer in a flooded market.

So over to you, share your best actionable tips in the comments below with step by steps (if you can!) or let us know if you found the tips/ideas helpful.

Scott Purcell is the co-founder and fashion editor of Man of Many (manofmany.com). Man of Many is a men’s lifestyle and product review website dedicated to showcasing the latest in men’s products, culture and style.

Are You Leaving Yourself Open To Social Media Identity Theft?

This is a guest contribution from Amy Johnson.

Social media has become incredibly popular.  Many people have accounts on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or LinkedIn, and many share information, photos, and other things with their friends through these sites. But they may not realise how much they’re sharing or that strangers can access some of this information.

In fact, some people never think to apply some of the basics of online identity theft prevention to their social media posts and profiles.

It’s important to realise that, even if you have restricted your posts to certain people, it may be possible that others can see and access some of your information and use it to steal your identity.

What to Keep Secret

When you sign up for a social media profile, there are some things you almost always have to provide, such as your first and last name, your email, and your birthdate. Most sites allow you to keep some of this information hidden, but you still have to provide it.

However, besides the email address, you aren’t actually required to provide real information. You can use a fake last name or a fake birthday if you want. Just make a note of this information in case you need it later. Most sites will send a confirmation link to your email address that you must click on to activate the account, so you must enter a valid email address.

However, to avoid giving spammers and others your real email, create an email address you use only for things like social media or mailing lists.

Never add your address or phone number to your profile.

Think about your Profile Picture

Posting a profile picture is almost a requirement with social networks now, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a picture of you. You can use a picture of your pets, a piece of artwork you’ve done, or a picture you’ve applied different filters to.

If you have a professional photo that you know is being used elsewhere on the internet, there’s no reason not to use it, especially if you’re creating a work-related profile on a site like LinkedIn.

Here are two things when considering what picture to use:

  1. Does it give away any information about me that I would rather keep public?
  2. Would I want my mother or children seeing this picture?

Privacy Settings

Almost all social media sites have privacy settings you can use to help with online identity theft protection. However, they usually are not set by default.

When you create a new profile, make certain to look at the privacy settings and set them to at least friends-only. You may want to set some items, such as your birthday, to private. Remember that even if you choose not to display your birthdate on your profile, some social media sites will announce it’s your birthday to your friends, so you may need to find and turn off that setting as well.

Do Not Accept All Friend Requests 

It goes without saying that you should never accept friend requests from people you don’t know, but what about acquaintances and friends of friends you might have met once or twice?

If you don’t know the person well enough that you would be willing to share information face to face, you may not want to add them to your profile.

Be Careful What You Post

While it may be very tempting to post about your upcoming vacation, remember that this is telling people when your home will be empty.

Be careful when mentioning things like this, especially if you haven’t adjusted your profile privacy settings or if you have people on your friends list who you don’t know very well.

Protecting your Family from Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a trend that has become more and more concerning to parents over the last decade. Instead of teasing or bullying a child in public, kids have taken to using social media sites to do so.

Bullying on social media sites is just as hurtful as physical bullying. While it may be easy enough to block a bully on a site like Facebook, if they have access to your personal information, they may start bullying through email, text, or even appear at your house.

This is why it’s very important for children to understand that they must keep their information private. If you teach your kids online identity theft prevention techniques now, they will habitually use them later.

Check Your Credit

Finally, keep an eye on your credit. The importance of credit monitoring extends beyond keeping your credit cards safe. It can also alert you to online identity theft and help you understand where people are getting your personal information.

Checking your credit score regularly, as well as locking down your social media profiles, are both great methods of online identity theft prevention.

Amy Johnson is an active blogger who is fond of sharing interesting finance related articles to encourage people to manage and protect their finances.