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Follow These Six Steps to Make Plenty of Time to Write (and Enjoy it Too)

Six Steps to Make Plenty of Time to Write (and Enjoy it Too)  problogger.netThis is a guest contribution from Ali Luke.

Here’s a safe bet:

You’re struggling to find enough time to write.

Virtually every blogger and entrepreneur has the same problem.

Maybe you want to write great content to build your business – but there are so many other things you have to do too.

I know first-hand how much of a challenge this can be. I started out writing around a full-time day job; today, I juggle work around my two year old daughter and baby son.

I don’t know your personal situation. But I can take some guesses:

  • You have a lot on your plate – sometimes you feel overwhelmed.
  • Big writing projects get shunted to the end of your to-do list.
  • When you do have some time to write, you never seem to get far.

Sound familiar?

Here’s how to turn things around, in six straightforward steps:

Step #1: Come Up With a Bunch of Ideas for Your Blog

Since you’re reading ProBlogger, it’s a pretty safe bet that you have a blog (or you’re about to start one). Do you ever find it hard to come up with enough ideas for it? Maybe you’re managing to keep up a regularly posting schedule – but you know you should be doing some guest posting, and you never seem to get round to it.

The easiest way to make faster progress on any writing project is to set aside dedicated brainstorming (or, if you like, daydreaming) time.

Grab a notebook or a bit of scrap paper, and jot down as many ideas as you can in fifteen minutes. Don’t judge your ideas, just write everything down.

Try This:

Schedule 15 minutes, once per week, for brainstorming. You’ll soon have a stockpile of ideas that you can turn to whenever you need one.

Further Reading:

How to Consistently Come Up With Great Post Ideas for Your Blog, Stacey Roberts, ProBlogger

Step #2: Create a Clear Plan Before You Start Writing

When you don’t have much time to write, you don’t want to waste a single minute.

If you find yourself getting stuck and giving up part-way, or if you often have to scrap huge chunks of your blog posts because you went off on a long tangent, then you need to get to grips with planning.

Your plan doesn’t need to be complicated. A few bullet points jotted on the back of an envelope is fine. For maximum effect, though, set aside dedicated time to plan out several posts at once.

Your plan helps you spot any problems before you spend hours writing, and it helps you shape your material into a logical structure: easier for you to write, and easier for your audience to read.

It’s also a great way to blast through any blank page wobbles at the start of a writing session. If you’ve got a plan, you can just copy or type it into your document … and you’re already part-way there.

Try This:

Give different planning methods a go – you don’t have to stick with a linear outline each time. Maybe a mindmap, a set of ideas on index cards, or even a spreadsheet would suit your project better.

Further Reading:

A 5-Step Plan to Improve Every Blog Post You Write, Ali Luke, Copyblogger

Step #3: Use the First Hour of Your Day for Your Main Writing Project

Sometimes, the real problem with finding time to write isn’t that there’s no time at all – it’s that our writing time is scheduled for the wrong part of the day.

If your aim is to “finish the ten things on this list then work on the ebook” … it’s all too easy to let those ten things fill your day. Even if you have a little time left at the end of the day, you’ll probably be creatively frazzled.

The best solution I’ve found is to put writing first. Ideally, set aside an hour – but if that’s just not practical, 15 minutes is fine.

Putting writing first could mean:

  • You use the first hour of your work day for your project … trust me, Twitter and Facebook can wait for an hour.
  • You get up an hour earlier (not my favorite solution – but I did it for eight months when I had a day job, and it let me build my career to the point where I could quit and write full time).
  • You shuffle around some other activities: if you currently head to the gym at 6am, could you go at lunchtime or in the evening instead?

Try This:

For this week only, commit to spending the first 15 minutes of your day (either when you get up or when you start work) on your current writing project. Put a check on the calendar each day you manage it. Next week, aim for 20 minutes per day, and/or more checks.

Further Reading:

Why You Should Get Serious About Your Writing Schedule, Kari, Men with Pens

Step #4: Cut Out or Cut Back

Your time is full already, but at least some of your activities could go in a pinch. This is always going to be a personal decision – something that I might consider essential could be on your list for ditching when life gets hectic, and vice versa.

Here are just a few ideas you might want to consider.

Cut out…

  • Voluntary commitments you don’t enjoy and wish you’d never signed up for. Resign in writing, and don’t leave any room for ambiguity or argument.
  • Time-wasting activities that don’t add much to your life – do you really need to take another Buzzfeed quiz? Try RescueTime to track your computer activity.

Cut down…

  • TV watching. Of course, keep up any must-sees (mine are Game of Thrones and Doctor Who) … but if you’re binging on whole seasons of shows on Netflix, cut back to an hour every evening.
  • Even if money’s tight, can you get a maid service once or twice a month? If that’s not an option, can you delegate to your spouse or kids?

Try This:

Look at your non-writing activities and save some time there too:

  • 10 minutes per day on Twitter and Facebook, instead of 30, could well get you the same results.
  • Template emails will save you time answering common questions, dealing with routine enquiries, and so on.

Further Reading:

Why You Should Flush 90% of Your To-Do List Down the Toilet, Michael Hyatt, MichaelHyatt.com

Step #5: Keep a Time Log

If you’re still struggling, keep a time diary for a week to find out exactly where your time goes.

(If you’ve ever kept a food diary while on a diet, or a spending diary while getting out of debt, you’ll have some idea of how powerful this can be.)

You could use a spreadsheet, a physical notebook, or an app like Toggl. While entering data manually can be a pain, it does make you very aware of how you’re using your time.

Try This:

Be prepared for your time log to throw up some negative emotions – maybe you’re not working as efficiently as you thought. Go easy on yourself, and look for ways to win back just 5 or 10 minutes of productive time each day.

Further Reading:

Why You Really Don’t Have a Time Management Problem, Charlie Gilkey, Productive Flourishing

Step #6: When You’re Writing, Write!

If you’ve set aside 30 minutes to work on a post for your blog, you need to actually write.

That means not stopping after five minutes to check if anything new’s happening on Facebook. It means jotting down any distracting thoughts like “Email John” rather than stopping writing to do them straight away.

When you’re writing (or engaged in any creative activity), you can get into a state of “flow” – you might describe it as “being on a roll” or even “losing track of time”. This is what you’re aiming for, and constantly interrupting yourself will stop you getting there.

Try This:

Work in short bursts. I find that 20 – 45 minutes is about right. If you know you only have to write for another 15 minutes, not for another hour, it’s easier to push yourself to keep going.

Further Reading:

How to Maintain Focus when Writing, Mary Jaksch, Write to Done

You won’t miraculously “find” a few spare hours to write.

You need to make that time – by finding more efficient ways to work and by restructuring other elements of your life to allow your writing to be a priority.

So here’s your first step again: find fifteen minutes, either today or tomorrow, to brainstorm some ideas for one of your current projects.

Get up early, use the ad breaks on TV, write in your notebook on the bus, or whatever it takes. Drop a comment below to tell us what you’ll be doing, and when.

Ali Luke runs Writers’ Huddle, a community / teaching site for all bloggers and writers, with monthly seminars, in-depth ecourses, supportive forums, and more. It’s only open for new members until Friday June 12th, and we’re about to start a new Summer Challenge for accountability (and prizes)! If you think you might be interested, check it out now.

 

8 Ways to Stop Your Blog Crashing as Soon as it Gets Popular

person-apple-laptop-notebookIn this guest post, Andrew Maybin, managing director of web hosting and digital infrastructure company Tibus, gives tips on how to avoid the hosting pitfalls associated with high-traffic blogs.

It’s the nightmare scenario for any blogger. All the hours and effort you’ve invested in writing, promoting and developing your site, only for it to go down as soon as you hit the jackpot.

An article that goes viral, a retweet from a high-profile influencer or a link from a top-tier website: it’s what you’ve been working towards, but is your blog ready to cope with the resulting traffic?

If you’re yet to find out the hard way, your web hosting and server setup can play a hugely important role in making your blog a success.

Pieces of content – in the form of blog posts and social media output – are often described in terms of being building blocks. Your hosting is the foundations on which your content is built. Get that wrong and it all comes tumbling down pretty quickly.

How important is it that your blog is available?

That is the first – and perhaps the most important – question to ask yourself. It is something you need to repeatedly come back to when making decisions about your hosting arrangements.

National broadcasters, popular tech websites and high-traffic niche blogs are make up a huge portion of web hosting clients. Even within that relatively close demographic, people have different budgets, hosting requirements and answers to that all-important question.

In the ‘jackpot’ examples we mentioned, how much would it cost you – or maybe pain you – for your website to crash? Act according to your answer when weighing up which of these hosting tips for high-traffic blogs is right for your website.

1. Choose the right hosting package

The most fundamental aspect of website hosting is getting the right sort of package to begin with. As with anything in life, you tend to get what you pay for so don’t expect an entry level package to serve enterprise ambition. Be realistic and choose a package with enough CPU and RAM to give the raw power your website needs.

As a rule of thumb, websites that attract flashes of traffic, like blogs, are well-suited to private cloud hosting supported by a content delivery network (CDN). This option gives the efficiency and scalability of the cloud, but with extra control and security. The CDN takes the strain off the main server by hosting photos and other static assets that might otherwise drain your resources.

2. Pick something scalable

As alluded to in the previous point, the way to deal with surges of traffic without breaking the bank is to opt for a hosting package that’s flexible enough to scale-up when the crowds arrive and scale back down to something that’s a bit more affordable when they’ve gone.

3. Use web server caching

A cache takes pages or assets within your blog and creates static versions of them which load much more quickly. This can result in 20x better performance from exactly the same server.

The impact on user experience is limited and the improvement in site speed dramatic. We tend to use caching tools such as NGINX and Varnish. Any blog that uses WordPress will benefit hugely from caching. In fact it’s a must for maintaining decent performance levels.

4. Use servers close to your readers

Where is your traffic coming from? It is a good idea to have versions of your website hosted in data centres close to your main geographic hot-spots.So, if you’re big in Brazil, hot in Hungary or in-demand in India, move your content closer to the audience. The result will be a better user experience and a more efficient use of your resources.

5. Tune your database

A tidy database can go a long way towards stopping your website crashing during busy periods. Slow queries, inefficient calls and multiple table joins – all of which can occur naturally as your website evolves over time – can cause slow performance on high-traffic websites

6. Use a database cache

Database queries are very often the cause of performance problems for high traffic websites, even if you’ve tuned your database as outlined above. Using a tool like Memcache or Redis will improve performance when large numbers of visitors are concurrently dipping in and out of articles, photos and other pieces of content.

7. Use lateral scaling and load balancing

Even the most powerful servers and their software have a ‘hard limit’ at which point their resources hit a wall. You can circumvent this by using more than one server and balancing the load across them.

This is the web hosting embodiment of the old adage, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. It can achieve greater capacity and better performance while retaining cost-effectiveness.

8. Pay attention to your network

This starts at home by making sure you’ve got the basics right. In the past we’ve seen people tick the wrong box with usage limits or firewall settings and inadvertently limit their server resources.

Further afield, your hosting company will be using internet exchanges as part of their network. Check that there are no bottlenecks with their infrastructure and that sufficient bandwidth is being made available to your website.

The tips in this guest post have been kept as simple as possible. You can find a bit more technical detail at tibus.com.

How to Use Quizzes and Facebook to Build Your List… Fast

This is a guest contribution from Luke Moulton.

If you’ve spent even a small about of time in the blogging world, you’ll be aware of the power of building an email list. Email is still one of the cheapest and effective forms of online marketing so as a blogger it should be high on your priority list.

But how do we build a list quickly if we aren’t getting a whole lot of traffic to our blog? How do we incentivise people to hand over their email address once they get there?

Sure, we can use the good old “Sign up to our Newsletter” or give something of value away for free. But these don’t always work for fresh visitors who haven’t seen your content before.

I’d like to introduce you to another list building option: quizzes.

You’ve probably seen them in your social media feed, you may have even taken a “Which Sex and the City Character Are You?” style personality test. They’ve been made popular by the likes of Buzzfeed and Mashable, but that’s not to say humble bloggers like you and I can’t use them to build a list.

The Technique: Facebook Ads + Quiz

The case study I’m about to show you combines traffic from Facebook Ads with a quiz. Yes folks, we’re actually going to be spending some money, hope I haven’t lost you yet… stay with me.

1-facebook-quizz-campaign-summary

The results above are from a Facebook Ads campaign I used to drive traffic to a quiz. The campaign lasted 13 days on a budget of $30 per day and from this I was able to build a list of 571 people. Yes, I know, it says 560 in the screenshot above but I also had some viral traffic, so ended up with more leads. This means my cost per conversion, or the cost to acquire an email address, equaled $0.66.

To some, this cost per conversion will seem expensive, to others it’s cheap; all depends what niche you’re operating in. If you know you can generate $1 from every email address you collect, then you’ll be making 50% on your investment… better than any investment I’ve come across recently.

Let’s dive in and build the campaign.

Building the Quiz

Choosing the topic for your quiz is the most important step; obviously it needs to relate to the overall content on your blog, and it also need to appeal to a specific social media audience.

For this particular example, I’m going to pretend I have a fashion/beauty/cosmetics blog. The topic for my quiz: “Would You Qualify to be a Makeup Artist?”.

I used Sit the Test Builder to build a 10 question, multiple choice test. Sit the Test requires people to enter their email address before taking a test (or quiz). As the test creator I can then export these email addresses to my favourite email marketing platform.

2-sit-the-test-screen

While I know nothing about being a makeup artist, Google does, so make sure you research your topic thoroughly and build a quiz with legitimate questions. You see the example of my quiz here.

With my test written and published, it’s time to build the Facebook campaign.

Creating the Facebook Campaign

To begin, I created three ads to “split test”. I say split test in quotation marks because Facebook automatically favors the better-performing ad after a period and I’m not convinced they wait for statistical significance, but I digress.

3-facebook-ads

The only difference between the three ads above is the image used. It’s important to only test one aspect of your ad at a time.

Ads created, it’s time for the build the audience that I’m going to target.

For this particular campaign I targeted women between the ages of 18 and 24, interest in cosmetics and living with 25 miles of Australia’s two largest cities, Melbourne and Sydney.

4-facebook-ad-sets

I did experiment with a couple of other Ad Sets, but the Sydney and Melbourne campaigns were the best performing. I also made sure I had Facebook conversion tracking setup so I could closely track the performance of my campaign without having to continuously check to see how many people had taken my quiz.

Launching the campaign, after a day or two you will usually start to see one Ad performing better than the others.

5-Facebook_Ad_Set_Summary

If you’ve chosen your topic and target audience well, you should be rewarded with a healthy click through rate. In this case the best performing ad generated a click through rate of 2.29%.

After a day or two I usually pause the two poorer performing ads. If none are performing well, try changing the messaging and the image.

The Quiz Results

So how did our participants fare? For this particular test, I set a pass rate of 70%. On average, participants scored 64%. 571 people started taking the quiz, and 521 people completed it. Because we collect the email address at the start, it doesn’t matter if people don’t complete the quiz – although we hope they do!

6-test-results

What’s Next

So I’ve built my list of 570 odd – what do I do with it now? That’s really up to you and what you have to offer your audience. But here are some suggestions:
Segment out the people who failed and offer them some cosmetics training
Segment out the people who passed and offer offer them accredited training courses
Send them regular email updates from your blog

If you don’t have your own products, there are plenty of beauty, fashion and cosmetics affiliate offers you can present to your audience, just make sure you’re adding when you email the list you’ve build… use it for good not evil and you’ll be rewarded.

Luke Moulton is a digital marketer based in Melbourne Australia, working with Sit the Test, a startup helping people create multiple choice tests and quizzes.

Anchorman-Inspired Tips to Help you Blog Your Way to the Top

anchorman

This is a guest contribution from Kirsty Sharman.

There are a million and one articles online that talk about how to earn money blogging. They all have the same tips, talk about the same things and usually just teach us things we already know.

The truth is: people like you and me (I’m assuming you’re a blogger if you’re reading this) didn’t start blogging because we wanted to be bac link experts, banner ad salesmen or tech gurus. We had a passion for a topic, and we wanted to talk about it. A lot.

All the articles online educate us to become masters of everything in order to succeed as a blogger, and successfully monetize our audience. I don’t really agree with that thinking. My thinking aligns more with being the best you can be within your niche – and partnering with others to help you monetize your audience.

If you want to be the best, and in turn earn an income from your passion, you need to be the guy that everyone wants to be friends with.

You need to be kind of a big deal.

As ridiculous as Ron Burgundy is, he mimics many traits of an internet celebrity. As influential bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers and Instagrammers, we need to stand out from the digital crowd. We need to be to the internet what Ron Burgundy is to the News Network of America.

Below are five Anchorman inspired tips to help you blog your way to the top:

Start to think of yourself as an influencer

Brands want to work with people who can influence consumers within their target market. In order to be an influencer you need to work towards being an authority in your chosen blog category (or niche).

Partner with the right people

The same way that Ron Burgundy relies on Brick Tamland to deliver the weather, and Champ Kind to announce the sports results – is the same way you need to think of your blogging network. Partner with people to do the things you don’t specialize in – like monetizing your audience for example. Or managing your video editing. Trade exchanges are a good idea if possible.

Say what’s on your mind – even if it creates a stir

If you’re going to be a thought leader in your niche, it’s important that you speak up. If you’re a tech blogger and you think a new phone is terrible, say so. In the long run, being authentic is more important than pleasing the brands around you. Creating a stir has Ron Burgundy written all over it!

PR yourself

If you work hard, write great content and consider yourself a credible source within your niche – then it’s ok to let others know that you’re kind of a big deal.

Stay in shape

Ron Burgundy takes his personal fitness extremely seriously, you should take your online fitness just as seriously. Know who the other bloggers are, know where the best information comes from, research and write weekly. Stay in shape, on the internet!

Kirsty Sharman is • Crazy about all things digital • Bulldog owner • Toy collector • Runs @Webfluenti_al by day and @GeeksDoingStuff by night • One of the girls behind Girl Geek Dinners Johannesburg •

 

Google’s Mobilegeddon: The Best Excuse to Repurpose Old Content

Google’s Mobilegeddon: The Best Excuse to Repurpose Old ContentThis is a guest contribution from Mike Canarelli.

For bloggers looking to refresh or repurpose old content, after the April 21 release of Google’s “mobile-friendly” update comes at the perfect time and offers tremendous benefits.

Gloomier prognosticators have nicknamed the update “MOBILEGEDDON” (yes, typically in all caps) because of its potential to disrupt 40% of all online searches—specifically those queried from mobile devices.

What these doom-and-gloomers have forgotten to consider, however, is that because the update applies to individual web pages, as opposed to entire websites, bloggers with mobile sites now have the chance to showcase stale or outdated content by refreshing their posts with new or updated tweaks. For bloggers still working on becoming mobile compliant, the update will allow them the opportunity to build a content refresh right into their website redesign plans.

Let’s face it: not only is high quality content time-consuming and costly to produce, none of it remains relevant forever. When Google says it’s going to highlight some of the best content you’ve produced by re-indexing it for mobile, it would be foolish to waste the opportunity and not update it.

Breathe New Life into Old Content

Above all, when creating content the first time around, try to image how you might repurpose it at a later date. With that in mind, here are some important things to consider when refreshing and repurposing existing content:

Updates

Simply providing new insights on original posts can allow you to reuse blog content and articles. For example, if you wrote an article on the five most important weapons to have during the zombie apocalypse, you could just break each of those five weapons down into five different in-depth writes-ups on each item. This is an easy way to score big points with the Googlebot, which is constantly looking for new, properly formatted pages that are relevant to your site’s general theme.

Presentations

Take information from a post, turn it into a presentation and post your slides to social sites like SlideShare, Issuu, and Docstoc for additional amplification. Google loves presentations, and if you include links to your mobile site in these repurposed slides, you’ll benefit from additional optimization. One word of caution, though: Google does not index presentations stored in its own Google Docs platform, so even if your presentation is stored there and marked “public,” the search giant won’t include it in search results. No biggie: just be sure to publish your presentations to a third party site (like those referenced above), and you’ll be good to go.

Repost

If your content is timeless and consequently doesn’t need much tweaking or refreshing, you might want to consider sharing it across your social media channels a second time. Surprisingly, research suggests that reposting a piece of content can earn up to 75% of the engagement of the original post. Be careful, though: only repost LINKS to your content. Reposting an entire blog to a social media site like LinkedIn and/or a social journalism site like Medium can actually earn you a duplication penalty from Google, which will kill your traffic.

eBooks

Create one ore more eBooks out of a series of blog posts. eBooks can be sold, given away, or gated behind forms to capture visitor contact info. Google actually has a partner program called Google Books that will index your eBook and make it searchable. Best of all, you can control how much of your eBook people can browse, so you’re not giving the whole thing away without some return benefits.

Multimedia

Freshen it up and create a podcast or video series. Webinars are also becoming increasingly popular, so check out your old content to see if there is anything you can use as a webinar. You can also create a podcast and video from the same piece of content, thus earning the indexing benefit of all three (audio, video and your original post). Don’t be overzealous, though: The Googlebot creates a written transcript of the video for its search index, so if you have one, too, it could get you penalized for duplicate content. 

Know When to Let Go

Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to hold on to content. If it’s no longer timely, or new information has made it incorrect or no longer applicable, it might be time to say goodbye. If you can incorporate into other content you’ll have the benefit of removing dated work from your site while also updating and refreshing content with staying power.

Whatever method you choose to repurpose or refresh your content, the Mobilegeddon update should be top of mind. People on the go are the ones who are consuming the most content, and they’re consuming it on their mobile devices. Imagine your readers, viewers or listeners where they actually are—at airports, waiting in line, or scrolling around at their leisure. If you do this, taking advantage of Google’s new update will go hand in hand with refreshing your content.

Mike Canarelli is the CEO and Co-Founder of Web Talent Marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that delivers exceptional results to clients. 

Four Blogging Tools to Make your Content Go Further

This is a guest contribution from Chris Crawfurd of sovrn.

You put in countless hours to create the highest quality content possible week after week. Maybe you even spend money on hiring a graphic designer to make your work look even better. But what good is a solid piece of content if it’s not being put in front of the right audience?

These four blogger tools are must-haves for any publisher looking to increase the reach of their online content:

1. Use Visual.ly to increase your content distribution

Visual.ly is the world’s marketplace for visual content. Whether it’s an infographic, video, interactive, or presentation, their streamlined process makes it easy to distribute your content and get it in front of the right audience. Visual.ly is sort-of like a social network for infographic and visualization sharing (talk about niche markets). You can explore, share and, in the near future, even create your own. When you open up the home page, you are greeted by a continuous scrolling of some of the best infographics currently on the website, and signing up takes a minute via the link on the top-right of the page (sign-up is free).

Let’s say we are searching for a particular infographic about, say, Digital Advertising. All you have to do is type Digital Advertising into the search box, hit Enter, and Visual.ly will bring up a list of visualizations tagged with the keyword Digital Advertising. While searching for visualizations, you can organize your results in a number of different ways, for example, by visualizations that are currently trending or by most commented or most viewed visualizations. You can also change the layout of your search results – the most useful view shows a description of the graphic so you can find exactly what you are looking for.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 4.47.06 pm

Next Steps:

  1. Register for a free account onVisual.ly
  2. Upload your content
  3. Enjoy the sudden flux of digital eyeballs and link love

2. Use BuzzSumo to gain insights into what your competition is blogging about

BuzzSumo provides insights into the most popular online content and the influencers behind it. The next time you’re brainstorming blog topics for your upcoming content cycle, try researching the topic you’re interested in via the BuzzSumo platform to see what other bloggers and content influencers have to say about it. It might help steer you in the right direction.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 4.48.22 pm

Here’s a breakdown of what BuzzSumo actually does:

  • Allows you to search for content that has been widely shared within social media sites
  • Gather metrics around content and segment it by content format
  • Quickly find guest posts, contests, videos, interviews and infographics
  • Find out who the influential content curators/aggregators are within any niche
  • Gather statistics on industry influencers and their associated websites
  • Export all of the intelligence into Excel spreadsheets

The real meat of BuzzSumo is in its “Pro” version. Through BuzzSumo Pro you can access its Content Analysis Reports. Think of these as regular BuzzSumo reports on steroids.

For data nerds (and I know there’s a few of you out there), this level of reporting will keep you up at night.

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From this dashboard, you can see just about everything there is to know about a specific topic. In this example, “AdWords” is the content area of interest. In addition to tons of other cool graphs, you can also see, at a glance, which domains are just killing it in your industry. 

3. Use Hootsuite to manage and distribute your social media

Manage social networks, schedule messages, engage your audiences, and measure ROI right from the Hootsuite dashboard. Hootsuite is a third-party tool or application that is designed to collate all of your social media account streams into one handy dashboard. You can write, send, schedule and track posts from its simple interface across multiple networks and multiple accounts. It is therefore a good option for those people or businesses that have either multiple accounts on one social media network or accounts across multiple networks – for example Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Hootsuite is web-based and does not require any software download. You can also add team members (and implement work-flow) as well as monitor analytics and performance.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 4.54.59 pm

The primary use of Hootsuite is a social media dashboard (or social media management system) that provides a view of all your social media activity across all your accounts and allows you to post to all of them from one place. It gives you access to up to five of your top social media streams for free – including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, WordPress, Mixi, Instagram, Google+ among others, which can be much easier than trying to manage all of these accounts directly from a browser. Not only can you track your posts, but you can also reply directly within Hootsuite as well as post updates on every network from the one place.

What do you get with Hootsuite?

  • Manage multiple Twitter, Facebook (profiles, events, groups and pages), LinkedIn (Profiles, Pages and Groups), WordPress, Google+, Foursquare, MySpace (does this even still exist?), Vimeo, Instagram, ping.fm and more accounts from one place
  • Schedule your social media updates
  • Collaborate as a team – including ability to assign replies, mark as done, track messages etc.
  • Manage it all through mobile applications
  • Customized analytics, included automated scheduled reports (though this can be costly)
  • RSS integration
  • Customer support

4. Use meridian to harness the value of your data and grow your influence 

meridian is a new publisher platform built and designed by sovrn Holdings. meridian acts as a conduit between publishers and advertisers by providing publishers with unique data insights that allow publishers to create better, more targeted and lucrative content. Through meridian, publishers can: manage their ad tags; view unique revenue metrics paired with targeted audience segments; see how their site compares to other sites within their vertical; gain access to an expanding library of publisher tools and third-party integrations.

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meridian features detailed, individual advertising performance metrics on a site-by-site, and zone-by-zone basis along with clear trending information. Inside the platform publishers will see detailed audience segmentation detailing the advertiser-driven values and characteristics of readers visiting their sites. In addition to advertising management and optimization, sovrn’s meridian boasts easy to understand reporting and user-friendly data visualization. Publishers see their earnings in real-time. Payments to publishers happen faster than any other system, in virtually every currency, and in every major payment mechanism.

Here are more specifics on what exactly you’ll see in meridian:

  • Fresh, user-friendly interface with real-time data visualizations
  • Improved ad management tools and performance metrics
  • Vertical comparisons for benchmarking performance
  • Audience demographics and reader insights
  • Integrated content from sovrn’s Publisher Resource Center
  • Personalized support from the sovrn Publisher Advocate Team

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Pretty cool, right? Here’s what you need to do to gain access to meridian:

  1. Sign up for a sovrn account on meridian
  2. Create ad tags, install the audience analytics beacon and search widget
  3. Sit back and reap the rewards of your hard-earned data.

Well, what did you think? Were these tools helpful? If you have any other tools you’ve found useful in your blogging/content creating endeavors, contact me a [email protected] or leave us a comment below!

 

5 Unmissable Fiverr Gigs that Will Make Your Life Easy as a Busy Blogger

This is a guest contribution from Pooja Lohana.

Ever get mad at yourself?

Because your blog is not going the way you’d like it to?

You come to your desk, stare at the computer and realize there’s so much to be done. You’re tired before you’ve begun your day.

But blogging is supposed to be fun. At least that’s what you were told, right?

Thankfully, you can prevent that feeling of dread and overwhelm from the bulk of everyday tasks in business.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of Fiverr. It’s a marketplace where users sell and buy various services starting at five bucks.

You heard it right – be it a prank call, drawing a caricature or a song dedicated to your significant other – you can get it all on Fiverr.

Some of these gigs are practical, super-creative and even bizarre things you may never dare but these providers will.

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On a serious note, I assume you’re reading this because you’re a blogger and like to get a lot of things done during a day.

If that’s you, there are tons of time-saving gigs on Fiverr.

Here’s a sample of what you get:

  • I will write an EXPERT Press Release for $5
  • I will fix you WordPress problems for $5
  • I will design a killer Landing Page for $5
  • I will do a 15 second commercial for $5

You get the drift.

Business comes with a lot of work and you may not always have the right skill set, inclination or time to accomplish everything. So without further ado, here are 5 unmissable Fiverr gigs proven to be super-helpful for serious bloggers:

Ebook Covers

If you’re ever to write a Kindle book or an ebook (and you should), you can safely forget the saying “Never judge a book by its cover”.

Because buyers are going to judge it that way. A catchy cover can make all the difference between your ebook turning out to be a best-seller or a dud.

Most of the times, you can’t just use a print cover as its ebook counterpart. You need to consider if the typography reads well in the thumbnail version (60 x 90 pixels on Amazon) and how well the design uses available real-estate, among other things. This is where a professional designer can make your life easier.

Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur.com recommends that when looking for an ebook cover designer, you go after the one who is just starting out on Fiverr. “You want the one who has a good portfolio, but is new enough that your positive review is life or death to their Fiverr business. You’ll get a lot more out of them this way than just going after the others.”

But regardless, there are plenty of Fiverr fish in the sea and new ones sprout up every day.

There are many good designers on Fiverr who use their own image library to create stellar, unique results. To make your job easy, I’ve listed two of the top providers below.

Providers to consider:

  1. Pro_ebookcovers
  2. Ravsingh

Video Marketing

Since a majority of people in the world are visual learners (40—65%), what better way to introduce your brand than using a video?

An intro video, or a logo intro as they call it, is a great way to engage your reader’s visual senses. It’s best to keep it super-short, like a teaser of about 30 seconds.

But if you want a longer video of about a few minutes, you can get it for a few extra $5 gigs.

Or, if you want to explain a concept, try one of Fiverr’s “whiteboard drawing videos” which feature a hand drawing little figures on a whiteboard animation.

Providers to consider:

  1. Ydrawing
  2. Studio 4

Transcription

If you do a lot of interviews and publish case-studies on your blog, you’ll need to transcribe your audios and videos.

Your readers might prefer readable PDFs to listening to an audio file. Transcripts come handy to create blog posts, feature stories and content for your website, or when you want to throw in a freebie with a video course.

Thankfully, Fiverr offers gigs for grammatically accurate and well-formatted deliveries that you might as well use with little or no editing.

Providers to consider:

  1. Transexpert
  2. Adnanjilani90

Mobile Apps and Websites

Recently, Google announced they will be using information from indexed apps as a factor in ranking for users who have the app installed and logged into it.

What does that mean? Search engine page results will take into consideration indexed apps more prominently.

As an estimate, there will be 4 billion Android and iOS users by the end of 2015. The human population is about 7 billion at the moment, so it’s obvious that a majority will be using these devices.

If you offer a product, creating a mobile app sounds only logical. Fiverr lists some cool app creation gigs. However, remember a complete app will cost you more than $5. So it’s always better to contact a provider before buying a gig.

That said, sometimes you just need a mobile-friendly website, not an app. Apps are applications that you can download on your handheld device, versus being rendered in a browser. If you’re offering something specific like a game, an app is your best bet. But if you want to share your blog posts over a wider range of audiences, start with a mobile website.

Providers to consider:

  1. Iphone_ipad
  2. It_service
  3. Seoparam

Create Something Different

How many times have you been told that? If you want to succeed at your marketing, be different.

Yeah right, but how?

A gig I found on Fiverr can help you through that block. This guy will go underwater and hold his breath to deliver your message.

Pretty interesting, right?

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Or, take this lady who will write a short message on the froth of a cappuccino.

More such gigs are waiting if you really like to experiment and zig when others zag!

How to Get the Most Out of Fiverr

Before you start using Fiverr for business, here are some tips to remember:

  1. Make sure you check the “Positive Rating” of the provider you’re considering. I like to shortlist providers by pressing the “Favorite” button at the top of each profile so I can compare a few in one go.
  2. Look at the number and type of reviews at the top of the profile.
  3. Check how many orders are in queue. Usually, a lot of awaiting orders should point to good quality results.
  4. Look at the average response time. If I need something fairly quick, and the response time of a provider is in days, I would look elsewhere.
  5. Always contact the provider before buying a gig. Most sellers encourage this. Tell them exactly what you need, how much it will cost (sometimes you will have to buy an “upgrade” or extra gigs) and what’s the turnaround. Make sure they are the right person for your job.

How do you use Fiverr for your business? Share your expriences in the comments below!

Pooja Lohana is a freelance writer, ghost writer and online marketing mentor featured on Problogger, Firepole, JeffBullas, MarketingProfs, Hongkiat and more. If you’re an aspiring writer and want to become self-employed, create wealth and live a better life by launching your online writing biz, steal her free mini-course to make your first $1000 (and more) writing at home.

7 Ways To Build Your Brand In The Blogosphere

This is a guest contribution from Jeff Foster.

Blogger outreach is one of the most effective ways to build your brand. It’s a great way to connect with potential customers – the blogosphere gives you a ready-made audience who are already interested in your type of product or service. But if you’re going to succeed, you need to build strong relationships with bloggers who want to be your brand ambassadors. This takes work – don’t expect to shoot off a few emails and have bloggers lining up at your door.

The good news is that there are proven ways to make your blogger outreach a success. If you’re wondering how to turbocharge your brand in the blogosphere, here are seven ways to get you started.

1. Use Introduction Sites

Online blogger introduction sites are a very effective way of finding bloggers to talk about your brand. Sites such as Tomoson, Brand Meets Blog, Nuffnang, and Blogger Connect attract high-quality bloggers who want to connect with businesses like yours. You can browse through bloggers by interest area – for example, food enthusiasts – to find the right bloggers for your brand. These sites also have tools you can use to measure blogger influence, which helps you narrow down the list even further. The other advantage of introduction sites is that the bloggers on them are already actively interested, so you’re going to get a better response than if you just send out cold-calling emails to bloggers directly.

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Image source

2. Give Bloggers Your Product

Product giveaways are a great tool for getting bloggers on board – in fact, this is one of the most frequent outreach techniques. Bloggers love to get their hands on products they can use and review. They’ll write better reviews if they can see and feel what you have to offer. Of course, blindly giving away hundreds of samples isn’t advisable, particularly if your product isn’t cheap. But if you target key bloggers with your giveaways, you’ll keep the cost down and get better results. A word of caution, however. Don’t try to control what a blogger says about your product. Bloggers value their independence, so this will just annoy them.

3. Ask For Feedback

There’s no better way to get bloggers on your side than to make them part of the process. By asking for feedback on your products or services, you show them that you value their opinions. A blogger is much more likely to become a brand ambassador if they feel that you are listening to them, and that they have influence over what you are doing and saying. You’ll benefit from this as well – bloggers know your target customers and what they want. Not only that, they’ve already proven that they know how to talk to your audience – that’s how they built a following in the first place. By following their lead, you’ll get insights on how to build an authentic relationship with your market.

4. Give Bloggers Exposure

Successful bloggers are always looking for new ways to expand their audience. They’re passionate about their subject and want to engage with as many people as possible – which would also increase their income potential. By promoting bloggers to your existing social media channels, you give them the exposure they’re trying to build. This can be as simple as retweeting their tweets and sharing their blog posts. To take this to the next level, ask trusted bloggers to write guest posts for your corporate blog, but remember not to try to control what they say. Also, be prepared to pay bloggers to write for you – after all, writing is how bloggers make a living.

5. Meet In Person

You can build a great online relationship with a blogger, but there’s no substitute for seeing them face to face. If you travel regularly as part of your business, make a point of letting bloggers know that you’re in their neighborhood and would love to catch up if it suits them. Offer to meet them for a drink or a meal – and make it a social occasion, not a hard sell.

Blogger conventions and conferences are also excellent occasions for meeting with bloggers. They are an opportunity to get together with your existing brand champions, and also with new bloggers who might be interested in talking about your products or services. You may even find conferences that focus on topics that you want to target – for example, the DBC Conference is for bloggers interested in interior design. If you have enough budget, why not sponsor a blogger conference or even host one yourself?

6. Create A Blogger Network

If you bring new products to market regularly, it’s tempting to find exactly the right bloggers for each one. But this means starting over again every time, which is time-consuming and expensive. It’s much more effective to build a “go-to” pool of bloggers who are genuinely enthusiastic about your brand. By getting them to mention your brand on a regular basis, their readers are more likely to trust what they say. You’re likely to get much better reviews as well – when you build a long-term relationship with a blogger, they’re already well disposed towards you.

7. Show Your Appreciation

Bloggers absolutely hate being used. If you only get in contact when you want them to write a post, you’re going to turn them off very quickly. Every time a blogger mentions your brand, show your appreciation by sending them a sincere thank you note. Make sure you keep them in the loop on what’s happening with your brand – a monthly insider newsletter is one great way of doing this. Send them exclusive content they can share – for example, high-quality images, fact sheets, amusing stories and anything else that will appeal to their readers. Finally, don’t forget to send them product samples from time to time – it’s a perfect way of reminding them that you genuinely care.

Jeff Foster is co-founder and CEO at Tomoson, the influencer marketplace. The platform allows bloggers and social media influencers to get paid for posting sponsored content, and lets businesses connect with targeted, niche audiences.

How Design Impacts Blog Readership

How Design Impacts Blog Readership / problogger.net

This is a guest contribution from Damion Wasylow.

You have things to say, ideas to spread and concepts to share. That’s why you’re a blogger.

But, if you’re like most bloggers, you’re much better with words than visuals. As a result, many bloggers’ sites are poorly designed or rely on simple templates. Your content may bring people to your blog, but poor design and usability can seriously limit your readership.

First Impressions are Everything

Studies show that new visitors develop an opinion of your website within 50 milliseconds. That’s 0.05 seconds. In that time, they make judgments about credibility, professionalism and quality of information – all without ever reading a single word you wrote. If the first impression isn’t positive, they’ll almost certainly bounce away, and it’s unlikely they’ll ever return.

It’s human nature. Picture a restaurant with a rusty door, broken sign and trash in the parking lot. The food could be incredible, but you’ll likely never venture inside to see the menu.

Get Real Feedback

It’s nearly impossible to honestly review your own site’s design. You’re biased, and so are your friends and family. After all, they don’t want to hurt your feelings and your dad probably isn’t your target audience. So, turn to a third party.

UserTesting.com is an excellent resource for gauging user experience. I often use UserTesting.com’s Peek Tests to gather initial feedback. Peek allows you to watch and listen to five-minute videos of real people encountering your site for the first time.

Testers answer three questions:

1) What is your first impression of this site?

2) What is the first thing you want to do on this site?

3) What stood out to you and what frustrated you about this site?

While this feedback isn’t comprehensive, it should at least offer some insight into whether your site’s design is on the right track or completely off-target.

Design Changes to Consider

You don’t have to be the world’s most talented web designer to create a visually impressive site that retains users. You simply have to understand the core elements of design and how they work together.

Color – Your color palette should be simple, consistent and reflect the overall tone of your content. Too many colors can be overwhelming, and the wrong colors can confuse your audience. Use standard color theory to select a palette that matches your blog’s personality.

Images – Users embrace photos and illustrations as a way to quickly get the gist of a story without investing too much effort. Effective images therefore leverage white space, contrast, color, interruption and other techniques to intrigue and draw the reader in. Images may not be worth 1000 words, but a recent study by Blog Pros showed that the 100 highest-ranking blogs on the Internet use at least 1 image for every 350 words.

Shapes – Chunky, square design elements evoke dramatically different feelings than free-flowing organic shapes. Circles are soft and inclusive, while angles can help carry a reader down the page. Partitioning content within shapes is a valuable way to help users segment information into digestible sections.

Typography – Typeface, font size, leading, kerning and placement all play significant roles in affecting user experience. Great typography conveys emotion, while also allowing users to focus on your message instead of struggling to interpret the structure of the letters before them. Note: never use Comic Sans or Papyrus.

Highlight Your Call-to-Action

You created your blog for a purpose, presumably beyond simply having individual visitors read your articles. Perhaps you want them to share your writings with others, purchase your product or service or download your e-book. Whatever the goal, design your site to highlight that call-to-action (CTA).

Use color, contrast, whitespace and size to make your CTA standout from the rest of the page. But keep it classy. Nothing undermines credibility faster than a flashing rainbow starburst. Here are some great examples of web pages with effective CTA designs.

Make it Mobile-Friendly

Mobile traffic accounts for nearly 60% of all web traffic, so you’re missing out on a lot of readers if your site isn’t designed to accommodate mobile visitors. And, really, even more if you count on social or email sources. When a mobile user lands on a site that offers a standard desktop design, they are far more likely to bounce away.

Ideally, your blog should be responsive, meaning that elements restack to match mobile screen dimensions when the site identifies a visitor on a mobile device. This makes your content easier to read and navigate on mobile screens.

Google recently announced that mobile-friendliness will be an increasingly important ranking factor. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, there’s a good chance it will dramatically drop in search engine results.

The importance of blog design cannot be overstated. Take the time now to improve your site’s aesthetics and usability. You’ll attract more visitors, keep them engaged and drive them to actions that match your goals.

Damion Wasylow writes for University of Florida’s Web Design and Online Communication master’s degree program. He has more than 20 years of experience in graphic design for publications, agencies and non-profits.