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44 Things Bloggers Should Be Delegating to Virtual Staff to Catapult Their Online Growth

Chris' internal team, based in Cebu City.

Chris’ internal team, based in Cebu City.

This is a guest post contribution by Chris Ducker.

One of the biggest pain points that comes up when I talk to bloggers about growing their blogs is that there simply isn’t enough time in the day to do everything they need to, to truly start to catapult the growth of their blog/s.

As someone that is all about productivity and helping other entrepreneurs achieve the ability to ‘buy time’ and inject that additional time into their businesses and lives, I’ve seen dramatic changes in not just productivity levels, but also income levels, after strategizing with content marketers on the way they can simply get more done by working with, and building a virtual team.

So, what I’ve decided to do is put together the following list to help you discover the different tasks you can outsource to virtual staff, along with the type of worker that would naturally handle those tasks, to make your delegation as easy (and pain free!) as possible.

I’ve included the different type of virtual worker in this list, because its important to understand that there is no one ‘Super VA’ that can do everything for you. If you want to experience real success in working with virtual assistants then you need to hire for the role, not for the task (unless of course you are literally just outsourcing a task that needs to be completed, such as a logo being designed!).

I’ve also broken the list up into five clearly different sections for easy digestion and additional brainstorming, as follows:

  • Research
  • Creation
  • Publishing
  • Promotion
  • On-Going Marketing

Remember, this list is not final in any capacity. Some of these tasks you might never get around to delegating, there might even more others that I’ve not included that you’d be rushing to offload, if you could.

Research

Making time to properly research and prepare for your content creation is an important part of the process. However, many bloggers simply don’t spend the time they sometimes need to get all their ducks in a row, before the ‘creation’ begins, because of time constraints, which is a shame.

1. Make a list of topic ideas in any niche, using Google Keyword Tool. (General VA, Writer, SEO VA)
2. Group similar topics and figure out if they can be turned into a series of posts, or even more – ebooks, etc. (General VA, Writer)
3. Figure out what TYPE of content should be created to serve the topic best. Written, audio, video, etc. (General VA)
4. Produce an outline for posts, videos, podcasts, or a rough storyboard for other type of content, such as Slideshare docs, etc. (General VA, Writer)
5. Find similar online content and create a ‘Likewise List’ to use later on, when promoting. (General VA)
6. Identify Facebook and LinkedIn groups, which can be used to promote and share content when published. (General VA)

Creation

A lot of bloggers and other types of online content creators have real problems ‘letting go’ of this part of the process. However, there are so many different tasks involved here that its simply impossible to be good at all of it.

I do want to say, however, that there is one thing that you should NEVER outsource – and that’s your actual CONTENT. Meaning, write everything yourself, shoot and record everything yourself. It’s your voice, your personality, your stories and experience that people are following you for, and tuning in for.

7. Edit video, including intro and outro bumpers and lower thirds. (A/V VA)
8. Transcribe the entire video file into Word, to use as blog posts, YouTube description, and more! (Writer, General VA)
9. Edit and finalize podcast session, including intro, outro, CTA’s and list episode mentionables. (General VA, A/V VA)
10. Transcribe the podcast episode for use as additional SEO content. (General VA, Writer)
11. Transcription into a free PDF download (General VA, Writer)
12. Create ‘Draft Post’ in WordPress, adding bold, italics, etc., to your pre-written content. (General VA)
13. Format the Post: Add H2 and H3 tags to sub-headings and sub-sections and bold, as needed. (General VA)
14. Find and add an image to the post, if needed. Best to use your own images whenever possible. (General VA)
15. Add image title, alt-text & caption into WordPress. (General VA)
16. Embed related video content. (General VA)
17. Capture video screenshots if required, then resize and insert them into the post if needed. (General VA)
18. Embed any audio, or podcast sessions if required. (General VA)
19. Put the post in the correct categories, and be sure to also include relevant tags. (General VA)
20. Optimize the post for SEO using the correct plugin’s. (General VA, SEO VA)
21. Create ‘Tweetable’ images to use on Facebook, etc. (General VA)

Publishing

After all that research and content creation, its time to share your work with the world. Not exactly super time intensive, but with some solid procedures in place, you will literally never have to do any of this stuff again.

22. Upload video to YouTube, with title, links, keywords, categories, as well as transcribed text. (General VA)
23. Add video to relevant playlist. (General VA)
24. Upload audio file to server, tagged and with podcast image attached. (General VA)
25. Final proof read for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. (Writer, General VA)
26. Draft and schedule ‘Broadcast’ email in Aweber. (General VA, Writer)
27. Schedule post, or simply hit ‘Publish’. (General VA)

Promotion

Once your content has been published, promotion takes over. After all, there’s no point in spending all this time to solve problems and answer questions for your audience, unless you work just as hard in getting as many eyeballs on your work as possible.

This can be incredibly time-consuming in today’s very savvy, social world. The following list will get you moving faster than ever, all with the help of your virtual workers.

28. Share your content on your personal social media accounts, as well as your blog’s Facebook page. (General VA)
29. Share your content on related Facebook and LinkedIn groups. (General VA)
30. Schedule Tweets to go out every 6-hours for the next 48-hours after publishing content. (General VA)
31. Social bookmark the content on StumbleUpon, Reddit, Digg, etc. (General VA. Writer)
32. Contact anyone you mentioned in the content with a pre-written email, as they might like to share it. (General VA)
33. Comment on the Top 5 posts from your ‘Likewise List’. (General VA,Writer)
34. Wake up your Email List by sending that drafted ‘Broadcast’ message. (General VA, Writer)
35. Social bookmark any content commented on, helping to gain more traffic to the post. (General VA)
36. Share the featured image of your post on Pinterest, Flickr, etc., including a link back! (General VA)
37. Share infographic’s on the top distribution sites. (General VA)
38. Share PDF transcripts of your video, or podcast content to Docstoc, SlideShare, etc. (General VA)
39. Promote your SlideShare content on LinkedIn, Twitter & Facebook in order to get homepage exposure. (General VA)
40. Post your ‘Tweetable’ images to all your social media profiles and pages, to promote clickthru’s. (General VA)

On-Going Marketing

There is a big difference between ‘promoting’ and ‘marketing’ in my eyes. Promoting is what you do to ‘get the word’ out there about something you’re in the process of, er, well, promoting!

Marketing, on the other hand is an on-going way to create opportunities and bring in traffic, opt-in’s and ultimately, business – this is exactly the type of area that a lot of bloggers take their eyes off of once their content has been published and initially promoted.

Silly move – why stop telling the world about your stuff? Keep doing it – whenever relevant, I say!

41. Add this recent content to your ‘Blog Bank’, for easy access when creating fresh content and linking. (General VA)
42. Build internal links to new content from your new archive. (General VA,SEO)
43. Create a summary of the content and include it on Tumblr. Add media and a ‘Read More’ link to original. (Writer, General VA)
44. Social bookmark the summarized content on Tumblr, as well as StumbleUpon, Reddit, Digg, etc. (General VA)

Conclusion

The big problem here is that a lot of bloggers are quite trapped in their ways of doing it all themselves. This is not surprising considering that starting, growing and running a blog is a pretty lonely caper, lets face it!

However, as you can see, the General VA role is the one person you need to start looking at bringing on full-time as soon as you’re able to. How much more could you get done, how many more posts could you publish, products could you create and events to could you attend if you had someone handling the majority of this for you?

I know a lot of bloggers haven’t ventured done the outsourcing road yet, so I’m happy to answer as many questions as you can fire at me, in the comment section below and if you’re attending the ProBlogger Event in August, I simply can’t wait to meet you in person – it’s going to be a lot of fun!

Chris poses with some of his VAs, based in the Philippines.

Chris Ducker is a serial entrepreneur, blogger, podcaster and speaker. He is also the author of the new book, Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive and Build Your Dream Business. You can follow him on Twitter.

5 Steps to Determine the Right Social Media Content for You

This is a guest contribution from Benjamin Taylor, of Eloqua.

At the core, one of the biggest goals of social media is to foster and maintain engagement.  Anyone can create a social media account, but one of the hardest parts is to determine what kind of content you should be sharing. It’s safe to say that you have a good idea of what your niche or market finds valuable, but that is only a piece of the puzzle. Really having a true understanding of content and what/how it should be delivered takes some work. I’ve outlined five steps below that will enable you to determine how and what kind of content to share, when to share, and more.

Guidelines

When determining what kind of content to share, there needs to be a criteria or guidelines on what is or isn’t good content. What I mean by this is, the content MIGHT be interesting and valuable, but so what? With social media, the purpose is to deliver value AND be social so if content is being shared but it’s not generating any sort of socialization, then how valuable is it really? You’re looking for content that has a high # of shares, likes, RT’s, comments, Ect. These are the factors you want to pay close attention to. If a post is creating conversation from all corners; B2C and C2C, then the post is a success and this is the type of content you want to strive and push for.

Listen and read

Before you know what kind of content to share, look at what others are sharing. Far too many times I have come across brands and pages that share content that THEY believe to be valuable, but in reality is not what their audience values. How many times do we really want to read about your latest company press release or how your product or service is the best?! If you had a friend and all they did was talk about themselves and how great they felt they were, would you really want to talk to them often?  The goal here is you want to share content that pulls people in, fosters conversation, and keeps them coming back. Okay, but how?  The first step is to search and listen. Look at where people are sharing the most content, the type of content they’re sharing, and what is generating the most interaction. This will be important in moving forward.

Categorize and Analyze

Okay, so you’ve been listening and have done your research into what’s going on in the social-sphere.  Now it’s time to analyze.  Digesting all your research into the type of content can be a little overwhelming, and even harder to analyze and deliver, so categorizing and organizing the data will help. You can use a basic program like Excel to help manage your information.

First, create categories for the type of platform the content is being shared on; Blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.  It’s going to be important to know where the interacting is occurring. From there, create categories for the types of posts; questions, sales driven, industry specific, photo, video, etc. From there, you can dive even deeper and create sub-categories, for instance if it was a picture: meme, company photo, industry photo, picture accompanied by article, picture accompanied with text, and so on.

Look at the times things are being shared too. Assign numbers for the amounts of interactions/shares it received to help determine the level of social power the posts had. By categorizing and quantifying your research, you will be able to notice trends and themes in the social-sphere.  This will enable you to have a much better idea of the type of content to share. Another bright side of doing all of this is you can create visual interpretations of your research and analyze what can be presented and easily digested by parties that are not directly involved with the project, such as higher level managers and clients.

Content Search

Now you have a good idea of the type of posts that are working the best and where they’re happening. Now it’s time to find to help and aid in your own content, so where do we go? One of the easiest ways to determine the topic for your next status update or blog post is by searching out various sources for information.  Some of my favorite places to find content ideas are

  • Industry blogs or websites: See what the hot topics are and what others are sharing
  • Your competition: What are your competitors writing about? See what they’re doing and make it better
  • YouTube: What videos are popular right now? How come?
  • Flickr/Pinterest: Visuals can lend a good hand in inspiration in what to share
  • News Outlets: What’s happening in the world?
  • Twitter: What are others sharing?
  • Facebook: What are others sharing?

Be mindful

So now you’re ready to start sharing content, you’ve done the research and analysis and it’s time to get social. There are just a few best practices that I think are important to be mindful of in any type of content you’re sharing. They are listed below:

Create goals or benchmarks: Determine your goals and what you value as a success for your social media campaign. Don’t set unrealistic expectations but go into it with an agenda and game plan of what you want to accomplish.

Monitor and analyze results: Take a look at what you’ve been doing, what has and hasn’t worked and push forward to improve your brand to take it to the next level of social media success.

Bolster your brand image: Make sure the content you’re sharing aligns with your brand in some way, and still says relevant to your audience. Ex: Your pizza business wants to be seen as the interesting and engaging pizza brand that is cool, not just the pizza brand that shares funny memes.

Share others content: You’re not the only one with great content, so is everyone else. Share their content, help them out, and extend your reach as well as theirs.

Be consistent: In order to keep your audience coming back, be consistent in sharing great content. Don’t over post but by posting daily, they know they can expect content from you.

Now if you follow these steps, you’ll be in a much better place to be creating and sharing creative, relevant, valuable and most importantly engaging content on your social media platforms. Don’t fall into the habit that so many others have and just skip by on social media…stand out and let your content be the voice!

Benjamin Taylor is a writer for Eloqua, an international online marketing firm that provides social media marketing and asset management software. His professional insights are surpassed only by his rugged good looks, quick wit, and personal charm.

7 Reasons You Should Pay the Haters

This is a guest contribution from Matt Cumming.

I Messed Up.

Okay, this is embarrassing, but not-so-long ago I signed up for Reddit and without too much thought I dropped a simple attention-grabbing title and link to an article on my website within the first five minutes. Yes, I hear you — bad form — but I wanted to test the platform out. Sure enough, within a few short hours I had a more respectable, long-term member jump on it, click the link, check my site out and then come back and publicly tell me exactly what he thought about my link-bait tactic.

But he didn’t stop at a short rebuke. He didn’t just say “hey, crap tactic” and move on. Instead he took the time to meticulously craft a long, scathing and deeply bitter essay that totally slammed me, the link title (which he referred to as ”[dropping] a turd in the punchbowl”), my book (which he hadn’t actually read), my understanding of marketing and my motives in general. Even if he was a fast-typing genius, it still must have taken at least half an hour of his precious time.

He Tore Me Limb From Limb

“Are you offering genuine illumination… or just dropping cherry bombs in the toilet like a misguided child?”

“…One cannot adequately express the titanic misunderstanding you’re attempting to propagate by screaming shit like, MARKETING IS DEAD on the cover [of your book] in some effort to manufacture sensationalism, as if that isn’t horribly insulting to any of the people who take this shit seriously… And if there’s one thing that irks me to no end, it’s charlatans and hacks who proclaim something that works as dead without actually testing it.”

“…Writing an ill-conceived reductive ass grab… It’s a hackneyed backslide into the shite that kills every good methodology available to the marketer who doesn’t forget the face of his forefathers.”

“…If you’ve never heard that before, you should go back to whatever misguided teacher didn’t disclose such a thing to you and either demand a refund or a complete re-education. Or go back to bed and figure it out.”

Initially I was shocked. Dismayed even. But then it dawned on me… It was a gift. Firstly, I realised that he probably had no sense of humour (the “Marketing Is Dead” text on the cover is quoted from article titles published on the Forbes, HBR and CNBC websites — not a statement I would ever make personally) and I felt sorry for someone who felt compelled to take life so damn seriously.

Secondly, whilst he was in the broader audience I was speaking to (people interested in marketing and branding), he was firmly entrenched in the ‘old school’ marketing philosophy — so he was NOT within my niche target audience. My book, Polarize, is intentionally a light-hearted, easy read for smart startups, small business owners, entrepreneurs and ‘growth hackers’ who want to make their brand more visible and effective in this very crowded marketplace. It’s about an innovative approach marketing (polarization), because the traditional marketing approach can sometimes be slow, expensive and simply not viable for some businesses.

“Traditional marketing wasn’t working. We were spending $300+ to acquire customers for a $99 service.” —DropBox (who then gained 4,000,000 users within 15 months without further ad spend)

Thirdly, his tirade confirmed my belief: that the ‘haters’ (detractors) can offer great value to a brand. This is particularly true when they’re not your ideal prospect (in a psychographic and/or demographic sense).

So I Paid Him

I paid him with my time and attention, I paid him with my thanks and compliments, I paid him with exposure by sharing his essay via social media, I paid him with a free copy of my book and I even paid him with my dollars (gifting him a “gold level” subscription to Reddit).

Should I do this for all detractors? Yes, but not always in the same way. If the complaint was about a specific problem with the actual product or service I’m offering, then I would certainly respond and thank them for alerting me to an issue that clearly needs reviewing, and I might pay them with a discount voucher or even a refund (if they’d purchased), but I would think twice about promoting it or making too much of a big deal about it on public channels. However, if the ‘hater’ was voicing opinions about the ethos of my brand — particularly something to do with the brand personality or psychographic preferences — then I’d be happy to respond, promote and even pay them in some way as a thank-you.

7 Reasons You Should Do the Same

1. They talk a LOT

The more people hear about you and see you, the more they feel like they know you… and consequently trust you. The way our brains work…  It’s the reason we still eat McDonalds (over a lesser-known local restaurant) despite everything we’ve heard and seen. Without trust there’s no sale, so what would you say is the value in that for you? It’s unknowable, but massive nonetheless.

2. They’re often passionate

It’s simple: passion is a sure-fire way together people’s attention. Get people’s attention and they’ll at least have a chance to decide if they want to consider your product or service. Without their attention in the first place, there’s no possibility of conversion. People have become adept at ignoring many forms of traditional marketing. Those people who we assume are ‘on the fence’, may actually be unaware of us — they haven’t had a reason to consciously consider our brands, let alone engage. Passion is a flag that flies high above the millions of humdrum, everyday conversations and interactions that otherwise occur.

3. They tend to be in your market

I’ve noticed that detractors often share a crucial commonality with the brands they’re ‘hating’ on — the target audience. This is particularly true within social media channels. If you can respond appropriately (with respect) to the ‘hater’ statements, you’ll have the opportunity to connect positively with that broader audience. They often provide contrast and clarity to your true niche audience about who you are NOT for (and thus making obvious that you are indeed for them).

4. They give you an open invitation to share

Nobody likes to be ‘sold’ to without permission, that’s clear. But a conversation is totally different. It gives you an opportunity to share the benefits of your product or service in response to a negative statement. In fact, often passionate detractors will voice things that other audience members won’t, so it’s not just the loudest detractor you’re speaking to — it’s all those on the ‘fence’ of indecision.

5. It’s WAY cheaper than advertising

Admittedly it is now possible to have a much higher level of targeting with your ads than in the past, but think about how you typically respond (or, more accurately,don’t respond) when you see a promoted post on Facebook, or a sponsored tweet within the Twitter mobile app? Unfortunately, poorly-targeted ads (which is the vast majority of them) have ruined it for smart marketers who know their real audience intimately. Just like the majority of ads in traditional media, our brains have tagged them as irrelevant and phased them out of our conscious awareness. So, with that in mind, it’s possible that a series of passionate public conversations might bring more genuine exposure and engagement than a ‘big’ ad campaign.

6. They can make you look good

Detractors sometimes make wild, accusatory statements that seem angry or spiteful. But a well-voiced, professional response from your brand contrasts against that ‘hater-speak’ and casts doubt in the readers mind about whether they should even believe what the detractor is saying at all. If you witnessed an argument on the street with one person throwing stones and screaming “You’re a dumb-ass idiot who knows less than nothing about anything!” and the other calmly responding with “I hear what you’re saying and see you feel strongly about that, but I do have a Harvard masters degree, so I’m not sure ‘idiot’ is completely accurate” — who would you believe?

7. They might be highlighting a grievous error

Sometimes detractors are the only ones who will give you honest feedback about an error you may have made. Such was the case for me and my mindless ‘link-bait’ mistake and I was genuinely grateful for such a clear reminder to carefully considerall messages — not just promotional, but casual conversational messages as well.

“The data has shown that brands with plenty of animosity can still succeed in a big way … Very polarizing brands like McDonald’s and Starbucks are far and away outperforming their less polarizing counterparts (perhaps the biggest worry is that people feel nothing when thinking about your brand).” —Gregory Ciotti, HelpScout

Of Course The Real Goal is To Create Tribes, Not Troublemakers

Putting your focus solely on turning people into detractors never a good idea in itself. Extreme differentiation — or polarization — is a better way to look at it. Make your message so sharp you cut through the noise and connect with your ideal prospects immediately. The result of polarizing your audience is that you’ll fast-track the decision your fence-sitters will invariably make at some point — “Should I commit, or should I leave?”.

The idea of speeding up this decision-making process is incredibly valuable to a startup, entrepreneur or small business who doesn’t have huge resources of time, money or patience. Those people ‘on the fence’ of indecision are costing your business in some way or another (unless you’re completely ignoring them of course). Wouldn’t it be simpler if, when people were introduced to your brand, they immediately became a passionate advocate — rather than having to gently romance them over time with the vague hope of getting them to like you enough to buy something?

The assumed downside of polarization is that if they’re not a ‘lover’, it’s likely they’ll become a ‘hater’. But is it really a true downside? Considering the 7 reasons above, I don’t think so.

“Polarizing your brand is a strategy with nothing but upside.” —Erika Napoletano, Brand Strategist.

 

As for the hater who tore me limb from limb? Well, he gave me a platform and an audience, then disappeared like vapour. It’s often the way… Perhaps he’s too busy reading my book to get back to me right now, or — having read it — he has decided to stay quiet just to spite me!

Matt Cumming, author of “POLARIZE: Fast-Track Marketing For Growth Hackers”, has over 15 years experience working with startups and businesses of all sizes as a designer, brand manager, web developer and startup consultant. See www.Polarize.cc for further details.

Conversion Case Study: How I Made $7115 From 85 Unique Visitors

This is a guest contribution from Marcus Maclean, of The Million-Dollar Case Study.

Image from DryIcons

Image from DryIcons

Over the years, I’ve created and sold several “how-to” information products online, but none have been as successful as The Million Dollar Case Study. Within days of launching the site, I made $7115 from the first 85 unique visitors.

Since then the site has continued to grow steadily, and I’m still amazed at the conversion statistics. Currently, the squeeze page converts at 67% and the video sales letter at 8.2%.

If you’re struggling to convert browsers into buyers, here’s the exact strategy I’m using. It works in any niche, but it’s particularly effective in competitive, popular niches.

First Off, Your Product And Market Are Everything

Without a doubt, the number-one factor in my success so far is the product and market. The reality is, people in the “make money online” niche are ready and willing to spend money on products they like. Case studies are generally popular in most markets, but especially so in the internet marketing sphere.

If you have lots of traffic but very few conversions, I would take a good long look at your niche and product or service. Ask yourself honestly, “Are there enough interested buyers around?”

If you’re not sure, I highly recommend paying a visit to the ClickBank marketplace to find out. Simply find the category you’re involved in and see if there’s lots of products with a decent gravity (more than 20-30). If there are, you’re in a good niche; if not, that’s your basic problem.

Ignore The Crowd

The single most important factor in improving your conversion rate is your sales letter. If it works, you have a license to print money. If not, again, you’re fighting a losing battle.

The good news is, it’s very easy to get a sales letter or video to convert, but the key is to go against the grain. Most internet marketers copy each other and that simply doesn’t work anymore.

This is the simple process I use that works very well:

First off, I interrupt the same old, same old. Most people expect to hear a long boring sales pitch or a hyped up motivational success story. So I do the exact opposite. I get straight to the point and reveal exactly what my product does, and more importantly, who it can help and who it can’t.

I’m honest about my intentions. I have no idea why most marketers “hide” the sale until later in the sales funnel, when all you have to do is let people know that you’re in business to make money. Everyone knows that anyway, and it makes it a lot easier to ask for the sale.

Authority, customer advocacy and hope are my most powerful weapons. I’m not afraid to assert myself as a leader, let people know that I have their best interests at heart (because I actually do) and inspire them to take action.

My product is unique, different and interesting. If you’re just another “me too”, it’s very difficult to stand out in today’s marketplace. That’s why I created a case study; instead of teaching people how to make money online, like most people do, I’m just showing what works.

Finally, I use an ultimatum. This strategy is controversial, but it works. I force people to make a decision by giving them a deadline to buy. If they remain indecisive or on the fence when the time limit expires, I simply take them off my list.

The Real Money Is Made On The Back End

Membership sales have steadily grown since launching The Million Dollar Case Study, and it’s nice to have a regular, passive income, but the real profits come from coaching fees.

The truth is, your front end offer very rarely makes much money, especially if you’re paying for traffic. So the key is to offer a high ticket product or service on the back end to make up the difference.

As long as you’re providing genuine value to your customers, and you’re being open, upfront and honest about your expertise and how you can help them, it’s a fantastic way to earn a living.

One Other Thing – I’m Passionate About My Niche

I’m a firm believer in selling products and services you care about, that you’d personally buy yourself. If you’re not successful online, that’s something you should definitely think about.

In the past I’ve sold products in the weight loss and search engine optimization niches. They sold well, but it was always difficult to motivate myself during the tough times.

Once I started doing what I loved, and selling products and services I believed in, it made my job a lot easier. And besides, your customers can pick up on your enthusiasm, so I believe this is one of the most important factors in determining your conversion rate.

And That’s It

As you can see, it’s not hard. If target the right market and sell what people buy, that’s 90% of the battle. Of course, split testing different elements on your page is important (headline, sub headline, benefits, testimonials, the call to action button and so on), but at the end of the day, if no one wants your products or services, you’re fighting a losing battle.

Marcus Maclean is the founder & CEO of The Million Dollar Case Study, a live video case study detailing exactly how he’s building a brand new million dollar membership website from scratch. To watch the case study unfold, click here.

3 Critical Questions To Answer Before You Take Your Blog On The Road

This is a guest contribution from Kelly Edwards.

If you’re a blogger, then there are many benefits that can be gained from getting out from behind the keyboard and attending real world events: from raising awareness, sourcing new talent, and increasing overall readership.

Of course, attending an event is an investment, particularly if you’re intending to travel and especially if you decide to present your blog via a stand – so you need to make it count.

road-trip.jpg


Question One: Is this event the right fit for my blog?

In recent years the number of blogging events has increased dramatically and events like the Problogger Training Day are getting bigger and better every year.

If you’re part of a blogging community then it’s very likely that you’ll discover a regular event being held to encourage the platform to meet. There are also publicised blogging events for all keyboard junkies, complete with networking and talks to help bloggers hone their skills.

Meeting with fellow bloggers may be immediately tempting but if your end goal is to increase readership within a relevant audience then you need to ensure that the audience is there in the first place. If you write about a particular niche subject, then attending a very broad event might not gain your blog the meaningful attention you’re hoping for.

There are many niche blogging groups that hold networking events or meet ups. If your aim is to look for relevant bloggers to work with then this is a lucrative field to find those within your topic of interest.

Relevant events don’t necessarily come from blogging platforms, depending on your niche. Blogs can promote themselves at real-world exhibits to increase readership. This could include beauty blogs at skin care conventions, business blogs at their local business exhibitions, and literature blogs at art festivals. By looking out for events that are relevant to your blog and will be attended by people who will be interested in your blog’s message, then you are more likely to gain a return on investment by attending that exhibition.

Question Two: Is my blog memorable and branded?

Does your blog have a brand? Do you utilise that brand throughout your promotional advertisements? Are you preparing a stand or stall that takes advantage of your unique identity?

Creating a brand from your blog can seem like a complicated task if you’ve never given it thought before but if you’ve taken time over the appearance of your blog then you’re likely to already have the beginnings of a style that you feel represents it.

Spend a few hours considering how you would introduce someone to your blog in two sentences or less. Each person you meet at this event might be seeing dozens of other people so consider what you can say or do to firmly affix your blog in their mind.

If you’re intending to have your own stand then think about what you can offer attendees so that they can fully understand what your blog is about. This might involve a tablet or laptop so they can physically look at your blog, perhaps a clearly visible web address and encouragement for people to give your blog a look on their smart phones (if you intend to do this then ensure your blog has an attractive mobile template). Promotional displays announcing your blog, URL and brand can also announce your blog on your behalf, attracting more interest.

Question Three: How do I know if it was worth all this effort?

Prepare for your networking event or convention attendance by coming up with a series of goals that you hope to work towards. These can be entirely unique to your blog but here are some general behaviours that you will most likely want to track:

  • People taking your business card
  • People signing up for your newsletter (if you have one)
  • People taking your flyers
  • Business cards that you receive from relevant parties

You can also assess these factors at the end of the day and over the coming weeks/ months:

  • New likes/followers on social media channels.
  • Increase in views on your blog.
  • New comments on your blog.
  • Increase in subscriptions/ member sign ups/ followers on your blog.

Your goals for attending an event may differ greatly from other blogs and it’s important that you properly assess and track what you hope to gain from attending. Though ensuring you achieve a return on investment is more complex via a blog than for someone selling a product, it is essential to measure the effectiveness of event marketing for your blog’s brand. Which of these ROI’s would make the biggest difference to your blog?

When you tie all these steps together you should end up with an event that is relevant to your blog, an idea for how to brand your blog effectively and a variety of ideas regarding how to track conversions and increases in traffic. Of course, this is only the first step.

Getting your blog out into the real world for the first time is just the beginning and even the most well-planned event is likely to have snags, problems and at least a dozen lessons that you’ll learn for next time. Improvements never have to end and you’ll soon find yourself a well-oiled event machine, always primed and ready with business cards and your elevator pitch.

These steps are a great guideline but every blog is different, so jump in with both feet and start planning. Which step will be most important to you and what has this post revealed about your blogs needs? Feel free to tell us your story in the comments below!

Kelly Edwards writes for Marler Haley and is passionate about promoting businesses however large or small, and offering her tips to succeed.

Are You Making These Mistakes With Your Guest Posts?

This is a guest contribution from Alex Strike, writer and blogger.

During my writing career, I’ve had the good fortune to have appeared on many cool and informative blogs and websites – but it hasn’t always been this way. Writing for blogs appeared to be not as easy as I at first thought, and I must confess that the more I learned the nuances of guest blogging, the more the fear ate at me.  There were a few moments when I just wanted to give it all up despite the fact I liked the process of writing itself. But there are no results without trying, and I’ve improved over the years I’ve been guest blogging.

Now as I look back, I can see my mistakes were so obvious and easy to avoid. If you are a newbie to the world of guest blogging, or you are going to start it in order to get your name out there, you should know and remember some of the unwritten rules to follow. I am here to share my biggest mistakes and help you avoid the same traps.

Give me more! More blogs! 

The first mistake: I wrote guest articles for everyone. Literally. I believed, that the more articles of mine were published – the better results they would bring to my websites. Every blog, even if it had low PR and DA, had a chance to get a guest article from me. Moreover, the majority of these blogs were full of ads, they had a bad content, awful (let’s be honest) design, and no social presence at all.

Remember: quantity does not mean quality. If you want to become a good and respectful guest blogger, you should always pay attention to blogs you are going to write for. The main aspects to pay attention to:

1. A blog’s traffic (it’s easy to check on SemRush): pay attention to all ups and downs, and the ideal variant is no downs at all (of course!). The great example of such a website is essay-all-stars.com:

screenshot-12. Is this blog clean? (How many ad blocks are there? How often is the content being updated? Are the comments moderated there?)

3. A quality of this blog’s content (just take a look whether all articles have affiliate links and are built to sell something or not. Never write for those websites, as backlinks from them will bring nothing good to your own blog).

4. Does this blog have a niche? It’s better not to write for those blogs that do not have any specific niche: it means they do not take care of their content at all. Yes, it will be much easier for you to publish your article at such blogs, where one article is about blogging, and another one is about selling TVs or e-books, but such backlinks will not bring you any good reputation at all. When I speak about reputation, I mean both your reputation as a guest author and the reputation of your own website for search engines.

5. What are this blog’s Domain Authority and PageRank? It would not be a good idea to write for websites with DA less than 30. As for PR, we all know that the bigger it is – the better, but I can say from my personal experience, that a big PR does not guarantee a blog’s authority: if you see, that the content of this blog is not good, but its PR is still high, the big chances are that this PR was created falsely.

A Topic? Whatever…

My next and very serious mistake was writing guest articles on ALL topics, even if they had no connection with the niche of my own blog. Example: my blog is about essay writing, but I write an article for the blog about fashion or concept gadgets.

Yes, these tech or fashion blogs were really good and informative; they were clean, they had high ranks, they were authoritative, but… my link did not look natural there, and search engines found it artificial as a result. Yes, it was unfair, because I KNEW all my links were naturally created by me, but… c’est la vie. The more such backlinks you have – the bigger your chances are to be banned by Google.

Who Needs E-Mails?

I am sure you know that many blogs or websites have a Contact Us page. Yes, it’s good and logical of course, but very often such a page looks the following:

screenshot-2

I must say, that when I contacted bloggers via such forms, only 1 out of 20 could give me a reply. Now I know that a good website will always share some exact contacts with its visitors (it may be e-mails of support teams, this blog’s founders, editorial teams, etc., but you will definitely find EXACT contacts there).

Hello Admin!

The very important moment of guest blogging is outreach and your pitches. And here was my BIGGEST mistake probably. Just take a look at the screenshot above, and you will understand what I mean.

Mistakes:

1. Too general (a blogger receives 100 letters a day. Why should he pay attention to yours?)

2. No names (do not be lazy, and read About Us pages of websites, as you can always find bloggers names there). I think you will agree, that “Hello John!” sounds much better than “Hello Admin!” (moreover, big chances are that this person is not admin actually).

3. No information about yourself. Always tell them who you are (but there is no need to describe every moment of your biography), give them some examples of your previously published works (links I mean) to see your writing style.

4. No pitches. Take a look at a blog’s content and try to provide a blogger with some posts ideas that would work well for him. Try to offer something up-to-date, exclusive or unusual, that was not published at other blogs 100500 times before. Take into account the general style of this blog: if it is known for its “Top 10…” lists, it would be strange to offer them something like “Dos And Don’ts Of Writing A Paper” for example.

Here is the example of my outreach letter for today:

screenshot-3

Certainly, you are free to create your own outreach letter that will work well for you. Just try not to repeat my mistakes described above.

By-line Is My Savior 

Yes, some websites allow you backlinks only in your by-line (author’s bio). I do not want to say that it is bad, but you can always use a chance to put your link to the body of your text, where it will look natural, and it will fit the content of this article itself.

One more mistake of mine was the usage of keywords as an anchor. Please, compare these two by-lines, and try to guess which one looks more suspiciously for search engines:

screenshot-4And

screenshot-5It is always better to promote your brand and make it recognizable, than use keywords to please Google (it is not as stupid as some of us still believe). Moreover, you can always use keywords in the texts of your article itself where they will look good and natural.

Summary

If you want to become a good guest blogger, always pay attention to WHAT you write and for WHOM you write. Proofread your articles (my sin is spelling mistakes, and I am still trying to defeat them all), try to provide only interesting content to your potential publishers, be polite, look and write professionally, and never be in a hurry!

It is always better to spend more time on writing and publishing your article at one cool and respectful blog than kill your precious time on writing a content and building backlinks that will not bring you any profit at all.

Alex Strike is a passionate writer of Lifehack and a blogger who writes on the topics of education, content marketing, writing, and lifehacks. You can always find more of Alex’s work on .

Content Marketing Smart – Why Your Blog Article is Just the Beginning

This is a guest contribution from James Scherer, of Wishpond

Image via Flickr user captainmcdan

Image via Flickr user captainmcdan

Monday: a couple hours of research, six hours of head-down writing, two (five?) coffee-breaks. End result: One 2000 word, comprehensive article on Facebook Ad best practices. Publish.

Tuesday: a couple hours of research, six hours of head-down writing…

Rinse. Repeat. Let’s rethink how we create content.

In this article I’ll dive into content marketing smart, not hard. I’ll discuss re-using your content in five awesome ways that will save you time, energy, and increase your content ROI in the new year.

Introduction to content marketing smart

Your blog article is just the beginning. Think about it as a river, and the rest of your content as streams coming off it. The source is great, but the streams spread wider and do totally different and amazing things.

Content marketing smart is all about using your existing content in creative, practical ways that save you time and energy but give you a great return on your investment.

Primarily, it’s about thinking outside the box to use your time more intelligently. Start with a well-researched blog article, and end with all types of content that generate brand awareness in different, exciting ways.

Why content marketing smart works better in 2014 than it did in 2013:

Every prediction article I’ve read (including the one I wrote) has talked about a shift in content. Here’s what’s happening: Google is rewarding social shares as much as it is link building.

Previously, Google’s search algorithm considered a link to, or from, your content as a vote in its favor. Longer blog articles could have a greater number of links, increasing their SEO. Yes, there were other factors, but link-building was at the heart of blog SEO for a long time.

With the integration of the Hummingbird Algorithm in August though, Google’s search mechanism changed. For the first time ever, the top of the SEO factor list was the number of Google+ social endorsements your content had. Links were still important, but the term ‘Social Media Optimization’ had attained a whole new meaning nonetheless.

What does this mean for your content?

It means you need to be producing visually appealing, socially shareable, bite-size pieces of content that people can love, share, and leave.

5 tips to optimizing for social:

  1. Introduce a social share toolbar on your blog’s page (this can increase content virality by up to 700%)

  2. Use bitly links everywhere you can, to encourage Retweets and shorter Facebook and Google+ posts (which have higher engagement than longer posts)

  3. Create appealing and eye-catching header images so your content grabs the attention of social media users

  4. Create a Pinterest Pin with the most interesting statistic from your blog article and put it on your ‘Amazing Stats’ Board

  5. Generate content that encourages Facebook Likes, social shares and comments. Is it witty, surprising, funny, thought-provoking, new, exclusive? Would you want to share this yourself?

Your five pieces of content:

  1. Comprehensive, well-researched blog article on a subject interesting to your readers

  2. Slideshare presentation built from blog research, case studies, or other sources

  3. Comments on Influencer’s content and on social platforms – keeps you in the conversation

  4. Infographic built from blog research, case studies, statistics, or other sources

  5. Ebook built from longer-form blog articles

1. Blog Article:

Put some serious time and energy into your blog articles. I’m talking 1800+ words (don’t worry, you’ll get more out of those 1800+ words than ever before).

Do your research; check out infographics and case studies from around the web; read academic journals (yes, I do this); talk to peers or experts, etc. Make them awesome. Make them optimized for search. Promote and syndicate the hell out of them.

I recommend a running-theme (it makes the ebook easier) for a few weeks. Try around five or six articles giving an in-depth look at a subject. For instance:

Article 1: Introduction to [Blank]
Article 2: [Blank] Design Best Practices
Article 3: A/B Testing Variables in your [Blank]
Article 4: 7 Mistakes to Avoid in [Blank]
Article 5: 5 [Case Studies] and What you can Learn from them
Article 6: Taking [Blank] to the Next Level with [Blank]

Fact-heavy, long-form articles are still wanted. There remains a sizeable audience for the comprehensive guides and 25-step how-tos. So you don’t get to stop writing them. Plus, they’re even more valuable now that you can re-use that awesome content in so many creative and interesting ways.

But really, do you want to do two hours of research, write for a day, publish, and then start all over again the next morning? Let’s market smart, not hard.

2. Slideshare Presentations:

If you’re just joining us, Slideshare is a free content-sharing website which makes your business’ presentations available to an ever-increasing number of users. Your business’ presentations are fully embeddable in your own blog and others. They’re easily downloadable, and Slideshare’s built-in social sharing tool makes the SMO easy. In fact, I’ve seen a few of my own Slideshare presentations with a better SEO than their original articles.

A few months ago you would have seen me taking an hour or two each day to force every one of my blog articles into a Slideshare presentation. The problem is, not every article lends itself to presentation format. Not every sub-heading has three bullet-points and an example image. I was pushing a square peg into a round hole and my content was suffering.

What I do now is find those blog articles I’ve written that naturally fit the format. Those articles where, without really noticing it, you’ve found 15 awesome statistics that surprised you and will surprise your readers.

Here’s what I recommend: Compile the data from one or two of your longer-form blog articles (statistics, facts, case studies, quotes, etc) and compile a couple of visually appealing Slideshares each week. Embed the presentations on your blog with a short description and promote it across your social channels.

If you’re interested in a more comprehensive look at Slideshare, check out How to Use Slideshare to Market your Business.

3. Comments on Influencer’s Blogs and Social Media:

Influencer Marketing Ammunition: For those unaware, influencer marketing is the practice of reaching out to online thought-leaders in your sector and encouraging them to help promote your brand’s content.

Every sector has influencers, it’s just a matter of finding them (try Klout, PeerIndex or Kred) and getting in touch. Contacting the right influencer in the right way at the right time can increase your blog’s readership (and your brand’s online profile) by ten-fold overnight. Really. It happened to Wishpond in July (thanks @MariSmith!).

Commenting is where re-using your blog content comes in. Try to comment on 2-3 influencer blogs each day. Use statistics and observations from your blog to write intelligent, insightful observations on articles with the same subject. Ask reasonable questions. Disagree in an informed and respectful manner.

Commenting gets your name in an influencer’s mind, so interactions on Twitter or Facebook will mean more. Asking for a share of your own blog will be better-received if they know you’ve shared and read theirs.

Social Platform Ammunition: Your blog articles are full of great quotes, statistics and factoids that lend themselves to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest posts. Use them!

There are a million articles out there about using social media to promote your blog, but how about using your blog to promote your social media?

Increase brand awareness with interesting facts and stats that engage the viewer. Use your article’s headers (you, or your graphic designer, spent quality time on them! Don’t just use them once) to grab the attention of your Facebook Fans. Remember, across all social platforms, posts with images get substantially better engagement than those without.

Don’t wrack your brain on a daily basis for engaging social media fodder, simply note down the fodder that you find in your blog research or the especially creative lines in your own writing.

4. Infographic:

I mentioned above that 2014 will be the year of bite-sized, visually appealing content. Again, this doesn’t mean that you get to stop writing articles. But it does mean you get to learn Photoshop.

Like with Slideshare, use the statistics from your blogs (maybe a few of your blogs) and create a visually-awesome, palatable infographic that communicates a ton of information in a beautiful and easy way. Infographics almost always generate more engagement than a blog article and are great for spreading brand awareness as people will pick them up, embed them on their own sites, and credit your business.

Yes, for many small businesses without a graphic designer infographics can be difficult. However, I’d urge you to experiment with free design software (if you can’t afford or don’t already have Photoshop, InDesign or Adobe Illustrator) like Gimp, Info.gram or Piktochart.

Remember to offer your infographics as guest posts on other blog sites (once you’ve posted it on yours). For social media marketers, try AllFacebook, Entrepeneur and Business2Community. And syndicate on sites like BizSugar, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Digg and Diigo.

5. Monthly ebook:

Ebooks are the end product of your content recycling strategy.

Once you’ve written five or six awesome blog articles on the same subject, compile them into a comprehensive ebook. This can be done with free software (even Powerpoint – just export as a PDF), but I really recommend InDesign – as your ebook will come out more professionally done and appealing to the reader.

Ebooks are really valuable pieces of content, worth more to your readers and your business than any other piece you create. They’re in-depth guides on their subject; something people can download and save to their computer and read and re-read for guidance and inspiration.

Because of their value (and the work required to create them) I tend to make my ebooks email-gated. Basically I create a landing page for each ebook I produce and ask visitors to provide an email before getting access to the amazing content I’ve generated. Because only people interested in my ebook’s subject matter will provide their email address, the process segments those emails for you – facilitating your business’ email marketing/sales funnel.

Conclusion

Hopefully you now have a better idea of how, and why, you can recycle your content. It saves you time and energy – allowing you to experiment with different formats of your own. Something I’d highly recommend, if you’re not already, is organizing your content into a content calendar. Calendars keep your different kinds of content sensible and timely. Try an ebook every month or so, two Slideshares a week, a bi-weekly infographic, and three blog comments a day.

Have you had success, or frustrations, with re-using content? Have you found it saves you time or requires you to wear too many hats? Start the conversation below!

James Scherer is a content marketer for Wishpond and author of the ebook The Complete Guide to Facebook Ads. Wishpond makes it easy to run Facebook Ads, create landing pages & contests, email automation campaigns & manage all of your business’ contacts.

Skip to the End: 5 Great Ways to Make Your Readers Care

This is a guest contribution from Mike Sowden.

Have you ever taken part in a business presentation that just died on the spot?

Say you’re up there speaking. Nobody is laughing at your jokes. Your throat has dried up. Dark patches of panic-sweat are appearing all over your shirt. You suddenly need the bathroom. What’s the number-one thing on your mind?

Or say you’re cringing in the audience as someone tanks up on stage. It’s awful to behold, it’s making you want to crawl under your seat or fling yourself out the nearest window – but you’re trapped. You have to endure the whole agonising mess. What’s the number-one thing on your mind?

When that happens (and surely it happens to everyone at some point), the number one thing on everyone’s mind in that room is: please let this END.

Endings are supremely powerful ways to motivate people, to build a loyal following, and engineer a lot of sales. Marketers use scarcity tactics to get you caring about endings (“75% off, today only!”). But how can blogs, with their focus on building conversation and community as much as commerce, use endings to hook readers? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Level up

Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness is a self-confessed gaming geek. He knows the irresistible call of the next rung up the ladder to success. It’s hard to make people care about a distant, lofty goal – and much easier to hook people with near-instant progress. (Just look at how levelling-based mobile gaming exploded in recent years.) Bloggers love publishing personal ‘bucket lists’ – but for his site, Kamb went one better and created his ‘Epic Quest For Awesome‘, complete with an experience points rule system. It’s now front and centre (ok, it’s top-right) of his landing page for Nerd Fitness and is clearly part of his strategy for making people care about what he’s doing.

What You Can Do: find a cool, exciting way to show incremental progress towards a clearly-defined set of goals – but also make sure that at least some of those goals serve your site and its readers as much as yourself.

2. Vaguebooking

You know those people who post things on Facebook like “You-know-who is doing you-know-what…AGAIN!” and “Worst day ever. I DONT WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT!”?

Let’s agree that’s always annoying. Let’s also agree that it usually works – or we wouldn’t be annoyed, right? We’d breeze past without wanting to know more. Instead, we’re momentarily irked because we’re presented with an imperfect view of something potentially interesting, and against our own wishes, we want closure. Maybe we think we don’t care, but we still want to know the facts so we can decide we don’t care.

What You Can Do: lay subtle (or not so subtle) hints about the direction you’re taking your blog, giving the reader a sense that you know way more than you’re telling – which is really useful for those times when you’re making it up as you go along.

3. Attempt the Barely Possible…

There are few things that motivate people quite like a harebrained adventure with an apparently slim chance of success. It may be wise to chase an end goal for your blog that’s modest in scope and entirely achievable – but that’s a really poor way to market it. Make the story of your blog larger than life. Make it so ambitious that you’ll have people questioning your sanity, or at least your sense of proportion. I wonder how many people truly believed Chris Guillebeau would find a way to visit all 193 United Nations member states, an 11-year quest that would end on his 35th birthday? That’s what he achieved – and by making it a hefty challenge for himself, he raised the investment stakes with his readers.

What You Can Do: decide to do something that will appear both meaningful and crazy to your readers – and then announce it, in a serious, credible way. Do it right, and you have yourselves a little movement of people who really believe you can do this…and, of course, a bunch of people who want to see you fall flat on your face. So let’s talk about that right now..

4. …And Fail.

Whenever you and your blog attempt to do something different, you run the risk of failure. If you’re attempting something big, you risk BIG failure. The cataclysmic, huge smoking crater version that you’ll never forget being part of. To fail is to feel bad – there’s absolutely no denying it. But the odd thing about failure is it can be attractive to anyone watching – and that’s not because they’re being mean.

Human beings are drawn to dark and terrible stories. Stories of fear and woe and everything best avoided in real life. Stories of failure. Why? Science writer Jonathan Gottschall reckons it may be because storytelling arose as a way to keep us alive. What happens if I come down out of this tree and stroll past that sabre-toothed tiger? My story says: “you’d have a really bad day.” My story keeps me alive – and now I trust my story, even though it’s a horrible thing that will give me nightmares for the rest of my life. (Thanks, story.)

Similarly, it’s possible the modern appetite for dark, miserable stories is born of a need to avoid those events ourselves – in which case, a story of failure is deeply compelling. What lessons can we learn from someone who did it the wrong way? It’s awesome storytelling. In the words of Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coates: “You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.”

5. Start with the End

A few months back, the TV show Breaking Bad delivered its final few episodes. Its viewing figures went through the roof, up tenfold from its first season premiere. In fact, Breaking Bad‘s popularity rose continuously through its 5-season run. Increasingly and in larger and larger numbers, people really cared.

Why? The writing was amazing, the acting was literally Emmy award-winning, the cinematography was to die for – plenty of creative reasons. But a key part of Breaking Bad‘s appeal was how it used its endings. Its signature opener was a glimpse of things to come later in the episode – often baffling, bizarre, without the context of the story to support it. You didn’t know why mild-mannered Walter White was standing in the road in his underwear, pointing a gun towards approaching police sirens – and you had to keep watching to find out, as the story flashed back to “x hours earlier”. Later episodes would flash forward entire seasons, eventually foreshadowing the finale itself – a place where terrible (but unspecified) things have happened. As the final episodes approaches, audiences knew enough of the ending to be whipped into a frenzy of anticipation and speculation…and the show ended with its highest viewing figures ever.

All because the Breaking Bad team knew exactly what to do with their endings.

What You Can Do: decide where your blog is ultimately going, and start telling that story from the very beginning. You don’t have to give away very much – but unlike the vaguebooking approach above, you’re not showing the journey, you’re showing the destination. Yes, this is tricky, and in the face of great uncertainty, it will probably require a lot of courage and strength of purpose. But the magical thing about foreshadowing is that it works both ways. Your audience will start to care more, because you’ll look like you know where you’re taking them – and you’ll care more as well. The more you communicate that ending, the more of a sense of purpose you’ll feel and the more likely you will be to actually get there. You will truly know why you blog – and isn’t that an end worth chasing?

Mike Sowden is a freelance travel writer and storytelling consultant from the north of England (UK). Find him at Fevered Mutterings - or maybe walking across some lonely, rain-lashed British hillside with a backpack, having “fun”.

Beginner Week: Bite the Bullet and Start Your Blog with this Seven-Point Checklist

Theme WeekWelcome to ProBlogger’s second theme week – where we take a topic you’re interested in and drill right down to bring you all the information we can find to be of use to you. This week we are focusing on newbies – what do all beginner bloggers want to know? What are the first points of reference we should use, and where do we go from there? Today, please welcome Ali Luke from Zen Optimise, who has put together a handy checklist of things you should do in your first week of blogging to get yourself off the ground. There is also a fantastic deal on Darren’s “ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging“, full of hints, tips and practical exercises for the beginner blogger. Even if you’ve had your blog for a while, it’s a great refresher of what really works in getting your site some traction. You can find all the content for this week’s theme at the bottom of this post.

Without further ado – here’s Ali.

Have you been reading ProBlogger for weeks, or even months, so you can learn everything you need to know before setting up your blog?

You might be wasting your time.

That’s not to say that the content on ProBlogger isn’t hugely valuable: of course it is. As a new blogger five years ago, I devoured a large chunk of the archives – and even today, I still get inspired (and pick up a few new tips) from posts here.

But I also know how easy it is to fall into the trap of reading post after post, struggling to make sense of it all, and wondering how you’ll ever take in all the information out there.

“Be Prepared” Can Go Too Far 

While it’s great to do some research before diving in and starting a blog, it’s easy to end up reading post after post after post … without taking any action.

Until you get your blog up and running, you won’t really know what you need to know. You might be reading about topics that you’ll never need to concern yourself with – or you might be missing out on information that’s going to be crucial.

Launching your blog can feel like a huge step. You want to get every detail right; you want it to be perfect right from the start.

The problem is, if that perfect ideal keeps you stuck, you’ll never have a blog at all. And a real, imperfect blog will outperform an imaginary perfect one in every way imaginable…

Start Your Blog This Week: Your Checklist

It’s time to bite the bullet. No, you probably don’t feel ready. Yes, there’s a lot you still don’t know. But you will learn so much faster from actually blogging than from simply reading about it.

Here’s what you need to do. If you tackle one task each day, you’ll have your blog up and running next week:

Day 1: Set a Clear Goal

What do you want your blog to do for you? “Make money” is a popular answer – but how?

Is your blog going to support your existing business and bring in new customers?

Do you have a service to offer, like design, writing, or coding?

Is it going to be market research – and a platform – for a book that you plan to launch?

Are you going to bring in lots of traffic and sell advertising space?

Will you review products as an affiliate, taking commission on sales?

All of these are perfectly valid strategies, but you need to be clear about what you’ll be doing right from the start.

Of course, your blog doesn’t have to be a money-making tool. Perhaps your motivation for blogging is to get your writing out there to the world, or to build up a strong reputation in your field.

Further reading:

Top 10 Blog Monetization Strategies, Ranked In Order (Blog Marketing Academy)

To do: 

Write your goal down, and keep it somewhere visible. You want to have your goal in mind over the next few days.

Day 2: Choose a Platform

There are so many different blogging platforms out there, and there’s a good chance you’ve heard of (and maybe tried out) a fair few of them. I’ll name a handful of them: WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, Tumblr, Squarespace…

Let’s make this decision easy. Your best option is almost certainly WordPress.

It’s used by most of the top blogs (including ProBlogger) and it’s a hugely flexible and powerful platform.

Ideally, you’ll want to go with self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) where you install your blog on your own web space. If you can’t afford hosting, though, you can use WordPress.com – this is still a powerful blogging platform, but it has certain limitations.

Further Reading:

Self Hosted WordPress.org vs. Free WordPress.com (WPBeginner)

To do:

Decide whether you’re using WordPress.org (self-hosted, recommended) or WordPress.com (hosted, a good second choice).

The rest of these instructions assuming you’re using WordPress.org; if you using WordPress.com or a site like Blogger, you won’t need hosting, and you can choose not to buy a domain name. (If you don’t buy your own domain name, you’ll have one like yourname.wordpress.com.)

Day 3: Decide on Your Domain Name

Your domain name (sometimes called your URL or your web address) is what users type in to visit your site. ProBlogger’s domain name is problogger.net.

To get a domain name, you need to register it with a domain name registrar – a site like GoDaddy (well known) or Namecheap (popular for its high-quality customer service).

Domain names aren’t especially expensive to register, and will normally cost you around somewhere around $12 per year. Prices vary between domain name registrars, and some suffixes (the .com or .net etc) cost more than others.

When you’re choosing your domain name, aim to:

Keep it fairly short. Long domain names are hard to remember and type.

Keep it to two words or fewer if possible.

Make it match the name of your website. If Darren called this site “ProBlogging Tips” but had the domain name “ProBlogger” it would be confusing for readers.

Avoid using hyphens if you can: if another website has the same domain without a hyphen, readers may end up there by mistake.

Use a .com suffix if it’s available. If you really want a particular name and the .com is taken, you can use .net. If your readers are mainly from your own country, you can use your country’s domain (e.g. .co.uk for the UK or .ca for Canada).

Further reading:

Five Best Domain Name Registrars (Lifehacker.com)

To do:

Come up with several possible domain names. Use WHOis.net to see which ones are available. (Simply typing them into your browser won’t necessarily tell you if they’re available or not, as sometimes domains are registered without hosting so no site will show up.)

If you’re self-hosting WordPress and thus buying hosting, you may want to register the domain name through your host – this can make life slightly simpler.

Day 4: Buy Hosting

Many bloggers find “hosting” a tricky concept to get their heads around. Here’s how it works.

For your website to be online, all the files for it need to be kept on a computer that’s always connected to the internet. (It’s technically possible for you to host your website on your own computer – but there are a huge number of reasons why you probably wouldn’t want to do this, including security issues, and the cost of keeping your computer switched on all day and all night, all the time.)

Web host companies provide space for your site on their servers (huge computers), which are permanently connected to the internet. These servers also have special software that allows you to install WordPress on your site. You pay a monthly or annual fee for this, usually around $7 – $15 per month.

There are loads of web hosts out there; personally, I use Dreamhost for all my own websites – but I’ve included links to other suggestions in the further reading.

Further reading:

How to Choose the Best WordPress Hosting? (WPBeginner)

To do:

Choose your host and sign up for an account. Don’t spend hours agonising over the choice – you can always switch hosts in the future if you decide they weren’t the best option for you.

Day 5: Install WordPress

Assuming you’ve chosen a WordPress-friendly host, you’ll probably have a simple and easy way to install WordPress – often with a “one-click installation” option.

Follow your host’s instructions, and get WordPress installed on your site. During the installation process, you’ll be prompted to enter:

The name of your site.

The username for an administrative account.

A password.

Your email address.

The only bit you can’t change later is the admin username. Avoid using “admin” as that’s way too easy for hackers to guess!

To login to your site, go to www.yoursitename.com/wp-login. You’ll automatically be directed to your dashboard – the “behind the scenes” view of your WordPress site – after logging in.

You’ll also have the option to make your site invisible to search engines. This can be reassuring while you’re developing your blog, but if you switch this on, don’t forget to switch it off again later! (You can do so in your WordPress dashboard under Settings Reading.

Further reading:

Secure Your WordPress Blog Without Touching Any Code (ProBlogger)

To do:

Get WordPress installed. It will probably be easier than you think! If you have time to spare, poke around in the WordPress dashboard to get a sense of all the different options and functions.

Day 6: Choose Your Theme

The look and feel of your blog is determined by its theme (sometimes called the template). You can switch your WordPress theme without losing any of your content – your posts, pages, sidebar widgets and so on are stored separately.

To change themes:

Go to your WordPress dashboard (www.yoursitename.com/wp-admin).

Click on Appearance  Themes

Choose a theme you like and click Preview to see how your site will look in that theme.

Click Activate to switch your site over to the new theme.

There are thousands of WordPress themes available online, so if you don’t find anything you like in the current themes section, look around. Free themes tend to be more limited in functionality and design; premium (paid for) ones often have lots of new options.

Further reading:

How to Pick a WordPress Theme That Doesn’t Suck (StuffedWeb)

To do:

Select a “good enough” theme – it doesn’t have to be perfect. If you’re creating a website for an existing business, consider using a premium theme that’s tailored to your industry. (E.g. there are restaurant themes, band themes, guest house themes…)

Day 7: Write Your About Page

Once you’ve got your theme up and running, there are still a lot of tasks ahead. New bloggers often wonder what to prioritise. Getting their sidebar spruced up? Posting lots of content? Adding their “Services” page? Including an option for readers to get posts by email?

All of those are important – but one of the very first things you should do is get your About page in place.

New readers will very often look for and click on “About” (or “About me” or “About us”) to find out who you are and what they can expect from your blog. If the page doesn’t exist, or if it’s badly put together, they might shrug and go on their way (and never return).

A good About page needs to:

Tell the reader what your blog (or company) is about and how it can help them. It’s often a good idea to put this information up front, perhaps after a few words introducing yourself (“Hi, I’m Bob Jones, and I blog here about…”)

Introduce you so that the reader feels a sense of connection. You can do this in a straightforward way, or with humour, with a list of interesting facts about you, with your credentials and experience, with an inspiring story … whatever fits with the tone and brand of your blog.

Include a photo of you. This isn’t an absolute rule, but it helps readers come to trust you – and if you’re selling them products or services, or promoting affiliate products, this is important.

Be updated regularly. Your blogging mission might change; facts about you and your life might change. If your About page is clearly years out of date, your blog is going to look cobwebby at best … and abandoned at worst.

Get the basics of your page in place, then, once you’ve been blogging for a couple of weeks, update it and:

Link to two or three of your best posts. This is a great way to draw readers further into your blog.

Let readers know how to subscribe to your blog by email. Even if you’ve got a big email sign-up box in your sidebar, readers may not notice it.

Further reading:

Are You Making These 7 Mistakes with Your About Page? (Copyblogger)

To do: 

Write your About page. You might find it easiest to split it into two sections, “About the Blog” and “About Me”. If you can, ask a friend or colleague to look over it and give you feedback – they may have ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of.

And that’s it! Your blog isn’t only online, it’s looking good, and it’s ready for you to publish your first post. This is just the start of an exciting journey – and I wish you all the best with it.

Ali Luke is Head of Content at Zen Optimise, where she leads small group courses on blogging and writing for the web. Once you’ve got your blog set up, check out 7 Rules for Creating Highly Successful Posts for powerful tips plus handy further reading suggestions.

Beginner Theme Week Posts on ProBlogger

New Blogger Katie180′s Success Story
We Asked Veteran Bloggers to Reflect on Mistakes Made in Their Early Days
Darren’s 43 Dos and 25 Don’ts of Blogging
Resource Roundup – 1o Links New Bloggers Can’t Live Without