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5 Tips for Getting Free Media Exposure for Your Blog

This guest post is by Michael Haaren of Creators Syndicate/Dallas Morning News.

Many bloggers and other brandbuilders are moving en masse into Twitter, Google+, and other new media. While these should certainly be part of your overall media strategy, don’t neglect TV, radio and other legacy media. They still have plenty of reach and prestige, and are starving for cool stories to tell. Here are five tips for getting your name in lights.

1. Grab the big picture

Legacy media is grappling with tectonic changes. Before you pitch any idea to a TV producer, radio-show host, or newspaper or magazine journalist, take a few minutes to see what’s happening in their industry. Since your “target” is dog paddling in those trends, knowing them helps your pitch bob to the top instead of sinking to the bottom.

Sites to check include I Want Media and Media Bistro.

2. A good pitch is usually short and succulent, like a fish hook with a worm on it

It’s trite but worth remembering—the journalist is a fish and you’re the angler. You’ve got to cast something we’ll bite at. And since we’re even more info-stupefied than everyone else, you only have a moment to catch our eye.

For example, I recently put out a query on Peter Shankman’s Help a Reporter Out, better known as HARO, which many journalists and producers use to find interviewees. (Queries are distributed three times daily and are free, so be sure to sign up while you’re there.)

Since I write about home-based gigs and careers—which now includes many bloggers and experts, like Darren working in a home office in Melbourne—I wanted to hear from people who have unusual home-based businesses.

As soon as the query went out, pitches began to flood in. I scanned them in spurts, in between posting to our Facebook page and screening a job lead for our website and trying to keep the dog from chewing his hot spot again. (Like many journalists, I work from a home office, too.)

Soon, I was “hooked” by a lead-in that described a baby fawn lying on a bed of broken glass, in Pennsylvania Amish Country. The glass, I learned, came from antique bottles, discarded long ago. Collectors would scoop up intact bottles but leave the broken ones behind, and wildlife like the fawn had to cope. The artist pitching me, Laura Bergman, turned these fragments into remarkable pieces of jewelry. The business was Bottled Up Designs, and we covered it in our column.

As a rule, keep your pitches to a three- to five-line paragraph or two. Mention briefly why you’re pitching the journalist (“In reply to your HARO query on wombats…” or “Having read your Toy Industry Review article on Ken cheating on Barbie, I…”). Then add the “hook,” and your relevant credentials. Close briefly with your cell phone number. Journalists are usually time-pressed and work odd hours. If you’re not available, they’ll quickly move down the list.

3. Target people who care

It’s much easier to get a journalist to cover you if your pitch includes something we care about. For example, I often write about green issues; it’s one reason I’ve advocated telework for so long. Laura Bergman, whether by coincidence or by research, hit a nerve when she mentioned that fawn lying in glass.

4. Identify, hone, and cue up your blog’s unique stories

Every blog comes with unique facets, aspects, or stories. Bloggers are individuals, and blogs, in the larger sense, are always narratives—absent mimicry and plagiary, both unique. The trick is to find the sexiest or most intriguing or flamboyant facets, polish them down to a few lines, and share them when the opportunity presents.

A pitch might be based on something in your own life—“How blogging wrecked my marriage” could easily be a morning-show segment—or key off a subject or individual you covered in your blog.

Even a blog on a theme that many might yawn at—tax law, for example—can hold compelling tales. How about a rogue tax agent, who leaves his family with embezzled funds, and winds up on a nude beach in Brazil, surrounded by aspiring samba stars? You get the picture.

5. Pitch early and often (email is usually best), but don’t call

When journalists send out queries on HARO or Bill and Steve Harrison’s Reporter Connection (be sure to sign up there, too) they trigger immediate replies, often voluminous. And the first pitches to arrive in the inbox frequently end up the winners.

Pitch often, too. If you can score on 10% of your pitches, you’ll beat many pros. You have to play the odds to “get ink.”

Finally, unless invited, don’t call to follow up on a pitch. Let the journalist call you.

Oh, and one last tip, which you may have heard elsewhere: don’t believe everything you read in the papers.

Michael Haaren is the co-founder of Rat Race Rebellion, a site devoted to screened, home-based jobs, and a syndicated columnist with the Dallas Morning News. His frequent media appearances include CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and many more.

Your “How-To” Post Will Fail If You Don’t Use These Techniques

This guest post is by Neil Patel of KISSmetrics.

Gone are the days when you could write a simple “how-to” blog post and rank in the top search results. Why is that? Two very good reasons.

First, all of the general and highly-competitive posts like “how-to blog” or “how-to find a roommate” are already written.

The other reason is Google Panda. Remember Google’s update this past year that took down a lot of the content farms? That algorithm was designed to penalize short and shallow articles and reward high-quality content.

Now, I’ve got good news and bad news for you.

The bad news: If you want to write a “how-to” guide that stands out, then you have to work. The good news: Not very many bloggers are willing to put in the hours and effort. And fortunately I’m going to give you the secrets to creating these posts so you won’t have to work nearly as hard.

Start with detailed research

Great how-to blog posts have great content. But it’s never easy coming up with that content, which means you need to do a little research. Here’s a two-step process you can use to come up with ideas:

  1. Visit your competitors’ blogs and see which posts generated a lot of comments and/or got shared a lot on the social web. You can put a list of headlines into a spreadsheet along with the number of retweets and Facebook “like” on each post.
  2. Browse the trending topics on Tweetmeme, Google Trends, and Google News for the last week. Once you discover what people are after, start to think of topics that are related to the trending ones.

But don’t stop there. When you’ve got your idea nailed, read about a dozen articles and posts connected to your idea.

Make notes as you read and bookmark them. Follow rabbit trails. You may not need all this information right away, but this kind of research will prepare you for what’s going to come next.

Show the visual data, always

When it comes to creating blog posts in this very competitive blog world what you are really trying to do is kill the really boring blog post.

The old way of writing a how-to you could get away with just describing the steps. Here’s how it was popular to do it on eHow:

Pretty lame, right? No wonder video tutorials and picture slides have taken over their content.
See, today you need to show the data. That’s means you need to share charts, graphs, reports, blow-outs of details. This is one of the reasons that infographics are so compelling. You have complex data simplified in a picture.

For example, here’s a visual data explaining how Page Rank works:

And with the blogging tools available today, you don’t have to be a designer to provide good visual data.

However, I do have to warn you. To quote Edward Tufte in his The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, “When you go about Data graphics should draw the viewer’s attention to the sense and substance of the data, not to something else.”

In other words, your visual data must be relevant.

Back up all your claims with examples

One of the easiest ways to separate your how-to blog posts from others is simply to provide examples of the claims you are making…namely links to other content.

This does several things.

For one, you are showing your readers that you took the time to find these examples. It also shows that you understand the unwritten blogging rule about linking to other people and keeping the conversation alive.

Besides, web readers scan the text of a blog post for three things: sub headlines, images and links. If there are no links, you are missing out on opportunities to capture reader interest.

Design your how-to post for the power scanners

How-to blog posts by their nature are scannable because you are giving your readers steps to follow. But not everyone thinks that way or even designs it with that in mind.

You have all this great research and the worst thing you could do is dump it on the page so it looks like this:

The lines are too long because the margin is too wide and the paragraphs are too thick. While this blogger has links, he’s missing sub headlines.

What do you think … is it easy to scan? I don’t think it is. Blogs posts should allow skimmers to read the headline, scan the sub headlines and understand what the post is about in less than 30 seconds.

Use killer images to slow down RSS readers

You have no excuse these days to not put images into your blog posts. Word Press and other blogging platforms make it drop-dead easy.

Why are images important? Because that’s what people on the web prefer. Whether it is an image to open the post or a series of images throughout the post, images are much attractive to readers.

In fact, this summer Cyrus Shepherd ran an experiment where he published an article with images and an article without and then shared the results on SEOmoz. When it came to link-backs and social sharing momentum, the article with images buried the other one. There was no competition.

Another reason images are important is that for your readers who use a RSS reader to consume content, an image is more likely to get them to slow down as they scroll through their feeds. I discovered this trick about four years ago when Robert Scoble told Tim Ferriss how he read 622 RSS feeds each morning.

Finally, putting images into your blog posts brands your personality. Do you remember Dosh Dosh? His sight is no longer up, but one of the most compelling and interesting things about his blogs were his anime images.

Here’s one more example: the This Isn’t Happiness Tumblr blogger has branded his or herself on images alone.

Create a compelling introduction using the PAS formula

You might think that when it comes to writing “how-to” guides that you can just jump straight into the steps. Don’t kid yourself.

Even if you have the clearest and most compelling headline and all the greatest data in the world, you need to prepare your reader for what’s going to come next.

But just writing a short introduction isn’t enough. You have to write a compelling one. Use the PAS formula to do that.

  • Pain: describe a real problem that your readers can identify with.
  • Agitate: make that pain seem even worse by bringing up more bad news.
  • Solve: tell your reader there is a solution…the blog post they are about to read.

Now did you notice that’s what I did in this introduction? Did you think it was compelling?

Craft an irresistible headline using these four elements

I saved this one for the last because it’s the most important. A headline will make or break your blog post. And you should put in as much time on the headline itself as you do the article.

Headlines are what going to attract readers. And like I mentioned in the introduction, a basic headline isn’t going to do it.

  • Specific: for example, let’s say you are a designer and you want to write a how-to on making a design illustration out of mixed media that is organic. This is specific: How-to Create an Organic Mixed Media Illustration. You could get more specific by including “in 11 Short Steps” or “in Five Minutes.”
  • Keyword-rich: usually when you are that specific, your keywords automatically come out and that’s what you want because all the general and competitive headlines like ““how-to” Design an Illustration” are taken. You are writing for the long-tail search.
  • Special: a successful how-to headline these days stands out because it is original. For example, the Inc. magazine article Overworked? 4 Signs You Need to Recharge is about a pretty common topic. But it doesn’t feel that way because it’s combined terms in unusual and unique ways to create a fresh headline. It feels special.
  • Sensitive to time: great headlines also suggest a sense of urgency to the reader. The BPA Lurking in Your Thanksgiving Dinner was time-sensitive when it was published, because that holiday is coming up for Americans. Obviously your how-to needs to provide a practical solution for your readers’ problems.

Conclusion

There are still plenty of opportunities to write “how-to” blog posts that rank in the top page. You just have to be willing to work hard to write them.

What tips can you share on making today’s “how-to” blog posts compelling?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

What to Do When Your Niche Blog Isn’t Making Money

This guest post is by Blog Lady.

There comes a time in your career as a blogger or website owner that you find yourself with a niche blog or site that isn’t meeting your expectations money-wise. That’s nothing to feel bad about. It happens to everybody, and if some say it’s never happened to them, they must be insanely lucky or they just haven’t been in the business long enough.

But what do you do when it finally happens to you?

Give it more time

It could be that the only thing your niche blog needs is more time to “prove” itself. All sites take time to build authority and gain steady traffic. If you’ve been running your site for a month or two and you get only a dozen or so visits a day, don’t be surprised if your earnings are, or are very close to, nil.

If anything, you shouldn’t worry about making money from such a young site. Instead, focus on producing quality content and establishing good relationships with your readers and fellow bloggers/webmasters. I’ve found that it’s best to give a niche blog eight to 12 months before I start to make conclusions about it.

I almost gave up on one of my niche blogs several months ago. It was doing quite poorly in comparison to my other sites. But then it suddenly took off, for reasons unknown. Today it is my biggest money earner. So don’t give up too quickly on what seems like a failed project.

Examine your target keywords

Niches aren’t equally profitable, and even keywords within the same niche do not have the same earning potential. You want to optimize your blog for keywords that can generate the most income. If you’ve been targeting and ranking for low-value keywords, the payoff may be small even with a high conversion rate.

On the other hand, if you target high-value keywords but convert rarely, you may be targeting an audience that has a low click-through/conversion rate. (In other words, the type of visitor that isn’t motivated to click ads or buy a product.)

Find keywords that have the best combination of ad value, traffic volume, advertiser competition, and conversion rate.

To give an example, one of my oldest sites targets a small niche in the New Age market. I knew what kind of information that competitor sites weren’t providing, and was sure I could deliver it. And I did. Yet what I didn’t think of was the low commercial value of the specific keywords I’d chosen. I got the traffic, all right, but not the dough. So I researched my niche for higher-value keywords with better conversion rates, and applied them to several new and existing posts. Sure enough, these keywords bumped up my AdSense and Amazon affiliate income.

As for which keyword tools to use, I’m happy with the free Google AdWords Keyword Tool. You might try commercial tools such as Market Samurai, if you can afford them.

(Note: this is no reason to delete low-earning articles by the way. If your readers enjoy them, keep them and make some more—it serves your visitors well, earns you their trust and hopefully, backlinks.)

Explore different ad placement and ad types

Sometimes, the issue might not be your choice of keywords at all, but what you sell, how you sell it, and where you sell it. Check the advertisements that show up your blog. Look over the affiliate products you sell. Are they appropriate? Are people likely to click or buy them?

If you get few clicks, try moving your ads to different places on your blog. Experiment with affiliate widgets, buttons, and text links to see which get the most attention.

When you change your ads this way, wait several days to a week before you change them again. Personally, I’d wait for as long as it takes for me to get 500-1,000 impressions. (That’s less than 24 hours for a high-traffic blog, but the average site would need more time.) Monitor your conversion rates via your advertiser’s or affiliate partner’s account.

Now don’t go to desperate means to get clicks on your ads. That means, don’t try to “mask” your ads and don’t put them where they will disturb visitors’ experience of your blog. The few extra dollars you make this way aren’t worth the contempt and loss of trust it would incur.

Modify your strategy

Are you wholly dependent on a specific type of traffic, such as search traffic? If so, you need to modify your strategy to be less reliant on that traffic source. If you rely on Google for the majority of your traffic, you’d be seriously hurt if an algorithm update were to drop your site’s ranking.

Learn to diversify. Besides search traffic, look to social traffic, word of mouth, advertising and other means. We all need to do this, whether or not our sites make money, if we are to survive in the post-Panda era.

Know when to let go

I said earlier that you should give your niche site a chance. However there is such a thing as trying too hard. If you’ve tried all ethical means to boost your site’s income and still nothing happens, face the music. Leave it alone and try something else.

To invest all your time and resources in a lost cause is foolish. And don’t feel bad doing this. You’re learning. Every niche blog you make teaches you a lesson. With every success and failure, you discover what works and what doesn’t, what your viewers want and what you are capable of delivering. So even a failed site—if it is that—is not a complete waste of time. Learn from your mistakes, vow to do better and move on.

Blog Lady. A former freelance website content writer and now full-time niche blogger. Visit my blog for more articles on niche marketing, blogging and social media. Website: Blog Lady RSS Feed: Blog Lady RSS Feed.

Easy Goal Setting for Your New Blog

This guest post is by Aman Basanti of ageofmarketing.com.

Ask any success guru out there and they will tell you that the most important part of becoming a successful blogger is to set clear goals.

And that is good advice for people who know how they want to tackle problogging. It is good advice for bloggers who know how they want to create content, generate traffic and monetize their blog.

But for the rest of us, who are on a journey where we start somewhere, try things and then respond to the result of our actions, slowly tweaking our strategy and tactics, it is not useful. How do we set clear goals? How do we define exactly where want to be in 12 months when we don’t have clarity on what we want to achieve?

Goal setting for new bloggers

The answer comes down to shifting your focus from end-state goal setting to activity-based goal setting.

On my consumer psychology blog, for example, I don’t know how I want to monetize it. Am I going to make money from ads? Am I going to make money by selling affiliate products? Am I going to make money from consulting? Do I even want to monetize it? I do not know. It all depends on what I discover about my market.

What I do know, however, is that no matter what I want to achieve in the end, I am still going to have to create content and promote my blog. So rather than setting goals around what I want to achieve in the end, I set goals around what I want to do weekly/monthly/yearly.

Accordingly, here are my top three goals:

  1. Write two blog posts every week.
  2. Submit one guest post every week.
  3. Read one non-fiction book a month.

This way if I have a bad week, as I do from time to time, I can make up for it in another week.

Goal setting for new or confused bloggers

So if you are a new blogger or an old timer who does not know what they really want out of their blog yet, but still wants to maximize their chances of success, set activity based goals. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Posting goals

I will write _____ post(s) a week equaling _____ posts a year.

I will read _____ book(s) a month equaling ______ books a year.

Blog promotion goals

I will submit _____ guests a month equaling _____ guest posts a year.

I will comment on ______ blogs posts a week equaling ______ comments a year.

I will network with ______ people on Facebook/Twitter/StumbleUpon a month.

This is a far easier way to set goals when you are new to the world of problogging.

Aman Basanti writes about the psychology of buying and teaches you how you can use the principles of consumer psychology to boost your sales. Visit www.Ageofmarketing.com/free-ebook to get his new e-book – Marketing to the Pre-Historic Mind: How the Hot New Science of Behavioural Economics Can Help You Boost Your Sales – for FREE.

How to Keep Track of Your Accounts as a Remote Blogger

This guest post is by Jane Meighan of www.RunawayJane.com.

One of the main benefits of being a blogger has always been that you could work from anywhere in the world—whether you are surrounded by the hustle and bustle of New York City, or sitting in a quiet, secluded beach hut somewhere in Thailand.

Provided you have good internet access and a computer, you can be based anywhere. It’s one of the key factors why so many of us become bloggers in the first place—to travel or be based anywhere, and earn a living at the same time.

Remote blogging

Image copyright Dudarev Mikhail - Fotolia.com

Through my experiences over the last two years of blogging remotely and traveling the world, I have encountered some problems along the way. I am sure many of you remote bloggers out there will have experienced some or all of these at some point too. Keeping track of your accounts, storing receipts, and converting multiple currencies from those receipts based on each day’s exchange rates are only some of many issues.

If you’re taking your blog seriously, and treating it as a business, then your accounts are something you need to be on top of. But when your “office” is basically anywhere with free wifi, how do you store, back-up, keep track of, and effectively sort out your affairs, so that when it’s time to fill in your tax return, everything’s in order?

Back up everything

Every receipt you get for anything, take a picture of it with your camera. Things like scanners are not always available on the road, or when you need them, but if you’re traveling, you’ll no doubt have a camera.

When you’re moving from one place to another, with no real filing system like you may have in an office, receipts can get lost or damaged to the point where you can’t read them any more. Having pictures of everything saves that problem. Also, if you can pull them all up on your computer screen, it just makes creating a spread sheet easier than having to sift through real paper documents to create your accounts.

Make sure you have copies of all important documents in at least three different locations, plus a hard copy kept somewhere at home if possible. Your computer will be 1 location, possibly a memory stick, or extra hard drive could be another twp. Alternatively, if it’s pictures you have taken of receipts then your memory card could act as another storage location.

Use programs to make it easier

Microsoft Excel, or open source, free programs such as Open Office provide fantastic spreadsheet services. If you want Excel in particular, but don’t want to pay for it, if you have a Windows Live email account, then you can use Excel on the Sky Drive there without having to bother with risky illegal downloads.

Another useful program is Xpenser, a free expense accounting program. You can update it via the Web, by voice, by text, by email, and by Twitter! Probably the most useful aspect of using Xpenser, however, is that you can attach a digital photo of the receipt to the updated expense.

Dealing with exchange rates

If you’re travellng to a variety of countries throughout the year as you are blogging, then like me, you will probably find that when it’s time to do your taxes, you have various receipts in various currencies which you then have to convert into whatever your home currency is.

The main problem with this is that currencies can change drastically over the course of a year. To be sure you have your accounts as accurate as possible, you have to find the local exchange rate on the day of purchase so you can convert it into your home currency and add it to your total expenses.

Most currency exchange sites will have an archives section that gives you exchange rates for at least the last 12 months, and sometimes a lot longer. Check the date of your receipt, and then enter it onto the site to find out the rate on that day.

I personally use the historical exchange rates on Oanda, but there is no reason why you couldn’t use another exchange rate website.

Alternatively, use a foreign currency card while traveling. When I’m in Europe I use a Euro card most of the time. I transfer all or part of my money for the trip onto the card, and it is all converted to Euros based on the exchange rate of that date.

Therefore, when you spend money, you only have to work with one exchange rate per currency, regardless of the date you spend it on, because it’s been converted into Euros before you use it rather than at the time of each transaction or withdrawal.

Stay on top of your blog finances

Filling your taxes, and doing your accounts can be a headache even for stationary bloggers situated in one place all the time. So when you are moving from country to country without a real office, it becomes even more important to keep everything in order, and have everything backed up.

The other important factor to keep in mind is to not let yourself get behind with things. Keeping track of your expenses should be as important as writing your next blog post. Schedule in time for it. If for nothing else, it lets you know if you are actually making a profit from your blogging activities, and if not, makes you stand up and look at how you can move forward.

Jane has been blogging since January 2010 from her flagship travel blog RunawayJane.com. She travels full-time using nothing but the earnings from her blogs. Such resulting travels have included learning Spanish in Spain for 3 months, and learning about the history of the former Yugoslavia in Serbia, to name just a few trips she has been on. None of this would have been possible had she had not set up her blog back in 2010.

9 Steps to a Daily Blogging Schedule

This guest post is by Caz Makepeace of y Travel Blog.

I publish almost daily on two blogs.

I have many people comment and ask me how I manage to do it, especially since I have two children, one being three months old.

While it is by no means easy, and I spend a lot of my sleeping time awake, there are still many strategies I employ to make it more manageable.

1. Write short, snappy content

The old adage less is more works here. You don’t have to write a lengthy, verbose story to gain a following.

Short, snappy posts that entertain and get a point across work well too, especially considering the attention span of our society’s inhabitants.

Think photos, poems, thoughts, quotes, community involving questions, giveaways, reviews, curating information for your readers, and highlighting other blogs.

2. Use guest posts

Why not have someone do the writing for you?

If you have strict guidelines attached you can make the whole process that much easier, as your guest writers understand how to format and promote to your liking.

Having someone write one post a week on your site frees you up to write a guest post for another site and attract a new set of readers as well.

3. Write daily

Why would I say this in giving tips on how to publish daily? I think you want to know how you write daily, right? Kinda neutralizes my advice.

It’s simple. The more often you write, the better you get at it, the quicker and easier it gets, the more in tune you become with your voice, and the more ideas start to flow to you as a result.

This post is an example. It took me ten minutes to write it on a train. My mind has been blog-post trained in its thinking due to my total immersion into daily writing.

4. Write from the heart

Once you tap into your voice, you tend to write more from your heart and soul rather than your head, which means less of the “logical and fearful” thought processes and more of the flow of words that pack a punch.

All of this ultimately means less work. Less work thinking, writing and editing. I don’t have to edit a post much that comes from deep within.

5. Repurpose your content

Find new ways to reproduce your old content. Turn old articles into podcasts and vice versa, turn newsletters and guest posts into new articles on your blog.

The work is already done; the ideas are there, they just need some tweaking and a slightly different angle.

If you have two blogs, like I do, you can use the same photos and content, but just tweak it a little. I often turn a travel experience I wrote about on my travel blog, into one that has a family or child angle for my personal parenting and lifestyle blog.

9. Carry a notebook everywhere, and become a keen observer

From conversations, passing billboards, songs and random thoughts, it is amazing what will spark an idea for a blog post.

If you don’t jot it down you will lose it.

I recently flew from Sydney to Melbourne for the Problogger conference. Within 30 minutes I had the outline for five posts recorded in my notebook. Had I not had the notebook that would have been five easy blog posts left at the departure gates waving me off.

7. Use your time wisely

The more I write on my blogs and spend time doing what I love, the more I come to understand what time wasters humans are.

Minutes and hours spent aimlessly wandering lost and filling the void with crappy reality TV shows and trashy magazines.

Check how you spend your time.

Ask yourself, “Is this somehow enabling me to grow? Is it fulfilling me? Can I write a blog post out of it?”

If not, put that time into something else a little more productive. We all do still need our down time, sure enough, but just don’t make it more than your on time.

If I check out to watch a movie or a TV show, or go to the beach or out to dinner, I usually find the blog post ideas won’t take a break anyway, and I hurriedly write my ideas in my notebook that is close by.

8. Stay inspired

All creation comes from inspiration. Do those activities that inspire you. You will move mountains when you operate from an inspired state.

The minute I start traveling or spending time with my daughters—the themes of my two blogs—the ideas start flowing and I can produce an incredible amount of blog posts with fresh original content.

9. Love what you do

I am able to do all of the above things without raising a sweat, or resenting the writing work. In fact I do it with a rush of gratitude and good feelings, because I love it.

When you love what you do it does not feel like work and you are more than happy to spend every waking minute doing it and the sleeping minutes as well.

The more you love the more you can do.

Caz Makepeace believes that life is all about the memories and inspires others to travel and make their life a story to tell at her popular, y Travel Blog. She also owns Mojito Mother, a blog aimed at putting the mojo back into a mother’s life, where she shares her experiences as a mother and a woman following her own dreams.

What Blogging for Fun Taught Me About Blogging for Profit

This guest post is by Becky Canary-King of Direct Incorporation.

There’s really too much to say about the benefit of a good blog for your business. A well done blog can bring in new customers, establish yourself as an expert in your field, open up communication with your clients, and support your SEO and marketing.

Recently I discovered that the blog I write for fun about body image issues has a higher Google page rank than my company’s blog! Of course, we get a fraction of the web views, but without pointed effort, I managed to make my personal blog keyword rich, get lots of backlinks, and ranked high in Google’s page rankings. Now that I’m writing for my company’s blog, here are the lessons I’m taking with me:

Pick a specific topic

Be specific. Want to be a catch-all related to everything about your industry? Great. But you’re going to have a lot of competition, and major competitors with more resources and established viewers. Instead, focus on what you do best, the niche area that you have a unique perspective. What is the blog that only your company could write?

Establish your credentials. Let your readers know why they would want to hear from you about the topic. Just the fact that you are selling the product or service is not necessarily enough to gain your reader’s trust. Sharing your education or career path is a quick way to add credibility; but it’s not the only one. I never got a degree in “Body Image Sciences”, but my genuine interest in the topic makes me a credible source to readers.

Collaborate with other blogs

Know your part in the blogosphere. Read other blogs on your topic! Getting to know what’s already out there helps you establish where your niche will be. You also get a feel for what readers on the topic are interested in and can borrow some tricks on what works.

Comment and share. Guest post, link back, comment on other blogs. All these actions convey your interest in the topic and establish your unique point of view. Blogs can act as a community of learners, experts and interested parties. Join in enthusiastically!

Interact with readers

Let your readers know what they can expect. Doing a series is a great way to get readers coming back for more. Or pick a day when you write on a certain topic, or have a certain type of post. Personally, I do a body positive music post every Friday, featuring a song or two I enjoy. I have been linked back to as a place where you can consistently check out body positive music.

Encourage and ask for feedback. Trying to get commenters on your blog can be really frustrating at first—it normally doesn’t happen automatically, but keep at it! At the end of every post ask questions or encourage them to give you feedback on the topic. Respond to comments right away with a real response, rather than just a thank you. Readers are a great resource for your blog, so let them know they are valued.

Now get writing!

Becky Canary-King is an Account Manager and Press Contact at Direct Incorporation, a company focused on providing a more economical and efficient alternative to using a law firm for common legal/entrepreneurial issues. She is passionate about women’s empowerment and blogs for personally for Happy Bodies, and professionally for Direct Incorporation’s Blog, offering tips for the first 6 months of your small business.

Infographic: What Makes Content Go Viral?

This guest post is by Voltier Digital.

Not every piece of content can go viral, but if you understand the basics behind what makes great content highly shareable, you will have a better chance of getting better exposure for each piece of content you create. The following infographic looks at some of the factors involved in making great content go viral, and what it takes to really hit a home run (click the image to enlarge it).

Voltier Digital is a content marketing agency specializing in infographics and other compelling content mediums. They can handle a wide variety of content marketing projects: from single infographics to complete content strategies. If you’re looking to drive traffic, increase exposure to your brand, and find more success online, Voltier Digital can help.

How to Establish Influence from Scratch

This guest post is by Jonathan Goodman of the Personal Trainer Development Center.

I’m a nobody. Scratch that; I was a nobody.  I work as a personal trainer in Toronto; I had no connections, knew nothing about blogging, and hadn’t written anything since University. 

What I did have was an idea and, with the right know-how, an idea is powerful enough to break through all barriers.

I’m not the first person on the Internet to talk about fitness.  On the contrary, I’m about the 1 000 000th.  My idea, though, was to be different and I decided to cover topics that nobody else was covering. 

You see, every fitness guru on the planet gives suggestions pertaining to exercise prescription, while nobody was effectively teaching trainers how to actually train.  After all, isn’t learning how to effective teach more important than a fancy new version of the squat?

That was my idea: “I’m going to be the one to bring non-exercise prescription advice to personal trainers.”

I launched the Personal Trainer Development Center (PTDC) in April of 2011 and it has become a main resource for personal trainers passionate about getting better.  It already brings in a nice monthly passive income and will provide a great forum for me to sell my book in April of 2012.

The question I get asked constantly is how I made friends with some of the best fitness pros in the World and consistently get them to take part in my site without being able to pay them.  These are folks who charge $200-500 to write elsewhere and give me their article for free.  To take it one step further, I know bloggers who put out brilliant information weekly.  Too bad their mothers are the only ones reading their blogs.

The answer doesn’t lie in SEO and doesn’t lie in buying links.  Those things matter but come later on.  The first step in building a house is a strong foundation.  That foundation hinges on both the relationships you’re able to build and your creative problem solving ability.

This article is the first time I’ve ever written about why I carefully hand-picked the people to be involved in my site and how the power of my idea has grown to both a money-making enterprise and a beacon of change in a badly controlled industry.  Apply these principles to your own industry and watch your influence grow.

Do your research

If you write it, they won’t come.  Content is only king if people read your content and care who you are. 

The first step is getting a thorough understanding of who the movers and shakers are in the informational sector of your industry.  I took a full year to study the fitness internet informational world.  Before launching my site I had research done into who the influencers were and who were the people behind the scenes acting as puppeteers. 

I opened a new email account and subscribed to everybody’s newsletter in addition to adding as many blogs as possible in my reader.  From there, I made notes not only on content but on who was linking to whom.  I was then able to ascertain which bloggers had relationships with whom and who seemed to be competing.

What I quickly realized is that in the fitness world there were a number of distinct “camps.”  Each of these camps had their head guru behind the scenes and top infopreneurs putting out resources.  Peel away the layers and I found all of the soldiers spreading information.

There is good news and bad news here.  The bad news is that you’re too late.  I can promise that these camps and levels already exist in your industry.  The good news is that there aren’t many bloggers who have figured this out yet and you have a great opportunity to become acquainted with these camps. 

Look at it this way: the systems of spreading information are already set up for you.  That’s the hard part.  So how do you break into these camps?

Create a committee of coaches

Anybody can contribute to the PTDC but I have a special section for “coaches” where I highlight their profiles and link back to them.  These coaches are my advisory committee.  I don’t ask for much from them but keep them on an email list.  Camaraderie has evolved where the coaches are now proud to be part of the team and many have built relationships with each other.

If you want to build a community, I recommend having an advisory committee and introducing them.  One of the biggest benefits you can give to new potential contributors is the ability to network with your existing following.

Start strategically small

At this point, your site should be built.  Don’t blast it off to the heads of the aforementioned camps.  You will be ignored.  During your research, though, you took careful notes of the foot soldiers right? Here’s where they come in handy. 

These foot soldiers are trusted within their chosen camp and will act as your person on the inside.  Here’s how I did it.

I noticed that many of the gurus offer internships.  One by one these interns become household fitness names.  It was obvious to me that the gurus weren’t only teaching them fitness, they were also teaching them the internet marketing game. 

In identifying the foot soldiers, I made special note of the folks who had done top tier internships and had small websites popping up or were starting to be quoted on the major blogs.  These were my targets.  I made sure to Like their Facebook updates and comment where warranted.  I also commented on their blogs.  After some back and forth among the comments I sent them a private message asking if they would like to be involved in my site as coaches.

I had a warm opening, as we had had some contact previously, and getting them on as coaches allowed me access to their networks (which, conveniently, consisted of the camps I was desperately trying to break into).

Identifying the foot soldiers in your industry is a great way of gaining entry into the trusted gurus camps.  These people are just as hungry as you are and will jump at the opportunity to network and be part of something bigger than them.

Republish your coaches’ old content

Now that I had a small but well-connected gang of coaches, it was time to approach the influencers.  Armed with my vision and some early success because of good content, I wrote them a message.  Out of the ten I contacted, I had a 90% response rate, and out of those 90%, every one agreed to come on board. 

It was right then that I knew the PTDC was going to make it big.  So how did I get their participation without being able to pay them?

I realized that all of these top fitness pros had been writing for years.  As a result both of their longevity in combination with poorly built sites, I realized that their old material was getting little to no traffic. 

I went through their archives before speaking to them and mentioned a couple of key articles that I had figured they forgot about.  I discussed how these articles would be a great addition to the site and were needed to help the industry.  They supported my powerful idea.

Each of the gurus agreed to come on the team.  I then sent them a list of the articles I wanted to republish and got the okay for each one.  Not only did I get a bank of articles to use for the coming months, so content wouldn’t run dry, I also had given these folks a great forum to attract more readers without any work.

Once two or three top pros were on board, they started referring me other “friends” who might be interested.  Now I also had the advantage of offering new coaches a powerful new network.

While doing your research, make sure to go through the archives of the gurus you found.  Keep a file on your computer of their old articles that support your idea.  It is a great way to stimulate initial traffic to your site.

Creatively solve problems

This process was not always rosey, and there were a lot of problems in building up the PTDC that had to be dealt with.  One I want to cover here is how I approached the top coaches. 

As a new blogger, your only currency is links, and sending out cold calls or messages to top writers won’t get you any response.  After a failed attempt I went a different route and started a weekly blog entitled Online Personal Trainer Blog Posts of the Week. 

It wasn’t much extra work since I was already reading these blogs anyway.  All I changed was to make a file and when I liked a post I kept the link and included it in the article.

Here’s the catch.  I knew which influential bloggers I wanted to approach next and the Posts of the Week blog was my way of making sure they noticed me before I sent them a message.  I linked to their blog and tagged them on Facebook in addition to mentioning them on Twitter.  They would almost always interact back. 

Adding their post to the list was my way of saying, “Hey! I noticed you do good work. Come look at my site and the great info we provide.”  Nobody is every surprised when I send them a message an more as they have all already seen the site.

You will also have problems building up and here is my recommendation to you: figure out who on the internet can help you solve your problem.  Don’t approach them immediately.  Instead, creatively find a way to make them notice you.

Summing it up

Follow Metcalfe’s Law.  Whether you are a new blogger or an existing blogger trying to increase your influence, remember that you are only as valuable as the number of nodes on your network.  Figure out who is already effectively doing what you want to do and find a way into their good books. 

Armed with your powerful idea and with the help of your advisory board your reach will explode.  Remember: content is only king if there are people to read it.

Jonathan Goodman is a personal trainer and blogger.  His powerful idea led him to create the Personal Trainer Development Center and maintain a personal site