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Physical and Free: How to Use Real-World Gifts to Inexpensively Drive Online Traffic

This guest post is by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.

If you’re reading this, you probably want traffic. And when it comes to traffic, there’s a lineup of “usual suspects” to consider; there’s SEO, PPC, blog commenting, Facebook, Twitter, and the list goes on and on.

Except I’m guessing that if you’ve been online for more than a few weeks, you’ve already considered all of these options, and they haven’t panned out nearly as well as you hoped.

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, it’s because you’re looking for another option. One that everyone else isn’t doing, and one that really will give you a chance stand out, build relationships, and develop a following.

Been there, done that, seen it already

Let me start by asking you a quick question. How many free ebooks have you traded your email address for lately? What about free reports? White papers? Video courses? Lots, right?

Giving and getting free digital content has become so common that it’s almost a joke, and it’s definitely a commodity that—while sometimes useful—doesn’t impress anyone.

Do you have a folder on your desktop for all the free digital products that you signed up for? Many people do, and so did I—until I realized that I’m never really going to get to them, and deleted it!

At best, it’s a folder that people have every intention of sorting through, making use of the contents, and hopefully learning something. But the honest truth is that most of these things don’t get read, or even noticed.

Which leads to a big problem that many bloggers and online marketers face when it comes to getting attention…

Forgetfulness, inattention, and digital overload

Most of the time, we download our free content, put it aside and forget about it. We’re busy. Well intentioned, but busy. And it doesn’t take long for “I’ll download it and read it eventually” to change into “I’m  not going to bother downloading it at all!”

It’s a practical and reasonable defense mechanism. There is only so much information a person can take in over the course of a day, and when you spend most of that day online, you’re looking at a veritable sea of facts, ideas and opinions.

So, out of necessity, we learn to filter our digital information input, and all too often that free report you slaved over ends up being passed over, ignored, or not even noticed in the first place.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t capture attention by offering something, it just has to be done differently…

The beautiful difference of “physical”

I want to contrast—just for a moment—that folder of PDFs hidden somewhere on my computer with the pile of books looming over my desk. I bought most of them because I was interested, several of them because of a friend’s strong recommendation, and a few were gifts.

They sit in a pile on my desk and I look at them every day. They’re begging to be read, and I want to read them. And sooner or later, I make the time to do it (that’s why I made a point of creating a physical version of my book, even though it’s available as a free download).

Now imagine if your free giveaway had that kind of a hold on the recipient.

When the giveaway is physical—whether it’s a book or a refrigerator magnet—it creates… not quite a sense of obligation, but a sense of privilege.  You get to use it, because someone took the time to create it and send it to you. And you’re a lot more likely to make the time for it, remember it, and maybe even talk about it.

Why? Because we are physical beings. We like to hold things in our hands. We develop strong emotional and mental attachments to the physical objects in our lives. That’s just a fact.

So why not take advantage of it? Ah, yes, the issue of cost…

Doesn’t physical = expensive?

This is the part where people jump up and down and say “Wait a second, isn’t giving away all of that free stuff going to be expensive? How am I supposed to afford it?!”

That’s a fair point, except that it misses several important points:

  1. It’s not cost that matters, it’s return on investment. If you spend a certain amount per subscriber, and each subscriber generates several times that in annual revenue, then it’s a great deal.
  2. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You’d be surprised what you can have produced these days and how low the prices can be. More on that in a bit.
  3. Not everybody has to get one! Who said that a physical free product is available for anyone who raises their hand? Why not make it that much more attractive (and make the digital version that much more attractive, too) by limiting access?

The third point is what I really want to talk about here: limiting access by giving selectively, and doing targeted contests giveaways.

First, let’s define our terms. A blog giveaway is where the reader who leaves the best comment, creates the most social shares, or comes up with the best idea gets an awesome physical prize. In other words, you get the best of both worlds, and at a very reasonable price: everyone gets a shot at the prize, it raises the value of everything else that you’re doing, and it generates buzz and excitement in the process!

It’s a great way of having something physical, and valuable, showcasing it to everyone, and giving people a good reason to spread the word. But you don’t even need a contest to give something away for free.

Targeted giveaways of free physical goods

Sometimes, you’ll want to do a giveaway without all the fanfare, just as a gesture of appreciation of goodwill.

Maybe for people who have already bought stuff from you in the past, or who have been on your list for a long time, or filled out a survey … or maybe you just appreciate them for who they are and what they do, and give them a chance to feel the same way about you.

Your giveaway—whether it’s a book, booklet, CD, worksheet, or whatever—can be a wonderful testament to the value that you’re looking to offer, that will impress those who receive it. So if there’s someone that you want to connect with and impress, then send them something physical!

Or better yet, send them two—one for them, and one that they can use as a giveaway on their blog. We did this with Engagement from Scratch!, and it helped us connect with a huge number of new readers. And it wasn’t complicated, or expensive—we just added another copy of the book into the packages that we were already sending out, with a note saying: “Ideas are for sharing. So are books. I hope that’s what you’ll do with this—share it!”

So am I saying that you need to publish a book to make this work? No, of course not.

Getting started with physical and free

The key is to take the time to think about who you might want to give something away to, and what they would appreciate.

It can be as simple as turning your digital ebook into a physical book using a service like Blurb or Lulu (which are great for inexpensively self-publishing books, booklets, photobooks, etc.), or putting your logo (or a snazzy design) on some apparel, decorative office items, fridge magnets, or anything else, using a service like CafePress or Zazzle.

Just decide what you want to create, get the file ready, and upload it to the service of your choice. And order one copy. Just one. For you.

Once you hold it in your hand, your head is going to start spinning with ideas.

Why? Because we’re physical beings, and we like holding things in our hands. And so will your audience.

Danny Iny (@DannyIny), a.k.a. the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”, teaches marketing that works at Firepole Marketing. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on building engaged audiences from scratch (available on Amazon, or as a free download).

Build Blog Products That Sell 5: Finding Customers

This guest series is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

Cash crunch

Image courtesy stock.xchng user sqback

History dictates that the current economic malaise will eventually end, but we’re still waiting for some unambiguous signs. That’s why for the past few weeks, we’ve been learning how to create products that are inspired by (and that tie into) your blog, and how to plan to sell them to an audience whose collective disposable income isn’t quite what it used to be.

So finally, after approaching this scientifically and methodically, you’re there. You’ve created a product built on the expertise your readers have expected from you and your site. And you’ve priced that product (or series of products) at a level that will generate income without scaring off too many potential buyers. Now all you have to do its open up the storefront and watch the money roll in.

If only.

The good news is that at this point, most of the work is done. But you still need to build your clientele beyond its traditional bounds. To amass your army, if you will.

Flipping the switch

After you’ve created products and made them available for purchase, a radical shift occurs. Whether you realize it or not, you’re now (at least) 51% entrepreneur and (at most) 49% blogger. The set hours that you spend updating and freshening your blog every week are now secondary to your sales efforts. Once you’re committed to creating and selling your product, people will identify you with it, for better or for worse.

If your product is, say, a collection of spreadsheets you can use to organize your home and eliminate clutter, then sink or swim with it. Henceforth, home organization will be your blog’s primary focus. Even though you may love collecting miniatures, and have occasionally blogged about it in the past, your days of doing so are now over. Apple used to sell stand-alone digital cameras. Not anymore.

You’re now a salesperson, and the more seriously you take your new job, the better you’ll do.

For generations, your typical commission salesperson was given a list of leads and an admonition to break a leg. If the new hire didn’t work out, no big deal. There would always be plenty of others willing to step in. Unfortunately, your incipient business doesn’t get that same luxury. The sales staff is you, as is the product.

And your current audience, regardless of its size, is limited. Some of your longtime readers might buy out of a feeling of allegiance or mild obligation. If they do buy, it probably won’t be because they’d been dying for someone to create whatever it is you created. And while your loyal readership may have given you the impetus and spawned the idea for your product, they’re not the only ones you’ll want to buy it.

So where to find a lasting and larger clientele? It involves expanding your horizons, but not in a rote way.

Finding customers

If you blog long enough, eventually you’ll be approached by similar bloggers offering you various stratagems for mutually benefitting your sites. A link exchange, a guest post exchange, and so on. Those are all well and good, if you enjoy the novelty of exposing your blog to an audience that is already loyal to another blogger who operates in the exact same field of interest that you do.

One fellow personal finance blogger, who seems to be an awfully agreeable fellow, recently offered to create a discreet badge allowing me to sell my products on his site, and vice versa. I trust that he accepted it as a business decision and didn’t take it personally when I told him I wasn’t interested.

Why not accept the exposure? Among other reasons, his blog has fewer readers than mine does. Many of those readers of his already read my blog anyway. Besides, what’s to stop him from making a similar offer to other bloggers with greater readerships than his, diluting the impact of his agreement with me?

Also, to put it kindly, he’s not an authority. He’s a guy with a blog, and a relatively new one at that. My products will be an afterthought on his blog, as his would be on mine. That won’t do.

A passionate evangelism

In selecting and pursuing offsite promotional opportunities that will actually help you find customers, you need to be a passionate evangelist for your product. Whether you’re considering buying ad space, using email marketing, social media promotions, or even creating a physical promotional freebie to give away (which we’ll cover on ProBlogger later today), you need to advocate strongly for your product, all the way.

My products need to be advertised in a place of prominence, because I care about them. Not just in and of themselves, but for a more pragmatic reason: it sounds obvious, but every item I ship makes me wealthier. I don’t want the seminars I hold and the ebooks I create to be just another offering in a catalog, vying for attention with someone’s unreadable treatise on dividend investing and the overpriced collection of Visio diagrams that someone else slapped together.

I want my products to stand front and center. I also want to remind potential buyers that no one else’s work can substitute for what I’ve created. If you want to know The Unglamorous Secret to Riches, no one else has it. If you want to know how to get out of whatever unhealthy relationship you have with your employer, that outspoken guy who runs Control Your Cash is the only one who’s going to show you how.

Just another vehicle

That’s why you have to acknowledge the limitations of your own blog. Most of your buyers aren’t there. They’re on unrelated sites, where it’s your job to get their attention and show them what you have to offer. It takes time. In my case—and you can apply this to your own situation—it means posting regularly at major, well-established blogs in my area of concern. It means guest posting at general-interest blogs where I know I’ll reach a diverse and erudite audience. My business model is predicated on the following belief: if people like anything I have to say, once they find out a little bit more, they’ll like everything I have to say.

Which means your blog becomes just another vehicle for selling your product(s). Once you sell to someone unfamiliar with your blog, you then sell that buyer on your blog itself. Anyone who buys your product should immediately become a subscriber. Now that buyer knows where to find your entire oeuvre, including the subsequent products that you’re doubtless working on.

Key points

  • Once you launch your product, you’re a salesperson. Be prepared to put your product first.
  • Recognize that the bulk of your buyers should not come from your own site: if you’re to give your product the best chance of success, you’ll need to sell it to people who have never visited your blog … so far.
  • Be choosy about the promotions you use.
  • Become a passionate evangelist for your product. This will help you sift the great promotional opportunities from the not-so-great.
  • As your promotional efforts gain traction, you’ll begin to see your blog as just another vehicle for sales. Importantly, those customers are becoming subscribers … which will help when it comes time to sell your next product.

Still, buyers in 2012 remain wary. They have less money available to spend in an ever-growing market. With more vendors making their products available for sale every day, the successful sellers aren’t necessarily the ones who shout the loudest or the most frequently. Instead, the ones making sales are the ones who communicate the most effectively. Next week, we’ll find out how they do it.

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

Guest Post Hosting: the Surprising Traffic Driver

This guest post is by Shari Lopatin of ShariLopatin.com.

We’ve all heard how writing guest posts for other blogs can increase exposure and drive traffic to your site. But what about hosting guest bloggers as a way to increase traffic?

New concept, huh?

Before we move on, I want you to stop right here and clear your mind. Then, repeat after me: “Inviting others to my site will not help my competitors. Inviting others to my site will not help my competitors.”

Benefits of hosting guest bloggers

Several months ago, I was experiencing a major lull in my blog, “Shari Lopatin: Rogue Writer.” Literally, I averaged 15 visits a day. Then, I invited another published writer and teacher to craft a guest post. The day she published … bingo!

My blog’s views soared from 15 to 200—in less than two hours. And it only climbed from there.

After inviting others to guest post in the coming weeks, I started seeing a trend. Every time I hosted a guest blogger, my page views more than doubled. Sometimes, they quadrupled. And this was good traffic, too.  People commented. They followed me on Twitter. And, some even subscribed to my blog.

How to drive traffic with guest bloggers

Here’s the key: you can’t invite just anyone to write for your site. You have to find the “influencers” within your niche.  If you want to be successful, here are the steps I recommend following. They haven’t failed me yet!

1. Find potential influencers

Start by using Twitter’s search feature, or other social media search tools, such as SocialMention.com or Topsy.com. Use terms that correlate to your blog’s niche, such as “social media” or “photography.”

2. Identify the true influencers

These are the people whose followings are not only large, but engaged. Some points to look for: consistent blog comments, regular (but not necessarily frequent) blog posts, more Twitter followers than they are following, and consistent responses to Facebook comments.

3. Be reasonable in choosing your influencers

I say this because if you’re a lesser-known writer, you cannot expect Seth Rogen to guest post on your blog. Even another writer with 2,000 Twitter followers could be a great pick.

4. Court your influencers

Like them on Facebook, subscribe to their blog (and then comment), follow them on Twitter. Get to know their writing style and understand how they interact with their readers.

5. Reach out and invite them to guest post

If you courted your influencers correctly, they may already know your name by now. So email them, or send a direct message on Twitter. Ask them to write a guest post for your blog … and tell them why you’re asking (i.e. do they generate great discussions, or perhaps their composition blows you away?).

6. Cross-promote!

This is vital. The whole reason your blog will benefit from hosting a guest, is because of cross-promotion. On the day you publish, ask your guest  to:

  1. post a few links to Twitter
  2. promote their post on Facebook
  3. run a teaser on their blog, driving traffic to your site
  4. and don’t forget: you do the same to promote them!

Give it a try, and I promise you’ll see results. If it works, I’d love to hear your success stories (I might even blog about them), so find me at the virtual hubs below and let me know. If you’ve already used this technique to boost traffic to your blog, let us know your story in the comments.

Shari Lopatin is an award-winning professional writer, journalist, and media strategist who’s been published regionally, and nationally. Find her on Twitter @ShariLopatin, follow her on Facebook, or visit her at “Shari Lopatin: Rogue Writer,” where she blogs every other Thursday about writing tips, funny stories, industry news, and media strategies.

 

5 Tips to Convince Editors to Say “Yes” to Your Guest Posts

This guest post is by Alexis Grant of AlexisGrant.com.

You know all the benefits of guest posting on popular blogs. And you’ve decided to start guest posting today. So you want to do your best to crank out awesome content.

But smart ideas are only half the battle. The difference between pitching a thought-provoking post and pitching a thought-provoking post that gets accepted is making it easy for your editor to say “yes.” In other words, go beyond providing awesome, unique content and make accepting your post a no-brainer.

As editor of Brazen Life, I see aspiring contributors make the same mistakes again and again—mistakes that make me groan and delete. Here’s what you’ve got to remember: the editor you’re pitching is a person with a job to do, just like you. And the easier you make their job, the more likely they are to publish your post.

Here are five steps you can take that will make it easy for editors to say “yes” to your guest posts.

1. Write in the “you” voice, not the “I” voice

Readers want to feel like you’re talking to them, offering helpful advice and ideas—not like you’re talking about yourself. While the occasional anecdote can be effective, your best bet is to start out your post by talking to the reader, and writing about how what you’re about to share will change their life. Then delve into your personal anecdote.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Writing in the “I” voice might turn out a post that begins like this:

“I’ve always had trouble paying back my student loans.”

Writing in the “you” voice would look more like this:

“Having trouble paying back your student loans?”

The “you” there is only implied—“[Are you] having trouble paying back your student loans?”—but it’s still there. Here’s another option:

“Lots of students are having trouble paying back student loans. If you fall into this camp, listen up.”

That’s not the catchiest intro, but you get the idea—it’s written with “you”s rather than “I”s. This concept is essential throughout your piece, but most important in your introduction.

2. Don’t bury the lede

The biggest problem I see with guest posts is that they fail to have a focused introduction that tells the reader what they’re about to get—and tells them right away. In journalism, we call this “burying the lede.”

You only have a few seconds to catch and keep the attention of your reader. That means you can’t spend two paragraphs getting to the meat of your idea. Instead, you’ve got to get a running start, at least hinting at your main point from the very beginning.

If you’re having a hard time with this, see what happens if you chop off the first graph or two. Is it possible the piece would actually be stronger if you started with the second or third paragraph?

Even writers who offer fabulous ideas throughout their piece often have a weak introduction. Give your first few paragraphs extra care; they’ll make or break your post. And your editor will be particularly happy if s/he doesn’t have to rewrite your intro.

3. Write a great headline—even if you don’t have to

You may not be required to write a headline for your post, but guess what? It makes your editor’s job easier. The headline can be the hardest part; it’s got to be catchy, relevant and SEO-optimized. And it should match the voice of the other headlines on the site.

That means it will probably take some time to come up with a good one. But rather than completing your post and pitching it straight away, consider the extra effort it takes to create a fabulous headline part of the assignment.

There’s an added bonus here, too: if your headline is great, more readers will read, share and comment on your post. You’ll get more clicks on the link in your byline and more return for your investment. If you leave the headline up to the editor, there’s a chance they’ll come up with one that will serve you well, but if you take the time to do it yourself, you know you’ve done all you can to maximize eyes on the post.

Of course, it’s always the editor’s prerogative to change the headline, but that shouldn’t keep you from giving it your best shot. And take it from me—your editor will appreciate it!

4. Follow the publication’s link policy from the get-go

Each publication has its own policy about including links within the post¸ So either look for those requirements within the publication’s guest post guidelines, or ask the editor ahead of time.

At Brazen Life, we love to see links within the post so long as they’re relevant and helpful to our readers; in fact, we don’t run posts without links. But some publications have different preferences, often asking, for example, that the writer not link to his or her own blog. Getting this right the first time will make your editor’s day that much easier.

5. When in doubt, create a list

Having trouble getting your ideas across succinctly? Lots of us do, and lists can be a great help with that.

Here’s the good news: lists are popular with readers, too. Most posts with “5 Tips” or “5 Pieces of Advice” or “5 Reasons” get lots of clicks, which means if you’re good at writing list posts, you should do it.

I hate to advise this initially, because it’s so refreshing when a writer offers an awesome post that’s not written as a list or in bullet format. But bullets do make posts easy to read online. And if you’re struggling to write a helpful post, bullets can make it easier for you to convey your main ideas.

Following these tips—and making your editor’s job easy—won’t just help you land one guest post. If you abide by these suggestions, write a clean post and offer thought-provoking content, they’ll want you to write for them again down the line. And that means lots more guest posts in your future.

Do you have any tips you can add to this list? We’d love to hear them in the comments. And if you’re looking for other ways to use guest posts to attract new readers, stick around—later today, we’ll see how accepting guest posts on your blog can boost your traffic levels.

Alexis Grant is managing editor of Brazen Careerist’s blog, Brazen Life.

Why You Should Start Guest Posting … Today

This guest post is by Jaime of USBundles.com.

When they’re done correctly, guest posts can be a true “meeting of the minds”—a way for both the guest blogger and the host website to benefit from association. However, many bloggers may resist the opportunity for various reasons.

Let’s examine some of the most common reasons why a blogger might be reluctant to guest post—and see why these aren’t really issues after all.

Tone is a ubiquitous conundrum. Or should I have said “tone is always a sticky wicket”?

Exactly. You already know the significant challenges that come with writing for your own goals—you need to understand how to engage an audience, and develop your style so that it is both natural and effective in context. When you’re a guest poster, you need to take into consideration a potentially unfamiliar site and audience—an extra barrier that must be overcome.

Why this isn’t really an issue: you’re there precisely because you bring something extra to the table. Some unique combination of style and expertise got you the gig in the first place. Don’t waste your time and their time by being overly self-conscious and diluting the qualities that make you valuable.

On the other hand, square pegs don’t fit into round holes, and opposites only attract in the movies

If you tend to use short, witty, casual blog posts to get your point across, a guest blog on a site that involves serious analysis and research is going to seem like a bad fit. What happens when readers accustomed to a 400-word top-ten list get thrown a 1,500-word in-depth discussion with charts and graphs (or vice versa)?

Why this isn’t really an issue: you can maintain your tone and style while respecting the host’s expectations. Examine the layout and structure of the existing posts. How do they use bullet points, paragraphs, block quotes, and other structural elements? How do they use photos, tables, graphs, and captions? Flex your writerly muscles by attempting to communicate in a format that will be familiar to the readership, and be prepared to go into more or less depth than you’re accustomed to. You’ll only become more flexible and knowledgeable, and therefore more valuable overall.

Who does this really benefit? You’re giving away precious words, and directing potential readers toward another site!

You can’t help but wonder if both of you might be better off concentrating on building your own audience and optimizing your own traffic. It’s hard enough getting people to come and stay—surely it can’t be a good idea to give people a reason to go somewhere else?

Why this isn’t really an issue: what’s true in Real Life is even more true on the internet—networking is a basic key to success. A major part of SEO strategy is to develop a fertile web of connections between sites; a healthy combination of quality content and link traffic (in that order!) is the single best way to improve your search results. But even more than that, exposing content to a wider audience can only be a good thing for the visibility, reputation, and connections on both sides of the equation.

You’re an outsider. The regulars will say “who the heck is this person?” and you’ll say “I don’t belong, so I don’t care”

You are a potentially disruptive influence upon a community of readers who feel comfortably empowered to engage with the content. Even if you hit all the right notes as far as tone and structure, you’re likely to address some different topics and different points of view. And you’re at risk of maintaining your outsider status by refusing to engage with the community.

Why it’s not really an issue: you really wouldn’t have been considered for guest posting in the first place if you and the host (and therefore the host’s community) didn’t share a relevant interest. Even the narrowest niche has a wide range of thematic connections (call it the blogging version of “six degrees of Kevin Bacon!”), so don’t worry too much if your topic strays a bit from the usual subject matter. We’re not talking about some sort of free-form aggregate web site here—guests bring their quality and expertise on a specific topic, and both sides get the benefit of spicing up their “routine” with a different angle.

And call me sneaky, but it’s a perfect way to introduce a little controversy (and therefore conversation and attention, which benefits everyone!). Be as respectful and ethical as possible, of course, but don’t be afraid to ruffle some feathers—both you and the host will be able to distance yourselves from a negative reaction, if necessary.

Later today we’ll look at two key aspects of guest posting to help you get ahead in this competitive field. First, we’ll present tips to help you get your post accepted so you can build your profile with others’ audiences. Then, we’ll see how accepting guests on your own blog can boost your traffic levels.

But for now, tell us: have you ever guest posted? Are you facing the challenges mentioned here? Share your experiences of guest posting in the comments.

Jaime is an avid hiker and skier who loves to write in her spare time for USBundles.com—home of USBundles.com.

Why I Steal Content (And Why You Should, Too)

This guest post is by Adam Costa of Trekity.com.

I have a confession to make: for the past few years I’ve stolen content. Lots of it.

It’s not something I’m proud of. Hell, I’ve never admitted it to anyone besides my wife (and she’s an even bigger thief than me).

But this painful truth must come out, and—rather than see my dirty laundry exposed by someone else—I’d like to be the one to declare it publicly.

I am a thief. Worse… I’m a plagiarizer!

I have stolen content and used it for my own evil purposes. And if you’ve been around here long enough (or read my content elsewhere) chances are you’ve read been exposed to my crimes of passion.

“Passion?” you say. “How could this possibly be considered passion… when all you’re doing is stealing from other writers? Stealing from writers who shed blood, sweat and caffeine to put out the best content possible? What’s wrong with you, man?”

In my defense…

I would argue that stealing content is not only commonplace, it’s a smart business strategy. But please don’t misunderstand me.

I’m not saying you should hijack other people’s content and pass it off as your own. Nor should you mindlessly repeat whatever the “hot tip” of the day is.

No. You do need to create new, interesting and—above all—unique content.

Sometimes, at least. But if you’re reinventing the wheel with every post, you’re overlooking an absolute goldmine of content. One which you can ethically steal, and use for your own nefarious purposes.

But before I tell you where this goldmine is, I must make another confession.

It’s not as bad as the first. In fact, it may help you understand why I’m doing this. You see…

I’ve only stolen from one person

Myself. And you know what? I don’t mind at all.

Remember the goldmine? The one I promised to reveal? Well, that goldmine is every piece of content you’ve already produced. It’s all sitting there—buried deep in your archives—waiting to be brought to light again.

Why you should steal, too

The truth is, if you’re using your content once, you’re wasting your time. Remember that post you wrote about Thailand? Why not turn it into a video? Why not create a slideshow? Why not drip feed content through Twitter?

Seriously, what’s stopping you? Maybe you think you don’t have time. Or don’t know where to start.

Well listen up, buckaroo. Reusing old content takes less time than creating new content. And it reaches a different audience (some people love video, others prefer to read … why not engage them all?). Recycling content actually saves you time.

Here’s how to start

Below are 19 popular forms of content:

  1. articles
  2. social media updates
  3. blog posts
  4. enewsletters
  5. case studies
  6. in-person events
  7. videos
  8. white papers
  9. webinars
  10. microsites
  11. print magazines
  12. traditional media
  13. research reports (white papers)
  14. branded content tools
  15. ebooks
  16. tweets
  17. Pinterest updates
  18. podcasts
  19. mobile-specific content

Chances are, you’re only using one of these forms for each piece of content you product. Shame on you. Look at the above list—you could easily recycle a single piece of content into five or more different forms.

Examples of recycled content

Here are just a few examples to get you started:

  • blog post >> video >> podcast >> enewsletter >> series of tweets >> print magazine
  • ten blog posts >> ebook >> podcast >> microsite
  • images in blog post >> Pinterest >> ebook >> slideshow >> photography site (e.g. Flickr)
  • interview >> slideshow >> video >> transcription in blog post with images >> images added to Pinterest
  • live presentation >> video >> podcast >> blog post.

3 Unique ways to recycle content

1. Umapper

Umapper lets you easily customize maps. You can add images, annotations and video within your maps.

For example, let’s say you write a post on BBQ joints in Austin, Texas. With Umapper, you could create a map with each restaurant pinpointed with annotations and add video of each restaurant showing shots of the food.

2. Dipity

Dipity helps you create cool looking timelines (check out this one on Russian history) with zero programming or design skills. Have you written a post that flows in chronological order? Add it—along with images—to Dipity. Then embed the timeline on your own site underneath your existing post (or create a new page altogether).

3. Many Eyes

Many Eyes, which was created by IBM, helps you visualize data in new and exciting ways. It’s also a great way to “steal” public data and create something valuable.

How? For example, you use the average travel expenditure by country and create a chart like this one.

So if you’re already sitting on old content, break open these tools and start creating more valuable content in less time. After all, the future depends on what we do in the present.

Okay, I stole that line. From Gandhi. Sorry about that.

Adam Costa is Editor in Chief of Trekity.com, a new kind of travel website. †You can also follow him on Twitter.

If Your Email Newsletter Isn’t Generating Cash, You’re Doing Something Wrong

This guest post is by Kelly Crawford of Generation Cedar.

The most important tool available to a blogger is his email subscriber list. It is the easiest and fastest way to increase sales. You probably already know that the readers who have voluntarily signed up to hear more of what you have to say are the ones who trust you the most, and the ones with whom it is easiest to keep building a relationship with. These are the people who will buy your stuff. Competing in today’s market demands that you build good relationships.

But a list by itself won’t sell your products. You must grow your list and make the most of it. Here’s how:

Grow your list

Obviously, the bigger the list, the more potential customers are getting your message. Here are three valuable ways to grow it:

Popover

A popover signup form will exponentially increase your sign-ups. A popover is the sign up box that “pops over” the screen a few seconds after they land on your site. Yes, it’s that annoying little box that I always click away from. But, statistically, far more people sign up from a popover form than a static form. I had to experience it to believe it (I had heard it was true but resisted), and found that my signups soared once I installed a popover. Aweber is one of the few companies that offer this feature.

Reminders

Make it easy to subscribe, and remind your readers to do so if they haven’t already. Include a static form on your About page, and periodically Facebook and Tweet about the benefits of signing up.

Benefits

The best incentive you can give your readers to subscribe is a series of some kind. Why? A series with several parts, sent periodically (and automatically) after they subscribe gives them repetitive exposure to you, which builds the kind of relationship that evokes trust, which will make them more likely to purchase your products.

If you’ve been writing for a while, you probably have plenty of posts you can turn into a series. What are your most popular topics? Put them in order and tell the reader what they will get: “Sign up now and receive my 5-Part Series, ‘How to Make the Most of Your Newsletter’.” Your newsletter company should easily allow you to set up automatic follow-up messages that mail at the designated time, to the subscriber’s inbox.

I also offer my readers a coupon code that’s given in the Welcome letter they receive as soon as they subscribe. This is not only an added purchasing incentive, but I tell readers they will receive it for signing up.

Make them want to open your newsletter

People get a lot of stuff in their inboxes. You have to compete and avoid being among the emails that get deleted without being opened. Here’s how to do it:

Make every newsletter count

Your subscribers are your prized customers. Reward them with good content. Except for the occasional sales announcement you might send by itself, if every newsletter has meat in it, readers will remember it and want to open the next one. Make it valuable enough that they are afraid of missing out if they don’t open.

Subject line is king

A 25% open rate versus an 80% open rate has huge implications for your bottom line. The subject line is all you get to convince readers to open. Be creative, and try to think like the recipient. What would make you open your email if you didn’t know what was inside? I’d caution you here not to deceive readers with your subject line. They won’t like it, and it will hurt your relationship—that thing you are working so hard to build.

Advertise Without Annoying

Remember how I said to put valuable information in your newsletters? Helpful articles, advice, and inspiration should make up the bulk of your content. Answer questions, solve problems, and readers will be back for more. But you can market at the same time, without being a nuisance. Here are some important points to remember:

Try affiliate marketing

Choose articles and subjects that support the natural use of affiliate products. Linking to them throughout your text lets the readers click if they’re interested, but doesn’t assume anything. Consider interviewing an author whose affiliate products you will consequently be advertising.

Use the sidebar

Use your sidebar. Routinely include pictures and links to your products (or those of your affiliates) in your sidebar. Offering a coupon code or limited-time offer is a useful incentive to push a potential buyer to act.

Add testimonials

Customer testimonials are your number one selling tools. Use them every chance you get. Instead of just listing your ebook, include a “What customers are saying” section.

The right formula

As it is with any platform, your newsletter will be the most successful when you implement the right formula. And what it that?

Persuade them of their problem, give them practical hints about solving it, then suggest a more thorough answer through your product offer, with, of course, a discount exclusively for them.

Let’s say you blog about weight loss. In your newsletter, you might write about five common foods that burn fat. Hopefully you have an ebook entitled “How to Lose Weight Eating What You Love,” or something like that. At the end of your article, you simply say, “Enter the coupon code ‘burnfat’ to get $1 off my ebook, ‘How to Lose Weight Eating What You Love’ now. Here’s what our customers are saying about it…” You get the picture!

Don’t forget to scan old but popular articles for newsletter fodder, tweaking them to implement all these strategies.

So, what are you waiting for? Go turn your newsletter into cash!

Kelly Crawford is a “mompreneur” and contributing author for five blogs, including her own, Generation Cedar. She also founded the membership site, Home Paid Blogger, a step-by-step guide for beginners to making money by blogging. You can follow Kelly on Twitter @generationcedar or on Facebook.

27 Awesome Ways to Get People to Listen to You

This guest post is by Nick Thacker of livehacked.com.

I’ve been creating stuff lately—blog posts, articles, tweets, videos, ebooks, etc.—and I realized something:

The biggest struggle I’ve had during it all was getting people to listen.

While blogging and submitting articles, leaving tons of comments, and submitting guest posts, can garner an initial positive result, it’s tough to keep at it. I wanted to share a few ways I’ve found to really get people to listen.

How to get people to care, listen, and take action

1. Ask

I can think of no better way, and no way that’s led to more open doors, than simply asking people to do something. Sure, it takes guts—but that’s why you’re different. You have the guts—go ask!

2. Advertise

If you want a measurable and controllable result, give advertising a shot. It may not be perfect for your niche, but chances are there’s at least something you can advertise in some way. Most pros say to give it at least six months, too, so if you don’t have the funds, this may not work. Check out Project Wonderful for dirt-cheap ads that have gotten me results in the past.

3. Guest post

We all know this one, so there’s no use recounting all of its benefits here. Suffice it to say there have been many successful blogs that have used this strategy almost exclusively to get attention.

4. Share

Almost anything can be shared—blog posts (as in guest posting), ideas, network leads, products, etc. Which leads me to:

5. Joint ventures

JVs are great for getting your message out to huge lists of people, for the price of sharing your profits with another marketer. Check out the Warrior Forum for an entire board dedicated to JV opportunities.

6. Create a video

ProBlogger.com has been writing a lot more on using video content lately, and I know I’ve done a few trailers for my own book as well—with much success.

7. Create an infographic

Neil Patel of QuickSprout has used infographics, sent to major blogs and news sites to use exclusively (for a backlink, of course!), and it’s gotten him plenty of great traffic—and lots of attention, as well. Take time to create a graphic that’s compelling and telling for your market, and see where it goes!

8. Write an ebook

Just about every blogger has, or aspires to create, an eBook. These days, having an ebook is almost expected—where’s yours?

9. Self-publish a book

Having a “real” book tends to lend credibility to our efforts—being able to have a print copy of someone’s work in hand really does “feel” different than an electronic copy. Check out Amazon’s KDP Select program, Lulu, and CreateSpace for more.

10. SEO

I like to think of SEO as one of those “slow-drip” strategies to get attention—it takes time to build, but it’s almost essential in competitive industries. I recommend Glen’s post over at ViperChill.com if you’re doing SEO on WordPress.

11. Use the 80/20 rule

Pareto’s law states, “…For many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” To use this in your own marketing, try to promote other people 80% of the time, and your own work 20%. This establishes you as a connector and sharer of helpful content, not as a spammer.

12. Build a platform

Essentially, all of these tips can help you build a platform, but if you focus on actively building a brand, slowly but surely, chances are you’ll stick around longer—and people will pay more attention to you!

13. Leave more comments

Leaving more comments on blogs you read regularly does two major things: it gives you a link back to your site (no matter what your stance on “rel=nofollow” is), and it starts a conversation with the site owner or author of the post. Trust me when I say many blog owners will recognize their repeat commenters—be one of them!

14. Leave better comments

We’ve all heard the rule: leave lots of comments, and people will visit your site! Well, yes and no—they’ll see you quite often, but unless you really make a concerted effort (read: spend more than 30 seconds) on crafting and submitting a thoughtful, value-adding comment, people won’t care about you or your cool blog.

15. Write epic content

Corbett Barr, author of ThinkTraffic, says we need to write “more epic stuff” (I’ll let you click through to his exact words…). I’ve said we need to write “more epicly” (because I love epic, made-up adverbs, I guess), and it’s true. Gone are the days of 500-word-or-less posts giving generic and thoughtless advice. Take time to craft your work, edit it, and then expound on your thoughts some more. Add in images, pictures, infographics, and more. Then edit and do it again. Then you’re ready to hit Submit.

16. Article marketing

Article marketing seems to have fallen off a bit after the infamous Google updates, but sites like E-zine Articles and GoArticles certainly are not going anywhere. Use them to further promote your work—your off-site SEO can greatly benefit from some well-crafted, useful content. Don’t go overboard, and be sure to maintain your consistently great writing style—remember: the Internet is forever!

17. Write pillar posts

The first time I’d ever heard of a “Pillar” post was right here at ProBlogger. It makes perfect sense, too—if I visit your website, right now, what articles are going to serve as my “Start Here” roadmap through your muse/meme/world? Guide me like I’m a first-time visitor to your market, and tell me—through general, broad-form Pillar Posts what I can expect to find on your site. Here’s an example of one I wrote on social media for writers.

18. Start a newsletter

If you plan to be online for an extended period of time, you should really consider growing an email list of subscribers, and sending them an enewsletter regularly. Newsletters have been proven to bring in more authority traffic and ready buyers than most other marketing methods, because you’ve already qualified them as leads.

19. Start a podcast

I’ll admit—this is one area I haven’t tried out yet. But podcasting is not something that’s going to go away anytime soon, either, and if you’re a bit more technically inclined (or if you own a Mac), you can start podcasting almost immediately. Some of my favorite authors run very successful podcasts. And I hear that ProBlogger will be running a post on the topic in the next couple of weeks…

20. Write more

This one’s simple: let your writing be its own platform. The more saturation throughout your market you have, the more opportunity there is for people to find you.

21. Blog less

Maybe getting more attention needs less of your attention? Follow blogs like ZenHabits and Lifehack.org to get your head in the game. Minimalize, simplify, and relax: those of us working 80+ hour weeks probably don’t want to! Focus your energy on those things that really matter. Remember the Pareto principle.

22. Do something ridiculous

I like to think Tim Ferriss is so well-liked because of the fact that he does things not many of us do. If you set out to do something spectacular, you’d better believe we want to hear about it! Even better: do a video blog journaling your experience.

23. Be controversial

The idea that all press is good press may not be entirely true, but there’s something to be said for being staunchly defendant of a topic. Instead of posing neutral concepts, get on one side or the other. People may hate the post, but they’ll come back for more.

24. Send follow-up emails

This is something I’ve started doing more and more, recently—almost to the point of being annoying. Follow my blog, I’ll send an email. Say yes to my guest post idea, I’ll shoot you a thanks. Buy something from me—you got it! A “thank you” email is on its way. Doing this is just giving a little bit of personal attention to your network, and they will reciprocate.

25. Add value everywhere

Forget this tip at your peril. No one likes a conceited or arrogant person, and online it seems that anonymity has made this even easier. Figure out how to help one person, in one small way, every day. Then help them.

26. Sell something

When people have something to sell, I’m usually more apt to think of them in higher esteem. Even if the product looks terrible—hey, they went through all the trouble to create it, right? (I might not ever buy it, but they do carry more authority because of it…)

27. Do something for free

And the best one of all: even though we won’t always admit it, “free” is sometimes expected. This behavior isn’t justified, but it exists. Cater to the expectations of your market by offering something to them for free. Your blog doesn’t count.

Maybe you’ve tried every single one of these ideas—in that case, I’d love for you to comment and let us know how they went! But I’m sure there are many, many other things you all can think of to add to this list. So, let’s get to it: leave a comment with more ideas, and we’ll keep the list going. Maybe one day I’ll turn it into an awesome infographic!

Nick Thacker is a blogger, writer, and author of fiction thriller novels. He likes to hack his life to be more productive, live better, and write the best he can. You can check out his site at LiveHacked.com, or subscribe to the LiveHacked.com newsletter here.

How to Write a Great Paragraph

This guest post is by James Chartrand of Damn Fine Words.

There are eight million posts out there about how to write a great headline. Copyblogger’s written about half of them. I’ve written a few myself.

But you know what none of us tell you? What to do after the headline.

You know, the actual “content” part.

It’s not enough to create killer headlines or spectacular introductions. It’s not enough to write compelling content (and we don’t tell you how to do that either). It’s not enough to use storytelling. The only way to get your blog posts read, shared and revisited means writing great content.

Which really means you need to know how to write a stellar paragraph.

I know: paragraphs aren’t sexy

Catchy headlines sounds sexy. Storytelling sounds sexy. Paragraphs? They sound about as sexy as gramma’s underwear. They’re not a technique or a tool. They’re just plain old-fashioned grammar school stuff.

Here’s what you need to know about what a fantastic paragraph can do for you:

Your readers will take in every single word you write.

Not just the words in the bullet points. Not just the numbered lists. Not just the headlines or the sub-headers. They won’t skim looking for “the good stuff.”

It’s all good stuff. They’ll want every single word.

Here’s a thought: Online readers are notorious for skimming and scanning, running through the bullet points. But do you know why their eyes are wandering? Do you know why they skip through your posts?

It’s because they weren’t interested in the paragraphs.
The content in your paragraphs? Readers figure those are just filler. And in many cases for many, many bloggers… sadly, filler it is.

Readers read … if it’s worth their time

A lot of bloggers assume that skimming and scanning is just the way things are. Nothing they can do about it – people are lazy. Too busy. So they don’t bother putting effort into crafting carefully written paragraphs the way they do their headlines and bullet points, because no one’s going to read the content anyway.

But, as Georgina pointed out earlier today, not all readers scan the content—and that’s important to remember.

Everyone has a favorite blogger whose posts they read religiously. I’ve got one. You’ve got one. You get excited when you see a new post go live because you love the way this blogger writes. You share the posts. You read older posts from the archives. You link to these posts.

Good paragraphs make that happen.

You’re not reading your favorite blogger’s posts for the headline, the bullet points, or the nugget of brand-new secret insider knowledge. Who’s ever said, “Oooh, Darren just put up a new post – I gotta go read this; his bullet points are so hot!”

Come on.

You read for the words, and you would never consider any of the content to be “filler,” no matter how long that post ran.

That means your beloved blogger probably writes a killer paragraph.

Starting to sound a little sexier? You bet it is—who doesn’t want to be one of those bloggers whose readers hang on their every word?

No one, that’s who. So let’s get you started.

Good paragraphs leave no sentence behind

You’ve probably heard this adage: the purpose of the first sentence is to get the reader to read the second sentence. The second sentence is to get them to read the third sentence, and so on.

Most bloggers forget to pay attention after the fourth or fifth sentence, which means that by sentence 36, they aren’t doing a thing to keep their reader hooked and moving along.

So they leave sentence 36 in the post because they think it doesn’t matter that much. (And hey, it’s good filler.)

It matters. Every single sentence matters. If you have a sentence in your paragraph that isn’t actively getting people to read the next one, chop it out. It’s doing nothing for you—or for your paragraph.

Good paragraphs form a chain of thought

You could obey the above rule without actually creating a paragraph. You could just snag a handful of Problogger’s best headlines and stick ’em in a post, and that would satisfy the “get the reader to read the next sentence” rule.

The problem comes when the second sentence has nothing to do with the first sentence. Watch as I display this technique: Is your tribe holding you down? You could increase your blog subscription rate by 254%. Eminem can teach you how to become a writing and marketing machine. Let’s talk 50 can’t-fail techniques for finding great blog topics.

Those are some of Copyblogger’s most popular headlines, and they’re undeniably compelling. But they don’t relate to one another, so midway through, the reader’s wondering about the follow-up. Eventually, he gets frustrated trying to figure out the point.
Frustrated isn’t good. Every sentence in a paragraph should refer back to the one before.

And if it’s a new paragraph, it should refer back to the last sentence of the previous one. Your very first paragraph should refer to your headline. Your headline introduces the post idea, which means everything you write afterward depends on that one idea—so you need to make a chain of thought to back it up.

How do you know when to end one paragraph and start the next? Well . . .

Good paragraphs know when to end

Every paragraph should last long enough to make one single point.

Some paragraphs—like the one before—only need one sentence to make the intended point. Others, like this one, need a few sentences to discuss the point fully and explain several ways of looking at it. You might need to expand upon your thoughts or give examples to drive the point home.

When your point is made, move on to the next point. Which, obeying the Rule #2, should relate back to the point that came before it, move on to make its own point, and end when that point is fully explained.

Nerdy, I know. But sexy? You bet. Sexy bloggers know sexy writing, and there’s nothing sexier than a well-crafted paragraph like that.

Now, a lot of people try to string together several points in a single paragraph. That’s never effective. Paragraphs help give readers visual cues on how to organize their thoughts. When they see a paragraph, they know it’s going to give them a certain amount of information on a certain point.

But if you give them three different (and often unrelated) points in a single paragraph, it forces readers to try and figure out where the distincts are between those points.

That’s work. And people hate it when reading content is work.

If you don’t want your readers just looking for the bullet points, keep your paragraphs easy to process and let them end when the point is concluded.

Don’t neglect your paragraphs

You’ve learned to write snappy headlines that get readers to come to your site and craft bullet points that draw their eye. Now it’s time to pay attention to the rest of your content.

Great paragraphs are the way to do it.

Got more ideas on what makes for a great paragraph? Shout out in the comments! And if you haven’t already, check out ProBlogger’s Anatomy of a Better Blog Post, for more specific post-writing techniques.

James Chartrand is the leading copywriter teaching people how to improve their writing skills at Damn Fine Words. It’s one of the best online writing courses for business owners and bloggers ready to boost their business success… through compelling words that get results.