Close
Close

Optimize Your Health for Better Blogging

This guest post is by Joey and Chris of versatilehealth.com.

So you want to be a blogger? Or maybe you’re already an established authority in your niche, with a great following and a nicely designed website—congrats! Your contribution to the wonderful world of sharing knowledge and information is much appreciated.

There is no doubt that the blogosphere is a giant place that’s loaded with some very awesome people, but let’s face it: us bloggers have a huge downfall, and very few of us actually realize what’s going on here. The simple truth is that a lot of bloggers do not take care of their bodies the way they should.

What many people don’t realize about blogging and running a legitimate website is the constant toll it can take on one’s body. Coding, typing, sitting, posting, responding, marketing, designing, being stagnant for long periods of time … sometimes, it’s all just too much to deal with! But we’re a passionate bunch of people, and we love what we do, right?

The trick here is to optimize everything (body, mind, and environment) so we can keep on doing what we do, to the best of our abilities. Let me explain…

A blogger’s beginning

We’re all very eager to get our blogs up and running, and performing at their peaks, as soon as possible. However, before pressing forward, it’s important that you know and fully understand the journey that you’re about to take.

Now I’m definitely not trying to discourage anybody here (quite the opposite)—I’m simply preparing you for what is to come.

Maybe you already have a normal nine-to-five job and blogging is just a pastime for the moment. Awesome! But maybe you’re trying to make some real money online, and you actually see the potential that running a website possesses—even better! Whatever the case may be, I have some expert health advice that has helped me to create a successful blog myself. So sit back and take some notes, because I’m about to let you in on some insider secrets.

A common entrepreneur’s downfall

Time and time again, I see entrepreneurs (bloggers, online marketers, and others) fueling their bodies incorrectly. Even at some of these top-notch online marketing conventions that are hosted throughout the country, I meet people who are very successful, but are also leading extremely unhealthy lives. It’s sad to say, but I see this all the time.

I need you to think about this for a second. Lots of online entrepreneurs are tremendously prosperous, but this doesn’t necessarily indicate that they’re doing everything correctly. In many cases, online professionals are not living up to their full potential. They could be reaching even greater success if they were in tune with their overall health!

Think of it as fine-tuning the body for maximum output. See where I’m going with this? It’s like taking something that works decently and supercharging it to the fullest! Those whom I have had the pleasure of meeting at these conferences are doing great things; yet, they’re limiting their true abilities.

Why is this so important to realize?

Think how much more these people could be doing for their respective businesses if they took their health to an entirely different (and better) place. Let’s face it—a blogger’s mind and body are his or her main weapons for success. Without them in check, the blogger will find—and possibly even create—more obstacles to overcome than they might otherwise.

Many online entrepreneurs I come across are loaded with stress, fatigue, weight issues, heart problems, depression, and other debilitating ailments. In other words, they’re sacrificing their health for money. Does this seem like a fair exchange? I wouldn’t say so! When has it become acceptable to go about business in this fashion? I personally can remember (from a very early age) how my father used to emphasize the importance of health in order to make money and be successful, and it truly does make sense. This is something that has stuck with me through my entire life.

With that said, I hope you can find that proper balance that’s required for maximum output so you can take your business to the next level. That balance is different for each person, but right now, I want to dive into some foods I recommend avoiding if you are to achieve this equilibrium.

Foods to avoid for optimal blogging

To clarify from the start, I have loads more foods on my don’t-eat list, but I’m not going to cover all of them today. Rather, I’ll be going over a few that I feel it’s imperative for you to avoid if overall health is a goal of yours.

Sugar and energy drinks

Let’s start off by saying you have to toss these sugar-laden energy drinks! I know it sounds different than what you may have been told in the past, but please trust me when I say that they’re not safe (or smart) to consume in any amount.

Here’s why. Most of the drinks you see advertised for energy are overloaded with sugar, which can cause a whole bunch of nasty issues to take place.

Studies show that sugar has the power to influence some really debilitating health issues if levels are not watched and/or regulated adequately.

Let me ask you something: do you think running a company/website will be achievable, or come easily if one has these draining issues bogging them down every day? I don’t think so. What I’m getting at here is how harmful substances (like sugar) can be to your body—the studies listed above reflect this.

It’s time that you start assessing your daily sugar intake—the more you monitor it, the better you’ll feel. I guarantee that this is a great tactic in improving overall health.

Why the zero-calorie substitute is no substitute

The zero-calorie issue isn’t widely discussed, but it should be! I call drinks that carry these fake sweeteners “the cancer creators,” because that’s exactly what they do! A lot of the studies I’ve come across have been able to shed some much-needed light on this topic.

Because these drinks are so controversial in nature, I strongly advise you not to take any chances with them. I speak of this subject for a very specific reason: most, if not all bloggers and online tycoons I’ve met over the years consume this stuff on a daily basis. Many associate these zero-calorie energy drinks with productivity and efficiency, while others simply enjoy the temporary high that they may experience while using them. Whatever the case may be, these foods should be avoided at all costs, and here’s why:

Scary stuff right?! What I find troubling is how this information is not widely distributed; rather, it is, in a sense, swept under the rug for few to uncover. But I’m trying to change all that. It has become a goal of mine to inform as many as I can about these dangers.

Get rid of grains

I know, I know, this sounds even scarier! But I wouldn’t recommend it if it weren’t the truth. Grains (wheat, barley, oats, corn, rice) are loaded with no-nos. Let’s take a quick look at why grains can be so bad:

Wow. That’s a whole lot of bad, if you ask me! And the worst part about all of that is how it’s just the tip of the iceberg in regards to grain consumption. The truth is that I had a bunch of health issues going on in the past. I was feeling very tired and unmotivated all the time, but once I cut the sugars and grains from my diet, I started feeling a lot better. It’s really amazing how this works—I strongly encourage you to try it out.

It doesn’t take a genius to thoroughly understand that if our health is heavily impacted (as demonstrated by the studies listed above) by what we eat, we won’t be as productive. Being physically fit and well is a main component for long-term success.

Understanding the Credit System

What is the Credit System? To put it simply, you must look at what you put in your body as a charge—like on a credit card. Some people are stacking up charges because of the horrid choices they’re making. In other words, those who take less care in their daily choices (foods, products, drugs) will be paying the price sooner than those who keep their balances low or on more manageable levels.

By looking at lifestyle choices in this manner, a person can start to accurately assess their daily decisions more efficiently.

This system (one which I have used on many clients) allows people to see the obvious threats that are presented by living a conventional existence. The message is obvious: the more purely one lives, the better they’ll feel. It’s as simple as that!

Cut out all of which is hindering your body, and you’ll perform better. This is so important for bloggers (or future bloggers) to realize. If you’re truly striving to run a website and be successful, you must take all of this into account. It has helped me build my business, and that’s why I’m sharing it with you.

The goal here is to get the body in a balanced state so it can be productive. In other words, if you can do this, your body will be in-tune to make all the right moves. And if you’re making the right moves, you’ll make money! Sounds good, right?

Have you noticed how the foods you eat impact your ability to perform as a blogger? Share your experiences with us in the comments.

Versatile Health is all about delivering hidden health and wellness information to the masses, with a message of simplicity, fun, and overall awareness. In a nutshell, we’re two guys with a story to tell. Our past health issues have pushed us to discover new ways of healing outside of traditional medicine – this is what we share with our following. You can download your free copy of our ebook here: 100 Ways To Wellness.


Let Your Critics Be Your Best Friends

This guest post is by Barb Sawyers of Sticky Communication.

When I first started to write professionally, I hated people editing my work. To deal with these personal attacks, I would rant, cry, drink too much, and otherwise freak out.

But one day I parked my ego long enough to realize that many of these editors were highly skilled. Others knew more about the subject or the organization’s perspective than I did. I needed them.

Working in corporate communication, I was still stuck with the busy-bodies who felt they had to contribute to the tangle of edits that approvals processes create. A few were convinced they were “adding value” by inserting lame jargon or grammar mistakes.

These ego critics drove me crazy, still do. But the wise ones helped me become a better writer, still do. That’s why I seek out people with the skill and tough attitude to give me the criticism I need.

Seek out tough critics

With blogging and other content marketing, the more relaxed approach means many of us are spared the pain of the ego editors. But unless we’re writing for places with lots of editorial involvement, some of us don’t receive the guidance that would help us reach the next level.

We may ask blog buddies to review our work for typos and glaring problems. But how many of these friends are skilled, knowledgeable, and strong enough to deliver the blows to demolish what’s weak so we can replace it with something better?

Few people enjoy constructive criticism, but anyone who wants to become a better at blogging (or pretty much anything in life) has to learn how to handle the petty know-it-alls, open up to the wise ones, and grow. Many young people whose parents piled on the self-esteem building trophies have trouble with this.

Practice helps, too

But if young bloggers and content marketers combine this awareness with all the practice they get, now that everyone is tethered to a computer or similar device, what a force they can be.

I see my teenagers writing all the time, texting to friends and chatting online. I’ve been closely watching the blossoming of my daughter Maddy, who will be going to university this fall. In addition to her natural talent, Maddy gets top marks for her essays and other written material because she’s getting comfortable with having her ideas and writing challenged.

For example, with a recent paper about literary censorship she read various perspectives and tossed them around in her head. Then, over a pleasant meal, she told me what she was thinking about writing. I challenged her, not to be controlling or mean, but to encourage her to refine her thinking.

After dinner, she wrote her first draft. The next day, she asked me to take a look.

In addition to pointing out the grammar flubs and awkward phrases, I told her where her arguments were weak or her connections loose. Without me, her talent would have carried her. But because she opened herself to constructive criticism, she went farther.

Separate the wise from the wacky

Better still, her fellow students in her Writers’ Craft course critique each other. Let me confess that at first I didn’t enjoy seeing these kids nitpick an essay I’d reviewed. But most of them made good points, we agreed. Maddy ignored suggestions from the ego editors only when she could make a strong case to her teacher.

If she’s going to work in any field that involves writing, and so many do, she’ll have to learn from other people, defend herself, and sometimes suck it up. I hope she starts out with thicker skin and a more open mind than I did.

This constructive criticism, let me add, is a two-way street. As a freelance writer who should have her work checked before it goes to a client or my blog, I appreciated being able to ask my daughter to help. Far more valuable than catching my typos is her frequent comment: “Mom, this doesn’t make sense.”

I’m already worried about what I’m going to do once my favorite critic leaves home. Thank goodness our wired world means we can stay connected between Toronto and Montreal.

Bring it on

While I enjoy the “awesome post”-type comments, I love people who argue, suggest, or otherwise add to the discussion.

So readers, please tell me how you would improve this post or challenge my advice. I need you.

Toronto writer, blogger and educator Barb Sawyers is the author of Write Like You Talk Only Better, the secret to pulling ideas out of your head and onto the page.

Use Video Testimonials to Increase Conversions

This guest post is by Annika Martins of AnnikaMartins.com.

You think you want more traffic, but you don’t.

You want I’m really interested in your stuff traffic that converts into social media sharing, new signups to your list and of course, sales.

But how do you make that happen? How do you ensure that when first-time visitors land on your site, they’re going to take the action you want?

You have to wow them. You have to (very quickly) convince them that you’re the real deal, that you have what they want and need.

Common sense, right?

But most people screw up the execution

In trying to position yourself as the go-to person in whatever you do, are you actually shooting yourself in the foot?

Are you one of the guilty ones who wrote a 1300 word bio telling us your entire employment history and why that makes you the best person to deliver X service or product? Do all of your blog posts reference your client work and how much better you are than your competitors?

Yawn.

Standing on a soap box and bragging about how awesome you are doesn’t impress anyone. In fact, it encourages most people to turn around and run in the opposite direction.

Let someone else be your soap box

When it comes to determining whether you’re legit or not, that first-time visitor couldn’t care less what your opinion of yourself is.

The opinions of your former clients and customers are what they’re really interested in.

They want to hear from someone who worked with you, who has used your products and loved them—and isn’t being paid to say nice things about you. They want to know what problem you help people solve and how you do it. And they want to hear it directly from the person who had the problem.

In short, you need to immediately provide convincing, concise (and honest!) quotes about the quality of your service or product from someone other than you.

The marketing world calls this “social proof.” Most of us refer to these as “testimonials.”

And because ProBlogger has told you before about the importance of including a testimonials page, you might have already created a dedicated page for this very purpose.

And then you filled that testimonials page with glowing quotes from former clients and customers, each neatly formatted into a short paragraph. Maybe you were smart enough to include their picture and URL too. Perfect, right?

The problem with your testimonials page

Creating a centralized storeroom of digital love is a great move. But a stand-alone testimonials page is only one piece of the puzzle. By itself, it is not going to make much of a difference.

The main reason a stand-alone testimonials page isn’t much good is because, aside from the first one or two testimonials on the page (if that), most people won’t read through it.

Get practical about this. Consider your own internet-perusing experience. In the course of a single hour, you probably have dozens of popups, emails, status updates, tweets, phonecalls, text messages, doorbells, maybe a screaming kid or two, and whatever else vying for your attention.

With all those distractions, is it realistic to assume that a first-time visitor is going to sit there and scroll through each and every one of those testimonials? Probably not.

But there’s hope, so don’t give up just yet!

Revitalize your stand-alone testimonials page

Well-written, praise-showering quotes are precisely the sort of content that motivates someone to sign up for your digital course, to join your newsletter list or start following you on Twitter.

With that much power, you can’t let your testimonials die on a page no one ever sees.

In order to make the most of them and therefore convince first-time visitors to stick around, here are five ways you can repurpose those golden testimonials so they actually get seen:

1. Your homepage

Your homepage is like the front window of a store. People drive past, peering in, debating whether they’re going to come inside and mosey around. Isn’t that the perfect place to tell them Fancy Pants Person A thinks you’re awesome?

Carve out a small (but prominent) spot on your homepage sidebar to include one or two of your most impressive testimonials.

Remember though, this is intended to whet their appetite, so edit longer quotes down to a brief sentence or even a phrase that a former client or customer has used to describe you.

To maximize this space even more, you could also install a plugin that scrolls through several short testimonials. That way, instead of reading only one or two quotes, visitors could easily see three or four quotes before clicking over to another page.

2. Twitter Favorites

If you have a strong presence on Twitter and happy customers have sent you tweets raving about your products, those are testimonials that you have to take advantage of also.

By favoriting tweets that wax poetic about how smart and wonderful you are and then installing this Twitter widget, you can add a sidebar widget that will continually refresh itself with your most recent Twitter love.

This is a great way to amplify direct testimonials by demonstrating the scope of your community, your social media savvy, and the passion others have for the service or product you provide.

3. Video testimonials

Take advantage of the fact that millions of people learn best through visual stimulation by creating a short video that highlights your best testimonials.

Ideally, you want to include footage of interviews with former clients so we can see their eyes light up when they talk about how talented you are. But if your clients are camera-shy, even just putting a picture and their quote on the screen with some energetic music can have a huge impact.

You could also splice in brief shots of you talking about why you’re so passionate about what you do.

4. Product and service descriptions

So now that these mini-testimonial snippets have aroused your visitors’ curiosity and they’ve wandered over to your sales page, you think the testimonials can take a break, right?

Oh no. We’re just getting started.

Another great place to feature testimonials is within and alongside the copy that describes your products and services. Testimonials fit in perfectly here because they bring in more social proof that you don’t just write fancy sales copy, but you actually deliver a valuable service or product to real people with real problems.

Building in testimonials here also assures potential customers that you have the experience and expertise they need.

5. Email launch announcements

When you’re writing to your email list to announce a new product or service, remember that some (a lot!) of those people are still not sure whether your products or services are right for them. They’ve joined your list to get to know you better, to get a taste for what you do and see if it they like it.

When promoting something new, incorporate a quote from someone who’s previewed the product, an attendee from last year’s event or one of the beta testers of your digital course.

Building social proof

Don’t underestimate the value of adding new and relevant bits of social proof to everything you launch.

By using these 5 strategies, you will make sure that your glowing customer reviews don’t stay hidden on some random page no one ever reads.

By distributing testimonials throughout your site and promotional materials, new visitors will be much more likely to morph from casual observers to subscribers and buyers.

Do you have any other ideas for ways to revitalize a testimonials page? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Annika Martins writes about entrepreneurship and not taking ourselves so seriously at http://www.annikamartins.com. She likes jalapenos and counter-intuitive wisdom, like The 10 things no one tells you about being a woman entrepreneur.

Build Blog Products That Sell 2: Analyze the Market and Competitors

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

Copy from one, it’s plagiarism; copy from many, it’s research.
—Attributed to Wilson Mizner (1876-1933), among others

…Or you can take it a step further. If you research many, and then forge something original, your readers will take notice. And then, if you market yourself in the right fashion, they’ll buy what you’re selling. In the meantime, though, look out later today for a post that explains how you can use video testimonials to set yourself apart from the competition in your niche.

Money in a wallet

Image courtesy stock.xchng user mzacha

Last weekwe began our examination of not just how to sell products via your blog, but how to do so when customers are watching their dollars, pounds, euros, rands, pesos and zlotych like never before. As the very concept of “disposable” income becomes less realistic, it’s imperative that you provide real value for your customers instead of just a product that you slapped together out of boredom.

Last week’s post was designed to help you identify what you offer that’s unique. It also helped you to consider that unique offering in reference to your audience’s present, most pressing needs.

Competitor and market research—seeing what else the marketplace is already offering—is a good next step to take. It shows you exactly what not to sell, and forces you to work a little harder to create something truly distinctive.

Assessing the competition

Candidly assessing your competitors isn’t plagiarism, but it’s unquestionably research. This isn’t a call to rip anybody off—quite the opposite, in fact.

Say you’ve got a blog that focuses on international train travel for the budget-conscious. Assume you’ve developed a dedicated and regular readership that considers you an authority on the subject. Would there be any market for a handy ebook that tells readers where to buy inexpensive tickets throughout the world?

Of course there would be. For the intrepid and peripatetic traveler, it’d be awfully convenient to know how to save money everywhere from the Camrail station in Yaoundé, Cameroon to the Trans-Siberian depot in Erenhot, China. The information clearly exists, albeit in diverse and unconnected places. For the hypothetical blogger in question, it’d just be a matter of taking the time and effort to compile and present it.

The idea is to create something that’s not only valuable, but unique and, ideally, impossible for anyone else to reproduce.

Again, drawing from personal experience but keeping it generic enough that you can apply it to your own situation, the primary products I sell on ControlYourCash.com are ebooks on selected personal finance topics. The ebooks are short (6000 words or so), easily digestible monographs illustrated with the occasional graphic and written in a style that hopefully serves to distinguish my blog from its myriad competitors. The ebooks are completely of my own derivation, and merge seamlessly with the content on my blog itself. They “extend the brand.”

Which, of course, assumes that the brand is worth extending in the first place.

Unique products are easier to sell

Creating products worth selling is only half the battle. You still need to make the sale. The list of worthwhile consumer items that never get sufficient exposure in a saturated marketplace is a long and depressing one. Marketing is an inexact science, but there are simple rules that you can follow to publicize what you’re selling. Those rules can be more self-evident that you might think.

I once worked for an advertising and marketing firm whose clients included a hot sauce manufacturer. The firm created multiple innovative, entertaining campaigns that attempted to position the company’s sauce as a bold alternative to Tabasco, Nando’s peri-peri and other competitors.

But the needle never budged. Countless man-hours and dollars went down a hole, sales remained static, and the hot sauce company’s representatives were ready to take their business elsewhere. They demanded an emergency meeting, and the advertising firm’s employees assembled for the inevitable dressing-down. Charts were presented, projections recalibrated, and (gasp) lawyers consulted. It looked as though we were certain to lose a lucrative client, one that was justifiably looking at other options.

Finally, the chief executive officer of the advertising firm—who probably wondered why he was bothering to pay the rest of us—stood up and asked, “Have you ever thought about widening the opening of the bottle by an eighth of an inch?”

Of course it worked, and the moral to the story is that it’s easy to unnecessarily handicap yourself right out of the gate. Many bloggers offer worthwhile products and services, yet treat them as afterthoughts, which is astonishing. If you’re attempting to sell a product, Job #1 is: make it as easy as possible for customers to buy and consume said product.

Stand out, not beside

Remember that the market for bloggers selling products is amazingly segmented and diffuse. There are hundreds of thousands of diligent bloggers. Your blog’s area of interest is almost certainly well represented, if not overrepresented. Thus it’s important to market yourself aggressively and boldly. That being said, it makes less sense to contrast yourself with, or even acknowledge, your competitors.

Aggressive, confrontational marketing that draws a clear distinction between your product and someone else’s works fine if you happen to be major beer brewer or mobile phone service provider chasing market share. Everyone already knows the competitor exists, and pointing out the little differences counts when comparing essentially homogenous products.

Different rules apply when selling niche products of your own creation, especially in a climate in which consumers as a whole are cautious about spending money. Don’t avail your customers of alternatives. It’s best to pretend they don’t exist. Customers are a lot more likely to spend when there’s only one supplier. The power of monopoly is a formidable one, and no one else sells (or can sell) the properly conceived and executed products that make you and your blog distinctive.

Key points

  • Assess your competition closely.
  • Hone your product idea accordingly.
  • Ensure your product’s key benefits directly reflect your brand.
  • Make your product as unique and difficult to replicate as possible.
  • Don’t compare your product directly with those of competitors: design and present it as the best solution available for your target audience segment.

Selling a product takes time, but not as much as creating it in the first place does. Next week, we’ll learn how to develop your product and devote the appropriate time and resources to it. In the meantime, keep an eye on ProBlogger. Later today, well show you how to increase conversions on your blog—and stand out from your competitors—using video testimonials.

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].

How Writing Confidently, Quickly, and Effectively Saved my Blog

This guest post is by Kraig Stewardson of IT Manager HQ.

My blog was failing.

My subscribers were nonexistent.

My posts were disjointed.

My writing was awful.

My confidence was shot.

Honestly, I felt like giving up. I knew that I needed to make a change. I knew that I couldn’t continue this way.

Sound familiar? That was me a little over month ago, before I took some drastic steps to turn things around.

How bad was it?

They say that most blogs are never even read, and mine fell into that category. I still remember the day when I got my first spam comment. I was elated. A bot found my blog—no one else did—but hey, a spam bot did! Then as the months went on, even the spammers lost interest.

I noticed that no one, not even my family, read my blog. But I still wrote. When life got busy, I didn’t post as regularly as I knew I needed to. Inspiration to keep going that used come from all sorts of places faded. The “this band is a 20-year overnight success” or “blogger writes for two years straight then finds an audience” stories that can only take you so far. I knew a change need to happen, so it was time to take a class and get schooled on what I should be doing.

Starting to turn it around

So I look at my blog, and how bad it looked. I read my blog—every cringe-worthy post. Great, now even I couldn’t stand reading my own blog. This was going to be a challenge, that was for sure.

I started with a few questions:

  • Why did I create the blog in the first place? This blog is all of the things I wish I knew right before and within the first year of being an IT Manager. When I became an IT Manager, it was based on my abilities as an IT professional. No one taught me there is an art to managing highly skilled people.
  • What makes my blog different, and why should anyone read it? In the IT Management space, there is very little information about how to lead and manage people. My competition with other IT Management blogs is mostly about new technologies and security threats.
  • How am I going to market my blog? I struggled with this question. To gain an audience in a competitive field requires a plan. My plan is to write great content and to guest post where I can.
  • After doing this for a little while, do I still want to? Yes. I have found there is something cathartic about writing to help people.
  • Am I secretly afraid to succeed? Also, the answer here is yes. Even though I am very proud of this blog I have, I haven’t told absolutely everyone, yet. If I am not telling the people who know me, how can I tell the people who don’t?

Finding help

For some reason, every few months, about ten courses open up to help you fix various aspects of your website. Courses on AdSense websites, affiliate marketing, gaining traffic, YouTube videos, writing posts, finding a better job—you name it, there is a course for it.

There are so many to choose from, and so many of them seem worthwhile. I am a practical person, so I wanted one that would help me in an aspect of my life that goes beyond websites.

As for the question, “Should I pay for a class or find a free class?”, I chose to take a paid class. There is a built-in accountability for having plunked down your hard earned money, and that doesn’t exist if the product is free. I knew in needing to grow in areas that I am not always comfortable with, I’d need that accountability.

The class I chose, was a shot in the arm to continue my blog. It came in the form of a new class, a writing course from Danny Iny at Firepole Marketing. It was time to confront my arch nemesis from high school: writing. This ended up being a great choice, since effective writing can be used beyond a blog post, in all aspects of your blogging, and your life.

What did I learn?

While things are still a struggle, they are much better. I am more efficient and effective in my writing. With a full-time job, a growing blog, and a one-month old baby at home, any area where I can be even slightly more efficient is very valuable.

Structuring a blog post for me used to be a four- to five-day event, which would take about an hour a day, and even so I struggled to eke out 500 words.

Before taking the class, my approach to posting looked like this:

  • Day 1: Type blindly for ten to 15 minutes, not caring about spelling, grammar, or even if I wrote actual words.
  • Day 2, 3, 4: Edit and try to turn my random key strokes into something that didn’t sound like I was drunk when I wrote it.
  • Day 5: Re-read and publish post.

One of the greatest things Danny helped me realize is that I needed to outline my posts before I wrote them. Write it down; don’t dream it up on the commute to work, then try to remember it when you get home and can start typing. Think of the key points you want to make, organize them, and then fill in the blanks. This was a classic forehead-smacking moment for me.

After taking the class, my writing approach looks like this:

  • Step 1: Come up with a title and theme for the post. A great title is the difference between thousands of readers to an article and only a handful. Here are two headlines for basically the same article “How companies learn your secrets” and “How Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father”. Which would you rather read?
  • Step 2: Create outline (ten minutes, tops). The outline is the key to the whole post. What issue are you trying to solve, or what are you trying to get the reader to do? Create an abbreviated version of the outline:
    • Set the scene and get their attention
    • Detail the problem
    • What is your solution?
    • How do you implement it?
  • Step 3: Fill in blanks in the outline by writing the article. Since you have an outline, and you had to think about what you wanted to say, this part is as simple as write what comes naturally to you.
  • Step 4: Wait at least a half-day, then re-read, fix grammar, and publish. When you come back and re-read the stuff you wrote previously, you’ll likely realize that what you wrote doesn’t make as much sense as you initially thought. As a side benefit, you will catch grammar issues and typos.

The training program expanded on this and went into great detail as to how and why this is incredibly effective.

How much time did I spend on my first post using the new way? About 45 minutes total. Oh, and it was 1100 words long.

Gaining confidence

As the old cliché goes, nothing breeds success like success. As I see my posts getting better, the writing coming more easily, and my traffic increasing, my desire to post more has also returned with a vengeance. In the first week following the course, my list of post ideas has tripled and I now look forward to writing posts on my own blog.

  • My writing has improved.
  • My traffic has increased dramatically.
  • I am starting to get some key guest posting opportunities.
  • Most importantly, I feel energized to post more.

What areas of blogging have you been lacking in where some accountability and maybe a class will give you the extra boost to succeed? Share them with us in the comments.

Kraig Stewardson blogs to help new and aspiring managers in the IT field. He is a proud alumni of the Write Like Freddy class from Firepole Marketing.

A Systematic Approach to Writing Successful Blog Posts

This guest post is by Jane Sheeba of Problogging Success.

“Success” is a very relative term. Unless you define it precisely, it’s very easy to become lost in a sea of assumptions. You can work hard on building a blog without having defined your “success,” but if you do, how will you know if you’re progressing successfully?

A blog post is an essential part of the blog—in fact every single blog post is a very important entity of the blog. Subtract all the blog posts and you have no blog left.

So your blogging success depends heavily on the success of your blog posts. And as Shaun Connell explained earlier today in The Systematic Blogger’s Mainfesto, if you can systematize your blogging, you can create a more reliable path to whatever you’ve defined as success.

So in this post I’m going to show you a system for creating successful blog posts, every time.

1. Define your “success”

As I said already, “success” is a very relative term. It differs from person to person and blog to blog.

  • For some “success” may mean building an email list which is highly responsive.
  • For some it could be making X number of affiliate sales.
  • For some it could be directing people to a particular service.

So unless you know precisely what you want, you cannot know what to do in order to achieve success—or if you’ve succeeded at all.

Defining your success is nothing but setting a goal. This applies to blog posts just as well as it does to your blog overall. Every blog post you write should have a clear purpose. How can you identify it? Ask yourself, “What do I want from this blog post?”

Let me give you some examples:

  • If you’re writing a product review, your goal could be to make X number of product sales.
  • If you’re writing a series about how to make money blogging, your goal may be to attract a certain percentage of readers to subscribe to your email list.
  • If you’re writing a guest post, your goal might be to generate a number of clickthroughs to your own site.

Once you’ve defined your goal, and defined “success” clearly, you can start working on the post.

2. Choose a topic that your readers and the search engines want

Readers are the lifeblood of your blog, so you must write what your readers want.

Do not assume that your blog readers will be like you. Do not assume that a particular topic will interest them. Do not make any assumptions. Rather, research and find out what interests your blog readers. If your blog post doesn’t strike a chord with your blog readers, you will be wasting a lot of blogging energy with no return.

There are various ways to find what your readers want.

  1. Yahoo Answers and Quora are great places to start with. Type in your primary keywords and you’ll see what people are hungry for.
  2. Go to the free, famous, and useful Google Keyword Tool and type in the same keyword you used in Yahoo Answers and Quora. Then click on Phrase Match, and pick up a handful of potential keywords that have low or medium competition, but high global monthly searches.
  3. Visit Wordtracker Keyword Questions (you’ll have to register for a free account) and, again, type in your keyword. This tool will give you a clear idea of the questions people are asking for on that particular topic.
  4. Google is another great place to find out what people are interested in. Go to Google and start to type in your keyword slowly—don’t complete it too quickly! As you type, you’ll see Google’s suggestions appear below the search box. While these options are personalized if you’re logged in to Google’s services, you can use anonymous browsing mode to remove personal settings from your search results.

Once you know what people are looking for, you’ll be able to come up with a great topic to write about. Do your research and deliver useful, practical advice on the topic. In fact, go further and over-deliver.

3. Include elements to help you achieve your goal

Earlier, you set a precise goal for this blog post. Let’s say you decided you want the post to prompt a number of people to opt in to your list. The element you’ll want to include to help people sign up is a link to your sign up form.

If you like, you can adopt a hard-sell approach to achieving this goal. But when you deliver awesome quality information in a post, a simple form at the end will do the work. You don’t even have to hit people multiple times with your subscription invitation.

The key is, don’t forget to include that element. If you want to generate a certain outcome from a post, make sure you’ve included the elements required to achieve that goal in your post.

As another example, if you want people to buy a particular product after reading that post, don’t forget to include a link to the product or talk something about that product in the post. If you omit those elements, you can’t expect achieve your goal, no matter how great your post is.

4. Promote your blog post

The word “promote” is often read as “spam others with…” But you don’t need to resort to spam.

If your blog post is of great quality, and you believe it will help many people, share it in social media. Take five or ten seconds to manually add a description to the post link before you share it.

If you want to share your post with your newsletter subscribers, create a compelling, non-spammy headline, and write a compelling teaser so that people will want to check out the post.

Promotion doesn’t have to be spammy—do it in such a way that people want to click through.

5. Analyze your results

This is the crucial part where you’ll measure your success in terms of numbers. Don’t skip this step! You won’t learn anything from all you’ve done so far if you decide to ignore the results. And if you don’t learn anything, you won’t be able to improve your systematic approach to writing successful blog posts.

Again, let’s consider the example of people joining your subscription list after reading your post. You could create a special opt in form for this particular post (instead of your usual generic one). In Aweber, you might create a new web form and, in the Settings screen (where you fill out the crucial details), name the form appropriately so that you can easily identify it.

It’s a good idea to use a short form of the title of the post itself to name your web form. You’ll see that Aweber uses the same name for the tracking ID. And, when you look at the stats of all your web forms, you’ll be able to see how well that form converts in comparison to the others—that is, you’ll know how many people actually looked at that form, how many opted in, and what the conversion rate is (as a percentage).

This is a great way to see how successful your post was at achieving this goal.

If you want to track sales or see how well your signup funnel performed on the whole, you can always use Google Analytics. Go to the Analytics information for your target page to see the referral information.

You’ll usually see domains (that is, the home page of other blogs or websites) in the referral details. If you click on a particular domain, you can see the break down of actual pages of that domain that sent traffic to your target page, and the actual number of visits that came from each.

So you can pinpoint exactly how many visits are sent to your subscription or product landing page from a particular blog post you’ve written.

A systematic approach to blog post success

Don’t neglect to provide quality on every blog post you write. Every time you prepare to write a post, ask yourself: What do I want out of this blog post? What’s the purpose of me writing this blog post? How will I know that it’s achieved what I want?

Considering all this may sound like a big task to do on top of writing the blog post itself. But asking these questions, and being clear about the answers, helps you to actually write posts that achieve your desired results with ease.

Jane is a blog consultant and the founder of Problogging Success. She has authored two e-books Problogging Action Plan (winner of the Small Business Book Awards, 2012) and Guest Blogging Champion to help bloggers become successful in their blogging business.

The Systematic Blogger’s Manifesto

This is a guest post by Shaun Connell from Live Gold Prices.

I remember when I first began reading about “passive income”. It seemed brilliant: work hard and make sure you leverage your time and capital so that instead of being paid once, you’re paid a little bit every month into the future.

At the time, I was just running a blog for fun, and decided to go ahead and start a blog for profit. It’s been about five years now, and I’ve been doing this full-time for about four years. I’ve learned a lot about blogging, passive income, internet marketing, SEO—the whole works.

The most important lesson I’ve learned?

Forget passive income: focus on systematic income

For most people, blogging is a bad way to get to a passive income. Most bloggers work hard the entire time they have the blog.

A passive income is an income you can just set and forget. And any successful blogger will tell you that for the vast majority of blogging experiences, the work never really stops—it just changes form. You can minimize the workload, but for the most part, it’s just about cutting the load without ever actually making it to a full-on passive status.



Is this a bad thing? Absolutely not. Those who understand that blogging is about finding repeatable systems are the most succesful bloggers on the Internet today. It’s all about learning how to create the right design, the right headline, the right path to success—those are systems that generally work regardless of who the blogger is.

I’ve written here before about systematic blogging and blogging for passive income.

A systematic blogger knows how to leverage usability, other people’s content, and good ideas in such a way that every bit of their work gets as much done as possible.

The following principles are some of the most important concepts one can ever understand in order to make one’s blogging as systematic as possible.

Blogging is just a “regular” website with a specific structure

In the end, the only real difference between the vast majority of websites is how they’re organized. They’re all still pretty much about the same thing—they’re a platform for connecting viewers with information of some sort. When we understand this, we’ll see why that’s important.

Facebook, Wikipedia, and About.com are all platforms for connecting content with viewers in a way that makes each network unique. The content is different, of course, but even if they had equally valuable content, each network would have a very different approach to connecting users with that content.

Once this is understood, the challenge of organizing one’s blog should suddenly present a plethora of new opportunities. For example, it’s alright for a blog to have sales pages as part of the design, or even a static homepage to make it easier for first-time visitors to see all of the most important concepts first. It’s alright to borrow structure ideas from other websites.

The vast majority of my websites—especially my gold prices website—now have the same basic structure: a static homepage, a newsletter page that I link to when saying “subscribe”, newsletter optin forms on every page, an autoresponder with several months’ worth of emails lined up for turning subscribers into repeat visitors and pitching them products, and a “blog” widget or page where users can see the latest articles.

The website structure, along with the other principles listed below, makes my business much more systematic. As long as I find a way to acquire new visitors to the site every day, I’ll end up with more people subscribed at the end of every month. And that’s half the battle: automation.

Blogging for profit is about retaining income, not just traffic

Traffic is just a tool. In the context of profit, it’s just fuel for the engine. That’s why some people are able to make great money with a little traffic when they’re writing about investments, while some websites can have ten times the traffic and barely pay the bills when they’re writing about lolcats.

Understand that traffic is just part of the process, and not the entire goal of the process.

Just because people are reading, that doesn’t necessarily mean the writer is earning. Don’t worry, this isn’t necessarily bad news. For people who understand that building systematic income is all about figuring out what it takes to get to profits in a “repeatable” format, everything is easier.

This is one of the reasons I entered the gold prices and rates niche, and one of the reasons the investment niche is so crowded—the results are generally harder to get, but often exponentially rewarding when achieved.



For example, understanding SEO and guest posting makes the entire process easier. There have been numerous courses teaching the same powerful principle of using proper SEO, proper keyword choices, and setting up one’s blog to be as usable as possible—and then guest posting to put traffic into one end of the “machine.” It’s all the rage because it works.



The systematic blogger understands that his blog is a machine, and if he takes care of it to make sure it’s running as well as possible, it’ll take care of him. By figuring out how to juice every visitor for as many pageviews as possible, to impress them with the best content displayed where it can be easily found, and to reward the visitor with plenty of goodies via an autoresponder, and then using the right keywords and consistent guest posting, the systematic blogger will succeed.



It sounds like a lot of work because, of course, it is. But after a while it becomes a type of routine and becomes simpler and simpler. After all, that’s the point of having a system in the first place—to generate simple, predictable, and powerful results.

What do you do to make sure your blog is as systematic as possible? 
Do you regularly guest post for other blogs? 
Do you have any tips for people looking to make their blog more systematic?

 Share them with us in the comments.

Shaun Connell is a systematic blogger who writes over at Live Gold Prices, his latest project where he discusses both the rate of gold and the future of precious metal overall.

The Grace of Communication

This guest post is by Lisa Johnson of LisaJohnsonFitness.com.

Social media has changed my life in a fundamental way that I never saw coming. My first innocent forays onto Twitter had not prepared me for the ride I was about to go on.

Through social media I have started a new career, grown more close to my husband, been able to spend more time with my son, and still managed to help provide for my family.

But those are the perks to what I do. They are not why I do it … there is grace in communication.

As a Pilates Instructor I live for those moments that seem to descend out of nowhere. I’ll be teaching a class and we’ll all just click, every movement has flow, my voice allows my students to focus more deeply, and we dance in a way, their bodies and my voice weaving together intricate patterns. The sweat builds, hard bones and sinew become fluid, and an awesome, amazing thing happens: my class and I find grace. It’s powerful to all of us.

It brings me to tears and embarrassed giggles. My students know what I mean, and then hurry out into their busy lives. It’s why I’ve taught Pilates for longer than I’ve ever done anything in my life—fifteen years now—to hit those random moments of grace, of being able to give my clients a small taste of empowerment.

Social media is often maligned by the uninitiated as a place of misfits and people who can’t have “real relationships” in their “real lives.” I suppose for some that’s true, but that hasn’t been my journey at all. I have found it a place of true connection.

Keyboards click, screens flicker and millions of people pour a torrent of words into the stream. Most of it washes over us in ones and zeros, never recognized into existence.

But then a stray comment will catch an eye, a conversation will start—maybe it’ll be a cascade of back and forths, or maybe it’ll be a few comments here and there over time. But there is a connection.

I have my people on social media that I depend on for a joke, a pick-me-up, or a kind word. Sometimes I don’t even know their real names, just a Twitter handle and a sentence or two of biography. I try to give back in the same way with an atta boy/atta girl or a warm phrase when needed.

I have experienced everything through social media: humor, fear, failure, redemption, even death, have all come at me through the screen. I have made real true friends and been humbled when I was able to help someone. Many of these connections have spilled into “my real life”—and these are people I would never meet any other way.

There is grace in that. Our disconnected lives, blown apart from generational family ties, have found a new way to connect, to find a tribe, to belong.

Social media has evolved into a business. The software companies are our conduits, advertising the currency, and brands online jumping up and down for attention, looking to win eyeballs and wallets. But it is still all driven by humans, sorting ourselves by hashtags and groups, by geography and hobby. So we find our people and connect.

How brilliant is that? How truly, truly brilliant?

It’s magical that we tap keyboards and stare at screens and find humans tapping back at us. Have you reached out and found a connection waiting for you? Have you been changed, even in a tiny way, by your social media life? How do you tap your connections?

Lisa Johnson went from Pilates studio owner to one of the top fitness people on social media with her popular blog, LisaJohnsonFitness.com. She balances teaching at the studio with working with social media clients through Healthy Dose Media, a company she founded with her husband, Greg Wymer. She is frequently found on Twitter @LisaJohnson.

Build a Successful Blog by Creating a Content Musical

This guest post is by Brad Smith of fixcourse.com.

So you want to make money blogging?

You want a popular blog that gets thousands of visitors each day, and the attention and respect you’ve been looking for.

So what’s stopping you? What’s holding you back? You’re cranking out content, just like Mashable, about the latest news stories in your industry. You get traffic, but it doesn’t convert or stick around.

Or maybe you have a unique perspective, and you share research and facts to back everything up. But no one reads your posts, or takes the time to comment.

The problem isn’t your topics, but the type of content you’re creating.

The trick to building a popular blog is to create content that appeals to a mainstream audience, but that is unique enough to stick around for years to come. That’s how you get more traffic, and actually start making money from your blog.

How to make money in music

Let’s take a look at another content producing industry: music.

There are many different types and genres of music. They range from simple and catchy (“pop music”), to complex and deep (classical). With the long tail of music, people can choose what they like to hear. But there are a select few major genres of music that are commercially successful and make money (while most barely get by).

What’s the difference? Why is some music more profitable, or why do some artists succeed, while most fail?

The difference between classical and popular music

People need classical music. Not only is it “better” (in terms of talent and complexity), it has actually been proven to make you smarter.

However, it doesn’t sell very well. The problem is that it’s too dry and complex. It just doesn’t appeal to a mainstream audience.

Now compare that to pop music. It’s light, catchy, and likeable enough to attract a mainstream audience. But much of it isn’t very good—a lot of pop music blends in with every other song on the radio, and you never hear from these artists again.

These artists have no legacy. They aren’t unique and important enough to stand the test of time. So they’re forgotten about as soon as they’re created.

How you can find success by creating a content musical

If we compare the music analogy with blogging, you could say we have the Huffington Post and Mashable on one side (popular and light), and the Harvard Business Review (classical and complex) on the other.

People won’t flock to your site because you’re writing the same news stories and light opinion pieces. The Huff Po and Mashable already have that covered. And you can’t just create content filled with research, facts and science. You’ll never out-research Harvard.

So what’s the solution?

The trick in content marketing is to find a middle ground.

You need the catchy nature of pop music and the topics that you know work well with passionate audiences. But at the same time, you need to add a layer of depth and make it a little more interesting. Otherwise people won’t remember who you are. So instead of creating pop music that’s forgetable, or classical music that’s too complex for a mainstream audience, you can create a content musical—a whole new category in between the two.

Content musicals work well because they’re made to stick. They’re deep enough to offer insight, yet catchy and clever enough to appeal to a mainstream audience. So how do you create a content musical?

Create a content musical by making your ideas stick

All good musicals have a voice. They have a unique story to tell, and they present it in a clever way. It could be the plot structure or how each event unfolds. But there’s always a profound lesson or epiphany in a musical.

That epiphany is what people need. It’s why the musical exists in the first place. The thing is, people don’t always want to hear about what they need, they want to hear about what they want. So when you’re selling your blog’s value to people, you have to make your message easy-to-digest.

If you’re knowledgable about your niche, you already know what people need. Instead, you have to learn how to give it to them in an interesting way, and make your idea stick.

Brothers Chip and Dan Heath broke down the anayomty of an idea in their 2007 book, Made to Stick:

  • Simple: Before an idea will become successful, it needs to be boiled down to a core meaning. What are you trying to get across, and why is it important? At the end of the day, what is the driving force behind your blog?
  • Unexpected: Make connections between unexpected things. People like novelty, because it’s new and fresh. So try making comparisons between unrelated topics, like blogging and music for example.
  • Concrete: Ideas become tangible when you use concrete examples. You can make a post stand out by using real-life examples that everyone knows. Your idea immediately becomes clear in the minds of readers.
  • Credible: Before people will spread an idea, they need to believe in it. You can use external research, vivid details, or a “see for yourself” test to lend some credibility to each post.
  • Emotional: People don’t care about something until they’re emotionally connected. The goal is to get them to buy into your post by appealing to their self interest, or using a common association to their identity. For example, every blogger one day wants to make money and have thousands of subscribers, right?!
  • Stories: Stories are one of the best ways to package ideas. You can make the narrative compelling enough so people are sucked in immediately. Some of the best stories involve a hero triumphing over evil, or explaining how to solve a problem in a unique way.

Conclusion

Every great blog post starts with a pearl of wisdom. You think of a clever lesson, unique story or interesting insight, and you have to share it with the world. It’s what people need to hear.

The problem is, it’s not always what they want to hear. So you need to make it easy to understand and digest. That way, it will stick with a larger audience. You need to find the sweet spot between content that’s too light, and too complex.

When you do, your blog will appeal to a mainstream audience, and be original enough to stick around for the future.

Brad Smith is a digital marketing consultant who focuses on lead gen for businesses by getting more traffic, leads and sales online.