Close
Close

Guess what? Bloggers – You and Me – Are Publishers, and We Should Act Like It. (So Let’s Not Be Jerks when Someone Sends Us A Guest Post!)

by Kelly Diels and Dave Doolin

In the ancient world of print publications – for example, in any academic or professional journal – when you send an article to the editor, you receive an acknowledgment of receipt.

Scratch that. In any time – past, present, future – professional publications (print and electronic ones) confirm receipt of your piece.

That is, you are going to get an email telling you somebody knows you submitted an article.

In the olden days (you know, like ten whole years ago), you would get a real, physical letter in the mail.

Quaint, sure.

But not hard.

The process isn’t difficult; there are professional standards. You submit your piece.  You get an acknowledgment.  Later, you get notified that you’re accepted for publication, or that revisions may be required, or that the article is denied.  It’s not hard to do or understand.

But in the blogging world, these standards haven’t really developed.  We all know people who’ve submitted pieces to another blogger and heard nothing.

Hell, we are those people.

And that disturbed Dave enough to email Kelly, informing her “I have a huge rant building on guest posts.”

Kelly’s response: “Bad for brand.  Do this, instead: write a piece *encouraging* bloggers to create guest-post submission channels with less friction. That’s useful. Ranting about this isn’t.”

Kelly is right (this time -d).  There are more productive things to rant about.

And while it might not be productive to rant about the guest post process, it’s certainly productive to talk about it. And improve it.

As bloggers, we graze on both sides of the fence – we accept guest posts for our blogs, and we guest post on other blogs.

So all of us know that guest posting can be hard. Hard on your nerves and hell on your courage. But worth it – because it can be a real honour to have your work published on another site, especially a popular, authoritative one.

That’s something both of us hear from our people, again and again: how do you land guest posts on other, bigger blogs? And how do you get the courage to even submit them in the first place?

Well, you just do. You do things to bolster your courage. You do your research.

Like this:

  • you check to see how the other blogger prefers to receive pitches. Does she want to develop a concept, together? Or does he want a finished piece?
  • you read all the recent pieces and poke around in the archives. Where is the gap? What piece do you need to read? Then go write that piece (or pitch).
  • you check to see if the blog you want to submit to has guest post guidelines. That helps you understand what the other blogger wants – so you can deliver it.
  • you check to see if there is a copyright statement – because you want to know who owns the piece after it is published. (Or at least we do. Because we get paid from our hot ‘n sweaty ‘n hopefully profitable content – and you do, too. So this is important.)

Doing all of these things will increase your confidence. You might even get brave enough to, you know, submit it.

To the other blogger. The blogger who will receive, read, and accept or reject your piece. The blogger who will hopefully publish your piece.

(And, being a blogger, sometimes you are that blogger – the one receiving and publishing guest post submissions.)

Since you know how stupid-hard it can be to get the gumption to send a piece in, don’t you want to make it a little easier for others to summon the courage to submit a guest post to you? Don’t you want to honor the submission effort?

Yes. You do. Really, you do.

And so, to that end, this is what you, the publisher, could - and should – do:

  1. have a dedicated e-mail address to which to submit guest posts (and an autoresponse confirming receipt)
  2. have someone checking it and responding regularly
  3. have a submissions guidelines page
  4. have some language about copyright (who gets it?) and guest author expectations (respond to comments, tweet, etc)
  5. have a worksheet to evaluate the guest post and return that worksheet to the guest author so that they’ll know what was working/not working
  6. have incentives such as a dedicated biographical box with a photo and keyword-anchored backlinks, or even better,
  7. allow the guest author to use their own affiliate links or Adense codes.
  8. consistently comment on your guest author’s blogs, consistently promote their articles by retweeting, etc.
  9. if you use a plugin such as CommentLuv, promote your guest post authors before promoting yourself
  10. if your guest author provides a service or has a product of interest to your readers, allow your guest author to pitch congruently to your readers.

And you should do that because receiving guest posts, graciously, is just good business (and relationship-building) practice – not to mention honorable.

In fact, we should all do that because we all know that submitting your best stuff – and it does need to be good – to other blogs is hard.

The whole damn trying-to-get-published process is hard. It can be

hard to create a guest post

hard to part with it

hard to wait for an answer

But most of all, submitting a guest post is hard because you’re risking rejection.

So we – bloggers who publish guests posts – aka “publishers” – need to amp up our game, act like professionals, and honour the submission effort.

And that’s not hard at all.

About the authors: Kelly Diels writes Cleavage, a blog about the three things we all want more of: sex, money and meaning. Dave Doolin blogs at Website In A Weekend, where you can learn how to blog. Together they founded the top secret (sssssssh!!!) League of Extraordinary Bloggers where you’ll learn to have writing, blogging and business superpowers.

Dear Blogger: Do You Hate Your Customer?

Dearest Darlingest Blogger,

Who is your audience? Your ideal potential customer? Who do you need to work with?

And do you love her?

I’ve noticed a little virus going around the blog-o-sphere. I’m calling it contempt. Nobody wants contempt, and very few people will buy it.

Let’s use an example: Fitness Bloggers.

(I’ll say it now and I’ll say it later: even if you’re not a fitness blogger, you can apply these lessons to your blog and your marketing.)

Blogger Desperately Seeking A Nice Fitness Trainer, Online

I’m shopping for a trainer or a fitness/lifestyle coach and I can’t find one that I’d like to spend time with - never mind give my money to.

Here’s why: I’ve got high self esteem. I think I’m awesome even if my ass wiggles (in fact, I like the wiggle). Yet fitness coaches and people hawking health online (and everywhere) are invested in shaming me.

I’m not having it – and I’m certainly not paying for it.

Fat is not inherently shameful or shorthand for lazy/fat/stinky/unmotivated/unattractive, and if we had eradicated all other social prejudices and bases for discrimination (and we have not, dammit), then I would say that fat is one of the last “permissable” prejudices in our society. And that’s crap, frankly.

All that being said: I still want a trainer.

I’m a potential client. Someone needs to market to me because I’ve got a goal and I’m willing to spend money to achieve it.

Fitness Bloggers Desperately Seeking Clients, Online

Let’s talk about my profile as a client and how best to market to me.

Hint: shame is not hot or profitable.

I want to get stronger and more flexible, get rid of some bad habits, and ingrain a habit of eating foods that give me energy. If I drop some weight in the process – and I will, it is inevitable – then awesome, but I don’t think that will make me a better person. I think we can all agree that the quality of my character has nothing to do with the number on the scale or my jeans.

Here’s another little thing about me-as-future-fitness-client: I am acutely sensitive to the awful messages society sends women, and I see the link between those shaming messages and eating disorders and of course fat prejudice.

In short, I’m a middle-class thirty-seven year old North American woman who is not as healthy or as “hot” (sigh) as I’d like to be and I’m willing to throw my time, money and effort at the problem.

If you’re a trainer, or a fitness coach, I AM YOUR MARKET and positively ITCHING to give you my money.

How NOT to Market Online (Contempt is Probably Not Your Best Strategy)

And how do I find you? The internet. I google you and then I read your blog. So good on you for having a blog so I can find you and get to know you.

Too bad you didn’t take any time to get to know me, your target market.

Because if you did, and I’m the kind of person you’d want to train, then you’d know that I have a profound political and personal aversion to shame and so shaming me is not terribly inviting, effective or profitable.

But it is rampant. On a regular basis, fitness coaches and trainers – especially ones with women as their target market – blog things like this:

  • talking about how disgusting fat is
  • talking about going to a kids birthday party and counting every item of food the chubby kid ate
  • talking about obesity as a disease or an epidemic
  • talking about their fear of food
  • talking about kicking my ass
  • talking about other people – fat people – being lazy or unfit or lacking in character
  • talking about how they’re going to beat the weakness out of me or run me until I puke

These things do not me move. They especially do not move me to hand you my credit card.

Why not?

Because you don’t even like me and I only do business with people I like and who like me back.

And because I don’t sign up for shame and abuse. There is a very limited niche for that sort of thing and it involves dungeons and whips and no one calls it “fitness”.

How To Market Online: Love Your Customer, Baby

If I could find a fitness coach or a trainer who was about health rather than fat-shaming – and who explicitly made the connection that fat-shaming is political and impermissible – I would be in. All in. Money-and-testimonials-and-glowing-blog-shout-outs-and-downward-dogs in.

So dearest, online fitness bloggers, trainers, and coaches, here’s an exercise that may prove enlightening:

Question: Who needs a trainer and is willing to pay for one?

Answer: Someone who values herself enough to pay for coaching to accomplish health-related goals.

Will shame resonate with that person? Is shaming your client a good a strategy?

Customer Relations: The Takeaway, For ALL Bloggers

Even if you’re not a fitness blogger, you can apply this lesson to your blog and your marketing.

Do you rant about how misguided people are? About how people just don’t get it, or your product? About how your product or service is a ticket to heaven and the rest of us are damned?

Please stop that right now. Love your customers or stop selling to them.

And that is all.

Love (really and truly – if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have said anything at all),

Kelly Diels

ps. Did I make you feel bad? Did it make you want to pay me?

pps. Since drafting this piece, I found two fitness coaches I like:

Adam Glass – of Walk The Road Less Traveled –  who’s all about machismo feats of strength, listening to and learning from your body, and being the expert in your own progress. Adam works his ass off but isn’t that worried about appearance or shame. He’s invested in accomplishment. LOVE HIM.

Marianne Elliott – of Zen and The Art of Peacekeeping – is a peaceful yogini extraordinaire who asked me what my body needed for my 30 days of Yoga. Among other things, I said “lots of smooching, but I don’t think that you can help with that.” She then designed a routine for specifically for me called the “yogic body smooch”. LOVE HER.

Blog Security: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Scares Me Into Taking It Seriously.

guest post by Kelly Diels

warning: there are lessons and even actionable advice in here, but it is buried inside a story. I write stories because I love you and don’t want to bore you and because if you laugh then chances are that you’ll remember the educational bit, too. There’s actual research that this works – it is not just because I am in love with bloviation but hey, tomato tahmahto.

I have big love for tech. You could not pry my dishwasher out of my house without bloodshed and death, most likely yours. And the internet? Don’t even get me started. I want to french-kiss the web. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s my job or at least my blog’s mission statement.

Still, I’m more of install (or pay someone to install) and hope-it-works kind of gal. I want the fuss without the muss.

And I have this theory about tech: some key pieces of hardware and software make a huge difference and everything after that amounts to tweaks and hacks. But the good tech, like a great love, (initially) inspires awe, affection, and respect and make your life much better on a daily basis. You think: how did I ever live without you, front-loading washer? We wasted so much time.

And then, after the infatuation fades, you get on with your happily functioning and newly-enhanced life and start taking your love, machines, shockingly-white-whites and programs for granted.

I like it like that. I like low-maintenance relationships (don’t tell anyone) and I LOVE that electricity just works and I don’t have to think about it. I like finding the right things, that work, and let them do that in the background. Nearly invisible function is hawt.

WordPress is one of those key pieces of tech that made a big difference in my life. It is like a long distance lover. I don’t quite understand it and I should probably spend more time with it but damn I like it a lot. It does me right, mostly virtually.

Actually, let’s be honest: I LOVE WORDPRESS. My blog is my boyfriend. I adore it. I spend all my time with it. Because of all the fabulous people who love me up in the comments, my blog sates my unabashed lust for attention – which, in turn, has started saving me from terrible IRL relationship decisions.

(WordPress is saving the world from needy girlfriends. Someone call the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.)

So the thought of someone getting their sweaty, malicious hands on my boyfriend blog and doing dirty things to it makes me nauseous.

It happened to a friend of mine, Kelly Livesay. One of her blogs was hacked and posts and theme modifications deleted.  It happened to journalist Helen Mosher. If you Google her name, the first search result is now “Cheap Viagra Online”. This is not – perhaps obviously – what she intended for her blog. It happened to Robert Scoble, who lost two months of blog posts and gained a very serious sense of personal violation.

And that sense of violation is exactly the prompt for this post: the movie The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo completely FREAKED ME OUT (capitalization absolutely appropriate and required).

Do you know The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? It is the first of a trilogy of books by Swedish author Stieg Larsson who completed this epic series and then promptly dropped dead. It is a gripping book and it almost killed me, too. I read it in five hours.

And then I got my hot little hands on the movie. Lisbeth, the main character and dragon-wearer, is one tough chick. You don’t want to mess with her. She’ll hack you.

Because that’s what she does. Lisbeth is a freakishly talented hacker. She works as an investigator and conducts her investigations from the convenience of her laptop. She gets into your computer and reads your naughty e-mails, your work memos, your sexts, your bank statements, your browsing history, and then uses that information as she sees fit, for her clients, or herself.

And if you’re on her side – I mean, who doesn’t want her to catch the lady-killing villain? (the villain) – then you’re with her, all the way, as she uses her scary powers for good.

So: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Wrenching read, haunting movie. Great entertainment, especially if you’re looking for a new reason to become deeply paranoid about all the ways people can screw with you online.

Robert Scoble’s not kidding when he says that he feels his virtual house was burgled. Thanks to this paranoid movie, I now feel his paranoia pain and I’m deeply worried about my boyfriend blog.

Still, I don’t  understand the point of hacking blogs, so I asked my friend Dave Doolin (Website In A Weekend), who knows Serious Stuff about WordPress, code, programming and How Things Work.

Kelly Diels: What’s the point of hacking a blog? Why would someone want to break into a blog and make it say BUY VIAGRA! instead of just building a sex blog to sell Viagra?

Dave Doolin: Honestly, I’m not really sure, but I’ll hazard a guess: it’s cheaper to spray spam by the trillions than it is to create your own site and work at building traffic. It costs next to nothing to hire people to send a e-mails, so even a really tiny conversion rate generates profit.

Kelly Diels: So how do we keep hackers out of our blogs? On your site, you recommend that bloggers change “Admin” to something specific and then delete the Admin user, so I did that, and Amanda Farough told me to make a unwieldy, ridiculous password that is actually a sentence with random capitalization and characters.

Dave Doolin: Yeah, those two things are a good start. You do want a long, complicated password. The other thing that everyone should do is read the WordPress Development Blog and Other WordPress News. They’re both in your dashboard, and they’ll keep you up to date on the latest hacks and security threats.

(I studiously ignore those two boxes in my WordPress dashboard but now, as of right this minute, I’m going to pay attention.)

And, now that I’m paying attention, I checked in once again with Amanda Farough, who is my designer/developer/chief-cupcake-sharer/coder-extraordinaire. She takes care of my site, because, as I mentioned, I like my tech to work but I’m not really inclined to make it work myself.

Kelly Diels: So, Amanda, what are we doing to keep my site secure? And by “we”, I mean you. What advice do you have for bloggers to keep their blogs on the unhacked side?

Amanda: Here’s my security short list:

  1. Change your .htcaccess to protect your database name and password by adding the following line of code: <FilesMatch ^wp-config.php$>deny from all</FilesMatch>. In the event of someone hacking your blog, they won’t be able to determine where your tables are, protecting you from losing everything.
  2. WP-DB-Backup is your new best friend. Get it emailed to you once a week or, if you’re really paranoid, once a day (note: Dave Doolin said we should do it once a day and I heart paranoia. That’s totally where I’m living right now. Thanks, Dragon Tattoo conspiracy). Don’t trust your server or your email server. Save copies of the database to your local drive as soon as you get the email. That way, you’ve got two copies: one on your email server and the other on your local drive.
  3. Update WordPress every single time you’re prompted to. These releases are the blogger’s equivalent to driver updates: they fix holes in security, functionality, and usability. If you’re running 2.8 when we’re on 2.9.2, then run that update. You’ll be glad you did.

And that – according to my friends in the know, because trust me, I didn’t know – is the short story of how to keep your blog safe and out of the sweaty, dragon-tattooed hands of malicious hackers itching to delete your hot copy and sell us sex aids in your name.

WordPress Security Summary:

  • Get rid of your Admin user account
  • have a long, complicated password
  • keep up to date on WordPress tips and news by reading WordPress
    Development Blog and Other WordPress News
  • BACK IT UP, baby
  • Protect your database name and password
  • UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE

__________________________

Join the Dragon Tattoo Blog HUNT - an internet wide scavenger hunt tied to the feature film launch of bestselling book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Win great prizes free movie tickets, books, movie soundtrack, posters and more. To join the contest, start at the beginning of the HUNT by visiting www.dragontattoofilm.com/contest for full details and the first clue. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is in theaters near you starting March 19th.

THE NEXT CLUE:

This site explores everything Apple, but don’t tell Steve Jobs because this weblog is officially unofficial.

Kelly Diels writes for ProBlogger every week. She’s also a wildly hireable freelance writer and the creator of Cleavage, a blog about three things we all want more of: sex, money and meaning.

Rock Hard Thighs and Cold Hard Cash: Robb Sutton Spills His Tawdry Review Site Secrets

guest post by Kelly Diels

When I was wondering how to create an effective, money-making review site, I thought of Robb Sutton.

Robb Sutton’s review site, Mountain Biking by 198 “pulls in thousands in review product every month” and in the last 15 months has received over $100,000 dollars worth of review product. He’s also got several other sites, including a coffee review blog, and oh yes, makes a pretty decent living as a ProBlogger.

That is, when he’s not hanging out with the likes of me and telling me all his secrets.

Kelly Diels: Robb, tell me all the dirty details about review sites.

[looooooooooooong pause. Isn't it a little early in the conversation to have offended him?]

Kelly Diels: Robb?

Robb Sutton: I’m here. Sorry…was just closing up a few things. Now you have my 100% attention.

Kelly Diels: You know a girl likes that.

Robb Sutton: Yes, they do!

Kelly Diels: I mean, so I’ve heard. Tell me, dahlink, how you got started with review sites.

Robb Sutton: Well, it all started with an idea that had nothing to do with reviewing product, ironically.

Kelly Diels: Go on…

Robb Sutton: I had this idea that I was going to have a trail review site for mountain biking that was all user submitted content. About 5 minutes into the process, I realized that you can’t have user submitted content without traffic. So I started a blog where I reviewed parts, bikes and other related products and that took over what was the user submitted part. Basically, I used it as a traffic generator that became the model for Bike198.com.

Kelly Diels: So you’re inadvertently brilliant?

Robb Sutton: I fell into it…I like to think of it as a progression. I had some experience being on the other side of the fence in the corporate world, so I knew how to quickly adapt that to blogs.

Kelly Diels: How did you get your pretty mitts on things to review?

Robb Sutton: Well, back when the industry had no clue who I was, I relied on current contacts and cold contacting through emails and phone calls. Now it is a combination of them finding me and me finding them.

Kelly Diels: Do you work with PR companies, or companies directly?

Robb Sutton: I work with PR companies, directly with manufacturers, distributers and some retailers.

Kelly Diels: And for those of us who just got really scared, what does that process look like?

Robb Sutton: Typically, I send out an email explaining who the site is, what we do and what the process is. I then include examples with some simple search engine and site stats. If it is a smaller company, you pretty much get to the right person right away. A lot of times through that email and you are off and rolling. For larger companies and some smaller ones, a follow up call is required to get in touch with the right person. Phone calls always convert better than emails, but I always start with emails so they know who you are when they pick up the phone.

Kelly Diels: Gawd, it is almost like online dating.

Robb Sutton: Yeah, a little bit!

Kelly Diels: What sorts of strings get attached to the product and reviews?

Robb Sutton: No strings really. Sometimes you have to return the product if it is super expensive. But sometimes you don’t even have to do that. Most companies know what blogging and review blogging entails these days.

Kelly Diels: Which brings us to Disclosure, baby. Tell me how you handle Big Brother, the FTC.

Robb Sutton: I have a blanket disclosure on all of my sites that is linked up in the footer that explains links, products, etc. I am very up front with my readers on the process so there is nothing that is hidden that could be considered bad by the public or FTC. Everything is up front and honest.

Kelly Diels: And if you’re just not into her the product? What do you do?

Robb Sutton: I write the truth! Bottom line is that you are writing for your readers and not the companies. If you are just going to write glorified advertisements then no one is going to take you seriously. Back everything up with facts and everything turns out ok.

Kelly Diels: Sing it, sister.

Robb Sutton: Even companies I have given poor reviews to in the past still send me stuff. They want to reach the audience and you want to deliver the goods. Its a win/win.

Kelly Diels: All press is good press…

Robb Sutton: Actually…that is very true.

Kelly Diels: Seriously. The first time someone trashed me online (Allyn Hane, lover, I’m a-talking to you) I was delighted. But I digress. What kind of traffic are companies and agencies looking for?

Robb Sutton: They are looking for targeted traffic.

Kelly Diels: What does targeted traffic mean?

Robb Sutton: The specific number isn’t really important. 100 targeted eyes are better than 10,000 that aren’t targeted.

Kelly Diels: How do you demonstrate “targeted eyes”? I feel like we just took a sharp right turn into a gun range.

Robb Sutton: Targeted traffic is basically qualified leads. When someone subscribes to your blog, they are targeted because they want to digest that subject matter. And don’t shoot!

Kelly Diels: I can’t. I don’t even know the process for getting a gun permit in Canada but I know it takes forever. Also I’m a lover, not a shooter…Tell me about a review or a product that got you all hot ‘n bothered.

Robb Sutton: Hmmm…

Kelly Diels: I went to a sex toy party on Friday night and, given the subject of my blog, I’m pretty sure that I can review those products and claim them as a tax deduction. But again, I digress.

Robb Sutton: [laughs, possibly uncomfortably] Yes, you probably could…An example of an interesting product/review was when I got in a fork from a manufacturer because of comments I made about how I didn’t like the direction they were heading.

Kelly Diels: Umm… “got in a fork”? Dude. translation, please. I mean, it sounds naughty but even I’m drawing a blank.

Robb Sutton: Suspension fork. It is the thing on the front of the bike that is the suspension.

Kelly Diels: Oh it is a thing. Not a position. That clears everything up. So why was this fork so fabulous?

Robb Sutton: Because it was sent to me after I made the comments. I backed everything up with facts on why I didn’t agree. And they said…ok…try it out for yourself. I thought that was pretty cool.

Kelly Diels: That’s pretty smart marketing, actually. And..? How was the fork?

Robb Sutton: Great product. Still don’t agree with that one aspect.

Kelly Diels: I had no idea forks were so controversial.

Robb Sutton: They are a reputable company that produces a great product but I just didn’t agree with the “new standard” they were introducing.

Kelly Diels: Ok, Mr. Fancy Britches. I get it. YOU HAVE OPINIONS – which, I’m thinking, is probably why your review site works.

Robb Sutton: Doesn’t everyone?!

Kelly Diels: Yes, darling. That was a compliment in disguise. I think that is what reviews are about – good, solid, well-reasoned opinions…So. You get loads of free products, but how do you make money? You can’t eat forks.

Robb Sutton: Affiliate revenue, direct advertising, e-book sales like my Ramped Reviews (aff), pay-per-click…I like to diversify.

Kelly Diels: And what about all the companies kissing your…site? Do they ever buy advertising?

Robb Sutton: They do, and it is a lot easier to sell advertising space to people you already have a working relationship with.

Kelly Diels: And what does that do to the separation of church and state, editorial vs revenue? Do you feel awkward about reviewing your clients?

Robb Sutton: Not at all. Everything is explained up front. No surprises. Keep in mind that nothing is written that is pure emotion or inflammatory. It is all fact-based opinion.

Kelly Diels: That’s right. We all have niches. MINE is pure emotion and inflammatory prose. So stay outta that one, my love…Ok. Going general: do you think review sites of higher ticket items – like bikes, cameras etc – work better than other kinds of review sites, like say restaurants or experiences?

Robb Sutton: I think it is about equal. I also run a coffee review site (coffeeobsessed.net) that does really well and it is very young. I think the possibilities are wide open.

Kelly Diels: Now you’re speaking my language. The language of love/caffeine.

Robb Sutton: Yeah, I’ll leave that one to you! I’m obsessed…I’ll admit it.

Kelly Diels: With coffee? Or mountain bikes?

Robb Sutton: Nothing better than a great cup of coffee, but both. And blogging, of course.

KellyDiels: I ask because I like coffee and mountain bikers. I may have mentioned this before: THIGHS OF GRANITE.

Robb Sutton: Very true! And a strong grip.

Kelly Diels: If you do say so yourself. With whom can I verify this? I have to fact-check, you know.

Robb Sutton: Any cyclist…but especially mountain bikers because we have to ride technical terrain.

Kelly Diels: Well, there you have it. The secrets of review sites, hot coffee, and rock hard…thighs.

Kelly Diels writes for ProBlogger every week. She’s also a wildly hireable freelance writer and the creator of Cleavage, a blog about three things we all want more of: sex, money and meaning.

How ProBlogger Changed My Life and I’m Not Saying That Just To Suck Up.

guest post by Kelly Diels

I have been blogging for almost ten months. I quit my job – a really, really good job – last week. Today, I made $10,600.

In one day.

(Okay, not really in one day, but today I collected two cheques for writing projects that I secured because the clients saw my pieces at ProBlogger and hired me. True story.)

How did I use my blog to launch a business?

  1. I didn’t know anything about blogging except that I wanted to do it, so I googled “how to blog” and landed on ProBlogger. Thank goodness. So I learned how to blog on ProBlogger. I literally started with a piece from the archives about what to include in your first post.
  2. I started reading the blogs of people who were commenting at ProBlogger. I wrote a couple of adoring e-mails. Josh Hanagarne might know what I’m talking about. He’s easily flattered.
  3. Then, as I gained confidence – in part because I read the trial-and-error stories of other bloggers, here –  I started guest posting on ProBlogger. I sent Darren Rowse a whole whack of wacky pieces.
  4. Darren said, and I quote very loosely because I’m pretty sure he used proper grammar, hey I like your stuff, wanna write weekly?
  5. I said, umm, let me think about it. (Don’t believe that ostentatious lie. I didn’t say that. Instead, I said  ”YES!!!!” and I launched (unbeknownst to him) into The Happy Shimmy wherein one drops it like it is lukewarm. And my awkward-girl-dance still looked better than this one. Maybe. Probably not. Shout out to bloggers: that’s a challenge. Let’s see your dance moves.)
  6. My blog traffic exploded. I didn’t mind this, at all.
  7. People started asking me to write for them. They’re even paying me. Lots.
  8. I have true, passionate friends – other bloggers – who are part of my heart, now, in real life (such a thing actually exists) whom I met because of ProBlogger (see #2). Either I saw their piece and stalked them until they relented and befriended me, or vice versa.
  9. A white hot meta-entrepreneur, and one of the people I admire most in this world, asked me to co-author a book with her.
  10. Yes, I am TOTALLY FREAKING OUT. ProBlogger, lots of love, some dancing and a little effort (ok, a LOT of effort) changed my life.

My quit-my-job-in-ten-months lessons:

  • when you’re figuring it out, the guidelines and tips and case studies at ProBlogger and other how-to-blog sites make the blogging world less intimidating
  • find your voice and write good stuff
  • be yourself. There’s no competition for that.
  • make friends
  • try lots of different techniques to promote your blog. As soon as you figure one out, keep doing that, and add another. (Did you read Jade Craven’s post about landing pages? Or Josh Hanagarne’s advice abouttricking his friends having a contest to get people to buy advertising? These are live-action case studies and that’s just useful.)
  • investigate – and try – lots of different models for making money: ads, products, affiliate deals, offline work.
  • play nice
  • prepare to be tired. Very tired. You may as well cut off your cable, now, because TV is no longer part of your daily regime. Unless you’re a TV blogger. In which case you’re just screwed.

So yep, I’ve got big love for ProBlogger (though my cable company may have other opinions) because what I learned here empowered me. I don’t mean that in just a fluffy, feel-good, girl-power kind of way; I mean, I have money in my hand. I mean, I now write for a living.  In just ten months, ProBlogger helped me change my life.

And I’m pretty sure that Darren Rowse would have offered me the weekly gig even if I hadn’t written this piece as bait.

I’m just kidding. Really. He made me the offer two months ago and unlike some people (me), he’s immune to flattery. Don’t even try it. Call me instead.

Better yet, let’s dance.

___________________________

Kelly Diels writes for ProBlogger every week. She’s also a wildly hireable freelance writer and the creator of Cleavage, a blog about three things we all want more of: sex, money and meaning.

I Fight Authority and Authority Always Wins. (And What IS Online Authority Anyway?)

guest post by Kelly Diels

I have a problem with authority.

Step inside my echo chamber. I’m a blogger, and apparently now a ProBlogger (just quit my job and I’m making money!) so I’m keenly interested in bloggers who blog about blogging. Especially bloggers who blog about blogging for money. ‘Cuz, like, I like to eat. And I figure that reading and digesting and applying the bloggingforcash lessons of those who have climbed this hill a little longer, for a little more money, is a good idea.

And up high on the meta-blogging mountain they yodel: get thee some authority-y-y-y.

Yet every time I read that I need to get authority, I recoil, I cringe, I raise my feminine fist to the heavens and wail and curse and gnash my teeth.

My neighbours don’t love this. I’ll probably hear from the authorities, soon.

What’s my problem with authority?

In really precise and technical terms, it icks me out.

First, in real life, my aversion to authority is a philosophical, political, feminist, and don’t-wanna-be-bored thing. I don’t want to do what I’m told because a lot of what we’re told to do by institutions, experts, parents, teachers, bosses, friends and lovers is just patently bad for us as human, feeling, thinking, interesting people.

Second, when it comes to blogging authority, I don’t understand what we’re talking about:

  • What is this authority of which we speak?
  • How do we get it?
  • Why do we want it?

Online Authority. What Am I Talking About? I Have No Idea.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

It might be worth stating that the type of blog that I’m talking about in this series is a blog that isn’t purely about profit or traffic – but a blog that has influence in its niche.

It is certainly possible to build a profitable and/or well trafficked blog without Trust – in fact I know a few bloggers who blog purely for Search Engine Traffic who don’t really care about influence, brand or loyal readers but who just want traffic that they can convert to cash…

What I’m on about is helping bloggers to not only be profitable and have traffic but to build blogs that have profile, influence, authority, credibility, respect and a brand that opens up opportunities beyond quick profit. - Darren Rowse


Good blogging creates authority, plain and simple. Writing consistently about your area of expertise makes you an authority figure within your industry and niche. You will enjoy a definitive advantage over competitors who do not blog, and likely even over those who have been blogging for shorter time periods.

Professionals and other business people have long been writing for trade publications and newspaper columns to build authority, coupled with networking in the community and at trade shows and conferences, all in an attempt to build word-of-mouth referral business. With blogging, you’re building authority and networking all at once, and on a global scale if your business model benefits from that kind of reach.

The goal is not to be on the A-List as determined by the Technorati Top 100 Blogs. Your goal is to be on the A-List for your niche, geographic region or industry. - Brian Tracy

It’s much slower and harder with an authority blog to develop traffic as you have to be more choosy. It’s not enough just to do linkbait or SEO tricks, you have to attract the right people and delight them with your content so they subscribe and come back. Here you actually need to get to know your audience and what they like. You have to treat them as individuals rather than a herd of potential ad-clickers. -Chris Garrett

Authority. The Common Ground (I think). It Is Male Territory (I think).

What do these guys have in common?

  • they’re guys (this might have been obvious from the question) and white, male and pretty ones
  • they ranked high on Google for “blogging and authority”
  • they were who I was thinking about when I was thinking about blogging and authority, because I’ve read them and learned from them
  • and I still don’t know what they’re talking about.

I’ve got a theory about why I don’t know what they’re talking about and it all starts with liberal arts. I’m slandering Socrates right now.

I went to University for a long time and during that time the title of nearly every book and academic paper started with “Beyond ________.”

Beyond Pluralism. Beyond Democracy. Beyond Feminism. Beyond Macrophysical Marathoning and Towards Paper Mâché. I just made that up.

My point: all of the writers arguing beyond a concept were reacting to a history or an asserted wisdom that constitutes the canon. They were suggesting that there was more to their field than the regular, accepted arguments and outlines.  They were saying, yes, that’s true, but there is so much more to this story.

I have a suspicion that the reason I’m not grasping ‘authority’ is because that’s what these bloggers and social media thinkers are doing, here, too, with online authority. They’re saying things like “it is not enough to…”, “the goal is not…”, and “isn’t purely about profit or traffic” – all of which makes me suspect there is a discussion or core knowledge animating these beyond-ish arguments.

So I’m convinced that they all know something I don’t – which is easy, because I know nothing. And I know it. Thanks, liberal arts.

(For this I paid an average of $17,000 a year for six years. Ah, higher education.)

And because I think there is a core idea underneath these discussions, I keep asking this question: when we’re talking about online authority, what are we talking about?

Is authority

  • internal, like mastery of your subject and therefore of your domain and possibly the world?
  • an external perception, assessed by others based on your contribution?
  • Empowerment?
  • Knowledge?
  • Expertise?
  • Reputation?
  • Search engine rankings?
  • Some bundle thereof?

Questioning Authority and The Tautology Thereof.

So I asked, directly.

I went to the Misters and the Masters (because sometimes – a lot of times – they are the same and I know this from real life and Women’s Studies, thanks liberal arts) and asked them by e-mail,

What is authority and why do we need it?

Yes, I questioned authority by going to the authorities on authority for advice about authority. Ahem and a’men. All men. Again.

Chris Brogan: Is authority the same as trust? A great question. No. Authority is that sense that someone knows enough about something as to be useful. Trust means that PLUS the sense that you’d take this advice, implement it, and follow one’s recommendations on some things (not necessarily all) without much question. I think authority is to the left of trust on a spectrum, so to speak.

Chris Garrett: Authority could be credibility, could be based on your expertise, experience or results, but it is often simpler than that.It is the answer to the question “why should I listen to YOU?”

Can you demonstrate that you have valuable knowledge, insights, ideas? Have you done something that I would like to be able to achieve too? Do other people look to you as the go-to person in your subject area?

What it absolutely is not is beating people over the head with your credentials and calling yourself an expert – in fact that would work against your authority rather than in favour of it. Labels do not create authority because what a badge gives we can undo in moments as soon as we open our mouths :)

Chris Guillebeau: Authority matters! All authority is perceived authority, meaning that it is determined largely by personal interpretation — but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. When people look to you as an expert and trust what you say, you have a powerful relationship with them, either as a blogger, a marketer, or just a human being. Credentials for credentials sake aren’t that important anymore, but authority is here to stay.

Jonathan Fields:Depends who’s asking. If you’re a kid, it’s the folks who make the rules. If you’re a grown up, it’s the people who refuse to be constrained by the rules. Those who question authority, create their own paradigms, push envelopes and buttons, then bring others along, opening doors, expanding world views, crafting experiences and solutions and, most importantly, walking the walk.

Real authority is also about aligning words with deeds. It comes from those who dare to live. Those who dare to be judged. Those who open themselves to failure and swap spewing for doing. Real authority takes work and risk. Because if it was easy, everyone would be doing it…and everyone would be an authority, leaving the word so diluted as to have no import.

Honestly, I’m Still Not Getting It. WTbadword is Authority?

These are some smart answers from some very smart people – but I’m still not getting it.

So I posed the question to my friends, family, lovers and stalkers who then proceeded to break Twitter and blow up my blog comments.

Neat fact: the people who answering my question “what is authority and why do we need it?” are not all men (nor are most of them named “Chris”). Holy revolution.

Authority to me, and based on my experience, is that you believe what someone says without having to verify it from a 2nd source. It’s half trust, and half faith that someone knows what they’re talking about. - Nathan Hangen

Authority is earned on some level. Chris Brogan became a social media authority when everyone believed he was. My question is…when did HE believe it? - Kelly Livesay

Authority is also respect. Have learned that, (in my culture anyway.) a person must choose between authority & respect…or will we choose rapport and communication and transparency? Rapport encourages connection, a lack of fear and a sense of security. But there is a cost – often a loss of respect comes with rapport if it’s chosen over authority, especially if that person is a woman. - Franis Engel

Authority is in the eye of the beholder - Mary H Ruth

“Authority” squelches innovation, originality, unconventional acumen. It keeps us looking 4 the same answers in the same places.  “Authority” says that “they” are experts when actually “they” might just be louder or more privileged, male, white, pretty.”Authority” can have sumptuous merit – lived experience, deep digging, TRUE interest. It leads tribes. Bottom line: ALL AUTHORITY NEEDS TO BE QUESTIONED, including one’s own, for true freedom and creativity. Never stop asking. - Danielle LaPorte

I think we are moving to a new place about what constitutes authority, so I am glad you are writing about it. The etymology of authority goes back to the word “autor” -from the Old French for “father”. So there are the patriarchial roots….My new definition of authority is authenticity + clarity (haven’t figured out what to do with the o yet). When I show up as fully myself – with my beautiful flaws and mistakes and fears, and say “this is my truth” from a place of clarity – that is worth listening to. This type of authority is on the rise. If your authority means getting people to listen to you, to follow you, that’s fauxthority. You’re just looking for clones. If it means showing people the possibility of authenticity + clarity to find their truth, now we’re talking. -Lianne Raymond

Authority and Women. That’s a No Go, Boys.

Rich, gorgeous stuff, yes?

And a bit thematic and consistent.

Did you notice a point that kept emerging from the women weighing in on authority?

Authority might be a bit off-putting to women: it feels pretty linear, competitive, male,  and exclusive. And – again with the precise language – kind of icky.

(Bloggers and internet marketers, take note. There is an ISSUE here. More than one woman talked about how authority doesn’t resonate with them, or how it signals all the wrong things. It might be as simple as speaking a different language or it might be more.)

No wonder I can’t get my head around what authority means. We all mean different things by it, and it resonates and triggers wildly different associations in each of us:

  • Credibility
  • Trust
  • Respect
  • Experience
  • Rapport
  • Influence
  • Connection
  • Social Proof
  • reputation
  • Accountability
  • Google

I don’t really know what to do with that. How does one systematically go about attempting to manufacture influence and manipulate perceptions?

(Actually, I think this is called “branding”).

Still: fertile ground.

Wherein It Turns Out Online Authority is Way Simpler and Less Sexy and Sexist Than I Thought.

Buried in all of this yummy, complicated, thinky hummus were two great potatoes:

Authority is landing on 1st page of Google for search term. Preferably in the top 3 - Dave Doolin

Normally “Authority” online is a reference to how Google values your website / pages. Google considers a Site more authoritative if it has the keyword in question in the site’s URL, if it is an older site, if it has plentiful backlinks from other sites considered to be high value sites, and if the content relates well to the search (among other things). Not too differently from how one might look for an Authority on a topic — who does everyone else look to / listen to (link to) for information on a specific topic? - Bruce Nunnally

Oh well, okay then. Now we’re talking. Now we’re sheering off all the emotion, politics, genitals and gendered intersections and just talking about results.

Search engine results.

I think we just figured out the old school (really old school – as in Platonic) online authority that everyone is obliquely telling us to get beyond.

Authority is the Goddess Google via John Mellencamp. Worship Accordingly.

So at its most basic, Platonic level, online authority is search engine results.

And contained in this most minimal of definitions is an action plan. Here’s how you get online authority:

  • backlinks (guest posts)
  • backlinks (commenting on other blogs)
  • backlinks (great content and value aka “linkbait“)
  • backlinks (community. Play nice.)
  • backlinks (relationships. Be nice.)
  • and all the stuff bloggers advise you to do to build traffic, dominate SERPS and create online authority is about…backlinks

I must confess that my inner feminist, idealist and fist-shaker just died a little for the 47 millionth time since I started this essay approximately six hundred years ago.

Fortunately, all of my alter egos are resilient. And persistent.

So is John Mellencamp, from whom I unabashedly stole the title of this piece. His 80s old school words of wisdom, in song:

I fight Authority, Authority always wins
oh, I’ve been doing it since I was a young kid and I always come out grinning.
I fight Authority. Authority always wins.

And Authority is Google and I’m pretty sure she’s a woman.

To woo her, you’ll need backlinks. To keep her (and her friends, the ones she very kindly sends your way), you’ll need plain ol’ likeability, credibility, and respectability.

You know, exactly what everyone was telling me but I just had to keep questioning. Curse you, liberal arts.

_____________________

Kelly Diels writes for ProBlogger every week. She’s also a wildly hireable freelance writer and the creator of Cleavage, a blog about three things we all want more of: sex, money and meaning.

Guest Posts. How To, Why To, Where-Not-To, AND NARY A LIST IN SIGHT.

guest post by Kelly Diels

I’m not a huge fan of arguments based on evolutionary psychology. They tend to justify the status quo, much of which is “status unacceptable” to me. They tend to explain social injustices and systemic discrimination as, oh that’s just the way we are. That’s evolution. That’s biology, baby.

Like this: oh, women seek relationships and withhold sex because evolutionarily speaking, childbearing was a life-or-death thing, so she had to be selective. So don’t bother granting them rights or jobs or treating them like people, or anything. They’re just baby-making, mate-seeking machines.

Or this: men are controlling and jealous because evolutionarily speaking, paternity was always a question. The only way to ensure the baby was yours was to ensure the baby can only be yours. So don’t bother thinking that men have feelings or emotions or that it might be nice to be kind to them or anything. Because they just want to bash you on the head, drag you back to the cave and make babies. Men. Neanderthals. Same dif.

Or this: we’re all racist because evolutionarily speaking, xenophobia helped preserve the safety of the tribe. Being cautious about strangers and outsiders is a survival instinct. So it is totally okay to make racist remarks and be suspicious of immigrants, because, like, that’s just natural.

The roots of these explanations may be true but often we make these kinds of statements as though we don’t have the brains, good fortune, common sense, compassion and creativity to evolve beyond them.

So, evolutionary psychology can be a good history of why we are the way we are, but it is not a strait jacket or a prison or a prophesy. Your biology and your ancestors don’t explain or predict all that you are or all that you can be.

Wherein I Get to My Point: Fear is the Enemy of the Guest Post. And Guest Posting is Essential to Your Success.

Take fear, for example. Fear is awesome. Fear warns you that something you’re about to do might cause you harm.  Fear is really useful. Every kid who was afraid of fire and stayed away from it, didn’t fall in and get burned. Every woman who looked at a big scary guy and thought, I don’t think so, lived to procreate another day. Every man who turned and ran instead of charging into battle unprepared also lived to pass on his genes another day, another way. You see where I’m going here?

Evolutionarily speaking, fear keeps you safe. Fear keeps you alive. We’re all here because the people who came before us navigated fear successfully.

I have a serious respect for fear, except when I get frustrated with fear and tell it off right to its face.

Because my world is just not that dangerous. And neither is blogging.

Fear, and Guest Posting. It is NOT a Sabre-Toothed Tiger and No One Will Eat You. I Promise.

So, my point: guest posting.

Guest posting was scary to me. And, based on the comments, e-mails and direct messages I received in response to my advice to guest post, guest post, guest post, it scares the prehistoric right out of you, too.

So let’s talk about it.

Yep, it is scary. Potential rejection is always unappetizing. But let’s put it in perspective.

There are 17 kajillion blogs out there. That means there are 17 kajillion bloggers out there who are working and writing and raising kids and worrying about evolutionary psychology and its sociocultural impact on justice and trying to figure out a way to beat spam because comment moderation is freaking killing them. In other words, they’re tired. They would LOVE a day off.

Your guest post is a day off. Don’t you want to give someone a day off?

Guest Posts are A Gift. Give Wisely.

That’s not very scary, is it? Your guest post is a gift.

My WordPress genius friend Dave Doolin, who also happens to be very smart and practical man, recently counselled my readers – in a guest post, let me point out – as follows:

Some of us have an almost pathological requirement to give. We need to give. The problem comes when giving to people who don’t want our gifts.

Our challenge is building a community who will freely – and graciously – accept our gifts.

That’s the key to guest posting: find the people who want to receive your gifts. Or, create a community in which this is possible.

How do you do that?

You do your research and you act human.

And how do you do that?

By reading other blogs, and commenting incisively and insightfully when something touches you. By e-mailing other bloggers. By talking to them on Twitter. In short, by making friends.

And please don’t do it as part of an return-on-investment strategy wherein you identify blogs with a certain level of traffic and then kiss the author’s ass. That’s just yucky. And transparent.

Be sincere. Reach out to the people who make you laugh and make you think and maybe even teach you a lil’ sum’in sum’in.

Then, once you’re all friends and you’re reading their stuff, and they’re reading yours, and your stuff is good (please make it good) invitations to guest post will commence. Really, they will.

But don’t just sit back and wait for that to happen.

Offer.

I know. That scary monster in the bottom of your stomach just woke up and growled.

That still scares me.

How to Outwit The Scary Monsters In Your Stomach and Your Head

So this is how I cope: I figure out my roadblocks.

Like this: I’m not good with pressure. I like to write creatively, in great big bursts of inspiration. The daily grind wears down me down a little. Uncertainty is even worse. Waiting to hear if someone likes me – I mean “my writing”, of course I’m talking about my writing – is torture.

So I just write a bunch of electrical, eccentric posts and offer them forth, completed.

I rarely pitch. I rarely inquire. My writing skills are way better than my social skills, so I just send a completed post to someone and if they like it, they run it.

If they don’t, or if they send me a note saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ then I just dust off my pride and that post and send it off to the next site.

This doesn’t mean that I send my “how-to-blog” pieces to Dooce. That would be inappropriate. That’s not the right fit. And Dooce doesn’t do guest posts.

Pick Your Battles. Send Your Pieces Places They Can Win.

Oh, that’s the other thing: send your pieces to the right places. Blogs that are based on personality are not the right place.

Take a read through the blog you want to write for and see how many guest posts you find.

None? Don’t bother. Penelope Trunk and Steve Pavlina and Seth Godin are not going to run your guest post. Why? Because their people only want to read them.

Multi-author blogs, however, are guest-post gold. You know they run guest posts and are eternally hungry for guest posts. Definitely send your pieces there.

If you don’t have a relationship with the blogger – and it is a really good idea to have a relationship, first – then, by all means, pitch.

Ignore my fragile flower advice above because you are tougher than me. You can bear the will-she-won’t-she-run-my-post better than I. Yes, you can. Write an e-mail, include a couple of links to your best stuff, and hope for the best.

I still think it is a good idea to have the post finished before you inquire, though. That way, if the blogger says yes! send me your blazing epistle of righteousness, right NOW! well then, you can. Right away. While you’re still on her mind.

It also shows that you’re reliable, and fast, and possess that much-talked-about and elusive quality: follow-through. This is good, because you get a little mental check mark beside your name, and the next time you ask to guest post, the other blogger will remember, oh yes, he sent me a completed piece right away. That was easy. I like easy. Yes, yes, YES send me your lightning bolts of awesomeness. I will run as much as you can write!

Guidelines. Follow ‘em.

One more thing: some blogs have guest post guidelines. That’s pretty useful. They tell you what they want, and how they want it.

Like…they might want it in Rich Text Format. Or saved to Google Docs. Or maybe a Word file will do. Maybe if you submit a post to that site, you no longer own the copyright to the piece. Maybe you’re not supposed to say bad words. Maybe affiliate links are a no-no (they’re almost ALWAYS a no-no in a guest post). Maybe you’re not supposed to link repeatedly from the body of your piece to your own site (don’t do this). Maybe they write about sex but are really, really not interested in pictures of your anatomy. Any of it. Not even your elbow.

So then sending them a post that includes a picture of your umm, elbow, will not get accepted.

It helps to know these things. So definitely look for the guidelines, and if you don’t find any, ask what for some.

And, finally, listen to the marketing gods at Nike and Just Do It.

You won’t die. Nobody will attack you. The worst thing that will happen is that you’ll get ignored, and again, that won’t kill you.

Other bloggers are not prehistoric monsters (mostly) bent on biting you (unless you like that sort of thing and they’re so inclined).

So psssssst, here’s a secret, one blogger to another:

Blogging is not dangerous. Fear has no place here. If you’re scared, do it anyway. Just try and find a way to make it less scary for yourself.

(Talking about it helps. But you know what really helps? Sending out pieces, getting them accepted, and getting confident.)

Those big, scary blogs that are popular, killing Alexa softly, and making money?

They’re written by bloggers who are you, five years from now. And those A-list bloggers remember their ancient history (being new and scared) well.

_____________________

Kelly Diels writes for ProBlogger every week. She’s also a wildly hireable freelance writer and the creator of Cleavage, a blog about three things we all want more of: sex, money and meaning.

How to Boost Your Alexa Ranking (by a MILLION Places!) in Two Months and One Day

guest post by Kelly Diels

In November, I rebranded and relaunched my blog. I screwed up, I suffered, I sniffled, I refuted the advances of a pervy tech wizard. And I thought: I’d better track my results to see if this was worth it. This better have been worth it.

It was.

On November 10, my Alexa rank was 1,082,076.

Two months and one day later, it is 173,556.

Alexa Rank for kellydiels Jan 11 2009

So, in just two short months (and one day), I raised my Alexa rank by almost one million places.

In three months (in the screen shot above, look at the bottom right figure of 1,766,896), my Alexa rank increased by almost two million places.

How’d I do it? I’m so glad you asked.

Once you get past the first set of ingredients – have a seriously small and unpopular blog – the recipe is simple. It simply requires a ridiculous amount of work and a bit of creativity.

Still, I’ve itemized and analyzed what I did differently in the last two months just so I could whisper sexy blog secrets in your ear.

Here is a list of my torrid confessions.

1. Write unique stuff

Yes, this is just another way of saying “write great content! great content! great content!”. There’s a reason everyone says it, repeatedly: because it works.

I admit it. When I started blogging, I was a wannabe. I wanted to be Steve Pavlina, Darren Rowse or Yaro Starak.

Now, I just wannabe myself. I’m lit-on-fire for the written word, I have big, ballsy opinions, I’m in bed with surprise, and I love to love. That all shines through in my transparent and sometimes pulpy posts. I know the blogging and business-writing rules and alternate between obeying them and breaking them with abandon. It is roller coaster writing, to be sure, but it seems to be a ride with an lengthening line up.

The lesson: be you, write you, and write wild and free.

2. Get your great stuff out there

In two words: guest post.

I don’t have a commenting strategy – or maybe I do, but it goes like this: don’t really do it, unless profoundly moved or delighted by the post or am crushin’ on the writer and you know who you are – so guest posts are almost exclusively how I get in front of new audiences.

Guest posts bump up my traffic significantly. In the last two months, the single greatest driver of my traffic was, you guessed it, ProBlogger. There was even one day when I had two guest posts up on both ProBlogger and Write to Done.

That day was a good day.

(That day was the day I started making money – but that’s another post, entirely.)

You know who I blame for my promiscuous guest-posting?

Josh Hanagarne, World’s Strongest Librarian. He encouraged/pushed/nagged me to guest post, but I was too timid. (Really. I was scared. What if people said no? Rejection is not my thing.) When coaxing me to approach other bloggers failed, spectacularly, he took a new approach.

He demanded a guest post from me for his site. So I sent him one and his people loved me up. It was like rolling around in a meadow full of daisies and puppies and then a unicorn slid down a rainbow and gave me a cupcake. Magic.

Then, after more encouraging/pushing/nagging from Josh, I wrote a guest post for Darren Rowse at ProBlogger. Of course, I didn’t submit it for ten days until I got exasperated by my own cowardice, cursed myself out and straight-up courted that fearsome dragon – Rejection – by pressing send.

Darren accepted it in something like 15 minutes and made nice virtual noises. Later, he said he’d publish as much as I could send him. That was all I need to hear. I sent him A LOT.

Suddenly I had confidence and started sending pieces all over the place.

And my blog grew. So did my traffic.

The lesson? Guest posts work predictable magic on your blog. Go forth, guest post, bewitch and bedazzle.

And have big, strong, nagging friends.

3. Write more, more often

I used to post new pieces 1-3 times a week. Now I post 5-7 times a week. I’ve simply developed a habit of writing every night. It is sometimes painful, almost always exhausting, I’m wasting money on cable I never watch, Facebook misses me something fierce, and I have very nearly stopped dating.

(Very nearly. Not entirely. If I stopped dating, what would I write about? I romance in the name of research. THAT’S HOW MUCH I LOVE ALL OF YOU.)

And then there’s Twitter. I’ve written 322,560 words on Twitter, which is basically a novel in Tweets.

Oh. That just made me a little sad.

But other than that twinge – I could have written a novel in the time I spent Tweeting, oh yes that stings - I’m ecstatic. I’m having so much fun. I’m seeing results.

And my blog is growing.

The lesson? Don’t worry about statistics. Worry about quality.

I didn’t set out explicitly to raise my Alexa rank. I set out to improve my blog, light my writing on fire, and make a lil’ love to my people (and find more of them). And, as a result, my blog took off and took my Alexa rank with it.

You can do it, too. Please do.

And then tell me all about it on Twitter, where I still won’t be writing my novel.

_____________________

Kelly Diels is a wildly hireable freelance writer and the creator of Cleavage, a blog about three things we all want more of: sex, money and meaning.

The Blah Blah Blah Blogging Rules. F It.

I’m having a rule-following problem. As in, don’t want to follow them.

Which rules? These ones:

  • Use snappy titles containing a question, the words “How To” and jarring adjectives. Do not be cute, arty, or poetic. Copy-write. Read the titles on the cover of The Enquirer or Cosmo and do what they do. Your title is more important than the post, itself.
  • Give advice. Provide value. Solve problems. Don’t talk about your cat or your sex life.
  • Make it scannable. Break up text with headers.
  • Make is scannable. Use lists.
  • Make it scannable. Use boldface and italics to emphasize your point.
  • Be brief, simple and stick to one topic. Your readers are only scanning it, anyways.

The Blogging Rules, Flouting Them, and the Faux-Rebellion.

Here is my confession: I’m a lit-on-fire blogger (who hates the word blog, cringes when I’m called a blogger, and resists the word “post”) but I don’t want to play by these rules.

I want to write wild, long, passionate, raw and real. I want to create art. I want to write words that land and burrow and inhabit my people. (I should just admit that I’m a wannabe poet and call it a day. Then no one would EVER read/scan my stuff. And so I blog.)

Here is my second confession: I adhere to the Gospel of Doowhatchalike. My titles are posts in and of themselves. I often write loooooooooooong pieces – sometimes 2,000 words or more. I insert my opinions and streams of consciousness and wackadoo digressions all over the place and they’re usually more interesting than the ostensible topic. And then I post pictures of my cleavage.

But just between you, me and the double D, I’m not a rebel.

I may have a vivid imagination and torrid/insane romantic life (thanks, vivid imagination!), but otherwise am so screamingly normal that it makes your normal tawdry. This is me: 9-5, kids, stability, friends, family, education, achievements, regular oil changes, a yard that doesn’t raise the wrath of strata, blah blah blah.

Why then, in my blog – my baby, my heart, my love, my creative offering to the world, my own thing – do I have to follow the rules? Why do you?

The Revolution Will Be Blogged

Recently, at my own site, I asked: Why do you blog?

The answers were many, varied, and invariably wonderful:

I blog because I love to write; blogging is just another form of expression for me. – Amanda Farough, Violet Minded

Though I may never become a writer who makes millions through my craft, blogging has given me the opportunity to affect the lives of others with my words. – Maven, A Fabulously Good Life

I blog because I’m the savior of the world and if everyone would just listen to me, we would all be better off, but then, I can’t even save myself sometimes so I guess that’s not true either.

I blog because I love run-on sentences.

I blog because the Infinite source of the cosmos calls me to it, that or is constantly warning me to stay away from it. Either way, I’m pretty bad at listening. – Steve, Life Change For You

I started blogging initially because it I was bored, dateless and cold on one January Friday night in Chicago. True story – Laura Cococcia, The Journal of Cultural Conversation

I am a glutton for personal development. whut.

I blog about it because I do my best thinking when I’m talking. I learn things as I explain them to others. I realize truth about myself, ugly ones and damaged ones and foreign ones, when I’m not stuck in my own head.

I blog because blogging is gangsta, and I got a gangsta lean. – Carlos Velez, Conscious Me (coming January 2010)

I needed a space where I could support my own interests, where I’m the Queen Of My Own Domain! It was also a challenge to push myself to try something completely new…to get unstuck and out of a rut. – Eileen, Blue Bird Luxe

I also consider it a creative act and a political act – any woman blogging now is raising a voice for all those womens’ voices which were silenced throughout history. And as the famous quote by Adrienne Rich states: When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her. – Lianne Raymond

…I blog because I want a revolution, I’m adverse to guns, and toddlers aren’t great at protest marches (unless they’re protesting the lack of third bowls of ice cream or fourth green bananas). – Arwyn, Raising My Boychick

To recap: we’re blogging for creative expression; to affect the lives of others; because the-cosmos-made-me or we’re bored and dateless and got a gangsta lean; for challenge; as a creative and political act (be the revolution), and lions-and-tigers-and-bears, OH MY.

Nobody said this:

  • To follow the rules
  • To do what everyone else is doing
  • To turn my blog into a cliché
  • To make money (whaaaaaa????? NOBODY? – okay, a few)

My point: blogging can be transformational.

You know why?

Because it is writing – and we might say, oh you don’t have to be a good writer to be a popular blogger, but for the most part that is a big wiggly lie – and we’re doing it daily.

Those two things, together, mean we’re thinking about THINGS and working through them. A-ha moments are practically guaranteed.

And then there are the people. Wow, the people. Blogging lets us find our people and that is a revelation. It is like coming home to a love-in, only everyone keeps their clothes on (usually) and talks pretty about thinky things. It is beautiful. It is soul food that doesn’t make you fat.

Transformation, community, freedom, creative expression.

That’s why some (most?) of us are blogging. We’re not looking for another set of rules to obey.

Nope. Not even one person jumped on the couch to scream “I LOVE THE RULES. Katie Holmes, Schmatie Holmes, I WANNA MARRY THE RULES!”

So WHY all the Blogging Rules?

So what’s up with the rules? Who made these rules anyway? Why do we need them?

Even more importantly – let me put my social science hat on here and run a really good query – where do they come from?

Dearest Reader, I knew you’d ask, so I did the research. And this is the answer:

F it.

That’s not a code and I’m not alluding to a bad word. That’s really the answer. That’s how people read online.

F for fast. That’s how users read your precious content. In a few seconds, their eyes move at amazing speeds across your website’s words in a pattern that’s very different from what you learned in school.

In our new eyetracking study, we recorded how 232 users looked at thousands of Web pages. We found that users’ main reading behavior was fairly consistent across many different sites and tasks. This dominant reading pattern looks somewhat like an F and has the following three components:

  • Users first read in a horizontal movement, usually across the upper part of the content area. This initial element forms the F’s top bar.
  • Next, users move down the page a bit and then read across in a second horizontal movement that typically covers a shorter area than the previous movement. This additional element forms the F’s lower bar.
  • Finally, users scan the content’s left side in a vertical movement. Sometimes this is a fairly slow and systematic scan that appears as a solid stripe on an eyetracking heatmap. Other times users move faster, creating a spottier heatmap. This last element forms the F’s stem.

That’s not reading. That’s scanning – that’s a person who ended up on your site thanks to Google, and who is searching for an answer to a question. A solution. Maybe even something to buy. And that’s where The Blogging Rules come from.

Readers read the headline, maybe the first line or two, and then scan the body of the piece. Hence: great titles, strong leads, headers and lists.

Blogging Rules: Your New Best Friend. Alas.

The rules aren’t random. They’re a guide to crafting effective online content that gets read (errr…scanned).

Larry Brooks, the writing guru behind the rampant writing usefulness that is storyfix (and he’s so much more than that, too – he’s in love with me although he doesn’t know it nor does his wife. Vivid imagination, say hey!) writes in his blog about the importance of following the rules.

As in: if you’re a writer, and you want to get published, you better learn the storytelling conventions and rock them out. To the letter. Or resign yourself to being an undiscovered ungenius.

The same is probably true with blogging. The rules are about how people read online. And you want them to read your stuff, right? I mean that’s why we’re blogging, yes?

My inner imaginary rebel just nodded, sighed and said F it.

________________________

PS – Want more on the rules? Here’s a quick, top ten list of good stuff you can find here at ProBlogger. (Ah-choo!)

  1. Striking Findings from an Eye Tracking Study
  2. Behaviors of the Blogosphere Study Results
  3. What is a Blog?
  4. 18 Lessons I’ve Learnt as a Blogger
  5. Writing Good Content
  6. Post Length – How Long should a Blog Post Be?
  7. Granular One Topic Blog Posts
  8. Using Titles Effectively on Blogs
  9. Scannable Content
  10. Writing Blog Content – Make it Scannable

__________________________

Kelly Diels is a wildly hireable freelance writer and the creator of Cleavage, a blog about three things we all want more of: sex, money and meaning.