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Forget about Marketing: Concentrate on Blogging

This is a guest contribution by Nicholas Whitmore.

The title: What on earth does it mean?

Well, recently it seems like a lot of bloggers fancy themselves as marketers. You can’t read a post on a blog without seeing a load of other bloggers commenting at the bottom, with a link back to their own site. Of course other bloggers use black hat SEO tricks and other shady tactics in order to drive traffic to their blog. Each to their own you might say, but at the end of the day life can be much, much easier.

If you publish blog content that’s truly awesome, everyone else will market your blog for you.

If you seem to spend half your life trying to promote your blog with your efforts never coming to fruition, now’s the time to stop. There’s a reason why things aren’t working out – and you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s the actual content in your blog posts.

Sorry to have to break it to you, but your blog posts suck.

A man shocked at your lack of proofreading!

It’s time to go back to basics because if you’re guilty of trying to build links and force traffic to your blog, you’re trying too hard.

The art of blogging involves thinking up great topics and blog titles, performing research where required, then authoring great work.

Building links and driving traffic to your website does not fall under the blogging remit – that’s marketing, something different altogether.

Good things come to those who wait

Starting a successful blog is not something that you can do overnight. In fact, it can take months or even years before you start to see traction and those crazy traffic figures you’ve dreamt of. If you’ve got a short attention span or you’re incredibly impatient, the chances are that you won’t make it as a blogger.

Whilst some bloggers out there make a living from their sites, don’t go quitting your day job and blowing your life savings just yet – getting a blog to the point where it can be successfully and sustainably monetized takes a very, very long time.

Expedite success with more awesome blog posts 

The only way in which you can expedite the success of your blog is to publish more high quality content. Be careful not to inundate your visitors with too much content to digest though in your race to the top. Careful balances need to be struck between quality and quantity – a balance must also be struck between too many and too little blog posts.

Rarely will you see a sparsely populated blog that’s extremely popular. One of the core ingredients of a successful blog is frequent content – there’s no getting away from that fact. You don’t have to post 10 new blogs each week, but it would help in a lot of cases.

Hard work always pays off 

On my desk is a mug that my father used to drink out of. It says: “Hard work always pays off” – I find that little saying resonates around my head at least one million times each day. There are few things in life truer than this saying – and it can of course be applied to the world of blogging.

Be prepared to spend a good few months writing awesome posts that few people will read initially.

Keep plugging away – keep publishing great content and your blog will be recognized. The pay off comes when the recognition that your blog receives snowballs – links from other blogs start rolling in, and people recommend your posts on social media.

Recognition usually starts like a little trickle of water – gradually it will build up into a raging torrent. The more recognition your site receives, the more people will read it. As more people read your blog, it’ll receive further recognition. It’s an infinite loop of goodness for you as a blog owner!

In Summary 

When you write and publish awesome content on your blog, good things will come your way.

When you write and publish boring content then spend hours on end building links to it, trying to force people to your website, good things will never come.

Spend your time blogging – not marketing. The marketing side of things will be taken care of for you by your visitors if the blog posts that you publish are good enough to be recommended and shared across the internet.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sharing posts you publish via social media with friends and followers – it’s the ideal way in which to generate that initial buzz and interest about your blog. When the marketing of your posts takes longer than it does to actually write them however, you’ve almost certainly lost your way as a blogger.

 Nick is a freelance journalist and website content editor from http://www.contentwriting.org. He writes extensively about the art of blogging, as well as online marketing techniques such as SEO, PPC and SMM.

Discover The “Can’t Miss” Email Technique To Bring Attention To Your Blog

This is a guest contribution by Frank Angelone.

It’s safe to assume that you want your blog to succeed, right?

It’s easier said than done, but whenever you’re trying to market your blog to others, it can be a very discouraging process.  Not only that, as bloggers, we continually suffer from the inability to get in touch with those we aspire to be like.

It’s not that those individuals don’t want to connect with us, but their email inboxes are full to the max and the Internet is flooded with content.  Tough obstacles ahead of us to stand out from the crowd I’d say.

Obviously, email marketing is an effective way to communicate with our readers, but more often than not, a well known blogger is not signed up to your email list.  The thing is…being associated to these well known bloggers in some capacity can help build the authority your blog needs to get attention.

So how are you suppose to grab the attention of these people?

Keep It Simple, Stupid!

I’ve learned, from my experiences, the best way to grab the attention of others is to keep my enquiries simple and straight forward. 

Granted, in reality, I am marketing to them.

It’s true, whenever you email someone and you wish to market yourself to them, it’s never a good idea to just email them a link to your blog.  You can be sure you won’t be contacted at that point. You want the email to capture their attention from the subject line.

Since you only have a short period to grab their attention, what can you do?

The Subject Line Is The Magic Potion 

Before you start trying to think of creative headlines, let me stop you right there. That kind of advice you’ll see many people give for blog posts and email newsletters.

This doesn’t apply when you’re trying to encourage a well known blogger to open your email. 

In fact, it’s much simpler and easier than you may think. On top of that, you may have used this tactic before and never even realised what a POWERFUL strategy it is.

Tell Me What To Do Already!

This brings me to my personal sure fire way to grab a response…

The magic answer is…

Use the subject line – “Quick Question.”

Really?  That’s it?  Yes, that’s it.  It’s worked for me many times. It’s how I’ve published guest posts on sites like CopyBlogger and here on ProBlogger.

The goal is to create a relationship. Quick Question lets them know…”this won’t take long.” This is what I use all the time.

I can’t believe I’m giving this away because it’s my best kept secret, until now!

How Does This Apply To My Blog?

Interestingly enough, I’ve used this little subject line to build my blog’s credibility. 

I’ve been able to leverage my podcast to build authority for my blog. An authoritative blog is something all bloggers strive for.  By using that “Quick Question” subject line, I’ve brought guests onto my podcast like Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Pirillo, Brian Clark, Seth Godin, and Robert Scoble to name a few. 

I can officially say that all these great people in some way are associated with my blog.

I’m not throwing these names at you to brag, but rather show you that by having these relationships, I’ve been able to connect with new readers / listeners and provide advice to others on how to go about podcasting.

This additional layer of my blog that started with a simple subject line also gave me the freedom to not have to rely on writing blog posts. Writing can be tiring, time consuming, and writers block can occur frequently. Doing audio interviews was my way of overcoming these obstacles and in the process I’ve developed relationships with well known bloggers.

You may not be able to build the readership that you want at this point. You may not be able to get a ton of comments on your posts. However, you can start finding other avenues to build that authority for your blog.

Don’t believe that just because it’s a blog that you’re restricted to only written content…you’re not!

Even though podcasting isn’t what I talk about on my blog, because of the well known bloggers I’ve connected with, I was able to talk to Chris Pirillo’s mastermind group in a webinar on bringing guests to your podcast and wrote a blog post about it too.

So, try this in your next email and let me know how this works out for you in the comments and if you’re able to build some new authority for your blog.

Frank Angelone teaches people how to use social media in business and how to adapt to technology.  He’s also coupled these teachings by interviewing well known entrepreneurs like Chris Pirillo, Robert Scoble, Brian Clark, and Leo Babauta to name a few, on the STZ Podcast.  Be sure to subscribe to be notified of new episodes!

Google Hangouts: Turning Bloggers into Broadcasters

This is a guest contribution by Sarah Hill, the Chief Digital Storyteller for Veterans United Network.

Blogging no longer has to be a text based conversation. Google+ has allowed bloggers to become broadcasters, adding a visual component to each blog post, and all you need to become a “Blogcaster” is a webcam, an internet connection, and Google+.

Understanding the Basics of Google+

Narrow-minded individuals have been quick to dismiss Google+, seeing another Facebook; however, the true functionality of Google+ goes beyond keeping up with friends. This platform offers a unique feature that allows you to live-stream face-to-face video chats to the masses through a feature known as Hangouts.

Google’s Hangout feature is unfolding into a product that is changing how people collaborate and learn, providing real users with the tools and information to accomplish real-world tasks, and the ability to display it for all to see via YouTube.

This free broadcast tower is deepening relationships between bloggers, businesses and personal users through face-to-face interaction, setting the social network apart from all others and creating a fresh way to experience the web.

Hangout Preparation

Starting a Hangout can be done in a few seconds, just by clicking the “Start a Hangout” button; however, before diving in head first, it is best to prepare.

When you start a Hangout for the first time, you will be prompted to install a quick plugin. All you need to do is download Google’s voice and video chat plugin, ensure you have a webcam with a microphone and a decent internet connection. Ethernet is preferred but I’ve done lots of Hangouts over Wifi and even 4G as well.

In addition, it is best to check your lighting and background beforehand to make sure people can clearly see your face.

Once you’re confident in the set up and have ran some practice Hangouts, it’s time to promote a live event.

Announce the hangout

First, create a Google+ public event announcement a few days to a couple weeks before your Hangout. You want to give users time and create awareness of the Hangout.

Set to stream the hangout

Also, when creating the Google+ Hangout, be sure to open a “Hangout on Air” as those Hangouts stream live on YouTube and are then automatically recorded to your YouTube channel after you hit “end broadcast”.

Promote your hangout

Next, build awareness by posting in related Google+ communities, as well as other social channels. Don’t stay only on Google+, but cross-pollinate your live event to all your social platforms. Also, consider using a specific hashtag for your event.

Over Memorial Day, Veterans United partnered with Google+, the 9/11 Memorial and Virtual Photo Walks for a live Hangout. We used #honortheheroes to promote it to the public. Search that hashtag for examples of how we promoted that event.

Becoming a Blogcaster

Hangouts fuel the possibility of bloggers to become blogcasters, allowing up to ten users to video chat at a time, with the ability to broadcast to the entire world through “Hangouts on Air.”

So what would you talk about when you host a Hangout?

What are you passionate about? Original ideas, quality content and social sharing are the goal, and if you are posting interesting, thought provoking content on a frequent basis, you have the ability to gain followers and grow your authority – and this is no different through Hangouts.

Common Hangout topics include education, interviews, product demonstration and, more recently, customer service. However, when blogging, consider taking your hottest blog post and invite other authorities in the space to join in on the Hangout panel, providing multiple angles on the topic.  This lengthens the life of your blog beyond just the initial post.

Preparation is a must. Put together a list of questions that you can ask members in the Hangout, know who is speaking, on what topic and how long. Also, be sure to keep the conversation flowing by having transition topics so that you don’t permit awkward downtime.

And, no matter what method is used when producing a Hangout, remember to monitor social channels, blog comments from people who couldn’t attend the Hangout. You should also point users toward a social feed that they can post questions, essentially making them a part of the Hangout as well.

As with blogging, when you engage with your users on a frequent basis, user interaction and discussion becomes much easier. With Hangouts, that interaction is deeper as it’s now face to face via webcam.

Claim Your Work

The larger your presence is on Google+, the more likely it is that Google will see you as an expert or authority in your personal niche. And, to ensure that you’re capturing all the authority given from your Hangouts – especially when you post the URL to another site – be sure to claim the content through Google+.

“Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman at Google, recently said that future rankings will be determined by verified author profiles,” said Matt Polsky, an organic search strategist. “If you haven’t realized it yet, authors are already verifying their content on Google+, which is more than enough of a reason to get started.”

As Matt said above, bloggers are already verifying their broadcasts and content, providing users with not only a picture snippet in search results, but with additional authority for your specialized niche – especially when you branch out and write for other authority publications.

To verify your content, you can add the rel=author tag to your Google+ link in your byline when you create and post content.

With some forethought, time, and effort, you can grow your online presence and authority so people can discover your content. Broadcasting isn’t just for TV stations anymore. If you have a blog, you too can become a Google+ blogcaster.

Have you already used a Hangout? What was your experience?

About the Author: Sarah Hill is the Chief Digital Storyteller for Veterans United Network – a leading hub of news and advice on veteran and military issues. Connect with Sarah on Google+ to start a Hangout, or chat with her on Twitter.

How I Turned a Guest Post into 3 Million Visitors and Over 150,000 Social Media Shares

Yesterday, I shared a practical exercise for diving deeper into your blog’s analytics to discover how you can use the last month of blog action to plan for the future.

Today, I’d like to show you an example of just how powerful this discipline can be when it comes to building traffic to your site. In fact, this simple exercise led to a series of events that generated:

  • 3 million unique visitors
  • 131,000 ‘pins’ on Pinterest
  • 25,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook
  • 19,000 RT’s on Twitter

It all started with a Guest Post Submission

This story all began in March of 2012 when I received an email through the contact form on dPS, outlining an idea for a guest post. The author wanted to write a post with some examples pictures of how to pose women for portraits.

I liked the idea and agreed that the author could write the post. He submitted it a couple of weeks later and I scheduled it to go live late on the 28th.

The post was titled Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You started with Photographing Women (note: on the blog it says ‘Part 1′ but at the time of publishing it was a stand alone post).

Screen Shot 2013 06 04 at 1 20 59 PM

Initial Results

I thought the post would do well as it was on a topic we’ve had good responses to in the past i.e. posing techniques. It was also an image based post, which we’ve had quite a bit of success with.

Four days later (on the first of April), when I was doing my ‘deep dive’ into Google Analytics, I was excited to see that the post had done very well indeed.

The day it was published the post had over 17,000 visitors, which was higher than an average post on its first day. Around 30% of that traffic was coming in from Facebook, which was surprising as I didn’t promote it on our own Facebook page until the day after.

The second day after publishing, the post saw around 8,000 visitors but day 3 saw it reach over 42,000 visitors.

This spike was partly due to the post being featured in our newsletter, which normally spikes traffic to the site, but that day also saw some great traffic from social media including StumbleUpon, Facebook and Pinterest.

Over the following few days it continued to do really well so by the time I did my analyse it had already received around 150,000 visitors – considerably higher than other posts on the site in their first week.

Other than the raw traffic numbers I was interested to see that:

  1. The number of sharing events the post was getting on Facebook, StumbleUpon and Pinterest. The post had some great visuals that seemed to stimulate this.
  2. The number of comments and emails we were getting from readers asking how to pose men and kids.

Building Momentum

I saw an opportunity and immediately emailed the author to see if he’d be interested in similar followup posts on posing men and children.

He had also noticed a spike in traffic to his own site as a result of the post, was keen to do more and immediately began work.

Within a week we published Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You Started with Photographing Men.

This second post did about 75% of the traffic of the first post but the patterns were very similar. The difference was that we didn’t see traffic from StumbleUpon but instead saw it from Reddit.com

10 days later we published a Posing Guide for Photographing Children with very similar results.

While traffic wasn’t quite as spectacular on posts #2 and #3 they were still well and truly out performing most other posts on the site. Naturally, I commissioned the author to write more!

Post #4 was a Posing Guide for Photographing Couples is an interesting case study in and of itself because while it spiked in traffic over the first week it didn’t drive as much initial traffic. However, since publishing it last May it has gone on to become our most popular post ever on Pinterest and continues to drive great traffic to the site ever since.

Screen Shot 2013 05 27 at 2 47 16 PM

To this day, that post has over 83,000 ‘pins’ and has been visited just under half a million times in the last 12 months!

Over the coming months we published more followups in this series:

Each post has not only gone on to drive its own traffic but every time we post another addition to the series we see a surge of traffic to previous posts (as we interlink them all). So now, because we’ve published six followup posts in the series, our original post has received around 850,000 visitors and they’ve had over 2.5 million visits between them all.

Take Home Lessons

The take home lesson for me is it’s not only important to create useful content, you need to take note of what works. You also need to attempt to find ways to build momentum on your site and followup with more of the same!

While the traffic levels may not be the same as what we do on dPS (we have the benefit of having build decent traffic to the site since 2006) the same principles can apply for a blog at any level.

The success of this series of posts has generated a lot of future ideas for dPS. We’ve commissioned the author to create another series of posts (the first of which went live on the blog in the last hour) which will also include ‘real photos’ based upon the poses previously covered. This was something we had requests for in the previous series of posts so I’m hoping it goes well.

How to Get Your First 1,000 Email Subscribers When Nobody Knows You

This is a guest contribution by Marya Jan, blogging coach from Writing Happiness.

What’s the biggest excuse you hear from people who are not getting the results they want from their blogging?

“I don’t know anyone online.”

Not ‘my content might not be good’. Not ‘I don’t a clear idea of what I am doing’. Not ‘I know it takes time and I am learning everything I can’.

None of that. It’s always because they don’t have any connections with the big shots.

Allow me to put up my hand and say this … I have over 1,000 subscribers (multiple times over actually) and I have done this under 18 months of blogging AND without having connections with any famous people.

I did meet Darren Rowse, Sonia Simone, Chris Garrett, Tim Ferris and Annabel Candy at the Problogger Conference in 2011 but I was so new that I was too scared to even introduce myself properly.

I am pretty sure this doesn’t count. So what does? So glad you asked.

If you are someone who has been blogging for a few months, you know how hard it is to attract readers. You spend insane amounts of time creating content but nobody takes you seriously. You hope to get a few shares, but all you hear is dead silence

You might be new-ish but you have quickly realized this reality: Blogging is hard work and sometimes it seems downright cruel..

You know honeymoon period is over

Creating quality content is getting you nowhere (assuming it is high quality) and you need a plan B. And you can’t come up with anything to save your life.

I have another suggestion. I propose that you go back and revisit your plan A. Identify loopholes, see if you could improve things so that you actually don’t need any other plans.

That’s how I did it.

Your first plan might look something like this:

  • Start a blog
  • Pick a topic
  • Identify your audience
  • Create useful content
  • Promote that content
  • Differentiate yourself from others (All of this within 2 weeks)
  • Form relationships with influencers
  • Grow your blog by leaps and bounds

So basically after about two weeks worth of work, you are relying on getting your blog off the ground by befriending people in high places.

Let me tell you, this is not a particularly smart strategy.

Through own my experience and by through coaching other clients (Yes, I am a blogging coach), I have found that most influencers won’t take you seriously unlessyou have some sort of proven record.

Your biggest fan

Image used with permission

Allow me to explain: Influencers are super busy people. They are very, very, very busy people. If you need to earn their attention, you need to prove you are worth it. So in my experience, you can have meaningful relationships with A-list bloggers but it doesn’t happen in the beginning. Not for most of us, anyway.

It takes time and lot of effort BEFORE they notice you. (And nobody will tell you this.)

If you trying to do this too early on, you are going about it in the wrong way. Instead, you should focus your time on your blog just so that you know what you are doing.

You need to do things right enough that you have a 1k subscribers worthy blog so you have the skill and confidence of approaching them properly.

So let’s have a look at the plan again, shall we?

After delivering hundreds of blog reviews and coaching many clients, I have found these to be the primary causes of why people don’t get their first 100 subscribers, let alone 1,000.

1. Poor first Impression 

Your blog looks amateurish, tacky or just plain spammy.

When someone new lands on it for the first time, they get no sense of what the blog is about, who is writing it and if it’s any good. There are too many flashy ads, or too many images, colours, links and tabs competing for attention.  The content doesn’t seem appealing. The headlines are boring, images are of poor quality, and everything is a big chunk of text.

Your blog title doesn’t tell them anything about who you are about and how you can help them. Your visitors are so confused that the only option that makes sense is to leave.

The easiest way to fix this is to make your site clutter free and get rid of all the unnecessary elements adding to the chaos. You want to make it as easy as you can for your readers to navigate.

Most people cram their sidebars with lots of information in order to look like they have been around for a while. That they know what they are doing. Please don’t. Things like tag clouds, categories, search boxes, links to other bloggers aren’t really helpful. Not really.

Don’t stuff your sidebar with ads either. I am guessing you don’t have enough traffic to make any decent money anyway.

2. Unspecified target audience

You are not making it clear who the blog is for. You are not saying to a particular group of people (maybe you aren’t sure who they are?) that this blog is for them.

For instance, let’s say you are a business coach. However this is a very general term. If you don’t make it absolutely clear that you are writing for start-ups, or small business owners, or mid sized business, or executives; you are just confusing your readers.

One great way to make it happen is to say that in your tag line or in a mini author bio that you display on the sidebar. You’ve got to have people saying, ‘Yes, this seems perfect for me.’

 3. Incomplete About page

People are really interested in person behind the blog. They want to know who that creative soul is. They want to like that person. They want to be that person.

A lot of people totally mess this up. Either they talk too much or too little.

Often they present the information in the wrong order. They start off with their story and why they write the blog and then barely touch upon how they can help you. People lose interest.

People want to know who writes this blog but more importantly they want to know why they should care.

Tell them why you are relevant to them, and follow it by your story and other details. And keep it brief.

4. Negative social proof 

One thing that will make the most difference to the number of readers you get is the display of social proof.

When people come to a place where they see others hanging out, they feel confident in making the same choice. For this reason, focus to create content that gets shared, liked and get commented on.

From day one, add credibility building elements to your site. The most popular of them all is the ‘As seen on’ testimonial. You want to land guest posts on popular blogs and then proudly display their logos on your site.

5. No point of difference

This is something that many new bloggers struggle to answer in their earlier days of blogging so I won’t say to worry too much about it. That being said, if you spend some time thinking about what makes you different from the rest, you will find it easier to create content and would be more focused in related tasks.

There are several ways to help make you stand out from the crowd.

Lady Pointing To You

Being you

This is the thing; you are the most unique thing about your blog. There is nobody else just like you, with your point of view, insights and experiences.

The more you accept that and highlight it, the more chances you will have to appeal to those who are truly the right people. So really hone in your voice and bring out that personality of yours for the world to see. People can’t get that anywhere else.

They love the snark in Ashley Ambridge’s voice. They love Danielle Laporte’s soul. They adore Darren Rowse for a kind, down to earth spirit. What’s your secret sauce?

Your purpose

Yes, you are providing solutions to somebody’s problems but why are you doing it, really? What is your big idea? What do you stand for?

Do you believe life is an adventure? Chris Guillebeau

Do you want to show people how work less and play more? Tim Ferris

Do you want people to focus on the essentials? Leo Babauta

Do you want to empower women in business and life? Marie Forleo

Do you want to offer personal development advice for smart people? Steve Palvina

If you believe in something, people will believe in you. Tell them now.

The way you dress

Your design, colours, logo, tag line, images – everything speaks volumes and appeal to a certain kind of person.

Want to attract go getters, how about choosing red or maroon in your theme? How about appealing to gentle, earth loving souls with the light green colour? Inspiration is your game then might soothing blue is what you need.

Your design needs to support your theme, mission and content and make you stronger. Marie Forleo is hip, Mars Dorian is bold, what are you?

Your offer

Your specific market, your content, the needs you solve and the exact solution you provide based on your expertise is often enough to differentiate you from others.

Derek Halpern teaches you marketing based on research findings. Corbett Barr teaches you how to get traffic because he has done it. What have you got on offer?

6. No incentive to sign up

Many new bloggers are finding it super hard to find new readers and to keep old ones also. One reason is because they don’t get them on their list. They don’t place a subscription box in a prominent position and  don’t give them any reason to subscribe.

Shouldn’t the blog itself be good enough reason? Yes, it is, but adding an incentive to your sign up box works really well.

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to just put together some old posts and offer as a freebie. One, nobody cares and even if somebody did, they won’t take you seriously.

But you don’t have to spend days or months creating something. Jon Morrow says the best opt-in offers are those that offer some sort of short cut of doing a task. A cheat sheet of sorts (His Headline Hacks is a great example).

Teach people to do one thing and do it really well. People don’t find long freebies appealing that take too long to read and would take months to implement. A report, mini ebook, white paper or a short webinar works well.

7. Lack of self promotion

Finally people never sign up because they don’t know you exist. You have to actively go out and promote yourself.

Again, you might feel compelled to remind me that that’s why you need relationships with famous bloggers so they can promote you. Let me tell you that is not the only way you can drive traffic to your blog.

You can guest post on mid-sized blogs. Often they don’t publish many guest posts so their audience might be more inclined to follow you. You can create YouTube videos, Slideshare presentations, answer questions in forums such as yahoo answers and Quora.

And no, I am not snubbing social media. But social media does take a while to work, especially if you are new. By all means participate in social media but don’t make it the main focus of your traffic generation efforts.

The point is: you have to promote a lot. Spend 20% of your time creating content for your own blog and the rest on promoting it.

Being smart or talented is not enough to build a successful blog

Then what is? Creating super useful content. Being able to stand out from the rest. And for the right people too. And to be worthy of getting some attention from A-list bloggers. Then you can approach the bloggers you worship. There is a good chance you’ll hear back.

Marya Jan is on a mission to help bloggers get their 1,000 subscribers. She is a blogging coach at Writing Happiness. Grab her free ebook ‘9 New Rules of Blogging – Grow Your Business with Little Traffic, No Connections & Limited Hours. 

The Wave System: How to Get Your Facebook Page Updates Seen By More People

Did you just write a killer blog post? Or do you have an event/product to promote?

The Problem of Sharing Links on Facebook

If so, you probably rely, at least partially, on linking to your webpage through Facebook. But lately Facebook is showing outbound links to such a small percentage of your page followers, that it’s potentially detrimental to blogs and businesses alike.

Bloggers have it worst because even when people click on a link through a Facebook and decide to share a blog post, they don’t share or interact on the Facebook post–they do it directly from the blog. So the Facebook post gets no interaction and therefore Facebook views it as irrelevant. Before I developed the Wave System I’ll outline below, my outbound links were being seen by less than 10% of the followers on my page.

I’ve spent a lot of time and money to acquire the fans on my pages; but when I write a blog post or have a sale that my readers can benefit from, Facebook doesn’t allow me to tell anybody about it.

Sound familiar?

Within 20 minutes, any post with a link from your Facebook post falls so far down the feed, it’s rendered useless.

By this time, you should know that the more interaction you get on a post, the more people will see it. If you have figured out a way to get people to interact on your promotional posts, I’m all ears. I’ve tested on 10 different pages and still haven’t figured it out.

Since payment buttons, squeeze page, and blogs usually exist outside of Facebook, you need people to click a link—a link that Facebook doesn’t want to show them.

You’re then left with two bad options:

Bad Option #1 – You can continue to post sales material multiple times a day and preface it sheepishly with words like:

“hey guys,

In case you missed it earlier, just a reminder we’re having a big sale on our super premium widgets today.”

This way more people will see the ad, but it also means you’re no longer adding value to your followers and will probably get your page hidden.

Bad Option #2 – You can decide to pay for Facebook’s “pay to promote” feature. I like Facebook ads, but am I the only one who has noticed that it gets more and more expensive? It costs me $1,000 to promote a SINGLE POST to the followers on one of my pages.

I already run Facebook ads continuously, but $1,000 to promote a single post to my existing fans is almost never worth it–especially to promote a blog post and not product sale. And, for almost every Facebook page owner that runs a small business, it’s out of the question.

To put it bluntly, you’re screwed. All that time, money, and effort you spent building up a Facebook page has gone for naught. Facebook is evil right? Would you agree that they are greedy pigs that are systematically squashing small businesses?

I don’t…

Facebook is Forcing Marketers to Evolve

Facebook used to be a place where lazy marketers could get heard. All they had to do was put sales pitches in the feed and generated big email lists that turned into sales. But now I can’t log onto Facebook without seeing a marketer (or even the occasional social media expert) complaining that Facebook is evil and is making it impossible to succeed.

Make no mistake; Facebook is still the most powerful marketing medium on the planet. That is, of course, if you know how to use it.

I say this because, through a lot of experimentation, I’ve developed a system to select the posts I want Facebook to show to my audience for free. With a bit of planning, I’ve repeatedly gotten status updates with outbound links to my blog posts and event promotions to 50-75% of the users on my page. And no, I don’t do this by combining my links with cheap pictures, motivational quotes, or memes.

This article will teach you exactly how to trick Facebook into showing your blog posts and promotional status updates, which get little to no interaction themselves, to the majority of your users for free. In addition, I’ve included a bonus section at the bottom where I show you how to identify specific groups within your page and target them, also for free.

The First Step is Understanding EdgeRank

EdgeRank is the Facebook algorithm for determining relevance. While the specifics often change, the constant is that Facebook is trying to figure out who and what you want to listen to. It does this largely by tracking your interactions.

“Like” an update, click on a picture, watch a video, or share an article, and your affinity towards whoever shared that article goes up. (Note: This is obviously a very superficial overview about EdgeRank, but it’s enough to understand my system below.)

The Wave System – How to Manipulate EdgeRank and use it to Your Advantage

I’ve been experimenting on 10 different Facebook accounts for two years. Despite all of Facebooks changes, it has always worked and will always work in a predictable pattern.

I’ve used the Wave System to build multiple fan pages with 15,000+ members in a matter of months. Not only that, these are users who are avidly interested in my business and purchase my products.

I’ll be sharing one example of each different type of post I used in the example from the picture below. This was a promotion for a conference I’m holding. The result was that Facebook showed this post 78% of my fans for free. It did this because of the insane relevance I was able to build up in the days previous using my 4 step system below.

Ptdc seminar 1

It takes some planning on your part. Here are the 4 steps to the Wave System:

Step 1 - Collect what you predict will be a series of very viral photos. Whenever you come across something that you think will get a ton of interaction, put it in a special folder.

There are probably pages that already serve your demographic. Take a couple of hours and go through their archives. Download the viral memes or pictures that do the best on your competitors pages and put them in your folder—why start over when somebody else has already done the work for you? (Note, always give proper attribution to photos if you can. Most people don’t on Facebook, but don’t be a jerk like most people.)

Step 2 - The most viral pictures and status updates concern a controversial or often discussed subject pertaining to your industry or the perception of your industry.

Write the biggest public misconceptions about your industry. What is it that gets under your skin as a professional? Write that down.

Next, on that document, note the side of the controversy that your audience firmly sites on.

Below is a picture of an example I used to generate a lot of shares and likes leading up to my conference promotion. I know that trainers get frustrated when people say that they need to wait for everything to be perfect to start working out (because it never will be). So I posted a viral photo and added in a bit of a rant in the description for good measure.

Meme 1 pre launch

Step 3 - 2 days before you plan on putting out a promotional post start to publish 4-6 viral pictures or status updates that you expect get a ton of interaction. Pull them directly from your file in steps 1 and 2. Refer to my post called, “When is the Best Time to Post on Facebook?” to pinpoint, to the minute, the best times to publish these posts for your audience.

The more people that interact with these multiple posts the better. Continue to publish 4-6 times a day generating as many likes, comments, and shares as possible. The purpose is to generate as much relevancy from as many of your fans as possible towards your page.

The most effective status updates in terms of gaining relevancy are those that hit on a public misconception that affects your industry. It’s likely a source of common frustration and one that your audience will want to share to help education their friends and family by sharing the post. Below is an example I recently used.

Written statement

Step 4 - When it comes time to post your promotion, publish the post with your sale or call to action. For the next 2-3 days, wave in and out viral materials.

Your promotional post will not get much interaction. But, because you’ve build up so much relevancy the previous two days, Facebook will show automatically show your post to more people.

For the next 2-3 days, wave in and out promotional materials with viral posts. This way, Facebook will continue to show your promotional posts to a higher percentage of your page users.

How to Use Questions

One other option for increasing affinity to a large group of people is to ask questions that you expect to get a lot of interaction. I poll my audience for two distinct different reasons: information collection and relevance building. Allow me to give an overview of both.

Information Collection Questions – My Facebook page is my focus group. Often I’ll ask them questions like, “what topics do you want me to cover in the coming weeks?” or I might be doing one of my many experiments. For example, if you read my article linked above on the best time to post on Facebook, you’ll note that I did an experiment where I wanted to find out the most common times my following exercised. So I asked them, and hired administrative help to graph it for me.

Relevance Building - Getting a lot of comments on a status update is a fantastic way to increase relevancy to a number of followers on your page. Sometimes I’ll rile up my audience by choosing a controversial subject that affects them, arguing one side, and asking for their input. Below is an example (note that this was two days before I promoted my conference):

Question pre launch

Bonus Section – Using the Wave System to Pre-Select Your Audience

I was in a social media gathering last week and a good question came up. The question (paraphrased) was, “My Company offers different services that appeal to different types of people. Is it a problem to promote all of the services to my entire page or will that turn off the groups that aren’t interested in that one service?”

I’m in a similar situation here. My page for personal trainers promotes both nutrition and exercise products. I use the Wave System to manipulate EdgeRank to pre-select my audience.

The best way to illustrate this is with an example:

Let’s say I’m going to be promoting a nutrition program in 3 days time. I would start the wave system as per the steps above, but would only use viral photos that were nutrition based. This way, the people who were interested in nutrition would like and comment on those posts. The people who weren’t interested in nutrition would ignore them.

Then, when it comes time to put my first promotion up, the people who my content pre-selected would be shown the promotion and those who aren’t interested in nutrition wouldn’t.

It’s not perfect, but it works reasonably well.

Facebook is not evil, quite the opposite. Facebook is powerful and, if you understand how to use it, can be the most important marketing tool at your disposal.

Never forget though, the purpose of Facebook is not to collect fans; it’s to find your audience so that you can get them off of Facebook and onto an email list. Use the Wave System to get people to your squeeze pages and into your marketing funnel.

Jonathan Goodman is a 2X author and the creator of Viralnomics. He is currently offering free enrollment to his 20-day content creation course.

The 3 Emails You Must Send During a Launch … and a Fresh Alternative for Bloggers

Are you ready to launch a product from your blog?

Not an affiliate product, but something you created with your own flesh and blood?

After many late nights spent honing that ebook, ecourse, or coaching program?

Whatever it is, if you’re ready to release that puppy, then it’s time to commit to it and launch it.

Launching is going to disrupt your normal blogging lifestyle. Heck—it disrupts everything, including you and your happy audience’s normally scheduled (and expected) activities.

But I’m here today to give you some good news and the lowdown on what you need to do to keep this disruption to a minimum.

In this blogging primer for launches, you’ll learn:

  • how to warm your readers up to the idea of you launching a product
  • ways to keep the communication non-spammy
  • when and how to offer pre-launch content
  • easy-to-remember basics on “email” marketing during your launch.

You’ll get to see this topic through the lens of known bloggers and marketers, but I’ll also reveal my own use of each one of these strategies and concepts.

So, if you’re ready to turn your blog into a product-launching, money-making, name-taking machine, keep reading!

1. Blogger to launcher basics

Many bloggers who have never created and sold their own products wonder how to make the leap and start offering something for sale. Even after you’ve created a product, it can still feel somehow taboo to offer something for sale.

I thought I’d done plenty to warn the world that I was open for business. I wrote an ebook, told some people about it, and then I just let it sit there.

When I was ready to launch for real—with a real program—I had to start over again. Not just because I’d been dormant since my last launch, but because I’d even shifted the focus of my site—drastically.

I went from talking about general personal development and productivity to writing primarily about launching—especially for the first-timers who didn’t feel like they could compete with so called gurus.

There’s really no graceful way to do it. The only rule I’ve seen others follow and that I also practice is this: treat your mailing list, your readers, and your followers as friends coming along the journey with you.

So that’s exactly what I did.

I probably could have made my product sales page a blog post too, but I’ll save that test for another day!

Using this approach, I turned my perpetually inactive blog to an active one and then was able to pull off a moderately successful launch that gave a major boost to my mailing list.

The moral of the story (yes, I’m saying it again!) is: include your list during the first and every launch—and they will come along for the ride.

But what’s really happening behind the scenes? Is it as easy as just those four blog posts and a sales page?

Yes—it is that it easy, but it’s important to include a few other key actions to make sure those posts hit the hardest, and do their job to promote your launch.

Here’s how to make the switch from blogger to blogger with a business:

  1. Give plenty of lead time. You must warn and inform your audience. Tell them how to interact with you, and how long they can expect the launch to last. Be friendly, honest, and ask for their support. Don’t tell them to buy, buy, buy.
  2. Start an interest list early. Segmenting your list is a great way to make sure that if you are emailing your audience, the only people you do email are ones that have clearly said, “I am interested.”
  3. “Teach” your readers to take action when you prompt them. Make sure you always ask for people to hit Reply with questions about your emails, leave comments, do some homework based on your latest post, or click to read the post. Think about every communication and every post as a chance to call your readers to take some direct action—click this, comment below, share if you like, answer this question.
  4. If you aren’t doing this already, respond to every single comment and email you get. It’s easier to do this with a small list, but even making that effort with a larger list goes a long way.

Imagine you’re about to do a big life project. Would you keep it to yourself until the day before? Or would you tell your friends, family, or partner? Most likely, you would not be able to hold your excitement in that long.

Take the same approach with your readers and you’re likely to get a much warmer response come launch day.

2. Handling the irregular communication glitch

So what happens if you’ve warned people and they still don’t warm up to your exciting pre-launch news?

Your readers are comfortable with how often you show up in their inbox. And every single person who launches a product online deals with some kind of negative reaction or complaints about irregular communication.

People are used to hearing from you once a week. That’s it. That’s all. Then, all of the sudden, you’re sending out emails every day, reminders to grab the ebook for an introductory price, to sign up for the webinar before the spaces are filled.

It’s a little overwhelming, and it can be hard for your readers to switch gears.

The good news is there’s a super-easy way to transition your readers into the messaging and offers you are about to start making (on a regular basis, hopefully).

Here are just a few ways to transition readers and avoid communication complaints.

If you send out a formatted newsletter…

Add a section that says, “coming soon,” or simply add your free and paid offers to the bottom of the newsletter.

This way, people will always expect that you offer something. You can also add a “coming soon” section to your blog sidebar to make sure the RSS subscribers who click through see what you’ve got.

Here, you can see social media marketing trainer and consultant Alicia Cowan added two of her offerings to the bottom of her very simple newsletter template.

Email by Alicia Cowan

2. If you send a text-only, more personal email…

Add a P.S. that explains you’re working on your first product, and maybe a link to an interest page. I’ve done this with new or semi-new coaching offers and had a great response. You could even just say, “Hey, I’m working on my first ebook, and I could use your help. Want to know how? Hit Reply and ask me!”

I first learned this from Dean Jackson. I kept seeing his P.S.s and thinking they were awesome. I don’t use them every single email, but when I’m not sure how to share what I want to offer to my list, I use a P.S. and just ask people to hit Reply.

Email by Dean Jackson

Here’s how I applied it to launch a fairly new coaching service offered on my site. No link, just a simple “Hit Reply if you want to know more.” Did it work? Yes: I booked out all my sessions for two months using this technique.

Email by Anne Samoilov

3. If RSS is the way most readers receive your message…

Make sure to write a blog post about your upcoming launch, and put messages below your post and/or on the sidebar of your blog asking people to sign up for the interest list.

Corbett Barr always mentions what’s coming soon and you can easily read about it in the RSS feed of his site Think Traffic. His messaging comes across as natural, informative, and non-pushy.

For example, in this post he talks about lessons he learned during the launch of Fizzle, an online training membership site. And he links to the sales page—smart and easy. His audience appreciates getting the behind the scenes and he likes sending people to his sales page. It’s a win-win.

Email for Think Traffic

4. Do all of your opening soon/open/closing soon messaging in the body of your normal communication

Marie Forleo does a great job of this by changing the bumper on all her Marie TV videos to the next event or project she’s working on.

Check out this example to see her B-School bumper.

Email for B-School

3. Planning a minimum viable launch

Now let’s talk about the absolute minimum of emails you must send during a launch.

I’m talking here about the only ones that you should write separately from your normal newsletters or emails to your list. Here they are.

1. We’re opening soon

This is a simple email that warns and informs your audience that you are doing something outside the norm. Tell them what you’re up to, and what to expect during the launch period. They’ll thank you and won’t unsubscribe.

In this example, not only did I warn subscribers, but I used my favorite spot in the email to do it: the P.S.

Email for Anne and Corbett

2. We’re open

Laura Roeder has switched to this kind of straightforward messaging too. Her Creating Fame program now only announces the opening and closing of the program enrollment, or new waves of enrollment.

Email by Laura Roeder

Chris Guillebeau does the same thing with his World Domination Summit. I went back to see if this had changed from the first WDS, but realized he does the same thing every single time. He opens it. Then he warns. Then he closes it.

Email by Chris Guillebeau

3. We’re closing, or this special launch period is over

First, you may be asking: Do I need to close? What is “closing”?

Closing is simply ending your run of launch material, emails, and the push to promote your product. Sometimes it’s closing enrollment. Sometimes it’s just stopping the hardcore promotion. Whatever you decide, whether you should close your launch is a whole other topic.

Let’s say for the sake of example you’ve chosen to close your launch on a specific day. This can actually be done by sending two emails on closing day. I highly recommend it is two emails sent on the last day: one early in the morning, and one later in the day a few hours before you close.

Catherine Just, one of the members of Fearless Launching, was in the midst of her Soul*full ecourse launch. She was feeling a lag in sign ups at the mid-point in the launch. Though this is quite natural and happens even on higher profile launches, Catherine was bummed. Who wouldn’t be? So, on the day she closed, I suggested she send two emails—one super-early and one later in the day close to closing time.

First, she sent this short and sweet, early-morning email:

Email by Catherine Just

And here’s the longer thank you email she sent a few hours before closing:

Closing email by Catherine Just

The results were outstanding. People new to her list signed up for the program and she got several sign ups in the last 24 hours (and then some on the day after closing).

It was just the right amount of push and honesty to get her readers and new readers to take action!

The reason these types of emails work

For some reason—perhaps because they aren’t trying to pull anything, but they get a reaction and cause you to think about your situation and what you struggle with—these email types get very few complaints.

People are like, “Oh okay, you’re open. Cool.” There are only a few options for them. The emails feel nice, respectful, and non-invasive.

Use these emails and examples as inspiration for your own launch. Think about being direct, and think about how your readers are going to react. Don’t be as worried about how well the emails are written. Instead, think about speaking in the voice they know and love: yours.

Bonus: launch “email” marketing for bloggers

Throughout this post, we’ve looked at examples of emails, ways of communicating about your launch, and how to warm people up to the idea of your launch. No matter how many launches you do, you need to think about this every single time. Your approach will evolve as your readers and followers evolve.
Here’s how simple your launch can be, when your primary focus is (or has been) blogging.

Spoiler alert: What I’m about to suggest might have you scratching your head and wondering if it’s possible, or if it will even work…

Keep it on the blog

Instead of writing emails for your launch, you could just write blog posts.

In fact, instead of having a separate launch site with launch videos and special launch content, keep it all on your blog: no need for a separate site.

How can you have a product launch without email?

Well, you tell me! Some of the biggest blogger launches have happened directly from the blog.
Think non-invasive, expected, adding value—and posts that are live on your site forever!

Instead of hiding your precious launch content on a separate site, pop it on your blog for the long-term effects to your business and site. If it’s sitting on another separate site, how are you going to keep getting regular sales for your program?

Who’s done it?

…and many, many more!

How successful was it?

This approach makes it easier to build trust, easier to get all your readers’ attention, and much easier to sell them on reading your message. If people are only on your RSS feed, they might not even see a launch email. This approach makes your launch available to everyone.

As I mention above, I did this during my first launch of a program—the first real product I offered from my site. I used the month prior to my open-cart date as a chance to focus on my topic, so I loaded my readers up with articles related to launching.

Derek Halpern of SocialTriggers.com has also done this for the pre-launch of Blog That Converts. When I chatted with him about it prior to publishing the series, I asked him, “So this is like an intro course to Blog That Converts? That gets them ready for the program?”

He said, “Exactly.”

Not only is he setting his customers up to be ready to take his course, he’s keeping the content on his blog, so that there’s no break in the flow of how he normally delivers his content.

He still announces each post via email, but in a very expected way for his audience.

Action point: create a series of posts that cover mini-topics within your program or product.

Don’t be afraid to test

If you’re feeling a little braver, try a mix of emails and posts. The worst that’s going to happen is that people might tell you that you’re emailing too often.

If you start to see your readers revolt or a flurry of unsubscribes, all you need to do to change your course: space out your emails, turn emails back into blog posts, and so on.

I’m definitely a huge fan of pushing your readers just a little. Don’t go to the extreme, but give them a taste of what it feels like to get these launch-devoted emails. The next time around, it won’t feel so foreign to you!

During the fall 2012 launch of Fearless Launching, I wrote a series of emails for the launch in addition to blog content. Half way through the enrollment period, I sensed it was getting too much from my readers, because they told me so.

This post started an email—and ended up a blog post only! Check it out and see if you can tell where it sounds like an email at first: http://www.annesamoilov.com/email-during-launch/.

I turned a few of the more sales-y emails into blog posts, or just cut them completely. But I wouldn’t have known to do this unless I’d tested and written a few direct emails about the launch.

Action point: Write an email and tell people why it’s important to know whatever it is you’re teaching. Why is this topic important?

Analyze your results

If you’re going to test, you better analyze the results, too.

All that means is this: watch your open rate, taking note of which types of emails get opened and which ones do not.

Watch traffic on blog posts and the response to your emails. You’ll need to use your gut at first to understand what all these numbers mean, but that’s okay. If you see that your blog posts get tons of comments and the emails get hardly any opens, you can draw conclusions about what’s best for your audience.

Watch where people click, comment, and speak up. This is valuable feedback. So listen up!

All too often you will learn new strategies for connecting with your audience, for writing a better email, for tips on selling without being schmucky … and you will try them but not spend the time to see how they worked for your business and your audience.

Action point: Make sure you check your analytics account daily during your launch. Look at the number of visits, bounce rates, and most importantly, traffic sources.

Your homework

There’s a lot of action you could (and should) take from this post, but before you get into any of it, answer these three questions in the comments below. I’ll personally respond and let you know the best next step for you!

  1. Do you have a product that you want to launch, but you’ve been afraid to make the leap because you’ve never offered something for sale before to your readers?
  2. No matter what size your audience is, are you getting consistent response, reaction, and engagement from your readers in some form?
  3. Have you tried to launch something on your blog and got no response? Can you make any guesses as to why?

Contributing author Anne Samoilov is an online launch + business strategist who coaches overwhelmed entrepreneurs ready to launch. She’s also the creator of Fearless Launching, an online training program for first time online product launchers.  Learn how to launch and build a business based on simplicity over on her blog, chat with her on Facebook, and download her special gift for Problogger.net readers: a launch email resource guide.

The 3 Essential Components to My Online Publishing Business: Blogging, Social, and Email

As bloggers, we’re always under time pressure to do more. Whether it’s releasing a product or engaging with users on a new social network, the blogger’s task list can seem overwhelming sometimes.

I think some of that overwhelm comes from the granularity with which we tend to look at our work. While breaking big challenges down into littler ones is a good way to tackle things, focusing on the little bits and pieces of our work can stop us seeing the bigger picture, and the natural connections between the individual things we’re doing.

Recently on #blogchat we had a discussion about where social media fits into blogging. If you look at that question on a really granular basis—”What will my next status update be about?”—then it can be difficult to see where social media might or might not work well. But if you look at the bigger picture, you’ll probably be more likely to ask, “Where doesn’t social media fit into blogging?”

Of course we need a bit more direction than that to work out how best to spend our time as bloggers, so today I thought I’d explain a bit about my approach to linking blogging, social media, and email.

Freeway cloverleaf

Image by Phillip C, licensed under Creative Commons

1. Blogging

Blogging is at the heart of what I do. My blog is my home base and is where I put most of my efforts. My blog is a place that another company like Twitter, or Facebook or G+ can’t take away from me if I break their terms of service or if they change their approach. It’s in my control and it’s where I ultimately build my brand and community.

My blog is a place where conversation and conversion certainly happens, but if I had to name my primary focus for my blog it would be that it is a place which I use to produce content that’s useful to my readers.

My hope is that every single day on my blogs, I help solve problems big and small for my readers through the content I produce there.

My blog is a place that is often the first point of contact with people. It’s a place where I hope I’m able to create an impression upon them that will drive them to connect more meaningfully in some way.

2. Social media

Social media is a place which I primarily use for conversation and community. While these things also happen on the blog in comments, I find increasingly that people want to connect and converse off my blog.

I tend to focus on Twitter primarily, but Facebook has increasingly become a place where my photography blog readers go and G+ is also growing for me in this way.

I do use social media for other purposes—I use it to drive traffic to my blog for example, I occasionally produce content on it (particularly on G+ where I often think out loud), and I even promote my ebooks on it from time to time too (although I find it doesn’t convert anywhere near as well as email—more on that in a moment).

All these things can be done on social media, but for me it is more a place for conversation and interaction.

3. Email

I’ve written about the importance of email many times on ProBlogger—it is the single most important element I’ve added to my blogging since I started out ten years ago.

Email does many things for me—it’s a great way to drive traffic, it can help with building community and driving people to points of engagement, it can even be used to deliver content. But for me its stand-out benefit has been around driving sales: conversion.

Check out this graphic which shows where sales of our ebooks come from.

Email conversions on dPS

You can see here that:

  • 87% of our sales come from email
  • 7% come from our blog posts
  • 3% come from social media
  • 3% come from our affiliates.

Since we started to publish ebooks, I’ve tried many ways to promote them, but the top-converting method every time I’ve tested has been email.

3 Kinds of media working together

Blogging, social media and email have all  become really important aspects of my business. I can’t imagine leaving one of these elements out.

Each of them is useful in a variety of ways—in fact, I often use each of the elements to promote the others, as I find they really work well to reinforce one another.

For example, when someone signs up to our newsletter on dPS they get an email shortly after that tells them about our social media accounts. From time to time on our social accounts we promote the email newsletter, and we regularly promote the blog posts we publish there, too.

In sending people back and forth to the different elements of what we do, I find they become more integrated into the community. The brand’s popularity grows among a broader audiences this way, but individuals’ connections with the brand deepen, too.

In taking this discussion a step or two further, tomorrow’s post looks at some great case examples of the ways email and blogging can be integrated to support a successful product launch, so I’ll be interested to hear what you think of those approaches.

And next week, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at how bloggers are using social media—specifically Pinterest—to support their blogging goals.

The integration of social media and email with blogging is a pretty topical dilemma for a lot of people, so let’s hear your views in the comments.

Increasing Traffic and Engagement … with Fun and Games

This guest post is by Danny Iny of firepolemarketing.com.

When you blog all the time about a certain topic…

…even if you’re still completely passionate about it…

…it can sometimes get a little boring.

You feel it as a blogger, and your readers may feel it, too.

Now, of course, your readers can go elsewhere on the internet for new stimulation, but wouldn’t it be better if they stuck with you?

Or better yet, what if they had such interesting and engaging experiences on your site and with you that they wanted to tell their family and friends about it?

And what if they shared your content with their networks because doing so made them look really good?

This scenario is absolutely possible.

If you can keep enough novelty, challenge, and inspiration coming, your readers will want to spend more of their online time with you, giving you more opportunities to strengthen your relationships and make sales.

But before we talk about all of that, let’s explore why this usually doesn’t happen—even when we’re working our hardest and doing our genuine best to make our blogs worthwhile for our readers and subscribers.

Why the same old stuff gets stale

Do you have a certain route that you follow a lot?

It could be your drive to work, or to your Mom’s house. It’s a path that you travel frequently, and know intimately.

There’s nothing surprising or unusual that happens along this route; it’s the same every day, and if it weren’t hideously dangerous because of other drivers and pedestrians, you could do it with your eyes closed. It’s so boring that you don’t even think about it.

The same thing can happen with any task that you do again and again. Brushing your teeth. Putting on your shoes. And even reading your favorite blogs.

It’s so common—such a habit—that you do it automatically, and don’t really consider what it is you’re doing, or pay attention to the details.

As a consumer of blogs, this is kind of a shame.

As a producer of blog content, it’s absolutely catastrophic. You need your readers to be riveted! And as a reader of Problogger.NET, you’ve made sure you’re not making any of the common mistakes that bloggers make.

So how do you fix the problem?

What you need to do is shake things up a little bit—change the process of engaging with you on your blog from one of providing content that gets read and maybe commented on, to an experience that happens that gets your readers thinking and motivated to act.

One of the best, most fun and most effective ways to do this is through a contest, challenge, or game.

Do it through contests, games, and challenges

What makes a contest, game, or challenge fun?

Well, it lights up areas of your brain that you don’t usually get to use every day—and that’s interesting. Moreover, it’s exciting—your mind has to sit up and take note because, “hey, you’re making me work!”

There are some principles that are common to all successful games, and I’d like to go over them quickly here. The four principles are:

  1. motivation and loss aversion
  2. status and competition
  3. surprise and hope
  4. feedback and reward

Get them to start and keep them going with motivation and loss aversion

When you think about running a contest or challenge, I bet that the first thing you consider is the prize—it’s got to be amazing if it’s going to get people to play, right?

Not necessarily. People are more likely to act because they’re afraid of losing something they already have, then to gain something new.

You can apply this technique when you’re introducing your challenge. Paint a vivid picture of how wonderful winning and participating is. Outline all the benefits participants stand to gain. They could gain the prize, or knowledge, or networking, or glory—just make sure to make them feel like they already have it when you’re writing your description. If you do a good job at this, they’ll play to keep that feeling.

Status and reputation will help them take it further

Once people are playing a game or challenge, they’ll be dying to know how everyone else is doing, and how they stack up against the rest of the competitors. (Even if they’re too cool to admit it, or are just “playing for fun.” They want to know—trust me.)

Take advantage of this by providing frequent updates to contestants, and emphasizing again how wonderful it will be to win—and how possible that is for anyone. Someone who starts out with a strong lead will be desperate to keep it, and those who are only a few points behind another player will want nothing more than to inch up in the rankings.

Keep everyone involved with discovery and surprise

Obviously, not everyone is going to be occupying a top spot—that’s unavoidable. But the people who aren’t can be kept equally passionate and engaged with a little sense of discovery, surprise, and the possibility that this kind of excitement will happen again.

Think in terms of bonus challenges, opportunities to do a little extra, a funny note, a contestants-only joke. These kind of unexpected treats get people excited to be doing what they’re doing, and happy to keep going, even if they don’t expect they’ll win.

Make it worth their while with feedback and rewards

We all like to know that we’ve done a good job—and most of us are mature enough to at least grudgingly accept constructive feedback when we could have done better.

It’s no different in a contest than in life. If you can immediately, or very quickly, give someone feedback on how participants are performing, both on a personal level and as a part of the group, they’ll either want to continue to do well, or prove that they can do better.

Leaderboards and other tracking systems are good for this, as are personal emails, and contestants-only updates. Think of how valuable feedback is in your day-to-day life, and double that amount for your contestants.

Now you are the games master

Yes, the games master. Congratulations—you’re calling all the shots.

…But what shots are you calling, exactly?

Well that depends on what you want.

If you need more comments on your blog post, then run a comment competition. Let your readers know that for the next week or so you’re going to be looking at all of their valuable comments, picking a few favourites, and letting everyone vote on a winner. More comments will come.

If your social media presence isn’t that great, then run a guest post contest with the winner being the post that garnered the most Tweets or Facebook Likes. We did this recently on Firepole Marketing, and generated thousands of social media shares. (Not to mention a record traffic month!)

If your traffic is slow, create a wonderful new piece of giveaway content (for an opt-in!), and let your readers know that whoever directs the most people to it will win a fabulous prize—possibly in the form of your products or services.  For this option you’ll need to set up individual links for readers, but plugins like PrettyLink make that a snap!

A never-ending source of competition

You can use this idea in almost every aspect of your content calendar. You can promote a new product or series, you can use it to make your training and content more interesting and relevant, and you can use it to deliver content and training.

You can do it to teach, to engage, and to just have fun.

That’s what we’re trying to do right now with our Great Online Marketing Scavenger Hunt for bloggers and business owners; we’re using all of the gamification elements I’ve talked about here to teach contestants new marketing skills, to get them to experiment different technologies and techniques, and to help them extend their reach online.

So what are you going to do? What games will you play to boost your traffic, engage your readers, and keep them coming back for more?

Danny Iny (@DannyIny), a.k.a the “Freddy Kreuger of Blogging”, teaches marketing that works over at Firepole Marketing. Right now, there’s a hugely exciting Online Marketing Scavenger Hunt going on over there, and it’s not too late to get in on the action, expand your reach online, and engage with an amazing community of marketers.