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Use Word-of-Mouth Promotion to Boost Blog Traffic

This guest post is by Jeszlene Zhou of First Communication Job.

I love the idea of using a blog as your personal hub, and how it creates a centralised space for all your social media sites, your portfolio, and more.

Most bloggers and social media professionals promote a link to their blog or website, and shamelessly direct traffic towards their personal hub. Yet interestingly, they do not promote their personal hub via word-of-mouth in the “real world.”

Here’s a true story. Over the past few months, I’ve attended a few social media conferences, and met dozens of social media professionals. However, in all that time only one person invited me to view her blog.

What a pity, as the events were filled with bloggers and social media practitioners with great online influence—perfect for the community engagements we spend hours seeking to build behind our little screens. Great opportunities to increase blog traffic were wasted. In fact, paying hundreds of dollars to attend industry conferences without telling the people you meet about your blog is like having a trade show booth that doesn’t display its marketing materials.

Word-of-mouth promotion, despite its bad reputation, does not have to be shameless and annoying. There are many soft-sell methods to bring your message across. Here’s a basic Who, What, Where, When and How for using word-of-mouth promotion to increase your blog traffic.

Who?

You—and everyone! If blogging is the home of your core business, your blog should be shared with as many people as you can possibly reach—even if they are not heavy internet users.

You’ll never know who might visit out of mere curiosity, or if they will share your site with others.

What?

What is your blog about and why it is different from others? Communicate your blog’s URL and unique selling point to create interest in those your speak to and eventually drive traffic there.

Sometimes it is wiser to connect first in your target audiences’ preferred social media platform—in certain contexts, communicating your LinkedIn, FaceBook or Twitter profile might be more appropriate than giving out your blog URL.

Just make sure that all your social media profiles have links back to your blog, so that these new connections can flow through when they’re ready to find out more.

Where?

Everywhere appropriate! I would list industry conferences and networking events as the top venues for word-of-mouth promotion. But as long as you’re having a conversation with someone, why not bring up your blog?

When?

When people ask “what do you do?”

Instead of listing your day job, which you might be dragging your feet to on a daily basis, why not mention your blog? It makes you sound more interesting and can be a fantastic chance for you to generate interest and traffic to your online presence.

However while being opportunistic is important, be patient and wait for an appropriate opening so you don’t appear pushy—which can have the reverse effect on your sales and promotion efforts.

How?

The elevator pitch is a great tool many sales people use on a daily basis, and Harvard University has created The Harvard Elevator Pitch Builder for novices to use.

You can also bring up an interview request or a guest blog invitation when appropriate, instead of limiting those queries to email engagements. And if a sales pitch isn’t your style, why not let your business card do the talking? While many consider cards to be increasingly obsolete in today’s digital world, a physical piece of information still serves to reinforce that first contact. Furthermore, if everyone else is stopping using traditional cards, carrying one will definitely help you stand out!

Improving your word-of-mouth promotion

There are many great sales books that will help to improve both your face-to-face communication techniques and online engagement skills, one of them being Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

I highly recommend this book to get a better understanding of successful networking through building mutually beneficial relationships—lessons that are applicable in both off and online interactions.

However, the best word-of-mouth promoters are people who practice, practice, and practice some more. So the next time you meet someone face-to-face, give this a go!

What are some of your experiences at networking events? Do many of the people you meet tell you about their blogs? What are some offline methods you use to encourage friends, family members and others to visit your site? Have you visited a blog through word-of-mouth?

Please share your thoughts, ideas and stories in the comments section below!

Jeszlene Zhou is a communications practitioner. Her blog, First Communication Job discusses tactics for entering the fields of media and communications, including professional blogging and social media. Be friendly, say hi to her on twitter too!

Branding Your Blog: You’re Doing it All Wrong

This guest post is by Julie Cottineau of BrandTwist.

A while ago, on this very blog, I read a post about how to make a five-dollar logo for your blog.

There were a few things about that post I disagreed with, but chief among them was the assumption that a cheap logo was somehow all you needed to brand your blog.

A logo does not make a brand.

Logos are important, but what’s most important is to have a crystal clear brand promise. This is important in every line of business, particularly in blogging, where competition is brutal and securing a loyal readership is the only way to make your overnight success last more than a few days.

Your brand promise should be felt in every single post

The most important part of your brand is largely invisible—at least, at first.

It’s the promise you make to a visitor the first time you meet.

It is more than just a half-hearted promise to try and be interesting and entertaining. It is a promise to deliver a specific and predictable result every time.

Whether you commit to always making your reader laugh out loud or go into deep thought, to giving her investment advice she can act on immediately, or a gluten-free recipe that her children will like, your brand is the one aspect of your blog or business that people can always trust that you will never compromise on.

Don’t try to do everything yourself

It should be said that DIY brands rarely look as good, or work as well, as the owners think they do. On the contrary, 100% homemade brands often look unprofessional and unreliable.

Unless you’re an expert marketer, designer, copywriter, and web developer in addition to your day job, there are lots of things you don’t know and skills you don’t have. You should admit that to yourself, and invest in some outside expertise. It doesn’t have to break the bank. You can pick one area and start there, but please do make building your brand a priority.

It’s what sets you apart, helps readers quickly understand what you are about, and creates loyal followers.

If you really only have $5 to spend

If you really don’t have more than $5 to spend on design, you’ll be better off spending your fiver at Starbucks. After all, you’re not very likely to get a good logo and visual identity for that kind of money.

So sit down with your grande latte and your free wifi, and be sure to take in your surroundings, because there aren’t many who do brand as well as Starbucks.

What’s special about Starbucks is not just the coffee. It’s that they stand for way more than that. Their brand promise is about community and you can feel that in every single touchpoint, from the comfy chairs, to the online community.

Think about how your brand can show (not tell) what it stands for, like Starbucks does. Even if you exist only in the online world, the types of topics you cover, the products you offer, and the other blogs you link to all serve to create an impression for your brand.

Color can be a great differentiator

Another thing you can learn from Starbucks is the effective use of color. You can see that green from miles away, and instantly recognize the store as a Starbucks.

So take a few minutes to pick a fresh color scheme for your brand. Something that really makes you stand out in your space. Your colors shouldn’t conflict with the promise you’ve made—for example, a site promising inner peace and a site promising playfulness should probably choose different colors—but that’s the only rule.

Almost everything is allowed, and bravery is usually rewarded.

Start out with a single, strong color you’d like to use, then use a tool like Kuler to find other colors that go well with it. 

Ideally, you’ll put together a palette of colors that is uniquely yours, instantly recognizable to anyone who knows it, and that you can find ways to implement on your blog, across your social media properties, and in your product designs, both online and offline. Be creative.

Watch your tone of voice

It’s no coincidence that Starbucks has its own language (including words like barrista, grande, frappe, and so on.). This vocabulary helps support the brand’s promise that this is not your run-of-the-mill coffee shop.

Think about your blog’s tone of voice. Is it authentic, distinctive, and consistent? Are you falling into the trap of over-complicating things with big, boring words, and overused jargon? Are you conveying your personality and making it easy for people to understand what you are offering and why they should care?

There is a lot of brand power in the way we say things, not just in what we say. Have someone else look at each of your posts before it goes up and make sure you are choosing words wisely. We all know how hard it is to edit our own work.

Invest in your brand—with money, time, and creativity

Now, these are some quick tips. There’s a lot more to learn about brand. But the key message is that it’s always a good idea to invest in your brand. If you don’t have the money to invest, at least invest the time and energy to learn, and the thought and creativity to do a good job with what you have.

How’s your brand looking? Share your ideas for blog branding in the comments.

Julie Cottineau is former VP of Brand at Virgin and executive at Interbrand. Recently she founded her own brand consultancy, BrandTwist, to help small businesses and entrepreneurs, and will soon launch Brand School, an online course about building, growing and monetizing a brand.

A Community Starts with 1,000 Members

This guest post is by Jeremy Miller of www.StickyBranding.com.

It’s easy to see the successes bloggers like Darren Rowse and Chris Brogan are having with social media and think, “I want that.” Darren’s ProBlogger Facebook page has over 43,000 Likes, and Chris has over 103,000 people following him on Google+.

I’m not in their league, but in less than two years my LinkedIn Group, Sticky Branding, grew to over 22,000 members.

People see these successes, and want to replicate them for their businesses.

But cruise the social media highway, and you will find countless Facebook pages and LinkedIn groups that are floundering or abandoned. They’re virtual ghost towns. They were set up with good intentions, but failed to ever get off the ground.

For example, there are over 1.3 million groups on LinkedIn, but only 3% of them have 1,000 or more members. And less than 0.017% of groups break 10,000 members.

Vibrant, engaged and growing social media communities are not the average.

The reason so many groups fail is they don’t achieve a critical mass. They don’t reach the starting point of 1,000 members to form the seed of a community.

Communities start with 1,000 members

Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus, argues that groups function best between eight and 16 people, or more than 1,000 members. He writes, “Being a participant in a midsize group often feels lousy, because you get neither the pleasures of tight interconnection nor the advantages of urban scale and diversity.”

A few hundred followers isn’t enough. You’ve got to break 1,000 members to get your group off the ground, because as Shirky explains, “Better than 99 percent of the audience members don’t participate, they just consume.”

Only 1% of an online community are active content creators, the rest are not. 90% of a community is silent. They don’t forward articles, respond to comments or even press the Like button. They simply consume.

The remaining 9% are curators. They share the community’s content through retweets, shares, and Likes, but they aren’t actively creating new comments or engaging with other members.

To carry on a group conversation, you need at least ten active content creators. They’re the kernel of your community. They keep it going, and make it a fun, vibrant place.

So without 1,000 members it’s very hard to foster and sustain conversations and engagement.

Grow your community through your network

Getting your first 1,000 members is hard! There are no silver bullets to achieve this milestone. It’s hard slogging.

The first 1,000 members will come from your network. They will be people you know, and they’ll join because you ask them. They are there because they like you, trust you, and want to support you.

I chose to build the Sticky Branding Group in LinkedIn because I was very active in the platform. At the time I had around 700 connections, and it made sense to build a group where I could invite people I was already connected to. When the group launched in May 2010, I invited all my connections, and 300 of them joined. This was a good starting point, but the next 700 members came one invitation at a time. And that was eight months of hard work.

I made a point of being an active networker. I attended conferences and events, followed up with old clients and colleagues, and reached out to people far and wide. It was a good opportunity to connect and meet people, but it was also the touch point to invite people who shared in my interests of branding, sales, and marketing. They joined because they were intrigued, and they joined because I invited them.

Avoid using promotions to grow your community

It’s easy to get frustrated with the invitation process, and try to find shortcuts like promotions and giveaways to grow your group.

Avoid this temptation.

If your goal is to grow a community—a place where like-minded people engage, share ideas, help each other, and carry on conversations—you need a specific type of member. You need members that buy into the purpose of the community, and share similar interests and values.

You need members who want to be a part of a community.

Promotions and giveaways don’t attract people seeking a community—they attract people seeking free stuff. You may get a surge of new members from a promotion, but it’s not likely they’ll stick around and become active members in your community.

Take pride in your community

People can spot a promotion-driven group from a mile away. The content is all about the group owner (the brand), and not about its members. These aren’t communities, they’re marketing platforms. The best groups have engaged group owners that love connecting with new people and sharing ideas and content.

Above all else, enjoy the experience of organizing a community. Have fun growing your group, and take pride in it. If you love your group it will be easy to ask people to join, and it will be easy to go out into the real world and talk about the exciting new group you’re building.

Your passion and excitement is infectious, and it will accelerate your group’s growth beyond anything else. It will be the most effective way to get your group past the 1,000 member mark, and enable it to grow into a community without boundaries.

Jeremy Miller is the President of www.StickyBranding.com, a sales and marketing consultancy specialized in brand-based demand generation. Jeremy recently published Nobody Likes To Dance Alone: How to grow a social media community. It is a free ebook based on his experience growing one of the largest branding groups on LinkedIn with over 22,000 members.

Use Product Promotions to Add Value on Your Blog—and Others

We get a lot of requests for co-promotions here at ProBlogger, and at Digital Photography School as well.

Sale sign

Image courtesy stock.xchng user Thoursie

No matter what niche you’re in, if your blog has a reasonably engaged audience, you’re probably the target for others who want to promote their new products. On the flip side, you may well target other bloggers when you want to promote your own blog products.

But negotiating coverage can be tough—and making sure the product’s promotion reaches the host blog’s audience in a meaningful way can be even tougher.

Today I want to show you how to do just that, using a great example from Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income.

The post

The post is How a Part-Time Blogger Landed His Dream Job—an Interview with Leslie Samuel.

Now, let me say up front that I have no idea how this interview came about, although Pat does say at the beginning of the podcast that he a Leslie have been friends for some time.

I do know that a lot of bloggers who’d love coverage like this for their products wonder how it’s done—even if they’re not personal friends with any A-list bloggers. So let’s pull this post apart a bit and see how you could replicate this kind of coverage for your next product launch—or to make the most of someone else’s launch on your own blog.

The post introduces a podcast—Pat posts regular podcasts on his blog—which contains an interview with Leslie, who tells the story of how he came to enjoy online success.

The post points out what’s covered in the podcast, and links to the services mentioned. It also links to the podcast, then mentions a special offer that Leslie’s making exclusively to Pat’s readers for his product.

What’s so good about this post?

Sounds simple, right? We all see posts like this all the time online. What’s so good about them?

  • The post provides valuable information independently of the promotion: The podcast is free. Anyone can listen to it—you can do it right there on Pat’s blog if you don’t want to download it. So any of Pat’s followers can access the valuable information Leslie has to share, without spending any money.
  • The information in the post isn’t focused on the product offer: Throughout the interview, Leslie tells a rich, deep story that’s packed with advice and tips. He gives it all away. Sometimes you’ll come across posts whose authors constantly refer to their new product or promotion, and some references aren’t always bad—often they’re necessary. But to make the product the focus of the post (or in this case, interview) can turn off more readers than it entices.
  • The offer comes at the end of the post: Pat makes mention of the special discount separately, at the end of his post. Leslie gets to it at the end of the interview. It’s clear, and obvious, which draws it to readers’ attention, and simultaneously lets them know that if they’re not keen, they can skip it.
  • The offer is provided independently of the host blog: While I have nothing against affiliate links (as you’ll know if you read ProBlogger or DPS regularly), promoting an offer in which you have no personal stake can be a great way to add credibility to the product, and communicate to your readers how much you’re focused on them.

From the guest’s point of view—Leslie, who has a product to promote—this super-credible approach to his story is great. He gets excellent coverage, which builds his profile regardless of whether people actually take up his offer or not. He also gets to make a great offer to a massive audience he might have trouble reaching otherwise. And he boosts his reputation as a guru without risking being seen as too salesy.

Pat, meanwhile, gets excellent content for his readers, and an exclusive deep discount on a product they’re likely to be interested in. This reinforces his position as a guru, too—again, without seeming salesy.

The message for host bloggers

If someone contacts you about a promotion they want you to mention on your blog, look at the potential value it can give your readers—and not just through the promotion itself.

See what gems you can get the blogger to “give away” in an interview, rich guest post, or infographic. Think about free value for your readers, not pushing a product.

The message for product promoters

Don’t see the opportunity as one for selling—see it as a chance to build authority with a new audience. What can you tell them that the host blogger can’t? That’s what you should share.

Focus on what’s unique about you, translate that into advice and help, and readers will automatically be motivated to click through to your blog, and take up your offer.

How to do it

This post presents great, unique information in a format that’s familiar and interesting to the host blog’s audience. While not all blog hosts will want to run hour-long interviews with product promoters, the path to the best opportunities is to match the key elements of the product that’s being promoted with the key needs of the host blog’s audience.

For the product promoter

For the product promoter, this means taking your product offer, and focusing on the aspect of it that’s central to your brand.

For Leslie, it’s about his journey to become a blogger—what it’s taken for him to build a popular blog from scratch. That’s what he wants to focus on in his coverage on the host blog. So he might come up with a few different ideas for exposure (through a post, a recorded interview, a series—the sky’s the limit when you’re proposing to help another blogger by providing content!) and pick one or two that seem to suit his brand and the host blog’s audience best.

Now as I say, I have no idea how this interview came about, but let’s suppose Leslie initiated it. He might approach Pat about the coverage, explain what he has to share, how it’ll help Pat’s audience, and mention the offer he’s willing to give Pat’s listeners if Pat’s open to that.

For the host blogger

For the host blogger, the challenge is to match that central element of the product promoter’s brand with the needs of the audience. So Pat would need to make sure that Leslie’s focus could be framed in an appropriate and really compelling way for his readers and listeners.

Of course, since Pat’s podcasts often include interviews, he may have approached Leslie about the interview himself, having spotted the solid fit between Leslie’s site and his own. He might have been the one who came up with the ideas for the interview coverage, including topics and questions, and approached Leslie with them. We bloggers are always looking for great content, after all! An hour is a lot of time to take out of a busy blogger’s week, so Pat may also have offered the opportunity for Leslie to promote his product as part of the interview.

Finding the right fit

As you can see, getting great coverage of a person and/or their product on a blog is a matter of fit.

The two brands need to align on some level, and the two bloggers need to work to make that alignment work in the best way possible for the host blog’s readers.

If you can do this as a product promoter, you’ll find it much easier to get really deep promotion on others’ blogs.

And if you can do this as a host blogger, you won’t have much trouble coming up with posts that really provide massive value to your readers, and position you as your niche’s go-to guy or girl.

Have you promoted someone else’s product through a post on your blog? Or had your product promoted through another blog? Tell us how it came about—and why it worked—in the comments.

How to Handle Guest Post Rejection

This guest post is by Tapha Ngum of MyAppTemplates.com.

So, you agreed on a topic to write about for a blog with the blog owner or editor, and you’ve just spent eight hours writing and editing it. You’ve done all the right things—read the submission guidelines, and double-checked your post for spelling mistakes, and you’re sure you’ve done a good job. You’re confident and excited, though a little apprehensive about sending it over. Because, after all, it could still get rejected, right?

But you send it out anyway.

Two days later you get an email back from the blog, and it tells you that the post has been rejected. Inevitably, you feel terribly deflated.

I know this feeling—and if you’ve been guest blogging for a while, then I’m sure you know it too. It’s really frustrating.

People don’t often talk about this aspect of guest blogging. But it’s a very real part of the equation. The fact is, you can spend hours working on a post and just like that, it can be rejected—deemed useless by the site you wrote it for. All that blood, sweat and tears for nothing. Even after you have discussed your post idea with the editor!

So what do you do?

Well, in most cases, that post that you wrote would probably end up locked away in some random folder on your computer. And with your confidence dented, you would probably not be too eager to write another guest post for a while, let alone make any revisions to the current one. But this, in my mind is the worst possible way to deal with guest post rejection.

The right way to deal with guest post rejection is to treat it as a stepping stone.

Guest post rejection, just like any other form of rejection, has within it the seeds of an equivalent benefit, if you know how to spot and effectively use those seeds. In each case of rejection, there will be some variability, and the benefits that you can take out of the situation will differ. But in the main, there are some key benefits that I have seen and used to good effect every time one of my guest posts has failed to be accepted.

I specifically mentioned the word “seeds” above, because the benefits that can be gained from guest post rejection are not always immediately apparent. A lot of the time you need to dig them up for yourself.

So, to help you along with that process, here are the three steps that I take when a post of mine has been rejected. You can use them to help you unearth the benefits for yourself and ultimately get more of your posts published.

Step 1. Get specific feedback from the person who rejected your post

Getting your guest post rejected is a brilliant opportunity to find out how you can improve your guest posting approach. Was it the way you wrote it? The lack of references in your article? In some cases you can even find that it was the way that you approached the person in the email that put them off and caused them to reject you.

Don’t be afraid to ask why your post was rejected. More often than not you’ll get useful feedback that will help you in your future guest posting endeavours. When you’re armed with this knowledge, your future attempts will only be more successful.

Quick tip: In your first email with the person who accepts the guest posts, let them know that you are willing to make revisions as necessary. This makes it easier to request a second submission later on if the post is rejected.

Also make sure that you do your research and find out how the blog that you’re dealing with likes to accept submissions. Often, you will find that your post has been rejected because you failed to discuss the ideas with them first. ProBlogger, for example, prefers bloggers to send their pitches over to them before you go ahead with your guest post.

Step 2. Try to resubmit the guest post

Once you have had a chance to analyze the feedback that you have been given and implement it into your post, send the guest post in again. Try your best to make sure that you have incorporated as much of the feedback as you can.

I’d also suggest you read the last ten guest posts that were accepted onto the site, to get a feel for what they like to publish.

Step 3. Try another blog

If you have really made an effort to make the post great, but are still not getting through with it, then maybe it is time to see if it can be placed on another site.

You should understand that every objectively well-written post is an asset, and even though it may not be valued by a particular site, it still has a lot of inherent value if it is used. So don’t let it end up on a folder, unused on your computer just because the rejection of it decreases your perception of its value. Not all posts are necessarily the right fit for all sites. So you have to accept that in some cases, your post will just not work for a particular site—and move onto another one.

A rejected post is not a useless post, although initially it can feel that way. In fact, if you have gone through the first two steps outlined above, and you’ve edited the post and submitted more than one revision, the chances are very likely that you will get accepted by another blog of similar standing.

Quick tip: Again, make sure that you know how the blog that you are dealing with likes to accept submissions. If you have to discuss the pre-written post with them before you send it in, make sure you do that. In the end, you want to make sure that you give yourself the best chance of having your guest post accepted and published. So complying with the host blog’s guidelines is a must.

Rejection can make your post better

A lot of people who have experienced rejection of their guest posts end up thinking that it’s just not worth the effort—it’s just too risky for them to put in the all that work for a chance that it may not even pay off.

But in my mind, that’s where the value in guest posting lies. If you learn to deal with this uneasy part of the guest posting process, then it will become an asset, not just to you, but to your business as well.

Have you ever had a guest post get rejected? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments!

This is a guest post from Tapha. Founder of MyAppTemplates.com, a site that provides custom iphone app templates to people who cannot afford to spend $1,000′s on their iphone app design.

Build Your List Before You Launch, Using Launchrock

This guest post is by John Doherty of Distilled NYC.

Are you a blogger, either part-time or full-time, who is seeking to launch a product? Or, are you a business owner who is looking to launch either a startup or a new product line?

If so, this post is for you. We all dream of going viral with a product launch, but what if you can get the promise of a new product to spread across the internet so that you can gather the people who might be interested in your product when it actually does launch?

Or, if you have an idea for a product, wouldn’t you like to test out if people will actually be interested in buying or using said product, without actually putting much (or any) work into the minimum viable product (MVP)?

This is why tools like Launchrock exist. Launchrock is a tool that helps you capture email addresses, and encourages virality for new product launches.

The company I work for, Distilled, launched our online marketing training platform DistilledU back in May, after a few months of content creation and development.

In January of 2012, however, we put up this page:

Our launch page

This page was built with Launchrock in about 30 minutes. Within 24 hours, we had collected over 1,000 email addresses of people eager to hear when we launched the product. While your mileage may vary by the size of your engaged audience and those willing to help you co-market your product, I believe that you as well can see success in getting pre-buy-in for your product launch using Launchrock.

In this post, we’ll walk through the steps that you can follow to set up your own Launchrock page, and start collecting interest in your product.

Introducing LaunchRock

We’re going to be talking about Launchrock’s free service. Let’s see how to get started.

When you go to the Launchrock site, you will see this:

Launchrock home

Enter your email address, and you will be signed up and taken to this page:

Project name

On this page, you can input your project’s name, a one-line description of your project, and a short description.

Choosing a project name

Your project’s name is probably the most important part of this whole setup. Just like blog titles, which you want to be clickworthy and viral, your project’s name needs to be:

  • memorable
  • succinct
  • descriptive

You will want to avoid the typical blog-title trap of “5 Things That…” because this is a project that is long-term, not a one-hit wonder. While you want people to click through, they also need to get excited about the project.

Since viral marketing tactics are only one piece of the puzzle, though, you should take into account keyword research while crafting your title as well.

If I was to launch my ebook announcement again, I would have included “Blog Marketing Ebook” in the title and written a blog post about it, to try to rank for “Blog Marketing Ebook” to gain even more interest. I didn’t include something like “Online Marketing School” with the DistilledU launch because of existing brand recognition. If you’re a small blogger, though, this tip could help your chances of success.

One-line description

This tweet-length line of text is almost as valuable as your project title, since it is the next place your readers will look.

This is your project’s “elevator pitch”, which is what startups are often told to have should they meet a potential investor in an elevator and have five seconds to tell them about their company/idea.
Once again, this should be memorable, succinct, and descriptive.

“The last ebook about toy design you will ever need.”

“Why stressing yourself out at work does not have negative lifestyle repercussions.”

Short description

Your project’s short description is the meat and potatoes of your project. How much is it going to cost? When are you expecting to release it? There is no word limit to your short description, but anything longer than two paragraphs is probably too long in today’s internet reading-length environment.

Even though longform content can do well in some online niches, you have a very brief amount of time to grab your reader’s attention and convert them through the email box on Launchrock.

Choosing social networks

After your headline, description, and short description are made, you need to figure out which social networks you should enable your audience to share your project on. While allowing readers the option of which network to share it on is great, you shouldn’t necessarily allow every network.

The best way to make the decision about which social networks to prioritize is to make a data-driven decision.

Take your ten most recent blog posts and throw them into SharedCount. Using the multiple-URL option, you can see the trends and where your posts are most popular. Check out the most recent SEOmoz posts, shown in the image below. If they were going to launch a new product using Launchrock, they should prioritize Twitter and Facebook, but LinkedIn is not as high of a priority:

Sharedcount results

Custom messages

For each social sharing option, you also have the power to dictate what the message that’ll be shared says. This is a great power and one to be leveraged. Click on the social network option and a box will appear for you to input your message. Here’s the Twitter sharing options box:

Twitter sharing options

Remember that each social network has different triggers that work to incentivize people to share. Twitter updates are shorter and therefore require a short call to action, like “Join me!” Facebook users have more personal connections than Twitter, so the message must appeal to a friend and establish trust.

Here’s the call to action we leveraged on Twitter for DistilledU:

I just registered early for DistilledU on http://t.co/uOyRONjw. Come be my classmate! via @distilled.

This generated hundreds of retweets, resulting in over 500 signups in a six-hour period:

Tweets

Storing email addresses

When people sign up to your project by giving you their email address, they are sent a confirmation email by Launchrock, so that your email list is kept as pure as possible.

Now, however, we are faced with the challenge of storing and using the email addresses collected, which leads us to one of the major drawbacks of Launchrock.

One of the downsides of Launchrock is its lack of integration with email management platforms. If you do any email marketing and are building a contact list, you know that a good email marketing management platform is a must-have for segmenting lists and campaigns.

This lack of integration is troubling to me, but fortunately Launchrock makes it easy for you to export your data in a .csv format that is then easily imported into a system like Mailchimp, through Launchrock Insights.

Launchrock Insights

Pro tip: Insights shows you how many referrals have been sent to you by those who have signed up to your list. Take these and sort them from high to low by referrals. This will let you identify your power users, who can become your most powerful project advocates if you make them feel special.

Photo considerations

One often-overlooked consideration when building a Launchrock page is design. Launchrock allows you to upload your own background photo to customize your design. What image should you use?

Think about the psychology of your user at this point. Do they need to have trust built with them in order to sign up? Do they need motivation?

When we launched DistilledU, we launched with a photo of one of our cofounders, Will, because he is a trusted voice in the industry. We used the photo of him onstage speaking because we wanted to show that we are a trustworthy source for learning online marketing.

Minimum viable design

I understand that many bloggers and marketers are not designers. I have seen more badly designed blogs than I could ever wipe from my memory. But design is imperative to your project’s success. A well-designed page builds trust with your user.

I recommend using the rule of thirds, which is a well-known photography framing technique but also applies to design. If I’m announcing a new product or event, I could do a design like this. However, it looks somewhat messy and not as clear as I’d like it:

Page design

Yet, with a slight tweak to the background graphic and moving the signup form to the left of the page, I get a much cleaner look:

Revised page design

Launchrock allows you to change your background image as I’ve said above, but they also provide eight different page theme boxes to choose from. Once you have settled on your background, choose the right box design for your background:

Choosing the box design

Hosted or widget?

Launchrock provides you with the option of either creating a hosted page for your site, or using a widget.

Hosted page or widget

If you have access to your hosting provider, you can create a new CNAME with them and point the Launchrock-hosted page to a subdomain on your website (i.e. http://awesome.domain.com).

Now you won’t have to worry about whether or not your hosting will be able to stand the load of new visitors coming to your page once you launch. But the drawback is that you now have a subdomain that is gathering links, and that subdomain is not inheriting the domain authority of your main site, so even if you launch your product on that same subdomain, you will have a hard time ranking in the search engines for your targeted terms. For more information about how to set up a new CNAME, Launchrock provides a great resource for most hosting providers.

If you are not able to create a new CNAME (which can be an issue on platforms like Blogger), you can use the widget option instead. You will not have the full-page layout, but Launchrock provides you with code that you are able to copy into a post on your blog. Note that you will still need access to your site’s <head> section to copy over the Facebook OpenGraph tags so that your users are able to share your project on Facebook.

Launch time!

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Of course, you have already reached out to the influencers to let them know of the launch so that it will reach more people, and you have set up content to go live on related sites to promote your project, right?

Now go, launch, and enjoy the ride!

John Doherty is the head of Distilled NYC, a search marketing firm based in London with offices in New York and Seattle. In his day job he works with clients of all sizes to help them earn more traffic from the search engines and other organic online channels. In his free time, aside from being adrenaline-seeking adventurer, he works on his own websites and is currently writing an ebook about blog marketing.

5 Email Engagement Lessons from the Big Social Networks

This guest post is by Lior Levin.

Email remains one of the best ways to increase the reach of your blog and to increase engagement with your readers, since it requires a choice to opt in and is delivered directly to inboxes.

But if you abuse or misuse email while trying to reach your blog readers, it could become a liability, hurting your business in the process.

Increasing the effectiveness of your blog using email demands the development of time-tested strategies. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter send a significant amount of email to their users, and by examining their strategies and formats, you can learn a great deal about using email to reach your blog readers.

Twitter’s email strategy

Twitter’s “digest” email is a relatively recent innovation that provides a list of the most important tweets from your followers. This digest focuses on helping users find the content that is most popular, but that might have been missed given the immediacy of Twitter.

Twitter email

Bloggers can use their email lists in a similar way to highlight the best content on their sites, recognizing that even their most loyal fans can’t catch every single post.

From the posts that are shared the most, to the posts with the most comments, keep track of what visitors to your blog find most intriguing. Then, use your email list to keep the conversation going and build stronger reader relationships.

Facebook’s email strategy

If you don’t manage your emails from Facebook, your inbox will soon be overtaken by them. However, there is quite a bit that bloggers can learn from this network’s strategy.

For instance, Facebook’s email messages are short and to the point, only giving the most important information, which is usually a link to click on. If you want to maximize the impact of your blog marketing, do the same with your emails.

facebook-email

Either provide a few key links to your blog that can be clicked or, better yet, provide one simple action item as the focus of your email message. The more simple and focused your emails, the more likely recipients will visit your blog.

Facebook users can also customize their emails by selecting the exact events and updates they want to be alerted to, and will only receive related emails. This ability to customize what you receive and when is an important lesson for promoting a blog through email marketing.

Email marketing tools like Mailchimp can be integrated into a blog and blog visitors can both sign up to receive email updates and customize how often they’ll receive updates from your site. For example, some visitors will want daily updates so they can be the first to comment or to jump on your limited-time offers. Others will only want a weekly digest of your blog posts.

Either way, you’ll keep your subscribers happy and engaged by providing customized ways for them to stay informed about your blog.

For bloggers hoping to increase engagement, Facebook showcases the importance of letting users choose what they want and finding important information on their own timetable.

Similarly, providing your blog’s subscribers with the ability to customize emails makes it easy to take advantage of market segmentation and ensures your visitors stay happy and engaged without becoming inundated with email.

Google+’s email strategy

Google email

Much like Twitter, Google+ sends a weekly digest email. However, it goes one step further by recommending new users to follow and, most importantly, offers the ability to add them to your circles within the email.

In other words, Google+ uses the email itself to drive user engagement rather than relying on a clickthrough to the network itself.

In short, there’s no reason to force subscribers to click through to your site to engage with your blog, since much of what they do at your blog can be just as easily done in the email itself. You can:

    • provide full blog posts in your emails
    • offer social media sharing buttons
    • reuse the content from your landing pages.

This ensures that recipients have one simple action step rather than being forced to click through to your blog every time they want to do something.

LinkedIn’s email strategy

LinkedIn is another social networking site that sends a large number of emails, and allows users to customize the messages they receive. One of the specialties of LinkedIn, however, is giving customers information beyond what they specify in their settings.

LinkedIn update

LinkedIn emails show users new suggested contacts, job opportunities, and other connections that may be worth making. However, users can always change their email settings to a weekly digest or disable the emails completely if they like.

This is a service that almost any blogger can provide if they properly segment their audience and know what their subscribers want to receive each week.

For example, a blogger who writes about creativity may have writers, graphic designers, and musicians reading her site. Her email list should be broken into those three segments so that she can more effectively reach those interest groups with special offers, content, and new products.

LinkedIn teaches bloggers that they need to know their audience well, and proactively reach out to them based on their interests.

Pinterest’s email strategy

Lastly, Pinterest’s emails are profoundly visual in nature, and presented more like a large sign than a block of text.

While the visual benefits of Pinterest are nothing new, it is a good reminder for bloggers that increasing engagement through email requires using visual tools in addition to text. If Pinterest is growing through image-based content, bloggers should explore that strategy as well.

Pinterest email

Pinteret’s emails are a good example of tying email marketing in with other elements of your online presence, in particular the images on your blog. As you prepare your blog posts, scan them for brief, valuable insights that can be adapted to fit in an image.

Images in blog posts are incredibly useful for SEO and social media sharing, but they can also be integrated with posts in your email updates. An image will break up an email and draw readers into your post’s content. In addition, the image itself is something that can be pinned on Pinterest, increasing your blog’s social reach through email itself.

What can you learn from social media email strategies?

There’s no reason why your email marketing plans for your blog can’t gain some lessons from social networks that have long specialized in effectively using email. It’s just a matter of forming a good plan and then finding the time and energy to get it done.

Here are the five key lessons from each social network for bloggers using email:

      • Twitter: Use email to highlight the best content on your website.
      • Facebook: Keep email messages short and to the point, and focused one one single action.
      • Google+: Drive user engagement in the text of your email, and let users take actions in the email itself.
      • LinkedIn: Proactively use email to reach out to your audience based on their interests, and provide more value than they expect.
      • Pinterest: Use images to break up an email and draw readers into your post’s content—and make them shareable from the email itself.

After all, there’s no real secret to good email marketing. It’s all about investing the resources needed to make it happen, and that comes from watching what others are doing and making email a priority.

What have you learned about email marketing from social media websites—or others in your niche? Share your tips with us in the comments.

This guest post was sent to us by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for a shopping cart abandonment company and who also advises Producteev, a to do list Start-Up.

Are You Wasting Time Guest Posting?

This guest post is by Dan Norris of Web Control Room.

Guest posting is up near the top of every list of ways to grow your blog. The problem is, if you don’t do it correctly, you are more or less wasting your time.

I’ve been writing guest posts for a long time as a way to build interest in my blogs. But until recently I’d never really looked specifically at the results. I’d been assuming, like a lot of bloggers, that I could just get published on some big blogs, and readers would come my way.

My new business, Web Control Room, is a free web app that allows tech savvy business owners to track all their important metrics in the one place. So part of my launch strategy is guest posting on popular blogs for small business owners and bloggers.

In the first few weeks of running my beta I was lucky enough to get published on three well-known industry blogs.

But after analyzing the results, I was shocked. The stats are shown below, “conversions” being the number of people who signed up to use the app in its beta stage.

  • Total visitors to my site: 67
  • Conversions: 2 (2.9%)

Those figures are for all three guest posts combined—about nine hours work for me!

As you can see, these results fall a long way short of what most people expect when writing guest posts. Not only is the traffic minuscule, the conversion rate was well below that from other sources (some were closer to 10%).

Two problems with guest posting

There are two things that are often forgotten by bloggers publishing guest posts.

  1. It’s hard to understand an audience when they aren’t your audience. This is a problem when you’re writing your first post on a blog—you really don’t know what is going to appeal to the audience.
  2. People don’t want to leave their favourite blogs to go back to yours—unless they have a really good reason to.

So if you don’t understand what the readers want, and they don’t want to leave the host blog to come back to yours anyway, what do you do?

In this post I’m going to give you five techniques you can use to directly address these problems, and stop wasting time guest posting.

1. Mention your blog or business

The first thing you absolutely must do in a guest post is mention your blog or business, ideally with a link back to your site. A lot of people forget this. I’ve read some exceptional posts in the past and arrived at the end of the article having no idea who wrote it or what they do. You’ve got to work this into the post, ideally near the start (like I did above).

Some blogs don’t like linking off to your site during the body of the post, but most will allow you to talk about your business if it’s used as an example in your post. If you aren’t talking about your business then you are probably writing generic, boring content anyway, so most good blogs will understand the need for you to do this.

If you mention your blog or business at the start, it will be at the back of the readers’ minds when they get to the end of the post, where there definitely should be a bio and link back to your site with a compelling pitch targeted to the readers of the host blog.

2. Take a case study approach

To take the first point a step further, why not write a post specifically about what you are doing in your business—a case study? Notice how in the intro above I mentioned specific results I got for guest posts I have written. That’s a small example. An even better one would be to make the entire post about work you have done in your business.

I recently wrote a guest post for Think Traffic, called Which traffic strategy converts best? This post was all about the traffic strategies I was implementing as part of my new business. Because it was about my business, people were naturally interested in checking out my site after they read the post. In fact, I suspect a lot of people going back to the site were simply doing so to see how the site was set up for conversions.

This particular guest post brought in over three times the number of visitors than all three posts I mentioned above combined, not to mention 40+ email subscribers it generated.

Most of the time, the main thing that’s unique about you is that you are the one running your business or blog. Anyone can write general stuff, but only you can write truly unique content with meaningful insights from the work you’ve done—and this is much more interesting than a generic top-ten list.

3. Be nice to the gatekeeper

Most large blogs have someone who manages the content, but who isn’t necessarily the face behind the blog. This person is used to seeing the same spammy guest post email day in, day out, and guest posters following the same standard approach of sending off their article and never returning to the host blog once it’s accepted.

As I mentioned before, it’s hard to get everything right with your first guest post. If you are just doing it for a backlink, there are quicker and easier ways to get the same result.

If you are doing it to legitimately provide value and engage with the audience, then you should do what the others don’t do, because your goal should be to write more articles for the site in the future—and better articles, too.

When I approach a host blog, I always do the following:

  1. In the back-and-forth emails prior to a post going live, I make sure I take the editor’s ideas on board. They will always know the audience better than you will. Ask them how they think the post will go or if there are any tweaks you can make to make it more appealing to the audience.
  2. When the post goes live, I do my best to promote it. Add your post’s link to blog directory sites, promote it relentlessly on social media, ask your friends to comment on it, promote it on forums, and more. Getting your first post is sometimes difficult, but blog owners will be more than happy to have you back if you prove you can drive traffic to their site.
  3. I send a follow-up email after the dust settles. Say you thought the post went well judging by the social shares and comments, but you’d love to hear from the editor what they thought, and how they think the post was received. Most people don’t do this, so it helps you stand out from the crowd. But it also helps you understand the audience better and do a better job with your next post.

4. Encourage comments and reply to each and every one

Towards the end of your post, ask a specific question of the reader and encourage them to reply with their answer. Then, after the post goes live, respond to each and every comment made on your post.

Quite often a lot of the best content comes out of the discussion at the end of a post, so blog owners like to see an active comment thread. If you don’t have anything to say in response to a comment, just say thanks!

There will also be more opportunities to discuss your business or blog with the readers in the comments, and that discussion will drive up the comment count on the post, to make your work stand out from others’. In some cases, the number of comments will impact on the popular post links on the site, so having more discussion could get you even more eyeballs if it gets you into that list. Needless to say, you’ll also certainly get the attention of the blog owner this way.

The comments will also teach you a lot about the audience. What level are they at in relation to the content? What sites do they run (check out a few as you reply to comments)? What did they like and dislike about your post? This will help you do a better job on your next post, because you’ll know the readers and have a better idea of what they will respond well to. Regular readers will also remember you and be much more likely to read and engage with your future posts.

5. Make it controversial (if you can)

This one is always a bit tricky. It’s hard to fabricate controversy, and I’m not suggesting you go out and offend people. But often, you can inject a little hint of controversy into your writing and if it’s done well, it’s sure to result in more shares and more comments.

On my last blog, my two most popular posts were:

  • one that outlined a five-step process for ridding yourself of Microsoft products
  • another that told business owners to stop focusing and used examples from some big companies like Apple and Google to support the idea—an suggestion that’s against most of what you read about business these days.

These posts expressed an opinion and were in some way a bit controversial, and that, no doubt, is why they were the most popular.

You can even use the title to drip in a bit of controversy. “Are you wasting time guest posting?” suggests that guest posting can be a waste of time, which is controversial. “5 guest posting tips” wouldn’t have the same appeal.

My post on Think Traffic explained 12 traffic strategies, and the one that converted the best for me was a Twitter auto-follow strategy that some readers weren’t too keen on. But you have to go back 11 posts on Think Traffic to find one that was shared more than mine, and the comments thread was also very active.

If you can be just a little bit controversial, your post becomes interesting, and content needs to be interesting to have an impact.

So are you wasting time guest posting?

I’ve talked about some of my best and worst guest posts in this article, and now I’d love to hear from you. Have you wasted time on unsuccessful guest posts? And if so, what did you learn to turn it around for future posts?

Dan Norris is the founder of Web Control Room a free tool that gives bloggers a simple report on the performance of their site. The app talks to popular services used by bloggers (Feedburner, Aweber, PayPal, Analytics etc) and simplifies the information into a 1 page live report available via the web or mobile.

The Blogger’s Dilemma: When Is it Time to Start Paying for Exposure?

This guest post is by Amanda DiSilvestro of Highervisibility.

When you’re a blogger, you want to gain as much visibility and authority as you can, and featuring your content on more established websites is one way to make this happen.

Guest posting is becoming more popular, and it works well for all parties involved: the editor gets a great piece of content and someone new promoting the site, and the writer gets to put his/her content in front of a well-established audience and reaps many SEO benefits.

So what’s the issue?

More and more blogs are beginning to ask writers to pay to post content on their pages. This typically occurs for a few different reasons:

  • The site is usually very authoritative, meaning it has a high PR and a good readership. This means that any link the owners put on their website is providing the guest poster with significantly better SEO and visibility benefits than links from lesser-known sites.
  • Sites that ask a writer to pay to post an article likely have a large influx of articles every day. Everyone wants a piece of the exposure, so asking writers to pay will weed out those who aren’t serious.
  • Asking writers to pay means more income for the website.

Being that there are still many websites across the Internet that are thrilled to meet with a guest contributor, a blogger has to stop and ask whether or not paying to publish a guest post on a particular site is worthwhile.

How to make sure paying for the spotlight is worth it

In some instances, paying to put your content on a very authoritative site is going to be worth it in the long run. Sites that ask you to pay to feature your content typically will promote your content to thousands, which will help you establish a name for your brand.

There are a few things you should do to make sure that payment is worth it in these situations:

  1. Ask the site owners what they can do for you: If a site is asking you to pay, make sure its owners are willing to help promote your article. Ask them if they will be sending your article to their subscribers, how and where they’ll share your article on social media, and if they are willing to continue to help you grow your brand in the future.
  2. Analyze the site on your own: Even if a site tells you they are going to do all of these great things, check up on them yourself. Make sure the site has a great PR, check to see the average number of tweets and comments that an article on the site receives, and talk with others who have contributed there.
  3. Decide whether or not you really need a quick fix: Getting your content on an authoritative site should, in theory, speed up your brand management process. However, it’s important to consider whether or not you really need this quick fix. There are many websites that have grown successful without paying to contribute their content, although it may have taken them longer (and in some cases, taken more work).

It’s also important to realize that, in Google’s eyes, paying to guest post isn’t quite the taboo that paying for other backlinks is. Google looks down upon sites that pay for links because the search engine likes to see backlinks generated organically. In the case of a paid guest post placement, the links are organic and they work in the same way that links in any other guest post would.

When to just say “No” to paying for exposure

Naturally, you should decide against paying to place your guest content if you find negative responses to any of the points discussed above.

However, the biggest thing to keep in mind is whether or not you have the power and resources to really get the same traction without paying for placement.

It is entirely possible to post your content on very authoritative websites that don’t charge you to submit, but it will take a lot of time and effort. Several bigwig sites have declined my writing, but eventually I got it right and was able to get a link back to my blog from those sites.

In my opinion, you should never have to pay to place your content on a blog if you have the time to really work hard to find other alternatives.

Have you ever paid to place your content on a blog? Did you feel the benefits were worth the money? Let us know your story in the comments below.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a graduate of Illinois State University. Although she graduated with an English Education degree, she found herself working as a full-time blogger at Highervisibility, nationally recognized as one of the best seo firms in the country. Connect with HigherVisibility on Twitter to learn more!