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Calls to Action – 12 Tips To SNAP Readers Out of Passivity

The vast majority of visitors to your blog are paralyzed by passivity.

They never comment, they don’t vote in polls, they won’t subscribe to your feed or newsletters, they won’t buy the affiliate products that you recommend, they won’t email a friend about your blog, they won’t vote for you in social bookmarking sites and most of them will never come back.

Call-To-ActionImage by Aaron Jacobs

Depressed? You’re not alone.

Some days it gets me down that readers can be so passive too.

In this post (a part of our crafting blog posts series) I’m going to share how using Calls to Action can significantly increase the interactivity on your blog. I’d also love to hear what you have to say on the topic.

The Problem of Passivity on Blogs

I still remember early in my blogging expressing my frustration to another blogger. At the time my main concern was that while I was getting a lot of visitors, so few of them left a comment.

He responded to me with a question that was like a SMACK to the side of the head with a BRICK – it was so simple yet stupidly I’d never thought of it. He said:

“Do you ever ask for comments?”

He went on to explain to me a ‘secret’ that copywriters have known for ages – ‘Call to Action‘ – if you don’t call your readers to action they are far less likely to take it:

  • If you want people to comment, invite them to do it.
  • If you want people to subscribe, don’t assume that they’ll think to do it themselves, ask them to. If
  • If you want people to buy something – give them a way to do it.
  • If you want people to come back tomorrow, give them some motivation to do so and show them how to remind themselves.
  • If you want a vote on Digg or StumbleUpon – ask.

Call me ‘Captain Obvious’ – but so few of us bloggers have mastered the ‘Call to Action’ in their blogging that it is no wonder that so many of us struggle with passive audiences.

Why Calls to Action are Important

After my friend gave me the above advice I began to experiment with inviting readers to comment on my posts. Here’s what I found:

  • Some People Respond to Invitations - When I invited comments and didn’t assume that people would leave them I noticed a marked increase in comments. While the majority of my readers still ‘lurked’ I’d estimate comments were up by between 50-100% on posts.
  • Action grows Reader Engagement - I began to notice that when people commented once it would open a floodgate of comments from them over future days. When I questioned a few of these readers I found that some had been ‘lurking’ a while, too scared to comment but once they had they felt more ‘ownership’ and ‘confidence’ to do it again.
  • Action brings loyalty – I noticed that first time readers would become loyal readers – they’d often come back to the blog in the days after their comment to see how other people responded to it.
  • Action breeds Action - When you grow the interactivity on your blog it draws others to be interactive. When a first time visitor to your blog sees that you have thousands of subscribers and hundreds of comments they take notice and many will be drawn to do likewise (it is called social proof).

In time I saw similar things as I ‘asked’ readers to do other things (vote in polls, subscribing to feeds etc). I learned that as obvious as it might seem to us as bloggers to do these things – many readers don’t think to do these things unless asked to.

12 Tips for Calls to Action:

So how do you effectively use Calls to Action on your blog?

Let me say that the following Call to Action Tips come out of my own experience of experimenting with this type of thing. I’m by no means a copy writing expert (although am about to start some training in it) and would love to learn from your own experiences of Calls to Action so please do feel free to share you own experience in comments below.

1. Know what Action you want Readers to take

Sounds almost too basic to include in these tips but I think it’s really important to be clear about what you’re trying to achieve with your blog post. This really builds on the last post in this series which talked about making your posts matter and identifying purposes for posts. What’s the purpose of your post? What do you want readers to do as a result of reading the post? Answer these questions before writing your call to action and you’ll be in a great position to write an effective one.

2. One Call to Action Per Post

Early in my own experiments with Calls to Action I wrote a post that was linked to by the uber blog Slashdot. It sent more traffic to my blog than I’d ever seen before and so I decided to update the post with some calls to action. Problem was that I stuffed so many of them into the post that no one did any of them. I asked for comments, pointed to my RSS feed and newsletter, asked for people to link to the post… etc. I find that I have a lot more luck with just one call to action per post – it gives people a simple next step rather than overwhelming them with choices.

3. Make it a Win/Win Call to Action

There’s nothing wrong with benefiting from the actions that your readers take on your blog. Don’t be afraid to ask things of them – but do make sure that what you ask of them will have an upside not only for you but for them.

4. Make the Action Simple and Achievable

I was recently asked by a reader to look at a competition that they were running on their blog and to give my opinion on why no one had entered it. Upon looking at the competition it became clear that while the prize was great and the blog did have readers – that the requirements to entry were too complicated. The blogger was asking readers to leave a 500 word comment, write a post on their own blog linking to their competition AND subscribe to his RSS feed (and to prove it take a screen shot of the subscription confirmation page). Ask your readers to jump through too many hoops to do the thing you want them to do and you’ll get significantly less of them to take that action.

5. In Post Calls to Action Work Best

Positioning is everything in many aspects of your blog and calls to action are no exception. In the same way that click through on ads increase when you put ads near or in content – responses to calls to action will work significantly better for you within posts than if you slap them on your sidebar. This doesn’t mean you can’t have an invitation to action in your sidebar (almost every blog I know does this with RSS subscription invitations for example) however in post invitations will generally work best.

6. Express Clearly what you Want People to do

This really builds upon the ‘simple and achievable action’ point that I’ve made above but comes down to the way you communicate the desired action to readers. In the same way that I’ve suggested taking extra time to craft post titles and opening lines it is important to pause and consider the words that you use in your call to action. If your call to action isn’t a simple thing (and sometimes it is unavoidable) consider outlining what you want readers to do in ‘steps’ or a list of points. This is what I do on my Group Writing Projects and I find it works quite well.

7. Multiple Calls to the Same Action Can Work

While it’s best if you keep the number of actions you call for to a minimum (preferably 1 per post) this doesn’t mean you can’t invite readers to take that action more than once in the post. The most logical place for a call to action is at the end of the post – after all it is where readers stop reading and start thinking about what to do next. However I find that adding a call to action earlier in the post can increase the likelihood that people will take the action. This works for two main reasons – firstly you are sowing the seed of the action in their mind early and secondly some people will never make it to the end of your post but may actually take the action early on. For example – in this post I’ve already invited comments twice – and I’ll do it once more at the end of the post.

8. Draw the Eye to Calls to Action

Why do we make titles bigger and more eye catching on blog posts but leave our invitations to action as plain text languishing at the bottom of our posts? As with any important part to a post it is important that your readers see calls to action. You can ensure this happens in a number of ways including putting a heading above them, using an image near them, making the call to action a striking image itself, using text formatting (bold, italics, capitals), using colored backgrounds and borders around the calls to action etc.

9. Lead your readers to the Action

Your post itself needs to lead people to the action. The call and the topic of the post should strongly relate to one another and you should give reasons why the action would benefit readers. One technique that is worth using with some calls to action (particularly bigger ones) is to paint a picture of what life would be like after the action is taken (or what it’d be like if it is not taken).

10. Give an Incentive

Some calls to action will have an incentive to the reader built into them – but at times you might want to add extra incentive. This can be especially effective if you’re promoting an affiliate product and want to give your readers extra value by offering a bonus.

11. Mix Up Calls to Action from Post to Post

Readers can become a little blind (or numb) to calls to action over time if your calls are always the same (either given in the same way or asking them to do the same thing). Mix things up from post to post. Also don’t feel you need to have a call to action in every post. If you’re constantly asking your readers to do things you could burn them out.

12. Don’t Hard Sell But Call with Confidence

Using Calls to Action can be a bit of a balancing act at times. In talking to bloggers I find that they usually struggle with them in one of two ways. Either they feel awkward asking readers to do anything OR they SELL SELL SELL and lack subtlety. Somewhere between these two extremes is the place you need to dwell. The place you position yourself along the spectrum will differ from blog to blog and probably based upon your personality. Some bloggers get away with the hard sell better than others – the key is to experiment, listen to your readership and how they respond and to try to strike a balance between the two extremes.

What Was Your Most Effective Call to Action?

What I’ve shared above is my experience of Calls to Action but as I’ve said above – I’m still on a learning journey on this topic and would love to hear what you have leaned on the topic? Feel free to give an example of what you’ve done with a link and share your lessons in comments below so we can all improve our call to action technique!

Read the Full Series

This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.

Does Your Next Blog Post Matter?

Does-Your-Blog-Post-MatterIf your next blog post doesn’t matter – don’t publish it until it does.

In our series on How to Craft a Blog Post we’ve been talking about ‘points to pause’ while writing a blog post. So far we’ve looked at choosing a topic, titles and opening lines and today we’re going to get into the meat of your actual post.

Here’s the question that I think we should all be asking before we hit ‘publish’ on now blog posts:

“So What?”

This simple, yet profound, question was one that I heard a lot of bloggers emerging from SOBCon with earlier in the year. My co-author Chris Garrett is one speaker from that conference who I know used it as a central theme in his presentation.

Other similar questions might include:

  • What’s the Point?
  • What am I trying to communicate?
  • What impact do I want to have on my reader?
  • How will this benefit my reader?

All of your hard work in choosing topics, titles and opening lines will go to waste if the actual meat of your post has no real point to it, if it doesn’t communicate anything, if it doesn’t have any impact upon your readers, if it doesn’t really matter.

If you want a post to be more than just something that people flit past it needs to ‘matter’ to people on some level. Otherwise it will never get traction.

Why Many Blog Posts Don’t Have Points

The reality is that many blog posts that I read (and I’ll admit to writing a few) have no real points (or they are unclear).

There could be a variety of reasons for this including:

  • laziness – sometimes it is just easier not to really think through the direction of a post
  • busyness and distractions – life gets cluttered and many of us as bloggers have too many things on the go at once – leaving us unable to focus our attention fully upon the task at hand.
  • pressure of deadlines – feeling the need to have to post something every day can mean many posts get published that are not thought through

Three times to ask ‘so what’ as you’re crafting your next blog post:

1. Before You Start - I find that my blog posts are significantly better if I identify a goal that I want to achieve with the post before I start writing it. For me this usually happens during the topic selection process and leads me to write a simple sentence at the start of each draft (which I usually delete later, unless it becomes part of my introduction).

This sentence is usually something like ‘this post will teach readers how to hold a digital camera‘ or ‘this post will answer the question of “What is a Blog?”‘.

Important Note: I write blogs with a ‘how to’ type form so my goal sentences reflect this – however this same thing can apply to other types of blogs. The answer to the ‘so what’ question can be to teach, inform, entertain, inspire, build community etc. It need not be to ‘teach’.

2. While You Write - with the post goal statement at the top of your draft it is important to keep it in the forefront of your mind as you develop your blog post.

I attempt to include a statement of what the post will achieve within the post (so the reader sees it) but constantly attempt to remind myself what I’m trying to achieve with the post. This is not always easy (and sometimes my posts do evolve beyond my original goal – read on for more on this) but I find that unless I do it I can end up with posts that have a wishy washy point.

3. Before You Finish – if you’re anything like me, your blog posts ‘evolve’. I often start out with a goal statement and then proceed to go ahead and write a post that ignores the statement. Don’t beat yourself up about that – but DO ask yourself the question of ‘so what’ again at the end of your post.

Have you written something that will matter to your readers? Have you written something that meets a need that they might have? Have you fully explored the topic? OR…. Have you written something just for the sake of writing something? Does what you’ve written have a point?

Don’t Try To Achieve Too Much in a Single Post

A trap that I used to fall into regularly with my blogging was to try to do too much in every post that I wrote. I’d try to write posts that explored lots of themes, that tried to inform, entertain and inspire, that tried to get readers to have a sense of belonging…. etc

The reality was that the posts ended up being ‘epics’ and didn’t really achieve anything.

If you find yourself with lots of goals for a post – why not split them into multiple posts.

This is what I did earlier in this series when writing about crafting blog titles. I originally has this post on Crafting Titles and this post inviting readers to improve titles as one single post but before hitting publish I asked myself what my goal was with the post and realized that I was trying to do too much and that could better achieve my goals of ‘teaching’ and ‘involving readers’ in two separate posts.

What’s the Point of This?

The take home message of this post is to take your time in identifying goals for each post.

This exercise need not take a great deal of time or even be something that you formally set time aside to do for each post (for me it’s become a natural part of my blogging) but it is something that will help to lift the quality of your blogging significantly.

The benefit of identifying a point to your posts will especially help you in the next two steps in this process of crafting a blog post – ‘calls to action’ and ‘adding depth’ (things we’ll explore in coming days).

Read the Full Series

This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.

Is Writing Great Content Enough to Build a Successful Blog?

Content
At times you could be forgiven for thinking it is – if you read a lot of blogs on ‘how to blog’ that is.

One of the first thing that most of us who write about blogging advise those starting out is to work on writing useful and unique content.

Certainly at the core of most great blogs is useful and unique content that draws readers in and generates links from other blogs, builds the profile and reputation of the blog – however sometimes great content is simply not enough.

The reality is that many bloggers write excellent content – however not all of them break through the clutter and rise to the top of their niche.

This is frustrating – there’s no two ways about it.

I’ve felt the frustration myself and hear the frustration of others on a daily basis via emails and IMs from bloggers wanting to know how to take their blogging to the next level.

  • How do I find readers?
  • How do I get my first “break”?
  • How did you get your first incoming links to my great content if nobody is reading it?

These are the type of questions I see more and more.

Do you want the “right” answer or the “real” answer?

As I sit down to answer some of these questions on how to build a successful blog I’m increasingly feeling that there are certain answers which are “right” and some more that are “real”.

The “Right” Answers

“Write unique and useful content for your readers.” – this has been one of the catch cries at ProBlogger over the last couple of years as I’ve attempted to show bloggers how to build quality blogs. It’s a principle that I strongly believe in – it’s something that does work and I don’t know too many successful bloggers who wouldn’t agree with it and/or apply it. It is ‘right’.

Other “right” answers include things like:

  • Interact with your readers – the more you interact with readers in a genuine way the more likely they are to stay around and spread the word about you.
  • Use Quality Titles – a lot is written about the effectiveness of quality post titles at getting attention and drawing in readers to your blog. In my mind there is little doubt about how important it is to invest time into smart title generation.
  • Promote yourself - while some of us feel a little awkward about self promotion – there’s little doubt in my mind that it is a necessary part of launching a new blog. While it’s also important to let your readers spread the news about you – without some self promotion you may never find those first readers to help you spread the virus.
  • Know and Use basic SEO principles – it is well worth learning the basic principles on how search engines index and rank online content. While some bloggers become a little obsessed by SEO – setting up your blog smartly and keeping some of the basics in mind as you write is a common sense way of building a blog that will bring in significant SE traffic over the long term.
  • Inviting Design – I don’t believe that to be successful a blog needs to have professional designs that cost mega-bucks. However inviting design that communicates what a blog is about, that enables good navigation and that draws readers into the content can really take a blog to the next level.

In my mind – these sorts of tips (and there are many more of them) are “right“. They make sense – they work (to varying degrees) and many bloggers talk about them as keys to successful blogs – because they are.

Much has been written about these “right” answers. ProBlogger’s archives are full of them.

However there’s a problem – as “right” as these tips are – they are quite often not enough for many bloggers.

In fact I’ve talked to many bloggers who have done all the right stuff (they’ve executed everything mentioned above perfectly) yet they still fail to find readers, build community and reach their goals.

The “Real” Answers

In addition to the “right” answers above – I’ve been pondering some other keys to successful blogs that I don’t see many of us writing about. The reason they don’t get spoken about much is that they are hard to define, they are subjective and some might even say that they’re things that might apply to some but not others.

However I think some of it is worth saying – as difficult as it might be to put them into words (just don’t expect a list of tips that you can go away and apply to get these things):

Mojo

MojoAustin Powers has it and so do many successful bloggers. What is it? Well I could define it using a dictionary (magic or some powerful force) – but mojo is one of those indefinable characteristics that some bloggers just seem to have which others don’t. It’s a quality that some bloggers have that intrigues, invites and inspires readers – not because they write grammatically perfect posts, not because they are the smartest people going around – but just because they do.

Perhaps finding your mojo is similar to “finding your voice” or “injecting your personality” into your writing or just “being yourself” – to be honest I’m not sure where it comes from – but for many successful bloggers, they’ve got mojo!

Luck

LuckI’ve written about being lucky on a couple of occasions previously and both times the response from readership was positive. I even tried to talk about “how to be lucky” once (I do like to try to define the undefinable) – however sometimes no matter what you do Lady Luck just comes calling in the most unexpected times and places.

Meeting the right person at the right time to collaborate with – picking up a scoop ahead of the competition – overhearing something in a conversation that triggers a thought process that people respond to – starting your blog on the day before something happens that draws attention to your niche – getting that link from an A-lister out of the blue… the list of ways you can get lucky as a blogger could go on.

Trust

TrustTrust is one of those things that you can do things to build with your readers (and with other bloggers) but in some ways it is something that is not manufacturable or definable (you can’t come up with a list of 10 ways to absolutely guarantee it – as much as I’d like that).

Building Trust with readership takes time, it means putting actions behind your words and it means being a person of authenticity and character – in such a way that others both see and connect with it.

Expertise and Authority

ExpertiseI almost put expertise in the “right” answers list because on some levels it is something you can work on and to some degree define. However expertise can also be slippery thing to nail down also because it’s one of those things where there is a sliding scale and which readers can respond differently to. For example here at ProBlogger I don’t see myself as “the” expert or authority on the topic making money from blogs.

I do have expertise in some areas of blogging (or at least 5-6 years of experience) – but in other areas (like blog design or coding) I’m definitely no expert. However – I attempt to write this blog in a way that is transparent about what I do and don’t know about or have experiences in and for some reason the gaps in my expertise don’t seem to matter to readers.

I do think it’s important that you know something about your topic that you can share and help others with – however, what’s probably more important is the way you convey that expertise.

What seems to happen with some bloggers is that they become perceived as experts and authorities on their topics (whether they feel that they deserve it or not).

Charisma

I find that many successful bloggers seem to have an ability to draw people to them – to connect with their readers and to connect their readers with one another.

Community is one of those trigger points that people are gathering around online at the moment – and they often gather around a key person (or people) that have the gift of connecting with others.

While it’s possible to work on your relational skills the reason I put this in the “real answers” list is because it’s something that many bloggers seem to have without really trying. Everywhere they go they just seem to draw others around them. As I see it these bloggers seem to be able to do the following things:

  • draw people around them (perhaps this is the “mojo” I’m talking about above)
  • connect those people with one another to form community
  • empower that community and it’s members to be self sustaining and not reliant upon that person
  • continue to inspire and champion that community – but not need to continually drive it in a hands on way

These people are often humble and don’t let their egos get caught up in the community they develop. They know when to stand back and let others continue what they start.

What Would You Add?

Mojo, Luck, Trust, Expertise, Charisma – these are just some of the more slippery and hard to define characteristics that I find many successful bloggers have. On some levels they can be ‘worked on’ – but in many cases bloggers just seem to have them.

What other characteristics would you add – either to my ‘right’ or ‘real’ answers?

PS: Can I finish this post by saying that I feel a little weird about publishing it? I actually wrote this 12 months ago and have been coming back to it again and again over that time.

My hesitation comes mainly from this….

I don’t want people to get frustrated by not having some of these more indefinable characteristics.

I don’t think that lacking them disqualifies you from blogging well at all – but wanted to put ‘out there’ that sometimes it’s not just about doing all the ‘right’ things that we blogging advice givers might teach.

All I really want to add is that in my experience a lot of these qualities come with time. Out of experience comes relationships, experience, expertise, finding your voice etc. If you’re still finding your way – hang in there friends.

How to Craft a Blog Post – 10 Crucial Points to Pause

It hits you like a TON of BRICKS! It’s an idea for that KILLER blog post that is just bound to bring you all the traffic that you’ve ever dreamed of.

With the idea fresh in your mind you sit down at your keyboard and BANG it out – desperate to hit publish as quickly as you can for fear that someone else will beat you to the PUNCH!

PublishImage by pallotron

As SMOKE rises from your keyboard you complete your post, quickly add a title to it and proudly hit PUBLISH!

Visions of an avalanche of visitors, incoming links and comments swirl before you.

But then…

Reality hits you like a SLAP in the face. There are few visitors, no comments and no links. It’s not a KILLER post – it’s DEAD.

Ever had that experience?

I have – many many times over.

Today I want to start a series of posts that will walk you through an alternative workflow for constructing a blog post – one that takes…. time.

How-To-Craft-A-Blog-Post
Image by Samyra.S

If there’s one lesson that I’ve learnt about writing for the web it’s that a key element to writing successful blog posts is that in most cases they take time to CREATE.

I emphasize ‘create’ because I think too often as bloggers we ‘PUNCH’ out content as though we’re in a race or under some kind of deadline. It’s almost like we’re on a production line at times – unfortunately the posts we write often reflect this.

In this series I want to suggest an alternative approach – the crafting (or creation) of content.

This process is a more thoughtful process that is about crafting words and ideas – shaping posts into content that take readers on a journey.

To kick off this series I want to suggest 10 points to pause at when writing a post on your blog. I’ll include a link to each post that follows in this series as I update them.

Instead of rushing through a post – I find that if I pause at these key moments my post rises to a new level of quality and posts tend to get more traction with readers. They don’t guarantee the perfect post – but they certainly take you a step closer to a good one.

  1. Choosing a Topic – take a little extra time defining your topic and the post will flow better and you’ll develop something that matters to readers.
  2. Crafting Your Post’s Title – perhaps the most crucial part of actually getting readers to start reading your post when they see it in an RSS reader or search engine results page.
  3. The Opening Line – first impressions matter. Once you’ve got someone past your post’s title your opening line draws them deeper into your post.
  4. Your ‘point/s’ (making your posts matter) - a post needs to have a point. If it’s just an intriguing title and opening you’ll get people to read – but if the post doesn’t ‘matter’ to them it’ll never get traction.
  5. Call to Action – driving readers to do something cements a post in their mind and helps them to apply it and helps you to make a deeper connection with them.
  6. Adding Depth – before publishing your post – ask yourself how you could add depth to it and make it even more useful and memorable to readers?
  7. Quality Control and Polishing of Posts – small mistakes can be barriers to engagement for some readers. Spending time fixing errors and making a post ‘look’ good can take it to the next level.
  8. Timing of Publishing Your Post – timing can be everything – strategic timing of posts can ensure the right people see it at the right time.
  9. Post Promotion – having hit publish – don’t just leave it to chance that your post will be read by people. Giving it a few strategic ‘nudges’ can increase the exposure it gets exponentially.
  10. Conversation – often the real action happens once your post is published and being interacted with by readers and other bloggers. Taking time to dialogue can be very fruitful.

Taking extra time at each of these 10 points looks different for me in every post that I do – but I believe that every extra moment spent of these tasks pays off.

Some times the pause I take in one step will be momentary while in others it could take hours or even days to get it just right. Sometimes the above process happens quite automatically and other times I need to force myself to stop and ponder something like a title or the timing of a post.

Each of the 10 points above have much more that could be said about them so over the weeks I’ll be tackling each in turn in the hope that we can have some good discussion and sharing of ideas around them. I’ll link to each of them from within the list above as I release the posts.

For each point I hope to give some insight into how I tackle them and will share a few practical tips and examples of what I’ve done that has worked (and not worked). Don’t expect posts each day on this series – like all good things – this will take us some time!

24 Things to do When Stuck for a Topic to Blog About

Stuck for something to write about on your blog? Here are a few suggestions of things that might help get the creative juices flowing.

Stuck For A Topic To Blog About

1. Use Mind Mapping

I’ve previously talked about how Mind Mapping can be used to generate hundreds of ideas for blog posts. It can be used both to come up with fresh ideas for posts but also in extending previous posts that you’ve already written.

2. Change Your Blogging Environment

Sometimes simply writing in a different place can release a little creativity in you. If you’re fortunate enough to have a mobile device or laptop – hit a cafe, park, try a different room in your house, go to the beach…. You might be surprised what will come.

3. Answer a Question

The best posts are often those which answer specific questions. Questions tap into people’s needs or problems and can often be greatly appreciated by readers (this adds to reader loyalty).

There are lots of ways of getting relevant questions to answer:

  • Answer one of your own questions
  • Ask your readers to submit a question
  • Ask another blogger for a question
  • Ask your Twitter followers for questions
  • Check your comment section to find questions from readers
  • Visit other blogs and forums to search for questions from their readers
  • Put yourself in the shoes of a beginner in your topic and imagine what their questions might be
  • Look at your blog’s search engine referral statistics to see what people are asking to find your blog

Once you’ve got a question – answer it.

Tip: Start a ‘question journal’ of your own that you note any questions that you come across. Add any reader questions to it as they ask them – this way you’ll always have a question on hand to tackle.

4. Start with a Title

Most bloggers start writing their post first and add a headline later – however sometimes doing it the other way around can be fun. You might not end up using the headline that you start with – but it might be enough to spark a little creativity and get the ball rolling on a blog post.

5. Take a Break

One of the best things that I do to come up with ideas for blog posts is simply to go for a walk. Not a walk to think about blogging, just a walk, usually with my son. It is amazing what a little exercise and a little time thinking about something else can do for your creativity and ability to think clearly.

6. Give Yourself a Deadline

I have an unwritten deadline in my mind that I have to publish a post every night at midnight on both of my blogs (the timing varies a little from day to day but I have to at least have one ready to go by that time). I find that having this deadline in mind motivates me to come up with something. While there’s no one there to enforce the deadline it still seems to work for me.

7. Rid Yourself of Distractions

One of the biggest barriers for me in writing posts is getting distracted. Emails, instant messages, phone calls, family noise, online games, researching my next gadget purchase….. I could go on but even as I’m writing this I’m feeling the urge to do something else!

While there’s nothing wrong with any of these things – clearing time to write and putting barriers in place to keep the distractions at bay is important. For me one of the best ways to stop a lot of the distractions that tempt me away from writing is simply to get offline. Other tips include maximizing your screen so all you see is the document at hand, switching off email and instant messaging clients, using a tool like Writeroom (a mac tool that leaves you with nothing to look at on your screen except what you’re writing) etc.

8. Introduce ‘Random Challenges’

This is a little ‘odd’ thing that I sometimes challenge myself with – but on occasion I’ll challenge myself with writing tasks that are a little left of centre. I think I got this from Edward De Bono who in one of his books has a brainstorming exercise that challenges you to think of 10 ways that XXXX is like a XXXX. The exercise is designed to free up your mind and while most of what you’ll come up with is going to be rubbish it sometimes helps you to come up with new ways of looking at problems.

A recent example of this in my own blogging was a post on what the Mona Lisa Can Teach Portrait Photographers. While the Mona Lisa and portrait photography might not be too random – I actually started out to write a post that was about what Leonardo Da Vinci could teach us about blogging! The thought process that I went on led me to a much better topic.

9. Revisit a Previous Post

Once you’ve been blogging for a while it is easy to feel like you’ve said everything you want to say on a given topic. While you don’t want to be saying the same things every day – it’s OK to revisit previous topics.

The key is to find new ways to say those things you’ve said before, keep information up to date and relevant and to show that you’re developing and growing in your understanding of a topic.

  • What have you written about previously in your archives that is now dated and in need of revisiting?
  • What have you learned about since you first started your blog that you could write a new post on?
  • What have new readers to your blog missed out on in your archives?

10. Speak the Post Out Loud

Sometimes I don’t get stuck with the initial idea of what to post – but the next step of refining it into an actual topic that I can write about.

When you’ve got the start of your topic it can be helpful to actually start talking about it – get it out of your head and explain it (even if it’s just to yourself). Sometimes the act of verbalizing ideas can crystalize them in your mind.

11. Free Writing

Similarly to verbalizing it – sometimes just sitting down and writing can release creativity. Many writers use this technique simply as a ‘warm up’ exercise – they sit down with their writing tool (pen and paper, computer etc) and simply write…. they write anything that comes into their mind. It might be total rubbish – but the exercise is not designed necessarily to come up with any ideas (although you might) but simply to get your brain into gear.

12. Switch ‘Voices’

Most of us as bloggers write the majority of our posts in the one ‘voice’ or ‘personality’. Sometimes forcing yourself to write as someone else would write can be helpful. The best fun I ever had writing a blog post was when I wrote 5 Things You Should Know about My Dad the ProBlogger - in the voice of my 1 year old son (I know – most of you thought it was really him…. but it was me!).

The experience of writing about my topic through the eyes of a family member was not only a lot of fun but it also brought a new perspective to a topic I’d covered many times – it also connected with readers in a different way.

13. Switch Styles

In a similar way – sometimes switching the style of writing can be helpful. By style I mean switching from writing ‘list posts’ to writing ‘rants’ or from writing ‘reviews’ to writing ‘case studies’. I’ve put together 20 types of blog posts here that might help you find a new one to experiment with.

14. Repurpose Other Communications

Many of the tasks that we do in the day to day of life can make excellent blog posts if only we’re on the look out to capture and repurpose them.

In my post 5 Ideas to Come up with Blog Content from Your Daily Life I examine these techniques for coming up with post ideas:

  1. using answers to reader questions
  2. using email communications as blog posts
  3. documenting how you complete tasks
  4. videoing yourself doing things
  5. recording conversations

Sometimes your next blog post is in what you’re doing right now.

15. Achieve Something Else

Sometimes it’s not the coming up with an idea that stops you writing – it’s that you need to be doing something else. There’s a pile of dishes in the sink, your dog needs a walk, the lawn needs mowing and an assignment at work or school is over due…

I find that when other jobs are clouding my mind and stopping me from writing well that if I pick one of them and knock it off that the sense of achieving something can roll over into my writing. So put your writing aside for 15 minutes and go and do those dishes and get it off your mind before sitting down to write.

16. Go Surfing

I don’t mean to grab a surf board and actually go surfing (although that would tap into a few of the ideas I’ve already written about and could work) – but go surfing online for ideas. There are a number of places to head:

  • Other blogs in your niche – what are they writing about? How could you extend what they’ve written? What have they missed? What are their readers asking? DON’T steal their ideas and DO give credit when they stimulate something that you write – but don’t be afraid to bounce off another blogger – that’s what blogging is all about!
  • Forums – one of the richest places that I find for idea generation is forums. It’s actually one of the reasons that I started a photography forum – because every day there is a treasure trove of ideas created in it.
  • Social Media - what is popular on Digg, Delicious or StumbleUpon today? What type of articles go viral and how could you apply the principles you see in posts that do to your own topic?
  • Social Messaging - ask your Twitter and Plurk followers questions, interact with them around their answers – you’ll find that quite often as you interact in these messaging services that ideas will flow.

17. Go Surfing for Ideas Offline

One of my favorite places to go trawling for ideas is a local news stand. Almost every time I go there I come away for ideas for topics after 10-15 minutes of looking through magazines there. Sometimes it’ll be a topic that a magazine writes about that I can adapt for my blog and other times it’s just the titles that I find inspire my writing.

Similarly – libraries or bookshops can also be good sources for inspiration.

18. Play Devil’s Advocate

One of the best ways to come up with a fresh post is to take something that you’ve written about previously where you’ve argued strongly FOR a particular way of thinking – and then write an article taking the opposite view.

You might not completely agree with the post – but can present it in a way that makes this clear. For example – I once wrote a post on why people should consider joining a blog network and then did a followup post looking at why they shouldn’t. While I personally resonated more with the first article the second one actually was well received as it brought balance to the topic.

19. Involve Someone Else

If you’re completely frazzled and incapable of coming up with any ideas for yourself – it might be worth involving someone else.

  • Ask someone to write a guest post for you.
  • Invite someone to come on and be interviewed by you.
  • Swap blogs with another blogger for a day.
  • Ask another blogger if they have any ideas for posts.

Sometimes an outsider’s perspective can give you the lift you need.

20. Identify Your Golden Hours for Writing

My best time of day for writing is mid morning. I regularly block out this time purely for writing.

For other bloggers that I know the evenings or afternoons are best. The key is to identify the time that you work best and then block out time in that window for writing. Don’t let it be crowded by less important tasks but diarize the time for what is most important – content creation.

Having said that – don’t feel you can’t mix it up. Some days when I just can’t get going in the morning I’ll throw in the towel and go do something else until later in the day.

21. Big Picture vs Small Picture Posts

One problem that I see many bloggers struggling with is being overwhelmed by the hugeness of their niche and the topics within it and feeling the need to cover it all in each post. As a result they write these mega posts with 40 points and then find themselves with not much else to say because they’ve just covered their whole topic in one post.

What I encourage them to do is to think about writing a combination of ‘big picture’ posts and ‘smaller picture posts’.

For example – this very post is what I’d consider to be bigger picture. While it is all on one topic it’s covering a fair bit of ground (20+ points). However over the coming months I could follow up some (or all) of the points in this post with more in depth expansions upon each one.

Alternatively I could have chosen to break this actual post down into 20 or so smaller posts – a series.

22. Ask Your Readers a Question

You don’t need to be the one with all the answers on you blog. Come up with a question to ask your readers that relates to your blog’s topic. You could run it as a poll or simply as a discussion starter.

When you ask readers questions there often will arise possibilities for followup posts including:

  • answering the question for yourself
  • compiling reader answers
  • compiling a list of resources on the topic you’ve asked about

Asking questions also gives readers a sense of involvement and develops community on your blog.

23. Set up News Alerts

If your blog has a ‘news’ focus you’ll definitely want to set up alerts using tools like Google Alerts or Technorati’s watch lists. These alerts will email you or notify you via RSS when a news service or blog posts about the keywords that you identify to be ‘watched’.

Such alerts are also useful for non newsy blogs also as they will let you know how other blogs and news sources cover the topics that you’re writing about. It’s often through these sorts of alerts that ideas for new posts will come.

24. Summarize what Others are Writing

One of the most popular posts that I’ve written on my Photography blog lately was 25 Great Photography Tutorials and Links from Around the Web.

The post was simply a compilation post of posts that other bloggers in my niche had written, plus a few from my archives and a few videos.

While the post is simple (it does take some work to pull together but it’s a different kind of work to writing your own tips) it was very popular with readers and did quite well on social media sites.

What I also found as a bonus is that in compiling the list I ended up with quite a few ideas for future posts of my own!

What Do You Do When You’re Stuck for Ideas to Write About

All of us struggle to find things to write about on our blogs from time to time – I’ve shared a few strategies of what I do – but what about you? I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on how you break though those dry patches too – share your thoughts in commetns below.

BlogMastermind Launches

Blog-Mastermind-1As this post goes live the doors at the BlogMastermind blog mentoring program are opening again for the first time in many months.

When he first launched BlogMastermind I was really impressed by what Yaro had put together. He didn’t just rely upon the fact that he earns a six figure income from blogging to draw numbers into his site – he put so much work into developing a teaching site that delivered students amazing value.

This has been confirmed to me many times over from the feedback that I regularly hear from students that enrolled last time around. It was so popular last time that Yaro closed the doors on the program so as to be able to give students the attention that they deserved and to stop it being overrun.

Please don’t be put off by the sales page (that has to be the longest one I’ve seen for quite some time – the video at the top is probably the best part) – Yaro’s training content is first rate.

You can get a great feel for the the type of content that Yaro offers students with some of the free videos and reports that he’s already released:

Those five links alone give bloggers some great insights into profitable blogging and will give you a taste for what BlogMastermind is all about and how Yaro teaches.

You’ll notice as you listen to Yaro teach that he’s not into hype, he declares on his sales page that this isn’t about getting rich quick, his lessons are clear and that he gives concrete strategies. I know from the numerous times that Yaro and I have met in person that he’s a genuine guy and just loves to help people learn how to blog.

As a result I’d highly recommend the program and hope that you enjoy the experience as much as I have in the time I’ve spent in BlogMastermind. You can sign up either on month by month basis (getting a taste in the first month) or get the full access to the program all at once for six months at a discounted rate.

Sign up for BlogMastermind here.

21 Ways to Make Your Blog or Website Sticky

Does the traffic coming to your site come in a Yo-Yo like cycle of ups and downs that never really seems to go anywhere in the long run?Glue

Yesterday I wrote about a common problem that many bloggers face – spikes of traffic followed by flat-lines and promised a follow up post today on how to break this cycle by building ‘sticky’ sites.

My point yesterday was to encourage readers not to see spikes in traffic as the ultimate goal but as a stepping stone to ongoing growth.

What is a ‘Sticky’ Site?

A sticky website is one where a first time reader arrives and finds it difficult to leave.

Not because the site owner captures them in a ‘RickRoll’ or a series of windows asking them if they REALLY want to leave – but because something about the site motivates them to explore it further – and more importantly to make a decision to (and takes some steps to ensure that they) return again to it.

21 Techniques to Make Your Site Sticky

The following 21 techniques are ways that you can make your blog or website more sticky. They come from my own experience of blogging over the last 5 years. As a result of basing this on personal experience I’m going to show you quite a few examples of what I’ve done (after all i know my own sites best). I’d love you to add your tips and show examples of what you’ve done in comments below to make it a more useful resource for readers.

1. Make Your Invitations to Subscribe to your blog Prominent

One of the most important things to do is to have a prominent call to action for readers coming to your blog to subscribe to it.

In fact I’d recommend having more than one invitation – one prominent one above the fold and prominent in your sidebar or navigation area and then a second one below your post. This means that people are triggered to subscribe whether they have just arrived on your blog or if they’ve just finished reading a post (a ‘pause point‘).

This is what I do on my blogs and my tracking shows that both get a fairly even number of people using the two options.

prominent-invitations-to-subscribe.jpg

By the way – if you’re not already subscribed to ProBlogger’s RSS feed – here it is!

2. Educate Readers about Your Subscription Methods

One of the most read posts here on ProBlogger is my ‘what is RSS‘ post which I have below my Subscription link. It’s there simply to educate readers on what RSS is and in doing so sell them a way to connect with my blog. Interestingly enough – quite a few other bloggers around the web now link to the page to educate their readers too.

Similarly – I occasionally will write a post on my blogs that invites new readers to subscribe. Sometimes I think we mistakenly assume that all of our readers have been with us for a long time and all know how to use our site – however many of your newer readers might not know the full story.

Here’s one of these posts that I ran on DPS last year. The day after I did this my RSS subscribers jumped considerably. It was just a matter of educating my newer readers of the blog on how they could connect better with it. You’ll also note that at the end of the post I asked readers to let me know how they follow the blog. This was for two reasons:

  • Firstly I wanted to involve older readers who already knew all the information in the post. It somehow seemed to make the post more relevant for them as it invited them to participate.
  • Secondly it was about social proof and showing newer readers how others used the site. I think the comments section reflected some of this.

3. Good Blog Design

I’ve always believed that a good blog design is an important part of helping readers to decide whether they’re going to hang around and track with your site over the long haul.

Readers make judgements about your site within seconds of arriving at it – if they see something cluttered and confusing they’ll be less likely to want to return.

Good design highlights your content, helps people navigate your site well and creates a good impression – and first impressions matter!

Keep your design simple, familiar and obvious and you’ll be on the road to a sticky site.

PS: A common mistake that I see bloggers making is to crowd out their content with too many ads above the fold. If a reader arrives at your site and has to scroll to see the content you’ll increase the numbers of people who simply hit the ‘back’ button on their browser.

4. On Site Branding

Work hard at building a brand that is attractive and draws people in.

First time readers should know what your blog is about at a first glance. Use your blog’s title, it’s design, taglines, post titles, about pages, logo and navigational elements to communicate what your blog is about.

Also – do something to differentiate the brand of your blog. It could be a logo, image, color scheme, blog name….

5. Make Your Blog Personal

One thing that I’ve seen a number of bloggers do really well over the last year or two is brand themselves well on their blog. While it’s not essential to have a blog that is centered around your personal brand I find that when you do add a personal touch to your blog that it can connect with readers in a powerful way.

personalize.jpg

The fact is that some readers are more interested in connecting with a person than a collection of content.

Adding your photo, writing in a personal tone, using video/audio and including personal details and stories of how you engage with your topic can give your blog personality which will draw some of your readers into a relationship with you.

6. When you get a rush of traffic to one particular post….

When the spikes in traffic come along you need to be ready to act (and act fast – because they can be momentary).

  • Add invitations to subscribe to your feed within your post. Something along the lines of ‘enjoy this post? Get more like it by subscribing to….’ can work really well.
  • It can also be worthwhile adding links at the end of your post to ‘further reading’ on posts that are getting lots of reader to them.
  • Sometimes when you get a spike it can even be worth writing a ‘welcome’ post. For example if I get a mention in a mainstream media publication that sends significant traffic I’ll often do a post that welcomes people but also gives them a ‘tour’ of the site (example).
  • Another clever move is to quickly write up a followup article to the one that is getting all the traffic. For example – if this post suddenly got a burst of traffic I could quickly write a post ’10 more ways to make your blog sticky’ and then add a link to that post at the end of this one (update: actually I wrote one called 7 more ways to make your blog sticky). This shows readers that you’ve got more to say on your topic than just one post. Every extra page view is a step closer to them subscribing (if the pages they view are good quality).

These ‘hot posts’ are really important to optimize (learn how to optimize popular posts).

7. Get Interactive

Getting someone to DO something on your blog means that they’ve invested something into your blog and increases the likelihood that they’ll return.

Interactive blogs are often also sticky ones. Interaction could include

  • Comments
  • Competitions
  • Polls
  • Projects and Memes

As a result it’s worth spending some time Learning how to get readers to comment on your blog – and exploring other ways to make your blog more interactive. Get your readers involved as much as you can!

The other bonus for ‘giveaways’, ‘special offers’ and ‘competitions’ is that when you do them regularly some readers will subscribe because they don’t want to miss out on future giveaways. The current competition might not interest them but they sure want to know when you do one in future.

8. Add a ‘subscribe to comments’ feature to your blog

This draws those who comment back to continue the conversation and increases the chances of them becoming loyal readers.

You’ll find that only some readers will ever use this – but even if just a few do you’ve had a win.

subscribe-comments.jpg

I have this enabled here at ProBlogger (I don’t have it on by default – those leaving comments have to choose to subscribe because I don’t want to inundate them with comments) and at any given time there are several hundred people subscribed to comments on posts. I use this subscribe to comments plugin to run mine.

PS: just be aware that if you get a lot of unmoderated comment spam it can be a little embarrassing to have this feature – I learned the hard way.

9. Respond to Comments

This is a particularly effective way to draw readers back to your blog – particularly in the early days when you don’t have a lot of readers commenting to follow up.

There are two main ways you can do this:

  • respond to comments with comments
  • respond to comments with emails to the comment leaver

Showing those that comment on your blog that you’re interacting with them can make a real impression and will often draw them back time and time again.

10. Offer alternative ways to subscribe

subscription-alternativesSome readers will respond well to your prominent invitation to subscribe via RSS (see #1 above) but others will be more open to connecting in other ways.

I generally offer three subscription methods:

  • RSS
  • Daily email updates (RSS to Email)
  • Weekly newsletter (summary of the blog from the last week plus some exclusive content)

More recently I’ve also been offering readers the ability to track with my blogs via Twitter and send my latest posts to my Twitter account via TweetBurner.

Why so many options? The answer is simply that each reader has their own systems in place to consume content and connect with websites – so offering a variety of methods increases the chances that you’ll be doing something that they are familiar with.

11. Promote social media connecting points

Similarly – some of your readers will respond very well to your invitations to connect on other social media sites.

For example I have some readers on DPS who are Facebook junkies. They refuse to subscribe via RSS or email but religiously read my blog by following my Facebook profile which pulls in my latest posts.

Another small group of readers here at ProBlogger follow this blog through Technorati’s favorites feature. While I prefer to read blogs using an rss reader like Google Reader – their rhythm of reading content revolves around Technorati. As a result I’m happy that I promoted my Technorati profile (you can favorite ProBlogger here).

While you might not see the sense in people following your blog in some of these social media sites others do and at the very least promoting them can potentially reinforce your brand.

Social-Media-1

12. Highlight Your Best Content

A great way to convince readers to become loyal is to get them reading more than one of your posts (especially if they are your best posts). You can do this by linking to other posts within your content but also suggesting further reading and ‘best of’ posts around your blog.

For example – here at ProBlogger on my front page the ‘best of ProBlogger’ section is one of the most clicked upon parts of my site. This small section of the site sends people deep within the blog to some of my best work – hopefully resulting in quite a few new loyal readers.
Best-Of-Pb
At DPS I have a small section on my sidebar called ‘Digital Photography Tips’ which is a list of ‘sneeze pages‘ (or compilation pages of my best posts in certain categories). Again – these are there simply to draw people deep into the site and get them viewing some of the best the site has to offer (and hopefully to convince them to subscribe).

Best-Of-Dps

13. Create Momentum With Your Content

AnticipationWhen you give readers a sense that you’re creating more content that they’ll want to read you give them a reason to subscribe.

For example when a reader reads the first part of a series of posts on a topic that they find useful you can count on them wanting to read the rest.

I wrote about this in a post on creating a sense of anticipation on your blog.

14. Consider Removing Dates on Old Posts

This one could be a little controversial but I find that when old posts are not dated that it doesn’t create a ‘oh this is old’ type reaction in your readers.

I’ve seen this numerous times here on ProBlogger where posts written back in 2005 have attracted comments like ‘this is old’ or ‘out of date tips’ – even when the content has been of a ‘timeless’ or evergreen nature.

Personally I think that you should consider the type of blog you have before doing this. For me it works on DPS where I’ve never had dates on posts – but not here at ProBlogger where I have a topic that is more time specific (I’ll write more on this topic in coming days).

15. Give Incentive to Subscribe

 IncentiveOver the last few days I’ve had a small competition going on Digital Photography School where I’m giving 3 subscribers to my newsletter there a copy of a great photography book.

1500 new subscribers later (and counting that small incentive is one of the best $50 I’ve ever spent.

Give away a book, free ebook or report, download or some other incentive to those subscribing to your blog’s feed or newsletter and you could give some readers the little extra incentive to connect that they needed.

It need not be anything expensive (or that costs you anything at all) – just make it a small bonus and see what impact that might have.

16. Keep Posting Frequency Up

One thing that I do as a blog reader deciding whether I’ll subscribe to a blog or not is to head to the home page and see how often they’ve updated recently.

There’s nothing more frustrating as a reader than to find some great content and be hungry for more only to find that the blogger hasn’t update in 3 months.

I don’t think you need to update every day – but something in the last week shows that your blog is up to date. You can also highlight this by showing your most recent posts somewhere in your sidebar.

17. Create an Engaging About Page

About-PageAnother thing that I often do when I go to a new blog is to look at it’s ‘about page‘.

I like to know who is behind a blog, what their goals for it are, how it started and other information about what the blogger is on about.

This is an opportunity to sell your blog to and make a connection with prospective readers who are going out of their way to find out more about you – so use it to tell your story and draw readers in to journey with you.

PS: whatever you do – don’t let your about page be the default about page that comes with your blog.

18. Add a Community Area or Forum

One of the best things that I ever did with my photography site was to add a forum.

I cannot express to you just how sticky that area of DPS is!

While readers come to the blog once a day to read new content – some of them come to the forum ALL DAY – racking up literally hundreds of page views a week.

Forums won’t attract all of your readers (I suspect they attract some personality types and not others) – but they will connect with some and help make your site a lot stickier.

19. Social Proof

Feedburner-Subscription-Conters-2Does your blog have readers already? If so (and even if it’s just a few) highlight this in any way that you can and you’ll show other first timers that they’re not the only one reading your blog.

People attract people and a site that is obviously being read by others will draw others into it.

This can be difficult in the early days of a blog when you don’t have a lot of activity – but as it builds show it off.

Highlight new comments, show subscriber numbers when you have them, quote readers comments, find a way to slip your stats into a post occassionally etc.

It’s a bit of a snowball effect – once you have readers they’ll bring others in.

One thing that I occassionally do at DPS on my subscribe page (a page dedicated to talking readers through 3 subscription options) is to not only highlight the options but to tell people how many people are using them. In this way those considering subscribing get a sense that they’re actually becoming a part of something that has momentum and thousands of others joining.

20. Target Readers with Specific Messages

Here are a few tools and plugins out there that enable you to present specific messages to certain readers coming to your blog based upon where they’ve arrived from and if they’ve been to your blog before.

  • LandingSites is a WP plugin that shows readers arriving from search engines related posts on the search term that they’ve searched for.
  • What Would Seth Godin Do is a plugin that welcomes new readers to your blog with a special message and invitation to subcribe.

Got any other plugins and tools for targeting readers with specific messages? Feel free to share them in comments below.

21. Sticky Content

Lastly (and most importantly in my mind) – the key to sticky sites is sticky content.

You can have the best designed site in the world with lots of the above features – but unless readers who come to it find something that connects and brings them life in some way – you’re unlikely to get them back tomorrow.

Writing engaging content needs to be your number one Priority.

What Have I Missed?

As I wrote this list the ideas just kept coming (I originally set out to write a list of 10 points… then 20…. then I just had to slip in one more) – but I’m sure there is more to say on the topic of sticky sites.

What would you add? What have you done on your site to add stickiness?

Looking forward to hearing your ideas in comments below.

PS: Welcome to StumbleUpon readers

This post has gone crazy on StumbleUpon today. If you’ve surfed in from there thanks for dropping by. If you’ve found this post helpful I’d appreciate you stumbling it. You might also find future posts on ProBlogger helpful – so don’t forget to subscribe (you know I had to do that on a post like this!)

Lastly – this post has led to some great conversation in comments below which has triggered a lot of other ideas for creating sticky blogs in my mind – so I’ve written a followup post – 7 More ways to make your blog sticky.

Do Your Visitor Numbers Look Like This?

Visitor-Numbers-1

“Darren, I have been blogging for 6 months and have tried to build traffic through social media, networking and buying reviews. I have attached a screen capture of the last 2 months of traffic (above) where you will see I have some good days in traffic, but it always flat lines days later.

The spikes all come from social bookmarking campaigns, links from other blogs or paid reviews – but my normal days of traffic are no higher than months ago. Help!?”

The above excerpt came from an email from a ProBlogger reader recently who is faced with a problem that many bloggers struggle with.

It’s literally a roller coaster ride – both in terms of traffic numbers but also emotions as you watch with hope your traffic rising on a good day only to see it flatline the next.

Like the blogger above mentions (he wished to remain anonymous) the spikes in traffic can come from any number of sources including:

  • a post being featured on a social bookmarking site
  • a paid review on another blog
  • organic links from other sites
  • being mentioned in mainstream media
  • a seasonal burst of traffic from search engines

Tomorrow I’m going to write a post that gives 20 practical tips on how to combat this spike/flatline trend but today I want to start with one ‘lesson’ for those of you who have traffic charts like the one above. It’s a lesson that our blogging friend above has already learnt.

Getting a Spike in Traffic is only Half the Strategy

If there’s only one thing that I’d like to get across in this post it is that we need stop seeing the sudden burst in traffic as the ultimate goal and to start seeing it as a stepping stone to sustained blog growth.

This is a lesson that some bloggers never seem to learn – so recognizing the problem is actually a breakthrough.

I know the temptation to see the spike as the end result and have fallen for that temptation myself on numerous occasions – however to pop open the champagne to celebrate your good fortune at this point is to miss an incredible opportunity – the opportunity of recruiting a percentage of the readers coming into your blog as regular readers.

How to Build a Sticky Blog

With our first lesson in mind tomorrow I want to move us forward by looking at the concept of making our blogs ‘sticky’ (you can read the next post in this series here).

The word ‘sticky’ might be a strange one to associate with a blog but it’s a good one because it describes the idea of making readers ‘stick’ to your blog beyond their first visit. It’s all about making spikes in traffic have a lasting impact rather than give cause for momentary celebration.

I hope you’ll join me tomorrow when I propose 20 techniques for building a sticky blog.

update – read the next post at 21 Ways to Make Your Blog or Website Sticky (I thought of an extra one to take it to a list of 21 instead of 20).

Get Up To $100 as a BONUS from Chitika

chitika-bonus.jpgI’m excited today to announce an exclusive special offer for ProBlogger readers from Chitika (my own #2 income earner) that could be worth up to $100 for some of you.

If you’ve previously not been accepted into Chitika or have a site that is product focused and didn’t work well previously this will be especially beneficial to you. Read on to find out why.

If you are not already a Chitika publisher and sign up today they are willing to double the money that you make with them in your first six weeks (until the end of August) up to the value of $100.

For Example:

  • If a publisher earns $80 between now and August 31, Chitika will match them $80, making their total payout $160
  • If a publisher earns $600 between now and August 31, Chitika will match them $100, making their total payout $700

This promotion is open to any NEW publisher with Chitika who signs up with THIS LINK.

Previously Not Accepted as a Chitika Publisher?

If you have previously applied to Chitika and were not accepted into the program Chitika have recently opened up their program more and you are welcome to reapply.

Don’t have a ‘product related’ site?

Since adding their new ‘premium ad unit’ to their range Chitka’s ads now not only do well on ‘gadget’ or ‘product related’ sites – but are converting well on sites of all kinds of topics. At b5media we’ve added them successfully to hundreds of our sites on all kinds of topics (most of them not product related at all). For example – check out this mini case study from a finance related website – Bankaholic.

This promotion is exclusive to ProBlogger Readers and runs from today (Monday 14 July) through to 31 August – 2008.

Again – to be eligible you need to sign up here.