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Why I Use Aweber To Deliver My Newsletters

Yesterday I announced the re-launch of the ProBlogger Newsletter (there have been 500+ new subscribers added to the list from last time bringing it to a total of around 16,000 – the first newsletter will come out next week) and since doing so I’ve had a number of questions about why I use newsletters, ‘how’ I deliver newsletter (AWeber), why I’ve chosen the tool that I have and why I have chosen a service that isn’t free.

Rather that responding to each person individually I thought it’d make a useful post for others considering adding a newsletter to their blog.

Why Do I Use Newsletters?

This is a common question and one that understandably puzzles some bloggers. Afterall – we’re all told that RSS is the best technology and email is dying…. or is it?

Back in 2005 I wrote a post titled Why Email Newsletters Can Improve Your Blog – I don’t tend to link back to posts that are three years old but my reasons for starting to use newsletters are still valid today:

  • Increased Readership
  • Promotion of Posts
  • Build Community
  • Improve Your Blog
  • Drive Sales
  • Email is familiar and Easy to Use

All I’ll really add to the list is that on the days that I send out my photography newsletters my blog comes alive with extra visitors, many more comments than normal, participation in polls, ad performance, affiliate sales and more.

If I happen to miss sending an email one week (or I’m late) the activity is not there and I get emails from readers asking where it is.

Which Tool Do I Use?

Let me start with the easy question – which tool do I use?

AWeber

I’ve been using AWeber to deliver my photography newsletters since last year.

Why AWeber?

Regular readers know my painful story of having to switch from a free newsletter service to AWeber so I won’t rehash it all here (you can read the full version here) – but the long and short of it is that I invested a lot of time and energy into building my newsletter list up over years with a free service only to find that it became unreliable and ended up suspending it’s service – leaving me with no way to get my newsletters out. At this time I began to investigate other services and after the recommendation of many friends and readers decided to switch to a paid service.

In addition to being convinced by the recommendation of others it was the feature list that attracted me to AWeber. Since signing up they’ve upgraded their service and feature list a couple of times – it’s always a good sign to see a company improving and developing.

Some of the features that I enjoy:

Unlimited lists in the one account – some providers charge per list. So I have a photography list (two actually) and a problogger list.

Unlimited emails – some services charge per email that you send. I can send as many as I want each month to as many lists as I want.

Autoresponders – put together a sequence of emails that you want to send readers so that when they sign up for a mini course they get them sent out in an order and timing that you choose. For example on my photography site I’m going to put together a 10 part free mini-course on the basics of photography that will get sent out to readers once a week over 10 weeks. It’s a great way to connect people into your course and add value for readers.

Deliverability – this was a big one for me. Using my last free service I was getting very high numbers of bounced emails and emails being labeled as spam. It wasn’t unusual to see 20-30% of my emails not even getting delivered. My last 5 emails with AWeber had between 0.1 and 2.6% of emails undelivered. This means literally thousands of readers are getting emails that previously didn’t.

Text and HTML Emails – I like to send HTML emails to my photography readers as they are a very visual bunch. AWeber just added 27 new templates to the ones they already had. As someone who is not very design capable these save me a lot of time and I’ve had a lot of great feedback from readers. For those readers who can’t get HTML emails there is the option to send a text version too.

Analytics – AWeber has more ways to track the activity of your subscribers use of your newsletter than I’d ever experienced before. Not only can you track which links in your newsletter get clicked (very very handy) it allows you to

  • split test different versions of your newsletter to see which works best
  • to see how different web forms on your blog perform
  • to track what time of day readers open emails and click links
  • to send emails only to certain subscribers (based upon what they’ve clicked previously)
  • to track where on your website readers are going after they click on a link

The list goes on…. and on….

In fact there are so many ways of tracking readers and testing how your emails convert that it takes time to apply them all.

Blog Newsletters – I’ve actually not used this feature yet but it is handy to know that it is there. It allows you to turn your RSS feed into a newsletter. While you can do this with Feedburner (the service I currently use) AWeber gives a lot more control – it allows you to send these updates not only daily but weekly, monthly etc and to have more control over how they look.

Customer Service – Even before I switched to AWeber I was impressed with the support that they offered. They helped me transfer my previous lists across (it was a bit of a process and they do have to have some safeguards in place to stop Spammers using their system – but we got there) and have answered every question I’ve had of them – usually within hours. They have a live customer support instant messaging service which operates most hours which is very helpful.

Free Trial – There are a lot more features that I’ve not mentioned (and to be honest have not even discovered or tested yet) – but you can test them all for yourself. AWeber offers a free month long trial so you can play with them all to your heart’s content. This is how I got a feel for AWeber before signing up.

Why a Paid Service?

I asked this question of my friends who used AWeber and other paid newsletter services for a long time. There are so many free tools out there available to bloggers that I totally understand why we’re wired to ask it – however for me it came down to this:

  • Newsletters are a Core part of my business as a blogger. They’ve become so valuable that I cannot afford not to have them.
  • I cannot afford to have a service that disappears at some point or becomes unreliable in it’s uptime.
  • I cannot afford to have a service that doesn’t deliver a high rate of email.
  • I wanted a service that I could email and say ‘I’m paying for this – so fix it’.
  • I wanted a service that had high standards and that didn’t get taken over my spammers (one of the reasons my last service became unreliable).

For me this meant I went with AWeber. I can understand why others choose not to pay for a service or go with other options – but for me the arguments and my previous experience said it all.

As mentioned above – Aweber’s model is not to charge per email or per list that you have – but it’s based more upon subscriber numbers. For me this made sense. I wanted the flexibility to send as many emails as I want to my multiple lists. I have also found that as my subscribers grow in number that the list becomes more profitable for me – so I can justify the extra expense when I jump up a price bracket.

Have Your Say?

AWeber will not be for everyone. Some have had good experiences of free services, others have chosen different ones and for others a newsletter is not something that they choose to use. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the topic of newsletters as an extra feature on your blog.

Do you do them? What service do you use?

UPDATE: Also check out Get Response – many bloggers I talk to have had great things to say about this service. They’ve got a similar feature set to Aweber and some great new features.

The Importance of ‘Pause Points’ On Your Blog

Over the last week I’ve run some Crazy Egg heat map tracking on two posts on Digital Photography School (both of which got to the front page of Digg and got a lot of traffic) that both highlight to me a very simple method of increasing the number of pages that people view when they visit your blog.

Let me illustrate with a screen capture of the heat map from my post – How to Avoid Camera Shake:

Related-Articles.png

What you’re looking at above is the ‘hottest’ zone on the post. It is the most clicked upon part of the page. This section of the page was clicked on just under 2000 times over the duration of this test. The full page had just under 6000 clicks.

What stands out for me is that the section of the page you’re viewing above is a long way from the top of the post. While the general rule is that people click more on links at the tops of posts – this section of the page is only viewable once you’ve hit ‘page down’ 7 times!

The first two links in the section are links to my subscription page and a byline link to the author of the post – but the other five are all internal links to other articles on the blog. This means 1800 or so of the visitors to this page viewed at least one other page on the blog.

The ‘Further Reading on Camera Shake’ links were ones that I manually added to the post and the ‘Read more posts like ‘How to….’ links were automated links generated with a WP Plugin.

Lets look at another example

In this test (on a post on ‘Jowling‘) I’m showing you the same section of the page. This time I had to hit ‘page down’ 5 times to get to it. Again it’s low on the page and again I’ve got the automated links as well as two others in the ‘A Couple of other things….’ section.

Once again – this is the hottest part of the page in terms of clicks with around 1600 clicks (all internal) out of 6500 clicks on the full page.

related-articles-2.png

Why do readers click links so far down the page?

It might seem a little odd that links so far down a page would be clicked on at such a high rate – but the reason that it happens is quite logical. These points on the page are what I call ‘pause points’. They are parts of a page where readers pause and make a decision on what to do next.

These sections are all at the end of articles – a point where readers end one activity and look to do another one. Many readers simply hit ‘back’ at this point or head to Google to search for something else – however when you give them something else to do or read you have a decent chance of convincing them to stay on your site.

Other Things to Do at Pause Points

There are of course other things that you can do in these ‘pause points’ on a blog including:

  • Advertising – this is a ‘hot zone’ in terms of CPC ads
  • Affiliate Programs – I don’t find they convert as well as CPC ads here but they can work
  • Social Bookmarking – many bloggers run social bookmark buttons in this spot to encourage readers to vote for the post
  • Subscription Invitations – this is a great place to get conversions from first time readers to subscribe to your blog

Really any key conversion goals that you want to achieve can work in a ‘Pause Point’ – although when you put too many options in that point for readers you probably dilute the conversion rate. What else do you put in ‘pause points’?

10 Ways to Let Your Blog Go and What to Do About It

Let-Your-Blog-GoHave you let your blog go? It’s easy enough to do – this series of posts explores 10 ways that bloggers ‘let their blogs go’ and what they can do about it.

The season here in Melbourne is changing (some say it changes every day) and we’re slowly moving into Winter. This is the season that many of us ‘let ourselves go’ physically – less exercise, more comfort food, wearing clothes that cover up the flabby bits…..

It happens almost without you noticing and then suddenly summer hits and you go to put on that T-Shirt and shorts and BAAAM – it hits you in the face – you’ve let yourself go!

The same thing can easily happen with a blog. No one plans for it to happen – but gradually over time you let things slip, become a little complacent and then fall into a lazy free falling downward spiral.

Over the next 10 days I’m going to look at 10 common ways that I see bloggers ‘let their blogs go’.

My hope in doing so is not to induce guilt but to shine the light on some common problems that bloggers face and make some constructive suggestions on how to overcome them.

Stay tuned for the first post in this series in the next hour or so and bookmark this page because as I add new posts to the series I’ll link to them here.

  1. Lack of Posting
  2. Getting Off Topic
  3. Becoming a Self Centered Blogger
  4. Great Content… Bad Titles
  5. Letting Comment Spam Take Over Your Blog
  6. Excuse Posts
  7. Becoming a Negative Blogger
  8. Having a Lack of Original Content
  9. Becoming Obsessed with Any One Aspect of Your Blog
  10. Stretching Yourself Too Thinly

How Batch Processing Made Me 10 Times More Productive

Today I want to share a technique that has increased my productivity levels incredibly.

stress.jpgimage by estherase

“How do you fit so much in?”

This is a question that I’m asked a lot.

Yesterday I kept track of the work that I did. It included:

  • Researched & Wrote 5 blog posts (2500 words) – Planned a future series – Edited 3 guest posts
  • Moderated 150 comments (Lara did the rest)
  • Read 300 emails – replied to and wrote 50 emails
  • Twittered 30+ times (including private messages) – Plurked 50+ times
  • Participated in a b5 training chat (1 hour)
  • Read (scanned) my RSS reader (600+ feeds)
  • Used StumbleUpon, FriendFeed, Digg and other social media sites
  • Took 4 Skype calls – IM’d around 8 others
  • Oversaw the upgrade of DPS forums
  • Did an email interview to promote the book – Arranged to do a radio interview later in the week

It was a reasonably busy day (on top of all that I did the normal dad/husband things as well as managing to go out for beer with a mate) – but not untypical at all. In fact last night I went to bed at 11pm – I often work for another hour or two.

So how do I get it all done day in day out?

The technique that I’ve been using more and more is what I call ‘batching’ or ‘batch processing‘.

It’s not a new concept by any means and I’m probably not using the terminology correctly – but it’s what I call it.

Batch Processing 101

In my understanding of the term ‘batch processing’ it was always used to describe systems (usually computerized ones) where data was collected together for a period of time before it was processed. Instead of doing every small ‘job’ as it arrived jobs were ‘queued’ or collected until the computer was ready to process them all at once. This meant that the computer could do these ‘batches’ of jobs all at once when it would otherwise be idle.

My First ‘Discovery’ of Batch Processing as a Blogger

My own ‘discovery’ of batch processing was quite intuitive. I’d not heard of the term until this last term but when I did I realized that I’d already been doing it to some level.

I’ve written numerous times before about how I apply the principle to writing blog posts.

batch-writing.jpgimage by Karsoe

I generally set aside Monday mornings (and usually Wednesdays also) for writing posts. I take my laptop – camp out in a cafe – spend most of the morning off-line (so there are no other distractions) and just write. My goal is to write at least 5 posts that I can then use later in the week. Quite often I’ll write as many as 10 posts in a 5-6 hour period.

Having these batches of posts in reserve means that during the week my time is freed up to engage in other blogging activities. Of course I supplement these batched posts with others during the week but having the bulk of my writing done in one go enables me to be more efficient. It also means that my posts quite often build on one another as one will spark another idea. If I get on a roll it’s amazing how much can be written in a short period of time.

This was my first taste of ‘batch processing’. As mentioned above – I started doing it intuitively (I think the first time I did it was when the internet went down at our house for a week and I had to go to the library to use the public computers to post for short periods of time).

My Messy Life

The problem was that while batching my post writing helped free up the rest of my week – that the rest of my week was a jumble of activities – I ran from one task to another and never seemed to get anything done. My life felt like a traffic jam with tasks coming from all directions.

traffic-jam.jpg

A typical day would see me checking email 30 times a day, moderating comments as they hit my inbox, being interrupted by IM throughout the day, reading RSS when I remembered to do it between using social media sites and writing extra blog posts. The result was that my inbox had over 10,000 unread emails, I never cleared my RSS Reader and that I would get to the end of most days feeling like a nervous wreck.

My mistake was feeling compelled to deal with things as they came to me.

This only worsened as my blogs became more successful and as I took on more commitments (writing a book, speaking engagements etc).

Batching Everything

Over the last six months I’ve taken batch processing to the next level and applied it to many aspects of my blogging.

I have discovered that most of the activities that I do in my work can be ‘batched’ in one way or another. I have discovered that many ‘urgent’ things can wait and in fact to make them ‘take a number’ and ‘get in line’ brings order to mess.

queues.jpgimage by BenJTsunami

Siphoning off time for bursts of focused activity around a certain task means that I’m less inclined to flip from one thing to another. It means that I finish tasks. It means that I free up more and more time for the things that are important to do – not just the things that seem urgent.

Different activities need to be ‘batched’ at different intervals. Some are weekly (like my Monday morning writing sessions), others are every other day (like reading the bulk of my RSS feeds), others are daily (checking vanity feeds) and others I do for short sharp bursts multiple times a day (reading my A-list of of RSS feeds for breaking news, checking email).

Some of the tasks that I Batch Process

By no means are my processes perfect. I’m still a fairly impulsive guy so don’t have a set routine that I follow every day. I’m also fairly flexible and shift things around a lot – but here’s a list of some of the activities that I batch process and a short description of how I do each one:

Writing Posts – I’ve already described my weekly rhythm for this (Mondays and Wednesday mornings) but I also set aside other shorter times to write on a daily basis. This usually happens late morning on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and in these times I aim to write a shorter post for the day (often more news related).

Email – I’ve written previously about how I overhauled my inbox using Gmail but batching my use of email has helped me even more than the systems I put in place to filter my inbox. I generally do a very quick scan of my inbox first thing in the morning to look for anything genuinely urgent – but then do most of my processing mid morning and then in the evenings. Of course I scan it a few other times a day in case there are urgent emails (or if I’m expecting something) but attempt to get it right down to 0 every day (I don’t always succeed).

RSS Reading – I have two rhythms of reading RSS. I check my A-list folder in Google reader numerous times a day (my A-list contains just a handful of blogs that often break news in my niches). The rest of my RSS reading happens in less frequent batches. I do try to do it every day in one ‘batch’ but quite often I’ll only get through half of it and so ill do the 2nd half the next day. I tend to do this in 30-60 minute batches.

Twitter/Plurk/FriendFeed – These social messaging sites can be a time sucker if you let them so I tend to only allow myself to do them in 5-10 minute batches. On an average day I probably have 4-5 such ‘batches’. The reason that I do this numerous times a day is that it helps me to connect with different groups of people in different time zones.

Social Bookmarking – other time sucking services including Digg, StumbleUpon (especially) etc – I tend to do these for short sharp bursts – usually at the end of the day.

Editing Posts – At DPS I have a great team of bloggers who write weekly posts for me. They have taken a lot of the load off considerably when it comes to writing posts – but I still edit them (formatting pages, checking spelling and grammar, layout etc). I tend to do this in the evenings – but lately have tried to do 2-3 days worth at a time. So I allow incoming posts to queue up and then process/edit them in a sitting.

Instant Messaging – my old habit was to leave IM clients on all day every day and to respond to people messaging me as the messages came in. As a result I was constantly being interrupted. These days I have stopped using most IM clients and focus upon Skype and Gmail chat but don’t leave them on at all times. And when I do have them on I don’t always respond to IM’s straight away (I turn the sound off). Instead I let a few IM chat requests come in at a time and then respond to then all at once every hour or so.

Comment Moderation – I now filter all of the comment moderation emails that come in to an email folder dedicated to capturing them so that they never hit my inbox. I then moderate them periodically in batches throughout the day. The frequency between moderation batches changes depending upon what else I’m doing but also what is happening on the blog. For example if I’ve done a reader question post where I get lots of answers I moderate more regularly to keep the conversation flowing.

Book Writing – while I was writing the book I found it very difficult to fit it in to what was already a full day. As a result to get my part done I put aside extended periods of time just for writing. This included a few mornings at cafes but also one weekend away where I booked myself into a bed and breakfast down the coast and did nothing but write for the whole weekend.

focus.jpgimage by margolove

The list could go on

There are very few (if any) tasks associated with my work that I don’t batch process (or at least attempt to). As I’ve mentioned above – my system isn’t perfect – I still have days when I’m less disciplined and return to old messy habits – but in general I find that batching my day into different activities means I’m being more focused and as a result more productive. As a result I tend to fit a lot more in than I used to and am able to achieve more.

A Word About Personality Types

Perhaps batching works best for me because of my personality type – I know some would resist it because they work best when they’re able to be very impulsive and have freedom to jump from one thing to another.

I used to think that I was this way – I thought I could be more creative if I approached each day like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book and flitted from one thing to another as my impulses led me. However I found that this kind of approach only worked for me when I didn’t have as many things to do.

When life gets busy I need systems and structure to keep on track. In fact putting boundaries in place around different activities allows me to be quite impulsive and creative in those times rather than getting stressed because of all the ‘urgent’ things that I need to do distracting me.

What about You?

Do you batch process tasks in your blogging (intuitively or strategically)? What would you add to my list of tasks? What ‘urgent’ things take up your time that might not be that important (candidates for batch processing)?

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How I Make Money Blogging – Top Income Streams Update

How I Make Money BloggingOnce every 3 months I update my Make Money Blogging page here at ProBlogger with my top income earners for that last quarter. Today I made the update for the last three months (March to May 2008).

My top income earners for the last quarter were:

  1. AdSense (previously #1)
  2. Chitika (previously #2)
  3. Private Ad Sales (previously #4)
  4. Amazon Associates (previously #3)
  5. Miscellaneous Affiliate Programs (previously #7)
  6. Shopzilla (previously not in the list)
  7. ProBlogger Job Board (previously #6)
  8. WidgetBucks (previously not in the list)
  9. Miscellaneous Ad Networks (previously #8)

I’ve included where it was previously ranked in my income streams so you can see how things have changed (and where they have not. AdSense and Chitika continue to dominate although Private Ad Sales have been making a move, as have affiliate programs.

You can read a complete description of each one and how I’ve used it in the Make Money Blogging post.

Is it Possible to Earn a Full Time Salary as a Part Time Blogger?

“Is it possible to earn a full-time salary as a part-time blogger? (eg, if you’re student)”

This question has been voted up quite high in my Q&A sidebar widget so I thought I’d attempt an answer today.

It’s one of those questions with two answers:

Yes…. and…. No

Let’s unpack both (and I’d encourage you to read both as they bring balance to the question).

Yes it is POSSIBLE to earn a full-time salary as a part-time blogger

Part of me wants to simply answer this question with a ‘no’ answer and give a long list of answers why it’s not possible (because to answer ‘yes’ will mean some will accuse me of painting an unrealistic picture of blogging for money). However I have met a number of bloggers who make a good living from blogging as part time bloggers (in writing this I don’t have permission to share their stories so I’ll keep this fairly general).

However in every case there are a few observations I’d make about these bloggers. They usually had all of the following characteristics (or at least a few of them):

1. They worked hard – they might not have put full time hours (40 or so hours a week) into their blogging but they certainly did work quite a few hours and worked hard in those hours. Many of them did work full time on their blogs at certain times (summer holidays etc).

2. They were very good at what they did – they had an exceptional knack of being able to write engaging content, build networks and build community on their blogs.

3. They had an element of ‘luck’ to their story – I am thinking of a couple of bloggers particularly who really found themselves in the right place at the right time when they started their blogs.

4. They were able to draw others in to help – one way to overcome an inability to work full time hours is to draw others into your blog to help shoulder some of the load.

5. They made money indirectly ‘because’ of their blog and not just directly ‘from’ their blog – interestingly a number of the bloggers I’m thinking of have developed products (e-books and courses) of their own that they sell from their blog (and other people’s blogs). This means they are not just building a revenue from advertising but have a secondary source of income.

6. They USED to work full time as a blogger – one blogger that I’m thinking about now works about 20 hours a week blogging and make a very good living from his blog – but only because he used to work full time. ie he built up his blog to a point where it really was earning good income which then enabled him to scale back a little and coast a bit (he also hired someone to help him – see point #4).

No it’s not LIKELY that you’ll make a full-time salary from blogging part time

It is possible to make a full time living from blogging part time – but the sad reality is that the bloggers I’m thinking of are not in the majority.

Most bloggers who do get to a level of earning a full time living from their blogs are working full time hours (or above) on their blogs. And even then many that are working full time hours are not able to make a full time living from blogging (time is just one element of many factors that build a successful blog).

When I’m talking to new bloggers wanting to explore blogging as a way of making money I generally encourage them to see it as something to supplement their existing income.

Yes it is possible to make a full time living from the medium but the reality is that most never get to this point. Sure – have it as a goal, but set yourself smaller goals in terms of your earnings and see it as something that progresses over time as you invest more time into blogging.

If you’d like to see a progression of how this unfolded for me I’d encourage you to read my story of becoming a Pro Blogger. It it you’ll see that I gradually stepped up my time put into blogging – but only as the earnings I was receiving allowed me to.

PS: Are You a Part Time Blogger Earning Full Time Income?

If you’re one of those bloggers that I mention in this post that are able to pull in a full time income from blogging part time I’m sure my readers would love to hear from you and learn from some of your wisdom. Feel free to share your own experiences (either with your URL as an example or anonymously if you’re not wanting to go public) – looking forward to your own lessons.

12 Tools and Techniques for Building Relationships with Other Bloggers

building-relationships-bloggers.jpgImage by Michael Sarver

A recent question asked in the Q&A widget was from a reader asking me to write about:

“How to go about building relationships with other bloggers?”

Building relationships with other bloggers is an important aspect of blogging. I see it as crucial for a number of reasons:

  • Finding Readers – one of the best ways to grow your readership is to have another blogger recommend that their readers check out something that you’ve written.
  • Learning Your Craft - as I look back on what I’ve learned about blogging over the last five years I would credit other bloggers as teaching me a good proportion of it. The more you interact with bloggers the more you’ll learn about building a better blog.
  • Accountability and Advice – at times blogging can be a fairly isolating task and it’s easy to get off track or become deluded (either by your ego getting out of control or by becoming depressed about some aspect of what you do). Having other bloggers around you that you give permission to keep you grounded and to lift you up when you’re despondent is important at keeping yourself balanced.
  • Friendship – blogging can be a lonely business. Having other bloggers around you who know the ins and outs, the pressures and the quirks and the highs and the lows makes the whole thing a lot more enjoyable.
  • Sharing of Skills – I’ve never met a blogger who knows everything about their niche or about how to blog (I’ve met a couple who think they do) – the reality is that we all have gaps in our knowledge and skills so to have others around us that might complement what we have can add a new dimension to a blog. As I remember the early years of my own blogging I’m struck by how much ‘trading’ of skills we all did for one another. One blogger would do a design for another one, in return they’d get some guest posts or advice on ad optimization etc.

So HOW should a blogger approach this important task of building relationships with other bloggers?

There are a large number of tasks that networking and building relationships with other bloggers can involve. I’ll list some of them below but before I do I think it’s worth saying that some will fit with some bloggers more than others.

We all make friends differently in ‘real life’ and I suspect will do best when we approach blogger networking in our own way and bringing our own personality to the task.

12 Blogger Networking Techniques and Tools:

  1. Commenting on Other’s Blogs – basic but effective, but only when you add value with your comments.
  2. Emailing Other Bloggers – once again, this works best if you add value in some way. Don’t just email to say hi, email to contribute something, give some advice, offer to help etc
  3. Guest Posts – one way that can make an impression on another blogger is to offer to make a post. This particularly makes an impression when they need it most (when they are sick, have a vacation coming up, have some crisis). Keep an eye out for these times and be prepared to do what you can to assist.
  4. Story Tips – if a story breaks in your niche – email other bloggers to let them know.
  5. Link Out - linking to a competitors blog could seem like a crazy thing to do but it can make a real impression and show other bloggers your willingness to interact.
  6. Instant Messaging - interaction via IM can really take a relationship to a new level as it’s real time and personal.
  7. Social Networking – this should be a no brainer – social networking tools are exist with the purpose of connecting people. The key is to pick social networking tools that fit for you and your niche and focus on those. For example if other bloggers in your niche are interacting on Twitter – join it, if there’s a lot of activity on Facebook, go there – if LinkedIn is more relevant to your niche interact there!
  8. Social Bookmarking – one of the best ways to get on the radar of another blogger is to be responsible for sending them a huge wave of traffic. While most of us can’t do this from our small blogs – we can submit other bloggers sites to social media sites like Digg and StumbleUpon. Instead of spending your day working on campaigns to build your own votes on these sites why not do it for another blogger?
  9. Interviews – there’s nothing more flattering than having someone email you with a request to interview you and then to have them go to the trouble of thinking up interesting questions that show they’ve taken time to research the interview. Interviews can be good content for your blog but I think the real benefit of them is that they put you into a conversation with the person you’re interviewing and can be a springboard into relationship!
  10. Forums and Discussion Groups – forums are one place that a lot of niche bloggers lurk. Engage genuinely in these spaces and you never know who you’ll end up connecting with. The building of relationships is one thing that I see emerging in the ProBlogger Room on FriendFeed.
  11. Pick up the Phone/Skype it – while IM can be good at making your interactions more conversation like – voice to voice interactions take it a step further. Of course be a little careful with a cold-call – I’d recommend working up to a voice call with some emails etc as some are better on the phone than others with strangers.
  12. Real Life Networking Events – one of the best ways of building relationships with bloggers is to meet face to face. A lot can be achieved without actually meeting (at b5media none of the founders had met until a year into our business and after we’d secured VC funding) but meeting another blogger has a way of cementing a relationship that is quite special.

WARNING!

Knowing about and using the above tools and techniques are not enough on their own. Each of them can be used both to build fruitful relationships with other bloggers and to hurt your relationships. Many of the above techniques when used in an overbearing way can come across as spam – proceed with caution!

Tomorrow I want to expand upon this topic and share with you 17 principles of building relationships with bloggers that I think will put these tools and techniques into a context where they can be used well.

12 Traits of Successful Bloggers

I was just doing an interview on an Aussie radio station and was asked to name some traits of successful bloggers. My initial reaction was to giggle – because no two successful bloggers are the same – however as I began to answer I realized that there are some common traits among bloggers who gain popularity. Here’s a list, presented in no particular order, of some of the traits of successful bloggers that I observe:

1. Creative and Playful

PlayfulnessOne of the things I love about blogging is that it can be a very playful space. Bloggers who find new ways to communicate old truths and that have the ability to surprise their readers with fresh perspectives and means of communication often find themselves on a fast track to a wide readership. Also, in the midst of ‘playful’ experimentation new discoveries come that help a blogger to develop in maturity and influence in their niche.

Image by Yelnoc

“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” – Edward de Bono

2. Innovative

InnovationOften ‘innovative’ is used to describe a blogger’s use of technology – but it goes well beyond this. Innovative bloggers are those that are able to extend and explore their topic in ways that others are not. They are thought leaders and forge into new ground not only in the way that they present in what they say.

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs

3. Connectors

ConnectedMost successful bloggers that I’ve interacted with have an insatiable desire to connect with as many people as they can. They have an ability to connect not only with their readers but other bloggers and key people in both the online and offline world. Their networks are often far reaching – enabling them to draw on all kinds of relationships when needed.

“It’s not what you know but who you know that makes the difference.” – Anonymous

4. Community Enablers

CommunityThere are many blogs with great information – but it’s those that are able to draw in and build up a community of passionate and energetic people that often go to the next level. Readers are no longer satisfied just to consume content – they want to participate and belong online. Successful bloggers don’t always actively participate in or lead the community aspect of their blogs but they do have an ability to attract other community builders and to empower them to build a community around the content on the blog.

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” – Jane Howard

5. Information Mavens

MavenSuccessful bloggers are often quite addicted to the gathering of information. What sets them apart from other information gatherers is their ability to filter the vast quantities of information that they collect and to identify and communicate that which applies to others.

Image by dsevilla

“What sets Mavens apart, though, is not so much what they know but how they pass it along. The fact that Mavens want to help, for no other reason than because they like to help, turns out to be an awfully effective way of getting someone’s attention.” Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point).

6. Communicators

CommunicatorSome might think that this point is all about bloggers having the ability to write well – but that is only part of being a good communicator. Successful bloggers have a knack of knowing connecting with readers that goes beyond the way they use words. Good communication has more to do with knowing your audience and connecting with their needs and desires. Successful bloggers have the ability to trigger some sort of response in their reader.

“The two words ‘Information’ and ‘Communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” – Sydney J. Harris

7. Interest

InterestedBloggers know how to be interesting – but being interesting starts with being interested. Most successful bloggers that I’ve met would blog on their chosen topic for free – because they have some kind of passion or interest in it themselves. This energy that they have for their topic shines through and is infectious to others. It’s one of the main reasons that readers are drawn to them.

“There are two levers for moving men: interest and fear.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

8. Entrepreneurs

EntrepreneurSuccessful bloggers are always on the look out for opportunities to go to the next level. They leverage what they currently have to grow something more. They don’t just rely upon others to make their dreams a reality but are self starters and ‘doers’ that go and get what they want.

“The entrepreneur in us sees opportunities everywhere we look, but many people see only problems everywhere they look. The entrepreneur in us is more concerned with discriminating between opportunities than he or she is with failing to see the opportunities.” – Michael Gerber

9. Originality

OriginalityIt is difficult to be unique in the blogging space but successful bloggers find ways to make what they do stand out from the crowd. They develop a distinct voice, use media in different ways and develop their own unique spin on life that sets them apart from the rest.

“Eveyone is a genius at least once a year. A real genius has his original ideas closer together.” – Georg C. Lichtenberg

10. Perseverance

StickabilitySuccessful bloggers know that it takes time to grow a blog and look past those initial awkward months (and longer) after a blog is launched to motivate them to persevere. They do know when to give up when something isn’t working but also have an ability to develop their blog’s with focus and discipline and unswerving conviction over the long haul.

“If at first you don’t succeed, get a bigger hammer.” – Alan Lewis

11. Focus

Focus-1What strikes me about many of the most successful blogs out there is that in a time where there’s an incredible development of new technology happening that many of them don’t allow themselves to get distracted by it. Yes they experiment and play with new ways of delivering content to readers but they don’t become distracted from their core task of producing useful and engaging content for readers. Being able to identify what matters most and sticking to it is so important – particularly in a medium with so many time sucking distractions.

“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.” – Swami Vivekananda

12. Curiosity

CuriosityLastly, one of the traits that I see in many great bloggers is a restlessness and a dissatisfaction with the current state of play in their world/blog/industry. They are not content to sit comfortably but are always exploring, pushing boundaries and experimenting. They are curious people who are always asking ‘what if….?’ – a question that leads to all kinds of discoveries and possibilities that the rest of us could only dream of discovering.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

Should I Stop Blogging? 20 Questions to Ask Yourself

“When Should You Give Up On a Blog?” – question from the Q&A sidebar widget.

While they won’t all apply to every blog – here’s a list of questions to consider when working out whether you should give up on a blog.

  1. What goals do I have for this blog? Are they being met? Am I getting closer to meeting them?
  2. Am I Interested in the Topic?
  3. Am I getting personal satisfaction from posting?
  4. How Many Posts Did I write in the Last Month?
  5. Do I have time to keep the blog running?
  6. Is anyone reading my blog?
  7. Have I given it enough time?
  8. Do I still see myself writing on this blog in 18 months time?
  9. Is the niche growing or dying?
  10. Is the blog earning anything?
  11. Is the blog growing my profile and perceived expertise?
  12. Are there any other benefits from this blog?
  13. Is the blog giving energy to or taking energy away from me?
  14. Is the Blog’s traffic and income growing or shrinking?
  15. Are readers engaging with the content?
  16. If readers are commenting – what are they saying?
  17. What are other bloggers writing about my blog?
  18. Do I have anything original and useful to say on my topic?
  19. What else could I do with the time that I spend on this blog
  20. What would the impact be of me not blogging? (on readers and me)