How to be a Ruthless Blogger (and Become More Productive and Focussed)

Sometimes to grow your blog you need to be ruthless – otherwise you’ll become distracted, unproductive, lazy, unfocused and or lose your passion for blogging. Here’s 7 areas that I’ve found myself becoming more and more ruthless in in my blogging:


Image by LLimllib

1. Declare war on comment spam

Letting comment spam get ahold of your blog’s comments area can really hurt your blog. It has the potential to impact your brand and even how your blog ranks in Search Engines.

2. Set yourself deadlines

At the core of every good blog is regularly posted fresh new content. Sometimes it gets hard to keep yourself motivated so setting yourself posting frequency deadlines can help keep your blog ticking over. I don’t set myself deadlines for particular posts do have a posting frequency and some general times of the day for new posts that I aim for every day.

3. Develop an effective email system

As your blog grows you’ll get a more and more cluttered inbox. As a result it’s really important to think about how you’ll deal with it ahead of time. Develop a system of filtering unimportant emails, highlighting important ones and get a system in place to keep your inbox down. I’ve outlined some of my own email system here.

4. Develop default email responses

Related to managing your email is developing a system to answer the most frequently asked questions and requests that you get. I have 7-8 draft emails stored in Gmail that I am constantly opening up to use as responses to readers. Also helpful to cut down the number of FAQs that you get asked is to develop a FAQ page and link to it from your contact page. Even if people don’t use it before contacting you it’s a useful link to point people to.

5. Develop standards for guest posts

If you choose to go the route of featuring guest posts on your blog (or hiring bloggers to write for you regularly) it’s important that you set some guidelines in place to ensure that the quality of content stays high. This is something that you need to first work out in your own mind and then to communicate to your guest posters. The more guidelines you can give them not only about quality but also how you want posts formatted the less time you’ll need to spend editing posts. I have developed a page for my Guest Posters which has been very helpful.

6. Eliminate distractions from (and protect) your ‘Golden Hours’

I find that there are certain times in my day when I am more productive than others (for me it’s mornings). These times need to be kept as ‘sacred’ times that you reserve for those activities in your life that are core to the running of your blog. I reserve these times for writing the majority of my posts. In these times I switch off Instant Messaging, Twitter, Phone, Email and often get offline and out of the house altogether so that I am able to be completely focussed on the task of writing.

7. Take time off

Being a ruthless blogger is not all about driving yourself harder or making yourself more productive – sometimes it has more to do with when to take a break from blogging. Blogger Burnout is a problem that hits many bloggers when then immerse themselves in blogging. As a result it’s important to take time off. I like to attempt to do this on a number of levels including each day (I take time off for lunch, exercise and in the evenings for family), each week (I have a much much lighter weekend and attempt to have a complete day off on Sundays) and periodically (taking a week or more off blogging every now and again is where I find myself most refreshed).

Each of the above are about developing ‘boundaries’.

Boundaries about what you’ll do (and won’t do), when you’ll do things (and when you won’t) and where you’ll allow your blog to go (and not go). The purpose of the boundaries isn’t to make you more inaccessible or insulated but to make you more productive, focussed and to serve those your blog is for more effectively.

As I write this post I realize that there are plenty of other areas that this ‘ruthlessness’ is important in. Quality of posts, responding to comments/reader questions, spelling/grammar and even the topic of your blog (and when/if you’ll go off topic…. etc

What other areas do you think bloggers need to tighten up, establish boundaries in and become more ruthless in? What rules and practices do you work with in your own blogging?

You’ve Read ProBlogger the Blog – Now Buy the Book

ProBlogger-Book.jpgI’m excited to announce today one of the worst kept secrets in my life – over the last year (longer actually) I’ve been writing a book with Chris Garrett. Today we’re Pre-Launching it as we’re just weeks from the book becoming available for purchase. The book is published by Wiley and is titled:

ProBlogger Book — Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income

I’ll speak more over the coming weeks about the writing process – but today we just wanted to let you know about the upcoming launch, to point you to a site we’ve put together for the book and to invite you to sign up for a newsletter that will give you access to a sample chapter as well as a series of weekly blogging tips for a whole year.

Pre-Order and Save

The book is available for pre-ordering already at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Amazon has an extra 5% discount currently running for it as a pre-order (for the next two weeks – it will be available on 28 April).

What’s the Book About?

Well the title really says it all – it’s about Chris and my experience as bloggers making a living from our blogging. You can read more of the outline and topics covered here.

Get on the Email List

As mentioned above – we’re offering everyone the opportunity of joining an email list that will give you access to a free taster chapter of the book as well as free weekly blog tips. You can sign up for this here.

PS: see Chris’s announcement of the book here.

The Opportunity Cost of Not Participating in Web Events

Just a quick post/tip to followup on the April Fools post update that I did yesterday. While in general I find the day to be a distraction more than anything else (I’m sure many of us spent more time filtering pranks than doing much else yesterday) it is one of those days that has an ‘opportunity cost’ associated with it.

Opportunity Cost‘ is a term I learned in my university Accounting subject and has to do with missed opportunities of not taking a certain action. When you have a choice between doing two things you forgo the benefits of the option you didn’t choose (I’m sure my accountant readers will give us a better definition of it).

The Opportunity Cost of not participating in a day like April Fools day on your blog can be significant. I just checked Technorati again this morning and the volume of blogs linking to my prank yesterday bumped up considerably over night. While there were a few link ups yesterday as the prank happened the real benefit (and opportunity cost) revolves around the April Fools Summary Posts that many bloggers write around the blogosphere. These posts that sum up the jokes that people did are done in their hundreds (if not thousands) and the link juice that they provide can’t be underestimated when it comes to SEO.

April Fools Day is just one of many web events that a blogger has the choice to participate in (or to ignore) – there are many hundreds of them out there – almost every holiday and most real world events have some sort of opportunity associated with them for bloggers. For a little more on some of this check out Seasonal Traffic and How to Capture it for Your Blog.

Note: a blogger can’t participate in every web event – it would take over their blogs. I guess the lesson is to be aware of the opportunities and to choose to participate in those that relate most strongly to your blog.

Six Figure Blogging – Free Preview Call This Wednesday

Six-Figure-BloggingA few weeks back now I announced the launch of the second version of Six Figure Blogging.

This Wednesday (2d April) at 8pm EST (US Eastern time) Andy Wibbels and I will be holding the free preview call to give those deciding whether to participate a taster of what’s to come in the following weeks of the course.

If you can’t make the live call it will be made available to those who register for it in the day after we do it. You do need to register for the call at Six Figure Blogging to get either the live version or the recorded one.

Looking forward to connecting with you on the call!

PS: just a quick warning – the early bird price will end 24 hours after the preview call so if you’re planning on joining in make sure you do it by Thursday evening.

5 Ways to Get the Opinion of Others and Add Dimensions to Your Blog

One way to add depth to the posts that you write on your blog is to include the opinions of others on the topics that you’re exploring. The way that I see it is that when I write a post with just my own thoughts in it it can end up being a little one dimensional – but when I draw upon the experience of others also posts have the potential to become 2… or even 3 dimensional.

How do I do it?

Here are five ways that I’ve used lately to include the opinion of others in my posts:

1. Twitter – one of the things that I love about Twitter is that it has the ability to create instant conversations around virtually any topic. Next time you’re writing a post ask a question or two of your ‘followers’ on Twitter. Ask them for examples, get their opinion or survey them on their behavior on the topic you’re exploring.

Example: in my post with 9 benefits of Twitter I showed an example of this when I was writing a post about RSS and asked my ‘followers’ how many feeds they read each day. Within minutes I had over 30 answers.



2. LinkedIn Q&A – yesterday I decided to test the Questions and Answer feature on LinkedIn for the first time. I asked 200 of my connections about what social media services they use. 24 hours later 70 of those that I asked have given their opinion. What surprised me the most was the depth that some of the answers had in them with people really putting some effort into their responses.

Picture 4-6

3. Ask Your Readers – the last method is perhaps the most obvious, ask your blog readers for their opinions. Posts that are simply questions are great ways of getting comments on your blog but their real potential is to learn what your readers think. For example in the last week I asked readers about how they’d promote a new blog – I had just under 40 responses so far, some of which I featured in a followup post.

4. Google Your Topic – I’m surprised that I don’t see this done more but perhaps one of the most obvious ways to get a quote for a post you’re writing is to Google the topic and see what others have written on it previously. Rarely a topic goes by that some blogger hasn’t already covered in some way so it’d make sense to research it. Perhaps it’s our obsession with ‘fresh content’ that makes a little snobby towards what others have written previously – but I think it’s something well worth doing.

5. Target Specific Bloggers/Readers – the last method is where you ask a question of specific people. I’ve noticed more and more bloggers doing this lately – they write a post and then send an email out to 4-5 other bloggers in their niche to ask them for a quote or to do a ‘one question interview’. They then include these short quotes in their post – giving it more depth and also can add some expertise to your post (if you choose the right people to feature).

How I Use Twitter to Promote My Blog

How Can Twitter be used to promote a blog? In this guest post Chris Brogan gives a few tips on blog promotion.

Twitter is a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it’s a virtual water cooler. For others, it’s a great way to get answers to questions. Since I started using Twitter, I have more than doubled my blog traffic over the last several months, and I can tell you how.

Some people just dump their blog posts into Twitter automatically, with a simple “New Blog Post: Money is Better Than Dirt” and away you go. I’ve found a way of using Twitter to encourage participation on my website, and it’s better than easy; it’s tasteful.

Ask a Question

Instead of telling your Twitter audience that you’ve published a new post, ask them their opinion on the core topic you’ve covered. “Do you think banner ads are dead?” followed by a link to your site is much more appealing than posting to Twitter, “Banner Ads Are Not Dead.” Asking a question engages your Twitter followers and solicits their experience.

If Comments Flow, Remark on It

I genuinely believe that the comments section of my blog is better than anything I write on my own. To that end, when a topic seems to take off, I send a note to Twitter alerting people to the quality of the conversation in the comments. It’s not pitchy in nature. I’m simply sharing that the best stuff came after the initial post.

Sometimes, I Even Dare to Ask for a Stumble

My number two referrer to my site on most slow-medium traffic days is StumbleUpon. Because I seem to get “better” response from people who visit from that site than from other traffic sources, I sometimes will send a third post to Twitter, asking if someone thinks X post is worth a Stumble. Because I do a lot of sharing and promoting and helping others, I usually get a lot of willing people to Stumble something for me from time to time.

I don’t over-do it, and I know that not every day is a “killer blog post” day. With that in mind, when I do ask, it makes a huge difference.

Those Three Touches Help Lots

So in the end, I ask my following in Twitter for love three times: once when I post the blog, again if it takes off well in the comments section, and sometimes a third time if I want to really amp the traffic via StumbleUpon. I mix these requests in liberally with all the various ways I help others using Twitter, and so it doesn’t come off like I’m perpetually pitching my own stuff. My current monthly rate of pitching others vs. promoting my own site is 75 / 25 in other people’s favor. That sounds fair, right?

Have you experimented with Twitter in this way? How did it work for you? What other tips did I miss?

— Chris Brogan writes about social media business strategy and tools at []. He enjoyed the heck out of meeting Darren at SXSWi in Austin, TX.

Further Reading

Read more about how to use Twitter to grow your online presence in Darren’s post – How to Use Twitter – Tips for Bloggers.

Using Social Media to Grow Your Blog’s Readership

Blog-Promotion - Social MediaThis week we’re looking at five different methods that I’d use to find readership if I were starting a new blog. So far we’ve explored guest posting, advertising and networking – but today I want to turn our attention to the explosive and dynamic area of social media.

Social media sites have exploded onto the online publishing scene over the last couple of years and can generally be divided into two types of site:

  • Social Networking Sites – where the primary activity of the site is ‘connecting’ with others. Two of the most prominent sites in this space are Facebook and MySpace.
  • Social Bookmarking – where the primary activity is the finding and sharing of web content through different systems of ‘voting’ on sites. Two examples of this type of site are Digg and StumbleUpon.

The above two classifications of social media sites are fairly broad – in reality there are many different sites appearing every week, many of which have elements of both of the above as well as other features.

The point of this post is not to define social media but rather to look of it as an opportunity to find new readers for your blog. The reason that I include it in this series is that over the last year or two I’ve seen numerous blogs virtually launch themselves via social media sites.

The reason for their success is that social media sites are among the largest sites on the web at present (the volume of traffic that they do is mind boggling) but that by their very nature they are about helping people to discover new parts of the web (particularly social bookmarking sites) – and as a result they are used by people actively seeking web content.

As a result I would argue that social media sites are a logical place to position yourself as a blogger. Let me say it again:

Social media sites have a lot of traffic and they are used by people to find content – why wouldn’t you position yourself on them?

Qualification: let me qualify that last statement before going any further by saying that social media is not THE answer to finding readers for your blog. It is not enough just to promote your content on social sites – but it is one element that can help you find a lot of new readers.

9 Keys to Using Social Media to Find New Readers for Your Blog

Much has been written about using specific social media sites to drive traffic to a blog. I’ll include a few links to things I’ve written about specific sites below – however in this post I’d like to speak in a more general sense and share some principles of using social media to drive traffic.

1. Be an Active Participant – it is important to see these sites for what they are – they’re social sites which are designed for regular use and interactions between readers. They are not designed for people to come to to spam their own links and leave – they’re designed for ongoing, genuine and helpful interactions between people. As a result those who spend time using these sites are the ones who generally are rewarded for doing so over the long haul. While there is a temptation to only use these sites on occasion when it benefits yourself you’ll find them more fruitful paces to visit when you regularly participate and genuinely interact with others.

2. Learn the Rules and Culture – different social media sites have different rules, standards, cultures and acceptable behavior. This covers things like how you interact with others, the language you can use and importantly for this article – linking and promoting your own content. Some sites allow (and even encourage) you self promoting – others do not. Some might allow it officially but will have users who don’t like it and who will ‘bury’ your efforts if you do. The key is to participate, observe and learn from your experiences.

3. Find Key Players – one of the best ways to learn about social media is to find and get to know key players on the different sites. Who is using them well? What are they doing? What might they be able to teach you? How might you work with them for mutual benefit? Many social media sites make it easy to find these key players by producing lists of ‘top users’ – these can be strategic relationships to have.

4. Make Friends – extending upon this is the principle of be-friending others on social sites. This is a key part of what they are all about and many of these sites make you more powerful based upon the number of your connections. So get out there – make friends and interact with your network. From this can come many fruitful interactions. It’s also a great branding exercise to ‘connect’ with people in these ways.

I should say at this point that I see people using their ‘networks’ on social sites in two main ways either as natural influencers or in more concerted and coordinated ways. The first (influencers) is about building a network that you naturally interact with and who will take notice of what you do. This makes you a powerful user and both by the social site taking more note of you but also as others will do so also. The second is what some users have been doing for a while now – joining together to vote up each other’s content. DoshDosh has some great tips on making and interacting with friends in social sites (particularly Digg).

5. Don’t Be Self Centered – I’ve mentioned this already but it’s worth a point of it’s own. If your primary activities on social media sites is self centered then you’ll limit your own fruit from it. I know a number of top Digg users and in each case they are some of the most generous and ‘other serving’ people you’ll ever meet. They go out of their way to help others achieve their dreams. In doing so of course they themselves benefit – but it’s others first.

6. Find what Works Best for Your Blog – a regular comment on posts where I write about the power of using social media is people saying that they’ve ‘tried it’ and it doesn’t work. When I unpack these comments with people I often find that what they mean is that they tried one social media site once or twice – and it didn’t have much impact. The mistakes with this kind of thinking are numerous (ie it takes time to get to know a social media site, get to know people etc) – but one main thing that I’d say is that not all social media sites work for every topic of blog. For example I find that StumbleUpon works really well here at ProBlogger – but that Digg works on some more technically focused sites that I have worked with. The other thing that I’d say is that sometimes the biggest social sites are not always the best ones to use – but rather smaller and more focused ones can have bigger benefits. Every week new social bookmarking sites appear around different niches – search them out and focus on them too.

7. Social Media as a Branding Exercise – while social media sites can send you a lot of traffic very very quickly they can also be excellent places to do branding. Every time a reader or potential reader comes across you on a social media site the more you reinforce your brand. Get active on a site like stumbleupon and promote the content that others publish and you could actually get on their radar and end up benefiting yourself in many ways.

8. Convert to Loyal Readers – one thing that many bloggers fail to do when they succeed in driving traffic to their blogs from social media sites is to convert them into loyal readers. Getting readers to your blog is just half of the challenge – getting them to return tomorrow and every day afterwards is the other half – it can be the difference between a one off traffic event and a blog with an ongoing growth in readership. I’ve written more on converting one off visitors into regular readers here (and also here).

9. It’s all about the Content – one factor that exponentially increases (or decreases) the impact of your efforts in social media is your actual content. Without content that engages social media users you are wasting your time as it will rarely capture their imaginations and inspire them to promote it. Writing great content is the focus of tomorrow’s last post in this series on growing blog readership – so I’ll say more then.

Further Reading at ProBlogger on using Social Media to Build Traffic to Your Blog:

How to Promote Your Blog through Networking

Blog-Promotio - NetworkingThis week I’ve been suggesting five ways that I’d promote a new blog to new readers if i was starting out again.

Today I want to turn our attention to Networking as a great way to promote a blog.

If I were starting out in blogging today knowing what I now know I’d invest significant time each day into connecting with others online. The old adage of ‘it’s not what you know it’s who you know’ rings true in blogging.

By networking I mean doing all of those things that I regularly write about here at ProBlogger. Commenting on others blogs, answering comments that others leave on yours, emailing other bloggers when you write something that you think will interest them, making helpful suggestions to other bloggers, connecting with people via social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, emailing people to introduce yourself, linking up to others in your niche…. the list could go on… and on…. when it comes to ways to network but today I’d like to put forward a few more general suggestions.

A number of suggestions that I’d make in networking with bloggers:

  • Be generous – a lot of the networking that I see going on between bloggers is fairly much about ‘taking’ rather than ‘giving’. One way to make a real impression on another person is to be generous with them. Help them achieve their goals – highlight their best work – encourage them – go out of your way to work on their terms. While you do need to have good boundaries (otherwise people will abuse your generosity) I think a spirit of generosity is the right attitude to go into networking with.
  • Don’t Expect too much too quick – the most fruitful relationships that I’ve been a part of in blogging have emerged over time. Let the relationship grow naturally as you build trust and a mutual understanding of who the other person is and how you can work together.
  • Look for the B-listers – many so called ‘A-lister’ bloggers are approached all day long with requests to connect. While you might get lucky – I’ve found that approaching slightly less know blogs can have more chance of working out (and they can still drive a lot of traffic).
  • Prove Yourself First – if you’re brand new to your niche it could take time to make an impression. This isn’t necessarily because people are being cliquey – it’s often because they’re waiting to see if you’re going to stick with it and if you know what you’re talking about. There’s nothing more frustrating that networking with someone who disappears a couple of weeks later. Show you’re in it for the long haul and that your blog is making a contribution to the niche and you’ll find people more willing to connect.
  • Persist But Don’t Annoy – some bloggers will take a few emails or conversations before they’ll warm up to you. There’s a lot of noise around the blogosphere so don’t be offended if people don’t respond – try again in a little while – but don’t stalk them :-)
  • Look in Neighboring Niches – it is important with blog networking to interact with other bloggers in your own niche – however don’t close yourself to relationships with bloggers outside of your niche – particularly in those that neighbor yours. When you limit yourself just to other bloggers exactly like yours you will end up dealing mainly with people who could see you as a direct competitor. While some will be open to interacting with you I’ve found networking with people outside my niche can be fruitful. Another way to be strategic is to not look for networking opportunities just with other bloggers on your topic – but with bloggers who share a similar demographic of reader.
  • Ask Questions – one key that I’ve found to work in networking is to ask a lot of questions of those around you. Some bloggers go into networking with obvious agendas and goals but fail to listen to the other party. When you become a person who asks others about their goals and objectives, where you know what their strengths and weaknesses are and where you know their dreams you not only create a good impression on them but you’ll be in a great position to know where your situation aligns with another person’s – this is where networking becomes most effective.
  • Become a Go-To Person and a Connector – as you network with others don’t just focus upon you and the other person – but attempt to draw others into the relationships you have. I find that people are particularly grateful to me when I can’t help them but point them to someone else who can. This creates a good impression upon both of the parties that you connect which can lead them to come to you again with opportunities (ie you become the ‘go to’ person because they know you’ll either help them personally or point them to someone who can).
  • Have an Elevator Pitch – a lot has been written about business people being able to articulate what they do in a concise statement (having your elevator pitch). I think being able to do this is important with blog networking too. I get many emails every day from people wanting tow work together in some way and in many cases it’s a few minutes into an email that I even work out who they are and what they are on about. Develop a few key sentences that describe who you are, what you do and what you offer others. Another good elevator pitch is on what your blog is about. Having thought through these things will help others understand what you can bring to a relationship – but they will also help you understand that too.
  • Look for Points of Synergy – perhaps this says more about my personality type, but I’ve found the most profitable relationships to be ones where there was a ‘spark’ or ‘energy’ around our interaction – particularly where there was some sort of synergy around goals and objectives but also some sort of a connection when it comes to personality. My style has always been to look for points of ‘energy’ or ‘synergy’ and going with them. Perhaps someone else has a more technical description of this but it’s worked well for me.

Looking forward to hearing more about your own experience of blog networking and how it’s helped your blogging grow.

How I’d Promote My Blog If I Were Starting Out Again

Blog PromotionToday I want to explore a ‘secret’ of growing the readership of a blog.

A few weeks ago I explored how to increase the number of subscribers on your blog through creating anticipation. The more people anticipate that they’ll get something of value from your blog in the future the more likely they are to want to come back and subscribe.

The problem is that you can create anticipation on your blog as much as you like without increasing your readership one iota if you don’t also do what I’m going to share with you today.

I touched on this ‘secret’ last November in a post titled Blog Promotion: Are You Preaching to the Converted? but let me summarize the mistake that I see many bloggers (big and small) running into when they’re promoting their blogs.

The Problem of Preaching to the Converted

The mistake that I think many of us make in our blog promotion is that we continue to promote our subscription methods to the same people – those who have already subscribed to it – our regular readers.

We’re preaching to the converted – or to use another analogy we’re mining the same patch of dirt over and over again.

Some Promotion to the Loyal is OK

Now I’m not arguing with this post that you shouldn’t talk about your subscription methods to regular readers or that they should never see your invitations to subscribe (promoting your methods of subscription prominently is an important technique in building RSS subscriber numbers) – however doing it to your regular readers will have a diminishing conversion rate the more you do it.

Perhaps the most public example of this was in the post that I linked to above where I observed that John Chow and Shoemoney’s competition to increase subscriber numbers seemed to largely pitched to their current readers – however I see daily examples of how many bloggers do this (and have done it myself).

Example One – I once followed a blogger who writes a post each week which promotes their subscription methods.
Example Two – I follow another blog that has an invitation to subscribe to it’s RSS feed actually in the footer of every post on that same RSS feed.

While I do encourage you to post about subscription methods (see point #2 here) – the more you do this the less impact it will have over time. In fact the more you do it the more you run the risk of annoying your regular readers (illustrated by the point that I no longer read the blog in example 1 above).

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s ok to preach to the converted a little (it does work) but your main efforts when it comes to promoting your blog should be happening OFF your blog.

If you really want to grow your blog’s subscriber count you need to find new potential readers to draw in.

Another Obvious Secret

Yes this is another obvious piece of knowledge – yet it’s something that many of us fail to understand and live out. We continue to dig in the same patch of dirt expecting our blogs to grow.

So How Do You Expose Your Blog to NEW Readers?

Ok – so the ‘secret’ is to keep your blog promotion efforts more OFF your blog on readers that you’re yet to connect with rather than those that area already loyal – but how do you do it?

I will say up front that as easy as the principle is in practice it’s a lot harder. Getting word out about your blog to new groups of readers is not easy – however unless you make a concerted effort to get yourself out there your subscriber count will remain slow (at best).

How I’d Promote My Blog If I Were Starting Out Again

I’m regularly asked how I’d promote my blog if I was starting out again today and didn’t have the profile that I currently have. This week I want to answer that question with a series of posts – all of which are focused upon this topic of finding NEW readers.

I’m going to cover five areas that I’d focus upon as a new blogger attempting to give my blog a start. I hope you find them useful.

5 Ways to Promote Your Blog – the Series So Far

  1. Guest Posting
  2. Networking
  3. Advertising
  4. Social Media
  5. Viral Content