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Give Your Readers Room to Participate in Your Blog

One compositional technique that I teach in Digital Photography is to give your portrait subject space to look into when framing your shot.

You can see it in the image below – but the basic principle is that if your subject is looking to one side of the frame – position their head so there is more space on that side of the frame – giving them ‘space to look into’.

Here’s an example (source image):

Space

OK – now the reason for this ‘rule’ (and remember rules are meant to be broken) is that when you leave space like this you not only give the subject space to look into (which gives an image compositional balance) – but you also give the viewer of the image room to participate in the shot.

When a subject looks out of frame like this the viewer of the image is left wondering what they’re looking at, it adds a little intrigue to the image and it can add an unseen point of interest to the photo. Don’t you just wonder who or what the old guy in the shot above is looking at?

In a sense this technique draws the viewer of an image into it – evoking their imagination – engaging them in the photo.

OK – so what’s this got to do with blogging? Have I finally published a post for his photography blog on the wrong blog?

Leaving ‘space’ in your Blog posts for Readers to ‘look into’

As I pondered the way that including ‘space’ in an image can draw those who see it into that image I realized that a similar principle can apply in writing a blog post.

In my first year or two of blogging I worked under the assumption that the more comprehensive my blog posts were the better they would do. As a result I worked hard on providing my readers with every single piece of information that I could come up with on a topic before I hit publish. This resulted in very comprehensive (and often long) posts.

However in time I began to notice that it wasn’t these longer and comprehensive posts that got the most interaction from readers – sometimes it was the quick, half baked ideas and less comprehensive posts that actually seemed to engage readers the most in terms of generating comments and incoming links from other blogs.

In a sense what I was finding was that more comprehensive posts left less room for readers to add something to the conversation – so they didn’t – whereas posts that left room for others to add from their experience and knowledge drew readers to do so.

How to Add Space for Readers to Participate in Your Blog

Now I’m not suggesting that we all only write posts that are rushed, ‘half baked’, not thought through and second rate simply to get more comments – but I do think that there are ways that you can be more intentional about creating space for readers to participate. Here’s a few methods to try:

Reveal What you Don’t Know – sometimes as a blogger it is easy to fall into the temptation of presenting yourself as someone who knows everything there is to know on your topic. While expertise is a good thing to have – I find that readers actually respect you when you admit what you don’t know on your topic. This makes you more relatable and enables your readers to feel that there’s room for their own experiences and expertise on the areas you’re not so good on.

Ask a Question – the simplest way to create space for readers to interact with your posts is to ask them a direct question. This can be tied to something you don’t know (see above) or be a question that focuses upon their experiences, asking them for examples of what you’re talking about, asking them to add points that you’ve missed etc. We’re all wired to answer questions – so include them regularly in your posts and you’ll find you end up with a more dialogical blog.

Run a Poll – polls are a great way to get reader interaction because they allow readers to respond and participate – without having to really put themselves out there in a public way. I find that the polls here on ProBlogger are responded to by a larger number of people than those who comment and I suspect this is because many readers do want to have a say – but like their anonymity.

Invite a Response – there are other ways that you can engage readers than questions and polls. Call your readers to some other type of action including to write a post on their own blog, submit a guest post or to enter a competition and you involve your readers in the activities of your blog. Every time they participate they become a little more loyal to your blog – having invested something of themselves into it.

Create a Space for Interaction – one of the lessons that I’ve learned over the last year or two at Digital Photography School is that sometimes your readers are just waiting for you to create a space for them to take their participation in your blog to the next level. I discovered this when I added a forum to the blog. In adding it I found that a community sprang up almost overnight. I didn’t need to promote it heavily, people just wanted to connect, share and have a say. They could have done this in comments – but they wanted more and when I gave it to them they responded.

As you’ll see from the above – none of these things mean you can’t write comprehensive posts that show off your expertise. To me it is more of an attitude or an issue of the ‘voice’ that you use in blogging. Some bloggers come across as being more closed and unapproachable than others.

I’d be interested to hear examples of how you’ve worked at creating room for readers to participate in your blog.

Lessons for Bloggers From The ‘Death of 2007’

Death
The following guest post was submitted by Dr.Mani Sivasubramanian from Money.Power.Wisdom.

And so another year draws to an end. The ‘death of 2007’ sparks off a line of thinking that will add value to your 2008. It’s about burying the dead past – after learning every lesson possible from it, and using each one to make the future better.

And this applies also to the way you and I blog.

Death Focuses You On The ‘Here & Now’

We often sacrifice today for a brighter tomorrow. We postpone gratification and enjoyment so that we may multiply it in the future. Sadly, sometimes, we put off the important things – until it’s too late.

Death reminds us to live in the here and now. Do the things that matter today. Be wary about what you give up for a pay-off down the line… it just might be something far too precious to risk.

Blogging for influence might lead you to focus too much time and effort on your online activities. As you plan your strategy for future world-domination, ask if you really are willing to pay the price. Family, friends, social networks – all cannot be put on hold for long without damaging relationships permanently.

Death Shows How Insignificant Many Things Really Are

We obsess and worry about many things. We blow up many minor misunderstandings and shortcomings into earth-shaking disasters. We live our lives in a frenzy of self-created crises and emergencies.

Most, if not all, don’t matter as much when viewed in the cold light of hindsight. How many of these ‘terribly urgent’ things will matter some years from now?

As a corollary, this also draws your attention to the really essential things – and adds meaning to your life by directing your actions to where they will be most effective, not merely most efficient.

Look back at the hot, emotional and intense posts and ensuing discussions that have happened on your blog. Does what seemed ‘oh so vital’ then still remain as central or focal to what you do? Are you blogging about what matters – or just chasing rainbows?

Death Creates Urgency

All of us procrastinate. Many of us do it most of the time. “I’ll just get to it tomorrow/next week/when I have time,” we assure ourselves – and rarely manage to get things done.

But what if there was no tomorrow? Would you let these tasks go unfinished? Or would you hurry, re-organize and prioritize differently to get to them right now? Urgent things get done. Important things need to get done. Death can be a beacon that shows up the difference.

Is your blog on track to get you where you want to go? Are you caught up in trivia and detail, being forced to delay growth-oriented activity? Have you done things you need to do today – before wasting time on incidental stuff?

Death Recalls Pleasant Memories

Towards the close of 2007, what remains brightest in our minds are the nice, pleasant, joyful things that happened over the last 12 months. That focus helps energize and rejuvenate us to prepare for the challenges of the year ahead.

Taking time to relish success, enjoy rewards, bask in the glory of achievements is something you may not have thought important or essential. Truth is, it is vital – to happiness, to success, to accomplishment.

Look at what’s great about your blog. The top posts. Your best feedback. Your audience and the attention you’ve got in the blogosphere. Relish and take pride in what you’ve done. Promise yourself you’ll repeat it more often next year. And then, make that promise come true.

Death Makes You Pause & Reflect

In the mad, mad rush towards an ephemeral goal and a vaguely defined set of targets, we often lose direction or engage in unproductive effort. A time-out to rethink the direction you are moving in can get you closer to where you want to be than intense, but unguided, activity.

The end of a year (or month) is a good time to review your goals and targets for your blog. What landmarks did you reach? Which numbers did you make? Are they the right numbers? Why? How else can you make it better?

An hour of analysis and brainstorming every month about where you’re going with your blogging can make a world of difference to where you’ll reach by this time next year.

Death Provokes Gratefulness

We all have a lot to be thankful for. Most importantly, for being alive. Healthy. Rich. Happy. And a lot more.

But we hardly ever think about it that way. We are obsessed over what else we want, how much more we have to achieve, what else is left to attain – and the ambitions, dreams and aspirations drive us on relentlessly.

The calming holiday season before the hustle and bustle of a New Year begins is an excellent time to reflect, feel gratitude and express thanks to the Universe for all you have, enjoy and dream about.

And above all, be grateful for the wonderful online world of opportunity you (and I) enjoy, one that lets us blog, make money, and be happy!

Death Makes Way For The New

This year is almost gone. In many ways, I’ll remember it as a year of loss.

Many special people in my life died… my father, my dog, my professional partner, another team member, and my neighbor. Some deaths were natural, others accidents. Some came in the fullness of time, others destroyed enormous potential and promise.

And the year taught me many precious lessons about life, and about blogging. I’m sure yours did too. Let’s use those lessons to make a difference in the months ahead.

Here’s to a glorious, prosperous and joyous 2008. Happy New Year.

Dr.Mani Sivasubramanian is a heart surgeon using his Internet marketing business to fund heart surgery for under-privileged children in India. He blogs at Money.Power.Wisdom

How to Maximize the Benefits of Guest Posting

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Publishing guest posts on popular blogs is a tried and tested way to get inbound links and traffic. There are certain things you can do to make this experience even more rewarding.

In this post, I want to share a number of methods you can use to maximize the rewards of any guest post you publish.

A note: This post will tell you how to get the most out of guest posting once you’ve got a blogger who’s willing to publish you. If you want more information on getting to that point, I’d suggest you read Darren’s tips on pitching to bloggers.

Do your research

A little bit of research is essential before you submit your guest post to be published. It will help make sure you’re properly rewarded for your work and that you produce something that will be well received by the blog’s audience.

Does the blogger give adequate credit to guest posters? If the blog you’re writing for doesn’t allow an in-post byline for its guest-authors, don’t bother. If you write a post including a byline for this kind of blog, the author will most likely remove the byline and publish your work without it. I’ve had this happen to me before — it’s not fun!

What kind of posts work well on the blog? Take a look at some of the blog’s most popular posts to get an idea of what worked well. Could you create something with similar elements?

Are there any gaps waiting to be filled? I wrote my first guest post for ProBlogger on drawing StumbleUpon visitors into your blog because I noticed it was something that hadn’t been covered much before. It went on to become one of this blog’s most popular posts. Ask yourself: how can I use what I know to bring something unique to the blog?

A stunning albino peacock.
The ideal guest post will show off your skills and impress. Photo by lightgazer.

Optimize your post for greater rewards

What you write and how you present it can influence how rewarding your guest posting experience will be. Here are a few tips to help you optimize your posts.

Link to yourself and others. If you’ve written something that relates to the guest post on your own blog, find a way to work in a link. You can link out to other sources as well if you’d like to take a more democratic approach. A note: if you haven’t written something vitally on topic, don’t link out just for the sake of it. This will look like you’re putting self-promotion above relevance.

Put in a real effort. It’s easier to have social media success with your post on a popular blog because there’s a bigger pool of readers to vote for what you write. More traffic to the post means more click-throughs to your site. In other words, it’s not actually worth it to write the minimum required just to get a link back to your blog. Writing a great guest post will drastically increase the rewards.

Participate in the comments section. One of the metrics whereby bloggers judge the success of a post (as you know) is the comment count. You can raise this and make a good impression on those who’ve commented by responding to questions and feedback on your guest post.

Call in favors. Use your connections to bump along the success of your guest post. You can contact social media users you know, link to the post from your own blog, or pitch the link to other bloggers.

Crafting your byline

The byline is where you’re credited for your writing. You can see an example at the bottom of this post. Most bloggers will give you the freedom to put whatever you like in your byline (within reason) — as long as it’s not too long. The byline is the place where people will decide whether or not to click-through to your own blog, so it’s important to get it right.

Create a byline to suit your goals. If you mainly want feed subscribers, include only a link to your feed. If you want feed subscribers and traffic, include a link to your feed and your site. If you only want traffic, drop the link to your feed. If you want to sell a product, mention it instead.

Appeal to your target audience. If you write for a certain type of people (for example: bloggers, dads, Zen Masters), include that information in your byline. It will capture the attention of the kind of people you want reading your blog.

Explain the benefits. If you want people to visit your site or subscribe to your feed, explain what they’ll get in return. Useful advice? Hints and tips? Free stuff? Give people a reason to do what you want.

Points to review

  • Take the time to research the blog you’d like to write for.
  • Write with the blog’s target audience in mind.
  • A quality post can help you just as much as it helps the blog’s owner.
  • Craft your byline to compliment what you want to get out of guest posting.

Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. Subscribe to her feed for more useful blogging advice.

Why You SHOULD use AdSense on Your Blog

AdsenseIn this post I’ll explore some of the reasons why bloggers should consider using AdSense as a way to make money from blogging.

I recently released a video post which explained some of my reasoning for stopping to use AdSense as a means to make money from ProBlogger. The post got a lot of attention – however some readers thought that it meant I was giving up on AdSense altogether on all of my blogs. A couple even called me ‘Anti-AdSense’.

This is not the case – while I don’t use AdSense any more on ProBlogger – I do use it on some of my other blogs and it continues to one of my biggest income earners.

In fact since I started to use AdSense it’s earned me just under $400,000 USD.

That’s not bad considering that I’ve been using it for 4 years and it started out earning me just a dollar or two a day.

With earnings like that I’d be a little silly to be Anti-AdSense.

Like every method of making money for blogs – AdSense isn’t always the best choice – however there are plenty of good reasons to test it out. In the remainder of this post I’m going to explore when it IS a good option. Later in the week I’ll share the other side of the coin – when it ISN’T a good option.

Hopefully between the two posts we’ll have a good balanced look at AdSense:

10 Reasons Why You Should Consider Using AdSense on your Blog

1. International Traffic – if your blog has a considerable amount of traffic that comes from outside of North America it can be difficult to find an advertising network that will allow you to participate (particularly if your traffic is from some parts of Asia). Some ad networks will simply not accept you as a publisher, others will not serve their ads to non US traffic and others will serve other less relevant and lower paying ads to this traffic. AdSense does none of this. The beauty of AdSense is that they have such a large supply of advertisers using them that there is almost always some advertiser who wants traffic from your your reader’s part of the world. Of course there is more competition for some traffic than others (which drives up prices) but I know as someone who has a large Australian readership of some of my blogs that it is one of the best ways that I’ve found to make money from that traffic.

2. Easy Implementation – when I first started experimenting with making money from blogging just over 4 years ago I experimented with a number of options. The reason that I stuck with AdSense was that even as a complete technical idiot I could get an AdSense ad unit up and running on my blogs within minutes. Of course since that time AdSense have made implementing ad units on blogs even easier (particularly in the last couple of weeks with server side ad management). While other ad networks have followed in the footsteps of AdSense in how they let publishers design and add ad units to blogs – I still find AdSense one of the easiest to use. This makes it ideal for the beginner wanting to experiment for the first time with an advertising network.

3. Massive Advertiser Base – AdSense has had years to establish itself in both it’s back end but also it’s presence in the Advertising community. The result is that they’ve managed to build up a very large base of advertising clients. This increases the chances of them being able to serve relevant ads to your blog (see my next point). There’s no way that an individual blogger would be able to have access to such a wide array of potential advertisers.

4. Obscure Topics – one of the issues that some publishers face when starting a blog on a tightly targeted niche is that it can be difficult to find ways to make money from it either through finding a sponsor for the blog, finding an ad network that is relevant to the topic or by finding an affiliate program that relates. While AdSense is better for some topics than others (read on for more on this) I’m constantly amazed by just how targeted ads can be on even obscure topics. The myriad of advertisers using this system are competing by bidding on millions of keywords on virtually every topic that you can think of.

5. Make it Easy For Advertisers to Target Your Blog – AdSense servers ads from advertisers to your blog in a couple of ways. Firstly there’s one that is completely contextual – they look at your content and then serve ads from their system that they think will relate to that content and have a good chance of earning you (and them) money. The second method is where advertisers specifically target your blog to have their ad appear on. This all happens without you really having to do anything – but it’s good because it is often used by advertisers to test your blog – which can lead to other things. Every few weeks I get an email from a potential advertiser who had been testing ads on my photography blog via AdSense and then wanted to further the relationship (whether by going with private ad deals, sponsorships, affiliate programs etc).

6. Set it and Forget it – many bloggers just want to write content. They don’t have the time or expertise to approach, pitch, negotiate with and then collect money from advertisers. AdSense takes a lot of this work away from you and many bloggers simply add the code to their blogs and then forget it. Of course for best results you should pay it a bit more attention than that and experiment with different design and positioning of ads – but it does take a lot of the work out of things.

7. No Minimum Traffic Levels – if you are just starting out and don’t have much traffic yet it can be difficult to find advertisers or an ad network to take you on board. Some networks have minimum traffic levels before they’ll accept you into their program – but not with AdSense. While your blog may not earn you much – even with small amounts of traffic you can begin to make a few dollars over time.

8. Able to be Used with Other Ad Types – when I first started experimenting with AdSense there were fairly strict rules in place as to what other types of advertising you were allowed to have on a page that had an AdSense unit on it. However in more recent times it has become a little more relaxed and you can run many different types of ads on the same site and page as AdSense.

9. Multiple Ad Formats – one good feature of AdSense is that you’re not just restricted to one type of ad with them. Not only do you have many ad unit sizes to choose from – but you have the ability to serve Text Ads, Image Ads, Video Ads, Adlink units, referral ads (CPA) and use their ‘search’ tool which also is monetized. Many other ad networks just major in one or two of these different formats – in a sense AdSense is something of a one stop shop.

10. Reliable Payment – one of the questions that I’m regularly asked about new ad networks coming onto the market to compete with AdSense is ‘how do we know if they’ll pay up?’ The reality is that most ad networks do pay up – but you do occasionally hear stories of publishers who are not satisfied with this aspect of some ad networks. AdSense has had a few problems over the years with individual publishers – but considering the vast numbers of publishers that they must have – they’ve done pretty well. My payments come in like clockwork and the one time that I did have a check go missing it was promptly replaced.

Of course this post has only argued one side of things (and I’m sure others will give more reasons why they love and use AdSense). So to give a well balanced view on whether to use AdSense on your blog – later in the week I’ll take a look at the flipside and explore some reasons why AdSense might not be the best option for making money from your blog.

Where’s the Content? – Positioning Ads on Your Blog

Here’s a quick tip on ad placement that I’d like to pass onto bloggers – particularly those experimenting with AdSense.

Ensure that your content can be seen above the fold.

That is – ensure it’s above the fold if you want readers to keep coming back to your blog.

One of the important choices that faces many bloggers is how to place Ads aggressively enough to get click-throughs but subtly enough that the rest of the page doesn’t suffer as a result.

One of the trends that I’ve seen increasingly on blogs is to place large AdSense ads in the center of pages right above content.

In doing so they content it self is quite often pushed down so far the page that scrolling needs to happen in order to read it.

I totally understand why bloggers do this – in fact it probably comes from the advice of AdSense themselves in two ways.

The advice from AdSense:

Ad Heat Map1. Ad Placement – AdSense have produced a ‘heat map’ which shows where they have found that ads perform best (see left).

The more orange that a spot on the page gets the more attention it will get from readers.

Obviously the best place for an ad on this heat map is right above content – dead centre on the page.

2. Rectangle Ads – The other advice that AdSense gives repeatedly is that rectangle ads (either 300×250 or 336×280) tend to perform best. They do well because of their size but also because they come in text, image and video ads.

ProBlogger Advice:

AdSense is completely right with both of the above piece of advice. Ads close to content work great and rectangle ads do perform really well in comparison to some other ad units.

However – take these two pieces of advice together and put them into place on many blog designs and you set your readers up for a problem.

The result is that quite a few bloggers end up with pages that look a little like the image to the right:

Ad Positioning

I’ve even seen some pages with two (and once three) rectangle ads above the content. Depending upon the size of the screen that your readers are viewing your site on there might be a little content viewable – but the majority of it is generally below the fold.

While this does give you a decent chance at a good CTR it also gives you a decent chance of having a visitor to your site head straight for the back button on their browser and never return.

While I’ve talked numerous times about how placing ads prominently on your blog increases the chances of someone responding to those ads – the same principle applies to content. Hide it away at the bottom of a page and people are unlikely to respond to it which will lead to:

  • few loyal/repeat readers
  • few incoming links from other bloggers who like your content
  • few people bookmarking your site on social bookmarking sites
  • low comment numbers

So what’s a blogger to do?

In the end bloggers need to make a choice. Which is more important to you – high CTR from readers who never come back or high reader satisfaction?

Which comes first and to what extent?

I’m not going to put push my own preferences upon readers – in fact for me on different blogs I have different priorities – however this is an important issue to grapple with if you’re going to run ads on your blog.

Some Alternatives to consider might include:

  • Smaller Ad Units – prominently place but smaller units might allow more room for content
  • Single or No Sidebar – having just one sidebar, or even going without one altogether allows you to have a wider content area and still have a prominent and large ad unit
  • Wrapping Content around Ads – one of the good way to get both ads and content prominent is to inset ads into the content and allow the content to wrap around it

How prominent are your ads? How prominent is your content? Which takes the prime position and how did you make the decision? I’d love to hear how you place your ads.

Are Affiliate Programs with Small Payouts Worth It?

Today this question about affiliate programs landed in my inbox:

“Darren, could you answer a question for me? I notice that a couple of weeks ago you promoted Leo’s Zen to Done ebook with an affiliate link. I was surprised that you did this because the commission from it is just a few dollars – loose change really. Wouldn’t you be better off promoting high value products? Do you really need the few dollars that a sale brings? Doesn’t it all get too bitsy?”

Blogging-For-Loose-ChangePhoto by Aytena

This is a good question and one that I’ve seen a number of bloggers arguing over the years when given the opportunity to go with income streams with small dollar values associated with them.

I could probably write a long answer to the question – however I think the best answer is to say that there’s a lot of businesses going around that make a lot of money out of lots of small payments (micro payments).

Micro payments add up over time.

Let me illustrate with some real analysis of part of my online income from the day after I promoted Zen to Done. Here’s some of the income that I earned that day from a few of the affiliate programs that I run:

  • Affiliate Program with Zen to Done – $94.05 from 25 sales (Leo increased the commission to affiliates from $2.85 to $4.75 during the day).
  • Amazon Affiliate Program – $97.65 from 35 sales (ranging from 10 cent commissions to $15.00 ones)
  • Digital Photography Secrets Affiliate Program – $48 from 2 sales
  • Pro Photo Secrets Affiliate Program – $27.93 from 4 sales
  • Real Blog Videos Affiliate Program – $9.65 from 1 sale
  • AdSense Referrals – $10.50 from 3 sales

So the total income from these affiliate programs for that day was $287.78 from 65 sales. That’s just $4.43 per sale.

$4.43 per sale doesn’t sound a lot to be earning – but when you have 65 of them in a day it makes a nice supplementary income for a blogger. I say supplementary because I also run advertising and other larger affiliate programs on my blogs (see below).

Of course to get the 65 sales you need a good volume of traffic and you need to find quality affiliate products that relate to your blog’s topic (read more on how to make money from affiliate programs on a blog) – it’s not just a matter of sticking an affiliate program on your blog with 17 readers and expecting the sales to roll in.

PS: I should point out that I only included in this list some of the smaller affiliate programs that I promote. Not all affiliate programs have small payouts. I work with a few affiliate partners with products that pay out more than the ones in the list above also (for example promoting AdSense through their referrals program can bring in $250 for a full conversion). Why wouldn’t I just promote these? It’s simple, these tend to be fewer in numbers in terms of conversions – but together with a higher number of small affiliate conversions they can add up to a nice income.

How to Keep Your Subscribers Forever

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.One thing you may have noticed is that your blog’s feed count is volatile: it fluctuates on a day to day basis.

While much of that depends on how many people read your feed in a given day, some of that is also people both subscribing and unsubscribing. If you could stop people unsubscribing, your subscriber count would always grow exponentially.

While a lot of emphasis is placed on getting more subscribers, it seems to me that keeping the ones you have is just as important.

What is the key reason why a person might unsubscribe? They’ll do so when your posts become clutter: when they stop reading your posts.

Darren has previously listed 34 reasons why readers unsubscribe from your blog. In fact, each of these reasons causes readers to stop reading your posts, which then causes them to unsubscribe.

The question this post seeks to answer is: how can I get subscribers to keep reading my posts?

As long as your subscribers are reading what you write, they’ll never unsubscribe.

Create a gripping headline

The ugly truth is that many feed readers make the decision to either skip or keep reading a post before their eyes have reached the end of the headline. There are plenty of great articles written about honing the ability to write headlines that draw readers into posts — articles every blogger should read. Here are a few of my favorites from Brian Clark and Leo Babauta:

Headlines are your weapon in the constant battle for attention, so it’s crucial that you use them well. A simple hack I often use is to take the headline formula behind a popular article and adapt it to my own post.

Start with a knock-out opening sentence

Once your headline has done its work the subscriber will start with your first sentence. If you waffle, or go off-topic, or write in a bland way, the reader will drop out of your post.

In my experience, there are seven key routes to a gripping opening sentence:

  • A tempting offer.
  • An irresistible question.
  • A curious connection.
  • A controversial claim.
  • An engaging anecdote.
  • A problem.
  • A tricky question.

I’ve covered each of these methods in detail here: Grip Your Readers With These 7 Knock-Out Opening Sentences.

Use consistent imagery at the beginning of your posts

If you hold a particular blog in very high standing you’ll be likely to stick with a post even if it starts with a fizzle rather than a bang. If readers knew who was behind a particular post they may well be more likely to read it.

I don’t think readers always do know, however. Most of us group feeds by folder or lump new content into one stream of news. If we make the decision to read or skip based on the headline alone, we may end up deciding not to read an article before we even know which blog it originated from.

One incredibly effective way to brand your posts is to use consistent imagery right at the start. Almost every single post at ProBlogger begins with a distinct image in a unique style. Even if you’re focusing on the headline, it’s impossible to miss that the post originates from ProBlogger (because the image is right below the headline).

Using consistent imagery at the top of your posts will instantly let subscribers know where the post originated from. Here are some strategies you can use to make your imagery unique:

  • Use of images of a consistent type or style.
  • If you write on them, try to use similar fonts.
  • You could also use images of the same size and position.

This strategy is also effective in another way: images slow the eye down. We can scan text rapidly, but it’s a lot harder to scan an image.

A table covered with pens and a notebook.
Photo by Lost in Scotland.

Use interesting formatting in your own style

Give your posts texture — Your posts might look fantastic as they appear on your blog, but subscribers see them without any of the bells and whistles. Plain text without any formatting can be visually interesting when laid out on a vibrant page. Not so in a feed reader. If your posts are boring to look at it becomes easier than ever for subscribers to ignore them.

Sub-headings, bolded sentences, box-quotes and in-text links all help to add texture to your posts when they appear in a feed reader. Visually interesting posts will excite the eye and help draw readers into your posts.

Brand your posts with formatting — Developing your own formatting style, in combination with distinct imagery at the beginning of your posts, can ensure that it’s immediately obvious where your posts come from.

If you’re reading this in a feed reader right now, you’d probably agree that you recognize ProBlogger posts straight away. If a reader trusts that your blog provides good content then being recognizable is priceless.

Use short paragraphs

Big chunks of text aren’t inviting to a reader. Your blog might display your posts in a generously-sized and well-spaced font, but feed readers tend towards fonts that are small and narrowly spaced. It’s important to use paragraphs liberally to open up the text in your posts.

If your post is broken up into bite-sized chunks it becomes a lot easier to tackle. If your post looks easy to read a subscriber will be more likely to give it a chance.

Break up your text with images

Feed readers are also lacking when it comes to color and shape. A stream of text can become monotonous. You can help your posts stand out by breaking up the text with relevant images.

Always provide value

If you follow the above steps every post you publish should look unique when it appears in a feed reader. It will be immediately obvious that it came from your blog.

This will only be a positive, however, if the subscriber consistently finds value in everything you write. If that’s the case, she or he will probably stick with your post even if it comes with a snooze-inducing headline and a waffly opening sentence.

The essential point to understand is that, while the above tips will draw feed readers into your posts, the strategy will only be effective if your subscribers consistently feel rewarded when they do so.

A subscriber who is reading and appreciating your posts is more likely to link to you, comment, vote on social media and recommend you to friends. That’s something we all want.

Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. You can subscribe to Skellie’s feed for more useful blogging advice.

6 Steps to Making Money Because of Your Blog

Bloggers make money from blogging in an every increasing array of ways – but in general they can be broken down into:

 Users Darren Library Application-Support Ecto Attachments Make-Money-Blogging

Much has been written about making money directly from blogs – but the opportunity for blogs to be leveraged to make money indirectly is something that I think has great potential and which is largely ignored by most bloggers.

Whether it be by using your profile from a blot to sell yourself as a consultant, author, employee, blogger on other blogs, speaker, business partner or whether you use it to sell a product or service that you or your business has produced – blogs are ideally suited for this type of approach.

So how do you make money BECAUSE of your blog (indirectly)?

Let me suggest a few starting points (note: these six points made up a small part of my WordCamp Melbourne Presentation. You can see the full video here, although it’s a little sketchy on the audio at times):

1. Align Yourself with a Niche – one of the most powerful things that you can do is to pick the right topic to blog about and which is aligned with what you wish to ‘sell’ from the blog. If you want to become an author on a particular topic – you’ll want to blog on the same (or a related topic). If you wish to do consulting in an industry, your blog needs to cover that topic. If you have a product to sell – you’d better pick a topic that naturally fits with that product.

2. Establish Trust, Expertise and Authority – once you have your topic your primary objective needs to be to work hard at becoming a credible and authoritative voice in your niche. Your ultimate goal at this point is to align yourself so much with your niche that you become the first person that people think of when the topic is mentioned. This partly has to do with branding – but is also closely related to the content that you produce.

Perhaps the best example of this that I can give (best because I know it well) is this blog – ProBlogger. I chose the name ProBlogger on a whim one day (I think I was watching golf or tennis and wondered out loud if there could ever be a blogger that goes Pro). It wasn’t a strategic move – but in hindsight it was one of the best things that I ever did because ‘pro blogger’ has become a term that is now widely used to describe people who make money online. Whether the term would have been used if I didn’t start this blog I’m not sure – but the more the term is used the more happy I become as I know my brand is now aligned with the term.

3. Showcase what You Do – I discovered the power of showing people what you can do early in the life of ProBlogger when I decided to write a post about how A-list blogger Jeff Jarvis could better optimize his blog for AdSense. Looking at his blog today I’m not sure that Jeff really took a whole lot of notice of what I said – but that didn’t really matter because others did (and Jeff did link up). The power of showcasing what I could do paid off the next day when I had emails from 10 or so potential consulting clients wanting me to do what I’d done for Jeff – most of whom were willing to pay me for it. The take home lesson is to not only talk about what you can do – but to show how you can do it.

4. Give away the principles and Sell the Personalization – I spoke with an author and business coach recently who does a fair few Media appearances to promote his work and he told me that his strategy is to give away as much general advice as possible when he’s on TV or Radio in the hope that people will buy his books and come to him for coaching when they want to know how to apply it to their own lives. I think that this is a great strategy for bloggers also. A blog is a great place to spread the word of what you have to offer. Teach people the principles of what you know – but make yourself available to those who want to take it further and apply it to their own situation.

5. Sell Yourself Not Someone Else – a common mistake that bloggers make when they want to sell themselves or their own products from their blog is to also run advertising on their blogs. The problem is that those who will want to advertise on your blog are likely to be your competitors and instead of just selling yourself you’ll be selling them too. While it’s possible to do both – I find that it’s much better to choose to either make money directly or indirectly from your blog and not to mix your messages (having said this – I’ve managed to do both here at ProBlogger at different times with different levels of success).

6. Make Yourself Accessible – looking to pick up opportunities that come your way from blogging? You’ve got to make it easy for people to give them to you. While I understand a need for privacy – if you make it too difficult for people to get in touch – they won’t. In the early days of my blog I not only had an email contact form on my blog – but I also published my phone number and Instant Messaging contact details. While this did lead to a lot of disruptions to my days – it also brought in some truly amazing opportunities. Of course there’s a need to be smart on this and as my blog grew in popularity I also stopped publicizing my IM details (there are only so many hours in a day).

One last note

The above 6 steps do not just happen. They take time, they take effort, they take consistent work and they take a little luck. Step 2 is crucial and particularly takes time. Building trust, establishing an audience and being accepted as a credible source of information can take years.

How Much Money Do Bloggers Earn Blogging?

Earlier in the month I asked readers to share their blog earnings for the month of October. As usual this poll was a popular one with 3054 responses. I’ve run this survey previously so will compare the results between this and last time I ran it below.

Of this number 857 said that they did not earn any money blogging (28%). This is either because they don’t try to – or they try but fail (next time I’ll ask for clarification around this).

Of those that do earn some money blogging the breakdown of earnings into different earning ranges was as follows:

Blog-Earnings-2

For those of you interested in the percentages – here’s a pie chart.

Blog-Earnings

Keep in mind that these figures are just for those who earn something from blogging (and don’t include the 28% who don’t).

49% earned under $100
23% earned over $1000
16% earned over $2500
9% earned over $15000

Comparison to last time

So how do these recent results compare with previous times that we’ve carried out this same survey of readers?

In mid 2006 I asked exactly the same question with the same earning ranges and I think you’ll see below that the percentages are remarkably similar:

200605291457

One last note. When I’ve asked readers to respond to how much they earn from different ad networks (AdSense and Chitika) the shape of the graphs has always been the same. While the percentages vary slightly the results are always quite similar.

So – what can we conclude?

For me the most striking ‘lesson’ from these surveys is that while there is significant hype around the idea of bloggers making money – that the vast majority earn very little (or nothing). A quarter of those who earn something make less than 0.33 cents per day. If that’s not a reality check then I don’t know what is.

On the flip side – a smaller group of bloggers are making good to great amounts of money. While I’m sure there are some votes that are put in the highest category falsely – I do believe that there are an increasing number of bloggers who making significant part time income through to full time income from their blogs. That top category is significant and seem to be growing.