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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.

How Does Your Comment Policy Affect Your Readership?

Comment-PolicyThis guest post was submitted by Elise Bauer, Publisher of Simply Recipes and Editor-in-Chief of Learning Movable Type

Read blogs long enough and one thing will begin to stand out is the varying tenor and quality of comments on different blogs. When I first started publishing my own blogs and reading others several years ago I wasn’t too surprised by the extraordinarily rude and baiting remarks that would often appear in comment threads. We’d all seen this with Usenet groups way back when, and flame wars were a constant problem on popular email listservs. Any place where you have anonymity of participation with practically zero social repercussions for misbehaving will lead to rude public behavior. Blogs are no exception. People say things in comments that they would never say to someone face-to-face.

What has been surprising to me is that even with the comment moderation tools available to bloggers, extremely rude and obnoxious comments are tolerated, allowed to post on many blogs. My guess is that many bloggers feel that in a democracy, everyone should have the right to be heard.

I disagree. I believe that our democracy gives you the right to publish your own blog, not to spit all over mine.

Who gets priority – your readers or disruptive commenters?

Providing a quality environment for the readers of our blogs is more important than giving a platform for a few people who don’t know how to play well with others. Let’s look at the numbers. Let’s say that your blog gets 1000 visitors a day according to whatever stat package you use. Let’s assume that a quarter of these visitors actually read your posts and the comments to the posts. That’s about 250 readers a day. Let’s say that your blog gets about 10 comments a day. Let’s say that 8 of the comments are okay, or even useful, but a couple of them are rude. They don’t pass the “would you say this to someone’s face, who you knew and respected?” test. By allowing those comments to post, you are letting a couple social nitwits color the experience of your site to your 250 readers. Why do you think bars have bouncers? It’s for the benefit of the rest of us.

Some might argue that flame wars and rude comments are entertaining. And to some, they may be. You need to know your audience. You may also be the kind of blogger who lives off of stirring up controversy and whose commenters are just reflecting the tone that you yourself set.

Some people have a much higher tolerance for rude behavior than others. They’ll call each other the most horrible names online one day and then the next act as if nothing happened. I assert that most people, myself included, do not want to hang out in environments, either online or in the real world, where people are getting away with being extremely obnoxious. Most of us do not want to chance being ridiculed by others if we make a comment on a site. We will steer to where we feel comfortable and safe participating, and stay away from places where we don’t.

You are in charge, you set the tone

How you choose to moderate the comments on your site will affect who feels comfortable to participate on your site, and who will want to come back again and again.

If you let rude, obnoxious, spiteful comments persist on your blog, you are basically telling all of your commenters that it’s okay with you to behave badly on your site. This covert permission can act like a magnet, drawing in hooligans and bullies, making the reading of and participating in your comment section uncomfortable for many. I learned long ago that people will give you as much crap as you are willing to put up with. If you tolerate abusive commenters, they’ll just keep coming back.

Have you posted a comment policy?

After the first couple of years with my blog, I finally got annoyed with dealing with the constant stream of rudeness, and instead put up this comment policy:

Comments are welcome on most of the recipes and articles. I would ask that if you would like to leave a comment that you think of this website as my family’s home and that you wouldn’t say anything on this site that you wouldn’t, as an invited guest, say in someone’s home. Constructive criticism is welcome, as we all benefit from such advice. Rude, mean, or obnoxious comments are not welcome and will not be approved to post (that’s me, gently escorting the misbehaving guest out of the house). Please restrict your comments to the topic at hand, for the benefit of all who may be reading.

Attempts to make obnoxious comments dropped immediately by 80%.

Michael Ruhlman (author, Next Top Chef judge, and blogger) recently posted this request of his readers, some of whom were spouting off a little too much over the judging of the last Top Chef challenge:

It’s my policy not to delete posts unless they are truly harmful in some way, but I urge commenters to post only words that you would say aloud to whomever it is you are addressing. Just ask yourself if you would before hitting the button.

Many bloggers fear that if they restrict commenters in any way, they’ll lose them and lose readership. Frankly, I would prefer to lose the misbehaving ones; it makes it so much more fun for those of us who are left. Simply Recipes has been steadily growing now for over 4 years. Every day more than 70,000 people visit the site. Each new post gets about 20 to 30 comments on average (some much more), which is a perfectly reasonable, manageable number. The comments are constructive, polite, fun, and thoughtful. We share ideas, stories, recipes. We learn from each other. This is a community that I am happy to be part of and proud to host. So, at least from where I’m sitting, it’s working.

What about you? Do you have a comment policy in place? If so, what is it and what has been your experience with the effect of your comment policy on your community of readers and commenters?

How To Be A Happier, Healthier Blogger

158962685 7D88120C2A BCan Blogging Be a Health Hazard? If so, how can you prevent it happening to you? In this guest post Lea Woodward from Location Independent explores how to be a happier and healthier blogger.

Ok, so you might not think that blogging is a health hazard but it’s not so much the act of blogging itself that can cause health problems – it’s more to do with the fact that sitting for hours on end in front of your computer blogging or reading blogs, can play havoc with your health.

Some of the more common problems experienced by bloggers (and anyone who spends hours at a computer) are…

  • Eye strain – from tired eyes to those whose eyesight has deteriorated noticably from spending hours in front of the computer screen (perhaps similar to Darren’s problem a couple of years ago)
  • Structural or muscular problems – such as chronic neck ache, increased back ache and RSI.
  • Energy slumps – from needing several hours and multiple cups of coffee to get you going in the morning to those pesky mid-afternoon dips when all you feel like doing is taking a nap.
  • Disrupted sleep patterns – for bloggers who burn the midnight oil blogging late into the night or can’t get to sleep and spend time surfing the blogosphere into the wee small hours.

Whoever said blogging was good for you, eh?

So, if any of these problems sound familiar, here are some things you can try to help you become a happier and altogether healthier blogger:

  1. Always take time to look away from your computer screen regularly. There is a fantastic exercise from the field of natural vision correction which I personally use, called “palming”. It can help ease the chronic strain in your eyes and is great for relaxing tired eyes. Here’s a guide of how to do it.
  2. Regularly stretch your body if you spend long hours sitting at a desk. When some muscles become stronger and tighter than others from being in one position for hours at a time, this results in the postural imbalances that can cause rounded shoulders, hunch backs, tight hip flexors (the ones used when raising your knees up to your waist) and problems with tight lower back muscles. Aim to stretch any muscles that feel tight on a regular basis at intervals throughout the day – it may well be worth consulting a qualified trainer to design a proper stretching protocol for you, especially if you have back, neck, shoulder or other long term problems and chronic pain.
  3. Energy slumps are usually caused by blood sugar imbalances. Typically, too many carbs (bread, fruit, veg) at lunch in proportion to protein (meat, fish, eggs, dairy) intake can cause a spike in your blood sugar leading to a drop – the energy slump you feel. If you feel drowsy 1-2 hours after your meal, this could the likely cause. Try playing around with the ratio of your meals – so if you normally have a heavily carb-based lunch, try adding a bit more protein and see how you feel. Protein helps slow down the absorption of carbs and can help stabilise your blood sugar. Similarly, if you eat too much protein and feel sluggish, try adding a few more carbs to your meals.
  4. Sleep is crucial to good health. Numerous studies have shown how disruptions to sleep patterns can cause long term health problems – and these include going to bed too late, getting too little sleep and generally any disruption to your natural circadian rhythms (sleep patterns). An ideal rule of thumb is to aim to get to bed by 11pm every night to maximise the time your body has to regenerate and heal itself (typically between 11pm and 2am). Whilst the odd late night won’t hurt you, on a long term basis it can result in niggling health problems that never go away, an inability to lose weight, increased stress levels and impair the body’s ability to heal and recover.

As a former health coach and personal trainer, I can’t say I always follow my own rules (I’m writing this at 11pm!) but health is just one of those things…you don’t miss it until it’s gone; so get into some good habits now and see how much more of a successful blogger it makes you!

Lea Woodward is a location independent business coach & consultant. She runs her businesses whilst traveling the world and can currently be found sunning herself on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Next stop? Party time in Dubai. Read more about Lea on her personal blog, or find out more about her location independent lifestyle here.

Readers vs Visitors – Whose Needs are You Meeting?

Readers-VisitorsThe following post on meeting the needs of Readers and Visitors is a guest post by Lorelle VanFossen of Lorelle on WordPress.

Smashing Magazine asks Who Is Your Visitor?, using some new research into the preferences and characteristics of the average visitor to your blog and website.

However, since you’d like to comfort most of your web users, you need to know their habits and the profile of your average visitor — to adapt the design and layout to your users’ needs.

…Nothing is more valuable than the statistics you’ve collected with an analytics tool installed on your web-site; however particularly in the beginning of a new project it’s nice to have some good idea of what kind of configuration your visitors will probably use.

In this post we’d like to present the results from recent studies of browser market share, used OS and preferred screen resolution worldwide. Please notice that this data is only an approximation; we’ve used a number of different sources to get the average numbers we present below. Besides, statistics always depends on the readership and the topic of your project.

Their conclusion: An average web user browses with Internet Explorer 6.0 on Windows XP with the screen resolution 1024×768.

They go onto offer more facts and figures to help you determine what the “average” visitor to your blog uses to access your blog and more information on their location and browsing tools, but there is a lot of information left out of the equation.

Who Are Your Average Visitors and Readers?

There is a difference between a visitor and reader. Do you know the difference?

A visitor arrives, usually via a search result or from another blog featuring a link to your blog. They may arrive with a preconceived idea, most typically: Is this the place to find the information I want and need?. If not, they are gone. They don’t care how pretty your site is, how much information you have jammed into your blog, or the subjects you cover. If you don’t have what they need, they are gone. Often in seconds. Yet, they left their statistics behind when they arrived and left.

A reader returns. They return because you offer them something of substance. You give them what they want – repeatedly. You give them value. They like visiting. They like reading what you write. They like how your mind works. They enjoy telling others about what you have to offer, bringing more visitors, which will hopefully turn into readers. A visitor-turns-reader becomes a reader. So what are their characteristics?

A reader stays longer on your blog. They use the various links and navigational aids to dig deeper into your content. They know your blog is the source for their specific needs. Many won’t even access your blog directly, but through feed readers, keeping up with your content on a daily or weekly basis.

Do these studies include feed reader statistics in their analysis? That might change some of the numbers.

A reader stays longer on your blog because you continue to serve them a meal they enjoy. Visiting your site becomes a habit. Still, there are the statistics. How do you serve those who become readers, since they are your most important audience, while culling the stats from anyone and everyone who visits your blog for 2 or less seconds?

You Can’t Please Everyone

The old adage applies to your blog: you can’t please everyone.

Living for many years in the Middle East, I had a huge majority of my readership audience living and working within that area. While I still had a huge English-reading segment of my audience from the United States and the UK, the stats for the country were highest in the one I lived in and wrote about.

While my stats said much the same as the “average” information found in the Smashing Magazine report, the reality on the ground was that most of “my readers” were using 800×600 screens with low resolution on Hebrew-enabled Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows ME, even though this was from 1999-2005. A few I personally met, telling me they were computer whizbangs, had monochromatic monitor (shades of the dark ages of computers!), not color. Dial-up Internet was the only choice, though cable Internet did finally arrive in 2003, it was still slow and intermittent for a couple of years. Few jumped on the Windows XP bandwagon as it was very costly, and the bottom dropped out of the economy. What they had worked. Why change it. It’s too much trouble and might not bring improvement.

If I’d jumped on the “average” description based upon millions of web users around the world, I would have ignored my readers.

They couldn’t handle wide screen designs. They couldn’t deal with massive images, Flash, and other “modern” technologies that took ages to process and download. It took time, years in fact, before newer and more affordable computer technologies were embraced by the population that read my blog. They can handle it now, but not at the time others were jumping off the 800×600 ship into wide screens and high speed bandwidth web designs.

My family history blog services an average reader of 60 years old with not the keenest eye-sight. They aren’t looking for fancy graphics. They can’t stand Flash, bells, whistles, or busy web designs. They want words. They want text. They want content. They want easy-to-read text. They want the meat and potatoes of information.

I serve them a simple and clean layout, focusing on the content set in a good-sized and easily resizable font. Nothing flashing and blinking at them. Colors muted. The categories are spelled out specifically, search term specific and leading them to content they want and need. And they are happy.

Pleasing Your Readers Comes First

No matter what the statistics, pleasing your readers come first. But do you know anything about the characteristics of your readers?

Dig through your blog stats, similar to what was done on Smashing Magazine. Gather the information together and find your “averages”.

Look at how many incoming and outgoing visitor stats you have and compare that to the average amount of time they spent on your site. From that, you can get a feel for approximately what percentage of visitors are readers. You can’t tell how much of your average stats apply to readers compared to visitors, as they are all mixed together, unless you have advanced statistical analysis of your blog’s traffic, giving you data on individual visits. If you do, concentrate on those who spent more than two minutes on your blog.

Then look at your blog’s subject and content. What does your content describe about the type of visitor that comes to your blog?

  • Is it only locals as you serve up a local cuisine of content? Or is it everyone and anyone from around the world?
  • What is their main interest?
  • Is the interest high tech or low tech?
  • What keywords bring them from search engines to your blog and what does that tell you about them and their interests?
  • What keywords and search terms do they use to search once they arrive on your blog? What information about them can you cull from that?
  • What can you assume about people interested in that subject? Their age, lifestyle, habits, etc.?

Add this in with the “average” information from your blog stats and you may start to see patterns.

Then look at your blog and ask yourself: Am I meeting my readers’ needs?

You might be meeting your visitors’ needs and not your readers’. Which one is more important to you? And to your blog?

Haiku Blogging

haiku blogging
In this post Leo Babauta from Zen Habits explores the art of minimalistic blogging.

I don’t think there’s a blogger among us — from full-time Pro Bloggers like Darren to the part-time, trying-to-squeeze-in-blogging-around-my-full-time-job-and-my-family bloggers like the rest of us — who have unlimited time for blogging.

And yet, if we want to increase our readership, we have to find time not only for creating amazing content, but for responding to emails and comments, IMing with other bloggers, checking our stats, writing an ebook, monitoring our posts on the social media, trying to monetize our sites, writing guest posts, leaving comments on other sites, keeping up with our dozens of RSS feeds … you get the idea.

Blogging can be 10 full-time jobs, if we let it.

And yet, we should not let it take up all our time. Sure, if we’re passionate about blogging, we want to do it as much as possible … but who among us doesn’t have a life outside blogging? Who among us doesn’t have other things to do, loved ones to spend time with, other commitments?

We can’t let blogging take up all of our time. We have to set limits.

Amazingly, by setting limits, we become more effective and more powerful, not less.

It’s the effect of setting limits: given a finite amount of time or tasks, we are forced to make choices, and choose only the essential. We are forced to eliminate the non-essential, and only do those things that are most effective.

I often write about productivity on my blog, Zen Habits, and I applied this principle in my post on Haiku Productivity: limit your tasks and projects and emails and so forth in order to be more effective, more productive, and do more in less time.

It works for me, tremendously: I’m able to limit what I do, and still get the essential stuff done. As a result, I not only have time for a full-time job, but I run a pretty popular blog, I do freelance writing on the side, I do a lot of guest posts, I exercise, and I have a wife and six kids. All as a result of setting limits.

Today, we’ll look at how to apply these principles to blogging: Haiku Blogging.

What is Haiku Blogging?

Think about the haiku — the Japanese form of poetry of three lines and 14 syllables. It’s an extremely limited form of poetry, and yet it can be among the most powerful. That’s because the haiku poet is forced to choose only the most essential words to the concept or image he’s trying to convey. Only those words that will do the most for his purpose. The essential words.

Sure, any poet could do that in other types of poetry … but the power of the haiku is that its form is extremely limited … forcing the poet to make choices. In other poetry forms, the poet can make those choices if he wants … or can decide to ramble on for pages and pages.

So let’s apply that concept to blogging: limit what you do, to force yourself to make choices, and to choose only the essential. Set limits for everything you do.

This will force you to think about what actions you take that have the most impact. I have some suggestions below.

How Haiku Blogging Works

How you apply the concept of Haiku Blogging will depend on you, your blog, what your goals are, the rest of your life, etc. But here are some suggestions of how to apply the concept of Haiku Blogging to your blogging:

  1. Limit your blogging hours. Probably the most important on this list. What limits you set on yourself depend on your personal situation, but you should set a limit on the hours per day or per week that you blog. You might even limit the number of days you blog. And don’t just limit your writing time, but the time you spend on any blogging task. Effect: This will force you to choose the most important tasks and eliminate the chaff.
  2. Limit communication. If we allow them, email and IM and the phone and Twitter and other forms of communication will take up our entire day. Don’t allow them to do so. Set a number of times you’ll do email (I suggest twice a day), and a specific time when you’ll do IM and phone calls (say, an hour a day?). Effect: this will force you to communicate effectively, and give you distraction-free work time the rest of the day.
  3. Limit promotional activities. This includes commenting on other blogs, promoting your site on social bookmarking sites like Digg, emailing other bloggers, writing guest posts, etc. I suggest you limit yourself to 3 things per day (or fewer). Effect: This will force you to consider what activities will do the most to promote your blog … which will give you the most bang for your time.
  4. Limit stat checking. To a certain time of day. Perhaps once in the morning, for 10 minutes. No more than that! If you want to make it twice a day, fine … but checking your stats (and ad earnings) all day long is not productive, and is a waste of time. I’m guilt of it, just like any of us, but truthfully I know that it doesn’t help at all. Effect: eliminate a lot of useless time, freeing you up to actually write great content.

There are probably more things you can think of, but you get the idea.

The most essential blogging tasks

So this discussion of limiting yourself to the essential brings up the question: so what are the most essential blogging tasks?

There’s no one right answer to this question, as it will vary from blogger to blogger and depending on the blog and your goals. However, I’d like to submit my top 5 essential blogging tasks (in order):

1. Writing great, useful content
Writing content for your blog should always be the top priority. All the rest is extra compared to this. You need to create a reason for people to come to your site — well-written, concise, useful posts.

2. Interacting with readers
I never consider responding to comments or emails a waste of my time. Why? Because by interacting with readers, I am building a relationship with them, one that will last for a long time and keep them coming back. And to be honest, I enjoy this interaction and my relationship with readers very much. It keeps it fun.

3. Writing guest posts
Aside from great, useful content on your own site, having great useful content as a guest post on another blog is the best way to promote your blog and attract new readers. By far. Give away your best stuff to other bloggers, and you’ll see an increase in readership.

4. Networking with bloggers
I’ve developed some friendships with fellow bloggers that are among the most rewarding in my life. Bloggers are amazing people, in general. And your relationship with other bloggers can pay off, in the long run, with some collaborative efforts that can help both your blogs. Get away from thinking of other bloggers as competitors … helping out another blogger only helps you out in the long run.

5. Social bookmarking
Let’s face it … it’s a thrill to have one of your posts make it big on any social bookmarking site (Digg, delicious, StumbleUpon, reddit, Netscape, etc.) … and while there’s a very limited amount we can do to help our posts out, if there is anything we can do, it might be worth the effort. Best thing you can do: start out with a great post with a great headline.

Are there other important blogging tasks? Of course there are. But by identifying the most essential (and they may be different for you), you help ensure that you’re spending your blogging time in the most effective way possible.

How I Make Money Blogging

How I Make Money BloggingBelow you’ll find my latest update on how I make money blogging (this is something I post about every few months – although it’s been a over six months since I last did it ).

Also note – I go into a lot of detail on how I make money blogging in ProBlogger the Book.

How Much Money Do I Make from Blogging?

I get asked how much money my blogging makes me on a regular basis. These days I don’t go into specifics about it – all I will say is that it continues to be well over six figures per year (but less than seven figures). What you’ll find below are my top income streams – ranked from highest earnings to lowest.

Keep in mind that this is a summary of all of my blogs (not just ProBlogger). It does not include any income that I earn from b5media where I’m paid a salary as VP Training.

I hope you find it useful to see the mix and variety of ways that I earn a living from blogging.

1. AdSense

AdsenseDespite not using it here at ProBlogger any more I continue to use AdSense with real effect on my other blogs. While I do use AdSense Referrals and their search feature it is their normal ads that work best for me. I have them all set to show image and text based ads and find that 250×300 pixel ads work best (usually with a blended design).

2. Chitika

ChitikaLast time I did this sort of summary Chitika ranked #1. This time around it has been overtaken by AdSense – not because Chitika slipped in how much it earned but because AdSense went up and because I also replaced a few Chitika ad units with WidgetBucks ones. Chitika offers a range of ad units that I experiment with. I find their eMiniMalls work best and that Related Product Units are also good. Their Shoplincs product isn’t performing as well as it once did for me – mainly because I’ve been promoting it less and have driven less traffic to it. Over the time I’ve been using Chitika they’ve now earned me over a quarter of a million dollars!

3. Amazon Associates

Amazon-Logo-1
This has been one of my big movers in the last 12 months. I used to make a few odd dollars from it – however in recent times it has become a significant earner for me (as I’ve shared previously). This quarter it overtook TLA as my third biggest earner – largely on the back of me directing traffic to Amazon from my product related sites – mainly digital cameras. While the commission on cameras is only 4% this adds up when those that you refer buy higher ticket items.

4. Private Ad Sales/Sponsorships

private-ad-salesThis includes ad sales of the 125 x 125 ads here at ProBlogger as well as a couple of private ad deals that I did with sponsors on my camera blog (including sponsorships with Canon, Kodak and Adobe). This area has jumped up since last time also as a result of the new design here at ProBlogger and our expanded sales team at b5 who now sell ProBlogger’s ads for me.

5. Text Link Ads

TlaThe income from TLA has dipped slightly over the last few months simply because I took the decision to stop selling them here at ProBlogger and most of my other blogs. This was because I wanted to focus more upon selling the 125 pixel ads instead and felt that the ads I was attracting were not as relevant to this site as they could have been. As it turns out this might have been a good move because it seems Google has been penalizing blogs that run them lately.

6. ProBlogger Job Boards

Jobboardheader The job boards here at ProBlogger continue to grow each month in the number of advertisements that are being bought. This enabled me to invest most of the money that they’d earned a while back into getting a new back end for the boards and to redesign them. It hit me today that the boards are now bringing in around $1000 a month in revenue which is pretty nice considering that they are now so low maintenance to run! I’ve just given a development team a new brief to expand the job boards in the coming month so stay tuned for some new features coming soon which could see this revenue increase and more importantly for it to become an even more useful resource to readers.

7. Miscellaneous Affiliate Programs

miscellaneous affiliate programsI run a variety of affiliate programs on my blogs – most of which bring in smaller amounts of money that don’t really justify a category of their own. These include – - Digital Photography Secrets (a camera technique series), Pro Photo Secrets (a great photoshop product) , Yaro’s Blog Mastermind Mentoring Program, SEO Book (Aaron’s legendary resource). This area is set to continue to grow in the current quarter with me having had reasonable conversions from the promotion of the excellent Teaching Sells course.

8. Miscellaneous Advertising Programs

miscellaneous ad networksI also play with a number of other ad networks. Some I run as tests to see if I should review them here – and some are just advertising that run in the background on some of my smaller blogs. These include AuctionAds, Feedburner RSS ads, Vizu (a poll advertising system), Kontera and Bidvertiser. Together these don’t add up to major earnings for me – not because they are not good, but because I don’t use them heavily (a blog can only run so many ads on it).

I think that that covers most of it. Since last quarter I’ve also been experimenting with WidgetBucks as well as one other ad system that is still in a closed beta test. I’m certain that WidgetBucks will feature in next quarter’s list because I am getting good returns on that so far. In fact at it’s current earnings it’ll debut at at least number 4 on the list and perhaps even at number 3.

How Much do I Spend?

As mentioned last time – I don’t spend a lot of money in order to bring in my income. I do have some basic blogging costs (hosting etc) and play around with a limited amount of advertising (AdWords and StumbleUpon) but rely more heavily upon word of mouth and organic ways of drawing income into my blogs. I also have some costs in paying writers on a couple of blogs – but these don’t make up a massive part of the overall earnings each quarter.

Want to Learn More about How to Make Money Blogging?

Check out these resources that have been written specifically for bloggers wanting to make money blogging.

How to Transform Readers Into Raving Fans

Keeping You Posted by Skellie

In this post regular contributer Skellie from Skelliewag.org explains how you can turn readers into fans.

The notion of ‘raving fans’ brings to mind a screaming crowd at a Beatles concert. For bloggers, a more accurate version of a ‘raving fan’ is someone who raves about you — recommending your stuff to anyone who will listen.

In this post I want to explain how you can use your content to create a kind of friendship between you and your readers. As much as they might love your blog, it’s almost impossible to form a meaningful connection with information and writing alone.

As humans, we connect easily and naturally with other people. Put yourself into what you write and readers will connect with you.

Why having fans of your own is important

  • Readers with a personal affection for you will consistently treat you with respect.
  • Readers who like you will stick by you when times are tough.
  • They’re more likely to speak highly of you to others.
  • They’ll be more accepting of your faults.
  • They’ll come with you when you move on to new things.
  • They’re more likely to trust your recommendations or buy from you. This can help you make money blogging.

How to help readers become fans

A useful starting point for us is to look at how we form relationships with new people in face-to-face situations. One thing you might have noticed is that we tend to like or dislike others based on how they make us feel about ourselves.

We can spend a lot of time with someone but feel very little closeness to them if they make us feel a bit stupid, or boring, or as if our views aren’t important. On the other hand, we can feel quite close to someone very quickly if they give us their undivided attention, entertain us and seem to enjoy what we have to say.

Another key in building relationships of any kind is sharing our experiences and personality: probably because both these things are completely unique to us.

These face-to-face guidelines can easily be translated to blogging.

Sign each post with your signature

Some bloggers do this literally, but I’m referring to other things that, like a signature, are unique to you: your experiences and your personality. You can inject these things into anything you write.

Some simple tips to help you do this:

  • Ask yourself: how does what I’m writing about fit in with my own experiences?
  • If you’re sharing advice, how has what you’re recommending benefited you?
  • If you’re sharing news, how does the news influence you or people you know?

If you do this consistently it won’t be long before your readers start to get a sense of who you are.

Write with humanity

Don’t let your readers forget the content on your blog is produced by a person not so different to them. You have friends, family, hobbies, work, loves and hates. You’ve made mistakes and achieved successes. You occupy a specific place in the world. You’re not just a mind plugged into a keyboard.

Let readers know about the unplugged you — who you are when you’re not online. You can maintain your privacy by using pseudonyms for friends and family and by not getting too specific.

People are good at forming relationships with people. Emphasize that you’re no different to your readers and it will be much easier for them to warm to you.

Some tips to help you do this:

  • Share how your offline life has shaped what you’re writing about.
  • Share how your family and friends have influenced what you’re writing.

Create selfless content

If it’s true that people like you based on how you make them feel about themselves, it follows that your content should always be focused on the reader. The content you produce must answer ‘yes’ to at least one of these questions.

  • Does it inform?
  • Does it entertain?
  • Does it help?
  • Does it teach?
  • Is it useful?

Use content to showcase your readers

If a reader’s comment sparks an idea for your next post, why not quote them at the beginning of the article?

If one of your readers writes a great article on their own blog, why not link to it?

If a reader shares a good tip, why not mention it in the next post you write on the topic?

These are a few simple things you can do to acknowledge and draw attention to your readers, which will make them feel good about themselves and you.

Give more than you take

Pure generosity is rare. Bloggers rarely give without expecting something in return, whether it be payment, or a link, or a review. In my experience, bucking that trend can create incredible goodwill among readers. Here are some things you can do to make a fantastic impression:

  • Hold a competition and allow readers to enter by leaving a comment, rather than blogging about it or performing some other task.
  • Offer to perform a service for your readers and expect nothing in return. I’ve done this on two occasions and both times it allowed me to connect with many readers in a very positive way.
  • Give away a free eBook or report.
  • Write a post showcasing your favorite reader comments of the month.

Points to review

The key to helping readers form an attachment to you is by emphasizing the ways you are similar to them and making them feel good about themselves, often by entertaining, informing or helping.

You can also use your posts as a platform to acknowledge and appreciate your readers. This will help communicate your respect for them and, in doing so, increase their respect for you.

There are a number of direct and indirect benefits to transforming readers into personal fans and friends: more links, more comments, more positive recommendations, more trust and an incredibly rewarding blogging experience.

Give it a try: use your next post to implement a few of these strategies and start building your fan-base.

Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. You’ll find more practical blogging advice at her own blog, Skelliewag.