Close
Close

5 Ways to Use Images to Make Your Posts Irresistible

This week on #blogchat on Twitter, we discussed the use of images in blog posts, and I thought that some of the advice we covered there might be useful for you too. So here are my top tips for using images in your blog posts.

1. Use an image per post

At Digital Photography School, I include an image at the top of every post.

This provides a visual point of interest that draws people to read the post. Whilst the audience is particularly visually oriented, I think this is true across the board. The web is filled with rich media, and great images now. So the more you can do to make text-based posts visually appealing, the better.

In fact, some of our most shared posts on dPS are composed almost entirely of images, with little to no text at all.  Take a look at the stats on your blog for posts with images, and compare them with posts that don’t have images. You might find that the former do better with readers. They’ll almost certainly be more likely to be shared.

Eye

Image courtesy stock.xchng user L-O-L-A


2. Use images to draw the eye

Using an image at the post’s top is a default for dPS, but we also often images later in posts, too. In this way, they act almost like sub-headings to draw people down the page, and keep them engaged throughout the post.

Not only do those later images catch attention, they provide visual respite for the visitor who is diligently reading through the whole post, from start to finish. So these images serve all kinds of readers—not just scanners.

I think the trick with this is to take care with the images you use. If the reader scans from the top image to a subsequent one, you may—or may not— want that subsequent image to jar for them. It’s important to choose those images carefully, so that they tell the story you want them to.

3. Use images for RSS

Images in your posts also grab the attention of users who are subscribed to your RSS feed. In that case, they can mean the difference between your post being read or ignored.

If you think images are eye-catching on your blog—which is already heavily designed and strongly visual, just imagine what they can do to get attention in a less designed, more texty environment.

4. Trust your instincts

I choose images for blog posts based on the feeling that the image gives me more than anything else. And I’ve really found this to work well.

Often here on ProBlogger, guest posters will send us generic clipart-style images to accompany their content, and we avoid publishing these.

The best images are the ones that evoke a feeling in you and your readers. Clip art probably won’t do that! What does are images that contain people. We’re human, and biology has preprogrammed us to look into each others’ eyes.

So I find that using images with people who are looking at the camera tend to be the most engaging.

5. Take your time

Images are important—and not just to those embracing Pinterest as a medium for growing their readership!

A good image is sometimes as important (if not more important) than a good title for a blog post. On dPS, sometimes I’ll take longer choosing the image for a post than writing the post itself.

You may not spend that much time on your image selection, but if you’re not paying much attention to it, I encourage you to build some time into your posting schedule over the next few weeks to source really strong, eye-catching, and engaging images. You never know how your readers will respond, but you might see longer visits, and more sharing of your content if you do.

Are you already using images on your blog? What types work best for you? Share your advice in the comments.

Curate a Best-Of Post that Gets Read, Used, and Shared

One of the posts I’m featuring in the carousel on Digital Photography School at the moment is the Best of dPS.

dPS best ofIf you haven’t compiled a best-of list of your most-loved posts yet, you should.

  • It’s very sharable: Take your best posts, make them into one post, and you can be sure that your readers—current and new—will love it, and love to share it with others.
  • It supports your authority: Posts like this act as a scannable guide to your expertise and experience within the niche.
  • It provides enormous value: A best-of really is a valuable piece of content for readers. That almost goes without saying!
  • It helps you get attention to great, evergreen content: If your best works are languishing in your archives, a best-of can get them the fresh attention they deserve.
  • It helps readers access content they’ve missed: It’s inevitable that readers will miss some of your posts. A best-of brings your best, most helpful work to their attention in a single, easily bookmarked location.

Now, it might seem like putting to post together is as simple as looking through your visitor stats and working out which posts have gained the most traffic. But there’s more to it than that. Here are my tips for curating a really strong best-of post.

1. Weigh the stats

The way most of us work out which are our best posts is to look at our stats. But what does that actually mean?

I think it’s a good idea to look at social shares and comment counts as well as pageviews. Also, try to remember what type of social media buzz the posts generated when they were first published—the kinds of things people were saying, and why. Finally, look at how long the traffic to the post lasted, as a gauge of how much it drew readers back again over time.

Different posts have different statistical profiles, and not all traffic is created equal. Ideally, your best-of post will contain articles that attracted traffic that converted (for example, became subscribers or social media followers for your blog).

2. Consider your blog’s evolution

The dPS post covered posts that had been published in the space of six months. While these were evergreen posts, you might want to include more topical posts in your best-of. That’s fine—so long as these posts still reflect where your blog is at.

Industries change, and so do bloggers. Something you wrote six months ago—and which did really well at the time—might seem a bit dated or stale to you now. Maybe your opinions have changed, or perhaps it’s your writing style. If you’re not still excited by a post, don’t include it in your best-of list. You want this to be a post you can stand behind whole-heartedly.

3. Review hot topics in your niche

When you’re choosing between good posts that all look they might make the cut, one way to narrow down the options is to look at what’s happening in your niche at the time. Does one post suit the current niche “climate” right now? Does it play into a concern, dialog, or sense of anticipation, and might it draw more readers for that reason?

Including a post or two from your archives that tap into current trends in your niche can really boost the discussion around your best-of, and encourage sharing.

4. Consider reopening closed comments

If you close comments on posts after a set period, you might consider reopening them on the posts you’ve included in your best-of when the post goes live. Allowing new visitors to add to the discussion on these evergreen posts can bring new life—and present-day insight—to these older posts.

Then, when other readers come across the posts in future, they’ll find the discussions more relevant to them.

5. Make sure the linked posts are perfect

Of course, you’ll make sure that all the posts that appear in your best-of list are perfect. Even if you’re the kind of blogger who doesn’t let anything make it through to the blog that’s not perfect, go back over those old posts.

This will give you a chance to reacquaint yourself with the material, so that you can talk about it with readers who ask questions via email or social media. But I think you might also pick up on one or two things that you want to change in each post. It might be something as simple as a turn of phrase, or correcting a link that’s become broken. But these small tweaks will help you get the absolute most out of your best-of post.

Do have a best-of on your blog? Tell us how you put it together—and what benefits it’s brought you.

This Week, Try Something New

In the last few weeks I’ve had the privilege to meet a lot of bloggers at various on and offline events.

These have been great experiences that have really opened my eyes to what others are doing on their blogs, and with their audiences. It’s been a great time for learning.

Trying something new

Image courtesy stock.xchng user milan6

But one thing I know I can suffer from, and I suspect all of us fall prey to at some point, is complacency. How often do we see a tweeted link and tell ourselves “Yep, I know what that’ll be about”? Or read a post title and mentally let part of ourselves drift off into a daydream? Or see a product and think, “That won’t help me!”?

Whilst it’s true that not everything that’s available online will help us, these kinds of mental blocks can really prevent us from learning new things. In fact, the things don’t have to be that new—they just have to be different from what we’re accustomed to.

For example, YouTube. Hands up if you use it! If you don’t, you’re probably one of thousands of bloggers who tells themselves that video isn’t for them. They’re too shy; they don’t look good on camera; it’s too much hassle; their audience won’t use it.

Well, that’s all fine, as far as it goes. But thoughts like this often do more to hinder, rather than help, a blog. The reasons I just mentioned are common reasons bloggers give for not trying new things, yet none of them has anything to do with what’s good for a blog, or a blog’s users.

Stepping out

YouTube is one example, but there are all kinds of ways in which we limit ourselves and our blogs. Perhaps you hate list posts, so you never write them. Perhaps you don’t accept guest posts, thinking you’ll lose your readers’ attention. Perhaps you’re scared to monetize your blog, because you think you’ll put people off.

My message today is: give it a try.

You don’t have to go the whole hog, and overcommit yourself to something you might want to change or remove later. But blogging is about experimentation, stepping out of your comfort zone, and giving it a go.

It takes energy to do this. And determination. But I’ve found it’s the only way to see what works to grow your blog, and expand your audience. It also takes some humility—the power to admit that you don’t know what will or won’t work every time, and a willingness to try things out before you make a judgement. We might not like to think so, but it’s true that we bloggers don’t always know best!

It’s too easy to sit back and say, “That’s not for me (or my blog).” This week, I’m inviting you to pick one thing you’ve never done on your blog before, and give it a try.

Pick one new thing each week

This isn’t my idea. I once had a friend who decided she was going to do something she’d never done before every week for a year. It could be to try a new food, visit a new place, embark on a new experience—anything was fine, as long as it was new.

I think this could be a valuable approach for bloggers who want to improve, expand, and grow. Pick a new thing every week, and give it a go. Obviously, you’ll want to choose something that suits your blog, niche, and audience. But within that realm, I usually find a lot of scope to try new things.

To get your started, here are a few ideas:

  • try a new writing style or technique
  • try following all the advice in a single post right through to the end
  • try getting in touch with a peer in your niche who you’ve never met before
  • try tweaking some aspect of your blog design or layout, and tracking the results
  • try a new approach to finding readers—something you’ve always dismissed in the past
  • try a new type of promotion to reach more readers.

These are just a few ideas. We’ll be covering most of them in the coming week here on ProBlogger, so if you need inspiration or direction, you’ve got it!

Hopefully, that list piqued your interest. You can probably think of plenty of other things you’ve never tried on your blog, but would like to. Grab a pen (or open a new document) and make a list of those things. They—or a step toward each of them—could also become part of your New Things list.

Why bother?

What I’ve suggested here does take work. But the alternative is to keep doing what you’re doing, day in, day out. Where’s the passion in that? To grow, and help our blogs reach their full potential, we all need need to break through a few barriers, open ourselves up to new ideas, and put in some hard yards.

But of course, on the plus side, experimentation is fun. Trying new ideas, and having at least some of them succeed in some way—however small—is a huge buzz. Most of the stories we publish here on ProBlogger aren’t about bloggers who know what they’re doing all the time. These posts are the result of experimentation—in fact, many of them are experiments themselves.

What are you experimenting with? We’d love to hear about your plans to try new things in the comments below.

Weekend Project: Take a Blogging Retreat

As bloggers, we all face challenges. They might be as big as expanding our blog beyond a five-figure income. Or they might be ongoing, like the challenges of finding post ideas, or clearly defining our niches.

Reflecting

Image courtesy stock.xchng user SSPIVAK

And we look for answers wherever we can: on our favorite blogs, in ebooks and whitepapers, at meetups, on social media, in our networks and with our contacts.

But all too rarely do we look inside ourselves for those answers.

You already have what you need to succeed

It sounds corny, but it’s true: you have what you need to succeed already. That doesn’t mean none of us ever need to learn anything, or buy any software, or do any research!

What it means is that your own drives, motivations, interests, and capabilities are what will lead you to success.

The problem is that online, things move so fast. We can spend so much energy simply trying to keep up that we don’t make time to look inside ourselves and work out what suits us—what we want as bloggers, and what we can give to those goals.

That’s what this weekend project is all about.

Take a blogging retreat

This weekend, I’m inviting you to take a blogging retreat. Today and tomorrow, we’ll tackle some of the most common blogging problems with a healthy dose of good old-fashioned introspection.

We’ll help you:

These posts will put you back in touch with yourself, and help you connect better with your blog, so it, in turn, can connect better with readers.

It should help you reconnect with your desires and goals as a blogger, and refresh your outlook on what you’re doing and where your blog’s headed.

I know how hard it can be to make time to do this kind of thing on a daily basis, so I hope you’ll join us this weekend to improve your blog in some unexpected ways, through our blogging retreat! Watch out for our first post later today.

Blogging in Brief: Engagement Tools, App Auctions, and Brutal Realism

This week has turned up some really interesting ideas for blog reader engagement using technology as well as creative content techniques…

Mini reader surveys … and more

On Eugen Oprea’s blog, we saw this handy little query form:

Query form

It’s made with LeadConverter, which you can use on a free subscription if you want to give it a try on your blog.

Eugen’s using it to survey readers about their interests, but the tool can actually be used for a range of purposes, including boosting conversions.

Taking a sponsored post one step further

The old-timey vibe on The Art of Manliness stretches even to their images. This post about equipping yourself for a whisky tasting is topped by a specially developed graphic that presents each contemporary item in an old visual style.

That’s a pretty great value-add for the sponsor—and really eye-catching for readers too. The Art of Manliness have a commissioned illustrator on the blog. What a great way to help build your brand.

Realism counts

Did you see Greg McFarlane’s recent post here on naming blog products? This is one example of a continuing trend I’m noticing around blog content, and that’s realism.

I’ve noticed realism taking over on quite a few blogs a media sites. It may be because we’re all well-trained to be skeptical of over-promising headlines these days. It may also be because brutal realism cuts through the chatter.

Here are a few examples of the kind of thing I’m talking about:

Are you using realism on your blog? If not, perhaps it’s time!

Showing off your best content

I spotted this great idea from Heather Solos this week: an attention-grabbing way to get readers to click through to your pillar content.

Here’s a screenshot from Heather’s home page:

The Home Ec 101 homepage

The Home Ec 101 homepage

I took this screencapture on a Thursday, and I have the feeling the chores list changes to reflect the day of the week. But in any case, who can resist clicking on that sticky note? It looks so real—like it’s been stuck to my fridge as a friendly reminder!

I thought the sticky would take me to a download, but it doesn’t—the content is a blog post, and it’s free, and you don’t need to sign up to get all the content. This is a great way to encourage users who hit your homepage to get right into your content, based on their needs. As a creative approach, it’s also perfectly in line with the purpose of Heather’s blog, and the needs of her readers. What a great idea.

Get appy

We’ve talked a bit about developing an app as a product for your blog. There’s an alternative, though: buy one.

Apptopia is a fairly new marketplace where developers sell their apps. While some of the prices are mind-boggling, some aren’t. Could this be a good way for you to add to your blog’s offering and help your readers? Maybe. As the Web Marketing Ninja hinted in this article, you’ll need to consider the maintenance and future development needs of the app before you buy (or develop) one.

What’s caught your eye in the blogosphere this week? Share any innovative ideas you’ve spotted with us in the comments.

12 Lessons from 4 Inspiring Local Business Blogs

Earlier this week I explained why every business needs a blog. Today I want to show you just how much potential there is for businesses to connect with their customers through a blog.

Spices

Image courtesy stock.xchng user zd

The blogs I’ve chosen here are all for small businesses I know of. I’ve tried to look at local businesses, so most of them are Melbourne-based, though the lessons they teach should be useful for any business thinking of starting a blog.

The bookstore

Readings, a small bookstore chain, has a very frequently updated blog that supports its online store. This makes sense, since new books are always being released, and there’s always something to say about them.

The blog is an important element of this site. Go to the site’s homepage, and it’s all about shopping. But shoppers can buy books online anywhere. As we know all too well here in Australia, price competition on books is a major factor in deciding where to purchase. So Readings augments that offering with personality. As a small book store, they focus on range and catering to the tastes of their specific clientele. Quality reviews are important, as are in-store events and promotions. The blog is an excellent way to support those goals.

Lessons

  1. If your industry is highly competitive, a blog can help communicate your competitive edge to a highly receptive audience.
  2. Take in different aspects of your industry—this interview with a bookseller is a nice way to go “behind the scenes.” It show off the passion that exists in the industry, and inspires a passion in readers, too.
  3. Use posts to subtly inspire readers to purchase. These posts are followed by links to the books by the authors discussed in the posts themselves—a great, logical, unobtrusive tie-in that would certainly boost sales.

The bakery

A cupcake bakery with two outlets, the Cupcake Central blog is interesting in that it’s so light on text.

If you’re not a writer, you could take a leaf or two from this blog. Images play the main role, but as you can see, they also really support the strong branding of the business. This is probably true with a lot of product-related businesses whose physical output is the strongest evidence of their brand.

The blog’s only updated monthly, to focus on recipes, promoting cupcake workshops, and giving attention to seasonal events like Father’s Day. Interestingly, video is also used to supplement the blog content. The posts may be few and far between, but they’re rich with visual interest.

Lessons

  1. Rather than trying to “come up with” content, let seasonal variations and your industry itself guide your posting schedule.
  2. Not a writer? Try video, imagery, or even a podcast.
  3. Let your blog’s design support your branding. Cupcake Central’s logo is echoed in the blog’s post and header design, as well as all the other pages on the site.

The enthusiasts

Probably the least “bloggy” of the blogs we’ll look at in this list is Motorcyclerides, a site that’s been developed specifically to connect enthusiasts—in this case, motorcycle enthusiasts.

It’s not a business blog as such, in that the blog doesn’t support an individual business. But it does support an “industry” of motorbike riders and bike-related businesses. And it’s a really interesting example that many business blogs could learn from.

The blog itself is on the site’s homepage: it’s the list of maps below the header. Each map links to the details of a ride that a motorcyclist can do on their own, or with friends. And each ride (or blog post) is contributed by a rider, rather than made up by the business owners. They’re great rides that actual riders recommend.

This makes the blogging task more about editing and approving content than starting it from scratch‚ and looking at the Suggest a ride form, I wouldn’t expect the site’s owners would need to do too much work to get the content onto the site. Riders can also contribute events to the site.

Lessons

  1. Crowdsource your content to reduce the blogging burden and expand the reach and relevance of your blog.
  2. Find good ways to link provided content that provide the greatest value to users. At the end of each ride listing on this blog, we see links to related businesses, events, and other rides nearby. That’s pretty useful to riders!
  3. Make your blog into a resource for your customers, and they’ll be unable to resist coming back again and again. A great way to build authority in your industry.

The design studio

A small screen printing business in Melbourne, Ink & Spindle runs this blog as part of a larger website.

The site targets “customers”, which in this case means members of the public as well as current and potential stockists of the fabrics that Ink & Spindle make. The blog itself is updated between two and ten times a month, and keeps customers informed of sales and events like open studios. It shows how different designers, customers, and other clients use the studio’s fabrics—which inspires other readers and undoubtedly sparks purchases through the site’s web store.

The blog really helps the studio’s owners promote their brand values: quality, aesthetics, social and environmental awareness, and community involvement. The great thing about this blog is the way it helps the business connect with the people who buy and use its products at a local level.

Lessons

  1. You can easily add a free blog to your existing website, and start blogging for your business in minutes.
  2. If your business’s product or service is visually appealing, use imagery wherever you can.
  3. Bring your customers into the picture with case studies, to inspire others, and reflect your customer focus.

Get inspired about your business blog

As you can see, small businesses in a range of industries and areas are using blogging to promote themselves online. These examples show that you don’t need to be a technical whiz to make this work. You don’t even need a massive online presence.

The main thing you need is a clear understanding of the ways your business meets the needs of customers or clients, and what it means to them. Using that as a foundation upon which to build, you’ll be able to create a strong, unique web presence that builds loyalty and keeps your customers coming back for more.

Are you starting a business blog? Tell us about the challenges you’re facing in the comments.

6 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Blog

Last week’s Blogging in Brief post looked at a really surprising business blog post. In fact, this was a post from a government body, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention—not the kind of place you might expect to have a raging sense of humor.

At work

Image courtesy stock.xchng user wagg66

Business blogging doesn’t have to be dull

Many business owners I speak to who aren’t bloggers scoff at the idea of having a blog. They look at their business and wonder who on earth would want to read about it.

But whether you’re a mechanic, baker, home cleaner, or a landscape designer, you can be sure that a blog could benefit your customers if you do it right.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at Dominick Del Santo’s story from earlier this year. His business—industrial dust collection solutions—isn’t what you’d call glamorous. Yet he tackled the job and owned his niche. Ryan Chritchett’s doing the same with his tech repair company blog.

You could do the same with a business blog in your industry.

Six reasons to start a business blog

Despite the possibilities, I know that business owners can have plenty of good reasons not to blog. They don’t have time, they don’t have experience, they don’t think it’s worthwhile—and these all seem like valid points. So I’d like to suggest some reasons why businesses should blog.

1. Most businesses think it’s too hard, too scary, or too much work

Your competitors are probably saying much the same thing you are about blogging. “It’s too hard. I don’t have time. I don’t even know where to begin!”

That means you have a great opportunity to jump in, get started, and engage with your target clients while other businesses in your niche are procrastinating. So do it, and build your competitive advantage before they have time to step in and take up the slack.

2. Audiences are more open to blogs than ever

Blogs are everywhere. The web is so chock-a-block with great content now that many readers no longer differentiate between what they call “blogs,” “news sites,” “websites,” and other content forms. What they want is to be informed and entertained.

If you can manage either of those goals through your business’s blog, you’ll be able to build a readership.

3. We’re more connected, which means more time to consume your content

Five years ago, at least here in Melbourne, Australia, smartphones were pretty rare. We might text or make a call while we were on the train, or waiting for a friend. We weren’t flicking from our email to Facebook to the news, following a link from Twitter, or clicking on an email newsletter to “Read more…” And no one, no one was reading an ebook on a tablet.

Things have changed now—and for the better. The web is constantly maturing, and so are its users. If you think your business’s clients aren’t too web savvy, think again. I’ll bet they use Facebook, download music, and read the news online just like most others. So this is a great way to get your brand and message in front of them.

4. It’s a great way to build deeper customer relationships

A blog is a place where your business’s individual style can really show through. Okay, you have a business card and some letter head, designed by a designer to reflect you as a person, and the professionalism of your business. That’s great, but it doesn’t establish a personal connection on its own, day or night, all week long.

Your business blog can do that. It lets you express yourself and your brand, and focus on the things that unite you and your clients. But it also lets them connect with you—through comments, feedback, and social sharing. The benefit is that you don’t need to staff a call centre to support this new method of communication.

With a blog, you can get closer to your clients than ever before—getting ideas for product or service developments, finding out what bugs them and what makes them smile, and unearthing new ways to make your business indispensable to them.

5. It’s an excellent way to stand out from the crowd

Put the points we’ve already discussed together, and you get a great opportunity to stand out from your competitors. The more you can differentiate yourself from the other suppliers in your market, the more reasons you’ll give customers and prospects to engage with your brand.

Blogs provide a great opportunity to support and build your brand, and explain and show what you’re all about. They also give you the chance to connect deeply with readers. The more you connect readers with your brand, the more you can develop your brand to meet their needs, and help them connect more deeply with it.

What that means is lasting loyalty, more repeat custom, and stronger word of mouth for you and your business.

6. Technology lets you do it your way

It’s not just consumer technology that’s evolved in the last five years. Producer technology has too.

You can create a blog in minutes, on a free platform if you want to. Or you can integrate your blog completely with your business website—again, using any of a range of platforms. And you can create and share content in a wide variety of formats—video, audio, text, imagery, you name it.

There are also plenty of blogging apps—apps that let you plan content on the go, access your blog remotely, and even publish posts from your phone.

The mechanics of creating great content have never been easier to manipulate. Blogging has never been easier. If you ever thought of starting a business blog, now’s definitely the time.

How will you do it? And what will you blog about?

Okay, so blogging takes time and energy. I don’t have the space here to get into the details of starting and running a business blog, through there’s plenty of information on the topic here, and in our ebook on the subject.

As to the question of what you could blog about, well, the sky’s the limit. Later this week, I’ll show you around a few great business blogs. Each of them is unique, presents information differently, and connects strongly with customers and prospects. Don’t miss it.

Use Product Promotions to Add Value on Your Blog—and Others

We get a lot of requests for co-promotions here at ProBlogger, and at Digital Photography School as well.

Sale sign

Image courtesy stock.xchng user Thoursie

No matter what niche you’re in, if your blog has a reasonably engaged audience, you’re probably the target for others who want to promote their new products. On the flip side, you may well target other bloggers when you want to promote your own blog products.

But negotiating coverage can be tough—and making sure the product’s promotion reaches the host blog’s audience in a meaningful way can be even tougher.

Today I want to show you how to do just that, using a great example from Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income.

The post

The post is How a Part-Time Blogger Landed His Dream Job—an Interview with Leslie Samuel.

Now, let me say up front that I have no idea how this interview came about, although Pat does say at the beginning of the podcast that he a Leslie have been friends for some time.

I do know that a lot of bloggers who’d love coverage like this for their products wonder how it’s done—even if they’re not personal friends with any A-list bloggers. So let’s pull this post apart a bit and see how you could replicate this kind of coverage for your next product launch—or to make the most of someone else’s launch on your own blog.

The post introduces a podcast—Pat posts regular podcasts on his blog—which contains an interview with Leslie, who tells the story of how he came to enjoy online success.

The post points out what’s covered in the podcast, and links to the services mentioned. It also links to the podcast, then mentions a special offer that Leslie’s making exclusively to Pat’s readers for his product.

What’s so good about this post?

Sounds simple, right? We all see posts like this all the time online. What’s so good about them?

  • The post provides valuable information independently of the promotion: The podcast is free. Anyone can listen to it—you can do it right there on Pat’s blog if you don’t want to download it. So any of Pat’s followers can access the valuable information Leslie has to share, without spending any money.
  • The information in the post isn’t focused on the product offer: Throughout the interview, Leslie tells a rich, deep story that’s packed with advice and tips. He gives it all away. Sometimes you’ll come across posts whose authors constantly refer to their new product or promotion, and some references aren’t always bad—often they’re necessary. But to make the product the focus of the post (or in this case, interview) can turn off more readers than it entices.
  • The offer comes at the end of the post: Pat makes mention of the special discount separately, at the end of his post. Leslie gets to it at the end of the interview. It’s clear, and obvious, which draws it to readers’ attention, and simultaneously lets them know that if they’re not keen, they can skip it.
  • The offer is provided independently of the host blog: While I have nothing against affiliate links (as you’ll know if you read ProBlogger or DPS regularly), promoting an offer in which you have no personal stake can be a great way to add credibility to the product, and communicate to your readers how much you’re focused on them.

From the guest’s point of view—Leslie, who has a product to promote—this super-credible approach to his story is great. He gets excellent coverage, which builds his profile regardless of whether people actually take up his offer or not. He also gets to make a great offer to a massive audience he might have trouble reaching otherwise. And he boosts his reputation as a guru without risking being seen as too salesy.

Pat, meanwhile, gets excellent content for his readers, and an exclusive deep discount on a product they’re likely to be interested in. This reinforces his position as a guru, too—again, without seeming salesy.

The message for host bloggers

If someone contacts you about a promotion they want you to mention on your blog, look at the potential value it can give your readers—and not just through the promotion itself.

See what gems you can get the blogger to “give away” in an interview, rich guest post, or infographic. Think about free value for your readers, not pushing a product.

The message for product promoters

Don’t see the opportunity as one for selling—see it as a chance to build authority with a new audience. What can you tell them that the host blogger can’t? That’s what you should share.

Focus on what’s unique about you, translate that into advice and help, and readers will automatically be motivated to click through to your blog, and take up your offer.

How to do it

This post presents great, unique information in a format that’s familiar and interesting to the host blog’s audience. While not all blog hosts will want to run hour-long interviews with product promoters, the path to the best opportunities is to match the key elements of the product that’s being promoted with the key needs of the host blog’s audience.

For the product promoter

For the product promoter, this means taking your product offer, and focusing on the aspect of it that’s central to your brand.

For Leslie, it’s about his journey to become a blogger—what it’s taken for him to build a popular blog from scratch. That’s what he wants to focus on in his coverage on the host blog. So he might come up with a few different ideas for exposure (through a post, a recorded interview, a series—the sky’s the limit when you’re proposing to help another blogger by providing content!) and pick one or two that seem to suit his brand and the host blog’s audience best.

Now as I say, I have no idea how this interview came about, but let’s suppose Leslie initiated it. He might approach Pat about the coverage, explain what he has to share, how it’ll help Pat’s audience, and mention the offer he’s willing to give Pat’s listeners if Pat’s open to that.

For the host blogger

For the host blogger, the challenge is to match that central element of the product promoter’s brand with the needs of the audience. So Pat would need to make sure that Leslie’s focus could be framed in an appropriate and really compelling way for his readers and listeners.

Of course, since Pat’s podcasts often include interviews, he may have approached Leslie about the interview himself, having spotted the solid fit between Leslie’s site and his own. He might have been the one who came up with the ideas for the interview coverage, including topics and questions, and approached Leslie with them. We bloggers are always looking for great content, after all! An hour is a lot of time to take out of a busy blogger’s week, so Pat may also have offered the opportunity for Leslie to promote his product as part of the interview.

Finding the right fit

As you can see, getting great coverage of a person and/or their product on a blog is a matter of fit.

The two brands need to align on some level, and the two bloggers need to work to make that alignment work in the best way possible for the host blog’s readers.

If you can do this as a product promoter, you’ll find it much easier to get really deep promotion on others’ blogs.

And if you can do this as a host blogger, you won’t have much trouble coming up with posts that really provide massive value to your readers, and position you as your niche’s go-to guy or girl.

Have you promoted someone else’s product through a post on your blog? Or had your product promoted through another blog? Tell us how it came about—and why it worked—in the comments.

Weekend Project: Learning to Fail

This weekend, we’re taking a different approach with our weekend project, and touching on a topic that I think is overlooked a lot in blogging.

Escape key

Image courtesy stock.xchng user michaelaw

And that’s failure.

In a world like this, where it’s so easy to try new things out—new social networks, new product ideas, and so on—it’s also very, very easy to fail.

Gone are the days when we’d get a standard education before we went out to work in a particular field. In fact, as I explained at a recent careers night, my Marketing degree was the first big thing I failed in!

…but it wasn’t the last. As I explain in that interview, I spent my early years in a kind of “chaos” as I pursued all kinds of different interests. Many of them didn’t end in great “achievements”, which I guess you could take to mean that I failed in them, too.

At the time, my parents were eager for me to settle down—to pick something and stick with it. We’ve probably all heard this advice at some point, and in some ways it seems very closely related to this idea of not “failing.” For a lot of people, simply following through with something—whether it’s working, or whether you enjoy it or not—is better than “failing” by dropping it. Dropping something is often seen as giving up, even when it makes perfectly good sense to do so.

So there’s a lot of baggage around failure. And this weekend, we aim to clear some of it out, so you have room to fail—and learn—in your blogging journey.

The half-full glass

It sounds patronizing, but I’ve found that when it comes to failing at something, a good way to stop yourself from focusing on the negatives is to look at what you’ve learned.

I know that can sound trite‚ especially if the thing that hasn’t worked out is something you’re heavily invested in—financially or personally.

But it’s true. I’ve started more than 20 blogs now, and obviously most of them haven’t lasted. Does that mean they’re failures? To you, maybe. To me, they were part of the proving ground that helped me develop the skills to become better at some things, and even have some successes later. In this way, blogging’s kind of like being employed—each job you take on helps you build skills that lead to the next job, and over time, help you develop a career.

Of course, within each job—or each blogging task—there are plenty of opportunities not to succeed, and as they say, you can’t win them all. If you did, you wouldn’t be learning anything.

Now, you might be thinking, “That’d be great—I’d love to know it all!” But we all have to start somewhere, and the only way to progress is through good old trial and error.

The important thing, though, is to learn from those errors, and to feed back those learnings into what you do next—or next time.

Surf the learning curve

It can be tough to handle failure—and in blogging, failure can be a very public thing. Even if your failures aren’t major show-stoppers, it can be really hard to persist when you seem to be faced with little failure after little failure. Sometimes we go through phases where nothing we try seems to work. And if we don’t know why, that can be very disheartening.

That’s why it’s so important to learn to manage failure as a blogger. At any one time, you might have several fronts to fail on—you might be trying a new ad network or a different post style, tweaking your social media strategy, floating a new product idea with your audience, trying to grow your subscription rates—the list goes on.

My approach is always to try to learn something from the failure. Even if I can’t work out what went wrong, I try to use the failure to direct my future efforts. So maybe I’ll try a different approach to using the same process or tool next time—or maybe I’ll decide to try a different approach or tool altogether, in the hopes of finding one that works for me and my blog.

I think taking the time to reflect on the failure is important, too. Otherwise, you can easily fall into the trap of just banging your head up against a brick wall, rather than thinking creatively about other ways you could achieve your goals.

There’s certainly a lot to think about when it comes to blogging failure, so I hope you’ll enjoy this weekend’s posts. In them, we’ll cover:

But first up, I’d love to hear how you handle failure as a blogger. Be honest—we’ve all done it, and we can all learn from each other. So we’d love to hear your stories and secrets for learning to fail.