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How to Write Your Most Popular Post

What was your most popular post this week?

I asked this question on Twitter on Thursday, and got some interesting responses. The people who tweeted back blog in a range of markets—from personal blogs and finance blogs, to fashion blogs and craft blogs. And their readers are have differing needs.

Put yourself in the picture

Put yourself in the picture

Among the posts were how-tos, reviews, personal stories, opinion—all kinds of approaches. And the ideas discussed are as diverse as yellow pants, Excel spreadsheets, and portrait photography.

Yet all of these were these bloggers’ most popular posts.

The message here?

There is no perfect post formula

If you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ll have seen that a concept or approach that works one month might flop the next. While much of the advice we see online seems to suggest that repeating what works is the path to blogging success, most of us know it’s not that simple.

Each new day brings a slightly different world, and we have to continually adapt to meet the needs of that world, and the readers who inhabit it.

What worked yesterday may not work quite so well today. So while we can rely on some “formulae” or “secrets”, we have to continually evolve new ones, and test them, and see how they work, so that we’re evolving at the same rate as our market—maybe even a little ahead if we’re lucky.

In doing that, many of us develop reader personas—ideal views of the person we’re trying to reach through our blogging. While we all understand that there’s variation, these personas can make our blogging clearer, more consistent, and give it a stronger voice.

Still, it’s important to see the lesson here, too.

There is no ideal reader

While it’s good to picture an “ideal reader” and write and blog with them in mind, I like to remind myself that that person doesn’t actually exist.

All readers are different, as all people are different. We have unifying characteristics, but they’re usually outweighed by the differences. It’s the combination of similarities and differences that makes us unique. While as bloggers we can focus on the similarities, and use them to define our readership, if that’s all we look at, we miss a big opportunity to connect.

Each person experiences things—including your blog—in a unique way. This was very clear in the posts we recently published by bloggers who joined me in Queensland, Australia, earlier this year. We all attended the same blogging workshops, and we all shared a lot of the experiences that Queensland Tourism made available to the group.

Also, all of the attendees were bloggers who were interested in visiting Queensland, and had the abilities to win the competition we ran to find our attendees.

Yet if you read those posts—and we gave all the bloggers a similar “brief” for the series we put together—it’s clear that each person took something unique from the experience. NOt only that, but they applied what they learned in completely different ways with their blogs and readerships. No two bloggers are alike—not even in these five examples!

There is only one you

We’ve published a few posts recently that have made this point, including The Secret to Crazy-happy Blogging and Unconfidence: The Essential Ingredient to Crazy Stupid Success.

While the world may change and your audience may evolve, there’s only one you.

You—your unique way of seeing the world in which you blog, and interpreting it for your readers—are the glue between your blog and your audience. I know it’s more common to see the blog as the medium between yourself and your readers, but just for today, I’m asking you to see it differently.

See yourself as the reason readers are coming to your blog.

You’re the reason they’re reading, following you on social media, and using your blog to buy products, connect with others, share their experiences, and engage.

While none of us wants to get too ego-bound, I think bloggers can be more likely to overlook this point than focus on it. And that’s to our detriment. While your blog’s not about you—it’s about your readers—you’re the reason your blog is popular.

You’re the reason your most popular post is popular.

Success is down to the work we do, as individuals. So just for today, don’t look at others’ work to find some commonality, technique, or formula that you can apply to your blog to achieve popularity. Instead, think about yourself, and your readers, and know that the approach you create to meet their needs and solve their problems is unique to you. You’re popular with your readers because you are the person you are. And that’s worth making the most of in your blog.

Why I Switched Blog Hosting Companies (and Who I’m With Now)

One of the most common questions I’m asked about how I run my blogs is, “What web host do you use and recommend?”

Synthesis hosting

Over the past ten years I’ve used around eight different hosting services, ranging from the very early days of relying upon free host Blogger, through to my more recent use of Amazon’s Web Services. The challenge has always been that my blogs have constantly changed in terms of what they require, given new designs, added features, and growing traffic.

As a result, we’ve had our fair share of nightmares: numerous periods of blogs crashing due to load problems, and a couple of security issues that required a lot of time, energy, and money to resolve.

Synthesis Managed WordPress HostingIn the last six months, I’ve made a switch in the hosting of all of my blogs, which has resulted in the most stable period for my blogs in the last decade.

The switch was to move over to Synthesis—a managed hosting service created for WordPress users by the team at Copyblogger Media.

A number of things attracted me to Synthesis:

  • It’s designed for WordPress: All of the hosts I’ve used over the years were certainly WordPress-compatible, but when problems arose and I sought support it sometimes became apparent that WordPress was just one of many many platforms that they could work with. As a result, functionality and processes were sometimes were clunky, and to get set up well, I often had to bring in experts. The Synthesis team knows WordPress inside-out. Not only have they designed a service that works with it from the ground up, they’ve been very supportive in helping iron out some bugs I’d not been able to resolve previously.
  • Genesis support: I had recently moved ProBlogger over to the Genesis framework, which is also created by CopyBlogger’s StudioPress team. While they’ll host non-Genesis sites, their familiarity with it gave me confidence. I’m moving dPS to Genesis in the short term too, so I’m excited about having everything running on compatible and well-synced systems.
  • Security: I’ve had my fair share of security attacks over the years, so finding a secure host was key for me.
  • Support: I’ve got people on my team who are able to offer support on some levels, but the Sythesis team have added to this incredibly—particularly when it came to migrating from my old host to their services. Being in Australia isn’t an issue, either—their support desk is open 24/7 and their response time is super-quick.
  • Expense: This is the first server switch that I’ve done where I ended up paying less than I was with the previous service. While I’m sure you can get cheaper services, for the features you get, I find this service very reasonable in comparison to what I was paying. View their pricing plans here—plans start at $27 per month.

All in all, my blogs are now faster, more secure, and more reliable, and they’re experiencing just a fraction of the problems that they were on other system. I sleep a lot easier these days with Genesis and Synthesis!

Disclaimer: I am a proud affiliate for Synthesis and Genesis. They are two of the few services I use and have no hesitation in recommending.

Seven Traffic Techniques for Bloggers—and Metrics to Measure Them

Over the last couple of months here at Problogger.net, we’ve taken a tour of the traffic techniques that are essential to bloggers. While not all bloggers use or focus on all techniques, the ones we’ve covered probably make up the core traffic tools used by bloggers today:

Traffic

Image courtesy stock.xchng user angel_ruiz

I’ve used all of these methods myself, and I daresay that the longer you’ve been online, the more of them you’ve tried. The thing with traffic, though, is that it’s easy to focus just on our total traffic figure, rather than considering whether the traffic we’re attracting is right for our blog, or how it affects our other metrics.

So today what I’d like to do is point out a few alternative ways to consider your traffic levels. Taking a more holistic perspective of how your traffic is reaching your blog can open our eyes to new possibilities not just for promotion, but for reader retention. Let’s see how that can work.

Search engine optimization metrics

Most of us spend a little time each week looking at the content that’s attracting the most search traffic to our sites. we might analyse that content, to try to work out what we’ve done right, or the keyphrases searched on, to see which ones we’re ranking well for. But here’s a slightly different take, that looks at the keyphrases that generated the lowest bouncerates, as a way to get to know your readers better.

  1. Open Google Analytics, and go to Traffic Sources.
  2. Select Search, then Organic.
  3. In this list, you’ll see some of your older posts, but you might also find some more recent ones that have attracted a large amount of search traffic. I think that looking at these posts can give us a good idea of the information our target audience is currently searching for—the problems they’re having right now. To find that out, click on the newest post that’s in the list.
  4. Analytics show you a page dedicated to search traffic for that post. Select Traffic Sources from the Secondary Dimension dropdown, and choose Keyword in the list that appears.
  5. You’ll see a list of all the keywords searchers used to come to your site, along with other information (visits, pages per visit, etc.) for each one.

This is where things get interesting. We know that these days, fewer and fewer visitors land on our sites’ homepages—most are entering our blogs through deeper pages (check your stats to see how this works on your blog). And we also know that many people who come to our sites through the search engines may not be in our target audiences.

As an example, this post attracts a lot of search traffic to ProBlogger, but since he material’s of interest to such a wide range of users, we can immediately guess that only a small portion of those readers are going to stick around. The bounce stats on that piece reflect this.

That doesn’t mean the piece doesn’t target my desired readers, though. In among the high bounce rates are some lower ones, and by looking at the language that those people used to find the post, I can get some valuable insights about how the people who stick around phrase their searches on this topic. If I take a look at a few other high-traffic posts, I can start to form a clear picture of how these users search.

For example, that post I mentioned above, on setting up an email account that uses your domain name, got the lowest bounce rate by people searching with the phrase, “how to set up personal email on gmail.” When I compare this with some of the higher-bounce rate search phrases, like “use gmail with my domain,” I can start to get a hint about the types of people that that content satisfies. When I look at the other low-bounce rate phrases that were used to find other high-search-traffic posts, that picture really starts to take shape.

I could use this information to:

  • see if I can lower bounce rates for similarly formed search phrases on other posts by including key phrases that are written more like these ones
  • review the success of this topic with my current readership as a way to work out if these searchers fit with the larger audience I’m trying to attract, and…
  • …if so, consider dropping in some more content around this topic, using the low-bounce rate key phrase, to better meet the needs of current and potential users
  • see if I can use this kind of language to target more engaged traffic with other techniques, like search or social media advertising.

If nothing else, by reviewing low-bounce rate organic search phrases that searchers use to reach my blog, I can get a feel for the kinds of keyphrases—or, more broadly, topic-specific language, that might attract people who are more likely to be satisfied by the site as a whole. I wonder how this could work on your blog?

Content marketing metrics

Most bloggers are well versed in the process of reviewing their stats after a guest post publication on another site, to see how the post performed, and get ideas about what works, and what doesn’t, and how we can make our content marketing more effective over time.

But if we look at referred traffic levels only, we may not get the full picture of how effective our content marketing effort was. What about social shares and the quality and quantity of comments? Compiling a collection of relevant metrics for each guest post into a tracking sheet that contains information on all your guest posts can help you build up an understanding over time of:

  • which types of content work where
  • how (e.g. they’re readily shared, or the host site has a massive audience that always generates a spike on your site), and
  • why (are your headlines particularly great, is it that you always choose the right format, that your information stands out from the crowd, or something else?).

Taking your subscription levels and bounce rates into account as part of that ongoing analysis can help you get a hold on the other side of the equation: how well you’re managing the traffic that your content marketing generates, and where you can improve.

Looking at pure traffic levels can really limit your understanding—and the efficacy—of your content marketing efforts.

Online advertising metrics

At their most basic, online ad metrics are something we look at to assess the impact of our campaigns. If you use advertising as a traffic generator, it’s pretty easy to assess whether it’s working: just look at your ad service interface.

Once you know what’s working for you to generate traffic through ad networks, why not look to apply that knowledge in buying ad space directly on other sites in your niche? Invest the time honing your visuals and ad CTAs to suit the ad networks, and you’ll have a head start when it comes to creating ads specifically for the readers of peer sites in your market.

Those successes might also play into other traffic generation techniques—keyword selection, for example, which can play into strategies for SEO and content generation. But perhaps you’ll also start looking at tying advertising to some of the other traffic generation tactics you use. Advertising on a site as your guest post is published there is one example. Advertising your subscription offering or downlaodable, free whitepaper is another.

Subscription metrics

It’s easy to look at a rising subscription level and think “great!” but to get a clear picture of what’s going on, I like to consider it in light of overall traffic levels—and the proportion of that traffic that’s new and returning.

A typical increase in my subscriptions is good … unless traffic increased by more than usual over the month. On the other hand, a disproportionate rise in subscriptions when traffic growth has remained normal presents other questions. In both cases, I’ll want to investigate further—to see where subscriptions are or aren’t coming from, and work out if there’s something I should tweak to try to improve the figures.

These questions work well in conjunction with some of the other traffic stats we’ve been looking at. If my review of low-bounce rate search traffic suggests certain language or key phrases could catch new visitors’ attention, I might try a different call to action on my subscription page. If they’re coming from a certain other sites—perhaps as a result of content marketing efforts or backlinks—then I might offer a relevant free download for new subscribers next month, and see if that helps boost conversions.

Ultimately, reviewing the ratio of subscriptions to new traffic often prompts us into some kind of action, and in a way that looking at conversions alone may not.

Social media metrics

Analytics’ Referrals screen gives you access to a good deal of information about all referrers—including social networks. Again, looking at these stats alone is okay for finding out which of your posts is getting a lot of clickthroughs, but there are a lot of variables that can affect click in social media, including how the information is resented by those who share it. So I prefer not to take that information on its own.

Instead, I might compare the clicks Analytics has recorded on individual links through a given social network (e.g. Twitter) with the shares I’ve tracked for that article, to get an idea of a shares-to-clicks ratio. For those that got the most clicks, I’ll also compare those stats with overall traffic to the article for the month. This is a good way to get an idea of which kinds of content perform well in social media, perhaps even over a longer time.

As an example, a post that generated a lot of clicks through Twitter in the last month was Neil Patel’s Guide to Writing Popular Blog Posts, which is nearly a year old. A deeper investigation shows that the post was reshared at the start of the month, causing a traffic spike that lasted for a period of days as that initial retweet was re-shared.

So social media metrics aren’t just about what’s trending—they can also be a good indicator of posts that could provide you with strong traffic opportunities over the longer term, and perhaps provide material for use in other formats too.

Backlink metrics

Their SEO potential aside, organic backlinks offer a real opportunity for the blogger who wants to give their content marketing efforts more punch. For example, looking at your referring sites for the last month can alert you to sites and sub-niches that are relevant to yours, or of growing importance. It can also show that content that’s hiding in your archives is getting attention from others—and may be worthy of more attention from you, too.

This month, I found that this very old post, RSS vs. Atom: What’s the Big Deal? had been linked to from a tutorial on making an RSS feed of your Facebook updates. Although that tute was publish more than a year ago, it’s obviously had some traffic in the last little while—and some of that has flowed through to my blog!

How can I use this information to boost traffic?

  • I could do some interlinking and updating to try to reduce bounce rates from the new traffic coming to that post, and encourage more of these new users to look at other content I have on related topics.
  • At the very least, I could include a link to my own RSS feed in the article, since these users are obviously interested in the kinds of tips that we talk about here on ProBlogger, and are comfortable with RSS.
  • I could compile a Facebook marketing guide using evergreen content from my blog and use it as an incentive to encourage these visitors to subscribe, so I can try to increase their repeat visits to the blog.
  • I could create more content on that topic, specific to that audience need, and send it to other sites in that niche as guest posts (containing more backlinks of course).
  • I could ask the post’s author if he’d like to revamp and “republish” the post on my site as a means to attract even more attention to it.
  • I could offer the site that linked to the piece a sponsorship package for that article, and others like it on my site.

These are just a few ideas‚ but the options are almost endless for each niche and topic area. While bloggers may feel that they’ve lost control over backlinks following the last Google update, backlinks are obviously still worth paying attention to as an indicator of what your audience—and those in related niches, feel is valuable about your blog. And as we know, value is the way to build strong recurring traffic over the longer term.

Networking and collaboration metrics

Of all the traffic sources we discussed, this one’s probably the most difficult to track in aggregate. While you can count traffic generated through a guest-posting collaboration or a shared effort like a cross-blog competition or carnival, it can be difficult to gauge the full traffic benefits of these efforts even in the short term—let alone over longer timeframes.

It’s true that for some of the collaborative opportunities I mentioned last week—writing book, for example, or running a highly localised event—you can do some forms of analysis. You can track the time it takes to organize and run the event, and compare that with the income and subscriptions you generate from it, and traffic levels immediately following that effort.

But I think that often, the number don’t tell the full story here. These kinds of collaborative efforts can have far-reaching effects over the longer term, and often that impact can be subtle, or difficult to attribute directly to the event you ran eight—or eighteen—months ago.

So one of the ways I “measure” the impacts of these efforts is to think about how energised I feel by doing them. If you’re engaged with your blog’s audience, you should get a good feel for their response to these events and ideas. Are they excited? Are they telling others about it? Are they asking you questions about it and engaging with the products of your collaboration wherever they can? How does their response make you feel? Are you as excited as they are? How does your collaborator feel?

Answering these questions should give you at the very least a rough idea of the long-term potential of a joint effort with your blog’s readership.

What traffic metrics are you keeping an eye on?

The world of traffic generation involves a galaxy of metrics. But in truth, with all the other things bloggers have to do, few of us pay very focused attention to the details of our metrics all the time. For most, a general overview, supplemented by a few key metrics, may be all we go on most of the time.

I’d love to hear which metrics you’re paying the most attention to at the moment, and why. Are you looking at your referrers to gauge the impact of your social media efforts, or a guest post you’ve just had published? Are you working hard on SEO, and keeping an eye on your organic (or paid!) search traffic levels? Tell us what you’re watching in the comments.

Who’s the Boss of Your Blog?

Who’s the boss of your blog?

Neat desk

Image courtesy stock.xchng user furnishu

Who calls the shots, makes the hard choices, and keeps things moving in the right direction?

If you’re thinking, “me!” you might be falling prey to the kind of philosophy that prevents many bloggers from reaching their full potential.

Readers rule

What are your favorite blogs? Narrow the field to just two or three, and have a think about why you like them so much.

I have a feeling that when you look closely, you’ll find that each of your top blogs is one that you can relate to in some deep or essential way. That doesn’t mean that the topics have to be serious. Maybe your favorite blog is a humour blog. If that’s the case, I’ll bet you see a sense of humour and the ability to see the funny side of things as an essential part of who you are. I can well imagine that you love to laugh.

And I’ll also predict that your favorite blog delivers on that need every week. That it doesn’t just meet that need in tried and tested, proven ways, but that it edges off the expected path, too, to meet that need in even deeper ways you don’t anticipate, but find that you love.

How do they do that? And how can you achieve that with your own audience?

The answer isn’t just to get to know your readers. It’s not even to put readers first.

The secret is to let your readers rule.

Make readers the boss

Making your readers the boss of your blog can take something of a mindshift. The easiest way to start is probably to think about what good bosses do in the workplace. I’ve had plenty of bosses in my time—some good, some not so great—but in this exercise, try to think about a boss you really enjoyed working with. Picture them, and remember why you liked them so much.

The best bosses I had did several things.

  • They set goals and targets I needed to meet.
  • They helped me stay on track.
  • They stretched and challenged me by setting standards and expectations.
  • They gave me the help I needed to meet goals.
  • They reviewed my performance and helped me identify areas where I could improve, while also recognizing my hard work.

If you think about it, your readers can do the same things for you as a blogger.

Let them set targets

As well as looking at your blogging goals from a perspective of what you want for your blog, why not let your readers set targets for your blog, too?

Let’s say you decide that this year, you want to launch your first paid blog product. Before you go any further, turn to your blogging bosses. What challeneges are they facing right now? What tasks do they need you to help out with? What thinking would they like to delegate to you to make their lives easier?

If you look at your readers in this light, you’ll probably find more opportunities for product development than you ever expected. Not only will you identify the obvious needs but, just as with a real boss, you’ll be bale to intuit other, related areas where your help could benefit them—”If they need help with a, then they’ll probably be happy if I looked after b for them as well” thinking.

Let them help you stay on track

The more you spend time with your readers, the more real, and pressing, their needs will become for you.

Like the boss who keeps walking past your desk with an eye on your monitor to see if you’ve finished that report she’s waiting on, your audience can be a major motivator driving you to get that product finished, get that blog post written, get that new idea launched, attract more readers for them to engage with, and so on.

If you really want to make your readers the boss, tell them what you’re planning and working on. This way, you’ll be fully, publicly accountable to them as you would your boss at work. If you don’t deliver, you’ll have them to answer to—what a motivator!

Let them challenge you with standards and expectations

By making yourself accountable to readers, you automatically set expectations within them about their importance to you. That’s the most basic standard you need to meet—the expectation you’ve set through what you’ve promised them.

But again, spending time with your readers—looking at what they like and don’t like, understanding their standards for what’s helpful, useful, high-quality, and relevant, for example—can help you understand where they’re coming from, and what you need to do to perform.

It’s one thing to know that your boss needs you to report on something. But does he need that report in a spreadsheet or a slide presentation? Does he need multiple printed copies to circulate for discussion in a meeting? And what level of depth does he require in the reporting?

Similarly, your readers have expectations about what’s good, and what’s outstanding; what you can deliver, and what they can get from you. At the very least, you should understand those expectations so that you can asses whether or not your actions are enough to meet them. But once you know readers’ expectations and standards, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to exceed them.

Let them help you meet your blog’s goals

A good boss will give you everything you need to get your work done. Whole the standard to which you do that work might be up to you, your boss should at least provide the essentials—and be around to give you advice and direction when you need it.

Make readers the boss of your blog, and they can fulfil the same role. Need a designer? A translator? Opinions on something you’ve planned? Beta testers? Ask your readers first.

Not only does this approach involve readers more deeply, giving them opportunities to “buy into” your blog, but it can produce some surprising results and act as a fast way to obtain information you’d never have found otherwise.

If you’ve heard the term “crowdsourcing,” you’ll know that seeking help from an audience (or crowd) is an excellent way to innovate really smart solutions. You can apply that philosophy to your blog today by making your readers the boss, and seeking their help and direction when you need it.

Let them help you identify areas where you’re doing well, and can improve

If your readers are boss, they’re the best people to help you understand where you’re at, and how you can improve your work to suit them—and achieve greater success.

Inviting feedback directly, after a sale or conversion, through a feedback form on your blog, or even through a specially designed, periodic survey, is a great way to get a clear picture of how your readers feel you’re tracking.

But your ongoing involvement with them should give you an intuitive, gut feel for those kinds of answers, too. In the real world your boss will have a list of performance indicators she needs to meet, and similarly your readers will have real, felt needs that they’re conscious of. They’ll be able to see clearly whether you’ve met those or not.

But on a deeper level, we want our bosses to find us good to work with, a great team player, and an asset to them. This isn’t the kind of information your readers are likely to give you outright—you’ll need to infer it from the way they treat you and your blog, by looking at stats and comments and social media and backlinks and a host of information that, when you boil it down, lets you know what you’re doing well, and where you can do better.

Only by making your readers boss will you be able to approach that assessment with an open mind that’s not tainted by your own ideas about your performance. And the answers might just surprise you!

Who’s the boss of your blog?

Are you still thinking that you’re the boss of your blog? Or do you see merit in making your readers the boss? Do Have you already made your readers the boss? How has that changed the way you blog?

I’d love to hear your take on this idea in the comments.

How Often Should You Blog? (Hint: The Answer Might Surprise You)

This guest post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.

Writing

Image courtesy stock.xchng user GinnyLynni

If you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ve probably come across advice to blog every day.

Perhaps you feel that you must blog every day—and you’re reluctant to even start your blog because you know you don’t have that much time.

Or maybe you’re already blogging, and doing your best to get out a post every single day—but you don’t seem to get many comments or tweets.

The good news is that you almost certainly don’t need to blog every day. In fact, you may well find that posting just a couple of times a week works better for you.

But before you dismiss posting daily altogether, here’s why it could be a good idea.

Why posting every day might work for you

Some bloggers do best when they’re in a steady routine—and you might be one of them. If you find that posting once or twice a week quickly ends up as posting once or twice a month, then you might actually find it easier to post every day. That way, you can build a strong writing habit.

Another reason for posting daily is if you’re writing a news-focused blog in a fast-moving niche. One weekly post just isn’t going to work if you want to be on the cutting edge of what’s happening.

There are also some SEO benefits to quickly building up a lot of posts on your site: all else being equal, the more pages you have, the more opportunities a reader has to find you through search engines. (Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that in practice—one high-ranking post will generally bring you much more traffic than five so-so ones.)

If you’re going to post every day:

  • Keep your posts short and to the point.
  • Plan ahead, so you don’t end up publishing sub-standard content when you’re in a rush.
  • Vary your post types: try video posts, or image-heavy ones, for instance.

Why one, two or three posts per week is usually better

Over the past couple of years, there’s been a shift in the blogging world. More and more prominent bloggers-on-blogging are moving away from daily posting—and reassuring their readers that you don’t have to post every day in order to be successful.

Five years ago, there weren’t so many “pro”-style blogs around, and readers were eager for content. Today, with a wealth of blogs to choose from, readers quickly get burnt out.

I once surveyed readers here on ProBlogger about the reasons they unsubscribed from RSS feeds, and the number one answer was “posting too much.” Respondents expressed that they developed “burnout” and would unsubscribe if a blog became too “noisy.” —Darren Rowse, You MUST Post Every Day on Your Blog [Misconceptions New Bloggers Have #2]

As a reader, I much prefer blogs that post once a week or even once every two weeks—but always say something genuinely useful—than blogs that post every day just for the sake of it. If you look at the blogs you read in depth versus the ones you skim, you’ll probably realize that you feel the same way.

As a blogger, posting once or twice a week lets me write in-depth, carefully constructed posts—ones that are more likely to get links and tweets. I also get more comments per post this way, and have the time to engage with readers over several days of commenting.

If you’re only going to post twice a week:

  • Look at which content on your blog is most popular, so you can make every single post a successful one.
  • Experiment with longer posts, perhaps 1,000+ words.
  • Focus on evergreen content, so that each post will stay relevant for years.

Finding your perfect blogging routine

As bloggers, we all have different skills, personalities, and constraints on our time and energy. Don’t force yourself to stick to someone else’s blogging routine—it won’t necessarily work well for you.

Your perfect blogging routine might be one post a week, or one post a day. It might involve writing posts when you’re feeling inspired, or writing posts to a set schedule. You might use a content calendar to help you plan ahead with all or some of your content—or you might have differently themed posts on certain days of the week or month.

There’s no “one size fits all” approach to blogging, and what’s important is that you find a routine that you can stick to over the long term—not one that leaves you burnt out after a few weeks.

Don’t worry that readers will get upset if you change your posting frequency. I’ve chopped and changed on different blogs—and I’ve never had a reader complain that they wanted five posts a week, not three, or that they wanted my posts to be on Mondays and Thursdays, not Tuesdays and Fridays.

When you’re experimenting with your blogging routine:

  • Don’t change things too abruptly: try going from five posts per week to three posts per week, for instance.
  • Consider surveying your readers to find out whether they’d like more or fewer posts.
  • Experiment with writing posts ahead of time, or with creating a content calendar.

Blogging shouldn’t be a chore: if posting daily isn’t working out for you, it’s probably not working well for your readers either. Today, take a look at your blogging routine and see whether you want to make any changes—and leave a comment below to let us know what you decide.

Ali Luke will be leading day-long blogging courses in London from September 2012. If you’d like to learn more about blogging, with hands-on exercises and one-to-one support as part of a small group, book your place today. (Numbers limited to 8 people per session.)

Traffic Technique 5: Social Media

We all agree that social media networks offer a number of benefits to bloggers. We can build a following on these sites, make new friends and connections, and share, collaborate, and interact in real time.

Social media: a tug of war

Image courtesy stock.xchng tam_oliver

This is great—and there’s no doubting that sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, and SoundCloud offer us a real opportunity to connect.

Yet in terms of traffic, many of us struggle.

Getting traffic through social media might seem like it’s about getting users to share your content. But that challenge in itself raises all kinds of issues:

  • titles, images, calls to action, and presentation
  • targeting
  • how you respond to social network visitors
  • what social search could, to should, mean to you
  • your involvement and presence on these networks.
    • We’ve discussed many of these issues in detail on the blog, so today I’m interested in going a bit deeper with the discussion and looking at social media at a more fundamental level.

      Where will you share?

      We all know about shiny object syndrome, and have felt the temptation to join the latest social network simply because everyone else seems to be getting on board. This is definitely a case of reactionary blogging—simply doing something because we don’t want to be left behind the mainstream. It’s usually not the best way to go.

      Thinking about your audiences—that is, your current audience and your desired audience—and where they hang out online is the best way to choose the social networks where you’ll have a presence. But that’s not the only thing to look at.

      We also need to consider where we can best dedicate our time and how much we can take on. It’s all too easy to be overwhelmed, but I know that the more I focus my efforts, the better off I am.

      So before you launch yourself onto the nest social media platform, consider whether you’ll reach your target audiences in that space. If not, it might be best to hold off until you feel it’s worth your while.

      What will you share?

      This seems like a fairly basic question. What will you share? Well, your content, right?

      That might be fine in most cases, but if you find your audience on a particular network represents a particular subsegment of your desires readership, perhaps you’ll shape your updates—and the content you share—specifically to them.

      The idea of a social network being a mass communication medium through which we update our followers on everything we blog may change as the shape of social networking changes from mass networks to niche networks.

      So perhaps we should be prepared—by experimenting and trialling this for ourselves, starting now—to shape the information you share specifically to your following on a given network.

      This will likely affect the traffic our social media updates generate in and of themselves, as well as the traffic they generate through resharing.

      How will you share it?

      There’s good old, tried and tested, low-budget organic social sharing: creating an update (text, images, and/or video) and sharing it through the social networks of your choice.

      But now we’re seeing a bounty of other sharing options flood onto the market:

      These tactics can of course be used individually, but if you have a strong following and presence on a particular network, you might look at using them together, in a sort of campaign-style approach to gaining traffic.

      In any case, it’s safe to say that you no longer have to slog it out updating your status with lonely links: there are plenty of tools that can help you get more bang for your buck when it comes to sharing—and gain more traffic and, ultimately, build your audience as a result.

      That said, since they began, social networks have been important points of connection—so sharing all the time, rather than balancing those efforts with other forms of engagement (like responding to the work of others, curating broader information for your followers, making genuine connections and helping others out, and so on), is a fast track to failure.

      In this way, social media really does mirror real life. While social networks are great places to share, if your sharing is to be effective, it must be tempered by true engagement and a genuine interest in others.

      How will you manage the traffic?

      So, let’s say your social media efforts have been successful and your latest update is sending masses of traffic to your site. This is great news! If, that is, you’re prepared.

      Momekh recently pointed out the benefits that can be gained by building targeted landing pages for your social network visitors. He did this through the his network bio, but if you target your content—and share it—to certain specific networks (rather than blanketing all networks with the same update), you can take his advice a step further.

      This can be a great way to build upon the engagement you’ve established through your persona on a given network, and use that to make people feel at home on your blog. Why not create an article targeted right at your Pinterest followers—something that speaks to them directly, and includes a call to action for them to join or subscribe to your site? Then, share it on that network, with a targeted, specifically Pinterest-y update, and see what happens.

      The results of this kind of targeted communication might just surprise you.

      Of course, there are other techniques you can try. As you may have seen, sometimes I’ll include hashtags in posts and their titles, to encourage and frame a discussion about them on Twitter. I’ve found this a really great way to help readers to connect off the site, in a different forum.

      If those posts are shared, they can also help people who are new to ProBlogger get a feel for our community in a forum with which they’re familiar and comfortable. And once they start to feel an affinity with my brand, they’re probably more likely to at least follow the ProBlogger Twitter account, if not bookmark the blog or subscribe to the RSS feed.

      Do you track the results of your social media efforts? I’m intrigued to hear how you’re handling the task of generating traffic through social media—and what you do with it once it gets to your blog. Share your expertise with us below.

The Power of Personal

This week, we’ve got a couple of intriguing blog posts coming up that deal with bloggers’ personal stories.

Obviously, personal stories tend to do well with blog readers. But look around, and you’ll see that personal stories have become a mainstay of the media more generally.

Personal

Personal stories are big

We have reality t.v.—real stories about real people (admittedly in some pretty outlandish situations!). We have the social media explosion, where anyone and everyone has the opportunity to “go viral” and enjoy their fifteen minutes of fame. We even have a whole generation of people who are reputedly more self-assured—and self—promoting—than ever before.

Personal stories are big—and not just online, or among bloggers. So if you’re yet to experiment with the power of personal on your blog, now’s the time to commit to it across the board.

But blogging is inherently personal, right?

Blogging might have started as online journaling, but I think we’d probably all agree that it’s come a long way since then.

If you’re blogging as an employee for a company, you may not consider what you do to be very personal. If you’re running a news-style blog, you may feel that your job is to report facts objectively, not tell stories.

So, depending on the kind of blog you run, you may find it difficult to inject a personal element into what you do.

Personal isn’t always about you

What if you are writing blog posts for a corporation? Or what if you’re just shy about revealing too much of yourself?

How can you get personal without making it about you?

Simple: put the personal focus onto others:

Personality-rich post formats

Personal posts don’t just have to revolve around topics—certain post formats seem to do a lot to help us create a personal connection.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • The personality roundup: A roundup of personalities within your niche—with images and links—is a great way to give a human feel to any blog.
  • The interview: I mentioned this above, but your interview could use video and audio too—and be the better for it.
  • The image post: Images do speak a thousand words. The great thing about them is that a good image will elicit emotions from your readers, so often you can say less about yourself and more about your niche—and still create that personal connection.
  • The irreverent post: Reporting the facts in chatty language is another good way to create a personal feel—provided it fits with the tone and thrust of your blog.

Are you using the power of personal?

Are you confidently creating a sense of personal connection through your blog, or is it something you struggle with? what techniques do you use? Share your tips and advice with us in the comments.

Transfer Your Blog From WordPress.com to WordPress.org Part 1

 This guest post is by Ayelet Weisz of All Colores.

WordPressIt was finally happening: I was about to embark on the trip of my dreams—and I wanted to write all about it.

I decided that a travel blog, shared initially with family and friends, would be a great experiment to see if I felt comfortable with the format of blogging that I’d wanted to try for quite some time. I did some research and found out that WordPress was a highly recommended platform. I read about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, yet I wasn’t up for all the technical mumbo-jumbo that I thought comes with launching a site on WordPress.org, even if it allowed me to monetize the blog.

I opted for WordPress.com, thinking I could always transfer later if I decided that was the path for me.

Transferring from WordPress.com to WordPress.org looks easy at first

I read blog posts about it, I read explanations about it on the WordPress website, I watched videos on YouTube. And they all said roughly the same thing: all you have to do is follow these very simple steps, and then your blog is exported from WordPress.com and imported to WordPress.org.

What’s the big deal?

The basic process is supposed to go something like this:

  1. Log in to your WordPress.com dashboard.
  2. Choose “Tools” on your left-hand sidebar.
  3. Under “Tools”, choose “Export”.

There, choose the material you’d like to export. You can choose to export only your posts, for example, and create brand-new pages at your blog’s new home. Or you could choose to transfer the pages, yet start fresh on the posts front. You can also choose to export all the content at once—posts, pages, media files and comments.

Since I wanted to transfer everything in my blog to its new location, I chose All Content and clicked on Download Export File.

Selecting All Content

The file was downloaded pretty quickly. The file—an XML file type—appeared at the bottom of my screen.

The file downloads

My blog’s name is All Colores and the URL I had at WordPress.com was http://allcolores.wordpress.com . That’s why you see it in the image. When the download ended, I clicked on that box to open the file, which contained lots and lots of lines of code. Who knows how to read that?

Later, since I wanted to import this file to my WordPress.org blog, I needed to know where this file was saved. You’ll see soon that I needed to select it from my computer and upload it. But I didn’t know where that code was saved! It looked as weird to me as writing from right to left will probably look to you. What’s a blogger to do?

The solution is simple—at least in this case—so savor it: click on that arrow you see and choose to view the file in a folder. A folder will open up with a list of files, and the file you need will be marked—like magic! This is what you will see at the bottom of your screen:

What appears on screen

(Note: You might not see Hebrew on your computer—unless you have an Israeli computer like I do…)

You can make a note for yourself or memorize the location where this file is saved. I decided to copy it to my desktop, where I don’t have many wandering files and it would be easy for me to pick up during the import process.

Important: Do not delete your site from WordPress.com, at least not yet. You might need it later in the import process.

Big Deal #1: Get a domain and server, and install WordPress.org

You’ve exported the file and you know where it’s saved—congratulations! Now … where do you move it to?

Getting a domain is the easy part. That’s the www.YourSite.com URL. Just Google around for best domain sellers and you’ll find plenty of recommendations. I got mine at NameCheap, as I got a personal recommendation for that store, and it included some free protection with its regular sales price.

Next, Google for recommendations on a web host where you can host your site. If you plan on writing lots of posts and including many media files, it is best to find a host with unlimited space. It won’t necessarily cost you more. Another aspect to consider is that some hosts will allow you to use a large or unlimited number of domains. This is important if you dream of launching a network of blogs. Hosts will sometimes offer a one-click installation of WordPress, which will make your life a bit easier, yet I suggested finding YouTube videos that will guide you until that one click. For me, Hostgator has been the perfect fit these past few months, and I am also satisfied with its customer service.

Big Deal #2: The blog crashes after you’ve finished installing

Note that it’s best to do this process a few days before you actually plan to start working on your blog. While your site will usually go live right away, sometimes it can take up to 72 hours for all the systems of cyberspace to cooperate and recognize your blog. If your blog does crash in the meantime, you will not even have access to write posts.

For me, it took almost 48 hours. Those 48 hours plus all the technical challenges that followed added up to days. Remember, I had no idea what I was doing and therefore researched almost every move as I went along. Those days were days I cleared to write content for my blog before a busy month started, and instead, I found myself dealing with technical mumbo-jumbo. So register and install in advance!

This whole ordeal of domain, server, and installation processes scared me immensely back in July, when I launched my blog. Little did I know that you can find great how-to videos on YouTube. Just doing it would have you done with these challenges in almost no time—rather than taking days off your writing time. If you’re reading this and haven’t launched your blog yet, stop right now. Go get yourself a domain and a host. Trust me, the worst in this post is yet to come.

Once that’s installed, you’re ready to begin importing your blog

You can now access your dashboard from http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin. So access it and log in. Once you do, it’s time to start the importing process!

Follow these steps:

  1. Click on Tools on the left sidebar.
  2. Choose Import.
  3. Your screen will look like the image bellow. Click on “WordPress” at the bottom of this list.

Importing your blog

This is what I saw when I clicked on “WordPress”:

A plugin is needed

My Dashboard was darkened and I was required to install a plugin that would enable the importing of my blog to WordPress.org.

As with any plugin on WordPress.org, after you download it—which usually takes a second—you must activate it before it will work. The screen for activating the plugin will appear right after the download is complete. But if you accidentally closed your browser or clicked on something else, worry not: you can always access your downloaded plugins on the left-hand sidebar of the Dashboard. Each plugin that you activate can later be de-activate and even deleted here.

Downloading the plugin

I decided to follow the advice of WordPress and the YouTube videos I watched: I downloaded the plugin and clicked on Activate Plugin & Run Importer. Within a second, the plugin was activated. That’s right—no installation nightmares! How good is that?

Finally, you get to upload your file (good thing you know where it’s saved). Import it and then start working, right?

Importing your blog file

Wrong. This is where all the trouble begins!

First, I was concerned my blog might be too large, as it contained almost 2000 photos. WordPress asked me to upload a file with the maximum size of 64MB (64 megabytes). I looked at my saved blog file to see how big it was. The number I got was 2989. That’s way bigger than 64! But wait—this figure had different letters next to it: KB. That would be kilobytes.

What does this mean? I asked Google. It turned out 2989 kilobytes equaled 2.9 megabytes. If you scroll back up, you’ll see this information was given to me when it was time to save the file. Paying attention to details is important. What’s 2.9 megabytes compared to 64 megabytes? I was about to find out.

I uploaded my file…

Big Deal #3: My blog’s file version was outdated

This is the message I received when I tried uploading my file: “This WXR file (version 1.2) may not be supported by this version of the importer. Please consider updating”.

The file version warning

Well, I did consider it. However, first, I couldn’t figure out what a WXR file was. I thought it might be the file I just uploaded—that seemed to make sense, yet that file was an XML file. Could a file be both XML and WXR?

Second, I couldn’t figure out how to update the file. I searched on my WordPress.com dashboard and on Google and couldn’t find the answer.

WordPress tip: For any challenge you might be experiencing, type it into Google and you’ll find plenty of message board discussions that were started by people with similar challenges. Many of these discussions take place on WordPress forums, which will start showing up many times once you Google your challenge.

I found message board discussions regarding my file version challenge. I just didn’t find solutions. When I did find message board answers that seemed to be offering a solution, the language they used was too technical for me to understand and know how to implement. I didn’t have the background or experience necessary to do it.

Whether it was the “right” thing to do or not, this is what worked for me. I don’t know if this will work for you too. What made most sense to me was that the above-mentioned comment referred to the file I just uploaded. I mean, it wasn’t there before, it appeared the moment the file finished uploading and it mentioned a file! Unable to discover how to update its version, I decided to go along and use it anyway the way it was. After all, if the file “may not be supported”, it may be supported. WordPress did not obligate me to update—it simply recommended it.

For me, this worked. I had a bunch of technical challenges that you’ll read about tomorrow, and they may or may not have resulted from this decision. Nonetheless, the fact is my blog is up and running on its new domain as you read this. Therefore, this is the place to smile: there is hope!

Before you click Submit…

It’s important to notice two elements on this page before continuing to the next screen.

First, you can assign user roles and positions to posts during this import. If you do this, you might need to handle more settings manually later on. Since I am the only author of my blog, I decided to leave this space blank and avoid dealing with settings. If you have more than one writer, you will likely want to explore it further.

Second, you need to choose whether to download attachments. If you leave the box “download and import file attachments” (right above the Submit button) empty, your photos and videos will not be imported to your WordPress.org file. Do yourself a favor, check that box.

Then click Submit.

At last, you can breathe

WordPress is importing your blog file! Yay! Celebration time, right?

Import problems

Wrong!

That’s right: there were problems with this step too. Don’t worry—I’ll show you what the problem was, and explain how I solved it tomorrow in the second part of this series. In the meantime, if you have any WordPress.com to WordPress.org war stories to share, we’d love to hear them in the comments!

Ayelet Weisz is an enthusiastic writer and translator from Israel. She celebrates the everyday and extraordinaire joys of life through travel on her travel blog, All Colores. Follow her adventures on Twitter and sign up to her RSS Feed.

Traffic Technique 4: Subscriptions

From the marketers’ point of view, subscriptions are a loyalty mechanism—they’re the first technique we’ve looked at that’s most often used to build repeat traffic from people who have already visited your blog, and like it.

dPS subscription options

If they like it so much, why do they need to be reminded to come back? Well, we’re all forgetful—and we know it! By subscribing, we can make sure we never miss a post from our favorite blogs. We stay up to date on all the news, perhaps even becoming part of a community, making friends, and connecting with people.

Subscriptions can take a number of forms, but the three most common are probably these:

  • email newsletters (which, as I’ve mentioned, have been invaluable to me in growing my blogs and making money from them)
  • email autoresponder sequences (for example, a course broken into instalments and emailed weekly)
  • a forum or membership area of your site
  • RSS feeds.

Of course, subscriptions aren’t just for loyal readers—they can also be used to engage brand new readers, which makes this traffic tactic very versatile.

The one thing that you will need, though, if your subscription call to action is going to work, is that the reader has to see it, and to do that, they’ll need to be on your blog.

Your blog: the proof of your subscription’s value

Whether you attract would-be subscribers to your blog through search, content marketing, advertising, or some other technique, it’s important to remember that your blog is the most common reason those people will subscribe.

Sure, they might like what you have to say on Twitter, or enjoy your pins on Pinterest, but they don’t need to subscribe to your blog to stay up-to-date with your news on those platforms. When you think about it, asking a subscriber to add a new subscription to their list—given the plethora of memberships we all have these days—is a pretty big deal. So we need to treat it as such.

As we’ll see in a moment, a subscription is a great opportunity for bloggers to meet audience’s specific, deep needs. That said, if your site doesn’t already deliver on those needs—or their precursors-in some way, you may have trouble gaining those subscribers.

Your first job is elementary: make sure your site looks professional, trustworthy, and responsive to would-be subscribers. Does it reflect their values, interests, and needs? Does it speak to them clearly and directly? Can they see at a glance the kind of value they’ll get from your blog?

If so, you’re onto something.

Your next step is to get that subscription call to action in front of them, and make sure it touches on those needs you’ve already helped them identify. This comes down to copy lines and subscription boxes—but don’t overlook tactics like providing informational pages about your subscription offering, and sample content from the subscriber material, to further entice users.

Remember: you want to make it a no-brainer for them to subscribe. Don’t leave them guessing the value they’ll get from you. In my experience, your best bet is to show it to them.

My latest project, SnapnDeals, is a really simple example. The home page header tells you the site’s purpose—what it offers you. A little scrolling shows you a sample of the details of that offer. And at the page’s bottom, you see this subscribe box.

SnapnDeals signup box

It’s very simple, but as you can see, when you get to the subscription box, there’s no doubt as to what you’ll get in the subscription. The call to action just drives that home.

On the other hand, the dPS site offers two kinds of email newsletters, and we’ve developed a brief informational lightbox to explain the differences between them.

dPS signup box

Within the context provided by the homepage, this information gives a clear idea of what’s included in the subscription.

dPS homepage

For this reason, in-context signup CTAs tend to do very well on my sites. But if you’re having trouble converting readers to subscribers, see our series on conversion optimization for help.

Beyond the signup

Many bloggers focus heavily on getting the subscription. That’s fine—it makes sense—but to grow your list, you really need to deliver consistently outstanding value through the subscription itself.

Moreover, to generate blog traffic from those subscribers, you need to give them no-brainer reasons to click those links you’ve included in the email or RSS feed and come through to your blog, or spend more time clicking around your forums and engaging with the others they find there.

When we look at subscriptions from the blogger’s point of view, that’s what we see: subscription packages give us the opportunity to deliver content that’s really outstanding. It needs to be outstanding to make the subscription worthwhile and meaningful for your readers in the first place. But a subscription offer gives you the chance to get more deeply into topics that are particularly important, deep, complex, or interesting to your readers.

To take this one step further, if you want your subscribed users to actively use that subscription, your subscription material needs to continually reward them for subscribing. It has to anticipate their questions, preempt their needs, and solve problems they don’t even know they have. That sounds like a big challenge, but if you’re the kind of blogger who loves engaging with readers and knows what they want, this will become almost second-nature to you over time.

The easiest way to fulfil those needs is to encourage your subscribers to look at more of your content—through links, cross-references, and ongoing discussions through your posts and in the comments (if you have those turned on). Subscriptions give us a forum to reformulate and recast our existing content by showing readers how it meets needs they weren’t aware of, or, together with other pieces from our blog, provides insight they seek.

Finally, if the subscription is time-limited (for example, your offer is a series of four emails that teach subscribers how to do something), you should really aim to follow it up with something that’s even more compelling at the end of that timeframe. Don’t just let readers languish after the subscription material ends: you have an engaged audience at your fingertips. You could:

  • send them a survey asking for feedback on the subscription
  • up-sell them to a product or service that relates to what they’ve just learned
  • cross-promote another subscription product or offer that may interest them.

Don’t be satisfied with the fact that you know have this person’s email address on your list—keep rewarding them for subscribing with more and more value, and they’ll keep coming back. In this way, those valuable subscribers can form the bedrock of traffic from which you can build new visitor numbers, and traffic growth, upon.

Do you use subscriptions to grow traffic to your blog? Tell us how in the comments.