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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.

SoundCloud: for Bloggers, Not Just Musicians

Have you tried podcasting on your blog?

SoundCloudNot long ago, Carol Tice wrote a couple of posts on the topic for us, covering the benefits of podcasting and how to get your first podcast up and running.

I know Carol advises against using a hosted service for your podcasts, but after listening to this podcast on—and about—SoundCloud, I began to wonder about the hidden benefits of using a service like this.

The podcast is an interview with Evan Tenenbaum, SoundCloud’s Audio-content Manager, and although it’s pretty basic, it is a good introduction to what the service offers for writers.

Why give it a try?

This podcast really reminded me of what we bloggers know only too well: online services that make technical tasks easy really do reduce barriers to entry.

By the end of the podcast I was thinking, this service really makes sound recording and distribution easy. If you wanted to try your hand at podcasting, this would be a great way to do it. Record something and link it from your blog. Simple. There’s no real learning curve and no commitment—if you decide you don’t like it, don’t do it again.

Also, since streamed podcasts like these don’t require downloads onto users’ computers, tablets, or phones, they set low barriers to entry for the user who’s never listened to a podcast before. So this kind of technology can work well on both sides of the equation.

As the podcast reveals, SoundCloud is its own community—like YouTube—so by hosting your podcast there, you can reach an audience whose attention you might struggle to get otherwise. Users share links to material within the platform, so it’s yet another way to build a profile and a following that you could easily lead back to your blog.

What do you have to say?

Some bloggers tend to shy away from ideas like podcasting, because they don’t think they want to make it a regular part of their blog offering.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be. As Evan suggests in the podcast, you could use SoundCloud to give your readers a sample of your latest ebook or training course. You could use it as a faster, more personal way to create a blog post than laboriously writing it all out in text. And as in the case of the example SoundCloud file I’ve linked to in this post, you could us it to record a quick interview—a great way to add value to an every text-based blog post.

Depending on your niche, there could be any number of possible applications for this kind of technology.

So rather than thinking of using SoundCloud as something you need to “take on” and “adopt” in your blogging, why not just give it a try and see how it sits with your next post?

Or are you already using SoundCloud to add value to your blog? I’d love to hear what you think of it in the comments.

Blog Comments: 3 Bloggers Discuss the Issues

One of the things I love about Problogger.net is the value of the comments my readers make here.

Commenting

Image courtesy stock.xchng user lusi

Although the days when I could reply to many of those comments are now, sadly, long gone, I do read comments on the blog, and frequently get ideas and inspiration from them. Not only are they encouraging, they’re one of the best sources of thoughtful, spontaneous insight I have.

Not all bloggers feel this way—you probably know of at least one or two big-name bloggers who don’t allow comments on their blogs. And it’s certainly true that comments come with a range of challenges:

  • time: it takes time to wade through comments, sift the diamonds from the dross, and then compose thoughtful replies
  • trolls: there’s no shortage of trouble-makers online, and it can be wearing to have to deal with trolls on a daily basis
  • critics: some bloggers find criticism made in comments difficult to handle in such a public sphere
  • stalkers: while this problem isn’t often discussed, inappropriate comments can be a problem—especially if they persist
  • spammers: if you’re an experienced blogger, you probably rolled your eyes when you read that word!

Of course, these aren’t the only issues you need to consider in terms of comments on your blog. Which commenting system will you use? Will you set standards for accepting and rejecting comments? How can you use comments to enhance your blog—and your blogging?

The articles

We’ll be answering three of these questions today and tomorrow, in a series of posts that explore the issues of:

Before we get started, I’d love to hear your approach to blog comments (Do you have them on your blog? Do you comment on many others’ blogs?) in—you guessed it—the comments!

Weekend Project: Write Posts that Hold Readers to the End, Part 1

This guest post is by Peter Sandeen of Affect Selling.

Do you know why most of your blog’s visitors quickly scroll down your home page, read a couple of headlines, and go back to watching cute kitty videos on YouTube?

Reading

Image courtesy stock.xchng user svenic.

And why those who begin reading a post, only read the first two paragraphs before leaving to read their favorite blogs—blogs which might not even be as good as yours is?

There are two principles behind the solution.

The principles are simple, but not necessarily easy. But when you do get them right, you’re much closer to your goal of having the most popular blog in the world, and getting an email from Darren Rowse asking if you could read his guest post idea for your blog (I’m still waiting for this to happen…).

If you write posts that don’t get read, you’re wasting your time. Your audience can’t grow, AdSense will keep making you $0.08 per month, and your email list’s reach will stay limited to your mom and your dog (for whom you created an email address to have more subscribers).

If and when you start to use these principles in your posts, you’ll see a shift in your audience; they’ll share your posts on social media, they’ll leave comments, and they subscribe to get more of your content.

Here are the principles you must know, to have any chance of making it as a blogger. Just understanding them will get you leaps and bounds ahead of other bloggers in your niche.

The headline captures attention

The headline is the most important part of any post. Why? Because people either read your posts or leave your site based on your headlines.

In other words, publishing a post without a great headline won’t do you any good.

There are three things you need to get right in the headline.

  1. The topic.
  2. The angle.
  3. The placement.

When you get all of these right, your headline will capture your audience’s attention and get them to click it anxiously, waiting to read the post.

1. The topic of the headline

The most obvious topic of your post isn’t nearly always the best topic for the headline.

For example, let’s say you write a post about weight loss—more specifically, about “man boobs.” You have two headlines to choose from:

  1. How to Lose Weight
  2. How to Get Rid of Man Boobs

Which one will attract more attention from the target audience for that post?

Grabbing attention is not just about being specific: it’s about using what your audience wants to know more of. Weight loss is such a general and common topic that most people wouldn’t dream of reading another post about it, even if they’re somewhat interested in it.

“Man boobs” on the other hand (I promise I won’t say, “man boobs” anymore), is specific—it’s probably not something anyone has read 100 posts about previously.

What if your topic is actually something general like “weight loss,” with no more specific focus? Well, you’ll get the answer to that in tomorrow’s post, so remember to check back…

2. The angle of the headline

Did you think it’s enough to just pick the right topic to feature in your headline? Figuring out the topic is just the start: you need to find the right angle for it too.

What is an “angle” in a headline? It’s the way you present a topic. For example: “Basics of landing pages” isn’t really that interesting. What about Stockmann-Syndrome – Don’t Try this (Landing Page) at Home?

The first headline may point to the same content as the latter one. But there’s an important difference: the latter is unlikely to make you think, “I’ve already read that.” Instead, it makes a promise to deliver something new to an old topic, or at least to be entertaining.

There are also really important differences between the words used here, even when they’re basically synonyms. For example, “How to” implies simple and easy-to-use-use content made for non-experts, while you can use “Learn to” with more complicated topics, and when your audience is better educated about the topic. “How to Build a Helicopter” sounds like a joke, but “Learn to Build a Helicopter” sounds like there’s something to it.

And one more mistake you can make is to ask a question people will answer, “No, I’m not interested in that.” Copyblogger did that some months ago, and they wrote an interesting post about the mistake.

3. The placement of the headline

What if you saw the headline, “How to Be a Good News Anchor,” here at ProBlogger?

You might click through to see what the heck it’s about. But you’re not here to learn about building a career as a news anchor. On the other hand, what if it said, “How to Look Authoritative on Video”? You’d be much more interested, right?

The context of your headline changes how people react to it and what expectations it creates. Sure, you won’t write a headline that far off the mark, but smaller details make a huge difference as well.

Can you write a headline that gets clicked?

If you’re up for it, leave a link to your best headline (or just tell us what your headline is) in the comments below.

Keep in mind, this is just the first principle. You’ll get people to start reading your post with a great headline, but getting them to read to the end is a different goal. We’ll look at that in the second post in this series!

101 Headline Formulas is a FREE eBook that’s Not Just a Great Swipe File; it also explains what should come after each headline to keep readers reading to the end. To learn Persuasive Copywriting, how to build High-Conversion Landing Pages, and understand the practical application of the Real Principles of Effective Marketing, check out Affect Selling by Peter Sandeen.

Is This Blogging?

I was really interested to read this comment from Pinup Style in response to our series on blog business models.

Woman blogging

Image courtesy stock.xchng user arinas74

Pinup Style comments:

“I was wondering what your position is re: another blog post I found on your site stating “As Michael Stelzner said at Blogworld, “You’re not a blogger, you’re a publisher!”

Call me old fashioned, but if one has a blog, why pretend it is something else? I can understand that ‘marketing’ etc., is a driving factor for that decision…

I have also been reading a few articles around the web with people saying that it is better to ‘not’ call a given site a blog at all (even if it actually is in fact a blog).

This might also be a factor (at the very outset) in a blog’s (aka ‘not’ a blog’s) chosen business model to make money?”

This is a very interesting question, and as Pinup Style suggests, different bloggers will have different opinions on this.

Kevin Cullis, who also participated in the blog business model series, responded to the comment with the words “You’re a blogger, you’re a publisher”, for example.

I think the descriptions of “blogger” and “publisher” and “media outlet” are probably a bit arbitrary within this space. As Pinup Style says, in the self-made world of blogging, any of us can call ourselves whatever we like. But Kevin’s point is that the way you perceive what you’re doing here—as reflected in the way you describe yourself—may have quite an impact on the way you operate.

Blogging has well and truly moved into the mainstream—not only are blogs publications in their own right, but the format is also being co-opted by major news media and other publications that need a format that presents readers with a lasting chronological representation of events.

Now, you might say that next to the BBC, your blog covering events in your local art scene doesn’t look much like a “media outlet.” That’s fine. But what if you lined it up next to a business blog?

I’m talking here about the kind of blog that represents merely one part of a corporate or business website, and serves a certain purpose—perhaps taking prospects or customers inside the business with posts by various staff members. This kind of blog might merge thought leadership with corporate games snaps and videos from an industry convention or meetup.

How’s your local art blog looking now? Is it looking at all like a “publication”? Are you looking like a “blogger”? A “publisher”? A “reporter”? A “writer”? A “hyperlocal journalist”?

You might consider what you publish to your blog to be “blog posts”—a definition encompassing what others might call opinion pieces, editorial, reportage, practical guidance, and features.

There are obvious boundaries that bloggers need to consider as they blog—no matter whether they’re doing it from inside an organization or out on their own. But the fact is that at the end of the day, we’re really just people connecting with others through content that we produce or have produced for us.

Beyond that, you can call it whatever you like!

Traffic Technique 1: Search Engine Optimization

If you’re one of the thousands of bloggers out there who’s trying to generate the right kind of blog traffic, you’ve probably felt a bit bewildered at some point.

I know I have. Some days I’ve sat down at my computer and literally haven’t known where to start in building more traffic to my blogs. It’s easy, too, to fall into the habit of using the same old techniques over and over—not because they’re the best ones for you, but because they’re the ones you know and are comfortable with.

So, starting today, I’d like to take you on a little tour of some of the main traffic generation techniques.

Through the tour I plan to explain a bit about each technique so that if you’ve never really encountered it before, you’ll have a basic grounding in it. Then I’ll get into some of the more specific quirks of that traffic method you may want to take on board as you consider using each technique.

I’m aiming to cover seven topics in this series, which will run once a week, starting today, with the grand-daddy of all traffic sources: search.

Types of search traffic

Searching

Image courtesy stock.xchng user Leonardini

Search is the grand-daddy of traffic—and for good reason.

Firstly, it’s the primary way for bloggers to reach readers who have never heard of us, let alone visited our sites. Search engines “qualify” the traffic they send you, since they’re based on keyword and keyphrase searches that reflect individual users’ specific needs.

Search—and search advertising—can also be a good way to build a perception of authority around your brand: if readers searching at various times for topics within your niche keep seeing your site in the search results, they’re likely to get the idea that your site has a lot of information on that topic. This can make search a good way to stay top-of-mind with visitors who have been to your site a few times, but aren’t loyal readers yet.

Search can also alert existing readers to new material on your site—and to sub-topics that they didn’t already know you covered.

The right kind of search traffic

To attract the right kinds of search traffic, most of us follow a few golden rules:

  1. We avoid black-hat search techniques: we don’t try to scam or trick the search engines.
  2. We get to know the user we’re trying to target through search: by looking at the comments these readers leave on our blog or others, through our analytics, and by using the Google Keyword Tool—among other methods.
  3. We create content around the topics our target users have an interest in: and we incorporate the keywords they’re searching on.
  4. We do what we can to boost our online profiles: through a combination of guest posting, social media, encouraging backlinks to our blogs from other sites, and facilitating sharing and recommendations from others.

So while it seems like search is a technical topic—and I know that makes a lot of bloggers shut down before they even get a chance to look into it more deeply—in a lot of ways, I think on-site search optimization is, in large part, about relationships. The more people who talk about you and link to your blog, share links to your posts, and engage with you in various ways, the more authority you’ll have—and the search engines love authority.

The other thing I feel with search is that it’s all too easy to go overboard trying to optimize your site in a zillion different ways to attract the “perfect” searcher (or search), and to boost your search rankings.

Sites that use these kinds of focused tactics are exactly what Google updates like Panda and Penguin try to push out of the search results. Every update tries to remove “over-optimized” sites, since the search engine obviously wants to present results that legitimately, inherently comply with its algorithms—not those that are manicured and preened to match the algorithms.

The message from those recent Google updates is: don’t try too hard. I honestly believe that if you choose some good keywords and focus your content on those—following the golden rules above—the rest really will pretty much take care of itself.

Choosing keywords

Given the apparently infinite range of keywords searchers use, it’s often at keyword research that bloggers get overwhelmed, throw up their hands, and give in.

The best way to avoid falling into this trap is to focus your efforts on identifying keywords that you can adopt and build content around for the long term.

If you’re prepared to put in the time and energy to ride the cresting wave of a new fad or trend—and take the hit when that wave breaks, or a new trend catches everyone’s attention—that’s fine.

But if you’re simply out to build a strong, lasting brand as an authority in a less time-sensitive niche, look for keywords with:

  • longevity
  • a reasonable number of searches (when compared to similar keywords for your niche)
  • not too much strong competition from others in your space.

While every industry changes and your niche will inevitably evolve, the secret to ranking well in search is, as I mentioned, authority. Authority isn’t just about peer and reader respect. The search engines, of course, also look at the amount of quality content you have around particular keywords. They prefer to see that that content has been built up over time.

The upshot is that you need to be able to commit to some basic niche- and reader-relevant keywords that you can weave through your content, as well as other digital assets like navigation labels, link text, image captions and meta data.

Use your analytics and the Google Keyword Tool to find the keywords people are using to discover the kind of information you want to cover, and that they’re currently using to get to your site. Choose three or four keywords you want to rank well for and can commit to, and go from there.

As your blog’s authority rises in the eyes of search engines, you’ll be able to rank better for topical, less lasting keywords as well. That’s where your trending of fad keywords come into play.

On dPS, we have a strong ranking for basic keywords that relate to amateur photography, and we’ve established some strong authority (in the eyes of the search engines) around those keywords, and within our niche generally. So when a new lens comes out and we review it, we might rank well for the lens’s name as a keyword, because we’re already ranking strongly for the more basic, or generic niche keywords.

Finally, a strong keyword focus can help you more easily—and intelligently—select keywords for advertising, if that’s a route you decide to go down.

Satisfying searchers

The other side of the freelancing coin is, of course, what happens when those searchers click through form the search engine to your site.

If you’ve done your target audience research well, you should be able to produce content that truly does meet their needs. That’s great—but after they’ve read it, will they simply hit the Back button, or close the tab?

Landing page quality is very important for these searchers, and it’s an ongoing challenge for bloggers. The “landing page” will in many cases be an internal page of your blog, not the home page. We need to optimize our content page layouts so that they keep reader attention, drawing people through to more content that relates to their expressed need.

There’s a basic philosophy that says that the more a reader is compelled to do on your blog—the more they engage with it—the more likely they’ll be to come back. So there’s a common suite of tactics that blog owners use to prompt readers to action, which includes:

  • invitations to make comments, or rate the content
  • calls to action to share the content via social media or email
  • encouragement to comment on the content
  • suggested further reading on the same blog
  • links to more information about the blog
  • invitations to subscribe the blog via email or RSS

Of particular note is social search integration. The more shares you can encourage on individual pieces of content, the better your blog’s search rank will likely be in the long term, and the more visitors it will draw overall—both through search and social media.

What’s your SEO strategy?

As you can see, my approach to social media is pretty straightforward: it’s based on building authority through content and community, not the more common, technical SEO tactics.

But what about you? How would you describe your SEO strategy? What’s given the biggest boost to your search traffic? Share your stories with us in the comments. And look out for next week’s post, when we’ll look at content marketing in detail.

Weekend Project 1: Fix a Mess of a Multi-topic Blog

This guest post is by Natalie Webb of Leave Me to My Projects.

You started your blog because you were passionate.

You wanted to write about everything you love. You wanted to inspire people with your passions and your well-rounded knowledge in all of your areas of expertise. You wanted to put yourself out there and bring real value to the lives of your adoring readers.

Mess

Image courtesy stock.xchng user shelead

The love spiral would continue until the internet was throwing money at you like a pre-fame Channing Tatum up on stage. And yet…

Your traffic numbers are decent, but people aren’t sticking around on your blog. They aren’t interacting, with you or each other.

They certainly aren’t subscribing. Your readers aren’t connecting, and you aren’t helping.

So you scour the big meta blogs (blogs about blogging) for advice. They all tell you that to be successful in the blogosphere, you need to niche down and specialize. Micro-niche, even.

Here are five posts by very savvy and successful bloggers that will tell you all of the reasons why you should pick a topic and stick to it.

It makes sense, right? Less clutter, more focus. It’s business 101.

But let’s get real, shall we?

You. Don’t. Wanna.

Anyone who has caught an episode of Hoarders knows they these people don’t set out to have the mess in their homes eat them alive. They really do have the best of intentions. They love these belongings so much they cannot bear to part with any of them.

Although real-life hoarders are an extreme example, in a way, you understand them. You love each of your topics like one of your hoarder feral cat children. You know that to have a happy, balanced blog and life, you need to simplify and get back to basics.

But again, you don’t wanna. Your blog is you. It is your home, where you keep all of your most precious projects, ideas and musings. So you plod along, scattered and disorganized, believing that your passion will shine through and earn you a loyal following.

But it’s not going to happen. Blogs without focus do not have sticking power. They will not encourage readers to engage, and they will not make you money.

After all, how is anyone going to connect to your blog and stick around if they aren’t even sure what you do? Are you even sure?

If you suddenly found yourself standing in an elevator with Darren and he asked you what your blog was about, would you be able to tell him before your short ride was over? More importantly, would he exit those doors interested in knowing more?

If you cannot sum up your blog—what it is about, what you do and who you are—in a nice, succinct elevator pitch, you probably have a big, idea hoarding mess of a multi-topic blog on your hands.

I’m here to help you clean it up. That’s right. You can have your blog, and make it work, too. Consider this your intervention.

Let’s get to work

To make your multi-topic blog focused and relatable, I will walk you through five steps:

  1. Taking a blog inventory
  2. Creating a customer avatar of your ìOneî reader
  3. A little self-analysis
  4. Keep, Sell, Toss
  5. Finding your unifying thread.

After that, we get to put it all together. Are you ready? Here we go.

1. Take an inventory

Before you can figure out what you need, you have to figure out what you have. Start by making a list of all of your main topics or categories. Now go through your posts and find out two things:

  • Which categories seem to be most popular with your readers? You can use post comment counts, page views, or whatever metric works for you.
  • Which categories are the most filled out? While you may love all of your topics, there are bound to be some you do not write about as often as others.

Rank your categories in order from best to worst, but do not ditch any under-performing categories just yet.

2. Weed out your one perfect customer/reader

Much has been written lately in blogland about messaging and customer avatars. The idea is to write as if you are writing to only one person in the world.

Even if many of your real live readers do not precisely match this avatar, your messaging is clear, focused, and personal. That is what makes a blog great to read.

Danny Inny over at Firepole Marketing wrote an incredibly insightful post about this, complete with a beautiful checklist for finding your one perfect reader. You can get it for free by tweeting or sharing the page, and I highly encourage you to do so.

This is the sticking point for a multi-topic blog, isn’t it? Because you have so many topics, you have essentially been writing for everybody! How are you going to be able to narrow down your ideal reader traits to a single avatar? Relax, you don’t have to. Initially.

Instead, pretend that you have split each category of your blog from the previous exercise up into its own niche site, independent of the others.

Write out a customer profile for each niche, using Danny’s checklist. Do this for each of your main topics. Make a spreadsheet if you like.

Now look for similar customer traits between each of your niches. Do you see any patterns jumping out? Age, marital status, kids, interests, professions? Make a list of any traits that occur more than once, and how often.

At this point, you can start constructing your overall reader profile—the kind of reader that really does love and connect with all of the random things you write about.

But we’re not done yet. Now it’s time to breathe life into your ideal reader.

3. Analyze yourself

The common thread to pulling an unorganized blog together, surprisingly, is often found in you.

Pull up Danny’s customer profile sheet again. Fill it out again, answering these questions for you personally.

Using both your own profile and the list of most common traits, you can begin to cobble together a much more accurate profile of your ideal reader.

After all, you are writing this blog based on your own passions and experiences, correct? Why shouldn’t your ideal reader include a bit of yourself?

You see, that’s where the connection happens.

4. Keep, sell, toss

Now it’s time for the hard part. Just like any hoarder rehab, you are going to have to let some things go.

Keep: Set your new reader profile and your Inventory from Step 1 in front of you. Do any of your best-performing topics fit your reader profile particularly well? Good! Those are your absolute keeper topics.

Sell: If you have the time (and understandably, not many of us do) consider splitting off a topic or two that does not fit your blog into a separate blog.

Toss: Now you have to get ruthless. You’re going to have to do some soul-searching and figure out which extraneous topics you can let go. Chances are there will be one that you just can’t bear to part with. In that case…

5. Find your thread

Maybe that is your thread.

Perhaps you write a blog about crafts, DIY, cooking, gardening, hair, beauty, photography, wellness, and more. You have gotten rid of your Haute Couture and Blogging sections, but the one you cannot bear to let go is video games. Your love of MMORPGs is too intense.

Things just got real specific, folks.

Maybe your thread is craft-loving fantasy geeks. And boy are there a lot of them out there. Just look at anything Felicia Day posts on social media.

Put it all together: picture your publication

Everything is falling into place now. All the junk is cleared away, and the hoarder house is clean. Now you just have to put it all together so that you don’t lose your way ever again.

With what you now know about your reader and your topics, it’s time to find your message.

Your blog is an online publication. Start treating it that way. Sure, it may be personal, but it’s also your business (or so I would assume—you are reading Problogger, after all).

Publications, like books and magazines, have to have a flow, a layout, or in the case of magazines, an editorial calendar.

Right now I only want you to picture your blog as a book. It doesn’t matter if you want to write a book eventually or not. For this exercise, you do (and after this, it might not be a bad idea!).

Why a book and not a magazine? Magazines are ongoing, with constantly updated content, and are certainly more akin to how a blog works. But books have permanence. They can stand the test of time. And isn’t that what you want your blog to be?

  • What is the title of your book? Maybe a subtitle too!
  • Mentally (or physically) design your book cover.
  • How would you divide up the chapters and sections?
  • Write your book jacket copy. What is your book about, and how can it help that ideal reader of yours?

And now, just like on any good A&E show, the big reveal.

  • Your book title? That’s your new tagline.
  • Your book cover? That is what your pages should look like.
  • Your chapters and sections? Let them guide how you organize your site’s pages and menus.
  • You jacket copy? That’s your message.

Extra credit: guest posting

Even after all of this, I know there are some topics that you will have trouble letting go. Take heart, because you don’t have to.

When you have items that you don’t have room to keep in your home, what do you get? A storage locker, a.k.a. guest posts.

Keep writing those posts on topics that you love, but do not fit with your blog. The trick is to keep your overall message in mind when you write—not your ideal reader, but your message.

The idea with these guest posts is to pitch them to blogs that you enjoy, but are not the ideal reader of. This post is one such example.

I’m sure the ideal Problogger reader is not a 29-year-old barber stepmom, obsessed with Martha Stewart, wishing she lived in Rivendell. And that reader almost certainly does not frequently sport a peacock-colored mohawk. And yet…

What it all means

Like hoarders, we bloggers can get so used to the mess we see around us that we lose all objectivity as to the impression our blog makes on new readers. With every additional topic you cover, it gets exponentially more difficult.

The key is focus. If you follow the process I have outlined in this post, I guarantee that you will arrive at a clear and accurate customer avatar, strong unifying thread and clear, compelling message.

Tomorrow I will be back to show you five blogs that have mastered the ability to convey a clear, strong brand while juggling a wide variety of topics—and I’ll clue you in to their five secrets to killing it in the Pinterest niche.

What struggles have you had with focusing your multi-topic blog? Share in the comments below!

Natalie is a truly Edward Scissorhands living in a Martha Stewart world. A Chicago-based writer, barber and obsessive DIYer, she blogs over at Leave Me to My Projects about her adventures in the DIY lifestyle with loads of how-tos and inspiration. She also spends way too much time on Pinterest.

4 Simple Growth Strategies Any Breakthrough Blog Can Learn From Pinterest

This guest post is by Mike Holmes of the Simple Strategies for Startups blog.

You don’t need me to tell you about Pinterest do you? I’m pretty sure you’ve heard all the media outlets singing its praise:

  • the fastest growing site
  • its user base is mostly female
  • its breakthrough rise from obscurity
  • how marketers are using it
  • how marketers CAN use it
  • how its a step forward in the evolution of social media
  • …and etc.

Pinterest LogoI mean we’ve talked about it over here too, haven’t we?

But what else can we as bloggers and businesspeople learn from this recent phenom? Namely:

1. Have a greater purpose

When CEO Ben Silbermann created Pinterest, he did so with the purpose of making something “timeless.” Like most great entrepreneurs, he created the company out of his own interests, passions, and purpose.

Throughout history, truly great companies answer these question: Who are we? And what are we about?

In fact, purpose is the catalyst for all great companies and organizations.

When Steve Jobs came back to Apple he came back to a mess: little to no market share, declining revenue, and a business almost on the verge of bankruptcy. He turned the company around simply by focusing on what the company had long overlooked: its core purpose.

According to Jobs:

“Apple was in serious trouble. Apple had to remember who Apple was because they’d forgotten who Apple was.”

We all know how that ended up!

Companies like Wal-Mart, Southwest Airlines, Charles Schwab, and BMW are all purpose-driven. In fact, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, repeatedly stresses the importance of companies having a core purpose. These entrepreneurs make money (in fact, they make a ton) but they set out to “change the world” in some way or other.

I know this sounds like some touchy-feely-cry-me-a-river-nonsense! I understand that.

But purpose is anything but nonsense. It’s a viable business strategy—an immutable law. And those companies, entrepreneurs, and bloggers that practice it always rise above the crowd!

2. Have a great product

Not an okay, good, or not-too-bad product. But a great product!

From the very few interviews there are with Silbermann, you can feel his obsession with the quality of the site:

  • He and his team spent a lot of time agonizing over the site’s five-column layout, producing almost a dozen fully-coded versions before settling on the one that is live today.
  • According to him, he’d rather spend time working on the site than giving interviews. The site is incredibly addictive because he obsessed over every detail.

For the blogger, this boils down to writing epic content (thanks again, Corbett Barr!).

But maybe that’s not for you. I mean, you could just follow the crowd, make an okay product, and write ok content.

You could do that.  You won’t get noticed that way, but you could do it. It’s totally up to you!

3. Forget the mainstream: go after those who want it!

Pete Cashmore noted early on that Pinterest didn’t take the mainstream route to success:

“The web-based pinboard, which launched almost two years ago, barely got a mention on Silicon Valley news sites until six months ago, when early adopters suddenly realized that a site with millions of monthly users had sprung up almost unnoticed by the tech press. That’s because Pinterest didn’t take the usual route of Web-based startups: romancing early adopters and technology journalists before attempting to cross the chasm to mainstream adoption. Instead, Pinterest grew a devoted base of users—most of them female—who enjoy ‘pinning’ items they find around the Web.”

That was totally unheard of. And yet this strategy produced better results than a thousand press releases.

It was the strategy used by early hymn writers. While the majority of church attendees didn’t see the value of the songs, the hymn writers focused all their attention on those that did. Ultimately the majority came around.

It’s the strategy used by great salespeople, startups, and game changers. For instance:

  • When an unknown author named Tim Ferriss decided to promote his book, he focused his efforts. He called successful authors and asked them how they promoted their books. They gave him two answers: radios and bloggers. Since radio was losing its influence he decided to rely on bloggers. He went to a blogger event, met the ones he wanted to meet, established relationships, and then asked them to do a review. They did. And with the book becoming the #1 New York Times, the #1 Wall Street Journal, and the #1 Businessweek bestseller, the rest is history.
  • When Mel Gibson decided to market The Passion of the Christ, he focused his efforts. When he approached movie executives about producing the movie nobody wanted to go near it. So Gibson decided to fund it himself using $30 million of his own money. Not having much money left to marketing (it usually costs $40 million for marketing, he only had $15 million) he tried an unconventional approach: letting pastors see it for free.  They started small–showing only a few pastors, but it grew exponentially. One of the final screenings was at Willow Creek Church. After the showing, Bill Hybels took the stage and spoke for the 5,000 pastors in attendance: “All right, what do you need us to do?”  And with $611,899,420 in gross sales, the rest is history.
  • When a Baptist preacher named Rick Warren decided to market his book, Purpose-Driven Life, he focused his efforts. Years before he wrote his first book, Purpose Driven Church and followed it up with a website: Pastors.Com. The membership of the website grew to 85,000 pastors who saw Warren as trusted advisor. He enlisted their help with the PDL book–asking them to conduct the “40 day campaign” in their churches. And 1200 agreed to it. He gave away copies of the $20 book for $7 to churches and congregations that agreed. Within two months, those spokespeople pushed sales to $2 million, then to 30 million copies by 2007 … and the rest is history.
  • When an pop artist by the name of Lady Gaga found success it was through focus. She did everything she could to break through: schmoozed the music execs, performed wherever she could, had doors slammed in her face, begged to have her music played on the radio, was cut from a label, and was told she wouldn’t make it. But the turning point for her was her acceptance by the gay community. Once they accepted her, they championed for her, and she championed for them. And the rest is history.

Why do we spend the bulk of our time trying to get people who don’t like us to like? And in the meantime turn our backs to those that love us?

  • Rick Warren didn’t market to atheists.
  • Mel Gibson only showed screenings to conservative Christian and religious groups (even refusing to include those that initially criticized the film).
  • Timothy Ferriss didn’t go after those interested in a nine-to-five lifestyle.
  • Not once did Lady Gaga try to win over those who adamantly opposed her. She focused all her attention on her “monsters.”

It doesn’t make any sense does it?

Well, with 20 million users and a $1.5 billion valuation, it’s evident Silbermann understood the power of fans.

4. Remember: service is the best form of marketing

In the beginning, Silbermann said he personally wrote to the first 5,000 users, gave them his cell phone number, and even met many of them for coffee. He asked them questions, listened to their concerns, and went above and beyond for them.

Whoa!

Sometimes in the middle of our social media, SEO, and direct marketing efforts we forget that great service is still the best form of marketing.

There are six primary reasons people stop doing business with a company:

    1. 1% die.
    2. 3% move away.
    3. 5% develop other relationships.
    4. 9% leave for competitive reasons.
    5. 14% are dissatisfied with the product.
    6. 68% percent go elsewhere because of the poor way they were treated by employees of the company.

Case in point: when Patton Gleason went live with his online startup, the Natural Running Store, he outhustled his competitors in terms of service:

      • He created personalized videos that thanked customers for their purchase.
      • He created videos that told customers their shoes were on the way.
      • He put handwritten notes in the shoe boxes.
      • He sent follow-up emails asking about his or her training plans.
      • Instead of having an FAQ page, he sends out a two-minute video answering the customer’s questions.

naturalrunningstore.com

Because of this, Natural Running Store receives a ton of organic traffic, customer referrals, and endless praise.

And this is with Gleason admitting he doesn’t know how to sell.

You’ve all heard the story of how the Blog Tyrant became a true fan of Darren? You didn’t? For shame! “What happened?” you ask. Well, I’ll just let the Tyrant tell you:

“I once sent Darren Rowse an email telling him that I was having problems leaving a comment on his site. I told him not to worry about it too much as it was obviously working fine for everyone else. He replied in about ten minutes telling me that every single one of his readers were important to him and then tried to problem solve the issue with me. Instant fan for life.”

My friends, we’ve entered a new paradigm: marketing is the new selling and relationship building, engagement, and delivering new and innovative content is the new marketing.

High five for Silbermann!

What can we learn?

Right now we don’t know what’s in store for Pinterest. Right now, they’re flying as high as a Facebook IPO. They’re on top right now.

But if history has been any kind of teacher we’ll find more lessons in their story as the days go on. Good or bad.

What do you think? Are there any other lessons we can learn from Pinterest, or other startups like them?

Mike Holmes is an author, speaker, and serial entrepreneur who leads a small movement of world changing startups. You can find out more about him on The Simple Strategies for Startups Blog