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3 Critical Questions To Answer Before You Take Your Blog On The Road

This is a guest contribution from Kelly Edwards.

If you’re a blogger, then there are many benefits that can be gained from getting out from behind the keyboard and attending real world events: from raising awareness, sourcing new talent, and increasing overall readership.

Of course, attending an event is an investment, particularly if you’re intending to travel and especially if you decide to present your blog via a stand – so you need to make it count.

road-trip.jpg


Question One: Is this event the right fit for my blog?

In recent years the number of blogging events has increased dramatically and events like the Problogger Training Day are getting bigger and better every year.

If you’re part of a blogging community then it’s very likely that you’ll discover a regular event being held to encourage the platform to meet. There are also publicised blogging events for all keyboard junkies, complete with networking and talks to help bloggers hone their skills.

Meeting with fellow bloggers may be immediately tempting but if your end goal is to increase readership within a relevant audience then you need to ensure that the audience is there in the first place. If you write about a particular niche subject, then attending a very broad event might not gain your blog the meaningful attention you’re hoping for.

There are many niche blogging groups that hold networking events or meet ups. If your aim is to look for relevant bloggers to work with then this is a lucrative field to find those within your topic of interest.

Relevant events don’t necessarily come from blogging platforms, depending on your niche. Blogs can promote themselves at real-world exhibits to increase readership. This could include beauty blogs at skin care conventions, business blogs at their local business exhibitions, and literature blogs at art festivals. By looking out for events that are relevant to your blog and will be attended by people who will be interested in your blog’s message, then you are more likely to gain a return on investment by attending that exhibition.

Question Two: Is my blog memorable and branded?

Does your blog have a brand? Do you utilise that brand throughout your promotional advertisements? Are you preparing a stand or stall that takes advantage of your unique identity?

Creating a brand from your blog can seem like a complicated task if you’ve never given it thought before but if you’ve taken time over the appearance of your blog then you’re likely to already have the beginnings of a style that you feel represents it.

Spend a few hours considering how you would introduce someone to your blog in two sentences or less. Each person you meet at this event might be seeing dozens of other people so consider what you can say or do to firmly affix your blog in their mind.

If you’re intending to have your own stand then think about what you can offer attendees so that they can fully understand what your blog is about. This might involve a tablet or laptop so they can physically look at your blog, perhaps a clearly visible web address and encouragement for people to give your blog a look on their smart phones (if you intend to do this then ensure your blog has an attractive mobile template). Promotional displays announcing your blog, URL and brand can also announce your blog on your behalf, attracting more interest.

Question Three: How do I know if it was worth all this effort?

Prepare for your networking event or convention attendance by coming up with a series of goals that you hope to work towards. These can be entirely unique to your blog but here are some general behaviours that you will most likely want to track:

  • People taking your business card
  • People signing up for your newsletter (if you have one)
  • People taking your flyers
  • Business cards that you receive from relevant parties

You can also assess these factors at the end of the day and over the coming weeks/ months:

  • New likes/followers on social media channels.
  • Increase in views on your blog.
  • New comments on your blog.
  • Increase in subscriptions/ member sign ups/ followers on your blog.

Your goals for attending an event may differ greatly from other blogs and it’s important that you properly assess and track what you hope to gain from attending. Though ensuring you achieve a return on investment is more complex via a blog than for someone selling a product, it is essential to measure the effectiveness of event marketing for your blog’s brand. Which of these ROI’s would make the biggest difference to your blog?

When you tie all these steps together you should end up with an event that is relevant to your blog, an idea for how to brand your blog effectively and a variety of ideas regarding how to track conversions and increases in traffic. Of course, this is only the first step.

Getting your blog out into the real world for the first time is just the beginning and even the most well-planned event is likely to have snags, problems and at least a dozen lessons that you’ll learn for next time. Improvements never have to end and you’ll soon find yourself a well-oiled event machine, always primed and ready with business cards and your elevator pitch.

These steps are a great guideline but every blog is different, so jump in with both feet and start planning. Which step will be most important to you and what has this post revealed about your blogs needs? Feel free to tell us your story in the comments below!

Kelly Edwards writes for Marler Haley and is passionate about promoting businesses however large or small, and offering her tips to succeed.

Are You Making These Mistakes With Your Guest Posts?

This is a guest contribution from Alex Strike, writer and blogger.

During my writing career, I’ve had the good fortune to have appeared on many cool and informative blogs and websites – but it hasn’t always been this way. Writing for blogs appeared to be not as easy as I at first thought, and I must confess that the more I learned the nuances of guest blogging, the more the fear ate at me.  There were a few moments when I just wanted to give it all up despite the fact I liked the process of writing itself. But there are no results without trying, and I’ve improved over the years I’ve been guest blogging.

Now as I look back, I can see my mistakes were so obvious and easy to avoid. If you are a newbie to the world of guest blogging, or you are going to start it in order to get your name out there, you should know and remember some of the unwritten rules to follow. I am here to share my biggest mistakes and help you avoid the same traps.

Give me more! More blogs! 

The first mistake: I wrote guest articles for everyone. Literally. I believed, that the more articles of mine were published – the better results they would bring to my websites. Every blog, even if it had low PR and DA, had a chance to get a guest article from me. Moreover, the majority of these blogs were full of ads, they had a bad content, awful (let’s be honest) design, and no social presence at all.

Remember: quantity does not mean quality. If you want to become a good and respectful guest blogger, you should always pay attention to blogs you are going to write for. The main aspects to pay attention to:

1. A blog’s traffic (it’s easy to check on SemRush): pay attention to all ups and downs, and the ideal variant is no downs at all (of course!). The great example of such a website is essay-all-stars.com:

screenshot-12. Is this blog clean? (How many ad blocks are there? How often is the content being updated? Are the comments moderated there?)

3. A quality of this blog’s content (just take a look whether all articles have affiliate links and are built to sell something or not. Never write for those websites, as backlinks from them will bring nothing good to your own blog).

4. Does this blog have a niche? It’s better not to write for those blogs that do not have any specific niche: it means they do not take care of their content at all. Yes, it will be much easier for you to publish your article at such blogs, where one article is about blogging, and another one is about selling TVs or e-books, but such backlinks will not bring you any good reputation at all. When I speak about reputation, I mean both your reputation as a guest author and the reputation of your own website for search engines.

5. What are this blog’s Domain Authority and PageRank? It would not be a good idea to write for websites with DA less than 30. As for PR, we all know that the bigger it is – the better, but I can say from my personal experience, that a big PR does not guarantee a blog’s authority: if you see, that the content of this blog is not good, but its PR is still high, the big chances are that this PR was created falsely.

A Topic? Whatever…

My next and very serious mistake was writing guest articles on ALL topics, even if they had no connection with the niche of my own blog. Example: my blog is about essay writing, but I write an article for the blog about fashion or concept gadgets.

Yes, these tech or fashion blogs were really good and informative; they were clean, they had high ranks, they were authoritative, but… my link did not look natural there, and search engines found it artificial as a result. Yes, it was unfair, because I KNEW all my links were naturally created by me, but… c’est la vie. The more such backlinks you have – the bigger your chances are to be banned by Google.

Who Needs E-Mails?

I am sure you know that many blogs or websites have a Contact Us page. Yes, it’s good and logical of course, but very often such a page looks the following:

screenshot-2

I must say, that when I contacted bloggers via such forms, only 1 out of 20 could give me a reply. Now I know that a good website will always share some exact contacts with its visitors (it may be e-mails of support teams, this blog’s founders, editorial teams, etc., but you will definitely find EXACT contacts there).

Hello Admin!

The very important moment of guest blogging is outreach and your pitches. And here was my BIGGEST mistake probably. Just take a look at the screenshot above, and you will understand what I mean.

Mistakes:

1. Too general (a blogger receives 100 letters a day. Why should he pay attention to yours?)

2. No names (do not be lazy, and read About Us pages of websites, as you can always find bloggers names there). I think you will agree, that “Hello John!” sounds much better than “Hello Admin!” (moreover, big chances are that this person is not admin actually).

3. No information about yourself. Always tell them who you are (but there is no need to describe every moment of your biography), give them some examples of your previously published works (links I mean) to see your writing style.

4. No pitches. Take a look at a blog’s content and try to provide a blogger with some posts ideas that would work well for him. Try to offer something up-to-date, exclusive or unusual, that was not published at other blogs 100500 times before. Take into account the general style of this blog: if it is known for its “Top 10…” lists, it would be strange to offer them something like “Dos And Don’ts Of Writing A Paper” for example.

Here is the example of my outreach letter for today:

screenshot-3

Certainly, you are free to create your own outreach letter that will work well for you. Just try not to repeat my mistakes described above.

By-line Is My Savior 

Yes, some websites allow you backlinks only in your by-line (author’s bio). I do not want to say that it is bad, but you can always use a chance to put your link to the body of your text, where it will look natural, and it will fit the content of this article itself.

One more mistake of mine was the usage of keywords as an anchor. Please, compare these two by-lines, and try to guess which one looks more suspiciously for search engines:

screenshot-4And

screenshot-5It is always better to promote your brand and make it recognizable, than use keywords to please Google (it is not as stupid as some of us still believe). Moreover, you can always use keywords in the texts of your article itself where they will look good and natural.

Summary

If you want to become a good guest blogger, always pay attention to WHAT you write and for WHOM you write. Proofread your articles (my sin is spelling mistakes, and I am still trying to defeat them all), try to provide only interesting content to your potential publishers, be polite, look and write professionally, and never be in a hurry!

It is always better to spend more time on writing and publishing your article at one cool and respectful blog than kill your precious time on writing a content and building backlinks that will not bring you any profit at all.

Alex Strike is a passionate writer of Lifehack and a blogger who writes on the topics of education, content marketing, writing, and lifehacks. You can always find more of Alex’s work on .

8 Reasons Why Your Email Open Rate is Nosediving

emailcrashThis is a guest contribution from Luke Guy, blogger and graphic designer.

It’s amazing how blogs have exploded within the last 10 years – take ProBlogger for instance. Blogs like these can provide a good living for the owner if the traffic remains strong and healthy. But how do these blogs retain the traffic and keep a steady flow? There are many ways, but I want to discuss with you a vitally important one: your email list.

Usually more email subscribers would mean more traffic. Right? Well, not anymore.

Bloggers are facing diving open rates today like never before. Small bloggers and the celebrity bloggers alike suffer.

But why?

Let me give you 8 Reasons Why Your Email Open Rate Is Nosediving.

1. You have lots of images within the email.

When it comes to email open rates, fashion is not how you make waves. Simpler is better in this case. HTML is good, but text based emails are even better. I know we’re tempted to be flashy, but if no one is seeing it, what’s the point? Your email is going to be seen more when images aren’t within them. They flag filters many times, and can annoy the reader also. It’s best to simply state your message and get to the point quickly.

2. Way too long!

In the blog world an article of 200-1000 words is considered an informative post (View Darren’s Post On Word Count). Reading one of these could take 5-7 minutes to read, and 15 minutes to fully understand.

In email this is simply not so. Why? You’re simply updating them with short exclusive information, and persuading them to spend a minute on this unexpected message from you. Think of your email newsletter as a bite-size sample of your blog. Let every bite be extremely pleasant and leave them wanting more. Where do they get more? Your blog.

In order to do this, your email must be short, sweet, and fulfilling in bite-size. 150-450 word count would be best when writing. You’re sharing exclusive content, updating, and telling them about your new blog post kind-of-thing.

3. Links Everywhere.

When all they see is outlined sentences everywhere, landing somewhere in the unknown, the word SPAMMY is the first thoughts of most readers. They get the idea that all you’re trying to do is send them to a place they don’t want to go, to spend money they don’t want to spend. Put only one link in your article, and give them many good reasons why they should click on that link. Not one reason to click on 10 links, that’s not as effective. So choose your link wisely, and this also will prevent your email from getting vacuumed by the email filters.

4. Your agenda appears to be making money.

When they see your email appear, what should they expect? If it’s another course, eBook, or program in which they must buy, there’s a good chance you’re going to get turned off eventually. A good rule of thumb is to give your reader 10x more. Instead, offer freebies just so they will warm up to you. If you need some freebie ideas, go here: 6 Freebies That Will Spike Engagement In Your Blog

I know we’re all trying to come up with ways in which to make money, but it’s better to have our customers coming to us with their money, not the other way around with us chasing them and their wallet. When they understand that you’re for them and wanting to help more than to make a buck, they will come.

5. Your email is only a result from an RSS blast.

Your emails should be exclusive content, not an email blaster from your RSS feed. Many will disagree with me on this, because they don’t want another article to write. I understand their pain, but what’s the point of offering this option of RSS if they’re not going to read it? With Google’s Gmail Algorithm, RSS is a turn off and a good chance it will never make it to their inbox.

How will they find out about by my new blog post then? you might be asking.

Give them many reasons within that email why they should read that article and give them a link to it. The reason shouldn’t be because it’s new. It should be because it’s helpful and can be found almost no where else. You’re just pointing them back to it so they won’t miss this amazing content.

6. Not full of helpful information.

You thought that tips, helpful information, and how-tos were only for blogs? Not so, it will apply to your email rate as well. Except you have only a few seconds to persuade them to read it, a few more seconds to finish reading it, and finally to click on whatever link you may have for them (that was the point of the email right?).

The only thing is with email, shorter is better. Why? When trying to catch the eye, you have only a few seconds to persuade them to read it and consume your information. As for a blog post, most were searching for the solution you have to offer and were willing to spend the time to solve their problem. So make it short but powerful since your message was unexpected!

7. They don’t feel a personal connection with you.

If all you do is sell, command, and write like you’re talking to the wall, they’re not feeling what you write. To avoid this, write as if they’re your friend. Instead of writing to your readers, write to your reader specifically. Pretend that you’re writing to one of your readers, and let them feel that one-on-one connection. It’s about winning their trust, which is key to any business.

8. You’re boring.

If you’re doing all of the above, it’s time to face it. It’s time for a recharge. Sometimes to make our tips more helpful, and our writing voice more inspirational, we need to read more and be inspired. Like an athlete, we must eat more than we burn. If not, we don’t have much to offer.

Go out in your niche and explore again. It could be the simple fact that you are burned out and need to refill with more helpful information.

Ways to improve email letter quality:

1. Read a blog post like this one by Darren Rowse On Passion: Passion – Do You Have It?

2. Interact more in the comment section.

3. Listen to podcasts.

4. Talk to pros in your niche.

5. Take a course.

6. Think more, and spend more time with that writing piece.

7. Study your competition and how they write their emails. Read this to be inspired: Learning Your Foes Makes You a Better Hero

So basically you’re defeating two things here, the email filter and the reputation of scammers. It’s so easy to be flagged as a scammer these days and you must work extra hard to appear the very opposite. These tips will make that happen, and will also get your emails to bypass the filters.

Mission Accomplished.

You’re going to see great results from this if applied correctly. I’ve learned by not selling, you kind of are. When they know you’re in business, and all you do is help, curiosity takes over them. When they see your free tips work tremendously, what will your paid versions do?

Thanks for reading and I wish you higher email rates!

Did I miss something? Leave a comment below and let’s see what you have to offer to the Problogger community.

Luke Guy is both graphic artist and blogger, publisher for LukeGuy.com, and graphic designer for hire. He’s loves to blog and helping people with dreams in starting a business.

 

Content Marketing Smart – Why Your Blog Article is Just the Beginning

This is a guest contribution from James Scherer, of Wishpond

Image via Flickr user captainmcdan

Image via Flickr user captainmcdan

Monday: a couple hours of research, six hours of head-down writing, two (five?) coffee-breaks. End result: One 2000 word, comprehensive article on Facebook Ad best practices. Publish.

Tuesday: a couple hours of research, six hours of head-down writing…

Rinse. Repeat. Let’s rethink how we create content.

In this article I’ll dive into content marketing smart, not hard. I’ll discuss re-using your content in five awesome ways that will save you time, energy, and increase your content ROI in the new year.

Introduction to content marketing smart

Your blog article is just the beginning. Think about it as a river, and the rest of your content as streams coming off it. The source is great, but the streams spread wider and do totally different and amazing things.

Content marketing smart is all about using your existing content in creative, practical ways that save you time and energy but give you a great return on your investment.

Primarily, it’s about thinking outside the box to use your time more intelligently. Start with a well-researched blog article, and end with all types of content that generate brand awareness in different, exciting ways.

Why content marketing smart works better in 2014 than it did in 2013:

Every prediction article I’ve read (including the one I wrote) has talked about a shift in content. Here’s what’s happening: Google is rewarding social shares as much as it is link building.

Previously, Google’s search algorithm considered a link to, or from, your content as a vote in its favor. Longer blog articles could have a greater number of links, increasing their SEO. Yes, there were other factors, but link-building was at the heart of blog SEO for a long time.

With the integration of the Hummingbird Algorithm in August though, Google’s search mechanism changed. For the first time ever, the top of the SEO factor list was the number of Google+ social endorsements your content had. Links were still important, but the term ‘Social Media Optimization’ had attained a whole new meaning nonetheless.

What does this mean for your content?

It means you need to be producing visually appealing, socially shareable, bite-size pieces of content that people can love, share, and leave.

5 tips to optimizing for social:

  1. Introduce a social share toolbar on your blog’s page (this can increase content virality by up to 700%)

  2. Use bitly links everywhere you can, to encourage Retweets and shorter Facebook and Google+ posts (which have higher engagement than longer posts)

  3. Create appealing and eye-catching header images so your content grabs the attention of social media users

  4. Create a Pinterest Pin with the most interesting statistic from your blog article and put it on your ‘Amazing Stats’ Board

  5. Generate content that encourages Facebook Likes, social shares and comments. Is it witty, surprising, funny, thought-provoking, new, exclusive? Would you want to share this yourself?

Your five pieces of content:

  1. Comprehensive, well-researched blog article on a subject interesting to your readers

  2. Slideshare presentation built from blog research, case studies, or other sources

  3. Comments on Influencer’s content and on social platforms – keeps you in the conversation

  4. Infographic built from blog research, case studies, statistics, or other sources

  5. Ebook built from longer-form blog articles

1. Blog Article:

Put some serious time and energy into your blog articles. I’m talking 1800+ words (don’t worry, you’ll get more out of those 1800+ words than ever before).

Do your research; check out infographics and case studies from around the web; read academic journals (yes, I do this); talk to peers or experts, etc. Make them awesome. Make them optimized for search. Promote and syndicate the hell out of them.

I recommend a running-theme (it makes the ebook easier) for a few weeks. Try around five or six articles giving an in-depth look at a subject. For instance:

Article 1: Introduction to [Blank]
Article 2: [Blank] Design Best Practices
Article 3: A/B Testing Variables in your [Blank]
Article 4: 7 Mistakes to Avoid in [Blank]
Article 5: 5 [Case Studies] and What you can Learn from them
Article 6: Taking [Blank] to the Next Level with [Blank]

Fact-heavy, long-form articles are still wanted. There remains a sizeable audience for the comprehensive guides and 25-step how-tos. So you don’t get to stop writing them. Plus, they’re even more valuable now that you can re-use that awesome content in so many creative and interesting ways.

But really, do you want to do two hours of research, write for a day, publish, and then start all over again the next morning? Let’s market smart, not hard.

2. Slideshare Presentations:

If you’re just joining us, Slideshare is a free content-sharing website which makes your business’ presentations available to an ever-increasing number of users. Your business’ presentations are fully embeddable in your own blog and others. They’re easily downloadable, and Slideshare’s built-in social sharing tool makes the SMO easy. In fact, I’ve seen a few of my own Slideshare presentations with a better SEO than their original articles.

A few months ago you would have seen me taking an hour or two each day to force every one of my blog articles into a Slideshare presentation. The problem is, not every article lends itself to presentation format. Not every sub-heading has three bullet-points and an example image. I was pushing a square peg into a round hole and my content was suffering.

What I do now is find those blog articles I’ve written that naturally fit the format. Those articles where, without really noticing it, you’ve found 15 awesome statistics that surprised you and will surprise your readers.

Here’s what I recommend: Compile the data from one or two of your longer-form blog articles (statistics, facts, case studies, quotes, etc) and compile a couple of visually appealing Slideshares each week. Embed the presentations on your blog with a short description and promote it across your social channels.

If you’re interested in a more comprehensive look at Slideshare, check out How to Use Slideshare to Market your Business.

3. Comments on Influencer’s Blogs and Social Media:

Influencer Marketing Ammunition: For those unaware, influencer marketing is the practice of reaching out to online thought-leaders in your sector and encouraging them to help promote your brand’s content.

Every sector has influencers, it’s just a matter of finding them (try Klout, PeerIndex or Kred) and getting in touch. Contacting the right influencer in the right way at the right time can increase your blog’s readership (and your brand’s online profile) by ten-fold overnight. Really. It happened to Wishpond in July (thanks @MariSmith!).

Commenting is where re-using your blog content comes in. Try to comment on 2-3 influencer blogs each day. Use statistics and observations from your blog to write intelligent, insightful observations on articles with the same subject. Ask reasonable questions. Disagree in an informed and respectful manner.

Commenting gets your name in an influencer’s mind, so interactions on Twitter or Facebook will mean more. Asking for a share of your own blog will be better-received if they know you’ve shared and read theirs.

Social Platform Ammunition: Your blog articles are full of great quotes, statistics and factoids that lend themselves to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest posts. Use them!

There are a million articles out there about using social media to promote your blog, but how about using your blog to promote your social media?

Increase brand awareness with interesting facts and stats that engage the viewer. Use your article’s headers (you, or your graphic designer, spent quality time on them! Don’t just use them once) to grab the attention of your Facebook Fans. Remember, across all social platforms, posts with images get substantially better engagement than those without.

Don’t wrack your brain on a daily basis for engaging social media fodder, simply note down the fodder that you find in your blog research or the especially creative lines in your own writing.

4. Infographic:

I mentioned above that 2014 will be the year of bite-sized, visually appealing content. Again, this doesn’t mean that you get to stop writing articles. But it does mean you get to learn Photoshop.

Like with Slideshare, use the statistics from your blogs (maybe a few of your blogs) and create a visually-awesome, palatable infographic that communicates a ton of information in a beautiful and easy way. Infographics almost always generate more engagement than a blog article and are great for spreading brand awareness as people will pick them up, embed them on their own sites, and credit your business.

Yes, for many small businesses without a graphic designer infographics can be difficult. However, I’d urge you to experiment with free design software (if you can’t afford or don’t already have Photoshop, InDesign or Adobe Illustrator) like Gimp, Info.gram or Piktochart.

Remember to offer your infographics as guest posts on other blog sites (once you’ve posted it on yours). For social media marketers, try AllFacebook, Entrepeneur and Business2Community. And syndicate on sites like BizSugar, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Digg and Diigo.

5. Monthly ebook:

Ebooks are the end product of your content recycling strategy.

Once you’ve written five or six awesome blog articles on the same subject, compile them into a comprehensive ebook. This can be done with free software (even Powerpoint – just export as a PDF), but I really recommend InDesign – as your ebook will come out more professionally done and appealing to the reader.

Ebooks are really valuable pieces of content, worth more to your readers and your business than any other piece you create. They’re in-depth guides on their subject; something people can download and save to their computer and read and re-read for guidance and inspiration.

Because of their value (and the work required to create them) I tend to make my ebooks email-gated. Basically I create a landing page for each ebook I produce and ask visitors to provide an email before getting access to the amazing content I’ve generated. Because only people interested in my ebook’s subject matter will provide their email address, the process segments those emails for you – facilitating your business’ email marketing/sales funnel.

Conclusion

Hopefully you now have a better idea of how, and why, you can recycle your content. It saves you time and energy – allowing you to experiment with different formats of your own. Something I’d highly recommend, if you’re not already, is organizing your content into a content calendar. Calendars keep your different kinds of content sensible and timely. Try an ebook every month or so, two Slideshares a week, a bi-weekly infographic, and three blog comments a day.

Have you had success, or frustrations, with re-using content? Have you found it saves you time or requires you to wear too many hats? Start the conversation below!

James Scherer is a content marketer for Wishpond and author of the ebook The Complete Guide to Facebook Ads. Wishpond makes it easy to run Facebook Ads, create landing pages & contests, email automation campaigns & manage all of your business’ contacts.

The One Thing You Should Be Doing on Your Blog to Create More Engagement

This is a guest contribution from Karl Staib of Domino Connection.

Image via Flickr user realpeopleeatplants

Image via Flickr user realpeopleeatplants

Wouldn’t it be great if you were getting twice as many blog post comments as you do now?

If people would ask you more questions and add comments, it would help build your community. They spur conversation that might even help you to create new content. And as you may know, people who engage with your blog are more likely to become loyal fans who buy from you and share your content with their tribe.

Google also loves a lot of searchable comments. It helps them understand which posts are worth sending people to. Not to mention the social proof that comes along with a post that has a lot of comments.

Finding how to create this powerful engagement is so important to building an audience that cares what you create. So let’s take a look at how we can do this.

Increasing Your Engaged Blog Community

You know how important an engaged community is for your blog. I don’t need to convince you of that.

But what can you do to increase that engagement?

Of course traffic is a big part of how much engagement you generate on your blog, I get that, but we all have to start from one comment to get two, 10 to get 20, and so on.

The one thing you may not be doing is probably the same thing a lot of bloggers make the mistake of not doing.

Let me tell you a little story before we dive deeper.

I have a friend who switched blogging topics. She shut down one site and started another because she wasn’t able to monetize her blog. I was worried she would give up on this new blog too. She was too talented not to help people. I know how hard it is to get people to converse on your blog because I’ve had many blog posts with zero comments.

A funny thing happened though. She got even more comments on the new blog compared to the old blog in less than three months.

Her lighthearted, conversational tone shines through now. She is even more engaging because she enjoys building connections with people in this new topic even more than her old topic.

Small Change, Big Improvement

I noticed a small change she made that I wasn’t sure she was aware that she had made herself. So I asked her, “Why do you think you’re getting more comments?”

“I’m not sure. I think I’m more passionate about the subject I guess. No wait it’s the value. People can’t help reciprocating when something is valuable,” she responded.

Now passion is good and value is even better, but a lot of people are passionate and still don’t get 18 comments per post on a site that doesn’t get a lot of traffic.

So I looked at a few of her old blog posts and I realized the simple change she had made – her older blog posts were passionate, valuable and conversational, but weren’t getting the same engagement. The change she made with this new blog was weaving in open-ended questions and asking for her readers’ ideas throughout her blog. 

When you look at your writing, do you feel it’s open to new ideas?

She is so friendly in her writing that it makes you feel like she is just talking to you. When she asks a question, you pause and take a second or two to think about it. Then when you got to the bottom of the post and the comments section, the seed has already been planted and you don’t have to work hard to think of something unique to say. You already know something that you want to say.

3 Steps to More Engagement

So here’s my “must do” list to create more conversation on your blog:

  • Look at your blog’s tone of voice and if it’s open to new ideas. Do your readers feel like you are talking directly to them? I like to think of writing to just one person in my community. I have a few people I rotate through as I’m writing. Right now I’m thinking of a young man with glasses reading this at the end of his day. That’s why using the word “you” is so important as opposed to “I”, or someone’s name.
  • Are you passionate about your subject? People can feel when you really care about your content. They want to be a part of this passion.
  • Now look at the value that you bring to the table. Can people find this information delivered in this manner on other sites, or is yours special or unique?

Once you’ve got friendliness, passion, and value in your blog post, you just need to ask questions that plant seeds and get your readers’ ideas flowing, then hit them with a final question that they just can’t resist answering when they get to the bottom of your post, and the comment section is just waiting for them to help the community.

What piece of the blog engagement pie do you think is most important? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comment section

Check out Karl Staib of Domino Connection and his value-packed 30 Day Connection Guide and Customer Conversion e-course to Increase Your Leads and Sales. You’ll learn how to find your ideal customers, improve your landing page conversion and what you need to measure so you can convert visitors into buyers.

Skip to the End: 5 Great Ways to Make Your Readers Care

This is a guest contribution from Mike Sowden.

Have you ever taken part in a business presentation that just died on the spot?

Say you’re up there speaking. Nobody is laughing at your jokes. Your throat has dried up. Dark patches of panic-sweat are appearing all over your shirt. You suddenly need the bathroom. What’s the number-one thing on your mind?

Or say you’re cringing in the audience as someone tanks up on stage. It’s awful to behold, it’s making you want to crawl under your seat or fling yourself out the nearest window – but you’re trapped. You have to endure the whole agonising mess. What’s the number-one thing on your mind?

When that happens (and surely it happens to everyone at some point), the number one thing on everyone’s mind in that room is: please let this END.

Endings are supremely powerful ways to motivate people, to build a loyal following, and engineer a lot of sales. Marketers use scarcity tactics to get you caring about endings (“75% off, today only!”). But how can blogs, with their focus on building conversation and community as much as commerce, use endings to hook readers? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Level up

Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness is a self-confessed gaming geek. He knows the irresistible call of the next rung up the ladder to success. It’s hard to make people care about a distant, lofty goal – and much easier to hook people with near-instant progress. (Just look at how levelling-based mobile gaming exploded in recent years.) Bloggers love publishing personal ‘bucket lists’ – but for his site, Kamb went one better and created his ‘Epic Quest For Awesome‘, complete with an experience points rule system. It’s now front and centre (ok, it’s top-right) of his landing page for Nerd Fitness and is clearly part of his strategy for making people care about what he’s doing.

What You Can Do: find a cool, exciting way to show incremental progress towards a clearly-defined set of goals – but also make sure that at least some of those goals serve your site and its readers as much as yourself.

2. Vaguebooking

You know those people who post things on Facebook like “You-know-who is doing you-know-what…AGAIN!” and “Worst day ever. I DONT WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT!”?

Let’s agree that’s always annoying. Let’s also agree that it usually works – or we wouldn’t be annoyed, right? We’d breeze past without wanting to know more. Instead, we’re momentarily irked because we’re presented with an imperfect view of something potentially interesting, and against our own wishes, we want closure. Maybe we think we don’t care, but we still want to know the facts so we can decide we don’t care.

What You Can Do: lay subtle (or not so subtle) hints about the direction you’re taking your blog, giving the reader a sense that you know way more than you’re telling – which is really useful for those times when you’re making it up as you go along.

3. Attempt the Barely Possible…

There are few things that motivate people quite like a harebrained adventure with an apparently slim chance of success. It may be wise to chase an end goal for your blog that’s modest in scope and entirely achievable – but that’s a really poor way to market it. Make the story of your blog larger than life. Make it so ambitious that you’ll have people questioning your sanity, or at least your sense of proportion. I wonder how many people truly believed Chris Guillebeau would find a way to visit all 193 United Nations member states, an 11-year quest that would end on his 35th birthday? That’s what he achieved – and by making it a hefty challenge for himself, he raised the investment stakes with his readers.

What You Can Do: decide to do something that will appear both meaningful and crazy to your readers – and then announce it, in a serious, credible way. Do it right, and you have yourselves a little movement of people who really believe you can do this…and, of course, a bunch of people who want to see you fall flat on your face. So let’s talk about that right now..

4. …And Fail.

Whenever you and your blog attempt to do something different, you run the risk of failure. If you’re attempting something big, you risk BIG failure. The cataclysmic, huge smoking crater version that you’ll never forget being part of. To fail is to feel bad – there’s absolutely no denying it. But the odd thing about failure is it can be attractive to anyone watching – and that’s not because they’re being mean.

Human beings are drawn to dark and terrible stories. Stories of fear and woe and everything best avoided in real life. Stories of failure. Why? Science writer Jonathan Gottschall reckons it may be because storytelling arose as a way to keep us alive. What happens if I come down out of this tree and stroll past that sabre-toothed tiger? My story says: “you’d have a really bad day.” My story keeps me alive – and now I trust my story, even though it’s a horrible thing that will give me nightmares for the rest of my life. (Thanks, story.)

Similarly, it’s possible the modern appetite for dark, miserable stories is born of a need to avoid those events ourselves – in which case, a story of failure is deeply compelling. What lessons can we learn from someone who did it the wrong way? It’s awesome storytelling. In the words of Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coates: “You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.”

5. Start with the End

A few months back, the TV show Breaking Bad delivered its final few episodes. Its viewing figures went through the roof, up tenfold from its first season premiere. In fact, Breaking Bad‘s popularity rose continuously through its 5-season run. Increasingly and in larger and larger numbers, people really cared.

Why? The writing was amazing, the acting was literally Emmy award-winning, the cinematography was to die for – plenty of creative reasons. But a key part of Breaking Bad‘s appeal was how it used its endings. Its signature opener was a glimpse of things to come later in the episode – often baffling, bizarre, without the context of the story to support it. You didn’t know why mild-mannered Walter White was standing in the road in his underwear, pointing a gun towards approaching police sirens – and you had to keep watching to find out, as the story flashed back to “x hours earlier”. Later episodes would flash forward entire seasons, eventually foreshadowing the finale itself – a place where terrible (but unspecified) things have happened. As the final episodes approaches, audiences knew enough of the ending to be whipped into a frenzy of anticipation and speculation…and the show ended with its highest viewing figures ever.

All because the Breaking Bad team knew exactly what to do with their endings.

What You Can Do: decide where your blog is ultimately going, and start telling that story from the very beginning. You don’t have to give away very much – but unlike the vaguebooking approach above, you’re not showing the journey, you’re showing the destination. Yes, this is tricky, and in the face of great uncertainty, it will probably require a lot of courage and strength of purpose. But the magical thing about foreshadowing is that it works both ways. Your audience will start to care more, because you’ll look like you know where you’re taking them – and you’ll care more as well. The more you communicate that ending, the more of a sense of purpose you’ll feel and the more likely you will be to actually get there. You will truly know why you blog – and isn’t that an end worth chasing?

Mike Sowden is a freelance travel writer and storytelling consultant from the north of England (UK). Find him at Fevered Mutterings - or maybe walking across some lonely, rain-lashed British hillside with a backpack, having “fun”.

Beginner Week – Discussion: What Did You Find Hardest as a New Blogger?

Theme Week

With all the chat around new blog tips, mistakes made, and resources used, we’ve got to thinking – what were the biggest obstacles to you all when you first started out blogging? Was it finding readers, tech stuff, or design? Perhaps it was navigating social media, or even finding content to write? I do know a lot of the people I’ve spoken to have all wondered how much of “themselves” they should put in their posts. And where’s the line of overshare?

Feel free to have a conversation about what stumped you and perhaps how you overcame it. I’m willing to bet it’s going to be so useful to other readers. Your tip might be the one thing they need to read today!

Today is the last day to get 50% off ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging – hop to it!

Beginner Week – Resource Roundup: 10 Links you Can’t Live Without

Theme WeekBeginner Week has been jam-packed with tales from the trenches  - from how to set up a blog, to a newbie success story, Darren’s Beginner Dos and Don’ts; and 31 mistakes established bloggers made way back in the early days of their blog.

Today we’re back with even more goodies to take away: our 10 most popular (and useful!) posts for beginner bloggers. Get ready to Pin, bookmark, save to Evernote, or however you keep interesting posts for future reference – you won’t want to leave this one behind!

1. Five First-Year Posts that Led to Over 6 Million Views: Darren tells the story of the five posts on Digital Photography School that managed to attract a huge readership in its first year, and why he thinks they were so successful at driving traffic.

2. Webinar: 10 Things I Wish I Knew About Blogging: For Darren’s 10th blogging anniversary, he celebrated by sharing a recording and slides about what he would loved to have known when first starting out.

3. Crawl Before You Walk: 6 Step-by-Step Instructions for Starting Your Own Blog: A guest contributor leaves nothing to chance and explains the six things you NEED to know.

4. Recommended Blogging Resources: Things Darren uses in everyday blogging that you might find useful.

5. Guest Post: 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started: A guest contributor narrows early blogging down into 10 useful and productive key items for success.

6. How I Make Money Blogging: Darren lays all his cards on the table and explains exactly how it works behind the scenes.

7. 9 First-step Goals for New Bloggers: So much to do, so little time. The nine goals Darren believes beginners should aim for if they’re looking for a bit of direction. Then the sky is the limit!

8. What My  Wife Has Taught Me About Blogging After Just Three Months: Darren’s wife Vanessa’s blog was an instant hit – and it made Darren pause and reflect on what she had done differently to his blogger beginnings that made it such a success.

9. How Much Content Should I Have Ready to Go When I Launch a Blog?Darren sits down with a group of bloggers yet to start a blog and explains how much content should be published on a brand-new blog, versus how much content he actually had when starting. A great lesson to learn!

10. What Mistakes Did You Make When You First Started Blogging? What Would You Do Differently?: A reader asks Darren to share his top three mistakes made in the early days. The comments from other bloggers about their beginner blogger mistakes are also eye-opening.

Over to you – what resources did you find as a beginner that you found super-useful? (I always find new things at Amy Lynn Andrews‘ site. It’s a goldmine!)

Don’t forget, we also have 50% off ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging right here! Use the code BEGINNERWEEK.

Beginner Week: We Asked Veteran Bloggers to Reflect on Mistakes Made in Their Early Days

Theme WeekThe early days of blogging (for most of us) are filled with detours, roadblocks, and just plain slip-ups that we can make in the privacy of our own small readerships. As our blogs and their communities grow, so too do the lessons we’ve learned from the early mistakes that we’ve made. During Beginner Week, we checked back in with some bloggers who blundered with the best of us, only to come out the other side stronger and smarter than ever. They were kind enough to share their nuggets of wisdom with you.

We begin with some of Australia’s best bloggers:

Add textCaitlin – Mother Down Under // Nikki – Styling You // Christina – Hair Romance // Sarah – A Beach Cottage // Matt – Dad Down Under

Mistakes most mentioned

There seemed to be a few recurring themes in the answers of the bloggers we asked – topics like being authentic, writing in your own voice, focusing on your readers, and being useful.

Kelley at Magnetoboldtoo: “You need to decide at the start whether you are going to use real names and if not what their monikers will be. And try not to use something that everyone else is using.”

Carly at Smaggle:  “I got told really early on to always make sure that your reader is getting something out of everything that you post. I ask myself every time I’m about to post something ‘What is my reader getting out of this?’ – It’s stops you being self indulgent and helps you to edit effectively.”

Kylah at Intrepid Monkeys: “I tried too hard to write educational / information rich content all the time. Like I was writing essays for uni. Over time I’ve come to trust my own voice and open up a lot more which seems to resonate better with my readers.”

Chantelle at Fat Mum Slim: “I think the biggest mistake I made in the beginning was writing for myself, like I was writing in a journal… and not engaging an audience at all – which mainly was because I didn’t have an audience! But when I realised I could engage and create community-based stuff, I loved it. And what I learned from it? Engaging an audience is awesome, and it makes it easier for a shy blogger like me to turn the attention on to someone else. It’s a more comfortable way to blog.”

Emily at You Learn Something New Every Day: “Being too nervous to comment on the blogs of people I was in awe of. Panicking if I didn’t post EVERY SINGLE DAY. And not asking questions/engaging the reader. And plenty more mistakes to come, no doubt!”

Mrs Woog at Woogsworld: “I write very broadly, [and] my old stuff was quite beige. Also read a lot, not just blogs. Read books and see whether there is a pattern in what you are attracted to. It is ok to be influenced by people, but develop your own style. Also do it every day, even if you do not feel like it. It was become a pleasurable habit in the end.”

Carly at Carly Findlay: “One of my mistakes i made – though not early on – was to use an argument I had with someone as inspiration for a blog post – without permission. The argument was about parental one-upmanship – I was discussing something with a friend on FB and their friend jumped in and told me that because I am not a parent, I just don’t understand responsibilities or something like that. While I used more than one example of parental oneupmanship experienced in my blog post, my friend saw that I used the argument I had with her friend as an example on my blog, she got extremely upset and we are no longer friends. I pride myself on asking permission to use names and pictures of friends on my blog, so I dont know why I just didn’t check with my former friend before I used this example. Am wistful on that experience, but I’ve learnt from that. Always ask before posting.”

Deborah at Diet Schmiet: “Finding a good balance is important. I see a lot of newbies get all keen and blog daily (or more) but fizzle out after a while as they can’t sustain it. Having said that – I was a bit ad hoc for a while… however my blogging was all about ‘writing’ so I was really only doing it for me and didn’t promote or share with readers at all.”

The back end

And of course, for the non-techies among us, some of the behind-the-scenes stuff stumped us:

Melissa – Camper Trailer Travels: “The name of my blog….when I started it was just something to do in my spare time but then I started getting comments and likes and I thought maybe I can do more with it but I’m still not sure about the name – Camper Trailer Travels but we won’t always own a camper trailer.”

Andrea at Fox in Flats: “I designed and built the first version of my site myself, and because I have no background in this it took quite a long time, with lots of trial and error. Eventually I found a great ready-made theme that I purchased for $80 and was able to customise it. Happily, all my tinkering before that meant that that wasnt so challenging. And having forced myself to learn a bunch of the back end stuff, I’m now able to update aspects of my current design, without having to pay my designer to to everything for me. That said, if you can afford it, and worried about time it’s worth getting a pro to build your site for you.”

Rachel at Redcliffe Style: “Use your own images or giving the correct credit for the images used.”

Corrie at RetroMummy: “I wish I’d moved to wordpress and had my website designed earlier than I did – been talking about it for years before I actually did it and only did it in 2013! And learn to take better photos early on – again I only learnt to take photos in manual in 2013 and wish I’d done it earlier.”

Lisa at Mrs BC’s House of Chaos: “The one mistake I made that I would go back in time and change if I could would be not starting on WP. Now 4 years later I’m still on Blogger because migrating seems like such a big drama.”

Katrina at The Organised Housewife: “I wish I started self hosted from the beginning and I always tell people it’s important to protect your brand no matter how small by purchasing your .com and .com.au.”

Kelly at A Life Less Frantic: “My major early mistake was thinking my blog posts should be about me,  i.e. … there was nothing in them for my readers.”

Amanda at Cooker and a Looker: “I had little understanding of SEO when I started and called my posts obscure names. No one will ever find my kick-arse okonomiyaki recipe because I named it “(almost) banged up abroad and a recipe for what you want”. Whoops!”

Glenda at Healthy Stories: “Wasting my time with a free wordpress theme. We all want to save money when we start out since we aren’t making any money from the blog yet, but free themes can only do so much and I spent heaps of time tweaking the theme and never being satisfied. There are lots of cheap themes out there that cost only $40-50 that are really well built and will save you loads of time that you can then use to write, promote and start earning money.”

Cate at Cate Bolt: “get a good foundation from the start. Even if it’s bigger than what’s actually needed. It’s nice to say ‘start small and expand if you want to’ but if you don’t have the framework in place, it makes changing things really difficult. Check out the more popular blogs and see what plugins etc they’re using and implement them from the very beginning so you don’t have to try to migrate to something bigger and better when you’re rich and famous.”

Making money

Either too much, too little, or not knowing how to value ourselves and our time…

Lara at This Charming Mum: “Saying yes to every offer of guest blogs or product promotions in case they didn’t ask me again. I got myself over committed writing about things that didn’t really have much to do with the central aims of my blog. I promoted irrelevant products I wasn’t that interested in because I was excited about a bit of free stuff!”

Kimberley at Kimberley Magain: “The mistake I made was to ignore monetising it! I started my first blog in 2003 in Japan, as an ex-pat travel blog, before blogging was a “thing”. When I started to get unsolicited people wanting to advertise on my blog I fobbed them off with a curt message of, “Why would you want to advertise on a BLOG!” Famous last words. I was in an amazing position and didn’t take advantage of it.”

Feeling inferior

And the rise of the green-eyed monster. Very rarely useful!

Ros at Sew Delicious: “Don’t underestimate others. There are a lot of quiet achievers out there doing amazing things.”

Beth at BabyMac: “Definitely don’t compare yourself as it’s impossible to create your own style if you are trying to emulate someone else.”

Trudie at My Vintage Childhood: “No one wants to read epic long posts with no pics. Blogging becomes so much more fun and enjoyable when you stop worrying about what others are doing and the opportunities they appear to be having, and just concentrate on engaging with your audience and have fun. Stop over thinking posts, just hit publish and have fun.”

And spreading the word: life on social media

Network, network, network – some of us were doing it alllll wrong.

Kate at Drop Dead Gorgeous Daily: “I spent a fair bit of money on Facebook ads to increase our page likes, which is completely wasted now FB make it so hard to even be seen by your likers. Never pay for something you can’t own!!”

Dorothy at Dorothy K: “Not reading other blogs and commenting on them. But that was early days when commenting was worthwhile and created conversation and return visits.”

Kirsten at Kirsten and Co: “While starting out with blogger was a really easy way to start blogging, I wish I’d just jumped straight into things with a decent WP theme. I also wish I’d commented/networked a bit more with other blogs and bloggers when I first started out.”

We’d love to hear if any of these mistakes have resonated with you – have you learned something new from these stories today?

If not, you can learn lots of things new with 50% off the ProBlogger Guide to Your First Week of Blogging in honour of Beginner Blogger week. Use the code BEGINNERWEEK at the checkout and revel in your newfound knowledge!