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The Psychology of Color: Is Your Color Choice Making or Breaking Your Website?

This is a guest contribution from Thai Nguyen, of The Wantrepreneur Journey.

Image by Flickr user Kari

Image by Flickr user Kari

Along with the human emotional response to music, perhaps there is nothing more universal in experience as the human response and perception of color (of course unless you are color-blind). Despite the ubiquitous nature of color in reality and indeed our daily encounter with different colors, the concept and understanding of color psychology seems to be somewhat lacking and even esoteric in practice. So much so, that when we choose colours for our website, we may not have thought about what effect it can have on our readers.

Many ancient cultures have practiced forms of color therapy, otherwise known as chromotherapy, light therapy, or colourology. Even today there are groups practicing such therapies as part of holistic and alternative treatments. Artist and interior designers have long understood the relationship between color and human emotional response.

Some of the most intriguing research on color response has included:

  • students exposed to the color red prior to an exam having negative effects- reducing scores and grades.
  • wildlife and park rangers have planted red flowers to deter people from entering into certain areas.
  • sports teams dressed in black are more likely to receive penalties.
  • warm-colored placebo pills get more of a response than cool-colored placebo pills.
  • the installation of blue-colored streetlights have suggested a reduction of crime in those areas.

Here is a breakdown of the major colors and their parallel emotional response:

RED
Positive: courage, strength, warmth, energy, excitement
Negative: defiance, aggression, danger.

BLUE
Positive: intelligence, trust, serenity, calmness, coolness, reflection.
Negative: distance, aloofness, emotionless, unfriendliness.

YELLOW:
Positive: optimism, confidence, self-esteem, extraversion, friendliness, creativity.
Negative: irrationality, fragility, depression, anxiety.

GREEN:
Positive: harmony, balance, refreshment, love, restoration, equilibrium, peace.
Negative: boredom, stagnation, blandness, enervation, envy

VIOLET
Positive: authenticity, truth, quality, awareness, attunement, luxury, royalty,
Negative: Introversion, decadence, suppression, inferiority.

ORANGE
Positive: comfort, security, abundance, fun, passion, stimulation/hunger/food.
Negative: deprivation, frustration, immaturity, frivolity.

PINK
Positive: tranquility, nurture, femininity, sexuality, love, delicate.
Negative: inhibition, emasculation, weakness, fickle, claustrophobia.

GREY
Positive: grey is psychologically neutral.
Negative: lack of confidence, lack of energy, depression, hibernation, reclusiveness.

BLACK
Positive: sophistication, glamour, security, emotional safety, efficiency, substance.
Negative: opression, coldness, menace, heaviness, intimation.

WHITE
Positive: purity, cleanness, simplicity, sophistication, efficiency, clarity.
Negative: elitism, sterility, distance, isolation, coldness.

BROWN
Positive: earthiness, connectedness, reliability, support, grounded, stable.
Negative: heaviness, lack of sophistication, lack of humor, dullness.

In light of the impetuous development of technology in our current day and age, and life becoming more online, perhaps nothing could be more pertinent than the need to consider not only what our choice of color conveys about our personality, but what kind of a response is evoked from the color we use on a website layout.

Some considerations in choosing color schemes for your website:

What is the nature of your work?

Media? Environmental? Music? Business? Religious? If your theme is environmental and you are heavy on the use of red and orange, this would produce a conflict in the reception of your message. In like manner, if you are a religious organization, then a dominant use of pink might not be very appropriate.

What is the purpose or mission statement of your business or website?

What kind of a response are you trying to elicit from your audience? Once they spend time on your site, think of some words to describe the way you would like your audience to feel. Inspired, encouraged, relaxed, at peace, energized? Match up these responses with the color and response list.

What artwork or photographs are featured on your site?

Do these match up also with the message that you are trying to convey? You may have chosen great colors but you can easily undermine your color/message synchronicity with a photograph or piece of art that is not in line with your color scheme.

It is also important to have consistency if you are going to use a variety of colors, keep in mind that colors are grouped and divided into primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, and work best when used in these relations. Variations are perhaps best used in individual blog posts when you are writing on a specific topic and trying to bring about a certain response- this is very important when you are choosing photographs to be incorporated into the post.

Thai Nguyen is the founder of www.wantrepreneurjourney.com the site dedicated to inspiring people to step out build a business around their passions- to make a living, living the dream. Thai has been a successful chef and athlete, and now teaches on the topic of personal growth.

Do Something Different Today to Help Grow Your Blog

DIFFERENTIt is a truth universally acknowledged that if one has a blog, one is in want of readers. We want people to stop by and read our stories, hear our messages, see our videos, listen to our podcasts. We want to connect, we want to share, and we want to engage.

But sometimes we get stuck in a rut marketing ourselves to our audiences. It might be from a lack of time to spare, it might be from fear of the unknown – but it happens more often than we think. It’s usually always a good idea to give yourself a bit of a shake-up and move out of your comfort zone, (even if you’re only taking baby steps) but it can be another thing entirely actually doing it.

Proven traffic-drivers and ways to engage your readership are talked about a lot. There are tons of articles on what social media platform might be best for you, how to write a great comment so you get noticed on other people’s blogs, and how to be seen. Why not take a tip you’ve never used before and give it a go?

Think Outside the Box

Different things work for different people, but some of us also are guilty of sticking to our old favourites. What I’m suggesting is we look outside our usual channels and see if something might be useful. What are new bloggers doing that we aren’t? (Darren’s post on reviewing blogs as part of your research is a great start). What are bloggers in different niches doing? Is Instagram worth a shot to broaden your brand? Are we neglecting what Facebook can offer? Should we get started on Pinterest? Have we forgotten about Twitter? (I have!).

Let’s do a little experiment. Let’s take a new tactic that’s working well for someone else and give it our best shot. It might be successful and we have a new trick in our arsenal. It might get lost in the arctic wasteland of the internet. But we’ll have learned something, and will have more of an understanding of where our readers are and where new ones could be.

Stacey Roberts is the content ninja at ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. Can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

5 Reasons Your Blog Needs A Kindle Book

This is a guest contribution from Stefan Pylarinos, author of Kindle Money Mastery.

Kindle books have been getting a lot of buzz lately amongst the internet marketing community, and with good reason. Amazon has made it extremely easy for anyone to publish their own Kindle book for sale on Amazon.com, and many bloggers are taking advantage of it.  You might have thought in the past that writing and publishing your own book could be a challenging pursuit, but I’m about to prove you otherwise.  By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll be crystal-clear why publishing your own Kindle book is something that you won’t want to miss out on.

1. More Money

This is the most obvious reason.  Selling your own Kindle book to your audience is a great way to monetize your blog.  If your audience enjoys your writing and content, then it’ll be an extremely easy sell for you that will pocket you extra money every month.  Not only that, but by promoting it to your blog audience, it will help boost your Kindle book on Amazon.com.  Amazon is currently the #1 paid search engine in the world, with over 300 million credit cards in their system, which means that they will help sell your book for you to their visitors.  Even if you don’t have a blog, a Kindle book is still a fantastic way to make money if you know how to rank your Kindle book on Amazon.

2. Builds More Trust

A Kindle book is a fantastic way to build more trust and a deeper relationship with your readers.  In your book, you’re able to share stories and deliver immense value, which helps your readers to connect with you even more.  Often times people will skim over blog posts or not receive the value of them fully, simply because it’s free content that people take for granted.  With a Kindle book, people will actually sit down without distraction and read from start to finish with their Kindle e-reader, tablet or on their computer.

3. Makes You An Authority

Publishing your own Kindle book immediately makes you an authority in your marketplace.  Not only do you gain the status of being a “published author”, but you can also quite easily attain the title “Amazon Bestselling Author”.  I remember when I published my first Kindle book, Life Mastery, and posted the news on my personal Facebook page.  Immediately, I received a massive response of praise and admiration from friends and followers.  People put authors on a pedestal and will begin to see you differently. You instantly become an expert.

4. Will Help You Get More Traffic And Subscribers

Amazon provides a lot of opportunity for you to promote your Kindle book on their website.  One advantage they have is something called the KDP Select program, which means that your Kindle book becomes exclusive only to Amazon for 90 days.  During that time, the main benefit you receive is being able to run a Free Promotion on your Kindle book for up to 5 days.  During these 5 days, your Kindle book will be listed for free on Amazon and they will do the promoting for you.  It’s not unusual for a Kindle book to get a couple hundred or couple thousand downloads during those 5 days.

I’ve had a Kindle book get me over 22,000 downloads in five days.  You might be wondering, “how the heck does this help me get more traffic and subscribers for my blog?”  The primary way is by optimizing your Kindle book to promote your blog.  For example, you could have links in your book to different articles on your blog, to a squeeze page, as well as your social media accounts.  By taking advantage of this strategy, you could easily gain hundreds or thousands of new, highly targeted, quality visitors and subscribers.

5. Can Lead To Much Greater Opportunity

Being an author on Amazon can lead to much greater opportunity, such as media exposure or speaking opportunity.  I’ve been contacted by members of the media and been interviewed many times, getting me a lot of extra exposure, simply by having my own Kindle book.  I’ve also been invited to speak at different events and seminars.  Even requests for coaching and consulting can begin to become frequent.  Like I mentioned earlier, others look up to you as an expert and authority in your marketplace.  You’re no longer just a “blogger”, but you’re an AUTHOR.

These five reasons should be enough to really persuade you into writing and publishing your own Kindle book.  If you’re already writing content and articles for your blog, then it should be a fairly easy process for you to write your own Kindle book.  I see writing a Kindle book similar to writing a series of blog posts.  These days, a book doesn’t have to be super long either.  You could publish a 40 or 50 page book and sell it for $2.99 or $4.99, in which case Amazon will pay you a 70% royalty for every sale.  You can make even more if you create a paperback version of it also, which is extremely easy using CreateSpace.  The opportunity is there and it’s something that you’re going to want to jump in on sooner, rather than later.

Get going on it and don’t miss out!

Stefan Pylarinos is an Amazon Bestselling Author and founder of Kindle Money Mastery.  Stefan’s Kindle Money Mastery course teaches you step-by-step how to create, publish and market your own Kindle books so that you can make a full-time living through Amazon.

7 Out-of-the-Box Ideas to Write Effective Marketing Copy

This post is from Leslie Anglesey, writing coach and a contributor to Essay Tigers

You may be asking yourself: “How do I write copy that sells?” – Too many of us get distracted by myths about the rules of communication, marketing messages, and stuff like that.

Today’s post blends together seven out-of-the-box ideas for effective marketing writing into a comprehensive guide that can drastically improve the value of your blog. While there’s little left in this contemporary culture that could be considered out-of-the-box, these ideas are most definitely not orthodox.

If you want to make your blog writing memorable, follow these tips to make it shine.

Idea #1: Actually Get to Know the Audience

While it may seem cliché, in reality very few marketing-based writers take the time to get to know their audience beyond the bare essentials. The devil’s in the details ladies and gentlemen. We’re in an era of big data and the analytics abound. Use them. Many of these sources of information are free, for example Alexa.com, while other more specialized software options can be pricier but well-worth the investment.

Regardless, what separates the sheep marketing writers from the shepherds can be quantified in consumer behavior tracking, bounce rates, conversion rates along with split-testing. DATA. Oftentimes even the most creative and accomplished writers must bow and sacrifice for data that says, “This audience prefers this over this.” Typically that means shorter sentences, more precise statements and verbiage that first-graders consider elementary.

Idea #2: Base Your Marketing Writing on the “SEO of Tomorrow”, Not Today

How effective would your marketing copy be in terms of ranking (exposure/traffic) if it was written according to the SEO status quo of five, or even one year ago? Yeah, that’s how fast search engine technology and algorithmic innovation is moving. Take a look around at what the status quo considers to be highly optimized marketing writing today and then project a mere six months into the future. Where are we headed?

  • Conversational: The cryptic corporate-speak of the advertising world is no longer effective. At the slightest hint of unwanted sales pitches consumers click away. Marketing writing must speak the conversational language of the particular audience searching for and reading it.
  • Human: The more authentic, genuine and informative the writing the more valuable it will be even if the topics include technologies and things which are rapidly evolving. Forget about writing for search engine algorithms and write only for human beings.
  • Mobile-Friendly Inquiries: The inquiries of tomorrow will be spoken, not typed into search bars. Think about that carefully as you consider how to title your writing and craft it.
  • Authority: All marketing-based writing should to some degree seek to build/maintain perceived authority to be of any use in the online marketing realm of tomorrow.

Idea #3: Throw Traditional Outbound-Voice Completely Out the Window

This has to do with being transparent, conversational and human. The modern person’s brain completely shuts off the moment it perceives/hears a blatant pitch. Instead, write in an inbound-style that seeks to educate and inform the audience into making a purchasing decision without asking for it. Ideally, without even mentioning products or services until deeper within the sales funnel.

Idea #4: Consider What Your High-Brow Competition Isn’t Doing

Speaking of the SEO of Tomorrow, make your marketing writing stand the test of time by being the most important things a) relevant and b) authentic. No matter how amazing your writing may be, if it’s about a common subject it’s going to be almost impossible to stand apart from the crowd. Moving forward simply repurposing content isn’t a viable route. It has to be not only relevant, but authentic.

This means branding, updated user experience (the design that is shaped around your writing), and incorporating something unique. For example, a bamboo company can’t expect to rank by simply regurgitating common bamboo knowledge at this point. But, if they involve images, video and marketing writing that involves their farm, their day-to-day operations, their installations etc. that is unique. That’s what most of the competition ISN’T doing.

Idea #5: Play with a Niche-Focused Approach

Most marketing writing is meant to appeal to wide arrays of potential clients/readers, rather than being laser-focused on one specific niche. Instead of selling one type of bamboo to solve one issue or problem, common (ineffective) copywriters try to sell it to anyone willing to buy. As a matter of course, even the most conversation language no matter how finely formatted, comes across as generalized.

Moving forward the most effective marketing writing will be written by copywriters with specific knowledge about the niche/audience. Like studying the audience on a deeper level, being “niche” these days requires more narrowing.

  • The writing is for a specific kind of bamboo buyer from a specific region or location.
  • The writing focuses on specific benefits that these bamboo buyers need, ideally just one.
  • An example would be for hedging bamboo or privacy bamboo in particular using the most popular species of clumping bamboo.

See the difference between that niche-approach and writing basic post for the bamboo niche at large?

Idea #6: Understand the Dynamics between Genius & Creativity

Here’s how the most creative minds approach a problem, and it is a signifying trait of results-based genius (vs. traditional IQ tests). First, when presented with a problem, for example a 1200 word piece of marketing copy for a niche client, their minds go completely blank. Yes, nothing but mental cricket sounds can be heart initially.

Then, they allow the first random thought to surface without resistance and from there without any pattern go from one thought to another associatively. They sit back and wait until something relevant surfaces that leads to another until they can combine them into a creative and unique approach to the material. Once you understand how it works, you can employ this as well which makes writing first drafts far easier and less of a headache from a creative standpoint.

Idea #7: Elevate the Inbound Value of the Material

Regardless of how you define successful marketing writing, the bar is being raised whether you know/like it or not. What was considered premier web content a year ago is outdated and nearly irrelevant now. That’s a fact. Part of writing for the optimization of tomorrow is knowing that quality of content is measured in utility and accessibility.

Sometimes raising the inbound value doesn’t have to do with maxing the copy longer, or adding more unique geo-tagged photos or meta-data enhanced videos, but simplifying the message so that it’s genuine and almost child-like. Viral marketing has demonstrated this time and again through many well-documented marketing campaigns over the last decade.

Conclusion: Differentiation & Definitive Branding

Effective marketing doesn’t only make a sale or convert organic traffic, it expands brands, builds online empires, established internet credibility, generates perceived authority and differentiates common knowledge through unique content.

Voice is a component of branding, and intonation is the main ingredient of effective human communication. Everything needs to come together in harmony: branding, niche copy, conversational human engagement, excellent scanner-friendly formatting and a focus on concepts/platforms rather than rudimentary keywords. That truly is a quality recipe for effective marketing writing that you can bank on.

Leslie Anglesey is a writing coach and a contributor to Essay Tigers, a website that provides writing tips for college students and recent graduates.

Tapping into Joy and Disappointment: Lessons from Our Biggest eBook Launch Ever

Over on dPS last week we launched an eBook on Posing Portraits that has sold faster than any other eBook launch I’ve been a part of.

While talking with a friend about the success of the launch, he asked why I thought it had done so well. I thought I’d share my response here as I think there’s a couple of good lessons to take away from it.

There are certainly a number of factors at play that helped with our launch today including:

  • almost eight years of daily posting and building up a readership – this of course is the foundation for all we do and cannot be overstated.
  • a repeat author for the eBook - Gina, who wrote this eBook, has written two previous Portrait and Portrait Lighting eBooks and has contributed on our blog over the last couple of years. As a result she’s familiar to many of our readers.
  • a popular topic – portraits is a topic that many of our readers are interested in – in fact it’s the number-one type of photography that they do
  • a well-honed sales page – we worked hard on our sales copy for both the sales page and emails that we sent our subscriber list
  • a beautiful book – the cover and sample pages we showed of this eBook are beautifully illustrated and designed – it’s certainly easier to sell something with visual appeal
  • readers trust our products – this is our 16th dPS eBook. We pride ourselves on producing quality and useful eBooks and this builds trust/credibility over time.

But Perhaps the Biggest Reason Is…

As I was pondering our launch today a reader left this comment on our Facebook page:

Posing feedback

Then I spotted this comment just now on the blog post announcing the eBook:

Posing ebook feedback

When I saw this feedback I realised that probably the biggest reason that this eBook has been so popular with our readers is that it fulfils a felt need that many people have.

As that last comment says – most people know the feeling of seeing a photo of themselves (or others) that is awkward or stiff. This is a disappointment that we can all relate to as we realise that the image taken doesn’t really reflect the person in the shot.

On the flip side are those times when you see a shot of someone which captures their true spirit – feelings of joy accompany these moments!

At dPS we see both the joy and disappointment that many experience when shooting portraits and it was this very reason that we wanted to publish this eBook.

While at the time I don’t think we realised just how much it would connect with readers, now with hindsight we should have expected it.

Take-Home Lesson

Do everything you can to get in touch with the challenges that your blog’s readers face. What problems do they struggle with? What disappointments do they encounter? What moments of joy are they chasing?

Tapping into disappointment and joy is a powerful thing.

I think creating products (and for that matter writing blog posts) that respond to those things is a great recipe for success.

On a practical level this can mean manny things including:

  • identifying your own challenges, disappointments, joys (past and present)
  • watching the comments on the posts you (and other bloggers) write
  • asking readers to submit questions or identify problems that they face (further reading on one way I do this)
  • watching what search terms people are searching for to land on your blog
  • running focus groups with readers to ask them about their needs
  • running polls and using surveys to tap into reader needs (learn more on how I’ve done this here)
  • share your own needs/challenges/disappointments as stories on your blog (this often unearths other peoples)

The main thing is to keep putting yourself in the shoes of readers and let that experience inform your blogging direction.

PS: a Word About Manipulation

It is worth noting that tapping into the disappointments of readers is something that can at times lead to manipulation.

Playing on fears and problems and promising solutions is something that can definitely drive sales, but unless you’re backing it up with a solid product that actually solves those problems, you’re running the risk of manipulating your reader. Apart from helping you make a quick buck, it’s a ploy that doesn’t help anyone in the long run.

Instead of letting your readers disappointments inform empty marketing spin, let it inform the actual products you create to increase their actual value to those who buy them.

Content Week: A bit of homework to inspire you – come and get involved!

Theme WeekAfter the week we’ve had immersing ourselves in the wild and wonderful world of sourcing blog content, there shouldn’t be any one of you who hasn’t come up with at least one idea for a post. But in order to blog better this year, I’m encouraging you to push even further – spend some time this week (why not right now?!) writing 25 blog post ideas to get started. You don’t need to use all 25, just find some space in your brain to dig them all out and get them all down in hard copy. Have even more than 25? Go for it! Really, it’s just an exercise to put everything we’ve learned this week into practice. If nothing else, you’ll have a handy list to refer to next time you’re struggling for ideas.

As always, let us know how you go in the comments – you’re bound to find a friend in the same boat as you!

Content Week: Let’s Chat! Where do you get your blog ideas from?

Theme WeekThis past week, we’ve been talking about all things content – where can we get it? What inspires us? What works with our audience? What are some out-of-the-box ideas that will set us apart from the regular blogging crowd? We spoke with Chantelle Ellem, of Fat Mum Slim, who encouraged us to write what we love, and Carly Heitlinger of The College Prepster, who told us to take a topic and make it personal. We wrote a mega-list of places to go when we’re fresh out of ideas to inspire us again, and we heard from Darren on the topic.

Now it’s over to you – where do you find your ideas? Do you have any sure-fire sources of inspiration? What do you do when you’re hit hard with blogger’s block? We’ll also be chatting about this over on Darren’s Facebook page - we’d love to hear from you all.

Content Week Case Study: Carly Heitlinger of The College Prepster

Theme Weekcarly for pb theme weekIn 2008, Cartly Heitlinger was a freshman in college doing what most of us do in her situation – studying a subject they don’t like in order to get a degree they do. So she started a blog as part distraction, part creative outlet, writing about things she was interested in – study breaks and bows on shoes, to name a few.

Now, six years later, Carly writes a wide variety of posts on The College Prepster that revolve around fashion, lifestyle, shopping, her life in New York, and snippets about what she’s learned about blogging. Almost 2000 posts later, it appears she’s never been stuck for an idea.

For those of us who are dying to know how to keep our blogs interesting and fresh, I asked Carly to spill her secrets on how she found her groove, how she realised what her readers wanted most, and what are the kind of posts she won’t go near with a ten-foot pole. What she shares with us today are valuable tips she’s learned through trial and error – tips we can all use to inspire us to create useful and entertaining content no matter what our blog niche is.

carly in the beginningIn 2008 when The College Prepster began, it was Carly’s “little escape” that she could focus her energy on in between school stress, exams, and crew practice. She says the culture of blogging at the time was “actually pretty ideal”.

“There was NO pressure,” she says.

“No followers? No problem. Personal branding wasn’t a buzzword. Twitter wasn’t mainstream. Marketing dollars were still being spent in the traditional sense. The community of bloggers, (there were a handful in the same “niche” as me) was a lot closer and not competitive at all.”

So while there was no pressure, no competition, and no real need to be unique and stand out from the blogging crowd, Carly experimented with content she enjoyed writing and watched how it resonated with her growing audience.

“I really was just desperate for an outlet when I started; what I was writing about just sort of happened,” she says.

“For a while, I would blog about fashion (mainly products I liked) and quick little updates about my life. I was really young and quite busy with school, so I didn’t have that much to contribute. My content continued to evolve as both I and social media matured. I was able to share experiences and provide advice and work more closely with brands to produce exclusive content through the “College Prepster” voice.”

carly the evolutionThere are few blogs in existence that are exactly the same as what they were when they began. Over time, as we get more comfortable, more bold, more understanding of what works and what doesn’t, it’s natural to progress into new areas, to cut others, and find the winning balance. The best part of blogging is its flexibility, the ability of the author to test new things, to learn from their mistakes, and for their blog to evolve as they do.

The College Prepster has grown and evolved just as Carly has over the years, and while it stays true to its roots, it’s a much slicker operation these days, with a little more forethought into its content.

“I consider my blog to be a combination of ‘life and style’,” she says.

“So you might find anything from a recap of a fun weekend I had, new books or movies I loved, a personal style outfit, new arrivals or must haves from a favorite retailer, advice from a life experience, or simply just something interesting!”

The topics Carly features sit seamlessly alongside brands keen to reach her engaged and interested audience. From sharing fashion finds for the love of it, to collaborating with big-name partners, Carly ensures her posts are not just readable, but useful too.

“I always post products that I personally love and endorse. Some are paid features and I often make a commission off of the products, but it’s always things that I love!,” she says.

So what has the blog evolved into? And what resonates with her readers the most?

“I want my blog to be a place where people feel like they’re my friend and reading something they can’t find anywhere else,” she says.

“A blog entirely with only fashion photos seems too impersonal and a diary of just my life would be boring. I like to have a diversified content mix.”

carly what content“The real key is posting things that I find interesting or that I like. The right readers will follow,” Carly says.

“Writing about things that I think my readers will respond well to, versus listening to my intuition of what I want to post, actually has the opposite effect. You end up attracting the wrong audience!”

Right. so: diversify, go with your instinct, and stay true to yourself. What else?

“Readers who come back day after day respond very well to my “life event” updates. Whether I’m sharing a lesson I’ve learned or a fun day I had, they like following that plotline of my life. I get lots of new readers from Pinterest from fashion photos, organizational posts, and DIY/how-tos.”

Got it: Let people peek behind the curtain – they love connecting with the human experience. How has Carly seen that affect on her readers when she posts about personal stories?

“I think [writing more personal posts] is the key differentiator,” she says.

“It comes with costs (mainly a loss of privacy as readership has grown), but the value it adds to my blog is notable. Someone recently sent me an article about how blogs are dead and I almost had to agree. The market is saturated, the content is copied, and attention spans have gotten smaller! However, personal stories I think are getting lost or dramatized. (How many five minute Youtube videos have you watched about an inspirational video… only to move onto the next story next week?) There’s something to be said about a storyline that continues over the years. The College Prepster isn’t perfect, is relatable, and fails and succeeds. She has become a friend to the reader over the years! (It doesn’t stop at just the blog though, using other social media platforms to build out a more robust character is necessary).

“I love blogging about books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched. I love getting recommendations from other people, so those types of posts are generally great “conversation starters.”

But creating fresh, new, interesting content day after day, year after year can be difficult. What serves as Carly’s inspiration, considering she posts nearly every day (and sometimes twice a day!)?

“I find inspiration everywhere,” she says.

“But mostly I draw from my life experiences. I think this has actually allowed my blog to stand out amongst a rather saturated market and gain a loyal, very tuned-in audience. I’m not just showing a pair of new shoes, but instead talking about where I went in the shoes and what kinds of experiences I had.

Bingo.

Another of Carly’s hot tips is to step away from the mainstream ideas of what makes “blog content”.

“I think video, imagery, and writing all go hand and hand,” she says.

“I mean, look at Instagram. It’s really a mini blog (and should be treated as such!). It’s also important, from a business development perspective, to see where marketing dollars are being spent from a corporate level, namely Pinterest (photos) and YouTube (video). Writing certainly will continue to have its place, but it’s important to keep content fresh and “current.” If a photo or a video does the trick, then it does the trick. Content is content.”

So keep it personal, step outside the box, but also know what doesn’t work. What has Carly found doesn’t work for The College Prepster?

“As a rule, I don’t blog about politics or religion. That’s not to say that I don’t have opinions on these topics (I certainly do!), The College Prepster is just not the place. I used also lump personal relationships/my dating life into the off-limits category over time… but I’ve slowly relaxed a bit on that. I have a boyfriend, and while we share certain elements of our relationship online (mostly in the context of fashion and/or events we went to together), we keep it primarily ‘offline’.”

carly's advice“Write about what you’d want to read. (And don’t blog about something you’ve already read. There’s nothing more boring than reading blog posts consisting of photos I’ve already seen on another website!) I write as if i’m writing to my best friend!”

If you’ve found this case study as inspiring as I have, you might like to read more of Carly’s blog at The College Prepster, watch her (super-useful!) YouTube videos here, chat with her on Facebook, or Tweet her here.

 

Content Week: How to Deal with Your Blogging ‘Inner Critic’

Theme WeekDo you have an inner critic? That little voice in your head that whispers in your ear as you write… chipping away at your confidence… making you second guess yourself… scattering seeds of doubt and fear through every paragraph you write… resulting in the ‘delete’ key being the most used key on your keyboard!

Or maybe that’s just me???

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It is content week here on ProBlogger this week and while we want most of our posts to inspire and equip you to create great content on your blog, it would be remiss of us to ignore one of the biggest challenges that many bloggers face – dealing with their inner critic.

I asked readers about their inner critic and how they deal with it on the ProBlogger Twitter account and Facebook page earlier in the week, and it was fascinating to see people’s reactions.

For starters it seems most bloggers have an inner critic – the response on that front was quite overwhelming!

How to Deal with the Inner Critic

There are no right or wrong ways to deal with your inner critic, and depending on the situation, you might want to take a number of approaches.

Ignore or Banish It

It is easier said than done, but when your inner critic has nothing constructive to say and is stopping the creative process, banishing it can be one of the most useful things you can do.

There are a range of ways of doing this, as illustrated in these responses on our Facebook page:

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This simple technique of redirecting your brain when you notice negativity is something that works for a lot of people. It aims to break the moment of negativity and then allows you to move on. You can try a word, like Karen does, or you can try to force your brain to think of something else to crowd out your inner critic – long enough for you to move on and be unaffected.

Then there’s the ‘willpower’ approach which some seem to favour:

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I find this willpower approach tougher and generally like to try to find a way to work with my inner critic.

Partner With It

I love this response from Erin White:

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This rings true for me and has become my default position for dealing with my inner critic. You see ‘critique’ is actually a useful thing. When used at the right time and in a constructive way, it actually makes us better.

I’ve come to peace with the fact that my inner critic is often actually my inner quality control inspector.

The key is to keep it in its place and only allow it to do its thing when the time is right.

So for me, when I begin to hear the whispers of doubt as I’m writing, I don’t ignore them, rather, I defer them until later – at which point they can go to town with their critical thinking. I also work the same way when I’m finding new content – first, brainstorm, then critique.

Note: This doesn’t mean I never allow myself to be critical of what I’m doing until I’ve finished. Sometimes some critical thinking is useful earlier in the writing process and idea generation stage.

It just means that there are times to bring critical thought to bear, and other times to suspend it and let one’s creativity flow.

So for me, I have a time for writing and creating, and a time for critiquing and judging what I’ve written.

If the doubts get loud to the point that they’re crowding out my creativity, I often find it worthwhile to jot down the nagging feelings I have on a piece of paper next to my keyboard before getting back to writing. I tell myself that I’ll pay attention to that doubt I have later… but now is a time to create.

It’s not always easy to take this approach but I’ve found that the more I do it the better I get at putting off and then, at the appropriate time, embracing the inner critic.

A few Questions to Ask When Working with Your Inner Critic

Working with your inner critic as a parter takes a little practice and is something you need to balance.

Without them, your work can be shoddy and of a low quality. But let them have too much influence, and you may not actually produce anything! If you let your inner critic overrule all the content ideas you come up with, it can be hard to keep producing them, and you might find you’re writing about the same old thing and never stepping out into new territory.

As a result I think it’s important to learn to ask yourself a couple of questions to help get the balance right (note: these are the same questions I recommend asking when another person is being critical of what you’re doing):

1. Is their truth in the words of my inner critic? - sometimes the whispers contain no truth and are just holding you back – but sometimes they have truth in them and are signals that you could improve what you’re doing.

2. What can I do to improve? – If there is truth in what you’re hearing – what do you need to do to improve what you’re doing? Turn the critic’s words into a constructive direction and use them to help you improve what you’re working on.

This second question is really important for many of us to do as often we let the inner critic paralyse us and stop us in our tracks. Rather than getting wrapped up in the turmoil of the critique – let it be the launching pad to better things!

Lastly, try to decide upon an action you can take that will move you on from your critical thinking. It is easy to get bogged down at this stage so I find it is important to move back into ‘action’ and ‘creation’ after having a critical review of what I’m doing. This gets the momentum going again and me back into a more positive frame of mind.

A Word About Fear

The other inner turmoil that many of us face as bloggers is fear. While some of the above probably applies I have previously outlined 3 quick questions to ask when you’re paralysed by fear. If fear is crippling you (as it has me at times) – I hope those questions help get things in perspective.