4 Steps to Successful Product Creation Every Blogger Should Know (But Most Don’t!)

2015_01_30_probloggerThis is a guest contribution from Danny Iny.

You’ve heard it all before.

Yet another internet marketer has “taken the stage”, extolling the virtues of the newest “revolutionary” product or tactic that is guaranteed to blow the wheels off your competition and have you rolling around in hundred-dollar bills before your next electric bill comes due.

But you can only hear the proclamations so many times before you start to get skeptical.

Like, really skeptical.

So you tune out the noise and do your best to keep your head down, grinding away at the same old thing you’ve been working on for months.

Six months later, after spending countless hours and a lot of money that you really hope you make back in sales…

You end up with the same old outcome.

But what if there was a way to create the kind of success all those “Get Rich Quick” gurus are spouting on about?

What if it turned out to be a process that’s not only profitable, but also scalable and repeatable?

And… what if someone was finally able to crack the code?

Turns out, all it takes is a little bit of telepathy.

Step One: Tune In (Listen to What Your Audience is Broadcasting)

Now, before we get started and you get all excited (or disappointed) that this is (just) another get-rich-quick scheme… ;-)

…let’s get one thing straight: this process takes hard work – a lot of it.

If you don’t put in the work, that fat pile of cash isn’t going to just materialize all by itself.

The first step is to listen to your audience.

I can hear you already: “but, Danny! I do listen to my audience. I give them what they say they want, and they *still* aren’t buying anything that I offer!”

But, chances are that the way that you’re listening isn’t quite what it could be.

First, the good news – chances are that you are an expert in your field, and because you do listen to your audience, you have a good sense of your industry.

But, there’s also bad news – the likelihood is high that you have preconceived notions about both the industry and your customers, and these preconceptions are keeping you from breaking through.

Gather Data About Your Audience

There are a few different ways to collect information from your audience:

  1. Eavesdropping on Conversations

Even if you don’t have an audience, you can start listening to conversations around the web.

Eavesdropping is the same online as it is in person, and by finding out where your target audience hangs out, you can start to listen to and track the things that they say.

Are they active on Facebook groups or Twitter? Do they leave lots of comments on the big blogs in your industry? Are they involved in forums around your topic?

Pay attention to the exact words that they use to describe the problems.

  1. Taking note of email conversations

If you already have an established audience, you can use this to your advantage. It’s not a requirement, just an added bonus. FYI, this is the only step that requires an audience!

Take note of the things that your audience emails you about. Do they have specific issues or topics that they bring up regularly? Do many of your readers talk or complain about the same things?

And, if you’re feeling a little bit shaky about your connection to your audience, here’s a great ProBlogger post about building up your blog.

  1. Simple surveys

Whether you have an audience or not, you can create a simple survey to gather even more data.

And when I say simple, I mean simple: just two questions long!

The first question will be, “if you had 15 minutes to ask me anything, what would it be” – this question can be broadened (and clarified) by including a topic area, if you don’t have an established audience or are bringing people to your survey via advertising.

The second question will then be, “if I promise not to sell you anything, can I follow up with a phone call?”

(Hat tip to Ryan Levesque and his Deep Dive Survey process for the survey information in this section!)

  1. Informational interviews

Anyone who agreed to the phone call in the survey will then go on to do an informational interview with you.

The most important things to cover in these informational interviews are what challenges they are dealing with at the moment, and what they’re currently doing to solve the problem.

This is where you can really dive deep into the issue that your audience is having and ask clarifying questions, to get to the heart of what’s going on.

These interviews will last somewhere around thirty minutes or so, just long enough for you to gather the data you need, without being overwhelming to your interviewee.

Analyze the Data You Gathered

The next step after you finish gathering your data is to analyze it!

You’ll want to search through the information that you’ve been collecting, and look for patterns:

  • Is there a topic area that comes up often?
  • Are lots of people having the same (or a similar) problem?

Then, figure out how you can solve the problem. Is there a product or service that you can provide for them that would make a huge impact on their lives? What can you easily and dependably provide for them?

Step Two: Talk Back (How to Ask What Your Audience Wants)

Once you have figured out how to solve your audience’s problem, you might think that it’s time to retreat to your office and create the solution.

But, wait!

There’s still more to do, to make sure that your audience wants (and will pay for) the solution that you are ready to offer them.

Even if you started out the process without an audience, by now you have a list of people who have answered your survey and participated in your informational interviews.

You will present the offer framed as a response to their demand: “here’s this thing that you asked me for – guess what – I’m going to do it for you!”

You’re not actually selling anything at this point, but rather just gathering more feedback and validation about whether you will proceed with your offer or not.

If the responses that you get range anywhere in the “vaguely interested” to “crickets” range, it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board, to look through your data and see if there is a different direction that you can go.

But, if your audience responds enthusiastically, reaching out with grabby hands and shouting, “yes, yes, yes!! Gimme!” then you know that you are on the right track!

Only after hearing this enthusiastic response should you move on to the next step.

Step Three: Set off the Fireworks (Invite Your Audience to the Show)

If you’re not feeling completely comfortable with releasing something for sale on your blog just yet, check out this article about what to do before you launch a product.

The key to planning a pilot is to offer minimum viable richness: only as much as needed, and no more. There won’t be extra bells and whistles, no fancy software is necessary, and the first students will be early adopters – kind of like beta testers for a new software product.

Your early adopters will have access to the material for a fraction of what the eventual course will cost; this discount is in exchange for the feedback that they will give you throughout the course.

You will open up a brief registration window to sell your pilot course, in this order:

  1. Open the cart – Send out an email to your audience letting them know that you are offering the pilot.
  2. Send follow up emails – If you have trouble with the actual selling, head over here to grab a set of sales templates that you can swipe and use word for word in your sales process, on the house. But move quickly – they are only going to be free for the next couple of days!
  3. Close the cart – Once the registration window is done, close the cart!
  4. Decide whether to move forward – If your pilot only sold a few spots, it’s time to decide whether to move forward – did enough people sign up to make the experience worth it for both you and them?

(If only your mom and your Aunt Betty signed up, it may be time to refund their money and head back to the drawing board! Sorry, Aunt Betty.)

But, if you sold most of the spots, or even sold out, congratulations! You have validated that your offer is a good one, and that people will pay for the solution to their problem.

Now it’s finally time to make good on your promise, and solve their problem!

Step Four: Blow Their Minds! (Launch to Massive Success)

Even though this is only a pilot of your eventual product or course, you still want to provide an amazing experience for your students.

You want to create an educational experience that is efficient, effective and appealing.

You want to make sure that you teach only what your students need to know, and to be crystal clear and thorough in teaching the content.

One way to do this is to ask, “based on my students’ desired outcome, what do they need to know?”

You will want to build in small wins for your students, structuring the course content in such a way that your students are able to create a habit of succeeding!

You will plan your course material so that one idea builds on the ones taught previously, and you will run the program from a basic outline of the course.

The pilot course won’t be perfect, but it will teach you a lot about what can be improved for the eventual full course.

And, as long as you are delivering what you promised to your pilot students, the likelihood is that both you and they will learn a lot from the process!

Tying the Process Together

So now you have the full step-by-step process of how to launch a product from scratch, with almost guaranteed results.

You’ve learned how to:

  • Tune in telepathically to your audience;
  • Figure out how to solve their biggest problems;
  • Use their feedback to validate that they will actually pull out their wallets;
  • And, work with them to pilot the solution to success!

If you’re still feeling like you’re not quite ready, I’ll be hosting a webinar on Saturday, February 7 that will walk through the process in more depth.

By now you can see that it’s definitely not a get-rich-quick scheme. But, when used properly, this process can absolutely bring some cash in the door.

You now wield the power that those “Get Rich Quick” gurus only dream about.

That means it’s time to get out there and start collaborating with your audience.

They have a problem, and they need YOU to solve it!

Danny Iny is the co-founder of Firepole Marketing, and creator of the Course Builder’s Laboratory. If you want to learn more about this, you’re invited to attend a one-time only free training webinar that he’s hosting, teaching “How to Build and Launch a Blockbuster Product… Every Time!”


Why You Should NOT Start a Travel Blog

travelThis is a guest contribution from travel blogger Chris Appleford.

From the moment we made the decision to sell everything we own and travel the world indefinitely, we wanted to have our own travel blog. Went spent hours looking for the best templates, making lists of what blogs needed to be written when we ‘go live’, signing up to affiliate programs, reading other blogs to get travel and blog advice, coming up with the all important name, blah, blah, blah. We had high hopes that within no time we’d be seeing big numbers visiting our site every month and we’d have made our first dollar.

Well guess what? It turns out it’s not that easy. And guess what else? I’m questioning whether we should have started a blog at all. Everyone who starts a travel blog will tell you they’re “doing it to keep their friends and family back home up to speed with what adventures they’ve been getting up to”. But we all know that’s a load of garbage, right? Deep down they did it because they want to be ‘internet famous’ like Nomadic Matt, and fund their travels with sponsored posts, banner advertising, affiliate sales, eBooks, the list goes on. They want to be ‘location independent’, the great buzz phrase of blogging superstars!

But the reality is, just because you’ve decided to travel, doesn’t necessarily mean you should start a travel blog. And if I’m going to be honest, most of you shouldn’t. Here’s why…

Market saturation

Do you know how many travel blogs there are? No? Neither did I, but when I typed ‘travel blog’ into Google, there were 1.2 million hits. Are you as old as I am and remember watching the World Wrestling Federation when it was allowed to be called the WWF, with Hulk Hogan, The Iron Sheik, Andre The Giant and the ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage? There’d be 25 wrestlers in the ring at the same time and it was a Battle Royale until there was only one man left standing. That’s what travel blogging is going to like for you, except there are 1.2 million in the ring instead, and it’s not fake! If the aim of your blog is to make money and help fund your travels (be honest), then you’ve got some major competition. There are only 10 spots on the first page of any Google search, and if you think you’re going to be sitting anywhere near the top of the pile of a search query any time soon, you’re dreaming. Unless of course your blog is soooooo niche that you’re basically the only one in it! If you want to be duking it out with Nomadic Samuel, The Planet D, The Professional Hobo, or any of the other big hitters, then you’d better be prepared because it’s going to take a long time.


How long are you travelling for? Six months? A year? If you’re going to be gone for anything less than two years, and you want to make decent money from your blog (and when I say decent, I mean enough to pay for food and accommodation), then don’t bother. I know, I know, there are a few success stories where people have started making decent money within 12 months of starting their blog, like Chris Guillebeau and his originally titled site But they are few and far between. Have you read articles online that made you think, “yeah, I could do that?” Be honest, I did too, like ‘How I make $40,000 a month from my blog’ and ‘$72,000 in eBooks in a week – 8 lessons I learned’. Here’s the harsh reality: unless you’re willing to spend years building your audience, this is never going to happen for you.


To build an audience quickly, one of the thousands of tasks you need to do on almost a daily basis is write good articles. If you’re a good writer, you might be able to pump out a well-written, articulate piece of prose in about an hour or so. If you’re an average writer, it’s going to take longer. And if you suck, it’s probably not going to take you that long at all, which is why your article is going to suck and no one apart from your mum and dad are going to read it! Your article has to optimised up the wazoo…SEO, key words, outbound links, internal links, attention grabbing headlines, the right URL, meta data…I think my head is going to explode! And that’s before you even start promoting your posts. Triberr seems to be the ‘in’ thing, but does anyone actually click on those automatically scheduled tweets? You need to build your audience on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube (if you make videos), Vimeo (if you make really good videos), Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon…have I missed any? Probably, and of course you don’t need to be on all of them (I’m honestly not so sure Facebook is worth it any more), but whatever platforms you are on, developing those takes time.

Then there’s commenting on everyone else’s blog posts to generate inbound links, the holy grail of SEO! Not that these kind of backlinks are worth much, but they’re better than nothing. And of course, guest blogging, like I’m doing here on ProBlogger (thank you Mister Rowse for all eternity). The better the site you guest blog on, a) the better quality the backlink is, and b) the better chances of enjoying a little surge in popularity with the faint hope that some of them will stick (until they realise your blog sucks and go back to what they were doing before).

And I’ve just scratched the surface of what you need to do. I haven’t even mentioned things like research to keep up with the ever-changing world of blogging, networking, creating products to sell, pitching for paid media junkets, etc., etc.


Do you know what SEO stands for, or any one of the thousands of other digital TLA’s there are (that’s Three Letter Acronym for those who don’t know)? I bet you’ve read about big bloggers who said they didn’t have a clue about blogging when they started but “with hard work and dedication I taught myself and made it to the top, and you can too”! Guess what, that was in 2006 when they said that, and hardly anyone knew about blogging back then. Now EVERYONE knows what SEO is, everyone is working their butt of to make sure every article they write, and every post and page they create, is optimised like crazy.

But as I’ve already mentioned, there are only 10 places on the first page of any Google search, and if you’re not on it, chances are you’re not going to be found by very many people. So I suggest you bite the bullet and pay for some education, do an online course and see what you think of blogging once you’re done. I did a course called Travel Blogging Success and really enjoyed it. My blogging improved out of sight. Doing a course may give you a buzz, or it may make you see the light and you explore other ways to make an income. Either way it will be money well spent.


It costs money to blog. There are small startup costs like purchasing your domain name and buying a decent premium template. There are ongoing costs like hosting and cloud storage. There are educational costs if you want to get better, faster. I paid a few hundred dollars to do the Travel Blog Success course, and it accelerated my learning about 1000%. I may still have learnt how to blog had I not joined by just doing my own research, but this helped me improve my blog immediately. Then there’s the cost of time. You see, when you’re spending hours and hours, days and days, weeks and weeks, working on your blog, that is time you’re not spending on making actual money by doing something else. I have to make money while I travel, otherwise the bank will take my house back in Australia, so I get work on Odesk. But if I’m going to set aside time to work on my blog, then that is time I’m not working for a client and getting paid real money. It’s an important consideration that we sometimes forget.

What you miss when you blog

When you’re blogging, you’re not doing something else. Sounds obvious right, after all, we’re not Neo from The Matrix who seems to everywhere at the same time. So when I’m at my laptop bashing out another article that next to no one is going to read, and my two-year-old son is tugging at my arm begging me to chase him around the room, I’m missing out on that play time. Or I’m not wandering down the Champs Elysees at night in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Or I’m not watching the latest Quentin Tarantino movie I’ve been dying to see, or Skyping friends and family back home. The truth is when you’re working on your blog, you’re not doing something else you would probably rather be doing. You need to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”

Some people just can’t write!

Ok, this is going to cause some people a little pain, maybe even dent the pride of a few people, but some of us were not born to put pen to paper (sorry, but I couldn’t think of a digital analogy about laptop keys and Microsoft Word)!

If you can’t spell, and don’t know how to use the built-in spell checker, your blog site is going to suck. If you can’t string a few words together in a coherent, engaging way, then guess what? Everybody together now…”your blog is going to suck”. Why would a company inject funds into you and your blog if you can’t write something that somebody else is going to want to read? They’re not, because any brand that a company sponsors is a reflection on them.

Be honest with yourself, if you want to make money from your blog but you can’t write to save yourself, then do yourself a favour and find other ways to make money while travelling. You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway, but you can’t be Lloyd Christmas either (Google him).

Is there any hope?


Just kidding, of course there’s hope! Where there’s an Internet connection, WordPress, and a will there’s a way. There are many, many success stories out there of people who make a living from their blog and the associated income streams they generate from it like guest speaking, digital products, and membership programs. But be honest and ask yourself the right questions before you plough time and money into your travel blog. How long am I going to be travelling for? What’s more important to me, keeping a travel blog or spending that time doing something else? Is there an easier way for me to make money while travelling? Do I suck at writing?

If you’re still keen to start that travel blog then I commend you. You’ve obviously thought long and hard about it, and are willing to put the time and effort into making it a success. From my research, it seems like any blog that is making serious money started around 2007, give or take a year or two. That gives you some idea of how long it’s probably going to take to start raking in those six and seven figure salaries.

In hindsight, we were on a hiding to nothing starting a blog about nomadic family travel, after all there are plenty of those like yTravel blog and Travel With Bender who are already firmly established in that niche. We would have been better off trying to get even more specific and targeting a smaller, but far more receptive and loyal audience. If there’s one thing that I’ll always be grateful for having started our travel blog, is that I now know what I must do to make my NEXT blog a success. Unless of course the brilliant readers of ProBlogger become loyal followers of Travelling Apples and send my monthly unique visitors numbers into the stratosphere!

You can follow our journey on our website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Happy travels!


Going from a Blog to a Vlog: What the Big Companies Can Teach Us

This is a guest contribution from social media analyst Matthew Yeoman.

The move online from only having a blog for your online marketing is, of course, one which has long since been abandoned. Brands now have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and on and on to promote their website and the blogs themselves.

A trend towards video, with YouTube leading the way, has lead to the rise of the vlog as the next big thing in content marketing. Many of the biggest brands in the world are on YouTube. They are killing it with views, subscribers (there’s a familiar term for bloggers), and brand exposure.

I’m going to be using data supplied by SocialBakers to look at two channels: Apple and Red Bull. These two brands have contrasting styles of content presentation. You can see both extremes of how you can vlog successfully, and how this relates to blogging.

The Apple vlog strategy: Quality over quantity

We all know Apple to be one of the highest quality electronics manufacturers in the world. Their products are sleek, sexy, and right to the point. It’s no surprise that their vlogging strategy follows this exact style guide.

Apple’s vlog works on having high quality content at only the most high need moments. You can expect a new video on their page for a product launch, and their bi-annual events are also posted.

To look at the numbers, here are Apple’s top ten most viewed videos as of Oct. 30 2014:

Apple – Holiday – TV Ad – Misunderstood 6723096 46077 3891 92.21
Apple – Introducing iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus 5478799 34912 5081 87.3
Apple – iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus – TV Ad – Duo 5408369 21099 8642 70.94
Apple – iPhone 5s – TV Ad – Powerful 2855270 22496 2295 90.74
Apple – iPad Air – TV Ad – Your Verse 2526843 20616 1779 92.06
Apple – iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus – Seamless 2522625 15249 1823 89.32
Apple – iPhone 5s – Dreams 2042473 20378 1331 93.87
Apple – Mac 30 – Thirty years of innovation 1891868 26777 2114 92.68

Click on any of those 10 videos and you’ll see a high quality video with incredible production values. This is part of Apple’s overall brand strategy of being a bit elitist. Your brand strategy on both your vlog and your blog has to match the overall feeling of your brand as well.

An interesting approach that Apple has taken is that they have disabled comments on all their videos. Take a look at the Likes and Dislikes for each video, the ratio shows a percentage of how ‘Liked’ Apple is on YouTube.

Their Like/Dislike ratio is, at best, 92.68. At lowest, 70.94. They average out in the high 80s. This is highly unusual for a brand as they typically score much higher. Nike Football has nearly a 97% Like/Dislike ratio for their 10 most popular videos.

Apple is a bit of a controversial brand. In order to escape the nightmare of YouTube comments, they have chosen to disable comments. If your brand blog has problems with controversy following you, you may want to disable them on YouTube as well. Apple’s low ratio shows that their YouTube page would likely be filled with negativity, avoiding it may prove to be a wise move on their part.

Everything I have just talked about parallels Apple’s blog exactly. They write about the same stuff they’re vlogging about, and they update just as often. The posts themselves are very well produced, and there’s no comment section. Are you starting to see the similarities in blogging and vlogging now?

Red Bull fosters community and rapid video releases

Red Bull is a company so vastly different from Apple that it is no surprise that they have gone a completely different route with their vlogging. With a target marketer of nearly always active millennials, with short YouTube attention spans, and a product that is best with constant promotion, Red Bull have turned to the power of LOTS for their vlogging. Here’s a typical video:

Short, punchy, full of action. And infrequent actions isn’t their style. Here is what the Red Bull video page looked like at the time of this writing:


Seven new videos in the last 24 hours! You’d think that this extreme audience, with some videos catching virality and getting 1 million+ views, would have an equally unpredictable subscriber growth. You’d be wrong about that:


That growth is so consistent that it’s boring! This approach, however, is far from boring. They have taken the concept from their daily blog, and applied it to a vlog. If you’re seeing growth in your brand’s blog with daily updates, this may well be the approach you take with your vlog to increase your channel subscriber growth.

The other thing that they are doing, which Apple isn’t, is fostering a community by opening up their comment section. Now it is, I’d say around 50% of the time, full of pointless trolling. The rest of the time you’ll see their fans voicing their amazement, asking if it’s fake or not, or bragging about crazy stuff they say they’ve done.

Their channel engagement rate shows this consistent brand interest paying off as people come back again and again to comment:


Just like Apple above, everything that Red Bull does on their blog they also do on their vlog. Both have a clear vision of who they are as a brand, and link their content strategy across vastly different content delivery platforms.

What you can learn from Red Bull and Apple’s vlogging

There are two key takeaways from this:

  • You need to match your company voice to the content style you deliver. A high profile brand needs a high end vlog – just like their blog. A high-energy brand needs high energy content with a frequent delivery schedule – just like their blog.
  • Your community engagement will depend on the type of feedback you typically receive. Brands with controversial images may benefit from having no comments associated with their vlog. Those with a youth market need to help foster a community, and the comments section is where that happens.

How all of this ties back into your blog is that you will likely have already learned a great deal of how you will vlog thanks to your blog. If your comment section is notoriously filthy, clean it up by disabling it. If you have seen a community growing around your brand in the comment section that goes beyond trolling, open up your comments and allow the community to grow. Above all, make sure that the tone and presentation of your blog and vlog match one another for a consistent brand voice.

Matthew is the social media analyst over on the Devumi blog. You can find him there every Wednesday and Friday writing about the latest developments in social media. Stop by the blog, follow the @Devumi Gorilla on Twitter, or check out this article, to learn more about Devumi

Blogging and Privacy: How to Blog Authentically Without Losing Your Voice

Hello! (1)Laura Tremaine’s blog is called Hollywood Housewife because she is just that – married to a movie producer and living in LA. A longtime blogger, she’s learned how to balance honest storytelling with keeping her husband, her family, and their life together somewhat incognito. Always only a Google search away from film fans, Laura has erred on the side of caution when it comes to sharing her tales, but manages never to lose the heart of them. She is a gifted writer with an interesting story to tell, and I have no doubt you’ll take away lots to think about if you’ve ever been concerned about laying out your life on the internet in blog form.


Blog Beginnings

I started blogging as a creative outlet for my writing. I moved to Los Angeles from Oklahoma with the romantic notion that I was going to write novels and screenplays for a living. But I never got that far. I fell into television & movie production as a way to pay the bills, and that workload is really kind of intense. After I got married, I quit working in reality television and decided that I finally wanted to pursue that original dream. Blogging was just beginning to get huge, and the instant gratification of publishing on the internet was so alluring.

At first I just did it for myself and the handful of family and friends that read my first small blog. After a few stops and starts, I finally decided that I wanted to take the whole thing more seriously and grow an audience. I started over with the blog name Hollywood Housewife (because I am one) and have been plugging along with it ever since.

Privacy Needs

My husband Jeff Tremaine is a successful director/producer with a large fan base. The demographics that are attracted to his movies and tv shows aren’t necessarily the same people who want to read about my parenting journey. In the beginning, it was really important to me to keep the two things separate. There are a lot of google searches for his name and work, and I didn’t want people looking for a crude clip of a movie stumbling upon my list of favorite moisturizers. After we had children, I was especially concerned about our family’s privacy and how I could write my story without exploiting our two kids or too much of his personal life.

By now there has been some crossover – people who love him have found my Instagram, for example, which then leads them to the blog and everything else. It’s okay, though. You can see pretty quickly what I’m about, so that naturally weeds out those who aren’t interested in family, faith, & beauty content. And for the most part, almost everyone has been very respectful of the distance I keep between what I’m doing on the internet and what he’s doing on the big screen.

No-Go Zones

For search engine reasons, I don’t use my husband’s name and I have given him and our children little nicknames I use instead. The reasoning behind this makes sense, but sometimes I wish I’d picked something a little less silly. It’s tricky to write the more serious posts while referring to the most important people in my life as The Gorilla, Pigtail, and Pirate. You live and you learn, I guess, but that is one thing that I tell newer bloggers to think long and hard about.

I also don’t include too much about where we live, but I think everyone on the internet – blogger or not – should do that. And there are huge chunks of our life I leave out entirely. We’ve had very significant illnesses on both sides of our family, and even though it was on our hearts day and night, I didn’t write about any of it for years. It just didn’t feel right. I also never write about our personal relationships with people who are well known. I want my blog to be a peek into a true Hollywood household, but it’s not a site for name-dropping.


Balancing Authenticity and Privacy

If it were just me, my blog would be a LOT more tell-all. I have no patience for fake people, and I like to write honestly about things. But juggling these other factors in our life has been a good discipline, actually. I’ve rarely hit publish on a post and wished I could take it back. I’m very deliberate about what and how much I share, but it’s all truth. I think the authenticity comes from me sharing MY heart and MY taste, and less about being juicy. It’s easy for me to be honest about what *I’m* feeling or the products and things that *I* like, and I try to leave anyone else out of the equation. I figure that will get me in the least trouble.

I’m also fairly quick to say if I made a mistake, failed at something, or if I changed my mind on a topic. There is no picture perfect illusion on my blog. This goes a long way in deconstructing  whatever myth people might assume about our lifestyle.

Reader Relationships

I have some of the best readers on the planet. I’m always underestimating them and they’re constantly surprising me. Like if I think I’m posting something sorta wackadoo and they’re not going to understand what I mean – they do! They’re almost always along for the ride and I love this about them. Somewhere along the way we’ve sliced through the blogger wall, and I always feel like I’m a real person writing to real people. It’s easy to get confused about that.

I interact with my readers daily on Facebook and Instagram  I love twitter, but my readers aren’t over there so much. My favorite way to interact with my readers has been through my monthly Secret Posts  These go to subscribers’ emails and the content is more personal than what I put out on the blog. Lately I’ve been asking readers to respond to the Secret Posts, and people are blowing me away with their thoughtful interaction.

And Her Husband?

He loves the blog. It’s the only one he reads – ha! Because his career is such a circus, he has always encouraged me to have my own thing and to pursue it as much as I wanted. He keeps the kids when I go on blogging trips and conferences, and he’s often my sounding board when I’m about to publish a sensitive post.

He is way less concerned about our general privacy than I am. Or maybe he just trusts the way I’ve handled it so far. He has never asked me to delete or change something I’ve posted.

More Privacy = More Struggle

We’ve had a few weird things happen, like people finding me and trying to get a direct line to him. I’ve received more than one script in the mail that someone wishes I’d pass along. (Those go directly in the trash, we can’t directly accept anything like that for legal reasons.) It’s also annoying that sometimes I can’t write about a major thing in our life until after it’s already happened. Last year he made the movie Bad Grandpa and I basically couldn’t write about any part of it for over a year, even though it was a huge part of our daily lives.

That’s not a real struggle, though, is it? While I sometimes have to be creative or find a workaround when writing about our friends and family, the bottom line is that you’ll never regret being too careful about what you put online.

The Takeaway

Even though blogging and social media continue to change rapidly, I feel really lucky to be able to tell my story in real time on the internet. There are people who put way too much of themselves out for the world to see, and there are people who are terrified to put even the littlest bit on display. But for most of us – no matter what level of privacy we either must or choose to maintain – there is a happy medium. Be creative! I know one blogger who writes about some of her current mental health struggles as if it was something that happened a long time ago. That makes her feel safer about sharing. Another blogger I know spills out a lot of harsh detail about a certain situation and she has ended up a thought leader on a topic very few are willing to discuss publicly. A lot of obstacles can be worked around, be it a job or a family situation, or anything else you’ve convinced yourself requires silence. If you want to tell your story, do it. There’s no shortage of people who want to hear it. [Tweet that!]


So how about you – what’s the balance you strike between authenticity and privacy? It’s one I’ve definitely juggled.

Stacey is the Managing Editor of a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about simple living, good food, and travelling the world with kids at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama (cat pictures welcome!).

Stay a Step Ahead on Social Media: Tips from SMX Social in Las Vegas

SMX_Social_1This is a guest contribution from Paul Zubrinich of Little Web Giants.

Late last year, I returned from the biggest social media marketing conference in the world, SMX Social in Las Vegas. There were experts from all fields of social media and a wealth of new ideas floating about. Here are some of the takeaways.

ROI is more than conversions

“Facebook News Feed is like email with a 100% open rate” – Beth Horn, Facebook

Think about this scenario. Someone discovers your business through Facebook and likes it. In the coming months they notice a few of your posts and engage with a couple of them.

A few months later, they Google your business and convert to a buyer. Now in your web analytics, the conversion is falsely attributed to Google organic search, even though Facebook was the first point of contact and crucial to the sales cycle. Due to this realisation, marketers are moving toward measuring ROI based off more factors than just the last click. If you only measure by the last click, it is like measuring each player on a footy team by how many goals they kicked, thus neglecting the contributions of the backline and mid-fielders.

The takeaway for SMEs: Measure engagement – it has value!

Tone down the “buy now” rhetoric!

“ROI isn’t important in this arena. Engagement is!” – Erik Jensen, Denny’s Restaurants

You know the guy. He clomps into every online conversation, selling. All of his posts are so promotional that they make infomercials look subtle. Imagine if he went to a business conference and in every conversation he was just telling people how good his product or service was. This is no way to build trust or make friends.

This is becoming even more important as Facebook has stated that as of January 2015, people will see less promotional content in their News Feeds. It prompted Altimeter Group’s Rebecca Lieb to tell the New York Times, “It’s a clear message to brands: If you want to sound like an advertiser, buy an ad.”

On social media, the soft sell is the best way to win people over (and reach their News Feeds). An oft-recommended strategy is to apply the Pareto principle: 80% of your posts should be informative and 20% can be promotional. This article is an ideal example. I am sharing information without loading it up with my own sales spiel.

The perfect time to post is different for everyone

“The world’s best practices aren’t always your best practices.” – Tim Welsh, Academic Partnerships

I will embrace the day when people abandon those memes saying the “best time to post”. Imagine you sell UV lamps and one of your target demographics is people who work night shifts. You read one of those blog posts that says mid-afternoon is the ideal time to post on Facebook. But your target demographic is in bed then. What about a fast food place that targets young students up late at night? Post in the evening. Go for it. The takeaway: Know your demographic and meet them on their terms.

There is a wealth of tools out there for discovering when your followers are online. Facebook has Insights, Twitter and Pinterest have Analytics, and Simply Measured offers analytics tools for LinkedIn and Instagram. No matter what social network you are using, find out about your followers and your target market, rather than settling for population averages. It will put your posts in front of more potential customers.

Summing up…

The future of social media will not be built on one-size-fits-all strategies. You must know your target market. Track your outcomes and do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Take part in the conversation with a more human tone. Show you care about your customers. Now get active and join the conversation!

Did you follow #SMXsocial on Twitter? Do you have any other tips to share or questions for the author?

Find all the slides from SMX Social here:

Paul Zubrinich is co-founder and head of online marketing at Little Web Giants, an internet services firm. He blends a skillful mix of strategic search engine marketing, conversion rate optimisation, content marketing and pay-per-click advertising. He has worked with clients from fields as diverse as the solar photovoltaics industry, environmental advocacy and the health and beauty industry. He won Marin Software’s Biggest Social Geek contest of 2014 against over 2,300 social media marketers worldwide.

Filtering Out Google Analytics Junk to Read Your Numbers Better

This is a guest contribution from Larry Alton.

Web developers, content managers, marketing teams, and many other online professionals rely on Google Analytics to understand visitor trends. However, you can run into a significant amount of noise, which can skew your Google Analytics numbers and your subsequent interpretations of this data.

Luckily, you can filter out certain types of traffic, so that your numbers don’t get watered down by your own traffic, Web crawlers, or duplicated because of web address letter case discrepancies. Here are three main filters to consider setting as you move forward with a Google analytics strategy.

Cutting Out Internal Traffic

Every time you and your colleagues navigate throughout your website, it can skew your traffic numbers. Luckily, you can filter these out of your Google Analytics reports, so that you get a more accurate representation of your traffic.

Just head over to your Admin page and select “Filters” under the “View” column. Next, click on “+New Filter” and make sure that the “Create New Filter” bubble is selected.

Name your filter something like “Exclude office traffic” or “Exclude home traffic.” Choose the “Custom Filter” option, then select “IP address” from the dropdown menus.

When you enter the IP address in the Filter pattern field, you’ll need to use backslashes before each dot, according to Google’sregular expressions requirements.   

Excluding Bots and Spiders

It can be extremely frustrating to examine your web traffic data, only to see that certain recurring bots and spiders are accountable to a large chunk of the pie. Luckily, Google istaking proactive measures to protect Analytics users from these annoyances.

You can opt into Google’s automated bot and spider filtering by going to your Admin panel, clicking on “Reporting View Settings” and checking off the box that reads, “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders.” However, some bots and spiders will still be able to leak through. You can target these individual irritants by creating a new filter, selecting “Custom” and then choosing “Visitor ISP Organization.” Then enter the service provider of the bot using a regular expression.

Keep an eye on your analytics, and be sure to create manual filters for additional bots that attempt to sneak past you. This can prevent bothersome bots and spiders from skewing your website’s data.

Enforcing Lowercase

If visitors enter an URL into their browser or click links that use a mix of uppercase and lowercase characters, then you could wind up with duplicate Google Analytics entries for the same destination. Luckily, you can fix this issue by creating a filter.

Just create a brand new filter and call it something like “Force Lowercase.” Choose “Custom,” click on the “Lowercase” bubble, and select “Request URI.” Once this is done, you should stop seeing multiple entries when browsers load up a page using different letter cases.

Increase the accuracy of your Google Analytics traffic data by using filters to cut through the noise. Don’t allow your metrics to become skewed by your own internal traffic, spiders and bots, or by web addresses that contain a mixture of letter cases.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Dazzle & Connect With Your Audience with these 7 Storytelling Strategies

Image via Flickr user Digital Paradox.

Image via Flickr user Digital Paradox.

This is a guest contribution from writer Thai Nguyen.

After finally asking the young lady for a date, the nervous young man asked his father how to avoid moments of awkward silence.

His father quickly responded, “Son, when it comes to conversation, all you have to remember are three things: food, family, and philosophy, and you’ll have plenty to talk about”

The night of the date came, and so did the awkward silence. Recalling his father’s advice, he quickly asked about food:

“Mary, do you like asparagus?”

“No,” she replied. “I don’t really care for it.”

Met with more silence, he asked about family:

“Mary, do you have any brothers?”

“No,” she replied. “I don’t have any brothers.”

With no luck, he turned to philosophy:

“Mary…if you had a brother…would he like asparagus?”

And that, my friend, is philosophy.

That simple story is better than any textbook for explaining what is philosophy. Indeed, ancient cave paintings have long affirmed modern neuroscience—humans learn and communicate best through stories.

People will remember your name when it’s connected with a compelling story; you’ll bore investors with facts and figures but capture them if they’re wrapped in a story.

Whether it’s creating a memorable brand or connecting deeper with customers, here are seven essentials for effective storytelling:

1. Opening and closing the curiosity gap

What if I told you your income could be tripled in less than one month?

It may be snake oil, but it perked enough of your interest to hear the rest of the story and pitch. Storytellers call it an “inciting incident.” We have curiosity wired into us, tapping into that through provocative questions opens the window wide for the rest of your elevator pitch.

2. Evoking VAK

Psychologists and therapists use VAK—visual, audio, and kinesthetic modalities to immerse a person into a desired experience or state.

When the mind begins to imagine and think through emotional and sensory experiences, parts of the brain light up as if they’re actually happening.

Using these cues by describing the adrenaline racing through your body, or the tragedy that brought you to tears, will immerse a person from passively listening to the story, to feeling like an active participant.

3. Conflict and resolution

Whether it’s your business proposal or product demo, two traditional storytelling elements you don’t want to leave out are conflict and resolution.

Have you identified a problem, and explained how your product brings a resolution? Shawn Coyne from The Story Grid says a common mistake for entrepreneurs is presenting heavily from a developer’s angle and ignoring a consumer’s perspective.

Approach conflict and resolution like a consumer, and tell your product’s story like a satisfied customer.

4. Appealing to the higher self

Whether crafting your own personal goals or presenting a vision to a company, we can’t fight our survival mechanism’s self-interest. So why not leverage selfish motives? Fuel for achieving a future goal comes with presenting a better version of ourselves, or a better version of the customer.

The story of the tortoise and the hare will be more compelling if it ends with you celebrating in your mansion by the beach after signing up to your investment plan. The personal image of being an environmental savior is enough for many to spend extra on a Tesla.

5. Shock and awe

Humans think in patterns. We process the vast exposure to information and try to spit out a logical understanding. A break in that linear pattern is like a splash of icy water on your face. That’s why movies like The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, Romeo & Juliet are capturing. The twist endings created a mental pattern break.

It doesn’t need to happen at the end. A paradoxical opening statement for a speech is a common attention grabber. Incorporating pattern breaks anywhere within a story increases effectiveness.

6. Build a catalog of illustrations

Everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan, perhaps even the Prodigal Son. Jesus’ teaching are known through his compelling parables.

Use personal experiences to build a catalog of metaphors and illustrations and add more color to your stories. The time you drove past three gas stations and then ended up on the side of the road with an empty tank can later highlight to your staff the importance of checking email notifications or, to your investor, how your new app will save people from disaster.

7. Internal and external components

Just as Stephen King said, “Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.” There are layers. A good story doesn’t just present raw content, but uses vehicles to deliver it. That’s the power in allegories and discovering the moral to a story.

Before crafting your story, decide what elements will be latent and what will be obvious. Facts and figures are best delivered under the surface. Promoting your product’s new features as raw content won’t be as effective as layering them underneath a traveling husband talking ‘face-to-face’ with his daughter.

A refugee from Vietnam, raised in Australia, with a BA from Texas, Thai’s unique background is reflected in his work. He writes for The Huffington Post,, and The Utopian Life. Having been a professional chef, international kickboxer, and spiritual teacher, Thai is passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves. Signup for his free weekly Infographics at | Connect @ThaiWins | On Facebook  

10 Simple Hacks That Will Increase Your Blog Traffic

This is a guest contribution from Garrett Moon, co-founder of CoSchedule.

Of course, you know that writing more blog posts will increase your blog traffic.

If one blog post results in an average of 200 visits, then two blog posts should magically turn into 400 visits. Voila!

But, that sucks.

What if there was a way to increase your blog traffic without creating more content?

Rather than using two posts to reach 400 visits, what if you could get those same 400 visits from a single post?

The good news is that it’s possible. Just recently, we began publishing one less post per week on the CoSchedule blog. Even better, our traffic actually went up. Yes, up!

We did it by better optimizing the traffic we received from each piece of content that we posted online. We decided to blog smarter, and not just harder.

The good news is that you can easily do it, too.

Here are the 10 ‘hacks’ that we used to optimize traffic on our own blog. Most of them will make an instant impact on your traffic growth, so plan to implement a few as soon as you can.

1. Make Your Content More Shareable Using A Click To Tweet Plugin

Everyone has social media share buttons somewhere on their blog, but what happens if you add them in your content as well?
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Click To Tweet links do just that by helping you to create tweetable quotes and comments throughout your post.

The idea is that you are not only providing readers a way to share, but actively suggesting that they do. This naturally leads to more shares and more exposure for your content.

At CoSchedule, we wanted to be able to add these Click To Tweet boxes with a single step, so we made a custom plugin for ourselves and have since decided to distribute it for free. It’s easy to install. You can grab it here for free if you’d like.

2. Maximize The Emotional Value Of Your Headlines

A while back, we did some research on more than 1 million blog post headlines and make a huge discovery—blog posts with more emotional headlines actually result in more shares.

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The takeaway? Write headlines that have stronger emotional output.

There are several tools that you can use to do this. The Emotional Value Analyzer by the Advanced Marketing Institute will give you a basic rating on the emotional value of a headline.

The Blog Post Headline Analyzer will do the same, but also give you a rating on the overall quality and length of your headline. It should make it easy for you to to write awesome (and emotional) headlines every time.

3. Create Longer-Form Content

Did you know that Google gives precedence to long-form content in its search results? By long-form content, I mean posts that have a total of 2,000 words or more.

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In a recent post, Neil Patel outlined Google’s trend towards long-form writing. He found that long-form content was more likely to be linked to from another site, and it was more likely to take the top spot in search results.

Not a bad deal for a few hundred (or thousand) extra words.

4. Improve Your Meta Tags And Rich Snippets

There are a ton of things you can do to your blog to make sure that your content looks as good as possible when it’s shared on social media or picked up by search engines like Google.

Most of this relies on a small bit of meta tag code that you should include in the <HEAD> of your html page. This code will provide instructions to networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest by telling them which image, title, and description to use when a post goes live.

You can even preview what your own link previews look like using this handy debug tool provided by Facebook.

If you’re using WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin is a great way to make sure that most of it happens automatically. By making sure your content looks as good as possible when it’s shared, you will increase your blog traffic with ease.

5. Tell A Better Story

In 2014 helpdesk software maker Groove shut down their content marketing blog after seeking a solution that would bring them more traffic. Groove decided to shift their content from “generic evergreen content” to the story of their own success.

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Groove relaunched their blog as a step-by-step telling of their journey from $20k in revenue per month to more than $100k.

As it turns out, the relaunch worked! In the first five weeks of the new blog, Groove gained 5000 new email subscribers instantly, and gave us all a lesson in the power of storytelling.

One way to increase your blog traffic is to actually tell your story!

6. Promote Your Content On Social Media More Than Once

One of the biggest mistakes we make as bloggers happens right after we press the “publish” button. Once a blog post goes live, too many of us only share our posts once or twice on social media—even though we are frequently producing evergreen content.

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The trick here is to follow a simple pattern to promote your content on social media.

  1. On publish – Social messages publish when your blog posts go live.
  2. Same day – Initial social messages trickle out to your accounts throughout the next 2–3 hours.
  3. Next day – Messages are shared again on the appropriate social channels.
  4. Next week – Another series of messages are pre-scheduled and sent the following week.
  5. Next month – More social messages are pre-scheduled for the following month. This is especially important for evergreen content.
  6. Next _____ – Additional messages can optionally be scheduled for the three-month mark or beyond.

By the way… make sure you add some variety to your social content so you don’t come off as just another spammer. You can read more about this whole process here.

7. Make Your Blog Load Faster

Did you know that Google considers the speed of your website when ranking your website in search results?

Back in 2010, Google engineer Matt Cutts announced that Google is now factoring site speed into search rankings. So, it only makes sense that you would make your blog as fast as possible.

If you aren’t careful, you can easily add a bunch of crummy plugins and themes that degrade your site’s performance over time. It’s important to spend some time reclaiming that speed and improving how you rate on Google.

While it can be a bit technical, WPMU DEV has a great guide for speeding up your WordPress blog. Follow it, speed things up, live long and prosper.

8. Optimize Your Social Sharing Buttons

Do you know where the best place to put your social media buttons is?

The placement of these buttons can actually make a big impact on how many shares your posts receive. Our research has found that they seem to do best near the top left of the page, but you can use this free heat map tool from SumoMe to find out how readers interact with your pages.

9. Clean Up Your Sidebar

One of the fastest ways to make a big impact on your blog is to simply clean up your act. After a bit of time, most blog sidebars start getting pretty congested with ads, links, and other cool widgets.

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But, those widgets aren’t so cool if they’re distracting your readers from what they should really be doing. Take a minute to really decide what you want your readers to be doing and remove any clutter that you can.

10. Improve Your Call To Action

One way to determine if a widget belongs on your blog is to ask yourself if it is contributing to your bottom line.

At CoSchedule, our blog is set up to lead readers to only two different calls to action. Users can either sign up for our email list or try CoSchedule. It’s that simple!

Have a  a clear call to action, and a blog layout and design that accurately leads your readers to it. This is a guaranteed way to improve your blog traffic and conversion rate.

Garrett Moon is a co-founder at CoSchedule, a social media editorial calendar for WordPress that allows users to schedule blogs posts and social media on an easy drag-and-drop calendar. He blogs about social media and content marketing every week on the CoSchedule Content Marketing blog. You can follow him on Twitter @garrett_moon.

Don’t Blog this Year Without the Most Important Thing of All

On Valentine’s Day last year, Darren reminded us all that blogging won’t get you far if you’re not legitimately passionate about it. What you’ll have is a site you’re only half-hearted about and you won’t be able to sustain that for very long – nor will your readers come to enjoy and respect your work. If you’ve got passion, then you can channel it into the best blog you can create 

Recently on Twitter I was asked for some tips on what sets ‘great’ blogs apart from the rest.

With millions of bloggers creating blog posts every day – how do you stand out?

It’s a big question, and the reality is that there are many ingredients to building a successful blog.

A variety of words came to mind as I struggled to come up with my 140-character guide to ‘standing out’.

I started to list them:

  • Credibility
  • Share Your Opinion
  • Great Writing
  • Ability to Connect
  • Understanding Readers
  • Injecting Personality

As I brainstormed, I realised 140 characters was not going to cut it:

  • Great blog design
  • Tell Stories
  • Use Great Visuals
  • Network with other bloggers
  • Be prolific
  • Be funny
  • Be smart
  • Be first
  • Write great headlines

I started to think of the blogs I love and what makes them stand out:

  • Be Useful
  • Be Entertaining
  • Take note of your readers
  • Have a different spin on things
  • Be Original

The list continued to grow and with it my heart sank a little.

“There’s no one way to stand out…”

But then I had two realizations:

Firstly – I love that there’s no one way to stand out! There are no rules. There is no blueprint – and that’s what is so simultaneously exciting and frustrating about blogging.

That’s why I love what I do. Constant experimentation, learning, testing and trying new things.

The second thing I realised is that there actually was a common feature about all of the blogs that came to mind as ‘stand out’ blogs.


There are plenty of bloggers that do the things in the lists above. There are bloggers sharing opinions, writing well, with a heart to connect, with great personalities…. bloggers who are smart, funny, prolific, original, entertaining and bundles of wonderful!

But something that seems present and that shines through in the blogs that I read and love is passion.

They are created by people with passion for the topics being covered, passion for the process of creating content, passion for their readers, passion for learning, and passion for pushing the boundaries of thinking and creating.

They love… they enthuse… they delight in what they do. By doing so they somehow draw others into their passion too, which is where the real magic seems to happen.

This isn’t to say that passion is the only ingredient needed for success – but maybe… just perhaps… it’s what binds it all together and helps a blog just click.

Are you passionate about your blog?

Happy Valentine’s Day.