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Creating Great Content for Today’s Social Web

This guest post is by Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting.

Welcome to an increasingly social landscape on the Web.  Social media started this shift from information to conversation, and now with the search engines increasingly using social signals to determine what to show searchers it’s a trend that, as a publisher, you have to get on top of to write and promote great content.

This post will discuss the movement of Bing and Google towards social search, and how that affects the organic search landscape. Then I’ll provide some tips on how this impacts your writing and promotion of your content.

Search and social integration

The integration of search and social media is already here.  Back in October 2010, Bing and Facebook announced plans for tighter integration. As I learned when I interviewed Bing’s Stefan Weitz, Bing is already using Facebook signals as a ranking factor:

“… if any of my friends anywhere have liked any (relevant) link across the entire world wide web, I am going to inject that link into my results page.”

Stefan refers to the notion of boosting a search result just because one of my friends Liked it.  But that is just the beginning, as we also can see that Bing is making use of the wisdom of the crowd, as per this example search on the New York Post:


Even if none of the 54 people that Liked “15 Best Dresses” are my Facebook friends, Bing thinks the article’s popularity is still noteworthy enough to show it to me.

Google does not have as close a relationship with Facebook, but is making use of other social services such as Twitter, and recently launched Google+

The bottom line is that social signals are a ranking factor in the search engines’ algorithms, and you can’t ignore this.

The social media revolution has much broader implications

We don’t know exactly how the Web will continue to evolve, but we know that more major changes are coming our way.  To get a perspective on why this is, consider the three major stages of the Web’s evolution so far:

  1. the initial failure of the Dot-Com Bubble from 1998-2000: too much focus on a land-grab mentality without understanding how to make money in the process
  2. the combined revolutions of ecommerce (Amazon, EBay, et al) and getting instant access to all the world’s information online (Google): this second stage is still unfolding and the third stage is already underway
  3. the social media revolution: this is driven by instant and continuous access to your friends, and the ability to communicate and engage simply.  Texting, Facebook, Twitter are the current driving forces, but more are to come.  People love these short communications so much that email is becoming passé, and the idea of making a phone call seems unnatural to many teenagers.

What has come with this third wave is a new way of communicating and a whole new emphasis on relationships.  People are beginning to associate online familiarity with your personality and who you are, and with trust. And trust sells, trust engages, trust makes people come back.

The implications of this on how you approach your writing are profound.  And, chances are that the importance of this social approach to writing will only become more important.

Impact on your writing: three critical concepts you must adhere to

1.  Build relationships with your audience

Social networks like a personal approach.  They want to see your personality.  They want you to share. They want you to evoke emotions.  These elements are key to creating engagement not just with your content, but with you.  Social networks make you more accessible to your potential readers and can play a significant role in growing your reach.

I remember when I first began publishing sites on the Web, the approach I used was dry and academic.  This was the strategy I used to communicate authority and trust.  I am beginning to think that this is no longer the right approach.  Do you trust the advice of a university professor that you have never spoken to?  Or does the combined opinions of your friends count for more?

The wisdom of the crowd is very much upon us and it is only going to get stronger.  As a writer, you need to accept the notion that trust comes from familiarity with you, and your ability to be approachable will enable you to communicate your message.

2.  Tell me why I care

The other big factor that emerges from the ability to get all the world’s information online is that there is too much information. We are more impatient than ever.  If I am going to spend the time reading your article, whether or not I trust you, tell me why I should read this article in the first paragraph.  Get to the point.

3.  Strive for uniqueness, not “me too”

Lastly, don’t waste your time writing “me too” content.  To see what I mean, consider this screen shot:

Making French toast is really, really easy.  I have not made it in 20 years, but I can still tell you how in two minutes.  We don’t need 2.54 million web pages on the topic!

For the search engines, showing multiple results with little distinction from one another is a waste of time.  For your average web surfer, reading more than one such article is a complete waste of time.  So even if I trust you, and even if you tell me what the article is about in the first paragraph, don’t waste my time with a useless review of something that tons of other people have already covered. Give me something new!

Mastering these concepts is essential for today’s bloggers.  Those who get there the fastest will be tomorrow’s authorities.

Promoting your writing

This may be the most straightforward part of this post.  You do need to integrate basic social elements into your posts.  This includes elements such as the Facebook Like, Send, and Share buttons, a Tweet This button, and perhaps a Google +1 button.  While the +1 button does not have the same usage level as the other elements yet, one can expect a meaningful integration into Google+ in the near future.

Going a little deeper, consider using Facebook Comments instead of the built-in comments capability of your blog platform. The content from the comments does not show up as search engine-visible text on your web page, but given that you are writing original posts, this is probably not critical.

But what it does do is function like a Facebook Share.  It shows up in the News Feed of the commenter, and the News Feeds of all their friends.  This is a great way to spread the visibility of your posts. It also provides some inherent spam protection, as no one will leave a spammy comment behind unless they have taken the trouble to setup a throwaway Facebook account.

Also, think of ways to entice your reader to engage more with your blog.   Ask a leading question at the end of your post to invite comments.  Install functionality that suggests other related posts they can read next.

The most subtle part of promotion is the way you use the social networks themselves as a direct extension of your blog.  Daily activity on Twitter and Facebook may prove to be a great way to build the personality and trust that people are looking for.  They both offer great platforms for viral spread of ideas you want to communicate.

Use these platforms to communicate the same types of messages as you do on your blog, but in smaller doses of course.  Use them to establish your personality and build the trust.

Is your content social-web-friendly?

Fully embracing the social revolution is key to the blogger’s long term success.  Based on the pace of the evolution of the Web over the past decade, it is reasonable to expect that the next major shift in web behavior is around the corner.

Three years from now, those of us who are centered on Facebook, Twitter, and texting, but have not yet adopted the next new thing that comes after them will be seen as being behind the times.  There will be many more paradigm shifts in our lifetime, and it will be important to stay as current as you can. Use the media that your audiences use to communicate with your audience.  It sounds simple, and yet it is critically important.

The first step though, is to adapt to the changes that have already taken place.  I could call this a requirement for survival, but I always use a positive mindset—I consider it an opportunity to excel.

Eric Enge is the President of Stone Temple Consulting, a 20 person SEO and PPC consulting firm with offices in Boston and Northern California. Eric is a crusty old veteran with 30 years working experience in technology and the Internet. STC provides Internet Marketing Optimization services to companies ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies.

10 Things You Can Do Right Now to Grow Your Email List

This guest post is by Ethan Waldman.

Everyone starts from zero.  Zero readers, zero subscribers, zero dollars.  I can tell you from experience that staring at that number on the screen is one of the most gut-wrenching things about building an online presence.

You’re staring that that big, fat, zero right now and you don’t know what to do about it. Sure, there are loads of people who sell or give away advice on how to rectify that situation, but no amount of reading twitter or buying flashy information products will change it without action on your part.

When I work with small, offline businesses on building a web presence, they usually start from zero.  In fact, they start from less than zero because they often don’t even understand what social media is or have never had a website.

In times of frustration and near defeat, one of the most satisfying things I’ve done is to take action. When you take action, you assume responsibility for whatever situation you’re in and attempt to change it.

Still, the first few weeks or months of building a web presence can be so lonely. One of the fastest ways to change that is through an email list. Having a quality email list is awesome because:

  • It’s sustainable way to drive traffic to your blog website.
  • It is something people opt-in to. These are people that want to hear from you.
  • You can use the list to figure out what your customers want.
  • It works immediately, regardless of the size.

Building a profitable and responsive email list takes time and effort. Sometimes, it can feel hopeless when you look at your subscriber numbers.  Over the course of my online journey, I’ve both learned from amazing mentors and used trial and error to learn how to grow. 

The following ten items are things that you can take action on that will help you build your email list faster. You can do them right now if you want to. If you’re not doing the following ten activities already, you’re struggling against that “zero” harder than you need to.

Add a Facebook Like button to your Thank You page

1. If you don’t have a custom Thank You page for your list subscribers, you are missing out on keeping that subscriber on your website. In Aweber, the options for a custom Thank You page are in Step 2 when you’re creating a web form.

2. Make sure your page has personality. A generic “Thank you for signing up” won’t cut it.  Use your voice, and thank your new subscriber the way you actually would thank them if you were writing a personal email or talking on the phone. This is also a great opportunity to remind folks that they’ll need to check their email inbox for an email to verify their subscription.

3. Finally, add the Facebook like button to your custom Thank You page.

Here’s the important part: even though subscribers will be clicking the Like button on your Thank You page, you can set it up to like any page on your website.

I would recommend having your Facebook Like button like your Signup page, rather than your Thank You page. Here’s how to configure it. First, go to Facebook’s developer page here.

Create two new web forms and split-test them

I improved opt-ins by 18% simply by trying out different sign-up boxes.  Aweber makes it simple to split-test different forms with one snippet of code.

Under Web Forms, scroll to the bottom of the page and choose Create A New Split Test. Give your split test a name, and choose which web forms to include by assigning them a percentage of how often they will be shown.

Back on the Web Forms page, choose Get HTML next to your newly created split test, and use that code in place of the single form on your site.

Check back on this page in a few days to view the stats. Once you find out what the best performing form is, use it all the time.  For even better opt-ins, do another split test with the winner of the first and two more new forms.

Thank your current subscribers

In his email list, Un-Stream, Jonathan Mead starts by thanking his new subscribers for the week. It’s a nice way of welcoming people into his community.  You can take this one step further: Send out a tweet or make a Facebook post: “Thank you to the awesome 68 new subscribers today to the Cloud Coach stream http://…”

This works on two levels. First, people like recognition. If you @ mention one or two of your new subscribers, there’s a good chance that they’ll re-tweet you (and the link to your signup page). Second, it builds curiosity for people who don’t currently subscribe. They’ll wonder what they are missing and click the link, especially if the number is impressive.

Try a site bar

Have you noticed the full-width bars that pop down from the top of the screen and “push” the whole website down with them? It seems like they are all over the web right now, and that’s because they work well. Visually, they break the flow of the eye as it scans down your page. The result is that they grab the readers’ attention for an extra second, while they read what the bar has to say.

HelloBar and ViperBar are just two of the options:

  • HelloBar boasts universal compatibility, a slick web interface with analytics (yes, you can split test your HelloBars), and easily customizable colors and fonts.
  • ViperBar is WordPress only and comes in plugin form, so there’s no code to install in your theme files. It also allows you to put a signup box for your mailing list right inside the bar.

Regardless of which you choose, your goal is to increase signups for your mailing list. Use the HelloBar to link to your signup page with a compelling headline. Or, use the ViperBar with the signup form built in so visitors don’t have to leave the page they’re on.

Sweeten the deal

Can you offer new subscribers some sort of giveaway for signing up? “Free Email Updates” is not a compelling reason to sign up.  You’ll be much more likely to get opt-ins if they come with something unique.

Not sure what to offer? You’ve probably already created content that you can use with your freebie. Just don’t recycle it! In their (excellent) book Content Rules, authors C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley explain that you should re-imagine your content, rather than recycle it.  For example, take five blog posts that are centered around a general topic, and reformat them into a PDF ebook using Pages or PowerPoint.  Here’s @C.C.Chapman with more:

Switch from personal email to a real email list provider

I can’t tell you how many small business people I know who do their business emailing from their personal email accounts! If you are committing this sin, most of the other tips in this article will be useless to you. Keeping an “email list” as a contact group in your Gmail account just doesn’t cut it.

Switch to a real provider so you can:

  • create web (signup) forms
  • find out which emails get opened
  • provide a safe way to unsubscribe
  • split test your forms and emails.

Not sure which service to look at? Mailchimp offers a free list for up to 500 subscribers. Be wary though, because Aweber is industry standard and once you hit 500 subscribers on Mailchimp, you may be hankering for the advanced features that Aweber offers. See this article for a more in-depth analysis

Create a warm welcome

Write a fun and engaging welcome message that asks your new subscribers to do something. Have them write back to you with the answer to a question, share something on twitter with a particular hashtag, or ask them to post something related on Facebook.

Dave Navarro has some excellent ideas around how to do this including, asking for a share on social media, asking for opinions, or even asking them to listen to an audio or video file. See this blog post for more on responsiveness.

The key is making your communication with your list from passive to active.  Instead of just reading your email, you’re asking your reader to take action. Dave does an excellent job of pointing out that if you start doing this now, it will be easier to ask your list to take action when you want them to buy from you.

Guest post

If you offer a freebie in exchange for signing up for your email list, write a relevant blog post on the topic and link it back to your signup page.  You guest post should provide the framework, and lead readers back to your website and email list in order to get the specific training or details.

How can you get a blog with higher traffic and reach to pick up your guest post? There are countless articles on how to do this all around the web.  The best way to start is just ask.

Increase your blog traffic

It’s a simple fact: the more people who see your blog, the more people see your form, and the more people who sign up for your list.  ProBlogger offers some excellent techniques that will help you achieve increased traffic with your blog.  Some of my favorites (and most successful) are:

Make your webform more visible

Is your signup form hiding at the bottom of your homepage or on another page all together?  Your opt-in should be in a prominent location and draw attention towards it. The top of the right sidebar is a commonly used location (because it works).

If you’re new to WordPress, you might have noticed that whatever you put in the sidebar appears on all of your pages.  You might want your mailing list signup to be at the top right of your homepage, but not all other pages. Luckily there’s a way to customize what you see in the sidebar of each page. To implement this, I would recommend using a plug-in called Per Page Sidebars. Here’s how:

  1. Install and activate the plugin through your WordPress Admin page. If you’re not sure how to install a plugin, see this tutorial.
  2. When you go to create or edit a page, you will see a new set of options below the body text. Check the Activate Custom Sidebar box and then choose which sidebar to replace with a new custom one. We’re working with customizing the sidebar, not the footer.
  3. Save your page and head over to the Widgets page.
  4. Before, you only had the option of placing widgets on “Sidebar” and “Footer” (which apply to the entire site). You now have an additional place to put Widgets. Any page you have enabled Per Page Sidebars on will be listed with “PPS – Name of Page”. Since I’ve just enabled Per Page Sidebars on my homepage, I see:
  5. Congratulations! Now you can add your mailing list sign-up form to the top right corner of your homepage without it applying to all of the other pages on your site.

Many of the actions above will only work for you once you have your website and email list in place. After all, you can’t build an email list if you haven’t at least created one yet.  Start with the ideas that are comfortable and the move to the ones that are more of a challenge.

The most important thing is to take action, and let me know how it works for you in the comments.

What could we add to this list? Share it so everyone can benefit from your ideas.

Ethan Waldman helps offline business owners create an online presence to get more customers. Right now, many people are using his free 4-day course, Pre-Sold & Hooked, to build a profitable and responsive email list for their businesses.

Should You Even Be Blogging?!

This guest post is by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.

Blogging is dead.

In fact, if you ask some people, it was never really alive.

Sure, there are a gazillion blogs out there, and sure, some of them have tons of followers and make lots of money.

But let’s face facts. Most of the blogosphere consists of ghost blogs with single-digit audiences, about topics that nobody really cares about. Most blogs make zero dollars, and even cost the owners money, as well as lots of time.

So really, it’s just a matter of time before the world wakes up to the reality that blogging is dead, or was never really alive, and returns to the comfort and security of print newspapers. Right?

Umm … no, not really.

I don’t think blogging is dead, and I’d like to think that I wouldn’t make such blanket statements about anything (I’m not a big fan of Twitter, but I recognize that as being my opinion, rather than the gospel truth). The above was a quick caricature of the crotchety, ain’t-never-getting-on-board-with-this-blogging-thing sort of naysayer.

And it’s nonsense. Not just because this is ProBlogger, and if you’re reading this, then you probably disagree with almost everything I wrote. But because you’re a smart person, who knows that absolutes like “blogging is finished” or “Facebook doesn’t work” may be right for some people in some contexts, but can’t be right for everyone in every context.

So let’s try another absolute on for size. Tell me how this one grabs you:

Blogging is awesome.

In fact, it’s so awesome that I find it hard to believe people still waste money on anything else!

There are loads of blogs out there with tons of followers making lots of money—these aren’t just hypotheticals, There are tons of easy examples that come to mind, like Problogger, Copyblogger, and Firepole Marketing (okay, so Firepole Marketing isn’t in the same league, but watch this space!).

Sure, there are some ghost blogs out there, but that’s just a testament to how incredibly accessible the world of blogging really is—there are practically no barriers to entry, which means that anyone can do it, and anyone can win big.

Blogging is the ultimate level playing field, and it’s just a matter of time before the whole world wakes up and realizes that blogging is where it’s at. Right?

Umm … no, not really.

Why blog?

There really are tons of great reasons to be blogging. Here are just a few, off the top of my head:

  • Blogging is rewarding. It feels really great to write a post that you know is solid, and then have people read it and agree in the comments.
  • Blogging is educational. To keep on putting out good content, you’ve got to be reading good content, and thinking about interesting things. This makes blogging a powerful learning experience.
  • Blogging builds community. For your blog to do well, you need to connect with others like you. They will have experiences that you share, and that is the start of community. This isn’t just a web 2.0 buzz word—community provides support and momentum, which are both critical resources.
  • Blogging builds credibility. Creating solid, relevant content on a regular basis is a great way to communicate to your audience that you know your stuff.

These are good reasons, but they aren’t the only ones—I’m sure that with a bit of time, you could come up with five or ten more to add to the list!

But rather than expanding that list for several pages, I want to discuss one terrible reason to blog: all the cool kids are doing it.

Too many people start “me too” blogs, because it seems to be the thing to do. Everyone and their sister has a blog, so you should, too. It’s the magical path to freedom and riches, right?

Wrong!

Just because others are growing an audience and making lots of money doesn’t mean that you will. At the same time, just because others aren’t growing an audience and aren’t making a penny doesn’t mean that you won’t.
Each person, blog, and situation is different, and you can’t just copy-paste someone else’s successes or failures onto your life.

So … should you be blogging? Let’s explore that in a slightly roundabout way.

Back to business school

I think it’s safe to assume that if you’re reading ProBlogger, then you’re after an audience, money, or both.
Let’s go back to business school for a moment, and talk about your business model. Fundamentally, your business model answers two questions:

  1. What are people going to pay you for?
  2. What will you do to make them want to pay?

Now, whether they’re paying you in eyeballs or dollars depends on what is important to you. Either way, getting them to do it depends on giving them something that they want.

And how do you know what they want? Well, first you have to know who they are—who are you writing for?
I read somewhere that when Stephen King writes a novel, he has a specific reader in mind—someone that he knows. When the novel is done, he gives it to that person to read, and if they like it, he knows he hit the mark.

Now, if this were a post about writing, then I’d talk about how you should be thinking about a specific reader for each and every post—how to make sure you’re writing what they want to read, using language that will resonate with them, and so forth. But this post isn’t about writing (but leave a comment if you want me to write that post!).

Where does your tribe hang out?

This post is about whether you should be blogging. So here’s what I want you to do. First, choose the person that you’re writing for. See them clearly in your mind, and don’t continue until you’ve got it.

Second, ask yourself this question: “Do they read blogs?”

If the answer is yes, then great. But for too many blogs (read: the ones who never hit the traffic numbers that they want), the answer is no. Like an organization for anarchists, they’re targeting an audience in a way that the audience will never respond to—even if the audience would love all their stuff if only they read it.

It takes courage to admit it, but if that’s you, you have two options: write for a different tribe, or write somewhere else (wherever it is that they do hang out).

Let’s say that the answer is “yes”—they read blogs. The next question is: “What blogs do they read?”

That’s the answer to where you should be commenting, engaging the community, and guest posting.

Who is that one person?

It all comes back to that one person that you’re writing for. Take the time to think about who that person is, and what they want to read. No complicated tricks or frameworks—if you know them, then you know what they like, right?

So who are you writing for? Who is that one person? What are they like? Do you know who that one person is for you? Share it with me in a comment…

Danny Iny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the definitive marketing training program for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-marketers. Visit his site today for a free cheat sheet about Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK… and What Does!

The 7 Harsh Realities of Blogging for Bucks

At this year’s Blog World Expo, Darren joined with Brian and Sonia from Copyblogger for the keynote presentation, entitled The 7 Harsh Realities of Blogging for Bucks.

As Sonia explained, these seven “crying babies” of blog monetization are worth noting and understanding. But as the keynote speakers address each of these, they discuss the blogger’s alternative options: what you can do instead of making these mistakes. They also discuss the many great things about blogging.

The keynote presentation begins in the 33rd minute of this video. Let us know your reactions and thoughts below!

The Blog World Paradox: a Blog Action Day Case Study

Today, Darren and thousands of other bloggers are congregating in Las Vegas for Blog World. It’s fitting that Blog Action Day should coincide with the world’s largest blogging conference. Particularly this Blog Action Day, which focuses on water.

When we think about water issues, we don’t need to close our eyes and conjure up the African desert or the Australian outback: we need only think as far as Blog World, Las Vegas.

"Watershow", Las Vegas, by pgl

Las Vegas is a modern, developed city that’s built in a desert. As you might expect, it’s facing serious water problems. Like many communities around the world, Nevada’s currently experiencing a drought, and Las Vegas is struggling to source water from elsewhere in the state to meet the needs of both its rising permanent population and its booming tourism industry.

A tourism industry supported, in large part, by the thousands of conferences held in the city each year. Including Blog World.

Of course, we need a place to hold conferences, and Vegas is built for such events. But it is paradoxical that, while I’m blogging about water issues for Blog Action Day, thousands of bloggers are further stressing a perilously dry city’s water supply in the name of blogging.

It does remind us—whether we’re in Vegas enjoying Blog World or following it from afar—that we all have some responsibility for water availability and quality, and we need to accept that responsibility. These are global issues. They’re not restricted by national borders, coastlines, professions, or socio-economic boundaries.

The impacts of water-preservation efforts are also global. Whatever you can do to preserve water, and preserve water quality, will make a difference far beyond your own backyard. Whatever you can do to raise awareness will also have a valuable impact. Among developed nations, there’s a startling ignorance of water-related issues.

"Las Vegas" by chuckb

When I began researching this post, my search for vegas, nevada + water turned up more results for gross water consumers like water parks, water gardens, and water features than it did water authorities or articles on water issues. Nothing in that first page of results suggested there was any problem with water in Las Vegas—quite the contrary. Without information on the realities of water issues, communities have trouble recognizing the problem, let alone taking action on it.

It’s not just Vegas: there are water scarcity and quality issues in your town, your state, and your country. Perhaps today’s the day to think about what you can do to take action on those issues in your own way. As a blogger in a rural area that’s just experienced a debilitating, decade-long drought, I’m curious: what water issues are you and your local communities currently facing?

The 7 Deadly Fears of Blogging and How to Overcome Them

This guest post is by Nathan Hangen of Build Your Digital Empire.

I remember back to early 2008, when I’d just started blogging, that even though I had great ambitions, my knowledge, expertise, and confidence as a blogger was sorely lacking. I stumbled through my blogging career for over a year before I felt I had a really good grip on things, and even then, there were many things I struggled with.

But more than anything, through all of the struggles I faced, there was one enemy that kept popping up time and time again, each time in a different form than the last. This enemy was fierce, determined, and relentless, and eventually I had no choice but to either confront it, or forever commit to a life of running.

Finally, in a Bruce Wayne moment of clarity, I decided to turn-around, face this enemy, and obliterate him. His name was fear, and there are seven ways that he tried to take me out. Here are the tactics I used to fight back.

1. Manic idea generation

I never thought that having too many ideas would be a bad thing, but what’s worse, I never suspected that the culprit would actually be fear itself.

In the early days, I found that just when I’d get close to completion on an idea, I’d suddenly be overwhelmed with dozens of new ideas. As a result, I’d move from idea to idea, never finishing a single one. In the end, I realized that my own fear of going all in on a single idea was keeping me from being successful as a blogger.

Tactic 1: Stop running from idea to idea and ship the ones you’re already committed to.

2. Holding back

Once I’d committed to a single idea, I often found myself running out of things to write about. It wasn’t that I didn’t have any ideas, but that I was too scared to actually talk about them.

“What if people make fun of me?”
“What if people think I’m an idiot?”
“What if I don’t really know what I’m talking about?”

This kind of self-talk is a blog killer, and it’s a great way to take yourself out of the fight before you get a chance to grow. Successful bloggers don’t run from their best ideas, they give them to the world.

Tactic 2: Don’t be afraid to be you. Turn your little flame into a wildfire. Some of the best bloggers I know are more personal and open than even I’m comfortable with, and guess what…their audience loves them for it.

3. Low confidence

My wife often asks me this very question: “Who cares what you think?”

And for a while, it hurt like a dagger, not because it was a silly question, but because it’s one that I was asking myself every single day.

“Who really cares what I think?”
“Why do my ideas matter?”

This is a confidence issue, and it’s where fear likes to play serious mind games. First of all, it doesn’t matter if anyone cares what you think. The only person you need to serve is yourself. Furthermore, there are people just like you everywhere, and you’d be surprised how many come out of hiding when they see a true leader emerge.

You can’t be everything to everyone, but you can be a great leader to the people that resonate with and connect with your ideas and philosophies. However, they can’t do that if you don’t share them.

Tactic 3: Seth Godin wrote about it in Tribes, and the truth is that yes—we need you to lead us. People do care what you think, in fact, much more than you can imagine. You owe it to them to share it; don’t be selfish.

4. Little guy syndrome

I see this one all the time. Bloggers still call themselves hobby bloggers even though they don’t want to be. They call themselves B-List or C-List even when they’re capable of more.

Fear likes to tell you that you’re not good enough to be great, and that you’re always bound to the role of a follower, or a 2nd rate talent. It’s not true, but it’s easy to fall prey to that kind of talk.

There aren’t any rules that say you have to be just an average blogger. In fact, the road is wide open for anyone willing to walk it.

Tactic 4: Stop cutting yourself down and give yourself permission to be great. No one is going to ask you to be great, but they’ll step in line the minute you prove that you are. Claim your authority; don’t wait for it.

5. Irrational fear of guest posts

I remember shivering at the thought of asking a fellow blogger for a guest posting opportunity. Her name was Caroline Middlebrook, and though we’d talked a bit via email, I was nervous as hell asking for her permission. Finally one day I just did it, and guess what? Success! Unfortunately, I see many bloggers fear that step, and as a result, they toil in isolation for years.

I joked with Kelly Diels about this once—that asking a blogger for a guest post opportunity is like asking a friend to go on a date with you. You might have a great relationship on Twitter or in the comment section, but you don’t want to ruin it for the sake of a guest post … so you wait.

Tactic 5: The word no is nothing to be afraid of, and instead of fearing it, you should get used to hearing it. Don’t view no as a crippling blow, but as a way to get one step closer to a yes. If the simple act of making a request is enough to ruin a relationship, then it wasn’t worth much in the first place.

6. Resistance to product creation

People aren’t just going to show up on your blog and offer to send you free cash via email; you need to be able to offer them something.

You’ve been told time and time again that you need to develop your own online store, which means you start planning a series of products, courses, webinars, and anything else you can think of. But that’s where you stop.
For some reason, there’s always something that gets in the way of your product actually getting finished.

  • Blog posts
  • Email
  • Social media
  • Emergency this and crazy that.

You know it’s true, but you do it anyway.

Look, I know it’s not easy to sit down and create a product, and the minute you try to do so, you get distracted. It’s easy to do, but you have to fight it.

Tactic 6: Don’t let the resistance win. Rather than focusing on the fear of losing time to do something else, or your inability to create a perfect product, focus on the positive … focus on shipping. Product creation, like blogging, takes time to perfect, but you’ll never get there if you don’t start.

7. Fear of asking for money

This is a big one, and sadly, it’s probably the most prevalent fear in the blogosphere. How can you ask for money when you love what you do? How can you ask a friend or a peer to buy something, especially when you like seeing them comment and retweet your blog posts?

Well here’s the deal, if you aren’t asking for the sale, then you’ll never get one. Case closed.

You can try to avoid “scammy” sales pages, big launches, or affiliates, but unless you’ve got an army of people waiting for you to sell them something, a weak close is never going to work. If you want to make a living doing this, then you have to fight for it; you cannot be afraid of the close.

Tactic 7: Get comfortable asking for the sale. Find every opportunity you can to practice this, and keep going until the fear goes away. Eventually, it will become second nature, I promise you.

Commit, practice, and practice some more

I think the biggest fear that bloggers face is that all of this hard work they’re doing is never going to pay off. I know how it feels.

You don’t want to waste time on something that won’t work. You want to “Crush It,” and you want to make a difference. You don’t want to lose, or to look like a fool.

The best advice that I can give you is this:

No one knows if what you’re doing is going to pay off. However, I can say without reserve that as long as you want to succeed, with every fiber of your soul, and you are willing to do what it takes to do it (this could mean shifting gears or changing your business), then the fear monster will not have anything close to a fighting chance against you.

Turn around, look fear into its eyes, and deal it a finishing blow, Mortal Kombat style.

Nathan Hangen is an entrepreneur and author that writes about building a digital empire. If you’re tired of letting fear get in the way of your success, click here to get a free sneak preview of Fear to Fuel, a revolutionary course for creative entrepreneurs.

The Unmissable Secret of Long Term Blogging Success.

In The Myth Of Great Content Marketing Itself, Darren said that:

The reality is that many blogs produce quality content that doesn’t get read. The reason isn’t that the blog’s not worth reading – but in many cases it’s because nobody knows to go read it.

Later, he said:

Letting your content market itself DOES work IF you already have an audience to help with that process by spreading word of it through word of mouth. YOU need to be the one who starts the process.

It’s time to hustle and get word out about your content.

I agree. Most of the apparent success you see on a blog is based on what happens outside of content creation. The main secret to kicking arse online is knowing the right people.

Yes, I’m talking about the networking.

How Networking Leads To Blog Success

You're it! - TaggedImage by Sudhamshu

Do you ever see posts with high profile commenters and tonnes of retweets that seems to echo around the blogosphere? All that happened off the blog. The connections were made months before a favour was asked. The person had provided enough value for the person to not even considering saying no to a request for help.

I recently wrote a post taking readers step by step through my networking methods. This guest post will take you through specific observations that helped me garner the attention of the big guns – and keep it.

Be A Filter. Be Seen.

I owe the discovery of this concept to Dave Navarro at The Launch Coach

“the busier and more successful someone is, the more they rely on people they trust to filter decisions for them.  They don’t have the time to take in an process all the pros and cons of some new unknown quantity, so they simply look to their “influencers” - the people who already have established trust with them – for recommendations. “

Positioning yourself as a filter is a great way to get on the radars of awesome people.

I became a filter by accident and it’s a role that I’ve embraced. I’m known as the person that hooks people up. I did one consulting call and was interviewed for two paid programs in the past week. In all three cases, I asked the person is there was anyone I could connect them too.

This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In many cases, it means getting them featured on a certain blog. They get publicity. The blogger gets quality content. I get the happiness from making awesomeness happen.

The key to being a indispensible filter is being so darn useful that the A-listers clamor to get to know you. However, before you can get to know them they have to know who you are.

So – how do you get to know them?

Meet them on their turf and go where they are most comfortable. This is where they will me most receptive to your attempts at connection.

For many people, this is Twitter. For others, it may be a uStream or an interview. Be where they are, and without being spammy show how intelligent and helpful you are. In some cases, they’ll get to know you and ask to take the conversation elsewhere.

Taking the conversation off that platform

On the platform, readingImage by Moriza

Take the conversation to phone

It’s weird, but hearing someone’s voice encourages them to be more emotionally involved. They are more likely to remember you and be willing to help you out down the track.

I know this because I’ve Skyped a lot of my blogging friends. It’s hard, especially when you are introverted. It has lots of awesome networking opportunities. You can pick up little pieces of information to leverage later, such as birthdays and children. You can also bond over accents or similar work.

For most people, this means talking to them on Skype. You can also talk to them via conference call products or by a regular phone.

Take it to email

I try and funnel most conversations to email. This makes it a lot easier to form a connection and figure out how you can help each other. I have one email for most people and a separate email for those I have a preexisting relationship with. This means that I can give a priority to those I am willing to help out.

This may not be practical for some of the bigger names. They generally get so many emails that yours will get lost. In these cases, it’s worth getting to know the person that filters their email if you definitely need their attention.

Meeting in real life

In most cases, this is unlikely to happen. That’s just the way the internet works. There is often too much hassle involved in meeting up unless you live physically close to them. I have three main ways I meet people:

  • If a social media friend will be in the same city as you, casually offer to meetup. I got to meet Yaro Starak and Melinda Brennan this way.
  • I also to conferences that my friends will be attending. This means we get to hang out during the sessions and can make additional connections with some of their friends.
  • My other method is tweetups. I limit the ones I attend because they can be tiring but they are an awesome place to develop new friendship circles.

How to be incredibly useful.

Strawberry Frozen YogurtImage by thebittenword.com

Know what they need before they know they need it

Imagine. You are craving an ice cream. You don’t have the time to go and buy the ice cream but then someone offers one because they instinctively know that it could help you right then. Now, imagine that you could help people find solutions that could save or earn them thousands of dollars. They’d be pretty darn grateful, right?

That’s what I do and it’s how you can get a lot of the big guns to view you as a peer in a short period of time.

To succeed at this you have to be good at reading between the lines. You have to:

  • Be able to see when they are hinting towards needing help such as them tweeting about feeling sick.
  • Know what type of person/product they like being referred to.
  • Know about the various solutions that they haven’t heard of. This can require a lot of research.

It’s hard work but you eventually develop processes so it requires very little time. One you reach a tipping point most of the people come to you on a referral basis.

Connect them to people that profoundly change things for them

I know I changed Dave Navarro’s career when I reviewed How To Launch The **** Out Of Your Ebook on this blog. That connection has led to so many opportunities and experiences for me.

When you do something amazing, the person will be grateful for a long, long time. People still thank me for mentioning the in the 30 Bloggers To Watch post. And, when I recently needed help, they all rallied around to support me because I’d done so much for them previously.

You don’t have to help in a huge way. Sometimes, it can be a small favour that spurs a person on. Ideas include:

  • Get a review copy of an information product on their behalf
  • Review their product on a popular blog
  • Highlight them in front of an influencer
  • Connect them with people with complementary skills

Givers get. Simple.

I help you build your influence at jadecraven.com. If you want to know whats hot in the blogosphere before it goes mainstream, check out my How to Network Fast Course. People come to me whenever they want their stuff to be shared and I only share the best with my readers.

10 Things I’ve Learned From Posting on Problogger

a guest post by Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com

10.      This is a huge community.  As in, ginormous.  Literally four corners of the world, anyplace with digital cable and a Fed Ex partner. 

Which means my frequently sarcastic American humor doesn’t always play places like Klagenfurt and rural Kirgizstan.

9.        Online sarcasm is itself risky business.  One writer’s sarcasm is another’s snarky… a word which probably doesn’t play in Kirgizstan, either. 

8.        Never write a post about the need to double and triple check for typos that has a typo in it. 

One word: crucified.  Still smarting from that one.

7.        “Know Thy Audience” isn’t a cliché.  It’s the natural law – the physics – of marketing.

I’m a blogger who posts about fiction writing and sells a few writing ebooks while I’m at it.  The majority of readers here are online entrepreneurs who’d rather hear about blog-related marketing than how to write the next Salzburg Times bestseller. 

Many of whom, by the way, have a story in them.

6.       Darren Rowse really is the nicest guy on the internet.  A total pro, too.   I’ve tested this theory with a wide breadth of technical cluelessless and naiveté, and you can add patience to those first two.

He doesn’t just let anybody onto this site, which means you not only earn your admission ticket (lest you wonder, I was invited to post here twice a month), you earn your keep, too.  And it’s all fair. 

5.        The company you keep defines you.  Choose wisely. 

In this case, being on Problogger has upped my online exposure and, merely by association, my chops in the online world.  My brand.  Which means, the pressure is on.

This, too, is natural law in the online world.

Because the same crowd that throws in on that count can slap you back to reality with one missed swing.  (That being three metaphors in one sentence… don’t try this at home.)

4.        It’s okay to get personal.  And I’m not talking about dating or social media sites (getting too personal on those venues can also get you arrested). 

A blog is usually an ancillary tool in an otherwise pointed branding and marketing strategy, which means it doesn’t need to exclusively spew bits and bytes (digi-speak for features and benefits) or self-serving bluster that doesn’t smack of commonality. 

People are attracted to commiseration, empathy and the voyeuristic joy that comes from reading about the sheer misery of others in like-minded situations.

3.        There’s one in every crowd.   Try not to be that guy.

You could blog about the reliability of death, taxes and gravity and somebody will post a comment endeavoring to make you wrong (one self-proclaimed “blogging superstar” tried to refute my theories about writing and publishing contemporary fiction by quoting Cervantes, who published his last book in the year 1615 … but that’s another site). 

That which doesn’t kill us either makes us stronger or simply pisses us off. 

2.        You, the blogger and the commenter, put the UNITY into community.   That’s why this venue is unique in all of the history of human communications.

And the most valuable thing I’ve learned here on Problogger is…

1.        I have a lot to learn.  That’s why we’re all here, isn’t it? 

One of the best ways to learn – albeit with a resource like Problogger on your daily to-do list – is to just keep writing.  On your own site, and on others if they’ll have you.

And if that’s not common ground, perhaps we’re all in the wrong place.

Larry Brooks is the creator of Storyfix.com, an instructional site for fiction writers and those who proof them.

Using the Blogosphere’s Trends for Your Niche

This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren

Hello, fellow bloggers! Hope you’re having a fabulous week. Since I started this weekly column on April 7, we’ve discussed strong headlines and opening lines, use of video and images, list posts, effective quotes, and more—all through the lens of the week’s most-blogged-about topics. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the conversations we’ve had together in the comments and the knowledge you’ve all shared with each other and with me.

In the spirit of those open conversations, I wanted to answer the most common question I’ve received: How can I use these general trends if I don’t blog about current affairs? Well, you can find trends on your specific niche on Regator, but the true answer is that no matter what your niche, there is often a way—with enough creativity and research into the details of the story—to make it work for your readers. And tying posts to the week’s hottest topics can be a great way to get new readers and attract attention. This week, along with trends from Regator, we’ll take a look at how these topics were covered by bloggers in unexpected niches…

  1. Gulf of Mexico – You’d expect the disaster in the Gulf to be covered by blogs on environmentalism, marine biology, perhaps even business and politics, but PopEater managed to find a way to bring this ecological story into the realm of pop culture in “An Interview With the Guy Skewering BP on Twitter.”
  2. World Cup ­– The Next Web’s “World Cup fever? Here are 5 apps to keep you on top of things” took what would traditionally be a sports story and moved it into the technology space by focusing on related apps rather than the event itself.
  3. Steve Jobs – Jobs’s highly anticipated World Wide Developers Conference talk unveiled the iPhone 4 and was covered widely by technology blogs but Star Trek blog TrekMovie.com was able to make the event relevant to their readers by focusing on the Star Trek references in the talk and technology from the show and movie in “Steve Jobs Invokes Star Trek (Again) While Unveiling 4th Gen iPhone.”
  4. Helen Thomas – While political bloggers obsessed over Thomas’s offensive comments, women’s blog Jezebel covered the story by discussing what Thomas’s undignified fall meant for a woman who had been an icon and inspiration to women everywhere in its post “Helen Thomas: When An Icon Disappoints [Iconography].”
  5. MTV Movie Awards – Rather than approaching this star-studded event from the usual entertainment blogger’s perspective, gay blog AutoStraddle’s “MTV Movie Awards 2010 Celebrate Lesbian Innuendo, Swearing, Twilight” made the awards more relevant to their readers by honing in on the “10 most homosexual moments of the MTV Movie Awards 2010.”
  6. Rue McClanahan – While many television and entertainment bloggers focused on McClanahan’s television and theater legacy, Ecorazzi’s “RIP: Actress And Longtime Animal-Advocate Rue McClanahan Dies At 76” brought the story to their ecologically conscious demographic by focusing on the actor’s animal rights work.
  7. Lady Gaga – On a week when Lady Gaga’s latest music video was on everyone’s lips, Social Psychology Eye’s post “Facing illness, belief helps” skillfully worked the pop icon into the blog by discussing the psychological implications of Gaga’s recent revelation that she had been tested for lupus, undoubtedly earning them quite a few more readers than they would’ve gotten on a straightforward academic post on illness perception.
  8. Rush Limbaugh – Rather than obsessing about the details of Limbaugh’s wedding, as many entertainment bloggers did, The Daily Beast’s “Celebrity Wedding Singers” took Elton John’s unexpected role as Limbaugh’s wedding singer and created a list post that broadened the appeal of the story.
  9. Israel – Music bloggers aren’t the most expected source of news from Israel, but several, including Drowned in Sound with its post “Bands cancel shows following Israel’s flotilla raid” covered what is essentially a political and international affairs story in a way that created value for their music-obsessed readers.
  10. Harry Potter – While film bloggers were busy dissecting the latest Harry Potter trailer, travel blog Gadling put its own spin on the popular character with “London mayor rails against Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Florida location.”

One thing all of these posts have in common is that the bloggers took the time to learn enough details about these stories to find a way to make them work for their blogs’ niches. Have you managed to work a popular story into your blog’s niche by using a creative angle? Tell us about it in the comments!

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.