Close
Close

How to Build Community on a Blog: 24 Must Read Articles from around the Web

This week we’ve published a series of posts on the topic of building community on a blog with these posts:

Today Jade Craven continues this series by looking at what others around the web have written on the topic of building community on blogs.

There is a lot of conversation around the topic of building a community around your blog. It is a fantastic technique, but it is actually an extremely complex issue. The ‘rules’ differ for each community. A business blog doesn’t have the same goals as a personal blogger.

In this post, I curate my favourite resources on building a engaged and loyal blog community.

Think about what is important to you.

There are several things you will need to consider before deciding on what strategies to use.

Strategies:

Make readers famous.

In an earlier post about building community. Darren recommended that you make a reader famous. Here are some examples I have seen within my own community.

  • Gavin Aung Than regularly interacts with his a community – most notably through his ‘readers of the month’ feature. As a result, he has a highly engaged audience who will rapidly share his content and help out with tasks such as translating the comics.
  • Scott Dinsmore has a ‘Reader Spotlight‘ series.

Do you know of any other ways bloggers have made their readers famous?

Blog commenting

 Other ideas:

 Cool resources:

Looking for some more advice? Check out these articles!

9 Benefits [and 3 Costs] Of Building Community On Your Blog

Do you ever feel – as you blog – like you’re talking to an empty room?

Day after day you publish posts only to have them greeted by….

If that is how you feel – then you’re not alone. In fact one of the most common questions that I hear from bloggers is:

“How do I get my readers to interact with me?”

Over the next week I’d like to suggest some ways to increase reader engagement and would love to hear how you do it on your blog too in comments below.

But first – today I’d like to talk about WHY community and interaction on a blog is so important.

Blogging – More than Just Creating Content

There is no one way to build a successful blog but in my experience a blog really comes alive when there is at least some level of community on… or around… the the blog.

Perhaps the best example I can think of to illustrate this is the time I started Digital Photography School (my main blog).

When I launched dPS in 2006 I launched it without comments being activated on the blog. This was an experiment to see what impact not having comments would have on a new blog.

I quickly discovered that by starting a blog in this way had quite a few negative impacts upon the site – the main one being that not having reader feedback just felt plain weird and left ME as the blogger thirsting for interaction with readers. I guess I’d become used to getting readers engagement on my other blogs and without it just felt ‘wrong’ for my style of blogging.

Within a few weeks I’d not only turned comments back on at dPS but was already working towards starting a photography forum on the site too!

The impact of adding more and more opportunity for community engagement on the site was immediate and big. Page views went up, repeat/loyal readership increased and I feel the quality of the site also improved.

Why Build Community on Your Blog?

Lets take a bit deeper look at some of the benefits of focusing upon reader engagement and building community on your blog.

1. Community Increases Your Blog’s Usefulness

Right from the early days of ProBlogger my mantra has always been that a good blog is a useful blog.

If you’re not being useful to your readers on some level (and being useful can be many things from being informative, to entertaining, to keeping them up to date) it is very difficult to have success with your blog.

My experience of having community on a blog is that it makes the blog exponentially more useful – something James Surowiecki wrote about in his useful book – The Wisdom of Crowds.

Together we are a lot smarter than any single one of us.

I’ve seen this many times over on my blogs. While I work hard to have as much expertise on my topics there will always be things I don’t know but which my readership has experience and insight.

For example I once received an email from a reader – Mandy – asking how she should go about photographing her dying grandmother with dignity. This was a long way out of my expertise so I asked my readership and we had over 90 responses.

Without the community on dPS I would have been unable to help Mandy.

This is a fairly extreme example but I see it in action on a daily basis in the comments sections of my blogs when readers have their questions answered by others in the community.

Ultimately for me – increasing your blog’s usefulness to readers is the number 1 reason to build community on your blog. However there are other reasons too.

2. Community Builds Social Proof

Have you ever chosen to eat in a restaurant purely because you can see it is popular with other patrons or passed by one that is empty?

If so – you understand the concept of social proof.

People attract people in all kinds of places – a blog is no exception.

It is much easier to attract and get engagement from a reader if there is already engagement from other readers.

I’ve seen this numerous times on my blogs (but also social media accounts). The more genuine interaction you have on your blog the easier it is to convince others that your blog is worth a second visit.

3. Community Increases Page Views

Page views won’t matter as much to some readers of ProBlogger as others but for those of you monetizing your blog with advertising you might want to take note.

Page views are important for those using Ad networks like AdSense or selling ads directly to sponsors because the more times the ads are seen on your blog the more you’ll be able to earn.

Community increases page views. If someone leaves a comment on your blog on most blogs that means 2 page views instead of 1. That person is also more likely to return to see if others leave a comment responding to theirs so you’re up to 2, 4 or 5 page views (and even more if a conversation between readers emerges).

Add a forum area to your blog and the average pages viewed per visitor can skyrocket – we regularly see as many as 10 pages view per visit on the Digital Photography School Forum.

4. Community Makes Your Blog More Attractive to Advertisers

Speaking of advertising as a model to monetize your blog – I’ve discovered over the last few years of selling advertising directly to advertisers on dPS that many advertisers are looking to not only see their banner ads on a site – but they are willing to pay for engagement with your readers.

One of the best examples of this is an annual competition we’ve run on dPS to give away a price from one of our regular site sponsors.

This competition is part of an advertising bundle that we run with this sponsor (they also run some banner ads but also sponsor our newsletter regularly).

While they get value out of the banner ads and newsletter ads that they run it is the competition that really converts well for them because it gets our readers visiting their website and engaging with the products that they offer (because to enter the competition you need to leave a comment saying which product you’d like to win and why).

This is the third year in a row we’ve run this particular competition and we’ve had 700+ comments left on each year we’ve run it.

5. Community Makes Your Blog Easier to Create and Sell Products

Back in 2005 I ran a series of blog posts here on ProBlogger titled – 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. The project was so successful that I ran the project again in 2007 and then again in 2009.

Each time I ran the project it grew larger and larger and readers became more and more engaged with the concept but also with the rest of my blog (it was a great community building project in and of itself).

At the end of the 2009 project a strange thing happened – my readers began to beg me to compile the 31 posts I’d written that year into a PDF… to sell to them as an eBook.

Yes you heard it – out of a period of intense reader interaction and delivering tangible value my readers asked me to sell them a product.

Not only did they ask me to create a product – 31 Days to Build a Better Blog (now updated into it’s 2nd edition) went on to become my biggest selling eBook.

This illustrates just how powerful community is if you’re looking to monetize your blog through selling products of some kind.

I’ve seen the same thing happening on dPS where we’ve developed 11 photography eBooks – the readers who buy our products are often the most engaged members of our communities and interestingly when a discussion happens in our forum area on topics covered in our eBook it is our community members who ‘sell’ our eBooks to new members the best.

6. Community Makes Your Blog More Attractive to Sell

Over the years I’ve had a number of companies offer to buy my blogs. While I’m not looking to sell them it is always an interesting discussion to have.

In most cases the conversation starts with a potential buyer interested in your traffic numbers and income – however what I’ve noticed is that when you begin to talk about the high level of reader engagement that you have on your bog many buyers become a lot more interested and start talking about higher purchase prices.

This will depend a little on the business model of a potential buyer – but I’ve seen this happen on at least 3 occasions in the last few years.

Community makes your blog more attractive to potential buyers.

7. Community Creates an Army of Advocates and Evangelists

An engaged and loyal reader is a powerful thing – not only because they’ll make your site useful and might buy your products – but because they are also much more likely to help you grow what you do.

This happens very naturally really – when you help someone on a daily basis and they feel a sense of belonging to your site they’re highly likely to tell someone about your blog.

I’ve seen it time and time again. I’ll often meet readers at a conference and ask them how they first became readers – the story is regularly ‘I am friends with Jim/Sarah/Bill/Joe/Anne… and they told me what a great site it was’.

Engaged readers don’t only help find you new readers – they can help you in many other ways.

Example 1: Several years ago one of my readers emailed me with an introduction to a New York Times journalist that they knew who was looking for someone to interview for a story. A week later dPS was featured in that publication.

Example 2: Around the same time a group of readers started a campaign to get our site on the radar of Canon and Nikon because they wanted them to advertise on dPS. They started a petition and did end up helping us land a small advertising campaign!

8. Community Can Help with User Generated Content

In a similar way – engaged readers who feel that they belong are more likely to contribute to your site by generating content for it.

This again may not be something that all bloggers are interested in – however if you’re looking to supplement your own content with guest posts from readers it can be an effective way of generating such content.

The other aspect of this is that you may not want to feature full posts from readers – but having engaged readers can help you generate other kinds of content.

For example I recently asked readers of my Google+ Account to share with us their advice on the topic of ‘finding your voice’ as a blogger.

I had some great responses and am compiling the answers into a post for ProBlogger (to which I’ll add some of my own thoughts). While not a ‘guest post’ as such it brings the wisdom of readers out of my social media community areas and onto the blog.

In the past I’ve done exactly the same thing by asking readers for their advice in the comments section of a blog and bringing those comments into a blog post.

9. Community Brings More Personal Satisfaction to Blogging

When I first drafted this post I didn’t have this point but on reflection of my last decade of blogging perhaps the biggest benefit of having community on my blogs has been it exponentially increases the personal satisfaction I’ve received from blogging.

I’ve had 30 or so blogs in the last 10 years and the ones in which I’ve invested into the community and had readers invest back into it have been the ones that I’ve been able to sustain over many years.

The blogs where community didn’t really click (and this can be the result of many factors) were blogs that I found most difficult sustain – probably because I wasn’t getting the engagement, feedback and encouragement of readers.

Maybe it is just me – although I suspect not – but it is community that is a fuel that feeds my blogs. Without it I can only sustain them so long!

The Costs of Community

The benefits of building community on a blog are many (and I would encourage you to add more that you’ve experienced to the comments section below) however it would not be balanced of me to talk about the benefits of building community on a blog without at least acknowledging that there are some ‘costs’ involved.

1. Building Community on a Blog Takes Time

Relationships and community don’t just appear out of thin air. They take time – in two ways:

  1. Firstly – building true community is something that generally takes a long period of time to gradually happen. While you can get comments on your first blog post – to get readers deeply engaged can take months… and years. We’ll talk more about how to build this culture of community on a blog in the coming days.
  2. Secondly – once you have community (and building community) can be something of a time suck and if you’re time poor it can be a challenge to do on a day by day basis.

2. Building Community can be an Emotional Roller-coaster

Building relationships with readers can be something of an emotional roller coaster.

In the early days it can be incredibly disheartening when community doesn’t seem to be happening despite your very best efforts.

But then in the longer term after community does begin to happen it can be so difficult to maintain once your community begins to pull in different directions and on those occasions when things go badly.

When community goes well it can be powerful – but when trolls, spammers or competitors infiltrate it can make you wonder why you bother at all!

3. Community Can be a Little Risky

I can think of a few instances over the years when a ‘community’ or readership of a blog have turned against a blogger and have really hurt the brand of a blog.

While these instances are certainly in the minority it is worth noting that if you’re not willing to invest into a community and lead it that you leave your blog’s brand in a vulnerable position.

We’ll talk more about this in the coming days as we talk about how to build a good culture of community on a blog.

How to Build Community on a Blog

In the coming days here at ProBlogger I want to explore the idea of building community and deepening reader engagement on a blog further.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at 5 stages of building a Culture of Community on a Blog and then the following day we’ll get a little more concrete and look at 7 Strategies for Growing Community on Your Blog.

As always – subscribe to our newsletter by adding your email address below for a wrap up email at the end of this series so you don’t miss out!

Financial Planning for Bloggers

We all strive to have our personal finances in order.   Managing our financial resources wisely brings peace, security, and allows us to utilize our financial resources on in ways that are important to us.

Proper financial planning requires work and diligence and tends to be more of a continuous process rather than a one-time event that you can check off your list and be done with.

Financial planning is also full of pitfalls for the unwary.  This is especially true for those who have taken the leap to start a small business or become self employed, such as many bloggers.

I discuss below some of the most important financial planning issues faced by bloggers and in particular how those issues change and become more complicated once you become self employed.

Although I am specifically referring to financial planning issues faced by American bloggers, many of these principles will also likely apply to bloggers in other countries as well.

Cash Flow & Budgeting

Managing cash flow is something that many people struggle with, especially those who are self employed.  Salaried employees generally receive a regular pay check that they can count on.  When you are self employed though, your cash flow is likely much less certain and may vary from month to month.  To ensure that you always have the cash necessary to make ends meet, consider doing the following:

  • Set up a budget.  During higher earning months, make sure you are putting money aside to be used during lower-earning months.
  • Create an emergency fund that can be used in the event of a large, unexpected expense so you don’t have to go into debt or pawn your wedding ringThis fund should be liquid and easily accessible in the event of an emergency, but should not be used for any other discretionary spending.  Conventional wisdom says to save at least 3-6 months worth of living expenses in your emergency fund, but the appropriate amount will vary by person.  For the self employed, it may be wise to have even more saved up.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is the process of putting in place legally effective arrangements whereby a person can accomplish important goals, such as the following:

  • Plan for incapacity
  • Reduce or eliminate potential fees and taxes
  • Plan for business continuity
  • Avoid probate
  • Appoint guardians for minor children
  • Protect assets
  • Spell out healthcare wishes
  • Ensure an efficient distribution of assets

Just about everyone should have an estate plan in place.  It is one of the most important components of a good personal financial plan, yet it also tends to be one of the most neglected.  I can’t tell you how many new clients I have met with who haven’t had an estate plan in place.

This is especially true for the self employed business owner/blogger.  Sadly, it is not uncommon to see people work hard during their lives to create a valuable business only to throw it to the wind at their death.

We may never have our houses burn down and we may never become disabled, but we will all die some day.  Hopefully this is not news to anybody.  If you have worked hard to create a valuable blog, what will happen to it should you suddenly die or become incapacitated?  Additionally, who will take care of your minor children and how and to whom do you want your assets distributed?  Put in place leally effective arrangements so that your personal affairs and your business will be in order no matter what the future holds.

Risk Management & Insurance

We all face certain risks in life.  Some of these are best avoided, while others may be hedged against using insurance or other appropriate risk management strategies.

If you are a self employed blogger, many of the financial risks you face in life are no different than those faced by employees, and many of the commonly used strategies to protect yourself are also the same:

  • Death – Life Insurance
  • Auto Accident – Auto Insurance
  • Fire, Damage, Accident at Home – Homeowners Insurance
  • Health Care Expenses – Health Insurance
  • Disability – Disability Insurance
  • Long Term Care – Long Term Care Insurance
  • Personal Liability – Umbrella/Personal Liability Insurance
  • Dental Care – Dental Insurance

The difference, however, lies in how you obtain this protection.  Employers commonly provide certain types of insurance to their employees as part of their employee benefits, including the following:

  • Life Insurance
  • Health Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • Dental Insurance

If you are self employed, you likely still face many of the same risks in life, but you must obtain this insurance on your own.

Small business owners may also be subject to additional risk that an employee may not be, such as certain types of legal liability.  Forming an appropriate legal entity or obtaining additional insurance for your blog/business may be appropriate methods of dealing with these risks.

Retirement Planning

We all know the importance of saving for retirement.  Many employers provide their employees with a retirement plan such as a 401(k) as part of their benefits.  Employees generally have the option of automatically contributing a certain percentage of each paycheck to their 401(k).  Employers may even provide matching contributions up to certain limits.  Most of the work in setting up and administering the plan is done for the employee, so there is very little that the employee has to worry about.

It’s a different story for the self employed.  If you are self employed, you must generally open up your own retirement account or plan.  Nobody will do that for you.

The most common types of retirement plans for the self employed include the following:

  • SEP IRA
  • SIMPLE IRA
  • Solo 401(k)

Each of these retirement plans has its pros and cons, so use one that is appropriate for you.  Learning how to invest and diligently saving for retirement can help you achieve your retirement goals.

Taxes

Taxes are the single biggest annual expenditure for many people.  Taxes significantly affect just about every area of financial planning.

Doing some simple tax planning and understanding some basic tax principles can go a long way in reducing your tax bill and keeping more of your hard earned money in your own pocket.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe we should all obey the laws of the land and pay whatever tax we legally owe.  However, I also know that with a little bit of foresight and planning that amount can oftentimes be reduced.

As a CPA, I spend a lot of my time helping clients stay tax compliant and finding ways to legally and ethically reduce their tax liability.  Unless you enjoy paying for the alcohol at the White House holiday parties, I suggest you also take a close look at your taxes.

Taxes tend to be a huge pitfall for the self employed in particular.  Here are just a few of many issues to consider:

  • Choice of entity:  Are you using an appropriate business entity for your blog?  This will likely affect your taxes as well as other important issues, such as your legal liability.
  • Estimated tax payments:  If you are a self employed blogger and your blog is profitable, are you making periodic estimated tax payments to the government?  If not, you could potentially be charged interest and penalties depending on your situation.
  • Financial and tax recordkeeping:  Are you keeping proper tax and financial records?  If you were audited by the IRS, would you be able to substantiate the positions you took on your return?
  • Employer Identification Number: Are you splashing your social security number all over the internet?  Depending on your particular situation, it may be appropriate to obtain an employer identification number that you can use instead of your social security number.

The Bottom Line

We all strive to manage our personal finances wisely.  Financial planning requires knowledge, diligence, and work.  It is full of pitfalls for the unwary, especially those that have taken the leap to start a small business or become self employed like many bloggers today.

Disclaimer:  It is impossible to give specific professional advice in an article written to a general audience.  The above article is therefore provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional legal, financial, or tax advice.  Should you need such advice, seek out and consult a qualified professional who can give advice on your specific situation.

This post is written by LD, a CPA and CFP® who blogs at Personal Finance Insider. You can sign up for his free personal finance e-course, which covers all of the major topics in a good personal financial plan (including those discussed in this article) here.

Making Money Online – The NEW Standard

A Guest contribution from Nick Thacker from www.LiveHacked.com.

I’ve been a leech for most of my life. By “leech,” of course, I mean I’ve basically existed online as the type of person who consumes considerably more than I’ve created.

But this year things changed. I was, and still am, a student of the Internet age, and I hope to always be. But in January of 2012, I decided to begin giving back to the world that’s educated me for the past ten years.

I started a blog and focused on asking the right questions, rather than finding the right answers.

At first it was a simple “living better” blog, through which I would provide the little “hacks” here and there that helped me get more done, live better, and generally enjoy life to the extent we should. After a short while, though, things started leaning more in the direction of “helping writers write better, and sell more books.” Actually, our catchphrase right now is “On living and writing well,” and we’ve (in my mind) lived up to that mantra quite well.

For me, this blog post is a reflection of my blog’s transition from a moneymaking blog that makes money through helping people to a blog that helps people and generates income on the side. The difference is in some ways minute; semantic even, but the implications are major:

I have been experiencing the “new standard” of making money online in the current world we live in.

Let’s first look at the “old standard,” for comparison’s sake:

The “Old Standard”

Flashy sales pages. You know what I’m talking about – these types of sales pages were “flashy” in the “pay-attention-to-me-or-else” way, and not the “good-looking” way.

Sure, they worked. But the expense was the lowering of credibility toward these site owners – the chase after a quick sale, in lieu of a long-term customer.

These sales pages got the job done – they sold product extremely effectively, and still do. But take a look at the number one grossing sales company in the world (Apple) and show me where they’re using this strategy.

Blogging was used as a means to drive traffic. Nothing more, nothing less. The usefulness of blogging was probably equivalent to the current usefulness of social media – it can certainly help, but it’s a way to drive traffic toward already established sales and lead-capture mechanisms.

Blogging has had a precarious upbringing, however. As some of you “older” bloggers might recognize, the word itself is a mashup of “web” and “log” – literally a log of a person’s current activities; a way of “keeping tabs,” not unlike the type of update Twitter now eloquently provides in 140 characters at a time.

Somewhere along the way it changed into a “reverse-chronological list of information,” ranging from video content to short, sweet, to-the-point rants (props, Seth Godin!).

This transition was great for the industry of blogging, but it hasn’t quite caught hold in corporate boardrooms – heck, even at my last company I was given a project to “generate leads through blogging.” Facepalm.

Emphasis on short-term problem solving. Think back to the last “Internet” product you purchased: was it a teaching or education-based course, or was it a one-stop solve-all-your-problems infoproduct? If it was the latter, it falls into the “old standard” of Internet marketing:

Give the customer the answer, in the form of a one-size-fits-all product that can be sold over and over again, at little to no cost.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this business model. Heck, many companies thrive on this model. The problem for bloggers, however, is that bloggers exist – by definition – in an information-dominant world.

This information dominant world is new, but it’s unfortunately not the same as the “old world.” We can’t rely on telemarketing, direct mail campaigns, and slick TV commercials to sell our products. ­­

Great. So what’s the “new standard” of making money online? What’s the “new way” to create products, generate leads, and make a living?

The “New Standard”

Like most “new” standards, the “new standard” of making money online isn’t really new, nor is it something revolutionary: it’s simply something that’s been working better for its implementers than the models of yesteryear.

Let’s break down this “new standard” in comparison to the old:

Beautiful, web standard design

The new design trend we’re seeing springs from the Web 2.0 style of five years ago, with even more emphasis on beautiful, minimalistic design, focused on getting the information to people as quickly as possible.

Instead of relying solely on the information presented, the current trend in the “new standard” conveys the messaging through super-simple, easy-to-read text in a beautiful, well-presented design. The effect is that we get an idea of that blog’s (or company’s) level of professionalism, which leads to trust.

Beautiful design is a far cry from “showing off,” at least in my opinion – it’s the expectation. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, our readers, site visitors, and our customers expect this level of quality from us.

And why shouldn’t they? They usually have a plethora of options out there to choose from; there’s no reason they’ll purchase from you if your design isn’t attractive or standards-compliant.

Social Triggers

SocialTriggers.com – a perfect example of beautiful, web-standard design.

Emphasis on long-term problem solving.

By reaching out to people, engaging, interacting, and gently pulling people toward your offerings, you’re creating not just a strong focus on them, you’re creating a long-term solution and a full pipeline.

When you focus on always adding value, you’re not just adding value for other people: you’re adding value to your business. Sure, it’s indirect and sometimes takes a while to gain traction,  but the long term benefits of continuing sales, happier customers, and an increase in trust far outweigh the “quick” sales you might otherwise gain.

Copyblogger

Copyblogger.com’s homepage (below the fold). Plenty of easy-to-understand solutions and offerings.

Blogging is used as a means to build trust.

Rather than being used as simply a catalyst for traffic and attention, blogging is now used as a way to further perpetuate the trust that you’ve built up. You’ve done the difficult deed of attracting people to your website; your blog “closes the deal” so to speak by offering amazing, epic content that people highly value.

Your blog is your means to an end, not the end. Driving traffic to it is just a piece of the “trust puzzle,” followed by offering great advice, help, support, or whatever at a great price (free), and then gently reminding people that you’re in business – they can hire you for more of the same awesome stuff!

Think Traffic

ThinkTraffic.net is the epitome of a website dedicated to helping people build trust and noteworthy content – and they’re pretty good at it themselves!

The takeaways, and how to implement this “new standard”:

Here are a few things to focus on as you go about implementing this modern standard of making money from an online business:

1. Focus your design on what the market wants and expects.

I made the mistake long ago of building a site using a template that I thought was cool. It was grungy, new-age, and was a well-designed WordPress theme. Later, I decided to go with a straight-up Thesis theme, unaltered. It looked fine, but it didn’t do anything to help me convey the message of what my site was all about:

Nick's original homepage

NickThacker.com, the predecessor to my current site, LiveHacked.com.

The problem?

I was trying to build a business around my being a “professional,” when well-respected professionals in my field “looked” completely different. Their websites were slightly more corporate, minimal, and didn’t focus on them – they focused on the visitor.

As you can expect, it didn’t turn out so well. I changed my theme, focusing this time on what my target market expected (whether consciously or subconsciously), and the results were stellar.

Nick's new homepage

More of a focus on what LiveHacked.com is about, with a simple yet impossible to miss call-to-action at the top.

2. Focus on “solutions,” not “fixes.”

There was (is?) a wildly successful ebook on the market quite a few years ago called Desperate Buyers Only, and it taught a very important principle: focus on people who are desperate for a solution, in the form of a “quick fix.”

Basically, offer them the “immediate fix” to their problem, and you’re a hero.

This model can work, but what about those of us who are in a market where our target customers aren’t exactly desperate? Maybe they’re struggling with something, or aren’t sure what they’re struggling with, but they’re not quite ready to make a purchase.

In that case, you need to focus on providing long-term solutions. Rather than screaming, “I have what you need!,” try grabbing their virtual hand and walking them through – for free – how you overcame the same problem they’re currently facing. [GL3] For my own blog, I wrote an in-depth “hand holding” post on my favorite piece of writing software, Scrivener.

When it’s all said and done, and they’re emailing you “gee, thanks”-type comments, you can gently mention that you have further support available for an attractive price. It may not be the Glengarry Glen Ross (language) [GL4] solution (it won’t win you “used-car-salesman-of-the-year” awards), but it’ll probably win you a lifelong customer.

3. Focus on creating a massive, amazing resource with your blog – for free. [GL5] 

Keep in mind that there is always another option out there for your clientele. Maybe it’s not exactly what they’re looking for, but rather than trying to persuade them to use your service because it’s the ultimate answer, seek to help them so much it hurts.

Seriously. Focus on providing more and more and more until they give up. “Fine,” they’ll say, “this is clearly amazing stuff you’ve got here – how can I start to work with you?”

That will be the easiest sale you’ll ever make.

I tried to do this with my totally, 100% free fiction-writing course. It’s 20 weeks long, and I tried to pack as much content into it as I could, keeping it actionable (read: immediately usable), valuable, and something that will provide ongoing “replay value.”

Most salespeople (and all of us are in sales) focus so much of their energy and time on sales tactics, tricks to persuade, and conversation segments that are designed to circle around to your solution – “tricking” people into buying from you.

In some markets, this is the expectation, and while it’s usually never fun to buy in those markets, it’s understood as the norm.

The Web has changed to a new norm: a place in which buyers and sellers both have something to lose and something to gain. Don’t smear your brand and reputation on chasing a sale, learning sleazy tactics, or wasting your time with people who won’t benefit from what you have to offer. Focus instead on how you can help, and then – and only then – remind them that you’ve got even more available to them if they ever need it.

The exceptions that prove the rule

Before you think to yourself, “yeah, but” – remember these words:

The “new standard” is already here. You might be in the lucky position of having an outdated marketplace, but know that times are changing. Be willing to adapt, accept that the new status quo might not be what you’re used to, and be ready to change.

The few industries that might not need to bother with this are the exceptions that prove the rule, not the other way around. Truth is, they’re not in an unchanging industry anyway – just one that’s a little slow to accept new things.

Be a leader in your area, especially in the way you’re offering your wares to your people, and you won’t have anything to worry about!

Nick Thacker is a blogger, marketer, and author who writes about self-publishing and selling books at www.LiveHacked.com. He also has a free 20-week course on planning and writing a novel.

What’s Your Reaction to the Retirement of Google Reader?

Yesterday Google announced the retirement of their Google Reader RSS reader product.

I’ve tweeted a little about it but thought it might be interesting to see the response of readers to this news. it seems at least some people are concerned (with thousands signing this petition already).

For me it is annoying to lose the RSS reader that has become a part of my daily reading of new content on the web – however what is of greater concern to me is the impact it could have upon blog readerships.

Last time I surveyed ProBlogger and dPS reader Google Reader was the #1 reader for subscribing RSS feeds among our readers. While there are many other options out there and some of our readers will no doubt switch to another RSS reader I suspect that some will simply give up on RSS.

Last time I checked ProBlogger’s Google Analytics stats around 7.5% of our traffic was classified as ‘Feedburner/Feed’ traffic. By no means the majority of our traffic – but significant (more than comes from either Facebook or Twitter).

While not all of the 7.5% of traffic will be the result of Google Reader it’ll be interesting to see how much of it is once Google switch it off in July!

What do you think?

  • Do you use Google Reader?
  • If so will you stop reading RSS feeds or will you switch to a new reader (if so, which one)?
  • As a publisher are you concerned that many of your own readers will be lost due to the retirement of Google Reader?
  • If you’re concerned – what steps will you take to try to ensure readers transition to other ways of following your site?

What Studying Haikus Taught Me about Writing Blog Posts

This guest post is by Steve of Do Something Cool.

A form of Japanese poetry, haikus have been around for hundreds of years.  Blogging has been around for roughly two decades. 

On the surface, these two different forms of writing don’t have anything to do with each other.  But surprisingly, understanding haikus has taught me a lot about writing blog posts.

The key to a good haiku (and blog post)

I once read that haikus are best described as “a one breath poem that discovers connection.”  That’s about as good a description for haikus as you’re going to find. 

A well-written haiku gets the reader to discover a connection to something new and meaningful.  And the way you do that is by writing from a unique and interesting perspective no one else has seen.

That’s also what makes a good blog post.  A good blog post gets the reader to discover something in a meaningful way through a unique and interesting perspective.

Since I’ve started to study and understand haikus, I’ve taken a new approach to writing my blog posts.  Just like a Japanese haiku writer in the 1800s would have analyzed and observed every angle to find the one perspective no one had considered before, I try to write posts with a similar twist.

My blog posts have now become just as much about discovery as they are in haikus.  It’s not my goal to churn out blog posts just for the sake of publishing something.  I try to offer unique and meaningful posts for both the reader and myself in everything I write.

I’ve been told that a good haiku writer can look at a famous photo thousands of others have seen and written about, but still discover a perspective no one else had previously been able to see.  Who wouldn’t want that ability for writing blog posts?

Often it can seem as if everything has already been written before.  I’ve felt that way at times.  After scanning through thousands of blog posts online, you might ask yourself how you could possibly come up with something new.  Hasn’t everything already been written before?

Understanding haikus has taught me to see things differently.  There are endless ways to write a blog post simply because there are endless numbers of perspectives and viewpoints to write about.  There will never be a point when nothing new can be said about a subject.

Think about it this way: people have been writing haikus for hundreds of years.  There are hundreds of thousands of them that talk about nature alone.  Yet each one can be completely different.

I was in a group of students writing haikus once.  We were looking down at people crossing a busy street.  Each student observed the same scenes and wrote down several haikus each.  It was amazing how varied all the writing was.  Even those students who wrote about exactly the same things could find new and unique ways to write about it.

It comes down to perspective.  Writing haikus teaches you to notice details or angles no one else is seeing.  A dozen people watching one scene on a street could write in twelve different ways.  For the same reason a dozen bloggers could write about one topic in a dozen unique ways.

Of course, not all bloggers do that.  Many repeat what others are already saying without putting their own spin on things.

But you can train yourself to find that unique perspective.  Ask yourself:

  • What is being missed by everyone else?
  • Can something be added or subtracted from everyone else’s opinion to make it new?
  • Is there a bigger or smaller detail that others are failing to notice?
  • Could a different approach to this topic come up with something different?

It helps to think of it this way: writing a haiku is like looking through the lens of a camera.  You can zoom the lens in or out as much as you need to, as long as you eventually find details in the photo that make your perspective unique and new.  It can be a small, important detail or something much bigger.  But it has to be something your camera sees that no other camera has caught before.

Blog posts are a lot like that.  What you write is the lens and the way you approach the topic is the angle of the camera.  Put the two together in an original and interesting way and you have the beginning of a great blog post.

If you were to look back over the past two centuries and explore the millions of haikus that have been written, you would find that the number of perspectives and moments they capture are endless.  The same is also true for blog posts.  And it should be.  After all, you’re working with a lot more words.

Has poetry or literature influenced your blog post writing? Share your unique perspective in the comments.

Steve is the writer behind Do Something Cool where he blogs about travel, motivation, personal growth and adventure.  He’s always looking for ways to make life more interesting.  Get tips on living life to the fullest through his Facebook fan page and Twitter.

Highlights from ProBlogger Event 2012

Last weekend, over 300 bloggers converged at Etihad stadium in Melbourne to attend the annual ProBlogger event.

Image by Marija Ivkovic

We had dreamed a lot bigger this year. This was the first year that we held the event over two days. It was the first year we had two different “streams” of content, and the first time we uploaded the presentations shortly after the sessions had finished for virtual attendees.

I think it was pretty successful. People loved how many different niches were represented—we had speakers from travel, cartooning, business, food, photography, fashion, parenting, and more. People also enjoyed having direct access to the team that has helped me grow my business revenue over the past two years.

From little things big things grow

This turned out to be the accidental theme of the two days. I started my keynote on Friday by telling the audience about my early experiences as a blogger—including the story of my now defunct printer blog (which I had no passion for … and as a result couldn’t sustain)!

I think the attendees appreciated hearing from people at different levels of success in their blog. We heard from bloggers who were focused on building a part-time business around other responsibilities. We also heard from bloggers who had enjoyed a lot of success within two or three years of starting their blog.

I think Elle Roberts said it best:

It is okay to shift, change, and maybe even completely flip your direction. You need to give yourself permission to stay true to who you are what you want today and stop holding on to what you wanted when you started your business.

Many bloggers told us that they felt reassured after attending as well as having specific “action steps” planned to complete after they had recovered.

One of my favorite moments of the event at the end of Day 2 when we all went out into the 40,000 seat stadium to think about the impact we can have as bloggers – Image by Danimezza

Take small actions every day

Something else that really resonated with people was the idea of finding small blocks of time each day and using them to do an activity that improves your blog.

I spoke about how I created my first ebook by finding and using 15-minute blocks after the birth of my first son. Many people tweeted their own suggestions and followed up with blog posts:

Image by Marija Ivkovic

Chris Guillebeau was one of the standout speakers. He received so many compliments on his kindness and sincerity. It was a real honour to share this event with him.

The PBEVENT Team!

The day 1 networking drinks at Maha were another highlight. As you can see, we had a lot of fun catching up and posing for pics courtesy of Smilebooth Australia.

The Virtual Pass

This was the first year we made the presentations available almost live, and this was something that all attendees really responded to. People loved not worrying about missing information and being able to participate in the conversation virtually.

We also had 100+ others attend the conference from around the world virtually—it was great to see so many tweets coming in from participants in places like Serbia, South Africa, America, Canada, New Zealand, and of course many from around Australia.

It really added an extra element to the event, and is something we´ll look at expanding on next year.

The virtual ticket is still available if you are interested.

It includes 21 hours of great blogging teaching, all the slides used by presenters, and a recording of an hour-long Q&A webinar that I recorded with attendees after the event.

Get your Virtual Ticket here.

Do it in a Dress

I ended the first day by wearing a dress to the final session. Yes, a dress. The goal was to raise enough money for ten girls in Africa to attend school.

Image by Misho Maranovic

We hit our target. You can still donate here.

Our 2013 Event

This year’s event was a real success, but we’re already looking forward to next year. We’ve just finished our debrief as a team and there are some further improvements and new features of the event that we’re looking to add.

Interested in coming?

Leave your email below and we’ll let you know where and when it’s on:


Note: your details will be kept private and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Reviews of PBEVENT from attendees

There have been a flood of blog posts about the event this year. Here are just some of them—enjoy!

Thanks to our sponsors!

Thanks so much to our partners and sponsors at PBEVENT who helped make the event so great!

Lenovo, MYOB, Holden, Yellow Pages, Curtin University, Social Callout, Blurb, Coldflow, Zendesk, and Oz Blog Hosting.

Also thanks to World Vision Australia for helping out at the event with volunteers.

Image by Marija Ivkovic

Selling Without Website Broker? You’re Leaving Money on the Table

This guest post is by Jock Purtle of brokercorp.com.

So you want to sell your blog?

Your site is probably making more than $3,000 per month and you know that it might be worth a decent amount of money.

It's a deal

Image copyright Rido - Fotolia.com

Recent sales like that of the Huffington Post give you confidence that your content-based site has value to other webmasters or investors. And with the growing move of advertising dollars to the web, you could be the next person in the sights of cashed up buyers.

You have collected all the basic information that you think might help sell it, like domain age, monthly revenue, monthly expenses, growth trends, time to run the site, unique visitors and page views, income sources, and income proof.

You think you’re ready to sell, and are looking forward to a big payday.

You’ve heard of sites like flippa.com and you are thinking about listing the site yourself. However, have you considered using a website broker?

There may be some hidden benefits that you have not accounted for when selling your site this way.

What is a website broker and what do they do?

Full disclosure here: I am a website broker, so I can answer this question in full. A website broker is a business broker for websites. They help webmasters sell their ebusinesses. They evaluate the website, and position it to sell for the highset price possible for the vendor.

Here’s a list of general tasks that a website broker performs:

  • determine an appropriate value
  • compile a business memorandum
  • prepare a marketing strategy for the sale
  • interview, educate and show the website to potential buyers
  • assist in negotiation
  • assist with due diligence
  • draft and present offers
  • control information flow
  • protect sellers’ confidentiality
  • look after paperwork
  • help complete the sale (including contracts and funds transfer)
  • provide after-sales support.

What’s involved?

Website brokers assist in the entire sales process. When selling a site, the brokerage process is similar to that of a real estate agent. There is an agreement between the agent (website broker) and the vendor (website seller) for selling an asset (the website).

A broker will normally do their own due diligence before listing a site for sale, to make sure it is saleable in the current market. Once both parties are happy, and the seller gives instructions for the broker to sell the site, the broker will then prepare a sales memorandum (sales document) to be used to market the site and create competition between buyers. This document contains the website financials, traffic stats, and a general overview of how the website works.

Buyers then view this document and decide whether they want to make an offer for the site. They sign a letter of intent (LOI), and then get a set period for final due diligence. Then, if all parties are happy and a price is agreed on, contracts will be signed, the seller will receive their funds, and the buyer will take ownership of the website.

Why would you hire a broker?

Brokers normally have a unique method of selling a site. This includes specific marketing channels that the average webmaster doesn’t have access to, like a network of buyers, subscriptions to business classified sites, and investment firms.

Generally, a website broker will fetch higher multiples than auction sites or owner listings. If you look at our websites for sale you will see the general asking price is around multiples of two to three and a half.

An example of this is a site we recently sold. The owner was a single mom who built up a great blog about parenting. It had over 4000 pages of unique content, 30,000 monthly uniques, a strong community with lots of repeat traffic, and was monetized through advertising and affiliate sales.

The site was getting to a point where the business was putting pressure on her family time, and she wanted to sell. Her 12-month net income was $25,203. She came to us thinking that the site was worth about $30,000. We eventually sold the site for $68,000.

How long does it take?

It normally takes about two months to finalize a website transaction. However some sites can take a week and some six months—it really depends on the site in question. The longest part of the sales process is normally the due diligence and the back-and-forth between buyer, seller, and broker.

Some buyers need more time than others. If buyers request things like tax returns or older financials, it usually takes a little while longer.

How much do they cost?

On average, a broker will charge around 10% of the total selling price for handling the sale of your property. Some charge more, some charge less, but that figure is a good signpost to run buy.

This fee is due after the site is sold, and you have the money in your bank account.

Do they charge fees up front?

No. Brokers work on 100% commission basis. If you don’t get paid, they don’t get paid.

What type of sites are good for a website broker?

The best sites to sell through a broker are those valued between $50,000 and $5 million. That’s generally a site with $2,500 or more in monthly revenue.

What happens if they can’t sell my site?

A typical exclusive agency agreement lasts around 90 days. Good brokers will provide you with a 30 day out clause that basically means that in the first 30 days if you aren’t happy with them you can cancel your agreement, no questions asked.

Have you ever used a website broker, or bought a site sold through one? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.

Jock Purtle is a Senior Broker at Brokercorp.com. They are a full-service website brokerage specializing in website sales and acquisitions. Jock is currently offering a free website valuation at http://brokercorp.com/sell/.

7-point Checklist For Bloggers Who Want to Create a Profitable Blog

This guest post is by Peter G. James Sinclair of Motivational Memo.

Before I aggressively started to build my Motivational Memo blog at the beginning of this year I had already owned a web design company for over seven years.

During that time I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in web design, and now that I have entered the blogging industry I continue to see the same mistakes being made by many bloggers.

So use this quick checklist to analyze your own blog.

1. How well is your blog structured?

  • Have you clearly identified your audience?
  • What’s in it for the client when they come to your blog?
  • Do you have a call to action?
  • Is your blog outstanding? What do you do differently from others?
  • Do you sell the right things—most profitable and easiest to deliver?
  • What are the best things you are doing in your niche?
  • Have you a clear purpose for each web page?
  • What action do you want your visitors to take?
  • Do you provide quality information?
  • Are you building a list?
  • Are you selling a product or service?
  • Are you gathering referrals?
  • Are you building a relationship with your readers?
  • Have you built credibility and authority in your niche?
  • Have you promoted your success through a Press, Awards, or Featured-in page?
  • Do you realize that you are building an asset that you can sell?
  • Do you know that you need more than one website if you want to make money from blogging?

2. How good is your written copy?

  • Do you write headlines that are benefit driven?
  • Does your writing stand out amongst the crowd?
  • Do you provide proof either through testimonials, comments, featured articles, endorsements, and statistics—in text, audio, and video format?
  • Is your call to action clear?
  • Does your offer provide great value?
  • Does every page have a benefit-laden headline?
  • Do you demonstrate how you stand out in your niche?
  • Do you use proof of claims you make about products/services?
  • Do you provide one call to action with clear instructions per web page above the fold?
  • Do you make no-brainer offers even for opt-in?
  • Are you enthusiastic without hype, but rather provide enthusiasm with substance?
  • Do you write the way you speak?
  • Do you avoid jargon?
  • Do you use a double-readership path—provide headlines and sub headlines that make it easy for readers to skim your piece before reading the entire article?

3. How descriptive is your domain name?

  • Is your domain name clever, quirky, or meaningless?
  • Have you used your business name, unless you are well known?
  • Have you used your personal name, unless you are well recognized?
  • Have you used a .net where there’s a .com site available?
  • Have you used the Google Keyword tool to identify some of the keywords people are searching for on the Internet in your niche?
  • Have you chosen a domain name that grabs your attention through clear communication?

4. How professional is your layout and formatting of graphics?

  • Do you use white writing on black or colored background that makes it hard for people to read?
  • Do you have a cluttered or confusing layout?
  • Is your top banner large or complex and slow to load?
  • Do you use big blocks of text?
  • Do you write text in all-capitals?
  • Do you provide captions (where appropriate) on photos that are keyword rich and benefit-driven?
  • Do you use too many fonts, colors, and sizes?
  • Is your blog quick to load?
  • Do you have a clean, simple, narrow banner at the top of your blog that creates the right feeling on your site?
  • Do you break up text with sub headings, bullet points, and photos?
  • Do you have a white background and use colored headlines and black text?

5. How easy is it for your potential customers to buy?

For blogs to make money, there is usually an attached web page that will promote products, courses, etc. So you might need to analyze these pages as well.

  • Do you provide an obvious way to buy online?
  • Do you use a secure payment processor?
  • Do you provide a number of ways for people to purchase—credit card, ClickBank, PayPal, or even for some an printable form, depending on your demographics?
  • Do you provide a money-back guarantee?
  • Do you allow for payments in customers’ local currencies?
  • Is your offer obvious, providing clear instruction for buying above the fold?
  • Do you use a recognized payment processer?

6. Are your visitor details being collected?

  • Is your opt-in above the fold?
  • Do you provide an incentive for visitors to provide their name and email?
  • Do you ask for too much information?
  • Do you have our opt-in on your sales pages, and did you know that if you do this you could reduce sales by up to 75%?
  • Do you communicate regularly with those who opt-in to your blog or newsletter, and did you know that responsiveness will halve after each three months of no communication?
  • Do you get at least a 25% opt-in result?
  • Do you offer something customers desperately want in return for their name and email?
  • Do you make it easy and obvious to opt in above the fold—a single opt in requiring minimal details?
  • Do you use an automated way to follow up?
  • Do you make offers to your list—your own products/services or others in return for an affiliate commission?
  • Do you give twice as much as you ask by providing good value?

7. How well are you marketing your blog?

  • Do you believe in the concept of “build it and they will come”?
  • Do you only using one or two marketing methods?
  • Do you only use online-to-online marketing?
  • Do you outsource the marketing or manage the outsourcing properly?
  • Do you test, monitor, and fine-tune?
  • Do you use out of date marketing methods or only use the latest craze in marketing?
  • Do you use multiple marketing methods—free and paid, tried and tested, and new?
  • Do you use offline-to-online marketing?
  • Do you understand your marketing strategy well enough to train others to help you?
  • Do you collect stats on results weekly, or per campaign?
  • Are you marketing to your existing list—email, social media, sms, hard mail, etc.?
  • Do you use SEO, Google Adwords, Google Places?
  • Do you use paid traffic, Facebook PPC, banner ads?
  • Do you build or buy lists in your niche or even pursue joint ventures?
  • Have you ever thought of buying an offline list and developing an online list?
  • Do you write guest articles for other blogs in your niche and even other niches?
  • Do you submit articles to directories?
  • Have you used offline free publicity?
  • Do you seek out referrals?
  • Do you interact regularly through social media—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn?
  • Do you run competitions?
  • Do you give things away to your database?
  • Do you conduct surveys?
  • Do you partner with online thought leaders in your niche?
  • Do you help your readers to engage one with another?

So there you have it. Tick off all the things that you are doing well, and then begin to implement all the things that you could do better. You will be amazed at the results.

Peter G. James Sinclair is in the ‘heart to heart’ resuscitation business and inspires, motivates and equips others to be all that they’ve been created to become. Receive your free copy of his latest eBook Personal Success Blueprint at http://www.selfdevelopmentmastermind.com and add him on Twitter @PeterGJSinclair—today!