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How a Flip Camera and My Blog Got My Business Over $20,000 of FREE Publicity

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Mark Hayward. You can follow him on Twitter @mark_hayward.

Do you ever feel like you want to pull your hair out over the lack of return (you feel like) you’re getting from your small business blogging and social media efforts?

Man, sometimes using social media for small business promotion can be frustrating!

In my two most recent ProBlogger guest posts I discussed, How to Go Beyond Your Small Business Blog and Create a Social Media Footprint and 10 Tips for Blogging Your Way to Small Business Success.

But you should know, I was not always a proponent of blogging or social media.

As a small business owner I completely understand your aggravation, and perhaps disappointment, with blogging.

In fact, a couple of years ago I was right there with you.

To be sure, when I pursued my dream and opened a small business in the Caribbean I lacked any semblance of a marketing plan, so I thought I would do what everyone else was doing, and turn to the Internet.

I had heard about the power of blogging and social media and using them as tools to help promote small business. Sadly, perhaps like you or someone you know, I envisioned that I would put up a few blog posts and offer some tips in forums and customers would come rushing.

In fact, for the first few months that I owned my business I thought I was doing everything right, such as, posting helpful information to my blog, visiting forums that were relevant to my niche, and even sneaking in a little bit of reputation management.

However, after about six months (what I thought was a long time) of consistent effort I felt like the return on my time and effort was just not happening.

In essence, I was done with social media and blogging!!

My Social Media Awakening

On the very day I told my wife that I was finished with this blogging, FLICKR, and YouTube stuff I found an email in my inbox that would change the course of my small business and my view towards social media forever. (I am not making this up for poetic license.)

Serendipitously, on the very same day that I was supposedly done with blogging forever, I received an email from a writer for Islands Magazine and she wanted to feature the story of how I opened my business in the Caribbean.

What was so amazing you ask?

In my opinion, my initial social media and blogging efforts had finally paid off. The writer had found my business from video that I had uploaded to YouTube and then posted as part of a story on my small niche blog.

Unfortunately, I am not sure what the exact search term was that the writer used, but four key results from my initial blogging and social media goals had happened:

  1. While seeking some video the writer discovered my niche blog through a Google search.
  2. The niche blog led the writer to my small business website.
  3. From the website the writer learned about my story.
  4. The writer contacted me for the feature.

Or, stated more simply:

One $100 FLIP Camera + Niche Blog Post = $20,000 plus of FREE publicity

You have to understand, I had NO advertising budget for my business and along comes this amazing $20,000 marketing opportunity at no cost. Even better, the Islands Magazine article has led to numerous other (free) publicity opportunities for my small business, including a quarter page write up in Conde Nast Travel and mentions on various travel websites.

Yes, it was then that I became a TRUE blogging and social media convert!

Major Lessons Learned

The above experience taught me many lessons about using blogging and social media for small business marketing. The following are but a few:

  • Goals – Set your goals early. My primary reason for having a niche blog and posting video, photos, and text was to ensure that I had a presence that ranked well in Google so that potential customers (and magazine writers) could find me.
  • Consistent – Be patient and consistent in your small business blogging efforts. I know sometimes it is awfully hard not to compare what you are doing to others, but stay focused and committed.
  • Measurement – Find out which blog posts and social media sites provide the best return for your time and effort. (When you first get started this is mostly done through trial and error.) Also, don’t look at number of visitors to your blog, look at WHO is visiting your blog and how they are finding you.
  • Results – The truth of the matter is, we are all still at the infancy stage when it comes to using social media, and perhaps to a lesser extent blogging, for small business marketing. You just never know when the hard work that you are doing on a daily basis now might pay off later!

Strangely enough, with thanks to a FLIP camera and a blog post, some interesting intangibles have also arisen from the Islands Magazine article.

  • The Islands Magazine article set me up as an expert in pursuing the dream of moving to the Caribbean and opening a business. On a weekly basis I receive emails from people who are seeking assistance with trying to do what I have done. Not only do I enjoy helping them, but it’s a great way to keep my business in their thoughts.
  • Islands Magazine gave me a powerful backlink. According to Matt Cutts, and the most recent WordCamp talk he gave Straight from Google – What You Need to Know, when it comes to search rankings and the power of backlinks, the Google algorithm is affected by the authority and the relevancy of the site that is linking to you. Thus, a travel magazine with a PR5 linking to my travel related business site, provides me with a solid link and some added Google juice.
  • Almost a year on and the Islands Magazine article is still consistently the number two or three referring site for my business, and with the current economic downturn any extra website traffic is always welcome.

As a final takeaway message, I would just like to say that even if you do not have the subscriber count of Darren Rowse, Brian Clark, or Chris Brogan … DONîT GIVE UP! Your small business blogging and social media efforts will pay off.

Mark Hayward lives in the Caribbean and built up a clientele for his small business using nothing but social media. He tries to help beginners make sense of social media and how they can use it for business promotion. You can follow him on Twitter @mark_hayward.

How Long Have you Been Blogging? [POLL]

It’s been a couple of years since I ran this poll and I’m curious to see if the readership of this blog has shifted since then – so….

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Looking forward to seeing the results on this.

Do You Do Affiliate Marketing on Your Blog? [POLL]

Affiliate Marketing is one income stream that many bloggers experiment with – but how many are attempting to make money in this way?

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Once you’ve voted – here’s a few posts on the topic for those wanting to explore it more.

Don’t know what Affiliate Marketing is? Check out What is Affiliate Marketing.

How to Build Credibility as a Young Blogger/Entrepreneur

Aditya.jpgThis post was written by Aditya Mahesh, founder of AMBeat.com, a complete resource for entrepreneurs complete with advice articles, start-up profiles, interviews, news analysis, and more. Note: I (Darren) have added a few thoughts below Aditya’s post.

When it comes to the blogosphere it may be all about the content, but when it comes to content, credibility is king. Credibility can make or break a blog. Take a look at the successful blogs out there; TechCrunch, ProBlogger, Shoemoney, Huffington Post, Mashable, and the list goes on. What do all these blogs have in common? They are written by credible sources people trust as experts in their niche.

Building credibility is a crucial part of any business or blog. It is a process that requires tireless effort and can take months or years to build. In my opinion, your credibility is by far the greatest asset you have as a blogger, regardless of your monthly page views, RSS subscriber count, or even ad revenues.

While building credibility is difficult for anyone, it is especially difficult for young entrepreneurs who may still be completing college or even high school. Society seems to have this misconception that credibility and wisdom come with age and the older one is the more credible they are. Young entrepreneurs and bloggers definitely have to work harder to build their credibility, but speaking as the founder of a successful public relations firm I started as a freshman in high school at the age of 14, it is by no stretch of the imagination impossible for student entrepreneurs to brand themselves as credible resources.

Here are a four ways I built up my credibility:

1. Always Provide Quality

The best thing you can do regardless of age to build credibility is to always deliver a quality product. When I ran my public relations firm I did the best job possible for all clients. Hence, they provided my service with positive reviews and recommended me to their peers. This word-of-mouth marketing was crucial to the success of the firm. In the blogosphere, focus on the quality of your posts and the content you provide. Over time, if you consistently provide quality output, no one will care how old you are.

2. Associate yourself with Industry Leaders

One of the best ways to build credibility is to associate yourself with leaders in your industry. In the blogosphere this can be done through guest posts on larger blogs, inviting industry leaders to exclusive interviews on your blogs, and networking at industry events. While these leaders may be hesitant to work with young entrepreneurs at first, if you showcase the skills you possess, either by writing a quality guest post or asking for an interview with fresh unique questions, any doubts over age will disappear. In addition, this is a great way to build a network of mentors. Everyone likes it when someone else looks up to them. I have used my age to build a network of mentors for my personal success and my blogs.

3. Use your Age to your Advantage

While there are a decent amount of young entrepreneurs, your age still makes you unique and you can use this to your advantage. How many times have you seen large Tier-1 newspapers or magazine such as the New York Times, Business Week, Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc Magazine, Fast Company, and countless others feature pieces on young entrepreneurs? Business Week’s 25 under 25 which showcases 25 successful entrepreneur sunder the age of 25 or Inc’s 30 Under 30 which does the same for 30 entrepreneurs under the age of 30. When you pitch your business or blog to Tier 1 media for news coverage, your age makes your pitch unique and increases the chances of someone picking up the story.

Getting coverage in Tier 1 media is one of the best ways to become a credible source and using your age as a differentiation point can help you get coverage.

4. Lead you Peers

One of the most effective ways I have built up my credibility is to work in leadership positions with my peers and make them loyal followers of my blog or business. I am currently a sophomore at UC Berkeley and am teaching a course on entrepreneurship to other Berkeley undergraduates.

Teaching this course has helped me garner the attention of students on campus, entrepreneurs in the Berkeley community, and media outlets all which help my credibility as a blogger and entrepreneur.

In addition I am using promoting content from my blog in the course in effect building up a devoted reader base in my students.

Final Words

Overall, building credibility does not happen overnight. It will take a lot of time and dedication. If you are a young entrepreneur it can be especially difficult. However, if you follow the tips above it should put you on the right path to branding yourself as a credible resource.

A Note from Darren: I think that Aditya is right on the money with his advice here. I’ve watched a number of young bloggers do quite well for themselves over the years by taking the above approach. To reiterate what Aditya has said:

1. Quality Matters – if you help someone or provide them with something that enhances their lives in some way then you’ll win respect with most people no matter what your situation is.

2. Associate with Industry Leaders – I think this one is particularly useful. It might take a little time to get on their radar but if you can position yourself near and even get endorsement and support from them you will not only learn a lot but others will take note. I’ve seen a number of young bloggers break into their niches by doing this.

3. Use Your Age to Your Advantage – don’t just do this in main stream media – if you’re young and pitching other blogs with guest posts, take the ‘young person’s view’ or the ‘a 15 year olds advice on….’ type approach with your articles. Again – this is something that I’ve seen get young bloggers standing out form the crowd.

4. Leading Your Peers – another useful point. Become an industry leader in your own peer group and in time as you all grow older you’ll still be positioned as one.

My last two pieces of advice are:

A) to persist and not get bogged down by those who look down on you because you’re young. You will find that some people will be reluctant to put their trust in you because you’re young. Don’t get bogged down in this or let it slow you down – move on, keep being useful and building what you’ve set out to build.

B) to have youthful exuberance and enthusiasm but to lose the youthful arrogance – by no means do all young people suffer with this problem but I have vivid memories of a few that do. Yes you’re young, yes you may know what you’re talking about – but don’t feel that if someone says ‘no’ to you that they’re doing it just because you’re young – other factors could be at play. By all means be enthusiastic and follow your dreams – but keep in mind that humility counts for a lot and those ‘older folk’ around you might actually know a thing or two that you’re yet to discover. There’s a fine line somewhere there – try to find it and walk on it!

How to Improve Your Blog When You Have No Internet Access

internetdown.jpgHere I am – sitting in my local cafe where I’d come to spend the morning working on my blog using my mobile broadband modem…. which today decides not to work.

Arrrghhh!

I spent 15 minutes trying to connect…. 5 minutes complaining about it on Twitter…. another 10 minutes trying to get it working…. 3 minutes grumbling to the waitress….

And then I decided that I had better do something productive.

But what can you do to improve your blog when you don’t have internet access? Here’s a few ideas:

  1. Brainstorm Post Ideas – one of the things I enjoy doing in these moments is coming up with ideas for new posts. I usually do it with a little mind mapping on a notebook that I usually have with me.
  2. Design an Editorial Calendar – Once you have your list of possible ideas to write posts about – slot some of the best ones into a calendar for your next week (or month) of posting. Add to it some other tasks that you want to achieve in the coming days and weeks (promotional activities etc).
  3. Write Posts – while it can be handy to have access to the web while writing posts to help you with research writing posts while offline forces you to have more original thoughts and not rely upon things you’ve previously written or the ideas of others. I particularly find setting myself the challenge to start writing a ‘series’ of posts a good idea in times where I know I’ll be without internet for an extended period of time.
  4. Strategic Thinking and Review – spend some time doing a little strategic thinking about your blog. How has it been going? Who’s been reading it lately? What types of reactions are you getting from readers? How are your energy levels as a blogger? What opportunities are their in your niche at present? Don’t just ‘review’ and ‘reflect’ – as part of this construct a ‘to do list’ of things you need to achieve once you get back online.
  5. Write a Guest Post – guest posting on someone else’s blog in your niche is a great way to grow your profile and find new readers. So take some time out while you’re offline to write a post for someone else’s blog. Alternatively write a helpful tutorial or opinion piece for a forum in your niche so you can post it when you’re back online.
  6. Clear your Inbox – depending upon your email system you may be able to spend some time clearing up your inbox. I use Gmail and can work in offline mode get a lot done in that mode.
  7. Write a ‘Report’ for your Readers – why not take a little time to write some kind of a free report or bonus article for your readers. One great way to incentivize people to signup for your RSS feed or newsletter is to give them something for free for doing so. Choose a topic that you get a lot of questions about or that is a good beginner topic in your niche and write an extended and helpful article on the topic. Put it into a pdf so when you can get back online you can add it to your blog.
  8. Record a Podcast or Video – one of the main reasons that people resist creating video or podcasts for their blogs is a lack of time. Recording or editing these kinds of media can take time and effort. So now that you’ve got some time on your hands get going, video and audio can add new depth to your blog and add a personal touch.
  9. Come Up with Poll Topics – coming up with new polls are another thing that I find myself putting off on my blog. I’m not sure why but it’s a task that often slips my mind or that I struggle with coming up with questions for. Put aside 15 minutes and come up with as many questions for future polls as you can. Save them somewhere so you’ll have a ready supply over the coming weeks and months.
  10. Design a Competition – Competitions are a great way of creating buzz on and around your blog. They can deepen reader engagement and help find new readers for your blog – but they take time to come up with. Take some time to plan one for your blog. It need not be a big one with a massive prize, even a simple competition with a cheap prize and a low requirement for entry (like leaving a comment on a post) can work well.
  11. Write up some Interview Questions – interviewing someone in your niche is something that takes a fair bit of work – spend some time identifying someone that you’d like to interview on your blog and construct a list of questions that you’d ask them.
  12. Take a Break – perhaps the universe is trying to tell you something by conspiring to bring your internet down. Why not go with the offline thing and go for a walk, play with your kids, take your better half out for a coffee, have a sleep, read a book….. your blog will still be there when your internet is working again.

Of course the above activities can all be done whether you have internet access or not – however many of them are things we put off for ‘one day’ and never get around to.

While having your internet go down can be frustrating – the key is to snap yourself out of the frustration and to do something productive and worthwhile with the time. Don’t just sit there trying to connect for hour after hour – get something done.

What activities do you do when you don’t have access to the internet?

PS: My internet is still down but I’ve managed to be productive. I’ve written 3 posts (including this one), planned 4 more, edited a post from one of my writers on DPS, answered 30 or so emails and am now going for a walk.

PS2: Spookily, just as I was about to shutdown my computer…. the internet came back!

Have You Ever Written Paid Posts On Your Blog

It’s been a few years since services like PayPerPost (and others) controversially came onto the scene and gave bloggers the option to be paid for writing posts about products, companies or services.

So I thought it’d be interesting to see how many bloggers have done paid posts (and how many still do).

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Feel free to expand upon your vote in comments below.

How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog

Blog-Post-TitlesTitles change the destiny of your posts.

Those few words at the beginning of your blog post can be the difference between the post being read and spread like a virus through the web like a wild fire and it languishing in your archives, barely noticed.

This month we’ve been talking about how to ‘craft’ blog posts and are looking at key moments in the writing of blog posts that it is important to pause and put a little extra effort into.

While there will usually only be a handful of words in your post title – they are the most powerful words that you’ll write because for most of your readers the decision as to whether to read the rest of your post rests upon them.

Why Blog Post Titles Matter

Blog post titles appear in:

  • Search engine results
  • RSS feeds
  • Links from other bloggers
  • Social media sites
  • On your archive pages (depending upon how you format them)

In each of these occassions the title can be the only thing that people see and the sole thing that people make the decision to visit your post on. Write a boring, complicated or confusing title and it doesn’t matter what you’ve written in the post – very few people will ever read it.

What should a Good Blog Post Title Do?

There are many techniques that copywriters use in crafting titles or headings both online and offline – but there’s generally one common goal behind them all. It can be summed up in the words of David Ogilvy who in Oglivy on Advertising (a great copywriting book) again and again echoes the refrain that:

the purpose of a title is to get potential readers to read the first line of your content.”

This is one of the lessons that has helped me the most in my own blogging and I’ve seen it’s power again and again.

Write a captivating and intruiging title and you’ll draw people into reading it every time.

How to Craft a Blog Post Title – 8 Tips

Titles-1-2How do you craft a blog post title that get people to read your blog posts opening lines?
There are many techniques for crafting blog post titles that will draw readers into them. Below I’ll outline a few (you won’t be able to do all of them in every single post).

Before I share them – let me give one universal tip – Don’t Rush – this is the main point of this whole series on crafting content. If there’s nothing else you come away from today – take away that if you rush your titles you could well be wasting the time that you invest into your actual posts. Invest time into your posts, it’s something that will pay off!

Now that we’re taking our time – here are 8 tips that I use in the creation of blog post titles. Note: you’d not be likely to use all of them in the one post (although for fun I did my best to get quite a few of them into the image title above). Different techniques will work better in different situations.

1. Communicate a Benefit

This is SO IMPORTANT. If a potential reader comes across your post in Google search results or your RSS feed or on a site like Digg and they see a title that promises to meet a need they have – they’ll click that link on almost every occassion. Identify a need in of potential readers (we talked about this in yesterdays post) and communicate that your post will solve this problem or need in your title. This is why posts with titles like ‘How to Hold a Digital Camera’ and ’10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits’ (LINKSSSSSSS) have driven hundreds of thousands of readers to my photography blog in the last year. They are not ‘clever’ or ‘cryptic’ titles – they simply SCREAM at those that see them what they’ll get if they visit the post. These titles don’t draw everyone that see’s them to them, but they’ll certainly draw in people with the needs that you’re aiming the post at.

2. Create Controversy or Debate

Another technique that can be very good at drawing people into a post is to set the scene for controversy, debate or a strong opinion. You need to be willing to back these types of titles up with posts that reflect the title – but controversy is one of those things that tends to pique people’s interest. Keep in mind that when you create controversy you’ll attract strong reactions in people.

3. Ask a Question

When you ask a question those who read it are wired to respond (or to see what the response is). I find that questions at post titles can be very popular at not only drawing in readers – but particularly effective at getting readers to leave comments – particularly if the comment directs a question AT the reader (ie use the word YOU in the question) rather than just being a random question. I’ll write more on personalizing titles below.

4. Personalize Titles

Titles-3When you write blog posts you are potentially writing to vast audiences of many thousands of readers – however readers can feel like the post is laser targetted in on their own specific situation, particularly if you personalize the language that you’re using. One of the easiest ways to do this is simply to use the word ‘you’ in your posts. I wrote a little about this in First Person Blogging about ‘You’ but mainly talked about using the word ‘you’ in the post itself but in the title of your posts it can have an even bigger impact. Example – 21 Ways to Make Your Blog or Website Sticky.

5. Use Keywords

Keywords in titles are good for two main reasons:

  • Firstly they grab the attention of readers who are scanning content – I noticed this recently when I was in a buying mode looking to get an iPhone. Anytime any post in my RSS feeder had the word ‘iPhone’ it was like a flashing light and attracted my attention to it. I could hardly help it but because I was on the look out for information to help me with that purchase the keyword was a great attention grabber.
  • Secondly – keywords are important for the long tail life of your blog post as they tell search engines what your blog post is about and will help it to rank highly for those words. Search engines pay particular attention to titles to assertain what a web page is about – particularly if you use the words in your page ‘title tags’ as well (read more on title tags and SEO).

So use keywords that relate to your post in your titles. This is a particularly useful tip if you write about products, people or companies as these types of ‘names’ are some of the most searched for terms on the web.

One more tip for keywords – if you can include them at the start of your title they can have more impact with SEO than if you include them at the end of a title (particularly if the title is long).

6. Use Power Words

Not all words are created equal – some evoke a powerful response in readers and it can be well worth your while to find out what they are.

It’s difficult to compile a list of these ‘power words’ but a few that I’ve found that can work (although read my disclaimer below):

  • Free – there’s something about the idea of getting something for nothing that triggers a response in most of us.
  • Stunning – I use words like ‘stunning’ on my photography blog a lot. These words are ‘big claim’ words that draw people into the post to see if it matches up (see below for more on ‘big claims’)
  • Discover – everyone likes to make discoveries. Another ther related word is ‘revealed’.
  • Secrets – this triggers a response because it promises to show you something you don’t yet know. Similarly – you could use ‘Little Known Ways to…’ as an alternative to ‘secrets’.
  • Easy – similarly to ‘free’ – we all like ‘easy’ don’t we? – also use ‘quick’. Better still – what about ‘quick and easy’?

Disclaimer – power words can be very beneficial, however they can also trigger negative reactions. Some people get skeptical when they see titles with these types of words and will resist clicking them – others will click them but get angry if the post itself doesn’t live up to the title. Proceed with caution.

7. Big Claims and Promises

I’ve mentioned this technique already but it does deserve a little further exploration as it is a definite way to draw people into a post. Making a bit claim or promise really extends upon my first technique – ‘Communicate a Benefit’ – but takes it to a place where the benefit being shared in the title just cannot be ignored.

These sorts of ‘big claims’ make guarantees that even people without a real need in your topic will want to check out.

The only problem with big claim posts is that if you can’t actually back them up with the post itself, you run the risk of putting readers offside.

8. Humor Titles

Titles-2The humorous title is yet another technique that can be very effective at drawing readers into you blog – that is IF you pull it off.

The risk with humorous posts is that they can also fall flat on their faces and leave you with a post title that not only fails to draw loyal readers in but which is not optimized well for search engines (unless you manage to incorporate some keywords).

Two More Quick Tips on Writing Blog Posts:

Keep it short – while it is possible to actually grab people’s attention with a very long title (the length itself can draw people to it) – in most cases you’ll want to keep it simple and easy to digest. This is good for readers but also search engines (they will only show 65 or so characters so if you go too long your full title doesn’t appear in search results).
Don’t use Periods (full stops) – this one might just be my personal preference and open for debate (although I’ve seen a number of copywriters talk about it) but using full stops or ‘periods’ at the end of titles can stop the flow of your readers. It’s not a big one but something that could have an impact.

Further Reader on Blog Post Titles:

  • Andy Beal wrote a thought provoking post – How to Optimize Blog Post Titles – in which he explores two audiences of blog posts and how he suggests you optimize titles for each at different life stages of a post.
  • Brian Clark has written some fantastics posts on Blog Post Titles in his series Magnetic Headlines. It includes some title templates that are worth experimenting with.

What have you learned about writing blog post titles? Do you use some of the above approaches or have you found other techniques to work for you?

Read the Full Series

This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.

A Secret to Sustain Yourself as a Blogger

Today I want to talk about an issue may seem more suited to a ‘self help’ blog than a blog about blogging – but it’s something that I think is pretty important you want to be a successful blogger. It’s something that is so important that it can make or break you.

Sustainable-Blogging
Image by *nathan

However – while it’s crucial to sustaining successful blogs for the long haul – it’s got very little to do with blogging itself.

It’s got nothing to do with writing good content, nothing to do with building readers to your blog, nothing to do with SEO, ad optimization, social media or anything like that.

It has nothing to do with any of that and everything to do with a very personal part of you.

Let me explore it with a question:

Where do you get your personal worth from?

OK – some of you have your cursors hovering over the ‘back’ button in your browser – “this is not going to help me make my blog better” you might be thinking…. but humor me for a moment or two because what I’m exploring here is the reason that I see many bloggers give up blogging.

Let me flesh out the question with a couple more:

  • What makes you feel worthwhile – or not worthwhile?
  • When do you feel like who you are and what you do matters (and doesn’t matter)?

Here’s the thing. When I talk to people about when they feel ‘worthwhile’ or when they feel that they ‘matter’ they generally answer with one of two things.

‘When I achieve something’ or ‘when someone tells me that I am good’.

If you want to put it as an equation:

Personal Worth = What You Achieve + What Others Think of You

ie – we feel like we’re worth something when we do good things and others praise us and we feel worthless when we fail and when others tell us we’re no good.

This is an equation that most of us live by. In fact it’s an equation that we’re bombarded with day in day out through our lives. We see those who achieve and who are praised glorified on TV and are taught from a young age to aspire to be like them. We’re also taught to avoid failure and the ridicule of others at all costs.

The equation of personal worth coming from our achievements and what others think of us is something most of us fall back on automatically in most areas of our lives. Education, Relationships, Socially, Career – and for us as bloggers it is how most of us automatically measure ourselves as bloggers.

Unpacking The Equation for Bloggers

Who are the successful bloggers?

Those who are linked to, those who get loads of great comments, those who get so many subscribers that they can’t fit all the numbers on their RSS feed buttons, those who are praised by others, those who make it to the top of all kinds of ranking lists and who win awards. As a result most of us strive for these types of things and when we have success in these areas we feel warm and fuzzy inside and somehow more worthwhile as a blogger – as a person.

The problem with the equation:

The problem with rating our worth in this way (whether it be in our blogging or any aspect of our life) is that it’s something that is virtually impossible to live up to – whether our blog is ‘successful’ or not. Lets look at the two areas of the equation again:

Achievement – The issue is that all of us at some point or another fail. We have days where we make a mistake, where the luck doesn’t fall our way, where the actions of someone else means we can’t perform, where things outside of anyone’s control mean that it all comes crashing down. There are times in all of our lives when we can’t achieve. As bloggers many of us are familiar with the ‘failures’. If our personal worth is tied to what we do or don’t achieve then we’re going to be set for a roller-coaster of a ride.

The Opinion of Others – Again, as bloggers, most of us know that the opinions of others are always going to be mixed. Other bloggers, readers, writers from other types of media and others don’t really hold back on their opinion of bloggers and while what they see can at times be incredibly positive and uplifting – they can be equally devastating and hurtful. Also for many bloggers the opinions of others are simply absent. As a blogger starting out seeing the ‘comments (0)’ at the bottom of every post can be debilitating. Once again, if our personal worth is tied to the words of others about us then we’re setting ourselves up for a lot of highs and lows.

When I chat to bloggers that tell me that they are finished with blogging they almost always quietly tell me that they are quitting because of a reason that fits with one of the above areas. Feelings of failure, hurt at the critique of others, disappointment at their abilities, the fact that no-one ever responded or that they felt ignored…..

It’s a familiar story for me also.

When I started blogging on a more serious level 3-4 years ago I began to notice that I had real mood swings that seemed to be tied to how my blogs were going. I remember in the lead up to Christmas 2004 when traffic to my biggest blog at the time almost completely disappeared as a result of Google reshuffling it’s index. The week that followed that event took me to a very low place and very close to quitting my blogging (I even went out and go myself a ‘real job’. Correspondingly when the traffic returned 6-7 weeks later the ‘high’ that I was on was higher than I’d felt in a long time.

I realized around this time that I was on a roller coaster ride and that it wasn’t really healthy or sustainable for me – either as a blogger of as a human being.

True Personal Worth

The lesson that I continually come back to (and I need to learn and relearn it) is to remember that my worth is not determined by what I do or what others think of me. This isn’t a good place to measure my worth as a blogger or as a human being. Self worth comes from something much deeper that those things and while we’re constantly tempted to judge ourselves this way the reality is that my worth as human beings goes beyond my RSS counter, comment numbers, number of appearances on Digg, Technorati ranking, number of links from A-listers etc.

For me my personal worth comes from a much deeper place (something that is tied to my spirituality). I’m not sure where it comes from for you (and I’m not about to push my views on anybody) but I think it’s an important area to ponder because the alternative is to find yourself on the roller coaster of the achievement/opinons of others equation.

Are your feelings of worth tied to how your blog is going? Do you struggle with this one as much as I have? I’d love to hear how you’ve dealt with the issue.

The Long Tail of Blogging: Why Content is King

In this post Eric from Photography Bay examines the Long Tail as it applies to blogging.

Content is king. Yawn . . . right? You know this tired phrase is the gospel of blogging, but did you ever wonder why content is really king? You spend your time developing and massaging your posts to create the next bit of killer content. It’s the post that hits the front page of Digg, gets Stumbled to death or even Slashdotted. That’s why content is king, right? Wrong.

Content is King Because of the Long Tail of Blogging.

In 2004, Chris Anderson coined the term “The Long Tail” in a Wired Magazine article, which he followed up with a “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More” (Chris Anderson)“>book and a blog on the subject. If you’re not familiar with the phrase or its meaning, here’s a very brief summary from Chris himself:

The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail.

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(Picture by Hay Kranen / PD – via Wikipedia)

Example – Amazon.com

One of the best examples is Amazon.com, which provides consumers with access to the latest and greatest hit products, books and more. Sales of the bestseller books, however, pale in comparison to sales of the many obscure books in Amazon’s catalog. Hence, the long tail of the book market is where the majority of sales are coming from – and it’s growing.

Hot Content vs. Archived Content

Apply these same principles to your blog. That killer super-dugg post is great . . . for a day or two. Granted, the super-dugg post is sometimes great for added readers, linkbacks and helping your blog grow. It’s the long tail, however, that keeps your blog alive and thriving. While that traffic spike is great, if you adhere to publishing solid content as ProBlogger encourages, then your old, quality content overshadows even that super-dugg masterpiece.

Eyes on Photography Bay Stats

For instance, have a gander at this recent Photography Bay post on a new patent from camera manufacturer Canon, which covers some crazy new iris scanner for a photographer’s eye. This post turned out to be extremely popular for a few days, producing 5,839 pageviews on Wednesday, Feb. 13 – thanks to being Slashdotted and coverage by several tech sites.

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The total page views that day were 14,721. The lesson here is that even though the killer post for that day was miles above any other traffic, the rest of the content on Photography Bay bettered the killer post.

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Some of these posts are several months old. If you look further down the list of traffic-generating posts (470 different pages this particular day), you would see that some posts are closer to a year in age. That’s pretty cool to me because Photography Bay is only about 15 months old now. Now, think about 2, 3, or 5 years down the road . . . the long tail gets much longer and becomes a lot more significant.

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The long tail matters because of Google, linkbacks, readers and other requisite traffic-generating resources. If it weren’t for that catalog of niche posts that we build everyday we blog, posts like the Canon iris patent post might never take off.

Caveat

Please note, however, that this theory may be more true for some blog niches than others. Tech blogs often need that fresh content coming in to keep reader interest, since new gadgets and technology are more interesting than older gadgets (e.g., Googling for HDMI cables versus S-VHS cables). On the other hand, a niche blog on the healthcare industry will still grab Google traffic for the search “medicare anti-kickback laws” regardless of the age of the post. The topic has been around for a couple of decades and isn’t going anywhere in the near future.

The Right Analogy for the Long Tail

Contrary to what Read Write Web may say, the long tail is where the money’s at. Rather than analyzing a given blog’s posts and income, Read Write Web applied the long tail analysis to the blogosphere as a whole. While the data conforms to the long tail, the analogy and, thus, the conclusion, are flawed. Applying the principals of the long tail in the same manner as the Amazon example above, the long tail analysis properly demonstrates that a blog requires a significant amount of niche content to fit the model. With the content in hand, the long tail will wag the blog.

Conclusion

Google regularly accounts for more than 50% of Photography Bay’s traffic, which is why I must strive to continue to make that long tail longer. Today’s killer post is part of next month’s long tail traffic – and I want a longer tail! Regular, quality posts ensure that there will be a long tail tomorrow and that, my friends, is why content is king.

What are your thoughts on the long tail of blogging? Have you seen the long tail wagging your blog? How can we leverage these principals to make our positions in our niches even stronger?

Eric is the author of Photography Bay, which covers digital photography news, techniques and gear reviews. You can subscribe to Photography Bay’s feed here.