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Follow These Six Steps to Make Plenty of Time to Write (and Enjoy it Too)

Six Steps to Make Plenty of Time to Write (and Enjoy it Too)  problogger.netThis is a guest contribution from Ali Luke.

Here’s a safe bet:

You’re struggling to find enough time to write.

Virtually every blogger and entrepreneur has the same problem.

Maybe you want to write great content to build your business – but there are so many other things you have to do too.

I know first-hand how much of a challenge this can be. I started out writing around a full-time day job; today, I juggle work around my two year old daughter and baby son.

I don’t know your personal situation. But I can take some guesses:

  • You have a lot on your plate – sometimes you feel overwhelmed.
  • Big writing projects get shunted to the end of your to-do list.
  • When you do have some time to write, you never seem to get far.

Sound familiar?

Here’s how to turn things around, in six straightforward steps:

Step #1: Come Up With a Bunch of Ideas for Your Blog

Since you’re reading ProBlogger, it’s a pretty safe bet that you have a blog (or you’re about to start one). Do you ever find it hard to come up with enough ideas for it? Maybe you’re managing to keep up a regularly posting schedule – but you know you should be doing some guest posting, and you never seem to get round to it.

The easiest way to make faster progress on any writing project is to set aside dedicated brainstorming (or, if you like, daydreaming) time.

Grab a notebook or a bit of scrap paper, and jot down as many ideas as you can in fifteen minutes. Don’t judge your ideas, just write everything down.

Try This:

Schedule 15 minutes, once per week, for brainstorming. You’ll soon have a stockpile of ideas that you can turn to whenever you need one.

Further Reading:

How to Consistently Come Up With Great Post Ideas for Your Blog, Stacey Roberts, ProBlogger

Step #2: Create a Clear Plan Before You Start Writing

When you don’t have much time to write, you don’t want to waste a single minute.

If you find yourself getting stuck and giving up part-way, or if you often have to scrap huge chunks of your blog posts because you went off on a long tangent, then you need to get to grips with planning.

Your plan doesn’t need to be complicated. A few bullet points jotted on the back of an envelope is fine. For maximum effect, though, set aside dedicated time to plan out several posts at once.

Your plan helps you spot any problems before you spend hours writing, and it helps you shape your material into a logical structure: easier for you to write, and easier for your audience to read.

It’s also a great way to blast through any blank page wobbles at the start of a writing session. If you’ve got a plan, you can just copy or type it into your document … and you’re already part-way there.

Try This:

Give different planning methods a go – you don’t have to stick with a linear outline each time. Maybe a mindmap, a set of ideas on index cards, or even a spreadsheet would suit your project better.

Further Reading:

A 5-Step Plan to Improve Every Blog Post You Write, Ali Luke, Copyblogger

Step #3: Use the First Hour of Your Day for Your Main Writing Project

Sometimes, the real problem with finding time to write isn’t that there’s no time at all – it’s that our writing time is scheduled for the wrong part of the day.

If your aim is to “finish the ten things on this list then work on the ebook” … it’s all too easy to let those ten things fill your day. Even if you have a little time left at the end of the day, you’ll probably be creatively frazzled.

The best solution I’ve found is to put writing first. Ideally, set aside an hour – but if that’s just not practical, 15 minutes is fine.

Putting writing first could mean:

  • You use the first hour of your work day for your project … trust me, Twitter and Facebook can wait for an hour.
  • You get up an hour earlier (not my favorite solution – but I did it for eight months when I had a day job, and it let me build my career to the point where I could quit and write full time).
  • You shuffle around some other activities: if you currently head to the gym at 6am, could you go at lunchtime or in the evening instead?

Try This:

For this week only, commit to spending the first 15 minutes of your day (either when you get up or when you start work) on your current writing project. Put a check on the calendar each day you manage it. Next week, aim for 20 minutes per day, and/or more checks.

Further Reading:

Why You Should Get Serious About Your Writing Schedule, Kari, Men with Pens

Step #4: Cut Out or Cut Back

Your time is full already, but at least some of your activities could go in a pinch. This is always going to be a personal decision – something that I might consider essential could be on your list for ditching when life gets hectic, and vice versa.

Here are just a few ideas you might want to consider.

Cut out…

  • Voluntary commitments you don’t enjoy and wish you’d never signed up for. Resign in writing, and don’t leave any room for ambiguity or argument.
  • Time-wasting activities that don’t add much to your life – do you really need to take another Buzzfeed quiz? Try RescueTime to track your computer activity.

Cut down…

  • TV watching. Of course, keep up any must-sees (mine are Game of Thrones and Doctor Who) … but if you’re binging on whole seasons of shows on Netflix, cut back to an hour every evening.
  • Even if money’s tight, can you get a maid service once or twice a month? If that’s not an option, can you delegate to your spouse or kids?

Try This:

Look at your non-writing activities and save some time there too:

  • 10 minutes per day on Twitter and Facebook, instead of 30, could well get you the same results.
  • Template emails will save you time answering common questions, dealing with routine enquiries, and so on.

Further Reading:

Why You Should Flush 90% of Your To-Do List Down the Toilet, Michael Hyatt, MichaelHyatt.com

Step #5: Keep a Time Log

If you’re still struggling, keep a time diary for a week to find out exactly where your time goes.

(If you’ve ever kept a food diary while on a diet, or a spending diary while getting out of debt, you’ll have some idea of how powerful this can be.)

You could use a spreadsheet, a physical notebook, or an app like Toggl. While entering data manually can be a pain, it does make you very aware of how you’re using your time.

Try This:

Be prepared for your time log to throw up some negative emotions – maybe you’re not working as efficiently as you thought. Go easy on yourself, and look for ways to win back just 5 or 10 minutes of productive time each day.

Further Reading:

Why You Really Don’t Have a Time Management Problem, Charlie Gilkey, Productive Flourishing

Step #6: When You’re Writing, Write!

If you’ve set aside 30 minutes to work on a post for your blog, you need to actually write.

That means not stopping after five minutes to check if anything new’s happening on Facebook. It means jotting down any distracting thoughts like “Email John” rather than stopping writing to do them straight away.

When you’re writing (or engaged in any creative activity), you can get into a state of “flow” – you might describe it as “being on a roll” or even “losing track of time”. This is what you’re aiming for, and constantly interrupting yourself will stop you getting there.

Try This:

Work in short bursts. I find that 20 – 45 minutes is about right. If you know you only have to write for another 15 minutes, not for another hour, it’s easier to push yourself to keep going.

Further Reading:

How to Maintain Focus when Writing, Mary Jaksch, Write to Done

You won’t miraculously “find” a few spare hours to write.

You need to make that time – by finding more efficient ways to work and by restructuring other elements of your life to allow your writing to be a priority.

So here’s your first step again: find fifteen minutes, either today or tomorrow, to brainstorm some ideas for one of your current projects.

Get up early, use the ad breaks on TV, write in your notebook on the bus, or whatever it takes. Drop a comment below to tell us what you’ll be doing, and when.

Ali Luke runs Writers’ Huddle, a community / teaching site for all bloggers and writers, with monthly seminars, in-depth ecourses, supportive forums, and more. It’s only open for new members until Friday June 12th, and we’re about to start a new Summer Challenge for accountability (and prizes)! If you think you might be interested, check it out now.

 

How to Use Quizzes and Facebook to Build Your List… Fast

This is a guest contribution from Luke Moulton.

If you’ve spent even a small about of time in the blogging world, you’ll be aware of the power of building an email list. Email is still one of the cheapest and effective forms of online marketing so as a blogger it should be high on your priority list.

But how do we build a list quickly if we aren’t getting a whole lot of traffic to our blog? How do we incentivise people to hand over their email address once they get there?

Sure, we can use the good old “Sign up to our Newsletter” or give something of value away for free. But these don’t always work for fresh visitors who haven’t seen your content before.

I’d like to introduce you to another list building option: quizzes.

You’ve probably seen them in your social media feed, you may have even taken a “Which Sex and the City Character Are You?” style personality test. They’ve been made popular by the likes of Buzzfeed and Mashable, but that’s not to say humble bloggers like you and I can’t use them to build a list.

The Technique: Facebook Ads + Quiz

The case study I’m about to show you combines traffic from Facebook Ads with a quiz. Yes folks, we’re actually going to be spending some money, hope I haven’t lost you yet… stay with me.

1-facebook-quizz-campaign-summary

The results above are from a Facebook Ads campaign I used to drive traffic to a quiz. The campaign lasted 13 days on a budget of $30 per day and from this I was able to build a list of 571 people. Yes, I know, it says 560 in the screenshot above but I also had some viral traffic, so ended up with more leads. This means my cost per conversion, or the cost to acquire an email address, equaled $0.66.

To some, this cost per conversion will seem expensive, to others it’s cheap; all depends what niche you’re operating in. If you know you can generate $1 from every email address you collect, then you’ll be making 50% on your investment… better than any investment I’ve come across recently.

Let’s dive in and build the campaign.

Building the Quiz

Choosing the topic for your quiz is the most important step; obviously it needs to relate to the overall content on your blog, and it also need to appeal to a specific social media audience.

For this particular example, I’m going to pretend I have a fashion/beauty/cosmetics blog. The topic for my quiz: “Would You Qualify to be a Makeup Artist?”.

I used Sit the Test Builder to build a 10 question, multiple choice test. Sit the Test requires people to enter their email address before taking a test (or quiz). As the test creator I can then export these email addresses to my favourite email marketing platform.

2-sit-the-test-screen

While I know nothing about being a makeup artist, Google does, so make sure you research your topic thoroughly and build a quiz with legitimate questions. You see the example of my quiz here.

With my test written and published, it’s time to build the Facebook campaign.

Creating the Facebook Campaign

To begin, I created three ads to “split test”. I say split test in quotation marks because Facebook automatically favors the better-performing ad after a period and I’m not convinced they wait for statistical significance, but I digress.

3-facebook-ads

The only difference between the three ads above is the image used. It’s important to only test one aspect of your ad at a time.

Ads created, it’s time for the build the audience that I’m going to target.

For this particular campaign I targeted women between the ages of 18 and 24, interest in cosmetics and living with 25 miles of Australia’s two largest cities, Melbourne and Sydney.

4-facebook-ad-sets

I did experiment with a couple of other Ad Sets, but the Sydney and Melbourne campaigns were the best performing. I also made sure I had Facebook conversion tracking setup so I could closely track the performance of my campaign without having to continuously check to see how many people had taken my quiz.

Launching the campaign, after a day or two you will usually start to see one Ad performing better than the others.

5-Facebook_Ad_Set_Summary

If you’ve chosen your topic and target audience well, you should be rewarded with a healthy click through rate. In this case the best performing ad generated a click through rate of 2.29%.

After a day or two I usually pause the two poorer performing ads. If none are performing well, try changing the messaging and the image.

The Quiz Results

So how did our participants fare? For this particular test, I set a pass rate of 70%. On average, participants scored 64%. 571 people started taking the quiz, and 521 people completed it. Because we collect the email address at the start, it doesn’t matter if people don’t complete the quiz – although we hope they do!

6-test-results

What’s Next

So I’ve built my list of 570 odd – what do I do with it now? That’s really up to you and what you have to offer your audience. But here are some suggestions:
Segment out the people who failed and offer them some cosmetics training
Segment out the people who passed and offer offer them accredited training courses
Send them regular email updates from your blog

If you don’t have your own products, there are plenty of beauty, fashion and cosmetics affiliate offers you can present to your audience, just make sure you’re adding when you email the list you’ve build… use it for good not evil and you’ll be rewarded.

Luke Moulton is a digital marketer based in Melbourne Australia, working with Sit the Test, a startup helping people create multiple choice tests and quizzes.

Anchorman-Inspired Tips to Help you Blog Your Way to the Top

anchorman

This is a guest contribution from Kirsty Sharman.

There are a million and one articles online that talk about how to earn money blogging. They all have the same tips, talk about the same things and usually just teach us things we already know.

The truth is: people like you and me (I’m assuming you’re a blogger if you’re reading this) didn’t start blogging because we wanted to be bac link experts, banner ad salesmen or tech gurus. We had a passion for a topic, and we wanted to talk about it. A lot.

All the articles online educate us to become masters of everything in order to succeed as a blogger, and successfully monetize our audience. I don’t really agree with that thinking. My thinking aligns more with being the best you can be within your niche – and partnering with others to help you monetize your audience.

If you want to be the best, and in turn earn an income from your passion, you need to be the guy that everyone wants to be friends with.

You need to be kind of a big deal.

As ridiculous as Ron Burgundy is, he mimics many traits of an internet celebrity. As influential bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers and Instagrammers, we need to stand out from the digital crowd. We need to be to the internet what Ron Burgundy is to the News Network of America.

Below are five Anchorman inspired tips to help you blog your way to the top:

Start to think of yourself as an influencer

Brands want to work with people who can influence consumers within their target market. In order to be an influencer you need to work towards being an authority in your chosen blog category (or niche).

Partner with the right people

The same way that Ron Burgundy relies on Brick Tamland to deliver the weather, and Champ Kind to announce the sports results – is the same way you need to think of your blogging network. Partner with people to do the things you don’t specialize in – like monetizing your audience for example. Or managing your video editing. Trade exchanges are a good idea if possible.

Say what’s on your mind – even if it creates a stir

If you’re going to be a thought leader in your niche, it’s important that you speak up. If you’re a tech blogger and you think a new phone is terrible, say so. In the long run, being authentic is more important than pleasing the brands around you. Creating a stir has Ron Burgundy written all over it!

PR yourself

If you work hard, write great content and consider yourself a credible source within your niche – then it’s ok to let others know that you’re kind of a big deal.

Stay in shape

Ron Burgundy takes his personal fitness extremely seriously, you should take your online fitness just as seriously. Know who the other bloggers are, know where the best information comes from, research and write weekly. Stay in shape, on the internet!

Kirsty Sharman is • Crazy about all things digital • Bulldog owner • Toy collector • Runs @Webfluenti_al by day and @GeeksDoingStuff by night • One of the girls behind Girl Geek Dinners Johannesburg •

 

Google’s Mobilegeddon: The Best Excuse to Repurpose Old Content

Google’s Mobilegeddon: The Best Excuse to Repurpose Old ContentThis is a guest contribution from Mike Canarelli.

For bloggers looking to refresh or repurpose old content, after the April 21 release of Google’s “mobile-friendly” update comes at the perfect time and offers tremendous benefits.

Gloomier prognosticators have nicknamed the update “MOBILEGEDDON” (yes, typically in all caps) because of its potential to disrupt 40% of all online searches—specifically those queried from mobile devices.

What these doom-and-gloomers have forgotten to consider, however, is that because the update applies to individual web pages, as opposed to entire websites, bloggers with mobile sites now have the chance to showcase stale or outdated content by refreshing their posts with new or updated tweaks. For bloggers still working on becoming mobile compliant, the update will allow them the opportunity to build a content refresh right into their website redesign plans.

Let’s face it: not only is high quality content time-consuming and costly to produce, none of it remains relevant forever. When Google says it’s going to highlight some of the best content you’ve produced by re-indexing it for mobile, it would be foolish to waste the opportunity and not update it.

Breathe New Life into Old Content

Above all, when creating content the first time around, try to image how you might repurpose it at a later date. With that in mind, here are some important things to consider when refreshing and repurposing existing content:

Updates

Simply providing new insights on original posts can allow you to reuse blog content and articles. For example, if you wrote an article on the five most important weapons to have during the zombie apocalypse, you could just break each of those five weapons down into five different in-depth writes-ups on each item. This is an easy way to score big points with the Googlebot, which is constantly looking for new, properly formatted pages that are relevant to your site’s general theme.

Presentations

Take information from a post, turn it into a presentation and post your slides to social sites like SlideShare, Issuu, and Docstoc for additional amplification. Google loves presentations, and if you include links to your mobile site in these repurposed slides, you’ll benefit from additional optimization. One word of caution, though: Google does not index presentations stored in its own Google Docs platform, so even if your presentation is stored there and marked “public,” the search giant won’t include it in search results. No biggie: just be sure to publish your presentations to a third party site (like those referenced above), and you’ll be good to go.

Repost

If your content is timeless and consequently doesn’t need much tweaking or refreshing, you might want to consider sharing it across your social media channels a second time. Surprisingly, research suggests that reposting a piece of content can earn up to 75% of the engagement of the original post. Be careful, though: only repost LINKS to your content. Reposting an entire blog to a social media site like LinkedIn and/or a social journalism site like Medium can actually earn you a duplication penalty from Google, which will kill your traffic.

eBooks

Create one ore more eBooks out of a series of blog posts. eBooks can be sold, given away, or gated behind forms to capture visitor contact info. Google actually has a partner program called Google Books that will index your eBook and make it searchable. Best of all, you can control how much of your eBook people can browse, so you’re not giving the whole thing away without some return benefits.

Multimedia

Freshen it up and create a podcast or video series. Webinars are also becoming increasingly popular, so check out your old content to see if there is anything you can use as a webinar. You can also create a podcast and video from the same piece of content, thus earning the indexing benefit of all three (audio, video and your original post). Don’t be overzealous, though: The Googlebot creates a written transcript of the video for its search index, so if you have one, too, it could get you penalized for duplicate content. 

Know When to Let Go

Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to hold on to content. If it’s no longer timely, or new information has made it incorrect or no longer applicable, it might be time to say goodbye. If you can incorporate into other content you’ll have the benefit of removing dated work from your site while also updating and refreshing content with staying power.

Whatever method you choose to repurpose or refresh your content, the Mobilegeddon update should be top of mind. People on the go are the ones who are consuming the most content, and they’re consuming it on their mobile devices. Imagine your readers, viewers or listeners where they actually are—at airports, waiting in line, or scrolling around at their leisure. If you do this, taking advantage of Google’s new update will go hand in hand with refreshing your content.

Mike Canarelli is the CEO and Co-Founder of Web Talent Marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that delivers exceptional results to clients. 

5 Basics to Having Your Post go Viral

5 basics to having your post go viral - the foundations of shareable content on ProBlogger.net

The longer I blog, the more I hear of bloggers trying to go viral.

I’m sure on top of posting consistently, using social media strategically, and generally providing interesting, useful, and inspiring content on the internet, it would be a little help if that content was seen by as many people as possible. Even better if those people hang around and provide ongoing traffic. Going viral wouldn’t hurt, right?

While it won’t happen to everyone, and it’s almost impossible to force, there’s no doubt going viral can be useful when you can get it. Viral posts usually have similar threads in common, so you’re bound to give your post a little push if you can ensure it contains this combination of essentials:

1. Reach out and touch somebody

The one aspect that always appears in viral content is its ability to invoke an emotion in the reader.

No emotion? No sharing!

In addition to that, the most shared content is said to be content that evokes a strong positive emotional response. So yeah anger and indignation will get people sharing (outrage is also good!), apparently what works best is the warm and fuzzies. A 2010 study of the New York Times “most emailed” list found the articles that were shared often tended to fall into one of four categories: awe-inspiring, emotional, positive, or surprising.

Recently, two professors studying the motivations of virality came to the conclusion that while content is shared for ultimately many reasons, it’s emotional reactions that tend to drive the most shares. In addition to that, content that makes your heart race is more likely to go viral. Written anything that powerful yet?!

In the article, they say “Content that makes readers or viewers feel a positive emotion like awe or wonder is more likely to take off online than content that makes people feel sad or angry, though causing some emotion is far better than inspiring none at all.”

Have a think about how you can get your message across. Is there a personal story you can share? Is there a humanist spin you can put on it? How can you really create your post with “resonating with the reader” in mind?

Viral content is compelling, interesting, funny, moving, and if you’ve really hit the jackpot – the next item on our list!

2. Be useful

Everybody loves a life hack. I’ve been eating apples wrong all this time? Chinese Takeout? Slicing grapes? Mind blown, must share.

When you think about creating content that people can’t help but share, thing about how you can be useful. How you can add value, find their pain points and solve them. Have they got questions? Answer them? Be inspiring, be emotive, heck, maybe even be a little controversial. But useful content is king – you’re starting off on the right foot if you’ve got that down pat.

3. It’s all about the reader

Apparently people will share content when it says something about who they are. It might make them seem intelligent, it might show how much they care for the less fortunate, or it might just show they’ve an excellent sense of humour. They’ll share reflections of their personalities, and you’re going to give them the content to do just that. The article says sharable content is “often a statement about what you believe in, what causes or values you align yourself with, and what, in particular, you love and identify with”, so make sure your content fills one of those needs.

Aaaaaaand I googled the term “extreme selfies” after reading that article. Buzzfeed, you’ve done it again!

4. Get a Head Start

If you want your content out there, being seen by the max amount of eyeballs possible, then begin by putting it there. Don’t just publish and hold your breath. We all know Facebook is making it difficult to be seen in newsfeeds, and evidence is showing Twitter doesn’t drive traffic like it once did – so think outside the box. I’m sure you’ve got an RSS or email post mailout sorted, but you can also upload to Slideshare, LinkedIn, YouTube, have something in your email signatures, forum signatures, you can submit to Digg and Reddit if you can, even StumbleUpon if you think that might help.

Don’t discount Google+, there’s still a few going strong over there! Some blog commenting systems (particularly WordPress style ones) have the option to link to a post – choose that one when you’re commenting. Post it to Pinterest – several times. Does it have a Pinterest-worthy image? Get on that!

Have you sorted the SEO? Is it keyword-rich (but natural, because nobody’s gonna read a robot)? Have you provided keywords for images, and in the alt-text? Have you checked the metadata?

You can ask people to share, if you think it will help. Email influential people (if relevant) and ask them to share if they feel it will benefit their readers. Ask people to retweet. Invite them to share at the bottom of your posts. Mention sharing in your Facebook update. Ask your friends and family to share if they can/want to. Sometimes all it takes is a little prompt.

It also doesn’t hurt to jump on a news story or trend when it’s reaching its peak. Does it have an angle you can cover on your blog? What is capturing the internet’s attention that you can build on, or provide an alternative opinion to? Do you have further information, something themed that will resonate, or have you covered this issue before? Ride that wave!

5. Make it easy

You really can’t expect people to share if you haven’t made it easy for them to begin with [tweet that!]. Have clear social sharing icons displayed prominently (wherever works for you – a scrolling set on the side, at the bottom of your post, at the top, etc), and ensure you’ve configured them to show the top five or six platforms you think will be most useful or that people are likely to share on.

Provide tweetable quotes, like I have above. Two clicks and they’re done! Have a Facebook-sized image somewhere in your post that people can use. Lead that horse as close as you can to the water, and they just might drink!

Have you ever had a post go viral? Did it fit the criteria here? Do you remember the viral posts that have caught your attention? What was it about them that compelled you to share? I’d love to chat!

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.

Hey Bloggers! Is it Time to Focus a little Less on Your Blog and A Little More on YOU?

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Blogging has been very good to me over the last twelve and a half years, but it’s come at a personal cost that I’m sure many can relate to.

Gradually over that time I’ve allowed myself to become more and more inactive. Gradually over time I became less and less fit and gained more and more weight.

Along with the weight gain and loss of fitness came a loss of energy and mental alertness. If I’m honest it also began to impact my mental health which in turn impacted numerous other areas of my life from relationships to my personal confidence and even through into my blogging.

Four months ago I had a bit of a wake up call after my annual doctors checkup, when I was presented with a list of areas I needed to do some work on. None of the things on the list were super-urgent or life-threatening but the fact that it was a list was enough to grab my attention and sparked a few changes in my life.

I recently wrote about my ‘slow decline’ and the changes I made in a post over on LinkedIn titled My New Project: Project Me.

In short I began to walk each day and made some significant changes to my diet (you can read the specifics in the post). The impact was pretty immediate.

  • Most importantly I’m feeling so much better within myself.
  • I have more energy than I remember having for a decade.
  • I’m thinking clearer and have more mental alertness and stamina.
  • My confidence has improved so much!
  • I’ve lost 13 kilograms (almost 29 pounds) and am in desperate need to go shopping to buy some smaller clothes!
  • My blood pressure is down!
  • I’m no longer out of breath when I play with my kids.
  • I’m getting more productive and the quality of my work is improving.
  • My mood and outlook has improved and I’m finding myself smiling a whole heap more

It’s Infectious

One of the other impacts that I had not expected of this journey is that as I’ve shared my story (with the above post) and in conversation I’ve noticed that it’s sparked others around me to make changes.

I was at a conference last week when three people told me that they’d started their own ‘Project Me’ campaigns. Each was doing it their own way and focusing upon a different areas of their life but each was sick of the ‘gradual slides’ that had happened in their lives and was doing something about it.

Join Us?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last few weeks and have been wondering if there’s some way we could support each other more as a community in this area.

I’ll declare up front that I’m no expert in any of this. I’m four months into this journey and have been learning a lot but still have a long way to go. But I do know that I’m much more likely to have success if I’m doing this in community and have a little accountability from those around me.

As a result yesterday on the spur of the moment and without any planning or forethought, I decided to start a little group on Facebook for those who want to work on improving their health.

I’ve set the group up under the name of Feelgooder (the name of an old blog I used to have that I’ve never done much with) with the goal of it being alive for three months. On 19 August we’ll reassess whether the group is being of use to people and I’ll decide if we continue it or not.

The group is a closed group but you’re very very welcome to join it.

The objective is not to prescribe, teach or share any one way to get healthy. Rather it’s a place for support, share, be vulnerable and have a little accountability.

So far we’ve got 230+ people who’ve joined. People seem to be at all stages of the journey with their fitness, diet and other areas of well being. There’s also people from all parts of the world and different age groups.

So far the group is largely made up of bloggers or online entrepreneurs. There’s no rule on this but it’s who seems to be joining so I thought I’d open the invitation up to the wider ProBlogger community.

Whether this evolves beyond the group or ends up just being a temporary community I don’t know but I’m loving the first couple of days and hope that those of you who feel moved to do so might consider joining us.

Is it Time to Focus a little Less on Your Blog and A Little More on YOU?

I’d love to see you over on the Feelgooder Group on Facebook.

5 Unmissable Fiverr Gigs that Will Make Your Life Easy as a Busy Blogger

This is a guest contribution from Pooja Lohana.

Ever get mad at yourself?

Because your blog is not going the way you’d like it to?

You come to your desk, stare at the computer and realize there’s so much to be done. You’re tired before you’ve begun your day.

But blogging is supposed to be fun. At least that’s what you were told, right?

Thankfully, you can prevent that feeling of dread and overwhelm from the bulk of everyday tasks in business.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of Fiverr. It’s a marketplace where users sell and buy various services starting at five bucks.

You heard it right – be it a prank call, drawing a caricature or a song dedicated to your significant other – you can get it all on Fiverr.

Some of these gigs are practical, super-creative and even bizarre things you may never dare but these providers will.

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On a serious note, I assume you’re reading this because you’re a blogger and like to get a lot of things done during a day.

If that’s you, there are tons of time-saving gigs on Fiverr.

Here’s a sample of what you get:

  • I will write an EXPERT Press Release for $5
  • I will fix you WordPress problems for $5
  • I will design a killer Landing Page for $5
  • I will do a 15 second commercial for $5

You get the drift.

Business comes with a lot of work and you may not always have the right skill set, inclination or time to accomplish everything. So without further ado, here are 5 unmissable Fiverr gigs proven to be super-helpful for serious bloggers:

Ebook Covers

If you’re ever to write a Kindle book or an ebook (and you should), you can safely forget the saying “Never judge a book by its cover”.

Because buyers are going to judge it that way. A catchy cover can make all the difference between your ebook turning out to be a best-seller or a dud.

Most of the times, you can’t just use a print cover as its ebook counterpart. You need to consider if the typography reads well in the thumbnail version (60 x 90 pixels on Amazon) and how well the design uses available real-estate, among other things. This is where a professional designer can make your life easier.

Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur.com recommends that when looking for an ebook cover designer, you go after the one who is just starting out on Fiverr. “You want the one who has a good portfolio, but is new enough that your positive review is life or death to their Fiverr business. You’ll get a lot more out of them this way than just going after the others.”

But regardless, there are plenty of Fiverr fish in the sea and new ones sprout up every day.

There are many good designers on Fiverr who use their own image library to create stellar, unique results. To make your job easy, I’ve listed two of the top providers below.

Providers to consider:

  1. Pro_ebookcovers
  2. Ravsingh

Video Marketing

Since a majority of people in the world are visual learners (40—65%), what better way to introduce your brand than using a video?

An intro video, or a logo intro as they call it, is a great way to engage your reader’s visual senses. It’s best to keep it super-short, like a teaser of about 30 seconds.

But if you want a longer video of about a few minutes, you can get it for a few extra $5 gigs.

Or, if you want to explain a concept, try one of Fiverr’s “whiteboard drawing videos” which feature a hand drawing little figures on a whiteboard animation.

Providers to consider:

  1. Ydrawing
  2. Studio 4

Transcription

If you do a lot of interviews and publish case-studies on your blog, you’ll need to transcribe your audios and videos.

Your readers might prefer readable PDFs to listening to an audio file. Transcripts come handy to create blog posts, feature stories and content for your website, or when you want to throw in a freebie with a video course.

Thankfully, Fiverr offers gigs for grammatically accurate and well-formatted deliveries that you might as well use with little or no editing.

Providers to consider:

  1. Transexpert
  2. Adnanjilani90

Mobile Apps and Websites

Recently, Google announced they will be using information from indexed apps as a factor in ranking for users who have the app installed and logged into it.

What does that mean? Search engine page results will take into consideration indexed apps more prominently.

As an estimate, there will be 4 billion Android and iOS users by the end of 2015. The human population is about 7 billion at the moment, so it’s obvious that a majority will be using these devices.

If you offer a product, creating a mobile app sounds only logical. Fiverr lists some cool app creation gigs. However, remember a complete app will cost you more than $5. So it’s always better to contact a provider before buying a gig.

That said, sometimes you just need a mobile-friendly website, not an app. Apps are applications that you can download on your handheld device, versus being rendered in a browser. If you’re offering something specific like a game, an app is your best bet. But if you want to share your blog posts over a wider range of audiences, start with a mobile website.

Providers to consider:

  1. Iphone_ipad
  2. It_service
  3. Seoparam

Create Something Different

How many times have you been told that? If you want to succeed at your marketing, be different.

Yeah right, but how?

A gig I found on Fiverr can help you through that block. This guy will go underwater and hold his breath to deliver your message.

Pretty interesting, right?

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Or, take this lady who will write a short message on the froth of a cappuccino.

More such gigs are waiting if you really like to experiment and zig when others zag!

How to Get the Most Out of Fiverr

Before you start using Fiverr for business, here are some tips to remember:

  1. Make sure you check the “Positive Rating” of the provider you’re considering. I like to shortlist providers by pressing the “Favorite” button at the top of each profile so I can compare a few in one go.
  2. Look at the number and type of reviews at the top of the profile.
  3. Check how many orders are in queue. Usually, a lot of awaiting orders should point to good quality results.
  4. Look at the average response time. If I need something fairly quick, and the response time of a provider is in days, I would look elsewhere.
  5. Always contact the provider before buying a gig. Most sellers encourage this. Tell them exactly what you need, how much it will cost (sometimes you will have to buy an “upgrade” or extra gigs) and what’s the turnaround. Make sure they are the right person for your job.

How do you use Fiverr for your business? Share your expriences in the comments below!

Pooja Lohana is a freelance writer, ghost writer and online marketing mentor featured on Problogger, Firepole, JeffBullas, MarketingProfs, Hongkiat and more. If you’re an aspiring writer and want to become self-employed, create wealth and live a better life by launching your online writing biz, steal her free mini-course to make your first $1000 (and more) writing at home.

7 Ways To Build Your Brand In The Blogosphere

This is a guest contribution from Jeff Foster.

Blogger outreach is one of the most effective ways to build your brand. It’s a great way to connect with potential customers – the blogosphere gives you a ready-made audience who are already interested in your type of product or service. But if you’re going to succeed, you need to build strong relationships with bloggers who want to be your brand ambassadors. This takes work – don’t expect to shoot off a few emails and have bloggers lining up at your door.

The good news is that there are proven ways to make your blogger outreach a success. If you’re wondering how to turbocharge your brand in the blogosphere, here are seven ways to get you started.

1. Use Introduction Sites

Online blogger introduction sites are a very effective way of finding bloggers to talk about your brand. Sites such as Tomoson, Brand Meets Blog, Nuffnang, and Blogger Connect attract high-quality bloggers who want to connect with businesses like yours. You can browse through bloggers by interest area – for example, food enthusiasts – to find the right bloggers for your brand. These sites also have tools you can use to measure blogger influence, which helps you narrow down the list even further. The other advantage of introduction sites is that the bloggers on them are already actively interested, so you’re going to get a better response than if you just send out cold-calling emails to bloggers directly.

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Image source

2. Give Bloggers Your Product

Product giveaways are a great tool for getting bloggers on board – in fact, this is one of the most frequent outreach techniques. Bloggers love to get their hands on products they can use and review. They’ll write better reviews if they can see and feel what you have to offer. Of course, blindly giving away hundreds of samples isn’t advisable, particularly if your product isn’t cheap. But if you target key bloggers with your giveaways, you’ll keep the cost down and get better results. A word of caution, however. Don’t try to control what a blogger says about your product. Bloggers value their independence, so this will just annoy them.

3. Ask For Feedback

There’s no better way to get bloggers on your side than to make them part of the process. By asking for feedback on your products or services, you show them that you value their opinions. A blogger is much more likely to become a brand ambassador if they feel that you are listening to them, and that they have influence over what you are doing and saying. You’ll benefit from this as well – bloggers know your target customers and what they want. Not only that, they’ve already proven that they know how to talk to your audience – that’s how they built a following in the first place. By following their lead, you’ll get insights on how to build an authentic relationship with your market.

4. Give Bloggers Exposure

Successful bloggers are always looking for new ways to expand their audience. They’re passionate about their subject and want to engage with as many people as possible – which would also increase their income potential. By promoting bloggers to your existing social media channels, you give them the exposure they’re trying to build. This can be as simple as retweeting their tweets and sharing their blog posts. To take this to the next level, ask trusted bloggers to write guest posts for your corporate blog, but remember not to try to control what they say. Also, be prepared to pay bloggers to write for you – after all, writing is how bloggers make a living.

5. Meet In Person

You can build a great online relationship with a blogger, but there’s no substitute for seeing them face to face. If you travel regularly as part of your business, make a point of letting bloggers know that you’re in their neighborhood and would love to catch up if it suits them. Offer to meet them for a drink or a meal – and make it a social occasion, not a hard sell.

Blogger conventions and conferences are also excellent occasions for meeting with bloggers. They are an opportunity to get together with your existing brand champions, and also with new bloggers who might be interested in talking about your products or services. You may even find conferences that focus on topics that you want to target – for example, the DBC Conference is for bloggers interested in interior design. If you have enough budget, why not sponsor a blogger conference or even host one yourself?

6. Create A Blogger Network

If you bring new products to market regularly, it’s tempting to find exactly the right bloggers for each one. But this means starting over again every time, which is time-consuming and expensive. It’s much more effective to build a “go-to” pool of bloggers who are genuinely enthusiastic about your brand. By getting them to mention your brand on a regular basis, their readers are more likely to trust what they say. You’re likely to get much better reviews as well – when you build a long-term relationship with a blogger, they’re already well disposed towards you.

7. Show Your Appreciation

Bloggers absolutely hate being used. If you only get in contact when you want them to write a post, you’re going to turn them off very quickly. Every time a blogger mentions your brand, show your appreciation by sending them a sincere thank you note. Make sure you keep them in the loop on what’s happening with your brand – a monthly insider newsletter is one great way of doing this. Send them exclusive content they can share – for example, high-quality images, fact sheets, amusing stories and anything else that will appeal to their readers. Finally, don’t forget to send them product samples from time to time – it’s a perfect way of reminding them that you genuinely care.

Jeff Foster is co-founder and CEO at Tomoson, the influencer marketplace. The platform allows bloggers and social media influencers to get paid for posting sponsored content, and lets businesses connect with targeted, niche audiences.

How Design Impacts Blog Readership

How Design Impacts Blog Readership / problogger.net

This is a guest contribution from Damion Wasylow.

You have things to say, ideas to spread and concepts to share. That’s why you’re a blogger.

But, if you’re like most bloggers, you’re much better with words than visuals. As a result, many bloggers’ sites are poorly designed or rely on simple templates. Your content may bring people to your blog, but poor design and usability can seriously limit your readership.

First Impressions are Everything

Studies show that new visitors develop an opinion of your website within 50 milliseconds. That’s 0.05 seconds. In that time, they make judgments about credibility, professionalism and quality of information – all without ever reading a single word you wrote. If the first impression isn’t positive, they’ll almost certainly bounce away, and it’s unlikely they’ll ever return.

It’s human nature. Picture a restaurant with a rusty door, broken sign and trash in the parking lot. The food could be incredible, but you’ll likely never venture inside to see the menu.

Get Real Feedback

It’s nearly impossible to honestly review your own site’s design. You’re biased, and so are your friends and family. After all, they don’t want to hurt your feelings and your dad probably isn’t your target audience. So, turn to a third party.

UserTesting.com is an excellent resource for gauging user experience. I often use UserTesting.com’s Peek Tests to gather initial feedback. Peek allows you to watch and listen to five-minute videos of real people encountering your site for the first time.

Testers answer three questions:

1) What is your first impression of this site?

2) What is the first thing you want to do on this site?

3) What stood out to you and what frustrated you about this site?

While this feedback isn’t comprehensive, it should at least offer some insight into whether your site’s design is on the right track or completely off-target.

Design Changes to Consider

You don’t have to be the world’s most talented web designer to create a visually impressive site that retains users. You simply have to understand the core elements of design and how they work together.

Color – Your color palette should be simple, consistent and reflect the overall tone of your content. Too many colors can be overwhelming, and the wrong colors can confuse your audience. Use standard color theory to select a palette that matches your blog’s personality.

Images – Users embrace photos and illustrations as a way to quickly get the gist of a story without investing too much effort. Effective images therefore leverage white space, contrast, color, interruption and other techniques to intrigue and draw the reader in. Images may not be worth 1000 words, but a recent study by Blog Pros showed that the 100 highest-ranking blogs on the Internet use at least 1 image for every 350 words.

Shapes – Chunky, square design elements evoke dramatically different feelings than free-flowing organic shapes. Circles are soft and inclusive, while angles can help carry a reader down the page. Partitioning content within shapes is a valuable way to help users segment information into digestible sections.

Typography – Typeface, font size, leading, kerning and placement all play significant roles in affecting user experience. Great typography conveys emotion, while also allowing users to focus on your message instead of struggling to interpret the structure of the letters before them. Note: never use Comic Sans or Papyrus.

Highlight Your Call-to-Action

You created your blog for a purpose, presumably beyond simply having individual visitors read your articles. Perhaps you want them to share your writings with others, purchase your product or service or download your e-book. Whatever the goal, design your site to highlight that call-to-action (CTA).

Use color, contrast, whitespace and size to make your CTA standout from the rest of the page. But keep it classy. Nothing undermines credibility faster than a flashing rainbow starburst. Here are some great examples of web pages with effective CTA designs.

Make it Mobile-Friendly

Mobile traffic accounts for nearly 60% of all web traffic, so you’re missing out on a lot of readers if your site isn’t designed to accommodate mobile visitors. And, really, even more if you count on social or email sources. When a mobile user lands on a site that offers a standard desktop design, they are far more likely to bounce away.

Ideally, your blog should be responsive, meaning that elements restack to match mobile screen dimensions when the site identifies a visitor on a mobile device. This makes your content easier to read and navigate on mobile screens.

Google recently announced that mobile-friendliness will be an increasingly important ranking factor. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, there’s a good chance it will dramatically drop in search engine results.

The importance of blog design cannot be overstated. Take the time now to improve your site’s aesthetics and usability. You’ll attract more visitors, keep them engaged and drive them to actions that match your goals.

Damion Wasylow writes for University of Florida’s Web Design and Online Communication master’s degree program. He has more than 20 years of experience in graphic design for publications, agencies and non-profits.