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Setting Goals: Why You Need Them, and How to Write Them

 

 

“How can you get where you’re going if you don’t know where that is?”

Surprisingly to me, the topic of goals seems to divide bloggers into two camps: the ones who think goal setting in any situation is of vital importance, and the ones who think that blogging should be more spontaneous and fluid.

I think they’re both right.

The great thing about blogging that perhaps other business ventures don’t have is the personal aspect. The sharing of stories, the authentic representation of real life people in the real world. Sometimes it’s hard to put structure on that, to say your blog must do X and Y if you are ever going to get to Z. Many people buck the idea of pointing their blog in a direction rather than let it evolve naturally. Plus some of us just really hate being told what to do.

The difference can usually be boiled down to the main reason you write your blog, and where you want your blog to go. Is it a creative outlet? A thing of passion? A bit of fun that isn’t meant to be stressful? Or are you hoping it will earn you some money, maybe some freelance writing work, some speaking engagements, or even a book deal? Maybe even a bit of both: a creative outlet that makes an income?

In order to reach a destination, you have to know where you’re going. And if you’re happy for some structure, a bit of guidance, and practical steps you can take to build your blog into a vehicle to get you where you’re going, then you need some goals.

I know – I tried to resist it for a long time, even though I planned to either monetise my blog or find online work from my blog since the day I realised you could (which, incidentally, was about five minutes after I started it). I liked seeing how my blog evolved slowly as I learned things. I eventually got my head around SEO, about building traffic, and about the importance of good design (that one took me a while).

But the day came when everyone was talking practical goals. That in order to take your blog to the next level, then you better have some stepping stones to get you there. Wandering around doing whatever takes your fancy can only last you so long. Although the scenery is nice.

The Value of Goals

There are plenty of positive outcomes of goals even if you don’t reach them.

Goals give you structure

This is particularly useful if, like most of us, you’re juggling blogging with your life, your other job, your family, and your other responsibilities. There’s often not a lot of time left in the day to blog and you hate wasting it. If you have goals you’d like to reach (post twice a week, get five new Facebook fans this month), then you’re more likely to work on something that will help you reach your goal rather than fall down an Instagram rabbit hole and an hour later you’re on your cousin’s brother’s best friend’s Queensland holiday photos from two years ago. You haven’t written a thing and now it’s time to go to bed. Having even small goals can help you to use your time more wisely.

Goals keep you looking ahead

While reviewing things of the past to figure out what worked and what hasn’t is an excellent tool to keep your blog on track, it’s best to spend most of your time in the present, looking toward the future. Goals can keep you on track by giving you something to aim for. You might feel like perhaps you’ve hit a plateau and are looking around to lift yourself out. You might have made a mistake (like all those years I didn’t think email lists were important) and want actionable steps to rectify it. Having a point you’d like to reach keeps you focused, and also provides a chance to feel successful when you make it.

Goals keep you accountable

I have been meaning to write an ebook for three years. Two years ago, I started it. I haven’t touched it since.

I had some vague plan of maybe working on it for 15 minutes a day, like Darren’s famous story, and I even added it to my daily “to-do” list. At one stage, trying to make it even easier on myself, I made it only five minutes a day to work on it.

Without a specific goal, though, broken down into manageable pieces (design a cover one week, write 500 pages on Tuesday the 15th, perhaps), my vague plan got me nowhere. That book is far from finished two years later because I haven’t been accountable to myself for getting it done. That’s two years of lost revenue.

I’ll say that again: two years of lost revenue.

I could have set a goal, broken it down into manageable chunks (exactly what I talk about in How to Blog Effectively When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed because hey I had a job and two toddlers and a blog and overwhelmed was exactly how I felt) and done it in steps, then I could have had that book ready ages ago.

Goals are motivating

Success is the best motivator. There’s nothing like that adrenalin rush you get when you pull something off. You put in hard work and you were rewarded. More of that please! You’ll move heaven and earth to make some time to get that stuff done because you know it works. It feels good to win.

Goals keep you in forward motion

If there’s anything I hear the most about bloggers a few years into their journey is that they can’t break through middle ground. They’re not quite beginner, they’re not quite pro – but what they’ve always done (which saw results in the past) just isn’t cutting it any more. Some people even like to rest here a while – but at some point, most bloggers want to keep growing, keep building their readership, keep putting one foot in front of the other. Setting practical, achievable goals can help bust you out of that rut, while reinspiring you to ignite that passion you had when you first started. Then when you reach that goal (and you find it was easier than you think), then you’ve moving forward. You’re growing.

Setting Practical, Achievable Goals

So we’ve established why goals are important (and if not vitally important to you personally, then at least useful). The next thing to do is chat about how you can make great ones – and actually reach them.

Write them down

Don’t fall victim to the vague plan, I like I did. Set aside a few minutes for brainstorming, then organise your ideas into goals you’d like to achieve. Stick them on your mirror, write them on a whiteboard, email them to yourself, save them into Evernote, write them in your diary – it doesn’t matter where, just write them down. People who write their goals down are significantly more likely to achieve those goals, and it can help you remember your main purpose. It’s fine if you change them later, but get them down somewhere first.

Don’t have many

The best way to overwhelm yourself and ensure you never get anywhere is to write yourself a long list of concrete goals that are impossible to uphold. The fewer in number you keep your goals, the easier they will be to reach and the more likely you’ll be to keep on the path. They need to be adjustable and malleable as your expectations and knowledge changes. You might like to have maybe one a month, or a set of 10 that are dependent upon the goal before it being met. Whatever will be the strategy you are most likely to stick to.

Make them S.M.A.R.T

You’ve probably heard it before – keep your goals specific (“grow my newsletter list by 50 this month” rather than “grow my newsletter list”), measurable (quantities are good here), actionable (something you do rather than something you are), realistic (by all means challenge yourself, but don’t aim for the impossible), and timely (deadlines are exceptional at getting you moving and stopping the “I’ll get to it one day” lie). Do each of your goals fit this criteria?

Break them down

It’s all very well and good to say you’d like to grow your newsletter list by 50 readers this month, but as specific as that is, it’s still quite general. How are you going to reach that goal? What’s the very first step you can take to reach that goal? You might like to break it down by weekly tasks:

  1. Create or upgrade your subscriber incentive by week 1.
  2. Add an extra sign-up box at the end of your posts by week 2.
  3. Write a post describing the value of signing up to the newsletter and pointing people to the new or updated subscriber incentive (and of course, where to sign up) by week 3.
  4. Offer a short-time only extra bonus for newsletter subscribers by week 4.

Set both short and long-term goals

I think most of us have a sort of goal or destination for our blog lurking in our grey matter somewhere, but sitting down and putting pen to paper can really help you figure out what you want and why you’re putting all this effort in. You might even surprise yourself with what comes out when you give it space to grow. So even if you think you’ve got an idea of where you’re headed, write it down anyway. Then run it through the SMART criteria – see if you can put it on a timeline, or make it more practical and actionable than it is. That’s your long-term goal.

Your short-term goals can be a mix of the broken-down steps you’re taking to get to the long term goal, and other small fun goals you set yourself to be just that little bit better than you were before. One of your goals might be to take a writing course, or to have a guest post published on your favourite site. It can be pitching an article to an authority site that you’re absolutely terrified to do – it can even be as small as simply finding out who to pitch to by Friday next week.

Have a buddy

It works for weight loss, so it can work for your blog goals too! You can have an accountability partner and chat together about your goals for the week or month and check in regularly to see how each other has gone. You can have the same goals as a friend and motivate each other to reach them (or even make it a little competition!). You can just email a friend a list of things you’re going to do, or you can even write them in a blog post and be accountable to your readers, like Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom does in her goal review posts. Just make sure you tell someone (other than the cat) so you’re more likely to reach the goal rather than face the embarrassment of telling them you failed.

Keep track of them

I like the idea of saving a file or having a notebook for your goals and jotting down your progress. You can write down what you’ve done to try and reach them, whether it was useful or not – or you can just tick them off as you go. But check in regularly to make sure you’re on track and that they’re still the kinds of goals you’re interested in.

Review them

Plans (and blogs) can change, and what you might have thought was important at the start of last year now has no significance whatsoever. Set regular reminders in your calendar to review your goals and make sure they’re still relevant to you. You can change them, increase them, or throw them out entirely and start fresh. You might also meet some of your goals much faster than you anticipated, so you might want to set yourself some more.

Why You Can’t Set Goals

You’re too busy

I know, it’s hard enough to get through what needs to be done every day let alone step back, take a deep breath, and figure out the big picture. If you treat brainstorming and goal-setting like a non-negotiable task, and block out time on your calendar to do it, then you’re more likely to treat it with the importance it deserves. Make your first goal setting a time to create your goals.

You don’t know what you want

You will when you sit down and brainstorm, I promise. If you give yourself time to reflect and think about your blog and what it means to you and where, ultimately, you’d like to take it, then you’ll begin to realise there are milestones you’d like to achieve. Start with a few and when the time comes to review those goals, you’ll have come up with a few more to add to the list.

You don’t know how to write a game plan

Well now you do!

  1. You brainstorm
  2. You prioritise your ideas into short-term and long-term goals
  3. You run those goals through the SMART filter
  4. You break them down into manageable chunks, and you give those chunks deadlines
  5. You put a list of your goals somewhere where you will see them
  6. You email your goals to a friend for accountability
  7. You set your first step to see you on your way

See? No excuses now!

So were you like me and thought you’d be fine without goals? Have you had goals since day one? You might even have a buisness plan! I’d love to hear how you structure your steps to reach your dreams.

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 (with the added bonus of good food!). Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.

 

Looking to Guest Post on Authority Sites? Here’s How to Find the Best Blogs

guestpostThis is a guest contribution from

It’s no secret that getting your content published on the most popular and highly trafficked blogs in your niche can do a lot to grow your business. However, if you’ve ever tried to land these guest blogging spots, then you also know it’s not the easiest thing to do.

You need to first figure out which blogs are worth publishing on, and then you need to convince the blog owner that your content is worth publishing.

You see, there is a lot of competition to get published on popular blogs. If you want to grab one of these coveted spots for yourself, then you need to know the secrets of finding and getting published on the best blogs.

That’s what you’re about to discover how to do inside this report. Here’s an overview of how to find the best B.L.O.G.S. for guest posting:

  • Build a Presence: This is the little-known key to getting published that many people overlook.
  • Look for Suitable Blogs: In this section you’ll learn how to find plenty of guest blogging opportunities.
  • Optimize Your List: Not all blogs are created equal, which is why in this step you’ll cull your list to retain only the best guest blogging opportunities.
  • Get Published: Here you’ll find out tricks for getting published more often.
  • Send Inquiries: At this step you’ll find out how to get published on blogs that don’t actively solicit guest content.

Let’s get to it…

Step 1: Build a Presence

Here’s a little secret many would-be guest authors overlook: blog owners don’t want content from a “no-name nobody.”

Truth is, there are plenty of places for them to get this sort of content all over the web, such as from article directories. What’s more, plenty of “no-name nobodies” submit their content all day long to these blog owners.

You see, blog owners can afford to be selective. And when they publish content, they’re thinking about how it benefits them. Often they’re looking for two things:

  • Guest bloggers with big platforms, such as a big social media following. Guest authors often tell their followers about their publications, so this means a link back and some fresh traffic for the blog owner.
  • Guest bloggers who’re established experts. This goes back to not wanting to publish content by no-name authors. Blog owners would much rather publish articles from known experts in the niche.

So here’s the point: If you don’t yet have a social media following or you’re not yet an established expert, you need to get on that before you start submitting guest articles to the big blogs. Here are tips and guidelines to follow:

  • Get established on all the major social media channels. This includes Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Be sure to present a professional image, including your full (real) name, a photo and mature posts. Many blog owners will research you, so you want to show you’re a real person on these social media sites.
  • Build a following. Merely getting established helps, because it shows you’re a real person (not a spammer). However, building a following is better because it shows the blog owner that you can offer something of benefit to them – fresh traffic.
  • Showcase your expertise. Next, you need to publish content widely online. This helps establish you as an expert, while also serving as a bit of social proof that yes, you would make a good guest author.

To that end, publish content on your own blog, publish on your friends’ blogs, write and publish a book (using Kindle and/or CreateSpace), release “special reports” in your niche and so on. Basically, you want to see a lot of good content come up when someone searches for your name.

  • Befriend the big players in your niche. Tag them on thoughtful posts via social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Write about them on your blog and leave a trackback. Engage in discussions with them on their blogs, on forums and on social media. Develop relationships with them, as not only will others see you as a solid part of the niche, but these relationships make it easier to get published on the blogs belonging to the big players.

You get the point – become a solid part of the niche, showcase your expertise, and demonstrate that you have something of value (followers, expertise, etc) to offer blog owners.

Once you’ve built up this presence in your niche, then you can move onto the next step…

Step 2: Look for Suitable Blogs

Now it’s time to find blogs which may offer guest blogging opportunities. For now, you’re merely making a list. Just a bit later you’ll find out how to cull this list in order to create a shorter list of only the best and non-spammy blogs.

So what you want to do is first think about the big players in your niche. If you’ve been working in your niche for any amount of time, then you should be able to produce a list of some of the most respected authors, bloggers, marketers and other influencers in your niche.

To help you brainstorm, add the following to your list:

  • People who get talked a lot about in the niche.
  • People with big platforms, like popular blogs, forums, newsletters or social media followings.
  • People who’re noted authors, including published books as well as newspaper or magazine columns.
  • Marketers with the top-selling products in your niche.

And so on – basically, list everyone who is a “someone” in your niche.

Once you’ve listed all the big players you can think of, then your next step is go to Google to uncover more of the big sites as well as the big players (AKA influencers) in your niche.

What you want to do is plug in several searches that are all closely related to your niche. Be specific with longtail keywords, as this will help you uncover the blogs and influencers which are most closely related to what you’re doing.

Example: Let’s suppose you’re interested in weight loss for women. Your searches might look like this:

  • Weight loss for women
  • Lose weight for women
  • Dieting for women
  • How women can lose weight
  • Tips for women weight loss
  • Get a bikini body
  • Safe ways for women to lose weight
  • Get rid of belly fat females
  • Female fat loss
  • Exercise tips for women
  • Dieting advice for women

Take note that the above examples tackle the topics from multiple angles by searching for synonyms both women (alternative females, but may also try ladies and girls) as well as dieting (alternatives include lose weight, weight loss, fat loss, etc). Google will display results that include synonyms (unless you put your search in quotes), but you should see slightly different results when searching for your own synonyms.

At this point there are two things you’re looking for:

  1. The top sites on the first two pages of Google for each search. Don’t look at the sponsored results, as right now you’re looking for top blogs that have earned their way in through good content (versus bought their way in with an advertisement).

When you encounter a site, click on it and quickly see if they publish a blog or content in any form, something which you could contribute to. If so, add it to your list.

Finally, take note of who owns these sites – these folks are some of the influencers in your niche. Which brings us to the second thing you’re looking for…

  1. The influencers listed on the first two pages of Google for each search. When you search Google, you’ll see photos of authors alongside their names at times. Add these people to your list as well.

Tip: You’ll want to begin building relationships with the influencers in your niche, as it will make it easier for you to get published on their blogs. You’ll learn more about how to do this just a bit later in the report.

Next, go back to Google and this time search the names of the influencers on your list. You want to see where these folks are publishing content online, because you may want to publish your content on these same sites, so add them to your list.

Be sure to check out their social media pages, as most influencers tweet or otherwise post about the places where they are publishing content. Obviously, you should also visit their websites, as they likely list their publications there as well.

The final part of this step is re-run your niche keyword search as mentioned above, except this time you’re going to specifically search for sites which accept guest articles. To that end, search for your main niche keywords (such as “women lose weight”) alongside the following types of keywords:

  • Guest article
  • Guest author
  • Guest article submission
  • Guest author submission
  • Submit articles
  • Submit guest articles
  • Submit blog articles
  • Submission guidelines
  • Guest author guidelines
  • Guest posting guidelines
  • Guest article guidelines
  • Guest blogging guidelines
  • Contributor submission
  • Contributor guidelines
  • Become a contributor
  • Submit article contributions
  • Submit your article
  • How to submit your article
  • Become a guest blogger
  • Become a guest author
  • Guest post
  • Guest posting
  • Guest blogging
  • Write for us

You’re likely to find some overlap as you go through these different searches, and that’s okay. Just keeping adding new sites to your list as you find them.

Once you have your list of possible sites on which you can publish, move onto the next step…

Step 3: Optimize Your List

You should have a pretty good list of possibilities at this point, but not all these sites are worth publishing on. Some of them are rather spammy. Some of them don’t have good content, so it’s not the sort of place with which you want your name to be associated.

So here’s how to cull your list:

  • Make sure the blog is in your niche. Sometimes a keyword search will uncover a blog, but the blog may not even be in your niche. It may be an article directory or content farm. You can cross these off your list.
  • Read the content to be sure it’s high quality. Would you be proud to have your name listed on this blog? Is the existing content high-quality, entertaining and useful? If so, keep this site on your list.
  • Look for popular blogs. Is there any indication that the blog is popular, such as several people commenting on each blog? Be sure that if there are blog comments, they’re relevant and not spammy. You might also compare sites using a tool like Alexa.com, which will give you an idea of how much traffic a site gets.

Note: Alexa is not a perfect tool, as it only counts visits from those who’ve installed their toolbar. As such, be sure that you’re only comparing similar sites – “apples to apples.” Comparing apples to oranges on Alexa won’t give you good results, because there may be some bias in that Alexa users may visit one type of site, but not another type of site… which would skew the estimated traffic numbers.

  • Cull the spammy sites. Some sites may possess the above characteristics, and yet they just look spammy. If it’s hard to read an article without being interrupted by ads everywhere (pop ups, ads in the content, ads in the side bar, etc), then it may not be the best place for you to post your content. Stick to the sites that present a balance of ads and content.
  • Check if links are “nofollow.” If you are interested in publishing on a site primarily for SEO linking purposes, then you’ll want to be sure anywhere you post allows the search engines to follow links. You’ll need to check the page source to be sure. If you’re using a browser like IE, then go to “View” and “Page Source” (other browsers have similar methods). Then search for a “nofollow” tag.

Note: If you’re not publishing for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes, then don’t worry about this step.

  • Find out if people are talking about the site. First, check Google to see how many people are linking to and talking about the site positively. Use “link:domain.com” as a search operator in Google, being sure to replace “domain.com” with the actual domain of the site you’re researching.bull1

Secondly, check social media. Are people retweeting and reposting articles from the site? That’s a good sign. Keep those sorts of sites on your list.

Once you’ve optimized your list by crossing off the spammy and other undesirable sites, then move onto the next step…

Step 4: Get Published

Now it’s time to get published. You’re going to start by picking the low-hanging fruit – this means submitting your content to sites which actively solicit guest articles. These are the sites you searched for when you sought out your keywords alongside search terms such as “contribute guest articles.”

Obviously, this also includes any other sites on your list that seek out guest contributions.

Here are the keys for getting published on these sites…

  • Read and Follow the Guidelines. The popular blogs in your niche get a lot of contributions and can’t publish them all. In many cases, the blog owners will initially sift through the contributions and immediately trash any of them which don’t adhere to the published guidelines. As such, be sure that you read and then follow the contributor’s guidelines closely.
  • Study existing content for inspiration. The second thing you want to do is study the articles that are already posted on the blog, and pay attention to the topics as well as the overall style of these articles. That’s because one good way to predict what type of article will get published in the future is to look at what types of articles are already getting published.

Example: Does the blog owner prefer conversational-style articles, opinion articles, academic research-type articles, tips articles or something else? Figure out what they like, and then model your article in the same style.

  • Offer something original. In other words, don’t put up the same rehashed content as everyone else. Instead, offer a fresh approach. For example, if you’re talking about a fairly common method for doing something, then offer your own “twists” and tips for making the method even more effective.

Another way to craft something original is to coin a new phrase of formula around a solid method. This report is an example, with its B.L.O.G.S. system corresponding to each step of finding suitable blogs and getting published. As you’ll discover in just a few moments, this report also offers a fresh approach because it includes an email template that you can put to work for you immediately to land guest publishing spots.

  • Create high-quality content. Your article should be both entertaining and very useful, so that readers can take action on it and see good results. You can also include graphics (such as infographics, illustrations, mind maps, etc) to add value to your article and make it more useful and attractive to both the blog owner as well as his or her readers. You can also pass the article by a good proofreader or editor to make sure it’s easy to read and in good condition technically speaking.
  • Give it a good title. Finally, be sure to add a good title to your article, perhaps one that promises a benefit or even arouses curiosity. A good title is essential because if your title doesn’t catch the reader’s eye (beginning with the blog owner), then you’re doomed before you even get out of the gate.

Example: A: Let me give you examples of “before” and “after” titles, where the after titles are spiced up and present a benefit in a more exciting way:

Before: 7 Weight Loss Tips for Women

After: The 7 Secrets for Quick and Easy Fat Loss Every Woman Ought to Know

Before: Improve Your Golf Swing

After: How to Improve Your Golf Swing Using One Weird Trick

Before: How to Negotiate a Used Car Deal

After: 5 Surefire Steps for Getting a Great Deal on a Used Car

Once your article is polished, primped and ready to go, then submit it according to the submission guidelines. And what if you’d like to post on a site that doesn’t actively solicit guest content? That’s where the final step comes in…

Step 5: Send an Inquiry

Just because a site doesn’t actively solicit content doesn’t mean they won’t accept it. You will likely need to be prepared for a high rejection rate, but don’t let that deter you – it’s well worth the effort if you do get published on a busy and popular site.

There are three things you need to do to increase your chances of getting published on these sites:

  1. Be prepared to submit extremely high quality content. See the tips in the previous section.
  1. Develop relationships with site owners. Simply put, it’s easier to get published on these sites if the site owner knows who you are. More about this below.
  1. Craft a compelling inquiry. Rather than directly submitting content to a blog owner, you’ll be submitting an inquiry. You’ll find an example below.

Let’s look at these last two separately…

Develop Relationships

At the very least you should seek to get on the radar of the big players in your niche, but it’s even better if you can develop friendships with them.

Here are five tips for making yourself known:

  • Join important niche discussions. In particular, join the discussions of which they’re a part of, such as discussions on their blog, their Facebook Group, their Facebook page and elsewhere.
  • Start up a personal dialogue. You might begin by tagging them when you talk about something related to their business on Twitter or Facebook. Once you have your foot in the door, then start up a private conversation.
  • Attend live events. This includes both offline industry events (such as trade shows or seminars) as well as online events such as Google Hangouts. Introduce yourself, ask thoughtful questions and get to know the big players on a personal level.
  • Blog about the big players (using trackbacks). This is actually another way to join a discussion – blog a response to it, and use trackbacks to point back to the blog post to which you’re replying. You may also blog about the big player’s products, ideas or anything else.
  • Become an affiliate. Finally, another good way to become known by the big players is to make money for them. Be sure to use the same name on your affiliate account as you use everywhere else so that the vendor recognizes you.

Again – the more known you are, the easier it is to get published on sites which don’t actively solicit content. Which brings us to the next point…

Craft an Inquiry

If a site doesn’t actively solicit content, then any articles you submit directly will likely go straight to the trash (as that looks presumptuous of you). For these sorts of sites, you need to send an inquiry instead. In some cases, even sites that actively solicit content will ask that you send an inquiry (or query) first.

What you need to is craft an inquiry that gets the blog owner excited about publishing your content. This means you should let the blog owner know why it’s beneficial to publish your content, perhaps based on your unique article, your established expertise in the field, and/or your ability to drive traffic to their site.

Let me give you an example inquiry. Please note that you should research each blog thoroughly so that you can craft an inquiry that’s personalized for each blog owner.

——————————

Subject: [Write a Personalized, Attention-Grabbing Subject]

Dear [First Name],

My name is [your name], and I run the [name/URL] website. The reason I’m writing today is to offer you the opportunity to get both free content for your blog as well as free, highly targeted traffic.

Let me explain…

What I’m proposing is to offer you an original, exclusive and high-quality article for your readers on the topic of [topic]. I’ve seen your readers [explain what you’ve seen them do – ask for this topic, show interest in the topic via the comments, etc], which is why I think they’ll be really pleased to see an in-depth treatment of the subject. You can see the article here [post link to article – should be a private URL, not accessible to the public. In other words, this article shouldn’t already be published elsewhere.].

The second benefit you’ll enjoy is free traffic coming into your website. If you publish this article on your site, then I’ll send out a link to my [number] of social media followers, [number] blog visitors and [number] newsletter subscribers. That’s free exposure for you.

To discuss this proposition further, or if you’d like content on a different topic, please contact me at [contact info]. I look forward to hearing from you.

[Sign off]

P.S. I enjoyed your discussion on [some recent topic] because [specific reason why you enjoyed it – prove you’ve done your research]. I think my article on [topic] will tie-in nicely with yours, and give your readers [some benefit]. Let me know what you think…

——————————

As you can see, the idea is to show the blog that you’re not sending out a cookie cutter form letter, while also letting him or her know the benefits of publishing your content.

Remember, getting a “yes” to an unsolicited request like this is easier if you’ve built relationships with site owners.

Now let’s wrap things up…

Conclusion

So there you have it: The five steps to finding high-quality sites on which to publish content, as well as plenty of tips for maximizing your chances of getting published.

Let’s quickly recap these steps:

  • Build a Presence in social media and elsewhere so that you become known in your niche.
  • Look for Suitable Blogs using special Google search terms.
  • Optimize Your List: Here you found out how to cull your list of blogs.
  • Get Published: This is where you discovered the tricks for getting published more often.
  • Send Inquiries: At this step you found out how to get published on blogs that don’t actively solicit guest content.

Now you have the plan – all you need is the content. And if you’re offering original content to dozens of blogs (which is well worth the effort), then you’re going to need a lot of content.

Now, I’d like to hear about your guest blogging success in the comments below. How do you find blogs for guest posts? I’m waiting at the comments section below!

 

Danny Adetunji is a freelance copywriter with over 5 years experience. He writes all things about copywriting and marketing at Thewolfofcopy.com. If you want to boost your revenue, turn leads into sales, retain more repeat customers, and generate more revenue from your online business, you should hire him!

 

 

 

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

2015_01_30_probloggerThis is a guest contribution from Danny Iny.

You’ve heard it all before.

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

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

Like, really skeptical.

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

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

You end up with the same old outcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first step is to listen to your audience.

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

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

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

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

Gather Data About Your Audience

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

  1. Eavesdropping on Conversations

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

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

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

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

  1. Taking note of email conversations

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

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

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

  1. Simple surveys

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Informational interviews

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

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

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

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

Analyze the Data You Gathered

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, wait!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tying the Process Together

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

You’ve learned how to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why You Should NOT Start a Travel Blog

travelThis is a guest contribution from travel blogger Chris Appleford.

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

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

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

Market saturation

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

Time

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

Effort

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

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

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

Education

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

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

Money

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

What you miss when you blog

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

Some people just can’t write!

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

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

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

Is there any hope?

No.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Apple vlog strategy: Quality over quantity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red Bull fosters community and rapid video releases

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

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

RED BULL VIDEOS

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

SUBSCRIBER GROWTH

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

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

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

RED BULL ENGAGEMENT

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

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

There are two key takeaways from this:

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

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

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

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

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

__________

Blog Beginnings

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

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

Privacy Needs

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

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

No-Go Zones

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

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

hhousewife

Balancing Authenticity and Privacy

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

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

Reader Relationships

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

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

And Her Husband?

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

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

More Privacy = More Struggle

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROI is more than conversions

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

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

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

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

Tone down the “buy now” rhetoric!

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

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

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

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

The perfect time to post is different for everyone

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

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

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

Summing up…

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

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

Find all the slides from SMX Social here: http://slidesha.re/1xZoFX0

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

Filtering Out Google Analytics Junk to Read Your Numbers Better

This is a guest contribution from Larry Alton.

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

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

Cutting Out Internal Traffic

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

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

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

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

Excluding Bots and Spiders

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

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

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

Enforcing Lowercase

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

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

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

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

 

Dazzle & Connect With Your Audience with these 7 Storytelling Strategies

Image via Flickr user Digital Paradox.

Image via Flickr user Digital Paradox.

This is a guest contribution from writer Thai Nguyen.

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

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

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

“Mary, do you like asparagus?”

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

Met with more silence, he asked about family:

“Mary, do you have any brothers?”

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

With no luck, he turned to philosophy:

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

And that, my friend, is philosophy.

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

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

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

1. Opening and closing the curiosity gap

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

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

2. Evoking VAK

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

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

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

3. Conflict and resolution

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

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

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

4. Appealing to the higher self

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

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

5. Shock and awe

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

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

6. Build a catalog of illustrations

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

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

7. Internal and external components

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

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

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