31DBBB Day 25: Ask a Question

Today is another writing challenge, but it’s one that need not take much time at all. In fact, it might be the shortest post you’ve ever written!

Very simply, ask your readers a question.

In the episode, I detail the benefits of writing this kind of post – things like how it can increase blog stickiness, how it can help you gauge where your readers are at, how to tailor your content from what you’ve learned, how it even helps your post rank higher in Google searches.

And if you’re new, or concerned that you won’t get much of a response, take heart! I explain how it can still be useful even if you only get a handful (or less!) of answers.

I also go through 12 tips and ideas for asking readers questions on your blog, so you will come away with plenty of ideas to help you nail today’s challenge. I’d love to see what kinds of questions you ask your readers, so feel free to leave a link in the comments to your post and we can check it out.

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Click here to listen to day 25 of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series on the ProBlogger Podcast. 

Further Reading:

Beginner Blogging Insights From Making My First $1000

This is a guest contribution from Hassan Ud-deen.

I love blogging.

But as a beginner, it’s made me feel like complete crap at times.

When I started blogging, failure’s heavy blows hit me hard. Filling my stomach with angry butterflies that constantly questioned: “Will I ever be able to make money blogging and sharing my words, or will I remain a permanent member amongst the hordes of “tragic wannabes”? Slowly sinking into the quicksand of their wordless, settled lives and dying inside…clinging to their broken dreams like a drowning man clinging on to his last reserves of oxygen?”

Everyone else around me seemed to be doing great.

But me? I couldn’t even get a negative response to a guest post pitch, never mind making my first dollar…

But things changed for the better.

I’m no longer shackled by anxiety. I’m no longer sending pitches with 101 doubts swirling in my brain. I’m no longer haunted by thoughts of being able to put food in my belly and a roof over my head with my words.

And I know I can succeed.

Am I living on a tropical palm tree decorated island, only moving my pina colada sipping butt off my hammock to sip even more pina coladas on some luxury cruise boat that’s idyllically sailing into the sunset?

Hell no. Well not yet anyway.  But I have hit some blogging milestones.

Since last November I have:

  • Snatched up my first $1000 from blogging
  • Took my blog from 0-1000 visitors a month
  • Published over 20 guest posts
  • Landed my first four freelance writing clients

I’m no expert, but I’m still learning.

And along the way, I’ve picked up some valuable lessons that’ll help fellow bloggers.

If you’re a grizzled blogging veteran…congratulations. But this post isn’t for you. It’s for the beginner bloggers out there, who are having a tough time getting started and are ready to slay their blogging demons.

Let’s go.

Expert Help Can Skyrocket Your Growth

The blogging word can be feel like an informational warzone at times, with you smack-bang in the middle of it all….

You barely have enough time to duck under your keyboard before you’re barraged by conflicting bullets of advice.

Is SEO the way to go? Is killer content king? Or does link building reign supreme?

The truth is, there isn’t one perfect strategy. You have to pick one and stick to it.

And mastering your chosen strategy by yourself will take a lot of time. That’s why investing in your education is the best thing you can do for your blogging career.

Sure, you can save a ton of heartache with time-slicing hacks and tips from the pros.

But nothing beats having a battle-tested blogging veteran look over your shoulder. Whether you use a coaching program or a course, proactively seeking expert advice will yield a huge ROI.

Investing in a proper blogging education will:

  • Allow you to “stand on the shoulders of the giants” and experience success without having to soak up your share of failures.
  • Force you to commit, because shelling out your hard money will make you more invested.
  • Give you instant access to influencers and leaders

Remember how I said guest posting was real hard for me?

Well, that was an understatement. Guest posting was hell for me.

Before enrolling in Jon Morrow’s Guest Blogging Program, I was like a bad-breathed pick up artist at a busy nightclub. I was swamped with rejections, and couldn’t land a guest post no matter how many editors I approached.

After taking the course, I’ve landed guest posts on many top blogs and have never looked back.

Investing in my blogging education also helped me win clients. Before working with my awesome mentor and friend Bamidele Onibalusi I was stuck. I could write, I could land guest posts, but I couldn’t snag those pesky clients.

After working with Oni, I had a kick-ass guest blogging strategy and landed my first few clients.

Working with an experienced pro will guarantee that you improve. Find out where your weaknesses lie and transform them into strengths with the help of a killer course or coach.

Get to Know Your Readers and Subscribers

Creating compelling content is hard enough, but not knowing your audience makes it almost impossible.

That’s why it’s important to get to know who your readers are.

What are their dreams and goals? Who do they admire? What are their hobbies and interests?

You have to know who is reading what you write.

I used webinar services like clickmeeting to connect with my readers.

I brainstormed topics (I was familiar with) that would help my readers . And because there wasn’t a large amount of people, I was able to do things like give live copy critiques for free. This allowed me to simultaneously engage my audience and learn more about them.

But if webinars aren’t your thing, you can also use surveys and blast out emails to get to know your audience better.

Focus On Your Email List From The Start

In the beginning I didn’t think about growing my email list.

Which is a huge mistake when you consider that:

As a complete noob (I’ve graduated to just noob now), knowing that a few eyeballs had been scanning my site gave me a euphoric rush. But I soon realised all the traffic in the world is useless unless I’m able to capture it.

So I threw up a subscription box on my site. It snatched me a few emails, but my conversion rates sucked harder than a faulty Dyson…

I was scraping 1-2 subscribers a week, if I was lucky.

So I created a short irresistible incentive for my readers and offered it in exchange for their email addresses. This lead to an immediate increase in subscribers.

Don’t wait till “later” to build your email list like me. Start now. Create an incentive for your audience and work on promoting it. Some great list building apps are:

And don’t be afraid to use pop-ups. Darren soared his daily subscriber count from 40-350  by simply using a “pop over” subscription form.

Guest Posting Still Works

The blogging world let out a collective grasp when Matt Cutts declare that guest blogging is dead. However feedback from the world’s most recognized bloggers shows otherwise.

Inspired by guest posting bad-asses like Bamidele Onibalusi and Danny Iny, I  launched my first guest posting campaign in November 2014 – two months before Matt declared it as dead.

Considering the fact that I had just spent around $400 (a nice chunk of change for an unemployed student) on Jon Morrow’s guest blogging program…this hit me, very hard.

I wasn’t versed in SEO and I didn’t have money to splash on ads and facebook traffic. I started to panic. Guest posting was the only real option I had. How was I supposed to share my thoughts and make money blogging without it?

But I still went on with the campaign.

And it paid off.

Here’s a look at my site before the campaign:

Beginner Blogging Insights From Making My First $1000

Here’s my traffic after:

Beginner Blogging Insights From Making My First $1000

Did I get massive spikes in traffic and attract thousands of daily visitors to my site? Not really. However I did go from 0-1000 visitors a month, and landed my first two clients.

I learned that guest posting isn’t dead. It’s just changed a little.

Instead of guest posting for short bursts of traffic and exposure, focus on the long-term benefits of guest posting, like building your list, your credibility, and your relationships. After a while, your links will add up and lead to constant referral traffic.

Guest posting is also handy when marketing your business…

It put me in front of potential writing clients and helped impress them because of the high profile sites I had been on.

And as a beginner, guest posting can also help whip your flabby writing muscles into shape.

Having editors chop down my work to the best it can be was a great experience. It taught me a ton about my writing and showed me where I could improve.

Three of the best guides on guest posting I’ve come across are:

Remember, guest posting is a long term strategy. Focus on developing relationships, building your brand, bagging subscribers and consistent traffic will be yours.

It Takes Persistence and Patience

I turned 19 this year, but when I was 16, I read The Millionaire Fastlane. It changed my life.

I decided to no longer accept the status quo. F**k normal. I was going to be who I wanted to be no matter what.

So I quit college and told my family that I wanted to started a business…

They didn’t think I was serious. I was mocked, laughed at, constantly reminded of how I quit college to do…“nothing”.

But I was determined to make money blogging and writing. And after three years of questioning myself and my abilities and being mocked by friends and family…

I can now look in the mirror and say “I make money blogging”, “I’m a writer.”

And I have to admit, It feels damn good.

And If I can hit these blogging milestones, so can you.

Don’t comment below. Instead, tell me what action you took after reading this post. Did you send a pitch? Sign up for a course? What did you do? I’d love to know!

Hassan Ud-deen is a content marketer on a mission to kick conventional marketing’s fat boring ass…one buttcheek at a time. Troll him under his bridge at twitter (he likes it).

31DBBB Day 22 Challenge: Pay Special Attention to a Reader

Today’s podcast episode is all about your audience, and how to make them feel valued.

If there’s one way to build a better blog, it’s taking care of the people who take the time to read and engage with you, therefore creating a space that both you and they love. And one way to take care of those people is to not only tell them they’re valued, like we did on day five by emailing them, but by actually showcasing them publicly. Tell them why you appreciate them, loud and clear!

In the early days, I regularly gave two pieces of advice: “make your readers famous”, and “love your readers to death”. Today your challenge is to do just that, and I’m here to tell you how. I also explain how it has a three-pronged impact on you and your blog and a few ways I’ve gone about publicly valuing my readers and the effect it has had.

As always, feel free to share on Twitter or here in the comments how you’re doing with the challenge – can you believe we’re past the three-week mark now?!

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Click here to listen to day 22 of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series on the ProBlogger Podcast. 

Further Reading:

The ProBlogger Podcast How-To: Conduct a Policy Review

I know – it sounds so technical. What blogger has a policy review and why would you even need one?

Bear with me, I think you’ll find today’s challenge super useful even if you think it doesn’t apply to you.

Of course, for some of you it’s a legal requirement in your jurisdiction to have a privacy policy if you’re collecting emails, or a disclosure policy if you’re working with brands. For the rest of you, it’s just good form to be transparent with your readers how you operate.

You may even have just a quick run-through of procedures you follow in general, or if something goes wrong. They don’t always have to be published.

In the workbook, I mention six areas you might want to consider a policy, and in today’s podcast episode, I go into detail with those, including how you can go about creating them to be as simple or as complex as you like.

You can also use today to create these policies if you don’t have any to review. I think you’ll find them incredibly handy.   ProBlogger Podcast AvatarClick here to listen to day 21 of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series on the ProBlogger Podcast. 

Further Reading:

How and Why to Experiment with Opinion Posts on Your Blog

Today’s challenge in 31 Days to Build a Better Blog should be easy for some of you – but terrify the rest!

Opinion posts come easily to those who are happy to share and engage in the feedback that they get. For others, though, it might not come naturally to put yourself out there and perhaps meet some resistance from those who don’t agree.

I’ve definitely had to push myself out of my comfort zone to share how I feel about something. It comes with a range of emotions about how your post will be met – what will people say? How will they think of me?

It turns out your opinion is something your readers want, so by not sharing it, you’re doing yourself and them a disservice. In today’s episode I outline the reasons why opinion makes your blog useful, and how it differentiates your blog from standard news and even other blogs in your niche.

So of course today’s challenge is to actually write an opinion post. Be brave! In the podcast I give some ideas for different niches about what you can write about and what might work for your situation. You’ll find some are easier than others, but the point is not to be controversial, just to mention where your values align.

Having said that – don’t shy away from controversy if you think it will be a relevant discussion.

Feel free to share your post in the comments below, and have a look at other bloggers’ posts as they come in. You’ll never know where it will lead you.

As always, stay tuned tomorrow for a brand new topic.
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31DBBB Day 18 Challenge: Create a Sneeze Page

Today is day 18 in 31 Days to Build a Better Blog and you can listen to it here.

If you’ve never created a sneeze page on your blog – one of the single most useful ways to get readers to stick around and get to know you so well they won’t want to leave – you need to do this today!

I’ve talked about sneeze pages for a long time, and it’s a term that I came up with in the first incarnation of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog in 2007. It’s a great way for all those posts you have in your archives that are still useful and relevant to be all in one place for the ease of readers who may be new to your blog.

The goal is to make the pages so interesting that the reader can’t help but click on more and more posts to read and before they know it, they’re deep inside your blog reading everything that they’re interested in.

In this episode I talk about the importance of sneeze pages for traffic, and the other benefits they bring. I also run through the types of sneeze pages you could create, depending on your niche, and whether to have standalone pages or posts. I also give a few examples for you to check out when creating your own in the show notes.

I’m going to discuss the type of sneeze page I think you should create for today’s challenge and give you tips on how to make the best one to really hook your audience – and also how to ensure they actually get seen by new readers to your blog.

It should be a nice and easy challenge for you today, but one that will see a heap of return on your effort.

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Click here to listen to day 18 of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series on the ProBlogger Podcast. 

Further Reading:

Ask Yourself: How Do Readers See Your Blog?

It’s time for day 17 in our 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge.

Here’s a frightening reality – within just a few seconds of arriving on the blog that you pour hours and hours of time and energy into, a new reader will make snap judgements about what your blog is about and if it is worth their time to spend time on it.

First impressions are so important in real-life interactions but online it’s even more so.

You might look at your blog hundreds of times a week and therefore might miss little things, or be so familiar with it you don’t know what it’s like from a new reader perspective.

It can be nerve-racking to hear feedback about your pride and joy, but it’s necessary to ensure you’re providing readers with a place they want to stay. And the only way you’ll know how they feel about it is to ask them.

Today’s challenge is to conduct a “first-time reader audit” on your blog and try to see it from their perspective, so you know what you can tweak to make their experience better.

In this episode tell you how best to do this, and a list of things you’ll need to complete the audit. I’ve also got a series of questions to ask yourself as you watch the reader go through your blog to gauge their reaction. There will be questions you can ask them to prompt their description of their experience and give you valuable insight into how your blog looks to the outside world.

The show notes also include some tools and services to make this easier for you – especially if you don’t have a newbie on hand!

Good luck – would love to hear how you go.

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Click here to listen to day 17 of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series on the ProBlogger Podcast. 

Further Reading:

ProBlogger Podcast: Blog Buddies

Let’s kick off this new week of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog with a podcast about finding your tribe.

I’m an introvert, and blogging and podcasting work really well with my personality type. I enjoy interacting with others, but at a bit of a distance. But one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over 13 years in this business is that sometimes I have to push myself out of my comfort zone and be among people, because it’s then that my blogs grow best.

In my first few weeks of blogging when I had no idea what I was doing, I realised the value of having a helping hand in other bloggers. Their support is indispensable, especially when you feel as though you’re not getting anywhere, or you’re better off doing something else with your time.

In today’s episode I go through the challenges I’ve faced over the years and how the presence of other bloggers have helped me. I’ve achieved so much more as a result of collaboration and reaching out to others, so I’ve a few ideas to share about how they help and why you should find yourself a friend or two to make this online journey with.

It’s probably pretty obvious, but today’s challenge is to find a blog buddy or buddies. That might not be as easy as you think, so I’m on hand to give some advice about how you might like to go about this.

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Click here to listen to day 15 of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series on the ProBlogger Podcast. 

 Further Reading:

31DBBB Day 14: Update a Key Page

Here we are, day 14 – two full weeks of tips to help you create the best blog possible, and plenty more to come!

Although this week we’ve covered social media, forums and groups, alerts, brainstorming, editorial calendars and even getting off your blog to find inspiration, we haven’t talked much about the static pages on your blog.

And that is what todays episode is all about!

Often these pages get left behind in the day-to-day grind of churning out fresh content. But think – how long has it been since they were updated? Are they full of old information? Do you have much of a schedule for updating them? I know that every time I check mine, there’s always something that needs changing.

In today’s show I run through a few types of pages you can make changes to and what you might need to change. There’s a lot to think about and plenty of tiny little items you should get in the habit of checking. I also touch on the need to update (and how) those posts you wrote years ago that still get high traffic – what can you do to bring them into 2015?

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Click here to listen to day two of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series on the ProBlogger Podcast.