Close
Close

Pushing Through Barriers to Strike Gold

Image via Flickr user Tony Oliver

Image via Flickr user Tony Oliver

The year was 1851, and two brothers stood by a bend in a creek that had wishfully been named ‘Golden Point’ by gold prospectors in days gone by.

Cavanagh was the surname of the two brothers, and they’d been digging – along with around 600 others – in their ‘claim’ at Golden Point for days.Some gold had definitely been found on this particular bend in the creek. In fact, numerous miners had made good – although not spectacular – money from their finds in previous weeks.

Most of the gold had been found in the sandy ground to a depth of around 1m (3.2 feet), but at that point, everyone who dug hit a hard layer of clay and received no reward for their effort.

The result was that the area was littered with abandoned claims – holes in the ground were everywhere, all dug to a depth of around 1m.

Miners around the Cavanagh brothers that day were beginning to talk of rumors coming from further up creek of richer pickings and in the 24 hours that followed, most of the men had moved on.

But the brothers Cavanagh had a hunch.

They wanted to see what would happen if they dug deeper, and so began the arduous task of digging into the hard clay that everyone else had stopped digging at.

They chose an abandoned claim from another miner and began to dig.

The work was hard and unrewarding.

They dug and found nothing but more clay.

Inch by inch they chipped away at the clay only to find more clay.

All day they dug.

The next morning they continued to dig as the last miners around them abandoned their claims and moved on to chase their dreams up creek.

I can just imagine those miners abandoning their claims shaking their heads at the brothers and laughing at their foolhardy efforts.

But the brothers had a belief and kept their focus.

As sunset approached and after hours of back-breaking work, the brothers finally broke through the last of the clay at around the depth of 2m.

Under the clay they found what centuries ago had been the old bed of the creek, and in it were pockets of gold that had been washed down the creek from the mountains over hundreds of years.

The brothers worked into the night feverishly until the light from their lamps gave up. Imagine how they must have felt as they attempted to sleep that night!

The next day they arose early and assessed their work. In the light of day the full reality of what they’d uncovered started to sink in. There was gold down below that clay… and lots of it!

In a single day, the Cavanagh brothers found 27 kilograms (60 pounds) of gold.

That day’s takings alone earned the men over  £3500, which was more than enough to set the two brothers up for life.

One month later 10,000 miners worked in the area around Golden Point – and the wider Ballarat area, and it became known as the richest known gold field in the world for that time.

You can bet that those who followed the brothers dug deeper than they had previously!

Reflections on the Cavanagh Brothers’ Experience

I first came across the story of the Cavanagh brothers while researching a project I was doing in high school, and have since found myself reflecting upon it many times.

I love the determination, the focus, and the persistence of these two men.

I love how that despite the distractions of rumours from up creek that they continued to dig… where others had already dug and given up at the first sign of clay.

I love that they persisted while others followed the exciting rumours of fortune and in doing so found a fortune that others could only dream of finding.

I love that through their persistence that they not only found their own fortune, but opened the eyes to others – others who probably had looked at them thinking that they were crazy for digging into that clay – to a new way.

Sometimes Success Comes Through Digging in Hard Places

There have been times over the last few years where I’ve at times felt a little like the brothers Cavanagh.

While my hands do not toil with a pick or shovel digging into hardened clay, there are days where I do second-guess my actions and wonder if I should head upstream to start something new.

I’ve seen many bloggers come and go over the years. People who, like me, saw the opportunity in blogging to build something significant – but who at the first sign of clay abandoned their blogs.

Then there were others who abandoned their work because of the exciting ‘rumors’ from up creek… bloggers who stopped blogging to MySpace… to tweet…  to Tumblr… to Facebook… to G+…

The blogosphere is littered with abandoned blogs and I sometimes wonder what might have happened if some of those bloggers had kept digging through the clay.

While I know not all would have succeeded, I do think that persistence is a big part of successful blogging (and success in almost all fields).

My experience of blogging is that while there have been days where I’ve dug into rich veins of gold and great fortune, they’ve always come after focused effort of digging in hard ground.

What Defines Blogging Success For You?

imageThis is a guest contribution from blogger Carly Findlay.

One day, during a ProBlogger Twitter Chat, I got into a debate with a blogger who placed all their worth on statistics. Small page views meant they did not feel successful. I tried to tell them that success is more than just page views, but it was hard to convince them in 140 characters.

One big ‘mistake’ I made with blogging was wanting to monetize and feeling left out when brands didn’t approach me or knocked me back when I asked them.

I was getting nowhere with sponsorship pitches. It seems no brand wants a chronic illness blogger. Even the brand who make products that save my life didn’t want to work with me. I’d hear bloggers talk about how easy it was to create a media kit and get flown around Australia to view product launches and receive beautiful jewellery in the mail. And I wasn’t getting those opportunities. I was despondent, measuring my worth on a lack of press releases. I’ve since learnt blogging success is so much more than monetizing. Comparison is the thief of joy and all that.

I was annoyed for a short time. But then I realised, I am successful without fully monetizing my blog and getting millions of hits. While I wasn’t being inundated with offers to review products, I was getting offers from influential people that wanted to work with me. Editors, CEOs, teachers, charities, and causes. These offers of work – both paid and unpaid – have been more related to my blog niche and personal values that solely working with brands could ever be. Occasionally I will do a sponsored post for a brand that I value, but for the most part, I created my business plan to make money away from my blog.

Since I’ve started this blog (it’s one of many I’ve had since 2001) I’ve created a freelance writing and speaking career. I have written for The Guardian, DailyLife, Mamamia, ABC Ramp Up, News.com.au, BlogHer, The Daily Dot, Essential Baby, Kidspot, and Frankie Magazine. I’ve won numerous writing awards and been selected for The Guardian’s diverse writers workshop. I’ve spoken at conferences in Australia and the UK. I have also lectured in genetics and media at the University of Melbourne. I will run a number of sessions on writing and self advocacy at the Emerging Writers Festival this month and next. I’ve also competed my Masters thesis on the way blogging has helped me form a sense of identity.

Blogging success has also come from being asked my opinion on topics around disability advocacy and being invited to participate in events such as judging film festivals for organ donation and disability awareness. I reached out to Sam Johnson when he began Love Your Sister, asking him if I could blog his journey. He said yes!

One of the biggest things that has happened to me because of my blog was being asked to speak at a university conference in the UK after the university program found my blog. They tweeted a link to my blog, I thanked them, we formed a working relationship and they invited me to speak. My hospital helped fund my trip – I was their first academic patient that they sponsored to speak at an international conference!

Lastly, I receive messages from blog readers who are struggling with their appearance, or a new parent to a baby with Ichthyosis (the same skin condition as I have), telling me that my story has made a difference to them. Occassionally I receive an email from a reader telling me they felt alone until they found my blog and can now see some hope for themselves or their child, and have been encouraged to seek medical or psychological help. Through blogging I’ve come in contact with so many people from around the world, and I’ve personally met a few other people with Ichthyosis. I have had so many people write to me saying they’re confident to tell their story about Ichthyosis to their families, friends or wider communities (or even online) now. Hearing about empowerment like that is better than huge numbers of page views.

I believe that statistics don’t necessarily equal success. Bloggers can look for other ways to reach success, form communities, and feel intrinsically rewarded through knowing their blog makes a difference to readers.

My Top Five Tips:

  1. Find your niche
  2. Don’t become focused on or despondent with page views
  3. If you want your business to be blogging, see how you can diversify to make money beyond your blog
  4. Value your readers and celebrate that you’re making a difference to them
  5. Keep at it!

Carly Findlay is a blogger based in Melbourne, Australia, writing about what it’s like to look different. She blogs at carlyfindlay.blogspot.com and tweets at @carlyfindlay

Finding Readers: From Seed to Sequoia – Growing Your Blog One Reader At a Time

From Seed to Sequoia

Today we welcome DJ from SteamFeed to our Finding Readers series. This post is chock-full of things you can do today to build your traffic – and have fun while you’re doing it! 

My guess is a portion of you won’t like this article. Growing your blog one reader at a time sounds lame, I know. We live in a world of instant gratification. It seems like any task nowadays can be completed successfully in just 15 minutes or 5 easy steps. Building a blog, a real blog, doesn’t work that way. Sorry for the hard truth but your Facebook friends weren’t going to tell you, especially Aunt Ruth.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day”

Yes, I pulled out that ridiculous saying because of how insanely simple, yet helpful, advice it is. Your blog will not be an overnight success. Building your blog’s foundation requires some significant work if you want it to stand the test of time.

If you implement and follow these concepts today I promise that within 12 months you’ll see the readership of your blog increase significantly. I know this because I’m writing from experience. We took SteamFeed from a brand new blog to 100,000 views/month in just one year, and we haven’t dropped below that mark since.

 SteamFeed-pageviews

In this article we’ll focus not only growing your readership but retaining them as well.

Relationships

Building your network is vital. Im not talking about your likes and followers here. I’m talking about real people who engage with you in regards to your blog on a regular basis (these could be people whom consistently share your blog posts, leave thoughtful comments, or maybe they respond to you when you ask a question in your newsletter).

These are the people you need more of. Nurture them. Ignore them, and they’ll eventually move on and your blog will stay as stagnant as the day you published your first “hello world” article.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Visit the profile page of a new reader once a day and learn something about them. Use this information to build your relationship with them. Remember that real relationships, people who will buy from you someday, are built over time when you’ve earned their trust.

Organization

When you’re first starting out finding new readers can be difficult, so when you do come across them make sure you get organized to keep track of them. Try the following:

  • Follow them on social networks. Create lists, circles, or groups.
  • Use your gmail as a CRM
  • Go old school and bust out your excel sheet

Make sure you’re checking in with them from time to time. If you learn something about them that you believe they find value in then make note of that. If they’re a blogger themselves make sure you share their content, if appropriate, and/or comment on their content. Do what you can to give value in that relationship.

note: At some point it simply won’t be possible or viable to keep track of every single reader. However, if you’ve built your foundation correctly then the organic growth will come naturally. This doesn’t mean you give up on the relationships you’ve nurtured but it may mean you need to be more picky in the future with the ones you maintain.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: The more organized you are, the easier it will be to retain your readers. Whatever system you go with keep it simple and practical.

Consistency

The truth is the more you post the faster your blog will grow. However, and this is a big however, if you post so frequently that the quality of your posts are just regurgitated boring rubbish you’ll do damage to your readership instead of growing it. Don’t post just to post. If it takes you an extra day or two to really create something of value, then hold off and do it right.

Also, posting consistently gives you a certain amount of credibility. It gives the reader a sense of security that they’re not going to start enjoying your content then all of a sudden you disappear on them. It’s sort of like when you start getting into a new TV show then it gets cancelled after the first season. Nobody likes that.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Set a schedule for yourself. Now stick to it. It won’t be easy but being disciplined about writing is important. If you flake for a week or two your readers will take notice.

Email

Email capture can be an incredibly powerful tool if used correctly (we use OptinMonster). Creating a powerful email list is one of the best ways to nurture those relationships you’ve worked so hard to gain. Whatever program you decide to use just get started on one because collecting emails from day one just makes sense. Also, add a newsletter to your once-a-month to-do list. Take the time to make the newsletter personal, but make sure it’s chock full of awesome for your readers.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: 1. Grow your email list by creating a high quality ebook and offering it for free to your subscribers. 2. If appropriate, ask questions in your newsletter and see who responds. Create separate lists for these people to better track them. From time to time you can send them a first look at a new website design, added features, contest giveaways, or a preview of your latest ebook.

Images

I can’t stress enough the importance of a great image. There is so much content on the internet right now that you need something eye-popping and vibrant to catch people’s attention. I personally love using PicMonkey, Canva, and Photoshop to help me add that little something extra to my articles.

People Love To Share Beautiful Content!

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Make sure you have the right to use someone’s image if you didn’t create it yourself, and definitely give proper credit to them. If you really like an image and you’re not sure if you’re allowed to use it, then try getting in touch with the owner of the image and tell them how much you like it and what you plan on doing with it. You never know where that connection may lead.

Guest Blogging

This is what I’m doing right now. I know that ProBlogger has a great community and a strong readership. I also know it produces high quality content that I love to read and I want my blog to be associated with that. I’m also hoping a number of people who read this article will check out SteamFeed and become a reader of my site as well. People love great content. They just don’t always know how to find it.

Magic Formula: Create a way for people to find you. Create great content so they stay. Repeat.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Don’t guest blog for just any old site. You should really focus on writing for sites that are in your niche. This is most likely where your readers will be too, and this is where your area of expertise is most likely in anyway. Also, make sure the site is credible. If they’ll just accept anyone to post on their site then you may want to think twice about associating yourself with them.

Marketing

Start with a great headline for your blog posts. It’s worth your time to put some extra thought into it.

On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of your title, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece. -CopyBlogger

Did you just spend hours creating the perfect blog post? Now be honest. How long did you spend marketing that blog post? If you’re going to take the time to create an amazing piece of content then get out there and let the world know about it. You don’t want it to just sit there and become irrelevant over time.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Try syndicating your content to sites like Huffington Post, Social Media Today, and Business2Community. This will help get some eyeballs to your blog.

Top 3 Takeaways

1. Focus on the quality of your content and your relationships above all else.

2. Have a plan and stay organized to effectively and efficiently grow your blog.

3. Growing your blog will take time. If you’re in it for the long run then make your decisions based on long term vision.

Finding Readers Week: Mrs Woog’s Tips to Create Conversations on Your Blog

MRS WOOGToday in our Finding Readers week is successful Australian blogger Mrs Woog of Woogsworld. With a thriving Facebook community and a comment section that makes the rest of us green with envy, she’s learned a thing or two in her time. Here she spills all…

Engagement. Not just diamond rings mind you, but getting people together and talking. In the world of social media, engagement is everything. After all, if a blog post falls in cyberspace and no one is there to read it… (Insert something profound here…)

There are several things that you can easily do to increase your engagement across the social media platforms that you use. It might be your blog, Facebook, Twitter or a combination of all three. I am pleased as punch to be able to share my knowledge with you, and hopefully, if you find my advice useful for your particular genre, you can see your engagement soar!

What is important to remember when creating content if you want repeat readers:

Voice – Well it is the big one, no? With so many writers and bloggers seeking to grow their readership, your voice needs to be clear, consistent and above all else, your own. The thing about SM is that there is a readership of your own out there; you just need to give them a reason to swing by.

I am coming from this as a personal blogger, which I think is the hardest niche to try and carve out. I write the way that I talk. It is just that simple. I write about mundane topics that people can relate to. I keep things light, fast, and hopefully people can get a giggle or take something away from my posts. So, practice, practice, practice and the best way to do this, is consistency. Writing is like a muscle in a way. The more you use it and do it, the stronger your words will be.

theme week whats next

 

 

Readers like to feel like that they are a part of a social group. One of the things I have noticed lately is the interaction that readers are having with each other. It makes me feel like I am hosting one great big Cyber-Party. I start the conversations and then watch them develop. It is a truly delightful situation. And of course there is always going to be one nob that wants to crash the party, but they are shown the door quickly and with minimal fuss.

And a small spank on the bottom.

It is the facilitation of these conversations that will give you a really great insight into who your readers actually are. It is this information that will help you to work out what sort of content to deliver to them. What will work, and what will sink.

I call writing a post that gets no comments, “DELIVERING A DOUGHNUT” which means a big fat zero when it comes to interaction. Happens to everyone. I just move on, like the Soup Nazi…. NEXT!

 finding time

 

It is not always possible, interact with your “guests” as much as you would like to. If someone takes the time to email you, reply to him or her. If someone takes the time to comment, try and acknowledge their involvement. Depending on where you are in your blogging life, this will vary. I like to make time during the day to do it – 15 minutes here and there. Treat every reader with respect.

And please don’t be chicken shit when it comes to discussing the big issues. 

Why, it’s the three P’s!

PARENTING
POLITICS
PHILOSOPHY

Have an opinion and share it. Present your case and back it up with facts. It is the single most immediate way to drive up the engagement on your blog. It is not about arguing, but people want to share their point of view and you are providing the platform to do so. Plus it is fun! I am always prepared to be proven wrong. Try it!

 theme week social media

 

My social media playground is the blog, Twitter and Facebook, and I approach these very differently. It was not something that I consciously set out to do, but on reflection it is just the way it turned out.

Facebook for your blog? Everyone has one, and if you don’t, you should.

Why? Because it is the best WORD OF MOUTH was to get your blog onto people’s screens. Because it is the easiest way to get your content shared. Because it is fun and interactive. Just because, ok?

My first post on my facebook page?

image My blog is my-free-for-all cocktail party and my Facebook Page is my “Drinks with the Gals” night. People choose to be a part of it. It is inclusive and respectful and we all have a good old laugh. Sure, there are the occasional biffos, but that happens in any social group, no?

And then there is Twitter, or as I like to call it, the seedy backroom bar of some dodgy pub. Fast, fun and fancy free, you need to keep your wits about you on this popular, but sometimes much maligned social media platform. Make one mistake, and you can be taken out by faceless trolls (Just ask my friend Tracey Spicer!) but as quickly as things can flare up, they die away.

theme week top takeaways

So my top 3 tips for increasing the engagement on your social media platforms?

  1. Make a spelling mistake. People LOVE to point them out to you.
  2. Tell people you think vaccinations are the devil’s work.
  3. Write a blog post about how you are over blogging and are thinking about quitting.

What’s that? You want serious tips? Fine.

  1. Be around. Dedicate time to write and share and promote and respond. Be consistent.
  2. Give them content that is worth reading. Ask yourself, what are they getting out of this post? Give them a reason to come back and get involved in the online world that you have created, and reward their loyalty with fantastic (and varied) content.
  3. Be brave. A dog never barked at a parked car.

 What are your tips? Does Facebook work for you?

Finding Readers: Dustin outlines the 5 Crucial Elements for Growing Readership

growing-readershipIn today’s instalment of the Finding Readers theme week, we delve right into Dustin Stout’s incredibly eye-pleasing site, dustn.tv, and hear how he has built a blog people just can’t help but read and share.

When I launched dustn.tv in March 2011, I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I had some insight and skills that people needed and I genuinely enjoyed helping people.

Between then and now, I’ve had successes and complete WTF-just-happened failures. Through all of that I believe I’ve landed on a handful of crucial elements that have allowed me to get to where I am today.

1. Give the Reader A Beautiful Experience

It doesn’t matter if you have the most amazing, jaw-dropping, slap-yo-mamma content in the world, if people don’t read it. When someone lands on your webpage you have five seconds or less to prove that your site and its content is worth their precious time. So if your web design is cluttered, hard-to-read and visually unattractive, you’re content may not have the chance it deserves.

One of the primary reasons people continue to visit and read my blog (rather than just through an RSS reader or email) is because the reading experience is enjoyable.

With all the templates, themes, and examples of good design permeating the digital space, there’s no excuse for poor design. You don’t have to be a designer in any sense of the word to create a beautifully-designed, content-focused blog. Just find what’s working, what you would enjoy looking at, and imitate it. You can read my tips for creating a stunning reading experience for your readers here.

2. Write For Real People

Once your canvas is ready (your design) you can now fill it with glorious content that knocks people’s socks off! But the most important thing to remember is just that— you want to knock people’s socks off. Not robots: real people.

Having a voice that people can relate to is crucial to growing your readership. If people can’t relate to what you’re saying or how you’re saying it, why would they return?

One thing that has helped me to communicate effectively to my readership is focusing in on exactly who I’m speaking to. No, I’m not talking about my demographic or target audience— that’s not specific enough. To effectively write from an authentic, relatable voice you need to write as if you’re talking to one person.

Try this as an exercise– the next time you draft up a blog post, think of one person in your life that could benefit from the information you’re about to write, and write it in such a way as if you’re talking directly to them. This will help you communicate your message more clearly and your voice will be more authentic.

And people will love you for it.

3. Engaging Content (Actionable)

Another thing I’ve found when crafting content is that the actionable always wins out on engagement. Give people clear, easy-to-do actions and watch your engagement soar.

People don’t always know right off the bat how to take the action you may be moving them towards, so make it easy for them. Tell them exactly what to do.

4. Compelling Content (Sharable)

Making your content sharable is a crucial peice to the continued organic growth. When people share with other people there is power that no degree of marketing could ever capture.

In order to compell people to share your content, you have to first understand why people share things. The motivations are many but here’s just a few powerful reasons someone would share your content:

  • It makes them look smart
  • It makes them look funny
  • It makes them look cutting-edge
  • It makes them look interesting

Do you see a pattern there? People tend to share content based on how it will make them look to others. So if your content gives someone the chance to look better in front of their peers, they will be compelled to share it.

5. The Right Distribution Channels

Okay great, so you’ve got your awesome content written and wrapped inside a beautiful package (your web design) ready for people to consume, engage, and share. So now how do you get people to that content? Distribution channels, otherwise known as social networks.

The right distribution channels make all the difference. For everyone’s audience it may be different. If your target audience is mommies looking for great recipes, then Pinterest may be your best channel. If you’re ideal audience is teenagers who don’t want their parents knowing what they’re up to, then Snapchat may be your ideal channel.

My biggest piece of advice though when it comes to distribution channels is to resist the lie that you have to be on all of them. I’ve built the majority of my audience by doing one network really well. You can either do a mediocre, semi-invested job at many networks or you can knock one single network out of the park.

The latter will grow your audience faster than the former.

For me, I’ve found that the most powerful distribution channel in both driving traffic and acquiring new readers is Google+. No platform has yielded the return on investment that Google+ has, despite what lazy journalists might have you believe.

For me it’s about being able to not only distribute content, but also to be able to create and repurpose content in different formats such as images and video. With Google+, the number of tools at your disposal is beyond that of any other platform making it the most diverse, feature-rich and multi-demensionally engaging platform of them all.

Ultimately though, your perfect distribution channel will be one that has all of the following characteristics:

  • Your audience is there (or at least willing to follow you there).
  • You can fit it into your workflow.
  • You thoroughly enjoy the platform.

One Last Thing

Above all else, be true to yourself. Don’t be someone or something you’re not. Be uniquely you because that is your secret sauce.

Nobody else has the perspective, experiences, and thought process as you in the same combination of skills, knowledge and insight. The more true you can be to yourself, the better you can relate to your ideal audience.

Top 3 Takeaways

  1. Make it more about them than about yourself.
  2. Give them an enjoyable reading experience.
  3. Be a real human, not a regurgitation robot.

Finding Readers Week: Corinne Talks Commenting, Engagement, and Are Forums Right For Your Blog?

Theme Week

Welcome to the first post in the Finding Readers series here on ProBlogger.net. Corinne runs the successful blog skinnedcartree.com, and consistently gets genuine engagement from her readers and community across the board. Corinne introduced forums at the beginning of the year and has seen that engagement increase sharply. We are very excited to have her here to share her secrets with you.

I only started blogging late December 2012. To be honest, I had no strategy or goals. I knew nothing about growing an audience or how to promote myself. The only two things I knew were:

  1. I wanted to write.
  2. I wanted people to read what I wrote.

I understand there’s more to successful blogging than simply getting comments, but I wanted engagement. So I did what made sense to me with the little knowledge I had, and it worked.

What I am about to share with you is simply how to build a network of regular commenters. It’s not a quick and easy tactic, and it’s not going to make your PageRank soar, enabling you to quit your day job – but is a key step towards doing so.

theme week social media

Call me an idiot, but during my first year of blogging I went against one of the most common blogging tips: I didn’t use Twitter to promote my blog. Since starting a Twitter account in January, I’ve been asked the same question multiple times - How do you get so many comments? 

Twitter is great for getting traffic to your blog, yet I find it’s not so fantastic at encouraging engagement. Those that engage with me on Twitter tend to only do so there rather than on my site. The same can be said about other forms of social media. It’s fabulous for page views, but does naff all for building a community within your blog – and as I can babble for England, a community is what I wanted.

How I created community and drove up engagement:

Twitterless and clueless, the only way I had of promoting my blog (or so I thought) was through commenting on other blogs. I had no idea how to find them, so I would comment on the few I knew. Then I would look at who else commented, visit their blog and find something to contribute.

The idea I had was that I was targeting:

  1. People within my niche who would probably like my blog.
  2. People who left quality comments on other blogs.

You can do this for hours -  and I did do it for hours – aiming for around 20-40 blogs a day at one point.

We all know starting a blog isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t quick. I don’t know about you but I’m sick of reading ‘write good content and they will come’ like it is the only thing you need to do to grow (I’ve never been a ‘sit and wait’ kinda gal). Good content is vital, but what’s the point if nobody knows you exist? The real trick is getting them to your blog and then getting them to return. As soon as they start engaging with you and contributing, they are more likely to return as they’ve invested precious time in you.

Remember: The quality of the comments you leave will reflect the quality of comments you receive. People are not stupid, it is obvious and frustrating when a comment is left purely to link drop. Nobody likes a spammer, yet people still use it as a tactic. We’re looking to build longstanding relationships here, not fickle ones.

theme week get your stuff shared

I find consistent posting makes a huge difference to the amount of readers I get. I’ve seen the daily number of readers that subscribe to my blog triple since I’ve started to update daily, as have my page views and the amount of traffic I am getting from search engines. I was updating every 2-3 days, but in the past few months I’ve posted daily and it’s the best thing I ever could have done for my blog. I have posts scheduled for the same time each day and link back to my previous two posts at the end to make it easier for readers that don’t visit daily to access them, which was one of my main concerns around daily blogging. The only downfall is finding the time to push out quality content, I plan my posts in advance using an editorial calendar and will sometimes write 4-5 posts in one day around my work schedule. Planning is key!

theme week whats next

Once I received comments, I replied to every one and returned the favour by leaving a comment on their next post. This encouraged them to return and even subscribe. I was using this tactic for around 10 months until I was unable to keep up with the amount of comments I was getting.

finding time
But guess what? I don’t need to keep up anymore and I no longer struggle with the ‘write vs. promote’ conflict like I used to. I find I need to spend less time commenting and am able to concentrate on creating daily quality content – I now have a mixture of long term readers I’ve made through commenting, and people who discover my blog through other blogs, social media, Google, etc.Leaving 20-40 quality comments on new blogs daily is a time consuming activity and is difficult while having a full time job. I aimed for 20 comments on work days and 40 for days off. I wasn’t blogging daily so had more time for getting my name out there and I commented a lot while watching TV on an evening or listening to music – I’ve always been a multi-tasker and struggle to sit and watch TV while not doing anything else. I often gave myself ‘goals’, such as leaving a certain amount of comments to a time scale. I found the more comments I was leaving, the easier it was to think of something engaging to say – it just became something I could naturally do.While I am still an active commenter, I comment on those blogs I love, rather than as a marketing tactic. If I have a spare hour or so, I may visit a few new blogs within my niche and leave a few comments, but it is not something that I do daily.You may have loyal readers that will lap up every word but don’t always comment, so I’ve targeted those blog readers that are active in commenting and brought them over to my blog.

Point of difference: Adding forums for your readers

I wanted to take my community to the next level by giving my readers a place they could all come together and share ideas. I find Twitter too fast paced and comments on blogs restrictive. As I’ve always been a lover of forums – joining my first in 2002 at 14, then being an administrator for another for over ten years – a forum was exactly what I was looking for. Finding none within my niche, I bought a new domain and set up my own.

I spent a couple weeks preparing the site and researching, then on 1st January 2014, I launched them, alongside a Twitter account. It’s early days yet – we are in the process of growing our member base with a view to branch outside of the current niche, adding specific forums as requested to welcome more bloggers to our community. We share our posts, ask questions, share tips and sometimes just have a general natter.

Top 3 benefits to creating the forums:

  1. Great for traffic – people will click my profile and then go to my blog as well as click links I leave on the forum.
  2. Great for post ideas – some of my most popular content has come from ideas from the forum. Members ask me questions all the time which has led me to write posts with useful information and blogging tips on my main site – these are easily my most shared and most engaging blog posts.
  3. Great for finding new blogs – I now read blogs from a variety of niches from our members.
theme week top takeaways

  1. Target bloggers in a similar niche to you.
  2. Leave comments that leaves them wanting to know more, or asks them a question.
  3. Remember, 20 readers that regularly come back and comment are more valuable than 2000 one-time readers.
Are you an active commenter?

Theme Week: How To Find New Readers and Create Community on Your Blog

FINDING READERS

If you’ve been around this year, you will have seen that we are running a themed week each month, focusing on a specific blogging topic. It is our aim that you will get a great deal of useful tips and info that will arm you with all the things you’ll need to stand out in that field.

Our first foray was in creating content, we moved into a week chock-full of info for new bloggers just starting out, and last month Shayne and I delved deep into creating products – an in-depth, step-by-step set of posts that aimed to answer all the questions you have about creating, launching, and selling products and services on your blog.

This week we have reached out to ProBlogger readers from various niches to share their success stories on how they found readers for their blog, and how they encouraged engagement: comments, shares, and a creating a thriving community.

Stay tuned for tips from the fashion, personal, social media, and blogging-about-blogging genres. No doubt there will be some fantastic information you can action that day that will help you on your journey.

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter about this week’s theme.

The posts:

Corinne Talks Commenting, Engagement, and Are Forums Right for Your Blog?

Dustin Outlines the 5 Crucial Elements for Growing Readership

Mrs Woog’s Tips to Create Conversations on Your Blog

From Seed to Sequoia: Growing your Blog one Reader at a Time

6 Tips for Hosting an Interview Series on Your Blog

shutterstock_125091749This is a guest contribution from Kerry Jones of CopyPress Community.

Interviews have become popular features on many blogs, and for good reason.  In addition to being fresh content, interviews can help you build relationships with other experts in your niche, provide your audience with different perspectives, and encourage influencers to promote your blog. Recently, Darren even shared a few tips on how to get high-profile bloggers to agree to be interviewed for your site.

If you’d like to start incorporating interviews into your editorial calendar, take a look at these tips for creating an interview series that benefits both your subject and audience.

Six Tips for Hosting an Interview Series

Choose the Right Format

When you think of conducting an interview, an on-screen video format probably comes to mind. Video interviews can be an intimidating place to start since there’s a need for technical skills like lighting, audio, and post-editing. You can invest in the right equipment if on-air interviews will become a regular feature on your blog or hire a video pro to help with one-off interviews.

But still, not everyone wants to appear on camera (this might include you) and geography may prevent you from conducting in-person video interviews. Fortunately, technology allows for many alternate interview formats.

Phone

This is a smart choice for busy interviewees since it’s quick, can be done while they’re on the go, and it doesn’t require a huge commitment. To record the interview, use a recording app or make your call with Skype where you’ll have plenty of  recording options. And always get someone’s consent before recording a call (it’s illegal not to in many places).

Virtual Video

Conducting a virtual video interview may be the best option if you like the thought of an on-screen interview but don’t have fancy equipment or your interview subject lives far from you. Again, Skype makes this easy since you have plenty of ways to record it. Google Hangouts are another simple way to record a video interview. Plus, you can interview several people at once this way (great for a roundtable discussion).

Email

Traditionalists may scoff at this, but using email to conduct interviews has become commonplace. You have a few options with this format. Either send a list of questions for the interviewee to fill out all at once, or ask one question at a time and respond with a new questions after receiving an answer. Keeping the questions short and few in number mean you have a better chance of getting them answered.

Face-to-face

Yes, you can still interview people the old-fashioned way. If it’s convenient to meet up with your subject, it’s worth doing since an in person chat may yield the most natural answers. Don’t forget a recording device to capture the conversation and a notepad for taking notes.

Interactive/Crowdsourced

Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ can all be used as public interview forums. Use social media to crowdsource questions or host a live Q & A session with the interviewee. From there, you can turn the questions and answers into a blog post.

Do Your Homework

People who are interviewed frequently get tired of answering the same questions. Avoid regurgitating information that’s already out there — don’t ask a question if a quick Google search about the person can yield the answer (especially when interviewing someone well-known). You can always include the easy-to-find information as a blurb about the subject as an intro to the interview.

Your questions should align with the person’s background, area of expertise, and interests. You don’t need to learn their life story in advance, but gathering biographical and professional information will help you craft questions. Here are a few places to look them up:

  • LinkedIn — to see their professional background. Look for the unexpected, like an interesting career change or an unusual skill set for someone in their field. Additionally, their recommendations from others can give insight into their work ethic and personality traits.

  • Twitter — to see what interests them. What topics do they frequently talk about? What types of people do they engage with? Even a Twitter bio can provide clues about someone’s passions in 140 characters.

  • Google — to see where they’ve been mentioned or published. Also look for any previous interviews.

Consider Using an Interview Template

Believe it or not, you don’t need to ask unique questions. Rather, you should focus on asking questions that will yield unique answers. Using a list of template questions can save you time and also provide structure to your interviews. This consistency in the interview format works especially well if you’re planning on an ongoing series.

Asking everyone the same questions works best if your subjects have something in common. For example, if you will only be interviewing writers, there are enough universal questions for this group that will also result in a variety of responses.

Some of the best blog interview series use a template:

  • Copyblogger’sWriter Files” series also uses a template but since they ask questions that will get different answers for each interviewee, it works. They also write a brief introduction about each featured writer, which helps give some context to the interview.

  • Lifehacker’sThis is How I Work” series uses a mostly templated approach but the questions are so good and differ so much from person to person that every interview is unique (for example, they ask everyone to share a picture of their workspace).

workspace

Ask  Open Questions That Solicit Detailed Answers

A skilled interviewer always digs for specific examples, asks questions that will produce detailed answers, and lets the subject do most of the talking. No one wants to read an interview full of “yes” and “no” responses.

Only ask questions that solicit a specific response. Questions beginning with “how” or the 4 Ws (what, when, why, where) accomplish this. Your subject shouldn’t be able to answer with “yes,” “no,” “maybe,” or “I don’t know.”

You still may receive vague responses despite asking probing questions. When you do get a broad answer from your subject, use a follow up question, like “Can you give me examples?” to steer them into giving a more specific answer.

Lead the Subject into Sharing Anecdotes

The true gems of interviews often hide within anecdotes, which can set apart a great interview from a bland one. But getting someone to open up about their personal experiences can be one of the toughest parts of conducting an interview.

Even if your subject is open to telling personal stories, they may need you to help jog their memory. Focus on asking questions that will trigger the interviewee to remember certain events and then recall those stories.

One word that’s sure to inspire anecdotes: when.

“When did you know this was the right career path for you?”

“When did you feel you were truly a professional writer?”

But you don’t need to limit yourself to wording everything as a question. Phrases like “Tell me how…” or “Describe a time…” are also effective for leading the subject to share anecdotes.

Include Text for Video and Audio Interview Content

When doing video or audio interviews, write up some highlights or transcribe the conversation. This can “tease” your audience into tuning in and also gives the search engines some text to crawl.

In the Travel Blogger Academy interview series, they take the audio recording from an interview and turn it into a video using simple text and graphics. In the blog post, they use bulleted lists to tease readers with interview content. Any resources/tools mentioned in the interview are linked to in the post as well as links to the subject’s blog and social profiles.

Travel-Blogger-Academy

Lastly, make sure to keep in touch after the interview. Give a timeframe or exact date for when the interview will be published. If you need an answer clarified, reach out to get a more in depth explanation.

Always send them a link to the interview once it’s published. And don’t be afraid to ask them to share it on their social networks — one of the biggest benefits of hosting an interview series is the potential to attract the subjects’ audiences to your blog.

Have you had success with hosting interviews on your blog? What do you think makes a compelling interview? Let me know in the comments below.

Kerry Jones is Tampa-based blogger and the Assistant Community Manager for CopyPress Community — a networking site, training portal and job board for freelance creatives. You can connect with her on Twitter and Google+

Weigh In: Are Personal Blogs and Business Blogs Really That Different?

Image via Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Image via Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

This is a guest contribution from Sabina Stoiciu.

Do you remember how it was back in the 90s, when most of us didn’t have a clue about blogs and blogging? Today we can hardly imagine a world without them. And if the first blogs from mid-90s had a personal character and resembled an online diary, business blogging has taken quite a different track. Or have they?

What do personal and business blogging have in common?

At first, I would say it’s the need to have a blog to write for (just joking, I’m sure this is something that can’t be skipped).

Personal blogging means having your own little corner of the web, where you express everything from your personal beliefs, ideas, tips for spending free time, preferences, hobbies; to relating personal stories from your everyday life.

Business blogging works following a similar principle – the one of having an own place on the web where to present yourself as a company, to be more human, show what you’re like, and  engage with your followers, just like you do on a personal blog.

For both types of blogs you need to have a well-contoured idea of what you want to write about, although the business blog requires even higher levels of structure. You can’t (or at least shouldn’t) start a blog just for the sake of following a trend, if you don’t have any hint on what your blog’s purpose should be.

A second common point is: keeping your audience in mind when you write. For whom do write? Do you write for tech savvy people? Don’t be afraid to use some technical jargon, then. Do you write for your grandma’s generation? Use language that isn’t too tech-heavy. An useful measure for knowing for whom you are writing is to undertake audience research. Personas can help you imagine how your typical reader looks and behaves. It’s then easier to craft content for someone you already have in mind.

The whole purpose of a blog is to have a more personal touch. Hence, the writer’s personality will come to the surface through their style of writing on both types of blogs. The personal one, however, allows its owner to express their thoughts in a more intimate manner than on a business blog, where communication has to respect some basic guidelines.

Another common characteristic of both blog types is the need to engage with followers. Whether it is a personal blog or a business blog, your articles shouldn’t take the shape of a monologue. On the contrary – you should encourage readers to comment and share their ideas and thoughts. Besides developing your discussion and making it more interactive, visitors can provide you with new ideas on what they’d like to read, which then informs your content.

Now tell me what you think of blogs that don’t have a contact method. I personally tend to ignore them, because I can’t explain to myself why you wouldn’t want to get in touch with your readers. It bothers me not to have any way of sending the blog owner a message, especially because it’s very easy to include a contact form on your blog. There are plugins for WordPress that let you build and publish a contact form in no time.

One more thing you can do on both personal and business blogs is have guest posts. This can be a good way to offer some variation in content and writing style, which your readers might appreciate. Though, the topics and the most appropriate guest authors depend on your blog type. Business blogs can benefit of featuring well known industry speakers, fellow business owners, or product/service partners. Personal blogs might have a smaller chance to feature opinion leaders, but they are still useful.

Last but not least, you have to be careful what you write about and what you make public. It’s true that blogs should express honest opinions, but that doesn’t mean you can wake up one day and begin to denigrate everybody in your life.

How are personal and business blogs different?

Apart from sharing a few common points, these two types of blogs can be poles apart. Here are the main traits that distinguish one from the other:

  1. In many cases, the audience of a business blog is more specialised. It’s more of a niche audience, which at some point might be more picky than the readers of your personal blog. For example, you can choose to write today about kittens on your personal blog. Tomorrow you shift the content direction and cover diet tips. And the day after tomorrow you feel like speaking of planes. Your followers might be indulgent when it comes to your personal blog, but business articles should stay quite focused.
  2. For a business blog, I would say that it’s more difficult to write compelling content that keeps readers coming back. Your blog has to speak about your business, but be of a more general interest at the same time. As for the personal blog, you have a higher freedom in choosing what to write about.
  3. The previous point leads to mentioning one more difference: business blogs offer valuable, useful content, engage and advertise at the same time. Perhaps ‘advertise’ is not the most appropriate term, but business blogs do provide information on the product or service behind the business. Common sense asks for this information not to be overly promotional, but to present additional advice on how to make the most out of the product, how to benefit of the product’s partnerships and others.
  4. Moreover, there are several points to keep in mind when crafting your business blog content – how to write headlines, not having a clear posting strategy, being all too promotional, using images incorrectly. or being too SEO-crazy.
  5. The content on a business blog should be even more engaging than on a personal blog, meaning that it should be accompanied by strong calls-to-action that make the visitor convert. After all, the final purpose of a business blog is to convince the visitor that your product is the best choice, something that you do through presenting its extended features, advantages, use cases and so on.
  6. Besides strong calls-to-action, your business blog can benefit from including lead generation methods, such as lead generation forms. This type of form can include various sub-types like the contact form, the request a quote form, the newsletter subscription form, the freebie form and others which can fulfill the lead generation requirement.
  7. Because we’re talking of the business sector, where every resource allocation has to be justified, your business blog also needs to be analyzed. Engagement, ROI, conversions, requests for more information about your business – they all have to be tracked closely to see how your blog strategy is working out. Unlike your personal blog, the business one has to drive clear results.
  8. We’ve established before that you are responsible for what you post on the web for both personal and business blogs. Nevertheless, posting on a business blog requires you to be even more careful. How do you perceive a typo on a personal blog and how do you do it when it comes to a business blog? When writing about and for your company, you are associated with the company image. The slightest mistake you make can have a huge impact on the brand you’re representing.

Having said outlined these differences, some could argue that personal blogs, particularly personal blogs that create income and are brands unto themselves, also benefit from such “business-blogging” strategies. Where do you stand on the issue?

Sabina Stoiciu enjoys blogging, photography, traveling and finding ways of gathering and sharing relevant business knowledge. You can follow her on Twitter. She also writes for 123ContactForm, the online form and survey builder – try it for free.