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What does the ‘Pro’ in ProBlogger Stand for?

Startup Stock PhotoI overheard an interesting debate on Twitter recently about what the ‘Pro’ in ProBlogger stands for.

Is it to signify professional behaviour, or is it about the profession of blogging?

The answer is both – but in my mind it’s more.

Here’s what the Pro in ProBlogger means to me

I’m Pro Bloggers – I love bloggers

As a 16-year-old I took a short course in public speaking.

This was an unusual move for me because I was a very shy kid who had a small group of friends. The idea of speaking in front of a room of people terrified me, but as I wanted to conquer that fear I took the class.

At the end of the course I had to stand up in front of a room of 60 or so people and talk for five minutes. I’d never felt such a rush of exhilaration and I saw people in the audience respond positively to my words and it triggered in me the beginning of a passion for communication.

I’ve explored many forms of communication over the years but when I stumbled across blogs for the first time in 2002 I knew I’d found something special. What other tool could amplify the voice of an ordinar guy like me around the world to millions of people?

I love blogging and I love bloggers and what they do day in and day out with their blogs. This blog is written by bloggers for bloggers and my hope is that it’ll help them to step closer to their potential.

It’s about the Profession of Blogging

For the first 18 or so months of my blogging, I didn’t consider the idea that it could be anything but a hobby. That changed through a series of events including starting a little digital camera review blog and stumbling across the brand new Google AdSense ad network.

To cut a long story short I began to experiment with making a little money from my blogs with the hope of covering my server costs and with the dream of one day being able to make enough money to get off dial-up internet and onto broadband.

Gradually I made enough to do both those things and the income grew into the equivalent of a part time income. At this point I created a category on my personal blog for ‘blog tips’ and began sharing what I was learning.

My income continued to grow until I reached a point in late 2004 where I realised I was going to have a full time income from blogging and that it had the potential to be my career or profession.

I began to search for other full time bloggers and found very few writing about their experience so decided to start a blog on my journey to ‘go pro’ as a blogger. ProBlogger.net was born and I imported all my previously written blog tips from my personal blog over to start it in September 2004.

I can’t lay claim to inventing the term as someone had already registered ProBlogger.com (which I later bought). They were not really using the domain (but seemed to have plans to develop a blogging platform) and as far as I know, I was the first person to use the term to describe someone making a living from blogging.

The early days of the blog were simply me sharing my journey of making a living from blogging. I wrote more general blog tips but the focus was always upon helping bloggers to sustain writing about their passions by building profitable blogs.

It’s about Positive Blogging

I’m a glass half full kind of guy (most of the time) and was brought up by parents who taught me to always look for the positives in situations I face, and in the people around me. Similarly, a phrase that was often heard in our house was ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’.

This has all rubbed off on me and the way that I blog and I’m a big believer in spending 99% of my time doing things that are constructive and positive rather than focusing upon negativity, controversy, or picking out the fault in others.

I’ve seen many blogs about blogging come and go over the years but have noticed one type of blog tips blog ‘go’ (or die) more often than others – that being the type that dwells of the negative more often than the positive.

A number of examples come to mind (that I won’t name) but all of which either focused upon critiquing the approach of others, causing division, stirring up controversy, and basically attempting to get traffic by causing trouble.

While in some cases the negative tactic worked in getting eyeballs, each of these blogs is inactive today, and conversations with several of the bloggers concerned revealed that they couldn’t sustain the negativity and ended up burning out.

They also reflected to me that because they blogged negatively that they drew around them negative readers, and while traffic often rose so did a brand that they didn’t really want to be associated with in the long term.

In my experience, a blogger sets the tone for their blog. If you blog with a negative stance you tend to create a culture of negativity that others pick up on and join in on.

This is why some blogs end with with a cesspool of negativity in their comments.

On the flip side if a blogger models constructive and positive blogging this can help with building a strong positive and constructive community of readers.

While there will may be times to call out bad behaviour, write a justified rant, or offer a critique, my hope for ProBlogger is that it is a place for positive and constructive advice that brings about lasting change for those who read it.

It’s about blogging Professionally

My hope with ProBlogger is that it is not only a blog that helps others to ‘Go Pro’ as bloggers, but that it inspires them to do so in a professional and ethical manner.

A few years ago at a business conference I met a small group of attendees at a networking session, and on mentioning what I did, one of the members of the group burst out with the statement “but all you bloggers are scammers and sleaze bags!”

I’ll never forget that moment and the anger that the gentleman spoke with.

After an awkward silence for a few seconds, he shared his story. It wasn’t a pleasant one.

Sadly he’d been ripped off by a blogger who claimed to be able to teach him how to make a fortune from blogging with his $3000 ‘program’. The program turned out to be a poorly curated collection of posts from ProBlogger and several other blogging tips blogs and the promised coaching and support never eventuated.

Unfortunately this is not an isolated story, and one of the difficult parts about blogging about making money blogging is that the unprofessional and unethical actions of a small few bloggers in this niche hurt the reputation of the rest of us.

ProBlogger has no $3000 programs and makes no promises of overnight riches from blogging. Making money from blogs generally takes a long term approach and a lot of good, old-fashioned hard work.

While the temptation to take short cuts through unethical ‘black hat’ behaviour exist, the reality is that doing so puts you at the risk of being caught out and having your reputation hurt.

My goal with ProBlogger is to create a site that helps bloggers to blog well about what they’re passionate about, to build business models around their blogs to help them sustain what they do, and to do it in a professional and ethical way.

A Powerful Exercise inside Google Analytics to Set You Up for a Successful Year of Blogging

Have you started the year off on the right foot? I hope you had a worthwhile end of 2014 and are looking at 2015 with excitement and anticipation!

Today I wanted to share with you an exercise that I do on my blogs at the end of every year that helps me to grow my blogs in the year that follows.

I find that it both inspires me to get moving on the new year of blogging but also gives me some starting points for direction for the new year.

It’s an exercise that I do over the last week of 2014 and the first week of 2015 but is also something you could spend just 10 minutes doing and still get some value from.

google-analytics-logo

It all starts for me in Google Analytics (the tool I use to track how my blogs are performing). You may use a different tool which will get you the same results (and if you’re not using something please do).

Note: I know the mention of ‘analytics’ is enough to put some of you off reading on any further. I get that – I’m not really an analytical guy. In fact anything with numbers or statistics elevates my blood pressure and makes me want to run screaming into my happy place. But bear with me – the numbers are just the starting point for this exercise and not the main thing!

I’m going to break this post down into three main sections which are based upon the three main categories in Google Analytics – ‘Audience’, ‘Acquisition’ and ‘Behaviour’.

I should say that there’s a HEAP more we could drill down into than what I’ll cover in this post but my hope is to give you some starting points to do some analysis in.

Note: Google Analytics also has ‘Real Time’ and ‘Conversions’ sections. I’ve previously touched on Real Time stats and it’s not as relevant for the type of analysis we’re talking about today. The ‘conversions’ area of analytics is something I’m still relatively new to so won’t be touching on today.

OK – grab a cup of your favorite beverage and make yourself comfortable – this will take a little while but I hope will be well worth your time!

Audience

Audience Overview

Firstly I log into Google Analytics and head to the ‘Audience Overview’ and plug in the dates for the full year to get a quick overview of how the year was. I usually look at things first in a ‘daily’ view to see where the spikes were and get a sense for the weekly cycle of traffic.

Blogging exercise daily overview

Note: all the screenshots in this post are stats from my main blog Digital Photography School (dPS). They are stats just for the ‘blog’ area of that site and not the forum or sister sites.

You can see in the above chart that there’s some regular patterns to traffic on dPS. Each week there is a spike (related to the day we send our newsletter) and a lull (weekends). There were also a few great spikes where we had posts go viral (this is something to investigate and take note of – we’ll touch on it later).

From this chart I immediately can begin to see that there wasn’t huge growth in the site over 2014 – although things were definitely lower at the start than the end.

To get a better picture of growth I find looking at a weekly and/or monthly view can be helpful. Here is the monthly view.

Blogging exercise monthly overview

Now we have a clear picture of the months things did well and slowed down. We can immediately see February was lowest (it always is for dPS – mainly because it has less days) and December was our record month (ever).

Some of these peaks and troughs will be seasonal but others are not. For example July and August tend to be slower months for us as many of our readers are out and about enjoying the Summer of the Northern Hemisphere.

Compare This Year to Last Year

Another fun chart to look at here is to compare 2014 with the year before.

To do this click on the date section and tick the ‘compare to’ box and plug in last year’s dates like this:

Blogging exercise comparison

You can again view this by day, week or month. I like monthly as it can show you seasonal impacts. Here’s how mine looked:

Blogging exercise monthly comparison

You can see here the Feb slump in both years as well as the November and December rise.

I love this comparative view because it shows the real growth we’ve had. While you can kind of get the feeling some of the other views above that we grew over the year it’s a relatively flat line.

This comparison shows that even in November where the lines are closest that we had 31% more traffic than the previous year. April was 82% higher than the previous year.

Note: comparison reports are a lot of fun and can be very motivating. Here’s how I use them during the year to keep my blog growing month to month.

Scroll further down the report and you get more comparative data:

Blogging exercise monthly comparison 2

We can see here that overall we were up by 51.58% in terms of traffic, 31.87% in users and 39.03% in page views – all good signs.

Below however we see some areas to work on. Pages viewed per session, time spent on site, bounce rate and new visitor numbers were all down (I’ll dig into the reasons for this below) – something we need to work on improving in 2015.

We had already noticed this and are getting ready to launch an evolution of our design that is all about trying to get visitors to view more pages per visit (which will lift their time on site and decrease bounce rate).

If you scroll down the page further you can also do some comparisons from year to year on other areas including language spoken by visitors, their location, the browser they use, operating system, screen resolution etc.

A couple that interested me:

Blogging exercise monthly comparison location

While numbers of those visiting from the US have growth significantly (62%) as a total percentage of our readers we’ve seen a fall and much faster growth in terms of our readers from parts of Asia.

This is something to keep in the back of our mind as we think about content but also how we monetise the site.

The other big shift from 2013 to 2014 was the growth in mobile use of the site which we can see in looking at operating systems used.

Blogging exercise monthly comparison operating system

Mobile vs Desktop

While we’re talking about devices lets quickly click the ‘Mobile > Overview’ item in the menu on the left of the page and see the comparison of desktop to mobile and tablet.

Blogging exercise monthly comparison mobile overview

As I mentioned just a couple of months ago in a post here on ProBlogger mobile/tablet traffic is now overtaking desktop traffic on many sites. In fact on dPS in December we saw desktop traffic make up only 46.41% of the overall site traffic with mobile getting 39.11% and tablets getting 14.48%.

Thankfully we now have a fully responsive design on the site!

One interesting thing I noticed looking at the breakdown of mobile/desktop traffic is the difference in bounce rate on them.

Blogging exercise mobile analysis

Mobile traffic has a significant higher bounce rate and lower page views per session/time on site. This is an ever increasing problem with mobile traffic growing and gives me some great information to feed into our site redesign – we obviously need to think about how to get those viewing the site on mobile to view more pages. It’s not the only reason these stats are down though (read on to find out the other part of the issue).

Lets move onto the ‘Acquisition’ section.

Acquisition

OK – so in the Audience section we saw we had some decent growth in traffic to the site. In the Acquisition area we can begin to analyse where that traffic is coming from.

Acquisition Overview

Click the ‘Overview’ item in the menu for a quick top level look at where traffic is coming from.

Blogging exercise acquisition overview

Obviously organic search is driving a lot of our traffic (44.4%) with social and direct each contributing around another 25%. Email looks small but a lot (in fact most) of the ‘direct’ traffic is actually from our email newsletter. There is also talk lately that some direct traffic is actually mobile traffic from Facebook.

Channels

Drill down further into each of these channels by clicking the ‘channels’ item in the left hand menu. In turn you can begin to look at each channel in turn and look for trends.

We could spend a lot of time digging around in here and it can be well worth doing – but for the purpose of this post here are a few things I found.

Firstly – a lot of the growth to dPS in 2014 can be attributed to social traffic – in particular Facebook.

While I know many publishers have become frustrated with Facebook in the last couple of years I have persisted with it – in fact I’ve put more time and effort into developing a rhythm of posting to our Digital Photography Facebook page (and even started a second Facebook page).

Here is a chart of all social traffic (blue line) with Facebook (orange), Twitter (purple) and Pinterest (green) to show you just how much Facebook is responsible for our social traffic.

Blogging exercise acquisition social

This above chart is both simultaneously encouraging (that all my work on our Facebook page is paying off) but also worrying (that perhaps we’re becoming too reliant upon Facebook). It is inspiring me to think about how to grow other social channels in 2015 (something I’ve begun work on with Twitter in the last week).

What I find really interesting looking at social traffic is that it’s this traffic that is dragging down our performance in terms of pages viewed per page, bounce rate, time on site and ‘new users’ that I mentioned above.

Here’s some analysis of our social traffic:

Blogging exercise acquisition social analysis

You can see there that Facebook traffic brings in only 23.99% ‘new’ visitors to the site. It’s very much about engaging with regular/loyal readers. This is great for building engagement but given Facebook brings in over 20% of our site’s traffic it has dragged down our overall stats in this area.

The same thing is happening withe ‘bounce rate which is a little higher than the site average’, pages viewed per session and average time on site.

Knowing this gives me a little comfort but also motivates me to work harder on our design to get more pages viewed per visit.

Referral Traffic

Another thing I noticed in the acquisition area is that ‘referral’ traffic only makes up 4.98% of our overall traffic. While this is still 2.3 million sessions its an area that I think there’s room for improvement on.

We did see one really nice day of referral traffic mid year after a mention in a Business Insider post – but other than that it’s been slowish (interestingly that post was syndicated on many other sites also which led to a lot more little trickles of traffic for the months after).

Blogging exercise acquisition referral

I’ve not really spent much time in the last couple of years working on this. Perhaps it is time to start doing some guest posting or networking with other site owners.

Social Landing Pages

Before we leave the ‘acquisition’ section it is worth looking at the Acquisition > Social > Landing Pages report which will show you the posts and pages on your site that got the most traffic from social media.

This is actually a report that I spend some significant time looking at. Here are the top 10 results for dPS in this report (click to enlarge).

Blogging exercise acquisition social landing pages

This report is one that can be well worth some real analysis on. Dig deeper than the first 10 items though (you can show as many as 5000 but the top 100 or so will give you some great insights).

By looking it over you’ll identify some great information on what type of content is getting shared, liked and engaged with on social media.

This will hopefully give you some hints for what type of content you might want to create for 2015 but also might give you some hints as to how to engage on social media too.

For example the #1 post in this report is an old post on camera settings that I noticed did well on Facebook back in 2012. I reshared it on Facebook in December and it went wild again. In fact it did so well that it was responsible for our biggest day of traffic ever later in December and is still sending us traffic weeks later.

I can’t emphasise enough how powerful it can be to reshare content that has done well previously. So many bloggers only share their new stuff on social media and forget that there’s gold in their archives.

This report is great for identifying these shareable posts – I’d even go so far as to advise exporting it and using it as a part of your social strategy for the next 12 months.

Note: I’ll write more below on analysing content below in the ‘behaviour’ section.

If you click on any of the landing pages in this report you get taken to a page which shows you where the traffic came from.

For example item 4’s report looks like this:

Blogging exercise acquisition social landing pages report

This can help you to get a sense for where content might be being shared around.

Behavior

This is by far my most favorite section in Google Analytics and I spend a lot of time in here during the year. I particularly love the ‘Site Content’ area – I guess because content is what I’m really most interested in.

All Pages vs Landing Pages

There are two reports here that I find most interesting. ‘All Pages’ and ‘Landing Pages’.

While both show similar data I think it’s well worth looking at both.

‘All pages’ shows how many times pages and posts on your blog have been ‘viewed’.

‘Landing Pages’ shows how many times a page or post was the entry page into your site.

While these might sound similar they can produce quite different results. Lets compare the two for my blog.

First ‘All Pages’.

Blogging exercise behavior all pages

Now ‘Landing Pages’.

Blogging exercise behavior landing pages

Obviously there are some similarities here but some differences too.

For example our ‘photography tips for beginners‘ page is in both lists but people land on it only 197,669 times in the year but end up viewing it 566,590 times. This is because it is linked to very prominently in the navigation menu. The reason I put it there was that I’d previously noticed it had a very very low bounce rate

You can also see in the ‘all pages’ report that our Cameras page is our 6th most viewed page on the site despite it not featuring prominently as a landing page. This is our category page for cameras on the site and is really useful to see as it’s a page that has not previously had as many clicks on it. Obviously our audience are increasingly interested in knowing more about ‘gear’ – this will inform our posts for 2015.

All Pages

The ‘all pages’ report is really interesting to look at how readers are viewing all posts and pages on your site.

Other interesting findings by looking at this report include that our ‘thank you for subscribing to our newsletter’ page is actually the 22nd most visited page on our blog. I’ve not updated that page in over two years – so this gives me cause to go to it and see if I can optimise it.

Blogging exercise behavior thank you

Another useful piece of information I found on our ‘all pages’ report were a couple of pages with odd URLS that were appearing in our top 200 pages viewed on the site. Both had /?s= strings.

Blogging exercise search results

These pages are search results pages. So over 83,000 people have searched for ‘lightroom‘ and over 63,000 have searched for ‘photoshop‘ in the last 12 months. While in comparison to other pages on the site this isn’t massive traffic – it gives us some hints as to what our readers are looking for and perhaps are not finding enough of.

This is great information for future content planning.

These two results were the most searched for terms on the site but it got me wondering what else people are searching for – so I dug deeper. I plugged in ‘/?s=’ into the search box in the ‘all pages’ report and ran a report on anything with this string.

There were 211,751 results to this search! That’s over 200,000 words or phrases that people have searched for in the last 12 months. Here’s the top results:

Blogging exercise more search results

These are all single word searches and give us some good broad information on topics people want information on – but dig further down into the search results and you start to get phrases and more specific searches.

Blogging exercise more search results 2

This is really useful information. While only 13 people searched for those terms I can already see topics that we could write posts on based upon some of the more common words and phrases being searched for.

You can bet that I’ll be digging further into this report and that it’ll be informing content on the blog in 2015!

Landing Pages

OK – digging into the ‘landing pages’ report is one of my favorite things to do as it gives some great insights into where people are entering your site – great information for thinking about how to grow your traffic further in the next year.

This is one report I regularly export into a spreadsheet to do more in depth analysis on.

How to Export this report - Before you export it scroll to the bottom of the page and choose to show more rows than the default 10. I choose 100 or 500. Then scroll to the top of the page and look for the ‘export’ drop down menu and choose how you want to export it. I usually export as a CSV and then view it as a spreadsheet.

9 Questions I Ask Myself About Content Reports in Google Analytics

As I work with this report there are a number of questions I’m asking myself including:

  1. what posts you might want to reshare on social at some point? – if it did well once it might do well again (see above for an example of this).
  2. what types of posts/mediums get shared most? – for example I notice in our most popular posts this year were a number of cheat sheets and infographics. This gives us hints as to what kind of posts might do well in 2015.
  3. what topics are hot? – for example I noticed in our top 100 posts for social that we had a lot of posts on camera lenses that did well. This informs what we might do more of in 2015.
  4. what headlines did well? – I noticed in our top 100 posts that we saw a number of posts that talked about ‘mistakes‘ that photographers make doing well. While we don’t want to do these posts all the time they do do well on social so we’ll no doubt do a few more in 2015.
  5. what posts could you extend? – some posts that have done well might lend themselves to become a series. For example our post ‘the only three lenses you’ll need for Travel Photography‘ could easily be extended to feature lenses for other types of photography.
  6. what posts could be optimised? – if posts are getting decent long term traffic from search or social it can be worth thinking about how to update them either by adding new content or by optimising them for search or social traffic. For example I noticed that our post on ISO settings is ranking well in Google but was not in the top 2-3 results in searches for ISO – so I’ve tweaked the post hoping to help that.
  7. what posts that I expected to go well under performed? – a lot can be learned from posts that DIDN’T rank in the most visited post lists. Perhaps they had the wrong headline, perhaps they could be republished at a better time, perhaps they are just a signal that the topic isn’t of interest to your readers.
  8. what older posts that need updating are still getting traffic? – this year I’ve noticed a number of 7-8 year old posts still getting significant traffic from Google. While some of them have evergreen content that is still relevant today a couple are very dated and in real need of updating.
  9. what posts are generating a lot of extra page views? – some pages stimulate readers to view a lot of other pages. On dPS I’ve developed number of what I call ‘sneeze pages’ that propel readers deep within the site. For example this year I notice that anyone entering our blog on our Portrait Photography Tips page is going on to view over 5 other posts on the blog. These pages that ‘over perform’ are ones to consider adding to menus, side bars, ‘further reading’ on other posts and sharing more regularly on social media.

Other Behavior Reports to Look at

There’s a lot more in the beheavior area of Google Analytics to dig into. Site speed is one to watch and work on. We’ve worked hard in the last 18 months to speed up dPS (although we could do more) as Google seem to be putting more emphasis on the speed of a site when working out how to rank it.

If you use AdSense on the site there’s some good data in Analytics too if you sync them up. Doing some work on working out which posts in your archives are most profitable on that front can certainly help you in working out which posts to keep promoting and what kind of content seems to be converting.

Summing Up

The above description may seem a little overwhelming but I cannot emphasise enough just how important it is to begin to develop this kind of analysis of your blog.

You may choose to only do some of this or might focus on other areas – but the more you know about how your blog has been travelling the better position you’ll be in to plan for future growth!

Effective Planning for Video Content

This is a guest contribution from Robert Benoit.

Video production is a great way to engage and expand an audience, whether it is for a blog, website or business venture.

Whether you’re an established blogger or simply trying to break into film production, developing a video requires the consideration of some key pieces before, during, and after the green light process.

If you’re thinking of diving into video production, the following tips may give you the edge you need to create the best video content without spending more than you need to.

Establish a budget

  • You can only imagine how often people will go into the production of a video and spend more than they have. This can be a disastrous situation, it’s best to avoid it and be smart. You want the video you’re making to be the first of many, not the last, so sit down and decide on a set amount of money you’re willing to spend on the production. This will save time and money in the long run.
  • Bonus Tip: It is important to map out the length of the production to estimate how long it will take to film. Quickness and efficiency will be an essential component to this process!

Think about your audience

  • Based on your business or interests there has to be a certain audience you want to reach with this production. Are you a musician trying to send a certain message or a small business attempting to reach those in the public that would benefit from your product? No matter what the message or purpose, there is an audience waiting for you to grab their attention.
  • Therefore, it is important to think about your audience before deciding the content of your video to ensure it is a piece of content they enjoy and like. Think about their interests, behaviours and what they like about your blog or business and be sure to incorporate these into the video in some way. This helps to ensure the video is relevant for your desired audience and is something they find enjoyable and interesting.

Storyboard your ideas

  • A beneficial part of this process is storyboarding as it allows you to organize the story you wish to tell and how you can visually achieve it. By analysing your video content frame by frame before filming, you will have an idea of what pieces of it work and can redesign the ones that might not. How can you determine this?
  • Look at the still frames and think, which ones enrich the emotion and theme of the content. Those are the ones you definitely need to include in your video.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 10.40.09 am

Tools of engagement

 

  • While raw video footage is the skeletal structure of your project, video-editing effects are what allow the viewer to engage with the content and understand the overall message you’re trying to convey.
  • Remember the film “2001: A Space Odyssey?” Near the beginning of the film, ‘The Dawn of Man’ segment shows apes violently using bones to beat each other and then the bone is thrown into the air. Then the frame immediately cuts to a space satellite, four million years later! Kubrick makes a match cut from one time period to the next. What he’s trying to relay to the viewer is that humanity at one time was primitive and now views itself as technologically advanced.

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 10.41.52 am

 

  • An effect used largely in the “Star Wars” film franchise by George Lucas is the wipe effect. This is utilized when a scene ends where a line wipes the previous scene away on screen and simultaneously reveals the next scene.

Why use this effect? It can establish an emphasis on events taking place linearly, allowing for action to blend with more action in two different places.

Be original

  • The single, most important thing you can do to arrive at the best video content possible from a production is to be original. Standing out from the crowd and avoiding secondary ideas will show in the final product, presenting the world with a video that is unlike anything else is the goal of any video production. Never forget to keep in mind “originality” above all else.

Now it’s up to you to take the necessary steps towards your successful video production. Believe in yourself and do your best to enjoy the process from start to finish. Careful planning pre-production is key, if you want it to go as smoothly as possible and remember the purpose of your video and the audience it is being aimed at, at all times during production. Ultimately, originality and relevance are the two most important features of a video. As long as it is something relevant to your target audience that they haven’t seen before they are sure to love it.

Robert Benoit is an intern at Phink TV who is currently studying English Writing and Mass Communication at Assumption College. He was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and is currently studying abroad in London. His future aspirations include film production and professional scriptwriting, as well as a passion for developing creative works.

 

 

3 Ways to Define What Your Blog Is About

What is your blog about?

It’s a question all bloggers get asked from time to time. How do you answer it?

It’s also a question I know many ProBlogger readers wrestle with – particularly when starting out.

What is my niche? Do I even need a niche? How do I define my niche?

Every time I run a Q&A webinar over on ProBlogger.com, I get questions around whether bloggers need a niche. I thought I’d put a few thoughts into a blog post and suggest three ways to define what your blog is about.

1. Niche

Lets start with the most obvious one – choosing a ‘niche’ to blog about.

Most bloggers I know would classify their blog in this way. I often do!

ProBlogger – at it’s most basic level is a blog about blogging (sad but true!).

Digital Photography School – it’s a blog about digital photography.

Everything that happens on my blogs comes back to these core topics – they’re very much niche blogs.

There are many other examples of great ‘niche’ blogs. For example Chris Hunter’s BikeEXIF.

Screen Shot 2014 10 22 at 10 14 56 am

2. Demographic

Most ProBlogger readers fit fairly and squarely into a ‘niche’ but I know from experience that there’s quite a few of you squirming in your seat and resisting the urge to scroll to the comments section to tell me that your blog doesn’t fit into a niche.

Perhaps thinking about ‘who’ your blog is for rather than the ‘topic’ it is about is a better approach for you.

Over the last 10 years I’ve seen more and more bloggers developing blogs around a certain demographic of readers.

Gala Darling was one of the first I came across doing this on her blog (although there were others doing similarly.

Screen Shot 2014 10 22 at 10 13 58 am

A quick look over Gala’s blog and you can see she’s talking about a range of topics – Style, Beauty, Travel, Self Love are 4 categories but over the years she’s talked about relationships, horoscopes and much more. While her blog doesn’t really fit neatly into a ‘niche’ Gala seems to have a clear understanding in her mind of who she is writing for.

There are many examples of bloggers targeting particular demographics. Some are focused upon men or women, others are aimed at a generation, others are aimed at a lifestyle.

3. A Fight

At this year’s ProBlogger Event in Portland Oregon Jeff Goins gave a talk that presented another way to think about what your blog is about that I know many attendees found really helpful.

He suggested picking a ‘fight’.

For a gentle shy guy like me, this at first sounded a little confronting – but as he spoke, I realised I’d already picked a fight in my blogging!

By picking a fight Jeff was not suggesting you attack another person or choose something to blog about that is necessarily controversial – but rather to centre your blog around a struggle in some way that readers might identify with.

While I’ve already mentioned above that ProBlogger is a ‘niche’ blog, I realised that as Jeff spoke that when I started ProBlogger it was definitely centered around a ‘fight’.

When I started ProBlogger back in 2004, blogging was seen as a very ‘pure’ medium that was supposed to be used largely for self expression. To suggest that blogs could be used to make money was something that polarised people.

Some argued blogs should never be used for commercial purposes and suggested that to do so would be to slimy/scammy and others doubted that it was even possible to make money blogging.

Starting ProBlogger was me putting a flag in the sand and saying that not only was it possible to make a living from blogging (I was almost full time at that point) but that you could do it without selling out or entering into sleazy territory.

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That was my fight and it turns out that while it was a little controversial at the time, a lot of others who shared my belief and who got some kind of inspiration from that same fight. Others gathered around that flag in the sand and ProBlogger gained momentum.

As I think about the three options of niche, demographic, and fight, I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong way to go about it. Each has its advantages and disadvantages but I do wonder if having a ‘fight’ might be a particularly powerful way to go.

A fight galvanises people and is something that you and others can get passionate about. These things are good for a blog.

Niches, Demographics and/or Fights?

The above three options for classifying a blog are certainly not the only ones, and I wouldn’t want to argue that they’re mutually exclusive.

In fact as I think about some of my favourite blogs, I see some that have niches, demographics, AND fights!

A prime example of this would be Vanessa’s blog Style and Shenanigans (Vanessa is my wife) who has a blog about ‘style’ (niche), which is written for women (demographic) and has a fight. Her fight is that you can retain a sense of style despite having three little boys running around your home destroying everything (as we do).

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How Do You Define What Your Blog Is About?

Do you have a niche, a demographic or a fight? Or do you think about what your blog is about in some other way?

I’d love to hear your take on this!

How to Build a Blog Worth Monetizing

Earlier in the week I co-hosted the popular #BlogChat Twitter chat. The topic was ‘How to Build a Blog Worth Monetizing’ – a massive topic.

The hour-long Twitter chat was one of the fastest moving Twitter chats I’ve been involved in (and the biggest BlogChat ever according to it’s founder Mack Collier). We covered heaps of ground but I thought I’d pull out some of my most RT’d and commented upon tweets from the hour here as a blog post.

I hope you find these helpful!

Foundational Advice

I was asked to prepare some advice for those about to start a blog (although much of this can be applied by more established bloggers too).

On getting to know your readers through creating reader profiles (sometimes called personas):

On identifying how your readers will ‘change’ as a result of reading your blog:

The Four main areas to work on to build a profitable blog:

On Creating Compelling Content for Your Blog:

On Finding Readers for Your Blog:

On Building Community on Your Blog:

On Monetizing Blogs:

Phew – all of those tweets happened in about 40 minutes. Afterwards we continued to discuss the topic with lots of back and forth. You can read the full transcript including some great advice from other bloggers who participated here.

Lastly – I’ve since had a number of people ask me about the graphics and slides included in the tweets above and if there’s a ‘deck’ they can get them from.

The above all comes from a big workshop that I occasionally run for small groups of bloggers that walks bloggers through how to build profitable blogs. The workshop goes for a full day (last time I did it it took 7 hours!) and there’s no single deck that I’m comfy to share as a lot of the slides in it really need me there to explain what I’m showing.

Having said that – two of the webinars mentioned above cover some of the same ground so they’d be a good place to start out!

10 Steps To Help Turn Your Blog Into A Number 1 Bestselling Book

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Image via Flickr user triedandtruetutoring

This is a guest contribution from entrepreneur and author Niall Harbison.

Although not everybody wants to make money from their blog, it is undoubtedly the goal for many. To make a living from writing at home often features high on the list of dream jobs! I’m lucky enough to have just published a book which got to number one in the charts, sold a business, as well as running a couple of businesses today, and most of the success can be put down to blogging. I wanted to share some of the tips that helped me first of all get the book published, and secondly, how blogging helped it to the top of the book charts. The book is called Get Shit Done and if you start using these tips that is exactly what you will be able to do. Hopefully you too can turn your blog into a bestselling book…

10 Steps To Help Turn Your Blog Into A Number 1 Bestselling Book

Find your niche

The really good blogs focus on one thing and they do it well. It doesn’t matter if you are a pig farmer in Russia, or a fashion student in New York, because whatever you do you will have an audience. The biggest mistake that most people make is they try and be to generalist and start straying away from their topics in order to get more traffic. Even though things won’t explode in terms of visitors at the very start, if you keep on doing what you are doing and writing in your niche with authority, you will eventually see the results and the audience grow.

Let Your Personality Shine Through

Think about all the big blogs that you read and the chances are there will be a strong personality or character shining through in the writing or through the content. Readers have millions of pages online to choose from so in order to keep them coming back and engaging with what you do there needs to be a part of you that stands out. It doesn’t mean you need to share your deepest darkest secrets like I did, but do try and be personable in your writing and give your readers something to latch onto.

Invest In Professional Design

The one thing that I think sets the truly great blogs and the average ones apart is great design. In my own early days of blogging I made the mistake many make trying to design the blog myself and using templates. If you are to be taken seriously and to get a book deal or start driving some serious revenue then invest $500-1000 on getting somebody to design your blog professionally. A badly designed messy blog will put people off straight away and make people think you are small-time.

Connect With Other Bloggers

This was the best advice I got in the early days and it has paid off over and over again. Some of you might think that people within your own niche should be seen as competition but the reality is that there is room for everybody. Like-minded bloggers within your niche will help you grow your audience, refer business to you, add value to your content, and share what is working for them. Most people ignore this tip but the community of bloggers is so strong and you’ll be surprised at just how welcoming most are.

Help People

There is no more effective tool in the world than helping other people. It could be advice. An Intro. A Retweet. A link in a post. For the first five years that I was blogging and on social media, all I did was help other people and give out favours to others. What that does is create a huge base of people who are willing to help you in return when you need it. As soon as I launched my book, I was able to nicely ask all the people I’ve been helping over the years to share my link, review the book, or even just buy it. Helping others is the best way to help yourself in the long run.

Network At Offline Events

You probably think that because you have a blog you can do all your networking online and that you never have to shake another hand in your life. The reality is very different. Some of the best connections and your biggest fans will come from the real world. I got a publishing deal by meeting people in the flesh. I met commercial partners in real life. You have to get out from behind the laptop sometimes and put yourself out there and meet people who are going to help you achieve your dreams.

Use Traditional Media And PR

Although the likes of print media are certainly dying, there is still huge leverage to be had by appearing in traditional media. I often write newspaper columns for free (newspapers love filling space for cheap these days) and I’ve found PR to be one of the most effective tools in terms of building brand. Your blog might be the best thing since sliced bread but people still put a lot of weight on seeing a photo or a name in a byline in a newspaper. Use traditional media to take your own brand to the next level.

Think International

Another big problem that most bloggers have is that from day one they pigeonhole themselves within a certain country. We live in a connected world where the internet knows no boundaries, so don’t limit the size of your potential audience by nailing your colours to the mast in your own country. Think big and talk in an international tones and you’ll be surprised at just how big your blog can get all over the world.

Speak At Conferences

I’ve found nothing more powerful in all my years of blogging than speaking at conferences on the subject that you are blogging about. If anybody is willing to give you a microphone stand up in a room even if there are only 10 people there. If you’ve never done it before you will be nervous the first time but get over that because speaking at public events is the quickest way to build your own credibility and take you to the next level. If you don’t have any conferences to speak at simply ask organisers. They are always stuck for speakers and you’ll be surprised just how many people say yes!

The 70/30 Social Rule

It used to be seriously hard to grow an audience for a blog. Now we have social media. The quickest way to grow an audience is not by constantly pushing out links to your own content but instead by interacting with people on social. Answering their questions. Sharing links. Showing your expertise. The way I think about it if you want to build a really big audience you should be spending 70% of your time creating content and interacting on social media compared to 30% creating content on the blog. It really is that important. Do that and people will slowly start coming back to your longer pieces over time and your audience will be huge after a while.

These are some of the tips that I used for the last 6 years and repeated over and over again. The end result was selling a business for a couple of million and publishing this book which has all the tips and which just got to number one. Enjoy.

Niall is an entrepreneur who has sold a business for millions and author of Get Sh*t Done published by Penguin. 

Content Isn’t King… Here’s What Is!

Over the years I’ve heard many debates in the blogosphere about what is ‘king’.

‘Blogging is King’ was something many argued almost 10 years ago as it began to rise in popularity.

‘Content is King’ was the catch cry for many years… then it became ‘Community is King’ for a while as community management became the big thing.

‘Twitter is King’ was something I heard a number of bloggers crying (as they gave up their blogs to get onto Twitter), ‘Facebook is King’ was the cry a few years later when setting up pages there was the cool thing to do. YouTube was king for a while, and more recently some have argued for Instagram, Pinterest and other social networks being King.

Lately there’s a new ‘king’ every day. Infographics, podcasting, hangouts, webinars, apps… you name it!

The arguments for all of these things being ‘king’ are good… but they all kind of miss the point in my opinion. You see I think something else is king…

Usefulness
Yep – in my books ‘Usefulness is King’.

Creating content is just one way of being useful.

Building community is another.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and G+ are just ways of delivering usefulness.

Infographics, videos, podcasts and even blogging… all just different mediums for being useful.

Over the last decade that I’ve been doing business online a multitude of trends have come and many have gone but those who remain and have build valuable enterprises are those who understand that they’re in the business of being useful.

I’m often asked if I’ll be blogging in 10 years time… if the medium will still exist?

I don’t know the answer to that – blogging may well fall by the wayside at some point (although I don’t see it disappearing any time soon).

What I do know is that usefulness will never die as a strategy for building a business (online or offline).

How to be useful?

So how should we be useful as bloggers and online entrepreneurs?

Ultimately for me it comes down to understanding people’s needs and creating content, community and experiences based upon meeting those needs and solving their problems.

There are many ways to do this.

Here’s a slide from a recent talk I gave to business bloggers which begins to unpack a few ways blogs can be useful (and it scrapes the surface).

How to be useful
My blogs tend to focus most upon ‘education’ and ‘advice’ (with a sprinkle of inspiration and community) but other blogs are equally as useful by taking different approaches.

How Is Your Blog Useful?

So my question today is – ‘is your blog being useful’?

This is something I ask myself semi-regularly as I review what I do. If the answer is no – it’s time to refocus!

How to Build a Blog that Has Lasting Impact Upon Its Readers

If you want to have a blog that makes a difference in the lives of those who read it, I would highly recommend getting clarity around these three simple (yet powerful) questions:

  • Who are your readers?
  • What do they need?
  • How will they change as a result of reading your blog?

Mid-last year I wrote very briefly about these questions and suggested that they might be a great way to come up with a purpose statement for a blog.

Since that time I’ve had conversations with four ProBlogger readers who took these questions and applied them to their own blogs – and in doing so saw marked improvements in their blogging.

So today I want to emphasise them again.

Lets tackle the first two together and then look at the third.

Who Are Your Readers? And What Do They Need?

Understanding who reads your blog (or at least who you want to read your blog) and what their needs are is so important because it will inform:

  • what kind of content you should create (topics, style of writing etc)
  • how to attract readers to your blog
  • how you can engage with your readers and build community on your blog
  • how you monetise your blog (if this is a goal for you)

Understanding your reader also informs things like design, what social media networks you should be engaging in, what subscription methods you should use, how frequently you should publish, and much more.

I’ve previously published an exercise in building a reader profile or persona to help you get clarity around this.

Ultimately – knowing who is reading enables you to take a big step towards producing a useful blog.

Without this clarity you’ll be stumbling around in the dark!

How will your reader change as a result of reading your blog?

Over the years I’d focused very heavily upon understanding readers needs, but it has only been the last year that I’ve taken things to the next step and doing thinking about how to ‘change‘ readers.

Knowing who is reading is one thing, but if you want to build a blog that is epic, your blog needs to leave an impact upon people.

I recently spoke about this idea at a conference and shared the following slide. While I didn’t spend a heap of time unpacking the idea, this was the most tweeted quote of the talk I gave.

Blog impact change

Blogs that change people are blogs that those people will keep returning to.

Blogs that change people are blogs that build trust and relationship with their readership.

Blogs that change people are blogs that their readers share with their networks.

I’ve always know this – it’s not really rocket science – but for some reason I never actually identified the change I wanted to bring to my readers!

As a result, some of my blog posts hit the mark with readers – but many did not.

Why leave it to chance as to what change we want to bring to our readers? Why not define where they are and where we want to take them?

Name the Change and Then Break It Down

Lets take a look at my main blog, Digital Photography School, as an example.

My answers to the above three questions are not really that complicated:

  • My readers are camera-owners
  • My readers are not using their cameras to their full potential
  • My readers will gain creative control over their cameras as a result of reading dPS

Creative control

I know if dPS can give camera owners creative control over their cameras,  they will start taking images that help create amazing memories for their families, start capturing magical moments in the trips they take, and that they’ll start creating art and ways to express themselves creatively.

These are tangible benefits and outcomes of reading our site and enhance the lives of our readers.

So once we’ve defined the change we want to bring to readers, then we can begin to make more informed decisions about the content we create by simply breaking that down.

What does having creative control over a camera look like? There are many parts of bringing about that change. Some would include:

Creative control broken down

Obviously this is just a few of the things a camera owner needs to grasp, but you can see here that we’ve already identified a number of topics to explore that help to bring about the overarching goal of the site.

By doing this exercise, we end up with a content and community strategy that is much more intentional that simply sitting at the keyboard each day and asking what we feel like writing about.

By being intentional, we’re creating content that moves people through a process and takes them to an outcome that changes their life in some tangible way.

So What Change do You Want to Bring?

My challenge today is to answer the three questions above, and then to begin to break down the change that you’re wanting to bring.

  • Who are your readers?
  • What do they need?
  • How will they change as a result of reading your blog?

Theme Week: 5 Things to Do With Your Blog Posts After You’ve Hit Publish

FINDING READERS

This week on ProBlogger we’re starting a new theme week that examines five different things to do when you’ve finished writing a blog post (other than hitting publish).

If you’re anything like me – you put a lot of time into the writing of blog posts. You ponder the topic, pour your heart and soul into writing, obsess over choosing the right headline, put a lot of effort into polishing the post up to look its best, and read and reread it many times over to make sure everything is just right.

But what happens next?

For many of us the next logical step is to hit publish… and to start work on the next blog post.

While turning your mind to your next post comes naturally, this week we’d like to suggest five things bloggers can do after hitting publish to make sure that the posts we put time and effort into creating have the maximum impact.

Without these ‘next steps’, your posts could go largely unread – or at the very least not live up to their full potential in helping you to reach your blogging goals.

Each day this week we’ll present a ‘next step’ so keep tuning in! We’ll also update this page with links to each step – so make sure you bookmark this page and keep checking back.

Day 1: Socialise Your post for Maximum Effect
Day 2: Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost
Day 3: How to Repurpose Your Content and Why You Should Do It
Day 4: How to Keep Readers on Your Blog
Day 5: How to Extend Your Ideas with Future Blog Posts
Day 6: Which Tip Will You Put into Practice?