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10 Ways to Switch Your Brain to Writing Mode When Working From Home

Immigration, Assimilation and the American Dream
This post is from ProBlogger Team member Stacey Roberts

Finding it hard to make time to blog? Me too. In fact, that’s one of the biggest issues people tell me they have when trying to write. Often we’re blogging from home alongside other work and family commitments, and it can be hard to switch between them when we need to. If you’ve only got 90 minutes in which to write that day, all the good intentions in the world don’t necessarily mean you can use every single one of those 90 minutes to their capacity, churning out a brilliantly-crafted blog post and three witty tweets to wow your readers.

I write from home with two toddlers, and juggle my own blog in addition to freelance writing and my  work here at ProBlogger. When I sit down to the computer after a morning of LEGO fights and snack time, I’m not always inspired and motivated to be productive. I have to make myself use my time to its potential, which is a heady mix of prior organisation and brute force. I’ve come up with a couple of ways to get my head in the game, when the game could be called off at any minute.

1. Create a ritual

There’s nothing better than a physical distinction between one task and the next. For me, it is to make a cup of tea, which is leftover from my days as a journalist, and tells my head it’s writing time. You could make a cup of coffee, fill your water bottle, or put on the same playlist every day. Whatever helps your brain train get on a new track.

2. Walk around the block

If you work at home, it can be tempting to work from the couch in your pajamas. And while that’s definitely one of the perks of the business, it doesn’t really help your productivity. Get dressed, walk around the block and pretend you’re walking to “work”. Grab a cup of coffee on the way into your office, sit down and start your day.

3. Move to a new location

Sometimes a change of environment is just the kickstart you need to find your writing groove. Not feeling it at your desk? Get outside, sit at the kitchen table, go to a cafe – wipe the slate clean and start again. Don’t be afraid to move to find your groove!

4. Be prepared

Nothing blanks me out more than sitting down to an empty white screen. Where does one start? What if you can’t come up with a good headline, and then you can’t figure out what’s the most important thing to cover? Before you know it you’ve spent half an hour idling with nothing to show for it. I find I work best when I’ve taken a few minutes prior (even days prior) to roughly sketch out what I need to cover in my post. Then by the time I sit down, I’ve got anything from a couple of words to go on, to a whole skeleton outline I just need to flesh out. This helps enormously, as even when you type the first sentence, you can get into the flow.

5. Work solo

We like to think that we are multi-tasking ninjas, but research has shown you really don’t get as much done as you think. So in order to train your brain to work to its potential, you have to be tough and shut down any distractions. If this is hard, then tell yourself you can sneak a peek every 15 minutes, but you need to get stuff done in that time. So much of writing is self-discipline, and when you don’t have time to waste it’s even worse when you waste it.

6. Spend two minutes digging around in your brain

When you sit down to write, just take a few minutes to think about the tasks ahead. Don’t write anything down, don’t look at anything, just fill your mind with what you need to accomplish. This will help you stop thinking about distractions and get your mind in the groove of what lies ahead. It’s a great way of getting some demarcation between what you’ve been doing, and what you need to do, and also works as a bit of a brainstorm for today’s tasks.

7. Spend another two minutes sketching out ideas

Now spend a few minutes jotting down those thoughts. I often find it’s a mix of items for my to-do list, post ideas, something to share with my readers on Facebook, and points I want to cover in my posts. This also means I’m motivated and inspired to get to work on these items, and also ensures I’m not sitting down to the dreaded blinking cursor without anything to kickstart my creativity.

8. Don’t start from scratch

One of the best things I learned about writing novels is to stop when you’re inspired. It sounds counter-productive, but if you stop once your wave is over, you’re at a bit of a loss where to start when you pick it back up. This can mean you waste valuable time trying to come up with what to write about next. Picking up where you left off when you were in the groove means you can start with all cylinders firing, which does wonders for your productivity. There’s nothing better than starting off with a good chunk of work under your belt, it lessens the guilt you feel when you fritter your time reading eight Buzzfeed articles instead of getting stuck in. Or that might just be me.

9. Do the worst thing first

I know I’m tempted to leave the hardest thing for last as I “warm up” with easier tasks, but I also then find I’m still dreading the job while I’m doing other things. And often my time gets cut short and I’ve got to find another time to get it done. I find I work best if I sit down and get the big job out of the way first, almost like ripping off a Band-Aid. Everything you do after that is gravy.

10. Use recent notes

If you’re anything like me, you will look at some notes you wrote three days ago and they make little sense. “Mirfin? what’s a mirfin? It looked important, too…”. So while it’s useful to jot down notes when inspiration strikes, it’s even more useful if those are recent notes and you can still recall what you need to do and when. I often email myself notes, or use the notes function on my phone and laptop. Sometimes I even go beta and use pencil and paper, hence the mirfin. But the shorter the timeframe, the better for you.

I’d love to hear what helps you get your head on track when working from home. Any tips you’d like to share?

Stacey Roberts is the content ninja at ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. Can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

How to Build a Successful ‘White Hat’ Business on a ‘Black Hat’ Internet

White-HatOver on the ProBlogger Facebook page I was asked a great question by Aman Tandon, who asked for some tips on ‘how to stay alive using white hat techniques?’ when competitors in his niche were being ‘foxy’.

It’s a great question and one that I know many bloggers face in different ways.

The reality is that when you’re developing blogs or websites, there are many temptations that face us as bloggers. People make all kinds of choices about how to grow their businesses – choices that span the entire length of the ethical spectrum.

These choices impact the way that bloggers:

  • create content (eg. using others people’s words, images, and ideas)
  • optimise their sites for search engines (eg. buying links)
  • engage on social media sites (eg. buying followers)
  • monetise their sites (eg. selling links, disclaimers, promoting dodgy products)
  • grow readership (eg. personal attacks on others to create controversy)

The list could go on… and on.

Not a day goes by when I don’t see some kind of black…. or at least murky grey…. hat strategy being employed in some of the niches that I operate in (particularly the ‘make money online’ space).

Note: it is probably worth saying that while there are plenty of examples of ‘black hat’ around, most bloggers I come into contact with are good people with great morals, integrity, and a genuine desire to build businesses that not only are profitable, but that serve and help others. It’s also worth saying that there’s lots of different shades of grey between the extremes!

I have always taken the stance that I want to approach what I do with high ethics, transparency and integrity. That doesn’t mean the temptations are not there. I, like everyone else, am human and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t face temptations to take shortcuts or get ahead.

However I’ve worked hard at keeping on the straight and narrow and operating at the ‘white hat’ end of the spectrum. This probably flows from a mixture of motivations – partly it’s just who I am and how I was raised, partly it’s because I get a lot of satisfaction from doing things well and without taking short cuts, and if I’m honest it probably is partly out of fear – I’d hate to lose what I’ve built as a result of making a dumb choice.

I’m not going to use this article to define what is a ‘white hat’ vs a ‘black hat’ approach to blogging (although that would certainly make for an interesting discussion), but let me make a few comments for those bloggers who do try to play by the rules and approach what they do with ethics – sometimes in the face of others in their space who don’t mind bending (or completely breaking) the rules in an attempt to get an advantage or take short cuts.

Play with a long-term vision in mind

The main message I have regarding this topic is to approach what you do online with a long-term vision in mind.

As I mentioned above, I’ve seen many examples over the years of people crossing over to the ‘dark side’ to grow their online businesses. It is frustrating to see it happen, but in each case I’ve reminded myself that I’m not looking for a quick buck, but am looking to build a business that sustains itself over the long haul.

Numerous examples come to mind of when I’ve seen people make decisions for short-term gain that have led to long-term hurt.

  • I think of one blogger, seven or so years ago, who went on a spree of personal attacks of other bloggers to grow traffic to his site. He got the traffic, but destroyed his own reputation in the process.
  • I think of another blogger who made the decision to promote a product he knew was dubious as an affiliate on his blog. He hyped it up and made a lot of promises the product couldn’t live up to. While he made some quick money, he lost his reputation and most of his readership.
  • I think of another blogger who tried to grow his blog with some prolific link-building schemes with a ‘blog network’ that promised he’d be #1 on Google overnight. He did get to #1… for a week, before disappearing from Google altogether at the last big Google algorithm update.

Of course there are good examples around of people who behaved in arguably unethical ways that ended up doing well (anyone who has seen the movie ‘The Social Network’ probably has a good example in mind – however in many (if not most) cases that I’ve come across, the people who decide to go to the ‘dark side’ to get a short cut often end up behind the pack as a consequence of their decisions.

Deliver value

Instead of looking for a short cut, look to deliver value and be useful.

Usefulness trumps pretty much anything else I can think of in the online (and offline) space.

  • The online businesses that I support by spending my money with, are the ones that solve a problem for me.
  • The blogs that I support by subscribing, reading, and interacting with, are the ones that make my life better in some way.
  • The people that I meet on social media that I retweet, link to and recommend to others to follow are the ones that add value in some tangible way to my life.

Conversely:

  • the website that is clever enough to get me to visit them by ranking #1 in Google but doesn’t serve any purpose when I get there doesn’t get me to come back.
  • the person on twitter who simply self-promotes, or spams out affiliate products gets unfollowed, blocked, or reported as spam.
  • the business that rips me off or tells untruths to get a sale gets their reputation left in tatters, as blog posts and tweets go out exposing what they’re really about.

My personal experience is that when you build value, you build something that is much more likely to last as a business.

Stay true to your values and build something that matters to you

Much of what I’ve written above probably sounds a little trite, and will probably be laughed at by those who take pride in their ‘black hat’ ways.

I’ve previously been linked to and ridiculed in a number of black hat forums for the stances I’ve taken, so as I’m writing this half-expecting that reaction again.

However, all I can really say is that you’ve got to be true to yourself and do something that matters to you.

Me donning a black hat and going to the dark side simply isn’t who I am. I get a lot more satisfaction in life in building something of value, serving others, and looking to build a business and become sustainable through a win/win exchange with those whom I interact.

I sleep easier at night living in that way.

Others seem to be comfortable living at other points along the spectrum, and sleep easy with the decisions that they make. At least to some point, I think we have to live knowing that we’re each different.

When I first started out in blogging, and I would see others doing things that I disagreed with, I would often get angry and outspoken about it. I guess in some ways I’ve come to peace with the fact that in most cases, as angry or outspoken as I get, it is unlikely to change the perspective and practice of the other person.

Instead, these days in most cases I choose to focus my energy less upon what others are doing that annoys me, and more upon doing something myself that matters to me and those who read my blogs.

One last note on taking a stand

A final thought – there does come a point when sometimes you do have to take a stand, and not ignore what others are doing in your niche.

For example: if I see another blogger blatantly copying and pasting my content onto their blogs without any attribution, or pretending it is they who wrote it – I act. I start with an email to them, and will escalate that to issuing DMCAs.

Another example that comes to mind is a time when I saw a lot of ProBlogger readers being ripped off by a certain blogging network/service that I felt was a scam. In this case I wrote about it as a service to my readers.

While I’d rather ignore the dodgy behaviour of others and focus upon building something of value, there are times when I think it is important to take a stand to either protect what you’ve built, or to stay true to your values.

What would you add?

These are just my thoughts on this topic – I’d love to hear yours.

How do you approach working on the web where there is such diversity in the approaches that people take on an ethical level?

What do you do when you see others in your niches taking different approaches to you?

The Day I Almost Lost My Blogging Business By Having Too Many Eggs in the One Basket

It was 17 December 2004 and my dream was falling apart, right before my eyes.

I had just celebrated the 2nd anniversary since I started to blog and I was on the tipping point of my part-time earnings becoming a full-time income.

I’d quit my only other employment to devote 100% of my time to blogging and had recently started ProBlogger to share what I knew about blogging for money. I had just been interviewed in a national paper about my business and all in all, I was pretty happy with how my dreams were progressing.

Then it happened. Most of my traffic disappeared, almost overnight.

I had been averaging 12,000 visitors per day to my main blog (a camera review blog that no longer exists) – around 80% of which came from great Google Search Engine rankings.

That level of traffic was enough to make a living from using the Google AdSense program (which accounted for 95% of my income).

I woke up on the morning of the 17th December 2004 to discover that my blog’s healthy Google rankings had disappeared overnight.

The result was that I was dropped to 2000 visitors a day (from nearly 14000) on my main blog and my other blogs lost even larger amounts of traffic.

Here’s how my traffic looked on my main blog at that time.

Statsdpb 1 2

Of course, with only a sixth of the traffic I previously had I also saw my income from AdSense take a similar tumble. Rather than a full time income, I was looking at earning enough money to call it a 1 day per week job.

I was devastated.

I was confused.

I was angry.

I was also deeply embarrassed.

Not only did my friends and family know that I’d quit my job to become a blogger… so did the world because I’d talked about it here on ProBlogger.

Falling from the rankings in Google was the single biggest challenge I faced as a blogger. I didn’t understand why it had happened and I came very close to giving up blogging altogether.

Thankfully I didn’t give up.

I’m glad I hung in there because just under 2 months later I began to rank in Google again and saw most of the traffic that I’d lost return. I’m also glad because that that really tough period taught me a lot about blogging, and about business.

The Biggest Lesson Learned: Diversification

That experience taught me many things but one of the biggest lessons was about diversification and becoming too dependant on any one area of a business.

Thankfully I learned this lesson very quickly. In this post (which I wrote 3 days after falling out of Google) I wrote about my mistake of having too many eggs in the one basket.

I was too reliant upon Google for traffic and too reliant upon AdSense for income.

Rather than see this challenge as something to stop me I decided to see it as a hurdle – something to get over that would make me stronger in the process.

I decided that I would not only keep blogging but that I was going to work hard to rebuild my blogging in a way that was less reliant upon any one source of traffic or income stream.

This mind-shift led to a range of decisions to diversify in the coming months and years.

It also led me to regularly ask a simple question that helps me avoid this problem again…

Is there a single thing that could kill my business right now?

I regularly ask myself this question (in fact our team discussed it the other day). By asking it on a regular basis I get a good sense for whether the balance in my business it out and whether I need to adjust my approach to spread the risk a little.

In a series of posts in the coming days, I’ll talk more about some of the areas I’ve diversified what I do to help with this but in the mean time, I’d love to hear your own reflections upon this.

Have you ever realised that you’re too reliant upon any one form of traffic or income stream? What have you done to diversify what you do?

Stay tuned for some suggestions on how to diversify your blogging to avoid having too many eggs in the one basket by subscribing to our RSS feed or to the ProBloggerPLUS newsletter below:

UPDATE: I’ve since followed this post up with a post looking at how I diversified traffic to my blog but do plan another couple of articles in this series in the coming weeks.

My Top 5 Blogging Blunders You Can Avoid

This is a guest contribution from Gary Newell.

guest-post-mistakes.jpg

I started blogging almost two years ago and since then, my blog has grown considerably.

I have learned a lot in a relatively short period of time and I want to share five of my biggest mistakes so you can avoid falling into the same traps.

1. I didn’t link to my own articles

For well over a year, I would write articles and post them on various news sites and social media networks.

This isn’t a bad thing to do but I never linked to other articles I’d written so people bounced off my website very quickly.

For a while I couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t click on the menus at the top or click on the links in the “most popular posts” section in the side bar of my blog.

The truth is people clicked on my article in the first place because they may have been mildly interested in the title. I needed to give them a reason to stick around. And so do you.

It is up to you to sell your blog posts with great titles but then you need to try and sell other blog posts on your site. By not linking to your own articles you are just giving readers an excuse to leave.

2. I sold an outbound link to another site

There are various ways to make money from blogging but selling outbound links is not one of them.

There are a huge number of sites that provide lists of how to make money from your blog and some of them suggest selling links. I think this is bad advice.

Selling links is a sure fire way of annoying Google so selling one link for $10 isn’t worth plummeting to the bottom of Google’s rankings.

Another danger I discovered when I sold outbound links is other sites selling the same link, reducing the value of the link. I also realised the site I was linking to had a dozen pages of bad reviews. I quickly retracted the link and refunded the purchaser!

3. I spammed social networks with links

If you read the get-hits-quick guides for getting visitors to your blog, they will often say that you should embrace the social networks. I posted all my blog posts on social media before I realised the “trick”.

The “trick” behind getting value from social media is actually engaging with the people. You need to have conversations with people before they trust you enough to follow you and share your links with friends!

For many of you, this won’t be a surprise.

You have to get involved and comment on other people’s articles and build up a comment Karma. You also have to post not just your own links but link to other people’s articles.

4. I randomly posted affiliate adverts all over my site

For a while I became disillusioned with affiliate schemes. I placed adverts across my site but nobody was clicking them.

Then one day, I realised why. I was doing it wrong.

Placing an advert at the top of the page is just eye candy. Hardly anybody clicks through to them.

I found that if I provided an ad for something that was related to my content, that wasn’t easy to find elsewhere and was something people needed then they would click through and purchase goods. I’m not making millions but I am getting a good return now.

I also found that Amazon links don’t work when sporadically splashed around the site. If you link to content and write articles that link to items on Amazon without overly selling the item then people click through and buy goods.

5. I kept all the best articles for my own blog

This is a recent one really. I have only written a couple of guest articles because as a blogger I wanted to keep my best content for my own blog.

I thought that if I want people to visit my site then I need to have the best content on my site.

The truth is, however, that to get people to click through to my site I needed to have great content on other people’s sites as well. I also accept guest articles and they often attract a great number of new visitors.

Summary

Be careful about following advice on how to get rich quick from blogging or advice thats tell you how to grow your blog ridiculously fast. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

My five blogging blunders have helped me become a better blogger . I have learned that if I write good content and build relationships with other people in my niche area, my blog grows naturally. And it has.

I’d love to know…. what have your big blogging blunders been and what did you learn?

Gary Newell lives in Scotland with his wife Stephanie and three children. Gary runs the blog Everyday Linux User which provides news, reviews and technical how-to’s.

 

The Ultimate Guide to Leaving Comments On Blogs

Comments icon

If you’ve ever read a post, book or eBook, or listened to a webinar or conference session on the topic of ‘finding readers for your blog’ you’ll have heard the advice:

Leave comments on other blogs

It was the first piece of advice I remember reading about building readership (from memory a 2002 book by Rebecca Blood was the first blog tips that I ever read) and it’s advice I’ve heard (and given) hundreds of times, since.

In fact this advice is Day 20 in our 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook.

7 Benefits of Leaving Comments on Other People’s Blogs

1. Building your own profile – leaving a comment gets you seen. Leaving a good comment can make people pay attention.

2. Showcasing your expertise – sharing what you know or the experiences that you have can help build your credibility.

3. Getting to know other bloggers – leaving a comment can often be a great way to get on the radar of another blogger.

4. Driving traffic to your blog – as a result of your engagement, you will often get people checking out your blog.

5. Idea generation – often, when you engage in conversation in other blogs comments, you get ideas for your own blog posts.

6. Staying sharp - I find that reading and commenting on other blogs  is a good daily discipline to help me keep abreast of what is happening in my industry and keep my brain engaged on the topics I write about. It’s also great writing practice!

7. Opportunities May Follow – just last week someone left a comment on my photography blog that I thought was so insightful that I asked them to write a guest post. In fact, now I think of it, one of our most successful eBook authors on dPS first made himself known to me through a great comment on the blog. You never know where a great comment might lead!

1 Problem with Leaving Comments on Other People’s Blogs

The problem with leaving comments on other blogs, as a technique to grow traffic, is that while it can have many benefits it can also end up hurting your blog’s brand and reputation – if you don’t do it the right way.

This post is an attempt to give you some advice on how to leave comments effectively and what to avoid.

4 Types of Commenters

Over the last 10 years I’ve seen a real spectrum of approaches to leaving comments on blogs. I suspect that most of us sit somewhere along this spectrum.

1. At one end of the spectrum we have the spammers

We’ve all see them – they leave comments on your post that are completely irrelevant and stuffed full of keyword rich links in an attempt to rank for those words in Google. Many times these are auto-generated spam systems that simply get caught in your spam filters and never work anyway.

There’s no real debate around the legitimacy of these comments – they are spam and any blogger in their right mind mark them as such.

2. Next we have the spammy self promoter

A little further along the spectrum we see commenters who usually at least go to the effort of manually leaving their comments and who sometimes even go to the effort of keeping comments slightly on topic…. (sometimes).

However, their comments are pretty obviously only about trying to get a link to help their search rankings or to get a few clicks back to their site.

This group use a variety of tell tale strategies that show what they’re really on about.

For one, they usually don’t leave comments with a personal name but their name is something like ‘Best Dog Biscuits’ or ‘Hawaii Accommodation’.

They also rarely say anything that builds on the conversation but leave empty ‘great post’ comments. Alternatively, sometimes this group will do something controversial to try to get some attention (attacking the writer or other comments) in the hope of people wanting to check them out.

They also will often leave links in their comments that have no relevance to the post.

In short – this group are impersonal, irrelevant, add no value and self promotional.

Sometimes these comments get through spam filters but most bloggers will delete them if they are spotted. It’s doubtful that the comments have any real benefit to the commenter as most blogs have nofollow links in comments which kill any search ranking benefits and nobody in their right mind will click their links as they’re so obviously spammy.

3. Next is Commenter who Builds their Profile by Delivering Value

Next on the spectrum for me is a commenter who is doing it right.

They have obviously read the post and have something of value to contribute. Their comments may not always be long or in-depth but they add to the conversation with something that is thoughtful and relevant.

This group might share a story, give an example, put another point of view, answer a question or do something else that provides value to the blogger and their readership.

This commenter is all about delivering value but in doing so builds their profile and credibility. They are after a win/win exchange where the blogger/readers get value from their comment but they also might get some traffic and kudos from the exchange.

The best of these commenters in my experience tend to use a personal name (and where possible use a personal avatar). They tend to leave less comments than the above groups but the comments are more effective.

Note: on avatars, it can be worth registering for a Gravatar account as this is often used for avatars on many blogs.

4. Lastly is the Value Provider Who Gets No Value Back

At the other end of the spectrum are a rare bunch of commenters who are all about delivering value but for one reason or another don’t promote themselves.

There’s nothing wrong with this – but I have come across a few bloggers of late who are either so shy or so scared of being seen as a spammer that they don’t ever leave a link back to their own blog.

I do partly understand the ‘shy’ thing but my advice to this group would be to know that if you deliver value that most bloggers wouldn’t mind you leaving a link back to your blog – or they wouldn’t have a field in their comments section for you to share a link.

One blogger who I came across lately said that he never leaves links because he heard it can get him in trouble with Google.

I do know that Google look for unnatural links (so those in the first two spammers categories above should watch out) but that they don’t have a problem with genuine comments. In fact, Matt Cutts (from Google) made this video on that topic last week.

How to Effectively Leave Comments on Other Blogs

Several years ago here on ProBlogger I suggested 11 tips for getting the comments that you leave on other blogs to stand out.

I think most of the tips I gave are still relevant today:

  • Be the Early Bird – earlier commenters will have their comments seen more than later commenters. However, being first on every single post can be a bit annoying.
  • Share an Example – built upon the blog post with an example that illustrates what the blogger is saying.
  • Add a Point – if there’s a point the blogger has missed, politely suggest it.
  • Disagree – you may not want to do this on every comment you leave but courteously disagreeing and then adding constructive reasons why can make a good impression.
  • Write with conviction, passion and personality – these things stand out and show you care about your comment.
  • Use Humour – this can grab attention of those scanning through comments.
  • Ask a Question – I’ve long noticed that those who ask good questions often become the centre of conversations in comments.
  • Formatting Comments – be careful with this. Some commenting systems allow you to bold or italicise comments. But don’t go over the top here as it could looks spammy. Comments systems like Disqus allow you to add images – this can also work to draw attention to your comment.
  • Helpful Links – if you’re going to add a link make sure it is of high relevancy and value
  • Comment Length – Are all the comments on a post long? Leave a short one – it’ll stand out. Are all the other comments short? Leave a long one – again, it’ll stand out.
  • Lists/Break it down – think carefully about how your comment will look. Will it be just one big block of text? If so – consider breaking it into shorter paragraphs or even a list type format

One additional tip that I’ve used a number of times: when you leave a comment that you think adds a lot of value to a blog post – share a link to that post with your own social networks.

This shows the blogger that you’re not only willing to engage but promote their blog (which creates a great impression). It also has the side benefit of providing your followers with something useful to read (both the blog post and your comment) and shows them that you’re engaging beyond your blog which can only enhance your brand.

You can also take this a step further by blogging about the post you commented on. I’ve only done this on a few occasions and only when I think the blog post and the comment thread are of high value – but it can have a big impact.

Oh – and one more tip, regular commenting on the same blog can be worthwhile. A one great one off comment can have an impact – but this impact grows exponentially over time. Just don’t become an over contributor and dominate the blog (see below).

What to Avoid When Leaving Comments on Other Blogs

Also written several years ago is a post I wrote about how you can actually hurt your brand by commenting on other blogs. In it I listed 10 things to avoid (this did cause a little debate on a couple of them so there are different opinions):

  • Excessive use of Signatures – this practice was more common several years ago but it involves leaving a link to your blog IN your comment in addition to in the link field that bloggers allow you to link to your blog in.
  • Excessive Self Linking – only leave links that are relevant and not in every post you write.
  • One or Two word Comments – it’s ok to show some appreciation and say ‘great post’ – but more useful to the blogger is for you to tell them WHY you think it’s a great post. Add some value.
  • Not Reading Posts Before Commenting – this is pretty self explanatory. I would also advise reading through other comments already left!
  • Flaming and Personal Attack – not good form. If you disagree, be constructive.
  • ’Anonymous’ Flaming – if you have something to say, put your name to it.
  • Always Being First To Comment – I’ve seen a few people do this over the years and they’ve ended up annoying the blogger and other commenters. It’s not good manners to always be the one to say something… conversation is also about giving others room to speak.
  • Dominating Comment Threads – similar to #7, listen, allow others to contribute and let your comments bounce off them a little.
  • Keyword Stuffed Names – I know this one causes some debate but my personal preference is to know the name of a person that I’m speaking to rather than refer to them as their Business Name.
  • Not adding value to the Comments – Ultimately this one is what it is all about. If you’re adding value, you’ll get value back. If you add no value, you could be hurting your brand.

One last thing to avoid – don’t comment just for the sake of commenting.

While leaving comments does have many benefits I think that most people get into trouble with commenting when they are just going through the motions of leaving comments as a ‘strategy’ rather than leaving comments because they genuinely want to engage.

What Did I Miss? (your chance to practice)

I’d love to get your input on this topic.

What commenting practices have you used or seen others use that either are effective or annoying?

I’m looking forward to some good comments on this post!

7 Blogging Mistakes That Will Give You Zero Traffic

This is a guest contribution from Ness.

Everyone wants more traffic to their blog, don’t they?

Image courtesy Moyan_Brenn, licensed under Creative Commons

Image courtesy Moyan_Brenn, licensed under Creative Commons

If you’ve been staring at your analytics wondering what’s going wrong, you might be making a few mistakes that are holding you back.

Not Having a Marketing Strategy

The first thing that should be thought about when blogging is how you will be marketing it. There are so many different ways to promote and market your blog, but without a good strategy or plan, you won’t be successful. This is extremely important at the start of your blog because you won’t have many viewers, so you won’t get any word of mouth visitors. All of the people you will be attracting are from your marketing efforts.

Rushing Content

Content that is rushed will always get very few viewers. Other blogs provide their viewers with quality content, so why would people want to stay and read a rushed post that isn’t as valuable? They won’t.

Take your time and create the best content as possible. You will attract more people and you will also be ranked higher (long term). The better the content, the more chance you have at ranking higher.

Improper Branding

Branding your blog can have some major effects on your traffic. Everything that you post for the public to see can be used to benefit your brand or the reverse. Bad branding will decrease your chances of attracting traffic, drastically.

Remember, branding your blog is more than the look and feel - it’s the tone of voice and the content too. You should be doing everything in your power to try and help your image and increase your authority.

Not Using Keywords

Keywords should play a big part in every blog post that you create because if you don’t know the phrases people are using to search, how can you expect to match those searches? Start by doing keyword research to find the keywords that will attract reasonable traffic for your topic. Keyword research can also help you find great blog ideas!

No SEO

If you want to rank higher, you need to apply search engine optimisation. Although I mentioned a few aspects of SEO so far, there are plenty of other techniques that you will need to learn and implement into your content. The truth is, if you want to rank higher you shouldn’t be posting content that is not properly optimised.

SEO is a long term strategy but once you have the basic SEO techniques down, you will see your blog posts creep the search engine results.

Not Understanding Your Competition

To be successful in your blog, you are going to need to know what your competition is up to. Research the marketing strategies they are using, what kind of content their audience enjoys, where their traffic comes from, and everything else they are doing to give you some ideas on how to improve your own blog. Using the information to come up with a better strategy will give your blog a better chance at being successful and attract more traffic.

No Social Media Presence

Billions of people log into their social media accounts every day and share content with their friends and family and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become an incredible way to gain a large amount of traffic to your blog – if used correctly.  If you can target an audience and provide them with something they want to read, then your blog’s traffic will see a massive increase in no time.

There are plenty of ways to attract more traffic to your blog, even if no one knows you yet, but if you’re making any of these 7 mistakes you’re sabotaging your own success.

Have you made any other mistakes when it comes to building your blog? Maybe you can help others avoid them!

Ness writes articles for MakeAWebsite – a site providing reviews on hosting companies allowing users to compare the performances of each host. You can go ahead and visit their website if you need any help in choosing the perfect host for your domain.

Get to Know Your Readers: An Example of When It Counts

Over on dPS today we launched a brand new photography eBook about buying the right camera gear. As I was writing a blog post to announce the new eBook I was looking for an opening to the blog post that might capture our readers attention.

Then it struck me – we had recently done a survey of our readers that contained the golden information.

A couple of months ago we ran a survey with a segment of our readership to gather some information to help us put together a media kit to approach advertisers.

One of the questions in the survey asked our readers about what photography gear they were planning to purchase in the coming 12 months.

The results of that question were fascinating both for us to give advertisers but also as we thought about what content we could publish on the site.

Screen Shot 2013 11 13 at 1 51 10 pm

Today I also realised that the stats gave me the perfect lead in for a blog post about the eBook.

Over 85% of our readers indicated that they were looking to purchase a camera or significant camera gear (a lens, bag, flash etc).

While we hadn’t decided to write the eBook on purchasing gear based upon these stats – we realised we were onto something!

The opening to the blog post became quite clear:

Screen Shot 2013 11 13 at 4 28 24 pm

Understanding Your Readership is So Important

The more you know about your readers the better position you’ll be in to serve them with great content, to find new readers, to build community with them and to monetise your blog.

Further reading on getting to know your readers:

The Secret To Growing Your Blog to Its Potential

I recently had a blogger sidle up to me at a conference and ask me to share ‘the secret’ technique that would allow see their blog grow to its potential.

While the blogger was asking with tongue planted firmly in his cheek (he understood that there was no single thing that would transform his blog) I do sometimes wonder if some bloggers are looking for ‘the secret’.

The reality is that looking for a single technique to make your blog grow to its potential is as crazy as looking for a single technique to make your child grow to its potential.

Actually I like the analogy of children growing to their potential… lets go down that path for a moment.

I have 3 boys. They’re 2, 5 and 7.

They started small (of course). Here’s our 2 year old a few minutes after he was born.

IMG 2688 2

He was little (although like all Rowses had a quite large head for his age).

I look back on that photo today and can barely believe that the 2 year old that runs around our house talking up a storm is the same person that I saw born just a couple of years ago.

I look at my 7 year old and am even more amazed at who he’s become already! He has grown so much – physically, emotionally, socially and so much more.

But how did he grow to become the 7 year old he is today?

The reality is that while it seems just yesterday that he was born, his growth has been little by little thing – every day since.

He certainly has had growth spurts where he’s shot up at a faster rate over a month than other months but he’s grown gradually and as a result of consistent feeding, exercise, sleep and nurturing.

As parents we can’t identify a single thing that has resulted in him reaching the point he’s at – it’s a result of small consistent and regular actions over time.

The same is true with your blog.

There’s nothing you can do that will suddenly make your blog reach its potential.

It will grow as you regularly add content, as you regularly look after the readers you have and grow community, as you regularly participate in places off your blog to find new readers and as you regularly nurture it by keeping its design and technical side up to date and working.

You will probably go through growth spurts where you see bursts of activity that results in growth in one way or another – but its what happens between the growth spurts that is just as important.

The key to success in blogging (and in many areas of life) is small but regular and consistent actions over a long period of time.

How to Take a Blog Break Without Losing Momentum

Paradise waiting

A Guest post by Stacey Roberts from Veggie Mama.

As anyone who has ever started a blog knows, it can be hard work. The internet never sleeps, and it seems at times neither do you! In the 24-hour machine that is the blogosphere and accompanying social media, there is the potential for our blog/life balance to be so far off kilter it’s all but disappeared from view. And the best way to deal with blogger burnout is to stop it before it begins.

Working for yourself means you also have the luxury of choosing when you can shift gears. And while you might not have a colleague to step up and take over in your stead, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your site will suddenly plunge to the depths of the internet where blogs go to die if you’re not there to constantly push it back up to the surface. The fear of being forgotten is very real, as the blogosphere is awash with ten more blogs to take your place should you quiet down. But the trick is finding the minimum amount of effort you need to spend to keep your hard-earned traffic, and ring in some help along the way.

Step One: Get organised

First thing you need to do is define how long you are going to spend away. I was having a baby, so I planned for three months and had a tentative plan for the fourth. Figure out how many posts would be the minimum to keep your readers interested, and set them into an editorial calendar. There are plenty of ways to do this – use the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin, use software, a downloadable template, your laptop calendar, a real calendar, or you can go old-school like I did and draw a colourful diagram with connector pens.

The next step is to fill those spots with content ideas. There are plenty of things you can write ahead and schedule – I did a mix of non-time-sensitive posts, recipes, tutorials and guest posts. Once you have an idea, then set aside a chunk of time to tackle the posts and have them ready to go. You already have inspiration because you’ve created a list of ideas ahead of time, all you need to do now is flesh them out. Or if you can’t find the time to write a bunch of posts in one go, then commit to writing two posts each time you sit down to write one. Publish one, and schedule the other for a future date. You also might like to re-post earlier content – we all have that one brilliant piece we wrote when we were first starting out, which only two people read. Bring it back out and let it get the love it deserves!

Spend some time either creating your own images for the posts, or searching for stock images. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to write a post once the title and image are sitting there, ready to go. Make a list of what you need and stockpile them, to save time searching for each one as you write your content.

Write a post explaining to your readers what to expect, and when you’ll be back. Most readers are happy to give you some breathing space and pop back when you return. You’re probably also doing them a favour – less posts in their readers mean they get a break from keeping up with the blogosphere’s breakneck pace!

Step Two: Get some help

If there’s too much to do and too little time, then call for reinforcements. Write a post asking for guest posters, outlining your contribution guidelines (it is much easier if they all come in the same format, because uploading 40 different blogging styles can be just as much work as writing the content yourself!), and setting your standards. You might like to include ideal post length, whether or not it needs an image (and be certain that the image they supply complies with copyright law!), and whether they need to write their own bio and supply a head shot. Guest posts are usually better received if you have written a small intro before they begin, and helps keep your voice on your site, which is why your readers read you in the first place. Submissions in HTML format are light-years more easy to deal with than document attachments and separate images, but not everyone is au fait with that.

Reach out to your networks and let them know you’re looking for contributions. Are you a member of blogging groups or organisations? Put the call out on your blog’s Facebook page and other social media accounts. You might like to open it up to up-and-coming bloggers looking for a big break, or you might like to only invite established writers with their own readership. Or you could simply hire professionals.

Judge what mix is best for you and your readers – keep your own content a constant, if you can. While your readers will appreciate you’re taking a break, and enjoy some fresh views, it’s your voice they want to read.

Step Three: Get away

Get right away. You’ve done all you can ahead of time. You’ve automated tweets and Facebook updates using the scheduled post’s permalink, and everything should run smoothly (you hope!) with little or no effort from you. Stepping back and clearing your head does wonders for motivation and creativity – soon you will miss your blog, and have ideas coming out your ears for future content. But until that happens, break up with your blog just a little bit. Get outside and get a life (as Darren says!), so you’ve got some depth to your writing. Don’t even open your laptop if you don’t have to. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say, and nobody likes forced writing. When you’ve reignited the passion for blogging, your words will flow better and you’ll create more of a connection with the reader.

If you absolutely can’t bear the idea of totally stepping away, or you don’t need to, then pop up every now and then with a fresh post. You never know when inspiration will strike, and it’s always best to bow down when it does. Keep up your networking and being part of the community with your social media accounts – maybe Instagram your break and the new things you now have time for, to keep your followers in the loop. If you’re troubled by dips in traffic on the days you’re not posting, then invite readers into your archives by tweeting a new old link for them to read.

Nobody likes a burnt-out blogger, and you and your readers both know when stuff’s getting stale. Take a well-earned break and keep the home fires burning so it’s still warm when you get back.

Have you taken a break? I’d love to hear any tips you learned along the way.

Stacey Roberts is the blogger behind Veggie Mama, and when she’s not writing about good food and motherhood, she’s teaching media law at university. Or avoiding the laundry. She’s an Instagram ninja here, on Facebook here and tweets @veggie_mama.