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6 Essential Twitter Tools to Find and Connect With Influencers

This is a guest contribution from Adam Connell, blogger at Bloggingwizard.com.

In the following post you’re going to discover a wide range of powerful and useful tools that will help you find and connect with the influencers on Twitter.

There have been a lot of great posts here on ProBlogger, a few of the best ones can be found here, here and here.

I’m going to be taking a different look at what is possible on Twitter.

This isn’t going to be just another list of tools that you can use to manage your Twitter profile – we are going to be talking about how to identify and connect with influencers in within your niche.

Before I dive in, I want to give you some background information on why you need to find and connect with influencers within your niche.

Influence Marketing

Influence marketing is all about identifying who has influence within your industry or niche and market directly to them.

Think about it like this, there are influencers within most niches or industries on the web and they have an existing audience so the ultimate aim of using these tools is that you will be able to tap into that audience and use it to market your blog.

You can use other platforms to find and connect with influencers, but ultimately Twitter influencer marketing is much more straight forward and there are enough tools on the market to help you.

Please note that there are an enormous number of tools available that can be used for influencer research and an even larger number of tools for Twitter in general – this is not an exhaustive list by any means.

Twitter Influencer Research Tools

1. Simply Measured

Simply Measured influencer tool

Simply Measured is a social analytics tool that will give you access to an incredible range of reporting and data collection tools.

At first glance, their subscriber toolset is quite expensive, but they do have an impressive range of free reports that you can have access too. They’re not just limited to Twitter either. Some of them include LinkedIn, Facebook, Vine, Google Analytics and more.

There is even a report that gives you a detailed combination of analytics that incorporates both Twitter and Klout data.

Simply Measured’s reporting tools will allow you to identify exactly who has the most influence among your network of followers.

This will tell you who you need to connect with and build relationships with.

2. Twtrland

Twitterland influencer tool Twtrland is an incredible social intelligence research tool that works with Twitter and Instagram. It excels at allowing you to easily find influencers and find market insights.

There is a free option and premium option ($19.99 per month), even the free account is still incredible powerful but you just won’t be able to export reports and lists.

There are a few other restrictions but one of the reasons why I like this is that you can still actually use the free account, most free accounts are restricted to the point where it is pointless even using (and then you subscribe of course).

You will get some interesting data about your Twitter account, but what you’re looking for here is to look at the follower’s analysis.

There is an immediate breakdown of the demographics of your Twitter followers – top followers, countries, cities and skills of your followers but the real fun stuff happens when you click ‘browse all’.

Twitter Land influencer tool

Next, tick the ‘power user’ option under Typecast, select your metrics, skills and other demographics – this will show you an incredible list of all of the people that you need to reach out to and connect with.

3. InkyBee

Inky Bee influencer tool

InkyBee is positioned as a blogger outreach tool but it also excels at finding market influencers.

Whether you’re doing blogger outreach or influencer research, the process is the same.

Add a ‘list’ and name it as the market you’re searching for influencers in then add a discovery job by inputting 3 different terms that you would imagine influencers to talk about in a single blog post.

InkyBee will go out and find blogs from all over the web that fit your search terms and pull in some really useful data that is outlined in the image above.

You can order them by different metrics and then export to PDF or Excel documents too.

The way I usually use InkyBee is to find influencers but also gather data of other influencers that I have discovered using different tools because you can manually add lists of blogs.

5. Commun.it

Commun.it influencer tool

Commun.it is a great tool that can separate out your followers and people you follow into a number of different categories while giving you the tools you need to help build and maintain valuable relationships.

The influencer research is essentially done for you because one of the categories just so happens to be influencers; along with supporters and engaged members.

You can use this to follow and continue to connect with these users and continue to build powerful relationships.

One of the difficulties that people sometimes have is what to do next, who do you respond to? Who do you follow? Who do you engage with?

Commun.it actually lists these all out in a straight forward dashboard so you don’t need to leave the page and go into another Twitter management tool.

5. Followerwonk

Followwonk influencer tool

Followerwonk is bundled in with Moz Pro so it does mean that is a paid tool starting at $99 per month but it also means access to some really helpful tools that go beyond Twitter and even social media.

You can do a bunch of different things like compare users, track who is following you, analyse and sort followers but where this really helps with influencer research is the search function.

Just search for a phrase that is particular to your market and you’ll get a huge list of Twitter users that you can export to Excel and then filter by social authority and the number of followers they have (along with a bunch of other helpful data).

6. Twellow

Twellow influencer tool Twellow is essentially a database of Twitter users arranged by a variety of categories and then by the number of followers a user has.

You can then dive deeper and view a user’s profile which pulls in social profiles along with their website.

There is a search function too so you can find users that talk about the exact topic that you’re looking for.

This platform does revolve mostly around the number of followers a user has, the metrics aren’t much more complex than that but it’s still a huge database that makes users easy to find in various niches.

The important thing to remember is that just because someone has a lot of followers, doesn’t mean they get a lot of engagement; this is why I like to search Twellow for users with websites and add them to InkyBee to get some more comprehensive data.

Summary

You may have noticed that I haven’t listed Klout or Kred as one of the Twitter influencer research tools, and I have my reasons for that.

I have found that these tools are better at monitoring my own influence within particular verticals, rather than finding other influencers. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but as bloggers we only have a finite amount of time to spend on certain tasks so we need to focus on using the right tools for the job at hand.

There are a lot more tools that you could use for this too, but the idea of this post is to make things easier for you, and I haven’t found every tool on the market yet.

So I’ll put the question to you – which influencer tools are you using right now?

I’d love to hear more in the comments below, whether you use them for Twitter or any other social platform.

Adam Connell is the operations manager at UK Linkology. He can be found blogging over at Bloggingwizard.com, where he talks about marketing, social media, SEO and a few other topics. Follow him on Twitter @adamjayc.

Is Blogging Still Relevant in a World of Social Media? [6 Reasons Why I Think It Is]

“How relevant is blogging for today in a world of so many types of social media?”

I must hear this question – or a variation of it – at least once a week. So I thought I’d open it up for some discussion to the wider ProBlogger community.

What do you think?

My feeling is that blogging is a very relevant option for developing a web presence but as the question states – there are other legitimate options too.

Each option has their own pros and cons and depending upon your goals and your resources (including how much time you have) you may choose to do all of the options available or just choose some.

Why I Think Blogging is Relevant

A few of the main arguments why I keep blogging as opposed to just using social media include:

  1. if self host your blog and use a blogging platform like WordPress.org you retain full control over your blog and what it looks like, how you monetize it and what kind of content you can put on it
  2. a blog allows you a lot of freedom in terms of length of posts (as opposed to Twitter/Facebook which limit length) and the design of your posts (i.e. inserting images, sub heading, bolding etc (G+ does give you some of this control) etc
  3. As long as you maintain it and pay for your hosting your blog can stay up forever and is not there as long as the social network may operate or be a relevant medium for people
  4. For me a blog is a place that I archive and showcase my best longer form and meaty stuff – social is an important place for researching what I write, sharing it and building community with my readers
  5. Much of what is shared and discussed on social media is links to longer form content – I want to be a creator of that
  6. In my experience it is easier to monetize and make sustainable a business based upon a blog over a social media account

Note: there will always be exceptions to the above. For instance G+ does give you some formatting options, I do know some people who monetize social media well etc – but in general I think the above stands up well.

Note 2: I’m certainly not arguing blogging is the only way or that you need to choose between blogging and social media. I use both but if I had to choose just one (which none of us have to) I’d choose blogging.

Why Others Think Blogging is Relevant

When I asked on my Twitter account yesterday for why my followers blog when they could use social media I got some great responses along these lines like:

I call it “share the message own the destination” – from Gavin Heaton

because sometimes thoughts should be developed beyond 140 characters or less – from James Woods

most of the value I get reading anything online still comes from longer format – from Reuben

I blog because it gives my voice and content a home. #SM platforms can delete anything I say if they so choose. – from Jessica Cue

Because the content is owned by me, not subject to the fine print of the legal text of a socmed service.Scott Fitzgerald

I SM to support my blog, I like the fact my blog space is my own to be me in. SM has it’s own rules depending on platform. – by Jessie Reid

Add Your Thoughts

The above thoughts (both mine and others) are just scratching the surface of this topic – I’d love to get your perspective on the relevancy of blogging for today in comments below!

10 Hurdles I’ve Faced as a Blogger and How I Got Over Them

Last night while speaking at a small event here in Melbourne I was asked to identify the most common hurdles that bloggers face in building profitable blogs.

It was a tricky question to answer – not because there are not many hurdles… but because there are so many and each blogger seems to face their own unique set of them.

Here are a few of the hurdles that I’ve faced and some further reading on how I got over them.

Super Track and Field Meet

1. Technical Know How

When I started blogging I was using the web for email and occasional research for essays for the study I was doing. I’d used IRC chat but had never created a web page, had never ‘coded’ anything, had no understanding of how to register a domain or get a site on a server and had no ability when it came to designing a blog.

As a result I made a lot of mistakes in those early years with poor choices of blogging platforms, domain names etc.

The big lessons for me in this was that while there was a lot I didn’t know about blogging and there was always something to learn (and there still is 10 years later) you really don’t need to know it all at once.

Start simple and grow your knowledge and skills as you need them – and as you’re able you might also like to look at partnering with others or outsourcing to people who complement your skill set.

Further Reading: I’m not technical enough to blog: Misconceptions Bloggers Have #4

2. Fear of Looking Stupid

As a result of #1 one of the earliest challenges that could have held me back was looking stupid. I have distinct memories in the first few months of blogging where I would compare my very poorly designed and badly written blog (at least that’s what I saw) with other bloggers who seemed to know what they were doing – I remember wondering if people were reading purely for a laugh.

Luckily I got past this fear and kept working on developing my blogging voice and skill set and in time the fear subsided.

I think the other key for me in overcoming this fear was to focus my energies on creating content with my blog that attempted to solve tangible problems that I knew people had. I think by taking this constructive approach you create a useful blog that is pretty difficult to critique.

3. Finding a Focus

My first blog was one in which I talked about many many topics. It started out focusing upon my work (I was a minister) and so I used it to talk about Church, Theology and Spirituality but over time it broadened to talk about my other interests (movies, politics, photography, life in Australia and later blogging itself).

The more topics I wrote about the more I enjoyed blogging but the more push back I got from readers who didn’t always share my eclectic mix of interests. It wasn’t until I started new blogs for different topics that I began to find my groove and my readership really began to grow.

Further Reading: How to Choose a Blog Niche

4. Bloggers Block

A few years into blogging I had my first bout of bloggers block. The creative juices were not flowing and I would sit at my computer staring at an empty draft of a post and wonder if I’d ever come up with something to write about. The first time it lasted a week or so but I had numerous other bursts of it periodically over the years that followed.

Following are some tips on how I overcame bloggers block.

Further Reading: 11 Tips to Breaking Bloggers Block Through Solving Reader Problems

Also Check out: 31 Days to Build a Better Blog to help you kick start your blogging if it has lost motivation.

5. Bloggers Burnout

Similarly I also went through times when I almost burnt myself out with the amount of work I was putting into my blogging. At one point I had over 20 blogs running at once and was trying to post to them all each day. It was a recipe for disaster and the quality of my blogging suffered – as did my health.

The solution? I had to scale back. I decided that in order to be able to sustain my blogging I should have just a couple of blogs that I enjoyed writing and could throw myself into. This raised the bar in terms of the quality of what I was doing but also gave me more energy for those projects.

6. Personal Attack

Blogging has always been a medium where you put yourself ‘out there’ with your ideas and will from time to time get people critiquing what you do and write. This is all a part of blogging – however there have been a couple of instances over the last 10 years where the ‘critique’ of others began to feel more like a personal attack than a constructive and genuine dialogue or critique.

This takes its toll and you do wonder whether it is worth it all. This particularly was the case on one occasion where the attack became quite personal and physical in my ‘real life’. Not a nice situation but thankfully one in which things worked out in the end after a frightening encounter.

There’s no real ‘solution’ to this one – I guess you get thicker skin over time when you blog for years but you also develop positive connections with others that help to support you when times get tough!

7. Building Readership

When it comes to building a profitable blog there’s no escaping the need to build a decent sized readership. Every blog monetization strategy I can think of relies upon having people read your blog in order for you to make money and so this is something we all face the challenge of as bloggers.

This is a particularly frustrating challenge and I remember many times where I almost lost hope after many many hours of writing the best quality content that I could only to find that nobody was reading it.

Further Listening: Listen to the ‘Finding Readers for Your Blog’ Webinar for everything I know about finding readers for your blog.

8. Finding the Right Monetization Model

Having readers is not enough. I know of many bloggers who have built amazing readerships only to find that what they thought would be the right monetization model simply doesn’t work in their niche and with the type of reader that they have attracted.

For me I’ve found I’ve needed to be constantly experimenting with new ways of making money from what I do. I started with using ad networks and some basic affiliate marketing and as my blogs grew found that new opportunities would open up (such as selling ads directly to advertisers and creating my own products to sell).

Further Reading: Here’s my 12 blogging income streams and how I added each gradually over 10 years.

Further Listening: Listen to the ‘Monetizing Blogs’ Webinar

There is no one way to monetize a blog and over time what works might change. It can be a real juggling act!

9. Time Management

There are just not enough hours in the day some days!

Coming up with topics to write about, writing content, editing it, promoting it, answering comments, engaging on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, LinkedIn…. and more), commenting on other blogs… the list goes on of things you feel the need to do as a blogger.

Add into this mix having a ‘real life’ and the challenge of doing all this between your ‘day job’, family, social life and the logistics of running a household and it is not easy.

Time management is the #1 struggle I find most bloggers have – and it only gets harder as your blog grows!

Further Reading: Check out BlogWise – our eBook on becoming a more productive blogger that features advice from 9 successful bloggers.

10. Scaling Yourself

Related to time management is the challenge of trying to scale yourself.

With the right server set up a blog can pretty much have unlimited readership and reach and still keep running. The challenge of growing a blog isn’t so much a technical one – it often is more about how keep your blog personal and to stay accessible to your readers.

In the early days its relatively easy to answer every comment and reply to every email and tweet while also creating blog posts… but as your readership grows it can become more challenging and something usually needs to give.

The choice is either to just let some reader engagement go, or to bring someone on to help you manage it (and loose some personal touch) or to work longer hours (not sustainable in the long term).

I still don’t feel like I’ve got this challenge right – but keep working at it!

Further Reading: Making Yourself Accessible to Readers

What Hurdles Have You Faced as a Blogger?

As I wrote this post I realised just how many more huddles and obstacles I could have come up with (in fact I may just publish a post with 10 more).

Which of the above resonate most with you? What would you add?

11 Characteristics I Look for When Hiring Writers for My Blogs

Two months ago I went through the process of hiring a small group of writers to write weekly tutorials for Digital Photography School. I’ve written about the process of how I hire writers previously here on Problogger but today want to share some of the qualities I look for in the writers I hired this time around.

My hope is that it might both help those who are hiring bloggers but also those who are applying for blogging jobs.

Of course it is virtually impossible to find a blogger who is perfect in each of the following areas – however the more they have the higher the chances of me hiring them.

11 Characteristics I Look For When Hiring Bloggers

1. Expertise and Experience in the Blog’s Topic

This is fairly obvious but needs to be said. When I recently hired bloggers to write for my photography blog I of course needed them to show that they were experienced in the area of photography.

My blogs are ‘how to’ type blogs so in order to be able to teach one needs to understand their topic.

This does not mean I only hire highly experienced and trained experts – I have hired less experienced writers who bring other skills to the table – but expertise certainly helps.

When I invite applications to be submitted I always ask applicants to share their experience and to submit previously written work and to show their photographic portfolio. It is usually pretty evident from this as to whether the person understands what they are talking about.

2. Passion for the Topic

Experience is one thing – but being able to write with enthusiasm and passion for a topic is one thing that can add a lot to a blog post so I’m also keen to find writers who LOVE the topic.

In many ways I’d sooner hire someone with an intermediate experience level but who was very passionate than someone who was an expert who writes in a way that makes the reader wonder if the person cares about what they’re writing about.

Passion comes through in the way an applicant communicates in their application but also in previous work and also in the test posts that we have our applicants submit.

3. Quality of Posts

Another no brainer but you’d be amazed how many application I receive that show a lack of attention to detail in the actual application. If you’re applying for a writing job you need to demonstrate some quality control in what you submit and the examples that you give of your previous work.

Our hiring process invites short listed candidates to submit a ‘test post’ (which I pay for) which helps me to see if the person has the ability to write at a reasonably high quality.

I’m not so interested in the style of writing (we hire writers who write in a conversational tone, those who write more technically etc) but I’m looking for posts that communicate clearly and deliver value to readers.

4. Understanding of the Reader

The very best writers that I’ve hired have an incredible ability to understand, have empathy for and connect with readers.

This is a quality that is difficult to describe or teach – but it is something I’m always on the look out for.

I think part of it comes down to putting yourself in your readers shoes and understanding where they are coming from. I also think there’s a real skill in being able to show your reader that you know that they are there and that you want to help them in some way. Maybe it also comes down to writing with a more personal tone or in a way that injects a little of your own personality in your posts.

I’m not sure exactly what it is – but I know it when I see it – and so do readers!

5. Problem Solvers

This comes into a couple of the points above but I’m particularly looking for writers who solve readers problems. This again comes down to the fact that I have ‘how to’ blogs but every post that I write needs to solve a potential problem that someone reading might have.

Being able to teach and communicate in this way is no easy so when i see it I get excited!

6. Ability to Use WordPress

This one isn’t a deal breaker as it is relatively easy to train somebody to use most blogging tools but it certainly is an advantage when I get an application from someone who has experience with the blogging tool that I use – WordPress.org.

Again – it’s not going to stop me hiring you if you have other qualities listed here – but it does help a little!

7. Proven Track Record at Sticking at Projects

One problem that I’ve suffered from a couple of times now when hiring writers is that they start out hot but soon disappear – never to be heard of again.

A little digging into their history online in both of the cases that I’m thinking of reveals that they have a history of starting projects and not sticking at them (with a long string of inactive blogs, sites, social media accounts that started with a flurry but didn’t last.

Of course people chop and change what they do a lot these days but I’m particularly interested in hiring people who will be around for a while to develop relationships with my readers – so these days I do check to see if they’ve stuck at their own projects for long.

8. Applicants Agendas

I want the interactions that I have with those I hire to be win/win. This is why we pay those we hire but also why we give them generous bylines and allow them to do some promotion of their own projects to our audience in those bylines and occasionally in posts.

However every time we open up applications to hire writers there are a handful of people who see the job as an opportunity to promote themselves above anything else (and at the expense of the site and readers).

These are the applicants who use their test posts to link back to their own blogs, eBooks and social media accounts in every paragraph rather than using the post to showcase their expertise and helpfulness – which in turn will make our readers want to check them out.

I have no problem with our writers building their profile by writing for our site – but when that is the clear #1 agenda of an applicant and the usefulness of their submissions suffers as a result I’m unlikely to hire them.

9. Meeting Deadlines

I’m a little lenient with our writers on this one because I don’t want the quality of posts to suffer as a result of them being rushed – but it certainly helps your chances of getting hired if you submit your application and test posts when or before you say you will.

10. Proven Engagement

One thing that makes a writer stand out above the rest of those who submit applications is when you can see that they have a proven track record of community engagement on their own blog and when they answer the comments of those who interact with their test posts.

In this last round of hires there was a couple of great writers who submitted quite good posts who didn’t acknowledge any of the comments that they got. Contrast this with a writer who didn’t write a post that set the world on fire but who answered every single comment left and who showed a willingness to learn from the commenters. I hired this last writer because I could see he was genuinely interested in our readers.

On a similar note I also look to see if writers promote their own content to their own social networks. While writers don’t need to have a big social media following (although this can be a bonus) demonstrating that you’re willing to share what you write with the network you have helps.

11. An Understanding of Writing for the Web

The last thing that I’m looking for in applicants are those people who have an ability to write content for the web.

If you write content that can be scanned, that uses images well, that is well optimised for SEO, that uses great headlines, that is the kind of content that people will share on social media etc – then you’re going to be in with a better chance of being hired.

What Would You Add?

While I’ve never hired a writer that scored a 10 out of 10 in each of the above areas these are the types of characteristics I’m looking for when hiring a blogger.

What would you add to the list?

5 Intellectual Property Laws about the Internet Bloggers Need to Know

This is a guest contribution from  JT Ripton, a Freelance writer from Tampa.

An image depicting IP Law

Image via Flickr by auggie tolosa

Intellectual property law protects much of the content that you enjoy on the internet. Though you aren’t always required to pay to enjoy this content, that doesn’t make it free for all types of use. Since many intellectual property laws haven’t yet been adapted specifically for the Internet, here’s a rundown of the basics you can use to safely guide your decisions.

Photos and Images are Not Free for Use

Quick and simple searches like Google Images make it seem like the Internet is overflowing with free photos and images. However, copyright law protects most of these photos. If you’re looking for images you can post on your blog, you need to look for those with a Creative Commons license. You can also pay for rights to use certain images.

Creative Commons Licenses Come in Different Forms

Creative Common licenses give you access to various forms of intellectual property. There are many different types of Creative Commons licenses. Before using something that’s protected under this type of license, you must carefully look at it to decide exactly how you can use the image. Some licenses allow commercial use while others do not. Some allow you to alter an image while others stipulate that it must stay in its original form. Attribution is typically required.

Most Movies, Music, and Television are Protected

Although there are many sites where you can get access to movies, television shows, and music for free, these downloads are typically illegal. Though the sites themselves are not violating any laws, you are if you share or download copyrighted material. You can legally view some movies and shows online, but you cannot download them. Network sites often show recent episodes of popular shows and sites like Netflix and Hulu offer access to movies and shows with a paid subscription.

Plagiarism Isn’t Just for School Papers

You undoubtedly learned about the dangers of plagiarism in high school and college, but these laws’ importance doesn’t end when you’re finished writing term papers and dissertations. Whether you have a blog yourself or you write for others, you cannot reproduce another’s intellectual property and take credit for it as your own. Cite your sources, use quotation marks when needed, and try to limit your works to your own unique ideas as much as possible. Referencing another article and quoting from a book are fine. Reposting an entire article or chapter of a published piece are not.

Permission Trumps All

When in doubt about a work, simply ask for permission to use it. Just as the Internet make it easy to find works, so too does it make it easy to contact creators. Many will gladly give you the necessary permissions when requested.

The Internet is a great forum for sharing everything from thoughts and ideas to your original photos, films, and musical works. However, it’s essential that you always think about who has the rights to the content in question and act so that you do not violate them.

JT Ripton is a Freelance writer from Tampa, FL, he’s been using the internet before most people even knew what it was.  JT writes about several of his interests including, blogging, all things tech, and useful tips and idea’s for a myriad of things. He likes to write to inform and intrigue.

How I Stopped Waiting to Become a Writer, Quit My Job & Launched My Dream

This is a guest contribution from Jeff Goins of Goins, Writer.

It took me six years to become a professional blogger. And four and a half of those years were spent waiting.

For years, I read blogs, bought books, and watched videos about ordinary, everyday people making the colossal shift from day job to living their dream. I seethed with envy and bitterness as I saw friends skyrocket to success, living out their passions.

What were they doing that I wasn’t?

All the while, I waited. Waited for someone to pick me. Waited for permission. Waited to be good enough to start.

And guess what? Permission never came. Until one day, when everything changed…

The Conversation That Turned Me into a Writer

A few years ago, a friend asked me an important question:

“What’s your dream?”

“Don’t have one,” I said.

“Sure you do. Everyone has a dream.”

“Ah, I dunno… I’m living it, I guess.”

“Really? Hrmph.” And then a long pause — “Because, well, I would’ve thought your dream was to be a writer.”

As soon as I heard those words, something in me stirred. Something that had been there all along.

“Well, uh, yeah…” I gulped, “I guess I’d like to be a writer… some day. But that’ll never happen.”

I sounded so sure, so certain that at 28 years old, I knew where the rest of my life was headed. Shaking his head, my friend smiled.

“Jeff… You don’t have to want to be a writer…”

And then he said nine words that changed me life:

“You are a writer; you just need to write.”

Turns out that was all I needed. It’s really all any of us need: to believe we already are what we want to be.

So that’s what I did. I started calling myself a writer. And I started practicing.

Practice Makes Better

After that conversation, I started blogging, guest posting (despite my fear of rejection), and sharing my work with the world. At first, nobody noticed or cared, and that was just fine with me. Because I was finally doing what I was born to do: writing.

It was good to blog in relative obscurity, good to practice without the whole world watching. This is a foreign concept in our world today. Everyone wants to be awesome now, but the road that leads to mastery is rarely a densely-populated one.

At the same time, I had a daily routine. I was, as Seth Godin says, practicing in public. Putting myself on the line. Forcing myself to be creative. Every day by 7:00 a.m., I had to post something. Seven days a week, 365 days a year. And this expectation I placed on myself was just what I needed. It made me better, helped me find my voice.

That one year of intense writing taught me more than the previous six years of writing when I felt like it. The lesson I learned was this: frequency, not quantity, is what counts in getting to excellence. Some days, I wrote for 30 minutes, while others I wrote for two hours. But the amount of time didn’t matter.

What mattered was that I showed up.

And that’s what turned a hobby into a discipline — and eventually a profession.

“This is the… secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight.” —Steven Pressfield

How I Built an Audience of 100,000 Readers in 18 Months

Initially, nobody knew me. So I interviewed influential people and A-list bloggers, people I wanted to learn from and associate with. And after awhile, I became friends with these folks, some of which invited me to write on their blogs.

Still, there were no overnight successes. It took me six months to get a mere 75 email subscribers. But something amazing happened around that six-month mark: The week I released a free, 900-word eBook for writers, I had over 1000 signups in seven days.

There was power, I learned, in giving more than taking, being generous instead of greedy.

Eight months in, I had amassed an audience of a few thousand followers (through guest posting and my free eBook), and a book publisher asked me to write a book. Within 18 months, those 1000 emails had turned in 20,000, and I was regularly receiving over 100,000 unique visitors to my blog each month.

I wasn’t making much money yet, but I believed that if I helped people, there would be a way to make a living.

From Side Project to Full-time Income

That next year, my wife and I were expecting our first child, and we weren’t sure how we were going to afford it. She wanted to stay home and raise our son, and on my salary it just wasn’t possible.

Someone told me that once you had over 10,000 subscribers, you had a six-figure business. So I decided to give that idea a try, throwing together an eBook in a few days. I sent an email to my subscribers, telling them I was offering the eBook at an early discounted rate. With that first eBook, I made about $1500 in a weekend. At the time, that was about half a month’s salary for me, an entire paycheck. In two days.

I couldn’t believe it. The next few months, I played around with affiliate products and started making a couple hundred bucks a month doing that. The side income was nice, but I knew I had to do another launch.

My second eBook, which was just a rewritten version of the first one, made $16,000 in six weeks. After that, I knew there was something to this whole “make money blogging” thing. Buried in my blog was a business; I just had to find it. Later that year, I released an online course, starting at a low price and gradually raising it with each new class. Every time I launched it, I got more students than the last.

By the end of my second year of blogging, my wife was able to stay home to raise our son, and I was preparing to quit my job. When we did our taxes, we were amazed to see we had not only replaced our income, but tripled it.

What It Takes

Although I’d read all the success stories and heard all the tips, I didn’t realize how much work it would be to build a popular blog.

In my first year of blogging, I wrote over 300 posts for my blog plus 100 guest posts for other websites. To do this, I had to get up every morning at 5:00 a.m. and often stay up well past midnight. I quit most of my other hobbies and focused all my free time on writing.

It wasn’t easy, but I was committed to the dream. Having spent so many years in frustration, unwilling to do the work, I was ready to invest the time — even if it took years — to get the results I wanted.

People often ask me what one thing I did with that made all the difference with my blog. And of course, I can’t think of one. Because it’s a process, a whole hodge-podge of things I did that made it work.

No single strategy can help you to get to your dream. No solitary experience or choice will lead to your big break. Well, except for maybe one:

Don’t give up.

Don’t quit. Keep going. Never stop. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t let go of the dream. You can do this. You will do this — if only you don’t stop.

That’s what’s missing with most blogs and with most writers. Every great story about some legendary entrepreneur I’ve ever read was rife with failure until one hinge moment when it all changed.

What made the difference? Why did Steve Jobs succeeded while thousands others in Silicon Valley didn’t? Why did J.K. Rowling become a worldwide phenomenon while many of her peers never will? And what can ordinary folks like you and me do to live extraordinary lives?

Don’t give up.

If I had to boil it down to three steps, I would say here’s what you need to do:

  1. Own what you are (i.e. writer, blogger, entrepreneur, etc.).
  2. Commit to the process. Do uncomfortable things, make friends with influential people, and keep practicing until people notice.
  3. Keep going. When it’s hard and scary and nobody things you’re any good, don’t give up. Persevere. In the end, we will be telling stories about you, but only if you don’t quit.

So what do you say? Isn’t it time you started really pursuing your dream?

You bet it is.

Jeff Goins is a writer who lives in Nashville. You can follow him on Twitter @JeffGoins and check out his new book, The In-Between.

The Why and How of Split Testing for Bloggers

This is a guest contribution from  Michael Johnston, co-founder of MonetizePros.com.

Split testing has become an absolute must for anyone running an e-commerce site or driving PPC traffic to a landing page. The benefits of disciplined experimentation have been well documented, and any serious e-commerce company has embraced split testing as a surefire way to grow revenue and improve ROI.

But split testing isn’t just for e-commerce sites. It can be a tremendously valuable exercise for websites that don’t have a product to sell or even a landing page to optimize. Bloggers and other publishers are often afterthoughts in split testing discussions and tutorials, but there’s a huge opportunity for this audience to utilize both the user-friendly and more sophisticated split testing apps out there.

If you’re a blogger or publisher looking to improve your website monetization and user experience, we’ll assume that your primary goals look something like this:

  1. Increase newsletter signups
  2. Increase pageviews per visit (i.e., decrease bounce rate)
  3. Increase social shares (Facebook Likes, Tweets, +1s, etc.)

If you have any interest in accomplishing some or all of those goals, there are a number of experiments that you can start running now. Here are 25 of them to get you started:

Nav Bar Testing

Your nav bar is some of the most valuable real estate on your site; it represents an opportunity to steer visitors to the pages you most want them to visit. There are several tests that can be run on the navigation bar to determine the layout that will maximize your conversion rates:

Test #1: Nav Bar Text

Try testing the text you use to describe each of the destinations featured in your nav bar. If you’re featuring a link to your newsletter, try several variations on that concept and see which get the highest and lowest click rates. For example you might try:

  • Newsletter
  • Free Newsletter
  • E-Newsletter
  • Subscribe

This experiment can be run for each section / link included in the nav bar; try different phrasings of each until you come up with the top converters.

Test #2: Nav Bar Colors

Changing the colors of the links in your nav bar is another easy-to-run test. This can be especially productive if there’s one nav bar link that you value above all others–a primary section of the site to which you’d like to drive traffic. Try contrasting that link in a number of different colors, and see which results in the highest click rate.

Test #3: Number of Nav Bar Links

Sometimes in a nav bar, less is more. Try experiments that remove some of the sections of your nav bar and leave only the sections of your site to which you most want to drive traffic. It’s possible that by removing some options you’ll get more total clicks (a result of eliminating the “analysis paralysis”).

Search Engine Land stands out as an example of a site that has a crowded nav bar:

 

Conversely, the blog at Ritholtz.com features only a few sections of the nav bar:

 

Newsletter Signups

For most bloggers and publishers, building an email distribution list is one of the most important parts of the audience development process. More email addresses means more recurring traffic, more regular readers, and more visibility for your content.

Converting a visitor who lands on your site to a newsletter subscriber is a huge win, and many websites devote prime real estate to an email capture mechanism. Here are some tests you can run to figure out the optimal layout for converting visitors from search or referring domains to newsletter subscribers:

Test #4: Signup Box Placement

Many publishers drive newsletter subscriptions through a widget in the sidebar of their sites. In most cases, a significant percentage of all signups comes from this placement.

Experiment with where this box goes on your site, or for an advanced implementation make it “follow” your readers as they scroll down the page.

Newsletter-Signup-Box

Test #5: Newsletter Signup Box Copy

The copy that accompanies your newsletter signup widget can impact your conversion rate. Try different calls to action to see what grabs readers’ attention and prompts them to enter their email address. Variations can be plain vanilla (“Sign up today for our free email newsletter”) or more bold (“Get the best [niche] content delivered to your inbox”). Come up with 3-5 different variations and see which performs best.

Here’s an example from MissyWard.com:

MissyWard newsletter sign up box

And here’s one from the KISSmetrics blog:

KissMetrics newsletter sign up box

Test #6: Subscribe Button Color

The color of the button that seals the deal for newsletter signups is probably an afterthought for most bloggers. This is one of the easiest tests to run; pick a few different color patterns for the “Subscribe” button and see if any stand out at attracting attention from visitors.

You’ll notice that a lot of newsletter signups feature an orange Subscribe button; that color is known to generate positive feelings:

Orange Subscribe Button

In their e-book on Conversion Centered Design, Unbounce notes the emotions associated with certain colors:

  • Red: danger, stop, negative, excitement, hot
  • Dark blue: stable, calming, trustworthy, mature
  • Light blue: youthful, masculine, cool
  • Green: growth, positive, organic, go, comforting
  • White: pure, clean, honest
  • Black: serious, heavy, death
  • Gray: integrity, neutral, cool, mature
  • Brown: wholesome, organic, unpretentious
  • Yellow: emotional, positive, caution
  • Gold: conservative, stable, elegant
  • Orange: emotional, positive, organic
  • Purple: youthful, contemporary, royal
  • Pink: youthful, feminine, warm
  • Pastels: youthful, soft, feminine, sensitive
  • Metallics: elegant, lasting, wealthy

Test #7: In-Content Newsletter Plugs

One of the best places to create new newsletter subscribers is within your content. While readers are digesting your content, they’re ripe for the suggestion of joining a mailing list that will provide them with more of the same. Here’s an example of one of our in-content plugs for our mailing list:

In Content Plug

Test out different implementations of this to see what combination delivers. Items to vary include the copy, position within content, and even the color / font.

Test #8: Newsletter Page Copy

In addition to a sidebar widget to capture emails, most blogs include a page dedicated to the newsletter sign up process. Try different copy on your newsletter signup page above the fields that will actually be filled out to subscribe. Variations to test may include:

  • Bullet points highlighting the benefits of signing up (the number and content of each can vary)
  • One sentence call to action (“Enter your email address below to sign up for our free e-newsletter”)
  • Pledge to not spam
  • No copy at all (simply a signup box)

Smitten-Kitchen-Subscribe-Page

There is a ton to test here, including location of subscribe box, color of the button, number of bullet points, copy of the bullet points, etc.

Test #9: Newsletter Page Ads

The screenshot above highlights another testing opportunity: try removing all ads from your newsletter signup page, and measure the impact on your conversion rate. In all likelihood, you’ll see an increase in signups; the page will load more quickly, and there will be fewer distractions for potential subscribers.

You’ll forego some revenue from deleting ad units, but may make up for it with increased newsletter conversions. So the variation might look something like this:

Smitten-Kitchen-Subscribe-Page-No-Ads

Test #10: Required Fields

If your site requires multiple fields to be completed in order to complete a newsletter signup or other registration (such as a free membership), there’s an opportunity to test the impact of changing the number of inputs required.

Here’s a site that requires first name and email address in order to get a copy of an e-book:

An obvious test to run here would be to remove the “First Name” field and measure the change in conversion rate with only one required input.

Test #11: Thank You / Confirmation Page

Once a visitor has completed the newsletter signup process, there’s still more you can prompt them to do. The “thank you” page that confirms a newsletter signup is often overlooked, but is a great place to test strategies to funnel new subscribers back into your content (i.e., lower the exit rate from that page).

To demonstrate, we’ll stick with the Smitten Kitchen example from above. Here’s where I land after signing up for the newsletter:

Smitten Kitten Thank-You-Page

I would guess that the exit rate from this page is pretty high; there is no clear call to action, and the link that directs you back to the site is hidden near the bottom of the page. There’s a great opportunity to do some testing here to pull new subscribers back to the site–a section with popular posts (including images) could be a place to start.

Joseph Kerschbaum put together a great article on this concept that includes some specific examples.

Test #12: Social Proof / Testimonials

In order to convince visitors to sign up for your newsletter or create an account, it may be helpful to use the testimonials of others. There are two primary ways to reflect your site in a positive light: volume and quality. Volume simply means using numbers to show how popular your newsletter is.

Here’s an example from ShoeMoney.com:

Earlier we showed the newsletter signup at MissyWard.com, which includes a testimonial to enhance the perceived value of signing up for the free newsletter:

MissyWard Testimonial

Test both of these methods for boosting the perception of your newsletter, and evaluate the impact it has on conversion rates.

Social Sharing

Increasing the social sharing of your site will lead to more pageviews, incoming links, and overall recognition of your brand and content. Here are some tests to run to determine the set-up that leads to maximum Tweets, Likes, and +1s:

Test #13: Social Share Positioning

Where on the site are readers able to share your content socially? The share buttons can live just about anywhere on the page, and you should be sure to know the impact that each position has. For example, here’s a site that positions them at the beginning of an article:

Here’s one (SEOmoz.org) that has them at the end:

 

And here’s one that uses an increasingly popular floating left sidebar implementation:

Floating-Side-Social

If you want to increase social sharing of your content, test different positions of your sharing widgets to see which locations result in the highest level of visitor engagement.

Test #14 Social Share Implementation

In addition to testing where social share buttons should appear, publishers can experiment with the look and feel. Here are three different examples to try:

Example #1:

Example #2:

Example #3:

Content-Related Tests

The way you lay out your articles or blog posts will have a big impact on how many pages the average visitor to your site views. By testing various implementations around your content, you can uncover the settings that will make your site “sticky” and generate more pageviews per visit.

Test #15: Featured Content

Many sites highlight their best content in a “Featured Articles” or “Most Popular” section. ReelSEO has a slick widget for highlighting different types of content:

Example of Featured Content

Driving higher engagement with Featured Content boosts time on site, pageviews per visit, and ultimately revenue. This is another great testing opportunity: rotate in different features, images, and positioning to this section and see which settings result in the most clicks.

Test #16: Images For Featured Content

When trying to draw your visitors’ attention to certain parts of your site, images can be a powerful tool to capture and guide the eye. Text is easily overlooked and ignored, whereas pictures tend to prompt an immediate response and may be more likely to generate clicks. Note the bottom of articles at the Crazy Egg blog:

Test #17: Sidebar Ordering

The sidebar–either left or right of content–is often used by publishers and bloggers to promote different services (such as newsletters or social media accounts) and sections of the site (such as specific pieces of content or content categories). Here’s an example that includes 1) newsletter signup 2) advertisements 3) popular stories 4) e-book 5) another e-book 6) more articles 7) upcoming events.

Example of side bar ordering

There’s a big opportunity to test the order of these offerings.

Test #18: Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are often used to orient your visitors on your site, and can also be tools for helping them discover additional content and features on your site.

Several aspects of breadcrumbs can be tested to drive engagement, from the structure to the font and colors. The Crazy Egg Blog uses a unique color scheme to draw attention:

Here’s the more detailed breadcrumb we use on our site:

And here’s one more example:

Best of the Rest

There are a number of other areas that can be used to steer visitors to the parts of your site that you particularly want them to visit (e.g., newsletter or membership signups, or your best content). Here are a handful more tests bloggers and publishers can run to get their funnels optimized.

Test #19: Footer

Not a lot of thought goes into the footer of a website, but this section represents another opportunity to funnel visitors to the stickiest and best parts of your site. There are lots of opportunities to test here, but perhaps a good starting point involves two very different strategies.

Here’s a footer that effectively functions as a sitemap, featuring links to just about every section of the site: 

Example of a footer

Here’s a much slimmer implementation that includes only a small number of pages:

There are some obvious extensions of this testing; you can try different layouts, copy, and color schemes as well.

Test #20: Search Box

Search boxes can help your visitors find exactly what they’re looking for, which makes your site stickier and more useful to them. If you want to drive higher engagement here, try changing the color of the search button and the location of the search box. Move it within the sidebar or try re-positioning above the fold and integrating it into the leaderboard:

Test #21: Wide Stripe

We’ve seen some cool implementations of a page wide stripe to promote newsletter subscriptions, free trials, or other actions. Here’s an example from the Crazy Egg blog:

This can be a great way to funnel visitors towards a specific objective, and there are obviously plenty of testing opportunities here as well. Try changing the call to action and color for starters, and monitor the impact on click rates.

Test #22: Pop-Ups

The pop-up offer is one of the most effective tools available for boosting newsletter subscription rates, They’re annoying, but they work. There are all sorts of variables that can be tested within the pop-up itself, from the color scheme to the offer to the copy used to capture email addresses:

Test #23: Post-Article Membership Offer

The real estate at the end of articles / blog posts can be a great opportunity to drive your readers deeper into your funnel. For example, here’s the call to action we include after the conclusion of each article that prompts readers to sign up for a free membership:

Obviously, there’s lots to test here; the copy used, number of lines of copy, color of the e-book cover, color scheme, etc.. If you have a call to action below your content, test out different combinations to see hat drives conversions.

Test #24: Arrows

In a recent e-book on conversion centered design, Oli Gardner from Unbounce sums up the effectiveness of arrows as tools to help drive visitors to the desired sections of your site:

As directional cues, arrows are about as subtle as a punch in the face, which is why they work so well. With so little time on your page, visually guiding the user to the checkout is a smart move.

Here’s an example from AffiliateTip.com, a popular affiliate marketing blog:

We’ve also experimented with arrows on pages that drive signups to our free memberships (with pretty good results):

Try incorporating arrows into pages or sections of your site where visitors are able to sign up for your newsletter or create a membership. Evaluate the impact this visual cue has on conversions, and test variations of the implementation (e.g., style, colors) if the results are encouraging.

Test #25: Author Bios

Once visitors have read an article or blog post on your site, there’s a great opportunity to present them with an offer to engage with or follow the author. This is especially true if you reinforce the authority of the writer with an impressive biography–and then serve up an easy opportunity to follow on Twitter (or other social platforms).

Here’s an example from Unbounce. Notice the prompt to follow the author on Twitter:

Here’s another example from ReelSEO:

And one from ESPN.com:

Try implementing an author bio section at the end of your posts (even if there’s just one author) and include an option for readers to follow you on Twitter and/or get your posts via email (i.e., sign up for your newsletter). Throw together a headshot, brief bio, and call to action and measure the impact on conversion rate through this placement. Once implemented, there are obvious opportunities to test effectiveness through tweaks to image, headline font, color scheme, etc.

Bottom Line

While most cases for split testing are geared toward e-commerce companies, this exercise can be a tremendously valuable one for bloggers and publishers as well. Conducting split tests across your site can help you boost newsletter conversion rates, increase social sharing and pageviews per visit, and generally make more money from your existing traffic.

Take advantage of the numerous resources out there for split testing, and start optimizing your site today.

Michael Johnston is a co-founder of MonetizePros.com, a resource devoted to helping publishers and bloggers make more money from their existing Web traffic.

How to Get Dreams Out of Your Head [And a Video of Me Wearing Tights]

Watch it with your Tweeple: Tweet that you’re watching this video

Last month I had the honour of speaking at the World Domination Summit in Portland.

Conference founder, Chris Guillebeau, gave me the brief of sharing my story and to share some tips and ideas for helping people to lead remarkable lives in a conventional world. He also said he didn’t want me to just talk about blogging – a task I found very refreshing!

I spoke on the topic of ‘Getting Dreams out of Your Head‘ and covered quite a bit of ground. In this video you’ll see my full keynote and hear about:
[Read more...]

10 Tools To Help Protect Your Blog From Content Theft

This is a guest contribution from Adam Connell, blogger at Bloggingwizard.com.

If you write or publish a blog, you’ll inevitably experience the gut-wrenching feeling of content theft at some point in the life of your blog. It’s not fair but it’s now just part of the world of online content.

What can you do to protect the content you slaved over?

There is no 100% fool-proof way to protect your content, but you can make it more difficult for content thieves to steal your work and to punish them when they do.

I’m going to share some ways you can protect your content from theft and give you some resources to use to defend it against thieves and scrapers.

Padlock on door and your blog content!

How Do You Know If Your Content Has Been Stolen? 

Posting a copyright notice on your blog is a deterrent, albeit a small one. A copyright notice lets would-be content thieves know that you understand your rights to the fruits of your labor and that you intend to protect them. Nevertheless, not everyone is going to be deterred by your copyright notice.

The following online tools can be used to discover whether your content has been stolen or not. What you do after that is another story.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts are simple e-mail alerts you can establish by notifying Google that you want to keep tabs on certain keywords or phrases. Copy a unique phrase in your blog post or the title of your post and ask Google to send you an e-mail any time it is published elsewhere on the Web.

Use a plagiarism checker

There are several plagiarism checkers online. All of them have their benefits. Grammarly is a proofreading service and grammar checker, but it will also check your text against plagiarism. Plagium is another one. However, unlike Grammarly, you can check an entire URL to see if your content has been plagiarized.

While Grammarly and Plagium both are good services, Copyscape is more recognized. Like Plagium, you can check an entire URL for plagiarism, and you can put a “Protected By Copyscape” notice on your blog, which should scare away a few content scrapers.

All three services have a free service level and a premium paid service for high volume users.

Small Steps To Protecting Your Content From Theft

While Google Alerts and plagiarism checkers can tell you that someone has used your content without your permission, there are other things you can do to protect your content.

These are small steps that help you maintain a little control over your content and ensure that you at least get attribution should someone use your content without your approval.

WordPress SEO by Yoast

This WordPress plugin is useful if you are using the standalone WordPress software. The plugin has a feature that allows you to add some code to your RSS feed so that if your post is republished elsewhere, then an automatic link will be inserted pointing back to your website.

Some blogs use scraper software to automatically republish content from around the Web. No human is looking at these posts. If your blog is included among the URLs added to the scraper script, then you’ll at least get a link back. Don’t count on that link being very valuable, but it is there.

Tynt

Tynt is a service that provides code for you to insert into your web pages and will also tell you how many times your content has been copied and pasted. When someone copies and pastes your content, Tynt will add a link back to your website.

Google Authorship

Google Authorship is a content marketing strategy that associates your name or brand with your content in Google’s search index. By implementing Google Authorship you are increasing your chances of retaining control over your content by having your photo image appear next to your content in the search rankings.

While that won’t stop content thieves from scraping your content, it will make it easier to prove the content is yours and it will be easier to have stolen content removed when you file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint. Learn more about Google Authorship here.

What You Should Do If Your Content Has Been Stolen

It is not always necessary to confront a content thief. You have to determine if there’s any real damage to your content being stolen.

First, ask yourself if the person is profiting from your content. If they are, then that’s a red flag. Secondly, ask if your reputation may be damaged by someone claiming that content. And thirdly, ask if it’s worth your trouble to pursue the content thief. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.

So let’s say that you determine you want to pursue the content thief and have them remove your content. Your first step should be to send them a friendly letter by e-mail, or by using their contact form, and asking them to remove your content. Alternatively, you can ask them to link back to your website.

If that doesn’t work, then you’ll have to take other measures.

You can start by finding out where their website is being hosted and contact the hosting company. Let the hosting company know that they are hosting a website that is stealing content. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the hosting company is obligated to prevent access to websites that have infringed on someone’s copyright.

WhoIsHostingThis.com

You need to find out who is hosting the website that stole your content. That’s where Who Is Hosting This comes in. Once you know who is hosting the website, you can then send a DMCA request to the hosting company to have the website taken down.

Remove content from Google

To have content removed from Google’s search index, you’ll have to file a DMCA request with Google.

One Final Step To Combatting Plagiarism: Creative Commons

As I noted earlier, copyright notices are small deterrents. The same goes for Creative Commons.

However, Creative Commons licenses are becoming more acceptable and more popular. If people know that you don’t mind them using your content for benevolent purposes, they are more likely to respect your right to that content and its privileges.

Creative Commons

You can learn about the various Creative Common licenses on the Creative Commons website.

It’s a wild Web out there

Be diligent in protecting your content and you will reap the benefits of it for a long time to come.

What sort of experiences have you had with content theft? Whether you have successfully stopped people from stealing your content or not, we’d love to hear about it.

Adam Connell is an internet marketing and SEO nut from the UK. He can be found blogging over at Bloggingwizard.com, where he talks about marketing, social media, SEO and a few other topics. Follow him on Twitter @adamjayc.