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Content Creation vs Content Promotion: Where is the Balance?

A few days ago we published a post on ProBlogger titled ‘Forget about Marketing: Concentrate on Blogging‘, which led to some interesting discussion on Twitter and in the comments.

I love the points author Nicholas Whitmore made in the post but I wanted to give a few thoughts, based on my own experience, on developing great content and promoting your blog.

Nicholas wrote some great arguments for focusing your energy on writing great content as the central way of growing your blog. He writes:

“When you write and publish awesome content on your blog, good things will come your way.”

I completely agree with this sentiment. As a blogger your #1 focus needs to be on producing content that is useful, engaging and of as high a quality as possible. Without it, all the marketing you might do will be wasted as you’ll just be directing people to something that is of no value to them.

As Nicholas goes on to write:

“When you write and publish boring content then spend hours on end building links to it, trying to force people to your website, good things will never come.”

Again, I agree with the sentiment expressed here.

However, on Twitter a discussion among some of my followers highlighted that some bloggers differ quite a bit on how much effort should be put into promoting a blog vs developing content for it.

  • On one hand, there were certainly people who felt that if you build a great blog that it markets itself.
  • On the other hand, there were people who felt that if you didn’t get out there and market your blog you ran the risk of all your hard work in developing great content going completely unseen.

While I think we all agree that the content on your blog needs to be of a very high focus, I’m also of the belief that if a blogger wants to grow their readership they also need to put effort into promoting that blog.

I like the idea of the marketing being taken care of by your visitors, if you have good enough blog post. In my experience, there are things you can do to promote your blog to help speed the process up, without compromising the quality of your posts.

In the early days of my own current blogs (here on ProBlogger and at dPS) I estimate I probably spent almost as much time writing content as I did working on growing the readership. In fact, I’m sure there were some weeks where I did spend considerably more time promoting my blog than writing content!

In short, I don’t see marketing and creating content as mutually exclusive – both are really important to me.

How did I grow my readership (or market my blogs)?

I recorded a webinar last year on this very topic with a load of tips in it. You can listen to it and see the slides here so I won’t rehash all of that but here’s a summary slide of the points I talked through.

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 1.53.20 PM.png

You can see that my process actually talks about the content that you develop as being a part of finding readers for your blog (both in points 2 and 8). But by getting off your blog to promote what you do you are certainly able to significantly grow your blog.

Point #9 shows that this is an ongoing thing.

For me, I’d say that the balance of creating content and promoting has changed over the life of my blogs over the years. This is probably partly because the life cycle of a blog but also due to my own personal circumstances and how much time I have available to work.

That said , I would always prioritise both on a daily basis… and would probably also add in that I prioritise other things too such as ‘engaging with readers/building community’ and also a focus upon ‘monetization’ (without which I can’t sustain what I do).

Where is the Balance of Promotion and Content Creation for You?

I’d love to hear how others get this balance right in your blogging?

Don’t Be Lazy: 9 Ways to Blog Smarter and Harder

This is a guest contribution from Eric Cummings who writes about art and philosophy for On Violence.

I’ve been writing this post for three years. What can I say? I’m lazy.

Or I should say, I used to be lazy.

That’s not the case anymore. Four years ago, my brother and I started taking our writing career seriously. I now write. A lot. On my days off from work, I regularly put in over ten hour days, just writing, editing and re-writing. I’ve learned how to work, both smarter and harder. You can too.

(Finally, an admission: though I wrote down an outline for this post three years ago, I resuscitated this idea for today’s post a few weeks ago.)

Tip 1: Forget the “To Do” List. Use Next Actions. 

“To do” lists don’t work because most people include “do’s” like “write a novel”, “pay bills” or “find web hosting”. I know, because that’s what I used to do.

Then I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Instead of “to dos”, Allen proposes “next actions”. “Next actions” answer the question, “What do I need to do next?” Instead of “start a blog”, your next action is “research domain registries”, “brainstorm blog title ideas”, and “list blog post ideas”. This way you know what you need to do next.

For every blog post I write, I have a “NA” written at the top, stating the exact next action, like “research the topic” or “edit post” or “proofread”. I can’t do the entire concept justice in a blog post, but I’d recommend everyone read Getting Things Done. If you can’t do that, when you’re writing a “to do” list, ask yourself, what do I need to do next?

Tip 2: Figure Out Where You Lose Time

A number of years ago, my co-writer started listening to a podcast on business advice called Manager Tools. One episode changed my whole perspective on time, the appropriately titled “Time Management”. Most importantly, I learned how to do a “time audit”.

A time audit records everything you did on a given day. For one week, every ten or fifteen minutes, write down what you just did. At the end of the week, analyze it. Where do you waste time? What did you actually work on? What can you differently in the future?

What’s our most valuable resource? Time. You may want to write, you just don’t have the time. Then figure out where your time is going. Trust me, this analysis will blow your mind.

Tip 3: Figure out Your Golden Hours

A few years ago, Darren Rowse keyed me into his principle of “Golden Hours”, the two or three hours of the day where everyone is the most productive. Some people work better in the morning. Others write better at night.

My golden hours occur between 9:00 to 12:00. Knowing this, when I have a day off, I make sure I’m writing during my golden hours. I do other tasks (chores, bills, answering comments) later in the day.

Figure out your golden hours and organize your day around them.

Tip 4: Break Up Your Writing…With “Productive Breaks”.

Ever find yourself doing chores before writing? It’s a common delay mechanism. Instead of delaying, solve this problem by planning out your day before you start writing.

If I know at the start of a writing day that I have chores to do, I plan on doing the chores in half hour chunks between bursts of writing. So I will write a guest post for an hour, then do dishes. Then I’ll research blog posts, then sweep. Then I’ll edit posts. Then go shopping.

Breaking up your writing day has two benefits.

First, you can clear your mind and recharge your batteries. Second, it frees your brain, which is still thinking about what your were writing about, to come up with new ideas. You can’t write straight for hours on end. Some people probably can, but I can’t. So I break up my day with “productive breaks”.

Tip 5: Break Up Your Writing…By Writing About Different Things

My co-writer and I write a lot of different things. Blog posts, guest posts, essays, research papers, screenplays and more. We do this because we like writing about different things. But more importantly, it breaks up our days. I can get more writing in if I write in different mediums about different things. If I only wrote screenplays, I’d get bored. If I only wrote blog posts, I’d lose energy.

Vary up your writing and you’ll work harder.

Tip 6: Monotask 

Multi-tasking doesn’t exist. Sorry, but your mind can’t input multiple streams of information at the same time. You can’t write an email and talk on the phone at the same time. It’s impossible. And switching rapidly between tasks takes away your energy and focus.

So turn off your email, Twitter and chat programs. Don’t answer your phone. Stay off the Internet, unless you’re doing research on a current project.

Tip 7: Use Email in Bursts

As I just said, email can be a horrific time waster, especially if you leave it open all day.

Try this instead: Check your email in one hour blocks throughout the day; hopefully once in the morning, afternoon and at the end of the day. This applies to social media like Twitter, Facebook and chat programs as well. While that seems like an outrageously small amount of time, with practice you’ll learn to get all your social media taken care of in these quick bursts.

Tip 8: Strengthen Your Will Power Muscle 

New studies show that “will power” is a muscle that we can train like real muscles. I’ve learned this the hard way. When I first started writing five years ago, I could only work for about two hours at a time. Every year that time has increased by two hours.

Today, for instance, I’ve already been writing for about five hours, give or take some five minute breaks and a twenty minute walk. I’ll probably write for another four hours, before I totally crash. I can only do this because I’ve been developing the writing muscle for a long time.

Another thought on will power: it will deplete itself. I lose energy at night, especially after I eat dinner. Understand this, and figure out when/why you crash and stop working.

Do something post dinner that requires less attention, like commenting or tweeting, than something you do during your golden hours.

Tip 9: Follow a Blogging Schedule!

My co-writer and I write our posts early, and schedule them ahead of time. When you’re blogging, force yourself to follow a schedule. Know that you’ll post two, three, or four times a week and stick to this schedule. It will make you a better writer and a better blogger.

There are no excuses for missing a week of posting. Write posts ahead of time, and create a folder of hold posts to use for emergencies. And write every week.

Eric Cummings writes about art and philosophy for On Violence, a blog on military and foreign affairs written by two brothers–one a soldier and the other a pacifist. Find him on Twitter, @onviolence.

How to Make Your Blogging Dreams Come True

“ONE DAY I’ll be a full time blogger!”

‘V’ – my wife – must have heard that statement 100 or more times in 2003-2004.

Me posing for my first ever press photo in 2003. Out of shot all my neighbours were watching on and wondering why I was videoing a guy taking a photo of me while sitting in my front yard.

It would usually be accompanied by a spread sheet and/or chart in which I showed her how the earnings from my blog had grown from $9 per month to $11 per month and me excitedly talking about how if things kept growing like that I’d be full time…. in 9 years time.

Back in those days I spent a lot of time dreaming about my future as a full time blogger.

I remember laying in bed at night, hoping  it would happen and wondering what opportunities might open up to make it a reality.

Those of you who have read the ProBlogger hard cover book know the story of how ‘V’ heard me talk about my ‘dream’ one time too many  and challenged me to take my blogging seriously.

In short, she challenged me to start treating my blog as a business ‘today’ rather than hoping it might be one at some point in the future.

Note: I wrote about this in my post ‘The #1 Reason My Blogging Grew into a Business

That challenge changed my mindset and was a huge part of making my dreams and hopes a reality.

We CREATE our Future

I recently came across this quote:

“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” – John H. Schaar

We don’t arrive at our future… we create it!

I wish I’d heard that quote back in 2003 when I began to experiment with making money blogging.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with ‘dreaming‘ of ones future. I just keep meeting bloggers (and people in other fields too) who seem to be stuck in the ‘dream’ phase.

The reality is that nobody really gets anywhere just by dreaming. There needs to come a time to ACT.

Just Do It

Do you dream of your blog one day being bigger, better, more profitable, or bring you better opportunities?

Just Do It!

Your future isn’t something that will just magically happen to you – you make that future.

So the time is now to begin moving in that direction through action!

Is it All Too Big?

Of course, giving the advice ‘just do it’ might be the kick up the pants that some people need to get moving but many bloggers I meet feel overwhelmed by all that lays ahead in order to create their dreams.

I often here one of two things from bloggers facing this:

  • There is too much to do
  • I want to do it perfectly

Both of these statements can cause paralysis and put your future on hold. 

Here’s my advice to you… (and I’m really writing this for me as well… because I feel both of those things too)…

Start With Something Small

Choose one small thing to start with that will move you toward your dream and do it to the best of your ability (tweet this).

Let’s break that down:

  1. Choose One Thing – if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the many things you need to do, you can end up doing nothing or trying to do everything, but failing. Doing one thing well, and then moving onto the next thing, will take you further than either of those options.
  2. Do a Small Thing – if you’re currently ‘stalled’ you need to get momentum so choose a smaller thing to get the wheels rolling. Achieving that small thing will give you energy to tackle the next bigger thing.
  3. Choose something that will Move You Toward Your Dream - it’s so easy to be distracted by tasks that seem like a good idea but aren’t really important in the scheme of your goals. Choose something that is directly tied to your ultimate goal (I’ll give you some examples below).
  4. Do it to the Best of Your Ability – if you only ever do things  you can do perfectly, you may never do anything! Do it as well as you can now and perfect it later. By starting you’ll learn so much and in the long run will produce something great.

What I’ve outlined above has been a strategy I’ve used many times over the years. Let me give you some practical examples.

Example 1 – Starting dPS

I put off starting Digital Photography School for a couple of years before I actually launched it (I’ve never admitted that before).

I had previously had a camera review blog that did well but I always dreamed of starting a more ‘tips’ related photography blog. I thought it’d be more satisfying to write and would have more potential to grow a relationship with readers.

I had every excuse in the book not to start dPS. I already had too much to do. I didn’t have the money to invest into a custom designed site. I doubted my own ability to write content on the topic. I couldn’t find the right brand/domain name…

The list went on.

However, I had the dream and one day I realised that if I didn’t actually start the blog that I’d never have any chance of arriving at that dream. So I started small.

  • I made a call on a brand and domain name – It wasn’t perfect but it allowed me to start
  • I started on GoDaddy Hosting – I knew it wasn’t the best option but it allowed me to start
  • I started with a free WordPress theme – it wasn’t as professional or customised as what I saw in my dreams but it allowed me to start
  • I wrote a handful of posts – I wanted to have more in my archives but it allowed me to start
  • I started with comments switched off to allow me to focus on creating more content – doing so fell short of my vision for a ‘community’ driven site but it allowed me to get moving

The design of dPS when it launched using a free theme.

When the blog launched I remember looking at it with a mixture of:

  • Dissatisfaction at all the things  I knew I could have done to make it better
  • Immense pride that I’d actually got the ideas out of my head and had finally implemented something

With the ball rolling, I was able to improve and grow what I was doing.

I moved to better hosting (and have done so 3 times now). I moved towards a custom design (we’re about to launch our iteration of the design). I’ve since published over 3800 posts and developed a team of writers. I switched on comments and added a forum area to build community.

The site is now 10 times bigger than any blog I had at the time I started it. It is still not perfect by any means (I have a long to do list) but it is a lot closer to my dreams than ever before.

Example 2 – My First eBook

My First eBook (now no longer available as we updated it)

I shared this story at the ProBlogger Event last year but don’t think I’ve written a post about it.

After a year of starting and then evolving Digital Photography School I began to see the opportunity to create a teaching product to sell on the site. I wasn’t sure at first what format would be best (eBooks, courses, events or something else) but knew there was an opportunity there.

I gradually settled on the idea of an eBook to test the waters with my audience but procrastinated and made excuses on why I should delay doing it for another 12-18 months.

Again my list of excuses was long and I justified my inaction with things like:

  • not having time to write and develop an eBook
  • not knowing how to set up a shopping cart
  • not knowing how to design or format an eBook
  • doubts about knowing enough about the subject matter

I put off the creation of that first eBook for a couple of years but managed to snap myself out of the paralysis and decided to start.

I decided to write the eBook about Portraiture – the topic my readers asked the most questions about and the one that I knew most about.

  • As I was time poor, I decided to get up 15 minutes earlier every day to create the eBook. I would have rather been able to set aside a week or two to work solidly on it but I had blogs to run and a newborn baby at home. I had some major sleep deprivation already so figured 15 minutes less sleep a day wouldn’t hurt! It wasn’t the ideal way to write – but it allowed me to start.
  • I decided to use some repurposed blog posts as the basis for the eBook. I’d rather have written it all from scratch but this approach allowed me to start.
  • I decided to outsource the design but kept it as simple and clean as possible to save on cost. I’d have rather had a beautiful/rich design but it allowed me to start.
  • I decided on a relatively simple and inexpensive shopping cart set up. I used e-junkie (aft) and synced it with PayPal. It wasn’t the most feature rich solution but was relatively east to set up and didn’t hold me back on launching.
  • I hada relatively simple launch. We launched it over 8 days with a pretty simple sales page and sales email to my list. I made a lot of mistakes in that launch and have a much more sophisticated process these days but I got the product launched!

I look back on the creation and launch of that eBook now with a mix of embarrassment at how simple it all was and pride at what I achieved as someone with no experience in creating an eBook.

It could have been A LOT better on many fronts but it was the beginning of something that has transformed what I do.

That eBook sold 4800 copies during its launch (bringing in a total of $72,000) which at the time completely blew me away (in the years after it sold a lot more) but the income from it wasn’t the best bit.

The most valuable part of creating that eBook was the lessons I learned in doing it.

That eBook and its launch became the template for future eBooks. I have now published a total of 12 on dPS, 6 here on ProBlogger and 1 on SnapnGuides.

The creation process of our eBooks has changed a lot (we no longer use repurposed content, now use editors, proof readers etc and have evolved the design quite a lot) and our launches are a lot more sophisticated but it all began with 15 minutes per day and doing the best I could!

More Quick Examples

This pattern of small steps towards big dreams is something that I could give you many more examples of.

Like how I got the ProBlogger hard cover Book published. It started as a draft for an eBook and some content that Chris and I had published on our blogs.

And how the ProBlogger Event was started. This has grown to be an annual event for 400+ bloggers but it started as a hastily arranged day for 100 bloggers in a dodgy suburban hotel.

Like how I developed 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. It started as a series of blog posts that evolved into a quickly produced eBook which grew again into the best selling ProBlogger eBook that we offer today.

And how I developed the ProBlogger Queensland Competition. It started as a crazy idea I got while sitting in an airport. I tweeted something and it ended up being one of the biggest campaigns I’ve ever done with a brand.

I’m certain that others reading this post would have more personal examples – I’d LOVE to see them in comments below.

Choose 1 Small Thing…

Let’s return to the take home advice…

Choose one small thing to start with that will move you toward your dream and do it to the best of your ability (tweet this).

I can’t emphasise enough how powerful doing this has been in my own business (and my life in general in other areas).

Give it a go – I can’t wait to see what impact it has for you! Please let me know what you decide to do and how it works out for you!

Challenge: Update Your Blog’s About Page

Today I want to set us all a little homework – a challenge of sorts – to update your blogs ‘About Page’.

This challenge evolves out of the embarrassing realisation that my own about page here on ProBlogger was dated and in need of a refresh.

It had been well over 12 months since I’d last looked at it – in that time I’d ended some projects mentioned on the page but also started new things like the ProBlogger Event – embarrassing!

It is particularly embarrassing because a blog’s About Page is often one of the first places a new visitor to a blog goes to check out what the blog is about, who is behind it and to make a decision whether it’s a blog that they want to subscribe to!

Many bloggers I speak with report that their About Page is one of their most read pages on their blog – get it wrong and you could be losing readers, hurting your brand or just looking dated.

So today I did a quick update of the page to fix the obvious problems and have put a fuller rewrite on the cards for the next week.

I also thought if my about page was dated – there must be a lot of others out there with similar issues so lets do a group challenge of sorts and all refresh out pages together!

There is no right or wrong way to write your about page but if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration check out this previous post on the topic – How Your About Page Can Make or Break Your Blog which gives some practical tips including:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Remember the mantra: What’s In It For Me?
  • Sharing Who the Blog is For
  • Being Personal – but not too personal
  • Determine the goal of your About page
  • Always end with a call to action

Once you’ve updated your About Page – please link to it below in comments so we can see the approach you’ve taken (I’m sure we could all learn a lot about creating great About Pages through seeing how each other does it).

Set Your Blog for Success With These Simple Tactics

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer, Ayelet Weisz.

Blogging is hard work.

You need to come up with fresh, quality materials on a regular basis, promote them, connect with readers, network with peers and mentors – and that’s before you even see a single dollar for your effort.

I’ve put together some simple business tactics to help you set your blog for success, so you can live the pro blogger dream.

Set Inspiring (But Realistic) Goals

Now that you’re your own boss, you’ve got to set up internal motivation. The biggest success stories didn’t get there with someone telling them what to do every five minutes.

Dreaming goals

Mark Aplet – Fotolia.com

A great way to keep yourself motivated is to set up goals. Of course, I don’t just mean any goal. Making a million dollars by the end of your first year as a blogger might not be the most realistic goal you could think of.

The truth is, you have no way of knowing what will happen by the end of your first year, and you have no control over of others’ choices – Will they read your blog? Will they buy your products?

However, you can eliminate some of these unknown factors by conducting research about the possibilities your market contains – and you can increase the chances of realising your dreams by setting a different type of goal.

Focus on what kind of content you’ll write, how much content you’ll write, how you’ll promote it and when.

Focus on numeral items, like 8 posts a months on your blog and 8 guest posts that you’ll pitch to big blogs. Don’t set a goal of publishing 8 guest posts, only of submission. If someone says no, you’ll still have the confidence boost of reaching your goal. Then, you can exceed it by pitching that guest post to an additional blog.

Track Your Progress

The next step is to get the gold stars out track your progress. Write down what you are doing, what your productivity rate has been and notice what times a day or situations support you in getting more work done.

Set a meeting with yourself – be it once a week, once a month or once a quarter – to see how well you did, to discover your strong points. It’s important to be honest on where you need to be more accountable or get support.

Encourage yourself to ask questions, to say “I don’t know”, to ask for help. Sometimes, that help will come in the form of adjusting your expectations or re-shaping your schedule. Embrace your humanity as you embrace your new blogging journey.

Give yourself time, be gentle – and leverage your failures

Starting a new venture is never easy. Acquiring an abundance of new skills and tools takes determination, focus and accountability.

You will make mistakes.

Give yourself a time of grace and don’t be hard on yourself. People around you might pressure you. They could be your friends and family members, they could love you and want the best for you – and they might not believe your blog is what’s best for you. If it takes you time to monetize your blog, and it probably will, they’ll doubt it even more.

Don’t get carried away with that. It will take time. Embrace it as an opportunity to show yourself you can do the impossible.

Support yourself through this time. Join professional online and offline groups, share your challenges with people who understand rather than with people who don’t, and plan ahead financially.

It might work best for you to save a few months’ or a year’s worth of salary, then take that time off paid employment and market like there’s no tomorrow. Alternatively, it might be best for you to start building your blog slowly, as you keep a part time or full time job.

Expect to make mistakes. 

These mistakes will be your guiding points to grow your blog even more as you go on. They could be transformed into guest posts on big blogs, case studies you can use to show your expertise (and how you turned failure to success) – and they can even turn you into a good mentor one day!

If nothing else, you’ll be able to look back one day and have a really good laugh. You’ll also be able to see how far you’ve come.

Socialise

Starting out at the blogsphere can be intimidating.People already know each other and the job.Friendships and communities have already been formed. Relationships with influencers are being shaped and re-shaped every single day.

Linked

Image copyright stock.xchng user lusi

This experience becomes easier once you feel there’s someone you could turn to. You, of course, need to have communication tools and the courage to connect when entering a new environment.

If you’re fearful about connecting with industry members, start small. Post comments on their blogs, then connect with them on Twitter or Facebook. Join online communities and reach out to one person at a time in a personal message.

Ask for their help, or offer a solution to a challenge they brought up. If they happen to just start out as you are, perhaps you could be a force of empowering support to one another, sharing tips and encouraging each other when one loses sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.

Maybe you’ll even find you have additional interests in common!

Did you face any of these challenges when you were starting out? How did build your blog? Or perhaps you’re just starting out and picked up some great tips for the road ahead. Share your story!

Ayelet Weisz (www.AyeletWeisz.com) is an enthusiastic freelance writer, blogger and screenwriter, who focuses on business, technology, travel and women’s issues. Get her free report, 48 Must-Live Israeli Experiences, on her travel blog, and connect with her on Twitter.

Are You Ready to be a Full-Time Blogger?

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer, Ayelet Weisz.

A big part of the pro blogger dream is to be your own boss. No more office politics, competitions with colleagues or having to prove yourself to someone who reaps all the benefits of your hard work. You’ll set your own rules and live life your way.

Yet if you’ve never had to be accountable to yourself on a large-scale, long-term project, you might find yourself overwhelmed.

1. Unrealistic expectations. If you don’t know your own limitations, you could end up planning to invest too little time or leaving too little flexibility in your budget. You could also work yourself to exhaustion.

2. Getting lost. Being a full-time blogger leaves you plenty of opportunities to get lost – online, in sleep, in your own fears.

3. Missing tools and skills. There are lots of skills to master and tools to learn – not only in your chosen field of blogging, but in business management, time management, marketing – and the list goes on.

Boy looking confused

Do You Have The Skills?

Fortunately, tools and skills to be a successful full-time blogger are learnable. You need to incorporate the process of learning into your business plan, and don’t despair if you find yourself taking longer in one step or another. Instead, relish in your blogging journey and, as you challenge yourself, remember to give yourself a break.

Would You Hire You?

Few jobs will take you in without an interview – and your blogging business should be one of them. You must define the job before you can find out if you’ve got the right stuff.

You need to research what it means to run a full time blog and own a business, how to live on fluctuating income, what kind of marketing strategies are usually used, and where you could break the marketing rules to help your blog shine.

Read sites and magazines about your chosen niche, as well as general sites about professional blogging (like Problogger!), entrepreneurship and small businesses.

Once you have a vision of what your daily and annual life could look like, ask yourself the tough questions:

  • Are you ready to get started on the job?
  • Which areas require more learning, practise, tools or expertise?
  • What could you do with the skills you have right now to start building your blog?

Just as importantly, put on the interviewee’s hat – and ask yourself if you even want the position.

Go on at least one good course

Getting educated is valuable in gaining a deeper understanding of what you’re getting yourself into, as well as to speed up the process. Your chosen course, or several courses, might be about getting certification or about improving through feedback you’d get from professionals on your creative work. It might be about writing, marketing, business management or creating more self confidence in your life.

You could choose to learn all these aspects or some. You could learn them one by one or mix them together. You could decide learning is another business task, like marketing – or you could set aside a concentrated learning time before you take your first practical step in building your blog.

While you’ll likely keep on learning as you develop your blogging business, it’s easy to get caught up in the learning and never take a step beyond that.

Give yourself a deadline for when you absolutely have to go register your business or pitch a guest post for the first time.

Do You Have The Budget?Piggy bank

Importantly, remember that you need to save money in advance and put it aside to cover the cost of the course and the hours of paid work that you might miss.

Don’t forget to budget enough time for implementation either – homework tends to take longer than what you first expect.

Do You Need a Mentor?

At times, it’s recommended to hire a mentor even if you took a course or few. With a mentor, you’ll be able to ask questions you might not feel comfortable asking in a group, get a sense of direction and compile a list of actions it’s best to take for your specific blog and situation.

You might choose to keep this mentor on payroll for longer, yet sometimes even an appointment or several will do. Then, you could go on your merry way and sign up for another session when you feel one is needed.

Another option is to join a community of peers or top professionals, or one that’s combined of various levels of skills and successes. These can be paid or free, an online message board, meetings in your community or networking organisations’  gatherings.

Either way, that personalised attention will enable you to learn the inside world of launching and managing a blog, of marketing, of communicating with readers and of being the best blogger you can be.

Have you got more tips to test if you’re ready to start pro blogging? Share them with us in the comments!

Ayelet Weisz (www.AyeletWeisz.com) is an enthusiastic freelance writer, blogger and screenwriter, who focuses on business, technology, travel and women’s issues. Get her free report, 48 Must-Live Israeli Experiences, on her travel blog, and connect with her on Twitter.

8 Steps to Building Your Blog Into a Community

This is a guest contribution from Jonathan Goodman.

There are other people blogging about the same subject as you, maybe better or maybe worse—but, as you probably have figured out by now, content is no longer king; context is.

Getting repeat readers who become brand ambassadors for you is pertinent to the success of your blog. So is getting repeat customers. It allows you to focus on what you do best: make great art—writing material that people enjoy reading and writing material that will help thousands of people around the world.

All successful blogs are communities and if you want to turn your blog into something special, something that will grant you financial freedom, and something that will help countless people then you must create a community out of your blog.

A community around your blog

There are a lot of great blog posts about creating communities, but this one is different. The 8 steps I describe below is the exact process I used to build the world’s biggest collaborative blog for personal trainers, in less than 2 years, with no connections and no technological acumen.

Whether you’re starting anew or you already have a blog you can apply these steps, in any order, to build your audience, network, and repeat readership.

Step 1 – The Idea

Photo credit: María Magnética from Flickr

All good blogs are based on a powerful idea that fulfils or hits on a need. Perhaps there’s a knowledge gap in your industry or, in the case of the personal training industry, there was a lot of information but it was all boring text-book material.

The gap I filled was teaching personal trainers the soft side of training but adding in jokes, usually about how much I hate that stupid useless green bird in Angry Birds. Seriously, let’s talk about that bird for a minute. Anybody else hate that thing? He adds an element of difficulty into the game that I don’t appreciate. I just want to smash pigs and move onto the next level.

But I digress.

Build your community on a single powerful idea. Understanding the blogging medium requires a lighter and more approachable tone — don’t be afraid to approach your topic with humor and wit.

Most of all don’t ever hide your personality. People buy into what you do because of the 1% that makes you different, not the 99% that makes you the same.

I should also note that once your blog grows, it might grow out of your initial idea so you need to flexible about its evolution. An experts power doesn’t come from knowing, it comes from knowing where to find and that’s why step 2 is so important.

Step 2 – The Sea Lion System to Build Your Network

I’m reminded of a family trip I took to Alaska. We found ourselves watching a group of whales bubble feed — it was spectacular — but something grabbed my attention and it wasn’t the whales; it was the Sea Lions.

You see, Sea Lions wait patiently on the outside of the vicious bubble feed and catch the fish that the whales fling out. Sea Lions are opportunistic.Sea Lion

You must be the Sea Lion

In any industry there are existing influencers who I’m sure you can name off of the top of your head right now. These people have social media pages and blogs. Existing on those pages are what I call connectors.

When an industry influencer posts a status update or a new blog, there’s a flurry of activity. Instead of trying to get the influencers attention, be the Sea Lion and find the people who are avidly liking, commenting, and sharing the influencer’s material — there are your connectors.

Over a short period of time, you’ll notice the same names keep appearing. Likely they have blogs and even if they don’t they will probably be open to network. Read and comment on a blog post or two of theirs and send them an email saying hi. Or, if they don’t have a blog, send them a message saying that you would like to connect.

Step 3 – Implicit Understanding, Explicit Meaning

Choosing a name for your blog or community is an important step. Even if you blog in your basement at night, the name should make it sound like it’s bigger than you. You’re building a community here that others will want to be a part of.

In addition, you want to have the option to sell the blog later on. A community blog is valuable and it’s a nice option to have. JonsAwesomePersonalTrainerBlog.com isn’t going to be easy to sell but the Personal Trainer Development Center is.

Lastly, your blog name should be something that is intuitively meaningful for your audience. It should also be something that will make them feel like they look good by passing it on to colleagues, friends, or family members.

Step 4 – Contact potential contributors

Now the fun part starts.

There are 3 different types of contributors that you want for your community blog.

1. Camp Busters

In every industry there are established camps that you should be able to identify. There’s probably an influencer at the top and varying levels of followers underneath him or her. Ideally, you want to break into every camp that serves your industry. To do so, try to find somebody that’s well connected in that camp and is currently lower down in the pecking order.

2. Up and comers

In step 2 you identified your connectors. Many of these people will be up and coming bloggers. Have a read through their material and note which ones are good. In addition, look to contact the ones who are hustling the hardest and get them on board with your community.

3. Established authorities

There’s a Catch-22 here. You need readers to attract established authorities to write for you, but you can’t get readers without established authorities right?

Here’s one approach: When you sign up for my free content course, you also get to download my free Diamond in the Rough System Ebook. This is how to use Twitter to get the attention of the people behind the people.

When contacting authorities you probably can’t pay them but you can offer them value. Usually these people have years of archived high-quality material on their blogs. Sell them on your powerful idea in step 1 and ask them to come on board as a “coach” or “advisor” for your community. Assure them it is 0 work on their part.

Tell them that you want to go through their entire archive and will send them a list of all the material that you would like the opportunity to use. You will re-edit and re-format the material so that it’s different enough that Google doesn’t view it as duplicate material and post it to your blog attributing it to them as the sole author with links back to their site.

Some people may say no, but many will agree.

Having established authorities on your site does two things: It establishes credibility for other contributors and you gain the audience of the authority.

Step 5 – Planes, trains, and automobiles

As personal as social networks are (sometimes too personal) nothing can ever replace meeting, shaking hands, and having a conversation with somebody in real life. Look for more intimate industry events that leave time for networking. I’ve even been known to skip entire afternoons of talks to sit down and network with one person at a conference I was looking forward to meeting.

Step 6– Develop a course

What’s the biggest issue or misconception facing your industry?

Identify it and write a course that you will integrate with an autoresponder sent over 10-20 days. Here’s a breakdown of how to plan out the course:

Example of a Mindmap

To start, I suggest some brain mapping software (I use the MindNode App) or grabbing a note pad and writing it down the old fashioned way.

  • Put your topic in the middle of page and write down everything you can think of surrounding the topic. Don’t consider whether or not you want to include it at this stage, just write it all down.
  • Upon finishing, come back the next day with another blank piece of paper and copy the exact same formula.
  • When you’ve finished this 2-4 times, take all of your brain maps and create a master map out of them eliminating all the obvious dumb stuff you wrote down and keeping the good stuff.
  • Then grab some cue cards and write out each sub-topic on a cue card or in Scrivener (an awesome word processor for organising large projects like this). After you’ve organized the course on cue cards or in Scrivener, it’s a matter of filling in the blanks.

When you’ve finished writing each section, tie them all together.

Start the course with an introduction email saying hello and telling the person what to expect. At the beginning of each email refer back to the previous lesson for a line or two. At the end of each email, let the person know what they can expect for the next email.

Go to fiverr.com and get a cover created for your course and integrate with your email marketing software. Create a simple squeeze page for your course — this will be important in the next step.

Step 7 – Build up a fanpage for social proof

You’ve probably already created a fan page on Facebook, but now it’s time to get it cranking and, to do so, you’re going to get a brief lesson in Facebook advertising.

Create a Facebook status update with a link to your squeeze page for the course. Keep it short and include the following 3 things:

1. Have a punchy headline that grabs attention.

2. Give 3 points that are secrets or that you “reveal” in your course.

3. Tell the reader to click the link to grab their course right away and provide the link.

Then you need to target your Facebook ad.

Step 1: Identify your audience. Is it 25-30 year old females who workout and are interested in holistic fitness? Be as specific as you can.

Step 2: Identify any other pages on Facebook that specifically serve your audience. Be as precise as possible.

Step 3: Think about parallel industries that your lead may be interested in. For example, somebody interested in holistic fitness is probably interested in Lululemon clothing and Yoga. Identify the main pages here.

Step 4: For $10-$25 you can run an ad promoting your post to each of these pages individually, for at least 3 days. After creating your first ad, you can copy the ad and simply change the targeting. You should see the option in your control panel.

Step 5: Take stock of which pages gave you the best response rate in terms of click-throughs . Write down all pages that had at least a 0.3% click through rate.

Step 6: Run an ad to all of the pages that had a good response together and run that ad continuously for more money.

Bidding for clicks is a bit of a science. The better you target your ad, the less you’ll have to pay. Reason being, if you have a high converting ad then Facebook will show it to more people for cheaper.

If your ad isn’t converting well, you’ll have to pay more per click to get Facebook to show it to people. If you’re targeting a big audience or a big page, clicks will cost more than an audience in countries outside of North America interested in oddball stuff. Ideally, you want to pay no more than 25 cents a click.

This ad will both get people to like your Facebook page and add a slew of new subscribers into your email list.

Step 8 – Viral!

This is where my real interest lies.

Now that your Facebook ads have gotten a following on your page, you have an avid audience to spread your materials — so make them viral.

The easiest way to get status updates to spread throughout a niche industry audience is by following these steps:

  1. Write down any issues or misconceptions that face your industry. For example, in the fitness industry the fact that too much of the public still thinks that women shouldn’t lift weights is a sore spot.
  2. Note beside your topic, which side of the debate the majority of your audience sits on.
  3. Write a status update or upload a picture 4-6 times a day (you can schedule them) that articulates the majority of your communities views on the issues you’ve identified. Don’t be afraid to be one-sided and somewhat brash. Emotion drives sharing. People will share if they love you or hate you.

Step 8 – Post 1-2 times per week

Post 1-2 top quality blog posts on your webpage per week (or even less). You can write them or have contributors write them. Continue to spend the majority of your time growing the community through your email list via the course and through Facebook through ads and viral material.

Take in guest contributions on your own blog so that you can spend your time writing awesome material for other blogs in your niche creating link juice and getting traffic back to your site.

Rinse and Repeat.

It won’t happen overnight but when you plan your strategy and dedicate the time, you can turn your blog into a community.

Jonathan Goodman likes Turtles… and Deadlifts. He’s a 2x author and explores the psychology of social media over at Viralnomics. Oh, and he’s on Twitter too.

 

How to Create a Blog Purpose Statement in 3 Simple Steps

Yesterday, I shared a series of questions to help those bloggers seeking a little clarity when it comes to what their blog could be about.

Today, I wanted to share 3 more questions – these are not so much focused upon YOU as a blogger but upon your readers.

Hopefully they’ll also help you achieve a little clarity.

  1. Who are your readers?
  2. What do they need?
  3. How will they change as a result of reading your blog?

Answer these 3 questions and you will actually have a pretty good purpose statement for your blog.

You could certainly go into some real depth on each question but even doing it at a low-level will be helpful.

For example on dPS I would answer the questions as:

My readers are camera owners (who they are) who are not using their cameras to their potential (their need). Reading dPS will help them to gain creative control over their cameras (the benefit).

I shared these questions on my Google+ account a few weeks ago. Yesterday, I received an email from a blogger who set aside 15 minutes to answer them. She told me that in doing so she realised that she’d created a purpose statement for her blog which she also turned into a tagline for her blog.

Give it a go and let us know how you answer the questions in comments below.

7 Questions to Ask Yourself to Bring Clarity to Your Blogging

Do you feel like you’ve lost clarity around what it is that you’re trying to do with your blog?

I’ve recently bumped into a few bloggers grappling with this idea. Some were new,  even ‘Pre’ Bloggers, while a couple had been blogging for a while but had lost some direction.

Out of these conversations, I put together a set of questions to help them think it through.

The questions revolve around asking:

What are YOU About?YOU

While I won’t guarantee you instant clarity on answering these questions I hope that putting a little time aside to work through them might help – please let me know if they do!

  1. What interests do you have?
  2. What experiences (good and bad) have you had?
  3. What expertise and skills do you have?
  4. What are your passions?
  5. What gives you energy?
  6. What do you talk a lot about to friends?
  7. If you could write about anything – what would it be?