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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?

How To Use Auto Responder Emails to Boost Your Blogging Efforts

This is a guest contribution by Asher Elran of Dynamic Search.

I thought emails were a waste of time and that they are ignored, but then I learned how to do it right and watched the numbers flip.

 

Blog distribution process 1-2-3

After you published a great post and pushed it through your social network, the third step is to leverage your email list too. This is where the auto-responders can help you gain new subscribers while you’re busy writing your next blog post.

The majority of email marketing services are the same. I prefer Constant Contact or Mobilizemail’s new email feature. Following the steps below you can use almost any email marketing service to set up an auto responder system in just three days.

Setting a Auto-Responder Campaign that Actually Works in 3 Days

Day 1 – Building Your Page Offer

If you want to bulk up your subscriber list, it can help to offer something in return. People online are impatient and can get irritated quickly if they feel that their time is wasted. Giveaways can spark interest, desire, and a sense of urgency.

You might consider a short eBook or report, or something like more adventurous like access to a web tool, a widget download, or access to a member’s only area with key features and valuable information. It’s really important to make sure your giveaway is relevant and valuable. During our auto-responder experiment, we chose to offer an eBook and built a landing page on our website to capture new subscribers.

On your landing you have the control to work on your CRO (conversion rate optimization) and here are some key factors that will help:

  1. Have a clear call to actionSubscriber landing page call to action
  2. Include a great offer with a visual element
  3. Include trust signals – testimonials are always great tool for this purpose

Also, the instructions to obtain your giveaway should be clear and relatively simple.

If you make your prospects leap through too many hoops, you’ll lose them. Use relatively simple language to ensure Simple is better if you’re really focused on good conversion rates. Here is how we did it:

Pay attention how we simplify the process and leverage the situation to gain likes on our Facebook page too.

Simple subscription process

Prominently display authority and trust signals to potential subscribers. This will not only show that your blog can be trusted, it will remind your potential subscriber of how good you are and why your appealing offer will help them with their problems.

Displaying authority and trust to subscribers

Day 2 – Increasing your list size

Now you have an offer in place, attracting people to reach your landing page is the next challenge. It can take some time and resources. There are a variety of options out there but I’ll speak only on the ones we applied during our auto responder experiment. Effective methods can change from one industry to another; the key is to be creative and think out of the box.

Some of the methods we applied include:

  1. Using Facebook apps to collect email subscribers – your Facebook page connects with the people that like you. It also connects you with greater pools of prospects such as friends of friends. If you explore the paid ads section you will find that you can reach even millions of people.
  2. Leveraging current blog traffic by promoting subscription incentive in key places – your blog is a goldmine and you should take advantage of your new traffic and persuade them to subscribe.
  3. Consistently sharing our posts through social media – your post should always be found on social networks, as mentioned in the three steps to gain post’s exposure above. Don’t be shy about sharing old blog posts with new readers.
  4. Connecting with decision makers on LinkedIn and offering our incentive – this is particularly relevant to B2B blogs as LinkedIn is one of your best resources to grow you audience.
  5. Placing a subscription opt-in on our website – that’s a no brainer which you have probably already done but if you haven’t, it’s really important. The key is to make it easy for potential subscribers to action once they’re on your blog.
  6. Asking existing contacts to share our incentive with their connections – Harness the power of word of mouth. You can simply add a line at the end of each post or email.
  7. Running a contest hosted directly on our blog – If you have enough traffic this can be a great way to get new subscribers. The contest could alternatively be hosted on Facebook.
  8. Reaching out through a rented email list – Only CAM SPAM approved! You have to be careful about using email addresses on rented lists but it is an opportunity to let the world know about your blog.

Day 3 – Auto-Responders

Now we get to the good part – using auto responders.

It’s not enough to simply get the email address of a new subscriber. You need to nurture them into loyalty and that means consistent and relevant contact from you. But nurturing a new subscriber can be time consuming. Imagine that you have hundreds of them! Auto responders let you automate email messages to new blog subscribers. 

Using auto responders, you can keep in contact with your subscribers for months if not years with almost zero effort on your side. You simply need to set it up and it will run for you until you turn it off.

You can see in the below table that we keep in contact with our prospect from day one, through the first 8 months. The auto responders are scheduled in advance and then put on auto pilot.

Auto responder scheduling pattern

The setup can be different from one system to another, but the important part is what to include in each email:

1st Email (after one day)

Thank your new subscriber. Don’t write about the history of your company or brag about your credentials, just say thank you to remind him or her of what you are thanking them for.

2nd Email (7th day)

Remind your subscriber that you are still around and talk briefly about what you do (not who you are – they don’t care) and give piece of valued content, for example a tip, trick, or link to a good resource you found.

3rd – 10th Emails

Keep offering your subscriber value with free content like tips, relevant resources, or a good piece of advice with an attractive offer. Remember, that it’s a bit like keeping in touch with an old friend so don’t make these emails salesy. Invite them to ask you questions, or leave their thoughts on your latest post. How many emails you send depends on your audience but it’s important to keep them engaged, not turn them off with lots of irrelevant emails.

The results

Email marketing services know the power of auto responders and offer it as an integral feature of their service. Other companies like fusionSoft and SalesForce are using it too and if the big guys are doing it, it must be something we should all do. This is especially true since the investment in the service is either free or costs very little.

We’ve put it for a test and experienced the following improvement:

Auto responder results

 

The percentage increase in just three months is substantial. Clicks are on the rise, more than doubling the previous amount, and opens are showing a drastic increase from 12.5% to 17.9%. I think that most of us will agree that having 640 visitors vs. 183 visitors is a great improvement, and it took only three days to implement.

Auto-responders are a powerful method to increase visitors’ interaction, gain new subscribers, and improve conversions. Are you using them? Do you have a subscriber nurturing process? Share your thoughts!

Asher Elran Practical software engineer and the founder of Dynamic Search™, enthusiastic about all things involving creative marketing, CRO, SEM, and killer content. Follow me on twitter at @DynamicSearch

 

Warning: Don’t Accept Guest Posts Until You’ve Done these 5 Steps

This is a guest contribution by .

Guest blog post can add a lot of value to your blog.

Guest posts not only give you a break from writing, they show you are connected and that you respect other experts’ opinions and different perspectives. Guest posts can demonstrate how much you value quality information your readers find useful. In the long term, guest posts can bring you new audiences, more connections and better content.

But it’s not always as easy as that. Before you accept and publish any guest blog post make sure you do these five steps so that only the best ends up on your blog.

1. Always check the posts for Plagiarism

Search engines, particularly Google, do not want duplicate content and plagiarism on web pages. Google’s recent update, Panda, has made it harder for content stealers to continue their behavior without getting penalized.

If you don’t want your blog to be penalized for duplicates, check any guest post submission for plagiarism There are a few easy to use plagiarism checking services where you can copy and paste the post and their unique algorithm will scan the content for duplicates, giving you a detailed plagiarism report with links to all the used sources. Some of them, like PlagTracker, are even free!

Google may not directly penalize duplicates, but such content will erode your website authority. You could even get lawsuits from other publishers for stealing their original work.

By checking your guest posts, and making sure the content you publish is always authentic and original, you can avoid such problems and guide your blog to success.

2. Proofread and Format the Guest Posts

It seems obvious but if you care about share high quality information with your readers, it’s important that your guest posts are relevant to your blog’s niche.

As with all online copywriting, make sure your guest post describes the benefits to your readers.

After all, your readers are interested in how their lives can be eased, so give them what they want!

Your proofreading should also check names, titles and genders, whether they are correctly written and consistent throughout the text.

3. Interlink the Guest Posts with Previously Published Content

You want to keep your readers on your blog for as long as possible. Linking new and old posts can help you minimize the bounce rate, keep the readers engaged and increase the number of page views.

In fact, it’s a strategy that professional bloggers use to rank higher in the search engines results.

When interlinking your blog posts, it is very important to decide how much will you interlink because too many inbound links may turn out to be counter-productive.

4. Optimise Guest Post URLs and Meta Tags

In order for search engines to recommend your blog in their results, you must make it easy for them to read and understand what your blog is about.

That’s what meta tags can help with.

Meta tags are information about information. If your title tags are optimized for the keywords you’re focusing on, Google will be able to faster index and rank your blog or web pages. The description tags should be creative, interesting and provide enough quality information for the potential visitors to know what your page or website is about.

Additionally, base your posts URLs on the important keywords and consider using short URLs when sharing your blog posts because they are smaller and appear better than the long ones.

5. Add Intriguing Images to draw your Readers’ Attention

As we all know one picture’s worth a thousand words. Don’t miss an opportunity to intrigue and keep your audience tuned into your message by including an image. You can always start with the free images available using Google Advanced Image Search, or Tumblr, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, PhotoPin.com, Foter.com, etc.

Do you accept guest posts on your blog? Can you add to this list?

Sandra Miller is a tech tips writer from Brooklyn. Loves writing about blogging, social media and SEM. You can reach her at Google+

7 Tips for Busy Bloggers on Finding Time to Blog

Last week I tweeted a question asking my Problogger followers to share the biggest challenge that they face as a blogger.

Around 50 replies came back and a couple of themes emerged – the biggest one centred around ‘Time’.

Time to blog

Finding time to blog is something that all bloggers struggle with. Whether you are just starting out and blogging as a hobby, blogging as a part time job while juggling work, home, and a social life or even blogging as a full time business amidst other demands such as up-keeping of social media accounts, responding to comments and emails etc. – finding time to write is a consistent challenge.

This issue is so prevalent, we actually published an eBook on the topic last year – BlogWise: How to Do More with Less (featuring 9 busy but productive bloggers such as Leo Babauta, Gretchen Rubin, Brian Clark, Heather Armstrong and more).

7 Tips for Busy Bloggers on Finding Time to Blog

I’m someone who periodically struggles with the challenges of being productive in limited timeframes. Over the last 10 years of blogging, I guess I’ve settled into something of a workflow and routine. What follows is a collection of reflections on what I’m learning.

I hope something in it connects with where you’re at!

1. It Starts with Life Priorities

I feel a bit like a parent saying this but the truth is, time management is a lot to do with priorities. 

It’s important to take time out to identify what is truly important to you, as this is a starting point for working out how you should spend your time.

If blogging is important to you, the first step in finding time to do it is to name it as a priority.

Of course ‘naming’ it as important is only half the battle. For many people there is a HUGE gap between what they say is important and how they actually spend their time.

One of the most confronting exercises I’ve ever done, when it comes to time management, was when (as a young adult) I was challenged write a list of my priorities. I then had to track how I used each 15 minute block of time over a week.

At the end of the week I tallied up the different activities and was amazed to discover how much time I was spending on things that did not feature in my priorities list, and how little I spent on the things I’d named as my priorities.

My list of priorities included things like studying, career, relationships etc.

My actual use of time was dominated by TV, computer games, time in the pub etc.

Of course, at the time I was young and reckless… but I suspect if I did the exercise again today there would probably be a bit of a disconnect between my priorities and how I spent my time. The activities I ‘waste’ time on and my priorities today might be different but the pattern would probably remain.

One of the keys to finding time to blog is working out whether blogging is actually important to you and arranging your life so that time is allocated for it!

I know it’s sounds obvious but it is easier said than done… and needs to be said.

2. Name Your Blogging Priorities

In the section above I talk about ‘life priorities’ but now I want to hone in on your blogging priorities.

The challenge many bloggers face is that they feel overwhelmed and often distracted by the many elements of blogging that they feel they need to do to have success.

Writing blog posts, reading and commenting on others blogs, responding to readers comments, guest posting on others blogs, being active on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn, Pinterest (and more), working on your blog design, writing an eBook, finding advertisers, creating a media kit…. the list goes on and on.

I’ve had periods in my own blogging where this list overwhelmed me – to the point it almost paralysed me.

When I felt overwhelmed, I tried to strip my blogging back to the core tasks I knew I needed to do to keep my blog moving forward. Again it was really about priorities.

What do you need to do to grow your blog and make it sustainable?

For me, I strip my focus back to these areas:

  • Writing Content
  • Finding Readers
  • Building Community
  • Monetizing

These are the non-essential priorities I have with my blogging. Simply by naming them simplifies things a little for me so I’m not looking at a long, crazy list of little things that I need to do.

With this list in mind I’m can set myself some achievable goals in each area.

For example, when it comes to ‘Writing Content’ I’m set myself some goals with how many posts per week or month. Then I start to think about the types of posts I want each week.

So here on ProBlogger, my current goal is 5 posts per week as a minimum with 3-4 of those posts written by me and at least one of them to be a longer form piece of content (like my recent Guide to the Amazon Affiliate Program).

Within each of these areas I would normally have at least a couple of goals/priorities at any one time.

Simply having this list of things I want to achieve suddenly gives me direction on how to spend my time, which makes me much more effective when I do blog. Instead of sitting down at the computer to blog and then working out what to do, I have a list of things I need to get done – and I find myself just knocking them off.

3. Batch Process Your Main Tasks

I won’t go into great detail on this as I’ve written about it before but a number of years ago I changed the way that I do my weekly tasks and it significantly boosted my productivity levels.

Before making this switch, I would sit down to blog and find myself going through a whole day flitting from one thing to another…. but not really getting much done. I’d write an intro to a blog post, then jump onto Twitter, then talk to another blogger about a collaboration, then go back to the blog post, then moderate some comments, then jump on Facebook and then…. well you get the picture.

So I began to carve out longer chunks of time to do the most important tasks in ‘batches’.

For example, one of my weekly rhythms is to use Monday and Wednesday mornings to write. On those mornings, I will often set myself up in a cafe and work offline for 2-3 hours. This enables me to write as much content as possible for the days and week ahead. It is not unusual for me to write 4-5 blog posts that I’m then able to schedule onto the blog for the coming days.

By silo’ing off time to do the most important tasks, and removing other distractions, I found I churn through a lot more work than I had previously been able to do.

I now ‘batch’ process many tasks. I’ll often set aside half an hour to do social media for example (instead of popping into Twitter 20 times a day, I might spend a longer period once a day). Email is similarly something I try to do in batches, similarly I tend to read other blogs via RSS in batches etc.

Read more about ‘batch processing in my post ‘How Batch Processing Made Me 10 Times More Productive‘.

Mental Blogging

In the early days of my blogging I had very very limited times to blog. I was working 3-4 part time jobs at any one time while also studying in the evenings. As a result I often would only have half and hour here or there during a lunch break, late at night or early in the morning to write content.

In order to be more effective at those times, I began to do what I now call ‘mental blogging’.

So while I was working in one of my jobs in a warehouse packing parcels, I would begin to write my blog posts in my mind. I would come up with a topic, decide upon a title and then begin to map out my main points – all in my head.

I sometimes would use a small notebook to jot a few words down to remind me what I wanted to write but after a shift in the warehouse, I would often be ready to sit down and quickly write out a pretty decent blog post (sometimes more than one) because I’d effectively written it already in my head.

Since that time I’ve come across countless other bloggers who do a similar thing during their own daily activities.

Later on I did a similar thing by jotting down my notes on my iPhone or even speaking blog posts into an audio recording app on my iPhone while I was out on a walk.

4. Idea Generation and Editorial Calendars

In my early days of blogging one of my biggest time sucks was coming up with ideas. I would sit, staring at my computer screen for hours on end, trying to work out what to write about on my blog that day.

I discovered that a much more effective strategy is to put aside batches of time specifically to come up with post ideas.

Instead of deciding what to write about each day, I began to create times to brainstorm and mind map blog ideas. I would then developed a file for each post topic so that on any given day I could sit down and within seconds I’d have something to write about

Mind Mapping is my favourite technique for generating potentially hundreds of ideas (read Discover Hundreds of Post Ideas for Your Blog with Mind Mapping).

Just having the ideas ready to go when you need them will save you a lot of time. You can take this a step further and consider creating an Editorial Calendar where you actually slot the ideas into a calendar over the coming week, month (or longer) and map out where you’ll be going with the blog in that period of time.

Editorial calendars may not suit everyone but I know of numerous bloggers who plan their blogs content well over a month in advance. This not only gives them an idea of where their blog is headed but they also find it useful to monetize their blogs as they’re able to share their calendar with advertisers who may wish to sponsor a relevant series of posts that might be coming up.

5. Break Down Big Jobs into Small Bites

Late last year, I recorded a free webinar where I shared 10 things I wish I’d known about blogging when I started 10 years before. In that webinar I shared the story of creating the first eBook that I developed over at Digital Photography School.

The idea of creating an eBook was something that I’d been meaning to do for at least a year or two but I’d always put off doing it because I didn’t have the time for such a big project. I’d never done something like that before and I felt overwhelmed by it.

In the end, to get the eBook created and launched, I decided that the only way I’d find the time to write it was to get up 15 minutes earlier every morning to work on the project.

15 minutes a day isn’t much (although we had a newborn at the time so 15 minutes sleep was precious) but I was amazed how much I could get done in that short period of time, on a daily basis. Over the coming 2-3 months I completed writing the eBook, had had it designed, had worked out how to market it, had researched how to sell it (shopping carts etc) and was ready to launch.

I effectively broke down a big job into little bite sized chunks until it was complete. That eBook went on to sell thousands of copies and became the template for 19 other eBooks that I’ve now launched (the main source of income to my blogs today).

I often wonder what would have happened if I’d never found that extra 15 minutes per day!

6. Slow Blogging is OK

“I have to post something today!”

Sometimes, as bloggers, I think we create monsters for ourselves for no good reason when it comes to posting deadlines and frequency.

I’m very guilty of this and it’s been something of a relief to realise that I can slow down my blogging a little and not see it ‘hurt’ my blog.

Here on ProBlogger you may have noticed a bit of a change lately. I’ve gone from posting 7-10 posts per week to posting 5-6 times a week.

For many years here at ProBlogger I felt the need to publish daily posts and at times, even aimed for 2-3 posts per day. While there were some benefits of doing so (more posts can mean more traffic) there were also costs in terms of the quality but also personally (it’s hard to sustain that kind of publishing for years on end).

Since slowing down, I’ve been fascinated to see that our traffic has remained steady (in fact some days it has been higher). The other impact has been a rise in comment levels, in positive feedback but also in my own energy and passion levels.

While deadlines and targets for posting frequency can be motivating – there may be periods of time when slowing down has some big benefits.

7. Make Space for Preparation, Creating and Rest

I recently came across this great video from Aussie blogger Kemi Nekvapil

What I particularly loved about it was at around the 1.30 minute mark Kemi talks about the structure of her week and how she has 3 different types of days during her week. They are ‘preparation days’, ‘success days’ and ‘inspiration days’.

Note: I think this originally comes from Jack Canfield who talks about creating days for ‘preparation’, ‘success’ and ‘rest’.

So for Kemi, her Mondays are preparation days when she is getting ready to have a creative ‘success’ day, Tuesdays are successful days, Wednesdays are preparation days and Thursdays are successful days. Fridays are her inspiration days where she gets to do whatever she wants to do for herself.

By giving herself days with a different focus, Kemi says she’s able to keep her creativity up and to sustain herself.

It makes sense really – if every day is a day where you have to produce something and you never have time to prepare or to have a break the quality of what you produce will suffer (as will your energy levels).

I love this idea and almost intuitively have done something a little similar of late. My wife (V) works on a Wednesday, so on those days I’ve had a bit more to do with the kids (drop offs, pick ups and a shorter working day). I’ve decided to go with it not being quite as a productive day and make Wednesdays a little less hands on with work, giving me a little more space to just ‘be’.

I’ve been doing a little work but also am trying to put time aside on Wednesdays to read, walk and have a siesta. It might sound a little like a lazy day on some levels but I’m noticing that having a quieter day in the middle of my week certainly makes me more productive on the following days.

What Are Your Tips for Finding Time to Blog?

What I’ve written above just scratches the surface. I am by no means an expert on this and am keen to learn from your experience.

Update: Check out this post where I ask a number of other bloggers about their tips and blogging routines.