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7 Strategies for Growing Community on Your Blog

This week on ProBlogger we’ve been looking at the topic of building community on a blog. We started by identifying 9 benefits and 3 costs of community on a blog and then looked at 5 stages of building community on a blog. Today I want to dig deeper into some specific things to DO to build community on your blog.

Across a Crowd

1. Write in a Conversational Voice

This tip fits into the ‘it’s not rocket science’ category of blogging tips (as do many blog tips) – however as simple as it sounds I regularly see bloggers falling into the trap of talking ‘AT’ readers rather than blogging in a conversational voice.

The art of good conversation is as much as being ‘interested’ as it is about being ‘interesting’. Good conversationalists ask questions, pause to allow others to speak and listen to others when they are speaking.

ships, night, passing and all that...

Good bloggers similarly often write in a more conversational way and in doing so invite readers to respond.

Every bloggers needs to find their own style and voice but I’ve found a number of things have been helpful in writing more ‘conversationally’:

I write like I speak

y best blog posts often start out as me writing an email to a reader answering a question. Alternatively I will often imagine I’m talking to someone as I’m writing – which leads to a post written in a more personal way.

I tell stories

I don’t do this in every post but I find that when I weave some kind of personal angle into a post that it seems to draw readers into recounting their own stories. The story need not be long or highly personal story – it could simply be sharing how you did something in your business (you’ll see me do this below when I talk about how on dPS we added a Flickr Group to dPS as an intermediate step on the way to starting a forum).

I use personal language

When you talk to another person it is common to use words like ‘I’, ‘you’ and ‘we’. Conversely when you write in a theoretical language these words often disappear. Check out the top 20 posts on ProBlogger in 2012 and notice that over 50% of the most read posts this year had personal words in their titles.

Share Opinions

One of the most powerful ways to get some kind of a reaction from readers is to share you opinion. Doing so will automatically trigger your readers to think about their own opinions and whether they agree with you – and more often than not you’ll find at least a few of them will let you know if they do! Tread a little carefully here – opinion pieces can cause debate and depending on the tone of your writing and the topic can lead to heated conversation!

2. Invite Interaction

Part of writing in a conversational tone is to invite others to participate in the conversation. While some of your readers will comment without any kind of interaction you’ll be surprised how many more will interact with you with a simple call to do so!

Individual Protection

Inviting your readers to interact with you can include numerous things such as:

  • asking readers to comment (and not just at the end of posts… you can signal right at the beginning that you’re interested in other people’s thoughts on a topic (as I did several paragraphs above).
  • asking specific questions – I find the more specific your questions are the better better responses you get (i.e. instead of ending a post with a general ‘what do you think?’ guide your readers with a more specific question about your topic or give them some alternatives or examples to help them make that first comment.
  • write posts that are purely questions – one of the best ways to get responses is simply to write a post that is little more than the question itself. These ‘discussion’ posts can be gold (for example recently to wrap up a week of content on the topic of Pinterest we finished the series with a discussion post on the topic.
  • Setting a Challenge – on dPS we do a weekly themed challenge for readers to go away and take a photo on a theme and then to come back and share what they did (here’s an example of one we did on the theme of ‘Nature’). This not only gets a good number of comments – it gets readers DOING something quite involved which is a sign of real reader engagement. Another recent example would be our recent Group Writing Project here on ProBlogger.
  • Polls – perhaps the simplest method of getting a first time reader out of passivity and doing a little something is to run a poll on your blog. Having them simply choose from a couple of multiple choice options and clicking ‘vote’ may not seem like much but it signals to your readers that you’re interested in their opinion or experience and takes them a tiny step down the road to engagement and community. The other thing you can do with polls is once they’ve voted ask them to tell you why they voted as they did. For example on dPS we asked readers if they’d ever taken a photography class and then at the end of the post invited them to tell us what class it was and how they found it. 161 people added a comment. While this was a small % of those who’ve voted in the poll it was a higher number of comments than an average post on the site.
  • Tell Readers about the Community - while we’re talking about polls, the other thing I’ve found useful is to not only run a poll but to post the final results of a poll too. For example in this post we shared how many of our dPS readers are looking to buy a new camera. In doing this readers see where they fit in to the diverse membership of your community and you remind them that they participated. The other good thing about showing results is that you signal to your whole readership that others are engaging with you. In that example above we mentioned that 28,000 people responded to the poll – great social proof!
  • Invite Interactions OFF your blog – community does not just need to happen ON your blog for it to be worthwhile. In fact some of the best community discussions I’ve seen among my readers have happened on our dPS Facebook page or on my personal Google+ page. People are trained by these social networks to interact – so it can be a great place to begin conversations and relationships that may lead to ongoing community.

Regular invitations to your readership to interact will gradually draw more and more of your readers out of passivity and into an interaction with you. Even a small first step towards community could lead to a passive reader becoming super engaged which as we’ve seen previously can have many positive benefits.

Further Reading:

3. Consider a Dedicated Community Area

Blogs have community built into them to some degree by allowing comments to be made on any post. Many blogging tools now not only allow comments but allow threaded comments which enhance the experience and allow mini-conversations to happen in an easy to follow way.

However if there may come a time on your blog where you want to give readers the ability to not only respond to what you or your writers have to say – but also to start threads of new conversation.

To do this you’ll want to consider some kind of dedicated community area.

There are a number of ways to do this. On dPS I first did this by starting a ‘Flickr Group‘ where I invited readers to share photos and start conversations. dPS being a photography site and Flickr being full of photographers this not only gave our readers a place to interact but also helped us to find new readers.

For dPS the Flickr group also gave our readers a taste of community and whet their appetite for it to the point that they began to ask if I would consider starting an actual forum area – something I did (see the dPS Photography Forum here) after I saw that there was enough demand to kick it off with enough active members.

Blog to foum

A forum comes with its own advantages and challenges.

In short forums benefits are:

  • Increasing Reader Engagement
  • Builds User Generated Content
  • Increases Page Views per Visit
  • Appeals to different types of readers

However the challenges of forums include:

  • The challenge of moderation (they can take a lot of work and are often targets of spammers)
  • The challenge of having enough critical mass to make the forum active enough to be attractive
  • The technical challenges – as with most self hosted blogging platforms forum platforms need maintenance and upgrades and can be a challenge to manage.

Further Reading on Forums: check out 10 Mistakes that Will KILL a Forum (or blog) and 6 Tips on Adding a Forum to your Blog.

Other options for community areas on a blog include setting up off site community areas such as:

Of course with all of these options you’re really at the mercy of other companies who have control over the hosting and upkeep of your community. You also lose some control over features etc.

Add to the conversation: If you’ve had experience with other types of community areas on your blog (or other people’s) I’d love to hear about them in comments below.

4. Use Interactive and Accessible Mediums

While we’re talking about using different types of social media lets touch on a range of other tools that you can use to help build community on and around your blog.

A number of years ago I experimented over with using Ustream to connect with my readers. I set up a ProBlogger channel and on a fairly regular but impulsive basis used to jump onto it to do Q&A sessions with readers.

It has been a year since I ran a Ustream chat but the times I did it I got a lot of positive feedback from readers as it allowed them to not only interact with me by asking questions but allowed them to see and hear my responses live.

Today there are a number of other such options available to you – perhaps the most popular of which is what Google+ offers with their hangouts.

I’ve not run a hangout myself yet (there are only so many hours in the day) but have attended many as a viewer and think that they’d be a great way to give readers a more engaging experience of you – particularly now that they can be live streamed and synced with your Youtube channel.

One of the best people I’ve seen doing hangouts is Trey Ratcliff who is brilliant at it!

The other option on this front is to experiment with running webinars – something I’ve done more and more over the last year.

Webinars

I use GoToWebinar (to which I am an affiliate) to run ProBlogger webinars and while mine have only been me talking to slides or me interviewing guests (audio only) I’ve had more positive feedback about our webinars than I have about most other things I’ve done in the past couple of years here on ProBlogger.

GotoWebinar have also just introduced Video conferencing also for 100-attendee webinars (soon to be adding it for larger plans too) so that those attending can see you live.

5. Run Projects and Challenges

I’m often asked what the ‘tipping point’ for ProBlogger was – the moment that the blog really took off. There were a number of these but one was the first time I ran the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog (31DBBB) challenge.

31 Days to Build a Better Blog is today our best selling eBook but it didn’t start out that way. It actually began as a series of blog posts that I put together over a month in 2005.

The idea started as a joke with a fried but was one that wouldn’t go away and so on the spur of the moment in the early hours of a night when I couldn’t sleep I posted that we were going to run this challenge where I’d give readers a little teaching/theory on an aspect of blogging every day for 31 days and would also give them a challenge to complete that related to the challenge.

I didn’t really expect it to take off too much but the next morning I awoke to a lot of comments on that post and people emailing to say that they were excited. The following 31 days not only saw increased traffic on the blog but readers engaging in a deeper way than they had before.

I ran 31DBBB over the next two years again and each time we saw readers becoming more and more engaged with the site.

What I realised through these projects is that giving people a common task to work on over a period of time gives them a shared experience that draws them closer together.

Since 2005 there have been many such projects run around the blogosphere. In fact inspired by 31DBBB Nester from Nesting place runs an annual ’31 Days of Change’ project on her blog in which bloggers are invited to run a ’31 Days’ series on their blogs.

Last year Nester saw over 1200 bloggers run 31 Days Challenges over the month of October (just a few pictured below)! That project is growing every year and I suspect it is because bloggers who join are discovering the power of running such a project on their blog.

There are many other challenges you can run. Check out FatMumSlim’s Photo a Day Instagram challenge for example which is participated in by many thousands of people. Similarly Fox in Flats runs a Style Dare a Day challenge that is always popular.

Add to the conversation: If you’ve run a challenge like this – please tell us about it in the comments below so we can learn about it!

6. Real Life Events

One of the most powerful ways of building community with your readers is to actually meet them – face to face.

I know this is full of all kinds of logistical challenges but IF you can meet your readers – take the opportunity because face to face interactions and a real life shared experience certainly seems to speed up the building of community.

I first experimented with this in the early days of my first blog when I didn’t have a heap of readers but when I posted that I would be in London on a holiday and asked readers if they wanted to meet up for a drink. I had 3 people show up for a beer – not a large crowd but the first time I’d met readers face to face.

Now almost any time I’m in a new city I’ll try to tweet/post out a time and place to have a meet up. Sometimes we get a good turnout and other times it is small – but every time it gives me an amazing opportunity to meet readers and build relationships with them (and for them to meet one another).

The other way I put myself out there to meet readers was to attend events that I thought my readers might be attending. In the early days for me this was about buying a ticket for popular events just like everyone else but in time it meant accepting speaking invitations when they came for the events I knew my readers were attending.

Over the last 4 years I’ve of course had opportunity to not only attend other people’s events but to run my own ProBlogger Training Events here in Australia. This started relatively small with a hastily arranged 100 person event but each year it has grown – to the point that our September Gold Coast event sold 200 Early bird tickets in a couple of hours.

The added bonus of our real life event is that a virtual event runs alongside it both in the selling of virtual tickets but also through the hashtag for the event. While not all ProBlogger readers are able to get to Australia in person the event hashtag last year saw a lot of readers engaging with one another and the ProBlogger brand and created a real buzz.

What I notice after running an event or meeting people face to face is that in the days and weeks after we meet in person I’m much more likely to see that person engaging with me on social media and on the blog. It’s one of the fastest ways to build deeper engagement.

The perfect example of someone who has run hundreds of real life events around the world is Chris Guillebeau who when launching his books has done meetups in every state in the US and for his recent book every continent around the globe. I was fortunate to go with him to one of these events in Melbourne and was amazed at the enthusiasm his readers turned out to the event with – it’s no wonder Chris has had such a massive impact upon so many.

7. Put Your Readers in the Spotlight

Newsign

Way back in 2006 I wrote a very short post encouraging bloggers to ‘Make Your Readers Famous‘.

At the time it was a bit of a throw away idea and not something I’d pondered too much but in the last 7 years it has been something that I’ve seen the power of many times.

The idea is simple – put your readers in the limelight on your blog. Most blogs keep the blogger on the stage with the microphone and the readers inn the audience – but what would happen if you allowed your readers onto the stage?

The answer to that question is that readers will take real ownership over your blog and become a lot more loyal to it if you allow them opportunity to share the limelight.

Most bloggers use their blogs to build their own profile – but when you use your blog to help your readers to build their profile and achieve their own goals something special can happen.

Here are a few ways that you can make your reader famous that I’ve previous published (updated for 2013):

  • Promote a comment to a Post – sometimes readers make incredibly insightful and wise observations and tips in the comments of your blog. While they will be read by a handful of people in the comment thread – why not pull it out and use it as the basis for one of your post – highlighting the wisdom in it and the person who made the comment.
  • Write a Post about a Reader’s Blog – visit the blogs of those leaving comments on your blog and pick one that you resonate and that is relevant to your readers. Write a link post linking to that blog highlighting the best posts and what you like about it.
  • Send Your Readers to Comment on Someone Else’s Blog – write a post that links to someone else’s great blog post and instead of asking your readers what they think about it on your own blog ask them to head over and comment on it on the other person’s blog. Shutting down the comments in your own post and saying that you’ve left a comment on their blog already can help make this more effective.
  • Give Readers an Opportunity to Promote Themselves – run a project or write a post that gives readers an opportunity to promote themselves in some way. For example on dPS I wrote a post asking readers – do you have a photoblog?‘ As I wrote the post I thought I’d add a line inviting readers to share a link to their photoblogs. I didn’t think much of it until the next morning when I woke up to 250 comments on the post and a whole heap of emails thanking me for giving readers the opportunity to highlight their work.
  • Run a Reader Poll and Highlight Answers in a followup post – have a post one weekend where you pose a question to your readers. Then in the week that follows do a followup post where you add some of your own thoughts on the question and pull out some of the best comments left by readers. Alternatively you could survey your twitter followers on a topic relevant to your blog and then highlight their responses as a blog post (example of this).
  • Invite Guest Posts – often ‘guest posting’ is talked about solely as a way to get free content for your blog. While this is nice – one of the things I love about it most is that it puts the microphone in the hand of someone else and lets someone who would normally be constrained by the comments section have a little more power and influence on the direction of your community for a moment in time. This can have a real impact upon the person doing the post – but also upon your readership as they see someone like themselves featured on your blog.
  • Invite your Readers to Promote their Social Networks – a fun project I ran here on ProBlogger a number of years ago was to have a ‘social media love in‘ where I invited readers to share their social media accounts with us here on the blog. Readers left comments sharing their Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, StumbleUpon (and more) accounts and we compiled all the submissions (over 700) into lists so readers could all follow one another. It was a massive amount of work but helped our readers grow their profiles.

There are many more ways to put your readers into the spotlight and help them out with their own online projects and goals. Please let us know below how you’ve done this type of thing on your own blog!

The 5 Stages of Building a Culture of Community on a Blog [Case Study]

Yesterday we looked at some of the benefits and costs of building community on a blog – today I’d like to move onto some of the ‘how to’ by examining the stages of building community that I went through on Digital Photography School.

Build a CULTURE of Community – Not Just Engagement

Let me start by repeating the advice I gave yesterday that building community and reader interaction on a blog takes time. It won’t happen over night but develops day by day.

It is also something that YOU need to take the lead in as a blogger.

Be the community you want to have‘ is advice I regularly teach at our live ProBlogger Training Event because what I’ve found is that readers often take a bloggers lead when it comes to engagement.

If YOU are obviously engaged with your content, passionate about helping your readers, interested in who they are, writing in an inviting way and willing to interact with others then you’ll be on the right track to developing a culture on your blog where interaction is normal.

Note: I really want to emphasise this idea of building a ‘culture‘ of community on your blog. This goes way beyond using certain ‘techniques‘ to get comments or engagement.

Engagement is great – but the most successful bloggers I”ve come across go beyond that to build something deeper with their readers whereby readers not only interact but have a deeper sense of belonging, ownership and where they embody and live out the values of the blog with one another.

The Stages of Building Community on a Blog

Stage 1: You

In the early days of your blog community generally looks like this:

Problogger Stages of Community1

Yep – just you.

Maybe if you’re lucky you have a partner, or a parent, or a friend who drops by once in a while – but it’s largely you. This is totally fine and normal. I remember my first 10 or so blog posts going up to the deafening roar of silence – I couldn’t even get my wife to read them!

In those very early days you can still write in an engaging way – but probably more important than lots of reader engagement is you writing engaging and compelling content so that when people do arrive they’ve got something to read.

This is also an important time to get your mindset right. Identify what type of community you want to have. What values do you want it to have? What are the boundaries of acceptable behaviour? The clearer YOU are on what you want to achieve the better position you’ll be in to start building and modelling it to your readers (remember – YOU have to BE the community you want to have).

Hopefully – with a little time and you putting yourself out there you’ll begin to find a few readers for your blog.

Side Note: ‘Finding Readers’ of course is a topic for another series but a key component is putting yourself out there into the places your potential readers are already gathering. I cover this (and a lot more on the topic of Finding Readers in this free webinar). It is probably the most comprehensive thing I’ve produced on the topic of finding readers for a blog to this point.

Stage 2: Readers Engaging with You

After a few readers begin to arrive on your blog here’s what community looks like:

Problogger Stages of Community2

At this stage YOU are still the centre of your community and all interactions revolve around you. Your readers tell YOU what they think of your posts, they email YOU with questions and YOU need to take the initiative a lot.

In my own early days of blogging I used to email every person who left a comment on my blog to thank them for their comment and to let them know I left a comment responding to theirs. This had a BIG impact – in fact I know of a couple of readers who still read ProBlogger today who read my first blog because I emailed them in that way.

This is really where your ‘culture of community and engagement’ needs to find its foundations. If you look after the small group of readers you have really really well – in time you’ll find they’ll start to ‘catch’ what you’re on about and do it themselves.

Stage 3: Readers Engaging with One Another

What often happens next is pretty cool. It looks like this!

Problogger Stages of Community 3

This is like when you have a party where you invite lots of friends who didn’t previously know you – and your friends start to hit it off with each other.

It’s actually something that I know some bloggers struggle with a little because suddenly readers start showing up on a blog to not only talk with you – but to interact with other readers.

It can be a little disconcerting to see this happen (and to see some readers run off with each other to start interacting on social media or their own blogs) but it is actually where real ‘community’ starts to happen on a blog.

When you start see readers interacting on a deeper level with one another you have a much deeper level of community engagement than you did when YOU were the central point of contact for everyone.

Stage 4: Community Evangelists

The next stage doesn’t always happen – but when it does you know you’re onto something pretty exciting!

Problogger Stages of Community 4

In this stage you begin to see engaged readers begin to evangelise your blog for you. They’ve found something that they’re so engaged with and find so useful to them that they can’t help but bring others in.

I saw this at Digital Photography School when we started a forum for the blog. I noticed a small group of readers who had been reading since the start of the site and who’d been starting to get to know each other began a thread in the forum about asking how they could help to grow the forum.

They’d found dPS to be a useful site for them but realised it’d be more useful with more members. That began a competition within this small group to see who could recruit the most new members to the site. They did it purely for bragging rights and because they wanted the community to grow!

I promoted this small group to be the forums first moderators!

Stage 5: Engagement

The final stage is a mess…. but at the same time music to most community managers ears.

Problogger Stages of Community 5

YOU as the blogger are still there but relationships and interactions go on above, below and around you. In fact some days you may even wonder if anyone would notice if you disappeared (although they will).

How to Build Community on a Blog

I’m sure not every blog develops in the above 5 steps exactly – but it is how I’ve seen emerge a couple of times now on my blogs.

Tomorrow we’re going to get a little more practical on the topic of building community on a blog by really drilling into some specific tactics on how to do it! Update: see that post at 7 Strategies for Growing Community on Your Blog.

Subscribe below to be notified of the links to future posts in this series.

I’m not Technical Enough to Blog [Misconceptions New Bloggers Have #4]

A couple of years ago I wrote a series of posts here on ProBlogger that looked at ‘Misconceptions New Bloggers have’. We covered:

Today I’d like to add another misconception – that you have to be technical to be a successful blogger!

I wonder how many potentially great bloggers have been put off starting a blog because they perceived blogging to be a technical task?

My Story

I think back to my own first forays into building a web presence – way back before I started my first blog – and remember having that feeling myself.

I remember back in the late nineties coming across a website that was written by another Aussie guy who had put together a collection of quotes and jokes. It wasn’t a blog as such but I was attracted to what he was doing and I emailed him to ask him how he did it and whether it was easy enough to set up something similar.

His reply claimed it was easy – but then went on to describe a process that went way above my head. It involved a lot of coding – there were no templates, few tools and within reading the first few paragraphs of his email I knew I’d never have a website.

I had no technical background, I’d not long even been on the web and my personality didn’t really lend itself to the detail that I saw as being needed to set up a website.

Fast forward 4-5 years to 2002 and when I came across my first blog and wondered if I too could start one I remember feeling again that perhaps it would be beyond me. I didn’t let the feeling stop me this time though and began to investigate.

What I found was a surprise – tools now existed to get a site up and running in minutes.

With my limited experience (at that time I used the web to do occasional emails (hotmail) and to research essays (search engines) and to do IRC chat) I was able to get a blog up and running and to post my first post within an hour or so. I even made an attempt at designing my own template/theme (it was ugly but I managed).

I had a steep learning curve – back in 2002 the tools were somewhat primitive and I still needed to learn some HTML code because there were no What You See Is What You Get options. You had to write your posts in html and to get comments working on your blog you had to use an external script (I guess we’d call it a plugin these days).

Today the tools at our finger tips are amazing. Creating a blog takes seconds, updating themes are relatively simple (if you want to use a default theme or a premium one – a bit harder if you want to do it yourself), posting to blogs is as simple as writing an email or creating a word document and there are literally hundreds of thousands of plugins around to help you customise your blog with not a lot more than a few clicks.

There are still technical things to learn about if you want to take your blog up a notch (hosting/servers, custom themes etc) but in the scheme of things the tools now exist to create blog with little or no technical background.

The other things I’d say on this topic are:

  • there are technical things to learn – but you don’t need to know them all at once. When you’re first starting out you might want to keep it simple and set your blog up on a WordPress.com blog – a few clicks and you’re on the go. In time you might feel this blogging thing is something you want to get more serious about and want to transition to your own domain and hosting – but by then you’ll have a lot more skills at your fingertips. Take your time and suck up as many skills and as much knowledge as you can as you blog.
  • together we know it all – I realised pretty early on that even where my knowledge fell short that there were others around willing to help. I still remember in my first week or so of blogging wondering how to make text bold in my posts – I was embarressed but summonsed the courage to ask another kind and generous blogger. She not only helped me with that basic request but over the years became a good friend. We even ended up doing some blogs together. I quickly found that there are people around willing to give advice and share their knowledge. Some will do it for free just to help out, others you might like to barter services with and there are heaps of people around willing to do short term paid work for you to help set up aspects of your blog.
  • outsourcing – on that note – if your budget allows and as your blog grows it is worth considering whether outsourcing some of the more technical aspects of blogging might be right for you. While I’ve learned a lot over the years I’m still not really a technical guy – particularly when it comes to hosting blogs the size that mine have grown to. As a result I’ve out sourced some technical aspects of my blogging – particularly the hosting of my sites and some development work.

As Important (if not MORE Important) as the Technicalities…

Lastly – there are much more important things in blogging than the technical aspects when it comes to having success.

Yes you want to have a blog that loads correctly and that isn’t crashing all the time – but in my mind the things that are as important for success include:

  • Having an understanding of your readers – knowing their needs etc
  • Being able to create content that is compelling, useful and meeting the needs of your readers
  • Being able to engage with readers and build community on your blog
  • Having the ability to draw readers to your blog

None of these things are easy – but similarly to what I said above about the technicalities – you don’t have to know it all from day one. Skills develop over time as you need to know things but also the more you experiment.

I’d love to hear your thoughts:

  • What advice would you give bloggers feeling overwhelmed by the technical side of blogging?
  • What technical aspects of blogging do/have you struggled the most?

Want a More Productive Week? Clean Your Darn Desk!

Has anyone seen that phone number for my interview? I know I printed out a good-looking blog layout but I can’t seem to find it. I know I have that blog idea somewhere in this mess; was it written on a napkin? It’s referenced in a newspaper clipping, but which one? Where’s the thumbdrive I just had?

If you have had any of these thoughts, I’ll bet you have a desk or work area that might need a little bit of improvement. When this becomes an everyday occurrence you may just need a complete makeover … or even a bulldozer.

A messy desk

Image by indi.ca, licensed under Creative Commons

Even though you have organized folders on your computer (well, maybe semi-organized), your desktop or work area tends to gather the detritus of a blogger’s creative life: scraps of paper, napkins, envelopes and just about anything else you can possibly use as an idea collector. Advertisements and articles ripped out of airline magazines and the ever-present jumble of newspaper clippings add to your desk’s adornment.

Soon, your blogging career will be spent with 10% idea collecting, 10% writing and 80% searching your desktop for what you just saw a minute ago. There is an old saying “A clean desk is the sign of a sick mind.” We have to toss that by the wayside and improve our writing environment.

Preparation

If you prepare properly, you will be successful. First, prepare your mind for a clean and uncluttered work environment. Yes, you can do it. You can really work in a shipshape space.

If you have thought about getting a more ergonomically comfortable workspace and chair, this is the time to do it. Consider all kinds of office furniture: desks, chairs, filing cabinets, small tables (for you coffee or power drinks so they don’t spill on the keyboard, laptop or computer) and lamps for your desired lighting.

Now, let’s delve in!

1. Start fresh

Depending on how messy your workspace is, you might need to set aside a full day to start over. If you don’t have time for that, write twice as hard so you can queue posts to publish while you’re clearing your environmental disaster.

Get some empty boxes that can hold all of your stuff. Set some on your left and make this your trash pile. Line the boxes with large green trash bags so once they are full you can immediately deal with them. Mark one of them “Shred.”

The boxes on your right will be everything that is not trash. Mark the boxes “Office Supplies”, “Immediate Use”, “File” and “Computer Stuff.”

Now comes the hardest part of the job, at least emotionally. Pick up one item at a time and put it in one of the boxes or the trash. If you have to think about it for more than half a second, the Trash or File boxes are the best places for it. Continue, one item at a time.

If you have a group of papers, either staple or clip them together, but don’t waste time looking for the paper clips or stapler; stack the loose papers on top of each other in the appropriate box.

Anything that is computer-related, but not attached to your computer, goes into the Computer Stuff box. USB thumb storage sticks, backup drives, wireless mice and keyboards and anything else not physically attached to your computer goes into this box.

Keep working until there is nothing left. The idea here is to get rid of everything from the work area. What you should have left is a bare work area devoid of everything but your computer or laptop.

If you have drawers, go through these also. Empty everything.

2. Clean

If you have a can of compressed air, lightly dust the keyboards while holding them upside down to get rid of all the debris they have collected. If you are good with computers and screwdrivers, take the cover off your computer and blow out the dust; if not consider having someone qualified clean the insides for you after you finish getting your workplace in order. No time for breaks!

Take a damp (not wet) cloth and wipe everything down to get rid of dirt and dust. Don’t forget the inside of the drawers. If you have drawer organizers, clean those too!

Remember to wipe down the computer and display screens, and clean the screens with a dry cloth that has just a light spraying of glass cleaner on it. Do not spray glass cleaner on your display screens.

3. Organize your computing tools

Look at your power wiring and straighten it out. You may wish to take a quick trip to an office supply or electronics store to get some wire and power management covers. If you have to make multiple outlet strips, pick up one that has enough outlets. Tidy up the printer and other peripheral cables to eliminate tangles.

Next, arrange all the items in the Computer Stuff box in your work area so you can comfortably access them. Leave the USB thumb drives in the box—we will take care of them later.

Make sure you keyboard and mouse are in a position where you can comfortably work. If you use a headset, consider using an adhesive hook attached to the side of your monitor or other convenient place for easy and immediate access.

Now create a place for your USB memory sticks. This can be a cup, plastic box or even a compartment in a desk drawer organizer. The idea is to choose a storage area that can be a permanent place where you keep the memory sticks.

Place your backup storage where you just have to power it up and back up your files. Now, create a schedule to back up your data and stick to it. If you can, automate the procedure. Back up your data files (documents, pictures, etc.) separately rather than as a part of a total system backup.

If you need to use the data on a different computer, you will be able to. If your data is embedded in a system backup, you might be in trouble (depending on your backup software) if you have to restore to a different system or even the same system with a different or replacement CPU.

If you use one or more tablets to keep live feeds running, you may want to consider getting a couple of holders for them. There are some nice gooseneck and movable stands that mount to the back edge of a desk that will position them to be easily seen without being in the way or taking up desktop space.

4. Office supplies

A desktop organizer may be good for storing supplies like pencils, pens, paperclips, rulers and other such items. But it can also be a distraction.

Here is a good rule of thumb: if you do not use an item every day, it shouldn’t be on the desktop. Your work surface is exactly what the word says—a work area, not a storage space. Put that stapler away in a drawer where you can easily grab it, unless you use it every day. Even then, keeping it in the drawer might still be a good idea. Use drawer organizers so everything has its own place.

By keeping your work surface clear of all clutter, you encourage your mind to be more productive and make it easier to concentrate on your main task: blogging.

5. Filing and organizing

Next, attack the box that says File. You should have a file cabinet or a desk drawer that is set up with file folders. There are also plastic and cardboard boxes sized perfectly for files. You needn’t spend lots of money on a top-of-the-line filing cabinet.

Go through the papers and file them one at a time. Use a filing system that makes sense to you and enables you to find what you are looking for in a hurry. Do not file every piece in a different folder; use categories that make it easy for you to remember what information is in what folder.

If you have to think about where to file a particular item, you probably don’t need it.

Do not be afraid to use drawer organizers to sort out odd items. Just make sure the drawers do not become a junk drawer, or you may just have to dump the drawer and start this process all over.

6. Urgent items

Now tackle the Immediate Use box. This should contain a relatively small amount of material. Take each piece and process it. If it contains names, phone numbers, or house or email addresses, enter the information in your smartphone and/or email programs—immediately! Then throw it in the Trash or Shred boxes.

If the item contains an idea, open up a document titled Ideas on your computer and enter the idea. Save the document each time you enter new information so you will not lose any of it.

If you run across a picture, scan it into the computer for your blog and then file the picture away. The same goes for newspaper clippings that you will use immediately.

If you can’t immediately use the item you pick up, file it instead.

Keep working until you have gone through everything and everything is in its place. You should now have a clean and organized work area.

7. Wrap up

Before you congratulate yourself and sit back for the rest of the day admiring your handiwork, finish the rest of your job—the trash.

Take the box or bag marked Shred and run it all through the shredder if you have one. If you do not have a document shredder, look up the location of the nearest paper shredding company.

Gather up the trash bags of trash and dump them in the trash can or dumpster. Take a trip to the shredding place if you need to.

Now you can relax and congratulate yourself on a job well done. You might even be inspired to start writing!

Contributing author Alex Ion is the founder and Editor in Chief of Decoist, an interior design and lifestyle magazine which promises to deliver fresh inspiration to even the pickiest. Follow Alex on Twitter for latest trends, and Decoist if you’re looking for some amazing design ideas.

20+ More Bloggers to Watch: The Readers’ Choice

It’s been nearly a month since Bloggers to Watch in 2013 was published. We had a fantastic response, including some compelling recommendations via the comments section and around the web.

Telescope

Image courtesy stock.xchng user saavem

This post presents all the bloggers that people have highlighted over the past few weeks.

Mark Richards

If you want to read a genuinely very funny Dad blogger then you can’t beat Mark Richards.  The blog has only been live for about three months but it is fast getting a strong following in the UK. It’s a mix of current posts (Mark’s kids are all teenagers now) and flashbacks to when they were younger and the only thing he had to worry about was whether they’d eat their carrots. Highly recommended to all parents.

via Charlie Plunkett

Matthew Woodward

Jacob King loved Matthew Woodward.  He said:

Guy is a beast. Teaching so much about link building some of his stuff I don’t even want to share.

What do you guys think? Have you ever come across a blog so good that you wanted to keep it a secret?

Tsh Oxenrider

I’d also include Tsh Oxenrider of Simple Mom. She’s been around a while, but I’m always eager to see where she goes next.

from Tara Ziegmont

Wellness Mama

One blogger I really enjoy is Katie from Wellness Mama. She’s a health and nutrition blogger, but does a great job of getting readers involved with her posts.

via Shea

Christopher Foster

“An older blogger who is an accomplished and wise writer. He blogs regularly at The Happy Seeker. I highly recommend checking him out!”

via Dave Rowley

Bianca Jade

She’s a fitness fashion trend expert and women’s active lifestyle blogger. Bianca is the creator of MizzFIT.com where people can find fitness fashion and health & wellness news. She’s truly inspirational and empowers women to work out, feel sexy and how to live an active, and strong life.

via Emily

More suggestions

Alison Elissa Horner had some great suggestions:

I really like Brooke Castillo’s blog. She doesn’t post super regularly, but her simple, direct posts remind me of this quote.

“In a room where
people unanimously maintain
a conspiracy of silence,
one word of truth
sounds like a pistol shot.” -Czeslaw Milosz

I’m also a fan of Jenny Shih’s blog.  She has thoughtful posts and tips for being an entrepreneur. She’s an excellent teacher because she walks you through new ideas step by step.

Mara made the following recommendation:

Three women, including myself, were asked to speak as we’ve each had great success in less than two years. We’d love for you to check us out:

Therese from the Unlost had a couple of interesting ideas:

She highlighted her move-lah concept has an idea to encourage people to take action: “All my products are payable– in full or in part– with “Move-lah,” the world’s newest form of currency, which is designed to help people move and take action on the concepts they’re learning.”

She also recommended Nicole Antoinette as a “smart, witty, and, well, funny” blogger.

Eden Riley, one of this year’s bloggers to watch, recommended we keep an eye on Karen. She said that the blog was:

one of the best and beautiful blogs ever, written by buddhist monk and mother Karen Maezen Miller. Run to her words—I did.

R Siemienowicz recommended that we check out…

…the visual diary of photographer, illustrator and author Garance Doré. He said she has “the best and most genuinely arresting voice among #fashion bloggers.”

I recommend you read her recent article where she explains the philosphy behind her blog.

More lists

There were also three useful blog posts curating interesting bloggers:

Over to you

No list post can ever cover all niches and communities. Bloggers vary widely in age, race, and gender. Having said that, there were two types of bloggers that people sought recommendations of:

  • examples of Asian bloggers
  • bloggers aged over 60.

Do you know of any interesting bloggers in the above demographics? Or do you know of a niche/community that you feel isn’t represented enough in the wider blogging community?

Let me know in the comments. It will help shape the type of bloggers that I feature here throughout this year.

The Dos and Don’ts of Weight Loss Blogging for Beginners

This guest post is by Karol K.

There’s a popular trend on the internet these days among people who have taken upon themselves to lose some weight. I’m talking about starting a weight loss blog.

The idea in itself is perfect. You get a place to document your progress, talk about the things you’re doing, get additional motivation by interacting with other people through comments (also great for getting additional tips from them), and finally, you’re making your journey public, which is sure to improve your success rate all by itself.

There are some problems, though. The weight loss blogging space is really heavy on purely promotional sites, deceptive sales messages, or even scams desired solely to earn some quick money.

All this makes it really hard to build a credible brand that stands out from the crowd.

That’s why I decided to create this quick tutorial to show you some things you can and should do ASAP, as well as other practices that are better left alone—unless you want to be mistaken for a spammer.

The light side of the force

Before I get to that, let me take a minute to list some people who do this the right way. Here’s the light side of the force (so to speak), just as an example on how weight loss blogging should be done.

  • MindBodyGreen.com: MindBodyGreen was founded by Jason Wachob, Carver Anderson, and Tim Glenister—all wellness experts and enthusiasts. Their team is one of the best in the business. From top yoga instructors to wellness gurus, and weight loss experts, there’s something for every interest and ability level on this blog.
  • NowLoss.com: A very successful blog in the weight loss niche by Andrian Bryant. NowLoss.com now helps over 1.5 million monthly visitors look good naked by losing weight, getting curves, and/or building muscle. NowLoss.com is the #2 weight loss website in the world behind commercial giant Weight Watchers.
  • WorkoutsForHome.com: In her blog, Susan invites us to join her in Operation Awesomeness and lose weight fast, right from home. She is here to teach you everything she knows about becoming awesome…
  • Does This Blog Make Us Look Fat: A blog founded by Rebecca Regnier—an Emmy-winning television journalist and author of “Your Twitter Diet,” available on Amazon. The blog’s mission is to teach you how to lose weight in a way that’s suitable for you individually (whatever weight loss steps you take, Rebecca supports you).
  • A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss: A blog where you can join Erika in her journey from 330lbs to personal trainer. Everything she shares comes from her personal experience. An great blog with lots of personal touches.

Now, let’s focus on how you can join the ranks of these quality weight loss blogs.

Do use your own name and personality

These days people don’t have that much trust reserved for websites talking about weight loss. With so many poor affiliate blogs around—blogs publishing low quality content purely to promote other products through affiliate links—you never know who’s for real and who’s in it just for the quick buck.

One of the common things such marketers do is that they never use their real names. Instead, they showcase some lame brand name, like LoseWeightTacticsBlog, or something.

The easiest thing you can do to differentiate yourself from this crowd is to prove that you’re a human being by using your real name. Then, go one step further and display some actual photos of you (either taken by you or your friends; nothing too professional-looking).

When your audience sees your face on the blog, they will know that you are a real human being who genuinely cares about the content they publish.

Don’t promise

Whenever you want to endorse something (a product or service) be careful about promising any kind of results. This is something spammers do every day. They publish loads of promises, great looking success stories, and even fake before-and-after pictures.

People are very careful now when it comes to believing any sort of promises. Whenever you say that something will bring massive results you’re immediately becoming suspect.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t endorse anything. But do it only when you are absolutely sure that the product is of great quality. You have to experience the results yourself, otherwise you won’t be believable.

Do pick the right name

This is about the name of your site.

Now, you can take one of two possible paths here:

  1. Get a custom domain at godaddy.com (or some other registrar) and your own hosting account.
  2. Register your blog at wordpress.com and get a free subdomain.

Both approaches have their pros and cons. The first one is obviously more expensive. You have to spend $10 a year for the domain, and around $6 per month for hosting.

But what you get in exchange is better credibility and a more serious look from the get-go.

The second path is quick and cheap. You can set up a new blog within minutes, but its address will end with .wordpress.com.

This is up to you, but make sure to go with a good name. Whatever you do, don’t make it seem spammy. For instance, WeightLossTacticsBlog is spammy. MagicWeightLossToday is too. LosingWeightWithKaren is not. There’s no rule of thumb here. Always go with your gut feeling.

The consequences of getting this wrong can be serious. If people see your blog’s name as spamm—as a hidden marketing pitch of sorts—they won’t believe a thing you’re saying.

Do build credibility

As I said before, trust is the rarest commodity in weight loss blogging. If people don’t trust you, they won’t listen to your advice, and might even find it hard to believe your stories.

There are some ways to boost your believability rate, so to speak, and your trust:

  • Use your real name and display pictures of yourself (already discussed).
  • Try storytelling and sharing personal insights. This is where you get to describe genuine stories that are taking place in your life (related to weight loss, obviously). People love stories, and it’s the ultimate way to prove that you are real. If people can relate to what you’re saying, they will surely pay attention. Make every post you publish personal to some degree.
  • Display trust elements. “Trust elements” sound fancy, but what I mean is quite simple. Whenever other website mentions you in one way or the other, put their logo in your sidebar and label it “Websites talking about me” or something similar. The point is to prove that other sites see you as a real, credible person. If you don’t have any of those yet then don’t worry, the day will come.

Don’t talk only about good things

One of the main giveaways that we’re dealing with a weight loss marketer rather than a real person is the fact that each post only touches upon the positive side of things.

As in life, in weight loss, too, there are good and bad days. Good and bad products. Good and bad people.

You can create much additional credibility when you share a message that’s not that positive, but is still 100% real.

Only the strongest people are able to share a negative story and be confident about what they’re saying at the same time.

Don’t use too many ads

Advertising is the most intuitive way to monetize a website. Essentially, I’m not against advertising. If there is a possibility to earn a couple of bucks from your blog then I believe you should take it.

However, be careful not to make your blog overloaded with ads. Such situation will bring your credibility down very quickly. Just one block for AdSense ads (or any other provider) in the sidebar is really enough.

Do publish only real reviews

You can skip this if you’re not planning on publishing any reviews. If you are, keep reading…

The main problem with reviews online is that a big chunk of them is simply fake. Every day countless marketers publish reviews of crappy products without even having those products in their possession.

This is especially visible in the weight loss space where, as we all know, there are hundreds of products available … pills, diets, training programs, training equipment, DVDs, you name it.

That’s why if you’re going to write a review, you should remember a handful of things:

  • Always list the bad sides of the product (there surely are some).
  • Provide pictures of the product taken by you (or better yet, pictures of you using the product if that’s possible).
  • Get in depth to the core benefits the product delivers.
  • Don’t quote any of the information from the product box or the official website.
  • Give an honest final opinion.

Do publish different types of content

Most of the time, spam-bloggers publish only simple 400-word blog posts providing no actual advice. You can differentiate yourself pretty easily by looking at the topic of blogging much more broadly.

Some examples, besides the traditional blog post:

  • Your progress update. If you’re on a weight loss program yourself then you can share your weekly progress updates. I guarantee that your readers will love those.
  • “Meal of the week” or something like that. Provide a complete recipe.
  • “Task of the week.” This is where you can set a goal for the week and update your audience on how well it went. For instance, your goal could be to exercise at least 20 minutes a day.
  • Interviews. If you can have a talk with someone knowledgeable about a given weight loss-related topic, your audience will surely be glad you shared this.
  • Reviews, as discussed above.
  • Off-topic posts. This is where you get to connect with your audience more broadly, by sharing something that’s not related to weight loss, yet still relevant to you as a real person.
  • “Ask the readers.” This is where you ask a question and your readers respond through comments. Then you can round up the most interesting answers and publish them in another blog post. You have to have a big enough audience to make this work, though.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think about using a blog as a way to document your weight loss story? Are you a weight loss blogger? What tips and advice can you share?

Karol K. teaches how to save on the popular Flex Belt, and discusses the basics of TRX training (learn more). He contributes articles on fitness training, working out, and losing weight in general. He also enjoys writing occasionally for WeightLossTriumph. He’s a fan of healthy living and being in shape no matter what. In his personal life, he proves that one doesn’t have to struggle to be healthy.

Partnering With Another Blogger: The Complete Guide

This guest post was written by Yoav Vilner of Ranky.

“Alone we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”—Hellen Keller

If you are a genuine pro blogger, then I shouldn’t waste your time explaining just how important it is to co-operate with your competitors.

It’s been mentioned around here over and over, in so many different variations.

It’s crystal clear how beneficial a blogging alliance would be for you: you can grab your partner’s traffic, social followers and social signals in return for letting him or her borrow yours.

Sounds like a treat, doesn’t it?

But much like trying to produce a mega-successful content marketing campaign, most of us can see the benefits in doing it, yet can’t put our finger on just how to get there.

This tutorial won’t toss reckless slogans in the air; it will turn you into a partnership expert, and teach you how to ignite that one relationship that could change your blog forever.

We’re all human

Your first and most basic takeaway from this piece of content should be to understand that we’re all human.

I am not going to drive you into bugging big shots on Twitter just for the sake of equality, but try remembering that even Pete Cashmore started off as a one-man-with-a-laptop-show, blogging about his passion, before unleashing his brilliant networking skills and creating the empire known as Mashable.

So you might not see the point of re-tweeting his keynotes from where he’s standing now—you’ll just be another fish flapping around the gigantic ocean, right?

But just for fun, imagine if you offered him a fascinating opportunity for co-operation right before Mashable’s big breakthrough.

Imagine you’d messaged him when Mashable was still a medium-sized blog, seeing a mere 10,000 visitors a month, only to get the green light: “Sure man, let’s do this!”

Where would your blog be today?

Remember: don’t be afraid nor shy to address bloggers who you might think are bigger than you. Our blog has an overall of 12K adorable social followers; do you think that it could keep us from partnering with a blog that carries an audience a third of that size?

Don’t research

Hear ye, hear ye! I hereby deny the research phase of finding your future partner! Read all about it!

Logic says that if you are blogging right now, it’s probably because you have followed blogs for at least a year, and have developed an appetite for blogging.

You’ve done enough “researching” when Googling for popular blogs, finding the ones that captivated you and made you follow them on Twitter—or better yet, contained posts that you shared to your Facebook buddies and tried creating discussions about.

They taught you all you wanted to know about your niche, whether it be social media marketing or deer hunting, and made you dream about becoming a blogger yourself one day.

You can’t think of two or three blogs that captured you right from the start? Then I would suggest you hold on to your blogging dream for the moment, until you become a more active follower of the blogosphere.

After all, you wouldn’t go and open a restaurant if you’d never actually had dinner in one, right?

I’m not writing this tutorial for people who plan on sending 100′s of automated Emails to all the blogs in their niche, but to a lot more focused bloggers.

It takes two to tango

So you have in mind a few blogs that you fantasize about partnering with.

Now, most of the blogging alliance articles online consist of tips on how to address that future partner of yours.

I find them to be completely useless. We aren’t in second grade, and we don’t need anyone to teach us how to compose an email.

I can summarize 100,000 words that I’ve personally read about writing a winning email to these obvious pointers:

  1. Make it personal: no “Dear Sir\Madam.”
  2. Prove that you are an actual follower of the blog: state just what value the blog has provided you so far, and which articles within it actually made you think.
  3. Get to the point quickly: no story-telling!
  4. Remind the blogger that it takes two to tango, and both of you should benefit from the partnership.

I just saved you hours of reading these tips in many different variations. The truth is, you don’t even have to follow them! Just remember one simple rule: be honest.

In a world dominated by one search engine, we all know Google rewards bloggers for being honest with their readers, but tend to forget that actual people can reward us even more for keeping it real.

Points of partnership for a blog the same size as yours

So you emailed the blogs that you dream of partnering with, and one of them replied asking for more details.

Great! Already you have showed more progress than 80% of people who do it wrong and don’t get a single reply.

Now, you need to elaborate on what you had in mind. Let’s take a look at the most popular ways of co-operating with a blogger.

Writing content for each other

I’m going to start with the most obvious idea, just to get it out of the way.

Google wants to see that your site is ever-growing content wise. Meanwhile, we are all very busy, lazy, and constantly seeking inspiration, and that’s where some co-operation could help out.

Though writing your own stuff is the only way to earn your crowd’s trust, just imagine how great it could be to have your partner-blogger help you out with your writer’s block and the content gaps that appear when you’re not able to write for a few days.

He’ll write an article from his angle, and once it’s up he’ll promote it to his social followers for you.

Then, when he gets stuck the next time, you’ll help him out the same way.

Both of your blogs’ readers will appreciate the diversity—sometimes it’s quite refreshing to read someone else’s opinions when following a single-author blog.

While you use your content to brand yourself as an expert in the field, uploading articles to the partner’s blog will get your “brand” in front of a new group of readers.

After exposing them to your name for the first time, you’ll start writing for the other blog on a monthly basis, say, and they will slowly realize that you know what you are talking about.

Social co-operation

We all need social signals on our articles.

They increase the chances of getting the post to go viral, they expose thousands of people to your headline and thus to your site, and in overall they just make your content seem more believable. (Would you believe an article that has been re-tweeted twice, or one that has been shared 200 times?)

Other than driving traffic, social signals have a direct affect on your site’s Google Authority, as Google started measuring these metrics in its algorithm.

If you have 2,000 social followers, and your future partner has 1,500 social followers, this would be a perfect case for a social alliance that will help you both cross the 3,000-4,000 line just by sharing each other’s stuff.

Assuming you both have social bookmarking profiles, use Reddit, Digg and StumbleUpon to bookmark each other’s posts. Use Facebook, Google+ and Twitter to share your partner’s articles to your own followers.

Not only will you help him reach more readers, but that way you can get his article to be indexed by Google much faster and help it rank higher for its keywords.

A bonus benefit of a social co-operation is that most of us share our own content 90% of the time, without realizing that a better practice would be showing our followers that we aren’t a bunch of boring narcissists—we are also open to other people’s opinions.

Remember: making your partner’s blog socially stronger will directly make your own blog stronger!

Comments

It’s not enough to socially adore your partner’s blog: it’s also important to light up discussions within it.

It takes only one real comment on a post to ignite a viral discussion, and agreeing that you will both start or contribute to discussions on your articles can do wonders for your blog’s traffic and engagement levels.

This is social proof at its finest.

If you’re traveling and you need to decide whether to have a coffee at the empty place in front of you, or the packed place next door, you will probably choose the one that has the crowd.

Customers bring more customers, and the same goes for comments.

Make a rule to leave a genuine comment on each new post your partner writes, and you will see the results for yourself.

Mentions

This is my favorite idea, and it comes in two forms: backlinks and Thank you pages.

Backlinking to your partner’s relevant pages from within your new articles can do wonders for their Google rankings, and you can also benefit when they return a link.

Just remember to keep it clean and natural, as Google’s Penguin update from last August has massively increased the search engine’s ability to identify unnatural and low-quality reciprocal linking patterns.

The other kind of mentions that I like are those that come through Thank you pages.

Your readers get (or at least should get) to a Thank you page after they register, login, subscribe to your newsletter, or perform any other desired goal.

Imagine how beneficial it could be for you and your partner if you mentioned each other’s blogs as a recommendation each time a user completes such a goal.

Points of partnership for a blog that’s bigger than yours

Blogs that are at a higher traffic level than yours will likely need a lot more convincing to agree to an alliance offer.

After all, if you’ll be tweeting their content to 1,000 followers, while they’re tweeting yours to 30,000 followers, it can be difficult to see what they’ll get out of the partnership.

It’s important that your points of partnership are unique, as the bigger a blog gets, the more similar requests its owner will get per day.

Offering a free service

Do you have expertise besides blogging? Great!

Use that expertise to offer the bigger blog free services in exchange for a blog partnership.

You will naturally have to donate more time and effort at the start of the partnership, but when you’re calculating long-term ROI, both sides can gain much from this alliance.

Are you a graphic designer? Throw in a few free graphics to save the partner’s cash when they’re designing their next landing page. You know solid SEO? Awesome: make them a nice SEO report for their site at no charge.

The list goes on: you could be a social media expert, a mobile App developer, or even a t-shirt provider.

The bigger your partner blog is, the more you should be willing to provide at no cost in return for an alliance.

Volunteer to be the blog’s editorial assistant

If you got a reply from a blog that’s significantly bigger than yours, you might want to consider volunteering as an editorial assistant.

If they go for it, you will save the blogger a load of time answering to guest post requests, editorial emails and different kinds of inquiries. You can be the one answering all the guest posters, supplying them with the guidelines, and making sure their submissions are up to par before passing them to the editor.

Extra benefits

So you’ve started co-operating with another blog, and you’re doing great. You get twice as many social signals, your traffic has jumped and your brand is growing beyond your wildest dreams.

The good news is that it doesn’t end here.

Life is unpredictable, and you could end up running into amazing business opportunities just by forming a simple online alliance.

If you and your partner come up with a really creative partnership or a mutual product co-operation, it could be so newsworthy that it gets picked up by major news outlets in your niche—and that’s when you’ll see some serious traffic spikes.

If you and your partner blogger are both social media experts, and your alliance has earned you both more business leads, you might come to the conclusion that there’s something to it, and start a new business as real-life partners.

If you have been volunteering as an editorial assistant for a massive blog for a few months, gained their trust, and shown that your own blog is also growing, your blog might be acquired by theirs—giving you the chance to earn more money from the deal than you ever imagined.

Last but not least, partnering with a blogger can earn you what money will never buy—a new best friend.

Have you got a blogging partner? Tell us how you work together in the comments.

Guest post was written by Yoav Vilner, co-founder of Ranky.

Don’t Let Your Brain Destroy Your Blog Business

This guest post is by Steve of thecodeofextraordinarychange.com.

The U.S. General Accounting Office has estimated that purchases of equipment by the military that feature new technology are delivered on time and on budget just 1% of the time.1

The worldwide scientific community has agreed unanimously that human activity on planet Earth is responsible for climate change, yet more than half of the people in the U.S. remain incredulous.

In 1964, the front page of The New York Times declared the detection of the afterglow of the big bang, finally settling the question of how the universe came to be.  Or so you’d think.  Even thirty years later, proponents of the “steady state” theory—the idea that the universe has always been around and didn’t start with a big bang—still believed in iterated versions of the steady state theory rather than the big bang.2

In the UK, half of the population believes in heaven, but only a quarter believes in hell.

The common thread that links each of these facts is this:

People reject evidence where it doesn’t support what they already believe to be true.

Your brain, the painter

Your brain is pretty clever.  It doesn’t know everything and it knows that it doesn’t know everything, so it’s become incredibly efficient at painting a picture of yourself and the world that’s based on limited, incomplete and inaccurate data.

It does this without you even knowing what it’s up to, presenting your conscious mind with a complete picture of “how things are” and “who you are” that’s been composited together from different visual cues, memories, and emotions, then Photoshopped to add sunshine and a lens flare.

This mechanism helps you select, filter and even create evidence to support your own beliefs.  It also inflates your own competence and feeds the belief that you’re in control and “right.”

Social psychologists call this motivated reasoning, and recent research using FMRI brain scans shows that when you make a logical, objective assessment of what’s in front of you, it is in fact anything but logical and objective.

When attempting to objectively process data that’s emotionally relevant (such as starting a business, creating a service or marketing yourself), your limbic system lights up and your brain automatically weaves in the things you want, dream, admire, crave, and desire.

When information enters your brain that favours those things you mark it with an A. “Looking good,” you say, patting yourself on the back.

And when information enters your brain that doesn’t favour the way you want to see yourself and the world, you mark it down to a D-.  “I’m not going to listen to that nonsense,” you say, congratulating yourself for being smart enough not to be duped.

Your choices are not so much based on fact and logic as they are centred on who think you are and what you really want.

Who’s calling the shots?

This automatic deception is normally one step ahead of you, having you do things you wouldn’t do if you knew the real cost.

It’s an in-built defence mechanism that purges the uncomfortable, painful or contradictory information that threatens your core beliefs, even if those same beliefs aren’t serving you well (such as a belief that you’re not good enough, not up to scratch or less than others, for example).

It can have you making a decision about your business based on your desire to fit in.

It can have you wasting your energy on something that your brain tells you will get you lifestyle you think you want, even if you don’t really want it.

It can have you investing time and money in a new project to gain the validation your brain craves.

Letting your brain automatically call the shots is what might ultimately kill your business.

The antidotes

Luckily, there are two antidotes to the unconscious biases created by motivated reasoning.

1. Rampant curiosity

It’s hard for assumptions about yourself and your business to remain unchallenged when you’re asking the right questions.

Ask questions about what’s fun, resonant, playful, daring, meaningful, silly, and important, and be willing to explore your own undiscovered country.

2. Deliberate awareness

Asking questions can open doors that give you valuable insights, but you can only step through those doors and hear those insights when you foster a deliberate awareness and ‘fess up to what you find.

So, notice.

Notice how you’re feeling when you’re making choices.  Notice the thoughts in your head related to your circumstances, business offering, and value.  Notice the thoughts you have about how you feel about what you’re doing.

Motivated reasoning will always have you dancing to the same ol’ tune; well-worn steps that hide the truth, constrain your growth, and ultimately limit your business.

So don’t let your brain make decisions on your behalf that you wouldn’t make while keenly awake and aware.

Wake up to it. Rampant curiosity.  Deliberate awareness. That’s where your success lies in 2013 and beyond.

References

1. Ross Buehler, Dale Griffin and Michael Ross, “Inside the Planning Fallacy: The Causes and Consequences of Optimistic Time Predictions”, in “Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgement”, Cambridge University Press, 2002. Cambridge Books Online. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511808098.016

2. George Smoot and Keay Davidson, Wrinkles in Time: Witness to the Birth of the Universe (Haper Perennial, 2007) 79-86.

Steve is a confidence coach who helps you find your natural confidence so that you can put your dent in the universe – which basically means doing what really matters to you in ways that work for you.  He also likes smiling, and likes this picture of a happy horse.  See more of Steve on Twitter and Facebook.

7 Old Post Revival Techniques You Won’t Believe You’re Overlooking

This guest post is by Ahmed Safwan of To Start Blogging.

Do you have hundreds of posts in your archive?

Most of them receiving a big zero in traffic?

You aren’t the only one who has this problem. Most of the bloggers, even pro ones, have this problem. That’s why this post was created.

Your old posts can generate additional visitors for you. Let’s see how.

1. Create internal links

You’ve heard me talk about internal linking before. This is because it’s very important.

When you link to your old posts, you are giving more value to your readers and also to Google itself.

You will be able to get traffic to your old posts, decrease bounce rates, increase average time on site per visitor, and increase your rankings. All this from just linking to your old posts!

So, whenever you write a new post, remember that your old posts can also give value, and link to them in your new post.

2. Update your old post and republish it

Do you notice how CopyBlogger republishes some of its old articles from time to time?

Doing this will let you catch a break, and also get a raft of traffic to your old content while making sure that content remains current over time.

3. Spread it on social media

Social media can also send more traffic to your old posts. Tweet more than one post each day, to get the best results.

As well as scheduling tweets for the upcoming week, see if you can’t theme your old post tweets around events that are happening in your niche, or the world in general. Depending on your topic, a post you wrote six month or a year ago may provide an interesting coutnerpoint or reminder for readers.

4. Create a follow-up post

Maybe you have an old post, but something has changed around that topic. Great: create a follow-up post that shows what’s changed since you wrote that old post, link back to it, and you will get traffic to it as well.

This can be especially effective if there are valuable comments on the old post, and you can pick up on those in the new one. Tactics like this, which weave the posts together, give readers a solid reason to look back at the past post.

5. Use a “related posts” widget

When your readers reach the end of a post, they want to know what to do next. Show them related posts from your archives. This revives your old posts and provides more context and information to your readers.

Remember, they can be your loyal readers forever, so always try to provide them with the content they need. Your archives should be chock-a-block with it!

6. Use cornerstone content

Do you have a number of posts on a similar topic? Create a single post that contains all of these posts, as a one-stop resource for your readers.

This way, you’ll get more traffic from search engines, and show your authority on this topic—which can only help build loyalty among the visitors you help.

7. Link to your old posts in an email series

Last week, I received an email from Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income. It’s an email that’s sent to all new subscribers after a given time, and in the email, he was promoting an old post. What a great idea.

Create autoresponders to send weekly to your new subscribers. In these emails, you can include links to your old posts and relevant tips. This is a great way to create a richer relationship with your new subscribers.

Do you have any other ideas?

These are the common ways to promote your old posts. If you have another idea, share it in the comments!

In addition to being a successful blogger and a talented freelance writer, Ahmed Safwan is on a mission to help bloggers who want to succeed build the blog that can help them to do so. If youíre one of them, check out his blog for more Blogging Tips that Help you make money.