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ProBlogger Challenge: Put a Value on Your Blog

This week we’ve heard from blog sellers, and blog buyers. Whether or not you’ve been inspired by what they’ve had to say, I’ll bet that the conversation has raised one key question in your mind:

What is my blog worth?

Price tag

Image courtesy stock.xchng user ba1969

These days, we’re seeing blogs being recognised as valuable business tools, both for business-to-business as well as business-to-consumer connections. So if you own and run a blog, it makes sense to understand its value.

Today’s challenge is to do just that.

The basics

If you’ve been following along this week, you’ll already have a few of the key metrics for a blog valuation in mind:

  • the age of your blog
  • uniqueness and quality of blog design
  • traffic levels, sources, and quality
  • visitor stats: bounce rates, time on site, conversions, and so on
  • current monetization approaches and levels
  • associated social media footprint.

Andrew Knibbe of Flippa recommended that we use the marketplace as a yardstick by which to value a blog, but what other factors should we take into account before we start doing research there? Let’s step through the process of getting a rough idea of your blog’s value.

Vital stats

First, make note of these vital stats for your blog. You could do this on paper, but I recommend a spreadsheet, because that’ll make it a bit easier when it comes to comparing your site to others down the track.

  • Blog age: Andrew from Flippa mentioned earlier in the week that older blogs tend to be given higher valuations.
  • Domain: If you’re selling the domain with your blog, a shorter or more memorable domain is probably likely to be looked on more favourably than a longer domain, or one that contains hyphens, for example.
  • Platform: The platform on which your blog is hosted might not in itself raise or lower your blog’s value, but it might impact the types of buyers who’d be interested in it.
  • Theme: If you’re on a WordPress blog, paid or unique themes are more likely to attract more serious buyers.
  • Alexa rank: We saw earlier in the week that Alexa rank also contributes to a blog’s value, so if you don’t know where yours sits at the moment, find out.

By this point, you should be off to a good start.

Traffic stats

Next, it’s time to open up your Analytics tool and take a critical look at your blog stats not just for the last month, but over the last few months.

  • Monthly traffic: Note down the total traffic levels first.
  • Traffic sources: Next, allocate portions of traffic to the relevant sources of those visits.
  • Landing pages: Look at your key landing pages. Shahzad mentioned yesterday that some of the most popular landing pages on the blog he was buying were off-topic posts. How relevant are your main landing pages to your blog’s brand and niche?
  • Bounce rates: It’s important to look at this data over time, and to work out which traffic sources have lower or higher bounce rates. This can help you get an idea of the overall value of your blog’s traffic.
  • Time on site: This is a good measure of engagement and, again, it’s worth looking at the average time on site for each different traffic source, to see which visitors are more engaged.

This information should help you get a feel for the value of the traffic your blog attracts, and the content you’ve developed. It might also help you identify places where there’s room for improvement, but for now, let’s keep going with our valuation.

Monetization

If you’ve monetized your blog somehow, you can be sure that potential buyers will be interested to know how you’ve done it, and how successful you’ve been. Let’s pull together the data—if you don’t already have it at your fingertips.

  • Monthly revenue: Add up your revenues for the last three months and divide by three to get a monthly average.
  • Monetization sources: Make a note of the ways you monetize your blog. Have you created unique products from scratch? Do you use certain advertising or affiliate networks?
  • Conversion rates: Look at your conversion figures for the last three months, and compare them with your last three months’ traffic to calculate your average conversion rate.
  • Value per visitor: Take your average revenue figure for the last three months and divide it by your average traffic figure for that time period. This will give you an average visitor value, which will be really helpful in assessing your site against others for sale in your niche.
  • Profit: You might not be able to calculate this figure until you complete the next section, but do be sure to subtract your costs from your revenue figure to get a profit figure. Again, this will make for easy comparison between your blog and others. If it’s good, it could also go a long way to tempt potential buyers.

Note that at this point, you can calculate a valuation based on a multiple of your revenue—either 12 or 24 months, say. This will give you a good reference point for the research we’ll do on Flippa in a moment.

Costs

Whether or not you’ve monetized your blog, potential buyers will want to know how much it costs to run, so they can compare it with other blogs they might be considering buying. Make note of the costs you pay for:

  • Hosting: Note monthly or annual figures.
  • Design and development: Unless you have regular maintenance charges, you might want to add up what you spent on your blog’s design and development in the last year as a more objective figure than your expenditure for the last three months.
  • Content: Do you pay writers? Buy content? Add up those costs—along with your own time cost for writing and editing your blog’s content.
  • Marketing and customer acquisition: If you spend money on advertising—or time on guest-posting and content marketing—again, add up those costs for the last three months.
  • Time: Don’t forget to tally your time for other blogging tasks, like social media, affiliate and ad management, and so on. Try to get a clear and honest picture of how much time it takes you to run your blog on a monthly basis.

Comparing blogs in your niche

This basic information shouldn’t take you too long to collate. And once you have, the real challenge begins! Try to find at least two other blogs for sale in your niche to compare yours with.

  1. Go to Flippa.com. You can, of course, search for sites for sale in your niche on Google too. That can be a good way to find out what’s for sale, but as those sites may not give you an indication of how much they’re hoping to sell for, a visit to Flippa for research is a good idea.
  2. Find sites for sale and auction in your niche or a similar niche. I’d recommend you look at finished sales, since that’ll give you the figure the sites sold for, rather than just their current bid price, or Buy It Now price. Recent sales will give you the best indication of what the market is actually willing to pay for a blog like yours.
  3. Assess the sites. Go through the checklist above again for each of the sites you’re looking at. Make a note of the prices they sold for. See if you can spot any trends that can indicate what the market values in blogs within your niche, and think about how your blog stacks up on these points.
  4. Settle on a price range in which you think your blog might sit. Rather than picking a single figure that you think you’d accept for your blog, I think it’s probably a better idea to use your research to work out a range in which that price might reasonably fall. You’ll have a figure you wouldn’t sell below, and a range in which you can set your expectations.
  5. Compare the range with your multiple-of-revenue price. If you calculated a multiple-of-revenue price above, compare it with the price range you’ve arrived at to see if the figures are in the same ball park.

By the end of this challenge, you should have a rough valuation on your blog. If you’re game, share it with us in the comments below. Or, if you’d rather, you can just let me know if you were surprised—or disappointed, or inspired!—by the price range you arrived at.

Melbourne Food and Wine Blogging Event

I’ve been excitedly sitting on this one for a while now and am relieved to finally announce a new ProBlogger event that is coming up for Melbourne Food and Wine Bloggers (and anyone else who wants to travel to Melbourne for an evening).

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The event is being held in collaboration with my good friend Shane Delia, an amazing chef and co-owner of restaurants including two of my favourites—Maha Bar and Grill and St Katherine’s, Kew.

Shane and I have talked for some time now about organising an event for bloggers and are today releasing tickets for the first of what we hope will be a series of events for foodies.

We have lined up what we hope will be a fun and informative evening that will feature three delightful speakers, an insightful panel discussion and a delicious three-course meal from the team at Maha (including wines to match each course).

Here are the event details:

  • Date: Tuesday 17 July 2012
  • Time: 6pm arrival
  • Venue: Maha, 21 Bond St, Melbourne
  • Inclusions: Event ticket with three-course meal and wine matching (served on communal tables)
  • Cost: $120 per person

Our speaker lineup for the event draws on three fantastic people from different areas of the food and wine writing fraternity in Melbourne. We’ve chosen a wine writer, a food writer, and a blogger. Here’s who who’ve lined up:

Dan Sims, The Wine Guide

dansims.jpgA fresh perspective on wine writing

Cool, calm, and collected without pretentious frippery is how Dan likes to keep the world of wine. He’s an award-winning Sommelier and the engine room for many of The Wine Guide’s clients and for their events that happen around Australia and beyond.

Dan’s excitement for good wine is palpable whether in front of a camera, or in front of a room full of bloggers, and his even-handed approach to wine has drawn plenty of praise from the press and trade.

Dan will share his insights on how his no-nonsense approach to writing can be applied to your own blogging.

More about Dan | @dansims | Facebook

“Jetsetting Joyce”, MEL: Hot or Not


joyce.jpgSuccesses and learnings from my food blogging journey

Jetsetting Joyce started blogging in 2007 when she lived in London. Back then, LDN: Hot or Not was a simple Blogger template with hardly any pictures and maybe one or two paragraphs about where she’d eaten, what play she’d seen, what shops she’d visited, and the places she stayed. It was a way of keeping in touch with family and friends, and was more of a travel diary than something meant for a wider audience.

When Joyce returned to Melbourne 2009 she was going to quit blogging … but found that it’d become quite an addictive habit. So MEL: Hot or Not was born and has continued to thrive for over three years with Joyce’s honest and informative reviews about everything Melbourne—restaurants, bars, theatre, festivals, events, shops, and businesses. All posts are written with one decisive criteria in mind: is it hot or not?

Joyce’s blogging addiction has meant she now also writes TOT: Hot or Not, a blog about parenting which started in August 2010 with her first pregnancy, plus a blog filled with cycle chic inspiration as part of her online bike shop CycleStyle. She fits all the blogging around her day job as an intellectual property and IT lawyer. (Yeah, she’s a busy lady!)

Joyce will share her learnings and successes and how she’s applied them to her blogging career.

More about Joyce | @jetsettingjoyce | Facebook

Hilary McNevin, Broadsheet, The Age


hilary.jpgThe art of writing a review: expressing your opinion, with context and effective, thoughtful communication

Hilary McNevin worked front-of-house, managing restaurants and studying wine in both Australia and the UK for 15 years before shifting careers. She studied Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT and, during her study and since finishing the course at the end of 2007, has freelanced for “Epicure” in The Age as a regular contributor, and fills in for senior reviewer Larissa Dubecki on the “Espresso” column.

Hilary has reviewed for and sub-edited The Age Good Food Guide 2008 and 2009, and continues to review for the guide. She is a reviewer for The Age Cheap Eats, The Age Good Cafe Guide, Good Food Shopping Guide and Good Bar Guide. She is the restaurant reviewer for The Moonee Valley Weekly, a Fairfax publication, and is a contributing food writer for Broadsheet.com.au.

She contributes regularly to Winestate magazine and the James Halliday Wine Companion magazine, and in July she’ll begin writing Melbourne food news for Delicious magazine. Hilary had her first book Guide to Fish: Choosing and Cooking Sustainable Species published by Fairfax in October 2008.

Hilary will share her extensive experience in writing reviews, providing key journalism hints and tips on the fine art of review writing.

More about Hilary | @hilarymcnevin

Tickets are limited: get yours today

This evening is going to be a lot of fun. Not only will you hear from these panelists (and Shane and myself), you’ll have the opportunity to connect with 100 other Melbourne foodies (and might even get the opportunity to meet Mrs ProBlogger who is eying off a ticket too).

Tickets for this event are limited, so register today to reserve a spot yourself and your friends (a maximum of four tickets is available per person).

Please Note: Registration is free via Eventbrite but will reserve your ticket only. Your seat at the venue will only be confirmed once payment is collected. A representative of Maha will make contact with you to confirm your payment details once you have reserved your seat via Eventbrite.

View more event details and a list of attendees at http://probloggerfoodwine.eventbrite.com/.

My Best Product, My Best Launch, My Best Month – Ninjafied

Last week the mysterious Web Marketing Ninja released a free PDF mind map here on ProBlogger (with accompanying video) that walked readers through his in depth strategies for turning a Blog into a Business.

The feedback from that MindMap and video were great and I had a steady flow of thank you emails over the weekend from readers working through it.

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Among the feedback from readers was some people feeling a little overwhelmed – so the Ninja has put together a second shorter video with some practical case study examples of how we’ve implemented some of the strategies in the Mind Map on my own blogs – yep, the Ninja is picking on me today!

See the video here

The 3 case studies are:

  1. A/B testing – how we significantly increased the revenue from a product launch through split testing emails (and how we could have done even better had we done more testing).
  2. Product Development Made Easy – the back story behind my biggest selling ProBlogger eBook
  3. The Art of the Campaign – the story behind my biggest earning month ever

Our hope is that these practical examples will not only bring the Mind Map to life but that they might also give some practical ideas on how you can transition your blog into a business.

See the video here (along with the previous video and the Mind Map).

Also be watching out for a brand new ProBlogger Resource created by the Ninja in the coming days.

Who Else Wants to Sell More Ebooks?

This morning I was doing some reports on eBbook sales over the last few years and it struck me how much difference there can be in terms of numbers of sales from one ebook to the next—even ebooks sold on the same blog.

On dPS we have now launched six photography ebooks (and have another about to launch) and the variation in sales numbers is quite amazing.

Transcending Travel

Of course there are many factors that come into play that could determine an ebook’s success, including:

  • marketing
  • timing of release
  • price
  • cover design
  • author’s profile
  • and many, many other factors

However there’s one factor that I’m coming to see is extremely important (at least in my experience)—topic.

Of course that’s a pretty obvious thing, but not all topics are equal and even those that you think might be most appealing to people are not always going to succeed.

One illustration of this point are two great ebooks that we’ve launched in the last year or so. They were both written by the same author, and released to the same audience, at the same price, with much the same marketing strategy, and even similar sales copy—yet the results were quite different.

The ebooks were:

Which one do you think sold more?

I’ll tell you in a moment.

Both ebooks were written by Mitchell Kanashkevich and their quality was fantastic. Both were beautifully designed, very practical, and full of useful information.

The travel one launched first and we were a little unsure whether it was too niche-focused or not. While most people do travel and take trips, it’s something that most people only do occasionally.

On the other hand, color was a topic we identified as something every photographer really, really needed to know about and understand. It impacts every image a photographer takes, and understanding it can make a massive difference to the outcome of a shot.

Comparing the topics in this way we fully expected the color ebook to outsell the travel one, however, as you may have guessed, this was not to be.

Both ebooks performed well and were profitable but the travel photography one saw almost double the sales of the color ebook during its launch.

Now there could be a number of factors at play here, but as we’ve analyzed the results, one of the things we’ve realized is that while we thought that the color ebook should have been more useful to more photographers, it was somehow less tangible than the travel ebook.

While important, the topic of color was perhaps too wide and general in its focus to actually drive as many sales as we’d expected.

On the other hand, the travel ebook was narrower in focus, but it was going to lead those who bought it to see results in a specific area of their life. It would solve a specific problem that they faced—disappointing travel images.

We have since tweaked the marketing on the color ebook and have seen a rise in sales, but the two launches reminded us that not all topics are created equal.

That’s not to say that we won’t do more ebooks on topics like color, but we’re certainly looking for topics that solve specific, felt needs, too.

The other thing that this has taught us is to think more about marketing our ebooks even before they’ve been written. While we don’t want our marketing team to determine the content of a resource or to compromise the integrity of the authorship process, we’ve realized that if the author has been involved in talking about marketing even before they start writing, they’re more likely to produce something that is not only helpful but will also be easier to sell.

Thinking of Creating an eBook? Here’s a System to Guide You Through It

If there’s one question that I get asked more than any other at the moment it is about eBooks. In fact there are three main questions that I’m asked on the topic of eBooks more than any other:

  1. How do I create content for eBooks?
  2. How do I design beautiful eBooks (covers and internal design)?
  3. How do I market and launch eBooks to maximise their potential?

Over the last few years selling eBooks has become a larger and larger part of my business (in fact its now the #1 way I earn a living) and these three questions have been the same three big issues that I’ve had to grapple with time and time again.

To be honest I’m still refining my systems even now after years at it but in the early days the process was very very messy and quite hit and miss.

The learning was slow – nobody had written a comprehensive guide to walk me through the process, so I had to really develop my own way forward.

This week Kelly Kingman and Pamela Wilson have released a fantastic guide to walk eBook publishers through a great system of creating, designing and launching eBooks.

It’s called the eBook Evolution.

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Having just reviewed it today I can safely say it is what I needed a few years back when I was starting out – it would have paid for itself many times over by now.

Pamela and Kelly bring some great skills and experiences to this eBook. Pamela is a graphic designer with many years of experience and Kelly is a published author and experienced eBook creator. I’ve been so impressed by Kelly’s previous eBooks that we’re actually working together on a photography eBook to be released in the next weeks – she knows what she is doing!

Together they’ve created eBook Evolution which is divided into 3 areas corresponding with those 3 common questions about eBooks:

  1. Write it – from choosing your topic through to writing your manuscript
  2. Create it – eBook Evolution gives you some great templates to use to help you create a beautiful eBook. You also get a Cover Recipe book to make attractive covers. This section has some great screencasts as well as templates you can use to do your own eBook design.
  3. Launch it – some fantastic tips on how to get word about your eBook out there to the right people to help you promote it.

On top of that you get some great bonuses including a Quick Start Guide, a brainstorming guide to help you come up with ideas and some useful interviews.

The eBook Evolution is available for $147. It comes with a 30 day money back guarantee.

If eBooks are on the horizon for you (or even if you’re already publishing them) but you’re unsure how to develop a system to write, create and launch the – this is a guide that you’ll seriously want to consider.

As I said above – if this had been around 2-3 years ago I could see that it would have returned the $147 investment many times over (all I’d have had to do is sell an extra eight $19.99 ebooks over the last few years from what I learned to make the money back).

Learn more about what the eBook Evolution includes and secure your own copy here

Disclaimer: While I am an affiliate for this product I am also a big fan of Kelly, Pamela and the wonderful resource that they’ve created.

Note: This post has been updated after the initial launch special of this product ended.

Inside the Life of the Other Kind of ProBlogger

This guest post is by Paul Cunningham, blogger, internet marketer, and author of How to Become a Successful Freelance Blogger,

I bet that you could easily name at least a dozen blogs that dispense blogging tips to other bloggers. The so-called “blogging blogs” vary in many different ways, but they all tend to give out the same basic advice: start a blog, build your audience, monetize, and maybe one day you’ll reach that six-figure income that defines you as a “problogger”.

But what about the other kind of problogger, the one who gets paid simply to write blog posts? You might think of them as freelance bloggers, or staff writers, or maybe you’ve never actually thought about them at all.

Consider this: while you work hard to build up your own blog, writing post after post and trying to find the traffic and monetization strategies that will work for you, those freelance bloggers are out there getting paid for every blog post they write.

So, is it really that easy for freelance bloggers to make money while most other bloggers make nothing? Let’s take a look inside the life of these other probloggers.

Skills and experience

A freelance blogger isn’t all that different from someone who publishes their own blog. The freelancer is a regular person who knows how to use WordPress to write and edit blog posts, just like any of you reading this that have used WordPress before.

They certainly don’t need to be a WordPress expert, because someone else is responsible for all of the technical stuff that goes on behind the scenes of the blogs they write for. Installing plugins, dealing with comment spam, and performing upgrades are things that don’t eat up the freelancer’s time and energy. They’re free to concentrate on the writing.

The freelancer also either has strong experience in the topic they’re writing about, or uses simple research techniques to write with authority on almost any topic they wish.

This is more common than most people realize. After all, the biggest audience for most blogs is the beginner level, so freelance bloggers only need to be at intermediate level—or be able to fill in their knowledge gaps with research—to be able to write about the topic.

Discipline and time management

Make no mistake: that image you have in your head of a freelance blogger sitting in their pyjamas at home or relaxing at the local coffee shop while they work is true in a lot of cases. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t professionals too.

Freelancer blogging is a business, and has to be treated as one. The clients that you write for depend on quality blog posts being submitted on time. A freelancer can’t just spontaneously take the day off when they’ve got a deadline to meet. If they did, their reputation would take a hit, and reputation is one of the biggest assets a freelance blogger has.

Because most freelancers work from home, there are numerous distractions throughout the day that can easily harm their productivity. Successful freelance bloggers develop excellent time management skills and create routines that have them writing at their most productive times of day.

Money, money, money!

By now you might be wondering just how much money a freelance blogger makes, compared to the typical problogger. Naturally, this depends on a few different factors.

The ability to find and win good paying work is the first challenge. Freelance blogging opportunities are in plentiful supply at the moment (just take a look at the action on the ProBlogger job board as one example), and the trend seems to be towards more work rather than less.

Now that blogging has become mainstream, it plays a big part in the web strategies of a huge variety of media companies. The top blogs in the world tend to be high-volume, multi-author sites using a mix of staff writers and freelance bloggers to turn out the amount of content they need to compete in their niche.

All of this means that freelancers who are able to present a good portfolio of work, and have the discipline and professionalism to do the job, can virtually pick and choose exactly how much work they want to do each week. This puts the earning potential of a freelance blogger almost entirely within their own control.

It’s no surprise, then, to find that freelance bloggers can be anything from hobbyists who do it one or two nights a week for a bit of side income, all the way to full-time freelancers running their own six-figure business writing for multiple clients.

My experience in freelance blogging

I’ve spent the last two years freelance blogging. For me it was a side income — some extra money that I could reinvest into my own blogs as I was building them. It meant that I didn’t need to dip into our family savings to pay for the WordPress themes, plugins, ebooks, and other products that have helped me along the way.

While I was blogging, I met numerous bloggers who spend most of their time doing paid freelance work. A lot of them also run their own blogs for fun, and some make good money from those blogs too, but for most of them the attraction of freelance blogging is that it gives them a steadier income and almost instant return for their effort.

What about you? As you work to build your own profitable blogs, would a freelance blogging income help you get there faster?

Paul Cunningham is a blogger, internet marketer, and the author of How to Become a Successful Freelance Blogger, the ebook that teaches you how to turn your knowledge and passion into a real income stream. Follow Paul on Twitter.

Blogging Tips from Pro Triathletes

This is a guest post by Mike CJ, co author of Beyond Blogging.

One of the businesses I consult with organizes triathlon events. Although my work is based around their blog and social media presence, I also enjoy getting stuck in as a general volunteer on the actual events.

The triathlon we run is called Ironman, and it consists of a 3.8km swim, followed by a 180km bike ride and finished off with a 42.2km marathon. Our triathlon is renowned as the world’s toughest, as athletes have to endure our searing heat and a mountainous bike course.

I’ve been lucky enough to get to know several world-class, professional competitors, and it was while talking to one of them that the similarity between what they do and what bloggers do dawned on me.

It’s the details that count

Steve was explaining to me that the difference between being a winner and an “also-ran” in triathlon is about improving a wide range of factors, bit by bit, over time.

He said the mistake most amateurs make is to focus on what he called “The big one”— the biggest challenge. In triathlons, that’s almost always the bike discipline, or the marathon. Amateurs tend to work hardest on those areas, believing that there is a lot to be gained from the two longest legs.

He told me that they’ll work and work on one area, and then lose all the time they’ve gained in those legs on other parts of the race.

As a pro, he told me the secret to his success was to focus on improving every single element of his race by a small amount every week. As well as the obvious key phases of the race, he also concentrates on small details:

  • the swim start, running into the sea and getting into a stroke fast
  • stripping his wetsuit off while running to the transition area
  • getting sun cream on quickly
  • leaving his bike shoes strapped to the pedals and doing them up while riding
  • changing his seat height for the final few miles to get his legs ready for the run
  • dismounting from the bike and racking it fast
  • putting his running shoes on while running
  • planning his fluid intake during the race.

These are just a few examples, but he told me that he seeks to improve the efficiency of each of those factors by several per cent every year. In real terms, he may make up only a few seconds on each, but when they’re all added together, he improves by minutes every single year.

How to blog like a pro triathlete

We bloggers love to focus on the big stuff—changing our themes, writing an epic series of posts, or perhaps creating a new ebook or course.

But actually, it’s all the little things that add up to improve our traffic, increase our conversion rate and really move our blogs forward over time. Lasting progress is achieved in many small ways:

  • revisiting old posts to add internal links and improve them
  • adding new follow-ups to keep our email lists engaged
  • testing placement of adverts or calls to action to improve response rates
  • taking the time to follow commenters back to their blogs
  • creating sneeze pages to help new readers find relevant stuff
  • adding links to relevant past posts when we write new ones.

None of these tasks are interesting, fun or sexy, but find me a successful blog and I’ll show you a blogger who does them. All the time.

Mike CJ is a full time blogger and writer who lives in the idyllic Canary Islands. He’s co author of Beyond Blogging and you can find out more about him at Mike’s Life.

8 Reasons to Add an Ecourse to Your Blog

This is a guest post by Kelly Kingman of StickyEbooks.com and the co-creator of Engaging eCourses.

A great ecourse can make a huge difference to your blog and your business. In fact, I can name eight fantastic reasons why you should add an ecourse to your blog.

But first of all, what exactly do I mean when I say “ecourse”?

Ecourses can be anything from a simple, free auto-responder educational series to year-long, in-depth membership programs with live calls and personalized coaching. They could involve text, audio, video — and every combination of those.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll define an ecourse as instruction delivered over time, and delivered virtually, with the intention of helping the consumer achieve a result.

As I watched Darren’s 5Cs of Blogging video the other day, I realized that well-designed ecourses can deliver all five of these critical elements:

  1. incredibly useful content
  2. a basis for community
  3. points of connection with your audience
  4. cash in your pocket
  5. a contribution to your readers’ lives.

Not too shabby.

Pace Smith and I recently asked six bloggers who have mastered the art and science of creating great ecourses for their advice on inspiring people and helping them get results from ecourses. Our collected interviews make up Engaging eCourses: How to Motivate People to Get the Results they Want, which is available this week for the first time.

As we learned from our conversations with these bloggers, teachers, coaches, and authors, there are lots of great reasons to explore the arena of delivering educational content, and concrete benefits to be gained by setting the consumers of this material up for success.

Here are eight reasons we found why an effective, well-designed ecourse is good for your blog.

1. It inspires your readers to action.

In the Internet age, we have no shortage of information. Information is great. Information is important. And as bloggers, we thrive on delivering information — but it’s only part of the picture.

What people are hungry for now is inspiration. A great ecourse inspires people to implement the information they’re receiving.

Your readers’ results are the best way to build your business, according to Pam Slim, of Escape From Cubicle Nation. “[Results are] always, always is a stronger foundation for your company —rather than focusing all this time and energy on getting the perfect brand, or the perfect tagline, or the right people to be re-tweeting your stuff on Twitter,” she told us.

Not only do people like to feel inspired, but if you help someone solve a problem, they are likely to share their good results. This could take the form of social media buzz, testimonials and just good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth.

“People become sort of raving fans if they use the whole thing and complete it,” said Scott Stratten of Un-marketing.com. “Don’t be afraid of the conversation [in social media]. People are going to ask, ‘what are you talking about? What is UnBootcamp?’ and then people can go check it out.”

2. It helps focus and refine your niche.

Teaching people shows you not only which chunks of information are the most useful, but who really “gets” what you’re saying. Sonia Simone, from Remarkable Communication, told us she didn’t really, really understand her niche until she launched her ecourse, the Remarkable Marketing Blueprint.

“When I launched the Blueprint I saw the people who stayed and got excited about it and those that drifted away or didn’t get it. It was really seeing that that helped me create Third Tribe, because I could say ‘this is the kind of person who gets it.’”

Instead of trying to figure out the nuances of your niche in advance, see who responds to the content and style of your instruction and then work with them in mind. “Always look to your students to see who you’re most able to help,” Sonia said. “Sometimes you don’t know until you try some stuff and see what people respond to … who is picking it up and running with it?”

3.  It deepens your relationship with readers.

It’s one thing to give someone ten tips on mountain climbing; it’s another to walk someone step by step through choosing the best path and preparing for the trip, then listening to how their progress is going along the way. Depending on the level of interactivity, creating and delivering an ecourse can give you crystal-clear feedback on what works and what doesn’t about your information and your approach.

“Ecourses represent a certain level of commitment,” Charlie Gilkey of Productive Flourishing told us in his interview. “The more that you set the ecourse up so it reaches that peak level of commitment, the better the results [your participants] are going to have, and the more feedback you’re going to get.”

Designing an ecourse also means tuning into which problems your readers are really facing and what they want. “What’s going to make you feel really good is when you’re focused on the learner. What is that they’re trying to do? Be really curious about it, dig in,” Pam Slim told us. Pam co-created the $100 Business Forum with Chris Guillebeau.

4. It helps you monetize your offering.

Who doesn’t love money? The great thing about an ecourse is that if you offer it at a reduced cost to an initial “test group,” you essentially are being paid to create most of it.

Sonia Simone offered a “beta group” price to the first members of the Blueprint and made it clear that the content would evolve based on their feedback. She told us how this was the model Brian Clark used when starting out with Teaching Sells, essentially creating income from the ecourse before it was totally polished and done. This also lets you adapt the material on the fly to the needs of the group.

Even if you feel like you’re relatively new to your niche, you’re a few steps ahead of a total beginner. “The biggest market in all topics is the beginner market. That’s when people are looking for something to help them over the hurdle. If you’re an intermediate, you know of the basic advice that’s out there which is really key,” said Sonia.

5. It helps you grow a strong tribe.

Participants in an ecourse can form the core of a tight knit community. “If you let people know you care about them, they will have loyalty to you and that loyalty will help them get moving,” said Sonia.

Don’t spend too much time trying to convert those who don’t vibe with your approach. Sonia said that “people sign up because they resonate with your values — your point of view — and that gives everyone something in common and makes everything go more smoothly.”

A tribe gets stronger through the connections that are built within it. Students given a space to interact online often find enormous value in helping each other.

“It’s not been an uncommon phenomenon for people to come out of our courses and start a mastermind group or continue to have significant contact with some of their buddies from the courses one, two, three years later,” said Mark Silver, from Heart of Business. “Building those relationships, and really being able to trust and get support from your peers, are some of the most important parts of the learning experience.”

6. It helps you build expertise by teaching.

“As you help people solve problems, you tend to get the reputation for being an expert,” said Pam. But she also warned against getting too hung up on the word “expert.” “All that I care about is: are you really able to help people solve a problem?”

The best way to build confidence in your skills is to use them. “If you can really listen to and respond to what feels like it’s lacking with your folks … and be very responsive to that feedback, this is going to increase your confidence at such a deep level,” said Pam.

7. It helps you gain a competitive edge.

An ecourse can provide a way to help people cut through the noise, to figure out which information is key for their situation, and this will set you apart. “The entrepreneur who delivers a better experience to her right people, wins. It’s the experience — not the content, not the information,” said Charlie. “[Experience] can be the level of engagement, it can be the ease with which they get results that you promised, it can be the results themselves.”

Instead of striving to be original, Charlie said, focus on being effective. “The point is not to come up with something novel and new, though it’s great when you do,” he said. “The point is to explain, synthesize — do what you have to so people take the information that’s already there and use it.”

8. It helps you give back to your readers.

Ultimately, helping readers get results impacts their lives for the better. “When your focus is really, ‘how can I help my ideal client do what they need to do?’ that’s going to be driving excellence. That’s going to be driving results and impact,” said Pam.

She added: “That is what our work is about: it’s about the impact of your gifts on people that you care about that’s solving problems you want solved in the world.”

Kelly writes about creating compelling eBooks at StickyEbooks.com. To learn more about how to deliver ecourses that engage and inspire, visit Engaging eCourses.

How to Make an Absolute Fortune From Your Blog (Really)

Kevin Geary is the author of Employee Revolution: A guide to being indispensable, irreplaceable, and higher paid (without lying, cheating, or joining a union).

If you have a personal blog, I’m talking directly to you. If you don’t have a personal blog, get one now. Sorry, but this surefire strategy doesn’t work unless you have a personal blog (you can keep your other blogs, you just need a personal one too).

What is a resume`?

Try not to fall asleep. This is short and to the point, I promise.

A resume is a list of your qualifications on one page. It’s supposed to make it easy for a company to quickly determine whether or not you are qualified for a job.

But companies actually use your resume` as an excuse to exclude you.

Secret: They don’t look at what’s there, they look at what’s missing. The key is to not play by the rules.

This is where your personal blog comes in. The resume` is dead. It’s time to be unique. It’s time to be relevant. It’s time to be revolutionary. It’s time to be a real problogger.

I want you to use your personal blog as a launch pad for your dream career. The personal blog is the new resume` of the revolutionary.

What’s it look like?

In the new global economy, skills and titles are commodities. The times are changing so quickly that it’s nearly impossible to keep up, much less completely stand apart from others skill-wise or title-wise.

How much better of a programmer are you really? How many more titles can you achieve over the next person in line? How much faster can you complete the design process? It’s all a race in the wrong direction because there’s always someone (or a computer) who can do it better and faster than you (or good enough to get paid a little less and keep the job).

What’s important for the revolutionary is not physical skill and titles (things that look good on resume`s) as much as it is: personality, uniqueness, imagination, relevance, artistry, passion, personal connection, fearlessness, and problem solving. These are things that can’t be replicated; things that make you an individual and not a commodity.

It’s also a list of things that are impossible to communicate on a resume`.

Your personal blog is going to tell your real story. It’s not the story of physical skills and titles. It’s the story of getting things done. It’s the story of being invaluable. It’s the story of doing what nobody else has done, solving problems nobody else could solve, and not just having ideas, but consistently acting-on and shipping them (getting your idea to the public).

The revolutionary doesn’t have a resume`. The revolutionary has a story that is digitally recorded, spread across the globe, talked about, shared, commented on, revered, admired, hated, and loved. It’s uniqueness translates into scarcity, which translates into value in the marketplace.

Your personal blog is a chance to tell who you are and show what you do (beyond skills and titles) in a way that makes you irresistible. It’s the way you’re going to land the job you really want. It’s the way you’re going to make an absolute fortune.

This is where you expect the list.

There is no list. There can’t be. If there was a step by step process to creating a blog that accomplishes what we just talked about, everyone would have one.

There’s only step one: get started. Use what you’ve learned here from Darren to get everything set up. Then think about answering the following questions:

  • Who are you, really?
  • Why are you different?
  • How are you relevant?
  • What have you accomplished (not ideas, but actual accomplishments in your industry)?
  • What do you think?
  • Who will recommend you?
  • What have they said about you?
  • What are your ideas?
  • What problems have you solved?

There are many more, but I think you get the point. These are all things a company should ask, but doesn’t. This is how you change the rules. This is how you win.

The revolution is new, but the revolution is real. I invite you to leave the confines of the box everyone lives in and be a revolutionary. You’re important. We need you.