This afternoon I came across the results of an interesting study called the Ruder Finn Intent Index which I think makes useful reading for bloggers.
My youngest boy will take his first steps any day now. He’s been watching his older brother (and his mum and dad) run around the house for 12 months now and you can just see in his eyes the desire to be up and doing it too. This week he’s started pushing around the block trolley (right) and is practicing his standing up without the aide of anything to pull him up.
It’s not been a fast process and by no means do I expect to see him running around the house soon but he’s almost ready for his first steps.
Many bloggers start blogs these days with the dream of millions of readers and making large amounts of money.
While it is possible to build blogs that are widely read and profitable and there’s nothing wrong with dreaming big – the reality is that it takes time and a lot of work to build these kinds of blogs.
New bloggers would do well to spend more time thinking about their ‘first steps’ than just the big picture dreams and goals that they have..
Yesterday while chatting with a brand new bloggers who had some very lofty goals for this blogging I reflected back to him that I felt that in addition to the big dreams he had that I wondered if he might also benefit from having some realistic goals for the short term.
Here’s a list of 9 first step type goals that I suggested to him that might be a good place to start:
- Publish 10 Posts
- Getting your first comment from someone you don’t know
- Get your first link from another blog
- Build your readership up to more than 20 readers a day
- Hit a level of 20 RSS subscribers
- Getting your blog indexed in Google
- Get your blog earning $1 a week (update: only if making money from your blog is one of your goals – it’s not for everyone
- First guest post on another blog
- Having someone (not you or your mum) tweet about your blog
Note: Others goals might include goals more to do with setting up your blog including those related to design, platforms, setting up metrics/stats etc.
To someone who has been blogging for a while these kinds of goals might seem rather small and insignificant – but for a new blogger they’d be where I would start.
For new bloggers these goals might also seem a little insignificant also (in fact the blogger I was talking to told me I was thinking too small and dismissed my idea) – however I’d argue that to get to your big dreams there is a lot of steps in between – many of which might not be glamorous or as fun to think about. However sometimes it’s helpful to visualize the very next steps that you need to take in order to move towards your goals.
Tangent: I once had opportunity to meet a guy who had travelled the world climbing some of the highest mountains. When I said to him that it must be an exciting thing to do he told me that there are moments of exhilaration and excitement but that the reality is that much of what he does when climbing a mountain is pretty boring. It’s one foot in front of another type activity through foothills, carrying a heavy pack and not feeling like you’re making much progress. Of course once you make it to the top or conquer challenges along the path you have moments of excitement but it all starts with setting out from base camp and with the goal of getting to a point where the climb starts in earnest.
Once you’ve achieved these first goals start to increase them. You might want to double the numbers for the next step (although for different bloggers the numbers will no doubt be different) – then double them again and so forth.
What other ‘first step’ goals would you suggest to a new blogger just starting out? If you’re a new blogger what are your first goals?
I hesitate to promote this due to the price tag but it’s one of the best high level online training experiences that I’ve had – Elite Retreat.
In 2007 I spoke at this event in San Francisco (although got as much out of it as any of the attendees) and it was a fantastic experience. A very small group of attendees and some true experts in a variety of different online disciplines. To attend you apply and then are hand selected to attend (to ensure the most suitable people come).
This year it is happening in New York and the speaker list is again excellent. In fact as I just said on Twitter I’m very jealous not to be a part of this one because keynoting and heading up the speaker list for the event this year is Seth Godin. Also speaking this year will be:
Jeremy Schoemaker (Shoemoney and internet marketing guru), Neil Patel (social media expert), Andy Liu (CEO of BuddyTV), Chris Winfield (social media and search marketing), Kris Jones (affiliate marketing expert) and Stephan Spencer (SEO expert).
Again – this isn’t cheap and nor should it be.
At the event I attended the ratio of attendees to speakers was low and there was plenty of face time available with each speaker. There were also opportunities for interacting with speakers over meals as well as the opportunity to network with other attendees (actually some of the attendees were doing some amazing things too and I know that for a few that attended the event profitable partnerships began).
Only 35 attendees will be accepted and they’re not accepting the first 35, it’s all about choosing people that they believe ‘fit’ what they’re on about so if you do apply put some time into your application.
The other thing about Elite Retreat that made it special was the lack of ‘pitches’ from speakers. The sessions were pure content/teaching, pitches were not allowed and there was ample time for question and answers as well as looking at the sites of those attending to help them optimize them.
If you have the money to invest into your online business I’d highly recommend checking out Elite Retreat 2009.
Have you ever had a blog post that you put a lot of time, energy and thought into – that completely flopped?
Nobody comments on it, nobody bookmarks it on Digg, nobody tweets a link to it…. it’s almost like it was never written.
If so – here’s a few questions to ask yourself about the post to help you learn why it might have failed and to help you improve for next time:
- could the title have been improved?
- did the opening lines of this post draw readers in to read more?
- could I have added an image to give the post a visual point of interest?
- could I have added a question to draw readers into discussing the post?
- was the topic relevant to my readers?
- did I promote the post to other bloggers or my network?
- did I publish this post at the right time (of day or the week)?
- could I have called my readers to perform some kind of action?
- was this post useful – did it fulfill a need or solve a problem for readers?
- did the post have sufficient depth? – could it have been more interesting with examples, illustrations, opinions, stories, quotes etc?
- was this post unique or just a rehash of what others are writing?
- did the formatting of this post help readers to read it easily?
- was the post concise or could it have been too long winded?
Of course it is also worth saying that sometimes posts just don’t have the success we hope they will and that there’s no real reason for it. Conversely other posts which we don’t think will really work can soar like eagles!
That’s the way the cookie crumbles some days!
Further Reading: Many of the above questions are fleshed out with tips on how to make them a reality in my series – How to Craft a Blog Post.
Image by -nathan
“Should I quit my blog and start Lifestreaming, Videocasting, Social Messaging/Networking etc?”
There’s been another round of ‘blogging is dead’ posts doing the rounds of late and as a result I’ve had a number of emails hitting my inbox over the last week from bloggers asking if they should stop blogging.
Here’s some of the advice I’ve been sharing:
- Blogging is not dead – it’s evolving.
- You should be evolving too (read Blogs are Out of Beta, But Bloggers Should always be in Beta)
- Keep being useful, keep solving problems and keep meeting needs – whatever the medium this is key.
- Keep producing content – people continue to search the web for content in huge numbers. It’s not all about networking and bookmarking – whether it be text, video or audio – keep producing content.
- Experiment with different mediums – to the best of your ability keep abreast of the ‘new’ mediums that are emerging.
- Build a ‘Home Base’ – many people flit from one medium to another and end up with nothing of their own (read more on the Home Bases and Outposts that I use).
- Build a Brand – the mediums are tools. They’ll come and go in time – the key is to build something that lasts beyond them.
- Don’t be Precious about your ‘Blog’ and be open to change – there’s no one ‘right’ way to blog. Blogs can have comments or not have comments, have full RSS feeds or partial ones, look like a traditional blog or act and look more like a lifestream or portal. The key is to know what you want to achieve and let that shape what you do with your blog.
- Don’t abandon your blog too quickly – your primary efforts may move into a different medium but blogs can be an important part of the mix of what you do online. Don’t abandon your blog – build upon it, let it evolve, leverage what you’ve already built and use it where appropriate in the mix of what you do.
My last piece of advice is particularly for those with limited time or capacity to fully engage with all of the mediums and tools that are currently at our fingertips.
I get the sense from a lot of bloggers that they feel that they’re being left behind – that all this new stuff that is emerging is beyond them – that it’s hopeless to keep on blogging. My message to you if you’re feeling this way is to keep at it. Even as a full time blogger/web entrepreneur I don’t have time to fully engage with all of the new technologies that are currently emerging. I too feel some of those ‘overwhelming’ feelings.
I think the key is to engage with the new technologies to the point that you’re able but to know when to stop and focus upon what you already have in front of you.
The problem as I see it is that whether it be a blog, a Twitter presence, a podcast or some other kind of website or presence – it takes time to build these things up to successful levels. If you only give a medium a short time before moving to the next one you’ll just end up with a trail of abandoned accounts and sites behind you.
I see a lot of people running from one thing to the next and not really achieving anything. They live in a constant state of distraction and experimentation. There’s nothing wrong with new things and testing them out – but unless you’re fortunate enough to have a lot of spare time or an amazing capacity not to sleep there comes a time where you need to choose a handful of things to do (or even just one) and to do it to the best of your ability.
For me – this means focusing mainly upon building blogs. My blogs are evolving and looking less and less like blogs as I experiment with different ways of presenting the information on them and play with different technologies on them – but I try to keep my focus steady upon the long term goals that I have. As a result I’ve managed to build them into profitable properties.
Yes I’ll continue to experiment with other technologies but for me they are only about adding value to my primary web properties.
What do you think? How are you approaching what you do in this ever changing web?
Robby G is a blogger from ShiteILike.com and explains the benefits of pushing your blog through good and through bad.
I was doing some research recently, wondering if my blog would ever take off and what it really depended on. I was a little bit discouraged about writing lots of content for two months on my blog, but having a significant amount of less traffic than on my friend’s blog which is only two months older than mine.
To see if my blog would ever receive any readers that would get interested, and hopefully raise my hopes, I went on ProBlogger. I looked through his much older posts and went through the comment list. I clicked on a bunch of commentators’ names that took me back to their blogs and recorded how many of them were still blogging today. Their comments were from 2006 and I noticed that most of the bloggers had either just abandoned their blog or quit paying for hosting completely.
Now the interesting stuff I learnt from my research was that the ones that actually held on to their blogs and kept posting through good and through bad on topics that they found dear to them, they in fact had a pretty decent following with many RSS Subscribers and were receiving quite a few comments on each post. I also ran their blogs through a Link Checker and saw that the older the blog, the more backlinks they had.
The great thing about perseverance when it comes to blogging is that the longer you push your blog, the more you get out of it. It doesn’t matter what topic you write about, because there are a lot of people out there that have the same interests as you no matter what they are.
Perseverance gives your blog backlinks, it gives your blog a higher rating on search engines, and it gives people time to learn more about you and spread your blog’s name through word of mouth. If you read this blog and a bunch of other “making money online” blogs, it opens your mind out to how to market your blog properly, and if you connect perseverance to marketing, there is no stopping you. All that’s left is time to allow someone big and famous to come along and mention your blog in a review or just mention a little bit about your post to really help you explode onto the Super Blogger level.
So all in all, in my opinion, there are really just two things every blogger should keep in mind when either starting a new blog or whenever they’re discouraged about their own blog:
- Make sure you’re blogging about a topic you really love (I know this one has been said before by almost everyone, but it’s true. Shite I Like is my second blog for a reason.)
- Whatever you do, don’t give up. Keep blogging and blogging, and reading, and blogging. The more time you put into it will really come back to help you 100 times more in the long-run. And you just might never know when your blog will turn huge.
Also, if you’ve got the time to blog on a topic on an almost daily basis, you more than likely have the time to do research of your own on how to market and make your blog popular without having to really spend much money on it.
Many people’s biggest flaw in life is entering into something thinking that easy money will just flow their way, and once the going gets even a little bit difficult, they abandon ship. For example, when I was going to University and Real Estate College at the same time, I thought I’d become a Real Estate Salesperson in no time and start selling houses in the summer time while everybody from University would be working some landscaping summer job. Becoming a Real Estate person was harder than I thought and took much more time than initially planned. At many points I thought about quitting that and just focusing on Univ, but perseverance got me through College to get into the field of Real Estate as a part-time job while still continuing with my Univ studies. I’m happy I pushed myself, because now I see that if I could keep a weekend job while going to University and College all at the same time, while also learning about blogging, then I can push myself to blog on a regular basis.
Keep those 2 points I outlined above in mind and make sure to always keep pushing yourself, because without perseverance you’ll never see any glory. I hope this post really gave you a motivation to keep blogging and reading and most importantly believing that all you need to reach your goal with blogging is constant determination, time, and a little bit of luck.
This morning I tweeted this question – ‘what are the first 3 things you do when you get online in the morning?‘
A number of people asked me to answer the question for myself – so I thought I’d do so as a blog post as it is pretty relevant to how I run my business. Of course I couldn’t just stop at three – here’s some of my morning routine:
Firstly: I liken most of what I do in the mornings to a Triage in the emergency room of a hospital. It’s about assessing what happened over night, identifying urgent things that need immediate attention and less urgent but important things that I need to prioritize and then mapping out how I’ll use my day.
Note: Preceding all of what follows is Coffee…. without it I find very little of it works.
1. Check Blog Stats
The first thing I do in the morning is to check the stats of my blogs. While this might seem like a bit of an egotistical thing to do first thing in the morning I actually do it because it gives me a very quick overview of any problems or opportunities that might need my immediate attention.
I am particularly looking for any spikes or lulls in traffic.
Spikes indicate that something has happened to bring me traffic on some other site. This could indicate a social media event (front page on Digg or a hot link on Twitter) or could indicate something more controversial that someone has written about me. Either way – I want to know about it – either for damage control or to see if there’s a way to extend the positives.
Lulls in traffic indicate potential problems with servers or other problems on my blogs including broken design, posts not going live, newsletters not going out that should have gone etc.
What flows from analyzing stats could be leaving comments on another blog to respond to what they’ve written, tweeting a hot link to extend it’s viral qualities, fixing an error on my site, checking server errors etc.
2. Scan Twitter Accounts
I find Twitter is another great source of being able to assess what I’ve missed while I slept. This is particularly important for me because I’m in Australia and actually sleep during the peak times on my blogs when most of my readers are online.
I scan three main things on Twitter – my Direct Messages, my @replies and trending topics (via Twitscoop).
Twitter quickly reveals any topics/stories/news that has broken over night that could be relevant to my blogs. Many times I have links that have been DM’d to me by my followers alerting me to these stories.
I am also on the look out from any problems with my sites that readers are reporting (I find that if one of my blogs was down even for 5 minutes that I’m told about it on Twitter).
Lastly on Twitter I’m looking with interest at what people ReTweeted overnight – particularly posts on my own blogs. If I notice a post I’ve written is doing well on Twitter and has a lot of RT’s it can be worth me giving it a second push. It might also indicate to me that it could be worth writing a followup post on the topic to keep the momentum going.
If a story has not been RT’d much at all it’s an indication that perhaps the post needs reworking or that it wasn’t a topic that connected with my audience.
3. Scan News Alerts
This is a quick one but can be important. I have a number of alerts set up in Google News and Blog Alerts that I quickly scan each morning (it’s my ‘vanity folder‘). Each of these alerts is either an alert to anyone using my name, blog URL or a keyword relevant to my niche in a blog post or news article.
It’s important to know what has been written about you and about topics you’re writing about as this can lead to all kinds of opportunities and interactions (not to mention damage control). I generally don’t respond immediately to these unless they’re urgent but they’re good to keep in mind as I plan my day.
4. Scan Email
Are there any urgent matters in my inbox needing my immediate attention? This is a real challenge as most mornings I wake up to around 100 emails in my inbox (this is after another 500-700 emails are filtered automatically in Gmail using techniques that I talked about in this post on clearing your inbox.)
I don’t reply to many emails at this point – I’m just scanning them looking for important stuff (I don’t always see it unfortunately). I come back to email later in the day.
5. Scan my A-list of RSS feeds
In Google Reader (my RSS reader of choice) I have a folder called ‘A-list’. In this folder I have around 20 feeds from blogs and news sites that I read religiously each day. These are feeds I want to read because they have important news, stories or posts that are directly relevant to my niches.
They are from thought leaders or news sources – I want to know what they say and I want to know it as soon as I can after they write it.
Many days what I read in these feeds will lead me to a post that bounces off their stories, informs me of new products that have been released overnight or alert me to controversy or hot topics in my niche.
The above process usually takes me around 15 minutes (on a normal morning where there’s nothing that needs an immediate response).
Remember it’s simply about scanning rather than stopping to respond – unless there’s something important.
At the end of this process I generally have a list of a number of things that I need to achieve in the day ahead. I then attempt to plan my day combining the list I’ve compiled with other tasks that need to be done.
Usually at this point I identify posts that I want to write and publish for the day, schedule in other marketing or admin tasks etc.
I tend to ‘batch’ my tasks together so that I’m not flitting from one thing to the next but instead am setting aside chunks of time for different activities.
Once I’ve got a plan for my day (that usually takes me 5 more minutes to compile) I get to it and start to knock off the things on my list.
One More Tip
I use Firefox and have a number of bookmark folders set up. One of these folders is called ‘start up’. It contains the following bookmarks:
- All my stats packages
- Google Reader
- A couple of news related sites
Each morning I simply hit ‘command/startup folder’ and each of these sites opens up in a tab of its own. I have them in the order that I’ve mentioned above and simply work through the tabs one at a time. This way I don’t have to think about what I need to do next – all my stats are there ready for me to take a look at first, TwitScoop is open next so I can look at that…. etc
Of course I have to open my Twitter client (I’m using Tweetie at the moment primarily) to check my twitter accounts but apart from that everything I need is open in a tab of its own for me to work through. I simply close down tabs and move on to the next ones as I move through the list.
Guest Post by Nick Thacker
If you’re anything like me, you struggle with self-discipline every now and then—especially when it comes to your business. I run two businesses, and am trying to build a successful blog. My businesses, luckily, are getting to be more and more self-sustaining every day, though they constantly need work and updating to maintain their “edge.” My blog, on the other hand, has been a terrible headache for me to grow and manage.
Until I realized it, too, was a business.
I never planned to sell anything on my blog, and may never want to. I knew that other popular businesspeople, “gurus,” and professionals had started blogging, some for pleasure and some for money. For a long time, I was under the impression that these people only found their success through hard work, determination, and a bunch of luck. I assumed that starting my own blog was going to need that luck as well.
When I began writing and blogging, however, I quickly realized that the workload and planning that my blog needed resembled the time commitment my companies required in their infant stages. Recently, I began thinking of my blog as a business, and that has made all the difference.
If you are starting a blog for any reason, it will greatly benefit you to begin viewing it not just as your own personal journal, but a living, growing business. Businesses need nurture, dedication, and planning, and one of the best ways to grow a business and “make your own luck,” is to look for ways to “systemize” it. Here are five great ways to begin systemizing your own blog to take advantage of processes, time management, and growth control:
1. Post schedule
There are already numerous articles on ProBlogger.net that discuss ways to schedule your posting frequency, but understand the importance a set schedule can have, psychologically. By writing out a physical schedule, I’ve been able to maintain a steady stream of fresh content for my own blog, and having the schedule on my desk has provided a great deal of “accountability” for me—if I miss a post day, my calendar will be there to remind me! A post calendar or schedule is also a great place to manage post topics and ideas, as is the Post Ideas WordPress widget.
2. Daily schedule
Going hand-in-hand with the first tip, planning out the time you spend in front of your computer can pay huge dividends in the long run. Before I had a plan, I would sporadically check email, write a bit, browse the web, read favorite blogs, and a plethora of other things. Now, I sit down around midnight every day (I’m a night owl) and spend 15-20 minutes checking emails. I spend about half an hour checking my RSS reader and commenting on insightful posts, and then work for about two hours on client work. For a break, I write—sometimes a blog post, sometimes just a rant. I finish up any client work, and then I spend about 1-2 hours researching and writing a post for my blog. This schedule is not perfect, but it keeps me active and ensures that whenever I’m working, I’m in “the zone” and not bouncing back and forth between numerous tasks.
3. Communication filtering
Part of promoting a blog, as you know, is reaching out to fellow bloggers and authors and becoming an active part of their communities. Commenting, posting on forums, and emailing are great ways to do this, but you can get carried away “following up” in so many different capacities that you forget to “follow through.” I used to comment on blogs and forums so often that I wouldn’t remember where I’d commented, and my efforts would go to waste. Eventually, I decided to set up a “system” for my communications to keep me in line. For example: whenever I comment on a blog or forum topic, I immediately drag the page to a bookmarks folder called “Threads.” At the beginning of my workday (night), I click “Open all in tabs” to see what changes, if any, have taken place on the sites. In addition, I always subscribe to “comment updates,” if available, to ensure that I’m contacted immediately after someone else has left a comment or post.
4. Staying in the game
I mentioned earlier the importance for my businesses to maintain their “edge,” and now my blog (about entrepreneurship in college) needs to be on top of current events and trending topics in my arena of business. Being a professional in your own industry may be enough for you to stay aware of what’s going on in your community, but if you want a little extra support, consider using services like Google Alerts and Twitter “hashtags.” Another great way to stay ahead of the curve is to become active in popular social media communities (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.). While being able to drive referral traffic to your blog, being a Web 2.0 socialite has the added benefit of letting you build these social systems into your blogging schedule (dedicate a specific amount of time to developing relationships, communities, and followers every day).
5. Building habits
My schedule is not ideal for many people, but remember—I’m not married, not (currently) taking classes, and don’t have a day job. I maintain a midnight-7am schedule for blogging because that’s when I’m able to focus without being distracted—no matter what. I may be able to work undisturbed during the day every once in a while, but by choosing a time to work that is consistent has led to my building a habit around this time. My body now knows at midnight that it’s time to focus, crack down, and produce. Habits are a great “system” to have in place because they can help force efficiency and effectiveness in everything. Get in the habit of writing at least once a day, and start building good habits around your blogging “business” as soon as possible.
The ultimate goal of systematization is not necessarily automation—though when executed deliberately and correctly, automation can be a welcome hand in your business’ operation. By systemizing your blog, you are able to begin working “on” your blog, not “in” your blog—to borrow from a popular business expression. Sure, you need to provide great, original content, but understand that there’s more to blogging than what you type (unless, of course, the blog is for your eyes only!)
Systemize whatever processes you can that will free your mind and time for “business building” tasks, and you’ll find that your writing quality will actually improve rather than suffer!
I hope I’ve started the ball rolling for you to begin examining your current habits and systems, and I hope you’ll consider working out your own “systems” for maximizing your effectiveness blogging. If you have any thoughts or advice I’ve left out—please comment to let us all know!
Guest Post by Maryan Pelland from Ontext.com
Bad and inaccurate information from websites isn’t new. The Internet can be a fabulous tool, but it should not be the sole source of information for any factual writing from blogs, to research for fiction, to magazine or newspaper articles. Anyone can create a website and fill it with text. There’s never a guarantee that information online is accurate or current. That’s why writers and journalists should not rely on the Internet.
Here’s a dead-on example of what can happen if a writer sucks information out of a website and spits it out as fact, never bothering to make a verification phone call or send an email to a primary source.
Once upon a time, not long ago, a guy with a website thought he’d do something silly to see if media would bite an attractive lure. On an encyclopedic website (yes, that really big one), Shane Fitzgerald of Dublin posted bogus information about a well-known Frenchman, movie music composer, Maurice Jarre.
Fitzgerald made up a deep, thoughtful comment that Jarre might have said about life. Unfortunately for some professional journalists, Jarre never actually uttered the words in questions. They were fiction. Then Jarre died.
How Bloggers and Journalists fell into the ‘net
It seems a couple of journalists needed filler for their pieces about Jarre’s passing. So off they went to you-know-what-ipedia, looked the old fellow up and cut and pasted the pithy comment that Fitz had added to the encyclopedia. Not just blogs, but major newspapers and blogs in the United States, England, and India used the quote in their Jarre obituaries and articles, quoting as though Jarre had actually said the words. Ooops.
As a writer, you must understand primary and secondary sources. A primary source is the clichéd horse’s mouth. It’s the woman who pontificated the idea; the man who discovered the discovery. You’re obligated to find their phone number and dial them up. Or send an email. You ask direct questions and receive direct answers which you can quote, without making any alterations, or you can paraphrase if you indicate the paraphrasing.
A secondary source is not the original. Secondary is a he said or she thought kind of source wherein someone heard, or read, or decided what the original utterance or action was. Secondary is Wikipedia, Suite101.com, Examiner, and so forth. You can see clearly how facts get diluted here, right? Did George Washington cut down the tree he allegedly took out? Nope. He did not. Someone thought it was a cool story, so they told two people and so on.
Must Bloggers Abandon Internet Resources?
If you choose to get your lead from the Internet or you’re surfing for a story idea, fine. Mull over what you uncover online. But before you present a fact as a fact – whether you’re a blogger, a Pulitzer winner, a stringer, a novelist, or a freelancer – your obligation is to verify facts you present as facts. Find the horse and get him to whinny at you. Otherwise, folks, you don’t know he whinnied. Sure, print what you cull from websites, but say, “I culled this from a website.”
Do that, and you can call yourself a professional writer of blogs, stories, articles or columns. Anything less, and you don’t even deserve the pennies per article some writers settle for in today’s markets. And that is, of course, why writers and journalists should not rely on the Internet.