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Broaden Your Blog’s Reach Through Innovative Content [Case Study]

This guest post is by Tommy Walker of Inside The Mind

Back in November last year, we ran a crowd funding campaign to bring back Inside The Mind for a second season.

Even though we didn’t reach our overall campaign goals, we learned two very important things:

1. Unexpected success

Our campaign converted at 5.6%. Our goal initially was to raise $100,000 and even though we didn’t reach that, what we did learn was that the people who were watching were very happy to support the show.

When we looked at the sponsors list, we saw many names that we recognized, but there were also quite a few we didn’t. This let us know that we had broken beyond our initial reach with the show, and people who we’ve never interacted with on a one-to-one basis believed in what we were trying to do.

2. Expanding our reach

When we looked at the conversion rate for that campaign, compared to the overall traffic numbers, it started to look a lot like a basic algebra equation.

The “X” that we had to solve the equation for in this case represented broader reach.

The primary way to expand reach, I believe, is through content.

The concept

One of the things that I’ve seen work very well for others in expanding their own reach is to conduct killer interviews, so I decided to give this a try.

My concept, The Mindfire Chats, is a way to conduct multiple interviews at the same time. Here’s an example.

Our panelists come from a variety of backgrounds, yet discuss a subject that shares a core principle with online marketing. This is very intentional as I want to dig into deeper truths about online marketing principles but without the industry bias, jargon, mechanics, or politics.

My brand mission is to bring the concepts of online marketing into the mainstream. Inside The Mind does this by fusing internet-generation humor with top level online marketing advice.

And The Mindfire Chats follow on well from this—it takes that ethos a step further by taking a deeper thinking approach on core principles.

Getting inspiration for the idea

One of the things I realized about half-way through filming the first season of Inside The Mind”was that at the core of all of this, I am an artist.

Yes, I’m an online marketing strategist, but I’m also an animator, composer, on-air personality, writer, video editor, comedian, PR person, and so on.

Because Inside The Mind itself was an experiment (and one I was terrified to try at first), and it went well, I think that gave me a freedom that many bloggers in the online marketing space don’t feel.

I don’t believe my core audience follows me necessarily because of “what I know” and what I share. Rather, they watch because they want to see what I do next to push the bounds of what content is and what it means to be in this space.

That being said, I make a point to interact with most anyone who’s on my email list, so I’ve learned a great deal about who they are, and what they want.

Part of what made me think this content approach would work was that it follows a similar blueprint to what’s proven to work, but it’s different enough to make it unique to me and my brand.

Setting content goals

I have a few goals for The Mindfire Chats. Firstly, I want this content to dig into the core concepts of online marketing from as many different angles as possible.

On our second chat, we had Brian Clark of Copyblogger discuss storytelling with Emmy Award-winning documentarian, Doug Pray, and John Jacobsen, a very well known script doctor who hosts his own show with over 30 million viewers.

Really, no matter what any of these guys say on the subject, it’s not going to be wrong. How could it be, if they’ve achieved what so very few others have?

What makes it interesting though, is when their field experiences start to differ, and tell a different story. It’s even more fascinating when the panelists start asking each other questions about each other’s experiences and you can tell they’re learning from each other.

It shows our audience that even when you’ve “made it,” you’re never done learning. To be able to facilitate the kinds of connections that could potentially push the space forward in a more positive direction is very fulfilling.

Of course, from a purely selfish standpoint, my goal is to cause a ruckus, build a viewership, and get more people turned on to my brand.

We’re also using the chats as an entry point for sponsorship relations for both The Mindfire Chats and Inside The Mind.

The practicalities

I can’t take all the credit for getting this content idea off the ground. My producer Nate Wright of Small Biz Triage is the other half of this, and he’s really the one responsible for the organization of it all.

Because I’ve been active in the online marketing space for the past few years, I’ve built a pretty solid professional network. So basically, setting up the chats was really just a matter of sending out some emails.

In truth, though, getting to the position where that was possible has meant guest blogging like a professional over the years and making a good enough impression with people to the point that they at least know my name (which is important for standing out in the inbox).

When Nate approached me about getting this concept off the ground, we basically compared our rolodexes and started mashing up the panelists.

After sending out the first couple emails saying, “Hey, you interested?” Nate works out the schedule, and gets our panelists all savvy with the Google+ Hangouts. Meanwhile, I’m researching the panelists and coming up with the questions.

That way, when it’s show time, I’m not being pulled in a million different directions, and everyone gets to look as professional as possible.

Technology

The technology that we use to produce this content is pretty simple:

  • webcam
  • microphone
  • broadband connection
  • headphones
  • Google+ hangouts on air (with the Hangout toolbox plugin)
  • Gimp 2.0 for the lower thirds.

Right now I’m using the onboard webcam and the built-in microphone on my Mac for the chats—you can get by with what you have.

I imagine as our sponsorship revenue grows, we’ll invest in better versions of everything, so we can have a consistently high level of broadcast quality, but for the time being, it’s not necessary.

Everything I’m using right now is either built into my computer, or is free, open source software. At most, I might consider using my external webcam, but even that costs less than $100.

It doesn’t have to be expensive to create compelling content.

Getting the word out

When you come up with a new content idea like this, you want to get the word out to as many people as possible.

Right now, in these early stages, my promotion strategy is pretty low-key. I email the list, update the Facebook pages, Twitter, and Google+, and I send a few emails to a few key influencers I know who may be interested.

I tried doing a blitz to some of the bigger online news outlets like Mashable, TNW, RWW, and so on, but I didn’t hear anything back. So instead of trying to do that a million times over, I’d much rather keep a low profile and let this grow more organically.

That said, since I’ve shifted my focus more towards The Mindfire Chats and Inside The Mind, as I work on the guest posting portion of my outreach strategy, I’m asking host blogs permission to embed the relevant content within my posts—but even that is permission-based.

I do what I do because I love making things click for the people who interact with my stuff, not necessarily because I’m looking for manufactured fame. While the goal for the chats is to extend my brand’s reach, I would much rather that be a natural by-product of the content we’re creating than by an aggressive “hey, look at me” strategy.

Sharing the love

When bloggers develop new content ideas, they’re often tempted to keep the content on their blogs, and not to let others use it. But as I said, I’m asking other blogs I guest post on to let me embed a selected chat in the post on their blog.

I think the question of whether you share your content—as in my case, allowing it to be embedded on other sites—has a lot to do with the type of content that’s being published.

I talk about this in the content development episode of Inside The Mind where there are basically four types of content:

  1. viral: content meant to be spread and shared
  2. discussion: content that drives comments
  3. lead: content that gets people to subscribe or fill out a lead generation form
  4. sales: like lead content, but drives people to a purchase over everything else.

That said, both Inside The Mind and The Mindfire Chats are meant to be shared and start discussions. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me where that discussion is going on, as long as it’s happening.

As we saw a moment ago, I have some very specific goals for the video content, and part of that is for it to be shared, so making it easy to decouple The Mindfire Chats from my blog was very intentional.

My thought on the video content is that it’s very difficult to fake being me. My face, my energy—everything about what I do in the videos really … well, it would be really hard for someone else to try and pass that off as their own. On that same note if I point to a URL in the video, it’s much harder to replace that text on the screen, or change the annotations that link to the other videos on my Youtube channel.

So I really don’t mind if someone tries to embed the chats elsewhere—ultimately Youtube gives me more credit for simply having the content embedded.

Of course, if someone were to rip off my lead content, I would be furious. However, by design, my lead content is put in the “less sexy” parts of my website, and takes a little work to get to. I trust that people who want to work with me privately are able to navigate a website if they’re really interested in taking our relationship to the next level.

As a writer online, I believe it’s nearly impossible to avoid someone else stealing, remixing and taking credit for your work. It’s sad, but it’s also a losing battle to try and fight.

On the other hand, as I’ve started to mature as a writer, I’m learning how to allow a real vulnerability into my work and give it it’s own unique voice.

My goal now with the writing that falls into the “viral” and “discussion” categories is to be so good that people want to rip it off.

Quite honestly, when I saw my work get scraped for the first time, I felt a sense of accomplishment that what I was saying was powerful enough that someone else tried to take credit for it.

Now I just make sure I have a strong interlinking strategy so that in case that does happen, I get those links from external websites.

The progress so far

So far, we are meeting our goals with The Mindfire Chats.

We’ve already engaged a potential sponsor, and by the time this post is published, we’ll probably be well on our way with them.

Our second episode is already scheduled to be embedded on some pretty high-profile blogs, and we’ve gotten extremely positive feedback from the people who’ve attended the live sessions.

It’s still all fairly new right now, but it looks like we’re headed in a positive direction that will let us take everything to the next level.

For now, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed, focusing on the next panelists, and asking questions that unearth truly valuable insight.

That’s the secret to creating truly great content—in any format.

Tommy Walker is an online marketing strategist and the host of Inside The Mind and The Mindfire Chats, fresh and entertaining shows that aim to shake up online and content marketing.

11 Tips to Breaking Bloggers Block Through Solving Reader Problems

Problems are OpportunitiesHave you ever had bloggers block? If so – you’re not alone. Almost every blogger I’ve ever asked has admitted to having it at least once!

Below is some practical tips on how to break through it (including a little homework to action it).

Recently I was speaking with a blogger of a ‘how to‘ type blog who told me that he’d been struggling over the last few weeks with coming up with things to write about.

We chatted for 15 or so minutes about a range of things he could do to break through the problem but one that we kept coming back to was the idea of identifying problems to solve for his readers.

“Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem a turned it into an opportunity.” Joseph Sugarman

It’s not rocket science but almost every time I sit down to write any blog post on my blogs I start off by identifying a problem that I or my readers have and then try to write a post that solves that problem.

In my experience – when you solve a person’s problem you’re going to create an impression upon them and have every chance of them thinking of you (and your blog) next time they come up against a problem.

Solve enough problems over time for a person and you’ll find them coming back again and again… and bringing others back with them too.

Of course for some bloggers identifying a problem that readers have is easy but for others coming up with a problem every single day to solve is tougher. 

7 Ways to Identify Readers Problems to Solve

In my ‘31 Days to Build a Better Blog’ eBook  Day 16 is all about solving a readers problem and in it I share 7 ways to identify these problems.

Here’s the headings (I write more on each one in the eBook but hopefully just the titles will give you some clues):

  1. Solve Your own problems (what problem did you have a year or two ago that you’ve solved?)
  2. Look for questions in search referrals (what people search Google for to arrive on your site can give insights)
  3. Analyze internal searches (use a tool like Lijit to track the internal searches on your site)
  4. Ask Readers for their Questions (run a survey, poll or even a focus group with readers)
  5. Look on other Sites in your niche (the questions people ask on forums can be particularly good)
  6. Use Social Media to Gather Questions/Problems (this is a gold mind – just do a search on your topic)
  7. Ask Family and Friends (the people around you will often give you great ideas on this)

4 More Tips to Breaking Bloggers Block Through Identifying Reader Problems

Here’s four more tips on how to identify problems among your readers that I’ve not written about previously:

  1. I personally find that coming up with ‘problems’ to solve is easier done when you put aside half an hour or so and come up with a whole heap of them. Put aside time to ‘Brainstorm’ or ‘Mindmap’ the problems your readers might have and come up with a list of them so that you’ve always got a supply of them when you need to write a post. 
  2. I would also highly recommend that you create some kind of system for capturing and recording the problems you see your readers having. I have a folder inside dropbox that I constantly am adding notes to which contain topics, questions, problems etc that I could write about one day. I know other bloggers use physical notebooks while others use apps like Evernote. 
  3. As you’re writing posts be on the look out for tangents or questions you ask yourself while you’re writing. I often find that when I’m writing a post that there are ideas hitting me that I can’t include in the post that I’m writing but that could be good to do a followup post on – capture them!
  4. It is more than ok to come back to an idea that you’ve written about before to build upon. In many ways that is what I’m doing with this post. I took 7 ideas I’ve written about before above but am also adding new material to it based upon what I’ve learned since writing previously on the topic.

HOMEWORK for Bloggers with Bloggers Block

If you have bloggers block I challenge you to put aside 15-30 minutes to go on a ‘problem hunt’.

Choose a couple of the 7 places I mention above (my favourite is starting with identifying my own past and present problems) and see how many you can come up with.

In doing so you’ll also be creating a list of posts to write.

Let us know how you go in comments below!

The Science of Storytelling: 6 Ways to Write More Persuasive Stories

Guest post by Gregory Ciotti.

When it comes to crafting “words that sell”, the research shows us that stories are among the most persuasive forms of writing out there.

Persuasive writing is an essential part of blogging—there’s no two ways about it. So if you plan on selling anything, connecting†deeply with your readers, or going viral with a post that bares all about your life (like Jon Morrow did), you better be prepared to create stories that actually move people.

Why do stories work so well?

They work because “transportation leads to persuasion,” and as such, if you can capture your reader’s attention, you can nudge them towards being a customer or a brand advocate who supports your business at every turn.

That’s all good and fun… but how exactly can you write more persuasive stories?

Today, I’ve got some academic research that will show you how!

The six elements of better stories

According to some fascinating research by Dr. Philip Mazzocco and Melanie Green, called Narrative Persuasion in Legal Settings: What’s the Story?, stories are powerful because of their ability to affect emotional beliefs in a way that logical arguments just can’t touch.

That is to say, stories get in “under the radar” because we are so open to hearing them. We tend to block out sales pitches or “do as I say” styles of dictation, but stories are inviting, personal, and capture our imagination.

The researchers looked at persuasive aspects of stories in the court room, which is certainly one of the hardest places to craft stories, as you have another person (the other lawyer) trying to shoot down your arguments at every turn.

From their research, Mazzocco and Green found six consistent elements that are apart of startingly effective stories…

1. Audience

As a blogger, you have far more control over this aspect than a lawyer does, so pay attention!

Above, I mentioned a post by Jon Morrow than went viral here on Problogger.net. While the story was an amazing one, a key element of that post that many might miss is that Jon constructed it for a very particular audience: those looking to do what he’s done (i.e. turn blogging into a lifestyle-sustaining business).

Picking Problogger.net was perfect because he knew the audience would be receptive to such a story. He’s done it time and time again—here’s another post on Copyblogger in a similar vein that addresses fighting for your dreams.

How can you implement this critical technique in your own efforts?

The answer lies in finding your target customer (or reader) and crafting your message and content entirely around them. What are their hopes, fears, and dreams? You better know if you hope to stay with them after they leave the page.

If you can’t identify this ideal reader, then who are you really writing for? Without this information, it’s much harder, if not impossible, to tell a really persuasive story: you need to have the right audience in mind first.

If you’re going “off-site” (via a guest post) like Jon did, then you also need to be careful in choosing another blogger’s platform: be sure to write for their audience.

2. Realism

This one may seem surprising, but it’s actually not if you look into the reasoning.

Although fiction stories are popular, the best ones are always easy to relate to on some level. Although you may not be a WWII spy or a dragon-slaying knight, you can relate to the emotions, struggles, and thoughts of the characters.

Roger Dooley put this best when he said:

Even if you are painting a fictional picture with the story, its elements need to relate to the reality that the audience is familiar with, for example, basic human motivations.

Make sure your stories have something the audience can relate to on a deeper level, beyond the events that are being told.

For instance, in Joel Ryan’s article titled, An Unexpected Ass-Kicking, he relays the tale of meeting the inventor of the computer.

The story wouldn’t have gone viral without another element, though: Joel connected the tale to his readers’ own psyches by relating how it’s important to not be afraid of things that “haven’t been done before”, because if Russell Kirsch had believed that, we wouldn’t have the computer today>

3. Delivery

In the same way that a comedian’s timing is practically everything, Mazzacco and Green found that story delivery was critical to crafting a tale people could get wrapped up in.

Delivery is a mix of pacing, flow, and hitting readers with heavy lines at the perfect moment.

One of my favorite examples (in fiction) is how George R.R. Martin, author of the A Song of Fire and Ice series, ends his chapters with a surprising close or a startling realization.

This example isn’t a story, but it perfectly demonstrates my point: Brian Clark’s post called, The Writer Runs This Show is a fantastic demonstration of using dramatic pacing throughout a post.

Note how he interrupts the manifesto with “The writer runs this show,” over and over to drive his point home.

4. Imagery

Did the sun rise, or did the sun’s rays reflect rainbows off of the crisp morning dew?

Interesting research on the matter says that your stories should be describing the latter: the human mind gets swept up in stories only when the visuals are painted clearly.

Transportation (the key to story persuasion) cannot happen if you use vague details and boring language.

You have to craft the scene with startling detail to wrap your reader up in your message: they need to share in the struggle you went through, the joys you encountered, and the doubts you battled.

If you read Benny Hsu’s post on his first iPhone App store feature (and his subsequent $30,000 week), you can feel his excitement with every word; you’re not just getting the play-by-play of what happened.

Let readers see what you’re “seeing” in your tale, and they’ll be more willing to go along with the journey.

5. Structure

While some movies, like Memento, can get away with switching things up once or twice, the classics always follow this one golden rule: keep story structure simple.

People prefer stories that follow a logical manner, for example: elements of suspense are most effective when they’re established early to keep people engaged, plot twists are best saved for the climax, and having a strong ending makes a story more memorable.

This is especially true for writing in the business world. Let your creativity shine through the actual story being told, not in how you decide to structure it.

When you try to get cute with plot structure and other storytelling staples, you’ll risk losing people rather than creating something memorable.

In all of the most popular story-related blog posts I’ve come across, I’ve yet to see a story that defies the classic story structure that focuses on being enticing in the beginning, building up in the middle, and finishing with a satisfying conclusion (and a powerful message).

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

6. Context

While the study referenced the storyteller and the physical environment as important factors in how persuasive the tale was, for online storytelling we have a different set of variables…

For the storyteller, the author of the tale still matters: elements of trust established with the audience and social proof play roles in making a tale believable and easily digested.

As a blogger, you should already know about the powers of social proof, but are you utilizing it in your off-site features? A persuasive story on another site should always include a brief introduction explaining why you’re qualified to tell it, otherwise people will glaze over and block you out.

For surroundings, we now have to turn to a element that strictly applies to the web: design.

According to a fascinating research study entitled, Trust & Mistrust of Online Health Sites, it’s your blog’s design that is most likely to influence first-time visitors about the site’s trustworthiness, not the quality of your content.

A bad design makes people feel like your site isn’t trustworthy, and any storytelling efforts that you attempt will be greatly hindered, so clean up your surroundings!

Your turn

Here’s what to do next…

  1. Let me know in the comments what you thought of this research.
  2. Tell me about one of your favorite stories that you’ve read on the web, and let us know which blogger told it.

Gregory Ciotti is the content strategist for Help Scout, the invisible customer service software for solopreneurs and small-business owners. Get more from Greg on the Help Scout blog.

The Beginner’s Guide to Outsourcing Video Content Production

This guest post is by Leslie Anglesey of EssayTigers.

Does it make sense for blog owners to include video in their posts? It sure does!

Your posts should include all types of interesting content to engage and entertain readers, and this can definitely include videos.

But rather than trying to do all of the work yourself, get smart about your time and consider outsourcing your video content by partnering with a reliable provider.

Research for reliability

How can you find a reliable service? You do your homework.

  • First of all, consider how much content you will need each month, as this will help you determine the costs you can expect to pay for each service.
  • You will also want to ask about content storage volumes and delivery.
  • Support is an important issue. Find out whether you would contact the provider by email or phone, and how long you would have to wait to get a response if you need to rely on email as the preferred contact method.
  • Price is another important consideration for any business owner, and you need to make sure that you are getting good value for the money you’re spending. Consider the following services if you are interested in outsourcing your video content in addition to writing posts.

In finding companies to consider, ask other bloggers for recommendations. Word of mouth can be a great way to find the service that you need.

The companies you are considering should have samples of their work posted online that you can review. When you are checking them out, make a point of looking at the quality of the sound and lighting. These two factors will tell you whether you will be getting a good quality product.

A few options

Here are a few outsourced video services that I’ve come across, and which you might like to consider.

Viddler

The Viddler video platform allows users to upload videos one at a time or in batches. You can record your video from your webcam directly into your Viddler account.

It’s an easy and convenient method for getting your message out to your readers. This company has been in business for six years and has processed over 22 million minutes of video since its inception.

It offers iTunes syndication and RSS feed, as well as embeddable widgets, so you can imbed your videos into your posts.

Pricing starts at $42.00 per month with an annual subscription. You also have the option of paying $50.00 on a month-by-month basis for this service. At this level, you would be provided with email support. Customers who choose a higher level of service would be entitled to email and phone support.

ReelContent

ReelContent is a UK-based company that offers video production services on location or in its studio. The company also offers editing services to its clients.

If are looking for highly polished video content to complement the blog posts you are writing, you may want to consider this type of option. The company has experience shooting content for news items, reviews, interviews, guides, and product demonstrations.

BlissMediaWorks

BlissMediaWorks targets the small and medium-sized business market. The company offers flexible video services that can be adapted to suit your needs.

Services include adding real footage, graphics, and animated text into a video. They can even include music and sound effects if you wish. The company will even post a video direct to YouTube as a special service to drive traffic to your blog.

Audio Concepts

Audio Concepts offers web videos as one of its services. If you are looking for a way to establish yourself as an expert in your niche, adding a series of videos to your blog is an effective way to enhance your online reputation.

Invite visitors to visit your blog to view the next installment to get more information about the topic you are discussing. This is an excellent way to tell a story and really connect with your visitors.

SmartShoot

If you know what you want in a video service, and are prepared to review multiple quotes for your video project, you can post it on SmartShoot.

This online marketplace will connect you with filmmakers and photographers who will put up bids for your job. You then choose who you want to work with.

What are you waiting for?

Adding video to blog posts is an excellent way to give your writing a boost. You can connect with your readers in a new way, and give the search engines something different to index from your blog.

This type of content is, of course, very popular with readers and may result in more shares on social networking sites. If your goal is to have more people liking your posts on Facebook, stumbling them on StumbleUpon, or tweeting them on Twitter, you will want to include video content on your blog more often.

It’s a good idea to get in front of your audience to let them see and hear from you, too. People want to know what you look and sound like so they can get to know you.

If your goal is to be seen as an expert to promote your business and get higher conversion rates for a product or a service, you need to be seen as someone your readers know and trust. The video messages are a good way for you to accomplish this goal.

Finally, remember: your videos don’t need to be lengthy. Anything from 30 seconds to three minutes will give viewers a chance to get to know you. And focus on one main theme per video.

Over time, you will feel more comfortable making videos. Just pretend you are talking to a friend, which is exactly what you are doing. You’re just speaking to your readers instead of writing your message.

Leslie Anglesey is an educational specialist and editor at EssayTigers - service that provides professional paper writing tips for the students.

The Perfect Blogging Output Level

This guest post is by Greg Narayan of DearBlogger.

It’s a sad truth: if you stop blogging, people will eventually forget about you.

Just like the actors in our favorite movies or athletes once they retire, we soon forget the big names and find new ones to idolize.

Even if your blog enjoys the spotlight now with revolutionary posts that go totally Justin -Beiber-viral the moment you hit Publish, it won’t last forever. That’s where your output comes in. Reach an appropriate, consistent level of output and you’ll get returning readers while keeping Google happy too.

But how do we reach a “good” level of output, and what amount is it? How much do you have to write to stay popular? Let’s take a look.

The “one post a day” model

The one post a day model is pretty popular, probably because it’s easy to visualize. You wake up, brew the coffee, and sit down at the computer. As your heads spins with thoughts from the previous night and new ideas on the future, you write them down.

This might work very well if you run a “my thoughts on the world” type of blog, or are into self-improvement, or have a blog documenting your travels.

However, if you plan to blog seriously or blog for a living, I see a few problems with the one post a day model:

  • Short: Writing one blog a day inevitably produces short posts, unless you ramble on and on, which is never good. And after Panda, Google doesn’t exactly love brief posts. Unless you have the pull of Seth Godin, one short post after another might confuse your readers or make them think you’re…
  • Cheap: Anyone can write one post a day. You just jot down some words that look like they make sense and hit publish. But the best posts require revisions, to make the points clear and the copy concise. This level of quality is difficult to achieve every single day on your blog.
  • Too personal: If you are writing in your pajamas before beginning the day I’d bet that writing will get pretty personal. Your beliefs and biases will littler the copy in places they just shouldn’t. So unless you have a really, intensely interesting life like Kim Kardashian (ha!) I’d avoid being too personal in your blog posts. It can scare new readers away.

When I wrote on how I blog for money, one of the main messages was that you earn by giving lots of value to readers. If you find posting every day is the best way to give, that’s fine, but be careful you’re not posting every day just to drive more traffic and attention to your blog. You’ll receive just as much traffic in the long run by posting infrequently at first.

Note: For wholesome traffic-gen strategies, check out Ana Hoffman’s blog.

Now, how about we put a different spin on this model?

One post a day, revamped

The “revamped” model will help you truly give, and also use your full creative potential.

The idea is to add guest posts, newsletters, even a super long Google+ post into the mix, and here’s why it works.

Readers like consistency, we know that, so set one post per week in that regime to be on your own blog. Make it personal, with a story from your own experiences. The tone should be different from posts away from your blog, to give readers a distinct feel to latch on to.

The great thing is that allowing yourself to write on places outside your blog really frees up your imagination. I can’t tell you how many people come to me saying they feel pressured to keep the content churning on their own blog, and it’s hurting their writing. Well, this is a solution.

You should know a couple things though before adapting this model. In order to write great guest posts you’ve gotta be immersed. Not in the TV in front of you on the magazine on the table, though you may find inspiration there. No, be immersed in the tone of the other blog. Read five or ten of their posts, catch their vibe, and see what readers want.

A lot of the time, what readers come back for on another blog is totally different from your own blog. To be a successful guest poster you’ll need to wise up to these little style cues on another blog.

This doesn’t just include guest posts. Every Tuesday morning, for example, I send out a newsletter to subscribers only. I’d be crazy to publish a post the same day because it would overwhelm people. Plus, I usually reference past posts in the newsletter, so the flow of traffic coming to my blog is taken care of. This is a great way of reusing content and getting folks to the blog.

Where do I find the inspiration?

So, you’re going with the one post a day model. Maybe you’ve tailored it a bit so you allow yourself two days off. Nothing wrong with that. Either way, you’ll be writing a serious amount.

Where do the ideas come from? It’s no secret good writing requires inspiration, and some of us just seem to have more of it than others. But where do we get it?

Here are a few places you can find inspiration to meet your desired output levels:

  • Conversations: Yes, they still exist off of Facebook. Go have a rich one.
  • Old-fashioned books: Old classics (Gatsby is my fave) boast inspirational ideas well ahead of their time.
  • Restaurants: Observe the menu. Neat words will pop out. Trust me, they will.
  • Other blogs: Your favorite blog should be full of daily inspiration.
  • Travel: Check out PickTheBrain soon for my post on how travel solves all your problems.

What are my limitations?

The honest truth is there are none. I know successful bloggers who rose to fame averaging only a few posts a month (read: Dererk Halpern).

Then there are those who furiously write, even when they can’t stand to anymore.

Forcing yourself to write can be a tremendous burden in the face of another job and even a family. If it’s not a creative outlet for you, either try to make it one, or just chill out. Put the laptop away for a while.

Often, inspiration creeps in when you’re not looking for it.

So, what is the perfect blogging output level?

There isn’t one (lame punch-line, I know).

It’s all about what works best for you, given your daily restrictions to time, money, location, etc.

Personally, I enjoy posting once a week on my blog because my readers expect it, and it’s just enough of a schedule to keep me sane. I know that when I’m not posting I should subconsciously be looking for new ideas—new weird/crazy topics to interrelate—from my surroundings. Then I sprinkle in guest posts like this one or that one to keep folks on a never-ending hunt to find me when I’m not at the blog.

It’s quite fun, actually.

But, your output schedule could be totally different. The point kind of is, you should choose something. Thinking about your output levels will help you tailor a schedule, which I firmly believe is necessary to make blogging for a living actually work someday. And that’s the goal, right?

What works for you?

I’m quite aware the one post a day model is outdated and not for everyone. Honestly, I’m not even sure if I blog enough! So, what works for you? I really hope someone successful out there can chime in and help us all out.

Let me know in the comments.

The Blogger writes on everything blogging at DearBlogger. Get free updates from his email club for more, or .

Another Way Compassion Can Cure Writer’s Block

When I saw the title of Brandon’s post on compassion and writer’s block earlier today, I instantly had an idea of what the post was about.

But it turns out Brandon had a different take on the topic than I do! So I wanted to add to his ideas in this post, and suggest another way that compassion can cure writer’s block.

What lies at the heart of writer’s block?

I think for each of us, any of a number of issues might cause writer’s block.

There’s exhaustion or burnout, which Brandon dealt with in his post. There’s the sense that you’ve already covered every aspect of your topic. There’s the feeling that there’s nothing new to write. There’s a fear of writing something that others will criticize or disagree with. And then there are distractions—the things we’d rather be doing that sitting inside writing.

I think the variety of “versions” of writer’s block is one of the reasons that we find it so hard to overcome—it seems like there’s no single answer to the problem. I felt this way, too, until I saw Brandon’s post.

How compassion can cure it

As his post suggests, you can cure writer’s block by being kind and compassionate to yourself.

But another approach is to be compassionate to your readers.

Whatever the cause, we tend to feel writer’s block as a pressure to produce—we feel the demands of our blog, or our readers, or the expectations of our peers to create, and do it well, all the time.

But obligation is never a good motivator, and in my experience, while pressure can be a motivator, it tends to burn people out pretty quickly.

Instead of feeling blocked by expectation and demand, why not turn that concept on its head?

As bloggers, our job is to help our audience. So instead of feeling resentment toward the masses waiting on the other side of our blogs to race through our next post, we can approach our writing from a position of compassion:

What can you help your readers achieve today?

How can you show them that you understand their challenges? That you’ve been in their shoes? That you have some advice that could help?

What can you do to make their path easier and clearer? Their lives that little bit simpler or more enjoyable? What’s happened in your life that they might find interesting and relevant?

Turn the block inside out

If you start thinking like this, your reader immediately stops becoming an enemy you need to placate, and can be seen as they truly are: someone who’s looking for understanding and advice.

Instead of focusing on “coming up with answers,” you can focus on the readers themselves, and connect emotionally with them and their individual situations. You know how they feel, because you’ve been there too.

So show them some compassion! Write a post that really hits the nail on the head for them. Record a heartfelt video that explains how you overcame the issue they’re facing. Spend some time doing interpersonal research with actual audience members on social media to get a sense of what’s current for your readers, then sit down to write.

However you play it, a little compassion for your readers can go a long way in inspiring your writing, and helping you to break out of writer’s block not just with publishable content, but content that truly connects through compassion.

How Compassion Cures Writer’s Block‏

This guest post is by Brandon Yawa of BrandonYawa.com.

If you are a writer, I don’t have to tell you how a dark shadow dubbed “writer’s block” hoovers over all your projects like Casper, but in the form of a not-so-friendly ghost. However, I assure you, this phenomenon known as writer’s block is not an apparition that needs a force like Ghostbusters to be removed. In fact, this phenomenon is not a phenomenon at all.

If you were a pro athlete in any sport…

You would know that you could only push the limits of your body so far before your body would give out. In a pro athlete’s world, people call this “overtraining.”

As writers, however, the heaviest weight we lift is our laptop, and our physique is never tested beyond hauling it from café to café. For that reason, we easily forget how overworked our mental faculties can be.

Writing is a mental treadmill that never stops.

The day you set foot on the path of being a writer, you have inadvertently placed yourself on a mental treadmill that has no end. Everything that happens to you, whether it is conscious or subconscious, speeds up or slows down this neverending treadmill.

If you have been writing for ten years, you have been mentally running, jogging and walking on your mental treadmill for 3,650 days straight. That’s enough mileage to make you the new spokesperson for Nike, and definitely enough mental mileage to warrant fatigue.

You are not blocked.

You are mentally fatigued, whether it be from worrying about living up to your last creation, living up to your own expectations, or just living a writer’s life in general.

I will repeat, you are not blocked, you are tired, and rightfully so I might add.

Humans need rest.

It sounds so clichéd to say you need rest, but you do. In order to rest, you have to figure out how to take yourself off that mental treadmill. You have to learn to separate the material you need for writing from the material you need to be human.

5 steps to get off the mental treadmill

1. You have to show yourself compassion

You have to accept that you are mentally tired of the process of writing. Just like you allow yourself to go to sleep, you have to allow yourself time away from writing.

2. Forgive yourself for being unable to write

You have not done anything wrong, and you don’t suffer from a life-threatening disease.

Instead, congratulate yourself on what you have accomplished thus far. Even if it’s only that you got out of bed, opened your laptop and pressed your fingers on the keyboard. Congratulate yourself for trying, and then congratulate yourself for having the compassion to know when you are passed your limits.

3. Don’t allow the outside world to affect how you feel about yourself

You are not a machine whose sole purpose is to produce. Instead, as a human being, you decide what your purpose is. If you choose writing, remember it’s what you chose on your own terms, and that’s how it should remain.

4. Find hobbies that take you away from the writing world

Sometimes just shutting our mind off isn’t enough. We need an object or objects to assist us in shutting off that mental treadmill. See the world, travel your city, play video games, or read books that relax you (not ones that inspire you to write).

5. Learn to love yourself whether you are writing or not writing

Whether you are producing Shakespearean material, or creating child’s play, learning to love yourself totally (the good and the bad) not only gives you an immediate place of refuge, it arms you with a sensitivity that knows when too much is too much.

True compassion starts with the individual before it is shared with the world.

Brandon Yawa is the author of BrandonYawa.com. A blog built to show you new ways to tackle the same old human dilemmas.

What Studying Haikus Taught Me about Writing Blog Posts

This guest post is by Steve of Do Something Cool.

A form of Japanese poetry, haikus have been around for hundreds of years.  Blogging has been around for roughly two decades. 

On the surface, these two different forms of writing don’t have anything to do with each other.  But surprisingly, understanding haikus has taught me a lot about writing blog posts.

The key to a good haiku (and blog post)

I once read that haikus are best described as “a one breath poem that discovers connection.”  That’s about as good a description for haikus as you’re going to find. 

A well-written haiku gets the reader to discover a connection to something new and meaningful.  And the way you do that is by writing from a unique and interesting perspective no one else has seen.

That’s also what makes a good blog post.  A good blog post gets the reader to discover something in a meaningful way through a unique and interesting perspective.

Since I’ve started to study and understand haikus, I’ve taken a new approach to writing my blog posts.  Just like a Japanese haiku writer in the 1800s would have analyzed and observed every angle to find the one perspective no one had considered before, I try to write posts with a similar twist.

My blog posts have now become just as much about discovery as they are in haikus.  It’s not my goal to churn out blog posts just for the sake of publishing something.  I try to offer unique and meaningful posts for both the reader and myself in everything I write.

I’ve been told that a good haiku writer can look at a famous photo thousands of others have seen and written about, but still discover a perspective no one else had previously been able to see.  Who wouldn’t want that ability for writing blog posts?

Often it can seem as if everything has already been written before.  I’ve felt that way at times.  After scanning through thousands of blog posts online, you might ask yourself how you could possibly come up with something new.  Hasn’t everything already been written before?

Understanding haikus has taught me to see things differently.  There are endless ways to write a blog post simply because there are endless numbers of perspectives and viewpoints to write about.  There will never be a point when nothing new can be said about a subject.

Think about it this way: people have been writing haikus for hundreds of years.  There are hundreds of thousands of them that talk about nature alone.  Yet each one can be completely different.

I was in a group of students writing haikus once.  We were looking down at people crossing a busy street.  Each student observed the same scenes and wrote down several haikus each.  It was amazing how varied all the writing was.  Even those students who wrote about exactly the same things could find new and unique ways to write about it.

It comes down to perspective.  Writing haikus teaches you to notice details or angles no one else is seeing.  A dozen people watching one scene on a street could write in twelve different ways.  For the same reason a dozen bloggers could write about one topic in a dozen unique ways.

Of course, not all bloggers do that.  Many repeat what others are already saying without putting their own spin on things.

But you can train yourself to find that unique perspective.  Ask yourself:

  • What is being missed by everyone else?
  • Can something be added or subtracted from everyone else’s opinion to make it new?
  • Is there a bigger or smaller detail that others are failing to notice?
  • Could a different approach to this topic come up with something different?

It helps to think of it this way: writing a haiku is like looking through the lens of a camera.  You can zoom the lens in or out as much as you need to, as long as you eventually find details in the photo that make your perspective unique and new.  It can be a small, important detail or something much bigger.  But it has to be something your camera sees that no other camera has caught before.

Blog posts are a lot like that.  What you write is the lens and the way you approach the topic is the angle of the camera.  Put the two together in an original and interesting way and you have the beginning of a great blog post.

If you were to look back over the past two centuries and explore the millions of haikus that have been written, you would find that the number of perspectives and moments they capture are endless.  The same is also true for blog posts.  And it should be.  After all, you’re working with a lot more words.

Has poetry or literature influenced your blog post writing? Share your unique perspective in the comments.

Steve is the writer behind Do Something Cool where he blogs about travel, motivation, personal growth and adventure.  He’s always looking for ways to make life more interesting.  Get tips on living life to the fullest through his Facebook fan page and Twitter.

Do Search Engines Love Opinion Posts As Much As We Do?

This guest post is by Helen Hoefele of Figmentations.com.

Is the goal of your blogging efforts is to make money, to raise money, to sell or promote a product or service, or simply to get your message out?

Regardless, the one thing that every blogger needs to pay attention to, whether you’re excited about it or not, is the importance of creating high quality content to keep both your readers and the search engines happy.

We all know that Google has been favoring sites with high quality content over sites with low quality content. Sites consisting of low quality or duplicate content and/or employing manipulative SEO practices in order to unfairly influence site rankings have lost ground in their search engine ranking results.

What many people may not realize is that “not creating low quality content” does not necessarily mean you are creating high quality content.

So let’s take a closer look at what high quality content, and ultimately high value content, can mean. In particular, let’s consider where opinion-editorial (op-ed) writing falls on the quality scale.

At face value, because op-eds are generally subjective rather than objective in nature, it may not be clear whether or not they count as high quality content for blog SEO purposes.

For SEO-quality-related questions like this, I would recommend asking yourself this question, as per SearchEngineLand.com, about the writing you want to publish: “Do you offer real value, something of substance to visitors, anything unique, different, useful and that they won’t find elsewhere?” If your material meets those criteria, and of course you avoid any questionable SEO practices intended to manipulate rankings, it should be clear that you do not have low quality content.

As most industry observers state, if you write for readers and not for search engines, you should be fine. So, yes, opinions can be considered high quality content for SEO purposes.

However, we shouldn’t stop there; there are more questions to ask. When deciding whether or not to express your opinions in your writing, the better question to ask is: Is there value in expressing opinions beyond just SEO value? A simple answer of “yes” does not suffice here. For that, let’s take a closer look at value.

Low value

In any given blog post, if a reader disagrees with your opinion, especially if it’s unexpected to you, there is value for you to delve into understanding why.

More likely, though, any discussion starting from a place of vehement disagreement is more than likely to devolve into an endless circular debate resulting in anger or frustration on both sides with no common understanding or resolution ever achieved. There is not much value in alienating readers, unless your goal is to filter out unwelcome readers from your audience or perhaps, if skillfully done, evolve your tribe from becoming too much of an echo chamber.

Superficial value

Even if you could write an opinion piece with a catchy title that ends up ranking high and gets a lot of social mentions, that doesn’t automatically mean you have created high quality content. And even if that piece were to go viral, that does not guarantee conversion, as is being shown time and time again.

Anything that attracts attention but results in a high bounce rate and low time-on-site numbers is nothing more than wasted opportunity to provide true value to potentially interested readers.

Missed value

At the same time, high quality opinion pieces that do not rank high due to poor writing, poor search engine optimization, and/or poor after-publication social sharing will miss the mark, too. Good ideas, as with useful opinions, absolutely need to be paired with good SEO practices and effective social sharing in order to get the exposure they rightly deserve.

Practical value

On the other hand, you could ask: if your reader readily agrees with your expressed opinion, is anything of value accomplished in still stating that opinion?

Social media was used heavily in the recent U.S. Presidential election. Yet, it likely did little to actually sway any already-committed points of view. All that such social media outreach achieved was: reinforce the base; exert peer pressure; or generate social proof among friends, family, or acquaintances. While that did have a considerable impact on the get-out-to-vote initiatives, it did nothing to change anything about the world—it did not improve the electoral process, or unify the country, or solve any of the country’s much-debated problems.

Value-added value

In the end, getting good exposure for a specific opinion aimed at a targeted audience is not the only game in town. A quote from Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s book (which has largely inspired this post), The Impact Equation, sums it up nicely:

“Your opinions may be helpful and interesting, but unless they are specifically useful to your audience, you are not building something of significant or lasting value.”

Opinions about another person’s ideas become especially valuable when they help evolve and spread that idea to others who will keep it alive and do something with it.

Bottom line

In the end, while Google might not be able to distinguish between these different value levels (yet), your readers can. Remember, you are writing for your readers and not for the search engines.

Each person’s blog and reason for blogging is different. What works for you and your audience may or may not work for someone else’s. Many times you won’t even know what will or won’t work until you test it out. Always experiment. Don’t fear making any potential minor miss-steps, as you will find that most audiences are quite forgiving.

Why not test each of these value theories out with your own blog over the next few weeks? Try these tests:

  • Write a rant: After sleeping on it and making sure it isn’t unnecessarily offensive or regretful, consider posting it to see how your readers react in comments, shares, and subscription levels. Do they engage or do they leave?
  • Write something generic about a trending topic found on SocialMention. Take some time to formulate a catchy title. Share on social sites as you normally would. Then check your stats to compare your bounce rates and time-on-site metrics for that post with a popular but more thought-provoking post from your site.
  • Choose a popular blog post, either yours or someone else’s. Promote it on your favorite social sharing sites but experiment with different social media messages accompanying that link, with some messages well written and others less well written. Observe the importance of effective messaging as seen in the number of shares and re-tweets.
  • Write an opinion piece that you know everyone will agree with, then ask for comments and feedback. Compare the quality and emotion level generated by the generic opinion post versus an original thought-provoking opinion post or even comments against the rant piece mentioned in the first point above.
  • Take some time and formulate a useful opinion piece or blog comment—not something that’s an off-the-cuff reaction, but a unique, thoughtful response, perhaps taking into account comments or opinions that others already left on that post or topic. Assess the quality of feedback you receive.

Expressing unique opinions has value and should easily count as high quality content for SEO purposes. Never forget that opinion writing can provide a lot more than just SEO value, too.

In the end, writing a useful and thought-provoking post is not only more interesting for your readers to read, but more interesting for you to write as well. Why not put the power of the keyboard to work for you?

In her spare time, Helen Hoefele shares her thoughts and opinions via her personal blog at Figmentations.com. By day, she is a productive member on the Inbound Marketing team at a NJ-based SEO services company.