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Charles Darwin’s 12 Rules of Blogging Survival

This guest post is by Tom Treanor of the Business Blogging Telesummit.

Blog readers have a myriad of reading options for almost every topic you can think of. In fact, within your niche, potential customers may be enjoying blog posts written by your competitors while they ignore your blog like the plague.

So what do you do about this dire situation? Do you hire ghost writers to create more content? Do you promote your content more via social media? Do you get better at SEO so you can attract more search traffic?

Well. These may work to a degree. You may see some minor bumps with more Tweeting, Facebooking and catching more long tail keywords in Google. But, it’s a long and slow process if you’re using these brute-force tactics.

There has to be a better way. And there is.

Like Darwin’s finches, which evolved different beak sizes over the generations to better suit their differing environmental conditions and to survive, your blog has to become better suited for your audience’s needs over time. You need to develop more “evolved” blogging strategies that are more effective at differentiating your blog and attracting and keeping the readers that you target.

You don’t want your blog to end up on the wrong end of Natural Selection, do you?

Here are 12 ways for your blog to survive and thrive.

1. Be the best teacher in your niche

Explain the things that most people in your niche assume don’t need to be explained. Answer all of your potential customers’ frequently asked questions in writing, with pictures and (or) in video. Do detailed tutorials on fundamental as well as on in-demand advanced topics.

Keep the quality high and listen closely to your audience when you pick topics and develop the content. When competitors start sending customers to your site to understand a complex topic, then you’ll know you’ve won!

2. Be more personal than the others

Getting personal can lead to a deeper connection with your audience and pay dividends in terms of allegiance to your blog and brand.

Many business bloggers put up a barrier between their personal lives and what they share on their blog. Including aspects of your personal life is one way to differentiate yourself from your “plain vanilla” competitors.

3. Be funnier than the others

People love to laugh. Using humor well is hard, but can separate your blog from the pack. if you can successfully pull off inoffensive humor (depending on your industry), you’ll bring a lot of readers back again and again. You’ll also likely increase the amount of social media shares that your blog gets.

4. Say what everyone else thinks

It’s uncomfortable to do. Saying what everyone else thinks is really hard. If you can be the “voice of reason” without upsetting everyone around you, you can gather a tribe of people who say “Yes!” to every post.

5. Be the expert on a specific sub-niche

Don’t focus on widgets: focus only on the custom-designed, high-end widgets from Alaska.

If you can focus on a specific, but important sub-niche within your industry and become the authoritative source, you can develop a big advantage against your competitors in that area. Once successful, you can extend from this beachhead into the broader widget market.

6. Have a bigger vision

Tie your blog to a bigger goal. What far-reaching vision can you use to inspire people to join you in your mission? Can you align your company and blog with a bigger movement that is out there? Can you create your own far-reaching vision that aligns with your passions as well as with your company goals?

7. Be more extreme than the others

Go much further than the other blogs in terms of topics, challenges, transparency or risks. It doesn’t have to be dangerous, just extremely different. You’ll get noticed.

8. Be more creative than the rest

If everyone’s writing articles, why don’t you mix in video? How about being the first infographic producer in your industry?

Try new topics, writing styles, media or blog post structures. Think of other ideas that will provide value while separating your from the rest. Give yourself permission to try something unique.

9. Cross-pollinate better than the others

Do you only work with other real estate-related blogs or influencers? How about looking at the lending, architecture, finance and relocation industries?

Spread your tentacles where your competitors never dreamed of going by guest posting, blog commenting or connecting with other bloggers in those industries. If the target audience is the same, you can gain some great benefits from this kind of cross-pollination.

10. Be the best curator of meaningful content

Find the best information that others have written and posted online—the best articles, charts, tables, infographics, videos, or pictures. Collect it in a logical, easy-to-use navigational structure on your blog.

Make sure you link to and give credit to your sources and only summarize (or take small portions of) the articles you link to. Content curation is a way to share great information that is already available and to become seen as a key source of great information.

11. Be the news source for your industry

Focus on being the source of timely news and analysis for your industry. To be able to keep up with the news cycle, this often means a combination of curated content mixed with some original content or analysis.

Niche or industry news blogs can do very well because they get lots of shares, links, SEO benefits and subscribers. Just have a plan for getting regular, high-quality updates onto your site.

12. Work harder than the rest

Sometimes all the right things are in place but you don’t have the results yet. Working hard can pay off, but pace yourself and don’t burn out! Grab more virtual land than the competitors to create a barrier to entry for “lazier” niche-mates.

Come up with your own unique variation

Just like nature’s many variations (which we never could have predicted), come up with your own unique way to differentiate your blog. The blogs that thrive in a given niche will be the ones who evolve in ways that allow them to meet the needs of their audience better than the competitors’ blogs.

Avoid finding yourself on the wrong side of Natural Selection by using one of the strategies above, combining a couple or by developing your own differentiated strategy.

Tom Treanor is the founder of the Business Blogging Telesummit, designed to help SMBs succeed with their blogging and social media efforts. Visit his blog at RightMixMarketing.com.

Questions My Dad Would Ask Before You Started that Ebook

This guest post is by Barb Sawyers of Sticky Communication.

The pitches go like this: turn your archived content into an ebook that will rake in bucks while you sleep. Invest a weekend, maybe a few weeks, and you’ll have a book that will establish you as a thought leader and open the flood gates to new revenue streams.

But as my 85-year-old Dad asked when I told him I was writing an ebook: “Why would you write a book, now that everyone with a computer can?”

You’ve got to admit, that’s a good point from my 85-year-old Dad, who still makes money on his investments but sometimes can’t find his slippers.

Because everyone can now publish a book, lots more will. So your book has to be great. Make that spectacular. And don’t forget that you’re not only the source of the expertise and probably the writing. You will also be responsible for editing, page formatting, cover design, sales and much more.

Depending on your skill set and budget, you can pay for help from Createspace and other self-publishers, people you stumble across on the Internet or a marble-lobby public relations firm.

But for more of the work and most of the decisions, you are on your own.

Don’t get me wrong. I am tickled pink that more people can share their wisdom or art through ebooks and on-demand print. I’m simply advising you to go in with your eyes wide open, avoid the sleazier pitches, and think about some of these questions my Dad would ask.

  • Are your goals achievable? If you want a book that makes money, it has to be good enough to compete with traditional publishers and the coming flood of self-published ebooks. If you are only interested in raising your prestige among a smaller group of people, you may set the bar a little, but not much, lower.
  • Are you an expert? Ideally, you’ve been accumulating knowledge for years and updating your wisdom daily. If you’re not already passionate about a specific topic, don’t charge in.
  • Do you have a unique approach? Like a product, your book has to offer something people can’t get anywhere else. In a world of countless niches, that might be relatively easy for you.
  • Are you willing to invest time? If you are smart enough to have the expertise that makes a book worthwhile, likely you are not going to fall for the get-rich-quick charlatans.
  • Can you write well? If you want to sharpen your skills, you can learn from many blogs, courses and books, including mine, Write Like You Talk—Only Better. If you’re a blogger, figure at least 30 to 50 quality posts on your theme that will then need to be edited, packaged, and sold.
  • If your writing doesn’t measure up, are you prepared to spend the money and time on someone whose does? Most successful nonfiction authors who don’t eat, sleep, and breath writing pay big bucks to professional ghost writers, not a stranger whose site trumpets their rock-bottom prices. You get what you pay for, as my Dad would say. Unless you can find a 24/7 psychic ghost writer, you’ll also spend lots of time thinking about the theme and feeding your ghost writer your knowledge and revisions.
  • Can you design the pages, cover and marketing collateral? Again, be prepared to pay for the kind of quality that will compete or at least spend the time to find the right online sources. Yes, templates are available, but much of what I viewed were woodlands or other looks that do not work for my cover. Right again, Dad. People do judge a book by its cover.
  • Do you have a content marketing machine? You’ll need to spend lots more time feeding and building your social networks, courting legacy media and pursuing other strategies for marketing your book. Competition is stiff and getting stiffer. You have to do a lot more than sneeze in an elevator to go viral.

If there’s an ebook in your soul, go for it. I’m thrilled that the doors have opened. Just be prepared to pour in years of learning, months of prep time and days of fretting.

It has to be your best, not something you knocked off over a rainy weekend.

That’s how real money is made. Just ask my Dad.

Barb Sawyers, who blogs at Sticky Communication, is almost ready to publish in print and for ereaders the second edition of Write Like You Talk—Only Better. Preview it here.

Why Submit Your Best Posts as Guest Posts?

This guest post is by Aman Basanti of ageofmarketing.com.

If you have been in the blogging game for any number of months, you already know about the power of guest blogging in generating traffic and exposure to your blog. Yet there are new bloggers out there who hear about the power of guest posting, but still do not understand why it is so effective.

Guest posting success

Image copyright Franz Pfluegl - Fotolia.com

As one reader commented on my recent piece on guest posting, “You people are always advocating guest posting. But I am not convinced about guest posting. Can you help me in this case? Why should we submit our best work to someone else?”

It is a valid question and as there are always new people entering the world of blogging, one that is worth answering for the blogging community at large.

Accordingly, here are three reasons why you should submit some of your best posts as guest posts.

1. It increases the chance of your guest post being accepted

Here is what a lot of new bloggers don’t know. A-list blogs get a lot of guest post submissions every week. On average, an a-list blog like ProBlogger might get around 30 guest post submissions. In comparison, most blogs only post five or ten posts a week, which means 20 posts get rejected.

If you are sending in your weak posts, chances are your post will get rejected. By sending in your top posts, you increase your chances of getting published on an A-list blog.

2. You’ll get quality “do follow” backlinks

Guest posting on A-list blogs gets you high quality backlinks that help you improve your rankings in the search engines.

Now, you might say, “But I’m getting backlinks through the comments section. Why would I go to all that effort of writing and submitting guest posts when I can easily get those backlinks through the comments section?”

The answer is that links in the comments sections of the major blogs are “no-follow,” which means that they count for a lot less (some say not at all) than the “do follow” links that you get in your by line or author box alongside a guest post.

Also, links higher up on the page carry more SEO benefit. As SEOMoz wrote in a post on SEO, “We find that links higher up in the HTML code of a page seem to pass more ranking ability/value than those lower down.” As most guest posts include a back link at the start and at the end of the post, it further magnifies the power of the backlinks.

Combine these two factors and it is easy to see that the backlinks from guest posting are far more valuable than those in the comments section.

3. Attract high-converting traffic

Traffic from guest posts is some of the highest converting traffic you can get. Here are the subscriber opt-in rates for my free ebook page:

  • Google Adwords (Banner ads on the content network): 5% opt-in rate (I know I have some work to do on this, but still)
  • StumbleUpon: 0.5% opt-in rate
  • Guest posting: 40% opt-in rate.

Traffic from guest posting is, hands down, the highest converting traffic you can get. Also, on a big site, the chance of your post going viral is high. It is simple maths. More readers equal more people sharing the post. The more people sharing your post the higher the chance it will be seen by an influencer, further increasing its chances of going viral.

My post on The Warren Buffett Method for Building a Successful Blog, for example, went viral because it was posted on ProBlogger. That post earned me 50 subscribers, showed that I was a good writer, and put me on the map of other bloggers in my niche.

In other words, I got a lot more value from posting it on ProBlogger than I would have had I posted it on my own blog.

Conclusion

Unless you already have a popular blog, there is no reason why you should not submit your best posts as guest posts on major sites. More traffic, better search engine rankings, and brand exposure are some of the key benefits.

Plus, it gives you a bit of kick to get so many comments on a piece you wrote, which can motivate you to keep blogging so that one day you too will get that many comments on your own blog.

Aman Basanti writes about the psychology of buying and teaches you how you can use the principles of consumer psychology to boost your sales. Visit www.Ageofmarketing.com/free-ebook to get his new e-book – Marketing to the Pre-Historic Mind: How the Hot New Science of Behavioural Economics Can Help You Boost Your Sales – for FREE.

11 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Being Linked to By a Blogger

Today I received what seemed like a fairly generic email from the website Dummies.com. I won’t republish the email (I’m not into that) but it was a fairly generic ‘could you link to our website’ type email asking for a link because they’ve redesigned their site. It even included a suggested link/code.

My reaction was not positive – in fact within a few moments I’d tweeted that I’d had the request and wasn’t overly impressed.

This post is not about Dummies.com – it’s about asking for links.

I have no beef with Dummies – they produce some great books by some amazing authors. This post isn’t about them. It’s about asking for links.

You see I get quite a few emails asking for links like the one from Dummies but they’re not always from big well known brands, they’re more often than not emails from bloggers. In 99% of cases the email ends up in my trash folder in Gmail but occasionally I not only read the emails but I link to the persons site.

Why do some emails generate links and others don’t?

Following are 11 suggestions for those wanting to email a blogger to ask for a link (whether they be big brands or bloggers):

  1. Write something worth linking to – this is a no brainer but so many people don’t get it. In the same way you wouldn’t successfully pitch a TV news service or newspaper a story like ‘I’ve got a newly designed website – it’s got videos’ you’re not likely to get much success with a blogger. The best way to get the attention of a blogger is to write something useful, entertaining, controversial, helpful, informative, intriguing…. etc. Check out my series on LinkBaiting for more ideas on this (particularly the post 20 Link Baiting Techniques).
  2. Suggest a Link to a post not your site – don’t ask for a link to your site – suggest that they check out a link to an individual page or post that you’ve written. A blogger is much more likely to run with a story linking to a post about a specific topic relevant to their topic than adding a link to your site.
  3. Develop a Relationship – cold calling a blogger that you’ve never interacted with before asking for a link is not the best way to start off a relationship. It’s like in real life – would you walk up to a stranger and immediately start asking them for favors? Get to know the blogger, their blog and let the ‘favors’ emerge out of that.
  4. Demonstrate Knowledge of the Blog and Blogger – building upon the ‘relational’ aspect – use the blogger’s name, show that you know what their blog is about. You don’t need to write an epic introduction that proves your knowledge – but a polite and not overly familiar approach can do you wonders. Also – introduce yourself to the blogger you are pitching to. You might feel like you know them but they could be in contact with many people – a quick reminder of who you are and what you do could help.
  5. Research – sometimes it can be worthwhile doing 5 minutes of research before you email another blogger. Look back over their last few months of blogging. What is their topic? Do they link to other blogs? What kinds of sites/posts/topics do they link to? Do they interact in other mediums (ie perhaps Twitter could be a better place to contact them)? The more information you gather the more able you are to tailor your pitch to them appropriately.
  6. Add Value – a blogger is unlikely to link to you unless there’s something in it for them or their blog. I’m not talking exchanging of money or even reciprocal links when I talk about value (although for some bloggers those will be motivating factors) – I mean the page you’re asking for a link for should be something of value that will actually enhance their blog. I can only speak for myself but I know that if someone pitches me a link that I’ll link to it or at least tweet the link in a heart beat if I think it adds value to the lives of my readers or followers.
  7. Stay on topic – this really is an extension of a couple of the points above but it always amazes me how many emails I get for people asking me to link to their ‘golf’, ‘stock market’, ‘book review’ and ‘kids fashion’ sites (they were just 4 requests that I got today alone). If you’re pitching a blogger to link to something you wrote make sure that the blog you want to appear on has relevancy to your topic. For starters it increases the chances of a link, it increases the chances of a reader clicking the link and it increases the power of the search engine juice that you’ll get from the link.
  8. Be selective in what you promote – we all like to think that every post we write is worthy of links from thousands of other blogs but the reality is that some are more likely to be linked to than others. Pick your very best posts to promote in this way and keep your requests to a minimum.
  9. Reciprocate – I want to be clear here that I’m not talking about reciprocal links. ‘Link to me and I’ll link to you’ doesn’t really hold a lot of value in SEO any more from what I can see. What I am talking about here is being willing to be generous TO the blogger and not just expecting them to be generous to you. Shane Gibson described these emails on Twitter yesterday as “we Win you Lose invitations” – I think that sums it up nicely. See the relationship as being like a bank. You’ve got to put in to get something out. If you take too much out the relationship will be bankrupt. I’m not just talking about giving the blogger links – you can reciprocate in many ways including by writing them guest posts, sending them small gifts, sponsoring a project that they’re running, promoting them to your own network…. etc
  10. Build on the Experience – no matter what the bloggers response is – you can learn from and build upon the experience. If they do link then there may be opportunity to deepen the relationship in some way. If they respond angrily, you probably don’t want to send them links again. If you get silence, don’t take it personally and continue to find ways to build relationships with the blogger.
  11. Be Link Worthy – let me emphasize this again. The best way to get linked to by a blogger is to produce a page or post that is link worthy of the link.

4 Pretty Pictures to Illustrate Impact of Email Newsletters on Traffic (and Social Bookmarking)

Today I was reading a post on CopyBlogger by Dean Rieck on the importance of using email to grow a blog and it struck me how many bloggers still don’t fully understand the power of email as a way to grow their blogs.

I’m not going to rehash all of the reasons why email marketing is worth adding to your blogging or even give tips on how to build a successful email newsletter – today I just want to illustrate with a couple of charts why I believe in email marketing.

DPS-Forum.png

What you see above (click to enlarge) is a screen shot of the Google Analytics area of the forum area of Digital Photography School (ie it doesn’t include the blog area’s traffic).

The stats go back for 6 weeks and you’ll notice that there is a nice weekly pattern going on in terms of rises and falls in traffic.

What causes the predictable rises in traffic each Thursday? Thursday is the day I send newsletters.

DPS-Forum-2.jpg

Each week a newsletter goes out to readers that simply contains a summary of the latest activity on the site. Interestingly – the newsletter only contains one link to the forum area – yet that one link is enough to come close to doubling traffic to the forum for that day.

But Wait, There’s More

OK – so the ability to drive regular traffic to your blog is one great reason to start an email newsletter for your blog – but today as I analyzed my blog’s stats I realized that there’s another reason.

Take a look at this chart. It shows traffic from Digg to the blog area of DPS since mid last year (click to enlarge).

DPS-Digg.png

OK – it’s a little hard to see a correlation between newsletters and Digg traffic from that graph – but what I noticed today is that the majority of my ‘Digg Events’ happen on the same days of the week. Let me show you (click to enlarge):

DPS-Digg-1.jpg

I’ve had 19 ‘Digg Events’ in this period and 16 of them have happened on a Thursday or a Friday (two of the others hit the front page on a Saturday).

Articles hit the front page of Digg every day of the week yet on my site they almost always fall on a Thursday or a Friday.

I send newsletters out to my readers on a Thursday morning.

Now I rarely mention Digg or any form of social bookmarking in my newsletters – but it seems to me that the newsletters are having an impact upon social bookmarking to me.

Further Reading on Email Marketing/Newsletters and how to use them Effectively:

Five Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

With so many blogs revolving around the theme of “make money online”, John Robinson of JWRmedia focuses on ways you can improve your blog through branding, marketing and optimization which will allow you to establish a name for yourself and gain Internet success.

Why are there so many unsuccessful websites when others continue to flourish? Much of the reason has to do with poor marketing. This article explains five of the most popular marketing mistakes made by new website owners trying promote themselves. Usually with tight time constraints and even tighter budgets, the margin for error is very slim. Keep these points in mind before starting your next marketing campaign and you’re sure to see much better results.

1. A little of this, a little of that

This mistake is often made by those who want to take on the whole world with a tiny budget. They advertise a little bit on one website, a little bit on another, they try a little bit of email marketing and so on. However, with limited budgets, they only accomplish a small presence in each. To maximize results, narrow your choices and regularly run ads that will get noticed on a constant basis. One known marketing illustration is as follows:

The first time people look at an advertisement, they don’t see it. The second time they look at and ad, they don’t notice it. The third time, they become conscious of the ad’s existence. The fourth time, they vaguely remember seeing the ad somewhere before. The tenth time, they think ‘someday I am going to buy that’. The 20th time they see the ad, they finally execute the “call to action”. Establishing a well known presence in just one area will work much better than scattering yourself all over the web.

2. Ignoring statistics

If you’re one of many who dislike mathematics, this can be a hard avenue for you to overcome. However, in any marketing campaign, it is essential that you regularly measure results. Know which aspects of your marketing campaign are working best for you. Where do your visitors come from? How many unique visitors do you receive each day? How many of them are repeat visitors? Which pages on your website are viewed most often? How long does the average visitor stay on your website? On which page do they usually leave your site? What is your conversion rate? Which pages convert the most? Keep a spreadsheet to track this information on a weekly basis, and measure the trends. Doing so will allow you to cut out ineffective marketing efforts and focus more on those that work.

To help track these statistics on your website, you can use tools such as Google Analytics or Statcounter.

3. Tweaking things that aren’t broken

Here we remember the rule “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. If you have a web page that ranks well in Google and brings you a fairly decent amount of targeted traffic, don’t go modifying the page contents, images and META tags. Doing so will most likely penalize its search engine ranking. Constantly changing other aspects of your website will also confuse your regular readers and make it much more difficult to build up your “branding”. Find something that works for you and stick with it.

4. Jumping the gun

Many website owners make the mistake of pumping out a massive advertising campaign too soon. Don’t take action just to meet a certain date you have in mind. Be sure everything on your website functions properly and is cross-browser compliant. Nothing screams “unprofessional” more than a broken website. If you require more time than anticipated to have your site up and running, you may have to push your planned release date back a while. Correct the kinks, finish your design, and fully test your website’s functionality before inviting everyone to visit.

Browsershots is a free online utility that will allow you to see how your website appears on dozens of different Internet browsers.

5. “Flying solo”

Without a very hefty advertising budget, it will be next to impossible for you to take on the whole world without any help. Build relationships with other website owners and arrange a way for them to help you promote your site or product. Word of mouth continues to rule as the champion of advertising methods. Generate a buzz amongst the online community about what you have to offer by doing something for other site owners in return. With practically every aspect of business, it’s all about who you know. By creating a strong, positive relationship with others, you can help spread the word about what each of you are offering.

The vast majority of us don’t build our website merely as a hobby- we are usually working toward earning some sort of income online. With careful planning and by giving attention to detail, your time and money can be used to the best of its ability, thereby allowing you to gain the highest return possible.

How to Expand Your Blog Audience when Traffic Plateaus

This post belongs to a series on how to grow your blog once it gets past launch phase.

Many bloggers that I chat with tell me that their blogs hit plateaus in terms of traffic after around 6 months of blogging.

Blog-Growth-Plateau

They launch with enthusiasm, great content, significant time invested into networking with other bloggers and the results pay off with a steady growth in traffic. However in time the enthusiasm dries up a little, life gets busy, networks don’t seem to produce the results that they once did and traffic levels out.

It can be confronting and depressing to realize that your blog has stopped growing.

If this describes you - then the time might have come to put some time aside in the coming days to put a more concerted effort into trying some new ways to grow your traffic. The time has come to look for opportunities to expand your audience.

Of course growing readership is a task that bloggers of all levels will be wanting to explore but as a blog grows new opportunities do arise due to your blogs profile and loyal reader power.

1. Partnerships and Relationships with other blogs

Look at your niche and work out what others are doing and if there are opportunities to work with them or cross promote each other.

I’m not just talking here about ‘getting to know’ other bloggers in the hope that they might link to you one day – actually attempt to build more strategic partnerships with other blogs – partnerships that are mutually beneficial to both of you. For example:

  • offer to run a banner ad for another blog in an empty ad slot on your blog if they do likewise for you
  • do a guest blog swap once a month with another blogger – where you write on their blog for a day and they write on yours
  • promote each other’s RSS feeds or newsletters in posts

These types of relationships can really take many forms and are only limited by your creativity. They can feel a little weird at first because effectively you are promoting a competitor – but from what I’ve found there is plenty of room in most niches for numerous blogs and to work together can actually mean everyone grows. I personally don’t mind if another blog in my niche doubles their traffic if I do too!

It gets easier to get the attention of other bloggers once you become established so you might want to raise your sights a little and even begin to cultivate relationships with bloggers a little higher on the food chain than yourself.

2. Reader Evangelism

Once your blog has a core readership (even if it is smallish) you have one of the most powerful forces for growing your blog right in front of you – people who already read it.

The key is to find ways to release and encourage them to promote your blog for you. Here’s something simple that I did last year which worked on my photography blog:

invite-friend.pngI simply added an invitation in my weekly newsletter to pass on the newsletter to a friend.

It sounds incredibly simple – too simple in fact – but it worked. You can see the invitation pictured to the right – notice that I also included an invitation to subscribe for those who got the invitation from a friend.

What I found is that the ‘subscribe’ link got a lot of clicks (you can track this with Aweber) and I started getting emails from new readers who’d had friends recommend that they check out the newsletter and subscriber numbers went up considerably the week I first did it.

There are of course other ways to mobilize readers to help promote your site. Another way that I did it early last year was to run a competition to see who could recruit the most new forum members. I’ve also seen others run competitions where to enter you have to write a post about their blog. Another option is to add an ‘email this to a friend’ link at the bottom of posts.

These competitions and tools do work – but so does simply asking readers to tell their friends about your blog. Of course you need to have a blog worth recommending to a friend for it to really work – the more useful your blog the more likely it’ll be for your readers to pass word of it along to their friends without you asking.

3. Social Media

It can be difficult to have much success on social media sites on a blog that doesn’t have much of a readership – but as it grows a blog can naturally and organically grow in this area as more and more of your readers will be active on these sites.

I wrote a little about this in my post ‘How to Build a Digg Culture on Your Blog‘.

The key at this stage of your blog is to give your readers easy ways to pass your blog on to others. It can also be well worthwhile to do a little familiarization of different social media tools that your readers might find useful (a post about it educating them of the tools) and also be able to promote your blog with.

Then to add social media buttons can also work (although i’d advise just picking a small number that relate to your niche rather than adding every one available).

4. Look a Little Outside Your Niche

There comes a time for some bloggers where they feel like they’ve networked as much as they can within their niche. They know all the other bloggers, they’ve done guest posts on all of the blogs, they have good profile in that niche and there’s not a lot more that they can do to grow their readership through that network.

One of the ways forward out of this situation is to look at surrounding niches and find ways to network and produce content that appeals to those niches.

Example: again, with my photography blog (it’s the one I know best so easiest to pull examples from) I hit a plateau in traffic about 12 months in. At that point I started to think about what connecting points my topic of photography might have with other niches. One that I had some success with was the Mommy Blogger niche by writing a series of posts on How to photograph Children. Writing posts like this and then doing a little promotion to a few key blogs in that niche saw a whole influx of readers from blogs that I would never have previously considered might read my site.

Similarly I had quite good success by pitching some of my posts to sites like Lifehacker and even Gizmodo. These are blogs that were not ‘photography blogs’ but which had some overlap in topic as they were tech focused.

Sometimes lifting your sights a little beyond your immediate niche can have great results and find you a whole new untapped readership.

Add Your Tips

Of course there are many other ways to promote a blog and find new readers. This post could literally go on and on…. and on. I’ve compiled a lot more tips on how to find new readers for your blog here but would love to hear your tips – particularly tips for blogs that have been around before and not just blogs finding their first readers.

Blog Carnivals Are Great, Hosting Them is Better

The Writer blogs about money and writing at The Writer’s Coin. His goal is to become the Michael Lewis of the personal-finance world—always writing something interesting and entertaining. That’s his goal, anyway.

top-image Image by meagen

You can’t read a post or a blog about “being a better blogger” without some mention of carnivals. They’re a great way of getting your stuff out into the world and creating links that point back to your site.

It’s a win-win and it takes virtually no time or energy to submit to them.

But what about hosting a carnival? Can it also deliver a lot of bang for very little buck?

Not quite.

Hosting a carnival is a LOT of work. You have to read ALL of the submissions that are sent in by hopeful writers looking to expand their footprint on the web. You’ll also have to sift through some junk in order to weed out the good from the bad. And the ugly…

The Good

the-good Image by x-eyedblone

We’ve all seen carnival posts before, it’s usually a long list of articles that all rally around one central premise or theme. From “Saving Money” to “Blogging About Monkeys,” it seems like there’s a topic out there for everyone.

Notice I said “long list of articles.” When you host a carnival, every single one of those articles should hypothetically be promoted by each blogger that’s featured. So instead of getting one link back to your site (which is what happens when you submit a post to a carnival if it gets picked), you can get as many as you like.

That’s not entirely true—you get as many as you’re willing to weed through and publish on your page. And that can turn out to be a very big number. But that means you’ll have a ton of sites pointing back to yours…which is great.

It’s lots of bang for lots of buck.

The Bad

the-bad Image by daveiam

Let’s not kid ourselves—it’s a lot of work. Making a carnival unique and interesting for your readers takes a lot of time and energy. No one said it would be easy, right?

When I hosted the Money Hacks Carnival (which was my first carnival), I had no idea what I was getting into. I checked to see how many posts there were a couple days before it was to go live and my stomach dropped. Wow. I wasn’t sure I had time to read all of them, let alone choose my favorites.

You’ll have to get yourself organized and prepared in order to do it right. That means gradually making your way through the submitted posts instead of leaving it all for the last minute.

And coming up with a theme or concept that ties all the posts together to make the whole thing an enjoyable read can get pretty complex when you have a lot of articles to post. But the more time you have, the better off you’ll be.

The Ugly

the-ugly Image by Spider.Dog

There’s a lot of bad writing out there. There are a lot of spammers out there. Some people will submit anything, regardless of what your carnival is about. The carnival I started on The Writer’s Coin is called Comics and Cents, and the idea is to write something funny and entertaining about personal finance, but I’ve gotten submissions for really detailed posts about refinancing your home and tips to cut your budget.

Useful? Sure. Funny? Not in the way I was intending. Expect a good amount of the submissions to have absolutely nothing to do with what you asked for.

This is the frustrating part, but hosting a carnival can still pay off big time by driving new readers to your site and getting tons of links back to you. It can also turn into a really useful compilation of info/entertainment for your reader.

Some Tips

  • Be picky: Don’t publish every single thing that’s submitted. It will lessen the quality of the carnival, and no one wants to read a post that has links to 70 different articles (unless you can keep my attention).
  • Promote: Don’t just post it and forget about it because you’re getting your linkbacks and you’ve done a ton of work. Spread the word and drive some traffic. It’s good PR for your site and your carnival.
  • Be creative: Say something about each post you’re accepting. It can just be a line or two, but give your readers an intro and make it clear you’ve read through every one you accepted.
  • Keep your readers in mind: Would they find this informational/entertaining? When picking articles for Comics and Cents, I’m terrified of picking something that will be greeted with “Eh, not funny.” Keep your readers in mind.
  • Be prepared: Give yourself time. Go through the articles bit by bit before the deadline hits. It’ll give you time to do all of the above and make it a great carnival.
  • Start your own: It takes even more time and promotion that just hosting an existing carnival. But if you create something unique that people are into, it’ll be even more valuable for your readers. My Comics and Cents Carnival doesn’t get a lot of traffic right now, but people appreciate that I’m publishing personal finance stories that are funny right now. Blog Carnival is a great place to create your own carnivals.

Hosting a carnival is just another tool at our disposal when it comes to broadening our blog’s audience and giving them some valuable content that they’ll keep coming back for. It also helps with backlinks, traffic, and SEO.

So, yes, it’s a ton of work and there’s a lot you need to keep in mind. But as they say, “Hostin’ ain’t easy.”

How to Grow Your Blog to the Next Level With SEO

In this series we’re looking at 9 things that bloggers need to work on once their blog moves out of ‘launch phase’ and into maturity.

Today I want to focus upon the topic of SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

While SEO is something that is well worth while focusing upon right from the start of your blog – I’ve found that it becomes particularly important once your blog is at least a few months old. In my experience it is not until a blog is 6 to 12 months old that it really begins to grow in its authority in Google.

I will not rehash everything I know about SEO here (I’ll link to some resources at the bottom of this post) but here are just two tasks that I think established bloggers will particularly want to focus upon (I’m assuming that you’ve got some of the basics like getting titles set up right):

1. Optimizing Successful Pages on Your Blog

I mentioned this earlier in this series of posts but one of the first things to do is to identify and analyze the pages that people are arriving to your blog on from Search Engines. If you’re like most blogs you’ll find that a handful of your old posts generate a significant percentage of your search engine traffic. Identify these pages and you can then go about increasing the ranking of those pages even further in Google by doing some of the following:

  • increasing keyword density of these pages – don’t add the keywords that people are searching for too many more times, but it can help to add them 1-2 times more, bold the keywords, add them to heading tags, add them to image tags etc.
  • increase the internal links to these pages – if you find a page that is getting a lot of search traffic, any extra links to the page that you can generate (from both within your blog and outside it) can help its authority. You might want to even highlight some of these pages in your sidebar or navigation – or to link to them within other posts on your blog on a similar topic.

2. Create More Content on Related Search Terms

Once you start getting a handle on what type of information that people are searching for you should begin to make a list of other related topics that you might want to write about. You can get ideas from this by looking at keywords that people use to arrive on your blog and thinking about synonyms for those words but also by looking at online services like Google Trends which maps what people are searching the web for.

Another good tool for analyzing search traffic and coming up with new topics to write about it 103bees which gives some metrics on the questions people are asking to find your blog. These questions are topics your readers are actually asking which shows you what they’re typing into Google. Another great tool to try is Lijit which is a search tool you can use on your blog (see it in my sidebar). This tracks what terms people are searching your blog for. The useful thing about it is that they also show you what terms people searched for that there was no search results on your blog for – very handy information.

There is A LOT more that you can do to increase the search engine authority of your blog. Part of it just comes down to writing great quality content over the long haul (which over time increases the number of doorways into your blog and grows the number of links from other sites to it) but below I’ve listed some other resources from both within ProBlogger and from SEO experts that will hopefully give you plenty of things to work on.

Further Reading:

Also – here are three helpful videos (particularly for WordPress Users) with some great tips from Matt Cutts (Google Engineer), Joost de Valk and Stephan Spencer.


WordPress SEO & Optimisation Strategies a4uexpo London 2008 from existem on Vimeo.

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