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Do You Make These Mistakes in Guest Posting?

Guest Posting is a great way to get your name out there. Today Chris Garrett from ChrisG.com (and co-author of the ProBlogger book) sheds some light on some common mistakes made my those doing Guest Posts.

You will notice this is a guest post. This isn’t Darren writing, it is some other guy filling in while The ProBlogger takes a well earned relax.

When Darren asks I always try to send over at least one guest post. Guest posting is a great way to get your name out there, build links, enhance your credibility and gain subscribers. If it is done well it is also a good deal for the blogger who posts this free and fresh content.

No surprises then that many people are out there now shopping around their guest posts. Just make sure you are not making the following mistakes, foul-ups and pitfalls:

10 Common Mistakes in Guest Posting

1. Making Demands

A guest posting arrangement is supposed to be a win-win arrangement. Making a fuss, being a diva, badgering the host, or just generally a nuisance will not endear you and don’t expect to get any referrals or even asked back. Nobody is going to give you an administrator account for their blog on the first article, and guest post means exactly that, you are just a guest so act like one.

2. Being a Doormat

The flip side of the first point is the arrangement should be fair for the writer too. One or two guest posts is a great arrangement, a regular gig might also be worthwhile for the visibility, links or traffic, but don’t be taken advantage of. There is a point where guest posting should cross over into blogging for pay. Agree on deadlines, word count, what you will do and how the content can or will be used by either party.

3. Holding Back

If you want to create the best outcome from your guest posting you need to bring your best stuff. Make sure you hold your self to high standards and work hard to create unique and valuable content. Don’t hold back your best tips, advice or humor. Otherwise you are just adding filler.

4. Ignore the Audience

There are two ways guest posters ignore the blog audience. First is not taking into account the particular likes, needs and style of the host blog, and secondly not responding to questions. Now, a good host blogger will notify their guest writers of any comments or feedback directed at their guests, but the guest should also look in once in a while.

5. Over Self-Promotional

Of course there are benefits and any writer will want those benefits, but if you make your guest article all you-you-you, full of links, or maybe dropping affiliate codes, don’t be surprised if it backfires.

6. Not Delivering

It seems some wannabe guest posters send out so many enquiries they are surprised when someone says yes. If you make an offer, ensure you can come through with the goods. Otherwise you will not be asked again.

7. Hindering Rather than Helping

The reason why you accept a guest post is because it is supposed to make life easier. If you are causing hard work for the blogger don’t expect your content to be used. Do your own spell check, read through for grammar goofs, and make sure all your links work.

8. Causing Problems

Writing one guest post does not make you a representative or voice of a particular blog. I have seen bloggers use guest posts to try to make connections or open doors that they are not really due. Also, don’t court controversy on someone else’s blog. If you are going to be snarky, damage your own brand.

9. Offer No Credibility

Why should the host blog accept your guest post pitch? What do you have to offer? What are your ideas? Do you have writing samples to show? Have you got real expertise to share? What will you add to the blog? “Just because I need the link” is not a valid reason for anyone to accept your guest posts.

10. Duplicate or Steal

It shocks me that this still goes on, but if you accept a guest post, make sure it is unique and original. As a way to short cut the writing process people are taking content from ezine directories, other blogs, or running content through rewrite software. Don’t be tempted to do it or accept it. Another aspect of duplication, much more innocent, is writing about something the blog has already covered – d’oh!

I am sure there are other guest post goofs that people make. Have you got any more to share? Please let us know in the comments …

Search, Social and Direct Traffic – [TRAFFIC ANALYSIS]

This morning I spent a little time doing some analysis (using Google Analytics) of the traffic coming into my main blog – Digital Photography School.

My analysis was stimulated by a question from a reader who in response to last week’s two posts examining the place of Digg and Social Bookmarkingin a bloggers priorities asked me:

What role does Social Bookmarking traffic play in your blog?

I decided to dig into the metrics on DPS and find out the answer… or at least that is what I started out doing…..

As I began to analyze the stats I realized that DPS has four main referrers of traffic – each are quite different from the others and yet each are very important. What follows in this post is me thinking out loud on each source of traffic and what it means to my blog.

Looking at the big picture

Lets start by looking at the big picture of the traffic coming into DPS. For the purpose of this post I’ll go back to the start of 2007 with my analysis (the time I started using Google Analytics) and I will only be looking at traffic coming into the DPS blog (ie this doesn’t include data on the forums).

Here’s a snapshot of all traffic coming into the DPS blog since 1 January 2007 (click to enlarge all images in this post).

DPS-Traffic-Social-bookmarking-spikes.png

You can see over the last 22 months that the DPS blog has had steady growth. There have been 11.5 million visitors, around 25 million page views and they stay on the site around two and a half minutes per visit.

At 1 January the average daily visitor numbers were around 4,000-5,000 visitors. At present they average around 23,000-25,000.

Looking specifically at the main sources of traffic to the blog – there are four that are responsible for a little under 70% of all of the above traffic:

  1. Google (26%)
  2. Direct Traffic (RSS, Newsletters, Browser Bookmarks etc) (21%)
  3. StumbleUpon (11%)
  4. Digg (9%)

The next highest referrers are significantly lower in how much traffic they bring in and include Yahoo, many other blogs (big and small) and Delicious.

As you can see – Google is a fairly important factor in my blog. Add other search traffic from Yahoo, MSN, AOL and search traffic is responsible for around 30% of the overall traffic.

If I was to categorize all of the social bookmarking traffic (Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Reddit, Popurls etc it accounts for around 24% of overall traffic (a little higher than ‘direct’).

OK – so this information is mildly interesting (to me at least) but when I dig down a little further and do some analysis of each type of traffic I find it more illuminating.

Digg Traffic

Since last week we were talking about Digg, lets start with that.

Here’s how Digg traffic to the DPS blog has looked over the last 22 months.

digg-traffic.png

Straight away we can see the nature of Digg traffic. It is either there or it isn’t. The spikes can be fairly significant (in most cases they range from 10,000 to 30,000 visitors) but between them the traffic from Digg rarely gets over 100 visitors a day.

Lets look at a few other stats on Digg visitors over this period:

  • They viewed 1.39 pages per visit (site average was 2.17)
  • They spent an average of 54 seconds on the site (site average was 2 minutes and 35 seconds)

So in comparison to overall averages Digg users are fairly fleeting (although note as fleeting as I hear some people saying).

One other thing worth saying about Digg visitors. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they don’t ‘convert’ to regular readers. So lets have a look at my newsletter signups for the latest ‘Digg Event’ on DPS (that last spike on the chart).

DPS-Subscribers.png

As you’ll see there was a definite increase in subscriber numbers on the day of my last Digg event (Nov 13th). Of course that day had 14,000 visitors from Digg to the site and subscriber numbers were only up around 150 subscribers – so Digg users don’t become loyal readers in huge numbers – but some of them do convert. I’d suspect that RSS subscribers would increase by a similar sort of rate after a Digg event.

I’ve noticed similar sorts of increases in subscriber numbers on other ‘Digg events’. They don’t convert massively but I always do pick up extra readers each time – the stats on the site tend to look like this chart taken from my post – How to Build a ‘Digg Culture’ on your Blog:

200612091300

This is actually one of the biggest benefits of social bookmarking traffic for me. While the actual spike in traffic is nice – the real benefit comes from those readers you’re able to convert to regular readers. 100 extra readers adds up to thousands of page views over a year.

One more stat on ‘conversion to loyalty’:

Over the last few months I’ve had a test running on Google Analtyics that analyzes how many visitors ‘convert’ to subscribers. I’ve set up a ‘Goal’ on Google Analytics that is triggered as achieved when people reach the thank you page for my newsletter subscription (meaning when they convert to verified subscribers).

Digg Users get to this page 0.48% of the time. This is in comparison to an average of 2.24% for the overall site.

Do Digg Users Click Ads?

One of the great things about Google Analytics now is that you can track AdSense earnings if you link your AdSense and Analytics accounts (they’re still rolling this feature for some).

While AdSense TOS prohibits sharing of too much information on earnings I’ll share some vague stats with you on how different readers ‘convert’ with ads.

  • The CPM (earnings per 1000 page views) has converted with Digg readers at about half the site average.
  • The CTR (click through rate) of Digg users is about a third of the site average.

So the common perception that Digg users don’t click ads is backed up – to a point. Some of them do click and when you consider that you can get 30,000 of them visiting your site in a day this can add up.

Keep in mind that Digg traffic can be useful for monetizing a site in other ways – particularly when you’re making money on a CPM basis where you’re paid per page view.

StumbleUpon Traffic

StumbleUpon actually sends me more traffic than Digg does over time. Here’s how the traffic from SU looks over the last 22 months.

stumbleupon.png

Here we see that the nature of Stumble Upon traffic is actually quite different from Digg. While both are ‘bookmarking’ sites they are really quite different. When a post gets popular on StumbleUpon the traffic it generates is spread out over days (and even weeks and months). There’s often no single day when you get masses of traffic but rather it’s more of a slow burner (I’ve written more about this in a post titled Why StumbleUpon Sends More Traffic than Digg).

You’ll see that StumbleUpon traffic has actually grown significantly over time. What I put this down to is that as I’ve written more and more posts on my blog there have been more entry points for SU traffic. While traffic grows and then falls off to particular posts on SU if you have multiple posts generating traffic you can actually see it build to significant numbers (like they were in the period of June/July this year where I had about 6-7 posts doing very well in SU simultaneously).

Lets look at a couple of other metrics on the SU traffic:

  • They viewed 1.62 pages per visit (site average was 2.17)
  • They spent an average of 1 minute and 7 seconds on the site (site average was 2 minutes and 35 seconds)

So StumbleUpon traffic is a little more sticky than Digg traffic. They view more pages and stick around longer.

Do StumbleUpon users signup for the newsletter and become loyal? My stats show that 0.51% of them have reached the thank you page on my newsletter subscription process. Slightly higher than Digg users but a lot lower than overall site averages.

Do StumbleUpon users click ads?

Interestingly StumbleUpon users seem to click on ads less than Digg users with the limited amount of stats that I have on this. The CPM that I’m seeing with SU users is very similar to that for Digg users but the CTR was about a third of Digg users (and about a tenth of overall site averages).

Search Engine Traffic

My number one traffic source on DPS is that from search engines. Google takes the lions share of this but I’ve added in the others into this analysis (interestingly Yahoo has been on the increase of late). Here’s how the search engine traffic has grown over the last 22 months.

search-traffic.png

Again – a very different shaped chart to the others. The two spikes in traffic are both to do with search traffic increasing for terms around ‘fireworks photography’ at around 4th July – but other than that it’s very steady growth with little weekly spikes and troughs in traffic but not much else to note.

This traffic has gone up over time for a couple of main reasons:

1. I’ve been adding content – the more pages you have the more entry points that search engines can send people to

2. The sites authority has grown over time – the longer you’re around the more links you have pointing at your blog and the more authoritative search engines begin to give you.

Lets look at a couple of other stats from Search Engine Traffic:

  • They viewed 2.55 pages per visit (site average was 2.17)
  • They spent an average of 3 minutes and 20 seconds on the site (site average was 2 minutes and 35 seconds)

Interestingly Google readers view 2.51 pages and spend 3 minutes and 16 seconds while Yahoo readers view over 3 pages and spend over 4 minutes on the site.

In terms of ‘conversion’ via the newsletter – 2.72% of search engine visitors have made it to the thank you page (again it’s better for Yahoo than Google). This is better than the site average making search traffic more sticky than social media traffic.

Do Search Engine Readers Click Ads?

The common perception is that search engine referrals are more profitable when it comes to CPC advertising programs like AdSense. My stats back this up.

I’m seeing the CPM of my search traffic as about 10% higher than the site average and CTR up by about 10% also. Interestingly I’m seeing Yahoo traffic as about 30% higher than Google.

Direct Traffic

The last category of traffic that I want to analyze is what Google Analytics classifies as ‘direct’ traffic. This traffic includes those coming in from desktop RSS subscribers, newsletters, browser bookmarks, type in traffic etc. Here’s how this traffic has looked over the last 22 months.

direct-traffic.png

Again we see a fairly steady growth in this area. The weekly spikes coincide with when I’ve sent out newsletters. The bigger spikes mainly coincide with when we’ve run competitions in our newsletters.

The reason for the growth in this traffic is largely that I’ve worked very hard on building a newsletter list for this blog (particularly over the last year).

Lets look at some more stats on this direct traffic:

  • They viewed 2.28 pages per visit (site average was 2.17)
  • They spent an average of 2 minutes and 55 seconds on the site (site average was 2 minutes and 35 seconds)

Both of these stats are higher than the site average but lower than search engine traffic. However considering that many of these visitors come to the site on a weekly basis and view hundreds of pages a year these averages are pretty good.

In terms of ‘goal conversion’ (or getting these people to my thank you page of the newsletter signup – they convert at 2.08%. This is slightly under the site average but considering many of them have already signed up – it’s pretty good.

Do Direct Referrals Click Ads?

This one interested me because I suspected that these highly loyal readers would become pretty blind to AdSense ads over time. However they are bang on average for the site with both CTR and CPM performance almost exactly on the site average.

Concluding Thoughts

I know this post has been rather long and so I will keep my concluding thoughts brief (I considered posting this as a series of posts but hope it’s more helpful seeing everything side by side).

All traffic has its place and serves different purposes.

One of the main things that strikes me about this exercise is that while some people write off different types of traffic – that together they come together in fairly significant ways.

For example – Digg traffic may not be that sticky or profitable – however as I think back to the early days of DPS it was the early series of Digg spikes that helped to get the blog going.

Even going back before January 2007 (before the charts above) DPS was on the front page of Digg quite a few times. Each time this happened the site step ups in loyal readers to the blog. This helped it grow even though at the time the site wasn’t generating much search traffic.

Overtime search has been increasingly important to the site in finding new visitors. The Digg spikes are handy and still draw people in that have not seen us before but in many ways they’ve served their purpose for the site and now our Google and Yahoo authority has kicked in we’re starting to see more benefits from there.

As I look forward I see both ‘search’ and ‘direct’ traffic as taking over even more from social bookmarking traffic. If things continue to grow as they are search and direct traffic will out number even the biggest spikes that the site might get from Digg.

This doesn’t mean I’ll not value the bookmarking traffic – but it’ll play less of a roll.

Social Bookmarking as an SEO tool

One last unproven idea that has been lingering in my mind lately is the importance of social bookmarking as an SEO strategy. I’m not sure how much of an impact it has had on the growth of search traffic on DPS but surely all of the links to DPS from Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Reddit and other social bookmarking sites have had an impact upon the site’s search authority.

Even posts that don’t get to the front page of Digg that are bookmarked there must at least be getting some search engine juice from the bookmark.

More than that – getting on the front page of Digg or going popular on Delicious often has the flow on effect of being linked to by a lot of other blogs and websites that watch these pages. For example my last appearance on the popular page on Delicious stimulated at least 30 or so links from other blogs. Again – each link is adding to the search engine authority of the blog.

Are RSS Subscribers Worthwhile if they Don’t Visit Your Blog?

“Why do bloggers put so much focus upon growing RSS subscriber numbers to their blog if most of them only ever read your content in Feed Readers and don’t visit your blog?”

This question (or variations of it) hit my inbox 3 times in 24 hours from different people so I thought I’d tackle it as a post instead of individual replies.

Let me start by saying that this problem can be frustrating. You see your RSS subscriber number growing by your actual visitor numbers remain steady – as do your comment numbers. It can actually feel like you’re wasting your time – I remember myself feeling kinda like this guy when I first noticed this happening to me:

RSS-Readers-frustrated.pngImage by Sybren Stüvel

However all is not lost.

There are a number of points that I’d like to make in responding to this question about RSS subscribers not visiting a blog. I hope that they give those facing this problem a little hope, encouragement and also a few ways forward.

1. A subscriber that never visits is better than a one off visitor who never returns

I had one blogger recently tell me that he’d removed the option to subscribe to his blog via RSS from his blog because he didn’t want to ‘give away’ his content. He wanted people who read his content to ‘pay’ him by visiting his blog (and earning him money from his advertising) and he saw RSS subscribers as ‘freeloaders’.

My response to him was that I’d rather have a subscriber who rarely visits my actual blog than a one off visitors who never returns because they have no way of keeping in touch.

While a subscriber might not actually visit your blog they are a powerful connection to have. My reasons for this will hopefully become evident in the points that follow.

2. Every post you put in front of a subscriber is an opportunity to reinforce your brand.

RSS subscribers are opting in to receive your content. When they hit ‘subscribe’ they are putting themselves inside your sphere of influence and are asking you to teach, inspire and communicate with them.

Each time you hit publish on a post and a subscriber sees something that you’ve written you have the potential to deepen the relationship, trust and influence that you have with your subscriber. While this might not have an immediate pay off in terms of advertising revenue – it can have a long term ‘pay off’.

3. RSS subscribers are Influencers

RSS is used by a smallish percentage of the population (around 11% at latest reports).

While the percentage may be smallish – I have a suspicion that they are a reasonably tech savvy and influential bunch of people. I’m guessing here – but I suspect that those who use RSS are also likely to have blogs themselves, they’re more likely to be into social networking, messaging and bookmarking tools.

This makes RSS readers a potentially very influential audience – capable of spreading news of your posts and blog throughout the web very quickly.

4. Making the Mind shift from Traffic to Influence

When I started blogging one of the main indicators that I looked at when measuring the success of my blog was traffic. If I had a day with lots of visitors I was happier than if I did not have anyone visit my blog.

While traffic is still important to me – I’ve noticed lately that I’m checking my visitor stats less than I used to. These days I’m increasingly interested in ‘influence’.

I don’t mind so much if someone reads my content on my blog, in an RSS reader or in some other tool – what matters to me is that people are reading it, that in doing so they interact with me, that they are drawn into some sort of ‘relationship’ or ‘community’ around the content.

My reason for this is that I’m finding that while traffic can be monetized directly – influence is actually a more powerful (and potentially profitable) thing. Let me explain more in my next point.

5. Influence can Lead to Profits

More and more bloggers are discovering that while direct income earners like advertising are great – that there’s also incredible potential for bloggers to earn an income through other more indirect income sources. Making money ‘because’ of a blog rather than directly ‘from’ a blog is possible in may ways including consulting, writing books, running training and workshops, selling products, landing other paid writing gigs, speaking at conferences etc.

The more people that you have some kind of influence with the increased chances of being able to monetize that influence in one of these indirect methods.

A subscriber might not be visiting your blog each day but if you provide great content on a daily basis to them you can bet that the day they decide that they need to hire a consultant on your topic that they’ll come knocking on your door.

6. Other Monetization Models for RSS

Indirect income is not the only possibility for RSS. There is also RSS advertising – this industry is still in its infancy and while isn’t hugely profitable using tools like AdSense I’m hearing bloggers reporting that it’s a growing income source for them.

The other great opportunity for income from RSS subscribers is affiliate programs. This taps into point #5 above – when you have ‘influence’ or trust established with readers an affiliate program can be very profitable.

7. The challenge of drawing subscribers into your blog

Just because someone subscribes to your blog does not mean that they’ll never visit it. In fact RSS subscribers can be among your most regular visitors to your blog if you draw them into actually visiting it.

I won’t go into a lot of techniques for this in this post but using techniques like asking questions, running polls, interlinking posts, writing ‘best of’ lists and more techniques can draw subscribers into visiting your blog on a daily basis.

Read more detailed tips on getting RSS readers visiting your blog.

Why Bloggers Should Consider Social Bookmarking Sites Like Digg

Earlier in the week I published a post titled Skip Digg: Not All Traffic is Created Equal. In that post I mentioned that I’d follow up the post with some arguements FOR using Digg by a top Digg user. Today social media expert Muhammad Saleem tackles that very topic.

You will probably be surprised to read that I agree with a lot of what Josh said in his post earlier in the week. Josh’s points probably resonate with the experience that most of you have had. However, does that mean that Digg ( or other social news sites) is worthless as a marketing platform?

The answer to that depends on what your goals are.

The problem with most people is their approach to social news is shortsighted. Social news sites are a long-term investment not a day trade.

Josh is right, building a following requires time and patience, and why should a social news site be any different? You have to actively participate on the site and network with other users (both of which are incredibly time consuming) before you can truly understand a community and they can appreciate what you have to offer. And even if you do make the investment, there is no guarantee of success on the site, and why should there be?

Social media marketing is not for everyone and won’t work for everyone. Before you take the plunge and invest your time and energy into any site (for marketing purposes), whether it be Digg or one of its competitors, take a moment to understand the site, the demographics of the site’s community, and the community’s preferences (My Little Pony would hardly work on Digg, but on StumbleUpon maybe). Communities are always evolving and what works today may not work tomorrow. Darren is a great example of this.

ProBlogger used to do really well on Digg but for some reason it doesn’t anymore. At the same time, however, Digital Photography School still performs really well. Why? Because Digg users are no longer interested in blogs that blog about blogging or making money from blogging, but have in the past months become infatuated with digital photography.

The web is a crowded place and filled with people fighting hard against information overload (and mostly losing). In this kind of an environment, an environment where people are doing their best to filter out useless information (noise), social news sites function as filters that help separate the wheat from the chaff the definition of both varies community to community).

But even then, every social news site is different. If you don’t like the Digg community, or they don’t like your content, try Reddit, StumbleUpon, Propeller, Mixx, the list goes on. The problem is not with social news or one particular site, the composition of these sites is natural self-selection of likeminded people.

Traditional social news sites like Digg, Reddit, and Propeller serve as newspapers. They are designed to have all sorts of content, some. Some of it will be tabloid material (for the stupid people) and some of it will be smart (for the rest of the crowd). These sites (Digg) aren’t necessarily for distraction only, though they certainly do a good job of that.

Ultimately, Josh is absolutely right when he tells the “ProBlogger” audience to not use “Digg”. What I would recommend instead is Sphinn.

However, for the average blogger, especially news, politics, entertainment, science, and offbeat bloggers, Digg and all its sister sites are a great avenues for a lot of exposure, of which some definitely sticks and can lead to great long-term growth. When people target all the wrong communities where their content is not desired, that’s when people get frustrated. It’s just a matter of taking the time to understand the community that best fits your needs and where your content will be best served and spending time on that community.

How to Get Media Coverage for Your Blog

One way to build awareness, brand, credibility and buzz about your blog is to appear in mainstream media (read more about the Benefits of being featured in Mainstream Media).

A lot has been written about how to get your blog featured on other blogs – but how do you get press coverage whether it be TV, Radio, newspapers or magazines?

media-coverage-blog.jpgImage by tozzer

Following are a few tips on how I’ve done it:

Develop a Unique Story

One of the best tips I can give is to really think about the story that you’re pitching to journalists before you approach them. If you simply contact the editorial staff of a mainstream media outlet and say that they should write about you without giving them a unique angle they’re unlikely to respond positively (if they respond at all).

Stories about a blog are not that exciting to write – so what angle can you give them? What have you done, experienced or achieved that is going to grab people’s attention? What relevance does your story have to the readers or viewers of the media outlet?

Note: you don’t just manufacture these stories out of nothing but if you’re on the look out for opportunities they do come up. They might emerge out of a post that you write that gets attention, causes some controversy (controversy is a great way to get media attention), gets picked up by other blogs etc – or it could even emerge out of something that someone else does that you could comment about or that you’re featured in.

For example I was featured in a ‘top Aussie bloggers’ list last year and shot a link to the list to a national newspaper – the story got picked up with me as one of the bloggers featured.

Think (inter)National AND Local

I know one blogger who complains every time that I bring up mainstream media that he’s never had any success. When I ask who he’s pitched his story to he tells me that he’s approached the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, ABC and a few other top tier news outlets.

While I commend him for thinking big – a more successful approach is likely to be to approach not only the big guns but smaller outlets. For one you’ll increase your chances of success in approaching a more local outlet – but you might also see the story picked up by larger media outlets (or you can use it to pitch to them later).

Write the Story

I’m not suggesting that you fully write an article when pitching mainstream media – but I’ve found that when I pitch a story and when I do a little extra work in showing how the story might look that journalists sometimes take what you present them with and build upon it.

So do some work on your pitch. Provide the media outlet with any facts, figures, stats or quotes that might help the journalist do their job more quickly and efficiently.

Be Approachable

Sometimes it isn’t a matter of pitching your story to mainstream media as them approaching you. This grows as your blog and profile grows but you can enhance your chances of being approached by being contactable.

An essential item for blogs should always be a way to contact the blogger. Whether this be by providing an email address, phone number and/or having a contact form – if you’re able to be contacted (and make it easy to be) you’ll drastically increase your chances of being approached.

Also useful for this is developing an about page that contains the type of information that journalists are looking for. Include information like your biographical information, links to a FAQ page and even a specifically written Press Page that shows how other press outlets have covered your story.

Press Releases

I’ve had limited experience and success with writing press releases but know at b5media that we regularly use them and that they are very useful – particularly when launching new blogs/portals.

You can learn more about the power of Press Releases here.

Build Profile

Perhaps the most important thing to do is to work hard at building a fantastic blog and having a great profile in your niche.

I’ve found that as I’ve done this that mainstream media outlets have increasingly come to me and that on the occasions that I’ve approached them that they’ve been much more open to covering me.

This of course comes with time and you can’t manufacture it over night – but I say it to give bloggers having problems getting on the radar of media a little encouragement – stick at it and build a great blog and it’ll come in time.

Keep In Touch with Journalists

If you do strike it lucky and get featured in a story – keep the contact details of the journalist that writes the story. If they’ve written one article they might be willing to do another. Also let the journalist know that if they ever need a quote for another story that they are writing that you’d be willing to take their call.

11 Tips from my Friends on Getting Media Coverage For Your Blog

I asked my Twitter followers for their tips on getting press coverage for blogs. Here’s some of what they said:

  1. “If your writing to try and get press coverage be emotive, timely and topical – demonstrate ‘special’ or ‘insider’ expertise” – keithdon
  2. “1- easy to find contact info; 2- photo of self & decent bio; 3- blog trends, hot topics” – alizasherman. She also tweeted – “My miscarriage blog was featured in More mag. I was blogging a “controversial” topic in a daring way. Got noticed & featured.”
  3. “Break the news so the press use you as the source. Has worked multiple times for me.” – michaelmeloni
  4. “Keep blogging your niche and the reporters will find you. And when they do contact, jump at the chance to help them.” – GrantGriffiths
  5. “Treat traditional media like you would want 2 B treated; don’t spam them, read their stuff 1st, be concise, give links 4 more” – CathyWebSavvyPR
  6. ” 1) write quality content 2) have clients that write quality content and reference you” – leahmac
  7. “Be bit controversial, write press release for them (they lazy) be original.” – theworstofperth
  8. “provide constructive criticism when everyone else is bitching about a problem and you’ll be noticed” – MadLid
  9. “give your blog a spit shine before press release. Check spelling, grammar and theme errors. Be prepared for a big jump in hits.” – beanfair
  10. “Start small. Offer something eg tips, advice, short column to local newspaper. See what works then go for the bigger papers.” – bussogardener
  11. “Media coverage advice for bloggers- Be honest, be brief, and find a relevant hook. I’ve had success with the press doing this. ” – BJMendelson

To be included in future lists of ‘tips from my friends’ – follow me on Twitter.

What Blog Carnivals and Memes do You Participate In?

A year or two back ‘blog carnivals’ were all the rage as a way to put yourself out there and promote your blog. I know that they still exist and many bloggers still get into them – but I’m wondering how many bloggers use them these days?

For those not familiar with the concept – a blog carnival is an event where a group of bloggers all blog on a certain blog topic and where those posts are all listed in a central place (which is usually promoted by all those participating).

There are many variations on exactly how these ‘carnivals’ are held (sometimes the central page moves from week to week to give everyone a turn, other times they centre around a single blog each time) – but carnivals can be a good way to interact with other bloggers and get your blog noticed by others.

Of course there are other similar types of ‘memes’ or ‘projects’ that are not called blog carnivals. For example here at ProBlogger I’ve held quite a few ‘group writing projects’ which are quite similar to blog carnivals.

You can learn more about blog carnivals at BlogCarnival.com (a site that lists current carnivals to participate in).

  • So – do you participate in blog carnivals (or other similar types of projects on blogs)?
  • Have you hosted them on your own blog?
  • Do they bring you traffic?
  • What other benefits have you had from participating in them?

3 Alternatives to Promoting Your Blogs Homepage That Convert First Time Readers to Loyal Ones

When you have an opportunity to promote your blog what part of your blog do you promote?

In 99% of the promotion that I see bloggers doing they promote their blog’s homepage URL. This is a reasonably good way to go – but perhaps there are a few other ways to approach promoting you blog that could potentially be more effective at converting new readers.

You see a blog’s front page is not always a great place to send people for a number of reasons:

  1. it can be overwhelming – a blog’s front page usually has multiple articles on it. A reader hitting that page cold could be a little overwhelmed by the choice of what to read.
  2. content is not always relevant – a blog’s front page is generally always changing. Most bloggers cover a variety of topic, some more serious and ‘on topic’ than others. Send readers to it on the wrong day and they can come away with the wrong impression of you.
  3. no strong calls to action – when you’re promoting your blog you want to convert people into loyal readers. While most blogs have a subscription options in their sidebars they generally don’t have strong calls to action on them (or at least not as strong as some of the other options below).

So what other options are there for you when you’re promoting your blog? Let me explore three:

1. Purpose Built Landing Page

One of the most effective ways to convert new readers to your blog is to have them arrive on a page that is purpose built for new readers and attempts to convert them.

The idea of ‘landing pages’ is one that comes from the advertising world. When a company runs an advertising campaign online they generally will not send people to their site’s front page – they generally will design a page specifically for the campaign that appeals to those the campaign is aiming to convert and which has a strong call to action.

Bloggers can develop landing pages also. This is useful when promoting your blog via advertising but also in other contexts. For example when promoting your blog on social media sites or profiles you could develop a page that you send people to that appeals to social media users.

Further Reading – read more about how to do them at – The Importance of Landing Pages of Blogs.

2. Individual Posts

Another option is to send people to specific posts that you’ve written instead of your home page.

This is a technique that I use particularly when I’m doing an interview or a guest post on someone else’s blog. The key is to pick one of your best posts and make sure that it is on a topic is relevant to the context that you’re promoting yourself in and the audience you’re attempting to attract.

In this way you direct people to a post that is likely to hit the spot with them. You can also tweak the post you’re promoting with a call to action at the end.

3. RSS Feed

This is another technique that I’ve used numerous times with significant success. I wouldn’t recommend doing it all of the time or even doing it in isolation but it’s a great secondary promotion technique.

What I mean by that is to include your RSS feed’s link along side another link when you’re promoting your blog.

For example – if you’re promoting your blog in forums in your signature – why not include a link to your blog AND an invitation to subscribe to it all in the signature. In the same way – if you’re doing a guest post on someone’s blog – don’t just link to your blog, include a way for people to subscribe in your byline.

In effect you’re including a call to action right in your promotion. The cool thing is that it works – when I’ve done this I’ve seen noticeable increases in subscriber numbers.

10 Ways to Find Readers for Your Blog By Leveraging Other Online Presence

One of the simplest ways to grow your blog’s readership is to leverage other places that you have an online presence.

Leveraging places that you have presence online could include:

1. Twitter Background Image:

I’ve been using a background image on Twitter that has URLs of other places that I’m online and it’s gotten a lot of interest. While the links are not clickable they do highlight other places that you hangout online – including your blog.

Twitter-Background

It is impossible to track how many people are impacted by background images but I do know of a number of people who have found my blogs through mine.

2. Profile Pages on Social Media

The other obvious place on Twitter to promote your blog (apart from your tweets themselves) is your profile section which enables you to say a few things about yourself (160 characters) as well as leaving a link.

Twitter-Profile

Almost every social media site going around has an opportunity like this to add a link to other places of online presence in a profile page. The sky is really the limit – do it on Facebook, LinkedIn, FriendFeed, MySpace, StubmleUpon, Digg, Flickr, YouTube…. the list could go on and on.

3. Social Media Sites (eg – Facebook)

There are numerous ways to leverage social networking sites and to drive traffic back to your blog. I’ve already mentioned how you can do this using the ‘profile’ area above but there are often other ways also.

Sites like Facebook also allow you to pull in RSS feeds so that you can have your wall updated every time you post something new on your blog. Look out for opportunities to import RSS feeds – these are increasingly popular and can be really effective.

There are also lots of applications that allow you to promote your content – one that many bloggers us is BlogNetworks.

Blog-Networks

4. Email Signature

One of the most common ways that website and blog owners have used to promote their blog is to use the ‘signature’ area at the bottom of emails.

Email-Signature

It makes sense to use this – if you’re anything like me you are emailing hundreds of people a week (or day) and could potentially be reaching a lot of new readers or reinforcing your brand with older ones.

Note: Feedburner even offer a service that allows you to show your latest posts from your blog in your email signature.

5. Forum Signatures

This is another fairly common one but one that I’ve seen can be quite powerful at times (if used well with a good forum strategy).

The signature alone won’t always drive traffic but as we covered here recently on ProBlogger if you use it in conjunction with being a useful contributer it can be highly effective at driving traffic.

Many forums also allow you to add links to profile pages.

6. Blog Comments

Many bloggers spend a lot of time reading and commenting upon other blogs in their niche.

Every time you comment on another blog you can be potentially adding to or taking away from your blog’s brand. Every comment is an opportunity to connect with both the blogger behind the blog and their readers.

The best way to drive traffic from blog comments is to leave helpful, useful, stimulating, insightful, controversial comments. Do this over time and people will want to know more of who you are and what else you do.

7. LinkedIn ‘Questions and Answers’

One great social networking site that many bloggers have profiles on is LinkedIn (my profile is here). Just being a part of LinkedIn can help promote your blog but their Question and Answer tool is another opportunity that many bloggers fail to use.

Linked-In-Questions-Answers

You don’t want to make your use of the feature too self promotional but good questions can be effective at reinforcing your brand and even stimulating people to visit your blog (if well written). Also answering other people’s questions can get you on their radar – there are lots of ‘open’ questions which give you opportunity to do this.

8. YouTube (and other Video and Photosharing sites)

Many bloggers create videos and upload them to sites like YouTube. There are numerous opportunities to leverage this. For starters you can add links in your profile page, you can add links to the video description of every video you upload (they work best if they are at the start of the description) and you can add your URL into your video (as a pre roll or post-roll ‘credit’).

Similarly sites like Flickr allow some linking within your profile pages and the pages where you show photos.

9. Your Other Blogs

Many bloggers have more than one blog. While they could be on diverse topics and not really suitable to regularly cross promote within your content there are still opportunities for interlinking them.

One such place is in the ‘about page’ of your blogs. People often go to these pages to find out more about the author – as a result it’s appropriate to include links to other projects/blogs that you’re working on here.

If your blogs are related in topic and it is relevant to mention them in your post then you should be doing so.

10. Guest Posting

I’ve written a lot about the power of guest posts so won’t go on about it again here – however it’s another great opportunity to develop an online presence that can be powerfully leveraged to draw readers back to your blog (and to build your brand).

Read more about guest posting at:

Final Thoughts

The above techniques can potentially drive traffic to your blog but as I’ve written this post I’m reminded of a post I wrote some time back on building your personal brand – one straw at a time. All of the above activities don’t just drive traffic – they collectively build your brand.

The other thing I’ll finish by saying is that ‘relevancy’ is the key to all of the above driving traffic to your blog.

For example – if your YouTube account just has personal videos it’s less likely to drive traffic to your blog if it’s on a topic similar to your actual blog. The same is true for each of the 10 points above.

What other ways do you drive traffic to your blog from other places that you have an online presence? What works best for you?

How To Build a Successful Email Newsletter

Build-A Successful-NewsletterOver the last week I’ve been talking about Newsletters a little. We’ve covered reasons start a newsletter and how I’ve increased my newsletter subscriber numbers 10 fold.

Today I want to finish this informal mini-series on newsletters off with some tips for actually writing a newsletter.

How to Write an Email Newsletter

Let me say up front that much of what I write below could equally be applied to ‘how to write a successful blog’ (or in fact could be applied to many mediums of communication).

1. Define Your Goals for the Newsletter

This is perhaps the most important thing that I’ll say in this post because virtually everything else flows from this.

What do you want to achieve with this email newsletter? Is it about:

  • driving traffic to your blog?
  • developing community among your readers?
  • building a list to ‘sell’ to?
  • reinforcing your brand?
  • making money from advertising sold in the newsletter?
  • Something else?

When you subscribe to a few different bloggers newsletters it becomes quite evident that different bloggers are taking quite different approaches. For example Chris Brogan’s newsletter is much more about providing his subscribers with lots of new original content (it is well worth subscribing to if you’re into social media and building online communities). He explores a theme each week. On the other hand my photography newsletter is more about highlighting key articles and discussions on my blog and forums from the last week.

The reason our newsletters are so different is that we have different goals.

My main goal is simply to drive traffic back to my blog. I find that many of my readers are not using RSS (quite a few do but there is a sizable proportion of them that have never heard of it) and so my newsletter is a way of hooking these readers into ‘subscribing’ and reminding them to check out fresh content each week.

Chris on the other hand seems to be using his newsletter to give his most committed readers something extra. This builds and reinforces his brand, builds community and gives those of us who subscribe a feeling of being on the inside of what he’s thinking (scary as that might sound).

So work hard on defining what you want to achieve with your newsletter. It can have numerous goals (for example I use mine to drive affiliate sales from time to time and to build a sense of community) but keep your primary goal as the main focus.

2. Communicate What Your Newsletter is About to Potential Subscribers

I subscribed to a newsletter a couple of weeks ago because on the subscription page it said that it gave weekly unique, insider tips from the blogger. However in two weeks I’ve had 6 emails and they’ve all been affiliate promotions (with no insider ‘tips’).

There’s nothing wrong with promoting affiliate products in a newsletter but if you promote it as having original content – provide it. If your newsletter is going to be largely updates form your blog and a way for readers to stay in touch with that don’t hide that fact. It is better to get fewer subscribers who are expecting what you’ll deliver than having people subscribe to find out that you’ve tricked them into joining your list.

3. Establish a Voice and Have Consistency

There are no real ‘rules’ when it comes to how to write a newsletter. In the same way that you can write in almost any ‘voice’ on a blog you can write in almost any style in a newsletter. I personally try to keep my newsletter ‘voice’ pretty similar to my blog (personal, as though I’m speaking to someone) and I find this effective (it means that those who enjoy your blog will enjoy your newsletter).

My main advice with developing your voice in a newsletter is not to chop and change it too much. As with a blog – readers come to expect a certain type of communication from you and so when you change things up a lot it can take away from what you might have already built up in terms of connection with readers.

This doesn’t mean you can experiment and/or evolve your voice over time but it does mean that you should try to have some sort of consistency in what you present to readers. This extends to the design and flow of your newsletter also. I try to stick to the one format over time and find that readers enjoy this consistent approach.

A Comment about ‘Hype’ – One important tip to note when it comes to thinking about your ‘voice’ is to avoid the ‘hyped up’ style that has been used for years by a lot of internet marketers. I’m sure a small number of people still get away with this but I find that most users of the web these days are quite suspicious of this style. Use your newsletter to build relationships and speak to people in a personal way and you’ll build a list that will stick with you (and trust you) over the long haul.

4. Build Value

In the same way that people will not stay subscribed to your blogs RSS feed if it doesn’t provide value to them in some way – people won’t stay subscribed to your newsletter if it isn’t meeting a need that they have.

This ‘value’ and meeting of ‘needs’ can take on many forms. It could be writing original content, giving insider information that you don’t publish on the blog, could be pointing out tools or resources and can even be simply pointing out ‘what’s hot’ on your blog. The key is to watch how users interact with the different parts of your newsletter (see what I write about ‘tracking results’ below) and listening to their feedback. When you do this you’ll soon see what they find useful and what they don’t.

An Important Note about Uniqueness of Content From Your Blog – I see some bloggers say that rehashing what is on your blog in your newsletter is not a good strategy. They argue that if it’s not new and unique content in your newsletter that readers won’t subscribe. While I think this applies in some circumstances it has not always been my experience. My biggest newsletter (my photography one) has 45,000+ subscribers and 90% of it is simply pointing readers to new posts on the blog and forum. Again – this comes down to knowing your blog’s goals. Even rehashing your blog’s content can be ‘useful’ for some readers who don’t have any other way to subscribe to that blog!

5. Scannable Content

It is important to have scannable content in almost every online medium including blogging – but when it comes to email I find it even more important.

If you’re using HTML emails you can do this with color, images, bolding, italics, lists, headings etc – but if you’re using Plain text emails you need to get a little more creative. Consider using symbols and characters, CAPS for headings, line breaks etc to draw the eye down the page.

Again – track different techniques and layouts to see what works best.

6. Track Results

Depending upon the newsletter tool that you use to publish your emails you should have access to be able to track how people are engaging with your newsletter. Aweber (the tool I use) gives a large variety of stats but so do many other quality newsletter tools. Some tools give more advanced reports than others but most will at least allow you to track how many people open your newsletters (this can help you to experiment with subject lines) and what links are being clicked on by how many people in your posts.

Note: Aweber is the tool I use – also check out Get Response – a tool that many bloggers are using with real success.

Paying attention to what links get clicked is a fascinating and productive thing to do. It not only helps you to work out how to write an effective newsletter (and how to improve it) but it gives you incredible insight into what topics your readers are interested in reading more about and what types of language they respond to.

I look forward to analyzing these stats each week and have many times written followup posts on topics that I see a lot of people clicking on in my newsletter.

7. Subject Lines and Opening Lines Matter

When it comes to blogging the most important words that you’ll write are your blog’s title (they can mean the differences between your post being read or not).

When it comes to your email newsletter your subject line really acts as your ‘title’.

I’m still working on what subject lines work best. I find that some readers seem to respond best when the subject line is the same each week (they look for the email each week and like consistency) while others become blind to the same thing each week.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on which is best.

Another thing to note is that what you put at the top of your newsletter will almost always get higher ‘conversion’ than what you put at the bottom. The links you have in your opening paragraph will get clicked more, the affiliate campaigns that you have at the top will convert better, the content that you have first will get read more. It’s the same concept as placing content ‘above the fold’ on a web page – what’s up top gets the most eyeballs!

8. Use a Reliable Newsletter Service

This is a lesson I learned the hard way. In my early days of newsletters I used a free newsletter service called Zookoda. I’m not sure how it performs these days while it worked well at the start it slowly deteriorated in terms of how reliable it was. Emails wouldn’t go out on time and the newsletters that were getting through to those who had subscribed was fewer and fewer every week.

Switching to Aweber saw drastic improvements in how many of my emails were being delivered (and I mean drastic). The ‘cost’ of using a free service may not have been monetary (well not directly) – but it was significant because it meant that I was missing out of connecting with thousands of readers each week.

9. Use Double Opt in Newsletter Services

It is very important to only ever start a newsletter that uses Double Opt in techniques to gather subscribers (ie the person needs to subscribe and then confirm that subscription from an email to them). You can do your brand terrible damage by adding people to your newsletter list without permission or by buying lists of email addresses. Having double opt in systems does decrease your actual subscriber numbers and causes some headaches – but it is important.

Similarly – give people a way to opt out of your newsletter and use a service that includes your postal address in the newsletter. These things are the law in many parts of the world and if you don’t adhere to them you run the risk of not only hurting your reputation with potential readers but suffering the consequences of breaking the law.

3 Bonus Newsletter Tips from Chris Brogan

I used Chris Brogan’s newsletter as an example above so thought I’d drop him a note to see what tips he’d give for budding newsletter developers. Here’s what he replied with:

  • Give useful information more than news. People *say* they like news, but what they really want are actionable items.
  • Chunk the text in the newsletter so that it’s VERY easy to read. Make it very lightweight.
  • Write it personably, because this encourages two way interactions, and if your newsletter has a side intent of helping you do business, every two-way touch is a chance for someone to grant you permission to talk business.

If you have a newsletter/s – what tips would you add?