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Tell us about Your Blog in 140 Characters or Less

Update – 48 hours has expired and I’ve now closed this experiment.

OK – here’s a little experiment for us to participate in this weekend. Below I’d like you to ‘pitch’ us on why we should read your blog. Read on to find out how.

I get asked these two questions a lot:

  1. Can you link to my blog on ProBlogger
  2. Can you recommend a blog on the topic of (insert topic here)

The answer to #1 is invariably no. It’s not that I don’t want to promote great blogs – but the reality is that if I promoted every blog I was asked to link to it’d take over this blog completely.

The answer to #2 is for me to sometimes give people a link but more often it’s a blank look. You see while I track the feeds of over 700 blogs that is just a drop in the ocean and the blogs I follow tend to be on just a couple of narrow topics.

So – what I want to do is give people an opportunity to promote their blog here on ProBlogger and an opportunity for others to find new blogs to read.

It’s all going to happen in the comments section of this post.

Here’s how it’ll work.

  • Over the next 48 hours I am leaving the comments of this post open for you to give an elevator pitch for your blog.
  • To keep the ‘pitches’ short – you have to do it in 140 characters or less.
  • You can ‘sell’ your blog to us in any way you like as long as it’s 140 characters. Use humor, tell us what it’s about, tease us… what ever you want. Just keep it family friendly please.
  • Feel free to use your blog’s name in the ‘name’ field in the comments section and to leave the URL in the URL section to help you save on characters.
  • Please only pitch one blog to us. If you have multiple blogs just pick your best one.
  • After 48 hours I’ll close the comments on this post and will point people back to it and encourage them to surf through the list and find some new blogs to read. I’ll also encourage people to link up to the ones they find and enjoy reading.
  • I’m not going to do a summary list of all blogs submitted (I suspect there will be quite a few) but I will pick out a few of my favorite elevator pitches to highlight in the 2nd post.
  • updatePlease include the number ’140′ in the comment. This will help us find any comments that are filtered as spam. The ’140′ doesn’t get counted in your 140 characters.

Will this bring you tens thousands of new readers to your blog? Probably not – but it could bring a few, and they could bring others…..

I’m looking forward to seeing how you pitch us your blog (I think it’s important to be able to sell your blog in a few words so hopefully this is a useful exercise) but also to discovering some great new blogs! Your 48 hours starts…. NOW!

Subscribe to my feed to be notified when the project ends so you can come back and surf the list!

update: If you don’t see your comment come up immediately please be patient. It will have been queued for moderation – we’ll get to it eventually. There’s no need to add a 2nd comment. Thanks!

Update 2 – thanks everyone – I’ve now closed this experiment off. I do appreciate everyone’s submissions and apologize to those that missed out but this page slowed down so much that I can’t extend the experiment past 48 hours! I’ll post in the next 24 hours a few of my favorite pitches plus some reflections on the project. Wow – over 1400 submissions – thanks!

How to Drastically Increase Subscriber Numbers to Your Email Newsletter

Two weeks ago I was seeing 40 new email subscribers per day to my photography blog email newsletter. This week I’ve been averaging over 350 new subscribers a day. In this post I’ll share the story of how I did it.

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In this months ProBlogger Newsletter I gave subscribers some inside information on how I’ve increased the daily newsletter subscriber rate to my photography blog almost tenfold in the last couple of weeks.

Before using this technique I was averaging around 40 new (and verified) subscribers a day to my email newsletter (I use Aweber to manage my email newsletters). To be honest I was pretty happy with that. 40 a day is over 14,000 per year – who would complain about that!

However last week I decided to experiment with a feature that Aweber offers its publishers that I’d resisted using previously – the ability to collect subscribers using a ‘Pop Over’ subscription form.

Most bloggers with newsletters put their subscriber form in a sidebar like this:

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This is a good and prominent position above the fold and in a place that people notice.

The Pop Over on the other hand is a form that appears, hovering over the content on the page, after a certain predetermined time frame. Here is one of the versions that I’ve been testing:

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These Pop Over subscription forms are of course much more intrusive to readers than a sidebar form – this is the reason I resisted using them for so long. My fear was that they’d annoy readers, page views per visit would drop and that I’d end up with a lot of angry emails from readers.

Aweber gives different options to limit how many times these Pop Overs appear on your site – you can show them to every visitor, limit them to show once per visitor or have them show every ‘X’ days. You can also use what they call a ‘lightbox’ which allows you to have the rest of your content fade and for the form to fade in, slide in from above, below or a side etc. I’m testing the Lightbox against the PopOver at present and my early tests are incredibly positive and are increasing subscriber rates even further than pop overs!

So what was the result of my testing?

I think this chart of my subscriber numbers says a lot:

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I think it is probably pretty obvious when the test started. The last days results are still incomplete but look like being similar to the day before.

Average confirmed subscribers per day have risen to over 350 per day (over a year this would translate to over 125,000) so at least on that front it has been successful.

But what has the reader feedback been?

To this point I’ve had two readers email me to complain about the Pop Overs. One saw them multiple times (I suspect because the cookies associated with them seem to be associated with different versions of the Pop Overs). The other complaint came from an iPhone user who said that the Pop Over took up the whole screen and was impossible to close (something Aweber might want to do some testing on).

Did Reader Engagement or Page Views Suffer?

One of my concerns with Pop overs was that readers would be annoyed by them and surf away from the page. As a result I’ve paid particular attention to the ‘pages viewed per visit’ statistic on Google. Here’s how it looks (click to enlarge):

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Pages viewed per visitor has remained stable – in fact if anything they are slightly up since I began the experiment!

Considering page views per visitor didn’t go down and I’m adding 350 or so new potential weekly readers to my blog each day I’d say reader engagement has actually significantly been increasing!

Split Test for Better Results

One of the great things about AWeber is that they’ve built in the ability to split test different versions of subscription forms.

This means that you can design two different forms and have them each show 50% of the time to readers of your blog. Over time it becomes clear that one version out performs another enabling you to then test the best performer with another version of the signup form – making incremental improvements as you go along.

I’ve been testing on two levels:

1. Timing – you can test subscription rates on forms that have a short time before appearing versus forms that have a longer time before appearing. I’ve found that forms that take longer periods of time to appear have a slightly higher signup rate. However these forms show to less people as some navigate away from the page.

2. Copy and Design – the copy and design in your signup form impacts signup rates. I’ve found pictures seem to increase signup rates – also giving benefits and strong calls to action seem to increase signup rates also.

As a guide – I’m seeing signup rates of between 4-5.5%, depending upon the forms. I’m still playing with the split testing though – there is lots to learn!

Final Thoughts

Over all I’m pretty happy that I began to experiment with Pop Over signup forms. On DPS they’ve worked very well and are helping me to make first time readers loyal readers.

I don’t think that they’d work with every blog in the same way. For example to this point I’ve resisted using Pop Over subscription forms here on ProBlogger as I think the audience here will be more annoyed by them than on my photography blog as ProBlogger readers tend to be a bit more skeptical of intrusive marketing.

As always – it’s something to test and track. Pay attention to signals of how readers are receiving it and tread carefully. However don’t rule it out completely too quickly – you could be missing out on a significant way to convert first time readers into loyal ones.

One thing that I think would also be good to experiment with is targeting specific types of readers with Pop Overs. I think specifically targeting search engine visitors with these would make more sense than to target those coming from RSS Readers for example (or at least to be able to present different versions of the pop overs to different readers). Aweber didn’t seem to have plans for doing this themselves but suggested that it would be possible to do with a little coding (I’ll need to work out how).

PS: Tomorrow I’d like to follow up this post with the answer to the most common question that I get when I talk about newsletters – why should a blogger consider starting a newsletter? Stay tuned to my RSS feed for this followup post.

How to Get Blogs to Link to Your Posts

Getting other blogs to link to your blog posts is not easy to do – particularly when you are starting out.

Taking a ‘write quality content and they will link up’ approach can work once you have a readership (although even then it’s not that easy) but what if your readership is small and other bloggers are not likely to see your posts?

One of the simplest things to do to get your contact in front of other bloggers in these circumstances is to email them to let them know of your post and/or to suggest it as a potential story for their own blog.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?

Of course there’s a little more to it than just banging out an email with your link to another blogger. In fact if you do this you could actually do more damage than good.

Here are a few ideas for suggesting links to other bloggers:

Let me start by saying the most obvious thing – your content needs to be of high quality – the type of thing that people will want to link to. You can beg for links from other bloggers until you’re blue in the face but if your content isn’t linkable – you’re wasting your time (and theirs).

1. Reserve it for Your Best Content

Let me repeat what I’ve already said – it is all about ‘great content’. This is not a technique to use with every single post that you write. Use it selectively on your very very best content.

2. Check if the Blogger Links Out

Different blogs have very different approaches to what they write about and where they get their story ideas. For example a blog like Engadget links to other blogs in most posts that it writes – it’s almost like a news aggregator blog and is constantly pointing people to interesting stories on the web. Other blogs rarely link out – not because they’re selfish, but because they are blogs more about original ideas. You are likely to be wasting your time by pitching blogs that never link out.

Also look at HOW the blog links. Do they link to news stories? Do they link to other blogs as ‘examples’ in their posts. Do they link to controversial posts? Do they only link to blogs on certain topics or written in certain styles? The more you learn about HOW another blog links the better position you put yourself in to create your pitch to them.

Special Note: Some blogs even present you with methods to pitch them stories with contact forms dedicated to story submissions. This is a signal that you have permission to send them ideas.

3. Don’t Ask for a General Link to Your Blog

In most cases it is not appropriate to ask another blogger to simply ‘link to my blog’ (as in the front page). You’ll have much more chance of a link if you pitch them a story (a post you’ve written) than just to link to your blog’s front page. I find that generally people link to blogs in their blog rolls after they’ve been following you and relating to you for a while and see you as a helpful resource for their readers.

4. Relevancy Relevancy Relevancy

Only suggest posts on your blog that are highly relevant for the blog you’re pitching the story idea to. You drastically decrease your chances of being linked to if your story isn’t relevant.

5. Present a Posting Angle

When emailing a blogger with a post idea show them some potential angles that they could take with their post. For example – I used to pitch my links to gadget blogs when new cameras came out. I found that when I wrote a short summary of the story in my email with some potential points of interest that the stories got picked up more regularly than if I simply sent an email saying – ‘here’s a link that you might find interesting’. So I’d include a few features, why the camera was better than previous models etc. Often this extra information appeared in the post that these blogs published – in essence I was helping the blogger write their story for them.

6. Present Helpful Resources

Another thing that increased the chances of my camera posts being linked to was when I sent in pictures of the cameras with my email. Gadget blogs love pictures so if you save them time by providing them along with the story idea you’re cutting down work and again increasing your chances of having the story picked up.

7. Have They Already Covered the Story?

There’s nothing worse than being pitched with a story idea that you posted about yesterday. Scan the blog that you’re pitching to for their recent posts – it could save you embarrassment.

8. Be Personal

Where possible pitch a blogger rather than just pitching in impersonal ways. Use their name, show that you know their blog etc. However be careful when doing this to multiple blogs – you don’t want to personalize an email and then send it to the wrong blogger – major embarrassment!

9. Be Brief, Polite and Helpful

What ever you do be polite with your pitch – keep it brief (there’s nothing more of a turn off than a long pitch), introduce yourself and keep your email as helpful as possible. Only include details that will help the blogger write their post and in no way pressure them to write the story.

10. Don’t Ignore the ‘B, C and D-list’

Don’t just promote your content to Top-Tier blogs. Big blogs are being hit with story ideas all day everyday (often the same ones over and over again). Smaller blogs can be just as fruitful to pitch to because they often have more focused groups of readers. Sometimes multiple smaller blogs all picking up a story can get the attention of bigger bloggers too – making the story viral.

11. Build Relationships Before AND After Promoting Your Blog

I’m much more likely to link to someone (either on my blog or on Twitter) if I have had some kind of interaction with them before they pitch their story idea. Spend time building your network and don’t make your relationships with people just about what they can do for you. Also – when people do link to you after you’ve promoted something to them thank them for the link, offer to reciprocate and keep in touch. Don’t take their first link up as a signal to spam them with everything you write – but see it as a deepening of that relationship.

How to Use Forums To Drive Hundreds of Thousand of Readers to Your Blog

This short post on using forums to drive traffic to blogs was submitted by an anonymous ProBlogger reader.

My blog is visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors a month and other peoples forums are the number 1 source of this traffic. Darren has asked me if I’d share how I do it.

1. Identify where your blogs potential readers are gathering

I learned this from Darren here. For me the answer to this question is forums. I know that not every blog topic will have forums that relate to it online but the more blogs that I have started the more I have found that most topics do! You just need to know where to find them.

Quite often the forum is not just a standalone forum – it could be just part of a larger site. So hunt them down!

They don’t have to be big forums either (but they should be active). For my main blog I actually chose 4 forums, one big one and three small ones.

2. Join up…. and Do Nothing (for a while)

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This is key. Many people identify a hot forum and rush in, leaving links to their blog as fast as they can. All this will do is quickly get your banned, annoy people and hurt your blogs reputation.

Instead of rushing in – join up and be a lurker for a few days. Watch and learn.

  • Learn who the key players are.
  • Watch to see what topics are hottest.
  • See which areas of the forum are most active.
  • Observe what the culture and rules of the forum are.

This ‘lurking’ is all about learning as much as you can so you can so that when you actually get active you can do it in a way that actually connects.

3. Set up your Signature and Avatar

Set up a very simple yet effective signature so that when you start posting people can find out more about you. My signatures are very understated. I simply include a link and name to my blog. I don’t do it in flashing fonts or bright colors. My reason for this is that the signature doesn’t convince people to come to my blog – the posts I write on the forum do.

If the forum allows you to choose an avatar – choose a simple one of these. I use a photo of myself because I feel it makes me more personal. On that note I make my forum name my real name. Again – this ‘humanizes’ me as I interact with people.

Also at this point I add links to the forums that I am going to interact in on my blog.

4. Start Posting

You have watched, learned and set yourself up – now it is time to start interacting with the forum.

Don’t go too hard too fast. Keep in mind that this is a community that you’re entering. Nobody likes a showoff or attention seeker. A few posts a day for your first week is more than enough. This means by the end of the week you’ll have 20-30 posts which is a signal to those on the forum that you’re investing time into it.

In my first week or two I concentrate on making myself as useful as possible to other forum members. My main priority is to answer questions that others in the forum ask.

Point people to sites that might help them or answer their questions – but in the first week or two show some restraint about pointing people to things you’ve written on your own blog. There will be time for that later.

5. Write Resource Content/Tutorials

After a week or two of ‘helping’ and being useful I then begin to produce weekly tutorial type content. This is where I find things begin to really take off in terms of driving traffic to your blog and becoming a more established presence in the forum.

In these ‘tutorial’ type posts you want to be writing top quality ‘how to’ type content that people will value highly. In many ways these tutorials are the type of things you might normally post on your blog.

In some ways what I am doing with these ‘tutorials’ is similar to what people who write guest posts for other people’s blogs do. It’s writing impressive content that makes people pay attention to you.

In these tutorials I generally will either include a relevant link to my blog to a post that extends the topic or is a ‘further reading’ type link OR at the end of the tutorial I include a simple line pointing out that I write more of this type of thing on my blog (with a link). I keep these links very low key.

What I find is that as I write these tutorials that people begin to want to know more about who I am. When you help people do something it makes an impression and they begin to seek you out.

6. Make Connections

You will find that the relationships will happen fairly naturally at this point but I also put a little extra time at this point to establish relationships with people in the forum, particularly key influencers, moderators and owners. Send these people private messages introducing yourself, encouraging them (particularly owners and moderators – many of them will really appreciate positive feedback) and even making offers of help or suggestions (if appropriate).

If you show that you’re willing to help make a forum a better place you’ll find these key people within the forum will be very open to working with you at some point in the future.

7. Let Others Promote Your Blog

I find that at this point a wonderful thing happens – forum members begin to promote your blog. They come across you either through you answering questions, your tutorials or through conversations that you have with them and they begin to read your blog. When they find something on it that they like, they write about it.

Sounds a little too good to be true – but it has happened from me time and time again. It’s almost like when you find other bloggers in your niche beginning to discover your blog – but instead it can potentially be a whole community discovering your blog at once (a very powerful thing).

Last time this happened to me it was in a forum with over 100,000 members. It took me 5 months of ground work but when the ‘tipping point’ came it was like I suddenly became a celebrity or some kind of hero in the forum. I’d written 15 tutorials by this time and they’d become some of the most viewed threads in the forum, the forum owner had asked if he could pay me to write more and when I said I’d do it for free he included a small button on his sidebar linking to my blog as a recommended resource as payment.

8. Be Generous, Be Understated and Be Useful

My parting words of advice for people wanting to use forums to promote their blogs is really to be as helpful as possible while remaining as subtle as you can.

This actually takes some restraint. If you’re anything like me your natural inclination is to shout out about your blog at every opportunity but take it from me, I’ve done this and it doesn’t work. The more understated I’ve been the more success I’ve had.

How To Get Free Books To Give Away On Your Blog

One of the most successful ways to bring in new subscribers to your blog is to give away a bonus when people sign up.

In this post Brian Armstrong from StartBreakingFree.com shares some tips on getting free books to give away on your blog.

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If you’re like most people, you haven’t had time to write a great book to give away as a sign-up bonus. Well, today I’m going to show you two very easy ways to get such a book:

  • Create your own with an e-book template
  • Use someone else’s book that is in the public domain (you’d be amazed how many great books are out there for free!)

Create Your Own eBook In 48 Hours With An E-book Template

About a year ago I stumbled across these excellent e-book templates which were being given away by Eben Pagan (he is a successful internet marketer and deserves all the credit for these, I didn’t create them!)

They have a professional design in nine different colors, come with instructions, and make it super easy to get a book done quickly.

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Here are the steps which I’ve personally used to create an eBook in less than 48 hours:

  • Use a “top 10″ formula. Writing a book from scratch sounds hard but anybody can come up with 10 tips in their niche. Even if it ends up being only 20 or 30 pages that’s ok for an eBook.
  • Create a catchy title based on the top 10 theme, such as “10 Ways To Raise Your Grades By Studying Smarter, Not Harder” or “10 Secrets To Making Money Online”
  • Come up with the 10 tips by brainstorming and looking at the best posts on your blog.
  • Put the tips in a logical order and include several sub-points under each one.
  • Now plug your tips and sub-points into the template and write a paragraph or two under each one (copy and paste text from blog posts you’ve already written when appropriate).
  • Summarize your main points in an introduction and conclusion and you’ve got a book!
  • Use Adobe Reader to convert it to a PDF for distrbution.

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You should also familiarize yourself with Microsoft Word’s “styles” to keep your formatting consistent. If you want to change how a subheading looks, for example, you shouldn’t change it manually. Instead, you should edit the “subheading style” and it will apply your changes to all the subheadings. This will save you a lot of time down the road.

Finally, upload your PDF to your server and find a way to automatically send your eBook to new subscribers. In Feedburner you can include this link in the confirmation email (login to Feedburner and go to Publicize -> Email Subscriptions -> Communication Preferences). Similar options exist for Aweber and other newsletter providers. Some people also include the link in the bottom of every RSS post.

Second Option: Get Free Books To Give Away!

The second, and perhaps easier, method is to use a book that someone else has already written.

There are an amazing number of books in the public domain (and also under the creative commons license, more on this later) which you can give away on your site. For example, in my niche of entrepreneurship, I paid good money for three books years ago that I heard were excellent: Think and Grow Rich, The Richest Man In Babylon, and The Way To Wealth.

Imagine how surprised I was to discover that all three of these books were now available online for free! I found PDF copies using the method I describe below and started giving them away on my website. My subscribers started going up immediately!

So how do you find these books? Well, according to Wikipedia

In the United States, all books and other works published before 1923 have expired copyrights and are in the public domain. In addition, works published before 1964 that did not have their copyrights renewed 28 years after first publication year also are in the public domain…

Many books which are not in the public domain can still be found under the creative commons license. The Creative Commons license is somewhere in between a full copyright and a public domain work. Many times, the work can still be given away for free, but you are not allowed to sell it and you must pay attribution to the original author. This still works fine for our sign-up bonus however.

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I’ve had the most success finding public domain and creative commons works at a site called Scribd.com.

They have tons of PDF’s of various works. And it’s easy to see the the copyright at the bottom of each page. Many of them use the creative commons terms like “attribution” (meaning you must keep the original author’s name in there) or “non-commercial” (meaning you can’t sell it). It’s probably a good idea to familiarize yourself with these terms by visiting the creative commons definitions page.

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Once you’d found a PDF you like, you can download it directly from Scribd.com and use it in the same way described above.

Conclusion

Now you have no excuse NOT to give away a great sign-up bonus for your new subscribers! Set aside some time this week to get this together, and start watching your subscriber numbers climb!

To get more tips like these, check out Brian Armstrong’s blog at StartBreakingFree.com. It’s full of great advice on how to quit your 9-to-5, start your own business, and achieve financial freedom. He’ll even send you 3 of the top 10 books ever written on building wealth for FREE when you subscribe, instantly delivered to your inbox!

How to Get Featured on the New York Times, CNN, CNET and Newsweek

In this post Kim Roach from BuzzBlogger shares three techniques for getting featured on mainstream media news sites.

Did you know that you can get your site featured on major news sites like CNN, CNET, Newsweek, USA Today, and even the Wall Street Journal. It’s one of the best kept secrets in the blogosphere and I’m going to reveal it in this article.

There are actually three ways you can get your blog articles published on major news sites.

1. BlogBurst

BlogBurstThe first technique uses a site called BlogBust. BlogBurst is a blog syndication network that places the best blogs on mainstream media sites like Reuters, USA Today, Fox News, and the Houston Chronicle.

Join the BlogBurst network and start getting picked up by some of the world’s most popular media sites. Keep in mind that they only accept full text feeds. No partial RSS feeds are allowed.

Once your blog has been accepted, you’ll gain increased visibility, branding, and traffic. This is an easy and automated way to increase your exposure. Plus, you’ll be associated with some of the best websites online and you’ll be able to tell your readers that you’ve been published on USA Today, Fox News, and other high-profile websites. Just think how much more credibility this will give you.

2. Blogrunner

BlogRunnerMy second strategy allows you to get links from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. You do so with a service known as Blogrunner.

If you go to the New York Times website, you’ll see the Blogrunner widget integrated into almost every page. This is a news aggregator that collects related headlines from news sources and blogs. Each of the news stories in the Blogrunner widget is ranked by its popularity.

Sources are selected based on an automated process so you won’t be able to submit your blog directly. However, they currently monitor thousands of blogs and media sources, so it’s likely that your blog is already indexed.

Now you simply need to write on topics related to those published in the New York Times and get some extra buzz to get linked.

3. Sphere

SphereThere is a third and final way to get your blog featured in major news sites like CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek.

All you have to do is link to a story on one of these major news sites and they will link back to you at the end of the article.

This is all automated by a site called Sphere.com, which matches mainstream news items with related articles in the blogosphere. For example, you can go to the bottom of any CNN story and see a drop-down box that says: “From the Blogs”. This box includes stories that have linked to this article. You can get hundreds of extra visitors by positioning yourself to show up here. All you have to do is link to a CNN story and you’ll get your own spot of fame.

The mainstream media is really starting to embrace the blogosphere and you can join in on the fun with these simple strategies.

Sphere is also being used by TechCrunch, Time, Reuters, CBS, AOL, the Washington Post, WordPress, GigaOm, Newsweek, and ZDNet, allowing you to get your blog featured on any of these prestigious sites. In fact, there are over 100,000 web sites using Sphere, providing you with almost unlimited link opportunities…

The key to getting picked up is to write content that adds to the conversation on partner sites. Your articles need to be highly relevant and add value to the article your linking to.

All you have to do is make a post to your blog, include a link to one of the stories on a site that uses the Sphere plug in, get a link inside the sphere widget, and watch the traffic roll in.

Kim Roach is the hip marketing gal at BuzzBlogger.com. Grab Front Page Rankings in 24 hours with her Free Google Domination Videos.

The Truth About Creating a High-traffic Blog

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Skellie wrote this post. For more, you can follow her on Twitter.

Did you know that some blogs receive over one million visitors each month?

Have you ever wondered how they do it?

This kind of traffic isn’t easy to attain, but the pay-off for a high traffic blog with hundreds of thousands of page views each month (or more) are considerable. With that kind of traffic it’s hard not to make good money!

Most blogs with huge amounts of traffic are in fact run by a dedicated staff of writers who can churn out content much faster than a single blogger could ever hope to manage. Part of the reason these blogs are so highly trafficked is because a repeat visitor knows there’s likely to be something new every few hours or so. They have reason to visit multiple times during the day. Examples of blogs like this are the Gawker Media blogs, such as Lifehacker and Kotaku.

Most of us don’t have the money or the desire to take on a large contingent of writers to keep our blogs updated every few hours. The good news is that huge traffic is still possible at a single-author blog. Look to StevePavlina.com, Zen Habits, Entrepreneur’s Journey, even ProBlogger itself (I pick these examples because you’re likely to be familiar with them, but there are so many others). These are just a few examples where a single-author blog is receiving hundreds of thousands of page views each month, and in some cases, over a million.

Can we do the same?

These are the kind of stats we dream of for our own blogs, but most of us doubt that this would be possible for us. This is probably because the steps involved in getting there seem very blurry. You’re producing great content, growing in size slowly but surely, gathering new loyal readers and increasing your traffic, but you’re still miles away from the kind of huge audience those blogs experience. What are the factors that separate the average blog from these super high traffic blogs?

This is the point where you expect a cop-out — for me to say that it is, of course, great content that separates those blogs from the average. Unfortunately, your expectations won’t be met here. I’m not interested in content right now. At least, not directly. In fact, your content may be just as good, or better, than any one of the blogs I’ve mentioned, or any other successful single-author blogs you can think of.

What I am interested in, and I hope you will be too, is to know where that traffic is coming from.

On a multi-author blog producing reams of content it’s likely to receive many of its ‘visits’ from single visitors who make multiple return visits each day, in addition to high search traffic due to the vast amount of content archived at the blog, and social media traffic, because multi-author blogs generally have the resources to break important stories. When we look at single-author blogs, however, traffic sources are going to be coming from very different places.

Instead of producing dozens of posts each day a blog run by one person is probably going to be producing, at most, a handful of posts per day. The average level will probably be one post per day. For this reason, single-author blogs probably can’t expect visitors to return five or ten times a day to check for new updates. So, we knock out that traffic source.

I want to suggest that very highly trafficked single-author blogs are knocking the ball out of the park in at least two of the following three core areas:

  • Search
  • Social media
  • Evangelism

The last one is a must. Waves of social media traffic come and go and search engine traffic can disappear with the next Google algorithm update. If readers evangelize your content, as they do for Steve Pavlina, Leo Babauta, Yaro Starak, and you have probably done for Darren Rowse (by recommending him to a friend, or linking to one of his articles with a glowing recommandation) you will find it difficult to receive anything but huge traffic.

Performing exceptionally with at least one of the others is also very important, and it’s particularly useful if you can master both.

SEO

Most single-author blogs with huge traffic are getting a lot of that from search (sometimes as high as 20%). Some blogs, however, will never receive exceptional search traffic, no matter how popular they get or how much SEO work is done on them. After all, most people use search to solve a problem. They want to know how to do such and such thing, and the problem is that they don’t. So they search. However, some blogs are not so much about providing answers as they are about asking questions. Others might provide answers to questions you didn’t know you had. If you’re seeking to be entertained, they might entertain you in a way you never would have searched for on your own.

One of the best blog posts I’ve read in recent memory was Errol Morris’s dissection of two pieces of war-time photography in an effort to decide whether one of the pictures was faked. It was called ‘Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?’ and generated over 900 comments. Were people searching for this content before they found it? Very unlikely. Even putting the photographer’s name in the headline probably wouldn’t have improved the SEO situation very much, but it still didn’t hurt the story any. In fact, it went on to become a viral sensation.


Photo by victoriapeckham.

Social media

I relate the above example to show that some topics suit high levels of search traffic much better than others. If you feel you’re in the latter camp it’s still very possible to receive high levels of traffic, but you’ll find it much easier to so with the help of social media. If you’re not setting StumbleUpon on fire with your posts you should aim to get some love from Digg or Reddit. If you don’t know how to do that, hire someone who does and get them to write for you once a week. There are plenty of talented writers out there, looking for work, who really ‘get’ social media. Look for for an excellent front-page story on Digg that relates to your blog topic and then find out who wrote it. If you’re lucky, that person may be looking for more work.

Once you’ve produced a great post, get a top user to submit the content before anyone else. You’d be surprised at how easy this is if they think the content is good. Once it’s done, let their network take over. With a talented writer and a bit of audacity it’s surprisingly easy to go popular on social media pretty much, well, whenever you want to. But that’s material for another post, another time.

Case studies

Let’s examine three blogs that I’ve mentioned above. First, this one, ProBlogger. I’m pretty certain most of Darren’s traffic comes from direct links (evangelism), search (a high percent, due to practical topics and clever SEO), and StumbleUpon (a whole lot of it). While most of us are receiving traffic from these sources, high-traffic blogs take this to another level. The importance of evangelism from the reader base is the driving force behind all these things. ProBlogger wouldn’t rank as high in search if thousands of people hadn’t linked to it using juicy keywords. It wouldn’t receive loads of StumbleUpon traffic if its readers weren’t motivated to vote for it.

Next, let’s think about where Zen Habits is getting its traffic from. I’m not sure about the level of search traffic it gets, but I know it receives an exceptional amount of social media traffic from StumbleUpon and Digg. I also know the reader base is highly evangelical and links to Leo’s articles regularly. The blog is also spread through word of mouth networks. Once again, the success on social media probably wouldn’t have progressed as far as it has without an evangelical reader base. That factor is essential for the other factors to exist.

Evangelism

By now you will have noticed I’ve been throwing the word ‘evagelical’ around a whole lot without really explaining what I mean by it. The word comes from religious evangelicals, so it’s best to start there. While the word has been appropriated to describe a particular group of religious people, it has also been absorbed into the language of marketing.

To evangelize something really just means that you are passionate about it and try to get others to be passionate about it too (in a religious context, this would be a particular understanding of God). In fact, I want to suggest that you’ve done some evangelizing whether you are religious or not. If you’ve forced a tattered copy of your favorite book into the hands of a friend, you’re evangelizing it. If you told someone their next laptop should be a MacBook Pro because you love yours, you’re evangelizing the product. When you tell an aspiring blogger that they really should be reading ProBlogger, you evangelize this blog. When you link to it, vote for it or recommend it via word of mouth, you are evangelizing it, and the same goes for any blog you enjoy and try to share with others.

The key difference between the average blog and a high traffic blog is that the high traffic blog has an evangelical following: people who think, “My God, more people have to see this!”

Someone who only skims your posts will register on your stat counter but they are not going to spread the ‘gospel’ of your blog to others, so to speak. An evangelical reader might stumble every post they read and link to you every week. They do the kind of things that allow you to rank highly in search, and to get torrents of traffic from social media. In other words, to build a high traffic blog you need to create a highly evangelical audience.

What makes someone passionate and evangelical about a blog?

It’s not fluff. It’s not controversy for its own sake. It’s not self-indulgence. It’s not stale formulas. It’s knowing deeply the kind of individuals your audience is made up of, what their needs and wants and dreams are, how you fit into that, and how much you can make their lives better, whether it’s by making them smile, laugh, cry, go ‘Ah-ha!’, feel empowered, feel informed, entertained or more skillful.

The amount of improvement you make in the lives of your readers will be in proportion to the amount of effort they put into evangelizing your blog and helping it become more popular than you may ever have imagined.

How to Grow a Young Blog With StumbleUpon

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Skellie wrote this post. She writes plenty more advanced blogging tips and strategies at Skelliewag.org. You can also get to know Skellie on Twitter.

It’s ironic that arguably the biggest challenges for a blogger come when they are least experienced–when their blog is just a few weeks or months old.

Any blogger will tell you that turning a new, undiscovered blog into a hot piece of web property is not easy. The Darren Rowses, Leo Babautas and Yaro Staraks of the world went through this same difficult teething period, like everyone else.

The accepted idea is that when you first launch your blog, growth will be very slow because you’re only able to toot your own horn to gather new visitors, by commenting and leaving links back to your blog, by asking for links and by guest-posting.

All these actions will help your blog grow, but it might take several months before your blog generates any kind of real traction and things start happening without you to push them along.

But what if there was a way to grow a new blog quickly?

I want to suggest that there is one method for growth of a new blog that can be more effective than any other, yet it’s commonly overlooked. It is very possible to grow a young blog with very little starting traffic mainly on the back of StumbleUpon. Here’s how.

The premise

How would you feel about receiving 1,000 visitors on the first day of your new blog’s launch? How would you feel about receiving 1,000 visitors on any day? This number might seem unattainable to you at the moment, but it isn’t. Not with a little preparation.

The ingredients for this strategy are:

  1. A network of at least twenty active StumbleUpon users.
  2. Stumble-worthy content.

Did you know that you can use the StumbleUpon toolbar to send pages to your StumbleUpon friends with a little message asking for a quick stumble? If your network of SU friends knows you and likes you, and the content is good, they’ll be more than happy to oblige. Each stumble can bring several hundred visitors to your blog. Reviews arguably carry even more weight when determining the amount of traffic that is sent to your content.

If you can get 20 people to stumble a single page you send to them, you could receive not just one thousand visitors, but possibly more than that. If your content is good enough to go viral on its own, you could receive several thousand, or several tens of thousands!

That’s all well and good, but it’s also easier said than done. And like most things that are easier said than done, it’s very much worth doing. You might have found yourself a little troubled at the two ‘ingredients’ outlined above. After all, how do you ‘build a network of at least twenty active StumbleUpon users?’ What can you do to make sure your content is ‘stumble-worthy’ (whatever that means)?


Photo by Toronja Azul.

The how

First, let’s deal with building a network of StumbleUpon friends. Once your blog takes off you’ll find this easy. Readers will ‘friend’ you and, because they like your stuff, will probably help you whenever you ask for it, as long as you’re willing to do the same in return. The problem is that your blog hasn’t taken off yet, so how do you create your network?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t StumbleUpon. It’s not a great place to meet new people on its own. Instead, try emailing other bloggers who are also in the same situation and working to get their blog off the ground, and ask if they would like to be friends on StumbleUpon. If you want to increase your odds of that blogger actually being on StumbleUpon, look for a link to their profile on their About page. You could even go through the comments at ProBlogger. I expect most ProBlogger users know the value of having a StumbleUpon account by now!

The truth is that if you befriend people in this manner (being, for mutual benefit) you’re going to have stumble their stuff as much as they stumble yours. If you’re getting friends from anywhere you can, you’re not always going to like what they send you, but you should still be willing to stumble it as an investment in your own blog. Social media purists will disagree with me here, and if so, you’re welcome to build a network by other means (spending five to ten hours on StumbleUpon a week will do it).

If you have some choice as to who you add to your network, try to collect people who consistently produce content that you like.

You should expect this networking strategy to be successful because most bloggers feel guilty about sending their stuff to people for stumbles but really wish they could do it. Some do it anyway. I don’t know many bloggers, particularly new bloggers who are also going through a challenging ‘baby blog’ period, who wouldn’t welcome the approach of someone who is more than happy to stumble their stuff.

The logistics of this aren’t immediately obvious but they’re quite simple once you remember them.

Sending pages to others

To send pages, you have to install the StumbleUpon toolbar.

Once you’ve navigated to the page you want to send to another user, click ‘Send to’ on the toolbar and select the target user from the drop-down menu. You can send a message to accompany the page. Generally you should ask for the specific action you want (stumble, or occasionally a review), and most importantly, offer to help out the other person in return.

If you’re always asking for stumbles and never giving them, people will tire of you quickly. That being said, you should be vigilant to make sure the people you send pages to are actually stumbling your stuff. If not, there’s no need to be angry as it’s their choice, but you should work on adding a new, active user to your network in their place.

Creating content that works with StumbleUpon

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, you need to build your ability to create content that is well-optimized for StumbleUpon. If you are continually getting stumbles on content that is clearly not suitable for social media then the StumbleUpon algorithm is likely to stop sending traffic to your blog all-together. If all your stumbles are coming from mutual friends and not from unaffiliated users then this is a pretty good sign that your content is not actually stumble-worthy.

If it sounds scary, it isn’t. As long as you provide genuine value for others, your content should generate some stumbles without your help. Best of all, there are a few solid principles you can follow to create content that is consistently well-optimized for StumbleUpon traffic.

Here are two posts I’ve written previously at ProBlogger about writing great Stumble-worthy content and converting the resulting StumbleUpon visitors into loyal readers:

While pursuing this strategy, continue to expand your network of SU friends and send content to different people each time. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest StumbleUpon’s algorithm rewards blogs that are stumbled by a wide variety of users, rather than the same people all the time.

Try this strategy and see if you can get more traffic than ever before. Good luck!

13 Ways to Promote Your Next Blog Post

Blog-Promotion-1You’re slaved over your post – crafting titles, opening lines, adding depth, designing the post to be eye catching and more – you select the perfect time for your post to go live and hit ‘publish’!

It’s over – another post ‘released’ into the wild – there’s nothing more you can do except sit back, see how people like it and start on your next post…. or is there?

Instead of seeing the moment of publishing a post as the end point in the posting cycle of a post – I see it as the birthing moment of a post. The work has only just begun and what you do in the minutes and hours after it goes live can exponentially increase the effectiveness of the post!

Original Image by Elephi Pelephi

Today I want to talk about promoting your blog posts.

A lot is written about promoting and marketing blogs (as a whole) but I’ve found looking at ‘promotion’ on a more micro level (at a post by post level) can be a highly effective strategy.

Having hit publish on your post – don’t just leave it to chance that your post will be read by people. Giving it a few strategic ‘nudges’ can increase the exposure it gets exponentially.

Let me describe a few post promotion activities that I engage in.

note: I don’t use all of these techniques on every post but instead see them as a variety of tools that sit in my blog promotion toolbox and pull out different ones on different posts depending how suitable they are.

13 Ways to Promote Your Next Blog Post

1. Pitching Other Bloggers

One of the most effective ways of getting the word out about a new post is to let other bloggers know about it. There isn’t much more powerful a way to find new readers than another blogger recommending something you’ve written to people who trust them.

Getting other bloggers to link to your posts is not always easy though – particularly in the early days of a blog or if you don’t have some sort of profile or pre-existing relationship with the bloggers that you’re pitching. However it isn’t impossible. Here are a few tips on how to pitch your posts to other blogs:

  • Relevancy is key - don’t pitch stories to other bloggers that have little or no relevance to their blog. You’ll just be wasting their time and yours.
  • Only pitch your best posts - you will have a much higher success rate at getting a link if you only do it with your best stuff. I would only ever do this with around 1-2% of my posts.
  • Give them an angle – don’t just shoot the link over – tell the blogger what the story is about and why it might be relevant to their blog. Save them a little work by showing how the post might be interesting to their readers.
  • Keep it brief – if the blogger wants lots of details about your post they’ll click the link. Be to the point, communicate what you need to say and then let the blogger get on with their day.
  • Be polite – don’t assume you’ll get the link or insist that they link to you – make the suggestion and let the blogger decide if it’s relevant for them.
  • Be personal – use their name, their blog’s name and show you are not just spamming thousands of blogs with your email.

Read more tips like these on pitching other bloggers at 13 Tips on Asking other Bloggers for Links.

2. Social Messaging

An increasingly large source of traffic for my own blogs over the last year has been Twitter and other social messaging sites (like Friendfeed and Plurk). I use a mixture of automated tools and personalized tools to drive this traffic. On twitter I use TwitterFeed to tweet items from my blog’s RSS feed.

I find that this works best if your blogs feed is not the only thing that you’re putting up on Twitter. Add your own personal tweets, link to other people’s content, ask readers questions etc – the more you mix it up the more effective your own automated tweets will be accepted and clicked upon by your followers.

Don’t be afraid to use social messaging to promote posts that have good discussion on them also. I find that 12-24 hours after my post goes live can be a good time to shoot out another tweet if there’s a particularly hot conversation going on (in fact this can drive even more traffic than the first TwitterFeed automated tweet as it alerts your followers to a conversation rather than just content).

3. Social Bookmarking

This is something that I only do on selected posts – those that I think could do well on bookmarking sites like Digg or StumbleUpon.

I won’t go into great depth on this topic in this post as I recently wrote on how to get to the front page of Digg and have posted other tips at Using Social Media Sites to Grow Your Blog’s Traffic.

4. Internal Links

A great deal of blog promotion tips focus upon how to promote your blog on other people’s blogs and sites – but a great way to promote your blog post is to do it on your own blog.

One thing that I try to do with my best posts after I publish them is to think about where I could promote it on my own blog.

While it is at the top of my blog’s front page (the primary place to promote it) if you think hard you’re bound to find a few other posts in your archives that you could link to this new post. Find places where you’ve covered similar topics before and add your link as a ‘related reading’ link or even add a link to your new post within the content of an old post.

You might also want to add your new post to previously written ‘sneeze pages‘ or your sidebar if it’s a key post. Every link you add on your own blog to your new post potentially sends your current readers to your new post but also helps your blog with Search Engine Optimization (internal links count too).

5. Newsletters

If you have a newsletter list on your blog and you’ve written what you consider to be a key blog post – include a link to it in your next newsletter. Doing this will drive traffic but also signal to your readers that it’s a pillar post that you feel deserves their attention.

As with each of the points above – only do this with your best and most relevant posts. If you do it with every post reader will become desensitized to your recommended reading.

6. Other Blogs Comments Sections and Forums

NOTE: tread carefully with this one and only do it occasionally and in a way that adds value.

If you’ve got a post that you think relates strongly to something that another blogger has written about or that is the topic of discussion on a forum – leave a link to your own post.

The key to pulling this off without being labled a spammer is to leave a genuinely useful comment on the blog or forum. The comment itself should add value, be right on topic and contribute to the conversation. Then if you include a link introduce it with a ‘I’ve written more about this at….’ type comment rather than just a spammy call to action.

The other option is to email the other blogger first and ask if they’d mind if you leave the link. You might even find that the blogger will add the link to the post itself (don’t assume this).

7. Email Signatures

If you use a service like Feedburner they have a little widget that you can add to your email signature that highlights your latest blog posts. I’m not sure how effective that this is at driving traffic but the principle is a good one.

I know of a couple of bloggers who do the same thing by hand – they pick one or two of their latest key posts and add links to them as ‘featured posts’ in their email signatures. Many of us have links to our blog’s main URL in our email signatures but it strikes me that a link to a recent individual post could actually be more effective as it sends people to your very best content – food for thought.

8. Followup Posts

If you’ve just written a post that you feel is important a great technique to give it a second round of attention is to write a second post extending the first in some way.

This technique is very powerful at adding a sense of momentum to your blog.

‘Treat every post as an introduction to your next’. Here’s an image that describes this process taken from How to Keep Momentum Going by Building on Previous Posts.

Extend-The-Life-Of-An-Idea

Also check out how I use Mind Mapping to extend posts and do followups like this.

9. Advertise Your Post

This one won’t be for everyone and is definitely only for those special posts that you write that you particularly want to drive traffic to – but why not put a little budget aside to promote a post with some advertising.

Key posts that have a high ‘usefulness factor’ to potential readers are a great way to find new loyal readers to a blog. Rather than advertising the front page of your blog a high quality post can actually be the perfect landing page for an advertisement.

There are a variety of ways to advertise a blog but one of my favorites is on StumbleUpon where you can actually start an organic rush of traffic to a good blog post with a relatively small budget. Learn more on how to do it at Run a StumbleUpon Advertising Campaign for your Blog.

4 More Ways to Promote Key Blog Posts

The list could go on – here are a few more quick tips on how to promote individual blog posts:

  • 10. Write a Press Release – some press release services don’t cost anything (or much) and they can be surprisingly effective with a little luck.
  • 11. Pitch Mainstream Media - some posts will have mainstream media appeal. Shoot a paper, magazine, TV or Radio station an email – you might get lucky.
  • 12. Article Marketing – while I’ve never done article marketing I know a few bloggers who swear by writing articles for ‘free article sites’ as a way to promote themselves. While they often include links back to their main blog in these articles I think there’s some strong arguments for doing it to individual posts.
  • 13. Add a Comments Competition – if you want to increase reader interaction on a particular post run a comments competition where you give one commenter a prize. To increase the ‘quality’ and not just ‘quantity’ of comments offer a prize for the ‘best’ comment rather than a random comment.

How do You Promote Blog Posts?

I’ve covered 12 ways to promote an individual blog post above. What would you add?

How have you done it? What success have you had?

Keep in mind I’m not asking about how you promote your blog in a general sense – but how do you drive traffic to individual blog posts?

Read the Full Series

This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.