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Planning for the Year Ahead: My Approach on dPS and ProBlogger

I’ve had a lot of questions about the process my team and I go through to plan for a new year of blogging on dPS and ProBlogger, so I’ve put together a bit of an explanation of what happened at our recent planning day:
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Is Your Content ROI Really Untrackable?

This guest post is by Johnny.

We have all heard about the traditional advertising campaign that cost thousands and makes almost no impact on sales or turnover. But when was the last time you heard that about a content marketing strategy?

I’ll give you a clue: you haven’t. An effective content strategy can cost as little as the time it takes to create.

However, as more and more blue chip companies are beginning to catch on, questions are being asked about whether this strategy is the right one. Convincing people that it is will almost always require you to show the returns on your investment.

Here we take a look at some tips for content measurement and examine if tracking ROI is actually possible.

Always start from the end

Imagine I am a lost man trying to find my way to the first page of Google. I have no idea where I am and I don’t have any directions to get to the search engine, but I know I want to be there. What should I do first?

Knowing where you want to be should be the first step in your journey with content marketing.

Make the goal achievable and set some bench marks. Do you currently have 100 likes on Facebook, but would prefer 1000? What kind of content could achieve this?

Once you have your achievable goal in mind, set a time scale. Even if the goal is ongoing, having a monthly strategy and aiming to hit benchmarks along the way is essential.

One of the biggest indicators of return on investment relies on monitoring whether you’re hitting your monthly objectives or not.

Analyse and track

The majority of businesses undertaking content marketing will be focussing on one thing: sales. This is where a lot of people become confused and assume that you cannot measure sales from content marketing or social media.

This is completely untrue. It is simple to monitor key performance indicators in Google Analytics.

If you are providing content in order to boost brand awareness, monitor organic brand searches on Google. If this is increasing month on month, the work you are doing is obviously having an effect.

If you are trying to generate leads, monitor new visitors to your website. Use Google visitor path to see where your new visitors are coming from, and how long they are spending on the site. Systems like ResponseTap offer a call tracking solution which allows you to monitor how many people are picking up the phone after visiting your website.

Adding a monetary value to each of your goals is imperative to monitoring return on investment. For example, in your first month, you may be focussed on building a community. Monitor how many more visitors visit your website after the content is published.

If on average $100 is spent for every 500 visitors, and your content attracts an extra 100 visitors, then you can put a value on the content ($20). This is a basic arbitrary measure, but I think it’s important in showing how much top-level, real value you are adding, even ignoring the secondary benefits.

Nurture your leads

People who visit your website may be in different places in the buying cycle. Someone may find your content accidentally and become interested in the products you sell, but don’t know how they could use them. Do you have another piece of content or landing page equipped to show them how to get value from using your products? You should!

Another visitor may be looking to buy a product like yours at that very moment, so it’s essential to make your pricelist easily accessible. To attract more interested buyers, ensure you have white papers or videos showing why your products are the best on the market, and explaining your competitive edge.

Lead nurturing is the new lead generation. Your customers aren’t stupid. They want to come to their own logical buying decisions, so the more you offer them, the more value they will attach to your brand. The real value in content marketing is in building community, so attaching a value to your community is important.

So … is content marketing ROI trackable?

In a word, yes. Monitoring leads and sales value is possible using the various analytical programmes on the market. ResponseTap and similar companies are starting to bridge the gap between offline conversions and online activity, and I see this as the next step in linking content marketing with return on investment.

However at the minute, the secondary benefits of social marketing are not clear to monitor. Comparing new and repeat visitors to your website is a great metric for seeing how well your content is doing at bringing fresh customers to your site, but how advantageous is this in the long run? It is yet to be seen.

Do you have any of your own insights on content marketing and measuring returns? I would love to hear them in the comments below.

Written by Jonny who is interested in how social media and content marketing are helping small and medium sized businesses increase brand awareness online.

11 Reasons Your Blog is on a Road to Nowhere (And What to Do About It)

This guest post is by Henneke Duistermaat of Enchanting Marketing.

You’re smart.

You got drive.

You’re blogging, and blogging, and blogging. You’re producing good content. But somehow your efforts are not rewarded.

Your enthusiasm for checking your traffic stats is gone. Because the trickle of traffic makes you feel down, lonely, and maybe a little desperate. Are you wasting your time?

Let’s be honest.

Building a blog is hard work. It’s tough. And you need to be business savvy. That’s right. You need to treat your blog as a business. You need to get serious about marketing your blog. Because if you don’t market your blog, it’s going to remain lonely out there.

Let’s have a look at 11 common blog marketing mistakes. Avoid these mistakes, and you’ll gain more traffic, more shares, and more comments. And eventually, you’ll be able to make serious money.

Mistake 1: You’ve jumped straight in

Of course, it’s great to get started.

Get a domain name, a web host, a theme, a topic you love writing about; and you’re ready to go. Right?
I don’t think so. You need to know what your audience likes; what they want to read about, what they’re passionate about.

Before launching Social Triggers, Derek Halpern knew exactly what his audience wanted: fact-based advice on how to grow web traffic. That’s why he combines academic research with blogging tips.

Before you start your blog, research your audience. Read comments on the big blogs your audience is reading. Which topics resonate most? What are readers passionate about? What questions do they ask? What do they struggle with?

Mistake 2: Your audience is too diverse

When you’re writing your blog posts, who do you write for? Are you trying to write for as big a crowd as possible? Are you trying to appeal to as many readers as you can?

Writing to a crowd makes your writing bland; writing to one person makes you engaging and fascinating.
Start by describing your ideal reader. Have you seen how the Word Chef describes her ideal client? You don’t have to publish your ideal reader. But you need to know who you’re writing for.

When you write your next blog post, imagine writing to just one reader: your ideal reader.

Mistake 3: You’ve picked the wrong topic

Do you think you need to avoid the big topics, because they’re too competitive? Think again. If you pick a topic nobody has written about, then most probably hardly anyone is interested in your topic.

The truth is: the big topics are the topics people want to read about. Finance. Personal development. Blogging. Parenting. Marketing. Gadgets.

Yep, those topics are competitive. Hugely competitive. But you can be sure there’s an audience waiting for you. You just have to figure out how you’re going to stand out from the other blogs. And that’s why you need a purple cow.

Mistake 4: You don’t have a purple cow

A purple cow is what makes you different. If you’d see a purple cow, it would draw attention, wouldn’t it? You’d be fascinated by it and you’d remember it, wouldn’t you? That’s why you need a purple cow—a term coined by Seth Godin.

Why would people read you blog rather than a competing blog? A few ideas:

  • Your personality appeals to your readers.
  • Your passion attracts followers.
  • Your writing style is special.
  • Your opinion is appreciated.
  • Your experience is unique.

You’re not Walmart or Target. You don’t need to appeal to everyone. If you create something truly different, some people may think you’re crazy. But that doesn’t matter. As long as other people love your blogging, that’s absolutely fine. Don’t be afraid to put readers off. Because you’ll build a stronger bond with your core audience.

Apple has raving fans who queue up to trade in their iPhone 4S to an iPhone 5 as soon as it’s launched. But Apple also has its haters, who avoid buying Apple products.

Do you know Johnny B Truant? He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, because he tells it as it is and he swears a lot. But he has hugely passionate fans, too. You see? You don’t need to appeal to everyone. You just have to build your own tribe.

Mistake 5: You don’t know how you want to change the world

You can’t create passionate readers if your message is lame. If you want to fascinate people and create a loyal following, you need a mission. Strong brands are on a mission. Think Nike, Apple, or Harley Davidson. Popular bloggers are on a mission, too.

Leo Babauta at Zenhabits teaches people to live simply, to keep themselves centered and at peace as they make a slow journey to creating good habits and achieving their goals. A clear mission, isn’t it?

How are you going to change the world?

Mistake 6: Your design puts people off

If you want to be taken seriously, then you need to look professional. Your blog is your brand. What impression do you want to leave? Professional? Full of fun? Warm? Corporate? Artistic?

Compare these two social media blogs: Simply Zesty looks fresh, but rather corporate. The {grow} blog from Mark Schaefer looks just as professional, but a little more fun.

Also, keep in mind that your design has a large impact on readability. Use white space, large fonts, and sub headlines to guide your readers through your content.

Mistake 7: Your blogging voice is erratic

You’re a blogger. You’re a writer. You communicate through your content.

Your brand is not just your blog design; and not just what you’re blogging about. It’s also how you blog. What’s you’re writing style? And does it match your blog design? Does it match your brand?

You need a unique voice that reflects your brand. Have you read the Aweber and MailChimp blogs? Aweber is quite serious and a bit corporate. MailChimp is cheeky and more personable. One is not better than the other. They’re just different. And their tone of voice reflects their brands.

Jon Morrow and Darren Rowse both blog about blogging. Jon Morrow is like your favourite high-school teacher. He tells you off when he needs to and uses strong language, but inspires you to study harder. Darren Rowse is like a friendly neighbour. Full of useful advice, helpful when you’re stuck, and he never says a bad word about you.

How are you positioning yourself? And does your tone of voice match?

Mistake 8: You’re hiding yourself

As a blogger, you are an important part of your brand. People connect with you because of who you are.
Nobody enjoys phoning a call centre. Nobody wants to get in touch with a boring corporation. Nobody wants to chat with a faceless company.

To build a loyal following you need to be human and get a little personal. Show your passion, mention some titbits about your life, share your experience, and let your passion shine through.

Even though I mainly write about copywriting and content marketing, my email subscribers know I love cycling, because I use cycling analogies to explain copywriting tricks and I’ve even included cycling holiday snaps to illustrate points. That’s how I’m building a connection with my readers.

Mistake 9: You think your traffic will snowball

You need to market your blog to gain an audience. Overnight success doesn’t exist.

Generating traffic is hard work, and no shortcuts exist. Social media and SEO can generate traffic, but guest blogging is often the best way because guest blogging allows you to borrow the audience from a big blog.

Don’t have enough time for guest blogging? Reduce your own blogging schedule, post once a week rather than daily; post once a month instead of weekly. And use the time you’ve freed up to post on other blogs.

Mistake 10: You’re not enticing people onto your email list

Getting blog readers to sign up to your email list should be your priority. Because once they’re subscribed, you can email them when a new post goes live. And when you’re ready to sell, your email list is your most precious marketing asset.

Email is more powerful than social media, especially when it comes to selling. Have you seen this graph from Darren?

Email drives profits

That tells you enough, doesn’t it? Get an email subscription form on your home page, your about page, and each blog post. Consider removing the option to subscribe to your RSS feed, because it distracts from your email subscription form.

Mistake 11: You’re a dreamer

Of course we’re all dreaming of success, of more readers, more shares, more comments, more money.

But dreaming about success isn’t going to get you there. You need plan. Not a Soviet-style ten-year plan. Just a plan for your next month. Decide on your mission, define your brand, your design, your voice, and think about how you’re going to grow your audience during the next month.

And then in a month’x time you can see what worked, and what didn’t work. And then you can write another one-month plan. To increase your traffic. To grow your audience. And to build your email list.

The truth about building your audience

Let’s be honest.

Growing your audience is hard work. It requires energy, enthusiasm, and guts. Dare to be different. Build your own unique brand. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Your most loyal followers, your raving fans are reading your blog because your style suits them; because your message inspires them; and because you are you.

Come on. What are you waiting for? Start marketing your blog, your brand, yourself.

Henneke Duistermaat is a marketer and copywriter. She is on a mission to make boring companies charming, and dull products exciting. Sign up for her Enchanting Marketing newsletter and receive free tips on copywriting and content marketing.

Blogging in Brief: Goal-Setting … and Reaching!

It’s that time of year: we’re all setting goals and making plans for the next twelve months (if we haven’t already!). And the blogosphere is a great place to get inspiration for setting and meeting those goals…

Image courtesy Moyan_Brenn, licensed under Creative Commons


That time of year…

Many of our favorite blogs have published posts that either look back on the last year, or look forward to this one. Some are personal, while others provides hints and tips specifically for readers. I’ve found these ones, in particular, have provided great food for thought:

Of course, earlier this week we published our Top 20 from 2012, as well as the annual Bloggers to Watch list for the year ahead too. Did you publish a post that looked back on 2012, or forward to 2013 in some way? How did you make sure it stood out from the crowd? Let us know about it in the comments.

Time for a new (or updated) social media strategy?

Getting serious about social media in 2013? Alexis Grant has just released a short, sharp social media checklist that’s a great tool for helping you get a handle on all the aspects you’ll need to consider.

This checklist is a really handy download for anyone who’s trying to juggle improved social media among their other blogging tasks—and it’s free.

Get better at online marketing

If one of your goals for the year ahead is to improve your online marketing skills, you’re not alone. The realm of digital marketing is always changing, and while the basics might remain constant, the nuances of this space are always evolving.

So whether you’re a seasoned marketer, or in the early phases of your online marketing career, the new freebie from Copyblogger will help you brush up your skills.

Called The Best of Copyblogger, it’s a 20-part email series that encompasses the top advice from the blog, hand-picked and curated into a really worthwhile subscription. Why not subscribe? You know you can’t go wrong with Copyblogger.

Blog branding in 2013

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll remember that we talked about blog branding a bit in this column late last year. And earlier this week, Gab discussed the idea of keeping blog headers simple, to drive readers to your content instead.

I’ve been thinking about blog branding in light of these discussions and one thing that I keep coming back to is content. While I do think a blog needs a strong visual brand—not just a logo, but a strong visual identity (which you can probably tell from this blog!)—I don’t think branding ends there.

As bloggers, our brands are interwoven through our content, too. Look at really strongly branded blogs, like Brainpickings or The Onion, and you can see how strongly content itself communicates the brand—if it’s done well.

This is often a concern for bloggers who want to accept guest posts. I often hear bloggers asking if they should try to pick content that’s written in a voice that’s close to their own. Of course, voice is the only way to brand your content, but it is something that’s worth considering if you take this step.

One way to get ideas for how to do it well is to look at big blogs that have multiple writers—and which communicate brand really strongly through content. Try Gawker, Fast Company, or Wired, for example. Sites that have offline magazine counterparts are usually good bets for strongly branded content.

What trends do you think will influence blog branding this year? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

The Blogger’s Guide to Cutting Your Losses

I don’t know whether it’s a coincidence, but as we near the end of the year, there seem to be a few bloggers talking about what you should do if a past passion no longer inspires you, or your next big idea’s already been done.

Making cuts

Image courtesy stock.xchng user mmagallan

Now is a good time to take stock—I know I’m not the only one who has a look back over the year in December, and makes new plans in January. So I thought it might be valuable to talk today about cutting your losses.

What are losses?

You might be tempted to think of losses in terms of passion (things you no longer have an interest in) or lost opportunities (ideas you want to pursue but can’t, because of other commitments).

But there are other losses. One is dollars. If you’ve monetized your blog, and you are making money from blogging, you might find it difficult to work out the monetary value of lost opportunities, or money you’ve left on the table through poor execution or planning.

The other big consideration is lost opportunities around and beyond your blog. These can play into the question of income—perhaps a project you’re busy working on caused you to forfeit another opportunity that could have stepped up your income this year.

The question we, as bloggers, need to ask ourselves is whether that other thing we were working on is worth that lost opportunity. Are the gains we’re making with that other project worth it?

If not, it might be time to consider cutting your losses.

What should we cut?

Only you will know the parts of your life as blogger that feel like chores, that are overwhelming, or that don’t seem to add to your life no matter what you try.

Importantly, as Yaro’s story points out, sometimes cutting your losses has to be done in advance. You have a great idea, but then you find out the competition is really very tough, or someone’s already done what you’d planned to. That may mean that developing the idea isn’t worth the effort.

But only you can tell if that’s true.

I tend to cut the things that don’t give me energy to keep doing what I’m doing. I always have a lot on the go, so that makes it pretty easy to tell what’s gaining momentum, and what’s not. It’s easy to look at reader stats, or income statements, or even just how I feel about tackling a project, and know if I think it’s worth doing.

But sometimes, ideas that have been very popular can actually be difficult to convert into money-makers. For a pro blogger who’s relying on income to keep a roof over her or his head, those ideas can be the hardest—and the most necessary—to let go of.

If you’ve given everything you have to making a project a success, yet you just can’t make that traffic convert, you might need to think of cutting that project from your schedule and focusing on the areas of your work that are helping to support you.

Is now the time?

It seems obvious that once you’ve worked out that you need to cut a project, you should just do it. But I don’t know that this is always the right approach.

Think about selling a house. You might decide you’d like to move somewhere else, but you might also know that houses in your area sell better in Spring. So perhaps you decide to wait until then before you list and sell your home.

The same goes for blogging. I was in touch with a blogger recently who’s decided to sell a blog, so he’s spending three months building it up to be the strongest he can make it, to maximize his sale price.

So the on-the-spot cut isn’t always the best idea.

That said, there are times when it will be. If it’s an ongoing project (rather than a bright idea you wanted to pursue), it’s important to work out an exit strategy for that project. Simply dropping it might not be the answer.

Abandoning projects you’ve been working on means writing off the time you’ve put into them. By carefully reviewing what you’ve developed, you might be able to find ways to reuse some of that work in a way that gives you the greatest possible benefit.

That might mean backing up a cool WordPress theme you had specially developed before you take a blog offline, or asking contacts you’ve met through an ultimately unproductive project to help you with something else you’re working on.

Whatever you do, try not to just cut something and run. The best endings are the ones where we learn and gain from our experiences.

Looking back over the year, have you got losses you need to cut from your blogging work? I’d love to hear what you’ve been thinking in the comments.

Grow Your Blog Business: The Earn-Millions-in-Your-Flip-Flops Framework [Case Study]

This guest post is by Stephan Spencer of The Art of SEO.

Former mortgage broker and digital information business expert, Susan Lassiter-Lyons built her business online, and grew it to a six-figure income in only seven months.

She attributes her amazing success to a simple framework she developed and perfected over that time.

Recently, I met with Susan and she shared with me her “$1 Million digital business blueprint”. In this post, I’m going to show you these exact, replicable steps to apply to your business. If you’re serious about growing your business online, then you will want to read what she had to say.

Although Susan’s framework won’t make you a million dollars in fifteen minutes like common scams littering the internet, it can show you the simple, proven way to make millions if you put forth the necessary effort.

$1 Million digital business blueprint

Forced to close her real estate business in November 2008 because of the mortgage meltdown, Susan launched her digital information business in January 2009 with a mere $200 in startup capital.

Susan’s ebook, Mortgage Secrets for Real Estate Investors is where it all started. Published nearly four years ago, it still makes $600-$3,000 a month in online sales.

That ebook functioned as a launch point for her business that eventually reached six figures by July 2009. Living by her three-step framework, she is now able to work part-time, with no boss, in flip-flops. Some might call that a dream job.

The framework

Now, let’s break down that three-step framework for creating an online business around your passion.

Step 1. Create

  • Create a product of your own.
  • Acquire the rights to an already created info product to sell as your own.
  • Expand to a product suite.

Step 2. Campaign

  • Start a blog about your topic.
  • Start a Facebook page about your product.
  • Buy some cheap ads on Google to promote your product.
  • Ask others who have websites and subscribers in your niche to email their list about your product.

Step 3. Convert

  • Create a simple website that tells visitors all about the features and benefits of your product.
  • Offer a simple way for them to buy and download the product.

Let’s look at each step in detail.

Create

Before you jump right into creating a product, you should first take a moment to identify your expertise.

Take an inventory of your knowledge by asking yourself these questions:

  • What do people always ask you about?
  • What have you studied extensively?
  • What do you love to do?

The answers to these questions will give you a solid idea about what to cover with your product. Once you have your topic, search Yahoo! Answers for popular FAQs within your subject area. These can form chapters in your book, audio programa, or sections in any of the products you decide to create.

Creating a product of your own

The first obvious option for you to pursue with your info product is to create one of your own.

If you feel comfortable enough, you can create an ebook like Susan did, but there are plenty of other options to choose from to suit your specific skills and abilities: you could write a real book, record an audio program, record a video program, host a teleseminar, host a webinar, or host a seminar. The possibilities are endless.

Acquiring the rights to an already created info product to sell as your own

Most people don’t know this, but there are literally thousands of info products available through private label rights.

If you are having trouble creating a product of your own, this is a fast, relatively cheap way to start a digital business. Through websites like NicheEmpires.com you can browse through pages of private label rights products that you can edit and make your own.

These PLR products are available for around $67! Why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to?

Expanding to a product suite

Once you have your expertise figured out and entry-level product created, its time to expand that into an entire sales funnel to maximize your potential revenue from customers.

There are five elements to a proper product suite. Susan likes to explain these through an example of a golf information product suite.

  • Front-end product: This is the first product you develop. It should be cheap and broad, yet enticing. For example, an ebook titled How to Add 120 Yards to Your Drive, priced at $37.
  • Mid-tier program: A moderately priced product that acts as the next step in expanding the customer’s knowledge about that topic. For example, a quick video course on pitching and putting priced at $200-$300.
  • High-ticket program: A high-priced product that would include all the knowledge you have to offer on the topic covered. For example, the “Ultimate Golf Package Extraordinaire” covering everything you want to know about golf, priced at $2,000.
  • Seminar: A live event with added bonuses, where you can sell your existing products and coaching program to qualified leads. This might take the form of a “Learn from the Pros” live event priced at $1,000 at the door.
  • Coaching program: An option for those that want even more than what your products offer. This can be priced as high as you value your time. Basically, we’re talking about one-on-one personalized training here.

The most important element of this product suite is the front-end product. Once you have the customer hooked, it becomes exponentially easier to sell them your follow up products.

Campaign

Start a blog about your topic

Susan started her blog, TheInvestorInsights.com. She identified her expertise (in this case, real estate investing) and created a forum where she could post and comment on current events and issues gripping the industry.

Through consistent posting she was able to foster a community of active discussions and engaged bloggers who were interested in what she had to say. These bloggers in essence became leads for her informational products, which she was able to effectively sell through this medium.

Start a Facebook page about your product

Word of mouth is by far the best form of promotion. When somebody likes your product, you want him or her to recommend it to his or her friends. A Facebook page can help you accomplish this.

If a person is particularly pleased with your product, they will like your page on Facebook, which will notify their friends. People view the opinions of their friends as much more credible than a traditional sales pitch.

Buy some cheap ads on Google to promote your product

Google offers the most targeted advertisements on the Internet. You can choose from various demographics, including location, and purchase keywords that you believe your target customer is searching for.

In addition, Google allows you to operate on a cost per click basis so that you can control your own budget and make sure you aren’t spending too much or too little.

Ask others in your niche to tell their list about your product

Identify third parties that deal with the same topics as your products. Then offer them a deal that if they will agree to email their subscriber list about your product, you will split the revenue generated with them. For example, you could split the revenue 50/50 with a website that mentions you in their weekly electronic newsletter.

How can a company not be excited about this? All they would have to do is mention your website, blog, or product, and they have the potential to generate income. They can’t lose.

This is definitely a tactic to try.

Convert

Create a simple website that explains the features and benefits of your product

Create a sales page. Make sure it has an intriguing video that explains the features and benefits of your product in a way that inspires the visitor to sign up for your newsletter or buy your product.

Offer a simple way for them to buy and download the product

Use Clickbank or PayPal to make it easy for the customer to purchase your product in one step.

Include an Add to cart button directly under your sales video so the customer can proceed to the checkout without jumping through any hoops.

Is it really that simple?

Susan Lassiter-Lyons has proven that these steps work. While the framework is simple, as you can see, there’s a lot of work in each step. But if you follow her example, while you may not make six figures in seven months, you will put yourself on a path to similar success.

Stephan Spencer is co-author of The Art of SEO (O’Reilly 2009), now in its second edition (March 2012), and author of Google Power Search (O’Reilly 2011). He is the inventor of GravityStream, the automated pay-for-performance natural search technology platform, and the founder of SEO agency Netconcepts. He is a Senior Contributor to Practical Ecommerce and MarketingProfs.com, and a columnist for Search Engine Land and Multichannel Merchant.

Blogging Responsibly: An Owner’s Manual

This guest post is by Aidan Huang of Onextrapixel.com.

It invariably happens to everyone who starts a successful blog: the blogger sits down to write, but runs smack into a stretch of writer’s block.

He thinks, “When I started this blog is was meant to be fun, but now it feels more like work! Why do I continue to do this? Maybe I’ll just take today off, and my fans can just wait until I’m in the mood to create my next post.”

Writing a blog post shouldn’t feel like work you don’t want to do, but even bloggers have off-days.

It’s during such times that bloggers must focus on their responsibilities.

For bloggers who are confused about their responsibilities, I’m here to help. Here are a few tips for both new and established bloggers that will help create a sense of responsibility toward readers—an asset that will help you attract and maintain a wider audience.

Writing what you love

Bloggers generally begin blogging because they have a knack for writing, write what they love, and are full of information they feel must be shared. They are basically a community of writers who express themselves and everything they’re passionate about.

But this doesn’t mean that the act of writing is always an easy task.

The golden rule of being a responsible blogger is: write through the hard days. Without entries that are posted on schedule, bloggers will soon find themselves without an audience—or worse, without ever having built an audience. Internet surfers are always in search of fresh content, and without it, it’s only matter of time before your blog’s traffic completely dries up.

To get through those days where writing seems like nothing less than the worst imaginable chore, bloggers should focus on their readers, or the readers they wish to attract.

When a blogger decides to forgo creating regular entries, he just may wind up as his only reader. Creating content is the foremost responsibility a blogger has to his or her audience, and without fresh content, the blogger can hardly hope to attract one.

A blogger would be wise to take advice directly from his blog’s comments section. By using readers’ advice, he can craft a better experience for his audience. New bloggers can seek immediate feedback by sending links to friends and family members via social media.

If you give them mechanisms for direct response—such as special “talk back” entries—readers will begin to feel a sense of ownership that will deepen their experience with your blog, and help you generate a wider audience.

As incoming blog traffic increases, a blogger becomes responsible to a larger crowd. At this point, it becomes important to recall those reasons why the blog seemed like a good idea in the first place, and to carefully plan its future.

With greater power comes greater responsibility—as well as the possibility of ad revenue.

Blogging for dollars

After a blog attracts a stable readership, the question of money arises. Long-time readers will quickly ascertain when a blog begins attracting ad revenue, so it’s important to be up-front and honest with them.

Bloggers who collect ad revenue aren’t betraying their readership by being paid for their work, but it may seem that way to some. Readers will understand that bloggers are human and have bills to pay too. As a blogger begins to monetize a site, it’s important to keep the content up to the task of maintaining and attracting readers.

It’s important for a blogger to indicate whether a particular entry is sponsored or serving as a paid review or advertisement. By making this distinction, bloggers are letting readers know that their time is valued.

It’s also important to distinguish between affiliate links and all others, because modern blog readers expect to be treated as valued customers. They typically have a good understanding of how internet advertising works, so they won’t be easily fooled.

Many writers make a modest living or nicely supplement their income by running a blog, and manage to do so without any conflict between readers and advertisers. After the dollars begin rolling in, bloggers may feel the need to post more entries each day, but, again, it’s important not to let the quality level drop even remotely. Readers who are subjected to advertisements are all the more likely to become steeper critics.

Bloggers shouldn’t let the prospect of making money result in watered-down posts, either, as this may be more harmful than helpful. After all, a successful blog attracts viewers based on content quality, not quantity.

Acquisition: to stay or to go?

When a blogger reaches the heights of the blogging summit, the acquisition offers may start rolling in. Now the blogger is faced with a number of new decisions: should s/he sell the blog to a larger company? And if s/he does, should s/he continue to write for it? Or can s/he move on and start another blog?

All of these options are viable, and although loyal readers may be disappointed when a blogger decides it’s time to move on to other blogs and leave this one to be run by someone else, they’ll understand. However, a blogger has an obligation to let his readership know just what it is that’s happening here.

If the blog is being acquired, readers are likely to notice, and so it’s important to take the initiative and simply tell them in advance. A blogger should also explain whether he plans to stay or go after the acquisition; inquiring minds (and loyal readers!) will surely want to know.

A fresh start can mean a lot once you’ve been blogging for a while. You can build a new venture having learned from earlier mistakes and experience, but the thought of going back to square one can be overwhelming.

If you get a nice pay check from selling your blog, what will be next? Would moving to an island and and sipping pina coladas all day really satisfy you? Will money alone truly make you happy? Are you sure you’ll like that more than running a blog you actually enjoy and believe in?

Preparing for the unexpected

As a blog grows in popularity and size, so do the dangers that come with it. A popular blog is often the target of hackers, competitors or other malicious attacks. A big part of being a responsible blog owner is to protect and secure your blog so viruses or malware will not affect readers.

If these fail, the blog owners should immediately inform and update readers about what’s happening through available channels, like social media and newsletters, and assure readers that they’re fixing the problem.

Another unexpected circumstance to take into account is the inescapable fact that we are all mortal. We may fall sick—and even leave this world.

A responsible blog owner should know themselves, and figure out how he or she should react to these situations before they arise.

The blogger can find someone that they trust to carry on the blog. A trusted friend or spouse who shares the same interest can take what you have created and help keep it growing into the future. You can state your decision in your will, or in a draft post to be published when you are gone.

Protecting yourself from lawsuits should be something that you should strongly practice. You should state your disclaimer, privacy policy, and terms and conditions on your blog to safeguard yourself. You can get insurance to protect yourself from libel, but there is not a single insurance company I know of that will insure the blog itself.

Blogging responsibly into an uncertain future

Writing a blog is a bit like raising a child: the blog starts small, with only the blogger to guide it, but it can grow into a massively successful enterprise. There comes a time for many bloggers, however, when the blog must end or be passed on to the next blogger—much as a child grows up and moves on.

In reality, blogging is a job. It may be a beloved job, but it still involves quite a lot of work. As a blogger’s career and personal life develop, there may come a time when blogging must become a thing of the past. When the time comes, it’s important that a blogger maintain the professional courtesy readers have come to expect.

A blogger should reveal the future of the blog to readers long before that future actually arrives, just as they’d give notice before leaving one job for another, or retiring altogether. A blogger might explain that the blog will be ending completely, or that a new writer will be taking over—whatever the case, honesty is key.

On the web, a blogger’s every movement is visible to all those who are watching. Professionalism is a must, no matter what else happens, especially for those bloggers who choose to forgo anonymity.

Once again, responsibility to the readership becomes key to blogging responsibly, but instead of providing regular content, the blogger must now inform readers of the blog’s future, so they can update their links and bookmarks accordingly.

Creating the perfect ending

There often comes a time when the blogger has reached the end of his blog. The least-responsible thing a blogger can do in this situation is to abandon the blog completely, without notice. Readers will resent the fact that their once-favorite blogger wasn’t respectful enough to close the blog properly or to point them in the direction of new, recommended content.

Bloggers who treat readers with respect and care will be remembered for doing so. Readership is really what makes or breaks any blog, but that doesn’t mean that marketing must be a blogger’s first priority.

The most successful bloggers begin writing for the love of creating—not in the hopes of building an audience and putting the blog up for sale. Readers won’t appreciate being treated as if they come with a price-tag; surely they receive enough of that treatment from television networks and news outlets.

Are you a responsible blogger? What’s your plan for your blog? Do you update it on a regular basis? Are you just starting out, or thinking about selling the one you’ve built? Please share your thoughts with us.

Aidan Huang is the editor-in-chief of Onextrapixel.com, a popular web design and development magazine. You can subscribe to get the latest information about design and development through their RSS feed. Aidan has sold a few blogs successfully and is always thinking of starting a new one.

5 Ways You Can Become A Blogging Philanthropist

This guest post is by Stephen Pepper of Youth Workin’ It

Why should Bill Gates have all the fun?—Al Andrews

There are all sorts of reasons you may own a blog—to enhance your business site, to share ideas, to earn an income, or perhaps you just enjoy writing.

Imagine the impact you could have, though, if you harnessed the power of your blog to make an even bigger difference to mankind by becoming a philanthropist.

This may sound far-fetched, but it’s not at all. Here are five ways you can become a blogging philanthropist.

1. Write a book

“How can I be a philanthropist if I have no money?”

This is the question Al Andrews asked himself. Instead of just giving up, he came up with a plan to make money. He’d write a book and donate the profits to projects around the world.

And thus, Improbable Philanthropy was born. His first book, The Boy, The Kite And The Wind, has already raised tens of thousands of dollars that he’s been able to donate to projects that benefit others.

What can you do?

You don’t have to write an illustrated children’s book. Many blogs sell ebooks, so why not write one whose profits you can donate to a charity that’s close to your heart? The readers of your blog will be more likely to buy the book if they know it’s going towards a good cause. And it means you’ll get your ideas out to more people, even if you’re not benefiting monetarily yourself.

2. Microfinance

Adam McLane and Rachel Rodgers are both bloggers who also own their own businesses. Adam owns McLane Creative, a web development and design company, while Rachel owns Rachel Rodgers Law, a virtual law office.

Both Adam and Rachel offer microfinance loans through Kiva. These loans are used to help alleviate poverty and to enable entrepreneurs around the world to start up their own businesses.

Adam also makes a new loan for every new client he receives—check out some of the beneficiarieshere.

What can you do?

Although Adam and Rachel offer these loans as an extension of their businesses rather than their blogs, that doesn’t have to be the case. How about making a loan every time you receive x number of new email subscribers, or when you hit a benchmark of y extra monthly visitors?

3. Invest in others

At the 2012 World Domination Summit, Chris Guillebeau gave $100 to every single paid conference attendee.

Why? He was investing the money in the attendees so that they could in turn invest the money themselves, whether that was through community, adventure, or service.

As Chris said, “Freely receive, freely give.”

What can you do?

Don’t worry, I’m not saying you have to give $100 to each of your readers! Instead, you could set aside some money and have your readers decide on how it should be used.

Similarly, you could allocate a certain percentage of each ebook you sell to be donated to different charities. When selling the book, offer the buyers different purchasing links depending on which project they’d like to support.

4. Leverage your readership

You may not have any money, but chances are some of your readers do. On his Stuff Christians Like blog, Jon Acuff set out to leverage his readership by raising $30,000 to build a kindergarten in Vietnam. The only thing is, he didn’t raise $30,000.

He raised $60,000. So his readers were able to build two kindergartens!

What can you do?

Set up a fundraiser, ideally for a project that has some kind of link to your blogging niche. This will encourage your readers to support the initiative.

Also, be ambitious! Jon’s readers raised the original $30,000 in just 18 hours, which is why he set a second target that doubled the original amount. Even if you don’t meet your fundraising target, you’ll hopefully raise far more than if you’d set the bar too low.

5. Advertising and affiliate schemes

In addition to Youth Workin’ It, we own a number of other (non-blog) websites. These earn a somewhat modest income of a few hundred dollars a month through AdSense, Amazon Associates and similar affiliate schemes.

As my wife and I both have full-time jobs, this income is a bonus. It therefore means we’re able to use some of this extra money to bless individuals and organizations that we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

What can you do?

Do you earn any revenue through your blog via advertising or affiliate schemes? If so, why not use some or all of this income to make a difference in the lives of others?

How will you become a blogging philanthropist?

There are five ideas on this list. What others can you think of that can help other bloggers become philanthropists? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Stephen Pepper is insurance administrator by day, youth worker & blogger by night. He and his wife run Youth Workin’ It which includes a youth work and youth ministry blog. They also produce their own youth work resources, the most recent of which is 52 Scavenger Hunt Ideas.

Blogging the Festive Season: The Not-for-Profit Blog [Case Study]

Stephen Pepper is insurance administrator by day, youth worker and blogger by night. He and his wife run Youth Workin’ It, a not-for-profit site that provides consultancy and services for youth workers and organizations worldwide. This includes blogging 6 days a week about youth work.

As part of our Blogging the Festive Season series, we asked Stephen how he and his wife are preparing the blog for the festive season.

What does preparing the Youth Workin’ It blog for the festive season mean?

Over the last year or so, we’ve realized that we need to be well-prepared when it comes to writing posts about particular times of the year. We posted an idea for a Valentine’s Day fundraiser on February 13th, but this meant youth workers didn’t have any time to use the idea this year.

So we started publishing our Christmas posts a couple of months early, like a youth work session to include young people when planning Christmas activities and ideas for organizing a Christmas card fundraiser.

This will be your second festive season on the blog. What did you learn last year? What will you do differently this time?

Last year, we stole an idea from Jon Acuff. He wanted to take time off over the Christmas period but didn’t want to neglect his blog, so he re-posted his his most trafficked posts from the prior 12 months. This meant new visitors read material they might not have come across otherwise, while loyal readers were reminded of some of his best writing.

On our blog, we did something similar. This was based on the 12 Days Of Christmas, where we re-posted our most highly trafficked 12 posts since we started the blog on 1 September 2011. It probably wasn’t wise from an SEO standpoint, as we were effectively re-posting duplicate material. However, we’d moved into a new apartment at the beginning of December, so not having to write new posts for two weeks meant we were able to get settled in far more quickly.

Last year, we also found that our Christmas scavenger hunt ideas proved to be popular. We therefore started posting similar ideas throughout the year, which in turn also received a lot of traffic. Having identified the popularity of these activities, we published our second book, 52 Scavenger Hunt Ideas.

Youth Workin’ It has a global audience. What usually happens to readership and traffic on your site over the festive season?

As our blog was only a couple of months old in late 2011, we had very low levels of traffic in comparison to today, making it hard to identify any kind of trend. Our average number of daily visitors has grown approximately 3,000% since December 2011, so it’s hard to estimate what our traffic levels will be like this festive season in comparison, as we started from such a low base point last year.

Having said that, I’m anticipating that in the run up to the festive season we’ll see a bump in Christmas-themed search traffic. In the first two weeks of November 2012 we had close to 300 people find our site through Christmas-themed search terms, suggesting this trend will continue.

We’ve been seeing good growth all year, but I think that overall traffic will drop off over the Christmas period. Visits to Youth Workin’ It continued increasing throughout November, until two days before Thanksgiving when it dropped off for a few days while Americans celebrated this holiday, so I’m assuming the same will happen at Christmas too.

In January, though, I think we’ll receive a lot more traffic as youth workers will be looking for new youth work and youth ministry ideas for the coming year.

Do you think that having a “cause” blog provides you with different opportunities or challenges around this time of year than bloggers with more commercial blogs face?

For commercial blogs, I’d imagine Christmas is one of the best opportunities for generating revenue, particularly by driving sales through affiliate schemes.

Although we have the odd affiliate link on our site (mainly using Amazon Associates) and produce our own youth work resources, we’re not a commercial blog.

This means we can focus on writing material that we think youth workers will find helpful, rather than feeling like we have to focus on writing about topics or products that will earn us an income. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with commercial blogs—I’m simply not a salesman, so am glad I don’t have that pressure when I write.

This also helps ensure that most of our content is evergreen, rather than becoming dated quickly. If you’re trying to drive sales of the latest phone, or camera, in six months those products will be old news, and your blog post could equally become old news.

We therefore try as best as we can to take the opportunity to provide youth work ideas and principles that will be equally as valid in five years as they are today.

How else does the festive season affect your blog and blogging schedule?

I have a full-time day job and will only be taking a couple of days off over Christmas—I contract for an insurance company so if I don’t work, I don’t get paid! My blogging schedule therefore won’t change much, as I’ll be maintaining the same daily routine.

Our engagement with subscribers and social media followers won’t change much either, but that’s because we don’t have a large focus on those channels at the moment. Both my wife and I have full-time jobs, do volunteer youth work in our spare time, and blog six days a week. Unfortunately, we’ve therefore been unable to focus any time and energy on engaging with readers and followers on a consistent basis.

What’s the start of the New Year got in store for Youth Workin’ It?

Although we’re not taking any time off around New Year, the start of 2013 is going to be very busy. My wife Shae is going to be a speaker at Open Boston—a new youth ministry event—so she’ll be planning her talk for that. She also runs three girl scout troops in low-income housing areas that rely on fundraising in order to organize activities, which means she’ll also be focused on selling Girl Scout cookies.

The result of this is that I’ll be taking over more of the blogging responsibilities. I’ll therefore try to get ahead on my blogging schedule, particularly at weekends.

And what will you be most heavily focused on?

In addition to our regular blogging, we’re aiming to publish at least two new youth work resources again this coming year. That’s an area I’ll be focusing on, along with writing guest posts for other blogs. I’ve also been approached about another blogging project which looks set to be an amazing and fun opportunity.

On top of all this, I’ve recently set up a separate scavenger hunt blog. As mentioned earlier, these activities were popular on Youth Workin’ It, but we didn’t want them to be our primary focus. I’ve therefore set up this separate niche site so that I can keep publishing these ideas, which will also hopefully drive a few more sales of our scavenger hunt book.

Shae’s focus will be on getting more speaking and consulting opportunities. We’re also planning on setting up a non-profit that will work with young people in our local low-income communities, so we’re definitely going to be busy!

We’re not planning on making any changes to the general design or layout of our site, but are seriously considering signing up with AWeber instead of relying on Feedburner to deliver our daily emails.

One of the reasons for this is that we’re considering experimenting with popovers to gain even more email subscribers, especially having seen how much success Darren had with this technique.

As we’re not a commercial blog, we’d be paying for the service out of our own pocket without expecting to earn any revenue from email subscribers, which is why we’ve held off on doing this so far. The increase in subscribers should be a good longer term investment though, as it’ll help get the Youth Workin’ It name out more widely and will hopefully result in further speaking and consultancy opportunities for Shae.

What’s your advice to other not-for-profit bloggers to make the most of the festive season—both on their blogs, and in their personal lives?

Depending on the nature of your blog, prepare for the festive season well in advance. As I mentioned earlier, we’re already receiving hundreds of visitors to our posts relating to the festive season. As always, Google’s keyword tool is an invaluable resource for finding out what people in your niche are searching for when it comes to Christmas, the New Year, and other religious holidays.

In the New Year, people will be looking for a new start and fresh ideas. What can you offer them to make their lives better?

As for your personal lives, make sure that you have some balance. Answering these questions has made me realize how much I want to achieve for 2013, but this could easily result in working too hard and getting burned out. I therefore need to make sure that I intentionally carve out time—even if it’s just for one weekend in December—where I don’t touch blogging at all.

I’ve found this leaves me feeling incredibly refreshed, so this will set me up well to launch into 2013.

Huge thanks to Stephen for taking the time for this interview. If you run a not-for-profit or cause blog, what are you doing to prepare for the festive season? Share your plans in the comments!