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Beginner Blogger? Download this Free Report

If you’re a new blogger or one that’s been at it for a while but need a ‘boost’ you need to grab this free ‘Roadmap Report’ from the team at Become a Blogger – Yaro Starak and Gideon Shalwick.

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Yaro is the guy behind the very successful BlogMastermind blog coaching and mentoring program and has been working with Gideon on this new resource. Together they’ve produced a great series of free videos for those starting out in blogging at Become a Blogger. These videos have been watched tens of thousands of times and have helped many bloggers.

In the new Roadmap to Become a Blogger reports there’s some great information. Much of it centers around the idea of the X-factor – techniques that can help you stand from the crowd out as a blogger.

update: for those of you who don’t like to read – Yaro and Gideon have just released an audio version of it to those who have signed up.

What does it cost you?

The Roadmap report and videos are all free.

There is a paid program being launched in a couple of days that extends the ideas in the report but having read the report a few days ago I think there’s value in there whether you signup for the full paid program or not.

The actual course will be priced at a very affordable level from what I hear and looks like being something that will fit with many ProBlogger readers – but you can get a taste for if you are interested in that with this report and videos.

What I learned about Blogging from the U.S. Presidential Election

In today’s guest post Trisha from Ideas for Women shares some lessons that she learned from the US Presidential Election.

I followed this year’s U.S. presidential election pretty closely on T.V. and also volunteered for one of the candidates. Over I time I began to notice some parallels between running a successful campaign and a successful blog.

I don’t plan to ever run for president – but I would like to have a more successful blog. I would also like to share what I learned and hope that it will be helpful to other bloggers.

US-Election-Blogging.pngImage by BohPhoto

1. You need a story

Both of the presidential candidates and their running mates had a story. John McCain was a P.O.W., Sarah Palin, a hockey mom. Joe Biden was from Scranton, Pennsylvania and stuttered as kid. Barack Obama’s story is that he is the “son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas”.

The details of the stories don’t really matter. What matters is how they /framed/ their story – their story had to be everyone else’s story – a story people could relate to.

John McCain was a guy who loved his country and was willing to do whatever it took to defend it – just like many Americans have done or would be willing to do. Sarah Palin, a mom with many of the same concerns of other American moms across the country. Joe Biden had many obstacles growing up – but overcame them and is still a down to earth guy that people could relate to. Obama’s story is a little more complicated – most of us don’t have fathers from another country, etc. But as he said – his story could only happen in America and that while “we may have different stories we hold common hopes”.

He even had a flyer that said: “His story is our story – an American story.”

It’s the same way with blogging. You need a story (I’m still working on this myself) – it has to be uniquely about you, but it still has to be something your readers and potential readers can relate to. It has to somehow be their story too.

An example is Wendy Piersall – her story is about “one little mom who wanted to start a blog as a hobby” and now has grown to 14 bloggers that are “willing to do what it takes to make a great living while also living a great a life.”

Many people can relate to her story – struggling with finding a successful career path and juggling that with raising kids.

Each of the candidates did a good job of telling their story and framing it so other people could understand and relate to it. That isn’t enough to win an election, just as it’s not enough by itself to make a blog successful. But it’s a good start for letting people know who you are so you can begin building relationships with them.

Once you share your story on your blog you give your readers a chance to share in a part of your life – your struggles and successes can be theirs too. And once you build those relationships, the resulting community that forms can share their struggles and successes with you also!

2. You need a community

Obama had a huge number of people volunteering for him – millions – literally millions across the country. The volunteers created a grassroots effort that helped to get the word out about him being a great candidate for president. They helped to recruit even more volunteers and convinced even more people to vote for him.

Together the paid workers, the volunteers and other supporters created a huge and powerful community. Huge communities of enthusiastic followers attract even more people.

He not only had an offline community – but an online community as well.

His website had groups you could join based on geography, political issues and many different interests or hobbies. You could find groups in your own local area or based anywhere in the world. You could add people as friends or search for old friends. You could have a blog at his site. You could find out about offline events through his site. In short – his site brought people together to promote a common goal.

Communities are created by lots of individual relationships between many different people with similar interests. In Obama’s case, his community’s common interest was in him and in helping him win the election.

Blogs are similar. You need to create a community of readers.

One expert on building blogging communities is Liz Strauss who specializes in relationship blogging. She is great at creating a blogging environment that makes people feel welcome and encourages them to participate. As she says on her blog: “You’re only a stranger once”.

This is very vital to making a blog successful – identify a common interest of your readers, invite them in and let them participate in the conversation.

Another thing I noticed when I was volunteering – I was always welcomed by the other volunteers and paid people. They always appreciated any effort you made, so matter how small. Liz does this too – whenever you stop by her Tuesday Open Comments Night – you always feel appreciated.

Probably the most important thing to remember about blogging is this:

… massively successful blogging is about establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships

Establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships is a big part of why Obama won the election – and is also why the top bloggers are so successful!

3. Pay attention to the numbers, but don’t take them too seriously

It was difficult to keep from checking all the polls everyday for this election. Some days it looked good, but you could never feel too confident. The next day things could change. And you never know until the actual day of the election how it will turn out.

Obama even warned his supporters about getting too confident and that he still needed them working for him on Election Day – and every day leading up to it.

With blogging it’s easy to get caught up with checking your subscriber numbers, your Page Rank, Technorati rankings, etc. But in the end, those numbers don’t mean that much.

Subscribers can unsubscribe just as fast as or faster than they subscribed in the first place. And many subscribers don’t actually read all the blogs they subscribe to. Page Rank doesn’t contribute as much to the Google algorithm as it once did, etc.

There’s nothing wrong with checking these numbers and being aware of them (what blogger wouldn’t want to be able to display FeedBurner numbers like those of Darren Rowse: over 66,000 subscribers!) – but what really matters is real people – not numbers.

Who are your readers? What are they looking for? Are you meeting their needs?

To build the community I wrote about in Part II – ask yourself: “Am I making my visitors feel welcome? Have I created an environment that encourages them to participate?”

Always, always keep working to improve your blog. Don’t let yourself get too confident or complacent. Work on your content. Tweak your design. Reach out to and build relationships with other bloggers. Keep your current readers engaged. Always look for opportunities to attract new readers to your blog.

But do take a break now and then! I realized after a while that I needed to take a break from watching all the polls and election coverage on T.V. It’s too overwhelming after a while. It’s good to walk away a bit and get some perspective.

It’s the same with blogging. Sometimes you have to take a break for a little while. Do something else. Read a book or talk to people offline. It can help to get you recharged – before you completely burn out – and to come up with new and creative ideas to write about!

4. Everyone has an opinion

Everyone has an opinion and has the right to express it, in politics and in everything else in life. When I was out doing door to door canvassing I was quite often surprised by some of the responses I got. Some supportive, some not and some just way out there about issues you never would have thought about that would leave me scratching my head in disbelief.

Sometimes I would come up to a house and think I had a pretty good guess at which candidate they were supporting and be completely wrong. Sometimes I would guess right.

On a blog if you want to create a community you should let people express their opinions in your comments sections even when you don’t agree with them. Of course if the comment is threatening or filled with hate speech you should moderate it. But as long as the person is polite, differing opinions can be enlightening and stimulate more conversation and are sometimes quite entertaining!

If the conversation gets too negative – try to turn it around and make it into a positive. When people booed as Obama mentioned McCain at a rally he told people not to boo – just vote.

On the other side of things – you the blogger, are expressing your opinion whenever you write a post.

Both politicians and bloggers need to really believe in themselves and the ideas they are promoting. If not, people will see through what you are saying and it will be more difficult to be successful.

If fact if you aren’t getting much of a response with your blog it may be that you are not being opinionated enough. According to Kelly McCausey guest posting at Remarkablogger:

All else being equal, if you’re not getting the traffic you want and the income you want … you’re probably not being opinionated enough.

Some rules she included for being opinionated apply well to both politicians and bloggers:

Accept that you will alienate someone.

Step up and justify your opinions.

Expect and respect opposing opinions.

I’m pretty shy and am surprised at myself that I was brave enough to knock on the doors of total strangers and express my opinion in favor of Obama. Yes, some people were rude – but I kept knocking anyway. And yes, I had Obama signs stolen from my yard three times – but I kept putting more out there anyway. And yes some people will disagree with what you write on your blog – but keep writing anyway!

Some people will never agree with you – on politics or what you blog about, but that’s ok – don’t let it stop you or slow you down!

3 Successful Bloggers Share their Blog Tips [VIDEO]

Here’s another compilation of blog tips from three prominent bloggers – Jeremy from Shoemoney, Steve Pavlina and Andy Wibbels.

The video was shot at Blog World Expo 08 on a Flip Video Mino Series Camcorder.

See this video at full size on YouTube, Blip.tv and Viddler. See the last video in this series with another 4 bloggers here.

Get more Blog tips from our Blog Tips for Beginners series.

The Psychology of Blogging

Psychology-Of-BloggingToday Life Coach Tim Brownson from A Daring Adventure explores 6 tips to get your mindset right when approaching blogging.

  • 10 spare hours a week – Check
  • Niche market – Check
  • Basic understanding of SEO – Check
  • Google Adsense account – Check
  • Dummies’ guide to writing great content – Check
  • Burning desire to succeed – Check

There are a lot of great sites, this one included, that can help aspiring writers progress smoothly through the ranks of mere blogging wannabes to the heady heights of ‘A’ listers. To read some articles it would be easy to assume if you follow this A-Z of Blogging success you’ll be basking in the adulation of thousands of subscribers faster than you can say “Really Simple Syndication”.

The reality is that, like people in most industries, few bloggers make a successful transition to the very highest level. Even though they know at a mechanical level what’s needed, they don’t seem to be able to put everything in place. There are a number of obvious reasons such as a lack of focus and/or discipline, inability to write great content and a lack of understanding of the requirements of their target audience, and one less obvious one.

Few newbies take into consideration (or maybe just take for granted) the psychology behind becoming a successful blogger: the ability to roll with the punches and succeed come what may. It’s not enough to just know the technical side of things, you have to be able to stay on track, stay committed and hopefully stay sane. Otherwise you’re likely to burn out quicker than a magnesium candle.

Here are the six tips that, coupled with all the other great advice on offer, will, if not guarantee your success, certainly stack the odds more heavily in your favor.

1. Patience Is A Virtue

If you’re naturally an impatient person you’ll want to curb that tendency when you get into blogging. Otherwise you’re likely to end up very frustrated and very stressed. Wanting to get on with the job in hand is all well and good – but it doesn’t matter how far your veins bulge out of your neck, Alexa won’t be back to your site for a day or two and Google won’t be indexing you on a daily basis to begin with, so let it go.

Do what you need to do to meet your short-term goals and relax in the knowledge that all is good in the world. Be aware of what is within your circle of influence and what is outside it, and then stay focused on the former.

Unless you are very lucky, have lots of spare cash to advertise or have oodles of time on your hands to go on a commenting frenzy, it’s unlikely you’re going to see much of a return inside six months. It can be done, but don’t bank on it

2. Perfectionism Is Pointless

One of the biggest killers of projects is perfectionism in all its various guises. If you are to stand any chance of getting to the stage where all you have to do is switch your computer on to make money, you need to realize that some of your early stuff will be less than stellar.

I thought my early posts were insightful, thought provoking and witty. When I look at them now I roll my eyes and think they were pretentious, self indulgent and forced. It took me over a year to become happy with my writing style and find my niche. Writing is a practice and you’ll improve in the same way as you would if you took up playing the guitar, speaking a foreign lesson or public speaking.

Accept that some of your early stuff will not be perfect and publish it anyway. In fact publish it BECAUSE it’s not perfect. You’ll only really learn and develop as a writer by getting your stuff ‘out there’ and seeing what response you get, or even don’t get.

3. Embrace Failure

I’m sure you have heard the phrase “fail, fail often, and fail quickly”. It makes perfect sense to fail as quickly as you can so that you can learn from those errors and move forward. Ask any ‘A’ lister if they have screwed up at some stage and I’m confident somewhere in the region of 100% will say yes.

That’s life, that is how human beings are wired up to learn and you’re no exception. Of course you should learn as much as you can and avoid the really obvious pitfalls by reading books such as Darren and Chris’s ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income. However there’ll plenty of non-obvious roadblocks specific to your area of expertise that you won’t be expecting and won’t foresee, no matter how much planning and research you do.

Embrace these roadblocks, kiss them and thank each and every one of them for turning up. Each one that you overcome is an opportunity to learn and grow. Not only that, but every one that you deal with successfully separates you from the also-rans that have bailed out at the first sign of trouble.

When (and not if) something goes wrong ask yourself one simple question: “What can I learn from this?” If you can take some valuable experience with you, and know that you won’t repeat the same mistake, then it’s been worth it.

Anybody that has failed spectacularly only to go on to bigger and better things will tell you they wouldn’t have it any other way. We need the agony of short-term failure to ensure delicious long-term and long lasting success.

4. Develop A Thick Skin

Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Unfortunately Benny didn’t have a blog, because if he had the quote would have been “”In this world nothing is certain but death, taxes and if your blog becomes popular people will get jealous and want to see you fail.”

It doesn’t matter how brilliant your blog is, how much you pour your heart and soul into it, how genuine you are and what the quality of the writing is like, some people will still want to see you knocked down a peg or two. In fact, the more successful you are, the more some people will want to see you fail. Twas ever thus I’m afraid.

You’ll probably receive abusive e-mails from time to time as well as commenters who want to make you look foolish and/or criticize you. That’s just life as an ‘A’ list blogger. You need to either deal with it or prepare yourself for the day when you’re asked to put on the jacket with the very long sleeves.

Understand your readers do not know you. Some will think they do and may even start to perceive you as a friend. This is cool as long as they don’t start hanging around outside your house and sending you rabbit paws through the mail, but they still don’t know you. Therefore, any criticism that is aimed at you reveals nothing about you. It says plenty about the person that administers it, but that’s about as far as it goes.

You should deal with criticism the same way as you should deal with compliments: with a pinch of salt. Of course we all prefer to receive compliments, but they’re two sides of the same coin. If you take the good stuff too seriously, you’ll not be able to deal with the bad stuff when it arrives.

Whatever somebody says, simply thank them for their feedback. Then decide whether that feedback is useful and can help you move forward. If it can, great, use it. If it can’t, drop it because you don’t need it.

5. Stay Focused

This leads on from growing a thick skin. If you’re too heavily influenced by what others say you’re going to lose focus. Why did you start the blog? What are your goals? Who are you writing for? Get back to basics and re-connect with your real objectives from time to time. Otherwise you’ll start trying to please everybody and end up pleasing nobody.

Readers will come and readers will go, that’s just how it is. It isn’t about you and it’s pointless to try and work out people’s motives. I have enough trouble trying to work out what is going on inside my own head without trying to second-guess what other people are thinking. Firstly, you’re going to waste a lot of time and emotional energy and secondly you’re probably going to get it wrong, if not horribly wrong. Let it go.

6. Know Your Identity

Your blog is not you; it’s not your identity. If it crashes and burns that doesn’t mean you do too. We all want a successful blog with people lining up to comment and pay us homage (I know I do anyway), but it’s really not life and death.

Keep some perspective. Go all out to achieve your goals (you have got written goals, right?), but don’t stay attached to the results. Not only will that mean you keep a sense of balance, but conversely it will make you more likely to achieve your aims anyway.

Read more from Today Life Coach at A Daring Adventure.

Finding Your Posting Rhythm [Part 2]

Yesterday I suggested 4 tips for helping bloggers to find their posting rhythm:

  1. There is no Right Posting Level
  2. Start out Slow and Work Your Way Up
  3. Monitor Your Readerships Response to Your Posting Levels
  4. Consistency is Important

Today I want to share 4 more tips on posting workflows.

5. Work on Your Posting Workflow – Identify the Blockage Points

One piece of advice that I give new bloggers struggling with this area is to think about their posting workflow.

  • Look at the way that you post – from the idea generation stage through to publishing?
  • Where do the blockages come?
  • How can you put processes in place at those ‘blockage’ points to help free up the flow of posts?

For example I talked with one of our bloggers at b5media recently who was struggling to get posts out. When I asked her to analyze her workflow she identified her main ‘blockage point’ at the idea generation stage. Once she had an idea she could get the post out quite quickly – but was spending a lot of time each day coming up with topics to write on.

Knowing this we were able to develop a simple plan for post idea generation that included getting a notebook for capturing of ideas, setting aside time at the start of each week to brainstorm ideas (rather than doing it just before deadlines), setting out an editorial calendar for the week (so topics were outlined ahead of time) and finding a blog buddy to brainstorm with (two bloggers coming up with ideas for each other).

Another example that comes to mind was a blogger who identified his ‘blockage point’ as what I’d call ‘polishing’ his posts. He loves the writing process but struggled to make his posts look good (finding pictures, coming up with sub headings and the title for his post, spell checking etc). He just found all of this very ‘chore like’. I discovered in talking to him that he had over 50 posts half written in a folder on his desktop!

Once we identified this blockage point the blogger decided that he needed to do two things. Firstly he enrolled himself in a class at an adult education centre – the class was on copy editing. Secondly he gave his wife permission to get on his back about ‘finishing’ posts.

Where are the blockage points in your posting workflow?

Further Reading on blogging workflow:

6. Don’t Post Just for the Sake of Posting

Sometimes as a blogger you face the choice of posting something that is second rate or not posting at all. The temptation is to put a post out there simply to meet a deadline or because you fear your readers reaction if you don’t post something.

The reality is that you can do more harm than good by posting something of lower quality than not posting anything.

Before posting each post ask yourself whether the post will actually enhance your readers lives in some way? Will it help them, entertain them, inform them, educate them, inspire them etc? If the answer is no – strongly consider not hitting publish.

Further Reading on this topicDoes Your Next Post Matter?

7. Batch Writing

One strategy that I find helps me when I need to produce 14 posts a week here at ProBlogger is to set aside time each week to write multiple posts at once. Monday mornings are a a time where I generally camp out in a cafe with my laptop and aim to get 4-5 posts written in one sitting. I also try to do this for a morning later in the week and between the two sessions can usually get one solid post written for each day of the week.

I’ve written more about batch processing previously – it can be applied to many areas of your blogging.

8. You Will Become More Efficient Over Time

Let me finish by giving you a word of encouragement to end on – it gets better! Hang in there.

As I look back on my journey of blogging to when I first started (almost six years ago now) I notice a definite change in my ability to produce content. While it can still be difficult to maintain the posting level that I set myself it has certainly become easier.

One reason for this is that with practice you tend to become a better and more efficient writer. The more you write the better you get at it – particularly if you’re learning from your mistakes and looking to improve.

I suspect also that over time you simply become more proficient with your topic and as you do this are able to draw upon your growing levels of knowledge on the topic.

The other thing that I think I’ve become better at in that time is coming up with topics to write about. I do remember in the early days sitting down at the keyboard and just having a mental blank. However over time you get more used to coming up with ideas – or at least your mind becomes more attuned to capturing the ideas that you get through the day. These days ideas for posts come to me in the most bizarre places (I even recently had an idea while dreaming).

Why I’ve Been Offered Close to a Million Dollars for My Blog (and Why I said No)

“I’ve always treated the first two years of Digital Photography School as its launch phase.”

This was a statement that I made in a session at Blog World Expo that I’ve been asked about many times since – so I thought I’d expand upon it a little here in a post.

2006-2008: The Launch of Digital Photography School

I launched DPS back in April of 2006 (I first spoke about it here on ProBlogger in one of my first video posts). As you’ll see from that initial post – I always saw DPS as something of an experiment and a long term project. Having built numerous blogs before starting that one I new that building a blog to it’s potential takes a lot of time and hard work.

As a result, I gave myself a goal to get that blog two years to get through it’s ‘launch phase’.

That might seem like a long time to get a blog up and running but for me the ‘launch phase’ meant more than simply getting the blog designed and announcing it – for me the ‘launch’ is all about these sorts of things:

  • building a foundation of solid content (the blog now has 713 posts, most of which are ‘how to’ or ‘tutorial’ style content)
  • getting an initial design up (I launched with a free design and quickly upgraded to a purpose built one. It’s now dated and we’ve outgrown it – but it has served us well).
  • building a loyal readership and subscribers (the blog is now read by around a million readers a month and subscribed to by over 100,000. The forum has around 200,000 visitors a month.)
  • building community (this takes time. Initially I did it with a Flickr group and then leveraged that to start a forum – now with 23,000 members).
  • building a ‘list‘ (at the heart of DPS is a newsletter which drives traffic and builds community. It is sent to around 48,000 subscribers per week).
  • establishing a publishing routine (I started off posting 3 times a week and have built it up to posting 7 times a week)
  • building a content creation team (originally I wrote every post – now the blog is written by a team of 5 paid writers (each doing one post per week) and a number of regular guest contributers)
  • building a team of community leaders (the forum is moderated by a wonderful team of voluntary members)
  • building relationships with other bloggers and partners (something I was slow doing, mainly due to being time poor – more recently however I’ve been more intentional building relationships with others in the industry)
  • experimenting with monetization – (making money from the site hasn’t been high on my priority list to this point – rather in this launch phase it has been more about working out what types of monetization works and what the community responds to. The site does make money, but more importantly I’ve been learning about monetization)

Most bloggers probably don’t see a lot of this as a ‘launch phase’ – but for me it has definitely been more about building foundations for what is to come than seeing anything I’ve done so far as an ‘end result’.

While I’m really happy with (and surprised by) what we’ve achieved so far at DPS – seeing it as being in it’s launch phase reminds me to keep lifting my sights and to keep on building and dreaming.

One of the Results of Building Good Foundations

Over the last few months I’ve been approached on 3 occasions by potential buyers of DPS. It has actually been quite strange because they all came very quickly and quite out of the blue. The offers ranged quite considerably in terms of numbers but a couple were tempting.

In each case the potential buyer commented that they wanted to buy DPS because it was ‘solid’. Each one was less interested in what the site was making in terms of income or how much raw traffic it had than other factors. They were looking more at things like brand, community, reader loyalty, influence, reader morale and user participation.

In fact what surprised me is that the valuations that they put on the site (very high six figure sums) were not based upon what it was currently earning at all. They made offers based upon these other factors – factors that made their offers much higher than a valuation based upon traffic or monthly income alone.

What Will Phase 2 Look Like?

While a couple of the offers were very tempting I realized as i deliberated that the potential for DPS was far greater than what it had yet achieved. I’ve only just begun. To sell now tempted me (and I probably would have sold at the right price) but I realized that for me to take it beyond where it has grown to will see it rise exponentially in value.

It has been 2.5 years now since officially launching the site – so it’s now time to move into the next ‘phase’.

I’m not ready to fully announce all of the details of the next phase of DPS – however it will involve a redesign (hopefully to go live around the end of the year) and a fairly significant ‘expansion’. In essence the way I’m viewing the last 2.5 years is that I’ve been building foundations and that now it is time to expand and leverage what has already been built.

To do so means significant investment back into the site financially but with the solid base of readership, community and relationships that I’ve been working hard to build I’m pretty confident that Phase 2 will be successful. I’m also really excited about what’s coming!

Build Solid Foundations

When I speak with many bloggers I get the feeling that all they’re really thinking about is growing traffic and subscriber numbers as fast as possible. While these are definitely things to work hard on I attempt to convey to them that there are other ‘foundations’ that need to be built into a blog than just traffic.

Most bloggers put a lot of energy into building blogs with high readership – but how about setting goals and strategies in place for some of the other areas mentioned above?

  • Take a long term view of your blogging
  • Take your time to build strong foundations that go beyond traffic and income

As you do these two things you’ll put yourself in a position to build a site of significance.

13 Tips to Recession Proof Your Blog

How can I prepare my blog for a recession or economic downturn?

Recession-Proof-BlogImage by Rednuht

Yesterday I asked my Twitter followers what they wanted me to write a post about on ProBlogger and this question (and variations of it) was asked repeatedly.

So today I want to suggest a number of ways that bloggers, particularly bloggers making a living from their blogs, can prepare themselves to ride out the economic downturn that we are having.

I’ve also asked my Twitter Followers and Facebook Friends for their tips on the topic and have included some of their responses (there were too many to use in the end so I’ve used about a third of them).

How to Recession Proof Your Blog

1. Focus Upon Content

Don’t become distracted from building quality content. While it is shaky times in some of the Web 2.0 industries and technologies people continue to go online more and more to find information that will enhance their lives. Your primary activity as a blogger needs to be on creating useful content that will solve problems, enhance lives and fulfil needs. This needs to be your core activity – recession or no recession – don’t become distracted from it.

The last thing I’ll say about content is that I suspect ‘how to’ or ‘advice’ content is particularly important in times like these. There is a general sense of uncertainty in the air at the moment and while people are always searching for ‘tips’ and ‘how to’ type content I suspect in economic downturn that searching for this type of content will only increase.

  • @nathanrice suggests – ‘keep writing. great content doesn’t take a lot of money to produce. It just takes time and patience.’
  • @dcrblogs suggested – ‘Make sure the blog adds value to people’s lives in some way.’
  • @HollyJahangiri suggests ‘offer timeless content for free’ – I think this is a wise move. Don’t just write for the hear and now but write the type of content that people will still be searching for in years to come. This type of content can drive traffic (and build income) for years to come.

2. Build Networks

‘It isn’t what you know but who you know’ – I have a feeling that this mantra will only become more important in times of economic downturn. I think a wise use of time in coming months would be to invest into your existing networks and to work on expanding them. Both online social networking and real life networks can open up great opportunities and provide you with support in tough times.

Perhaps working with another blogger (or a group of bloggers) to support each other and to promote one another’s work could be one way forward through this tough time. Together we know and can achieve so much more than we can individually.

  • @lucio_ribeiro suggests – ‘Cooperation works on recession. Team up with another blogs for promotion of mutual content ‘

3. Don’t Panic

I met a few bloggers at Blog World Expo who within 30 seconds of meeting them had almost worked themselves into a lather of worry, stress and panic as they talked about their blogging future.

I’m not saying the times we live in are not reason to be concerned – but panicking is not going to do you (or those around you) any favours. Do what you can to have a level head and to look logically at the situation – if you can’t, find others who can and give them permission to slap you in the face next time you go into panic mode.

Related to this – don’t panic publicly on your blog. There are plenty of bloggers around whipping their readers into a frenzy about the economic downturn – why not do something different and provide a positive place?

  • @JonSymons suggests – ‘Write posts that focus on feeling good, and are proactive, not negative.’
  • @jonathanmead suggested – ‘Market to people re-gaining power of their lives. Make them feel in control when they powerless.’

On a related note – blog with a little sensitivity and knowing that your readers might be doing it tough.

  • @CraneFactory suggested – ‘humility and sensitivity. in a recession when ppl are doing it tough reading about John Chows $500 dinners might put ppl off.’
  • @juliemarg suggests – ‘Don’t Be Snarky (my tip) remember that sarcastic/cynical personal commentary could alienate potential collaborators’
  • Nicole Ouellette wrote – ‘Be positive in your blogging. People are tired of reading the negative in this economy. Bonus if you can teach them something with your post. Empowerment is an empowering thing!’

4. Build Your Own Products/Services

Finding it harder to find advertisers for your blog? Why not advertise yourself? Bloggers that use their blogs to sell themselves, or a product or service that they sell add another monetization stream to their blog.

5. Build Authority

One of the most powerful things that you can do at any time as a blogger is to work hard on building up your profile and perceived expertise and authority in an industry. This is especially powerful in times of uncertainty where people are looking for leadership, advice and stability. Build relationships and be the most useful person that you can in these times and you’ll position yourself as a leader in your field.

6. Backup

It strikes me that over the coming months we might start seeing companies that we rely upon for services as bloggers go out of business. For example what if your hosting company was to go under – or the company you use to store your video or podcasts online? Might be time to backup – just in case.

  • @adamtaylor suggested – ‘be even more rigorous with backups incase someone goes bust!’

7. Diversify Your Income

If your family’s income and livelihood relies upon your blogging it might be a wise move to think about how you can build multiple income streams rather than just relying upon one. This could happen in a number of ways ranging from not just relying upon Advertising income but using affiliate marketing, having multiple blogs, doing some freelance writing and even getting a 2nd part time job (offline).

  • @EcoAussie suggested – ‘maybe u need another blog or niche to diversify.’
  • @lizzy7577 suggests – ‘Make sure you have a variety of blog income sources to depend on.’
  • @WayneHurlbert suggests – ‘Make sure you have a variety of blog income sources to depend on.’
  • @jonathanfields suggests – ‘Assess whether your readers’ information/entertainment needs have shifted. If so, adapt your content to stay insanely relevant’
  • @deniseoberry suggested – ‘Diversify around your core topic. Watch the 80/20 ratio of interest. As the 20% evolves, your writing should focus on that area.’

8. Look for Opportunities in the Negative

I was given this advice by an older family friend recently. He said – ‘In Recessions some industries boom – position yourself in them’. While many industries shrink in times of economic downturn others grow. I was at a search engine conference recently and one of the presenters said that there had been a sharp increase in search traffic around topics related to financial advice, budgeting, employment advice etc. Starting blogs in these types of topics could be a wise move at this time.

  • @ncheapskate suggested – ‘Write about fugal living. That’s working for me.’
  • @cyberpunkdreams suggests – ‘aiming the blog at freelancers perhaps? Freelancer numbers are expected to go way up.’

9. Find ways to Expand and Improve your Blog

I’m no economist, but from my limited study of economics and entrepreneurship it seems to me that while most companies take defensive positions in times of recession – certain companies and individuals see these sorts of times as opportunities to expand and position themselves for the future so that when the economy expands that they are ahead of their competitors.

I think expansion in times like these needs to be done smartly and responsibly (don’t spend your life savings if your family depends upon them) but I personally am planning on expanding my blogs in the coming months by adding new features, improving design etc.

  • @collegegourmet suggests – ‘Spend some money on ads and PR. Most people blow budget during good econ. but when times are bad is when u need it most.’

10. Track Track Track

I’ve been on a bit of a ‘metrics’ binge lately – examining the statistics that Google Reader (and other stats programs) are giving me on how my blogs are performing. While there is a danger in becoming obsessed by stats (at the expense of other important elements of writing a blog) it is amazing what you can learn about improving your blog by analysing how people are already using it.

Look at what people are searching for to find your blog, what they are searching for while on your blog (a tool like Lijit can give this information), what posts are most popular, what pages are leaking most readers, where people are clicking on your page (a tool like CrazyEgg helps with this) etc – all of this tells you how your blog is being used but can reveal ways that it can be improved.

11. Work Hard and Work Smart

There is no escaping it – building successful blogs takes a lot of work. I’m yet to meet a successful blogger who doesn’t put significant hours into their blogs development. Having said that – many bloggers also waste a lot of time. Identify core activities that you need to do to keep your blog on track and stick to them ruthlessly. Learn how to manage your time, eliminate distractions, identify goals and objectives (both short term and long term) and keep focused.

While doing all of this – take a long term view of your blogging. Blog rarely hit it big overnight – you’ll need to still be building your blog up in 2-3 years if you want it to reach its potential – so have a long term view and settle yourself in for the journey!

  • @GrantGriffiths suggested – ‘recession proof by focusing, focusing, and focusing. Dont try to be everything to everybody. Concentrate on your niche.’

12. Cut Costs

When times get tough another way to get through them is to cut down on unnecessary spending. Go through your expenses (credit card statements and paypal history) and look at what you’re paying for. Often as bloggers we sign up for small recurring services that don’t cost much but which we hardly use – perhaps it is time to eliminate some of these costs that are not important and/or to find ways to cut back.

  • @jonathanfields suggests – ‘analyze recent server loads and see if you might be able to scale down to a more modest hosting plan.’
  • Frerickus Willliford suggests – ‘Use wp-cache to save on bandwidth by reducing server load every bit counts.’

13. Experiment with Income Streams

One of the things I’ve noticed recently is that different income streams are really behaving quite differently on different blogs.

For example I was chatting with a group of bloggers recently who told me that their AdSense earnings had drastically dropped. As we were chatting another blogger came into the conversation and told us that his AdSense eCPM had almost doubled in the last 2 months.

In some industries CPC advertising is on the decline, in others it is on the rise. For some affiliate marketing is just not converting any more (as people have less disposable income) yet on some topics it is doing better than ever.

The key is to experiment and test different income streams, even old ones that you’ve previously written off might now be performing.

  • @degeeked suggests – ‘Up usage of click-based revenue streams (i.e. not affiliate programs) like AdSense. People still click during a recession.’
  • @ncheapskate suggests – ‘Use affiliates that offer freebies. Logical Media is one that does it all the time. It’s win-win for you and your reader.’
  • Dave Konig responded – ‘Don’t rely on one type of affiliate program, diversify not only your programs but your link types.’

What Would You Add?

You’ve heard a lot of opinions in this post about how to recession proof your blog – but what would you add to the opinions and ideas expressed above?

5 Ways To Optimize Your Blog and Capture More Repeat Visitors

Today Rich Page shares five tips on how to optimize websites to capture repeat readers.

You may be a blogger that thinks they have a pretty popular and well created blog – if so, well done. But remember every blog is a work a progress, and there is always room for improvement. Here are 5 great ways to help optimize and improve your website, and inspire new visitors to become repeat visitors:

1: Track your Internal Search Results

One of the easiest ways to gain insight into your blog and improve it is to track your internal search results. You can easily do this using Google Analytics (learn how to track this), or use this cool wordpress plugin. It’s very important to identify your top searched keywords – it helps you identify what’s popular with your visitors (write more content relating to these), and also, just as importantly, what visitors are failing to find on your blog (look for keyword searches that have zero results and create a post about them – as long as you can make it relevant to your blog). The more relevant internal search results the user finds, then the more chances of them signing up to your feed and coming back for more!

2: Reduce the Bounce Rate of your Articles

The best way to stop someone from leaving immediately after reading your blog articles (i.e. bouncing) is to expose them to as much of your blog’s great content as possible, or by getting them to sign up to your feed. And what is the best way to do this? Immediately after the visitor is done reading the blog entry they arrived at (and remember, most visitors don’t arrive at your homepage – they get deep linked in from search engines or other blogs), at the bottom of the article place prominent text links to subscribe and links to read related content (problogger.com actually does a great job of this). Just don’t fail here and bury these important links away on the right hand column, or at the bottom of your comments, like I see so often.

3: Survey and Learn from Your Website Visitors

What’s another great way to improve your blog? This one is simple, yet many blog owners don’t do it – you need gain feedback from your visitors! Simply sign up for a free survey tool like 4Q, and get to know your visitors better. It allows you to ask your visitors questions in the form of a non-obtrusive pop-up survey. Here are the 3 main questions you need to ask your visitors in order to gain insight for optimizing your blog:

  • What was the reason you came to this blog?
  • Did you find what you were looking for?
  • What else would you like to see at this blog?

Asking these questions allows you to gain some real insight into your visitors and their needs – and remember, a blog that doesn’t meet the needs of visitors could spend all the money in the world to get new traffic, but it wouldn’t get many repeat visits (way cheaper) because the visitors aren’t finding what they want. And don’t just survey your visitors – act on what you find! It can often be very revealing…

4: Build a Community into your Blog

Want to get as many repeat visits as possible, without having to rely on RSS feeds to pull visitors back? Then build a community for your blog, and engage not only yourself with your readers, but allow your readers to engage with each other. This is particularly a great idea if you are niche blogger and you have a small but captive audience. There are a number of ways to create this community for your blog – the basic way is to setup and install ‘MyBlogLog‘ or ‘BuddyPress‘ as a widget on your blog. The more advanced way to build a community is to create a social network around your blog using Ning or KickApps. Both of these are free and allow you to fully customize, brand and create your own community, and use your own blog feed as a main ingredient of the community. Win-win situation for you and your readers!

5: Setup Goals and Begin Testing to Improve Them

Lastly, one of the most important things to remember for blogging success is to set goals and try and beat them. And for blogs, your goal is likely to get as many readers as possible. But be more specific and actionable. For example set a weekly goal for new readers, i.e. 100 new subscribers per week. Then, test elements of your website (using Google Website Optimizer) to try and improve your subscribers and reach your goals. One of the best things to test is the ‘subscription’ area, usually found to the top right of your blog – where your RSS feed links and newsletter signup form usually is. Test different calls to actions, different images and different copy. See which one drives the most goal conversions. And for the goal conversion to work, you will need to tag your thanks page with tracking code (which is easily done if you use AWeber to manager your feed readers). Here is a cool plugin to help you use Google Website Optimizer on your blog. Also, if you are selling a product or giving away something like an ebook on your blog, you can track that as a goal and test to improve sign up rates.

So there we have it. And remember, don’t ever think your blog is ‘done’ – always keep striving to improve your blog. If you don’t, before you know it, a competitor will appear out of nowhere and start stealing away your beloved visitors. For more ideas on how to help improve your blog (and websites in general), and to find ways to stop wasting so much money on online marketing, consider checking out my new free ebook all about this.

So, what are you waiting for? Use these tips and start improving your blog right now – and who knows, it may end up being as successful as ProBlogger one day!

Google BlogSearch Adds Meme Tracking

Today Google released an update to their BlogSearch service – and it isn’t just cosmetic.

Google Blog Search

The update is all about tracking what’s hot around the blogosphere and presenting stories ranked in 11 different categories according to how many other blogs are linking to those stories. You can then drill down and see the blogs that link to the story and a chart of how many did over time.

Blogsearch-Drill-Down

It isn’t a new concept – TechMeme, Technorati, Blogs.com and others have been doing it for years – however what strikes me here is just how comprehensive Google’s results are. While TechMeme only indexes a limited number of blogs Google’s BlogSearch has been indexing millions (?) of blogs for some time now and will be able to provide a different perspective to what is happening in the wider blogosphere (instead of just the cool gang).

It’ll be interesting to see how their results compare over the longer term and how they’ll deal with spammers and those trying to manipulate the service – but at a first impression I like what I see. I just wish there was a way to subscribe to the top stories in each category (I’m surprised that there is not… or am I missing it?).

Further Reading