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Easy Goal Setting for Your New Blog

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

Ask any success guru out there and they will tell you that the most important part of becoming a successful blogger is to set clear goals.

And that is good advice for people who know how they want to tackle problogging. It is good advice for bloggers who know how they want to create content, generate traffic and monetize their blog.

But for the rest of us, who are on a journey where we start somewhere, try things and then respond to the result of our actions, slowly tweaking our strategy and tactics, it is not useful. How do we set clear goals? How do we define exactly where want to be in 12 months when we don’t have clarity on what we want to achieve?

Goal setting for new bloggers

The answer comes down to shifting your focus from end-state goal setting to activity-based goal setting.

On my consumer psychology blog, for example, I don’t know how I want to monetize it. Am I going to make money from ads? Am I going to make money by selling affiliate products? Am I going to make money from consulting? Do I even want to monetize it? I do not know. It all depends on what I discover about my market.

What I do know, however, is that no matter what I want to achieve in the end, I am still going to have to create content and promote my blog. So rather than setting goals around what I want to achieve in the end, I set goals around what I want to do weekly/monthly/yearly.

Accordingly, here are my top three goals:

  1. Write two blog posts every week.
  2. Submit one guest post every week.
  3. Read one non-fiction book a month.

This way if I have a bad week, as I do from time to time, I can make up for it in another week.

Goal setting for new or confused bloggers

So if you are a new blogger or an old timer who does not know what they really want out of their blog yet, but still wants to maximize their chances of success, set activity based goals. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Posting goals

I will write _____ post(s) a week equaling _____ posts a year.

I will read _____ book(s) a month equaling ______ books a year.

Blog promotion goals

I will submit _____ guests a month equaling _____ guest posts a year.

I will comment on ______ blogs posts a week equaling ______ comments a year.

I will network with ______ people on Facebook/Twitter/StumbleUpon a month.

This is a far easier way to set goals when you are new to the world of problogging.

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

How to Get the Best Return on Your Blog

This guest post is by Laura Booz of Blogger Behave.

I started blogging because I caught a glimpse of its potential to give something back to me.

Can you relate? Sure, that “something” is sometimes money. But, as we all know, there’s got to be more driving us to the keyboard, or we’ll lose our enthusiasm. Blogging requires a ton of work, and if it doesn’t offer a sweet return, we get stressed out, our writing grows thin, and our impact weakens.

Though a nice deposit in the old bank account feels terrific, money can’t motivate us to love our work or grow in our craft. We humans need something more than money to be truly excellent, and truly happy. I don’t want to divert you from your financial efforts or goals; I just want to point you towards the thing that will keep you motivated long after the money is invested, gifted, or spent.

I want to remind you of the far greater reward that could actually increase your likelihood for making money: personal growth.

Think about the last time you shook off a bad habit or muscled your way into greater maturity: it rocked, didn’t it? Unlike money, the pay-off of personal growth is a permanent, deeply felt reward that will keep our affection over the long-haul.

At the end of this article, I’ll ask for your input about ways in which we bloggers can grow in our personal lives and in our craft. But for now, sit back and consider my top three ways to ensure that I’m getting the best possible reward from my blog.

1. Write a blog vision statement

In our home, we have a Family Vision Statement that helps each member—from the biggest to the littlest—join together in achieving the same daily goals. That’s what inspired my Blog Vision Statements, which help me to define what my blog looks like, where it’s heading, and the type of content I will keep.

My vision statement is a brief description of what my blog is all about. It helps me stay focused and not compromise for every passing whim and tempting online offer.  I use it to evaluate what I write about, the amount of time I take to write it, and the ambitions I have for my public platform. It’s the permission I need to say, “yes” to beneficial opportunities and “no” to everything else.

Here’s how it works: my newest blog, TheHomeschoolBaby.com exists to “equip homeschooling families with wisdom, practical application, and personal encouragement for their children from birth to five-years old”.

So if I’m suddenly over-dosing on giveaways or product reviews, I’ll know I’m working outside of my vision statement and possibly jeopardizing the value of my blog. The hope is that I like my vision statement so much, I think long and hard before breaking it.

2. Keep an online budget

“Time is money,” isn’t it? We need to be very discerning about the amount of time we are investing in our blogs: does it cross the line into costing us more than it’s worth? For example, as a “mommy blogger” I must be vigilant about my time online. Though adding one more affiliate link might put twelve bucks in my PayPal account, taking the extra fifteen minutes away from my children is not worth it to me.

I evaluate the hours in my day and all of the things that are worth my attention. If I only have one hour available for blogging, so be it. My blog will be a one-hour-a-day blog. It might not pay off the mortgage or catch the eye of thousands of readers, but it’ll be as top-notch as I can make it within that time frame. I’ll divide that hour up into portions so that I can write posts, respond to comments, solicit guest posts, and work on other projects. When the online stopwatch buzzes, my time is up.

Sometimes the sacrifices sting and I wish I had more time to accomplish all of my online dreams, but I’m confident that I will not regret my choices in the long run. To tell you the truth, I’ve found that when I keep healthy parameters on my blogging time, I have much more to offer—even if I only have twenty minutes to think smart and type fast.

3. Write tough yet reasonable expectations

My second-grade teacher was so demanding that I saved almost all of my work from that year in a big trunk. I was so proud of my accomplishments! She had high expectations, and we children were delighted to meet them.

I think about her when it comes to blogging. Thanks to Miss C, I know now to keep my blog in line by asserting some high standards for it. For example, I expect my blog to improve my writing skills, develop my voice, and make me a more honest person. I expect it to help me think twice about my opinions, and five times about my facts. I expect that the feedback from my family, friends, and enemies makes me confess, buck up, or move on.

I expect my blog to influence, help, and encourage other people whom I’d never be able to influence otherwise. I expect it to stretch me out of my comfort zone, increase my compassion for other people, and spur me on into other worthwhile projects.

Over time, I’ve received every item on my list. Gaining so many personally enriching treasures keeps me positive about blogging. It also keeps me in control of my blog, and not the other way around. If I didn’t benefit from my blog on a regular basis, I sure hope I’d stop blogging.

If you find that the motivation to make money just isn’t enough for you, consider writing a vision statement, an online budget, and a list of expectations for your blog. Once you have these in place, you’ll find yourself looking for ways to grow in those areas. You’ll reach out for advice, insights, and opportunities that will help you to grow as a person, not just a blogger-with-a-bank-account. You’ll love the sweet return.

Now it’s your turn to be the wind beneath the wings of bloggers like me. How can we grow in our personal lives and in our craft so that we get the most out of our blogs?

Laura Booz is the author of the new eBook Blogger Behave: Make your blog benefit your life so you can love both!. She writes at http://www.10millionmiles.com about homesteading, homeschooling, faith, and other things that fascinate her along the way.

Don’t Ever Write Without this Writer’s Warm-up

This guest post is by Karol K of Online Business Design blog.

What is a writer’s warm-up? I hear you ask.

I’m going to answer this question in a minute, but first let me get an initial “yes” from you.

Did you ever notice that your initial piece of writing on a given day is not the best you can do, and you’re actually aware of that? Is that a “yes”?

Of course, there can be many reasons for this, but the main one might be simpler than you think. First of all, just because you don’t like what you’ve written doesn’t mean you have a plumber’s writer’s block. Nor does it mean that apparently it’s not your most creative day, nor that the topic doesn’t seem particularly comfortable for you, nor anything else like this.

What if, maybe, you’ve just been writing without warming up first?

Why a warm-up is important

Writer's warm-ups

Image copyright Robert Kneschke - Fotolia.com

I’m sure you know the value (actually, necessity seems to be a better word here) of warming up when it comes to any kind of physical exercise or sport.

You can’t lift heavy weights without starting with very small dumbbells to get you going. And you can’t run a marathon without some prior stretching (and probably a lot of other stuff I know nothing about since I’ve never run a marathon).

Well, it’s not just sports. What was interesting to me when I first went to a vocal class was that it always started with a warm-up too. This lets your voice prepare for the upcoming effort. Staying on the mouth—related topics, warm-ups are also nothing unusual for competitive eating professionals. From what I know they start their “training” by eating a modest one kilo of grapes…

Why is it, then, that most bloggers start writing their posts without any kind of warm-up?

I see four reasons:

  • Up until today they didn’t know about such a thing.
  • They feel warmed-up enough.
  • They don’t see the value.
  • They don’t realize the risks.

Let’s tackle them all at once, starting with the last one.

The risks of not warming up before writing

We all know the risks of not warming up before sports. Lack of a warm-up is the fastest way to an injury or a serious muscle pain that could take away the whole joy of doing sports. On a professional level, lack of a warm-up significantly lowers the performance and can even lead to a career-ending injury.

What about blogging? Well, you’re not going to break any bones, so the risks are not that obvious, but they are still there.

For instance, the most common result of writing without a warm-up is the amount of time you’ll spend staring at a blank screen. Everybody knows that getting started is the most difficult part, and many people struggle to get the words rolling.

Even though you have your post’s topic well researched, and you know what message you want to convey, getting those ideas to a digital piece of paper can be hard.

Thankfully, this whole process can be sped up a lot if you just take care of some basic warm-ups.

You see, no matter the activity, warm-ups are all about getting started. A warm-up is always a set of the most basic, simple and easy movements possible for a given activity.

Therefore, due to its simplicity, no one ever has problems with getting the warm-up done. No one is ever stuck on the warm-up because, practically, that’s impossible.

At first it seems counterintuitive, but warming up actually saves you time. You do begin writing later, that’s true, but you are more likely to finish earlier and create a better post along the way.

To be honest with you, I had my share of can’t-get-started problems in my short blogging career. There were times when I was sitting in front of a blank screen for up to an hour. I felt I couldn’t start writing anything decent even though I had the topic researched.

For me, the cause was simple: writing the mysterious “quality content” is not easy, just like doing a 300-pound bench press is not easy. Even when you posses the necessary skills, both these challenges require some warming up.

How to do a writer’s warm-up

Okay, so what’s the most basic thing you can write, one that doesn’t require any preparation whatsoever, and is impossible to get stuck on?

Writing an essay on the meaning of life is one thing, but I’d advise something different—a personal journal.

It fits the description perfectly. Everyone can write about how their day was, or what they have in plan for the evening, or what they think about other people and situations, and so on. Just like everyone can talk about these things to a friend.

So, every day (or whenever you’re doing your writing), start your writing session by firing up your personal journal (Penzu, for example is a great online journal tool) and jotting down whatever is in your mind.

There are no rules to writing a journal. Whatever you do, you’ll be doing it well. Besides, a personal journal, like the name indicates, is a purely private thing, so no one will ever see it.

I, personally, always write at least one journal entry before starting to work on an article. It takes me five to ten minutes to put down 300-800 words (I wish I could write some decent posts at this rate).

After I have my entry done I immediately switch to writing a post. And since I already have the right mindset, I can usually start without any hesitation lasting longer than two minutes or so.

You know what? I guess the “writer’s training program” is straightforward after all: five minutes of warm-up with a proper writing session afterwards.

I’m only asking for one thing here—have a little faith and try this yourself. Everyone who I’ve ever given this advice to has agreed that it’s one of the most effective things you can do to improve your writing. And for me, it’s been a true game changer.

What do you think about this whole idea? Are you using a similar technique? Maybe you’ve been doing this sort of writer’s warm-up without even knowing it? Feel free to speak up in the comments.

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a 20-something year old web 2.0 entrepreneur from Poland and a grad student at the Silesian University of Technology. He hates to do traditional business but loves to train capoeira. Tune in to get his blogging advice and tips on starting an online business.

How to Create Another Day a Week Just for Blogging

This guest post is by Udi Tirosh of DIYPhotography.

When you start blogging it seems that there is never enough time—especially if you aren’t blogging full time, and you’re doing it from home. You get phone calls that need to be picked up; the service guy for the dishwasher shows up; you must read that important mail. It is not uncommon for an entire day to go by only to find out you didn’t complete any of the tasks you set for yourself.

The magic flask…

What if I told you there was a magic flask you can drink from which will freeze time for you? Every surrounding noise will stop: no calls, no incoming urgent mails, no dishes to wash or laundry to do. It will be just you and the computer. Everyone else will be frozen in time, allowing you to do your work. If you need something from someone, you just call their name and they will wake up for the exact amount of time you need them for an answer. I will grant you one flask a week.

Imagine: a whole day just for you and your work each wee. How would you use it? Would you outline your next blog series? Finally finish that long post that’s waiting in the queue? Brainstorm a subject for your next month of posts? How would you make this time useful?

Finding the extra day

Of course there is no such thing as a magic flask, but getting a day a week for your important work is actually not that hard.

All you have to do is spot the time of day when you are most prolific and productive. For some it is the afternoon, for some it is early morning. For me, it is the period after lunch.

Now decide that you are going to dedicate this time to blogging—think of it as a one-hour meeting with yourself. Actually, don’t just decide it, put it into your calendar. With a reminder. For every day of the week.

This will gain you six hours of uninterrupted work. During that time, don’t answer phones (disconnect or turn them off, if you need to), don’t surf the web (use blocking software if your willpower isn’t strong enough), and dedicate yourself to the blog.

Since this is your best time of day and since you will be uninterrupted, your potential for using this hour for something productive is high.

But it takes commitment. It means that you must use the time for work. And it means that you cannot set this appointment aside. You must stick with it every day. After a while, you’re likely to find that you need to expand that meeting. Go ahead and do that. And after a longer while, you may find that you don’t need this meeting at all.

Now, this is up to you. I’m offering the flask only for the next ten minutes. Use those ten minutes to schedule your daily appointment.

Udi Tirosh runs DIYPhotography, a place for photography lovers, and makes awesome photography products.

The Right-brain Thinker’s Guide to Beating Blogger’s Block

This guest post is by Neil Patel of KISSmetrics.

In his 2009 book A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink explained that the new world of business is a great place to be a right-brain thinker. Right-brain thinkers are the creators and the empathizers. If you’re a blogger, you are probably a right-brained thinker … and you probably deal with blogger’s block on occasion.

What is blogger’s block? It’s what happens to all bloggers as they try to crank out new, original posts day after day: they eventually run out of ideas. Ever struggle with that?

However, have you ever thought about using your very own creative quirks to generate blog post ideas? Following is a list of qualities that right-brain thinkers have and tips on how you can use these qualities to break those moments of blogger’s block and kick out some great blog posts.

Right-brain thinkers are impulsive

Some of the really great bloggers are those who are quick and impulsive when it comes to blogging. Think of Robert Scoble’s comment that if you aren’t at least apologizing once a month, then you are probably not doing anything interesting. He did it in a big way with Twitter. It’s good to catch hell on your blog every once in a while.

To overcome blogger’s block, just throw caution to the wind and see what happens. I know I probably ruffled some feathers when I wrote Why You Should Get Drunk – The ROI of Partying or You don’t have to be smart to be an entrepreneur.

But I stand by what I wrote and I think I provided a lot of people with some good ideas. All the comments I got and tweets suggest I did something right.

Right-brain thinkers question authority and rules

Another great idea for blog posts involves just challenging current rules or asking why certain rules exist.

For example, SEOs are always wondering and challenging why Google is doing certain things. Aaron Wall wrote a great post called Google Aggressively Enters Make Money Online Niche where he made a list of all the listings in the SERPs for a certain term and pointed out how Google products dominated the results. He’s challenging authority, and so should you.

Right-brain thinkers are unlikely to read instruction manual before trying

Ever just get tired of the same old thing? Ever feel like you don’t want to do things the traditional way? If so, that’s great!

Sometimes breaking blogger’s block involves just ignoring the best practices and creating something that breaks the mold. That’s exactly what Smashing Magazine did with The Death of the Boring Blog Post.

Listen, I give you permission to break all the rules. Just forget about the rules and just write! Keep in mind not all of your ideas may work. Be patient and don’t give up, because failure is a great way to improve your blogging skills.

Right-brain thinkers process multiple ideas simultaneously

Good right-brain thinkers can hold more than one idea in their head, even if the ideas are totally different and contradict one another. So, one of the best ways to get creative and break blogger’s block is to bring together two very different ideas.

Austin Kleon takes the idea of creativity and criminality to come up with a very original blog post called Steal Like an Artist. He combines images, drawings, and photos with commentary that leads you down his list of ten things he wishes he’d known about creativity when he started out.

Right-brain thinkers write things down or illustrate

Sometimes it just helps to get your ideas down on the screen. That’s usually what I do once I’ve gathered enough information about the topic I want to write about. And don’t forget: just write as quickly and carelessly as you can! Tell that editor in your head to “shut up,” and just write.

Another way to break writer’s block is to draw. Hugh MacLeod is the superstar in this area, but there are other great drawer/bloggers out there. Just take Organizational Chart of Major Corporations at Bonker’s World or Fake Grimlock’s Minimum Viable Personality drawing. These are two great examples of distilling an idea to its essence.

Right-brain thinkers are visual, focusing on images and patterns

When you’re looking for blog topics to write about, it helps to look for patterns in information. Perhaps you have an idea for a topic and you start to look at articles. Keep reading until some kind of pattern emerges. You might key into something that a handful of people keep saying. That could be your topic you explore.

Or you might spend some time looking at dozens of photos on Instagram, Flickr or deviantART. Any one of those places could trigger an idea for a post.

Right-brain thinkers intuitive, led by feelings

When blogging, do you tend to hide your feelings? In other words, do you try to remain objective and distant? If so, stop it! Bring out your feelings when you write. If something makes you angry, write about it. If something makes you laugh hysterically, write about it.  Besides, ranting is How to Get People to Remember Your Posts.

Right-brain thinkers see the whole first, then the details

If you tend to see how a particular blog post is going to look, like you know the headline and you probably how you are going to open it and close it, but you’re not sure what is going to go in the middle, that’s fine.

If you see the whole post first, it might help you to write an outline. A lot of the time I’ll have the headline and then I’ll work on all the subheadings. Then I’ll go through and start filling out the different sections.

What are the advantages of an outline? Here are three:

  • You won’t get lost: With an outline, you’ll have a road map for your blog post to help you stay on track.
  • You evaluate your idea early: With an outline, you can also see if you may have trouble putting your post together. An outline is like an early, simple version of your post.
  • You write with a sense of flow: Outlines help me get into my writing so I pick up momentum.

Sometimes I’ll run into a dead end as I’m writing a post. Instead of getting frustrated and banging my head, I’ll just start working on a different, easier section of the post.

Right-brain thinkers use free association

Using free association to come up with blog posts can be fun. All you do is just sit down and start thinking about something. Follow where each idea leads. Don’t stop writing until you are out of ideas or just tired.

Also, make sure you save all your ideas. Don’t throw anyway away because you’ll have a lot of ideas for future blogs posts in that one rambling, rough-draft session. Plus, look for the interesting insights or patterns you see in your writing. As Scott Myers says in Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work:

“What happens? In my experience, oftentimes I’ll hit on a nugget. Perhaps something related to the scene, perhaps not, maybe something later in the story, or an idea for something else entirely. Generally when that happens, I end my free association session. Other times, nothing seems to emerge, so I just stop.”

By the way, free association is a great way to break writer’s block.

Right-brain thinkers have no sense of time

When I say “no sense of time” I don’t mean you don’t know what time it is. What I mean is you enjoy what you do so much that you lose track of time. But you probably have to fight off the tendency to be distracted by phones, Facebook, and co-workers. Distractions can cause writer’s block.

Some bloggers I know will work on a 33-minute schedule. They’ll write focused for 33 minutes, get up, drink some coffee, check all their social media sites for about five minutes and then get back to work. It kills writer’s block and tends to be a very productive way to write.

Creative breaks for blogger’s block

Blogger’s block affects us all, whether we tend to be right- or left-brain thinkers. Hopefully the qualities of creative thinkers I described above will give you that spark you need to inspire you next time you are struggling to come up with a new blog post idea.

What things do you do to inspire you to write and break blogger’s block?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

When No One Knows Where You Are. Or Needs To.

This guest post is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

As you’re reading this, it’s 80º Fahrenheit and sunny with a light breeze. Not necessarily where you are, but somewhere.

That somewhere is where I’ve chosen to blog for a living. Most of the time, that means Las Vegas. Right now, this being November, it’s Maui. In other years it’s been Mexico or South Africa. I’m untethered from any particular location, and able to give value to my clients while neither shivering nor wearing layers. It’s a lifestyle that I’ve merely adopted, but that Jon Morrow seems to have perfected. Also, it’s a lot less expensive than you might think.

What motivates you? Yes, money, health, family, friendship, I get it. Those are all the universal answers. But what motivates you in particular? Spend a few seconds thinking of an answer, then keep reading.

For me, money and self-determination are motivating factors 1 and 1A. Following right on their heels is the avoidance of cold weather in all its dreary, cloudy, soul-crushing forms. I would gladly starve my children if doing so meant I’d get to live somewhere warm, and if I had children. I might hate winter more than I hate terrorism.

If the idea of blogging on your own terms (and closer to the Equator) resonates with you, understand that the demands on your time will increase. (That’s not a typo. I did mean “increase”, not “decrease.”)

What you need

In this post-industrial society, blogging has few physical demands. In addition to blogging, I run an advertising business. I write radio and TV commercials. You and I happen to be living in 2011, which means that all we need to be productive in certain fields of endeavor are a laptop, a power source, a word processor, and an Internet connection. Oh, and discipline.

If you can’t motivate yourself harder than any employer can motivate you, do yourself a favor and return to your 9-to-5 world before thinking about the remote blogging lifestyle any further. The distractions abound when you determine not only your own schedule, but your own workplace.

The problem with many people who aspire to blogging remotely but who can’t actually make it happen is that they forget one crucial component—“setting your own hours” really does mean setting your own hours. Not, “I’ll blog today, maybe Monday, depending on whether the mood strikes me and whether the fish are biting.” Rather, it’s “From 6:00 to 11:00 tonight, I’m going to apply myself as diligently as a new hire on his first day. I’m going to pretend a boss is watching me on camera. This is my probationary period.”

Remote blogging is a tradeoff, like anything else in life. There’s freedom, but with the concomitant temptation to slack off. With respect to the latter, you’re at a disadvantage to people who work in conventional office settings. Discipline is easy for them, because it’s forced upon them. They can’t take a five-hour lunch break when there are coworkers in the adjacent cubicles. They probably can’t put their feet up and watch TV when the mood strikes them. It’s doubtful they can work pantslessly, either.

Taking the plunge

As a practical matter, researching before you pack up and go remote is critical. One of my favorite working spots is the village of Playa Naranjo (Orange Beach) on the Gulf of Nicoya in Costa Rica.

It’s bucolic, and it’s relaxing, but it’s miles removed from the metropolitan first-world bandwidth that many of us take for granted. Customer support is provided during inconsistent hours, and in a language I understand only the fundamentals of. That means that I have to allot slightly more time to my projects, and upload them in batches. It also means that if I want to travel any deeper into the jungle to look at toucans, I’d better do so on non-working days. But it can be done. It can all be done.

Don’t assume that ease of communication is correlated with human development, either. The fastest Internet connection I’ve ever enjoyed was on a free Wi-Fi network in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. (The Mongolians never had obsolete legacy equipment to dig up and work around, so they started with state-of-the-art.) Months later, my failed attempts to log on to a trusted Canadian network from a hotel a mere five miles over the U.S. border were met with lamentations and the gnashing of (my) teeth. And they charged $15 a day for the privilege.

The remote blogging lifestyle—and it is a lifestyle, more than it is an occupation—isn’t something you want to dabble in and then maybe reconsider. Yes, it requires you to make sure you’ll have the right tools at your disposal and readily accessible, but there’s more. Like finding and pricing a place to stay. And pricing your existing place on the rental market to see if the numbers can pencil out in your favor. They probably can, but it’s better to determine so before you make the commitment.

If you can somehow engineer the remote problogger lifestyle for yourself—and it took me plenty of trial-and-error before getting it right—most of your clients, coworkers and vendors will be disdainful. Fortunately, you won’t be able to hear them over the surf and the ukulele music.

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

10 Productive Tasks You Should Be Doing On Google+ Right Now

This guest post is by Neil Patel of KISSmetrics.

Google+ had a hot start, but has since cooled down. For a lot of people, that means ignoring Google+. I want to warn you that is a bad idea.

Although the lights are on and it seems like nobody is home, trust me: there are people there. And they are the very people who can have a huge impact on your blog and business.

Why Google+ isn’t going anywhere

Google+ is designed to draw you away from both Twitter and Facebook. And in time, it could do this.

Yes, Facebook has over 800 million users. People like to state that number and then say “Facebook isn’t going anywhere.” Fair enough. But people do migrate. It happened to AOL. And it could happen to Facebook. In fact, former Facebook president Sean Parker says influencers are already moving from FB to Twitter and Google+.

That’s bad news for Facebook. But good news for you.

Of course I know that it’s important not to waste your time. So the following list of things that you should be doing on Google+ will keep you both productive and effective, not just entertained.

1. Create a stream of thought leaders

Because of the appeal of Google+ by many innovators, thought leaders, and early adopters, you have a lot of forward-thinking people hanging out in Google+ right now. As Robert Scoble said, “Google+ is for the passionate users of tech.”

Your mother won’t use Google+, but that guy who can help bring attention to your blog sure will!

Being early to the party, and it is still early, has its advantages, namely you are more visible to these thought leaders and are more likely to catch their eye. But before you start thinking about hounding them, look to what you can learn from them.

Can you imagine the power and creativity you can tap into if you created a Circle dedicated to thought leaders in marketing, a Circle dedicated to social media, to technology, to innovation, and to blogging?

2. Get circled by thought leaders

In the end, it’s not so much who you’ve circled in Google+. What matters is who’s circled you. Again, because it’s somewhat early, you can take advantage of the breathing room and get to know these people more intimately than you could on a crowded space like Twitter or Facebook.

But how do you get them to follow you? Here are some ideas:

  • Comment like crazy: Just like you would on a blog, you should leave thoughtful and useful comments on things that these thought leaders share.
  • Promote with precision: Everybody likes a little promotion, and when a thought leader sees you sharing his work, and even making meaningful comments about it, he or she is inclined to circle you.
  • Share your work carefully: If it makes sense and doesn’t feel pushy, share your own work when you comment.
  • Fill out your profile fully: People are more likely to follow you when you have a profile that is thorough and interesting. Do not neglect this. Besides, your profile allows links, photos, QR codes and more. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t use it to its fullest.
  • Post with particular thought leaders in mind: This seems like a no-brainer, but you should post meaningful content. Go a step further, though, and post with a particular thought leader in mind. If he happens to swing by your profile, he’ll see you have a lot in common with him and possibly circle you.

3. Use Google+ to source ideas

As you start to gain traction with these thought leaders and build a solid group of Circles, tap into all that knowledge and experience.

  • Post a provocative, thoughtful question: Ask people their opinions about technology, the future of social media, and design. Ask them what they think of a particular high-profile blogger’s position on a certain topic. What you are looking for is information to help you solve people’s problems.
  • Jot down ideas: As you follow the streams in your Circles, make sure you are keeping notes on things that you find interesting. You could find particular ideas for blogs or your own questions you want to ask.
  • Engage in thoughtful discussions: Occasionally take the time to challenge and drill down in the comments with a post somebody left in your stream. It’s worth the time to have a healthy debate. People will notice.

4. Collaborate with business colleagues

The Hangout feature of Google+ is for that person who is truly social. They not only want to hear your voice, they want to see you as well.

That makes it great for company meetings, conference calls, mastermind groups, ad hoc brainstorm sessions, or just simply hanging out. If your company has fewer than ten employees, or is even spread out across the nation or world, you can always connect everybody through hangouts.

And keep in mind that hangouts are meant to be loose, so bring your own drink, and remember that you can actually start a hangout on YouTube.

5. Manage large circles with Sparks

Think of Sparks as Google Alerts for Google+. Where the magic happens with this is when you track particular topics, then jump in to to share the content or make a comment.

This is a simple way to control large amounts of information, especially if you have a lot of people in your Circles. It also gives you the ability to interact on targeted subjects, lifting your profile as an expert.

6. Create smart custom Circles

When creating Circles, it’s possible to run into “Circle fatigue” where you might just throw up your hands and say “What’s the use?” But there is a very good argument for creating custom Circles.

Chris Voss, for example, created a “Commenter” Circle, which is a list of people who have commented on his posts in Google+ but are not connected with him. He then reciprocates with this group by commenting on their posts. It’s a great way to engage the power users!

7. Use it as a niche blog

Listen, I don’t recommend you pull a Kevin Rose and replace your blog with Google+. However, you should think about using Google+ as a place to share content geared to a particular, focused audience.

Perhaps you’ve been wanting to drill down in a particular area, but you’re fearful that doing so on your blog might scare away some of your loyal readers. Google+ is perfect for inviting them to join you.

For instance, say you are a web copywriter and your blog is centered on persuasion and conversion. While SEO is definitely part of your job, your audience might not appreciate you going down that path. Yet it’s definitely a subject you want to explore more and build some expertise in so you can broaden your business. The level of engagement you’ll get on Google+ is perfect for a tightly-focused group like this.

8. Use Hangouts as an educational tool

One way to start attracting more people to use Google+ is by inviting people to a Hangout in which you are going to teach on a particular topic.

For instance, you could teach a beginner’s guide on public relations through a series of Hangouts. Of course you’d make this free, but in time you’re audience will continue to grow, and so will your influence.

This way you are using Google+, your circle base is growing and you are actually creating content that you can turn into a podcast you could eventually sell one day.

9. Use Hangouts as a podcast tool

The Hangout feature in Google+ allows you to invite up to ten people to engage and chat via video. You can even turn this feature into a recording for a podcast. Let me show you the simple steps:

  1. Create a private Hangout for up to ten people.
  2. Make the video and chat private, but the viewing “public” so that people can watch but not engage.
  3. Record the video using a tool like Camtasia or Jing.
  4. Share the podcast!

What’s really cool about Hangout is that the camera view will follow whoever is talking. So it’s kind of like having a live producer directing camera shots, but it’s automatic.

10. Looking for a job

Lastly, possibly one of the most productive things you could do is look for a job—especially if you’re out of a job or not happy with your current one. And since there are so many like-minded people in the same space, your chances of landing the right kind of job goes up.

Here’s what you should do if you’re looking for a job on Google+:

  • Announce you are looking for a job: Write a simple post that tells everyone you are looking for a job. State what kind of job you’d like and make a brief mention of your experience. Then ask if anyone can help you out.
  • Ask for introductions: A great way to look for a job is to find companies that you want to work for and then contact them for positions. Well, with Google+ you can scan your circles and see where people are working. When you find a company you’d like to learn about, ask that person who works there if you could ask them a few questions and get a possible introduction to the hiring manager.
  • Host a relevant hangout: Invite some people to hangout to discuss certain trends about your industry or invite a thought leader for an interview. Let them know you want to pick their brains about their area of expertise. This is a great way to network.
  • Follow experts in your industry: Naturally, you should be following those people who matter in your industry. Go out of your way to be helpful to those people. Even offer to help them out.

How effective is online networking? Well, there are currently no numbers on Google+, but the number of people who find jobs online is about 2-5 percent. Regardless, online networking is still effective. According to the Wall Street Journal, 94 percent of people who found jobs did so by networking. That could be through family, friends and professional contacts.

So, it’s worth the effort of networking on Google+. You’ll never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll find!

Conclusion

Whether Google+ takes off or not, you can still use it to accomplish many productive and profitable things for your business. Besides, in the long run I believe that Google+ will play a large part in Google’s search algorithm, and when it does you’ll be ahead of the game!

What productive ways are you using Google+ to promote your business, your blog, and yourself?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

“Brushing it Off” Vs. “Brushing It Off”

This guest post is by Nick Thacker of Life Hacks for Living Well.

Are you “brushing off” the work you need to complete? Or are you able to “brush it off” when it’s finished, ready to launch into the world?

I’ve had experience brushing off the things that needed to be done—and I’m sure you have, too—but I’ve also had the satisfying feeling of being able to put down my tools and say, finally, “I’m done.”

I’m referring to that point you eventually reach, after many long hours and sleepless nights, where there’s no more you can you can possibly do to improve your project, no more tweaking or adding or altering—it is done, as perfect as it can be.

But this “feeling,” this goal I invariably set for myself prior to embarking on any project, is sometimes fleeting, lofty, and quite unreachable.

Sometimes it’s a matter of scope—the project is too large to possibly accomplish by one person. Other times it’s the lack of direction: we don’t know where to go with our blog—or our business. But still other times it’s just a matter of not understanding clearly our expectations, and the time it takes to complete them.

The right expectations

I was thinking recently about my experience as a Boy Scout during my grade school years. I enjoyed pretty much all of the events, camping trips, and fundraisers we did, but there was one annual event we participated in that was held in much higher esteem than the rest. My father and I, once a school year, would begin that journey every young man so impatiently awaits for the rest of the season—the coveted Pinewood Derby competition.

A “Pinewood Derby” is a small (about 8 inches by 3 inches), four-wheeled vehicle powered by gravity and graphite-rubbed plastic wheel bearings. The cars, two at a time, would be raced down a track made of wood. It sounds simple, but for young American boys everywhere, it was the raison d’etre for joining and paying your dues to the Boy Scouts of America.

Every year, my dad and I would start dreaming about what style and shape to cut, design, and paint my car. We would shoot for the most aerodynamic, stylistic, and awe-inspiring design that would still be allowed in the races (there were, of course, weight and size restrictions!). One year was a “hot dog” design that almost took home the gold, while another year was a failed attempt at a Camaro convertible with a spoiler.

We would start the project most years by planning, blueprinting, and marking the rectangular block of wood with cut marks in pencil (did I mention my dad’s an engineer?). Only after planning, sanding, cutting, and sanding some more could we even begin to think about putting on the cool pewter attachments—engine blocks, headers, and so on. Finally, after letting glue dry, sanding once more, and then waiting a few more days, we would apply the paint to the finished product.

With me as Creative Director and Dad as Chief Technical Officer and Director of Engineering, the product, no matter how poorly it actually performed in the races, would be something prized and rewarding for both of us—it was something we would, literally, “brush off” when we’d finish, take it inside to show Mom, and then put on the trophy shelf after it had served on the racetrack.

One year was different, though. Dad was either out of town during the initial months leading up to the Derby, or I’d just decided I was old enough to get started myself. I had my wood block, access to power tools, and plenty of sandpaper.

Rather than waste time with the planning, creative process, and initial sanding, I decided to jump in get started making my dream car. I’d also decided to start about a week before the competition.

Needless to say, the car was shoddily built. It was sticky to hold, as the paint hadn’t really dried well, the pieces constantly fell off (we had to bring a hot glue gun to the event), and it gave everyone splinters (I said this was part of the car’s built-in defense mechanisms). I had mostly “brushed off” the steps that he’d taught me were necessary. Dad wasn’t overly excited about it, but he knew a lesson was in store for his oldest son.

Sure enough, I realized (though much later in life) what the lesson was: while each stroke of the sandpaper and each slow pull of the paintbrush wouldn’t make a marked difference on the outcome, it was the step-by-step process we went through to ensure every piece of the puzzle was in place that created the final wooden racer.

In short: the whole was much bigger than the sum of its parts.

Embrace the process

That year, I’d skipped out on a lot of the process, and because of that, I couldn’t “brush off” my work and show it off to my friends and fellow scouters.

For my fellow bloggers, here’s the takeaway:

  • Don’t cheat the system: If you’re trying to start a blog, and you know that blogs need great content, don’t spend money on a ton of ghost-written PLR articles that sound exactly the same.
  • Don’t cut corners: If there’s a “standard process” that others in your niche have gone through—maybe they spent most of their early years doing nothing but churning out guest posts and commenting on blogs—don’t think there’s a “secret way” to reach the same level with much less work.
  • Don’t “brush it off”: Don’t brush off the little things. Every comment, every guest post, and every tweet that you send is an ambassador for who you are—what you are—online. I don’t know you from Adam, so if I visit your blog and see posts written at a second-grade reading level with nothing but AdSense everywhere, what do you think that tells me about you? Come on, get it together!

Okay, okay, there’s always the exception that proves the rule.

If, by chance, you do blog for money only—and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that—then you’ll have systems and procedures in place for that as well, and they need to be honored. The same rules apply:

  • If you find that most money-making blogs are earning their income because of their massive amounts of content, why would you think you could do better only writing three or five posts per week? Spend some money on some well-written posts to fill out your site, and spend your time building your business.
  • If you run a business of any kind online, don’t cut the corners or “brush it off,” or you’ll most likely give people splinters. There’s a reason Internet marketers spend so much time cultivating and building their email lists. Why would you think you’re special and can just buy a billion email addresses for $50 bucks?

Don’t skimp

Don’t skimp on the details—they’re what are going to set you apart from every other teenaged marketing “guru” out there, and they’re also going to give you more experience in much less time. As so many business experts and professionals have said, “fail often.” Don’t be afraid to fail—just know that it will be a failure that will help you “brush off” a project (in a good way!) in the future.

“Brush off” your project or business now, and you won’t be able to “brush it off” in the future. Don’t “brush off” your project today, and you’ll be able to “brush it off” and show it off tomorrow.

Get it?

Nick Thacker is interested in learning and writing about ways to live better–his website is Life Hacks for Living Well, and is a repository of tips, tricks, and resources to getting what you want out of life, in a better way. You can subscribe to his feed directly by clicking here.