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Is Your Blog Doing Okay?

Last week, I told the story of how I achieved my best month ever on DPS.

While I used that post as a case study to present some ideas that I hoped you may be able to use on your own blogs, there’s a hidden hitch with that kind of post: it can give you the impression that you should be aiming to triple your revenue each time you hone a promotion on your site.

We could take that a step or two further—a post like that could give you the expectation that you should be selling products, or even that you should be monetizing your blog. Neither of those ideas is necessarily appropriate for every blog, or every blogger.

The blogosphere is usually a friendly place, but it’s also a place where there’s a lot of comparison. The old idea of keeping up with the Joneses can be a strong, if subtle influence in a space where we’re all learning from each other’s experiences.

Is your blog doing okay?

It’s only natural for most of us to want to know how our blogs are tracking, and to do that we naturally feel the need to compare them to something. I think the best comparison is your own previous performance, as I did with my 12 Days of Christmas promotion. But early in your blogging career, when you may not have a lot of previous results to look at, you’re probably more likely to compare yourself to other bloggers.

You might compare your blog with others in the same niche (competitors and peers), or blogs in different niches that are of a similar size and age to yours. You might compare the results you got from a particular tactic with the results someone else got by using that same tactic, but in a completely different field.

All of these attempts to benchmark are common, and there’s no doubt that they can be helpful at times. But benchmarking your blog against others, or your performance against others, ignores one very important factor: you.

Are you doing okay?

As I said earlier, I tend to benchmark against my own progress, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

True “success” isn’t a matter of graphs and stats, nor is it a “point” that’s “achieved.” When we ask if our blog’s doing okay, what I think most of us are asking is if we’re performing as we should be. But this assumes that there’s one objective standard that we should meet.

Every one of us is different, each blog is unique, our reader audiences are comprised of different people, and our blogging fits into our personal lives in myriad different ways. So how could there be an objective yardstick for “success” or “progress”? The better question, I think, is more personal: are we achieving all that we’re capable of achieving—and all that we want to achieve?

Within the realm of blogging, I try to improve on my past performance. But that doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If the way I went about improving that performance were detrimental to some other part of my life, then it wouldn’t matter how well my 2011 12 Days of Christmas promotion went—I wouldn’t be enjoying “success” or possibly even overall “progress.”

I know, for example, that as a part-time blogger, it’s easy to look at full-time bloggers’ “progress” or “success” and try to push yourself to achieve something similar. But unless you have 48 hours in every day, that’s probably not a) possible b) practical or c) enjoyable.

When you’re wondering how your blog’s tracking, my advice is to look at how your blog’s tracking both in its own right, but also, in terms of how it’s fitting in with the other priorities and things of value in your life.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk more specifically about this, and explain a few of the ways I think my blogging’s going well—and they have nothing to do with sales or stats or marketing. In the meantime, how’s your blog tracking? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

How to Handle Criticism: a Practical Guide

Image by Stuart Richards

As bloggers, each of us has to deal with criticism. Blogging is a very public activity—almost all of us has the goal of gaining readers to our blogs—and the more people you reach, the more likely it is that you’ll hear criticisms.

“You’re wrong…”

“How can you say that? You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I couldn’t disagree more…”

“This is the last time I read this blog!”

These are just some of the criticisms bloggers regularly face—I’ve received versions of all of these many times over the years, and if you’ve been blogging for any length of time, they’re probably fairly familiar to you, too.

Criticism can be deeply painful. As I explained here, the difficulty in dealing with criticism caused Elizabeth Taylor to ignore everything the press said about her. The discomfort of being criticised has led more than one blogger to shut down their blog, so it’s an issue that bloggers really do need to think about.

How can we manage criticism, not get dragged down by it, and maybe even benefit from it?

Embrace criticism?!

That probably sounds a little odd, but the first thing you need to do is accept—even embrace—the fact that your blog has attracted criticism.

I know that can be difficult to do, but think of it this way: you’re a blogger, and you’re tackling the tough job of putting yourself, your work, and your opinions on the line every week.

Not everyone will agree with you all of the time, but negative feedback is a sign that you’re making people think. After all, that’s one of the most common reasons why many start blogging in the first place.

Certainly, few bloggers are ever going to gleefully greet negative emails and comments the way we do positive feedback, but the first step in using that information positively is to accept it as a natural part of blogging.

Don’t take it personally—everyone gets criticisms—from the longest-standing A-list bloggers to the newest blogger on the block. It’s not pretty, but it’s part of the job.

Consider the criticism

Some criticisms are better than others. Some negative commenters just want you to know that they feel this post’s no good, or they don’t like your logo. Others are more considerate—they’ll give you reasons for their negative feedback.

There are trolls out there—people who are just negative for the sake of it—but if you cultivate the right culture of comments on your site, you’ll likely receive more valuable criticisms than trolling. If your site is the victim of trolls, you might find this post, which explains a Buddhist monk’s philosophy of dealing with “haters”, helpful.

Be careful, too, not to discount a brief criticism that lacks detail as “just trolling.” Sometimes what appears to be a thoughtless negative comment from a troll can turn out to reflect an undercurrent that’s taken up later by more constructive commenters—and that can be extremely valuable to you and your blog.

Making use of criticism

I find it’s best, wherever possible, to take the emotion out of the criticism. So if you have more than one negative comment on a post, look first for those that are written reasonably and respectfully. These kinds of readers are advancing ideas for you to consider so you can better meet their needs. Have a read, but don’t take the feedback personally, or even on board, just yet.

Now look at the remaining criticism—the angry or otherwise emotional feedback. Think as objectively as possible about how that supports the other feedback. If you could boil down the feedback to one thing, what would it be? What was it that readers didn’t like about this post or product?

Criticism often falls into one of a few categories:

  • a difference of opinion
  • a lack of perceived value
  • a sense of frustration linked to an underlying problem the reader is struggling with.

If you can work out which of these problems is at the root of the criticism you’ve received, you can do something about it.

A difference of opinion may cause you to re-check your facts, do a little research, and respond to the criticism with evidence that supports your case—perhaps in a follow-up post.

A lack of perceived value may encourage you to tweak the way you present value through your blog. It might also prompt you to post on different topics or try different approaches to the topic in question. This may even open up your blog to a broader audience over time.

A sense of frustration among readers can give you real insight into deep audience needs, and what you can do to meet them.

Take it on board

Now’s the time to take the criticism on board—but not emotionally so much as practically.

Now you know what the real issue is, you can undoubtedly think of a few ways to try to tweak your work to try to cater to the needs your readers have flagged.

“Tweak” is usually the right word here. If you take the criticism personally, you’ll be more likely to make drastic changes that can end up undermining your blog and possibly disappointing the majority of readers who like what you do and how you do it. So act with caution—but do act.

On the other hand, if the negative feedback is overwhelming, you might do well to respond (not react!) with corresponding passion, showing your audience that you’re listening, and that their feedback is important to you.

After all, they took the time to tell you what they didn’t like, which means they do care about you and your blog. A criticism says, “I want your blog to be what I want.” It’s up to us as bloggers to decide if, and how, we want our blogs to be what those readers want.

How do you handle criticism on your blog? Share your tips with us in the comments—we could all use some help handling negative feedback.

If I Were the Blogging Police…

This guest post is by Karol K of ThemeFuse.

Is it just me, or do you ever find yourself in a situation when you just want to lock someone up for the things they’re doing either on their own blog or while commenting on other people’s blogs?

You know, moments when you wish you were the blogging police … anyone?

I do. Quite often actually. And I am by no means perfect myself. But you don’t have to be perfect to have an opinion, just like you don’t have to be a musician to be able to tell that you don’t like a song.

So even though I am not perfect, I’ll tell you what I’d do if I were the blogging police. The list isn’t long, thankfully, just a handful of points. When I’m done, though, I want to hear what you’d do if you were on my blogging police taskforce.

1. Lock people up for publishing lame list posts

A lame list post in one that makes you immediately think “how obvious can you get?!” This doesn’t happen that often nowadays, but when it does it strikes hard, with no warning.

A lame list post is one where every single thing on the list—every piece of advice—is just so utterly obvious that the only possible reason for writing such a post is not to forget about all that stuff. You know, it’s the personal-reference-file kind of a post.

I’m sorry, but if you’re writing a list post on blogging and it includes “care about your readers”, you need to think your post trough one more time, for everyone’s sake. Which brings me to…

2. Lock people up for saying “you need to publish quality content”

Somewhere in the world a unicorn dies every time someone uses this phrase in a blog post. This one piece of advice has been around forever. Everyone knows this by now. You really don’t need to say it.

But I’m sure you did. I know I’m guilty of this too. Thankfully, there’s no blogging police. (Nor do any unicorns actually die.)

3. The rule of “3 strikes and you’re out” for spammers

“You’re out”?! Does that mean “no more internet for you”? Well, some people should really get a lifetime Internet-access ban for spamming in comments. You know—comments like this:

Great post!” … submitted along with an anchored name of “web design san diego” or something.

Or:

I find your opinion quite interesting but the other day I stumbled upon a completely different advice from another blogger, I need to think that one through, thanks for posting.” … with a similarly search-optimized name. This is actually a clever piece of spam because it seems legitimate, but you can actually submit it below every blog post in the world, and it would sound equally relevant.

Imagine how much better the world would be if every spammer had only three chances, after which they’re gone forever.

4. Lock people up for saying that “doing what you love is the only way”

No, it’s not, and it shouldn’t be. I love sleeping, for example. Is anyone gonna pay me for that?

Okay, I don’t want to be that harsh, but just bear with me, and try to think of all the possible professions in the world—everything that needs to be done to make the world go round, including things like moving out the trash, cattle breeding, and being a politician.

The reality is that “doing what you love” is only one of many possible scenarios. You can create equally successful career out of “doing what you should do,” “doing what you’ve been taught to do,” and “doing what needs to be done.”

5. Lock people up for publishing “sorry I’ve been away” posts

This is what happens: someone hasn’t been blogging for a while, say a month or two. And then they come back and publish a “sorry I’ve been away” post.

The usual construction of such a post is a short explanation of why the person was away, and then there’s a promise that now everything will change and the person will be posting like there’s no tomorrow.

First of all, this never happens. Chances are that the person will forget about the blog again very soon.

Secondly, no one cares.

6. Lock up everybody who’s just too much of a nice guy

Does everyone has to act like such a nice guy? The blogging world goes deep here. For some reason, many people believe that you have to be nice to everybody all the time. Well, you don’t.

If you’re nice to everybody, how are you going to distinguish someone who you really feel you should be nice to—someone who’s really special? If you’re nice to everybody, then your being nice simply means nothing. Besides, people who are nice to everybody are boring! Lock ‘em up!

7. Give tickets for using clichés or words that are just too big

I love blogging. SkyrocketEngage your readers. You need to be an authority in your niche…

The list of clichés and needlessly big words used by bloggers every day has no end.

Clichés are just annoying. And using big words to emphasize your point is just stupid.

Do you really love blogging? Would you sit in your room and cry if you couldn’t blog anymore? Would you be depressed for a month if blogging had been taken away from you? Do you wake up every day imagining how happy you are with your blog, and then go to sleep in the evening dreaming all the nice things you’re going to do with your blog the next day?

If there’s at least one “no” in your answers to those questions, then you don’t love blogging, so don’t say you do. If you have all “yeses” … touché.

This concludes my blogging police wishes and dreams. What are yours? I’m sure there are some, if you take a minute to think about it. Of course, don’t treat this whole thing too seriously … but I would love to hear what you’d do if you were part of my blogging police taskforce. Share your pet hates in the comments!

Karol K. is a 20-something year old web 2.0 entrepreneur from Poland and a writer at ThemeFuse.com, where he shares various WordPress advice. Don’t forget to visit ThemeFuse to get your hands on some original WordPress themes (warning: no boring stuff like everyone else offers).

What 60% of ProBlogger Readers Don’t Do that’s Central to My Blogging Success

A couple of weeks ago I ran a census of ProBlogger readers to help us work out how to serve you better in 2012. Thousands of people participated (thanks to everyone!), so I thought I’d share a few of the results that stood out to me. Some of them are based upon comparisons we made to last time we ran a similar survey, around two years ago.

  • How many active blogs? 45.2% of ProBlogger readers have one active blog, 24.3% of you have two, and 11.6% of you have three blogs. Interestingly 8.7% of ProBlogger readers don’t yet have a blog and 1.6% have more than 10!
  • How long have you been blogging? There’s a real spread here. The most common response was 1-2 years (17% of responses) with the next most common responses being 2-3 years (15%), and over 5 years (15%). As you’d expect, the numbers of people who’ve been at it a while have increased as ProBlogger has been going longer.
  • How old are you? The most common age range of ProBlogger readers is 31-40 years of age (29%). Next most common was 41-50 (24%), and 21-30 (19%). I hear a lot of people say that blogging is a young person’s thing. Not necessarily: among our readers, only 2.5% of respondents indicated that they are 20 or under.
  • Gender. We’ve seen a shift here. While previously just over half of readers were male, this time we saw 56% of readers indicating that they were female. What I did find particularly interesting was that we were able to track responses based on where people were referred to the survey from (email, Twitter, G+, etc.). G+ referrers were almost 70% men and blog readers were 60% men. All other referrals were 60-70% women so there were some real discrepancies there in terms of gender.
  • Blog platforms you use. Just over half of those surveyed use WordPress.org. 21% use WordPress.com and 17% use Blogger. The other 12 or so percent were spread out considerably. Interestingly both MovableType and TypePad usage had declined since the last survey.
  • Challenges and problems faced. The biggest challenges readers identified as having were finding readers, monetization, and finding time to blog. Not a lot of change here from last time although the “finding time” response was a bit higher.
  • Monetization methods. 65% of respondents are trying to monetize their blog (a little lower than last time). Interestingly, the methods of monetization have changed a little. More people are selling their own products, more are doing paid reviews, and less are using ad networks and affiliate marketing, and selling ads directly to sponsors. The most common form of monetization, though, was affiliate marketing (35% of responses).
  • Blog design. There was a real spread of types of blog designs being used by ProBlogger readers – but the most common type was buying premium templates. This was one of the big shifts from the last survey to this one—with more and more quality services now existing to design and sell you a great blog template (like my friends at Studio Press, who do all my own blog design) I guess it’s an option that will only grow over time.
  • Email marketing. Perhaps the most surprising result for me in this census were the responses to a question asking readers if they have an email newsletter or do any type of email marketing. Around 60% of you don’t collect any email addresses from readers, or do anything with email. As I’ve written on many occasions, email and newsletters are central to my own approach. Email not only drives traffic to my blogs, it helps me make money. I cannot imagine my own blogs without email. If there was one tip I’d give on how to grow a blog it’d be to get serious about this in 2012!

Thanks to everyone for participating in this year’s census. The above info, plus your thousands of suggestions, have given me (and the team behind ProBlogger) a lot of great ideas.

In fact in the coming months, you’ll see a shift in how we run ProBlogger that’s based upon what we heard in this survey. It will impact the topics of posts you’ll see here on ProBlogger, as well as our approach on numerous other levels. Thanks for making ProBlogger more useful!

Frustrated by Blogger’s Block? Try this Exercise!

Feeling frustrated today about a lack of ideas to write about on your blog? If so, you’re not alone. Here’s another technique that I use to overcome it.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post here on ProBlogger that gave a tip for fighting blogger’s block. It asked you to identify a problem that you had three years ago and to write a post that solved that problem for your readers.

Another variation on that technique for overcoming blogger’s block is to write a post that taps into a “feeling” that your readers might typically have.

There are probably thousands of bloggers in your niche writing content to solve the problems of your readers, but I bet that in most niches, most of them don’t look after the feelings of their readers.

Acknowledge and work with those feelings, and you’ll be blogging with empathy—not only solving problems, but making emotional connections with your readers. You’ll also be connecting with different personality types than if you just write a dry how-to type post.

Which feelings should you concentrate on? While negative feelings might be the obvious choice I think there’s a case for writing about the whole gamut of feelings:

  • Feeling lost? Here’s a way forward.
  • Feeling paralyzed? Here’s how to get moving.
  • Feeling excited? Here’s how to capture that excitement and use it for good.
  • Feeling lonely? Here’s a place to connect with others.
  • Feeling overwhelmed? Here’s how to navigate that.
  • Feeling fearful? Here’s how to overcome your fear.

You’ll notice in the above examples I’ve taken each of the feelings and then written a how-to response, but there are other ways to tap into the feelings of your readers, too.

One great way to do it is to tell a story.

  • Feeling Lost? Here’s a time I felt that, and here’s what happened.

Another way to tap into feelings is to start a discussion.

  • What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed with your work.

So sit down today and think about what kinds of feelings and emotions your readers might have.

You might get some hints in the comments section of your blog. You may also want to think about your own feelings and emotions (past and present) as they pertain to your topic.

Once you’ve identified a feeling, write a post that starts with that feeling. Acknowledge it up front, then write something that helps your readers to move forward from that place.

I’d love to see links below to the posts you write after doing this exercise! Please do share them.

The Gong Fu of Blogging

This guest post is by Michael de Waal-Montgomery of The Monty Mike Times.

The word Kung Fu comes from the Chinese word “Gong Fu,” which means “hard work.” Anyone who’s studied Kung Fu knows this name is well deserved. It’s tough going, no matter how good you get.

Blogging is also “gong fu” sometimes. On a good day, the writing can seem to flow effortlessly, perhaps feeling something more akin to Tai Chi, or “Tai Ji Quan” in the original Chinese.

On a bad day, blogging is exhausting. The thought alone of sitting down and staring at a blank page, a blinking cursor in a field of white snow, can be utterly depressing.

If you’re writing for pleasure, this is the last place you want to be. Why spend your own free time doing something you’re not enjoying? It’s a question worth asking.

Inspiration

The other question worth asking is why does blogging feel like such hard work today? The answer is usually because you’re uninspired. You feel you have nothing worth blogging about. You feel like you have nothing interesting to say.

What you deem uninteresting and what the world deems uninteresting are often not the same thing. For starters, you spend every day with yourself, locked up in your own head.

Because we are too close to our own situations, to our own lives and the events that unfold within them each day, it’s easy to make a judgement call that we are just boring people.

That’s not true.

No one else is living your life. No one else is seeing the world in quite the same way you are. No one else is thinking the same thoughts and no one else is taking away the same lessons from each experience.

If you are feeling that writing that blog post is a bit Gong Fu today, look for inspiration. If you think you have to climb a mountain to find it, you’re wrong. Inspiration can be found everywhere, in everything.

Look in your thoughts, and at your experiences. Consider the things that make you who you are, the places you’ve been, and the people you’ve met. The lessons you’ve learned living this life.

It is said that a man is what he thinks about all day. If you think about cars, blog about cars; if you spent the whole day feeling uninspired, blog about something that will inspire others instead.

Often looking for a topic to blog about is as easy as facing up to the very one you’re running away from. The one that you think will bore readers to death.

Limitation

There is very little new and original content in the world today. What’s new and original is the way you look at something old and tired. The angle you take, the spin you put on it. The piece of your character that you bring into it.

The possibilities are endless.

There are only 26 letters in the alphabet. There are only four limbs in the body. Yet bloggers go on blogging and Kung Fu teachers go on teaching Kung Fu. So what’s the secret?

They know how to stay inspired, how to stay hungry. They know how to look at the ordinary and find the extraordinary. If you can’t learn to do this too, your blogging will always remain Gong Fu.

Time to buy some new spectacles, perhaps. Or take off your old ones. The whole world is right in front of you, like an oyster.

So start writing that latest blog post already!

Michael de Waal-Montgomery is a full-time journalism student and aspiring writer who enjoys blogging in his free time. You can read his rants over at The Monty Mike Times.

How Successful Blogging is Just Like Surviving Highschool

This guest post is by Josh Sarz of Sagoyism.

Do you ever feel like it’s high school all over again?

I’m talking about blogging. The whole “turn over a new leaf, do something great, do epic stuff, get famous” sense of it all feels like high school.

You know that feeling. It’s similar to when you’re just starting out, wanting to make a name for yourself, and hoping that some day you’ll become famous and get buckets of cash.

But just like high school, it’s a jungle out there. It’s not completely safe, nor is it any bit as easy as it seems. There are bullies, psycho teachers, cool kids, not-so-cool kids, and geeks.

You need to learn some rules on how to survive, just like in high school. This time around, you don’t just want to get out alive. You want to come out on top of your game.

1. Work hard

In high school, working hard was just about studying for the exams. Nothing more, nothing less. That would be decent effort, and you’d get decent grades.

When you’re blogging, studying is a prerequisite. There are loads of things you need to do to survive.

You need to learn how to multitask. You need to know your trade by heart. You need to sacrifice a lot of your time, and use it for brainstorming, writing, editing, designing your website, marketing yourself and your blog, pitching for guest posts … the list goes on.

2. Get involved

Getting involved in high school meant joining clubs. Lots of clubs, if you had the time and energy. It also included joining school plays, or getting into sports.

In blogging, it’s pretty much the same.

There are loads of clubs/groups/courses/forums where bloggers, writers, business owners and the like can hang out and socialize in their own little space. There’s the Third Tribe, The A-List Blogger Club, The Warrior Forum, and a whole bunch more.

Now when you want to get involved without having to join clubs (and pay for them), there are a lot of other ways to do so.

We’ve all heard of social media, blog commenting, and building relationships. That’s all good, but everyone’s doing it. What else can you do?

Subscribe to newsletters: But not just so you can get on their list. In a way, you’re getting them on your personal list. Not your “making money” email list, but your “talk to this guy about stuff” list.

Usually, the big boys and girls of blogging use their email list to communicate with their readers, right?

Bam! You have their email. Maybe not their personal email, but a contact point nonetheless. Another similar tactic is to use their contact forms, but some don’t really reply to that.

Name-drop: What’s this? It’s when you just talk about the cool kids; you could also opt to step it up by linking to them. If it’s good enough content, and if they notice that you mentioned or linked to them, they’ll think you’re cool and hang out with you.

Does this really work? I don’t know. Ask this guy.

Personal army: This is sort of risky. I’ve gotten permission from Martyn Chamberlin of twohourblogger to talk about it. Martyn had his friends pinged Brian Clark to ask him to retweet a post. Long story short, Brian Clark got annoyed but now they’re buddies.

There are a lot of ways to get someone’s attention; this is one of them. It worked.

3. Be on-time/present

You might be thinking “Not this again.”

You see, in high school, if you were always tardy or even absent during class, you’d get demerits. But those demerits aren’t that deadly.

With your blog, if you’re never showing up when you’re supposed to, it’s deadly for your image.

This does not mean having to post every day. You don’t want to force out below-par blog posts. No. You want high-quality content, with a story to tell.

So what else is being present and on-time about?

A hundred tweets a day isn’t presence. It’s annoying. Like a mosquito flying around near your ears.

Presence is when you reply to readers’ comments on your blog posts. It’s when people send you emails through your contact form, and you actually reply. Not your virtual assistant. Not an automated robot. But you.

4. Do your homework

High school. Homework. Important, although not life-threatening. But you still had to do it if you want to survive all the way through.

When you’re writing great content, you don’t get it by  just churning them out like a machine. Do your homework.

There are plenty ways to research for information to put in your content.

Surveys: A common website/tool to use for making surveys is surveymonkey.com. You can sign up for a free account, and it’s a decent tool for getting information from people.

Direct email: You can email anyone: bloggers, writers, journalists, friends, strangers … anyone. Don’t have their email? There’s social media to help you out.

Call interviews: This doesn’t have to be through phone. You can use Skype, Google Voice chat or Google Hangouts.

Split testing: This ranges from writing styles, tone, formatting, blog design/structure and more.

Blogging is hard work. Still with me? Good. Let’s continue.

5. Make a diverse circle of friends

In high school, you could get away with sticking to a single circle of friends. If you wanted to stand out and get recognized, you’d have to reach out to a lot more people.

The same goes for blogging.

Remember the age-old advice that the “veterans” talk about, like making friends with people in your niche? That’s great, but you could make it even better by making friends with people from other niches. Why should you bother doing that?

Think of it this way. If you have ten pals who blog about blogging talk about you, that’s great. If you have 30 people from all sorts of niches and industries willing to vouch for you, that’s massive. Think of them as your personal army.

How do you do this?

  • By getting involved with other people’s blogs and activities.
  • By replying to people who comment on your posts, reaching out to their blogs. Circling them on Google Plus.
  • Talking with people who comment on the A-list blogs, since they’re talking, might as well jump in the conversation. Some might find you intrusive, but if you do this with 100 people you’re bound to make at least ten friends.
  • Keeping in mind that one day, they can be your personal army who will vouch for you when you mess up.

6. Keep your locker stacked

We all had lockers back in high school, right? It’s where we put our things just in case we’ll be needing them soon.

In blogging, your locker can be your CMS, whether you use WordPress, Blogger, Hubpages, etc. How do you keep it stacked?

Always have backup posts written, proofread, formatted, and ready for publishing. If you need places to look for ideas, here are some examples that the cool kids don’t preach:

The Bible: A lot of people don’t talk about this as a source of inspiration for their writing because they’re afraid to sound all religious-like.

You’re missing out on a lot.

And if you’re not into the Christian faith, think of this book as the biggest piece of fiction that has inspired countless generations. More than all the Stephen King, John Grisham or Chuck Palahniuk books combined.

Kids’ entertainment: Again, a lot of people don’t talk about getting inspiration from kids’ shows because they don’t want to sound immature.

They’re just scared.

If you want to talk courage, here’s a post from a guy who wrote an amazing, inspiring blog post about courage using a character from the storybooks.

Again, these are stories that had inspired generations. They may be childish, but these stories have enchanted more people than any “mature” show like Mad Men.

7. Be excessively happy

Highschool gives you a lot of stress. Not from classes, but from people.

It’s the same in blogging.

You write your blog post, and expect to get massive traffic, but nothing happens. Why? People will be people. They flock to where the good stuff is. And to top it off, they don’t know you even exist.

Don’t go whining and quit. Hang in there, and smile. Be excessively happy. Crazy happy. Nobody likes to hear people whine all day. Or take out their frustrations on other people.

When someone comments on your posts, be happy. Reply to them in an awesome way. Stop being so uptight. Be more like Ayo Olaniyan. When he replies to comments, it’s like he’s always smiling just like his picture. Crazy happy.

8. Stay focused

Make lots of friends. Get involved. But remember to stay focused on what you’re blogging for.

Write down your goals on a piece of paper, and stick them somewhere in your desk. Someplace where you can see it whenever you’re working. Make your goals specific and tangible. Also, add the element of time restriction.

Here are some goals you can write down:

  • guest posts on X
  • ebook on X
  • interview with X
  • email X about X’s post about X

Writing specific goals lets you know what you need to do, and the deadline helps you avoid procrastinating.

9. Go out on dates

Yes, plural.

If you went out on a lot of dates back in high school (or at least tried to), you’ll know what’s coming when you’re pitching other bloggers for guest post opportunities.

Guest posting is just like dating.

As Sean Platt would say it, you’re going to be wooing other bloggers with your bouquet of words. And unless you already have a solid reputation, it’s going to be hard.

Those who’ve made a name for themselves through guest posting know the feeling of getting dumped. It happens. But you have to be persistent and get better. Get a better bouquet and try again.

People like Leo Babauta, Brian Clark, and Danny Iny all went crazy guest blogging. Jon Morrow teaches a course all about guest blogging. It’s that crucial to success.

10. Get in the yearbook

Getting featured in the yearbook back in highschool meant that you did something great. Something that made other students look up to you.

In blogging, there’s no physical yearbook. But there are blogging roundups, like the ones on ProBlogger, Copyblogger, Write to Done, and a bunch of other sites that give recognition to other bloggers at the end of the year.

It’s not biggest achievement that you could get with blogging, nor does it mean you’re the best out of all the other blogs not featured in them. But if you’re in one, you must have done something fascinating and remarkable, right?

Marcus Sheridan of TheSalesLion talked about this on his blog:

I’ve written my share of these types of posts in the past simply because I enjoy shedding light on great people who are blessing others through their work. This, in my opinion, is a very good thing and will never grow old.

But it’s also time we all understood and defined our true individual metrics of success, as it’s this vision that will carry us through the good and bad times that come with all the hard work, effort, and deep passion that is blogging.

When asked about what he thinks other bloggers could do to “get noticed” and grow their blog, he says:

I read the a-listers, and if they something I feel strongly about, for or against, I write about it. I’m not a blind follower. And I don’t want others to blindly follow me. I think A-listers respect you more if you disagree with them, but do it tactful. I’m not a jerk. I don’t demean. I think people demean A-listers too much, and that really bothers me. We’re all imperfect.

Keep in mind, I’ve been at this 2 years now. I’ve never written less than 9 articles in a month. I’m extrememly consistent, and show up to work everyday. A-listers notice up and comers, but they don’t necessarily embrace them right away (nor should they) because so many folks come and go in this business. Once they see someone who is talented and consistent, then they’re much more likely to notice.

I also did a quick interview with James Chartrand of Men with Pens, as she was also featured in a roundup at Copyblogger. Here’s what she had to say:

What’s really important to me (beyond having my hard work and efforts recognized) is that by having my name on the list, people can discover my blog and find helpful advice they need.

That’s always been my personal mission. I’ve been writing advice for writers, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners for years because I want to help these people earn more money and more clients.

So it’s fulfilling to hear from people who’ve applied my advice and seen positive results. They’re changing their lives for the better and reaching their success goals. I feel good about being part of that!

But she also said this:

I think people should actually stop blogging until they have something to prove that their knowledge helps other people accomplish goals or that they’re achieving important milestones and can share proven techniques with others. Many bloggers don’t actually know what they’re doing—they’re faking it until they make it.

I feel that recognition comes from the ability to show results—and results come from working hard, putting in the effort, being willing to take risks and having a strong drive to succeed.

Getting included in these roundups is great. Your name and your brand gets more exposure to people who haven’t heard of you yet. That being said, getting featured in these roundups at  the end of every year shouldn’t be your ultimate goal.

It’s great and all, but achieving your personal goals as a blogger, like getting clients, selling your books, and so on, is way better.

Survival isn’t the end-game

Surviving highschool wasn’t the end-game. Nor is it the same for blogging.

After you’ve established yourself and your blog, there’s a whole new ball game.

It’s going to be about continuously delivering content that inspires people, and helps them in some aspect in their lives.

Are you up to challenge of surviving the blogosphere? What other tips can you add to the list above? Share them in the comments section below.

Josh Sarz is a Freelance Writer, Blogger and the founder of Sagoyism, a blog which talks about Epic Content Marketing and Storytelling . He also likes punk rock and metal, among other things.

6 Fatal Symptoms You’re in the Wrong Niche

This guest post is by Martyn Chamberlin of Two Hour Blogger.

“What should I write about?” It seems such a silly question. Of course you know what to write about!

In fact, you could argue it’s even impossible to write about the wrong thing. That’s like ordering the wrong iPod! Whoever heard of such a thing? As you know, if you write long and hard enough, someone will listen.

An audience of five is great if you’re just blogging for fun. But what if you’re trying to build a profitable business? Can you get enough people listening to make a business?

The answer is yes, if you’re in the right niche. The problem with many failing entrepreneurs is that they’re in the wrong niche. Here’s a list of symptoms you’re one of them.

1. You’re building a big list but you can’t sell anything

In your zeal to rebel from your day job, it’s easy to pick a topic that’s utterly foreign to what you’re good at. But it’s hard to make real money in an area you know relatively little about.

Forget about monetization. Businesses don’t monetize. They sell things. What are you selling? If you don’t have a clue, you’re in the wrong niche.

2. You aren’t becoming an authority in your niche

If nobody’s commenting on your prose, sending email, buying your stuff, and becoming clients, you aren’t an authority. If you’ve spent a year of hard work without anyone acknowledging your expertise, you’re at a dead end. It’s time to move on.

This isn’t always your fault. You can be the greatest parody IT blogger, but if not enough people care about parody IT, you’re stuck. It’s safer to go with a demand that people have proven already exists.

3. The people in your niche don’t spend money

If your niche doesn’t spend money, you’re in trouble.

I know a fine art painter who returned to his day job because his titanic audience wouldn’t buy enough work. Don’t pick a field where people are looking for a quick laugh or a brief diversion. They won’t pay your bills.

4. You never enjoy writing about your topic

Have you gone six months without loving your subject? Does the very thought of hitting “New Post” make you cringe?

The best content comes from writers who are compelled to write. You can’t enjoy this excitement every single time (we all have our bad days), but you should feel it regularly.

5. You’re measuring everything in immediate dollars and cents

If money is all you care about, you’ll be too sane to stick when it’s tough. You won’t be passionate with tasks that have little immediate revenue.

To build a thriving blog, you have to be dedicated to your community. This means dispensing free advice to strangers for the greater community. If you want every single decision to be data-driven and money-making, you’re in the wrong niche.

6. You’re copying other people’s ideas outright

There’s no such thing as 100% original content. It’s okay to get inspiration from other people—in fact, it’s important. But if you don’t even try to edit other people’s ideas, if you mimic their entire ideology with tasteless apathy, you aren’t built for this niche.

Eugene Swartz once said he never knew a company that built its success from copying a competitor’s ad campaigns. Content marketing holds the exact same principle. You can’t expect success when you’ve got nothing original.

If your imagination doesn’t takes control at some point, you’re destined to burn out.

What should you do?

You don’t have to start out a genius. You don’t have to be a perfect writer. You don’t even have to completely understand your business model.

But you can’t be in the wrong niche.

Take a hard look at your blog.

Then pick yourself up and get good at something people pay for.

Martyn Chamberlin can take your WordPress site to places you never dreamed with the Genesis Framework. He blogs at Two Hour Blogger.

10 Ways Multi-blog Authors Can Stay Creative and Generate Great Posts

This guest post is by Jo Gifford of Cherry Sorbet Creative.

Keeping fresh and creative is key to keeping on top of the game when writing different blogs across various sectors, and for various clients. Working with efficient workflows, time management and organization all help to keep that valuable information harnessed to be used when you need it, but how about making sure you can produce great content on time and on demand?

Keeping creative and informed means you are working efficiently to produce content that’s engaging, informative, and, of course, profitable for you. After all, time is money when you are managing a number of blogs and clients.

Here are my top ten tips for fueling that creativity, generating ideas, and managing your time and resources.

1. Make the info come to you—start mass reading

Working smartly is such a key part of working creatively. The brain loves to shoot out those genius ideas when it is free to do so, but cluttered working habits, information gathering, and idea dumping leave little space for those Einstein moments.

So, my first tip for working across blogs is to make the information you need for your different blogs or publications land on your doorstep with minimal effort. That means setting up Google alerts on your subjects of interest which are emailed to you as they occur.

Set up  journo request callouts on databases like Gorkana to allow PR pros to do some groundwork for you, and of course use #journorequest and #bloggerrequest on Twitter.

Use your groups on Linked In to source info, and set up specific RSS feeds grouped together in Feedly to get the blog posts and info you need at source. And of course, the old-school way of signing up for email updates from the right resources will see you right.

Speed up your fact finding, and you can concentrate on fueling great post ideas.

Okay,so now we have info flowing in, but an inbox filled to the brim. Well let’s sort that out too.

2. Filing it cleverly: Other Inbox

If you power your mails with gmail like I do, Other Inbox is your new best friend. I use gmail to ensure all my emails across blogs I write for and my design agency to come together in one place so I don’t miss anything.

OIB is an intuitive add-on app that actually learns where you file things over time, and does this for you. You can set up smart filing to send alerts and emails from certain sources, or containing particular keywords, to go where you wish. In this way, OIB makes that overwhelming inbox panic dissipate.

No creative genius can be cooking with gas when there’s a load of emails looking urgent. Get your inbox filed for you, check it when you need to, and carry on with the magic-making.

3. Dump it! Brain dumping for multiple sources

A wonderful part of working creatively to generate great posts is that those ideas can be trained to come. The problem is that we can’t always tell when they’ll hit.

Finding a brain dump system that works for you is key to keeping your ideas to hand for those moments when you can sit down and crack out the post that you need to.

Evernote is one of my favorite tools for mobile info dumping, and for grabbing info while browsing. I also use Simple Note and Google Docs to file useful ideas.

Designing a workflow that’s intuitive and works to your strengths makes life at work and—in the time away from it—so much more fun and a lot less stressful.

4. Getting creative

One of my favorite books around creativity is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The book provides a 12-week, step-by-step process to unblocking creativity, and includes some fantastic tools and techniques for putting that grey matter to work.

I have gone though the process twice, both times with amazing results which have sent my business in unexpected directions that are aligned with my real aims and goals. Dip into the book. Even if you don’t do the whole thing, I’m sure you will find some of the daily tasks really useful to kickstart your creative thinking. Remember, innovation is just creativity and we can train it.

5. Find your zone and stay in it

In addition to getting your creative juices going, finding your zone to work in is so important. I wrote a post about it, the basic message being: whatever works for you, do it.

If you know that eating a banana and having a cup of coffee gets you in the zone, great, off you go. If it’s a run followed by two hours of great writing, replicate that and there you have a successful recipe. For me, it’s Daft Punk on the headphones, a coffee, and a set time limit to write with the reward of a run at the end. Find what works for you and use it to your advantage.

6. Map it!

Mindmapping is one of my favorite ways to get ideas out in a non-linear way that best expresses my thoughts. I use Mindmeister on my computer and iPhone to brainstorm business ideas and blog posts using imagery, colored segments and links, and all sorts of fun things.

I am even happier when brainstorming in real time with other colleagues or associates—it’s amazing to see ideas develop visually in a way that can be shared and presented so well.

7. Reach out

So often bloggers and freelancers work in isolation—in the ubiquitous PJs, of course. Make a point of having a few friends, colleagues of associates that you can brainstorm with, over a coffee in the big wide world, or using Facetime or Skype if you need to be surgically removed from your dressing gown.

Every genius needs to bounce around some thoughts from time to time and it’s a healthy way to get perspective, see things from a new angle, and just to ensure some human contact.

8. Step away from the machine! Illumination needs you

One of the best ways to let ideas flow is to step away from the screen. Illumination, one of the steps in the creative thinking process, needs space to happen.

I often have ideas when I step away to make a cup of tea, or to do some cooking; a process that isn’t taxing your mind or filling it with yet more information will let the ideas come for the next brilliant post you can write.

9. Unblock yourself on time

Despite our best efforts sometimes that white page or screen just catches out out. The cursor blinks, you try your best workflow habits, but nothing.

A good technique for creative thinking in a time managed manner when a deadline looms is to slice that time up into chunks of 15. Set your phone timer or computer gadget to a 15 minutes and make yourself write just a little.

You will often find if you start off, however clunky the writing is, you will get there. I wrote my MA thesis in a similar way, making myself do 500 words a day whether I felt like or not, was tired, slightly tipsy after work drinks, or just plain not in the mood. Slice it up and it will stop the panics from setting in and quashing any creativity even further.

10. If you are really stuck, go outside the box and freestyle

Try some creative thinking techniques such as random word association: auto-generate a word online or pick a dictionary page and see how that word or object makes you see your brief in a different light.

For example, a car: think of wheels, motion, driving, journeys … do these spark any ideas for your subject? Keep some tricks up your sleeve for the days when your genius is running a little slower than usual and you won’t fail to deliver.

Jo Gifford is a designer, writer, blogger, and founder of Cherry Sorbet Creative. Working primarily in the beauty, fashion and lifestyle industries her work spans graphic design for print and web, social media management and training, copywriting and editorial for on and offline publications. You will find her blogging as Dexterous Diva, and on Twitter bot ahs Dexterous Diva and Cherry Sorbet.