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The Post-writing Rules I Always Break. Do You?

This guest post is by Kate Toon Copywriter.

I have an admission; I suffer from several deep-rooted blog-writing afflictions.

For years I thought it was just me, that I was the only one. Lately, though, I’ve realised that I’m not alone.

Yes, I’ve read all those “15 rules of blog writing” posts, but I just keep breaking them. I’m not a tween, I’m not a Gen Y; I am a fully (over)grown copywriting female. I have no excuses.

So let me be a voice for all those bloggers who, like me, are ostracised in this cruel grammatically correct, rule-driven world.

I share my story in the hope that it helps other writers.

How it all began

My parents sent me to an arty school—it wasn’t Montessori or Steiner, but we seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time playing music, dancing around with floaty scarves and learning italic handwriting. The teachers took the “enjoyment over correction approach” to reading and writing. So after several years of schooling I still could barely write my name, but when I did, it was in a beautiful mediaeval script.

Of course I loved it at the time; when you’re eight, who gives a jelly snake about conjugating verbs? I was happy enough making a human body (including organs) out of Play-Doh. But now I curse their stupid progressive schooling ways!

Here are some of the issues I’ve been left with:

I make typos

Although I have a rather good English degree from a relatively posh university and have been a copywriter for many years, I still can’t spell.

I struggle with even the easiest words and sometimes get complete “word blindness,” where I’ve written a word so often it just looks wrong. (Lawyer anyone?)

I often Google words before I enter them, just to be extra sure.

Writing a Facebook status update is fraught with panic as I post only to realise seconds later that I’ve spelt “realize” incorrectly.

If you’re in this camp with me, may I suggest the following:

  • Don’t write tweets or status updates when you’re in a rush. Take it seriously, or your readers will eat you alive.
  • Don’t send a status update from your iPhone as you’re more likely to make a mistake.
  • Do write your status updates in a text document first and then cut and paste them into whatever platform you’re using. Then at least the really obvious mistakes will be picked up by spell checker.
  • Do write a big batch of status updates at the start of the month and send them off to a proofreader to correct. Then you can safely upload one each day/week.

I’m ungrammatical

I know my nouns from my adjectives, and my verbs from my adverbs, but I’m prone to bending the grammar rules, sometimes to breaking point. Fellow sufferers, here are a few grammar basics that I think it’s okay to break (but don’t tell my proofreader):

  • Starting sentences with “but” or “and”: Although you don’t want to overdo it, the occasional sentences that begin with “but” or “and” are, in my opinion, no big deal.
  • Ending sentences with prepositions: Occasionally it just sounds better to put the preposition slap bang at the end of your sentence. Compare, for example: “They don’t have a leg to stand on” with “They don’t have a leg upon which to stand.” Or as Winston Churchill wrote, “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”
  • Using fragments: As long as your fragment clearly communicates a complete thought, it’s a great tool to create pauses and give your ideas great emphasis.

My English isn’t all that plain

I like using odd and slightly unusual words in my blog posts; perhaps it’s the latent poet in me.

Is this a bad thing? Well, I’d argue a firm “No.”

You see, while I’m all for keeping things short and simple, I also believe that it’s important to inject some personality into your copy now and again. Too much plain English and your writing just sounds, well, plain (and possibly a little bit dull).

I think I’m funny

“Everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humour but they couldn’t possibly all have good taste.”—Nora Ephron

I often try to inject humour into my blog posts, even when they’re about really serious stuff like SEO. I’ve been warned against this time and time again.

“Not everyone will get it!” they cry. “You’re bound to offend someone!” they shriek.

Well, if I offend, I offend.

Not everyone is going to like your blog. But if you inject your own personal taste, humour and style, some people will love it (and, yes, others may well hate it). But I’d rather have 200 avid followers loving what I write than 500 people who were mildly interested.

I use slang

I’m a big fan of slang. In fact, I think it’s awesome.

I know that seeing some teen speak in a grown-up blog can often be the cringeworthy equivalent of seeing your dad drunk dancing at your 17th birthday party.

If you use slang carefully and in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way, it can add a certain je ne sais quoi to your writing.

However, if you intend to use slang regularly I suggest you hire a 13-year-old to read everything you write before you post it.

I get emotional

I like to write about things I’m passionate about. Subjects that annoy me. Websites that are woeful. Clients who are horrible. Things I find amusing.

Sometimes that causes controversy. I’ve been sent hate mail about a poem I once wrote and published online. I’ve been insulted on Twitter by a fellow copywriter who took offence to a blog post. (He thought it was about him—it wasn’t.)

While I never actively seek to offend, insult, or discriminate against anyone, the blog posts on my business website represent my opinions. They’re not a sanitised, client-friendly version of things. Again, what I write might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s my cup of tea and therefore I think my enthusiasm and passion shines through.

So there you go. If you’ve read this post and think you’re suffering from similar symptoms, you too could be a victim of blogrulebreakingitus. Please share your faults with us in the comments. It’s only by working together that we can get through these terrible afflictions. Blog rule breakers of the world unite!

Kate is an award-winning SEO and advertising copywriter with over 18 years’ experience. She’s also a well-respected SEO consultant, information architect, strategist, hula hooper and Creme Egg lover based in Sydney, Australia.

Blogging in Brief: Ebooks, Print Books, Conferences and More

From what I can tell, most bloggers are off to a flying start this year. Lots of great discussions going on on social media, and some interesting plans in the works for many…

Launching an ebook in 2013?

If you answered “yes” to that question, take a look at this post from Shayne, who helps me with both dPS and ProBlogger products.

This post contains some key issues that I think most bloggers probably don’t look at in detail before we launch an ebook. We’re so excited to get our products out there that we could, unwittingly, be undermining their success.

Shayne looks at the issue from a really strategic viewpoint in this post. I hope it helps you!

Blogger in print … and on tour

Congratulations to Matt Kepnes, who’s released a print book through Penguin: How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.

This is another great example of what can happen when you build a strong brand and following online. If it’s something that interests you, take a look at our guides for becoming a print book author:

Not only that, but Matt’s heading off on a book tour of the States during February. So if you’re in a city he’s visiting, head down and say hello—he’s published the tour dates on his blog. And tell him Darren sent you!

Conference planning 2013

We announced this week that this year’s ProBlogger Training Event will be held on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. But we’re not the only ones to have released conference details recently.

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

This guest post is by Henneke Duistermaat of Enchanting Marketing.

You’re smart.

You got drive.

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

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

Let’s be honest.

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

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

Mistake 1: You’ve jumped straight in

Of course, it’s great to get started.

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

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

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

Mistake 2: Your audience is too diverse

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

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

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

Mistake 3: You’ve picked the wrong topic

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

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

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

Mistake 4: You don’t have a purple cow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are you going to change the world?

Mistake 6: Your design puts people off

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

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

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

Mistake 7: Your blogging voice is erratic

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

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

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

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

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

Mistake 8: You’re hiding yourself

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

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

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

Mistake 9: You think your traffic will snowball

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email drives profits

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

Mistake 11: You’re a dreamer

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

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

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

The truth about building your audience

Let’s be honest.

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

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

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

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

Clean Out Your List of Blog Post Ideas in a Blog Content Workshop

This post is by Steve of Do Something Cool. 

One of the first things I learned when I started blogging was to create a Word document to write down all my blog post ideas.  That way I could always find something to write about. 

After a few months, I had dozens of ideas and titles to work from.  Three years on, and that list has grown into the hundreds.

This seems to be common for bloggers.  We all have a long list of blog post topics.  Some bloggers I’ve talked to have over five hundred.  At some point though, you have to question the benefit behind having a list that long.

The overwhelming list

A few months ago I sat down to write a post, just like any other day.  I opened up my list to choose an idea and was struck by how long I’d let the list get.

I realized that most of those ideas were just being wasted.  I generally write about 400-500 words a day.  My blog posts are roughly 800-1000 words.  It would take me over a year to get through this list, and that doesn’t even include other ideas I would add throughout the year.

There are so many potential ideas I’m not using.

I decided to go through my list of blog post ideas and clear them out.  Think of it as a kind of spring cleaning.

Instead of writing 400-500 words, I sat down and typed 5000.  That’s ten times my normal amount for a day of writing.

As a result, I wrote enough to create six or seven blog posts.  All in one day!

Now I clean out my list of blog post ideas about once a month.  Usually, I block off about four or five hours of solid writing.  Often that means about 5000-6000 words in a day.  The last time I did this I wrote 10,000 words in one day, which was very challenging.

The number of posts you can get done this way is amazing.

Here’s what to do

It only takes a little preparation to clean out your list.  Set your date to write a couple of days in advance.  Make sure you can spend at least three hours writing.  It works best if you can write continuously; I’ve noticed my most productive time writing happens in the third hour.

A few days before you write, go through your blog post list and pull out about a dozen of those ideas.  For each of those posts, create a Word document.  Write the title at the top and create a general outline.  This should take about five minutes per post.  Also, as you go through your list, delete any ideas you have no interest in writing any more.

Create two folders on your desktop.  Put your unwritten posts with their outlines in the first one.  The second one is for all the ones you’ll finish as you write.  I named the first folder “Start Here” and the second one “Finished Posts”, but you can name them whatever you want.

When the day arrives to start writing, make sure to start right away so you have enough time to get as much writing done as possible.

It’s important to track your progress, so as soon as you start writing set a timer to go off in sixty minutes.  When it goes off, stop writing and count up all the words you’ve written to make sure you’re on the right track.  Then take a five-minute break to walk around a bit before getting back to writing.

Keep writing in sixty-minute chunks until you reach your word goal.  In my opinion, it’s best to set a high word goal.  The focus is to get as many words down as possible, so don’t spend too much time editing.  This day is about getting as many words down as you can so that you clear out your list. Edit later.

Also, keep in mind you don’t have to completely finish a post before moving on to the next one.  It’s about keeping the pace of your writing high to get through a lot of posts.  If one post isn’t working, move on to the next one.  It might just be an indication that the idea isn’t all that good.

Once you’ve written all you can on a post, save and move it from the first folder to the “Finished Posts” folder.  By the end of the day, this folder will be full of posts you’ve crossed off your list.

Your blog posts in the finished folder will be rough drafts so you’ll still need to edit and polish them later.  But now you’ll have a bunch of posts mostly ready to publish.  Plus, you’ll have several you can get ready to send off as guest posts.

You might be surprised what you can come up with when you clear out your list.  The last time I did some spring cleaning, I wrote about an idea I’d been sitting on for months.  After I finished it, I realized the potential behind it: that post turned out to be one of my more popular.  You just never know what will happen when you clean out that list once in a while!

Steve is the writer behind Do Something Cool where he blogs about travel, motivation, personal growth and adventure.  He’s always looking for ways to make life more interesting.  Get tips on living life to the fullest through his Facebook fan page and Twitter.

Can’t Find Your Voice? Find and Share Hidden Treasures Instead

This guest post is by Traci Dillard of allstayathome.com.

It’s important to have a strong and likeable voice as a blogger. If your followers don’t like your voice and article flow, they probably won’t return to your blog.

Equally important is what valuable information or “hidden treasure” you have to offer to your readers. This can also be a driving force to ensure repeat traffic.

Depending on your niche, it is important that you keep your information current and share helpful resources with your readers. Not only will you find that readers will return to your blog to catch the latest information, but you will begin to see your list of followers grow as well.

Resources can compensate for voice

If you are having trouble finding your “voice,” having a blog full of powerful resources and lists can help to compensate for this.

Your blog must be useful to those seeking the information you’re sharing in order to attract and keep visitors. If your blog is a reliable source of information in a specific area, this alone can work wonders.

Set your goal to become the best in your niche

The key to success with a blog is to strive to provide the best information in your niche. If you aren’t already an expert on the topics you write about, you need to become one. This means you need to study your competition.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are they doing to gain and keep followers?
  • What secrets do they share?

While you don’t necessarily want to share the same information they share, you should gather better information to stay a step ahead of your competition. Do as much research as you can, dig around, and learn as much as possible about the subject of your blog.

You cannot maintain a successful blog if you offer insufficient or incomplete information on a subject. You must master the niche and this requires thorough, ongoing research.

Organize your information

Once you gather information, keep it updated and organize it on your pages so that it is understandable to the reader.

You will see the most traffic from posts that contain organized lists as well as helpful “how-to” information that is up-to-date.

Keep posts original and unique

Sure, you will have to gather resources from around the web and other places, but the trick is to gather a wealth of information from many different sources and give your audience the best of the best! You want to wow your readers.

When a reader finds the information you offer to be powerful and interesting, they will most likely want more of what you have to offer and will therefore be more likely to subscribe, follow, and comment on what they’ve read.

The feedback from readers is a valuable tool in making your blog even better.

How and where should you gather resources?

In order to gather the best resources for your readers, you are going to have to invest some quality time. You will need to devote a time specifically for research on the topic you are blogging about. Think about the list(s) or specific information you want to provide and take advantage of the web. Use the following types of sites to find the information:

  • Forums: Forums are a treasure trove of hidden secrets. Find some forums specific to your niche and do some digging. You are likely to find some gold!
  • Discussion boards: Other discussion boards, like Q&A boards are also a valuable tool for finding the information you seek.  While doing a search on Google or other search engines, specify your topic and also enter a discussion board or choose from the options in the search engine.
  • Blogs: Search specifically for blogs that have information about your topic. Blogs are another hidden source of great information.
  • Wikis: Wikis and online encyclopedias offer valuable information usually written by experts in their fields. They are great for finding information on specific topics. In addition, Wikis usually contain lists of other reliable resources.
  • Social sites: There has been an explosion of social sites in recent years, so listing them all would require a completely separate post, but sites like Stumble Upon, Digg, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are of course among some of the better sites where you will find information you may not otherwise find from a basic search.

Use more than one search engine

If you are a loyal Google searcher, break out of your comfort zone and give some other search engines a shot when looking for the information you need.

Search engines do not display the exact same results in the same order. This is beneficial when looking for specific information. Try Bing and Yahoo as alternative search engines.

The keys to success

Before posting, check and re-check your spelling and grammar. Nothing turns a reader off more than an article that is rife with spelling and grammar mistakes. Use the spell check first, then proofread your work yourself or have a friend proofread it. Spell check is good, but it doesn”t find all the errors, so take extra time to make sure your work is flawless.

Hard work, dedication and consistency will pay off, but patience and belief in the posts you create are the keys to success. It is important to post regularly, but a good rule to live by is quality over quantity. This will lead to better search engine ranking and an overall better following in the long run.

Become the voice for your resources

After gathering your resources, think of yourself as the voice for the power of these resources.

Carefully analyze and share how the information, piece by piece, can help your viewers. This is where some creativity and thinking outside of the box can play a part. Give your readers ideas that will work and ideas that nobody else is sharing.

Anyone can just create lists, but you can turn these lists into gold!

Traci Dillard is the founder/owner of allstayathome.com, a trusted source for freelancers and home workers. By day, she is also a content and SEO specialist for Your Web Pro, LLC. In West Texas.

Blogging in Brief: Goal-Setting … and Reaching!

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

Image courtesy Moyan_Brenn, licensed under Creative Commons


That time of year…

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

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

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

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

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

Get better at online marketing

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

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

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

Blog branding in 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ProBlogger Top 20 of 2012: What YOU Read Most This Year

Welcome to 2013! Are you ready for the year ahead? If you’re like me, and you’re just getting back into the swing of things (or still on break!), you might be scratching your head trying to remember all the important lessons you learned last year.

20

Image courtesy Lore & Guille, licensed under Creative Commons

So to help you out, I’ve compiled this list of our 20 most popular articles from 2012. If you’re a die-hard ProBlogger reader, you might already have read them all—but this might be a good time to refresh your memory.

If not, I hope you’ll find some gems in this list. We do try to cover a range of topics on the blog, and meet the needs of bloggers at all stages of the blogging journey. So if, once you’ve had a look through this list, there’s something you’d like to see more of in the year ahead, be sure to mention it in the comments.

Now, without further ado, here are our top 20 articles from 2012!

20. Quality Vs. Volume: The Traffic Spectrum, and How You as Bloggers Can Harness It

If you’re looking at your blog stats this morning and wondering how you can ramp them up this year, read this post before you start. It might give you the insight you need to work smarter, rather than harder, to attract quality traffic to your blog.

Definitely check out the discussion on that post, too—some really interesting learnings are to be found there.

19. Blogging in Brief: Looking Good, Saving Face, Tags and Lags

My Blogging In Brief column was a bit of a hit last year with readers, and the next instalment comes out later this week.

In the meantime, this post from last year highlights a few interesting trends that readers were particularly interested in: how big blogs save face when they make mistakes, graphical blog headers, letting customers set the price for your next product, how promotions could be slowing your site, and the relevance (or otherwise!) of tag clouds.

18. The Diamond in the Rough System for Gaining Influence

We’ve all heard social media advisors tell us to target the influencers if we want to have an impact on social media. But how can you find the true influencers in your niche?

In this post, Jonathan Goodman shows you how—and his tips and experience are good for all aspects of blog promotion, not just social networking. Have a read!

17. Looking to 2013: A Commitment to Blogging Smarter … With a Little Help

In this post, I included a roundup of a series of posts on contracting out aspects of your blog. From maintenance and development to design and writing, the range of tasks you can outsource—if they’re not your strong suit, or you need to free up time to focus on other blogging jobs—is endless.

While this post is a starting point, I hope it’ll put you in a good position to blog smarter this year.

16. URL Be Sorry: Google Cuts Back on Top-ranking Exact-match Domains

While once, exact-match domains made a big difference to a blog’s search positioning, as Rob Henry explained here, Google’s changed its algorithm so that exact-match domains now carry much less weight.

As Rob reveals, this creates great opportunities for those with quality content hosted on a normal domain (i.e. one that’s not a domain that’s an exact match with a niche keyword).

15. Grow Your Blog Business: The Earn Millions in Your Flipflops Framework [Case Study]

This case study by Stephan Spencer really excited our readers, and it was great to hear from the case study’s subject, Susan Lassiter-Lyons, in the comments.

The post really sets out a solid framework for starting a profit-making blog. It’s a must-read if this is something you’re working on at the moment.

14. 3 Ways Cartoons Can Improve Your Blog

A picture tells a thousand words, as this post by Mark Anderson shows.

If you’re thinking that there’s no way you can possibly communicate your message in under 1,000 words or so, have a look at this thought-provoking, actionable post. You might just rethink your approach to blog content afterward!

13. WordPress Feature Review: New Features You Missed in 2012

If you’re a WP user, you’ll find this two-part series very helpful. In it, Michael Scott steps us through a raft of new features that, bloggers being as busy as we are, we may have missed in 2012 (I know I missed a few!).

Even a quick skim of this series is sure to turn up a few handy enhancements that will make your blogging easier and more enjoyable in 2012.

12. How to Find an SEO Goldmine for Your Blog

In this popular post, Elena Vakhromova presents a simple, clear, effective way to write keyword-relevant, quality blog posts to raise your search rankings.

Bloggers who have been scared to tackle keyword research were very pleased to find this guide, so if your keyword research could do with an overhaul, take a look at this post.

11. The 3 step Guide to Creating Pinterest-friendly Graphics for Your Blog

There’s a lot of heat and light around Pinterest right now, but few know how to harness the platform as well as Jade Craven, who’s helped me develop a strong audience there for dPS.

This post exposes her top advice for creating the types of graphics people love to pin on Pinterest. If you didn’t realise that was part of the battle of getting Pnterest traction, this article is definitely for you!

10. 6 Warning Signs That Your Blog is Deflating

Again, another handy post that provides invaluable pointers that help bloggers recognize a downturn and do something about it before it’s too late!

Ashkan’s advice here is clear and straightforward, and the suggestions offered by readers in the comments make a great addition to this post. Why not make it a monthly checklist for your blog in 2013?

9. WordPress Backups: Don’t Make These 9 Mistakes on Your Blog

We all need backups, but few of us know if we’re doing all we should to protect our online assets.

As Anders Vinther reveals, backups aren’t something that we should be leaving to our blog hosts, or our developers. This is a topic every blogger needs to be on top of, so if you’re not in that camp, check this post out now.

8. 4 WordPress Alternatives: The What, Where, and Why

You’ll have noticed a prevalence of WordPress-related posts on this list. But not everyone is on, or wants to use, that platform. Here, Matt Setter steps us through four handy, functional alternatives, explaining who they’re for, and what they do.

If you’re starting a new blog, or looking to move an existing blog, in 2013, maybe you’ll also look for different functionality and flexibility than WordPress offers. If so, this post is for you!

7. How to Write Emails that Get an Immediate Response

This is one of those topics that many would think is too obvious to get so much attention—but they’d be wrong.

Robert D. Smith shows even the most experienced email writer how to improve their technique in this short, sharp post that combines psychology, etiquette, and good old common sense. Are your emails getting the responses you want? Make sure they do in 2013!

6. Make Money From a Low-traffic Blog [Case Study]

Nathan Barry’s no-holds-barred story of how he build a product, and sold it strongly, from a blog with low traffic is nothing short of inspirational. One of the great things about it is how honest he is, and how clear he makes the path to success.

This is a must-read for anyone who’s put off by the traditional make-money-blogging stories and wants to get a head-start on generating income.

5. 15 Social Media Mistakes That Are Strangling Your Success

This post provides a full tour of social media mistakes that, surprisingly, we’re still making today.

In it, Georgina takes us back to basics in this post, which, again, would make a good checklist for bloggers to assess their social media efforts every so often.

4. Can you REALLY Make Money Blogging? [7 Things I Know About Making Money from Blogging]

Last year marked my tenth anniversary of blogging, and this post encapsulates the key learnings I’ve gained about making money over that time.

As you’ll see in the comments, the post resonated strongly with a broad cross-section of our readers, and provided much-needed inspiration for many. If you want the truth about making money blogging, look no further.

3. How to Set Up an Email Account that Uses Your Domain Name

Kashish hit a nerve with many readers with this post.

As you’ll know if you read post 7 above, having a legitimate email address is critical to being taken seriously online. This post—and the comments that follow—will help you set one up quickly and easily.

2. 10 Popular Affiliate Programs for Small and Medium-sized Blogs

Charles Dearing’s list of his favorite affiliate programs is supplemented in the comments by those of our experienced users.

Any blogger looking to add or ramp up affiliate income in the coming year would do well to look at this list and the advice Charles gives.

1. 40 Cool Things to Do With Your Posts *After* You Hit Publish

Our most popular post this year is one of our most recent! But it seems we all want to find innovative ways to use our quality content to expand our readership and online presence.

Steff Green’s list of 40 cool things isn’t just about promotion—in it, she provides tips for finding new content ideas, researching your audience, and more. Is it another checklist you could print and use in the coming year?

What were your top posts of 2012?

These were the top posts on ProBlogger—but what about elsewhere online? Link us to your favorite post in the comments below, and don’t forget to tell us why you loved it!

15 Bloggers to Watch in 2013

Welcome to the 2013 edition of Bloggers to Watch. My work has changed a lot over the past year—I’ve been focused a lot on the Australian blogger community, and on curators—so this post is very centered on those communities. This is the last time I’ll be writing this yearly round-up. It has been a blast exploring this project over the past four years.

So! Here are the 15 people that I’ll be keeping an eye on this year.

Tina Roth Eisenberg

Tina started swissmiss in 2005 as her “personal visual archive.” It eventually grew into a popular design journal with an average of 1 million unique visitors a month. I love that she was experimenting with visual curation before such a term even existed.

Many of you will argue that Tina shouldn´t be on such a list. She has been around for years and most of her projects don´t concern the blogging industry. Well, I disagree. I believe her archives have a lot to offer beginner bloggers. She is extremely talented at curation, and combines her community-building skills with a keen sense of strategy. She shows what you can achieve with your blog, and your life, if you step outside of the echo-chamber and pursue creative projects.

I also recommend that you check out Creative Mornings.

Jenny Lawson

This is the fourth year I have written this post. Every time, multiple people tell me that I should have included The Bloggess. I had read and devoured her blog, but didn´t know whether posts about taxidermied mice necessarily made someone worth watching. You guys would rather read about a hidden gem, right?

This year, after reading her book, I was able to realize why it is important that her blog gets acknowledged in this list. She helps normalize some of the icky stuff associated with mental illness. I have an anxiety disorder and, at times, it can consume my life. Jenny shows that brilliance can shine through, despite you feeling at your lowest. She shows that you can still leverage your power to amuse or help others despite feeling powerless.

We bloggers have a lot more power then we give ourselves credit for. Especially when convincing actors to post pictures of themselves holding cutlery and/or twine.

Gavin Aung Than

In early 2012, Gavin decided that he wanted to give cartooning a real chance. He quit his job, sold his house, and started “working on Zen Pencils to try to inspire myself and others.” (Source: The Viewspaper.)

Since then, he’s been able to attract the attention of many key influencers and mainstream media. I think he is really talented and that his story shows what you can achieve if you combine quality content with social media outreach.

I was at the ProBlogger Event when he told that story and I swear the room when silent. After six months, he reported that he was getting around 400,000 unique visitors a month, and had nearly 15,000 Facebook fans. I know so many people who would love those statistics. But few would sacrifice as much as Gavin has to achieve them.

Christina Butcher

Christina Butcher started Hair Romance as a side project but, in only 18 months, has turned her blog into her full-time job. She gets over 120, 000 visitors monthly and is very intuitive when it comes to trends. She has had a lot of success with the “31 days” ebook concept, tapping into the trend for her second ebook, too.

She is awesome because she serves as a guide to those who don´t understand the world of hairstyles. She is like a translator. She makes a complicated topic incredibly easy to understand and, frankly, is one of the nicest bloggers I´ve had the pleasure of talking to.

She has recently launched two new sites: Nail romance and Mr and Mrs Romance.

Jennifer Schmidt

Jennifer is another person whose blog started out as a personal project and has grown into a popular resource in her community. She is the blogger behind Beauty and Bedlam, which she describes as an authentic look at intentional living through strengthening family ties,  encouraging meal time memories,  food/meal planning, couponing, personal finance, home decor and frugal fashion. Late in 2012, she launched her food blog 10 Minute Dinners.

I believe that both sites have a lot of potential, and that her profile will be growing a lot in 2013.

Emily Winters

I discovered Emily thanks to a recommendation by Pete Fazio on the 2012 list. He said:

She is a DIY blogger who started a blog a year ago for family and friends, was discovered by DIYNetwork, and is now their featured blogger. Amazing stuff.

I thought it was an awesome suggestion and immediately decided that she would go on this year’s list.

Her blog, Merrypad, started as a personal project that evolved into a source of inspiration for those wanting to embrace a DIY lifestyle. It is another example of someone acting as a translator for a topic that could seem overwhelming. In this case, however, she is differentiating her site by targeting a gender that may not necessarily consider DIY projects.

It´s a really solid case study about how to make it easy for people to connect with your blog. Her before and after page is a really user-friendly way of taking the reader through her DIY journey without manually going through her archives.

If you want to learn more about Emily, I recommend you check out her BlogStar Interview.

Ramit Sethi

Ramit Sethi is one of my favourite people to learn from. He runs the site I Will Teach You To Be Rich and has written a bestselling book of the same name. He is incredibly strategic and practical. I´ve spent hours going through his archives and consistently return for inspiration. I love how usable his site is—look at how his blog headings lead to landing pages instead of categories.

Ramit shows what you can achieve as a result of in-depth research. He doesn´t write posts with the aim to go viral. He researches the heck out of his target audience and writes posts that answer their problems.

Rachel MacDonald

In Spaces Between is a shiny online space for bright sparks seeking inspiration and words on living a big, beautiful life. In little over a year, In Spaces Between has become the go-to blog for juicy inspiration, confidence building, fear fighting, and mindset shifting.

I think Rachel’s blog is pretty cool. What really intrigues me, though, is her attention to detail. Look at this custom graphic that was created for her interview with Nikki Parkinson. Her free ebook,
20 Ways to Create Your Best Life Ever

Antonia Murphy

I’d read anything she writes. She’s hilarious and very, very honest. She has a son who may have global developmental delay. She refers to him as a “tard” and an “alien,” which sounds harsh, but she does it in a way that works. I believe she’s taking the taboo away from these words; she’s making them powerless. She’s what I’d call a fearless writer.

I’ve fallen in love with her writing. She blogged about her sailing adventures at s/v Sereia and now writes about her land-based adventures in New Zealand at AntoniaMurphy.com. Hopefully we’ll see more writing from her in 2013.

Eden Riley

Eden is one of the coolest bloggers that I´ve had the pleasure of reading. She is tenacious and brilliant. Best of all, her logo is based on the mural in her office. She writes at Edenland.com

I admire her because she is a person that has gone through a lot of negative stuff—especially in the past year.  Despite her personal challenges, she continues to try and leverage her blog for good. This has included two overseas trips where she blogged about the food crisis in Niger and the slums of India. She also tries to challenge our perceptions—check out Ladies, It’s Time We Got Real About Being Beautiful.

Jen Gresham

Jen writes about career design at Everyday Bright. She encourages her readers to dare to shine:

…to define success on your own terms, to muster the courage to pursue your happiness, to create a life you love.

I love her blog because she sees career design as a process rather then something that can be solved with a quick fix. She follows the A-listers but doesn’t use the “trendy” techniques unless they are right for her blog. She is incredibly strategic and someone I think will be around for a long time in this community.

Tom Ewer

Tom Ewer got a lot of attention in early 2012 with his article, The 100 Blogs You Need In Your Life. He was able to leverage the momentum to grow Leaving Work Behind to the point where he was making a decent income from freelance writing and ebook sales.

Now, I´m not putting Tom on here because of his list post efforts. I try not to focus on the blogging/marketing niche anymore as it can be incredibly formulaic. I think Tom is worth watching purely because of his networking and outreach efforts. He is incredibly skilled, and I’d love to see what he could accomplish in a different niche or platform.

Alex Beadon

 I discovered Alex Beadon Photography when pinning images for the Digital Photography School Pinterest account. I fell in love with the Pinterest-friendly graphics she had created to promote her post and lost myself for hours checking out her archives.

I love the attention she has put into the branding and design of her blog. Look at the images she created to promote her FAQ page. It´s a great example of how you can infuse your personality into what might otherwise be a boring subject.

Tip: Look at the graphics in the sidebar that link to the categories of her blog. Could you create something like that to spice up your design?

Cheryl Lin

Cheryl runs Business Chic, a fashion blog featuring photos of professionals and their workwear style in Melbourne, Australia. She is a great example of how you can create a quality local niche blog.

I´ve been watching Cheryl grow Business Chic over the past three years. It has been in the past 12 months that she has really hit her stride. She strives to go beyond a fashion/streetstyle blog. In 2012, she experimented with a year-long little black dress project. This year, she´ll be turning that project into a book and an exhibition at a popular fashion festival.

She is an extremely hard worker and attends a lot of events, despite her day job. I know that her dedication will really pay off this year and that it will be an enjoyable journey to watch.  I think that she´ll be enjoying a lot of momentum in 2013.

Sarah Von Bargen

Sarah runs the lifestyle blog Yes and Yes. She couldn’t find a blog “that addressed the many, many aspects of modern life and didn’t pigeon-hole women into different camps” so she created one herself. It’s a really fun blog and one that I enjoy reading.

I’ve become captivated by her recently launched small business blog and I believe that she will make a real impact in her community.

Over to you

I’ve had a lot of fun with this blogging series and always enjoy reading about who you guys are watching. Who do you think is worth watching over the coming you? Who knows—the people you recommend just may get featured on here in the future!

Celebrate Your Marketing?!

This guest post is by Karl Staib of Domino Connection.

Have you ever planned out your day and put marketing as the last thing on your list because you just can’t stomach another rejection?

I know I did. I have a popular blog named Work Happy Now that gets 15,000 visits a month. That’s due to backlinks, Google search, and social love. This happened because of my desire to build relationships with people. I didn’t force myself onto anyone. I connected with them via interview, guest post or Twitter. It was this kind of outreach that I enjoyed.

The marketing that I avoided was cold calling, cold emailing, and buying ads on websites. I just didn’t want to build connections with people who weren’t interesting to me.

You marketing should be a celebration instead of some stodgy task that you have to do to get a few sales. If you hate the kind of marketing you’re doing, your business won’t grow.

Think about it this way: everything you do is marketing, from a blog post to a conversation with another blogger. You are creating something. You can create something beautiful and memorable, or you can create something forgettable. It’s up to you.

In this post, I’ve put together a few concepts that you can use to delight and encourage people to talk about your blog.

Give away surprise gifts

Studies have proven when people receive an unexpected gift their dopamine levels skyrocket. Knowing this you can give someone an extra boost to your visitors. You may even want to include a little blurb about it on your blog.

I would suggest keeping track of everyone that leaves a comment on your blog for one month. The person with the most comments for that month wins a free ebook, ecourse, or something along those lines.

The idea is to keep it a surprise. I guarantee that person will keep coming back to your blog and leaving comments for a long time.

Throw an online party

Throwing an online event is a great way to get people talking about you. The technology is so good today that you can do almost any kind virtual event. You can create a webinar, tele-seminar, Twitter party, Facebook giveaway, or a contest that engages people.

The idea is to build authority and friendships with your tribe.

Throw a physical party

An online event is cool because it’s not as stressful as a real-life event, but a live event has a few benefits.

I still remember my first tweetup with Robert Scoble. I’m not really a tech guy, but I wanted to see what a tweetup was all about. Robert was visiting Austin and put together a group of people to meet at the restaurant. He was a cool enough guy, but the best part of the party was the people I met. I still keep in contact with someone I met that night over five years ago.

By creating an event for people that allows them to bond, you are creating something worth sharing. Since Robert threw that Twitter party over five years ago, he gets a link from Problogger.net. That’s priceless.

Help out a charity

My friend Colleen Wainwright created the 50 for 50 event. She promised to shave her head if she was able to raise $50,000 by her 50th birthday.

You should check out her link. She has an image of her shaved head on the page. She was able to raise over $50,000 for WriteGirl, a charity that helps young girls improve their writing skills.

Colleen gets the benefit of raising money for a super-cool charity, but also building her network. I know that’s not why she created the event, but it’s a nice bonus to have a new network of people to help you with your business.

Your story

It’s all about creating a story. If you can get people on board with your story, you are able to create an event that tugs at their hearts.

Chris Guillebeau created The Empire Building Kit to help people who wanted to create a lifestyle business that fits their needs. He wasn’t sure how to get people excited about it, so he went on a trip. His return trip stopped in Chicago and he wasn’t able to get a flight to Portland. His wife suggested that he take the train. At first he balked, but then he found out the train was called Empire Builder.

He then got a bag from Tom Ben called the Empire Builder. Chris realized that he needed to launch the Empire Building Kit while riding on the train back to Portland. He invited his friend J.D. of Get Rich Slowly and it kept building from there. He blogged about the whole trip, turning the story into his launch. A very successful launch.

Can you see how this story sucks you in? This is great marketing that can be a lot of fun. When you are planning on releasing something to the world, you need to have a plan that grabs people’s attention and makes them take notice of who you are and what you created. It’s a little more work than a standard launch, but very much worth your time and energy.

These are just a few ideas, but each of us has a different approach. What have you done to celebrate your marketing and turn it into a fun event?

Check out Karl Staib of Domino Connection and his free e-course “How to Create an Amazing Product Launch,” You can also check out Domino Connection on Facebook because he shares all kinds of great content and tips.