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9 Crucial Tips for Self-Editing Your Blog Posts (That Every Blogger Can Use)

This is a guest contribution from Ali Luke of Zen Optimise.

Image via Flickr user Dan Patterson

Image via Flickr user Dan Patterson

Have you ever glanced at a post the day after publishing it … only to notice a glaring error?

In an ideal world, you’d have a professional editor helping with your posts, making careful adjustments and double-checking things with you until your post is the polished masterpiece it deserves to be.

In the real world, chances are you’re on your own. If your post is going to be edited, it’s up to you to do it.

Whether you’re a highly experienced writer or a new blogger who’s very unconfident about their writing, spending some time editing (and doing it right) will result in dramatically better posts.

Here’s how:

9 Tips for Editing Your Own Blog Posts

#1: Plan Before You Write

One of the best editing tricks takes place before you even write your post.

By spending five to ten minutes creating a plan, you can save yourself hours of frustration trying to whip your post into shape later.

Your plan needn’t be complicated: a list of your subheadings is enough. My plan for this post began like this:

Introduction

1. Plan before you write

2. Avoid editing while writing (link Daniel’s post)

3. Don’t go straight from writing into editing

#2: Avoid Editing While Writing

Have you ever started a blog post, got a paragraph or two in, scrapped your introduction, started again… and then ended up bogged down mid-way?

A good plan will help a lot here, but you also need to get out of the habit of trying to perfect every sentence while you’re working on the first draft. It’s an inefficient and often frustrating way to work.

I wouldn’t go quite so far as Daniel Scocco, who suggests you should never hit backspace when you’re writing – personally, I think it’s no big deal if you quickly correct a typo or occasionally restart a sentence. But at least 90% of the time, you should be making forward progress with your first draft, not going back and rewriting.

#3: Don’t Go Straight from Writing into Editing

If you’re in a hurry to get a post out, or simply in a blogging mood, you might finish drafting your post and immediately start editing.

While this is OK once in a while, it’s definitely better to allow your post to rest a bit before you start editing.

This has a couple of benefits:

You won’t be so close to the material, so you’ll see where you might want to add something in, take something out, or rearrange paragraphs. (You’ll also be more likely to spot all the good bits!)

You’ll hopefully come back feeling refreshed, so you’ll be in a better position to spot typos, grammatical errors, and other tiny but distracting mistakes.

How long should you stay away? If you can leave your post overnight, that’s perfect; otherwise, a lunch break or even a coffee break can be enough.

#4: Edit the Big Picture First

When you hear the word “editing,” you probably think about fixing spelling mistakes and debating over word choices. That’s definitely a big part of editing … but before you get into the details, you need to take a look at the big picture of your post.

Think of it this way: you don’t want to spend ages getting a paragraph just right, only to later realize it doesn’t belong in your post at all.

So spend at least a few minutes reading through your post and deciding whether you should:

Cut out information that might not be relevant (or that’s repetitive).

Add in information that readers may need in order to understand the post.

Move around paragraphs or subsections that aren’t currently in the best order.

At this stage, you’re focusing on paragraphs and perhaps sentences, rather than individual words.

#5: Cut Down Your Introduction

Most blog posts benefit from some cutting … and introductions are a great place to begin. 

The first few lines of your post need to hook the reader and encourage them to read on. If you spend several paragraphs explaining the inspiration behind the post, or if you start to repeat yourself, readers may well switch off and click away.

One handy trick here is to delete your first paragraph and see whether the post works without it. If not, just add it back in.

If you’re stuck, try How to Write Irresistible Blog Intros for some great tips.

#6: Add a Call to Action

If you included a call to action during your first draft, good for you! Missing calls to action are one of the biggest mistakes I see when I’m editing guest posts or training bloggers.

A call to action, in case you’ve not come across the term before, is a clear prompt to the reader to do something. It could be “click here to buy my ebook” or “tell us what you think in the comments” or “if you enjoyed this post, please share it on Facebook” … or almost anything else.

The best place for a call to action is right at the end of your post, because that’s the point at which readers will be deciding what to do next. If you’re not sure what to write or want to see how other bloggers do it, check out 6 Action-Inspiring Ways to End Your Blog Post (and 12 Examples).

#7: Don’t Let Spellcheck Do Your Proofreading

Although it’s definitely a good idea to run a spellcheck on your post, you shouldn’t trust spellcheck to catch everything.

When you proofread, look out for:

Inconsistencies in how you write a word or phrase (e.g. “e-book”, “eBook”, “e-Book” or “ebook” – pick one and stick with it throughout).

Missing punctuation marks – I sometimes find I’m missing the period at the end of a paragraph, and it’s also easy to forget to close your parentheses.

Missing words, especially small ones like “a”. Sometimes, these errors creep in when you edit a sentence and don’t change everything you should.

Spelling mistakes, especially with words that sound alike – e.g. “you’re” vs “your”.

One good trick you can use here is to read your post out loud. This forces you to slow down, and often means you’re more likely to notice mistakes. (Alternatively, you could print your post and read it on paper, with a red pen in hand.)

#8: Don’t Agonize Over Making it Perfect

One of the great things about blog posts is that you can edit them after publishing them. (Obviously that’s a fair bit harder if you print a set of business cards … or 500 copies of a book.) While it’s definitely important to have a well-written, polished post, if a typo remains, it’s not going to kill your chances of blogging success.

If you’re spending so much time editing and proofreading that you’re struggling to actually write enough for your blog, or if you’re losing your enthusiasm for blogging, cut back.

And don’t feel that you have to use every single tip on this list on every single post you write – though it’s definitely worth checking off each point if you’re editing something really important, like a guest post or a piece of flagship content.

#9: Preview Your Post and Check the Formatting

Get in the habit of previewing your posts – sometimes, a problem that’s not obvious in the text editor will stand out sharply in the preview. 

Even if there aren’t any problems, you may find yourself spotting typos, or simply seeing things that you decide to tweak to make your post more visually attractive. This could mean:

Adding in formatting … or taking some out if you’ve gone over the top with the bold text!

Editing the title or subheading to avoid one word wrapping onto the next line.

Changing a link so that it doesn’t wrap across two lines.

Putting in extra space, perhaps after a list (some blog themes tend to squish lists and the subsequent paragraph together).

Of course, all of this is very nit-picky – but if you do spot something that’s quick and easy to change, this is a good opportunity to make your post even better.

So, those are my nine best tips. Which ones(s) will you be putting into practice this week? And do you have a tenth to add? Let us know in the comments…

You can find Ali Luke over at Zen Optimise, where she blogs about content marketing, social media, and more. For help with planning and writing, as well as editing, take her free video training (45 minutes) on The Writing Process for Bloggers.

Canvassing ProBlogger Readers: How Have You Built Your Readership?

As you might be aware, each month this year we are running a themed week – delving in deep the topics that are of the most interest to you.

We started with creating content, moved on to resources for newbie bloggers just starting out, and this month we had an epic drilldown into creating products to sell.

Our next themed week is all about building readership and creating community on blogs. We are looking for people with success stories in different niches – have you build a great readership? Or know of someone who has?

If you are interested in sharing your story here on ProBlogger.net, we’d love to hear from you. Please head here and fill out the form – we’ll be in touch.

If you’re interested in how to build your readership base, you might like these posts on ProBlogger.net:

 

When Journalism and Blogging Collide: 7 Reporters’ Tactics to Make You a Better Blogger

Image via Flickr user Binuri Ranasinghe.

Image via Flickr user Binuri Ranasinghe.

This is a guest contribution from journalist and blogger Christian Toto.

Journalism appears to be a dirty word in 2014. Some people blast reporters for their perceived biases. Others say journalists simply protect the status quo rather than speaking truth to power. Everyone else is is fed up by reporters paying more attention to a twerking Miley Cyrus than the deficit or health care.

None of this means journalism skills aren’t a great way to separate your blog from the competition. In fact, blogging with Cronkite-colored glasses can help your site gain both trust and readers.

Here are seven ways bloggers can rely on journalistic tenets to enhance their brand:

1. Be Transparent

When you make an argument, link to reputable sources to support your case. If you make a factual error, own up to it in a clear manner like a newspaper correction. Readers forgive mistakes, but they’re less willing to trust a blogger who traffics in stealth edits.

2. Flash Your Expertise

Once upon a time – before the Internet upended journalism in toto – media outlets hired reporters with specific skill sets to cover topics like business, health and entertainment. Now, general assignment reporters work overtime to replicate the expertise these areas demand. Chances are you bring plenty of knowledge to your niche. That’s why you’re blogging about it in the first place. Don’t be bashful … show it off.

3. Sexy Ledes, Compelling Headlines

Readers have very short attention spans, and your best chance at grabbing them comes down to the headline and opening sentence (the “lede”). Make that headline sizzle without forgetting essential keywords. Better still, craft a killer first sentence that makes readers eager to keep reading.

4. Less Is (Much) More

When in doubt … cut. Edit extraneous words from every post. Rely on short sentences to break up a paragraph’s rhythm. Pluck out adjectives that aren’t mandatory. Your writing will be more powerful and readers will appreciate that you aren’t wasting their time.

5. Step Away from the Laptop

Bloggers were once dismissed as pajamas-wearing amateurs. We’ve come a long way since then, but a good blogger must put on a tie or business skirt now and then. Journalists attend rallies, cover protests and interview people in their niche. Do as they do. Writing a political blog? Sit in on a meeting of the local GOP party or capture a day in the life of a rising Democrat star. Blog about cooking? Attend a chef’s class and spot the way he holds a knife when cutting vegetables. Your writing will come alive, and you’ll pick up valuable sources along the way.

6. Don’t Trust Your Biases

Sometimes we want a story to be true so badly our inner skeptic takes a coffee break. Consider how many people share those faux Daily Currant headlines on Facebook. If a story feels too good to believe, double check it. As the saying goes, if your mother says she loves you, check it out.

7. Unearth Those Buried Ledes

A great way to generate story ideas is to read newspaper articles and find the missing angles or juicy nuggets buried after the jump. News judgment is subjective, and even ace reporters give short shrift to vital information now and again. When they do … pounce.

Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, film critic and blogger. He offers tips and tactics to his fellow fathers at http://daddylibrium.com.

6 Lessons for Writing Irresistibly Magnetic Blog Post Headlines

This is a guest contribution from Matthew Capala of SearchDecoder.com

Abraham Lincoln Axe Quote 1

Many newbie (and sometimes even veteran) bloggers erroneously spend 95% of their time creating blog content and only 5% pondering titles. Unfortunately for these bloggers, most readers’ attention spans expire in seconds.

Unless you reel in your readers instantly, your well-crafted content goes largely unnoticed and going viral becomes impossible.

Set aside at least 15 to 30 minutes for choosing a magnetic title after crafting your post.

List three to five intriguing titles guaranteed to increase your CTR and page views. After carefully thinking through each option, select the one that inspires you like no other.  Ask your friends or followers for feedback.

Most importantly, test and learn from data you collect looking at engagement metrics, such as social sharing and page views.  Double down on best-performing headlines and keep testing new ways to engage your audience.

Garret Moon proposes re-writing your blog headlines at least three times to A/B test your headlines using Twitter and email marketing. If you are serious about blogging, invest as much resources and time as you can to headline testing and optimization.

6 Lessons for Writing Irresistibly Magnetic Blog Post Headlines

At SearchDecoder blog we did an in depth headline analysis looking at the most popular posts of 2013. The data included over 30K visits and 6K social shares.

Most of the content featured in the study that made the top 10 lists was generated by NYU students participated in the Inbound Marketing Clinic and couple recent grads who work with me at Lowe Profero. The objective of this post is not to brag but rather share data insights with the blogging community to get feedback.

SearchDecoder Top 10 2

Top 10 Most Popular Posts on SearchDecoder Blog in 2013

Use Power Verbs

Use power verbs to goad readers into clicking on and sharing your content. Imagine yourself as a blogging commander, enticing to swift action with assertiveness. Start titles with actionable verbs like “Read,” “Download” or “Learn”.  Actionable verbs can be visualized and acted upon easily.

Keep things simple and never use a power verb in any spot other than the beginning of your title. Maximize the effectiveness of these action words.

The third most shared blog post on SearchDecoder, Optimize Your Click Through Rate on Google (Infographic) is a good example of using a power verb to drive action.

SearchDecoder Take Action 3

Employ Colorful Adjectives

Colorful adjectives effectively magnetize eager readers to your titles. Consider using colorful words to appeal to the imagination. If readers can see what you wish to convey, you will generate high CTR.

Pull out a thesaurus. Scour the manual to find descriptive, entertaining adjectives to lasso readers’ eyeballs. Test words like “awesome,” “unstoppable” and “unconventional” for engaging your reader’s visualizing faculty.

The number-one most shared, read and commented on blog post on SearchDecoder, 10 Unconventional Keyword Research Tools to Include in Your SEO Toolbox, generated over 7K views, nearly 700 social shares and over 30 comments. Moreover, it got picked up by the editors of Moz Top 10.

Interestingly, the two blog posts I’ve published using the word ‘unconventional’ in the title made it to the top 10 most shared blog posts on SearchDecoder.com.

10 unconventional keyword research tips 4

Arouse Curiosity

Reading questions piques your interest. Interested web visitors set the foundation for viral blog posts.  Readers rarely scan question-themed titles without clicking through because inquiring minds need to know.

Brian Clark notes on Copyblogger that sharing benefits via insider knowledge is a timeless approach to crafting magnetic titles.

Asking questions or exposing industry ‘secrets’ compels clickthroughs because few can resist mystery. Observe the masterful novelist. Supreme writers craft cliffhangers filled with mystery and intrigue. How could you put down these page turners when each chapter ends with either a question or some other secret yet to be revealed?

One of the top shared blog posts on my blog, The 10 Secrets of Effective Bootstrap Digital Marketing for Startups, leverages this tactic. If you want to successfully run a startup, getting enough credible information is critical.

Crafting this title for the accompanying deck on SlideShare goaded readers to click through and share it on Twitter at a stunning rate, appearing on SlideShare’s homepage as ‘Hot on Twitter’ and boosting its views to over 7K.

Build Lists (Always)

Building list-themed headers is a surefire approach to crafting magnetic titles. In fact, 9 out of the 10 best performing posts on my blog included a list in the headline.

Testing various numbers in list headlines (I tested between 7 and 30) on my blog didn’t indicate a clear winner (statistically), however the number 10 performed best.

Readers need gobs of information to satiate their curiosity. The average web cruiser craves thorough content. Sharing 11 tips or 8 steps to solve a particular problem draws readers in because they expect to find a practical answer to their specific questions.

Jeff Goins notes how using obscure numbers in titles like 19 or 37 can appeal to readers. Experiment with different single and double-digit numbers to see which titles result in the most clicks.

The highest number in the list headline I used was 30 and it performed surprisingly well (contrary to the less is more approach). The 30 Awesome Free SEO Tools for Small Businesses headline was the 8th most popular blog post on Searchdecoder in 2013.

Use the Magic Words

“Quick,” “Easy,” and “Simple” are the magic headline words guaranteed to boost clicks pronto. Do you want to know the quick, easy or simple way to solve a problem you have been trying to address? Of course you do.

Appeal to the Internet culture of today by using these magic words frequently. However, make sure that the solution is quick, easy or simple to keep your credibility intact. Promising a simple solution to a problem but following up with complex instructions can damage your online reputation.

Add “lessons” to your ‘magic word’ list. People read blogs to learn, and no matter how ‘easy’ your advice seems, it is always a good idea to anchor your findings in data, interviews or case studies. The #5 best performer on SearchDecoder, 7 Lessons for Effective B2B Content Marketing via the Maersk Line Case Study, drew in eager students quickly.

Pick Up the Paper

Always learn from the pros. Read a newspaper or scour online news sites to find appealing blog post title ideas and become a trusted curator of information for your community.

Follow the example of the 8 Internet Books You Should Read in 2014 post that performed exceptionally well for me during the slow Holiday period in December. Whatever you are blogging about; there are tons of relevant books and blogs you can curate.

Vintage Books 5

Mine the web or your local newsstand for creative, proven titles guaranteed to increase blog readership. Taking a cue from some of the best title writers on earth is a simple way to create a viral post.

Curating content proved to be the most low-effort, high-return activity on my blog. The 8 Content Marketing Statistics You Need to Know title was the second best performer on SearchDecoder.

Headlines are visual

It’s a social media world. If you want to increase the sharibility and CTR of your blog posts, include eye-catching images and visuals which get populated on your homepage and social media feed. Spend time choosing the best ‘featured image’ for every headline.

SearchDecoder blog posts 6

What didn’t work?

Using names of influencers in blog titles didn’t perform well for me. While the Q&As and interviews represent some of the best content on my blog, they underperformed in terms of traffic and engagement. Using Twitter handles and hashtags in the headlines didn’t perform well for me either.

What worked for your blog last year? I’d love to hear your best-performing blog post headline in the comments section.

Matthew Capala is an inbound marketing strategist, personal branding coach, Internet entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and author. He is an Adj. Professor at NYU and Head of Search at Lowe Profero. His free personal branding e-book, Away with the Average, has been widely praised. A leading voice in the start-up community, Matthew founded SearchDecoder.com, a venue for SEO ideas for entrepreneurs. You can find him on Tiwtter at @SearchDecoder.

How to Convince Someone to Be Interviewed on Your Blog

NewImageThis question was submitted recently via the ProBlogger Facebook page.

How do I get an established blogger like yourself to do an interview with me? or How can I get an established blogger like yourself to do a guest post for me on my blog? – from Sandra Tillman

Good questions. I think you’re much more likely to get a popular blogger to do an interview with you than to write a guest post for you.

I can only speak for myself really but writing a guest post for someone else’s blog is low on my list of priorities when I already have a blog to create content for.

The exception might be if I had something I was launching or wanted to get some attention for – but even then unless your blog has a sizeable audience and/or and audience that is right on target for the type of reader I want to reach – I’m not likely to take you up on that offer.

It’s simply that there’s just not the time in the day to offer that.

An interview on the other hand may be more achievable – particularly if you make it easy for the blogger you’re approaching to do.

It might be hard to get a full-on interview with a popular blogger unless you have a big audience, profile, or some way in with them, but you might pull it if if you’re willing to make it short and easy to complete.

In my own early days when I didn’t have much profile I used to do it by doing ‘one question interviews’. I would send the blogger a single question and ask them to write something in response – big or small.

Sometimes they’d send back a paragraph or two, other times it might only be a sentence. I’d often ask 3-4 bloggers the same single question and then put their responses together to create a longer post.

The beauty of doing this kind of approach is that you’re able to make it easy for the blogger to do but you also get a little benefit from having them on your blog (which makes it easier to get the next interview).

Keep in mind though that many bloggers get a lot of interview requests. I’m not the biggest blogger going around, but on a typical day I get asked to be interviewed 2-3 times. Couple this with requests to write articles, be in Twitter chats, appear in webinars, be interviewed by media, and the top bloggers must be getting approached many many times a day!

5 quick tips on how I’d go about approaching bloggers for an interview:

1. Introduce yourself

Be personal, quickly introduce yourself, and explain why you’d like to interview the blogger. As you do so, think about the benefits not only to you but also to your readers and to the blogger. For example – do you have a relevant audience to them?

2. Outline how the interview will be used

If you’re planning on using the interview in some way that people have to pay for then say this up front. I’ve had a number of people ask me for interviews that I’ve later found out were used in books, behind paywalls, or as incentives to sign up for newsletters.

While I am not against using interviews in this way, you’ll want to be clear about your intentions with the person you’re approaching.

3. Outline how you’ll conduct the interview

Tell the person how you want to conduct the interview and how much time they’d need to dedicate. If it is a written interview via email tell them how many questions. If it’s a recorded audio/video interview tell them how long it’ll take and what technology you’d like to use.

4. show you know them and make it relevant

Before you approach someone do a little research into who they are and what they do. Showing them this in some way by making your approach personal will show them that you’re not just copying and pasting interview requests into emails. It’ll show them that you’re going to some effort rather than just wanting them to essentially create content for you.

5. Followup

If the person agrees and you do interview them, make sure you use it! I’ve had times where I’ve put aside considerable time to respond to questions for interviews and then never seen the content used in any way – frustrating!!!

When you do publish it – shoot the blogger a note of thanks with the link. You might even find that they share it to their network!

One Last Tip

Big bloggers may not be the best starting place – in fact, they may not be the best interviewee at all.

I say this for two reasons:

1. if you’re new, it’s hard to land a popular blogger. You might have more luck landing a small- to medium-sized blogger. Once you’ve done a few of these you then have something of a portfolio to be able to show others that you approach later (this might help you land the big interview).

2. the other reason you might want to approach smaller bloggers is that they might just make a more interesting interview subject. Everyone’s heard the big blogger’s story in countless other interviews, so why not try to unearth something fresh and new from someone that is up and coming?

What Would You Add?

Have you ever landed a big interview for your blog? How did it happen for you? What tips would you give?

The Benefits of Making a Business Blog Available in Multiple Languages

Your company blog: while often neglected due to its perceived lack of purpose (and the commitment it requires), it is also a personal way to convey a message to a client base that isn’t possible with different forms of social media.

Far too many business owners forget that a comprehensive blogging strategy is essential for a company’s greater marketing plan: a company blog puts a face and personality to what appears to potential customers everywhere as a faceless entity offering a product or service. In short, it’s a cost-effective and simple way to connect to an audience and receive their feedback.

Breaking the Barriers

For businesses that have a presence in multiple countries, maintaining a blog that reaches different groups of people–who speak different languages–offers an intriguing challenge. Visiting a company’s website to find that their blog is in a different language is a turn-off. It creates a barrier between a customer and the business he is paying for a service. It’s impersonal and seems like the company isn’t making an effort to coalesce. A blog that is available in more than one language makes for a much more positive experience for the consumer; something many often pay more for, rather than dealing with an unknown, unfriendly commodity.

As the TheWebsiteCenter.com notes, customer trust and the website level of rectitude typically needs to be more significant when purchasing a service, as opposed to a product. A service implies an extended relationship, while purchasing a product usually ends when payment is accepted. A service, however, is an ongoing event, which requires constant communication to ensure the effectiveness of the relationship.

Connecting with the World

Connecting with the consumer is impossible with barriers. A potential customer will go elsewhere if they encounter anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or inconvenienced by the business they are about to give their money to. For companies with a business in multiple countries, a multilingual blog is a way to connect with potential consumers, as well as showing them they are dedicated to providing a comfortable business experience. More eyes will be privy to a blog that is available in different languages. It enhances a business’s internet presence by ranking the blog higher in non-English search engines, in addition to English search engines.

Having a multilingual blog provides new avenues for interaction with consumers, meaning a company can improve their product or service to fit the wants and needs of potential customers. Interaction is good: it helps create a relationship between two parties. Interaction with customers that are feeling-out different businesses makes it more likely they will choose your company, plain and simple.

Nothing to Lose

The process of setting-up a multilingual blog certainly isn’t a huge undertaking, by any means. Set-up is easy to do, and duplicate content doesn’t count across languages. There are specific companies that specialize in content development, integrating translation capabilities into their services.

The alternatives include using a dedicated translation service, or even just hiring someone that is fluent in the desired language. Site maintenance and coding often prove to be obstacles to companies focused on providing a service a product, so having someone with great familiarity with HTML, in addition to the desired languages, is essential for providing a respectable, friendly blog.

The ultimate goal of offering a blog in multiple languages is to make it as interactive and friendly as possible. By catering to the needs of potential consumers, offering blogs in different languages reaches to a wider base than offering posts in English, exclusively.

Sloan McKinney enjoys sharing her knowledge on International Communications with readers. She contributes some of her writing to TollFreeNumberNow.com, and specializes in topics of business globalization and technology.

Top Tips to Let Go of Fear

Image via Flickr user audiolucistore

Image via Flickr user audiolucistore

This is a guest contribution from Jennifer Louden. 

What I’m about to tell you is the most overlooked key to being a successful teacher – as well as a successful business owner, parent, writer, athlete, and all around happy human being.

It’s the precursor to more sales, to repeat business, to turning customers into raving fans, to your ideas having a lasting impact on the hearts and minds of your students, readers, and clients.

It’s also how you unlock your own potential to thrive.

Really it can do all that, and more.

The secret? Feeling safe.

You can’t make decisions, take risks, or learn when your nervous system is on high alert. Your brain’s learning and decision-making functions slow or shut down. That’s why people click away from your sales page, stop attending your course, or never sign up for another one of your classes. They’re afraid. And they probably don’t even know it.

They’re afraid they won’t get it, they’ll look stupid, they’ll waste their money and time. In a nutshell: they’re afraid they’ll fail. 

You’re afraid too, and you signal your fear to your students and potential clients. Do you worry if you have what it takes to be a great coach/website designer/Pilates teacher? If anyone will buy your services? If you can keep learning and growing? We all have these worries!

This low-grade state of fear keeps you stuck, and it keeps your customers from buying and from growing. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Safety is something you can experience – and offer – starting right now.

Nothing is Going to Eat You

My favorite in-the-moment safety move is to stand up, stretch, and exhale with a long “ahhhh.” Then I look around my studio and tell myself, “Nothing is going to eat me.” Yes, it makes me laugh, but it also signals to my reptile brain that a stressful day does not equal death. You need a similar trick up your sleeve to calm yourself in the moment of freaking out. Use mine or one of the many relaxation tricks you already know.

Make Feeling Good a Priority

Remind yourself that resetting your nervous system is not a luxury; it’s non-negotiable self-care, like exercise or drinking water. Become a devoted student of what relaxes you, both in the midst of a stressful situation and when you have an hour or a weekend to unwind. Weave more pleasure into your day – music, a tea you love, three squares of dark chocolate. Nourish your senses.

Extend Hospitality

Welcome your students warmly. At live events, greet people. Online, say hi (by name, if possible) as people dial on. I always include a short video welcome inside my online courses with a warm welcome, and I repeat info about how the course works for visual learners who might not read the welcome emails. Make it easy to navigate your website and sign up for your services; otherwise prospects feel dumb and unsafe, and they run away. Brainstorm simple ways to be a good host from the moment your customers and students come in contact with your business and you.

Where’s The Bathroom?

Clear driving instructions, sending the phone bridge number for each session, telling people what to bring to be comfortable – be meticulous in this area. Your customer is looking for reasons to back out. Making her feel safe by taking care of basics can feel like cheating – it’s so easy – but I’ve seen it prevent drop-outs, increase participation, and convert customers for life.

Include the Body

A few moments of calming yourself and your students or your client opens the space for learning and creates trust. It need not be woo-woo. You can joke that pro football players practice mindful breathing before the Super Bowl, then invite a few full, relaxed breaths and long exhales.

Preview Your Material & Review Parameters

I always want to skip this step because I think it’s boring. But many people need to know what’s going to happen next or they can’t relax. Remind them how long the session or class will be, when questions are welcome, how many revisions are covered in your contract, how long it takes you to answer emails, the nuts and bolts stuff. Do this often. You may think it’s overkill but that’s only because it’s obvious to you.

Less is More

One of the biggest shifts I see in teachers who take my TeachNow course (1006 students to date!) is understanding that information overload shuts down learning and hurts your bottom line. Too many teachers and business owners think being generous means flooding their customers with information and options. A big part of your job is making the hard choice of what to offer and in what sequence. Master this and your business – and impact – will soar. Discernment and focus is your friend.

I have a thousand more suggestions, but then I wouldn’t be following my own advice. I’ll stop here with this invitation: become curious about what feeling safe offers you and the people you work with. Investigate these suggestions and find your own ways to use safety as a path to growth. May it be fruitful!

Jen Louden is a best-selling author, speaker and teacher of teachers. She created the popular TeachNow course (1006 students to date!) for people who want to successfully teach what they love. Test drive TeachNow for free with the sample class, Dissolving Obstacles to Teaching Joyfully & Effectively

Getty Images vs Creative Commons and Privacy: What Bloggers Need to Know

This is a guest post written by Simon Schmid of iubenda.

Getty Images recently announced a new image embed feature that allows bloggers (and others) to access and use their vast library of images for non-commercial purposes. This rather remarkable change in policy by Getty Images shows that it’s ready to work with content creators and adapt to the times we live in.

Even WordPress also published an announcement post in which they share the details of Getty’s new offering and how easy it is to embed an image into your blog. There’s now a “</>” below every image in the catalogue that lets you effortlessly publish that particular image into your post (to be completely accurate and to quote from the terms for the first time, “Not all Getty Images Content will be available for embedded use, and availability may change without notice”).

How easy is it really over all though? And is it entirely without complications? Let’s review some of the most important clauses in theterms of the embed feature and we’ll do this by comparing this with another very popular image source (images under a Creative Commons license) for bloggers.

What can you use Getty’s embed for?

At first you must to be very clear about the fact that Getty’s model is the licensing of images. Therefore you will have to play by their rules and expect to do something for them in return. I’ve read comments on the WordPress announcement that communicated their leave from using the system as soon as ads start appearing. What I’m saying is, that this is something that might be in the works and something that you’ll have to be willing to give back in exchange.

“You may only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest).”

Using the “Embedded Viewer” you consent to use the images for editorial purposes only. Editorial purposes are in a very wide sense non-commercial purposes. This becomes more clear when you read the rest of the terms regarding the “Embedded Viewer”. It outlines that you may not use the images in any of the following ways:

  • (a) for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship;
  • (b) in violation of any stated restriction;
  • (c) in a defamatory, pornographic or otherwise unlawful manner; or
  • (d) outside of the context of the Embedded Viewer

Therefore the most important question that needs to be answered is the notion of “commercial”. What kind of use constitutes commercial use, and therefore exceeds the limits of what is allowed with the viewer? Is Here’s an official statement by Craig Peters that goes into detail and helps us at understanding non-commercial use:

Blogs that draw revenues from Google Ads will still be able to use the Getty Images embed player at no cost. “We would not consider this commercial use,” says Peters. “The fact today that a website is generating revenue would not limit the use of the embed. What would limit that use is if they used our imagery to promote a service, a product or their business. They would need to get a license.” A spokeswoman for Getty Images confirms to BJP that editorial websites, from The New York Times to Buzzfeed, will also be able to use the embed feature as long as images are used in an editorial context.

Compare these facts above to going with Creative Commons content instead:

Creative Commons: Creative Commons-licensed images can be used for any purpose, by anyone, anywhere. That’s as long as you follow the terms of that specific license. None of the CC licences outlines that a piece of licensed content may only be used for a specific purpose–editorial or otherwise.

Creative Commons II: NonCommercial in CC’s Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 means “not primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation” which naturally is a much friendlier definition.

Creative Commons III: the restriction of not displaying outside of the Embedded Viewer does not apply to CC-licensed content, in fact it expressly states that you are allowed to exercise the licensed rights in “all media and formats whether now known or hereafter created, and to make technical modifications necessary to do so”. This can be a deal breaker for things like image carousels or videos or the like.

One more very interesting fact is that Getty can revoke the access to the embedded imagery at any time: “Upon request, you agree to take prompt action to stop using the Embedded Viewer and/or Getty Images Content”. Creative Commons on the other hand declares their licensing to be irrevocable. This ensures that you don’t have to go back and make changes anytime down the road.

Let’s take a look at both solutions side by side:

What a Creative Commons embed looks like…
…links to author plus the right license.

vincentsl / CC BY 2.0

What a Getty embed looks like, yaaay well done…
…shows the viewer with the branding, some picture credits and the sharing buttons.

Apart from the very obvious branding that the embed gives you, we may have another issue that you should at least know about and isn’t immediately obvious. Embedding services like Youtube and others (like the embedding of your image) and even a like button open up another legal field: data privacy.

Looking at a page with Getty embed in Chrome’s cookie window.

What you can see in this window (Chrome’s developer tools, right click and then “Inspect Element”) are the cookies that this page sets with just the embedded image. There are two main elements. The first being the tracking by Getty’s embedding window, the other one caused by the social sharing buttons by Twitter and Tumblr, both also part of the Embedded Viewer.

So why is this so problematic? Essentially, an iframe like this allows their owner (Google, Facebook, Getty…) to make a connection. That connection is between the embedding site, their reader and the third-party host. Or how EFF puts it:

The third-party host can possibly get and log your IP address and the exact time of the request; information about the web browser you’re using, your browser’s version, your operating system, processor information, language settings, and other data; the URL of the website you’re coming from; and sometimes tracking cookies.

The way this affects you as a site owner is that the least you can do is to minimize legal implications and include a description of this data collection in your privacy policy. Above all in Europe there’s a stance by regulators that assumes that cookies may only be placed without user consent if services wouldn’t work without them. That’s not the case for social sharing buttons (mostly). The vague privacy policy posted on Getty’s site is cause for doubting the future use on a site that’s compliant with privacy laws around the world and most of all, in Europe.

Takeaway I: Getty is taking the right steps by making their images easy to use for editorial purposes, however there are still a couple of issues concerning their acceptable use policy (alleged first comments surfaced claiming that Getty Germany denied a blogger/freelancer the free embedding because of his blog being on the same domain as his freelancer page).

If you aren’t ready to accept some of the drawbacks described above, Creative Commons is more than an interesting alternative.

Takeaway II: the knowledge about Getty’s future data collection is murky at best. At least European bloggers should consider including statements about Getty’s iframe and the Twitter/Tumblr sharing buttons included in the iframe. There are a couple of resources out there that help you with crafting a privacy policy. We at iubenda make it really easy for bloggers to generate their legal document with a couple of clicks by simply adding the Twitter/Tumblr and Getty services to their privacy policy.

Addendum:

How to choose Getty Images for your posts

It’s really as simple as clicking on the “</>” provided below the images and then using the embedding code.

How to choose Creative Commons licensed images for your posts

It isn’t that hard to find CC-licensed pictures either, use one of the following methods below:

Resources used:

IIIIIIIV

Simon Schmid blogs at thegodfounder.com and works on iubenda.

Announcing the New Sticky Top Bar Plugin: A ProBlogger WordPress Plugin

A couple of weeks ago we launched the new ProBlogger.com – a private membership site that not only has a community/forum area for bloggers to network, collaborate and learn but one which provides members with regular webinars as well as exclusive access to some tools that my team have been developing for my blogs.

Recently we released our Infinite Scroll Word Press Plugin, and then we released a Sticky Top Bar Messenger plugin.

You can see this plugin in operation here on ProBlogger but also on my site at Digital Photography School (on dPS we don’t have it showing on the front page – so you’ll need to look at single posts like this one).

On dPS it is currently driving the blue bar at the top of the site that has a button linking to our latest portrait posing eBook. It looks like this when he page loads.

10 Photography Hacks that will Dramatically Improve Your Photos 10

As you scroll down the page it sticks to the top of the post.

Here on ProBlogger when you load a page you’ll see sticking at the top is a bar that currently invites readers to subscribe to our email newsletter like this:

3 Important Questions To Ask About Posts in Your Blog Archives ProBlogger 13

The difference with the sticky bar on ProBlogger is that after a while the bar changes to a grey one that calls readers to join the new ProBlogger.com community.

3 Important Questions To Ask About Posts in Your Blog Archives ProBlogger 3

These two sticky bars rotate on a timed basis.

I asked my developer team to work on this plugin almost a year ago now as a result of wanting more flexibility than I could get from other such plugins that are available.

Ours has been designed so that you can

  • change the colours of everything (background, text, buttons). If you set up multiple bars to rotate each bar can look completely different to draw attention to the rotations.
  • add in multiple rotating messages and set your own time delays (so you can show different calls to action set to show after a reader has been reading a post for a certain amount of time). You can set up unlimited messages to rotate through.
  • add in your own custom HTML, including email forms and even images
  • show specific bar messages on specific pages on your blog (so you could set many different calls to action for different landing pages on the site)

Note: our developer team is already taking this plugin to the next level based upon ProBlogger.com member feedback. You can bet it’ll continue to be improved to add even more functionality and flexibility.

The applications for these sticky bars are endless. We’re currently using them to drive people to sales pages and sign up subscribers (when we added the call to action (CTA) to subscribe here on ProBlogger our subscribers went up 25%) but you could use them for many purposes.

For example you could include CTA’s for people to view some of your most popular posts, you could drive people to follow you on Twitter, Facebook etc), you could call people to vote in a poll or take a survey, you could use it to drive people to a forum area, you could use it to call for guest posts, you could share site news, you could use it to help show social proof… the possibilities are endless.

We’ve also designed the bars that show so that they are mobile friendly (so it’ll work with your responsive blog design if you have one). You can even show shorter messages in your bar to those viewing on mobile.

Readers have the option to minimise the bar if they don’t wish to keep seeing it using the arrow on the right of the bar:

Banners and Alerts and 3 Important Questions To Ask About Posts in Your Blog Archives ProBlogger

Lastly – our bar is also unbranded (many others as you to upgrade to remove the logo of the developer company) and very importantly to me this is all hosted on your own site so you’re not dependant upon a third party service being working for your bar to work). You control everything from within WordPress so you never have to go to another site to set it up.

Get Access To This New Plugin Today

This bar is available for all ProBlogger.com community members to download and use for free with your membership. Signup today to get access to this plugin plus all the other benefits of the new ProBlogger.com (including more plugins that we’re getting ready to release). Don’t forget you can currently sign up for the Early Bird price of $17 per month (you’re locked in at this discounted price forever) – however this discount ends in the coming weeks so don’t miss out.

Here’s a video from Shayne that shows you a little more of what the bar can do and how you can install it if you’re a ProBlogger.com member.

I’m really excited about releasing this plugin and can’t wait to see how members use it!

My Top 5 Mistakes as a Blogger

w__darrenrowse-_66.jpgOver in the ProBlogger.com forum last week, I issued members with a challenge to complete this week on their blogs. The challenge was simple – to write a ‘top 5’ post on any topic they wanted.

This is my own contribution to the challenge!

My Top 5 Mistakes as a Blogger

I’ve been blogging 11 and a half years now, and while I pinch myself everyday at where blogging has taken me, that time has been littered with mistakes and failures along the way.

While we often talk about the good times here on ProBlogger, today I thought I’d share 5 mistakes I made (or to put a more positive spin on it… 5 lessons I learned the hard way).

1. Choosing Profit over Passion

My first blog was a personal blog and an extension of who I was. I only wrote about what I was interested in and profit was not on the radar as nobody made money blogging back then.

My second blog was an extension of my first, and a blog on a topic that I was interested in (cameras/photography) – but which also became profitable.

After I saw that my second blog started to make money I began to dream about ‘going pro’ as a blogger. One of the routes I saw I could take to achieve this dream was to start more blogs.

I thought if my camera/photography blog could make money, then I could replicate the model with other niches and topics. At the time, I took two approaches in researching what topics to create these new blogs on:

  1. Popular topics which could potentially attract a lot of traffic
  2. High-value topics – which I could earn good money on through AdSense (some niches of ads were paying higher rates than others)

I started 30 blogs in that next year, and each fit into one of the above categories.

For example in category one was a blog which I started with a friend on the Athens Olympic Games. We knew there’d be a heap of people searching for information on the topic (particularly people wanting the results of events), so we created a blog with hundreds of posts on every single event in the games. We had all these posts live and indexed by Google weeks before the games happened so that when each event happened and people typed in ‘event name gold medal’ or ‘event name results’, we’d come up.

As each event happened we added the results to the event.

Fitting into the second category (profitable high value topics) was a blog I started on ‘printers’. My research revealed at the time that some of the highest paying ads going around were for print cartridges. So I started a blog on the topic of printers. I reviewed printers and I posted about new ones on the market.

I had absolutely no interest in the topic of printers – and it showed in my content.

Both of the above blogs made money but neither were topics I was particularly passionate about (although the Olympics is something I have an interest in the content we were producing wasn’t that stimulating to create).

I got away with the Olympics one because it was a short-term project and it was quite a buzz to do on some levels, however the discovery I made about almost all of the other blogs I created in that period was that it was both mind-numbing and spirit-sucking work to sustain a blog on topics you had no interest in at all.

That year almost ended my blogging dreams because while I made enough money to call it a full time job – it left me very uninspired.

Luckily at this time I also started ProBlogger – a blog I’m passionate about – and later started Digital Photography School and found that it was a heap more enjoyable to create blogs that you actually enjoyed writing for. I abandoned the other blogs soon after and a weight was lifted from my shoulders!

2. Being Slow to….

I’m going to roll a number of regrets and mistakes into one here and put them all under the ‘being too slow’ banner.

I’m not a fast-paced person. It takes me a while to make decisions and to jump into new things. I watched everyone else jump into Twitter for six months before I did. The same happened with Facebook, the same with investing time into starting an email newsletter.

While I did jump on some thing pretty quickly (like blogging itself – which I started doing two hours after reading my first blog), I sometimes wonder where I’d be if I’d acted faster in some areas, particularly at adopting new technologies.

On the flip side of this though is that I feel like by being a little ‘slow’ I probably jumped in with more information and having watched what others were doing – which hopefully meant I started things ‘right’ from the start.

3. The Wrong Domains

I’ve made almost every mistake you can with domains. For starters I didn’t get my own domain when I began, later I got an Aussie domain for a blog with a global audience, then I got a .net domain instead of a .com, then I ran a whole heap of different topic blogs on the one domain and then I got a domain with hyphens! I wrote more about all these mistakes (and more here!)

4. Business Regrets

A number of years ago I started blogging network by the name of b5media with three other bloggers. While the experience was amazing on many levels and I learned SO much, I have many regrets about some aspects of the experience also.

I won’t rehash them all but if I could go into that business venture again I’d have spent more time at the beginning as a partnership working out goals, expectations, roles and thinking about the model. I’d probably have wanted to ‘meet’ my partners before starting the business too :-)

I’d also have avoided going down the path of giving up equity in the business in order to take on capital. My experience with venture capital was not overly positive. While it does enable you to grow and expand – it means less control. In my case it meant I ended up with nothing at all after several years of work. It works for some, but I’d avoid it in future.

I learned a lot from that business and bear no grudge to any of my partners in it, but wouldn’t do it the same way again!

5. Trying to Do it All Myself

It’s only really been the last three or so years that I’ve begun to develop a team of people to help me run my businesses.

The 3-4 years preceding bringing on team members almost killed me. I stretched myself way too thin and it impacted my health, relationships, and the business itself.

While expanding the team means changing my role (which brings challenges), it also has led to many new opportunities and a lot more enjoyment! The business has grown as a result and I hope has helped me provide a better experience for those whom I serve also.

What Are Your Biggest Blogging Mistakes?

There you have it – my biggest mistakes as a blogger (note: I didn’t say my ‘only’ mistakes). I’ve shown you mine… how about telling us some of yours?