How to Work Out What To Focus Your Time On

How to Choose What to Focus Your Time onDo you ever feel like you don’t have enough time to fit everything in?

Like there’s an opportunity  staring you in the face to start something new but to take it on would mean everything else you’re already doing would suffer?

You know the feeling – you’re

  • working away on your blog
  • creating content
  • updating your FB, Pinterest, Twitter accounts each day
  • responding to comments and emails
  • reading and commenting upon other blogs
  • creating the occasional eBook
  • updating your advertiser page

And then all of a sudden, the game changes. We’re meant to be across live streaming, have a podcast on the go, speak at events, guest post on relevant niche blogs, and be carrying out consistent brand work.

FOMO starts creeping in… you feel overwhelmed… and afraid to say “no” to any one opportunity because what if it’s the next big thing? Your next big break?

I get asked by readers all the time how to work out what to focus upon, and I also get asked all the time – ‘how do you fit it all in?’

In today’s episode of the ProBlogger podcast, I want to tell you the truth. How I manage to write, blog, podcast, tweet, live-stream, speak at events, and publish books. What my strategies are, how I’ve learned to resourcefully use my time, and what I choose to say “no” to, so I can say “yes” to something else.

If you’ve got any questions or feedback about how your spending your time, or how I juggle all the responsibilities of being an online entrepreneur, I’d love to hear it!

The show notes for episode 65 can be found here.

Further Reading:


Three Basic Elements to Help You Create the Perfect Video

Three Basic Elements to Help You Create the Perfect VideoThis is a guest contribution from James Tew.

Many bloggers are now considering the use of video to increase their reach, inform their audience about an upcoming product launch, or just as a new way of leveraging one of the fastest growing mediums on the internet. In fact, according to, by 2019 80 per cent of the world’s internet traffic will be made up of video.

We work incredibly hard to build our reputations and would do anything to protect it because in the end, it makes up a large part of our business. One thing that I believe can be incredibly detrimental to that brand is terrible video production. However, more often than not now, we don’t have the time or patience to dedicate time to the technical aspects of video. In addition, for some of us, video is purely a marketing tool and we’re not aspiring to be the next JJ Abrams.

A lot of bloggers may already have a DSLR and I think it is safe to say that the majority of us have a smartphone. In fact, the smartphone you have can record incredible looking video without having to make any expensive purchases.

In this article, I want to touch on a few hacks that will help you dramatically increase the quality of your video, maintain your reputation and help you stand out from the rest.

Shaky Video

I get incredibly sea sick so it doesn’t help when I watch a video that makes me feel like I’m sailing through a cyclone. Shaky video is terrible and really screams “amateur”. Now I’m not saying that you need to go out and pick up the most expensive Manfrotto tripod but these couple of suggestions will increase your quality.

  • Use a stack of books to balance your camera or smartphone. Grace Helbig has over 2 million subscribers to her YouTube channel and in the documentary Please Subscribe, she proves that you don’t need expensive equipment. Grace simply sat in front of a window and rested her camera on a stack of books. This will immediately remove the shaking out of your video.
  • Grab a Selfie Stick or cheap tripod from eBay. You may be thinking: “a selfie stick? really?” – Well in fact, a selfie stick will decrease the amount of shake in your footage. This is because you have greater surface area to hold providing greater stability. Another option is to pick up a small tripod from eBay such as a gorillapod. My personal recommendation is a small tripod as it eliminates any contact with your camera.

Three Basic Elements to Help You Create the Perfect Video

Hollow Audio

Have you ever tried recording yourself with a DSLR and noticed that you sound like you’re talking into a tin can? The cameras aren’t built for amazing audio as well as image quality so using an external audio source will increase your quality tenfold. There is definitely not a lack of options when it comes to audio. Tools like the Zoom H4n or Rode Videomic Pro are industry standard for video marketers. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on this expensive equipment, here are three ways you could dramatically increase your audio quality.

  1. The Rode Smartlav+ is a great lapel mic for smartphone users. This inexpensive tool will dramatically increase the quality of your audio and allow you to use your smartphone as an audio recorder. Extremely simple to use, accompanied by the Rode app, you’ll look and sound like a pro in no time.
  2. Use your smartphone voice recorder app. If you’re using a DSLR, hiding your smartphone out of frame and recording via the audio recorder will see a dramatic improvement in comparison to camera audio. While it is not the best, it will suffice for the majority of bloggers looking to harness video.
  3. Use a podcasting microphone. If you’ve made the investment of purchasing a podcasting microphone, you can set that to record your audio and sync in editing. A simple clap on when recording will provide a spike in both camera audio and recorded audio enough for your to sync it up.


Another important aspect of filming is lighting. When I started making videos for YouTube, lights were one of the first things I purchased because I wanted to stand out and look the part. If purchasing lights is not in your budget, you can certainly take a leaf out of Grace Helbig’s book and sit in front of a window.

Much like with photography, we want to avoid overly saturated images. One hack that I have used in the past was to sticky tape baking paper over the window. This will diffuse the light enough to make the image less saturated.

Finally, avoid ‘yellow’ coloured down lights. If you’re using the downlights in your home, purchase a daylight bulb and position yourself approximately one to two metres away from the bulb. If you can, set your camera higher than your face and look up on a slight angle. This will help eliminate any harsh shadows on your face.

These are just three basic elements of what makes a good video from the production side. Of course as with anything we create, good content will always win however, implementing these three recommendations will help ensure that people don’t switch off in the first 10 seconds of your video.

Have you had much success with video? What has worked for you?

James is a 27-year-old dad of four girls who helps entrepreneurs build relationships and grow the strength, courage and confidence to build their brand with video.

Top Takeaways for Bloggers from the International Food Blogger Conference 2015


This is a guest contribution from Thei Zervaki.

Each year, the International Food Blogger Conference brings together USA-based and foreign food bloggers under the same roof. During the three-day event, participants taste food, improve their food writing skills, and learn more about the latest trends in photography and technology. As a participant myself in this year’s conference held in Seattle, I share the highlights:

FOOD –the center of all activities

Food was the main event of the conference, so to speak! The opening night reception and gift suite, the wine reception on Saturday followed by the culinary fair, and two breakfast sessions hosted by two sponsors, it was indeed a show for those who are in the food business.


The Takeaways:

  1. Be observant, curious, open-minded and spot upcoming food trends. IFBC is rather small compared to massive food trade shows like the Fancy Food Show for example, but trends are there in terms of recipe making, propping and decorating. You can reinterpret these trends on your blog for a unique twist on everyone’s new favourite.

The trends I saw were:

  • The avocado cupcakes served may well be an indication of a cupcake comeback – this time savory.
  • Yogurt got an upgrade by being served in martini glasses. Is this the new way of serving, daily, modest foods and dishes?
  • Cocktails were made with tea, spices and herbs, marking a soft passing to the fall and winter months.
  • Street-food inspired dishes as well comfort food dishes with a twist had a bold presence.

WRITING: are food bloggers moving towards to more conventional food writing?

There were several sessions with the topic of food writing. From a New York Times writer to Seattle-based bloggers to published cookbook authors, all shared their personal writing and blogging stories, and made suggestions on how to improve our writing skills.

The Takeaways:

  1. Find your writing voice. Bloggers can have different voices for different blogs or outlets. One may require you to reveal yourself, a second to play a bit more of a character. Whatever you decide to go for, you have to be consistent to the outlet you contribute because consistency will bring readers back.
  2. Decide who you want to be as a blogger/writer. Are you a recipe tester? A mom trying to make better and healthier meals everyday? Or a professional who wants to succeed in everything including cooking? That will define your surroundings and it will be essential to find your voice.
  3. Do exercises to improve your writing skills like try to create a scene with your words. Don’t forget the famous Ws: when, where, what, why and who.
  4. Make three changes after the final post is written to delve even deeper: why the pie is so good? Who made it? Where is now? Can you improve on your writing?
  5. Keep an eye on the food trends for updated, fresh and interesting content that can be seasonal or holiday-related. It will help you establish yourself as a blogger who has their finger on the pulse.
  6. Watch out with those freebies. Bloggers should respect the FTC regulations that demand from all bloggers to disclose in their postings any free products or services they receive in order to write it. Postings can be sponsored by brands very often and this also has to be disclosed. What bloggers should build first to bring and keep readers to their sites is trust, so ethics is an important piece of food blogging.
  7. The well-worn path is often the most fruitful – if you want to become a published cookbook author, you have to follow the traditional path of getting an agent, sending a proposal and working with a mainstream publisher. In come cases, a publisher may ask you to find a photographer and a food stylist for the images of the book and this is an additional cost to you. There are self-publishing options of course but in this case writers are in charge of everything.


Trends in Technology

Write more, and write well

Sara Rosso, Marketing Director at Automattic ( gave a presentation that focused on the Jetpack plugin for the self-hosted WordPress sites. The presentation was packed with all the features that Jetpack offers from the stats to contacts and the extra side bar widgets to security backups (through vaultpress).

The Takeaways:

  1. Write often and well
  2. Develop quality content
  3. Adopt descriptive titles (in recipes and all content)
  4. Add text to images, and add links to their content.

Photography is King

But if food, writing and technology were the themes, photography actually under-staged them all. High-profile photographers talked on how to make your food look better in photos, how to prepare the food, prop styles for cookbooks and how to shoot excellent photos for major culinary magazines as well as your blog. Those well-planned and staged shots manipulate any plate of food in such detail that it looks delicious, so delicious that your desire of having it is immediate. The recipe on how to make your Thanksgiving turkey look brown and mouthwatering includes some dish soap. You’re better off not eating it afterward!

The Takeaways:

  1. Create the setting for your image: think about time, season, weather, indoors/outdoors, people, emotions…
  2. Develop your personal style to really stand out from the crowd: consider colors, props, decoration
  3. Tell a story through food: what do you want to portray?
  4. Develop recipes from different angles so they can be photographed in different ways: give a twist to classic dishes, think outside the box.
  5. Prop styling is as important as writing and photography: Invest in surfaces, linens, flatware, etc that you can use again, but also diversify. Scout for little treasures in antique and vintage shops, eBay and boutique stores in your area. You can also rent them instead of buying them.
  6. Have a budget for gear, workshops and travel in order to learn to take better photos but think where you will use these photos first

Next year the IFBC is moving to Sacramento for the much needed change of scenery. The choice is not coincidental – Sacramento is the heart of California’s farming and agricultural industry. Next year’s content will include some key issues facing the world’s food community, including drought, food-insecurity, urban farming, sustainability and agricultural innovations. It seems that food bloggers are moving to food writing with a larger scope.

Are you a food blogger? Have you seen similar trends emerging in your space?

This is a guest contribution from food writer and columnist Thei Zervaki. You can read her culinary adventures on and at the Huffington Post

Content Marketing – Secrets From an Entrepreneur Who Has Used It to Build a Successful Business

Content Marketing – Secrets From an Entrepreneur Who Has Used It to Build a Successful BusinessI’m really excited about this episode of the ProBlogger Podcast, as today I am sharing my interview with Dan Norris: serial entrepreneur and founder of WP Curve (which gives bloggers access to WordPress developers for unlimited small jobs). Dan recently spoke at the Australian ProBlogger event as part of the Small Business Bootcamp, which we ran in partnership with Telstra Business, and his session was one of the highest-rated of the whole weekend.

In today’s episode, we talk about content marketing, how to differentiate yourself from millions of others doing the same thing as you are, and how to scale your business. Dan also gives insight into how he came to start WPCurve and what they offer to bloggers who need quick WordPress tweaks and peace of mind.

We also discuss what exactly is content marketing (and why bloggers need to care about it), examples of people doing it just right, and how you at home can do it too. We talk about what mistakes Dan sees bloggers making, how he tracks metrics, niches, storytelling, monetization, and his top tips to get eyeballs on your content.

You can find the show notes to episode 64 of the ProBlogger podcast here – we’d love to hear your feedback on our chat!

Further Reading:


5 Sure-fire Ways to Avoid a Google Penguin Penalty

5 Sure-fire Ways to Avoid a Google Penguin Penalty (Which you REALLY don't want!) on ProBlogger.This is a guest contribution from Steve Ceaton.

So recently Gary Illyes from Google announced that hopefully by the end of 2015, Penguin updates will be carried out in real-time. Waiting for the next Penguin update has been the bane of many a website owners’ life, and getting hit with a penalty can cost thousands in lost revenue.

For those unaware, Google has two major algorithms that can penalize websites, and they’ve named them after two cute animals. Penguin and Panda. Far from being cute, these animals have put a countless number of websites out of business, and if you’re going to be a blogger you should acquaint yourself with them very carefully.

The Penguin algorithm is all about links pointing to your website from other websites. If the links are over optimised, from bad neighbourhoods, or just don’t ‘look’ right, then you could find yourself with a Penguin penalty. A penalty that will kill your positions on Google. To get out of a penalty you need to fix whatever’s triggered it, then wait up to 6 months or more for the next update to see if your website is now ‘Penguin free’. If not, then you have to try again and wait another 6 months, and so on and so on.

But, if Gary Illyes is true to his word, there could be hope on the horizon to recover much quicker. With real-time updates there’ll be no more waiting around for a refresh and we can see the results of fixes almost as soon as we apply them.

This is great news for website owners, but what can we do to avoid getting hit by a Penguin in the first place?

Here are some things you should do if you want to avoid a Penguin penalty.

1) Watch Your Blog Comments

We all love to be sociable, and it’s true if you want engagement on your blog you should frequently engage on other people’s blogs. This is commendable and perfectly reasonable, but if you’re a little too zealous with your commenting you could find a (not so cute) Penguin breathing down your neck.

When you submit a comment, you’re requested to add a name, email and web address. The blogging system will then turn your name into ‘anchor text’ and use it as a link back to your website.

If you add the same thing every time you post, you could find your anchor text ratio hitting dangerously high levels.

A study by showed that every website hit by Penguin had over 60% of its anchor text the same. In this instance the anchor text was a ‘money’ keyword (e.g. web designer, SEO expert etc.), but you still need to err on the side of caution and ensure all your anchor texts are at least below 35%.

The highest percentage of anchor text would ideally be your brand name, or if you’re blog commenting you should use your actual name. But if you’re commenting a lot then it’s good to mix it up and use variations, so they aren’t all exactly the same.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule and you’ll find websites getting away with much higher anchor text ratios, but these type of websites usually have one thing in common: Trust.

2) Build Your Trust

If your website is trusted by Google you can get away with a multitude of sins. Rand Fishkin from Moz once famously invited spammers to hurt his Google rankings, but they failed because Moz is such a trusted website. But how do you build on trust?

Trust is an ethereal kind of thing that comes over time, but you can be proactive. Tools like Majestic SEO have their own Trust Flow indicators which are built using complicated algorithms that analyse backlinks. Generally they’re quite effective when it comes to sorting out the low from the high quality websites, and you can use these when assessing who to make ‘friends’ with.

For example if you’re going to comment on someone’s blog, give them a quick check on Majestic SEO first. If they have a low Trust Flow then you might not want them linking to your website. The more low quality links you have the less trusted you’ll be, so be selective on where you get your links. On the flip side, you can seek out websites that are high in Trust Flow and comment/engage with those. The higher your Trust Flow, the higher chance you have of becoming a trusted website, and the better chance you have of avoiding the dreaded Penguin penalty.

Worried about incurring a Google Penguin Penalty on the SEO of your blog? We've got 5 surefire ways of doing just that! On

3) Avoid ‘Active’ Link Building

John Mueller is a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, so when he speaks we should generally listen. John came out recently and said we should avoid active link building completely. Now this is a bit extreme, but actually good advice, especially for people new to SEO. It’s a known fact that your website needs links to improve its rankings on Google. So it’s all too easy to run around begging, stealing, borrowing links from anywhere and everywhere you can find. But this opens the door to low quality links and can leave you vulnerable to a Penguin update.

You should look at your content first and concentrate on building a website that’s the best, most resourceful and informative of its kind. People come first, not links, and as mentioned, trust is more important than links. So if you spend more time delivering excellent content and engaging real relationships via social media, and less time ‘actively building links’ then you should have a much better chance of success and avoiding any penalties.

4) Never, Ever Buy Links

This follows on from the last two points and should be a given, but it has to be said. Don’t buy links. If you do a little digging into the world of SEO you’ll soon find a multitude of link peddlers selling links in all shapes and sizes. They’ll come at you with testimonials and charts and tell you that these links are proven to increase rankings. For a newcomer it’s easy to get swayed by this kind of talk, but I can guarantee that the vast majority of websites hit by Penguin had paid for links at some point or other. The people that sell links aren’t bothered who they sell them to. They just want the money, and what might seem like a shortcut at the time will only shorten the life of your website when you get hit by a Penguin update.

5) Be Polite and Don’t Annoy SEOs

This may sound pedantic, but it could be the best advice you’ve ever been given. If like me you enjoy getting involved in forum discussions or groups on Facebook, it’s quite reasonable you’ll look for some SEO experts for advice. This is all well and good, until you find yourself in a flame war, arguing over some point about how links can’t hurt your website, or how link building is dead etc.

It only takes one disgruntled keyboard warrior, sat at home in his/her dressing gown to make a point by throwing a barrage of bad links at your website.

If you make enemies in the wrong places it could kill your website before it’s even started. Tread very carefully when speaking to groups of SEOs, as they all have access to links that can damage your website. If you see an argument brewing then run for the hills. Negative SEO is very real and in certain niches highly prevalent, so it’s best to fly under the radar until you have enough trust to withstand an attack.


Basically a Penguin penalty is caused by one of two things:

  • Anchor text ratio
  • Low quality links

If we stick to the points above we should have a good chance of avoiding a penalty and not losing our rankings on Google. If like Gary Illyes says, Penguin updates are to be carried out in real-time, and we do get hit by a penalty, at least we have a chance of addressing the problem quickly and hopefully recovering sooner.

Online success is a long term venture and there’s no quick fixes or shortcuts. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint and if Google has anything to say about it, you’ll never outrun a Penguin.

Steve Ceaton is a writer and blogger of SEO tips. Learn more about him here and connect with him on @SteveCeaton, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Reading Roundup: What’s New in Blogging Lately?

Reading Roundup: What's new in blogging this week /

Plenty of stuff in here today to get you thinking! I’d love to hear your thoughts – let’s chat in the comments cos I seem to have a lot of opinions today!

11 Authors’ Strategies for Overcoming Writer’s Block // Mashable

Ah, it happens to the best of us. Nothing a few tips from the pros can’t overcome, though!

Why Manual Link Building will Never Be Obsolete // Search Engine Land

I’ve seen so much discussion about manual link building recently, and whether it should be done or not. This was food for thought.

4 Ways to Boost Your Social Media Presence //

I do number one the most – and I find it the most fun! It’s also super-revealing into the hearts and minds of your readers.

How to Create the Right Content at the Right Time: 6 Tips to Get You Started // HubSpot

Awesome basic tips to help you stay in the know if being current and timely and blogging on trends is your thing.

How to Create an Epic Mail Course as an Opt-In // By Regina

Well there’s something different to your standard free report/eBook/printable opt-in! A whole course. If you want to take the plunge, Regina’ll help you!

What I Learned (the Hard Way) About Becoming a Full-Time Writer // Jeff Goins

What happens when you’re always chasing your ‘big break’ (and never finding it!)

How to Use Periscope to Attract Followers // Chalene Johnson

Ok so it’s established itself as the next big thing that everyone’s jumping on – find your new audience there! (and find Darren here).

Twitter Says Hearts are a Success with 6% Increase in Usage over Stars // BBC

Did you even notice? Instead of “starring” a tweet to favourite it, the icon is now a heart. I always wanted something like a Facebook “thumbs up” to show that I liked a tweet, which sadly, I still don’t have. I use the “favourite” function to save favourites I can refer to later, even though I know lots of folk who use that as a virtual “like” button. Maybe this will help me psychologically move beyond the favouriting that’s always held me back and like a tweet for the sake of it! (but then I’ve still got a list of crap I need to wade through to find the thing I want… hm…)

Google’s New “About Me” Tool Lets You Control Personal Information Shown by Gmail, YouTube, Maps, and More // Venture Beat

Google Plus is now no longer a user requirement for anything Google-related, and so from last week, Google rolled out the new tool that allows you to modify how much personal info users see of you online.

Adam Gopnik on Darwin’s Brilliant Strategy for Preempting Criticism and the True Mark of Genius // Brainpickings

Oh if it’s one thing I’m sick of  doing, it’s preempting criticism. It can really strangle you as a writer, entrepreneur, or creative. Thinking of all counterarguments before you’ve even published anything is exhausting. And probably stupid in many blog cases, because you want conversations, not to be the final word on everything. It is difficult when people take issue with what you’ve written (especially if they’ve misinterpreted you), but I wonder about covering off every possible angle to ensure nobody can complain and if it’s necessary. But this article totally made me think… especially because the practice of criticising one’s own ideas is actually a very useful one, and not just to shut down arguments before they happen! What do you think?

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.

Writing Challenge: Write a “Mistakes” Blog Post

Writing Challenge: Write a "Mistakes" Blog PostToday I want to give you a writing challenge – one of many we’ve done during the life of this podcast. We’ve tackled list posts, link posts, opinion posts, calls to action, review posts, and “how I do it” posts, and now it’s time to crack open our vulnerabilities with posts about making mistakes.

As usual, you are welcome to link up the post you’ve written at the show notes for this episode here.

I want you to think about some mistakes you’ve made, or that you see people in your niche or industry making. Write about what these mistakes are and offer solutions to and preventions for them. These types of posts do well for several reasons: people often wonder if they are making the mistakes, then they’ll want to know how to fix it if they do, and where to get help when they realise they’ve done wrong. It also helps keep you relatable to show that you’ve made errors in the past.

In today’s episode I also have six tips to help you write a great “mistakes” post – everything from ideas for content angles, how to personalise the story, and of course, what not to do!

Don’t forget to link up your post at the show notes and browse around other listener’s efforts.

Further Reading:

How Writing Sponsored Posts Changed the Way I Blog (and Why it Might Change You Too)

How Writing Sponsored Posts Changed the Way I Blog (and Why it Might Change You Too)

This is a guest contribution from Katie Moseman.

In my first few months of writing my food blog, I ran across a lot of impassioned opinions about how publishing a sponsored post on your blog constituted “selling out.”  I didn’t immediately agree with that idea, but I hadn’t ever written a sponsored post, so how would I know?

A few months later, I had the chance to find out when I was tapped to write a sponsored post for a wine company.

It certainly didn’t feel like selling out.  It felt like being paid to write, which for me was a very good feeling.

After that, I was accepted into several groups that help match bloggers with brands looking to pay for sponsored posts.  I went from making absolutely nothing from my food blog, to making a decent part-time income almost immediately.  And that was entirely due to writing sponsored posts.

Since I blog about food, almost all of the sponsored posts were for foods.  Although the occasional post was sponsored by one of those marketing organizations like “Got Milk” or “California Raisins” that promote a whole food, most foods that got featured in a sponsored post had been processed in some way.  That didn’t always mean they were always unhealthy, but there was certainly an abundance of ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat convenience food.

I tried very hard to stick to products I’d actually serve my own family.  That standard eliminated quite a few of the assignments that would have been available to me.  That meant less money overall, but it also meant that I didn’t feel bad about helping to convince people to buy products that I wouldn’t use myself.

However, the more I wrote about the convenience foods that I was buying, the more I realized that I’d had a habit of buying them since long before I had started blogging.  The more convenience food that I was required to buy for work, the more it made me think about the food I bought for my own reasons.

Constantly blogging about what I was eating and drinking made me much more aware of my long-entrenched shopping habits.  I started making more conscious shopping decisions.  And I started experimenting with whole foods for meals (like breakfast) where I had previously reached automatically for something ready to eat.  Perhaps that’s not a flattering admission for a food blogger to make, but it’s a truthful one.

Being hired for all those assignments showed me that I was being taken seriously an influencer.  And if you’re being taken seriously by commerical interests, you should take your own influence seriously, too.  You have to start thinking about questions like, “What am I saying to my audience?” and “Do I feel positive about my effect on their choices?”

With those questions in mind, I started playing a little game with my sponsored posts.  If I wrote a sponsored post for a frozen main course, I’d include a recipe for a side dish made from completely fresh and unprocessed ingredients.  If I wrote a sponsored post about a sweetened beverage, I’d create a recipe with it that reduced the total amount of sugar.

Writing sponsored posts can feel like selling out, if you’re picking the wrong ones for you (or your audience) and writing them in a formulaic way.  But writing a sponsored post can be empowering if you  weave in your own messages in a way that you know will speak to your audience.

Sometimes, I can’t find a good way to fit an extra message within a sponsored post.  In that case, I just follow it up with another post.  In a sponsored post, I might write about a children’s snack food; in the next, I’ll spread the word about a children’s charity.

This method can work for almost any blogging niche.  If you write about photography, find a spot in your editorial calendar to bring attention to a photo scholarship in need of funding.  If you write about children’s clothing, pick your favorite children’s charity and give them a spotlight.  The possibilities are endless; let your influence be wielded not just to sell, but to help those in need.

Individually, bloggers may not have the power of the New York Times, but collectively we influence millions of people every day.  We can’t ever take that for granted.  Being mindful about your influence is the key to finding the balance between getting paid for your work and staying true to yourself.

Katie Moseman writes about food and restaurants at her blog Recipe for Perfection.

Using Google Analytics to Unlock the Secrets of your Blog’s Audience

loves-data-Benjamin-Mangold-Pro-blogger-post-v2This is a guest contribution from Benjamin Mangold of Loves Data.

Do you ever think Google Analytics is a bit overwhelming?

Do you ever get stuck on where to start?

If you’ve already logged into Google Analytics then you’ll know it provides an incredible amount of information which you can use to gain powerful insights into your blog’s audience. However, to really get the most out of your reports it’s important to understand what you’re looking at – so let’s jump in and walk though the most powerful reports and find out what things mean inside Google Analytics.

Keep It Simple

Today we’ll be jumping right into your reports, so if you don’t have Google Analytics set up on your blog I’d recommend you keep reading (so you get pumped about what you can do with the tool) and then at the end of the post you will find some resources to help you set up Google Analytics (these are useful if you already have Google Analytics but want to improve things further).

We’re also going to try and keep things simple, or in other words, I’m going to try to keep the technical jargon to a minimum. We’re going to focus on the core concepts and how to begin interpreting what you find in your reports. I’m happy to get technical in the comments, so head to the comments and say hello!

Bounce What? Bounce Rate!

Bounce Rate is a great way to understand how engaged people are on your blog (and even individual posts). It tells you the percentage of people who just view a single post (or page) when they come to your blog. For example, if only two people came to your blog and you had a bounce rate of 50%, then this would mean that one person only viewed a single post before leaving your blog, while the other person when on to view at least one more page.

It’s important to know that blogs will typically have a higher bounce rate than other types of websites (like a popular brand or a corporate website). This is because lots of people will come to read an individual post, absolutely love your content, but they get what they want and they leave your blog. So your blog might have an overall bounce rate of 60, 70, 80 or maybe even 90%. So you might be thinking – why would I want to use bounce rate then? Well, great question!

Even though your blog is likely to have a higher overall bounce rate you can still use bounce rate to identify pieces of content that are leading to higher levels of engagement. Plus you can check the bounce rate for particular posts based on if you are actually trying to get people to view another page.

Let’s say you have a post that includes a competition you are running and you are asking people to complete a form on that page which then sends people to a thank you page. In this case you will want to see a lower bounce rate within your reports for that particular page.

You will see Bounce Rate on the ‘Overview’ report within the ‘Audience’ section:

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And you will also see Bounce Rate for your individual posts (and pages) in the ‘Site Content’ reports within the ‘Behavior’ section:

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Sessions and Users

Now I said we wouldn’t get technical but understanding the difference between a session and a user is kind of critical. So let’s make this as painless as possible…

A session is reported when someone interacts with your blog. If someone reads an article on your blog, a pageview will be reported for the particular post someone reads (you will find this within the Site Content reports) and since they are interacting with your blog, a session will also be reported.

If they navigate to your homepage, then you will have another pageview, but it will continue to be included within the same session.

If that person leaves your blog and comes back tomorrow you will now have two sessions reported, and if they come back the day after you will have three sessions.

There are some other things that will increase session numbers – the most common is coming back to your blog using a different channel. For example if someone found your blog on Google, one session will be reported. If they then immediately click on a link from a Tweet to come to your blog then a second session will be reported because they’ve used another channel to find you.

Now what is a user? Well, thinking back to that person that came to your blog on three different days – you would have three sessions, however these three sessions would come from one user within your reports. So users is a more accurate way to understand the number of people reading your blog.

You might have noticed I said “more accurate” and not just “accurate”. This is because people can access your blog on their mobile, their laptop and their tablet. Google Analytics is pretty awesome, but it’s not a superhero, so each one of these devices (the mobile, laptop and tablet) will each show up as a separate user within your reports – so by default you would have three users for this scenario.

Are you with me? (#OMG I hope so! If you’ve got a question or need any of this clarified let me know in the comments!)

Here we can see Users, Sessions and Pageviews:

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When you look back at your historical data inside Google Analytics you will generally want to see your pageview, session and user numbers increasing. If they start to slide downward, then this can indicate that your blog is losing reach and it might be time to start looking at how you are attracting your audience and the types of content you’re posting.

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The example above shows that our traffic is increasing, so things are going well! For details on how to do this check out Darren’s post on the compare option within Google Analytics.

What’s The Value Of Your Content?

Within the Site Content reports you will find a column called Page Value. This is a really awesome thing to use because it shows you the dollar value of your different posts.

Now you might jump into your report and find a super boring zero – that’s okay, but let’s look at how you can start to use Page Value for great insights into your content.

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Page Value is only shown in your report if you’ve taken the time to set up at least one goal inside Google Analytics. For example, if you’re collecting email addresses on your blog then you will want to measure that as a goal within Google Analytics. By setting up the goal you will be able to easily report on the number of people signing up to receive your email updates and you will also be able to make use of Page Value.

So what is Page Value?

Let’s say you’ve set up your goal and assigned the goal a dollar value of $5 for every person that completes the goal. Now someone views your blog’s homepage, then reads an individual post and converts for that goal. The value of the goal ($5) will be taken and divided between the posts (and pages) that they viewed leading to the conversion. This means each page will be assigned a dollar value and when we head to our reports we can see the average value for each of our pages.

This means that you will be able to quickly identify your most important content based on the value that it’s creating. You can then generate more content based on the type of content that is already delivering value. Pretty cool huh!

The idea of defining a value to your goals might be a little bit confusing at first. There are few ways you can do this, the simplest way is just to assign a symbolic dollar value – just make one up! For example, if you were using goals to measure email signups and people commenting, then you might assign $5 to email signups and $2 to people commenting. You would want to assign a higher value to email signups since they are more valuable because you can send updates and other promotional messages.

Goals For Your Blog

There are lots of options for setting up goals to measure the success of your blog. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Email subscribers
  • Competitions
  • Contact forms
  • Clicks on email links
  • People commenting
  • Downloads (PDFs, eBooks, etc.)
  • Engaged audience members
  • Members login area
  • Embedded videos

Take some time and list out as many goals as possible. Once you have them, it’s time to assign each goal a value and configure your goals within Google Analytics. In most cases you should be able to configure the goal yourself, but if you have a highly customized blog, you might need help getting things up and running. (If you’re on WordPress, then take some time to explore the plugin you are using. The better plugins allow you to automatically track things like downloads and videos which will make setting up much easier!)

If you’re selling online, then you will want to use Google Analytics to track your ecommerce transactions. Ecommerce data will also be used to calculate your Page Value.

Setting Up Goals

There are three different types of goals you can configure inside Google Analytics. The most common is a destination goal – this is basically where you want to get people to a particular page on your blog. In most cases you should only use this for thank you pages – like after people sign up for your email updates, or after they complete your contact form.

In order to setup a destination goal you will need to travel through the steps on your blog and note down the URLs. You can then configure the goal within the ‘Admin’ section of Google Analytics. Here is an example of a goal configured to measure people signing up for email updates:

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You can also configure goals based on Events that you are already measuring. Events are more advanced – they allow you to measure custom interactions like people watching videos.

The final option is to configure goals based on engagement. You can create a goal for people viewing a certain number of pages or spending a certain amount of time on your blog.

We’re not going to get into detail about Event tracking or configuring all the different types of goals today, but if you are interested there’s a quick post on setting them up.

What Do People Want?

Knowing what to write for your next post can cause a mental block (or maybe that’s just me), but next time you are stuck and need inspiration for your next post you should jump into your Google Analytics reports. You can of course make use of the Site Content reports, but if you offer a search function on your blog you can use Google Analytics to understand what people are actively looking for on your blog.

Unfortunately the Site Search reports are not automatic – you do need to configure Google Analytics to use them, but in most cases this is pretty straightforward. The best option is to perform a search on your blog and look at the URL in your browser. If you’re on WordPress then you will probably see something like (if you searched for ‘this blog rocks’). If you’re not on WordPress or have a custom setup, then you might see something a little different to this. That’s okay, there are other ways to setup the Site Search reports.

Let’s say we saw the URL of – in this case we can head to the ‘Admin’ area of Google Analytics, then select ‘View Settings’ under the ‘View’ column on the right and enable Site Search, so it should look like:

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Now Google Analytics works its magic and you will begin to see the search terms people are looking for on your blog within the Site Search reports (within ‘Behavior’):

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This is a brilliant report – think about it: people are actually taking the time to type in exactly what they are looking for on your blog! It’s amazing!

You can use the Site Search report to identify topics for your next post and also identify potential issues in your navigation. For example, if lots of people are searching for “advertise”, then maybe they are looking for details about how they can advertise on your blog. You could then think about adding a page or highlighting your contact details in your blog’s layout.

I’d love to hear how you’re using Google Analytics to improve your blog – let me know in the comments!

Benjamin Mangold co-founded Loves Data, a digital agency helping people understand how to get the most out of digital analytics and online marketing. Get his free Google Analytics course and his new book ‘Learning Google AdWords and Google Analytics’ and take your skills to the next level.

How I Lost 80% of My Traffic Overnight (And How I Got it Back, Plus More!)

How I Lost 80% of My Traffic Overnight (And How I Got it Back, Plus More!)In today’s episode of the ProBlogger podcast, I want to tell you a little story.

I want to tell you about one morning in 2004 when I realised my blog, which I’d recently established as my full time source of income, had hardly any traffic coming to it. I lost between 80 and 90% of my traffic literally overnight, and I couldn’t figure out why. You can imagine that when my traffic took such a shocking nosedive, so did my income! It was one of the biggest wake-up calls I’ve had in my career, and it changed the way I blogged from that day forward.

When I look back, I probably think I was a bit complacent about traffic, and I really hadn’t thought much past what Google could bring. So when Google stopped bringing it, I wasn’t sure what to do. I had worked my way up to a point where the blog was thriving, and so I went into coast mode rather than ensuring that it had longevity.

It’s funny that although I thought it was the end of the world at the time, I’m actually really grateful it happened because the steps I took to rectify it ended up growing my blogs much faster than before.

In today’s episode I’m going to outline the steps I took to not only recover the traffic I lost, but to drive it even higher, and what you can do if disaster happens to strike you!

You can find the ProBlogger podcast shownotes here.

Further Reading: