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Man Vs. Machine: Get Better Sales by Keeping Marketing Automation Human

Image via Flickr user Peyri Herrera

Image via Flickr user Peyri Herrera

This is a guest contribution from Veronica Taylor.

Marketing automation without a human element is just a robot on autopilot. Before, during and after each automated campaign it is essential for real people to plan, edit and review. When campaigns aren’t working, they need to be tested and updated. Most people think of marketing automation as efficient yet impersonal. When used correctly, however, most automated marketing solutions now provide the possibility for highly targeted messages based on each customer’s personal interests, preferences and history. Here are a few tips for making your automated campaigns efficient and dynamic while also building stronger connections with your customers.

Have a Specific Goal

For each campaign you create, it is essential to know what you are trying to accomplish. Are you seeking more new signups? Trying to get leads to download your whitepaper? Simply raising awareness about your business or an upcoming event? If you have automated messages going out to customers but you don’t have a clear idea of what results you are trying to measure, you will not know if the campaign was successful. You won’t know which messages were effective and which ones need to be changed. If you are not measuring the response to your messages, you are not listening to your customers. The automated campaign will continue to run robotically, with no edits or improvements. Know what you are trying to achieve. If it’s not working, update it.

Survey and Track Customers

The best way to give marketing automation a personal touch is to use it to its full potential. Marketing automation now has the capability to track and store each individual customer’s preferences, history, important dates, interests, personal information and much more. With this wealth of data, it is possible to automatically create highly personally targeted campaigns for each customer. This way, the customer receives information that is directly relevant to them, making the experience much more personal. You can send out automated appointment date reminders, bill payment notifications, birthday messages, personalized promotions and so on. This type of personalized messaging builds stronger connections and reduces customer churn. When you want to update your customer information in order to provide even better targeted messages, survey customers to learn more and keep information up to date.

Know When to Write a Personal Message

Sometimes automation just isn’t appropriate. There are many instances in business where it is essential to take the time to manually write a message or a response to a customer. In these cases, a prompt message sent by a real person has a much greater impact than an automated message ever could. These are just a few examples: when a customer makes a very large purchase and you want to thank them with a special discount or free product/service, when a customer has been with you for years and you want to show your appreciation, when a customer takes the time to write to you with feedback, questions or comments, when you make a mistake with a customer’s bill, purchase or account, when a customer has a complaint, and when you have time to make personal comments on social media (automated social media management saves oodles of time, but you absolutely need real posts or tweets thrown in).

Review and Analyze

As mentioned before, if you don’t keep track of how customers are responding to your automated messages you are simply letting a robot control your marketing, which is going to show in your sales. Real people are essential to a marketing strategy because they try different things when they see something isn’t working as well as they had hoped. One of the greatest advantages humans have over machines is that they take chances and make mistakes rather than doing the same thing over and over again. The best way to increase revenue, boost customer life span and attract new customers is to listen to what your customers want. Automated marketing solutions provide you with all the data you will ever want. Keep a close eye on your reports, open rates, unsubscribes and other data. Review your campaign data after each campaign you send. Learn what customers respond to, learn what they don’t want and learn how to react positively when you need to make a change.

To summarize:

Your marketing is ultimately in your hands. Marketing automation makes it possible for businesses to save time and money, reduce the daily effort their staff has to put in and connect more effectively with their customers. Marketing automation is a powerful tool, but like any other tool it needs a skilled operator to make it work.

Veronica Taylor, Assistant Marketing Manager at SimplyCastenjoys writing about small business marketing, improving communication strategies, social media trends and more.

5 Sources of Ideas for My Blog Posts

NewImage

On a recent webinar over at ProBlogger.com I was asked by John:

“Where do you get your ideas for blog posts?”

It’s a question we get a lot so I thought it might be a good one to write up here on the blog.

Discuss: I’m also keen to hear your experience on the question because I’m very aware that my approach is just one of many ways to go about generating blog post ideas.

1. Questions from Readers

Perhaps the #1 place I get inspiration for blog posts is the inspiration for this one – a question from a reader.

As I look back at the most popular posts here on ProBlogger I can see this pattern over and over again. While I might not always start with the actual question (as I’ve done above) questions often stimulate me writing a post.

If one person is asking a question you can bet that it is something that others are wondering about too.

Questions come from a variety of sources including:

  • Emails from readers
  • Comments on blog posts
  • Webinar Q&As
  • Real life events (both in conversations and in Q&As)
  • Social Media
  • Conversations
  • My own questions (both present and past ones)

Taking note of questions is something that you need to get in the habit of noticing, capturing and responding to – once you get into this mindset you’ll have a never ending supply of ideas.

Example: How to Convince Someone to Be Interviewed on Your Blog

2. Reader Surveys

One of the most powerful things I’ve ever done to collect reader questions and understand what topics I can write about that will solve readers needs is to set up surveys.

Over on Digital Photography School if you sign up for our email newsletter you get an invitation three months after joining to do a short survey.

The survey has a handful of demographic questions to help us get a picture of who is reading but also has an optional open ended question that asks readers if they have any questions, problems, challenges that they’d like us to write about.

Since setting up this survey we’ve had tens of thousands of people complete that question which gives us invaluable ideas.

Here’s a screen shot of the question we ask and some of the most recent responses.

Blog post ideas survey

This survey gets new responses every day and is ongoing but the other option is to do a one off survey. Here on ProBlogger we tend to do this as an annual ‘census’ where we invite readers to complete a similar survey all at the same time. This gives us a snapshot of the readership. It also enables us to compare where our readers are at today as compared to last year and the year before.

Updating Previous Topics

Once you’ve been blogging for a few years you’ll potentially have hundreds (if not thousands) of posts in your archives – some of which will become dated or even obsolete.

Going back through your archives to examine old posts that are out of date can serve as great inspiration for new posts.

Perhaps you’ve changed your opinion on the topic, or maybe there’s fresh information you can share, or maybe there is a new trend, technique or tool that you can write about.

In some cases you might want to delete the previous post (if its now completely wrong) or you might also want to update it or link to a new post on the topic.

Either way – your old dated posts will quite often give all kinds of inspiration for new ones so go hunting in your archives!

Related Reading: How to Repurpose your Content and Why You Should Do it

3. Stories/Experiences/Experiments/Learnings

Another source for many of my own most popular posts over the years have simply come from my own experience.

This has been especially the case here on ProBlogger where many of my posts have simply been me sharing what I’m learning.

Take for example some recent posts here I have shared:

How Our eBook Launches Have Evolved (after 235,000 eBook Sales) – reflections on what I’ve learned over the last 5-6 years
My Experiment with Starting a 2nd Facebook Page for My Blog – a case study on a little experimenting I was running
Tapping into Joy and Disappointment: Lessons from Our Biggest eBook Launch Ever – lessons learned in a recent launch
Spend 10 Minutes Doing This Every Day and You Could Transform Your Blogging – sharing an activity that I do that helps me
My Top 5 Mistakes as a Blogger – don’t just share the good experiences and successes!

4. Evolution of Previous Posts

Pay particular attention to previous posts that you’ve written and how people respond to them because this is often a source of great inspiration for future posts.

Let me give you an example.

Recently I noticed that an old post that we published on Digital Photography School was getting a surge in traffic from Facebook.

The post was titled How a Humble 85mm Lens Became my Favourite and was written by one of our regular paid writers.

Blog post ideas example

The post had been popular when we first posted in back in 2012 but after I’d shared it again on our Facebook page (I highlight 1-2 posts in our archives every day) it had been really well received by our Facebook community.

It struck me that perhaps we could get some of our other writers to write similar posts about their favourite lenses.

We have a private little ‘group’ on Facebook for our dPS writers so I posted the idea there.

Ideas blog posts

Our other writers liked the idea and began nominating the lenses that they’d write about and got to work on writing the posts. We’ve already published the first of these favorite lens posts and have got another 7-8 of them being written to be published over the coming months.

Want another example? Check out this post I wrote on ProBlogger last year on how I turned a simple guest post into a series of posts that generated over 3 million visitors to dPS.

This principle of watching how people react with your previous blog posts can be extended to see how people react to your previous social media updates.

A good example of this is a post I published earlier in the year here on ProBlogger titled 10 Quick Tips for Entrepreneurial Bloggers which was actually based upon some of my most popular Tweets. I looked back over the previous years of tweets from my ProBlogger twitter account to find the most retweeted and liked updates – which then became a blog post.

5. Talks/Presentations/Twitter Chats

Another source of numerous recent blog posts that I’ve written have been talks and presentations that I’ve given.

I invest many hours on preparing to speak at a conference or event so it makes sense to take that work and turn it into a blog post (or series of them) wherever possible.

An example of this would be my recent post – How to build a Blog that has Lasting Impact Upon its Readers in which I took a reader question (point #1 above) and shared my answer to it using some ideas from a recent talk I gave.

Creative control broken down

I also included some of the slides (like the one above) from my talk as graphic in the blog post to give it some visual punch.

Another example of this is a post I wrote here on ProBlogger recently titled – How to Build a Blog Worth Monetizing – in which I shared a series of tweets from a Twitter Chat that I’d co hosted (the #BlogChat twitter chat). In fact many of those tweets also had slides from a previous talk also!

Where Do You Get Ideas for Blog Posts?

I’m scratching the surface of this topic here and know there are many more ways to generate ideas – but I’m keen to hear your experience!

Where do you get your ideas for blog posts?

How to Use Google in the Most Unusual Way to Make Your Self-Editing Faster, and Better

This is a guest contribution from Karol K. You can read the first and second post in this mini series here and here.

“[...] then the evening came and she found herself sitting by the drawing board again, trying to [...]“

Um … wait a minute, is it “sitting by the drawing board” or “sitting at the drawing board”? Damn it, I never remember, and both sound okay to me! How do I check this?!

Oh, the struggles of every blogger attempting to edit their own work. There are thousands of expressions just like the one above, causing us problems on a daily basis.

Is something in or on, at or by, from or with, of or for, “all of a sudden” or “all of the sudden”? There’s really no end to this craze. And this is especially relevant if English is not your first language.

So what to do? What to do if you’re not entirely sure and you don’t want to look silly?

Call a friend? Email a friendly blogger? Shout this out on Twitter?

Sure, that could work, but you can be sure that if you do this multiple times throughout the day, people will hate you.

There’s a quicker and better solution though.

Its name is Google.

Please, hold on! Don’t leave just yet. I promise the trick I’m about to describe isn’t as obvious as it sounds now.

Introducing clever Googling!

Here’s what I do when I’m in doubt like that.

Step #1. I go to Google and search for part of the phrase that I’m uncertain of. I put†the phrase in quotation marks.

Using the example above, like so:

“sitting by the drawing board”

Now, the individual results Google gives me don’t matter that much. What matters is the number of indexed pages:

google1

Not a lot in this case.

Step #2. I start checking other known alternatives. Like so:

google2

Ah, that’s better, over 130,000 results.

In most cases, what this means is that the higher number means proper expression.

The end.

Quick. Simple. Correct in most cases.

(Of course, sometimes a common error is more popular than the correct form. But even if that’s the case, can using this wrong form still be considered a serious mistake?)

How to do this properly

To be perfectly honest with you, I use this trick all the time. I’ve truly made Google my lightning-fast blog editor, and I encourage you to do the same.

Now, just a handful of final guidelines.

  1. If you’re completely clueless about what the correct expression you’re looking for might be, try using the magic “*” character. This star lets Google know that you’re looking for any word that fits the gap. Go ahead, try it with†“sitting * the drawing board”.
  2. Always put the phrase in quotation marks. This is important. Without them, the method is useless.
  3. Enclose the word you’re looking for on both sides. For instance, looking for just “by the drawing board” wouldn’t provide me with sufficient context for the returned number to be an accurate representation. Always put the missing part in the middle.
  4. Use replacement verbs and nouns. Not all expressions are popular enough and they might not return any reliable numbers, but you can improve the results by replacing some not common words with more common ones. For example, if “drawing board” is too specific, I can replace it with “desk” and the meaning remains more or less the same (“by the desk”).
  5. Mind the context. In some cases, two versions of a phrase can be equally as popular, but that can be due to the fact that they mean two separate things. In such a case, look into the individual results and take a look at the excerpts Google gives you. Here’s an example result for “sitting on the drawing board”:

google3

Is this method fail-proof?

Of course not.

But it’s not meant to be fail-proof. This is just a trick to speed up your editing when you’re stuck and can’t find the right way to express a thought.

What do you think? Will you make Google your personal editor too?

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a freelance writer, published author, founder of NewInternetOrder.com and a blogger at Bidsketch.com (delivering some cool freelance blogging and writing tools, advice and resources just like what youíre reading now). Whenever heís not working, Karol likes to spend time training Capoeira and enjoying life.

5 Quick Questions with Robert Scoble: What Makes a Great Tech Blog?

roberts scoble

Robert Scoble is the brains behind the blog Scobleizer (which he’s just abandoned in favour of solely microblogging on Facebook), and a well-respected authority on social media, tech, and blogging. He has worked for Microsoft, and is currently with Rackspace. We were super-fortunate to grab a few minutes of his time to answer five questions about how to make your tech blog a success.

What do you think are the essentials a tech blog should have in order to be successful?

Define success! For some, it might be just getting an industry discussion going. Others might want to build a media business to the place where they can quit their day job and do this full time.

In each, it really is simple: make content other people want to read, discuss, and share.

Of course, if that was so easy everyone would have a famous blog.

If I were starting out today I’d pick a niche that I could own that will get bigger over time. Today that might be Wearable Computers. Tomorrow? Brain interfaces or robots. These topics don’t yet have a blog that is dominant. It’s a lot easier to get going in a smaller niche that doesn’t yet have strong blogs.

What are the topics you’ve found really resonates with the readers? What seems to get the most engagement?

Drones. But, seriously, if you try writing about drones it’s too late. The trick is to find something that will be big tomorrow. If you had an exclusive insight into the Apple Watch, for instance (something that hasn’t yet been reported) that will do very well.

For newer bloggers, or those wanting to turn their tech blog into a business, what would you suggest focusing on first?

I would pick a small niche. Cover it to death. There’s no way you can really blow away Techcrunch, Verge, Re/code, in overall tech space unless you have millions of dollars. But, you can become the world’s leading drone (or brain interface, or robot, or wearable computer) expert and use that to edge your way into a business.

It really comes down to content. Do you have something that no one else has? Marques Brownlee, for instance, has a unique take on gadget reviews. Others focus on tech out of just a single country like China or Israel. Yet others, like Julien Blin, or Redg Snodgrass are trying to own the wearable space.

What is the hardest thing about being a tech blogger, and how have you worked to overcome that?

Sitting through all the pitches is the hardest thing. To find the next big thing you’ve probably got to see 150 so so companies. Maybe even more. I’ve been pitched in bathrooms (no no) and on the street at 2 a.m. at SXSW (also a no no). How do I overcome that? Always be nice, sit through a few minutes, and if you aren’t interested, say so and why. That said, most of the time now I only see things if referred by someone I trust.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given about blogging (or business in general?)

Be real. Don’t be corrupt, or better said, disclose conflicts. Dave Winer showed me the power of that more than a decade ago and it still serves me well today. It’s why I share so much of my private life. All you really have is your reputation. It’s why I work so hard on personal relationships with people across the industry.

What do you think? Have you experienced something that Robert has mentioned? I’d love to hear about it!

Google Introducing ‘Mobile Friendly’ Tags in Search Results and Signal It Will Start Impacting Search Rankings

Over the last couple of years any blogger who has paid attention to their analytics will know that how people are reading blogs is changing.

No longer are people simply arriving on your blog on their desktop computer or laptop but on tablets, mobile phones and more.

Today I took a look at the change in how people arrive on my blog (Digital Photography School) over last 3 years.

I doubt the results will surprise anyone.

dPS Mobile Desktop Trafic

The growth in mobile/tablet traffic has been remarkable.

When I look at the last period in the chart in more detail and look at just this month (November) the trend continues

dPS Mobile Desktop Trafic 2

Another month or two and we’ll be hitting a 50/50 split of those on desktops and those on mobile devices.

Every blogger I speak with tells me a similar story. While the breakdown might vary a little the day is coming (if it hasn’t already) where most bloggers will have more readers consuming content on mobile devices than desktop.

Google Launch Mobile Friendly Tags and Testing Tool

Google have been encouraging those with websites to make them mobile friendly for a year or more now but in the last week Google made an interesting announcement that is aimed at twisting the arm of those with sites even more.

They announced that they’ll be rolling out ‘tags’ in search results that mark sites as ‘mobile-friendly’. In the coming weeks when you search Google you’ll start seeing this next to those sites Googlebot considers to be fit for mobile consumption.

NewImage

What makes a mobile friendly site in Googlebot’s eyes? What it is looking for is sites that:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

Google also made available an easy to use ‘test’ that enables us to add our URL and test if our blog fits the criteria.

Simply plug in your URL and it’ll analyse your site and give you a tick of approval or a cross with suggestions on how to fix any problems

Google to Start using Mobile-Friendly Criteria in Ranking Sites

Also of interest in Google’s announcement this week is this line:

We are also experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.

Take note: Google are officially letting us know that if your site isn’t mobile friendly that it could hurt how your site is ranked in Google.

Note: last year we completely redesigned Digital Photography School with a mobile friendly responsive design.

We’ve also gradually been rolling out responsive designs on ProBlogger.com, ProBloggerEvents.com and in the coming month hope to finish overhauling the ProBlogger suite of sites by making ProBlogger.net and our Job boards similarly design. It’s a big job but well worth the effort!

Making The Impossible Possible: How I Created A Full Time Blogging Income With No Qualifications

Image via Flickr user Susy Morris

Image via Flickr user Susy Morris

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer Stacey Corrin.

It was a dark day in November 2012 when I first began to blog. Rain lashed the windows of the home we’d just moved into. Removal boxes lay strewn across the floor and the cries of my newborn twins rang shrill in my ears.

I felt trapped, with no escape plan.

Being a new parent can do that to you. It can make you feel like the only person in the room. It can sap your energy, your personality, your identity. Yet it can also put you on a path you might never consider possible.

Today I want to share how I got from that wretched point to my life now. Three years later, I’m now a successful ghostwriter, blogger and full time freelancer.

 

It Began As A Cry For Help

My foray into blogging began like most peoples does. It was expression, even a cry for help. Most importantly it was an outlet for the turmoil and confusion of young parenthood.

I set myself up with a free WordPress blog and proceeded to spend any spare time, jotting down my thoughts. Off they would go into the ether and I’d feel a little lighter, a little more relieved for having let it all out.

Little did I know that there were people reading my musings. They introduced themselves, faceless entities going through similar situations. They provided support, insight and friendship I’d never found offline.

These people introduced me to a whole community I never knew existed. People from all walks of life were doing just what I was doing. They were baring their souls to the internet and finding comfort in the practice. What’s more, they were making a living from it too!

 

I Immersed Myself In All Things Blogging

That realisation was a revelation to me. Immediately I set about learning all that I could about blogging, SEO, and how to build an audience. It wasn’t an easy process. I learned some terrible blogging habits along the way but I also found that there was so much help out there if you knew where to look.

I discovered sites like this one. I haunted the big names on Twitter and Facebook yet also took stock of the little ones who were making waves. Sites like Blogging Wizard who at that point was still fresh and new.

What was it that made them so successful? What were their secrets? What made them stand out?

And then it dawned on me. These people stood out because they didn’t follow the crowd.

Well, I knew a thing or two about that. Always the oddball at school, I spent the majority of my teenage years sticking out like a sore thumb. So how could I do that with my own blog? How could I stand out and make a living at the same time?

By this point I’d spent two and a half years figuring this blogging thing out. My twins had grown to the point that afforded me more freedom, so one evening I sat down with a notepad and wrote out the things I was good at.

Three things stood out at me:

  • Writing
  • Blogging
  • WordPress

A thought began to blossom. What if I did something drastic? What if I started all over again and built a new blog from scratch? This time I’d do so with the aim of sharing everything I’d learned over the last few years. At the same time I’d market my skills to those who needed them – my blog a testament to them.

 

How I Turned My Passion Into Profit

I realised that through helping others with their own blogs, I could show off what I’d learned along the way. Let’s face it, not everyone has time to write blog post after blog post, on a daily basis. Unless of course like me, you love to write. Thus blogging about blogging and offering my services as a ghostwriter seemed like a smart move.

Through the power of Selz, a simple and free eCommerce platform, I was able to create product listings for my services. People could buy these from my new blog. With a few clicks of a button they could get a ghostwritten blog post and within a matter of days, have it land in their inbox. All attribution would go to them, no strings attached.

The services I offered included:

  • Ghostwriting
  • WordPress content management
  • Virtual help
  • Social media management

These were things that people needed. I knew I could provide them as I did those things every day and over time the word spread. Recommendations came in, people gave great testimonials and I built a small client base.

That was over three months ago.

In that time I’ve written over 80 blog posts of 900 words and over (excluding my own). My blog has grown from zero traffic and shares to posts with over 800 shares alone. I’m now in a place where people want to read what I’m writing. Not because they sympathise, but because they can learn something valuable from my words. Needless to say the clients have poured in too, coinciding with an income that’s sustaining five people.

How did I do it? I listened to what people wanted. Then I promoted the pants off what I created.

  • Jump into Facebook groups and Quora discussions related to your niche and listen to what people are talking about.
  • Talk to people on Social Media instead of just link dropping
  • Offer up solutions through your blog posts, which answer people’s most pressing questions
  • Forget word counts when you’re writing. A post should be as long as it needs to be, to get your message across.

When promoting your content:

  • Join places like Triberr and follow tribes with similar interests. Here you can connect with influencers who will help your posts reach a wider audience.
  • Use the power of imagery with networks like Pinterest. This can be a massive source of traffic if you create excellent visuals to go with your posts.
  • Don’t forget your email list! Provide incentives like content upgrades for subscribers only. Follow up with personal emails that provide value to your list.

The best way of exposing my blog to new readers, was to guest post for other blogs. This has been my biggest source of repeat clients and traffic. By keeping some of your best work for other people’s blogs, you’re making a bold statement. You’re telling people that you care about quality, that you’re not just about self-promotion.

 

It’s Been A Humbling Experience

Looking back to that November day, I don’t recognise the person I was. Blogging lifted me from a hopeless situation into a life that’s rich, vibrant and full of opportunity.

If I can offer any advice to anybody, it would be this:

Always believe in the impossible. No matter how hard it might seem, there is always a way if you’re willing to dream big and work for it.

Stacey is a Ghostwriter and Blogger who creates content for influencers in the digital marketing and WordPress community. When she’s not blogging elsewhere, she hangs out on her own blog, sharing visual content and blogging tips.

Where I’ll be Speaking in 2015

I’ve had a few people asking in the last few weeks where I’ll be speaking in 2015 – I can’t believe the end of the year is so close!

I love speaking and am excited by some of the opportunities next year. I hope you’ll consider joining me both here in Australia and Internationally.

World Domination Summit 2013: Photo by  Joshua Seaman

World Domination Summit 2013: Photo by Joshua Seaman

Next year I’ll be speaking twice internationally (so far):

1. March 25-26: Social Media Marketing World in San Diego.

I’m really excited to get to Social Media Marketing World this year. I’ve jealously watched it from afar the last couple of years as many of those that I admire have attended and spoken.

All that I’ve spoken to who attend say it’s one of the best organised and most practically helpful conferences that they’ve been to.

Here’s a little recap of what attendees thought of last years event!

It was a real delight to be invited by Mike Stelzner to speak in the blogging stream this year.

What a buzz it’ll be to attend an event with 2500 bloggers and social media enthusiasts!

$500 Off! Social Media Marketing World

Until Friday you can grab a ticket to Social Media Marketing World at a whopping $500 off!

Note: I am an affiliate to this event but am also genuinely endorsing it (I wouldn’t travel for close to 24 hours to attend it otherwise).

2. May 9-14: Chris Ducker’s Tropical Think Tank in Cebu, the Philippines.

I’ve not been to the Philippines for 12 years so I’m really looking forward to this one.

Chris has assembled a great lineup of speakers for this intense but intimate event (there are only 50 attendees) – I’m honoured to be one of them.

I’m told there are a handful of tickets left – join me at TTT here.

In Australia: ProBlogger Event

My main focus in speaking next year will be within Australia. I’m still in talks with a couple of conferences and hope to announce them shortly but many ProBlogger readers have also been asking about our ProBlogger Event.

We hope to announce more details of dates and venue for our main event before the end of the year but I can tell you that it will be mid August 2015 and we will be in a new venue that will allow us to grow beyond the 550 attendees who attended last year.

I can also tell you that we will be running a full day event this year in Perth on Saturday 21 February. We hope to release tickets for this event by early in December.

Lastly we will be running some shorter events in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in March.

To be notified of all of these Aussie events the moment we have more news to share please join our Aussie Events email list here:

Need a Speaker for Your Event?

9226361525_3dc3aa965e_b 2I am open to speaking at a small number of other events in 2015. I particularly enjoy keynote style presentations but have a variety of workshops that I can run also.

I’m comfortable speaking to audiences of thousands right down to smaller groups and would love to discuss how I can serve those attending your conference.

If you have an event that you’d like me to come to please check out my speaker page for more information and some examples of me speaking.

How Bloggers Can Make The Best Use Of Their 24 Hours

Image via Flickr user Thomas R Stegelmann

Image via Flickr user Thomas R Stegelmann

This is a guest contribution from entrepreneur Charles Crawford.

Whether your parents believe you or not, there are ways to make a living off of being a blogger. And with as many benefits that come with blogging, who wouldn’t want to at least check out this lifestyle? After all, you get to be your own boss for the most part, so you don’t have to worry about a lot of the hindrances that come with a typical 9-5.

However, being a blogger isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Instead, it’s a job where you’ll have to work hard if you expect to get paid. And if you don’t work, then you might want to give your old employer a call and see if they’ll hire you back.

Another obstacle that bloggers must overcome is being able to manage their time appropriately. Because you won’t have a boss breathing down your neck every day, you get to decide when you want to work and what clients you want to work for. Therefore, it’s important that you ensure that you make the most of your day, in order to be as productive as possible. Here is a look at how bloggers can make the best use of their 24 hours each day.

Have A Plan

The first thing that any blogger will want to do as they look to organize their day is make a planned schedule. If you quit your job and became a blogger with the hopes of ditching a scheduled lifestyle, you may want to rethink things. Sure, you won’t have to be at your desk from 9-5 each day, but having a schedule for your blogging will be imperative if you plan to be successful. Even if the schedule changes from day to day, knowing what you want to get done will help you organize your less-traditional lifestyle.

Not only should part of that plan include time for blogging, but you’ll also want to accommodate for your personal life as well. Unless you plan on sitting in front of a computer all day long and blogging, you’ll also want to account for time to hit the gym or even hang out with friends.

Knowing when you have to work and when you have time to yourself in a schedule will do wonders for your time management as a blogger throughout the day.

Stay Focused

One of the toughest parts of being a blogger is going to be staying focused. Lets face it; there is a lot of stuff on the internet. For some bloggers, they may be looking on a website for information, but next thing they know they’ll look at the clock and two hours has passed by. When you spend two hours look at talking animals on the internet, it can really cut into your blogging time. Therefore, be sure that you stay focused and take the necessary precautions to avoid being distracted.

Keep Networking

Part of your blogging efforts should include time that you spend networking with other people. The more people that you meet in the blogging world, the more likely it is that you’ll learn from their advice and have more success individually. However, if you fail to meet the right people, you may struggle when it comes to your ability to get recognition for your blogging efforts.

Adapt To Your Plan

That plan that was mentioned earlier is a great starting point, but keep in mind that things might change over time. For example, you might need to arrange time in your schedule to contact new people about blogging opportunities. You may also need to check your email or social media accounts to communicate with other writers. The more that you can crunch into your work day, which will be easier if you have a schedule, the more productive you will be. And if you can easily work in changes into the schedule, you’ll be even more efficient.

Stay Informed

Part of your time while adapting to your schedule should also include staying informed on new technology, programs, or applications that can make your life as a blogger much easier. There are always new options to consider learning, or new niches to capitalize on, and doing so will help you to be more productive. Keep in mind that bloggers who work smarter, rather than harder, will likely see more success.

Know When To Stop

When you work as a blogger, the internet is always going to be at your fingertips. With that mindset, you might have a hard time turning your computer off and taking time to yourself. However, it’s equally as important that you know when to rest during your 24-hour day. If you fail to get adequate sleep, then you may have a tough time with being as productive the following day.

Being a blogger has plenty of rewards and it’s certainly a vital option for making a good income. But if you really want to be able to have your efforts pay off, then you’ll have to put in the work for it and make the most of your 24 hours each day.

Charles Crawford is a high-level entrepreneur and co-founder of Invisume. Charles has been studying internet marketing, web design, and tech start-ups for years, and he has been successful with multiple business ventures such as affiliate marketing (where 98%+ of people never make money).

Did Your Blog Have a Tipping Point? Here’s How My 2 Blogs Grew

Time for another reader question from a recent member webinar on ProBlogger.com.

Did you experience a “tipping point” in readership at some point or was it just steady growth?

This is actually a question I often ask full time bloggers who I meet because I love to hear the back story about how their blog broke through to have enough readers to make a living from.

What I’ve found in asking the question is that there are many different pathways to full time blogging.

This can perhaps be illustrated by sharing how my two main blogs grew in terms of readership because they could not really be more different.

Let’s start with ProBlogger

I wish I could show you an actual traffic chart of ProBlogger’s growth but when I started it back in 2004 I didn’t have Google Analytics installed (it didn’t come along until 2006, from memory).

However if I were to recreate it’s growth the chart would have looked something like this in the first couple of years.

blog traffic ProBlogger

You can see the first few months were particularly slow but within the next two months things boomed very quickly.

This ‘tipping point’ came as a result of me mentioning (without any forethought) in an interview that I’d reached a level of being a full time blogger and earning a six figure income from my blogging.

This caused quite the stir back in 2006. While blogging had been around for a few years and the idea of making money online was not new – there were not too many bloggers experimenting with making money from blogs.

The interview in which I mentioned making a six figure income from blogging went viral and was linked to from a number of big sites (one in particular was Slashdot which sent hundreds of thousands of visitors in a day).

Some people saw making money from blogging as controversial (blogging was seen by some as ‘pure’ and not to be monetised) and it also stimulated a lot of other bloggers to become interested in making money from blogging.

ProBlogger was the only real place to talk about making money blogging so subscribers shot up almost overnight and the term ‘ProBlogger’ quickly became a term those making money from blogging began to use to describe what they did.

While I didn’t set out to cause the ‘tipping point’ with that interview my blog here at ProBlogger was never the same after doing so.

A Different Story at Digital Photography School

Digital Photography School was a very different story to ProBlogger in terms of traffic growth.

If I had to chart the first two years it’d have looked more like this (in comparison to the yellow line of ProBlogger).

blog traffic comparison

It took around 2 years to get to the point where dPS was larger than Problogger (today it is 10 times bigger than ProBlogger is) and there was no real ‘tipping point).

I didn’t have Google Analytics on dPS until 8 months after the site began but here’s how growth has looked since that point (this is monthly visitors).

traffic-blog-dps

You can see that there were certainly some months were traffic spiked a little but the growth was fairly steady with no real breakout month that would classify as a tipping point.

The spikes in traffic were usually the result of being featured on other large blogs (usually the result of me networking and pitching other bloggers with links that their readers might find useful) or getting lucky with getting to the front page of sites like Digg or Reddit.

However it is worth saying that while spikes in traffic like these are fun… they rarely convert to long term traffic and are quite fleeting.

As I’ve written about in the past – this gradual but steady growth really came about as a result of a number of different factors:

    • Regular useful content: Daily “how to” posts that solved problems, showed people how to achieve their goals and improve their photography. This has been the main focus of the site since day 1 (I’d estimate over 90% of the content I’ve published fits into this category).
    • Shareable content: Content that I knew was more likely to be shared (inspirational posts, breaking news, humor, controversy (I didn’t really focus on this), grand list posts, and so on. This type of content has never been my main focus but I have mixed it into the publishing schedule at probably around 5% of what we publish.
    • Community: The other 5% of posts was more focused upon community activities like reader discussions, giving readers a chance to show off their photos, debates, polls, etc. We started a forum in time, too, to build this community further.
    • Email newsletter: If there’s one thing that grew the site more than any other, it was that we started collecting people’s email addresses early and began sending them weekly updates/newsletters. Email now sends a bit spike of traffic every Thursday night when we send our newsletter. Read more on how I use email to drive traffic and profit here.
    • Promotion: I defined who I wanted to read my blog and did the exercise of asking where they gathered. This lead me to sites like Flickr, other blogs, and some social networking sites where I developed presence, was useful and in time shared our content. Facebook is the #1 source of social traffic to the blog as a result of some of the strategies I’ve previously written about here and here.

SEO – I’ve never put a massive effort into search engine optimisation but one of the flow on effects of producing daily helpful content, regular shareable content, building community, and actively promoting dPS has been that the content we produce ranks well in Google. This doesn’t happen overnight but naturally grows as you add more content to your site and as your site becomes an authority in the eyes of Google. Knowing some basics of SEO helps but most of it for dPS has come about very naturally simply by trying to create the kind of site that people want to read (which is what Google tries to rank highest).

Further Reading On Content that Drives Traffic: I’ve talked a fair bit about content above – here is a post I wrote on ProBlogger last year that analyses 5 posts I published in the first year that generated a heap of traffic since that time which will illustrate the kind of content that has generated great traffic on dPS since the beginning.

How Did Your Blog Grow?

As you can see – my two blogs have had quite different journeys. Most full time bloggers I meet tend to have growth more similar to dPS than ProBlogger but no two are the same.

What has your blog’s growth been like?

Blogging with Intention: Creating an Income from a Successful Blog with Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom

Crystal Paine is the founder of the amazingly successful MoneySavingMom.com, which sees 1.5 million visitors each month, and employs 13 full time staff. Born of a blog series that turned into an ebook, which then evolved into an e-course, Crystal realised her readers were hungry for a real-life guide to living frugally, but well; be it slashing their grocery bill, using coupons, or finding ways to run their home on less.

Crystal had been looking for ways to create an income while she was a stay at home mom, and realised she could make a healthy business meeting her readers’ need for such information. With forethought and intention, Crystal created and monetized the site, but was still surprised when it outdid their expectations – by a long shot.

In our interview, we chat about the plans she made before MoneySavingMom.com went live, the things she did to make it a success, and how they kept that ball rolling to create the main source of income for her family today. Crystal also shares her ideas on revenue streams, how long it actually took to make a consistent income, and tips that will help you be more intentional with your efforts to succeed.

Blogging with Intention: Creating an income from a successful blog with Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom

The Beginning: Blogging Goals and Direction

You started Money Saving Mom after a blog series turned into an ebook, which turned into an ecourse. What dreams did you have for the site, seeing as you’d already covered so much of the content elsewhere?

I realized that I had barely touched the tip of the iceberg with the ebook and e-course I wrote on cutting your grocery bill. My vision for MoneySavingMom.com was that I was going to be sharing specific deals you could find at your local drugstores and big box stores (such as Walmart and Target). I also planned to share deals I had gotten locally, as well as ways our family was living on a small budget. As there are new sales every week and I’m always finding great deals and bargains, I knew that it wouldn’t be too hard to come up with new material to blog about each week.

 

Step Two: Creating an Income

You were very intentional about monetizing the site from the start to help supplement your family’s income while you were a stay at home mom. Did you have an idea going into it how you would monetize? 

When I started MoneySavingMom.com in 2007, I had already dabbled into monetization on a mommy blog I had. I knew I could make money with sidebar ads, as well as sharing some affiliate links. Back then, the options were fairly limited, but I kept researching, watching what others were doing, and slowly started experimenting with new ideas. One of the best ways to monetize in the early days of the blog was by becoming an affiliate for coupon printing sites (such as Coupons.com). They would pay me per print session. So if I posted about a great deal on toothpaste at Walmart and shared a printable coupon on Coupons.com that could be paired with the sale to get an even better discount, I’d get paid for every person who printed that coupon. While it was only a small amount per coupon printed, since I posted quite a few coupons each week, it quickly added up! To this day, getting paid per print for sharing great printable coupons is one of our highest earning affiliate income sources!

Do you think creating a monetized blog from the get-go is much different to monetising an established blog? (I have heard some people say it is easier to start with monetizing in mind rather than then try and turn a personal or other type of blog into something that makes an income – I was wondering if that was your experience.)

Great question! I think it’s always wise to be strategic and to go into any venture with a long-term plan. That plan can always change as circumstances and opportunities change, but I think it’s important to have a destination in mind when you start out on any road. Otherwise, you may end up just going around in circles because you don’t have any clue where you’re headed.

That said, I still believe that Content Is King. You can have the best monetized blog in the world, but if your content isn’t helpful and relevant, all the monetization strategies aren’t going to make much of an impact. So I always encourage beginning bloggers to start by establishing yourself as a voice people want to listen to. Provide great content, write about topics that are relevant, format your posts in an organized manner, and share your posts on social media in a compelling manner. Focus on solving problems and meeting needs in what you write, build up your credibility, and slowly also work on creative ways to monetize your blog.

I am told a lot that some people really wrestle with the idea of monetizing, although they ultimately would like to. What advice would you have for them?

I know there are definitely camps who believe you should just write because you love it, not because you’re getting paid for it. I think you should do both. I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to spend so much time producing great content, you should also get paid for your time.   One of the best ways to monetize your site is to be a person of integrity. Write about things you are passionate about and be very particular in what products and affiliate links you promote. Never sacrifice your integrity in the name of a quick buck. When people trust you, they will put much more weight in what you promote.

For example, I rarely wholeheartedly endorse a product. I might talk about pros and cons, share what I liked about a product, but it’s rare that I’ll say that I LOVE something. Why? Because I want my words to have weight. If I “LOVE” everything, it becomes meaningless quickly. So honesty is paramount when you’re considering promoting a product. Always have your readers and their needs first and foremost. Analyze every opportunity in light of: will this benefit my readers? If it only benefits me or if just mostly benefits me, I always choose turn down the opportunity. By doing so, I can, in good conscience occasionally really wholeheartedly endorse a product, site, or service — and my readers will know that it is something really worth checking into.

What kind of mindframe do you need to be in to make a blog a financial success? Do you need to treat it like a business as early as possible? Or can that come later?

I think one of the greatest keys to be successful as a blogger — both in terms of building a readership and making an income from your blogging efforts — is consistency. If readers know they can count on you regularly posting great content, they are much more likely to regularly show up.   This doesn’t mean that you always have to post the same number of times every week, or always post at the same time each day, or that you can’t ever take a break from blogging, but it does mean that you treat your blogging seriously. If you are employed somewhere, you are expected to show up to work and complete your work in a timely manner. If you don’t, there will be fall out — you might miss out on that promotion, you might not get that coveted opportunity, or you might even lose your job.   It’s the same way with blogging. You need to do all you can to keep your commitments to your readers — or don’t make the commitments in the first place. You need to place priority on producing great content. And you need to show up regularly. When readers know they can count on you, they feel much more invested in you and connected to you.

Someone asked me not too long ago what the secret was to my success. My answer: “There are no secrets; just hard work.” I have blogged almost every single day but Sunday, every single week, every year since I began blogging in 2005.   That’s a LOT of blogging. And trust me, while I truly love blogging, there were days when I would have rather been doing something else. I have stayed up late at night, gotten up early in the morning, and worked on Saturdays and holidays. There have been grueling and exhausting seasons, but the commitment, drive, and consistency have paid off in big ways.

Related: Crystal’s extensive list of resources and information of how she makes money blogging.

The Elusive Blog/Life Balance

What advice would you give to moms or parents who were much like you in the early days – trying to get a blog off the ground while balancing that with the needs of your home and family?

My best advice would be to not follow in my footsteps and bite off way more than you can chew! Instead, I encourage you to write down your goals. Where do you want to be in six months from now? A year from now? 5 years from now?   In considering your six month goals, write down a list of everything that needs to happen in order to achieve those goals. Then, pick the top 3 most important to-do items on your list as your first priorities.

After you’ve chosen your top 3 action items, consider how much time you realistically have to invest each day. Maybe it’s just 30 minutes or an hour. That’s okay. Start there, but remember that if you don’t have much time to invest, you may need to scale back your expectations for how quickly you accomplish your goals.   Break those three items down into bite-sized steps and then make an appointment with yourself for your 30 minute or 1-hour time block (or however much time you’ve committed) and make it a priority. Set the timer. Start in on one of the steps and keep going until the timer goes off.   While you might not accomplish as much as you’d like as quickly as you’d like, you probably be surprised how much you can accomplish in 30 minute to 1 hour blocks of focused effort.

Strategy

You have said before that you and your husband just wanted to “see where this goes” in the early days of your blog – did you have a particular timeframe, or certain goals that would help you decide to continue?

My goal was to make a part-time income (I was aiming for around $1200 per month.) I knew that this amount would help not only supplement our income, but would allow us to be able to save and give more.   It took me around 2.5 years of hard, hard work, to hit that amount on a consistent monthly basis. And there were many months in the beginning when I wondered if I was just chasing after some really unrealistic dream. But eventually I started to not only hit that goal every month, but then to exceed it. Pretty soon, I was consistently doubling that initial goal, and then tripling it. It was so gratifying to realize that all those early months where I was doing well to make $2-$3 per hour paid off! I’m so glad I didn’t give up when it felt like my efforts weren’t really going anywhere.

When did you realise the blog was actually going to be successful?

When I started MoneySavingMom.com in 2007, I truly pictured that it was just going to be a little off-shoot of the mommy blog I had started in 2005. So, you can imagine my shock when, within a few months of starting it, I was getting 14,000 to 16,000 pageviews per day on it! It blew my mind!   And it just kept growing… until we finally got to the point that I was having find a hosting company that didn’t cost an arm and a leg and could sustain the traffic that the site was generating!

Support Networks

How important is your husband’s support in your work?

Honestly, I doubt I would be blogging if it weren’t for my husband. He is my best friend and biggest cheerleader. When I was initially considering starting my first mommy blog, he believed in me and encouraged me to do it. When I was considering starting, MoneySavingMom.com, he said, “Go for it!” I’m positive I never would have had the courage to hit “publish” on so many posts if it weren’t for him reading through them with me and saying, “Yes, you need to publish that. Someone needs to read it.”

In those moments when I’ve doubted myself, wondered what I was thinking, or even considered quitting, his voice has been there speaking words of motivation, reminding me of the why behind what I do: to inspire and impact people. He’s prodded me out of my comfort zone so many times. He takes care of the kids so I can write. He runs our household when I’m out of town on business trips. He serves as a sounding board when I have difficult situations come up.   He takes care of all the legal and financial aspects of the business. He’s always reading through contracts for me, helping my team with legal questions that come up, working with our accountant to make sure all the books and payroll are taken care of (spreadsheets give me hives!), and working with me to dream for the future and make sure we stay accountable to our business goals.

Branching Out: Evolving the Blog

You now employ 13 people – what’s the most difficult thing about being a boss rather than a sole blogger? What is the best thing?

I never would have envisioned that I’d someday be running a business with multiple people working for me, not just a blog that I write on! It’s been quite the adventure and I’m so very grateful for the wonderful folks who are on this road with me!   The hardest thing about managing a team has been trusting my gut and actually being the one to be leading the team. I’ve grown a lot as a person through running a business and have been blessed to have some really wise people mentoring me along the way.

One of the pieces of advice I’ve received was that I need to be the one who sets the course. I need to decide the direction we’re going and then encourage and inspire my team to help me be successful in heading in that direction. My tendency would be to be all, “Whatever you think is best.” Or to just not communicate a clear-cut vision for where we’re headed. I’m learning and growing in this… but I’m still very much a work in progress!

The best thing about having a team working with me is that it’s not only a lot more fun to be in this with such brilliant and wonderful people, but we get so much more done because my team members are much, much more talented in so many areas than me. Plus, my team is committed to helping me only do what I do best and to take all the other projects, details, and work off my shoulders. It’s a humbling thing to have such fantastic people working together with me to further the mission I have for MoneySavingMom.com. Often, when we’re working on a big project and brainstorming about it, I’ll step back and just look at the amazing brilliance represented in the room and think to myself, “I cannot believe that I have the honor of working with these incredible people!”

Related: You can read more of Crystal’s story in her post: This Crazy Journey I’ve Been on the Last 10 Years (and Yes, You can Make Money Blogging!). 

So what do you think? Are there strategies Crystal used that you can now take into your own blogging experience? I know personally I got a lot from her forward-thinking and intentional decisions to create a successful site. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the gal behind Veggie Mama. A writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd, she can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.