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:

7 Popular Blogging Tips That Don’t Always Apply

7 Popular Blogging Tips That Don't Always ApplyThis is a guest contribution from Larry Alton.

Ask anyone on the web for advice on blogging, and you’ll undoubtedly get a response. Survey a hundred people—including readers, amateur writers, experienced professionals, and even industry influencers—and you’ll likely find dozens of common themes emerging between them. That’s because there are certain general “best practices” that everyone knows, or everyone’s heard, as they make their way into the blogging world.

For the most part, this advice is helpful. It can guide you through the ropes as you become more acquainted with the industry and more familiar with your specific blog. But there’s one problem, and it’s a big one: this advice doesn’t always apply. 

To explore this, I’m going to focus on seven pieces of advice I hear all the time (and explain why you shouldn’t necessarily follow them):

1. Write a new post every day.

This advice comes from two ideas; one, that if you write a post every day, you’ll stay committed to the project and have a reliable flow of work getting to your blog, and two, that the daily addition of new content will be valuable for your search engine ranks and visitors alike. These are both true, but with one important caveat—the content you write has to be good. If you force yourself to write a post every day, but you don’t have anything valuable or unique to say, you’ll end up spinning your wheels. The proper advice is “try to write a post whenever you have a good idea, and try to have good ideas as often as possible.”

2. Controversy breeds attention.

I’m actually a proponent of this in most cases, but as with the first piece of advice, it only applies to certain situations. Controversial posts tend to take one side of a hotly debated issue. The theory is that this one-sidedness will fire up both sides of the debate, and your post will become a central feature in a bustling comment thread and a flurry of backlinks.

However, if you aren’t careful, you could damage your reputation. Controversy is fine, but only if it’s backed up with objective research, and acknowledgements to both sides of the debate. Otherwise, you’re making bold claims with no backup 

3. “Good” content will always become successful.

I see this one a lot from practitioners who claim that if you write “good” content for a long enough period of time, eventually any blog can become successful. There are two problems with this. First, what constitutes “good” content isn’t the same for everyone—it’s a vague term. It could mean informative, or entertaining, or detailed, or enlightening, or any mix of other qualities. Second, good content isn’t always enough. You also have to be socially active enough to promote your blog to new people and committed to your audience enough to retain them once they start reading.

4. Comment on other blogs.

Blog comments do serve several functional purposes. They help you engage with your community. They give you an opportunity to post a backlink to your blog. And most importantly, they give your personal brand more exposure, which creates new opportunities for people to find your blog.

The unfortunate thing is, most blog comments are ignored these days, and link building isn’t as simple as it used to be. Comments can help you, but only if applied to the right posts with the right community and with the right intentions. As a general rule, community participation is good, but self-promotion will only burn you.

5. Find a niche and stick with it.

If you want to stand out in this oversaturated content market, you need to have a strong, unique niche for your blog. That much is true. But sticking with that niche forever is a bad plan for most blogs. Doing so can rob you of future opportunities for great posts by limiting your range, and can make your readers feel bored or irritated by the end of it. Stick with a niche at first, but don’t be afraid to expand.

6. The more content you have, the better.

The more pages your site has, the more Google has to index, and the more posts you have to promote, the more potential readers you’ll have. This thinking leads many to the conclusion that more content is always better. But remember my first point—exhausting yourself trying to make posts for the sake of making posts is going to leave you with inferior content. More content is better only if that content is a consistent and high quality.

7. Write more posts like those that have performed well in the past.

This is advice I follow as a general rule of thumb, but if followed religiously, it can hurt you. Take inspiration from your previous posts. See what factors worked for certain posts and what factors didn’t work for others, then combine them in new applications. Merely revisiting the same topic is going to alienate your readership and possibly compromise the success of your blog. Conjure up new topics based on that information rather than recycling old ones.

To reiterate, I’m not saying any of this advice is explicitly bad, or that following it will ruin your chances at becoming successful. However, you need to be careful which of these you follow and how you follow them. Each blog is inherently unique, so you’ll need a correspondingly unique strategy if you want to make it a success.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Reading Roundup: What’s New in Blogging Lately

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

Welcome to the weekend, Roundup-style!

50% of Content Gets 8 Shares or Less: Why Content Fails and How to Fix it // BuzzSumo

Ah, the dreaded talking to an empty room syndrome. It sucks when you write a great post and you hear crickets! BuzzSumo to the rescue – they analysed one million posts and found that content failed 50% of the time, and why. Thankfully, they’ve also got tips to help you ensure your content doesn’t fall into that failed 50!

We’ve Lost Nearly Half of Our Social Referral Traffic in the Last 12 Months // Buffer

And if you think your social network-referred traffic is down, you’re not the only one! I’ve definitely seen it on my own blog, and I remember when it hit Amy Lynn Andrews, too. Kevan Lee discusses what Buffer is doing to get out of the slump.

Tumblr Rolls out Instant Messaging on Both Web and Mobile // TechCrunch

Is Tumblr your blog platform of choice? Well chatting with your cohort just got easier…

How to Make Better Facebook Video Ads // Social Media Examiner

Not only do we know Facebook Ads work, but we also know Facebook Video works in terms of reaching our audience. Now we can do Facebook Video Ads? Run, don’t walk, people! Get on that train.

Learn to Code with the Women of Star Wars: The Force Awakens // Mashable

Rey and Princess Leia will tell you all you need to know in Hour of Code, a free online tutorial. If you’ve been waiting for the right time to finally crack the code (heh), now might be it!


The Simple Way to Get Better at Business Writing // Seth Godin

This was everywhere last week, and for good reason – it’s solid advice.

10 Hacks to Save Time and Boost Productivity //

You could read these 10 hacks, and follow them up with the recent post: Feeling a Bit Lost? 4 Ways to Boost Productivity and Motivation on Your Blog. You’re welcome!

Stop the Local SEO Tunnel Vision and Think Beyond the Basics // Moz

Interest was high on last week’s post here about local SEO for blogs, so you’ll enjoy this next-level take from the SEO masters.

New iOS9 Notes App Has the Power to Transform How You Use Your Phone //

Hellloooooo tickable lists! I use notes A LOT both on my phone and on my laptop and love that they’re synced. This just changed the game for me.

Creative Email Subject Lines that Restart Stalled Conversations // HubSpot

Taking care of your mailing list is such a high priority, that it pays to revive flagging enthusiasm in the right way. I have to say I’m not too keen on some of the more defensive-sounding ones though. I always get annoyed when the headline is something like “Oh, am I bothering you?” – it sounds more passive aggressive than probably intended! And the likelihood that I’m not opening your emails because you’re bothering me is pretty minimal. It’s more like I’ve got less time to read these kinds of emails these days. Would love to hear your thoughts though!

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.

How to Build A Culture of Community on Your Blog

How to Build A Culture of Community on Your Blog

If you were listening to the episode 60 of the ProBlogger podcast, you would have heard me talking about why I think it’s so vital that bloggers create a culture of community on their blog to help deepen relationships with their readers and to drive engagement. I also promised a follow-up podcast on how to do just that!

Today’s episode is part two of building a culture of community and I wanted to talk about the strategy of how to create an atmosphere of belonging, what you should aim for, and how to go above and beyond just encouraging engagement, but to foster a sense of ownership and even collaboration with your readers.

There are 7 ways I think are useful in creating a culture of community to help your blog come alive. As i mentioned in the last podcast, there’s no real way to have it happen overnight, it just takes time as you build trust with your readers. These seven steps will help you on your journey though, so grab a pen and take some notes!

You can find the show notes of episode 61 here, and as always, I welcome your feedback on the podcast in the comment section. What have you done to create a culture of community on your own blog?

Further Reading:

How A Simple Blog Led To Writing For Forbes, Mashable, and TechCrunch (and 7 Tips to Help You Do it Too!)

How A Simple Blog Led To Writing For Forbes, Mashable, and TechCrunchThis is a guest contribution from Josh Steimle.

I’ve had the privilege of my writing being published on Forbes, Mashable, TechCrunch, Time, Fast Company, VentureBeat, Entrepreneur, and several other publications, and if you aspire to see your writing in mainstream publications like these, perhaps there is something in my story that will help you get there.

The writing I’ve had published has brought me speaking opportunities, a book deal, and more than 1000% growth for my business. I’ve been able to interview and network with my marketing and business heroes, all in the last two and a half years. Prior to that, my writing had never appeared in a mainstream publication. I was just a guy nobody had heard of, posting here and there on my blog, with a small handful of readers. This is the story of how everything changed. 

10 Years of Solitude

I started blogging before blogs existed. There wasn’t any strategy. I didn’t have a plan. I just enjoyed writing. When I started blogging I didn’t care if anyone read what I was writing. I wrote for myself, and if anyone else enjoyed it, that was icing on the cake.

In the first 10 years I wrote over 700 blog posts. I didn’t write consistently. I might blog 10 times one week, and then not blog for a month. Sometimes I didn’t blog for several months, and then I would return with a flurry of activity.

I wrote about entrepreneurship, and the experiences I was having. Most of my writing didn’t attract any comments. Occasionally some of my writing, like my post about 75 ways to tell you might be an entrepreneur, seemed to strike a chord. But my blog never brought me any business. No client ever contacted me and said “I was reading what you wrote on your blog and I want to hire your agency!” No publisher ever asked me to compile my blog posts and turn them into a book. As near as I could tell, the people reading my blog were mostly family and friends, and I was ok with that.

Dumb Luck

Sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time and despite this, you almost mess it all up anyway.

In 2012 I was talking with Cheryl Snapp, a friend of mine who runs a PR agency. She had helped me get an article published on the Fast Company website after I told her I wanted to get some logos from big publications to display on my company website, you know, in an “As seen in…” section. I noticed Cheryl had written some articles for Forbes, and I casually asked her how she landed that gig. She explained to me that Forbes had a few hundred paid staff writers, but several hundred unpaid “contributors” who wrote for free. She told me she thought it was worth asking to see if Forbes might be interested in me as one of their contributors. “If they take you on, you need to write an article once a week. My editor from Forbes is coming to town in two weeks, I’ll introduce you!” she told me. That sounded cool. There was just one problem. I was really busy already. I didn’t think I had time to write an article every week. Thank heavens I kept my mouth shut.

Two weeks later I went to the event where I met Tom Post, then-editor of the entrepreneurship section of Forbes. Cheryl arranged for me to talk to him while he and I were in line dishing up lunch. I assume he didn’t know anything about me yet, so I was surprised when he said “I read your article in Fast Company. I wish you had published it in Forbes.” I wasn’t able to get more out than a stammered “Thanks…” before he followed up by saying “I’ve also been reading your blog. I like what you’ve got there. We’d like you to write the same stuff for Forbes.” All I could say was “Sure, I’d love to!”

10 years of blogging with nothing to show for it but my own self satisfaction, and the next thing I know I’m writing for Forbes.

But then the real work began.


Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. But if you only have one basket, take good care of that basket [tweet that!]. My first goal when I started writing for Forbes, the one I repeated to myself every time I submitted a new post, was “Don’t mess this up, don’t mess this up, don’t mess this up.” But I did mess up–twice. The first time was when I posted something about politics. Tom told me to never do that again. He made it clear I was brought on to write about entrepreneurship and I should stick to my subject. Another time I mentioned in a public forum that I was getting too many requests from startups that wanted me to write articles about them. The way I worded my complaint made it sound like I was too busy to write for Forbes. Tom found my comments, and told me since I was too busy we might as well part ways. I pleaded my case, explained what I meant, and he gave me another chance.

With Forbes I had all my eggs in one basket, which was a distinct improvement over having no basket at all. But I realized it could disappear at any moment, and it would be a good idea to branch out and write for other outlets and leverage my work at Forbes to do so.

My first attempt was to get into TechCrunch. I wrote an article about a tech company, submitted it, and it was rejected without comment. I asked for feedback, and I got one sentence. I didn’t understand what the sentence meant, and still don’t, but I recognized one thing–different publications are looking for different things. What works for Forbes isn’t what works for TechCrunch or Mashable, and as a writer it’s best to respect those differences rather than try to convince an editor they don’t know what they’re doing. As it turned out, the article that wasn’t the right fit for TechCrunch was the right fit for VentureBeat.

Which Way Is Up?

Each publication sits within a hierarchy of sorts. Forbes is a top tier publication. Your hometown newspaper is somewhere lower. Even though I could publish everything I wrote in Forbes, I tried to spread my writing around as much as I could, just in case. I figured even if I somehow lost Forbes, I would then have evidence of my writing in many other places, and I could use that to pitch other top tier publications. I moved downward in the hierarchy and wrote for regional and niche publications you may not have heard of, like the South China Morning Post (the “New York Times of Hong Kong”), Hong Kong Business Magazine, Marketing Magazine, and TechinAsia.

At the same time I kept trying to make lateral moves. VentureBeat was one of those. Then I got in with Entrepreneur, which has been another great outlet for me. One of my recent articles on Entrepreneur was syndicated by Time, allowing me to claim that publication as another big name in my quiver. And I kept on pitching TechCrunch, as well as Mashable, but to no avail.

Sometimes It’s Who You Know

My intro to Fast Company and Forbes came through a friend. Similarly, when I got into TechCrunch and Mashable it would also be because of who I knew. I had submitted work to Mashable before, but without any response. Then, through pure serendipity, my agency hired a part-time writer who happened to have written some pieces for Mashable. I told her about my desire to write for Mashable, so she put me in touch with her editor. I pitched the editor on a piece I had written, it was well received, and then…that editor went on maternity leave for two months. I’m all about maternity leave and babies, but I wish I would have gotten my article submitted a week earlier. For the next two months I couldn’t do anything but wait.

When the editor returned she reviewed my article again and published it. I was in! Now that I have a relationship, I still have to submit articles, but I get feedback rather than the silent treatment. But that doesn’t mean everything I write gets in. One of my pieces was rejected, due to Mashable having published too many articles on a similar topic lately. No problem, I just published it on Forbes instead, where it has received 30,000 views. For me, that’s pretty good, since most of my posts attract around 4000 views. That’s another benefit of writing for a bunch of places–if it doesn’t work in one place, you can pitch the same content somewhere else. And Forbes always has my back. That’s why they end up with 80% of my writing.

TechCrunch was also a personal connection. After reaching out to several writers there and trying to get feedback on why I was getting rejected, I gave up. But then I happened to meet a TechCrunch writer, started a correspondence with him, and then met him in person for dinner. My intent wasn’t to pitch him on anything, but I was curious to know more about TechCrunch. It wasn’t until months later when I was writing a story for Forbes that I realized I had something that might be a good fit for the big TC. I sent it to my friend and asked him if he thought it was something TechCrunch would be interested in. The next thing I knew he had given it to his editor, his editor contacted me, and then it was published. Oh wait, that’s not quite how it happened. In reality his publisher told me the article wasn’t the right fit but, but…he said if I rewrote it (and he gave me some specific tips) then it might be. I rewrote the article, resubmitted it, and then it got published.

Your Story

That’s the start of my story. But yours doesn’t need to take 10+ years, or even two, to come to fruition. Things are a bit clearer in hindsight, and if I had to do it over again, here’s the 7-point plan I would put into action.

  1. Blog. Yes, I would still set up a blog, but I would focus in on one niche topic. Become the expert on that one topic, and resist the temptation to write about anything else. Do this well enough, and the publications may come to you and you can skip all the other steps.
  2. Start niche. When you start reaching out to get published elsewhere, start locally, or with a niche publication, and work your way up. Use your blog as evidence you can produce the kind of content they want.
  3. Leverage. As soon as you get three or more pieces published in one place, leverage that to get into another, slightly up the totem pole, until you get to a top tier publication. Then leverage your work sideways. At this point, it’s easier to approach editors because they can see they don’t have to test you, because someone else has already done that for them.
  4. Educate yourself. I got a pitch today from a company that wants me to write an article about them for TechCrunch. The problem is, their business is definitely not something most TechCrunch readers would be interested in. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the guy who sent me the pitch doesn’t read TechCrunch, or he would also know this, and he never would have pitched me. If you don’t regularly read a publication, don’t count on being able to pitch them successfully.
  5. Network. Get to know who the writers are at the publications you want to write for. Read what they write. Follow them on Twitter. I create Twitter lists for each publication, like this. If you can meet writers in person, so much the better. Never introduce yourself to a writer by saying “I really want to write for your publication, can you help me get in?” Writers introduce friends, not random strangers, to their editors. What writers are more willing to do is give advice, so ask for advice. Write an article, send it to a writer, and ask “Do you think this is the type of article your publication would be interested in? Why or why not?”
  6. Keep pitching. I gave up too easily with TechCrunch and Mashable. I was saved only by coincidental meetings with people who could and were willing to help me. What I now realize is that I probably could have gotten in with both of them two years ago if I had been willing to write five articles for each one, rather than writing one or two and then giving up. Remember, it’s never a waste to write an article. If it gets rejected, just publish it somewhere else. If nobody else will publish it, you’ve always got your blog.
  7. Once you get in. For good heavens, feed the editor! She didn’t bring you on so you could write one article and disappear. Keep sending content on a regular basis and keep the relationship alive.

If you’re focused, you can execute this plan within six months and be writing for just about any publication you want.

Josh Steimle is the CEO of MWI, a digital marketing agency with offices in the U.S. and Hong Kong. Pitch him @joshsteimle.

Building a Better Blog: Help Us Help You With the 2015 ProBlogger Census

Building a Better Blog: Help Us Help You With the 2015 ProBlogger Census

It has been a massive year here at ProBlogger HQ – behind the scenes we’ve been working hard on a number of new things including:

  • Adding to our team – in addition to having Stacey Roberts come on as our editor almost two years ago I’ve more recently brought Laney and Grove Galligan into the team. Laney and Grove have both worked with ProBlogger in producing our Aussie event these last few years, but recently they’ve stepped up their involvement to oversee the whole ProBlogger brand.
  • Redesign and Rearchitecture of ProBlogger – in the coming months you’ll notice some big changes to ProBlogger. You’ll notice a fresh new design but also some big changes to all the different parts of the site. Instead of being scattered across,, etc it’ll all be found on This will be a staged rollout over a number of months starting by the end of year (all going well) with a new design here on the blog.
  • US Event – over the last 6 years we’ve grown the Australian ProBlogger event from 100 attendees to 700+ attendees this year. Every time we run an event we are asked by our international audience when we’ll be holding them outside Australia. Each year we’ve said ‘one day’ but now we can tell you that there will hopefully be a ProBlogger event in the USA in 2016. Stay tuned for details.

There is a lot more in the pipeline but to help us shape ProBlogger in a way that serves you better we’d love to get your input and to get it we’ve put together the 2015 ProBlogger Census.

It’s a short survey that will help us get a sense of where you’re at in your blogging journey and how we can help.

We really look forward to hearing your thoughts!

You can take the survey here.

Thank you, and here’s to another great year!

Why You Should Make Building Community a Priority in Your Blogging

Why You Should Make Building Community a Priority in Your BloggingDo you ever feel as a blogger like you’re talking to an empty room?

I know I have definitely felt that way! Particularly when I first started Digital Photography School. But if you feel that way too, I want you to know: you’re not alone.

When you write a blog post, you hope that your readers will interact, leave a comment, acknowledge that you’ve even written something, and today I’m going to talk about how to do just that – deepen that reader engagement, and some reasons why I think this is so important (particularly for those just starting out).

Today’s ProBlogger podcast is the first of a two-part series, following up in the next episode with some really practical tips on how you build community.

The first thing I want to tackle is to talk about why you should try to deepen reader engagement. I know especially when first starting out there can be more of a focus on creating good content and promoting it (and there are a handful of established bloggers who make it a point not to encourage community on their sites), but most of the successful bloggers I know have invested time and energy in really inviting and facilitating a collaborative environment.

But back to the beginnings of Digital Photography School when I made a choice that really impacted how people responded to it: in this episode I discuss when (and how) I realised the choice I made meant I was missing out on the key factor that was really going to help my blog take off.

I also give 9 reasons why I think creating community is so incredibly important, and a couple of tips for getting through the negative flip side – building community takes real time and effort!

You can find episode 60 of the ProBlogger podcast show notes here.

Further Reading:




A 3-Step Blueprint for Smart Affiliate Marketing

A 3-Step Blueprint for Smart Affiliate Marketing: get the best out of affiliate sales with these tips on ProBlogger.netThis is a guest contribution from Anil Agarwal.

Building a blog that gets huge traffic isn’t necessarily hard, but converting that traffic into sales can be.

Most people think they can make a living online by increasing their website traffic. In reality, though, it’s not about any old traffic- it has to be targeted. You have to bring laser-focused audience to your sites to grow your sales and overall monthly income.

There are literally hundreds of genuine ways to make money online but if you want to make money even while you sleep, you need to consider affiliate marketing.

We all know affiliate marketing is a great income source for most successful online marketers. Pat Flynn, John Chow, Zac Johnson are just a few who are using affiliate marketing to make a living from, and doing very well at it.

If you are wondering how to replicate this success for yourself, I’ve outlined a 3-step blueprint that most that could see success for you. Are you ready? Let’s jump into the details.

Step 1: Position yourself as the go-to guy in ONE field

You want to be the EXPERT and be known as the go-to guy in your field. Not just any random marketer or blogger who is looking for ways to make a living by selling affiliate products.

You should become an authority in your field. But here’s the thing: online is heavily crowded and getting past the noise to set you as an expert is really hard.

So how can you be the go-to guy?

Simplify your niche. Pick one topic and become an expert at it. Position yourself as the number-one person in that field. People should think about YOU when they are looking for solutions to the problems relating to your field.

Everything starts with a niche. Truth be told, you are more likely to be successful if you’ve honed in on one topic, and you do it well. If your blog is too broad then you may find a more diluted audience is reading it.

So pick ONE topic and become a pro at it.

Why pick a small field? The number one reason is it is much easier to get noticed as an expert in a small field. You may ask if you can really make more money by serving small audience, but yes, you can. I’m not suggesting you to stick to ONE topic, once you build your expertise at one field, you can broaden your content, but you’ve got a foothold by starting small.

Step 2: Help others, build trust, and increase social proof

Before you start your affiliate marketing journey, make sure to ask yourself “Am I doing this just for the money?”

Whether you know it or not, the money you make online is directly proportional to the people you help. If your blog audience thinks that you are forcing them to click on your products, you won’t succeed.

They won’t buy from people whose intentions are just about making more money. Instead, if you add value and promote products that truly solve their problems; they will become more interested in your offer. That’s what really counts in creating a successful affiliate marketing strategy.

Your affiliate marketing journey should start from helping people and making your audience feel better. The byproduct of doing that is making more money from your efforts. Successful affiliate marketers are the ones who serve first.

Trust is the online currency. If you want to make more money? Start building trust and make others like you. How can you do that?

Building an email list is one of the best ways to directly engage with your audience, and below are three simple yet effective ideas on building a huge email list.

#1. It all starts with amazing content:

Content is king, they say. It’s really true and your primary focus should be on creating epic content for your audience. Your blog readers should have a compelling reason to visit your blog often and there’s no other better way to do that besides creating valuable content that addresses their problems.

And how do you actually create informative content that your readers would love to comment on and share with their friends?

Do extensive research.

Research backed and in-depth articles always perform well in search results. Also too, plenty of readers are now looking for one stop guides to find solutions to their problems in one post.

For instance, if someone is looking for ways to lose 4 kgs in 4 weeks, they would happy to spend their time on reading an in-depth article that covers everything from proper diet to weight loss tips. This not only helps you serve your audience in a better way but you can gain instant trust if they find your content valuable.

Put in more time when creating content. Give priority to quality over quantity. Make sure your content is well researched and backed by data and also includes several images.

Include email opt-in forms in the most visible places on your blog (I highly recommend you to put them in the top of your sidebar and end of your blog posts) to sign up for your email list. If your audience read through all the way to the bottom, they will sign up to you if they find actionable strategies from your content. That’s the way to grow a high quality list without irritating your audience.

And send a newsletter to your email list when your post goes live. Ask them to share with their network, if they really find your content informative, they will bring you more exposure by spreading the word.

#2. Put your email optin forms in the right places:

If you want to boost your email subscribers, find the most converting places on your blog to add your email sign up forms. Here are few of the most visible places on your blog that helps you quickly grow your email list.

Feature box: Derek Halpern introduced the feature box that helps you put a prominent optin form that sits on top of your blog home page. If a visitor lands on your site, they can’t ignore your feature box. If you give them compelling reasons to subscribe, you’ll be amazed with the results.

Sidebar: Your blog’s sidebar is the most visible place, don’t ignore it, grow your email list! Instead of using random ads or articles, use an optin form. If you are giving a free eBook, include a compelling image and it helps you convert more visitors into subscribers. Also use strong call to actions instead of using “sign up”, “subscribe” etc.

Hellobar: Hellobar helped DIYthemes to gain 1180 additional email subscribers just in 30 days. Hellobar sits at the top of your site and no one can ignore it and most probably it’s the first thing everyone will see after landing on your site.

Slideup box: One of the remarkable ways to grow your email list is to use a Slideup box. Buffer uses this amazingly and it performs extremely well for them. Over 30% of their signups come from their Slideup box alone.

Below is a breakdown of a typical month and the sources that help Buffer to grow their email list.


So don’t forget to place your email optin forms in the right places if you want to quickly grow your email list. Just in case, if you are interested in seeing Buffer’s Slidup box, here’s the screenshot:

A 3-step Blueprint for Smart Affiliate Marketing

#3. Give an incentive:

One of the simplest ways to quickly turn your visitors into email subscribers is by offering something free. Almost every blogger gives away an eBook, video, plugin etc as an incentive to grow their email list. Do you know why? Because it works.

But make sure you are not building a list of freebie seekers. The only problem with a free incentive is that the people who subscribe to your email lists are mostly freebie seekers. If you don’t build awareness about the products you promote, they won’t buy anything you sell. So make sure to carefully use your free incentives while building your list. Educate them about the products you promote and more importantly increase your social proof to turn freebie seekers into loyal customers.

Increasing social proof isn’t easy. But if an authority blogger in your industry says nice things about you or what your site offers, it immediately builds trust.

Everyone including the authority bloggers like Pat Flynn and Neil Patel use social proof really well on their blogs to increase their conversion rates.

A 3-step Blueprint for Smart Affiliate Marketing

If you are wondering about increasing your overall brand awareness, here’s how to build your social proof so your conversions will go up:

Include visual testimonials. Ask for a testimonial from an authority blogger in your niche. If they share even a nice little sentence about you or your blog, it will help you skyrocket your conversion rates. Make sure to include their image while using them on your blog. This also immediately builds credibility to your landing pages.

Use logos. If you write a guest post for an authority blog or someone mentions you, include them in a logo format and place it on your homepage and landing pages. Neil Patel does this very well; he uses this to increase his conversion rates. Did you know that his conversion rate went down by 10% when he removed all the logos from So add logos that include mentions or the guest posts you’ve written so far, it instantly builds trust among your readers.

Step 3: Find the right products that solve your audience’s problems

This is the key that helps most successful online marketers to make plenty of cash: choose the right product to promote. Don’t promote a product just because it is offering you high commissions. It’s the surefire way to spoil the bond with your audience and email subscribers, unless it truly helps them too.

So how to find the right affiliate products to promote?

There are two simple ways.

  1. Find out what other top bloggers are promoting on their blogs.
  2. Go to affiliate marketplaces and carefully choose the products that are highly related to your blog audience and topic.

I suggest you to filter the affiliate programs like this one on ClickBank in the following way:

A 3-Step Blueprint for Smart Affiliate Marketing

Make sure the Gravity of the products you want to promote is a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 100+ and the average commission are a minimum of $25 and a maximum of $150+.

That can do the trick; it can help you choose the RIGHT products for your audience, also helps you make high commissions for every product you recommend.

You can also check out other marketing places like, etc where you can find great products. 

In a nutshell, you need to pick the products that suit your audience needs and wants. And use your email list and blog as a combination to talk about the products you promote. Don’t forget to network with the influencers in your niche if you want to grow your audience and brand awareness.

So what are you waiting for? One of the top indicators you will become successful at affiliate marketing is how fast you implement the strategies you learn. So don’t wait for the right time and take immediate action. 

Final Thoughts

There’s no magic formula for making a living from affiliate marketing. Every successful online marketer starts with the one thing: they provide incredible value to their audience. They know their readers wants and needs and they promote the right products that help them make more sales even while they sleep.

Let me know your thoughts on the affiliate marketing. Do you have any more strategies that help people to increase their sales? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Anil Agarwal is the guy behind Bloggers Passion blog where he is helping readers in building their first professional blog and at the same time, helping them build high quality traffic to their blogs.