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3 Important Questions To Ask About Posts in Your Blog Archives

Image via Flickr user theunquietlibrarian.

Image via Flickr user theunquietlibrarian.

Here’s a quick exercise that I encourage you to do every now and then.

Identify a post in your archives (preferably something that is a year or more older) and then ask yourself these three questions:

Can I update it?

Many times the posts in your archives can do with a refresh. While you might not want to do this with every post – if you have an older post that gets traffic from search engines it can be well worth doing!

It might be that you can add newer or up to date information, fix broken links, add some further reading to other articles you’ve since written, correct errors etc.

Can I Promote it Again?

Many of the posts in your archives could probably be promoted in some fresh way. The key is to find ‘evergreen’ content that hasn’t dated (or to update older posts with fresh information).

Late last year I wrote a post about how every day I try to find at least one post in my archives at Digital Photography School that I share on social media.

Can I Do a Followup Post?

The posts in your archives can be a great source of inspiration for future posts on your blog.

There are many ways to extend a post without simply rewriting the content you’ve already published. These might include:

    • Writing a post that explores an opposing view
    • Create a discussion post that asks readers for their thoughts, opinions and experiences on the topic
    • Write a post that gives an example, case study or tells a story on the topic
    • Repurpose this content in some way. For example as a slide share, infographic, podcast, webinar, report?

In each case above you not only are creating an extra post but you also can link back to the previous post to give readers a more holistic perspective on the topic. By doing so you also potentially are taking your readers on a bit of a journey through your archives and creating some momentum with your content over time.

Content Marketing Smart – Why Your Blog Article is Just the Beginning

This is a guest contribution from James Scherer, of Wishpond

Image via Flickr user captainmcdan

Image via Flickr user captainmcdan

Monday: a couple hours of research, six hours of head-down writing, two (five?) coffee-breaks. End result: One 2000 word, comprehensive article on Facebook Ad best practices. Publish.

Tuesday: a couple hours of research, six hours of head-down writing…

Rinse. Repeat. Let’s rethink how we create content.

In this article I’ll dive into content marketing smart, not hard. I’ll discuss re-using your content in five awesome ways that will save you time, energy, and increase your content ROI in the new year.

Introduction to content marketing smart

Your blog article is just the beginning. Think about it as a river, and the rest of your content as streams coming off it. The source is great, but the streams spread wider and do totally different and amazing things.

Content marketing smart is all about using your existing content in creative, practical ways that save you time and energy but give you a great return on your investment.

Primarily, it’s about thinking outside the box to use your time more intelligently. Start with a well-researched blog article, and end with all types of content that generate brand awareness in different, exciting ways.

Why content marketing smart works better in 2014 than it did in 2013:

Every prediction article I’ve read (including the one I wrote) has talked about a shift in content. Here’s what’s happening: Google is rewarding social shares as much as it is link building.

Previously, Google’s search algorithm considered a link to, or from, your content as a vote in its favor. Longer blog articles could have a greater number of links, increasing their SEO. Yes, there were other factors, but link-building was at the heart of blog SEO for a long time.

With the integration of the Hummingbird Algorithm in August though, Google’s search mechanism changed. For the first time ever, the top of the SEO factor list was the number of Google+ social endorsements your content had. Links were still important, but the term ‘Social Media Optimization’ had attained a whole new meaning nonetheless.

What does this mean for your content?

It means you need to be producing visually appealing, socially shareable, bite-size pieces of content that people can love, share, and leave.

5 tips to optimizing for social:

  1. Introduce a social share toolbar on your blog’s page (this can increase content virality by up to 700%)

  2. Use bitly links everywhere you can, to encourage Retweets and shorter Facebook and Google+ posts (which have higher engagement than longer posts)

  3. Create appealing and eye-catching header images so your content grabs the attention of social media users

  4. Create a Pinterest Pin with the most interesting statistic from your blog article and put it on your ‘Amazing Stats’ Board

  5. Generate content that encourages Facebook Likes, social shares and comments. Is it witty, surprising, funny, thought-provoking, new, exclusive? Would you want to share this yourself?

Your five pieces of content:

  1. Comprehensive, well-researched blog article on a subject interesting to your readers

  2. Slideshare presentation built from blog research, case studies, or other sources

  3. Comments on Influencer’s content and on social platforms – keeps you in the conversation

  4. Infographic built from blog research, case studies, statistics, or other sources

  5. Ebook built from longer-form blog articles

1. Blog Article:

Put some serious time and energy into your blog articles. I’m talking 1800+ words (don’t worry, you’ll get more out of those 1800+ words than ever before).

Do your research; check out infographics and case studies from around the web; read academic journals (yes, I do this); talk to peers or experts, etc. Make them awesome. Make them optimized for search. Promote and syndicate the hell out of them.

I recommend a running-theme (it makes the ebook easier) for a few weeks. Try around five or six articles giving an in-depth look at a subject. For instance:

Article 1: Introduction to [Blank]
Article 2: [Blank] Design Best Practices
Article 3: A/B Testing Variables in your [Blank]
Article 4: 7 Mistakes to Avoid in [Blank]
Article 5: 5 [Case Studies] and What you can Learn from them
Article 6: Taking [Blank] to the Next Level with [Blank]

Fact-heavy, long-form articles are still wanted. There remains a sizeable audience for the comprehensive guides and 25-step how-tos. So you don’t get to stop writing them. Plus, they’re even more valuable now that you can re-use that awesome content in so many creative and interesting ways.

But really, do you want to do two hours of research, write for a day, publish, and then start all over again the next morning? Let’s market smart, not hard.

2. Slideshare Presentations:

If you’re just joining us, Slideshare is a free content-sharing website which makes your business’ presentations available to an ever-increasing number of users. Your business’ presentations are fully embeddable in your own blog and others. They’re easily downloadable, and Slideshare’s built-in social sharing tool makes the SMO easy. In fact, I’ve seen a few of my own Slideshare presentations with a better SEO than their original articles.

A few months ago you would have seen me taking an hour or two each day to force every one of my blog articles into a Slideshare presentation. The problem is, not every article lends itself to presentation format. Not every sub-heading has three bullet-points and an example image. I was pushing a square peg into a round hole and my content was suffering.

What I do now is find those blog articles I’ve written that naturally fit the format. Those articles where, without really noticing it, you’ve found 15 awesome statistics that surprised you and will surprise your readers.

Here’s what I recommend: Compile the data from one or two of your longer-form blog articles (statistics, facts, case studies, quotes, etc) and compile a couple of visually appealing Slideshares each week. Embed the presentations on your blog with a short description and promote it across your social channels.

If you’re interested in a more comprehensive look at Slideshare, check out How to Use Slideshare to Market your Business.

3. Comments on Influencer’s Blogs and Social Media:

Influencer Marketing Ammunition: For those unaware, influencer marketing is the practice of reaching out to online thought-leaders in your sector and encouraging them to help promote your brand’s content.

Every sector has influencers, it’s just a matter of finding them (try Klout, PeerIndex or Kred) and getting in touch. Contacting the right influencer in the right way at the right time can increase your blog’s readership (and your brand’s online profile) by ten-fold overnight. Really. It happened to Wishpond in July (thanks @MariSmith!).

Commenting is where re-using your blog content comes in. Try to comment on 2-3 influencer blogs each day. Use statistics and observations from your blog to write intelligent, insightful observations on articles with the same subject. Ask reasonable questions. Disagree in an informed and respectful manner.

Commenting gets your name in an influencer’s mind, so interactions on Twitter or Facebook will mean more. Asking for a share of your own blog will be better-received if they know you’ve shared and read theirs.

Social Platform Ammunition: Your blog articles are full of great quotes, statistics and factoids that lend themselves to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest posts. Use them!

There are a million articles out there about using social media to promote your blog, but how about using your blog to promote your social media?

Increase brand awareness with interesting facts and stats that engage the viewer. Use your article’s headers (you, or your graphic designer, spent quality time on them! Don’t just use them once) to grab the attention of your Facebook Fans. Remember, across all social platforms, posts with images get substantially better engagement than those without.

Don’t wrack your brain on a daily basis for engaging social media fodder, simply note down the fodder that you find in your blog research or the especially creative lines in your own writing.

4. Infographic:

I mentioned above that 2014 will be the year of bite-sized, visually appealing content. Again, this doesn’t mean that you get to stop writing articles. But it does mean you get to learn Photoshop.

Like with Slideshare, use the statistics from your blogs (maybe a few of your blogs) and create a visually-awesome, palatable infographic that communicates a ton of information in a beautiful and easy way. Infographics almost always generate more engagement than a blog article and are great for spreading brand awareness as people will pick them up, embed them on their own sites, and credit your business.

Yes, for many small businesses without a graphic designer infographics can be difficult. However, I’d urge you to experiment with free design software (if you can’t afford or don’t already have Photoshop, InDesign or Adobe Illustrator) like Gimp, Info.gram or Piktochart.

Remember to offer your infographics as guest posts on other blog sites (once you’ve posted it on yours). For social media marketers, try AllFacebook, Entrepeneur and Business2Community. And syndicate on sites like BizSugar, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Digg and Diigo.

5. Monthly ebook:

Ebooks are the end product of your content recycling strategy.

Once you’ve written five or six awesome blog articles on the same subject, compile them into a comprehensive ebook. This can be done with free software (even Powerpoint – just export as a PDF), but I really recommend InDesign – as your ebook will come out more professionally done and appealing to the reader.

Ebooks are really valuable pieces of content, worth more to your readers and your business than any other piece you create. They’re in-depth guides on their subject; something people can download and save to their computer and read and re-read for guidance and inspiration.

Because of their value (and the work required to create them) I tend to make my ebooks email-gated. Basically I create a landing page for each ebook I produce and ask visitors to provide an email before getting access to the amazing content I’ve generated. Because only people interested in my ebook’s subject matter will provide their email address, the process segments those emails for you – facilitating your business’ email marketing/sales funnel.

Conclusion

Hopefully you now have a better idea of how, and why, you can recycle your content. It saves you time and energy – allowing you to experiment with different formats of your own. Something I’d highly recommend, if you’re not already, is organizing your content into a content calendar. Calendars keep your different kinds of content sensible and timely. Try an ebook every month or so, two Slideshares a week, a bi-weekly infographic, and three blog comments a day.

Have you had success, or frustrations, with re-using content? Have you found it saves you time or requires you to wear too many hats? Start the conversation below!

James Scherer is a content marketer for Wishpond and author of the ebook The Complete Guide to Facebook Ads. Wishpond makes it easy to run Facebook Ads, create landing pages & contests, email automation campaigns & manage all of your business’ contacts.

The One Thing You Should Be Doing on Your Blog to Create More Engagement

This is a guest contribution from Karl Staib of Domino Connection.

Image via Flickr user realpeopleeatplants

Image via Flickr user realpeopleeatplants

Wouldn’t it be great if you were getting twice as many blog post comments as you do now?

If people would ask you more questions and add comments, it would help build your community. They spur conversation that might even help you to create new content. And as you may know, people who engage with your blog are more likely to become loyal fans who buy from you and share your content with their tribe.

Google also loves a lot of searchable comments. It helps them understand which posts are worth sending people to. Not to mention the social proof that comes along with a post that has a lot of comments.

Finding how to create this powerful engagement is so important to building an audience that cares what you create. So let’s take a look at how we can do this.

Increasing Your Engaged Blog Community

You know how important an engaged community is for your blog. I don’t need to convince you of that.

But what can you do to increase that engagement?

Of course traffic is a big part of how much engagement you generate on your blog, I get that, but we all have to start from one comment to get two, 10 to get 20, and so on.

The one thing you may not be doing is probably the same thing a lot of bloggers make the mistake of not doing.

Let me tell you a little story before we dive deeper.

I have a friend who switched blogging topics. She shut down one site and started another because she wasn’t able to monetize her blog. I was worried she would give up on this new blog too. She was too talented not to help people. I know how hard it is to get people to converse on your blog because I’ve had many blog posts with zero comments.

A funny thing happened though. She got even more comments on the new blog compared to the old blog in less than three months.

Her lighthearted, conversational tone shines through now. She is even more engaging because she enjoys building connections with people in this new topic even more than her old topic.

Small Change, Big Improvement

I noticed a small change she made that I wasn’t sure she was aware that she had made herself. So I asked her, “Why do you think you’re getting more comments?”

“I’m not sure. I think I’m more passionate about the subject I guess. No wait it’s the value. People can’t help reciprocating when something is valuable,” she responded.

Now passion is good and value is even better, but a lot of people are passionate and still don’t get 18 comments per post on a site that doesn’t get a lot of traffic.

So I looked at a few of her old blog posts and I realized the simple change she had made – her older blog posts were passionate, valuable and conversational, but weren’t getting the same engagement. The change she made with this new blog was weaving in open-ended questions and asking for her readers’ ideas throughout her blog. 

When you look at your writing, do you feel it’s open to new ideas?

She is so friendly in her writing that it makes you feel like she is just talking to you. When she asks a question, you pause and take a second or two to think about it. Then when you got to the bottom of the post and the comments section, the seed has already been planted and you don’t have to work hard to think of something unique to say. You already know something that you want to say.

3 Steps to More Engagement

So here’s my “must do” list to create more conversation on your blog:

  • Look at your blog’s tone of voice and if it’s open to new ideas. Do your readers feel like you are talking directly to them? I like to think of writing to just one person in my community. I have a few people I rotate through as I’m writing. Right now I’m thinking of a young man with glasses reading this at the end of his day. That’s why using the word “you” is so important as opposed to “I”, or someone’s name.
  • Are you passionate about your subject? People can feel when you really care about your content. They want to be a part of this passion.
  • Now look at the value that you bring to the table. Can people find this information delivered in this manner on other sites, or is yours special or unique?

Once you’ve got friendliness, passion, and value in your blog post, you just need to ask questions that plant seeds and get your readers’ ideas flowing, then hit them with a final question that they just can’t resist answering when they get to the bottom of your post, and the comment section is just waiting for them to help the community.

What piece of the blog engagement pie do you think is most important? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comment section

Check out Karl Staib of Domino Connection and his value-packed 30 Day Connection Guide and Customer Conversion e-course to Increase Your Leads and Sales. You’ll learn how to find your ideal customers, improve your landing page conversion and what you need to measure so you can convert visitors into buyers.

Skip to the End: 5 Great Ways to Make Your Readers Care

This is a guest contribution from Mike Sowden.

Have you ever taken part in a business presentation that just died on the spot?

Say you’re up there speaking. Nobody is laughing at your jokes. Your throat has dried up. Dark patches of panic-sweat are appearing all over your shirt. You suddenly need the bathroom. What’s the number-one thing on your mind?

Or say you’re cringing in the audience as someone tanks up on stage. It’s awful to behold, it’s making you want to crawl under your seat or fling yourself out the nearest window – but you’re trapped. You have to endure the whole agonising mess. What’s the number-one thing on your mind?

When that happens (and surely it happens to everyone at some point), the number one thing on everyone’s mind in that room is: please let this END.

Endings are supremely powerful ways to motivate people, to build a loyal following, and engineer a lot of sales. Marketers use scarcity tactics to get you caring about endings (“75% off, today only!”). But how can blogs, with their focus on building conversation and community as much as commerce, use endings to hook readers? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Level up

Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness is a self-confessed gaming geek. He knows the irresistible call of the next rung up the ladder to success. It’s hard to make people care about a distant, lofty goal – and much easier to hook people with near-instant progress. (Just look at how levelling-based mobile gaming exploded in recent years.) Bloggers love publishing personal ‘bucket lists’ – but for his site, Kamb went one better and created his ‘Epic Quest For Awesome‘, complete with an experience points rule system. It’s now front and centre (ok, it’s top-right) of his landing page for Nerd Fitness and is clearly part of his strategy for making people care about what he’s doing.

What You Can Do: find a cool, exciting way to show incremental progress towards a clearly-defined set of goals – but also make sure that at least some of those goals serve your site and its readers as much as yourself.

2. Vaguebooking

You know those people who post things on Facebook like “You-know-who is doing you-know-what…AGAIN!” and “Worst day ever. I DONT WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT!”?

Let’s agree that’s always annoying. Let’s also agree that it usually works – or we wouldn’t be annoyed, right? We’d breeze past without wanting to know more. Instead, we’re momentarily irked because we’re presented with an imperfect view of something potentially interesting, and against our own wishes, we want closure. Maybe we think we don’t care, but we still want to know the facts so we can decide we don’t care.

What You Can Do: lay subtle (or not so subtle) hints about the direction you’re taking your blog, giving the reader a sense that you know way more than you’re telling – which is really useful for those times when you’re making it up as you go along.

3. Attempt the Barely Possible…

There are few things that motivate people quite like a harebrained adventure with an apparently slim chance of success. It may be wise to chase an end goal for your blog that’s modest in scope and entirely achievable – but that’s a really poor way to market it. Make the story of your blog larger than life. Make it so ambitious that you’ll have people questioning your sanity, or at least your sense of proportion. I wonder how many people truly believed Chris Guillebeau would find a way to visit all 193 United Nations member states, an 11-year quest that would end on his 35th birthday? That’s what he achieved – and by making it a hefty challenge for himself, he raised the investment stakes with his readers.

What You Can Do: decide to do something that will appear both meaningful and crazy to your readers – and then announce it, in a serious, credible way. Do it right, and you have yourselves a little movement of people who really believe you can do this…and, of course, a bunch of people who want to see you fall flat on your face. So let’s talk about that right now..

4. …And Fail.

Whenever you and your blog attempt to do something different, you run the risk of failure. If you’re attempting something big, you risk BIG failure. The cataclysmic, huge smoking crater version that you’ll never forget being part of. To fail is to feel bad – there’s absolutely no denying it. But the odd thing about failure is it can be attractive to anyone watching – and that’s not because they’re being mean.

Human beings are drawn to dark and terrible stories. Stories of fear and woe and everything best avoided in real life. Stories of failure. Why? Science writer Jonathan Gottschall reckons it may be because storytelling arose as a way to keep us alive. What happens if I come down out of this tree and stroll past that sabre-toothed tiger? My story says: “you’d have a really bad day.” My story keeps me alive – and now I trust my story, even though it’s a horrible thing that will give me nightmares for the rest of my life. (Thanks, story.)

Similarly, it’s possible the modern appetite for dark, miserable stories is born of a need to avoid those events ourselves – in which case, a story of failure is deeply compelling. What lessons can we learn from someone who did it the wrong way? It’s awesome storytelling. In the words of Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coates: “You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.”

5. Start with the End

A few months back, the TV show Breaking Bad delivered its final few episodes. Its viewing figures went through the roof, up tenfold from its first season premiere. In fact, Breaking Bad‘s popularity rose continuously through its 5-season run. Increasingly and in larger and larger numbers, people really cared.

Why? The writing was amazing, the acting was literally Emmy award-winning, the cinematography was to die for – plenty of creative reasons. But a key part of Breaking Bad‘s appeal was how it used its endings. Its signature opener was a glimpse of things to come later in the episode – often baffling, bizarre, without the context of the story to support it. You didn’t know why mild-mannered Walter White was standing in the road in his underwear, pointing a gun towards approaching police sirens – and you had to keep watching to find out, as the story flashed back to “x hours earlier”. Later episodes would flash forward entire seasons, eventually foreshadowing the finale itself – a place where terrible (but unspecified) things have happened. As the final episodes approaches, audiences knew enough of the ending to be whipped into a frenzy of anticipation and speculation…and the show ended with its highest viewing figures ever.

All because the Breaking Bad team knew exactly what to do with their endings.

What You Can Do: decide where your blog is ultimately going, and start telling that story from the very beginning. You don’t have to give away very much – but unlike the vaguebooking approach above, you’re not showing the journey, you’re showing the destination. Yes, this is tricky, and in the face of great uncertainty, it will probably require a lot of courage and strength of purpose. But the magical thing about foreshadowing is that it works both ways. Your audience will start to care more, because you’ll look like you know where you’re taking them – and you’ll care more as well. The more you communicate that ending, the more of a sense of purpose you’ll feel and the more likely you will be to actually get there. You will truly know why you blog – and isn’t that an end worth chasing?

Mike Sowden is a freelance travel writer and storytelling consultant from the north of England (UK). Find him at Fevered Mutterings - or maybe walking across some lonely, rain-lashed British hillside with a backpack, having “fun”.

Beginner Week – Discussion: What Did You Find Hardest as a New Blogger?

Theme Week

With all the chat around new blog tips, mistakes made, and resources used, we’ve got to thinking – what were the biggest obstacles to you all when you first started out blogging? Was it finding readers, tech stuff, or design? Perhaps it was navigating social media, or even finding content to write? I do know a lot of the people I’ve spoken to have all wondered how much of “themselves” they should put in their posts. And where’s the line of overshare?

Feel free to have a conversation about what stumped you and perhaps how you overcame it. I’m willing to bet it’s going to be so useful to other readers. Your tip might be the one thing they need to read today!

Today is the last day to get 50% off ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging – hop to it!

Beginner Week – Resource Roundup: 10 Links you Can’t Live Without

Theme WeekBeginner Week has been jam-packed with tales from the trenches  - from how to set up a blog, to a newbie success story, Darren’s Beginner Dos and Don’ts; and 31 mistakes established bloggers made way back in the early days of their blog.

Today we’re back with even more goodies to take away: our 10 most popular (and useful!) posts for beginner bloggers. Get ready to Pin, bookmark, save to Evernote, or however you keep interesting posts for future reference – you won’t want to leave this one behind!

1. Five First-Year Posts that Led to Over 6 Million Views: Darren tells the story of the five posts on Digital Photography School that managed to attract a huge readership in its first year, and why he thinks they were so successful at driving traffic.

2. Webinar: 10 Things I Wish I Knew About Blogging: For Darren’s 10th blogging anniversary, he celebrated by sharing a recording and slides about what he would loved to have known when first starting out.

3. Crawl Before You Walk: 6 Step-by-Step Instructions for Starting Your Own Blog: A guest contributor leaves nothing to chance and explains the six things you NEED to know.

4. Recommended Blogging Resources: Things Darren uses in everyday blogging that you might find useful.

5. Guest Post: 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started: A guest contributor narrows early blogging down into 10 useful and productive key items for success.

6. How I Make Money Blogging: Darren lays all his cards on the table and explains exactly how it works behind the scenes.

7. 9 First-step Goals for New Bloggers: So much to do, so little time. The nine goals Darren believes beginners should aim for if they’re looking for a bit of direction. Then the sky is the limit!

8. What My  Wife Has Taught Me About Blogging After Just Three Months: Darren’s wife Vanessa’s blog was an instant hit – and it made Darren pause and reflect on what she had done differently to his blogger beginnings that made it such a success.

9. How Much Content Should I Have Ready to Go When I Launch a Blog?Darren sits down with a group of bloggers yet to start a blog and explains how much content should be published on a brand-new blog, versus how much content he actually had when starting. A great lesson to learn!

10. What Mistakes Did You Make When You First Started Blogging? What Would You Do Differently?: A reader asks Darren to share his top three mistakes made in the early days. The comments from other bloggers about their beginner blogger mistakes are also eye-opening.

Over to you – what resources did you find as a beginner that you found super-useful? (I always find new things at Amy Lynn Andrews‘ site. It’s a goldmine!)

Don’t forget, we also have 50% off ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging right here! Use the code BEGINNERWEEK.

Beginner Week: We Asked Veteran Bloggers to Reflect on Mistakes Made in Their Early Days

Theme WeekThe early days of blogging (for most of us) are filled with detours, roadblocks, and just plain slip-ups that we can make in the privacy of our own small readerships. As our blogs and their communities grow, so too do the lessons we’ve learned from the early mistakes that we’ve made. During Beginner Week, we checked back in with some bloggers who blundered with the best of us, only to come out the other side stronger and smarter than ever. They were kind enough to share their nuggets of wisdom with you.

We begin with some of Australia’s best bloggers:

Add textCaitlin – Mother Down Under // Nikki – Styling You // Christina – Hair Romance // Sarah – A Beach Cottage // Matt – Dad Down Under

Mistakes most mentioned

There seemed to be a few recurring themes in the answers of the bloggers we asked – topics like being authentic, writing in your own voice, focusing on your readers, and being useful.

Kelley at Magnetoboldtoo: “You need to decide at the start whether you are going to use real names and if not what their monikers will be. And try not to use something that everyone else is using.”

Carly at Smaggle:  ”I got told really early on to always make sure that your reader is getting something out of everything that you post. I ask myself every time I’m about to post something ‘What is my reader getting out of this?’ – It’s stops you being self indulgent and helps you to edit effectively.”

Kylah at Intrepid Monkeys: “I tried too hard to write educational / information rich content all the time. Like I was writing essays for uni. Over time I’ve come to trust my own voice and open up a lot more which seems to resonate better with my readers.”

Chantelle at Fat Mum Slim: “I think the biggest mistake I made in the beginning was writing for myself, like I was writing in a journal… and not engaging an audience at all – which mainly was because I didn’t have an audience! But when I realised I could engage and create community-based stuff, I loved it. And what I learned from it? Engaging an audience is awesome, and it makes it easier for a shy blogger like me to turn the attention on to someone else. It’s a more comfortable way to blog.”

Emily at You Learn Something New Every Day: “Being too nervous to comment on the blogs of people I was in awe of. Panicking if I didn’t post EVERY SINGLE DAY. And not asking questions/engaging the reader. And plenty more mistakes to come, no doubt!”

Mrs Woog at Woogsworld: “I write very broadly, [and] my old stuff was quite beige. Also read a lot, not just blogs. Read books and see whether there is a pattern in what you are attracted to. It is ok to be influenced by people, but develop your own style. Also do it every day, even if you do not feel like it. It was become a pleasurable habit in the end.”

Carly at Carly Findlay: “One of my mistakes i made – though not early on – was to use an argument I had with someone as inspiration for a blog post – without permission. The argument was about parental one-upmanship – I was discussing something with a friend on FB and their friend jumped in and told me that because I am not a parent, I just don’t understand responsibilities or something like that. While I used more than one example of parental oneupmanship experienced in my blog post, my friend saw that I used the argument I had with her friend as an example on my blog, she got extremely upset and we are no longer friends. I pride myself on asking permission to use names and pictures of friends on my blog, so I dont know why I just didn’t check with my former friend before I used this example. Am wistful on that experience, but I’ve learnt from that. Always ask before posting.”

Deborah at Diet Schmiet: “Finding a good balance is important. I see a lot of newbies get all keen and blog daily (or more) but fizzle out after a while as they can’t sustain it. Having said that – I was a bit ad hoc for a while… however my blogging was all about ‘writing’ so I was really only doing it for me and didn’t promote or share with readers at all.”

The back end

And of course, for the non-techies among us, some of the behind-the-scenes stuff stumped us:

Melissa – Camper Trailer Travels: “The name of my blog….when I started it was just something to do in my spare time but then I started getting comments and likes and I thought maybe I can do more with it but I’m still not sure about the name – Camper Trailer Travels but we won’t always own a camper trailer.”

Andrea at Fox in Flats: “I designed and built the first version of my site myself, and because I have no background in this it took quite a long time, with lots of trial and error. Eventually I found a great ready-made theme that I purchased for $80 and was able to customise it. Happily, all my tinkering before that meant that that wasnt so challenging. And having forced myself to learn a bunch of the back end stuff, I’m now able to update aspects of my current design, without having to pay my designer to to everything for me. That said, if you can afford it, and worried about time it’s worth getting a pro to build your site for you.”

Rachel at Redcliffe Style: “Use your own images or giving the correct credit for the images used.”

Corrie at RetroMummy: “I wish I’d moved to wordpress and had my website designed earlier than I did – been talking about it for years before I actually did it and only did it in 2013! And learn to take better photos early on – again I only learnt to take photos in manual in 2013 and wish I’d done it earlier.”

Lisa at Mrs BC’s House of Chaos: “The one mistake I made that I would go back in time and change if I could would be not starting on WP. Now 4 years later I’m still on Blogger because migrating seems like such a big drama.”

Katrina at The Organised Housewife: “I wish I started self hosted from the beginning and I always tell people it’s important to protect your brand no matter how small by purchasing your .com and .com.au.”

Kelly at A Life Less Frantic: “My major early mistake was thinking my blog posts should be about me,  i.e. … there was nothing in them for my readers.”

Amanda at Cooker and a Looker: “I had little understanding of SEO when I started and called my posts obscure names. No one will ever find my kick-arse okonomiyaki recipe because I named it “(almost) banged up abroad and a recipe for what you want”. Whoops!”

Glenda at Healthy Stories: “Wasting my time with a free wordpress theme. We all want to save money when we start out since we aren’t making any money from the blog yet, but free themes can only do so much and I spent heaps of time tweaking the theme and never being satisfied. There are lots of cheap themes out there that cost only $40-50 that are really well built and will save you loads of time that you can then use to write, promote and start earning money.”

Cate at Cate Bolt: “get a good foundation from the start. Even if it’s bigger than what’s actually needed. It’s nice to say ‘start small and expand if you want to’ but if you don’t have the framework in place, it makes changing things really difficult. Check out the more popular blogs and see what plugins etc they’re using and implement them from the very beginning so you don’t have to try to migrate to something bigger and better when you’re rich and famous.”

Making money

Either too much, too little, or not knowing how to value ourselves and our time…

Lara at This Charming Mum: “Saying yes to every offer of guest blogs or product promotions in case they didn’t ask me again. I got myself over committed writing about things that didn’t really have much to do with the central aims of my blog. I promoted irrelevant products I wasn’t that interested in because I was excited about a bit of free stuff!”

Kimberley at Kimberley Magain: “The mistake I made was to ignore monetising it! I started my first blog in 2003 in Japan, as an ex-pat travel blog, before blogging was a “thing”. When I started to get unsolicited people wanting to advertise on my blog I fobbed them off with a curt message of, “Why would you want to advertise on a BLOG!” Famous last words. I was in an amazing position and didn’t take advantage of it.”

Feeling inferior

And the rise of the green-eyed monster. Very rarely useful!

Ros at Sew Delicious: “Don’t underestimate others. There are a lot of quiet achievers out there doing amazing things.”

Beth at BabyMac: “Definitely don’t compare yourself as it’s impossible to create your own style if you are trying to emulate someone else.”

Trudie at My Vintage Childhood: ”No one wants to read epic long posts with no pics. Blogging becomes so much more fun and enjoyable when you stop worrying about what others are doing and the opportunities they appear to be having, and just concentrate on engaging with your audience and have fun. Stop over thinking posts, just hit publish and have fun.”

And spreading the word: life on social media

Network, network, network – some of us were doing it alllll wrong.

Kate at Drop Dead Gorgeous Daily: “I spent a fair bit of money on Facebook ads to increase our page likes, which is completely wasted now FB make it so hard to even be seen by your likers. Never pay for something you can’t own!!”

Dorothy at Dorothy K: “Not reading other blogs and commenting on them. But that was early days when commenting was worthwhile and created conversation and return visits.”

Kirsten at Kirsten and Co: “While starting out with blogger was a really easy way to start blogging, I wish I’d just jumped straight into things with a decent WP theme. I also wish I’d commented/networked a bit more with other blogs and bloggers when I first started out.”

We’d love to hear if any of these mistakes have resonated with you – have you learned something new from these stories today?

If not, you can learn lots of things new with 50% off the ProBlogger Guide to Your First Week of Blogging in honour of Beginner Blogger week. Use the code BEGINNERWEEK at the checkout and revel in your newfound knowledge!

Beginner Week: My 43 DOs and 25 DON’Ts of Blogging

Theme WeekEleven and a half years ago when I hit publish on my first ever blog post, I had little idea what I was doing and what was going to unfold for me over the coming decade.

As I prepared for a recent mini ProBlogger event event in Perth, I created a little list of some of the ‘dos and don’ts’ of blogging that I wish I’d known back in 2002 when I started. As it’s Beginner Week here on ProBlogger, I thought it might be appropriate to share them here on the blog today:

Note: these are MY dos and don’ts, and reflect my own style of blogging. I am not putting them forward as ‘rules’ that apply to all. I’d love to see your dos and don’ts in comments below.

My 43 DOs of Blogging

  1. Do create a blog that is meaningful to you
  2. Do set yourself some goals and objectives for your blog
  3. Do ‘write’ something every day (note that I didn’t say ‘publish’)
  4. Do as much as you can to get in your readers shoes and understand who they are
  5. Do use surveys and polls to help you understand your reader
  6. Do create content that meets your readers’ needs, answers their questions, and solves their problems
  7. Do write in an engaging voice
  8. Do start an email newsletter
  9. Do pay attention to the design of your blog – first impressions count!
  10. Do communicate clearly what your blog is about into your design
  11. Do spend time ‘off’ your blog engaging in the places where your potential readers gather
  12. Do go to the effort of registering your own domain
  13. Do create visual content
  14. Do model the kind of community that you want your blog to have
  15. Do install analytics and track the results of what you do
  16. Do find some blogging buddies who you can bounce ideas off and have mutual support with
  17. Do make sure you have ‘real life’ friends too – they’ll ground you
  18. Do become hyper-aware of problems (yours and other people’s), and obsessed with solving them
  19. Do create something to sell from your blog
  20. Do think beyond what you’ll write today – develop an editorial calendar
  21. Do set aside time to learn the skills you lack
  22. Do set aside time to brainstorm topics to write about
  23. Do read other people’s blogs – you’ll learn a lot from them
  24. Do share your opinion – it is what often differentiates you
  25. Do share stories – your own and other people’s
  26. Do back up your blog!
  27. Do blog with passion
  28. Do look for ‘win/win/win’ relationships with brands where you, the brand and your reader benefit
  29. Do show your personality – be yourself
  30. Do pay attention to what is energising you and do more of it
  31. Do pay attention to what is energising your readers and do more of it
  32. Do spend time refining and perfecting post headlines
  33. Do think about what ‘action’ you’re calling readers to take in your content
  34. Do make peace with the fact that there will always be more that you can do
  35. Do learn how to prioritise and focus upon activities that take you closer to your goals
  36. Do pay attention to your archives – update and promote them regularly
  37. Do push through bloggers block
  38. Do spend time analysing what types of content are being ‘shared’ in your niche – publish this kind of content semi-regularly
  39. Do use social proof
  40. Do take breaks from blogging – weekends and vacations are important!
  41. Do ask your readers a lot of questions and listen to what they say
  42. Do treat your blog as a business today… if you want it to be one tomorrow
  43. Do create content that Informs, Inspires and Interacts

My 25 DON’Ts of Blogging

  1. Don’t be afraid to hit publish
  2. Don’t feel you have to publish something every day
  3. Don’t publish when angry (or drunk)
  4. Don’t become a comment spammer on other people’s blogs
  5. Don’t publish just for the sake of publishing content
  6. Don’t use other people’s stuff without permission and credit
  7. Don’t focus so much about the readers you don’t have – have a big impact upon the ones you do have
  8. Don’t stretch yourself too thin (too many posts, too much SM) – do what you do really well
  9. Don’t become too promotional
  10. Don’t hit publish without one last proof read
  11. Don’t write purely for search engines
  12. Don’t sell out
  13. Don’t engage in every type of social media – analyse where your readers are and do those mediums well
  14. Don’t look for a ‘blueprint’ for successful blogging – forge your own path
  15. Don’t publish large chunks of text – break it up and make it scannable
  16. Don’t hide your mistakes – be transparent
  17. Don’t feed the trolls – be polite, kind, and firm
  18. Don’t let the negative things people say about you sink in – it’ll pull you down
  19. Don’t let the hyped praise people give you sink in – it’ll over-inflate your ego
  20. Don’t expect to get rich quick
  21. Don’t compare yourself to others – compare yourself to you when you started
  22. Don’t spend all your time ‘learning’ about blogging at the expense of actually blogging
  23. Don’t think there’s just one way to monetize your blog
  24. Don’t become so obsessed with blogging that you forget to have a real life
  25. Don’t give up too quickly – building a blog takes time

Of course I’m scraping the surface in this list but I hope for those of you starting out it gives you a few starting points. Also keep in mind that these are not ‘rules’ and that the do’s don’t guarantee success and the ‘don’ts’ don’t guarantee failure. In fact I’ve written many of the don’ts as a result of my own mistakes but things turned out ok in the end for me despite those failures.

If you’d like to go deeper on some of these themes check out the recording and slides of my webinar – 10 Things I Wish I Knew About Blogging.

Also don’t forget we are having a 50% off sale on the ProBlogger Guide to Your First Week of Blogging during Beginner Week. Simply enter the code BEGINNERWEEK at the checkout.

Beginner Week – Katie180′s success story

Theme WeekKATIE180 (2)

The name “Katie 180” was gaining traction in Australian blogging circles before Katie Rainbird’s site was even launched. Two short months after she first pressed “publish”, Eden Riley, one of Australia’s best bloggers, pointed her out in the crowd of a Digital Parents conference. “If you want to know how to start a blog,” she said, “just go and read Katie180”. This caught the attention of one Darren Rowse in the audience, who quickly secured her to speak at his own conference later that year.

So how did someone who had only a handful of posts to her name get the attention of the Aussie big guns – something we all would have loved in our early days?

Well, let’s find out.

The Beginning

With a long-held dream of writing, Katie believed she could seamlessly marry her newfound nutrition knowledge with her love of prose. Eschewing the more traditional route of diet advice private practice, Katie took to the internet with her smarts and a burning ambition: Write. Be seen.

“Whilst studying nutrition I started planning to take my knowledge and put it to paper, so to speak,” she says. “Originally I thought about freelancing, but once I discovered blogging it was a real ‘ah-ha’ moment for me and I just KNEW that was the way for me to go!”

Without wanting to rush into things, Katie ensured her site was properly designed and she was finished her studies before launching. A far cry from some of us who blog first and ask questions later!

“Well I didn’t really wait long when you consider that I only decided upon blogging in my final year of college (two years ago),” she says. “I wanted to be qualified before I started blogging about nutrition, and I wanted it to be perfect – ha! But I set my mind to a New Year launch, and even though my blog design wasn’t up to my perfect standards, I hit publish on my first post on January 10th, 2013.

With all that time to tinker before birthing her blog baby, she did a lot of behind-the-scenes preparation. A list that looks a little something like this:

  • Firstly I applied to a call out for guest bloggers on an American based raw food blog, which was accepted and I posted for them with strict deadlines, word counts and of course, content – although I was a nutritionist I wasn’t a raw foodie so it tested my skills.
  • I attended writing and blogging courses held at the Australian Writers’ Centre.
  • I “collected” other nutrition or healthy/foodie types of blogs (even those I didn’t really like or align with) to get a feel for what was going on in this genre and I would take note of which posts received the most commentary or interaction.
  • I tested the waters with a Facebook group on my personal Facebook page, which was also called Katie180 and I would post there a couple of times a week: recipes, photos of food, summaries of nutrient actions and fast facts kind of stuff. It was quite well received and gave me a lot of confidence that so too would my real blog once I started it. It also provided me with an audience ready to follow me over.
  • I also did this with Instagram, I built up a following and a fair few people asked after my blog before it was even launched so I knew that I’d have readers there too.
  • I outsourced my blog design to a professional team and spent many months working with them on my logo, header, colour scheme, format etc.
  • Once I was blogging I quickly joined Twitter and set up a professional Facebook page and I’d plug every post across these two platforms plus my original Katie180 Facebook group and Instagram (even though that’s a bit cheeky but I wanted to catch readers any way I could!)

But with all that preparation and forward-thinking, Katie was still plagued with the concerns that any new blogger has: that no-one would read her blog. “That I’d put all this effort in and it would just be sitting there, sad and alone!” she says.

As usually happens, the excitement of starting a blog soon overshadowed those early-days concerns. Katie says it was a relief to have her voice heard, as was “breaking with convention insofar as my study path was concerned, not going into practice, not waiting around for people to come and find me, rather putting myself out there loud and proud!”

Before the Blog: What did she learn?

“The most important things I learned were from other bloggers (just from reading their blogs): to write in my own voice – be authentic, brave and passionate. To connect – respond, reply, interact across social media because that makes readers feel important and promotes loyal readership (and word of mouth.) To blog regularly – keep in their faces, keep relevant, be out there!”

Early Days: what did she learn?

“The number-one thing I learned was that it takes SO much more time than you think,” she says. “Imagine being asked at 5pm to submit an essay by 9am the next day – one that would entertain and inspire people and if possible include artistically styled photographs and full references to all sources of information. That’s kind of what writing my blog feels like considering I have young children and most of my writing is done after hours.

“Then there’s recipe sourcing, tweaking or inventing plus All the cooking, photographing etc.

And now?

“I work on my blog every day, even the days I don’t post – I’m replying to comments, emails and connecting via Facebook and Instagram,” she says.

“Another important point is that my target audience changed from who I imagined them to be to who they actually are and I began to write for them rather than bang my head on my desk wondering why my posts weren’t being received the way I wanted them to (the heavier reading/educational posts.) I don’t see this as a bad move because I have more readers now and, as such a bigger audience for when I do choose to publish longer articles.”

The basics: Design, Hosting, Content, oh my!

With an overwhelming amount of advice out there on how to get started, Katie cherry-picked the pieces that would work for her pie.

“I had read a number of blogs with posts focused on ‘What I learned this year’, or ‘How to start a blog’, and so on, and I knew that WordPress was preferred,” she said. “I wanted to give my money to an Australian company so I typed “blog design Australia” into Google and found The Blog Designers (clever name guys!) who were very friendly at my first phone call and had a set price of $500 for the entire job so that was that!” (theblogdesigners.com)

“I bought a domain name, I couldn’t get a .com so I went with .au. The team at The Blog Designers recommended a host so all of that techie/design stuff wasn’t in my hands, which took a major load off because that ‘aint my bag!

“My husband and I set up a company, Rainbird Media because he works for himself and via my blog I hope to also, so all these kind of costs can be factored in as expenses.

The next step: being seen

Blogging is never ‘build it and they will come’, more ‘get out there and be a part of the blogosphere’. How did Katie manage that in her early days? “Follow, ‘like’, comment, share, recommend, email directly, stalk – ha ha! It’s no different than how you connect offline,” she says. “You start hanging around and then you make small talk and if you hit it off then you have new friends.”

Looking back – what worked, what didn’t?

Hindsight is super-useful, and it’s no different with blogging. Looking back, Katie says the things she learned that she would do differently this time was to: “Write three months worth of posts and keep them in my drafts folder for rainy days. Do much more planning, recipe testing and photographing in advance. Learn about how to use WordPress, my camera and all the other gadgety bits that make blogs sexier for readers.”

Katie’s Top Takeaways for newbie bloggers

1. Know your specialty, you won’t be able to write with oomph unless you personally dig it.

2. Pay attention to formatting and punctuation. Take a writing course if you can afford to.

3. Hang out at other blogs, get a feel for how you’d like your blog to function and look like. Whilst you’re at it, make friends with the bloggers and regular readers/commentors because these are your people now!

4. Outsource design and tech support if you can afford it.

5. Allow time for it, because it’s going to take time, even if it’s “just” a hobby blog. But if your plans are to use it as a platform to earn money then treat it with the same respect you would an internship at the best job you could ever imagine!

You can read Katie at her blog Katie180 (including her post on how she started blogging), join her (very supportive and informative!) Facebook page here, tweet her here, or follow in Instagram here.

*We are also offering 50% off the ProBlogger Guide to Your First Week of Blogging for this week only! Enter the code BEGINNERWEEK at the checkout.

ProBlogger Training Event Tickets are Available to Purchase Now

In the last few minutes, tickets have gone on sale for this year’s ProBlogger Training Event on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia on August 29-30 of this year.

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You can get your tickets here.

It’s Our 5th Birthday

It’s hard for me to believe but this year will be the fifth annual event that we’ve run.

The first was for just 100 Aussie (and 1 New Zealander) bloggers and was hastily arranged in just a few weeks. Our speaker lineup was myself, Chris Garrett, and a handful of other local speakers.

Year two we saw 200 bloggers show up and we ran a streamed event with three rooms running at any one time, and featured more international guests like Sonia Simone from CopyBlogger, and Tim Ferris (4 hour work week), as well as a growing number of bloggers making a part-time living from their blogging.

Year three we grew to 300 attendees and enjoyed the company of Chris Guillebeau, but also saw a marked increase in the number of full-time Aussie bloggers speaking at our event.

Last year saw us move the event out of Melbourne for the first time up to the Gold Coast in Queensland. We had 450 in attendance and were joined not only by international speakers like Amy Porterfield, Tsh Oxenreider, and Trey Ratcliff, but also a growing number of international attendees. We also featured 20 or so Aussie bloggers as speakers – many of whom are doing really innovative things with their blogs to build profitable businesses.

Here’s a little video recap of last year:

And so we come to 2014.

This year we’ve decided to keep the size to the same as last year and are keeping the event at the wonderful QT hotel on the Gold Coast. Our hope is that by limiting the size at 450 we’ll retain some of the intimacy and community that we’ve built.

We’re supported this year by partners Tourism and Events Queensland, Virgin Australia and the QT Gold Coast.

2014 Speakers

This year I’m really excited about our speaker lineup. We’re very much focusing upon putting together a schedule that gives attendees very practical and actionable advice.

Speakers

Our international speakers this year include Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income, Rand Fishkin from Moz, Geraldine DeRuiter from Everywhereist, and Chris Ducker.

In addition to these amazing international speakers I’m very proud of our Aussie lineup, which includes Lucy Feagins (the Design Files), Chantelle Ellem (FatMumSlim), Shayne Tilley (my right hand man when it comes to Marketing), Nikki Parkinson (Styling You), Stacey Roberts (managing editor of ProBlogger), and many more that we’re continuing to announce on our speaker page.

This year tickets are $399 (that’s Aussie dollars) which includes the two full days training, morning and afternoon tea both days, lunch both days, a Friday night networking event (including your drinks and some food), recording and slides from most sessions as well as 8 months’ access to the brand new ProBlogger.com (which will be launched in the next week) which contains regular webinar teaching, some great plugins, and much more (worth over $200).

Tickets in previous years have always sold out ,so don’t delay your decision to grab one for too long as we’re unable to offer more than we do today in our first release, and we already have over 400 people on our Facebook page indicating that they’re coming.

Outside Australia?

Every year we run this event I get people from outside Australia saying that they wish they could come.

You can!

While it’s a bigger investment of time and money to fly in for this event we’re seeing more and more bloggers do it every year. In the last two years we’ve had attendees from the USA, UK, India, Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand.

Here’s a couple of pieces of feedback I got this week from two of our wonderful international attendees from our 2014 event:

I came, I saw, I was humbled… by the passion that Darren’s team has towards helping the blogger community. The core principle that I learnt, is that ‘Our blog should make a deep personal connect with the reader, and for that to happen the blogger should be honest, transparent & truthful about what He/She blogs. ” – Prashant Karandikar from India

I thoroughly enjoyed PBEVENT in Gold Coast. I knew there was a reason why I journeyed from the U.S. Just the networking alone was totally worth it. It was great to mingle with other bloggers and understanding what makes them click in person. Plus I had a chance to learn more about that region of Australia with Tourism Australia and fellow travel bloggers. I enjoyed the speakers as well, especially Trevor Young, who gave me tips on setting up my speaker page. Thanks Darren for having the event, looking forward to the next one.” – Kerwin McKenzie from the USA.

No Virtual Tickets This Year

Please note that this year we do not intend to release a virtual ticket for this event. While we have done so in previous years to enable those not at the event to get access we’ve taken the decision this year to focus our efforts upon providing those attending the LIVE event with 100% of our attention this year.

More information on this decision on our Facebook Event Page here.

Grab Your Ticket Today Here

There’s more information our Event page here but don’t take too long to make your decision as demand this year seems to be high.

Tickets are now available for you to purchase here.

I hope to see you on the Gold Coast in August!