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2014 Reboot: Shake Up Your Social Media – Work Smarter, Not Harder

We are mining ProBlogger content this week for super-useful information to kick-start your blogging year with gusto. Today we encourage you to take stock of your social media habits – are they working for you? What can you do better? How can you harness this amazing technology to drive more quality traffic to your blog? Darren shows us the ropes.

This post “What Content Works Where? Smarter Traffic (and Revenue) Building Through Social Media” first appeared in January 2013.

Every time we publish a post on social media here at ProBlogger, readers comment that social media takes so much time—how can they get smarter about it? Girl using computer Today I wanted to give you a quick way to get a better handle on your social media activities, in about five minutes, using nothing more than your site stats (I’m using Google Analytics). You don’t need to get any software or be using a certain tool to share your content. This is just a short, quick technique that anyone can use—social media newbie or superstar.

Is your social media “working”?

First, let’s look at the question we’re trying to answer here. Most of us want to know that we’re getting some return on investment on social media, but we also want to improve our work within each network, so that our communications are more targeted, and our returns keep improving. So the broad question, “Is social media really working for me?” or “Is it worth my time?” are probably better refined to:

  • How much traffic am I getting from social media?
  • What’s that doing for my bottom line?
  • How can I improve on those figures?

That first question is very easily answered; any stats package will tell you how many unique visitors and pageveiws your blog is getting through social channels. It’ll also tell you what percentage of your traffic overall comes from those sources. You can easily extrapolate that to an actual (if approximate) ROI provided you have an idea of the value you get from, say, each ad impression on your blog. Divide that by the number of hours you spend each month or week on social media and you’ll know exactly how much money you’re making for your time right now. It’ll be harder to track the ongoing, growing value of that time expenditure in less tangible terms, like what it’s doing for authority-building within your niche. But this is a start. Similarly, if you have a special promotion you’ve been plugging through social media, you should be able to track how much traffic it’s sending to your landing page. And if it’s a dedicated landing page for social media traffic, you’ll be able to clearly see how well that traffic’s converting. But what about the last question: How can I improve those figures? The answer lies in looking a little more closely at what, specifically, is pulling the traffic through from each network.

An analysis

If you’re not sure how your social networks are performing when it comes to generating traffic, you might be surprised to look at your stats. Here are the most popular URLs on ProBlogger for the last month, for Twitter:

  1. 40 Cool Things to Do with Your Posts After You Hit Publish
  2. Ramit Sethi Exposed: How He Earns Millions Blogging
  3. Neil Patel’s Guide to Writing Popular Blog Posts
  4. Grow Your Blog Business: The Earn Millions in Your Flip-flops Framework [Case Study]
  5. How to Make $30,000 a Year Blogging.

And here are the most popular for Facebook:

  1. 15 Bloggers to Watch in 2013
  2. 40 Cool Things to Do with Your Posts After You Hit Publish
  3. Are You Wasting Time Guest Posting?
  4. Can You REALLY Make Money Blogging? 7 Things I Know About Making Money from Blogging
  5. 20 Linkbaiting Techniques.

What stands out to me here, above all else, is the potential for older content (like that last post in the Facebook list, which was from 2006!) to get traffic through reshares. Obviously, with all your stats at your fingertips, you can go much further than the top five, but this snapshot gives a fairly clear picture of the differences between the content that appeals to the users of different networks. Even at a glance, we might make some hypotheses based on these results:

  • Twitter users in this space prefer case studies and personal advice that comes with a sense of authority.
  • Facebook users in this space like list posts.
  • The most popular topics on Twitter seem to be about making money blogging.
  • The most popular topics on Facebook are about blog promotion techniques.

So of course, the next step is to test those hypotheses. I could go back into the stats archive to see if those statements are true over, say, the last six months. And I could test those statements using articles I have queued up for the next week or month. There seems to be a bit of a dichotomy between headlines that work well on each network, so I could try different headlines on different types of posts and see how that goes. But it’s also important to remember that reshares aren’t just about headlines—they’re also about content. So rather than just coming up with some great direct, list-style headlines for list posts in an effort to boost traffic from Facebook, I could see try other types of headlines on some list posts, and see how they perform on that network. In this way I can narrow down how important the headline is on each social network, as well as which types of content are likely to do well.

What next?

As I mentioned, this kind of analysis doesn’t take long—a five-minute review once a week (or, more likely for me, once a month!) will give me the information I need. This information can help me shape my content to attract more users from each network, but it can also help me to devise information products or offers that best suit each network’s users. This can, again, help me optimize clickthroughs and conversions from those sources. The more I get to know the data over time, the more effectively I can communicate to users of each network about things that interest them, and in ways that impact them. This can help me to build broad rapport but also to do market research, make valuable relationships, and more. Not bad for a five-minute review! Of course, there’s a lot more you can do around social media tracking and assessment. But as I explained at the outset of this post, I wanted to show all those bloggers who think social media takes too much time that getting quantitative answers about the return on that investment isn’t hard or time-consuming. And neither is making use of that information to make your social networking even more productive. What sorts of social media traffic and revenue tracking do you do? Let us know in the comments.

2014 Reboot: Finally Finding Time to Blog

We are mining ProBlogger content this week for super-useful information to kick-start your blogging year with gusto. Today we tackle a common topic – time. Who has it and how can we get it? Darren shows us seven ways to finally carve it out.

This post “7 Tips for Busy Bloggers on Finding Time to Blog” first appeared in April 2013.

Last week I tweeted a question asking my Problogger followers to share the biggest challenge that they face as a blogger.

Around 50 replies came back and a couple of themes emerged – the biggest one centred around ‘Time’.

Time to blog

Finding time to blog is something that all bloggers struggle with. Whether you are just starting out and blogging as a hobby, blogging as a part time job while juggling work, home, and a social life or even blogging as a full time business amidst other demands such as up-keeping of social media accounts, responding to comments and emails etc. - finding time to write is a consistent challenge.

This issue is so prevalent, we actually published an eBook on the topic last year - BlogWise: How to Do More with Less (featuring 9 busy but productive bloggers such as Leo Babauta, Gretchen Rubin, Brian Clark, Heather Armstrong and more).

7 Tips for Busy Bloggers on Finding Time to Blog

I’m someone who periodically struggles with the challenges of being productive in limited timeframes. Over the last 10 years of blogging, I guess I’ve settled into something of a workflow and routine. What follows is a collection of reflections on what I’m learning.

I hope something in it connects with where you’re at!

1. It Starts with Life Priorities

I feel a bit like a parent saying this but the truth is, time management is a lot to do with priorities. 

It’s important to take time out to identify what is truly important to you, as this is a starting point for working out how you should spend your time.

If blogging is important to you, the first step in finding time to do it is to name it as a priority.

Of course ‘naming’ it as important is only half the battle. For many people there is a HUGE gap between what they say is important and how they actually spend their time.

One of the most confronting exercises I’ve ever done, when it comes to time management, was when (as a young adult) I was challenged write a list of my priorities. I then had to track how I used each 15 minute block of time over a week.

At the end of the week I tallied up the different activities and was amazed to discover how much time I was spending on things that did not feature in my priorities list, and how little I spent on the things I’d named as my priorities.

My list of priorities included things like studying, career, relationships etc.

My actual use of time was dominated by TV, computer games, time in the pub etc.

Of course, at the time I was young and reckless… but I suspect if I did the exercise again today there would probably be a bit of a disconnect between my priorities and how I spent my time. The activities I ‘waste’ time on and my priorities today might be different but the pattern would probably remain.

One of the keys to finding time to blog is working out whether blogging is actually important to you and arranging your life so that time is allocated for it!

I know it’s sounds obvious but it is easier said than done… and needs to be said.

2. Name Your Blogging Priorities

In the section above I talk about ‘life priorities’ but now I want to hone in on your blogging priorities.

The challenge many bloggers face is that they feel overwhelmed and often distracted by the many elements of blogging that they feel they need to do to have success.

Writing blog posts, reading and commenting on others blogs, responding to readers comments, guest posting on others blogs, being active on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn, Pinterest (and more), working on your blog design, writing an eBook, finding advertisers, creating a media kit…. the list goes on and on.

I’ve had periods in my own blogging where this list overwhelmed me – to the point it almost paralysed me.

When I felt overwhelmed, I tried to strip my blogging back to the core tasks I knew I needed to do to keep my blog moving forward. Again it was really about priorities.

What do you need to do to grow your blog and make it sustainable?

For me, I strip my focus back to these areas:

  • Writing Content
  • Finding Readers
  • Building Community
  • Monetizing

These are the non-essential priorities I have with my blogging. Simply by naming them simplifies things a little for me so I’m not looking at a long, crazy list of little things that I need to do.

With this list in mind I’m can set myself some achievable goals in each area.

For example, when it comes to ‘Writing Content’ I’m set myself some goals with how many posts per week or month. Then I start to think about the types of posts I want each week.

So here on ProBlogger, my current goal is 5 posts per week as a minimum with 3-4 of those posts written by me and at least one of them to be a longer form piece of content (like my recent Guide to the Amazon Affiliate Program).

Within each of these areas I would normally have at least a couple of goals/priorities at any one time.

Simply having this list of things I want to achieve suddenly gives me direction on how to spend my time, which makes me much more effective when I do blog. Instead of sitting down at the computer to blog and then working out what to do, I have a list of things I need to get done – and I find myself just knocking them off.

3. Batch Process Your Main Tasks

I won’t go into great detail on this as I’ve written about it before but a number of years ago I changed the way that I do my weekly tasks and it significantly boosted my productivity levels.

Before making this switch, I would sit down to blog and find myself going through a whole day flitting from one thing to another…. but not really getting much done. I’d write an intro to a blog post, then jump onto Twitter, then talk to another blogger about a collaboration, then go back to the blog post, then moderate some comments, then jump on Facebook and then…. well you get the picture.

So I began to carve out longer chunks of time to do the most important tasks in ‘batches’.

For example, one of my weekly rhythms is to use Monday and Wednesday mornings to write. On those mornings, I will often set myself up in a cafe and work offline for 2-3 hours. This enables me to write as much content as possible for the days and week ahead. It is not unusual for me to write 4-5 blog posts that I’m then able to schedule onto the blog for the coming days.

By silo’ing off time to do the most important tasks, and removing other distractions, I found I churn through a lot more work than I had previously been able to do.

I now ‘batch’ process many tasks. I’ll often set aside half an hour to do social media for example (instead of popping into Twitter 20 times a day, I might spend a longer period once a day). Email is similarly something I try to do in batches, similarly I tend to read other blogs via RSS in batches etc.

Read more about ‘batch processing in my post ‘How Batch Processing Made Me 10 Times More Productive‘.

Mental Blogging

In the early days of my blogging I had very very limited times to blog. I was working 3-4 part time jobs at any one time while also studying in the evenings. As a result I often would only have half and hour here or there during a lunch break, late at night or early in the morning to write content.

In order to be more effective at those times, I began to do what I now call ‘mental blogging’.

So while I was working in one of my jobs in a warehouse packing parcels, I would begin to write my blog posts in my mind. I would come up with a topic, decide upon a title and then begin to map out my main points – all in my head.

I sometimes would use a small notebook to jot a few words down to remind me what I wanted to write but after a shift in the warehouse, I would often be ready to sit down and quickly write out a pretty decent blog post (sometimes more than one) because I’d effectively written it already in my head.

Since that time I’ve come across countless other bloggers who do a similar thing during their own daily activities.

Later on I did a similar thing by jotting down my notes on my iPhone or even speaking blog posts into an audio recording app on my iPhone while I was out on a walk.

4. Idea Generation and Editorial Calendars

In my early days of blogging one of my biggest time sucks was coming up with ideas. I would sit, staring at my computer screen for hours on end, trying to work out what to write about on my blog that day.

I discovered that a much more effective strategy is to put aside batches of time specifically to come up with post ideas.

Instead of deciding what to write about each day, I began to create times to brainstorm and mind map blog ideas. I would then developed a file for each post topic so that on any given day I could sit down and within seconds I’d have something to write about

Mind Mapping is my favourite technique for generating potentially hundreds of ideas (read Discover Hundreds of Post Ideas for Your Blog with Mind Mapping).

Just having the ideas ready to go when you need them will save you a lot of time. You can take this a step further and consider creating an Editorial Calendar where you actually slot the ideas into a calendar over the coming week, month (or longer) and map out where you’ll be going with the blog in that period of time.

Editorial calendars may not suit everyone but I know of numerous bloggers who plan their blogs content well over a month in advance. This not only gives them an idea of where their blog is headed but they also find it useful to monetize their blogs as they’re able to share their calendar with advertisers who may wish to sponsor a relevant series of posts that might be coming up.

5. Break Down Big Jobs into Small Bites

Late last year, I recorded a free webinar where I shared 10 things I wish I’d known about blogging when I started 10 years before. In that webinar I shared the story of creating the first eBook that I developed over at Digital Photography School.

The idea of creating an eBook was something that I’d been meaning to do for at least a year or two but I’d always put off doing it because I didn’t have the time for such a big project. I’d never done something like that before and I felt overwhelmed by it.

In the end, to get the eBook created and launched, I decided that the only way I’d find the time to write it was to get up 15 minutes earlier every morning to work on the project.

15 minutes a day isn’t much (although we had a newborn at the time so 15 minutes sleep was precious) but I was amazed how much I could get done in that short period of time, on a daily basis. Over the coming 2-3 months I completed writing the eBook, had had it designed, had worked out how to market it, had researched how to sell it (shopping carts etc) and was ready to launch.

I effectively broke down a big job into little bite sized chunks until it was complete. That eBook went on to sell thousands of copies and became the template for 19 other eBooks that I’ve now launched (the main source of income to my blogs today).

I often wonder what would have happened if I’d never found that extra 15 minutes per day!

6. Slow Blogging is OK

“I have to post something today!”

Sometimes, as bloggers, I think we create monsters for ourselves for no good reason when it comes to posting deadlines and frequency.

I’m very guilty of this and it’s been something of a relief to realise that I can slow down my blogging a little and not see it ‘hurt’ my blog.

Here on ProBlogger you may have noticed a bit of a change lately. I’ve gone from posting 7-10 posts per week to posting 5-6 times a week.

For many years here at ProBlogger I felt the need to publish daily posts and at times, even aimed for 2-3 posts per day. While there were some benefits of doing so (more posts can mean more traffic) there were also costs in terms of the quality but also personally (it’s hard to sustain that kind of publishing for years on end).

Since slowing down, I’ve been fascinated to see that our traffic has remained steady (in fact some days it has been higher). The other impact has been a rise in comment levels, in positive feedback but also in my own energy and passion levels.

While deadlines and targets for posting frequency can be motivating - there may be periods of time when slowing down has some big benefits.

7. Make Space for Preparation, Creating and Rest

I recently came across this great video from Aussie blogger Kemi Nekvapil.

What I particularly loved about it was at around the 1.30 minute mark, Kemi talks about the structure of her week and how she has 3 different types of days during her week. They are ‘preparation days’, ‘success days’ and ‘inspiration days’.

Note: I think this originally comes from Jack Canfield who talks about creating days for ‘preparation’, ‘success’ and ‘rest’.

So for Kemi, her Mondays are preparation days when she is getting ready to have a creative ‘success’ day, Tuesdays are successful days, Wednesdays are preparation days and Thursdays are successful days. Fridays are her inspiration days where she gets to do whatever she wants to do for herself.

By giving herself days with a different focus, Kemi says she’s able to keep her creativity up and to sustain herself.

It makes sense really – if every day is a day where you have to produce something and you never have time to prepare or to have a break the quality of what you produce will suffer (as will your energy levels).

I love this idea and almost intuitively have done something a little similar of late. My wife (V) works on a Wednesday, so on those days I’ve had a bit more to do with the kids (drop offs, pick ups and a shorter working day). I’ve decided to go with it not being quite as a productive day and make Wednesdays a little less hands on with work, giving me a little more space to just ‘be’.

I’ve been doing a little work but also am trying to put time aside on Wednesdays to read, walk and have a siesta. It might sound a little like a lazy day on some levels but I’m noticing that having a quieter day in the middle of my week certainly makes me more productive on the following days.

What Are Your Tips for Finding Time to Blog?

What I’ve written above just scratches the surface. I am by no means an expert on this and am keen to learn from your experience.

Update: Check out this post where I ask a number of other bloggers about their tips and blogging routines.

 

2014 Reboot: Make Money From Your Blog This Year

We are mining ProBlogger content this week for super-useful information to kick-start your blogging year with gusto. Today we focus on that old chestnut – is it REALLY possible to earn some cash doing what we love? Well the answer is “yes, but”. So if 2014 is the year you finally knuckle down and make it happen – Darren’s got just the post for you.

This post “Is it Really Possible to Make Money Blogging? [7 Things I know about Making Money Blogging] first appeared in November 2012. 

Every now and again I am pulled aside at a conference or am emailed and/or tweeted by someone wanting to get the “real” scoop on whether it is possible to make money blogging.

  • Is it really possible to make a living from blogging?
  • Is it just a small number of people making money from blogging?
  • Is it only really possible to make money blogging if you write about the topic of making money blogging?

I completely understand the questions and would probably want to add one more:

  • If it is really possible to make money blogging, how likely is it that you’ll succeed?

I’ve written many times here on ProBlogger about this in the hope of giving a realistic picture of the topic, but I think it is worth touching on again because there is a lot of misinformation out there right now.

On one hand, we see hype on the topic. Periodically someone will claim to be able to make millions from blogging quickly. These claims are usually accompanied with the release of a product or service (i.e. they are marketing spin).

On the other hand, I periodically see people writing about how it is impossible to make money blogging (or that anyone claiming to be full time is either a scammer, a liar, or is selling something on the topic of making money online).

The reality is somewhere between these two extremes.

7 Things I know about making money from blogging

1. It is possible

I’ve been blogging for just under ten years and for nine of those I’ve been making money blogging. It started out as just a few dollars a day but in time it gradually grew to becoming the equivalent of a part-time job, then a full-time job, and more recently into a business that employs others.

I used to talk about the specific levels of my earnings when I started ProBlogger but felt increasingly uncomfortable about doing so (it felt a little voyeuristic and a little like a big-headed boasting exercise and I didn’t really see the point in continuing to do it)— but my income has continued to grow each year since I began.

On some levels I was at the right place at the right time—I got into blogging early (in 2002 … although I felt I was late to it at the time) and have been fortunate enough to have started blogs at opportune times on the topics I write about.

However I know of quite a few other bloggers who make a living from blogging, many of whom have not been blogging anywhere near as long as I have.

For some it is a hobby that keeps them in coffee; for others it is the equivalent of a part time job/supplementing other income from “real jobs” or helping their family out as they attend to other commitments (raising a family). For others it is a full-time thing.

I’ll give you some examples below.

2. There is no single way to monetize blogs

Recently at our Melbourne ProBlogger event I featured numerous Australian bloggers in our speaker lineup who fit somewhere in the part-time to full-time spectrum. They included:

The year before, we had others, including:

Most of these bloggers are full-time (or well on the way to being full-time bloggers). They come from a wide array of niches and all monetize quite differently—doing everything from selling advertising, to having membership areas, to selling ebooks, to running affiliate promotions, to promoting their offline businesses, to selling themselves as speakers, to having book deals, and so on. Many have a combination of different income streams.

They are all also Australian, and are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is happening here in Australia—the same thing is being replicated around the globe.

There are many ways to monetize a blog. To give you a quick sense of the many methods check out this “money map” I created a year or so back, which outlines just some that I brainstormed (click to enlarge).

Ways to Make Money Blogging.png

I also recorded this free hour-and-twenty-minute webinar giving an introduction to the topic.

3. There are no formulas

From time to time, people have released products that claim to be formulas for success when it comes to making money online. They outline steps to follow to “guarantee” you’ll make money.

In my experience there is no formula.

Each full-time blogger I’ve met in the last ten years has forged their own path and has a unique story to tell. They have often acted on hunches and made surprising discoveries along the way.

There are certainly similarities in many of the stories but each blogger has their own personality and style, each one is reaching a different audience, and each niche tends to monetize differently.

The key lesson is to be aware of what others are doing and to learn what you can from each other, but to also be willing to forge your own path as well!

4. Many niches monetize

One common critique of the topic of monetizing of blogs is that the only people making money from blogging are the ones writing about how to make money blogging.

This is simply not true.

In the above list of speakers from our Melbourne event you’ll notice I included topic/niche of each blogger. None sell products teaching others to make money blogging—all are on blogging on “normal,” every-day topics.

My own experience of having a blog about blogging (ProBlogger) and a blog about Photography is that it is my photography blog that is by far the most profitable blog (I’d estimate it’s ten times more profitable).

I’ve interviewed numerous full-time bloggers of late in a webinar series including:

Interestingly, none of them make money by teaching others to make money online. Sarah largely blogs about health and wellbeing, Tsh blogs about simple living, and Ana blogs about woodwork.

5. Most bloggers don’t make a full-time living from blogging

Every time I’ve surveyed readers of ProBlogger about their earnings, we’ve seen that those making money from blogging are in the minority.

In a recent survey of 1500 ProBlogger readers we asked about their monthly earnings. What you’re seeing below is the spread of earnings from readers who are attempting to make money blogging (note: not all ProBlogger readers attempt to make money, so not all are included in these results).

Keep in mind that ProBlogger readers are generally newish bloggers—about half of those who took this survey had been blogging for less than two years.

So of those trying to make money blogging, 10% don’t make anything and 28% are making less than 30 cents per day. A total of 63% make less than $3.50 per day.

Let’s be clear—most bloggers who are attempting to make money are not making a living from blogging.

Having said that, of the 1508 bloggers surveyed 65 (4%) are making over $10,000 per month (over six figures per year) and a further 9% were doing over $1000 per month (which is at least a part-time level of income).

My feeling, having been attending blogging conferences for six or so years now, is that the number of full-time bloggers is on the rise, and there are actually quite a few more people now at least making the equivalent of a couple of days’ work a week in income from their blogs.

However, most bloggers don’t make much.

6. It takes time to build

When I dig down into the stats from the survey on income levels above, and do some analysis of those who are in the top income bracket, it is fascinating to look at how long they’ve been blogging.

85% of those in that top income bracket have been blogging for four years or more. Almost all of the others had been blogging for three or four years.

This certainly was my own experience. I blogged for a year without making money and once I started monetizing it was around two years of gradual increases before I approached a full-time income level. It would have been four years before I joined that top bracket of income (over $10,000 per month).

Blogging for money is not a get-rich-quick thing. It takes time to build an audience, to build a brand, and to build trust and a good reputation.

And of course even with four or five years of blogging behind you, there’s no guarantee of a decent income.

7. It takes a lot of work

Longevity is not the only key to a profitable blog. The other common factor that I’ve noticed in most full-time bloggers is that they are people of action.

Passivity and blogging don’t tend to go hand in hand.

 

Blogging as “passive income stream” is another theme that we hear in many make-money-blogging products, however it is far from my own experience.

I’ve worked harder on my business over the last ten years than I’ve worked on anything in my life before this. It is often fun and gives me energy, but it takes considerable work to create content on a daily basis, to keep abreast of what’s going on in the community, to monitor the business side of things, to create products to sell, to build an audience, and so on.

The key is to build blogs that matter to people, that are original, interesting, and helpful. But this doesn’t just happen—it takes a lot of work.

Conclusions

Yes, it is possible to make money blogging. There is an ever-increasing number of people making money from blogging at a part-time to full-time level —however they are still in the minority.

Those who do make a living from blogging come from a wide range of niches, however one of the most common factors between them is that they’ve been at it for a long while.

How long have you been blogging? Are you looking to make money from it—and have you already? Share your experiences with us in the comments.

2014 Reboot: Get Ready for the New Year With a Blog Overhaul

We are mining ProBlogger content this week for super-useful information to kick-start your blogging year with gusto. Today we delve into the world of giving your blog a shake-up for 2014 when you’re a bit weary of the same-old same-old. Ryan Barton, author of Smart Marketing, shows us the way.

This post “9 Steps To Take When You Loathe Your Own Blog” first appeared in May 2012.

You’ve got an editorial calendar, you’ve scheduled blog posts weeks in advance. Look how professional you are. Well done. You’re an inspiration.

You press “publish” and bask in retweets, praise, and a flood of comments. You’re “resonating” with your “tribe.” You’re prolific. You’re a cocky so-and-so.

Then it hits: the loathing.

You’re exhausted. You’re ignoring your calendar. You can’t be bothered to think about new topics. Your writer’s well is bone-dry. You’ve met the resistance and it has won.

Your writing becomes programmed (verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus). It’s no longer art, and no longer an exercise in intellect. It lacks moxy. You’re phoning it in.

This is a low point. Have you been there?

If you bore yourself, how do you expect your readers to read, let alone share, your content?

What do you do when you loathe your own blog?

Find a way to restart, tabula rasa. And you’re the only one who can make it happen.

1. Do a design refresh

You buy new running shoes, and suddenly you want—need—to run. I must satisfy the shoes, it is their reason for existence. You buy a new car and instantly you cease dreading your hour-long commute.

It’s the same with your blog. Launch a new theme and you’ll feel the need to create new content that mirrors the sophistication of your new design. It pulls you back in and urges you forward. Clearly, your own boredom isn’t reason enough for a design overhaul, but it’ll certainly reignite your fire.

2. Narrow your focus

When I launched The Smart Marketing Blog in 2007, my posts were eclectic random. Readers didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what to expect. One day, a post about bus stop ads, the next day, how to set-up PDFs to open at screen height, and another day, musings on a new social network. There was no focus.

But now, when I focus only on smart marketing for small business success, my readers know what to expect. I have focus—a roadmap.

3. Take off the chains

Darren publishes daily. Sort of. Somebody on the collective ProBlogger team publishes daily. But I think he’d agree that expecting you, by yourself, to generate mind-blowing content daily is expecting too much.

At one point, I followed an editorial calendar that scheduled posts twice a week. But even those posts were rubbish. They weren’t inspired, they were the result of a self-imposed guideline. Sure, publishing more frequently drives more traffic, but also yields disappointed readers who are trying to digest your traffic-driven rubbish.

Write because you can’t help it, not because there’s a blank post to fill. Today, I write only when I can imagine giving a speech on my topic. The topic is that good. So good, I can visualize myself preaching from a soapbox. And you know what, my traffic has remained the same, despite publishing much less frequently.

4. Ship something

I don’t advocate shipping something simply for the sake of shipping; that only yields mediocrity. But shipping evokes pride and passion and a fierce sense of taking names. Last year I published my book on smart marketing for small businesses, this year I launched my newsletter, and in the months ahead I have two other books in the works. Each functions to inspire and refill my writer’s well.

Aside from your blog—because your blog is not your product, your blog supports your product—what can you create to inject that same inspiration?

5. Change your routine

Want to find new inspiration? Approach your trivial, mundane tasks in a new way. When you break your habits, you force yourself to problem-solve, expand your thinking, and consider other solutions. It’s that same thinking that yanks you out of your writer’s rut. Purposefully take the longer route to the office, travel to a foreign country, run instead of lifting weights, read a different genre book to stretch your mind, expand your palette with a new coffee brewing method, keep your phone off when it’s normally on, watch a documentary instead of that sitcom—or better yet, read a book … with pages, not a screen.

6. Change how and where you write

Last week, I sat in a dark parking lot waiting for takeout from a local eatery. I was isolated, undisturbed, and focused. So much so, I made great progress on a blog post in the matter of minutes. Just me, a journal, and a soft dome light. Working out of coffee grinder-dominated cafes doesn’t foster the same productivity. Neither does sitting in front of a television or high-traffic public venues. Sure, use the excuse that people-watching inspires you. Rubbish.

Take yourself seriously, hide yourself, sever ties to notifications, reminders, and the urge to make sure you’re always in-the-know. Your writing—your art—deserves nothing less than your undivided attention.

7. Read new, not more

How many blogs do you subscribe to? Right now, how many blog posts sit unread? If you’re no longer challenged—if you’re glazing over posts out of habit, if you’re no longer being inspired and challenged—unsubscribe and find new ways to be stimulated. Stop wondering if you’re missing out on anything, cut ties, and stretch yourself. You may be out of school, but that’s no excuse for not remaining a student.

8. Who’s your muse?

Who do you work for? Wake up for? Breathe for? Write for them. Is it your wife, your lover, your most loyal subscriber, or your unborn child? Use them as your motivation to keep driving when you’re not strong enough to persist yourself. Keep this person’s photo nearby as a reminder. Don’t get so busy that you forget why or for whom you’re working so hard.

9. Declare victory or failure

When starting a new project, name your goal. How else will you measure success? Seth said it best, “Declare one or the other, but declare.” Maybe it’s time for self-evaluation. Maybe it’s time to reflect and determine what you did right (to do it again) and what you’ll avoid the next time. Because there will be a next time. “Failure” isn’t never blogging again. No, failure is taking valuable lessons and proactively applying what you’ve learned to the next iteration of your blog.

We’re artists. We all feel the urge to tweak our logos and change our avatars. We see the same “us” every day, and we’re bored. But what we find repetitive and boring and loathe-worthy, our tribe views as consistency and resonation.

The real artists find a way to push through, put their shoulders back and chin up, and reignite their own passion.

Talk back

Have you hit the blogging loathe-wall before? How did you bust through it? Leave a comment below so others might be inspired to do the same. And stick around—later today we’ll take a look at a case example of a blogger who changed their blog’s writing style overnight—and reaped the rewards.

Ryan Barton is a small business marketing, social media, and design consultant. He is the author of Smart Marketing, blogs at The Smart Marketing Blog, tweets at www.twitter.com/RyanBarton, and lives in Los Angeles.

Merry Christmas from ProBlogger HQ

It’s just ticked over to the early hours of Christmas Day here at ProBlogger HQ in Melbourne Australia, so I wanted to pause the blog tips today to wish you and yours a happy holiday season.

Here in Australia we’re expecting a pretty warm Christmas – around 30 degrees celcius – and will no doubt celebrate the day in shorts and t-shirts and eating our BBQ’d Christmas lunch outside by the pool (we really do throw shrimps on the BBQ).

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I’ll be celebrating with Vanessa, our three boys, and extended family and feeling very grateful for another healthy and happy year.

I’m also particularly grateful to you as readers of ProBlogger and hope that whatever you find yourself doing as the end of the year approaches that it’ll be safe, fun and meaningful to you and those you love.

PS: things will be slightly quieter here than normal this next week as we’re in Summer mode but we’ll be firing up again in the new year and will have some exciting things to announce as we progress into 2014. Stay tuned – things are about to get pretty interesting here at ProBlogger!

Start 2014 with a bang! 50% of all ProBlogger eBooks

Every year over at Digital Photography School we have a massive 12 Days of Christmas sale in which we put our photography eBooks (and a few from friends) on sale in the lead up to Christmas.

I’ve had a few ProBlogger readers asking me on Twitter if there will be a similar sale on ProBlogger eBooks so decided to put them on sale for a few days too.

So for the next 7 days you can save 50% on any of the 6 ProBlogger eBooks in our library.

Or – if you’re serious about taking your blog to the next level next year and you don’t have them yet – you can get all 6 for $75 (they’re normally $200) and save 63%.

What Can You Pick Up?

We’ve designed our eBooks to meet the needs of bloggers at different stages of their blogging journey – there’s something for everyone.

31 Days To Build A Better Blog just $14.99!

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31 Days to Build a Better Blog is a downloadable ebook designed to help you revitalize your blog. One step at a time, it will transform your blog into the page view powerhouse you’ve always dreamed of — because we all love seven digit numbers on google analytics!

This has been our biggest selling eBook ever, thousands of bloggers have used it to build better blogs.

Pick up a copy now

The Bloggers Guide To Online Marketing now $24.99.

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A comprehensive, 31 chapter blueprint for your blog’s ongoing profitability – right from the ground up (AKA more cash!). Backed by an extensive library of practical templates, printable worksheets, and in-practice example documents, this kit delivers all you need to make your blog turn a profit now, and over the long term.

So if you’re wanting to make your blog more profitable in 2014 – this one is for you.

Pick up a copy now

Blog Wise: How to do more with less – $9.99 – a bargain!

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One of the most common obstacles to successful blogging among our readers is simply finding time – so we sat down with 9 prolific and successful bloggers to find out how they not only blog successfully – but balance that with busy work, family and social lives.

Overwhelmed? Too Busy to Blog? Don’t have Enough Time? This one is for you!

Pick up a copy now

First Week Of Blogging – just $9.99!

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Making great early choices is vital to the long-term success of your blog. This ebook guides you, day by day, through your first week of blogging so you can make the most of those critical first few days. It will ensure you’re blog is build on a rock solid foundation.

If you’re looking to start a new blog in 2014 (or have just begun one) – grab this to help you do it right the first time.

Pick up a copy now

Blogging For your Business – only $24.99

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This guide is for those working in or owning a business that wants to get into blogging. It takes you step by step through how to set up a blog, thinking through goals for a blog, developing a content strategy, finding readers and growing traffic, establishing and growing a social media footprint and much more.

If you have or work in a business that is looking to get serious about blogging – this one is perfect for you.

Pick up a copy now

The Copywriting Scorecard – $14.99 all yours!

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Our blog posts are the cornerstone of your blog and will be the difference between you reaching your goals or not. This scorecard resource is designed to help you analyze the most important elements of your content to make sure they’re engaging, readable, professional and optimized for search engines.

If you’re looking to optimise your blog better for search engines (and readers) in 2014, get this one to help you on your way.

Pick up a copy now

Get One or Get the Bundle Today

Don’t forget – you can also grab all 6 eBooks as a bundle for $75 (normally $200).

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This offer ends in just 7 days time so don’t delay. Make your purchase or find our more about each eBook here.

Case Study: An Experiment with Short Form Content

Two days ago I wrote about the power of longer-form content on a blog, and gave a few examples of some posts that I’ve published this year that have been between 4000-7500 words that have done really well.

Today I’d like to talk about an experiment that I’ve been doing in the last week on Digital Photography School with short-form content.

The experiment started as an accident (as many of my better ideas do). I was surfing through some of my favourite Flickr photographers when I came across an image that grabbed my attention.

The image was of a portrait of little girl and it grabbed my attention partly because it was a beautiful shot, but also partly because it perfectly illustrated a post that I’d published on dPS recently on how sometimes NOT waiting for your subject to smile is the best time to photograph them.

The image was a creative commons licensed photo, and I toyed with the idea of adding the photo to the original post as an update – but as I pondered it, I wondered if maybe it was an opportunity to do something a little different.

On the spur of the moment I decided to set up a ‘page’ in the back end of WordPress to showcase the image. I added a link to the previously published article and then added a few more links to other portrait photography tips below the image.

Also because the content related to one of our eBooks, I put an ad for one of our eBooks in under the links too.

I also added a Facebook ‘like’ button to the page, and added a Pinterest ‘hover’ button to the image in the hope people might share it.

Here’s how the page looked:

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Why I Published it as a Page rather than a Post

You’ll notice that I mention above that I published this image not as a blog post but as a ‘page’ in WordPress.

I did this for a couple of reasons:

Firstly we had already published three posts for the day on the blog and I didn’t want to overwhelm my readers with too much content on the same day.

Secondly this was an experiment – a new type of post that I’ve not done before that was a simple image with a few links. I wanted to test it before rolling this type of post out onto the blog.

How the Content Was Received

I shared the post with our Facebook audience and tweeted the link to it to. As you can see in the screenshot – the post was fairly quickly ‘liked’ on Facebook over 400 times.

The post was liked on the Facebook share a further 300 or so times and was ‘shared’ there a further 36 times.

Traffic to the page was decent. The day I published it on our Facebook page, it received around 4000 visitors. Yesterday it had 250 more. Tonight it will be linked to in our weekly newsletter which should drive some decent traffic to it.

The above stats are pretty spot on average for a typical post on dPS – but what I did notice that was interesting about this piece was that visitors to it went on to view more pages on the site than a typical post.

Hence – the bounce rate on this post was pretty good. A typical post on dPS has a bounce rate of around 70% – but this particle piece of content had a bounce rate of 57%.

The shortness of the post and the fact that it was simply an image, a couple of sentences and some links for further reading meant a lot of people clicked those links and went on to read another 1, 2 or 3 posts on the site.

What I’d inadvertently done with this piece of content was to create a mini-sneeze page (a type of page that propels people deeper into the blog).

I found this fascinating and decided to keep experimenting with this type of post.

Evolving the Experiment

One of the things I immediately wanted to play around with was to change how the post looked.

You can see in the screenshot above that the image itself could only be shown at a relatively narrow size. The content area of our page template on dPS allows for a 600-pixel-wide image.

While this is big enough to illustrate an idea or show a picture in reasonable detail, it lacks punch. I also noticed that the content looks very short against the long sidebar that we had showing on that initial post.

Our sidebar was set up to show subscription options, a poll, ads, recent posts, etc, and while all this looked good on a typical post on the site – on this short piece of content it was two and a half times longer than the content!

Even as the post was going live on Facebook, I had already begun to talk to our developers to give them instruction on how I’d like to see a new ‘page template’ developed.

I wanted the sidebar removed and also wanted to add built in sharing buttons to replace the little Facebook button that I’d manually added.

Here’s the rough Skitch screenshot that I sent them:

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You can see from this that I was already thinking about other possibilities for this type of content. Not only could I use these types of posts to showcase further reading and promote eBooks, but potentially they could be used as pages to get new subscribers to the blog.

While our developer got to work, I began to hunt for a few more ways to use this concept to see if we could test it further.

I rolled out my next test piece with a similar format of post – a great image that underneath had a strong call to read a single related post. Here’s how it looked:

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This one went up a notch in terms of reader response.

Facebook likes were quickly up over 1000 on the button on the page, the Facebook status update generated over 800 additional likes, 74 shares, and some great comments (including readers submitting their own images), and the page was visited by over 5500 people in the first 24 hours.

While the post only had one link in it to further reading, the bounce rate was down even further to under 50%.

It was around this point that my developers got the page template updated to remove the sidebars and add social sharing buttons.

The result of doing so was visually fantastic. Here are the two pages as they look now:

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Screen Shot 2013 12 19 at 3 05 43 pm

You can see them here and here.

The only pity in the change was that we lost the social sharing numbers that has already been counted with the old Facebook button – but in the scheme of things this was a small price to pay.

Since implementing these changes I’ve created three more of these pages:

It is too early to do proper analysis on these posts as tonight we send our weekly newsletter which drives a lot of traffic, but the initial results are promising and in the next couple of days I have a couple more experiments to try using this new approach.

To this point, my initial learnings are that this type of content is great for:

  • increasing page views per visit
  • showcasing older posts in your archives while still adding new content so that people who’ve seen the old stuff are not just being hit with the same old posts
  • creating shareable content (readers seem to be sharing these posts at pretty high rates)

I’ll update you on my next experiments with this type of content in the weeks ahead. To get updated when I do make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter below:

Long Form Content vs Series of Blog Posts

long-form-contentLast week I was involved in a number of conversations with readers about blog post length and whether it was better to write long posts or short ones.

My short answer to the question was to write ‘useful’ posts, and to use as many words as were necessary to do so.

Having said that, I have been experimenting over the last few months with the two extremes of short and long posts.

If you’ve been paying attention here on ProBlogger this year, you’ll have seen some of what our team have called ‘mega posts’.

For example here on ProBlogger we’ve published:

Over on dPS we also experimented with longer posts including on a post titled The Ultimate Guide to Learning How to Use Your First DSLR (4202 words).

These posts have all performed well above average compared with other posts on my sites over the last 12 months (in fact they feature pretty heavily in the most-read new posts on my blogs in 2013).

What About Series of Posts?

When I recounted the above examples in conversation this week the question that came each time was whether the same content could have been delivered as series of posts.

Wouldn’t it make sense to break a 7000-word post down into 10 700-word posts?

The answer, of course, is that a series of posts is definitely an option.

I’ve certainly created my fair share of series over the years, and will continue to do so, but I also think there is a place for longer-form content. In fact, I think good long-form content has some distinct advantages over series of posts.

For me, I think the main advantage of long form content is that its just more useful and convenient for readers to get it all in one go.

A series of blog posts is great for page views and helping you to fill a week’s editorial calendar, however if you put yourself in a reader’s shoes, it can also be a little (or a lot) painful.

Readers following the blog have to wait for new posts to be published before getting the full information in the series.

Readers who come across the series later have to follow links between posts to get each installment.

Neither of these problems are enough to stop me writing a series of posts, however, there are a couple of good reasons why I think long-form content is attractive to readers.

The other thing I’ve noticed about good quality and useful long-form content is that it gets shared – a lot.

While I’ve had great search traffic to each of the above posts this year, they have each been shared at a higher rate than the average post on my blogs in the same timeframe.

While I do find my series of posts can get shared around too, I’ve never seen a series that I’ve written shared as much as some of the long-form content I’ve created (the only exception might have been when I first ran 31 Days to Build a Better Blog as a series many years ago).

Choose the Best Length for the Topic At Hand

Let me finish by saying that I am not suggesting creating longer-form content just for the sake of publishing longer-form content.

The key is to choose the appropriate length and style of posts for the topic you’re covering.

Long form, short form, series of posts or other formats can all work.

Have you tried longer-form content?

I’ve love to hear about your experience of longer-form content. Have you tried it? How was it received?

Please share a link in comments below – I’d love to see your longer posts.

7 Insider Tips To Help You Get Noticed On Blog Directories

This is a guest contribution from Andrea Martins, founder of Story Resumes. 

Okay, so the honeymoon of Aunt Gracie reading your blog posts is over and you’re now looking to accelerate your blogging career. You want to play in the big league but to do that you need to attract more traffic without the need to promise your first-born son.

One way to gain visitors is to get noticed on blog directories. Photography, cooking, gardening, cycling, travelling, meditating and more, there are thousands of directories out there each catering to specific niches and interests. If you look, you’re bound to find some just your size.

Now here’s where you have a choice.

Once you’ve found directories to list on, you can be one of the 99% of bloggers who press ‘submit’ without thinking too much about the potential of that listing.

Or you can choose to be in the 1% who are strategic about what they are about to do and how they are about to do it.

You see, a blog directory listing is not just a blog directory listing and there is more to listing on a blog directory than meets the eye. Your listing could be a unique opportunity for your blog to get noticed and receive a valuable shout out from the blog directory owner and/or successful peers on the directory whose high traffic blogs could skyrocket your visitor numbers. You may even luck out with a media request. It happens.

Having personally approved most of the 2,265 blogs on a global directory that’s been running for over six years, here are my top seven insider tips to boost the chances of your blog receiving valuable shout-outs and traffic spikes from blog directory listings.

1. Did You Have Me At Hello?

If you don’t have a strong, catchy title for your blog, how will you ever stand out in a long page of blogs listed on a directory, or grab the attention of the blog directory owner who sees hundreds if not thousands of submissions?

2. Do You Make Me Feel Good?

If you walked into a café that sold last week’s leftovers and was void of atmosphere, would you stay? Neither will your audience.

Content might be king over time, but no one will hang around to read your content unless your ‘look and feel’ instantly attracts. You don’t have to spend a fortune on design. Quality templates work just fine as long as there is something on your page that hooks possible influencers and inspires them to give you a big shout-out.

3. Did You Mean What You Said Last Night?

The most critical blog post is the one we see first. If you usually blog about entrepreneurship but you couldn’t resist blogging about baking your daughter’s birthday cake last night, we’ve already left before the candles are lit.

When you list on blog directories, make sure you have your best and most relevant blog post right at the top of your page before you submit.

4. Do You Inspire My Trust?

It makes no sense to bring people to your blog, get them excited and then lose their trust with broken links on your site. That’s akin to submitting a resume for your dream job without supplying the correct contact details for your referees.

You get just a few seconds to inspire trust and prove you know what you’re doing. Don’t blow it.

5. Can I Tell My Friends About You?

Online influencers are busy people. If they like what you offer, they usually want to quickly shout out about it and notify you of their good deed all in the same action. They can’t do this unless you’re on Twitter and your handle is easy to find on your home page. The same applies for their audiences who can ‘pay it forward’ for you if you make it easy for them.

Facebook and Google+ work well too, but nothing beats the ease and speed of 140 characters.

6. Is Your Love Genuine?

If the blog directory requests that you display their hyperlinked badge or text link on your blog, then display it loud and proud.

If you try to outsmart the blog directory owner and hide these on zero page rank URLs and/or on pages that no one will ever intuitively find, you destroy your goodwill immediately and risk not being accepted on the directory at all.

7. Will You Remain Faithful?

Finally, if you put a blog directory’s badge or link on your blog and then remove it after your listing has been approved, that’s just bad karma. It may not be noticed for a while, but it will be noticed. And you wouldn’t want to mess with karma, would you?

If you’ve never thought about the potential of gaining traffic by getting noticed on blog directories, today’s a great day to start. Somewhere out there is a directory owner or peer influencer who desperately wants to discover something new to shout out about. Put a bit of thought into your listing, brighten their day and they might just brighten yours!

Andrea Martins is the founder of Story Resumes: Visually Awesome Resumes That Tell Your Story and Get You Noticed. Prior to that, she co-founded Expat Women and its global blog directory. 

How to Regroup and Keep Going After a Disappointing Launch

This is a guest contribution from Ernest Dempsey, fiction author.

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The big day has come and gone. You did all the prep work, created as much buzz as you could, and promoted from every angle.

You blew up social media. Networked with peers and strangers. Met new people and helped them promote their stuff through your small, but growing channels.

You spent countless hours getting your product ready to launch to the world, painstakingly covering all the bases so it would be as good as it could be when the release day arrived.

Zero hour arrived and you waited patiently as the sales began to trickle in; a good sign at first. Or so you thought.

But as the day went by, the small flurry of sales never became the avalanche you’d hoped for, and by the end, you were left wondering what the hell just happened.

Does your product suck? Did you do something wrong with your marketing and promotional plan? Should you give up and try something else or should you regroup and push forward?

You’re not alone in this maelstrom of confusion. There have been several big names that have seen that road. And there are some key lessons we can take away from their experiences.

Big Ideas

Light bulb with a great idea

Here’s the problem with people and ideas. We get them in our heads and inside that imagination of ours, they seem like the best thing since sliced bread. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had ideas for books, movies, products, or services that took my excitement to the edge of the stratosphere.

Throw on top of that all the amazing success stories we see on blogs, Youtube videos, and online training courses. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

We see the articles about the guy who wrote a guest post for someone and got 10,000 visits to their website the next day. Or the girl who sent out a Tweet with the right hash tag and sold 5,000 units within six hours. Or the lady who had 1,000 subscribers before her blog even went live.

We see all of that, and think it can be us too. Why not? They were normal people just like you and I. All we needed to do was have a good idea, take action, and execute the exact same strategies.

Right?

Not so fast. And I mean that literally, not so fast.

Great Expectations

Dreaming goals

Mark Aplet – Fotolia.com

Let’s go back to the point where you just released your product. It’s day two and sales are barely doing anything. Maybe you’re moving a product or two every twenty-four hours. Or maybe you aren’t selling a damn thing.

That’s not going to cut it. And at that rate, if you haven’t already, don’t quit your day job.

But what is the problem? You did everything exactly like you were supposed to, following the blueprint of those who have gone before to the letter. Why did your launch suck?

It could be any number of things. But the first thing you need to examine is the expectations you set before the launch.

If you go back and look at it, what were those other people selling? Was it a product with a bigger market, a hungrier market, a more viralistic market? (I think I just invented the word viralistic)

Let’s assume that you have already done that and you have a really strong market that can produce lots of traffic to your site, and a market that is desperate for the solution that you provide. Sounds like a perfect scenario. Even with all of that, it is not a good idea to assume that your launch is going to go bonkers with sales.

What has worked for someone else in the ways of marketing, promotion, and the resulting sales or subscribers may not happen for you. Every single person is different. Every scenario is different.

Then what kind of results should we expect?

Realistic Expectations

You know people will pay for your product or service because you have already done that part of the process. You tested out a few prospects in your target market and they loved what you’re providing.

So, why hasn’t it gone viral? Why didn’t your launch go better?

The truth is, most product launches don’t go that way. In the normal world, those occurrences are the outliers in the statistical universe. For you, it’s probably going to take a little more time, a little more effort, and a lot more patience.

After all, there is a ton of behind-the-scenes work that goes into an overnight success.

These things take time to build up for most businesses. In the offline world, it can be as slow as networking with one person at a time. On the Internet, we have the opportunity to meet and interact with multiple people in small amounts of time, but it can still be a long process to build up trust.

And trust is crucial.

Would it be cool if your launch went viral? Sure. But don’t expect it. What you should expect is to need to keep working hard and constantly making connections, interacting, and helping others.

Like I said before, you’re not alone. There are lots of people who have been in your shoes. But it took a bit of regrouping, and rethinking to get them to the level of success they desired.

People with failed launches who pushed through to succeed

Self-Published Author- Me

Yeah, I thought I would start with my personal experience in the matter. I write action/adventure fiction and science fiction. When I released my first novel, I expected lots of people to buy it. Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t believe I could quit my job right away. I just wanted to write stories on the side.

But I figured I had 700+ Facebook friends and most of them would buy a copy since I had helped most of them in some way at some point in time.

I sold less than fifty copies in a year.

It sucked. And I was crushed by the lack of support. Moreover, I was riddled with doubt. Was my book horrible? Was I a terrible writer? What did I do wrong?

Actually, it is pretty simple. I set huge expectations, relatively speaking, and did very little ground work to get my book noticed. I didn’t understand the first thing about traffic or promotion or marketing.

I just figured I could put something out there and the people I knew would buy it, and word would spread.

Compare that strategy with the one I employed in December of 2012 when I re-released my first book along with the sequel. This time, I gave away thousands of copies of the books. I did a lot more online networking.

As a result, my book sales took off. I didn’t sell millions of copies, but so far in 2013, I’ve sold around 4000 copies of my books and novellas. Pretty cool, right?

The lesson here is that for many of us, slow growth is how we will get to where we want to be. And that is okay. Slow and steady wins the race, after all.

App Designer- Nathan Barry

When Nathan was getting ready to launch his book about creating apps, he wrote a bunch of guest posts and submitted them to various blogs. His hope was that he could get several of them published and the resulting traffic would help propel the launch of his book.

In the end, he only had five posts published, which is still a good number. But the traffic that came as a result was moderate at best; each yielding about a hundred visits.

He could have thrown in the towel at that point and just waited to see what would happen. But he didn’t. Nathan continued to build up his subscriber base until it was close to 800 when he launched his book.

On the day his book went live, he brought in over $12,000 dollars. That is an amazing day. Not life changing money, but awesome nonetheless.

What is better is that Nathan kept on pushing, sending emails, writing posts, grinding it out. The result was over six figures worth of sales in a year. Nice.

I realise that is not a disappointing launch, but it was certainly discouraging before he went ahead with the release. Nathan could have waited around until he reached what he thought was critical mass before putting his book out there, but he didn’t. Rather, he persevered and kept pushing slowly forward.

Restauranteur- Colonel Sanders (Founder of KFC)

Yeah, surprise name right? I know. But in 1955 when an interstate bypassed Corbin, Kentucky where Sanders had been cooking up fried chicken for almost twenty years, he was left broke and uncertain about his future.

He knew his chicken was good. But he’d been forced to sell everything he’d worked so hard to build over the course of two decades.

Then Sanders rethought the way he’d been doing business. He decided that instead of doing all the work himself, he would franchise his chicken business. And Kentucky Fried Chicken was born.

Within five years there were 190 franchisees and over 400 restaurants serving up the Colonel’s eleven herbs and spices.

The lesson from this one: A great idea is nothing without a great execution strategy. There could also be a better way to do what you’re doing. If so, find it!

Visionary, Author, Blogger- Seth Godin

The master of seemingly all things business has not gotten there by being immediately successful every time he launches something.

One of his earliest ideas was a video tape that produced the visual of a fireplace or an aquarium on a television screen. He figured lonely or lazy people would be interested in buying such a thing because they could pop the tape in the VCR and just let it go.

No fire stoking. No fish feeding. Simple.

He went to American Airlines magazine and ran an ad for it, telling himself if he sold 30 units, he would pursue production of the item.

The first week he ended up selling 24, so he thanked everyone who’d ordered the tape, and sent them a gift.

Since he didn’t meet his goal, he bailed on the idea. However, the next week he received another eight orders, which would have put him over his goal of thirty. But Godin had already abandoned the idea and moved on to the next thing.

What’s the lesson here? Patience. That is the lesson.

Sometimes, we set these goals in our minds and tell ourselves if we don’t reach them by a certain time we will just give up. Godin’s idea with the video tape might not have been a successful venture in the long run, but we need to give our products and services a fair chance at success.

That means giving them time to sink in while we work behind the scenes to get more eyeballs on the product.

Another Self-Published Author- John Locke

No, not the guy from the Lost television series. He’s an author. Actually, he’s a best-selling author.

Early on, though, he wasn’t.

John had been a successful businessman, and had made his fortune long before he started writing books. No agents or publishers were interested in his stories so, he decided to self-publish his novel.

With loads of expendable money in his arsenal, he released the book and spent $25,000 over the course of a year trying to promote it. He hired one of the top publicists in the country to send out over 10,000 press releases, bought a kiosk in the mall just outside of Borders Books, advertised on billboards, and tried several other things to boost sales.

In the first twelve months after he released his book, all of those efforts netted him less than thirty sales. You read that right: thirty. Not a good return on investment for all that time and money.

John had written a few other books during that year-long process, and decided that he needed to take a step back and regroup. The marketer inside him told him to do things differently, the way he would if he was running his book business like a regular business.

He got on Twitter, built a simple WordPress blog, and began networking with the online community. At one point, after hundreds of hours interacting with people online, he wrote a blog post about two people he admired and sent out a tweet about it.

Because of all the work he put in behind the scenes, his tweet led to hundreds of retweets, and thousands of visits to his blog. Sales of his books went off the charts and within five months, John Locke had sold over a million ebooks on the Kindle platform.

He is one of only a handful of self-published authors to ever be on New York Times Best Seller list. And he is still one of the top best sellers on Amazon.

The lesson from John’s story is that you may have to take a step back from how you are doing things in your promotion and marketing strategy. It may even require a complete overhaul.

John will tell you up front that he is not the best writer in the world. I’ve read some of his stuff, and he’s right! Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun, edgy, witty, and a good read. But it will probably never win any awards. And that’s okay! He writes to his audience whether he’s writing a blog post or another chapter for a new book.

Because he has redesigned his marketing plan, he doesn’t have to be the best writer in the world. His product is good enough for the people it was created.

It’s On You

Do any of these stories fit into where you are or have been with a product launch? What did you do? And what are you going to do in the future?

Ernest Dempsey is a fiction author and writes about personal development and life observations on his blog.  He has also been a Master’s level counselor for the last decade.  Find out more about his books and check out his inspiring posts by visiting ernestdempsey.net or follow him on Twitter @ErnDempsey or Facebook.