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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:

Screen Shot 2013 12 19 at 2 53 04 pm

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:

Don t smile

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:

Screen Shot 2013 12 19 at 3 00 22 pm

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:

Screen Shot 2013 12 19 at 3 06 04 pm

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.

life-unexpected.jpg

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.

How to Generate Post Ideas, Understand Your Readership and Build Community On Your Blog

This week was a busy one for me in the lead up to our big Christmas promotion over at Digital Photography School, that we will kick off later in the week.

But in the middle of it all, I did something on the spur of the moment that I will definitely be doing again.

I created a quick Facebook post asking readers if they had questions that they’d like to see us write about on dPS.

You can see the thread here.

Questions facebook dps

I didn’t really know how the invitation to submit questions would go – but as you can see, it had a great response.

There were a few benefits from doing it:

  1. it gave us some great ideas for upcoming posts for the blog
  2. it gave us insight into our readership’s needs, but also the level they are at with their photography
  3. it gave our readers a chance to engage with us on a different level (and with each other)
  4. it showed our readers that we are genuinely interested in helping them improve their photography, and that we base our posts on their needs
  5. it highlighted some of the old posts in our archives (you’ll see that where we’d already covered a topic I linked to the older posts). This drove a little traffic.

The response was great both in the Facebook thread itself, but also in a couple of private messages of thanks that I received from readers afterward.

One recurring theme from these responses was that readers felt like we’d gone to the effort of giving them some individual attention.

This is really important – with a growing blog, it is easy for readers to feel a bit lost in the crowd. It is also easy as a blogger to let your ‘readership’ become a ‘thing’ and it was a good reminder to me this week that our readership is actually a group of very diverse individuals.

PS: I also asked a similar question on the ProBlogger Facebook Page this week. If you’ve got a question you’d like addressed in an upcoming post on ProBlogger – please feel free to ask it.

10 Ways to Switch Your Brain to Writing Mode When Working From Home

Immigration, Assimilation and the American Dream
This post is from ProBlogger Team member Stacey Roberts

Finding it hard to make time to blog? Me too. In fact, that’s one of the biggest issues people tell me they have when trying to write. Often we’re blogging from home alongside other work and family commitments, and it can be hard to switch between them when we need to. If you’ve only got 90 minutes in which to write that day, all the good intentions in the world don’t necessarily mean you can use every single one of those 90 minutes to their capacity, churning out a brilliantly-crafted blog post and three witty tweets to wow your readers.

I write from home with two toddlers, and juggle my own blog in addition to freelance writing and my  work here at ProBlogger. When I sit down to the computer after a morning of LEGO fights and snack time, I’m not always inspired and motivated to be productive. I have to make myself use my time to its potential, which is a heady mix of prior organisation and brute force. I’ve come up with a couple of ways to get my head in the game, when the game could be called off at any minute.

1. Create a ritual

There’s nothing better than a physical distinction between one task and the next. For me, it is to make a cup of tea, which is leftover from my days as a journalist, and tells my head it’s writing time. You could make a cup of coffee, fill your water bottle, or put on the same playlist every day. Whatever helps your brain train get on a new track.

2. Walk around the block

If you work at home, it can be tempting to work from the couch in your pajamas. And while that’s definitely one of the perks of the business, it doesn’t really help your productivity. Get dressed, walk around the block and pretend you’re walking to “work”. Grab a cup of coffee on the way into your office, sit down and start your day.

3. Move to a new location

Sometimes a change of environment is just the kickstart you need to find your writing groove. Not feeling it at your desk? Get outside, sit at the kitchen table, go to a cafe – wipe the slate clean and start again. Don’t be afraid to move to find your groove!

4. Be prepared

Nothing blanks me out more than sitting down to an empty white screen. Where does one start? What if you can’t come up with a good headline, and then you can’t figure out what’s the most important thing to cover? Before you know it you’ve spent half an hour idling with nothing to show for it. I find I work best when I’ve taken a few minutes prior (even days prior) to roughly sketch out what I need to cover in my post. Then by the time I sit down, I’ve got anything from a couple of words to go on, to a whole skeleton outline I just need to flesh out. This helps enormously, as even when you type the first sentence, you can get into the flow.

5. Work solo

We like to think that we are multi-tasking ninjas, but research has shown you really don’t get as much done as you think. So in order to train your brain to work to its potential, you have to be tough and shut down any distractions. If this is hard, then tell yourself you can sneak a peek every 15 minutes, but you need to get stuff done in that time. So much of writing is self-discipline, and when you don’t have time to waste it’s even worse when you waste it.

6. Spend two minutes digging around in your brain

When you sit down to write, just take a few minutes to think about the tasks ahead. Don’t write anything down, don’t look at anything, just fill your mind with what you need to accomplish. This will help you stop thinking about distractions and get your mind in the groove of what lies ahead. It’s a great way of getting some demarcation between what you’ve been doing, and what you need to do, and also works as a bit of a brainstorm for today’s tasks.

7. Spend another two minutes sketching out ideas

Now spend a few minutes jotting down those thoughts. I often find it’s a mix of items for my to-do list, post ideas, something to share with my readers on Facebook, and points I want to cover in my posts. This also means I’m motivated and inspired to get to work on these items, and also ensures I’m not sitting down to the dreaded blinking cursor without anything to kickstart my creativity.

8. Don’t start from scratch

One of the best things I learned about writing novels is to stop when you’re inspired. It sounds counter-productive, but if you stop once your wave is over, you’re at a bit of a loss where to start when you pick it back up. This can mean you waste valuable time trying to come up with what to write about next. Picking up where you left off when you were in the groove means you can start with all cylinders firing, which does wonders for your productivity. There’s nothing better than starting off with a good chunk of work under your belt, it lessens the guilt you feel when you fritter your time reading eight Buzzfeed articles instead of getting stuck in. Or that might just be me.

9. Do the worst thing first

I know I’m tempted to leave the hardest thing for last as I “warm up” with easier tasks, but I also then find I’m still dreading the job while I’m doing other things. And often my time gets cut short and I’ve got to find another time to get it done. I find I work best if I sit down and get the big job out of the way first, almost like ripping off a Band-Aid. Everything you do after that is gravy.

10. Use recent notes

If you’re anything like me, you will look at some notes you wrote three days ago and they make little sense. “Mirfin? what’s a mirfin? It looked important, too…”. So while it’s useful to jot down notes when inspiration strikes, it’s even more useful if those are recent notes and you can still recall what you need to do and when. I often email myself notes, or use the notes function on my phone and laptop. Sometimes I even go beta and use pencil and paper, hence the mirfin. But the shorter the timeframe, the better for you.

I’d love to hear what helps you get your head on track when working from home. Any tips you’d like to share?

Stacey Roberts is the content ninja at ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. Can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

How to Build a Successful ‘White Hat’ Business on a ‘Black Hat’ Internet

White-HatOver on the ProBlogger Facebook page I was asked a great question by Aman Tandon, who asked for some tips on ‘how to stay alive using white hat techniques?’ when competitors in his niche were being ‘foxy’.

It’s a great question and one that I know many bloggers face in different ways.

The reality is that when you’re developing blogs or websites, there are many temptations that face us as bloggers. People make all kinds of choices about how to grow their businesses – choices that span the entire length of the ethical spectrum.

These choices impact the way that bloggers:

  • create content (eg. using others people’s words, images, and ideas)
  • optimise their sites for search engines (eg. buying links)
  • engage on social media sites (eg. buying followers)
  • monetise their sites (eg. selling links, disclaimers, promoting dodgy products)
  • grow readership (eg. personal attacks on others to create controversy)

The list could go on… and on.

Not a day goes by when I don’t see some kind of black…. or at least murky grey…. hat strategy being employed in some of the niches that I operate in (particularly the ‘make money online’ space).

Note: it is probably worth saying that while there are plenty of examples of ‘black hat’ around, most bloggers I come into contact with are good people with great morals, integrity, and a genuine desire to build businesses that not only are profitable, but that serve and help others. It’s also worth saying that there’s lots of different shades of grey between the extremes!

I have always taken the stance that I want to approach what I do with high ethics, transparency and integrity. That doesn’t mean the temptations are not there. I, like everyone else, am human and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t face temptations to take shortcuts or get ahead.

However I’ve worked hard at keeping on the straight and narrow and operating at the ‘white hat’ end of the spectrum. This probably flows from a mixture of motivations – partly it’s just who I am and how I was raised, partly it’s because I get a lot of satisfaction from doing things well and without taking short cuts, and if I’m honest it probably is partly out of fear – I’d hate to lose what I’ve built as a result of making a dumb choice.

I’m not going to use this article to define what is a ‘white hat’ vs a ‘black hat’ approach to blogging (although that would certainly make for an interesting discussion), but let me make a few comments for those bloggers who do try to play by the rules and approach what they do with ethics – sometimes in the face of others in their space who don’t mind bending (or completely breaking) the rules in an attempt to get an advantage or take short cuts.

Play with a long-term vision in mind

The main message I have regarding this topic is to approach what you do online with a long-term vision in mind.

As I mentioned above, I’ve seen many examples over the years of people crossing over to the ‘dark side’ to grow their online businesses. It is frustrating to see it happen, but in each case I’ve reminded myself that I’m not looking for a quick buck, but am looking to build a business that sustains itself over the long haul.

Numerous examples come to mind of when I’ve seen people make decisions for short-term gain that have led to long-term hurt.

  • I think of one blogger, seven or so years ago, who went on a spree of personal attacks of other bloggers to grow traffic to his site. He got the traffic, but destroyed his own reputation in the process.
  • I think of another blogger who made the decision to promote a product he knew was dubious as an affiliate on his blog. He hyped it up and made a lot of promises the product couldn’t live up to. While he made some quick money, he lost his reputation and most of his readership.
  • I think of another blogger who tried to grow his blog with some prolific link-building schemes with a ‘blog network’ that promised he’d be #1 on Google overnight. He did get to #1… for a week, before disappearing from Google altogether at the last big Google algorithm update.

Of course there are good examples around of people who behaved in arguably unethical ways that ended up doing well (anyone who has seen the movie ‘The Social Network’ probably has a good example in mind – however in many (if not most) cases that I’ve come across, the people who decide to go to the ‘dark side’ to get a short cut often end up behind the pack as a consequence of their decisions.

Deliver value

Instead of looking for a short cut, look to deliver value and be useful.

Usefulness trumps pretty much anything else I can think of in the online (and offline) space.

  • The online businesses that I support by spending my money with, are the ones that solve a problem for me.
  • The blogs that I support by subscribing, reading, and interacting with, are the ones that make my life better in some way.
  • The people that I meet on social media that I retweet, link to and recommend to others to follow are the ones that add value in some tangible way to my life.

Conversely:

  • the website that is clever enough to get me to visit them by ranking #1 in Google but doesn’t serve any purpose when I get there doesn’t get me to come back.
  • the person on twitter who simply self-promotes, or spams out affiliate products gets unfollowed, blocked, or reported as spam.
  • the business that rips me off or tells untruths to get a sale gets their reputation left in tatters, as blog posts and tweets go out exposing what they’re really about.

My personal experience is that when you build value, you build something that is much more likely to last as a business.

Stay true to your values and build something that matters to you

Much of what I’ve written above probably sounds a little trite, and will probably be laughed at by those who take pride in their ‘black hat’ ways.

I’ve previously been linked to and ridiculed in a number of black hat forums for the stances I’ve taken, so as I’m writing this half-expecting that reaction again.

However, all I can really say is that you’ve got to be true to yourself and do something that matters to you.

Me donning a black hat and going to the dark side simply isn’t who I am. I get a lot more satisfaction in life in building something of value, serving others, and looking to build a business and become sustainable through a win/win exchange with those whom I interact.

I sleep easier at night living in that way.

Others seem to be comfortable living at other points along the spectrum, and sleep easy with the decisions that they make. At least to some point, I think we have to live knowing that we’re each different.

When I first started out in blogging, and I would see others doing things that I disagreed with, I would often get angry and outspoken about it. I guess in some ways I’ve come to peace with the fact that in most cases, as angry or outspoken as I get, it is unlikely to change the perspective and practice of the other person.

Instead, these days in most cases I choose to focus my energy less upon what others are doing that annoys me, and more upon doing something myself that matters to me and those who read my blogs.

One last note on taking a stand

A final thought – there does come a point when sometimes you do have to take a stand, and not ignore what others are doing in your niche.

For example: if I see another blogger blatantly copying and pasting my content onto their blogs without any attribution, or pretending it is they who wrote it – I act. I start with an email to them, and will escalate that to issuing DMCAs.

Another example that comes to mind is a time when I saw a lot of ProBlogger readers being ripped off by a certain blogging network/service that I felt was a scam. In this case I wrote about it as a service to my readers.

While I’d rather ignore the dodgy behaviour of others and focus upon building something of value, there are times when I think it is important to take a stand to either protect what you’ve built, or to stay true to your values.

What would you add?

These are just my thoughts on this topic – I’d love to hear yours.

How do you approach working on the web where there is such diversity in the approaches that people take on an ethical level?

What do you do when you see others in your niches taking different approaches to you?

How Targeting Influencers Can Sky Rocket Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Rebecca Price, marketing specialist currently working for Davpack.

Have you ever sat in front of your computer, looking at other people’s blogs, and thought: “How the hell have you managed to be so successful so quickly?”

I know I have.

For a long time, I just couldn’t figure out the secret; it often seemed like I was close, but it was always just out of reach.

Then I stumbled on a book called ‘Influence Marketing’ by Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella.

That was the answer – market influencers.

Why is this so powerful?

Instead of starting off from scratch with no blog readers, traffic or any sign of engagement, you put a strategy in place to connect with influencers and get them to promote and share your content to their already established audience.

Of course, there is a bit more to it than that…

In this post I’m going to show you how to expand your reach, increase your audience, get more social shares, become an industry influencer and attract more traffic to your blog.

Finding industry influencers

If you have been operating within your niche/industry for a while, then you will probably have a good idea who the key influencers are and, while they should certainly be on your list of targets, don’t forget the ‘new rising stars’.

These people can potentially carry a lot of weight and your list should never be limited to just a few influencers. This works best at scale.

You will need to put together a list of your target influencers and there are some key pieces of information about them that you should keep track of:

  • Their name
  • Their contact information
  • Their location (potentially a good conversation starter!)
  • Links to their social profiles
  • Links to their blog and any other sites they own
  • What topics they like to blog about
  • What topics they like to share

You could use a CRM or, alternatively, an OpenOffice or Microsoft Excel spreadsheet will also do the trick.

I could write an entire post on finding influencers alone, and a lot have. There are also some awesome presentations floating around on Slideshare, like this one by Wishpond:

Tools to help you

I won’t go into too much depth now about individual tools, as the subject has already been covered in some depth; you can find all of the tools to help you right here.

Don’t rely entirely on tools to do all of the work for you, for while there are some extremely powerful tools that can give you most of the answers – the human element is important.

Computers are getting smarter and so are the algorithms that they use, but there are opportunities that they can miss.

A few things to remember

This entire strategy hinges on building a positive relationship with influencers and, if you go about things in the wrong way, then you could just end up wasting your time.

And your time is valuable. Don’t waste it.

Be helpful and courteous when you are dealing with anyone, not just influencers. There will always be people that waste your time and take the wet, but give them a chance; but know when it’s time to walk away.

Whatever you do, NEVER email someone or ask them via social to do something for you out of the blue.

You will eventually need to ask an influencer to do something for you, but there needs to be a clear benefit, and you must have done something awesome for them beforehand (and they need to know about it).

So, before you ask anyone to do something for you, you need to ask yourself – “what’s in it for them?”

You have to come across as authentic and credible – being real is your greatest asset.

Avoid burning bridges at all costs. Relationships are difficult to repair once you have destroyed them.

Building the relationship

Now that we’ve laid the ground rules, it’s time to start building your relationship with influencers in your niche:

Making things easy for yourself

You’ve got your list of your target influencers and their social profiles, so now it’s time to go ahead and follow them across as many as possible.

Another way to make things easy for yourself is to keep right up to date with what’s happening on your target influencers’ blogs.

So make sure you subscribe to their mailing lists if they have them and subscribe to their RSS feeds too. After Google Reader closed, I started using Feedly but recently switched to Netvibes in favour of their iGoogle style RSS reader – either are solid RSS readers that will help you keep on top of things. 

Commenting works wonders

Try commenting on the blog of an influencer you’re targeting and do it regularly – it works wonders, especially if they respond to comments. You may find that commenting on Facebook statuses and Google+ updates can work equally well, if not even better.

Drop them an email

At this early stage, you could also drop them an email, but if you do, don’t ask them to help you out at all. You need to warm up to that.

Instead, say something awesome and highlight something awesome you have done for them, like share a piece of content etc.

Connect through multiple social platforms

Facebook

Make sure you have the same display picture throughout all of your social profiles – consistency is important and it makes you easier to recognise.

Start off by following the influencers on Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook and whatever other social networks they are active on.

Create a separate circle on Google+ for influencers and a list on Twitter, too – people love it when they’re referred to as a market influencer. It’s quite flattering and great for grabbing their attention, because a lot of influencers don’t actually think of themselves as influencers.

Your next step is to start sharing their content, but there is an important part of the process that a lot of people forget – tell them about it!

The idea of this is that when you do something awesome for someone, they know about it, or at least you do whatever you can to let them know.

So, when you Tweet their content, @mention them and add some positive commentary. Do a similar thing with Google+ and Facebook too.

You can also take things a step further by sharing quotes and making sure the influencer you have quoted knows about it.

Involve influencers in your content

Grab the attention of your target influencers by involving them in the content that you create.

This can be as simple as linking out to them and saying some awesome stuff about them in a regular blog post or an industry round-up – or it could go so far as to involve them directly in a group interview.

The point here is that when influencers are involved directly in a blog post, they are more invested and therefore more likely to share.

Here are a few examples:

Kikolani

In September, Kristi Hines published a group interview which involved 32 experts who shared their best blog post promotion tips. This post featured 600+ Tweets, 245+ FB likes, 448+ Google+1’s and 180+ Linkedin shares. The post also earned links from over 50 referring domains.

Earlier this year, Blurbpoint.com published a roundup of over 101 SEO experts which also did rather well and received 375+ Tweets, 438+ Google+1’s, 230+ FB Likes and 145+ Linkedin shares. This group interview also earned links from over 30 domains.

These are examples of influencer marketing at scale – these types of posts do take a lot of time to produce, but they attract a lot of eyeballs to your blog, and the fact you have included these participants in an ‘expert round-up’ is quite flattering. Doing great things for people can make great things happen.

The use of social media is a big part of this whole influencer marketing thing, and there are a number of things you can do to get more results using social that I talk about here.

Write for influencers

I guess we could call this guest posting, but there are certain connotations that come along with that word and some people do assume that the focus is on the SEO benefit, but here’s where it’s different.

Sure, you could go around guest posting to build links to your site, people do it and it’s fine, because it will still help you at least from an SEO perspective if you do it right, although you do need to do a lot of it.

The SEO benefit here is a secondary consideration, because the whole idea of writing for influencers within your niche is to expand your audience and reach.

It’s also to get your name out there and help to position yourself as an authority.

Your ultimate goal should be to join the ranks of influencers within your niche, but why? Well, having influence is a great thing and then other bloggers will do awesome stuff for you too.

It all starts off with blogger outreach, which is an extensive topic itself; there are plenty of courses out there, like Jon Morrow’s guest blogging course, while Ian Cleary wrote a great guide that you can find here.

Summary

Marketing your content to influencers within your niche can be a powerful way to not only get more traffic to your blog, but you will also get more social shares, expand your audience and increase your own influence too – you will soon find you’re on your way to becoming an authority.

You can do it, I believe in you.

What other tactics do you use to get traffic to your blog?

Rebecca Price is a marketing specialist currently working for Davpack. Rebecca’s specialty is helping businesses become more visible online.

Photo Credit: Spencer E Holtaway via Compfight cc

WARNING: These 4 Self-Publishing Myths Are Keeping You Down

This a joint guest contribution from Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt.

Too many indie authors buy into the myths and lies that keep them running in circles rather than charging forward into a lucrative self-publishing career.

Before successfully writing fiction full time, we both wrote for our own blogs for years, along with guest posts for sites like Problogger. We wrote about entrepreneurship and all the blah blah blogging you’re plenty used to. But in 2012, with millions of e-readers in circulation, and hungry consumers in need of content, we made a decisive shift.

We spent the last year writing and publishing 1.5 million words of fiction through our company Realm & Sands. We’ve never been happier, and we’re writing what we want for an audience who loves us.

Isn’t that the dream of every blogger?

Fortunately, we didn’t let some of the most common self-publishing myths hold us down like they wanted. We hope you don’t either. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, avoid these myths and you too can build yourself a lucrative self-publishing career.

MYTH #1: If you self-publish, you can’t publish traditionally.

We’ve get this question all the time on our Self Publishing Podcast. It usually looks like this: “I’ve just finished my book, and figure I have two options: I’m trying to decide if I should self-publish or shop it around to literary agents. Why should I consider self-publishing instead of traditional?”

The root of this question is a fear that the writer has used up what’s inside them — often all they feel is inside them, because the notion of writing a second book feels daunting — and that they therefore have exactly one shot and don’t want to waste it. These writers (and bloggers) see self-publishing versus traditional as a binary decision wherein they can choose one or the other … but not both. If they use their only chance to pursue self-publishing, they’ll never see their book in a bookstore.

Traditional publishing is seen as “better” and self-publishing as “Well, at least you did something.” It’s publishing is often referred to as “real publishing,” as if it’s somehow more genuine or has more inherent value. We get it; if anyone can self-publish but not everyone can traditionally publish, the latter means you’ve passed another tier of approval. But does that matter? Maybe and maybe not.

Is it a mistake to self-publish that masterpiece rather than banging on doors until you crack your way into an agent or publisher?

Well, yes and no. There is some truth to the idea that a publisher won’t want a book that’s already been published … at all … anywhere … including by you. Publishers want fresh meat, so they can shape it how they’d like without worrying about your current readers who may have earlier versions.

If you have Book X and you self-publish, it’s possible a publisher won’t later be interested in Book X because it’s already out there in the world. So, if Book X is all you have in you, and your life won’t be complete unless you see Book X in a bookstore, and nothing less is acceptable, then maybe you’d better keep querying and networking and trying to get it to a publisher. If you’re a total unknown, and Book X is your first and only book, the odds are very, very heavily stacked against you, but if you want to keep at it, that’s your business.

On the other hand, let’s say you can write a second entry, called Book Y. If you publish Book X yourself, and if Book X is a big self-published success, publishers will be much more interested in looking at Book Y. You’ll be able to tell those publishers, “Look at Book X … I already have readers and fans who love me!”

Publishers always want to know about your “platform,” which means “your ability to promote the book without our help.” Racking up a few self-publishing successes before pitching traditional publishing is like playing baseball in the minors: Publishers can look at your record and see you have the chops needed to sell in the majors.

MYTH #2: Publishers can do things for you that you can’t do yourself.

There’s technically some truth to this one, but only a little, and it’s irrelevant for most writers.

Big publishers are built for scale. They can, in essence, take large things and make them larger. But the average writer will get a marketing budget commensurate with what they expect your books to sell. That means virtually nothing for most of us. There’s a certain “chicken versus egg” loop at play. Authors think it’s a publisher’s job to earn them money, but publishers don’t see it that way. In their eyes, you and your book are assets at best and liabilities at worst. You’re a stock in their portfolio; you’ll either perform, or you won’t. They won’t market the crap out of you to ensure your success. It’s more accurate to say that they will market the crap out of you if you become successful.

Book publishers can get your book into big brick and mortar stores. That’s true. But unless they expect your book to sell quite well, the publisher won’t pay the extra money to get you prominently featured in that store: face-out on the shelf, displayed in the end caps, laid out on the front tables. That positioning isn’t earned by merit. With the exception of something like staff picks, a bookstore isn’t going to think your book is awesome and set it up front. Chances are, for most authors, you’ll be another anonymous spine on the shelf, begging for attention. Your book will then have a few weeks to prove itself, and if it doesn’t, the bookstore will declare it a failure, pull it from the shelf, and return it to the publisher.

For most authors, publishers will handle editing, covers, and book packaging. They’ll get your book into stores. From publicity to promotion, the rest is up to you.

Yes, technically, traditional publishers can do a few things that indies can’t … but for most writers, those things are irrelevant, especially compared to the loss of control. You can’t make assumptions. Always weigh all sides of any deal; know what you’re getting and what you’re giving up.

MYTH #3: Self-promotion and marketing are dirty.

Much of the resistance to selling and marketing people naturally have is the fault of used car salesmen, timeshare companies, and multi-level marketers — fields based on the hard sell. Nothing matters more than nabbing the buyer, and if you must deceive and bully your prospects to get that sale, so be it. Coffee is for closers, they say. So close, at all costs.

The world’s used car salesmen and high-pressure realtors have left a bad taste in our mouths, because no one likes being sold to, but that’s not what we’re talking about. Being sold to, for most people, is something that happens almost against your will. Like an assault. When you’re sold to, the salesman might as well be putting a knife to your throat. But haven’t you ever bought anything outside of a high-pressure situation? Have you ever seen something in a store or seen an advertisement, thought you might like that thing, then bought it? That’s selling. That’s marketing. The seller set the object or service in front of you and accentuated the positives so that you could agree to buy it. Transaction done, and no one had to get knifed.

Have you ever gone to see the sequel of a movie you liked, or ordered dessert when the waiter offered it after your meal? Have you ever Super-Sized your Value Meal? Those are all examples of an upsell — another “dirty” marketing word. Yet you probably don’t regret any of those transactions.

You might, in fact, have appreciated the chance to get more of what you already knew you liked, often at a preferred price. Shocking!

We could beat this to death, but you get the point. In valid, non-sleazy salesmanship and marketing, everyone wins. Do you really feel that you “lost” and that the seller “won” whenever you buy something? Do you really feel that duped? No? So, why be hesitant when you’re in the seller’s position?

In an ethical sales transaction, the buyer and seller should be equally pleased. Each party should feel like thanking the other.

Ethical marketing is nothing more than letting people who might like your product know it exists — and, ideally, giving them some sort of a deal that makes the offer better for the potential buyer.

If you ever find yourself resisting sales and marketing, read the previous two paragraphs a few times until you believe them, because they’re true. If you refuse to believe they are — if some deep part of your brain continues to insist that all sales and marketing are about manipulation and winning at someone else’s expense — you’ll never succeed as an indie author.

MYTH #4: Self-publishing is a lottery, and you can (or have to) get lucky.

This is one-title thinking.

If you’re thinking self-publishing is a lottery (either one you hope to win or one you hesitate to enter because winning seems impossible), please do yourself a favor and look at the title of our book. We called it Write. Publish. Repeat for a reason. You must write, publish, then do it all over again.

There are success stories out there like 50 Shades of Gray, where an author had exactly one title, and that book blew up big time, but those are lottery scenarios and in no way typical. E.L. James scrambled to write the rest of the 50 Shades trilogy after she started making the equivalent of a small nation’s GNP each month, but even today every book in her catalog starts with 50 Shades. E.L. James did hit the self-publishing lottery, and never has to write another book if she doesn’t want to. But don’t let her story discourage you because it seems so unlikely. Don’t let her story encourage you, either, because you’re hoping for the same.

To the gamblers: You’re not going to have that one-in-a-million hit, so stop hoping for it and keep writing.

To the skeptics: You don’t need to have that one-in-a-million hit … because you can keep writing.

We do not believe in lightning-strike thought, or that you must hit it big to find success as an indie. A surprising hit would be great, and surely boost your catalog. We’ve raised a dozen funnels to market, with around 40 individual titles. If one of our titles hits BIG, everything sells at least a little more. But the magic is that we don’t need a big hit. The approach we believe in, use ourselves, advocate, and evangelize is workmanlike. Get one book that makes $200 per month, then create another 20 or 30 like it over time. Two hundred dollars per month is in no way a big hit, but it’s good. And achievable. It certainly isn’t the lottery.

Any good, persistent, business-minded, prolific writer can succeed if they keep writing and moving forward. For the modern writer, that’s excellent news.

Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt published 1.5 million words and built full-time self-publishing careers from scratch in 2013. In their comprehensive self-publishing guide Write. Publish. Repeat, they tell you everything you need to know about how to do the same. The book is half price for launch (and comes with a bonus book) through Friday, December 6.

How I Diversified My Blogging Income Beyond Having All My Eggs in the AdSense Basket

Last week I wrote about the experience of almost losing my online business as a result of having too many eggs in one basket and then followed up with a post on what I did to diversify the traffic sources coming into my blog to become less reliant upon Google.

Today I want to continue talking about diversification but to switch our attention to diversifying income streams.

Ways-to-Make-Money-Blogging1

Back in 2004 when I almost went under, I not only was too reliant upon traffic from the Google Search Engine – I was also very reliant upon Google’s AdSense Ad Network as the main source of income for my business.

AdSense had been very good to me up until that point (and it continued to be for years after), but by focusing so much of my efforts upon it I now see that it left me exposed and in a risky position.

As I suggested last week, a great question to ask is:

Is there a single thing that could kill my business right now?

At that time, AdSense accounted for 95% of my income – losing it would have had pretty devastating consequences.

I had already been experimenting with a few extra income streams in 2004 (including Amazon’s Affiliate program, some small time direct ad sales, and some other affiliate programs) but had become a little lazy in these experiments – mainly because Adsense was already doing so well (I was pretty much at a full time income from it).

As a result of almost losing it all in December 2004, I came to my senses and decided it was time to get my act together and to begin to grow some serious extra income streams.

How I Diversified My Blogging Income

Other Ad Networks

My first experiment was to try to find another advertising network that might work like AdSense. I tried a few (Yahoo had one at the time, for example) but none really converted as well as AdSense for me until I found Chitika (aft).

Chitika blew my mind. I remember the day I came across it and was impressed with it because, like AdSense, it was just a matter of copying and pasting code into my blog to show the ad – but unlike AdSense it showed ads with product images IN the ad unit. This was particularly good for me because my blog at the time was a camera review blog and I was talking about products every day.

I excitedly added an additional Chitika ad unit to every page on my photography blog at that time and the next day logged in to see how it had performed.

It did really well and that single ad unit made about 25% of what AdSense did every day.

Over the coming weeks I added more ad units and tested new positions of ads and grew that Chitika income to the point that some months in the year that followed saw it earn more than AdSense. Amazingly to me this increase in income from Chitika didn’t come at the expense of AdSense which continued to work well.

Note: Chitika ads don’t work perfectly on every blog. I myself noticed that they slowly slid back in what they earned over the next few years and today I don’t use them any more – mainly because we’ve moved to selling ads directly to advertisers (more on that below).

Making Money BECAUSE of my Blog

As my blogs and my own personal profile grew (particularly here at ProBlogger) I began to notice opportunities open up for me to generate an income by offering my services of creating other products to sell.

These largely fell into three categories – speaking, consulting and writing a book.

The speaking came first. I had already done a little speaking for free in my local area, but after launching ProBlogger I began to get paid opportunities to speak to groups about blogging.

These started off being local opportunities in my city but then grew to become interstate and international.

Similarly, as my readership on ProBlogger grew, I began to get emails from readers wanting to hire me to help them with their blogging.

I began to offer ‘blog consulting’ services where I would charge an hourly rate to advise bloggers. I didn’t stick at this for long as I didn’t find it as enjoyable as actually blogging – and I also thought I could probably help more bloggers by writing about blogging rather than working one on one with bloggers.

Also around this time I was approached by Wiley US to write the first edition of the ProBlogger book (a paper one). This book is now in its third edition.

While speaking, consulting, or the book never became million dollar income streams, they all did help me to diversify my income – they also all helped me to grow my audience and learn a lot!

Additional Onsite Income Streams

Over the years since numerous other income streams have emerged.

These have come to include the Job Board here on ProBlogger, the membership site at ProBlogger.com (stay tuned for some big news about this in the coming months) and what became my biggest income stream – selling eBooks that relate to my blogs topics.

Each of these streams started as a small experiment to see what I could learn and what I could grow.

The job board has been a slow burner income stream in many ways. It generally only sees 1-2 jobs added to it every day at $50 a pop, but over the years this has added up to bring in more than $100,000.

eBooks had a more spectacular impact on profit. Again, I started slow with a single eBook that I put together largely by myself and a little outsourcing. I didn’t know how it would go but after nervously launching it to the photography blog audience that I’d worked hard to build up, it generated over $70,000 in a week (important note: I had been blogging on that blog for years and had build a decent audience – it didn’t happen overnight)!

The success of that eBook launch led me to publish more photography eBooks (15 so far) and ProBlogger eBooks.

Other Related Sites

As Digital Photography School has grown, there have been a number of opportunities to start new related ventures off the back of that original site.

The first of these was SnapnDeals – a deals site for photographers where we promote both our own eBooks that might be on special, but also other people’s products as an affiliate.

Similarly, we’ve also launched SnapnGuides – a photography mini-eBook site (we’ve published two eBooks there so far) that are smaller and cheaper eBooks/guides on niches of photography.

I have numerous ideas for other smaller ‘sister sites’ for the photography niche that I’d like to roll out in the coming years.

Events

Four years ago I had an impulsive idea to run an event for Aussie bloggers. Six weeks later we held our first ProBlogger Training Day for 100 bloggers in Melbourne.

We’ve held this event every year since, each each time growing not only attendance levels, but also the professionalism of the event.

We’ve also added a ‘virtual ticket’ for those unable to get to Australia for the event.

While not a huge money spinner, it is another income stream in the business and helps support other aspects of what I’ve built.

Direct Ad Sales

In the last few months I’ve circled back to one of the early income streams that I touched on above – direct sales of ads.

I’ve never really stopped doing this but last month have completely removed AdSense from my blogs for the first time since I started blogging and have engaged the services of a great little team of ad sales specialists to sell ads directly to advertisers.

The initial results have been very encouraging!

While I know some people have a lot of negative things to say about AdSense, I’ve never really written it off completely. It’s an ad network that has generated over a million dollars over the last nine or so years, and the people at Google have been nothing but helpful to us. But for now, we’re seeing more potential in working directly with brands.

The Current State of Play for Me

Here’s a breakdown of my own income streams in April of this year. While it doesn’t reflect the switching off of AdSense (Ad Networks) or the increased attention to direct ad sales, it shows you how I’ve become less reliant upon any one stream of income for my blogs.

NewImage

What is Your Income Split Like?

That’s my story – what about you?

Of course there are many many more potential income streams for a blog, but I’d love to hear your experience.

Have you got a variety of income streams? Or are you focusing pretty heavily upon a single one?