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Beginner Week: Bite the Bullet and Start Your Blog with this Seven-Point Checklist

Theme WeekWelcome to ProBlogger’s second theme week – where we take a topic you’re interested in and drill right down to bring you all the information we can find to be of use to you. This week we are focusing on newbies – what do all beginner bloggers want to know? What are the first points of reference we should use, and where do we go from there? Today, please welcome Ali Luke from Zen Optimise, who has put together a handy checklist of things you should do in your first week of blogging to get yourself off the ground. There is also a fantastic deal on Darren’s “ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging“, full of hints, tips and practical exercises for the beginner blogger. Even if you’ve had your blog for a while, it’s a great refresher of what really works in getting your site some traction. You can find all the content for this week’s theme at the bottom of this post.

Without further ado – here’s Ali.

Have you been reading ProBlogger for weeks, or even months, so you can learn everything you need to know before setting up your blog?

You might be wasting your time.

That’s not to say that the content on ProBlogger isn’t hugely valuable: of course it is. As a new blogger five years ago, I devoured a large chunk of the archives – and even today, I still get inspired (and pick up a few new tips) from posts here.

But I also know how easy it is to fall into the trap of reading post after post, struggling to make sense of it all, and wondering how you’ll ever take in all the information out there.

“Be Prepared” Can Go Too Far 

While it’s great to do some research before diving in and starting a blog, it’s easy to end up reading post after post after post … without taking any action.

Until you get your blog up and running, you won’t really know what you need to know. You might be reading about topics that you’ll never need to concern yourself with – or you might be missing out on information that’s going to be crucial.

Launching your blog can feel like a huge step. You want to get every detail right; you want it to be perfect right from the start.

The problem is, if that perfect ideal keeps you stuck, you’ll never have a blog at all. And a real, imperfect blog will outperform an imaginary perfect one in every way imaginable…

Start Your Blog This Week: Your Checklist

It’s time to bite the bullet. No, you probably don’t feel ready. Yes, there’s a lot you still don’t know. But you will learn so much faster from actually blogging than from simply reading about it.

Here’s what you need to do. If you tackle one task each day, you’ll have your blog up and running next week:

Day 1: Set a Clear Goal

What do you want your blog to do for you? “Make money” is a popular answer – but how?

Is your blog going to support your existing business and bring in new customers?

Do you have a service to offer, like design, writing, or coding?

Is it going to be market research – and a platform – for a book that you plan to launch?

Are you going to bring in lots of traffic and sell advertising space?

Will you review products as an affiliate, taking commission on sales?

All of these are perfectly valid strategies, but you need to be clear about what you’ll be doing right from the start.

Of course, your blog doesn’t have to be a money-making tool. Perhaps your motivation for blogging is to get your writing out there to the world, or to build up a strong reputation in your field.

Further reading:

Top 10 Blog Monetization Strategies, Ranked In Order (Blog Marketing Academy)

To do: 

Write your goal down, and keep it somewhere visible. You want to have your goal in mind over the next few days.

Day 2: Choose a Platform

There are so many different blogging platforms out there, and there’s a good chance you’ve heard of (and maybe tried out) a fair few of them. I’ll name a handful of them: WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, Tumblr, Squarespace…

Let’s make this decision easy. Your best option is almost certainly WordPress.

It’s used by most of the top blogs (including ProBlogger) and it’s a hugely flexible and powerful platform.

Ideally, you’ll want to go with self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) where you install your blog on your own web space. If you can’t afford hosting, though, you can use WordPress.com – this is still a powerful blogging platform, but it has certain limitations.

Further Reading:

Self Hosted WordPress.org vs. Free WordPress.com (WPBeginner)

To do:

Decide whether you’re using WordPress.org (self-hosted, recommended) or WordPress.com (hosted, a good second choice).

The rest of these instructions assuming you’re using WordPress.org; if you using WordPress.com or a site like Blogger, you won’t need hosting, and you can choose not to buy a domain name. (If you don’t buy your own domain name, you’ll have one like yourname.wordpress.com.)

Day 3: Decide on Your Domain Name

Your domain name (sometimes called your URL or your web address) is what users type in to visit your site. ProBlogger’s domain name is problogger.net.

To get a domain name, you need to register it with a domain name registrar – a site like GoDaddy (well known) or Namecheap (popular for its high-quality customer service).

Domain names aren’t especially expensive to register, and will normally cost you around somewhere around $12 per year. Prices vary between domain name registrars, and some suffixes (the .com or .net etc) cost more than others.

When you’re choosing your domain name, aim to:

Keep it fairly short. Long domain names are hard to remember and type.

Keep it to two words or fewer if possible.

Make it match the name of your website. If Darren called this site “ProBlogging Tips” but had the domain name “ProBlogger” it would be confusing for readers.

Avoid using hyphens if you can: if another website has the same domain without a hyphen, readers may end up there by mistake.

Use a .com suffix if it’s available. If you really want a particular name and the .com is taken, you can use .net. If your readers are mainly from your own country, you can use your country’s domain (e.g. .co.uk for the UK or .ca for Canada).

Further reading:

Five Best Domain Name Registrars (Lifehacker.com)

To do:

Come up with several possible domain names. Use WHOis.net to see which ones are available. (Simply typing them into your browser won’t necessarily tell you if they’re available or not, as sometimes domains are registered without hosting so no site will show up.)

If you’re self-hosting WordPress and thus buying hosting, you may want to register the domain name through your host – this can make life slightly simpler.

Day 4: Buy Hosting

Many bloggers find “hosting” a tricky concept to get their heads around. Here’s how it works.

For your website to be online, all the files for it need to be kept on a computer that’s always connected to the internet. (It’s technically possible for you to host your website on your own computer – but there are a huge number of reasons why you probably wouldn’t want to do this, including security issues, and the cost of keeping your computer switched on all day and all night, all the time.)

Web host companies provide space for your site on their servers (huge computers), which are permanently connected to the internet. These servers also have special software that allows you to install WordPress on your site. You pay a monthly or annual fee for this, usually around $7 – $15 per month.

There are loads of web hosts out there; personally, I use Dreamhost for all my own websites – but I’ve included links to other suggestions in the further reading.

Further reading:

How to Choose the Best WordPress Hosting? (WPBeginner)

To do:

Choose your host and sign up for an account. Don’t spend hours agonising over the choice – you can always switch hosts in the future if you decide they weren’t the best option for you.

Day 5: Install WordPress

Assuming you’ve chosen a WordPress-friendly host, you’ll probably have a simple and easy way to install WordPress – often with a “one-click installation” option.

Follow your host’s instructions, and get WordPress installed on your site. During the installation process, you’ll be prompted to enter:

The name of your site.

The username for an administrative account.

A password.

Your email address.

The only bit you can’t change later is the admin username. Avoid using “admin” as that’s way too easy for hackers to guess!

To login to your site, go to www.yoursitename.com/wp-login. You’ll automatically be directed to your dashboard – the “behind the scenes” view of your WordPress site – after logging in.

You’ll also have the option to make your site invisible to search engines. This can be reassuring while you’re developing your blog, but if you switch this on, don’t forget to switch it off again later! (You can do so in your WordPress dashboard under Settings Reading.

Further reading:

Secure Your WordPress Blog Without Touching Any Code (ProBlogger)

To do:

Get WordPress installed. It will probably be easier than you think! If you have time to spare, poke around in the WordPress dashboard to get a sense of all the different options and functions.

Day 6: Choose Your Theme

The look and feel of your blog is determined by its theme (sometimes called the template). You can switch your WordPress theme without losing any of your content – your posts, pages, sidebar widgets and so on are stored separately.

To change themes:

Go to your WordPress dashboard (www.yoursitename.com/wp-admin).

Click on Appearance  Themes

Choose a theme you like and click Preview to see how your site will look in that theme.

Click Activate to switch your site over to the new theme.

There are thousands of WordPress themes available online, so if you don’t find anything you like in the current themes section, look around. Free themes tend to be more limited in functionality and design; premium (paid for) ones often have lots of new options.

Further reading:

How to Pick a WordPress Theme That Doesn’t Suck (StuffedWeb)

To do:

Select a “good enough” theme – it doesn’t have to be perfect. If you’re creating a website for an existing business, consider using a premium theme that’s tailored to your industry. (E.g. there are restaurant themes, band themes, guest house themes…)

Day 7: Write Your About Page

Once you’ve got your theme up and running, there are still a lot of tasks ahead. New bloggers often wonder what to prioritise. Getting their sidebar spruced up? Posting lots of content? Adding their “Services” page? Including an option for readers to get posts by email?

All of those are important – but one of the very first things you should do is get your About page in place.

New readers will very often look for and click on “About” (or “About me” or “About us”) to find out who you are and what they can expect from your blog. If the page doesn’t exist, or if it’s badly put together, they might shrug and go on their way (and never return).

A good About page needs to:

Tell the reader what your blog (or company) is about and how it can help them. It’s often a good idea to put this information up front, perhaps after a few words introducing yourself (“Hi, I’m Bob Jones, and I blog here about…”)

Introduce you so that the reader feels a sense of connection. You can do this in a straightforward way, or with humour, with a list of interesting facts about you, with your credentials and experience, with an inspiring story … whatever fits with the tone and brand of your blog.

Include a photo of you. This isn’t an absolute rule, but it helps readers come to trust you – and if you’re selling them products or services, or promoting affiliate products, this is important.

Be updated regularly. Your blogging mission might change; facts about you and your life might change. If your About page is clearly years out of date, your blog is going to look cobwebby at best … and abandoned at worst.

Get the basics of your page in place, then, once you’ve been blogging for a couple of weeks, update it and:

Link to two or three of your best posts. This is a great way to draw readers further into your blog.

Let readers know how to subscribe to your blog by email. Even if you’ve got a big email sign-up box in your sidebar, readers may not notice it.

Further reading:

Are You Making These 7 Mistakes with Your About Page? (Copyblogger)

To do: 

Write your About page. You might find it easiest to split it into two sections, “About the Blog” and “About Me”. If you can, ask a friend or colleague to look over it and give you feedback – they may have ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of.

And that’s it! Your blog isn’t only online, it’s looking good, and it’s ready for you to publish your first post. This is just the start of an exciting journey – and I wish you all the best with it.

Ali Luke is Head of Content at Zen Optimise, where she leads small group courses on blogging and writing for the web. Once you’ve got your blog set up, check out 7 Rules for Creating Highly Successful Posts for powerful tips plus handy further reading suggestions.

Beginner Theme Week Posts on ProBlogger

New Blogger Katie180′s Success Story
We Asked Veteran Bloggers to Reflect on Mistakes Made in Their Early Days
Darren’s 43 Dos and 25 Don’ts of Blogging
Resource Roundup – 1o Links New Bloggers Can’t Live Without

How to Take a Blog Break Without Losing Momentum

Paradise waiting

A Guest post by Stacey Roberts from Veggie Mama.

As anyone who has ever started a blog knows, it can be hard work. The internet never sleeps, and it seems at times neither do you! In the 24-hour machine that is the blogosphere and accompanying social media, there is the potential for our blog/life balance to be so far off kilter it’s all but disappeared from view. And the best way to deal with blogger burnout is to stop it before it begins.

Working for yourself means you also have the luxury of choosing when you can shift gears. And while you might not have a colleague to step up and take over in your stead, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your site will suddenly plunge to the depths of the internet where blogs go to die if you’re not there to constantly push it back up to the surface. The fear of being forgotten is very real, as the blogosphere is awash with ten more blogs to take your place should you quiet down. But the trick is finding the minimum amount of effort you need to spend to keep your hard-earned traffic, and ring in some help along the way.

Step One: Get organised

First thing you need to do is define how long you are going to spend away. I was having a baby, so I planned for three months and had a tentative plan for the fourth. Figure out how many posts would be the minimum to keep your readers interested, and set them into an editorial calendar. There are plenty of ways to do this – use the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin, use software, a downloadable template, your laptop calendar, a real calendar, or you can go old-school like I did and draw a colourful diagram with connector pens.

The next step is to fill those spots with content ideas. There are plenty of things you can write ahead and schedule – I did a mix of non-time-sensitive posts, recipes, tutorials and guest posts. Once you have an idea, then set aside a chunk of time to tackle the posts and have them ready to go. You already have inspiration because you’ve created a list of ideas ahead of time, all you need to do now is flesh them out. Or if you can’t find the time to write a bunch of posts in one go, then commit to writing two posts each time you sit down to write one. Publish one, and schedule the other for a future date. You also might like to re-post earlier content – we all have that one brilliant piece we wrote when we were first starting out, which only two people read. Bring it back out and let it get the love it deserves!

Spend some time either creating your own images for the posts, or searching for stock images. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to write a post once the title and image are sitting there, ready to go. Make a list of what you need and stockpile them, to save time searching for each one as you write your content.

Write a post explaining to your readers what to expect, and when you’ll be back. Most readers are happy to give you some breathing space and pop back when you return. You’re probably also doing them a favour – less posts in their readers mean they get a break from keeping up with the blogosphere’s breakneck pace!

Step Two: Get some help

If there’s too much to do and too little time, then call for reinforcements. Write a post asking for guest posters, outlining your contribution guidelines (it is much easier if they all come in the same format, because uploading 40 different blogging styles can be just as much work as writing the content yourself!), and setting your standards. You might like to include ideal post length, whether or not it needs an image (and be certain that the image they supply complies with copyright law!), and whether they need to write their own bio and supply a head shot. Guest posts are usually better received if you have written a small intro before they begin, and helps keep your voice on your site, which is why your readers read you in the first place. Submissions in HTML format are light-years more easy to deal with than document attachments and separate images, but not everyone is au fait with that.

Reach out to your networks and let them know you’re looking for contributions. Are you a member of blogging groups or organisations? Put the call out on your blog’s Facebook page and other social media accounts. You might like to open it up to up-and-coming bloggers looking for a big break, or you might like to only invite established writers with their own readership. Or you could simply hire professionals.

Judge what mix is best for you and your readers – keep your own content a constant, if you can. While your readers will appreciate you’re taking a break, and enjoy some fresh views, it’s your voice they want to read.

Step Three: Get away

Get right away. You’ve done all you can ahead of time. You’ve automated tweets and Facebook updates using the scheduled post’s permalink, and everything should run smoothly (you hope!) with little or no effort from you. Stepping back and clearing your head does wonders for motivation and creativity – soon you will miss your blog, and have ideas coming out your ears for future content. But until that happens, break up with your blog just a little bit. Get outside and get a life (as Darren says!), so you’ve got some depth to your writing. Don’t even open your laptop if you don’t have to. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say, and nobody likes forced writing. When you’ve reignited the passion for blogging, your words will flow better and you’ll create more of a connection with the reader.

If you absolutely can’t bear the idea of totally stepping away, or you don’t need to, then pop up every now and then with a fresh post. You never know when inspiration will strike, and it’s always best to bow down when it does. Keep up your networking and being part of the community with your social media accounts – maybe Instagram your break and the new things you now have time for, to keep your followers in the loop. If you’re troubled by dips in traffic on the days you’re not posting, then invite readers into your archives by tweeting a new old link for them to read.

Nobody likes a burnt-out blogger, and you and your readers both know when stuff’s getting stale. Take a well-earned break and keep the home fires burning so it’s still warm when you get back.

Have you taken a break? I’d love to hear any tips you learned along the way.

Stacey Roberts is the blogger behind Veggie Mama, and when she’s not writing about good food and motherhood, she’s teaching media law at university. Or avoiding the laundry. She’s an Instagram ninja here, on Facebook here and tweets @veggie_mama.

How to Protect Your WordPress Site Before the Hackers Lock You Out!

This is a guest contribution from Caleb Lane, WordPress security expert.

Fool proof lock and chain

I am sure you already have on your to do list that you need to respond to emails, return phone calls, show up for meetings, write more content, and a whole lot more.

But, what if I told you that the effects of being hacked could cause all of your work to be destroyed and you would have to start over?  I bet your to do list would change a little bit if all of the work you have done on your website was gone forever.

That is why WordPress security is very important and you need to add it to the top of your to do list.

For those who use WordPress there are some things that you can do to make sure your site is as secure as possible. Here are 11 things that you should do to help ensure your site is as safe and secure as possible:

1. Create Strong Passwords

This is one of the easiest things to do to ensure your website is secure. Many people make excuses due to it taking too much time, but should be taken very seriously. Each of your sites should have a different password.

  • Every password should be at least 15 characters long, and it’s best if your password does not contain a real word.
  • You should use capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters such as a question mark.
  • Your password is your first form of protection against hackers, so make sure you come up with a strong one.

Once you have secure passwords for all of your sites, you should never just write them down.

The only two places your passwords should be are in your head or within a password manager with a strong master password.

If you are going to use a password manager, LastPass or KeePass should do the job for you. LastPass offers a free version and a premium version for $12 a year, while KeePass is open-source and completely free. If you decide to use KeePass, make sure you keep a backup of the password database file in case the file becomes corrupted or your hard drive fails.

2. Keep Your Site Updated

When it comes to WordPress, many people do not want to take the time to make sure they have all of the current updates.

Remember WordPress is not releasing these updates just so they can get media attention. The updates are released to fix bugs, patch security holes, and to introduce new features.

Will any solution always remain a step ahead of the hackers? No, but when there are security holes that are known and there are patches available, you need to implement them on your site. There are no excuses for not keeping up with the updates.

You should also make sure to keep your plug-ins and themes up-to-date.  Also, if you have a VPS or dedicated server, keep all of the things associated with the server up-to-date as well.

Now you may be thinking, how do I do this with all my websites?  Thankfully Infinite WP and Manage WP allow you to manage and update all of your sites from within one dashboard.

3. Changing the WordPress Login Username 

Change the username that is provided as the default admin user when you first set up your account.

Since most brute force attacks on your website are automated, they most likely will either use “admin”, “administrator”, “manager”, or your domain name to try to hack into your account, so use a random username instead. Of course the username should be backed by a strong user password using the guidelines that were covered earlier.

4. Guarding Against Brute Force Attacks

Many people do not realise that most sites have at least a few hundred unauthorised login attempts each day.

In addition to the possibility of successfully hacking into your blog, these attacks can also put a strain on your server resources. To guard against these brute force attacks, make sure you have taken the steps listed above. You can install a plug-in such as Limit Login Attempts that will lock out the hacker after a certain number of failed login attempts.

5. Malware Monitoring

You need to have a solution in place that will constantly monitor your site for malware.

A perfect free solution for this is WordFence which will scan your WordPress core, plug-ins, and themes for changes against the files in the WordPress repository. If there are changes to the files it will send you an email notification if you provide an email address within the plug-in options page.

Another malware monitoring solution that includes server side scanning as well as a variety of other features is Sucuri. Although it costs some money, it is well worth it for the additional features it provides.

6. Fix Malware Issues

In addition to your efforts to prevent malware from infecting your blog, it is always a good idea to find a way to clean up any malware issues that are detected. One of the costs that many blog and website owners tend to overlook is the cost of downtime that is associated with security problems and the time it takes to clean up those issues.

A good solution that will remove malware in the event that you are hacked is Sucuri. If you have been hacked already, you can sign up for their service and they will remove the malware even if you were hacked before signing up.

7. Choosing a Hosting Provider 

A substantial security risk comes from having your blog on a server that is shared. Consider the risks of your single blog and then multiply it by the number of blogs and websites on the same server.

If you choose shared hosting, it is likely that you are going to be lumped in with hundreds of other sites. The reason shared hosting is a big risk is because if another website on the same server as you gets hacked, your website can possibly be hacked as well.

While your own VPS or dedicated server may not be the right choice for you due to the knowledge to manage it and the cost, managed WordPress hosting may be a good alternative. They offer hosting that is more expensive, but well worth it considering the risks that comes with generic shared hosting.

With managed WordPress hosting you get better security, a faster site, better support, and full backups done automatically for you. The 3 managed WordPress hosts that stand out are WP Engine, Pagely, and Synthesis.  All of them are slightly different and have different benefits, so look into each one and pick the one that fits you best.

8. Clean Up Your Site

As well as protecting your blog you need to make sure you keep your blog tidy. Get rid of any old plugins and themes that you are not using anymore.

This also includes separating websites that are in production and still being developed by having them on separate servers.  Often times you will be working on a new website, but then forget about it for a few months. This causes the website to become out of date and vulnerable to being hacked. For this reason, it is always a good idea to separate websites on different servers that you are still working on from live websites in production.

9. Control Sensitive Information 

When you are cleaning up your blog files make sure that you are not leaving any important information available for the world to access. Check your phpinfo.php and i.php files. These are like roadmaps to your set up and a hacker will be able to use this information to break in.

Another area of caution: don’t store backups of your site directly on your website’s server.  This is just inviting potential hackers to download the backups and hack into your website without any work!

Disabling directory browsing is a good idea to prevent a hacker from browsing your blog site’s folders and files for information that could lead to them finding a way to exploit you.

You can disable directory browsing by adding (without the quotes), “Options –Indexes,” to your .htaccess file.

The last thing you have to be careful with is using the file manager within CPanel and having it save temporary copies of important files such as wp-config.php. That is why it is always better to use secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) with a program such as FileZilla.

Bonus Tip: Never store your passwords within FileZilla because they are not encrypted. If you were ever to get malware on that computer, it is very common for malware to search for passwords stored within FileZilla and use them for malicious intent.

10. Backup Your Site 

It is always a good idea to backup your blog site in case your site gets hacked or even if you made the wrong change to a file and want to restore a prior version.

The two best solutions for backing up your site are BackupBuddy and VaultPress. If you are using another backup solution already that is fine just make sure it isn’t overwriting the previous backup and that you have backups going at least a few weeks back. It’s also very important to test the backup to make sure it works even if you don’t need it.

11. Be Vigilant 

This is fairly simple to explain. You need to stay on top of everything that is going on in the WordPress security world.

Remember, preventing issues in the first place is better than detecting and fixing them later. While a managed WordPress host will have your back, it is also important that you have your own back as well.

Take the steps that are listed above to help make your WordPress site as secure as possible and keep an eye on stories about website security as well. Never think that the security issues are only affecting other sites… they can just as easily affect yours.

Caleb Lane is the WordPress security expert for Lockdown 2013, where you can learn how to secure your WordPress website.  He spends his time consulting with companies about their website security and keeping his clients updated about the latest changes and news in website security.

Is Blogging Still Relevant in a World of Social Media? [6 Reasons Why I Think It Is]

“How relevant is blogging for today in a world of so many types of social media?”

I must hear this question – or a variation of it – at least once a week. So I thought I’d open it up for some discussion to the wider ProBlogger community.

What do you think?

My feeling is that blogging is a very relevant option for developing a web presence but as the question states – there are other legitimate options too.

Each option has their own pros and cons and depending upon your goals and your resources (including how much time you have) you may choose to do all of the options available or just choose some.

Why I Think Blogging is Relevant

A few of the main arguments why I keep blogging as opposed to just using social media include:

  1. if self host your blog and use a blogging platform like WordPress.org you retain full control over your blog and what it looks like, how you monetize it and what kind of content you can put on it
  2. a blog allows you a lot of freedom in terms of length of posts (as opposed to Twitter/Facebook which limit length) and the design of your posts (i.e. inserting images, sub heading, bolding etc (G+ does give you some of this control) etc
  3. As long as you maintain it and pay for your hosting your blog can stay up forever and is not there as long as the social network may operate or be a relevant medium for people
  4. For me a blog is a place that I archive and showcase my best longer form and meaty stuff – social is an important place for researching what I write, sharing it and building community with my readers
  5. Much of what is shared and discussed on social media is links to longer form content – I want to be a creator of that
  6. In my experience it is easier to monetize and make sustainable a business based upon a blog over a social media account

Note: there will always be exceptions to the above. For instance G+ does give you some formatting options, I do know some people who monetize social media well etc – but in general I think the above stands up well.

Note 2: I’m certainly not arguing blogging is the only way or that you need to choose between blogging and social media. I use both but if I had to choose just one (which none of us have to) I’d choose blogging.

Why Others Think Blogging is Relevant

When I asked on my Twitter account yesterday for why my followers blog when they could use social media I got some great responses along these lines like:

I call it “share the message own the destination” – from Gavin Heaton

because sometimes thoughts should be developed beyond 140 characters or less – from James Woods

most of the value I get reading anything online still comes from longer format – from Reuben

I blog because it gives my voice and content a home. #SM platforms can delete anything I say if they so choose. – from Jessica Cue

Because the content is owned by me, not subject to the fine print of the legal text of a socmed service.Scott Fitzgerald

I SM to support my blog, I like the fact my blog space is my own to be me in. SM has it’s own rules depending on platform. – by Jessie Reid

Add Your Thoughts

The above thoughts (both mine and others) are just scratching the surface of this topic – I’d love to get your perspective on the relevancy of blogging for today in comments below!

11 Characteristics I Look for When Hiring Writers for My Blogs

Two months ago I went through the process of hiring a small group of writers to write weekly tutorials for Digital Photography School. I’ve written about the process of how I hire writers previously here on Problogger but today want to share some of the qualities I look for in the writers I hired this time around.

My hope is that it might both help those who are hiring bloggers but also those who are applying for blogging jobs.

Of course it is virtually impossible to find a blogger who is perfect in each of the following areas – however the more they have the higher the chances of me hiring them.

11 Characteristics I Look For When Hiring Bloggers

1. Expertise and Experience in the Blog’s Topic

This is fairly obvious but needs to be said. When I recently hired bloggers to write for my photography blog I of course needed them to show that they were experienced in the area of photography.

My blogs are ‘how to’ type blogs so in order to be able to teach one needs to understand their topic.

This does not mean I only hire highly experienced and trained experts – I have hired less experienced writers who bring other skills to the table – but expertise certainly helps.

When I invite applications to be submitted I always ask applicants to share their experience and to submit previously written work and to show their photographic portfolio. It is usually pretty evident from this as to whether the person understands what they are talking about.

2. Passion for the Topic

Experience is one thing – but being able to write with enthusiasm and passion for a topic is one thing that can add a lot to a blog post so I’m also keen to find writers who LOVE the topic.

In many ways I’d sooner hire someone with an intermediate experience level but who was very passionate than someone who was an expert who writes in a way that makes the reader wonder if the person cares about what they’re writing about.

Passion comes through in the way an applicant communicates in their application but also in previous work and also in the test posts that we have our applicants submit.

3. Quality of Posts

Another no brainer but you’d be amazed how many application I receive that show a lack of attention to detail in the actual application. If you’re applying for a writing job you need to demonstrate some quality control in what you submit and the examples that you give of your previous work.

Our hiring process invites short listed candidates to submit a ‘test post’ (which I pay for) which helps me to see if the person has the ability to write at a reasonably high quality.

I’m not so interested in the style of writing (we hire writers who write in a conversational tone, those who write more technically etc) but I’m looking for posts that communicate clearly and deliver value to readers.

4. Understanding of the Reader

The very best writers that I’ve hired have an incredible ability to understand, have empathy for and connect with readers.

This is a quality that is difficult to describe or teach – but it is something I’m always on the look out for.

I think part of it comes down to putting yourself in your readers shoes and understanding where they are coming from. I also think there’s a real skill in being able to show your reader that you know that they are there and that you want to help them in some way. Maybe it also comes down to writing with a more personal tone or in a way that injects a little of your own personality in your posts.

I’m not sure exactly what it is – but I know it when I see it – and so do readers!

5. Problem Solvers

This comes into a couple of the points above but I’m particularly looking for writers who solve readers problems. This again comes down to the fact that I have ‘how to’ blogs but every post that I write needs to solve a potential problem that someone reading might have.

Being able to teach and communicate in this way is no easy so when i see it I get excited!

6. Ability to Use WordPress

This one isn’t a deal breaker as it is relatively easy to train somebody to use most blogging tools but it certainly is an advantage when I get an application from someone who has experience with the blogging tool that I use – WordPress.org.

Again – it’s not going to stop me hiring you if you have other qualities listed here – but it does help a little!

7. Proven Track Record at Sticking at Projects

One problem that I’ve suffered from a couple of times now when hiring writers is that they start out hot but soon disappear – never to be heard of again.

A little digging into their history online in both of the cases that I’m thinking of reveals that they have a history of starting projects and not sticking at them (with a long string of inactive blogs, sites, social media accounts that started with a flurry but didn’t last.

Of course people chop and change what they do a lot these days but I’m particularly interested in hiring people who will be around for a while to develop relationships with my readers – so these days I do check to see if they’ve stuck at their own projects for long.

8. Applicants Agendas

I want the interactions that I have with those I hire to be win/win. This is why we pay those we hire but also why we give them generous bylines and allow them to do some promotion of their own projects to our audience in those bylines and occasionally in posts.

However every time we open up applications to hire writers there are a handful of people who see the job as an opportunity to promote themselves above anything else (and at the expense of the site and readers).

These are the applicants who use their test posts to link back to their own blogs, eBooks and social media accounts in every paragraph rather than using the post to showcase their expertise and helpfulness – which in turn will make our readers want to check them out.

I have no problem with our writers building their profile by writing for our site – but when that is the clear #1 agenda of an applicant and the usefulness of their submissions suffers as a result I’m unlikely to hire them.

9. Meeting Deadlines

I’m a little lenient with our writers on this one because I don’t want the quality of posts to suffer as a result of them being rushed – but it certainly helps your chances of getting hired if you submit your application and test posts when or before you say you will.

10. Proven Engagement

One thing that makes a writer stand out above the rest of those who submit applications is when you can see that they have a proven track record of community engagement on their own blog and when they answer the comments of those who interact with their test posts.

In this last round of hires there was a couple of great writers who submitted quite good posts who didn’t acknowledge any of the comments that they got. Contrast this with a writer who didn’t write a post that set the world on fire but who answered every single comment left and who showed a willingness to learn from the commenters. I hired this last writer because I could see he was genuinely interested in our readers.

On a similar note I also look to see if writers promote their own content to their own social networks. While writers don’t need to have a big social media following (although this can be a bonus) demonstrating that you’re willing to share what you write with the network you have helps.

11. An Understanding of Writing for the Web

The last thing that I’m looking for in applicants are those people who have an ability to write content for the web.

If you write content that can be scanned, that uses images well, that is well optimised for SEO, that uses great headlines, that is the kind of content that people will share on social media etc – then you’re going to be in with a better chance of being hired.

What Would You Add?

While I’ve never hired a writer that scored a 10 out of 10 in each of the above areas these are the types of characteristics I’m looking for when hiring a blogger.

What would you add to the list?

6 Tips for Managing Multi-Author Blogs Without Losing Your Mind

This is a guest contribution from  Alexis Grant, an entrepreneurial writer and digital strategist.

Managing multi-author blogs can be a lot of work; you’re juggling contributors, an editing funnel, your calendar and maybe even promotion on social channels. But if you put certain systems in place, stay organized and know where to focus your efforts, you can decrease your time spent on the project while significantly increasing your blog traffic.

Because my company, Socialexis, manages several large blogs, we’ve discovered a few handy tips for being both efficient and effective. Here are six ideas for handling posts from a variety of contributors in a way that will help you grow your traffic and your community:

1. Create contributor guidelines.

Putting some work into this up front will make your life much easier later. Rather than explain again and again what you’re looking for and how to submit, create guidelines and post them on your site, so you can refer potential contributors to that page.

But don’t stop there. Over time, make note of questions potential contributors ask, and add the answers to that web page. My team also likes to create bit.ly links for contributor guidelines, so we can easily remember and share the links.

For solid examples of contributor guidelines, check out guidelines for Muck Rack and Get Rich Slowly. If you can let your publication’s voice and personality shine in those guidelines, even better.

2. Take advantage of free tools.

There’s a huge range of blog management tools out there, but you can usually get by with free tools, especially if you’re not running a high-volume site. We use Google Calendar as an editorial calendar and share it with anyone within the organization who needs to know when certain posts will run.

We also use WordPress’s Editorial Calendar plug-in, which lets you drag and drop drafts if you need to change your schedule. And Google Docs — also free — is a great tool for collaborative editing, so the author can see what changes we’ve made.

3. Use Canned Responses.

This Gmail Lab is brilliant when it comes to emails you send again and again.

Keep receiving requests to write for your blog? Create a Canned Response that says you’d love to consider a post, with a link to your guidelines. Get a lot of pitches that aren’t a good fit? A Canned Response that says something along the lines of “Thanks, but this isn’t right for our audience” will do the trick.

To add Canned Responses to your Gmail, navigate to Settings, then Labs, then search for Canned Responses.

4. Create a database of writers.

To avoid finding yourself without solid blog posts, keep track of quality writers, and encourage one-time contributors to submit again. We ask writers to add themselves to our database of freelance writers, but you could also keep track via a simple Google spreadsheet. (If you’re a writer who wants to add yourself to our database, go ahead.)

This works whether you’ve got a particular topic you want someone to blog about (you can ask a blogger to write that post) or if your pitch well has gone dry (you can email the list letting them know you need submissions).

5. Optimize your headlines for SEO.

This is one of the best things you can do to help new readers find your site, and once you get the hang of it, it only takes a minute or two per post — putting it smack in the middle of the big-bang-for-your-buck category.

Sometimes, your SEO efforts will only send a trickle of traffic to the site until… BAM! One day, a post catches on in Google, and you land hundreds or thousands of new subscribers. Be consistent about tweaking your headlines so readers can find you via search, and your efforts will pay off in the long run. The increase in traffic will bring more potential contributors to your site, which makes your job as editor easier.

6. Work ahead.

When we respond to writers and let them know their post will run in three or four weeks, they’re often surprised to hear we schedule content that far in advance. But working ahead is the best way to minimize stress, increase quality and, yes, maintain your sanity.

When you schedule blog posts in advance, you’re far less likely to fall into the trap of publishing sub-par content just to get something on the blog by your deadline. This also gives you time to put posts aside and look at them with fresh eyes, which is one of the best ways to catch grammatical errors. Working ahead sounds simple, but it’s a great strategy for reaching your goals.

Follow these tips — along with offering valuable, relevant content — and you’ll be on your way to an awesome multi-author blog.

 Alexis Grant is an entrepreneurial writer and digital strategist. She and her team manage several large blogs, including a new site for writers, The Write Life.

13 Tools and Services I Use Every Day to Build a Profitable Blogging Business

Yesterday, during our Q&A webinar, we received a lot of questions about the tools and services we recommend for different aspects of blogging. While we touched on a few, there are quite a few more that I wanted to touch on.

Not all are strictly ‘blogging tools’ but all are things we regularly use as a team.

Note: I am an affiliate for some of the following tools and services but am also a daily user of all of them and have been for a minimum of 12 months.

Note 2: I’ve updated this list with 6 more tools that I use!

Of course there’s plenty more but they are the main things that come to mind!

What tools and services would you add to the list that make up part of your core online business toolbox?

10 Tools To Help Protect Your Blog From Content Theft

This is a guest contribution from Adam Connell, blogger at Bloggingwizard.com.

If you write or publish a blog, you’ll inevitably experience the gut-wrenching feeling of content theft at some point in the life of your blog. It’s not fair but it’s now just part of the world of online content.

What can you do to protect the content you slaved over?

There is no 100% fool-proof way to protect your content, but you can make it more difficult for content thieves to steal your work and to punish them when they do.

I’m going to share some ways you can protect your content from theft and give you some resources to use to defend it against thieves and scrapers.

Padlock on door and your blog content!

How Do You Know If Your Content Has Been Stolen? 

Posting a copyright notice on your blog is a deterrent, albeit a small one. A copyright notice lets would-be content thieves know that you understand your rights to the fruits of your labor and that you intend to protect them. Nevertheless, not everyone is going to be deterred by your copyright notice.

The following online tools can be used to discover whether your content has been stolen or not. What you do after that is another story.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts are simple e-mail alerts you can establish by notifying Google that you want to keep tabs on certain keywords or phrases. Copy a unique phrase in your blog post or the title of your post and ask Google to send you an e-mail any time it is published elsewhere on the Web.

Use a plagiarism checker

There are several plagiarism checkers online. All of them have their benefits. Grammarly is a proofreading service and grammar checker, but it will also check your text against plagiarism. Plagium is another one. However, unlike Grammarly, you can check an entire URL to see if your content has been plagiarized.

While Grammarly and Plagium both are good services, Copyscape is more recognized. Like Plagium, you can check an entire URL for plagiarism, and you can put a “Protected By Copyscape” notice on your blog, which should scare away a few content scrapers.

All three services have a free service level and a premium paid service for high volume users.

Small Steps To Protecting Your Content From Theft

While Google Alerts and plagiarism checkers can tell you that someone has used your content without your permission, there are other things you can do to protect your content.

These are small steps that help you maintain a little control over your content and ensure that you at least get attribution should someone use your content without your approval.

WordPress SEO by Yoast

This WordPress plugin is useful if you are using the standalone WordPress software. The plugin has a feature that allows you to add some code to your RSS feed so that if your post is republished elsewhere, then an automatic link will be inserted pointing back to your website.

Some blogs use scraper software to automatically republish content from around the Web. No human is looking at these posts. If your blog is included among the URLs added to the scraper script, then you’ll at least get a link back. Don’t count on that link being very valuable, but it is there.

Tynt

Tynt is a service that provides code for you to insert into your web pages and will also tell you how many times your content has been copied and pasted. When someone copies and pastes your content, Tynt will add a link back to your website.

Google Authorship

Google Authorship is a content marketing strategy that associates your name or brand with your content in Google’s search index. By implementing Google Authorship you are increasing your chances of retaining control over your content by having your photo image appear next to your content in the search rankings.

While that won’t stop content thieves from scraping your content, it will make it easier to prove the content is yours and it will be easier to have stolen content removed when you file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint. Learn more about Google Authorship here.

What You Should Do If Your Content Has Been Stolen

It is not always necessary to confront a content thief. You have to determine if there’s any real damage to your content being stolen.

First, ask yourself if the person is profiting from your content. If they are, then that’s a red flag. Secondly, ask if your reputation may be damaged by someone claiming that content. And thirdly, ask if it’s worth your trouble to pursue the content thief. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.

So let’s say that you determine you want to pursue the content thief and have them remove your content. Your first step should be to send them a friendly letter by e-mail, or by using their contact form, and asking them to remove your content. Alternatively, you can ask them to link back to your website.

If that doesn’t work, then you’ll have to take other measures.

You can start by finding out where their website is being hosted and contact the hosting company. Let the hosting company know that they are hosting a website that is stealing content. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the hosting company is obligated to prevent access to websites that have infringed on someone’s copyright.

WhoIsHostingThis.com

You need to find out who is hosting the website that stole your content. That’s where Who Is Hosting This comes in. Once you know who is hosting the website, you can then send a DMCA request to the hosting company to have the website taken down.

Remove content from Google

To have content removed from Google’s search index, you’ll have to file a DMCA request with Google.

One Final Step To Combatting Plagiarism: Creative Commons

As I noted earlier, copyright notices are small deterrents. The same goes for Creative Commons.

However, Creative Commons licenses are becoming more acceptable and more popular. If people know that you don’t mind them using your content for benevolent purposes, they are more likely to respect your right to that content and its privileges.

Creative Commons

You can learn about the various Creative Common licenses on the Creative Commons website.

It’s a wild Web out there

Be diligent in protecting your content and you will reap the benefits of it for a long time to come.

What sort of experiences have you had with content theft? Whether you have successfully stopped people from stealing your content or not, we’d love to hear about it.

Adam Connell is an internet marketing and SEO nut from the UK. He can be found blogging over at Bloggingwizard.com, where he talks about marketing, social media, SEO and a few other topics. Follow him on Twitter @adamjayc.

The Definitive Guide to Setting Up and Marketing a Podcast to Help Grow Your Blog

This is a Guest Contribution by Chris Ducker, from ChrisDucker.com.

It’s no secret that the subject of podcasting has been a buzz for quite some time. In fact, some say that although there have been solid podcasting networks around for years and years, it’s only just in the last 12-18 months that the idea of starting a podcast, especially as a blogger, has become something that we’d even consider.

I’ve been blogging for three years and podcasting for almost as long. I’ve had three separate shows, but nowadays tend to focus on just my New Business Podcast, which goes along with my brand as a blogger and entrepreneur. I can categorically say that starting and marketing a podcast has been extremely important, when it comes to my success as a blogger.

So much so, that I would say if you could only add just one strategy to your blog marketing mix this year, I’d highly recommend podcasting, and here’s a few reasons why:

  • 45 million Americans download and listen to at least one podcast a month (source). That’s in the US alone – think about how many millions you can reach worldwide!
  • One in every four podcast listeners, tune into podcasts while driving (source). This is a good opportunity for you to have the undivided attention of your audience.
  • The volume of podcasts has remained fairly steady since 2011 (source). There’s a lot of opportunity for you to capture a chunk of that market share – regardless of what niche you’re covering.
  • The typical podcast consumer is between the ages of 12-34. They are also, high-ticket buyers, and are Internet savvy (source). Perfect if you’re wanting to monetize your blog.

On December 22, 2012, I launched my latest, aforementioned podcast. Within the first month of it being live I had enjoyed over 10,000 downloads via iTunes and had gained the number one spot in the two main categories I was going after, namely “Business” and “Marketing & Management”. Cool, right? Accident? Absolutely not.

There was a very clear strategy in place to make that success happen, which I’ll tell you more about later, so you can put it in place for your own podcasting success. However, before you can have a top ranking podcast, you’ve gotta create one!

Getting Ready to Podcast

If you’re still with me at this point, I’ll assume that you’re rarin’ to start your own podcast. But, let me tell you now that, just like setting up a blog for the first time, it’s going to take some planning and preparation to get your podcast out there in the right way.

As this guide unravels you’ll see me discuss the process of setting up, packaging and launching your podcast in the following phases:

  • Planning your Podcast – You’ll need your thinking cap for this phase!
  • Recording your Podcast – Hardware and software you’ll need to record your podcast.
  • Post Production Work – Exporting, editing, and tagging your audio for iTunes.
  • Publishing your Podcast – All about creating an RSS feed and submitting your podcast to iTunes and the other directories.
  • Marketing your Podcast – Advice and tips on how you can get your podcast to rank well, be found and help catapult your blog and brand online!

Please note there are a bunch of links in this post to resources such as hardware, software and other online tools – none of them are affiliate links.

Let’s begin!

Planning Your Podcast

As with any marketing endeavor, you need to sit down and spend some time thinking about what your podcast is going to be about, your target audience, your keywords and your goals. If you’re blogging already and want to focus on producing content for the same type of audience, then this part of the process will be a little easier and faster for you.

Note: If you’re not blogging already, or if you’re thinking of changing your blogging focus – this exercise is also perfect for you, too – just replace the word ‘podcast’ with ‘blog’…

Some of the things you need to be asking yourself, in preparation of getting going with your podcast are as follows:

1. Your Podcast Title

The name should be descriptive of what your podcast is all about. Take my podcast title for example, from its title alone you know that “The New Business Podcast” is all about business. More importantly, it contains a keyword (business podcast) phrase that I am optimizing my blog and my podcast channel for. Smart, huh?!

2. Your Podcast Subtitle

This will show up next to your podcast title. Your subtitle should complement your title and give listeners the chance to get an ‘elevator pitch’ on what your show is about. Try to include a few keywords here, too – it’ll help your show get found in searches.

3. Your Podcast Description

This is a good place for you to identify who your target listener is and what they can expect from your podcast, i.e. what topics you will be covering in your episodes, common takeaways, etc.

4. Your Podcast Artwork

People’s eyes are naturally drawn to images that “pop” from the rest, so use colors and font styles that will draw people to your podcast, as flowers attract bees. If you’re looking to build on a personal brand, then it’s a good idea to include your headshot in the artwork, along with your title (and possibly subtitle), too. Dimensions change from time to time, according to the directory your listing in. When it comes to iTunes, which is the 800lb podcasting gorilla that you want to be focusing on going after, your artwork needs to be 1400×1400, to make sure that it displays in the various sizes it gets listed in, such as web results, inside iTunes, via the podcast app on the iPhone and iPad, and so on.

No good at designing, or don’t want to have to do it all yourself? No problems, I have a solution for that later on…

5. Your Podcast Talent Name

Your talent name should tell people who you are in several words. It’s not just your name. You have the ability here to include several keywords that you want to be discovered for. It’s imperative that you utilize this option properly.

You’ll see in the screenshot below how I’ve covered (1) the title, (2) the subtitle, (3) the talent name, (4) the description and (5) my talent name.

PODCAST1.png

6. Your Podcast Intro and Outro

One of the ways that you can brand your podcast is by having a distinct intro and outro. It can be as simple as a piece of an instrumental music, or a combo of music and a short voice-over.

If you’re using music, make sure that you get the license to use it – iStockPhoto has some brilliant audio recordings you can license cheaply. Then get your voice-over ready and simply lay it on top of the music using some simple audio editing software, such as Garage Band.

Don’t want to record the voice-over, or edit your intro’s and outro’s together yourself? No problems, I have a solution for that later on…

When you have everything above ready, put them aside for use later on. You’ll need them when you submit your podcast to directories like iTunes, Zune, Blackberry, Stitcher, etc. Before I get into that stuff, let’s get stuck into what you’ll actually be submitting!

Planning Your Podcast

This is the fun stuff! Recording your podcast. I say fun because this is really where “YOU” come into play. This is where you share your knowledge and experiences to your listeners. To start recording audio, you’ll need to get the following sorted out first:

Your Show Format

Typically, there are two types of podcast formats you can go with. First up is the ‘solo’ show, where it’s just you talking into your mic, laying down all your experience for your listeners to indulge themselves in. Secondly is the ‘interview’ format show, where you bring on guests that can lend their own experiences and tips to your audience – much like I did with Darren, on my podcast recently.

You might also decide to do a combination of the two. I recently changed from a full interview format, podcasting twice a month, to a mix of interview / solo shows, which allows me to share my own experiences and business experience a little more freely, by publishing slightly shorter episodes (around 15-20 minutes), bi-weekly.

Microphone

This is a no brainer, I know. Can you use your laptop’s built-in mic? Certainly. Will it sound good? No! At the very least, you need to be recording with a microphone that is on a headset – preferably when it’s attached to your head!

However, if you’re really serious about using podcasting to take your blog, business, or personal brand to the next level, don’t scrimp on your hardware (besides, it doesn’t cost a fortune, anyway!). Invest in a good quality mic and a few cool accessories.

PODCAST2.png

My podcasting set-up is in the image above, here are the Amazon links to everything I use:

  • MicrophoneAudio Technica AT2020 USB Condenser Mic
  • Swing ArmRode PSA1 Swivel Mount Boom Arm
  • Pop FilterNady PF-6 6-Inch Clamp on Pop Filter
  • Shock MountSamsung SP01 Spider Mount
  • Audio Recording / Editing Software

    Another no-brainer. You need software to record your podcast. Whether you’re doing a solo show, or an interview format show, if you’re on a Mac, I suggest you get involved with GarageBand, and if you’re a PC user, then Audacity should be your top choice.

    If you’re recording interviews, I’ve found the easiest way to do this is via Skype.

    You can do this really easily on a Mac using the software, Call Recorder for Skype from Ecamm Network – it’s just $19.95, and allows you to record not only Skype-to-Skype calls, but also Skype-to-phone calls, too. On the PC you can do the same thing with Pamela. I recommend upgrading to the Professional version (€24.95) because of it’s specific support for bloggers and podcasters.

    Getting Ready to Record

    There are a number of things that I’ve picked up in the last few years since I started podcasting, in regards to actually planning the individual episodes.

    Firstly, make sure you plan out your show properly. If you’ve ever listened to a podcast before and thought that it sounded like it had been literally thrown together at the last minute, the chances are it probably was!

    If you’re interviewing a guest, visit that guests blog, or website. Snoop a little on what they’ve been up to on social media profiles – especially Twitter, as people tend to speak a little more freely on that platform. Then put together some questions, or at the very least a collection of bullet points on topics that you’d like to discuss with them.

    If you’ll be recording a solo show, that doesn’t mean this gets any easier. In fact, it’s harder, as it’s all about you, and only you! So, likewise, plan out your content by getting some ideas from your community, answer some questions they have and provide some solid ‘how to’ advice. All this coupled together with your charm, humor and entertainment factor, and you should be fine.

    Either way, I always like to make sure that I’ve got a glass of water close by, any material I might need to reference during the recording either on the screen, or better yet, printed in front of me – as well as making sure that all other distractions turned off.

    Now, go ahead and hit that recording button!

    Post Production Work

    We’re now coming down to the nitty-gritty of things. The dirty stuff that happens after you’ve recorded your podcast. This is where all the techie talk comes into play. Audio and sound engineers refer to this stage as post production work and it starts with exporting your audio file.

    Now, don’t be scared of this term. When I say export, it just means that you will save the file in a format that is recognizable by iTunes and other audio directories and devices – in other words, across the board – an MP3 file format. Name your file something relevant, like NBP001 (this is the title code I use for ‘New Business Podcast – Episode 1’).

    Note: For those using Audacity, you will be asked to download a LAME encoder the first time that you export an audio as an MP3 file. The system will direct you the download site or you can also download it here.

    After you’ve exported your audio file, the next thing to do is to edit your audio. You can do this using Audacity, or GarageBand, as we’ve discussed already.

    This is the part where you add the intro and the outro, remove background noise, adjust sound levels, and add any sound effects, voicemail recordings, etc. This is also where you trim the audio and remove portions that you’d rather not include in the final product.

    Drop an F-Bomb by accident? Bleep it. Stuttered, mumbled? Removed it. Recording run for too long? Cut it! You can do what you want – it’s YOUR podcast, after all.

    When you’re done with the file, the next thing you need to do is to save your edited audio as a new file. This way, just in case something happens in the future, you’ve got the original, un-edited file, along with the ‘final’ edited version, backed-up. Always back-up.

    Now that you’ve got your final audio (the version of your recording that the world will hear), you need to tag it properly, so that all the information related to your show gets uploaded with it, along with the file itself.

    Here’s a screenshot of how I tagged a recent episode of my podcast. You’ll notice all the information we finalized earlier coming into play here, such as the title, subtitle, description, talent name, etc. It’s also at this point that you’ll attach the podcast artwork to the file, too.

    PODCAST3.png

    After you’ve done this, give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve successfully tagged your podcast. Which leads us to the next step.

    Don’t know how to edit audio files together, or simply don’t want to have to worry about tagging your audio files yourself? No problems, I have a solution for that later on…

    Publishing Your Podcast

    This is essentially a three-step process which includes getting a media host sorted out, setting up your podcast only RSS feed, publishing your first few podcast episodes and then finally submitting your podcast to the major directories!

    Set Up Your Media Host

    Firstly, you need to figure out where you’re going to host your audio files. At first, as long as they are below the maximum upload size of 50MB, you can do this directly onto your WordPress server, via your usual dashboard. The only problem with this is that when your podcast becomes popular, you might have server issues, with all the download’s taking place!

    A far better way to attack this step in the process is to upload your files to a dedicated audio file / podcast server. I use the folks over at Libsyn, and they have been brilliant. They even promote my episodes and blog posts via social media, from time to time. Awesome customer service, too. With a few different payment options to choose from you can get started at just $5 a month, for 50MB – just enough space for one, maybe two episodes a month.

    Set Up Your Podcast RSS Feed

    Once you’ve uploaded your file to your media host, the next step is to create a feed for your podcast. This is the one area where a lot of people trip up. So, let me put that another way – you need to create a ‘podcast only’ RSS feed. I can try doing this on your own, if you’re tech-savvy enough, if not – here’s the perfect, step-by-step solution for you.

    Within WordPress, you’ll see five dozen, or so plugins listed when you search for “podcasting “ in the directory.

    We’re going to install and activate the best one, in my opinion. The Blubrry PowerPress Podcasting Plugin. Note: This is the same plugin you’ll use to actually publish each of your podcast episodes, too.

    Once installed, follow the steps below to create your Podcast Only RSS Feed:

    1. Under the Welcome Tab, check the box before “Custom Podcast Channels” and save. It will create one podcast channel by default.
    2. Edit the default “podcast” channel. You can find this in under the PowerPress menu in the left hand side. Change the name of the podcast to the Title of Your Podcast show. Don’t forget to save.
    3. Click Settings under the PowerPress menu and go to the Basic Settings tab. Make sure that the boxes are checked before Media URL and Media File Size and Duration. These options created additional fields in the Post Editor, where you can enter the file URL of your podcast. Keep in mind that this URL ends up in .mp3, or other audio file formats.
    4. Scroll down to the bottom and delete the URL in the Default URL field. Save again.
    5. Under the Feeds tab, make sure that “Enhance All Feeds” is selected.
    6. Copy the Podcast Only Feed URL. Since you have no podcast episode published yet, it will be in RED. Make a note of it for later use.
    7. Scroll down under the Feed Settings, set the number of podcast episodes you want to show in the feed, e.g. 10, 20, 50, or 100.
    8. Upload your RSS Image. This is the cover art you prepared when you were planning your podcast. The size of the image should be 300×300 pixels.
    9. Add a location to your RSS Feeds. If you don’t plan on traveling for each podcast episode, then put down your normal location.
    10. Save your new settings for the Feeds tab.
    11. Go to the iTunes tab and scroll down to the iTunes Feed Settings. Enter the details required namely Subtitle, Summary, Keywords, Host and Categories. Just copy these from your podcast plan. (Remember the one you prepared before you started recording?) Select three categories for your podcast.
    12. Set whether your podcast will contain explicit content or not. Upload an iTunes Image, which is the cover art you have prepare beforehand. Use the file size with 1400×1400 pixel dimensions.
    13. This is where you publish your first podcast episode. Just open a post draft, as usual, type out your show notes and then put the post in a ‘Podcast’ category, so it’s easier for archiving / searching in the future. Don’t forget to add the media URL – the file URL for your podcast that will end in .mp3, that’s sitting on your file server. The box for this is under the text editor box.
    14. Go back to the Feeds tab under the PowerPress menu and click on the “validate” link next to the Podcast Feed. This will open another window called Feed Validator, which will tell you if you’re feed is properly setup.
    15. Make sure that your Podcast Only RSS Feed URL is the same as the one you took a note of earlier on. This is important because this is the URL you will be submitting to the directories.

    Continue to Publish New Episodes – Now that your feed is set up, and your first podcast episode is published, all you need to do is continue to publish new episodes – and before submitting to the main directories – which are:

    Why do we need to publish more episodes BEFORE submitting? Because the chances of your podcast getting accepted by directories is correlated to the number of episodes you have. Meaning, the more episodes you have in your feed before submission, the more likely that it will get accepted.

    In fact, Blubrry for example, says that it requires seven episodes before they’ll accept your podcast into their own directory. However, I’ve found that a minimum of three episodes is usually good enough to get listed in these major directories, and lets not mess around here – iTunes is the one we really care about, right?! I got a listing on the iTunes store with just three shows for my latest podcast.

    Marketing Your Podcast

    Just because your podcast has been approved by the directories and you’ve started to publish regularly, doesn’t mean that you can relax. In fact, you now need to work even harder than ever to make sure that it’s found and downloaded by as many people as possible. Especially when it comes to getting a taste of a little iTunes success.

    How to Achieve Amazing iTunes Success – FAST!

    At the top of this post I mentioned the success I had enjoyed in the iTunes store. I utilized a really simple tactic that paid off big time, and although I did produce an in-depth post about it on my own blog, this article would not be complete without including it here, too.

    There’s a little known fact that many first time podcast producers are unaware of, that will make all the difference in the instant popularity of your podcast in the iTunes store. It’s about how to take advantage of the ‘window period’ you’re given in the ‘New & Noteworthy’ section of Apple’s iTunes Store once your podcast is approved in its directory.

    Apple automatically lists your podcast in the ‘New & Noteworthy’ section, which appears at the top of the iTunes search results for every category, for a limited period of 8-weeks, following the launch of your podcast in the iTunes Store.

    Bottom line, you have two short months to shine, and grow your audience. So what you need to do is launch three episodes in your first week, this boosts your download count immediately – putting it very close, if not right at the top of the section – ahead of all your competitors.

    Then, try your best to publish at least one new episode a week, for the remaining 7-weeks, to keep the download (and subscriber) count growing, and your podcast listed at the top of the charts.

    With the New Business Podcast, by the end of the 8-week period, I had consistently held the number one spot in two separate categories, and received well over 25,000+ downloads with just 9 episodes published.

    General Podcast Marketing Tips

    Even with the simple iTunes tactic (and the success that it can bring) in place, you still need to market the hell out of your show. So, here are a bunch of additional marketing tips that you can work on, to be sure that your podcast becomes a success, and helps catapult your blog and brand to the next level.

    • Promote your podcast through social media. Post links to new episodes on your Facebook page, Twitter profile, as well as your LinkedIn and Google+ profiles, too.
    • Invite members of appropriate Facebook and LinkedIn groups to subscribe to your podcast – this works really well, if you stay focused.
    • Add a link to your podcast in your email signature.
    • Add a link to your podcast on the sidebar of your blog, or perhaps the navigation bar.
    • Email your list subscribers whenever you publish a new podcast, incase they aren’t subscribing to your Podcast RSS feed.
    • Reach out to other bloggers that you’re friendly with, and ask for them to mention your new podcast on their Facebook page, etc. – you can offer them a guest spot on your show, if it helps sweeten the deal!

    Get Smart – Don’t do ALL the Work!

    Remember where I said a few times earlier on in the post that I had a solution to you not knowing how to do something, or simply not wanting to do something related to getting your podcast up and running… well, here it is.

    It’s called outsourcing.

    No talent in graphic design? Want a cool sounding ‘movie voice guy’ to do your intro and outros? You can hire freelance graphic designers on oDesk, or if you’re in a tight budget, go to Fiverr. Just make sure that you’re clear on what you want. Provide examples of cover art work that appeal to you and perhaps some audio examples.

    If you want to take all of this to the next level, then you could also look into finding an Audio Editor VA, either part-time, or full-time through Virtual Staff Finder (Disclaimer: I own this company), or another service – they can then fundamentally handle the whole process for you. All you need to focus on is creating the content and marketing the content!

    And if you didn’t want to handle the marketing side of things, you could also find a VA to do that for you, too – but, that’s a whole separate blog post!

    And my final tip, above and beyond everything else, is to be sure to provide great value in every episode that you publish. This is easily the best way to make sure that your subscribers will continue to tune in, and recommend your podcast to their own networks.

    The fact is that ‘fluff’ doesn’t cut it anymore. As online content creators we need to be sure to research and create content that is genuinely consumable. If it is, people will not only consume it, but they’ll also be more than happy to share it with the people they know – and that is what makes a ‘good’ podcast… ‘great’.

    Focus on having fun with your podcasting, and utilizing the power that it brings to your overall online brand. As far as I’m concerned, it’ll help grow your blog faster than any other activity that you can spend time on nowadays.

    Are you already podcasting to help build your blog following and overall brand? If so, share with the community here what’s worked well for you. I know I’d love to hear from you, for sure!

    Chris C. Ducker is a serial entrepreneur, speaker and author. He is the founder of Virtual Staff Finder, the world’s number one VA match-making service, as well as a popular blogger and podcaster at ChrisDucker.com. He can also be found daily on Twitter @chriscducker.