responsiblecommenting.com

26Mar/120

5 Epic Blogging Lessons Learned from Parenting Five Rowdy Kids

This guest post is by Ruth Zive Ruth Zive Copywriting.

Most of my readers and clients know me as a freelance copywriter and content marketing strategist. But the truth is, I’m operating under cover; my real identity is SuperMom to a brood of five rowdy children (including one that is a wee bit chromosomally enhanced).

I’m actually not that “super,” but I’m most certainly Mom, first and foremost. It’s a busy, messy, loud, hectic, demanding, and unbelievably rewarding job. Each of my five children has taught me valuable lessons that have informed all aspects of my life. Because of my kids, I am a better human being—and definitely a more effective professional.

There is a lot of crossover in my life—my work blends into my mom-related duties, and vice versa. My children have taught me a lot about blogging, writing, social media, and content marketing strategy (albeit an inadvertent effort on their part).

Hopefully these five epic blogging lessons, learned from parenting five rowdy children, will help you to gain traction and grow your online presence.

1. Stick to a schedule

Between dance lessons, basketball practice, speech therapy, school carpools, high school exams, doctor appointments, and parent-teacher interviews, it goes without saying that my head would explode if I didn’t stick to a schedule.

And forget about my sanity; my children thrive with a routine.

Takeaway

Similarly, you will create a sense of momentum with your blog if you settle into a routine—and you can incorporate this fundamental discipline in a variety of ways.  For instance, you’ll want to:

  • Map out an editorial calendar and write your posts predictably. Not only will you be more productive, your readers will come to appreciate your routine and will know when to visit your site for new content.
  • Plan your blogging time strategically—make sure to budget time for writing, reading, commenting and social media.
  • Work your blogging priorities into the rest of your daily schedule. Don’t forget to leave time for personal interests and priorities and other work-related responsibilities.

It took me a while to settle into a predictable routine (heck, life’s rarely predictable with five children).  But going through these motions helped me to be much more productive and focussed as a mom and a writer.

2. Know your audience

I often have to tailor my parenting style to the unique interests of the specific child I am addressing.

One of my kids will follow instructions only if we make eye contact and I resort to threats and bribery. My youngest daughter, on the other hand, needs a lot of handholding and coddling, no matter the circumstance. And the middle child will do pretty much anything as long as it involves chocolate.

Takeaway

Your blog readers will invariably share certain qualities and it’s important to know what those are; but remember that they also have unique interests. Segment your target market accordingly and be flexible in your style to accommodate their needs.

For instance, on my blog, I’m essentially appealing to three different target markets:

  • independent copywriters and bloggers
  • c-level and marketing executives
  • independent business owners and entrepreneurs.

All three groups are interested in learning more about content marketing strategy.

But I tweak my focus, depending on which group is on my radar.  When I’m speaking to the first group, I might write about landing copywriting clients, setting your fees and injecting personality into your writing.  But the second group, by contrast, is more interested in how to leverage the impact of social media to drive your content marketing campaign.

Same overarching intention, but a personalized and targeted approach based on the reader’s unique needs.

3. Get social

There is nothing my kids appreciate more than lively conversation around the dinner table, family game night, or a spontaneous adventure. The deeper the interaction, the more impactful. Mommy time trumps iPods, computer games, and the latest, must-have fashion accessory without fail.

And while my time is certainly limited, I seek out opportunities to engage with each child in a meaningful way.

Takeaway

You may have the most phenomenal content on your blog, but if you aren’t getting social, it’s a big fat waste of time!

Blogging is a big time suck, and it can be very hectic and overwhelming.  But starting now, every day, make sure that you:

  • take time to comment on other people’s blogs
  • cultivate relationships with prolific bloggers and industry experts
  • leverage the benefits of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

And most importantly, be authentic in your interaction.

I know what I’m talking about here.  Some of the best professional contacts that I’ve forged have been on Twitter.  It sounds ridiculous, but it’s 100% true. I was invited into a Mastermind group on Twitter; I was approached by someone on Twitter to edit an ebook; and I found a genius WordPress programmer on Twitter who solved some very troubling issues on my blog and saved me a small fortune. So don’t underestimate the importance of social.

4. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture

Some days, I feel that my time is entirely consumed with meal preparation, laundry, housekeeping, carpooling—with some hysterics thrown in for good measure.

On those days, I have to remind myself that the time I invest in menial (and sometimes unpleasant) parenting tasks fuels the bigger picture payoff. Hopefully, because of my efforts, my children will emerge happy, secure, and confident with a sense that they can always rely on their Mom.

Takeaway

Blogging can be an exhausting, tedious, and slow process.

You have to do the grunt work if you’re going to reap the bigger picture benefits. Write often; read even more often; solicit feedback; invest in your blog’s design; learn how to optimize your site … do it all over again.

At first, it was hard for me to see the forest for the trees; my blogging experience seemed entirely mired in minutiae.  So I started to keep a journal—to track my progress from month to month, noting my higher level achievements so that I could have those in mind when I felt discouraged.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try keeping a journal so that you can maintain better perspective and not lose sight of the bigger picture.

5. Keep an open mind

Sometimes, no matter how well organized I am, irrespective of how much I’ve considered my children’s unique needs, and even with a perfectly planned schedule and a bigger picture focus, the stars misalign and my efforts are in vain.

Woody Allen once joked that if you want to see God laugh, tell him your plans. Things are bound to go awry with children, and with blogging!

Takeaway

Keep an open mind. Blogging is a journey (much like any entrepreneurial pursuit) and you learn along the way.

  • Plans transform.
  • Resources shrink or grow.
  • Goals evolve.

You need to be flexible and adapt to changes.

I’ve encountered this reality first-hand in a dramatic way.  After six months of blogging, my readership and subscriber base had skyrocketed.

I had faithfully cultivated relationships with other bloggers and using social media. I had great traction. But Danny Iny, of Firepole Marketing, recommended that I redo my site and position myself differently, to align my offline business and my online brand. It was tough advice to hear, but I very seriously considered his point of view, and after some strategic thinking, my old blog is no longer.

Poof.

But my new blog rocks even more than my old one. And making this transition required a very open mind on my part.

So I suppose I owe my blogging success to my children. And now, maybe you will too.

What do you think? Have your children helped your blogging journey? What have your relationships taught you about content marketing and social media? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Ruth Zive is a freelance copywriter and content marketing strategist. Ruth works with B2B companies, across industries, to help them leverage their content to drive business results. Learn about my corporate workshops.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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5 Epic Blogging Lessons Learned from Parenting Five Rowdy Kids


@ProBlogger

24Mar/120

Tips from the Trenches: Best Blogger Productivity Tools

When we put together Blog Wise, I thought I would be the only blogger who didn’t use many (okay—any!) of the productivity apps I downloaded. As it turned out, very few of the pro bloggers we spoke to relied on any apps or tools other than Gmail, Google Calendar, and Evernote.

So I decided to ask some of my connections on social media what kinds of tools they use, and I got a great response. Here I’ve compiled the list so that, if you’re interested, you can try some of these tools for yourself. Of course, if you have other time-savers you’d like to add, let us know in the comments.

Software

WordPress plugins

Blogging software

Other services

Hardware

Don’t forget to give us your recommendations for productivity-boosting tools and tips in the comments!

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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Tips from the Trenches: Best Blogger Productivity Tools


@ProBlogger

3Feb/120

Learn From Adele – Build Your Platform

Adele Waves

Jacq and I just watched Adele Live At The Royal Albert Hall (amazon affiliate link), and though every song was just wonderfully done, I found myself fascinated by what Adele was doing in between each song. Because even though most people would be interested in hearing her belt out her amazing repertoire of hits, what I took away from the performance was Adele’s real magical ability: the ability to resonate with her audience.

What Adele Could Teach You About Impact

I’m writing something about this right now for my upcoming book with Julien Smith, but I had to share some of the ideas with you, because it relates very well to another piece of the puzzle for my series about building your platform. So, what was it that I saw?

Adele knew how to relate to people on their level. She talked about what it’s like to go out with friends when you’re the sober one, and your drunk friends get you into trouble. She talked about how breakups can be such drama-filled experiences (after all, both her albums are odes to her exes). She talked about the excitement she felt for playing the Royal Albert Hall, and when she did this, she talked about it the way you would talk about it, if you were chatting with your friends. It felt real, and very very much like she just wanted to share everything about what she was feeling.

Some Practice for Resonating like Adele

  • When you address people in your writing, on stage, in a video or audio, never ever say “you guys.” Talk to one person: someone who matters a great deal to you, and who you’d like to share something important with at that moment.
  • Share your emotions. When you’re nervous, say so. When you’re excited, say so. Many emotions that we’re told to keep to ourselves make for a better connection that bridges the gap between people.
  • Find what will connect you to others. It’s almost always an oddity. I talk about my love of Batman, or I’ll mention something that happens to most of us that you thought had only happened to you. What does it do? It immediately brings us closer.

Always Treasure Your Opportunity

I’ve heard people say “my community” quite often and every time I hear it, I scrunch my face up and feel a bit sad. I’d much rather they say “the community I have the fortune to serve.” Why? Because we never own community. It’s a gift. And even if we are the supposed “leader” of such a tribe, it’s always clear and obvious that we are there in service of the people who have chosen to share their attention with us.

This starts no matter where you are in the world of platform building. If you have two people who think you’re worth their time, then humbly treasure their kindness. Learn always to heap the praise onto them. You will never win an award that wasn’t brought to you (even partially) by the people who give you their attention. Never ever let yourself feel it’s the other way around. You’re lucky to be part of their world, and you serve them.

Celebrate the Similarities

I think what got me so excited about Adele’s between-song performances was that she did such a great job of talking about the day to day that we all might have in common. Sure, very few of us have chauffeured limousines waiting for us outside our workplace, and that’s why Adele doesn’t talk as much about that part. Instead, she talks about what it’s like when you and your best friend have a falling out and how hard it is to rectify those issues, even though the original pains are probably long forgotten.

See how that works?

This is every bit as important to learn now, as you’re developing your platform, as at any other point in the journey. So, even if you’re not a fan of Adele’s music (I am!), I recommend checking out this performance, and seeing how she handles it. There’s a lot there. Rumor has it she’s done okay by herself, and I’m betting it’s not just her voice that got her there.




chrisbrogan.com

3Jan/120

From Blogger to Book Author: The 4-Step Guide

This guest post is by Jeff Goins of Goins, Writer.

Some bloggers don’t start a blog to make money. They start blogging, because they have a message that the world needs to hear. In other words:

Some bloggers blog to get published.

Recently, I signed a contract with a book publisher. I had always hoped to one day publish a book, but I never thought it would happen in a few months.

What made this possible? In a word: blogging.

Planning a book

Image copyright Lasse Kristensen - Fotolia.com

If you want to go from blogger to book author, you’ll need to do a few things. But the pay-off can be significant.

Why you should publish a book

With the rising popularity of ebooks and self-publishing, why should you go with a traditional publisher?

Why even write a book at all? Doesn’t a blog suffice?

Well, no. Not always. In some cases, self-publishing (especially your first book) may not be a good idea.

Reasons to work with a publisher

Although self-publishing can work just fine, there are still some legitimate reasons to go traditional:

  • Marketing: A publisher will offer its resources and knowledge to help you not only promote your book, but consider the marketability of it before it’s published.
  • Editing: A publisher will help you with the actual writing, as well as proofreading and copyediting. Normally, you would have to pay someone to do this or do it yourself.
  • Authority: There is still a great deal of social clout when it comes to having a published book from a reputable publisher. Publishing a book will make you more of an authority in your niche.

Of course, some authors make good money off ebooks without ever going through a publisher. So this may not be for everyone. But it’s at least worth considering. (Even Darren and Chris G. released their Problogger book through Wiley. It’s not about money as much as it’s about influence.)

If you’re interested in becoming a published author, there are the three steps you’ll need in your path to publishing.

Step 1: Build a platform

All publishers want to know the same thing: Do you have a platform?

In other words, are you “legit”? Do you have the audience and authority to speak on a particular topic? Money is so tight in publishing that if authors don’t bring their own marketing chops, they have little hope of succeeding.

A platform can range from a podcast to a television program; however, in our case, we’re going to assume it’s a blog.

Why a blog is a great platform

Blogs are great for authors, because of the following reasons:

  • A blog allows you to practice writing.
  • A blog allows you to capture email addresses (with a service like Feedburner or Aweber).
  • A blog allows you to communicate a core message over time.

My blog has been instrumental in helping me find my voice as an author, as well as providing some content that I’m actually re-purposing for my upcoming book.

Step 2: Release a manifesto

Once you’ve built a blog and starting building a decent audience, you can now work on something that articulates your core beliefs: a manifesto.

A manifesto is a short, actionable ebook that you give away for free. The point of it is to spread idea and help you connect with your tribe (i.e. people who share your beliefs).

This can also be a great way to capture attention, by exchanging the ebook for people’s email addresses. I grew my email list from 75 to 1000 subscribers in a week, thanks to a manifesto. And it also caught the attention of my publisher. It works.

If writing a manifesto sounds hard or overwhelming to you, don’t worry. It’s not.

The DIY way to publish a manifesto

  • Find the content. Dig up an old blog post or series of posts that resonated with your readers.
  • Develop it. Build upon your original idea and edit out what’s irrelevant.
  • Finish writing. Shoot for 1000-10,000 words long. It needs to clearly communicate one, important idea. The shorter you can make it, the better.
  • Create it. You can do this through a program like Word or Pages (for Mac), or you can use a slide presentation program like PowerPoint or Keynote and export as a PDF. Michael Hyatt also has a great seven-step tutorial for how to do this. (Note: This may create a huge file, depending on the length of your e-book. If you get something that’s over 10 MB, you can use the program PDFshrink to make it smaller.)

Alternatives

If you’re looking to spread an idea quickly, you can even publish the manifesto through a site like ChangeThis.com. Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, and Guy Kawasaki have all done this. Only the best ones make it, though, so this doesn’t guarantee you’ll get an ebook published through them. (See mine here.)

You can also hire someone to do it for you, if you have the budget.

Step 3: Connect with people through social media

Social media is a great way to find fans and create advocates that will spread your work for you.

The great thing about social media is that it’s social (obviously), which means it can lead to other meaningful interactions, including real-life relationships.

From follower to friend

I’ve connected with more people through Twitter than any other way. This has led to grabbing coffee with other writers, picking up freelance gigs, and even getting to meet some of my heroes. It’s the best networking resource I’ve found.

Starting a Facebook page for my blog has also been a great way to share content and connect with my audience.

The people you connect with through social media may begin as followers, but they can quickly become friends and even patrons of your work. If you do it right—by adding value to your readers and followers—these people can become life-long supporters of you.

What better asset to have before publishing your first book than an already large and growing fan base? The publishers will be fighting over you.

Step 4: Establish your brand by adding value

Every author needs a brand—an established voice that makes his or her content unique.

Blogging can help you do this, because it allows you to practice in public. It also attracts an audience, which can help you in defining (and building) your personal brand as a writer.

Serve your way into influence

The best way to earn trust and establish a brand is to serve people.

Do the grunt work. Hustle to help people, and you will get noticed. In a world full of self-promoting sleaze bags, if you add value to people’s lives, you will never have a marketing. People will come find you.

This is a great way to brand yourself as an author, too. Someone who serves others doesn’t have a hard time selling books. People know you’re going to help them, so they’re eager to pay money to hear what you have to say.

And if you can demonstrate that, a publisher will be honored to work with you.

Interview experts

Another way to do this is by interviewing experts. You can seek out other authors and bloggers in your niche and ask to interview them. Do this over time and you’ll not only deliver value to your readers, you’ll also build relationships with influential people.

Pretty soon, people will come to think of you as the expert—which is exactly what publishers are looking for.

All of these relationships (if founded on serving others) will come back to help you. It’s true what they say: what goes around comes around.

You’ll be publishing a book in no time.

Jeff Goins is a soon-to-be-published author, blogger, and nonprofit marketer. You can connect with him on Twitter @jeffgoins and Facebook and get his free, weekly newsletter. You can also find out more about his path from blogging to book contract by getting his eBook Every Writer’s Dream: How to Never Pitch Your Writing Again, which is free for a limited time.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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From Blogger to Book Author: The 4-Step Guide


ProBlogger Blog Tips

16Dec/110

How Bloggers Can Solicit Scoops From Their Email Newsletter Subscribers



It’s been a slow news week in your tech field; the next big buzz-triggering product launch in your industry has been delayed for another three months because the engineers are raising incompetence to a high art.

Your “Deep Throat” inside executive contact at Engulf & Devour Corp. is not returning your calls because your last blog gave a clue to their identity; and all you can think of to write in your blog is how cheesed off you are at the inconsistency the scripts on Fox’s New Girl and why on Earth did they trade out Damon Wayans Jr. with that new weird little guy?
Before you inadvertently change your blogging identity from Anand Lal Shimpi to Michael Ausiello and lose all your technogeek followers along the way, there are effective ways to keep from resorting to blogging your reflections on Hollywood pap… and they can all be found residing on your email newsletter subscriber list!

6 degrees of separation from Sergey Brin

If everybody in the world is just six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, then it follows that the same is true for Intel’s Paul Otellini, Google’s Sergey Brin, and Oracle’s Larry Ellison. You’ll never know who your email subscribers have access to unless you ask them, so recruit your readers into providing the inside skinny on who they might know through a friend of a friend of a friend.

Make absolutely sure that you separate the verifiable wheat from the illusory chaff, so confirm every single word independently so that you don’t become the Semi-Accurate of your industry. In other words, make sure that your initials aren’t FUD.

Solicit pre-release information

Perhaps your email newsletter subscribers may not have access to any top executive but they may still be privy to pre-release information on products that are going to make an impact in your industry.

In high tech it is customary to provide alpha and beta hardware and software to a wide variety of testers and although all of the recipients of this wizardry are all bound by Non-Disclosure Agreements, most of those documents have more holes than a colander and details invariably seep out.

There is an overwhelming advantage to having your blog be the first one to break the next big product news. Imagine if you had been the first to provide hard benchmarks proving that the Apple iPhone 4S sucked batteries dry faster than a desert wanderer with a canteen; AMD’s Bulldozer microprocessor family was both a shocking performance bust and a power hog; or that some Intel Solid State Drives would brick up leaving only 8MB accessible.

Instead of watching your hit counter grow slower than blue fescue on a cold day you could be fending off armadas of Slashdotters while your Adsense revenue spyked to the Spyker C8 Aileron class!

Explore the wonders of payola

“Nobody does sumptin’ for nuthin’” so it is imperative to provide incentives to your email newsletter subscribers to provide inside information. The most obvious motivation is hard cold cash. If you stand to boost your readership and drive another hundred clicks to your .47 per-click banner ad, it’s well worth you offering a C-note to the subscriber who tips you off that RIM’s next product is codenamed BankruptcyBerry.
Should you want to steer away from the payola provision, you can offer free downloads of e-books or software, discount vouchers at a friendly etailer, or access to an Insider’s Group Forum which is open by invitation only.

Spilling the technobeans

Anonymity is a primary consideration in the vast majority of cases as your subscribers won’t necessarily want to trumpet all over the internet that they were the ones who spilled the technobeans. Even if they didn’t have direct access to the information, they likely want to protect their sources. You must make very clear that if so requested you will implement completely iron-clad procedures that will prevent revelation of the source anywhere outside of a court of law.

You may find that your blog’s email newsletter subscribers are invaluable sources of world-scoop information… but you’ll never know until you ask them. If you can get great intel from your email subscriber list, you’ll have plenty of material for high-traffic, groundbreaking blog posts.

Hal Licino is a successful author, award-winning freelance writer, and frequent contributor to a blog hosted by Benchmark Email, an email marketing service for small businesses. He also writes a weekly column for Daily Blog Tips.


Original Post: How Bloggers Can Solicit Scoops From Their Email Newsletter Subscribers

Daily Blog Tips

21Nov/110

From Failed Idea to Profitable Product: What I Learned from Failure

This guest post is by Björgvin Benediktsson of Audio Issues.

The biggest insecurity we bloggers face is the question of whether anybody is actually going to buy our product. We can’t give away our content forever, and those Google ads are hardly going to pay the bills.

That’s why every blogger should offer his or her own product. You can recommend other products without seeing a noticeable return. The biggest return on effort is from your own product, whether it’s an ebook, a service, or a piece of software. But the creation of your own product creates a different kind of fear.

The fear of failure

Everybody fears failure. It’s instilled in us from an early age. Most people don’t like losing, and try to avoid it at all costs. And if you’re going to create something to sell, the fear of it failing becomes all too real. Many times it becomes so real that people don’t even go through with their plans at all.

But failure is just a stepping stone towards success. If you can use the lessons you learned from a failed product, there’s always a better probability of success in your next venture.

What I learned from failure

My first product was pretty much a failure. It didn’t sell at all, and even though people thought the idea was good, when it came time to buy, no one did.

It’s tough to deal with failure, but I trekked on an created a new product—to great success. I didn’t get rich overnight, but on my small niche scale, I did pretty well.

So what did I learn from my first failure that you can use to your business success?

Do your market research

You not only need to know your niche, you also need to know what the people in your niche really want. A great idea is only good if people want to buy it.

I had this great idea for a productivity tool that, in the end, nobody really wanted. Sure, some people bought it, but it wasn’t a sustainable income. Instead I focused my effort on what I knew people wanted: information. I assumed that people would rather pay for information that they could use in their own endeavors.

Lesson learned: People would rather invest in information than anything else. In a specialty niche like mine, my readers wanted to learn techniques to better their own productions. They didn’t really need a productivity tool to keep track of their home recordings. Their computer already did that.

Decide to go digital

The first product I created was a hardcover book. The buying process was tedious, there were extra shipping costs, and my variable costs were relatively high, so most of my profit was eaten by the costs. I needed to keep the costs of the book down, but I also needed to recoup the costs of each book sold. Even though I used a print-on-demand service, the extra costs just weren’t worth it.

Lesson learned: Go digital. I decided to create an informative digital ebook, Mixing Strategies, which was only sold via direct download. Even though the model of selling ebooks has been around for a long time, I needed to learn why it was such a good idea on my own. With digital downloads, the variable costs of each download are non-existent so you can turn a profit quicker and more easily than with hardcopy products.

Find an outsourcer

I’m not much of a designer. I wanted my first product to look nice, so I outsourced my design work to Pakistan on the cheap. 0 later, I had a really nice looking product that I could sell. If I had done it myself it would have either never have been finished, or it would have looked very amateurish. By using outsourced freelance work, I was able to create a much nicer looking product than I ever could have myself, regardless of whether it would sell or not.

Lesson learned: Delegate tasks to those who know better. When it came time to create a new product, I had learned how easy it is to outsource work. I had learned how to ask for specific details and how to sift through the endless numbers of graphic designers out there. I was fine with paying for professional results, because I knew I would be saving myself a lot of time and effort—time and effort I could use towards other things.

Pre-market your product

I failed to create a lot of buzz around my first launch. I didn’t really talk about the product at all until I launched it. No wonder nobody bought it: I hadn’t built up any suspense about it. Whether you call it creating buzz, pre-marketing, or pre-selling, it was clear that I failed at it. Maybe if I had created a little more buzz, somebody would have told me that the product wasn’t such a great idea in the first place.

Lesson learned: Talk about your products. While I wrote my ebook I often asked my newsletter subscribers and other readers what they thought. I pitched them the table of contents and asked them questions that they would like answered in a book. I created buzz and anticipation by talking about the creation of the product. The result? I started selling copies almost before I had sent out the initial launch newsletter. I created so much anticipation over the months preceding the launch that people bought it immediately.

Offer launch discounts and build urgency

Not only did I not create any buzz for my failed product, I failed to create any fanfare around the launch. I simply launched the product, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. The best didn’t come. I didn’t create any sense of urgency, so nobody saw any point in buying it right away.

Lesson learned: Not only do you have to create anticipation, but once you launch, you have to create an urgency to buy. For the first ten days, I offered my product at a discounted price. This created a need to buy in my readers. They wanted my product because I had created so much anticipation, and now they could get it at a discounted price. The result? The sales kept rolling in.

Failure creates success

I wouldn’t have learned any of those lessons if I hadn’t created my first product. Even though it failed in most ways (it does still sell every now and then!), I still regard it as an accomplishment.

If it weren’t for this first product, I wouldn’t have learned how to find a demand, how to find great outsourcers, how to create buzz and ultimately, how to generate profitable sales. In my case, my initial failure only helped create my success.

How have your failures helped your accomplishments?

Björgvin Benediktsson is an audio engineer, musician and online entrepreneur from Iceland. He’s been involved in the music and audio industry for almost a decade, playing in bands, working as a sound engineer and recording music. He’s written one ebook, Mixing Strategies that’s available at his site Audio Issues. Follow Björgvin on Twitter at www.twitter.com/audioissues.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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From Failed Idea to Profitable Product: What I Learned from Failure


ProBlogger Blog Tips

3Nov/110

From 8 Million to 500,000 on Alexa, Fast!

This guest post is by Chuck Rylant of ChuckRylant.com.

The goal was to find a single resource—a roadmap or blueprint—to take my blog with minimal traffic and turn it into something significant. I was a few months away from launching a book and needed a platform to make it happen.

The problem was not insufficient information; the problem was too much information. The Internet is full of advice ranging in price from free to six figures, promising the answer. I did not want to become a professional blogger, but I wanted to learn enough to build my blog into something that could be taken seriously.

I decided to pick one product and stick to it. That worked, and it’s continuing to work. With a publishing schedule producing only three to four posts each month, here’s what I did to bring my blog, which was ranked at 8 million, to less than 500k on Alexa, fast.

31 Days to Build a Better Blog

There were many tactics that worked well, but instead of listing everything, here are the main points that likely led to the majority of results.

First I bought 31 Days to Build a Better Blog and decided to follow it exactly, even when there were times I thought the advice wouldn’t matter much. It turned out that those things mattered most.

For example, one of the steps was to create an “elevator pitch” for my blog. This did not result in a measurable or immediate boost in traffic. It was also difficult and boring to create. However, it turned out to be one of the most important steps.

Creating that elevator pitch forced me to concentrate on my audience and get clear about my message. It took me a week of brainstorming, writing, and editing, but that allowed me to be very precise with every message I write not only on my blog, but also in social media, guest posts, and comments on other blogs.

Analytics

There are several ways to measure blog success, and their appropriateness varies with your goals. My intent was to promote my book, but because it wasn’t for sale while I was building my platform, book sales would not work as a metric.

Instead, I needed data that I could measure to see results and keep motivated. I used Alexa to give me an arbitrary “score” and Google Analytics to measure actual traffic. I also used email opt-ins and the RSS feed as measures of my success.

Comments

I began commenting on several blogs. Initially I commented on any blog I could find, and paid extra attention on “do-follow” blogs—those that do not use the “no-follow” tag to prevent search engines from following comment links.

After a month of reviewing the analytics, I discovered something very important about commenting. It’s difficult to track the exact SEO benefit of each comment, but my best traffic has come from my most thought-out comments on other blogs.

I did not plan this, but when I ignored whether a blog was a do-follow or not, and instead commented when I was passionate about a topic, my visitors from those blogs spent on average four or five minutes on my on my site. That is a very long time on a website—especially when compared to traffic from other sources, which averages well under a minute.

Email list

Before beginning 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, I had an opt-in box on my blog that was connected to the RSS feed through Aweber. It offered nothing more than “Join to get the latest update.” As per the advice in 31 Days, I did two things that dramatically increased traffic to my blog.

First, I added a free PDF report bonus for those who subscribed to my RSS feed. It wasn’t a great bonus, but it was something that I had already written, and I wanted to get started rather than waiting. It’s easy to invent ways to procrastinate instead of moving forward.

Second, I added a pop-up box with the offer and opt-in box. Before the pop-up box, the subscriber-to-visitor ratio was .4%. I created a split test of the pop-up box with and without the PDF report bonus. Without the bonus, the ratio jumped to 2.9%, but with the bonus, it climbed all the way to 4.6%.

This was an important discovery. Not only have I grown my email list, but these people also receive an email every time I publish a new post, which brings traffic back to the blog and is often re-tweeted by subscribers.

Frequency

Daily posts are usually the standard in the blog world. I struggled with this approach for two reasons. First, I did not want blogging to become my primary pass time, yet I wanted to write longer and more in-depth magazine style posts. Second, my goal was to build an email list and I felt that daily emails were too frequent for my market, and would lead to a high unsubscribe rate.

Without testing, I have no way to verify this, but it really doesn’t matter because I do not want to write a blog post every day. Instead I committed to three to four posts per month, and I publicly promised this in my elevator pitch. Although infrequent, this consistency greatly improved my product over the random and infrequent posts in the past.

Cross-promotion

Finally, I took a macro perspective to posting and used all forms of media to cross-promote the others. I realized there was some overlap between blog readers, email subscribers, social media, and even my occasional in-person speaking gig; however, the overlap was small. Instead of assuming readers would see my message across all media, I assumed the opposite.

By cross-promoting my messages, I’ve grown all lists and increased readership. For example, I have messages that only go to my email subscribers. Occasionally, I refer my email subscribers to a blog post or a message posted on Facebook. This gets my viewers more engaged across different media and has been very effective at spreading my message.

In the end…

I’m continually learning and improving my blog. I did not set out to be a professional blogger, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to learn and use the tools that professional bloggers use.

My little success in a short time came down to one thing—following a clear and concise roadmap.

Before starting this plan, I was jumping all over the place and chasing the next bright, shiny object instead of consistently implementing the steps most likely to create the greatest results. Perhaps you’ve experienced that too. I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

Chuck Rylant helps entrepreneurs manage their personal finances. He is also the author of How to be Rich: The Couple’s Guide to a Rich Life Without Worrying About Money.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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14Oct/110

Gimme Bar – A Fun Way to Collect Images, Videos, and Text from any Web Page



Gimme Bar is one of those tools that the more you play with it, the more useful you realize it is. It kind of reminds me of Amplify since it lets you grab parts of any Web page. However, Amplify is more social since it lets you share that content across the Web on numerous social networks. Gimme Bar is more about collecting parts of a Web page to tell a story or for private use, yet it has many useful features that make it very powerful and memorable.

All you need to get started is the bookmarklet or Chrome extension. Once you get either, you’ll be given a link to your library, which is where you can access your collections, profile, applications, and settings. You can also discover new public content from the people you’re fallowing and find other Gimme Bar users to connect with.

Library and Collections

Gimme Bar BookmarkletThe library is a general overview of all of your collections. “Collections help you organize and tell stories with your content.” In your library you can search for specific collections, view each collection individually, and even sort your items by content type (images, videos, text, full pages).

Adding a new collection is as easy as clicking on “New Collection” and then entering a name and description. You can also create new collections when you add new content (see below). Collections can be edited and deleted as well as made public or private. Each collection has its own short URL and Twitter share button so that you can easy share them with the world.

Profile

From your profile you can see items that you’ve added to your collections. Public items can be added to your “Public Firehose” or a public collection that you create. Likewise, private items can be added to your “Private Stash” or a private collection that you create.

Gimme Bar Library

Adding Full Pages

Adding items to your library. Once you click on the bookmarklet or browser button, you’ll see a bar at the bottom of the Web page you’re on. Hovering over the “Gimme the full page” button will change to “Public” and “Private” buttons. These are the buttons to use if you want to grab the full page that you’re on.

Add Items as Public or Private on Gimme Bar.

Once you click on the appropriate button, you’ll get a pop window where you can add a title, description, and tags for your item. You can also choose to add the item to a collection you already have or create a new one (as opposed to the “Public Firehose” or “Private Stash”). That collection can be either public or private as well.

Add Details to Your Items on Gimme Bar.

Adding Parts of Page

If you just want to add a video, image, link, or specific text from the Web page then Gimme Bar works a little differently. You would have to highlight and/or drag the item that you want down to the “Public Firehose” or “Private Stash” area. Once you do that, you’ll get the same popup as above in order to add more details to your item. All items will be grouped together and use the same details.

Grab Parts of a Page with Gimme Bar

Settings

From the settings you’ll be able to update your user settings (name, email, password) and connect Gimme Bar to your Dropbox account so that you can backup your library.

I’m sure there are other important details I’m leaving out, but you get the gist of it. Gimme Bar is definitely more than just a social bookmarking tool; it’s an organization tool for your favorite online content and an online storybook that can be shared with friends.


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5Aug/110

10 Blogging Lessons from the Dalai Lama

This guest post is by Annabel Candy of Successful Blogging.

The Dalai Lama recently came to visit me on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. Well, not me specifically but the thousands of people who drove miles, piled into buses, and waited under bright skies to hear him speak.

It wasn’t what I expected. I joined Toastmasters to learn the art of public speaking but I don’t think the Dalai Lama needs to. His speech wasn’t polished but his message came over crystal-clear, and it’s obvious why he’s built up such a massive following, even without the help of social media.

Here’s a man who doesn’t need to use blogging to build his business, earn more money or establish himself as an expert in his field. He’s already the spiritual leader of the world.

He doesn’t even write a blog, but the Dalai Lama still has a lot to teach bloggers.

1. Have a sense of humor

The prayer flags on stage hung a bit low and the Dalai Lama peeped out from behind them, instantly making the audience laugh. Then he worried that the Aboriginal dancers, clad only in a small red cloth, might be feeling the cold.

There’s already enough dry, tutorial style information around. People learn more and want to come back to a blog that’s fun to read and bloggers should make the most of that.

2. Be humble

There was a comfy sofa sitting centre stage for the Dalai Lama to recline on while he spoke. He’s an old man but he said we wouldn’t be able to see him there so he chose to stand at the front of the stage under the hot sun where we could see him better.

Blogging is all about relationships, interacting with your readers and being present for them on your blog and on their favourite social media outposts

3. Be human

The Dalai Lama wasn’t sure of the protocol. He didn’t know if he was to speak first or if someone was going to introduce him. He’s just a normal human being like us trying his best.

We all make mistakes—typos slip into blog posts or links are forgotten. Just acknowledge them, fix what you can, and do your best.

4. Smile

Be happy and show that happiness. More people will want to hang out with you. It definitely works for the Dalai Lama who spreads happiness wherever he goes.

Do you like hanging out with and working with happy people? Then make sure your blog and gravatar photos makes you look friendly and open.

Don’t use photos where you look cool or sexy … you may come across as bored or grumpy instead. Unless you’re really cool and sexy, of course.

5. Be you

You can shave your head like the Dalai Lama, wear thick glasses, and sport deep wrinkles on your face and arms. It doesn’t really matter. As long as you are you, people will only notice the good things—your smile, your twinkling eyes, and your dimples.

There’s a lot of talk about authenticity in blogging and social media and being you makes your blog stand out better than anything else.

6. Speak from your heart

The Dalai Lama didn’t need to read his speech from notes. His message is there in his heart and in his soul. We know he really believes it.

Bloggers need to really believe their message and be passionate about it. Practically you need to blog about what you love because you’ll be blogging about it long-term. Passion will shine through on your blog and in your writing, videos or podcasts.

7. Take time

The Dalai Lama didn’t feel the need to rush his words. Sometimes he had to reflect and think a bit about what he wanted to say.

Don’t rush your blogging or try to keep up with other bloggers. I only post once a week own blogs (I have two) because I have other writing to do and I like to spend time making sure all my posts are as good as they can be.

Blogging is a long-term investment so you need to be patient to see the results.

8. Get help

The Dalai Lama had a friend to hand who whispered in his ear when the right word didn’t spring to mind.

Bloggers need to get help with the bits they find hard. For some it might be blog design, others need help with content creation, others with Facebook.

Accept that you can’t do everything, do the bits you love and the fun bits as best you can and seek help for other things.

9. Have a strong and universal message

Thousands of people flock to hear the Dalai Lama speak because his message of peace and love is crystal-clear.

Bloggers will have to work out what their message is before they can share it fully with their readers.

10. Use stories and anecdotes people can relate to

The Dalai Lama used relevant stories mentioning local Queenslanders who showed co-operation, friendship, and trust by helping each other out voluntarily during the floods.

Bloggers need to capture their readers’ imagination and give people concrete examples they can relate to. Story-telling is the best way to get your readers reading and keep them hooked until the end.

Does the Dalai Lama’s popularity resonate with you as a blogger? What else can bloggers learn from him and other inspiring leaders?

Annabel Candy is a web design, copywriter and born again blogger who shares her travel stories at Get In the Hot Spot and blogging tips at Successful Blogging.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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10 Blogging Lessons from the Dalai Lama


ProBlogger Blog Tips

15Jun/110

The Team Behind My Blogs: From Solo Blogger to Business

One of the requests that I’ve received a fair bit lately from readers here at ProBlogger is for me to write a little more on the team I’ve put together to help me run and grow my blogs. So today I thought I’d tell a bit of that back story.

But first, let’s go back in time… (this full story can be found in ProBlogger the book).

Blogging: from hobby to job

  • November 2002: I started my first personal blog almost nine years ago, without even the faintest suspicion that it’d be anything more than a hobby. In fact, I half suspected I wouldn’t still be blogging by the end of 2002—I don’t really have a good history of sticking with most of my hobbies for more than a month or two (hence the collection of sporting equipment and gadgets in my attic).
  • December 2003:  By this point, I’d started to experiment with making money from my blogs (I had a couple by this point). By no means was it a “job” (not even a part-time one), but I was earning a day and was starting to get an inkling that there could just be some potential if I could only keep the earnings from my AdSense ads trending up each month.
  • April 2004: I was now earning per day from my blogs, having put extra effort into them over the last few months, and at this rate I started to consider my blogs as a part-time job. As a result my wife (V) and I decided I would dedicate a little more time to blogging to see what impact that would have.
  • June 2004: May and June continued to see the income grow and it passed 00 in a month for the first time. The goal of being a full time blogger grew. We decided to give it a six-month deadline to get to a full-time level, or I’d have to “get a real job.” I began to slowly give up other work as the blogging income grew.
  • December 2004: We made a decision that things were at a level I could go full-time as a blogger. Income went up and down over the next year or so. but I was able to give up all other work and just focus upon blogging.
  • September 2005: I published a post here on ProBlogger talking about how I’d reached the “six-figure” level of income from blogging.

To this point, things had really just evolved. There were not too many months where there’d been spectacular growth or spikes in income. Rather, it was a very steady growth and I while I was working a lot of hours, the idea of hiring someone to help on an ongoing basis never really entered my mind.

I did hire blog designers once or twice in these early years, but that’s about as far as it went.

I look at this first phase of my blogging for income as blogging moving from a hobby to a part-time job, then to a full-time job.

Blogging: from job to business

The next phase involved moving to more of a “business” mindset.

I guess the transition of moving to more of a business model began with the starting of b5media—a blog network that I began with a small group of other bloggers in 2005. While I’m still a minor shareholder of the company, I am no longer actively involved. But the idea was that each of us founders realized we could probably achieve a lot more if we pooled out efforts and worked with an expanded team.

That business grew rapidly, and while we made mistakes, we also learned a lot about business, blogging, and working with teams. b5media took on a number of rounds of venture capital, which enabled us to grow, and I began to see the beauty of having a team working on the same projects rather than just doing everything myself.

While I didn’t focus all of my energies on b5media, I learned a lot in that period.

It was also at this time that I began to explore other partnerships and also began to toy with the idea of hiring staff and/or contractors to help me. I realized that in my own blogs, I was approaching a ceiling in terms of how much I could do each day. As a result, in this time I took a number of steps:

  • There was a period where I outsourced the writing of one of my old blogs (no longer active) to another blogger on a contract/revenue share basis.
  • I took on Lara Kulpa to help with the administrative load (Lara still contracts with me today to help with comment moderation and community management on ProBlogger.com).
  • I worked with others on a revenue share basis for a while on the ProBlogger Job Boards (I now maintain this myself).

Today: the team

dps problogger team.jpg

My blogs have grown beyond what I can really manage alone. Lara still is involved but the last year or so has seen a number of additions to the team. What follows is an attempt to give some insight into the different levels of involvement that others have on my sites—both voluntarily and in a paid capactity (I’m sure I’ll forget someone):

  • Guest writers: Gradually over the last few years I’ve involved others in the writing of content on my blogs. I did this first on my photography blog, where today almost all of our posts are either from guests or a small team of regular paid contributors.
  • Paid writers: Toda,y this is solely limited to the photography site (I did have a couple of paid contributors here on ProBlogger, but that never really panned out). These paid writers on dPS write between one and eight posts per month and are paid on a per-post basis. At times there were up to 10 paid writers on the team, but this has decreased a little as we’ve developed more of a guest writer team—as dPS has a considerable audience writers are mainly involved to help grow their profiles.
  • Editors: I’m currently working with a number of editors on different levels. The main editor that regulars of ProBlogger will know is Georgina Laidlaw, who edits ProBlogger and FeelGooder. Georgina works with guest writers on both blogs as well as creating content of her own. She is also involved in the creation of ebooks, writing sales copy, and other editorial tasks. We also have a couple of other editors who have helped with editing and proofreading ebooks.
  • Ebook authors: Over the last few years, I’ve expanded my focus to create more products to sell. These have largely been ebooks to this point. At this stage we’ve created six ebooks on Digital Photography School, three here on ProBlogger, and one on FeelGooder. I’ve written some of these myself, but have also partnered with other authors on some. Authors work with us on a revenue share arrangement where my company acts as a publisher and brings audience, marketing, customer service, and so on, and the author brings expertise. At this point, we have published ebooks with four other authors, but will release another four or five collaborative projects by the end of the year.
  • Product production: To help with this increased production I recently contracted with Jasmin Tragas, who heads up the production of new products. Jasmin works with authors, editors, designers, and marketing to get products to publication. It’s enabled us to increase product creation incredibly, and has allowed me to focus my attention on other activities.
  • Community management: As I mentioned above, Lara helps with community management at ProBlogger.com, but I’ve also got the involvement of Simon Pollock (my brother-in-law) to manage the community at dPS (among other roles).
  • Customer service: Simon is also involved in giving customer support on dPS. We’ve recently installed ZenDesk to funnel all incoming emails on that site into the one place, and Simon handles all of that.
  • Designers: Designers were perhaps the first people that I hired in the early days of my blogging, and I continue to work with a number of them (all on a contract basis). These come in on short-term basis to design/redesign our blogs but we also work with two designers on our ebook designs.
  • Social media: I do the bulk of my own social media marketing, but in the last month or so Simon has also become more involved in this for dPS.
  • Technology: Last year, I contracted someone to manage the servers and back end of my blogs. This had previously been handled by b5media for numerous years, but last year, we moved everything over to Amazon (and a variety of other technology partners).
  • Ad Sales: Gabrielle Green heads up ad sales on both ProBlogger and dPS. While we do use some more automated ad solutions (like AdSense) on dPS, we’re also growing the number of ads we are selling directly to advertisers—both banner ads and newsletter ads. It’s been great to have someone dedicated to this task.
  • Marketing: Lastly I’m fortunate to have the involvement of the Web Marketing Ninja (who has been a regular guest poster here on ProBlogger). The Ninja has helped sharpen sales pages and emails, and formulate strategy for product launches and promotions.

None of the above people work full-time just on my blogs, and none are “staff”—they all work on a contract basis. Interestingly, in the last 12 months the main additions to the team have all been local to me here in Melbourne, which has enabled more face-to-face interactions among my team (including the recent team lunch, where we took the above photo).

So … what do I do?

Having brought others in to take on different roles, one might wonder what it is that I do these days. Having an expanding team has certainly taken pressure off on some levels, but there is still plenty to do.

My main focus these days is on:

  • editing dPS (coordinating guest and paid writers, scheduling posts, writing email newsletters, etc.)
  • social media (mainly on ProBlogger)
  • team management—with more team members come more management tasks
  • writing and developing content, both for the blogs as well as products that we’re developing
  • strategy and partnership development—at present there are at least four other products/projects that I’m working on
  • administration—I’m amazed just how much admin there is, and while some of my email is now flowing through ZenDesk to Simon there’s still a tonne that needs to be done each day
  • speaking—this tends to come in fits and starts but it’s been nice to be able to allocate a bit more time to local speaking opportunities lately.

I realize that this post has been quite long, but I hope it answers some of those questions that I’ve been getting more and more of lately.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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The Team Behind My Blogs: From Solo Blogger to Business


ProBlogger Blog Tips