Archive for February, 2012

Have You Set up Timeline on Your Facebook ‘Page’ Yet?

In the last day Facebook have rolled out Timeline for Facebook Brand pages. There’s been a lot of talk about whether people like them or not – but the reality is that they are here and in a month they’ll be rolled out on your Brand page whether you like it or not.

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I’ve just pushed out version 1 of my own ProBlogger Facebook page here (I’m sure I’ll be tweaking it in the coming days but it is live) – but I’d love to see what others are doing?

Have you activated Timeline on your Brand Page yet? If so – share a link with us in comments below so we can get a little inspiration for what you’ve done.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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Have You Set up Timeline on Your Facebook ‘Page’ Yet?


Blog Wise Tip 6: Build a Productive Team

“Have you ever merged together four different companies with four different partners, and employees from one company and another company?” asks Brian Clark of Copyblogger.net. “Oh my goodness, it was quite stressful.”

But, he adds, now that the transition’s complete, “It’s amazing to me, what we can do.”

All of the bloggers we spoke to as we researched Blog Wise extolled the virtues of team work—even when the team is your readership, as in the case of solo blogger Leo Babauta’s collaborative writing project, The Effortless Life.

But all of them emphasize the importance of clear communications within the team.

Brian explains that before his group’s merger, “I had all these smart people that were partners, and they were in separate companies and they weren’t allowed to talk to each other, if you will, because there was no profit motivation.

“I saw that the only way I was going to get to where I saw as a possible future vision, was to put all these smart people together so that they all had a stake in each others’ future.”

Our bloggers point out, though, that a philosophy of team collaboration needs to be underpinned by the right tools.

Like many, Darren finds digital collaboration tools helpful. “Every ebook [we produce] has its own folder in Basecamp, and I can tap into that and get pretty much any document I want along the way,” he explains.

Bloggers like Abby Larson of stylemepretty.com and Heather Armstrong of Dooce, whose spouses also work on their blogs, use tools like Google Calendar, and clear, close communication, to ensure that their husband-business partners know what’s going on at all times.

When you add shared responsibilities like children to the shared responsibility of a blog, communication is critical. As Abby says, “because the site is so dependent on both of us … we realize that we both need to commit equally to our family.”

Do you work with others on your blog? What approaches do you use to make your team as productive as possible?

Tomorrow: bloggers’ favorite productivity tools and systems.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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Blog Wise Tip 6: Build a Productive Team


Looking Good: Simple Ways to Create Sensational Blog Images

This guest post is by Jo Gifford of Cherry Sorbet Creative.

Blogs that look great attract the attention of the reader, it’s as easy as that. Your content might be amazing but if your blog has a terrible aesthetic you are missing out on a slice of magic to make people enjoy their stay.

In 2011 visual social media platforms like Pinterest and insta.gram exploded in use, signalling a trend towards lifecasting in a more visual way, which applies to the blogosphere too; readers want your pages to look interesting. The more they stay on your site and engage, the prettier those stats look too.

This post gives some simple and easy ways to create and generate original and eyecatching imagery for blogs, without needing to be a designer. So, let’s get looking good:

1. instagr.am

Love it or hate it, instagr.am is a fantastic way to create eyecatching imagery for use on a blog, all from your mobile. I use inkstagram, which uses my instagram sign in to produce an easily scrollable stream (instagram itself is a little limited in image access). From there, I click on an image and copy the URL to add into the blog post. At this stage, the SEO savvy among you will want to make sure your image title and alternative text is changed to something relevant.

2. Screen grabs

Screen grabs of images or text can make an easy collage tool. If your screen is full of images, text, maybe a mindmap of work in progress, consider capturing the screen and taking it into an image editor for a vibrant and personal illustration for your blog.

3. Picnik

I love to use Picnik, an online image editor which is currently free in premium form until April when it is fully taken over by Google Creative kit. Both Picnik and the new Creative Kit in Google + allow images to be re-sized, effects added (including saturated and lomo effects), the inclusion of frames such as polaroids, and the addition of text too. This makes them great alternatives to Photoshop and are free resources online, so are easily accessible.

By editing and creating your own images you can have a fabulous looking blog post without worrying about Creative Commons licences or the dreaded copyright, and you needn’t be a designer!

4. Polyvore

Polyvore is a website used mainly by the fashion blogging world, but has useful features for all bloggers. Simply create an account, and go to “create a set”. You can then literally drag and drop a multitude of images including useful things like notebooks, post it notes, coffee stain and paint splash effects, alongside all sorts of images. Add text in some great fonts too by dragging and dropping text.

Once the set is finished you can click the “publish to WordPress” section; before you go ahead with it, simply copy and paste the code and add to your html section in your post.  Polyvore automatically includes links to the products in the set, but you can deselect the check boxes to have code without the links. Voilà, original, fabulous imagery with a footprint on another site to boot!

5. Collages

There are some great apps available to help you make collages for post inclusion. I currently use Picframe for iPhone and iPad which allows photos from your library to be added into collages. You can drag and drop, re-size and alter frame edges and effects, and also export to instagr.am to add a filter and share in your stream or on Flikr.

I also use a desktop application collage maker for larger and more complex collages—there are myriad options available and a quick google search will provide some free collage resources for you. I happen to use an Apple App store called Collage Maker, and I find it to be really handy and effective.

6. Camera

It’s great to take a camera put and about with you if you have one. I use a Nikon D40 to snap away at places, signs, buildings and all sorts of interest. You never know what might appear that has relevance to a blog post you are writing, and you can always crop in, edit the images and form as part of a collage. Using a digital SLR allows a igher resolution to zoom in and crops parts of images not so easily done with iPhonography.

7. Creative Commons search

Creative commons images are images licensed by the creators to be used with a attribution link. You can search for images using the Creative Commons search tool, which may produce some exciting work you have permission to include on your site. Remember to attribute where necessary though.

8. iStock

iStock is a fantastic and inexpensive library of images that are perfect for bloggers. Images and illustrations are purchased in block of credits, and web friendly images can be very cost effective indeed for the odd post here and there.

So, go forth and get creative! Your readers will love you, I promise.

Jo Gifford is a designer, writer, blogger and founder of Cherry Sorbet Creative. Working primarily in the beauty, fashion and lifestyle industries her work spans graphic design for print and web, social media management and training, copywriting and editorial for on and offline publications. You will find her blogging as Dexterous Diva, on Twitter both as Dexterous Diva and Cherry Sorbet, and on Linked In.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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Looking Good: Simple Ways to Create Sensational Blog Images


Infographic: The Brain of the Beginning Blogger

This guest post is by Infolinks.com.

Nowadays, it seems like everyone has a blog. But creating a successful and popular blog isn’t as easy as simply getting a domain name and ranting away on whatever comes to mind on a given day.

Here, we take a look at some of the common misconceptions that beginner bloggers have on issues ranging from content and SEO to graphics and URLs. For instance, have you ever done a double-take when a URL can be read two different ways (one being not so favorable)? Or have you been completely turned off by someone’s “About Me” page?

By debunking some popular myths, we hope to enlighten the burgeoning bloggers out there and help them avoid these potential pitfalls.

Infolinks is the fastest growing In-Text advertising network, providing monetizing solutions for bloggers of all levels.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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Infographic: The Brain of the Beginning Blogger


Premise 2.0 Released: Complete Digital Sales and Lead Generation Engine for WordPress

I’m really excited today to see that the team over at CopyBlogger are announcing an update of their popular Premise software for WordPress users – and it is something that you will definitely want to check out if you are a WordPress Blogger who wants to:

  • set up a membership area on your blog
  • you want to sell digital products from your blog
  • you want to generate leads for your email list

This is going to be good!

What is Premise 2.0?

Premise was previously a landing page creation tool which I’ve used myself – it was great but landing pages are only part of what an entrepreneurial blogger needs. But the new Premise lets you do so much more!

With version 2.0 you can do the previous landing pages the first version did but you can now also:

    Build a membership site with WordPress – secure and protected areas for members – all within WordPress.

  1. Take recurring payments – your membership area can be free – or you can charge a recurring fee. Premise manages this all.
  2. Drip Member Content over Time – manages you being able to drip content out to members of your membership area over time. Think a course in which you take members through a process over a week, month or even a year.
  3. Securely Sell eBooks, software or other digital products – whether its eBooks, apps or any other kind of downlaodable product Premise allows you to sell your products securely from within WordPress.
  4. Create Private Forum Areas within vBulletin – integration with the popular vBulletin forum software to give your membership area forum capabilities
  5. Password Protected Content Libraries – offer premium content in exchange for registration – a great way to grow your email list.
  6. Build Check-out pages for Paypal and Authorize.net – coordinate payments of all kinds (one time and recurring) – again all from within WordPress.

I’m particularly excited about this release because it fits my own needs on a couple of projects and I’ll be implementing it in at least one place (possibly two).

Special Introductory Price

You can learn a lot more about the newly updated Premise 2.0 on the CopyBlogger Blog – but before you do know that it’s not free, but it is discounted by $70 at present. This software will retail for $165 but it is currently $95 – a pretty amazing price for something as powerful as this.

They are also offering a 30 day money back guarantee so you can try it out to work out if it is right for you and if it doesn’t fit your needs you can get your money back.

Disclaimer: I am an affiliate for Premise and CopyBlogger. I’ve used version 1.0 of Premise (and use every other product CopyBlogger make) and highly recommend them – and I will be using this one too.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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Premise 2.0 Released: Complete Digital Sales and Lead Generation Engine for WordPress


Blog Wise Tip 3: Plan for Productivity

Given all the tasks that can crop up on a blogger’s to do list, it’s no surprise that many of us struggle with task planning and control. Even the big-name bloggers we interviewed for Blog Wise grappled with these issues.

Having realized the negative impacts of stress on her productivity, Amy Porterfield has adopted a range of tools—from physical calendars to Google Docs—that help smooth her daily workload, and make sure she gets everything done.

Importantly, she actually uses these tools: she told us that she discards any that don’t really work well for her. In this way, her task and time management tactics are constantly evolving to suit her personal preferences and her changing workload and goals.

Gretchen Rubin has found that having a clear desk, and an uncluttered workspace, helps her to feel calm and in control. “Outer order contributes to inner calm,” she said. “And I used to think, ‘well, it doesn’t really matter if my desk is messy, because I can find everything.’ But now I’ve really keyed into the fact that I feel calmer, my mind feels more orderly, when my stuff is more orderly.”

Bloggers who work at home with families obviously face a particular set of planning challenges. Both Heather and Darren explained the value of sitting down at the start of the week—perhaps even on a Sunday—and looking at the work-life schedule to see what’s on that week.

Darren also takes the opportunity to speak with his wife about the family’s plans, so that he can schedule in the things he needs to do as a dad, as well as a blogger.

Heather says Google Calendars have been a “life-changer” for her. “We’ve hooked up all of our calendars onto Gmail,” she says. “And so my assistant has a calendar, my husband has a calendar, there’s a home calendar, there’s a me-work calendar, there’s a me-exercise calendar, and all of those are synced together on my phone so that I can look at my day.

“And I can make a change, my husband can make a change, and it immediately updates on my phone so that I know what to be prepared for the rest of the day.” Heather adds that while things don’t always go to plan, “It’s having all the other days go smoothly that makes that one or two days off the rails doable.”

Finally Leo, who blogs without either goals or plans, also feels that “I definitely am more in control of my life now than I ever was before.

“Blogging made that possible,” he adds.

How much do you plan your blogging—and how much do you leave up to chance? We’d love to hear your take on planning in the comments.

Tomorrow: how structure helps productivity.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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Blog Wise Tip 3: Plan for Productivity


The Essential Ingredients for Building a Blog That Ranks in Alexa’s Top 10,000

This guest post is by Neil Patel of Quick Sprout.

Would you like to know how I grew Quick Sprout to have an Alexa ranking of 10,000 in under four years?

That’s not an easy feat. But the cool thing is I didn’t do anything that you can’t do now. My tactics will work for you, too.

Fortunately, late last year I did an interview with Michael Alexis over at WriterReviews about how I grew Quick Sprout. It’s a great interview to listen to. In the meantime I’ve summarized the content in this post.

Endure and sacrifice to get great content out

At this moment my ranking on Alexa stands at 10,060:

Let me tell you, I’ve had to sacrifice a lot to get there.

Because I’m so busy with KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg I have to use my holidays and weekends to write posts. When people think of Christmas Day or New Year’s Day and time spent with family, I look forward to a peaceful day of writing posts.

Saturdays and Sundays? Because the flow of work-related stuff is slow on these days I use these days to knock out four or five posts.

But listen: I don’t say this to brag or to make you feel guilty. I’m simply pointing out that you have to sacrifice if you want a great blog. You might have a family that will not appreciate you writing blog posts on holidays and weekends.

I totally understand that.

So ask yourself, where are there hours that you could better use your time? And here’s a hint: When you sit down to write during that time, give yourself a two-hour deadline. I’ve found if I focus intensely on a blog post like a surgeon at the operating table I can knock posts out quicker than if I allow myself to get distracted.

Use Digg

This is not the greatest tactic now, but I share it since it has been part of my success with Quick Sprout.

In the early days of Quick Sprout I worked hard to become a top user on Digg. I added lots of friends who had similar interests, submitted their content, commented and even gave them tons of diggs.

Eventually those influential people would friend me back and start to digg my stuff. And so the way it works…the more friends you have the more chances you have of getting stories to the homepage.

It really wasn’t very hard to become a top 100 Digg user as long as you added friends and submitted good stories from BBC, Forbes, Yahoo News, PCWorld, CNN, and the Washington Post. The quality of the posts is what really mattered, and you’ll eventually get in close with the top digg users.

The unfortunate part of being a great digg user is that it can take up a lot of time! It doesn’t have the same sort of impact as it did in the early days of Quick Sprout, but there might be some value if you can invest a minimal amount of time.

Build real relationships with people over time

Another part of my success in building up Quick Sprout is that I systematically built relationship with power bloggers over the years. That’s right: I said years.

See, you can’t expect to get any favors like free traffic from big players unless you invest the time in them. You have to always ask, “How can I help you?”

The way I would do it is travel to conferences and run into these bloggers. I would talk to them, ask them questions and invite them out for a drink or dinner, and always pick up the tab.

Some guys who have been instrumental in helping me grow Quick Sprout include:

I met these guys face to face and over time built a relationship with them. The conference that I recommend you definitely attend is Blog World.

But you should also attend other conferences that are related to your industry. The point is to meet people who share similar interests like you, then go out of your way to see how you can help them.

After a few months, you then have enough emotional equity built up with them to be able to email them and say, “Hey, would you mind blogging about me?”

Of course you need to offer something in return—that you’ll blog about them or something else. Ask them how you can help. Whatever it is, make sure you reciprocate.

The two sides to responding to comments that grow a blog

There are two parts to commenting that will drive traffic to your site—responding to comments on your blog and responding to comments on other blogs. Let’s deal with responding to comments on your blog first.

For me, responding to comments is one of the things that I enjoy the most. It is the time that I get to engage and learn about you, and how I can help.

This is not easy.

It takes time, but it’s worth the effort, even though it takes me anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes a day. But this is not me saying “Thank you.” It’s got to be more than that. Your comments must seem like they really care about the person who wrote the comment, and that you are listening to the questions they ask.

For example, you should acknowledge what they’ve said, point out an interesting point they made and then ask them a question. It could be as easy as “I’m curious, how did you come to that conclusion?”

Equally important about driving free traffic to your blog is commenting on other blogs. As I grew Quick Sprout I would try to be the first person to respond to an article on Mashable or TechCrunch. That first comment gets the most exposure, but you have to be quick on the draw.

How?

Set up an account with an RSS reader that sends you desktop notifications when a blog publishes new content. You can use an iPhone app like Push for these notifications. When you do comment never write “First comment” or “Thanks for this awesome post.” Those are useless comments, and might even get deleted.

Instead, you need to write a detailed comment—one that demonstrates you understand what the blogger wrote about. And you need to ask questions, too, that compel the author to engage and shows that you are interested in learning more.

And don’t be afraid to critique what the blogger wrote about. If you see a flaw in something they wrote, first tell them something you appreciate about the article, and then transition to the point you disagree with. Be kind. Respect goes a long way.

Keep in mind, you don’t have to comment on every single article. Select articles that are relevant to your blog and what you do and that will drive traffic to your site.

Write content people want to read

Finally, when it comes to building free traffic to your blog, you cannot get any better than providing great content. I’ve blogged about this extensively on my guide to blogging. You should read those posts again if you haven’t already and apply the principles behind each.

But perhaps you’re wondering how you find out what readers want. Here are the ways I would go about it:

  • Read hundreds of blogs and figure out three things: who are the top bloggers, what are the top posts, and why?
  • Next, try to put your finger on a topic that is not getting a lot of attention. You are looking for a need in the space that you can fill.
  • Crawl through the comments on busy blogger sites and see what people are saying. You’ll often find a person or two who are asking for something specific. Collect these ideas as possible blog topics.
  • Build your blog and start asking your readers and visitors what kind of content they would like to read. Use survey tools or devote entire posts to asking for topic ideas.

Don’t forget that when you write detailed, long-form posts, you will get better comments. And as the content grows, promote it across the social web.

Grow your Twitter account first

Another free strategy that you can use to build traffic to your blog is to build up your Twitter account before launching your blog. We did this with our KISSmetrics blog.

We invested a whole lot of time in building up our Twitter following by sharing great content across the web, responding to tweets, following influential Tweeters and thanking people for retweeting. When we reached a point where we felt was critical mass, we finally launched the blog.

The Twitter handle had paved the way for creating hard traffic to the blog, allowing us to grow the blog very quickly in a very short period of time.

Check out the 10 Ways to Get More ReTweets and How to Create a Jaw-Dropping Social Media Strategy in 5 Steps posts for more information on this topic.

Invest in ReTargeter

All of the tips I gave you above are based on free traffic. This last one is a paid traffic source, but it’s worth it!

With ReTargeter, you can serve up ads to people who’ve visited your site to encourage them to come back. This is great for first time visitors who may not have subscribed. I pay $500 a month for ads to be served up on various networks. Some of the networks that ReTargeter access include:

  • Audience Network
  • Right Media
  • Double Click
  • PubMatic
  • Glam Media
  • OpenX

As you can imagine, that huge network spreads a very big net. This means my ads are more likely to appear in front of a visitor, and drive them back to my site to sign up.

Two things you have to keep in mind when you create your ad:

  1. Rotate your ads: Create three or four different ads that appeal to the viewer. Tests have shown that you’ll get a higher click-through . Most people will see about three ads before they click.
  2. Create a compelling message: Cute or clever messages will not work nearly as well as a compelling message. Appeal to their pride, vanity, greed, or fear—some emotion that reflects your content but will get them to click.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, growing a blog to be in the Alexa top 10,000 is really all about doing old-school stuff: writing great content, commenting, promoting and trying to help as many people as you can.

There are no shortcuts. No sensational ways that will get you tons of steady, quality traffic to your site. You can’t have a great blog if you’re not willing to work. So … are you?

What other questions do you have about creating a great blog that I didn’t answer in this post?

Neil Patel is an online marketing consultant and the co-founder of KISSmetrics. He also blogs at Quick Sprout.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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The Essential Ingredients for Building a Blog That Ranks in Alexa’s Top 10,000


Discover the Secrets of 9 Productive Bloggers: Blog Wise

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79% of ProBlogger readers identify ‘finding time to blog’ as one of their biggest challenges.

Last year I ran a survey among ProBlogger readers to identify what the biggest challenges that bloggers face are. A number of common themes emerged – one of the strongest can be summed up in these comments from readers:

  • I just don’t have time to blog like I know I should
  • I can barely post once a week… how do you guys do it?
  • After a day of work, kids and keeping a house running my blogging is getting neglected

‘Finding Time to blog’ was a massive emerging theme among ProBlogger readers. Other issues around productivity, effective use of time, questions about out sourcing and more were also common.

As a result I immediately sat down with my team here in Melbourne and we began to plan for a resource to help bloggers become more effective with the limited time that they have available to them.

The Creation of Blog Wise: How to Do More with Less

ProBlogger editor – Georgina Laidlaw – began a series of interviews with successful bloggers. We put together a list of 9. The criteria was that we wanted to find people who had full lives yet who also managed to create great blogs and social media presences.

The result is a fantastic new PDF eBook – Blog Wise.

Featured Bloggers in Blog Wise

We ended up with a fascinating mix of bloggers who not only had great blogs but who also managed family life, other employment, extensive travel, other businesses and more. Here’s who you’ll find contributing to this eBook:

  • Heather Armstrong: Founder of Dooce, author of numerous books, mother of 2 kids (and 2 dogs)
  • Brian Clark: Founder of CopyBlogger Media which includes CopyBlogger the blog, StudioPress Themes, Premise, Scribe and more.
  • Amy Porterfield: author, prolific on Social media, contributor to numerous blogs, speaker, Mom and much more.
  • Abby Larson: Founder of Style Me Pretty – a network of 12 sites which she manages with her husband Tait.
  • Matt Kepnes: Founder of Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site – constantly on the road travelling
  • Jeff Goins: blogging at Goins Writer, writing a book, husband and…. he works a full time job
  • Gretchen Rubin: Founder of the Happiness Project blog, author of 4 books, wife and mother of 2 daughters.
  • Leo Babauta: Founder of Zen Habits and numerous other projects, author, minimalist and father of 6 kids.
  • Darren Rowse (me): owner of Digital Photography School and ProBlogger, author, social media addict and husband and dad to 3 boys.

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This 18,000+ word eBook is divided into a chapter for each blogger in which Georgina pulls out the nuggets from each interview. She has also pulled together a 10th chapter which wraps it all up.

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Bonus Productivity Problem Solver

And as an extra bonus we’e included a ‘Productivity Problem Solver’ PDF which covers 21 common productivity problems for bloggers and quotes from each of the above bloggers on how they overcome those issues. For example:

  • Can’t Get Motivated? See what Jeff Goins has to say
  • Having Trouble Focusing? Gretchen Rubin shares a tip
  • Can’t Keep Track of Post Ideas? Amy Porterfield shares her quick tip
  • Got Writers Block? Darren Rowse and Heather Armstrong share what they do
  • Got an Opportunity that you’re not sure what to do with? Abby Larson gives you some questions to ask yourself
  • Thinking of Building a Team but unsure how to Keep it Productive? Brian Clark shares some thoughts
  • Feeling Overwhelmed? Leo Babauta will get you on track with his wisdom
  • Been Putting Stuff Off? Matt Kepnes tells you how he gets things done

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I’m really excited by Blog Wise because it not only pulls together some great bloggers into the one resource – it gives you a unique insight into how they go about what they do.

Reading it will give you some great ideas to apply to your own blogging but also some inspiration and motivation through hearing the stories of these bloggers too.

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Grab Yours Today

Blog Wise and the Bonus Problem solver are PDFs and easily read on any PDF reading device including an iPad (you’ll just need to download it to your computer first for uploading to your device).

Normally priced at $19.99 for a limited time and to celebrate its launch it is $14.99 USD.

Feeling a little dry? Can’t fit all the blogging tasks in? Learn more about Blog Wise here or grab your copy directly from the button below.

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Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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Discover the Secrets of 9 Productive Bloggers: Blog Wise


What Did You Think of Blog Smarter?

Today marks the close of our Blog Smarter mini-series of posts, which explain a variety of techniques for scalable blog monetization.

In case you missed them, the posts were:

This little series hints at one of the ways we’re shifting the focus of our content this year here at ProBlogger. We’ve decided to trial a more collaborative approach to posts that aims to present a range of views on a given topic—in this case, getting more value (in this case, monetarily speaking) out of the time you put into blogging. We’re hoping that these will provide food for thought, and solid starting points for your own exploration.

I know that Georgina, our content manager, has some other ideas up her sleeve—but I also know that she’d love to hear your thoughts on this approach. Was the series too short or too long? Did you think there were too many authors? Not enough angles on the topic? Did it address you as a beginning, longer-term, or stalwart blogger?

And of course, if there are any topics you’d especially like us to look at going forward, we’d be very interested to hear those ideas, too…

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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What Did You Think of Blog Smarter?


Blog Smarter: Invest in Your Own Success

This guest post is by Jeff Nickles of MySuperChargedLife.com.

My blog grew by leaps and bounds in 2011.  It was exciting! But it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t made a few smart investments in my blog—investments, you could say, in my success.

I’m a regular guy and a part-time blogger just like many of you.  I’ve learned how to grow my site through trial and error.  Over the last four years, I have probably made more mistakes than the average joe.  I’ve done a lot of the wrong things, but occasionally I get it right. I’ve benefited tremendously from the experience of others since I started, so I want to share with you the tactics behind my success, hoping they will help you.

The results I achieved

First, let’s look at the results I achieved. My blog’s experienced what I’d call explosive growth in the last year:

  • 353% increase in number of email subscribers.
  • 103% growth in number of pageviews (doubled in one year!).
  • 141% increase in AdSense earnings.

I want to assure you that these numbers are a reflection of consistent increases over the course of many months.  I’m not just comparing a freakishly bad month from a year ago to a freakishly good month now.

The investments I made

As you can see, I saw big boosts in the number of subscribers, pageviews, and earnings on my site.  These are the key measures of success that I’m always looking to improve.  I attribute the growth of my blog to some important investments that I made about a year ago.

1. I changed my WordPress theme

Not all themes are created equal.  This is especially true when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO).  I’ll admit that I don’t understand all the minutiae behind this art, but I don’t have to, and neither do you—assuming you’re running a self-hosted WordPress blog.

You can significantly increase your site’s ranking with search engines by using a theme that optimizes this for you.

A little knowledge of SEO will certainly help, but the more you get out of the box with your theme, the better.  Just over a year ago, I invested in a premium WordPress theme that had a strong commitment to search engine optimization.  Yes, I had to pay a little money for my theme, but boy has it been worth it.

Before I made this purchase, I ran a different premium theme and used a popular WordPress plugin to supposedly optimize my SEO.  I’m sure the plugin helped, but I can tell you that changing to a different theme—one that was already optimized—helped a lot more.

My traffic has doubled in the past year, and all of the extra traffic has come from search engines.  On top of that, my AdSense earnings have gone up almost 1.5 times on what they were just one short year ago, all because of this increase in traffic.  That’s a nice return on investment—and a clear justification for investing in a good theme.

Investment #1: Catalyst Theme
Cost: US$77.00.

2. I moved to a better email subscription management service

Previously, I used Feedburner to manage my email subscribers.  The thing I liked best about Feedburner was that it was free, but it lacked some key features.  As I learned more about blogging, I discovered what Darren and others say about the importance of building an email list.  Therefore, after three years of puny email subscriber growth, I decided it was time to get serious about how I handled this aspect of my blog.

I want all the new search engine visitors coming to my site to become email subscribers.  One powerful way to encourage this is to offer a first-time visitor an incentive to subscribe.  In my case, I put together a free ebook called The Super-Charged Guide to Smart Living.

The new email subscriber service gives me the ability to use autoresponders.  When someone subscribes, the service automatically sends them a specific Welcome email that I have set up.  I can include links in these emails.  Therefore, I can offer all these new search engine visitors a free copy of my ebook as an incentive to subscribe. This definitely works.

Furthermore, once they become subscribers, I can send them a series of auto-responder emails walking them through a complete sequence of strategic interactions with my blog.  By the way, I got this idea from Darren in What Process Do You Want to Lead Repeat Readers Through?  Excellent advice!

Again, I have to invest a little each month to get these features, but after just one year, I certainly see the advantages.   This new service allows me to engage strategically and proactively with my email subscribers.  It also gives me the ability to brand the emails so I look more professional, credible and consistent.  I believe all of this has contributed to my site’s growth.

Investment #2: FeedBlitz
Cost: US$13.95/month (when I signed up).

3. I implemented a pop-up lightbox

In my first three years of blogging, I had only accumulated about 800 email subscribers.  This is very puny, I know.  I now have over 3,600 valid email addresses on my opt-in list.  Here’s a chart that shows the phenomenal growth I’ve experienced.

Isn’t this amazing?!?  It is to me!

How did I achieve this kind of growth?  Well, I implemented a pop-up lightbox that offers visitors my free ebook in exchange for their subscription. That lightbox looks like this:

I configured this pop-up to appear to first-time visitors.  This really seems to work.  I’ve been averaging around 250 new email subscribers per month since I turned it on about a year ago; before I used this, I averaged around 20 per month.

Originally, I was hesitant to put something like this in place because I knew it could be a minor irritant to some.  However, the results speak for themselves.  I’m definitely glad that I did it.

I had to make a small investment in a premium plugin for WordPress to get the professional look I wanted, but this has more than paid off.  I’ve recouped this expense many times over already.

Investment #3: Popup Domination
Cost: US$77.00.

Make an investment to grow your blog

The growth I’ve seen in the last year has been awesome, although I haven’t had to work a whole lot harder to achieve these explosive results.

It just goes to show you that by investing in the right aspects of your blog, you can really make a big difference.  My total investment for my new theme and for Popup Domination was just a little over $150.  I would spend that money again in a heartbeat.

I started out only paying $13.95 per month for my FeedBlitz subscription, but now, because of my phenomenal email subscriber growth, I pay $49.95 per month.  I don’t mind it a bit—I can assure you that it has been well worth it.

Here’s my advice if you want to grow your blog: educate yourself on what works, and then don’t be afraid to make a few investments.  Not all of them will turn out exactly as you desire, but you’ve got to be willing to take the risk if you want the big payoff.  It worked for me.

Jeff Nickles is a regular guy on a quest to live life to its fullest. He began MySuperChargedLife.com in December of 2007 as a way to share his experiences and to learn more about life.  You can reach him by visiting his blog.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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Blog Smarter: Invest in Your Own Success


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