Archive for March 7th, 2012

You Know you’ve Been Blogging too Long When… #BloggingTooLong

I posted this on my Google+ account and on Twitter earlier today:

You know you’ve been blogging too long when a family member asks for parenting advice and you write a 10 Point Answer, start brainstorming catchy titles and considering adding images and further reading.

The responses I got were pretty funny from others who had had similar experiences, so I thought it might be a fun one to open up here on the blog.

What have you found yourself doing that makes you think that perhaps you’ve been blogging a little too long?

Here’s a few more from my own experience:

You Know You’ve been blogging too long when… you have to pause a conversation with a friend to take notes for a blog post idea.

You Know You’ve been blogging too long when… you wake up your wife at 3am to tell her that you worked out a way to double your AdSense income.

You Know You’ve been blogging too long when… you are overheard sleep talking about Brian Clark and Chris Brogan.

Over to you… when did you know you’ve been blogging too long?

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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You Know you’ve Been Blogging too Long When… #BloggingTooLong


A Scientific Approach to Writing Page Titles

This guest post is by Alex of Think Traffic.

We all know how important page titles are for SEO and just the general success of our blogs and websites, don’t we? Well we are told often enough, so we certainly should… But how many people actually give page titles the amount of attention they actually deserve?

Most clever bloggers spend a little thought on each page title—they think carefully about how to word it in such a way as to get both the search engines and the potential readers to pay attention. But let’s face it, if this is your method, all you are really doing is typing something that “sounds good.”

Today I am proposing a slightly more scientific approach to page titles.

Step 1: Keywords

Any diligent blogger will already have some vague keywords in mind for their post—if you want to get some nice natural organic traffic, you will need to rank. So decide on your phrase and obviously make sure it is getting some searches.

I would recommend just one phrase per post. By the very nature of blogging you will be writing more posts soon, so there really isn’t any need to cram in more than one key phrase. Also, the extra flexibility will allow you to write a better title.

Also, make sure your phrase makes sense for a blog. Don’t bother optimizing your post for “electric showers” because if someone searches for that phrase, they are almost certainly looking for a retailer and not a blog post (try it: search for “electric showers” and see how many of the results are blog posts)> People searching on this phrase want to buy a shower, not read about it. A better phrase might be “how to buy an electric shower”—that’s a much better fit for a blog.

Step 2: Look at competitors’ titles

The great thing about Google is that they will show you what works best before you even start. So the next thing to do is Google the phrase you want to rank for. In 0.003 seconds Google will conjure up a page full of sites which it has found to be relevant for that phrase.

It stands to reason that not only does Google consider these pages to have relevant titles, but these titles have proven to perform well in terms of clickthrough rates (since Google has recently admitted to using user behaviour as part of the ranking algorithm).

Look for words which are bolded and for any obvious phrases which come up more than once—the words in the phrase you searched for will be bolded of course, but so will any other words which Google thinks are closely related. Make a list of the phrases Google likes most and consider using these in your title.

So, going back to our example, if I Google “how to buy an electric shower,” I see keywords like “buying showers, buying a shower, mixer showers.” I also notice the title:

Electric showers: the basics – How to buy an electric shower – Bathroom & personal care – Which? Home & garden

This looks like a reasonable title, but it is way too long. This might be a good basic format to work from though.

Step 3: Look at competitors’ posts

Hopefully at least a few of the results will be blog posts. If you find that all of the results for your phrase are other types of sites you might want to reconsider your target phrase. Is this a sign that Google doesn’t think a blog is the right sort of site for this phrase? Maybe, maybe not. Think carefully.

In this case, I notice that for “how to buy an electric shower” the top two results are how-to style posts and so is one of the lower results, but all of the others are commercial sites. This makes me think that Google wants more blog style posts, but perhaps there aren’t enough good ones—definitely a gap to fill!

Assuming you find some blog posts, read them. Firstly, they will give you some ideas that could make your post even better. Secondly, you are looking to check that these posts are similar to yours (but hopefully not as good).

This stage is all about understanding what Google thinks is relevant for the target phrase; if your article is a lot different than the prevailing content, then consider which of the following is true:

  • Your post offers a new insight or angle that hasn’t been covered before (great, keep up the good work).
  • Your post isn’t really about the same thing as these posts (again, consider whether you are targeting the right phrase).

After a snoop around the top results I find that the number one post is actually just an intro which leads to a four-part post about buying a shower (the second result is one of these parts, too). There is a lot of good info here, but you could certainly improve upon it.

Additionally though, I suspect by splitting the post into four parts, the author is dividing their link juice. So if I can create one, long definitive post, it could do well here.

I also note that the other three parts of the post are: FAQ, features, and installation tips. These terms might also be helpful for building the title.

Step 4: Build a cracking page title

Okay, so you’re 100% confident that you have picked a highly relevant target phrase for your post, and you have a list of words that Google has told you it thinks are relevant to the chosen phrase…

Start by slotting your words together in the usual, obvious ways—ideally your target phrase should be the first word(s) in the page title, then follow up with some related words which add to the title.

Your page title doesn’t necessarily need to be written in full sentences because that isn’t what search engine users expect—make it concisem but not gibberish. The key is to catch users’ attention and convince them to click.

So let’s see what we get. I will start of course with our key phrase, and throw in a few extra words:

How To Buy An Electric Shower: The Basics, Features & Shower Installation Tips

I have included a few hooks that I liked from other titles and other posts, added the word “shower” for extra relevance, and of course my target phrase is the start of the title. I actually really like this, but unfortunately it is 78 characters long, so now comes the dilemma of which bit to trim. Remember, Google will only show 70 characters.

How To Buy An Electric Shower: Basics, Features & Shower Installation

69 characters! Okay, it’s not as good a title, but I am still pretty happy with that, and I now have some great ideas to go make my actual post even better. You may notice I have left out the word “mixer showers”—that’s because that is actually a different type of shower. However, I will probably at least mention them in the post and perhaps make my next post about them.

Step 5: Learn and improve

Writing a good title is more art than science. It is a skill. Hopefully the tips above will stop you from making blunders and point you in the right direction, but to be a real pro, you need to learn from past successes.

Once you have published a few posts and got some rankings, you can start to monitor your traffic. Set up your Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools if you haven’t already, and each time you publish a new post go and check out your data.

In particular, look for posts which are ranking well and have good click through rates (Google gives you all the data if you make the effort to look). This will give you a great insight into which posts have a) ranked well and b) do a good job of catching users’ attention.

So hypothetically with my bathroom related blog I might have five posts which I know are popular, about baths, showers, tiling, and so on. I would look in my analytics (traffic sources, search engine optimization, and landing pages) and filter results so I just see blog posts (or just ignore the data from other pages).

Here is a hypothetical screenshot:

If this were my blog, I would notice for instance that posts 1 and 5 are both ranking position 5 on average, yet post 5 is getting 50% more clicks per 100 impressions. Post 4 is ranked second and only getting 6% CTR, which suggests the title needs some work, whereas post 3 is in position 9 and getting 5%—that’s not bad, so this post probably has a good title.

By regularly studying this data you can pick out your most successful page titles. You will soon start to get a feel for what is a good CTR and you will notice which posts and titles do best. You can then try to emulate past successes and improve upon poor performers. You will soon be an expert!

This article was written by Alex and the Gang from Think Traffic. The SEO agency who care about ROI and not just rankings for the sake of rankings.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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A Scientific Approach to Writing Page Titles


The Keys to Creating Unmissable Content

This guest post is by Jonathan Mead of Trailblazer.

Over 1.6 million blog posts are published each day. That’s an average is 18.6 posts per second.

That’s a staggering number. And with so much content being published, how do you make sure that yours gets seen? And not just seen, but commented on and shared?

Many people focus on the tactics of getting content spread. They put up the appropriate buttons, ask for sharing directly in their posts, solicit their network, and do lots of things to push their message. This method used to work very well.

Not anymore.

Cultivating a culture of sharing is important—by enlisting and asking for the help of your tribe—but it’s not enough. You have to create content that is based on pull.

In other words, when you create content that your audience is demanding, you start playing a different game.

The spectrum of unmissable content looks something like this:

  1. Unmissable: Everything you create must be given attention. There’s no other choice.
  2. Important: Relevant and important, but can be set aside to be looked at later (and potentially forgotten).
  3. Relevant: Your content is useful, and relevant, but it’s not important enough to take priority.
  4. Mildly interesting” Seems interesting, but there’s too much incoming to pay any attention.
  5. Noise: Considered spam or is completely irrelevant. Might as well be invisible.

So if nothing but unmissable content is acceptable, how do we get there? How do we make all of our content bookmarked, dogeared, and highlighted?

The first step is simple: stop

Stop creating content for the sake of creating content. That’s a narrow path with one destination: mediocrity.

Instead, create because you can’t hold your message back. If you’re feeling uninspired, don’t put out content simply to maintain a schedule. Write, and show up to hone your skills, but don’t publish something you don’t completely love.

Step two: keep your ear to the ground

What are your audience’s biggest questions? What patterns do you notice in terms of their biggest challenges? What are they thinking about when they lay their head down on their pillow?

In other words, What’s keeping them up at night?

Write about that.

And pay attention to what’s underneath their desire. Sometimes they won’t admit it. Sometimes you have to probe deeper, and use your intuition. However, it’s also important to…

Create feedback loops

When someone signs up to your email list, do you ask them what their biggest goal is related to your topic? Do you ask them what their biggest challenge or frustration is?

If not, you should do that right now. You’re missing out on some very valuable information.

You can also ask new Twitter followers and Facebook fans the same question. You can put a question form in your sidebar or on your contact page on your blog. There are lots of opportunities for setting up these types of feedback loops.

The key is to aggregate the data and review it. Once a week is a good rhythm. Pay attention to the insights you find and use them as a basis for your content.

Be a pattern interrupt

Listening isn’t enough. Creating from a place of inspiration is good, but it’s merely a requirement to not fail.

If you want to create content that is unmissable, you need to be a pattern interrupt. Your content needs to make people stop, and pay attention.

There are two ways to do that:

  1. Do what no one else is willing to do: This might include creating a definitive guide, going above and beyond to create a comprehensive resource kit, or by over-delivering on value in a very big way.
  2. Do what hasn’t been done: Every marketing technique that used to be extremely effective eventually becomes commonplace. If you want to stand out you must be on the leading edge, not simply riding the next wave. Doing this involves risk, but it also is an uncharted territory ripe with opportunity. (The leading edge is a scarcely populated place, after all.)

For example, last month we hired a video producer and director of photography to write and film a trailer for our upcoming product. This was a full-scale, movie-style trailer. No one had done this before with a product like ours.

Making the investment involved a considerable amount of risk. However, it paid off in a big way. We attracted more affiliates than ever, and sent a very big message to our audience: this is something worth paying attention to.

We didn’t know before hand if it would succeed or blow up in our faces. But we took a risk and did it anyway.

If you want to create content that is truly unmissable, you must dare to do what hasn’t been done.

Create because you can’t not create. Keep your ear to the ground. Walk the leading edge.

What do you think is the biggest key to creating unmissable content?

Editor’s note: Want to get even more attention for your unmissable content? Don’t forget SEO. Later today we’ll show you a scientific approach to creating page titles that’ll help you make the most of Jonathan’s advice.

Jonathan Mead helps people quit their jobs, and get paid to be who they are. He’s the founder of Trailblazer, the number one training on quitting your job to follow your passion.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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The Keys to Creating Unmissable Content


Why You Should Celebrate Every Win

When I read Rick’s post on the thrills new bloggers get to experience this morning, of course I laughed (I’m not really a margarita kind of guy). Rick’s post is great—I love it as an example of the way we can use humor to get a message across in a blog post.

And that message is loud and clear: celebrate every win.

Every advance you make as a blogger—whether you’re just beginning your blogging journey, or you’re a bit further along the path—is important.

It’s true that as you practice something and develop your skills in it, your expectations change about what you can achieve—or should be achieving. But this is a constantly growing and changing field, so I think somehow, we’re always learning—somewhere in our blogging, each of us is still a beginner. So I think it’s important to acknowledge each challenge we attain.

As an example, over the last few months I’ve been looking to change the email service I use. That has meant that I’ve had to research providers, ask for recommendations from others, and take baby steps to test different services.

Each time we try something new, we take a risk. As bloggers, we work hard to build our blogs and audiences, and we don’t want to upset the fine balances we’re working to maintain and build upon. When that risk turns out to be worth it, we should definitely celebrate it.

There are plenty of ways to do this:

  • share your success on social media
  • tell your blogging buddy (or buddies!) about it
  • if it’s appropriate for your blog and audience, blog about it
  • tell family or friends about it.

There’s another way to note your blogging wins—perhaps the ones you don’t feel comfortable sharing with others—and that’s simply to stop for a moment and give yourself a pat on the back. Whether you just pause to think consciously about what you’ve achieved, or you treat yourself to a coffee or an afternoon stroll (or whatever you do to relax), it’s important to recognize your achievements somehow.

We learn from our successes as well as the things that don’t go so well. The difference is that the experience is usually much more pleasurable. We should enjoy it!

I’m interested to hear about any thrills—big and small—you’ve experienced recently in your blogging. Let’s share them in the comments, either here, or on Rick’s post.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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Why You Should Celebrate Every Win


10 Thrills We Newbies Experience That the Top Earners Have Forgotten

This guest post is by Rick of www.morebettersmarts.com.

I know we all want to be like Darren, sipping Margaritas on the beaches of Australia and occasionally opening his laptop to see how much money his guest bloggers made for him today, while beautiful women clean his glasses with $100 bills.

But do the big guys truly remember the thrills we newbies are currently experiencing as we grow our sites from poor, to inferior, and someday, God willing, mediocre?

Some milestones, in no particular order, that top my list are below. How about the rest of you?

1. The first ‘Like,’ first ‘+1,’ first ‘Share,’ etc.

And suddenly we’re channeling Sally Fields with tears streaming down our face shouting, “You like me, you really like me!”

2. Breaking the 2M Alexa rank

As God is my witness, Alexa will someday acknowledge my site exists.

3. Seeing the bounce rate drop from 100% to 80%

Cool, someone actually stayed long enough to read a second article?!?

4. The day the blog finally paid for itself

Sweet, the wife says I can keep blogging for another six months.

5. Looking at all of those green areas light up around the world on Google Analytics

I didn’t even know Tuvalu existed, and they’re reading my article on their telecommute! Wait … who telecommutes in a nine-square-mile country?

6. The day we made more than one stinking cent from Adsense

Woo-hoo, someone clicked an ad!!! Wow, 41 cents … early retirement is now in sight.

7. Learning how to put an ad above the header

It only took an entire weekend and most of my sanity, nobody’s clicking on it, but man it looks great!

8. The first comment from a stranger

Of course then I smothered him with thank you notes, a link to my email updates, and an invite to guest post. Funny, I never heard from him again…

9. Seeing the first major spike from Stumbleupon

Sure, now I know it’s not that big a deal, but wow that was exciting going from three to 300 hits … then back down to five.

10. Problogger accepted my article

I have truly arrived … a press release is in the works.

Where are you getting your thrills?

Of course, the tongue was firmly in cheek when talking about ProBlogger. I give Darren’s site credit for at least half the stuff listed above, as well as helping me maintain my perspective.

Keep enjoying yourself, and add your own milestones below!

Rick is the owner/author of ‘More Better Smarts,’ supplying practical wisdom to help improve your life at work, home, and play. Visit Rick at www.morebettersmarts.com.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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10 Thrills We Newbies Experience That the Top Earners Have Forgotten


WordPress.com or WordPress.org? Which One’s Right for You?

This guest post is by Matt Hooper.

When you first start looking at building your own blog, you are going to be inundated by the different options that are out there. After considering all your options, hopefully you’ll come to your senses and realize that WordPress is your best option.

As a reward for all this deliberating you are now presented with one more decision. Do you choose .org or .com? And we’re not talking about your domain name. You, along with many others, might be surprised to find out that there are actually two different kinds of WordPress.

WordPress.com is a version of WordPress that is hosted by Automattic, the development team behind WordPress. WordPress.org is often referred to the self-hosted version of WordPress. The two are very similar but there are a few differences that you need to be aware of before you finally get down to work on your blog.

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the safest way to go, as there are a lot of mechanisms in place to make sure that you don’t accidentally break it or prevent it from working the way it was intended to.

This means that it is nearly impossible for a beginner to render their site unusable. It also means that you are unable to really make use of some of the more advanced, and fun, features of WordPress. I’ll get to those below, but let’s take a closer look at what WordPress.com has to offer first.

The biggest selling feature of WordPress.com is the fact that everything is free and easy to use. You can head over there right now, sign up for a free account, and be blogging before you know it. You won’t even need to invest in a domain name if you don’t want to. Without any expense, you are able to have a website of your own at a domain like yourname.wordpress.com.

That’s right: you don’t even have to purchase a domain name to get started. However, going from a yourname.wordpress.com domain to yourname.com in the future is going to hurt your search engine rankings. This is something that you might want to consider before going the totally free route.

In the event that you are even remotely serious about creating a blog, you’re best to start off with your own domain. You can have your own domain name at WordPress.com for an extra $12 per year plus the cost of the domain itself.

Since WordPress.com is hosted by Automattic, they are the only ones that get to place ads on your site. That’s right, they get to make money off of your site, not you. It isn’t all bad, since they are giving you the site and support for free. Also, if you really dislike the ads on your site, you can pay $30 per year to have them removed.

WordPress.com’s advertising policy is pretty clear: they are not interested in anyone making money off their sites. They have not explicitly stated that you can’t make money off a WordPress.com sites, but they put a kibosh on most monetization strategies.

The barrier to entry is extremely low here so it can be very appealing to the less technically inclined. For hobbyists or people interested in just kicking the tires, WordPress.com is a good starting point. However, if you are at all serious about moving forward with your blog, you’re going to quickly run into the limitations of WordPress.com.

WordPress.org

WordPress.org is the version of WordPress that you have to host yourself. This means that if you use wordpress.org, you have to go out and find a web hosting company to host your blog. This may result in you having to paying for services before you even hit Publish on your fist post.

The good thing is that some hosting companies may give you a short grace period to try out their service before you get your first bill. Then, after you get going, you’ll be looking at a cost of anywhere from a $5 to $10 per month for a shared host.

You’ll also have to buy your own domain to use with your blog—you won’t even have the option not to. Again, some hosts will give you one domain for free when you signup. This also means that you can add additional domains for just the cost of the domain, since you already have the host.

After you have decided on a shared host of your choice, you are going to have to install WordPress in your hosting account. Don’t fret: most shared hosts worth using will have a “one-click install” for WordPress, so it’s not too complicated to get WordPress installed. In the event that you do have any problems, most good shared hosts will help you out.

Once this has been completed, you will have free rein to do whatever you wish with your shiny new WordPress installation. This also means that you get access to two of the best features of WordPress that I alluded to above: plugins and custom themes.

Themes are what control the look and feel of your blog, colours, layouts, fonts, etc. Yes, it’s true that you are able to pick a theme while using WordPress.com but there is a limited selection and you are not able to do much customization to the theme itself. If you know your way around CSS, you can pay an additional $30 per year to have the ability to modify the CSS.

Even if you get to the CSS of your WordPress.com site, you still have a limited selection of themes to choose from. At least with WordPress.org, you have the choice of using the same out-of-the-box free themes as on WordPress.com or to pay a bit extra for a premium or custom theme.

But the killer feature of WordPress.org has got to be the ability to add plugins, which are not available with WordPress.com. Plugins are add-ons that expand the core functionality of WordPress. As an example, if you want to be able to scan your entire site to make sure there are no broken links, there is a plugin for that. There are countless other plugins for WordPress that will:

  • compress images
  • enhance SEO
  • create contact forms
  • lightbox images
  • and much, much more!

Initially, having FTP access to your blog might not matter to you, but as you grow into your blog, you might want to have the ability to modify and move files around on your web host’s server. This is something that you get with a self-hosted site running WordPress, that you can’t ever get with a WordPress.com blog.

Probably the most important feature of using WordPress.org is you get to make money with your blog. You’re free to use anything from Adsense to affiliate promotions. You’ll even have the option of creating and selling your own products through your site. And if the need arises, you can turn a WordPress.org site into a full-blown ecommerce solution.

That said, it’s not all roses with a self-hosted blog. There are two major things missing with WordPress.org that you get with WordPress.com: backups and protection from extreme traffic spikes.

There aren’t many safety nets with a self-hosted site, so make sure you back it up often. WordPress.com takes care of this for you. A good web host usually performs regular backups, but most will tell you that they don’t guarantee anything. So whatever you do, make sure that you perform your own WordPress backups frequently.

In the event that your blog does get popular overnight, it could buckle under the added traffic. Don’t worry: the stability of your site can be beefed up through the use of a good caching plugin, like W3 total cache. Also, it isn’t too difficult to upgrade your hosting at some point in the future when your site starts getting massive traffic. This would be a good problem to have!

Wrapping it up

I have to admit that after being so accustomed to the flexibility of WordPress.org, I would have a hard time being happy with a WordPress.com blog. If you have any aspirations of taking your blog past the hobby stage, you should just start out with a self-hosted site.

It is possible to move a WordPress.com hosted site to a self-hosted site later on. However, presuming that you might consider starting with a WordPress.com site and moving to a self-hosted site later on, you’re best to just start out with a self-hosted site.

That said, if you are comfortable living within the limitations of WordPress.com, and you want to never have to deal with the technical details of a blog, then a WordPress.com hosted blog might be all that you need.

WordPress.com is great if you are looking to keep an online journal or for small clubs and the like. Due to the fact that you are reading this site, I expect you’re interested in making a business out of your blog. On that note, at some point in the future you will end up with a WordPress.org website. Save yourself the fuss and the hassle of trying to transition your site later on. You’ll be happy you did.

The initially-free option of WordPress.com could actually result in higher costs down the road. After you start piling on extra fees for a custom domain, ad removal, extra storage space (you only get 3GBs to start), plus the ability to use custom CSS in your blog design, you really aren’t saving much, if any, money on WordPress.com, and you have to deal with its limitations.

Finally, and this is a big “finally”, you don’t own a WordPress.com website. After you’ve spent all that time to build a blog and an audience, do you really want to wake up one morning and find out that WordPress.com didn’t like your site so they deleted it? There isn’t a strong chance of this happening, but you should be aware that it could.

Have you been trying to decide between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? What challenges are you facing?

Matthew Hooper helps individuals, small businesses and organizations build an internet presence. You can get his free guide on building an internet presence or check out his online WordPress course full of step-by-step videos so that you can learn WordPress in a single weekend.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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WordPress.com or WordPress.org? Which One’s Right for You?


Blogging Business Plans 101

This guest post is by Adarsh Thampy of ConversionChamp.com.

Do you know what the biggest mistake is when starting your own blog?

I’d argue that it’s probably lack of proper planning. At the starting point, you should consider writing a business plan for your blog.

“A business plan?” you might ask. “A blog is not necessarily a business!” I have guest posted over at branding personality about this topic. Blogging is a tool to promote your business or brand. So it’s essential that bloggers too have a business plan.

One of the successful entrepreneurs I respect the most, Neil Patel, is not a big fan of business plans, and he’s written about why you shouldn’t write a business plan in the first place. However, the plan I am talking about in this article is not based on any traditional models. Most people search the Internet to create a business plan and finally give up. It’s probably because they find it too difficult. I have to agree with this feeling: writing a business plan is no walk in the park.

But there is good news for people looking to start a blog, who want a plan that’ll help.

Unlike traditional business plans, the one you need to create for your blog is fairly simple. You don’t have to worry about structure, wording, or content. Your business plan will be short and easy to prepare.

Why do I even need a business plan?

All entrepreneurs know they need a business plan. But not many know why they actually need one. If I am talking on a high level, I can say that it is needed to acquire venture capital, optimize business operations, and so on, though I bet most bloggers never even remotely think of such things before they start a blog.

In layman’s terms, here’s why you need business plan:

  • It can give you an overall idea about your business (even before you start one). This makes sure that you approach blogging from a business perspective, and not just the mindset of content creation alone.
  • You will have a better understanding of the requirements of your business. (Can you provide consulting through your blog? Or how is it that you are going to make money from it?)
  • You’ll have a better overview about cash flow in your business. (Cashflow is nothing but how and when money comes in and goes out). How much are you going to invest in your blog, and how much do you expect it to make over a given period of time?
  • It encourages you to take a more realistic approach towards your business.
  • It helps you discover the challenges that lie ahead for your blog and the business associated with it.

How to prepare a business plan for your blog

Here comes the good part, and I must say that it’s actually fun too.

To create a blog, you’ll have to do research on your target market, figure out the operational and start-up costs, and so on. So why not document those things along the way, in a business plan that guides you, and provides a reference for the future?

Step 1: Business idea

In this section, you will have to note down what your business idea is. To make it more fun, write down how you actually zeroed down on your business idea. Make it short: don’t go over one page. In fact, try not to go over half a page.

Example: “My business idea is to start an online store which will sell superman merchandise to kids. I wanted to do this since my children love Superman toys and there isn’t any store that exclusively sells them online. I can entertain my kids as well as make some profit. I’ll use my blog to engage my customers and build a loyal following.”

Step 2: Business requirements

What does your business or blog require to get started? What is the timeframe in which you expect each task to be completed? It’s good to make an Excel spreadsheet and paste it into your business plan so you have all the information in the same document.

Don’t include costs here. When it comes to the timeframes you’ll need to factor in, be realistic. Optimism is good, but your business decisions needs to be based on facts.

Example for small blog business: “My online store will be ready in approximately three months’ time. I’ll also need the help of some web designers and developers to build my online store. Then I need to get a decent hosting for my business website.

“I will spend three hours a day on this project, as I have a full-time job as well. For my blog, I’ll write the contents. I’ll also hire an editor to manage the content of this site (and occasionally contribute to it while I am busy with my main business).”

  • “Designing the site: 15 days (I am smart so I’ll use the StudioPress theme for my blog—the one that powers problogger.net)
  • Coding for the site: 45 days
  • Tweaks: 5 days
  • Setting up merchant account with Google Checkout: 5 days
  • Getting necessary stock: 10 days
  • Planning for the launch: 1 day
  • Hiring people to maintain my business: 10 days”

“So that makes it a total of around three months for the site to go live. I’ll also need to put some money aside for this. I think I have it in my savings account. If not, maybe I’ll ask my wife really nicely.”

See how I broke down the requirements into smaller requirements? This makes it easier to adjust your plan if something goes off track. Also, don’t try to be formal in the way you phrase things. Your business plan is for your reference, not for someone else.

Step 3: Business model

There are many business models you can choose from. Normally for ecommerce stores, the business model is kind of traditional: you make a product, then customers pay for items they want. But in certain businesses, the model may be different. For your blog, your business model might be selling services, selling other peoples products for commission (affiliate marketing), or something else.

Whatever it is, make sure you have a very clear idea about how you are going to make money from your business. This is very important.

Example 1: “I’m going to use my online store to sell products. I will get product from <insert your vendor here> for a nice discount if I buy in bulk. Then I will sell it for a slightly higher price.

“My payment processor will be Google checkout. I have set to receive weekly payments and they will pay straight to my bank account. I will also sell customized services through my blog.”

Example 2: “I have a blog on health and wellness where I post articles on health-related issues. So, my main income source would be Google AdSense. Whenever user clicks on an advertisement on my site, I will get paid. The payment threshold is $100 and I will receive checks via mail when I reach that threshold.”

You need to document this business model very clearly. This will ensure that you do not lose focus on your end goal.

Step 4: Finance

In this section, you need to focus on the start-up costs as well as the running costs of your blog, and your business. Do some research and find out how much it will cost you to keep your online business going.

Again, this is very important as it will help you get an overview about business cash flow and profitability.

Example: “My online store will require the following to get started.

  • Domain: $30 (Registered for three years with Namecheap. Billing is every three years.)
  • Hosting: $85 (Registered with Hostgator for a year. They will bill me yearly.)
  • Design: $250 (Paid a freelancer for the excellent design. Was delivered in PSD format as well as JPEG.)
  • Coding: $3000 (Will pay another freelancer with good reputation on Odesk. Work will be completed in 45 days from start of payment.)
  • Miscellaneous costs: $250 (Includes a launch party for my friends.)

Total: $3615

Operational costs

  • Domain: $40 (Every three years)
  • Hosting: $85 (Every year) [Note: I may need to upgrade to a more expensive plan as my site grows]
  • Shipping costs: $5 (per shipment)
  • Promotions and discounts: Vary from 2% to 10% discount depending on the market conditions”

This is just a small example. In some cases the finance required might be very small; in some cases it’ll be huge. If you want to factor in your time as well, then you can come up with an hourly rate that reflects your work, and put it in the operational cost section.

Also note that the running costs will vary over time. When your blog starts getting popular, you might need to move to better hosting, or you might need to develop more features, which will require a larger investment of money.

Step 5: Business goals

In this section, you need to set business goals. Make sure they are achievable. Relax your goals a bit. It’s better to achieve a small goal rather than fail to achieve a big goal.

Example 1:  “I need to break even in one years’ time. In another year, I will expand my collection to include more toys. After three years, I will launch my own brand of toys. My goal for profits is 0% the first year (that is, I’ll break even), another 5% the second year, and increase by 2% in the coming years.”

Example 2: “Right now I am going to start with just my blog and offer consultation services. Later on I will be adding informational products. So I expect to break even in one year, get a minimum of 1000 subscribers and land two or three consulting gigs. I also want to set a monthly traffic goal of 25,000 site visitors by the end of year one.”

You need to constantly refer to your business goals so that you do not lose focus.

Step 6: Operational model

You need to figure out how you’re going to run your business. Is it a one-man show? Are you going to hire employees to manage certain tasks?

Example:  “Here is how I plan to operate my blog and the business associated with it:

  • Work part-time for three hours a day during the first six months.
  • Write content myself. My blogging schedule will be to post three articles each week.
  • Quit my full-time job and work 12 hours a day for my site for the next six months.
  • Allow guest posts from the sixth month onwards. Hire an editor to take care of managing the guest posts.
  • Hire an accountant to maintain records so that I can easily file my tax returns.
  • Hire marketing people to take care of site promotion, or do site promotion myself.
  • Teach my wife how I run this business and ask her to take on some of the roles.”

Step 7: Marketing strategy

Here you will define how you’ll market your business. Don’t go into depth while laying out your marketing strategy. Marketing strategies vary greatly over time. In the early 1900’s no one would have thought about marketing online. Yet, now online marketing is one of the best ways to get customers for your business.

Put in the main points and leave it at that—you can always revise the plans in more detail as you come to put them into practice. This will also help you evaluate how your previous marketing strategy helped you, and how the new one is doing.

Example:  “I am going to promote my online store in the following ways:

  • Use blogging as a powerful content marketing tool. Create awesome content and post it on my blog. This will attract a loyal audience.
  • Hire a good SEO consultant/learn SEO myself.
  • Ask friends to recommend my site to others.
  • Buy a small ad in my local newspaper about my online store.
  • Write articles on related sites for free, in exchange for a link to my site (guest posts).”

Step 8: Exit strategy

This is something not many entrepreneurs want to think about. An exit strategy is something you use when you want to close your business.

People don’t want to think about it because it spreads a negative vibe, and you don’t want anything negative in your business. However, you certainly need an exit plan.

Most entrepreneurs never make an exit strategy the first time, so if their business or blog isn’t as successfully as they’d hoped, they get disheartened and quit. If you have an exit strategy, you can save all the stress and exit gracefully. I have personally started around ten blogs and only few of them were successful. I lost several thousand dollars initially because I did not plan on a proper exit strategy.

Example:  “In the rare case that my business fails or I decide to quit my business, here is my plan:

  • I will try to sell my business online for what it is worth at the time.
  • I will cancel all services associated with my business.
  • Customers will be informed of the business’s sale well in advance.
  • I have kept a reserve amount in my bank account should anything bad happen.
  • I will take a break for one month before I venture into another business again.”

A blog business plan in 8 steps

So there you have it: eight steps and you’re done. Now you have a well thought out, personal business plans for your internet business.

I highly recommend that each year you review your business plan and create a new, more specific one for the coming 12 months. The old one should be kept to provide a yardstick against which you can manage your business growth, chart the change in strategies, and so on over time.

Have you created a business plan for your blog? Let us know how it’s helped you in the comments.

Adarsh Thampy is a blogger, inbound marketing consultant for small business and a SEO guy. He writes about getting more customers for your business over at ConversionChamp.com. You can add conversionchamp to the Google plus circle.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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Blogging Business Plans 101


Beyond Blogging: Facing Up to Your Long-term Future

This is a guest post by Tyler Tervooren of Advanced Riskology.

What happened to all the railroads? Have you ever pondered that question?

In the 1800s, the railroad industry in the U.S. was booming. New businesses were sprouting up every year, and inventors were creating newer and more efficient locomotives. First it was steam, then it was petrol, then it was diesel. Times were good, and America had a bright, rail-based future.

So what happened? Why isn’t the country blanketed in rail routes and why doesn’t everyone hop on the metro-line in front of their house each day to go to work? Today, the railroad companies are a shell of what they once were. Why? Because the automobile came along and ran them into the ground.

But did this have to happen?

No. There were things railroad companies could have done to cater to the people who made their businesses possible, but instead they dug in their heels and said, “We’re in the railroad business,” and they stayed the course.

You’re not in the blogging business

Compare this story to Apple, today’s holy grail of technology companies. They started 30 years ago as a personal computer company, but today you could hardly pigeonhole them with a title like that.

Truth is, Apple’s computer line never gained traction like the PC did, but what they’ve done better than any other tech company is pay attention to the trends of what consumers want, and they’ve never been afraid to experiment with other products.

Thanks to that, Apple is responsible for the world’s most popular personal music device, smart phone, and tablet computer.

The rail empires of days past said, “We’re in the railroad business!” when they should have been saying, “We’re in the transportation business.”

Apple got this right by saying, “We’re not a personal computer company, we’re a technology company.”

When it comes to blogging and setting yourself up for long-term success, it’s probably a good idea to heed these stories and ask yourself what the real purpose of your work is.

Are you in the blogging business, or are you in the information business? Are you a writer, or are you an idea spreader that just happens to be writing right now?

The way you answer these questions can have a profound effect on your future, so they’re worth thinking about.

This is especially important if you make a living from your blog. If you’ve ever tried to earn money blogging, you know very well that—despite what anyone tells you—there is no blogging business model that “just works.”

You have to put in a lot of effort to find a model that works for you, and every so often, you have to change it to make sure it keeps working. No business in any industry sets up shop one day and says, “Okay, we’ve figured it all out. We’re done now.” And any blogger who thinks so usually enjoys a short burst of tremendous success and then disappears.

Be your own research and development team

If you’re the type of blogger who likes the idea of having a long-term impact, then you also have to play a long-term game. You have to constantly look for ways to stay relevant and find new ways to evolve the work you’re doing because what works today is in no way guaranteed to work tomorrow.

Essentially, you need to invest in your own research and development.

As a full-time writer myself, here are four ways I try to stay a step ahead of the pack and improve my own game on a regular basis:

1. Pay attention and listen to reader preference

The reason someone decides to read your blog is because they think what you have to say is interesting or useful. After that, the only reason is because that’s the only way you present information. Just because you choose to write doesn’t mean that your readers prefer to read—they may prefer audio, video, or something else entirely, like small group lectures.

The way people consume information is constantly changing. To make it in the long haul, your job is to regularly ask yourself if the way you’re presenting it is the best solution.

  • Read between the lines when people leave comments.
  • Look at the way they interact with different kinds of posts.
  • Pay attention to how other people in completely different industries deliver information.

How can you update or change the way you operate to better cater to the people who are giving you their attention?

2. Devote a portion of your time each day to new outlets

When you’re just starting out in the blogosphere, you want nothing more than to build your audience, find a formula that works, and get to a comfortable place. This is a nice place to get to, but once you’re there, realize that it’s a very dangerous place to stay.

As soon as you find a formula that works for you, be sure to devote some time every single day to exploring and testing out new ones.

When Google Plus launched in 2011, the first thing I thought to myself was, “Great, another social network that’s going to fail. Why waste my time on this?”

But since I’d promised myself to spend time every day testing new platforms and ways of working, I signed up anyway. And I’m glad I did! Google Plus isn’t going away any time soon, and by being one of the early adopters, I was able to establish myself there relatively easily.

Don’t be afraid of a new technology that looks like a time suck. Instead, devote an hour every day to playing with something that may never work out, and don’t feel bad if it never does.

3.  Always think bigger than blogging

The success of your work over the long-term, I believe, depends much more on how you see yourself and the work that you produce than the format you put it in.

The cold hard truth that we’ve learned over centuries but conveniently ignore in our own lives is that entire industries can disappear quickly and violently. What never goes away, though, is the idea and intention behind the industry. Look no further than the recording industry and the movie business to see this happening right in front of our faces.

Someday, the “blog” will cease to have any importance in the daily lives of people, but the good ideas that they used to spread will never die.

If you see yourself only as a writer or a blogger, your work will eventually die and become irrelevant. But if you see yourself as something more, as a creator and distributor of ideas and information, then you’ll be naturally inclined to evolve as necessary to keep creating and distributing those ideas.

4. Build relationships outside your niche

Have you ever noticed how you have the simple answers to all your friends’ problems, but you have a hard time finding solutions to your own? It’s because you can see other people’s problems from an outside perspective, but not your own.

The same is true in blogging. It’s important to build relationships within your niche—that’s a great way to build an audience—but it’s just as important to build relationships outside of your niche.

If all of your friends are in the same position as you, you’ll have a hard time finding creative solutions to any of the problems you face.

But when you surround yourself with people who are doing things much differently, you begin to see new and interesting ways to apply the lessons they’ve learned to your own blog.

This is not the end of the world…

My point here is not to scare you into believing the entire blogosphere is about to crash and burn, and everything you ever worked for is about to be flushed down the toilet.

What I really want is to encourage you to think about your blog, the reason it exists, and the long-term game you’re going to play to make sure the important work you’re doing is still relevant a year from now, a decade from now, a century from now.

I want you to ask yourself:

  • What am I building?
  • Why am I building it?
  • Am I only a blogger, or is blogging just the outlet I’m working on right now?
  • How will my message survive if blogging becomes irrelevant?

Get out a piece of paper (another industry slowly on its way out…) and write this down, it’ll help a lot!

The sky isn’t falling, your blog isn’t in danger, and there’s nothing threatening your existence at the moment. And that’s what makes right now the best time to think about these questions.

Tyler Tervooren spreads scary and unpopular ideas about life, business, and adventure at his blog, Advanced Riskology. Follow his updates from around the world on Google+.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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Beyond Blogging: Facing Up to Your Long-term Future


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