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Tips for Creating Your First eCourse

There’s a reason you’re seeing an influx of ecourses in the blogosphere of late – it’s a fantastic way to share to a higher (and sometimes more concentrated) degree your talents and knowledge. If you have a niche blog, then there’s a good chance you can come up with an in-depth and useful course that [...]

Why Should I Make My Webpage Interactive?

This is a guest contribution from Ben Shwartz. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover… but does that extend to eBooks? How about webpages? In the current state of our globalized, media-saturated society, it’s difficult—if not outright impossible—to live by this seemingly antiquated adage. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the World [...]

ProBlogger FAQ: How Long Should Posts Be?

Over the years I’ve been asked many questions about blogging, but I find there are a few that pop up more often than others. While blogging is different for everyone, I have found that the conclusions I’ve arrived at after all this time still hold true. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting my [...]

Top Takeaways from ProBlogger Perth Training Event: Content, Blog Design, Social Media, Productivity, and Monetization

In the lead-up to the main ProBlogger Event on the Gold Coast this year, we have held various workshops and panels around the country, teaching and inspiring bloggers in their own home towns. February saw the first full-day event in Perth, Western Australia with both local and interstate speakers on the topics of content, better [...]

30 High-Impact Ways to Level Up Your Writing

This is a guest contribution from freelance blogger and email copywriter Hassan Ud-deen. Ever feel like your writing could be better? If you’re a blogger, there’s no way around writing. It’s critical to everything you do, and shapes your reputation online.  This makes a lot of us dread writing.  We approach it with a heavy heart full of [...]

7 Effective Tips To Grow Your Social Media Presence The Right Way

This is a guest contribution from Adam Connell. Have you ever wondered how to gain a significant advantage with social media? Not just in terms of growing a following but growing an engaged following? I have too, and so have countless others. The truth is that you can, and it’s easier than you might think. If [...]

Editing for People Who Love to Write… Too Much

If you’re anything like me, you love words. You love prose, you love language, you love how a perfectly-constructed sentence can say so much more than just letters put in order. If you’re unlike me, however, you love to use lots of words, and write mountains of prose. I know it’s hard not to get [...]

Blog Post Idea: How I Do It Posts

Recently I shared a simple technique that I use to come up with ideas to write about on my blog – answering a beginner question. While not really rocket science I had a number of readers contact me privately with thank-you messages appreciating the nudge to write that type of post. Today I’d like to suggest [...]

3 Secret Weapons I Used to Launch My Fulltime Blogging Career

This is a guest post by Jeff Goins of Goins, Writer. “I’d like to be a writer,” I told my friend one day when he asked what my dream was. “But that’ll never happen.” And I quickly went back to moping around, waiting for my big break. At the time, I was working for a [...]

Tips for Creating Your First eCourse

Tips for starting your first ecourse  problogger.netThere’s a reason you’re seeing an influx of ecourses in the blogosphere of late – it’s a fantastic way to share to a higher (and sometimes more concentrated) degree your talents and knowledge. If you have a niche blog, then there’s a good chance you can come up with an in-depth and useful course that will be helpful for your readers and profitable for you.

If an ecourse is something that’s been on your mind, then read ahead. Last year, Chantelle Ellem of Fat Mum Slim ran her very first blogging ecourse, which was a huge success. I picked her brain about how she started the course, what platforms she used, and what she learned. If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments and we’ll try and get an answer for you to start your ecourse journey off on the right foot!

The Overview

What made you decide you wanted to offer an online blogging course?

I was getting emails every single day asking me how to do things on the topic of blogging, really specific questions that needed a lot of time and energy to respond to. And of course I was responding to each of them! I decided that there was obviously a need for a blogging course. It was actually back in 2010 when I dreamed up my blogging course, and it was a time when no one (or not that I knew of) was doing it. Over the years I’d revisit the idea, write the content and structure for the course and eventually I got my butt into gear and launched it this year.

When you began putting the course together did you have a specific outline in mind, or did it come together more as you were writing it?

Because I wrote it back in 2010, so much happened since then, like… Instagram! So I knew that I wanted to cover off everything I knew in my own head about blogging, and put it down into lessons. It definitely evolved as I started writing the content, and realised that I had so much more stuff I wanted to share.

How engaged have people been with it?

People have been amazingly involved. It’s been so well-received. I’ve done blogging courses before and it felt a lot like we were dumped with the information and left there to absorb it. I wanted to be really available to the Clever Cookie students, and let them pick my brain whenever they like. It’s been time-consuming, but good time-consuming. I’ve loved sharing conversations about blogging with the students.

What was the motivation behind getting “guest speakers” in? Were they hard to source?

I don’t know everything there is to know about blogging, and I don’t think anyone does… so I wanted to bring other people in to share their knowledge. I also wanted to teach the students that there’s not just one way to blog successfully. I wanted them to take bits of information from all the different sources, decide what felt right to them, and then make it into their own recipe for blogging success.

Has it been hard to fit it in alongside your regular work?

I’m not going to lie, yes it has. But I love blogging, so it doesn’t always feel like work. And, who needs sleep anyway? I think if I’d just created the content, scheduled it to go live and left the students to it, I’d have more time on my hands… but I want to be there as much as possible, and I wouldn’t be happy doing it any other way

What has surprised you about the course?

A few weeks before I did the course I read a quote that said, “Obvious to you is amazing to others” and it made me realise that the really basic general knowledge is something that I shouldn’t overlook sharing. And that feeling was right, because the most simple lessons I’ve taught in Clever Cookie have been the ones that have resonated most with the students.

What has delighted you?

The community! I love the community that has already blossomed amongst the bloggers. They’ll be their own support network moving forward once the course has long finished. They have access to a Facebook group for graduates and will be able to share, give advice, help each other out and support each other on their journey. Also, we sent out little welcome packs at the start of the course, and people loved getting those presents. Seeing and reading their reactions was a great way to kick off.

What did you learn about running a course like this that you will know for next time?

One big thing I learnt was with finances. The forum we run the course in takes a big chunk of income, and PayPal takes some too. We factored that in of course, but it was expensive, as were the welcome packs and postage. Because my Paypal account hadn’t had income coming in before, Paypal seized all the money (it’s a long story but they like to look after customers so they’ve frozen half the income for the course for six months in case anyone requests a refund). So I learnt those things, which I never knew before. I also learnt that there is some pretty amazing up-and-coming blogging talent out there. That’s exciting!

What would you advise other people if they wanted to run an online course?

I would say to do it! Be organised, set a schedule for the content, make it as social as possible and easy to digest. I’d also have to remind people of that great quote I read before we launched, “obvious to you is amazing to others”.

Tips for starting your first ecourse : problogger.net

The Nitty-Gritty

Platforms

The platform I used to host the course was CourseCraft: https://coursecraft.net/ In an ideal world I’d create my own platform, but this was pretty seamless. They take a percentage of all your profits, but it removed a lot of the stress for us.

Learning Curves

Tech-wise, we really only had to get to know how to use CourseCraft, and that was hard when students would ask about functionality but we didn’t know the answers to. A lot of the teething problems we had were more around figuring out Paypal, grabbing people’s addresses {we sent everyone a welcome pack in the mail}, and working out international times for the Facebook chats that we had with experts in blogging.

Social Media

We didn’t think that Clever Cookie required too many social media platforms to support it, as we already had our own assets, but we started a Facebook page and a new website. We also used MailChimp to email students, and to create a database to gain interest.

Useful Advice

Going into Clever Cookie we just tried to put into it what we’d like to have learned 4 years ago, and went with that. We asked for feedback from our students on completion of the course and it was really, overwhelmingly positive. Over these past six months we’ve seen lots of our graduates go on to achieve awards for blogging, grow their audience, and really soar.

Have you ever considered creating an ecourse? What tips do you have for us? I’d love to hear!

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

Tips for Creating Your First eCourse

Why Should I Make My Webpage Interactive?

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 1.05.37 pm

This is a guest contribution from Ben Shwartz.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover… but does that extend to eBooks? How about webpages? In the current state of our globalized, media-saturated society, it’s difficult—if not outright impossible—to live by this seemingly antiquated adage. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the World Wide Web, appearance often conquers content in terms of user retention, which makes your landing page the golden ticket to your website’s success.

“If you had one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted, one moment… would you capture it, or just let it slip?”—Eminem on landing page optimization… or a rap battle.

Generating a home page with interactive features (think layered multimedia and on-site social networking) allows the fireworks to come directly to the customer, instead of having the customer waste his or her precious time searching for what exactly it is that you have to offer. With that said, put your best foot forward and take advantage of all the…well, advantages, an interactive site can procure.

Capture the social media-unfriendly.

For better or for worse, social media often gets a bad rap. For the stubborn old-timers, social media shy, and those who are proud to have never given a virtual thumbs-up or double-tapped to “like,” having an on-site source for communication can be an easy (and potentially covert) transition to get these hesitant folks more inclined to digital networking.

If you’ve already won the first battle by getting them to your site in the first place, the immediate presence of focused content and engaging topics relevant to their interests may compel them to take part in the conversation. Easy, automatic signup options (i.e. via your email account) saves time and gets the user directly apart of the conversation. As a bonus, user profiles are limited within the site’s perimeters, ensuring an extra level of privacy that will be happily received by any reluctant recluse.

For the sake of organization.

If you’re a startup or an e-commerce retailer, chances are you have a string of social media accounts representing your business all around the web. From obvious mainstays like Facebook and Twitter to the more professional LinkedIn and less structurally restrictive Tumblr, there’s a whole pond full of big name outlets for one little fish to navigate. Streamline key topics of interest to establish your site as the primary source of discussion, so as to provide a clear, exact, and timely authority on your site’s content. Allow your social media links to direct traffic back to your site, whether they target new customers with catchy captions or retain existing customers with reminders regarding updates to the content with which they are already familiar.

On the contrary, if you’re looking to give your customers some extra context that you find may interest them (and thus further establish yourself as a thought leader), multimedia tools are available on the market to create centralized hubs of outsourced interaction. Simple, customizable icons link to related and relevant content. Should one recommendation prove beneficial to your customer, there’s a good chance you’ve converted him or her into a repeat user on your own site.

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Enjoy the benefits of live personal presence in real-time.

Social networking, especially within a particular niche, can quickly get to look a lot like a high school cafeteria. You have a few cheerleaders on the hunt for prom dresses, a gaggle of brainiacs preparing for the next Comic-Con, and devoted group of traveling Phish fans. While each individual adheres to a different class schedule, eating at the lunch table affords a precious punctual platform from which to vocalize their hopes, needs, and desires.

While these “lunch tables,” or online outlets for communication, do currently exist (and in great numbers), the current state of cyber affairs stimulates the desire for instant gratification, or feedback in real-time. While alerts and notifications on other outlets can remind you of existing conversations, having an on-site communication tool allows a more organic flow of communication. Customers can feel that they’re actually a part of a dynamic conversation, rather than uttering anonymous nothings to the wind. Users can create more substantial relationships with one another and in turn, return to the site to continue these budding interest-based friendships. Topics will be more likely to stay on course given their placement in a centralized, authoritative position, and you will be more likely to sustain P2P relationships given that your site will be the common link (literally) shared between viewers.  Just like in high school, everyone wants to be a part of a group and their conversation. Your on-site social network will give your viewer a voice and heighten the likelihood that he or she will be heard.

Educate others while educating yourself.

In terms of building a community, user retention is more likely to increase if your viewers feel at home. If they’re already engaging in a conversation, they’re more likely to resume input if they feel that they’re in a group consisting of thoughtful peers based on mutual interests and respect.

Having one (or several) of your team members as an active social presence on your site is a win-win for all parties. From a customer’s perspective, they can gain insight from interaction with a thought leader, and the informal setting in which it takes provides a more humanized and less formal or mechanical component.

Additionally, it goes without saying that a business needs to determine its customers’ desires and interests, and having an inside source on the front lines is one of the easiest ways to do just that. By learning the popular topics in your forums, you’ll have a better idea of what can be added, edited, or removed to maximize your website’s potential and propel your future business goals.

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In essence, an interactive website prioritizes and centralizes not only the products by also the discourse associated with your brand. Your landing page is your money maker, given its status as your company’s official authority. If we stay with the times and realize that consumers must be efficiently engaged to ensure conversion, then we must recognize how important it is to create a visually appealing product that provides a one-stop shop for your audience’s needs.

Finally, consumers strive for a human connection rather than a technical, formalized response to their social networking input. Combine winning visuals with interactive, informal discussions to ensure that your site is one worth reading from one day to the next.

Ben Shwartz is the VP of Marketing for Spot.IM. He loves to buy and sell websites, and immerse himself in anything and everything in the realm of online marketing.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

Why Should I Make My Webpage Interactive?

ProBlogger FAQ: How Long Should Posts Be?

Over the years I’ve been asked many questions about blogging, but I find there are a few that pop up more often than others. While blogging is different for everyone, I have found that the conclusions I’ve arrived at after all this time still hold true.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting my answers to the most frequently asked questions here at ProBlogger. If you have any you’d like me to answer, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

ProBlogger FAQ How long should posts be We go into the answers.

The biggest question I get asked though, is how long should a post be?

My answer to this is usually “write enough to be useful, and then stop”.

This, of course, means that a post can be any length, and I certainly don’t follow a set formula. You can be useful in 500 words, or you can be useful in 3000 – it all depends.

There has been talk recently about longer-form content and the way Google ranks it as opposed to the bite-size content usually recommended for time-poor readers. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, so it’s best to consider what the topic is, who your reader is, and how much you have to say about it.

Longer-form content

Search ranking

Regardless of the fact we post on a constantly-updated platform, there is still a need for in-depth analysis. Google itself came to the conclusion after a reader experiment that people are looking for both quick answers and to learn more broadly about the topics that interest them.

Long form also content keeps people on the site longer, which seems to be increasingly a factor in Facebook’s and Google’s algorithms and how they rank content. They factor that time spent on your site into their ranking strategy – how long it takes you to get back to Facebook or Google and interact. Did you flick back almost immediately after not finding what you wanted? Or did you spend a few minutes reading, therefore proving the content useful and as something you wanted to see?

CoSchedule recently conducted an experiment on longer-form content and how it was ranked in search results depending on word length. They mentioned the correlations companies like Moz and serpIQ have found between long-form content and search result placement, and also number of backlinks. Garrett at CoSchedule tested key words and found that the 500-word posts rarely ranked at all. He came to the conclusion that Google doesn’t prefer long-form content simply because it was longer, but that length was one of the indicators of quality (out of 200 ranking factors). The point was still to create great content, as Google values value over all.

Virality

In his experiment on QuickSprout, Neil Patel found that his posts that were longer than 1500 words garnered significantly more social shares than the posts that weren’t. Buzzsumo went on to analyze 100 million articles last year only to discover the same thing – the longer the content, the more shares it gets.

 Usefulness

There’s no doubt you can cover much more ground when it comes to long-form content, and the likelihood that you will be providing the answer the reader is looking for, or solving a pain point for them, is higher.

Longer, in-depth, useful articles are still some of the most popular on ProBlogger – posts like Can You Really Make Money Blogging [7 Things I Know about Making Money Blogging]How to Consistently Come Up with Great Post Ideas for Your Blog, and The Ultimate Guide to Making Money with the Amazon Affiliate Program (which is a whopper at 7683 words). They provide value because they answer just about any question anyone would have.

Short Form Content

I’ve experimented with both long and short-form content on ProBlogger, and have sometimes turned what could be an in-depth post into series of shorter posts instead.

The good thing about a series of posts on the one topic is that it creates anticipation. While it’s never been as successful for me (share-wise) as long-form content, it’s still useful. The best response I’ve seen to a series of posts I’ve done is when I first published 31 Days to Build a Better Blog – where, by posting something every day, I built a community of bloggers all taking small steps in a month to create more successful blogs.

How to Decide?

As I mentioned earlier, the length of your posts depend on various factors. There doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all approach, and very much requires you take into account the topic, your blog, and it’s readers.

Benefits of long-form content:

  • Provides answers to questions
  • Is ranked higher in search results by Google
  • Get shared more
  • Asserts your authority (particularly the in-depth, heavily researched types)
  • Increases engagement
  • Increases the likelihood of quality backlinks
  • Provides value
  • Keeps readers on site
  • Easier to naturally use keywords more often
  • Convenient for readers – all answers in one go

Cons

  • It takes time and effort
  • People might not read as they don’t have the time as it comes through their newsfeed
  • People might save it to read later and then forget
  • It may overwhelm the reader

Benefits of short-form content

  • Easily digestible
  • Easily shared
  • Easily written
  • Helps you keep a consistent updating schedule

Cons

  • Might not be long enough to provide what the reader is looking for
  • Easy to read and forget
  • Could get lost in the busy internet crush
  • Doesn’t establish credibility the way a long-form post can

The idea is to weigh the pros and cons of each and come up with a formula that feels good to you.

Joe from The Write Practice breaks it down well in his post “How Long Should Your Posts Be? A Writer’s Guide” – giving common blog posts lengths and the best types of topics they’re suited to.

Neil Patel outlines the factors you need to take into account before deciding on post length in this post, but asserts that substance is the most basic consideration. “What are you trying to say? What’s the substance? If you can say it in 100 words, then you may want to do so. If it requires 2,000 words, that’s fine too,” he says.

It all comes down to content. Good, useful content that people enjoy reading. Write enough to be useful, then stop.

What are your thoughts? Have you seen short-form do well? Or are you more of a long-form writer? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

ProBlogger FAQ: How Long Should Posts Be?

Top Takeaways from ProBlogger Perth Training Event: Content, Blog Design, Social Media, Productivity, and Monetization

In the lead-up to the main ProBlogger Event on the Gold Coast this year, we have held various workshops and panels around the country, teaching and inspiring bloggers in their own home towns.

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February saw the first full-day event in Perth, Western Australia with both local and interstate speakers on the topics of content, better blog design, social media for blog growth, productivity, and monetization.

We’ve rounded up the top three tips from each speaker for those who couldn’t attend.

Darren Rowse (Keynote) How to Build Sustainable, Long-Term Blogging Success Through the Creation of Meaningful Blogs and Social Engagement.

Darren took us through the main pain points of beginner bloggers, and even those of us who feel like we’ve slogged away for years without much to show for it – with so many blogs out there how do I do I stand out and build an audience? How can I break through the noise? And wow do I establish myself and build a profile when everyone else is doing the same thing?

You May Not Need to Grow as Much as You Think

Darren showcased bloggers with minimal traffic making maximum money – proof that you don’t have to have hundreds of thousands of followers to make blogging work for you.

5 Lessons I Learned about Making a Living from Blogging with Smaller Amounts of Traffic

For those of us who make it work on much more modest traffic, Darren outlined the ways they’ve succeeded where others have failed – namely, it does depend on your business model:

10945560_10150687087939945_4904796194490385344_nThat diversity of income streams is crucial (not all eggs in one basket – what if one of those eggs fails and you lose all your traffic and income overnight?), and that you’re targeting the right reader, connected readers, readers who will be advocates for you, who respond to brand messages, affiliate promotions, and who buy your products and services. You want to aim for connected, engaged readers, not those who fly in and fly out.

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Fill a Gap

Those blogs who are successful are doing things that others are not – perhaps they were the first of their kind, or they built a following by jumping on a trend that was popular at the time. Perhaps they were an emerging sub niche, coming along at just the right moment when need is high. Or perhaps they are catering to an ignored demographic – people who wish there was something created that spoke directly to them.

Where can you fill a gap? Where can you tend a growing need? Where can you spearhead a trend that is just about to hit? Poke around in the corners of what people want before you quit, believing there’s just too many people all saying what you want to say.

Nicole Avery, How to Streamline Your Blogging Workflow

Nicole’s presentation was easily the most popular one of the day, with her practical tips and strategies to make the best use of the time you have to blog. Nicole took us through her personal routines of running one of Australia’s most popular parenting blogs while also being the mother of five kids.

Her top three tips include:

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Find Out Where You Are Now:

Analyse the time you spend on your blog, and see where you might be wasting it, or it might be better spent elsewhere. Use programs like Rescue Time to get a snapshot of where you are.

Find Out Where You Are Going

It’s easy to waste time when you’re not certain where you should be spending it. Create a goal, create a content plan toward that goal, and create a work schedule to help you achieve that goal.

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Take Action

Your work schedule should be mostly work, minimum admin and processing. Nicole recommends you set up your calendars and toolbars for success – have everything to hand and everything written down. Set up your email inbox with canned response to help you cut back time in order to spend it on more productive pursuits. Above all, stay focused. (image)

Nicole has shared her slides here, and her resources mentioned to help you improve your blogging workflow here.

Kelly Exeter, the 5 + 5 Formula for Great Blog Design

Kelly Exeter of Swish Design has worked on some of the best blogs in Australia, creating functional websites that also look beautiful. She gave us her top five tips for each over the course of the hour.

Functionality

Your blog must support and enhance your brand, make your reader feel at home, offer a logical pathway around your site, get the reader to take some kind of action, and help you achieve your blogging goals.

Top Takeaways from ProBlogger Perth Training Event: Content, Blog Design, Social Media, Productivity, and Monetization

 

Design

Needs a great header, logical naviation, clean sidebar, clear content area, and effective use of white space.

Top Takeaways from ProBlogger Perth Training Event: Content, Blog Design, Social Media, Productivity, and Monetization

Stacey Roberts, An Introduction to Turning Your Blog into a Business

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I outlined an overview of the myriad ways to make money, and how to keep it sustainable, most of which I’ve used on my own blog, Veggie Mama. The most important thing though, is staying true to yourself, having a vision, being honest with readers, and working hard.

 

Ways to Monetize

Really only limited by your imagination, there are numerous ways to make your blog profitable. From the immediate ideas of advertising, affiliate sales, brand collaborations and own products, to audio/video, freelancing, consulting, syndication, merchandising, and more.

What you need to focus on is: what are you passionate about? What is realistic for you? Where do your talents lie? Do you want active or passive income (or both)? The intersection of these dictates how you should monetize.

Pricing

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Without an industry standard, it can be difficult to put a price on what you do. Overcharge, and nobody will buy. Undercharge, and you sell yourself short. We went through several ways to formulate a price for your work – from this calculation, to seeing what others charge, and considering your qualifications and skill.

Media Kits

Brand collaborations are a popular way of monetizing your blog, and for many bloggers can also bring in the bulk of the income. To get a foot in the door with brands, you will need a media kit – a one-stop resume of sorts of your blog, your audience, and your prices. We also discussed how to get on a brand radar, and how to make your blog brand-ready. You can read the Ultimate Guide to Creating a Media Kit here, where I go into detail about what they should contain, and how to make them look professional.

My slides from the presentation and my downloadable cheat sheet of info and links mentioned is here.

Christie Burnett, Mastering Social Media for Blog Growth

Christie from Childhood 101 has a huge Facebook following, and let us all in on how she grew it, and how she keeps it healthy.

Define Your Voice

Make your social media reflect your brand – whether you’re humorous, helpful, authoritative, etc. Be consistent with that voice.

Invite Participation from your Readership.

Don’t think of it as a one-way relationship, but rather an ongoing discussion. Readers like to know they’re welcome to contribute, and that their contributions are important.

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Develop a Social Media Plan That Works

Your plan needs to consider your content, your style, and the time you have available. Christie recommended bloggers “plan, schedule, track analytics, repeat”.

Christie also discussed using the right tools to help you share and keep track of your shares – whether you use a calendar, a plugin, a third-party app or whatever works for you. Make a note of what was popular with readers, and what didn’t work quite so well. Get to know your audience and cater to their needs.

Christie’s presentation slides are here.

If you haven’t yet, you can still get your ticket for the Gold Coast ProBlogger event held at the RACV Royal Pines on August 14 and 15. The two day event includes speakers like Heather B. Armstrong from Dooce, and Pamela Wilson — of Big Brand System and Copyblogger Media. You can find out more information about speakers and sessions here, and to buy a ticket here.

See you there!

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.

 

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

Top Takeaways from ProBlogger Perth Training Event: Content, Blog Design, Social Media, Productivity, and Monetization

30 High-Impact Ways to Level Up Your Writing

This is a guest contribution from freelance blogger and email copywriter Hassan Ud-deen.

Ever feel like your writing could be better?

If you’re a blogger, there’s no way around writing.

It’s critical to everything you do, and shapes your reputation online. 

This makes a lot of us dread writing. 

We approach it with a heavy heart full of anxiety and minds clouded by doubt.

But what if you could ensure that your writing is at least decent every time you hit that publish button?

 30 High-Impact Ways to Level Up Your Writing

You’d be less worried about the mechanics of writing, and more focused on your message to your audience.

Making you a more powerful blogger.
So here are 30 high-impact ways to supercharge your writing chops, boost your blogging confidence and finally slash those paralysing doubts swirling in your brain.

Let’s go.

1. Develop a Strong Foundation 

Before you can produce writing that leaps out of the screen and grabs the readers attention, you’ll need a good understanding of the basic principles of writing.

Things like grammar, spelling and sentence structure. 

One of the most highly recommended books for this is The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Its a short compact book that’s crammed with everything you need to ensure your basic writing is tight. 

2. Take Your Reader to Starbucks 

Imagine you’re sitting in a class with about 30 students. You have a speckled professor droning on about a scientific topic. 

Now imagine having coffee with a friend sitting across you at Starbucks, explaining the same thing.

Who are you most likely to listen and learn from?

Your friend, right? Because it’s more personal.

Your friend will:

  • Ask you questions to make sure you understand
  • Fluctuate his tone of voice to emphasise points
  • Give you analogies, similes and metaphors to explain better

Similarly, you can do same thing with your words.

  • Ask readers questions to break the monotony and keep them engaged
  • Emphasise important points by making your text bold, italic or underlining
  • Provide vivid metaphors, similes and analogies that help your reader understand what you’re saying with speed and clarity

So next time you sit down to write, don’t think about thousands of eyes gazing at your screen. Think about the reader you’re having a delicious coffee with.

It’ll instantly add a more conversational flow and inject personality into your writing.

3. Have an Outline Before Writing 

Top bloggers like Neil Patel, Carol Tice and Michael Hyatt all swear by the time slicing power of outlines. 

Not only will outlines improve the speed at which you can dish out blog posts, they also improve the flow and quality of your posts.

A good outline covers the following points:

  • The introduction, where you tell your reader what your post is about, and how it’s going to make his life better to make him want to read on.
  • The main body or meat of a post, where you deliver most of your tips and advice
  • The conclusion, where you finish your post with a summary and a call to action 

If you feel that your writing could be better and faster give outlines a try.

4. Don’t Edit and Write at The Same Time

Writing and editing involves two different sides of the brain. Writing is a more creative process and editing is more logical/analytical.

Editing while you write is like continuously switching up and down gears in your car. You’re going to be slowing yourself down.

Putting your foot down all the way instead of switching speeds will work better.

When you start editing while you write, you slow down your writing speed, lose momentum and are more likely to doubt what yourself.

Basically, don’t write and edit at the same time, it disrupts the creative process.

5. Your First Draft Will Suck

It’s tempting to think that your favourite bloggers are magically creating stellar content on their first drafts, but thats not true.

Your first draft is all about getting your thoughts down on paper.

Accept that it will suck.  It will free you from the mental chains of doubt, and prevent you from being overly analytical.

6. Give your Brain a Break before Editing

Once you’ve written your draft, give your brain a break and distance yourself from it for a day or two.

This will increase your objectivity for your first round of editing and will let your mind sift through the ideas you wanted to express during your write up.

Related: Thee Stephen King Drawer Method for Writing Better Copy

7. Snap Your Brain’s Adaptations in Half 

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” (Stephen King)

Think of your brain as a muscle. It needs constant stimulation to grow and become stronger. 

Therefore, you have to train your writing muscles rigorously by continuously reading. You’ll expose yourself to different words, sentences, styles and steadily absorb good writing habits. 

I’m a little gym obsessed, and one thing you learn when building muscle is that you have to attack the body with different types of training.

Doing the same routine day in day out leads to you hitting plateaus. Your body eventually adapts to your routine and stops growing. 

Similarly, when it comes to reading… try to vary what you read.

If you normally read fiction, switch to non-fiction once in a while. If you normally read action/adventure try out romance. 

Reading something different will break your brain’s adaptation pattern, consequently strengthening your writing muscle and leaving you stronger and more well-balanced writer.

8. Embed Awesome Writing into Your Brain by Handwriting 

Sounds odd, doesn’t it? 

Well, it’s how many great writers started off.

Journalist Hunter S. Thompson started by copying the The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms on a typewriter.

Robert Louis Stevenson, author of classics like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island, honed his chops by taking a passage from a great writer and reading it. Then turning over the passage and trying to re-write it again from memory.

Dan Kennedy bloodied his nose in the marketing world by copying out 500 sales letters by hand in order train his mind to absorb the rhythm of good copy.

I’ve used this technique myself. It ain’t easy, but it’s an excellent way to quickly absorb good flow and wording and sharpen your skills.

Try it, I dare you.

9. Take a Literary Hammer, and Smash Your Favourite Writing into Pieces 

Everyone has a writer they look up to. And what better way to learn from those that you admire right?

Find a piece of writing that you admire. It could be from a book, a blog post, or a sales letter.

Now take the piece of writing that impacted you and break it down. Analyze what the writer does to make it so powerful.

Ask yourself: 

  • Why does this part of the blog post, book or sales letter stand out so much?
  • What techniques does the writer use to make the piece stand out?
  • What effects did the words phrases and style have?
  • How does it make you feel?

By closely analyzing an excellent piece of prose, you gain a deep insight to what the writer was thinking and the techniques they used. You can then use the techniques for your own purposes.

10. Print Out what You’ve Written

Sometimes it can be harder to find your mistakes on a computer screen. Printing out your work can make it easier for you to spot grammar and spelling mistakes in your writing.

11. Hit Your Reader Reader’s Senses Where it Hurts 

To keep your readers straight-jacketed to your post, engage their senses.

What can they see? Smell? Hear? Feel?

Here’s what a sentence looks like before engaging the senses:

“Your writing has to make an impact on your readers.”

Yawn. 

It’s a normal, tasteless, sentence that has surface level impact on the reader.

After engaging the senses:

“Your words have to creep up on your audience and sucker punch them into paying attention.”

See the difference?

By using the sensory experiences, the sentence latches on to the readers attention and forces them to feel what you’re saying.

12. Keep Your Writing Active 

The passive voice butchers your writing. Whereas the active voice, adds strength and vigor to it.

Take a look at these passive sentences:

The bat was swung by John

The ball was thrown by James

The door was broken by the dog

Look at what happens after a little makeover…

John swung the bat

James threw the ball

The dog broke the door 

Not only are the sentences more concise, clear and strong. But they also carry more impact with less words.

If you want your readers to effortlessly slide down your posts, keeping your writing active is a must. 

13. Use Shorter Paragraphs and Sentences

Nobody wants to process large chunks of information. They want easy digestible pieces of information they can easily understand.

That’s where having shorter sentences and paragraphs can help a ton.

Keeping sentences and paragraphs short quickens the pace of your writing; makes it easier to understand, and makes your writing less intimidating. 

Aim for one main point per paragraph and one main idea per sentence.

14. Supercharge Your Brain With Words

“I often read for 5-10 minutes. Out loud.” Was Jon Morrow’’s response when asked what his pre-writing rituals are. 

We all know that any writer worth his salt is a serious reader.

But, did you know that when engaged in a powerful reading session, you receive a boost in connectivity in the part of the brain that is associated with the receptivity of language? 

Yup, scientists from Emory University proved that reading heightens your brain power when it comes to dealing with language.

Try reading before you sit down for your next writing session and see if you don’t improve.

15. Develop a Brain Pumping Routine

High performers in any profession develop a routine to get in the “zone”.

Developing a routine for your writing trains your brain to expect to write, which warms your mind up and makes the act of writing much easier in comparison to writing cold.

Jack Kerouac would kneel, pray, light a candle and write by it’s light, then blow it out when he was done.

John Carlton would slip into a different of writing clothes to get him in the zone. 

Ernest Hemingway liked to write first thing in the morning.

Experiment with different routines and see what sticks, because once you have a solid routine to get you in the mood, you’ll no longer be a victim of writers block.

16. Sharpen Your Headline Chops

When writing headlines, you have to make every single word count. Or you risk your reader turning a blind eye to your post.

Headlines force you to be selective and squeeze the power out your words. This transitions into your ability to create hard-hitting sentences that flow smoother, and read better.

17. Write Like it’s Your Job

As Stephen King said, writing is “just another job like laying pipe or driving long haul trucks.”

Let’s imagine that you’re a plumber, and it’s your first day on the job.

You wouldn’t expect yourself to be amazingly skilled at what you’re doing, right?

But you know that becoming better is inevitable. Thanks to the fact that it’s your job, and you’re doing it almost every single day.. 

The same applies to writing.

Write when you feel like it. Write when you don’t. Prioritize your time around writing. 

Write like it’s your job and you’re guaranteed to level up your skills .

 18. Get enough sleep

Ever tried to build muscle? 

An important principle that people skim over is rest. 

They pack themselves into gyms and break down muscle tissue to get stronger. But, the body doesn’t get stronger during exercise. It starts repairing and adds extra muscle tissue during sleep. 

So activities like: writing and reading. Studying different styles, and analyzing great writing…are the literary equivalent of pumping weights. 

They’ll challenge your writing muscle and force it to grow stronger.

But despite your attempts to sharpen your skills…something as simple as sleep could be killing your progress.

Sleep is vital for survival,and keeps your nervous system functioning properly. And according to biological psychologist Namni Goel, “there’s plenty of research showing how a lack of it cripples your mind.”

Writing is hard.

It forces you to dig deep in your brain and extract ideas, information, and feelings. Then communicate them to another human being. 

Don’t make it even harder by not getting enough sleep. 

19. Get Moving 

Henry David Thoreau said: “the moment my legs begin to move my thoughts begin to flow – as if I had given vent to the stream at the lower end and consequently new fountains flowed into it at the upper” 

As mentioned before, writing ain’t easy.

That’s why its important to keep yourself in shape. Your body is your temple, and you want it to be operating at its peak (don’t you?).

Exercise can help you do that. 

Many great writers swear by exercise being a helpful tool for boosting creativity and preparing you for the act of writing.

There’s even research that proves exercise fires up your neurons and switches your brain on.

Research conducted by cognitive scientist prof colzato showed that “people who are doing exercise on a regular basis outperform those who don’t. We think that physical exercise trains your brain to become more flexible in finding creative solutions.”

I like to hit the gym or jump rope for a while before writing.  It calms me down, boosts my mood and clears my thoughts.

But you don’t have to do anything strenuous, you could walk, run, or even do light stretching… just get your blood moving.

20. Release Your Inner (Doodling) Child

Sounds odd doesn’t it? 

But at times, rules, regulations and emotional baggage can weigh you down and stifle your  creativity. 

In her book the doodle revolution, Sunni brown says that doodling helps you focus by “anchoring” a task. Especially when it comes to things that require attention for extended periods of time. Things like lectures, meetings, calls and writing.

“We think doodling is something you do when you lose focus, but it’s really a preemptive measure to stop you from losing focus,” 

Find yourself feeling mentally clogged up at times? Grab a pen and blank paper. Let your thoughts flow freely.

21. Have an Editor Read Through your Work 

No one ever writes the perfect draft.

And even though your second and third ones might be more polished; nothing beats a fresh pair of eyes.

An editor can also highlight your weaknesses and strengths so you can objectively look at your writing and decide what to work on.

22. Join a Group of Writers

Writing is a solitary activity.

And unfortunately, not everyone understands what it’s like to bleed thoughts from your brain into crisp, compelling words that communicate your ideas.

Surround yourself with people who write. 

You’ll get ongoing feedback on your progress, and you’ll always have someone who can sympathize with your writing pleasures and pains.

23. Study Great Sentences

Sentences are the backbone of your writing.

The stronger they are, the stronger your writing will become and the more impact it will have on your readers.

If you encounter a sentence that catches your attention, stop for a second.

Go over it again. Handwrite it. Study it. 

Break down why it’s such a good sentence. Is it concise and powerful? Does it contain a metaphor with killer clarity? Is it crammed with power words? 

Take notes on what makes other sentences good. You’ll discover useful lessons that’ll strengthen your own writing.

24. Cut Out Anything Repetitive or Boring

This applies to both your words and the ideas you express.

Instead of using the same word to describe something; aim for a variety of accurate words to make your writing blossom inside your readers mind.

Below is a short action scene I wrote. 

Before cutting out boring phrases and using different words to create vivid images, this is what it looked like… 

“He fired the gun. The bullets reached each target. One bullet hit the guards head and left a bloody mess. The other bullet hit the second guard square in the jaw and left an explosion of teeth. By the time he reached his next point of cover, both guards were dead.”

Here’s what it looks like after:

“The gun rattled to life. Each shot reaching its intended destination with blinding speed. One cratered through a guards forehead, the second exploded into an anatomical firework of teeth and jaw bone as it smashed into the 2nd guards mouth. By the time he reached his next point of cover, both guards were dead.” 

See the difference? 

I removed everything that was repetitive, and replaced boring words with high power verbs to create a more vivid image that hits where it hurts.

25. Play with Your Words

Instead of settling for the first few words that come to your head, whip out a thesaurus and get digging.

Try using different words and phrases instead of the ones you’ve chosen.

By regularly practicing this, you’ll expand your vocabulary and develop the important skill of choosing the right word at the right time to create the perfect image. 

26. Your Reader’s Cursor is Hovering on the X button

It’s easy to think your readers are browsing for fun and enjoyment. That they’ll read every word of your post; but that’s just not true. 

It’s better to think of your reader like this: 

Your reader is juggling a screaming baby on his lap, has dozens of tasks to finish, and is ready to click on that big red x button the second your post doesn’t provide the solution to his problems. 

Now, that may not be 100% true… but this simple mindset shift will help you create more reader friendly content from the get go.

You’ll be sure to keep his pains and problems in mind, which means you’re less likely to have fluffy, bloated writing that bores his ear off.

27. Kill Cliches with Lethal Analogies

Cliches suck.

They’re tasteless phrases that readers shake off like dirt on their shoulders.

Aswell as making you look like a lazy writer, they butcher any hint of personality in your writing.

So, what to do instead? 

Kill them…with high power analogies.

28. Keep it Dead Simple

Want to instantly power up your posts?

Make them easier to read by simplifying your writing.

Now, simple doesn’t mean limp sentences that pass readers by… it means taking out unnecessary ten-dollar words that make you look like a pompous show off.

Don’t say:

Utilize when you can say use

Extrapolate when you can say estimate

Desiderate when you can say desire

And cut out words like very, really, almost, probably etc.

Keeping your writing simple allows you to communicate with your readers better. It smoothly slides information into their brains without them having to make too much effort.

29. Jump into Your Reader’s Bed

What sites does your reader like to visit? What type of content do they like to read? What do they struggle with the most? 

Answering these questions gives you a deeper insight into what your reader’s most troubling problems, hopes and desires are.

Use polls, surveys, or emails to find out what they want and need.

Knowing your reader well will help you improve on the main purpose of your writing, which is…

To add value to his life through your content.

30. Dissect Bad Writing

You’ll often hear that one of the best ways to improve your writing is to… “read widely and read great writers.”

But what about bad writing?

Think about it.  When you’re engrossed in reading a blogpost, novel, or article that is good, it stealthily washes over your eyes and sneaks into your brain. Because you’re enjoying it. 

But when you face writing that is bad, it’s hard to read. 

You notice that it’s bad instantly. The sentences might feel bloated. The flow might feel horrible. It’ll be completely boring. Making it easier to analyze. 

You’ll spot exactly where the writer went wrong, and how you could improve it. 

Reading bad writing also has another sneaky benefit. 

It’ll give you a little confidence boost and make you feel better about yourself, because constant exposure to writing to higher level writing can lead to doubts sprouting in your brain. 

31. Skyrocket Your Productivity with a Deadline

The less time you have to do something, the faster you’ll get it done. 

When you don’t have a deadline, it’s tempting to think that you can keep on editing and improving your work. But after creating one, you’re forced to complete your work in a given time frame, which will increase your chances of getting it done quicker.

32. Set a Daily Writing Goal

Yes, daily.

Why? 

Well, imagine a gymnast performing in front of thousands of eager eyes. 

Effortlessly flipping through the air and performing feats most only dream of. 

He didn’t learn how to perform on the day of the performance, did he?

He had to constantly drill the movements into his brain. Day in, day out…until they became second nature.

Similarly, the popular writers that you look up to experienced the same thing.

They had to continuously suffer creating humiliating sentences, weak content and limp paragraphs to gradually get better. 

Constant practice is what sands the edges off your lack of skill. 

That’s where writing daily will help you tremendously. 

Set aside a small chunk of time to write everyday. Don’t concern yourself with writing thousands of words. Just be sure to write every day and make it a habit. You can increase your targets later. 

Eventually, you’ll be able to produce hard hitting writing with less effort because it’s ingrained in your mind and body.

It’s no longer something takes a ton of energy and has to be scraped out your skull. It’s an embedded habit. 

There you are, 30 high-impact writing ways to level up your writing. Your next step?

Pick 1-2 tips from this post and try them out for a at least a couple of weeks. Improvement will be inevitable.

Hassan Ud-deen is a freelance blogger and email copywriter (who likes to be called “The Wordslinger”). He helps businesses use content to grow. You can find out more about at www.f-bombmarketing.com or if you need help with your blog posts or copy, shoot him an email or connect with him on Facebook.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

30 High-Impact Ways to Level Up Your Writing

7 Effective Tips To Grow Your Social Media Presence The Right Way

7 Tips to Grow Your Social Media Presence The Right Way / problogger.netThis is a guest contribution from Adam Connell.

Have you ever wondered how to gain a significant advantage with social media? Not just in terms of growing a following but growing an engaged following?

I have too, and so have countless others.

The truth is that you can, and it’s easier than you might think.

If you’re serious about growing a more engaged following, you’ll find this post helpful. You’ll learn how to focus your efforts, boost engagement, monitor your progress and ultimately start seeing real growth.

Ready? Let’s dive in!

1. Get to know your audience

Your audience should be the focal point of your entire blog and everything you do should be based around helping them and solving their problems.

In order to do that, you need to know as much as you can about them.

Once you learn more about your audience, you will be able to use that knowledge to guide your social media efforts and create a more personal experience.

Start off by putting together personas for different segments of your audience.

Consider the following:

  • Demographics
  • Questions they have
  • Problems they’re facing
  • Their dreams
  • Preferred social networks
  • Preferred content types

You can conduct surveys and other types of research to find out more about your audience. There are plenty of tools you can use as well.

The important thing for the purpose of social media is that you get an understanding of which social networks your audience prefers, and what they prefer to share.

It’s worth having a read of Darren’s post on creating reader profiles to more tailor your content to fit the needs of your audience.

2. Identify when your audience is most active

Have you seen any of those infographics floating around the web saying when the best times to publish social media messages?

There are a bunch of them and they look smart, but the reality is that they were created using someone else’s data – not your data.

Everyone’s audience is different, so if you want to truly know when your audience is most active you need to use your own data.

Using tools like Tweriod (for Twitter) and Timing+ (for Google+) you can get a good idea of the times when your audience is most active. You can also check the “insights” section of your Facebook dashboard to find out when your audience is online, and also what types of posts they are interacting with the most.

This is an important ingredient in any effective social strategy.

3. Help people instead of selling to them

The point of social networks is to be social, and real success means helping others without asking for anything in return.

Your followers are real people and should be treated as such.

By helping people you’ll be able to stay top of mind, so when someone does need a product/service you offer, chances are that they’ll still come back to you – because you helped them.

“If you sell something, you can make a customer today. If you help someone, you can create a customer for life.” – Jay Baer

4. Focus on building real relationships

The key ingredient to making social media work is a focus on building real relationships.

This quote from Ted Rubin explains it best:

“Relationships are like muscle tissue. The more they’re engaged, the stronger they become. The ability to build relationships and flex that emotional connection muscle is what makes social so valuable.”

Instead of focusing on getting as many followers as possible, focus on creating fewer and more meaningful relationships.

Sure, you won’t get the same social proof that having a massive following will give you, but you’ll find that you get more engagement and a more loyal following. That’s what will make the difference.

This comes back to my previous point on helping.

Help people without asking for anything in return, and you’ll start to build up goodwill. In the long term the impact of this can be huge.

5. Engage, engage and engage some more

You could leave social media on autopilot – but you shouldn’t.

If you’re serious about building a loyal following, you need to engage with as many people as possible, as often as you possibly can.

Don’t just wait for others to engage, kick start the process yourself. Start a conversation.

6. Go visual and get more traction

Visuals are a powerful social media tool.

For example, Buffer found that tweets with images get 150% more retweets. And there is data to confirm this on other networks.

Before you share a text-based social message, consider whether you could share an image instead.

Thanks to free tools like Canva, it’s now incredibly easy to overlay text onto an image or create unique graphics. A great example is the use of quotes and images.

There are also plenty of sites like IM Creator and StockSnap which you can use to find high quality stock photos that won’t cost you a penny – just be sure to check the license details first.

7. Monitor your progress with the right tools and find what really works

Monitoring your social media efforts is important for a few reasons:

  • You’ll find additional opportunities to engage and build relationships
  • You can monitor your competitors and understand how their strategy fits together
  • You can monitor your own growth and gain insights into what’s working for you

There are several tools you can use to monitor your social media presence more effectively.

Cyfe

cyfeCyfe makes it easy for you to setup custom dashboards to track the metrics that matter to you.

You’ll have access to plenty of widgets which you can add to your dashboard. There are tons of other widgets that can help you with a variety of other things, not just social media.

Price: Free to use for up to five widgets, paid plans start at $19/month.

Mention

MentionMention is a great tool that is purpose built for monitoring across social networks and other websites in real time.

It’s easy to use, and you’ll get straightforward alerts whenever you get a new mention.

Once inside the platform you can respond to mentions directly so there’s no need to jump over to another social tool.

Price: Free for up to 250 mentions/month.

Oktopost

OktopostOktopost is a solid all-round social media management tool but the way it groups social messages together is extremely helpful from a monitoring perspective.

You can use the platform to share your social messages and engage with your audience directly.

The twist here is that when you add social messages, they’re added to campaigns. Those campaigns are grouped together in the reporting tab to show you the progress of each campaign.

This makes it incredibly easy to see how campaigns are performing from a birds eye view.

Price: Starts at $49/month.

BuzzSumo

BuzzSumoContent plays a big part in the social media landscape so it’s important to have a tool that makes it easy to find out which content people are sharing.

Using BuzzSumo you can search for your competitors, topics and more – the results will show you which pieces of content are getting shared the most.

You can also find out who is sharing that content and engage with them from within the platform.

It’s a great tool to find out the key influencers in your niche too.

Price: Starts from free with limited results, paid accounts with reporting/analysis features start at $99/month.

Conclusion

If you want to get ahead on social media you need to focus on building lasting relationships.

Your focus should be on long term, sustainable results rather than looking for an immediate payoff.

Keep the focus on helping your audience and you will grow an engaged following.

Do you have any tips or insights to add? Let us know in the comments below.

Adam Connell is the Founder of Blogging Wizard, a website devoted to helping bloggers grow their traffic, email subscribers and online presence. If you want to get ahead on Twitter, download this free checklist to learn how to rapidly grow your following (the right way).

 

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

7 Effective Tips To Grow Your Social Media Presence The Right Way

Editing for People Who Love to Write… Too Much

If you’re anything like me, you love words. You love prose, you love language, you love how a perfectly-constructed sentence can say so much more than just letters put in order.

If you’re unlike me, however, you love to use lots of words, and write mountains of prose.

keyboard-old-typewriter-3319

I know it’s hard not to get carried away, telling everyone everything you’ve ever wanted to say about a subject. Especially online, when blogs are creative outlets, and there are no restraints or word counts. But having been on the reading end of waffly posts (particularly when I haven’t got too much time to spare), I’ve realised the old adage “less is more” really does ring true.

Does that mean you can’t write long-form posts because they bore readers? No! It means write them well.  Make each of those 2000+ words count.

But how do you self-edit when you feel as though every word is important? I’m so glad you asked! Let’s find out:

Tips for Self-Editing

Follow Stephen King’s Number-One Tip

I wrote about his method of editing here, but it’s basically getting some space between you and your work. Stephen King puts his work (literally) in a drawer, and comes back a couple of months later to edit and tweak. You can come back sooner than that, but fresh eyes and a clear head make a world of difference when it comes to editing. Still unconvinced? You won’t be after you read the post!

You really can’t edit while you write, go straight from writing to editing, or edit the same day. Give it some time.

Can you say it in fewer words?

Twitter is great training for this (thanks to its 140-character limit), as was being a journalist – cutting unnecessary words makes for cleaner copy, there’s just no way around it. I’ll bet there are plenty of sentences you can streamline to pack a powerful punch in fewer letters.

Read it Aloud

You’ll be surprised how much your writing can sound perfectly fine in your head, but be totally disjointed when you read it aloud. You’ll notice those times when your sentences run on, where you might need a comma, or where you’ve repeated a word too often.

Print it Out

Reading on a screen, no matter how many times you’ve done it or how comfortable you are with it, is still so different to reading words in print. Your accuracy in identifying errors is far greater when you have a hard copy to refer to, especially when it comes to finding visually-similar mistakes. If you’re working on something that has to have the highest degree of accuracy, print it out, grab a pencil or a highlighter, and get to work.

Look for the Most Obvious

In your first read-over, search for the glaring errors – the typos, the spelling errors, that one time where you got your their/there mixed up, the visual formatting (how did that sentence get down there?), and any time you’ve written in passive voice. Pay special attention to apostrophes – most of the time they don’t need to be there. If it’s a possession or a contraction, fine, but keep them out of where they don’t belong.

Further Reading: Five Quick Grammar Tips to Improve Your Writing (Plus Free Downloadable Cheat Sheet)

Turn it Around

You’ll be surprised how much clearer a sentence can be if you flip it. Especially if you have that gut feeling that it’s too long or there’s something not quite right about it. Passive sentences can really disrupt your flow.

“In one day, a month’s worth of blog posts were written by me.”

Sounds so much better (and uses fewer words and has more of an effect on the reader) if it’s written:

“I wrote a month’s worth of blog posts in one day.”

There now, you’ve turned a passive sentence into a punchy, active one, losing extraneous words in the process. Well done!

Done is Better than Perfect

You could spend days tweaking your posts. You add, you take away, you add back, you switch around, you make eight versions of the headline in case one works better. Sometimes you end up going around in circles because you’re so into it now you can’t see straight, and your perspective is all off.

You just have to put your foot down and publish!

As journalists, we had a ready-made cutoff – it didn’t matter how much you had fiddled with your story, at some point it had to go to the printer, like it or not. Set yourself a cutoff, and remember – blogging gives you the gift of updating your post after publication if you really feel it needs it.

If you’ve followed Point One, I can almost guarantee you’ll find something!

Try it… You’ll Like it

If you’re unsure about a paragraph (or even a sentence), open a new document. Cut and paste all those “maybe” paragraphs into the document, and read your original post in its shortened form. Still think it could do with those words? Add them back in, no harm done. (Are you SURE, though?!)

Fact Check

It’s all very well and good to write something to convince people of your message, but you need stats to back it up. Ensure that all the numbers, anecdotes, and information you’ve included can be verified. Make sure there’s links to further information to help the reader understand your post, and to see the proof for themselves.

One top tip I learned is that if you’ve got questions, your reader will too. Wherever have made a bold claim, link to where you got your information. If you think that someone reading your post would benefit from your primary sources, then include them.

Harden Up

I know your work is precious. You’ve put a lot of effort into it. Your blog post is the culmination of hours of research, years of learning, numerous mistakes. You have a lot to say, and you think all of it is necessary.

It’s probably not.

There might be a place where you’ve repeated yourself. You might be able to make your point just as validly, but in fewer words. Some anecdotes, while funny, just won’t fit. Harden up and get rid of the bits that just aren’t working. There’s nothing stopping you from using that information in a future post, but your job here is to look at your work with a critical eye and make it the best it can be. How would you edit this if it was someone else’s work? What bits would you cut out in order to make your story better? Do that. You won’t regret it.

Do you love to write too much? We've got some solid tips for self-editing to help cut the waffle and write clean / problogger.net

 

So tell me – do you find editing hard? Or are you constantly looking over everything you read with your editor hat on? (that can be just as bad – it’s harder to get lost in a story when you’re always getting tripped up by writing errors). What’s your best tip for self-editing?

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.

Helpful Links

9 Crucial Tips for Self-Editing Your Blog Posts

How to Use Google in the Most Unusual Way to Make Your Self-Editing Faster and Better

How You Can Make Your Writing Twice as Fast by Making it 3 Times More Time Consuming. Wait, What?

Hemingway App highlights common errors, long sentences, and grammatical issues that need attention. It also helpfully colour-codes the changes to be made. If you write a lot, you might find this useful.

Grammarly has pretty hardcore algorithms to not only find spelling mistakes, but contextual spelling errors too.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

Editing for People Who Love to Write… Too Much

Blog Post Idea: How I Do It Posts

Recently I shared a simple technique that I use to come up with ideas to write about on my blog – answering a beginner question.

While not really rocket science I had a number of readers contact me privately with thank-you messages appreciating the nudge to write that type of post.

Today I’d like to suggest another simple technique for coming up with blog post ideas. It’s simple yet is perhaps one of the most powerful types of posts I’ve used on my own blogs many times in the last 12 years.

I call these posts the ‘how I do (or did) it’ post.

How I did (or do) it

Over the years I’ve found that posts that walk people through processes of how you do things go down exceptionally well.

Giving someone the theory is good but showing them how you apply that theory takes your writing to a new level.

There are a couple of ways to do this.

How I DID It

Firstly you could walk people through how you did a one-off thing.

You could write a post on how you lost weight, or a post on how you made a dining table for your family, or how you wrote your first book, or how you overcame your fear of heights.

For example Vanessa (my wife) wrote a post on travelling to Bali with Young Kids that basically shared tips from our experience of a trip to Bali with our kids last year.

NewImage

She followed it up with posts on where to shop in Bali and where to eat and drink in Bali.

Each of these posts essentially took our experience of that trip and explained what we’d done and learned on the trip. They contain a heap of practical tips gained from real experience.

These posts have been used many many times by Vanessa’s readers who are considering similar trips.

A variation on this ‘how I did it’ post might be a ‘what I learned from it’ type post.

For example when I created and released my first eBook I wrote about 8 lessons I learned from the experience here.

Screen Shot 2015 03 11 at 9 10 19 am

How I DO It

Secondly you could walk people through how you do something that is a normal part of your life.

For example I recently shared a screen cast of my social media workflow and how I keep my dPS Facebook page running and in another post shared an exercise I do in Google Analytics.

Screen Shot 2015 03 11 at 9 11 58 am

These are things I do regularly without really thinking about it that it turns out readers are interested in.

One of my good blogging friends – Nicole Avery – does this regularly on her blog Planning with Kids.

For example here is her family morning routine, her kids homework boxes and how she preps food for her 5 kids’ lunch boxes each week.

NewImage

In each case Nicole has simply looked at her life and found a routine, system or process that works for her and has shared it on her blog.

These things might be so much a part of your day or week that you don’t even think of them any more – but you’ll often find that these are things that will help others incredibly.

Exercise

Brainstorm ideas for these two types of posts.

What are some big one off things that you’ve done in your life that you could write about?

What are some things that you do regularly in your life each day or week that could actually help others? (e.g. routines, systems, processes).

Hint: pay close attention the questions that you regularly get asked from family and friends about how you do things or about the experiences that you’ve had. If people in your ‘real life’ are interested in how you do these kinds of things you can bet others online would be too.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

Blog Post Idea: How I Do It Posts

3 Secret Weapons I Used to Launch My Fulltime Blogging Career

work-677582_640

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

“I’d like to be a writer,” I told my friend one day when he asked what my dream was. “But that’ll never happen.” And I quickly went back to moping around, waiting for my big break.

At the time, I was working for a nonprofit as a marketing director, secretly wondering what it might be like to write for a living. Little did I know how close I was to my goal.

My was staring me right in the face the whole time. I was just blind to it.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer,” Harriet Tubman once said. “Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

That’s absolutely true. Your dream lives inside you, not somewhere out there. And instead of waiting for someone to come along and give you permission, you need to realize that you have everything you need to do this right now.

So let’s look at what you already have at your disposal and how I launched my own full-time blogging career using these same tools.

Secret Weapon #1: Listen to Your Ache

Have you ever felt jealous of someone else’s success? Of course you have. You’re human, aren’t you. But don’t feel bad. Envy isn’t always a bad thing, if you know how to use it.

Being jealous of what someone else has or has done is a sign of somethign you don’t have. You’re not living the life you dreamed of, not making the money you want, or simply not getting the credit you think you deserve.

Left unchecked, those feelings of missing out can get nasty really quickly. But when properly channeled, they can be a means to you discovering what you’re meant to do.

Here’s what I mean.

What bothers you that you see in the world? What problems in your industry or social ills do you see that you think should be fixed? When you see someone publishing their words or getting paid to pursue a passion, does it stir something in you? Does it make you a little angry, even a tad frustrated?

Good. Listen to that.

All dreams begin with frustration. But they don’t end there. It takes a person of action to do something with that feeling. Because really, frustration is just a surface emotion. It’s just pent-up passion with nowhere to go.

So pay attention to what makes your heart ache. When you’re feeling frustrated, remember it’s a sign of what you’re missing out on. It means you need to get to work.

Secret Weapon #2: Take the Long Road

Once on a webinar, I heard Darren Rowse say his first year of professional blogging had only made him something like $30,000. When I heard that, it sounded like a dream come true.

His intentions were to set our expectations low. He explained how hard he worked, staying up late and getting up early, how difficult it was. Not everyone can make six figures in the first month was his point. He was trying to keep us grounded. But it gave me hope.

I didn’t want fluff. I wanted someone to tell me exactly what I needed to do to pursue my dream. And for some reason, telling me it was going to be difficult and not very rewarding made it real. It made it attainable.

Sometimes, you have to hear someone else describe the life you long to live before you can begin to visualize it yourself.

Darren’s words spoke to the frustration I felt. They made me realize I was going to have to work hard if I wanted to live my dream and that patience was going to be an important factor in my success.

When I started my blog, I was determined to not worry about stats for the first two years. I would just write. The audience would come as my craft grew. If that took years, so be it. Six months later, I had more traffic than I ever could have imagined—hundreds at first, and then thousands of daily readers.

It would be a long while before I’d start making money, but still, seeing it was possible changed everything. Right around that time, my wife and I decided to start a family and began counting down the days until our son would be born.

At that same time, I started to hatch a plan for how I could make money with my blog.

Secret Weapon #3: Don’t Neglect the Past

When you decide to go full-time with your blog, you may be tempted to make the biggest mistake most dreamers make. You may think that dreaming is about looking forward.

It’s not. Dreaming is about looking backward and remembering what it is you have always loved to do. “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it,” Parker Palmer wrote, “I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”

So before I could even figure out what I wanted to sell, I was going to have to figure out what value I had, what strengths I possessed that could benefit someone. And the answer to that was buried deep in my past.

“Jeff,” my friend said to me that day I announced my dream was to write, “you are a writer. You just need to write.”

He was right. I had been writing. All these years. In various capacities. But somehow, it just didn’t feel like enough. I didn’t feel like enough. But when I heard those words, I knew they were true.

Maybe, I thought, before we can do something, we have to become someone. Activity follows identity. It was a simple principle but one I’ve come to embrace in all areas of life.

What that meant for me was looking honestly at my life and identifying what strengths I had to offer. I had spent the past seven years as a marketing director and before that as the leader of a music group.

I couldn’t remember a time in my adult life in which I hadn’t been working with creative people. That was a bigger clue than I first realized. Maybe, I thought, I could do that online.

So I gradually turned my new blog, which had been more of a leadership blog, into a writing-focused resource. First, I tested out posts on writing to see if they appealed, and I was amazed at how much people connected with the content.

What Derek Sivers says is true: “What’s obvious to you is amazing to others.” The secret to discovering the value that you offer the world is hidden in the strength you’re probably taking for granted.

The Finish Line

A year after starting my blog, I launched my first eBook on writing and made $1500 from it.

A few months later, I launched an bundle product and made $16,000 in the first six weeks.

Several months after that, I launched my first online course, Tribe Writers, and made $25,000 from it.

By the end of that year, I had made over $150,000 blogging.

I couldn’t believe it. This was my dream, and it had come true in ways that completely astounded me.

But the truth is the process took two years from start to finish, plus another seven years of preparation. It required all those things Harriet Tubman mentioned: passion, patience, and strength.

If you’re going to come face to face with your dream, you’re going to need them, too. You’ll have to:

  1. Turn your frustration into passion.
  2. Be willing to take the long road, understanding that good things come in time.
  3. Embrace your past, using whatever strengths you’ve accumulated along the way and putting them to use.

Yes, it will take time and it won’t be easy. But the good news is you don’t have to sit around feeling frustrated or like you missed out. Everything you’ve done up to this point has prepared you for what you’re about to do.

Now, it’s up to you to get started.


Jeff Goins is a full-time blogger at Goins, Writer, where he shares tips on writing, creativity, and making a difference. His latest book, The Art of Work, is all about discovering your calling.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

3 Secret Weapons I Used to Launch My Fulltime Blogging Career

7 Commonsense Tips to Improve Your Next Expert Roundup

expert roundupThis is a guest contribution from Neil.

Are you wondering why your expert roundups are not living up to your expectations? Why you are never getting the level of response some other people are getting?

After all, the idea behind creating an expert roundup sounds foolproof on paper.

  1. Get eminent experts to answer a question for you.
  2. Gather the responses and publish the ultimate answer to that question.
  3. Get your experts to share the content and then leverage their audience to get a viral post.

There is no way you can fail!

But the reality is a bit different.

My first expert roundup (January, 2015), featured the likes of top guys like Rand Fishkin, Neil Patel and Yaro Starak. In terms of quality, it was great. But it got me only around two hundred shares and a few backlinks.

Disappointed by my failure, I felt that “expert roundups” are overhyped. I looked around to get some expert roundup tips.

After a while, I realized that there was no flaw core idea of an expert roundup. The problem was in the execution of it. Actually, I was so excited about the roundup, that I overlooked certain things, which are just common sense.

Today on Problogger, I would like to share these commonsense tips so that you can organize a better expert roundup.

Do keyword research to focus on the right terms

You may create the grandest expert roundup (in terms of quality). You may even generate tons of backlinks. But unless it is properly targeted, it will never fulfill its potential.

By proper targeting, I mean that you should target the right terms or keywords for search engines. After all, the backlinks and shares that will get showered upon your roundup must help it to generate organic traffic.

If you have not chosen the right keywords, then what is the point? Your backlinks may help you rank #1 for your keyword, but if people do not search for that term, it is of no use.

In my last expert roundup, I made this mistake. The overall topic was good. It was about “blogging mistakes made by top bloggers”. I was quite sure that new bloggers would be very interested in learning about it.

But I did not consider the fact whether users would be using the same term in the search engines.

As it turned out, the main keyword “blogging mistakes” did not have an appreciable search volume. Even if I had been able to rank for the keyword, the benefit would have been minimal.

Ultimately, I got around this by naming my blog pos “19 expert blogging tips to avoid blogging mistakes”.

But this is not the right way to do it.

The approach should be very simple. Try to find the hole in the available information. Once you have found something that is asked a lot, but not answered well, you have struck gold.

Now you need to grab the topic and do a little keyword research to get the right term to use in your question. There are only two factors that you need to consider:

  • The keyword should have at least moderate search volume.
  • The keyword should not be too competitive.

In case you have already committed the error of choosing a low search volume topic, you have to improvise. Re-frame your question so that it includes good keywords.

To get the best out of your keywords, make sure that you use the keywords in the title of your post (obvious thing). A huge chunk of your backlinks will have the title of your post as the anchor text. Including your keyword in the title will go a long way in helping you to rank for that keyword.

Increase your reach by approaching more people

An expert roundup always results in a quality piece of content. But for the person conducting the roundup, there is much more to it than just the content. As the host blogger, you are banking on the expert’s reach to spread the word about your roundup. You are dependent on the expert’s popularity to have an influence on your roundup.

The idea behind an expert roundup is to leverage influence of the experts. Your aim is to ride the influence of your experts to gain as widespread popularity as possible. So it is pretty commonsense-the more experts you have, the better it is for you.

More experts mean more followers. More experts mean that your content will get shared to a wider audience.

So the message is very clear. Get in as many experts as possible.

And it is beneficial to the experts too. If your expert roundup does really well and ranks high in the search engines, each one of the experts will also be on the receiving end of a highly relevant and quality back link.

POINT TO NOTE: get in as many “experts” as possible. Here, “experts” is the crucial term. I’m not asking you to include just anybody in your expert roundup to fill up the numbers. There no point in doing that. In fact, doing that will dilute the experience of your expert roundup.

Finding experts is simple:

  1. Do a Google search with your niche’s keywords.
  2. Find experts on existing roundups by searching: “keyword” + expert roundup.
  3. Find highly followed people on social networks.

Get people to respond by gradually building trust

So now it is clear that you need to get as many experts as possible to participate in your expert roundup. But obviously, it is easier said than done.

Experts are busy people. They get tons of e-mails and expert roundup invites. They cannot respond to all of them. To get answers, you have to do the obvious things:

  1. Approach them with a short and concise e-mail.
  2. Pose a question that is interesting to them.
  3. Pose a question that is relatively easy to answer and so on.

But the easiest way to get someone to respond to you is to build trust with that person.

Imagine for yourself. If you are in a rush, you may skip over an e-mail from an unknown person. But if you know that person, you will be compelled to at least have a look at the e-mail. You will try to respond to the person it possible.

Same thing happens with the experts (and for any human being). It is human psychology. One can easily say no to an unknown person but rejecting a familiar person is harder. Our subconscious always tries to maintain and honor preexisting relationships.

Your task: build familiarity with the expert before approaching with the invite.

Simple ways to build familiarity:

  1. Follow the expert on social networks.
  2. Comment and discuss on the expert’s blog.
  3. Send a “thank you” email for a helpful blog post.

Use a deadline to get more responses

Not using a deadline was a big mistake for my last roundup post. I thought that the experts, being busy people, may not appreciate the idea of being given a deadline.

But I was wrong! It is always better to specify a deadline for submission of expert entries.

There are two reasons:

Firstly, deadlines promote actions.

An expert may read your email but if you have not mentioned a deadline, he or she may postpone the reply. And in that process, the busy expert may forget about your e-mail altogether.

On the other hand, if you do specify a deadline, the expert may reply immediately or at least mark the email to be replied before the deadline.

After all, itís a good deal for the expert. The expert is getting a highly relevant back link in exchange of a simple answer to a question. That is why, using the deadline works. The deadline serves to remind that the chance to get an easy back link may be gone soon. Thus it promotes a prompt reply.

Second benefit of using a deadline is that it will demonstrate your professionalism and seriousness about the expert roundup. Without it, some people may think that you are not sure about how and when you’re going to post the expert roundup. That may lead to loss of interest in your expert roundup.

Moral of the story: Use a deadline. 7 to 10 days is good in my opinion.

Have higher expectations from the experts

If your expectations are low, you’re most likely to be getting the same. This is one blunder I committed while conducting my first expert roundup.

I was not sure whether the experts would have time to look into my question and answer it. So, I tried to make it easier for them by saying that even a single line opinion would be fine.

MISTAKE!

I was doing an expert roundup and it deserved expert comments.

I understand that it is not reasonable to expect the experts to write long explanations. But a single line opinion conveys hardly any value.

Suppose I ask someone about his/her biggest mistake as newbie blogger and the person responds “not doing this or that”. It is a technically correct answer but it hardly adds much value. A little explanation is expected at least.

So settle for a middle ground. Writing 50 to 100 words does not take too long and is quite reasonable to ask for.

So nowadays I write:

A short 50-100 word opinion would be fine although you can elaborate your experience if you like.

Here, I am using the word “short” to make it seem easy to the experts but at the same time I am also specifying them the minimum length I expect.

Coming back to my story: I failed to specify this minimum limit in my first roundup post. As a result, few experts did provide single line opinions. But obviously, the mistake was mine. It was me who said that “even a single line opinion would be fine”. And this is one big problem in asking your expert on Twitter. That is why I always prefer e-mail.

That said, I’m very grateful that most of the experts did leave longer and valuable comments on my expert roundup. And this also tells you that the experts are also okay with writing a few words.

Don’t be shy to ask for a “proper and meaningful” expert opinion on your roundup.

Use author bio to allow users to connect with experts

When you’re conducting an expert roundup, it is essential that your readers connect with the experts. Not everyone will know all the experts. You must give them a reason why they should listen to the expert.

For example, I know Darren and the great work he has done with Problogger. But a new blogger may or may not know (although it is unlikely). Without knowing about Darren’s expertise in blogging, a new blogger may not pay heed to his advice. That is why it is essential to do a short introduction of your expert.

Writing a short author bio is a nice way to do it. Just a couple of sentences are fine. Tell who the author is and a little about his/her achievements and specialization. This will give enough reasons to your readers to listen to a particular expert. And this will also allow everyone to appreciate and value the comments made by the experts.

Here is a sample:

Darren Rowse is one of the first bloggers to blog about how to make money blogging. He is the man behind the hugely popular blog Problogger and popular books like “Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income”. He is regarded as one of the foremost authorities on blogging.

Promote more or more to get the most out of your roundup

Last but not least, put serious effort in promoting your expert roundup.

Creating a highly informative and useful expert roundup is only half the battle. If you stop there, it is no good. After all, you have invested so much time and effort in producing an amazing piece of content. Why stop when it is the time to reap the rewards?

Promote your expert roundup like crazy.

  1. Start with your expert panel. Show them your gratitude for taking out time to participate in your expert roundup. E-mail all your experts letting them know that the post is up. Thank them and ask them to share the content. Not everyone will share it but some of them will.
  2. If your experts do not reply back, remind them after a couple of days. Talk to them on Twitter and let them know.
  3. Promote your post on Twitter, Google plus and Facebook.
  4. Use hashtags to make it easier for people to find your post.
  5. Mention your experts on twitter and google plus. Here is a template that you can use:

    Tip no #: “Insert tip here” -By @expertname <Insert link to post>

  6. Share multiple times on your social networks: the day of posting, the day after posting, one week after posting.
  7. Share your post on social bookmarking sites. Encourage your readers to share your post on social bookmarking sites. Reach out to friends and acquaintances and ask them to share your post.
  8. And obviously, do not forget the e-mail list. You can write a couple of e-mails to build up anticipation for to the roundup post. This will ensure a better response from your email list subscribers.

These are just some ideas. Be creative and find out more ways to promote your post.

Are you ready for your next expert roundup?

So, I have shared my tips for creating a better expert roundup. These expert roundup tips work great. Now, it’s your turn – apply these tips and let us know how your next expert roundup goes. And if you have your own secret tip, feel free to share with us in the comments section.

Neil test drives new blogging tips and strategies on his blog and then lets you know what works. He shares his blogging experience on Blogician and you can read his first expert roundup at blogging tips for new bloggers.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

7 Commonsense Tips to Improve Your Next Expert Roundup