How to Avoid Writing Boring Outlines using the IKEA Method

This is a guest contribution from LJ Sedgwick.

You’ve read all of the blogging advice. You know writing an outline helps keep your blog post to the point.

But try as you might, nothing’s happening. An empty page stares back at you. That blinking cursor is taunting you.

You want to teach your readers how to follow your processes. But they’re second nature to you. Trying to put them into a blog post seems impossible.

You know that you know everything you need for your post. But how do you get the ideas out of your brain and onto paper? How do you turn them into an outline?

Worry no more. We’re going to use the IKEA method to brain dump those ideas. Then we’ll assemble them into a solid blog post that will last for years to come.

How to use the Ikea Method to Write Blog Posts if You Hate Outlines

This blog post started out in that exact same way. It’s a process I’ve used for blog posts since 2009. It’s also a method I use in for writing fiction, and academic writing (much to the eternal annoyance of my Ph. D. supervisor).

So what’s the IKEA method, and how can it help you?

Step 1 – Dump all of the bits onto the floor.

What’s the first thing that you do when you get your IKEA flat pack home?

You tip all of the screws, bolts, and random Allen keys onto the floor.

We’ll start your blog post the same way. This is your brain dump. Set a timer and write everything you can about your topic. If it helps, write it in stream of consciousness.

That’s how this blog post started out.

No one ever has to see it but you. It’s how you’ll get to know all of the ideas you have to work with.

Step 2 – Group everything together by ‘type’.

In the IKEA method, this is the part where you’re matching the stuff on the floor with the instructions. If you’re anything like me, you’ll also count them before you put anything together.

You need to do the same thing with your blog post. Go through your notes and break up what you’ve written into chunks. Group your thoughts together by ‘type’.

Say you’re writing a post about how to make the transition from a day job to freelancing. This blog post is a chest of drawers in this metaphor.

How to use the Ikea Method to Write Blog Posts if You Hate Outlines

Put all of your thoughts about saving money and budgeting, ready for the transition, into one pile. That’s all of the parts you need for your first drawer.

Then you’ll put everything to do with time management into another pile. That’ll be your second drawer.

Rinse and repeat.

Like any IKEA assembly, you’ll always have parts left over that aren’t in the instructions. That’s okay. In my house, those extra odds and ends go into a drawer of random pieces, in case anything breaks later. Or sometimes they come in handy for completely unrelated DIY projects.

You should do the same. Open Evernote, Google Docs, Scrivener – whatever you write in. Copy and paste those ‘spare’ thoughts into a document. You never know when they’ll come in handy.

Step 3 – Start assembling your individual elements

Go back to your piles of bits/thoughts. Most people follow the instructions. Not me. I put furniture together in a more freestyle fashion. So if you hate outlines, this will be your new best friend.

How to use the Ikea Method to Write Blog Posts if You Hate Outlines

 

Take a look at your first pile of furniture parts/thoughts. They’re already grouped together, so that gives you your subhead for that section.

Start editing those loose, stream of consciousness thoughts into coherent sentences. Move them around into logical paragraphs.

Turn that subhead into something descriptive, so scanners can easily skim your post. Make sure it signposts your content.

Imagine we’re building a chest of drawers. This newly edited paragraph is your first finished drawer.

Move onto the next pile of thoughts and do the same thing. You’ve already done the hard work and gotten the thoughts together. Now you have to turn them into readable content.

Once you’ve run out of piles, you’ve got the individually assembled parts of your post. Using the IKEA method, they’re the drawers you put together before you slot them into the empty chest.

But how are you going to build the chest to fit the drawers into?

Step 4 – Build the container for your other elements

Look at your subheads. What’s the most logical order for them to follow? This is going to be the key to writing the engaging blog post you want to write.

So in our day job-to-freelancing post, you won’t put a paragraph about marketing your new business before one about carving out time to build a portfolio.

Arrange (and re-arrange, if necessary) the subheads you’ve written into a post that flows nicely.

And there’s the chest.

Slide each of the drawers into place by pasting the right paragraphs under the right subheads.

If you’re building IKEA furniture, this is the point where you tighten all of the screws. So for your IKEA-built blog post, you’ll edit your sentences so that the post flows. One section should set up the next, and so on.

How to use the Ikea Method to Write Blog Posts if You Hate Outlines

Step 5 – Find the best spot for your new furniture/blog post

In your home, you’d find the best place for your new piece of furniture. For your blog post, you’re looking for the right context.

And that’s your introduction. Craft your intro so that it sets up the information that follows. Give your chest of drawers/blog post a final polish.

And hey presto! You’ve used the IKEA method of assembly to brain dump and edit your way to an engaging blog post!

The IKEA method will help bloggers who can’t get to grips with outlines

When I brain-dumped this post, I started out with 637 words. They weren’t necessarily in the right order, but the ideas were there.

It took just 15 minutes to get everything down that I wanted to say. And then it took another 15 minutes to turn it into a 1000 word post.

If you hate using outlines, turning your thoughts into a useful post is a lot easier by brain-dumping and editing than trying to write the perfect post from scratch.

Why not give it a go? Choose your topic/piece of furniture and get started. Let me know in the comments below how you get on!

LJ Sedgwick writes blog posts and copy for startups while drinking more coffee than is healthy. You can find her blog posts about content marketing at her website.

 

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Don’t Lose your Funds to Amazon – How to Stay Within The Operating Agreement


don't-violate-amazon-agreement

This is a guest post by Cathy Tibbles of WPBarista

Recently a lot of warning bells were sounding around the internet because of some changes to the Amazon Associates program. Looking at Problogger’s experience and the success of several other bloggers using affiliate sales, this post will take you through the importance of using Amazon Associates (or deciding if it’s right for you); and how to keep your account open and funds within your grasp.

How much can you really make from affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is earning income by referring products to your readers. When they purchase your recommended products, it generates a commission payment for you.

To earn affiliate income, two things must be true:

  1. you must have earned some credibility and trust with your reader
  2. the item must be in some way relevant to the reader

Over the last 13 years, Darren has reported $ 600,000 from Amazon affiliates alone! Smart Passive Income reported $ 94,824 in affiliate income for the month of January 2017. Google can provide a healthy list of monthly income reports if you’re interested in more; but keep in mind that those reports are from a small section of the blogging community that reports their income. My guess is a disproportionately high number of them are blogs earning over $ 1000/month.

If you want to create an affiliate marketing income stream, one of the best run-throughs is right here on Problogger – Podcast Episode 51.

The main reason bloggers prefer Amazon’s affiliate program is because it is so well known. Easily recognised companies have a higher perceived trust value to our readers, and we all know that more trust equals more sales.

The downside is the often lower ticket items coupled with lower commission fees. To find out if Amazon Associates is the right affiliate company for you, see Darren’s Pros & Cons list in this post.

That brings us to point number two in our research – what on earth happened to make Amazon the ‘bad guy’ overnight?

Amazon Affiliates Program Not Paying

Amazon Associates, the name of their affiliate program, is chock-full of legal jargon and difficult to understand. So I took apart the interesting (read: controversial) parts of the Operating Agreement and contacted Amazon directly for clarification.

Before we get into the consequences, let’s look at what actions are worthy of these consequences, shall we?

  1. Of course there are a bunch of regular things – don’t display their Special Links (affiliate links) on any site with illegal or inappropriate (R rated) content; don’t artificially boost clicks or impressions, and don’t generally be sneaky, crooked or malicious. Fair enough.
  2. This is the part everyone is up in arms about:

    “6. You will not engage in any promotional, marketing, or other advertising activities… in connection with… the Program, that are not expressly permitted under the Operating Agreement… For example, you will not engage in any promotional, marketing, or other advertising activities in any offline manner, including … email or attachment to email…”

    *Emphasis mine. More on this below.

  3. Every blogger using Amazon Special Links, must display this:

    “We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”

  4. You may not use a link shortening service. They further go on to say that you can’t cloak, redirect or in any way obscure the link. I don’t know about you, but I have a ton of affiliate links that are organised with link shorteners to make it easier to link to! This is a no-no. In fact, the Operating Agreement says that you cannot use your own links in any way – you must use their supplied images, their links and their ‘code’.
  5. If you currently have posts or sidebars that pop-up, or any popup at all, they cannot contain any Amazon Special Link.And what dire consequences will Amazon level at you?

>>> Immediate account closure and forfeiture of all earned funds.<<<

From the Operating Agreement:

If you violate this Agreement… then, in addition to any other rights or remedies available to us, we reserve the right to withhold… any and all fees otherwise payable to you under this Agreement, whether or not directly related to such violation.

Yes, that says you will forfeit your fees, whether or not they are directly related to the particular infraction. I’m guessing even the rebels among us are motivated to stay in line, at least until we find new affiliate companies.

Now, let me take a moment to tell you why #2 above impacts 99% of bloggers …

99% of You are Violating the Operating Agreement

Do you use feeds? Are you familiar with that glorious machine-readable version of your blog that lets us download your blogs and read at our leisure. We use our own favorite feed reader like Feedly or Bloglovin.

Whether you know this or not, your feed (in WordPress) is always available and anyone can access it.

Interested in trying this?

Go to yourblog.com/feed and you can see a bunch of awful looking code-stuff. That, my friends, is your feed!

Another very common use of the feed, is to attach it to a mass email provider – like Mailchimp or Convertkit – and send your posts automatically to subscribers. Do you see where I’m going with this?

If you link to Amazon Special Links within your posts and you serve your feed via email, you are violating the Operating Agreement.

Promoting your Special Links in blog posts and blog posts via email have to be pretty much the same thing, right? That’s what I thought… so I asked Amazon. Here is Cody, the service representative’s reply:

“Associate links can only be used on approved websites and are not permitted to be used in e-mails, newsletters or in any off-line manner. Sending links via email will cause your Associates Account to be shut down indefinitely.”

Um. I guess they take a different view.

So. Emails are out.

Let’s talk about maintaining delivery of your posts to subscribers’ emails, and somehow keeping Amazon happy at the same time.

Amazon Special Links & Email Dilemma

Solution One:

  1. Move all Special Links to the bottom of posts in a “Shop This Post” area.
  2. Change your emails to send excerpts only. This can be done either in your settings, or in your email program.

The downside is that you’ll need to edit each post! Uggg.

Solution Two:

  1. For WordPress users, install this plugin (disclosure: happens to be mine!) and it will automatically change all links (in the feed only) to point to your site.

    (Cathy’s plugin has been screened by ProBlogger’s own developer)

Downside – The reader will expect to be taken to Amazon, and instead will be redirected back to the post, where they can click again to purchase.

Two steps is not ideal, but at least you don’t have to edit each post, and you’re not in violation of the program.

Do you have another solution? Let us know in the comments!

And… like anytime our income is threatened, it’s a good idea to review your income streams and diversify!

Cathy Tibbles is the founder of WordPress Barista – your geeky girlfriends partnering with bloggers to take care of the technical aspects of blogging. 

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194: 5 SEO Tools for Bloggers

5 Blogger SEO Tools

In today’s episode, I’ve got Jim Stewart from StewArtMedia back on the show to talk about SEO tools to help you to rank your blog higher.

I had Jim on the show back in episode 94 to talk about the biggest mistakes bloggers make with SEO and since that time have had a lot of questions in the Facebook group about what tools to use in SEO.

So in this episode we talk a little about the most commonly advised tool – the Yoast plugin, as well as two great browser extensions that are useful in SEO.

We also talk about Google’s Search console and how it’s really an essential thing all bloggers should be using.

We then talk about the paid tool that Jim recommends to help you find broken links, identify duplicate content, build sitemaps and much more.

In passing we talk about an issue that faces many bloggers – what to do if you’ve got multiple posts on the one topic competing with each other in Google!

Lastly we touch on Google’s most recent updates and how they are impacting bloggers. You’ll want to listen to this part especially if you do affiliate marketing!

Resources on 5 SEO Tools for Bloggers



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 Darren: Hi there, my name is Darren Rowse. I’m the blogger behind problogger.com. A blog, podcast, event, job board and a series of ebooks, all designed to help you to grow a blog, a profitable blog. You can learn more about ProBlogger at problogger.com.

                    In today’s episode, I’ve got Jim Stewart from Stew Art Media back on the show to talk about search engine optimization tools to help you to rank higher in Google. I had Jim on the show back in Episode 94 to talk about blogging mistakes or mistakes bloggers make from an SEO perspective. Since that time, we’ve had a lot of questions in our Facebook group and via email about tools to use in SEO and that’s what today’s show is about.

                    We talked about five different tools that you can use in your blogging to help you to rank higher in Google, particularly. We talk about Yoast, the most common tool that gets mentioned. A little bit about how to set that up and what to particularly pay attention to. We talk about two browser extensions, free browser extensions that are both useful in SEO tools that Jim uses every day in his own SEO.

We also talked about Google Search Console and how essential it is for bloggers. I know it can be quite overwhelming, Google Search Console, but it is so important to have it set up and to be monitoring that. Then, we talked a little bit about a paid tool that Jim recommends to help you find broken links, identify duplicate content to build sitemaps, and a lot more.

                    Towards the end of the conversation, we talked a little bit about a really common issue that I find a lot of bloggers are facing. That is when you’ve been blogging for a while and you have posts, multiple posts that are all trying rank for the same search term. Jim gives us some ideas on what we can do there to help one of those to get a higher ranking.

                    Lastly, we talked a little bit about Google’s most recent updates and how they’re impacting bloggers. If you are an affiliate marketer, if you’re doing any kind of affiliate marketing, you want to listen to that last part of the interview as well.

                    It’s not a long show today. You can find it over on iTunes as well, if you wanted to go for a walk and listen to it. You can also find the show notes over at problogger.com/podcast/194.

                    Lastly, join our Facebook group because I do regularly update in there all our new episodes and blog post over on the blog. A couple of new posts a week and we’re having some great discussions in there at the moment. You can find the Facebook group at problogger.com/group. Okay, let’s get into today’s show. Hey Jim, welcome back to the ProBlogger podcast.

Jim: Hey Darren, thanks for having me.

Darren: Yeah. It’s always good to chat. It’s been about 90 episodes since we had you on. He was on at Episode 94. We did 5 Mistakes Bloggers Make with SEO. A very popular episode according to my stats so I thought it was time to get you back on and to talk about tools. Every time I ask people in our Facebook group what they want to learn about, search engine optimization come up and what tools should we be using because there’s so many tools being sold and available on SEO. I thought it would be good to come back to that topic. Is that cool?

Jim: Yeah, very cool.

Darren: The number one advice that everyone always gives when it comes to SEO tools is install Yoast, the plugin for WordPress.

Jim: Yeah, exactly.

Darren: I thought maybe if we start there and you can tell us a little bit about, for those who don’t know about it, what it is, also, what do you then do with it? Do you just install it and then it just looks after itself? What do we need to do once we’ve installed it?

Jim: Any of these SEO tools, they’re not going to make you rank number one. What they’ll do though is help you get you site in order, basically. Yoast is probably the most used in that category.

                    Originally, it was only available for WordPress. I think there’s been a Drupal version as well. Basically what it does, there’s two sides to Yoast. There’s what I call the site configuration side and then there’s a post level side.

                    The post level side is probably the part of Yoast that most people are familiar with. It gives you some guidelines on how many, whether these pages optimize for a particular keyword and has these little lights and codes to guide you into writing a post that’s optimized.

                    We don’t use that side of it. We don’t use that post level side of it. It’s good when you want to get started. It helps you understand some of the concepts behind getting a page ranked. The main reason that we use Yoast is to stop Google crawling things we don’t want it to. These can be things like archives or they might be tag pages. A lot of bloggers will use tags so that people can easily find posts with a keyword that posts are focused on.

That sounds great, but what happens a lot of the time is that people will tag a post. There might only be one post that has that tag. Let’s just say you might have a tag called teddy bears and you have one post with that tag. That tag page is basically then just duplicating the post that you tagged so you’ve got two versions of your post. You’re showing them both to Google and that’s duplication. The problem with that is that Google doesn’t know which one to rank and it makes it hard and can be confusing for the user.

We use Yoast to get rid of a lot of those things. It easily allows you to edit things like no index tags to pages that you don’t want indexed. It allows you to easily set up Google sitemaps and Bing sitemaps. They’re really important to help the search engines find the content on the site. There are other plugins that you can get to do sitemaps and things but Yoast is really nice because it allows so much flexibility over that side of things.

Darren: Excellent. There are a few things you need to I guess tweak. Once you’ve got it installed, where would you suggest people look for those?

Jim: One of the big things that people should do is make sure that they’re not allowing Google assign their titles and methods. You got to make sure that you’re not letting Google crawl things like attachment pages where you might have attached a piece of media to a page and then there’s another page created just with that image on it. Yoast allows you to switch that off so Google can’t crawl that because it’s just a page with an image on it, which is no value to anyone.

                    Make a decision about your tag pages in the text on a meet area. I would usually, for a WordPress site, not let Google index archives, tag pages, and for some sites categories as well but that depends on how you’re using categories. For the most part, those areas, you can sight just another replication of another post or whatever. You don’t need them to crawl post. You don’t need Google to index them twice. Yeah, that’s where I’d start.

Darren: We’ll link to some further reading on Yoast and setting it up in the show notes today as well. What other tools do you use? Let’s start with some free ones for bloggers because a lot of our readers are on a budget. They haven’t got a lot to spend on the SEO but any tools that you would suggest that they just have installed on their computer on their browser?

Jim: Yes. There’s two that I use all the time. Here, it’s maybe a way of the different analysts like different tools. For me, I really like one called SERP Trends which does a few things. The thing that I use it for is that it numbers every result in the search results. We have our search results page in Google set to 100 results whereas Google usually just has 10. The reason that we do that is so we can find sites that are languishing or where are they today? Are they’re moving up? Are they moving down?

This allows us to quickly say what number they are. Just a simple thing, it just numbers each result. It will tell you, “The last time you did this search, it’s gone up or down from when the last time we do the search.” You can also see sites that you’re competing with, how they have moved since the last time you’ve done this search as well. It’s a simple tool and it gives you one measure but it’s really easy to use and it’s just a plugin for Chrome.

Darren: I think it’s also on Firefox. I was just looking at their page. It’s just an extension really for Firefox, for Chrome?

Jim: Yes, it would be.

Darren: I use this one and it is interesting. You do have to keep doing the search.

Jim: Yes, exactly.

Darren: Basically it’s looking at every search that you do and then keeping a record of where things are ranked at that point the last time you searched. Would you be doing that search every day? Do you have a list of things that you search for everyday just so that you can monitor with that?

Jim: Yeah, definitely. For instance and sometimes several times a day, like if we’ve made changes during the day and re fetched it, told Google to go and refetch the page, we’ll go and have a look at it a few hours later. We use it all the time.

                    The only caveat on that is that it’s important to remember, this is sometimes a difficult concept for people to understand, is that ranking doesn’t actually happen until the request is made. A page is not ranked in the search results until someone actually makes that request. There’s no predetermined rank because the reason for that is that the search result depends on who’s doing the search, where they’re doing the search, and when they’re doing the search.

                    If for instance you’re in Melbourne today and then you go to New York tomorrow, you’re going to get different results on those different jurisdictions. Just keep that mind.

Darren: Yeah. It’s not like you’re ranking number three for wedding photography in the world. It used to be a lot more global, didn’t it?

Jim: Yeah, definitely.

Darren: Back in the day, if you rank number one for something, you are pretty much ranking almost everywhere for it.

Jim: Yeah.

Darren: That was nice in some ways. Okay, so that’s our SERP Trends which we’ll link too in the show notes. You mentioned another one you use?

Jim: Yeah, Stylish. Stylish is actually another plugin for Chrome. I think there’s probably one for Firefox as well. It is a design tool so it allows you to basically put a little bit of code to highlight different things on a page when you hit them.

What we use it for is highlighting where heading tags are on a page because what happens with a lot of themes, this is the H1s, Hs2, and H3s. A lot of themes don’t use those as they were intended. They’re designed as the description suggest, they’re heading tags. Headings on posts and subheadings on posts, and those sorts of things. That’s how we like to see them used because that’s good document structure.

What this tool does is it shows you on a page, if you can figure it in this matter. I’ve got a bit of code which I will give you. It’s on a blog post so you can share.

Darren: Yup, we can link to that.

Jim: It allows you to quickly easily see where a heading one tag is. Sometimes with some things, you’ll see that you have a heading one tag on every page and it might be a logo, which really isn’t a good use of a heading tag because there are no words in a logo. Obviously, it’s a picture so it doesn’t make sense to have it in a heading tag.

                    It highlights things like that that you can see. Sometimes you’ll have the H5s all down one side on all your widgets, which really doesn’t help Google understand what the page is about because you’re using the heading tags inappropriately. We’ll tend to ignore them in that situation.

                    If you can use a tool like this to see where your heading tags appear in your site around, you can start to use them in a way that helps Google understand what the pages are about.

Darren: Just for those who don’t really understand heading tags from an SEO perspective, they are telling Google what your site is about and H1 carries more weight, I guess. Is that a simple way of saying it?

Jim: Yeah. I try to explain it to people, think of it as a good document structure. If you’re writing a Word document, you might have a heading one at the start of the document. That’s a title.

Darren: It’s the title.

Jim: Yeah. You’ll have subheadings and they’ll be H2s. If you have a subheading of the H2, becomes a H3, it becomes indented. That’s the same thing for a web page or a blog post.

                    Having that structure is good for the user to read but it also helps machines understand the importance of what’s following in the content.

Darren: That’s a tool called Stylish. I just looked it up. userstyles.org is the people who made it. For me, Install Chrome came up but I suspect it will come up depending what browser you’re using with a different option there. Again, we’ll link that in show notes.

                    You also touched on when we’re talking early at Google Search Console. This is something that I know a lot of bloggers look at and they become incredibly overwhelmed. I don’t really know what to do. Can you give us the beginners guide to the Google Search Console? What do we do with it and how important is it if we sign up for that?

Jim: It’s incredibly important to sign up for that. It’s basically telling you everything that Google knows about your website. It’s telling you, “This is the only place you can get this data. You can’t get in Google Analytics. There’s nowhere else you can find this information.” It’s basically Google saying, “Here’s everything that we know about your site.”

                    It does a lot of things. It will tell you speed, it will tell you errors on your sites, it will tell you what’s being indexed on your sites. It’s where you put your sitemaps after you’ve used Yoast to set them up.

The most important thing I think bloggers should look at because it can be a real eye opener, especially if you’ve been blogging for awhile and you haven’t looked at this, go and look at this because it’s going to open up some massive opportunities for you and specifically the area you should look at is Search Analytics.

                    Have a look in Search Analytics because that will tell you all the keywords that people have been typing in and that your site has appeared for. It not only tells you if someone has clicked, but it will tell you if your site has just appeared and they haven’t clicked.

                    For instance, I was looking in a blogger site this morning. I’ve just found about another 30,000 or 40,000 potential clicks per month we can get to the site just by optimizing two phrases. They’re on bottom of page one for those phrases.

What the Search Analytics shows is that there are so much opportunity because I can see how many impressions they’re up a month. They’re getting maybe 5% of that. It allows you to go and see those. You can see opportunities. You can also see which posts are driving that keyword traffic. You can pick a keyword and then go and have a look at all the pages that have appeared when someone has typed that in.

                    For instance, as the case with the blogger this morning, you might look, let’s just say a chocolate truffle recipe. You might go and have a look at the word in Search Analytics and you find that there’s actually three or four pages all ranking for that phrase. Basically what that does, it dilutes the authority of one page. In the case of the blogger this morning, they had 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. They had five pages ranking for this one phrase. That would be the only site that had multiple pages.

What our job now is to funnel the authority to one page so Google ranks that one page higher. We’re not dispersing the authority across five pages. We wouldn’t have known to focus on that or even go and search for that had we not looked in Search Analytics, because it wasn’t a phrase, the one we’re looking at this morning, that the blogger said they really want to rank highly for that. It was only because we had a look at Search Analytics and we looked at the volume of search. You can use tools like AdWord Planner and those sorts of things as well to get keyword volume.

When you see it in your own site ranking, you can go and then drill down and see which post it’s ranking for. You can see the position over time, over the last 90 days, it gives you a much better idea. That’s really in your face and you can sort this data any way you want. If you like data, you’ll love Search Analytics.

Darren: Yeah. There’s so much to dig into there. It can be overwhelming. Do go and make sure you’ve got your site is set up and begin to dabble in there a little bit. It is probably the only place you ever get a message from Google?

Jim: Sure, sure, sure.

Darren: I’m looking in there now. I can see a few months ago, we got an alert that we were getting a lot of 404 errors. We wouldn’t have known that if Google hadn’t told us. If there is a problem with your site or if you’re being penalized, I think they’ll let you know in there. This is a good place to go digging if you do notice that you’re getting a lot less search traffic because the answer might actually be there waiting for you.

Jim: Exactly. It’s a good idea to explore that because that data only lasts 90 days. It’s a 90 day window, basically. It’s a good idea to explore it so you’ve got a point of reference and then you can go back and look back at that data as well.

Darren: Great. If our listeners have a little bit of money to spend on search engine optimization, what tool, if you had to choose one, would you recommend they go and have a look at and begin to use?

Jim: Just spend money on, you’d have to say Screaming Frog. There is a free level of access. There’s a lot of rank tracking tools out there but they can be a little bit inconsistent in the data that they provide, because Google’s constantly changing the algorithm.

There are a lot of paid tools. We’re just switching with one of our paid tools at the moment because the data on the one we’re currently using has become unreliable. That’s not uncommon. It’s a tough job building ranking tools. Don’t spend a lot on your ranking tools but you may have to spend some money and just keep double checking and cross checking the results.

Darren: Okay.

Jim: Screaming Frog is the big SEO tool though. There is a free level access that will only do I think 500 pages now. The yearly rate isn’t cheap, I think it’s ‎£100 sterling a year, something like that.

Darren: ‎£149.

Jim: It just went up. Okay. It’s not a cheap tool but it is the best one out there. If you are using it, one of the things that is invaluable, that you can just do quickly, you do a crawl of your site and then you just sort by status code. That will bring up any broken links that you’ve got on your site. You’ll see them quickly. You’ll see things like redirects that are happening in your site quickly. It is a very complex tool but it can give you some very, very simple valuable information as well.

Darren: It’s basically a Crawler. I’m just going off of their page, you find broken links, auto redirects, discover duplicate content, review robots and directives, integrates it with your Google Analytics, and generate sites maps as well. It does do some things there that if you are wanting to take that SEO to the next level, it can really help, particularly that finding the broken links. It’s tough to find those.

Jim: Yeah, yeah, I know. You gotta start somewhere. That’s probably the best tool for it. Also, just on that duplication, one of the things that we look at as well is finding duplicate titles throughout the sites. You might have written a post five years ago and then you got to write another post on the same topic again. You don’t realize but you’ve used just very, very similar page title.

Darren: Interesting. Just on that question, you mentioned that example before of a blog at ranking for four or five different things. I suspect particularly niche blogs, a lot of bloggers would have that issue of having written almost the same article five times over ten years.

Jim: Yup.

Darren: How are you going to approach fixing that for that particular blogger? Is that a matter of deleting some of those post or linking from one to another? What’s the strategy that we should be looking at there?

Jim: Initially, usually what we will do is, for instance, the one this morning was, it’s just about those recipes. There were five different recipes ranking for this one recipe because they had similar ingredients basically. What we would say in that situation is, “Well, there’s only one of those pages that really is accurate for the user for that particular search.” That’s what we take it back to.

It’s like, “For this search, which page is best for the user?” Then, we would call that our target page for that phrase. Then, we would look at those other posts and say, “Okay, how can we put a little bit of information in here for the reader if they’re interested in our target page post? What do we want to say?” And then we’d link to that tagged page post.

                    For instance, in the case of recipes, I would say, “Hey, if you’re interested in the savory version of this, then here’s the page.” We just put that at the end of the post or whatever. By that, it doesn’t only help the user, it gives Google a better idea of that this page over here is important as far as you’re concerned for the user.

Darren: Sure.

Jim: I don’t like to delay content unless it’s not getting any traffic. If it’s not getting any traffic, it doesn’t have any traffic, it’s up to you how to want to judge that. For me, if it doesn’t have any traffic for six months, I’m probably going to delete that post because I can’t see adding any value. I think that’s a better experience for the user as well because they’re not finding posts that are of no interest or whatever else.

Darren: Sure.

Jim: Usually we will use interlinking strategies. We will look at that tag, a page and say, “Can it be further optimized for this page? Are we just using descriptive file names, images, and those sorts of things? Is the name of the post exactly what the people are searching for? Is there a difference between singular and plural and all those sorts of things?” Typically, we try to make the tagged page more authoritative, and then link from the other pages to that page.

Darren: Great. Work out what you want to rank for, what’s most useful, link to that from the other places and optimize that page the best that you can.

Jim: Yup.

Darren: Yeah, excellent. Last question, not really tools related but it came in our Facebook group a couple of times in the last week, it’s around Google’s latest updates. Can you give us a really quick update on what Google seemed to be doing there and how it might impact bloggers?

Jim: Yeah. A lot of quality type stuff. When I talk quality, I mean is this a good experience or bad experience for a user? There was someone in your group that got hit back in March. I lost that 80% of the traffic overnight.

It was an update that Google rolled up but didn’t announce, and was probably multiple updates. What we found was for that particular blog, was that they were overusing keywords in all the headings. Pretty much every post had a key phrase in every main heading and every subheading.

Like what we were talking about before, they would have the keyword in the H1s, the H2s, the H3s. It was just overly optimized. He went through and he basically called one of the key phrases that he was using and all his rankings and traffics came back. That was globally too.

The other one that we’ve seen is affiliate marketing. If you’re doing a lot of outbound affiliate links, just be careful that they’re not deceptive. The ones that we’ve seen drop have been once where you’re just reading this article and you click through to this thing, and you don’t know it’s an affiliate link. It’s not clear it’s an affiliate link.

It looks like Google was punishing those sites. Because when they took away the affiliate links, their rankings came up. That isn’t to say you cannot have affiliate links but just don’t be deceptive that, “Hi, I’m independent.” Make it clear. There might be a relationship.

Darren: Yup, which is legal anyway.

Jim: Yeah, there you go.

Darren: Yeah, very good. Thanks for that.

Jim: Alright.

Darren: You have your own Facebook group. As much as we keep promoting people to come and join, we actually quite often recommend yours as well. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that? Where people can find it?

Jim: Yeah. It was after PB Event last year, I came away thinking, “Oh, I need to set up a group to go further in depth with SEO because we’ve got a short course at the moment as well.” The idea of the group is just throw your site in there, tell us what you’re doing, what problems you’ve got. We do live training in there as well. It’s all free. We do have paid products if you just want to cut the chase.

Darren: Yup.

Jim: Yeah, we’ll go and have a look at your site. There’s a team of 20 of us here in the office and if I can’t get to the site, someone else will.

Darren: That’s great. That’s called the Bloggers SEO Support. I’ll link to that in our show notes as well. Our listeners can also find you at stewartmedia.com.au.

Jim: Correct.

Darren: You mentioned a course as well. What’s the course?

Jim: Yeah. bloggersseo.com, you can head across to bloggersseo.com. That’s where we’ve got the training there. Basically it’s a system. It’s a step by step system where you can first of all work out what’s wrong with your site, and then have the tools to know how to fix it.

Darren: Excellent. I will link to that in the show notes as well. I am not an affiliate so I’m just placing that so Google doesn’t penalize me.

Jim: I should make you one.

Darren: There we go. Well, maybe by the time this episode comes out. Thanks so much, Jim. I appreciate your time today. We’ll get you on in another 90 episodes.

Jim: No worries. Thanks, Darren.

Darren: Thanks man.

Jim: Okay, bye.

Darren: I hope you enjoyed listening to today’s show with Jim Stewart. You can find Jim and more of what he does over at stewartmedia.com.au and his Facebook group, Bloggers SEO Support. I’ll be linking to Jim’s site, his course, his Facebook group over on the show notes today. It’s at problogger.com/podcast/194.

You can also find the other episode that I did with Jim over in Episode 94. It actually was 100 episodes exactly since I last had Jim on the show. You can find that one at problogger.com/podcast/94 or back in iTunes as well.

Lastly, do check out our Facebook group at problogger.com/group. We’re almost at 5,000 members. We do a weekly live video into the group. We have some great discussions every week. We’re doing some challenges and do some monthly accountability stuff as well. If you are looking to connect to other bloggers, to learn from them, to share what you know about blogging, that’s important as well, do head over to the group, do a search on Facebook for ProBlogger community or hit the problogger.com/group.

I look forward to chatting with you next week in Episode 195 where I’m pretty sure we’re going to be talking about a tool that we use at ProBlogger on creating an editorial calendar. That helps us to really work as a team together but also plan the content that we are creating. I’m going to have Leni on the show who works with me on the ProBlogger team to talk about this particular tool. Look forward to chatting with you next week on the ProBlogger podcast.

How did you go with today’s episode?

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188: How to Build Two Successful Blogs (and the Pros and Cons of Doing so)

The Pros and Cons of Having More Than One Blog

In today’s lesson, I want to talk about having more than one blog on the go at once.

Regular listeners of this podcast know I have two main blog – ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. I’m fortunate enough to have been able to build them up so that either one of them could be a full time venture which is great – but having two businesses to focus upon not only comes with some benefits – but some costs.

In this episode I want to share:

  • The story of how I built them to the point they’re at today

    The pros and cons of having more than one blog or business
  • Some tips on juggling two things like this at once

Lastly – today’s episode is proudly presented by this year’s ProBlogger events. This year we’re holding three events – one in Brisbane Australia, another in Melbourne Australia and a third in Dallas Texas.

These events are designed with very similar goals to this podcast – to help bloggers to grow blogs with world changing content, with lots of readers and which are profitable. All of these events will have some amazing teaching from experienced bloggers (people like Pat Flynn who i speaking at our Australian events) but also have opportunities for masterminds and really drilling into the blog and business that you have to help take it to the next level.

If you’re interested in the Aussie events head to problogger.com/events and if you’re interested in the Dallas event head to problogger.com/success but please don’t wait too long as these events are selling quickly and the early bird price ends in the coming weeks.



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Hi there, it’s Darren from ProBlogger here. Welcome to another episode of the ProBlogger podcast, this is episode 188. For those of you who are new to ProBlogger, ProBlogger is all about helping you to start a blog, to grow your audience of your blog, to create content that’s gonna change that audience’s life and hopefully to make some money from your blog as well. You can find out more about ProBlogger and what we do at problogger.com.

In today’s lesson, I want to address a question that I’ve been getting quite a bit lately and that is, “How do you juggle two blogs and should you have two blogs?” A lot of regular listeners of this podcast know that I do have two main businesses and they both center around blogs. It’s ProBlogger which you are listening to right now, which is a blog podcast event and numerous other things. And then there’s Digital Photography School, which again is a very similar model in many ways. It’s centered around the blog, and then there’s ebooks and courses and other aspects of that business as well.

I’m fortunate enough to have been able to build up these two businesses so that either one of them could really be a full-time venture, which is great. It also presents with some interesting challenges, to say the least. Having two businesses comes with benefits but it also comes at a cost.

In this episode, I wanna share with you the story about how I built up these blogs to the point that they’re at today, the pros and cons of having more than one blog and business. And then for those of you who are considering juggling two businesses like I am, some tips on how to do that and how to approach that if you do decide to do that.

Lastly, today’s episode is proudly presented by this year’s ProBlogger events. This year, we are holding three events over in Australia; Brisbane, Australia, and Melbourne, Australia and the third event in Dallas, Texas in the United States. These events are designed with very similar goals to this podcast, to help you to grow your blog with world changing content, to grow your readership and to build profit around your blogs.

All of these events have some amazing teaching from experienced bloggers like Pat Flynn who’s speaking at our Aussie events but also we have opportunities for master minds at all of our events as well. These help you to really drill down with some experts, with some experienced bloggers to drill down into your business and to really pick apart your business and work at how to take it to the next level.

If you’re interested in our Australian events, head to problogger.com/events. If you’re interested in coming to our Dallas event which is in October this year, head over to problogger.com/success. Please don’t wait too long on either front because the events are selling out quickly and we do have some early bird pricing on these events that end in the coming weeks.

Today’s episode really is inspired by a question that I had over in the Facebook group this week from Sandy. Sandy wrote to me, “You blog on ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. I have heard that you had many other blogs in days gone by. Can you give me some advice on whether having more than one blog is a good thing or not?”

Thanks so much for the question, Sandy. I do appreciate it. It is a great question and as I mentioned at the top of the show, it’s one that I’m getting increasingly regularly at the moment. I know a lot of you as bloggers are wondering whether you should have one blog or more than one blog. That’s really what I want to talk about today. I want to tell you the backstory, the pros and cons of having two focuses, and then some tips on how to juggle two businesses really I guess is what we’re talking about today.

First, the story. I’m not going to go into great detail. The first thing I really do wanna say is that most people when they come across me, and dig into what I do, see a snapshot of how things are today. Two blogs that are established with thousands of blog posts already in the archives and a decent readership with multiple income streams, that’s what you see as the snapshot. This is just the reality of today.

What you don’t see is the whole journey of almost 15 years behind what you see today. I guess what you see today wasn’t the reality when I first started. It had to evolve. I guess why I wanna tell you the story today is that it didn’t just arrive like this, it actually was something that evolved over time. To be honest, it started completely as accident, and it really is not something that I’ve planned to be like it is today.

To go back in time, 2002 is when I started my first blog. That first blog’s name was The Living Room. It was a blog about my experience of being involved in a new church. As well as many other aspects of my life, it started off as me wanting to tell the story of that church. That church was called Living Room as well.

As I began to blog, as I began to find my voice, I realized that I really enjoyed writing about all kinds of things. I wrote about life in Australia, politics, television, movies, sport, blogging, photography, getting married, all of these different things that were going on in my life at that time. It became I guess an extension of the different compartments in my brain as I began to talk about these different things.

Back in 2002, it was very normal to have a blog that covered such a wide spectrum of topics. That’s why I did it, it worked. My readers didn’t really push back too much on me covering that diverse spectrum of topics.

But gradually over time, as blogging matured and as other people begin to niche down with their blogs and focus upon specific things, and as my audience grew and different groups in my audience came for different things, I did began to have some tension on my blog. There were readers who came because I wanted to hear about the church that I was involved with. They were interested in photography and they were interested in blogging. And then there were other people who began to read that blog, Living Room blog, because I was writing about blogging and not many other people were writing about how to make money from blogs at that time. Those readers really were interested in hearing about photography or church.

I began to feel this tension. It began to constrain my blogging in many ways as well. I began to think, “Well, I’ve just written about blogging yesterday, can’t write about it tomorrow. I need to throw in another topic there to serve those other people.” I began to feel constrained. I didn’t really have the freedom to write that blog in the way that I wanted to. I began to take some of the categories in my blog and start new blogs based upon those categories.

The first one I did was a camera review blog which I started late in 2003. It was about a year after I started blogging. It was a blog where I reviewed cameras and many of you have heard me talk about that blog in the past. It worked really well, it’s actually the first blog that I began to make some money from by putting some Adsense Ads on and referring people over to Amazon with affiliate links.

It worked so well that I decided that I’m gonna start to replicate this and so I started a camera phone review blog. This is right when those first phones came out with cameras, Nokia cameras have little tiny camera on it. I began to do reviews of camera phones. Then I thought, “Okay, I’m gonna do another one on printers.” Printers are kind of related to photography and so I began to review printers. I think the next one, I’m kind of a bit fuzzy here about the order of it all but I did another one on the Olympic Games. Was it the Athens Olympic Games? It must have been 2004-ish. And then I started ProBlogger, that was in 2004. I definitely remember that one. That was where I began to talk about making money from my blogs. I began to share what I was learning about making money from blogs.

At this point, I already had four or five blogs going. Some of them were making good money. The camera review blog was making good money. The camera phone blog was doing okay. And then ProBlogger came about, and it completely took off. It was really about the timing of launching that blog. No one else had a blog about making money from blogging back then. A few people are beginning to explore how to do it, but no one had a complete blog about it.

When I announced that I was making a full-time living from blogging and six figures a year from blogging, that became big news. A lot of other blogs linked to it. Some because they didn’t like the idea of people commercializing blogs and other people because that’s what they wanted to do. ProBlogger had this tipping point moment, it was even just a few months into the blog and it already had a fairly sizable audience. It began to make a little bit of money. And I began to explore different ways of monetizing that blog.

Around this time, I also started my first blog network, it was called The Breaking News blogs. I did that with some friends over in New Zealand. By 2005, I think I had about 30 blogs including that network of blogs that I was involved with at that time.

The reality though was that only three of them were really working very well at all. The Camera Review blog was doing well. The Camera Phone blog was doing okay. The Athens Olympic Games blog did really well for the two weeks of the Athens Olympic Games and then it died away. And then there was ProBlogger.

Whilst those blogs were working, there was really one that I was enjoying. I wasn’t really enjoying the camera reviews, I wasn’t really enjoying camera phone reviews, I was enjoying ProBlogger. I decided that I needed to make some changes because I knew I really was gonna have to be at this for 10 or so years to do anything significant with blogging. I thought to myself, “I might as well enjoy what I’m doing.” I decided to make some big changes.

Luckily, ProBlogger by this stage was at the point that it was starting to make a decent income from it. I was doing some affiliate stuff, I was launching some of my products. I decided to focus upon that more and to start killing off some of those other blogs.

The first thing I decided to stop doing with my partners was to stop the Breaking News blog network which freed up a lot of time from me. That enabled me to put more time into ProBlogger, and it grew ProBlogger even more.

In 2006, I decided I was gonna stop the Camera Review blog and the Camera Phone blog. That was a big risk because those blogs at that point were my main source of income. In fact, they were making over $ 100,000 a year in income but they were killing me. They were soul sucking kind of blogs to run because I’m not a techy kind of guy, I’m not a review kind of guy. I didn’t really feel satisfied with the quality of what was going on on those blogs either.

I decided to transition from being a Camera Review blog to being a How to Take Better Photos blog, which is something I really was much more passionate about. It was something I was much more interested in. The other aspect of it is that I knew I could build my audience over time with the how to blog more than a review blog. People I knew read review blogs when they’re in a buying mode, when they’re trying to work out which camera to buy. But people would subscribe to a how to take better photos blog for a longer period of time. I kind of knew that was a better business model and opportunity around a how to blog, and so I decided to make that switch. Felt risky, but I did had the back-up plan of ProBlogger by this stage. It had been going for two years.

I guess that’s one of the reasons I wanna share this story is that I didn’t launch Digital Photography School and ProBlogger on the same day. I actually did ProBlogger first. I got it up and running, I got it to a point where it was profitable which enabled me then to start something new as well. That, I guess, is one of the big lessons that I wanna get across to you with this story is that you might have two things in mind, you might have two blogs in mind. I would encourage you to really invest into one of them first, and put one of them on the back burner perhaps for a little while, you might want to get the domain, might want to reserve some social media or accounts but put it on the back burner and really focus on one thing.

I personally find that I’m much better at launching one thing at a time. It takes a lot of energy, a lot of creativity, a lot of thought to launch something. Don’t try to launch them both at the same time.

2006 came around and I decided to make the switch. To be honest, when I started Digital Photography School, it was really tough. It was the first year or two of Digital Photography School, the growth was really slow, it was completely different to ProBlogger. ProBlogger had this tipping point moment and I’ve gone into Digital Photography School rather naively thinking that I would just be able to grow that blog really quickly and it didn’t happen. There was no big tipping point day like there being with ProBlogger.

My readers from my original photography blog weren’t interested in the new blog. Not many of them came across, hardly any of my ProBlogger readers were interested in the new blog, that was too different of a topic I guess. I had to work for those first two years on DPS to really grow the archives up, to write a lot of content, to grow traffic to the blog through writing sharable content, through networking, through writing guest posts, through collaborating with other bloggers. Eventually, to get some traffic in from Google and some other social media sort of sources.

I was doing it all myself, particularly for the first year, and most of it for the first two years. Initially, I was doing all the writing, all the promoting, all the comment moderation and all the partnerships and all the monetizations as well. There were numerous times during that first couple years of DPS where I almost gave up because it just wasn’t taking as fast as I wanted. There was growth, but it was really slow growth.

In hindsight, I look back on the stats and I actually see that the growth was steady. I guess that’s the reason that I continued with it is that even though it wasn’t spectacular growth, I knew that if I could keep growing that blog by 10% per month or even 10% every two or three months, over the long haul, I could see that that would grow to a point where it would be a significant amount of traffic and a significant amount of income.

I kind of tried to take this long term view all the time knowing that I had ProBlogger already at a point where it was doing reasonably well. Eventually, Digital Photography School did grow to a point where it got to the same size as ProBlogger and then it grew bigger than ProBlogger. Probably took about three years to get to that point where Digital Photography School was bigger in terms of traffic and income than ProBlogger. It continued to grow. To this point, I haven’t looked at the stats for a few months but Digital Photography School is probably about eight or nine times larger today than ProBlogger. It’s where I put most of my time and resources today.

ProBlogger’s still something that I put a lot of my time into because it’s a personal brand, I’ll talk more about that later. Digital Photography School is where most of the focus of my business goes to.

Now, I should say at this point before I get into some tips that both DPS and ProBlogger are more than just blogs today. They both started out purely as blogs but today the blog is at the center of other things. Digital Photography School today has a range of products around it, ebooks and courses and software. It’s also got a little sister business called Snap and Deal that runs alongside it. It’s more than just a blog and the same is true with ProBlogger. Of course you’re listening to the podcast today but we also have a job board and events as well. There’s lots of moving parts with both of those businesses and either one of them is a full-time thing in terms of income but also both of them could be quite overwhelming. There are a lot of parts to run. That’s the story.

Let me talk a little bit about the pros and cons of having more than one blog or more than one business. Let’s start with the good stuff, the benefits of having multiple blogs. I’ve kind of picked up on some of these already as I told my story. The first benefit that I would say of having more than one blog, and I guess the reason that I started having more than one blog is that it brought a certain amount of freedom to my blogging.

One of the reasons I decided to have more than one blog in those early days is that I felt like I had something to say on more than one topic. I’m a multi-passionate kind of person. I know a lot of you as readers and listeners of ProBlogger are on the same boat. I talked to many of you who say have multi-passions. You’re interested in travel as well as food, or you’re interested in technology or science or you have this multiple kind of interest. For me, in those early days and still today, I have multiple interests. I’m interested in spirituality, I’m interested in photography, I was interested in blogging, I was interested in communication. All these things were things I wanted to talk about.

To have more than one blog enabled me to do that with more freedom. I didn’t have to worry about my readers so much and whether they wanted me to talk about the different topics. I knew that they could just really drill into the blog that they wanted to read rather than have to wade through all the other stuff that they weren’t interested in. If you’re a multi-passionate person, then maybe that is one reason why you might want to have more than one blog.

Second benefit of having more than one blog from a business perspective is the income diversification. Another advantage of having more than one blog, if you’re blogging for income is that by having more than one iron in the fire can be a good thing. It can increase the chances of one of them working for you.

Most bloggers know that there are no guarantees that a blog is gonna work. There’s no formula for a successful blog that will guarantee you’re gonna have success. And more so, I teach a lot of principles of building successful blogs. There’s no guarantees that any of this is gonna work, or any of it will hit them up with your readers.

I had 30 blogs and two of them really worked, 28 of them didn’t. That kind of gives you the kind of chances of having a successful blog. Having more than one blog and my strategy was, “Okay, I’m gonna start lots of blogs. Let’s see which one works.” Which one works for me as an author but also which one works with my readers as well.

This is one of the reasons that you might wanna have more than one blog. To actually have a couple of irons in the fire, to test which one works best and then to be able to focus on that.

I knew really quickly after studying all my blogs whether they had a chance of success. I knew when I started that printer blog that I talked about before that it was not gonna work. I knew within a couple of months of starting that blog that it was not getting traction. I got no comments, I got no emails, I got very little traffic. I knew it wasn’t gonna work. I also knew that it wasn’t giving me any energy as well, it wasn’t something I enjoyed at all.

I knew that even though Digital Photography School was slow, and it was tough and I felt like giving up at points, I knew it had a good chance of working even after a few weeks of having that blog because I started to get comments. I started to get emails from people going thank you. I also felt a lot of energy. Having numerous blogs and starting those blogs, it was good in that regard. It showed me what I wanted to do. It unveiled my true passions, but it also showed me where my audience was responding in different ways. It’s good for testing different ideas and diversifying your interest in that way.

Also, it can help in terms of the actual income and diversifying that income as well. I’m having different income streams on those different blogs, I guess spread the risk a little bit. Digital Photography School in the early days, I monetized it mainly using Google AdSense and a little bit of affiliate marketing on Amazon. Whilst ProBlogger, the income from that was more about ebooks and promoting software and tools.

There were quite different income streams and I guess that diversifies the risk in some ways as well. If AdSense was to go away, I still would have other income streams by having those other blogs. I guess in terms of topics as well, there’s some diversification there. By having more than one topic that you’re blogging about, if one topic was to go away, if blogging for example was to be a trend that disappeared after a couple years, I would still have another topic that hopefully would have sort of an increase in trend as well. Diversifying I guess the topics, the income streams they could be some benefits of doing that.

The other benefit for me of having more than one blog is that as a multi-passionate person, I tend to get a bit bored if I just have one thing to do. This is why before I started blogging, I’d had 20 jobs in the last 10 years before my first blog. I was someone who just needed to switch around, needed to try new things. Having more than one blog enabled me to switch. There’s times over the last 10 or so years where ProBlogger has been my passion and there’s been other times where Digital Photography School’s been something that I’ve really served myself into and enjoyed. By having two things to really focus my energy on, I’m able to mix things up which for me keeps my interest and helps me continue to be passionate as well.

Some of the cons, some of the costs, I think you could probably work it out. Firstly by having more than one focus, you run the risk of lowering the quality of what you do. At the height of my diversification, when I had 30 blogs going at once and I was creating content for all 30 blogs, I know for a fact that the quality of what I was doing was not great on most of those blogs. In fact, on most of those blogs, it was pretty boring. I think back and I kinda cringe at what I used to put onto those blogs. I remember putting press releases up onto my blogs, it was not good content though. It wasn’t personal, it was robotic, it was machine like. It was formulaic, I was rehashing the news that was being sent to me by camera manufacturers and printer manufacturers. It was more about trying to gain the search engines and trying to get AdSense clicks than anything else. It was boring for me and it was also boring for my readers in hind sight. It was never gonna lead to a sustainable business because the quality just wasn’t there. It wasn’t interesting, it wasn’t meaningful, it wasn’t really that useful to anyone at all.

As it turns out, I’m glad I got out of that kind of model because Google has put more and more emphasis onto ranking quality content. Back then, you just had to have the keywords in the content and work at how to get a few links to your site. Today, Google’s so much better at it and same with the social networks as well.

Thirty blogs for me, it was never realistic if I wanted to keep the quality up. Even just having two blogs at times has led to me having to decrease the quality as well. That’s been one of the struggles, particularly when I was writing all the content myself for both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. I was really aware that by having those two focuses, the quality at times did suffer. That’s one of the reasons I began to get some help in terms of building a team around the blogs as well. Having more than one blog, it’s something that you’ve really gotta be aware of. It may be that you have to write less content but to keep that level of quality up again.

In terms of cost, I guess it could be that you not only lower the quality but you could be lowering the quantity of the blogs. For me, quality is always more important than quantity but quantity can help as well. The way I kept the quality up on both of those blogs was to really pull back on how much content I produced, and that’s fine. When you’re first starting a blog like Digital Photography School, one of the ways that you can really grow a blog faster is to produce more content, to begin to put more content out there because every piece of content on your blog is a new doorway into your site. You really aren’t able to produce as much if you have more than one blog.

I guess the other cost of having more than one blog is the risk of burning out. When I had 30 blogs, I was living a crazy, frantic life. I was working 12 to 14, 15, 16 hours a day just trying to get content up onto all of these different blogs. I was trying to produce content on every blog everyday which just wasn’t realistic. Reducing my efforts to just two blogs really helped me a lot in terms of work-life balance, my own health, my own passion for what I was doing. Even just having two blogs, there’s been times where it’s been a struggle as well.

These are some of the costs. The risk of burning out, the risk of lowering quality, the risk of lowering quantity and all of these things can have an impact upon whether the blog has a chance of working as well.

Some of the things that I would encourage you to do, if you really do have those two passions and you really do wanna explore having two different businesses, I think it can work. I’ve made it work. I do sometimes wonder whether if I just focus on one of them, will I build something bigger? That’s something that possibly the answer would be yes. If I just focused on ProBlogger, could I build ProBlogger into a better thing for my readers, for me? Same with Digital Photography School, if I didn’t have ProBlogger, could I build Digital Photography School into something bigger as well? I think the answer would have been yes. I probably would have built bigger businesses, but I’m also someone who’s fine with that.

Big isn’t everything for me. I don’t want to be a multi, multi-millionaire. I don’t wanna have a business with a hundred employees. I like small. I think I can make something meaningful on both fronts, for myself but also for my readers. I guess really you’ve gotta do some analysis on what’s your ultimate goal. Do you wanna be a multi-million dollar company? Do you wanna just build something small, that’s meaningful, that sustains your life? For me, it’s the latter. That’s probably the first tip I could give you, is really think through: what are your goals? If you want to build something massive, if you want to build something like Telstra or Google, then you probably wanna just pick one thing and really go after that thing. But if you’re happy to have something smaller, something that’s sustainable perhaps, and you wanna explore different passions in your life then maybe two things.

Firstly, consider what it is that you’re trying to achieve, what it is that is your goal, what it is that’s your dream. Secondly, if you really do wanna explore two things, as I mentioned before, spread out the launches. Don’t launch two things at once. I’ve talked to a number of people who’ve done this, it’s possible but you’ve probably got a much better chance of both of them working if you spread things out. For me, the reason I told you my story earlier is that I wanted to show you that things were spread out.

I started blogging in 2002, spent two years really learning the skills. I started ProBlogger in 2004. After I had the skills, after I’ve had some experience, I started Digital Photography School in 2006. It was really two years after ProBlogger that I started. There were other things that I started in the midst of it but I think the reason that Digital Photography School worked is that even though I had that all idea when I started ProBlogger, I could have done it in 2004 in terms of an idea, but I really allowed myself to get ProBlogger established first. That meant I didn’t have as much pressure on me to make Digital Photography School work straight away. I didn’t have to make an income from that blog straight away, because I already had ProBlogger up and running.

Spread out your launches, if you can. Give yourself a period of time where you can just focus upon one thing to get it established, to make it operate as a business, to be able to build some systems and procedures and to build a team so that first thing can run relatively independently so that you can then give a lot of your attention to that new thing.

The next tip I’ll give you is to build a team. I did okay at launching both Digital Photography School and ProBlogger with largely just me working on those businesses. I learned very quickly that I could only really scale those businesses to the point that I was willing to let go and bring others into what I was doing. This is probably a topic for a whole other episode as how to build a team. But for me, it initially meant bringing on some other writers. My first writers were guest writers and then I began to build a team of paid writers.

That also meant getting some administrative support, getting someone in. I think the first person I actually hired was to do comment moderation. Now I’ve got someone to help me with some email and customer support, I’ve hired people to help me with design and tech. And then also some more managerial type roles. I’ve got someone working for me at the moment who helps me produce new products and do busdev.

Again, this is not something that just appeared, this is something that really evolved. That comment moderator, I think they were earning $ 10 a day for 10 minutes of work. It’s really tiny kind of stuff. It’s gradually growing over time.

Today, I’m fortunate enough to have an amazing little team of seven or eight people who I talk to most days. They help me with different aspects of the business. They’re all part time, but they all do things that either free up my time so that I can do what I do best. I don’t have to answer emails or I don’t have to moderate comments or do these things that they can do. They’re either freeing up my time or they’re doing things that I could probably do but they can do it better than me.

Editing this podcast, the team of PodcastMotor helped me to edit this podcast. They do a much better job, they do it faster than me which frees up my time but they also do it at a high quality. That’s really the kind of hires that I make, they either free up my time and free up my mindspace or they have skills that I just don’t have. Keep in mind, all of these hires didn’t just happen, they were all tiny hires in the early days. Some of them actually started as me bartering services and giving exposure and that type of thing and then growing in that relationship.

While I’m also talking about team, I guess the other thing I would say about teams, this is something that’s become more important to me over the last couple of years. If you do have two businesses and you’ve got teams, you probably in the early days will have team members who are working on both of the businesses.

To give you an example, Jasmin who today manages Digital Photography School, Jasmin actually for a while there was working on both sides of the business. She was producing and I hired her to help me produce products for Digital Photography School. She was also working on the ProBlogger event and helping to manage that. She was doing an amazing job on both of those things and did really well.

One of the things that we’ve tried to do with the business over the last little while is to separate the teams out. This is something you probably won’t be able to do in the early days but there are some real benefits of being able to have different people on your team to focus on different aspects of the different businesses. The problem with having people working on both of your businesses if you’ve got two businesses is that there would be times where they would feel torn between the two businesses in terms of what they should be focusing their time on and you will as well. This is one of the things that we’ve really worked on over the last years, we now have two separate teams. I work on both of the businesses but all my team members work on different aspects of the businesses except for our developers. Our developers are kinda working on both aspects, and again that’s got some cost, there’s some tension there at times. I think that’s certainly been something that’s been really beneficial for us to have different people working on different parts of the business.

The second last thing I’ll say is to think really carefully when you’re launching your businesses about how much personal branding you put into the businesses. One of the best things that I ever did was to make Digital Photography School a non-personally branded site. Digital Photography School, if you’re gonna have a look at it today, you find it really hard to find many references to me. My name is not really on that site much at all. It’s only the about page I think as the founder. Occasionally, we’ll write a blog post if it’s more of a sales type blog post. But 99% of the content is written by a team of writers, the editor is someone else, not me. I’m really not there at all. It’s not a personally branded site.

The benefits of that is that I don’t need to really do much to keep that site running. In the early days, I did it all. But even in those early days, I didn’t really promote myself. I promoted the brand, Digital Photography School. It wasn’t really a Darren thing. I knew that that would enable me to scale it and to get others involved in that. Right from day one, I knew I wanted to have other people writing most of the content on that site because I knew I just wasn’t going to be able to invest heavenly in that for all eternity because I had ProBlogger which is much more personally branded.

Again if you look at ProBlogger, you see my face on the front page. You see videos of me every week, you see my name on a lot of places. I’m the voice of this podcast. It’s much more personally branded. As a result of that, there’s a lot more that I have to do to keep ProBlogger running. I’m committed to that, I enjoy that so that’s not a problem. But if you had two personally branded sites, that’s gonna be really tough.

I encourage you if you are gonna do two things, maybe consider making one of them or both of them non-personally branded if you can. It will enable you to scale things a lot bigger. It will enable you to be less involved in the day-to-day running of one or both of those businesses. It’ll really help a lot. It will also help you if you eventually wanna sell what you do. I think I would have much better chances of selling Digital Photography School one day than ProBlogger. ProBlogger I think could be sellable as well but there would probably be conditions that I would have to hang around because my name is associated with that brand a lot more. Think carefully about your personal branding.

The last thing I’ll say is one thing that helped me a lot is to really work on my routines and batching what I do. I‘ve talked about batching in the past. One of the biggest challenges that I faced having to have my head across both of my business even though I’ve got Digital Photography School to a point where it almost runs itself in many regards, there are dead lines that loom for me every week on both of those blogs.

It could be hard when you’re involved in the day-to-day of two different businesses to keep track of what you’re supposed to be doing at any given time. Particularly when you got a personality type like me which is not the most organized type person, I’m not great at diaries and these types of things. That’s an area that I’ve really had to work on.

I had to build routines and I’ve talked in previous episodes about my routines but Tuesday afternoons for me is the time that I create the ProBlogger Plus Newsletter. Thursday afternoons, until about a year ago, I always did the Digital Photography School Newsletter. I separated those two things out onto different days. Today the DPS one gets done by a team member. Monday afternoons I’ll record this podcast. Every Monday afternoon I’m recording this podcast, it’s Monday afternoon right now. Wednesday is a day that we have our DPS team meetings. On Fridays, we have our ProBlogger team meetings.

Actually having these rhythms, these routines to your week actually enables you to remember, to create a rhythm that helps you to be productive as well. It also helps your team, when you do build a team, to know what it is that you’re working on. My team knows that Wednesday is the DPS team meeting. If they’ve got something they wanna ask me, they can just hold off until Wednesday morning and when we have that if it’s a non-urgent thing so they’re not pinging me all week, they’re putting things onto the agenda for that particular time.

Conversely, the ProBlogger team knows that Wednesdays is the time that I spend more thinking about DPS and so they don’t tend to annoy me as much on that about the things that are associated with ProBlogger and vice versa. The more you can set-up those sorts of rhythms where you focus upon different aspects of your business, the better. That’s good for you but it’s also good for you team as well.

Alright then, my tips and some of the pros and cons of building two different businesses simultaneously, I don’t know that I’ve got all the answers on this particular front but I hope that somehow what I shared today is some wisdom you can apply to your particular business.

If you’ve got anything that you would like to add to this conversation, I would love to hear it because I love to learn from you. That’s a completely selfish request. Let me know what you found to be useful for you if you’ve got two businesses. You can do that over on the comments at problogger.com/podcast/188, or you can head over to the ProBlogger Facebook group, just go to problogger.com/group and you’ll find the group. We’ll forward you over to that particular Facebook group where we’ve got just over 3,500 members now interacting with each other every week and discussing the episodes but also sharing the tips that we’ve been picking up on blogging as well.

Lastly, if you’ve got a moment, head over to iTunes and leave us a review if you haven’t already, I love getting those reviews, it means a lot to me. Helps me to actually stay on track and create podcasts that really serve you. If you’ve got any reviews that you wanna leave, head over to iTunes or your favorite podcast network to do that as well. I look forward to chatting with you in next week’s episode, Episode 189 of the ProBlogger podcast.

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189: How to Create Amazing Videos for Your Blog Using Your Smartphone

Removing the Barriers to Create Video Content on Your Blog

In today’s lesson, I’ve got some very practical and actionable information for you on how to shoot great video for your blog using your smartphone.

As I’ve mentioned a few times lately in episodes – video is becoming one of the hottest types of content online. While the written word isn’t going anywhere video content helps you to grow your reach, stand out from the crowd, make a connection with your audience and is highly shareable.

We’ve all heard about the opportunity but if you’re anything like me – you have a few questions, challenges and barriers that stop you getting into video.

  • I don’t have the right gear!
  • I don’t feel comfortable in front of camera?
  • I don’t know the first thing about the technicalities of shooting and editing good video?

Recently at SMMW I bumped into a fellow Aussie by the name of Justin Brown who was doing a workshop on how to create great video using the camera that most of us already own – the one in our smart phone. Justin teaches how to create great online video at his site – primalvideo.com

I heard so many great things about Justin’s workshop that as soon as I got home I decided to get him on the podcast. I just finished our interview and I’m so excited by what Justin shared.

Over the next 35 minutes Justin is going to remove all of the barriers to getting into video that I just mentioned.

  • He’s going to tell you what gear you need (your smartphone is #1). We talk affordable options for mics, lights, apps etc.
  • He shares tips on getting comfortable on camera.
  • Tips on how to set up your shot – we talk framing, lighting and more
  • He gives tips on editing your videos – he suggests apps and software as well as how to approach the edit
  • And we finish up by talking about how to export your video so it’s ready to be used online.

This is a highly practical interview that we designed to help you to create that first video.

Tools and Apps mentioned in this episode:

Microphones:

Lighting – Portable:

Lighting – Studio (not mentioned but worth checking out)::

Wide Angle Lens:

Tripods (not mentioned but worth checking out):

Monitoring Software (PC/Mac)

Filming Apps:

Editing Apps:

Link to Justin’s site – Primal Video

Justin’s YouTube account

Join the video challenge in our Facebook group




Full Transcript
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Darren: Hi there and welcome to episode 189 of the ProBlogger podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind ProBlogger.com, a blog, podcast, event, job board, and a series of ebooks all designed to help you to grow a profitable blog. You can learn more about ProBlogger over at ProBlogger.com.

In today’s lesson, I’ve got some very, very practical and actionable information for you on how to shoot great video for your blog using your smartphone. As I’ve mentioned many times over in the last 100 or so episodes, video is becoming one of the hottest types of content online at the moment. Whilst we covered in episode 187 the written word isn’t going away anywhere soon, video content really does help you to grow your reach, to stand out from the crowd, to make a connection with your audience, and to create content that is shareable.

We’ve all heard about this opportunity of video but if you’re anything like me, you probably have either some questions or some challenges or barriers that stop you from getting into video. Things like I don’t have the right gear, or I don’t feel comfortable in front of a camera, or I don’t know the first thing about the technicalities of shooting and editing good video. They’re the questions I hear a lot, they’re the questions that I have, the barriers that I have myself to creating video.

Recently, I was over in San Diego at Social Media Marketing World and I bumped into a fellow Australian on the first night, a guy by the name of Justin Brown. Justin was one of the speakers at the event. He was doing a workshop at that event on creating great video using the camera that most of us already own, the one in our smartphone. Justin teaches how to do that and he has some great teaching on creating online video at his site, primalvideo.com. I heard so many great things about that particular workshop that as soon as I got home, I decided to get him on the podcast because I think he’s got some really good information for the ProBlogger audience. I literally just finished our interview. I’m so excited by what we covered for about 35 minutes.

Over the next 35 or so minutes, you are going to hear Justin remove all of those barriers that I just mentioned for getting into video. He’s going to tell you exactly what gear you need. The number one thing is your smartphone but we talked also about things like microphones, lights, apps, attachable lenses, and just how essential those things are. He really does suggest some very affordable options in each of those categories if you do have a little bit to invest.

He also talks about how the smartphone itself is creating good enough videos, that you don’t need a lot of that stuff as well. He also shares some tips about getting comfortable in front of a camera. We talked about some different types of videos that you could create, that don’t necessarily mean you need to get in front of that camera. He shared some tips on how to set up your shot. We talked about framing, lighting, and sound. He gives tips on editing videos including which apps and software might be best to use.

We finished up talking about how to export that video so that it’s ready to be used online. This is probably the most practical interview that I’ve ever done. You’re probably going to want to have something to take some notes on or you want to head over to the shownotes where I do list all of the pieces of gear that he mentions as well as the apps and software as well.

At the end of this interview, I issue you with a challenge. Be warned, I’m going to ask you to create a video. I really would love it if you would share it on our Facebook group. If you go to ProBlogger.com/group, you will find the ProBlogger Facebook group. In that group, that’s a safe place where you can share the videos you created as a result of this particular interview. You may not share it anywhere on else on the web but the challenge today is to create a video because by creating that video, it might be your first, you are going to learn so much. You may not share it but you’re going to learn a lot that will help you to create a better second video and a better third one. Take the challenge today.

If you want to head over to the shownotes to be able to follow through some of the tools and apps that Justin mentions, head over to ProBlogger.com/podcast/189, where there’s also a full transcript.

Let’s get into today’s interview.

Justin, I spoke in my recent episode 187 about how different types of content have almost like superpowers, different strengths, I guess. Written content is really great for being found in search engines, visual content is great because it gets shared a lot and grabs people’s attention, audio is good for building intimacy with your audience. I’d be interested to hear what you think video’s super power is.

Justin: I think it’s a hybrid of all of them. These days, you can get some really good optimized SEO for your videos. YouTube is the second biggest search engine followed by Google. What we do with our YouTube channel is we tailor or we optimize our videos for Google rankings. A lot search terms these days when you search for a problem or search on Google, you’ll actually be served up a video first before you actually get to the web pages themselves.

I think video is really a hybrid because you get a different level of connection than just audio or just text with your audience a well. I think it’s a bit of a hybrid of both.

Darren: Maybe you could just give our audience a little bit of your back story. How did you first get into video and why do you major on it today?

Justin: I’ve pretty much worked in video production my entire professional career for as far back as I can remember. I’ve been able to work on some really crazy projects with some really amazing people. I followed the big wave surfer Mark Visser, Australian guy, around the world for a few years following his big waves. I think he’s the guy that surfed Jaws in Maui at 2:00AM and was throwing jet skis out of planes and all sorts of stuff.

I’ve worked with guys that have 22 minute breath holds. Some really crazy people but also some really inspirational people like UN Women. I’ve had opportunities to work on some really top level documentaries as well in the health and wellness space.

From that, I’ve started a company with my brother Mike called Primal Video. We really just help people get better results with their videos faster. Essentially, removing all the barriers that we have and that we create to creating video content. That’s what we’re up to these days.

Darren: That’s a great introduction to what I really want to cover in today’s episode because every time I talk to bloggers about using video in their content creation, I get these recurring objections that people have or barriers that they have into getting into video. I even asked about it in our Facebook group just a few minutes ago and already I can see seven or eight people with questions but they’re all to do with these common objections I get. Do you get a lot of those objections? What are the main ones that you get?

Justin: I guess the fear of being on camera is a big one and actually sort of stepping out. From someone who’s always been behind cameras, a camera man, producer, or director, to step in front of the camera, it’s a freaky thing. It’s not normal for most people.

Some people love it. Some people have that gift but I can guarantee you that most of us don’t have that. It’s something that I don’t necessarily struggle with but it’s still not something I’m really comfortable with. It’s definitely something that everyone should practice and I think that everyone should be doing but it’s normal to have these fears.

It’s the fear of being on camera but also the fear of the technology or the technology, using it as an excuse like, “Next week I’ll have a different camera so I’ll hold off creating the content until then.” Or “My audio is going to be bad because it’s noisy outside.” All these little things that we can talk ourselves out of creating the content. I guess the key is actually starting and doing it, you can always grow from there but it’s also the hardest part.

Darren: The first objection I wanted to talk about was pretty much related to that. I don’t have a good enough camera. It’s too expensive. I can’t afford to buy it. The reason I wanted to get you on is your session at Social Media Marketing World this year was about creating video with smartphones which most of us have in our pockets. I guess the first question is do you really think a smartphone is good enough if you want to create video for your business?

Justin: 100%. As you said, I had that session at Social Media Marketing World which was purely based on that. We have these awesome cameras now in our pockets, in our hands. The cameras on them are actually really phenomenal. As long as you set them up right and get your lighting right, and all these sorts of simple things really, once you hear them, then you can actually get some really good results with them.

It’s always a case of using the gear that you’ve got instead of delaying until future gear, until you’ve got that new camera. It’s not needed. Use simple things like a plugin microphone to get better results. We can dive into that if you’d like.

Darren: Yeah, for sure. What other gear would you recommend people investing in? Maybe, if you could put it in a priority, what would you get first to take it to the next level?

Justin: First off, 100% would be a microphone, an aftermarket microphone. If you don’t have one, then I’m still big advocate for start now. Don’t say, “Justin said I need to have a microphone so I’m not going to create a video.” Use your phone to still create videos, but if you’re going to spend money.

If you’ve got bad video and good audio, you can replace the video and use slides or images or animations, anything. You can still use your video. If your audio is bad, then your whole video is going to look and sound bad. Audio would be by far the number one.

Darren: Do you have a first mic recommendation? Like for an actual microphone that people should look at?

Justin: There are three that I would recommend. There’s a $ 20 US microphone called the BOYA BY-M1. It’s a wired lapel or lavalier microphone. It’s got a huge cable, it’s like a six meter cable on it. You’re then connected to your phone but the audio that you would get through that is phenomenal.

If you don’t want to be tied or tethered to your phone or to your camera—that microphone lets you work on both your phone and your camera, both DSLRs and smartphone so that’s pretty cool—then you can get Shotgun Microphone, something like the RODE VideoMicro. I think this sells in Australia for around the $ 79 mark. It’s a little Shotgun Microphone so you can move away from your phone a little bit but the closer you are to it, the better the sound.

All these things aren’t going to be breaking the bank account but they will make a huge difference to the quality of your videos.

Darren: Great. What would you be looking at next? We’ve got microphone, lights.

Justin: Tripod, I would go tripod or some sort of stabilizer over lights. Lights would probably be number three. Getting the phone out of your hands or getting it stable is the next important step I would say to creating professional looking videos. If you had a production team coming out to do your videos for you, they’re not going to handhold the cameras, they’re going to be stable.

Whether it’s a selfie stick even if you’re going to be walking around, it’s going to be so much more stable in a selfie stick and out of your hand. If you’re going to be sitting down on a desk, then get a desktop tripod. If you’re going to be standing up, then get a tripod that’s going to go up to your eye level of where you’re going to be standing.

It sounds so simple, really, it essentially is simple, it’s just to get it out of your hands. Mimic what a production team would do if they showed up at your place to film.

Darren: That’s right. There are so many great tools now like this custom made things for live streamers and all kinds of little tools that you can use. It’s probably worth looking.

Justin: The little desktop tripods are awesome and you can use them again for Facebook Live, YouTube Live, or Periscope from your mobile. That’s something I think that everyone should grab. You can pick them up for $ 10, $ 15 as well.

Darren: Yeah, okay. Lights, you mentioned there’s another option.

Justin: With your lighting, there’s a heap of options. If you look on places like Amazon, you could waste the part of half a day looking at all different lighting options. The ones that I like at the moment, that are relatively new ones, there’s a brand called Yongnuo. It’s $ 40. It’s essentially an LED light panel. You can power them from you 240 volt or from your wall socket as well. These are awesome little LED light panels.

I guess with your lighting, you want to make sure that you’re lighting up yourself first as the priority. You are the focus, you’re the one that’s delivering the content, you want your audience to be able to see you well and connect with you. Lighting up your background and the rest of your scene or your studio should be secondary. If you’ve only got one light, then make sure it’s lighting yourself up.

Another really good portable light is by a company Apache. This is a smaller one. It’s the ILM 9. Another one, I think it’s $ 45. We’re not talking lots of money but these are great little portable lights that even if you’re going to be out and walking around and want to set up at a park bench to create some content or go live, these are fantastic little lights.

Darren: That’s great. I just actually got asked in the Facebook group I run to ask about lighting but also the value of some of those mounted lenses, the wide angle lenses that you can clip on to the front of your phone. Do you put much sway into that type of thing?

Justin: I think it’s the kind of thing if you’ve got it or you’re happy to spend the money to get one, again, it’s not a lot of money, then do it. They’re always handy. I always carry one with me. They’re fantastic if you’re going to have more than one person in your video or in your livestream because you get so much more room, but also it helps your phone camera mimic more what a professional camera would.

It’s going to be more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. It’s going to be more matching what we’re used to seeing on TV and these sorts of things. I think you could pick them for under $ 20 price point.

TECHO is a brand that we use. It’s a bigger lens and it will fit on the front end, the rear camera for most smartphones that’s why it’s a good, safe bet. Definitely, I think it’s an awesome tool to have with you. I wouldn’t rank it as high as a microphone or as a tripod or as lighting but the more of these things that you can tick off, the better the end result.

Darren: In terms of shooting the video, do you generally shoot in the native camera app or do you recommend looking at some of the other apps that are in app stores?

Justin: We really come down to the individual. Definitely, you can get great results using the inbuilt camera apps in either iPhone or Android. These days, it’s so easy to manually lock down the exposure and the focus so that you’re not going to have those changes while you’re filming. It’s just a matter of pressing and holding on the screen itself and it will lock down the focus point and the exposure, the brightness so it’s not going to change as you move in the shot or if the cloud comes over or those sorts of things. That’s really important if you’re going to be using the stock camera app.

If you want to take things up a notch and really get professional with it and really get the most out of your front cameras, then there’s a great app called FiLMiC Pro. I think it sells for around $ 14 Australian, $ 11 US. That would give you full manual control. Essentially, all the settings that you would find on a DSLR or video camera, you will be able to mimic those on your smartphone. Things like your white balance or your color changing throughout the shot. A lot more settings around your exposure and your shutter speed.

We’ve got a few videos on our YouTube channel as walkthrough. It’s taking you through how to set those up. I personally think they’re definitely worth using but don’t use that as a barrier. Like, “I’ve installed this app and I’m not sure how to use it. I’m not going to make a video today. I was going to keep coming back to it.” Just create the video as the priority and then grow as you’re comfortable or as you can.

Darren: I think that’s a great advice and that’s what we advice people on digital photography school with some of the apps on iPhone as well. Start on your camera, learn the basics there, and then once you start seeing the limitations of the camera and start noticing those limitations, then start looking for some of those other apps which really can take it up a notch but it’s kind of 1% of stuff for the average eye.

Justin: If you did a video on each, I would pretty much guarantee that your audience isn’t going to know, “Oh, he used FiLMiC Pro for this one.” Or “This one was the in built camera app.” I guess it’s more peace of mind for yourself, knowing that nothing is going to change and removing the chance that something is going to go wrong because the last thing you ever want to have to do is to re-record content that you’ve already recorded. It’s not only a pain but it’s a mental drain as well. You’re already past and you’re done with it. Try to eliminate that wherever possible.

Darren: Great advice. Objection number two that I get is pretty much what you mentioned before, I’m not confident enough to present on video. Do you have any tips for people who don’t have that experience of appearing on video or the confidence?

Justin: Once again, that’s something that I struggled with big time. Even moving from behind the camera to in front of it, it’s something that I’m still not 100% comfortable with but the key really, it’s going to be obvious, is to practice and to start now.

Even if you’re creating videos and not releasing them, just show your friends and family and get some feedback. Get used to really seeing yourself on camera and seeing yourself in the end video product. Most of the practice of talking to a little camera lens which is a weird thing, it’s a daunting thing if you haven’t done it before and when you’re first starting out.

The other things you can do are to put a picture behind your camera, or your webcam, or your phone, whatever you’re using of either a friend, a family member, or your ideal audience or client and just talk to them behind the camera. It sounds simple, it sounds silly but it makes a huge difference when you’re just starting out because you still then get some sort of human connection.

A lot of people, they just run out and lock themselves to the room and start recording. There’s no connection. You’re not talking to anyone. It’s a strange thing. Getting used to it and practicing, even if you’re driving along, press record on your phone and don’t crash while driving. Just get used to saying what am I doing today? What am I doing right now? Where am I going? These sorts of things just to get you used to talking on points. It’s amazing how fast you grow from there.

Darren: I find the same even with public speaking. The more I practice, the more I run through it, the more confident I am with what I’m saying but also visualizing that person that I’ll be speaking to is really important. We actually advice our readers when they’re writing content to have a picture of someone in front of them as well. I think that that would really work very well.

I guess the other thing that comes to mind is that there are other types of video that you could be creating where you don’t have to stand in front of the camera. Do you have any advice on other types of videos that people could be experimenting with as their first video?

Justin: I guess we’ll come down to the type of videos that you want to be creating. If you’re going to be doing sort of how to videos, then the obvious one is to do a screen recording and talk through something or even do a screen recording of a PowerPoint presentation or a slide show so that way you don’t have to be on camera, you’re just talking through your presentation. That’s a really simple way to get started with video. You can also use animations, or graphics, or animated text on screen so that you don’t have to be in front.

What I would really suggest is that you practice and learn to do it because even just from the personal brand building and the deeper level of connection when people see your face, they can then associate that with the content and with the information you’re sharing. It’s a deeper level of connection.

Even if you’re going to do a screen recording, I would say turn your webcam on and put yourself in the bottom corner of the screen recording. Even if you don’t use it as the end video, you can remove it in the editing software. Start now and get used to it because I think this is where everything is going. The quicker you can learn, the quicker you can get used to it, the more you’ll be able to leverage the power of video.

Darren: One of the questions that have been asked in the Facebook group by Susan is whether to use a script or whether to use bullet points and talk a little bit more off the curve. There may not be an answer to this question, it might come down to personality but what do you recommend people do?

Justin: I think it does come down to personality but I think it also comes down more so to the type of videos you’re creating. If you’re creating a sales video or a video for the front page of your website where you need to be very specific on what you’re saying especially in a sales video, in the offering, and you don’t want to miss any point, then I would say use a script if you can, use a teleprompter, or read through the paragraph first and then present it back to the camera. You can chunk it down.

You don’t need to worry about doing your videos in one take. Focus paragraph by paragraph and just focus on getting that paragraph right or how you like it and then move onto the next one. You can chunk it down and that’s a much easier way to create the content.

As for dot points, that’s another way to do it as well. For all of our videos I started out scripting them all but I think you actually get more personality through if you’re just able to use dot points because then they become more of a conversation instead of a teaching or a lesson. That’s again where you’ll get more personality through and the deeper connection with your audience.

Again, it’s practice. Try both and see which one works for you. The easiest way for most people is to write it out and present a paragraph at a time or if you have to do a sentence at a time because next time you might be able to move to a paragraph and then progress through the dot points.

Darren: I found the same with this podcast. I used to have a script and it was pretty much read. These days it’s dot points, it comes across in a much more conversational tone as well.

Justin: I think to be reading from a script, same as using a teleprompter, there is an art and a skill to using a teleprompter so that people don’t know that you’re reading. If they can tell that you’re reading, then there’s that big level of disconnect. It’s not authentic so it can have a big negative effect if you’re not able to present without looking like you’re reading. That’s where the end goal should be, dot points, in my opinion.

Again, don’t let that freak you out. Start now with paragraphs and I guess probably all the sales videos and things that we do and products and all those sorts of things, I definitely have them scripted out and sometimes I will use a teleprompter if I have to be so specific on the words that I’m using.

Darren: Great advice. Are there any teleprompter tips, skipping back to gear, I guess if someone does want an affordable option, what would you recommend them?

Justin: The one that I use and the one I recommend is by a company called Prompt-it. I’m pretty sure it’s actually an Australian company. It sells for around the $ 300 mark but it lets you put your iPod or iPhone and use that as the display to send the text up. It’s really easy to use and it just sits in front of your camera.

As for tips to make it look like you’re not reading, again, if you can use dot points so that you can see what you have to talk about next. But I guess the biggest way to remove that obvious part where you can tell people are reading is with your eyes. If you look outside of where the camera lens is, then it’s so obvious that you’re reading because you’re not then making the eye contact with the camera lens so you’re not making the eye contact with your viewers.

You can shrink the font size down so that all the text is in line with the camera lens. That way, even if you’re reading from left to right, as long as the text doesn’t go outside the camera lens, then you’re not breaking that eye contact with the viewer so it’ll be less likely for them to see that you’re reading.

Darren: Objection number three that I get is around the shooting of the video, things like I don’t know anything about framing shots, or lighting. We’ve already talked about some of the gear but do you have any tips on shooting the video. How do you light the subject with those lights you recommended? Any tips on the actual shooting process?

Justin: I guess the first one is an obvious one. This applies whether you’re using a smartphone or really any camera is to clean your camera lens first. It sounds so obvious but no one does it. Especially with our phones, that’s up against your face when you have makeup, dirt, grime, or fingerprints on it.

It’s about getting the fundamentals right first. You’ve got to create a checklist; clean the lens, use your microphone, then adjust your exposure and your focus. You really want to lock those down. You don’t want to have your cameras on automatic so that if something changes, your camera is going to make that adjustment. You want to know that it’s all set and it’s all sorted. It’s going to look good and sound good so you can focus on delivering the content.

In regards to the framing of the shot, you want to make sure that your entire head is in the shot. A lot of the times, you’ll see on videos, especially people doing it themselves, they don’t check the shot first so they might then move around in front of the camera and they’ve chopped off part of their head. Simple things like that. Do a test.

Get everything set up until you think it’s right or perfect but before you start, do a 15 to 20 second video. Go back and watch it, plug in headphones if you can so you can really listen to the audio and make sure that that is how you want it before you actually start shooting.

Specifically, in regards to framing, if you have to, put yourself in the middle of the frame. Ideally, if you had yourself slightly off to one side, left or right but not way off to the side, just a little bit off center, you’ll get a much more aesthetically pleasing shot. If you think of a documentary that you might have seen, no one is sitting smack in the middle of your shot. They’re always off to the side a little bit.

Maintaining eye contact with the camera lens is probably the most important thing you can do because you’re talking, you’re sharing your knowledge, your story, your message you want to be sharing with a person. If you’re having a conversation with someone face to face, you’re going to be making eye contact with them so you need to do that with your videos as well.

Darren: That’s great advice. Louise in the Facebook group just asked, do you suggest using the front facing camera or the back facing camera? If you’re using the one where you can’t see yourself, do you set up in front of a mirror so you can see how you’re framed or anything along those lines?

Justin: Great question. That’s a big one. I think the obvious answer is the easiest way to do it is use the front facing camera because you can monitor everything and see what’s going on. The front facing camera is more than enough for most people. We have a video on our YouTube channel that’s filmed with a front facing camera on an iPhone 5 and people are still blown away with the quality of it. That was just with the built in camera app, without FiLMiC Pro or any of these things.

The front facing cameras on any of the newer phones as well, newer than the iPhone 5 is going to be really good. Wherever possible I would say to use the rear facing camera because it is much higher quality. Obviously as you said, the logistics of doing that, in framing and making sure that you’re actually are recording well and you can’t see what’s going on makes that a little bit difficult.

Mirror is one way but what you can actually do, there’s a piece of software called Reflector 2. I think it sells for just under $ 15. You can install that on your Mac or PC. Whether you’re using an iPhone or an Android device, you can screen share over Wi-Fi your phone screen to your computer so that you can sit in front of your phone and use your phone for the recording but next to the phone on a computer you can see exactly what’s going on with your phone. That is an awesome app for monitoring what’s going on. That would be the ideal setup if you don’t have anyone there to monitor all of that for you.

Darren: That’s sounds like a very useful piece of software because I’ve shot numerous videos and then at the end I realize that I had chopped off the top half of my head which isn’t a bad thing when you’re bald. It can work.

Justin: It happens all the time. Back to our core message, we really want to remove these barriers and these bad experiences that people have creating content. Reflector 2 is an awesome piece of software that will hopefully eliminate you from having to reshoot because you’ve chopped off your head or something.

Darren: That’s great. We will link to all of these tools, apps, and softwares in today’s show notes. Objection number four, literally, as I’m saying I can say Vanessa has just asked in the Facebook group about editing. She said, “I technically get how to do it but I don’t feel like I’ve got a sense of style. What is the video equivalent of avoiding comic sense?” I think that’s a great way of asking it. “Do you have any tips on editing? What software should we be using? Should we be doing it in camera, in phone, or putting it into our computer? Any tips on getting a nice edit?”

Justin: Where I would start with is you’re always going to have more power and more control if you’re editing on a computer but it’s not always practical, you definitely can edit well using your phones or your iPads.

On iOS, I would recommend iMovie. If you want to take things up a notch, then you can get Pinnacle. It’s a great app. Pinnacle will really replicate what you can do on a system, on a computer. Those are two great places to start with editing on iOS.

On Android, check out PowerDirector. That’s a fantastic app that gives you pretty much the same functionality as you would again, on your desktop. The limitations on those pieces of software when you really want to get creative with effects and those sorts of things which aren’t really necessary for most videos, they’ll either just trim the start off, move your clips around, do color correction, those sorts of things, all the important stuff and save it out in a high quality format for YouTube or for Vimeo, wherever your videos are going.

You definitely can edit on your device and those are the apps I would recommend to check out. Obviously, moving onto a computer, your process is longer because you’ve got to get the files off of your phone or off of your device or the camera.

The key focus should be around, with any editing, first and foremost, edit your content down or chunk it down into the content itself. So many people would jump in and get to the fun stuff, the color correction, the audio, and the music, do all of that first but there may be actually be something wrong with your content or your might’ve missed something. It actually delays the entire editing process if you don’t get your content down first because by adding all these color effects and things, you’re actually putting more load on your computer or on your phone to actually edit the video down.

It’s another obvious one but get your content down first and then worry about the music and then worry about the audio and then the color correction. Probably the most important thing with any editing and any video is that your editing actually starts in your filming. If you’ve planned out your video and you have a set structure that’s already defined, or you’re working through when you’re filming, then your editing will become much faster.

If you only move on from one paragraph to the next paragraph or from one dot point to the next dot point once you’re happy with it so that your last take is always the best one, then when you’re editing the video, you can edit backwards. Instead of starting left to right as you normally would, if you start at the end, you’re always going to hit the best take first. You’re editing actually becomes much, much faster if you edit backwards, right to left, because you’re always going to hit the best takes first.

Be aware when you’re filming that you’re going to be editing so the least amount of takes or the least amount of stuffing around that you have will make your editing process faster as well.

Darren: The last objection that I hear a lot is around what to do with the video once you’ve got it and a common question again being asked in the Facebook group is how do I export my video in a way that doesn’t leave me with a massive file that is too hard to do anything with or that’s so low of quality that it’s not really viewable? Do you have any tips on what settings or export settings to set?

Justin: I guess the ideal scenario if your end goal is to upload your video to somewhere, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, you should be uploading the highest quality video that you can. It’s easy to say if you’ve got a really good internet connection which probably most people don’t. That’s why you would want to compress or reduce the size of your videos. It really is a chicken and the egg kind of thing. There is no set perfect solution because it comes down to how long your video goes for that you can then apply a different level of quality to reduce the file size of the video.

Where I would suggest everyone start is with the video preset that are built in or the exporting preset that are built in to all editing software. Whether you’re on your desktop or you’re on your phone, they’ll all have a preset for YouTube. Whether you’re going to export to YouTube, Facebook, or Vimeo, use the YouTube ones because they’re the ones that are normally the best optimized in my opinion. Use those and see how the files size comes out from there. But you always want to be exporting on the highest quality possible.

These days, I think no one should be uploading videos online that’s less than 1080p. If you’re uploading at 720p, they should be only because you have to. Your quality these days and even with some people’s bad internet connection, you should still be able to produce a high quality 1080p video. That’s where I would start with.

The setting to look for if you need to tweak this is called the bit rate. It’s the number of megabits per second without getting too technical here, we’re taking 25 photos every second to make up our video so it’s the compression that’s applied to those. The higher the number, the bigger the file size, the better the quality, the lower the number, the more compression is going to be applied. If you need to tweak the preset, again, without going too technical, the bit rate is the setting that you want to adjust.

Darren: Sonia, actually, just asked in the Facebook group about using multiple cameras which was something that I hadn’t thought to ask you but do you think that’s going to add much to the video, to have different cameras? Are there any other advantages of shooting from different angles or does that get too hard in the editing process?

Justin: That definitely adds a step or adds a couple of steps to your editing process but it can also give you greater flexibility when you’re editing. For any high end videos that we will create, we’ll always use two cameras. The beauty of that is you can cut people’s sentences in half and switch to the other camera angle and it will then still look seamless. If they’re having a really good run and they’re halfway through a sentence and stop for some reason, you could switch camera and pick it up on the next take. The viewer watching doesn’t realize that that’s happened, still looks like a seamless take.

In saying that, you’re also going to need a second camera, second batteries, second memory cards, your storage is going to go up and then you got to sync the two cameras together to make sure that they’re perfectly lined up. Logistically, there’s definitely a lot more involved and for most people’s content videos, I would say that is way too much overkill unless you’re going to be recording in your computer with multiple webcams. That could be the easiest way to do it.

If you’re going to use software OBS or Wirecast for maybe a Livestream or a screen recording, then that would be the easiest way to get going with multi camera.

Darren: Second to the last question is around the most common mistakes that you see people making. I get the sense probably the biggest one is not making videos at all and letting the obstacles stop you making the videos, but any other mistakes that you think people really do need to just be aware off as they’re creating those first videos?

Justin: I think the planning is really the key and getting really precise on who you want to be targeting or who you want to be talking to. The more specific you can be with your avatar or with your target market and knowing directly who you’re talking to is really the key, especially if you’re looking to do things like to grow an audience on YouTube or something like that. You want to be talking directly to those people so you’re not talking to the masses.

For example, our audience on YouTube, we don’t ever tell them a free option unless it is the best option because we don’t want to be targeting people that are only there for the free answer. Essentially, that’s our lead generator. We want to be bringing in customers and clients through our YouTube channel. We know who are our ideal customer is for our courses and products and we target all of our video and all of our messaging to that. That’s probably the first point that a lot of people miss. They’ll create videos for the masses and hope they rank. It’s actually a lot harder to rank a video that is designed for everyone.

Same with SEO in general, you want to get specific on who you’re talking to but also around the content that you’re delivering. If you can get it down to dot points and get a structure around it, and follow that structure, then there’s no thinking why you’re creating the videos. You know that you’re going to hit every mark and create the content that you want.

Darren: Great advice. Last question, if you had a little bit more to spend on your setup, would you be looking at upgrading your camera or do you think it’s better to invest your money into something else in the process?

Justin: I guess it really depends on what you’ve already got. I would recommend at this day and age is that if you’re going to spend some money, get a camera that can shoot in 4k, that’s higher than 1080p. If you’re going to release your videos in 4k, there is some advantage. YouTube has a 4k section and features 4k videos, as far as we know, higher.

But also if you’re only going to be releasing your videos at the 1080p resolution and you’re recording in the higher quality, 4k, then you’ve got so much more flexibility in your editing. You’ll essentially get a wide shot and a tight shot from the one piece of footage. It definitely gives you more flexibility and more creative control in your editing but also you can hit a different market or get more attraction on your videos if you’re going to release them at the highest quality.

A lot of people still think 4k is too far away and it’s not worth doing it. I beg to differ and say that if you can and a lot of smartphones even these days will have the 4k option. You will need more storage because the files are going to be bigger, you will need a slightly more powerful computer because it’s going to be more load on your computer but if you can and if it’s feasible for you, then I would recommend shooting in 4k.

Darren: Where can people learn more about what you do and your business and learn how to take the video shooting to the next level?

Justin: Our website is primalvideo.com and our YouTube channel is youtube.com/primalvideo.

Darren: Excellent. We will link to that in the shownotes today as well as all of the other tools, apps, and suggestions that you’ve made. Any last advice for the ProBlogger audience? On video?

Justin: You can already guess what it’s going to be. Start now. Use what you’ve got. Practice, practice even if you don’t release your first video, it’s always the case of everyone that we’ve helped, they always wished that they’d started earlier. A lot of the barriers and things that we have, they’re in our head. We’ve got the gear. If you’ve got a phone, you’ve got enough. If you’ve got a DSLR, even better but don’t wait for the technology and just start now.

Darren: Great advice. I’m actually going to issue a ProBlogger challenge to our audience. Those of you listening now, I want you to go and shoot a video in the next week if you can, don’t delay. You could probably do it faster than that. I want you to share it in our Facebook group. It’s just a small group of 3,500 of your closest blogging friends are going to see it. It’s not going to go any further than that. We’d love to see what you create there and give you some encouragement as well. Maybe we can give each other some suggestions on how we’d improve things as well. That would be pretty cool. If you are listening to this, head over to the ProBlogger Facebook group and share your videos there. That would be great.

Thank you so much, Justin. I really do appreciate this. It was nice to meet you in San Diego, another Aussie in another part of the world.

Justin: There was a few of us there.

Darren: There was. There were a lot of us there. I actually heard a lot of really positive feedback about your sessions. You’d have a lot of value today for our audience. I appreciate your time.

Justin: Thank you very much. It was awesome to meet you too. Thank you for having me on the podcast.

Darren: No problem. Thanks a lot.

I just listened to that again and there is some really good information there. Thank you so much to Justin Brown. You can check out more from Justin over at primalvideo.com where you’ll also find links to his YouTube channel which has some really good quality videos on how to create great video online.

You can check out our show notes over at ProBlogger.com/podcast/189 where we do have links to all of the tools and apps mentioned today. Also, please do head over to the ProBlogger Facebook group. I really loved doing that interview and seeing the questions come up as I was interviewing Justin from the group. I would love to see the videos you create there. I will set up a thread. Once this podcast has gone live there will be a thread over in that Facebook group for you to share the videos you created. I might even invite Justin over to the group as well so he can see some of the things that he inspired today.

Really looking forward to looking at some of those videos and connecting with you further in the Facebook group or on the shownotes in the comment section. Thanks for listening today. Happy shooting with your videos and I’ll chat with you next week in episode 190 of the ProBlogger podcast.

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190: How to Overcome Failure in 6 Steps

How to Move Through Failure in 6 Steps

In today’s lesson, I want to talk about failure in business and how to move through it.

I’ve been asked questions on this topic a number of times in the last few weeks and while it’s a topic most of us probably don’t want to have to learn about – it’s something that we all will need to deal with at one point or another because it’s a part of any business story.

We all fail – in fact failure is an essential part of any startup and if you’re not having it it could be a sign that what you’re doing is not pushing hard enough and that you’re spending a lot of time in your comfort zone.

SO in this episode I’m going to give you 6 things that I try to do when facing failure of different sizes. I think they’re relevant for the small fails and mistakes that happen to us regularly but am particularly thinking about some of those big ones too!

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Hi there and welcome to episode 190 of the ProBlogger podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind problogger.com. A blog, podcast, event, job board and a series of ebooks, all designed to help you as a blogger to start a blog, to grow your audience, to create amazing content, and to hopefully make some profit from your blog. Learn more about ProBlogger over at problogger.com.

In today’s lesson, I want to talk about failure, failure in business particularly, and how to move through it. I’ve been asked questions on this topic a number of times over the last few weeks and when I hear the same question more than once, I often pick up my ears and it often turns into a podcast and that’s what I want to talk about today.

It’s something that I guess most of us don’t really want to have to learn about. We don’t want to have to learn how to move through failure but it is something that we will all need to deal with a one point or another, both in our personal lives but also as part of a business story and our blogging journey.

We all fail. In fact, I think failure is an essential part of any start up, any business. If you’re not having times of failure, if you’re not having things where things don’t succeed, it’s possibly a sign that what you are doing really isn’t outside of your comfort zone and perhaps you’re not pushing things hard enough.

In this episode, what I want to do is give you six things that I try and do and I emphasize try here because there’s a right answer when it comes to failure and there’s an actual answer, so most of us swing from the good things through to the unhelpful things. Those are six things that I try to do when I’m facing failure or mistakes of different sizes.

I actually think most of what I’m going to share today is relevant for the small failures we have, those things that just don’t go right from day to day but also those bigger things as well. I’m particularly thinking of those because some of the questions I’ve heard over the last week have been on those bigger failures.

You can find today’s show notes with the six points that I’m going to go through as well as some further reading over at problogger.com/podcast/190. Also, check out the Facebook group at problogger.com/group where there’s some great discussion going on at the moment. We’ve seen a lot of new members over the last few weeks. Let’s get into today’s show.

Like I said in my introduction today, I’ve had a number of questions on the topic of failure recently. Willie over in the Facebook group asked just a few weeks ago, how would you recover from a massive failure? And then Max also messaged me and gave me permission to share his question. He said, “I’ve just had a big failing in my blogging business and I feel unable to move on. Do you have any advice?” That’s what I want to address today.

What do we do, a lot of these will be applicable to other areas of life too, but particularly in a blogging business, the failures we have can sometimes be very public failures and sometimes the mistakes we make, the things that we say we’re going to do don’t often work out and there’s public consequences on that.

I guess I’m tackling it from that angle as well. Firstly, let me give you what I usually do first. That is to freak out. Usually for me, when I have a failure, when I make a mistake, when something doesn’t go right, I usually have some kind of an emotional response. I’m a fairly measured person, you would meet me in person you might not think that I freak out but I do.

I throw as good tantrum as anyone else, I panic as much as anyone else, I think the worst as much as anyone else, and as I was preparing this podcast, I was going to say, “Move past that phase as quickly as you can and get onto the more constructive things.” I actually think that it may be important to have that moment of freak out.

Failure takes its toll on us and that is a natural thing. I think it’s probably important to get through those feelings and to some extent embrace them and sit with them, and to let them out. I think it’s really important to let those feelings out, to not bottle them up. This is going to come out to a lot of what I’m going to talk about today. I think we do need to get those feelings out.

All I would say is as you are having your freak out, as you are having your tantrum, as you are having that panic, try to do it in a safe place that wouldn’t have long lasting consequences on you, those around you, and your business. I think it’s totally fine to feel the pain, to feel out of control for a moment. That is natural and it’s okay to do that so allow yourself to do that. But as you’re feeling that, try to move yourself towards the six things that I’m going to talk about next.

Out of that panic, out of that freak out, here’s what I would suggest you do. The first one is so important and that is to try. This is hard, all of this is hard, but try to separate your failure away from your identity.

One other the biggest challenges that I think many people face today is that they equate their self-worth with their achievements or their lack of achievements, also, what other people think about them and I think this is a real trap. This is a huge trap.

I want to give you an equation. This is an equation that I see the world suggesting when it comes to our self-worth. The world says self-worth equals what I achieve plus what others think of me. Let me repeat it, self-worth equals what I achieve plus what others think of me. This is a message we hear all the time. We hear it in conversations, we say it in the media, and we say it in marketing. My self worth is all about what I achieve my success, and what others think of me.

So to be worthwhile, I need to achieve a lot, I need to have other people think well of me. This idea creeps out in a lot of what we do. Most of us don’t even know that we abide by that equation, but we are constantly looking for success, and we’re constantly looking to look good in front of other people. The problem with this equation is that it really sets us up with problems because it’s just not realistic.

All of us are going to have times in our personal lives and in our business where we do not achieve, where we fail. It’s just human to have failures and so if we equate our self-worth with achieving with success, then we’re setting ourselves up for a massive fault. All of us are going to have times in our lives where other people don’t think much of us. If we base our self-worth upon our success and what other people perceives of us, then our self-worth is going to have times where we will have very little of it.

That’s an unhealthy thing. It’s going to only lead to poor self-worth. It’s going to lead to a roller coaster ride through your life. I guess one of the big things that I want to get across and this is something that I try and really remind myself in those times of failure is that my self-worth doesn’t come from what I achieve and it doesn’t come from what other people think of me, it actually comes from something else.

For me, that comes more from my faith. For other people, it will come from something else. But if there’s one thing I really want to get across today, as we tackle this topic of failure, is that you are not worthless because of your failure. You’re not worthless because of your failure, you are not a failure. What you have done, your business may have had a time of failing but that doesn’t mean that you are a failure, don’t personalize your failure.

Particularly if it’s a business failure which is really not connected to you, it is something that you do. Yes, it’s an action that has failed, but it is not you. Don’t identify yourself as a failure just because of something that you have done.

Number one, separate your failure out from your identity. Number two, don’t face it alone. I’m not sure whether this is a gender thing, whether it’s more of a personality thing, but a trap that I’ve seen many of my friends fall into is that they face their failure alone. They internalize their failure.

One of the best things that I think you can do is to admit your failure and to share with another person, just one other person. That will help so much. Even if that person has no real understanding of your business, by telling them what you are facing, you’re doing something very healthy.

To verbalize it and to start a conversation about it actually is a very powerful thing. Name the mistake, name the failure, first, by you alone and internalize it and you will very luckily become overwhelmed by it. It will become bigger than it really is. This is something I’ve fallen into the trap of, many times.

Even last year, the end of last year, I had a couple of months where revenue wasn’t really great for the business. It wasn’t particularly anything I had done, it just was a bit of a lean patch and I know many other bloggers went through that. For the first few weeks that I noticed that, I internalized it and I would lie in bed at night thinking that the end of the world was coming and not being able to see anything positive in my business, even though there was lots there.

It was only once I shared that load with Vanessa, and for me, Vanessa, my wife, my partner, is the place that I go to. By simply naming the issue, by putting words to it, it put things back into perspective. I realized, even as I spoke the words of what was going on that there were solutions, that there were ways forward.

The other person may not even know what you are talking about but you, simply verbalizing it to another person, can be a very powerful thing, so tell a friend, share the load. As I said, it’s usually for me, talking with Vanessa. Today, she is a blogger and so she does have some understanding of what I’m talking about but even in the early days, back in 2002, 2003, when none of my friends knew what blogging was, when social media didn’t even exist, I found simply by verbalizing those things really did help a lot.

In doing so, you’re actually going to find that you’re not the only person who has failed as well, we all do. Most of the people that you share your failure with will be able to recount some story in their own life where they faced something similar, even if the details are different.

The other thing I would suggest you do though is to also find someone who does understand your business. Talk about it and this might be the second person that you talk to. It maybe that you need to find another blogger, it may be, for a period of time you need to find a business coach or a mentor. Those types of relationships are really important, even if they’re not formal business coach type relationships.

There are a few people in my life, if I’m having a tough time in business, I’ll pick up the phone, and even though they might be in the different type of business, to me, they understand some of the pressures of what it is that we’re going through. Get some professional advice. It doesn’t have to be an ongoing thing. It might just be a simple phone call with someone who’s been through what you’ve been through and to draw the wisdom of them.

It might also be something like more of a group type of support, maybe finding a Facebook group like the ProBlogger Facebook group or there are plenty of others online as well to actually have those types of people we can present the failure, the mistake or part of it to that type of group and get that type of advice.

Lastly, I would say is that there are times where you might need to find a therapist. You might need to find a counselor. Perhaps your business failure has rocked your world, your confidence, your personal health, your mental health in some way. There is no shame in actually finding someone to give you support on that emotional level. When you’re sick physically you go and see a doctor and when you shaking up emotionally with your mental health, I think it’s important to seek help there as well.

That’s something that I’ve done from time to time as well. Sometimes, our business life spills out into our personal lives. Just to encourage you if that is spilling out to actually get some help in that way. Maybe going to speak to a doctor and getting some help in that way as well. No shame at all in that. It’s an important part of this journey.

Number one is to not take on that failure in your business into your personal identity. Number two, don’t face it alone and number three, is related to not facing it alone and that is to be transparent. It really does relate a little bit to what I’ve just talked about, you speaking with that friend, or that colleague, or that doctor, and being a little bit vulnerable with another person, it’s being transparent about the type of failure that you’ve had.

Often as you begin to process these failures, you realize there are other people impacted by your failure. This doesn’t always happen but in many cases there will be someone else who has been impacted by the mistake that you have made. It maybe that there is a business partner, maybe there is a team member, maybe there is a colleague, maybe even your readers as a blogger have been impacted by your failure, by your mistake.

The temptation when other people are hurt by our failures or impacted by our failures is to save face, it’s to hide our failures, and to actually even pretend that it didn’t happen or to lie about them, perhaps. But in most cases, this just escalates the problem, and this is really tough. I know it’s tough and I’ll say it’s kind of hesitating but come clean. Admit to your failing to those who are impacted, own your part in it, take responsibility for the mistakes that you have made and attempt to deal with those consequences to find a win-win solution for those who are impacted and to I guess seek forgiveness and to actually right the wrongs that have been done.

This isn’t really relevant to all types of failures but in many cases, I’m sure you can realize that those times in your life where you have had a failing, other people are impacted by that. Many times the failing, there’s ripple effects that go out from it.

To give you a really quick example, and this is a small failing, I know many of you are probably thinking of bigger things of what I’m about to share with you but this sort of illustrates in my own business a mistake that was made a few years ago, we sent an email, a sales email that was supposed to go to a few hundred people. It was a small segment of our photography blog. A few hundred people was supposed to get this sales email. We actually sent it out to every single person on any of my list including my ProBlogger readers.

I think it was close to 700,000 to 800,000 people who got this email. The email was irrelevant to most people. It was a sales email and it went out. My immediate reaction was to panic, to throw a bit of a tantrum, to run away, to pretend it didn’t happen and I was really worried, particularly my ProBlogger readers, that they were going to get this photography sales email.

How was that going to impact? Was it going to impact my credibility? I really hoped that no one would notice but I quickly realized that people were going to notice and so I had to come clean about that mistake as quickly as I could sent an email again to those hundreds of thousands of people, apologizing and owning the mistake that we’ve made and apologizing for that.

I sent that second email with a lot of fear. I wasn’t quite sure how it would be received. Whether people will believe me? I was amazed, instantaneously I started getting emails from readers, messages from readers, saying that they understood it, that they were confused by the first email but they really appreciated me owning the mistake. By no means was there any intention for this to happen. It actually ended up being something that built the brand. I think people were impressed by the way that it was handled and people reflected back that they could relate to the mistake.

In many ways, sending that email, owning that mistake, owning that failure, actually humanized the brand of ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. That’s not a big example. I know there are bigger failures. There has been bigger failures in own life but I’ve seen time and time again, when we own our mistakes, when we own our failures, when we take responsibility for where we have done the wrong thing, that often will be received well from other people. Most people are incredibility generous and gracious and can actually be something that can lead to solutions as well. As you are transparent with people, you will hear back things that can often help you to move forward through that failure. Number three is to be transparent.

Number four is to learn from it. This is something I say to my kids all the time. I say to my kids all the time, making a mistakes are not a bad thing, it’s actually making the same mistake repeatedly and not learning from that mistake, that’s the issue. That’s where I get across with my kids. If you made a mistake, that’s totally fine. What are we going to learn from it? How are we going to do things differently next time?

When they make the mistake again, that’s when we have tough words. That’s where we really need to address it, I guess. Making mistakes is a part of life. It’s actually I think a sign of life, that something that you are building momentum, that you are moving forward. Mistakes come when we do that. Failure comes when we do that. Embrace those mistakes, but look for what you can learn through that mistake.

All businesses will have their times of failure, but what you can learn from it, why did the failure happen? Spend some time with that question, what actually happened. Don’t just move on to the next thing, what actually happened, what could you have done differently that would provide a different result. What can you learn from that failure, what lessons were there?

Don’t run away from the mistake, the failure, embrace it. It’s a learning opportunity. If you can find some way to see as a positive and to do it differently next time, that’s a very powerful thing. You know that for a fact, if you actually think back to previous failures you’ve had, you know that those times, sometime they make you who you are today. In hindsight it’s really easy to see that but trying try and convince yourself out in the moment as well. What can I learn for this? How I can turn this around?

Number five thing is to keep moving. I do think it’s important to sit with the problem, to sit with the foe, to learn from it, to rest perhaps, if you need to recover from it, because sometimes it does take an emotional toll. There are times where I think in business we need to rest, we need to stop, and we need to have a break. Sometimes, after failure, that can be a really good time to do that, to look after ourselves, but I think it’s really important to then move on to keep the momentum going in some way.

Right now I’m teaching my five year old to ride a bike. I know a lot of you listening to this podcast, the parents, have had that experience yourself, and he has had his fair share of crashes over the last few weeks. He has scrapes, bruises, and sores on his elbows, on his knees and he even got a little one on his nose at the moment. He has had these crashes and that’s part of learning to ride a bike.

He kind of understands that but there are these moments after he has a crash, after he has banged into a fence sort or something, that his natural reaction is to say, “I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to ride a bike,” and to ride off this whole experience. I understand that, I understand that’s a natural reaction, I understand the little tantrums that he throws at those point, but I also understand that if he wants to develop this skill, he needs to get back on the bike.

He understands that too in many ways as well and sometimes a little rest is in order, sometimes a little what went wrong is in order so we can learn from the mistake, but most importantly, he gets back on that bike. The same is true in our business, failure can paralyze us. It can stop us in our tracks but it’s important to keep moving, get back on the bike.

Identify your next best step, maybe that your next best step is about picking up the pieces and starting again. Maybe it’s about evolving what you do, tweaking it, taking the lessons from the mistake and just evolving and tweaking or it may even be that your next best step is to start something new. Drawing out what you’ve learned, identify something that you need to do to keep you moving and if possible include someone else in that conversation, tell someone about that next best step as well.

The last one I want to share with you is going to annoy some of you. This comes from my personality type which I’m told can be quite annoying at times, but that is to be positive. It’s so hard to do it but I always try and look at the bright side. I’m told by Vanessa and her friends that I am eternally an optimist and that can be incredibly annoying, but I am always looking for positive. I think even in those times of incredible failure there are sometimes, there’s almost always some sort of a glimmer of something positive in the midst of that.

Sometimes, it does take a little while for this positive glimmer-y little sparks to emerge but when you see them, grab them and move towards those glimmers, focus upon them. It’s often the small little sparks that fly in the midst of a failure that can become our next big thing. It can actually be the failing, the mistake that we’ve made that shapes us and that becomes a part of who we are and how we move forward. It can actually become a part of your brand in many ways. I can think of many people over the years, who actually through failing that they’ve actually discovered a passion.

They’ve actually discovered out of their own pain a way that they can help other people who go through a similar things as well. Be very aware that in the midst of the gloominess of failure can actually be the seeds, of something really important. Be on the lookout for those things and on the lookout for those small sparks and to be positive about those sort of thing. Celebrate those little things in small ways in the midst of that pain as well.

I know as I’ve gone through this, part of me is cringing if I’m honest with you because I know in the midst of failure sometimes you don’t want to hear this kind of stuff. Hearing things like find the sparks, it sounds a bit corny, but I really hope that somewhere in the midst of those six things is going to be a way forward for different one of us, who are going through different stages of failure at the moment.

Separate your failure from your identity, don’t face it alone, draw other people alongside you to share the stuff that you’re going through. Number three, be transparent with the mistake, with the pain. I think that’s particularly important in the blogging space because many times when we try and hide the issues, the failings, and the mistakes, these things actually come out later. They can actually come back so be transparent. Number four analyze the failings, analyze the mistake, and work out what you can do to do things differently in future. Number five is to keep moving, keep momentum going, get back on the bike. And lastly, find those glimmers, those sparks of opportunity, those sparks of positivity, and focus upon those things.

I really do hope that somewhere in the midst of those six pieces of advice is something that helps you to move through the inevitable failures that will come your way, the inevitable mistakes that we all do, and that will help you to move through those things into exciting times ahead.

You can find today’s show notes over at problogger.com/podcast/190 where you have the opportunity to not only get a transcript of today’s show and find other episodes that relate to the show, but you can also leave a comment. Also, check out the Facebook group problogger.com/group. That will redirect you into that Facebook group.

Lastly, if you’re looking for something else to listen to, check out episode 54 of this podcast. It kind of relates. There’s some overlap in topic. In episode 54, I gave you three questions to ask yourself when you’re facing fear, which is something that I know relates to these times of failure as well. If you want something else, you’re feeling fearful at the moment about those sorts of failures that you go through, go and listen to episode 54 as well. It may help you to move through that, that time as well.

Thanks for listening today. I look forward to chatting with you in episode 191 next week on the ProBlogger podcast.

Before I go, I want to give a big shout out and say thank you to Craig Hewitt and the team at Podcast Motor who’ve been editing all of our podcasts for some time now. Podcast Motor have a great range of services for podcasters at all levels. They can help you to setup your podcast, but also offer a couple of excellent services to help you to edit your shows and get them up with great show notes. Check them out at podcastmotor.com.

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191: Tools for Creating Great Visual Content for Your Blog

Making the Most of Tools, Apps and Services to Create Visual Content for Your Blog

In today’s lesson, we’re going to talk tools for creating great visual content for your blog.



Over the last few weeks, we’ve been exploring different types of content that you can use on your blog. In episode 187 we talked written content, in 189 video content and back in 180 we talked about live video.

Each are important types of content to be able to create for your blog – but one that is increasingly important today is visual content.

When I was looking back at some screenshots of my very first blog from 2002, recently, I was amazed by how boring it looked. Not a single post in the first few months of my blogging used even an image – it was purely text.

Today, the web is a much more visual place and I can’t remember the last time I published content without at least one form of visual content in it.

Visual content helps you to stand out from the crowd, it gives your content personality, it makes it more useful and it increases the chances of it being shared.

The great thing is that we’re operating in a time where there are so many great ways to create visual content. There are so many tools and services available to us – so many that it can be overwhelming to know which ones to use.

So in today’s episode, I asked Peg Fitzpatrick to come on the show to talk to us about her favorite tools, apps and services.

We talk about apps and tools for creating great content, great sources for free stock photos, a tool that will help with the sharing of your visual content and one for organising all of the visual content you create.

As you listen you might want to have today’s show notes open where I list all of the tools, apps and services mention.

Resources and Tools for Creating Great Visual Content for Your Blog




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Darren: My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind problogger.com, a blog, podcast, event, job board and a series of ebooks, all designed to help you as a blogger to start a blog, to grow the audience to your blog, to create content that’s going to change that audience’s life in some way and hopefully make a profit from your blog as well. You can learn more about ProBlogger at problogger.com.

In today’s lesson, I want to talk about tools that you can use to create great visual content for your blog and for your social media. Over the last few weeks and episodes of this podcast, we’ve been exploring different types of content that you can use on your blog. In episode 187, we talked about written content, perhaps the most obvious type of content for a blog. In 189, I talked about video content and had a great interview with Justin Brown on how to create great video content. Even back in episode 180, we talked about live video and how to create a live video particularly for Facebook.

Each of these types of content is really important to be able to create for your blog today. But one that’s increasingly important today is visual content. It can actually be used in a lot of the other types of content as well.

I looked back the other day at my first blog and some screenshots of it from 2002 and I was amazed at how boring it looked. Not a single post on the front page of that blog in 2002 had even any image in it, it was purely text. Today, the way it is so much more visual as a place. I personally can’t remember the last time I published a blog post without at least one image in it or one chat or one page of visual content in it. Most paper today are at least including any image or good image. But there are so many other types of content that we can create, visual types of content as well.

Visual content really does help your blog, your content to stand out from the crowd. It can differentiate you from all of those other means or pieces of content out there. It gives your content personality, it helps it to become more useful, it makes it easier to read, and it also increases the chance of your content being shared because studies have proved again and again that when you have content with visuals, it gets shared at a much higher rate.

The great thing is, today that we operate in a time when it’s so easy to create visual content. There are so many great ways to do it. There are so many amazing tools and so this is a valuable to us, many of them free. The problem though is that there are so many tools that can be quite overwhelming to know which one to use.

In today’s episode, that’s what I want to explore. I want to suggest to you some tools that you can use to create visual content. In fact, it’s not going to be me who will be suggesting them. It’s an expert in this field, Peg Fitzpatrick who I’ve heard speak many times at conferences on this particular topic.

As I was pondering how do I explore this topic, Peg was an obvious choice. She’s going to suggest to you some great tools that you can use for creating visual content, designing visual content, great sources for free stock photos. She’s going to suggest to you a tool that will help you in the sharing of your visual content particularly if you’re a WordPress user. She’s also going to share with you her favorite tool for organizing the visual content that you create.

Today’s episode is going to be well-worth listening if you are at the beginning of this journey creating visual content or you want to find the latest tools because some of these tools are newish tools as well.

As I mentioned before, a lot of these tools are free or at least have free versions. I will list them all on today’s show notes so you might want to open then up as we get into this episode. You can find the show notes over at problogger.com/podcast/191.

I’d also love it if you would join our Facebook group, if you just go to problogger.com/group or do a search for the ProBlogger community in Facebook. I love it if you would tell us what your favorite visual tool is as well because there are lots of others out there and I’m sure there’s others that we haven’t covered in this particular episodes well. Head over to the group after you’ve listened as well and share with us what your favorite tool is too.

Again, the show notes are at problogger.com/podcast/191 where I’ve listed all of the tools that we covered today as well as some other further reading and listening. Thanks for listening and I’m going to get into this interview that I do with Peg Fitzpatrick. Also, you can check out Peg’s blog over pegfitzpatrick.com.

Peg, in our recent episodes, we’ve been looking at different types of content that can be fitted on blogs. We talked about written content, which is obviously a big feature for me and video content and even had to do live video. But today I want to talk about another really important topic content which I think you’ve got a lot to say about and that’s visual content. I’ve heard you speak about this at many conferences so you’re a bit of a no brainer in terms of getting someone on to talk about it. I want to welcome you to the podcast.

Peg: Thank you for having me. I’m super excited.

Darren: I’m surprised I actually haven’t had you on already. It’s overdue.

Peg: Me too. What’s up with that Darren?

Darren: I actually don’t do too many interviews. It’s bit of a new thing for me to do interview so bear with me while you’re my guinea pig.

One of the things we’ve talked about in the last few episodes is the superpowers of different types of content. I’ve talked about written content being really good for being found in search, being scannable. I had Justin Brown recently on to talk about video. He talked about how it’s really great for showing your personality and getting shares. I wonder if you can tell us what you think visual content superpower is.

Peg: The superpower is helping all of your other content be seen because blogs used to be just all about the best ideas and the newest ideas and now, as you know, I don’t even know, are there a billion blogs now? Because I know it was millions starting everyday so I don’t know how many there are in the world but there’s a lot of written word out there now.

The visuals on your blog are what help more people number one, they stay to read it longer because when people see it they’ve long while of text, people have such short attention span and I’m really shocked. Have you ever asked your readers how many people read your blog on their phone?

Darren: Yeah, that’s a lot, isn’t it?

Peg: Isn’t it? I was also like, “Who reads a whole blog post on their phone?” But lots of people love it. You need something to break the text up, the big pieces of text because people’s attention span are getting shorter and shorter because everybody’s bombarded with so much information and we’re used to seeing shiny things around the internet.

Thankfully, the flashlights with the music are gone. Now, when people go to a blog post, they like to see visuals. It’s not only just for looking in a blog post but it’s also for shareability because people want to hit a social sharing button. Honestly, I’m shocked when I go to people’s blogs and they have no social sharing buttons. There are so many people that have no social sharing buttons still.

They’re like, “I don’t get any social shares. Why is that?” I’m like, “Remember, one, you could add some buttons. Then people can hit that.” They’re like, “Oh.” I realized that when people are new, it is hard. There’s so much to learn when you’re a new blogger but you can definitely Google those things like 10 things I need when I start on my blog, you can get the basics. Make sure you have the basics in place which are your social sharing buttons. But also images so when people hit the share button, a great image goes with it. If you go and hit a social sharing button to Facebook and it is text only, a lot of people won’t share that.

Darren: If I do, it doesn’t work. It is not going to get the attention of that person as well.

Peg: Absolutely. It will go nowhere in the news feed. Occasionally, people can do a text only post on Facebook and it does okay. But even Facebook they added that feature where you could change your text only post and then making it into a graphic, which I actually, dislike that feature on Facebook. But Facebook is even recognizing that sometimes people just have text. You don’t want that to be your blog post. You don’t want something bad to go out with your blog post.

There’s a lot of different ways that I look at it. Number one, you want it to look nice when people go. They go to the ProBlogger site. They’re going to see this great image that reminds them of other visuals that they’ve seen around. Then when they hit the share button, you want that to share but with the right size. That’s the tricky, tricky piece because one image doesn’t fit on every social site, they all have different parameters.

The thing is you don’t also want a weird size photo to go out because then that doesn’t look it either. I do have a tool for that, if you want I could begin to explain right away.

Darren: Let’s talk about different types of visual content then we’ll get into the tools because I know people will hang in for the tools.

Peg: Wait for it people. It’s coming.

Darren: It’s coming. I like to tease. Before we get into the tools, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the different types of visual content that a blogger can use on their blog because one of the things I love about your blog, and our usual blog is a case study when I speak is that you have so much variety in the visual content that’s on your blog. Every time I look at a blog post, there’s at least one or two pieces. I suspect you’ve got a policy that no can take as it without visual. Is that the case?

Peg: Yeah. All of my blog posts have visuals.

Darren: That’s what we do as well. We always have to have one but what I love about yours is there’s a lot of variety in them. Every blog post has at least one and they’re all kinds of different types of visual. I wonder if you could talk about some of the different types of visuals that bloggers can use on their blogs.

Peg: Absolutely and thank you for looking at my blog and using it as a case study. I’m always so flattered. I was like, “Oh thank you for reading my blog, someone.”

Honestly sometimes it depends on what type of post it is. Say for example, we’re at social media marketing world and I was going to share one of my presentations, I would upload that to SlideShare. I would upload the presentation. Sometimes, it depends. Some speakers don’t like to give away everything if they do the same presentation everywhere. They don’t want to give away their whole presentation. But you could do a shorter version, maybe just the intro with just the tools that you shared because that’s what people want to see afterwards. They see so many people speak that they might forget.

I’ll load it up to SlideShare so then it’s SlideShare content and then I can embed that into my blog post. Then I could break some text with it. Because like you speak at different preferences too and I’m sure people look if you share something, people ask a lot like, “Can I see your presentation?” They don’t get the whole thing but I give people part of it so they can get some piece of it. So they feel like they were there, maybe they hear some new stocks or some new tools or something that I shared. That’s one thing that I’ll do is share SlideShares. I embed videos so I will upload a YouTube video and then I will embed that into a blog post also.

I love doing social images. Instagram images are awesome because you can legally use the images when you’re embedding a social post like a Facebook post or an Instagram post. It’s not taking someone else’s image without permission because it embeds their post and it keeps their name at the top and their comments and their social shares. If you see an Instagram post that you like and you want to use it in a blog post, you can’t just cut and paste their picture. That’s not okay. You could get a DCMA takedown notice for that because it’s somebody else’s intellectual property. But you can embed their social post and if it’s a public Instagram post, then it will embed and then you can share that image.

If you were writing a blog post about you have a lot of photographers that follow you. Say you were doing a study on like 10 Instagram accounts that post great landscape photos, you could embed the photos in there. You could talk a little bit about it. You could say like they go out at different times of the day, they use different lenses. You could have the different techniques that they use in there to get the different types of photos. You could use their photos by embedding their post. It also gets more engagement back to their posts.

Darren: It’s a win for them as well as you just getting people back to you. I guess the big thing I want to get across to our listeners is that whilst we’re going to talk a lot about today is tools that you can use to create great visuals that you don’t have to create all the visuals. There’s so much visual content out there that you can be embedding legally onto your blog. We talked a lot about that in episode 97 about embeddable content but I really encourage listeners to go and have a look at Peg’s blog to see this in action. Because every post almost have something embedded, whether it’s a Twitter.

Peg: I do. I also do tweets. I like to do the click to tweets because those are super popular. Like for you, you do a blog, you do a podcast, if you say something or if you have a dash time and it says something that’s nice, short little tweetable, you could make that into a tweet. You could have it, it shows as a quote in your blog post and then people can click to tweet and then it goes out on Twitter and it adds a link back to your podcast. That’s a win-win too.

Darren: Let’s get into some tools. Let’s start with tools that you can use to help create visual content.

Peg: One of my very favorite and I have worked for them as a brand ambassador is Adobe Spark. Have you tried Adobe Spark yet?

Darren: I’ve tried it a little bit. I think I tried it right in the early days and since then I’ve heard it’s developed a lot. Talk to us about it.

Peg: It had. It’s great. They have three different tools in them. One is called Adobe Post, one is Page where you could make landing pages. Then they have Spark Video and I’m not great with video. Here’s the big secret with all my great visual content, I actually can’t use Photoshop and I can’t edit video. I am like most people where I don’t have the super high-tech skills. Where I think a lot of people feel like, “I can’t make great graphics because I don’t know how to use Photoshop and I don’t know how to edit video.” I don’t either.

I taught myself how to use other things that look professional. I test things. In Adobe Spark, what I love about it is everything looks crisp and professional no matter where you put it. There’s a tool that a lot of people use and I don’t like to say bad things about tools. But when you would do the photos, like you put it in your Facebook cover and the text would be blurry. And it looks very unprofessional. I think it had to do with Facebook whatever they did to the photos. But Adobe Spark, everything looks 100% professional.

When you add the text in, they have a little dragging tool where you could just move it without having to realign your text. Everything stays aligned perfectly and you can center it, it has the little gridlines. It’s just easy to use and they do right in app have free photos that you can use, that you can legally use. It makes it one-stop shopping.

Darren: Adobe Post is something that you can use on your phone but it’s also desktop, isn’t it?

Peg: Yes. What I like about that is I like to make my stuff usually on the computer and then if I need to, I’ll bring it over to my phone. Like if it’s something for Instagram, sometimes I’ll make it on the computer and then bring it over to my phone to share it. When you’re on the phone, you can make animations. If you wanted to make something that had some motion to it with a text or something, you can do that on your phone but not on desktop.

Darren: Wow, very cool. You’re using this mainly for text overlay type stuff?

Peg: Yeah, I use it for text overlay stuff. I’ve even made slides for presentation on it. You can use it for all different kinds of things. I use it a lot to do my Instagram stories because they have little Instagram story size in there and then you can animate them and put stickers and stuff on them. It’s super fun.

I use that for my blog post graphics. I use it for social graphics. I use it for all different kinds of graphics, presentation stuff sometimes. It doesn’t have a multi-page feature so it’s not ideal for presentations but for my blog graphics, I love it.

It has a feature where if you make one that ends up being really popular, I like to pretest my social stuff, just like your blog content, if it’s popular then you reproduce that template like, “Okay, that blog post works.” If you have a graphic that’s really popular, you can just hit a duplicate button and it makes a template from it. Then you can just rearrange the photo and it makes it nice so you’re not recreating the wheel every time.

Darren: Yeah. That’s great and that would help with consistency between your images as well. Is there any cost associated with Adobe Spark?

Peg: It’s 100% free right now. Everything is free in it. The images are free. Everything is free in it right now.

Darren: Isn’t it amazing? Unbelievable, the things that work at our fingertips.

Peg: If you are an Adobe Photoshop user, it’s part of the creative cloud. It will tie all your things together. You could pull your lightroom photos in there. It’s connected to everything Adobe.

Darren: Excellent. I’m going to learn how to use it a bit better.

Peg: It’s so easy, it really is. Do you use Lightroom?

Darren: Yeah, I’m a big Lightroom user. I think that would be pretty cool to be able to pull in my own photos and sync between them. That’ll be great. I created a video with the video part of it and I think I created a video that used the audio from this podcast and then I put some images over the top of it. I thought that was interesting because a lad made a share that onto Facebook as a way to create some moving images with the audio, Just as a teaser for the podcast, I think I did a couple of those in the previous days, lots of potential there.

Peg: They updated a lot in the video section too. You can embed a video in a video now.

Darren: Wow. Okay.

Peg: It’s all like drag and drop. It’s so easy, even I can use it.

Darren: If I can do it, anyone can.

Peg: Yeah, it’s true. It’s not complicated at all. It’s really just coming up with the ideas for your blog post like what type of blog post is this one? Is it a podcast or is it a tutorial, is it a how to? Some of the other blog posts are how to blog posts.

I have examples like where Canva is another tool I use. It’s a down under company. They have output stuff in there and I’ll do a screenshot and then you could put circles around softer areas pointing to things or text overlays. Not to do a blog title but just to point out something when you’re showing something new. When you’re explaining something so you could do the steps, you can do step one, step two, step three. That’s easy to do in Canva because they have a multi-page feature. You could put the screenshot in and then add the different layers in there. That’s also easy.

Canva, they have a free version and then they also have Canva for work which is great if you’re a blog that wants to be consistent which should be everybody. In Canva for work, you can add your logo, add all your colors. You can add in some fonts that are your custom fonts that aren’t in the apps for everybody to use. You can add two or three fonts in there. You make your own little brand kit with all your official colors and official fonts and your logos. Those stay in the app and you can use those on any design. You don’t have to reload them every time. Then by default, your brand colors come up.

Darren: That is a tool that we’ve used quite a bit particularly with our events. To be added between our team members as well, it’s quite useful.

Peg: It’s great to be able to share designs. You can create templates and share the templates with other teammates.

Darren: That’s something that was really missing a few years ago. You had to create everything from scratch every time. That was really tough.

Peg: And if you make a mistake, if you have a typo which it happens. Sometimes you have a typo on it, you make the whole design and you finish it and then you can’t edit the design. That’s the big benefit of Adobe and Canva and Spark and Canva. You can go back in and edit that same design. If you were doing event marketing and then something changed, you need to change one thing. If I had to redo the whole piece of art, that’s horrible.

Darren: It is horrible. We’ve got Canva and Adobe Spark. Any other? I’m sure you’ve got plenty.

Peg: Little fun apps. There is an app called Ripple that I like that makes really fun animations. I don’t know if you’ve tried that one before.

Darren: No I haven’t. Tell us a little more.

Peg: Ripple is a paid app. I call it a premiere app because it is one that’s more expensive. You do have to pay for it to take their logo off it. I don’t like to use anything with a brand’s logo. In your blogs, I don’t think it’s very professional to have the logo so I paid for the app.

You could make really cool animations that have text. They have a lot of different templates. You can add music in there and do all kinds of fun things to make a fun graphic. You can play your own photos in, it could be text only. There are a lot of different things that you can do in it that are fun. That’s just like the ones that are a little fun groovy kind where you’ve done your basic blog graphic but then when you want to do animated ones. Those are fun to do.

If you post it on Instagram and then go back and embed it into your post or you can tweet them, you can post them anywhere in social. But you can also download them and upload them into your blog post.

Darren: It’s going to be useful within the blog post but also promoting it as well. Anything that boosts really does get a little bit more attraction on Twitter, of anything.

Peg: Especially on Twitter. Giphy is another great one. I love Giphy. Do you use Giphy?

Darren: Only for fun. Finding other people’s GIFs and sharing them but not creating them. I didn’t realize you can create them in there.

Peg: You can make GIFs on Giphy. I have to say I pretty much just go on and look for stuff too because there’s just great stuff in there. But those are really fun. GIFs are great in blog posts because they don’t slow your page time at all. Because they’re fast and they don’t take up as much of the time like a regular video or photo. You could embed GIFs into your blog post. Have you done that before?

Darren: I’ve done it a couple of times and usually it’s to do something a bit humorous just to brighten things up and give people a giggle. I found that come out quite well.

Peg: It’s great for social sharing as well. If you have your blog, Twitter especially, it’s great to have the animations on there. You can make your own but I usually take the ones that are in there. But if you were doing a tutorial blog post, you could make a little GIF showing the steps on how to do something.

Darren: Excellent. We got Spark, Canva, Ripple, and Giphy so far.

Peg: Sketch is one that I like to use. Do you use that one?

Darren: I’ve used the desktop version. I think it’s Sketch that I used, anyway.

Peg: I like to use that one to do screenshots on my phone when I’m writing tutorials that have to do with anything mobile. So then I can do the little arrows and have little things like if there’s something new that happens on a social platform and you want to show. I like to just do the arrows and stuff because if you show a screenshot, people don’t necessarily know what it is you’re trying to highlight. You try to make it as easy as you can for people. I love to use that on my phone.

I really go back and forth between my phone and my desktop a lot. I also use my iPad Pro and I’ve been experimenting a little bit with using Adobe Draw to do some hand lettering but I’m not super professional at it yet but it’s really fun to add onto a graphic just to do a signature or something.

Darren: Okay, excellent. That you use with the pen on the Pro?

Peg: Yeah, the Apple pencil.

Darren: I use Sketch on the desktop as my main screenshot tool.

Peg: Oh you do? I don’t even know it did that.

Darren: You can have that installed on your computer and instead of just using the Apple screenshot, you can do your screenshots in that and then it allows you to add in arrows and all of the same things that you’ll be doing on your phone but on your desktop as well. As far as I know, it’s a free tool too.

Peg: Cool, I’ll check that one out. Because I haven’t done that on desktop and I like to do that. I’m always switching around to find the easiest one to do screenshot. Because when you do that on your Mac, it just saves it to your desktop but then you have to put it in another program so it’s a lot of stops.

Darren: There is another one that I use to do a whole website. If I wanted to do a screenshot of a whole website from top to bottom and it’s not all on the one screen, it will scan that whole site but it gets a little bit buggy because Hello Buzz and things like that tend to get captured numerous times across the screen. It’s bit of a problem.

Peg: It shows you how many pop-ups you have on your site.

Darren: It’s getting less useful. Any other visual tools?

Peg: One of the things I was going to say with the multitude of tools that out there, it’s really important to pick one and try it for a while instead of constantly jumping around to a bunch of different ones because it gives you more consistency in your brand and your graphics. If you switch around a lot, it’s hard to get the same exact fonts unless you’re a Photoshop user where then you’re always using your same fonts. But also, you could take classes at Skillshare. Have you done any Skillshare stuff, Darren?

Darren: No, I’ve seen them quite a bit.

Peg: It’s really reasonable, it’s $ 10 a month and you can take unlimited classes. If you did want to pump up your blog, if you’re going to be a blogger and you’re in it for the long haul and I always tell myself, “I’m going to get better at it.” They do have classes for Photoshop so you could learn how to use those. Or YouTube is great for tutorials for all the design programs. People have made really great tutorials for it.

If you’re somebody who feel stuck and you’re not sure, you feel like they might be too complicated for you, definitely check out YouTube and blog posts to find how to’s and how to do different design things. Give it a good try before you switch to something else because it’s like social platforms. Do you want to use HootSuite or Buffer? It’s personal preference. It’s like going to a doctor, you choose the one that you feel best with that gives you the best advice. They’re all a little bit personal.

Some people like more choices. I feel like too many choices gives you design after feel and then you can’t make any decisions. You definitely want to get to the proficiency stage so you can stop using the templates. The templates in all of them are great when you start out but you really need to get proficient so you can make your own template so your designs look different.

Darren: I was going to say, this is one of the questions we’ve got in the Facebook group from one of our members is that people love the audio of the graphic overlays but they bring you so much. How do you create them so that they’re different? That was one of the question I’d wanted to ask you. How can you add a little uniqueness into that apart from learning the tools a little bit better? Is it something that you can give us some tips on with that?

Peg: Sure. Definitely, the thing is it’s good to have those at the beginning so you could learn how the tool works. You can get ideas, you can play with them because Canva and Adobe Spark both have templates. But then, once you’re comfortable using the buttons and everything, you definitely want to step away from that and instead of taking a templated design, just start your own design. Then just think about really what your blog post is about.

You want to create your own brand. If you don’t already have one, a brand design. You want to have a visual style guide for your brand. You have your font and your colors. Even in style of photos, your brand should have a personality so you might have always humorous, funny photos or maybe serious photos. I write about social media, you write about blogging so maybe they’re going to have computers or people working. But you don’t want them to be too stock photo-ish but just of the same theme because eventually what you want is for people to see your images and to know that it’s yours.

I have people that see my stuff on Twitter or on Facebook and they say, “Oh, I knew this was yours because I saw your graphic and I loved it and I knew that it would lead to a great blog posts.” They tie that together, they tie seeing a graphic on Twitter with knowing it’s going to my blog. That’s why it’s so important.

If you don’t have that, they’re going to click on somebody else’s great image on Twitter. Because tweets don’t last very long, a tweet lasts 20 minutes from the time you hit send or it’s published. After 20 minutes, it’s dead in the water unless somebody goes and says, “Oh, I wonder if Darren’s published.” They’ll think lately and they click over to your profile and they scroll down. But most people look at their news feed or lists so it’s important to have really eye-catching images that do look the same.

You want to create a visual style guide. I do have a blog post about that on my blog. But the things that you want to come up with are your brand colors, you want a main one or two colors, maybe one more accent color. You want a main font and maybe one accent font so maybe it might have one that’s a little bit more decorative and one that’s a little bit smaller for the sub header. Then you’d have your logo that you would use the same every time. Then you just want to remix that into different variations but keeping it in the same family.

It’s not as hard as it seems, the more consistent you are, the easier it gets. Then you build the brand and you know when you go in, you’re going to use the same blue, you’re going to use this font. You start seeing what things work well together. Then you think, “Okay, this one is a lighter background so this needs a darker color over it.”

Play with the templates to get a feel for what designs look balanced. You can create something that’s visually the same style as of one of the template but change all of it to match your brand. It doesn’t look exactly like the template but you could say, “Oh, well they used a little shape in the background.” Then you can copy the elements of it and then tweak it to match your brand. Once you start doing that, you’ll get more comfortable with it.

Darren: I find that templates are sometimes good starting places as well and you can change it from a rectangle to a circle. Change the shape. Change the fonts from what they’ve got there. You can use them as a stepping stone towards learning how to use the tool and making them completely unique.

Peg: It’s not as hard as it seems. Just try to practice with the templates and then bring yourself off the templates and create your own designs based on your own brand. It’s really important if you guys are listening to this, I know you want to be pro bloggers too. Take the time to figure out your visual brand and then it’s not a decision you have to make anymore. You always just know these are the fonts and these are the colors.

Another tool, speaking of colors is if you need to create a brand new brand, there’s Adobe Color. It used to be Kolor but in Adobe, they have a tool where you can make different color palettes. I love that because what I did for my blog makeover, two blog makeovers ago, was I had this picture that I absolutely loved. It was the inspiration for my whole design. I put this into the tool and it gave me a color palette based on that. It picks the colors out. Then even going one step further, it gives you different colors. You can be all coordinated, you can have opposite colors, tertiary colors. It gives you a whole bunch of different brand palettes.

Darren: It’s going to give you a collection of colors that are going to work together. Excellent!

Peg: You can pick your main color. It gave me combinations that I wouldn’t necessarily thought of. Then you could just save those and you get the hacks codes and you save them and then you always have it. You can figure it out, it’s not that hard. But you definitely do want to have a visual style that includes your color.

Then, another tool that I like it’s a Chrome extension called Eyedropper tool. I like that because if you have your brand colors but you’re making something that has a certain color in it, you can use a little Eyedropper tool and then it grabs the color out of the photo so you can match the photo exactly, which Photoshop has that built-in but the other tools don’t have that.

Darren: To be able to do that from your browser makes a lot of sense. Give me a list of all these so anyone who is listening along and wanting to find all these tools, I will link to them all in the show notes today.

Peg: Cool.

Darren: One of the questions I’ve had a number of times over in the Facebook group is around images. A lot of these tools have stock photos in them. Adobe Spark does, Canva does. Do you have any other image stock photography sites that you love and that you recommend?

Peg: Yes, I have one I found. It’s amazing. It’s called librestock.com. When you do a search in there, a search is like 43 other photo sites. Everything is free on this site. Searching this one free site takes you to all the other free sites. Images are really good.

The one that I like the best out of all the ones that it searches is Unsplash. It has really gorgeous photos on there. But I usually start with Librestock just because it searches Unsplash and 42 other ones. All of them you can legally use. When you click on them, it does show you what the other site that it comes from and then you have to click through one more thing. You’ll click through and it takes you to that site and then usually you just download them or they may have question or something on there but all of them are free. It just gives you a huge variety.

Darren: I’m going to be checking that one out. I use Unsplash a lot as well. In fact anytime I open a new tab on Chrome, it opens up a photo for me in Unsplash which I like as well.

Peg: There are beautiful photos out there, really beautiful.

Darren: The only problem I have all these free ones is you do see the same image a lot on blogs. You got to dig in a little bit and find something that maybe hasn’t been used as much.

Peg: That’s the nice thing about Unsplash and Librestock. You’ll find things that aren’t the same that you see. They’re not traditional stock photos. I used to use big stock photos a lot but those are the ones that are the more typical “stock” photos. But Unsplash are like because it’s different. It makes it harder when you have a subject like social media business or entrepreneurship because there’s a lot more nature photos and things like that.

Darren: I find that I’m always looking for photos of photographers because that do really well for us but there’s only so many photos of cameras and photographers on these sites.

Peg: Yeah. You’ll find some good ones on Librestock because I have searched for photos on there.

My favorite paid one, it’s a pretty expensive one but I love it. It’s stocksy.com. If you have a project that you want a really stellar photo, Stocksy has beautiful photos. They’re very not stock photo-ish, they’re like lifestyle photos. Those are my favorite ones.

But it’s hard to say even on the other ones because when you know you can go on Librestock and get all the other ones. But that being said, I do search a lot right in Adobe Spark and Canva because I know that you can use all of those legally. I’m sure you probably had other podcast where you talked about legally using photos.

Darren: Yeah. We’ve talked a little bit about using other people’s content. I guess the other option that some people go for and I’d love to hear your opinion on it is such like Flickr or 500 Pixels where they’ve got creative commons photos that you can either embed or use as well. Do you have any thoughts on those sites?

Peg: The embedded, I looked up both of those 500 Pixels and Flickr and they both have embeddable images. If you use the embeddable images, then you do have permission to use the photos no matter what. That’s really good because it does the photo attribution right when you embed it. You’re 100% set. I used to get tons of photos from Flickr but my fear was you can go and change the settings on photos and change the creative commons license. Then I was afraid that if I use the photo and then a year later they change the license on it, you could get hit for that.

Darren: This is something I ask the question with an opinion as well and that is exactly what you said. I had a lawyer approach me recently asking me for payment for a photo that I embedded on the site 2004 I think it was. It was a creative commons license photo at that time and then they changed it. I was able to go back and show them using the internet archive that it used to be a creative commons image.

Peg: Sneaky. That’s a good sneaky trick, Darren.

Darren: Thank goodness, it saved me $ 10,000. There is some risk associated with that but if you use the embed, it should be okay because they don’t allow you, at least on Flickr, to embed unless the photographer gives you permission to use the photo if that’s the case.

Peg: Yeah. It’s said that and then also if they change them gassing them, the embed would just have an air image on there something.

Darren: That’s the other risk is that you end up with posts with broken images in them because the photographer takes them off and you end up with this ugly gray thing saying this image is no longer available. It doesn’t look too professional.

Peg: It’s tricky. That’s the thing that people really need to think about. Other people say like, “I can’t afford a photo.” And I always say, “Can you afford the $ 10,000 if you get busted for taking somebody’s photo from Google?” No. The other thing that can happen which I mentioned briefly is you can do a takedown notice with Google. You get the black mark on your blog and you get zero traffic or referral for that forever.

I reported someone because they took all these content from one of my blog post and they put it into an infographic and they didn’t credit me for it. Which even when they credit on an infographic, it’s just your name on there. It’s not a link back or anything. Their infographic went viral at Pinterest. I said, “You took this and you didn’t ask permission.” It was a secret formula that I created for how to do well on Google +. They took it and I was like, “You can’t just do that.” They didn’t want to change it because it was viral so I reported it to Google. They get nothing for that now.

Darren: You got to be careful, got to give good credit.

Peg: We’re the same way with our writing. We don’t want people to steal our written word. People really just steal images and they don’t think twice about it. They just take them and they think, “Oh, I Googled it and it came up. I was looking for this and I just wanted to use it.” It’s not okay if it’s somebody else’s image. Even if it’s on the internet, it’s not okay.

Darren: There’s more and more legal firms now targeting use of image in this way. They’re approaching photographers and say, “We found people using your images.” They’re doing the leg work before they even talk to the photographer because they know it’s easy money. Just be really, really careful on that front.

One of the challenges on many bloggers’ face is that they can get overwhelmed in terms of the organization of all these visual images that they’re creating and keeping track of them. You mentioned as we’re preparing this interview that you might have some tools in helping on that side of things as well.

Peg: I have one really great one that I love so much and it’s Trello. Have you used Trello yet?

Darren: We’ve used it a little bit and then we started using Slack and it took over some of what we were doing as a team but I do know we’ve got some readers who just use Trello for themselves, not even with a team.

Peg: I use it for myself and I’ve used it on a team. Slack is great for communication but sometimes it’s hard to find stuff from an old conversation, that’s the problem with Slack. You can integrate Slack and Trello together but Trello is the organizational tool. I look at Slack as the communication and Trello as the organization.

They set up to be virtual post-it notes so you could save a whole bunch of things and you can create lists in there. You can add photos in there. What I like to do is create an editorial calendar right on a Trello board. Then you can keep all the pieces for a blog post on one little card.

In that one card, you can create a little checklist for each blog post. On my little blog post checklist, I have blog post title because I like to check it to see how it does like that CoSchedule had linear analysis thing. Then, you have the SEO for the post and the is post written in? Do you have the graphics? You could do a little checklist for all the pieces.

If you’re working with a team and you have one person editing, one person’s doing the graphics, there’s the checklist that can really be checked off on there. Everybody on your team can be on the cards and you can have conversations in there. If you want to, you can share the link to the Trello card in your Slack channel so you can say like, “I finished doing all the parts for the checklist on here.” And you can put it into the Slack channel saying like, “It’s ready for editing now.” Or “It’s ready for graphics now.” You don’t have more than one person working in the same blog post.

Even for me, even for one blogger it helps a lot. What I like is that you can embed all the images in there. If I get my images and I have them but I’m not going to make my graphics, I can just load the raw images in there and then I can make the graphics and put the finished graphics in there. Then work on the blog post later.

Blog post, you can have a formula of it. Sometimes you work in different order. Sometimes, I come up with the title first and then I write the blog post. Sometimes I’m writing the blog post and I’m not exactly sure of the title. We work on a different order but then this way, even really experienced bloggers, you can forget a piece. You’re not going to forget them on purpose but you could forget something but it’s great for working on a team as well. But I like it mostly for the graphics because you could load all the pieces. You could load all your social graphics in there too.

We didn’t get to the other tool. I’d share that one too. I almost forgot. You almost make me forget one, Darren. We’ll skip with Trello stuff. When you’re in Trello you could create all your social graphics. Say you made the perfect size tweet and you made a great Pinterest graphics, you could put those into Trello and then when you’re done with the post, you put them over in a column that’s just all the finished blog posts. Say two weeks later you want to share that blog post again, you can go back in there and get your graphics out again.

Darren: That’s great because I’m always looking for old stuff and then I have to search Twitter to find that graphic that I have already shared. It gets so messy.

Peg: When you go in Canva and you have three years worth of graphic, I have so many graphics in there and I’m scrolling forever. This way you create it once and you put it out in that one Trello card and it keeps all the pieces together. It integrates with your iPad, your desktop and your phone. If you did all your work on your desktop but then somebody is asking you, “Hey Darren, did you have a blog post about how to use Trello?” And you’re like, “Yes I do, by the way.” You can tweet it to them and you can pull out the graphic on your phone from your Trello board.

Darren: That’s great. Speaking of post about Trello, I just found yours online and I will share it on the show notes. It’s 10 Ways Trello Will Make Us Your Social Media Management Pro. It’s a go to post so I will link to that on the show notes as well.

Peg: The one that I use on my blog post is a plug-in called Social Warfare. The website is warfare plug-ins. What I love about this is it’s in the back end so it doesn’t slow your blog post down at all. If you just have an image on the top, if you’re super old school and you just have the one horizontal image at the top, you need to get up to date into 2017. People hit the Pinterest button, there’s the big tall graphic. But you don’t want an 800 x 1200 graphic on your blog post. Then when they hit the Pinterest pin it button the big image pulls up because it’s in the back end.

In there you add two separate graphics. You add one that’s a horizontal and one that’s a vertical for Pinterest. The horizontal one is sized, it works for LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and then when you have all your open graph stuff set up, everything goes perfectly. It also lets you do custom text for the tweet so you can add hashtags and stuff in there if you wanted and then a separate Pinterest description because they’re all a little bit different.

If you have a Pinterest description, you would have more keywords, more conversational tone. You wouldn’t just have the title of the blog post. You would say like, “I can’t believe how many great things you can do with Trello. Check out this blog post and learn how you can be a social media pro.” You would want to put something else. It makes it easy to customize it.

It’s very similar to using Yoast in the back end of your blog post where you’ve got a couple extra fields. Then it also builds the ability to do the custom click to tweet right in your blog post. It used to be you’d have to go out to the click to tweet site, learn this quote or whatever. It’s built right in. I love that just because the Pinterest graphic for me is the money. My blog gets organic traffic number one and Pinterest traffic number two.

Darren: Just a recap on this one. It allows you as you’re writing your blog post to add some extra images and text so that when people hit that share button and appropriate images shown and appropriate text is shown alongside that if that’s a tweet for example. Is that a good summary?

Peg: That is a good summary and it doesn’t slow your website down which is important. The reason that some blogs don’t want to put a lot of images is because they feel like it’s going to slow their site down. This keeps them on the back end. It’s extra steps with the graphics in there but if you’re going to the trouble of writing your great blog content, you definitely want it to have optimal sharing when someone else sharing it. You share them initially but then you need to think about when people are coming back to your blog post.

Darren: This is a $ 29 per year product just looking at their website now that allows you to use it on one of your websites. They’ve got other packages if you’ve got more than one website. It’s a paid one but definitely looking at the feature list, it’s got some pretty cool stuff on it.

Peg: It’s the only plug-in that does this. To me it’s worth the money because the Pinterest traffic is awesome. It’s not just the web traffic because Pinterest, Shopify did a study and it showed that people spent two times as much on Pinterest as they do on Facebook. If the average Facebook customers’ worth $ 40 in sales, it’s $ 80 in sales in Pinterest. People are there really buying more. If you’re selling anything: courses, books, whatever way you’re making money, Pinterest is a great place to be. It’s worth it to me.

Darren: One more question that’s just coming on Facebook, from Max is around sizes of images. He’s saying if you had to create, it’s picking up in the fact that you need different size images for different social networks. What sizes are you preparing for each blog post?

Peg: Good question. For every blog post, I do 800 x 1200 which would be my Pinterest or 735 x 1102, it’s the same ratio it’s 2:3 ratio. I do a really big one for Pinterest. If you don’t want it, put it on your blog post or use this plug-in. You could just share it to Pinterest with the big image even if you don’t have it on your blog post, you can still create the graphic to share on Pinterest. Twitter I do 1000 x 500 that one’s 2:1. Then Facebook, off the top of my head, I’m totally blanking. That one is a rectangle but you could also just use a 1:1 ratio on Facebook. What I tend to do, I use 1:1 just because I can use that on Instagram and Facebook.

Darren: Is it 1200 x 627, was that right?

Peg: Yes, that could be.

Darren: I think that might be what we do on Facebook. I found if you only want to create to then the Facebook and Twitter one, you can sometimes get away with that because they’re not too far off.

Peg: Yeah they’re not too far off but then you definitely need to do a long, tall one for Pinterest.

Darren: 800 x 1200 is Pinterest, 1000 x 500 for Twitter, and we think Facebook is 1200 x 620.

Peg: Like I said, I usually do 1:1 now just because square does work on Instagram and Facebook. For a while, it didn’t work on Facebook and then they changed it.

Darren: Interesting, I’m going to try that for Facebook. That would take off a bit of a vertical space in the page too which isn’t a bad thing.

Peg: It works on Twitter as well believe it or not. Square is pretty good, it’s almost the most versatile. If I had to pick one shape, if I was only going to do one, I would do a 1:1 because it’s not the worst on Pinterest either. It sucked into the big, long, tall one. If you did an 800 x 800, it would be pretty good everywhere. But I like to take up as much as I can on Pinterest.

Darren: We need to do another Pinterest episode at some point because I have a few other questions on that. We’ve covered enough today unless you’ve got any last tools that we didn’t squeeze into the episode so far.

Peg: No, those so far were the ones we’re waiting and waiting. I’d love to come back and talk about Pinterest because I love Pinterest.

Darren: Definitely put that on the to-do list for sometime in the coming months. Thanks so much, Peg. Where can our listeners find more about you?

Peg: I’m Peg Fitzpatrick everywhere. You can find me on my website at pegfitzpatrick.com or any social media, I’m pretty much there. Come and say hi.

Darren: We will link across to Peg’s blog as well as some of the posts that I’ve referred to during the episode as well. Thanks so much, Peg. Hopefully, that you’ve stimulated some great visual content for our listeners’ blogs. We’ll chat again soon.

Peg: Okay, thank you.

Darren: Thanks for that.

Wow. What a lot of information there. As I mentioned at the top of the show, you can head over to our show notes today to get a transcript of everything we discovered as well as all the links to the 14 or 15 tools that we mentioned, as well as some of those posts that we mentioned. There’s a great post I linked there on Peg’s blog on creating a visual style guide which is really worth having a look at.

Also, she’s got a great post on how to use Trello, 10 different ways to use Trello as a blogger. I’ll also list there on the show notes some further listening if you did miss one of those early episodes in this series on creating great written content, on creating video content, and creating live videos as well, as well as one on embeddable content.

They’re all listed over there on the show notes. Head over to problogger.com/podcast/191. Thanks for listening and I’ll be back with you next week with episode 192.

How did you go with today’s episode?

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7 Tips for Increasing Social Media Engagement

7 Tips for Increasing Social Media Engagement

This is a guest contribution from Kristie McCollum.

When it comes to creating your social media strategy, it’s always good to keep things fresh and evolving. There are a few things you can do to keep your marketing content engaging even as trends change.

Whether you are just starting a blog or have been blogging for years and traffic and engagement (or even sales) have reached a halt, it’s time for you to transform your social media marketing strategy.

Why is social media marketing important for a blogger?

As a new or seasoned blogger, it’s important for you to create a community around your blog. Your community is going to be made up of loyal readers, people who share your content, and those who purchase products or services consistently.

Social media is the bridge that connects your audience with your content.

Having a solid social media marketing strategy is going to not only increase traffic and engagement, but it will also increase your income.

Check out the following ways to transforming your social media marketing strategy if you are ready to:

  • Increase your blog traffic
  • See better engagement across social media and on your blog
  • Build a supportive and loyal community of readers and buyers

1. Set Defined Goals

Before you can even begin mapping out your social media marketing strategy, you have to set clear and well defined goals. You need to know exactly where you are and where you want to go.

Think of your goals as your GPS. Document your starting place and where you want to end. For example, I am starting with a group of 100 people in my Facebook group and I’d like to have 1,000 by the end of the year. Having defined goals will eliminate the guesswork and you’ll also have to opportunity to see just how much you’ve grown over time.

2. Deliver Content Wisely

Your audience’s problems are not only key to your content marketing strategy but also your social media strategy.

You have to not only provide great content, but provide great content in a way that your audience can best receive it. If your target audience is young male body builders, you may best reach them with live videos or short video clips that they can watch while at the gym versus long wordy posts.

Ensuring that what you are creating is received in the best way possible by your audience is going to increase engagement greatly.

3. Ask Questions

Such a simple thing is often overlooked. Simply asking questions at the end of social media posts can really increase engagement and even shares. Many of the post that do well for me are concluded with a question.

You can even do things to get your audience more involved: for example, asking them to tag a friend or share their favorites, or top things related to your post topic.

4. Share Content from Top Influencers

This can really help increase engagement. You should already be sharing 80% of others’ content, but many people are not sure what to share or whose content to share.

Try taking a look at some of the content of the top influencers within your niche. By sharing their content, you are showing your audience that they can trust you because you are willing to reach outside of your own work to connect them to useful content. When your audience feels that they can trust what you share, they begin to trust you and your brand and will be more willing to interact and engage with your content.

5. Focus on What Works For You

Just because you see others doing well on Facebook, doesn’t mean Facebook is for you or your blog.

Be sure to check your analytics and take note of which social media platforms are driving the most engaging traffic. I get a lot of traffic from Facebook because of the promotional groups I participate in. This isn’t engaging traffic.

Wherever you are getting organic traffic, that’s where you should focus your efforts. Every platform isn’t designed for every blog or blogger. Go where your audience is. My audience is made up of moms so Pinterest is a great platform to focus my efforts on. Focus on what works best for you, not on what others say you should focus on.

6. Be Transparent

It’s okay to be open with your audience. You don’t have to give everything away, but you should share some personal moments from time to time with your audience.

Social media allows us to connect with our audience in a more personable way. Use it to make sure you are creating that connection. Post a photo of your dog lying next to you while you work, share a story about a time you failed in your business, things like that not only connect us, but humanize our brands.

When your audience gets to learn more about the real you, they will want to engage and connect with you more.

7. Always Link to a Product

Whether it’s paid or free, you should always be sending your audience to some sort of product or service.

You want to give value in your posts and videos but always send them to get more. Every interaction is an opportunity. Many of us are afraid to promote ourselves, but if this is your livelihood, then you have to do more.

Link to opt-ins or paid products or services in your bios, on Pinterest, on live videos, within Facebook groups, on Twitter, everywhere. Remember, social media is a bridge. Use that bridge to get your audience to your blog, business, products, and services.

Social media is ever-changing. But you can always do these things to help you stay relevant and keep your audience engaged with your content.

Be sure to be social and actively respond and connect with your audience. Many people lose support by failing to respond to messages or comments. Even a simple, “thank you for sharing” goes a long way.

Whatever challenges you face in the world of social media marketing, remember to focus on what works best for you and what will allow you to best connect with your audience.

Kristie is a work at home mom of three and serves mompreneurs as a social media and brand strategist. You can connect with Kristie at The Official CEO Mom or follow her on Twitter.

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192: 3 Key Things Bloggers Do to Grow Their Blogs into Businesses

The Things Successful Bloggers Do to Build Their Blogs Into Businesses

In today’s lesson, I want to talk about some of the things that successful bloggers are doing to increase the conversions of their website.

This episode is inspired by a post we had on the ProBlogger blog this week from John Stevens who shared 9 conversion habits of the world’s most successful bloggers.



I want to pick up, highlight and expand upon 3 of the points John mentions but also want to share something I’ve noticed about many of the social media marketing bloggers that I follow that fascinates me.

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Good day there! My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind problogger.com, a blog, podcast, event, job board and a series of ebooks, all designed to help you to start an amazing blog, to create content that will change people’s lives and to hopefully make some money from your blog as well. Learn more about ProBlogger over at problogger.com.

Today is episode 192. In today’s lesson, I want to talk about some of the things that successful bloggers are doing to increase the conversions on their website and to guarantee their success not only as bloggers to build an audience but also to help them to build a business and to make money from their blogs.

This episode is actually inspired by a post we had on ProBlogger, the blog this week, it was a post from John Stevens who shared Nine Conversion Habits of the World’s Most Successful Bloggers. It’s a post that I’m going to link to in today’s show notes because it’s essential reading for anyone who does want to monetize their blog and to learn this stuff.

In today’s episode, I want to pick up on three of the nine points that John mentioned. I want to highlight them, expand upon them a little bit, and talk about why I think they are so important. At the end of this episode, I also want to share something that I’ve noticed about many of the social media marketing bloggers that I follow, these people who are experts in their fields, who are doing something a little different to what John says in his post.

By no means am I saying John’s wrong, but there’s also something else that I’ve noticed about these other bloggers and I want to highlight that at the end of today’s show as well. You can see John’s post over in today’s show notes, there’s a full transcription of the show as well over at problogger.com/podcast/192. I’ll highlight John’s post there. Also, check out the Facebook group, the ProBlogger Community Facebook Group. You can go to problogger.com/group.

This week being the start of May, we’ve been talking in the group about our goals for the month. We’ve been doing some accountability there. I also share the new tool I’m using for live streaming on Facebook which is just blowing my mind, really affordable tool. We’ve had discussions on SEO, affiliate marketing, video and much more so we would love you to join the group at problogger.com/group. Let’s get into today’s show.

Last week on ProBlogger, we published a fantastic post by John Stevens, a guest post. It was titled, as I said in the top of the show, The Nine Conversion Habits of the World’s Most Successful Bloggers. In this post that John wrote, John analyzes how some very well-known bloggers have built successful businesses around their blogs. He talks about these nine habits that they’ve gotten into. These are things that have been around for a little while but have changed over the last few years.

As I think back to 2002 and look at how blogs are today, what he’s highlighted are really some of the key changes that have taken successful bloggers to be successful business people. There’s a rule distinction there. Just building a successful blog that’s well read is great and that could be just your goal, to have lots of readers but if you want to monetize your blog, if you want to build a business around your blog, there are certain things that you probably need to work on. John has highlighted some really good habits to build. There’s lots of good advice. I really do recommend you have a read of the post because it’s a great snapshot of some of the current trends in blogging and building an online business from a marketing perspective.

In today’s episode, I want to just pull out three of the things that John talks about and add some of my own thoughts. As I said at the top of the show, I want to add in something that isn’t really there in John’s article. I’m not saying he’s wrong, I’m just saying that this is something that I think is just as important, if not more important, than these other things to keep in mind. Because sometimes we can get a little bit distracted by the new things, and the trends, and these strategies, they’re important but there’s other stuff that we need to keep in mind and keep in balance.

The first thing that I want to talk about that John picks up and it’s his first point as well, is that the successful bloggers that he’s talking about use multiple opt-in boxes on their site. John correctly identifies in this article that email is so important in most of the most successful bloggers’ strategies. This is something that shouldn’t be new to you. I’ve been talking about emails since my very early episodes. If you go right back to the start, you’ll see there’s numerous episodes on how to build your email list.

Email is so important if you want to sell anything to your audience, if you want to build traffic to your blog, if you want to build community with your audience. It can help you in all of these different ways. It’s really important to build that list. I’ll link to some of the shows that we’ve had in the past on email on the show notes today.

But John here is really highlighting one strategy that will help you to build your list. That is that you shouldn’t just ask for people to opt-in to your email list once on your blog or even once on any one page. John identifies here that most of the key successful bloggers that he’s looking at have multiple calls to action to opt-in on every page on their blog. The reality is that people are becoming increasingly blind to our calls for them to opt-in to our email list.

If you think back to 2004, 2005 on the Internet, the big cool thing back then was banner advertising. I remember seeing my first banner ads and I was fascinated by them, “Oh, what are these things?” Google AdSense was starting to put all these text ads around the internet. People were clicking those links and those ads like crazy back then because they were new.

Then couple of years later, people in the advertising industry began to write articles about how people were suffering from ad blindness. This is a thing that we all know today because we all know there are ads on most websites on the internet but very few of us even see the ads anymore because we’ve become blind to that marketing technique.

This is something that is happening in most marketing techniques today and one of them is opt-in blindness. People are becoming increasingly blind to our calls to action to subscribe, whether that be by us offering them a free guide to something, or a free video, or a free report, or a free resource, download these calls to subscribe to my list and get a free stuff, people are increasingly ignoring them and that’s because they’re seeing them so often.

I don’t believe that we should stop doing opt-ins on our site but we need to get a little bit smarter about how we call people to get those opt-ins. One of the ways that we can do that is to have multiple opt-ins on our page. The key with this and John talks about this in the article, is to find balance. We’ve all been to sites that constantly interrupt us, asking us for an opt-in.

You arrive on the site and there’s a pop-up before you can see anything and then 30 seconds later after you’ve closed that pop-up and you scroll down, there’s a little slide in box that comes on. Then before you visit the second post that you want to visit on the site, there’s another interruption. Then as you’re leaving the site, there’s another interruption. All over the site there are calls to action. I’m not talking about that.

I don’t want you to annoy your readers to the point where they either leave your site or give you their email address. But I do think we can be slightly more aggressive than just having one call to action. This is something that I’ve experimented with both of my sites Digital Photography School and ProBlogger.

On Digital Photography School at the moment, if you’ll arrive on that site, you’ll be greeted if you’re on a desktop computer with a welcome mat and it’s a big slide in from the top. It’s fairly aggressive and that works really well. If you come back again, you won’t see that. We don’t want every visitor every time they visit to see that so the first time they’ll come they’ll see that.

Then there are a couple of more subtle calls to action on the site. In the sidebar, there’s a really subtle call to action. In some articles, we also have at the bottom of the article we might have a call to action. Also, if you view a few pages while you’re on the site, you’ll see an exit pop-up as well. This is where you go to leave the site and there’ll be a little box come up and ask you to subscribe then if you haven’t already subscribe that is.

It’s tracking whether people take action on the first few times and if they have, they won’t see, the second recall to action. What we found is that by adding that last exit pop-up, we’ve increased our sign-ups quite considerably. I think it went up 30% or 40%.

Having more than one opt-in on your site is something that a lot of bloggers now are doing. As I said before, you got to get the balance right. There’s a couple of bloggers that I have been to their sites recently where I’m just like, “This is just too much. I’m just being bombarded.” In some cases, there are bloggers that have already subscribed to their email list and it’s even more annoying because I know they produce good stuff but I just don’t want to keep seeing those messages.

There’s a variety of ways to do that. I’m going to link in the show notes to a few episodes that I’ve had in the past on email and how to get those subscribes. But do experiment with the different technologies that are around at the moment.

The second thing that John highlights in the article is to use the space above the fold on your website really well. Good use above the fold. If you’re new to blogging, if you’re new to the internet, you’re probably going, “What in the world is Darren talking about?” Above the fold is a term that’s a bit geeky. It basically means if you go to a website, what you see above the fold is everything that you can see before you start to scroll. If you go to a website on your desktop, you will see the top part of the website and then you begin to scroll. Everything that you see as you begin to scroll is technically called below the fold.

Really want to think about what can people see when they arrive on your site because what they see without having to scroll, they’re much more likely to take notice of and they’re much more likely to take action on. It’s significantly high. What is above the fold on your site is really important.

John shares some examples of what people do on the front pages of their blogs above the fold and talks about particularly on the front page of your site, including things like benefit statements, social proof, your opt-in calls so getting that email address, proof of authority. These are some of the things that John talks about as being important. He does give you some really good examples of what bloggers do above the fold there.

The other thing I want to encourage you to think about above the fold is what’s happening on your blog post pages. The reality is that most people will be arriving on your blog not to your front page but to a blog post. What happens above the fold on your blog post is really important as well.

One of the things I’ve noticed happening increasingly over the last few months is bloggers putting so much stuff above the fold on their blog post that you can’t actually see the content when you first arrive on their site. Whilst I can understand why they might do that, they might want to have a big email opt-in at the top of their blog post because that’s the most important thing to them, the reality is that if someone arrives on your site expecting to read an article on a particular topic and they can’t see it then that creates an impression upon them.

Whilst a percentage of people might give you their email address before they read the article, I think that it’s smarter to show the article first and then try to get the email address or give them a chance to start reading it and then interrupt them in some way as well. Really think about above the fold, it is very important. But on blog posts it’s really important to make sure your content is viewable immediately when people arrive on your site so that they don’t have to start scrolling to read anything and to get some value. You want to start delivering value right up top on your site.

Pay attention to what’s happening on your front page obviously, I’m going to talk about that in the next point as well. Above the fold, there is a different kettle of fish. You want to be doing some different things on that front page but in the blog post itself, make sure there’s content above the fold as well.

The third thing I want to pick up from John’s article and there’s lots more in it than just these three things is he talks about the use of the home page. He talks a little bit about how that has changed in blogs over the years. The successful bloggers that John’s talking about, he talks about how they use static home pages to funnel additional leads. This is been a massive shift over the last few years of blogging.

If I think back to my first blog in 2002 and my blog back then was pretty much the same as 99% of blogs back in 2002. If you went to the front page of that blog or any other blog, you would see the last 5 to 10 blog posts on the front page of the blog in their entirety. You would go to my blog and it was a very long page, you would see the whole latest article that I’ve write. Even if it was a 5000-word article, it would all be on the front page and then you’d scroll below there and there’d be the next article in its entirety. Then it would be the next article in its entirety.

I did that, I went back and had a look at my first blog in an internet archive version of it.  This is what happened. It was a very long page. There were 10 articles in their entirety and this is what bloggers did back then. It’s just what happened. It’s just the way that the things were.

Then things began to change a little bit. We began to see in probably 2004 or 2005, people began to just show excerpts of their articles. It would just be down the page, it would be the most recent article at top and then the next one, then the next one. It’d be 5 to 10 articles, the title and then excerpt, might be the first couple of paragraphs.

There was massive debate about this when it first started and people first started to do it. People are like, “I don’t want to have to click.” They were complaining about having to click to read more and yet people did it. They realized it was a better user experience for people. People would be able to scan from page to find the article that they wanted to read. It would be a shorter front page as well, takes less time to load all of that type of thing.

We began to see other changes. A few years ago, we began to see front pages of blogs that look more like magazines. They were more of a grid-like layer. You still see a lot of these today that would show their latest posts but usually they’ll be an image for the post because the way they become more visual by this point, it would have the title. Many times it didn’t even have anything else, just the title and the image. Sometimes it would have a little excerpt. Sometimes there’d be a big slider at the top with a featured post but it was all about the content. It was all still about the content on the front page of the blog.

In many ways, they began to look a little bit more like portals or magazines. These magazines has worked a lot of them were called on. This is what I began to experiment with on my blogs. For me on ProBlogger, I began to realize that I didn’t want to just show the latest content. I wanted to show other things that were happening on the site. Really, the next stage that some bloggers went to is to really change things more into a portal on their front page.

Previous to my current design on ProBlogger, some of you will remember that we had my latest video on the front page. I had my latest blog post. I had the latest jobs on the job board. When I started the podcast, I pulled in the latest podcast and so it became more of a portal to the different things that were going on as well as some featured content as well. I realized around this time that it wasn’t just my latest content that I wanted to highlight but other key posts on the side.

This is where the changes has been coming, people began to realize that it’s not just about the latest, it’s about getting people to the right content. This is really what John is picking up on in this article. He highlights a few examples of it. More recently we’re seeing people create front pages that don’t really look like blogs at all. In fact, some of them don’t even have any content on their front page. They’re more like landing pages that funnel their readers to do certain things. John picks up in the article about how many of them are funnelling people to subscribe to their email list.

For example, if you go to the front page of Michael Hyatt’s blog or site I would call it now. You get taken to his welcome page. This welcome page is all about building credibility. It’s about telling you what he does and then getting your email address. That’s really what it is. If you got to have a look at his pages, very cleverly designed, the only thing you can really do on that page is to put in your email address unless you scroll right to the bottom of the page and that’s the only place that you can find a link to any other part of his site.

Everything on that front page is about trying to get the email. He does that with a series of download opt-in offers. He doesn’t just have one. He has a number of different offers on that page. It’s all about trying to get people to give the email address. It’s not until you get to the footer, the very bottom of that front page that he has links to his blog to the content itself. The other way to get to the blog is to scroll pass all the opt-ins to that. Michael is a fairly extreme example of that. There are others that are certainly trying to get the email but also try and do other things.

Pat Flynn is a great example of that. If you go to the front page of Smart Passive income, Pat’s blog and I’ll link to all these in the show notes today, you’ll see there that he, Pat also has a very strong call to action to subscribe. It’s right front and center. In fact, pretty much takes up most of the above the fold space. But then if you scroll down a little further, he begins to highlight his most recent content. He highlights his latest blog posts, his latest podcasts and also highlights some of his recommended affiliate products. Pat has a slightly different approach to his front page. It’s not just about getting the email. He wants to highlight his content. He wants to highlight some of his affiliate products.

ProBlogger’s front page is more similar to Pat’s. We certainly call for a subscribe on the front page, in fact we do it twice. We do it at the top and we do it down the bottom, there’s also another call to action to subscribe there. I’ve found that that bottom subscription works quite well. But then between those calls to subscribe, we highlight our content, we highlight our recent blog posts, we highlight our recent podcasts, we highlight some of the information about our events.

The key for me is to get to subscribe but I know from my experience, that people are much more likely to subscribe to my list if I give them some of my content first. If they get a taste for what I do, they’re much more likely to subscribe. For me, that’s the approach I’ve taken.

There’s no right or wrong in designing your homepage but you’ll see from the examples that a lot of the blogs that John’s talking about in his article don’t look like blogs anymore, in the traditional sense. What I would encourage you to do is to think about what’s your number one goal and to do that above the fold on your homepage and make some really strong calls to action on your homepage. You don’t just have to show your latest content there. You can show something else as well.

The other thing that you’ll see in the article that John wrote is that he highlights that we do something else on the front page of ProBlogger. That is to show something different to a new visitor to a returning visitor. If you come to ProBlogger for the very first time and if you’ve been there before, you won’t see this so you might want to open up an incognito browser and go to problogger.com. New visitors see something different to returning visitors. New visitors get an explanation of what the site is about and a prominent link to our start key page and a strong call to subscribe.

Returning visitors don’t see that introduction to the site, the big button to the start key page. They get shown new content since the last time they visited. We can actually track how many posts you’ve missed and we highlight that as well. This is another creative thing that we’ve been trying out on ProBlogger and it’s worked quite well.

There are three things that I think are really worth highlighting in John’s article. Let me just recap them. The successful bloggers use multiple opt-in calls to action on their blogs, sometimes more than one on a page. They use the space above the fold really well. I would really encourage you think about that for your front page but also for your blog post as well, making sure that there’s content above the fold particularly on blog post. The third thing that I highlight is the static home page and really thinking about what your goals and objectives are for the front page of your blog.

There are lots more in the article that John talks about. He talks about making your content easy to share. He talks about using overlays to capture additional emails. He talks about using social proof. He talks about the use of the start key page which I think are really worth highlighting. I would’ve talked more about that but over he talked about start key pages in episode 111 so go listen to that one if that’s something you need to do. It is very powerful to start a key page, more powerful in my opinion than an about page. He also talks about the better use of the footer and also using prominent calls to action.

I reckon this article from John really nails it but I don’t really highlight too many articles on ProBlogger in this podcast. But I really do want you to go and read it. But I want to add a little bit more to it.

John’s spot on with his observations but one of the things I’ve noticed recently as I was preparing for my talk at Social Media Marketing World in March. I was asked to talk about the future of blogging, in which I did cover some of the stuff that John talked about in his article. But in preparation for my talk I decided I wanted to do some research on the blogs of the speakers of Social Media Marketing World.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Social Media Marketing World, it’s a conference attended by 3,000 or so social media marketers in San Diego. It’s run by Michael Stelzner from Social Media Examiner. He brings on hundreds of social media marketing experts from around the globe to speak at this event. Amazing people like Justin Brown and Peg Fitzpatrick, who you would’ve heard in previous interviews over the last few weeks. He brings in people like Pat Flynn, Mari Smith, Michael Hyatt who I just talked about, Chris Tucker, Amy Porterfield and some of these gurus in social media marketing.

I decided in preparation for my talk on the future of blogging to do some analysis of the blogs of the speakers of Social Media Marketing World. Firstly, I wanted to work at how many of them were blogging today. They were experts. They were talking about all kinds of things from Instagram to Pinterest to Facebook advertising, all that type of stuff. I wanted to work at how many of them were using blogs but also what innovative stuff were they doing on their blogs, what I found was really interesting.

It took me about 3 days to go through about 200 speakers so it’s a lot of time really digging into their blogs. What I found is that almost all of them were blogging in some fashion. If you have a very broad definition of blogging, if you include video blogging and podcasting and even Instagramming, creating regular content as I talked about a few episodes ago, most of them are blogging on that type of scale. But only about half of them had what I would consider to be traditional blog and mainly written content. About half of them were doing that type of blogging. Most of those bloggers were updating their blogs at least once a week, they were regularly blogging. It was a fairly central part of their business.

One of the things I noticed as I was working through the speakers and I was particularly looking for what they were doing that was innovative. One of the new sexy things that people are doing, some of the things were just talked about. I wanted to find some examples of that.

Whilst there were a few people doing that type of thing, what I noticed is that the vast majority of bloggers who were speakers at Social Media Marketing World were not doing really anything that I would consider to be sexy. They weren’t doing the new innovative stuff. Most of them had front pages on their blogs for example that looked like blogs from 2010 or even before. Most of them had just one call to action to subscribe in their list. Most of them weren’t doing anything that I would consider particularly innovative with their design or user interface.

I didn’t know what to do with this at first. Part of me was a bit surprise and was like, “Do these people know what’s going on?” But then, I realized that maybe they were doing something right after all because as I dug into their blogs, I realized that they were getting a lot of comments on their blogs. As I began to look at their social media accounts I was like, “These people have a lot of people following them. They have a lot of people sharing content on their blogs as well.”

Whilst their blogs maybe looked a little dated and maybe they weren’t doing the most sexy stuff, they were doing something right. Still, they had quite large and engaged audiences. It really struck me that whilst some of us get really into all the latest technologies and some of us get right into tweaking the plugins and the tools, and tweaking user interface and watching whether our page views go up, when we make a little change onto a button here and there. Whilst we’re spending a lot of time tweaking all these stuff, there’s these other set of bloggers who were doing amazing things who are focusing on other stuff, maybe the non-sexy stuff.

What I realized as I dug into these blogs is that they were doing three things brilliantly. They were prolific at these three things. It was a good reminder for me as I begin thinking about all the innovations and all the cool stuff that you can do. Don’t thrill at these other three things that these amazing bloggers are doing.

Firstly, they’re prolifically and consistently creating meaningful and useful content that answers questions and solves problems of the people who follow them. They know the needs of their audience and they create content regularly to meet those needs. That is what they’re spending most of their time doing. It is very evident as you look at these blogs. They may not look the coolest blogs but they’ve got amazing content, really deep, useful, life changing content in many ways. Spend time prolifically, consistently creating meaningful and useful content.

Number two thing that they’re obsessed with and that is engaging with their audience. If you dig into their social media accounts, you’ll see them there present answering questions, getting to know their audience, serving those who follow them.

It was amazing to see the speakers of Social Media Marketing World this year, so many of them would sit outside their sessions after they were finished for an hour, two hours, three hours answering questions, serving their audience. They realized that more important than how their blogs particularly looked and the user interface on them was the fact that their readers knew that they cared about them and that they wanted to serve them. Number two are serving their audience, engaging with their audience.

Number three they’re prolifically promoting what they do. They’re networking, they’re guest posting, they’re attending conferences, they’re spending time getting to know other key influencers and they’re doing whatever they can to get themselves in front of the type of readers that they want to have read their blogs.

It struck me as I was looking at these 100 or so bloggers that whilst a lot of the design and user interface and site optimization, things that John talks about in his article are really interesting, they really are cool things to be talking about and they can have some really positive impacts upon your blog. It’s actually the relentless pursuit of creating great content, being highly engaging and promoting yourself is what really going to be the key to your success. I’m not saying that design and sexy interface are not worth doing, but don’t do it at the expense of the quality of your content and the serving of your community.

I’m personally investing time and money into the stuff I’ve already talked about in this episode. I’m spending time and money investing into design on my blogs and to user interface and to testing some of these new cool things that you can do on your site. But what I found is that every time I do a site redesign, every time I do this type of stuff I see 1% increases in conversions. I see very small increases in conversions. They’re the cream on top.

The real substance comes from what you do around your content, around the community that you build in, the engagement that you build and the promotion of your content. Yes, investing all this new cool stuff really tweak and test and give them all a go but don’t do it at the expense of the other key elements of building a successful blog: great content, engagement with your audience and promoting what you do.

I hope you found that helpful. I would love your feedback on this. Are you someone who has a tendency to spend a lot of time on the cool stuff or do you spend more time on the content and the community and the engagement? Love to hear what you think. I actually think it’s when these two sides of the equation come together, the real magic happens. I hope that somewhere in the midst of that you feel a little bit challenged to work on the areas that perhaps you’re neglecting and find that balance.

You can let us know what you think about today’s episode over on the show notes at problogger.com/podcast/192 or over on the Facebook group, problogger.com/group where I love to have a chat with you this week. Thanks for listening, chat with you next week on the 193rd episode of the ProBlogger podcast.

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193: How to Become a Prolific Content Creator (an Interview with Kelly Exeter)

Prolific Content Creation With Kelly Exeter

In today’s episode, I want to explore the topic of prolific content creation by interviewing  one of my favorite online buddies – Kelly Exeter about her experience of creating content online.

Many of you will be familiar with Kelly because she’s been a regular contributor on the ProBlogger Blog where she writes about blog design and creating content, she’s presented an episode of this podcast back in episode 119 where she talked about how to choose a WP theme and she’s presented numerous times at our ProBlogger events.

I first came across Kelly when she was wearing her hat as a blog designer (she designed Vanessa’s blog) but since that time, I have watched her put on many other hats. Kelly blogs regularly and is a great writer. She co-hosts two podcasts, and edits the FlyingSolo website while still being able to write 3 books in the last 3 years.

So today, I sat down with Kelly to explore a few aspects of her journey. We start off tackling a question I get asked a lot – how personal should you get on a blog? Kelly used to get very personal but lately has changed her approach.

We then talk about Kelly’s writing process where she talks about another change she’s made – moving from being very structured to learning how to use ‘free writing’ techniques.

My favorite quote from this section – let yourself write crappy words

We touch on editorial calendars, what to do when you start second guessing yourself in the writing process and how she goes about researching her posts.

Then we talk about her experience of writing books and how to go about writing those longer writing projects.

We also talk about podcasts – why she started, what that workflow looks like and how it’s different and compliments blogging.

And lastly we talk about how to be a prolific content creator. Kelly reflects upon some of her systems and routines and techniques for getting so much done. We talk burnout, personality types and how to become a more disciplined person.

If you think that sounds like a lot of ground to cover – you’re right! I originally thought about splitting this episode into 3 shorter episodes as we do shift from one topic to another a little but the more we talked the more I realised how some central themes wove through all of the topics.

So settle in – this episode is perfect for those of you who like me take have a long walk each day – or maybe a long commute. There’s a lot of value here!

Further Resources on How to Become a Prolific Content Creator (an Interview with Kelly Exeter)




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Darren: Hi there and welcome to episode 193 of the ProBlogger podcast. My name is Darren Rowse. I’m the blogger behind ProBlogger.com, a blog, podcast, event, job board, and a series of ebooks, all designed to help you to create an amazing blog, a profitable blog. You can learn more about ProBlogger at problogger.com.

                    In today’s episode, I want to explore the topic of being a prolific content creator by interviewing one of my favourite online buddies, Kelly Exeter, about her experience of creating content online. Many of you will be familiar with Kelly because she’s been a regular writer on the ProBlogger blog for a year or two now where she writes on blog design and creating content.

She’s also presented an episode of this podcast, you might remember back in episode 119, I let her take over the show for the day. She talked about how to choose WordPress theme that is going to be effective for you. She’s also presented a number of times at our Australian ProBlogger events. Many of you will know Kelly and you’ll know that she has different hats that she wears now.

I first came across Kelly when she was wearing her hat as a blog designer. She was designing quite a few Australian bloggers, quite well known bloggers. She actually designed Vanessa’s blog as well. We love to design so much. But since that time, I’ve watched her put on many other hats. I really do mean many other hats.

She is a blogger. She regularly blogs on her own blog at kellyexeter.com.au. She also guests posts on quite a few blogs including ProBlogger. She co hosts two podcasts. She’s been editing the Flying Solo website and over the last three years, she’s managed to write three books as well. She is prolific. She is creating a lot of content in different mediums.

Today, I sat down with Kelly to explore this journey that she’s been on. We started off tackling the question that I get asked a lot. How personal should you get on a blog? I wanted to ask Kelly on this, this question because she’s someone who has changed to attack on that. She was very personal when she first started out. She talked a lot about quite personal things but in recent times, she’s changed her approach. We unpacked that a little bit.

We then talked about her writing process where she talks about another change that she’s made. She’s actually changed her approach from being a very structured writer, having outlines to using free writing. She talks a little bit about that technique and how she does that. We’ve got some further reading in the show notes on that as well.

My favourite quote from that particular section was, “Let yourself write crappy words.” I love that part of this particular interview. It really is something that I learned a lot from and I was quite challenged on. We talked about editorial calendars. We talked about what to do when you start second guessing yourself in the writing process and researching posts as well. We talked about then her experience of writing the longer form content like the three books that she’s written and how her approach again, has changed in that.

We then talked about podcasting, why she started, how that work flow works for her, and how podcast and blogs are different from one another. Lastly, we talked about the unifying theme, I think, of this podcast. That is prolific content creation. Kelly reflects upon some of the systems, routines, and techniques for getting so much done because she does get a lot done.

All of that that I’ve talked about plus she’s a runner, she’s a mom, she s a reader, and she does get a lot done as well. She’s very disciplined or at least comes across that way. We talked a little bit about how to become more disciplined. We cover a lot of ground over the next hour.

If you think that sounds like a lot, you are right. I originally did consider splitting this episode into some shorter episodes but I think there’s this unifying theme, being a prolific content creator. I think together, it comes across. You’ll see some themes coming up again and again.

Settle in, this episode does take a little while. You may actually want to pause halfway and continue it or if you’re someone like me who takes long walks, this would be perfect for you. There is so much value here. I actually got a lot out of it, myself and have already changed a couple of things in my own writing process.

By the way, Kelly is one of the speakers at this year’s Australian ProBlogger event. She’ll be talking about content creation and she always gives a lot of value. If you want to learn more about that event, head over to problogger.com/events. Today’s show notes are at problogger.com/podcast/193 where there is some links to some further reading that Kelly mentions along the way as well as some other stuff that Kelly has written that you might find useful.

Lastly, join the Facebook group, problogger.com/group. We’re seeing a lot of activity in there. I’m loving that group at the moment. I really do look forward to connecting with you there. All of that is linked on the show notes. I’m going to get into this interview now. Settle in, grab your favourite beverage or get out on a walk and enjoy this chat I had with Kelly Exeter.

Hi Kelly, how are you?

Kelly: Hey Darren, very good, thank you.

Darren: Nice to see your football team on the weekend.

Kelly: I know and yours as well. It’s funny, when I went into work yesterday morning I was like, “Everybody’s team won.” How unusual is that with a Dockers’ supporter and a Carleton’s supporter in the office.

Darren: Very good. No one here is wanting to hear us talk about football so maybe we can get on to talk about blogging. A few of our audience are familiar with you because you’ve been on the podcast previously but I just wondered if you can give us the two minute version of how you got into blogging, why you started, and what that first blog is about.

Kelly: The reason was I have a graphic in web design business. It must be seven years ago now, I just had a meeting with my staff to say, “Look guys, I think it would be really good if you guys each started a blog because we’re building sites in WordPress and it would be really good if you were across WordPress, etc.” I was already across WordPress doing stuff for other people but I didn’t have anything of my own at the time.

                    At that time in my life, I was totally overwhelmed and have way too much going on. I didn’t have time to be starting a blog. Of course, I went home that night and I thought to myself, “I told all of my staff to start a blog, maybe I should start one too.” Because of course, that’s what you do when you have no time. Being me, right there and then, I created the blog because I could. It was called I Love Pretty Things.

                    I saw this as an opportunity because I do literally love pretty things but I don’t like stuff in my house. I love going out art markets and things like that and looking at all the beautiful things but I don’t like buying them so I was like, “Oh, this blog will give me the excuse to go to all these art markets and write about these things even if I don’t buy them.” I remember my very, very, first post was about MOR products and how beautiful they are because they got this beautiful packaging. That was my first blog, I love Pretty Things. I’d love to know how many people remember that one.

Darren: I didn’t even know about that one. I start of as a style blogger.

Kelly: It was funny it got attraction really, really quickly. I actually didn’t even know that there were other people blogging at that time. I just thought it was something people did for business. I thought I was the only one doing it for fun. It was probably a few months later that I stumble all the Aussie bloggers on Twitter. Surely, after that, I think that was when you announced your second ProBlogger in Melbourne. I was like, “Oh yeah. I’ll go into that.” I still don’t even really know why I went along because I was so new to it but I’m so glad I did. That’s where it all started.

Darren: Where did it progress from there for you?

Kelly: By the time I got to ProBlogger in Melbourne, I started that first I Love Pretty Things blog maybe four months, by the time I got to Melbourne, I had four blogs. I have my own Kelly Exeter blog. I had a blog for our business which was Swish design. And then I had also started a blog called Small Business Blog. In my head, I was going to build the funnelling on all these blogs and create products for the creators. Fast forward to the passive income dream of lying on the beach and making lots of money without doing anything, that was the goal.

Darren: That was the goal.

Kelly: That’s where I ended up.

Darren: As I was preparing for this episode, there’s so much we could talk about. We could talk about, I think even in your email footer, it says you’re a writer, designer, and an editor. Where do we even start here? One of the things I do want to focus on this personal blogging because that’s certainly been a part of your journey, writing about what’s going on in your life and what’s going on for you.

I’ve got this question from Sally. She said, “I’m wondering how much of my personal life I should include in my blog?” I see bloggers sharing every intimate detail of their lives. Some blogger do that while others don’t even use their real name. Perhaps the answer to this is it depends but do you have any thoughts on how personal to get in your blog? That can mean from selling in the Facebook group. Interested to hear your perspective on that.

Kelly: Sally is right in saying the answer is probably it depends. I guess what it depends on is why you’re blogging. To say why you’re blogging when you first start blogging will probably evolve to something else. You can only really address that question in the moment.

                    Some people are blogging to position themselves as an authority in their field. They want to maintain some distance between themselves and their readers. Those people put a lot less of themselves into their blog. Some people will blog about products. Remember when you use to blog about printers. I know that you put a lot of yourself into the printer post. You can do that because you’re blogging about products.

                    I just think for the vast majority of us blogging the power of it comes from the connection that we get. It’s either trying to connect with like minded people so parenting bloggers are trying to connect with other parents or a book blogger is trying to connect with people who either read books or write books. If you’re trying to connect with people, you do have to bring a bit of yourself to it.

                    If you’re trying to build a personal brand, then you have to bring a lot of yourself to it. That’s what you’ve done with ProBlogger. That’s what I’ve done with A Life Less Frantic. At the end of the day, the most powerful connections are coming from vulnerability but you, as a blogger gets to decide just how vulnerable you’re going to be. That line is hard to know where it is.

                    What makes it even harder is the fact that every single blog will tell you that it’s the post where they were like, “I don’t know. Should I publish this?” They press publish and they ran from the room. They come back two hours later and bang, it’s like their most popular post ever. They hesitated to press publish because there was a lot of vulnerability in there. It’s difficult because the most vulnerable posts are the ones that get the best reaction and the best resonance.

                    At the end of the day, you just have to decide what you’re comfortable sharing and what you’re not. Sometimes, you’ll overstep them up but the good thing is you can always delete it. You’ll know for next time that that’s where your mark is. The mark will shift as well.

I know a lot of people who blogged a lot about their kids when their kids were very young. Now, they don’t mention their kids at all because the kids are a bit older. Sometimes, they wish they hadn’t blogged so much about their kids when they were younger because that stuff stays forever.

It’s hard to know where the line is but I think the short story is you need to be vulnerable if you’re going to connect with people and you need to share your hopes, fears, and dreams but you have a lot of hopes, fears, and dreams so share the ones you’re comfortable sharing. Over time, you’ll get a bit braver about what you shared but you’ll also develop a bit more of a fun to balance about knowing what you don’t want to share.

Darren: Yeah. I think it really depends on the topic as well and what part of you, you share. I know I share quite regularly on ProBlogger about my fears and a lot of those fears have to do with blogging but I’ve got a whole heap of other fears that I don’t share on the podcast or on the blog. I choose what part of myself to reveal.

Kelly: That’s right.

Darren: You sort of talked there about changing your approach. Maybe changing from less personal and that’s something that you late last year, you had a post called Time For Me To Stop Writing About My Life.

Kelly: It’s a bit dramatic, wasn’t it?

Darren: It is. At the time, I remember thinking, “Oh wow, what’s going on here? Is this something life causes?” And then I read the post and it wasn’t quite that. You did talk in that post about how despite being a really quiet and private person, you’ve used your blog for many years to share very openly about your life and dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, overwhelm, and lots more.

But in that post, you’ve talked about how you’ve decided to stop mining my life a blog further which I think a lot of bloggers can probably relate to or at least their husbands and wives could. I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about that decision. Let’s start with why did you blog in such an open, revealing, personal way for the first six or so years and then why the change?

Kelly: I think when I first started my personal blog, not the I Love Pretty Things blog but my personal blog, I was quite lost. I was stressed and overwhelmed. I was fighting depression. I was really, really unhappy in life. I was on a journey out of that. I had started the journey out of that. It already hit rock bottom. I was having therapy. I was doing the things to get out of that. I knew there were other people on that same journey and I knew that they would benefit from moving along the path with me or moving along with me just slightly ahead of them. That’s I made the decision.

                    As you said, on ProBlogger, you share your fears about blogging. I made the decision in that moment to go right this more aspect of my life, this big thing. I’m fighting the overwhelm, the anxiety, the depression, and the stress that I’m going to share about that specific part of it. A lot of people ask me, especially a lot of my close friends I quite bemused at how open I am on my blog given I’m such a quiet and very private person in real life. I think the reason for that; there are two things at play.

The first one is I’m pathologically shy in real life which a lot of people don’t believe because I’ve developed a lot of management techniques but not presenting in that way. The fact is that shyness does get in the way of connecting with people. For people who don’t understand shyness, it’s a social anxiety that manifest quite differently for different people.

For me, it means if I don’t know you really, really well, my assumptions is you don’t really want to talk to me and if you are talking to me, I need to be adding value to your life while you’re talking to me. I think you can imagine that kind of gets in the way of good, meaningful conversations and being in the moment.

When I write in my blog, I’m released from that self perceived obligation. I’m released from it because I’m not talking directly to someone’s face and if they even so much as glance over my shoulder, I assume that they don’t want to be talking to me and they’d rather be talking to the person behind me. If you’re reading my blog, I know that you want to be, that you’re making the choice to be there.

The second thing that I guess frees me up to be quite personal is that even though when I’m writing, I do have the reader very clearly in mind. To me, they’re like this one, big, amorphous mass. I’m not picturing like individuals reading my words, I’m picturing this mass. I think if I pictured individuals reading my words, in fact, I know this because in the past, there is a period there where if there was a blogger I really, really admire, like I went through a really big Penelope Trunk phase, and I went through a Sarah Wilson phase, and Mia Freedman phase.

I kind of imagine every single blog post I wrote in those various phases was written for those guys, like those individually, specifically. I was imagining them coming to my blog and reading. Anything I thought they would think was a bit lame, I edited it out. I can quite confidently say that those periods of my blogging were not my best work because I was writing for that very specific person. When I write for the big, amorphous mass of the shapeless blog, that’s when I’m quite free to be very personal, if that makes any sense.

Darren: Yeah, that’s fascinating because I know some bloggers are very different today. They do write best when they’re writing for one person. They really tap into that person that they’re writing for and come across in a more personal way. I think I’m more like you on some levels particularly for my speaking. You’re not an introvert, you’re not shy. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, if you have a one on one conversation with me, I’d much prefer to speak to 1,000 people than one.”

Kelly: Oh yeah. People are always fascinated by the fact like you, I love speaking but to me speaking is wonderful because you get to share your ideas. If the people there in the room, they’re generally engaged in what you’re saying and they choose to be there, whereas when you’re one on one with someone, like I said, my thought is always they would rather be talking to someone else and they’re talking to you, you better make it worth their while.

Darren: I found with the talk, and with a blog post, and with the podcast, there’s no one interrupting me. I can present my full idea and I can know that I’m going to take my readers on a journey from A to B and not be asked a question. Those types of things freak me out whereas if I can design the flow of the interaction and be in control, maybe I’m a control freak.

Kelly: I was going to say this is your control freak side coming out. I’ve never seen this side of you.

Darren: Maybe, I’m not sure whether I am or not. I think we’ve got very similar personalities. I was reading one of your post on that and I think we’re very similar except you’re a thinker, I’m a feeler.

Kelly: No, I’m a feeler. It’s just you’re a P and I’m a J. I think that’s where we’re different.

Darren: You’re a bit more organized than me. We’ve established that you openly shared on your blog and that was why but why did you decide to stop doing that or change the direction at least?

Kelly: There was a period of about 18 months there where I just felt with my blog where I was like, “I’m just not connecting with people in the way that I want to and I cannot figure out why.” It took me 18 months that what happened was that my readers were further behind me in their journey than six or seven years ago.

                    Six or seven years ago, people are at the same spot in their journey as me and we travelled it together. Most people evolved and outgrew me and then they left and then they were replaced with people who were at the start. So, with each successive year that I’ve blogged, I’ve gotten slightly further ahead of where my readers are actually at. Effectively, my problems weren’t their problems so there’s a disconnect there.

                    I didn’t like to write about things once I’ve been through them, fully processed them, understand them, and understand the learnings that I’ve taken away from them. What I found was by the end of last year, I had literally mines in my life for every last bit of learning, everything else that I was in the process of learning. Some people don’t mind sharing in the moment like, “This is my problem right now and I haven’t processed yet.” You travel the journey with them and that’s very intimate. I don’t like doing that. I only like sharing things once I’ve fully processed it and come out the other side. That was what I’ve gotten to.

                    My readers were much further behind me than I was. I just didn’t have fully processed learnings to share anymore. That’s why I decided it was time to stop going to my life because every blog post was like, “Here’s something I experienced.” I’d start with the story of something I experienced and then I would go from there about here’s what I learned. I’d kind of run out of the stories.

Darren: What’s the change look like in reality? What’s the new style of content?

Kelly: I guess where do I find my ideas or what do I write about now. It took me a while, probably took a good four or five months where I was experimenting and trying new things. What I now discovered is I’m noticing more. I notice what people are reacting to or responding to more. If I have an answer for that thing, I’ll respond to it.

                    Late last year, I noticed Carrie had posted something on Facebook about being a bit burnt out. There was this massive string of people who responded and said, “I don’t know what it is about right now but this is why I’m burnt out. I just don’t know what’s going on.” I knew the answer. The answer was it was the end of the year and we all have decision fatigue basically towards the end of the year.

                    I wrote a blog post to address that. That blog post went off. It got shared quite a lot. More recently, I shared something on my Facebook page about decluttering in a study that someone had done that discovered that a really big problem for me to class families was that I was drowning in stuff and it was of course a lot of stress. That share of someone else’s article started a discussion on my page about people had taught about how they had declut it and had felt so much better.

                    I started writing a blog post because I noticed that there was a lot of discussion around it. I thought, “I know a lot about decluttering. It’s my favourite hobby.” I started writing a blog post about how to declutter. I actually realized, “Oh, hang in a minute. There’s a piece of the conversation missing here.” That’s the fact that there’s just no point decluttering if you’ll then re clutter your half and have to declutter it again in a year’s time. That’s bad from both the mental health point of view and the environment.

                    I flipped the post in the middle of writing it to be more about, okay, you’ve decluttered which is great. Everyone’s into decluttering right now, thank you to the minimalist but now let’s talk about not re cluttering your house. That post has been shared 2,400 times which is like 5 times as much as any other post has ever been shared on my site. It’s interesting to me how the more I open my eyes, the more I pay attention to what people are talking about and what’s on their mind, if I had the answer for it, they’re the post that I’m really going off at the moment.

                    They’ve got nothing to do with me. They’re not starting with a personal story. They’re not sharing my experiences but they’re sharing my learnings and my research.

Darren: There’s an application, I guess, as a result of it.

Kelly: All practicality.

Darren: Verging more on how to practical type stuff.

Kelly: I think that’s the thing I’m known for. Not just saying you should do this, you should do that, I’m known for the practical, here’s how you do this thing or here are little ways that you can make this thing happen in your life. Like actual things that you can do not just aspirational things you can do.

Darren: That’s great. In some ways, the topic of your blog is similar but you’re presenting that topic in a different way.

Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. Everything before was here’s something I experienced, here’s what I learned from it. If you learned something from this as well, that’s great. Now, it’s shifted to here’s a problem I’ve noticed you guys are having. Here’s my answer for it and here’s how to make that thing happen in your life. I understand what your life looks like so I’m not going to tell you to do things that are just not possible to do. Here are things I know that will actually work for you.

Darren: That’s great. It sounds like readers are responding well.

Kelly: Yeah, they really are. It does take awhile to get the balance right. Certainly, every blog post, I’m not hitting it out of the park but the ones that go well do seem to go really well at the moment. There seem to be a bit of a tipping point happening at the moment to me.

Darren: That’s great. I’m sure that helps Sally in her thoughts as well. We might move on a little from personal blogging. Now, I want into tap some of your experiences as an editor. You’ve been working at Flying Solo. Many of our readers will remember Robert Garrish who I interviewed back in episode 191. You’ve been working on that site for a few years now.

                    A lot of the questions that I got from reader’s Facebook group came about editing post and writing post sa maybe we can switch gears into that little expertise that you’ve got there. A question from Dan and/or Wendy, Dan and Wendy share an account on Facebook. They asked about researching posts. I’m noticing in that we’re just talking about that you said you want to do more post that will require some research. I wonder if you have many tips on how you approach writing about a topic that maybe you don’t have expertise on and that you do need to do some researching.

Kelly: I approach not from the point of view of trying to become an expert, I approach it from the point of view of being an enthusiast. A lot of Carly, my Straight and Curly podcast co host, we share a lot of research in our podcast. we always say to people we’re not trying to present ourselves as experts but we are enthusiasts. It means that you only share research that’s interesting to you. There’s heaps of research out there. A lot of it is very dry. A lot of it, you could share it but you’re not going to engage the reader with it.

With regards to that, I try not to approach it from presenting myself as an expert. I’m trying to be you, the reader. I am presenting you with research in a way that is interesting to you and also I guess actionable for you as well. There’s no point sharing that 20% of people on Facebook process ads in this way. If it’s something that you, the reader use, that’s a piece of research that has no interest for you. I’m not sure if that answers the question but that’s how I approached it.

Darren: I love that. In some ways, that’s what I’ve always done with ProBlogger, particularly in the early days because I wasn’t an expert on making money for blogging because I was just learning how to do it but I was presenting what I found that I found interesting and being really clear that I wasn’t an expert. I think that’s important too.

Kelly: I think you, as a writer, have to remember if it’s not interesting to you as writer, it’s not going to be interesting to the reader so don’t share stuff that you don’t find interesting just because it’s research and someone’s big at that thing.

Darren: Another question from Dan and/or Wendy. Do you use standard templates or outlines for posts—I know Michael Hyatt had talked about how he writes almost like a template type way—or are you more free flowing in the way you write?

Kelly: It’s kind of a bit both. My most basic tried formula for a post is to open with a story or anecdote that kind of introduces the idea that I’m trying to share and then follow up that introduction or that story with some really practical how to’s or practical takeaways in dot points or numbered points so that people connect with the story that hooks them in. And then the practical how to’s or the practical points, it means I’m not just telling them what to do, I’m showing them that they can actually do it. I find that to be a very, very strong formula for post.

                    Actually, I’ve written something on Flying Solo that outlines that formula so I can give you the link for that.

Darren: That will be great. We’ll link to that in the show notes.

Kelly: With that said, I don’t approach writing of my post in that way anymore. In the past, I was quite structured. I try to outline post before I write them but these days, I free write all my post first. When I say free write, I’ve got the idea, I sit down, I put the timer on for 15 minutes, I start writing, and I don’t stop even if I have to write, “I don’t know what to write here.” That’s what I wrote.

                    What I find that free writing does is it tests the idea. If the idea is no good, if I don’t have as much to say about it as I first thought, that comes out in the free writing stage and the idea gets dumped.

                    If the idea is good, then the free writing stage tends to throw up something interesting that I might not have gotten through if I’d approach the writing of it in very, very structured way. After, I free write the post, I let it just sit for a day because then it marinates. It marinates in my head so like when I’m washing the dishes, I’m thinking about what I wrote. If I go for a run, I’m thinking about what I wrote. When I go back to it the next day, like a much better place to refine it into something that’s very coherent and connects well with the reader because it’s got a connect.

                    I do tend to think I’m not actually that good of a writer but I’m a really, really good editor because I’m really willing to put the time in to refine the post and make it really connect. To me, free writing is about connecting fully with the idea, teasing it out, and then identifying exactly what you’re trying to communicate. Editing is about removing anything that does not take the reader where you want them to go. In short, whatever is left behind, it takes the reader on a really logical journey and to leave a really nice pay off. That’s kind of my process.

Darren: That’s great. How much changes between the free write and the editors? It depends.

Kelly: Quite often, it’s almost a complete rewrite from the free write today which I know would just freak out a lot of people because in the past, I remember Penelope Trunk saying she would write 4,000 words to get an 800 word blog post. I just want to die when I hear her say that but I’m not probably that extreme now but I would probably write 1,600 words to get an 800 word blog post.

I think that’s just the difference between being good and being better than good, if I want to blow on my own trumpet, but certainly, I’m a very harsh critic of my own writing. The writing that I’m happiest with and love the most is the writing that comes from this process as opposed to the very structured process.

Darren: Do you think the years of experience of using that structured process has helped you in the free writing process in some way? Was that something you had to go through to get to where you’re at now? I’m trying to put myself on the shoes of someone starting out. Is it good to start with an outlined type process, or is it better to start with a free writing as you just described or really, does it come down to personality?

Kelly: I would say it’s better to start with the free writing theme. The free writing theme, most people resist it because it involves throwing away a lot of words. That’s very hard to do when you are a new writer. You think like, “If I have taken time and effort to write those words, then I should use them.” But the other thing that we all do, I’m a new writer, is we edit as we go. We’ll write a paragraph and then we’ll edit that paragraph and then we’ll write another paragraph and edit that paragraph.

                    What that does is it makes the writing process much longer than it needs to be. It also means that by the time you’ve written a post that way, you don’t want to let any of it go because it’s been so hard to get those words out, editing as you go. What we have to remember is that writing and editing are completely discrete task in the completely different parts of your brain that do those thing well.

If you allow yourself to free write, if you allow yourself to write crap words which a lot of new writers don’t want to allow themselves, a lot of new writers, they think that the best way is to sit down, tap out 800 amazing words and bang, their first draft is fantastic. The reality is the better the writer you are, the more crappy your first draft probably is.

I just think as a new writer, you can train yourself to not edit as you go and allow yourself to write crappy words. Sooner rather than later, your writing will improve faster than if you start with a structured approach.

Darren: That’s great. It reminds me a lot of how I prepare for a talk. I prepare for a talk, I free talk. I don’t know if that’s a thing or I just invested something but I just get up in my room and I start talking about the topic. Somewhere, as I’m talking I find these little snippets of, “That resonates with me even though I had never thought of it before”. I’m going to note that down. Those little phrase become the points that I then build up the talk around.

Kelly: The thing is if something resonates with you, you’re excited about it because you’ve never spoken about it in that way before. If you’re excited about it, that comes out in your talk and is so much more powerful than just talking about something you’ve always spoken about.

Darren: I can’t remember who said it but it was from the advertising industry, they talked about how they would brainstorm, as a group, ideas and the things that made the group laugh or gasp, they were the things that they would make note of because they got an emotional response from people. It was just a brainstorming session and then they come back to those things that seem to resonate and build and add around those things.

Kelly: I think the key to any kind of brainstorming sessions is there are no dumb ideas because as soon as people get caught up thinking, “Everything I say has got to be good.” Then you never get to those really cool little things that really resonates so I think it’s important that people remember that. If you’re not willing to write crappy words, you’ll always be able to write good enough words but not great words.

Darren: That’s correct. As you’re talking down, it leads me to Shelly’s question that she asked in the group. What do you do when you’ve got those doubts in your writing, when you start to second guess whether what you’re writing is any good or not? Is that signal that maybe it’s not good and you should throw it away or is that something you need to learn to push back those little voices?

Kelly: You gotta learn to push back. My advice to Shelly is to press publish and leave it to your readers to tell you. The thing that’s very frustrating is the some of your very best writing will not resonate with your readers and some of the stuff that you think is a bit bleh, will. This is the very frustrating thing about blogging. You just never really know.

                    It’s interesting I met Jeff Goins at a conference earlier this year. I really want this year to be the year that my writing goes the next level. Should I start just publishing one blog post a month but make that blog post completely killer? He said, “No.” He said, “Look, I’m a really big believer in publishing at least one a week, once a week because it forces you to show up. It removes the perfectionism and the hang-ups that will come if you are trying to publish a killer post once a month.”

Interestingly of course, he’s proven to be very right because I published that post I mentioned earlier that got 2,400 shares, that’s not my best writing, that post. The idea was good and it resonated but it certainly wasn’t my best writing. If I was only publishing once a month, that post would never have made the cart. Now, it’s like the most shared on my site ever.

        One, you have to get comfortable with the fact that your very best stuff will not resonate with people the way you think it will. Just press publish. If it bombs, who cares, if it goes well, enjoy the surprise.

Darren: If it goes well, you found something that resonates so that you can then build your next thing on or write a book about or become known for.

Kelly: I think it’s key to remember that people aren’t necessarily resonating with your writing. Lots of pretty ordinary writers technically out there but they have brilliant ideas and they’re able to talk about those ideas in a way that reaches people so people resonate with the ideas and not necessarily resonating with your writing. If there’s any freedom in the fort, take it.

Darren: Interesting. Terry asks kind of similar question. Something like how do you get your ideas and information into a post without sounding like you’re being opinionated, or self centered, or it’s all about me? I guess there’s another little voice that sometimes we hear as we’re writing like, “This is going to make me come across like I’m just self centered.” How do you deal with that?

Kelly: I guess that’s the one big thing I learned years ago from Penelope Trunk when I did a blogging course with her is that blog post is never about you. If you do feel like it’s about you, you probably shouldn’t publish it. I guess my first rule is I never place myself above the reader. Some people do that because that’s the brand they’re trying to build but for the most part, people don’t really like feeling like you as a writer are above them.

                    A good way to not be coming across the self centered is to not subtly tell the reader I know more than you are, better than you. The second thing to remember is people do want your opinion. It’s why they’re reading your blog but they want to know where your opinion comes from.

If you’re just talking at them and telling them what you think without giving any supporting reasons this thing happened to me or this thing to a friend and that’s why I think like this, then you’re robbing them of the chance to change their thinking, or learn something new, or appreciate these new thoughts that you’re bringing to an old topic. I guess rather than thinking about yourself and am I self centered, ask yourself what’s in here for the reader?

If you approach all your blog post like you read it over at the end and you go, “What’s in here for the reader?” as long as there’s something in there for the reader, you’re okay. If there’s nothing in there for the reader, then you got to either rewrite the post or not publish it.

Darren: Yeah. One of the questions I get asked a lot is about editorial calendars. How much to plan ahead and how to plan ahead? How do you come up with the ideas? Jason asked in the Facebook group the same question. Do you have any tools that you use or any techniques that you use? Particularly with a blog like Flying Solo which is a very much about a topic but there’s lots of different things that you could cover within that big topic of being a solo entrepreneur. There’s a lot you could write about there. How do you make sure you are not just going over the same things over and over and develop an editorial calendar that’s going to appeal to you readership?

Kelly: The first thing I’d say is it doesn’t matter too much if you are going over the same topics as long as the writer is bringing something fresh to that topic. Usually, what the writer is bringing to that traffic that’s fresh is their own personal experience so I strongly, strongly encourage Flying Solo contributors to come at a topic that formula that outlined earlier which was here’s a problem that I had, here’s what I learned, here’s what you can take away from what I learned in a very, very practical way.

That said, you don’t want to just be writing about the same things over and over again. I’ll go back to tools. The first tool that I use is Spreadsheet. I’m really low tech and I really resist changing some things. My husband is always trying to get me to dig in those because he loves all those tools and automation. I’m like, “You know what, I really love my Spreadsheet.” I know a lot of people use CoSchedule to plan out the editorial calendar. At Flying Solo, I go to Spreadsheet. It allows to get that high level view of what we’ve got coming up, what we’ve published, who’s up when?

We build that a month in advance so I’m always a month in advance with content for Flying Solo and that’s because I just don’t want to be scrambling for content a week out from publication. We publish five to seven posts a week so I like to have those locked in a month out because what does it frees me up to do is then it frees me up to look at where there are holes and go to our contributors and go, “Guys, I’ve compiled the list if you’re struggling for topic ideas.”

Because for the most part, they come to us and go, “I’ve written a post about this. Is it suitable for you guys?” Most of the time it is but sometimes it’s not and it breaks my heart a bit to not back an article I know someone put a bit of effort into so I compile ideas and thoughts. I read other publications. I take note of headlines that capture my attention and then I kind of, Flying Solo eyes the headline, then I drop it into this idea spreadsheet.

In one way, I want the contributors to come to me with their own ideas because they bring fresh ideas that I wouldn’t have thought off but then on the other hand, I also give direction about like these are the things our readers are telling us that they want and I direct them in that way as well. You’re getting the best of both worlds as far as I’m concerned. That’s managing aside where there’s lots of contributors and you’re in charge of all the content.

For my own site, I’ve never had an editorial schedule and I’m never ahead in writing for that because I use to try writing my post two to three weeks ahead of time. I think I’ve listened to Nicole Avery talk at a conference and I’ll be like, “I really need to do an editorial calendar. I need to plan out my strategy.” And then what I found was if I write a post two or three weeks in advance, by the time it published I wasn’t engaged with that idea anymore.

It probably didn’t matter but it mattered to me because I wasn’t into the idea so what I do now, I have lots of ideas I have in Evernote. Every time I have a blog post idea, I put it into my Evernote. But generally speaking, as I mentioned before, I will notice something that people are talking about or resonating with like say, today and I will free write my post for Thursday today. I’ll edit it tomorrow, publish it Thursday. It just keeps things super, super fresh. Certainly, for my own blog, because I’m only publishing once a week, that works really well for me.

It just depends what you’re publishing schedule is. Also, your topic and how personal your blog is that really dictates whether it’s nice to keep the content super fresh or whether you can plan well in advance.

Darren: You certainly see on blog like ProBlogger and Digital Photography School, it’s much more like the Flying Solo experience. I’d say in Vanessa’s blog, she writes a day up to her head because she wants to be able to engage in the comments with energy because that was something she just wrote and she’s still excited about it and she doesn’t have to think back a month ago when she wrote the post to how she was feeling to re engage.

Kelly: That’s exactly where I’m at with my process. I find it very hard to engage with the comments and the thoughts people are sharing if it’s something I wrote a  month ago. I’m like, “Yeah, I moved on from the idea now.”

Darren: There’s nothing worse than that. Not even remembering the post you wrote because it was so long ago that you created it. One of the other things that I love about what you’ve done over the last few years is that you’ve been doing blogging and podcasting which we’ll touch on in a moment but also, you’re doing some bigger projects and you’re writing books. You’ve written three and I hear you’re thinking about the fourth or started writing the fourth. Is that right?

Kelly: Yeah. The fourth is still thinking. I know what it is but I just haven’t been able to get to it. I’ll talk about that.

Darren: One of the things I noticed is that you’ve got three books so far. One is called Your Best Year ever: 7 Simple Ways to Shift Your Thinking and Take Charge of Your Life. Another one is Practical Perfection: Smart Strategies for an Excellent Life. The third one is 20 Simple Shortcuts to Small Business Success. As I went over to Amazon to have a look at them all because they’re all Kindle and they’re real books as well. They’re all in different categories. You’ve got self help, religion and spirituality, and business and money.

                    You’re covering some broad categories there. I’m wondering what’s the thinking behind that. How did you come up with the topics? Maybe your fourth one, I don’t know, is it building on one of those ideas or is it another category altogether?

Kelly: This is me. I’m very organic in my approach to things. It’s funny because I can be very, very structured but when it comes to what I’m writing about, I do like to be very organic and I do like to respond to a need that I see or perceived. With Your Best Year Ever, that came about at the end of 2013 when it just seemed like everyone was just dying for the year to be over. Lots of people had a bad year that year.

                    I had actually, in my mind, been writing this book for a year. Every time I went for a run, it was there. It just seemed at the end of 2013, there was a real big need for it. The book’s in my head was about simple mindset shifts that you can call on when it feels like life isn’t going your way. It seemed like there was a need for that book at that time. I really just put myself on the pressure to make it happen. I wrote that in a very short period of time which I think we’ll discuss in a sec.

                    Practical Perfection, that came about because I wanted to write another book. I was like, “Okay, what’s a really common problem for my readers?” The common problem for my readers at that time was that the high standards they hold themselves to were getting in the way of them living their best lives. This is something that had been a problem for me in the past but I had figured out a way to get around it. Be able to set goals, go after big things, but still lead a simple family oriented life. That’s what Practical Perfection tackled. Managing those perfectionist tendencies we all have while still being able to lead a happier life.

                    The business book, again, I’ve been wanting to write a business book for a while. I was the editor of a small business website. I’ve owned and run a small business for 10 years with my husband and I just felt like I had a lot to share in that regard. I guess I was thinking what book to write last year, let’s be honest. I was like, “Well, this is the one. It’s time to write that business book.” I knew what I wanted to write and it was 20 simple strategies that have helped me achieve business success. That one came out of that.

                    I guess with all three books, they came from me listening to what people were saying their problems were and then putting together something to address those problems.

Darren: Yeah, which is similar to what you’ve said with the blog posts, really. I get the sense it might be looking for those bigger themes in the things that you’re hearing again and again. That’s interesting. Are you taking the same approach with book four? Is that a need you see that you’re responding to or is that something more within you that you just have to say?

Kelly: That one is responding to what you call a spark, noticing sparks. Last year, I had noticed there was, I think it was on Thought Catalog or something. There was this post about over thinking and it got it shared, I don’t know, 30,000 times or something stupid like that. I’m an over thinker, always have been, always will be. I’ve always seen it as a bit of a character flaw and then there are 30,000 people who shared this post and I was like, “Clearly, I’m not alone in that regard.”

                    Carly and I on Straight and Curly, we did a podcast episode on over thinking. It’s funny because we finished recording that episode and we were like, “Can we publish that because we’re going to sound like freaks?” We published it anyway and that just got a huge response from our listeners. Our listeners are very engaged but their engagement on that particular episode was just next level.

                    From people going, “Oh my gosh, I thought I was the only one who thought like this.” And then there was a third theme that, “Oh yes.” I put it out there that I was thinking that my third book, I was going to call it Over Thinker’s Anonymous. It was going to be about over thinking. I started a Facebook group for people who might be interested in those themes and following the journey of the book and then bam, within like the first week, there were 600 people in that group. I was like, “Okay, there’s definitely resonance here.”

I guess it was kind of a stage journey. If I hadn’t seen those sparks and then if I had said, “This is what I’m thinking my next book will be. Here’s the Facebook group.” And like 20 people joined, then I would have gone, “Uhm, no spark.” There is something definitely there so now, I’m engaging with the people in the group and really try to get down to the bottom of what is the problem for you with regards to over thinking, what is it holding you back from life, what’s the cause of it, and then that’s what I’m going to address in the book.

Darren: It strikes me that a group of over thinkers will really be useful in that process. You just have to ask a question and you get a lot of responses.

Kelly: They’re very engaged and very helpful. They’ve been amazing to date, really helping me refine the core idea of the book. The other books were written in very, very compressed period of time and then I had no energy to launch them. At the end, where it’s this one, I really want to do this. I want to give it a bit more time and I want to launch it properly and do everything right with this one.

                    I look at the first three. I was like textbooks, I learned a lot from writing them. I learned a lot about titles and how important the title is. I learned a lot about the essential idea has to be one that resonates. I learned a lot about launching, what works and what doesn’t. This fourth one, I’m hoping I can get a few things right.

Darren: You touched on the writing process. I suspect you one, you’re giving it more tie by the sounds of things, the fourth one. What does that writing process look like? Is it different to what we talked about earlier with a blog post, free writing, refining, editing phase? Is that you approach a book as well?

Kelly: With the books, definitely a lot less free writing. I definitely try to have a structure that I watch. That went really well for Your Best Year Ever and for 20 Simple Shortcuts Small Business Success. All three books have been written in very short periods of time so Your Best Year Ever was written in 12 days. Practical Perfection, the first draft is written in 30 days. I took a more of a free writing approach to Practical Perfection.

The editing process was so harrowing and basically involved rewriting 2/3 of the book that I’m not sure I would take that free writing approach to a book again. With 20 Simple Shortcuts, I again returned to the whole thing of archive. 20 Simple Shortcuts, that’s effectively 20 blog posts. Okay the way that I’m going to write the first draft of the book is I’m going to write literally 20 blog posts. In May last year, I worked 20 blog posts to that topics that I wanted to cover for 20 Simple Shortcuts. That was effectively the first draft.

        The reason I wrote all of those in such compressed periods of time is because I don’t have heaps of time on my hand and it seems to be the only way I can get a book written. Say for Your Best Year Ever, that was written, we had two weeks off at the end of the year, we shut our business and we took some time out. I wrote that book in the mornings on the 12 days that we had off.

With Practical Perfection, I just locked off, November, a couple of years ago. Again, every single morning I wrote 1,000 words in the morning. And then 20 Simple Shortcuts, I wrote a blog past a day, everyday. That method’s great because it gets the book written but it does burn you out quite badly. You literally can’t write anything else while you’re doing those things. I couldn’t blog. I couldn’t guest post for anybody. I couldn’t go on Facebook which is probably not a bad thing. It’s very intense. It burns you out but it gets it done.

The cross benefit is the okay, it burns you out but it’s a very, very short period of time. Everyone around me understand that Kelly is not at her best right now but it’s only for 20 days or something.

Darren: It sounds like there were some tough patches in it. What do you do, what’s your approach when that writing process gets hard, when it’s not flowing? When you’re hearing the little voices, do you recommend getting away, having a break, do you push through? What’s your go to advice there?

Kelly: I cry first. I definitely don’t recommend pushing through. Is you’re in your first draft and you’re free writing, then push through but if you’re into that editing phase where draft is very important, then for me, stretcher is the most important thing. Everything that I write, whether it’s a blog post or a book, I want to take the reader on a journey. I want to deliver payoffs along the way. I want them to get to the end feeling energized that, “Okay, this thing, I’m going to do this thing now.”

                    Usually, when I ran into problems, it’s a structural problem. I’m like, “I don’t know how to get them from this beat to this beat seamless kind of fashion.” When I find myself stuck there, I do have to just walk away either literally like I’ll go out for a walk, or I’ll go have a shower, or I just have to let it sit for two or three days. Usually, you come back after two or three days, it’s so obvious to you how to fix it but in the moment, you just can’t see it. That’s my method for dealing with those bad, bad days.

Darren: I find for me similarly, it’s usually about how to I get from A to B. Sometimes for me, I need to almost break it down into imagining the person in one state and I want them to be in another state. What are their minute, little steps that they would need to take and that sometimes reveals the links of how to structure a post but also how to take them on that journey. You’re focusing on that change, I think for me would be the answer. I’m a big walker too. It all happens when I’m on a walk.

Kelly: I never had as many ideas as when my kids were babies, infants and I took them for a walk for an hour everyday. I had to walk with my phone. I was just talking into my phone the whole idea going, “I’ve got another idea. I’ve got another idea.”

Darren: Second last shift in the video to podcasting because I think it’s only been a year and a half, maybe two years that you’ve been podcasting?

Kelly: A year and a quarter.

Darren: I can’t believe that. You have shifted a lot of your content creation into the podcast. You’ve got two. One Let it be, another, Straight and Curly. Both are co hosted podcast. Now, if you go to kellyexeter.com, to your blog, there a lot of podcast in the midst of all the writing as well. We haven’t got a lot of time but why podcasting for a start? Let’s just start with that.

Kelly: It’s interesting because when I first started working at Flying Solo two and a half year ago, they said to me, “Are you still in podcasting at all? I was like, “Not in the least. I’m a writer. I can’t bear the thought of unedited words going out into the world.” At the same time, I think this is the tropical thing that you were at, I don’t know if you remember because that was the moment you decided to start your podcast.

                    Everyone was talking, everyone had a podcast. It was the next big thing. I was like, “Maybe for Swish Design, we should do a little podcast or something.” But I never thought of doing one for myself. Just over the course of that year, I started getting interviewed on a lot of people’s podcast about Your Best Year Ever. I discovered after the first few where I was like emailing the person who interviewed me and saying, “We got to do that again because I can say all those things I said so much better.” They’re laughing at me and going, “No, it’s fine.”

                    I started to relax into it a little bit more and then I started to actually really enjoy it because the big difference for me between podcasting and writing is podcasting, you can go on a tangent and it doesn’t matter as long as the story that tangent is following is good whereas when you’re writing, you can’t go tangential because you lose the reader. That’s just a fact. It doesn’t matter how good the story is, they’ll be going, “What does this got to do with the topic of this post?”

                    I really enjoyed being able to tease out topics with tangents which I can’t do with writing. The opportunity came in a very round about way to start the podcast with Carly and with Brooke when Jackrabbit.FM started out. The other thing was I had no time. I was like, “It’s all well and good to do a podcast but I don’t have time to produce it.” Jackrabbit said, “We’ll take care of the production. All you guys have to do is record.” I was like, “Okay, let’s give it a go.” It’s been amazing. I’ve loved it, loved it so much.

                    I think I’ve chosen pretty good co hosts, Carly and Brooke are both my people so I think that that’s why it’s so enjoyable because it’s kind of we’re creating content but we’re also getting to catch up all the time.

Darren: It’s a good excuse to have a call with someone. Have you considered giving up blogging after you started podcasting? Because I know a lot of bloggers do when they get this bug?

Kelly: I did. I didn’t really consider giving it up but I did send Brooke and email after the first few episodes came out. I said, “I might never blog again.” She was like, “Yes, that always happens.” But I think I kept blogging because for me the big difference between podcast and blog post is the sharing thing. It’s so easy to skim a blog post and decide it’s good enough to share. You can share it right then and there. With podcast, people don’t generally share them even if they’re really good because when they’re listening to it, they’re not in the position to share it.

                    What I see, I see podcast is brilliant for connecting really deeply with people and for people really getting to know you because it’s such an intimate medium but I do think for the purpose of spreading ideas and I guess my big thing that drives me with writing is I want to be known as an interesting thinker and someone who has interesting ideas. Blog post for me, still win the day in that regard.

Darren: It’s interesting. We’ve been, over the last few episodes, talking about some of the different types of content. We’re yet to get to podcasting but I think very similarly that it’s a deep connection with people but it doesn’t tend to go viral in any way as much as written, or visual, or video, all of those things are much easier to share.

                    When you’re considering a topic, this maybe a little different for you because you’ve got co hosts, but how do you decide whether your idea should become a podcast or whether it should become a blog post?

Kelly: Generally speaking for blog post, I generally only write about things that are fully processed and have very fully formed thoughts on. Certainly, that crosses a little bit into the Straight and Curly podcast because we’re generally speaking only formed ideas there too. They’re much more like tip type things or research thing around a specific topic.

                    Even though my blog is in theory about self improvement, Straight and Curly is kind of like next level all self improvement, all about make yourself better whereas my blog writing is more about gentler, a gentler approach to living your best life. That’s how we distinguish a content between and Straight and Curly.

                    Those topics are probably closer to my standard blog topics but what I find Brooke and I tends to in the podcast is we tend to discuss ideas and topics where our ideas aren’t yet fully formed. I quite enjoy those discussions because they might eventually then lead to a blog post because in having the discussion on the podcast, then I’m able to more fully form ideas and then write about them.

                    I will say that Brooke and I are talking about something we’ve not fully processed or were fully across. It’s quite interesting for the listeners because they’re discovering things in real time with us. That’s another level of intimacy of there as well. It’s quite fun for the listener.

Darren: Interesting. I feel like there’s so much more we could delve into podcasting but I’m going to keep that for another day. The last thing I want to talk about. I kind of hinted it at the top of the podcast as I was trying to work out where to go with this. I realized that you are doing so much stuff. You’ve got a blog, you’re writing for that, you’re creating two podcast episodes a week, you’re writing a book a year, you’ve been actively editing Flying Solo, you’re in social media, you’re a designer, you’re involved with your Swish Design business, you’ve got a family, two kids and a husband, you watch football, read books, and go on runs.

                    A few question, Kelly. This might turn into a therapy session. How in the world do you do it all? Is that routines and systems, or you’re outsourcing, or you’re just not sleeping, is there some magical tool we don’t know about? Tell us the secret.

Kelly: I wish it was magic. I wish I had some magical tool to offer. I guess a few things. One biggest thing that I do that most people probably don’t want to is I get up early. I won’t say how early because I don’t want to freak everybody out. But the hours before 7:00 AM in my house, everybody in my family knows that that is for me to write an exercise. Those hours are untouchable to everyone else.

                    If I get up at 6:00AM, I’ve got an hour. If I get up at 5:00AM, I’ve got two hours. If I get up at 4:15AM which is when I get up, I’ve got a bit more. Those hours are so precious to me. They’re the real reason I get to do as much as I do because my kids are good sleepers and they know that time in the morning is untouchable. I guess that’s one quick tip for parents in particular is that you’re family will be far more respectful of the things that you do every single day than the things you do every so often.

                    My kids, they know, if they get up before 7:00AM, they go in the living room and they watch TV. I’m not available to them at 7:00AM. That’s everyday. If it was something I was doing every so often, they would feel much more empowered to interrupt me and I would feel less able to go, “No, you know this is my time.” But because I do it everyday, like I said, untouchable.

                    In order to get up early, I go to bed early which means avoiding addictive Netflix shows or being really disciplined about only watching one episode. We were watching Suits. It really ruined my productivity because sometimes we were watching three shows a night. I was like, “Okay, one a night. That is it.” Then we went to bed. The morning hours that I’ve spoken about, I do not use them to stuff around. I use them to write and to exercise.

                    With the podcast, we record those in batches of two to three episodes at a time. We’ve actually just moved both podcast to seven or eight episode seasons with a three week break between each season because we were finding the publication schedule was quite full on in the scheme of what we all had going on in our lives. As I mentioned before Jackrabbit takes care of everything other than the recording so if I had to do anything about that, I wouldn’t be able to do it. The only reason I’m able to do the podcast is because I take care of all the production and everything.

                    I think key piece of the productivity equation that a lot of people miss out on, that I don’t, is that I really, really prioritize the things that are going to give me good energy levels for everyday. I prioritize good sleep. I won’t sacrifice sleep. I know that’s the first thing most people sacrifice when things get really busy but I don’t sacrifice sleep. I exercise everyday and I eat really well because those three things ensure that I’ve got the energy levels to be productive in the time that I allocate to be productive.

                    Routines, of course, every single thing I can build a routine around, I do. The reason routines help you produce quality content is because it free up head space. Between 7:00AM and 7:30AM, I’m doing stuff in our kitchen. I’m making lunches. I’m making people breakfast and doing things that I’ve got on auto pilot. I’m not having to think about what I’m doing because I do it in the same order every single morning. Even though that can, in theory, be quite a busy time of the day, it’s mental down time for me. I can and muse while I’m doing those things. That’s what routines do for people. People who pushed back against routines, they don’t restrict you, they are freedom. I could go on about that forever.

Darren: We could both talk about that for awhile.

Kelly: And then, I think I do often find myself on the edge of burnout because I have I have taken on too much. When I do, what I do is I just recalibrate. Say, right at this moment in time, I am in a recalibration mode. I actually finish up at Flying Solo at the end of May. I’ve pulled right back on the amount of guest posting I’m doing because I was guest posting two or three times a month. Those were taking me 10 to 15 hours to write.

                    As I mentioned, we’ve moved our podcast to seasons and the reasons I’ve done all of that is because as I mentioned to you before, I want to want to get to the writing of this fourth book. I didn’t want to write that book in a compressed period of time again like I did with the others. I’ve gone, “Right, this is really important to me to get to this fourth book. I need to step back from some of these other commitments that I’ve had and free up that time.”

                    I think people get afraid to recalibrate because it feels like they’re not managing their time properly. I just say, “No, it’s being sensible and it’s being smart to acknowledge that you actually can’t do everything that you want to. You gave it a go. You did it but now, it’s time to step back.” It doesn’t mean that you’re never going to do those things again. It just means you’re not doing them right at this moment.

                    I do think the biggest secret to consistent and prolific content creation is to set a standard and then hold yourself to that standard. Be realistic but set yourself that standard. What it is, is building the habit creates the discipline. Most people think they have to have discipline in order to do these things that were doing and do them well whereas it’s the opposite. The habit’s built out the discipline and then the discipline keeps you going because you get to see all these things you’re producing and it creates success momentum.

                    Build the habits, the discipline will come. Set yourself a standard and you will meet it because that’s what you do.

Darren: That’s great. Very tweetable. I think they’d actually share this podcast because no one needs, no one does. They all listen. There was the tweetable building, the habit building, the discipline. The other one from today that I wrote down is let yourself write crappy words.

Kelly: That’s my favourite one.

Darren: You’ve got to tweet each of those. If you’re listening, if you still made it to this part in the podcast, there’s two little task for you to do. Thank so much, Kelly. There’s so much ground that we’ve covered there. I really got a lot of value out of that, myself. Where can people find you or what many places can they find you?

Kelly: Best place is definitely is kellyexeter.com.au. If you’re looking the best place to start, go to kellyexeter.com.au/simple because that kind of gives you a little bit of roadmap for where to get started on my site, freebies, and stuff like that as well.

Darren: Excellent. Thank you so much and we will link to that and I think you mentioned another resource on Flying Solo. We’ll link to those in the show notes today. We look forward to hearing seeing all those years of the podcast.

Kelly: Thanks, Darren.

Darren: Thank you so much.

                    Thanks for listening to that interview with Kelly Exeter. I hope you got a lot of value out of it as well. I certainly am feeling very motivated having just listened to it again. You can check out Kelly’s blog and podcast at kellyexeter.com.au, link to that in the show notes today. I’ll also link in the show notes to some of the articles that Kelly has written on ProBlogger about blog design and about writing content. The show notes are at problogger.com/podcast/193.

Also, remember that Kelly is speaking at our Australian events this year both in Brisbane and Melbourne in late July, early August. She’s talking about content creations. She’s going to dig really much deeper into some of the things that she’s been talking about particularly it pertains to monetizing your blog. She always delivers a lot of very practical and actionable information. Her sessions always get very highly rated that’s why have invited her back this year. You can find out more about those Australian events at problogger.com/events.

Lastly, if you did enjoy this episode, you might want to check out episode 119 in which Kelly took over the podcast for the day. She talks about choosing the right WordPress theme for your blog. A little bit of a different theme to today’s podcast but it is Kelly and it will show you a little bit of a different side to her as well.

Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to join the Facebook group. Do a search on Facebook for ProBlogger Community and you’ll find it all. Head over to problogger.com/groups. Thanks for listening today. I’ll be back next week with a shorter episode in episode 194 but still some actionable advice for you. Thanks for listening. Chat with you soon. 

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