How to Craft an Outstanding Guest Post

How to craft an outstanding guest post

Last week, I explained why guest posting is so valuable (and not just for link juice). Then, one of our regular contributors, Ali Luke, wrote about how to find opportunities and pitch your post.

Today I want to dig further into coming up with an idea and writing your post itself.

As a guest poster, you want to provide a great post that readers love … but also one that helps you achieve your own goals. There’s nothing greedy about this: reaching your goals may well help readers reach theirs too (e.g. if you want them to subscribe to your newsletter so you can provide them with great weekly tips).

Before You Write Your Post,

Think About:

What value will you provide?

How will your post change readers’ lives? (This might be a small change rather than a huge one, but there should be some important benefit.) Will readers understand something new, feel reassured, get inspired..?

What outcome are you hoping for?

New readers, new subscribers, new customers? Or is your main goal to build your brand by getting your name out there? By getting clear about your goal up-front, you can design your post to ‘funnel’ readers to different things – e.g. if you want to get new subscribers, you might mention your newsletter during the post then link to it in the bio.

Once you’re clear about what you want to achieve, you’ll want to write the best post possible … not just to get it accepted, but to make a great impression on readers.

Here’s how to do that:

#1: Always Research the Blog Before You Begin

Even if you’ve been reading your target blog for months, you may not be sure what the audience is like … so don’t skip this step.

You want to figure out:

  • Who the readers are: their typical age, where they live, whether they’re highly educated or not (demographics)
  • Why readers read the blog
  • What their problems, fears, questions, dreams and goals are (psychographics)

Look at some of the blog’s previous posts on Buzzsumo: which ones have done well? What types of posts get shared and commented on a lot? (You can learn more about Buzzsumo in the second point of Chris Crawford’s post here: Four Blogging Tools to Make Your Content Go Further.)

See if you can replicate these formulas without just doing the same thing: find a topic that hasn’t been covered, but use a style that’s worked well in the past. For instance, if big list posts tend to do well on that blog, come up with an idea that would suit that format.

#2: Make a ‘Heart’ Connection

Show readers that you see them – that you know what they feel. The comments on a blog, or in a blog’s Facebook group, can often give you a good idea of this. For instance, readers might be:

  • Stuck about where / how to begin
  • Discouraged by slow progress
  • Overwhelmed by lots of (perhaps conflicting) advice

Writing with empathy is so important. You could give a post full of good, solid information, but if you don’t make any emotional connection, readers will simply use it and move on.

Jon Morrow’s post, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, is a good example. While Jon talks about his own story in How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World, his focus is on the reader.

Take a look at that post again, and see how he uses the introduction to talk about what bloggers want (using ‘we’ to position himself alongside the reader) and to hone in on what many bloggers worry about: are their dreams unrealistic?

#3: Solve a Small Problem or Deliver a Quick Win

Not all guest posts need to be as epic as Jon’s, and you don’t have to fix every problem that readers have. If you can help them them solve one small problem, they’ll look to you for help with bigger ones.

Here are some recent guest posts on ProBlogger that did a great job of solving specific problems for the readers:

Try to focus your post around providing a solution or answer that readers have been looking for.

#4: Craft Your Content Carefully

I’m sure that you always try to produce well-written posts on your own blog … but it’s worth going that bit further for a guest post.

That might mean:

  • Spending a little longer planning before you begin, so you can make sure your post is solidly put together and reads logically.
  • Writing a really engaging introduction that hooks the reader and draws them into your post. (It doesn’t necessarily need to be long.)
  • Making sure readers can easily navigate through the middle of your post, using subheadings and linking sentences.
  • Crafting a great title that “sells” your post – remember, this will go in your pitch, and it’s the first indication the host blogger gets of your ability to write a good post!

This can be a good place to involve a friend: once you’ve written your post, ask a fellow blogger to look over it and give you feedback. They may well be able to point out paragraphs that might be better rearranged, or sentences that aren’t quite clear.

#5: Use Links in Your Post and Bio Wisely

Almost every blog that takes guest posts will give authors a “bio” – you get to write this yourself and your can normally put anything you want in it (though do check if the blog has any restrictions in their guidelines).

A lot of guest posters simply link to their front page from their bio, but it’s much more effective to link to a page that will convert in some way. You might create a special landing page that points new readers to your best posts … or an opt-in incentive to encourage readers to sign up for your newsletter.

During the post itself, you may want to put in a link or two to your own blog (if that’s allowed by your host blog), but don’t only link to your own content. Aim to:

  • Link to other posts on the blog you’re guesting for. This is helpful for the host blogger and shows that you’re very familiar with their blog.
  • Mention and link to other bloggers in your niche. This shows readers (and the host) that you’re well read … and it’s a brilliant way to start or develop a relationship with the bloggers you’re linking to. They may well link to your guest post from their blog or newsletter, too.

#6: Don’t Forget the Details

Make sure your post is as polished as possible before you submit it: edit it carefully, and proofread to make sure you haven’t made any typos.

Yes, the host blogger will likely edit your post too … but you shouldn’t rely on them to do so. If your post gets lots of attention, you don’t want there to be any glaring mistakes in it! (Plus, look at it from the host’s perspective: would you want to take on a guest post that takes you an hour to edit?)

Make sure you’ve formatted your post correctly – check the guidelines to find out how. Common requests are:

  • A Word document attachment
  • A Google Document
  • HTML code (you can create this by pasting your post into your own blog’s software and copying from the “Text” or “HTML” tab … be careful not to accidentally publish it!)

Think about visuals, too. Some blogs will do this themselves, especially if they have a particular “branded” look to their images, but many bloggers will appreciate suggestions or even images you’ve created yourself.

Earlier this year, Pamela Wilson wrote a five-part series of guest posts here on ProBlogger that was beautifully crafted, complete with graphics: A System for Easily Publishing Consistently Great Content.

I know there’s a lot to take in here. You might want to work through this list one point at a time, as you develop your ideas for a guest post and start to write it.

Don’t aim for perfection, but do aim to make your guest post an example of your best work: after all, if it goes well, there’ll be a lot of eyes on it.

Guest Posting Series

Next week, we’ll be looking at how to follow up once your post has been published.

So far in this series:

7 Powerful Non-SEO Reasons to Try Guest Posting

Find and Pitch the Perfect Guest Posting Opportunities

 

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201: The Secret to Building a Blog with Big Traffic and Profit

How to Build Traffic and Profit into Your Blog

Secret to Building a Blog with Big Traffic and Profit

On today’s episode I want to talk about a key to creating a blog with lots of traffic and profit.

 

The topic comes from a conversation I had this morning with a new blogger who was asking me about how to create content that would go viral and as I look back at the growth of my own blogs I think it’s an important lesson to my own business’s growth.

Links and Resources on The Secret to Building a Blog with Big Traffic and Profit




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Hey there, my name is Darren Rowse. I’m the blogger behind problogger.com, a blog, podcast, events, job board, and a series of ebooks, all designed to help you as a blogger to grow a profitable blog. You can learn more about ProBlogger and all we do over at problogger.com.

Today’s episode is episode 201. In it, I want to talk about a key to creating a blog with lots of traffic and profit. It comes from a conversation I had this morning with a new blogger who was asking me about how to create content that will go viral. As I look back on the growth of my own blog, I think it’s a really important lesson for bloggers of all stages, good reminders on how to grow a business around your blog and traffic to your blog.

You can find today’s show notes with some further listening at the end at problogger.com/podcast/201. Also, join our Facebook group at problogger.com/group. Just wanted to let you know, a bit of a reminder of our events that we’ve got coming up. If you are in Australia, we do have a limited number of tickets left for our events that are happening at the end of July and the start of August in Melbourne and Brisbane. You can get more information on those events at problogger.com/events.

If you’re in America and can get to Dallas, Texas, in October, we’ve got a great event coming up there. You can find out more information on that event at problogger.com/success. All of those events, Pat Flynn will be joining me and we’ve got a raft of other amazing speakers happening at all of those events as well. I’ll link to each of those pages in our show notes as well.

Let’s get into talking about traffic and profit and how to build those things into your blog. This morning, I had a conversation with a new blogger who asked me a question that I do get from time to time. They ask me, “How do you get viral traffic with a blog post?” It’s not the first time I’ve been asked it. I suspect it’s not going to be the last time that I’ll be asked it. Every time I am asked this question, I find myself wondering whether I should give the answer that the blogger wants to hear or whether I should give them the one that they need to hear.

In this case, I told them the one they needed to hear. But the answer that they really want with that question is for me to reveal some secret to writing highly shareable content. Now, of course there are many techniques that you can use to increase the shareability of your content. I’m going to suggest some further listening on that topic at the end of this podcast. There’s nothing at all wrong with writing shareable content and hoping for it to get viral. I actually think you should write some of that type of content but it’s not the answer to building a sustainable full time blog with big traffic.

In fact, when you become obsessed with writing just that type of content, it can hurt your blog. The answer that the blogger I talked to today needed to hear is that in most cases, the reason a blog grows into a sustainable business is that they don’t have viral content. It’s actually not the viral content that helps them to grow that. The key to building a blog with big traffic and big profits is to build it one step at a time. I’m sure there are a few examples around the bloggers who have hit it out of the park with a single blog post, who’ve had overnight success with one piece of content that goes viral. In fact, I’ve heard a few of those stories but it’s certainly not my experience.

Whilst I’ve met thousands of full time bloggers over the last 15 years, I’m yet to meet one who got there with a single viral blog post. Full time bloggers rarely have that kind of overnight success. The fastest I’ve heard about is around for months of working on a blog before someone got to a full time level. I’m sure there are faster examples out there but even that four month example is an exception to the rule. In most cases, blogs with big traffic, significant traffic, it takes years of work to get to that level of blogging one step at a time.

I know some of you who are listening to this podcast are feeling a little bit disappointed right now. We do love to hear those stories of overnight success. We love hearing about things going viral. Those are fun stories. I understand your disappointment. For those of you who’ve had those moments of going viral, you actually know that they are fun experiences as well. I know this because I remember one of the first times it happened to me.

In the early days of Digital Photography School, I was kind of obsessed with writing viral content. I remember one post going viral. In fact, it was probably one of the first posts that went viral for me. It was January 2007. I just looked up the Google analytics stats a few minutes ago and I hit the jackpot with a post. At that time, my blog was seven months old. I was averaging around 4,000 visitors a day, which wasn’t too bad. I’d actually managed to grow my blog relatively quickly to 4,000 visitors a day. That growth was based upon the fact that I’d had a previous photography blog. I was able to bring some readers across from that, I was ranking relatively well in search engines already, and I was bringing in that kind of traffic from search.

But things have begun to plateau at around this 4,000 visitors a day mark. I published a lot of evergreen cornerstone content, which had helped to get to that point, but I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted more traffic and so I began to look around at what other sites were doing. I particularly was drawn to social bookmarking sites. At the time, they were huge sites. Today, we see sites like Reddit. Back then, it was site like Digg. They were the big sites that you could get lots of traffic from.

I began to analyze the type of content that was being shared a lot on these sites. I realized there were certain formulas to it. There were certain headlines that did pretty well. There were certain topics that if you write about those, they seem to get shared more. I began to try writing some of that type of content. It was quite different to the kind of content I’d already been publishing on my blog. It was fluffy content. It wasn’t overly deep. It wasn’t really that helpful. They were listicles. They were top 10 lists. They were posts that were more about controversy than helping people. They had clickbait-y kind of titles and yet I began to write that type of content.

One day, it worked. I remember on this day, early January 2007, I published a post and I woke up one morning and I realized that it had been linked to by a larger blog. A blog called Lifehacker. I’d pitched them the previous day of my post. I’d say, “Here’s my post. You might find this interesting. Your readers might find it interesting.” And they’d taken the bait. They linked to my post. That link doubled our traffic that particular day. That was fantastic. In some way, I didn’t just have 4,000 visitors. I had 8,000 that day. This was just the beginning.

The next day, the post was picked up and linked to on a site called Digg, which was one of the forerunners to Reddit. Things went crazy. Overnight, we went from having 4,000 visitors a day, the next day I had over 100,000 visitors. I remember that day vividly. I sat there at my computer refreshing my site stats over, and over, and over again. I did very little else that particular day. I remember watching the numbers grow 4,000, 8,000, 16,000, 20,000, and continued to grow and grow. It was amazing rush. I felt like I finally hit it big. I’ve had this success. I finally was going to have a full time income from this particular blog, but it didn’t last.

The next day, I woke up expecting to continue to have massive traffic to my blog, but it was all gone. The next day, we had 4,100 visitors. I was so disappointed. The rush of traffic was amazing. It was an amazing feeling. It really was. I understand why people want viral content. Believe me. But virtually, none of it ever came back despite my best efforts, despite me trying to get that traffic to go and visit another post, and to sign up for my RSS feed, and to follow me on Twitter, and all these other things that could have happened to help me make it come back. It didn’t work.

For the next month, my traffic was flat, 4,000 visitors a day. Sometimes, it went slightly high. Sometimes, it went slightly lower. I got really down about it. I wanted that rush of traffic again. I started to write more posts like the first one, trying to recreate it, but none of them took off. I pitched almost every post I wrote to Lifehacker, hoping that it would trigger another rush of traffic, but they didn’t link up again. I tried to game Digg and get my post up to vote it up on Digg but that didn’t work either. I became obsessed with trying to go viral again.

For months, that became my number one goal. I wanted to repeat that “success.” For me, it felt like it was success but the reality was that it didn’t help my blog at all. The result was that for the next few months, I continued to create fluffy content. It was designed to trigger shares but not really to serve my readers.

Now, it did happen again. I did have a few more of those viral days over the coming months, where my traffic would be huge, where I would get to the front page of Digg or another site like, there was one called Delicious back then. It was social bookmarking sites or another big blog would link up. I’d feel on top of the world. I had a successful blog for a day only to find the next day, my traffic was 4,000 visitors a day. I actually looked at my stats the other day and it was flat for month after month after month. There used to have the big spikes and then nothing, 4,000 visitors a day.

This continued on for a long time until I had a realization that 4,000 visitors a day wasn’t just a number. It wasn’t just a number. 4,000, it was 4,000 people a day, 4,000 human beings have landed on my site each day and that wasn’t something to be depressed about. That was actually something to celebrate. But the realization that I also had was that when they were landing on my site, they were actually finding fluffy content. They were finding formulaic headlines, they were finding content that was designed to be shared but not designed to solve their problems. I wasn’t serving them at all.

This was a massive mind shift for me. I realized that the traffic that I already had, that I thought wasn’t enough, was actually pretty amazing. The fact that 4,000 people, human beings have given me attention each day was pretty amazing. Whilst I’ve been hoping for these 100,000 visitors a day spikes in traffic, the reality was that even with a big spark in traffic every couple of months, that it was the 4,000 visitors a day type traffic that was actually outnumbering my viral traffic.

4,000 visitors a day is 120,000 visitors over a month. I already had the equivalent of a viral traffic each month and yet I was focused on something that just really wasn’t paying off at all. I began to wonder if instead of focusing upon trying to hit the ball out of the park with one post a month, whether I’d have more success in trying to serve those readers I already had. If I spent more time trying to get that number from 4,000 visitors a day to 4,001, to try and grow them one at a time rather than 100,000 at a time, because when I was getting those 100,00 visitors, it really wasn’t converting to anything that took me closer to my goal of becoming a full time blogger.

That’s what I started to do. I started to try and take little steps towards that bigger goal rather than trying to get to the big goal all at once. Some of the things I started to do around that time; I started to survey my readers. I started to ask them, “What are your questions? What are your problems? Who are you?” I didn’t even know who they were really at this point. I began to gather that information. With that information, I suddenly started to have a wealth of content ideas. I started to see what their problems were and I started to understand what they need. I started to understand what motivated them, what turned them on and off. I began to suddenly get a lot of ideas for content.

I also found that because I was spending less time on sites like Digg and trying to get links from other sites, because I was sitting on my Google Analytics less each day refreshing it wondering if I was going viral, I suddenly had more time to write content. I had more ideas for content and I had more time to write it. I increased the amount of content I was producing on the site. I went from 4 posts a week to 5 posts a week, to 7 posts a week, and then later on, to 10 posts a week. I began to just focus less upon the stats and more upon serving my readers.

I also had more time in my hands to interact with my readers. I began to respond to comments more. We ended up starting a forum and trying to build some community there. It was also around this time I began to work more on not just trying to get traffic but trying to convert the traffic that was coming into becoming subscribers. It was around this time I began to really focus more upon trying to build my email list and signed up for AWeber and began to grow that particular list. I began to create content via email that would engage those readers and bring them back to the site again and again.

I still did try to write the occasional piece of shareable content. I actually did one probably every couple of weeks but the ratio of the kind of content that was shareable and the kind of content that was more evergreen serving my readers, it changed considerably. I went from trying to hit the ball out of the park with viral content from every post with every post to 1 in 10, 1 in 14 posts. What I found is that those shareable pieces of content actually started to get shared more by my readers because I’d been serving them better. Because I’ve been paying attention to them, they began to share that content more. It naturally actually began to happen more often. I would begin to get more viral spikes in traffic.

Now, again, those viral spikes didn’t lead to a lot of ongoing growth to my blog but it did begin to happen more and more. That was actually helpful with social proof. The impact was that a month later, after I made this mind shift, I remember actually, the date that I did it because I wrote it in the journal. I looked it up yesterday and I went and had a look from a month after making that decision, my traffic was at 4,500 visitors a day. It had actually began to go up. It was going up sort of 10%, 20% per month. Three months later, I was already on 6,000 visitors a day. A year later, my traffic was at 9,000 visitors a day.

We did continue to have a few viral days of traffic but my efforts were not about making viral traffic happen. It was more about trying to serve my community. Those viral things were sort of like the cream on top. The real focus became trying to grow our traffic from day to day, the longer term visitors. I realized that a reader who came back everyday for the next year, was 365 times more valuable than a reader who surfed in one day and never came back again.

These days, the site has grown a lot. These days, 100,000 visitors in a day is a normal day for us. But that only happened because I changed the mentality. I stopped chasing viral traffic and started doing the things that would grow loyal readers.

Here’s my point for today. Do you have dreams of big traffic and profits for your blog? I hope you do. That’s fantastic. Dream big but don’t allow your big dreams to distract you from the truth that the way those big dreams are usually achieved is one step at a time. Dream big but the reality is that you’re most likely to get to those dreams coming true if you begin to take single steps at a time.

What are the steps that you need to take? That’s my question for you today. I’ve got some suggesting points but it’s going to be different for each one of us. Maybe your next step is starting that blog that you’ve been thinking of starting. I know a lot of readers or listeners for this podcast haven’t started a blog yet. You’ve been thinking about doing it. Maybe today is the day. Start that blog. I’ll link in our show notes to our guide to starting a blog.

Maybe your next step is writing a blog post. Maybe it’s a post you’ve been procrastinating on. You’ve heard me talk about my procrastination issues. Maybe you’ve been procrastinating on something. Or maybe you didn’t need to write any blog post. Maybe your blog has been a bit dormant. That might be your next step. Maybe your next step is to just get into your blog and look at the last comment and reply to it. Maybe your next step is to come up with some sort of system to share your content on social media.

You might want to look at tools like Edgar. They enable you to set up systems to be able to share things. Maybe your next step is to set up an email list. Maybe your next step is to send an email to your email list. Maybe your next step is to do a survey of your readers to understand their needs better. Maybe your next step is to meet one of your readers. Maybe you need to arrange a Skype call with one of your most prolific commenter, someone who leaves a comment on your blog just to understand who they are.

Maybe your next step is to reach out to another blog in your niche, to begin to get to know them, to network with them. Maybe it’s to join a Facebook group in your niche and to begin to participate there, begin to be useful there. Maybe it’s to start your own Facebook group. Maybe it’s to do your first Facebook Live. Maybe it’s to get onto Twitter and to look for questions that people are asking in your niche and to answer those questions. Maybe your next step is to reply to an email from one of your readers or to write a guest post for another blog.

I don’t know what your next step is. Maybe it’s one of those things or maybe it’s something else. But what I do know is it’s the accumulation of those small steps that’s going to build your blog the most. It’s the slow one by one addition of a new piece of content everyday or a new addition of a reader everyday, the serving of those readers everyday. It’s the accumulation of those things that you’re going to have the biggest impact on your blog over the long term.

By no means am I saying you shouldn’t try and hit the ball out of the park occasionally. Big hits can be great. They can give you a rush of motivation. They can actually bring in some new readers but you’re going to find out that if you obsess about hitting it out of the park every time that you’re going to strike out a lot. You need to also build those little small things into your days.

What’s one thing you can do today that’s going to take you a step closer to your big dreams? I’d love to hear what your next step is going to be, what that next thing is going to be. You can head over to our Facebook group and let us know what your step is going to be today. Tell us your story of those viral days. I’d love to hear if they did convert for you. But what are those small things that you’ve done over time that have lead to a longer term ongoing growth as well. Share those things over on the Facebook group. If you head over to problogger.com/group, you’ll be forwarded into that group.

If you’re wondering what you should listen to next. I’ve got a few suggestions for you. I did mention at the top of the show that there are some things that you can do to write more of that shareable content. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you do it in moderation. Episode 113 is one where I suggest 4 different techniques for getting more eyeballs to your blog. One of the techniques I do talk about there is writing shareable content, so that might be of interest to you.

Episodes 1 through to 31, old time listeners would know what that was. That was 31 days to build a better blog. It’s where I turned my ebook, 31 Days to build a better blog into a series of podcast that give you 31 activities that you can do to help you grow your blog. If you’re looking for one of those small things you can do and you’re not sure what to do, go back and listen to some of those episodes, episodes 1 through to 31. They’re still all in iTunes. All in the show notes as well.

The other thing that you might want to do is listen to episode 66. Episode 66 is one where I started a little series of 10 things you can do today that will pay off on your blog forever. Actually, over the 10 episodes that follow that go through 10 different things that often we procrastinate on, often are the things that we put off doing, and the 10 things that we should prioritize I guess, and 10 things that I’ve done that have really led to a lot of ongoing growth on my blog. I actually think those 10 things are well worth looking at almost every year, just to do some assessment on.

That’s episode 113 for some shareable content tips, episode 1 through to 31 for the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog tips, and episode 66 if you want to begin that journey of looking at those 10 things that will have a long term impact upon your blog.

Lastly, you can check out today’s show notes at problogger.com/podcast/201. Thanks for listening, chat next week.

How did you go with today’s episode?

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Find and Pitch the Perfect Guest Posting Opportunities

Find and Pitch the Perfect Guest Posting Opportunities

Today ProBlogger Subject Matter Expert Ali Luke is guest posting about guest posting.

So, you’ve realised that guest posting has loads of benefits for you and your blog, but you’re not quite sure how to go about it.

Maybe you’re worried that you don’t have enough experience.

Perhaps you haven’t even got an active blog of your own right now.

That’s absolutely fine. Most host blogs just want someone who can write reasonably well.

(It’s also OK to guest post even if you don’t have your own blog: some authors do this to promote their books, for instance, and freelancers do it to promote their services.)

If you’re worried about whether your writing’s good enough, ask a blogger friend to help you edit your guest post: a second pair of eyes can be invaluable here.

Choosing a Blog to Target

Where should you post? It makes sense to aim for a well-known blog with a big audience, though if this is your very first guest post, you may not want to go straight for the top. (Some bloggers do, though – so if you’re feeling confident, try it!)

Great blogs to guest post for are:

#1: Blogs that you already read regularly. This is definitely the best place to begin: after all, you already know these blogs well, and you may have left comments or shared posts, meaning there’s a chance the host blogger is already familiar with you.

#2: Blogs that are new to you, but well-established in your niche. I’ve been blogging for 9 years and I still keep coming across great blogs I never knew about! Check out the blogs that big-name bloggers in your niche link to (either in posts, in their sidebar, or on social media).

I don’t recommend Googling “list of blogs to guest post for” and choosing a list with hundreds of blogs on it. Guest posting isn’t a numbers game: it’s much better to write one or two great posts for one or two great blogs.

How to Know if a Blog Takes Guest Posts

The first thing to look for is a page on the blog titled something like this:

  • Guest post guidelines
  • Submission guidelines
  • Write for us
  • Submit a post

(Check the navigation menu, the sidebar, the About page, and the Contact page for these. Or you can type into Google: guest post guidelines site:[URL of the blog] to find any page/post on that blog that mentions “guest post guidelines”.)

If there aren’t any guidelines visible, look to see who’s writing for the blog. Are there any recent guest posts? Anything written by someone who isn’t the blog owner / editor might be a guest post … though if the same names keep coming up again and again, they’re probably freelance writers.

Once you’ve found a blog to target, it’s time to come up with your idea.

Coming Up with an Idea

If you generally find it difficult to come up with ideas for blog posts, you might want to check out the six months of blogging prompts (free).

When you’re pitching a guest post, your idea should be:

  • In the right niche. I know this sounds obvious, but there’s no point in sending a post about credit cards to a blog about parenting toddlers!
  • A good fit for the audience. Copyblogger and Helping Writers Become Authors are both excellent blogs with an interest in good writing … but Copyblogger is about copywriting and Helping Writers Become Authors is about fiction.
  • Not too similar to other recent posts on the blog. You might want to find a category on the blog that hasn’t had many posts recently, and come up with an idea to fit that category.
  • Appropropriate for the tone of the blog. Most blogs, for instance, won’t be keen to publish an angry, ranty, sweary post. (Of course, on some other blogs, that would work perfectly.)

I’d suggest coming up with two or three ideas for the blog: personally, I like to offer one main idea and a couple of alternatives.

Note: We’ll be going into more detail about guest post ideas next week and providing extra guidance on how to shape these not only to the blog itself but also to your own objectives.

Developing Your Idea into an Outline

Before you pitch, your main idea should be fleshed out with a brief outline or idea of what you’re going to cover. A list (with or without bullet points) is fine here. For instance, for this post, that list might look like:

Title: Finding Great Guest Posting Opportunities and Pitching the Perfect Post

This would cover:

  • Where to find blogs to post for (and what NOT to do)
  • How to come up with ideas that are a good fit for your target blog
  • A sample email for pitching your ideas
  • The importance of following guidelines

A quick list like this makes sure that the host blogger’s expectations line up with what you plan to deliver.

Occasionally, you may find that a host blogger likes your idea but wants you to cover different or additional points – it’s always easiest to get this clear up front, rather than to write a whole post only to end up making substantial changes.

Should You Write the Whole Post Before Pitching?

Some blogs like to have the pitch alone (title plus outline); others prefer to see a finished post. Check their guidelines to see what they specify.

There’s nothing stopping you, of course, from writing the whole post before you pitch (and just keeping it to yourself): if you’re feeling a bit anxious about doing justice to your pitch, this can help! You may, though, have to make changes based on the blog owner’s response to your pitch.

Writing a Pitch Email to the Blog’s Editor

This is where many would-be guest post writers get stuck! It can be really daunting to sit down and email a big-name blogger who you’d love to write for … what if you screw it up?

If it’s any comfort, that big-name blogger probably gets dozens of terrible pitches from SEO companies every single week.

To stand out from the crowd, just:

  • Present an on-target idea (you should have that already!)
  • Be clear and concise (don’t give detailed paragraphs about your backstory)
  • Use correct spelling and grammar (ask a friend to proofread for you)

You don’t need to have any special credentials … you just need to show that you can write decent English and that you won’t be horrible to work with.

In case you think I’m setting the bar too low here, this is a real email I received a couple of weeks ago, for my blog Aliventures (my tagline there is “master the art, craft and business of writing”):

Hey,

I am content writer specialized in Health & fitness niche, and I chanced upon aliventures.com. I must appreciate that the content of your website is par excellence and exceptionally useful.

I’ve been a blogger for about 10 years, with special interests in Health & fitness, Ayurvedic counselor, and Sexologist. Today I am a recognized expert in the subject, and over the years, have consistently contributed articles and blogs to top sexologist related sites.

I am looking forward to attaching myself as a guest blogger to your site by contributing an article to aliventures.com. I assure that the article will be highly informative and educative to your audience. While I am not looking at any monetary benefits, instead we could consider the possibility mentioning my site/resource just once within the article.

Do let me know if this sounds good and works for you.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Regards,

[name removed]

Content Writer & Editor

I’m sure you spotted some of the glaring problems with this pitch:

  • It’s clearly been sent to lots of different blogs. You can tell because it doesn’t address me by name and it has my URL instead of my blog’s name in the first paragraph (which means the writer likely has a long long list of blog URLs that they’re contacting).
  • The topics are completely irrelevant to my blog on writing. I have never posted anything on Aliventures about health and fitness (or sex)!
  • The writer doesn’t pitch an actual topic at all, but they assure me the article will be “highly informative and educative”. I’m not convinced.
  • It’s pretty clear their aim in guest posting is purely to get a link.

Trust me, you can do a million times better than this.

Sample Email to Use When Pitching a Guest Post

Here’s an email you can use for your pitches: just fill in the [bits in square brackets].

Subject: Guest post submission: [title of post]

Dear [blog owner],

Would you be interested in a guest post titled [title of post]? It would cover:

  • [Key point 1]
  • [Key point 2]
  • [Key point 3]

If that’s not a good fit, would either of these suit you?

  • [title of alternative post]
  • [title of alternative post 2]

I blog at [name of your blog] and I’ve also written for [any other blogs you’ve guest posted on, if applicable].

Many thanks for your time,

[your name]

If there are specific guidelines about how to submit, make sure you follow those: for instance, if you’re asked to include links to samples of your work, do that!

Tip: Some blogs have quite detailed guest posting guidelines, and I find it helps to print those out and go through them point by point so I don’t miss anything.

Following Up on Your Guest Post Pitch

If you don’t hear back (and there’s no Out of Office reply or similar), follow up after 2 weeks. Anything sooner looks a bit pushy – remember that big bloggers will get a LOT of requests, and if you press too soon, it’s easier for them to say “no” rather than take the time to review your post.

Don’t leave it forever to follow up, though: it’s embarrassing for a host blogger if they lose your email and only find it again two months later. (I’ve had this happen not only with guest post pitches but also a magazine article submission: trust me, it’s best for you and for the editor if you follow up politely rather than assume that they didn’t want it…!)

Here’s an email you can use when following up:

Sample Follow Up Email

Dear [name],

I just wanted to check if you received my guest post pitch on [date]? I’ve copied that email below just in case it went astray.

No problem if it’s not quite right for you, or if you need some time to think about it.

Thanks very much,

[your name]

(Make sure you do include the original pitch. Don’t expect the blogger to trawl through their inbox for it… and there’s always the possibility it ended up being eaten by a spam filter.)

Guest posting is one of the best ways to boost your blog’s traffic and to build your own profile within the blogging world. Pitching can be a little scary – but once you’ve done it a few times, it does get much easier!

Have you written any guest posts yet? If you’re nervous or if you’ve got questions about finding opportunities, coming up with ideas and pitching your post, just leave a comment below.

Guest Posting Series:

Next week, we’ll be covering writing the guest post itself: making sure you’ve got an idea that’ll work for your host blog and for you, using your bio wisely, including links, and even including visuals.

So far:

7 Powerful Non-SEO Reasons to Try Guest Posting

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7 Powerful Non-SEO Reasons to Try Guest Posting

7 Powerful Non-SEO Reasons to Try Guest Posting

This is the first post in our series on Guest Posting, with a focus on benefits other than just SEO, for a more successful and fulfilling approach to finding readers for your blog.

Guest posting is not all (or even mostly) about SEO.

My first experience of ‘guest posts’ was back in 2005 here on ProBlogger when I decided to take a month off blogging to have a holiday with Vanessa and wanted to keep posting on the blog.

I put up a post calling for people to contribute posts while I was gone – and had a great response.

Here’s my post announcing the guest posters.

This opened my eyes to the potential of hosting guest posters on my blog – but I also got feedback from many of the contributing bloggers that guest posting on ProBlogger was hugely positive for them too.

Among the benefits they saw were:

  • Spikes in traffic to their blog
  • Building their brand
  • Showing their authority

One blogger even told me that it led to them getting a dream job.

Some of these bloggers then started to offer to ‘guest post’ on other blogs and continued to see benefits.

How Guest Posting Developed

Over the next couple of years we saw numerous bloggers leverage the power of guest posting to launch their blogs: Leo Babauta from Zen Habits comes to mind, and also Chris Garrett.

Both of these guys would do bursts of guest posts on numerous blogs over a few weeks – they’d seem to be everywhere – creating high quality content, building their brand, driving traffic to their blogs, and getting their work in front of a wide audience.

It was a win-win-win situation: Leo and Chris benefited, of course, but so did the host blogs (who got great posts for free) … and so did the readers of those blogs (who got access to fresh new voices).

Around 2010, though, things started to change.

Bloggers I’d never heard of would pitch to post on my blogs.

The posts they submitted seemed to be more about inserting links than providing value or showing the author’s expertise.

People had realised that there was another benefit of guest posts: SEO/link building.

A few things happened at this point: an explosion in the amount of people doing guest posts, lower quality posts, and people just wanting a link – not caring about delivering value.

Some people even paid to have their posts/links inserted onto blogs.

This went on for several years. Everyone was doing it, but then in 2014 Google put a stop to that, and Matt Cutts (who was the head of the web spam team) caused a huge stir in the blogging world with this post: The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO.

As a result, many bloggers stopped guest posting and looked for different ways to grow their blogs.

I wonder if people threw out the baby with the bathwater. They’d become so obsessed with link building that they forgot the other many benefits of guest posting.

7 Great Reasons to Guest Post

Why guest post, then, if you’re not using it as a link building strategy?

#1: Get Your Name Known

When you guest post on a major blog in your niche, you instantly boost your authority and credibility: your writing has been featured somewhere impressive.

At the very least, guest posting on several blogs in your niche will get your name recognised. It allows you to get your work in front of a new audience … and it can also impress big-name bloggers. However, to even be considered by other blogs, your writing needs to be of high quality and value to their audiences. Earn the opportunity and earn the authority.

#2: Drive Targeted Traffic to Your Blog

Guest posting will bring in traffic: not just any traffic, but quality, targeted traffic (if you appear on a blog with a similar topic and audience to yours).

This traffic can turn into qualified leads: people who are a good fit for your products or services.

Check with the hosting blog about what you can and can’t include in your bio at the end of the post, in terms of linking to your own site.

#3: Build Your Email List

If you direct guest post readers to a sign-up incentive, you’ll quickly grow your email list … giving you a ready-made base of potential customers to promote your products to.

Some bloggers link to a “landing page” for their newsletter in their bio, and you may even want to customise this so you have different versions for the different blogs you’re guest posting for.

#4: Network with Other Bloggers in Your Niche

While commenting on blogs can be a way to build a relationship with a blogger, the best way to impress someone quickly is to send them a great guest post.

This provides real value for them (content their readers will love … that they didn’t have to write themselves!) and the power of reciprocity means they’ll be more likely to do you a favour in the future.

Bonus points if you take the time to get to know the blogger and their audience, and check if they actually accept guest posts, rather than cold pitching them.

#5: Open Doors to New Opportunities

I mentioned before that one of the first guest posters on ProBlogger landed a dream job as a result. You never know who might read a guest post (or who might be impressed by seeing your name on a major blog).

Guest posts also offer social proof: on your website, you can name the blogs you’ve written for – which could impress a new reader enough to get them to stick around. You may even want to use some of your guest posts as a writing portfolio, especially if you’re looking for freelance work.

#6: Improve Your Writing Skills

When you don’t yet have many readers on your own blog, it can feel like the tumbleweed is blowing past: no-one’s commenting, and certainly no-one’s pushing you to create your best work.

By guest posting, you give yourself more opportunities to write … the more you do so, the better your writing will become. You may also get feedback from the blogger (or blog editor) you’re writing for: this can really help you grow as a writer.

#7: Develop Your Ideas

As you put your ideas in front of different, larger audiences, you’ll get feedback. Some of this may be negative or critical, but in my experience, the vast majority of blog comments are positive.

If you get lots of positive feedback about a particular post, perhaps it contains an idea that you’ll want to develop further (maybe even as an ebook or ecourse). Or maybe you’ll get a comment that offers a different perspective – one you’d not considered before – or a way to deepen your work.

All guest posts will bring some benefit … but you may even find that one particular post is a game-changer for you.

That’s what happened to Jon Morrow when he guest posted for ProBlogger back in 2011. He wrote How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise, and Get Paid to Change the World.

This post did much, much more than just give Jon some link juice (which, of course, wasn’t his reason for writing it anyway).

It moved people and inspired them.

It showed Jon’s ability as a writer.

It sent Jon a lot of traffic.

It won Jon many new fans and deepened his engagement with his existing audience (many of whom weren’t aware at that point of his story).

It also got him 9,000 (yes, 9,000!) subscribers, as Ahmed Safwan explained here.

In case you’ve been skimming: SEO isn’t the only reason to guest post. There are a whole host of benefits to guest posting, whether you’ve just started blogging or whether you’ve been doing it for years.

In a couple of days one of our regular guest contributors, Ali Luke, will share how to find guest blogging opportunities and how to boost your chances of getting your submission accepted. I write a weekly newsletter with a wrap up of the latest ProBlogger content. Sign up so you don’t miss out on the rest of the series.

What has been the best thing you’ve experienced from guest blogging? 

The post 7 Powerful Non-SEO Reasons to Try Guest Posting appeared first on ProBlogger.

      


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200: What I’ve Learned About Podcasting in My First 200 Episodes

Lessons Learned in 200 Episodes of Podcasting

Today’s episode is #200, and while it’s a podcast about blogging, today I want to talk about podcasting and share some of the big lessons I’ve learned about this medium since starting this podcast 2 years ago.

I want to present with you my biggest lessons in podcasting, some tips on launching, recording, producing and promoting a podcast.

I’ll share the tools that I use in putting this show together.

I’ll tell you about our stats and share which episodes did best.

And I’ll also share some of my frustrations and challenges and how I’ve been working to overcome them.

So if you’re a podcaster or are curious about whether it might be a fit for you – this episode is for you.

Links and Resources on What I’ve Learned About Podcasting in My First 200 Episodes

Top 10 ProBlogger Podcast Episodes



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Hi! Hey, it’s Darren Rowse from ProBlogger here. ProBlogger is a blog, podcast, event, job board, and a series of eBooks, all designed to help you as a blogger to grow an amazing blog and to build profit around that blog. You can learn more about ProBlogger over at problogger.com.

Today is our 200th episode; it’s also our 2-year anniversary of blogging, so it’s a big celebration day. I was pondering to myself, “What shall we make number 200 about?” A few people in our Facebook group suggested that I do an episode on what I’ve learned about podcasting. It’s a milestone episode. Surely by now, I’ve learned a few things about podcasting, so I sat down today to list all the big lessons that I’ve learned about podcasting. That’s what I want to share with you today.

I want to share with you my big lesson. I want to share some tips on launching, recording, producing, promoting a podcast, and I also want to share with you the tools that I use to put the show together. That’s changed a little bit over the years. I’m also going to share with you our stats, how many downloads we’ve had, which episodes did best; and I’m going to share with you some of my frustrations and challenges. Some of the challenges that I see other podcast is having as well and one of the things that I’ve been doing to work to overcome some of those things.

If you’re a podcaster, maybe you are new to it, maybe you’re an experienced podcaster and just want to hear someone else talk about it, or maybe you’re someone, who’s thinking about whether podcasting might be a good fit for you, then this episode is one to listen to. You can find today’s show notes, where I’m going to share some links to the tools that we use, as well as a list of those top episodes for you to dig into a little bit more. You can find our show notes at problogger.com/podcast/200 and also join our Facebook group to connect with the other bloggers on the journey as well. We might do a bit of celebrating the 200th episode in the group this week as well. Just do a search for ProBlogger Community on Facebook or head to problogger.com/podcast.

Two hundred (200) episodes – I never thought we would get to this point. I remember thinking after those first 31 episodes or 32 episodes – after that first series that I did which was a daily series. I remember just being exhausted about putting that series together and wondering how long I would last. I never would have imagined 200 would be the number that we get to, and beyond, of course, because I’m not stopping.

Just to give you a little bit of some of those metrics because I know some of you are interested in that sort of things. By the time this episode comes out, there’ll be 2.7 million downloads, so by no means is it up there with podcasts like Serial or This American Life or any of those big ones. But for a niche topic, it’s doing okay, and it’s exceeded the expectations that I had with podcasting.

In terms of our most popular episodes, I will link to them all and list them all on the show notes. The 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series at the start is among our top podcasts. I think episode 1 is probably the most listened to podcast that we have, and that’s pretty typical for a podcast. Most people do experience that their first podcast get listened to a lot, which is a little bit stressful because it wasn’t my best recording, but I guess people do tend to go right back to the start and get curious about how it all began. That first series is certainly some of our most popular episodes.

After that, episode 48 was number 2, outside of that series, and that was one, where I talked about how to make $ 30,000 a year blogging. I guess in terms of the top podcasts, two or three of them were about making money from blogging, which is really the core topic of ProBlogger, and so it’s no surprise there that the core topic is really important.

I guess, as I looked down the list, most of them are fairly called this [00:04:05]. In episode 100 and another milestone was on 10 Things I Wish I Knew About Blogging, episode 67 How to Create a Product to Sell on Your Blog, episode 53 about How to Make Money with Amazon Affiliate Program. They really were quite a few topics about monetizing blogs.

Then the other topics that were quite big were around the beginning of blogs, on whether you should start blogging. Episode 120 Should You Start a Blog At All: 22 Questions to Ask to Identify If Blogging is a Good Fit. Really some of those beginner-y type topics, which is a really good reminder. I think if you are thinking of starting a blog or even as a podcaster, really good to think about the beginner topics. Many times as bloggers, as podcasters, we think we’ve said it all. We think some topics are just too basic – people aren’t interested in those really beginner-y things like Should I Even Have a Blog? But people are, and they’re actually the questions that people are asking, so it’s those really beginner – those first questions people ask – really worth going into those type of topics.

I often tell the story on Digital Photography School about that post I wrote on how to hold a camera. Such basic content, but it’s been viewed hundreds of thousands of times – that particular post. The beginner-y type stuff has done very well for us as well, but you can look at those top episodes over on the blog.

But what I’m more interested in sharing with you today – some of the lessons that I’ve learned along the road over those 200 episodes. Firstly I love podcasting, and the only real regret I have is that I didn’t start earlier. I have shared that regret with you. For a while I procrastinated for years in starting a podcast, and I wish I’d started earlier. Speaking is my first love in communication. It’s what I did before I blogged. Having that background certainly was useful in starting a podcast, but it’s also helped me to improve in my public speaking. It’s given me some renewed passion for that mode of communication as well, so if you’re a speaker or someone who wants to improve your speaking, podcasting is great for that.

I’m not sure that the podcast itself has increased traffic to ProBlogger, and whilst I think I was expecting that it might, it certainly has had traction in terms of those number of downloads, but I guess I’ve realized that there are other benefits far beyond traffic to my site. Actually the biggest benefit has been that it’s built a relationship with my audience. The feedback that I get from people who listen to this podcast, it’s like nothing else I’ve ever had, when I’ve met readers of the blog. When I meet readers of the blog, they can be very familiar. They can be very grateful. They can be very friendly, but people, who listen to the podcast – you can tell when you meet them almost, because they talk to you in a way that is much more friendly, more like they know who you are, and more like they’ve had conversations with you. I guess that’s one of the big reflections that I have about podcasting is that it does show a different side of you, and it also draws you into a relationship with your reader or your listener in a way that a blog really can.

I get the sense when I’m talking to podcast listeners that we have had chats before. As I think about it, we kind of have. Podcasting is such a conversational medium. As I talk to listeners and you, and as I hear back from you, I realize that we’ve done the ironing together. We’ve driven to and from work together or to and from family activities together. We’ve actually had conversations when your kids have been around or your partners have been around or your friends have been around. Some of us even go to bed together. Some of us even have a shower together. Some of us exercise together. It’s weird – the places that we hang out.

As a result of that time together, our relationship then is – there’s something deeper than I’ve ever seen in a blog before. It’s difficult to describe it, and I guess it really comes down to the fact that you listen to me and you hear the voice and you hear the expression. You hear those days when I’m croaky and I’ve got a cold. You hear the days when I’m excited about something, and it’s definitely a conversational space. I guess the way I look at it is that each week I get to have around 10,000 conversations with people for half-an-hour at a time. Where else could I have that many conversations with people? That’s a really exciting thing.

I love podcasting for those reasons, and I guess they’ve been the reasons that I regret not starting earlier. They’re the main reasons that I say to people, “Consider this medium. Consider it as a way to change people’s lives,” and really that’s what I am all about. I’ll come back to that point a little bit later. But also purely from a business sense, where else could you have that many conversations with potential customers? Ten thousand (10,000) people a week listen to this podcast. You may not get that many. You may get more, but all of those conversations are time added up. It’s like 5000 hours of me having meetings with people and building relationships with people. You just can’t do that in any other way. There are a lot of benefits from podcasting on that front. I’ll talk about a few more of them a little bit later.

Let’s go back to the launch. Two years ago now, I think it was the 1st of July 2015; I launched the first episodes. We started with 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. Many of you have been through that series of podcast. It’s still sitting there. You can actually do 31 Days to Build a Better Blog anytime. You can go back and listen to tips. In fact there’s a whole group in the Facebook group, who are about to go through that series together over the month of July, so check that out.

But I think launching with that series really got things cranking. They got the archives built up. Doing 31 episodes in 31 days actually filled our archives. I knew bloggers who’ve been blogging for six months, who didn’t have 31 episodes, and I had that many after the first month. And so the archives were fuller. Having more content in iTunes means that you do get found a little bit more by people doing searches in iTunes as well. Probably also helped us to rank in New and Noteworthy and What’s Hot on iTunes and that type of thing as well.

But I think the most important part about launching with that kind of series is that it built anticipation and momentum. Anyone who listened to that first episode, who decided that we’re going to do 31 days to build a better blog was listening every day over those 31 months. Having said all that, it almost killed me as well. It’s a lot of content to record, to prepare for, to edit, and to get up online over a month, when you’ve never ever done a podcast before. But I learned so fast, and I learned so much in that month.

I learned that having content that flows from one episode to another is a very powerful thing, and it’s something that I’ve done since a number of times having these series of content. I learned that having a podcast doesn’t always have to have a sponsor to be monetized in those first 31 episodes. In fact for the first 10 episodes, we did have a sponsor, but we’ve rarely had one since. The reason for that was it wasn’t that I didn’t like the sponsor we had or I was closed to that way of monetizing, I just found that in that episode that that sponsor didn’t get as much traction as I wanted them to get, and yet I was selling eBooks from that series that I was doing. I made more money over that from selling eBooks than I did having a sponsor on the podcast, so I’ve always used the podcast more to monetize in that way and to build the brand but also to sell the products and the events that we have.

Other series of content that we’ve run since have worked well as well. One of the tips I would give you is that if you’re producing a podcast or a blog, tie your episodes together into a series. It allows you to go deeper into a topic to create momentum, and it also helps to get people subscribed. What I think is that starting off with those 31 episodes really did help me to – it gave people a reason to subscribe. If I just started with 31 random topics and they didn’t tie together, there would have been no reason for people to subscribe. But if you subscribe today, you get the next 31 episodes – that gave people a reason. It’s a really great way to start it off.

I was excited to hear in the last week or so that Apple is making some changes to iTunes over the next little while to help podcasters make series of content easier to consume. I suspect that once they launch that, I will do more series of content on this podcast as well.

Let’s switch over to tech and production. I’m really glad that for the first 15 or 16 episodes I think or it might have even been the first 20 that I did all that podcast editing myself. I set up my own podcast. I got it all set up with the service, and I’m really glad I did that. I know you can outsource that type of thing, and I will recommend a service later that can help you with that. But I’m really grateful for the fact that I did it myself because it gave me an understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes. It also means that when I come to troubleshooting different things, like if an episode doesn’t go live in iTunes, I can troubleshoot that because I’ve got an understanding of that. If you’ve got the ability, if you’re slightly techy, it’s not too hard to do.

I followed Pat Flynn’s podcasting tutorials to set it up, and I’ll link to those in the show notes today. It was a really useful resource that I’m very thankful for – completely free, and so I did that. It also taught me how to edit my first episodes as well and get them up online.

I’m glad that I set it all up. I’m glad that I learned how to edit podcasts, but I’m also glad I outsourced it. I’ve got the understanding of it, but outsourcing – it was one of the best things I did as well. I’m very, very grateful to Rose Wintergreen, who helped me in the early days of editing the podcast, and then in more recent times, Podcast Motor, who have been unbelievable in the service that they offer me in helping me to get the podcast up. You can check them out at podcastmotor.com. They do all our editing. They arrange our transcriptions in the show notes, so they actually put the show notes together as well. They upload it all to the service and basically schedule it for us. They also offer services in helping you to set up a podcast and talking you through your launch and all of that type of thing as well, so if you do need that hand-holding, they’re a great service, Podcast Motor.

Basically what I do is I plan my show, I record my show, and then I upload all the bits, the intros, the outros, the teaching, the interviews. I just put them in a Dropbox folder, and then they do the rest. I give them a Google doc, which basically has any instructions that I want them to include, any links that I want in the show notes, and then they go to work and they get it all together. It’s one of the best things that I’ve ever done. It really did come because I was burning myself out doing it all, particularly being a daily show in the early days. Outsourcing, of course, has some costs, but it does mean I spend a lot less time on that stuff that I’m not really gifted in. I think it’s also increased the quality of what I do as well, and it enables me to focus on what I’ve got strengths in.

Another thing that I’m glad I did is add more detail into our show notes, so I’m really glad that we have transcriptions now in all of our show notes. The early episodes still don’t have the transcriptions on them, but I used to get a lot of feedback from readers saying, “Hey, I’m not a listener of podcasts, but I like to read them.” I guess this was because my first listeners were my blog readers. I’ve been blogging for years, and so most of the people who knew me were blog readers. There’s no wonder that that was their preference. They wanted to read – a lot of them. A lot of you also love to listen, and that’s fantastic, but I probably should have gone to that transcription earlier. I was a really bit tight. I wasn’t quite sure how long I will keep going with podcasting. I wasn’t sure how to monetize it, and so I put that off for a little while, but I’m really glad that I added that in. It also makes the podcast a little bit more accessible to people, who are unable to hear, and that’s a great thing as well.

A few other things in terms of production and the technicalities – let’s talk about iTunes. ITunes is a mystery to me and how they rank content and all of that type of thing. I remember in the first few months being quite obsessed with checking, “Where am I ranking today? Am I above this person or am I below that person? Why am I not ranking higher?” I know for a fact that I get a lot more downloads than some of my podcasting friends, and yet they rank higher. I don’t really understand why that is, and I think I could quite easily become quite depressed about it and quite obsessed by it. I guess the big advice I come to you, when it comes to iTunes, is – yeah, it’s great if you can get into New and Noteworthy. It’s great if you can rank higher because it does help a little bit. It’s the biggest podcast listening platform, but don’t obsess on it. Obsess on useful content. Obsess on the quality of the production. Because all of that is going to help you in the long run with iTunes.

The other thing to know about iTunes is that it’s a search engine. Pay real attention to the keywords that you use in your titles, in the descriptions that you have, because people are searching for content in iTunes. I know for a fact because I get emails from listeners who say, “I never heard of you until I searched in iTunes for blog tips or for how to start a blog or those type of things.” It can be a great source for new listeners as well. Don’t become obsessed with ranking in iTunes; become obsessed with useful content. Pay attention to those details like getting your titles right, in the same way that you would pay attention to the headlines of your blog post. People will find you because of your titles, but they’ll also determine whether they’ll press play or not depending on your title, so make them enticing.

Let’s talk a little bit about recording podcasts. One of the big differences for me in the first 10 or so episodes to now is that I stand up to record every podcast. A big thank you to Rachel Corbett, who emailed me after a week or two podcasting, and she told me that she thought I would have so much more energy in my delivery if I stood up. And she was so right. Standing up to me is a more natural way for me to speak. I never ever, ever in my public speaking days, ever sat down to speak; I always stood. I paced around the stage, and so standing up does bring some energy to that. I think it’s really helped. Also just getting that advice that maybe I was a little bit flat in those early days – it was really useful. So one of the tips I’d give you is to stand up – is to bring energy to what you do, but also get someone else to listen to your podcast and give you critique. I wish I’d actually gone out seeking that critique because it took me a couple of weeks to work out how to improve in that way.

A few people have asked me in the Facebook group about how I outline my podcasts. Do I write it all out and read it? In the early days I did do that a few times, but I also discovered very quickly that it was much more natural for me to bullet point my outlines. What I’m looking at right now is a Google Document. I do all my notes in Google Documents. I have some subheadings, and then I have bullet points down the page. I’ve got quite a few of them today. But I don’t tend to read. Unless it’s something really important, I don’t read it. There are segments of what I deliver each week, but it’s generally just bullet pointed. I don’t practice my podcast too much ahead of time, but I do spend a lot of time doing it. I prepare quite a bit, and I’ll touch on that in a moment.

Big thing I will say about podcasting for the first time is that you’re going to feel really weird doing it the first time, particularly if it’s just a single voice podcast, which is what I’ve predominantly done. You’re going to feel exposed. You’re going to feel weird. You’re talking into a microphone in an empty room. If you’ve got other people in the house, you’ll wonder how it’s coming across and whether they’re going to think you’re talking to yourself. It’s going to take you a little bit out of your comfort zone, but you’ll get used to it over time. You’ll get better at it over time as well.

I tend – and you’ll know this, if you’ve listened to more than one – I tend to do my podcast in one take. As a result there are occasional stumbles. I’ve made one before. There are little mistakes. I know some people edit those things out, but I think and I hope my audience forgives those stumbles. It’s less editing time, which reduces the cost a little bit, but it also humanizes you. I think most people relate to those stumbles in conversation. It does make it a little bit more personal and conversational, I guess. I’d rather spend my time doing other things as well as podcasting than just spending hours and hours and hours getting my delivery just perfect, so I tend to do it in one take.

Having said that, I spend a lot of time, as I said before, really preparing a lot for my podcast. If I’m doing a teaching podcast that typically lasts 20 or 30 minutes, I would spend an hour to two, maybe three hours preparing before I record anything. The recording may only take me 20 or 30 minutes, but I’ve spent two or three hours getting that outline right, thinking about the flow of the teaching that I want to do. If it’s an interview, I spend a lot of time – even more time preparing for that interview.

Speaking of interviews, the format – and this is something I get asked a lot about, and it’s partly because it’s changed a little bit since I started. Almost all my first podcasts were just me talking; all of them were teaching podcasts. This was because that’s where I felt most confident. I’m used to public speaking, and I’m used to planning, designing the flow of the talk, and really thinking about the journey that I want to take those who are listening to me. I love that process.

I love doing the slides, when I’m doing a public speaking talk as well, so it was a natural thing for me to want to do that type of podcast. Also, I guess, I wanted to start that way because I saw a lot of interview podcasts out there – in fact, most of the podcasts that are out there in my particular categories are interview-based ones, and so I wanted to do something a little bit different. I think that worked quite well. I got a lot of feedback that it was a bit different to other people, and they actually enjoyed that teaching style rather than the interview.

Having said that, I’ve started to do more interviews, and if you’ve been listening for the last little while, almost every second episode now is an interview. I got through little patches, where I do more than others, but there are a number of reasons that I’ve started to do more interviews. Firstly, I don’t know it all, and I know there’s a lot about my topic that I don’t know. You are going to miss out as a listener, if I don’t get other voices on this podcast. That’s one of the reasons that I’ve set out to do some interviews and do some case studies and find some experts in different areas.

Secondly I wanted to stretch myself out of my comfort zone. I hardly ever get nervous about doing a podcast episode, where I’m the only one talking. I’m not nervous at all right now. I’m actually really enjoying this, but I get really nervous when I’m doing an interview. For that reason, I decided I wanted to do more interviews, because it took me out of my comfort zone. I know I’m not as good in that format, but I feel like I’m getting better, and I want to learn how to do it better. It’s partly about facing those fears and wanting to grow and stretch myself.

Thirdly I also started to get some good feedback about those few interviews that I did, particularly when I was interviewing bloggers, more of a case study type – one like Nikki Parkinson we did very recently. The other reason is that it’s really hard to come up with a teaching topic for 20, 30, 40 minutes every week, particularly when you also want to write content for a blog, when you want to speak at events, when you want to travel, when you want to do other things. So I decided that one way that I could slightly lighten the load when it comes to the teaching is to bring other people on as well. That’s been the reason for some of the changes in this particular show over the last little while.

Let’s talk about length because that’s a question I get asked a lot by other podcasters. What’s the best length for a podcast? I don’t believe there’s a best length for a podcast, but I have found in my podcast that 20 to 30 minutes seem to be a sweet spot. I’ve had a look over the years at the amount of downloads that I get at different lengths, and I’m not sure that length is the biggest determinant. I think the title was probably a bigger one and the topic itself, but those 20-, 30-minute ones do pretty well.

Having said that, I’ve had a few interviews lately. They’ve gone over the hour mark, and they have really quite amazing download numbers. There was one recently about how to become a prolific writer or content creator with Kelly Exeter. That’s in now Top 10 Most Listened To Podcasts. Some of those longer ones do very well as well. As I said with blogging, there’s no perfect length for a blog post. There’s no perfect length for a podcast. I think, do as long as you need to do to be useful, and that’s important.

The other question I get asked a bit about is frequency. How often should you podcast? Again, as with blogging, there’s no right or wrong answer here, and things have changed for me over the years. I started out daily for that first month, and that was partly because I just wanted to do that series just to launch it. I then scaled back to twice a week, and that was a real sweet spot. I had a lot of positive feedback about that. It stood out again from others in my niche, who were doing weekly shows – a little bit more than them. I was tending to do shorter, sharper shows. They were 10-15 minute shows.

More recently I’ve started to do once a week. Again, there were a few reasons for this. Firstly I already had quite an established archive of shows already in there. Also in the early days, when I started, I had a lot of energy for podcasting, and whilst I still really love it now, I guess some of that newness has worn off. Perhaps now, I want to get back to some blogging and some podcasting and get that balance right again. Also, I only have so much to say in twice a week. That’s a lot to come up with to say. I guess some other of the format of what I’ve done has changed to a slightly longer episodes. I know it also takes a lot of time for you to consume that content as well, so I have scaled back a little bit on that.

It also fits in with what we’re doing on the rest of ProBlogger. We used to publish on the blog, on ProBlogger, 10 times a week, and we’ve really scaled that back to 2 posts a week. Two posts a week, one podcast a week, one Facebook Live a week – that’s our new schedule. That has come out of us wanting to increase the quality, but also listening to you as readers saying, “Ten posts a week is too much for us to consume.” So we really are scaling it back on that front.

Having said all that, I’ve done a few series along the way. Back in August last year, I did 7 days of daily shows again. That was this little series I did called 7 Days to Get Your Blogging Groove Back. That worked really well. If you are on a certain frequency (maybe it’s once a week), it doesn’t mean you can’t throw in a real burst of extra content for that week. We actually did really well over that week. Our download numbers were crazy, and it built some real momentum and engagement as well.

Few other quick tips on the production of your content – listen to your own podcasts. You will find it incredibly awkward to do. You’ll probably hate, like I do, the sound of your own voice, but you will also start noticing when you are flat, when the show loses a little bit of its momentum. You’ll also notice when you say certain words too much, like I say the word “heaps” a lot. I’ve been trying to cut back on that. I think it’s a bit of an Ozzie thing because I know a few other podcasters here in Australia, who say “heaps” a lot instead of “a lot.” Listen to your own podcast, but also listen to other podcasts. You’ll learn so much about flow, the design, sound, how to have energy, how to ask good questions, how to make good calls to action. You’ll learn so much when you start to see what others are doing. You’ll also start to see what everyone is doing and how you can stand out a little bit.

The last thing I’ll say is consider who else is listening. I mentioned before, I know that a lot of you have your kids right now sitting next to you listening to this as well. You might be in the car driving them to school or at home or something like that. I love the fact that this is family-friendly, so I worked really hard to keep it family-friendly and accessible to different ages as well. If you are a kid listening now, I’ll share that to you. I will say, I’ve been toying with the idea of an episode for kids on how to be a kid entrepreneur or how to develop a web presence online, if you’re a kid. If you want to hear that episode, let me know.

Before I wind up and talk to you about our tools, I want to talk to you about some of the frustrations and challenges that I’ve had with podcasting because it’s not all easy and it’s not all roses. Firstly I always am frustrated by the sound or quality of the room that I record in. I know I need to take action on that. I live in a house. I’m in the front room of the house, and you can probably hear from time to time buses driving past. We have a bus that goes past every 20 minutes at our house. I have a printer in my office. The room is a bit echoey. That’s something that I’m aware of. We’re actually toying with the idea of moving house in the next year or so. There’ll be some opportunities at that point to make some big changes. The best ever episode I did was recorded in my son’s room. Because it was so messy, it seemed to soak up all the echo. I could probably move in there full-time because it’s always in that state, but I’m not sure I can bring myself to spend too much time in there. It does mean moving all my gear in there. By the way, kids, if you’re listening, clean your room.

The next big challenge that I faced – and I’ve really noticed it’s quite different between podcasting and blogging – is that people tend to listen to a podcast, while they’re doing something else. As a result of that, getting them to take action on a call-to-action can be really tough. Many of you are driving a car right now or you’re on a train or you are surfing the web, or you’re doing something else, while you’re listening to me right now. You might be out for a walk. As a result, if I say, go to this link right now, the chances are pretty small that you’ll do that – less chance that you’ll do that just based upon my voice saying, “Go. Do it” than if I had a link in front of you right now that you could just click. This is something I find a lot of podcasters struggle with. How do I get people to take action? How do I get people to my sales pages? How do I get that type of action?

One of the things that I think is really important is to find out where you can get a second re-point of connection with people, where you can get them on your email list, or the big thing that we’ve been working on is our Facebook group. You’ve heard me every podcast talking about “Join the Facebook group.” That’s partly because there’s a lot of value in that Facebook group, but also I know that if I can get you to come over to the Facebook group, that gives you another opportunity to hear the call-to-action that I make. I can remind you in that Facebook group of the event that we’ve got running, or I can remind you of the challenge that we’re doing this week. I know you also get a lot of value and enjoy being in that group as well. The group for us has really helped in terms of getting people to take some action. Getting people to join the group is still a challenge, and that’s why we emphasize it at the top and tail of every show. But I know once you’re in that group, it becomes a lot easier.

Another frustration that I have had – and this is a big difference I’ve noticed between blogging and podcasting, and social media and podcasting – is that there’s no real interaction. I put my podcast up, and some of you listen to it on the show notes, but most of you listen to it on iTunes or on some other player, where there’s no way that you can leave a comment. I personally would love it if iTunes would add comments. I think that would be fantastic. But it can be a bit of a strange experience, if you’ve been a blogger. Again, this is one of the reasons that I really am enjoying the Facebook group because it gives me immediate feedback on the shows that we’re putting out. I can get questions. I can do follow ups. I can understand if I missed the mark. I get ideas for future shows and future content as well. That’s something just to be aware of when you do make that switch to become a podcaster is that you are going to at times feel a little less interactive with your audience, and you may need to find a way to build that interaction.

The big tip I’ll give you about podcasting is the same tip I give about blogging. The key to a successful podcast – and I say this both from my own experience but also as a podcast listener. I listen to podcasts every day – for at least an hour every day. Make your audience’s life better as a result of listening to your podcast. If your audience do not get something out of what you do as a podcaster, they won’t come back. The same thing is true for blogging as well.

If you are thinking about starting a podcast or if you already have one, really focus upon who it is that you’re trying to reach and how you’re going to change their life. Great podcasts and great blogs leave people different in some way, as a result of them interacting with that content. You may have a teaching podcast like me, and for me the change that I’m trying to bring – I’m trying to help you to start great blogs. I say it at the start of every show. I want you to start a great blog, I want you to create great content, I want you to build your audience, and I want you to build profit around your blog. That’s the change that I’m trying to bring. That’s the action that I’m trying to bring about as a result of you listening to this show.

You may not have a teaching show, but you may have a show that tells stories. I listen to a lot of storytelling podcasts. They leave me informed. They leave me inspired. They leave me motivated. They leave me feeling something. Those are changes that they are trying to bring. Identify the change you’re trying to bring. Identify the journey you’re trying to take your readers on, and make sure that every episode that you publish brings about that change in some way. Work at how you want to change people’s lives and deliver that.

Before I finish, I want to just run through some tools that I use in my podcasting. I’ve already mentioned Podcast Motor, who do a lot of the editing work on my podcasting. My podcast server – I use Libsyn. I’ll link to all these in the show notes. I record my podcast directly into Apple’s GarageBand. I use Skype recorder from the same people who make Ecamm to record interviews. It’s a Mac tool. I’ve used the tool called Ophonic, which levels out your podcast, particularly if you’re doing interviews. You can get different volumes, and it just brings consistency and cleans up the audio a little bit. I use a tool called mypodcastreviews.com. They send me a weekly email that pulls in all the reviews that you leave me on iTunes and other podcasting tools as well. If you leave a review on iTunes, I get an email every week and get notified about that. I look forward to those emails every week. I use a tool called PowerPress. It’s a WordPress plugin that enables me to get those podcasts up into WordPress and get those show notes together. The microphone I use is a Rode Podcaster, which is a microphone that’s been around for a few years now. I think there might be newer versions since the one that I’ve got, but it’s always been a good performer for me. It’s a USB-based microphone.

I would love to hear from you. As I said before, podcasting can feel at times a little bit lonely like you are talking to yourself, which I kind of am right now. But sometimes you wonder, “What are people thinking? How are they reacting to what I’m saying?” When you tell a joke, are they smiling or laughing or cringing? There are a few ways that you can give me a little bit of feedback. I particularly love the feedback at the 200th episode mark. Tell me what you think about the podcast. I would love to hear that.

You can do that in a number of ways. There’s social media. Our Facebook group is probably the best way, problogger.com/group or search on Facebook for ProBlogger Community. You can give us your feedback in there. Our show notes all have comments on them. Just go to problogger.com/podcast/200. It’s a WordPress blog. You can leave comments there. Or you can leave us a review on iTunes or any of the other podcast players that have reviews on them. As I say, I’ll get an email every week about those. Of course you can tweet me at ProBlogger as well.

The last thing I want to say is thank you. Those 2.6 million or 2.7 million downloads are not downloads; they’re people like you who listen. I really appreciate that. I do appreciate those who’ve joined the group and who do give feedback and who do give encouragement. I appreciate those times where I bump into people in real life as well at conferences and hear your stories of where you spend time with me each week. I really do appreciate all of that. I appreciate you coming to our events and buying our eBooks as well, which really is how we sustain what we do at ProBlogger. I really do look forward to spending the next maybe 200 episodes with you.

I hope the podcast has delivered some value to you, and I look forward to chatting with you next week in episode 201 of the ProBlogger podcast. Head over to the show notes, problogger.com/podcast/200 where I will list the top 10 podcast episodes that we’ve done so far, so you can dig into some of those as well. Thanks for listening. Chat with you next week. 

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The post 200: What I’ve Learned About Podcasting in My First 200 Episodes appeared first on ProBlogger.


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5 Ways You Can Use Facebook Groups to Benefit Your Blog

5 Types of Facebook Groups for Bloggers

When you think of using Facebook for your blog, what comes to mind?

Declining organic reach? Pay to play? Sharing endless memes just to get engagement? Posting your latest blog post only to hear crickets?

But hang on, didn’t all the conversation move from our blog comments to Facebook? Well, yes, that’s where a lot of conversation is happening because that’s where a lot of our audience hangs out now, somewhere among the 1.28 billion people who login to Facebook daily to spend their (on average) 20 minutes.

3 days ago Facebook ticked over the major milestone of 2 billion monthly users, over half of whom use Facebook groups. That’s right, more than 1 billion people are using Facebook groups. That’s where the conversation and community is happening and it’s something you can easily create for your blog.

Here’s how you can move to where the conversation is and develop community for your blog in 5 different ways with Facebook groups.

1. Groups for your eCourse or other Education

One of the most common uses of Facebook groups by bloggers are ones set up to support a course or an event. Before Facebook, many bloggers used private forums on their blog, or used comments following the course content for any conversation with participants.

Now, most bloggers use Facebook to set up a group where their course participants can ask questions and support each other as they move through the course.

One of the main considerations is what to do when the course ends.

Do you close the group?

Do you step out and let the participants stay in touch and manage the group themselves?

Do you keep the group and add new intakes of course members to the same group?

The latter is a great way to manage a group for those courses that have a definitive start and end date with the blogger providing a lot of input during each course intake. In between intakes the blogger can pull back a bit and let the conversation be more self-sustaining.

This is how blogger Nicole Avery (also our productivity expert for ProBlogger) manages her Planned and Present course, which is great for members who may not have completed the course at the same pace as it was delivered. Nicole provides evergreen access to the course materials and having an ever active group of members means you can jump back in at any time for the support you need.

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An alternative is to close each group as the course ends, or move the members to more of a self-managed alumni group. Consider this if you feel like managing a group full time may burn you out.

For an evergreen course where people can join and start the course at any time, or for a free group like the ProBlogger Community which has an education focus, be prepared to be ‘on’ all the time. Having a structure and content plan for your group will help you manage it. As it grows you may need to consider asking moderators to help you as admins for the group.

2. Mastermind and Membership Groups

As bloggers we are usually flying solo, or working in virtual teams. Gone are the chats around the ‘office water cooler’ and Friday night office drinks. You can’t just stop by desk of a colleague or set up a brainstorming meeting in the boardroom.

In recent years, blogger masterminds meetups have become really popular – either as a component of an event like Chris Ducker’s Tropical Think Tank event (where Darren spoke a few years ago) or as events themselves. They give bloggers the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other and use the collective experience at the table to help advance each member.

With the cost and logistics of getting together on a regular basis being a barrier, many masterminds are now organised online through the use of regular group video calls like Skype or Google Hangout. A Facebook group is a great way to organise the group and provide opportunity for interaction between mastermind sessions. I’m part of a small self-organised mastermind group of bloggers that has started using a Facebook group to supplement our regular calls. It’s far more interactive than contacting each other via email.

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Another type of Mastermind group that works well, without the structure of video meetings, is a larger collection of members who pay to be part of the group. A good example of this is Dan Norris’ Mastermind Group (above) which started as the 7 Day Start Up group. Dan initially started a free public group, which grew quickly and became very busy. Dan then offered a smaller group which members could join for an annual fee. This has resulted in a group of quality members with a breadth of experience who are there to learn from and help each other. The difference is that they have skin in the game, they’ve paid to be there and are not just dropping in and out to promote themselves or solicit.

3. Create a Support/Community Group for your Readers

Blogging Facebook groups don’t have to be about blogging and for bloggers. This type of group is less about you and more about your audience. Starting a group for your subscribers or readers helps to bring the conversation back to your own turf. When comments started migrating from our blogs to Facebook posts (which quickly disappear into your feed history), many bloggers mourned that shift. Conversation was fleeting, and if you looked at the blog it didn’t look like there was a community anymore.

A Facebook group for your readers creates a new home for conversation, and as a closed group, often a more honest and transparent interaction both with your readers and between them. When the Facebook algorithm reduced organic reach of pages, many bloggers started groups as a way to promote their posts and salvage traffic to their blogs.

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Stacey Roberts of Veggie Mama started her group thinking it might fill the gap of falling organic reach, but it evolved into something much better. The Veggie Mama Gang is less about her blog and more about her readers supporting, entertaining and generally hanging out with each other. Sure, the talk occasionally reverts to recipes, but it has become so much more than that. For Stacey it has allowed her to get to know her readers in a much more real way, and she enjoys the connections being made between readers too – a hallmark of great community.

Stacey doesn’t actively promote the group – it’s a secret group which her readers can join by emailing her.

4. Groups for Reader Feedback

Closely related to a community group for your blog, is a group with a more specific brief. One that helps you garner feedback from your readers on something you are creating. Kelly Exeter from A Life Less Frantic has used Facebook groups to help her write her books.

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Kelly Exeter is currently working on her fourth book, Overthinkers Anonymous. This group is for fellow overthinkers (she is one too) who are interested in the interesting things she turns up during the researching for and writing of the book.

Kelly invite her regular readers to join the group and provide feedback on things like concepts that she’s trying to articulate through to preferences for book cover artwork. It’s a great collaboration and her readers feel a part of the development of the book, and therefore the final product. It’s both crowdsourcing and marketing perfection – creating something based on what people actually want and is relevant to them.

Similarly, you could create a group to invite readers to be beta-testers of a new course you are creating, or to discuss ideas for posts that you can write for the blog. There really is no limit on what you could ask your community for feedback on. At the end of the day, involving them in the process is the most valuable part.

5. Groups to Grow your List

Back in the day, your blog was where people discovered you, either via a search, social media or a referral from a friend. These days the way someone first discovers you is just as likely to be a Facebook group. When someone finds a community they feel a part of, they’re more likely to invite others to join. With the bonus of Facebook suggesting groups to other friends, a Facebook group is a great way to curate potential subscribers to your blog and email list.

Jill and Josh Stanton from Screw the Nine to Five use their Facebook group as the top of their funnel. Instead of driving people to sign up to their email list, Jill and Josh actively promote their group. You can see here on Twitter where they’ve created a domain which is forwarded to their Facebook group.

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Their rationale is that you’re more likely to warm up to them and what they offer in a group, as part of an evident community, than being solely on the receiving end of an autoresponder email series. The next step is to earn your email address, once you’re already warmed up and engaged with them in the group. You can learn more about how they’ve done this via this great interview with Natalie Sisson.

 

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Nikki Parkinson from Styling You also uses a group to grow her community and facilitate her popular #everydaystyle challenges. Whilst you can join it directly via the Groups button on her Facebook page, she also uses the group as an opt-in for her email list. If you stumble on her group you’ll be prompted to sign up to her email list via one of the questions available to group admins when people request to join.

Both the Screw the Nine to Five and Styling You Everyday Style Community pages are sizeable, thriving communities. Darren interviewed Nikki on the podcast recently where she revealed there is a comment every 5 seconds in the group and she has 3 personal assistants moderating and managing the group. The Screw the Nine to Five group has grown to over 45,000 members and has become so noisy that Jill felt it ‘lost the magic’ because of people using it as a platform for their own self promotion, rants and research. So Jill and Josh are closing their group and starting a new one on July 1.

One of the biggest issues for them was the amount of “admin time required to delete all of the ‘bullsh*t’ posts” (Jill is quite sweary!). So, if you’re considering a larger group that isn’t gated by purchasing a product or course, then you will want to ensure you have firm rules and expectations set about how you want the group to run. You can check out the new rules Jill has put in place for their new group here. Facebook has also announced new tools for admins to manage their groups, including Group analytics, membership request filtering, removed member clean-up, scheduled posts and group-to-group linking.

So, are you ready to start a group for your blog? What type? Maybe you already have a group? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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The Psychology of Comparison and How to Stop

Psychology of Comparison

By ProBlogger expert Ellen Jackson of Potential Psychology

Bloggers, solopreneurs, consultants, writers, founders – we’re solo species. Lone hustlers,  tucked in cafe corners with laptops and lattes. We’re perched at breakfast bars tapping keyboards in the early morning light. Hunched at the spare room desk deep into the night.

We’re inspired and driven. Focused and fearless. Joyous in our independence.

And often consumed by what others are doing.

“How do my stats compare to hers?”

“His Facebook following is bigger than mine.”

“Her Instagram feed is so slick.”

“Are they launching another new product?”

“I’m falling behind!”

Blogging is ripe for comparison. We measure by metrics; social media, readership, subscribers, conversions. We lap up the data. We compare and contrast. Are my numbers good? Am I getting this right? Am I doing okay? Am I winning? Or losing?

Isolation feeds the monster. With no colleagues to calm, reassure and soothe us, comparison messes with our heads. The human mind abhors a vacuum. We fill the space by watching others, measuring our performance against theirs. One question ever present: Am I doing okay?

Don’t Worry, You’re Human

Comparison is not unique to the blogger and solopreneur. Humans are social creatures. We live in a network of others. We compare to understand where we fit. What’s my social worth? How do I stack up? Who am I in relation to everyone else?

Psychologists call this social comparison and it’s fundamental to the human condition. We compare ourselves in every interaction; immediately, subtly, often unconsciously, We start as little children. Comparison is a strategy we use to cope with threats, build ourselves up and establish our identity in a world of others. We do it to learn who we are.

Look down to feel better, up to feel worse

Social comparison exists in two types. We compare upwards and downwards.

We look to people we perceive as less capable to feel better about ourselves. It’s a boost to our ego and our mood. Downward social comparison, as it is known, helps us affirm and reassure. Compared to him, I’m doing okay. I must be doing something right *Breathe out.*

This might feel uncomfortable but it’s okay. Social comparison is a way to regulate your mood.

The danger is in comparing upwards.

When we look to people we consider more successful or ‘superior’ in some way we risk despondency and derailment. It can flatten us and prompt us to question ourselves.

My site will never look that good.

I will never have stats like hers.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

At its worst comparing upwards can be the path to defeat. I will never do as well as him. I may as well give up.

The perils of social

Social media is the ultimate upward comparison trap. Studies suggest that immersing ourselves in those feeds filled with beauty and success may damage our self-esteem and put us at risk for depression and anxiety. (e.g. Vogel et. al., 2014; Vogel & Rose, 2016)

Don’t despair!

It’s not all bad news. When we feel good about ourselves and our progress, checking in on others’ success is motivating. It’s a kick in the pants to raise our sights and strive onwards. We push ourselves to achieve more. If she can do it, so can I – and I will!

Our successful peers act as role models. Their achievements are our inspiration.

The paradox?  When we’re happy with our hustle we’re not looking at others. Our heads are down. We’re hard at work. We’re not hanging out on competitors websites, or checking their social feeds.

It’s in our moments of doubt that we compare, looking for reassurance. On our best days we know where we’re going. We don’t need validation or support.

But what do we do on those difficult days? How do we avoid comparison and the risk of defeat?

Tips for avoiding the comparison trap

1. Be a racehorse

A racehorse does not watch his competitors. He is focused straight ahead and galloping towards that finish line. He knows where he is going and what he has to do to get there. Be a racehorse. Be clear on your goals, your finish line and the steps you must take to achieve them. Everyone is running a different race.

2. Know your motives

Why do you compare? Is it for inspiration and motivation? Or to manage your mood? Rising anxiety prompts us to look for reassurance and sometimes we compare to boost our self esteem. If you’re using comparison to manage your mood, does it help? Or hinder? Would your time be better spent working towards your goals?

3. Aim for personal bests

Comparison with others may be fraught with danger but there is profit to be gained from comparing with yourself. Look back and I ask, ‘What have I achieved so far?’ Regular review of your wins, no matter how small, boosts your mood. When you’re feeling good you’re motivated and creative. Worry less about how you compare with others. Focus on achieving your personal best.

3. ‘Don’t compare your beginning with someone else’s middle.’

This quote from author Jon Acuff reminds us that we all start somewhere and we move at different rates. Successful people also have their struggles. They’re just further along the path.  We’re all human and fallible. We’re also equally capable of greatness.

What do you do to avoid comparison affecting your blogging mojo?

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

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Evaluating Your Blog’s First Year: 12 Great Questions to Ask

evaluating-blogs-first-year

Firstly … congratulations on making it through your first year. A lot of bloggers don’t get that far.

During this evaluation, we’ll take a look at key metrics for your blog, but we’ll also be thinking about what you’ve learned and accomplished over the past year.

Don’t get discouraged if the numbers aren’t – yet – quite where you want them to be. When I first started blogging, it was as a hobby … and it took me several years to start making significant money from it.

While some bloggers do succeed in making a lot of money in their first year, most take much longer. As you go through these questions, focus on what you have accomplished rather than on the goals you’ve not quite managed yet.

(Want to do this evaluation another time? Check out the option to download a free evaluation workbook at the end of the post.)

Key Metrics for Your Blog’s First Year

#1: How many blog posts did you publish … and how consistently?

Whether you published two posts or two hundred posts … was it as many as you wanted?

Did you write lots of posts in the first two months, then not much for the rest of the year? Or did you manage to blog fairly regularly all year?

#2: How many subscribers do you have to your blog and/or newsletter?

Hopefully you’ve got email subscriptions set up: if not, check out Ramsey’s post on Blog Tyrant: How to Start a Mailing List and Add Opt-in Forms to Your Blog.

If you can, look back at how your subscribers grew during the year. (You can find instructions for AWeber here and for MailChimp here). Did you see steady growth? Can you identify any peaks and what caused them?

#3: Did your traffic grow during the year?

Look at Google Analytics or WordPress.com’s inbuilt statistics to find out whether you were getting more traffic by the end of the year than at the start (hopefully you were)!

Again, look out for any spikes in traffic: what was behind those?

#4: Which of your posts were most popular?

You can use Google Analytics to find out which posts received the most visits, or look on your blog to see which got the most comments or shares.

Find your top three posts and see if you can figure out what made those posts especially popular.

#5: How much money did you spend?

This might require trawling back through your PayPal history or receipts in your inbox. You may want to create a simple spreadsheet to track your blog’s spending, breaking it into different categories, such as:

  • Web hosting and domain name
  • Email list provision
  • Premium theme and/or premium plugins (if any)
  • Design, editing or other services

#6: How much money did you make?

Ideally, you want this figure to be higher than #5 … but if it’s not, that’s very normal for blogs in their first year.

Look at your income from:

  • Advertising
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Product sales (e.g. if you launched an ebook)
  • Services provided (e.g. if you write for other blogs for pay)
  • Sponsorship from other companies

If you want to dig further into statistics, check out Nicole Avery’s post How to Conduct Your Annual Blogging Review.

I know that it’s easy to feel a little discouraged at this point. Perhaps when you started blogging, you dreamt of quitting your day job by now … and yet your blog hasn’t made a single dollar.

It can also be encouraging to look at everything you have gained, even if it’s not all about the numbers. Here are six more questions to ask yourself:

#7: Did you get any nice comments or emails from readers?

If someone wrote that your post came at the perfect time for them, or that it helped them with a problem, that’s a real success.

You might want to track down all your nice comments and emails, bring them together into one document, and print them out as a source of encouragement.

#8: Did you learn anything new?

Your first year of blogging was probably a steep learning curve at times. I bet you picked up lots of new skills. Perhaps:

  • You learned how to register a domain name and set up hosting
  • You got to grips with sourcing, resizing and editing images
  • You went from initial bafflement to comfortable familiarity with WordPress (or your platform of choice)
  • You set up an email list for your blog
  • You read a lot about marketing your blog or growing your readership or some other aspect of blogging … and you put it into practice

… or lots more things besides!

#9: Did you challenge yourself?

Perhaps you wrote a post that you were worried about publishing … but it went down really well with readers.

Perhaps you wrote a guest post for a big blog in your niche … and they published it!

Or maybe you tried something and it didn’t quite work out: what matters is that you gave it a go.

#10: Did you make new connections in the blogging world?

When you started out blogging, you probably didn’t know many (or even any!) other bloggers. During your first year, you likely got to know at least a few.

Perhaps:

  • You’ve made friends with some other new-ish bloggers on Twitter
  • You’ve been commenting on an established blogger’s site and building up a relationship with them.
  • You joined a Facebook group for bloggers, like the ProBlogger Community.
  • You went to a local meetup … or a bigger gathering of bloggers, like the ProBlogger event.

#11: Did blogging open any doors for you?

Sometimes, blogging can lead to some amazing opportunities (Eli Seekins had a great post about this on SmartBlogger recently).

Perhaps your blogging meant that:

  • You landed a freelancing gig with a big blog or website.
  • You gained some new skills that you used on a job application.
  • You came across some interesting people who you’d never have otherwise met.
  • You got free products to review.

#12: Did you enjoy the year?

Perhaps most importantly … did you enjoy your first year of blogging?

Maybe it was the first time you’ve felt able to call yourself a “writer”, because you wrote regular posts for your blog.

Maybe you loved learning new things and putting them into practice.

Maybe you felt like you were finally reaching for your dreams.

While it’s a great feeling to make money from blogging or to see your readership grow, some bloggers simply want to enjoy the process of writing and publishing online … and that can be just as valuable.

What Will You Do During Your Blog’s Second Year?

Now that you’ve taken a look over the past year of your blog … what are you going to do with the next year?

You might want to think about:

#1: How often will you post?

If your current schedule hasn’t really worked for you, you might try posting less frequently and focusing on writing the best posts you can.

Get help: How to Be a More Consistent Blogger

#2: How will you monetize?

Whether you want to make a living or simply cover your costs, think about how you’ll make money from your blog. Some new bloggers think it’s all about advertising or affiliate income, but those aren’t your only options.

Get help: The Full Blog Monetization Menu – 60+ Ways to Make Money With Your Blog

#3: What successes can you build on?

Look at what’s been going well for you … and go further with it. For instance, pick a post that’s already getting lots of search engine traffic and update it to link to some of your other best posts.

Get help: How to Update Old Posts On Your Blog (and When You Should Consider Doing it)

Right now, write down three specific actions that you want to take as you move into your blog’s second year:

  • One during the next week
  • One during the next month
  • One during the next three months

Feel free to share them with us in the comments … and good luck for your next year of blogging.

The post Evaluating Your Blog’s First Year: 12 Great Questions to Ask appeared first on ProBlogger.

      


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7 Key Design Elements for a Mobile Landing Page that Converts

7 Key Design Elements for a Mobile Landing Page that Converts | ProBlogger

This is a guest contribution from Shane Barker.

If you’ve been blogging for awhile, you’re probably familiar with landing pages, and may have even used a few of them for different campaigns. Whether you’re trying to drive people to sign up for your mailing list, or to purchase a product/service you’re promoting, landing pages can help you achieve your conversion goals. But is your landing page optimized for mobile users? Is it able to drive enough conversions on mobile?

Just imagine you’re using your smartphone to read someone else’s blog, and you click on a link to learn about a certain product reviewed in the post. But you end up on a page that is too difficult to view and navigate. You have to either squint, or zoom in to read the page content. That could ruin your experience, and may even compel you to leave the page. The result? For the blogger, it means they’ve lost the opportunity to convert you.

Don’t make the same mistake. When you’re designing a landing page, make sure you optimize it for mobile users. The seven key design elements below can help you design a mobile landing page optimized for conversions.

1. A Short But Strong Headline

Landing page headlines should always be clear and concise. For a mobile landing page, your headline has to be even shorter, because you have even less space to work with. Use no more than five words, and describe what your website is about, or what your product does. This may be difficult, but it isn’t impossible.

Take a look at the Squarespace mobile landing page, for instance. The headline, “Build it Beautiful,” is short, but it clearly tells people what the product is about – building websites. And “beautiful” highlights the benefit of using the platform. They’ve perfectly summed up what their product does, and what makes it special, in just three words, with a compelling headline.

7 Key Design Elements for a Mobile Landing Page that Converts | ProBlogger

Try to form your headline around the main features and/or benefits of your product. Maybe it will help readers learn something useful, or tackle a challenge they’ve been facing. Once you come up with a potential headline, check it several times to see if you can shorten it and still keep it compelling. For instance, you could shorten, “Convert People with Beautiful Landing Pages,” to, “Create Landing Pages that Convert.”

Although many landing pages have a subheading with more details about the product’s features, that may not be the best option for a mobile landing page due to the limited space. You can try adding a few bullet points if you absolutely have to include further details or benefits of the product. Just make sure each point is concise and clear.

2. A Short And Persuasive Call-To-Action

You know the importance of persuasive CTA copy, and how it can help drive conversions. With mobile landing pages, your CTA copy needs to compel users to take action, and it needs to do so with just 2-3 words. Something like, “Get Started,” “Grab Your Deal,” or “Build Your Website,” may be ideal as they get straight to the point in just a few words.

For example, the mobile landing page for the Shyp app has clear call-to-action copy that urges people to, “Get the App.”

7 Key Design Elements for a Mobile Landing Page that Converts | ProBlogger

To come up with compelling copy for your CTA, first define the goal of your landing page. Is it to get people to enter a contest, download an eBook, or sign up for your mailing list? Next, write a short CTA that clearly tells people what you want them to do, like, “Enter to Win,” or “Download Your Guide.”

3. One Prominent CTA Button

What’s the goal of a landing page? To get people to do something. So what’s the point of having a CTA button on your mobile landing page if it’s barely visible? If you’re trying to get people to take a certain action, make sure the CTA button is prominently displayed. If possible, choose a button color that contrasts with the main page color so that it stands out.

While aesthetics are a crucial part of your landing page design, you shouldn’t blend the elements so much that you hide the CTA button. The New Balance mobile landing page below highlights one CTA button boldly in black. And you can see that, although the button clearly contrasts with the rest of the page design, it doesn’t compromise the overall aesthetics.

7 Key Design Elements for a Mobile Landing Page that Converts | ProBlogger

The optimal number of CTA buttons on a mobile landing page is one, because you want to direct users towards one particular action. You don’t want to confuse them with too many options. If you have several goals, you can try building a separate landing page for each goal. But if you absolutely must have more than one CTA button on a page, make sure you highlight the main call-to-action, and blend in the others with the rest of the design.

For instance, if the goal is to get people to download something, the CTA button for downloading should be the most prominent. Secondary CTA buttons like, “Learn More,” or “Contact Us,” should be less visible. A good example is the Squarespace landing page shown above, where the main call-to-action, “Get Started,” is more prominent than the secondary CTA, “Learn More.”

4. Minimal Clutter

When you’re targeting mobile users, you should keep in mind that there is limited screen space to work with. A busy page design with too many elements can be an eyesore, especially on mobile landing pages. You need to simplify the page design as much as possible. This means you need to remove any unnecessary clutter, and keep other elements hidden if possible.

Keep only the most important elements. Just take a look at the simplistic and elegant landing page for Moto 360, for example. The page contains only a few elements: a strong headline, the product name, pricing info, and a call-to-action button.

7 Key Design Elements for a Mobile Landing Page that Converts | ProBlogger

Now let’s take a look at the original desktop version of the landing page. Here, there are a few changes in the formatting. Although the headline remains the same, this version has a small subheading to describe the product. You can also see that the navigation bar isn’t hidden like in the mobile version.

7 Key Design Elements for a Mobile Landing Page that Converts | ProBlogger

For mobile, keep only the most important elements, and remove unnecessary elements that may clutter the page. Removing unnecessary clutter from your mobile landing page doesn’t just enhance the page’s aesthetics, it also reduces the page’s load time. A faster loading page can improve user experience, and boost conversions.

5. Simplified Forms

Do you really need people to fill in 7 or 8 form fields when signing up for something? Too many form fields can clutter your landing page, and frustrate users. If you want more people to convert, you need to simplify the conversion process. The idea is to get them to complete the task before they have time to change their minds. Simplify your forms – whether they’re for subscriptions, free trials, or promo codes.

Make sure any forms on your mobile landing page collect only the most crucial information. For example, you probably need a user’s email address for eBook downloads, newsletter subscriptions, free trials, promo codes, and pretty much everything else. But you may not need to ask for their name, address, or phone number.

Adjust the form fields based on what you want to achieve with the landing page. The Shopify free trial landing page shown below has only three form fields. It asks for an email address, store name, and a password so that users can access their account later. It doesn’t ask for any unnecessary information like name, phone number, or address.

7 Key Design Elements for a Mobile Landing Page that Converts | ProBlogger

6. Readable Copy

Which of these is easier to read: ProBlogger or ProBlogger? Naturally, you’d choose the latter of these two font sizes. The font styles and sizes you choose to use can have a huge impact on the readability of your mobile landing page. Remember, you’re working on a small screen; so you need to make sure that your copy is easy to read, despite the small space.

The idea is to make sure that people don’t have to squint or zoom in to read the content on your landing page. The ideal font size according to Google is 16 px, but you can always customize the size according to the font style you’ve chosen. Don’t forget to leave ample space between text lines to improve readability.

If you’ve followed the tips above, you’ve already simplified the design, and shortened your headline. That means there will be more space on your mobile landing page, allowing you to use a larger font that’s easier to read. Additionally, choose a font color that contrasts with the main color used on the page, but still blends well with the rest of the design.

Here’s an example from Gumroad. As you can see in the image below, the text is clearly visible. It is easy to read because of the large font size and simple style. It also contrasts with the main page color, while still complimenting the rest of the design.

7 Key Design Elements for a Mobile Landing Page that Converts | ProBlogger

7. Neatly Organized Elements

If a mobile landing page has too much going on, the design can easily become an eyesore. Maybe there’s too much text, or the headline and description are too close to the CTA button. Unorganized elements can confuse your readers, and negatively affect their experience.

For a mobile landing page design that boosts conversions, make sure all elements are neatly organized. There should be a sufficient amount of whitespace between elements so that people can navigate the page easily, and find what they’re looking for. This will also improve the visibility of your CTA button.

Take a look at the mobile landing page for the Albert app below. There is more text than recommended, but the design still works well because the elements are neatly organized. Sufficient whitespace separates the headline, subheading, and CTA button, preventing the design from looking cluttered. The blue CTA button is prominent amidst all of the text and whitespace.

7 Key Design Elements for a Mobile Landing Page that Converts | ProBlogger

What’s Next?

Once you’ve optimized your mobile landing page with the seven design elements above, you need to check whether or not they’re working for you. A few minor tweaks may be necessary to maximize their effectiveness. Make sure you run A/B tests for every element, and make adjustments, or changes as needed. The goal is to ensure that your page:

  • Loads quickly
  • Is aesthetically pleasing
  • Clearly directs people towards the desired action

All of these play a role in how well you’re able to convert an audience. Run an A/B test or a multivariate test for each element to find which areas need further improvement, and which changes are working for you. Do some call-to-actions or headlines work better than others? Which color combination drives more conversions?

Experiment with different colors for your CTA button to determine which one gets the most clicks. Test several headlines to find out which your audience responds better to. Experiment with different font styles, and sizes and check if there’s any difference in your conversion rate based on those changes.

Conclusion

Now you know the key elements you need to use to design a high-converting mobile landing page. Have you tried any of these tips before? How did it affect your conversion rate? Do you have any questions about mobile landing pages? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

And if you need any help optimizing your website, blog, or landing pages for conversions, you can get in touch with me. I can help you come up with the best solutions for boosting your conversions.

Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant that specializes in sales funnels, targeted traffic and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, Influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities. You can find him on Twitter here.

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198: 6 First Income Streams Recommended for Bloggers

6 Recommendations to Monetize Your Blog

In today’s episode I want to talk about making money blogging.

More specifically, I want to tackle a question from a reader who has been blogging for a while without monetizing but is wondering which income stream she should try  first.

I’ll suggest 6 income streams that I see bloggers often starting with and at the end nominate my favorite one that I think can be a good place to start for many bloggers.

So if you’ve been wanting to start monetize your blog – whether you’re a new blogger or an established one – or even if you’ve been monetizing but want to add another income stream – this episode is for you.

Links and Resources on 6 Recommended First Income Streams for Bloggers




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Good morning and welcome to episode 198 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 grow your audience, to create amazing content that’s going to change your audience’s life in some way and to build profit around your blog.

In today’s episode, in episode 198, I want to talk to you about that topic of making money from your blog, building a profitable blog. Most specifically, I want to tackle a question from one of our readers from the Facebook group who’s been blogging for a while now without monetizing. She has actually built up a bit of an audience, some archives of content, but is wondering which income stream she should try to add to her blog first.

In today’s episode, I want to share with you six different income streams that might be a possibility for this particular blogger. These are six income streams that I see bloggers often starting with. At the end of presenting the six, I want to nominate my favorite one that I think could be a good place to start for many bloggers. If you’ve been wanting to start to monetize your blog whether you’re a new blogger, or an established one, or maybe you’ve been monetizing for a while and want to add another income stream, this episode is for you.

You can find today’s show notes where I will be listing some further reading and listening over at problgger.com/podcast/198. Also, you can join our Facebook group and connect with other bloggers on this same journey of monetizing their blogs. The Facebook group is over at problogger.com/group.

Lastly, if you are in America, in the US, check out our upcoming Dallas event which I will be co-hosting. We’ve got a great lineup of speakers including Kim Garst, Pat Flynn, myself as well as a range of other bloggers and online entrepreneurs. You can get the details of this event which is happening in October, I think it’s the 24th and 25th of October. You can get those details at problogger.com/success.

If you use the coupon code SUCCESS17, you’ll get $ 50 off over the next couple of weeks but don’t wait too long on that because that discount won’t last long. All those details will be on the show notes today. I think it’s time we go into today’s episode.

I got a message from Danielle who’s one of our Facebook group members this morning. She said in her message and she gave me permission to share this, “I saw your recent Facebook Live on how to make money blogging. I love the idea of adding multiple income streams to a blog.” That’s something that I did cover in that Facebook Live recently. “But as a blogger who’s been blogging for a while and has a medium sized audience but who’s never monetized, what income stream should I add first? Thanks, Danielle.”

Thanks for the question, Danielle. I do appreciate that. If you do have questions at any time, pop them into the Facebook group or send me a message if you would like to do that as well. On the group would be great because that way we can answer I publicly. But there are a few options for you, Danielle, as is often the case with question that I’m asked about blogging, the answer is, often, it depends. It really does depend. There are a number of factors that are going to help us to work out what income stream should work best for you.

Some of the factors that you will need to ponder and I guess you need to think about as you’re listening to some of what I’m about to suggest. Different factors will impact the income stream that you choose. Some of the factors might include your topic. Some topics lend themselves very well to different income streams whereas other topics don’t at all. For example, I found talking to many bloggers who blog about spirituality of different faiths or politics that advertising doesn’t always work so well on some of those, particularly advertising with advertising networks like Google’s AdSense. Your topic is going to come into it.

Even more important than topic though is your reader’s intent. The question is why are readers on your site? If you can really tap into that, why are they there, you will, hopefully, begin to see some opportunities to monetize. For example, if your readers are on your site wanting to learn information, they want information of some type, they want teaching, they want how to information, then that’s going to land itself to monetize by selling information, information products. I’ll talk a little bit more about that.

If people are there because they want to connect with other people who share a similar interest or a similar life situation, it may be harder to sell information but it might be easier to sell them into a membership community. Ask yourself the question why are readers on my site? What is it that they’re there for? Because that might help to reveal the right income stream.

Some other factors that come into play, your audience’s size, whilst you’ll always find that as you grow your audience your income will grow with most of the income streams I’m going to talk about today. Some of them are almost not worth trying if you’ve got a tiny audience. For example, Google AdSense. You’re not going to make much on it at all unless you have a sizeable audience.

Your audience’s location is another factor. Some locations monetize better with Google AdSense, with things like Amazon’s affiliate program. If you have an audience who is all in the one location whether that be in the one country or even the one state or even the one town, I know some of the bloggers in our Facebook Group have very localized blogs, then they will lend themselves to different types of income streams. For example, I know one blogger who has a blog in Melbourne and they monetized their blog by advertising on their blog to Melbourne businesses. That really lends itself very well to that, your audiences’ location.

Also, the source of your traffic, you’ll find that some different types of traffic will monetize differently. Traffic coming in from search engines might do better with Google AdSense but traffic coming in from social media might do better with affiliates. Really, it’s going to depend on your certain situation. I’m generalizing a little bit there. Email, I find, works really well when you’re selling a product, for example. The source of your traffic is another factor to consider.

There are some other things to keep in your mind, your topic, your readers’ intent, the size of audience, the location of your audience, the source of your traffic, these types of things, it’s worth knowing what they are because as I go through these six different income streams that you might want to consider, those factors will come into play.

Let me outline six of the options. By no means are these six the only options. These are just six of the most common things that I see bloggers doing as their first income stream. I’m not saying any of them are the best for you, Danielle. You’ve got to give it a go and I’ll talk a little bit later about trying different income streams because different income streams will have different fits for different blogs.

Number one and by no means am I putting this in order of priority, this is just the most common one that I see a lot of bloggers starting with, it is actually the one I started is Amazon’s affiliate program. Amazon’s associate’s program is what you will need to Google. To find it, I’ll link to it in today’s show notes. Some people are pretty much turning our podcast off right now because they don’t like Amazon’s associates program and I understand why that is. There are a number of reasons that I regularly hear from people that they don’t like it.

For one, in some places it’s just not available. There are some states in America that you cannot join the Amazon’s associates program and it’s got to do with tax and the legal aspect of it. I don’t really understand it because I’m not in one of those jurisdictions. Other people might be from other parts of the world where there’s not an Amazon store. There are legitimate reasons not to do it.

But often, the complaints I hear about Amazon’s program are that the commissions are quite small, they are. The commissions that you make on Amazon when you recommend a product and someone buys that product, you earn a little commission and the commissions are quite little, they’re I think 4% depending on the products. It can go a little bit higher. I have high commissions up to 8% or 10%. It’s not a massive commission that you get, particularly if you’re recommending low priced products. If you’re recommending a $ 10 eBook and you’re earning 4%, not a lot there, which I understand.

Other people complain about Amazon because the cookies don’t last long. If you send someone into Amazon, if they make a purchase, I think it’s within 24 hours you can get a commission but after that, you don’t. I will need to check how long that cookie lasts today. They’re some of the reasons that I hear Amazon being critiqued and they’re valid reasons but I still like Amazon and I still like to promote on Amazon. If you follow my Digital Photography School blog, you will see that I recommend cameras on Amazon all the time. Every time I talk about a camera, we link into Amazon with our affiliate code.

There are a number of reasons for that, that we choose Amazon even above camera stalls and that is because Amazon’s an incredibly trusted brand. We have a very US based audience. We know most of our audience know, use and trust and like Amazon. They know that brand, they trust it. It’s a safe option for them to spend their money on. Another reason that I like Amazon is that it’s not just books on Amazon. There are all kinds of products. If you have a high value product that you write about on your blog like a camera, 4% isn’t really much when you’re talking about a book but if you’re selling a $ 2,000 camera, it add ups over time. That’s one of the reasons that I particularly like it.

Another reason I like Amazon is that there’s more than just books on Amazon, there’s products from almost every category that you can think of. People tend, once they’re in Amazon, to start surfing around and I can see, I actually recommended a lens on Amazon yesterday from our Facebook page and no one bought the lens but I can track that people bought other things. I saw people buying books. I saw people buying cosmetics. I saw people buying nappies. I saw someone buying a necklace, jewellery and this was because I linked in pointing to lens. I would say that most people are buying more than one items. They tend to surf around and Amazon is very good at suggesting things for people to buy. Get people in the door at Amazon and Amazon’s very well refined, very well tested and then I will get this out for you.

Another reason I like Amazon as a first income stream, just to begin to learn how to monetize your blog is that it’s so easy to integrate. Amazon provides a variety of different tools and widgets that you can use on your site. You can just create text links but you can also develop little icons and widgets that you can put in your sidebar and even a shop that you can build as well.

Another thing I like about Amazon is that particularly around holidays like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, they are very well optimized and they often have really good promotions on them. If you can get people into the store at those times, people are in a buying mood but Amazon also have a lot of specials and so you can promote those types of specials as well.

Amazon’s not going to be a perfect fit for every blog but I do think it’s worth considering if you want to start out. One of the reasons I do particularly like it as a first one is that it’s so easy. You can be up and running with Amazon within a few minutes, just go to Amazon’s associates program, signup and you can be generating links pretty quickly.

The times that it may not be good for you is if you do live in one of those US states where it’s not allowed or if you have an audience that doesn’t live within one of the locations that Amazon has a store. Amazon has stores in America, they’ve got a UK one, I think they’ve got a German one. They’ve got a variety of different stores and you’d be aware of the ones in your particular area. I think there’s about to open up in Australia as well.

It may not be perfect for you but it’s one to consider. If you want to learn a little more about Amazon, check out episode 53 where I talk about how I made over half a million dollars with Amazon. That’s sounds like a lot but it’s come out of almost the last 15 years of blogging so split that up a little bit. I also have written a really extensive article on the topic called the Ultimate Guide to Making Money with the Amazon Program which is a text based version of that particular podcast in podcast episode 53. I’ll link to those in the show notes today.

That’s the number one, by no means is it the best. Number two that I want to talk about is other types of affiliate programs. This is another option that I think is very easy to do. There’s very little investment that you have to make when you’re promoting someone else’s products and there’s a variety of different types of products that you might want to promote.

Again, just for a recap for those of you who aren’t even familiar with that term affiliate, it’s when you recommend a product and you earn a commission when someone buys that product. You are given a link that has a little tracking code and so the person who’s selling the product knows you referred that and they were able to pay that commission.

There’s a variety of options here. You might want to promote a physical product. For example, Vanessa, many of you know Vanessa, my wife, she has a style fashion blog. It’s called Style and Shenanigans. She has an affiliate link from numerous types of physical products. She’s writing about fashion so she is linking into clothes store, clothes and shoes and bags, accessories, those types of things. She also writes about books so she’s recommending books on online stores. She’s recommending them on Australian stores because her audience is in Australia. She doesn’t do so much on Amazon.

She’s linking and promoting home wear products, vases and paintings and all kinds of those types of things, sheets, duvet covers and those types of things and then gift ideas. Around Christmas, she might do a list of 10 things to buy a guy for Christmas, or a woman for Christmas, or mother’s day, that type of thing. She’s talking all the time on her blog about physical products. When she promotes those products, they work quite well for her.

If you’re talking about physical products on your blog, find an affiliate program where you can recommend those types of products. You’ll find many these days, many normal retailers like actual brick and mortar retailers in shopping centers and malls that you go to. Many of them will have programs already. You could simply do a search on Google for the shop name affiliate program and you’ll probably find that many of them do. Of the shops that Vanessa shops in, there’s only really one or two that don’t have an affiliate program already.

Some of them will have their own affiliate program but most of them will use what’s called an affiliate network. Some of these might be networks like Commission Junction, or Commission Factory, or ShareASale, or LinkShare. I’ll link to those in the show notes today as well. There are networks around as well. The beauty of the networks is that they actually represent quite a few different retailers and different options for you so you might sign up for a site like LinkShare or ShareASale and you might be promoting three or four of their merchants at once which means you’re not getting lots of little checks and lots of little payments coming in. ShareASale will just send you that one payment every month.

Physical products might be a good fit for your blog if you’re writing about those types of things already and you can find products related. The other type of product that you can recommend as an affiliate is virtual products. These are usually more information based products. This is really where I started to ramp up my monetization. I started out with Amazon’s affiliate program and AdSense which I will talk about in a moment but then I very quickly learned that you could earn a higher commission if I was recommending an information product particularly an ebook.

The first ones that I promoted were ebooks on photography. I found that many of the people who are writing ebooks, even 10 years ago, now were paying 50% commission. You’re not looking at a 4% or an 8% commission like Amazon, you can earn a higher percentage. Again, really, it’s going to depend upon the reader intent. If your readers are there to learn something, information products like ebooks, or courses, or even membership sites can be very, very good. If you have people wanting to have community, you might promote membership sites. They tend to be more about where people have a forum and can connect with other people.

If people are there to learn how to do something, you might also want to recommend software products. On ProBlogger, we recommend hosting options, we recommend tools, landing page sites, plugins, those types of things, WordPress themes, they all have affiliate programs as well and they relate to the reason that people are on ProBlogger because they want to have good blogs and these tools enable them to do that as well. Think about that and you might want to do some research and look at what other bloggers are promoting in your particular industry. You might want to Google your topic and affiliate program, or your topic and ebook, or your topic and course. Many of the products you’ll find will have an affiliate program attached to them.

Some of those affiliate networks that I mentioned previously will have lots of information products in them as well. I find ShareASale has a lot of software as a service products that might relate to your niche. There’s another one called Clickbank that has a lot of more information product. E-junkie also as a lot of affiliate options for information products as well. Again, it’s really important that you not only choose a product to promote that is on topic for you, but you want to also match it to the intent of your readers.

Many of you will remember I had a camera review site back in the day. When I recommended teaching products or ebooks on that site, people weren’t buying those products because the intent of those people on that camera review site was to learn about which camera they should buy. It was much better for me there to link into Amazon because that’s where the product they were researching was. Promoting books on how to take better photos just didn’t work there at all. These days on my Digital Photography School site, the intent of the reader is to learn how to use cameras and so those ebooks do so much better. Again, match the intent of your readers with the product.

I do share more about affiliate marketing in episode 51. If that’s something you want to learn more about, go check that one out. Again, I’ll link to it in the show notes and I’ll remind you of all of these further listenings later as well in the show.

Number three thing that you might want to try and I see a lot of bloggers starting this way, particularly bloggers who’ve already built a bit of an audience and they want to start monetizing is advertising networks. This probably won’t suit a brand new blogger who doesn’t have an audience because this is one of those income streams that does really require you to have traffic. It’s not going to convert at all. You might earn a few cents if that, using an ad network. In fact, you might not even get into some ad networks until you have some traffic.

This is how I got started, but again, I’ve been blogging for a year and a half before I started to monetize. I signed up for Google’s AdSense network. It actually came out about the time that I started to think about monetizing my blog so I was lucky in some ways to get in the ground floor. AdSense is another one of these income streams that gets a bit of a bad rep from some bloggers. Some bloggers don’t like it because they don’t make much money from it and that could be because they don’t have much traffic or it could be that they have a traffic from a location that doesn’t monetize while using Google AdSense.

I find Google AdSense works really well for US audiences but it doesn’t seem to work as well for audiences from different parts of Asia, for example. It really is going to depend upon that location but it’s worth a try if you do have some traffic but you’re going to need a lot of it to really ramp things up.

Another advertising network that I do know a lot of bloggers who are doing quite well from these days is a network called Mediavine. Again, I’ll link to it in the show notes. They do have a few restrictions on who can join but the bloggers I know who get accepted by it say they do a lot better than they did from AdSense. On their page, you can actually go and have a look at some of their guidelines that they say. They say that you have to produce original content so you’re not let to repurpose content from other places and the categories that they say they accept bloggers from are food, parenting, DIY, health, fitness, fashion, travel, crafts, education or entertainment.

It’s fairly broad but there are some categories that they don’t seem to represent like politics, religion, those types of things. Really, if you fit into one of those niches, you might want to have a look it. They do require you to give them exclusive access so you cannot be running other ad networks here. They also say, “It has to be exclusive across mobile and desktop.” You also need to have 25,000 sessions a month, that’s a Google analytics measure there. If you’re getting under 25,000, you may not get accepted into it but it’s something to aim for, again.

They’ve got some requirements. You can check that one out if in you’re in one of those categories. There are other advertising networks around and if you are in another niche and you’re looking for one, you might want to pop into the Facebook Group and ask if anyone else is aware of any that might suit your particular niche. That’s the number three.

Number four is related to that because it’s still advertising. It’s what I would classify as a sponsorship. This is, again, not going to be relevant if you’re a brand new blogger because like ad networks, you do need to have some existing traffic to be able to sell sponsorships on your blog. Danielle seems to have some traffic so it might be a good fit for her. This is where you find a brand that is willing to work directly with you. In some ways, it’s cutting out the middleman like AdSense or Mediavine, you’re going directly to the advertiser.

I’m not going to go into great detail on this one because I think we’ll do a full episode on it in the coming episodes but I did talk to Nikki Parkinson about this in her recent interview in episode 196. There are a variety of ways that a sponsorship can work. Again, it’s only going to really work if you’ve got that traffic but a sponsor may be interested in buying a banner ad on your site, they may be willing to sponsor some content so they might want you to write a review of their product and then pay you for that. They might want to sponsor a series of content, we’ve done that type of thing on Digital Photography School where we might have done a whole series of articles on portrait photography, that was sponsored by Canon.

They didn’t actually do that but that would be an example and it’s not where you’re actually promoting a product but you’re presenting content sponsored by them. A brand might also be interested in hiring you as an ambassador if you’ve got a well-known face or profile in the industry, a brand might want to sponsor a giveaway or a competition on your site or they might want to do a combination of those things. This is what we often do on Digital Photography School, we will sell some banner ads, we might sell a banner ad in our newsletter as well, maybe some social media promotion and it’s a competition as well. We bundle things up.

There’s a variety of ways that you might want to work with a brand. Again, it’s going to only really suit bloggers who have a bit of an established profile and some traffic as well. You want to find a brand who wants to associate them with you. For that to happen, you need to be in good standing and have a good reputation.

The fifth thing that you might want to consider is creating your own products to sell. Up until this point, we’ve largely been talking about promoting other people’s product as an affiliate or working with a brand. You’re sending people away from your site selling other people’s stuff. That can work quite well particularly if you can get a cut from what you sell and that converts. But your own products might be another one.

This is one that I would suggest most bloggers might not have as their first income stream unless they have been around for a while because it does take some traffic but it also takes a lot of work. It’s going to be some investment that you have to make into creating a product particularly if it’s a physical product. You need to get it designed. You need to get it made. Even a virtual product like an ebook, you’re going to have to take some time to create that product.

My first product was an ebook. What I did is turn some of my previously published blog posts into the ebook and then I wrote some extra content that was exclusive to the ebook as well. It took me some time to get it together. It took me three or four months to create that ebook and get it ready to sell. It does take some work. The reason it worked very well for me was that I had a lot of the content already written and I already had an audience who is engaged. I had fans of the site. They’re willing to buy what I was selling. There was trust and relationship there.

This one is definitely more risky if you don’t have many readers or they’re not an engaged reader. If you have a lot traffic coming in from search engines, for example, and they’re people who just come in once and then never come back again, they’re less likely to buy from you because they don’t trust you as much. You have to really work hard on your marketing to convert them because you got to convert them in that one time they’re on your site unless you do some retargeting advertising later. But if you’ve got readers who are coming back again and again particularly if you’ve got email addresses of those readers, I find email is a great way to sell products.

If you got that engaged audience and you’re looking for your first income stream, it might be that selling your own product is the best way in because if you’ve got a very engaged audience, they’re going to be excited about your product and you’re going to actually make it a bit of an event and include your readers in the development of that product as well and bring them on that journey. Let them know that you’re writing an ebook ahead of time. Get them even to crowdfund the ebook using Kickstarter or that type of thing.

If products are something you’re interested in, you could check out episode 67 where I tell the story of my first products and also outline some steps that can help you to work out what product to make and how to make that product as well.

The last income stream that I want to talk about is where you sell your own services. Again, this won’t be relevant for everyone, not that any of them are. This is another way that I see some bloggers monetizing early in their blogging, it’s where they sell themselves in some way. This is obvious, if you’re a professional, you might be an accountant, or a lawyer, or a child behavior therapist, or you might have a business of your own on the side and this is where you use your blog to promote that business. I do know quite a few bloggers who didn’t have an existing business but then decide to sell services that relates to their blog.

Let me give you a few examples. I know two bloggers here in Australia who are fashion bloggers who now sell their services to fashion boutiques and fashion manufacturers, small fashion manufacturers to write copy for their websites and also to manage their social media. Because they’ve built up their profile as a fashion blogger, they’ve got some expertise in those areas, they then offer those services to others in that particular industry. If you’ve got a decent reputation in your industry already, you might do well from that.

Another example is a parenting blogger that I know who writes paid articles for a parenting magazine and for local newspapers. She has a regular column and she gets paid to do that. It may be that you have a service that you can offer people in your industry as well. Again, not going to be relevant for everyone but if you’ve already built up that reputation, it may be something you can do.

When I did a recent survey of full time bloggers, I surveyed about 100 full time bloggers. I found that over half of them offered freelancing services. I was really surprised at that but it makes sense because often when you are selling yourself as a writer, or a consultant, or as a coach in some way, you are able to charge a higher rate than you might able to get from selling an ebook or two. That’s another one to consider.

I’ve gone through six different options there. We started with Amazon’s affiliate program then we talked about other affiliate programs, we talked about advertising networks, we talked about sponsorships and working with brands, we’ve talked about creating your own products and then we talked about selling your own services. But the question still remains, which one should Danielle do and which one should you do if you are wanting to monetize your blog for the first time. Again, it really does depend. But if I had to choose just one, if I just had to choose which one, for me, it would probably be affiliate, it would probably be affiliate marketing.

Whether that’s Amazon or whether that’s another affiliate marketing relationship with a brand that’s more suited to your audience, I think it could work well. There are a variety of reasons that I think affiliate is the best way to go for many bloggers, not all but many. That is because there’s very low barrier to entry. You can sign up for an affiliate program and some of them will take 24 hours to approve you but many of them will approve you instantly. You can be generating some links that you can then be putting into your blog straight away.

The reason that I love affiliate marketing so much isn’t so much the income that you’ll get because in the early days, you’ll probably won’t earn a lot from it but you’ll going to learn a lot from it. You are going to begin to see what products your audience are interested in buying. You could be promoting a variety of different products. You could be promoting some physical ones, you could be promoting some high priced ones, you could be promoting some low priced ones and you could be doing some information products, you can try few things and then begin to see what your audience response to. This might help you to work out what you should create, what product you could then build.

Creating that product might be your ultimate goal but to work out which one to create and how to market it and how to price it, how to promote it, you’re going to learn a lot by doing some affiliate marketing first. For me, that’s probably the real beauty of it. The other thing you might also learn by doing some affiliate marketing is what type of products you could then be approaching to sponsor your blog. You might find that jewelry does really well on your blog or why not reach out to some jewelry stores or jewelry manufacturers and see if they would want you to become an ambassador or to become a sponsor on your site.

This is what I actually did in the early days of my blog, I did a lot of affiliate marketing and I worked out after a while on my Digital Photography School blog, the ebooks work really well. I didn’t create an ebook till 2009 but I was promoting ebooks since 2007 and I worked out that my audience, they like ebooks and they like them on certain topics and at certain price points. I created my first ebook on the topic that I knew would work and at the price that I knew would work as well. You’ll begin to learn a lot about what’s going to work with your audience.

I also learned on my very first blog, that camera review blog, that Amazon affiliate links were working well on my site. I began to approach camera stalls directly to sponsor the site. Again, you’re going to learn a lot there that can flow onto other income streams as well. If I was starting today, I’d probably identify a few key products to promote on my blog as an affiliate and then start with that.

A few last things to really keep in mind, and I really want you hear this. Making money from blogging takes time. It’s not an overnight get rich quick program. Most bloggers also have more than one income stream and that’s what Danielle mentioned in her question. We’re talking today about your first income stream, it’s not your only one. Most full time bloggers have at least two. Many of them have four or five different income streams. Most full time bloggers try income streams that don’t work for them too. Most full time bloggers have a stream of things that they have tried that didn’t work. Don’t just rely on one. Just because the first one doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean that others won’t as well so hang in there. Keep experimenting.

Another thing to keep in mind is that making money from your blog isn’t a passive thing, it’s not passive income. You are going to need to set aside time to monetize. A lot of people tell the story of my first ebook making $ 70,000 in its first couple of weeks. I’ve told that story from the stage a few times and I’ve heard other people retell that story. But they tell it as a he got rich overnight type story. The reality couldn’t be further from that truth. The reality is that it took me two years of building up traffic to a site. It also took me three months of working everyday to create that ebook and getting ready for that launch. It took years of developing trust with my audience.

Yes, you can make money quickly but it’s usually built on the foundations of a blog with a great archive of content that has an audience that you’ve worked really hard to build up, an audience that’s engaged. These are the foundations for that profitable blog. Yes, experiment with those income streams but don’t do it at the expense of creating great content, engaging with that audience, and promoting your blog as well. Those things are just so important.

I hope that somewhere in the midst of that is an answer for you, Danielle. Maybe affiliate marketing but maybe as I’ve talked today, something else has peaked your interest as well. I have mentioned a lot of further listening. I just want to emphasize that again. If you do want one of those income streams, here’s a list of a podcasts that you might want to listen. Firstly, episode 32, I’ll list all these in the show notes. 32 is an episode on answering that question can you really make money from blogging. I talked about seven things that I’ve learned about making money from blogging.

Episode 51 is about affiliate marketing, if you do want to explore affiliate marketing, how to do that, how to convert better than just putting an ad in your sidebar for an affiliate product, episode 51 is for you. If Amazon is one that you want to look at, you can listen to episode 53 which really builds on episode 51 so those two might work well in conjunction. If you want to create your first product, go back and listen to episode 67 because I really do talk about my journey in that as well.

If you want to learn a little bit more about working with brands, you might want to listen to that interview that I did with Nikki Parkinson. Just a couple of episodes ago in 196, I think it was. She actually talked there also about how she monetizes in a few other ways as well. It could be a good one to listen to if you haven’t already.

All those will be listed on the show notes at problogger.com/podcast/198. Lastly, if you want to do check out the Facebook group, head over to problogger.com/group where I’d love to hear about how you monetize your blog. There’ll be a thread announcing this podcast in the comments of that. We’d love to hear about your first dollar, how you made that first dollar, and what you would do differently if you’re starting out again today.

Thanks for listening today. I’ll be back with you next week to talk about another cool tool that’s going to help you in your blogging. Thanks for listening. Chat with you soon.

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