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The post Seven Warning Signs That Your Blog Needs More Attention appeared first on ProBlogger.

You might think you’re on top of your blogging. You’re publishing posts regularly. You’re even active on social media.

But are you paying as much attention to your blog as you should be?

If you’re in a bit of a blogging rut (i.e. you’re producing and promoting new content but not much else) then you might be neglecting some other crucial aspects of your blog.

Here are seven warning signs your blog isn’t getting the attention it needs. And seven ways to turn things around.

#1: Your Posts Aren’t Getting Any Comments or Responses

When your blog is new, it’s normal to only get the occasional comment. But a sudden drop-off in comments (and other responses such as tweets, emails, “likes” on Facebook when you link to a new post, etc.) could be a warning sign.

Why It’s a Problem

A lack of comments (or responses in general) usually means your readers aren’t as engaged as they could be. And the problem can be self-perpetuating. If readers see there aren’t any comments on any of your recent posts, they may be reluctant to make the first comment.

Having no comments or engagement on your Facebook page can also be off-putting to new readers. It certainly doesn’t make your blog look like it’s thriving.

How You Can Fix It

In the short term, you could encourage more people to comment by specifically inviting them to at the end of posts. You could even ask a few blogging friends to stop by and leave a comment.

However, a lack of engagement usually means you need to look at your overall strategy. Are you writing posts that are genuinely useful to your readers? If not, what could you write that would truly resonate with them?

#2: You Haven’t Sent Out an Email in Weeks (or Months)

When did you last send anything to your email list? Many bloggers fail to send out emails, or have long gaps between emailing. (Assuming they started an email list in the first place.) Perhaps you’re waiting to promote a product you’re finishing off. Or maybe you’ve just been busy, and posting on your blog itself was all you could manage.

Why It’s a Problem

If you don’t have an email list at all then you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage with your readers and make more money from your blogging. Email tends to convert well into sales – usually much better than social media or search engine traffic.

If you do have a list, but don’t send out emails regularly, your list will go “cold”. People will forget who you are and why they signed up to hear from you. And if the first email they get after weeks or months is a sales email, they may well unsubscribe or even mark the email as spam.

How You Can Fix It

Get into the habit of sending something useful to your email list regularly. Some good options are:

  • A weekly or monthly newsletter sharing information that doesn’t appear on your blog
  • A weekly email with a short “teaser” plus a link to your weekly blog post(s)
  • An occasional series of emails you send out in the run-up to a product launch

Schedule sending out a regular email (at least monthly) just as you’d schedule writing your blog posts.

#3: Your Search Engine Traffic Has Dropped

Is your search engine traffic slowly declining month by month? Or has there been a sudden drop in traffic for no clear reason?

If you’re not sure how much search engine traffic you’re getting, the best way to find out is by using Google Analytics. It’s great for tracking all sorts of data about the visitors coming to your site and how they’re using it.

Why It’s a Problem

If you don’t know your search engine traffic at all, you might need to pay closer attention to your blog’s stats. While there’s no need to obsess over them, it’s well worth checking them regularly to stay on top of any problems.

With a healthy blog you’d normally expect a steady growth in total search engine traffic as you publish more posts each month (which creates more opportunities for readers to find your blog via search engines) and as your site gathers more backlinks.

How You Can Fix It

If your traffic has been slowly dropping off, it could be because you haven’t published many posts recently. Or maybe your blog has a lot of competition, and your competitors are now outranking you for some key search terms. It might help to look for your best-performing posts and see whether you can make them even better.

If your traffic has dropped sharply, there could be a technical issue with your site. Or your blog may have been penalised by Google. You can find out what’s happened by using the Google Search Console.

#4: You Can’t Remember When You Last Updated WordPress or Your Plugins

If your blog is hosted on WordPress.com, the WordPress team will handle all the updates for you.

But if your blog is hosted on a site such as Bluehost or Hostgator then you need to ensure you’re keeping your version of WordPress and all your plugins up to date. (Some web hosts will update WordPress for you automatically, but you still need to keep an eye on things.)

If you can’t remember when you last updated anything, or know it was several months ago, that’s a problem. You can see how many updates are needed by looking at the red number next to “Updates” in the sidebar of your WordPress dashboard.

Why It’s a Problem

Outdated WordPress installations, themes, and plugins can pose a serious security risk to your blog. If there’s a security flaw in an old version of a plugin (or WordPress itself) and you don’t update it, your blog might get hacked.

Even without the security issues, you should always be running up-to-date versions of WordPress and your plugins so your blog functions at its best. Old plugins might not be fully compatible with newer WordPress installations, and so you need to keep them up to date to avoid issues with your blog.

How You Can Fix It

It’s always good to take a backup of your blog before updating WordPress or any plugins, just in case something goes wrong. (You can do this with a variety of different plugins.) To check for available updates and apply them, go to the Updates page in your WordPress dashboard.

#5. You Don’t Have An Editorial Plan or Content Calendar

Do you just sit down and write whatever comes into your mind? Many bloggers do. They don’t have an editorial plan or a content calendar that allows them to plan for content that takes the reader on a journey.

This can be fine for some types of blogger. For instance, if your blog is essentially a personal diary it might work well for you. But for bloggers who want to make money or build a profile in their niche, not having a plan or calendar can really hold them back.

Why It’s a Problem

If you don’t plan ahead for the “big picture” of where your blog’s going, chances are it won’t really go anywhere. You might write posts week after week without really getting any traction.

You’ll probably run into other issues as well. What happens if you can’t think of a good idea one week? Do you write something that’s sub-par, or skip that week altogether? Neither is an ideal solution.

How You Can Fix It

Creating a simple content calendar doesn’t need to take long. You can simply grab a notebook and jot down ideas for the next month of blog posts. Alternatively, you could use a spreadsheet or a plugin such as Editorial Calendar.

Think about how you can take your readers on a journey from where they are to where they want to be with your content. What questions could you answer? What obstacles could you help them overcome?

#6. You’re Not Making As Much Money As Before

Along with a gradual slowdown in traffic, some bloggers see a gradual slowdown in sales. Perhaps one of your products sold well a year or two ago, but since then sales have gradually dwindled to nothing. Or maybe the affiliate sales that gave you a nice extra income stream have dropped off, and now you don’t have much money coming in from your blog at all.

Why It’s a Problem

Obviously, if your goal is to make money from your blog then declining sales isn’t a good sign. Even if the slow down is gradual, a downward trend is a warning that something needs to change.

For busy bloggers, a drop in sales might not be immediately obvious. It may take months for you to realise you’re no longer selling as many ebooks as usual, or that a particular affiliate payout seems to have stopped. Just as you should keep an eye on your blog’s traffic, you should also keep a close eye on your income.

How You Can Fix It

Sales can drop for all sorts of reasons, and it’s worth trying to figure out what’s happened. For instance:

  • While your new product may have sold well when you released it, most of your audience members who want it have now bought it. You might need to bring in fresh readers to reinvigorate sales.
  • Maybe the product you created several years ago was perfect for the market then, but now looks pretty dated. It could be time to update or revamp it.
  • Perhaps you reviewed a bunch of affiliate products in the early days of your blog, but haven’t written any recent reviews, and so your affiliate income has dropped. Writing some new reviews (or updating and republishing older ones) could see your income recovering.
#7: Your Readers Are Contacting You About Problems

Have you had any emails or messages from readers recently alerting you to problems with your site?

Perhaps your contact form wasn’t working properly, or they couldn’t find the information they needed on your About page (which you hadn’t updated in years). Maybe something displayed strangely on their phone, or they couldn’t sign up to your newsletter. They may have even found a lot of broken links on your “recommended tools” page.

Why It’s a Problem

For every reader who contacts you about a problem, there were probably others who couldn’t find or do what they wanted and left your site, possibly forever.

Readers can be put off when they see obvious issues with your site (e.g. something isn’t displaying correctly, the information on your About page is out of date and your social media links don’t work properly). If your site looks neglected, they’re less likely to trust your content.

How You Can Fix It

As well as promptly addressing anything readers contact you about, it’s also worth regularly checking key pages and features of your site to ensure they’re working as you’d expect.

Every three to six months:

  • Make sure your About page is up to date. Have any details changed?
  • Make sure your “Start Here” page or widget includes any really good new posts you’ve published.
  • Make sure your Contact form actually works correctly, and that the details are up to date.
  • Run through the checkout process for at least one of your products to make sure it’s working as you expected.
  • Sign up for your newsletter list to see how your Welcome email (and any subsequent emails) appears to a new subscriber.
  • Fix any broken links. The best way to do this is with a plugin like Broken Link Checker.

It can be hard finding time to regularly write great content for your blog and maintain it. But if you only focus on writing posts and neglect everything else, you’ll struggle to see the success you want.

What items on my list are you struggling with right now? Tell us how you’ll be fixing them in the comments.

Image credit: Marvin Esteve

The post Seven Warning Signs That Your Blog Needs More Attention appeared first on ProBlogger.

      
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The post How to Use Quotes in Your Blog Content Legally and Ethically appeared first on ProBlogger.

This post is based on episode 173 of the ProBlogger podcast.

Are you confident you’re using quotes legally and ethically on your blog?

Quoting other people’s words, whether from books or blog posts, can be a great way to improve the content on your blog. It’s also a great way to serve your readers (which we’ll dig into in a moment) and build relationships with those you’re quoting.

However, using other people’s content inappropriately can severely harm or even destroy your reputation as a blogger. I’ve seen people’s profiles and credibility ripped to shreds because they haven’t done it right.

But don’t let that worry you. It’s easy to get this right. And that’s what we’ll be covering in this post.

(Quick disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, and this post isn’t legal advice. If you’re in doubt, seek the advice of a lawyer.)

Should You Use Quotes at All?

If using quotes can pose ethical (if not legal) issues, you might think the simplest solution is to avoid them altogether.

But quotes are really powerful, and you’re missing out if you’ve never used them.

Quoting someone else allows you to:

  • Add more credibility to your articles and make your arguments stronger. You’re showing you’re not the only person who thinks in a particular way about your topic.
  • Make your posts more interesting and informative for your readers by including insights and thoughts from other people.
  • Learn more yourself by actively seeking out other people’s ideas.
  • (Potentially) build connections with the people you quote. Sometimes they’ll notice you’ve used their quote and thank you for quoting them.
Why You Need to Use Quotes Correctly

Ethically, you should always give credit to those whose words and ideas you’re using. (You may also have a legal obligation to do so.)

Never use someone else’s words and present them as your own. That’s plagiarism.

While some bloggers do it intentionally, others do it without really knowing what they’re doing.

But whether or not it’s intentional, doing it wrong can really harm your credibility and even create legal issues.

Here’s how to ensure you’re using other people’s words correctly:

#1: Use Quotation Marks

Always put quotation marks around someone else’s words (whether by typing the quotation marks or by using blockquote formatting). That makes it clear they’re not your words.

#2: Name the Author

Name the person you’re quoting, whether they’re someone contemporary (e.g. Mike Stelzner) or someone who’s long gone (e.g. Shakespeare).

#3: Provide a Link Back, Where Possible

If you can, link back to the exact content you took the words from. If they’re from a blog post, link to that blog post. If they’re from a podcast or a YouTube video, link to that.

If you can’t find the exact piece of content, or the quote is from something that doesn’t have a recording (e.g. a live speech ), find the person’s homepage or social media profile and link to that.

Here are a couple of key reasons why I suggest linking to the original piece of content:

  • It serves your readers. They can go and look at the context of those words and see what else is said in that blog post/podcast/video.
  • It serves the person you’re quoting. Hopefully it will drive some traffic and interest their way, and help them grow their profile and credibility. (This will also help you build your relationship with them.)
How Much Content Can You Quote?

I normally take only one to three sentences from someone else’s article. If I want to use more, I ask permission from the blogger or podcaster first.

The general advice on this is to think about the proportion of the text you’re using. If you’re quoting from a book, it might be fine to quote 250 words (about a page). But if you’re quoting from a 1,000-word blog post, then about 50–70 words would be more appropriate. This is normally considered ‘fair use’, and you don’t have to ask for permission.

Normally I err on the side of quoting less and encouraging readers to read the whole article.

What if You Need to Modify the Quote?

When you’re quoting someone, you may need to add a few words to give readers more context, or take out a few words to shorten the quote.

If you do this, it’s important to be clear about what you’ve modified.

If I’m adding to a quote, I always put what I’ve added in square brackets; if I’m removing something from a quote, I use three dots (with spaces between each one) to show where I’ve omitted text.

Here are a couple of examples (from above):

Adding words for context and clarity:

“If I want to use more [than a few sentences], I ask permission from the blogger or podcaster first.” (Darren Rowse, How to Use Quotes in Your Blog Content Legally and Ethically)

Removing words to make a quote more succinct:

“If you can, link back to the exact content you took the words from. . . .  If you can’t find the exact piece of content . . . find the person’s homepage or social media profile and link to that.” (Darren Rowse, How to Use Quotes in Your Blog Content Legally and Ethically)

Tips for Using Other People’s Words and Ideas in Your Blog Posts #1: Add Your Own Thoughts to a Quote

Don’t just take a quote and put it up as a blog post. While it’s legally and ethically fine (as long as you link it back to the person), it would serve your readers better if you wrote a bit about why you chose that quote.

That could mean an introductory paragraph about why you chose it, and a paragraph or two at the end where you say what you’d add to the quote or how you’d qualify it. You could even tell a story that illustrates the point of the quote.

#2: Give Credit to People for Their Ideas, Not Just Their Quotes

Even if you’re not quoting someone’s exact words, it’s good form (and wise from a legal perspective) to credit them for inspiring what you’ve written.

Back in 200, I watched a video presentation from Chris Brogan, who was doing a lot of thinking back them on blogging and social media. In the video he talked about using his blog as a “home base” and his social media as “outposts” around it, and had a description and a diagram to illustrate this.

I loved his idea, and it gave me the language to explain how I also use social media.

While I’ve never directly quoted Chris, I’ve often used the idea of a “home base” and “outposts” in our posts. When I talk about it – on the blog, on webinars, or in keynotes – I always say, “I got this from Chris Brogan”.

#3: Give Credit to the Source of Your Quotes

Sometimes you find a quote through someone else. For instance, if Chris Brogan blogged about something Mike Stelzner said, I might use Mike’s quote but add that I found it via Chris Brogan. And I’d link to Chris’s post as well as Mike’s.

This isn’t a legal requirement as far as I know. But I think it’s good form, and it helps build credibility. It also adds extra value for your readers because it gives them two other posts to read that offer different contexts and viewpoints.

For lots of different ways to use quotes on your blog (such as putting together lists or creating an expert roundup), check out Ali Luke’s post, The Why, How and When of Using Quotations on Your Blog.

Using Other People’s Images on Your Blog

Using images is trickier than using quotes, because when you use an image  you’re using the entire piece of work.

To do this you should either get explicit permission from its creator or choose an image that’s already been licensed for you to use. For instance, it could be licensed with a creative commons license, or you might have purchased it from a stock photography site.

For more about using images legally and ethically, check out my post, How to Find Images for Your Blog That Won’t Get You Sued.

Using Other People’s Videos on Your Blog

If you find a video on YouTube you want to use, check whether there’s an embed code. (The video creator can allow or disallow embedding.) If you can see the embed code, consider it as permission to use the video.

But again, you should always credit the video and never present it as your own in any way.

Whenever you’re using someone else’s ideas or words, make it really clear to your readers they aren’t your ideas or words. It’s an ethical and legal obligation. And it will help you serve your readers well.

When you use quotes on your blog, how do you ensure you use them fairly and give credit to the author or speaker? Let us know in the comments below.

Image credit: MJ S

The post How to Use Quotes in Your Blog Content Legally and Ethically appeared first on ProBlogger.

      
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ProBlogger by Podcast Motor, Darren Rowse - 3w ago

The post 278: Evolve Don’t Revolve Your Blogging appeared first on ProBlogger.

Evolve Your Blog

Does it feel like you’re going around in circles with your blog? It’s easy to revolve in your blogging.

Let’s look back at my keynote presentation titled, Evolve Don’t Revolve, from ProBlogger’s Evolve event in 2017. 

It highlights my journey as a blogger and areas where you can evolve your own blog and online business.

Plus, the 2017 keynote features a Q & A with Pat Flynn, who shares how he achieved success by evolving his blog, Smart Passive Income.

ProBlogger’s Evolve 2019 event in Melbourne is happening soon!  
  • August 10: Training Day (Beginner/Intermediate)
    • Four key areas of building a successful blog
  • August 10-11: Mastermind (Intermediate/Advanced)
    • Spend time with other bloggers, online creators, and entrepreneurs to workshop your blog and business

Jeff Goins will present this year’s keynote titled, Finding Your Voice as a Blogger. He’s the author of Real Artists Don’t Starve.

Fellow expert bloggers, Nicole Avery, James Schramko, Kelly Exeter, and Shayne Tilley, will talk about their knowledge and experience.

For more information about Evolve 2019, go to Problogger.com/events. Don’t forget to sign-up by June 30, 2019, to get the Early Bird price. 

Links and Resources for Evolve Don’t Revolve Your Blogging: Courses

Join our Facebook group.

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view

Darren: Hey there, friends. It’s Darren Rowse from ProBlogger. Welcome to Episode 278 of the ProBlogger Podcast. The podcast is designed to help you start a blog, to build that blog, and to monetize it. 

Today, I’ve got a special treat for you. It is a keynote that I gave a couple of years ago at our ProBlogger event in Melbourne. It’s titled Evolve Don’t Revolve. It’s all about how as bloggers and online entrepreneurs, it’s really easy to revolve in our blogging, to just go around in circles. I don’t know if you can relate to that of feeling going around in circles. I certainly can. There’s been so many times over my 15 years of blogging where I’ve realized I’m just treading water, I stopped growing, I stopped evolving. The call of this keynote is to look at seven different areas where you can evolve your blog and online business.

Also, a taster of what we do at our Evolve event, at our ProBlogger event, which we’ve been running it for quite a few years. We’ve got our new event coming up in August of this year on the 10th and 11th of August, again, in Melbourne. I want to tell you a little bit about that event before we get into the keynote. There’s two options for those of you who want to come to our event in Melbourne. On the 10th of August, we’ve got a training day. This is a one day event for beginners, intermediate level bloggers. It’s also probably relevant for other content creators as well. 

If you head to problogger.com/events you can actually see a rundown of what we’re doing at that particular event. Largely though, it’s me. You’ll get a full day of me teaching on the four key areas of building a successful blog. I’m going to talk for about an hour about content and crafting great content for your blog. I’ll talk about evolving your engagement with your readers, how to build community on your blog, how to find new readers for your blog, and then, how to monetize your blog. 

This is perfect if you are a beginner or intermediate level. If you’re just starting out, you just set up your blog, maybe with our Start a Blog course, this is brilliant to help you get the ball rolling. If you’re more intermediate, maybe you’ve been blogging for a while, you want to evolve what you’re doing, maybe from a hobby blog to a professional blog where you make money from it, or maybe you’ve had a blog that’s going a little bit dormant, a little bit stagnant, and you want to give it a refresh, then this is the perfect event for you.

You will also, in that event, hear from Jeff Goins, who we’re bringing out from Nashville, Tennessee in the States. He’s going to come out and do the keynote on finding your voice as a blogger. He’ brilliant on that particular topic and a really great teacher when it comes to writing and communicating on a blog. You’ll also hear a little bit from Nicole Avery at the end of that day as well. She’ll talk about productivity and really help you shape what you’re going to do as a result of the day.

The other option for those of you who are a little bit more intermediate and advanced is to come along to our mastermind. This is the second time we’ve held masterminds at our ProBlogger event. It’s being held this time over two days, the 10th and the 11th of August, again, in Melbourne. We’ll actually overlap with our training day. You’ll hear the same keynote from Jeff Goins at the start of the day. The rest of the two days, you’ll hear from some other people including James Schramko, who is a Sydney-based content creator and business owner. He’s brilliant on selling and helping you to grow a business. He’s brilliant on membership sites and just a really smart guy. You also get to sit around the table with Jeff and James in masterminding, myself as well on the second day. Nicole is there as well. We’ve also got Kelly Exeter, who’s brilliant on writing, editing, also design, self-publishing. And Shayne Tilley from 99Designs, who’s spoken at all of our events. He’s brilliant on creating products via blog marketing and just really helping you to shape your business. 

You get the opportunity at the mastermind to sit with all of those people and also other attendees. This is where the real value comes when you sit with other bloggers, online creators, entrepreneurs, and spend a couple of days really workshoping your business. If you like to get to our event on the 10th and 11th of August this year, just head over to problogger.com/events. You can see all the details there. We do currently have an early bird offer and that ends at the end of June. You don’t have long to grab your tickets at that special rate.

All right, I’m going to get into today’s keynote. You’ll also, at the end of this keynote, hear from a familiar voice to many of you, from Pat Flynn. Pat was at our event. We fly out at least one international guest every year. This year it’s Jeff Goins, but Pat was at our event two years ago. I interviewed Pat on stage and there’s a bit of Q&A with our audience as well. As we talk particularly, again, about him and how he’s evolved his blog. Pat is just a brilliant example of someone who has done that brilliantly over the years. What he’s doing today is very different to what he started out doing. I think that’s the reason that he has had so much success. 

So, settle in, maybe grab yourself a beverage or something to eat because this goes for about an hour, a bit over an hour. You might even want to break it down into two sessions; that’s totally fine as well. There’s lots of practical stuff in this. If you also want to checkout the slides, head over today to our show notes at problogger.com/podcast/278 where you’ll be able to get the slides. There are a few things in this talk where I do refer to stuff that’s on the screen including a few jokes and funny bits as well. Hope you enjoy this keynote. Then, I’ll come back at the end just to wrap things up.

I was interviewed on a radio just recently. Someone asked me that same question but they asked me to go back to the very start of my blog and said, “What has changed in your blogging since you started?” Now, I started blogging in 2002. It was a mind-blowing question to be asked because everything has changed in my blogging since 2002 except for the fact that a blog is pretty much the same thing. It’s chronologically organized information, it’s got comments usually, and it’s content, it’s useful content. That’s always been my philosophy. Fifteen years of blogging, things have changed a lot for me. 

This is the first article anyone ever wrote about me. It was written in 2006. I found it the other day as a screenshot. When I read the article, I realized things have changed but also the picture. Hopefully, I looked a little less stressed than I did back then. I don’t know what it was but this photographer just seemed obsessed with me putting my hands in my head. These are the pictures he took that day. I thought I was maybe looking seriously or maybe wanted to cover up the fact that I was bald.

Anyway, things have changed for me. I now have a pose slightly differently for photos that’s partly because I’ve got an Instagram-obsessed wife and she knows you’ve got to […] this kind of stuff. Things have changed a lot and I look back on those times and think things have changed for me a lot. 

This is my first blogpost. When I first published it, I didn’t look like this. I’ve started on Blogspot which became Blogger and my first theme was a free theme. There was hardly six to choose from, and it was navy blue, black, and monochrome. It was the most ugly thing that you’ve ever seen.

Then, this is my first attempt at a blog design. It’s pretty much the only time I’ve ever attempted a blog design and I realized very quickly that even after three weeks of work to get to this point that I wasn’t really very good at it. Even if you look at that post, you’ll see things have changed. I used tiny little fonts. It was peaches at all on any post that I wrote. The tools that I was using, Blogger, they were very basic. You couldn’t even have comments on Blogger when I first started. You had to install a script. There’s lots of things have changed since 2002.

The next question I was asked in the interview when I recapped some of these things was, “How did you make the change from where you were then to where you are now?” This is the most impossible question I’ve been asked because I knew that the interview only had three minutes to go. “How did you do it? How do you transition from those awkward starts that we all start with to a point where you have a business around your blog or you’re a full-time blogger, or whatever it is that is your goal?”

I completely stuffed up my answer. I’ve been stressing about how I answered that on the radio that day and I’ve been thinking about how I should’ve responded. If I have 45 minutes to answer, I probably would’ve told you what I’m about to tell you. That’s what I want to really just give my proper answer today, how do you change from those awkward starts to building a business to realizing your goals of blogging?

The first thing I wished I said was that persistence is really 90% of it. That’s not the sexiest answer. It’s not a strategic answer, but it’s true. I love this quote from Albert Einstein, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I’ve stuck with problems longer.” I think it’s probably a bit of false modesty in that from Albert Einstein, saying he’s not that smart, but I really relate to that. I look around this room and I know I’m not the best writer in this room. I’m not the best writer out there. I’m not the best marketer. I’m not the best at technology. I’m certainly not the best blog designer. I’m not the best at anything, but I really stuck at it for a long time and I think persistence has really paid off for me. 

I love the story of the turquoise and the hare or the turtle and the hare. You’re going to see a few turtles today because I really relate to that turtle. Taking one small step after another. Keeping the momentum going is just so important. Really, I think 90% of any success I had has come from persistence. 

What can you persist with? I’ve shared this quite a few times now in this event. Success is usually more about doing the things that you know you should be doing rather than trying to find the secret strategies, the secret sauce all the time. I say this at the front of this event because a lot of our new attendees often come going, “What’s the real secret? How are we really going to do this?” and they’re looking for that thing that’s just going to escalate things for them. Some of the strategies that you hear will escalate you forward. But really, what is going to grow you the most is doing the things you already know you should be doing and they’re the things that you probably knew when you first started your blog already.

We call these Pillars of ProBlogging and you may have heard us talking about these before. Chris Garrett, who wrote the ProBlogger book with me, came up with this in 2009. We actually based the first event on these four pillars and that’s what we’re doing again today.

The first one is content. On day one, when I wrote that first blog post, I knew that I needed to write content. We all do. This is just no brainer stuff. You look at that first blog that you set up and you see there’s no post. Instinctively, you need to create content for it unless it’s not really a blog. For me, this is obviously the key to it. Every post you write is building the asset of your blog. Every useful piece of content that you write, it’s the archives that really is the value.

A lot of bloggers do look for that viral piece of content. They just want to write one piece of content that’s going to escalate them. Occasionally, those viral pieces of content do come and they do escalate you forward. But really, it’s persisting with your content. This is one of those things you already know that you should be doing but you need to persist with it. That’s so important to do.

The second pillar is community. It’s engagement. It’s about interaction. The way we’ve been in 2002 is changing. Previous to 2000, I reckon that most people went online trying to download stuff. A lot of it is dodgy. They were satisfied to go online and get stuff, receive stuff, download stuff. That’s what I used to do. I used to go online and research the essays I was writing. I was studying at that time. I was downloading stuff.

Around 2000, and even before, but really started to escalate 2000–2002, people realized that they could interact more. The web became a much more interactive space and this is the beginnings of social media. I probably started with user boards, internet chats, and some of these older technologies, but blogging really escalated this. This is the reason I started blogging was I saw it was an interactive medium and I saw that people were really engaging. 

The day I installed comments on my first blog, it took me about a week to do it. I saw my blog improving incredibly. As I improved the content I was writing, it’s that engagement. People sharing their stories, sharing their experience, disagreeing, and encouraging, those types of things have really improved the content that I was creating. I realized that my blog grew faster the more engaging it was.

Community is so important, but the thing about community is that it doesn’t just happen in one day. It takes time and it takes persistence. Every time you respond to a comment, every time you respond to an email, every time you engage with someone on social media, you’re building the asset of your blog. It’s persistence with community and engagement that is so important.

Number three pillar is traffic. Remember that first day where you realized you’ve written a piece of content and no one is reading it except for you? That feeling sometimes last for some of us for weeks. Then, someone shows up on you reblog and you realize, someone found your blog. I remember that moment very clearly. I published my first post and then, my next feeling was, “How am I going to get people to read the post?” I did what almost every blogger does. I spammed all my friends and said, “Here’s my blog.” That’s how most of us start. 

Most of us realize that we can’t really sustain that approach for too long. Our friends are only going to put out with those emails for the first few days. But we’ve learnt something on that first day. We’ve learnt that we need to take responsibility for driving traffic to our blog. It’s something that we need to take initiative to.

We all have these dreams that if we just write good enough content, floods of traffic is going to come to us. But in the early days of our blog, particularly, we need to take the initiative. We need to take steps to drive traffic and that really shouldn’t go away. We should always be thinking, “How am I doing to drive traffic to my blog? Where can I be engaging? Where can I be useful? Where can I build my profile and drive some traffic back to my blog?” This is something we need to persist with.

Now, in time, word of mouth does kick in. Our readers begin to spread the word for us. But even today, 15years later, I’m still asking myself, “How can I get traffic to my blog?” In fact, just two days ago, I said to my team, “We really need to up our game in this area,” because we’ve noticed our traffic’s sliding from some of our old steady sources of traffic like Facebook. The Facebook algorithm is killing us all. At the moment, we need to be more proactive with that. We need to take some more initiative on that front. Traffic is the third pillar. This is all the stuff that we all know on the first day of our blog. We know we need content, engagement, and traffic. 

The fourth pillar is another thing. If we want a profitable blog, we need to be proactive in the area of monetization. For me, this really didn’t even kick in for a year-and-a-half because I didn’t know that you could monetize a blog back in 2002; no one was really doing it. But again, I learned very quickly that even though I dreamt of a passive income straight from my blog, that I needed to do some work to get that passive income stream going in the early days. This is another area we need to persist with.

Now, this is a common theme at a ProBlogger event. If you’ve been to our events before, you know I talk a lot about putting time aside to monetize your blog. I think it was about four years ago. I put a challenge to our community and said, “Put aside 15 minutes everyday to monetize your blog in some way.” If we all put aside time to write content, we put aside time to engage with our audience, we put aside time to promote our blog, but most of us don’t put aside time on a regular daily basis to monetize our blog, at least a lot of bloggers don’t. Four years ago, I put that challenge out. 

I remember, a lot of bloggers took up that challenge. Twelve months later at the next event, I was amazed at how many bloggers came up to me and said, “You know, I took the 15-minute challenge and I wrote a book this year. I wrote a book I’ve never have written. I wrote […] guide, launched a course. I launched a membership site.” I can see people in the room who actually came up to me and said, “That 15 minutes a day challenge changed my blog.” To me, it was really a great illustration of how persistence in this pillar pays off. I think this is probably one of the biggest messages I want to get across to new users. If you want a profitable blog, you need to take some initiative in this, no matter what model you used. Persistence in this area is so important.

Persist with content, engagement, traffic, monetization. It’s the accumulation of the little steps that you take in these areas that’s really is going to put you in the best position for a profitable blog. It’s not the secret strategies. It’s these four things. That’s why we designed today around these four things. We want you to persist in these..

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The post 3 Things Most Bloggers Don’t Pay Enough Attention To appeared first on ProBlogger.

This post is based on episode 161 of the ProBlogger podcast.

Are you limiting the potential of your blog by ‘forgetting’ a few things?

There’s a lot to think about when you’re blogging, and so it’s easy to forget (or know you should be doing them but never quite working out how).

But while not doing these three things won’t kill your blog (you can still carry on without them), it could seriously limit your blog’s potential.

And what are these three things?

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  2. Email
  3. The “big picture” of content

Let’s look at each one, and why bloggers often don’t pay enough attention to them.

#1: Search Engine Optimisation

At the ProBlogger event a couple of years ago, I asked a group of seven or eight bloggers two questions.

My first was, “Where do you put most of your attention in terms of building traffic?”

Their responses included Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, guest posting, writing for Medium, paid advertising, and networking with influencers.

I loved the variety of answers. But I found it fascinating that not a single blogger (myself included) said their main focus for building traffic was search engine optimization.

My second question was, “Where do you get most of your traffic?”

This time, most of them said their number one traffic source was Google. (For most of them, number two was whatever they were putting most of their attention into.)

It’s great to focus on more than just SEO when building traffic. But what would happen if we put more attention into driving traffic from Google? Most of the full-time bloggers I’ve met say Google brings between 40% and 60% of their traffic.

Right now there’s a lot of attention on driving traffic with social media. But maybe we need to start focusing on search again.

So why do bloggers ignore SEO? I think many see it as being too hard or too technical. But even I’ve reaped the rewards of spending a bit of time on SEO every day. And I’m the most non-technical person I know.

And you don’t need to get obsessive about it either. Here are a few simple things you can do to increase your Google traffic.

  1. Set up your blog the right way. At a minimum, use an SEO plugin. You might also want to check out episode 94 of the podcast: 5 Mistakes Bloggers Make with SEO and What to Do About Them.
  2. Learn how to optimize your content. Learn how to use headings (and keywords within them).
  3. Think about the keywords people would search for to find your content. What would someone type into Google if they wanted to read a post like yours?
  4. Try to get extra links to your site from other sites. For one great way to do that, check out How to Build Hundreds of Links to Your Blog in 5 Minutes a Day.

A couple of years ago I realized I was spending several hours a day on social media and no time on SEO.

So I flipped it around and focused more on SEO. I spent five or ten minutes a day building links to my blog, and learned how to optimize my content to appear in Google’s featured snippets. The result? A big increase in my search engine traffic.

#2: Email

A lot of bloggers feel some sort of guilt around email. They know it’s important because everyone keeps telling them how powerful it is. Unfortunately, a lot of them get stuck in one of four places.

But before I talk about those four places, I want to make it clear how important email really is.

Email doesn’t drive as much traffic as search or social. But what it does do is drive traffic with intent. People click through on emails to read content, buy a product, or engage in a community discussion.

On ProBlogger and Digital Photography School (DPS) we use email to drive people to our Facebook group, our blog posts, our Facebook pages, and so on. It’s vital for building engagement on our sites.

And email is the ultimate sales source for our own products and affiliate promotions. If you want to monetize what you’re doing, it’s crucial.

It’s also great for building a brand. For readers who aren’t on Facebook every day (or who aren’t on Twitter or Pinterest or Instagram at all), email is the number one touch point they have with us.

But bloggers often don’t use email effectively (if at all) because they get stuck in one of four places:

  1. Getting started. At first, building an email list can seem like a waste of time. When I started the DPS photography list I managed to collect 17 email addresses in the first week. (Well, 14 along with my own, my dad’s and my wife’s.) I remember thinking, “Is it really worth spending an hour putting together a newsletter for 14 people?” But I still did it, and the next week it was 30 people, and 45 the week after that. Now we have more than 700,000 subscribers. So choose an email service provider and make a start.
  2. Collecting email addresses. Many bloggers just have a widget in the sidebar. But there’s a lot more you can do to get people to subscribe. You can have calls to action in your content, you can use a tool such as SumoMe or OptinMonster (which I covered in episode 68 of the podcast), or you could create a free opt-in to give away to people who sign up.
  3. Sending emails. Some bloggers collect email addresses but never send emails. Even if you’re waiting to have something to sell, you should still get into the rhythm of sending emails. Create and send useful content to your subscribers at least once a month – more if you can. On ProBlogger and Digital Photography School we send a weekly newsletter that lists the content published on the blog in that week, and sometimes a bit of bonus content as well.
  4. Automation. Many bloggers manually put together every email they send out. That’s fine, but you can achieve so much more with a little automation. Set up a sequence of emails to get your readers on board and introduce them to your site. If that’s something you’re interested in learning more about, listen to episode 70 of the podcast: How to Drive Traffic and Profit in Your Blogging with Autoresponders.

If you’re stuck in one of those four areas, I encourage you to push through it during the next week. Start that list, collect email addresses more effectively, send emails regularly, or build some automation into your list. It can really lift your blog.

#3: The Big Picture of Content

A lot of bloggers are really good at creating daily or weekly content. But their system of creating content is often very much in the moment. They sit down, think about what to write about, write it, and then publish it.

One way to bring life to your blog is to create a content calendar, or at least a list of content you want to produce over the upcoming weeks and months. This helps you to become more thoughtful with your content, and create content that takes readers on a journey.

I like to think of it as creating a pathway for your readers. What’s the path you want to take your readers on over the next few months?

In episode 11 of the podcast I ran through a simple exercise that can help with this: creating a “before” and “after” profile for readers of your blog.

When readers come to you they’re in a particular situation, and you want to help them change. What do they need to know? What changes do they need to make? How could you inspire them? How can you help them gain the skills or the confidence they need?

By mapping out the change you want to see in your readers, you can plan and create content that takes them on that journey. Rather than just creating content that helps readers in the moment, you can give them the sense that you’ll be creating content that builds on this. That’s the type of content people will want to get more of, and that will drive them to subscribe and to become a regular reader of your blog.

So most bloggers could put more time into:

  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Email
  • Creating a “big picture” for their content

I’d love to hear what you’ll be focusing on over the coming weeks. Let us know in the comments. And let us know what you think other bloggers should spend more time doing?

Image credit: Brooke Cagle

The post 3 Things Most Bloggers Don’t Pay Enough Attention To appeared first on ProBlogger.

      
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The post Nine Types of Questions to Ask On Your Facebook Page to Get More Comments appeared first on ProBlogger.

This post is based on episode 183 of the ProBlogger podcast.

Do readers engage with your Facebook page?

A lot of people spend time on Facebook. And as bloggers, it makes sense that we want to reach them.

Unfortunately, it’s increasingly difficult to grow your audience using Facebook – especially if you don’t have the budget to boost posts or advertise.

But you can still use Facebook effectively without spending any money.

One thing that helps a lot is to build engagement with your existing followers. This will prompt Facebook to show your posts more widely.

Why Engagement Matters So Much – And What it Looks Like

As well as signalling to Facebook that people like what you’re posting (and that it should show your posts to more of your followers), high levels of engagement also mean:

  • your readers will know you’re interested in them as people, and that you want to build a relationship with them
  • you’ll build social proof. If someone stumbles across your Facebook page and sees you’re engaging with your readers (and they’re engaging with you), they’re more likely to want to join in.

You can get several different types of engagement, including:

  • People liking your Facebook page
  • People reacting to your updates on Facebook (e.g. like, love, laugh, wow, sad, angry)
  • People sharing your posts with their followers, or in another page or group
  • People commenting on your posts.

The one I like best is the comment. When readers leave comments, it gives you an opportunity to learn more about them. They’re not just going for the easy option of clicking “like”. They’re putting themselves out there and responding to your post.

This post is all about getting more comments on your Facebook page. And the most effective way I’ve found to do that (and not just on Facebook, but also on blog posts and any kind of social media) is to ask questions.

That sounds obvious, right? But I’m amazed how many of the pages I follow never ask questions. They never take the opportunity to get me commenting and engaging with them.

If you want to grow an audience of people who feel like they know, like and trust you, then you need to ask questions. But not just any questions. You need to ask the right types of questions.

Nine Types of Question You Can Ask On Your Facebook Page #1: “Fill in the Blank” Question

This is a really easy (and often very effective) type of question to ask. Here’s a question I asked on the Digital Photography School Facebook page:

The lens attached to my main camera right now is _______.

For a blog such as ProBlogger I might ask:

My first blogging platform was __________.

And for a food blog you might ask something like:

The word that describes my approach to diet is ____________.

or

My favourite comfort food is _______________.

The beauty of this type of question is that it’s incredibly simple for someone to answer. They just have to leave one word.

Asking a “fill in the blank” question is often a good way to get someone to leave their first comment – especially if they’ve been following your page for a while without commenting.

#2: “This vs That” Question

With this type of question, you get your followers to choose one of two options. It might be something like “Are you a cat or a dog person?”

On Digital Photography School we might ask, “Do you prefer Nikon or Canon?” or “Do you post-process your photos or not?”

You can also use this for a yes/no question such as, “Do you exercise daily? Yes or no”.

Be careful if your question is likely to spark a lively debate. We don’t ask about Nikon vs Canon too often because it can end up getting a bit negative. (Some people have very strong views about the brand they prefer.)

#3: Question from a Reader

This is a technique one of my online friends Samantha Jockel from School Mum uses. She’ll write a post like this:

These questions (which always start with “A School Mum asks”) are sometimes funny, sometimes start debates, and sometimes offer a way in to more controversial topics. And they often get a lot of comments.

If you don’t have any questions from readers, you might be able to create some by digging into:

  • comments on your blog
  • comments left on your Facebook page
  • emails you’ve received.
#4: “Biggest Problems” Question

While asking your readers to share their biggest problems, challenges, obstacles or even fears might seem a bit negative, you’ll be surprised what comes out in the discussion.

You can ask fairly specific things. For instance, on a parenting page there might be questions such as:

  • What’s your biggest fear as a parent?
  • What’s your biggest challenge at the moment in raising boys?
  • What’s the biggest problem you have in the area of discipline?

These types of questions help you understand who’s following your page. They can also inform future pieces of content for your blog.

You may also find people mentioning problems you’ve written about in the past. You can reply to them and say, “Here’s an article with some tips on how to overcome that challenge”, and drive people back to your archives.

#5: “Dreams” Question

This is the flipside of #4. Ask people about their dreams and aspirations. It helps you understand not only what your readers are going through right now, but also what they want to do or become.

Again, you can use readers’ responses to create content that helps them move toward the dreams they have.

People love to talk about their dreams, ambitions and hopes for their future. So this type of question often gets a lot of comments.

#6: “Tips” Question

Although people are coming to your Facebook page to learn from you, the reality is that in any community there’s a lot of collective wisdom.

With this type of question you can say, “I want to hear from you today with your tips” about a particular area.

You may not get as many responses to this type of question as you would to a “fill in the blanks” question. But the responses will be deeper, longer, and more useful. They’ll be valuable both to you and your other readers.

And if you get permission from those who comment (which you can do by mentioning you plan on using some responses in a future blog post), you can also turn these answers into content for your blog. Just make sure you give credit to the people who left those comments.

#7: “Share a Photo” Question

While this won’t work for every type of site, asking readers to share a photo (or video) can be relevant to many Facebook pages.

We do this a lot on Digital Photography School, where we might ask people to upload their best portrait or landscape from the previous month. The result? A long list of photos, with many people not even leaving a comment.

This could work on many other types of blogs. Here are some I’ve seen.

  • Parenting blogger – “Show us a favourite piece of art from one of your kids.”
  • Food blogger – “Show us the last picture you took of food on your phone.”
  • Fashion blogger – “Show us your favourite pair of shoes.”
  • Technology blogger – “Show us everything you have in your laptop bag.”

Again, you may not get as many comments as you would with other types of questions. But you’ll likely get some really interesting ones.

#8: “Accountability” Question

You’ll find this type of question used in a lot of Facebook groups, where they ask things like, “What’s your biggest goal of the week?” or “What do you want to achieve this week?”

This can be a great way to get engagement because it gives you the opportunity to respond to readers later in the week.

I left a comment on a post like this on a Monday. On the Friday the blogger left a reply to every single comment that mentioned a goal, asking, “How did you go with…?”

I hadn’t completed my goal. But I got it done about ten minutes after he left that comment. I was really grateful that blogger took the time to keep me accountable. And I know I’ll be going back to that page.

If your page involves people trying to build a habit, learn something or become something, you could ask this type of question and then come back to encourage them and help build some accountability.

#9: Question About a Blog Post

When you share a link to a blog post you’ve written, you can add a question. This can encourage readers to read your post as well as comment.

For instance, one post I shared a while back on Digital Photography School was The 19 Most Popular Compact System and Mirrorless Cameras With Our Readers.

As well as posting the link to Facebook (which automatically pulled in the title and image from the post), I added a question: “Do you use one of these popular compact camera systems?”

My goal was to get people reading that blog post. But I also got lots of people answering the question. We don’t normally get many comments on our links to blog posts, but in this case 23 people answered the question. That particular Facebook post also had a higher-than-average reach.

Hopefully you’ve already tried some of these types of questions on your Facebook page. The key is to get into the habit of asking questions regularly, and mixing up the types of questions you use.

Final Tips for Using Questions on Your Facebook Page

Finally, here are some things to keep in mind when asking questions on your Facebook page:

#1: Stay On Topic

Make sure your questions relate to your topic. Occasional off-topic questions can help build engagement, but don’t do it too regularly or readers may feel your page topic is getting lost.

#2: Consider Using an Image

Using an image helps your question stand out in people’s newsfeeds. It could be a plain image, or an image that includes the question text. Spending a minute or two doing this can really boost engagement.

#3: Consider Using Facebook Live

Facebook Lives get more reach than other types of post. So you may want to go on Facebook live and ask your readers a question. Once your live video is over, it will appear in people’s Facebook feeds as a replay.

#4: Time Your Questions Appropriately

Don’t ask questions at the wrong time of day. The other day a question popped into my mind, and I shared it at 3.30pm Australian time. That’s the middle of the night in America (where most of my audience is), and my Aussie audience is picking up their kids from school or about to go home from work. Not many of my readers are online at that time of day.

#5: Don’t Ask Too Many Questions

Mix up the types of post that you publish. Share links, videos, pictures, and so on as well as questions. Facebook seems to prefer this, and it’s likely to be better for reader engagement too.

#6: Be as Responsive As You Can

If people answer your question, it’s really nice if they get a response from you. They’ve taken the time to respond to you, so take some time to respond to them. That doesn’t always need to be with a comment. You might use a “like” or other response, particularly if they left a “yes”/“no” or single-word comment.

#7: Be Quite Specific With Your Questions

Don’t be too open ended with your questions. You’re likely to get much better responses if your questions are fairly focused. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to comment, and if your questions are too open ended they may not know how to respond.

I hope this helps you come up with lots of ideas for questions you could ask on your Facebook page to build engagement. Of course, you don’t have to limit your use of questions to Facebook pages. You can use them in Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, on Twitter, or even on your blog.

Seen people using any other types of questions on Facebook or other social media? Let us know about them in the comments.

Image credit: Camylla Battani

The post Nine Types of Questions to Ask On Your Facebook Page to Get More Comments appeared first on ProBlogger.

      
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The post Three Key Things Successful Bloggers Do to Build Their Blogs Into Businesses appeared first on ProBlogger.

This post is based on episode 192 of the ProBlogger podcast.

A couple of years ago we published a fantastic guest post from John Stevens on the nine conversion habits of the world’s most successful bloggers.

To build a business around your blog you probably need to work on certain things. And John’s post highlights some great habits to build.

But in this post I want to pull out three things John talks about that can make a real difference to your blog. And once we’ve gone through them I’ll share some fundamentals that are even more crucial.

#1: Use Multiple Email Opt-In Boxes

Email is so important. It can help you sell to your audience, build traffic, and build a sense of community.

As John says in his post, you shouldn’t have just the one opportunity for people to opt in to your email list on your blog (or even a page of your blog). The most successful bloggers have multiple calls to action on every page of their blog to opt in.

Readers are becoming increasingly blind to our opt-in invites. It’s like the “ad blindness” that came after banner ads were first introduced in 2004–05. At first they got lots of clicks, but now we’re so used to them that we barely notice them (and ignore them if we do).

Opt-in blindness is similar. People see so many invitations to sign up for freebies that they’ll often just ignore them.

I don’t believe we should stop using email opt-ins. But we should get smarter about how we use them. Having multiple opt-ins is one way to do it, although as John says in his article it’s important to find a balance. You don’t want to annoy your readers by bombarding them with pop-ups that interrupt their reading.

But you can certainly have more than one call to action. For example, you could have:

  • a “welcome mat” that slides down from the top when someone comes to your site for the first time
  • a call to action at the bottom of your blog posts
  • an “exit pop-up” that appears as someone leaves your site.

Track whether sign-ups increase (or decrease) based on the options you have in place. For instance, back in 2017 on Digital Photography School we found that adding an exit pop-up boosted our sign-ups by 30–40%.

Some tools we recommend to help you with opt-ins on your blog include Opt-in Monster and SumoMe.

#2: Use the Space Above the Fold Effectively

“Above the fold” means the area of a page that appears before you need to scroll (on a desktop). Everything that you can’t see until you scroll is “below the fold”.

The area above the fold on your front page is really important because people are more likely to notice and take action on the things you place here. Here are some of the key things you can include:

  • Benefit statements – what someone will get from reading your site
  • Social profile – such as how many social media followers or email list subscribers you have
  • Opt-in calls – where you ask someone to enter their email address
  • Proof of authority – maybe showing the logos of sites you’ve been featured on.

As well as the space above the fold on your front page, think about what’s happening on your posts themselves. Most new readers will come straight to a blog post, not the front page.

A potential problem is having so much stuff above the fold on your blog posts that readers can’t actually see the content of the post without subscribing. For instance, there may be a huge email opt-in at the top.

While a few people may willingly give you their email address before reading your post, it’s smarter to show them the post first and then ask for it. You want to start delivering value to them straight away.

#3: Use a Static Homepage to Gather Email Addresses

This has shifted a lot over the past few years of blogging. When I started my first blog in 2002, it looked like 99% of the blogs on the internet. If you went to the front page you’d see the 5 to 10 most recent posts in their entirety, with the most recent at the top.

That’s just how things were.

A couple of years later people started showing excerpts rather than full articles. While readers then had to click to read each article, it made for a better user experience because the front page didn’t take so long to load.

Later, we started seeing front pages that were more like magazines, with a grid-like layout. Some would have just the title and image for a post, while others would have a short excerpt.

But recently we’ve seen front pages that don’t look like blogs at all. They’re more like landing pages that funnel readers toward taking specific actions. And as John picks up on in his article, many of those pages focus on getting people to subscribe to their email list.

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to designing your home page. But if you look at John’s post you’ll see a lot of blogs no longer look like blogs in the traditional sense.

Think about your number one goal and focus on that above the fold on your homepage. Then add some really strong calls to action. You can certainly include your latest content there, but you can include other things as well.

For instance, on the ProBlogger front page we have prominent calls to subscribe to our email list at the top and at the bottom. In between we highlight our most recent blog posts and podcasts, and have information about our courses (plus another link to our email opt-in as ProBlogger PLUS).

So these three things can all make a big difference:

  • having multiple opt-ins
  • using the space above the fold effectively on your home page while ensuring your blog posts deliver value straight away
  • having a static home page that lists more than just content.

But many successful bloggers don’t do them all. They make a great income, but their sites look a little dated and they aren’t doing anything innovative with their design.

So why do they succeed?

I think it comes down to three key factors:

  • They create lots of great content on a regular basis that answers questions and solves problems. They’re delivering real value to readers.
  • They engage with their audience through social media, answering questions but also simply getting to know them.
  • They promote what they do consistently and prolifically. They network, guest post, attend events and conferences, and get to know other key influencers.

While the design of your blog and how people use it is important and can make a real difference, it’s not the whole picture. In fact, the key to your success will be relentlessly creating great content, being highly engaging, and promoting yourself.

So by all means add more opt-ins to your site, check what you’re including above the fold, and have a clear goal for your homepage. But don’t do it at the expense of your content, your audience, and your promotion.

I’d love to hear what you think about this. What do you believe makes the biggest difference? What are you personally drawn to? Do you prefer tweaking the design of your blog or writing more posts? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

Image credit: Tony Hand

The post Three Key Things Successful Bloggers Do to Build Their Blogs Into Businesses appeared first on ProBlogger.

      
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The post Six Productivity Tips to Help You Build Healthy Habits appeared first on ProBlogger.

Do you struggle with managing your time?

As an online entrepreneur it’s easy to slip into bad habits – moving frantically from one urgent thing to another, or responding to other people’s agendas without much thought about what we need to get done.

In this post, I’m sharing six things that have helped me form good habits in my blogging, my business, and many aspects of my life.

What if you’re not naturally organised?

I’m not a naturally organized person.

I’m quite impulsive and don’t like to be pigeon-holed. The rest of my team are the opposite: they love spreadsheets, things being organised, and so on.

But despite not being naturally organised, over the years I’ve managed to build certain systems, habits, and routines to help me get things done.

Because without these these types of routines I knew my business would always be limited.

Six productivity tips that will help, no matter how disorganised you are #1: Start with your goals and your “why”

There’s no point building good habits unless you have a clear “why” – your motivation to making those habits stick.

A good example is my health journey over the past few years. At various points I’ve tried to build better habits around diet, exercise, sleep, and so on. But I never kept them going for long. I understood what I was doing on a “head” level, but didn’t really have a “heart” connection to them.

But for several years now I’ve been walking 10,000 steps almost every day. I’ve also been eating healthier, and consistently going to the gym.

What changed? At the beginning of 2015 I realised I was in a slump. I wasn’t as healthy as I wanted to be physically, emotionally, socially or spiritually.

Some of my early goals were about losing weight and increasing my movement. So as well as having the “why”, I took specific steps toward my goals.

#2: Tell yourself “It’s just what I do”

I don’t remember where I got this mantra from. But I’ve found it really helpful when I’m trying to build a new habit.

I say to myself, “It’s just what I do”.

Building good habits often meets with resistance for me when I’m tempted to eat something unhealthy or skip my walk. But one thing I do when I come up against that resistance is to say “It’s just what I do”.

“Walking. It’s just what I do.”

“Eating healthy. It’s just what I do.”

In the early days of a goal that doesn’t come easily. Your mantra might not sound convincing at all. But the longer u stick with your habit, the more the mantra becomes true. The first day I walked 10,000 steps I’d only done it once. A week later I’d done it seven days in a row, and my mantra of “It’s just what I do” had far more truth to it.

#3: Schedule the thing you’re trying to normalise

When I started walking every day I put it in my diary. I set an alarm for each weekday at 12.30pm that said “Walk”.

Making an appointment with myself helped make walking a normal part of my day.

I started arranging my workday around the walk because it was in my diary. And then after a while I no longer needed the alarm because my body started anticipating the walk. And if I didn’t go for a walk, I’d start feeling a bit edgy.

#4: Start with small things and level up

Most of my good habits started off small.

For instance, when I started making health changes I began by eating healthily. Then I added in walking, and later working at a standing desk.

With the standing desk, I decided that to begin with I’d just spend the first hour of each work day standing, then I’d sit down.

Once I got used to that, I did an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. Then I did it for the entire morning and an hour later in the afternoon. Now I spend most of my day standing.

If your goal is to write a daily blog post, going from no posts at all to writing a post every day might be too much. Perhaps you could do one post a week, then two, then three, and so on. The same goes for other goals, such as running a podcast or even using social media.

#5: Never miss two in a row

Earlier I mentioned my mantra of “it’s just what I do”. Another mantra I have is “Never miss two in a row”.

That means that if something gets in the way of one of my habits (or I just need a break) I give myself permission to have time away from my routine. But I try not to miss two in a row.

For instance, if I miss walking one day I try hard not to miss the second day. With going to the gym, which I normally do twice a week, I’ll just do it once if I’m away.

With my blog, I might write half a post while travelling when I’d normally write a full one.

The key here is to find ways to keep my habits going, even if not at the frequency I’d normally aim for.

The times when I run into trouble is when I have an extended break away from things.

#6: Create space to play

Make sure you schedule time to do things for fun. For me that might be reading a novel, watching something on Netflix, going to a movie or a cafe, or just having a nap.

I do some of this at the end of the day. But I also set aside Monday afternoons for it.

I think most of us need time in our weekly schedule for rest, play, dreaming and imagining. It gives us a chance to get more energy and new ideas. So if you want to be productive, you need to build these things in as well.

So if you’re looking to build healthy habit, in your blogging or your life, I suggest you:

  1. Start with your goals and your “why”
  2. Tell yourself “It’s just what I do”
  3. Schedule the thing you’re trying to normalise
  4. Start with small things and level up
  5. Never miss two in a row
  6. Create space to play

Has something on this list worked well for you? Do you have another tip to add? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Image credit: Sandy Millar

The post Six Productivity Tips to Help You Build Healthy Habits appeared first on ProBlogger.

      
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The post Finding a Balance Between Family Life and Blogging Life appeared first on ProBlogger.

This post is based on episode 148 of the ProBlogger Podcast.

One of the things that attracted me to blogging was the flexibility it offered. I’d be able to work and still be involved in my family and raising my kids.

Before we had kids, my wife Vanessa and I planned for us both to work part-time and look after the kids together.

But we had no idea what blogging would lead to. And as it turned out things didn’t quite turn out the way we expected. I ended up blogging full time, and Vanessa became the primary caregiver along with doing some part-time work.

The Advantages of Blogging When You Have a Family

Although I work full time on my blogging, I can still be very involved with our family life. I’m here when the kids leave for school. And when they return I try to greet them at the door and connect with them for at least a few minutes.

It also means I can:

  • drop them off and pick them up when needed
  • volunteer in the classroom from time to time
  • make it to mid-week school concerts and activities.

I love that.

Fridays are a good example. For years I’ve been taking one of my three boys to a local cafe before school every Friday for some one-on-one time to do homework, share a reading book, and have a chat over hot chocolate.

Blogging also lets us travel a lot as a family. We can be on the road for a month, and I can still get some work done.

Many people start blogging during a time of transition within their family. They might be home with small children for the first time after having a professional career, and want to use some of their skills in a way that fits around their family.

So there are lots of advantages to blogging when it comes to family. But there are challenges too.

I’m no expert at this. At times my family life and work life get out of balance one way or the other. But here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Lesson #1: Set Aside Time for Your Business and Time for Your Family

It can be tempting to blog while doing family stuff. And sometimes that’s necessary. Maybe you’re blogging while the kids are watching a movie, or while you’re supervising them. But I’ve discovered I’m a much better parent when I’m 100% focused on my kids. And I’m a much better blogger when I’m 100% focused on my blog.

Even if you can’t be 100% focused on one or the other all the time, try to carve out some times for total focus.

Ultimately, my family is my top priority. But to provide for them need an income. That means my business also needs to be a high priority for me. And it’s something I enjoy doing as well.

My schedule has shifted at different times and at different life stages, but here’s how it’s typically looked for me.

  • Before 9am I’m 100% focused on my family.
  • Between 9am and 5pm I’m 100% focused on my business.
  • From 5pm to 7.30/8pm I’m 100% focused on my family, particularly the kids.
  • After 7.30/8pm I spend time with Vanessa. (That being said, two or three nights a week we’ll sit on the couch next to each other and work, and maybe have the television on in the background.)

My time on the weekends is pretty much dedicated to family.

That’s how it works for us. But sometimes things run a little differently day to day, and we’re flexible depending on what else is happening.

Lesson #2: Be As Organised As You Possibly Can Be

During the times when you’re 100% focused on your work, it’s important to be organised and focused. I often get more done when I only have a half day than when I have a whole day because I have to focus on what really matters.

I could share loads of different tips about organisation. But for me it really boils down to working out what’s important, making a list, and ticking off those things.

If you have to juggle kids and work, think through what activities you can do at different times. I find creating content really hard when the kids are in the room with me. But I might do some administrative things such as email or social media while they’re watching TV or playing happily.

Lesson #3: Talk About Your Work Boundaries

Your schedule will only work if you communicate it with those around you. In our family, Vanessa and I normally work out the boundaries of how our family will run. Sometimes we ask our kids and involve them when we can on making those decisions.

As my kids get older, I’m trying to have more conversations about my business and what my work involves. I tell them about the podcast episode I’ve been recording, or the work I’ve been doing.

I also talk about why I work. I tell them that I enjoy it, that I’m trying to help other people, and that it makes money for our family.

Lesson #4: Set Up Signals to Show You’re Focusing

I try to have signals and reminders for the kids, particularly about when I’m focused on my work. At home, I work in my office. And if I’m there, it’s a signal to the kids that I’m at work. (I sometimes work on the couch at night once they’re in bed.)

This helps me for a couple of reasons. First, it eliminates some of the distractions that come with working in family areas. Second, it lets me shut the door so the kids know not to interrupt unless it’s an emergency. I keep the door open quite a bit when they’re home and I’m happy for them to disturb me.

Occasionally they ignore it and burst in while I’m doing a webinar in front of a thousand people. (It’s happened a few times.) But most of the time it works.

I know people who have other signals for their family. A friend of mine puts on a shirt and tie when he’s working. He has to work in a family area because they have a small house, and so this is a signal to his family that he’s trying to work.

Another person I know puts a sign on their office door that will either say “I’m at work” or “Come and say Hi”.

Lesson #5: Work Outside the Home At Times

Over the years, I’ve found there are times when it’s hard to work at home. For a long time I worked in cafes. I liked the white noise and the semi-social nature of having other people around. I’ve also found our local library a nice environment to work in.

More recently, I hired a room in a local church for me and my team to work in, mostly on Friday mornings. I also have a nearby co-working space where I can use the wifi, printer, coffee machine, and so on.

Mixing up my working environment gets me away from some of the distractions at home and helps me be more creative, particularly if I’m working on a big project such as an ebook or a keynote.

Lesson #6: Capture Ideas on the Run

While I try to separate blogging and family times, II get all kinds of ideas and inspiration while I’m with the family. I used to carry a little notebook around to record these, but now I use Evernote and other apps on my phone.

If I don’t capture ideas straight away, I forget about them. But once I’ve recorded them I can focus on my family and retrieve them once I’m back in work mode.

Lesson #7: Take Extended Time Away from Blogging

While it’s great to be able to blog on the road or while taking a long vacation, it’s also important to have extended periods where you can dedicate yourself to family and other things in life.

I try to have three or four weeks a year when I don’t check my blog at all. Two of those weeks are usually over the Christmas break, which is in the summer here in Australia. We usually go down to the beach for a couple of weeks. Not only do I get to enjoy time with my family and unwind, I also come back fresher, which is good for my business.

This can be especially important if you blog about travel or your family. There can be a tension around this, where every experience gets turned into content. But it’s important to create memories as well as content when you’re away.

Lesson #8: Delegate and Outsource

Over the past few years I’ve been able to involve other people in some of the work in my business. This has taken time, and you obviously need some income before you can start hiring people. But if you’re at that point, consider paying people to help you.

For many years – probably the first eight or so years of my blogging – I tried to do it all. I had to be online constantly — monitoring comments, and even receiving alerts in the middle of the night if my server went down.

One of the best things I ever did was to start getting other people to help me with my blogging. In episode 147 of the podcast I talked about hiring my brother-in-law Simon to help me with customer support emails. This freed up a lot of my timeto focus on the things I’m best at in my business.

As well as getting help with your blog, you might consider getting help in other areas of your life. That might mean paying for childcare, a cleaner, or someone to help with the garden. Things that could help you find more time to not only work on your business but also spend with your family.

Lesson #9: Make Peace With the Tension Between Blogging and Family Life

It’s probably healthy to feel a sense of tension. We have a limited amount of time, and it’s good to be mindful about how we spend it.

The key for me is to keep my priorities in mind and communicate them. There will be times when things are out of balance. That can potentially be a good thing, so long as you are aware of it and can find ways to rectify it.

How do you juggle your business, family life, and everything else? Even if you don’t have kids, it can be a struggle. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Image credit: Mike Scheid

The post Finding a Balance Between Family Life and Blogging Life appeared first on ProBlogger.

      
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The post How to Grow Your Blog’s Traffic and Income by Setting Goals appeared first on ProBlogger.

This post is based on episode 135 of the ProBlogger podcast.

What does it take to make a full-time living for your blog?

I know some bloggers who managed it with hundreds of daily readers, while others needed tens of thousands of daily readers.

The amount of money you make from your traffic depends things such as:

  • the monetization model you have
  • the income streams you use
  • your readership, and how engaged they are.

But no matter how much you need, more traffic is generally better. And more income definitely is.

To grow your traffic and increase your income I suggest setting some goals for yourself, which is what I’ve been doing for a decade and a half now.

How I Started Setting Goals for My Blogging

Back in 2004, when I’d been blogging for about 18 months, I started experimenting with AdSense and Amazon’s affiliate program. I wanted to know how much traffic it would take for me to go full time.

Google Analytics wasn’t around at the time. However, using a tool called Site Meter I could view the stats of both my own blog and other people’s. And I fell into the trap of comparing my traffic and my income to that of other bloggers.

It was depressing and frustrating.

So instead I started comparing my monthly traffic against that of the previous month, and set myself the goal to having my traffic increase each time.

To begin with my goal was to simply increase it, no matter how much that increase was. But as I repeated the exercise I realized my blog was growing naturally by about 5% each month.

At this point I began setting specific goals. The first was to increase my traffic by 10% each month. If I had 3,000 visitors in the first month, I wanted 3,300 the next month, then 3,630, then 3,993, and so on.

Sometimes it was easy to hit that 10% increase. Sometimes I hit 30%. Other months, 10% seemed impossible. But having that figure in my mind meant I could always see whether I was on track.

I did something similar with my income, which at the time was largely from AdSense. I realized that if I could increase my traffic by 10% every month my AdSense income would generally go up by 10% too.

That being said, I set my earnings goal at 15% increase each month. One obvious way to increase earnings was to increase the traffic on my site. But I found I could go further than that by positioning the ads better, changing the design of the ads, and so on.

I also started adding other income streams. I focused more on Amazon’s affiliate program, and started experimenting with other advertising networks (such as Chitika) and selling ads direct to advertisers. I found that 15% was quite achievable for me, and some months I managed a 30%, 50% or even 100% increase.

How to Set Your Own Goals for Your Blog

When it comes to traffic and income, don’t compare yourself with other bloggers. Instead, compare your stats for this month with your stats for last month. (Or, if you’ve been blogging for a while, compare April this year with April last year.)

Aim to increase your traffic and income each month. You might aim for a 10% or 15% increase like I did. Or depending on the stage you’re at in your blog’s lifecycle you might aim for 40%, 50% or more.

You can use this technique for other metrics, too. For instance, you might try to improve your bounce rate, or increase the number of pages viewed. On social media you might look at the number of new followers you’re getting, or the number of new newsletter subscribers.

Ultimately, you want each month to be better than the previous month. Try to set goals that are not only realistic but also stretch you a bit. Even if you don’t quite reach them, having that goal in mind will help you go further than you would have otherwise.

How to Reach Your Goals

Just setting goals won’t get you far. You need to be specific about how you’ll achieve them.

For instance, if you want to get 10% more traffic each month ask yourself:

  • “What blogs will I guest post on?”
  • “What forums will I start interacting with?”
  • “What influencers will I reach out to?”
  • “Who will I email to share links to the things I’ve written?”
  • “What shareable content will I create?”

Each month, try to come up with three or four things you’ll do to get closer to your goal.

For more help on traffic, check out these episodes of the ProBlogger podcast:

For more help growing your income, listen to episode 48, How to Make $30,000 a Year Blogging, where I talk about how to make a full-time income from blogging by breaking down that goal and diversifying your income streams.

What’s your goal for the next few months? Share it with us in the comments, and let us know what you’ll be doing to reach it.

Image credit: Jesper Aggergaard

The post How to Grow Your Blog’s Traffic and Income by Setting Goals appeared first on ProBlogger.

      
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The post The Secrets of Making Money Blogging appeared first on ProBlogger.

This post is based on episode 133 of the ProBlogger podcast.

In interviews I often get asked something like, “What’s your number one secret to making money online?”

That’s a hard question to answer, because ultimately there’s no one ‘secret’ and no single way to make money online. People use lots of different methods, and in this post I’ll be taking a quick look at some of them.

Blogging isn’t a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. And you need to stick with it for a while before you’ll see any results. But whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been blogging for months or even years, these seven tips should help.

#1: Choose a Topic You Really Love

If you’re starting a new blog, pick a topic or niche you genuinely love and are passionate about.

This has several crucial benefits:

  • It makes it much easier to stick with your blog for the long term
  • Your enthusiasm will help readers feel drawn to your content
  • It helps you create products that people will buy because you know what they’ll enjoy

Of course, you can make money from an area that doesn’t interest you. But it’s a lot easier to do it if you’re blogging about something you really like.

#2: Be as Useful as You Possibly Can

Make your content and your products as useful as possible. Or, as my son told me once, “Tell the world something important”.

You can make money online by doing things that aren’t useful or important. You can even do it by ripping people off. But it’s much more satisfying and sustainable to build a real business that’s useful to your customers.

#3: Be Confident About Putting Yourself and Your Products Forward

Some bloggers find it really hard to sell themselves or what they do. But while it is difficult, you must learn how to do it. You need to be able to make offers and approach potential partners confidently.

That doesn’t mean you need to hype everything up. A quiet confidence can work really well.

#4: Diversify What You Do

Don’t just focus on one income stream. Find ways to diversify so that if something doesn’t work out too well you’ve got other options.

That might mean:

  • Diversifying the topics you write about. I’ve got two long-running blogs : Digital Photography School and ProBlogger. Perhaps you have more than one blog as well. And if one isn’t going well at a particular point, the other(s) could back it up.
  • Diversifying your income streams. I don’t rely on just one area (e.g. ads or selling ebooks). I try to create multiple income streams so that if one falls over or takes a while to take off, I have others supplementing my income. Another option is to have a day job that brings in money while you’re getting your blog going.
#5: Take a Long-Term View

There have been times when I’ve made money fast on the internet. But it usually came after two or three years of hard work building relationships with readers and producing content for free.

Try seeing the time, energy and even money you put into your blog as an investment. Hopefully, it’ll pay off one day. But don’t expect it to happen immediately.

#6: Treat Making Money as a Business, Not an Event

Making money online might feel like it’s an event, such as a product launch. But for most online entrepreneurs it’s a long-term business where they’re creating something that grows over time.

For example, if you’re doing affiliate marketing you’ll be building systems that continually promote products to your readers (perhaps by using an auto-responder).

Think strategically about what you’ll be doing and how you’ll be monetizing your blog. Simply building a blog that gets traffic won’t make money for you.

#7: Create Your Own Products

Don’t rely on advertising revenue or affiliate income where you promote other people’s products. Instead, work towards having products of your own to sell. Develop systems around those products to sell them – not just at the launch, but on an ongoing basis.

This could be an information product (such as an ebook or online course), a physical product, or a service you offer such as consulting or speaking.

None of these things are new. I first talked about them in a video I created back in 2010. But they all work, and if you follow them you’ll have a great chance of making money from blogging.

If you’ve got a different tip to share, or if you want to let us know about your experience using some of these ideas, leave a comment below.

Image credit: Erik Mclean

The post The Secrets of Making Money Blogging appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

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