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Bloggers, Are You So Focused On “What Works” That You Forget “What’s Right”?

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Like all bloggers, I can sometimes get a little wrapped up in stats. I love looking at my traffic, doing split testing, and trying out new techniques. One of the reasons I enjoy attending NMX (previously BlogWorld) is learning new ways to get traffic, how to create content that engages readers, and build a brand online. I’m always interested in hearing about others’ experiences with what works and what doesn’t work.

But sometimes, I worry that we get so focused on what works that we forget what’s right.

NMX has been part of the “are Internet marketers scammers” debate for quite some time, and I feel like this is the core of the issue: Almost any tool or technique used to make money online can be manipulated by scammers.

Let’s use SEO (search engine optimization) and guest posting as an example. You can boost your SEO through writing high-quality guest posts on others’ blogs and linking back to your own blog within the post or at the end of the post in a bio line.

Someone using this technique the right way will link to high-quality, relevant posts that give the reader more information. They’ll be upfront about where the link leads and seek to guest post on blogs that have a connection to their own niche.

Someone trying to game the system will write low-quality articles stuffed with keyword links. They don’t care about the topic. They don’t care about whether or not the links are beneficial for readers. They only care about their precious links. Often, they don’t even write these posts themselves, but instead hire freelancers. Now, as a freelance writer myself, I can say that there’s nothing wrong with hiring a freelancer to write guest posts for you, but not if you pay them $3 per post to basically “spin” or even blatantly plagiarize stuff already online.

Luckily, Google is increasingly improving their search engine algorithm to prevent any kind of manipulation like this, but it still happens. I see it all the time.

It’s tempting to do whatever works. You have to keep up with the Joneses, and if all the other bloggers in your niche are doing it to gain advantage, it’s hard to say no. If crappy guest posts on unrelated blogs give you a huge boost in search engine traffic why wouldn’t you do it?

Because despite it being what works, it’s not what’s right.

What is right for your readers? What is right for the Internet? Are you making the world better in some way or are you contributing to the problem?

I haven’t always made the best decisions with my own blogs. I’ve tried techniques and tools that resulting in huge ROI, but just didn’t sit right with me from an ethical standpoint. I think it’s okay to make these mistakes as long as you’re constantly monitoring yourself.

When’s the last time you held yourself accountable?

The reason people who make money online (especially those teaching others how to make money online too) get labeled as scammers is because there’s a lack of this self-regulation. We need to be better than that. Before calling out others we feel are scamming people or only contributing trash to the Internet, it’s important to look internally. Ask yourself, what can I be doing better?

And definitely speak up. It can be intimidating to say that a popular blogger is doing something you don’t agree with, but the only way this world of online content will get better is if we’re all honest about our own activities and willing to vet our role models. When you go against the crowd with legitimate concerns, you might be surprised at how many people agree with you.

Lastly, if you’re heading to NMX this January, please take the time to fill out the surveys about individual speakers after attending sessions or even just shoot us an email with any concerns. We don’t just want to know who is a good public speaker. We also want to know who is teaching valuable information, not contributing to the problem by promoting techniques you consider to be scams. There is definitely some grey area here, but your opinion matters to us.

Five Ways to Make More Money Blogging for Other People

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When I first started blogging, I did so on a freelance basis, providing content for clients rather than running my own blogs. Today, I have a foot in both camps, but the majority of income has always been from my freelance work.

Initially, I was paid pennies for my work, but eventually I learned how to make an actual living in this industry. Zac Johnson wrote a great post about how to create content that clients will reward, but it takes more than killer content to be an in-demand freelance blogger. Here are five skills to master if you want to make more money blogging for others:

1. Reliability

As someone who has hired freelancers as well as being a freelancer herself, I can confirm that reliability is at least as important as actual writing talent. At one point, I had anywhere from eight to twelve people working under me, and there were always at least ten unreliable people who would disappear without a word for every one legitimate worker.

Do your job. Do it on time, and do it well. Stay in close communication with your client, and don’t leave them hanging. Most clients reward freelancers who they don’t have to chase. It sounds simple enough, but you’d be amazed how rare this is in the freelance world.

2. Availability

Flexibility is a trait admired in most industries, but clients respond best to this trait when paired with availability. In other words, it’s not enough to be flexible with the content you’re writing so you fit the client’s needs, but you also need to have a flexible schedule to finish changes quickly or take on extra projects. Sometimes, bloggers have to burn the midnight oil, so if you’re a 9-to-5-only type of person, it will be hard to command the big bucks. Clients want to know that when there’s a breaking story, you’re on it.

3. Networking

You might be hired for your skills as a writer, but clients will pay you more if you’re also a savvy networker. Building your social media followings means that posts you share reach a wider audience, and while it may not be in your contract that you have to tweet about new clients post, doing this at least occasionally is a smart professional move. Not only does this allow you to showcase your work, but it also helps you drive traffic to your clients’ blogs – which means you’re a more valuable commodity.

Networking skills go beyond getting others to like your Facebook posts, though. Clients also like to work with freelancers who can make connections. When they’re looking for a new editor, do you know someone perfect for the job? Can you connect your client with a new investor? Can you bring business into the company not only in your content marketing efforts, but also by introducing your clients to potential customers? If you bring in more money for a client, there will be a trickle-down effect to you.

4.Traffic Consulting

As Zac mentioned in his post, clients will pay more for content that really brings in the big numbers. However, the “if you build it, they will come” approach doesn’t always work. In other words, it takes more than killer content to drive traffic to your blog (or in this case, your clients’ blogs).

So, you have two options: you can put your nose to the grindstone and set them up for success with the best content possible, leaving the rest of the work to them, or you can tell your clients when you see ways for them to improve. I’m a fan of speaking up, since it means more money in your pocket!

If your clients truly need a consultant, you need to work out a contract with them so you’re paid fairly, but offering simple tips for free is a great way to become more valuable as a writer. Can you recommend a great plugin that will help them attract more readers? Is there something about their blog design that is a little off and causing high bounce rates? Would a different blogging schedule give them more bang for their buck? Speak up, and as their traffic increases due to your advice, you can ask for a higher pay rate per post.

5. Independence

Lastly, almost all clients want freelancers who can work independently. You will come across the occasionally obsessive micro-manager, but most of the time, your job as a blogger is just a very small cog in the machine of a business. They don’t have time to answer 17 emails a day from you. Be careful not to overstep your boundaries by making decisions without asking the client, but take the initiative to solve your own problems whenever possible. If you’re an independent worker who is (going back to point #1) extremely reliable, the client will trust you, and in the freelance world, trust equals money.

I don’t want this post to downplay the importance of providing quality content for your clients, which should always be your biggest goal. These are just five ways to go even further with the service you’re providing. Definitely check out the blog track at NMX this January, paying special attention to sessions about content production. The skills these speakers will teach you about creating content for your own blog can, and should, be applied to creating content for your clients’ blogs as well.

We Don’t Need More “Gangnam Style” Bloggers

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The Gangnam Style  music video has swept the Internet, and while it isn’t unusual for a pop song to be so heavily played and inspire so many parodies (including this awesome video from Hubspot), this is a unique case because the song isn’t in English. In fact, many of the song’s biggest fans probably don’t even know what “Gangnam” means.

Actually, it’s a district in Seoul known as one of the most affluent areas of Korea. Singer Psy has said that the song is about how the girls in Gangnam are ladylike, classy, and perfect during the day, but aren’t afraid to party and get crazy at night. So of course, people have latched onto this notion of “I’m classy but like to have fun too.”

Only that’s not the entire story.

Gangnam Style is also a song that pokes fun at itself and at the Gangnam region. There’s subtle social commentary in this song about classes and wealth.

And perhaps most importantly, Psy himself has mentioned that people who actually do have Gangnam style would never announce it, kind of in the same way someone who truly has class would never walk around saying “I’m so classy!” Announcing that you have Gangnam style is kind of like flashing a wad of cash around. If you have to tell people you have Gangnam style, you probably don’t have Gangnam style.

We definitely don’t need more bloggers with Gangnam style.

We don’t need more people flashing their advice and money and shouting “I’m an expert!” We just need people who are experts, or rather, who are learning all they can about this new media world and passing it on.

If you have to tell people you are an expert, you probably aren’t an expert.

It’s not just the terminology either. We can debate all day long about whether you should call someone an expert or an influencer or a professional or something else, but that’s not my point. My point is that we all need to stand on our own merits of action and experience, rather than just doling out advice. If you’ve never made money blogging, for example, don’t start a blog teaching people how to make money blogging.

What have you done? What do you know? What is your passion? The next time you sit down to write a blog post, try answering these questions first. Leave the Gangnam style to the pop stars.

Join the conversation! Do you think too many bloggers are focused on their “Gangnam style”? Leave a comment!

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Three Words that are Killing Your Blog

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A few months ago, my mother started blogging.

To put things in context, until this point, my parents still had dial-up Internet, and my mom would log on once or twice a week, tops, to check her email, print coupons, or look for a recipe. She doesn’t have a smart phone. She doesn’t have an e-reader or tablet. My mom’s interests in life have very little to do with the Internet.

So, asking her to start blogging with me and my sister wasn’t an easy sell. But she’s doing it, and I think she’s rocking as a beginner. It’s all because we encouraged her to banish three words from her vocabulary.

Although no study has been done (that I know of at least), I suspect that these three words account for more blogging failure than just about anything else. You can overcome a lot of blogging problems, but not if you allow these three words to rule you. Even if you’re finding success as a blogger, these three words can hold you back from being even more successful.

These three words are: I. Don’t. Know.

When you’re faced with a challenge, you have two options: you can face the challenge or you can quit. Way too often we use the excuse, “But I don’t know how to do that…” as a reason to justify giving up. The truth is, you can learn how to do just about anything if you really want to.

Sometimes, you’ll need help, Googling the problem. But in both cases, success starts with believing that you can solve the problem.

Think about any skill you have, anything you know how to do. At some point in your life, you were a beginner. You aren’t anymore, simply because you didn’t let “I don’t know…” be an excuse.

When you own your own blog, you have to wear many hats. You have to be a writer and a marketer and a community manager. You have to deal with tech problems and customer problems. You have to care about your blog more than anyone else, and you have to be willing to learn. It’s hard work, but the only way you’ll be successful is if you are willing to take on every challenge that comes your way.

So resist the urge to say, “I don’t know…” the next time a problem arises on your blog. Unless, of course, it’s followed by “…but I’m going to find out.”

38 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Media Kits

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Brilliant Bloggers is a bi-weekly series here at NMX where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every other week, we’ll feature a brilliant blogger, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Media Kits

One of the most important sections in NMX’s free ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Blog and Podcast Sponsorship, talks about the importance of having a media kit if you want to work with sponsors in any way. A media kit is a document (or set of documents) that talks about your blog, including audience demographics, traffic and other statistics, ad prices, testimonials, and contact information. It can also be handy for press if you’re ever interviewed. With a media kit, it’s much easier to be taken seriously as a member of the media. Today’s list of links gives you all the advice you need to make a media kit for your own blog!

Brilliant Blogger of the Week

Making a Blogger Media Kit by Katy Widrick

If you want a great overview of how to create a simple media kit for your blog, look no farther than this post from Katy Widrick. She goes over the elements you need in your media kit (and resume) so you can be prepared for any potential sponsor who comes a-knocking. You don’t need a long drawn-out document to give sponsors and press the information they need about your blog. Katy’s own media kit is here (pdf), and she followed up this post with a subsequent post highlighting some awesome media kits sent in by readers, so check that one out as well. You can connect with Katy on Twitter at @kwidrick.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

  1. 4 Must Have Items For Your Blogger Media Kit by Karen Moran (@MagnetSocial and  @Ad_Chickadee)
  2. 15 Things You Should Include in Your Media Kit by Sadie Lankford (@sadie_lankford)
  3. Advice to bloggers: Making a Media Kit by Liss (@frillyhills)
  4. Bigger, Better, Bolder: Build Your Media Kit by Taylor Davies
  5. Bloggers: What’s a Media Kit? by Erika Bragdon (@MusingsSAHM)
  6. Blogging 101: How to Write a Media Kit that Gets Noticed! by Jeannette Fender (@JManMillerBug)
  7. Blogging 101: Media Kits & One Sheets by Amy Bellgardt (@momspark)
  8. Build an Attractive Mom Blog Media Kit by Wendy Piersall (@emom)
  9. Business of Blogging: Building A Media Kit by Ashley
  10. Create A Media Kit to Attract Advertisers To Your Blog by Marko Saric (@markosaric)
  11. The Dirt on Blogging Media Kits by Sommer Poquette (@greenmom)
  12. Five Things To Include In Your Blog’s Media Kit by Anna Viele (@abdpbt)
  13. Know Your Numbers: Putting Together a Media Kit by Christina Gleason (@WELLinTHIShouse)
  14. How to Accept Ads on Your Blog: Create a Media Kit by Jennifer James
  15. How to Build a Media Kit for Your Blog by Randa Derkson (@bewitchinkitch)
  16. How to Create a Beauty Blog Media Kit by Jennifer Mathews (@mybeautybunny)
  17. How to Create a Knock Out Media Kit for Your Blog by Keiko Zoll (@KeikoZoll)
  18. How to Create a Media Kit for Your Blog by Barb Likos (@chaotic_barb)
  19. How to Create a Media Kit for Your Blog by Rebecca (@twobecomefour)
  20. How to Create a Media Kit for Your Blog by Naomi Ellis (@sevencherubs)
  21. How to Create a Media Kit for Your Blog by Stephanie McCratic (@evolvedmommy)
  22. How to Create a Media Kit Using PicMonkey by Cecily Kellogg (@Cecilyk)
  23. How to Create a Travel Blog Media Kit by Ethan Gelber (@thetravelword)
  24. How to Create the Ultimate Online Media Kit by Michael Hyatt (@michaelhyatt)
  25. How to Make a Media Kit for a Blog by Sally Whittle (@swhittle)
  26. How to Monetize Your Blog: Creating a Media Kit by Allison (@Alli_n_Son)
  27. How to Put Together a Media Kit for your Blog by Ursula Herrick (@ursulapr)
  28. How to Write a Media Kit by Lisa Stauber
  29. How to Write a Media Kit for Your Blog by Deborah Cruz (@TruthfulMommy)
  30. Media Kit for Blog: How to Create One for Yours by Alyssa Clarke
  31. Media Kits : How to Create and What to Put In Them by Colleen Shibley (@shibleysmiles)
  32. Tips for Creating a Media Kit for Your Blog by Amy Lynn Andrews
  33. Tips to Make your Media Kit Stand Out! by Lindsay Lee (@blackblondeone)
  34. Want To Monetize Your Blog? Create a Media Kit by Ana Flores (@laflowers)
  35. What is a Media Kit and How Do I Make One? by Amy Roberts (@raising_arrows and @hsblogging)
  36. Your Blog’s Media Kit by Melanie Nelson (@chilihead)

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about media kits? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link.

Media Kit Examples

Usually, I just have the list of Brilliant Bloggers for you, but this week as a special bonus, I’ve also included some examples of media kits I’ve found from bloggers across various niches. As you can see, media kits vary greatly depending on the style of your blog, and you can offer them as PDFs, publish them as a page on your blog, or even upload them to slideshare.

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Adwords

I’d love to include a link to your post in our next installment– and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

Guest Posting isn’t Dead (…Yet)

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Early this month, I was having a conversation about guest posting with a friend of mine. This is a topic I have personally been examining over the last year, so when he asserted that “guest posting is dead,” I had to voice my opposition.

I do, however, think that guest posting expectations bloggers have are sometimes a bit out of whack. Guest posting isn’t dead any more than blogging itself is dead, but the way some bloggers go about guest posting is certainly putting it on life support.

(If you’re new to guest posting, you might want to check out our five-part series on guest posting, which will help you write better posts and place these posts on great blogs, as well as our beginner’s guide to guest posting.)

Guest Posting the Wrong Way

Guest posting started as a simple theory: if you write a free post for another blogger and his/her readers like it, they’ll come back to your blog via the link at the end of your post and become a member of your community as well.

I can tell you from tons of personal experience that this doesn’t usually happen, at least, not at a rate that makes your hard work worthwhile.

Even if you write a guest post for a well-known, popular blogger, that traffic isn’t going to translate. Readers are fans of certain blogs because they like that specific blogger. You’re someone new, unknown, not to be trusted. A small percentage of people who read your post – even if they like it – will actually click the link in your bio, and an even smaller percentage will actually become long-term readers on your blog.

If you go into guest posting with the expectation that you’re going to get tons of traffic and new readers to your own blog, you’re likely going to be sorely disappointed.

Guest Posting = Branding, Not Immediate Traffic

I still recommend guest posting, however, because if you do it properly, you can end up with tons of new readers. It’s about being strategic.

Guest posting is about branding. You want your name to suddenly start popping up everywhere so people start to recognize it. If you write a one-time guest post on another site, you might get a few curious readers coming to your own blog, but if the same readers start to see your name everywhere, they’re going to start to wonder who you are, and if they like your content, they’re going to end up on your blog sooner or later.

So, think about guest posts in terms of groups of posts going out over the course of a week, not just single posts here or there. Immediate traffic shouldn’t be the goal; you’ll see traffic over time as name recognition builds.

Guest Posting for SEO

Guest posts are also great for SEO purposes. You do have to be careful about putting too much stock into a single type of link-building, since Google is constantly changing, but having your link without a post on a popular blog can help your search engine standings. Even better than linking back to your homepage in the bio is to link to specific posts relevant about the topic within the guest post you write. Don’t overdo it or your host will likely turn down the post, but definitely link to posts on your blog when relevant and helpful to the reader.

Relationship Building with Guest Posts

My favorite reason to guest post is to build relationships with other bloggers. If you offer a well-written, interesting guest post for another blogger, you’re giving them free content that they can’t get anywhere else. It’s a great way to get on someone’s radar. Often, I’ve guest posted for someone and they’ve gone on to become a long-term reader of my blog, even though they had previously never heard of me (or just knew me as one of the bajillon commenters on their site). Relationships with other bloggers in your niche are invaluable.

Managing Expectations

At the end of the day, guest posting is simply about managing your expectations. If you are looking for massive traffic numbers, especially right away, this is not an technique worth your time. If you’re taking a more “slow and steady wins the race” approach to blogging and interested in benefits other than traffic, guest posting is definitely a great blog-building technique to add to your promotional activities.

Interested in getting the most out of a guest post – or really any post you write on any blog? Jon Morrow is coming to NMX Las Vegas this January to present a session on the Anatomy of a 100,000 Visitor Post. You don’t want to miss this one!

Why Bad Bloggers are Sometimes Successful

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It can be hard to see “bad” bloggers become successful.

We follow the rules. We monitor our stats and strategically plan our content calendar and engage our community via social media. We write long, from-the-heart posts that are education, inspirational, and grammatically perfect. We spend thousands of dollars on domain names and themes and plugins and all of the other things the experts recommend.

And then some jerk with a brand new blog comes on the scene and just kills it. Within months, they’re surpassing you in traffic and making a livable income while you’re still struggling to get started.

You know it’s true: there are some really bad bloggers, by your standards, who are extremely successful. It can be infuriating.

It’s Time to Stop Caring

First and foremost, because I talk about the “why” behind bad bloggers, I want to make a very important note: it’s easy to get consumed by jealousy of others’ success, especially when we perceive that success to be unfounded.

The reality? In the vast majority of cases, a “bad” blogger that gains success has absolutely no effect on your blog. There are enough readers to go around for everyone. If you’re producing good content, promoting your work well, and really staying true to what you believe, than someone else’s success or failure shouldn’t matter to you.

Jealousy is a difficult emotion. For me, the best thing to do is acknowledge it and do my best to just let it go, remembering that every moment I spend worrying about someone else is a moment I could be putting energy into my own work.

“Bad” is in the Eye of the Beholder

When I’m feeling frustrated by a “bad” blogger’s success, I try to keep in mind, first and foremost, that beauty is in the eye for the beholder. I call it the Justin Bieber effect.

I have never once met anyone who admitted to liking Justin Bieber. Yet, he wouldn’t be famous if some people out there liked him for some reason.

Similarly, there’s a reason why people like the bloggers you don’t like. Maybe these bloggers are doing something completely different and readers find it an attractive break in the monotony of other blogs in the niche. Maybe these bloggers are extremely charismatic and good at building a community. Maybe people are entertained by their “bad” content. I could go on and on. The point is, when you come across a “bad” blogger who is popular, try to understand the reasons why they’ve achieved this success.

We’re All Just Sheep

Sometimes, “bad” bloggers are popular because no one is brave enough to point out that they stink.

When a blogger’s value is validated in a major way, it’s easy for popularity to snowball – even if that popularity isn’t truly earned. It’s hard to stand out from the crowd and say you don’t like someone or their work when it seems like everyone else in your niche is gushing about how awesome they are.

It’s actually kind of funny how easily people will change their tune if you’re honest about your thoughts. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to friends “I don’t think so-and-so gives very good advice,” and they’ve replied, “Oh, thank god! I thought I was the only one!” even though they’ve just retweeted that so-called expert not moments before.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in someone’s popularity too. When everyone consider someone to be a true thought leader, we start to lie to ourselves, trying to see what everyone else sees. I’m unashamed to say that I’ve been caught up in the hype of someone’s popularity on several occasions. What’s important is that you reexamine your heroes and role models often, constantly learn new things, and try your very best to live above the influence of others in your niche.

3 Lessons Every Blogger Needs to Learn about Pumpkin Lattes and Anticipation

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I absolutely love pumpkin lattes. Actually, I love anything pumpkin-flavored and always look forward to fall since it’s pretty much the only time pumpkin items are available.

During the fall, it’s not unusual for me to have four or five pumpkin lattes every week, unapologetically. My addiction defense is that I can’t get them during the rest of the year! And in the frothy goodness of my favorite fall beverage, there’s a lesson about anticipation and blogging. Three lessons, actually, which are all important to learn if you want to be successful as a blogger.

Lesson #1: Creating hype early makes people excited.

Every year, as summer comes to a close, I start seeing advertisements for pumpkin lattes at Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, and lots of other places. Now, they could wait until it’s really fall to start offering pumpkin options, but they don’t, and for good reason. Starting earlier really makes me excited for fall, and as soon as the pumpkin flavor become available, I’m ready to whip out my wallet thanks to all the advertising I’ve been seeing.

When you’re getting ready to launch a new blog or a product with your blog, start talking about it as soon as you can. Don’t have the details worked out? No problem! Well before I launched Blog Zombies, for example, I started a mailing list about my new “secret project” and I released more and more information as I solidified my idea. Hundreds of people signed up on my mailing list before I ever wrote a single post, just because I talked about it and got the hype going early.

Lesson #2: Deliver on the high-quality promises you make.

Don’t make the mistake of running with lesson #1 and then not delivering on the hype you’ve created. I go crazy for pumpkin lattes every year because they are so darn tasty. If I got one and it was disappointing, future hype wouldn’t matter.

You don’t want your readers to be “meh” about the experience. The phrase “it’s good enough” is a really, really dangerous one. Put forward your best work with every single thing you do and be prepared to deliver on everything you promise. The only way anticipation will build is when the product is amazing. Disappoint your audience once and it will be a fight to get them excited ever again.

Lesson #3: Limited quantities create a buying frenzy.

Lastly, consider limiting the reader experience in some way to get more people involved. Every year, by the time December comes around, I start to get a little sick of pumpkin. I might even start to cheat a little on pumpkin with gingerbread. Shhh…don’t tell.

But then I start to realize that the season is almost over, and while my little indiscretion with gingerbread lattes was fun, it was just a fling. Every year, I ultimately realize I won’t be able to get pumpkin again for like, nine months. So, I start buying pumpkin lattes again like crazy.

Think about how you can create limited quantities – or perceived limited quantities – for your readers. I see people do this all the time with webinars. By saying “seating is limited,” webinar hosts get people to sign up, even though when you sign up actually doesn’t matter (if the webinar truly is full, you have to show up early – it doesn’t matter when you register). You could make one of your products available for a limited time instead (or a discounted price) if you don’t want to limit quantities.

Basically, you want the anticipation to build so much that your reader is afraid of missing out if they don’t take action immediately.

In summary, here are the three take-away lessons I’ve learned about pumpkin lattes and anticipation:

  • Start hyping your project early. Get people excited so they feel like they just can’t wait.
  • Deliver high-quality products so that people always get excited for them.
  • Limit quantities so that people are afraid of missing out.

As for me? I think it’s time I go have another pumpkin latte before they’re gone for the season again. Will you be at NMX in Las Vegas this January? Let me know so we can have pumpkin lattes together!

What Farmers Can Teach You About Blogging

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In this post, we’ll go over some blogging tips and blogging lessons you can learn from farmers. Where we grow up shapes who we are and how we blog.

I grew up in an extremely rural community. We’re talking more cows than people, 45 minutes to the nearest mall, and no access to cable (my parents actually had dial-up Internet until about six months ago). It was a farming community, with corn being the major crop of choice for most. Although I hated some aspects of growing up in this area as a teen, I look back and really respect the lessons I learned there now, especially from the hard-working farmers. These lessons have absolutely made me a better blogger.

Here’s what they taught me:

Work Hard for Every Dollar

Blogging as a career is tough. Physically, it’s a cake walk, but you have to have a really strong work ethic to make money this way. Part of the reason I think I’m successful today is that I learned from an early age not to be a slacker or procrastinate.

If you don’t do your work on a farm, you don’t make money. In fact, if you slack for more than a day, you put your plants and animals in jeopardy of dying. Things might not be so dire with your blog, but the same principle applies: if you don’t do your work every day, you stop making money and your traffic will eventually die. Blogging isn’t a “write it and forget it” job, despite what some people say about making money in your sleep. This is the exception, not the rule. You have to have a crazy work ethic as a blogger in order to make it a successful career.

Don’t be Something You’re Not

While you won’t find any Applebees or even Dominos in the community where I grew up, there are some mom-and-pop diners where you can grab a meal. Farmers will stop in for a cup of coffee or a bite to eat, often after they’ve already put in a few hours of work in the fields or barn.

Shoes and shirts are required, but that’s about as far as the dress code stretches. It’s nothing to walk in and see farmers unashamedly covered in dirt from their morning tasks. They aren’t trying to be something they’re not.

It’s an important lesson for bloggers. Every day, I see people trying to “fake it ‘till they make it” or represent themselves in a certain light, but at the end of the day, your readers will respect you more if you just show up in your work boots. Plus, it’s a lot easier and less time-consuming to be authentic instead of trying to portray yourself a certain way.

Save Your Pennies

Farming is hard work for little money, and a lot is up to chance every year. If you don’t get enough rain, your crops could die and you won’t make much money that season. A single bout of illness can kill off your livestock, and again, your bottom line will suffer. Every farm family I know has gotten extremely good at saving money.

As a blogger, this is also a good move, since your paycheck is uncertain and somewhat out of your control. With every Google update, for example, there are people who panic because they lose all of their traffic and their earnings plummet. Or if your site goes down for some reason, you might not make as much money this month as you usually do.

Pad your bank account to prepare for the dry spells. Even if you make a seven-figure income this year, next year you might make a fraction of that amount. You don’t get a regular paycheck as a blogger, so prepare for the dry spells.

Where We Grow Up Shapes Us

I think whether you grow up in the city or the country (or somewhere in between), you learn certain lessons that stick with you for the rest of your life. I feel very fortunate to have an upbringing that taught me the above lessons (and others of course). What lessons did you learn growing up that have stuck with you and have helped you in your blogging career today?

The Bookend Blog-Writing Technique

Author:

If you’re like most writers, you’ve lost many mornings staring at an empty screen—but it doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you’re looking for a way to stay motivated or for the secret to adding punch to your blog posts, here’s a solution you might not have considered: bookending.

Bookending Basics

What Is Bookending?

Bookending is all about the order in which you write your posts. It means writing the end, then the beginning and finally the middle. While helpful for blogging, it’s also applicable in every kind of writing context, from magazines to screenplays to short stories.

Why Does Bookending Work?

Sometimes the hardest part of writing is knowing where you’re going. With bookending, you start with the end—so you always have a sense of what you’re working towards. Once you know where you’re headed, it’s easier to know how to get started. Then, all that’s left is filling in the remainder

 

The Bookending Blog Process

When you’re new to the bookending technique, it can feel daunting. You know you start with the ending, but how? And does it matter what your beginning is like? What about the middle? Here’s a more in-depth look at the different parts of the bookending process:

Writing the End of Your Post

Writing the ending first is all about knowing where you’re going with your post. It’s like getting in the car, knowing you’re leaving Chicago, bound for Texas—you automatically know to point your wheels south.

Discerning Your Direction

In her previous BlogWorld article, Allison Boyer says, “Before you start writing (or staring at a blank screen wondering what to write), take a moment to identify a broad goal for the post you’re about to publish.”

In taking that moment, you may want to ask yourself questions like these:

  • What do I want my readers to feel or think after reading this post?
  • What do I want them to take away?
  • Do I want them to do something after reading?
  • What difference will this post make to my readers?

Answering these questions will help clarify the goal of your post, which will show you what the ending should look like.

Knowing the direction of your post brings several benefits:

  • Easier post writing because there’s a specific outcome in mind
  • Less of a tendency to wander or get off track in the post
  • Assurance that you’re writing something with purpose
  • Increasing loyalty among readers who see this pattern in your posts

Writing the Ending

Once you’ve settled what kind of message you want to share in your post, it’s time to write the ending. If you’re stuck for ideas, reach into your writer’s toolbox and consider creating an ending that takes the form of one or more of the following options:

  • Summary: Drive home your point by reiterating and summarizing it at the end of your post.
  • Story: Amplify your message with an anecdote sure to connect with readers—this can be a powerful way to keep them thinking about your post even after they click away.
  • Question(s): Encourage discussion by finishing your post with open-ended questions that ask your readers to respond.
  • Call to action: Give your readers a specific way to respond to your post—ask them to share it, tell them to subscribe, give them a task to go complete as a result.
  • Link: Conclude your post by pointing to other helpful resources that support your topic, whether newspaper articles or other blog articles or books.
  • Hint at Next Post: Tell your readers what’s coming next in order to keep them interested and build anticipation. This is especially helpful when you’re writing a series of blog posts.

 

Writing the Beginning of Your Post

The beginning of a blog post is like a first impression—it sets the tone for what’s coming. When you’re writing the beginning, you want to be intentional about what you’re communicating.

Key to Beginning

A good blog post can begin in many different ways: a story, a summary, questions. But no matter which format you choose, one thing is the same: you need to pull readers in and communicate what your post is going to be about. As Erik Johnson writes in his previous BlogWorld post, “When you want your listeners to stick around and listen to what you have to say, you need to give them a compelling reason.”

Questions to Ask

To test your introduction for quality, ask the following questions:

  • Is the first sentence interesting?
  • Will this introduction draw readers in?
  • Am I communicating what the post will be about?
  • Is this short and sweet, or am I rambling?
  • Does this tell a reader why he should keep reading?

Writing the Middle of Your Post

While your introduction sets the stage for the content to come, the middle of your post delivers it. This section should be the easiest to write because it is the heart and soul of what you’re trying to communicate. Still though, it’s easy to lose readers if you make classic mistakes.

How to Drive Readers Away

  • Don’t meet expectations: If your introduction says you’re going to give me five reasons for visiting Milwaukee, your blog post better give me five reasons to visit Milwaukee. When you don’t deliver on your promise, you send me packing.
  • Be long and boring: We’ve all gone to blogs with too-long posts that ramble on and on about off-topic issues. Don’t make this mistake. To keep readers, it’s smarter to be to-the-point.
  • Don’t be different: Say what everyone else is saying, and I have no reason to come to you.
  • Overwhelm them: Here’s a tip that bears repeating—get rid of popups and auto-playing music. If I start reading your post and am hit with giant popups that cover the screen, I’m clicking away before I find out what you wrote.

Characteristics of Quality Content

Okay, so when you know what not to do, then what? What are the marks of good content (i.e., good middles)?

  • Show What’s in It for the Reader: From the end to the beginning and everything in between, have something to offer your readers. Show them why they should be reading and what the information matters.
  • Be Unique: Set yourself apart by being different from everybody else. Don’t copy the content and style of another blog—be unique.
  • Use Compelling Images: Images amplify your content and make it more interesting. In fact, quality images are one of the top three factors in raising your blog’s quality and reputation.
  • Make Your Content Scannable: Statistics show blog readers spend less than two minutes reading the average blog post. That’s because they’re not reading; they’re scanning. If your message gets buried inside several long paragraphs, you can count on most of your readers not getting it.

Bookending is a pretty simple idea—but a powerful one. How could it change the way you approach the blogging process? Is it different from your typical routine?

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