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How To Blog About What You Don't Know


Earlier today, I wrote about how the advice “write what you know” isn’t always the best advice. That doesn’t mean that you should use your blog as an outlet for uneducated outbursts about every topic under the sun. When creating content, you can use the following tips to keep the standard of your blog high, even if you have no practical experience in the topic:

  • Create a resource list.

Don’t know much about a certain topic within your niche? I bet you that some bloggers out there do. For example, on After Graduation, I wanted to write a post that would be helpful for readers interested in publishing books. I’m an expert novel-starter, but a novice novel-finisher, so I’m not really qualified to give advice in this area. Instead, I create a list of 18 people who are qualified to give advice about publishing.

  • Interview an expert.

Again, even though you don’t know much about a specific topic within your niche, there are people out there who do. There are also experts in your field who are more than willing to share what they know about the topic. Most people are happy to answer an email questionnaire or spend 10 minutes on the phone with you, especially since you’ll be promoting their company, products, or services by doing an interview where they’re named as an expert. When interviewing someone (whether or not it is a celebrity), make sure you use these interview tips.

  • Trade guest posts.

You shouldn’t necessarily contact bloggers you don’t know and ask if they’ll write a post on your blog, but if you have friends who blog in your niche, or can cover a specific topic related to your niche, propose a partnership. What value can you bring to their blog? When you trade guest posts and work together to promote them, everyone wins.

  • Get out there and learn some new skills.

This is the most time-consuming tip, but it definitely pays off in the end. Let’s say that you write a blog about cooking, but have no idea how to decorate a cake. Does your community center offer classes? Or, say you write a blog about home improvement, but have never built a deck. If your neighbor is planning to do just that, offering to lend a hand will give you the experience you need to blog about the topic later. You’re probably passionate about your blog niche (I hope so, anyway), so spending some time and money learning new skills is often worth it.

Of course, there’s always the option to do traditional research when you don’t know much about a specific topic. Don’t just regurgitate what Wikipedia says. Do comprehensive research about the topic, and make sure your sources are valid. You can use Wikipedia as a jumping off point, but find some experts on the topic and even hit the library to find print resources on your topic of choice.

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. She spends way too much time reading about random topics on Wikipedia.

Image credit: sxc.hu

Is 'Write What You Know' Bad Advice?


Beyond being a blogger here and at my own sites, I’m a freelance writer who works with a number of clients to provide web content, ebooks, and other pieces of text. So, naturally, I follow a number of freelance writing blogs. One theme that keeps popping up for freelance writers and bloggers alike is the idea that you should write what you know when creating content.

It makes sense. When you write about topics that you understand inside and out, you’ll save time. In the freelance world, that also means that you’ll make more money, since you’ll be able to do, for example, five $50 articles per day instead of three.

When you write what you know, you’re also able to give better advice, since you have experience or a broad knowledge base. Relying on other websites for research about a topic can be your downfall, since not every writer out there is accurate, honest, or complete. This week, we’re featuring the medblogging community, and I’m sure you’ve all seen health-related blogs that were clearly not written by doctors. For someone without much experience using the Internet for research, those blogs are actually dangerous, since they give poor advice that will be followed without the supervision of a doctor.

A third major advantage to writing what you know is that the writing will be easier. This point is especially important to bloggers, since starting a blog – even one that isn’t updated more than two or three times per week – means that you have to be able to post hundreds of times every year. If you don’t know a lot about your blog’s topic, that’s going to be rather difficult.

So, there are a lot of really excellent reasons to post about topics that you understand and enjoy. There’s a reason that almost every freelance writing blogger out there covers this tip – it makes sense.

Most of the time. Continue Reading

Don't Let Your Speaker Proposal Go to Waste!


Deg Ng and the rest of the team are busy bees getting the schedule for BlogWorld 2010 squared away, but as she’s noted earlier this week that some of the best speaker proposals weren’t accepted simply because there aren’t enough hours in the day. Good proposals also weren’t accepted due to duplicate panel ideas, ideas that were too generalized, late entries, etc. In short, most of the the people who received (or will receive) rejection letters don’t suck.

If that’s the case, we’re missing out on a lot of great content simply because BlogWorld can’t be a 24/7 event every single day of the year.

That is, we’re missing out…unless you, as the rejected speaker, do not let your proposal go to waste!

Sure, you can shelf the idea, work through the concept more or tweak it, and resubmit next year, but if your content really was good enough for a slot at BlogeWorld, there’s no reason you have to wait for another chance to get the concept out there to the masses. We want to learn from you! Here are a few things you can do with the idea and any content you’ve already created:

  • Host a webinar.

Earlier today, I went to a free webinar hosted by Sean Malarkey, Chris Garrett, and Lewis Howes about their new training product, Magnetic Webinars. It was actually a webinar about webinars, which is kind of like reading a blog about blogging, but they made a good point – if you market a webinar correctly, you can make a lot of money. If you were proposing a panel with other bloggers, but didn’t get accepted, there’s no reason you can’t come together to do a panel anyway – just do it on your own time as a webinar. You can also do a webinar solo for your market. Post it online for free to help promote your blog or products, or consider putting together a more comprehensive class-type set of webinars about your topic that you charge people to attend.

  • Create a video series.

Like webinars, a video series can be used to promote a blog or product, or you can charge people to view in more of an in-depth class-type session. Videos aren’t live, so you don’t have the same level of interaction with views, but if you’re new to public speaking, this is a great way to get out there the first time, eventually working your way up to doing webinars.

  • Sell an ebook.

You already went to the trouble of writing up a speaking proposal; use that as the source material for an ebook. Ebooks don’t have to be 100 pages to sell. Sure, if you’re going to charge a grand for it, there better be a ton of content, but you can easily create a short, informative ebook that sells for $20 or so a pop.

  • Offer to speak elsewhere.

BlogWorld isn’t the only blogging and social media event out there. It might be the best (cue sucking up to the people who sign my checks), but bloggers at networking events about as often as fat kids gather at McDonalds. Which, in case you’re not big-boned like some of us, is often. Don’t think of it as “this wasn’t good enough for BlogWorld.” Think of it as “this is a proposal that was heavily considered by BlogWorld.” Propose it for another event, be it something equally large or a smaller local event. Remember, sometimes with a little modification, you can make the idea work for a non-blogging crowd. For example, Amy Parmenter is presenting “How to Get Media Coverage for Your Blog.” If she wasn’t chosen, she could have tweaked that idea and presented “How to Get Media Coverage for Your Business” at a local business association meeting.

  • Break up the idea for blog posts.

If you can only create a single post from your speaker topic, chances are you were rejected because the team didn’t think you could fill an hour or your idea wasn’t fleshed out well enough. Chances are, however, that you can create an entire series of blog posts about your topic. Heck, your topic might even be launch pad for you to start an entirely new blog/business about the topic.

We, the readers, want to hear from you. Don’t get caught up in the mindset that you are not good enough. You are and we want to hear about your speaking topic even if there wasn’t enough room for your topic at BlogWorld this year. Don’t let it collect dust.

In fact, if your proposal was rejected and you create something awesome from it anyway, be it a short series of blog posts or a year-long intensive training course, contact me (allison-at-abcontentonline-dot-com or @allison_boyer) and let me know. Not only will I considering watching/buying/reading/attending/etc, I am more than happy to promote what you’ve created and would even love to write a post about it to share with other BlogWorld attendees.

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. She feels like she may have just opened herself up for a giant wave of emails…but that’s a good thing if it means quality content to share and promote. Bring on the flood!

If You don't Care about Your Blog, Who Will?


Apathy cat is apathetic.

I know tons of bloggers who are super laid back. It’s part of their personality, and certain readers are attracted to that style. Something important to realize, though: being laid back is not the same as not caring.

Story time! (Because everyone loves a good Allison story, right?)

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine came to me for some blogging advice. He decided that he wanted to join the ranks of the undead cool and start a blog. In his words, “It doesn’t have to make tons of money. It would be nice if I could make a few bucks to cover hosting, but I’m more interested in the creative writing aspect.”

Awesome. It’s super easy to start a blog, and if you just want a dumping ground for thoughts (as opposed to using it to make money), there’s no reason to even pay for hosting. WordPress has a great free service, and I know people who like Blogger as well.

Although he wasn’t interested in making money, my friend did relate that he wants to build a following. He might only post once or twice a week, but he would like people to actually read what he says and subscribe to his feed. That’s where he needed my advice – how do you find traffic, entice people to comment, create a blog community, promote your blog, etc? Great, I’m happy to help.

“So, what’s the idea you have for your blog?” I asked, my mind already racing with all the things I could teach him. “What topic area are you going to cover.”

And then, this happened.

OK, I admit that I’m being a little dramatic, but what he said next kind of floored me.

“I don’t really care. I don’t have a specific topic in mind.”

Um. What?

Now, I do want to go on the record as saying that many hobby blogs don’t cover a single, specific niche. The author just blogs about opinions or news or whatever he/she finds interesting. And that’s fine. It’s just not a good business idea if you want to build traffic. It certainly isn’t good if you want to make money using a blog.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard a blogger say that they “don’t care” about their blog’s topic. Even if they don’t use those words directly, some bloggers don’t feel a passion for any niche and instead go into blogging with the mindset that they’re going to write about whatever will make them most popular. In my opinion, this thinking is totally backward.

You don’t have to have a strong niche or idea in mind when you decide you want to get into blogging. Everyone starts from zero. You do have to explore your personal passions, though, and come up with a topic that truly does excite you. Why?

  • You’re going to be writing at least a post or two a week. That’s over 100 posts per year, and many bloggers find that they’re most successful when they write 5 – 10 posts per week. Can you honest write 500 posts a year on a topic you don’t care about?
  • Lack of passion shines through. Readers generally don’t respond well to a topic when the blogger doesn’t even care about it. My best and most popular posts are always those which are most emotionally charged. You don’t have to be on the edge of tears every time you write, but if you never care about the topic, your posts will read as dull and uninspired.
  • If you don’t care about your topic, you’re probably not an expert. You don’t have to necessarily be an expert to start a blog per se, but in starting a blog, you are saying that you’re knowledgeable about the subject and can serve as an authority in the niche. If you don’t particularly care for a certain topic, you probably don’t have much experience learning about it.
  • You’ll burn out. To be a successful blogger, you have to immerse yourself in your niche. Do you really want to spend a good chunk of your free time research, reading news, and so forth when you personally don’t enjoy the subject matter? That’s just as bad as going to job you hate every day.

In short, if you don’t care about your blog, who will?

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. Her cat, Godiva, is jealous over her posting a picture of apathy cat and not her.

Image credit: sxc.hu

Reacting to Your Comment Community


As soon as you get your first comment, you have a comment community on your blog. That’s one of the main differences between websites and blogs – your readers become a part of your content by interacting through comments. I know that I’ve often sent a link to someone and noted, “The comments are the best part!”

Some bloggers respond to every single comment. Other bloggers respond selectively. In my opinion, your responsiveness isn’t as important as how you respond. The way you react to your comment community could make or break your blog. There’s a reason why some people get 1000 comments on every blog post, while others hear the virtual crickets when it comes to their comments section.

Now, if you’re a new blog, it takes time to build up a comment community. It depends on  your niche – some blog topics simply lend themselves to more controversial topics than others, and controversy always leads to more comments. But no matter what your niche, you can build a decent comment community within a year. It’s all about reacting in the right ways.

Is anybody listening?

Tap, tap, tap. Is this thing on?

Sometimes, people don’t leave comments because they have something super insightful to say. Some members of your blog’s comment community simply want to be acknowledged. They look up to you or like you, as much as a reader can grow to like a blogger that he/she doesn’t personally know. They want you to like them too.

I’ve certainly felt this way about bloggers. I want to make friends, and one of the best ways I feel like I can show my support is to leave a comment.

If you’re what I like to call a selective reactor (i.e., you don’t reply to every single comment), take notice to which readers are making an extra effort to respond to your posts regularly. Acknowledge these readers, if not by reacting to their comments, but following them on Twitter or sending them an email. A few days ago, I left a comment on one of the blogs I read regularly, and the author just sent me a brief DM thanking me for the comment. My opinion of that blogger jumped a good 1000 levels.

It only takes a few seconds of your time. If you have a huge blog community, take ten minutes a day and engage 5-10 of the people who’ve left comments on your blog. No one’s expecting miracles – just do your best to connect with your readers.

Who are you?

I’ve talked about building your blogger brand in the past, and it makes sense to keep this advice in mind when replying to comments. If your blog posts are edgy, be that same edgy personality in your comments section. If you’re blog posts are sweet, don’t suddenly become a no-nonsense witch in your comments. This is an opportunity to shine through, giving readers an addition look into who you are.

This is especially important when responding to negative comments. Some people are jerks just to be jerks. They’ll never visit your blog again, and sometimes haven’t even read the post initially. They’re just trolls – commenters who take pleasure leaving useless, rude comments to get under your skin.

Some negative comments, though, have merit. The person doesn’t agree with you, and whether or not they actually have a point, it can be difficult to not get defensive. Now, I know a few bloggers with personal brands where it makes sense to call out the other person or even get angry, but for most bloggers, snarky replies just don’t fit your overall personal brand. Give yourself some time to cool off after you read a negative comment, so that you can come up with a classy reply that fits your style.

Where’s the conversation?

When reacting to your comment community, do your best to create a conversation. I find that the best comment sections are one where people are not only replying to you, but to other commenters as well. Ask questions. Point others to read a specific comment. Just like you should formulate blog posts to entice readers to comment, you should  also formulate your comment replies to encourage others to react.

Remember, a conversation isn’t about repeating what you’ve already said in the blog post. One of the most basic tips for leaving comments on someone’s blog is to say something original and add to the conversation. You should keep this in mind when you comment on your on blog as a reply to your readers.

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. She likes making new bloggy friends, so leave a comment (or follow her @allison_boyer).

Image credit: sxc.hu

Sharing the Knowledge of Better Bloggers


I know it may come as a shock to you, but some bloggers are better than you are. Yes, you are a rock star, I’m sure, but when it comes to blogging in a certain niche, you just can’t know everything. When that’s the case, don’t leave gaps on your website. Show some link love and share the knowledge of better bloggers.

Recently, I wanted to write a post on After Graduation about publishing your book. As I started writing, I realized that I was way over my head. I’ve never published a print book. Hell, I’ve never even finished writing a book, though I am a professional novel-starter. Who did I think I was, giving advice to my readers on a topic that I knew nothing about in the practical sense? Sure, I’ve taken some publishing classes, but just because you take a class doesn’t mean you know what you’re doing.

Yet, this was an obvious hole on my website. It was something that my readers needed to know, and without covering publishing at all, it felt like my blog was incomplete. So, I created a post filled with links. The post has 18 resources for my readers who are interested in print publishing, many of which are websites specifically covering the subject, not just single articles. I even learned a few things about publishing when perusing websites, even though that’s not an interest of mine at the moment.

In other words, I found people who were experts in an area that I’m not, and I directed my readers there.

Now, you can look at this in a bad light if you’re so inclined. Every time I give a list of links instead of writing a post filled with my own advice, I’m saying to my readers, “Hey, I don’t know much about this topic.” Does that discredit me? Maybe a little.

But the fact of the matter is this: I know a lot about freelance writing in other areas. If you have a question about becoming a web content writer, I’m 100% your girl. I’m even developing a course for professors to teach this topic in the classroom. Admitting that I don’t know anything about a related topic (in this case, print publishing) doesn’t mean that my advice on online writing is worthless.

You should also consider that link love lists do send the reader away from your site. Even if you set the links to open in new windows, the reader could easily get lost in someone else’s website, never making it back to yours. This happens all the time. I should know – I have Internet ADD just like the rest of you, and a short trip online to check my email often turns into a three-hour surfing session where I end on the Wikipedia page for drum machines or Richard Rodgers.

So, you have to ask yourself, “What will bring my readers back to me?” Be memorable, and hook your readers so they sign up for your RSS feed or mailing list. Be an “ultimate resource” by listing dozens of links on a topic, so they come back to you again and again or even bookmark your page. Share the knowledge of better bloggers, but be a better blogger yourself.

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. She’s ashamed to tell you how many hours per week Wikipedia sucks her into its devious web.

Image credit: sxc.hu

How to Throw a Successful Contest On Your Blog


I love throwing contests on my blog. It’s a fun way to give back to my existing readers, and sometimes obtain new followers in the process. I think my latest contest was a huge success (in terms of what I wanted to get out of it), but some blogs go about it completely the wrong way – asking entrants to do the impossible and pushing them away.

Here are tips on how to throw a successful contest on your blog:

  • Set Your Goals:
    Before throwing the contest, establish the goal of actually hosting it. Do you want to give back to your community, obtain new readers, obtain Twitter or Facebook followers, or something else altogether? This will help you establish the scope and rules of the contest.
  • Obtain Your Prizes:
    Make sure your prize(s) are applicable to your blog topic. If you run a tech blog, you may not obtain interest in giving away a Toys R Us gift certificate! As far as physically obtaining the prizes, you can purchase one yourself, use free promotional material you’ve been given, or search out interested sponsors. In the past I have used ProfNet to ask for giveaways or products to review. For my latest contest I went on Etsy and asked if someone would be willing to donate a product.
  • Set Reasonable Ways to Enter:
    Your entry rules should suit the prize and your goals. If you’re giving away a $10 gift certificate, you can’t expect people to create a video and obtain 10,000 views for your contest! I typically only require a comment to be entered, but I provide additional ways to obtain entries (based on my goal set above). For my most recent contest, my goal was to get new blog followers, so I provided an extra 3 entries if they signed up to follow. I also gave an extra entry (up to 3) for tweeting about the contest.
  • Clearly State All Rules:
    State all rules clearly. Nobody wants to enter, only to find out that you won’t ship outside of the United States! You should also define the start and end date/time of the contest as well as any people who are ineligible to enter.
  • Promote the Contest:
    Begin promoting the contest as soon as you have details – you can begin hyping it up before it even starts! Consider including it in Online-Sweepstakes and other sweepstakes/contest websites to obtain even more exposure. Tweet about the contest and encourage others to tell their followers.

Do you have any other tips for hosting a successful contest?

Nikki Katz is the Managing Editor for the BlogWorld Blog. Feel free to follow her Twitter @nikki_blogworld and @katzni

Image Credit: SXC

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