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Never Underestimate the Power of a Picture

Adding a picture can change the whole look and feel of a post.

I’ve learned that one of the best ways to take a post to the next level is to simply…

add a picture.

Something about adding a picture makes an otherwise “blah” post into something more interesting, or at least more eye-catching.  I know that when I’m skimming a blog, I’m immediately more drawn to the posts, or descriptions of posts, that have a picture.  As far as I can tell, it doesn’t matter what the picture is of, or even if it’s related to the content of the post (many times they’re not, but it’s better if they are).  But something about the inclusion of a picture immediately makes, at least me, more interested and engaged, and more likely to respond or interact in some way.

If it has that effect on me, it stands to reason that it will have a similar effect on other readers.  The reason I say that is that I recently posted something on another of my blogs (a recipe for maple syrup, of all things) but I added a picture of a bottle of maple syrup.  And it was that that got my other blog featured on foodpress.com.  That’s all it took, just adding a picture.  Pretty cool, huh?

So, it’s something that I intend to do with pretty much every blog post I do from now on: I will include at least one visual element.

What has your experience been with including or omitting a photo?  Do you find that your picture-fied posts receive more hits and/or comments than those posts without pictures?

You Should Always Use These 2 Words In Your Titles Because It Works.

I love how I haven’t even told you what the two words are yet and already you’re reading.

It means that this works.

The two words are YOU and BECAUSE.

I strongly believe that this one principle and those two words have already made me a better blogger, and will likely be directly responsible for any and perhaps all success I have from this point on.

Why?

Because the word YOU addresses the reader directly, and causes him (or her) to immediately identify with what I’m saying.  They’ll think, either consciously or unconsciously, “Hey, that’s how I feel.  I want to know more because that might solve some problem or fill some need that I have.”

The second word, BECAUSE, provides a reason “why.”  And not just some generic “It’s a good thing” platitude, either–it identifies something specific.  After finding or pointing out some problem that needs solving or action that needs to be taken, it gives a specific solution or action to take and gives a clear, concise reason why that solution or that action is the best one to take.

I learned this principle from copywriting expert Brian Clark, in an article he wrote on his blog, Copyblogger.com, entitled “The Two Most Important Words in Blogging.”  Any person who is serious about growing their blog and improving their copy NEEDS to read this article.

Here it is again:

http://www.copyblogger.com/the-two-most-important-words-in-blogging/

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Interview with Daniel Scocco, Author of DailyBlogTips.com

Most bloggers, once they enter the blogging world, quickly learn who the big players are.  One of the best known is Daniel Scocco, author of Daily Blog Tips.  Now, I’m a big believer in stealing other people’s brilliance and making it work for me (take note: I don’t do anything like plagiarizing, I just find good ideas and apply them to things I do).  So, I decided to pick his brain…I mean, ask him for an interview.

I feel it is worth sharing that I emailed him last night, expecting that it would take a couple days before he responded to me, if he responded at all.  To my great surprise and pleasure, when I woke up this morning, his thoughtful and helpful response was waiting for me in my inbox.  An example I intend to follow throughout the rest of my blogging career.

So, now the good stuff…

_______________________________

TBJ:  What exactly did you do that, in your opinion, gained you your first 10 subscribers?

Daniel:  I simply focused on writing great content and promoting the blog as a whole. Once I had 10 posts or so I started commenting on other blogs, submitting the blog to directories, joining online forums and what not. This sent me an initial influx of visitors, and I guess many of them liked the content and decided to subscribe.

TBJ:  How did you gain your first 10 followers on Twitter?

Daniel:  Keep in mind that I think RSS and email subscribers are much more valuable than Twitter followers, because the interaction you have with them is more solid.

That being said, I wrote a post on my blog when I joined Twitter, encouraging my readers to follow me there.  That gave me some 200 followers or so.

TBJ:  How did you get your first guest post on your own blog, where someone else posted?  Did you ask  them, or did they ask you?  Would you recommend soliciting guest posts for your own blog?  Why or why not?

Daniel:  If I remember well the other person asked if he could write a guest post on my blog, and I accepted.  In fact I don’t think that going around asking for people to guest blog on your blog is an efficient strategy. It can work to get the ball rolling, but the ideal situation is one where people are naturally submitting guest posts to you. How do you achieve that? By growing your audience first (as guest bloggers want to reach big audiences), and by highlighting that you do accept guests (for example by creating a “Write for us” link on your navigation menu).

TBJ:  How do you recommend requesting and conducting interviews with other bloggers?  Email, IM chat, recorded voice chat?  Is one better than the other?

Daniel:  Email is by far the most efficient one. Why? Because everyone uses email (while the same is not true for IM), and scheduling a phone call for a voice interview is complicated.

My advice is to email the person you want to interview, explaining where and how it will be published. It’s also important to send all the questions right away. If you just send an email asking permission to send the questions the other person will probably ignore it.

(Note:  This is exactly what I did.  I didn’t know beforehand that this is what he’d prefer…I just knew that he was more likely to respond to my email if the questions were well thought out.  I learned that by reading his blog.  Go figure.  For more from him about conducting interviews with other bloggers, click here.)

TBJ:  How long had you been blogging before you started to see “results,” and what were the results you started to see? Would you say there was a turning point, a moment where you felt like the ball really started rolling on its own and your growth just started to explode the way every blogger hopes it will?

Daniel:  I don’t think there was any pivotal moment with my blogs. It was a gradual thing, where they kept growing month after month, but without large spikes.

There was one thing that gave me a lot of motivation though. It was when I first started monetizing one of  my blogs. I loaded a Google AdSense unit there, and made $20 or so during the first month. It was not a lot, but definitely enough to get me excited, as I was putting only a couple of hours of weekly work into the blog. I figured that if I worked more the earnings would increase proportionally (if not exponentially), and they did.

Thanks so much for sharing, Daniel!

For another interesting interview with Daniel, where he talks more about his experience, visit this article on The Rating Blog.

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Thought Picking Your Niche Mattered? Read This.

I Work on the Web?

Image by mootpointer | Andrew Harvey via Flickr

I’ve learned something very interesting.

Brace yourself for it, you might not like what I’m about to say.  It flies in the face of many a blogging professional’s opinion.

When picking a topic for your blog, the subject is unimportant.

You heard me right.  It doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that you care about your subject.  If you care, then your readers will care.  And more importantly, you’ll be producing enough content to have readers at all.  If your topic doesn’t light you up, doesn’t motivate you to write (at least most days), doesn’t fill your head with tons of ideas for posts and promotions, doesn’t make you care, then why will it make your readers care?!

The fact is, if you care about your topic, then I guarantee there is someone else in the world who also cares.  If you find it interesting enough to write at length about it, there is someone out there who is willing to read what you’ve written.  So, when picking your niche, pick something that makes you want to keep writing.  If you have trouble coming up with ideas for your first 10-15 posts, pick a different topic.

Why I Need a Blogging Buddy

Monkeys Blogging

Image via Wikipedia

I read an article recently by Annabel Candy of getinthehotspot.com about the one thing the helped drive her to blogging success, and that was getting herself a blogging buddy.  Really, it meant making herself accountable to someone else who she knew would check up on her and support her through her early blogging days.  In the article (which is excellent, by the way, you should definitely read it) she states the having someone check up on her motivated her in three ways.  I’m fairly certain that almost every blogger has felt this way at least once.

First, it gave her an incentive to keep pushing along, because how embarrassing would it have been to need to report to someone, and have nothing to report?

Second, it made her feel like her efforts weren’t going unnoticed, that someone out there was actually seeing and responding to her work.  Not only that, but it made her blog look better because it had someone commenting on it!

And last, it helped her stay on topic and keep trying to improve.  This is how she put it:

When your blog is new and you don’t have many readers there is a tendency to think that it doesn’t really matter if some of your blog posts are a bit off topic, badly written or of limited value to your readers. Knowing someone read my blog made me keep trying to improve my blog. Teresa made me keep trying to put only my best writing up there.

Those are all feelings that I’ve been feeling in abundance–like my blog’s invisible, and it’s probably going to stay like that, so why does it matter how often I post, or what I say?  Nobody’s going to see it anyway!

Hence the need to be accountable to someone other than myself.

I’ve tried just being accountable to myself.  I’ve made charts and reward systems and schedules, but somehow putting a sticker on a piece of graph paper and getting a piece of chocolate after every blog post seems a little less than rewarding some days.  It’s more like a consolation prize.  “You worked hard, but nobody knows or cares, so here.  Have a sticker and some candy.”  Big whoop.

Admittedly, I’ve tried to make my spouse be my blogging buddy, but it’s not such an easy thing for a person who is working full-time, going to school full-time, taking care of me and our kids, and trying to support me through my forays into generating income from home.  So yeah, not the ideal candidate for a blogging buddy.  If anyone else is in need of such a buddy, leave a comment, email me…something.  I promise I’ll respond in kind!

How to Add “Like” Buttons to Your WordPress Blog–The Free and Easy Version

Facebook logo

Image via Wikipedia

When I first started blogging, I decided early on that I wanted to figure out how to put those spiffy “Like on Facebook” and “Tweet This” and “StumbleUpon” buttons at the bottom of each blog post, but I thought I would have to wait until my HTML5 and Javascript and Joomla and Lord-only-knows-what-else skills improved.

Not so!

Thanks to those amazing WordPress people, we now have (or have always had but I only just found out) those buttons built into our blogs–all we have to do is turn them on.  Here’s how:

  • Go to your dashboard.  If you’re not sure how to get there, type the url for your blog into your browser and add “/wp-admin/” to the end.  For example, to get to the dashboard for The Blogger’s Journey, I would type this:

    http://thebloggersjourney.wordpress.com/wp-admin/

  • Go to Settings > Sharing.
  • Just drag and drop the buttons you want into the little gray box indicated.  Really, the page itself will walk you through it!

It really is quite the revelation for someone like me.  Cool buttons that will help broadcast my articles and get more people reading them–thank you WordPress!

As I was writing this, I discovered that not only are there buttons, but they are customizable!  You can:

  • disable the text and display only the icons
  • arrange them in whatever order you want
  • add links and icons from your favorite services that aren’t included in the default options
  • modify the sharing label to make it say whatever you want, like what I have:  “Like it? Share it!”

So amazing.

To watch a video about this on WordPress TV, click here.

The First Days

So, it’s been 5 whole days since I registered the blog with my WordPress.com account–what have I done in that time?

Well, pretty much all I’ve done is sit around and mull over what my first post would be about.  I mean, this is a blog about blogging, so it should be blogging-related, right?  But how can I blog about blogging if I haven’t really blogged at all yet?  Well, I’ve got to blog about something so that I can blog about it.

Yeah, it is really as circular as sounds.

What I’ve determined is that the best way to get started is to just bite the bullet and do it.  It feels a lot like jumping off the dock into the lake without knowing beforehand how to swim, just not as dramatic.  Or life-threatening.  But all the same, I figure, I’ll just start and let myself have some bumbling-around, figuring-it-all-out time before expecting perfection.

Admittedly, since I’m a perfectionist, I don’t like to do anything at all until I know I can do it perfectly, and do just jump in and figure it out as I go, is quite unappealing.  But at the same time, how will I get anything done if I don’t do anything?  Reading as much as I can about blogging won’t actually get any blog posts done, which means my blog will continue being post-less until I actually sit down and push something out, imperfect though it may be.

So thus far, that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned:  just like Nike put it, just do it.

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