Monthly Archives: July 2017

Frictionless Customer Experiences Are the Best Customer Experiences

Frictionless Customer Experiences Are the Best Customer Experiences

One thing quickly becomes clear when speaking with the digital leaders who are delivering new experiences and driving engagement strategies for major brands and organizations: the push to eliminate friction between customers and brands is more important than ever before.

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Docurated Deepens Salesforce Partnership With New Federated Search

Docurated Deepens Salesforce Partnership With New Federated Search

Two years ago, Docurated introduced Custom Object Search for Salesforce, a tool to help uncover content in Salesforce’s Custom Objects. Today the company is extending the relationship, with the launch of a federated search product for sales and marketing.

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Don’t Limit MarTech to Top of the Funnel: Apply Across the Entire Customer Journey

Don't Limit MarTech to Top of the Funnel: Apply Across the Entire Customer Journey

As the MarTech solutions available to brands evolve at an ever-increasing pace, the role of the CMO is also undergoing a critical transition. Traditionally, those responsibilities have focused on winning new customers by effectively communicating a brand’s story and differentiation. While undoubtedly still essential, a recent study by the CMO

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The Customer Is Always Right: Email Marketing Spam Edition

As a member of the Deliverability Operations team, I can tell you that we spend a lot of time discussing the importance of list hygiene and good mailing practices with our senders.

Typically, this covers everything from ensuring recommended customer acquisition practices are in place, engagement-based segmentation is utilized to monitor for inactivity, and that customers are appropriately removed from mailing lists as activity lapses or unsubscribe requests are received.

The purpose behind these conversations is always the same: to highlight the importance of maintaining brand reputation in the eyes of ISPs, and ensuring that messages continue to get delivered to the inbox. A key component to achieving this is making sure customers themselves do not perceive the messages they receive as spam.

While there are official regulations such as the CAN-SPAM Act in place that make clear determinations when it comes to spam, it is also important for senders to keep in mind that “spam” is increasingly in the eye of email recipients themselves. And as far as an ISP is concerned, the recipient is always right.

So What Counts As "Spam"?

If a customer receives emails that they feel do not apply to them, that they were not expecting to receive in the first place, or even that they simply do not wish to receive any more (regardless of being properly opted in), they may mark the message as “spam” in their inbox.

This triggers a spam complaint to the ISP hosting their mailbox, and can impact reputation to that entire network—even in very small values. This is yet another reason why maintaining best practices is critical to avoid negative customer engagements and maintain inbox placement.

How Do ISPs Use This Data?

Even more critical however, is that ISPs themselves use customer evaluations of the communications they receive to inform their own filtering mechanisms. Recently, Microsoft detailed this strategy within their own Spam Fighters program. For the uninitiated, Spam Fighters essentially works by surveying a randomly selected portion of Outlook users.

In order for Microsoft’s filters to work successfully, they need to identify both good, and bad mail. What better way to inform their machine learning than by asking their users themselves? The question placed to the selected users who volunteer to participate is simple:

Is this spam? Or non-spam?

This binary statement highlights the importance of customer perception to senders. While there are other factors that contribute to a message ultimately being flagged as spam (authentication, attachments, sending IP, etc.), how the message comes across in the inbox cannot be underestimated. So put yourself in the recipient’s shoes.

A positive customer experience with relevant content going only to engaged users is the best way to ensure you don’t become another example in the “spam” category.

While we're on the subject of email marketing, how confident are you that your emails are contributing to a positive customer experience on mobile? If your subscribers are dealing with poor formatting, long load times, and unresponsive links, you're losing their attention. Download our Mobile Email Guide to learn how to fix and prevent these problems. 

Mobile Email Guide

Photo credit: Skley via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Boost the Relevance of Your Content with Benefits and Features

Quick Copy Tip

One cool thing about being a content marketer is that you tend to become an expert in your topic. You probably know an awful lot about your business, your project, or your subject matter.

In fact, you might actually know too much about it.

It’s called the curse of knowledge. Because we research our topics deeply and spend so much time writing about them, we tend to understand the technical specs inside and out. We have a great grasp of the under-the-hood details that make the thing work. And we think customers want to know all about those details.

But most of your potential buyers? They don’t care.

What have you done for me lately?

To be effective, marketing needs to show exactly what the offering does for the person buying it.

The features of your offer are what make it work. The benefits are the results it creates for the customer.

What transformation does your product or service empower? What does it allow the customer to become that she isn’t today?

Jimmy Choo high heels aren’t coveted because they’re comfortable or well-made. (Even though devotees believe they are.) Women buy them to feel confident and gorgeous.

Hybrid cars aren’t popular because they’re fuel-efficient, money-saving, or environmentally friendly. The real benefits are feeling virtuous and smart, with the warm, fuzzy glow that comes from believing you’re saving the world.

Your content and copy will never be truly relevant to your audience until you translate your features into customer-focused benefits.

The five-minute feature check

Quick, take a look through the last persuasive piece you wrote (blog post, sales page, podcast script) and take note of all of the features you talk about.

  • The process
  • Your qualifications
  • The patented mechanism
  • The policy
  • The dimensions
  • The speed
  • The materials

Copy and paste them all into a fresh document. Then, after each feature, add the words:

so you can …

The final results will be phrases like:

  • I have 10 years of experience helping clients exactly like you, so you can feel confident that together we can solve even your trickiest widget problems.
  • Our course is the most rigorous on the market, so you can leapfrog ahead of your competitors.
  • Our grape jam has 50% less sugar and no weird additives, so you can enjoy it guilt-free.

In about five minutes, you’ll uncover the weak spots in your persuasive content — the places where you were thinking about you and what you offer, and not about them and what they get out of it.

You might not use the words “so you can” over and over again in your final copy — but you will be writing with an understanding of your audience benefits.

Not all benefits are equal

The curse of knowledge can also lead you to focus too much on what some copywriters call fake benefits.

These are the benefits of your product or service that you think are important. And you might be absolutely right. They could be critical to delivering the results your audience wants.

The trouble is, the customer doesn’t particularly care.

These could be things like:

  • Stabilizing blood chemistry levels
  • Improving efficiency of project delivery and implementation
  • Mastering the ability to write a college entrance essay

But that doesn’t tell us what the buyer gets to have, do, be, feel, or become by moving forward with this purchase.

What those customers might actually want could be to:

  • Get slim without feeling hungry
  • Pull off a great project and look like a hero to their boss
  • Feel like brilliant parents because their teenager got into a great college

Features do matter

Features are the specific, convincing details that demonstrate why your solution is effective. As long as they’re tied directly to customer-focused benefits, your buyer will stay interested.

Here are some features that have been translated into benefits and presented as a set:

This nutritional program stabilizes your blood chemistry so you can finally lose weight … without getting hungry.

Our proven process makes you more efficient … and that makes you look like a hero when you deliver your next project in half the time and under budget.

This quick course teaches your teenager how to write a masterful college entrance essay … which could be the deciding factor in whether they get into their first-choice school.

Take another look at your five-minute benefit check. Any fake benefits in there?

Wants, not needs

You’ve got one more check to make before you call it good.

Are the benefits you’ve identified things your audience genuinely wants, or are they things you think they need?

Paying for things we need is boring. Spending money on things we want is a lot more fun. That’s why it’s easier to sell big-screen TVs than life insurance.

When you’re translating your features into benefits, make sure those benefits are driven by wants. Look for emotional drivers like pleasure, comfort, status, and self-image. You can also seek to put a stop to pain, either physical or emotional.

It’s not only hedonistic emotions that can drive behavior — values like patriotism, justice, and fairness can play powerful roles with the right audience. It’s still a pretty good idea, though, to pair them with a little self-interested hedonism if you can. Fair-trade coffee wouldn’t sell nearly as well if those arabica beans didn’t taste so good.

We like to think that logical drivers like efficiency, physical health, preventing future problems, and scientific evidence influence our decisions, but, they typically don’t have much impact. But those “rational” benefits are helpful when they’re used to justify an emotional decision that’s already been made.

The customer who already wants the beautiful high-heeled shoes tells herself that Jimmy Choos will last longer and feel better than a cheaper brand.

The customer who already wants to feel enlightened and virtuous tells himself that the fuel economy of the Prius clearly makes it a sensible choice.

Marketing vs. manipulation

There’s an important difference between putting your best foot forward and crossing the line into manipulation.

The key lies in making two promises:

  1. Don’t say things that aren’t true.
  2. Don’t omit significant things that are true.

The impression you create with your marketing needs to be realistic and truthful. If it isn’t, you’re a con artist and a creep — and your audience will rightly shun you when they figure that out.

If you liked this Quick Copy Tip, click here to read other posts in the series.

The post Boost the Relevance of Your Content with Benefits and Features appeared first on Copyblogger.

204: 6 ‘Ordinary’ Things That Will Grow Your Blog into Something Extraordinary

How Ordinary Things Can Lead to Extraordinary Results With Your Blog

This week and I’m excited to be spending time face to face with quite a few ProBlogger podcast listeners and blog readers at our Aussie blogging events.

We’ve been holding annual Australian events since 2010 and it is a highlight of my year each time. It’s fantastic to put faces to names, hear the stories of what bloggers are learning and to get inspired by meeting many of you.

So because I’m away this week and busy with the event I thought it might be fun to give you a taste of what happens at a ProBlogger event and to play you a talk I gave at one of our events a few years ago.

6 ordinary things for extraordinary blog growth

So for today’s episode (#204) I’m going to play you a full opening keynote talk that I gave in 2014.

It’s a talk I gave which explores how doing ordinary things consistently over time leads to extraordinary results in blogging.

Often bloggers look for the ‘secret’ strategies that will launch their blog into a viral success. However the reality is that most successful bloggers spend more time on small, ordinary things – it’s these things that really lead to success.

In this talk I outlined 6 of these ‘ordinary things’.

This is a talk I hear attendees referring to quite a bit – so I hope you enjoy it too.

Links and Resources on 6 ‘Ordinary’ Things That Will Grow Your Blog into Something Extraordinary

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

Hey there and welcome to episode 204 of the ProBlogger Podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger and podcaster behind ProBlogger.com, a site that’s really dedicated to helping you to grow an amazing blog, that serves your audience, that creates great content, and that builds some profit around what you do online.

You can learn more about ProBlogger and all of the different things we do including our ebooks, events, the podcast and blog itself over at problogger.com. And then, have a dig around. You’ll find a lot of information on our Start Here page there as well so look for that in the navigation.

This week, I’m really excited because I’m spending time face to face with quite a few ProBlogger podcast listeners and ProBlogger blog readers at our Australian blogging events. We’ve got two events this year, Melbourne and Brisbane, and they’re going on pretty much as this podcast goes out. We’ve been holding these events since 2010 and it is the highlight of my year every year because I get to put names to faces, hear stories of bloggers and what they’re learning, and see the growth in our attendees from year to year as well. I always come home inspired although a bit tired from these events as well.

Because I’m away this week and not at my office, and not able to record too much in terms of a podcast, I thought it might be fun to give you a taste of what happens at the ProBlogger event. I’m going to play you a keynote presentation I gave at one of our events a few years ago. It’s actually completely relevant for today and hopefully, you find some inspiration in it as well.

This episode, episode 204, I’m going to play you the full opening keynote of the talk I gave in 2014, three years ago now. It’s a talk in which I explore how doing ordinary things, consistently over time, leads to extraordinary results. Often, bloggers come to ProBlogger and I get emails all the time and people will say, “What is the secret strategy, what’s the secret sauce that’s going to launch my blog into being a viral success?” The reality is that it’s not the secret strategies that tend to lead to that viral success. It’s some of the smaller ordinary things.

In this talk, I shared six ordinary things that are going to help you to build something quite extraordinary. This is a talk I actually get a lot of feedback from, even three years later, I get bloggers come who heard this talk at our event and they refer back to it. I really do hope that it is useful to you as well. If you like to follow along with the slides for this talk, I actually had a set of slides, I’ve uploaded them into this week’s show notes and you can scroll through them as I talk, if you like. They are over problogger.com/podcast/204 and I will also upload them as a PDF if you want to download them.

If you are also interested in coming to our events, of course, this year’s events, you can’t really get tickets for anymore for the Aussie events. Although, you may be able to get one to the Melbourne event if you are able to act fast. There is always information on our upcoming Australian events at problogger.com/events. Our Dallas event later in the year that I’m running with some friends called The Success Incubator. There will be details of that at problogger.com/success.

I’m going to hand over to me and this is a live recording so you’re going to hear a little bit of audience. You’re going to hear me embarrass myself along the way a couple of times as well as I stumble over my words. I get a few laughs at my own expense during this one but hopefully it’s clear enough for you. The slides will certainly help at times but I think most of it would be understandable if you’re just listening along as well.

Thanks for listening and I look forward to hearing what you think about this particular keynote. You can always give us feedback on the show notes or over in the Facebook group. Thanks for listening and here I am.

This event, I’ve been trying to work out what to talk about for the opening session of this event, and I want to do something a little bit strange. I want to start with a confession. It doesn’t usually happen at the start of an event that the founder gets up and reveals something about himself that perhaps isn’t overly positive or has a bit of a negative vibe but this is my confession to you, I sometimes feel like this guy. Some of you are groaning internally because the Lego Movie is on the high rotation at your house. Anyone? My house we’ve got three boys – they’re three, six and eight, and Lego is huge and it’s often embedded into my feet late at night.

The Lego Movie, the main character of it is this guy here, Emmet. I really resonate with his character which is strange because he has a luscious head of hair and my boys did too. After we took them to see the Lego Movie, my two eldest, I found them in one of their bedrooms fighting over who is going to be Emmet in their imaginative play.

I thought this was a little bit strange because there’s other really cool characters in this movie, there’s Batman and Superman, and Wonder Woman, and all kinds of amazing characters but no,  they wanted to be Emmet. I asked my middle boy, he’s now six. He’s slightly philosophical, “Why did you want to be Emmet?” He thought about it for a little while and then he said, “He’s just ordinary but he still did something really cool.” My boys resonated with this character and I do too.

When you first meet Emmet in this movie, he’s very ordinary, very average. He just tries to fit in. He’s a construction worker, follows instructions, blends into the crowd. In fact, later in the movie when his friends are interviewed about him, some of them don’t even remember that he exists. He’s very ordinary, very average. Through circumstances, he finds himself surrounded by these extraordinary characters called “The Master Builders,” the exact opposite of him. There’s Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Abraham Lincoln, the NBA All Stars, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – these big characters but they also have amazing abilities to construct whatever they want, almost out of thin air, just using their imagination and the bricks that they find around them. Emmet is the exact opposite of this. He just wants instructions.

A prophecy is made about Emmet, that he is the special one who’s going to lead The Master Builders. There’s this scene in the movie which is on the screen now, where Emmet is in this coliseum like gathering of Master Builders and he’s introduced as The Special One who is going to lead them.

He walks up onto the stage and everyone falls silent waiting for magical words and he pretty much says, “Hi! I’m Emmet. I’ve got no idea what’s going on here.” In the next couple of moments, he pretty much reveals that he’s anything but special, that he’s anything but a Master Builder, that he’s anything but a leader and, of course, the Master Builders decide not to follow him.

That moment in the movie is kinda like the dream I have every night for two weeks before this event. Every event I go to where I’m invited to speak, something in the back of my head says, “You’re too ordinary. You’ve got nothing to say. You’re too average.” I’m not saying that to make you feel sad for me. There’s actually a few reasons that I’m saying this.

Don’t worry, the founder hasn’t lost his mind. It’s cool.

The reason I say this is that every time I come to this conference, I have conversations, usually before the conference, where people say to me, “I feel like I’m a bit out of my league.” “I feel like I shouldn’t be here.” Someone said to me this morning already, “I haven’t even started my blog yet.” “I haven’t posted for six months,” someone else told me this morning. “I don’t know if I should be here.” “I’m not very good at writing.” “I’m not very technical.”

These little voices go in the back of all of our minds. We’re actually a community of Emmets. I want to start off by saying today, we all feel these things. We all feel average. We all feel ordinary. We all, at times, feel out of our league. It’s interesting when I talk to speakers of this event, they say the same things. We’re all feeling these same things.

I guess the first reason I wanted to give my confession this morning is that I think that it’s actually a collective confession and I want to put it out there right up front that this is how we sometimes feel. After we come to a conference and we tell everyone why they should listen to us and what we do know, I think this is a place where we can say what we don’t know and it’s totally fine to do that. It’s totally fine to feel these things.

The second reason I wanted to give this confession today is that we live in amazing times. We live in times where ordinary people here in Australia are doing extraordinary things. There’s a movement happening and it’s happening in this room. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things often think, what would someone coming into this room, who didn’t know what this conference was about, think this conference is about just looking at our attendees? I think I wouldn’t have any idea. I think I would be amazed when I start to hear some of the stories in this room. Our community is doing amazing things.

One of the things I love to do is to go overseas and speak at events and tell stories of Australian bloggers. Over the last year, I’ve told 12 stories of Australian bloggers, people who’d come to our event, people who’d spoken at our event and the things that they have done.

I told this story earlier this year of a guy called Chris Hunter. Who remembers Chris? He spoke like three years ago. I think some of you, now, remember him. Chris was one of our panels and he’s just a lovely guy but he’s just a guy that you walk past on the street, not really noticed. He’s unassuming. He’s quiet. Chris has achieved a lot but he’s overcome a lot, too. He immigrated from the UK to Sydney and now, I think, he’s gone along to New Zealand. He’s hearing impaired and overcome some challenges in that area of his life. He was working in an advertising agency and doing quite well for himself. But every night he would go home and he would do what he really loved, he had a secret passion, it was classic motorbikes – custom motor bikes.

He started a blog called Bike EXIF and he started to post pictures of classic motorbikes. At our event, he told us the story of how he started it. Chris is now a full-time blogger just a few years later. He has over two million Pinterest followers. Pinterest isn’t just for girly things, it’s for motorbikes! He is an influencer in his industry. He has advertisers paying him money to appear on his blog. He’s an authority. He’s a normal person doing something quite extraordinary.

I love to tell the story of Christina. I saw Christina. She’s here somewhere. I’ve been telling Christina’s story when I travel as well. Where are you, Christina? I like to look at you. I don’t like to look at you. I would like to see you. Oops! Suddenly, my mouth is very dry. The first time I met you would have been three years ago, probably the same event that Christ was at. The night before our event, someone sent me an email and said, “You’ve got to check out this blog. There’s this woman, Christina, who’s posting pictures of the back of her head and people are reading her blog. She was posting pictures of her hairstyle.” I think it just started off at the back of your head, and gradually it was the side and in the end, it’s the front as well.

I immediately knew something was happening here because I can see the engagement in the comments. Christina has spoken in a number of our events and told her story, and now a full-time blogger. I love watching Christina’s Instagram feed as she goes traveling around the world to fashion shows and released an ebook, and this week, released your book here in Australia. Jim, now, husband, is also working with you as a blogger. I just think this is amazing that you can start out posting pictures of the back of your head and a whole business opens up, something quite extraordinary.

I love telling the story of Gavin. He’s from Zen Pencils. He also spoke probably at the same event, I reckon. He told his story about how in 2011, he quit his job because he wanted to become a comic. He was working as a graphic designer. They sold their house so that he had a bit of a buffer and he tried all these different ways of becoming a comic. Two or three times he tried, nothing worked. Until one day he had the realization that he could combine two of his passions, one was comics and two was inspirational quotes, and he started Zen Pencils. He now has hundreds of thousands of social media followers. He’s now traveling the world speaking at conferences. He was recently speaking at Comic-Con, that’s a dream come true for a comic.

I love the fact that normal people are doing extraordinary things. These are just three of literally hundreds of stories in this room of people who are doing amazing things, and we really want to hear your stories this week. There’s going to be some opportunities to do that.

Collectively, I did the sums the other day, you have 30 million readers. That person coming into this room would have no idea who they’re seeing in the middle of normal people doing extraordinary things.

Over the last year, I asked from Facebook the other day, “Have you launched something this year?” These are just some of the ebooks and books that have been launched this year. These are just some of the businesses that have been launched this year that train people in social media and blogging. These are just two of the possible Kickstarter campaigns that have happened this year. These are just one of the apps that just happened to get to the top of the App Store. A couple of the events that are being run by bloggers this year. You’ve achieved so much this year and I can’t wait to see what is achieved in the next year.

The third reason I wanted to share my confession of feeling ordinary is really what I wanted to talk about for the rest of this time we’ve got today is that in my experience, success is really about doing ordinary things. A lot of times, people come and want the secret, sexy, sort of strategies on blogging. The reality is, most of the reasons why bloggers succeed is they do ordinary things and they continue to do them really well. Success is more about doing the ordinary thing so that you already know than discovering the secrets that you don’t yet know. That is my experience over the last 12 years.

What I want to do today is to share with you six ordinary things that you already know that you need to keep doing.

The first one is the most ordinary of them all, and it’s to start. I know 90% of you guys have done that, I want to say something to you in a moment, but for the 10% of you who haven’t yet started your blog, you are completely welcome here and that’s totally fine to not have a blog. But if you go home and you don’t start something, I’m going to hunt you down.

I love the fact that even this morning a couple of people said, “I didn’t have my blog last year, but I do now.” Congratulations, that’s fantastic.

I love this quote, before I tell my story, “Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started. The way you figure yourself out is by making things.” That’s Austin Kleon, who wrote a book called Steal Like an Artist. This quote pretty much sums up my own story.

Back in 2002, I started a blog. Many of you heard my story, I’m not going to tell it in great detail but I started a blog after seeing someone else’s blog and being inspired by it. 30 minutes after I saw his, I knew I had to start a blog but I also knew I had a long list of excuses going through my head. I didn’t know what a blog was 30 minutes before so I had no experience. I had no skills. I’d had 20 jobs in the last 10 years, I don’t really stick at things too well. I had a shed in the backyard full of sporting equipment that I used once, sometimes I hadn’t used them at all. We didn’t have any money. We were nearly married. I had no network. I didn’t know any other bloggers. No niche. Had fear. What if my wife reads this? What if my mom reads it? What if no one reads it? What if everyone reads it and I make a mistake? All these little fears, these little niggly voices.

I had this perfectionism. I don’t think I’m actually a perfectionist but when it came to blogging that first blog post, I remember looking at it and thinking, “This is too short in comparison to the one I’ve seen earlier.” As I looked at my free blogger template, which in 2002 was ugly, I think it was purple and orange, and big ugly fonts. I looked at it and thought, this just isn’t going to do. But for one reason or another I hit publish on that first blog post 12 years ago.

As I did, my excuses literally began to dissolve. In the 20 minutes it took me to get that blog set up, I learned skills, I gained the experience. That first short, embarrassingly simple blog post, I gained skills and I began to take a step towards developing a voice. In that next week, I began to find a reader or two as I began to read their blogs and leave comments, my network began to open up. The excuses dissolved, but they only dissolved because I started.

Inaction breeds doubt and fear, action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy. That’s my experience.

Starting leads to our concept of opportunities and I could fill a page full of the opportunities that have come. I still remember the first time I’ve got an email from this guy in the States, from a company I’ve never heard of before. I was living in a bit of a cocoon. The company was Wiley, which is a fairly big publisher, one of the biggest in the world. They said, “We want you to write a book.” I thought it was a friend playing a joke on me, and said, “Yeah, right.” He came back and said, “No, really. I’m from Wiley. I’d like you to write a book.” The same thing happened when someone asks me from overseas to come and speak at an event about blogging. I’ve only been blogging for a couple of years, why do you want me?

These opportunities came, but they only came because I started. The best thing about starting for me is actually it lead to self-discovery. Sorry about the big head picture but I didn’t know how else to visualize it. But for me, starting lead to this whole journey of my ideas. The little embryonic ideas that I had actually began to grow bigger. What I found is that when you put even your tiny, little thoughts and ideas out there, they crystallize, they actually grow stronger, by verbalizing them, by letting other people see them.

Starting lead the growth of ideas, that actually lead to discipline. This is the first thing I’ve stuck at for more than a year of my life, and it’s been 12. I can’t believe it that I’ve actually been publishing posts every day for 12 years, lead to a development of a voice and passions emerged. The peace kind of killed the fear. The fear is still there but it enabled me to deal with that. A whole new vocation, I guess, emerged.

For those of you who’ve already started, here’s the thing, starting isn’t just something you can never take off your to do list. It needs to become a mind set. It needs to become something that you revisit constantly. I sat down on the couch a few months ago and I drew a line on a page and I put 2002 on one end of the page, 2004 on the other end and I analyzed all the times that I’d started things over the last 12 years.

I came up with 100 starts over the next hour. I visualized a few on the screen. Some of these starts are new blogs, I’ve had 30. I only have two today. That shows you my ratio of success. Some of these starts are business partnerships, some of them went on to do really great things, some of them ended very badly. Some of these starts are ebooks that I’ve written or starting on social media, new platforms. There’s been heaps of starts.

Some of these starts started as tiny, little ideas that grew into bigger things. As I said a couple of years ago on one of my keynotes, “Your next big thing might be the little thing that’s staring you right in the face right now.” Look at those little things and act upon those little ideas that you have.

The number two obvious thing you already know that you need to continue to do is to put your readers first.

We’ve all said this as bloggers. I hear it all the time but it’s so tempting to put other things first. This is the key question. If you come to a ProBlogger event before you’ve heard me talk about this idea of asking this question: Who are your readers? Who are your current readers? Who are your potential readers? The more you can define who they are, get clarity about who your readers are, the better position you’d be in to create content for them that’s useful, the better position you’d be in to build community with them, the better position you’d be to go and find them and the better position you’d be in to monetize your blog.

Get to know your readers, understand their needs, their problems, their challenges, their desires, their dreams and their fears. Those things are incredibly powerful to understand. It takes time to understand these things, but do anything you can to meet a reader whether it be online or offline and to understand these things about them. Understand their goals, the language that they use, how they use the internet, their habits, their loves, their hates, and their passions. These things are incredibly important. Those of you who’ve been along before have heard me talk about these things.

But there’s another question I want you to begin to ask as well and this is a question I’ve only been asking for 12 months, at least explicitly, I’ve been asking this question in my mind. Get clarity around who your readers are but then also get clarity around the change you want to see in those readers. This is incredibly powerful. Understand the change in your readers. You know who they are now, but where do you want them to be? What’s your dream for your readers? Define that, that’s a powerful thing.

What I’ve discovered is that powerful blogs, blogs that have a huge impact upon people, they’re the blogs that actually leave a mark on people, they’re the blogs that actually leave their readers different from when they arrive to when they leave. If you can have a blog that changes people, you have the start of something pretty amazing.

Ask these three questions: Who are my readers? What are their needs? How are they going to change as a result of reading my blogs? Spend 10 minutes doing that and you’ll come up with your mission statement or your purpose statement for your blog.

On my blog, Digital Photography School, my readers are people who own digital cameras, who aren’t using those cameras to their potential, that’s their need, and we give them creative control of their cameras. Very simple, kind of, statements but those statements have changed the way that we’ve built our blog over the last year. We now pass this onto our writers and their content has improved incredibly since they knew what we’re on about. Our readers are now starting to feedback to us that they’re getting creative control of their cameras. We never told our readers this is what we’re on about, but they’ve started to notice. Spend time doing that exercise, it’s quite profound.

Put your readers first is one of those things we always say but the problem is there’s all these other temptations and it’s very easy for other things to become first. For some of you, it’s the strategy, it’s looking at the Google Analytics and trying to get your page views up, repositioning your logo and putting your social media buttons in different places, all these sorts of things can cloud out the fact that there are actually readers looking at this stuff.

Sometimes, it’s the profit and this, for me, there’s been a number of times over the last 12 years where I got so into the AdSense numbers are going up, and what if I put my ads there and you actually lose sight of where your readers actually are in the process. Sometimes, it’s traffic. Sometimes, it’s building your own profile, “I want to be bigger than that blogger.” You begin to network, it’s about the request you get from media or that they’re getting it or you’re not getting it. It’s very easy to become distracted by these things. Sometimes, it’s the crafting of the content itself. Sometimes, you can get so into writing amazing content that you actually forget anyone’s reading it and that you’re there to serve them. Put your readers first.

The third thing that you already know is so powerful and you’re going to hear this time and time again over the next few days is that usefulness is king. Over the last 12 years, I’ve seen so many articles written about how content is king, how community is king, how WordPress is king, how Twitter’s king or Facebook’s king, how blogging is king. How all of these things are the most important thing. None of them are king. Usefulness is king. Those things are just different ways of being useful. Whatever you do with your blog, be useful in some way. For me, ultimately being useful comes back to that change that you want to bring. If you can define that change and then begin to break it down, you are actually going to be useful.

For us, we want to give people creative control of their cameras so we begin to break that down. There are different things that our readers need to learn to get creative control and these become categories on our site or blog posts on our site. They need to know technical things like what is aperture, what is shutter speed. They need to know other things like how to get confident with your camera, how to actually take pictures of people without feeling awkward about taking pictures of people. Things they need to learn about how to see and compositions. All of these things and there’s probably a hundred things that we can add to this list are actually how we deliver this change that we want to bring to people.

Some of you heard me talk about this post I wrote back in 2006. I started Digital Photography School in 2006 and one of the first posts I wrote was this one. It’s the most basic post I’ve ever, ever written. I wrote it because people were sharing photos on our Flickr group, which were really bad and the photos were bad because they weren’t holding the camera still when they took the photo. They were holding the camera up and when they hit the shutter speed they push the camera down and it would be blurry.

I saw our need. I thought I’m going to write a post on that. I looked at the post that I’ve written, I thought, “I’m going to get laughed down about this post because it’s just so basic. People are just going to look down their noses at this post.” But I saw the problem that people had so I decided to publish it anyway. I looked at the stats a month ago, on this post. It’s had over 610,000 people view it. I’m glad I wrote it, now. It’s not the biggest post, it’s never had a huge spark in traffic at that time. All of that traffic, almost all of it has come from Google and almost every search has come with the words: How do I hold my camera?

People go to Google to ask the questions that they’re too embarrassed to ask their friends, write that stuff. The stuff you have forgotten that you know is useful. Sometimes, it’s about going back to the basics and providing that kind of information.You don’t have to know a lot, you don’t have to be an expert. I’m not a photographer, a professional photographer. I wrote for people who were behind me in the journey. Be useful to people behind you on that journey.

The fourth thing that you already probably instinctively know is that you need to develop a rhythm of usefulness. I think rhythm is really important. This is another lesson I’ve learned over the last year, regularity is really important. It’s important for a number of reasons.

On Digital Photography School, we’ve developed quite a complicated rhythm. It’s been eight years now since we started that site. It started out much simpler, one post every two or three days. Today, our rhythm kind of looks like this, we publish two posts a day, which is much more than a lot of you post and that’s totally fine to post less. The important thing is the rhythm.

We post five times on Facebook every day, that sounds like a lot, it is. I do it every night at 9:00PM, schedule the next day’s five posts. We publish one challenge to our readers every week. We say, “Go away and take a photo on this theme and come back and show us your photo.” We post one newsletter per week, every Thursday night. It went out last night, Thursday night. I was sitting in my room getting it ready. We send out a newsletter every single week.

We do an annual holiday program every year that lead up to Christmas, the 12 days of Christmas. It’s happened four or five years now. We do ebooks. Every four or five times a year, we publish ebooks. Not necessarily seasonal, but they kind of happen when the seasons happen.

That’s a fairly advanced rhythm, some of you who are just starting can go, “That’s too much for me.” That’s totally fine. But what I found is that the rhythm is really, really useful. It’s useful for me as a blogger and my team because it gives me a deadline. I find that if I’m writing regularly, I write better. It’s easier to come up with ideas. If I’m writing once a month, it’s very hard to get going again. Rhythm is really important for you but it’s also really important for your readers.

I’ve started to notice, even though we’ve never told our readers that we publish two a day, our readers know that. They show up at the times we publish. We get tweets from people if we are an hour late. Same with today’s post. The other morning I’ve got an email from someone, actually it’s a Facebook message from someone, saying, “The 6:00AM Facebook post you do didn’t come up today in my feed.” It’s not my fault Facebook didn’t show it was there, but an interaction with that person, they sat down every morning with a cup of coffee to look for our latest Facebook update.

Your readers begin to show up when you post with a rhythm. It’s really powerful. They begin to gather in the places that you show up regularly so build a rhythm of usefulness in your site.

The other thing about rhythm is that it adds up over time and the accumulated effect of it is amazing. We publish 730 posts per year now, that’s 730 doorways into the site, 730 posts that could be shared on Twitter or on Facebook. Again, 730 is probably too much for many people but even 52 a year. It begins to add up over the years.

That last one there, we’ve published 20 ebooks over the last five or so years. If you told me 5 years ago we’re going to publish 20 ebooks, I would have fallen over. The first one almost killed me. But when you get into the rhythm of it, it actually becomes easies and you begin to develop a system, and it becomes much more achievable. Over time, that gives you an incredible amount of things to offer your readers so rhythm is really important.

Epic blogs are built on lots of little regular useful actions. I don’t know a blog that made it off a single post, it’s about regularity of useful stuff over time. Yes, have these big dreams of the things you want to achieve but know that you going to have to take lots of little useful steps to get there.

The fifth thing that I want to say, it kind of ties into usefulness but I think this really needs to be said particularly at the moment.

As I look around the web, as I look at my Facebook stream, there’s so much fluff being produced at the moment. The other day, I almost cried at that crap that was being shared in my Facebook stream. Someone shared a video of when an elephant met a cat and you wouldn’t believe what happens when they meet. You go and watch the video because I want to know what happens. An elephant walked down the street, there was a cat in the corner of the frame, the elephant went and then it walked on. You wouldn’t believe it. There’s so much fluff.

I don’t want to pick on BuzzFeed, I don’t want to pick on Upworthy or any of these sites that do it. They’re onto something and it’s working for them. They’re driving a lot of traffic but what worries me is that I’m starting to see this appear on blogs who used to publish really good, useful, original content.

In the photography space, I can think of two or three blogs that used to publish maybe one or two useful tutorials everyday, they were growing their readers, lots of community, lots of engagement, they were helping a lot of people and now they’re publishing 15 to 20 pieces of fluff every day, other people’s stuff. Some of the stuff they share is kind of useful but they’re not actually taking their readers on a journey anymore. They’re actually abandoning their readers and they’re not being meaningful. I see it because their readers are coming to our site saying, “Geez, nice to read some tutorials that actually help us rather than just seeing this sort of stuff.”

Brian Solar, he’s a blogger in the States. He came to Melbourne recently and he said this quote, “Don’t compete for the moment,” which is what these sites are doing. They’re just trying to get people there for the moment because that loads another ad.

“Compete for meaning.” He said it for two reasons. One is it’s really hard to compete with Upworthy and BuzzFeed because they’re doing it so well, but two he was talking to business people and said that it’s very hard to sell stuff to people who were just there for a fleeting feel good second and then not back again. It’s much easier to sell stuff to people and to build a relationship with people who you’re actually changing their lives in some way and you’re taking them on a journey.

I love this quote from our very own, Shane Tilley, who said this to me the other day and I’m like, I’m going to write that down, “The trend is to chase eyeballs, they can have them. I care about the hearts and the minds of our readers. This is where it’s at.”

This is where it’s at whether you’ve got an advertising model because advertisers, they want to advertise on sites where readers are engaged, where they love the content, where they love the people behind it. This is where it’s at if you want to sell a product because your readers are much more likely to buy something if you’ve actually got a history of changing their lives in some way.

I actually think there is an incredible opportunity at the moment particularly, with all this fluff around us, to create content that has quality, to create content that has soul, to create content that has meaning, to create content that brings about a lasting change in people and that takes them on a journey. I think that type of content stands out, at the moment. That kind of content creates trust. That kind of content creates authority and influence. Spend your time doing that, you might publish a little less, but you’re going to publish content that actually makes the world a better place and that opens up opportunities for your monetize.

The last thing I want to say is, again, this is something that you already know but so many people don’t act upon it and it’s to persist. This is the lesson that applies to all areas of life. Good things come when you persist. Success usually only ever comes when people persist.

My experience is when you do these six things and you continue to do these things, that you build those things like credibility, and trust, and authority.

Put your readers first after you start. Be useful, develop a rhythm of usefulness. Create meaning and then keep doing it, and then keep doing it, again and again. It’s out of those things that this thing transactional value happens. That’s where profit, I think, for most of us is going to come.

But the other thing that happens when you build this cycle of usefulness and meaning is that you find your readers start to tell other people about it. They evangelize what you are doing.
This is something we’ve noticed on our Facebook page recently. We get threads like this. This has come from earlier in the year, I just posted a link on Facebook this day. It wasn’t a very special link. This little stream of conversation happened afterwards. Nany said, “Halona, here’s that page I was telling you about.” Cody said, “Kyle, this is the page I was telling you about.” Mark says, “Matthew.” Didn’t say anything, just tagged the guy. We see that every day. Brandon did the same thing. Elizabeth said, “Jason read this.” Jason said, “Thank you.” Anna says, “Thank you.” I don’t know who she came into it but she said thank you too. Lorenda said, “Check out this Facebook page, like it and get their daily articles. They’re very good and I pick up a lot of good info here.”

This happens every day, now. It’s happening particularly in the last year since we’re sort of changing our approach, thinking about the change we want to take people on and delivering content that does that. This is how you grow your site, it’s through this cycle of usefulness and meaning.

Here’s the thing, the thing I’ve noticed about people who are actually doing amazing things in our community. They’re actually doing this stuff already. Many of you are doing it. I guess, I just want to encourage you, if you’re in that journey of building usefulness, it takes time. I know some of you are frustrated at the moment. Facebook keeps changing the rules and things don’t always go right, and challenges come our way but persist with this stuff. It’s when we do it that we build something that actually makes the world a better place.

I want to finish with this last thought before we move on. 99.9%, probably, 99.99% of great bloggers are not awesome on their day one. Their awesomeness is the accumulation of the value that they create over time.

I really look forward to the next year. I can’t wait to show the slides of what you’ve achieved over the next year through providing value.

Well, there you have it. That was my keynote address from 2014 at the ProBlogger event which I think was being held up on the Gold Coast here in Australia. It was a great event and I hope you enjoyed listening along to that.

If you’ve got any feedback on today’s show, you can head over to the show notes where you can also get those slides at problogger.com/podcast/204. You could also give us some feedback over in the Facebook group, as well, problogger.com/group. We’ll get you into that group.

Next week, I do have another little recording for you of another one of our sessions because we’ll be holding our second event next week and after that, we’ll be back to the normal show. I hope you enjoy what I’ve got for you next week. I’ll be chatting with you in the upcoming episode too.

Thanks for listening! Chat with you, soon.

Before I go, I want to give a big shout out and say thank you to Craig Hewitt and the team at PodcastMotor who’ve been editing all of our podcasts for some time now. PodcastMotor have a great range of services for podcasters at all levels. They can help you set up your podcast but also offer a couple of excellent services to help you edit your shows and get them up with great show notes. Check them out at podcastmotor.com.

How did you go with today’s episode?

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The post 204: 6 ‘Ordinary’ Things That Will Grow Your Blog into Something Extraordinary appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

204: 6 ‘Ordinary’ Things That Will Grow Your Blog into Something Extraordinary

How Ordinary Things Can Lead to Extraordinary Results With Your Blog

This week and I’m excited to be spending time face to face with quite a few ProBlogger podcast listeners and blog readers at our Aussie blogging events.

We’ve been holding annual Australian events since 2010 and it is a highlight of my year each time. It’s fantastic to put faces to names, hear the stories of what bloggers are learning and to get inspired by meeting many of you.

So because I’m away this week and busy with the event I thought it might be fun to give you a taste of what happens at a ProBlogger event and to play you a talk I gave at one of our events a few years ago.

6 ordinary things for extraordinary blog growth

So for today’s episode (#204) I’m going to play you a full opening keynote talk that I gave in 2014.

It’s a talk I gave which explores how doing ordinary things consistently over time leads to extraordinary results in blogging.

Often bloggers look for the ‘secret’ strategies that will launch their blog into a viral success. However the reality is that most successful bloggers spend more time on small, ordinary things – it’s these things that really lead to success.

In this talk I outlined 6 of these ‘ordinary things’.

This is a talk I hear attendees referring to quite a bit – so I hope you enjoy it too.

Links and Resources on 6 ‘Ordinary’ Things That Will Grow Your Blog into Something Extraordinary

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

Hey there and welcome to episode 204 of the ProBlogger Podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger and podcaster behind ProBlogger.com, a site that’s really dedicated to helping you to grow an amazing blog, that serves your audience, that creates great content, and that builds some profit around what you do online.

You can learn more about ProBlogger and all of the different things we do including our ebooks, events, the podcast and blog itself over at problogger.com. And then, have a dig around. You’ll find a lot of information on our Start Here page there as well so look for that in the navigation.

This week, I’m really excited because I’m spending time face to face with quite a few ProBlogger podcast listeners and ProBlogger blog readers at our Australian blogging events. We’ve got two events this year, Melbourne and Brisbane, and they’re going on pretty much as this podcast goes out. We’ve been holding these events since 2010 and it is the highlight of my year every year because I get to put names to faces, hear stories of bloggers and what they’re learning, and see the growth in our attendees from year to year as well. I always come home inspired although a bit tired from these events as well.

Because I’m away this week and not at my office, and not able to record too much in terms of a podcast, I thought it might be fun to give you a taste of what happens at the ProBlogger event. I’m going to play you a keynote presentation I gave at one of our events a few years ago. It’s actually completely relevant for today and hopefully, you find some inspiration in it as well.

This episode, episode 204, I’m going to play you the full opening keynote of the talk I gave in 2014, three years ago now. It’s a talk in which I explore how doing ordinary things, consistently over time, leads to extraordinary results. Often, bloggers come to ProBlogger and I get emails all the time and people will say, “What is the secret strategy, what’s the secret sauce that’s going to launch my blog into being a viral success?” The reality is that it’s not the secret strategies that tend to lead to that viral success. It’s some of the smaller ordinary things.

In this talk, I shared six ordinary things that are going to help you to build something quite extraordinary. This is a talk I actually get a lot of feedback from, even three years later, I get bloggers come who heard this talk at our event and they refer back to it. I really do hope that it is useful to you as well. If you like to follow along with the slides for this talk, I actually had a set of slides, I’ve uploaded them into this week’s show notes and you can scroll through them as I talk, if you like. They are over problogger.com/podcast/204 and I will also upload them as a PDF if you want to download them.

If you are also interested in coming to our events, of course, this year’s events, you can’t really get tickets for anymore for the Aussie events. Although, you may be able to get one to the Melbourne event if you are able to act fast. There is always information on our upcoming Australian events at problogger.com/events. Our Dallas event later in the year that I’m running with some friends called The Success Incubator. There will be details of that at problogger.com/success.

I’m going to hand over to me and this is a live recording so you’re going to hear a little bit of audience. You’re going to hear me embarrass myself along the way a couple of times as well as I stumble over my words. I get a few laughs at my own expense during this one but hopefully it’s clear enough for you. The slides will certainly help at times but I think most of it would be understandable if you’re just listening along as well.

Thanks for listening and I look forward to hearing what you think about this particular keynote. You can always give us feedback on the show notes or over in the Facebook group. Thanks for listening and here I am.

This event, I’ve been trying to work out what to talk about for the opening session of this event, and I want to do something a little bit strange. I want to start with a confession. It doesn’t usually happen at the start of an event that the founder gets up and reveals something about himself that perhaps isn’t overly positive or has a bit of a negative vibe but this is my confession to you, I sometimes feel like this guy. Some of you are groaning internally because the Lego Movie is on the high rotation at your house. Anyone? My house we’ve got three boys – they’re three, six and eight, and Lego is huge and it’s often embedded into my feet late at night.

The Lego Movie, the main character of it is this guy here, Emmet. I really resonate with his character which is strange because he has a luscious head of hair and my boys did too. After we took them to see the Lego Movie, my two eldest, I found them in one of their bedrooms fighting over who is going to be Emmet in their imaginative play.

I thought this was a little bit strange because there’s other really cool characters in this movie, there’s Batman and Superman, and Wonder Woman, and all kinds of amazing characters but no,  they wanted to be Emmet. I asked my middle boy, he’s now six. He’s slightly philosophical, “Why did you want to be Emmet?” He thought about it for a little while and then he said, “He’s just ordinary but he still did something really cool.” My boys resonated with this character and I do too.

When you first meet Emmet in this movie, he’s very ordinary, very average. He just tries to fit in. He’s a construction worker, follows instructions, blends into the crowd. In fact, later in the movie when his friends are interviewed about him, some of them don’t even remember that he exists. He’s very ordinary, very average. Through circumstances, he finds himself surrounded by these extraordinary characters called “The Master Builders,” the exact opposite of him. There’s Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Abraham Lincoln, the NBA All Stars, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – these big characters but they also have amazing abilities to construct whatever they want, almost out of thin air, just using their imagination and the bricks that they find around them. Emmet is the exact opposite of this. He just wants instructions.

A prophecy is made about Emmet, that he is the special one who’s going to lead The Master Builders. There’s this scene in the movie which is on the screen now, where Emmet is in this coliseum like gathering of Master Builders and he’s introduced as The Special One who is going to lead them.

He walks up onto the stage and everyone falls silent waiting for magical words and he pretty much says, “Hi! I’m Emmet. I’ve got no idea what’s going on here.” In the next couple of moments, he pretty much reveals that he’s anything but special, that he’s anything but a Master Builder, that he’s anything but a leader and, of course, the Master Builders decide not to follow him.

That moment in the movie is kinda like the dream I have every night for two weeks before this event. Every event I go to where I’m invited to speak, something in the back of my head says, “You’re too ordinary. You’ve got nothing to say. You’re too average.” I’m not saying that to make you feel sad for me. There’s actually a few reasons that I’m saying this.

Don’t worry, the founder hasn’t lost his mind. It’s cool.

The reason I say this is that every time I come to this conference, I have conversations, usually before the conference, where people say to me, “I feel like I’m a bit out of my league.” “I feel like I shouldn’t be here.” Someone said to me this morning already, “I haven’t even started my blog yet.” “I haven’t posted for six months,” someone else told me this morning. “I don’t know if I should be here.” “I’m not very good at writing.” “I’m not very technical.”

These little voices go in the back of all of our minds. We’re actually a community of Emmets. I want to start off by saying today, we all feel these things. We all feel average. We all feel ordinary. We all, at times, feel out of our league. It’s interesting when I talk to speakers of this event, they say the same things. We’re all feeling these same things.

I guess the first reason I wanted to give my confession this morning is that I think that it’s actually a collective confession and I want to put it out there right up front that this is how we sometimes feel. After we come to a conference and we tell everyone why they should listen to us and what we do know, I think this is a place where we can say what we don’t know and it’s totally fine to do that. It’s totally fine to feel these things.

The second reason I wanted to give this confession today is that we live in amazing times. We live in times where ordinary people here in Australia are doing extraordinary things. There’s a movement happening and it’s happening in this room. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things often think, what would someone coming into this room, who didn’t know what this conference was about, think this conference is about just looking at our attendees? I think I wouldn’t have any idea. I think I would be amazed when I start to hear some of the stories in this room. Our community is doing amazing things.

One of the things I love to do is to go overseas and speak at events and tell stories of Australian bloggers. Over the last year, I’ve told 12 stories of Australian bloggers, people who’d come to our event, people who’d spoken at our event and the things that they have done.

I told this story earlier this year of a guy called Chris Hunter. Who remembers Chris? He spoke like three years ago. I think some of you, now, remember him. Chris was one of our panels and he’s just a lovely guy but he’s just a guy that you walk past on the street, not really noticed. He’s unassuming. He’s quiet. Chris has achieved a lot but he’s overcome a lot, too. He immigrated from the UK to Sydney and now, I think, he’s gone along to New Zealand. He’s hearing impaired and overcome some challenges in that area of his life. He was working in an advertising agency and doing quite well for himself. But every night he would go home and he would do what he really loved, he had a secret passion, it was classic motorbikes – custom motor bikes.

He started a blog called Bike EXIF and he started to post pictures of classic motorbikes. At our event, he told us the story of how he started it. Chris is now a full-time blogger just a few years later. He has over two million Pinterest followers. Pinterest isn’t just for girly things, it’s for motorbikes! He is an influencer in his industry. He has advertisers paying him money to appear on his blog. He’s an authority. He’s a normal person doing something quite extraordinary.

I love to tell the story of Christina. I saw Christina. She’s here somewhere. I’ve been telling Christina’s story when I travel as well. Where are you, Christina? I like to look at you. I don’t like to look at you. I would like to see you. Oops! Suddenly, my mouth is very dry. The first time I met you would have been three years ago, probably the same event that Christ was at. The night before our event, someone sent me an email and said, “You’ve got to check out this blog. There’s this woman, Christina, who’s posting pictures of the back of her head and people are reading her blog. She was posting pictures of her hairstyle.” I think it just started off at the back of your head, and gradually it was the side and in the end, it’s the front as well.

I immediately knew something was happening here because I can see the engagement in the comments. Christina has spoken in a number of our events and told her story, and now a full-time blogger. I love watching Christina’s Instagram feed as she goes traveling around the world to fashion shows and released an ebook, and this week, released your book here in Australia. Jim, now, husband, is also working with you as a blogger. I just think this is amazing that you can start out posting pictures of the back of your head and a whole business opens up, something quite extraordinary.

I love telling the story of Gavin. He’s from Zen Pencils. He also spoke probably at the same event, I reckon. He told his story about how in 2011, he quit his job because he wanted to become a comic. He was working as a graphic designer. They sold their house so that he had a bit of a buffer and he tried all these different ways of becoming a comic. Two or three times he tried, nothing worked. Until one day he had the realization that he could combine two of his passions, one was comics and two was inspirational quotes, and he started Zen Pencils. He now has hundreds of thousands of social media followers. He’s now traveling the world speaking at conferences. He was recently speaking at Comic-Con, that’s a dream come true for a comic.

I love the fact that normal people are doing extraordinary things. These are just three of literally hundreds of stories in this room of people who are doing amazing things, and we really want to hear your stories this week. There’s going to be some opportunities to do that.

Collectively, I did the sums the other day, you have 30 million readers. That person coming into this room would have no idea who they’re seeing in the middle of normal people doing extraordinary things.

Over the last year, I asked from Facebook the other day, “Have you launched something this year?” These are just some of the ebooks and books that have been launched this year. These are just some of the businesses that have been launched this year that train people in social media and blogging. These are just two of the possible Kickstarter campaigns that have happened this year. These are just one of the apps that just happened to get to the top of the App Store. A couple of the events that are being run by bloggers this year. You’ve achieved so much this year and I can’t wait to see what is achieved in the next year.

The third reason I wanted to share my confession of feeling ordinary is really what I wanted to talk about for the rest of this time we’ve got today is that in my experience, success is really about doing ordinary things. A lot of times, people come and want the secret, sexy, sort of strategies on blogging. The reality is, most of the reasons why bloggers succeed is they do ordinary things and they continue to do them really well. Success is more about doing the ordinary thing so that you already know than discovering the secrets that you don’t yet know. That is my experience over the last 12 years.

What I want to do today is to share with you six ordinary things that you already know that you need to keep doing.

The first one is the most ordinary of them all, and it’s to start. I know 90% of you guys have done that, I want to say something to you in a moment, but for the 10% of you who haven’t yet started your blog, you are completely welcome here and that’s totally fine to not have a blog. But if you go home and you don’t start something, I’m going to hunt you down.

I love the fact that even this morning a couple of people said, “I didn’t have my blog last year, but I do now.” Congratulations, that’s fantastic.

I love this quote, before I tell my story, “Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started. The way you figure yourself out is by making things.” That’s Austin Kleon, who wrote a book called Steal Like an Artist. This quote pretty much sums up my own story.

Back in 2002, I started a blog. Many of you heard my story, I’m not going to tell it in great detail but I started a blog after seeing someone else’s blog and being inspired by it. 30 minutes after I saw his, I knew I had to start a blog but I also knew I had a long list of excuses going through my head. I didn’t know what a blog was 30 minutes before so I had no experience. I had no skills. I’d had 20 jobs in the last 10 years, I don’t really stick at things too well. I had a shed in the backyard full of sporting equipment that I used once, sometimes I hadn’t used them at all. We didn’t have any money. We were nearly married. I had no network. I didn’t know any other bloggers. No niche. Had fear. What if my wife reads this? What if my mom reads it? What if no one reads it? What if everyone reads it and I make a mistake? All these little fears, these little niggly voices.

I had this perfectionism. I don’t think I’m actually a perfectionist but when it came to blogging that first blog post, I remember looking at it and thinking, “This is too short in comparison to the one I’ve seen earlier.” As I looked at my free blogger template, which in 2002 was ugly, I think it was purple and orange, and big ugly fonts. I looked at it and thought, this just isn’t going to do. But for one reason or another I hit publish on that first blog post 12 years ago.

As I did, my excuses literally began to dissolve. In the 20 minutes it took me to get that blog set up, I learned skills, I gained the experience. That first short, embarrassingly simple blog post, I gained skills and I began to take a step towards developing a voice. In that next week, I began to find a reader or two as I began to read their blogs and leave comments, my network began to open up. The excuses dissolved, but they only dissolved because I started.

Inaction breeds doubt and fear, action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy. That’s my experience.

Starting leads to our concept of opportunities and I could fill a page full of the opportunities that have come. I still remember the first time I’ve got an email from this guy in the States, from a company I’ve never heard of before. I was living in a bit of a cocoon. The company was Wiley, which is a fairly big publisher, one of the biggest in the world. They said, “We want you to write a book.” I thought it was a friend playing a joke on me, and said, “Yeah, right.” He came back and said, “No, really. I’m from Wiley. I’d like you to write a book.” The same thing happened when someone asks me from overseas to come and speak at an event about blogging. I’ve only been blogging for a couple of years, why do you want me?

These opportunities came, but they only came because I started. The best thing about starting for me is actually it lead to self-discovery. Sorry about the big head picture but I didn’t know how else to visualize it. But for me, starting lead to this whole journey of my ideas. The little embryonic ideas that I had actually began to grow bigger. What I found is that when you put even your tiny, little thoughts and ideas out there, they crystallize, they actually grow stronger, by verbalizing them, by letting other people see them.

Starting lead the growth of ideas, that actually lead to discipline. This is the first thing I’ve stuck at for more than a year of my life, and it’s been 12. I can’t believe it that I’ve actually been publishing posts every day for 12 years, lead to a development of a voice and passions emerged. The peace kind of killed the fear. The fear is still there but it enabled me to deal with that. A whole new vocation, I guess, emerged.

For those of you who’ve already started, here’s the thing, starting isn’t just something you can never take off your to do list. It needs to become a mind set. It needs to become something that you revisit constantly. I sat down on the couch a few months ago and I drew a line on a page and I put 2002 on one end of the page, 2004 on the other end and I analyzed all the times that I’d started things over the last 12 years.

I came up with 100 starts over the next hour. I visualized a few on the screen. Some of these starts are new blogs, I’ve had 30. I only have two today. That shows you my ratio of success. Some of these starts are business partnerships, some of them went on to do really great things, some of them ended very badly. Some of these starts are ebooks that I’ve written or starting on social media, new platforms. There’s been heaps of starts.

Some of these starts started as tiny, little ideas that grew into bigger things. As I said a couple of years ago on one of my keynotes, “Your next big thing might be the little thing that’s staring you right in the face right now.” Look at those little things and act upon those little ideas that you have.

The number two obvious thing you already know that you need to continue to do is to put your readers first.

We’ve all said this as bloggers. I hear it all the time but it’s so tempting to put other things first. This is the key question. If you come to a ProBlogger event before you’ve heard me talk about this idea of asking this question: Who are your readers? Who are your current readers? Who are your potential readers? The more you can define who they are, get clarity about who your readers are, the better position you’d be in to create content for them that’s useful, the better position you’d be in to build community with them, the better position you’d be to go and find them and the better position you’d be in to monetize your blog.

Get to know your readers, understand their needs, their problems, their challenges, their desires, their dreams and their fears. Those things are incredibly powerful to understand. It takes time to understand these things, but do anything you can to meet a reader whether it be online or offline and to understand these things about them. Understand their goals, the language that they use, how they use the internet, their habits, their loves, their hates, and their passions. These things are incredibly important. Those of you who’ve been along before have heard me talk about these things.

But there’s another question I want you to begin to ask as well and this is a question I’ve only been asking for 12 months, at least explicitly, I’ve been asking this question in my mind. Get clarity around who your readers are but then also get clarity around the change you want to see in those readers. This is incredibly powerful. Understand the change in your readers. You know who they are now, but where do you want them to be? What’s your dream for your readers? Define that, that’s a powerful thing.

What I’ve discovered is that powerful blogs, blogs that have a huge impact upon people, they’re the blogs that actually leave a mark on people, they’re the blogs that actually leave their readers different from when they arrive to when they leave. If you can have a blog that changes people, you have the start of something pretty amazing.

Ask these three questions: Who are my readers? What are their needs? How are they going to change as a result of reading my blogs? Spend 10 minutes doing that and you’ll come up with your mission statement or your purpose statement for your blog.

On my blog, Digital Photography School, my readers are people who own digital cameras, who aren’t using those cameras to their potential, that’s their need, and we give them creative control of their cameras. Very simple, kind of, statements but those statements have changed the way that we’ve built our blog over the last year. We now pass this onto our writers and their content has improved incredibly since they knew what we’re on about. Our readers are now starting to feedback to us that they’re getting creative control of their cameras. We never told our readers this is what we’re on about, but they’ve started to notice. Spend time doing that exercise, it’s quite profound.

Put your readers first is one of those things we always say but the problem is there’s all these other temptations and it’s very easy for other things to become first. For some of you, it’s the strategy, it’s looking at the Google Analytics and trying to get your page views up, repositioning your logo and putting your social media buttons in different places, all these sorts of things can cloud out the fact that there are actually readers looking at this stuff.

Sometimes, it’s the profit and this, for me, there’s been a number of times over the last 12 years where I got so into the AdSense numbers are going up, and what if I put my ads there and you actually lose sight of where your readers actually are in the process. Sometimes, it’s traffic. Sometimes, it’s building your own profile, “I want to be bigger than that blogger.” You begin to network, it’s about the request you get from media or that they’re getting it or you’re not getting it. It’s very easy to become distracted by these things. Sometimes, it’s the crafting of the content itself. Sometimes, you can get so into writing amazing content that you actually forget anyone’s reading it and that you’re there to serve them. Put your readers first.

The third thing that you already know is so powerful and you’re going to hear this time and time again over the next few days is that usefulness is king. Over the last 12 years, I’ve seen so many articles written about how content is king, how community is king, how WordPress is king, how Twitter’s king or Facebook’s king, how blogging is king. How all of these things are the most important thing. None of them are king. Usefulness is king. Those things are just different ways of being useful. Whatever you do with your blog, be useful in some way. For me, ultimately being useful comes back to that change that you want to bring. If you can define that change and then begin to break it down, you are actually going to be useful.

For us, we want to give people creative control of their cameras so we begin to break that down. There are different things that our readers need to learn to get creative control and these become categories on our site or blog posts on our site. They need to know technical things like what is aperture, what is shutter speed. They need to know other things like how to get confident with your camera, how to actually take pictures of people without feeling awkward about taking pictures of people. Things they need to learn about how to see and compositions. All of these things and there’s probably a hundred things that we can add to this list are actually how we deliver this change that we want to bring to people.

Some of you heard me talk about this post I wrote back in 2006. I started Digital Photography School in 2006 and one of the first posts I wrote was this one. It’s the most basic post I’ve ever, ever written. I wrote it because people were sharing photos on our Flickr group, which were really bad and the photos were bad because they weren’t holding the camera still when they took the photo. They were holding the camera up and when they hit the shutter speed they push the camera down and it would be blurry.

I saw our need. I thought I’m going to write a post on that. I looked at the post that I’ve written, I thought, “I’m going to get laughed down about this post because it’s just so basic. People are just going to look down their noses at this post.” But I saw the problem that people had so I decided to publish it anyway. I looked at the stats a month ago, on this post. It’s had over 610,000 people view it. I’m glad I wrote it, now. It’s not the biggest post, it’s never had a huge spark in traffic at that time. All of that traffic, almost all of it has come from Google and almost every search has come with the words: How do I hold my camera?

People go to Google to ask the questions that they’re too embarrassed to ask their friends, write that stuff. The stuff you have forgotten that you know is useful. Sometimes, it’s about going back to the basics and providing that kind of information.You don’t have to know a lot, you don’t have to be an expert. I’m not a photographer, a professional photographer. I wrote for people who were behind me in the journey. Be useful to people behind you on that journey.

The fourth thing that you already probably instinctively know is that you need to develop a rhythm of usefulness. I think rhythm is really important. This is another lesson I’ve learned over the last year, regularity is really important. It’s important for a number of reasons.

On Digital Photography School, we’ve developed quite a complicated rhythm. It’s been eight years now since we started that site. It started out much simpler, one post every two or three days. Today, our rhythm kind of looks like this, we publish two posts a day, which is much more than a lot of you post and that’s totally fine to post less. The important thing is the rhythm.

We post five times on Facebook every day, that sounds like a lot, it is. I do it every night at 9:00PM, schedule the next day’s five posts. We publish one challenge to our readers every week. We say, “Go away and take a photo on this theme and come back and show us your photo.” We post one newsletter per week, every Thursday night. It went out last night, Thursday night. I was sitting in my room getting it ready. We send out a newsletter every single week.

We do an annual holiday program every year that lead up to Christmas, the 12 days of Christmas. It’s happened four or five years now. We do ebooks. Every four or five times a year, we publish ebooks. Not necessarily seasonal, but they kind of happen when the seasons happen.

That’s a fairly advanced rhythm, some of you who are just starting can go, “That’s too much for me.” That’s totally fine. But what I found is that the rhythm is really, really useful. It’s useful for me as a blogger and my team because it gives me a deadline. I find that if I’m writing regularly, I write better. It’s easier to come up with ideas. If I’m writing once a month, it’s very hard to get going again. Rhythm is really important for you but it’s also really important for your readers.

I’ve started to notice, even though we’ve never told our readers that we publish two a day, our readers know that. They show up at the times we publish. We get tweets from people if we are an hour late. Same with today’s post. The other morning I’ve got an email from someone, actually it’s a Facebook message from someone, saying, “The 6:00AM Facebook post you do didn’t come up today in my feed.” It’s not my fault Facebook didn’t show it was there, but an interaction with that person, they sat down every morning with a cup of coffee to look for our latest Facebook update.

Your readers begin to show up when you post with a rhythm. It’s really powerful. They begin to gather in the places that you show up regularly so build a rhythm of usefulness in your site.

The other thing about rhythm is that it adds up over time and the accumulated effect of it is amazing. We publish 730 posts per year now, that’s 730 doorways into the site, 730 posts that could be shared on Twitter or on Facebook. Again, 730 is probably too much for many people but even 52 a year. It begins to add up over the years.

That last one there, we’ve published 20 ebooks over the last five or so years. If you told me 5 years ago we’re going to publish 20 ebooks, I would have fallen over. The first one almost killed me. But when you get into the rhythm of it, it actually becomes easies and you begin to develop a system, and it becomes much more achievable. Over time, that gives you an incredible amount of things to offer your readers so rhythm is really important.

Epic blogs are built on lots of little regular useful actions. I don’t know a blog that made it off a single post, it’s about regularity of useful stuff over time. Yes, have these big dreams of the things you want to achieve but know that you going to have to take lots of little useful steps to get there.

The fifth thing that I want to say, it kind of ties into usefulness but I think this really needs to be said particularly at the moment.

As I look around the web, as I look at my Facebook stream, there’s so much fluff being produced at the moment. The other day, I almost cried at that crap that was being shared in my Facebook stream. Someone shared a video of when an elephant met a cat and you wouldn’t believe what happens when they meet. You go and watch the video because I want to know what happens. An elephant walked down the street, there was a cat in the corner of the frame, the elephant went and then it walked on. You wouldn’t believe it. There’s so much fluff.

I don’t want to pick on BuzzFeed, I don’t want to pick on Upworthy or any of these sites that do it. They’re onto something and it’s working for them. They’re driving a lot of traffic but what worries me is that I’m starting to see this appear on blogs who used to publish really good, useful, original content.

In the photography space, I can think of two or three blogs that used to publish maybe one or two useful tutorials everyday, they were growing their readers, lots of community, lots of engagement, they were helping a lot of people and now they’re publishing 15 to 20 pieces of fluff every day, other people’s stuff. Some of the stuff they share is kind of useful but they’re not actually taking their readers on a journey anymore. They’re actually abandoning their readers and they’re not being meaningful. I see it because their readers are coming to our site saying, “Geez, nice to read some tutorials that actually help us rather than just seeing this sort of stuff.”

Brian Solar, he’s a blogger in the States. He came to Melbourne recently and he said this quote, “Don’t compete for the moment,” which is what these sites are doing. They’re just trying to get people there for the moment because that loads another ad.

“Compete for meaning.” He said it for two reasons. One is it’s really hard to compete with Upworthy and BuzzFeed because they’re doing it so well, but two he was talking to business people and said that it’s very hard to sell stuff to people who were just there for a fleeting feel good second and then not back again. It’s much easier to sell stuff to people and to build a relationship with people who you’re actually changing their lives in some way and you’re taking them on a journey.

I love this quote from our very own, Shane Tilley, who said this to me the other day and I’m like, I’m going to write that down, “The trend is to chase eyeballs, they can have them. I care about the hearts and the minds of our readers. This is where it’s at.”

This is where it’s at whether you’ve got an advertising model because advertisers, they want to advertise on sites where readers are engaged, where they love the content, where they love the people behind it. This is where it’s at if you want to sell a product because your readers are much more likely to buy something if you’ve actually got a history of changing their lives in some way.

I actually think there is an incredible opportunity at the moment particularly, with all this fluff around us, to create content that has quality, to create content that has soul, to create content that has meaning, to create content that brings about a lasting change in people and that takes them on a journey. I think that type of content stands out, at the moment. That kind of content creates trust. That kind of content creates authority and influence. Spend your time doing that, you might publish a little less, but you’re going to publish content that actually makes the world a better place and that opens up opportunities for your monetize.

The last thing I want to say is, again, this is something that you already know but so many people don’t act upon it and it’s to persist. This is the lesson that applies to all areas of life. Good things come when you persist. Success usually only ever comes when people persist.

My experience is when you do these six things and you continue to do these things, that you build those things like credibility, and trust, and authority.

Put your readers first after you start. Be useful, develop a rhythm of usefulness. Create meaning and then keep doing it, and then keep doing it, again and again. It’s out of those things that this thing transactional value happens. That’s where profit, I think, for most of us is going to come.

But the other thing that happens when you build this cycle of usefulness and meaning is that you find your readers start to tell other people about it. They evangelize what you are doing.
This is something we’ve noticed on our Facebook page recently. We get threads like this. This has come from earlier in the year, I just posted a link on Facebook this day. It wasn’t a very special link. This little stream of conversation happened afterwards. Nany said, “Halona, here’s that page I was telling you about.” Cody said, “Kyle, this is the page I was telling you about.” Mark says, “Matthew.” Didn’t say anything, just tagged the guy. We see that every day. Brandon did the same thing. Elizabeth said, “Jason read this.” Jason said, “Thank you.” Anna says, “Thank you.” I don’t know who she came into it but she said thank you too. Lorenda said, “Check out this Facebook page, like it and get their daily articles. They’re very good and I pick up a lot of good info here.”

This happens every day, now. It’s happening particularly in the last year since we’re sort of changing our approach, thinking about the change we want to take people on and delivering content that does that. This is how you grow your site, it’s through this cycle of usefulness and meaning.

Here’s the thing, the thing I’ve noticed about people who are actually doing amazing things in our community. They’re actually doing this stuff already. Many of you are doing it. I guess, I just want to encourage you, if you’re in that journey of building usefulness, it takes time. I know some of you are frustrated at the moment. Facebook keeps changing the rules and things don’t always go right, and challenges come our way but persist with this stuff. It’s when we do it that we build something that actually makes the world a better place.

I want to finish with this last thought before we move on. 99.9%, probably, 99.99% of great bloggers are not awesome on their day one. Their awesomeness is the accumulation of the value that they create over time.

I really look forward to the next year. I can’t wait to show the slides of what you’ve achieved over the next year through providing value.

Well, there you have it. That was my keynote address from 2014 at the ProBlogger event which I think was being held up on the Gold Coast here in Australia. It was a great event and I hope you enjoyed listening along to that.

If you’ve got any feedback on today’s show, you can head over to the show notes where you can also get those slides at problogger.com/podcast/204. You could also give us some feedback over in the Facebook group, as well, problogger.com/group. We’ll get you into that group.

Next week, I do have another little recording for you of another one of our sessions because we’ll be holding our second event next week and after that, we’ll be back to the normal show. I hope you enjoy what I’ve got for you next week. I’ll be chatting with you in the upcoming episode too.

Thanks for listening! Chat with you, soon.

Before I go, I want to give a big shout out and say thank you to Craig Hewitt and the team at PodcastMotor who’ve been editing all of our podcasts for some time now. PodcastMotor have a great range of services for podcasters at all levels. They can help you set up your podcast but also offer a couple of excellent services to help you edit your shows and get them up with great show notes. Check them out at podcastmotor.com.

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The post 204: 6 ‘Ordinary’ Things That Will Grow Your Blog into Something Extraordinary appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

Optimizing Homepages: How a clear objective can increase conversion

Think of your homepage as a large house. Your visitors arrive and should be warmly greeted and drawn inside. Then you guide them to the room in the house where they should go and ensure they feel at home.

But if your guests feel at all unwelcome or are left to wander about the place on their own, then you are a poor host whose guests may not want to return.

Every homepage needs to guide its visitors to a specific place. As a marketer, you should ask yourself, what is that place — that main objective of my homepage? What is the dominate message it is trying to communicate to visitors? Until you are clear on that and every element on your page supports that objective, your visitors will experience anxiety, and your page will underperform.

In this Quick Win Clinic, Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS Institute, looks at a homepage submitted by Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity that has no clear objective. Its visitors become lost somewhere in between the disjointed pictures, ads, video and phrases. Watch now to get ideas for clarifying a homepage’s objective to increase clicks and performance.