Category Archives: Social Media

Why Taking a Facebook Break Might Not Be the Worst Thing Ever for a Blogger

Posted on by 1 comment
Facebook Break

On June 10, 2013, I decided that my Facebook addiction had gone too far.

Instead of spending time with family or getting out of the house, I was continuously sucked into the downward blue-and-white scrolling of the insanely popular social media site.

Facebook Break

“The internet is stealing my soul.”

As a blogger who maintains several different pages, I was constantly checking new updates, searching for social media parties, and looking for content to share. If I spent several hours a day obsessively Facebooking, I could generate some major traffic boosts to my food blog‘s page.

But, that meant I spent hours on my days off of work doing things to watch numbers increase. Basically, I was supplementing my real life with an artificial one so I felt less bored and lonely.

That’s a painful truth to admit. Sure, I justify it as “blog work,” but it was also “sad, bored Rachael work.” The more it leaned towards the latter, the more I knew it was time to go.

So, I finished up a few email relays I had going, sent out a goodbye, and logged off (suspending your account is really about the same as logging off).

The worst part of the entire experience was teaching myself to let go. WhyThe second my “I’m leaving” status went live: my numbers dropped.

Not just a little, but a lot. It was like I said “I step on puppy tails and I like it,” not, “hey, I’m moving across the country and going crazy with social media addiction.”

That hurt my feelings (boo, a blogger with feelings!) because it felt like my readers were such fair-weather, one-sided friends that they disappeared if I needed time for myself.

Blogging really is a going-out-of-your-way process. Sure, it might seem like I’m just spewing out content, but I’m actually doing an insane amount of leg work, not including creating and preparing recipes, photographs, posts, and more. It can very easily be a full-time job if I don’t keep it in check.

So, the crux of the emotional pain was that people didn’t want me around anymore if I wasn’t giving them something for free, and that hurt.

Over a month into this little experiment, that pain went away completely. Who cares if they left? That’s not my core readership. My core readers actually comment MORE on my individual posts and I still get traffic from people sharing my updates on their Facebook pages. My real audience understands and, even more, supports my choice.

I blog more, spend more time on the little details, and have noticed a drastic spike in affiliate sales and advertising fees. Yes, when I cut off Facebook, I doubled my Amazon Associates earnings.

Success Kid Blogging

That’s probably not a direct correlation, but still, I wake up in the morning and my numbers continue to increase even without the obsessive Facebook stalking.

Do you have a Facebook problem?

If you…

Promise you can “quit anytime,” you might.

“Just want to scroll one more page,” you definitely do.

Talk about your statuses and comments in ordinary conversation, you need a break.

Will it kill your numbers?

Not necessarily. Even if it does, does it matter? Would you rather have a high Like count or increased traffic and revenue? What about a little more breathing room in your life? That sounds pretty sweet to me.

The moral of the story: take care of yourself.

Do what you need to do. If you want or need time away from Facebook, go for it. People will leave, but those who do are not really your core readership.

If you have more time for life, you’ll feel more relaxed and refreshed, you’ll write better content, and your blog will improve.

Or, you’ll enjoy being alive, stop worrying about the little details, and have fun a while.

Either way, you CAN be a blogger and stay off Facebook. And it isn’t even the slightest bit of a nail in the coffin.

What do you think? Would you ever leave your Facebook page unattended for a while? Are you happy with the amount of time you spend on Facebook? Would you ever be willing to try a brief Facebook break? Why or why not?

How to Get More Guest Posts for Your Blog: 3 Simple Steps

Get More Guest Posts

{Today, I am so honored to introduce you to Keri Lynn from Amazing Women in History. She’s a phenomenal writer, and one of the coolest women I’ve ever met (even if we’re only internet friends).

We met over Reddit once, and she had written this amazing list of tips to increase your guest blogger count, and I told her she should share it as her own guest post somewhere…like here! So she wrote it up, and sent it on over. This is some top notch advice, and I feel not worthy of such wisdom here!

So please, read everything, leave comments, and then tell her you love her, too. – Rachael}

I’m sure you’ve read all the advice floating around the interwebs about guest posting: why it’s the greatest way to build your blog, how to find the best blogs to guest post on, what to write about, and how to snag that spot on the A-list blogs.

But what if you’re on the opposite end? Not an A-lister, I mean (though if you are, and you’re reading this right now, you should totally read my blog AmazingWomenInHistory and tell all your followers about it). I mean a blogger like me with an established blog whose looking for some guest posters.

Get More Guest Posts

If guest posting is such a big thing, you might be thinking, where are all these bloggers that should be overflowing your email inbox with proposals and queries and kick-ass posts for you? The truth is, you’re probably not making it worth their time to write for you, or maybe you’re keeping it a secret that you accept guest posts. You’re probably not even asking for guests posts either, are you?

“Wait — why do I want guest posts?”

Besides the fact that it makes you feel like a superstar when other people want to write for your blog (isn’t that enough??), here’re a few reasons why you should be seeking guest posts:

  1. Other people promote your blog for you. When your guest post goes up, your guest writer will happily share their post with their own platform. They’ll tweet it, share it on Facebook or LinkedIn, post it to G+, email it to their friends & family, maybe even pin it to Pinterest. That’s a lot of marketing legwork someone’s doing for you for free!
  2. All this promotion your guest is doing for you is going to keep working for you long after their precious is posted, through the magic of SEO: Search Engine Optimization. All that social sharing and backlinks will give your blog a big Google boost long after the date stamp on the post itself.
  3. Mini-vacation! You’ve gotta take a break once in a while, but there’s no need to make your readers wait for your return. Why not take a mini-break from blogging by featuring other writers for a week or two? You can even spend the time you’re saving to start working on that e-book you’ve been planning for the past year. Okay, maybe that’s just me.
  4. Here’s one benefit that’s a little less markety: Having guests on your blog is a great way to build relationships (which actually is the best way to build your blog—but this point isn’t about marketing. Oops). I’ve met several wonderful people through Amazing Women In History who are just as passionate about women’s history and writing as I am. We’ve developed real relationships and helped each other out with the challenges of blogging and more, and I feel so lucky that I’ve gotten to know these amazing & inspiring people.

So if you weren’t before, you’ve gotta be dying for the secrets for attracting all these guest posters. Believe me, they’re out there! You just have to know how to reach them & convince them it’s you blog they want to write for.

1. Write your guest post guidelines

If you want guest posts, it’s absolutely essential for you to have a guidelines page on your website, with a clear link in your main menu:

  • It shows all your visitors that you accept guest posts.
  • It pops up in the Google searches of guest posters looking for your blog.
  • It saves you time by telling potential guest posters exactly what you’re looking for in a post.
  • It attracts potential guest posters by extolling the benefits of writing for you.
  • Make the title obvious. For a while, my page was titled “Contribute”. Terrible idea. I finally realized that everyone that saw the link probably thought I was asking for donations. Which I am; but not monetary, just literary. Now it says “WriteforAWH”.
  • Specify what kind of posts you’re looking for. If you only want posts on certain topics, list them here. Tell them what style of writing will fit with your blog, how long you want the post to be (in word count), whether you need pictures or other media with it, etc. If you want to limit the amount of outside links in the post, or disallow affiliate links, here’s the place to tell them.
  • Convince them it’s worth it. This is optional; you might want to keep this info to yourself, or tell them in a private email. You could tell them exactly how you’ll promote their post—how many times will you tweet it? Will you share it on Facebook? Send it out in your newsletter? On my page, I have a section titled “Self-Promotion”, where I tell them about how they can write their own bio including a picture, and include links to their websites and social media accounts.
  • SEO Optimize. This is a scary-sounding phrase if you don’t know SEO, but really it just means to use the same words on your page that are being used to search for you. Prolific guest posters will often search for new blogs by entering search terms like [niche] “guest post guidelines” or [niche] “write for us”. So you want to use these exact phrases on your page, especially in important places like page titles and headings.

Guidelines for your “Guest Post Guidelines” page

1. Make it worth their while

Here’s the most important fact for you to remember about soliciting guest posts: No one’s going to write for you for free.

Now I know you’re an awesome person with an amazing blog, and in a perfect world people would be flooding your inbox with proposals to write for you just for the sheer joy of it. Alas, that perfect world doesn’t exist, and everyone here in this blogosphere is in it for themselves.

We know why guest posting is so popular: bloggers guest post around the interwebs for exposure. Whether to build their newsletter, boost their SEO, or sell more books, they’re in it for the big payoff. You’ve got to let them know exactly why your blog is the best place for them to do that.

  • Have your stats ready to share if someone asks for them. How much to share is up to you; you may want to keep some or all of this info (like hits per day or your newsletter subscribers) a trade secret. But a lot of it is publicly available anyway, like your Twitter followers, Facebook likes, or RSS subscribers, so you may as well show them off. Focus on the big numbers and don’t mention the ones that still need work.
  • Give your guest authors a sweet author bio. Don’t just ask them for a bio—ask them for a picture and let them list all their websites & social media. I recommend the WordPress plugin CustomAboutAuthor. It lets you display a really nice-looking bio for guest authors with a picture and links to all their social media profiles. This is really attractive to potential guest posters because they know their bio will be featured prominently.
  • Tell them how you’ll promote their post. I tweet a post at least 3 times the week it’s out, plus it gets tweeted automagically every so often with my Tweetily plugin. I also share all posts on my Facebook page and send them out to my email newsletter. You can put this information on your “Write for Us” page, or just share it when inviting someone to write for you.

2. Ask for guest posts

Ninety percent of blogging success comes from building relationships. Okay, I just made up that percentage; but we all know that building relationships with other bloggers is truly essential if you want to succeed in blogging.

You already know where your readers and fellow bloggers in your niche hang out, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, 90’s-looking niche forums, or wherever. You’re out there schmoozing and helping and giving advice and generally building your rep as the expert.

Guess what? All those friends & colleagues you’re meeting are potential guest posters for your blog. Some of them may be dying to get exposure for their own blog or book or Kickstarter project, and would love to write you a little post to help them get the word out.

Here’s how you can harness their powers for your own blog:

  1. Remind the world that you accept guest posts. Here’s where you can show off your new guidelines page. Just post a quick message like “Hey, did you know Super Awesome Blog is now accepting guest posts? We’d love to have you! Check it out here: http://example.com/guest-post-guidelines/
  2. Get your competition working for you. You’re already checking up on the competition, and you know they’ve got what it takes to write a great post. Email your blogging arch-nemesis asking for a guest post exchange.
  3. Hit up new fans and followers. Next time someone interesting follows you on Twitter or Facebook, take some time to check out their website or blog. If you like what you see, send them a Twitter DM or Facebook message complimenting their work, and ask if they’d be interested in guest posting on your blog.

Bonus tip: Don’t worry too much about how big or small your guest’s blog is. Maybe your guest only has 500 Twitter followers to your 5,000. Guess what? They’re way more likely to put their heart and soul into promoting their post, and may become one of your most loyal readers. And don’t be too intimidated to ask a bigger blogger for a guest post. You just won’t know till you ask—maybe your favorite big blogger is a fan of yours, too!

Now you’re ready for more guests posts on your blog! Here are 3 simple steps to take now:

  1. Start writing that Guest Post Guidelines page—don’t put it off! Don’t worry about getting it perfect at first; you can always add more info later.
  2. Get your blog ready for your guests. Collect some stats and decide how you’ll display your author bios and promote their posts.
  3. Now make a list of 5 bloggers you want to write for you, and contact them with a short & sweet email or Twitter DM.

Follow these three steps & soon you’ll be able to go on a blogging vacation with all the posts you’ll have rolling in ;)

What You Need to Know: Linky Party and Blog Hop Basics

Posted on by 0 comment
unwarranted-advice-icon-150

In the food blogging world within which I am so happy to be a part, there are these popular things called “blog hops” and “linky parties.” It took me some time to figure out WHAT THE HECK they were, but I think I have enough knowledge now to pass on how they work!

Let’s break it down easy style.

What is a linky party?

Basically, a linky party is an “event” that spans a set period of times (hours, days, months, years) that allows people to share URLs to specific posts or pages on another person’s website.

Often, the linky party host will allow for photos to display, which means you show a little picture of your recipe or project above the direct link to the post itself.

Linky Party Basics

Here’s a simple example of what a linky party looks like. Note the icons, purple URLs, and blue submission button.

A linky party is usually for specific projects, NOT your blog homepage, although there are some “market yourself” types of linky parties intended to increase traffic.

What is a blog hop?

Although pretty much the same as a linky party, a blog hop usually happens when multiple bloggers host a party from various different sites.

This happens when the bloggers embed a specific code (Java, iFrame, HTML, etc) onto their page, which shows the contents of the specific party (the pictures and links) on all of the sites that contain the code.

Sometimes blog hops are run by just a few people, but other times, entire groups of people pass the code around like in different recipe clubs, etc.

Why would I want to do this?

Well, this relates back to the issue of blog authority. If you can show the search engines that you are an authoritative, popular, and respected site, they will increase your ranking. A higher rank converts into more traffic, which can lead to higher income (assuming that’s why you blog).

Plus, you can pass on a fun recipe or project. For specific seasons and holidays, many bloggers host themed-parties, which makes it easier for people to find relevant content in one place.

Note: If you subscribe to a linky service, you often get unlimited lists. Many people use this to share long lists of links with ease, instead of manually changing everything from within a post. Like, you could host a page where people share their own linky parties or giveaways.

What’s in it for me?

In addition to the increased rank and potential earnings from traffic spikes, you can also create a wider blogger outreach (crucial to those of us who like communities). Sometimes, bloggers will even host giveaways based on their linky parties or hops, so all those who enter are eligible to receive a specific prize. Or, the party can really be a traffic contest. The most popular posts (those clicked most often, as tallied by the linky party program) are often featured in the next week’s linky party post (with full size pictures) and can receive free advertising, etc.

Do you have a particular program preference?

Actually, yes. At first, I preferred something called LinkyTools. There was a free trial, a nice set up, and a great blog run by the program’s creator.

But, LinkyTools required people submitting their links to open a new tab, and fill out a full page of information. It went quickly, but it was an inconvenience.

So, I moved to InLinkz, which requires a link, link name, and email address. It then opens a page for the individual to select a picture, and that’s it. Super easy, cheaper than LinkyTools, and very versatile. I’m sold (I even bought a year subscription to the service because I like it that much).

Linky parties and blog hops might not be for everyone, but they’re an incredibly popular part of the blogging world. Plus, they’re extremely easy to run and host (it’s as easy as creating a new post and embedding code). I love that they help me build pages full of relevant, blogger-approved content for my readers, and that I can build a little blogging world. They’re fun!

Disclaimer: I am an affiliate of InLinkz, and may receive a small compensation if you purchase any services through the links above.

What I Learned This Week: I’m a Giveaway Asshole

rafflecopter

I extend apologies to my grandmother for the foul language in this post’s title. Although I prefer to keep it G-Ma friendly, it’s the truth. I’m a giveaway asshole. A big, fat giveaway douchebag. I hold your giveaway to high standards, and won’t engage unless you do it exactly the right way.

Unless the item is so awesome that I can overlook your bad giveaway set-up. Then, I might enter anyway.

This all started because I’m a freebie fiend. I can smell the blood of a giveaway from miles and miles away, and I hunt it down until it’s mine. In the past couple of months, I’ve won two items in giveaways and entered in countless more.

These experiences spelled out my future/current assholery, but it wasn’t until I hosted my own giveaway that I knew for sure how I felt.

It’s like when you watch a trivia show on TV. You shout at the screen because you can’t believe how dumb the contestants are being. You say, “I’d do WAY better if I was on there.” But I’m sure that if you actually were, you’d stall up and sputter out the wrong answers just from pure stage fright and anxiety. It’s natural. You just can’t judge until you’ve done it yourself.

Well, now I have. I’ve run a giveaway. And it wasn’t even a little bit hard. Which is why I’m extra judgy right now.

My biggest giveaway pet peeve: people who don’t use Rafflecopter.

You can go through a long, drawn out process that requires people to post comments, tweet, like, pin, share, and roll in powdered sugar (I don’t know what people do these days), or you can use Rafflecopter. You can manually run names through a randomizer, or you can use Rafflecopter. You can go through the long process of verifying entries, or you can use Rafflecopter.

Are you sensing a trend here?

I’m not only a giveaway asshole, I’m a huge Rafflecopter supporter.

When I find a giveaway that is not run through Rafflecopter, I tsk, roll my eyes, and hit the X. I’m not getting involved in the mess of a hand-run giveaway. No way! It takes too long, feels messy, and I don’t really believe it’s run well even if it is. It’s just how I feel.

Let me share a little bit about my first giveaway.

For one, it was my first. That’s usually the sign of a challenge. I expected it to be heinous and stressful. So many bloggers express anxiety about giveaways. I was sure it would be a terrible, terrible thing I’d never want to repeat.

But, I wanted to try it out. So, I contacted a seller on Etsy, and acquired a beautiful, handmade mug at a discount to celebrate reaching 200 Likes for my blog’s Facebook Page. It sat on my counter for a few weeks until that point came, and then I nervously created a new post and started the giveaway.

I had already set up Rafflecopter, which meant that all I had to do was paste a simple code into the post. I even connected Rafflecopter with the Facebook Page so that people could enter directly from the site.

Rafflecopter Review

These are the entry settings I set up for the giveaway.

Some of my stat increases:

The giveaway lasted for 2 weeks, and I garnered 694 entries within those 14 days. For a mug. An $18 mug. I doubled the size of my email list, jumped from 200 Likes to over 400 on Facebook, and received 53 comments on the post itself. I still can’t believe the size of response such a simple giveaway received. Honestly, I figured that getting people to enter the giveaway would be the hardest part!

My next biggest fear was that it wouldn’t pick the right winner. It’d pick someone I couldn’t get in touch with or who didn’t read the description I wrote about the contest only being open to US winners.

That wasn’t the problem at all. I simply pressed the green button, emailed the winner, and by the next morning, I had an address. Seriously. There was no fighting and hunting to track down the winner. I simply wrapped the package and visited the post office. That’s it.

pick-giveaway-winner

Two days later, the mug reached its new home, the winner wrote to thank me for the beautiful mug, and I started planning the next giveaway.

I’ll be writing much more in-depth about how to run a giveaway in the future, but I just had to share my experiences right away. The only thing I regret about running giveaways is having to pay out of pocket. But hey, I knew that was coming. It’s highly unlikely to get a sponsored giveaway from a large company at the get-go, so I knew I’d be shelling out a little cash to run this racket. I’ve already lined up new giveaways, some of which I won’t even have to pay for shipping, and look forward to giving out more free stuff in the future!

And why not? It was so simple, seamless, and fun that I’m more than glad to go through the effort in the future. Plus, my readership increased a ton and with many engaged, excited users. It was very affirming in many ways, and I count Rafflecopter among my blogging blessings.

Have you hosted a giveaway? Would you like to in the future? Share your story and/or ask questions below!

Category: Blogging, Social Media

How to Jump Start Your RSS Feeds with MailChimp

mailchimo

Alright people, I spent hours last weekend trying to figure out how to get a better mailing list than plain ol’ Google Feedburner. Sure, Feedburner has some great options, but there is no ability to send custom emails, it looks weird, and I like to be different.

So, I did a little research on my options, and I found that there is an RSS-to-Email program that makes life easy for people like me and you who want to send newsletters, email campaigns, and RSS feeds.

MailChimp RSS Feeds for Beginners

 

It takes a few minutes of your time, but is super easy once you get it going.

1. First, decide who you want to send your RSS feeds through. Personally, I like how Feedburner manages this aspect, so I burned a feed through them for my MailChimp set-up.

This takes about two seconds. Simply go to their website, and find the bar that allows you to enter your domain name. It will look like this:

 

feedburner help

2. Set up your feed so it meets all of your desired specifications. First, it will ask if you want to burn the feed for your posts or comments. Unless you want to send emails to people with every single comment your site receives, go for the posts feed. Be sure to enter a custom feed URL if you can. That will make it easy to remember in the future. This rest of the customization can take a few minutes if you’ve never been through the Feedburner system before. Don’t worry – you don’t have to do it right now. It’ll be useful for you to check it out, though!

In a rush? Just click the Optimize tab, and set up those settings. These make your feed easy-to-read.

3. Grab that URL you created (mine is http://feeds.feedburner.com/FOSH) and head over to MailChimp. If you don’t have an account there already, it takes about 2 seconds and is totally free. Why MailChimp? It kicks everyone else’s butts, and I’ll swear by that.

4. Create a List. Call it “Mailing List” or something equally straightforward. Fill out all of the required info. Then, add yourself to the list to prevent any errors on the next step.

5. Then, click the “List” tab heading at the top of the screen until you see this screen. Click “Forms.”

6. You can either customize this form to your heart’s content, or leave it at the default gray-scale. Let’s do one tiny thing, though. Click “Radio Buttons,” and fill it out like this. Be sure to click the “Required” button.

7. Once everything is entered, click the blue “Convert to Groups” button. A pop-up like this will appear. Click the blue button again.

Now, you’ve added a special qualifier on your mailing list that will allow you to create RSS emails for each group of people. This is how to have two options of email updates so you won’t send too few or too many emails to anyone.

8. Once your list is set up, click the “Campaigns” tab at the top of the page. You’ll then see this screen:

 

9. Hover your mouse over the giant, red “Create Campaign” box and click “RSS-Driven.”

10. Paste your feed URL in the box. Beneath that, select the frequency at which you would like your emails to be sent. I’m going to show you how to set up two campaigns: one for daily updates, and one for weekly ones. This allows your readers to have a choice in the matter, which is much better than sending a ton of info at once.

Only want one frequency? Just set up one campaign.

11. Then, click the Recipients tab in the bar next to “RSS Feed.” Click on “Send to Segment.”

A screen will appear that allows you to select a variety of options. Since we’re working on the Daily RSS, we’ll look for that specific group of people.

12. Customize the boxes to look exactly like the image below, then click “Use Segment.”

13. Then, name your campaign (i.e. “RSS Daily”), and head on to the “Design” tab.  Now, you’ll need to determine the type of email you’d like to send out. This is where it gets pretty. First, let’s start off easy. Choose the “Basic Template” model.

14. Then, select the “RSS” button to see lists already made for this specific program (plus, this will keep you from messing with code). There are three options to choose from. Personally, I’ve been using the basic one. But, the other options will allow you to add a blurb about you or your website, which can be very useful.

15. Start decorating! The default uses a lot of black, which I don’t like. Just check out the tab headings and other features to get exactly what you want.

The best thing about this is that you don’t have to do a single thing to set up your RSS feed into this email campaign. All of those weird codes do that for you!

16. Make sure everything is filled out exactly as you’d like. If you used one of the formats that includes a sidebar, be sure to add a visual and a blurb.  Click on “Plain-Text” so you won’t see an error on the final page. Then, “Confirm.”

17. Now, you’re ready to push the big red button! Start your campaign! You can also preview everything before hand if you aren’t confident that your campaign is already awesome.

18. Let’s add the Weekly RSS update campaign now. This takes only a few seconds since everything else has already been done. Click the “Campaigns” tab, hover over the campaign name, and click “Replicate.”

19. It will take you to a different screen than we need. Click the “RSS Feed” tab as indicated below, then change the update frequency in the boxes below to match something like mine (you don’t have to use Tuesdays at 11:00 AM, but I do).

20. Click “Recipients” and change the segment group to those who answered “Weekly.”

21. Under the “Setup” heading, change the title of the campaign to “RSS Weekly,” then click “Confirm” if you don’t plan on making any more modifications. It won’t let you publish until you have someone on your mailing list, but when you do have someone scheduled for weekly updates, it’ll let you go! (Tip: Add one of your email addresses to set it up right away.)

22. The last step: click “Lists” under the main tab heading on the main screen. Click on “Forms” again, then “Share it.” Use any of those options to place your mailing list signup form across the web, from inserting the URL as text or adding the HTML to your sidebar.

From here, people can fill out your form. Those mailing lists are already set up to go without any modifications (well, you’ll have to turn on Weekly until you have someone on that list). Just paste, and let it do its own thing!

Did this help? Are your RSS-to-Email stresses gone or are you still confused? Let me know below!

+Rachael Cleveland