Growing Your Blog By Positioning Yourself As An Expert

Just two weeks ago me and these lovely ladies got up in front of the Alt Summit crowd and chatted about growing a small blog.
Alt SLC Summer Thursday Morning

If you came to our panel at Alt Summit, here is our slide show as promised! And if you were not there, or need a refresher, here is an overview on what I spoke about, growing a small blog by positioning yourself as an expert! You can download the worksheet we handed out, and then work while you read this post.

Growing A Small Blog

I’m sure y’all have all heard the advice to blog about what you know and love – it’s usually the first piece of advice you’ll get for blogging and I don’t think anyone will deny that as a great starting point. But I want to take it a little further by talking about positioning yourself as an expert. One of the main ways I’ve grown my blog is by sharing tips from my experiences in graphic design, social media and running my own small business.

I use the term “expert” loosely, because obviously I don’t know everything about these topics, but I am passionate about them and I do have a degree in graphic design and have been working in the industry for eight years. So I probably know more than the person opening Photoshop for the first time or who just signed up for Twitter last week.

So basically, you don’t have to wait for somebody to call you an expert in order to give expert advice.

Give Expert Advice

I’m always getting questions through email, on social media, and even from friends and family, whenever there is something design related they know they can come to me. And I’m sure the same happens to y’all from time to time. Maybe people are always asking you about how you put your outfit together or asking for your recipe when you cook for them. That’s people showing that they value what you know and trust your opinions.

So if you find that people are consistently asking you a about the same topics, it’s likely they would become a reader of your blog if that’s what you focused on. As your name starts to get associated with a specific field, then your network will start to grow.

Ok, let’s move onto a strategy for coming up with content:
First you have to figure out the types of problems that your readers are having in your field. So, using the worksheet in the download, jot down a few things that you enjoy doing and that people always ask you about. What do you know that can benefit other people?

What Do You Know That Can Benefit Others

So for example, I’d be writing down that people ask me about the fonts I use and other design related questions and how I made the switch from working at an agency to full-time freelance. Remember – no problem is too big or small to write down.

Then, once you know the challenges your readers are having, you can come up with a plan to turn those problems around into solutions.

Growing Your Blog Content Strategy

Here is an example of how I determined my readers problems and then solved them by writing an additional post that I didn’t originally intend to:

When the Facebook layout was updated two years ago to the timeline it was a pretty major change. It was much more design oriented with the large cover photo and app tabs. If you remember, they even allowed users to preview their changes before they had to commit for good so that everyone could ease into the new design. I decided to jump right and update the few different pages that I manage. As I was designing the cover images and doing the updates, I anticipated that my readers may want to hear some ideas on how to keep their pages consistent with their blog or business branding, so I wrote a blog post Design Tips for your Facebook page.

I ended up getting tons of questions beyond the design aspect of people wanting to know how to actually install the apps I was using. So every time I got a question, I was stopping in my tracks and individually responding to them all with detailed instructions in an email.

As much as I’d love to be able to answer every question one-on-one like this I realized it just wasn’t realistic or a productive way to work. So I decided to write another post with step-by-step instructions for installing the apps which has ended up being one of my most popular posts. Turning reader questions into blog posts is now one of the ways I build my editorial calendar.

If you find people still have questions after you write about it, you can take it further and create a blog post series or even teach a course or write an e-book focused on digging deeper into certain topics. That’s actually something I recently did, I wrote a guide on planning a local event series because I needed to go more in-depth than a blog post would allow. And this helps even more to position yourself in your field.

Now I know some people are new to their field, so if you are just getting started, you can write about things that you are interested in learning more about, classes you are taking or things you are teaching yourself along the way. You can have this learning experience with your readers.

Have A Learning Experience With Your Readers

But you never want to risk losing credibility. So if you’re not quite certain of something, just let it be know that you are experimenting and figuring it out as you go, because you don’t ever want to put incorrect information out there - you don’t ever want to lose your readers trust.

Do Not Lose Your Readers Trust

Now I’m going to give you guys a few formats and examples that I find work well for showcasing your expertise:

- how-to posts or videos
• Merricks Art
• Pugly Pixel

- provide valuable resources
• I’ve shared resources like My Favorite WordPress Plugins
• I love to share my favorite fonts

- curated posts
 theme thursday from Oh, What Love
• round ups like products used to create on-the-go on The Fresh Exchange

- featuring others
this is a great way to show support and recognize others doing a good job in your field

- lists
these are really easy for your readers to share, especially on Twitter
• ByRegina
• Elembee

When you’re able to solve a problem for someone, they feel like you’ve given them insider tips & tricks and in turn form a stronger bond which makes them more likely to come back for more because people appreciate free advice.

People Appreciate Free Advice

But don’t feel the need to do it all or try to imitate somebody else. Don’t post what you think people want to hear if it’s not something you truly enjoy writing about.

I don’t really know anything about fashion but do share style posts from time-to-time, because it’s fun for me, but that is not how I have grown trust from readers and my readership over the past four years. It’s been by positioning myself as an expert. It’s not easy and it won’t be an overnight success but as Stan Smith Says, people need experts.

People need experts. They have value because they have done the research, legwork, and training that we can’t do on our own.  Not only that, we rely on experts to see further down the road than we can.  We cherish their insight and lean on their wisdom.  Having an expert means that you can shortcut the process and achieve your goals quicker.” – Stan Smith

So now, looking back at what you wrote earlier, write down a few topics that you could write about that will help to position yourself as an expert.

Because before you look to other blogs for things like guest posts, advertising or giveaways you need to get your own blog in a good place. Consider what you do really well and what you love and start sharing that compelling, informative and unique content.

Share Unique Content

Download the full slide show here and then head over to Mariah, PJ, Melissa and Tan’s blogs to read all about their parts of the panel!

PJ Feinstein – Growing a small Blog through Self Promotion and Networking

Mariah Danielsen – Growing a small Blog through Guest Posting on Other Blogs

Melissa Bahen – Growing a Small Blog through Collaboration

Tan Rutley – Growing a Small Blog through Social Media Collaborations and Giveaways

Do you have questions or tips of your own? I’ll answer them in the comments!

first photo was taken by Justin Hackworth for Alt Summit • slides by me

Tips & Tricks for Your Email Newsletter

Tips and Tricks for Your Email Newsletter

An email newsletter is a tricky thing when you own a small business. While having an email list and sending out emails on a regular basis keeps you top of mind to your subscribers, knowing what you should send out and how frequently is a question that many small business owners struggle with. In a previous post we discussed why the email list is so important and a few different ways you can get emails from your customers and readers. Today we’re going to discuss some tips and guidelines for sending emails out to the list of emails you’ve gathered.

Getting Started and Setting Up

There are lots of great email newsletter platforms out there – some you can pay for and some are free. While you can pay for a service like Aweber or Constant Contact, I’m particularly fond of MailChimp’s free options. They make it easy to set up a newsletter and have great template options.

Once you sign up for a free account, you’ll need to import your email addresses or type them into your account. When you have them set up in a list, you’ll want to choose a template or design your own within the site. To make your newsletter cohesive and consistent, try to use the same template for each email and have it match your current website and branding design. Now that you’ve got your emails imported and your template designed, you just need to add in some content!

Deciding What Content to Email to Subscribers

No matter what line of business you’re in, you’ll want to send out content you think is most important or helpful to your list. If you have got a giveaway coming up or have a post that’s getting lots of comments, these would be wonderful things to include in your email newsletter to get more entries or visits to your website.

If you sell products, you could share some best sellers or featured items in your email, or if you’re a web designer think about sharing some of your recent work or progress on a current job. Updates give your readers a chance to see what you’ve been up to if they haven’t visited your blog or website in a while.

Some other things to include are:

  • Recent guest posts on other blogs
  • Links to a few of your favorite new posts on your blog
  • Your social media links
  • A question for your subscribers to answer or an invitation for them to comment on a Facebook or blog post.

Whatever content you choose to send out, use your own unique voice, and write it like you’re emailing an old friend. Your subscribers will feel like you’re emailing a little note written just for them!

The Dreaded Question: How Often Do I Email Out My Newsletter?

Frequency of emails can be tricky because you don’t want to send out so often that you’re getting a bunch of unsubscribes, but you want to email out enough to stay top of mind and in their inbox.

Personally, I cringe when my phone or inbox alerts me when I have an email waiting for me. Because of this, I try to send out newsletters sparingly – once every few weeks or once a month.  But frequency will depend on the type of business you’re in as well. If you’re a social media marketer, it might be a nice service to your subscribers to send them a short, actionable social media tip each week. Or if you own a retail store you could blast out your weekly sales or a product of the week.

Send your newsletter out as often as you feel comfortable. Try out different schedules and then choose one you feel that isn’t too intrusive to your subscriber’s inbox but still keeps you in their mind. Go with what feels right to you!

Email newsletters are wonderful way to get your work in front of potential customers. Consistency and respect for their inbox is key, but once you get a schedule figured out, they’ll be excited to see your email in their inbox.

Do you send out an email newsletter? What tricks have you found helpful? Share in the comments!

Twitter Tips For Bloggers

Twitter Tips For Blogging

I joined Twitter in 2009 shortly after I started blogging and I’ve been tweeting away ever since! Back then features such as retweets and hashtags were created by the user base, not the developers and could be a bit confusing for a newbie to figure out. They have come a long way since then, lists and built-in retweets were introduced and they have made their features even easier to understand and use!

Twitter is a great way to promote your content whether it be the services you offer through your business or new blog content. It’s also a great way to share your expertise and connect with like-minded people. Here are a few easy Twitter tips from what I have learned over the years:

Fill Out Your Profile

First things first. Make sure you write a clear description in the section for your bio and don’t forget to include a link back to your blog! I can’t tell you how many super vague profiles I see on Twitter. This should be similar to your elevator pitch, let me know why I should stick around!

Be Yourself

Keep your tweets fun and interesting. People want to connect with a real person and your readers will love you for being yourself. When tweeting, use the same voice and tone that you use on your blog.

Tweet Regularly

Since content flows so quickly on Twitter, it’s okay to post multiple tweets about the same thing. Just make sure you are not posting the exact same tweet over and over. Switching up the intro to a link helps to keep your followers engaged and interested in your content.

Schedule

Tweeting regularly is time-consuming so using a service like HootSuite can help. I don’t recommend scheduling ALL of your tweets, but it can help push out some content while you are working on something else. There are also some WordPress plugins that will automatically tweet posts from your blog archives for you, I use Tweetily.

Explain Your Links

Be sure to give a short description that’s intriguing and will entice your readers to click on the link. Your followers should trust your twitter content, so give accurate information.

Interact

Interact with people instead of just following. I love being able to connect with all types of people all over the world! Trust me, most people out there would love to have a little twitter convo! Make sure you are asking your followers questions, and try to answer questions as well. This helps build your reputation and credibility, which can lead to more followers and retweets.

Share the Love

Don’t only promote yourself. In addition to tweeting your own blog posts, post articles from other sources with similar content. If you mention someone on Twitter or in a blog post, make sure to tag them so they know.

Create and Follow Lists

A list is a curated group of Twitter users. You can create your own lists or subscribe to lists created by others. This is a great way to keep up with your favorite users, or people who have content you may want to share in the future.

Pictures

Twitter is becoming more and more visual so take advantage of this! They recently added inline images to tweets which is a great opportunity to tease a photo of your new content.

Find Relevant Hashtag Streams OR Tweetups

Hashtags categorize tweets and automatically group keywords or topics and help to get your tweets out to a larger audience than just your followers. Hashtags are an excellent way to track conversations about a specific topic and to take part in those conversations. Look for active hashtag streams relevant to what you blog about. For example, I love to participate in the #altchat every Tuesday and occasionally check out the #design and #fonts hashtags.

 Have Fun

While I do use Twitter to promote my biz, I also use it for fun! Hashtags and Twitter in general can be quite entertaining! I love to follow along with TV shows that I’m addicted to and sporting events. I also use Twitter for advice, like if I’m looking for a place to eat or need a suggestion for a photographer etc.

Twitter has been very helpful to me in promoting my blog and I hope these tips help to make it work for you too! If you have any questions or tips feel free to comment here or tweet me!

A Free Ebook Full of Insider Secrets for Coaches and Creatives

 Insider Secrets for Creatives Book Cover

Two bonuses for newsletter subscribers this month! A special discount code to Creative Market PLUS a 56-page ebook of insider secrets! Interested? Read on!

Did you follow along with The Jump Blog Tour that I participated in during January? Remember how I shared 10 ways to expand your small business? If you don’t remember, it was hosted by Stephanie Hall and Ashley Wilhite to get the word out about their ecourse for new coaches & creatives. Which is amazing by the way!

For the entire month, 23 brilliant bloggers shared their secrets on brand consistency, work/life balance, investing in yourself, creativity, standing by your rates, authenticity and SO much more! THEN Stephanie and Ashley compiled all of these posts into an awesome, interactive 56-page ebook full of these big-time secrets!

Want a copy of Inside Secrets For New Coaches + Creatives? I’ll be sending it out in my next newsletter, so if you are not already subscribed, sign up before it goes out on Monday!

If you want to take your blog to the next level, build better habits, learn a few design tricks, or hear behind-the-scenes stories of how these ladies started their businesses, you’re going to want to check this out. Once you read through the ebook, comment here telling me what you discovered! 

 

Blogging With Intention

Quality Over Quantity - Blogging With Intention Tips Plus Free Worksheet

With the new year comes a new set of goals you promise yourself you’re going to reach this year – you’re going to simplify, organize your life, grow your business and make time for what matters most. 

But when you’re trying to expand your small business, you can get stuck in the everyday muck of catching up on emails, putting together proposals, planning your blogging calendar and putting the finishing touches on that blog post you wanted to have up yesterday. It’s hard to keep up with the everyday stuff and make time for the big things you want to accomplish too. 

While blogging is an important aspect of growing your small business, blogging without passion just to have a post up on your site is the wrong way to go about growing. Lucky for us, there’s a trending idea in the blogging world: blogging with intention. 

It’s writing posts that contain all original content, it’s researching the topic and coming to your own conclusion and it’s blogging only when you devote the time and passion it takes to write a great post, even if it’s only once a week or once a month. 

Here are some ways to craft a quality, well thought out, intentional blog post: 

1. Do Your Research

When planning out your posts, draw up an outline and schedule in time to do some research behind the topic you’re writing about. The more you can share with your readers, the more they’ll feel like they got something out of your post.

For example, if you’re featuring a certain artist on your blog, do some research on their story – share how they got started, the idea behind their brand and what their design process is. If they use a particular technique with their work, research the technique and share that with your readers as well. Reach out to them to get the answers to those questions, or do your own research to find those answers.

Anyone can share an image of the artist’s work, but if you can get the story behind that particular piece, you’ll add more value to your post. Make sure you cite where you found your information and give credit wherever you can. 

When you add research to your process, the quality of your posts will increase and you’ll be providing your readers with real information they’ll want to bookmark and share. 

2. Only Write About Topics That Inspire You

If you’re not inspired by the posts you’re writing, it’s time to take a look at the type of content you’re blogging about. One way to fix this is to go back to the beginning of your business and ask yourself some questions. Why did you want to get started? What inspired you back then? Has that inspiration grown or changed at all?

If you go back to the root of why you started and what inspired you most back then, you might be able to come up with some great blog post ideas that won’t leave you procrastinating to get the post written. Focus on just writing about topics you like to talk about or are interested in exploring more, and go from there.  

3. Use Your Own Photos

One way to really slow down and take your time with blogging is to create an entirely original post – sharing both your own ideas and your own photographs. While throwing together recap posts or inspiration boards with other people’s images or post content (while properly crediting them, of course) is still very popular, when you create an original post you’re putting something out on the web that hasn’t been seen before.

I’ve noticed that the posts I’ve provided original content for have been pinned and re-pinned more times than any of my themed inspiration boards or style posts – pinned DIY projects and design projects I’m working on bring more people to my website than just about any other source. 

THE WORKSHEET

Download the blogging with intention worksheet here to help you get started!

 Coming up with all original content for your posts definitely takes more time, but your readers will be able to tell that you spent more time on the post and it will hopefully bring some additional traffic back to your website after it gets shared around the web.

When you’re blogging with purpose about topics you really want to talk about, you’ll add value to your brand, contribute some amazing new things to the internet and save yourself the stress from trying to throw together 5 posts a week.

The first few months of the new year are a great time for starting new habits, slowing down and focusing on what you really want to accomplish this year. If you’re blogging with intention you’ll have better chance of accomplishing your goals, and you’ll enjoy blogging even more.

What are your blogging goals for this year? How will you slow down and blog with more passion and intention? Share your ideas in the comments! 

For Bloggers: WordPress Plugins

My Favorite WordPress Plugins

I’ve been asked a few times what WordPress plugins I use to do certain things on this site, so rather than respond to individual emails, I thought I’d share with all of you guys!

First, a few notes on plugins in general: they are super easy to install and great for adding features to your blog even if you don’t know how to code BUT they can slow down your site. To prevent this, only add the ones that are necessary and delete plugins if you decide not to use them. Sometimes a plugin can cause conflicts within your site so always install one at a time and backup your site regularly.

Comments

I try to reply to every comment left on my blog to keep the conversation going so using Comment Reply Notification is a great way to make sure that the commenter sees my reply. It automatically sends an email to anyone who has received a reply to their comment. 

Pin It Button

You’ve probably seen this in action a lot by now, a pin it button that hovers over images making it convenient for readers to pin images. I use jQuery Pin It Button For Images for my pin it hover image. The reason I chose this plugin is because of the customization options and that you can use a custom image to match your branding.

Post Footers 

You may have noticed that at the bottom of each of my blog posts, I have the same call to action that points my readers to Facebook, Bloglovin etc. Instead of pasting this content separately into every post I write, I use WP Post Footer which allows you to create a library of code snippets and easily include them at the bottom of posts.

Editorial Calendar

I am a visual person so this plugin is one of my favorites to keep my posts organized. The WordPress Editorial Calendar makes it possible to see all your posts on a calendar and drag and drop them to manage your posting schedule.

Backup

This one is huge because you MUST backup your site! For backup, I use the WP Backup to Dropbox plugin, because it drops my files from scheduled backups right into a folder in Dropbox!

SEO

I’m pretty lazy when it comes to my SEO but the All in One SEO Pack makes it a little easier on me. It has fields at the end of each post for you to fill in to help optimize your WordPress site for Search Engine Optimization.

 

These are just suggestions and what works best for me. There are usually several plugins that do the same thing, so do your research and some testing to see which works bests for your needs!

I hope this was helpful! Do you have any favorites that weren’t mentioned here? Please share!

plug icon designed by Ben Johnson from the Noun Project