Showing posts with label ProBlogger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ProBlogger. Show all posts

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

How to Take a Break from Your Blog


Do you ever feel like you need to take a break from your blog but you feel like you’ve created a monster that just needs to keep being fed and fear that stepping away from the blog could mark the beginning of the end for it?

If so – you’re not alone.

We all need to take a break from our blogs at one point or another – whether that be to have a break and get away on a vacation, or because there’s something going on in our family that we need to give our attention to, or because we get sick or have some kind of emergency.

It’s important to have these kinds of breaks, but the question bloggers who are building a business face is – what should I do with my blog?

This is a question we’ve had a bit over in our Facebook Group lately so I decided this week to do a Facebook Live teaching session on the topic and came up with 7 options for bloggers who need a break.

Here’s the video. The first five minutes are me greeting those watching but at the 5 minute mark I switch into teaching mode and give my 7 tips with some pros and cons of each option (so you may wish to skip to there) and then I finish up with some Q&A.

To summarise my 7 teaching tips:

  1. Take a complete break – (it gives your readers a break too).
  2. Work harder before you take a break and schedule your content and social.
  3. Run a ‘best of’ retrospective series where you highlight content in your archives.
  4. Use a Guest Blogger or group of bloggers
  5. Blog from the Road
  6. Use some ‘Lighter Posts’ (like polls, discussions, curated embedded content, link posts)
  7. Do a combination of the above

If you’d like a little further reading or some examples:

What do you do to take a break from blogging? Is it one of the above tips or something else? I’m keen to hear in comments what your approach is.

The post How to Take a Break from Your Blog appeared first on ProBlogger.


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Monday, 12 June 2017

197: A COOL TOOL for Creating Viral Videos for Facebook in 15 Minutes

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Thursday, 8 June 2017

These 5 Rules Will Help You Work More Productively at Home

5 tips for working productively from home

This is a guest contribution from ProBlogger Productivity Expert Nicole Avery.

It is the dream for many of us. Working from home, for our selves, working when we want, in our pyjamas if we want, until the reality of working from home kicks in. To work productively from home it requires discipline, planning and organization. Without them we can end up spending more hours working than we wanted to in a house that has become a shambles.

I have been working from home now for over five years now and I have moved from an ad hoc state where I felt like I was always working and if I wasn’t actually working I was still thinking or worrying about work, to a state where I happily switch off at night, relax and leave work until the next day.

It took me some time to find the balance that the freedom of working from home provides and putting in place some structure and boundaries so I could work productively at home. Here are five strategies I implemented to help me do this:

1. Set working hours

I think one of the most significant benefits for working from home is that in the most part, you can set the hours that you work; you can work early in the morning or late in the day depending on what you like. While you will read posts from morning advocates shouting the praises of getting up at 5am and working first thing in the morning to be most productive, I don’t think that is the case for everyone nor is it possible for everyone to work at that time.

I am a morning person, however the best time for me to fit exercise in is at 5.30am and after exercise my focus is on the kids until they are all off at school. My workday starts only after that. For others, they simply don’t work well in the mornings and science has shown when you are most productive does depend on your chronotype. Your chronotype is your natural master biological clock; think of it of how you are programmed to function across different times of the day. Setting your work hours at home to best match when you are most productive will save you hours of time. If you are interested in finding out your chronotype you can take a quiz here.

Setting work hours and sticking to them also helps eliminate productive procrastination that can so easily happen at home. There is always something you can be doing at home cleaning the bathroom, watering the garden, putting on a load of washing – all of which are tasks that need to be completed so you are not just lost in some Youtube abyss. But these tasks won’t be helping you to achieve your work goal. Having a time by which you need to start work whether like me it is 10am or 2pm if you work better in the afternoons, allows you to plan other times to do home tasks instead of in work time and you can keep some separation between the two.

2. Have a “finish work” routine

Whether your office is your coffee table or a fully kitted out home office, the fact remains that your work is still physically located where you are when you finish up for the day. This means the temptation to just do “one thing” after dinner can be exceptionally high and if you do that one thing; it can be a quick slippery slope to doing another hour of work before you have realized what has happened.

This can seem like a good idea and a way to keep on top of things, but not only is it not a productive way to work, it detrimentally affects your sleep and therefore your overall health. Study after study is now showing the impacts that blue light from devices has on us, including this one by a team at Harvard Medical School:

We found that the use of portable light-emitting devices immediately before bedtime has biological effects that may perpetuate sleep deficiency and disrupt circadian rhythms, both of which can have adverse impacts on performance, health, and safety.

When you finish work for the day, make it a definite finish. Create a routine that you follow each day, so it signals to yourself that you have finished. Have cues to allow your mind to switch off work and begin being present in what other activities you have on for the rest of the day.

The routine may start with writing your to do list for the next day. If you after tips on how to create a to do list that will set you up for a productive day see this post on Problogger – 5 Steps to Creating a Productive Blogging To Do List. Then have your “finish work” routine end with turning off your computer. I know some of you will say “but I will need the computer later for personal reasons”. This maybe the case but I would still highly recommend turning off the computer. It is a step that sets you up for success – you are much less likely to do just one thing, if that involves rebooting the computer, logging in and opening the application you need. It will help you to stay away from work once you have finished.

The reality is that if you need the computer for personal reasons in the evening, you can always turn it back on. If you leave it on just in case you need to use it, you are creating a temptation for yourself. You may be tempted while walking past the computer to check email and at some point you will need to turn it off which might expose you to a project you were working on and start your brain ticking over with ideas just before you go to bed!

3. Include breaks and movement

When we work for ourselves at home, we can be hard taskmasters. We will often work for hours without breaks, eat lunch at our desk and if we were to wear a step counter for the day we would see that we moved very little.

Quite obviously this way of working isn’t good for our overall health, but we often do it thinking we are being productive as we chalk up more hours of work each day. The data tells a different story though and it shows there is actually a negative correlation between hours worked and productivity. I shared the below graph in my post on How Working Fewer Hours Can Increase Your Productivity which shows the productivity (GDP per hour worked) in relation to the number of hours worked in OECD countries. The trend is clear: the more hours worked the less productive we are.

Relationship between hours worked and productivity

And if we are honest with ourselves we know this is true. By the time we are into our fourth hour of work with no break, the blog post that we could write in an hour first thing into our working day is now taking us twice as long. We get distracted and our mind wanders; sign that our mind needs a rest.

Making sure you take breaks regularly is key to staying productive and during the breaks if you really want to recharge, you need to move away from the computer. Stay off social media and email and allow your mind to rest. Walk around the house, sweep the floor, hang out washing to get you outside in the fresh air or even better take a quick 10 minute walk. You will be surprised how much better you will feel when you sit back down to work and how much more productively you will work.

4. Respect your time blocks

When you schedule your day, if you have followed my advice on batching, it will be broken into time blocks across the day. There will be time where you do your deep work of blog writing or product creation etc and there will time where you have scheduled your lighter work like social media and email etc.

Most of us choose to work from home as we want the flexibility it gives us, whether that be to attend activities at the kids’ school, catch up with friends or fit in other hobbies. But if we want to be productive and work towards our blogging goal, we need to use this flexibility while still respecting our time blocks.

As noted earlier I do my most productive and deep work earlier in the day, so when friends want to catch up, I will suggest an afternoon catch up so that I can still fit in my core work for the day. There will of course be occasions where I do take the morning off work to attend something which is time specific, but I will then reorganize the rest of my day or week to ensure the key work for the week, the most productive work for the week will be completed.

5. Manage the expectations of friends and family

I have found this to be the biggest challenge working from home, especially with the occupation of blogging. Most of my family and friends do not fully understand what I do and how “writing on the internet” pays my bills. Therefore they don’t realise how much popping in for a quick visit unannounced can impact my workday.

It has taken time and me summoning the courage to send texts saying no to visits, to help friends and family understand that dropping in during my work hours would be like them just popping into someone’s office in the CBD and expecting them to drop anything and go for a coffee. Of course that isn’t something they would do and therefore I need the same level of notice if they would like to get together for a catch up.

Working from home you need to learn the diplomatic art of saying no and protecting your work schedule. There may be times when it suits to catch up with someone unannounced or with short notice, but when we do this it can set the agenda for how friends and family interact with us, so we need to make sure it is sustainable.

What tips would you add to increase your productivity when working from home?

The post These 5 Rules Will Help You Work More Productively at Home appeared first on ProBlogger.


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Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The “Traveler” Rules of WordPress Plugin Management

Wordpress Plugins Traveler Rules

We get asked a LOT about what plugins to use, how to use them, how to fix them. We also get asked how you can make your blog look better, load faster, perform better. We’ll be answering these questions in our upcoming “Top 7 plugins for . . .” series. However, before we all go plugin crazy, here’s a sage story from ProBlogger Developer Mario Ricalde on the use of plugins and some recommended rules to keep your blog in top shape.

Plugins and WordPress are two terms that are often used in the same sentence. You want your WordPress installation to do something that it doesn't currently? No Problem! There's a high chance that there's a plugin that is just right to achieve just that and more.

As of right now, there's close to fifty thousand WordPress plugins available on the official plugin directory, and much more available in third party non-official sources. With this many plugins at your fingertips, I can guarantee that you'll find whatever you need. However, using a favorite quote:

"With great power comes great responsibility" - Learn how to manage your WordPress plugins 

Click to Tweet

Quite often, as a user, you'll find yourself with a problem that you want to solve, let's say a feature you want to add to your WordPress installation, and it's quite tempting to "fix it" by browsing around for plugins. On its own is not a bad practice, at least not the first couple of times; however, down the line, after you repeat this process several times you'll find yourself carrying a lot of "extra luggage."

As a Software Engineer, that has been working for over twelve years in the field, I'm no stranger to this problem. I'm sure, that as a WordPress user, you will find a lot of sense in my words, even if you don't know the technical terms. At the end of the day we are all aware how sluggish a WordPress installation can feel when you have a little bit too much on top of it.

WordPress: The Light Traveler

Let's visualise your WordPress blog as a celebrity that decides to go on a journey, destination and length unknown. Along that journey our traveler is frequently stopped and asked for autographs.

Our well-known traveler carries everything she needs to deliver, pen and white paper, in her backpack. Every time someone approaches her, she stops, reaches into her bag to pull what she needs to compose her note to her fan and signs it. Once she's done, she'll put everything back in her bag and carry on with her journey.

Since she doesn't have too much to juggle our traveler can quickly stop and handle this easily. Several needing her attention one after another? No problem, she can pull out the paper and the pen quickly, signing and moving on without too much trouble.

plain autograph

All is fine and dandy, but it's not as great as it could be. She feels what she's delivering is boring and looks unprofessional. Let's say our traveler wants to give more interesting things to her fans - something that will make her stand out from the other celebrities.

So our traveler decides that she needs better paper, one that has decorations on it. She also wants to use different pens depending on the occasion (theme). She decides that she will offer the option to take a selfie with her and give them as a souvenir, maybe also an on the spot voice recording to go with that (lots of different plugins)!

Signed selfie

Suddenly the backpack that our traveler was carrying is full of things that she might need for those fans of hers. Not only that, she's now carrying several small bags that she needs to take with her everywhere she goes. Our once light traveler is not only moving slower along her path due to the added weight, but she's also having to juggle through all her belongings depending on the request. This causes her to let her fans down by making them wait unnecessarily, sometimes even missing them altogether.

Extra Luggage: aka Technical Debt

Technical debt

Our traveler wanted to give something more personalized so she got herself some camera equipment that would allow her to take a photo and deliver it instantly to her fans. However, she has no real idea how it works. She didn't properly research if the camera was right for the job, so sometimes it fails or the print comes out smudged without her knowing why.

And those fancy pens that she got? They were not as easy to use as the one she originally had, she now had to unscrew a cap before being able to write, making the whole process slower.

Suddenly our traveler finds herself struggling with all the additions designed to improve her fans’ experience with her. Since she doesn't know how things work, she can't tell that the camera that she bought was poorly made, just like her pen. All she can do is work around it.

Slippery Floor: aka Server Issues

Time goes by, and our traveler decides to add even more things for her fans, she finds herself carrying a lot of luggage. It's at this point that she becomes aware of how slippery the floor is. Moving around is not easy, and any sudden movements might cause her to fall, preventing her from paying attention to her fans.

Not only that, but when she needs to stop to deliver the usual autograph, more often than not she finds herself sliding around and dropping things.

We all know how bad it looks when you fall flat on your back, it would be a disaster if her fans saw that, it could even cost her more popularity than her inability to deliver quickly!

How Much of Other People's Luggage are You Carrying?

At this point, it's clear that some of the luggage (plugins) that our traveler selected brought some unexpected things with them. This is a form of Technical Debt, a concept in programming that reflects the extra development work that arises when code that is easy to implement in the short run is used instead of applying the best practice solution.

Just like our traveler with her poorly made camera, we'll find ourselves installing a plugin that has a large amount of technical debt that could cause performance issues with our WordPress installation. Security is another thing to consider, since a poorly made plugin could compromise your WordPress Installation.

So what should you do? Simple, put yourself in the position of that traveler!

The 'Traveler' Rules

raveler Rules of plugin management

1. Search for information before committing to bringing something with you, you're paying for it (even if it's free)!

The world is big, and the chances are that the problem that you're trying to solve is already solved by someone else. This means that you're probably going to  find more than one solution for that feature you're trying to get into your WordPress installation.

Once more think of yourself as a Traveler, this time with a limited budget regarding how much you can spend, and how much you can carry.

Remember, this is not a race. You're spending your hard earned money on something that you'll use often. You want to make sure that you have the best tool for the job.

It's sensible for you to do quite a bit of research when shopping around for that fancy camera that you want, your daily driver. It's the same for plugins. You want to make sure that the plugin that you're bringing with you has good reviews, is actively being developed and is not too heavy on resources.

3 Questions to Ask before Installing a Plugin

1. Is the Developer a well-known contributor? Do they have other popular plugins?

2. Is the plugin updated often?

3. Has the plugin been downloaded/installed enough times by other people?

If you answer "Yes" to all of these questions you can be more confident about installing the plugin. However, if you answer "No" to any of the questions above, you might not have enough feedback to know if the plugin is good and secure enough for you to install.

3 More Questions to Ask 

1. Has anyone mentioned any possible security risks when installing this plugin?

2. Has anyone said they had a drop in performance when installing this plugin?

3. Is this plugin doing too much? Does it bring more things than what I need to implement my feature?

If you answer "Yes" to one of those questions, you're possibly better off finding another alternative.

2. Keep Track of What You Carry and Make Sure it's in Perfect Shape

Commitment. That's the one word that you need to repeat over and over when you install a plugin. Like a traveler, you only want to carry the things that are necessary for your travels. You don't want your camera to fail while you're out there! Nor do you want to find out that your tent is broken!

I recommend keeping notes on why you install each plugin - what is its purpose? Then review this list every time you install a new plugin. Down the line you'll likely find something is no longer required (in which case you should go to Rule #3).

3. Get Rid of those Things that are No Longer Relevant

Unorganized travelers tend to carry around all the things they pick up from the places they visit. That coat that you needed during the Winter in Europe? You probably shouldn't be carrying it around now that you're in South Africa during Summer!

Remove plugins that you don't use enough. Remember, the more you carry, the more you need to monitor. Having fewer plugins is good for your install and your sanity. Don't be afraid of removing a plugin that you only use on one page, ask yourself:

1. Can I use this plugin somewhere else?

2. Will removing this plugin will destroy my site?

If you answer "No" to both of these questions, you probably should remove that plugin.

4. Stay Up to Date with What Other Travelers are Saying About Their Tools

You're not traveling alone! We live in the world of the Internet; you can be up to date with everything relevant to your travels. You should do the same with your tools.

Follow WordPress vulnerability lists such as the WPScan Vulnerability Database.

Join communities where you can talk about the plugins that you use and ask for feedback from peers that are more than happy to share their thoughts on certain plugins, such as the ProBlogger Community.

Remember: You’re not alone, someone will always be willing to help a fellow traveler going through hardships. We’re all travelers on this blogging journey after all!

The post The “Traveler” Rules of WordPress Plugin Management appeared first on ProBlogger.


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Monday, 5 June 2017

196: Blogger Spotlight – Nikki Parkinson from Styling You, Shares How She Built a Business Around Her Blog

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Thursday, 1 June 2017

4 Ways to Use Social Media to Light a Fire Under Your List Building Strategy

4 Ways to Use Social Media to Light a Fire Under Your List Building Strategy

This is a guest contribution from Megan Totka.

Building a profitable e-mail list requires more than just adding a newsletter signup form to your website. Attracting and retaining an email list that ultimately turns into customers means finding creative ways to get in front of them and continually providing value.

The good news is that social media can help light a fire under your list building strategy and maximise the results of your e-mail marketing campaign.

Before you turn your attention to your favourite social media platform for list building, here are the best ways to harness the power of social media for your list building strategy:

1: Create High Value Content to Distribute on Social Networks

The term “content is king” has remained on the tips of marketers’ tongues for years. Even in 2017, content remains one of the most effective ways to convert clicks into customers but not just any content.

The key here is to deliver value through your content in terms of answering questions or helping readers solve problems. You’ll need to give readers a good reason to exchange their e-mail address for your content, which truthfully can’t be done if you’re offering run-of-the-mill content.

Consider using content in the form of videos, webinars, downloadable PDF documents, and podcasts.

The content can’t be just any old regurgitated content though. It needs to be so valuable that the reader would pay for it, but you’re giving it away for the low low price of an email address.

Neil Patel does this masterfully, on his QuickSprout blog, by offering a free course on how to double your blog traffic. He values the course at $300 but is giving it away for opting in to his email list.

4 Ways to Use Social Media to Light a Fire Under Your List Building Strategy | ProBlogger

People are reading your blog for a reason. You must be solving a problem they have or educating them about a specific topic. Offer to give your secrets away for free – well just for their email address and permission to send them more great content.

Take your free course or eBook “list building bait” and repurpose some of it for a blog post or on a landing page. Use landing page software that integrates directly with email marketing software to maximise signups and automate your follow up email campaigns. Once visitors signup on the landing page they are sent into email list segments to start their journey through a pre-set email funnel towards conversion.

This is the content you can use to distribute via your social media channels.

Use your social media channels to drive awareness to the content. It’s great to add some context in your social posts. Tell people what they will gain from the eBook or free course to help drive click through rates and signups.
4 Ways to Use Social Media to Light a Fire Under Your List Building Strategy | ProBlogger

2: Carefully Optimise Ads to Target Specific Prospects

When you launch a social media ad, the last thing you want to do is use general parameters to define your target audience and call it a day. If you truly want to get the most out of your list building strategy with social media, you must understand your target market and pay to play.

Take Facebook for instance. Facebook is an affordable yet highly-targeted social media advertising option for all kinds of ventures—including list building.

Create detailed customer personas that outline different people that would be interested in consuming your list building content. If you’re selling digital marketing services, one persona may be a brand marketing manager. Her name is Sarah, is between 27-35 years old, lives in the US, is interested in social media marketing and follows industry blogs like  

Once you’ve created your different customer personas, use Facebook’s lead ad product to drive targeted traffic to your landing page or blog post.
4 Ways to Use Social Media to Light a Fire Under Your List Building Strategy | ProBlogger

Once you learn the ropes, you can fine-tune your Facebook ads to match prospects at different points in the sales funnel. This way you can watch how your prospects opt-in to your e-mail list and how your content is encouraging them to inquire about your products or services.

4 Ways to Use Social Media to Light a Fire Under Your List Building Strategy | ProBlogger

3: Amplify Your Content with the Help of Industry Leaders

If you have great content to offer but you’re a little short on outreach, industry influencers can help maximise your exposure, amplify content, and generate more e-mail subscriptions—all on your behalf.

Think of this as a shortcut to getting a lot of eyeballs on your content without handing over a hefty wad of cash. One of the keys to using this technique is building a relationship with the industry leader and be up front that you’d like for them to share your content. You can also consider allowing the influencer to use your product or service for free as a way to incentivise them to spread the word.

4 Ways to Use Social Media to Light a Fire Under Your List Building Strategy | ProBlogger

Use platforms like BuzzSumo to find influencers in your niche who are already sharing topics closely related to the content you want them to amplify.

4 Ways to Use Social Media to Light a Fire Under Your List Building Strategy | ProBlogger

4: Best Practices for On-Site E-mail Signups

Once you have your content published on social media, you can’t forget what happens when visitors land on your website. It’s important to optimise your landing page to increase the amount of conversions and users opting into your e-mail list.

One important consideration to keep in mind is the length of your opt-in form. It’s best that you use as few fields as possible, while still capturing the information you need for personalised email messages later on. You’ll also need a direct call-to-action with an obvious button front-and-centre.

4 Ways to Use Social Media to Light a Fire Under Your List Building Strategy | ProBlogger

This is a basic landing page from Trulia that shows a simple signup form with only one opt-in field.

Have you been using social media to drive sign-ups? What’s working for you?

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for Chamber specializes in helping small businesses grow their business on the web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

The post 4 Ways to Use Social Media to Light a Fire Under Your List Building Strategy appeared first on ProBlogger.


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