Beth Hayden |

How to Build a Massive Mailing List by Adding Content Upgrades to Your Site

Are your subscriber numbers….lagging?

Are you looking for a fast, efficient way to add qualified prospects to your email mailing list?

You may want to try adding some content upgrades to your blog posts or articles.

Let’s talk about what content upgrades are, why they’re an amazing tool for bloggers, and how to put them to work on your site.

How to Build a Massive Mailing List by Adding Content Upgrades to Your Site

What’s a content upgrade?

A content upgrade is simply additional (or companion) content that your visitor can get access to, in exchange for his or her email addresses. It’s a little bonus that goes along with the post, but your visitors can only get it if they sign up.

Your reader reads the post, then sees your additional offer and gives their email address in exchange for the piece of content.

Let’s walk through an example.

On Brian Dean’s site, Backlinko.com, he writes outstanding blog posts on a variety of topics, usually about search engine optimization or list-building. He offers content upgrades with many of his articles.

Early in his post, Brian will include a small yellow box that offers the readers some useful gift, in exchange for his or her email address.

For examples, in this post, 17 Untapped Backlink Sources, he offers a free checklist that walks the user through the process of accessing those backlink sources.

How to Build a Massive Mailing List by Adding Content Upgrades to Your Site

When you click on the link in the yellow content upgrade box, you see this pop-up box:

How to Build a Massive Mailing List by Adding Content Upgrades to Your Site

You can fill out the form to get the free checklist, and it will automatically be sent to your email inbox. You receive a great piece of companion content for the piece you’re reading, and Brian gets a new subscriber for his mailing list. It’s a win-win situation.

You can create a content upgrade for any post on your site, but this technique works particularly well to help you get subscribers from your popular blog posts (perhaps ones that are already pulling in regular social media or search engine traffic).

Brian Dean reported that when he added content upgrades to all the posts on his site, his conversion rate went up 785%. That’s not a typo. That’s just by adding content upgrades to his post.

Why you should try content upgrades on your site

Here’s why content upgrades work well, and why they’re becoming more popular these days:

  • They are less annoying and obtrusive than pop-up boxes. Everyone hates pop-ups, but bloggers still use them because they work. Content upgrades offer a far less aggravating way to put a content offer in front of readers, and they don’t interrupt the reading process.
  • Content upgrades offer the reader “just in time” content that is directly relevant to the article they are reading. Usually the upgrade is something like a checklist or printable version of the article your visitor is already reading. If the reader likes the post and finds it useful, it’s a cinch they’ll sign up to get the upgrade.
  • Content upgrades offer a “set it and forget it” option for building your list. Most of the time, you can create the free gift and put the opt-in form in place, then move on to other projects while the upgrades work their magic on your visitors. This gives them a big advantage over more labor-intensive, time-consuming list building techniques like guest blogging and social media promotion.
  • Upgrades on your site can fit in beautifully with other list-building techniques. If you are using social media or blogger outreach to increase traffic, you never need to worry that content upgrades will clash with your efforts. They are a fantastic compliment to all kinds of traffic-building tools.

More and more smart marketers are using content upgrades for their blog posts, videos and podcasts. Here’s another brilliant usage of a content upgrade from Amy Porterfield, on her post called 4 Webinar Myths and How to Avoid Them:

How to Build a Massive Mailing List by Adding Content Upgrades to Your Site

In this example, Amy’s podcast episode is all about webinars, so she offers a printable “cheat sheet” content upgrade that summarizes the main points of the episode.

A bit further down in her post, she has added this little box, to offer her content upgrade:

ContentUpgrade4Edited

Amy’s PDF cheat sheet is a great companion piece for someone who already listened to the episode and wants a short reference of the main points. It also works as a stand-alone report for someone who doesn’t want to listen to the whole episode, but wants the episode highlights.

Want to start implementing content upgrades on your own site? Here are the steps you can follow to add one to your site.

Want to do your own content upgrade? Here’s how to do it.

Step One: Pick a piece of content that is already getting some traffic.

Do you have a piece of content on your site that regularly brings in traffic from search engines, social media, advertising, or other sources? That would be a great choice for a content upgrade.

Take a look at your site (and potentially your Google Analytics statistics) and pick a blog post to use as your first content upgrade experiment.

Step Two: Come up with an idea for a content upgrade for that particular post.

What piece of content would make a good accent or compliment to that article? Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Checklists
  • Transcripts
  • Flowcharts
  • Summary of key points of the article
  • Mini-library of smaller freebies
  • Short reports
  • Lists of tools and resources

Step Three: Create your content upgrade.

Here’s the key thing you need to remember when creating email incentives (also called freebies, giveaways, or bribes): They don’t need to be perfect, and they don’t need to be fancy.

I officially give you permission to NOT hire an expensive graphic designer that will make your content upgrade into a work of art.

Create your upgrade in Word (or whatever word processor you use) and then spruce it up a little with a big header, some bullet points or check points. Then put your name and website address in the footer and call it done.

Then save it as a PDF.

POOF. You’re finished! It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.

If your content upgrade is wildly popular and people are clamoring to download it, then you can certainly make it fancier or prettier later. But it’s absolutely, positively NOT necessary to start.

As Jon Morrow says, “Awesomeness is an iterative process.” Remember that, and just create something that will work for now.

Step Four: Create an opt-in form, and add it to your site.

If you’re using an email service provider like AWeber, MailChimp or Infusionsoft, you can add a form to your post pretty easily by following the directions of your provider.

If you don’t have an ESP, you’ll need to sign up with them before you move on. I highly recommend MailChimp and AWeber as user-friendly, inexpensive providers for people who are just getting started with list building. If you need more assistance in choosing an email service provider, read this post on Copyblogger about how to choose an ESP.

Make sure the initial “welcome” message people receive (when they sign up your list) includes a link to your content upgrade.

Step Five: Drive traffic to your newly-upgraded post, and see what happens.

If you get a lot of sign ups for your content upgrade, great! You’re on the right track!

If not, you may want to revisit either the content upgrade idea or the form itself, and make some changes. Is your content upgrade a good choice for that piece? Is it a good fit for the content? Or is there something else you could offer that might be more appealing to your reader?

Look at your opt-in form, too. Consider using a button or link (like Brian Dean or Amy Porterfield do) to create a content upgrade prompt that is clear but not annoying.

One tool you can try, if you’d like to get a little fancy with your sign-up buttons, is LeadPages.net. LeadPages has a slick tool called LeadBoxes that makes this process really easy.

Then tweak your content upgrade and the form itself until you have a system that regularly brings in subscribers.

Step Six: Pick another blog post, and repeat this process on that piece.

The best way to get HUGE results from your content upgrades is to create a series of them on various posts on your site.

When your offer relevant content on a number of posts on your site, your readers get exactly what they need – just when they need it – and you get the reputation for giving away an amazing amount of free stuff.

So keep your momentum going! When you’re done with your first content upgrade, pick a new blog (or podcast episode) and start the process again.

Content Upgrades Might Become Your Best Friend for List-Building

Content upgrades can make a HUGE difference in your list-building efforts, and once they’re in place, you can reap the benefits for a long, long time.

Pick a post, come up with an content upgrade, and put it into place today. You could be on your way to a huge subscriber list in the next few months.

And that’s a big upgrade for everyone involved.

Want more ideas about how to get more traffic for your site and building a huge mailing list? Get ready to join us for the 2016 session of Blog Traffic School. Registration begins February 9th!

The Top 3 Reasons Why Blogging Regularly Is So Incredibly Difficult

Publishing blog posts regularly is one of the best things you can do for your business.

The statistics are clear: B2B (business to business) companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those that don’t blog. Businesses that blog also have 434% more indexed pages (meaning, web pages that are noticed and indexed by Google and other search engines).

Long story short: When you blog, you get more traffic, social media shares, and customers.

So why is blogging consistently so hard to do?

Why does it feel like such a struggle to keep your blog updated on a regular basis?

Why is Blogging Regularly So Incredibly Difficult?

Surprise, surprise! The blogging coach has consistency problems, too

I’ll confess: Blogging regularly is tough for me. In the past, I’ve had a hard time sticking to a regular publishing schedule, even though I teach blogging and I know exactly how important consistency is.

I even had one client mention my inconsistent blogging during a meeting. She said, “It makes you look bad that you haven’t updated your blog in months. You know that, right?”

Talk about a cringeworthy moment.

The good news is – since I struggle with blogging regularly, that means I understand the problem intimately. That insight means I can (hopefully) help you get past the roadblocks and figure out how to blog regularly, too.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the main reasons people don’t blog, and then talk about some ways you can get past these hurdles.

Reason #1: We don’t blog because we don’t know what to write about.

Depending on what niche or industry you’re in, it might be difficult to come up with content ideas for your blog. If you’re in a business that doesn’t lend itself well to how-to posts or useful articles, you might have trouble finding interesting post topics.

I get it. I’ve struggled with that in the past, too, especially when I’m in a writing slump.

Here are some ways of breaking through this blogging roadblock:

1. Start keeping a list of blog post ideas. You need a list of article ideas you can return to anytime you need to start a new piece. Use a word processing or text editor file, start a spreadsheet, keep a list on your phone, or write in a notebook. Just make sure your list is easy to access and add to.

As your list of blog post ideas grows, you can even separate your list into sections. You can create categories for paid writing gigs, guest posting opportunities, your podcast, and your own blog.

Add to your idea list on a regular basis. Once you get started with brainstorming and recording post topics, tons of ideas are going to come to you all the time. Write ‘em all down!

2. Keep a list of headline templates, and use them to brainstorm. One quick and easy way to plump up your list of blog posts ideas (if your list is getting low) is to use headline templates. You can look at a list of headline templates, and brainstorm a bunch of blog posts topics using those templates.

Need some templates to start with? Start with Copyblogger’s suggestions, then download Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks report for more ideas.

3. Use timed writing practice. Years ago, when I first moved to Boulder, I was introduced to the work of writing teacher Natalie Goldberg. What a gift.

The foundation of Natalie’s writing advice is a simple practice. It’s called “timed writing.” The process is simple: Set the timer for 20 minutes and write. Do not overthink, do not edit, and do not stop writing until the timer goes off.

Timed writing sessions are very freeing – and they’re also fun! They really help you get past your doubts and fears, and get out of your own way as you write. If you’re having trouble getting the words out on paper, try a couple of timed writes – you’ll be amazed at how interesting and productive they can be.

Natalie’s books, Long Quiet Highway and Writing Down the Bones, are a wonderful and gentle introduction to creating an effective timed writing practice. I highly, highly recommend both of these books for any blogger or content creator.

Reason #2: We don’t blog because we don’t have time.

When I ask about their online marketing struggles, the #1 complaint I hear from my community members is “I don’t have enough time!”

Let’s be frank. Blogging is time consuming.

We’re all incredibly busy. Life keeps roaring forward, day by busy day, and our personal and professional responsibilities constantly chip away at our time. There never seems to be enough time to do everything we want (and need) to accomplish.

It takes time to write a post, craft the perfect headline, find an image to go with the post, queue up the post in our blogging tool, optimize the post for social media, proofread it, and finally, hit publish.

I’m usually lucky if I write and publish and entire piece, start to finish, in fewer than 5 hours. And that’s just to write and publish the post – it doesn’t include any post promotion (like sending it out to my list, or publishing the link on social media).

Because it’s time consuming, blogging will often get moved to the back burner – which means it often doesn’t get done at all, and your blog (and your marketing) will suffer the consequences.

Here’s are some suggestions for carving out time in your hectic schedule to complete your blogging tasks:

1. Schedule your blogging time. If you wait until you have some “spare time” to blog, it’s never going to happen. We rarely have big chunks of available time during our entrepreneurial days, so blocking off blogging time in advance is the best thing you can do for your marketing plan.

You also can’t wait until inspiration strikes. If you wait for the muse to show up and give you the perfect blog post idea, you might be waiting a very long time. Don’t wait for the muse to decide to visit – put your butt in the chair and start writing, and occasionally your muse will reward you by showing up and inspiring you.

The best solution for time-crunched bloggers is always to schedule your blogging time on the calendar. Then you must make sure to honor the commitment – no excuses!

2. Spend less time in your email inbox. This is a really tough one for me, and has been for years. I’ll admit it – I am addicted to email.

Nothing breaks my writing momentum more quickly than seeing that little red circle on AppleMail that indicates I’ve got a new email message. I will click on the icon within seconds, no matter what I am working on.

It’s like getting a treat every time I click on it – like a little pat on the head that says, “Someone is paying attention to you! YAY!” Feels good – right?

But email is a creativity and productivity killer – so try shutting down your email inbox during your blogging sessions.

Long term, you might want to try getting in the habit of only checking email 2 or 3 times a day. Yes, I know this is hard – I’m still working on it, myself – but every baby step you take will be helpful to your blog and your overall marketing efforts.

3. Minimize your time on Facebook. Imagine an entire day without Facebook. How much could you get done?

There are tools you can use (like Freedom and Anti-Social) to limit the amount of time you spend on time-sucking social sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Set limits with these tools, and you may find you’ve opened up huge chunks of time for content creation.

4. Stop watching so much television. This might not be an issue for you, but it is for a lot of people.

If you have two hours (or more) every night to sit in front of the television, you can definitely make room in your schedule to blog.

It is so easy to binge watch entire seasons of television shows (Downton Abby and The Walking Dead – I’m looking at you) that we really need to learn how to self-regulate when it comes to television. And that’s not easy task.

If you think watching too much television might be issue for you, try tracking the amount of time you are spending on television and movies – then see if you can cut time down by half. Then make sure you’re using that saved time productively. It’s a great time to blog!

If you’re not willing to give up your TV time in order to get some writing done, then you might actually have a different problem: Maybe you don’t actually WANT to write. Keep reading to see how to tackle that problem.

Reason #3: We don’t blog because we just don’t want to.

Some days, you just don’t feel like writing. And it can be so easy to say, “Ehh, I’ll do it tomorrow.” It’s highly tempting to put blogging on the back burner if you’re not in the mood, not feeling well, or just don’t feel inspired.

Here are some methods for summoning your blogging motivation:

1. Try declaring your intentions (and a deadline) publicly. Tell someone (or tell lots of people!) that you’re going to complete a blogging project or publish new blog posts on a certain schedule. You’ll be a lot less likely to bail on a commitment if you know other people are watching.

I use this technique to create all kinds of content, from webinars to online classes to blog posts. Read this post to find out more about how I use this technique to create content, webinars and products, click here.

2. Remember your motivation and cultivate discipline. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself to publish, ask yourself why you want to blog. Are you building a platform to get a book deal? Are trying to get more email subscribers, make more sales, or establish yourself as an expert in your field?

Remembering your ultimate goal will make it easier to create content even when you don’t feel like it.

Over time, you’ll be able to stay motivated by relying on discipline, too – blogging will become an ingrained habit, and it won’t be such a fight to stay motivated. My high school band director, Rich Miller, once told us:

“Discipline is doing what you have to do, when you have to do it, as well as you can, all the time.”

I struggle with motivation and staying on track just as much as everyone else. But on my really, really bad days, I remember that quote (and why I blog) and I can often pull myself back on track.

3. Make a game of it. I decided to challenge myself to write every day during the month of August, and that month I wrote 34,000 words. Making a game out of your blogging tasks makes writing and publishing a lot more fun.

You could try giving yourself little rewards if you create a certain number of blog posts or write a certain amount of words. Writer Joanna Penn actually uses a calendar and sticker system when she hits her word goals, which I think is awesome. Is there a simple and fun way for you to turn writing into a game?

4. Create content in a different way. If writing isn’t fun or interesting for you, consider a different kind of content creation. Podcasting is gaining popularity these days, and there’s always a need for useful tutorial videos.

If you have more fun creating audio or video content, it’s 100% okay to do that, instead of writing blog posts.

5. If all else fails, hire a ghostwriter. If you have to force yourself to write every month, and motivating yourself to blog isn’t getting any easier, you can outsource your content creation.

Lacy Boggs is a very talented ghostwriter, and there may be other experts in your field who could write for your site. Be prepared to pay decent rates for good posts, though, and don’t skimp and hire bad writers.

And remember: It’s still better to publish good quality posts less often, rather than publishing badly-written articles that are too short and don’t contribute anything new to your industry’s online conversation. Keep that in mind when you’re shopping for ghostbloggers.

Use these tips to blast through your own blogging roadblocks

Blogging is the absolute best way to establish yourself as an expert in your field, build an author platform, or sell more products and services online. And if you’re going to build a popular blog, you must publish top-notch content on a regular basis.

So you must schedule enough time to write, maintain a ready-made list of post ideas, and do your best to keep yourself motivated and enthusiastic about blogging consistently.

Use these tips to keep your blogging engine chugging along.

Tell me in the comments – Do you find it difficult to blog on a regular basis? If so, why? And how to do you get past those roadblocks?

The Simple Little Thing You Can Do to Be Happier in 2016

I have a little secret.

No one else in the world knows this secret, but I am going to tell you today. So lean in, folks.

Here goes:

I have been writing a list of things that make me happy for over 25 years.

My list is called “The Good Things in Life,” and it currently has 1,791 items on it.

The entire list fills about a notebook and a half.

My entries on the list are simple and short – usually just a word or phrase, and no item is longer than two lines on lined paper.

I used to call the list “Natural Highs.”

The Simple Little Thing You Can Do to Be Happier in 2016

How I started writing my own list of natural highs

In 1990, a genius published a little book called 14,000 Things to Be Happy About.

The genius’s name is Barbara Kipfer, and I sincerely hope that she is a multimillionaire right now.

Turns out, that little black and white book sold over a million copies in 1990, and become one of the best selling books of that year. Its sales tied with What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It was a really big deal.

I remember paging through a hard copy of that book at my local bookstore, and thinking that some of the items on the list didn’t particularly resonate with me — but I thought the concept was spectacular.

So later that year (1990), I started my own list. I was a sophomore in high school.

And for 25 years, I have been adding to that list. I used to add to it every few days, and then as I graduated from high school and went to Penn State, it was more like a few times a week, or a couple of times a month.

The list went on, line by line.

The list follows me into adulthood

When I become a busy mom and entrepreneur, the list would often sit for months (or even years) at a time.

But every once in a while, I would think of the notebooks – usually because I wanted to add something to the list – and I’d get the latest book out, dust it off, and start writing more items.

Because adding to this list is like Lay’s Potato Chips – you can’t stop at just one.

Once I start thinking of little things that make me happy, I just want to keep going – because the practice of writing these items gives me a little jolt of joy.

And over the years, the list has grown and grown and grown. When I filled one notebook, right around 2005, I started a new one. I figure at this rate, by the time I reach old age and die, I might have the privilege of filling four or five notebooks with my own little snippets of gratitude and joy.

That’s not a bad legacy, if you ask me.

I like the idea of my family finding these little bits of me after I pass on, like maybe it would make them smile and say, “Yep, that sounds about right.” Because there’s not a single word in this notebook that isn’t right from my heart. Every line was added in my handwriting, in pencil, on notebook paper. Line by line and year by year, it gives an accounting of my entire adult life.

This list is a journal. It’s a practice. It’s a balm.

And when I read and add to this list, I feel better.

I think about how awesome my life really is – and how incredible it has been for many, many years.

No, my life is not perfect. But how could I possibly be unhappy when I have compiled nearly 2,000 things that have made me happy over the last 25 years?

Get Your Free Case Study: How One Blogger Added 600 New Subscribers to Her List >>

 

Here’s what is important for you, as a business owner

I’ve heard “Happiness Experts” say one of the best things you can do to become a happier person is cultivate gratitude. Apparently keeping a gratitude journal next to your bed, and writing down 5 things you were grateful for (every day) is a really good way to become a significantly happier person.

I think that is awesome. But I am, well….let’s say….not quite that disciplined. So I have my notebooks, instead. And I write down things that make me happy — whether it’s something big (sometime during the year 2003, I wrote down “My toddler learning to talk”) or tiny (“Oprah Magazine” and “Gilmore Girls”) or ridiculous (“the pen I accidentally stole from Lori” and “bendy straws”).

Some of the items from the first notebook are so old I don’t remember what they are, or what the heck I was thinking when I wrote them. Case in point: What does “MALCOLM” mean? Who is Malcolm, and why did I write his name in all caps?

But it doesn’t actually matter if I remember all of them. I remember most of them. And even if half of these items fall out of memory by the time I turn 85, I will still cherish this list. I will have notebooks full of things I appreciated and loved. Things I loved enough to actually WRITE THEM DOWN. On paper. And for a writer, that’s really the greatest compliment of all – right?

I say, “If you love it, write it down.”

A gratitude practice – whatever practice works for you – can make a huge difference in your happiness level. That means you’ll feel happier and more satisfied in your personal AND professional lives.

We’re at the start of a new year, so I’d like to humbly recommend that you start your own “Good Things in Life” list. Buy a fun notebook, and start writing on page one. Make your list easy to find and fun to add to. Write your own “Good Things” down for 6 months, and see how you feel.

My bet is that you’re going to feel better about your life, no matter what problems and troubles you’re dealing with. Your business and your mental health level will probably improve tremendously.

In case of fire, make a beeline for your list

My list is now so old that I can actually see how radically different my handwriting was, 25 years ago. The list is so old that the pages in the first notebook are starting to yellow a little bit in the corners.

But if my house caught on fire today, these two notebooks are two of the first things I would grab.

Because everyone needs to know what makes them happy — and I currently have 1,791 things that do just that.

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How Long Should My Blog Posts Be?

When I speak to large groups about blogging, someone in the audience inevitably asks:

“How long do my blog posts have to be?”

The answer to this question is complicated – just like the answer to the previous blogging FAQ, “How Often Should I Publish Posts on My Blog?

How Long Should Your Blog Posts Be?

Different popular bloggers have used a number of different post-length strategies on their sites.

On one hand, blogger and author Seth Godin writes short, pithy and concise blog posts on his site. Mr. Godin usually publishes every day, but his posts are typically only 100-200 words long.

On the other hand, Tim Ferriss is known for writing epically blog posts (some are 5000+ words).

Both of these bloggers have developed gigantic audiences over the past few years.

So the answer to this question might see complicated. But I do have a strong opinion about this topic, based on behaviors I’ve seen online and what I’ve read about the kinds of content that search engines prefer.

And I’ll warn you – you may not like the answer I’m about to give. But I urge you to keep an open mind, and I’ll do my best to convince you I’m right. :)

3 Reasons You Should Write Long-Form Content

Here’s the truth:

If you want more traffic, comments, social shares and email subscribers, you should create long-form blog post content.

I recommend that bloggers in every niche write blog posts that are at least 1,500 words long — and preferably longer.

Let’s talk about the reasons why you should create longer content.

1. Writing longer posts gives you more opportunities to cover a topic properly, and in detail.

When you write long content (1,500 words+), you have more room to dive into the topic and cover it in depth. It’s difficult to try do a topic justice if you only use 400 words to cover it.

So if you write a tutorial blog post, write a step-by-step, detailed tutorial that explains EXACTLY how to do a certain process. Included exact directions and screenshots, and don’t skip steps.

If you’re writing an opinion piece, explain exactly why you hold the opinion you do. Make people understand why you feel that way, and convince your reader about why they should agree with you.

2. Long-form content attracts more traffic and more comments. If getting traffic to your site is what you want (and let’s face it – we all want that!) then writing long blog posts can definitely help.

You’re also considerably more likely to attract comments for your blog posts if you write longer posts.

3. Google prefers longer posts, so you’ll also get ranked higher in the search engines with long-form content.

The way Google sees it, long content is more relevant because it’s more detailed. And what Google always looks for (and ranks better) is relevant content.

Google also ranks a piece of content higher when OTHER sites link to it. More sites are going to link to your blog post if you cover the topic in-depth and do a bang-up job of covering it detail.

4. Connecting with your reader is usually easier to do in a longer post.

One of the most important things you need to do in a blog post is emotionally connect with your reader.

If you’re only publishing 400-500 word blog posts, you don’t have the time or opportunity to truly connect with your visitors. You don’t have room to write a thought-provoking intro or include stories that evoke strong emotions.

Writing longer posts gives you the opportunity to pull on your readers’ heartstrings or help them see the universal themes in your piece — and readers who connect with your content are more likely to know, like and trust you.

Picture it this way: Long content = more opportunities to connect.

Some Tips on Writing Long-Form Content

Pick the right topic. When you’re choosing a topic for your blog post, you must pick topics that are broad enough to enable you to write a long article. If you’ve written 300 words about your topic and you run out of things to say, it’s likely your subject matter is too narrow, concrete or simple. Complex and/or abstract topics make the best blog post subjects.

Don’t pad your posts with fluff. You should never add fluff to your post so you can reach a certain word count. Fluff will bore your audience and make them click away from your post.

Instead, write a top-quality post that is immensely useful and interesting to your audience. When you’re done explaining, teaching, giving your opinion in detail, stop writing.

Consider publishing less often. If you’re having trouble creating long-form blog articles because you publish posts on your blog three times a week, consider publishing less often.

As we discussed in my previous post, How Often Should I Publish on My Blog?, the quality of your blog posts matters more than the quantity. So don’t kill yourself trying to write 1,500-word pieces three times a week. Publish one outstanding, long-form post every week (or twice a month) instead.

Let’s Talk about the Elephant in the Room

Don't people prefer short blog posts?

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “Don’t people prefer shorter blog posts?”

On my last webinar, one of my students asked me, “Readers claim they prefer shorter, pithier content. How do you integrate that fact that with your “long form” recommendation?”

She makes a good point. If you ask a typical reader, they will likely tell you they prefer short content they can scan quickly and read in minutes.

But here’s the deal – that’s not the way it works in real life.

Readers like content that answers their questions and solves problems, and that content (most often) is long. Long-form content also gets linked to most often, gets more social shares, and attracts more comments, as we’ve discussed above.

Readers may say they like short content, but their behavior says otherwise.

I’m not saying that people lie — but they may not be fully aware of the length of the content they like, read, share and comment on.

Think about it – when someone you know links to a post on social media, and says, “Read this, it’s awesome,” are you really going to click over to the post and calculate how long the post is before you read it? I know I don’t do that!

When we’re surfing the Internet, we like what we like. It’s pretty unlikely we’re going to read a post and then say, “I didn’t like that because it was too long.” We like what we like, and we share (and link to) that content.

So don’t worry so much about what people say they like. Pay more attention to what’s actually popular online, and what gets a lot of social media shares and comments. Chances are, the popular stuff is long-form content.

Finding the answer that is right for your audience

I could preach the benefits of long-form content all day, but the truth is – you actually need to find out what works best for your audience.

You need to test not only different blog posts lengths, but different types of content (including list posts, interviews, short essays and long form content) to see what your audience prefers.

You have some easy-to-find statistics to help you assess what types of posts your audience likes. To decide how popular a particular post is, look at:

  • Your Google analytics data (how many visits does a particular post get?)
  • How many social shares a post gets
  • How many comments a post gets

To run a test properly, you need to test out several long posts, several short posts, etc. — you’ve got to have a decent-sized sample to get meaningful results.

The topic of your posts also matters, so plan on looking at trends over a 6-12 months period before you make a decision about the length and type of content your audience prefers.

And here’s the key – don’t ask your audience which they prefer (in a survey, or on social media) because people are ALWAYS going to tell you they prefer short posts. Look at their actual behavior using objective data, instead – it’s considerably more reliable!

Creating Your Own Long-Form Content

For some of you, writing long-form content might be difficult, especially if you’re new to it or writing doesn’t come naturally to you. If you help, get a friend, family member or professional editor to help you craft long-form content when you’re getting started.

If you need a little extra help, you can download my writing log tracking templates, which help you learn to write faster by tracking your progress.

So give long-form content a try. I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Remember: The search engines will appreciate longer posts, and so will your audience – whether they want to admit it, or not. :)

Why I Deleted 2,354 Names From My Email List (and How I Lived to Tell About It)

On July 23rd of this year, I deleted over 2,000 names from my email list.

It wasn’t an accident. I didn’t get hacked, and it wasn’t a glitch. I did it intentionally.

Why would I do such an insane thing, you ask?

I deleted those contacts because I made a conscious choice to get rid of subscribers who were no longer engaging with my emails, attending my webinars, or buying my products.

ListCleanUpBadge

How My Accountability Partner Convinced Me to Clean Up My List

Warren Talbot (of MarriedwithLuggage.com) is my accountability partner, and he happily kicks my butt every two weeks. He motivates, he cheers, he pushes, he cajoles.

And when we started working together in January of this year, Warren almost immediately asked me when I was going to perform a clean up process on my list of over 6,000 subscribers.

I’ll admit it – I resisted. I whined, I made excuses, and I avoided the question every time he brought it up. I have been in business for 8 years, and I had never cleaned up my list before.

But to Warren’s credit, he kept nudging me to do it anyway.

Eventually, I decided to do it, despite my reservations. I wanted to stop avoiding the issue and pretending it was going to go away.

Why You Should Consider Cleaning Up Your Email List

There are a lot of reasons you might want to do a bit of list maintenance (also called list hygiene or list clean up).

If you’ve been building your list for a while (a year or more) you probably have some subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked on an email from you in months.

It’s possible some of these folks are sending your marketing emails directly into a filtered folder in Gmail or Outlook, or they might be deleting your emails without opening or reading them at all.

Naomi Dunford and Dave Navarro of Ittybiz.com call this phenomenon “list bloat” and there are a lot of good reasons to try to get rid of it. Read this article by Naomi and Dave if you’d like to see their take on why you should do list maintenance on a regular basis. It’s a great read.

Here are a few reasons you may want to consider cleaning up your list:

1. Inactive subscribers might be costing you money. A lot of popular email service providers (like Constant Contact and AWeber) charge you more when your list exceeds a certain amount of subscribers. If you have people on your list who never open or read your emails, kicking them to the virtual curb may bring down the amount of money you need to give to your ESP each month.

2. List bloat is confusing and frustrating. At the beginning of July, I had over 6,000 people on my email list. Every time I would send out a promotion or a piece of new content, I would be completely flummoxed by the low response rate. I didn’t understand why my open rate hardly ever went past 20%, why hardly anyone clicked on the links in my emails, and why some of my product launches seemed to absolutely flop.

The monologue in my head went something like this:

“If I have 6,000 subscribers, WHY IS NO ONE BUYING??”

By getting rid of inactive subscribers and people who are probably never going to buy from me, I can get a significantly more realistic picture of which subscribers are active members of my community. This also gives me a better idea of who is actually likely to purchase my products and services.

3. Getting rid of “dead weight” subscribers can lower the amount of negative feedback you get. When you’re sending emails only to people who are truly engaged members of your community, the likelihood that someone is going to label your email as spam is significantly lower.

You will also get fewer complaints via email from subscribers who don’t like your emails or want to complain when you send relevant offers. In short – fewer complainers means less energy spent on negative people.

How I Cleaned Up My List, and Why I’m Glad I Did

So after many months of Warren’s nagging gentle nudging, I was finally ready to make the leap and do some long-overdue list reduction.

I use Infusionsoft as my email service provider and my shopping cart, so it was relatively easy to take these steps using their built-in tools. If you use a different ESP, you may need to figure out the simplest way to accomplish these tasks. Check with your ESP’s tech support team for more information.

Get Your Free Case Study: How One Blogger Added 600 New Subscribers to Her List >>

STEP ONE: Get rid of all bad addresses and people who have unsubscribed.

Here are the steps I took to do that with my list:

I ran a report to see all of my “hard bounces,” and deleted all of those subscribers. “Hard bounces” are addresses that have permanent problems. Either the address is no longer valid, or the recipient has blocked my emails, or the domain is bad. After I ran a report in Infusionsoft to find these bad addresses, I deleted all of these from my database.

Delete everyone who opted out of your list. If someone unsubscribed from my list or labeled my email as spam in their email client, I deleted them, too.

Some ESP’s will delete these unsubscribers automatically, so you may not need to do this. Infusionsoft keeps these people in my database and requires me to delete them manually, so that’s what I did in this step.

STEP TWO: Find the people who are actively engaging with my marketing messages.

Now you need to run a few reports to find the people who recently engaged with your messages in some way. I ran reports in Infusionsoft to find everyone who did one of the following in the past six months:

  • Opened an email from me
  • Clicked on a link in one of my emails
  • Purchased a product or coaching package from me
  • Signed up for my list in the last six months using one of my opt-in forms (signed up for a free report, webinar, etc)

All of the people who fit one of the criteria above got tagged as “Engaged” in my email service provider. Infusionsoft’s tagging function made it easy to label these people in bulk — again, check with your ESP about ways to do this with your list.

STEP THREE: Write to everyone else and ask them if they would like to stay on my list.

Once you have deleted all the permanently bad addresses, and labeled all the people are already engaged with you, you have a sub-list of people who are left who don’t fit any of the above criteria. Let’s call those folks the “Leftovers,” for lack of a better term. Now it’s time to get the slightly more painful part. You can either:

    1. Delete all the leftovers right now, or
    2. Take one extra step to write to all the “Leftovers” and ask them if they’d like to stay on your list.

I decided to go with option 2. This is the email I sent to my “Leftovers” group”:

“Hi there!

I’m doing a bit of semi-annual list maintenance, and I’m writing to you to see if you’d like to stay on my list.

Here’s how this works:

1. If you want to be DROPPED from my list, you don’t need to do anything at all. In two days, you’ll be deleted from my database and you’ll never hear from me (via email) again.

2. If you’d like to STAY on my list, all you need to do is click on this link, then click on the green button on that page and fill out a little itty bitty form. If you do that in the next two days, you’ll stay on my list and continue to get my great content, offers for free webinars, and notifications about my upcoming courses.

Here’s the link to stay on this list, one more time.

Questions about this process? Just hit “reply” to this email and let me know what’s going on, and I’ll get back to you right away.

Thanks so much! Cheers, Beth”

In this email, I invited people to stay on the list by clicking over to a landing page and signing up to stay on my list. This is a screenshot of my “Stay on My List” landing page:

StayontheList

I sent this email to my “Leftovers” list (which included about 2,400 people), and about 100 of those people decided to stay on my list by entering their email addresses on this landing page.

That number is pretty low. I’ll admit, I was disappointed. But I’m trying not to take it personally.

I try to remember that I unsubscribe from MANY email lists – I feel like I unsubscribe from at least one newsletter every day – and it doesn’t mean I don’t like the newsletter author, or that I don’t respect what they are doing. I am simply buried in email, just like everyone else.

STEP FOUR: Delete all of the “Leftovers” people who didn’t specifically say they wanted to stay on my list.

After I sent the email above, sending people to my “Stay on My List” landing page, I waited two days, then deleted everyone who hadn’t indicated they wanted to stay a subscriber. That means on list clean-up day, I deleted 2,354 of my subscribers.

Why Deleting Subscribers Is Incredibly Difficult

And I’ll be honest with you – deleting those subscribers from my Infusionsoft database was ROUGH.

To me, the numbers of my email list are a big indicator of how well my business is doing. So the idea that I would voluntarily cut my list from 6,000 down to 4,000, in one fell swoop? I thought it was a little nuts.

I understood the logic, but I still thought it was crazy. But I did it. I deleted those subscribers.

For about 30 minutes after I hit the “delete” key, I felt like I had made a huge mistake. What if I deleted someone who actually wanted to be on my list? What if I lost business? All kinds of worst-case-scenario questions ran through my head.

Then, after about 30 minutes of feeling panicky, I felt a sense of calm come over me. I had a really important revelation: I didn’t delete active subscribers. I deleted people who didn’t open or click on my emails, and were probably NEVER going to buy from me.

The Massive Upside of Cleaning Up Your List

Now that I’ve cleaned up my list and gotten past the negative baggage about it, I actually feel great about the whole process.

I’ve accepted my new subscriber number as my current reality, and it feels just fine.

My open rate has increased, and my unsubscribe rate has gone down. And that feels pretty great.

These days, I don’t think about the fact that I deleted a bunch of subscribers. I just try to take great care of the ones I kept – the active, engaged members of my community.

I try to send my subscribers quality content and relevant offers on a regular basis, and try to build the best possible relationship with every member of my list.

If you’re considering cleaning up your list — and getting rid of your own “list bloat” — I highly encourage you to do it.

It’s a great move for your business, and you’ll feel better about the subscribers that stick around. And that’s the best outcome at all.


Want to know how to get more subscribers to your list? Read this interview with blogger and writer Lacy Boggs, who added 600 new subscribers to her list just by taking ONE brave step!

Click Here to Get Lacy’s Story Instantly! >>>

How Often Should I Publish Posts on My Blog?

One of the most common questions people ask me during speaking engagements and webinars is:

How often do I have to publish blog posts on my site?”

There is often a hidden question within this query, though.

Sometimes I get the feeling people are really asking, “What is the absolute bare minimum I need to do, to create a successful blog?”

That is a slightly tougher question, of course, and one that requires me to ask a lot of follow-up questions about the person’s target audience, their niche, how much time they have to dedicate to marketing, etc. etc..

And just to be clear – there are no “right” answers here. There’s a huge spectrum of what constitutes “right,” “good,” or “ideal” when it comes to blogging.

But as a beginning blogger, or someone who has been blogging for a little while, you still need a number. You want a number to use as a guideline.

So in that spirit, I’ll do my best to answer the question.

How Often Should I Really Be Publishing on My Blog?

I Used to Tell People to Publish a Lot

Six years ago, when I first started coaching people who wanted to create popular blogs, I would give them a really clear, simple answer to this question.

My answer was, “You should blog at least 3 times a week – or more, if you can.”

Back when blogging first become popular, publishing often was a good way of attracting traffic. One of the ways to get the search engines to notice and rank you was to publish a ton of content (even if some of that content wasn’t very high quality).

I told those bloggers – publish a lot on your blog, even if the posts are short.

Fast forward a few years. Around 2010, it was starting to get harder to attract traffic as a beginning blogger.

It was still important to publish content on a regular basis, but publishing 3 or 4 times a week wasn’t the magic bullet it used to be.

So around 2010, I started telling people, “Publish as much as you can without killing yourself. If that’s twice a week, great. If that’s once a month, that’s fine, too.”

My Current Answer to This Big Blogging Question

Today, when people ask me this question, I give a very different answer.

Now I say:

“You should focus on quality, not quantity. Publishing one truly amazing post once a month will get you far better results than publishing crappy posts every day.”

In pretty much every niche, across all industries, what readers really want is high-quality content that answers their questions, teaches them something, or entertains them.

So before you sit down to write a post, I want you to give some thought into coming up with a top-notch idea for a post. Ask yourself:

  • Is this post going to teach my readers something they didn’t know before?
  • Is this an original idea (even if it’s simply a new spin on an old idea)?
  • Is this idea compelling and interesting for my ideal reader?

If it’s not, take some time and brainstorm some new ideas, until you come up with one that is truly high quality.

And don’t publish a post just because you feel like you’re “supposed” to publish something on a particular day. It’s better to publish a post a little bit late (and make it great) than create a low-quality post that you’re rushing to publish.

Taking the attitude of “I was supposed to put up a post today, so I just slapped something together” is a good way to get yourself exiled into Google purgatory.

Always Focus on Quality Over Quantity

Here’s my best advice: Write really good blog posts.

If you publish a great post once a week, that’s great. If you only publish a high-quality post once a month, that’s okay, too.

When you focus on the quality of your quality of your content, the following things will happen:

  • Your search engine rankings will rise
  • You’ll be more likely to rank for the terms you really want to rank for
  • Your readers and subscribers will appreciate your content far more
  • More of your readers will share your content on social media and comment on your posts

That’s my best answer to this difficult blogging question. Next up, I’ll tackle another difficult online marketing query:

How long should my blog posts be?”

For now, I want you to go out there and write the best possible content you can — even if that means giving up your regular three-times-a-week publishing schedule.

I give you permission to focus on creating amazing, attention-getting, praise-worthy content, and to create that content on whatever schedule works for you.

Do that, and everyone wins.

Halfway to My Goal! A Writing Experiment Update

This post is to give you a little update on my August writing experiment, and let you know what lessons I’ve learned so far.

Backstory: For those who are just tuning in, I set a goal to write 30,000 words during the month of August, and I’ve been updating my community as I pursue my goal.

Here’s the update, according to the numbers from today (August 21st, 2015):

  • So far this month, I’ve written 23,072 words.
  • I’ve spent a little under 15 hours writing those words.
  • My average writing speed is 1550 words per hour.

I feel pretty pleased with my progress, and I’m delighted to say that I haven’t missed a single day of writing this month.

I’ve written approximately 1,000 words a day for 21 days straight, and I have no plans to quit any time soon. I feel pretty confident I’ll be able to hit my goal of 30,000 words.

Halfway to the Goal! A Writing Experiment Update

Here’s what I’ve noticed during the first half of this experiment:

1. I definitely write significantly better (and have more fun writing) when I don’t procrastinate. If I wait until 11:00 PM to get my writing done (especially if completing the writing is the only thing standing between me and getting some sleep), it’s certainly not much fun to open my computer and try to crank out a thousand words.

I’ve noticed the quality of the writing suffers when I write late at night, too — probably because I’m just pounding out words in order to get to the goal.

If I write earlier in the day when I’m more energized and inspired, it’s a heck of a lot more fun to write, and I create better quality pieces.

2. I’ve decided it’s okay to occasionally write for fun, instead of always creating blog posts, content for my classes, or writing assignments.

A few days ago, I wrote for 20 minutes on the topic of “Snow,” and I had a great time with it. The essay I ended up writing certainly isn’t literature, and it’s not usable as a blog post, but there are a couple of good lines in it.

I’ve decided to let myself have a few lighter, creative breaks during this month — especially when I’m not in the mood to write and have to give myself a little extra push to start typing.

3. I’m getting faster. I have noticed that the “Words Per Hour” number on my writing log spreadsheet is increasing each day, so I believe all this practice is paying off!

4. I like to write, but during this challenge, sometimes I just have to force myself to get the words done. I made a deal with myself that I would write every day this month – and I am honoring that – but it’s not always fun.There are days when I wish I could do something else with that writing time.

We’re at the tail end of summer break for my kiddo, and there are times when I feel like my work time is at a real premium. Sometimes it feels a little wasteful to use my working time to write one more blog post, when I’ve already got six others in the hopper that need to be edited and published on the site.

5. Which brings me to my next point: I’ve discovered that editing, polishing and publishing a blog post takes a long time. I never realized how much time I spend tweaking and publishing my posts. It’s taking me a long time to go through that whole process for the posts I’ve written during this challenge. Right now, I have a backlog of posts I’ve written this month that need to be edited and published, so I need to build time into my work schedule to do that.

6. Writing every day is incredibly satisfying. I feel like I really accomplish something every day. If I add 1,000 words (or more!) to my writing log each night, I feel satisfied. I love seeing my total number of words creep closer to 30,000, day by day. Even if I don’t do anything with the rest of my day other than put out fires or battle my email inbox, I know at least I’ve completed my words. And that’s pretty great.

Need a Writing Guide? Try the Free Write Fling

A few of you have asked whether I will be doing a 30-day writing challenge for my audience at some point. I’m considering it, but in the meantime, I want to give you a fantastic resource if you’d like to jump into guided writing practice.

Cynthia Morris, a creativity and writing coach, runs a program called the Free Write Fling several times a year, and it’s wonderful. The goal is for everyone in the program to write a little bit every day, and Cynthia sends you daily writing reminders and encouragement during the month of the program.

Cynthia’s next Free Write Fling is happening in October, and you can find out more here.

Want to know what I think so far?

Look for a post from me at the end of this month to wrap up the experiment and give you my final conclusions. But right now, at the midpoint in my experiment, I can say this:

Writing every day is tough. It is satisfying. And it is worth it.

6 Valuable Lessons from Writing a Controversial Blog Post

In early June, I wrote a blog post voicing a strong (and somewhat controversial) opinion about Facebook Pages. The post was called Please, Please Don’t Ask Me to Like Your Facebook Page, and it was probably the most opinionated piece I’ve ever published.

I published it because I wanted to teach you, my faithful reader, that one commonly-accepted way to accrue more Facebook fans might actually backfire on you and cause more harm than good.

I used the post to give you some alternative suggestions for getting more Likes on your Facebook page.

I also had another (smaller) motive. Since I had never written a controversial post before – not on my own site, and not on any of the other industry sites I write for — I was curious to see what would happen if I wrote a mildly inflammatory post.

I wondered how much traffic it might attract, whether the post would get shared, and if I would get angry comments from people who disagreed with me.

6 Lessons from Writing a Controversial Post

I didn’t write the post specifically to experiment, and I didn’t manufacture an opinion on Facebook pages just to write the piece. I simply picked a strong opinion I already had, wrote a useful post about it, then kept a careful eye on the results.

Here’s what I learned from my editorial experiment:

1. I did get some negative comments, and I lived through it.

Out of 24 comments on the post, 2 were critical. I was called angry, petty and mean-spirited. I have to admit, that stung a little.

It helped me to think about the fact that the angry commenters were peeved about the opinion I voiced — not necessarily at me personally. I tried not to feel too hurt by it, particularly because these comments weren’t left by people I personally know.

I’ve also heard from other online marketing experts that it’s actually good when people start to criticize you and your opinions, because it means you’ve reached a certain critical mass with your content. Once you grow to a certain point, they say, some criticism is inevitable.

The good news is that the other 22 comments were all supportive. Those commenters agreed with me, thanked me for bringing up the issue, and said they thought the highly critical comments I received were unreasonable. I

Interestingly, a number of commenters said they had always wondered if that method of asking for Facebook fans was a good idea, and they thanked me for addressing the issue so directly.

Lesson learned: The negative comments hurt a little, but I recovered (with the help of the positive commenters and the rest of my audience) and will live to blog another day!

2. Traffic SOARED on the day I published the controversial post.

I attracted three times more traffic on the day I published this Facebook post than ANY OTHER DAY IN 2015.

That means you can take the top traffic day on my blog for all of the previous days in 2015, then TRIPLE that number, and that’s the traffic I received on the day I published this post.

Lesson learned: Whether we want to admit it or not, controversy sells. You will likely get more traffic if you are willing to express a strong opinion and publish it.

Yes, this is a strategy that can get old quickly. I’m not recommending you publish controversial posts just for the traffic, or that every one of your posts needs to be a rabble-rouser.

But if you’ve got a post you’ve been considering publishing, and you’ve been holding back because you’re afraid of offending people, you may want to take a chance and put it out there.

3. Social media shares also increased for the controversial post.

The Facebook post has been shared over 100 times, which is higher than normal for a post published on my own site.

It’s tough to say whether people shared the post because they agreed with my post, or because they were annoyed by it. Either way, they shared it – so that’s good news for my traffic stats.

Lesson learned: People are more than willing to share controversial posts on social media, so it’s likely you will see more shares when you write a strong opinion piece.

4. Headlines matter.

I didn’t add a truly inflammation headline to this post. I could’ve called the piece, “The #1 Way to Annoy the Crap Out of Your Facebook Friends,” or something similar.

A headline like that would potentially whip people into a frenzy, but I downplayed it a bit and chose a slightly mellower headline. That may have hurt by traffic, but that’s okay. It was a trade off for me.

Lesson learned: You have to decide whether you want to use an inflammatory headline or not. I was willing to try this post without it, to see what kind of results I could get.

Who knows? I might re-publish this post in a couple of years with a different headline, and see if the results are any different.

5. My opt-out rate for that post was no higher than normal.

I send all of my blog posts out to my email list. I use a little teaser emails, which hints at the content of the post and includes a link back to my site.

One of my biggest fears about publishing a controversial post was that I was going to lose a lost of my subscribers.

My list is large enough that I always get some folks who unsubscribe (every time I send out a post). That’s true whether I’m sending out something that is heavily promotional, or if I’m sending new content.

The good news about this controversial post is that my unsubscribe rate was no higher than any of the previous four times I had sent out a newsletter or a new blog post. My fears of a massive exodus from my list were largely unfounded.

Lesson learned: Even I write a controversial post that causes some heated discussion in the comments, I’m not likely to lose a ton of subscribers. This may not be true for EVERY topic, but it was for this Facebook post.

6. Get a friend, colleague or editor to read the post before you publish it.

In the future, when I’m considering publishing something that might be a bit contentious, I will plan on having a friend or colleague read the piece before I hit “publish”.

I wrote and published my controversial post late at night, and sent the email to my list about the post the following morning (very early).

I didn’t have a second pair of eyes to read it and let me know if I had gone too far. In retrospective, that was pretty dumb. It’s always (ALWAYS) a good idea to have someone read your posts, just to make sure you’re coming across the way you intend, and not overdoing it. This is true with any post, but it’s even more crucial with a controversial post.

Leasson learned: If you’re thinking about writing something that’s going to raise some hackles, plan far enough in advance that you can have a friend, colleague, significant other or editor read it before you click that “Publish” button.

Was It Worth It To Write a Controversial Post?

In a nutshell – yes. A million times yes.

If you have a strong opinion and you’re wondering if it’s a good idea to take a chance and publish a controversial post, I think you should give it a shot and see what happens.

Again, I’m not saying you should manufacture controversy or publish something simply to make waves.

But in my (very limited) experience with taking a chance on publishing a post that might piss people off, I think it’s absolutely worth it. I got a HUGE traffic spike on the day I published the post, and that rush of visitors continued for the next 4-5 days. We also generated some fascinating discussion in the comments, and that discussion is now part of the permanent content on my post.

Got a post you’re considering writing? Maybe you’d like to express frustration about something, or you’d like to give your readers some advice that is outside the normal recommendations in your industry.

If you’ve got a controversial idea in mind for your blog, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

And next time I feel like mouthing of about something on the blog, I’ll let you know how it goes. :)

How a Writing Experiment Is Going to Help Me Take Over the World

For the month of August, I’m taking on a gigantic challenge.

This month, I am going to write 30,000 words.

That might sound a little bit insane to you. It does to me, too.

My mentor, Jon Morrow, is a big fan of intensive writing practice as a way to becoming a faster, more productive writer. He says writing every day will not only lead to better writing and massive content creation, it will actually help you come up with better ideas. Ideas for things like blog posts, podcasts, videos, products, and business ventures.

When I first heard Jon was challenging his students to write 1,000 words every single day – including all holidays and weekends – I thought to myself:

“If I could write 30,000 words every month, I could take over the world.”

How I'm Going to Write 30,000 Words This Month

What could you do with 30,000 words?

Imagine what you could do if you wrote 30,000 words every month.

Want to know what you could create with your 30,000 words? Let me give you some context:

  • My book was 37,000 words when I gave the first draft to my publisher in April 2012. Eventually it got whittled down a bit, to around 33,00 words, but I did actually write 37,000 words for the first draft.
  • Most of the posts I write for my own blog are approximately 1,000 words.
  • When I write posts for Copyblogger, those posts is around 1,500 words.
  • I create free reports and handouts to give away as email subscriber incentives, and each of those documents is 3,000+ words.

That means in one month, if I meet my goal of 30,000 words, I could:

  • Nearly complete another book, or
  • Write 20-30 blog posts, or
  • Create 10 additional incentives to give away on my site.

What Gets Measured, Gets Managed

If I’m going to meet my goal of 30,000 words this August, I have to keep track of exact how much I’m writing and how long it takes me to write every day. So I created a simple Excel spreadsheet to track my progress. Here’s what I’m tracking on this document:

  • How many words I’ve written daily
  • How long it took me to write those words
  • What I wrote during that time period
  • Running totals for the day and for the month
  • How many words I still need to write to reach my 30,000 word goal

Here’s what my spreadsheet looks like right now:

What It Looks Like to Write 30,000 Words in One Month

The rules for my grand writing adventure

Here are some things I’m doing to make sure I meet my goal:

  • I’m trying to write approximately 1,000 words every day. I will either write 1,000 words in one big session, or write my words during several smaller sessions during the day. But I have promised myself that I’m not going to sleep each night until I write 1,000 words.
  • I’m keeping a running list of possible blog post topics. I’ve created a document called, “Post Ideas”, and within that document I have separate columns for things like upcoming guest post opportunities, paid writing gigs (including my writing for Copyblogger), and blog post ideas for my own site. I’m doing this to insure I never run out of stuff to write. If I complete one post in the middle of a writing session, I just fire up a new Word document and start my next post.
  • I’m not counting editing time in my overall word count, unless I’m adding a large and substantial section to a piece I’m editing.
  • If I have to do substantial writing for an email campaign to send to my list – as I often do during webinars or product launches — I am counting those words.
  • I’ve promised myself that if I miss a day or fall short, I will make up for it on the one of the subsequent days.
  • I’m trying really hard not to take a day off, and write no matter what is going on professionally or personally. I don’t know if that will work, especially with my health limitations, but I will let you know in my follow-up posts.
  • I almost always listen to music when I write. It keeps me motivated and gives my brain something to do when I’m writing. Pop music works particularly well for me. It’s like letting myself have a cookie while I’m doing my homework.

Look for more updates as I write myself into a stupor ☺

Later this month, I’ll let you know how the experiment is progressing. Yes, I’m planning on including screenshots of my writing logs – it will keep me accountable!

At the end of this month, I’ll also give you a “lessons learned” post to wrap up the experiment. I’ll also let you know what how much (or little) I accomplished during my heavy-duty writing month, and whether I plan on continuing to write at that volume.

If I’m talking to myself, chewing on pencil erasers or not able to form full sentences by the end of the month, I’ll let you know. If it was a super-productive month and I can’t wait to keep going, I’ll tell you that, too.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your own writing practices. How do you stay motivated to write? Do you track how much you’re writing?

If you wrote 30,000 words, do you feel (like me) that you could take over the world?

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

How to Motivate Yourself To Do Just About Anything

I was talking to my friend Anne Samoilov the other day. She told me she’s trying to get a finish a webinar presentation, and asked me if I had any tips for getting it done quickly.

“When do you need to have it completed?” I asked.

“Pretty much…yesterday,” she said.

I told her I have a technique that really works well for me, but warned her that it might seem a little extreme.

How to Motivate Yourself to Do Just About AnythingShe seemed game, so I filled her in.

My best method to get things done – especially things that might be tedious, like webinar presentations, blog posts or other content creation – was to set an insane deadline, then make sure it’s too painful for me to do anything except meet that deadline.

If I’m creating a webinar, here’s how that process works for me:

  1. I think of an idea for a webinar.
  2. I create a title and some quick bullet points, then create a simple sign up page for the webinar.
  3. I start promoting the webinar and getting people to sign up for the event. I usually start promoting 5-6 days before a live webinar.
  4. I create the slides, show up for the webinar, and do the presentation.

This technique works astounding well for me, and here’s why:

  • I know I will never create a presentation (and the slides to go with it) if I don’t give myself a short timeline to do it. So I set a date and start promoting the event to my audience and my social networks, thereby holding my feet to the virtual fire.
  • Once people start signing up – once it is guaranteed there will be people who log in for the webinar who will expect me to show up and share my expertise – I have no choice put to create the presentation and prepare for the talk.

This technique has worked for me for guest blog posts, course creation, live speaking events, and all kinds of other huge projects.

I even used this technique to write my book (Pinfluence: The Complete Guide to Marketing Your Business with Pinterest) in just under six weeks. My publisher set that deadline back in 2012, when we were rushing to get the book out the door before any other publisher launched a book on Pinterest marketing.

I met the book deadline, even though it seemed insane at the time. Now I know it’s absolutely possible to do incredible things when I set outrageous goals and don’t give myself any time to screw around, procrastinate, give in to resistance, or give up.

One of my coaches, Pamela Slim, even commented on my ability to keep cranking away on my business, so matter what else was going on. “Beth, you SHIP stuff,” she said — which I took as a huge compliment.

Do I create perfect stuff every time I use this technique? Absolutely not. But as my mentor Jon Morrow says, “Awesomeness is an iterative process.”

I’m a big fan of creating something and getting it out the door, then making it a little bit better with each successive draft. I would rather do that than never create anything at all.

The time this technique crashed and burned

You might be wondering if this technique has ever backfired on me.

In short – yes.

Occasionally, setting insane deadlines and promoting unfinished content has led to the occasional rush job.

During one particular launch, I ended up having to pull an all-nighter to complete a sales page and meet the deadline I set for myself. That one was just poor planning on my part. I just flat-out did not leave myself enough time to complete the project.

I won’t lie to you. Pulling an all-nighter sucked. It’s a lot less fun at 40 years old than it was when I was a 20-year-old college student (and it was never that much fun, even then!)

But I’ve only had this technique bite me in the butt (in a major way) ONCE, in all the time I’ve been using this process. In almost all the other cases, I shipped content and products I never would’ve created otherwise.

One all-nighter for three years of productivity? I’ll take it.

How to try Beth’s “feet-to-the-fire” creation method

So if you’re struggling to create something and you really just need to get it done and shipped, here’s what I recommend:

  • Set a deadline that is far enough out to get the work done.
  • Subtract a few days from that original deadline (or more, if you’ve estimated really conservatively). If you’ve estimated it will take you a month to create a presentation, shave off a week. If you assume it’s going to take you a year to finish a book, set a deadline of eight months.
  • Publicize the product, webinar, presentation or launch you’re creating.
  • Once you’ve got your deadline, put your head down and get started. Work your butt off until the thing is done.
  • Take a rest break, then set another deadline and do it again.

Remember, you must make it PAINFUL for you to miss the deadline or not be prepared. If there’s no consequence, it won’t motivate you to finish.

If you’re hosting a webinar, create a sign-up page for the event and start getting people to sign up. If it’s a book, line up your editor and tell her to start charging you by the day if you miss your deadline.

If you need this approach, try it

Here’s the thing: If you’re a planner and you always leave yourself plenty of time to start and finish projects, you probably don’t need to try this technique.

If you’ve read this post, and any part of you is thinking, “I would never procrastinate on a big project, and I would never feel comfortable promoting something that isn’t finished yet,” this is probably isn’t the right technique for you.

But if you’re like me and you’d never get anything done without a deadline, try this technique to complete a project you’d really like to finish and get out the door.

Wondering which project to choose? If someone asks you about your timeline and asks you when you’d like to get a particular project done, and your answer is “yesterday,” that’s the right one.

So pick a project and give it a try.

You must just be amazed at the magic you can create when you set ridiculous goals – and meet them.