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Meet Pat Flynn from SmartPassiveIncome.com

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I’m so happy with how the “Meet the Bloggers” interview series has been going on the blog and I’m extremely excited about today’s interview with Pat Flynn. I first heard of Pat a couple years ago, but didn’t really start reading his blog and his podcasts until the past couple of months. Let me say I really like what Pat has been doing and his blog posts and podcasts provide some great content and motivation to do better in the process!

I look forward to when our schedules sync up and we get a chance to meet with each other at an upcoming conference. In the meantime, everyone will not get a chance to learn a bit more about Patt Flynn and his awesome stories of finding success online.

1.) Please tell us about yourself and how you got into blogging?

Pat Flynn of Smart Passive IncomeMy name is Pat Flynn and I actually started blogging when I was in college. It was on the Xanga platform and I blogged about what I was doing on a daily basis – typically where I went and what I ate, but that’s about it. It was nothing more than a personal online journal that I shared with family and friends.

After college, I landed a great job in the architecture industry and used a blog to keep track of notes for an exam that I was taking. This exam, the LEED exam (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), was a crazy test that required lots of memorization, and I knew that a blogging platform, such as WordPress, would be a great way to manage the content and organize it in a way that was easy to understand and convenient to study from. I added notes to the site and studied for over a year from the site, and shared it with a couple of co-workers too. After I passed the exam in March of 2008, I had no more use for the site so I just let it sit there.

Well, in the summer of that same year I learned that I was going to get laid off from my architectural position, which was a huge blow because everything I had been working for since high school sort of just flew out the window at that point. I did try to get another position in the field but nobody in the entire United States was hiring – it was that bad. That’s when I discovered podcasts.

It was a particular podcast where I listened to a success story of someone earning an income and making a living teaching others how to pass the PM (project management) exam, and that’s when I decided to give a go at online business and blogging professionally, using the LEED exam blog that I had created as my initial platform.

Well, to my surprise, after adding an analytical tool on the site, thousands of people were already visiting the site every day. Since there was a year and a half of content on there, Google ranked a lot of my content high in the search engines, I was found by several people who shared my sites on forums and other blogs – and I had no idea this was happening until now.

To make a long story short, I ended up publishing an eBook study guide and selling it on my blog. That particular eBook grossed about $200,000 in a years time, and I’ve since added new products to my product line.

It was at that point that I created The Smart Passive Income (SPI) Blog where I share my story and build new businesses, live on the site to inspire and teach others how to do the same. Currently, the SPI Blog has over 60,000 subscribers, a podcast with over 3 million downloads and a YouTube channel with nearly 2 million views.

Smart Passive Income Blog

2.) What is the focus of your blog and why did you choose that niche?

SPI has a focus on entrepreneurship, in particular how to succeed with an online business that you can be proud of by serving your audience and providing massive value to them, and getting paid in return. I’ve purposely done many things differently than other people in this “make money online” space, who traditionally use aggressive marketing tactics and exaggeration to sell things to people. I use myself as a guinea pig and test various business models, sharing the exact process from scratch so that people can learn from both my wins and my failures. My #1 priority is to build a true relationship with my audience and give away as much information as possible, for free, and in turn many people in my audience have become true fans who go out of their way to pay me back, typically by choosing to go through my affiliate links.

I also use the blog as the hub of my brand, which is so much more than a blog nowadays. The podcast is actually the #1 way that people discover my brand, but I always bring people back (whether through my podcast on iTunes or my videos on YouTube) to the blog because the blog is where all the action takes place – clicks, links, recommendations, etc.

3.) How are you currently monetizing your blog traffic?

For SPI, I currently only monetize through affiliate marketing. Again, I focus on the relationships I have with my audie

nce, as well as making sure the products I promote are products that I’ve used myself and am comfortable being connected with, because if I were to recommend a product and it doesn’t perform – sure they’ll dislike that product, but more importantly that trust with me is broken. I also go above and beyond to share as much information as I can about products that I promote that are owned and operated by other people. Clay Collins, founder of LeadBrite and creator of LeadPlayer, a video tool that I promote, told Andrew Warner in an interview that I create posts and videos that are better at explaining his products than his own tutorials. I strive for that each time I recommend something. I’m also the top affiliate for Glen Allsop’s Optin Skin plugin, which many of you perhaps use. That is thanks to the same strategies.

For GreenExamAcademy.com, my LEED exam blog, I primarily earn money through my own products, however I do have affiliate relationships with a practice exam company and make a decent amount of income from that relationship as well.

On SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com, a niche site that I created live on SPI, from scratch (you can find the posts at http://www.nichesiteduel.com), currently generated between $2500 and $3000 purely on Adsense at the moment, and nearly a hundred dollars through affiliate marketing as well as a Job Board on the site.

Security Guard Training HQ

4.) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started blogging?

I wish I knew two things:

1 – That VAs (virtual assistants) existed. I remember spending 8 hours trying to figure out how to move an image from the left side of the page, to the right. it was stupid. I could have easily paid someone to do that for me instead of wasting 8 hours of my time, but I didn’t know that VAs existed, let alone where to find them. Also, I was a little too prideful and tried to figure things out on my own. Now, whenever I have an issue with something or am having trouble figuring something out, I ask someone right away.

2 – How important it is to build an email list. When I launched my eBook at GreenExamAcademy.com, for months I didn’t collect email addresses, so when I came out with a new product (an audio guide) I totally missed out on the chance to sell directly to my previous customers. It was a shame.

5.) What are three blogs that you visit almost daily?

To be honest, I’m not reading too many blogs these days. SocialTriggers.com by Derek Halpern and ThinkTraffic.net by Corbett Barr are my top two, but I don’t visit them every day. I typically listen to podcasts because I can educate myself while doing other things, like running or driving somewhere.

6.) Can you give us three recommended tools/services that you use with your blogging?

1 – LeadPlayer – it’s my video player of choice right now. I love it because it allows me to include opt-in forms and/or a call to action right inside the video, and unlike many other players that now have that ability, LeadPlayer can serve YouTube videos on your site (i.e. free hosting for your videos) and still keep the same functions.

2 – Opt-In Skin – I don’t share this because I’m an affiliate for it. I’m an affiliate for it because it’s that good. I use it on my site (at the bottom of each of my posts, you can see it in action). It’s simple to implement as far as adding opt-in forms for your email list at any part of your site, and it gets results.

3 – Conduit.com. I use Conduit to create a nice looking mobile site for SPI, and it has the ability to build an apps for you (e.g. iPhone, Android and Windows applications) that people who visit your site on those mobile devices can download.

7.) What advice would you have for someone who is just starting with their first blog?

Two important pieces of advice:

1 – Build relationships with other people. Real relationships. Build friendships with other bloggers in your niche, because it’s other people who will help lift you up and help your blog grow. Also build real relationships with your readers, especially when you are just starting out. You should know and care for your first hundred readers, if you can. Email them, get to know them, because when you do that you’ll start to create your first true 100 fans who will become evangelists and super fans for life, and you never know the impact that one person can have on your blog.

2 – Keep going. You’re going to be excited at first, and then maybe a few months down the road, when you’re not seeing a lot of traffic and each blog post becomes a chore, you’re going to want to give up. This is natural. What separates those who succeed and those who do not are those who keep going – so keep going. Michael Hyatt from MichaelHyatt.com once said, “Most people quit right before the inflection point.” In other words, you never know what tomorrow will bring, especially as a blogger – so keep going.

8.) What’s the best advice or tip you’ve discovered about blogging since getting started?

If you want to succeed with your blog, don’t just blog. Put your brand onto multiple platforms (one at a time), such as iTunes for a podcast, or YouTube for videos. When you do that, you will reach people who you would have never reached otherwise, and you will become more authoritative at the same time. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, and yes, it’s going to take some balls, but again – these are the kinds of things that separate those who succeed and those who don’t. Those who are willing to take risks and get a little uncomfortable every once and while.

9.) If you only had $100 to start a new blog, how would you use it?

I’d find a person who was where I wanted to be, and treat them to dinner. That 2 hour conversation will be the best education you will ever get, from a person who is at the other end of the path you know you want to follow.

10.) How can readers of the blog get in touch with you?

You can find me at SmartPassiveIncome.com, as well as PatFlynn.me.

Here are my social media URLs too:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/patflynn

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/smartpassiveincome

Pat also recently published his first book, Let Go, which is hosted on a brand new platform for iOS called Snippet. Books on the Snippet platform include audio, video, stunning visuals as well as social media. If you’d like to read (and listen and watch) more about Pat’s story, you can check out his book Let Go at the following URL: http://patflynn.me/letgo

Thanks again Pat for taking the time to share your advice and story with the Blogging Tips community. If you would like to learn about other bloggers and how they are finding success online, be sure to read through our blogger interview series.

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Zac Johnson is a online marketer with 15 years of experience and also a blogger at ZacJohnson.com, as well as the founder of BloggingTips.com. You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Branding Your Blog: How to Make an Impact to Your Readers

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branding you blog

People often think of branding as an exclusively visual component of their website or blog.

And while choosing a logo and coming up with a creative tagline or design plays a crucial role in your branding strategy, there’s actually more to branding your blog than meets the eye.

Before we proceed, ask yourself these questions:

Have you ever stopped to think about what your target market actually thinks of your brand?

What do your published content, your tone on your social channels, and your overall image say about your brand?

You see, to create a holistic brand for your blog, you also need to consider the non-visual aspects of it as well.

Therefore, if you want to generate more traffic to your blog, you need to develop a brand that will attract and engage your target market.

Here are some tips on how you can make an impact on your readers through branding:

Bank on beautiful yet functional design

When it comes to making the right impression on your target audience, there are two blog design elements that you need to focus on – your logo and layout.

Having a logo is important because it doesn’t just symbolize your brand’s identity. It also invites people to get to know you.

Your logo is one of the first things that people see. So if you want your blog to stand out, you need to have a professional logo design that will capture your brand’s core principles.

Renderforest logo maker is one of my favorite tools because it quickly gets the job done without the tedious process.

When it comes to your blog’s layout, it’s not enough that you post kickass content on your blo., You also need to make sure that your blog’s design is optimized for conversion.

Here are three tips to help you create a lasting impression.

  • Use large, beautiful feature images to support your content – Using high-quality images is a great way to draw your readers’ attention to your blog. The current trend is to use large images that will compel readers to read your blog articles.
  • Highlight your best assets – If you’ve been blogging for a while now, you probably already have a couple of articles that perform better than the rest. Put your best content forward by showcasing them on your blog’s main page.
  • Improve your blog’s load speed and UX – Always check your website for lag. Remember, there’s no point in having a beautiful blog if it will take forever to load.

Deliver content that your audience craves for

blog reader

Your blog’s driving force will always be your content.

This is why, if you want to turn visitors into loyal readers, you need to continually create compelling content that will keep them coming back for more.

Your content should not only clearly represent your brand as a blogger, but also the values that your blog stands for.

When creating content that is tailor-fit to your target audience, make sure to choose your topics wisely. You want to give your audience information that they’re explicitly searching for.

As a freelance writer, I help create customized content for clients using an SEO tool like Serpstat. It helps me to research for low-hanging fruit keywords, scout the competition for opportunities, and more!

If you want to learn how I use Serpstat to implement my content marketing process, check out this review I wrote about the tool.

Interact and engage through comments

Another way that you can make an impact on your readers is to connect with them on a more personal level.

Something as simple as replying to blog comments can make a significant impact on your readers.

When you reply to your readers’ blog comments with insightful and helpful information, you’re not only inviting them to interact with you more, you’re also showing them that they matter.

Or you can reverse engineer the process by commenting on other blogs.

Take a cue from Ryan Biddulph, founder of Blogging from Paradise.

He goes out of his way to leave insightful comments on everyone’s blogs.

Due to his ubiquitous comments, readers can’t help but associate his blog with the quality comments he leaves. As a result, Blogging from Paradise is now one of the most popular and respected blogs around.

Ryan discusses his commenting strategy in his interview here. You can copy his tactic so you can help create a good image of yourself and your online brand.

Get busy on social media

woman giving feedback

Your interaction with people shouldn’t stop with your blog.

Take the discussion to a broader audience by getting busy on social media!

Your social channels like Facebook and Twitter are not just tools for getting your message out there. They can also be used to reach out to your audience and build your brand.

While there’s a lot of competition on social media platforms these days, you can set yourself apart by following these tips:

  • Develop your brand’s personality – Your target audience will be more likely to engage with you when they can relate to your brand’s personality. While developing your brand’s personality may take time, you can find your unique voice by considering your company culture, audience, and values.
  • Stick to your content strategy – Stay consistent by picking a few topics that are related to your specific niche. This way, your audience will easily associate you with the industry that you’re a part of.
  • Reach out to influencers – Influencers can help you reach out to a broader audience. Building relationships with key influencers in your niche will help you amplify your branding with minimal effort.

How about you – any tips you know that can help others with their blog’s branding? Comment below and share your insights!

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The Importance of Eye-Catching and Trendy Topics for Your Blog Content

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Today, there are more blogs on the internet than ever before and over 3 million blog posts gets published on the Internet every day. So, you have to develop a strategy to separate yourself from other blogs and show your audience that you’re worth remembering. Getting your blog noticed requires three essential elements: focusing on a niche and writing for a targeted audience, balancing evergreen topics with trends and ensuring shareability. As we see, it all starts with eye-catching and trendy topics. But why? Let’s explore.

Driving Traffic

What keeps a blog alive? It’s consistent flow of traffic – new as well as returning. Creating a perfect balance between evergreen topics and trendy topics is one of the best ways to have sustainable traffic. Ideally, your blog should have a perfect mixture of both trending and evergreen content. While evergreen content never expires, trendy content keeps it relevant. Eye-catching and trendy content proves that your blog is living “in the moment” and paying attention to what’s happening around. That’s why it’s always important to cover the space that’s trendy and interesting to your audience. One of the most significant ways to develop a loyal online following is being part of the conversation. Readers value fresh and trendy content. And they prefer frequent sites that feature constant updates about whatever matters most to each individual user. So Be There or Be Square!

Creating Value

Avinash Kaushik, the author of Web Analytics 2.0 and Web Analytics: An Hour a Day, once said “Content is anything that adds value to the reader’s life”. To rise above the noise, you need to provide incredible value to your readers consistently using your blog. Timely and relevant content is the best way for creating value for your audience. That’s why when it comes to capturing and holding attention, trending content always wins over other content. Trending topics get more traction as they’re relatively more valuable to the reader. Being useful and relevant is the only way to get readers to tune-in. They relate with your post, thank you and engage. When users are engaged, they will be your returning visitor, interact with your content and share it.

create viral content

Better Search Ranking

Creating fresh trendy content is much more fun than creating back-links but it has the same effect. Such content is more likely to get organic links and social shares as well. Always keep in mind that social networks represent a huge mass of people who stand behind the web page and the brand. So, increase “shareability” of your content with trendy and eye-catching topics. That’s how you outrank the competition when there are millions of people posting content daily. At its core, fresh content is content that is up-to-date, newsworthy and relevant to current events. When it comes to Query Deserves Freshness (QDF), Google tries to identify the topics and search requests where the user has a desire for new and current contents. Thus, when the spike in search volume occurs, Google prioritizes websites with high freshness score (fresh results) compared to websites with low freshness score (stale results). Celebrities’ death, affair, break up, new release etc. always create a massive amount of new articles around the topic. For example, Stan Lee died in 12 November, 2018. If we look at the Google trends data for that particular week – 12 November, 2018 to 18 November, 2018, we notice that Google marked the search term “Stan Lee” as “Breakout”. It means this particular search term grew by more than 5000%. Now let’s see how content publishers leveraged this spike in search volume. If you google “Stan Lee”, you should find lots of articles on the Google first page which were actually published on 12 November and the following week! These pages didn’t even exist before 12 November. They just outranked thousands of pages with their fresh contents.

Lowering bounce rate

One of the most common blogging obstacles is finding a way to hook and keep your audience engaged and lower bounce rate. Time sensitive content can be the answer. Trendy and fresh content is catchier than general truths or case studies. Time sensitive trendy content shows that you’re on top of the news and you’re ready and willing to write something that can be used immediately. So, do not hesitate to get going right away when you are working with eye-catching and trendy topics. By introducing an element of urgency, you can get your target audience to take notice. While working with trendy contents, don’t go for random trends. Identify the core target audience of the blog and create trendy content around that audience and your niche. Google loves niche content on websites. When someone clicks a result on the SERP, Google pays attention to how long they stay on that particular website or blog and there are no better signals than engaged users on a specific site.

Increasing shareability

Love it or hate it, social media is integral to how audiences discover, consume and engage with content. That’s why shareability of your content matters. But what makes a piece of content shareable in the first place? There are certain qualities that shareable pieces have in common. And undoubtedly, eye-catching and trendy topics is one of them. If more people share your content, it will increase your reach and the likelihood of others engaging with your content. Anytime a reader shares your content on social media, search engines count it as a “vote of confidence” in your brand.

Now you know the importance of eye-catching and trendy topics for your blogging. So, the next question is: how to find trendy topics? There are many ways to tap into trends, understand what your audience is searching for, and discover unexpected ways to reach new people. Let’s explore some very effective tools.

Google Trends

When one term in particular spikes in relation to other searches, Google classifies it as a trend. And Google suggests us to use Google Trends to find the trends. While traditional keyword research tools tend to be very one-dimensional, Google Trends shows you a multidimensional view of queries. If you want to check factors like seasonality, geographic location, and media coverage, Google Trends is second to none. It helps us to “Explore what the world is searching.” Google Trends enables us to compare search terms and see their popularity over time. Google has recently revamped the Trending searches option available within Google Trends. This revamped Trending searches section shows what is trending in search right now, both daily and minute-by-minute. If a trend is going up this means to focus energy on creating content for this trend.

Google Keyword Planner

Keyword research is the process of learning the words and phrases people typically use to search for information online. If you want to do keyword research to understand what people are actually searching for, Google offers a free keyword research tool: Google Keyword Planner. It’s a wonderful tool for the bloggers looking for topics to blog about. Google Keyword Planner enables you to stay on top of keyword trends and ensure content remains relevant. With Keyword Planner, you can find trendy topics for your blog that are relevant to your niche. Google’s Keyword Planner tool has very recently undergone a rigorous revamp. With this revamped planner, you can see beautiful chart illustrating the keyword volume trends for a certain period of time. The new mobile, location and trending data paired with these super-useful visualizations should help bloggers to find trendy topics for blogging. But keep in mind that Google Keyword Planner has been designed with Adwords advertisers in mind. So, it is quite natural that there are some features in the tool that might not be useful for the bloggers.

Ahrefs Content Explorer

When it comes to topic finding tools, there are a few that are as effective and efficient as Ahrefs Content Explorer. Content Explorer helps blogger find the most shared and ‘linked-to’ content. You can use publish date filter to figure out latest trends for a particular niche. You can also use any keyword into content explorer and it will generate a list of the most popular articles based on their “performance metrics”. There are different types of metrics including Social shares, Organic search traffic and Referring domains.

One final tip. Each type of blog has its particularities, rules, and trends. So, go with the trends but don’t forget your audience and you niche. Don’t forget why you do blogging or the reason that prompted you to initiate the blog. You might have a million trendy topics bouncing around your head, but stay focused on and loyal to your niche and choose the ones that your audience is waiting for.

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8 Brilliant Ideas to Improve Customer Service for Your Business

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The business world is booming across the globe and America is leading the way with 30 million registered small businesses in operation across the country.

Why is business so hot right now? Because the economy is on fire.

Consumer confidence is up, unemployment is down, and people are spending money. All of that means tremendous opportunity for business owners who are willing to throw their products and services into the fray.

Just because opportunity is out there though doesn’t mean that cashing in on it is easy. With all of the competition, it can be hard to attract and retain customers.

One of the best ways to cut through your market’s clutter is to have outstanding customer service. Therein lies the aim of this article.

We want to teach you how to improve customer service within your organization so you can boost consumer retention and create brand evangelists!

1. Don’t Aim for the Lowest Common Denominator

You may be surprised to hear this, but when it comes to how to improve customer service, for most organizations it’s not about building policies around offering outstanding consumer experiences. It’s about building policies around competition.

That’s a horrendous way to approach your customer service philosophy.

Having good customer service doesn’t mean offering the average of what everybody else is offering. It means taking the time to dig into the consumer experience and ask yourself what it is your customers want.

Once you have an answer to that question, even if the resulting directives put you ahead of what’s expected per industry standards, implement them.

Be a trailblazer when it comes to your customer service experience. Be consumer-centric. Don’t be a copycat.

2. People Want Their Issues Solved… Period

A lot of people mistake offering good customer service as being over the top. You hear stories all the time of companies sending people pizzas or giving them $1000 worth of products because they experienced a simple shipping snag with a product.

That’s not where your team’s head should be at.

Doing outlandish things for customers isn’t scalable and it isn’t what’s going to put your business on the map as one that’s noted for outstanding customer service.

What’s going to move the needle for you systematically is simply being able to solve people’s problems, fast.

Focus on what consumers need, not on what they don’t.

3. Get Customers In Front of a Person Immediately

There is nothing more frustrating than arguing with robots on the phone. Do not subject your customers to that experience.

Only have them interfacing with robots for the most necessary reasons and get them to an operator, ASAP.

4. Make Customer Service a Priority

Answering the question of how to improve customer service isn’t something that can be done by making it the keynote in a meeting, coming away with some bullet-point directives, and revisiting the issue in a year.

Good customer service takes being made a priority.

Remember, people are willing to pay more for products and services if they know they’re going to get good service.

Because of that, you don’t want to look at customer service attention as something that’s going to drain your resources. You’ll want to look at it as a financial investment!

5. Find Opportunity in Negative Feedback

If you’re annoyed whenever you see a 1-star review come in on Google, Facebook or Yelp, don’t be. There is a lot of opportunity that can come from bad reviews.

For starters, your bad reviews may reveal places where you can make improvements to your business. That insight is extremely valuable.

Second, when you respond to negative (and sometimes irate) reviews with professionalism and tact, you show onlookers that they can trust you.

That will translate into more level-headed customers taking the leap and doing business with you.

You can read more here about the opportunity that exists in angry customers.

6. Survey Customers

Feedback is essential to successfully navigating all of your “how to improve customer service” concerns. Don’t be afraid to ask people for it.

When a customer service call or chat is over, ask people if they’ll take a quick survey. After a call, send a follow-up email to customers asking for their feedback.

Whatever you can do to get people’s honest perspective on how your team is performing is well worth any time and investment it takes to get those features in place.

7. Have Self-Help Resources, but Don’t Make Contact Impossible

Having an FAQ document on your website is a great way to answer consumer’s simple questions without tying up your phone lines. They are not an excuse to not let people contact you though.

So many companies hide their contact information behind pages and pages of tutorials and FAQ’s when all customers want to do is speak to someone.

If your customers don’t want to read, don’t make them. Always give people the option to reach out to someone on your support team.

8. Never Tolerate Unprofessional Behavior From Your Team

We appreciate that irate customers can be difficult to deal with and that some of those customers may not be worth the money they bring to your company. Still, there is no reason for your customer support team to stoop to customer’s bad behavior.

If you’re noticing your staff firing back at rude customers in a way that is unprofessional, reprimand them. If the behavior continues, re-train them. If it persists, let them go.

As a business, you’re held to a higher standard than your customers. If you or your team doesn’t believe that, you have no business competing in today’s market.

Wrapping Up Ideas on How to Improve Customer Service for Your Business

We’ve just shared with you 8 outstanding ideas on how to improve customer service for your business. Our recommendation is to implement as many of our suggestions as possible as quickly as possible.

If you do, you’ll notice the benefits almost immediately.

For more of the best business advice you can find online, check our additional content on Blogging Tips!

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