Takeaways from Problogger Training Event 2012 – Day 1 #pbevent

Day 1 of Problogger  Training Event.  Melbourne. Etihad Stadium. There wasn't a football game but a crowd came. A crowd of bloggers. 300 Writers.  300 Self-publishers.  300 Innovative, creative thinkers.  And a Gaggle of Sensational speakers. These are my takeaways from the first day of this awesome event. Tips for Blogging at any level from beginner to established.  Tweetables, if you will.  

Please Note:  These are the main Takeaways that I noted from each session.  Yes I can type fast.  Yes, I may have missed the odd word here or there, so please bear that in mind!  All in all, I think I managed to capture the majority of the quotes fairly accurately, so please enjoy and use the stellar advice of these thought bloggers and thought leaders!  Other than the Keynotes, Problogger Training Event consisted of two streams, so I could only be in one place at one time, and these “takeaways” are but a snippet of the stellar content from each of the sessions I attended!  

From Darren Rowse's (@problogger) opening statement we were inspired not just to start small on our blog, but to start, period. His key message – from a small start, big things can grow.

  • We all feel little when we start blogging.  But small may be big enough. Don't let the overwhelming feeling of “starting” paralyze you. Look at other bloggers and look for inspiration in their blogs.
  • I have never met a blogger who had massive success at 3 months. It takes time, so don't give up at the 1 year break!
  • There are some advantages for being small – the server costs are less!
  • As a small blogger you have the ability to have a personal interaction with your readers.  Embrace it!
  • You don't need millions of readers to become a full time blogger. There are so many small to medium bloggers that are making a full time income if not a part time income.
  • What is your end goal to blogging? Ask yourself that. If you don't know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else. Having a goal gives you a way to filter the opportunities that come your way.
  • Aim to have a big impact on the readers that you ALREADY reach.  If you look after THAT small group of readers they will begin to naturally multiply. Engaged readers will buy your products more, and they are more likely to be raving fans.
  • Look for sparks.  The things that worked for me, the things that drew in the most readers, all started as a spark. Train yourself for these sparks of energy that you can fan into a little bit of fire and grow them.  What is a spark? They are the ideas or posts that give you energy.  They will be responded to differently by your readers. What categories give you more energy than other categories? Do those categories need to be rolled out into a blog of their own? Pay attention to what gives you energy and what gives your readers energy.

“Sparks go cold very quickly unless they are fanned into fame”.

  • You need to create content regularly. You need to take action regularly – it might be every 4-6 weeks or it might be daily.  It is the Action Takers who move forward. Ask yourself daily “What action can I take today to grow my blog?”  Spend 15 minutes a day on an activity that will help you to monetize your blog.

Shayne Tilley (@ShayneT) talked about ways to monetize your blog beyond advertising or affiliate sales, and why you should consider building your first product – now!  This session showed us how creating your own product can not only make you money but also transform your blog into a business of its own.

  • I guarantee that every single person has a product or service in them that others will value and treasure and pay money for.
  • How to find a product?  Look at the problems your readers have. Look at the solutions that will solve the problems of the reader.  Look at the features of the problem and solution. Identify the barriers to making the product. Look at the benefits of finding a solution to the reader.
  • Start with the post that announces the availability of the product.
  • Focus on the problem you are solving and the benefit to your readers.
  • When is the best time to offer a product or service?  It's right now.  I don't care if your business has 100 subscribers than 100,000. For every day you don't have a product to offer directly to your readers it is costing you money.
  • How much should I charge?  Look at market perception.  Look at ebooks. There will be a high and a low. Low might be free and the high might be $100. Sit within that range.  Look at the competition:  Look at the high and low pricing within your industry – work out where you fit. Look at the demographic – do they spend or are they a little ‘tight' with their money.
  • A Special Word on Ebooks – You are not selling the content, you are selling convenience. People can go to YouTube and do a random search or pay someone $50 for an ebook and have it all stepped out for them. A large part of what you are selling in an ebook is the organisation, as they can find the information anywhere on the internet!
    • Word count and page count is completely irrelevant – it is about the problem you are solving.
    • Should you give free ebooks?  If you do this you are setting a value on your ebook at zero – so when the person comes to buy another ebook from you, they don't want to buy it unless you want to overlay it with something else.  (If you are to provide something for free) a special report is better or just subscribing to your free weekly enewsletter.  It is easier to drop your price than to increase it.   

I don't know what I enjoyed more:  The brilliant advice from these 3 successful bloggers (Nikki, Mrs Woog, Eden) and their Agent (Lorraine) or the perfect mix of personalities (and friendship) showcased on stage making us laugh regularly throughout the session. These top bloggers (including the past two winners of the Best blog in Australia – Nikki and Eden) gave their 1st hand advice on working with brands and brutally honest opinions on setting rates, invoicing and valuing your worth.  Twitter:  @StylingYou, @Woogsworld, @Edenland, @TheRemarksGroup


Value Your Blog

  • Nikki:  If you don't value your blog how will anyone else value you?
  • Nikki: Your blog is your real estate and your readers help set your market value.
  • Rates are based on readership statistics as brands will ask for them.  The most important Stats are your Unique Visitors and Page Views (from Google Analytics).
  • Lorraine:  Brands want to know your reach.  Aim for at least 5,000 unique visitors per month to start working with brands.  If you only have 200 readers, it might not be the right time to do it.
  • Lorraine:  Engagement is important. The percentage of recurring visitors coming back per month and the amount of comments is something else that she tells her brands to check. If a blogger has 15-20+ comments on every post, you know they have good engagement.
  • Has the value you put on your blog changed?  Mrs Woog: I love my readers and if a company wants my readers eyeballing their brand through my blog then they will have to pay for it.  I am really passionate about bloggers not working for brands for free. I made the mistakes so don't do it.
  • Lorraine:  This year every brand got on board with all the (social media) platforms and now they realise they can't get the content or keep up with the content. The content machine is like a hungry car. Brands can't keep fuelling it with content. Brands will start to look to bloggers to create that content for them.

Working with PR Companies and Brands

PR agencies are contracted by brands to garner FREE editorial coverage.  They will send press releases and/or product or provide “experiences” and giveaways which you may or may not choose to write about.

  • Nikki:  Relationship building with the PR agencies is important but it's rare that it's where the dollars come. But it does happen.
  • PR agencies may be a conduit to the people that have the money, and can be a conduit to working with a client.  If a PR representative is based in-house at the brand they may have more scope to source a budget for sponsorship.
  • Eden:  Brands see the value in bloggers.  Don't waste your time trying to teach brands about bloggers. Go to the ones that are already active in social media. They are the ones to target.
  • Nikki:  I was paid to be the blogger at Australian Fashion week by Maybelline.  Every time we accept a paid job we are setting a precedent for other people.
  • Mrs Woog:  On working with brands:  You have to be a bit ballsy about it, you have to be confident about it.
  • Lorraine:  (As an agent) I spend a lot of time going to the brands themselves, social media agencies, digital agencies and media buying agencies.  I recommend you sit down and look at the brands you know and love.  Look at who their PR agency is and who their media agency is. Start from the brand and work back from there.  Twitter is a great way to contact brands as often the brands get social media agencies to manage their accounts.

How to get your blog noticed:

  • Talk and get to know brands and PRs via their social media networks.
  • Mrs Woog:  It is amazing what sort of opportunities can come from a little flirt, a little tweet on Twitter.
  • Don't be anyone other than yourself.
  • Attend events and be selective.  Don't feel that you have to write about it.  Attend events hosted by brands or consultants who are paid to bring bloggers together for an event.
  • Monitor Source Bottle,  an online site that connects journalists with credible sources for their stories. Coverage in mainstream media does get you noticed.
  • Nikki:  Enter credible industry-based blog competitions.

Lorraine's tips for your Media Kit:   

  • Keep it to 2-3 pages and pull out your best bits. Include your point of difference on the front page.
  • Include the URL to your blog, a little about yourself as a blogger, topics you write about, and level of influence which is all in your stats.
  • Include your reader demographic (using survey or facebook insights)
  • Provide information on sponsored posts and any banner advertising you are offering.
  • Always provide your stats as an average over 3 months, which gives you a buffer also if a month is down. Provide stats for your blog and social media.
  • Include Facebook % Talking About This stat too, as well as Pinterest and YouTube stats

Other Hot Tips and Information:   

  • If you want your blog to be a business, treat it as one.
  • Bloggers can be paid on a scale ranging from $200 for an email newsletter inclusion through to $15000 for a print advertising campaign.
  • Readership numbers are important but marketers want to know who's behind the eyeballs.
  • Mrs Woog:  Collaborate with brands, and don't let them to tell you what to do.  You know your readers, You know what will work.  They are paying you for your knowledge, not just the words on the page.
  • Think about your value and write it down. Try to calculate some rates that apply to your stats and where your readership is.
  • Choose to work with brands that are the right fit for you and your readers. You can say no. It needs to fit right with you.

With brands more and more looking to tap into the influence of bloggers and their captive audience, Nicole (@planningqueen) shared with us what sponsored posts actually are, how to write them, and how to utilise SEO, as well as how to maintain integrity while writing sponsosred posts.  

How do sponsored posts work? It is about having a relationship with the brand. Brands will approach the blogger directly or through an agency.  Once a campaign outline is agreed on, key messages are sent to the blogger.  The Blogger will write the post honestly and objectively and the brand can review the post for factual inaccuracies only.

Difference between review post and sponsored post

  • The key difference is that although you might get a product sent to you,  there is payment attached for a sponsored post (and not for a review post).

Pros and Cons of Sponsored Posts:  

  • Not all bloggers like sponsored posts and some can be quite critical of them.  The main criticism is that if payment is made you can't take a realistic view; that a sponsored post is link buying (ie the brand just wants your “Google Juice”).  Nicole's counter response:  I have spent 5 years building a relationship with my audience. I will not flick that (relationship) in one post!
  • A good barometer is to ask yourself, do you say “Yep, I want to write that” when you are presented with a sponsored post opportunity.
  • If you want to take a conservative approach to sponsored posts you need to put a no follow link code on the post.  Agencies will say that if you doing sponsored posts, use no follow links.  Google weights links from other websites. The more links you have coming in is social proof to Google. However if Google sees a transaction or evidence of a “paid link” on their search results it can discount the influence of those links.  Therefore you should make those links “no follow”, even if you have a disclaimer on your website.  Click here for more information about no follow links.
  • Disclose, disclose, disclose. You should have nothing to hide.  Include a no-f0llow link on your post, as well as a disclosure policy stating that this is a sponsored post.

You should have the following on your blog in order to do sponsored posts:  

  • Advertising page
  • Up to date media kit
  • Disclosure Policy
  • Business/invoice/payment system
Some great examples of advertising pages, media kits and disclosure policies can be found at:

Be specific about what your sponsored post will include.  Include:

  • terms and conditions page.
  • a “kill fee” clause (ie if you send the post to the client and they don't like it, you will get 50% of your fee and it doesn't get published).
  • the sponsored post process from concept through to the post being published.
  • a statement that you will only make changes for factual inaccurcies.
  • a statement re your right to retain editorial control
  • benefits for the company including it being a dedicated post, the time it will remain as your “top post”, social media promotion and schedule date.

How to actively seek sponsored posts with brands you love:  

  • Personalise and tailor each pitch – it must be more than just a copy and paste version of your media kit.
  • Highlight the synergies between your brand and theirs – what are the benefits for the brand and your readers.
  • show recent posts that have been successful
  • show stats for unique visitors/views, Australian traffic, reader engagement and social media network reach on your site.
  • include testimonials and feedback
Rates:  can range from $110 minimum to top tier of $1250+.

In closing:  Sponsored posts need to work for readers, the brand, and the blogger.  The post needs to be written in your voice including the key messages, but put your unique angle on it.  Protect your brand and respect your readers, and only seek sponsored posts with brands you love.

Nicole also went through some great tactics for SEO – something that many bloggers neglect to look at, but well worth the time it takes to fill in a few fields when finishing a post!  

 Shayne (@ShayneT) is a master of launching products and he shared with us the key elements to launching…from planning to countdown to launch day…and the clean up afterwards!  

  • Email marketing is still the best way to launch.
  • While building the launch think about what you can do to get a direct connection with your audience.

Shayne worked through his 10 Step Launch Countdown, in preparing for and cleaning up after a Launch:

10 Step Launch Countdown

10. Practice Makes Perfect.   Go and launch someone else's products as if they were your own. Do a fully blown launch of it. You will have lots of “stuff ups” on the first go so do it with someone else's product.

9.  Pick a Date.  You will be more disciplined to meet the obligation.  If you are a bit more brave, give your audience a date.

8. Lock up your product:   Time and time again, we pick a date, we set plans in motion but then we want to go back and tweak that chapter a little bit or do a better diagram. It will drag you away,  and it won't get it finished.  As Shayne said: “I have launched many products and I didn't consider any of them “finished”.  Forget about it, and just finish it!

7.  Know Your Angle

Announce your product BEFORE you finish it.  Darren's 31 days to build a better blog was built on the angle of:  “Give me 31 days and I will give you a better blog”.  Get clear on your angle before writing any copy.

6. Make a plan

It is of critical importance to make a plan when launching a product. Create your plan initially while thinking Everything is possible.  Then think about LAUNCH MONTH not launch day!  You will double the sales you do on the first couple of days. It will be so busy you won't have time to think – have a detailed plan to refer back to. Break the details into different groups of Pre-Launch Activities, Launch Month Activities, Launch Day Activities,  and Post-Launch.  Share the plan with someone first – so you can get a different set of eyes on it!

5.  Readying Your Audience

When you are thinking about this – you don't want to give your audience enough info so that they can decide whether or not to buy it. Only give them enough to say “I want to check this out when it comes out”.  This should be in two states:  the first, announcing the product and the second, providing “teasers” for your product, such as photos or footage of you making the product, a sample from the product etc.

4.  Make it sellable

There is nothing worse than when a customer or reader wants to give you money and you can't take it from them. If you are starting out, check out e-junkie for your shopping cart.  There are many other services available if you are doing more than selling e-books, but this is a good one to start with.

3. Activate Tracking

Make sure you can track everything with your sales pages, emails, analytics.  The first thing you will want to know is why you are or are not getting sales. Use google analytics but make sure you set up e-commerce tracking and goals, so that the visitors are being tracked but you also know whether they are purchasing.   Your email client should track part of it.

2.  Put the writing on the wall

Your tendency as a blogger will be to jump in and do this, but do the other steps first.  Write your email series that you will send to your audience, write your blog posts. Write all the things you will use to communicate to your audience.

1. Get a green light from someone else

Just before hitting go for launch, get someone else to check the sales page.  It is about objectivity – get a green light from someone else!

Blast Off – Launch Day

On launch day. You would have potentially spent months spent working on something you are extremely proud of and now you are about to do something that others don't do. Forget about a night's sleep the night before. Make sure the decks are clear – so that you are only working on the launch day that day. Talk to your family – you need to get space for this day.  Do a soft launch first for 1/2 hour. Once you see the first money come through then you can breathe out!  Then Let it rip. Shayne recommends to roll it out all at once in an hour – emails, social media, banner ads, etc so that it goes off with a bang!

All in all, Shayne shared some great tips on how to make your launch rock (and to get long term sales way beyond launch day) as well as how to work with affiliates and when the best time is to hand over sales of your product to someone else.

Jules (@jules_stonesoupshared her knowledge of membership sites and ways to use them to monetize your blog and add value to your readers. From her own experience at her blog Stonesoup to examples from other successful membership sites, Jules shared some great tips to get started as well as the common membership mistakes and how to avoid them!  

Jules highlighted the differences between the structures of Courses, Continuity Areas and Membership Sites, with a particular focus on membership sites.  Her own site, The Stonesoup is a membership site whereby members have access to her recipes, cooking tips and exclusive cooking courses.  She shared some great information and tips from her own experience as well as some of the best membership sites around the world including:

Membership Sites Showcased:  

Travel Hacking Cartel – Chris Guillebeau's site dedicated to helping travellers earn hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer points…without getting on a plane.  At $1 for a 14-day free trial and $15 per month minimum membership that is one site this traveller is keen to check out!

Elegant Themes  – From just $39 per year and you get access to 77 fabulous wordpress themes + video tutorials etc.

zenhabits.net – from $26 per month, with 250,000 subscribers Zen Habits has membership-zen goin' on!  While previously earning most of their revenue through ads, popular blog Zen Habits now uses this simple membership site model for people to participate in a program designed for them to get and stay healthy.

Hear and Play  – a membership site boasting over 3 million visitors per year and hundreds of thousands of members, this site uses both online training and physical products (DVDs) to train students in a membership model.

Marie Forleo's Rich Happy Hot B-School – Marie Forleo's B-School Program is a stellar example of a membership site going ganbusters. Savvy women all around the world are leveraging online marketing as part of Marie's BSchool learning how to sell their products and services and create a life they love.

Other membership sites showcased:  www.ryanlee.com, www.alistbloggingbootcamps.com, www.problogger.net (of course!) and www.thestonesoup.com, Jules' site.

Pros of Membership Sites

  • Membership sites tend to have a higher perceived value.  Able to charge more.
  • High profit margin.  Low start up costs/overheads.  Low risk
  • Regular income/continuity
  • Scaleable
  • Non time specific – you can go travelling
  • Can be interactive if you choose (ie using social media, forums, groups to create community
  • Potential global audience


  • Perceived as more effort than just buying ebook or product
  • Login/password overload
  • Constant need to create fresh content and can be time consuming (though can depend on how you structure it!).
  • Computer based – can be work and not fun
  • Set up can require considerable thought and planning

8 Steps to a Membership Site

  1. Decide on new site vs existing.
  2. Choose your delivery method (email,password protect content – wish list member)
  3. Choose program structure – will you give “all access” or drip feed the content
  4. Define Membership levels
  5. Choose payment method/shopping cart – paypal, ejunkie, clickbank
  6. Link payment method with membership site
  7. Create sales page, marketing material
  8. Get selling and open the doors!

Common mistakes of using membership sites to make money

  • Undervaluing your content – beware the FREE TRIAL! If people don't pay for something they undervalue it. However, sometimes the $1 trial works well (ie www.travelhacking.org)
  • Focusing on the numbers and not the $$
  • Too much content – overwhelming the members and the teacher
  • Frustrating/difficult navigation and/or difficulty logging in
  • Losing touch with the members
  • Not setting up automation correctly – registration, communication and cancelling – test your system first and get customer service systems set up.  
  • Failing to nurture relationships with past members – make sure you have an automated email sent out to them that their membership is due to expire.
  • Not getting your marketing right
  • Keeping the doors open all the time.  Close them between launches!  Scarcity!
Hot tip:  Poll your members.  Jules asks her members to suggest what cooking courses she should do next.  It involves them. She also uses a weekly email to tell them about upcoming courses etc.  

Hands down one of the best sessions of the 2 days. Chris (@chrisguillebeau) talked us through his journey of blogging, his mission to travel to every country in the world (and blog about it!), from successful e-book launches to memberships with thousands of members.   Here are some of Chris' blogging and life-changing nuggets to takeaway:  

Pay attention to the kinds of questions that people ask you on your blog.

  • If they ask you the same questions, it shows that you are a perceived authority on that topic. And it also shows you that there is a desire for information about that particular topic.

Emotional connections are much stronger than educational connections

  • Ask these questions of these readers to find out why they are connecting with your content:  Why do you read this blog? Why do you care?  You might find that it is not for the reasons you think!
  • You are not alone! Write a post to show you understand the true needs of your readers. People give you their attention and trust because they do feel an emotional connection.
  • Make sure you are sharing a genuine opinion.
  • Don't be afraid to put forward your own beliefs.

Make your work an important part of your life and treat it with the respect it deserves

  • We all have responsibilities but we all have the same time and we can make time for what is important for us.  If it is financial freedom that you want for you and your family, take the time to invest in it.
  • Chris' goal is to write 1000 words per day. If he does that over time, he can write the blog posts he needs, write a book every year or other year and create a product.
  • It is all about consistent effort.  Chris has never had traffic spikes or a viral blog post. His success has come from consistent consistent posting every day.

People all over the world are getting online.  We are all in the right place.

And possibly the quote of the weekend:

“The best time to start was probably last year or earlier but failing that, today will do.”  Chris Guillebeau 

Phew.  There it is. A “taste” of Day 1.  Just a bite of the smorgasbord of content that was Problogger Training Event.  I will be back with the summary of Day 2.  

Did you attend any of the Problogger events over the years? 

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Donna Moritz

Visual Social Media Strategist at Socially Sorted
Donna is a Visual Content Strategist and founder of Socially Sorted, listed by Forbes as a "Top 5 Social Media Blog You Need to Know About". Donna helps brands leverage the power of visual storytelling and content strategy in their business. Her content has been featured in publications such as Forbes, Inc. & Entrepreneur and she is a speaker and trainer on visual content for the marketing and tourism industries internationally.