15 Remarkable Ways to Thank Your Readers This Festive Season

Without your readers, blogging would be about as rewarding as fishing in a puddle. For that reason, it’s about time you said thanks!

Simply writing the words “thank you” isn’t enough. While it’s certainly a worthy first step, it’s not enough on its own to leave a lasting impression. It doesn’t help your readers, or provide them with value.

This Festive Season, why not say thank you by doing something remarkable?

Here are 15 clever ideas to get you started.

1. Write a free report or mini-eBook. A 5 – 10 page .pdf might essentially hold the same content as a few blog posts (or one really long blog post) but the format makes it seem a little more valuable. Offer it as a free gift for your readers. It’s a nice way to thank them, and as a bonus, there’s a chance it could go viral.

2. Give away a service for free. Take what you’re good at and use it to help your readers. Whether you offer advice, free logos, gardening tips, Karate secrets, code snippets or ideas, all you’ll be giving up is time. How much you can afford to give is up to you. Even if it’s just a little bit, your readers will appreciate it.

3. Send out Greeting Cards. Offer to send out greeting cards to those readers who want them. Once they provide their postal address, you can send out a Christmas card, a New Years card, or whatever kind of card they’d like. You could share a tip, draw a little cartoon, or include a cool quote, then sign it. It’s a nice, cheap, down-to-earth way to connect while saying thank you.

Cameron’s Note: My company printed a few more Christmas cards than what was needed, so if any of the readers would like me to send them one of our cute ‘Christmas greeting cards’, just drop me an email at hello [at] northxeast [dot] com. Leave your name and address (that is kinda ‘necessary’) I’ll print off some more if many of you want one; postage and handling are included :P

4. Leave comments on the blogs of your commenters. This might seem like a small thing, but leaving a comment on a reader’s blog is something that’s often really appreciated. It’s a nice way to say thanks and return the favor to your frequent commenters.

5. Share a secret. Share something really valuable with your readers. What’s been the key to your success? What’s the most important thing anyone interested in your niche should know? Don’t hoard your best-kept secrets. Share them with others who can benefit from what you’ve learned.

6. Share your best idea. If you’ve got a wonderful idea you don’t think you’ll ever be able to make a reality, give it away. You might even see it become a reality.

7. Run a competition and gift-wrap the prizes. If you’re planning to run a competition in the near future, take the time to gift-wrap the prizes you’re offering. It’ll make the process of receiving them that much more enjoyable for the winner.

8. Send out personalized letters. A twist on the Greeting Card idea above, you could also send personalized letters or postcards to readers who want them. Some ideas on what to include: a tip, a quote, a doodle, the answer to a question, or a personalized thank you for the reader’s contribution to your blog.

9. Create a links post dedicated to showcasing reader blogs. Many bloggers are in the habit of posting a weekly round-up of links to other destinations on the web. Instead of plucking links from your bookmarks, why not hunt down the best content on blogs authored by your readers? One of the most appreciated gifts any blogger can give is traffic, after all.

10. Let your readers choose the content. You could provide five different ideas for a big resource list post and let your readers vote on the one they like best. You should then turn the winning idea into a reality. Readers will feel they’ve helped shape the content on your blog. Let your readers know that the resulting post is a gift to them.

11. Make a post highlighting your favorite reader comments of the year. Delve into the comments on some of your favorite posts and pick out five or ten gems you can then turn into a ‘best of the comments’ post, giving your most interesting and eloquent readers some time in the spotlight (and if they have blogs of their own, some traffic!).

12. Take down ads for a day. As a gesture of thanks and goodwill, remove your advertising code for a day. You’ll be giving away the content on your blog without expecting anything in return. It’s a great way to say thank you.

13. Give a product away for free (or cheap). For an hour, or a day, or a week, give away something that used to cost money for free. Alternately, you could sell it more cheaply than you used to.

14. Give readers a leg-up on social media. Take requests for social media votes, or hunt down the best posts on your reader’s blogs and vote for them. I’d recommend StumbleUpon for this because, unlike Digg, a single vote usually sends traffic. Send along a message letting the reader know that you’re the source of the traffic they’ve just received!

15. Ask for questions, give answers. Set aside a day, or a pocket of several hours, where readers can ask you any question they’d like to have answered. Of course, you can set any conditions and parameters you like.

You can receive questions and send answers via comments, or via email. Either way, it’s important that you answer questions soon after they’re received. Take the time to make the process as rewarding as possible for those that take part.

If you have any other idea for how we can thank our readers, I’d love to hear them!

31 Days to Becoming a Better Blogger

A task a day, for one month. Some are very little, others will take a little while, all of them will make you (and your blog) better.

Make the next month your best blogging month yet — one day at a time.

Day 1. Write a better ‘About’ page. A more gripping About page will help convert more new visitors into loyal readers. You can almost guarantee an effective About page by answering the question: “What does this blog have to offer?”

Day 2. Start using more images in your posts. Readers like images — they help set the tone of your blog post, illustrate metaphors and generally make your posts more interesting to look at. You can use a free stock photography service, but you can also use sensational Flickr images.

Day 3. Write a week’s worth of posts in advance. Developing the habit of writing in advance will give you a safety net of content to fall back on when you’re lazy, busy or uninspired. Writing and posting in the same time-frame will inevitably lead to an erratic posting habit, because your readers will never know what to expect from you. Write enough posts in advance and you could also earn the right to a blogging holiday.

Day 4. De-clutter your sidebar. Clutter likes a sidebar in the same way that monkeys like trees. If you have less in your sidebar, you can focus bigger chunks of attention on what’s really important (your feed link, categories and popular posts). Remove unnecessary widgets and put your blogroll and archives on their own dedicated page. It can also be a good idea to remove underperforming ads.

Day 5. Highlight your most popular posts. Linking to your blog’s most popular posts in a prominent location is essential practice, because it gives new visitors a place to go. They don’t have time to search around for good content: the want to see the best you have to offer, straight away. Linking to popular posts can help ensure that the links and comments keep coming, even after the post is several months old.

Day 6. Start making friends on a social media service like Digg or StumbleUpon.These services are a great place to network, because you’ll be establishing relationships with people who have the potential to send hundreds of visitors to your articles. If you vote up their content, you may be able to call in a favor later on by asking them to vote up posts you’ve written.

Day 7. Pitch a guest-post idea at the most popular blog in your niche. Guest-posting is a fantastic way to raise your profile and bring targeted traffic back to your blog. Navigate to the most popular blog in your niche and think of a post idea you think would work well there (but make sure it’s one they haven’t posted about before). Pitch your idea to the blogger and offer to write the full article if they’re interested. If not, you can always use the idea on another blog, or on your own blog.

Day 8. Craft a great resource-list. Resource lists are very popular with social media and can be quite easy to make, particularly if you already have the resources on hand. Pick a topic your target audience is keenly interested in and create a list of resources relating to that topic. You can use your own bookmarks if you have enough. If you’re short on links, a del.icio.us search for your topic will return hundreds if useful links people have saved using your chosen topic as a keyword.

Day 9. Offer a free service to your readers (without expecting anything in return).Whether it’s a logo redesign, free post ideas, a design review, social media votes or 15 minutes worth of free consulting, giving something valuable away for free without expecting anything in return will leave a lasting impression on your readers (and might attract a few links, too).

Day 10. Pitch a link to one of your blog posts to three other blogs in your niche.Take the most popular post on your blog and pass along the link to the bloggers behind three popular blogs in your niche. If they like it, they may link to it in their next link round-up.

Day 11. Add social media links to the bottom of your posts and to your feed. While most people will vote for your posts via the toolbar, social media links or icons can remind people to vote for your post if they liked it. It’s even more essential to add these buttons to your feed, because there’s no easy way for people to vote straight out of their feed reader. Using a FeedFlare to put an ‘Add a Comment’ link at the bottom of your feed items is also a good idea. FeedFlares are available under the ‘Publicize’ tab in your Feedburner control panel.

Day 12. Participate in the comments on one of your own blog posts. Readers will feel as if you’re interested in what they have to say, you might learn something, and you’ll also increase the comment count on your post.

Day 13. Work out an editorial calendar for your blog. It’s a lot harder to put off writing a post when you know exactly when your blog is due for an update. Working out an editorial calendar can help give your blog a sense of rhythm. It can also make you more productive through setting firm deadlines for new posts.

Day 14. Prune your feed subscriptions. I suspect some bloggers spend as much time reading feeds as they do writing posts. Pruning your feed collection can help you save quite a bit of time. If you find yourself regularly skipping feed items from a particular blog, or if you can’t think of one thing you’ve learned from reading a particular blog’s posts, it’s probably best if you unsubscribe.

Day 15. Write a 10-page report or mini eBook. A few hours work will result in a free report you can distribute to feed subscribers only, give out to your readers and encourage them to share, or otherwise leverage to bring more traffic back to your blog. If it’s really useful, it might even go viral.

Day 16. Try adding a new income stream to your blog. If it wasn’t clear already, blog advertising programs can be unreliable. You might be on to a sweet thing with one form of advertising at the moment, but what if the service changes, or goes bust — taking your income with it? If you’re monetizing your blog it’s a good idea to have at least two strong income streams in place, so that if something goes wrong with one, you’ve still got backup.

Day 17. Think up 20 post ideas you can use. Once you know what you’ve got to write, starting becomes a lot easier. Set aside a day to brainstorm 20 post ideas you could definitely see yourself using on your blog. Alternately, you could just use twenty of Mark’s pre-made blog post ideas.

Day 18. Thank your readers. Set aside a day to say thank you to your readers — even if it’s just a short sentence at the bottom of your latest post. Of course, if you can be innovative in the way you say thanks to your readers, it’s a lot more likely to leave an impression.

Day 19. Update your blogging software to its latest version. Out of date blogging software can be vulnerable to bugs and attacks from hackers. Just make sure to back up your previous install (and that you know what you’re doing). You might need to spend some time researching the transition before you actually begin the process.

Day 20. Create strong, alpha-neumeric passwords for all your accounts. If any of your blogging related passwords are single, Dictionary words or letters only, it would be quite easy for a determined hacker to break into one of your accounts. Set aside this day to strengthen your passwords by using combinations of letters, numbers and punctuation that exceed 8 characters in length. Make sure to keep your new passwords written down somewhere in a safe place (and write them down carefully).

Day 21. Sit down and analyze your stats for the last month. Statistics can tell you a lot about what worked and what didn’t. Analyzing stats over an extended period can reveal visitor trends, popular posts and which of the promotional activities you undertook were worth doing.

Day 22. Ask someone to guest-post on your own blog. If you’re friendly with another blogger, invite them to write on your own blog. If your blog is more popular than theirs you’ll have a better chance of being accepted. A guest-poster can inject a bit of freshness into your blog and, most importantly, allow you to focus on tasks other than content creation for a day.

Day 23. Do some SEO on your blog. SEO can be tricky, but if you know a little bit about it, set aside a day to revise and tweak your blog’s SEO. Alternately, you can take the time to learn how to optimize your blog for search engines.

Day 24. Buy a $5 StumbleUpon advertising campaign for your best post. $5 buys roughly 300 visitors. If some of those StumbleUpon visitors end up adding more votes to your article, the result could be a traffic snowball much larger than the one you paid for! Before you start, you can read this post at ProBlogger on advertising with StumbleUpon.

Day 25. Design a custom logo for your blog, or get someone to do it for you. Blog branding is essential. If you’re using a free theme without any distinct branding, your blog will probably end up looking like at least a dozen other blogs using the same theme. If you have any ability with image editing software, design a custom logo. Even using a distinctive, free font to write your blog’s name in big letters can do the job adequately. If you want to go the extra step, you can pay a freelancer or logo design company to brand your blog.

Day 26. Join a popular forum in your niche. A link back to your blog in your forum signature can generate more incoming traffic than a dozen comments spread over multiple blogs.

Day 27. Spend two hours or more on a single post. If you spend a lot of time on a single post you’re likely to end up with a lot of value in one place. Investing extra time in a post can result in some pretty cool rewards.

Day 28. Process your email inbox to empty. You’ll need to answer your emails eventually, so why not do it today? An empty inbox is a welcome sight for any blogger.

Day 29. Start a dialogue with another blogger in your niche. Say hello, offer your help, comment on a post they’ve written — however you do it, send an email to another blogger in your niche and don’t ask anything of them. If you can strike up a conversation (or at least a connection) there may be future opportunities where you can do a favor for the other blogger and, later, have that favor returned.

Day 30. Hold a small competition with a modest prize. Whether it’s an eBook, a free consultation, a DVD or a CD, a small prize and a small competition can help boost reader engagement and participation in your blog without denting your finances too much.

Day 31. Take a day off blogging. You’ve earned it! Set aside some time to reflect on the thirty things you’ve done this month to improve your blog. You really should be proud of yourself.

6 Simple Things You Can Do to Enjoy Blogging More

Whether your blogging goals are to make money online or become the most popular blog in your niche, there’s one goal bloggers don’t talk about enough: to enjoy what is, first and foremost, a hobby and an intellectual pursuit.

With all the pressure to write posts that do well on social media, ‘network’ with influential figures and simply publish content on a regular basis, blogging can start to feel a lot like work rather than something we do for fun.

In this post, I want to share five simple things you can do to start enjoying blogging more — which is also one of the simplest ways to increase the quality of your blogging.

1. Keep track of milestones.

Things like reaching 100, 1,000 or 10,000 subscribers, getting an email from a popular blogger, making the front page of Digg or getting your first AdSense check are all important blogging milestones.

Keeping track of them on a time-line allows you to identify both purple patches and troughs, but most importantly, it provides a record of the highlights in your blogging career.

Looking over your milestones can give you a motivational boost on days when you’re feeling ambivalent about blogging and its rewards (and even the best of us have those days).

Typing or writing a milestone into your record can help the reality of your achievement to set in.Your milestones time-line could be a text file, a piece of paper stuck to your wall, a scrapbook or a note file on your phone. The format doesn’t matter, as long as it’s easy to access and update.

2. Structure blogging around your family and social life.

One of the finest qualities of blogging as a hobby is its flexibility. You can write posts when you want, where you want, meaning you can structure your blogging to fit around the most important things in life.

Some kind of blogging routine is important (even if it’s flexible), but if your blogging often gets in the way of your family or social life, you’re going to start resenting it rather than enjoying it — or you might start simply neglecting it. One simply way to enjoy blogging more is to try and write posts or answer emails during the quietest period of the day for you.

That might be early in the morning before work, during your lunch-hour, or late at night. Set aside zones of time where you often see friends or spend time with your family and make sure to blog outside those times.

3. Find your favorite place to blog.

Certain locations and settings can seemingly induce an automatic flow of ideas and fluid writing. The very act of experimenting with different creative settings can take your blogging to another level, so it’s worth doing! If you’ve got a laptop, you can write posts almost anywhere.

Go down to your local cafe, the park or the local library and work out which location you find most inspiring (though it might turn out to be home!) Free wireless at any location is a bonus. If you don’t have a laptop, you could try drafting your posts with a paper and pen in an inspiring location and typing the final draft into your computer.

4. Get to know your readers.

Your blogging success depends on your audience. In many ways, so does your enjoyment! Getting positive feedback and hearing that you’ve helped or entertained people you’ve probably never met feels pretty good.

However, by putting so much time and effort into creating great content and promoting your blog it’s very easy to become disconnected from your audience, either by not reading and answering comments, or by not answering reader emails.

Without the positive feedback and re-enforcement an audience provides you might start to feel like you’re blogging in a vacuum. Remembering to engage with your audience is a simple way to enjoy blogging more even when your other goals (creating a popular blog or making money online) aren’t yet falling into place.

5. Add an income stream to your blog.

If you’re not yet monetizing your blog, adding an income stream (like a banner ad or affiliate program) can be a fun thing to do, as long as you don’t become too pre-occupied with it.

Even if you don’t make more than small change, you might make enough to pay for your monthly hosting or your domain name, or for your kids’ pocket money, and every little bit helps. Part of the fun is watching this income stream grow as your blog does.

6. Engage with other bloggers.

If you’re like me, your friends and family look at you with a quizzical, slightly impressed, slightly confused expression when you start to talk about the blogging world.

Through blogging, I’ve been able to meet people know actually know what I’m talking about when I start to go on about RSS feeds, bounce rates, guest-posts and being Dugg ;-) .

Building friendships with other bloggers and being able to talk about your hobby with other like-minded people is one of the best aspects of blogging.I should stress that in this point, I’m not talking about your traditional networking connections where the primary motivation is: “What can I give this person, and what can they give me?”

Step out of that mindset and think of other bloggers as potential friends rather than potential business partners!

A final tip

One of the most illuminating things a blogger can do is to sit down and rank the different aspects of blogging from most enjoyable to least enjoyable. Doing so will help you identify why you started blogging and why you continue to do so.

Your next goal should be to maximize the percentage of time you spend on the tasks you enjoy and minimize the time you spend on those tasks that bore you (or eliminate them completely).

If they’re important tasks, consider outsourcing them or approaching them in a different way. For example, if you like the money-making potential of blogging but dislike writing posts, you might find that taking on more guest-posters or hiring paid writers is the answer for you.

You’ll never be able to maximize your enjoyment of blogging until you can define exactly what it is that you love about it.

Writing an eBook For Your Blog

Bloggers can do amazing things with an eBook. Whether it’s 10 or 200 pages, en eBook can be used as a subscriber or newsletter sign-up incentive, a viral promotional tool or sold for 100% profit through your blog.

This post will describe what you need and the approach you should take to finally start and finish the eBook you’ve always wanted to publish.

What kind of eBook should I write?

When answering this question, form follows function. The amount of work you need to put in will depend on what you want your eBook to do.

Encourage subscribers — a report of anywhere between 5 – 30 pages should be sufficient to motivate potential subscribers to action. Offer the eBook download via your feed footer only, which makes it essential that visitors subscribe before they can download it.

Instead of trying to write a miniature book, I’d suggest expanding on one of your most popular articles or exploring one of your blog’s key concept in more detail. If you’ve coined a term, for example, hinge the eBook around that term. Chris Garrett’s Killer Flagship Content eBook is a prime example of this strategy. You can use BlogClout’s Feed Footer Plug-in to add the link to your feed.

Create a souvenir — you can repackage your archives in eBook form in less than a few hours. The result will be a fantastic little item for your readers to keep or print out, and something they can share with others.

Aim to go viral — eBooks make it very easy to share ideas. If you create an eBook designed specifically to be shared, you can expect other bloggers to offer it for download and copies to be sent around through email.

If you don’t want to put a lot of work into it, a short eBook exploring a new, useful idea will suit you. If you want to put more effort into it, you could create something as long and value-packed as Seth Godin’s Ideavirus.

Sell it to your readers — bloggers have sold all kinds of eBooks to their readers, from 10 page reports, 80 page manifestos to 200 page guidebooks. You can charge more for a longer eBook, but you might sell less copies.

Your sales will hinge on the quality of your blog content and whether or not your eBook is attractive to your blog’s audience. You can also market an eBook as being, say, 100 pages, even if there are only about 200 words per page (as opposed to the usual 500). This also makes your eBook easier to read.

What tools do I need?

eBooks are almost always .pdf files and there are plenty of free programs you can use to create them, even if you don’t own Adobe Acrobat. PrimoPDF allows you to use MS Word’s ‘Print’ function to save documents as PDFs. Adobe’s CreatePDF service allows you to convert documents to PDFs online or use their free desktop printing software.

Most eBook writers will type out their rough draft in a word processing program, then either transfer it into Adobe Acrobat or use the same word processor to format the eBook as they’d like it to appear as a finished product. If your design skills are lackluster, you can search for a freelancer who’ll do this for you.

How do I start?

Your eBook will be easier to write if you work from a solid plan. Work out roughly how many pages you’re aiming for, what kind of topics, sections or chapters you’ll cover, and approximately how many pages you want devoted to each.

Instead of writing from start to finish, it might be a better idea to tackle each section individually and then string them together. If you try to start right at the beginning the task can seem insurmountable, particularly if you’re aiming to write something quite long.

My next suggestion would be to develop a writing schedule. When writing my eBook (which I’m currently editing), I dedicated one day a week to the eBook alone, with an aim to get it done as quickly as possible. You might choose to set aside one hour a day, or one hour a week instead.

Your time allocation will depend on how quickly you want to get the eBook done. I’d also suggest working on it in times when you usually write blog posts anyway, because your brain is used to being in writing mode at that time. Trying to schedule an eBook writing session when you’re usually asleep will probably be met with some biological resistance!

If you find yourself routinely putting off your writing sessions, a blitzkrieg approach might be better for you. Set aside one weekend or several nights in a row where you’ll write non-stop and try to get the eBook’s first draft finished. The result might not be pretty, but everything gets easier after that first draft is done. Don’t write and edit as you go along.

Trying to write a final draft from the outset will make you feel unsatisfied with the work you’ve done, which will almost always lead to procrastination. If your eBook is to be a quality product, you must feel good about the writing process.

When you’re done

The most common way to distribute an eBook via a blog is eJunkie. In addition to handling sales it also allows you to set up an affiliate program where readers make a certain percentage of the profit on every sale that they refer you.

An affiliate program does two things: reaches out to more buyers and creates more buzz around the book. It also encourages positive reviews. Let’s face it — nobody is going to trash a book they’re trying to sell!

Here are a few other marketing ideas you can use to sell your eBook:

Money back guarantee — the security of the money back guarantee makes people more likely to buy. This will outweigh the amount of people who claim a money back guarantee while still claiming the eBook. Most people are honest and will only ask for their money back if they’re genuinely disappointed with the product.

Give subscribers a discount coupon— include a special code in your feed footer and allow individuals who provide the code to purchase the eBook at 20% off (or some other percentage).

Offer pre-orders at a discount rate — you can create hype around your eBook by offering discounted pre-orders before you publicly release it. Just make sure it’s finished, first.

Create a special mailing list for eBook owners — provide a password or URL in your eBook that allows owners to sign up for an exclusive newsletter. Make the newsletter worthwhile by providing exclusive offers and articles to those who’ve signed up. I’d suggest not sending out a newsletter more frequently than once every two weeks to avoid being seen as intrusive.

Good luck!

If you need any more advice on writing an eBook, I’ll be answering questions in the comments section of this post.