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10 Ways to Pimp Your Blog

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10 Ways to Pimp Your Blog
Pimp Your Blog

    A couple months ago, I wrote a newbie’s guide to blogging to help you get started with blogging. If you’ve been blogging for a little while now, you might be looking at how you can take the next step. To that end, this post offers 10 ways to “pimp” your blog, both in the sense of “tricking out” your blog to make it more attractive and more useful, and in the sense of pushing your blog to earn more readers, subscribers, and (hopefully) fans.

    Getting over the hump (or is it a Dip?)

    Launching a blog can be a heady experience, especially if it’s your first blog. Suddenly, what you have to say is “out there”, potentially available to millions of readers. You feel something like the pamphleteers of the French and American Revolution must have felt, sending your ideas forth into the Great Wide World.

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    Pretty soon, you might see a few readers, even get a comment of two, and that feels pretty good. After a couple of weeks of watching your statistics slowly inch into the double digits and waiting anxiously for the next comment, though, the initial enthusiasm fades a bit, and the realization sets in that blogging is long-term work. The Internet is littered with thousands, maybe millions of blogs that were abandoned after a few weeks or months.

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    If you’re writing good content and actively marketing your blog, though, there’s no reason why you should get discouraged as you slide into your first dip. Although it can be frustrating to commit your brilliant thoughts to the ether knowing only a handful of people are reading it, you’re doing important work for the long-term success of your site. You’re building up an archive of content that search engines will eventually be directing traffic to (Google, for instance, likes to see several months to a year of content on a blog before it starts bumping it up in search results), you’re building up a reputation, and you’re building a core readership — people who will link to your blog, bringing it to a slightly larger audience, who will also link, increasing the audience a little bit more, and so on.

    If you’re serious about blogging, the only thing to do at this point is to power through the dip. Spend some time buttressing your site’s functionality to make it more useful to your future readers (and avoid having to do much renovation later when the number of people it will confuse is vastly greater). And commit about the same amount of time you spend writing your blog to promoting it to keep that growth process moving forward.

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    Gussy it up a bit!

    The first group of tips are ways to add functionality or improve the way your blog looks. The idea is to turn your factory-stock ’04 Taurus into a lean, mean, street-racing machine. Let’s get started:

    1. First things first: UNPIMP YOUR BLOG! That’s right. Like a pimply-faced teen with no money who puts plastic wheel covers and fuzzy dice in his grandmother’s Civic hoping to impress the hot rod babes, beginning bloggers tend to put a lot of cra… er, “stuff” on their blogs. Counters. Chat rooms. Off-site forums. Badges for every web service and social network imaginable.  LOL-Cats. Glitter art.

      Most of this stuff isn’t making your blog any quicker, easier to use, or (let’s be honest) more attractive. It’s just cluttering it up and making it harder to find the good content your readers came to read. Be vicious in decluttering your blog — if a particular element adds no useful function for your readers, either a) lose it, b) move it to your “About” page (if it says something meaningful about you), or c) move it to a private page that only you have access to.

    2. Install a new theme: While you don’t want to get into the habit of changing your site’s layout all the time, now that you’ve been driving it for a couple of months it’s a good time to ask whether your theme is everything it could be. Most popular blogging platforms offer hundreds, if not thousands of free themes — Google the name of your blogging platform and the phrase “free themes” and check out the first few search results. Put some thought into the mood you want your site to convey — is it serious and professional, fun and whimsical, tech-savvy, homey, country, urban? There’s bound to be several themes for any mood you can dream up.
    3. Revise your “About” page: New bloggers tend to give short shrift to their “About” page. If your writing is at all good, people will want to know about the person behind the voice. Flesh out your bio with information about your background, experience, and reasons for blogging. This is also the place to put all those links to your profile on various social networks that you stripped from the front page while un-pimping.
    4. Create an “Archive” page: Most blogging software will automatically post links to monthly (or even weekly) archive pages into the sidebar of your blog. While this can look pretty neat when you’re just getting started, after a while that list starts getting pretty long — and it’s debatable whether it’s useful to let your readers browse by date, anyway. Before the list gets too unruly, move it to its own page (put a link to “Archives” in its place on the front page). Better yet, create a page with links to your archives by category or tag as well as by date.
    5. Add or update your logo: Most blogging programs create a nicely formatted header with your blog’s title and maybe a tagline, which is good, but if you’re in it for the long haul, you’re going to want a stronger brand image than just a title. Create — or have a graphics-savvy friend or even a professional create for you — a cool logo that says something interesting about you and your blog. This can be as simple as the title or its initials in a cool font that expresses the tone of your site, or an actual graphic (think: Nike’s “Swoosh”) that sums up the way you want your readers to feel.

    Work the streets

    Making your blog friendlier to readers won’t do much good if you don’t bring more readers to the site for a look. To build up traffic, you’re going to need to reach beyond your site and put links in places where your potential readers are likely to see them. Here are a few ideas:

    1. Add links to all your profiles: It seems obvious, but so many people don’t even fill out a profile on social networking sites — leaving a great resource untapped. If you participate to any significant degree on networks like Twitter, Pownce, Digg, StumbleUpon, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on, people will check out your profile to find out more. Those are exactly the people you want reading your site! Make sure you give them a link that’s clearly marked as your site (so many people put their favorite sites in their profiles; make sure yours stands out as yours).
    2. Recognize active commenters: Respond to as many comments on your site as possible. Then, click through to your commenter’s sites and leave comments there. Build up a community of like-minded readers — ideally with your site as the “hub”. Some people post weekly or monthly “thank you” posts with links to the top 10 or 20 commenter’s sites — this not only helps build up a sense of warmth and goodwill, it makes it more likely that your readers with websites will link back to you.
    3. Write at least one valuable comment a day on someone else’s site. This is basically the above tip, inside-out. Leave good, insightful comments on other people’s sites — a sort of “mini-version” of your own site’s content — to get people interested in you. Remember, some people recognize quality commenters, by linking to their site and even by creating new posts around the points made in their best comments.
    4. Invite someone to guest post: In my newbie guide to blogging I suggested approaching well-established bloggers about writing a post for their sites. Once you get a little traction in your niche, you can also ask other bloggers if they’d like to do a post on your own blog — maybe as an exchange. You post on their site, they post on yours — you’ll both enjoy the opportunity to write for a slightly different audience, and of course you’ll both link to the other blogger’s site where your new post can be found.
    5. Create a massive resource post: Put your knowledge of your niche to work creating a massive resource — the 50 best sites in your niche, 100 great posts on your topic, 25 great web tools, etc. Make sure that you keep the filler to a minimum (there’s nothing wrong with posting the best 47 sites, instead of adding 3 more so-so sites to make it an even 50). This kind of post is often referred to as “linkbait”, because if it’s useful, a lot of people will link to it and/or bookmark it to return to later.

    Of course, you can always pay for traffic — you can buy StumbleUpon hits and Google ads and place banners on other people’s sites. It’s uncertain how powerful this kind of promotion is — some experts believe that on-line advertising doesn’t help anyone, and blogs are a special case even among online brands. While you can build a short-term spike in traffic through paid placements, it’s much harder to build long-term return traffic — that is, “fans” — in any way other than providing quality, meaningful stuff for them to read, both at your site and around the Web.

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    In my experience, the people who go for the quick burst of traffic rarely offer any reason to stick around. The ones who write well, show they’re serious, and have some staying power — the ones who manage to get over that first bout of doldrums a month or so into their blog’s life — those are the ones worth following. Follow some or all of the tips above, and you’ll be part of that select group.

    If you’ve been blogging for a while, let us know: how did you manage that first plateau — and all the slow periods since? What are your tips for bloggers whose feet are wet but they want to make sure they’ve built a strong enough foundation to make it for the long haul? Tell us your tips in the comments!

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    Last Updated on July 20, 2021

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

    You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

    Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

    Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

    Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

    1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

    According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

    “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

    Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

    Warming up

    If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

    If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

    Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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    1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
    2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
    3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

    Stay hydrated

    Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

    To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

    Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

    Meditate

    Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

    Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

    Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

    Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

    2. Focus on your goal

    One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

    Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

    Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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    Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

    If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

    3. Convert negativity to positivity

    There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

    ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

    It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

    Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

    Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

    Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

    4. Understand your content

    Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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    However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

    “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

    Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

    Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

    One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

    5. Practice makes perfect

    Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

    In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

    Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

    6. Be authentic

    There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

    Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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    Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

    To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

    With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

    Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

    7. Post speech evaluation

    Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

    Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

    We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

    You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

    Improve your next speech

    As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

    Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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    • How did I do?
    • Are there any areas for improvement?
    • Did I sound or look stressed?
    • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
    • Was I saying “um” too often?
    • How was the flow of the speech?

    Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

    If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

    Reference

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