Blog Blazers Book Review

Blog BlazersIt’s always great to read interviews of bloggers who have gained fame, fortune, notoriety or notice to find out exactly what they’re doing and their influences, but it’s an even better thing to be able to read the interviews of 40 personalities in the field of blogging all at once. Stephane Grenier has put together such a read in his book Blog Blazers that covers the gamut in the world of online discussion.

Blogging goes far and wide on the internet and Blog Blazers touches on everything from SEO, to small business, to parenting, to business opportunities, to Google Maps, to coding and beyond, way beyond. Stephane secured interviews from such personalities as Aaron Wall, Dane Carlson, Erik Sink, Anita Campbell, Neil Patel, Seth Godin (nice one Stephane) and many more, picking their brains to find out just what has made them successful and keeps them going in their work.

The book is packed full of resources because Stephane asked all the bloggers he interviewed 3 important questions about their influences. The questions were:

Which 5 blogs do you read regularly?
Which websites would you recommend for new bloggers? and…
What is your most successful blog post ever?

Lots of great info here, but by far you can get a wealth of information by just scanning through Blog Blazers and looking up the most successful posts ever by these writers. After all, these posts have already been chosen by the readers of these blogs as noteworthy and the best of what each blogger does, so you know they’re worth checking out. It’s also interesting to note the number of bloggers that mention Darren Rowse at Problogger.net as one of the biggest influences and inspirations in their work. It would have been nice to see an interview from Darren himself to see what his biggest influences are and who he reads on a daily basis.

If you want to power up your blogging regardless of what niche you’re writing for, then Blog Blazers is definitely worth the time to read. The only thing I’d change about the book would be not to ask the exact same questions of every blogger interviewed. It would have been nice to mix up he questions a bit, but don’t let that stop you from a great read.

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How I Won A Macbook Air And $3,200 Worth Of Other Prizes

Yesterday I found out that I was one of the 5 winners in the Webmaster Talk contest where each one received a prize package valued at $5,000 that included an Apple Macbook Air. In this post I’ll explain my strategy and the steps I took to end up placing in spot number 5 with 8,548 points, only 36 points ahead of the 6th place finisher.

How It Happened:

I read the complete rules – This seems like a no-brainer, but unlike many random winner contests on the web, the rules stated that winners would be determined by the number of points they could earn. I didn’t read this until the second or third day of the contest and when I did, a switch went off in my head my thoughts were, “I can do this and I am going to do this.”

Maximum effort went towards maximizing points – The contest was based on performing certain actions that would earn you points and the maximum points earned for any single action were to be 200 for each article written. I ended up writing 37 articles in 33 days. Some people put a lot of effort into referring new members to the forums earning them only 50 points each. My strategy was to work on what would earn the most points.

I set a goal – This is where things got weird, because after every goal I set for the contest, when I reached it, it still didn’t feel like it was enough. I had originally thought 10 articles would be enough, then 15, then I thought I needed to double that, then I said, “Okay 33 articles, one for each day of the contest, that surely ought to be enough.” Once I got to 32, I had one last burst of creative energy and the day before the end of the contest I ended up doing 4 articles before 11:00 am in the morning and the last article on the last day of the contest. I can only attribute this to the good Lord prompting me to continue to exceed the goals I had set. I was completely unsettled about the number of articles I had written until I finished number 37 and then a total sense of relief came over me.

I made a plan – Finding specific topics for writing 37 articles took a little brainstorming and planning. Initially, just off the top of my head, I came up with 10 ideas for articles and when I needed more, I went through Aaron Wall’s SEOBook ebook and looked at the chapter and section headings to come up with 22 more ideas never thinking I would need that many. When I was again prompted to write even more on the Sunday before contest end I went through the Webmaster Talk forums and looked for good questions or threads and got my last 5 article ideas nearly at the last minute. Sunday evening I had no idea what to write for the 33rd article much less numbers 34 – 37. By early Monday morning I had a renewed sense of what I needed to do to finish out the project.

I focused on the project at hand –  Okay, this is my weak spot. I don’t focus that well at all, but for this contest I was more than determined to be in one of the top 5 places so I set a lot of other things aside. I didn’t end up writing a lot during the beginning of the contest, but again, something just told me I needed to do a lot more than I had originally planned if I were to win. The last week of the contest I was writing 3 to 4 articles a day. I didn’t answer the phone, watch tv in the evenings, check email more than twice a day and changed my habits on many things so as to focus on the contest. If I wasn’t writing, I was thinking of ideas to write about.

I kept my planner close at all times – Many times I already had a title for an article, but not much else. Keeping my planner close allowed me to write a sentence or two under article ideas and titles that were already there when an idea would pop into my head.

I made contact with the forum administrator – This had no bearing on the amount of work that needed to be done, but it was nice to ask a few questions and get my name in front of the people who would be deciding the winners. Lee at Webmaster Talk promptly answered every question I had and it was nice not to have to wait several days for an answer so I could proceed on with my work.

I celebrated when the project was completed – Are you kidding? I was so glad to be finished with that 37th article, Jean and I went out that night, had dinner and bought a bottle of wine. Again, no bearing on the the outcome of the contest, but we both needed a little break after it was over.

Hmm, that looks like a fairly good formula for an affiliate marketer to follow in his or her business. It’s also a formula that is now burned into my head after 33 days of working towards the goal of a new Macbook Air and a bunch of other very cool prizes.

I am immensely thankful I was able to come in at the number 5 slot and would not have continued past article 15 had I not been prompted by the Lord of my life to do so. There just isn’t any other explanation for it. I simply would not have gone on because I thought 15 articles would be plenty. No audible voice here, just a completely unsettled feeling until I finished article number 37.

What I’ve learned from this is that if you really want something, you can do it. You may crash and burn along the way a few times, but when it’s your time, it will happen. But if you aren’t prepared, haven’t made a plan and haven’t acted on the plan by doing the work, then it certainly won’t happen. I don’t believe in luck. Luck is opportunity that comes to your door, dressed in overalls and it looks like work. Unfortunately, many don’t answer the door.

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Sunday’s Thoughts – Putting Money In Perspective

I’ve been reading and thoroughly enjoying Aaron Wall’s SEOBook mainly because Aaron takes a very honest look at building businesses on the net, providing value for your visitors and what it takes to make a successful web site. In reading SEOBook I came across a quote that’s by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the Internet (sorry Al Gore, the net wasn’t your baby). Aaron quotes a longer passage by Tim of which I’m only using a couple of sentences:

Core in my upbringing was a value system that put monetary gain well in it’s place, behind things like doing what I really wanted to do. To use net worth as a criterion by which to judge people is to set our children’s sights on cash rather then what will actually make them happy.

While it is apparent to those of us who either work at home or are striving to do so, that working at a job and climbing the corporate ladder probably is not the thing that will make us happy, we can be equally as culpable in the things we strive for in the Dot Com world. I’ll be the first to raise my hand, not very high, and somewhat sheepishly exclaim, “guilty”. The prevalence of the get-rich-quick mentality on the Internet can be a detrimental influence that must be tamed.

What about you? What’s your perspective on the things that really provide happiness?

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