10 Tips For New Bloggers

What I Would Tell My Past Self

I opened my first blogger on the Blogger.com platform way back in November 2007. Within a year I started a new blog, and then a new one not long after that. They sucked, big time.

In 2009 someone suggested I get a “self-hosted” blog. It seemed like a great idea. I thought people would take me seriously if I owned a domain. And they did. More people were coming to my site and subscribing and commenting and linking. It was awesome.

But it was going nowhere.

It took a lot of time and energy to keep up, stole me away from my family and caused me to have sleepless nights (“I have to reply to someone before I go to bed or I won’t be able to sleep”).

I had to find a way to compensate my time. And I wasn’t able to do that with the blog I had.

So I started paying attention to the pro’s and the platform builders. I began a new blog. And not long after that I began to make money. And now I’m writing a book that’s gearing up to have a great launch. But it took ten years to get here. I hope this advice can shave a few of those years off your time and help you have a successful blog sooner.

10 TIPS TO NEW BLOGGERS

1. FIND A NICHE AND STICK TO IT

The best blogs are the ones that no what they are, who their audience is, and stays consistent. If you blog about birds one week, and politics the next, and theology the week after that, you’re never going to grow your audience. Because people who are interested in birds might not be interested in politics. And people who are interested in politics might not be interested in theology.

But if y0u just blog about birds then your going to attract new subscribers from every bird enthusiast who comes across your blog. You’ll build a niche audience of bird enthusiast who will wait anxiously for your book on birds to come out.

2. BEGIN TO COLLECT AND SEND EMAILS ASAP

From DAY ONE you have to collect people’s email addresses. If you are not, then you are wasting your time and missing out on future opportunities. For the success of your blog, everything depends on growing an email list. Sign up with Mailchimp for free, create an “ebook” out of a PDF document and use it as an incentive for people to join your community of subscribers.

3. WRITE LIKE A PRO (LEARN HOW)

Read the book Writing Without Bullshit or On Writing Well. You need to learn to write well. A lot of amateurs use big words and convoluted phrases to sound smart. But good writers know they need to be clear and concise if they want to be read and attract an audience. People don’t care how smart you are, they just want to know if you have something to say that can help them.

So rather than showing off, shoot for clarity.

4. HAVE A GOAL AND A PLAN

Decided on a goal from the start. Do you want to build an online business? Maybe write a book in the near future? Perhaps build a speaking career? Having a goal helps determine your purpose which helps establish your niche. Then you need to ask yourself how you’re going to make it happen.

Maybe decided once you get to a thousand email subscribers you’re going to have a three-part teaching webinar that people can pay to take. When you have a goal and a plan then you’ll be able to track and see results.

5. GO PRO FROM THE START

While people don’t care how smart you try to sound, first impressions do matter. Blogging is the norm, not the exception. Bad looking, low quality websites will not pass mustard anymore. The minimum expectation if you want to be taken seriously by more than just your closest friends is that your blog looks professional.

Fortunately, that’s not hard to do today. WordPress offers a myriad of free themes that will make your site look great out of the gate. You just have to decided on a theme and then spend a bit of time customizing it to your liking.

6. DON’T WAIT TO MONETIZE

It’s easy to monetize your website. Really easy. You could just sign up with an affiliate account with Amazon and start promoting items from the massive online retailer that you truly believe in. Or you could sign up with Google Adwords and start putting ads in your side column. There are a million ways you can start monetizing your blog right from the start.

Keep in mind though, that just because you’ve “monetized” your blog doesn’t mean you’re going to actually make money from you blog right away. That takes time. You need to build trust with people before they start to buy from your website. But by monetizing your blog form the start you’ll be training your subscribers to expect that you to sell to them in the future.

7. YOUR READER’S TIME IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOURS

Jeff Bernoff calls this the Iron Imperative. Most bloggers and writers think that what they have to say is the most important thing about their writing. It’s not. Your reader is. Michael Hyatt often says you have information that he needs, but he’s in a rush, so the sooner you could get there the better.

In other words, if you can say in 500 words what you want to say in 1000, do it. Cut your writing, cut your jargon and write only 500 words.

8. BUILD YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS

There are three reasons why you want to build your social media platforms. First, it looks good to have a larger platform of Twitter followers. We call this “social proof.” You don’t want to come off as a pro at something and have 53 Twitter followers. I have a course that will show you how I build my Twitter platform from a few hundred to over twenty thousand in just a few months without using any scummy tactics.

Second, the more followers you have on social media the more people you can put your blog in front of. And third, if you want to write a book the first thing a publisher will ask if, how many followers do you have?

9. DON’T GIVE UP, IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN OVER NIGHT

Blogging with a purpose is not easy. And success doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it takes years. But you can see success faster if you have a goal, a plan and a purpose. But whatever you do, don’t give up. The tortoise always wins.

If you platform isn’t growing, change your strategy. Tweak your plan. But stick to you. You will win. You just need to not give up.

10. FIND A COMMUNITY OF SIMILAR PLATFORM BUILDERS

You’re not the only person on the web who writes about what you write about. So find the others. Find their blogs and social media platforms and make friends. You’ve heard it said that all ships rise with the tide. If you have those people, you’ll find a ready audience of readers.

Important caveat: don’t find similar groups to yours for the purpose of spamming them with your content. Rather seek to build genuine relationships with them. Contribute to the community with comments and helpful articles that are not your own.

Question: What other tips would you give a new blogger? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The Last Jedi and a Gender Inclusive NIV

Gender Words In The Bible Don't Always Translate Well

Earlier today Disney dropped the title and logo for Star Wars Episode VIII, revealing it to be: Star Wars The Last Jedi. The blog sites and YouTube exploded and the question on everyone’s mind was: to whom does the title refer?

The confusion is in the fact that “Jedi” is one of those words that could be both singular and plural, like fish. You could have one fish or many fish. And you could have one Jedi or a whole bunch of Jedi.

I watched about half a dozen commentators on YouTube speculate about “The Last Jedi.” Some think it is referring to Rey, others think it could be referring to Luke, while many think it could be referring to both Rey and Luke since Jedi can be either singular or plural.

But one YouTuber named Charlie had the foresight to look up the title as it was posted in another language. Here’s what he says:

“Sometimes when you look at the way they translate posters and titles into other languages you can find out what they intended based on male or female pronouns. So on the poster they released in Brazil it actually read male and singular, so that implies that the title is supposed to be for Luke, not for Rey and it’s not for both of them.”

The key is that in English it is very difficult to determine whether Jedi means many or one, and whether it’s referring to a man or a woman, leading to a whole bunch of speculation. But when you find out how it was written in a language that includes gender pronouns, the ambiguities fade away.

Back to the Bible

A whole lot of mountains have been made out of a little molehill by English speakers regarding the NIV’s 2011 update that many have called a “gender inclusive” Bible.

The problem is traditionally when a word in Greek like “brothers” (ἀδελφῶν) was translated to English it was translated literally as “brothers,” even though in Greek that word could mean “brothers and sisters” depending on the context.

For example, in Luke 21:16 the NIV previously read: “You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.”

But since it’s 2011 update it now reads: “You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.”

While the 2011 edition is not as literal as the previous edition, it is more accurate. A Greek speaking person in the first century would have read or heard the word ἀδελφῶν in that context and understood it to be referring to brothers and sisters.

After all, “parents” refer to both dad and mom, “relatives” refer to people of both genders, as do “friends.” Does Jesus mean to imply that everyone will betray them except their sisters? Obviously not.

This example strikes at the heart of two common myths about Bible translations today. The first is that the NIV “changed” the Bible to make it gender neutral or gender inclusive. Where the NIV uses gender inclusive phrases it does so because the original language calls for it. The second is the myth that literal translations are more accurate. As we just saw, a literal translation of “ἀδελφῶν” in Luke 21:16 is not as accurate as to translate it dynamically.

Question: What other myths about Bible translations have you heard? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

This Is Your Year of No

Stay in your lane if you want to help people and do great things

For you and I, this is our year of saying no. I have decided to say no to a lot of good stuff, and a lot of crappy stuff, so that I can focus on the stuff that’s aligned with the lane I’m in. The best stuff.

If you’re like me, you have found it difficult to turn down opportunities and requests for help.

I used to fear that if I said no to an opportunity I might be closing the door on something great. So I jumped on every one that came my way. But what I found is that by accepting every opportunity I became scattered and unfocused. I was never be able to take advantage of any single one of those opportunities to the fullest.

By saying yes to every offer I created the very scenario I feared. By saying yes to every good opportunity I left no room in my life to see which one might turn into something great.

I also found that by helping everyone who asked, I was robbing them of what they needed. No one received 100% of my effort. And the more people I helped, the fewer of them I could serve in any meaningful way.

Everybody suffered.

So I have commitment in 2017 to start saying no to 99% of the opportunities that come my way (even good opportunities) to focus on what really matters.

Greg McKeown in his book Essentialism put it like this:

“… once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”

I’ll only consider an opportunity if

  1. it aligns with the lane I’m in. Every runner knows that to win the race and hit their personal goals, they need to stay in their own lane. There’s nothing wrong with the other lanes. Other athletes are running in them and doing great stuff. But you’ll never get anywhere if you’re crisscrossing around the tarmac. You have to stay focused. You have to stay in your lane. What is your ONE BIG GOAL for 2017? That is your lane.
  2. it fits in my lane. It might be a fantastic opportunity and it might align with my lane. But do I have the margin in my calendar to accept the opportunity? The more things I take on the slower I go. Runners have light weight shoes and sleek outfits designed specifically for helping to reach their goals. Can you really afford to take on another opportunity?
  3. it is better than what I have going. What are you going to cut out to take on this new opportunity? Only switch out your running shows if the new ones are better. Always accept the very best opportunities – but only if they are better than what you have going, and if they help you meet your ONE BIG GOAL. Good opportunities are a dime a dozen. Great opportunities are hard to come by.

I have already had to say no to ministry opportunities and I have had to quit commitments I made in 2016. I took no pleasure in quitting, but I knew that I was only hurting the ministries I was trying to help because I wasn’t able to give them what I knew they needed.

Lysa Terkurst put it like this (in her book, The Best Yes):

“Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else. Make sure your yes is worth the less.”

You may not do more this year. But you will accomplish more. You may not help as many people this year. But you will be able to serve the people you do help in a meaningful way.

Question: What is your one big goal of 2017? How do you plan to stay in your lane? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Don’t Let Others Tell You What Bible To Buy

Join my launch team for "Your Next Bible: Everything You Need To Know."

A mom and dad came into my Bible bookstore looking to buy their son a Bible for Christmas. Their son was very specific: He wanted a study Bible of a very particular translation. The only problem is, his parents could not remember what translation he wanted.

The dad thought he wanted a New Living Translation. So I showed him an NLT Study Bible, and he immediately fell in love with it. “This has got to be the one! I might even get one for myself.”

But the boy’s mom wasn’t sure. So she sent her son a text: “Did you want an NLT Study Bible? We forget.”

In reply the son was swift and decisive: His youth leader told him to stay away from the NLT. It’s too loose. If he wants a translation that is closest to the original, he needs to buy a New American Standard Bible (NASB).

So that’s what he got, an NASB. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The NASB is a good translation. But here’s the problem. The youth leader – who is a person of influence in this young man’s life – has an opinion about the NASB and the NLT that the boy accepted without question. And that opinion came with a series of assumptions that are not necessarily correct.

For example:

Is Social Media More Like Reality TV or Reality?

There are still people who think social media is more like reality TV than reality. Usually these are people with an aversion to social media, are unplugged or out of touch and don’t understand how it works. They are not “in” the digital culture, and that’s why they don’t understand it.

So I’m always a little surprised when someone who relies on social media for a living equates it to reality TV. Yet such was the case in a recent article by Chris Martin who is an “Author Development Specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources” (ya, I don’t know what any of that means either. But it sounds fancy).

6 Ways to FOCUS in a Dug Syndrome Society

SQUIRREL!

We have a serious problem in our society. It’s called Dug Syndrome. And no, that’s not its official name, but it certainly is an apt description of what it’s like trying to focus in today’s world.

In case you’re unaware or don’t remember, Dug was the name of the talking dog from Pixar’s UP! When grumpy Carl and boy scout Russell first met Dug, he explained that his master made him a collar that allowed him to speak English. But midway through a sentence and without warning Dug’s head whips around as he shouts, “SQUIRREL!” (Watch this clip.)

And that is just like us. Mid-sentence… mid-project… mid-thought… mid-study… mid-research… mid-anything… then suddenly: “SQUIRREL!” – we get another notification. We wonder who commented on our Facebook photo. We have to see if any new emails arrived in the past five minutes. And then we go back to whatever it was we were doing, only to rinse and repeat moments later: “SQUIRREL!”

And here’s the problem with Dug Syndrome:

Are social algorithms the end of your influence?

3 Reasons Instagram's Algorithm Is Good For You

In case you missed the news, Instagram announced that it will begin sorting images in its feed according to the content that Instagram thinks its users want to see the most.

In other words, like Facebook (who owns Instagram), Instagram is developing an algorithm that takes several factors into consideration such as

“… the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post…”

What this means for you as a user is when you open Instagram, rather than seeing posts in chronological order with the most recent post at the top, you’ll see posts organized according to what Instagram thinks you will want to see the most.

But as a platform builder, ministry entrepreneur or church communicator, what this means for you is that people might view your content less (or more) than they are now, depending how much your followers like your content.

As soon as Instagram made their announcement entrepreneurs, small businesses, churches and ministries panicked. I even saw a thread of church communicators titled “Farewell, Instagram.” And posts began showing up in my newsfeed of people practically begging their followers to “turn on notifications.” (My advice, don’t go there.)

But you don’t have to worry. Instagram’s algorithm isn’t the end of your influence. I fact, it might just be the beginning.

And here’s why:

1. 70% of your followers currently don’t see your posts.

Instagram claims that people miss 70% of the content in their feeds. If we reverse-engineer that number, it means that only 30% of your followers ever see your posts. Because once you post something it starts at the top of the newsfeed and begins its journey down into the abyss of pasts posts.

By the time your follower logs into Instagram, your post has been buried under a pile of more recent posts (unless they happen to log in around the time that you posted). So the current situation isn’t very good as it is.

2. The number of people who see your content may go up.

Because the current situation for you isn’t very good as things stand, Instagram’s new algorithm means that in all likelihood, things will only get better for you.

If your fans follow you because they actually want to see your content, then Instagram will move your content closer to the top of their newsfeed which will result in you having more (not less) influence.

3. It’ll force you to be better at what you do.

People love free exposure. I know I do! But just because I force myself in front of people doesn’t mean that they actually want to see my content. And I think so many brands, businesses and ministries reacted to Instagram’s algorithm announcement because it suddenly caused us to stop and ask ourselves, “Is my content good enough to make the cut?”

And the fear is, it’s not.

So if we want more than 30% of our followers to see our content, we need to attract a highly targeted follower base, and post really good content. I think it’s good that Instagram has not separated “brands” from average users like Facebook has. Everybody is on equal footing. Because Instagram is just now beginning to roll out its new algorithm-based update, this is the perfect opportunity to get better at posting.

Become good now so you don’t slump down later.

a) post content frequently.

b) post high quality content.

c) post content your followers will want to see

Don’t be discouraged by Instagram’s new algorithm update. If anything, see this as the opportunity that it is.

Comfort in Andy Stanley’s Bad Words

Not long ago Andy Stanley goofed. He made a brassy statement from the pulpit that received immediate backlash from the Christian internet community, and I for one find comfort in the whole ordeal.

Here’s the context.

While preaching a sermon that was aired online Stanley attempted to make a case for large churches because he believes bigger churches facilitate better communities in which to situation their youth and junior youth.

That’s fine. Big church folk have always advocated the big church model, and small church folk have often advocated for the small church model.

There’s nothing new about that ugly family feud, as unfortunate as it is.

But here’s where Stanley crossed the line:

“When I hear adults say, ‘Well, I don’t like a big church. I like about 200, I want to be able to know everybody,’ I say, ‘You are so stinkin’ selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids, anybody else’s kids…I’m saying if you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big old church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church.”

Those are some of the most audacious and loaded phrases I’ve ever heard a Christian professional utter.

The online community’s response was swift and led to this follow up tweet:

I have said some stupid things from the pulpit. I mean, I’ve said some really, REALLY dumb things that were, at the time, completely out of line.

In fact (and this might come as a surprise to some people but…) just because something comes from the pulpit doesn’t mean it’s God ordained.

And like Stanley, it often isn’t until after I’ve watched the sermon on video did I realize how dumb something I said was.

It’s embarrassing. It’s humiliating. And it has happened to almost every pastor, every lay minster, every itinerate preacher that I’ve ever known.

So I for one find this whole ordeal with Andy Stanley’s comments comforting.

Sorry Andy, I don’t mean to take comfort in your very public blunder.

But it is comforting to know that if it could happen to such a high-profile, well respect pastor, leader and author, that it could happen to any of us. Especially me.

I no longer feel like a little guy standing up next to the impervious giants of the pulpits.

I’m still a little guy in a little (small church) pulpit. That hasn’t’ changed.

What has changed is that the impervious giants of the pulpits aren’t actually impervious and aren’t actually giants.

It’s a comfort to know that we’re all human.

Even in the pulpit.

Andy, apology accepted!