Motivation Needed For A New Blog

This article is entirely dedicated to motivation. It actually took me a fair while to get to this topic because I had to clear the ‘research’ element of starting a new blog first and I was determined to publish these articles in order. This piece is more useful for the novice, but as a mid-term blogger, you may also find this useful. I would hope that those veteran bloggers with established blogs wouldn’t need to know this information, but it never hurts to remind yourself.

In the series, this is step 3, by now you should know what your blog is about and what direction you plan to take it.

This is the crunch point of your decisions. Beyond this stage, if you choose to commit, you are going to commit resource and if you back out after this expenditure, you will lose that resource.

 

Motivation Needed For A New Blog

Commit or don'tThis series follows on from part 1: How and What to Plan When Starting a New Blog and part 2: The What Where How of Research Before Starting Your Blog.

This is stage 3 of starting a new blog. A more in-depth look at step 3  from the 7 Steps to Take Before Launching a New Blog in January.

This step is intended to make you think about what blood, sweat and tears you are going to be pouring into your new blog (potentially). This is the penultimate point where you can back out, the next article will detail the final stage where you can commit.

 

What Resources Do You Commit?

#1 Time

Time should be self-explanatory. Your time is valuable. You will expend time performing all kinds of work on your blog and the elements that go to support that blog.

Your time is also a shared resource. There will be lots of other tasks in your day-to-day that will separate you from your blogging. If you have a day job or a shift job, you aren’t going to be effective with a river of time through the week. You have to be tactical when you put works together. Your weekend might be sacrosanct for relaxation but you may need to find time.

#2 Money

Money is something you will require in order to operate to make money. You can do this blogging without investment of money but the returns will be far less than you are hoping for, and will take longer to develop. This adage is true; “you have to spend money to make money”. You can start out blogging cheap but in order to realise real returns you have to be smart and invest. Free only goes so far to satisfy.

#3 Momentum

Momentum is the odd member on the list and it needs explanation. Momentum is tangible in a sense that if you are not working on one project, your resource in terms of effort will be directed elsewhere. Momentum is also a direction, it is pressing forwards with focus. You can only attribute that forward drive to a few projects at a time, everything else goes on the back burner. Momentum partners with time. Humans only take on so many challenges at a time. Momentum is a finite resource.

 

Looking At Motivation

Blogging is something you have to perform consistently. I know this from my own experience. It is also something I personally struggle with, and I know many other bloggers struggle with.

Those who can keep to the rhythm and improve with each post, are the kinds that eventually win big.

Blogging is a long game, not a short one.

It is most definitely 10 marathons rather than a sprint.

Motivation in general, is a huge subject, a Human scientific study that has spawned countless areas of intrigue. NLP is one such area, Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

Motivation is an area that many self-help books concentrate on, many people have opinion on, and many people are lacking at some point in their life.

Discipline engenders motivation but in order to activate discipline you need to begin.

 

Commitment For Your New Blog or Your Mid Term Blog

In my original article, 7 Steps to Take Before Starting a New Blog In January, I framed this step as Ask Yourself, Can you Commit? In that step I poised the work of keeping up a blog as running a campaign.

What you have to realise about a blog is that it is war. Not only is it a war, it is a series of wars.

You are in the trenches, fighting for audience attention. Your Campaign goal, depending on whether you are for profit or not, is to reach as many people as possible to drive the harder stage of engagement. The point at which you get back from the audience, by providing to them.

For that to happen and for you to win those wars, you must have grit.

Staying power. Determination. Belief. Call it what you will. You need it.

Commitment for blogging is time. You need time. You need uninterrupted time to lay down your posts, maintain the blog and keep it all going.

You can’t start well then leave it to run. Once the machine’s belts are turning, they never stop and they always need feeding.

 

Doing What You Love and Loving What You Do

Doing what you love helps with motivation. If you are writing on a subject that sits inside your happy zone, finding motivation to write about it on a regular basis is child’s play.

A lot of people, and I’ve been reminded of this fact in a previous article, don’t do what they love; they do what they think will make them a lot of money, fame or reward.

I wrote an article a few years ago which instantly had someone argue that they don’t do what they love.

Not doing what you love is not a bad thing.

95% of the world population are committed to tasks they don’t like doing on a regular basis, that remaining 5% will do something they don’t enjoy at one part or another in their life, even the staggeringly wealthy.

The important lesson is that if you have already invested time in an activity that means something, you owe it to keep on building that legacy.

 

The Passion Prerequisite

Those who really excel normally have something beyond passion for what they are familiar with.

You need passion to hold your writing ambition on course when what you planned goes wrong.

If you don’t really do what you love, you have to love what you do. Sounding circular?

Loving what you do means that despite what path you have chosen, you commit in the spirit of enjoying the process and capturing a growing passion as you come more to terms with improving what you are doing.

You are never going to truly love what you have committed to but you at least enjoy and look forward to the challenge.

Work is work. There is always some drudgery involved.

It is always more preferable to do something you love but in that vein, you may become sick of what you love if you find the grind starts to take a grip.

Turning a hobby into a job can kill your love of that hobby. This does happen so be mindful of this.

There is a balance to be struck.

 

A Tip From Pat Flynn

This tip has stuck with me for a long time, it is simple but awesome, and it works.

Give yourself 30 minutes and write as many titles to articles in your chosen niche as you can.

If you are really struggling for ideas. This niche is too narrow to start.

If you have hundreds of ideas, this niche is too broad.

A niche is a niche because you have set aside some of the broader expanse of your topic zone to laser target a specific area.

If you have barely anything to write about, that niche is too specific and will severely limit the audience you can attract.

On the other side of the double-edged sword, too many ideas can be indicative of a niche that is too broad.

It could also mean that you are just brimming with ideas and if that is the case, you are likely to do well.

This exercise is going to become one of many routines that you, as a blogger, are going to have to come to terms with.

 

Early Blogging Days

These will be the most fun and the most rough on you.

When you have written your first couple of articles you are buzzing when you are a blogging noob.

It’s exciting to push content out.

It is also exciting to see green shoots.

Starting from zero is a great time.

You don’t really know what to expect.

The trouble is that you, as a new blogger, are going to be receiving views that are not large or significant. (unless you have planned to perfection).

You are bound to look at somebody else’s stats to get a gauge of where you should be at, and feel rather small in comparison. Human nature.

 

Early Blogs Don’t Have ‘Traction’

Traction is what you get when you have a small force of regular readers who are the beginning of your tribe. This nucleus occurs not only on your blog but on social media connected with your blog and the mailing list.

It takes a lot of grit, effort and patience to gain traction.

It is not an overnight event.

Only the very rare blogger is 100% successful out of the gate and you should not concern yourself with that kind of individual, they are out of your league, or in some cases have cheated the system to start more positively than you. It doesn’t mean that you can’t catch them and even pass them by later on.

Run your race!

Being ultra-fresh in any niche means that you don’t have any implied value and it is going to take you a while to be seen.

There are tasks you can perform to improve this but your initial posts are not going to attract as much audience as later articles.

It’s a numbers law.

I have no good advice on this beyond being better forearmed. There is only so much you can hustle and brute force in the beginning. The only advice I have is that you need to be consistent and keep up the hunt. You need to be committed, any less and you are wasting your time.

You need to put posts behind you to gain momentum.

 

A Word On Mentorship

Having a mentor in the beginning is a brilliant situation to be in. Having your hand held through the early stage makes you less paranoid about how badly you are doing.

The truth is that everybody does badly in the beginning. It is not worth striving if it was easy. Audience pleasing and retention is hard, don’t be under any illusions otherwise.

I didn’t start with a mentor, I started blogging cold and my learning curve was steeper as a result of that.

I made a lot of newbie mistakes in the beginning. It is the normal process.

If you are provided a golden opportunity for a mentor, take it. Shortening that learning curve will mean a lot. You will be more satisfied with your accomplishments sooner.

 

Quality/Quantity Argument

Quality is always more valuable than quantity but you don’t always win a war with quality.

Often you can boost your traffic, numbers and authority by posting slightly less, more frequently than you intend to for your standard campaign.

In 2014 I posted almost every day for a month and overall engagement increased considerably during that time.

It is the older, more incumbent bloggers, who can relax their pace and drop a large bomb slightly less frequently. You can’t do that. You don’t yet have people waiting for you with bated breath.

Quantity can be replaced long-term by consistency but early doors, the more you float to get you noticed, the better.

 

Hustle

What you do regularly requires hustle.

It is a business situation even if you plan to run your blog not for profit.

You have to be in the mood to hunt down engagement with your content which means that you have to work on ways to bring your content to the right people.

If you are chasing the wrong outcome, your hustle is for naught.

 

The Question of Authority

What you are trying to gather in the first year of your blog is an overwhelming sense from a visitor, that you know what you are talking about.

The purpose of what you write is to provide your audience an answer to a question that has been troubling them.

What is ever so more important is that you have people returning for more, because they like the cut of your silk.

 

Hustle is More Than Just Writing

Hustle is finding your audience then making them engage, either through tailoring your content, or finding the exact person that benefits the most from what you have put together.

Hustle is not cornering someone and badgering them until they relent.

Hustle is;

  • Expending resources.
  • Not sitting back and hoping they’ll come.
  • Putting the next round in the chamber, or the next post in the pipeline.

 

Early Day Blogging is Failing

This is a point you will move past by applying patience. It is also a period where you have a good chance of learning from what you are doing wrong. Someone is either likely to tell you or you come to realise it isn’t working.

Some lessons come sooner than others, Some are harder learnt.

Failing is learning, and learning is more valuable.

Sometimes, as counter intuitive and as painful as it may seem, you have to fail more to start learning more. You have to put yourself in some uncomfortable situations to test if a solution is water tight or not.

 

Mid Term Blogging

This comes after you are a year into the process, you know how one year (not necessarily a calendar year from January to January) plays out.

You are getting some traction but not all that you hope.

People are starting to find you on the Internet through the search engine but not quite as many as you want.

You have expectations now. Ones that you didn’t have in quite such a grand scale as when you were a noob. These expectations have shape and scale. You know roughly what you are shooting for. You have number goals.

That expectation brings pressure. As a writer we always hope that with every piece we write, we gain a small bump each time. It doesn’t always work that way.

 

It Takes Time

Mid Term blogging can last for a long period of time, much longer than you would have thought.

There are some bloggers who take years to click into place with their strategy and find the magic engagers and influencers that catapult their name into the frame.

You have to stick with it to make that point and to validate your effort in the blog.

That, or you quit.

Mid Term Blogging is;

  • Quality
  • Engagement
  • Looking for gaps
  • Shoring up your library of responses

Mid Term Blogging involves;

  • Social media beast mode
  • Person to person communication in spades
  • Inventive methods and out of the box thinking

Mid Term Blogging can also become;

  • A different kind of drudge
  • An opportunity to rest on your laurels
  • Lack of freshness
  • Target fixation
  • Laziness

 

Motivational Challenge

As a mid-term motivational challenge it is easy to become complacent about increasing numbers. You have to remember that this is only achieved by continual effort.

Stepping off the gas can be hazardous for blogging at any time but especially before you have attained celebrity status.

Whilst you are still a potential nobody, you can quite easily sink back into oblivion, by not keeping up the pressure.

You have to constantly be thinking how you are going to chain things together and optimise the provisions you pass out to your audience and those you plan to become your audience.

 

Dangers of Mid Term Blogging

It is quite easy to get lost from your main purpose, your niche direction and your ultimate goals.

I’m going to explain some of the changes and challenges that will occur.

 

Your Writing Will Lose Some of It’s Softer Edges

Your rose-tinted ideas from early blogging are going to be swallowed by more cynical views.

If you ever read back some of your oldest works, from the beginning, you will see how your writing has changed.

You will construct articles differently, and be more mindful of constructs and means of presentation that now work, that didn’t before.

There will be a sharper edge to your works. Wham, Bam, Thankyou Ma’am.

Simply put, you will know how to please but don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t bear much resemblance to what you used to publish.

You will change;

  • Reducing the amount of flower in your descriptions.
  • Anecdotes, stories and imagery will increase.
  • Language might change for a wider world audience.

It is important to realise that some of these soft edges might be required to make you a unique voice in a crowded market. Try not to lose too much of you by becoming a robot.

 

Changing Tack

By following your audience you are not necessarily going to be charting the same direction as you had originally intended.

You may have forgotten what the point was to this steer and why you came this way.

Blogging is evolution. Even in the late game. Nothing stays the same, especially in a medium that is changing more rapidly than traditional writing.

In terms of motivation, you just need to keep the thread, wherever you are moving. Don’t think about the destination so much as the journey.

 

Clone Drone

It is very easy to become caught up in what the Jones’s are doing by looking at your competitors and trying to steal the wind out of their sales, or being a Johnny (or Janey) come lately.

This should be replaced by what you need to cover and what is important in your frame of the niche.

Don’t be a clone. Don’t be vanilla.

Serve your audience.

 

Comfortable But Vulnerable

You might feel comfortable that you’ve covered off a topic, but actually, the way you wrote it didn’t work for your audience and the wider audience.

Sometimes going back to represent your ideas in a more cognitive fashion is better than updating what you already have.

It may not need a repost as much as a completely new direction, one you haven’t considered yet.

 

Complacent Marketing Strategy

There is a great likelihood that you have become complacent with your marketing mix and the methods you use to hook interested readers without depending on the search engines.

The methods you employ will change subtly over time and you have to move with new trends.

Your audience aren’t a fixed point. They are not binary in their makeup, they aren’t yes and no. Sometimes they are maybe, not sure, stop asking me.

 

Attrition Management and Retention

You will have to manage attrition and move with the times.

Attrition will form in losing people who followed you for a long while but chose to abandon you (either through neglect or change of taste or situation).

You have to remove these people from your mailing lists before they start listing your email as spam.

Otherwise you have try to tempt them back somehow or try to capture the reason why they left and try to improve on that shortfall/oversight for future retention.

In the same way, your social media will have dropouts and on some platforms like Twitter, you will have to remove people to maintain the balance.

You have to be disciplined to do this, even if your attention has waned.

 

In Conclusion

Motivation is nothing without discipline.

As a blogger, one that may not see the recognition you hope for, the important point to keep in mind is that as long as you make the effort, you are not failing.

All bloggers, from all ends of the spectrum, have problems with motivation. It is human nature.

I’m sure there are the odd few days that bloggers like Pat Flynn and his ilk, can’t be bothered. They have the benefit of teams to fall back on and processes they have developed to get them past these feelings. These processes are ones you need to develop to be successful.

Guilt free holidays only come with precise tactics and strategies.

 

Next In The Series

The fourth step is the most important beyond Planning, Research and Motivation Assessment. In this step I will look at the notion of whether blogging is for you or not. You have to try it out and see if you like it, and I have tips on where you should go to try that.

 

Photo credits

All available via Pixabay.com, content is CC free but a pixabay link has been provided as a courtesy for an awesome service.

The What Where How of Research Before Starting Your Blog

I have a confession for you. Research might seem like the most boring thing you might get down to.

When you are looking to commit many hours, that you could otherwise spend on more joyous activities. The research you perform is key to determining the best way to roll the dice. Research is equally as important as planning.

If you go about research gently but progressively, you will find that it was a lot less intensive than you thought, and a lot more eye-opening.

The What Where How of Research Before Starting Your Blog

Dip your head in the books

Research is invaluable.

In essence you go away, collate informative data, and then arrange it logically into an action list. That’s what research is.

The information provided by Research provides you a direction, a steer, a path.

When you are thinking about getting your blog under way from scratch, or even from a long period of inactivity, you need some research.

This article follows step 1 of a series derived  from the “7 steps to starting a successful blog in January.”

Click here to get a taste of  the first step you should take (plan).

What Does Research Do?

There is no way to answer that concisely in a 20 word or less answer. Look at these points:

  • Informs you what your potential competitors are doing
  • Offers ideas on what you could try
  • Provides clues as to what really works and what really doesn’t*
  • Presents you an idea on how to layout your work
  • Identifies what language to use with your audience
  • Points to a profile of a typical member of your target audience
  • Alludes to gaps in the market
  • Outlines strategies you should avoid by cutting the corner on silly mistakes

*Blogger’s caveat: What works for one audience may not work for another, specifically yours.

If you didn’t already come to a conclusion on research, it is definitely an activity you should spend some time on. The more quality time you spend the better.

Research rocks. When you finally decide to start your project you will realise that you didn’t do enough of this and you will find that you had wished you had spent more time researching. Trust me.

What to Research?

Your Audience

This is difficult if you haven’t defined what your model audience member is. This article produced by my friend Ahmad Imran over at reasontouse.com, provides an idea as to the ideal group of target profiles Ahmad is aiming for, so a recommended read.

http://www.reasontouse.com/website/blog-audience-profiles/

Each blog’s audience is shaped by those who interact with the information, those who engage, those who get behind what you do. It takes time to encourage but you can shave a lot of that time by researching what triggers might work best for the kind of audience you are trying to attract. You might even have to change the idea of your perfect target audience because that individual might not be the kind of person you really want to attract.

 

What language works well?

Some audiences respond better to a certain type of conversation. If you start dropping the right phrases you will do better.

Blogging is textual, visual and can involve interactive elements. You will have to find the right mix.

Certain audiences respond when you use the right terminology.

One thing you can guarantee is that a conversational tone is the best way to get your audience member on board with what you are trying to convey.

 

How your audience absorbs the data?

Some audiences respond better to the addition of certain types of media. You can supplement and make your data easy to digest if you involve more graphical information. Certain charts will hit the sweet spot. Some infographics will do well.

This can vary greatly depending on the niche you plan to exploit.

As an example, if you run an extreme sports blog, your audience are going to respond well to pictures. It may be more prudent for you to include some galleries in your articles, rather than just one image.

 

Where does your audience hang out?

This helps you stop wasting time.

Fact; Social media is a time sink.

You will need to pinpoint the most effective method of finding your tribe as soon as possible because in the beginning of your blog, numbers will be minimal so you will need to find those individuals who make the effort to share your genius.

You are going to start at zero at some point and it is going to take you some time to generate traction.

 

Your Style

What makes you different?

Business-speak for this can be expressed as USP; your unique selling proposition. Every writer generates their own method of presentation which has a charm of its own. When in a crowded market you have to be a different voice.

Eventually you will generate products and services that may borrow from the dimension that you’ve charted in key depth. These unique elements are important visual representation of the kind of content that a visitor might expect.

All of the successful bloggers I have come across in my time blogging are there by having a key issue that they solve incredibly well. They are the master or mistress of that item, of that viewpoint, of that solution. Whilst the blogger might cover a wide range of items it is highly likely that they have one particular core specialty that marks them out.

What makes Pat Flynn at Smart Passive Income different?

I mention Pat Flynn a lot, if you haven’t read my past articles. We aren’t in a ‘bromance’, he doesn’t part own my company. He is inspiring, you can’t deny it. He has evidence that he has become a successful entrepreneur, in major part to blogging and other associated activities. Pat shares a lot of useful information that I can take action from and apply.

Pat is a shining example to me, and I have no difficulty saying that. I only have difficulty emulating his success, but find it reassuring that he continues to succeed. Being British, we Brits often have problems accepting those more successful than ourselves, it is a British trait, we snub or throw dung at those who show us up. With Pat, I feel differently, he gives a lot of information away and if you pay enough attention you can learn a lot.

These are the key areas where Pat is different.

  • His podcast without doubt is the one key area that draws a lot of attention to his blog.
  • He is the foremost specialist on using podcasts in his marketing strategy.
  • Podcasts are his thing. So much so that he has sold a podcast product that has been self-developed specifically for his platform. That is no small undertaking, no small investment.
  • What makes Pat different is Pat. He uses his personality and his own unique story as his USP.

 

What makes you valuable?

This is a surprisingly important question when you weigh everything up. You might be led to believe that you don’t matter all that much in the beginning but you will be surprised to learn how market leaders can sometimes home in on your good works by chance.

The truth is that depending on the given field of what you are researching, you have to determine factual content you can run with that provides enough fuel to the reader.

It is the meat in the sandwich question. If you have no meat in the sandwich, you have just two slices of bread. If you are vegetarian, is there any filler there?

You need your reader to leave your site feeling satisfied.

Your research should therefore try to determine that one thing that makes you valuable to a passer by.

 

What identifies you?

You might ask how this is different to “what makes you different” and in many cases you would be right to think there is no difference.

However, identification goes a bit further into the visual.

In this regard we are looking at brand awareness.

How are you going to stand out against all of the vanilla that is already out there?

A generic blog is white, very much a “denim” site. If you want to do better you have to work on colours and signals. Thinking about a method of making your data unique and memorable is time well spent.

 

What infrastructure to use?

Infrastructure for your blog is something that will start with a foundation.

Theme is important as it is the window for your audience and the heart of your machine for world domination. If you are not using a self hosted blog, the theme is already likely to be a choice out of your hands, there might be some customisation but otherwise you are bound to that particular framework.

New bloggers need time to learn, buying an expensive premium theme might not be the best way to go. Your fledgling audience won’t mind a more basic entrance as you find your feet. You can then roll out the red carpet when you have the goods to match the experience.

Alongside merely the theme, you will need traffic sources. In order to supply those, you are going to determine what best social media sites you want to use. The tip here is that you don’t use them all.

In fact, the fewer social media sites you use in the beginning, the better. There is always a danger of spreading yourself too thin. Social Media does take a fair while to get to a head of steam and you’ll find if you relent even for a second, people will leave you in droves. Get one area right and the rest will follow, social media has to be managed as a continuous campaign.

 

Where to Research From?

It is important to spread yourself broadly but focus your research on quality. The sources of your research are important in forming your ideas.

Here are a few sources but you may find more:

Other blogs

You should try and determine the top 10 in your sphere and see what works for all of them.

There are patterns you will be able to determine. For example:

Everybody has a mailing list signup box in the top 10. This would indicate that having mailing list subscribers is a good idea.

5 out of 10 sites use an advert box before you even get started reading the blog content. This might inform you of how lucrative the niche might be, or how resistant the community is to blatant advertising. You might be able to determine what product you might be able to float later on.

The emphasis here is not on ‘parroting’ a site but more on making the smart moves that competitors show you could work. You may find later, that your personal mix of audience, don’t get on so well with the attributes you include which may mean you have to revert to a different strategy. At least you’ve looked into what those options might be.

Other sites

Sometimes sites other than blogs will be inspiration. There are many sites that don’t have a blog element attached.

You should be able to garner what images work best at the very least. You might also be able to ascertain titles and layouts that work well for a larger audience.

Familiarity and ease of use are important for establishing interaction.

Books

Bestselling books can often provide an idea of a hot topic. They don’t even have to be bestsellers (but obviously bestsellers are likely to give you a better steer on what is big).

Questions for Incumbents (those already doing what you want to do, and doing it well)

Why not talk to some bloggers if you get the chance, see what is actually hot and what’s not.

It never hurts.

The worst that someone can do is not respond or say no.

By rule of thumb if you ask 20 people the same question, at least 1 of them will respond. It may be good to impart a time imperative in your request to facilitate a quicker response.

If you get no responses but feel that with a small fee you can pay for some information, this might be a good way to go.

 

How to Research?

There’s no specific way to research. You don’t have to start from a perceived beginning.

The best first step is to start. As mentioned above, it doesn’t matter where you start.

Research has no magic formula. You could try and develop a rigid plan for research but you may miss critical observations that could advise or inform.

I recommend you develop your own method if you need to do this research often. You will find that if you later commit to the blog, you’ll need to reinvent as your blog moves forwards. Research will always return to the fore as an important process.

Curation for content is the most common task.

Curation for research will give you a taste for the kind of work you will have to perform when curating articles for your audience.

 

When to Stop Researching

There will be a natural point where you have exhausted all the questions you needed answering. You will come across a few unanswered questions but when you feel that there is a shape to the answers you can follow the next step.

Setting a time limit for research is important. If you set yourself a month and work hard at it you should have covered enough bases. When you feel you’ve done enough, stop.

 

What happens if I get to the end of my research and don’t want to continue?

You can consider this outcome a success. It might determine that the idea you are trying to chase is already too mainstream, already tapped out. There are a lot of topics that have been covered so heavily that you may stand no chance of standing out, and that to pour your heart out would be a chronic waste of your time.

A lot of bloggers start out in a broader topic but work their way into a niche that they feel comfortable with. A niche market is more effective. You aren’t trying to capture the entire world, you can actually do a heck of a lot with 350 raving fans, and not worry about the thousands that don’t buy in to what you are providing.

You may have to return back to the planning stage.

 

What Next?

Now that you have completed planning and research we will move to motivation. The next step is the most important step in the blog. The make it/break it step.

Step 3 Commitment.

I look forward to bringing you this step soon but please be patient as this is a much more involved post.

 

Call to Action:

Do you have questions or tips? Let me know either in the comments below or through headboy@blogprefect.com

A social share is always appreciated.

 

FastMail MX Record Setup BlueHost

BlogPrefect.com switched from the mail systems provided by BlueHost to redirecting the MX records to FastMail. This was done primarily for visibility and consolidation purposes. I shall be taking you through a How To on redirecting your MX records to point to FastMail from BlueHost. This guide also includes the step to include the DKIM signing key.

FastMail MX Record Setup BlueHost

This guide provides some assistance on setting up your MX record on BlueHost server end so that you can use FastMail to manage your email. The steps are fairly straightforward, you just have to wait some time when the MX records are updated.

  • Estimated time to change the code: 10 minutes.
  • Ease of coding: Easy to Moderate.
  • Time for the record changes to cascade through: Upto 24 hours.

Before getting started:

  • Make sure you have your domain username and password to hand.
  • Make sure you have your FastMail username and password to hand.

Notes and Disclaimer

Note 1: This change is considered “highly visible”. The exact words that FastMail uses. This means that you should schedule making this change when there is less activity. A good time is at night when you are receiving less email.

Note 2: The Subdomain I have that rests underneath BlogPrefect.com doesn’t have a subdomain MX Record setting like the one displayed in FastMail with the form of maindomain.subdomain.com. It appears as its own DNS record in the DNS zone editor on BlueHost, therefore it is considered its own domain for the purposes of email. This means you have to setup a new domain on FastMail.com and edit the MX records on the host.

Note 3: If you are hosted elsewhere (not BlueHost) these instructions can still work but please note that some of the settings such as “Host Record” may use a different character than @.

Note 4: For my own privacy and security I have redacted my host details and the DKIM signing key in the images displayed.

Disclaimer: I do not assume responsibility for any changes you make to your DNS record. If you are unsure of how to proceed I recommend you consult with a professional before continuing.

Disclaimer: FastMail is a paid email service and after a trial period will cost a fee.

Stage 1: FastMail Setup (The Easy Part)

1. Access “Settings” from the top left drop down.
2. Select “Domains” on the left hand side menu.
3. Click the “Add Domain” button.

Stage 1

Note that in this picture I already have my main Domain at BlueHost setup. Your version will be blank if you have not yet set up your domain.

 

4. Add your domain, e.g. example.com, you don’t need the www.

FastMail Settings 2

 

5. Press “Save” when complete.

Stage 1 Complete.

Stage 2: Make a Note of the FastMail DNS Required Settings

1. Press Edit on the Domain

p3

Note: you won’t get a unique DKIM signing key if you don’t save the Domain first. This is an auto generated alphanumeric long chain code that is hard to break.

2. Press “Show DNS settings”

This link can be easy to miss.

This link can be easy to miss.

3. Make a note of these settings, leave the window open so that you can copy and paste them later.

You will need these 4 settings. 2 are MX, 2 are TXT.

You will need these 4 settings. 2 are MX, 2 are TXT.

Stage 2 Complete.

Stage 3: Edit/Add the DNS entries to the MX record in BlueHost

Note: You can do these out of order if you wish as long as you have amended 1 MX and 1 TXT entry and added 1 MX and 1 TXT entry.

1. Login to BlueHost
2. Go to Domains > Zone Editor

Domains > Zone Editor BlueHost

3. Select your domain from the drop down (if you have more than one). The page will expand to show you the DNS records.

Select Domain

4. Scroll down to MX (Mail Exchanger)

MX Records on BlueHost

5. Edit the first record by clicking edit. The default is set to Priority 0. You will be changing the priority to 10 and changing the points to field to FastMail’s SMTP mail engine.

Edit BlueHost

6. Enter the following, then press save.

After Edit Bhost

7. Scroll up to “Add DNS Record” and enter the following, then press add record. This will add the priority 20 element of the SMTP mail engine for FastMail.

Add P20 MX Bhost

8. Edit this TXT entry for SPF by scrolling down to TXT. SPF helps prevent spam.

Edit SPF Bhost

9. Paste in the “txt value” and press save. You will cut and paste this info from FastMail.

Edit SPF Bhost P2

10. For DKIM Scroll up to “Add DNS Record” and enter the following, then press “add record”. DKIM is another spam protection feature.

Note: The Host Record is mesmtp._domainkey, The txt value is the really long chain of alphanumeric code that begins “v=DKIM1; k=RSA; p=

DKIM Key

11. When complete you should see the following:

Records Complete

Stage 3 Complete.

Stage 4: Await Confirmation

Await your Confirmation, you will see when you go into Settings>Domains in FastMail that it has been approved. If you’ve made a hash of things you’ll have to check what you entered at BlueHost’s end.

FastMail Domain Active

You should receive this email from FastMail:-

FastMail DNS Confirmation Email

If you don’t receive this email, something went wrong. Propagation doesn’t take as long as 48 hours normally. Mine was ready in less than an hour.

If you did make a major mistake or in future want to leave FastMail, you can return the records back to the BlueHost default by pressing this button:

Reset Zone File

The default will direct all mail back to its original destination.

Stage 5: Setting Up Aliases

You will need to set up your aliases in order to send and receive as different personas of your domain. E.g. sales@example.com

I will show you how to setup 1 alias, then you just need to rinse and repeat.

1. Go to FastMail Settings > Aliases and Press “New Alias”.

Alias Screen - FastMail

2. Enter your new alias in the Email Box. Select the drop down to the right after the ‘@’ sign to select the correct domain if you have more than one. Press “Save” when you are done.

Add New Alias Screen - FastMail

3. The information will take 15 minutes to update so be patient. This 15 minutes will apply to each Alias.

15 minute wait. FastMail.

4. FastMail recommends that you add Abuse and Postmaster as two default aliases. This is so that spam issues can be mitigated. Other good suggestions include your  First Name, Sales, Support and Info.

5. Test your new email addresses by sending from another account. Make sure you can send and receive without errors.

Stage 5 Complete.

 

In Closing

I hope you found this guide useful. There is nowhere specifically written to take you through this process so I hope this has provided a sufficient short cut. If there are any refinements you think are needed or you hit a log-jam with your setup, let me know.

 

Sharing is Caring

Please share this with the world, not only to help your fellow man and woman but also because I asked nicely. You can use the sharing links to the left from SumoMe.

If you’d like to get in contact with me regarding this guide, you can leave a comment below, you can DM me on Twitter by following this link, or you can send an email to headboy [at] blogprefect.com.

Happy Emailing 🙂

 

Image Credits

  • FastMail Screenshots depict UI from FastMail.com and have been used for illustrative purposes only. The FastMail logo is copyright of FastMail.com.
  • BlueHost Screenshots depict UI from BlueHost.com and have been used for illustrative purposes only. The BlueHost logo is copyright of BlueHost.com.

Do Contact Pages Provide the Right Clientele

For my 200th article on BlogPrefect.com I wanted to cover some personal thoughts on Contact Pages, the specific question in the range of:

Do Contact Pages Provide the Right Clientele?

So why ask this question and why save it for my 200th article? It has a lot to do with the kinds of emails received on a regular basis through the contact page.

I’d always had this bleary-eyed feeling that my contact page would encourage people reading to get in contact because they wanted to interact further. They might want their say and they’d want to do it personally. The truth is, it’s never worked that way.

 

“I had a Dream”

Not quite as grand as Martin Luther King’s but on a blogging context, I had a dream that people would come to me for advice and a point in the right direction. That is what the contact form was for.

 

What I Received Instead

In the main I’ve received spam like I would on any other email account. The comical Nigerian, Chinese or Latin American mystical companies who would want to give me $10,000,000 to put in a bank account are just one of many spam emails I’d see on a regular basis. Since I switched over to FastMail to manage my MX records I’ve seen a massive reduction in that type of spam. Sweet relief!

typical-scam-email

Where people have used the contact page I have received Business Queries in the main and I’ll go onto explain my gripe with these.

 

Business Queries

Every month I receive 10 or so business queries that all follow a similar line. Those that pass the spam criteria normally originate from legitimate individuals but are very much a canvassing event. I have nothing against hustle so much, trying to make bank by door-stepping has been a process for centuries.

Here’s why it doesn’t work on me.

Cold emails are impersonal.

Essentially the process of writing in this way is cold calling and that will never have a great effect on me. I hate cold calling, it doesn’t work. It is that simple but it wouldn’t make a compelling article unless I divulge more on why.

 

Perception of Being Personal

An element of our social lives is being eroded due entirely to the use of technology. Whether you like it or not, you will engage in less person-to-person interaction now than you would have 10 years ago. Automation saves corporations money by reducing the amount of Humans needed in the process.

Everyone is aware that automation can be impersonal so there have been methods to try to personalise the experience.

Often you’ll find that in a mailing campaign that is targeted to a reader, you may wish to use the first name to address the person individually.

This is a tongue in cheek version of the type of emails I get fairly regularly through the contact form.

This is a tongue in cheek version of the type of emails I get fairly regularly through the contact form.

You can waste so much time by doing things wrong. First impressions mean everything.

 

Common Tropes That Tick Me Off!

“And by the way, you are doing it wrong.”

I’ve seen this statement in a number of different guises. I’m not sure it is always wise to imply that “you suck”. You certainly won’t engender a business relationship easily this way. People don’t take criticism well. I ran an experimental feature a couple of years ago on Blog Prefect and felt the hostility that coincided with it.

Too much truth hurts from strangers.

 

“I’ve been looking at your site and I think you could…”

I could but do I want to. There are two forms of thought on why I didn’t implement something a certain way.

  1. I tried it and it doesn’t work for my audience.
  2. I don’t have the money to invest in the exact system that will yield the result.

Therefore most pitches will fail. In 3 years of operation I have not once engaged with an email unless I’ve had some kind of natural conversation with the source.

 

Doing it Right

If you wanted to try to impress me or get in my good books then you’d have to work with me. You would have to engage in a simpler exchange.

Trying to co-opt me cold through email isn’t the best route. Start out with something simpler like a message over Twitter or a comment on my latest blog post. Spend the time to build a rapport with me and then maybe you can present your intentions with a warmer attitude.

 

Don’t Appeal to My Greed

People are greedy in this capitalist present but that doesn’t mean that I would jump through hoops for greed. What is important to me is helping people in the best way that I can.

There are many systems and tools that I mention that are often free and provide me no kickback, affiliation or pat on the back. I present them because I’m of the opinion they work well. I, like many readers, like to know how I can get something for free or for the least taxing exchange possible.

At present I don’t have “customers”. I sell no products or services. Therefore eliciting additional customers where I have none is pointless.

 

Read My Blog, Don’t Assume

If you were pitching too me, you’d actually have to read my blog. It sounds dumb but you guys don’t. I have the stats to prove it.

90% of the “sales clunge” that I receive through my inbox makes no effort to show any true insight. Worst still you make an assumption on the purpose of the blog without understanding the direction.

 

I May Not Be in the Right Place at the Right Time

So if you’ve bothered to work on a rapport with me you’ll know that you have to be patient and be a friend in the mean time. The friend requirement sometimes means helping me out or just being a friendly voice.

Writing a pitch email straight up will have no positive effect. I’m not motivated to look at or agree on anything without knowing that I can trust you to some degree. Actions speak louder than words but on the internet most of your actions are words.

 

I’m Not Your “Low Hanging Fruit”

As dark as that sounds. You will have to work harder.

 

Screw the Form

Write me something that doesn’t look like you copied and pasted. Let me know that you aren’t just some VA, copywriter or random citizen that was employed by a slack-jawed suit wearer to bait me into action.

 

As For the Future of the Contact Page

I’ve considered taking it down for a number of reasons but for a number of reasons I want to keep it active. I am therefore torn.

Reasons to Take it Down

  • The removal will instantly reduce the amount of nuisance emails I receive. I have fully vetted and setup my contact form so that it reduces spam but there are still those who fall through the net on occasion. I could restrict more but at the price of alienating.
  • It doesn’t perform its primary purpose. I had intended that people with genuine queries could talk to me about content, problems with their blogs and other conversations related to blogging but this never happens.

Reasons to Leave it Up

  • It is important that if someone had a burning concern and didn’t want to whack my email in directly that they contact me some way.
  • The contact page is an important pre-requisite in a complete Blog and I want to let people know that I can be contacted. I want to declare that I take community seriously.

In summary I would be leaving the page up but I am thinking about re-tuning the purpose of those emails.

Contact Form 7 is the contact form plugin I currently use.

Contact Form 7 is the contact form plugin I currently use.

 

Is My Approach Correct?

In performing research on other Contact forms I have noticed that they are set out in a very specific way. I would have to say that my contact page is lazy with a simple contact form and I need to do a bit more to direct activity here.

In a couple of weeks I hope to have bottomed out the changes to make this page a more useful entry point into conversation.

 

Other Sources on Contact Pages

In providing research on what is afoot I wanted to take a look at some of the high-ranking results on this issue. One that instantly stuck out was an article from BlogTyrant.

10 of the Best Contact Us Pages

Scrolling down to number 6 in the list on that article, Seth Godin‘s contact us page fits some way along the lines that I’d like to frame what the contact page is for.

Another useful search result was from katharine-writes.com

Does your Website Have… A (Useful) Contact Page?

It was interesting to read about whether you should or shouldn’t have the contact form and why throwing up just your email would encourage more people to contact you. My only concern there is that I’ve always tried to reduce the chances of spam by not leaving “mailto links” where bots can easily find them.

Another hugely useful article was written over at Barn2 Media by Katie

6 ways to stop Contact Form 7 spam on WordPress websites

I was unaware of honeypots and there were some other useful inclusions on the list of 6 that were an interesting read, and which I may look to include in my contact form.

 

In Closing

A contact page is something you need but you will always get individuals who will try to go for an easy win. I displayed in the image near the top of the page with the notion of a “driveby” in the subject line. It is very wasteful to cold call. Why not just do it right? It takes longer to cultivate but you are much more likely to hit pay dirt.

Being personal still rocks.

 

Care and Share

I will now ask for your aid in sharing my post. The bonus is that this is the 200th article by BlogPrefect over 3 years. I am happy to have reached this milestone in hopes that I’ve helped others through my observations.

I have changed my social media focus more towards Twitter in recent times because in terms of results I get more interaction with my audience than I would with Facebook or Google+. Therefore please feel free to share this on Twitter. You can also contact me there at twitter.com/blogprefect. I do of course accept shares wherever you’d like to push this content and all of the firm favourites can be found in the SumoMe share bar to the left of the screen (just look for the crown).

I am contactable through, funnily enough the contact page, via a DM on twitter, via this sites wonderful email address of headboy [at] blogprefect.com and through telepathic communication. Maybe not so much for the last one, it gives me a headache.

The comments are open so you are welcome to agree or disagree with anything I’ve written and point out any shortfalls or improvements that you think would be helpful to me or any other readers.

 

Image Credits:

Featured image by Jarmoluk via Pixabay, edited by moi..