When you put the word “pro” in front of an action or position in life (one that refers to a person), it typically means that the word or action is done as a profession–as in: it makes money or it is the person’s job.
Which definitely brings me to the time I met Allen Iverson. I was closing up shop at a retail establishment I used to manage in New York. A limousine pulled up right in front of our doors after I had already locked up. My mind said: I’m not unlocking the doors unless it’s Idris Elba. Or Justin Timberlake. Or Rosario Dawson. Or Judi Dench. Or anyone who has ever played James Bond in a film. But that’s it.
Who do you think that is?” one of the sales associates asked.
At this hour and at this store, probably a pro baller,” said another team member. [P.S. This was a shoe store we were in.]
Pro baller. Good guess. Where pro means the person doesn’t just play basketball for fun . . . someone, somewhere hands over a paycheck for them to play. And the paycheck is probably large. Hence the limousine. And the late arrival to my store. And the stock guy who came running out of the back begging me to open the doors as soon as he saw one half smidgen of Iverson’s head. Allen Iverson was his favorite basketball player ever.
I had already made my mind up that I wasn’t going to open the door except for the people noted above, but could I really deny a friend their chance to meet someone they thought was epically talented (regardless of how I felt about this person)?
I’m not that mean. I unlocked the door. Every single employee was geeking out. The stock guy offered to be his salesperson, a salesperson offered to be his cashier (but then asked me to ring him up instead because she was too nervous). I felt like I was the only person acting like a normal human being–which is so far from being an accurate thing to say about me.
In the moment, I wanted to treat the person in front of me with respect (regardless of any negative/crazy media about them) and professionalism (because at the time, I was a professional shoe store manager, so it was my job). The pro baller was courteous, professional, didn’t ask for a discount, didn’t act like he owned the place, he just came in and bought shoes and smiled and talked with our team members like any other person. If you didn’t know his face, you would have only been able to guess that he was a professional basketball player by his arrival (limo), his general appearance (tall, athletic, wearing sports apparel), his phone conversation (that I overheard him on–sorry dude, I wasn’t eavesdropping, I promise), his crew (there was a manager-like person with him), and the pretty gracious way he dealt with people staring at him and not being able to speak.
Living in New York means you’ll eventually run into celebrities. It’s not boasting or one-upping to casually mention the celebrities you meet or run into there. It’s somewhat normal, especially if you work in certain areas of Manhattan. I’ve met celebs who act pretty normal (Iverson), strange musicians and actors (names not included), and extremely memorable, courteous, amazing, and professional actors (Rosario Dawson being my top example).
Ahh Regina, these long stories that lead us nowhere. When will you stop with these? You may be saying in your head.
Never. The answer is never. But I will however share with you 20 actions that you can take to enhance your blog presence so that you don’t look like an amateur blogger. 20 things you can do to pull a Rosario Dawson on the Internet. 20 things that will help you “wow” people and set the impression that you are a professional and that you take blogging seriously. 20 items that will help you stand out to brands, collaborators, and readers.
P.S. The actions below are not in order of importance and don’t necessarily depend on each other. Some of them are way more involved than others, so I’ve put the estimated time each item will take by the item itself. You can pick one or two per day, you can do them in any order, it doesn’t matter.
P.P.S. 12 of these items were previously published here on the blog, but they were ready for some revamping and growth. So without further story telling, here are 20 ways to look like a pro blogger:
1. Write a “sponsored” post, even if it’s not actually sponsored. (5+ hours)
No silly, I’m not saying to lie and say that the post was sponsored. I’m just saying that if you’re trying to go pro, and one of your goals is to get brands to sponsor your posts (by paying you $$, or sending you products, or both), then why not show brands the type of sponsored post you’re capable of?
Above is a post by Erika Gibson in which she introduces her readers to Nutcache. Just look at her beautiful graphic. Love that lady. And we can follow her example by creating useful, attractive brand posts. At the very least, someone will read your post and consider it helpful, but, on the other hand:
- The brand you’re writing about may notice it and share it or seek to develop a deeper relationship with you. Here’s an example of a non-sponsored brand post I did, because I love MailChimp so much, that MailChimp included in one of their newsletters.
- Another brand might notice it and want to work with you.
- You can start using the post as a portfolio item to show brands what you can do. Which was a suggestion/thought brought up by Amber Kristine’s question in a recent webinar I did on 10 Ways to Make Your Brand Stand Out (you can view it here). P.S. I love your blog’s redesign Amber.
- You can tweet out your post (or share it on multiple social media platforms) and tag the brand in your post. Which increases the chances that a brand will notice it and love you forever or share your post.
2. Customize your blog’s title and subtitle to something descriptive, humorous, or powerful . . . keywords included. (<5 minutes)
In WordPress, you can log into your dashboard and go to “Settings,” then “General.” You will be able to change your site title and subtitle, which is not only helpful for search engine optimization (SEO), but also looks good to people. Your title and subtitle show up in the tab of a person’s browser when they land on your site. View the example from the site below. And yes, this was one of the 27 businesses I tried that I talked about in my story about becoming a full-time blogger. So no, the site doesn’t exist any longer. Don’t judge me.
3. Get a professional photo of yourself for your sidebar, Bio, or About page. (1 day + editing time)
Don’t use that cropped out photo with your ex-boyfriend or BFF that you took with your T-Mobile Sidekick (remember those?) in 2007. Please. Look at the example of awesome photography below, done by Apple Rose Photography (in Los Angeles) for my former client and very current friend Inspired Design by Julie. It makes a difference!
4. Find a website theme that others can’t get for free. Or modify the heck out of your free theme. (3+ hours)
If someone reads your blog, they likely read other blogs too. If customers or brands have checked out your website, they’ve likely been on plenty of other sites in your industry as well. If you’re using a basic free theme in any given platform, you’re increasing the chance that your site will look exactly like someone else’s site. This can make it difficult to stand out as a pro blogger. You definitely want to create a unique, memorable brand and experience for people. Start with your blog’s theme by changing the logo, colors, fonts, spacing, sidebar, footer content, appearance of the header, etc., and by creating a consistent look for your images, post formatting, and more.
If you are not a huge fan of DIY when it comes to design or blog themes, consider taking a class (if you have some time available) or hiring a developer who can make a few tweaks on a free/inexpensive theme for you. Even small changes in the placement of elements or the functionality of your theme can make a serious difference.
5. Get an avatar for when you reply to blog comments or when you comment on other people’s blogs. (5 minutes)
Some comment systems will pull your picture from Twitter, or your Disqus profile, or whatever you’re logged into, but some comment areas pull from Gravatar. Setting up your account and making sure your picture shows up on any and all blogs where it is a possibility, helps with branding, consistency, and professionalism. Look at the example below. Doesn’t a picture enhance the comment and make it more personable? You can do this in a few simple steps using Gravatar. Check out the example from WifeMomSuperwoman.com below.
6. Start to offer your very own service or product. (4+ hours)
While there are many ways to monetize a blog, offering a product or service will help solidify your professional status in your niche. Granted, you want to take the time to make sure your service or product stands out and creates substantial value for anyone who receives it, but you probably don’t want to think about it for so long that you don’t actually ever offer it.
Consider listing 1 – 3 services in your niche that you are comfortable with offering. Also consider releasing the details of a product you have coming soon (eBook, course, physical product), then get to actually creating it. With whatever you decide, try to create an attractive sales page or sidebar image. I love the look of the packages Julie Harris offers. Her custom photo shoot came in super handy for filling up her site with beautiful, personal images.
7. Add a favicon to your site. (10 minutes)
A favicon is the small square graphic that shows up in the tab of a person’s browser when they’re on your blog. Here is Mashable’s favicon as an example (it’s the “M” in the top left corner):
If you don’t load a favicon, a plain filler image (or your hosting company’s logo) may appear. Boooo. A favicon helps with your overall branding and it’s simple to add even if your blog theme doesn’t have a simple place to upload it.
Go to the HTML/CSS/PHP/etc. documents of your site and find your Header document. For a self-hosted WordPress site, you’ll go to “Appearance,” then “Editor,” then “Header.php.” Paste the code below into your blog’s code under the opening <head> tag and before the closing </head> tag. Make sure to replace the image url (http://www.mywebsiteurl.com/favicon.png) with the URL of your own square image (usually 16×16 pixels). I recommend storing and uploading your favicon as a PNG.
<link rel=”icon” type=”image/png” href=”http://www.mywebsiteurl.com/favicon.png”/>
If you’re running a WordPress.com blog, you can follow these instructions for a favicon/blavatar.
8. Provide a search bar that’s easy to find. (10 minutes)
Sometimes readers are looking for “that one post I remember reading on this site,” and if you don’t have a way people can easily search your content, you may have some frustrated readers or quick exits from your blog.
You can add your search bar to your header or sidebar, among other places. I just recommend that you make it highly visible. As to the wording, you can keep it simple and title it “Search” or ask your visitors if they’re “Looking for something?” . . . you can also pretend to speak fluent French as you can see that I do below. In WordPress, use the built-in “Search” widget to add search functions to your sidebar.
9. Make yourself available and present as a pro. (3+ hours of planning)
Anything from holding “office hours” (like the image below from Olyvia Media’s Facebook page) and Twitter chats to publishing FAQs or building a form on your site where people can leave questions, can help you stand out and look like a pro. Ooh, and back to that form where people can leave questions . . . maybe you can promise to answer some of them in your weekly newsletter, or in a podcast, or on an Internet show, or in a monthly blog post, or through a live webinar, or . . . you get me.
10. Include links (in your sidebar and in your blog posts) to recent or popular posts to keep your readers engaged and on your site. (10 minutes)
For WordPress, I love to use the Advanced Recent Posts Widget. It’s free and allows you to include preview images and text excerpts with each post. View the example below:
11. Use sexier permalinks. (10 minutes)
The URL and permalink of a post will theoretically be seen and shared multiple times. If you leave it as byRegina.com/2015/05/04/really-long-and-ugly-post-name-that-never-ends/, it doesn’t look too pretty. Also, leaving a date in your permalink means that when you update and republish a post (like I just did with this one so that it would show up in RSS feeds and go out to my email friends who asked to receive posts by email), the URL of your post will change. Which is no bueno for all the social media shares, pins, links, etc., that might already exist for your post.
If your post is 10 Simple Tips to Get Bathing Suit Ready Before Summer, perhaps try websitename.com/get-bathing-suit-ready or /bathing-suit-ready or something along those lines that is short and sweet. Leaving the “10” out of the URL helps as well because you might think of 3 more tips in a few months that you want to add. As a real life example, this post used to only have 12 tips, now it has 20, but since the URL of the post never included “12” or any other number, I don’t have to change it.
In WordPress, you can go to “Settings” then “Permalinks” and select the “Post Name” structure to eliminate the date from a post. Then, as you create each post and page, you can modify the permalink right under the title of the post/page.
12. Include easy-to-find social media links. (20 minutes)
You know … so people can find you. Some people prefer to ask questions, comment, and interact via social media. Welcome to the Internet. Here is a post I wrote that includes 12 excellent plugins (for WordPress) including two recommendations for free social media icon plugins.
13. Provide a simple way for readers to find your RSS feed and subscribe to it. (15 minutes)
Refer to the above picture (top right corner) to see a sample RSS (really simple syndication) icon that will allow someone to upload your blog’s feed into their favorite RSS reader (mine is Feedly) and stay updated with all your posts.
14. Place a copyright notice (c) in your footer. (5 minutes)
Even though you have a built-in copyright (of sorts) on original material that you publish, go ahead and let the world know your content is yours. It’s the standard and helps add to your professional feel.
15. Create a Comments Policy and Permissions Policy. (45+ minutes)
Having a policy for your comments can not only minimize stupidity around the Internet, but it can also make you look super professional. I mean, who goes to the trouble of creating a well-written policy on blog comments? Professionals. That’s who. Ditto Permissions. Be clear about what you do and do not allow others to do with your content.
16. Include a quality image with each blog post. (30+ minutes)
Whether the image is one you photographed, one you got for free through Flickr Creative Commons, Pixabay, or Unsplash, or even one you purchased inexpensively from Creative Market (a new obsession!), Fotolia, or Stocksy, make sure each blog post has an attractive image. You can add text or other graphics to spice it up if you wish (view the image at the top of this post for an example).
17. Launch with at least five posts and make sure you post frequently. (10+ hours of writing and designing)
If you launch your blog with only one or two posts, readers won’t necessarily know that you’re serious about consistently adding quality content. In the same line of thought, make sure you post frequently. If a reader lands on your site and sees that you haven’t updated your blog in two months, they may think you’ve quit blogging. Want some ideas for blog posts? Check this article: 51 Types of Blog Posts to Grow Your Audience.
18. Build your blog for lazy people. (30+ minutes each week)
Include “calls to action,” obvious links, a clear navigation menu, and anything else you can think of that will encourage people to browse through your blog. If you make something hard for a reader to find, that person may look elsewhere (as in: another blog) or get frustrated. Assume laziness and you will go farther with your blog. Promise.
20. Build your email list. (5+ hours)
It’s the only thing “they” can’t take away from you or control. Meaning: Whether there’s an evil algorithm update in your favorite social media platform, or a new update in search engine rankings, you will still have a way to communicate directly with the people who want to be connected to you. Even if a certain social media platform kicks you off their system or closes down entirely, you have a way to spread your brand.
I recommend trying to offer a ton of value with your email list (which is why I wrote the eBook below and also decided to host monthly webinars and Q+As only for my email friends), and I also recommend checking out MailChimp (for sending your emails) for the multiple features and benefits I outlined in this post.
P.S. If you liked these “20 actions” and happen to also want my free eBook 75 Ways to Help Your Brand Stand Out, then you can totally get it by signing up for my free Creative Superhero emails. The free eBook is delivered after signup and you also get access to live, monthly Q+As conducted as webinars, as well as tips, resources, and discounts that I don’t release anywhere else. Sound good? Here’s where you can sign up for your free eBook.
Got any crazy celebrity stories or additional tips for looking like a pro blogger? I’d personally love to hear them below in the comments.
Main blog photo: © Rachel Bellinsky