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Six Apart to Launch Vox – June 1

Comet LogoTechCrunch have announced that Six Apart (the team behind TypePad, Moveable Type and Live Journal) are releasing a new hosted blogging platform named Vox (formally named Comet) – to be launched on 1 June.

It’s been on the cards since September last year (when it was called Project Comet).

They describe Vox as half blogging platform and half social network. It looks like a pretty entry level kind of product and I’m not sure how much it will offer most ProBloggers but it will definately be something worth taking a look at.

Source: TechCrunch » SixApart To Launch Comet, Renamed Vox, on June 1

Lessons from Eye Tracking

Picture 2-6Seth Godin has posted a fascinating video on his blog which shows eye tracking results of Squidoo. Lots can be gleaned by watching where people look on a website and while Squidoo is a little different from most blogs there are a number of take home lessons that I can see (none are particularly new and it is worth noting that each example in the video is a little different).

Pictures draw the eye – I was interested in a number of the examples to see that as people scrolled down a page that the first thing they often looked at was the thumbnail pictures – it was almost as if these were what were getting people to scroll.

Headings work well – similarly to pictures – headings and sub headings were often the first thing to be read upon scrolling. Quite often people read nothing more than the headings at all. Particularly good were headings in contrasting colors.

Blocks of Text Avoided - Most Squidoo pages don’t have large blocks of text but even medium sized ones were rarely read all the way through. In fact I saw little evidence of much reading at all – lots of scanning. Where people did seem to read they rarely finished a paragraph.

Lists seem popular - On a few occasions lists seemed to make those being tracked stop and do a little reading (although quite often people didn’t get to the bottom of lists and just read the headings of each point).

Buttons and Menus worked – I was surprised how much time some users seemed to hover over navigational elements of the design.

Ads were avoided - This didn’t surprise me at all. Seth says that it was because AdSense ads are familiar to we users and that’s the reason – I’d also argue that because Squidoo use the default design for their AdSense ads and position them low on the right hand side that they are never going to perform well.

How to Surf Blog Traffic Tsunamis

Surf-1Sometimes it’s the simplest posts that you do that seem to get the best reactions from readers.

Yesterday on my Digital Photography School blog I posted a ‘beginner’ tip that I almost considered not publishing because it was pitched at such a basic level. The post was titled How to Hold a Digital Camera.

What the post contained was nothing that anyone would consider ‘Rocket Science’ by any means but was on a topic that I see many people getting wrong.

I set the post to publish and then went to bed.

This morning I wake up to find that it’s one of the most popular posts on delicious, digg and has been linked to from lifehacker and gizmodo (among others). An hour ago it had 7000 visitors (peak) and now as the US heads towards sleep its tracking at around half of that per hour (and still rising on delicious and digg).

Some of the comments on those sites are not particularly flattering of the post (many of them don’t seem to have read it) saying that it’s too basic – but the way people are hitting the page and linking up to it I’d say that there are plenty of people who do appreciate a ‘basic’ tip.

A few take home lessons from the experience:

  • Sometimes it’s worth stepping back from ‘advanced’ or ‘technical’ posts and remember that many potential readers are not at that level
  • People love a ‘how to’ article – so do social bookmarking sites
  • When your posts get popular they’ll also attract criticism – it comes with the territory – get over it and move on
  • When you get an influx of visitors to a post like this consider how you might leverage the traffic (I added two links inviting people to subscribe to my RSS feed and email newsletter to the post as soon as I saw what was going on – it’s paying off with a new subscription to my newsletter being added every 2-3 minutes at the moment). Another option is to increase the prominence of ads if you’re more interested in monetizing the wave of traffic – I’m not as interested in that – I’d rather build readership.
  • When you get a spike in traffic like this make sure you have something else ready to post as soon as possible for readers to look at (I posted an article on ‘how to photograph pets‘ while there is still a lot of traffic on the site). Keep the momentum going.
  • Enjoy the traffic while it lasts – tomorrow things will be a little higher than normal but the spike in traffic will soon become a distant memory

Update – for more information on capturing traffic from sources like Digg and StumbleUpon and converting them to loyal readers read:

Stickify Your Blog
How to Keep First Time Readers to Your Blog

Free Blogger Templates

What-Is-Rss-1-1Do you Want to Improve Your Blog? Subscribe to ProBlogger Today for Free.

“Where do I find Free Blogger Templates?”

I’m regularly asked by bloggers using different blog platforms where they can get nice designs for their blogs, usually for free. I’m a WordPress User and therefore know a few good spots for WP templates (here, here, here, here, here, here and here for starters) but one of the platforms I’m less familiar with that many blogs use is Blogger.com.

Gecko and Fly have a nice list of well designed Blogger Templates that I think I’ll be sending people to from now on. Most are designs imported in from WP designs that are quite unlike Blogger.com default designs.

Share your Free Blogger Templates below if you’ve got any good sources.

Free Blogger Templates were found via blogHelper

How quickly after starting a blog should I put ads on it?

A number of readers have asked the above question in the past few weeks and so I thought it was time I shared my own approach to the decision of when to start running ads on a blog when launching.

There are two dominant camps of opinion on this question – both of which have things going for them:

1. Run Ads from Day 1 – The basic thinking behind this approach is that if you’re thinking of running ads at some point you might as well integrate them from day one. The reasons include:

  • Reader Expectations – starting a blog with no ads and then adding them later means running the risk of disillusioning readers whose expectations are that the blog is and always will be ‘ad free’. Some readers feel very strongly about this and to change the rules mid stream can cause problems. Start with ads from the beginning and you set the expectations from the start and don’t have to manage a transition from no ads to ads later on.
  • Consistent Design – running ads from the beginning of your blog means that you design your blog (or have it designed by a blogger) with ads already integrated into it. This means that you don’t need to do a redesign later on to add ads but already have them built in.
  • Earnings – my first blogs were ad free for almost 18 months before I discovered AdSense. While in the early days I didn’t do massive traffic I was doing some and those blogs could well have earned a little money each day. Of course a little each day for 18 months can add up to a significant amount. Put ads on your blog from the start and you’ll begin to see money from the early days. it might not be a lot but you might be surprised.
  • Ad Optimisation Education - run ads on your blog from day one and you begin a process of educating yourself about how to make money from advertising earlier – you also get your blog optimised well from the start. Most of us learn best ‘on the job’ rather than by just reading ‘theory’ or experiences of others. The great thing about starting early with advertising is that you can experiment and try different techniques without too many people seeing the mistakes that you make a long the way. This means that by the time the traffic does role in you can have your ads optimised well already – something that’s sure to pay off.

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ProBlogger Readers Definitive List of Habits of Effective Bloggers

Robert just sent me an email telling me about a post that he’s written summing up the ‘Habits of Effective Bloggers’ group writing project that we did last week.

In it he’s collated the Habits suggested by the 80 participants and has come up with a list of 50 habits. Each one has been given a percentage rating to show how many of us mentioned it. So for example ‘posting regularly’ came in as the most popular habit with 55% but ‘drink caffeine’ was only a 1% habit (ironically so too was ‘don’t do drugs’).

Robert’s post is exactly what I was hoping that someone would do with the series and really should be named ‘ProBlogger Readers Definitive List of Habits of Effective Bloggers’.

Performancing Launchpad

Performancing has announced a new service called ‘launchpad’ which is a place for people to post new gadgets, plugins, services, sites and blogs aimed at the blogging community.

ProBlogger Earnings Poll Results – April 2006

Last Week’s ProBlogger Poll of the Week asked readers of this blog the question:

‘How Much Money did you Make from Blogging in April?’

1504 people responded to the poll (thanks everyone) and the results revealed a similar pattern to previous polls asking about earnings.

The largest category was those that indicated that they didn’t earn anything in April (38%). On reflection I wished that I’d split this category into two (1. I tried but didn’t earn anything and 2. I didn’t try).

Of those that did earn something the results were quite interesting. I’ve graphed these results below (note I removed the ‘I didn’t earn anything’ category from the below results because I don’t know how many of them were trying to earn something.

As you’ll see from the following pie chart (click to enlarge) the biggest response came from those earning under $10 in April (30%).

After this the next biggest response was actually from the $100-$499 category (17%).

7% are earned over $15,000 for the month of April.

200605291457

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How to Blog by Phone

Jamsi has a useful post over at WorkBoxers (he’s back there blogging after Scrivs handed the domain over to him) on Blogging from your Mobile Phone which I’m sure some will find helpful.