Apple Release Blogging Tool – MacBook

Apple today announced their latest notebook – the MacBook. It’s pretty much like the old ibook but it’s got an isight camera, has front row (with remote), is intel core duo based, has a glossy wide (13.3 inch) screen, thinner design and comes in white or black (among other changes).

I’ve had a Powerbook for a couple of years and don’t think I’d go back to the consumer model (I’m lusting after the MacBook Pros) but this new machine would certainly make a nice blogging tool.

Bloggers Reporting Changes in Google Traffic Levels – Sandbox Updated?

I’ve had email from three separate bloggers today asking me to explain why they’ve seen increases in traffic over the last 24 hours from Google.

I’m not an SEO expert and wouldn’t claim to really understand the ins and outs of how Google updates but there seems to be movement in the way they are indexing some sites in the last day or two.

Some are claiming that the infamous ‘Google Sandbox’ might have been updated to allow some sites that have proved themselves out to be included in their results pages. This explanation seems reasonable to me as each person who has emailed me is talking about blogs that are relatively new and that have never been indexed particularly well in Google.

Others will probably say that this is just a routine tweak of the algorithm or a roll out of a new setting in some datacenters – the truth be told, I don’t really know anything except that something’s happening.

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About About Pages

Brian at copyblogger today asks What’s Your Blog Really About? and gives some good tips for writing an about page, using mine as an example of how to write it:

“Of course, I’ve been reading Darren’s blog for quite some time. But if I had just stumbled upon it today, I would have clicked on the ‘About ProBlogger’ link to see what was going on.

And that page would have done its job well. It caught and kept my attention, and it would have resulted in a subscription. All because he told me a story that demonstrated exactly the reason why I would want to read his blog, and at the end, he asked me to subscribe.

That’s what the ‘About’ page of your blog is for. Without a static homepage, and with numerous potential entry points via links or search results, the ‘About’page of a blog is an important opportunity to convert a new visitor into a regular reader.”

Keep in mind that like Brian says, writing an ‘About Page’ around a personal story like I’ve done is not appropriate for every blog. I use it because my story is central in my style of writing but also adds some level of credibility to the topic at hand. In fact I get a lot of readers tell me that the reason they keep coming back is because they somehow feel involved in the story of ProBlogger.

However for some blogs a personal story is not appropriate. Brian sums it up well:

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Stylegala for Sale

StylegalaOne of my favorite web design sites, Stylegala is up for sale over at Sitepoint. David, it’s owner, just emailed me to let me know the news and I’m going to be fascinated to see how the auction goes.

If you’ve got a spare $30,000 (USD) you could just pick yourself up a pretty well respected site with 4.2 million monthly page views.

I’m sure there are a few web design junkies breaking open their piggy banks and counting out their pennies since this was announced.

Using Posting Schedules to Maintain Momentum

200605161802Another strategy for planning ahead that many bloggers use is to create a postings schedule for themselves. This can happen on a range of levels (from informal to very structured) but is often a great way to give some level of structure and motivation for posting. Here’s a few quick ways that I’ve seen bloggers do this:

  • Numerical Goals – set a daily/weekly/montly posting level that you want to achieve.
  • Topical Goals – set yourself a number of topics that you want to cover over a period of time. These can be ‘general’ topics (ie you want to write 5 posts this week in a certain category on your blog) or can be quite specific (ie you want to write 1 post on XXX topic, another on YYY topic and another on ZZZ topic).
  • Post Style Goals – set yourself a type of post to write each day. Some bloggers have a weekly rhythm that they stick to (ie on Monday I’ll post an interview with someone, on Tuesday I’ll write a rant, on Wednesday I’ll do a review post, on Thursday I’ll do a link post style wrap up on the news for the week and on Friday I’ll write a tip post) For ideas on different types of blog posts – here’s 20.

Make your goals reasonable enough to be achievable as well as big enough to stretch you a little.

Using posting schedules works brilliantly for some people and gives them a wonderful framework for their blogging, but for others it can squash their passion for blogging. It’s worth experimenting with though and seeing if it fits with your personality.

I tend not to use posting schedules in day to day blogging but do find them very useful in those times when life threatens to get on top of me and I find maintaining momentum most difficult. In these times I attempt to set a goal for each and then on a piece of paper in front of me tick off each post as I write them.

Public Posting Schedules – some bloggers not only have personal or private posting schedules but have public ones and tell their readers what to expect on their blog. This makes the blogger accountable to their goals and can create a sense of anticipation among your readers but is also risky if you don’t meet the expectations that you create in your regular readers minds. I do this if I’m writing a series of posts and I know I’m going to follow through on my goals – but don’t like to set many more expectations that that as my own style of blogging is reasonably spontaneous.

On the Go Planning – Maintaining Blogging Momentum

200605161802This week at ProBlogger we’re covering the topic of how to Maintain Momentum in your blogging. Yesterday in part two I covered three factors to consider when planning a blog that will help to create a sustainable blog for the long term.

Of course most ProBlogger readers already have blogs and so many of you will have found yesterday’s tips for PREbloggers a little untimely.

Today I’d like to focus our attention on a number of factors to consider in terms of planning a blog while it’s ‘on the go’ that will help to maintain momentum through many of the things that might often bring blogging to a halt (many of which I covered here).

Planning for Life Events

What ‘life events’ do you have coming up that could potentially break the momentum of your blog?

Most people can only maintain a certain level of activity in their life at any given time. This is true both on a time basis (there are only 24 hours in a day) and also on an emotional basis.

In my own experience and from watching many other bloggers over the past few years I know that blogging is often one of the first things to be put on hold when a significant event happens in a person’s life.

This is natural and in many instances is a totally appropriate thing but with some forward thinking the impact of such events can be minimised (and even alleviated).

Ask yourself – ‘what planned life events do you have approaching you?’ and ‘what might I do to prepare for these events as they impact my blogging?’

These might included everything from taking a holiday, to starting a new job, to the birth of a child, to getting married.

All of these things are ‘planned’ to some extent (ie I take time to book a holiday, we’ve spend the last few months getting our house ready for our new baby, we put a lot of planning into our wedding) and there is no reason why bloggers should can’t do a little planning around how their blogs will operate in and around these events.

Strategies of what to do in the lead up to, during and after events like these can vary from ‘blogging as normal’, to getting a guest blogger to fill in, to advance posting, to announcing a pause in blogging etc. All are legitimate – but it’s important to know what you’ll do, to communicate this to your readers and to especially think about how you’ll reengage with your blogging after the event (more on this shortly).

Contingency Plans for Unexpected Events

What would I do if some unexpected life event made it difficult or impossible to blog?

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TechCrunch Redesign Update

A few days back I linked to the design saga around the TechCrunch Redesign where the redesign of this popular blog came under significant critique. The design was done by Rachel Cunliffe from Cre8d but it was pretty obvious that there was some level of different perspectives between designer and blog owner if you look at the post announcing the redesign by Mike and the comment thread of Rachel’s announcement.

Reading between the lines it seems that Mike’s opinion as the blog owner won out and the new design was something that Rachel was not completely happy about. Ultimately the decision has to come down to a blog owner on how their blog will look and Rachel took the gracious approach of saying things like:

“Design is incredibly personal and I’m not taking the negative comments to heart because I know I’ve created what my client had in mind and wanted – layout, ads, exact colors and format.”

To me this indicates some level of respect for Mike as a client.

Today I headed over to Rachel’s blog to find that things have taken a new twist. She’s resigned as a result of Mike’s latest post which features a design submitted by another blog designer saying that he’s impressed by it and intends to steal some of it.

I’m a little disappointed by Mike’s post and by the whole way the saga has been handled. As much as I think Rachel’s stood by Mike as a client and worked to his desires his post to me is a little undermining of her work. Perhaps some will say Rachel overreacted by resigning but obviously she’s had enough and is moving on. What the full story that’s led to it doesn’t look like coming out but something’s caused her to react this way.

I have seen some fairly full on critiques of Rachel and her work this week with some saying some pretty terrible things about her despite her working to her clients wishes. I’m amazed that she’s put up with the rubbish that some have thrown her way.

Having said this there has been some acknowledgment by some of her talent and I only hope that out of it will come cliental who not only appreciate her work but who are also willing to take her advice and expertise on board in the design of their blogs.

As I said in my last post on the topic I do hope this brings about some worthwhile discussion on the topic of blog design and doesn’t degenerate into a personal attack-fest. Hopefully the matter can all be put to bed now and everyone can get on with their business of blogging and designing.

Update: Mike’s responded to the situation here and the comments arguing both sides are flowing.
Update II:
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3 Factors to Consider Before Starting a Blog – Maintaining Blogging Momentum

200605161802As I’ve pondered how to write about maintaining momentum (this is part 2 of a series) on a blog many of the suggestions that I have have boiled down to one thing – thinking ahead.

While I know many bloggers like to blog spontaneously and to go with the flow, I’ve found that planning a blog (both before you start it and in an ongoing way) can save a lot of heart ache later on.

Following are three of the issues you might like to consider ahead of time and before you start blogging that will help you later when it comes to maintaining momentum on your blog:

1. Topic breadth

Will the topic you’re considering starting a blog about be lend itself to being an ongoing project?

As I mentioned in my series introduction, there are two extremes when it comes to topic breadth that often lead to the death of a blog. The first is choosing a topic that is so broad that it becomes overwhelming and the second is choosing one that is so narrow that after just a few posts the blogger runs out of things to say.

One simple way to test whether a topic is wide enough is to search for news on it using tools like Google News or Look particularly for the frequency of news on the topic. This will give you an indication of whether there are stories breaking on the topic that you can bounce off on your blog.

Another test is to simply brainstorm what posts you could write on the topic. Simply put down on paper as long a list of post titles as you can as quickly as possible. If after 10 minutes you only have a handful of potential post ideas you might want to either widen your topic or find another one.

2. Energy Levels

Does the topic excite you? Are you motivated enough to write about it for the long term?

I made the mistake 12 or so months ago of starting a series of blogs on topics that I knew very little about and that I didn’t have sufficient interest in to sustain over the long haul.

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YPN Publishers Experiencing Down Time

I’ve had emails from 4 different YPN publishers who tell me that the ads on their blogs are not showing and have not been for most of the day just gone by. Forums like Digital Point’s YPN down? thread seem to confirm that the problem is more widely spread than just a few isolated cases.

I just logged into b5media’s YPN account and the back end is not working but the blogs we’re running the ads on are definitely not showing them either.

I guess publishers need to remember that YPN is in beta and from time to time will have problems. It’s not really any comfort but part of the process.

update: not long after posting this I started seeing ads on our blogs that run YPN so perhaps things are back up and running again.