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Reflections on ProBlogger Summer Series

All good things must come to an end and my two week holiday is almost over. We’re back at home after a great time away and I’ll gradually be resuming my blogging activities here at ProBlogger on Monday (there will be a couple more guest posts in the next two days).

Thanks to those who submitted posts for ProBlogger’s Summer/Holiday Series. I can say that without a doubt it’s been an incredible success on a number of levels.

Traffic

Picture 3-3

My last live post was Christmas Day and the guest posts kicked in midday on 26th. You can see for yourself the results (feels kind of strange to see your blog do so well when you ignore it!). A number of the posts (some of my own advance ones, but mainly guest posters) were picked up on del.icio.us, tech.memorandum and lifehacker (among others).

The secondary benefit of the increased traffic and large link ups is that the number of other sites linking to ProBlogger.net over the past two weeks has increased also. My ranking on Technorati has moved from 110 to 87 which is a result of two factors:

  1. Increased incoming links
  2. Less linking to other sites over the Holidays (ie when other blogs are less active there are benefits of having an active one yourself).

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My Technorati Problems

I’ve had an increasing number of emails from readers over the past few months telling me about problems that they have with Technorati.

Now I’m not wanting this to turn into a bitch session – I personally have a lot of time for the Technorati team who have developed a very useful tool in a relatively short period of time – however I’ve had my own frustrations with them in the past months also and am not having any luck in getting any attention from them.

Now on one hand I’m not too worried because in the scheme of things it doesn’t matter – but on the other hand when there is a tool that has a lot of potential like Technorati I’d be stupid not to want to get the most out of it.

Here’s four of the issues that I’ve been having:

[Read more...]

Turning Off-Line Into On-Line Content

Tammy Powley is a weblogger and freelance writer from South Florida.

One of the first content collecting tips most bloggers pick up is signing up for content helpers like google news alerts. I have to admit to doing this myself, and I use a lot of them. News alerts (no matter if they are from google or CNN or wherever) are wonderful tools for automatically gathering content related to your blogging topic. Of course, it takes time to go through all those alerts. For example, much of what I write about is related to jewelry, beading, and jewelry making. So, I would say about half of the alerts I get are about people stealing jewelry, not exactly something my readers want to know about, even think about! But, while these web tools are great, there are other ways to gather content ideas off-line and incorporate them into your on-line blogging needs.

Here are a few tips for finding information related to your content in the off-line world.

  • Subscribe to related magazines. Now, I know some folks are going to say they don’t have time to read all the magazines that deal with their topic, and that’s not exactly what I’m suggesting. However, select a few magazine that are the better-known titles in your industry. I have to admit to being a real sap when it comes to magazines – I truly love them – but I have learned that I just don’t have time to read them all, and they all don’t have information that my readers care to know about. Therefore, I’ve tried to narrow them down to a chosen few. One example is the publication BeadStyle. For me, this is the perfect magazine because it covers jewelry making, beading, and jewelry fashion. By just skimming through the ads and table of contents, I usually come up with at least a half dozen content ideas for my blogs.
  • Read your local newspaper. Again, don’t feel like you have to read the whole thing, but skim read the headlines. The local paper is usually pretty inexpensive, and it has local as well as national news. Even with jewelry, every once in a while, I’ll find a related article, maybe something about a new fashion trend, a celebrity designing jewelry (oh, yes, Paris Hilton comes to mind), or yet another story about a beader turned entrepreneur. Most people read the paper, at least on the weekends any way, so this idea isn’t much of a stretch to consider.
  • Look off and then on line. Most periodicals these days have web sites, especially the larger ones. Once you locate some content ideas in a hard copy, remember that you can also find links on line as well. Look for the URL in the publication’s header or in the first few pages where editors and other contributors may be listed. Look for key words within articles as well. If you are writing about Donald Trump, then google him and see if you can locate his web site. (By the way, it happens to be www.trump.com/main.htm and it’s actually pretty cool.)
  • Find frugality at your library. Hardcopy publications can get pricey, especially if you are writing about topics such as business or finance. Unplug on occasion and make a trip to your local public library. Bring along some change. While many libraries allow you to check out magazines, some will not allow you to check out the most recent issues. They also have some materials that are only available in the reference area in the library rather than circulation, so again, you can’t check them out. However, you can photocopy them.

Once you start looking around in your off-line environment, you’ll be surprised at what you can find to help generate content related to your blog topic. It’s easy to get so caught up in the virtual world of the net that we forget some people still actually read hardcopy publications, and in fact, these publications can be useful to even the most devoted weblogger.

Four easy steps to add your own Del.icio.us link in Typepad

This post was submitted by Vic Correro from Writesville.com.

I have to give credit where credit is due. I first saw Darren’s use of the ‘Add this post to del.icio.us link a while back and decided that I would like to do the same to Writesville.com. I think this is an excellent idea, as del.icio.us is a wonderful resource. Also, Nick Wilson over at Performancing.com gave the additional push I needed to include this feature through his post and free PDF about del.icio.us.

For those of you who are familiar with Typepad, or are using it, the following information will require a tad bit of knowledge with Typepad’s advanced template structure. If you want more information on this, see: Advanced Template Sets and Template Tags. Understanding of HTML will also be helpful here.

Now, before I continue. I do want to mention that this is the way that I accomplished the task. As the saying goes: ‘There’s more than one way to skin a cat’.

So, let’s get back to the topic. If you want to create your own del.icio.us link embedded somewhere in your post, you will need to do the following:
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7 Ways to Get to the Top of the del.icio.us Popular Page

I’ve been watching the del.icio.us Popular Page quite closely lately. I’m fascinated by the list for many reasons – for one it’s a great source of content ideas and links, secondly it helps keep a finger on the pulse of what people are into at any given time and thirdly it’s a highly trafficked page that has the potential to send out large quantities of traffic very quickly and is increasingly being targeted (along with other social bookmarking pages) by bloggers who are doing quite well from the traffic it sends them (in fact I know of three bloggers who credit del.icio.us and digg.com as kick starting (and feeding in an ongoing way) their blogging careers. I know last time I hit the top of the list I had an extra 8000 visitors that day directly from it and the links from others who saw it there.

While I haven’t done an in depth study into del.icio.us – it is interesting to note the type of links that consistently get to the top of the del.icio.us popular page. Here are seven of the characteristics that are often present in these popular links (often more than one of the following apply in each instance) which could improve the chances of getting into the mix as a popular link:

  1. Make a List – Just by scanning the current popular links titles it is evident that lists dominate the… list (they make up over 40% of the current links). One of the first times I made it to the top of del.icio.us was with a list (fittingly it was a list of why lists are good for getting traffic). Of course some people are ‘anti-list’ – they argue that breaking things down into lists ‘dummifies’ the content. While I’ve seen plenty of lists where this is the case – I would also argue that lists that are well crafted can be just as meaty as other forms of writing.
  2. Number your List - It’s not just any old list that gets popular but quite often lists that have a number in the title. I’m not quite sure what it is about numbers that capture the attention of del.icio.us users – but they do. I can’t remember the last time when there wasn’t a title in the popular list like ’10 rules for…’, ’5 ways to…’ , ’6 trends that…’, ’50 tips on….’. There is obviously something about quantifying a list that readers respond to. How many points is ideal? The jury is still out on this one. As I look at the current popular page I see a list of 50, numerous lists of 10 and a list of 3.
  3. Write a ‘How to…’ - Another type of link that is often popular is the ‘how to’ post. Walk your readers through a process that teaches them how to achieve a goal they might have and they’re more likely to want to bookmark it. Again as I scan the current list I see a number of titles that indicate that the links will teach or guide readers through a particular issue. Often the titles use the actual words ‘how to…’ in them. Others use ‘Guide to’, ‘Tips to…’ or ‘Tutorials’ etc. On the flip side of the ‘how to’ I also regularly see ‘how not to’ type articles or articles that talk about ‘common mistakes’ that people make.
  4. Make Big Promises and Claims – It’s interesting that the del.icio.us popular page relies totally upon the title of the link to get people to click on it (ie there are no descriptions to draw readers to visit – just the title). As a result the way titles are constructed has a lot to do with converting the link into visitors. One strategy that some successful del.icio.us links use is to make a big promise or grand statement. A recent post on ProBlogger that did this that got into the popular list was Three simple actions that doubled my website traffic in 30 days. While it’s not a promise – it’s a title that certainly got some attention (well worded Adrian). Of course a good title isn’t enough, unless you have something worth reading you’ll not get the necessary bookmarks to create the social bookmarking wave to surf to the top.
  5. Get Technological – The vast majority of links in the popular list as I write this post have some sort of technological bent. It features links about SOAP, Powerpoint, video games, AJAX, CSS, Blogging, Top Websites, Linux, Microsoft, Cell Phones etc. Obviously del.icio.us users are tech savy folk – so to get their attention you’ll want to tickle their tech bone.
  6. Inspire – I notice here at ProBlogger that sometimes my most helpful ‘how to’/techie posts are not the only ones to get attention from readers – in fact probably the most linked to and bookmarked posts at ProBlogger fit more into the inspirational/motivational category rather than an educational one. People like to be inspired and touched on an emotional level.
  7. Use Humor – Of course it’s not only techie or inspirational posts that get to the top of the del.icio.us heap. Sometimes it’s links that go for the funny bone that are also popular. Ten Simple Rules for Dating My Daughters was a link that caught my eye a few days back for this reason – it got close to the top of the popular page. Of course if you can use humor in the form of a numbered list on a techie, inspirational topic and make a big claim at the same time you’re set!

I’m sure there are plenty of other characteristics of del.icio.us links that make it to the popular page – interested to hear what others think.

How to Decide How Many Columns are Best for your Blog

‘How Many Columns is it best to have on a blog?’

Now there’s a question that must be in the top 10 that I got asked in 2005. It’s one of the biggest dilemmas that bloggers tackle when putting together a blog.

There are of course no right or wrong answers to the question. I’ve seen wonderful two, three (and even one and four) column blogs that have met the goals of the blogger. Really it’s a question that needs to be asked on a blog by blog basis.

Warning, Tangent Ahead:

WardrobeAs I sit here pondering this question my mind goes back a couple of months to the day when we had a sales person come to our home to give us a quote on wardrobes. V and I had in our minds what we wanted in terms of design – we’d even drawn lovely pictures and diagrams to make her job easier!

But our wardrobe consultant (she was much more than a sales person as it turned out) had other ideas. She didn’t want to look at our designs – she wanted to look at our clothes. She spend the first half of our consultation purely measuring the space our clothes took up in our current wardrobes. It wasn’t until she had a good picture of this that she started to build a design. The design that emerged was, as a result, much more functional than the ideas we’d had previously. Once she had the basics in the design she asked to look at our ideas and was able to incorporate a few of the more cosmetic ideas we’d had.

Rather than starting with design elements she started with questions of function.

While we had all kinds of cool ideas for how we wanted our wardrobes to look, we’d forgotten that wardrobes existed for another purpose – to keep clothes in.

Sometimes I wonder if bloggers could learn a thing or two from this way of thinking when it comes to blog design. [Read more...]

Blog Design Satisfaction

The Following post was submitted by Dave from PSP Culture

What are you trying to achieve with the design of your blog?

  1. Income from Advertising Streams
  2. Reader Loyalty
  3. Personal Satisfaction

For a while I believed all three points above were mutually exclusive. That is, pursuing any one of the above points automatically ruled out the other two.

With simple planning before you create your final blog design, there is no reason why you cannot ensure a good revenue level from advertising whilst maintaining reader loyalty, and most importantly, gaining personal satisfaction from your blog.

You may consider personal satisfaction a non-essential element of your blog, that in the long run it doesn’t matter and will have no impact on your income level or reader loyalty. In actual fact, the inverse is true – if you have no desire to work on your blog because you find it a drain, and it gives you no pleasure, it will never yield a reasonable level of income, and your visitors will show you the same level of respect and interest as you have shown your blog. [Read more...]

Technorati Juice

This post has been submitted by Croak from The Bavarian Falcon.

Technorati is getting a lot of attention these days, good and bad. But as a portal into the blogosphere, it is fairly prominent, and more and more readers are coming to rely on it, especially for its tag search and content search.

As a problogger, you should be ready to leverage what Technorati can do for you.

The very first thing you should do is create a Technorati account. If you’re problogging, it might be a good idea to think about what name you would like displayed (your own name, the name of your blog, your pseudonym, etc.). What you decide depends on the subject matter of your blog, but it is important, as it’s one of the three ‘linked’ results that show on a Technorati search, and it takes searchers to your Technorati profile page.

Spend a minute or two filling in your profile (or make plans to come back to it), but don’t upload your portrait yet (see below).

Once you’ve created an account, you can ‘claim your blog’. It’s a relatively simple process. You enter your blog details (name, URL), and depending on your blogging platform, you may be done, or you may need to paste a little javascript line into your blog template for ownership verification.

Technorati will may crawl your blog if you’ve claimed it or not (if it’s been pinged), but with a claim comes the ability to add details to the search results, and perhaps most important, it allows you to add up to 20 ‘static’ tags to your blog, for use with Technorati’s ‘Blog Finder’ service (which lets you search blogs based on those 20 static tags). You don’t need to use all 20 tags, and you can always edit/tune them later, as well as the blog description.

Technorati Blog Configuration Page

TAG, YOU’RE IT!

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Blog Costs – Open Mike

Someone once asked me to write a post on Blog Overheads and Costs.

I thought it might make an interesting open mike question for some discussion so I’ll throw it over to you the ProBlogger community to write this post in comments below.

What costs do you have in your blogging business?