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Do you kiss on the first date? The Art of Courting as a Blogger

KissI was recently emailed by a blogger asking me to take a look at their brand new blog. The blog was very new (it only consisted of 3 posts) and it’s purpose was obviously to convert readers into sales of the blogger’s new e-book.

The first three posts on the blog were all fairly strong sales pitches for the e-book and while they made a good case for the book I came away from the blog feeling like a stranger had walked up to me and asked me to give them a kiss.

I strongly believe that blogs can be a great tool for driving sales to products (whether they be tangible ones or e-products) however when attempting to drive sales with a blog a blogger needs to be aware of the way they ‘court’ their readers.

While I’m sure plenty of good relationships do start with a kiss (and more) on the first date – most dating advice experts would argue that if you want to grow a sustainable, ongoing relationship that the best time to take a relationship to the next level physically is when there’s other aspects of a relationship already in place (ie some emotional connection and time spent together getting to know one another).

In a similar way – when you’re trying to sell something (whether it be yourself as an expert, a product, your email newsletter etc) to rush straight to the sales pitch can damage your chances of ‘conversion’ and lead to a premature end to the ‘relationship’ with your reader.

One of the things that I love about blogging is the ability it gives to connect on a deeper level with readers and to form ongoing relationships with them. However this only happens over time and perhaps bloggers need to keep in mind some of the principles of ‘courting’ before going in for the hard sell.

Help your reader to get to know you, build trust, get to know them and show that you’re interested in more than a quick sale and you could just end up with a lasting relationship.

Where do Your Readers Come From?

I’ve been having some fun with Google Analytics tonight – particularly in looking at where readers of my blogs come from geographically. It’s not something that I’ve done for a while and the stats for ProBlogger have changed quite a bit.

Previously when I did this I had a fair spread of readers between Europe and the USA – however there’s been a shift (a significant one).

More and more ProBlogger readers are now coming from the US. US readers are coming to ProBlogger in numbers six times as high as any other country. The UK, Canada, India, Australia, Malaysia, Germany and Singapore also feature in the top 10.

Here’s the global map (the darker green represents where the numbers are):

Picture 1-20

Zooming in on the USA thee are are few states that are more highly represented with California, New York State and Texas being more highly represented as follows:

Picture 2-12

Interestingly in ‘city’ view it’s New York City which is the most represented with Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington coming in next. Worldwide – London actually ranks between NYC and LA with Sydney, Toronto, Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne and Singapore also featuring reasonably highly.

Picture 3-18

I’m not sure how I might use this information to improve my blog (although it does give some hints as to where any future events and meetups might make sense) however it’s a fun exercise and is quite energizing to do.

Where do your readers come from? Do you tailor your blogging in any way to people in different parts of the world?

What’s the Lowdown on Digg Bait?

Muhammad Saleem wrote a post over at CopyBlogger this week by the title – ‘Is it OK to Write for Digg’ and makes some really good points on either side of the debate. Here are a few key quotes from his piece with a few of my own thoughts:

“for it to be classified as “Digg bait” it really has to appeal to the community and it has to incite a passionate response from the users, whether the response be good or bad.”

Love them or hate them – but Digg users are a passionate lot (or many of them are). There’s something about their youthful exuberance that can make them either love you or hate them in a way that can send a blogger to ‘cloud nine’ or to the depths of despair.

“But Digg tends to become like crack for many writers and after they get on Digg once, there is an intense desire to try to keep getting on Digg. It is here that writers often start disregarding their loyal readers, start pandering to Digg, and run into trouble.”

I think this (and the following comments that Muhammad makes) is key. I’ve seen numerous bloggers go to the Dark Digg Side – lured by the temptation of tens of thousands of visitors in short spaces of time and writing posts that really don’t fit with their topic or help their current readers in an attempt to make the front page. My approach is that the vast majority of your posts should be written with your current reader in mind. Look after them – provide a community for them – give them useful content. While doing this there will be opportunities to write content with a broader appeal – but even then you will need to keep it on topic and appealing to your readership.

“Writing for Digg is actually less about substance and more about how you present the content – in other words, copywriting.”

This doesn’t mean you can’t have a post with substance that is diggable – but it does mean you need to pay particular attention to the form that you write in, your title and even the layout of the post.

I think some of Muhammad’s other points about a core and peripheral audience are great – use social media sites like Digg to expand your horizons and grow your audience – but keep your core readers right in your focus.

As with any other aspect of a blog – become obsessed with Digg and you’ll get things out of balance (read more on holistic blogging).

ProBlogger Readers Do it Better…. than Digg Users

Wendy writes a great post today in her introduction to Social Media Strategy and Socially Driven Content.

In the post she talks to bloggers about why they should learn about social media, what results they can get and how to start out in it.

What caught my attention was right down the bottom of her post where she did a little comparison to how Digg, StumbleUpon, Netscape and delicious readers interacted on her site over a 7 day period in terms of visitor numbers, page views per visitor and time spent on her site.

She then did a little analysis of ProBlogger readers over the same period (54 visitors). The visitors came simply by writing quality comments on my posts here (and she does write insightful comments).

The results speak for themselves.

While social bookmarking sites can potentially send a lot more traffic:

  • ProBlogger readers stay longer per visit (you stay 18 times longer than Digg users)
  • ProBlogger readers visit more pages over that visit (2.5 times as many pages than Digg users).

Wendy writes:

I’ve grown to really appreciate the Digg crowd (even though they are mean as all hell sometimes), but if I had to pick, I’d take those 54 ProBlogger visitors over a big Digg any day.”

I guess that goes to show what quality readers you all are!

Seriously though (and you are quality readers – but there’s a lesson here) it’s also a good illustration of the power of different types of traffic.

While Digg can send you a heap of visitors in a short period of time they rarely stay long, rarely go deeper within your blog and rarely comment. On the other hand traffic from another blog on a similar topic (even if it’s just a from a comment) can drive a different quality of traffic.

Not only will they stay longer, comment more and view more pages I suspect they’ll also subscribe to your newsletter and RSS feed in higher numbers but they’ll respond more to your income streams (ads and affiliate products).

More reading on different types of traffic:

Chitika Linx – Beta In Text Advertising

Chitika have today added another new ad unit to their growing line of options for publishers – this one is called Chitika Linx.

It’s still in beta and I’m not one of the lucky few to be invited to test it – but from the overview page it looks very similar to other in text advertising options like Amazon’s Context Links system, Kontera’s ContentLink product and Intellitxt (and others).

All of these systems will look at your content for keywords that they can match to an advertisment. They then make those words links (usually with some different kind of formatting so that readers are aware that they are different – in the case of Linx a double underline) and then when readers hover the cursor over the link a small popup appears with the ad.

In the case of Linx the popup seems to contain an eMiniMall ad unit (as pictured).

Linx Demo

The ads are CPC (you get paid if someone clicks the ad).

Publishers generally have a fairly extreme love or hate for this type of advertising.

They do interrupt the reading flow which is a cost publishers should weigh up before installing them – however I do know of a few publishers who find this type of ad converts quite well – particularly on product related sites (which I suspect Chitika will have as their focus with the invitations that they offer).

I’ve been testing a couple of other similar systems in a very limited way on a couple of my blogs with limited success but will be interested to see what the earnings per click is like on these.

You can read more about Chitika Linx Beta here.

Make a Contract With Yourself

ContractIn BJ’s post on Developing a Blogging Schedule she finishes with a short section titled ‘A Contract with Myself’ which caught my eye.

It reminded me of a rough patch that I went through in my blogging a couple of years ago when I really struggled with bloggers block and motivating myself to blog to the level that I knew I needed to to grow my business.

I tried numerous strategies to get myself back on track – but one of the things that helped me pull through it was drawing up a contract with myself.

Being your own boss is great in many ways but one of the downsides is that you don’t have any one to be accountable to or to pull you into line when you lose focus.

My blog contract with myself stated a few basic daily goals that I needed to achieve including posting frequency, networking with other bloggers, responding to email/comments and numerous other tasks (actually quite a few were in the list I posted here.

As part of my contract with myself I decided that if I didn’t live up to it that I would have to suffer some consequences and penalties – going without a couple of small things in life that I enjoyed (I think coffee was one) – and that if I did reach my targets that there would be incentives (I think a weekend away at the beach was one of them).

I also made a deal with myself at that time that if I could meet the basic requirements of blogging for at least 2 months that it might be time to give it all away and find a ‘real job’. After all – if you can’t motivate yourself to go to work each day and do some basic tasks you’re wasting your time and might as well find a job that gives you a little more motivation.

I signed the contract and stuck it somewhere that I would see it every day.

The result was actually quite powerful. I told others about my goals (which helped to stay accountable to them) and even though I was feeling a little dejected about my blogging I began to work myself out of the hole that I’d been in. There were a few days that I had to go without my coffee – but in time I was not only achieving the basic requirements but I was working towards my bonuses.

This might not work for everyone – but if you’re feeling in a big of a blogging hole – why not draw up a contract with yourself to help you get out of it?

Related Reading25 Tips for Battling Bloggers Block (a compilation of a mini series)

Melbourne Bloggers Meetup Recap

511689279 5Dcaaab089Last night was the first gathering of the Melbourne Bloggers Meetup.

Despite me giving everyone the wrong address for the Bar it was a great night with around 25 people in attendance. I think I got to meet most people and collected a few cards.

Some of those in attendance included Gala, Zach, the team from Fashionising, Karen (who wrote about it here), Kirrily, Miss Eagle, John (Craig’s tech guy), Alister, Jesse, Jon, James, Ed, Wilson and Martin (who I still can’t believe I only met for the first time even though we live in the same city and have been chatting for years). There were many others there who I didn’t grab cards from (please let me know your links in comments and I’ll add them – apologies for not remembering everyone).

I’ve posted a few pictures of the night here (although as usual I got distracted with talking to people and didn’t take many).

The question now is to work out when to have the next one!? Quite a few people suggested every 2-3 months – sounds like a good timing. What do those who attended think? Vote in the Poll here.

Speedlinking 24 May 2007

A Glimpse Behind the Scenes of Successful Blogs

Duck FeetAfter my recent post on the pressures of blogging I had some great feedback from PreBloggers (those thinking of starting up) thanking me and those who commented for giving a more realistic view of blogging.

One of the pictures that comes to mind of my own experience of blogging is that it can look to the outsider like blogging is a rather effortless endeavor – like a swan or ducks gliding gracefully across a lake. However under the surface we all know that swans and ducks do anything but glide – they paddle furiously.

My experience of blogging is that it’s anything but a gracious glide – however when I chat to some readers I get the impression that they think I lie in bed in the mornings – quickly write a post over a cup of coffee and a piece of toast – and then don’t look at the blog again until the next day.

So as a service to PreBloggers I thought it might be a worthwhile thing to compile a list of the tasks that bloggers do busily ‘under the surface’ that their readers are not aware of.

Let me kick off the list with a few – but I’d love to hear other suggestions in comments:

[Read more...]