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Should I change Blog Platforms? Have Your Say

reader-questionsRichard asks – “I have a website and blog which is well established, many inbound links and high traffic. But the blogging software I can use is limited. It is difficult to customize and the categories are too big and slow to load.

Is it better to keep going with an imperfect blog software and lots of links or start afresh with the best blogging software?

I think there will be much better qualified people to answer this question than me Richard so I’ll invite readers to have their say.

My own experience of this is limited but I’ve seen many bloggers change blog platforms with varying degrees of success – quite often being able to keep the URLs of their blog the same despite swapping platforms. Of course this is much more difficult to do if you are using a hosted blog platform (like blogspot or typepad) where you’re not on your own domain – but in the long run it can be worthwhile making the move despite loosing some links and needing to start again with search engines.

But like I say – this is a question that exceeds my own personal expertise – so lets open it up to those who’ve been through this before.

  • What are the pros and cons of moving from one blog platform to another?
  • Have you done it? What did you learn along the way?

Is Your Blog Truly Valuable?

This post was submitted by Chris Garrett from ChrisG.com

Valuable content. Most people know this is the way to be successful in blogging.

Sure there are other important factors too. Traffic, design, usability, community … All the good stuff.

Whatever reason people have for visiting, they stay for the content.

Here is the catch. Have you actually sat down and worked out what “valuable content” means?

  • Is it a one-off post that gets to the front page of Digg?
  • Articles that get lots of links?
  • Posts that attract comments?
  • Is it that top 100 list you bookmarked?
  • A funny cartoon that gets pinned to a cubicle wall?
  • Flash games you just can’t put down?
  • All of the above?

Value is tough to pin down. The definition depends entirely on point of view. What is valuable to the creator could be subscribers and AdSense clicks, while the reader could be just looking for a solution to their plumbing leak.

What is valuable depends entirely on your audience. Before you work out what you need to create, you need to get inside your audiences head and have a really good poke around. Solve their problems, motivate, educate and entertain.

While most people would love to have millions of visitors, thousands of subscribers and maybe a top 100 spot in the technorati list, if you are not supplying value then all of these lovely high-scores and stats are hollow at best.

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Does Blog Design Matter in the Early Stages of a Blog?

reader-questionsJennifer asked – I know a better layout would be more useful to my readers. Is it better to redesign early in the game?”

Two main thoughts come to mind:

1. Design does matter – I’ve written on why previously but I think it is one strategy that can really lift a blog to the next level and help create a great first impression for a blog – especially in it’s early days.

2. Having said this, design can also be a distraction to you as a blogger – If you have limited time and budget I would put more energy into content creation in the early days. This is particularly the case if you’re a brand new blogger just finding your feet. While I’m not saying this is you, many new blogs don’t make it past the 2-3 month mark (for a long list of reasons) and if you’ve invested significant time and money into changing the design of your blog you might regret that later.

So if you’re starting out I’d spend more time on writing engaging content, developing a rhythm of writing for your blog, connecting with other bloggers in your niche, developing relationships with the readers you do have and working out whether blogging is something you can see yourself doing in the long term. Then, in time, you can start tweaking your design and getting it to a level you’re happy with.

One last little thought. When we moved into our new house a year or two back one of the best pieces of advice we received from friends was to live in the house for a year before making any major renovation decisions. Living in a house for 12 months means you get to see it in all of the seasons and get to experience how it works well under different conditions. Then you’ll be in a much better position to renovate not only in a way that looks good but in a way that works well.

I think there’s some wisdom in that not only for house renovations but for blog renovations. I probably wouldn’t wait 12 months but give it some time and your redesign could be much more effective and functional than immediately doing all the tweaks that come to mind in the early days.

Help! I’m Addicted to Checking My Blog’s Stats!

reader-questionsJennifer asked – “I just started a new blog a week ago. I’m writing one post a day, in the mornings before I go to work. I have a problem with obsessively checking my blog stats and comments during the day at the office. Surely I’m not the only one! Is there anything you can say that might discourage this behavior? Or are there some good desktop widgets that I can run unobtrusively in the background? My regular career would probably benefit from it. I would love to go pro one day but I’ve gotta pay the bills for now!”

Jennifer – I’ve got a few comments for you:

1. You’re not alone and you’re perfectly normal – Most new bloggers go through exactly what you’ve described. I remember doing the same thing at a part time job I had, every computer I’d go past that didn’t have someone on it I’d check my stats on.

2. Most bloggers ‘grow out of it’ – I think you’ll find that most seasoned bloggers still have a fascination with their stats – but that for most of them the checking becomes a little less frequent and obsessive over time. Of course I do know some that don’t seem to be able to kick the habit :-)

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ProBlogger is in Guest Blog Mode

As of…. now ProBlogger.net is officially in ‘guest blogger’ mode.

As this post goes live on ProBlogger I’ll be winging my way to New York where I’ll be for the next week and a half.

While I’m gone ProBlogger will continue to be active. I do like to keep the momentum going when I’m away and this time there will be two main things going on.

Reader Questions – last time I was away I didn’t get through all of the questions that readers asked so am going to continue to continue to post answers to them – one per day.

Guest Posts – most weekdays between now and when I get back home there will be a post from a guest blogger. I won’t go through all of the bloggers here but there are some pretty cool people involved and looking at the posts already submitted there’s going to be plenty of good learning taking place over the next week.

I’ve picked these people because I think they will bring a lovely range of perspectives to ProBlogger. Thanks to all of them up front for their work on their posts.

Updates from the Road – I’m sure I will pop in for a few scattered live posts over the next week – particularly while I’m at the Future of Online Advertising where there’s a great lineup of speakers.

Schedule – A few people have asked where I’ll be in New York and if there’s opportunity to meetup. Here’s where I’ll be:

I’ll also be catching up with a number of other bloggers over the day or two before and after these dates – particularly a few of the b5media crew (I’ll finally get to meet Shai).

It’s a pretty quick trip – but hopefully a worthwhile one. Have a great week or two.

When Was Your Biggest Day of Traffic and How did It Happen?

Reader Questions for the weekend:

  • When was your biggest day of traffic?
  • Where did the traffic come from?
  • What (if anything) did you do in order for it to happen?

Leave your answers in comments below or write a post about it on your blog and leave a comment here with a link to it.

Google’s Pro.blogger

update – I’ve updated this with an explanation at the bottom of this post.

I’m currently packing my bags and getting last minute things together to leave for New York in 36 hours so this post is a little unthought through – but it’s definitely something that caught my attention today because it involves Google and ProBlogger.

Chris pinged me with a post he’d written – Google Gets Caught With Their Pants Down! - a title that made me curious.

But I was surprised to find out that Adam’s post was about how Google are using the sub domain pro.blogger.com

Now before you go have a look at pro.blogger.com – what would you think it would point to?

Blogger.com is Google’s blogging platform so my guess is that they might have pointed it there – but they don’t – they show their own Google search page for the term.

Now ultimately I don’t really care what they do with their own domains and sub domains – but the result of it is that on Yahoo and MSN Search this Google Search page ranks highly (#1 on Yahoo and #3 on MSN) for the term ‘pro blogger’ (and in the top 10 on Google).

Whether they’re doing this on purpose as a way to manipulate search traffic (as Adam argues) I’m not sure – but it is a somewhat odd thing to discover.

A few other comments and reflections:

  • Google gives itself a page rank of 9 out of 10 for the page too (I wonder how that works) – if only they’d shoot a little link love directly to a real site about pro blogging…. could do with that kind of Google Juice!
  • If nothing else it’s kind of exciting to think that Google think highly enough of the term pro blogger to do something like this. Just makes me wonder why they wouldn’t direct the traffic to their blogging platform. Perhaps they think Google search is a more relevant tool for bloggers than blogger.com? (sorry – couldn’t resist)
  • It also makes me wonder a little about the search engine’s search algorithms if Google’s search page (which doesn’t mention the keywords pro, blogger, bloggers, blog etc) can rank so highly for the term simply by having it in their URL.
  • I can’t find any other .blogger.com domains that do anything similar. Just seems to be a pro.blogger.com thing (although I’ve only tried about 20-30 combinations)

What do you think about this tactic of Google? Like I say – I’m not quite sure how to react (and at first impression don’t think it’s too big a deal) but as the ProBlogger community I’d appreciate your take.

Update: I worked it out.

After a little of digging around in Internet Archive I now see that pro.blogger used to be used by blogger.com for actual pages which are now no longer active (they started using this sub-domain back in 2001).

It was some sort of a ‘pro’ upgrade package – before Google bought them. You can see some different versions of it here. It still doesn’t answer why they’d put a Google search page up here instead of point it to something relevant – but it does explain it’s Page Rank and why Yahoo and MSN gave it authority (although it’s definitely lacking some relevancy these days for terms of ‘pro blogging’).

Firefox Extensions For Bloggers

LifeHack.org has a useful post today with 17 Firefox Extensions That Make Blogging Easy – broken down into Collecting, Writing and Images.

I hate lists like this – I end up spending half my day having to install and test great new tools which are supposed to make me more productive but in the short term which are wonderful distractions!

PS: The Split Browser extension is going to be VERY useful. I quite often wish I didn’t have to flip back and forth from one tab to another while writing a post or newsletter in one tab and researching what I’m writing i another. This is great – why didn’t anyone tell me!

What else don’t I know about?!? What are your favorite Firefox extensions?

Which Feed Reader is Best? – ProBlogger Readers Have their Say

Two weeks ago I asked ProBlogger readers – Which Feed Reader is Best?

219 responses were left with 37 different ways of reading RSS feeds suggested.

Today I counted them all up and graphed the top 11 responses (these were the ones that had 4 or more votes).

This reinforces the shift that many have observed from Bloglines to Google Reader over the past 12 months. Last time I asked this question of readers informally Bloglines was the standout ‘winner’.

Feed-Readers

There’s no real surprises here for me. The stats match up pretty closely with those that Feedburner provides their publishers:

Feed-Reader-Stats

What was more interesting was the array of reasons that different people gave for selecting their feed readers. The comments left are worth a read if you’re thinking of swapping readers.

BTW: I was asked numerous times during the discussion which reader I use. I didn’t want to sway the discussion so didn’t say at the time but I’m a Google Reader fan also. I use two main computers so to have a web based reader is important for me and together with tabbed browsing I find it to be a useful and accurate tool.