Link Posts – Rediscover Your Blogging Groove Day 4

Rediscover-Blogging-Groove--1Today’s task in the Rediscover Your Blogging Groove project is to write a Link Post.

How has blogging grown from something that a relatively small number of people do into the massive medium that it has become? There are many reasons for the growth of blogging but one of them is that they are traditionally a very outward looking and linking type of website.

When I first got into blogging many blogging blog platforms didn’t even have a comments feature built into them and the linking was even more prolific than it is today. One blogger would see something written on another blog and would add to the conversation by linking up. Another blogger would spot the conversation and would link to both the previous blogs and the web of links would mount up until the story went quite viral. Including outbound links in your posts were seen as normal and a healthy way of blogging with numerous benefits.

These days the link is still an important part of blogging, but with on site comments and with some bloggers quite purposely avoiding outgoing links as a strategy to keep readers onsite I sometimes wonder if the outbound link is less a feature of modern day blogs than it used to be.

Of course there are plenty of blogs out there that do nothing but ‘link posts’ and that simply regurgitate what everyone else is writing (saying nothing original) – but perhaps somewhere between the blog that never links and the one that does nothing but link is probably a happy medium.

Tips for Writing Link Posts

So how do you get the balance right between healthy outbound link posts and poor ones? Here are a few thoughts on how to write a good link post: [Read more…]

Guest Blogging 101

North x East has a helpful post titled Why Guest Blogging is a Powerful Way to Gain Exposure for Your Blog which makes a good companion piece to some of my own posts from a few months back on Guest blogging:

Have you been a guest blogger? How did you find the experience? Have you had guest bloggers on your blog? What were the benefits and costs?

The 4 Pillars of Writing Exceptional Blogs

A+The following guest post has been submitted by Leo Babauta from Zen Habits.

Too often it seems that we bloggers get caught up in worrying about monetizing our blogs, or the design of the blog, or SEO techniques — but although it may sound trite, the major focus of our time should be on our writing.

I’m often asked how I got 12,000 readers for my blog, Zen Habits, and made it into the Technorati Top 500 in 5 months — other bloggers seem think I have some secret that I can impart upon them, but I don’t.

I follow the same advice given here on ProBlogger, and by many of the other top blogs: create valuable content and good writing, and the readers will come. Content is king, as they say, and that should be the focus of all your efforts.

I write about this topic more on NorthxEast, a new blog with great weekly articles for bloggers, but the key is to focus on your readers and give them what they want.

Why Not Much Else Matters

Are there other things that matter in creating a successful blog? Sure there are, but they don’t matter nearly as much as some people think they do. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

  • Design – While the look of your site may be attractive and very usable, you won’t attract any readers from design alone. You need to attract them with good content … and then hope your design doesn’t scare them away. But content is really what matters here. If the design isn’t great, but the content is insanely useful, they’ll come, and they’ll stay.
  • SEO – While I agree that SEO techniques can help, what matters most in SEO is getting links. If you don’t get a bunch of links, all the SEO optimization in the world won’t do you a bit of good. SEO really makes the biggest difference when the page in question has a bunch of links coming to it — SEO doesn’t change the ranking of a page with 1 inbound link. So how do you get those quality links? Great content, and nothing else.
  • Social media – Digg, Delicious, Reddit, Stumbleupon, Netscape … these kinds of sites can help your traffic tremendously. And sure, it helps to have friends and be active on these sites. But all of that doesn’t matter a lick if you don’t write a knock-out post.
  • Monetizing – All the monetizing in the world won’t get you a dime unless you get traffic, and that traffic won’t come until you start creating a destination site, with amazing content that attracts the readers and keeps them reading. In fact, a site with ads that aren’t optimized can make more money than a site with optimized ads if the traffic is much higher from great content.

Am I saying that none of this stuff matters? Again, these things are useful, but they are not nearly as important as the content.

Which leaves us with the question: how do you write great content? It’s actually very simple in concept, but takes a lot of practice to perfect. I’m still trying to perfect these things myself, but in general, there are four pillars of exceptional blogwriting:

[Read more…]

Write a Review – Rediscover Your Blogging Groove Day 3

Rediscover-Blogging-Groove--1Today’s task in the Rediscover Your Blogging Groove project is to write a review of some kind.

There are many successful blogs and websites that have built themselves on the back of writing reviews. They are able to do so because so many people use the web to research purchases and make decisions about products and services.

Review posts require some knowledge of the thing you’re reviewing and they can take a little time to write (because you need to think carefully about what you write as your readers may base decisions upon your opinion) but they can be a highly effective post to include on a blog from time to time as they express an opinion rather than just write what everyone else is writing in your niche.

Some of the benefits of reviews that I’ve seen include:

  • incoming links – some of my most linked to posts are reviews.
  • conversation – stating an opinion about something can be the starting point for wonderful conversations, debates and exchanges of ideas.
  • relationships – I’m amazed by how many of the reviews that I’ve written have been the thing that has actually put me into contact with the creators of the products or services that I review.
  • search engine traffic – I quite often see traffic from SE’s coming from terms like ‘xxxx review’. ‘Review’ is a hot word.
  • reviews can work well with affiliate programs – one of the best places to put an affiliate link inside a well written and balanced review of a product. Warning – don’t fall for the temptation of talking up bad products just to get an affiliate commission, all you’ll do is put readers offside. Give pros and cons of products that you’ve actually used and you’ll find readers respect that and will make more informed purchases.

More reading on how to write reviews – 10 Ways to Maximize the Value of a Product Review

Homework – Now it’s time to go write your review post. This might be easier for some of you than others as some of you have actual products or services that directly relate to your niche – however you don’t need to just review products.

Here are a few ideas for what to review:

  • Review a related website or blog to yours
  • Review a book about your topic
  • Review the last few months of your own writing on your blog (highlighting some of your best posts)
  • Review a movie, play, TV show, song, restaurant

Once you’ve written your review come back to this post and share the link to it so we can all be a little inspired by what you’ve written.

note: while your previously written review posts might be interesting – I’d prefer it if you only posted links to new posts in comments below – after all, this series is about helping you to improve your blog NOW rather than looking back – thanks for understanding.

PS: I wrote a review today of my own of the Canon EOS 5D DSLR

Why doesn’t Online Main Stream Media link?

I’ve often wondered – but why don’t many online main stream media sites link when they refer to blogs or websites?

I find it slightly ironic – particularly when they write about new media/blogging.

I’m not sure if it’s laziness, fear of losing readers from a site or if it’s just a different philosophy of web design – but I would have thought if a site was seriously interested in providing useful content for their readers that they’d hyperlink mentions of other websites.

Inspiration for this post – Business Week’s How Top Bloggers Earn Money (I resisted the temptation to just give you a dead link). Thanks for the mention in the profiles BW, it was a real surprise as I’d not heard anything about it until I saw Shoemoney write about it (he’d not heard anything about it either). I really should get a new set of head shots taken!

Speedlinking – AdSense News

Adsense-1A couple of short pieces of AdSense news today.

Over at the official AdSense blog they’ve announced that there’s a new feature just been added to AdSense that will help them serve up more relevant ads for password protected areas of your blog. For example if you have a members only area you can now tell the AdSense crawler/bot how to access these areas so that it can assess what content is on them.

How do you access this new feature?

“just check out Site Authentication in your account and follow the instructions on the page. Please note that you will only have access to this feature if you’ve updated your AdSense login to a Google Account. We appreciate your patience as we roll out this feature to additional publishers.”

In other AdSense news – Self Made Minds reports that they’ve been approached by AdSense to be a part of a test for ‘AdSense for Mobile’ to allow publishes to monetize their sites for mobile devices.

Answer a Question – Rediscover Your Blogging Groove Day 2

Rediscover-Blogging-Groove--1Today’s task in the Rediscover Your Blogging Groove project is to answer a reader’s question.

One of the simplest ways to find something to write about that connects with readers is to answer one of their questions. Today, if you’re taking part in the project, I’d like to encourage you to give it a go. If you’re not participating you still might find the post helpful – so lets read on…

Even in the early days of my blogging I remember getting comments and emails from readers asking for information, opinion or insight on the topics that I was covering. Sometimes the questions were quite to the point and bite sized, other times they were more open ended.

At first I would answer these questions in the medium that they were asked (in the comment thread or by replying to email) however I very quickly realized that I was being asked the same questions repeatedly and that the answers might be relevant for a wider audience than just the person asking them.

The result of this realization is that I regularly post answers to questions as posts.

I have a folder on my computer’s desktop called ‘reader questions’ that I place some of the questions that I’m asked into (as they hit my inbox or comments section). By no means do I answer them all but they do provide a treasure trove of inspiration on those slow days when I’ve run out of things to write about.

A few suggestions on answering questions:

  • Pick Relevant Questions – not every question that you are asked will be appropriate for answering on your blog. Keep on topic and don’t keep answering the same question over and over.
  • Ask for Permission or Keep Anonymity – before I post answer someone’s question I attempt to seek their permission to do so. I’m not sure on the legalities of answering someone’s question in public and using their name as the questioner – but I think it is polite and helps to show that you value your readers. If you can’t get permission (either you don’t have email details or they won’t reply) then I would change the question slightly to protect the questioner.
  • Credit the Questioner – if they give you permission, give the person asking the question credit with their name and a link if they have one.

The beauty of using reader questions is that you end up with a post to point people to when you’re next asked the question. This will save you a lot of time in future.

The other great thing about answering questions is that they can be a very effective way of bringing in search engine traffic. Many of the searches done on Google are done in a ‘question’ format and smart bloggers who incorporate questions into their posts position themselves well for this traffic. Check out Ask Dave Taylor for an example of a blogger who has based his whole blog on answering questions.

“What if no one asks me questions?”

I can hear some of you thinking this already. Well let me answer your question with a few suggestions….

[Read more…]

Write a List – Rediscover Your Blogging Groove Day 1

Rediscover-Blogging-Groove--1Today’s task in the Rediscover Your Blogging Groove project is to write a list post.

I find that one of the easiest ways to write a blog post is to write a list.

  1. Lists are Scannable
  2. Lists keep Posts succinct
  3. Lists look ‘neat’
  4. Lists area easy to link to
  5. Lists can be a comprehensive to tackle a topic
  6. Lists can be persuasive
  7. Lists add to the ease of writing
  8. Lists can start memes and go viral

The above reasons for writing lists was taken from – 8 Reasons why Lists are Good for Getting Traffic to your blog

There are a few different types of ‘list posts’.

1. Simple Lists – the above post (8 Reasons Why Lists are Good….) is a fairly simple list post.

  • There’s a small introduction to the topic (A couple of sentences)
  • There’s a short summary at the end (a paragraph).
  • The points are all short and quite succinct
  • The list makes up the majority of the post and really speaks for itself.

Simple lists are often shorter, sharper and to the point. They can be quite powerful and make a real impact.

2. Longer List Posts – the majority of list posts that I write are slightly more complex lists. I like to introduce a topic, explore a need, give some examples and then launch into a list.

Once I start the list itself I then like to expand upon each point along the way. This suits my style which is a little more long winded.

A few examples of my own include Wedding Photography – 21 Tips for Amateur Wedding Photographers and How to Take Great Group Photos.

In actual fact these sorts of posts border on being more essay like – but are broken up and formatted with headings for each point to make them a little more digestible and scannable to readers.

3. Lists as Parts of Posts – lists can also be used within posts quite effectively.

These lists might help to make one of numerous points along the way or there may even be multiples lists within the whole post (like this one).

Be a little careful not to overwhelm readers with too many lists and sublists (lists within lists can be confusing). But don’t feel that a list needs to be the only thing within your post. If you’re looking at an example of this type of post – you’re reading one. This post has numerous small lists in it with other commentary between them.

OK – so enough theorizing about list posts – it’s time to go and write one. The hardest part is probably going to be picking a topic to write your list about. A few ideas (and another list):

  • 10 Ways to Use a….
  • The most common mistakes….
  • How to be an effective….
  • The most popular 17…..
  • Reasons why I love (or hate)….
  • The most beautiful (ugly, fascinating, crazy)….
  • 5 Steps to achieving….

If you want more examples of list posts check out the Lists Group Writing Project which has over 300 examples of list posts.

Go write a list. Post it and come back here to share a link to it in comments below so we can see what you came up with.

7 Days to Rediscovering Your Blogging Groove

Rediscover-Blogging-Groove--1Are you finding it hard to sustain your blogging inspiration at the moment? This week I’d like to help you get your blogging moving again.

Have you lost your blogging groove?

If you have – you’re not alone. Last week I chatted with a lot of bloggers who are either feeling disillusioned, uninspired, uncreative or just plain bored with their blogs. The result was that their blogs were suffering.

Perhaps it is the time of year (many in the northern hemisphere have all the distractions of summer while those of us in the south are feeling the winter blues) or perhaps it’s something else – but I’m sensing that many bloggers could need a little bit of a boost right now.

So this week I’d like to invite you to participate with me in a little project called the ‘Rediscover Your Blogging Groove‘ project.

Each day over the next week I’m going to announce a new type of post that I’ll invite you to write on your blog.

I’ll attempt to make them general enough to for most types of blogs (some of you might need to get a little creative) and will write a few ideas and thoughts on how to approach the type of post that I’m writing about. I’ll also try to give a few good examples from around the blogosphere of each type of post.

The object is simply to take the post type and write something on your blog that bounces off what I write.

  • There’s no need to link back here (this isn’t about me, it’s about you getting your blog groove back).
  • There’s no prizes (this isn’t an official ProBlogger group writing project, hopefully the reward is simply feeling a little inspiration to write some good content)
  • I’m not going to create a big list of posts that you all write (although you’re welcome to show off your posts in the comments announcing each day’s post type so we can see how you approached it).
  • There are no ‘rules’. Take my suggested post types in any direction you’d like, tweak the, change them, ignore them, do it over a longer period if you can’t manage 7 posts in a week – do whatever you like – but have fun with it.

The Daily Tasks

Day 1 – Write a List Post
Day 2 – Answer a Question
Day 3 – Write a Review
Day 4 – Write a Link Post
Day 5 – Write a Tip Post
Day 6 – Ask a Question
Day 7 – Tell a Story