Close
Close

Speedlinking – 31 August 2007

I’ve not done many Speedlinking posts this month due to the 31 day project. But as it’s the last day I thought I’d post a few:

  • Chitika have launched a Premium Publishers Club which enables members to get a higher revenue share, get paid for impressions as well as clicks, real time auditing, dedicated account manager (with instant chat), custom designed ads – plus a lot more. To qualify you have to have made at least $1000 over the last 90 days and/or have a history of high quality traffic. I’ve not heard about this before and am unsure when it was launched – however it does seem I’m listed as a premium publisher – wish I’d known!
  • The Australian Blogging Conference is happening – 28 September in Brisbane. I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it with only a few weeks notice and a pretty full schedule over the next month – but it looks like a good get together.
  • Chris has written a nice roundup of Social Media Marketing – lots of information there.

Enjoy.

How I Produce Video Blog Posts

Video BloggingEach time I release a new Video based post I get a number of questions about the technicalities of producing the video. So today I thought I’d answer the most common questions that I’ve been asked so far. By no means am I a ProVideoBlogger. I’ve produced just a handful of them and know I have a long way to go and a lot to learn (in fact I’m considering taking a short course in video making). However I’m happy to share what I know:

What Camera do you use?

The camera that I’ve been using is a Canon MVX20i video camera. It’s a model that is a little old (I bought it 2-3 years ago). I have recorded a couple with my iSight web cam (like A Day in the Life of a Blogger) and it produced reasonable results – but I find that the Canon video camera is a little better.

What lighting do you use?

Nothing special here – the last video who does your blog serve was shot with lots of natural light and the lights of the room on. It was a pretty sunny day outside so that helped. On darker days I’ve been known to bring an extra lamp into the room.

What is your audio being recorded through?

The camera’s microphone.

Are you using a mac or pc?

I’m using a Power Mac (desktop) to record these videos. I record directly onto the computer through a firewire cable into iMovie (ie I don’t record it onto the camera and then upload but go directly).

What software are you using to add in those titles at the bottom of the video that appear then fade out

The whole editing process is done within iMovie. I was using iMovie HD (2006 version) until this last video and have just bought the new iLife which has a completely updated version of iMovie (which is easy to use but frustratingly light on in terms of features – I’m thinking of going back to iMovie HD).

How Long Does it Take to Shoot and Edit a Video? How many takes do you have to do?

It varies a lot. This last week’s video was shot in about 25 minutes including setup of camera. The editing probably took 1.5 hours or so. It was a pretty quick one. I did prepare what I wanted to say over the day or two before recording it (brainstorming and making some key points). I usually practice it a few times without the camera and then record it – I’ve not really taken more than 1 or 2 takes. I’m sure I could spend more time perfecting it – but for me the beauty of this medium is that it’s more conversational and raw.

How many people view these videos?

The First Impressions Video has been viewed 5088 times at the time of writing this. That’s a little higher than previous ones.

Do read your talk or make it up as you go?

I don’t read it – instead I write down the main points that I want to cover and put them just under the lens – then I go with the flow.

What tips would you give for someone wanting to record a video post?

I’m no expert on this – but a few ‘lessons’ come to mind:

  • Work hard to look the camera ‘in the eye’ - it’s difficult and awkward at first speaking to a camera – but it makes your videos much more engaging and personal.
  • Keep it simple – don’t try to make too many points. Attempt to keep your videos short by covering just a point or two rather than trying to do something that will go for a long time. Short, sharp and useful clips will obviously have more of an impact that long dull ones.
  • Take advantage of the Audio Visual nature of the medium – video is obviously an audio visual medium and as a result it gives you an opportunity to do something a little different. The First Impressions Video illustrated to me the power of getting a little creative – the feedback was really great.
  • Inject Humor – I find it more difficult to use humor in the written form than in person. Video allows you to express body language, tone of voice etc which lends itself to humor.
  • Know what You Want to Say – I’ve seen a few video bloggers lately who seem to decide what to say when they switch their camera on. I’ve found that the more prepared I am the better it tends to go. This is partly just my style.
  • Check out Freevlog - Freevlog is a great resource with loads of tutorials and tips on producing Video Blogs.

If you’ve produced video posts – I’d love to hear your tips also – what have you learned?

Run a SWOT Analysis on Your Blog

Swot-AnalysisToday is the last day in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project and as a result I want to make your last task a little reflective and forward looking.

Your task today is to run a SWOT Analysis on your blog.

A SWOT analysis is a strategic tool that has been used for many years in business (and many other fields) to look at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that that business might have or be facing.

Much has been written about SWOT analysis and how to carry it out (I’ll let you do some searches on Google for it if you’re not familiar with it) however let me write a brief description of how to apply it to a blog.

1. Define Your Mission and Goals

Before you carry out your SWOT it’s important that you know what your blog’s goals are (otherwise the exercise is a little pointless as you’ve got nothing to review your site based upon). As a result you’ll want to have done Day 28′s task – Define Your Blogs Mission Statement.

2. List Your Blog’s Strengths

What attributes does your blog have that will help you to achieve your blog’s goals? What does your blog have going for it? What are you good at as a blogger? What resources and assets do you have at your disposal? What do you do better than anyone else?

3. List Your Blog’s Weaknesses

What attributes does your blog that are holding you back from achieving it’s goals? What skills do you not have as a blogger? What is ‘broken’ on your blog or in your workflow? What could or should you improve about your blog? What should you probably avoid in your blogging? What is distracting you from your goals?

4. List Your Blog’s Opportunities

What external things could/are helping you achieve your blog’s goals? What trends are their in your blog’s niche that you could explore on your blog? What tools and technologies could you use to improve your blog?

5. List Your Blog’s Threats

What external things could or area hindering you achieving your blog’s goals? What are other blogs in your niche doing that could be hindrance to your own blog’s growth?

note – Think of Strengths and Weaknesses as internal factors while Opportunities and Threats are external factors.

6. Analyze Your Reflections and Generate Strategies

Take some time out to work out what you can do with your findings. How can you utilize your Strengths? How can you bring your Weaknesses to an end? How can you make the most of your Opportunities? how can you fend off the Threats?

As my old Marketing lecturer used to say – ‘doing the analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats is only half the job. Working out how to turn Weaknesses into Strengths and Threats into Opportunities is the key part of a SWOT analysis’.

7. Plan to Do Something and Do It

Translate your findings into an Action Plan and begin to implement it.

Doing a SWOT analysis is something that I do periodically on my individual blogs and on my overarching business also. Have you ever done one on your blog? What tips would you give to others wanting to do one?

If you want to do more strategic analysis and planning on your blogs you might also like to check out my series of posts – Strategic Blogging.

Who Does Your Blog Serve? The Secret to Sustainable Blogging

Who does Your Blog Serve?

In today’s video I take a look at two groups of people that a blog needs to benefit if it’s going to sustain itself for the long haul.
[Read more...]

The ProBlogger Job Board Gets an Overhaul

Another part of the ProBlogger redesign is done with the migration of the ProBlogger Job Boards to a new backend and design.

Jobs.Problogger

While those who use the boards regularly will only see a completely new design – the main functions of the board are exactly the same as they were before. On the back end however, things are completely new with a completely new platform running it – designed by Gary King.

Thanks also to Mike Rohde who did the logo and for Ben Bleikamp who has been helping again with design and integration of the latest jobs into the Home Page of ProBlogger.

The RSS feed of the boards is still the same as it was before.

The other change to the page is the addition of a Testimonials Page which includes a number of reports from happy Advertisers.

Speaking of Blog Jobs – here are the latest ones to hit the boards:

The Right Width for Your Blog

Width-BlogThe following post on blog width was submitted by Michael Martin from Pro Blog Design.

800×600… 1024×768… 1280×1024… There are dozens of different screen resolutions available, and what’s more is that not all users have their browsers at full size, making it even harder to choose a resolution to design for.

Lies, Damned Lies…

Most statistics are of little benefit to you. There is only one statistic which matters; your own. Look at your blog’s stats, and see what resolutions your own readers are using.

The percentage of readers using each resolution will vary greatly from blog to blog. For instance, whilst 10% of a sewing tips site may be using 800×600, a tech blog might find that less than 1% of their readers are on this resolution.

The Optimal and the Acceptable

It is rarely possible to give everyone the perfect design. Instead, you must settle for the most good for the most people, and an acceptable display for everyone else.

If the vast majority of your readers are using 1024×768 or higher, as they probably are, then build your blog for this width. The extra width gives you the space for more content, or to spread out the content you already have, giving the design room to breathe. In most cases, the benefits of this make it worth the loss to the small number of 800×600 users.

With the layout optimised for the larger resolution, you can then ensure that it is also acceptable for lower resolutions, i.e. they can still use your site without horizontal scrolling.

  • Place the content on the left, and the sidebar on the right.
  • Interlink your articles, allowing visitors to navigate your blog without the sidebar navigation.
  • If you use a 3-column layout, place navigation links in the leftmost of the 2 sidebar columns. This increases the likelihood of a low resolution user being able to navigate efficiently, without scrolling.
  • Make use of vertical space. For example, a low resolution user may not see the RSS links in the sidebar, but if you place an RSS button under your post, they will still see that.

Whichever width you design for, make sure you remember the browser scrollbar. An 800 pixel wide screen may only be able to show 760px of a webpage.

The Liquid Solution

Building your blog to a set width isn’t the only possibility. A number of other solutions exist, with the most popular being the liquid layout.

A liquid layout expands based on the size of the browser window. Ideally, this means that everyone will view the webpage at the largest possible width.

In practice this causes trouble for those with very large resolutions, as the length of a line of text becomes too long to be easily readable. At the other end of the scale, a 3-column liquid layout being squashed onto a small resolution rarely looks good either, with crushed content and shorter lines.

These drawbacks should always be considered, sorted if possible, despite the extra work. This usually means setting maximum and minimum widths on the content.

More Advanced Methods

For the advanced blogger looking to serve up perfect pages to each and every visitor, a number of other techniques exist. Two of my favorites are the ability to serve up different CSS stylesheets depending on the resolution, or to use elastic layouts which change depending on the text size. It just takes a little experimenting to get what you want.

At the end of the day, you can’t please everyone. For most bloggers, you perfect the page for the majority of your visitors, and do your best for the rest. If you can optimise for each and every person, well done, but don’t worry if you can’t.

What width is your blog built for?

Explore a Social Media Site

Social-Media

Today’s task in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Project (this is the 2nd last day) is to explore a social media site (whether it be a networking site or a bookmarking one) that you might not have seen or explored previously. I’m not going to tell you which one to choose to explore (because you’ll all have had different experiences of different ones) but will leave that choice up to you (I’ve got a suggested list below of some you might like to choose from).

Social media sites are increasingly popular types of sites and are full of wonderful potential for bloggers wanting to improve their blogs.

Why Should Bloggers Take Notice of Social Media Sites?

Traffic – The most obvious attraction to many of these social sites is the massive number of people that many of these sites have and the potential for them to drive deluges of traffic in your blog’s direction.

However, while I’ve written numerous times on getting and leveraging traffic from social media sites (I’ll include some links at the end of this post) I have increasingly begun to see numerous other benefits of being an active participant in these spaces.

Let me briefly explore a few:

Branding – I wrote a post a month ago on Building Your Personal Brand One ‘Straw’ at a Time which highlighted the power of being involved in a variety of different activities online. In that post I shared an email from a reader telling me how he’d stumbled across me in six different ways before subscribing to my blog – two of these instances were social sites (Facebook and Digg). I’m amazed how many people have told me similar things having come across some of my different pages on social sites.

Reinforcing Relationships – A lot has been written about the nature of ‘friends’ in sites like MySpace where you can rack up thousands of ‘friends’ in a day or two yet ‘know’ none of them. While ‘friendships’ and relationships in these types of sites is usually of a different kind to what happens in ‘real life’ (although there are exceptions) I’ve still found that the interactions that I have on social media sites can reinforce the relationships that I have with readers on my blog. There are a number of readers that I interact with regularly on sites like StumbleUpon and LinkedIn that have led to closer interactions on my blog also.

Learning – I learn a lot about building successful blogs when I participate in social media sites. Spend half an hour stumbling through sites on StumbleUpon and you will learn a lot about how to design sites that immediately capture attention in just second or two (which is all you really have to make an impression on SU), analyze the popular posts at a site like delicious and you’ll see the importance of good headlines (and pick up some tips on how to write them), take some time to go surfing on MySpace and Bebo and you’ll see and learn about all kinds of subcultures that you might not have known much about previously, explore a site like Twitter and you’ll learn the power of conensing a message down into just a handful of words….

How to Use Social Media Sites?

I’m sure that many of you will share other things that a blogger will benefit from as a result of social media sites – but lets take a few moments to share a few tips on HOW to interact on social media sites. The following tips will be fairly general as each site is different – but there are a few principles that remain the same:

Don’t Spam – the temptation with many of these sites is to rush in and plaster links back to your blog all over these sites. However this could lead to you damaging your blog more than it’ll benefit from it. There is a time and place to submit your own blog to many of these sites – however do it as a genuine participant rather than just someone in it for self promotion.

Be an Active Observer – each social bookmarking and networking site that you’ll discover will have it’s own rhythms, language and etiquette. The culture at one site will be quite different to another – so it’s important to take your time in getting to know it and to spend time familiarizing yourself with it. Watch how it operates, analyze what type of people use it, get a feel for how people interact with one another and the content, see what people respond to and make note of how other people are using the site in productive ways. Out of these observations you’ll be in a much better position to see opportunities to participate in fruitful ways.

Be a Genuine and Generous Participant - once you’ve got a feel for the site create a profile and begin to participate. Building on my tip ‘don’t spam’ – I’d encourage you to spend as much time as possible using the site in a completely non self serving way. If it’s a bookmarking site – bookmark other sites (ones you have a genuine interest in), if it’s a networking site – interact with people in a real and friendly manner. While you should find ways to build your own profile, brand and authority – these things generally come in time as you naturally participate rather than by always pushing the boundaries and manipulating the system.

Look for Tour Guides – every social media site has it’s key and central participants who can help you to understand and know how to use these sites most effectively. Look for these ‘tour guides’, watch how they operate, emulate them, befriend them, help them achieve their goals and in time build a relationship with them. In doing so you’ll learn a lot, begin to understand the language and culture of the site and will grow in your own influence in it.

If you have more tips on how to use these sites best – feel free to give tips below.

Social Media Sites to Explore:

There are hundreds and hundreds of these types of sites popping up and I can’t possibly mention them all. Let me suggest a few (with links to my own profile where I use them more actively so we can become ‘friends’):

Of course there are literally hundreds of others – many now appearing on specific smaller niches. Feel free to suggest the ones that you’re experimenting with in comments below.

Further on Social Media Sites from our Archives

AuctionAds Update Their Look

Auctionads-1AuctionAds has done an update in a number of areas of what they are offering publishers with what they describe as a new ‘Web 2.0 Ad Creative’ (new colors and a new design – see the example to the left).

They’ve also optimized ad images (much improved) and have updated their hardware which will improve uptime of the network.

I continue to hear from some readers that AuctionAds is performing particularly well for them – it does vary from niche to niche but if you have a topic that has a good second hand market attached to it where people sell products on eBay it can convert very well.

If you haven’t tried it yet signup today and get $5 for just trying it as a ProBlogger reader.

Email a Blogger that Linked to You to Say Thanks

Building-A-Better-Blog-2One of the lifelines that keeps a blog healthy and growing is the incoming link. When other blogs and websites link to you blog they inject your blog with ‘juice’ that brings it real life in three main ways:

  • Google Juice – incoming links are gold when it comes to climbing the search engines rankings. Every link is like a vote in Google’s eyes – get enough votes from the right sites and your blog will see increases in search engine traffic over time.
  • Reader Juice – incoming links from even small sites will generally mean that people click the link and visit your site. New potential readers!
  • Branding Juice - sometimes the real benefit of an incoming link can be the general branding and reputation enhancing that it can do. A link can be like an endorsement for your blog and on larger sites it can have profound impact not only by what it does with traffic and SEO but the impression that the link creates in the reader’s mind.

There has been a lot written about how to get links to your blog of late – but one thing that can be just as important is how you cultivate the relationships with those linking to you.

One of the things that I’ve learned in the last year particularly is that when a blog or website links to you once there is every chance that they’ll do it again.

As a result it can be very worthwhile to get to know the person who does the writing on the site and to build a working relationship with them.

This generally starts with an email and/or a comment on the post where they link to you.

Today’s task is to send an email to a blogger or webmaster that linked up to you recently. For some of you there will be plenty to choose from, for others just starting out it could be difficult to find any.

Some places to look for who is linking to you:

  • Technorati – type your URL in and hit search and you’ll find any blogs linking to you
  • Google Blog Search – another good tool for real time link tracking
  • Your Blog’s Metrics – any worthwhile stats package will give you a ‘referrals’ stat that shows incoming links. I use Google Analytics but you could also use Sitemeter, Mint, AW Stats or one of many other metrics tools.
  • Search Engines – type in ‘link:http://www.yourblog.com’ at Yahoo or Google and you’ll find incoming links to your blog – note: this isn’t a quick or immediate method of finding recent links.

Once you’ve found another blog or site that’s linked to you – simply drop them an email of thanks. You can do a comment also – but I find an email is a little more personal and often leads into a conversation and perhaps relationship.

Keep the email brief and simple. Don’t pitch the blogger ideas – simply thank them and let them know that you appreciate both the link and their site (if you do). You may also want to make some sort of a comment or ask a simple question that relates to how they linked to you to show you’re engaging with them. If you intend to keep following their blog tell them (eg – let them know if you subscribe to their blog).

If the blogger responds in some way then let the conversation flow. You might find that it leads you to suggest another post that you’ve written, you might find that you can help them in some way or that you can work on something together – however don’t rush this. If nothing more happens than you saying thank you then you’ve lost nothing and made a little impression.

On the other hand you could well find yourself with a new friend and regular incoming links to your blog.