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What Everybody Ought to Know About Blogging – 97 Blog Tips

Building-A-Better-Blog-2We are entering the last week in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project and I’m continuing to enjoy both writing my own tips and reading those being submitted by readers.

Today I’ve got another 97 reader tips for you (taking us to a total of 456 submissions so far) and once again they cover a wide array of topics relevant to any blogger wanting to improve their blog. If you’ d like to be included in the last lists simply follow the instructions in the Introduction to the 31 Day Project post. It’s worth doing – the last one of these posts went onto the front page of Delicious and i heard from a few readers that they had quite a bit of traffic as a result.

I hope you enjoy this wonderful array of blog tips:

Go on a Dead Link Hunt

Building-A-Better-Blog-2Today your task in the 31 Day Project is something that most bloggers who have been blogging for a while could probably benefit from doing – go on a dead link hunt.

Blogging is built on the ‘link’. One blog links to another blog who links to another who makes comment on another. This is a wonderful thing – but what happens when one of the blogs that you’re linking to is retired, is deleted, changes it’s link structure, moves etc? The link is a dead one (also known as Link Rot) and can cost your blog on two fronts:

Readability – clicking on a dead link can mean your readers can end up on error pages or being redirected to other irrelevant content to the one they were expected to get to. This can lead to reader frustration or giving the impression that your blog is old and/or out of touch.

SEO – I’m not sure of the technicalities of it or what the latest research shows but from what I can tell a dead link is not looked upon favorably by search engines and you run the risk of penalties.

So how do you detect dead links on your blog?

The most obvious ‘solution’ is to surf every page on your blog and manually check all the links. This is something that might be achievable on a new blog – but on older blogs with hundreds or thousands of posts it’s just not feasible.

There are many link checking tools available but to be honest I’m yet to find one that I’m really happy with. I do hear that Xenu’s Link Sleuth is a good option for those using Microsoft Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP. I’ve also used the free version of Dead-Links.com (which only checks to a reasonably shallow depth) – but I’d be keen to hear from readers on their suggestions of other options.

When it Feels Like Nobody is Reading Your Blog

Talking-To-YourselfI was chatting with two friends last week – one of them is a blogger and the other was considering starting a blog.

My blogging friend was dispensing a few words of wisdom on how to start out (the usually kind of beginner blogging tips) when he said something out of the blue which made me take note because of the wisdom of it.

He said:

“In the early days you’ll feel like you’re talking to yourself (actually in the very beginning you probably are) – but don’t give up because it’s a feeling that will subside. The key is to keep blogging through that awkward beginning because if you do you’ll find people will begin to find you and the memory of talking to yourself will be a distant memory.”

I really appreciated my friend’s words. They reminded me a lot of my own beginnings in blogging when I felt quite foolish about pouring out what was on my mind for everyone (and nobody) to read).

His words also reminded me of another time in my life where I felt like I was talking to an empty room.

Warning – Tangent Ahead (it’s been a while since we had a tangent hasn’t it!)

In my previous life, before I was a blogger, I was a minister of a middle sized suburban church (I still do this work in a part time voluntary capacity in a small emerging experimental church).

Part of my work in this church that I really enjoyed was preaching. I loved preparing for and delivering sermons (in fact I find the process very similar to putting together blog posts).

My workflow for preparing a sermon went something like this (it took a week or more to go through the full process):

  • Pick a Topic (or be given one by the senior minister).
  • Begin Brainstorming ideas/angles/points
  • Research the Topic (bible study, reading the opinion of others, surfing the web/forums/sermon resource sites)
  • Putting together some main points

Empty-PewsAt this point I would jot my main points (usually 5 or so) down on a piece of paper and leave my office to go and find a quiet empty room (quite often the main chapel of the church). Once in that empty echoing room I would do something that felt quite awkward the first time I did it – I would begin to preach.

With my main points before me I would begin to speak them out – playing with how the words sounded – adding stories, illustrations and ideas as they came to mind.

For me the researching/brainstorming process of the first 4 steps outlined above was a fairly dry process. I gathered information – but it wasn’t until I began to actually do it that the real magic happened. While it felt a little weird at first to start talking out loud in a big empty room it was actually a valuable practice.

As I would preach to the empty pews and as my word echoed around the room I found that I learned so much about the topic I was exploring and how to deliver it. I also learned a lot about preaching. New ideas would come, I’d try different ways of expressing it and slowly the final version of the sermon would begin to form – to the point that when I got up in the same room on Sunday to deliver the final version it would flow.

The more I practiced in this way the more I improved as a preacher.

Lessons for Blogging from Preaching to Empty Pews

As I reflect upon my early days of blogging where I felt that nobody was listening I now realize that that was a time where I learned a lot about what I wanted to say and how to say it.

In those early days I tested ideas, tried new ways of expressing them and learned a lot about my topic and the medium of blogging.

So my advice to new bloggers who feel like no one is listening is to not give up and see the experience of preaching to the empty pews on your blog as a learning experience.

The things you learn now will shape your future blogging, will grow your understanding of your topic, will grow your character and make you into a better blogger.

Hear endeth today’s sermon….

First Impressions Matter on a Blog

First impressions matter in the day to day real life relationships that we all have. Like it or not, people are making decisions about who you are in the first few seconds that they meet you.

The same is happening when they come to your blog too!

[Read more...]

Blogger Ads Inline AdSense Widget

If you’re using Blogger as your platform and have wanted a way to put AdSense ads between posts then Blogger have added a widget that makes it easy. Get the full details at the AdSense blog’s post on Getting inline.

I can think of a few bloggers that will be pretty happy with this one!

How do you link to yourself? Anchor Text for Internal Links Matters

One of the most basic principles of search engine optimization is that the words that other sites use within the text of their links to you (called the anchor text) have an impact upon how your site ranks for those words.

For example – if you want to rank well in Google for the words ‘pink widget’ then it’d be more helpful for another site to link to you with the words pink widget than any other words.

The principle extends to internal links on your blog. When you link to yourself (for example linking to a previous link that you’ve written) you should consider doing so with descriptive words of the post rather than generic words.

For example – if I wanted to link to my previous post titled ‘blogging for beginners’ in a post rather than linking like this:

‘you can read my post on blogging for beginners here

it would be more powerful in terms of the search engine ranking of the post to link to it as:

‘you can read my previous post on the topic, blogging for beginners

It doesn’t sound like much – but it’s these small adjustments in the way that a blogger blogs that can add up to having a bit impact upon the ranking of that blog in search engines.

One more thing - it’s not just the links from within your posts that this matters for. Internal links from your navigation and menus matter too. For example if you link to your categories – think about the words you use there too.

Catch New Readers Up On The Basics of Your Blog

Building-A-Better-Blog-2Sometimes after you’ve been blogging on your blog for a while it’s easy to forget that not all of your readers have been reading your blog since you started. While you’re familiar with every aspect of your blog and how to use it – your more recent loyal readers may not.

One way to catch new readers up on what your blog is all about and how to use it most effectively is simply to write a post telling them.

So what should you tell them?

Really it’s up to you – but here are a few suggestions:

  • Why Did You Start Your Blog? - the story of how, when and why you started the blog can help readers connect with and own your blog.
  • How is it designed to be Used? – while more and more people understand what a blog is and how it operates – some readers may not – particularly non tech savvy audiences. Explain concepts like comments, categories and any features that you’ve installed that might take a little explanation.
  • How Can Users Connect/Subscribe? – explain how to use RSS or subscribe via email. It’s amazing how many people don’t understand this – educate them.
  • How Can Readers Get More Involved? - if you have forums or a reader community area for readers to get more involved highlight them.
  • Where Should Readers Start? – point new readers to some starting points to read (use the Sneeze Page idea that we talked about a few days ago).

You don’t need to do all of the above in the one post – in fact picking just one or two might get your readers attention better and not overwhelm them.

What about Your Regular Readers?

Worried about what your regular long term readers might think of these types of posts? I was too when I first did them – so I decided to invite them to participate in the process to help new readers.

What I did was to ask long term readers to tell the story of how they found my blog and how they use it. In doing this I not only got them involved and distracted from the fact that I might be writing about something that they already know – but I got them participating and enthusiastically explaining to new readers how they love and use the blog.

I also found that a few long term readers told me that they learned something new about the blog that they’d overlooked for a long time.

Want an Example?

Last time I did this at DPS it was with this post – How to Connect with Digital Photography School. Feel free to share your own examples and experiences of this in comments below.

This post is part of the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Project.

“I try to leave out the parts that people skip”

I recently wrote a post with 8 things to do with your blog when you get sick – number five on the list was to find a guest blogger to lend a hand.

This week on noticing a fellow blogger, Blog Bloke, was having a bad run with illness I decided to drop him a note asking if he could do with a guest post to lighten the load and help keep the blog ticking over.

BB accepted and the post just went live. It’s a post on brevity in writing a blog and being selective with what you publish. You can see it at Leave Out the Parts that People Will Skip. Feel free and leave your comments on that post.

5 Comment Management Plugins for WordPress

One more post on the ‘respond to comments‘ post that I wrote yesterday.

If you’re a WordPress user there are a number of WP plugins that can help with managing your comments and responding to readers. Here are some that might be worth exploring.

1. Better Comments Manager - this plugin allows you to respond to comments on your blog as you moderate them in the comments area of WP’s back end. So instead of seeing a comment come in, having to then visit the post and responding from there you can simply hit ‘reply’ from within the comments section and you’ll be taken to a page where you can leave a responding comment. It also puts a ‘view all’ link in your comments area that allows you to quickly see all the comments on a post – still staying in the back end of WP. Here’s the two links as you’ll see them in your comments area:

Bettercommentsmanagercloseup5

2. Comment Relish – this plugin sends and automatic email message to users on your website who have never commented before. I’m seeing more and more bloggers using this – generally giving a quick thank you for the comment, a link back to the post and blog and a mention of their RSS feed etc. Be a little careful of making your comment too ‘auto generated’ and if you want to make your emails more personal check out how my good friend Alister uses it. Here’s another similar plugin called Comment Email Responder.

3. Subscribe to Comments – this won’t help you respond to comments but will help your readers know when you have as it sends an email when new comments are added to a post that they’ve subscribed to. While I don’t use this here at ProBlogger at the moment (in a previous version I had a bug) it is something I’ve used on other blogs and have found very effective.

4. WP Comment Moderation Notifier – get notified on your desktop when a new comment comes in that needs moderation. This is a new one that I only found today via John TP.

5. Threaded Comments – Ben and I have talked about using this in the new ProBlogger design but have resisted so far as it can get a little messy. However it is one way of helping readers to have more dialogue in their comments.

Want more Comment Plugins for WordPress? Check out the WP Codex page for Plugins for Comments.

Which WordPerss plugins do you use to help managed your Comments?