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Make a Reader Famous

FameDo you want to be famous? Do you want to be noticed? Do you want people to know who you are? Do you want to have more influence?

I did an informal survey of bloggers at a workshop and asked them why they blog. The majority of answers had something to do with one of the above questions. While many bloggers also have some desire to make a difference in the world or to help others – to do this they also generally have a goal of being noticed and read by more and more people.

Today’s task in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project is to take a break from building your own fame and influence and to build the fame and influence of someone else – preferably one of your readers.

Pick a reader (and if you’re new and don’t have any yet – pick another blogger in your niche, preferably a less well known one) and make them famous in some way.

Here are a few ideas on how to do it:

  • Promote a comment to a Post - sometimes readers make incredibly insightful and wise observations and tips in the comments of your blog. While they will be read by a handful of people in the comment thread – why not pull it out and use it as the basis for one of your post – highlighting the wisdom in it and the person who made the comment.
  • Write a Post about their Blog – visit the blogs of those leaving comments on your blog and pick one that you resonate with to post about. Write an ‘unpaid review’ of the blog – highlighting the best posts and what you like about it.
  • Send Your Readers to Comment on Someone Else’s Blog – write a post that links to someone else’s great blog post and instead of asking your readers what they think about it on your own blog ask them to head over and comment on it on the other person’s blog. Shutting down the comments in your own post and saying that you’ve left a comment on their blog already can help make this more effective.
  • Give Readers an Opportunity to Promote Themselves – run a project or write a post that gives readers an opportunity to promote themselves in some way. Last week on the spur of the moment at DPS I wrote a post asking readers – do you have a photoblog?‘ As I wrote the post I thought I’d add a line inviting readers to share a link to their photoblogs. I didn’t think much of it until the next morning when I woke up to 250 comments on the post and a whole heap of emails thanking me for giving readers the opportunity to highlight their work.
  • Reader of the WeekSingForHim recently left a comment here at ProBlogger talking how how she runs a weekly post called Readers of the Week where she highlights some of her readers and how they’ve interacted with her blog. Here’s one of her latest examples of this (you can see from the comments that readers appreciate it!).

OK – I can hear some of the comments on this post already.

“Isn’t the real reason that you want to make your readers famous so you become more famous?”

True – one of the side effects of highlighting the great things about another person is that it will often come back to you in some ways that benefit you too. Call it ‘karma’, call it ‘reaping what you sow’ or call it anything you like – it’s a principle that you’ll find to be true.

However try to get away from that more selfish motivation for a moment if you can. The blogosphere was built on principles of promoting others, conversation, celebrating diversity, open source knowledge etc. Some days I wonder if those things still exist – and to be honest somedays I wonder if I’ve played a part in making them endangered species. Lets recapture some of it by making others famous today on our blogs.

The Secret to Increasing Your Traffic Overnight – Hint, it has Something to do with Going on Holidays

Today I was asked about a post from a few months ago on Savvy Affiliate that did a little analysis of the Alexa graphs of four blogs (including ProBlogger) which had surges in traffic that were the beginnings of sustained traffic growth.

In the post Scott observed a surge in ProBlogger’s Traffic as can be seen in the following graph.

Problogger-Alexa-3

This surge happened in April 2006 and as I rarely look at Alexa (or take much notice of it as I find it a bit flakey – I don’t trust the actual numbers but the trends that the graphs reveal are interesting) I hadn’t really noticed it before.

But because Scott has posted about it I thought I’d dig back into my archives to try to identify what the cause of the surge was.

While Alexa don’t give a lot of detail when it comes to dates I’d estimate that it happened in April of 2006. What exact date it was I’m unsure.

So what happened in April 2006?
As I look back over the archives of that month two factors jumped out at me. Which of them (if any) was the reason for the surge in traffic I’m not sure – but here they are:

1. I handed my blog over to Guest Bloggers – for two weeks in April 2006 I took a holiday (our last break before our baby was born) and I handed the blog over to a number of guest bloggers. While I did have a few advanced posts set to go off over the month it was largely others who wrote the blog for half of the month. The number of posts on ProBlogger for the month were lower than any other month for the year and comment levels were fairly normal.

2. I switched to Full Feeds – my gut tells me that this was actually a significant factor in the surge (although at the time I was scared that I’d see a lot less actual visitors to the blog because more people would stay in their feed readers). I don’t remember exactly the result on traffic at that time but it initially was a little lower but did grow from this point (and subscriber numbers leapt up).

What didn’t happen in April 2006?
My initial thought when I saw this surge was that it happened on a day that a ProBlogger post hit the front page of Digg or that it happened on a day that I wrote a post that got ‘discovered’ on a bigger blog. However as I look back over the posts of that month there were no such instances that I could identify.

From what I can see, there was no big spectacular event that was responsible for the surge. It may have been something to do with some fresh voices, it could have been connected to going to full feeds (which did bring about a rise to my subscribers at the time) or perhaps it was just the accumulation of numerous events over time that added together at this point to see a rise in traffic (or perhaps Alexa really is screwy and it’s some sort of anomaly – maybe a handful of new subscribers all using Alexa toolbars started following ProBlogger that day).

Lessons from the Experience?I guess the lesson is pretty obvious – switch to full feeds, let others write your blog and go on holidays! :-)

PS: Seriously though – what I do find interesting about the graph is the latest surge which happened the day that my new design was launched. I guess it’s paying off so far – although it’s still a little early to tell.

How To Blog – Dumb Little Man Style

Jay from Dumb Little Man (a blog that’s seen incredible growth of late) has posted an insightful post on How He Blogs.

It has all kinds of great glimpses into his blogging and how he does it while still maintaining a full time job (warning – his schedule is a killer – 4 hours sleep!).

There’s too much stuff to summarize here – so head over and have a read.

Run a Reader Survey on Your Blog

Reader-SurveyYour task today in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project is to ask your readers how you can improve your blog.

At least once a year I like to write a post on my blogs inviting my readership to comment on a number of areas of my blog. These include:

  • Content (topics covered, post length, types of posts, post frequency, depth of exploration of topics etc)
  • Design (navigation, colors, fonts etc)
  • Blog Features (RSS feed, blog tools etc)
  • Community (how it could be enhanced)

While some blog readers will give you this feedback from time to time whether you ask for it or not – others like to wait to be asked and many wouldn’t even give it any consideration until they are asked.

Why Survey Your Readers?

There are two main reasons why this exercise is worth doing:

  1. Blog Improvement - the most obvious benefit of asking readers to review your blog is that you find out what they like and don’t like about it so that you can make improvements
  2. Reader Participation – asking this question draws readers out of their lurking state to make a comment or send an email. In doing this you actually create users who take a little more ownership of the site and who feel like they are being valued and listened to

How to Survey Your Readers

A few more tips that I’ve found helpful when running reader surveys

  • Determine What You Want to Know First - I find that these reader surveys are more effective when I have some sense of what I want to find out first. While simply asking ‘how can I improve’ might get some good responses – having some ideas on possible future direction for your blog can be helpful in forming the questions that you ask readers. Use this process to test possibilities. For example in a recent reader survey at DPS (see link below) I asked if readers would be interested in buying a ‘best of… ‘ type ebook to test whether this might be something that I could develop down the track.
  • Ask Specific Questions – all some of your readers will need from you to give good feedback is an invitation to do so. However other readers will need a little guidance and asking some specific questions will give them the framework to give you the type of feedback you want. So ask a mixture of general questions (like – ‘tell me what you think about my blog’ and very specific ones (like ‘do you like video post?’ or ‘would you like a forum?’).
  • Set ‘Rules’ – you’ll notice in the two examples that I give below of the most recent times I’ve asked readers for feedback that I’ve set some ‘rules’ in place. The reason I do this is to attempt to get readers thinking positively and constructively about the feedback that they give. Comments like ‘this site is crap’ don’t really help you improve your blog – so encourage your readers to make suggestions and be constructive.
  • Set Good Expectations - the other thing it is worth doing is giving readers a sense of what you’ll do with their feedback. If you intend to respond to each comment, tell readers that that is your intention. If you can’t respond to each suggestion then tell that. This will save you pain later when readers email to ask why you didn’t get back to them.
  • Be Willing to Hear Critiques – don’t ask for feedback unless you are willing to hear it (and not just the glowing praise). The whole point of this exercise is to find things you can improve upon – as a result you’ll hopefully have some of your blog’s weaknesses identified. If you’re not in the headspace for this type of feedback simply don’t ask for it.

Examples of Reader Surveys

If you’d like to see how I do this – I recently gave readers opportunities to comment on my main two personal blogs at How Can I Make ProBlogger More Useful to You? and How Can We Improve Digital Photography School.

So put together a reader survey and post it on your blog. I tend to do it simply as a post and let the resonses come in via comments or email – but you might also want to use an actual survey tool (although I find the response rate to using these is lower). Once you’ve done it I’d love to hear about how you found the process.

What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? Did readers respond? What tips would you give others wanting to do reader surveys?

Another Example

For another example of how do this check out this recent post over at Copyblogger in which Brian asks readers to tell him what Copyblogger means to them. It’s a great question because not only does he learn a lot but readers are responding in ways that cement their readership as they’re telling each other what they like about the blog.

113 Must Read Blogging Tips

Building-A-Better-Blog-2When I started this months 31 Days to Building a Better Blog and decided to invite readers to submit their own blog tips I’m not sure what I was really expecting – but the results have been fantastic.

I’ve just spent the last two hours surfing through the latest batch of 113 tips (that brings us up to a total of 359 reader tips on the central page) and am quite inspired. I come away from this list with new ideas, new knowledge and with another 20 or so blogs added to my out of control feed reader.

There are still 12 days left of the project so you’ve got time to submit a tip or so of your own. To do so see the rules on the intro to the 31 Day Project post.

Now grab a cup of your favorite beverage and get reading!

Should You Respond to Comments via Email or in Comments?

Respond-To-CommentsIn my last post on responding to comments on your blog two readers, john – from fat to fat and Lynnae, both post the question of whether a blogger should respond to comments via email or via comments?

I’d like to throw this open as a reader question – what do you do?

Let me share a few suggestions to kick off the discussion.

I think that either can work – and in some circumstances it can either be worth to respond via comment AND to send an email.

Respond in Comments – The advantage of responding via comments is that it’s a public response that could answer questions of many and that shows the wider reader community that you’re engaging with them. The disadvantage of doing it via comments is that the person may never see it as many people leave comments and don’t keep track of responses.

Respond via Email – The advantage of responding via email is that the person will see the response and that it’s a much more personal thing which can have a real impact upon your reader. Of course the downside is that it’s a private thing and something that your wider reading community can’t participate in.

Both? – The third alternative is to do both which will cover all your bases (although it’s a touch more work).

I guess for me it depends upon what you’re responding to. If it’s an important question I’d do both. If it’s a comment that has more of a personal question in it then I’d respond via email and if it’s a little more general in nature I think just doing it in comments is ok.

Another Option – There’s one more alternative though and it’s something I’m doing right now.

You can respond in a new post.

This has the advantage of continuing the conversation by drawing attention to an older post, highlighting a reader’s comments and getting you another post.

What do you do?

Respond to Comments On Your Blog

Building-A-Better-Blog-2One of the most basic skills that any blogger should spend time working on from the very early days is responding to comments on your blog – and that’s today’s task in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Project.

While this is one of the simplest acts that a blogger can do (I almost didn’t publish this because it’s so basic) it is something that can have a real impact upon your readers.

Despite this – it’s often one of the things that slips for many bloggers over time as a result of a growing blog and/or the busyness of life. I’m as guilty of this as anyone and have been attempting to put more time aside in the last couple of weeks to comment more on my blogs (it’s a daily struggle).

So block out a little time today to scan through the latest comments on your blog. Answer questions, respond to others ideas, leave a welcome message and continue conversations by asking questions of your own.

This acknowledgment goes a long way and is one of the best ways of developing a commenting culture on your blog.

PS: Here’s another quick tip that I found very useful in the early days of my own first blogs. Click the links of those who leave comments on your blog. When you do this you’ll find that some of those who leave comments on your blog who check their own blog’s referral statistics will notice your visit and come back to see if their comments have been responded to.

You can take this another step further by leaving a comment on their blog to further develop the relationship.

This is one of those little 1%er tips that may not send a deluge of traffic to your blog but that can have an impact on a reader by reader basis (you might also find a good blog or two in the process).

The Huffington Post Promotes Top Commenters To Be Featured Bloggers

Scott Karp from Publishing 2.0 has a fascinating interview with Arianna Huffington from The Huffington Post on their recent decision to allow their top Commenters to Bloggers on the site.

The idea is pretty simple – Paul Berry explains in the announcement post:

“Reading through the comments on our site, we realized that our commenters are a tremendous — and underutilized — resource. So we’ve created a process whereby we will choose one commenter a month to become part of our group blog.”

Commenters are chosen as a result of the ratings that other readers of the blog give their comments and as a result of moderators preferences.

It’s an interesting system and one I’m sure we’ll see other high profile blogs and news outlets experiment with.

The Next Internet Millionaire – Episode 1

Internet-MillionaireWhen Joel Comm emailed me a month or two back to tell me about his new project – a reality show called the Next Internet Millionaire – I have to admit that I was a little skeptical. For starters – I’m not a massive fan of the hype of internet marketing and wondered how they’d keep this out of it. Secondly – I wondered how it would stop from becoming a second rate/cheesey show.

Having just watched episode one of the show I’m now happy to blog about it. Yes it is a little cheesy and yes it is a little cliched (think The Apprentice for Internet Marketers) – however I actually enjoyed it. They managed to have me watch all the way through and wonder when the next episode will go up.

While it’s not got the production levels of a high end reality show I think they did a pretty good job for a first time and I’m looking forward to what they do next. The hype wasn’t there anywhere near as much as it could have been and I found myself getting into it.

Did I learn much from it?

Not a lot – although I have to admit that as I watched I did press pause a few times to jot down a few ideas that came to mind as I watched the teams going about their tasks.

The ‘teaching’ aspect of the show was a little light on but even the snippets that we saw were good. I liked the concept of the ‘straight line’ and think I could probably reorganize my days a little to become more productive using that.

Interested to see what you think about Episode 1 of The Next Internet Millionaire (aff).