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Haiku Blogging

haiku blogging
In this post Leo Babauta from Zen Habits explores the art of minimalistic blogging.

I don’t think there’s a blogger among us — from full-time Pro Bloggers like Darren to the part-time, trying-to-squeeze-in-blogging-around-my-full-time-job-and-my-family bloggers like the rest of us — who have unlimited time for blogging.

And yet, if we want to increase our readership, we have to find time not only for creating amazing content, but for responding to emails and comments, IMing with other bloggers, checking our stats, writing an ebook, monitoring our posts on the social media, trying to monetize our sites, writing guest posts, leaving comments on other sites, keeping up with our dozens of RSS feeds … you get the idea.

Blogging can be 10 full-time jobs, if we let it.

And yet, we should not let it take up all our time. Sure, if we’re passionate about blogging, we want to do it as much as possible … but who among us doesn’t have a life outside blogging? Who among us doesn’t have other things to do, loved ones to spend time with, other commitments?

We can’t let blogging take up all of our time. We have to set limits.

Amazingly, by setting limits, we become more effective and more powerful, not less.

It’s the effect of setting limits: given a finite amount of time or tasks, we are forced to make choices, and choose only the essential. We are forced to eliminate the non-essential, and only do those things that are most effective.

I often write about productivity on my blog, Zen Habits, and I applied this principle in my post on Haiku Productivity: limit your tasks and projects and emails and so forth in order to be more effective, more productive, and do more in less time.

It works for me, tremendously: I’m able to limit what I do, and still get the essential stuff done. As a result, I not only have time for a full-time job, but I run a pretty popular blog, I do freelance writing on the side, I do a lot of guest posts, I exercise, and I have a wife and six kids. All as a result of setting limits.

Today, we’ll look at how to apply these principles to blogging: Haiku Blogging.

What is Haiku Blogging?

Think about the haiku — the Japanese form of poetry of three lines and 14 syllables. It’s an extremely limited form of poetry, and yet it can be among the most powerful. That’s because the haiku poet is forced to choose only the most essential words to the concept or image he’s trying to convey. Only those words that will do the most for his purpose. The essential words.

Sure, any poet could do that in other types of poetry … but the power of the haiku is that its form is extremely limited … forcing the poet to make choices. In other poetry forms, the poet can make those choices if he wants … or can decide to ramble on for pages and pages.

So let’s apply that concept to blogging: limit what you do, to force yourself to make choices, and to choose only the essential. Set limits for everything you do.

This will force you to think about what actions you take that have the most impact. I have some suggestions below.

How Haiku Blogging Works

How you apply the concept of Haiku Blogging will depend on you, your blog, what your goals are, the rest of your life, etc. But here are some suggestions of how to apply the concept of Haiku Blogging to your blogging:

  1. Limit your blogging hours. Probably the most important on this list. What limits you set on yourself depend on your personal situation, but you should set a limit on the hours per day or per week that you blog. You might even limit the number of days you blog. And don’t just limit your writing time, but the time you spend on any blogging task. Effect: This will force you to choose the most important tasks and eliminate the chaff.
  2. Limit communication. If we allow them, email and IM and the phone and Twitter and other forms of communication will take up our entire day. Don’t allow them to do so. Set a number of times you’ll do email (I suggest twice a day), and a specific time when you’ll do IM and phone calls (say, an hour a day?). Effect: this will force you to communicate effectively, and give you distraction-free work time the rest of the day.
  3. Limit promotional activities. This includes commenting on other blogs, promoting your site on social bookmarking sites like Digg, emailing other bloggers, writing guest posts, etc. I suggest you limit yourself to 3 things per day (or fewer). Effect: This will force you to consider what activities will do the most to promote your blog … which will give you the most bang for your time.
  4. Limit stat checking. To a certain time of day. Perhaps once in the morning, for 10 minutes. No more than that! If you want to make it twice a day, fine … but checking your stats (and ad earnings) all day long is not productive, and is a waste of time. I’m guilt of it, just like any of us, but truthfully I know that it doesn’t help at all. Effect: eliminate a lot of useless time, freeing you up to actually write great content.

There are probably more things you can think of, but you get the idea.

The most essential blogging tasks

So this discussion of limiting yourself to the essential brings up the question: so what are the most essential blogging tasks?

There’s no one right answer to this question, as it will vary from blogger to blogger and depending on the blog and your goals. However, I’d like to submit my top 5 essential blogging tasks (in order):

1. Writing great, useful content
Writing content for your blog should always be the top priority. All the rest is extra compared to this. You need to create a reason for people to come to your site — well-written, concise, useful posts.

2. Interacting with readers
I never consider responding to comments or emails a waste of my time. Why? Because by interacting with readers, I am building a relationship with them, one that will last for a long time and keep them coming back. And to be honest, I enjoy this interaction and my relationship with readers very much. It keeps it fun.

3. Writing guest posts
Aside from great, useful content on your own site, having great useful content as a guest post on another blog is the best way to promote your blog and attract new readers. By far. Give away your best stuff to other bloggers, and you’ll see an increase in readership.

4. Networking with bloggers
I’ve developed some friendships with fellow bloggers that are among the most rewarding in my life. Bloggers are amazing people, in general. And your relationship with other bloggers can pay off, in the long run, with some collaborative efforts that can help both your blogs. Get away from thinking of other bloggers as competitors … helping out another blogger only helps you out in the long run.

5. Social bookmarking
Let’s face it … it’s a thrill to have one of your posts make it big on any social bookmarking site (Digg, delicious, StumbleUpon, reddit, Netscape, etc.) … and while there’s a very limited amount we can do to help our posts out, if there is anything we can do, it might be worth the effort. Best thing you can do: start out with a great post with a great headline.

Are there other important blogging tasks? Of course there are. But by identifying the most essential (and they may be different for you), you help ensure that you’re spending your blogging time in the most effective way possible.

5 Powerful Techniques to Help Your Posts Stand Out

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.

In this post regular contributer Skellie from Skelliewag.org helps you differentiate your content.

Blogs are now so popular that it’s very hard to find a niche that isn’t already saturated. There are probably dozens or hundreds of other bloggers writing on the topics you cover.

Being unique has never been so important.

We already know that ‘differentiation’ is a worthwhile goal for any blogger. In this post, I want to explain why it’s important to differentiate your posts, and give you five strategies you can use to do so.

What’s so good about being different?

By differentiating, you give readers a compelling reason to give their attention to your blog over others. After all, if you can’t offer something different, if you can’t fulfill different needs or solve different problems, potential readers simply won’t pay attention to what you’re doing.

Differentiating can sound like a hard task. It’s best to tackle “being different” one area at a time.

Here are five strategies you can use to set your content apart.

#1 –Develop a recognizable and consistent voice

One thing you might have noticed about top bloggers is that they have a very distinct writing style, or ‘voice’. One of the simplest ways to stand out in your niche is to write differently to other bloggers covering the same topics.

The key is to write naturally and consistently.

Be natural — don’t impersonate the writing style of successful bloggers. Even your flaws can help you stand out in your niche. If you’re a funny person, don’t suck the humor out of your writing simply because it’s uncommon. If you write and speak informally, don’t break into formal language because that’s the standard in your niche.

You’ll always perform better when doing something that comes naturally to you. Readers will be able to sense when you’re not being authentic, or otherwise trying to hide your natural voice.

Be consistent — readers won’t come to recognize your writing style unless it’s consistent. Don’t chop and change between funny and serious, formal and informal, easy-going and aggressive. Staying away from extreme voices will allow you more room to move. For example, moving from neutral to light-hearted is a lot smoother than moving from angry to light-hearted.

#2 — Put yourself into what you write

One of the nicest things about being human is that we’re unique without trying. No-one else has exactly the same experiences, biases, tastes, physical features and perspective as you do.

On the other hand, there are millions of blogs out there, many of them writing on the same topics. The tips, opinions, news and advice you write have probably been written many times before, albeit in different ways.

One effective way to make your content unique (which is also another way to turn readers into raving fans) is to put yourself into what you write.

  • When sharing a tip, what caused you to discover it? How have things changed since you started using it?
  • When you argue an opinion, explain what influenced you to adopt it.
  • When you give advice, explain what the results of following that advice have been for you.

The key is to weave relevant personal anecdotes into your writing. It’ll add strength to your posts while also helping to make them unique.

Photo by theforbzez
Photo by theforbzez.

#3 — Develop your own formatting style

If your writing looks a certain way, readers will begin to recognize it wherever it appears. In an instant they can say: “I know who wrote that.” You can think of the way you format your posts as your own personal watermark. Some different ideas:

  • Use box-quotes to emphasize your key points or the most interesting sentences in your post.
  • Sum up each post with a bullet-point breakdown of your key points.
  • Use unique looking sub-headings and emphasis.
  • Develop your own way of presenting information.
  • Get creative with the way you use links.
  • Use the footer of your posts for asides and unrelated notes.

#4 — Use imagery in a unique way

I think it’s important to have a unique image near the top of each post you write. You can see this strategy in use at ProBlogger: most if not all posts contain an image with rounded corners in the top-left corner.

This is particularly useful when it comes to drawing feed readers into your posts. The image immediately indicates the source of the content. Though the headline you’ve used probably won’t tell the reader which blog the post is from, the image will.

If the reader trusts that you provide good content, they’re much more likely to put the brakes on their scroll-wheel and see what you have to say.

Without the help of images, subscribers may not slow down long enough to work out which blog a particular post is from. Unique imagery makes the fact unmissable.

#5 — Break with tradition

A great idea-sparking suggestion from Seth Godin is to “do the never” — in other words, to work out what your niche always seems to do, and then do the opposite.

Maki, a blogger who writes about making money online, recently started publishing very long, value-packed posts. Why? Because most other bloggers covering the topic write short, newsy posts. He’s doing the never, and he says it’s working great for him. That’s his content differentiation strategy.

  • If everyone in your niche is posting news, why not focus on analysis? (or vice versa)
  • If your niche is full of long posts, why not write short, pithy ones? (or vice versa)
  • If blogs in your niche are quite formally written, why not write informally? (or vice versa)
  • If blogs in your niche update all the time, why not focus on quality over quantity?

The great thing about this strategy is that there’s almost always an audience craving for the ‘never’. The never represents a demand that isn’t being met.

Points to review

  • A consistent and natural writing style can help make your content more distinctive.
  • You’re unique, so put yourself into what you write.
  • Using formatting and imagery in your own way can set your posts apart visually.
  • Doing the opposite of what others are doing can be a powerful way to differentiate your posts.

How do You ‘Sell’ Your Blog?

Sell-Your-BlogThis post has been submitted by Karen Andrews from www.miscmum.com

I am no stranger (nor are you, probably) to how the wider media sometimes depicts bloggers: as closeted wannabees who add to the rise of ‘faux journalism’. Books are currently being published on the subject.

This could understandably contribute to any beginner blogger’s self-consciousness; especially those who are staring at their ad revenue reports, wondering if any money is every going to start showing up.

I used to be bashful when I talked about my blog. Not anymore. Why should I be? I’m proud of it. I’m proud of what it catalogues; thoughts, my goals, even my ambitions.

No doubt you feel the same about yours, too. But any hint of shyness, or pause, when you talk of your blog is hardly going to attract readers. Or advertisers.

Recently, I migrated from Blogger to WordPress; a rather stressful time for me, for I was deathly afraid that over a year’s worth of work and effort would somehow evaporate into nothingness (luckily, it didn’t). I had several reasons for the change; the main ones being I was a little tired of the limits of Blogger, and I wanted a purer control of my own writing and ‘brand’, for lack of a better word.

When I discussed my plans with non-bloggers, they all asked me “Why?” Why change? Why bother? What’s the difference?

I replied, “I just felt like it was time. It didn’t feel comfortable anymore.”

Granted, this was rather a drastic change. It needn’t be. Standard templates only need to be tweaked slightly to give yourself the opportunity to individualise (and hence ‘validate’) your blogging status. This mightn’t be important to some people; for others it just might be the chance to assert their creative will, and this newly found confidence can lead them on to loftier plans.

And sometimes stamping your own blogging status begins with how you speak about blogging in the first place.

Here’s my challenge:

  • Put your blog’s URL as part of your signature in your email (if you haven’t already).
  • Mention it in conversations.
  • Enter blog carnivals.
  • Do what you can (short of spamming, naturally!) to spread the word of your blog.

What are you waiting for?

Help sell your blog to the world. Isn’t it worth it?

Leveraging the Power of Blogs in an Overcrowded Market

200711151619
This guest post on a crowded blogging space is by Mark Hayward who blogs over at MyTropicalEscape and Culebra Blog.

Will the popularity of blogging lead to its demise?

Presently on the internet there are blogs in existence for almost every subject, every demographic, and every topic imaginable and more being created every minute. Lately as I peruse websites looking for useful information I have come to the realization that there are just too many blogs on the internet. While this might not be a popular view it certainly feels good to get that perspective out there amongst ProBlogger readers for debate. It also got me to thinking, will the popularity of blogging lead to its eventual downfall?

At some point will blogging go the way of the dotcom bust?


With so many people publishing their views, thoughts, and opinions can the upward trend of blog mania continue and will there be a downturn? Of course, if a crash is imminent the most popular sites most likely won’t be affected and should make it through okay. Nevertheless, when you examine what some sites with few readers, limited subscribers, and almost no revenue are currently selling for on SitePoint I seriously think that at some stage a reality check of the blog market is inevitable.

According to a very recent CNET article, “Right now, the Web is home to about 110 million blogs, with about 120,000 new blogs created every day and about 1.5 million new daily posts, according to the blog-tracking and search site Technorati.”

Let’s look at the numbers a little closer. If you type the term “blog” into GOOGLE the search returns 1,550,000,000 results. While I realize that this is just the term “blog” and not explicitly actual blogs that are in existence if you consider that the word was only coined ten years ago the increase is truly amazing. Additionally, think about the fact that the population of the United States is 303,349,807, in China it’s 1,319,175,331, Australia has 21,137,366 people, and the world’s population is 6,630,698,109. Certainly at blogging’s current growth rate there could be more blogs than people in the very near future.

The phenomena of overcrowding not only exist online.

For a relatively simple example of popularity, which has subsequently led to overcrowding, let’s look at the sport of surfing. I realize that many of you probably do not surf, but five years ago where I live in the Caribbean you could go to a beach to surf and there might be ten to fifteen people in the water all sharing waves (which are a limited resource). Nowadays it is not uncommon to arrive at a surf break and have fifty to one hundred people in the water jostling, scraping, and hassling each other (hey – just like bloggers). The numbers obviously are nowhere near blogging but for me the end result is still the same. Overcrowding leads to a tremendous amount of frustration, apathy, and loss of interest toward something that formerly provided an incredible amount of satisfaction. At the end of the day it is easier to put on a pair of running sneakers and go for a run.

Subsequently, it is not unreasonable for some people to see blogging in much the same light. With the number of blogs now reaching 110 million (and growing) there are only so many people out there who want to go and read people’s blogs whether the sites focus on making money, traveling, or automobiles. If the current trend continues there is a good chance that many who now blog will get fed up and do something else, or move on to the next media craze.

The market is overcrowded but is there hope?

Don’t get me wrong there are a tremendous amount of good sites out there. My concern is that some will drown under the weight of far too many choices. How do you stand out from all of the homogenized, plagiarized, or watered down content?

In order for a blog to make its way through to the masses I believe that you have to start out with a bottom up approach and not from the top down. Without a doubt I want my site to be number one and at the top. Working from the bottom up is the first tenet of a successful participatory development approach. When applied to blogging this method of dealing with and trying to solve issues would also serve bloggers well. Specifically, in the bottom up approach the beginnings are typically small (kind of like a planted seed), but eventually grow in complexity and completeness.

The keys concepts of the participatory (bottom up) approach, as it relates to blogging, can be summed up as follows:

  • Actively ensure that it’s people centered.
  • Promote and encourage two-way communication.
  • Motivate stakeholders.

Certainly there must be more?

In addition to the above list of key participatory concepts, what it really comes down to is determination and having a proper focal point. Notice I have not used the terms niche, brand, or content for this whole post. If you do not want your blog to dominate its particular market and you write online for self-gratification that is fantastic. However, if you want to be a leader in the blogging realm, consistent creative writing is hard work. Unless you serendipitously snap a photo of some celebrity doing something that they should not be, or come up with some type of viral YouTube video, there are no overnight successes that I know of.

In the crowded blogosphere the competition to succeed can also be viewed as a good thing because it requires people to craft amazing, information filled posts, for free.

This might sound trite but as a final method and suggestion for you to consider, and as a way to leverage the power of blogging, I look at every post that I put together, especially guest posts, like a job interview. When you go for a new job you want to stand out. In the case of a blog instead of attempting to get hired you are actively trying to attract loyal readers.

The processes by which we seek employment and conduct an interview, I believe are also tremendously applicable to creating a successful blog and can assist us in standing out from everyone else. The primary similarities are as follows:

  1. Networking – Just getting to an interview can require interacting with many people and likewise readers must know your blog exists and the talents you possess.
  2. Persistence – In order to get your blog exposed sometimes you must persevere through low readership.
  3. Research – Like good interview preparation where you need to know about the company and your career area, blogs that typically stand out have writers who understand and know their subject matter.
  4. Focus – If you go into an interview and spend your time looking out the window chances are you won’t get the job. Approach your blog with a lack of focus and chances are you will lose readers.
  5. Enthusiasm – This one speaks for itself.
  6. Honesty – You wouldn’t lie on your resume would you? I would not encourage it on your site either.
  7. Interaction – A good interviewee and blogger encourages interaction.
  8. Strengths – Always in an interview you turn your weaknesses into strengths and the same should be done on your blog.
  9. Presentation skills – This is a bonus tip, but if you can present a clear, concise message either through public speaking or writing you will always get the job, and you will also add blog readers every time.

For me, both writing and blogging are a challenge and I want to get better so that is reason enough for me to continue. As a final note, another reason to keep the blog as interview approach in mind is because what you write and place on the internet will be around for a long time.

If you disagree with the views in this post that’s great! I would like to hear all opinions and viewpoints so I can continue to strengthen and expand my blog in this overcrowded market.

I’m Outta Here

beachJust a short note to let readers know that I’m taking off for a week’s break as of today (we’re going up North to a beach) and that ProBlogger will be in the capable hands of a number of Guest Posters in the coming days. I’ve just uploaded them all and while there will only be one post per day in the next week – there are some amazing ones – so enjoy.

This is the vacation that we had to postpone a few weeks back when my son burst his eardrum – it’s shorter than originally planned but it’s a break all the same.

Have a great week and I’ll see you early next week! But there should be enough in our video archives to give you a fix if you’re missing them!

Note: there won’t be a new video this week. But do peruse the video cateogy as there’s plenty more video there to keep you going!

Blog Design – When to Go for a Professional Template?

Time for a little reader discussion. This one is inspired by a question from Frederico from Tutorialstream.com who is considering starting a new blog and asks:

I was wondering if you think that starting with a standard/free/low quality template and after some time (when I have some kind of readership) upgrading to a good one would be a good idea in terms of branding, to increase traffic and to show the readers that “the blog is doing well”.

What advice would you give Frederico when it comes to the design of a new blog?

Behind the Scenes of The Fake Steve Jobs Blog – [VIDEO]

I came across the following video this morning at InsideGoogle. It’s of a presentation that Dan Lyons (aka Fake Steve Jobs) gave at Google recently.

It actually goes for 51 minutes (but there’s not a lot visual about it so you can listen to it while doing something else) and is basically Dan telling the story of starting the Fake Steve Jobs blog, seeing it take off, struggling to monetize it, the eventual unmasking of him as it’s author (it was an anonymous blog for a long time) and what’s happened since.

I post it here because it’s a fascinating story, made me chuckle, touches on blog monetization and shows some of what can be achieved through a blog with a little luck, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. At it’s peak – his blog was doing 500,000 visitors a day – quite a story.

New ProBlogger T-Shirt Shop Design

During the week I announced that I’d put together a range of ProBlogger T-Shirts for those readers wanting a little blogger apparel.

Shortly after that post Gavin from Australele emailed to offer to help me put together a more integrated Printfection shop.

Gavin showed me a range of printfection shop templates that he’d done previously and we got things moving. He worked fast and I’m happy to say that the new ProBlogger T-shirt Shop is ready to go. It shares the ProBlogger theme, top menu and even the latest posts from the blog. If you’re after a Printfection template made – make sure you get in touch with Gavin.

Shop-Problogger-1

A quick update on sales…. We’ve had some! Interestingly there’s a nice spread of different T-shirts being bought – but the winner so far seems to be one with just a simple ‘ProBlogger’ logo on the back.

Get Real – A Secret to Successful Blogging

Just a quick link up to Shoemoney who had a post from earlier in the week that I thought was right on the money. He wrote his Blogging Advice To Connect With Your Readers and made three simple but spot on points:

  • Don’t try to be something you are not
  • Celebrate your weaknesses
  • Learn to take criticism

Of course he writes more on each one but I think they’re great tips to make. In some ways they are a little counterintuitive in that sometimes people’s natural reaction is to only present the good things about themselves, big note themselves and brush off critiques – but blogging’s a different medium and when you’re ‘real’ with your readers it can win you a lot of brownie points.

Head over and read Jeremy’s full post here.

PS: there’s some good comments on the post too – I particularly love the first one of John’s:

“Blogging honestly is a lot easier too, you dont have to bother about remembering all the lies you told before… nor do you have to make up new lies.”