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Use Feedburner Statistics to Interpret Reader Habits

Can your Feedburner stats reveal habits of your readers that could help you make your blogging more effective at reaching them? Guest poster Max Pool finds out.

As we know FeedBurner counts can naturally fluctuate.

But what about when they fluctuate unnaturally? Can we find trends in our statistics? Interestingly, your FeedBurner stats can tell stories about your readers’ habits.

During the first few months of my first blog, I attempted to try and notice trends and patterns as seen below:

Feedburner-Stats

I immediately found 3 points of interest as highlighted on the chart.

  1. Readers were most active at the beginning and end of work weeks
  2. Weekend reading was minimal
  3. A new pattern during a holiday week

After finding some patterns in the charts, I started to hypothesize what caused this pattern to occur. Was it my posting frequency? Was I posting on the wrong days? I started to think about my personal feed reading habits and was able to produce some reasoning.

1. Start and end of week was most active

Most bloggers have been told that Mondays tend to be the best day for readers. It is not hard to imagine your readers, spread out with their coffee mug plowing through weekend feeds. The opposite holds equally as true, readers want to digest all of their feeds before they leave for the weekend.

2. Minimal weekend reading

This will not surprise anyone; people are away from their computers and are doing very little reading. The consistency between Saturday and Sunday is caused from the web-based readers reporting in and the exclusion of the on-demand readers.

3. New holiday pattern

The inverted ‘U’ comes from a recent American holiday – July 4th. Iexpected numbers to be down this week, so low counts were not surprising. I expected Wednesday, July 4th to be the slowest day, instead the opposite held true and a number of readers returned. I will post these next holidays and anxiously await to see the trends during Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

There are many reasons why readers unsubscribe, but remembering that external human factors are involved can help you rationalize fluctuating counts and react accordingly.

This is a guest post by Max Pool, a software engineer by day – aspiring SEO expert by night. More ideas can be found at his blog codesqueeze.com.

Using Your Blog as a Resume to Land Your Dream Job

200711081247The old say that “There’s more than one way to skin a cat” can certainly be applied to the topic of making money blogging.

Everyday I hear of a different example of a blogger who has managed to make a buck (or two) from the medium in a different way. One of the most recent examples from a reader comes from Matt Coddington who just posted about how he leveraged his blog to land his dream job by using the blog as a substitute to a resume.

“I scrapped the resume and wrote a letter instead. In the letter I leveraged the success of my most recent site, Net Business Blog, to demonstrate my knowledge of the web industry. It worked. I got the job I wanted (as well as a ton of interviews with other companies).”

Matt even shares the letter he sent prospective employees to get the job.

Blog Promotion: Are You Preaching to the Converted or Are You Reaching Out to New Readers?

preaching to the convertedToday John Chow just made a post reflecting upon a competition that he ran with Shoemoney to see who could get the most new RSS readers in a month. Over the month both John and Jeremy had some great success at increasing their numbers – both by over 4600 and in the post John explained his strategies.

John and Jeremy’s Competition to find New Subscribers

shoemoney-chowWhen the competition was announced back in October I was quite excited to see how it would pan out. Two very clever blog marketers doing their thing to promote themselves and find new readers. I looked forward to seeing how they’d go about finding their new readers.

However as the month progressed and I watched them work hard at increasing their RSS feed reader numbers something didn’t quite feel right to me about it. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time – but today in reading John’s post outlining his strategies I realized what was behind it.

Both Jeremy and John did a great job at creating buzz among their readers about the competition, both pulled together some great prizes to act as incentives for people to subscribe and both obviously got some great results – but it struck me today that they’d both focussed most of their efforts on their current readers.

John writes in his post that his ‘Ah Ha’ moment was when he realized that if he could get his current readers to subscribe via Email that they’d be counted every day instead of only the days they checked email. So a lot of his efforts centered around getting people to sign up for his daily email updates. He also emailed all of his newsletter recipients to get them to sign up for the daily email also.

His other strategy was around running competitions through the month by offering some cool prizes to those who were subscribed (something Jeremy also did).

Preaching to the Converted

Now I’ve got nothing against either of these methods. Having people sign up for more than one way of subscribing to you isn’t a bad thing (it increases the places that they’ll come across your content) and having competitions is great (I find that it builds loyalty among readers and creates a sense of fun and momentum) but I come away from John’s latest post wondering how many actual new readers his strategy brought in or was it just preaching to the converted?

Don’t get me wrong – a feed counter that is 4600 higher is nice (and I’m sure some of them were actually new readers) – but if the goal is to grow one’s reach, influence and actual readership (rather than just a number on a chicklet) I wonder if it might have been better to have some strategies that were more focussed off the blog and upon new readers than on current ones.

Turning the Spotlight…

OK – so while this might seem like a bit of a dig at John and Jeremy I’d like to turn the spotlight onto the rest of us – because I think we’re all guilty of it from time to time.

Many bloggers (including myself) spend so much time on their current readers that they forget to put themselves out there and into places where people who don’t yet read their blog are gathering. It’s easy to get complacent – I know because I catch myself doing it all of the time.

While you don’t want to go hunting for new readers at the expense of current readers – if all you ever do is promote yourself to those who are already converted then your blog will stagnate.

How to Find NEW Subscribers for Your Blog

So how does a blogger put themselves out there and find these new readers rather than just keep promoting themselves to those who are already loyal to them?

I’m glad you asked…. because next week I’m going to publish a series of posts that I’ve been working on over the last few days that covers this exact topic. Rather than kick it off on a Friday (as it currently is here) I’ll kick it off on Monday to give us plenty of space to explore it. I’ve got a few techniques that I’ve been experimenting with to share and hope that you’ll share your own experiences as we go.

So make sure that you’re subscribed to the ProBlogger feed (I had to do it) and stay tuned.

Paid Reviews On Blogs – [POLL RESULTS]

In last week’s Reader Poll I asked bloggers whether they had ever written a paid review on their blog.

Paid reviews on blogs have been something that have been going on for numerous years – however it’s only been in the last 18 months that they’ve become more mainstream as a result of the launch of numerous paid review services (including PayPerPost and ReviewMe).

The launch of these services (particularly PPP) caused a lot of controversy around the blogosphere – particularly because PPP launched with a policy which stopped bloggers disclosing that their post was a paid review) – but also because some bloggers didn’t see how a paid review fit on a blog at all.

PayPerPost and ReviewMe have both evolved in their services, changed policies and added features and many bloggers have made considerable money from the writing of reviews – however the debate continues (although has perhaps become less prominent.

My hope with this poll was to look at Paid Reviews 18 or so months after they rose to prominence to see how many bloggers had experimented with them.

The Poll Results

The results were illuminating (read below for both the opinion of 10 ProBlogger readers and myself):

Picture 2-17

Keep in mind that this is just a survey of ProBlogger readers (just over 500 of them) and will not be representative of the whole blogosphere (I’d say that the ‘yes’ vote is probably higher here than in the wider blogging community as this blog is read by people actively experimenting with different ways to make money blogging).

More interesting to me than the actual results of votes was the conversation around the poll. Let me pick out a few of the common themes mentioned in the comments thread there that highlight some of the debate:

Readers Pro Paid Reviews

“I see no problem in doing a “paid” review as long as you’re actually honest and upfront about whether you liked the product or not. And of course state in your post that it is a paid review.” – Sue

“I would write about products and services anyway so I’m happy to get paid for them. I’ve never done one yet that I wasn’t allowed to disclose as a paid review though. That sounds underhand to me.” – ChisB

“I make a significant amount of money doing paid reviews. It also helps me brush on my writing skills. I want my review to be accepted well among my readers, as well as, the sponsor. This has made my writing skills progress in a positive direction. My reputation for honest reviews is starting to take off too. All this equals respect, which is why I started doing reviews in the first place.” – Lori

“They allow me, as a mother of three, to work from home – and have more control over my working life. So I would say that – yes, I love them!” – Lisa Marie Mary

“I write paid reviews occasionally but I ‘bury’ them in between good, relevant posts so I will not scare readers off. The ratio is maybe at least 7:1. Seven good posts and one paid review.” Grace

Readers Anti Paid Reviews

“I think in the grand scheme of things, there is uncertainty about a blogger being paid to review items. Really, the uncertainty comes from the unscrupulous few that write anything to make the product presenter happy, rather than writing honest reviews, though sometimes the payment is based upon the writing writing what the prodcut present wishes them to write.” – Bill

“I do not do paid reviews. I worry that if I started doing them, it would taint the perceived credibility of my other posts. Even though I would not write falsely positive review, and even with full disclosure, I think that credibility questions remains for many readers.” – Carleenp

“I think paid reviews are biased, bloggers just write to please the who is paying, and hardly touch the truth on things. but heck; if you can please the shepherd, why would you care about the sheeps right?” – Nelson

“Just a hypothetical question: Would you want to eat at a restaurant where the reviewer/recommender was paid by said restaurant? Not saying I wouldn’t do them, just….” – Mark

My Thoughts on Paid Reviews

My own opinion on paid reviews has not really changed in 18 months. Here’s how I quickly summarize it.

  • I’m not anti paid reviews – but I choose not to do them (and never have).
  • I don’t mind other bloggers doing them as long as they disclose that they are paid and as long as they are free to give a true opinion of the product or service being reviewed.
  • I would advise bloggers who do paid reviews to be aware that there are potential ‘costs’ of doing paid reviews on a blog. As mentioned above in numerous places by others – the issue of trust and credibility come into play. Some readers will not appreciate them and some will even react against them. This is of course the same for other ways of monetizing a blog (ie some bloggers react against advertising and affiliate programs too). I see some bloggers particularly hurting their reputation with paid posts by either writing too many of them, writing obviously biased reviews and/or writing reviews of products and services that are not particularly relevant to the normal content of their blog.

As I’ve written previously on the topic:

“The key with successful paid reviews is similar to the key to successful content of any sort – make it worthwhile for your readers and you’ll not only earn a few extra dollars for your review but also help grow your blog into something worthwhile.”

I’m sure the debate will rage on though – if you’ve not yet had your say – you’re welcome to continue to discuss the issue below.

Defensio Launches – a Competitor for Akismet

Picture 1-9I’ve written previously about my love for the Comment Spam plugin Akismet (and how it’s literally saved me months of work). Of course it’s not perfect and does let some spam through – so today when I read on the Akismet blog that they’ve got a competitor launching (Defensio) I was even happier. While I’ll continue to use and support Akismet I’m glad to see someone else enter the market and my hope is that both tools will continue to improve and provide bloggers with tools to stamp out the destructive force of comment spam. Go get em Akismet and Defensio!

Bloglines Top 1000 Blogs Launched

Just in case you were pining for yet another Top Blogs list – Bloglines today announced their one the Bloglines Top 1000 (they used to have a Top 200). They report that at the heart of the metric is how many ‘active’ subscribers that a blog has (with some other secret herbs and spices).

One of the nice features with this Top list is that they present a little graph (a “sparkline” – thanks Jorge of the feed (tiny and not really that specific – but handy at spotting a trend) and show it it’s been trending up or down.

bloglines top 1000

Keep in mind that this is just tracking those who use Bloglines to read feeds. This does mean things are ordered a little different to other Top Blog lists.

Interestingly for me the Top 1000 list puts my blog Digital Photography School at #250 on the list – ahead of ProBlogger at #304 – despite ProBlogger having 4000 or so more subscribers. Obviously ProBlogger readers use Bloglines less than other methods.

Anyway – it’s an interesting metric (well for 10 or 15 minutes anyway).

How Much Did You Earn from Blogging In October? [POLL]

This week’s Reader Poll asks bloggers how much they earned from blogging in October.

This is a poll that I ran in 2006 and I’m interested to see whether there has been much of a change in the results.

Before you vote – here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • I’m asking about ALL forms of income from your blog – from direct income earners like Advertising, Selling products, writing Paid Reviews and using Affiliate programs through to indirect earners like consulting or speaking work that you might have picked up BECAUSE of your blog (more on the distinction between direct and indirect earnings here).
  • I’m also talking on a personal level – what YOU personally earnt from ALL of the blogs you work on.
  • Don’t answer straight away – tally it up, give it some thought and then let us know.
  • If you didn’t earn any money from your blog in October either because you tried and didn’t have any success or because you don’t try to then there is an option for you in the poll also.
  • If you’d like to comment on your vote or on the poll in general feel free to do so on this post.

Here’s the poll.

In October, How Much Did You Earn from Blogging?
View Results


I will be posting about the results of last week’s poll on whether you’ve done paid reviews on your blog in the coming 24 hours.

Creating an eBook to Make Money Blogging – An Interview with Leo Babauta

Interview-Leo-BabautaYesterday I wrote about Leo Babauta launching an ebook (Zen to Done) as a way to monetize his blog. In that post I promised to try to get an interview with Leo to explore both the wild success of his blog (over 21500 subscribers in 6 months) and the journey to releasing his ebook. Leo was generous enough to answer my questions. I hope you enjoy this interview:

Why did you write Zen to Done? Can you give us a brief synopsis?

Zen To Done is a synthesis of the productivity, organization and simplicity concepts I write about regularly on my site. It started with Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen — I’m a disciple and a fan, and for a while I wrote about it regularly on Zen Habits. I discovered some problems with it — not with the system, but with my implementation with it — and discovered that many others had similar problems. So I set out to figure out what those problems were, and how to solve them.

As a result, I pulled in some concepts I’d been writing about separately: the “Big Rocks” prioritization concepts of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (GTD doesn’t prioritize, purposely), and more importantly, the concepts of simplicity and minimalism that I’ve become known for.

Simplicity is the key for me, and that’s why I call ZTD a “simple productivity” system. We need to do less, not more. We need to focus on the essential, and separate the wheat from the chaff. Instead of doing busy work, we should do important work.

That’s ZTD, in short. You can read more about it on Zen Habits (or buy the ebook!).

Why did you decide to monetize your blog with an ebook as opposed to other methods?

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and my philosophy is to provide as much value as possible to my readers, as opposed to focusing on monetization. The decision to do an ebook is consistent with that philosophy.

My readers seemed to really enjoy the posts on ZTD I’ve done on Zen Habits (they remain some of my most popular), and a large number were asking for it to be turned into an ebook. Well, you don’t have to ask me more than 10 times! :)

I decided that the ebook would be the best way to provide additional value to my readers. I’m sure there are better ways to monetize, but I think too often the focus is on the blogger making money, not on the value to the readers. If you give people a lot of value, they’ll appreciate that, and come back for more. That’s my hope, anyway.

How long did it take you to write it?

I set aside my mornings for a couple of weeks to write the book. I still had the regular demands of Zen Habits, and the posts I write for other blogs, as well as my full-time day job and my family (a wife and six kids) … so I couldn’t put everything aside as I’d prefer to do, and focus completely on the ebook.

However, I decided that writing the book had to be a priority, so for a couple hours a day, for about 2 weeks, the only thing I allowed myself to do was write. And I actually enjoyed the process, and have been working on a second ebook (a joint venture with another blogging friend) … with plans to start a third coming up.

it’s a great looking ebook – how did you put it together?

Actually, I can’t take credit for that. I’m a lousy designer. A true designer, James Wondrack, volunteered to do the design, and I think he did a nice job. I’m going to give him a small cut of the first 200 ebooks sold as a thank you.

If any great designers would like to volunteer for my next ebook, let me know!

You’re delivering it with e-junkie – did you look around at other options? Why did you go with the delivery system that you did?

In truth, I’m a newbie here. I did a little research into some of the options, but ultimately made the choice to go with e-junkie based on the recommendation of a blogging friend. It seems to be a good choice so far … it was a super-easy setup, and I’ve had no problems. I also liked that there is no per-transaction fee (only a $5/month subscription fee) and the affiliate program was incredibly easy to set up.

How has ZtD been received by your blog’s readers so far? Are you finding it easy to convert readers to purchasers?

It’s been selling like hotcakes! Seriously, I had hoped to eventually sell 100 of them, over time, but I doubled that number in just a few hours. And so far, they seem to like the book. I hope they do, because I put a lot of work into it, and I feel it has a lot of value.

How did you get 21000+ subscribers to your blog in just 6 months?

Three things, actually, but the main thing has been, again, to focus on the value I provide to the readers. The three things are 1) provide extremely useful content (with catchy headlines) that solves problems my readers have; 2) write guest posts for other blogs, with the same goal of extremely useful content, so that I can tap into new audiences; and 3) use the first item to tap into the multiplying power of incoming links from other blogs and social bookmarking services such as Digg, Stumbleupon and del.icio.us.

I should also mention that I’ve developed some great relationships with fellow bloggers — some outstanding and generous people, really — as well as a great relationship with my readers. These have been key. It’s important that we bloggers not think of other bloggers as our competitors, but as friends, and potential allies. If we link to each other, and share each others’ content with our readers, everyone wins: the blogger who links, the blogger who receives the link, and the readers. And developing a relationship with your readers, while it takes a lot of work (I spend a lot of time answering comments and emails), is crucial to keeping those readers and developing loyalty.

You’re one of the most prolific guest posters on other people’s blogs that I know – it obviously has benefits for you – but can you tell us what the biggest ones are?

I’ve said it before, but writing guest posts on other blogs is probably the No. 1 strategy for marketing your blog and your brand. Well, actually, creating great, useful, readable content on your own blog is No. 1, but if you’re trying to get new readers, you have to reach new audiences. It’s not enough to write great content if no one knows it’s there.

I think of my audience as a sphere of readers. In order to grow that sphere, I need to tap into new spheres, which are the audiences of other blogs. Obviously, some of those spheres overlap, especially if it’s in your own niche … after awhile, you’ve probably reached 95% of the readers in that niche. But not at first, so you should first tap into your niche … and only after you’ve exhausted that should you go outside the niche.

Tapping into another sphere of readers isn’t an easy job. You can do that with a link from another blog, but think about it: a link is usually surrounded by a sentence or two (if that) about your post … but a guest post on another blog is hundreds of words … and what better opportunity to show that blog’s readers how great and useful and readable your writing is?

Guest posts also help with branding: by writing great content for other blogs, you are showing what your brand stands for, and you’re repeating that branding to as many people as possible.

For Zen Habits, guest posting has paid off immensely: readers have enjoyed my guest posts and have come to my blog to subscribe. And the brand of Zen Habits has grown in many people’s minds in this past year, and continues to do so, because of guest posts.

Do you have any productivity tips for bloggers?

Sure, I have many! But some of my top tips:

1. Identify the essential. Blogging can take up your entire day if you let it. Identify the top 3-4 things you can do to improve and market your blog. Knowing what actions/projects are essential and which ones aren’t is the first step to effectiveness. In my opinion, the essential tasks are creating outstanding and useful content, writing guest posts for other blogs, and little else.

2. Focus on the essential. If you have limited time for blogging (and we all do), only allow yourself to focus on those essential tasks and projects … and minimize the rest.

3. Batch process. The smaller tasks, like processing emails and reading through comments and all the rest, should be grouped into a limited time frame later in the day. Don’t do them throughout the day.

4. Keep a list. Whether you use an index card, a Moleskine notebook, a text file, a Google Doc or whatever, keep a list of the tasks and projects you need to do. Get the tasks out of email. From this master list, choose 3 major projects to focus on, and focus 3 most important tasks you can accomplish today. Then focus exclusively on those 3 tasks and those 3 projects.

Those are the 4 things that you can do that will make the most difference.

Get a Copy of Zen to Done for just $9.50 USD

note: This post contains affiliate links

Chitika Updates it’s LINX Ad Unit

Linx-In-ActionChitika have today announced changes to their Chitika LINX ad unit. Now instead of it just being a text based ad unit they’ve added an image and styling (it’s much better than the old one).

I’m not sure that I’ve really featured this ad unit here before on ProBlogger – so let me give you an introduction to it if you’ve not seen it.

Chitika LINX is a PPC (you get paid if someone clicks them) in text ad. If you activate it on your site you’ll see some words on your posts become links with little double underlines under them.

If your readers put their mouse over these links a little popup appears that shows a Chitika ad unit (pictured left). If your reader clicks on the ad unit you get paid.

These in text links have been offered by other ad networks for some time and publishers are generally in two camps on them.

On the one hand the ads do tend to convert reasonably well because they are in your content contextually and as a result in the line of site of your readers. So some publishers love them.

On the other hand some publishers see them as intrusive and disruptive (due to the pop up element) and other don’t like them because they like to keep their content area free of advertising.

I’ve text this type of advertising (using other networks) on a couple of my blogs at different times and did find them to convert well. I was also surprised that I didn’t hear any negative feedback from readers. Having said this – apart from the odd testing of them I’ve decided not to use them on my blogs.

Other options if you’re looking for in text ad link alternatives like Chitika LINX:

• Kontera

• Amazon Associates offer Context Links

• IntelliTXT – from Vibrant Media