A Few Last Lessons On Blogging

The blogosphere’s a tough place. And to create a blog that survives and thrives under absolutely Darwinian conditions isn’t easy. Since this business week is coming to a close, I’d like to share a few universal lessons that I’ve learned over the past six months that have allowed me to enjoy a few successes that I’ve had, such as being paid for blogging, getting hired, then promoted, at a blog news magazine, growing a personal blog that cracked the Technorati 5000, and have it be mentioned by major blogs to mainstream sites, and of course, being offered this plum guest blogging spot. Oh, and all the while continuing with my medical residency.

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How To Market Your Blog in 2007

What-Is-Rss-1-1Want to learn more about marketing a blog? Subscribe to ProBlogger today for free and check out our how to find readers for your blog page.

It breaks my heart to see blogs with great content languish in utter anonymity, devoid of comments, saddled with a seven-figure alexa traffic ranking, and rotting in pagerank purgatory.

Well, no more, I say!

For those bloggers out there who have decided to start their blogs, or launch their blogging careers, in 2007 I salute you — and present to you with 41 ways to kickstart your marketing efforts. Kick back, grab a cold one, and check it out. And if, in a year’s time, you’ve cracked the Technorati 1000, don’t forget where it all began! :)

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How To Find News For Your Blog

In your quest to find interesting things to blog about, you may want to consider blogging about The News. Sure, there are loads of ways to create great content — interviews, tips, opinion pieces, research and so on, but blogging about news items can be particularly useful.

Why News is Good for your blog
First, because it can be an easy way of injecting fresh content — particularly if its a unique tidbit that no one knows; second, because when done well, you can demonstrate your own thought leadership in a given category; and third, it provides the opportunity to get The Scoop — the first blog to recognize a particular bit of news, and the potential for being explosively linked to (i.e. “link bait”), bringing traffic, comments, all of those precious inbound links, and the recognition that your site has done well.

Now, Its Actually Ok *Not* To Break The News
Unless bloggers have deep connections within any particular industry, most bloggers are not in the position to report on breaking news in any fashion. This is ok. Almost all A-list bloggers do this. Blogging magazines do this. And quite frankly, mainstream news organizations do this. In fact, most “news” is simply repeated ad nauseum between different networks and across different media (think about how many stories are going to be repeated in your local television news casts). Most bloggers will therefore need to comment on existing news that other mainstream organizations, or bloggers have discovered, or actually created (such as newsworthy research) first.

The trick, therefore, is to actually find news that’s worth commenting on.

And here’s how I do it.
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The Rules Behind Creating a Great Blog

So in your quest to dominate your corner of the blogosphere, you might be wonder about higher order questions. How does one blog? What are the “rules” behind creating a great blog? Is there anything universal that connects the very stuff behind the truly great blogs irrespective of their content? What does a great science blog have in common with a great celebrity blog? And can corporate blogs, be great?

Well, if yesterday’s post was about the habits of being a successful blogger (I seemed to dwell on time management, didn’t I?), today’s post is on what what truly great blogs have in common, and a few exercises that you can do to try and bring your own blog up to par (if it isn’t already at par!).

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5 Prerequisites For Blogging Success

In the time that I have been blogging, I have noticed that there are a few things that “successful” blogs have in common. And I am defining “success” in every way — monetary terms, absolute traffic, but more importantly, in robust and continued growth. With 2007 here and many New Years Resolutions on the cusp, I thought we would start things off with what I believe are 5 things that are necessary to grow one’s blog.

1. Putting in the Time and Commitment.
One of the things that I didn’t fully appreciate is what a time commitment blogging is. I’m not including all the time it takes to literally set up a WordPress installation, or taking the time to tweak your theme just right, or even answering the buckets of email you may (or may not) have. What I am talking about is the time it takes to actually write.

If you’re a gifted writer, all the best to you. Skip the rest of this tip. For the rest of us who were not born with a pencil in their mouths, it literally takes time to write something really meaty, interesting, and worthy of your blog. The stuff that makes people fascinated and can’t wait to want more. It takes time to research stuff you don’t know about, to find a block of uninterrupted time to actually sit down and write the blasted piece, and then actually get it out in a form that you feel comfortable with.

And for people who have a semblance of a life — husband/wife, kids, a job, other Responsibilities — it can actually come as a bit of a shock, because in the blogging world no one really talks about how long it takes to actually create something you’re proud of.

For the literal minded (who have not yet started to blog), what this means is that at a post a day, it might require one extra hour of your life to produce that single post alone. Are you going to take that hour away from television time? Time with your family? Time to sleep? For most folks, their days are packed to the gills doing Stuff; taking the time to commit to blogging will often mean taking time away form something else.

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Introducing Tony Hung – Guest Blogger

As you read this I’ll be driving down the freeway toward one of my states lovely beaches for a short vacation.

In my absence I’m pleased to introduce to you my guest blogger for the week – Tony Hung. I first came across Tony on his blog Deep Jive Interests shortly after he started it in March last year but since that time have been pleased to see him added to the team at Blog Herald where he’s recently taken over the assistant editor’s position.

Tony is also a Doctor of Medicine, a Father (recent) and when I was lucky enough to have a beer with him in Toronto in November he came across as a really nice guy who was one of the more interesting people that I met there (and I met some great people).

When Deep Jive Interests became a part of b5media recently I also asked Tony if he’d be willing to do a week’s stint here at ProBlogger while I was away because I find him to be a guy who knows what he’s talking about but who is also thought provoking (his opinion pieces are great).

So now having built him up to a point that we’re all expecting the Messiah – I’ll toss the ProBlogger keys over to Tony and step away from the blog. I hope you’ll all welcome him and encourage him as he blogs this week. Be nice to him and enjoy the change – because I’ll be back in a week!

Does AdSense Suck for Bloggers?

Nik Cubrilovic picks up on Guy Kawasaki’s posting his revenue and concludes that

AdSense for bloggers sucks, the click-through rates are too low, the advertising is not relevant enough and readers of blogs are more accustomed to blocking-out the ads – all this results in a very low CPM rate.’

While I don’t have time for a detailed post on this (I’m supposed to be packing as I write this) I would say that Nik’s conclusion is pretty spot on…. when it comes to Guy Kawasaki’s blog.

Guy writes to a pretty tech savvy audience (who tend to not click ads), he writes on a fairly broad range of topics (AdSense would have trouble honing in on what ads to serve him) and he doesn’t generally write about products or specific services (again making it hard to get him high paying and relevant ads).

As a result I’m not surprised that Guy was earning relatively small amounts from his blog from AdSense (when he was using it).

However – just because Guy’s blog doesn’t make much money from AdSense doesn’t mean that it sucks for all blogs. In fact I’ve surveyed my readers three times on their AdSense earnings (here, here and here) and while the poll showed the majority of bloggers don’t make much from AdSense it also showed that some definitely do.

Llast time I did the survey 24% of respondents said they earn over $500 a month (some quite considerably more) and a further 21% earned over $100 for the month). I would suspect that the vast majority of those had less traffic than Guy.

How can this be so?

From my own personal experience of blogging and from watching others I would guess that the majority of those earning more than Guy did would be doing so because of a number of factors:

  • Topic – more focussed and possibly on a more commercially viable topic (ie product related). This leads to higher paying ads and higher relevancy of ads (and higher click through rates).
  • Readership – while Guy’s readership is probably quite aware of what an ad is and isn’t and will actively avoid them – in my experience the average web user (the non blogging/web 2.0/geek crowd) is not as adverse to clicking ads.
  • Ad Positioning/Design – I can’t comment on how Guy had his ads positioned and designed – but it can be the difference between great and terrible AdSense performance.

Of course I’m not suggesting Guy change his topic, readership or blog design. However this might help explain why he didn’t earn as much as other bloggers are from AdSense.

How else could Guy Monetize his Blog?

Let me explore a few options:

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The Kenny Rogers Guide to Getting People to Read Your Whole Posts

I never thought I’d quote Kenny Rogers on this blog but here’s something he said to a contestant on American Idol this series:

“the first word that comes out of your mouth helps people to decide whether to listen to the next word, which in turn helps them work out whether to listen to the next word, which helps them work out whether to listen to the next one… and so on and so forth…” (paraphrased)

When I heard it I was immediately reminded of a message that Joseph Sugarman comes back to again and again in his book Advertising Secrets of the Written Word when he’s talking about the headlines or titles of advertising copy.

Throughout the book he drums this into his readers (again a paraphrase):

“What is the purpose of a heading or title?

To get potential readers reading the next line of your ad.

What is the purpose of the first line of your ad?

To get those who’ve read it to read the second one.

What’s the purpose of the second line?

You guessed it – to get readers to read the third….”

Kenny and Joseph’s advice is much the same. The first things you sing, say or write in any form of communication are of vital importance when it comes to engaging people well.

The way you open a song, advertisement, book, speech or blog post often determines whether people will track with it.

If you want people to still be with you at the end of your post work hard at attention grabbing, intriguing, captivating and desire creating titles and openings.

Speedlinking 7 January 2007