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Google Reader adds ‘Reader Trends’

I switched from Bloglines to Google Reader a month ago and I’ve not turned back. While it did take a little getting used to I quickly found a new rhythm of blogging and am not right at home with it.

Today on the Google Reader blog they announced a new feature – Reader Trends which analyses the way you interact with your RSS feeds.

For example on mine it tells me that I have 632 subscriptions and over the last month have read 15,939 items (scary considering I took a week off in the last month).

It also shows me how many I read each day over the last month

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Guess who took a week off over Christmas!

I also tracks when I read most of my feeds by time

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I bet that graph has changed since having a baby. A year ago there would have been a lot more early morning surfing and then a complete lull until about mid morning.

When I read my feeds by day of the week

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Interesting again – Mondays I tend to set aside for writing – Fridays are always a big day for me of blogging as I get ready for a quiet weekend.

Then it goes on to show me which feeds I read most and which were the most frequently updated and the most inactive either as top 10′s, 20′s or 40′s.

It also gives you stats over how many items you ‘star’ and ‘share’ (items I don’t yet use) as well as on tags.

All in all it’s probably more about fun than function – although it does illustrate just how much I use RSS in my blogging and is definitely going to help me cull some inactive feeds from those I’m ‘following’.

Update: One stat I would like to see is a tracking of which blogs I regularly clicked through to actually visit.

I’ll also be interested to see if they aggregate this information from all users to create some sort of a Digg like ‘hot list’.

Introducing 12 Year Old ProBlogger – David Wilkinson

David-WilkinsonI love hearing stories of of young entrepreneurs and so today when I came across 12 year old ProBlogger David Wilkinson whose Web 2.0 blog is Techzi I was over the moon.

Here’s a young guy who has recruited a couple of friends (one is 12, the other is 11) to help him write his blog and who in a recent interview at Repliqa answered the question of ‘Are you making any money blogging?‘ with:

“Yes, quite a bit actually. I could definitely live off $500 a month until I turn 14, by which time I aim to be earning more, by experimenting in Internet Marketing.”

David and his co-bloggers are currently running a fundraiser to raise enough money to transfer his blog from Blogspot to a hosted WordPress blog and he’s already over the $1200 mark (make a donation below).

David was recently featured on the BBC and sounds like he’s becoming quite the local celebrity.

What I love about his blog is his style of writing. He’s actually a great writer (you’d never know he was 12 most of the time) and that he writes with an authentic voice, humor and having done some good research. While he’s only been blogging for 6 months he does at a standard that is as good (if not better) than a lot of more experienced bloggers twice (or thrice) his age.

I’m looking forward to watching David’s blogging in 2007.
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AdSense Testing Keyword-based Ad Filtering

Brian at Caydel’s SEO Blog has written a post today revealing that Google AdSense is Beta-Testing Keyword-based Ad Filtering that allows publishers to nominate keywords that they don’t want ads about on their sites – a sort of ‘negative’ keyword targeting.

This would help publishers who are getting mis-targeted and irrelevant ads on their sites.

This ‘negative’ keyword targetting has to my knowledge been available to premium publishers for some time now but perhaps this is an indication that it is going to be made available to everyone.

Positive Keyword Targeting

The other type of AdSense keyword targeting that many publishers would like is ‘positive’ targeting where they would be able to submit keywords that their site is about that they would like ads about. Once again this is a feature that I’ve seen AdSense offer to some larger publishers (not just ‘premium’ publishers) who are struggling with ad relevancy however it is not something that I’ve heard they are offering (or planning to offer) other publishers at this point.

found via search engine land

6 Tips on Adding a Forum to Your Blog

Interweb World posts a useful list that reflects upon some of the lessons that they learned in the recent re-launch of a forum that didn’t take off the first time but which did really well the second.

Their lessons include inviting an audience, promotion, creating content, responding and killing trolls.

It’s actually a list that resonates with my own lessons from the very recent launch of forums over at Digital Photography School.

As I mentioned in my case study on DPS yesterday – it’s still very early days for us there but I’m learning so much. I’ve not ‘arrived’ (or even come close to it) yet but here are a few random lessons I’ve been learning:

  • Presell it – I’ve been talking about new purpose built forums at in the weekly DPS newsletter for months now. I’ve asked readers for suggestions, I’ve talked about the reasons why we need them and basically have been attempting to create desire in my current readers for the forum. I didn’t hype it up – but gently led readers to a point where they were used to the idea and wanting to participate.
  • Start with Passionate Users - two weeks before I publicly launched the forums I called for ‘forum testers’ from my newsletter list. These testers got the benefit of a sneak peak (everyone likes to be first), helped me get some of the bugs out of the system and most importantly started using the forums so that when I launched there were already 40 members, 25 or so active threads and some interesting discussion going on. Those that volunteered to be testers were generally enthusiast photographers who had passion. In fact all of my moderators have come from this group.
  • Find Leverage Points – I’ve seen many forums launch and fall flat on their faces because their owners had no real way of getting people to join. I was fortunate enough to have three leverage points including a blog with 2000 visitors a day, a Flickr Group with a fair number of active members and a newsletter list. I pre-promoted and launched the new forums in each of these spaces. Other leverage points that I’ve seen work for people include being well networked, being famous in a niche and/or advertising very widely. Basically you need some place to tap into that will bring you a burst of traffic to kick things off.
  • Empower Key Users – From day one I started to build relationships with the most prolific and most knowledgeable members of the forum. Private messages, emails and eventually IM conversations have led me to a point where I have a good team of moderators already with others volunteering their time. Giving these key people a job is a great way to keep them involved and passionate (which has the flow on effect of drawing others in). I’ve also started areas of the forums where all users can take initiative and contribute their photos (assignments, critique area and how I took it forum). In a sense it’s a place to show off a little and for people to encourage each other. In this way I’m finding people really getting involved.
  • Incentives – Advice that I’ve received from a number of other forum owners is to be willing to offer incentives for people to sign up and become active members of the forums. As a result I’m offering some great digital photography books to those who sign up and post at least 5 posts on the forums. Quite a few of those who’ve joined have told me that this is what got them in the door and starting to get involved – but now that they’re in they are hooked by the conversations we’re having there.
  • Fun/Community – Rather than creating a forum that is all about sharing ideas and knowledge I’m trying to inject a fun vibe into the way it runs. Having assignments, games, introductions etc all seem to be attracting people in a way that is building community where people are starting to enjoy one another’s company. I know we’re in the honeymoon period on this and there’s sure to be some flame wars at some point (can’t wait til the Nikon/Canon wars break out) but I think at least in these early days we’ve managed to create a space that people want to keep coming back to.

As I say – it’s early days and I’m on a steep learning curve. By no means are my forums the biggest or most successful going around on my niche – but the signs are there that there is potential. I’ve recently had some good advice from other more experienced forum owners that I’ll be looking to implement in the coming weeks.

Speedlinking – 3 January 2007

  • LifeHack.org posts Six Improvements to Your Blog.
  • Digital Inspiration has a useful post with a number of HTML tricks for Bloggers to give your blog posts a little style
  • There’s a nice post over at Digital Point from a guy Burta who talks everyone through his journey of growing an online income from $10 to $800 per week (over a year) – via Yaro
  • Shoemoney interviews SeoBlackhat on his radio show – while blackhat isn’t my scene it’s an interesting listen. I’ll be appearing on Jeremy’s show on 16th January so start thinking up questions and I’ll point you to a link to submit them to in the next week or so.

Case Study Update – Digital Photography School

Picture 11-1I’ve been using my Digital Photography School as a case study over the past 9 months since it’s launch.

I’ve previously talked about it (at launch in a vidcast, then giving a progress report and then talking about some of my goals for it) but it’s been almost six months since I gave an update so I thought it was about time for another one.

A few basic stats to start with:

  • The site has been running 9 months
  • I’ve posted 178 posts to the site in that time
  • I’m currently aiming for around 4-5 posts per week (one each week day)
  • Numbers of subscribers to the weekly newsletter currently stand at just under 13700
  • RSS subscriber numbers are currently at around 3000 (according to Feedburner). This oscillates between 2800 and 4000 depending upon the day
  • This week the site is averaging around 8000 daily unique visitors to the actual site viewing around 17300 daily pages (again this varies a lot – and is higher than normal due to being dugg a couple of days back)
  • The Flickr discussion group has 2900 members (of course not all are active) and it’s new forums have active 650 members.
  • Earnings have been slow but steadily growing. Its nowhere near my most profitable blog when I think about the effort that goes into it or the traffic levels that it has. To this point AdSense has been my main focus but I’ve been hesitant to put many ads on the blog at this point – I’m hoping to build it up and then find a small number of sponsors to have premium sponsorship of the site. I’ve also introduced an affiliate program or two to the site which are returning good results.

Traffic has been up and down over the months since launch as a result of a variety of links from big sites and social bookmarking sites. But overall I’m pretty happy with traffic levels considering the length of time that it’s been live.

The last two months have seen a distinct rise in search engine traffic. It’s still not a massive proportion of overall traffic but as the blog gets older it continues to grow (ie we’re out of the ‘sandbox’). In my experience it generally takes around 9-12 months to really hit it’s straps in this way so it’s about on schedule.

Current Strategies and Developments:

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Resources for creating a WordPress theme

Rachel’s put together a list of Useful resources for creating a WordPress theme which kicks a new series of posts for those wanting to create WordPress themes.

ProBlogger Comments Competition Winner

Mid December I posted that I’d be giving a special Christmas present to one lucky ProBlogger reader who left a comment here at ProBlogger between then and Christmas.

Today I randomly chose the winner who will win a copy of each of the following 10 books that I rated as having the biggest impact upon my blogging last year.

  • The Story Factor – a book that I’m currently reading about being influential and persuasive through the practice of story telling. Really enjoying this one.
  • Ogilvy on Advertising – written by renowned copy writer David Ogilvy this book has a lot of great copywriting principles that translate well into blogging.
  • Advertising Secrets of the Written Word - another copywriter sharing good common sense strategies for copy writing.
  • The E-Myth Revisited – a business book that helps small business earners move from building themselves a job to building themselves a true business.
  • Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands – I always rave about this book that looks about a paradigm shift in advertising and the rise of emotion, sensuality and more in branding/marketing.
  • Unleashing the Idea Virus - the first book that I read by Seth Godin that back in it’s day rocked my world
  • Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell’s classic book on ‘How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference’
  • Join Me – I don’t think you can get this new any more but a great story of a guy who started accidentally started a movement and what he learned along the way. This is written almost as a novel in a humorous and easy to read style.
  • Don’t Make Me Think – Common Sense Web Usability
  • 1000 Most Important Words – a guide to unlocking our “passive” vocabularies and developing a keener appreciation of the richness of language

The winner of these 10 books is Rebecca from The Space Between My Peers for her comment on my post ‘What’s the Weirdest Thing You’ve Sold on Amazon?

Congratulations to Rebecca (I’ll be in touch shortly) and thanks to everyone for participating.

Andy Wibbels Offers Half Price Blog Training Season Pass

TicketA couple of years ago I came across an enthusiastic blogger by the name of Andy Wibbels who was putting together a 4 week course called Easy Bake Weblogs (aff) – a course for those just starting out in blogging to help them work out how to start a blog.

I took the course (not because I wanted to know how to start a blog – but because I was interested in how he taught it) and was really impressed by both Andy’s enthusiasm but also his ability to communicate in an easy to understand way that people seemed to be responding to.

I was so impressed by him that I got in touch and he interviewed me for a podcast.

That led onto more talks between us and the eventual development of a course that we wrote and produced together called Six Figure Blogging.

Since that time Andy has put together a number of other courses including Business Blog Basics, Podcasting Bootcamp, RSS Essentials and Keyword Essentials (aff).

He’s also written two books, Blogwild!: A Guide for Small Business Blogging (now in it’s second print edition) and Learning WordPress (an ebook).

Today Andy shot me an email to let me know that he’s decided to bundle all 8 products into the one bundle and offer them all as a Season Pass for 50% of the cost of them each bought individually.

What do you get?

  • 3 Live Teleseminars (each 4 weeks long) – Easy Bake Weblogs, Business Blog Basics and Keyword Essentials
  • 3 Self Study Courses (another 12 sessions) – Six Figure Blogging, RSS Essentials and Podcasting Bookcamp
  • 2 Books - Blog Wild (hard copy) and Learning WordPress (ebook).

You get access to all the course materials forever and can repeat courses as many times as you like.

The price isn’t cheap, even at 50% off it’s $887.50 USD, but Andy’s courses are excellent and he offers a no-questions, no-excuses 60 day money back guarantee that I know he honors. He also offers a payment plan to break down the cost into monthly lots.

I know it won’t be for everyone, but if you’re looking for a great overview of blogging from the basics through more specialized areas including blogging for profit then this might be a package that you want to invest into.

He’s also offering existing users of these courses cheaper season passes to account for what they’ve already paid. Email Andy if you haven’t already heard about that deal.