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Make Sure Your Blog Design Communicates Your Voice – Wife Advice Revisited

Late in December we ran a Community Consulting project for a blog called WifeAdvice. I invited Nancy Clark (one of the bloggers behind the site to come back and give some thoughts on the process and show us some of the changes that they made to WifeAdvice as a result of the consulting. I’ve always been fascinated to see how blogs take on the advice given so I hope you enjoy Nancy’s reflections. (by the way – here’s a small screen shot of part of how it used to look).

Be Sure Your Blog Design Communicates Your Voice

wifeadvicescreenshot.jpg
As bloggers, we are always being told to have a unique voice–to be ourselves and let our personality come out in our blogs. You’ve heard it before–if you’re not different or if people can’t tell who you actually are, they won’t see any reason to stick around. But what happens when you are being yourself and have a unique voice and people don’t like it? Or worse–what if they just don’t get it? These were the big questions on my mind after our blog was spotlighted in the Problogger Community Consultation Project a few months ago. We received great, constructive feedback, but we also received a fair amount of criticism–not only about our blog design, but about our personalities and our marriage. I kept wanting to comment back–to justify ourselves, to explain our style, to make people realize that they just weren’t getting it–as in, “Hello people?! We are just joking around here!”. My husband convinced me that we didn’t need to justify anything–luckily he’s one of those people who simply does not care what people think about him (then again, maybe that’s not so lucky, because I’m pretty sure he’ll be wearing sweatpants when he takes me out to dinner tonight).

Once I got over feeling defensive and self-conscious, I was able to see that all the feedback we received was valuable, even those negative comments that didn’t even attempt to be constructive–in fact, those kind of comments ended up being the most valuable. It finally dawned on me: If first-time visitors to our blog can’t understand what we’re saying or how we mean it, then we are not doing a good job communicating. And in our case, a poorly designed blog was to blame. Yes, I know… it could be argued that our content is the problem; but in this case that would mean our blog–or even our marriage–should just cease to exist, and we were not too thrilled with that alternative. Instead, we set out to redesign our blog to match the style and tone of our writing. And here’s how we did it:

Quick Fixes

wifeadvicequickchanges.jpg

There were quite a few quick changes that we implemented right away:

  • Removed the Blogger navbar
  • Changed from a three-column to a two-column layout
  • Added a bit of color
  • Wrote a more descriptive tagline
  • Featured our subscription options more prominently.

We saw an immediate, dramatic increase in our subscriber numbers, and now our blog looked a bit more professional. Incidentally, before our consultation, I wanted our blog to look decent, but I wasn’t convinced that it needed to be “professional” looking. My mindset was, “I don’t care if it looks a little unprofessional, because I want to give the impression that we’re really just a guy and his wife writing a blog” The obvious logic I was missing out on was that we can communicate who we are with our content, but nobody will read our content if our design doesn’t invite them in. Fixing up these minor issues helped us sit tight with what we had while we worked on something bigger and bet

Major Changes

wifeadvicelogo.jpg Our old homemade, clipart logo got the most negative feedback in our consultation, we hoped that a new logo would be the key to correcting things. A friend of a friend showed us a blog by cartoonist, Shane Lewis, and we knew we had to hire him to design our logo. We simply emailed him, asked if he was interested in doing it, worked out the details, and watched him work his magic. The new logo drove the rest of the site design; we wanted to match the colorful, cartoon look, again to communicate that our site is all in fun.

We hired web developer, Richard Worth to help us make the switch to WordPress (we always knew it was inevitable) and design our new blog theme. You know you’re working with a great programmer when you say, “wouldn’t it be cool if we could…” or “it’s too bad we can’t…” and his response is always: “I can do that.” (It also helps if he’s your brother and will stay up late into the night helping you fix broken feeds, forward outdated urls, and implement last-minute design ideas before you go live.)

Why WordPress?

Quite a few people suggested we make the move from Blogger to WordPress so that our blog would look better. We have always planned to make the move (luckily we’ve always blogged under our own domain name), but it wasn’t just to make the blog look better.–Blogger blog templates can actually quite easily be customized to the point of not being “blatantly Blogger.” We made the switch to WordPress because we wanted more flexibility and function. Our programmer would tell you about how it’s open source, you own and control your data, customize it with plugins, and can basically just make it do whatever you want, etc. From a blogger’s perspective, I especially like the ability I now have to post static pages, get trackbacks, differentiate categories vs. tags, and require email addresses in the comment form.

Unique Challenges, Unique Solutions

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By strategically and creatively redesigning our post headers we were able to implement feedback we received about confusing categories and titles. Also, because we have two authors, and because we write different types of posts, we needed a way for readers (especially new ones) to know what in the world they were reading–who wrote it and what kind of post it would be (i.e., serious, or satirical). We customized our header to visually show the author and the category. Our post header design also solved the age-old problem of whether we should write descriptive, SEO-friendly titles OR fun, creative titles (this is especially challenging on a humorous blog). Now we put our (boring, descriptive) post title up above the header, and then have a fun, creative “subtitle” down near the content. Everyone’s a winner!

So, now that we’ve cleaned and brightened things up a bit, I can rest easy. I feel much better about the fact that a few ProBlogger readers didn’t like our blog. That was what it took for us to realize that our blog wasn’t speaking for us–or at least, it wasn’t saying what we wanted it to say. Now that we’re making ourselves more clear, I don’t mind so much when our visitors disagree with us or give us their own advice.
Think about it. What does your blog say to your visitors, even before they’ve read a word?

Using Examples to Give your Posts Depth

Late last year I began the process of hiring a handful of writers to help create new content for Digital Photography School (I wrote a little about it here). I ended up taking on 6 new writers on a trial basis to write one post each per week. It’s been a fascinating process to go through and it’s taught me a lot about how I blog as I move more from a blog writer to a blog editor role.

There are many things that I could write about this transition (and I will in future posts) but one of the first things that I’ve noticed about the posts that have been submitted so far is that in many cases they could be given more depth by using example.

The main thrust of each post submitted has been excellent – great insights and helpful tips in each one of them – however they have been a little one dimensional and could be lifted considerably with just a little extra work.

In each case I’ve sent the posts back to writers with the suggestion that they add examples to their posts. On every occasion the posts that have come back to me have been drastically improved. Let me give you some examples:composition-2.jpg

  • The Human Side of Photography – 4 Tips for Natural Looking Portraits – the four tips in this post were really helpful but with stories and pictures relating to each one the post became a winner. It attracted 76 comments that illustrated how these stories and images touched the hearts of readers.
  • Rapid Composition – How to Compose a Photo Quickly – another great post that was taken to the next level with diagrammatic images that had ‘hand written’ notes on them to illustrate the story being told (you can see one pictured left). Once again – this visual element took a post to the next level.
  • Twilight Photography Tips – this post again has images that illustrate the points being talked about. The writer of this post actually went out and took shots specifically for the post and again comments on the post highlight that this was appreciated.

Now obviously these are photography based tutorials and lend themselves perfectly to images to illustrate points – however the same thing can be true in many types of topics. When you add examples to posts you take them from the realm of theory into the realm of practical. You help your readers to not only see how you do things – but also give them tangible ‘hooks’ to hang the hope of them being able to do them also.

Examples can take many forms. They could be visual ones (photos, video, screencasts, diagrams or charts), stories, case studies, links to other sites or even audio.

How do you use examples on your blog? Feel free to share examples of when you’ve used examples so we can all learn about how to apply this powerful principle.

How To Recruit High Quality Guest Bloggers

John asked the following question about finding guest posters in our question box:

What is the best way to get a quality guest blogger to post for your site?

First things first: why should you care about having guest bloggers on your site to begin with? Well, there are several advantages attached to it, including:

  • The possibility to give your readers new perspectives and opinions
  • The possibility to cover areas and topics where you don’t have an expertise (but your guest does)
  • Increased credibility to your blog (in the case the author is an expert on his niche)
  • Reduced workload for you (we all need a break once in a while)
  • The possibility to build relationships with the guest bloggers

The only drawback of having guest bloggers, on the other hand, is connected with overdoing it or having content of poor quality published on your blog.

If you bring too many guest bloggers too often, your readers might start asking themselves why they are reading your blog and not the ones of the guest bloggers. Similarly, if the content written by the guest bloggers is of poor quality, it will inevitably affect the readers’ perception of the whole website.

As you can see, as long as you use common sense, guest blogging will only enrich your blog, so let’s see how one can get started.

How do I find guest bloggers?

As Darren wrote in the past, finding guest bloggers with a popular and established blog is much easier. That doesn’t mean, however, that small blogs shouldn’t try it. On that post he covered six ways that you can use to find guest bloggers. They represent a solid starting point, but there are five more that we could add to that list.

1. Announce it on your blog

One thing that you could do if you are trying to find guest bloggers is actually to announce it on your blog. Write a post asking for interested people, explain what kind of content you are looking for, how and where the content should be submitted and so on.

Apart from getting the word out, this announcement should also let you get an initial feedback from your readers (i.e., whether they are looking forward to the guest bloggers or not).

2. Create a “Write for us” page

If you plan to use guest articles on a consistent basis, you might want to create a “Write for us” page to encourage interested bloggers to contact you.

Make sure to include details about the blog, the subjects and type of content that it covers, how the content can be submitted and so on. The more specific you get here, the better, because it will save time both for you and for the potential guest bloggers.

Remember to highlight the benefits for the guest bloggers as well (check point 5).

3. Post in online forums and job boards

The problem with the previous two points is that they will only reach your readers and people that will somehow end up visiting your site. If that is not enough to get the things rolling, you might need to tap into external channels.

Posting about the fact that you are welcoming guest bloggers on online forums could help here. Some job boards, especially the ones covering bloggers and freelance writers, might also accept an ad listing for guest bloggers.

4. Invite guest bloggers for special occasions

Inviting guest bloggers for a special project or celebration can give people an extra encouragement to get involved. Moreover, it can foster the interaction between you and your guest bloggers, while providing fun and a great experience for the readers (if planned well obviously).

Lorelle used a similar approach when her blog was approaching the second birthday. Basically she invited many friends to take turns in publishing guest articles, for over one month.

Darren also uses this strategy when he needs to travel or stay away from the blog for a period longer than a couple of days. You’ve probably seen Problogger in “Guest Mode” before.

5. Give incentives for the guest blogger

Let’s be honest here, some passionate readers of your blog might be willing to write a guest post in exchange for nothing. The majority of the bloggers out there, however, will only do it if they have something to gain out of the deal. In other words, it must be a win-win situation.

Here are some methods that you can use to ensure that the guest blogger will also gain from the experience (you don’t need to use all of them, these are just suggestions):

  • Add a link to the guest blogger’s blog on top of the article
  • Add a byline, including a small bio of the author, at the bottom of the article
  • Add a direct link to his RSS feed and encourage your readers to subscribe
  • Add a picture of the author
  • Create a special page where all the guest bloggers are featured
  • Create a section on your sidebar where guest bloggers are featured
  • Write a monthly “Thank You” post thanking previous guest bloggers

Final considerations

The only time when you should refrain from featuring guest bloggers is when launching a blog. Setting a voice and a unique identity for a new blog is essential, and guest bloggers too early in the game might hinder this objective.

Secondly, although guest blogging has many advantages, you should still measure the results that you will get with it and refine your strategy along the way. You could use the number of comments, the traffic level, the number of RSS subscribers or any other relevant parameter to track that.

The Curse of the ProBlogger – Time Management and Scaling Yourself Up

I love my work – but if there’s one thing that I struggle with more than anything else it is that I get to the end of each day and wish there were a few more hours.

Time-Managementimage by Erik

It was a couple of years ago that I first said to a friend that I wish I could clone myself because i could fill up my day numerous times – there are just so many opportunities (and demands) and every day I feel like time precludes me from acting on them all. A quick look at the thousands of unanswered emails in my inbox illustrates this perfectly.

In chatting to other bloggers who achieve some level of success I’ve found that this problem is the ‘curse’ of many a ProBlogger.

So today when Chris Brogan write a post on Scaling Yourself I was all ears. It contains great tips not just for bloggers but all kinds of web professionals and it’s really helpful. I won’t regurgitate it all here but much of what he’s written are some of the ‘lessons’ that I’ve been teaching myself – plus there are some that I still need to learn.

I hope you find Chris’s post as helpful as I did.

Oh – and if you have any more tips for overloaded bloggers trying to scale themselves do leave your own tips in comments below.

How to Write Posts That Set StumbleUpon on Fire

Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. Check out her new blog Anywired if you’re interested in earning an income online.

Since yesterday, StumbleUpon has sent me around 20,000 page views. It’s the single biggest referrer for both my blogs, despite one of them having been on the Digg front page three times! You could say that StumbleUpon traffic (and lots of it) is one of the main reasons I’ve been lucky enough to become a pro blogger.

In this post, I want to share all the trade secrets I’ve learned about how to craft posts that set StumbleUpon on fire. These are tips and ideas I use on a daily basis to get anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand (or more) StumbleUpon visitors every day.

I should note before we start that, while StumbleUpon use is heavier in some niches than others, these principles should help you to tap into SU traffic regardless of whether you’re blogging about blogging or Mexican walking fish. SU is arguably the most powerful promotional tool niche bloggers can use.

Learn the new rules

Your efforts will be hampered if you try to write posts to appeal to social media ‘in general’. Each service likes certain types of content and dislikes others. Digg likes mass appeal. Del.icio.us likes anything its users like, but an item won’t go popular unless the source page gets thousands of hits.

If you’re in a niche without mass appeal, SU can help you where the other services won’t. Digg’s categories are deliberately broad to avoid diluting its power to send waves of traffic. StumbleUpon’s categories can be much more specific. While the traffic is not always as targeted as you’d like, it’s still much more targeted than Digg’s.

This also fundamentally changes the way you approach ‘writing for social media’ when you’re writing for StumbleUpon. You no longer have to worry about pleasing everyone. In fact, sticking within the confines of your niche — even if it’s a small one — can mean the difference between badly targeted traffic vs. highly targeted traffic.

My first piece of advice on writing SU optimized content is to write posts for your target market, not for the many. This increases the chances that your post will be submitted to a more specific category yielding better targeted traffic.

Stumble no-go zones

Before I discuss the types of content that tend to do well on StumbleUpon, it’s worth outlining a few types of posts that rarely go popular on the service. I’m not suggesting that you cut out these content types, but it might be worth thinking about how you can make them more attractive to StumbleUpon.

  • Weekly link round-ups. One solution is to change your link round up to a weekly themed resource list.
  • News. Time-sensitive content is favored by Digg and Reddit, but StumbleUpon will generally only pick up timeless content. If it’s not going to be relevant in a month, it’s probably not going to get Stumbled much.
  • Posts that don’t make sense out of context. If your post doesn’t make sense without context it probably won’t get picked up by SU. Potential voters know that the visitors they send won’t ‘get’ your post.
  • Short, breezy posts. A short, value-packed post can do well on StumbleUpon, but breezy content without pithy tips is usually bypassed.
  • Posts that don’t sell themselves properly. New visitors don’t have much patience. If your mind-bending, life-changing post takes 500 words to really get going, your loyal readers will probably love it, but StumbleUpon will yawn. The value inside your post should be made clear as soon as possible.
  • Overly personal posts. Sorry personal bloggers, but this one is tough. If you’ve ever re-told a story about a friend to someone who doesn’t know them, you’ve probably noticed that the story doesn’t entertain them nearly as much as it entertained you. Highly personal content can be met with a fanatical response from readers who know you, but your average SU visitor won’t know why they should care.

Each of these content types may have a home on your blog and not everything can be optimized for StumbleUpon. The main reason I want to share these no-go zones is so you don’t pour unnecessary effort into one of these post types, only to find that it doesn’t send the traffic and potential readers you’d hoped.

StumbleUpon traffic.
Photo by swruler9284

Stumble-friendly post types

Just as there are certain content types that rarely sizzle with SU traffic, there are certain types of content that seem to be particularly well-loved by SU users.

  • Posts that look as if they took a long time to craft. SU users respect carefully crafted content. If your post is chock full of detail, examples, images, links or otherwise looks as if it took some time to put together, they’ll generally reward your efforts.
  • Unique how-to guides and advice posts. Certain topics have been done to death, but if you can tap into something people want to learn how to do but haven’t yet been told, SU will probably reward you.
  • Unique, novel and useful resource lists.
  • Pithy posts with poignant take-home points. If you can find the right words to say something important, or think of an apt metaphor, your post is likely to be popular even if it’s quite short.
  • Visually interesting posts. Captivating images can be a lot more gripping than a wall of text. I start each post I write on my blogs with an interesting image from Flickr and this always appears in the above-the-fold area of the screen. I think this might have a big part to play in my success with SU traffic. A gripping headline and a gripping image help to draw SU visitors into each post.
  • Treasure-trove content. Posts containing cool rarities and free stuff are usually highly popular.

There are other types of content that do well, but the above represents the most common formats for blog posts that fare well on StumbleUpon.

SUO: StumbleUpon Optimization

There are a few things you can do to optimize any post for StumbleUpon.

1. The Value/Curiosity headline formula. The two most effective ways to encourage someone to read your posts is to a) promise value that will make the time-investment worthwhile or b) make them curious. For option A, pick a headline that makes your post sound unmissable. For B, pick a headline that begs an explanation. For example: What’s the scariest fish in the Amazon? Hint: It’s not the Piranha. It’s far, far worse (source). Another simple hack is to make your headlines really big and eye-catching, so they gather more attention.

2. Start with an image. Our eyes are drawn to interesting images. Once you can bring a StumbleUpon visitor’s eyes down into your post, it’s a tiny step for them to make the move into your text.

3. Sell each post. Dedicate the first paragraph of each post to making it sound like something worth reading. Tell readers what they stand to get in return for their time investment.

Strategic tips

Having a core base of active SU users who read your blog is all you need to tap into a steady stream of SU traffic. If you haven’t yet developed this core base yet, here’s what you should do:

  1. Start using StumbleUpon and voting up content from other blogs and websites in your niche.
  2. Friend those who Stumble your articles and thank them. This will start a dialog that could turn them into a loyal reader of your blog.
  3. Write about SU and encourage readers to add you as a friend.
  4. Swap Stumbles with other bloggers.
  5. Link to your SU profile on your About page.
  6. Befriend active StumbleUpon users and stumble and review some of their content if they have a blog or website. Active users command more traffic and they’re more likely to repay the favor because they’re Stumbling all the time anyway!
  7. Add a Stumble button/link under each of your posts.
  8. Add a Stumble link to your Feedflare (find it in your Feedburner control panel).

Points to review

  • When writing for StumbleUpon, focus on writing value-packed posts for your target audience. Don’t try to accommodate everyone.
  • Be mindful of the post types that tend to receive little interest on SU.
  • Remember the post types that SU loves best.
  • Practice SUO.
  • Work hard at turning active SU users into loyal readers of your blog.

Blogging as a Job – The Perceptions of Others – Convincing Those You Love that You Can Be a ProBlogger

In my recent question box Nick from Put Things Off asked me a number of questions that I thought I’d answer together as a single post as they almost read like a mini-interview – with questions revolving around the legitimacy of blogging as a career, helping others to accept it (family especially) etc. These are questions I get a bit – so I hope this is helpful.

Have your partner, family and friends always accepted blogging as a serious full time profession?

Hell No! :-)

Actually they I’m surprised just how supportive they’ve been overall, but there was a time when I first started to talk about blogging as a potential job, business and career when I’m pretty sure that people thought that I might be having an early midlife crisis.

I totally understand their reaction because when I first began to realize the potential of blogging to become a money maker I had a lot of doubts and uncertainty myself. I almost pushed the ideas from my mind and got ‘real jobs’ on numerous occasions however for some reason I kept on track and managed to convince those around me that what I was doing had potential.

I’m often asked how a blogger should convince their partner about the potential of blogging….

I think the thing that convinced people the most was not my telling them how blogging could earn money but by showing them. I’m thinking particularly of my wife here who understandably had some doubts (remember 4 years ago no-one was really making a living from blogging – or they weren’t talking about it if they were – I couldn’t even point her to examples of anyone else doing it). What convinced her was that cheques gradually started to arrive in the mail and money started to trickle into our bank account. Over time this was the clincher.

The other thing I’d say that helped me convince V about blogging as a profession was that I really took it gradually and over time. Originally I worked numerous part time jobs while I blogged – I gradually increased my investment of time into blogging as the income that it was bringing in justified it. You can read more about his process here in my story of becoming a ProBlogger.

What work are you doing to change peoples’ perceptions of your profession?

I’m not sure that I’m doing much that is intentional to change people’s perceptions. In my personal relationships I obviously talk about blogging and people see and hear about some of the successes of what I do on the grapevine.

However in the bigger picture of helping the wider public to have a change in perception about blogging I think that this naturally happens over time as more and more people become familiar with blogging as a medium.

When I first started blogging five or so years ago it was a fairly uncommon thing to do (at least here in Australia) and I regularly had to explain what a blog was. Then over time more and more people understood what a blog was but I found myself explaining how a blog could make money. In more recent times I’m finding I need to explain how they make money more and more – people are gradually becoming more familiar with the concept over time.

Sure I still get raised eyebrows when I say what I do sometimes – but I think that that’s more because they’re surprised that a guy like me can do it (I’m fairly ‘ordinary’) rather than them being surprised that it’s possible.

In 2008, is “problogger” an acceptable job title?

I’m not really sure it’s unacceptable. I’ve heard some pretty wacky job titles over the last few years – I think ‘problogger’ is still going to get people having a second look when they see it on a resume or form, but it’s not too crazy…. is it? Of course I don’t use this term that much (read on).

What do you call yourself on professional forms like mortgage applications etc?

You can watch my video on this topic here. I don’t think I’ve ever used ‘blogger’ on a form in the occupation space – I tend to use web publisher.

If your kid/s told you they wanted to grow up to be probloggers just like Dad, what advice would you give them?

I’d tell them that they’re probably 20 years too late. While I’m sure blogging will last for years I’m also pretty sure that there will be plenty of other forms of communication arise in the next 20 years before my kids get to working age that they’ll probably want to explore first.

I think blogging will continue to grow but that those wanting to make serious money from it will need to become familiar with other mediums also. I’d rather encourage my kids to learn about principles of communication and become savvy with technology than to just focus upon becoming ‘bloggers’. Blogging might be a part of what they do but I think a broader perspective will set them up better.

It seems to me that there’s a long way to go before blogging is accepted as a serious career path, so I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I’m not so sure that it really matters whether blogging is seen as an accepted career path when it comes to the wider population. There are plenty of very successful people out there following their dreams and doing unorthodox things very successfully that are not stopped by people saying it’s not a legitimate career path.

Of course I’m talking there about the big picture – it gets harder when the ones that you love and live with struggle to accept the dreams we have. I wrote more about this back in 2005 in a post called How to Tell Your Partner that You’re Going to Be a ProBlogger. I still stand by most of what I wrote there and hope it helps others who find themselves in this situation.

PS: The last thing that I’ll say on the topic of convincing others that you want to be a Professional Blogger is that at times it’s important to listen to them. While it is possible to go Pro as a blogger the reality is that not everyone makes it and sometimes those around us are the voice of reason. Help those around you to see the possibility but also give them permission to have a say and keep you living in reality. It’s a tricky balance sometimes but my concern is that I’ve seen a number of bloggers blaze ahead without listening to those around them – sometimes with some fairly drastic consequences. Tread carefully.

4 Reasons You Should Encourage, Foster and Harness Dissent on Your Blog

Guest Post: Muhammad Saleem is a social media consultant and a top-ranked community member on multiple social news sites.

Over the past couple of years I have had many dozens of incredibly negative comments on my posts which I have often marked as spam and not posted. After I do so, I often receive a follow-up comment from the same person saying ‘I’m sure you will censor this comment too,’ which I usually do. This is not because I don’t like people disagreeing with me, but it is because most of these people who are ‘disagreeing’ usually say things in their comments such as ‘shut the %#@! up you terrorist’ or use different words to the same effect.

This phenomenon can easily be explained by the following graphic from the penny arcade:

Disagreement

That said I really appreciate anyone who takes the time out to comment on my thoughts (regardless of whether they agree or disagree with me), and think that we should never underestimate the importance of truly legitimate dissent for the following 4 reasons:

1. Disagreement makes you a better writer

If your community continues to agree with whatever you say, you don’t grow as a writer and don’t get exposed to other ideas or different views on matters. By giving serious consideration to other people’s disagreements with you, you can broaden the scope of your writing, incorporate multiple viewpoints, write more thoroughly, and ultimately improve your unique value proposition to your audience.

2. Disagreement makes your community think

A group of sheep is not a community. Most of us write because we want to comment on new ideas and have conversations rather than simply have people agree with us. By encouraging dissent on your blog you are encouraging each community member to think for himself or herself and write their opinion on the matter rather than just echoing your thoughts. Eventually you help your entire community’s intellectual capital grow.

3. Disagreement makes for better conversations

One-sided conversations are no fun for the author and they are no fun for the community. If everyone is agreeing with you, you might as well turn the comments off and call it a day. Multiple, opposing viewpoints offer colorful conversation for everyone and ensure that there is enough debate for people to want to come back for more. This not only gives people to return to the same post again and again, but these opposing viewpoints also create opportunities for further posts and more conversations on previously covered topics.

4. Disagreement increases engagement

Quite contrary to polarizing people, disagreements can be a very powerful tool that can draw an even larger audience in. When people realize that there is room for them to have their say, be heard, and be correct in their own right, more people are likely to participate. People are often hesitant to do so because either they feel there is no room for contrarian viewpoints, or because they feel that if they disagree, they must be wrong.

Ultimately, by encouraging and fostering dissent on your blog you can improve conversations and increase community engagement, and by making your community think and harnessing their collective power you can improve your own writing as well.

Chitika Introduce Viral Branding Units

Chitika today have announced a new type of ad unit that I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peak of a few days ago.

It’s called the Viral Branding Unit (VBU) and you can see it in action on their VBU page but it looks like this:

Vbu

This unit is currently in beta test but I’m told it’ll be released to all shortly. It’s an interactive ad unit which gives users of your blog the ability to actually interact with the ad. The ads are video based and have the ability for readers to leave comments, rating the ad, telling a friend about it – all on the ad itself.

I’ve seen a few blog networks provide advertisers with the ability to have readers give feedback before (I think Weblogs Inc did it) but this is definitely going in a new direction for ad networks. Of course leaving the ability to comment on ads is a risky business for advertisers and I’m not sure if there is any moderation policies – but it’ll be one way for them to get feedback on their advertising.

I’m told that advertisers will have the ability to control which of the viral components that their ads will have (ie they can turn off comments etc) but what moderation there will be I’m not sure.

These are CPC ads – Correction, these are CPM ads – I’m not in the initial beta test so can’t say how much they are paying – but I’m presuming that they’d be reasonably well priced ads as they are a little more intrusive than many other types of ads.

Win 1,700 Visitors by Reviewing MarketMe.com

This week’s community consultation of MarketMe.com offers you another chance to boost your blog. Leave a helpful review with some non-intuitive points in your comment and you could win a stampede of 1,700 StumbleUpon users to your favorite post. If your content is good, those 1,700 visitors could grow into a much bigger traffic snowball as votes for your content pile up.

What we’re looking for: a thorough review of the blog answering all the questions below and containing some non-intuitive advice. That’s all you’ve got to do to be in the running. There will be only one winner.

The blog’s owner, Tim, describes the blog like this:

Marketme.com aims to help entrepreneurs and small business owners grow their business in today’s online marketplace. It’s co-authored by Tim Paulino and Brandi Cummings, both of which have degrees of expertise in different aspects of Internet marketing. Tim’s expertise is with website design and programming and writes on subjects such as Website Architecture, Search Engine Marketing, Pay-Per-Click and various Internet Marketing Trends. Brandi’s expertise is with content development and writes about Article Marketing, Social Networking, Press Releases and Business Blogging.

As authors, our goal is to connect with our target audience and establish ourselves as “experts” in what we write about. We don’t claim to be know-it-alls, but we do aim to be honest in our advice and write in a way that is helpful to our audience.

MarketMe.com.

The topics your review should touch upon are:

  • Design — usability, visual appeal, readability, navigation.
  • Content — got an idea for a great viral post the blogger could write?
  • Promotion — how would you suggest the blogger promote the blog?
  • SEO — can you see areas for improvement?
  • Monetization — could this be done more effectively? Do you see any missed opportunities?

We’d love for comments to be as constructive, helpful and practical as possible. Good luck!