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Renaming eMomsatHome to SparkPlugging [Interview]

Renaming-Sparkplugging

Regular readers of ProBlogger will be familiar with Wendy Piersall from eMomsatHome.com. I’ve watched Wendy establish a presence with her own first blog and then in more recent times expand it into a small blog network of 7 blogs.

A few weeks ago she emailed me to talk about the rebranding and naming of her blog network. I’ve been fortunate enough to see a little of her journey of grappling with this new process and am really happy to be able to officially announce that eMomsatHome.com is now….((insert drum roll here))….

Sparkplugging

As I post this Wendy and her team are rolling it all out (still a few little touches still to go – these things take a little time to transition).

Wendy asked me if I’d like the scoop of announcing the new name and I suggested that we take it a step further and that she allow me to ask her a few questions about the process of switching names. She agreed and here’s my mini interview with Wendy.

Why did you feel the need to change your brand’s name?

Since I started eMoms at Home initially as a hobby site, I didn’t really think of the long-term consequences of naming a site that excludes half of the human race. I started noticing it as a problem very early on, about 5 months after I started. I had a lot of dads and non-parents frequenting the site. But I also had people say things like, “Oh, I didn’t pay attention to your site because I thought it was only for moms”.

I thought that I could build up the brand enough to overcome the initial limitations, but recently at the SXSW conference, it just became painfully clear that we had completely outgrown our name. People flat out told me they would never have read our site based on our name – even though they admitted that they had an active interest in our content. I could now see that ‘eMoms at Home’ was actively holding us back from further growth.

Can you talk us through how you went about making this change?

Understanding our Audience
Quite honestly it was an extraordinarily difficult process. At first I came up with several names around ‘parents’, and when I asked for input from our readers, the feedback was fascinating. Many of them weren’t parents, and even those that were parents didn’t want to come to a ‘parenting site’ for their business information. I hadn’t expected that at all. And it made the naming process 100% more difficult as I realized this wasn’t just a naming issue, but the site needed to entirely reposition itself to truly serve our readers needs.

So I took a step back from our site being a site for parents in business – which was not easy for me personally, because I’m very proud of the work we have done to help working parents. But in order to really serve our readers, I realized that we needed to position ourselves as a resource for people who use the internet and technology to create flexible work for themselves – both parents and non parents.

Domain Research Hell
I hadn’t looked to purchase a domain name of this magnitude of importance for 2 years. It was astonishing to see just how much the domain squatting industry has been built up in that time. I found hundreds of potential names, yet all were taken and had made for AdSense sites on them. I think I spent over 100 hours on domain research and brainstorming.

Another factor is that our audience, while extremely experienced in business, doesn’t really have a standard ‘label’. They don’t really consider themselves ‘home business owners’ nor do they consider themselves ‘true entrepreneurs’. They are a vastly diverse group of amazing people that kind of fall in between those two stereotypes, and call themselves things like “author, blogger, consultant, freelancer, moonlighter, marketers, or tech geeks”. I couldn’t really choose one one of those names, because any of them would be too limiting.

More below the screen caps…

Sparkplugging

Finding the Right Metaphor
So the quest for something brandable and metaphorical began, and it was excruciating. I emailed nearly every marketer I knew asking for help and advice, including you, Toby Bloomberg, Susan Payton, and Marla Tabaka, my business coach. PickyDomains offered their help, and I also found WordLab, a free naming forum. All were extremely helpful – none came up with the right name.

Finally, after probably 10,000 page views on Thesaurus.com, I came upon the word Sparkplug used as an adjective, “A person who makes things happen”. Immediately I knew I had found my metaphor. At that point, I just had to find a good domain with some version of that word in it. That took another week, and I had to stalk a few domain owners to try and get them to sell their domains. In the end, I was able to purchase our domain from the owner who was going to let it expire in about 60 days. And we are now Sparkplugging – Thinking Big in the New Work at Home Generation.

Now that you’ve made the decision to make the change, can you tell us about your plans to transition from the old brand and name to the new one?

I already had plans in place to add new blogs to my blog network in March. The naming process delayed that project, and all of us were happy to get that name picked so that we could get back to doing what we do best – blogging.

I pestered Aaron Wall and my Twitter followers quite a bit for information on how to manage creating accurate 301 server redirects, because even my very experienced developer had never moved a site of our size to a new domain. I’m pretty confident we’ll be fine, but I do anticipate taking a hit in traffic from Google for a while.

An unexpected casualty of this process was that I didn’t know what to do with my own blog on the network with this new name. I never liked that my blog was the same name as the site – I thought it was confusing. But in order to continue to be the ‘flagship’ blog of my own network, I realized I couldn’t be focused so much on Moms anymore, which again was difficult for me personally. I really was only able to be OK with that decision by adding a blog to the network specific to work at home moms, because helping moms start a business is just so near and dear to my heart. I found the perfect person to do that, Kelly McCausey. She’s a very well known WAHM and I was thrilled to get her involved. And my own blog will be named Sparkplug CEO and shift focus a bit to be more entrepreneurial, especially because I’m thinking of doing some much bigger things with the site under our new name.

So right when we change, we’ll be launching the first two of ten new blogs we’re adding to the network, The Home Office Organizer & Believer in Balance. Then to keep up our momentum (and keep people coming back!), we’ll be launching 2 more blogs a week for the following 4 weeks. Of course, we’ll do things like contests, press releases, and hit our word of mouth efforts heavily as well. Plus we’ll put a huge focus on rebuilding links to the new domain. Giving up our Technorati rank is admittedly a blow, but obviously what’s best for the company comes before anything like that.

Honestly, I feel like I am in very uncharted territory. I know that The Mining Company changed their name once upon a time to About.com, but I haven’t seen any large blogs do anything like this. So as much as I can prepare for it, I know full well that I’m going to be totally learning-as-we-go. Many people in the blogging community have offered to help spread the word and I really don’t think that we could pull something like this off without the support of our readers and peers. Overall this has been both a rewarding and humbling experience – and I couldn’t be more grateful for my authors, my friends, and my colleagues who have helped us grow to this point, and who will be there for us as we change.

Ultimately it’s really an honor to be a resource for our community, as I’m sure you well know, Darren. :)

Geoblogging – How to Geotag Your Blog

geotagging banner

The following post on geotagging blogs is by Rob O’Daniel from 2Dolphins.

Remember the old adage, “The three most important things in real estate are location, location, and location?” Soon enough, that saying may even hold true in the virtual landscape of the Internet.

Geotagging, or the process of adding geographic information (latitude, longitude, & other positional data) to almost any digital content is a quickly-growing trend. Once geotagged, media such as websites, blog posts, RSS feeds, images, or videos can be easily displayed on an online map or cross-referenced with other information about that area or location.

One way to get your feet wet with this is to make your website or blog’s location known. By adding geographical metatags to the header of your HTML documents (a.k.a. web pages), between the and elements, you’ll “geotag” your website, allow search engines that support this feature to recognize its global position, and (hopefully) help more readers find your blog geographically.

So, where to begin? It’s easier than you think, although it will take a little bit of research to gather your specific location info. Once you have that, geotagging your site or blog is a simple matter of a few additional lines of HTML code. For example sake, here’s what I used on 2Dolphins:


<!– Begin global positioning META tag stuff —————>
<!– GeoTag metadata ————————————->
<meta name=”geo.position” content=”31.896788;-102.368551″ />
<meta name=”geo.country” content=”US” />
<meta name=”geo.region” content=”US-TX” />
<meta name=”geo.placename” content=”Odessa, TX 79762, USA” />


<!– GeoURL metadata ————————————->
<meta name=”ICBM” content=”31.896788,-102.368551″ />
<meta name=”DC.title” content=”2Dolphins” />


<!– Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN) metadata –>
<meta name=”tgn.id” content=”7014260″ />
<meta name=”tgn.name” content=”Odessa” />
<meta name=”tgn.nation” content=”United States” />
<!– End global positioning META tag stuff —————–>

(Note that the comments & blank lines in the example above are included only to make the code more understandable and may be changed or omitted if so desired.)

Unfortunately, the geotagging standards are still in something of a state of flux, but by adding these several groupings of tags, you’re covering all the competing methods.

Of course, you’ll want to change the contents of these tags to match your actual location. Note that information within the quotes is case-sensitive and that the numbers in “geo.position” are separated by a comma rather than semicolon. Daniel Filzhut’s MyGeoPosition is a handy tool to help you generate the positional data for the GeoTag & GeoURL metadata fields.

(The “geo.placename” tag is an optional free text field that’s typically used for city & province or city, state & zipcode, but can contain any relevant location info you’d like to place in there.)

You can visit the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN) site to find the information for those fields. The search function on this site seems kind of tricky – I had far better luck with finding my location data by using the Browse the TGN hierarchies link and drilling down through the structure. Also be mindful that if you’re in the U.S., you’ll begin by selecting “North and Central America (continent).”

(Just keep clicking the little blue hierarchy icon TGN Hierarchy icon to the left of each category to drill down into each successive level.)

Once you’ve gathered the info and added the geographic tags into your blog or website code, be sure to submit your site at GeoURL, GeoTags and feedmap. If you’d like to see what your geographical net neighborhood looks like, key your newly-updated website URL in the search box at Fabio Cipriani’s Google Maps-mashup Geo-Serendipity.

And there you have it – a few extra lines of code and your blog or website is a part of the geotagging community. Is this likely to make an immediate or major difference in the amount of traffic your website receives? Probably not, but anything extra you can do to be noticed by search engines is a good thing. And as more websites & blogs do get on-board with geographically tagging, you’ll be at the forefront of the wave.

Let us know what you think about geotagging – post a comment or question!

Making Money as a Side Effect of Blogging (and a New Breed of Blogger)

Seth has some interesting things in response to the question – ‘How do I make a lot of money blogging?’ here.

“The best bloggers make money, but mostly as a side effect, not as a direct result of setting out to use a blog to make a profit. It’s just too long a ramp up time, too frustrating and too uncertain to be the best path to make a living.”

A few thoughts:

Seth’s described my own experience of making money from blogging pretty well. I didn’t set out to do it at all. I blogged for a year before it even crossed my mind and even then it was initially an experiment (just like adding many blogging tools and features was for many of us in those days).

I suspect that Seth’s words also describe the experience of many money making bloggers who stared out in my era (4-5 years ago). Most started blogs on topics that they were passionate about, had interests in and enjoyed – they didn’t set out to become rich but the money came as a byproduct.

HOWEVER – I wonder whether times might be changing a little.

A New Breed of Blogger?

Over the last couple of years I’ve seen an increasing number of bloggers get into blogging with the primary objective of making money – who actually ended up doing it with some success.

I’m not talking about what some might consider A-listers, but bloggers more medium sized blogs more more niche topics that are pulling in enough to go full time with their work or at least heavily supplement their income. They’ve not hit the ‘big time’ publicly because they either want to keep their success private or because they’re only a year or two into it and their blogs are now only just starting to take off.

I do recommend that bloggers choose topics to blog on that they enjoy and find more reasons than just money to start blogging – but wonder if there’s a new breed of blogger coming up through the ranks that started out with different motivations and who take a different approach to their blogging than ‘old timers’ like Seth and myself.

PS: check out Seth’s post Write Like a Blogger which contains some great tips for bloggers and how they should write.

Blogger Appreciation Day Rolls On

On the spur of the moment this morning I declared it Blogger Appreciation day and asked readers to email another blogger to let them know that you appreciate something about them. I also suggested that you could also write a post with your words of appreciation.

Well today has been a pretty amazing day here – not just because I got a couple more nice emails of my own but because of all of the amazing appreciation I’ve witnessed today. Here’s the ‘appreciation posts’ (and those announcing it) that I’ve seen so far. I’m posting them because I appreciate your appreciation.

I’m certain that there are more out there that I’ve not seen – feel free to leave your links in comments below.

Today is Blogger Appreciation Day [UNOFFICIAL]

It’s Monday morning here in Australia and even Problogger’s suffer from ‘Mondayitis’ and find it hard to get themselves going. However today has been a little different – for some reason today there’s a little extra inspiration in my inbox.

You see today I had three completely unsolicited ‘thank you’ emails from readers.

I’m lucky enough to get these sorts of emails from time to time and can’t express how much energy that I find they give me.

I’m declaring today Blogger Appreciation Day [UNOFFICIAL]!

I’ve been chatting with a few bloggers of late who’ve been feeling a little down in the dumps about their blogging – so perhaps everyone could do with a little lift.

Lets spend today doing a few random acts of kindness and encouragement for our fellow bloggers.

I’m not writing this in the hope of getting more emails myself (I’ve got my share for today already) – but instead want to encourage you to take a moment to email another blogger and to thank them for something that you’ve appreciated about what they’ve done lately. In a sense it’s a ‘Pay it Forward’ exercise.

Some might see it as a marketing or networking exercise (and it might actually pay off) – but I just think it’s good kharma and part of being a blogger.

We’re in it together, blogging is about collaboration and together going further than we can by ourselves – so why not help another blogger today by shooting them a word of encouragement, a pep talk, a congratulations, an idea to help them improve or some other positive constructive message. Better still, do it publicly on your blog and tell the world about another blogger who you appreciate.

Network Blogging Tips

Do you blog for someone else? A blog you might want to subscribe to is Network Blogging Tips written by bloggers Jennifer Chait and Deborah Ng (both experienced bloggers blogging in blog networks).

“Here we’ll share tips, advice and ideas for those who blog for someone else. We’ll offer commiseration, jobs tips and even occasional leads.”

Disclaimer: Both of these bloggers are bloggers at b5media (the network I co-founded) – however I never realized they were doing this til I saw David blogging about it.

Amazon Associates Program Introduce Carousel Widget

The Amazon Associates program have announced a new widget in the last day or two – it’s called the Carousel Widget. You can see one in action below with six blogging books.

The unit above is a ‘carousel’ format (horizontal) but they also have a ‘ferris wheel’ format (vertical). Each come in different size options.

10 Ways to Improve Blog Traffic in 30 Minutes or Less

This is a guest post on improving blog traffic from Courtney Tuttle. Courtney writes about marketing online at Court’s Internet Marketing School.

1. Create link clusters within your blog

A link cluster is a group of links that you can point at a post or page to improve its search engine ranking. Let’s say you have a post that’s ranked for ‘stupid business ideas’. Edit 10 of your other posts to create links (using ‘stupid business ideas’ as the anchor text) to the ‘stupid business ideas’ post and you will surely move up in Google for that keyword. This process can be implemented in about 10 minutes and can be used for any keyword your site ranks for or is trying to rank for.

2. Rework HTML title tags of trafficked posts

By watching your stats, you can often identify posts that get search traffic from a keyword, even though the keyword isn’t listed in the HTML title of the post. By editing your posts’ HTML titles to add the keywords they cover, you can strengthen the rankings and therefore the traffic that the post generates. You can easily make a difference with this method in less than 20 minutes. This method combines very well with #1.

3. Invite your readers to connect with you on StumbleUpon and Facebook

You can never ever have too many friends on SU and Facebook. Inviting existing readers to find you on these services with a post should take less than 20 minutes.

4. Save your best posts for the best times of the week

Writing a home-run post on a Saturday afternoon will probably happen from time to time. However, does your blog have good traffic on Saturdays? Analyzing your blog’s stats to determine when it naturally has the most traffic can get more eyes on a great post, which will translate to more social votes and more links. If you have created the post of your life, wait for a good day to publish – it will cost you about 1 minute on a later date to put it up.

5. Edit your post one more time

How can you improve your title? How can you improve your first paragraph? Small details in your post, especially in the beginning of your post, can make an enormous difference in its ability to draw social traffic and links. You can definitely improve your title, first paragraph, formatting, and grammar within 30 minutes.

6. Stop writing about yourself. Start solving problems

Surfers become readers when a blog provides something that is wanted. A casual visitor may read your blog because they find training, answers to problems, entertainment, or something else they want. This more than likely will mean that they won’t want to read about you, your girlfriend, your cats, your kids, or your catastrophes (unless you have a personal blog that your friends read). Discontinuing the off-topic posts will help you to develop more repeat traffic and takes exactly 0 minutes to implement.

7. Subscribe to the feeds of your industry’s major players

That way, you won’t miss important news releases. When news breaks in your industry, there will be a lot of extra traffic searching for information on the event. Adding your thoughts will almost always generate extra traffic. Subscribing to the feeds of your industry’s top sites should take no more than 15 minutes.

8. Give a great post to a prominent blog

Let’s say that you took the time to write something great. Donating your post to a great blogger can help you to create a win-win. The great blogger gets a great piece of content that will bring him social traffic and links and you can create exposure for your name and brand. Emailing your post to a great blogger or blog takes less than 10 minutes.

9. Go to the store

Look at magazines. Pay special attention to the types of titles that are used on the covers. Write down the most interesting titles and think about what makes them interesting. In order to generate buzz around a post, a great title is an absolute necessity. More on this topic here: The Cosmo Headline Technique for Blogging Inspiration. You should be able to find some good title ideas in about 30 minutes.

10. Answer your email and comment questions

Nothing will show a reader that you care more than answering an question (even if you have already answered that question 100 times on your site). Why do people read your blog? Because you solve their problems. Why will they come back again and again to your blog? Because you solve their problems. Answering a person’s email or comment question should take less than 5 minutes.

Beware of ‘My’ Comment Spam on Your Blog

This week I’ve had four readers email to tell me that they’ve received comment spam on their blogs from someone using my name. The comments say something about how their blog is really getting better and/or that I’m enjoying it. The link left goes to a Penis Enlargement site (or some other dubious site).

While I’m not sure whether to be flattered or embarrassed to be associated with the Penis Enlargement industry I do wish to put out the warning that not all may be as it seems when you see a comment from me on your blog. I guess this tactic of using the names of real bloggers is another attempt by spammers to get their comments through moderation – I just hope Akismet don’t blackban my name as I’m sure a lot of these comments are going to be marked as spam.

PS: if you get one of these comments feel free to shoot me an email with the comment, link and the IP address of the commenter as I’d be interested to have someone attempt to track down the person using my name in this way.