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Where Bloggers Get Their Biggest Levels of Traffic

Last week I asked readers about their biggest sources of traffic to their blogs.

The results reveal a fairly striking winner – Google.

Traffic-Sources

The comparison between Google and ‘Other Search Engines’ was fairly amazing – but what did interest me was the number of bloggers reporting Social Media sites as their number 1 source of traffic (15%). I’m sure if I’d asked this same question 18 months ago that they would have barely registered on the results.

The Power of Blog Projects

Post Post Post… yawn… Post Post Post… sigh… Post Post Post… eyes glazing over…

  • Do you ever find blogging a little mind numbing as a blogger?
  • Do you ever look at other people’s blogs and feel a little bored?

Most bloggers who have been blogging for a sustained period of time go through patches where either they feel less energized, inspired or motivated to blog and/or where they sense their readers becoming less engaged or a little bored.

This is totally normal and if you feel it’s happening to you at the moment you’re not alone – it happens to us all at one point or another. The key is to get over the hump and keep pushing on because it’s often in these patches that bloggers give up.

One of the things that many bloggers find helpful to get them over these times is to start some kind of a ‘project’.

You see the problem is that it’s easy to get into a somewhat monotonous cycle with a blog where the posts all begin to merge into one in your mind (and in the mind of your readers) and everyone is lulled into a fairly zombie like state.

To snap everyone out of it some kind of ‘project’ can work.

By project I’m not thinking of any one thing – but rather some sort of endeavor that is a little out of the blue or different that goes beyond a single post. The idea is to do something that shakes things up a little – for both you as a blogger and for your readers.

Let me give you five examples of Blog Projects:

1. A Series - perhaps the most common and doable projects for most readers is when they run a series on their blog. I’ve written before about the benefits of writing a series (and how to put a series together) but one of the main things I like about them is that they can help to build momentum on a blog for both readers and bloggers. There’s nothing more motivating for me to publicly say that I’m going to write 5-6 posts on a topic over a week!

2. Competitions – a well run competition can bring a lot of energy to a blog (note the emphasis on well run – I’ve written about how to run successful competitions previously). They can grab attention, draw readers to do something (instead of lurking) and even bring a fresh influx of readers.

3. Reader Project – I’ve run numerous ‘group writing projects’ (and variations of them) here at ProBlogger. You can see how I’ve run them here and here but really there are no ‘rules’ with these types of things and bloggers have run many projects that involve their readers. They key for me is to do something interactive – get your readers doing something, submitting something or engaging with you or one another in some way.

4. Try a New Medium - I can think of two things that I’ve tried for the first time in the last year or so that have brought energy both to my readers and I. They are regular Video Posts and using Twitter. Starting to experiment with a new medium can be a lot of fun and give you a new lease on life (and blogging). The key is to not drop your blogging at the expense of the new thing. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers drop their blogs as they’ve increased their use of Twitter and in my mind this could be something of a mistake. Don’t throw away what you’ve done previously – but use the new medium to build on it.

5. Start an Experiment - this isn’t something I’ve done a lot of myself but I’ve seen other bloggers start ongoing or short term experiments on their blogs. The idea is to announce that you’re starting to experiment with something related to your topic and then document what you find. a recent example that I’ve seen is my brother-in-law Sime who earlier in the week announced his seven day quest to have his photography published in mainstream media. Experiments like these give you motivation to post but can also be fascinating for readers to watch.

These five examples are just that – examples of things that I and other bloggers have tried. There are no doubt many more that others could add to the list and I’d love to hear about some of your own projects. What have you tried? What worked? What did you learn?

AdSense and Feedburner Ads a Step Closer to Launch? First Ads Seen in the Wild

It looks like the integration of AdSense ads into Feeburner feeds is a step closer with reports surfacing that AdSense ads have been seen on RSS feeds that look like this.

Feedburner-Adsense

This ad was seen on the feed of Inhabitat (found via Digital Inspiration). The images are served as image maps not JavaScript.

Here’s hoping that this will perform better than the previous AdSense for RSS program that has been in beta for a couple of years now!

Become a ProBlogger Premium Sponsor

Do you have a product or service aimed at bloggers that you’d like to be put in front of hundreds of thousands of bloggers?

The premium sponsorship package here at ProBlogger has just become vacant and our ad sales team would love to chat with you about the opportunities that are available. The package includes multiple prominent ad unit placements as well as an announcement of the new campaign on the blog.

To get more information on prices and what’s included email our ad sales team at [email protected]

PS: our other ad packages (125×125 pixel ads on the sidebar) are currently sold out but to hear about future openings in upcoming months you’re also welcome to get in touch with our team.

What Do You Most Want to Learn About Blogging? [POLL]

I get asked a lot of questions about blogging but every now and again I like to run a poll to help me prioritize your needs. So this week’s ProBlogger poll is all about refining and ordering your needs.

I’ve taken the 9 most common topics that I’m asked about and have listed them in a poll. What I’d love to invite you to do is to tell me which of them you want to learn about the most. Most of us want to learn about more than one but if it was just one which would it be?

Expand upon your choice here in comments (tell us what particularly you want to learn about the topic, why you selected it etc) and feel free to list the rest in order of your priority.

What Do You Most Want to Learn About Blogging?
Total Votes: 1534 Started: 5/4/2008 Back to Vote Screen


Your votes will have a direct influence upon future posts here at ProBlogger so I’m looking forward to your answers!

Are Bloggers Really Putting their Health at Risk?

bloggers-health.jpgToday Lea Woodward asks whether Bloggers are putting their health at risk and a number of ProBlogger readers add their pearls of wisdom on the topic.

Darren posted a timely response a few weeks ago to the NY Times article that talked about bloggers blogging until they drop.

Despite the fact that some readers felt the subject was over-hyped – and quite rightly pointed out that blogging isn’t necessarily any more or less stressful than many other jobs – you don’t have to be a medically-qualified doctor to notice that many bloggers have extremely unhealthy habits…erratic sleep patterns, junk-filled diets, overloading on caffeine, no exercise.

The previous “healthy blogging” posts I’ve posted here on Problogger have yielded some excellent advice and collective wisdom from readers. Here are some of those nuggets:

On balance:

Courtney
“I find that my blogging is a lot better when I maintain balance. That means I need to work out, eat right, and maintain healthy, social relationships. Once I let myself get out of whack, my blogging starts to suffer because I’m not as happy.”

Sheamus
“I’d file the ‘risk’ of ill-health to blogging alongside the scares surrounding people playing video games excessively; while the odd freak person might do it to a point where they get ill (or worse), for most (normal) folk it won’t even be an issue. It’s always a balance; everything is 50/50.”

David
“I think it’s all about balance. An addiction to anything is usually unhealthy, as it pushes other healthy aspects out of your life. It can be blogging or playing worlds of warcraft. You can even be addicted to exercise, for crying out loud.”

On what to eat & drink:

Lance
“I’d also like to stress the importance of staying away from processed foods and drinks. It is so easy to grab a can of cola and a bag of chips as a quick snack to curb the hunger, and quickly get back to the online networking frenzy. Give your body the nutrients it is begging for, not the processed chemically synthesised junk foods that have zero nutritional value!”

NoCaf4Me
“Tea, coffee, cola, energy drinks and chocolate share the same nerve toxin (stimulant), caffeine. Caffeine, which is readily released into the blood, triggers a powerful immune response that helps the body to counteract and eliminate this irritant. The toxic irritant stimulates the adrenal glands, and to some extent, the body’s many cells, to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol into the blood stream.”

Evan Hadkins
“If you battle to know what is healthy for you probably the best thing to do is keep a food diary. On one side of the page you record EVERYTHING that goes into your mouth. On the other side how you feel – you can use a scale 1 for great to 5 for poor to make it easier.”

On stress:

Foxnomad
“It’s better (for you and the people around you) to make it a business. Set hours for work and define your objectives. Ever since I began doing this a few months ago I’ve produced better quality posts. The extra free time also made my relationships with other people and commitments smoother…”

Tish
“If the content isn’t flowing freely from my head through my fingers, I need to do something else for awhile and go back later. I use the same “walk away” strategy when I become frustrated with the technology I’m trying to use. Sometimes I leave it for a couple of days and when I get back to it, things magically come together.”

JQK
“Stress can nip away at our health without our even realizing it. Being in a prolonged battle with an undefeatable opponent is among the worst of stressors. When a blog is allowed to be viewed as an ‘opponent’, to be conquered, it can be devastating, over time. I try to see it as a friend, a demanding one perhaps, but a friend nevertheless. A friend that I enjoy spending time with…on my terms. The key factor is enjoyment, when my blog turns on me, as it sometimes does, it is no longer enjoyable or healthy..it’s time to walk away…for awhile (guilt free).”

On exercise & posture:

Rainmaker
“For me, exercise is critical to clear thinking. I can get totally engrossed in what I’m writing for hours and days. One of the best things I do is instead of grabbing that mid-day caffeine, I take a brisk walk for about 30 minutes. The problem is dragging myself out of the chair to do it. The trick I learned is to set an alarm in my calendar for about 2pm. This does two things for me:

  1. I see it every time I look at the to-do list.. because, if it’s not there, I’ll totally forget to do it.
  2. It interrupts me with an alarm… AND I don’t turn off that alarm until I get up to walk (I may snooze it every 10 minutes for a couple of hours, but I won’t actually turn it OFF until I get up).

Melissa
“For stretching I try to stop every hour; stand up and use a jump rope to stretch out my upper back and chest. I take the jump rope and extend the rope above my head at shoulder’s length width and slowly I rotate my shoulders bringing the rope behind my back so it’s even with my shoulder blades. This is an amazing stretch…it can be a tad painful if you are really stiff but it will help open up your chest muscles and corrects your posture.”

On healthy habits:

*Miss Universe
“If possible, blog by a window. The natural air that trickles in does wonders for your lungs. Also the natural light is more harmonious that just florescent or incandescent. If there is too much sun, just pull down the shades , you will notice a nice glow that even makes your screen look better…”

Frugal Dad
“Blogging, like anything else, requires the discipline to stand up and walk away every now and then. I’ve fallen into the trap of writing, commenting and researching for hours on end. I try to force myself to stand up and walk around the house, or go outside for a brief walk, or spend some time with my family as a small break.”

Sharon Sarmiento
“Two things I find to be health lifesavers are:

  1. Taking a break every hour or so, to get up, eat a little something, walk around, go outside, stretch
  2. Changing my work schedule with the seasons so that I have more time to play outdoors.

Right now I’m doing a Springtime schedule that gives me free time between 8:30am and evening (I work in the early morning and the evening so the day is free). Experimenting with unconventional schedules is something that most of us can do, and it really helps with morale too!”

There is a clear link to your health and your success as a problogger; you just might not notice that link until your health is gone.

Lea Woodward blogs about life, business and a lifestyle of permanent travel.

It Takes a Gathering to Build a Crowd

In this guest post Steven Snell (who writes about social media at Traffikd) examines the topic of generating readership for your blog through social media.

gathering-crowd.jpg
Image by shoothead

If you spend much time on social media websites, I’m sure you’ve noticed that you tend to see many of the same websites and blogs on the front page receiving the most exposure. A few months ago I wrote a post at Daily Blog Tips that posed the question Do Small Bloggers Have a Chance with Digg? Through my observations and through the comments from many readers, it’s clear that large websites and blogs have a distinct advantage over smaller blogs when it comes to social media. Obviously, this can be frustrating to new bloggers who are looking to get some much-needed exposure from social media, as it seems to be the rich just getting richer.

One question that needs to be addressed is, what is the most significant factor that leads to the success of these large websites with social media? Is their content just that much better than smaller blogs? In my opinion, many times this isn’t the case. Is it because they have a larger existing audience? I’d say this is often a bigger factor than the quality issue. Very popular blogs tend to do well with social media, and with their incredibly large subscriber bases, they have a distinct advantage.

Take for example the front page of Delicious. Typically it takes about 100 bookmarks within 24 hours or so to get to the front page. It seems like almost every day there is a post from Smashing Magazine or Zen Habits on the front page. With over 60,000 and 50,000 readers respectively, a small percentage of subscribers can easily put these posts on the front page with a bookmark. On the other hand, a smaller blog with only 100 subscribers would need one bookmark per subscriber to make the front page.

So how does this affect smaller bloggers who want to get better results from social media? Essentially it shows that great content alone is usually not enough. It takes a gathering to build a crowd. Meaning, your gathering of existing readers and your network of friends can help to result in a bigger crowd that comes from social media sites.

New bloggers that are targeting social media, or those who have just been disappointed with their results to this point need to focus on building the gathering before the crowd will come. Networking is probably the most significant activity for bloggers in terms of gaining social media traffic. A blogger’s network includes readers and subscribers as well as friends and contacts who are bloggers themselves. Members of your network will be much more likely to vote for you on social media sites, plus you can openly ask for their help when you need it the most.

There are several different ways to get social media votes:

1 – Visitors of social media sites can see your link at the social media site and vote there (example, a Digg user visits the upcoming page, clicks through to your link, returns to Digg and votes for your post).

2 – Visitors of your blog can vote by using a button, widget, or link on your blog.

3 – Visitors can use a toolbar to vote (examples, StumbleUpon and Delicious toolbars).

4 – Social media users can share your post with their friends (example, the shout feature at Digg).

5 – Bloggers can email (or IM) others in their network to request a vote.

The only one of these that is not affected by the existing “crowd” of a blog is #1. Getting votes from the upcoming page is not really affected by how many readers you have at your blog, rather it is affected by how many people see the item on the upcoming page, the quality of the title (in terms of attracting clicks), the quality of the content once people click-through, etc. Certainly there are some small blogs that have success this way without a network, but this seems to be the minority.

All of the other four are affected by how many people are seeing the page and how many people are in the blogger’s network. Let’s quickly look at each one. For #2, the more visitors a page has (which is impacted by the number of subscribers), the more opportunities it has to get votes through a button. If a post only gets 5 visitors, the most votes it can possibly get through a “Digg This” button is five. On the other hand, if the post gets 5,000 visitors, its potential for votes just multiplied by 1,000. The situation in #3, visitors voting using a toolbar, is exactly the same scenario.

Item numbers 4 and 5 are both impacted by the blogger’s network of friends and contacts. If you have a large existing network and you’re willing to ask them for some help occasionally, you can get some quick and easy votes. Whether you’re using a share feature at a social media site or simply sending a private email, your success will depend on the quality and quantity of connections you have made in addition to the quality of the content itself.

I Don’t Have a Crowd. What Can I Do?

Understanding how all of this works is good, but if you’re a new blogger with a limited network and a small base of subscribers it doesn’t help you very much, yet. If you’re looking to improve your results with social media, do what you can to get one step closer to blogs that have a bigger reach than you. Work on building your network and send as much traffic as possible to your posts.

Here are a few tips:
1 – Still focus on content

In order to build your crowd you’ll need to give them a reason to consistently read your blog. Publishing high-quality content is the best way to do this. Although I said earlier that the existing audience is often more important than the content itself for social media success, the content still needs to be of a certain standard of quality.

2 – Dedicate time to networking

Most bloggers network casually whenever it happens. This is fine, but you can step up your network by making it a priority. Use social media sites and other blogs as opportunities to connect with other bloggers and get to know others who share some of your interests. Be active on blogs in your niche and make an effort to get to know those bloggers. Don’t limit your involvement with just A-list bloggers. Make an effort to get to know other bloggers who are at the same stage in the blogging lifecycle as you. In this case you’ll be able to help each other as you both grow your blogs.

3 – Funnel traffic

Most bloggers create posts from time-to-time that they expect to draw some attention from social media. When you have a post that you want to get some exposure, don’t just focus on getting Diggs or Stumbles. You can use smaller social media sites and niche social media sites to funnel traffic to the post. As visitors come from other social media sites they may also Digg or Stumble your post. If you have some other way to get traffic to these posts, such as getting a link from a friend or from a community website, do so. The more visitors you can get to the page, the better your chances will be of getting some votes.

4 – Don’t be afraid to ask for a vote

Some bloggers and social media users don’t like to ask others for a vote. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, I’ve found that other social media users who are legitimately your friends (not just someone you added as a friend at Digg) will be happy to give you a vote if your content is worthy, and you can return the favor for them as well. I get a decent number of requests each week, and as long as it’s from someone I know and not just a spam request, I’m happy to at least consider the vote.

After The Gathering is Built

Once you have built a gathering of subscribers and those in your network, drawing the crowd from social media will be incredibly more realistic. Not only will it be more realistic, but it will happen more frequently, as you can observe from the larger blogs mentioned at the beginning of this post.

What’s Your Approach?

How do you go about getting votes for social media? Is your success with social media impacted by your network?

Steven Snell covers a variety of topics related to social media and blog promotion at Traffikd. You can subscribe to his feed for more on these topics.

How to Use Social Decision Making To Increase Your Affiliate Sales

Almost a year ago I started experimenting with a new technique (new for me at least) of creating ‘Best Seller Lists’ as a technique to drive more sales at Amazon’s Affiliate Program.

The concept was simple:

  • Analyze the things that customers have bought previously from your affiliate links to Amazon (they give you this information in their reporting area)
  • Pull together a list of the top selling items (those that are relevant to your niche of course) and list them in a post
  • Link to these items again with affiliate links

I wrote up the technique here.

Today I was looking through my Amazon statistics and realized that this technique has been responsible for around 40% of my earnings from Amazon over the last 4 months. A lot of the success comes from one page, the example I gave in my original post – Popular Digital Cameras and Gear but there are three others (Top 10 Point and Shoot Digital Cameras, Top 20 DSLR Models and Best Camera Bags).

Why does it work?

I give a few reasons in the post about the technique that I’ve linked to above but increasingly I’m convinced that it’s got something to do with our social nature as human beings and the way that we often make decisions as groups rather than as individuals.

I see it in my own ‘real’ life also. Among my friendship group four couples have purchased the same car, most of my good friends shoot with the same brand of camera to me, we’re all talking about sending our kids to the same schools…. the list goes on.

Social Proof and Affiliate Marketing – Two More ‘Techniques’

This idea of social decision making is powerful – particularly when it comes to affiliate marketing on blogs.

Reader Reviews – The other time I’ve seen it’s power is when I’ve posted a reader’s review of a product on DPS.

I have posted quite a few photography book reviews over on that blog – most of which I’ve written myself. They tend to convert quite well (depending upon the quality of the book) but the thing that I’ve noticed is that they convert up to 100% better when it’s a regular reader of the blog who posts the review and not me. For example this simple reader review of the Digital Photography Book did better than my own review of the same book!

I don’t think it’s because I’m not a convincing writing – I think the reason is that readers trust the opinions of other readers. Social decision making at play again!

When ‘Join Me’ Converts – Let me share one more example of this social decision making. Earlier in the week I posted here at ProBlogger that I had enrolled myself in a course to learn to make better videos for the web. This was a genuine post – I’ve enrolled in WebVideo University (it’s early days but it’s quite good so far). Of course the post contained an affiliate link (I’d like to pay for a new video camera for my videos somehow).

A number of ProBlogger readers signed up for the course (I think it’s around 10). It wasn’t a massive conversion but in talking to 3-4 of those that signed up I found that they were not only motivated by the course topic – but also by wanting to do something with me, to share the experience.

I didn’t use the ‘join me’ approach to the post to get more people to sign up and increase my earnings – but it did.

Now the course doesn’t give a lot of interaction between participants – but there’s still something about doing something that someone else is doing that I think comes into play here. The course is good and will fulfill a need but perhaps it’ll become more special to those doing it for the knowledge that others like them are also participating.

A quick aside – while I’m talking about ‘joining’ – if you’ve got a spare $8.62 check out a great book called ‘Join Me!‘. It’s about a guy who started a world wide movement of people simply by placing an ad in a local newspaper inviting people to ‘Join Me’. It’s one of the funniest yet also insightful books I’ve read in years.

What Do You Think?

I’m thinking out loud a little with this post – but have you experimented with these ‘social decision making’ ideas in your own affiliate marketing?

PS: Social Decisions Making and Blogging

OK – now I’m thinking out loud a little more (forgive me, it’s late on a Friday night… and I may just have had a couple of beers…) but I the more I think about it the more I realize that this social behavior goes beyond the purchases that we make and comes into play in a variety of areas of our blogging

  • It’s probably behind the way that many big blogs with their RSS counters on their blogs grow so much faster (people want to be a part of a blog that others are obviously a part of).
  • The same thing is probably true for blogs with lots of comments (people are more likely to interact on a blog where others are already doing it)

I’m sure there are other examples – looking forward to you adding to my list. Come on – think out loud with me my friends!

A Secret to Blogging Success – Build Upon What You Build

build upon what you build.jpg
This week we’ve been looking at how to reach our potential by overcoming Blogger Inferiority Complex – a condition that cripples many bloggers.

Yesterday I suggested two steps to overcome this problem:

1. Identify What You Have – don’t focus one what you don’t have but instead focus upon what is at your fingertips that can be the foundation on what your future lies. I suggested 11 questions to ask yourself as a blogger to help you work out what you have.
2. Build Upon What You Have – starting with what you’ve got – begin to build from that place rather than being distracted by what others are building in their blogging.

Today I want to suggest a final step – one that comes out of my own experience as a blogger and from watching others succeed in blogging also.

3. Build upon what you Build

Here’s a ‘secret’ that I think sets highly successful people apart (in all walks of life) from the rest of us. They don’t just take what they’ve got and build upon it. They then build upon what they’ve built upon and then build again upon that…. and so on.

Many people get to a point with what they do where they become satisfied, content and where complacency sets in. They rest upon their laurels and stop pushing forward. I’ve seen this with a number of bloggers who quickly rose through the ‘ranks’ of blogging to build blogs that began to get attention and notoriety. But then they began to get comfortable and lost some of the drive that they may have previously had and pull back on the level of work that they were putting in – content just to enjoy the success they’d already had rather than to push into new ground.

The key is to push forward and ask some of the above questions on a regular basis. Here’s how it worked for me (this builds upon what I shared of my own story in yesterday’s post):

After six of so months of blogging on my first photography blog I sat down and looked at what I’d built. I realized that despite making some mistakes I’d covered some ground and what I DID have had grown.

I remember making a list of what I’d achieved at that point. The list included:

  • I had a blog on photography that was paying me enough to start to think about going full time on the project.
  • I had a new laptop that didn’t crash every hour (I was still on dial-up)
  • I had gathered some knowledge and experience of making money with blogs
  • I had some new blogger friends in my niche (and outside it) – some were beginning to talk about working together
  • I had a little more profile in blogging
  • I had the possibility of a little extra time on my hands as I’d completed my study

I looked at what I’d built and decided to bounce off that in a couple of directions. Firstly I decided to put my extra time into blogging more on the photography blog. I also decided to start a few other blogs on technology related to cameras. In a sense I used what I’d already build as a springboard or leverage to the next thing.

Leverage.jpg

I also decided to take my experience of making money from blogs and start blogging on that topic (at first on my personal blog).

Then began another phase of grow and building.

After another 6 or so months I made a similar list of what I’d achieved and progressed to have.

Out of doing that I decided to shift all my archives on blogging about blogging from my personal blog to a new blog here at ProBlogger.

The process has continued over the last couple of years (ie every 6 or so months pausing to identify what I’ve got and where the energy was and then building on that). This resulted in a number of new things and continued growth of existing projects.

For example:

  • out of having built a little credibility and profile with ProBlogger I was joined with other bloggers to build b5media
  • out of 2 years of blogging on digital cameras and growing an audience in that field I decided to launch Digital Photography School
  • out of reaching a point where I earned six figures in a year from blogging I joined with another blogger to launch Six Figure Blogging
  • out of all of these experiences I took the decision to write the ProBlogger Book with Chris Garrett.

Now I don’t want to use my story here beat my chest and grow my ego but as an example of the principles that I’m talking about.

I didn’t start out to build what I’ve built – I started out, looking at what I had and determining to build upon that. That’s all I wanted to do at every step along the journey.

If I’d looked at the big picture too early or compared my meagre efforts with others in my early days I would have become overwhelmed and disillusioned.

Instead I focused upon what I had and what I could do and grew from there. Then I’d repeat the process.

The results have been an evolutionary growth in my own personal development as a blogger and that of my business.

Let’s Revise

  1. Don’t define yourself by what you’re not
  2. Start with what you have
  3. Build upon what you have
  4. Build upon what you build