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How to Let Your Blog Go – Series Wrap Up

Over the last two weeks I’ve been running a 10 part series here at ProBlogger on 10 ways that you can let your blog go and what you should do about them. The series is now complete with the following 10 methods to let your blog go.

  1. Lack of Posting
  2. Getting Off Topic
  3. Becoming a Self Centered Blogger
  4. Great Content… Bad Titles
  5. Letting Comment Spam Take Over Your Blog
  6. Excuse Posts
  7. Becoming a Negative Blogger
  8. Having a Lack of Original Content
  9. Becoming Obsessed with Any One Aspect of Your Blog
  10. Stretching Yourself Too Thinly

So now that the series is over I’d be interested in hear your feedback.

  1. what else would you add to the list?
  2. which ones don’t you agree with?
  3. which ones do you struggle with the most? How do you overcome them?

PS: I’m now back from my paternity leave and am looking forward to getting back into some more blogging in the coming weeks. I am currently working on some posts on ‘finding readers for your blog’ for the coming week. Stay tuned.

Using bbPress Forums to Community Power Your WordPress Blog

A couple of weeks ago I had an email from Terry Ng from Kineda (a great fashion site) telling me about how they’d been using WordPress and bbPress together to create an innovative site. I asked Terry if she’d tell us what they’ve done and how they’ve done it. Here is her guest post on using bbPress and WordPress together.

Kineda is a blog where young trendsetters come to read about the latest in fashion and lifestyle. It’s a very large and fast paced niche that is constantly changing, and keeping up with all the various trends is virtually impossible. Like many bloggers, I’d often receive letters from readers asking if I had seen such and such. The answer was usually no. After a flurry of such e-mails one afternoon, I figured why not harness the knowledge of my readership. After all, a million eyes are better than two right?

Kineda-1

The idea of the Kineda Lookbook was born. The Lookbook would be a way for readers to share the trends they discovered and bought into without having to go through me to do so. The big question was how to make this as simple for a large group of non-tech savvy readers. My initial thought was, “Why not allow everyone contributer access to my WordPress install?” Readers could submit their ideas directly, and all I would need to do is hit the lovely approve and publish button. I gave this idea a trial run for a week, and soon discovered that my WordPress dashboard became an unmanageable nightmare. WordPress just wasn’t built with a half million contributers in mind.

Back to the drawing board I went. A few years ago, Kineda was run solely as a forum. It was a great community and an easy way for readers to share ideas, but lacked direction because of the range of topics anyone could create. It was because of this lack of direction, that I moved Kineda to it’s current blog format where I could provide the focus the site needed. Now if I could guide the forum topics created by readers, I’d be half way to finding a solution to power the Lookbook.

I set out to find compatible forums for WordPress that I could modify for this project. The three criteria were:

  1. Lightweight but extensible
  2. Built with CSS (I’m a stickler for web standards)
  3. Seamless integration with WordPress

The two big forum guns, vBulletin and phpBB were definitely out of the question since they’re way too bloated and built primarily with tables. I then looked at open source solution Vanilla which seemed like a winner, but unfortunately failed on integration with WordPress. A completely different code base and database schema meant management would be difficult during version changes. Vanilla does offer a plugin to share logins between the two systems, but it’s very fickle with the which version of WordPress it works with. The other drawback is the plugin only works with new users, forcing existing users to re-regiser. Unacceptable in my mind.

The logical choice was bbPress, made by the same great folks that bring us WordPress. bbPress is extremely lightweight with a focus on integration, speed, and web standards while keeping the package as small as possible. And although bbPress is lean and mean, it does offer an extensive plugin system like WordPress to extend it’s capabilities.

The pairing of the two softwares would create the basis for Kineda’s Blog and community powered Lookbook combo.

Other examples of highly customized bbPress and WordPress pairings are 9Rules Notes (now called Chawlk) and Technorati’s Support Forums. These unique communities are based on bbPress’s flexbility to be extended with almost any functionality imaginable. Think WordPress plugins on roids!

The first and most important step to your new bbPress and WordPress community should be seamless integration. Users will be frustrated and discouraged if they have to login once to your blog and then again to your forum. An easy guide on how to integrate bbPress and WordPress can be found on Kineda.

Once you’ve integrated the two, you’ll need to theme your bbPress install to match your WordPress blog. Themes work exactly the same as they do in WordPress.

Next, you’ll need to customize your bbPress install. There are hundreds of plugins for bbPress, but I’ve highlighted an important few that will help you get started on building your new online community. Many are similar to the ones used to power Kineda’s lookbook.

I hope this has been helpful in looking beyond WordPress to enhance your blog and the community around it.

How To Use Product Launch Principles When Selling From Your Blog

Today Yaro Starak from Entrepreneurs Journey and the Blog Mastermind Mentoring Program has written this post on Selling from your blog.

When I say the words “product launch” do you cringe and think of over-hyped Internet marketing product launches? Or maybe you have never been on the end of a barrage of emails sent out by countless affiliates during a big launch and to you a product launch is what it sounds like – creating and then selling a new product.

Whatever the case, more and more bloggers are realizing the potential of releasing a product from their blog as a way to make serious money. While a majority of bloggers continue to leverage advertising as the most significant source of revenue from their blog, there has definitely been a shift towards product creation as a sound blog monetization strategy.

Given successful blogging creates a fantastic platform for selling, it’s only natural as bloggers learn more about monetization that they consider releasing a product or series of products and use their blog as the launch pad.

Unfortunately many bloggers are not familiar with product launch principles – the marketing techniques you implement during a launch to increase sales – and as a result, experience less than stellar results.

Internet Marketing and Blogging

I’m a blogger immersed in the Internet marketing niche, which means I’m over exposed to the product launch process. I’ve been on the receiving end as a prospect for countless product launches, I’ve been an affiliate for big launches and conducted my own launches selling my own products.

Needless to say, I understand a lot about product launch and today I want to offer you two tips you can make use of on your blog when you release a product.

Why only two tips?

I was thinking of some of the classic techniques that all product launches use, things like scarcity, reciprocity, social proof, bonuses, limited offers, etc – All techniques that work and concepts I’ve discussed on my blog previously.

Generally speaking, some people look at these techniques as ways to manipulate others into making a purchase they don’t need or to hype things up unnecessarily. I don’t exactly agree with that, but this is article it not meant to be a debate about the legitimacy of marketing techniques, rather I want to present something practical you can apply when launching a product from your blog.

I know how much some problogger readers hate the long sales page format for selling, so I’m going to stay as far away from that style of Internet marketing as possible and suggest two techniques that every blogger should appreciate and inherently understand how to use.

Note that you can use these techniques to conduct a product launch from your blog to sell your own product or to sell other people’s products. I’ve used the following ideas to sell my own course Blog Mastermind and also when conducting affiliate promotions.

If you want to make more affiliate sales from your blog, use product launch techniques to augment the marketing process. It does take more work, but if you do this right, some extra effort today can result in a significant increase to your sales and also prolong how long you continue to make sales (even after the blog posts are no longer on your front page – yes, you can even make sales from your blog archives!).

Technique 1: Tell Stories

All good bloggers understand that story telling is a cornerstone of compelling blog content. I’ve based an entire blog on my ability to tell my “entrepreneur’s journey”.

Story telling is not something everyone can naturally grasp, but with practice it comes to most bloggers. You just need to learn how to talk about your life or other people’s lives in a way that teaches or entertains.

When applying story telling to a product launch process, the idea is to use the technique to create a frame around the product that cuts through the “noise” bombarding your readers. The noise is everything else in the realm of perception of a person you are trying to communicate with using your blog.

You could tell a story about the product, how you created it or discovered the need for it, or perhaps about your life and how you came to use another product, in the case of affiliate marketing.

Using a story you can market a product without overtly “pitching” it. It’s when a person feels they are being sold to, that they (ironically) usually choose not to buy, because of how over-sold to we are in today’s society. Our tolerance for selling is low, but we still love a good story especially when it teaches us something relevant and valuable to our own lives.

Most bloggers when selling a product will stick up one blog post, talk about how great the product features are, maybe reproduce some copy from the sales letter, and then wonder why no one buys.

A product launch is a process – so to is crafting a story through blog posts. You need to explain what is good about the product by talking about how you used it… using a story. Describe what situation a person is in when the product is needed… using a story…and so on.

Story telling goes hand-in-hand with the second tip I have for you – content marketing.

Technique 2: Market With Content

Again, this is a concept bloggers understand. We are all content producers and we make money off the back of our ability to produce content people love.

When conducting a product launch you create content that has a very specific purpose – to provide value to the people who are likely to purchase the product – the prospects from your target market.

Prospects identify themselves by engaging with your content, which may be indicated by subscribing to your RSS feed, joining your email list or leaving a comment. The important thing is that they read your content, preferably from start to finish, which isn’t something you can ever be certain of unfortunately. Analyzing your server statistics for time spent on your blog is one way you can assess engagement, but it’s not an exact science.

Content marketing for a product launch is not that different from what you should do every day at your blog, however when utilized for a launch you narrow the focus to align tightly with the product you are selling.

Internet marketing experts use free videos, reports, web services and scripts, all designed to provide significant value. This process is often called “moving the free line” and you do this because it helps to sell more product. When the free stuff you give away is so amazing, people who are engaged with your work are eager to get a hold of the product you sell.

As an added benefit, even if people don’t purchase your product, the great content you deliver as part of the launch increases your blog’s growth. There’s no downside with content marketing, if you do it right.

Putting It Together

Using just these two techniques you can enjoy tremendous success when launching a product from your blog.

All you need to do is release lots of great content that is relevant and valuable to the same audience that desires your product AND use stories to deliver this content.

Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you blog about digital television technology and you have put together a guide on how to buy a digital television and set up a home theater, which you plan to sell via your blog. The guide includes installation tips, how to set up the theater, the questions to ask when speaking to the shop attendant when buying the tv and other equipment, common pitfalls to avoid and so on.

As a lead up to the release of your product you publish a series of posts explaining how you came to fall in love with digital television technology, why you love it and the mistakes you made when buying your first digital television and setting up your home theater. All of these posts are stories from your life, they educate your readers, and where appropriate, you mention a guide you are about to release that provides further details if people want to learn more.

You then release a free report listing the top 10 televisions, breaking them down by a set of criteria you came up with, explaining that the full guide includes a list of over 50 televisions assessed using the same criteria.

All of this content is valuable to your blog readers regardless of whether they purchase the guide. The free blog posts and report attract the type of audience who would buy your guide and they enjoy samples that demonstrate how good you are at what you do, therefore how good your product is likely to be.

This process is much more likely to stimulate purchases, it’s A LOT more effective at converting than a single blog post that forces a hard sales pitch, and you get ample fresh content for your blog too.

What I especially love about this process is that it explains the benefits and features of a product using language that isn’t blatant selling or full of hype. The content you give away inherently demonstrates how much value you present (and thus your products), who stands to benefit from your advice and the stories you tell create a frame that cuts through the noise and grabs attention.

Your Launch

As bloggers you should naturally understand story telling and content marketing because there’s nothing new there that you don’t already do to create great content for your blog.

In the case of a product launch, you take these ideas and apply them to a specific purpose – to sell your product. At its simplest, a sequence of blog posts leading up to the release of your product can produce a great result and yet, so few bloggers put in even this much concentrated effort.

I hope after reading this article, before you release a product, you consider putting in a little extra effort to build buzz about your launch using great content and story telling. Implement a launch strategy rather than just stick your product up and “see what happens”. Strategic marketing always works better than simply “hoping” your product will be a success.

Good luck!

Yaro Starak
Entrepreneurs-Journey.com

The Long Tail of Blogging: Why Content is King

In this post Eric from Photography Bay examines the Long Tail as it applies to blogging.

Content is king. Yawn . . . right? You know this tired phrase is the gospel of blogging, but did you ever wonder why content is really king? You spend your time developing and massaging your posts to create the next bit of killer content. It’s the post that hits the front page of Digg, gets Stumbled to death or even Slashdotted. That’s why content is king, right? Wrong.

Content is King Because of the Long Tail of Blogging.

In 2004, Chris Anderson coined the term “The Long Tail” in a Wired Magazine article, which he followed up with a “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More” (Chris Anderson)“>book and a blog on the subject. If you’re not familiar with the phrase or its meaning, here’s a very brief summary from Chris himself:

The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail.

long-tail-1.png
(Picture by Hay Kranen / PD – via Wikipedia)

Example – Amazon.com

One of the best examples is Amazon.com, which provides consumers with access to the latest and greatest hit products, books and more. Sales of the bestseller books, however, pale in comparison to sales of the many obscure books in Amazon’s catalog. Hence, the long tail of the book market is where the majority of sales are coming from – and it’s growing.

Hot Content vs. Archived Content

Apply these same principles to your blog. That killer super-dugg post is great . . . for a day or two. Granted, the super-dugg post is sometimes great for added readers, linkbacks and helping your blog grow. It’s the long tail, however, that keeps your blog alive and thriving. While that traffic spike is great, if you adhere to publishing solid content as ProBlogger encourages, then your old, quality content overshadows even that super-dugg masterpiece.

Eyes on Photography Bay Stats

For instance, have a gander at this recent Photography Bay post on a new patent from camera manufacturer Canon, which covers some crazy new iris scanner for a photographer’s eye. This post turned out to be extremely popular for a few days, producing 5,839 pageviews on Wednesday, Feb. 13 – thanks to being Slashdotted and coverage by several tech sites.

long-tail-2.jpg

The total page views that day were 14,721. The lesson here is that even though the killer post for that day was miles above any other traffic, the rest of the content on Photography Bay bettered the killer post.

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Some of these posts are several months old. If you look further down the list of traffic-generating posts (470 different pages this particular day), you would see that some posts are closer to a year in age. That’s pretty cool to me because Photography Bay is only about 15 months old now. Now, think about 2, 3, or 5 years down the road . . . the long tail gets much longer and becomes a lot more significant.

long-tail-4.jpg

The long tail matters because of Google, linkbacks, readers and other requisite traffic-generating resources. If it weren’t for that catalog of niche posts that we build everyday we blog, posts like the Canon iris patent post might never take off.

Caveat

Please note, however, that this theory may be more true for some blog niches than others. Tech blogs often need that fresh content coming in to keep reader interest, since new gadgets and technology are more interesting than older gadgets (e.g., Googling for HDMI cables versus S-VHS cables). On the other hand, a niche blog on the healthcare industry will still grab Google traffic for the search “medicare anti-kickback laws” regardless of the age of the post. The topic has been around for a couple of decades and isn’t going anywhere in the near future.

The Right Analogy for the Long Tail

Contrary to what Read Write Web may say, the long tail is where the money’s at. Rather than analyzing a given blog’s posts and income, Read Write Web applied the long tail analysis to the blogosphere as a whole. While the data conforms to the long tail, the analogy and, thus, the conclusion, are flawed. Applying the principals of the long tail in the same manner as the Amazon example above, the long tail analysis properly demonstrates that a blog requires a significant amount of niche content to fit the model. With the content in hand, the long tail will wag the blog.

Conclusion

Google regularly accounts for more than 50% of Photography Bay’s traffic, which is why I must strive to continue to make that long tail longer. Today’s killer post is part of next month’s long tail traffic – and I want a longer tail! Regular, quality posts ensure that there will be a long tail tomorrow and that, my friends, is why content is king.

What are your thoughts on the long tail of blogging? Have you seen the long tail wagging your blog? How can we leverage these principals to make our positions in our niches even stronger?

Eric is the author of Photography Bay, which covers digital photography news, techniques and gear reviews. You can subscribe to Photography Bay’s feed here.

Stretching Yourself Too Thinly – How to Let Your Blog Go #10

Today I want to share one last way to let your blog go to round off our 10 part series. It’s something that has at times almost brought my own blogging to a grinding halt - taking on too many projects and stretching myself too thinly.

There’s a fine line between:

1. diversifying your blogging interests so as to have a number of income streams to help ride out the downtimes that most blogs suffer from

and

2. having so many blogs on the go that they begin to suffer as a result of you not being able to dedicate your focus to them.

The Argument for Diversification

I’ve written on numerous occasions about how it is smart to diversify when it comes to blogging for money (for example here in my 18 Lessons I’ve Learned about Blogging post). Diversification makes sense on a number of levels including:

  • Multiple Blogs (wise because most blogs go through highs and lows in terms of traffic, earnings, search engine ranking etc)
  • Income Streams (not putting all your eggs in the AdSense basket)
  • Non Blogging activities/income streams (looking outside of blogging to find other ways of supplementing your blogging income)

Diversifying your interests is a smart move – ask any financial advisor and you’ll find the advice will almost always be to hedge your bets and invest in multiple areas so that when one market goes down you don’t lose everything.

The Problem with Diversification

While I do believe that it’s smart to diversify – there are some risks with the strategy. The main problem is that you run the risk of spreading yourself too thinly across your blogs.

I learned this the hard way in my first couple of years of blogging for money. I saw what I could achieve with having a single blog and decided to multiply my efforts by blogging on up to 20 blogs at once. The result was poor quality content, stress and strain and eventually blogger burn out.

The more I gave myself to do the less time I was able to dedicate to any one activity – including the producing of engaging, useful, interesting and unique content. The flow on effect of this is that my earnings in this period didn’t raise anywhere near as much as I’d hoped.

What I ended up doing was to hire a blogger to take on one of the projects that I was running, to kill off the majority of the rest of my blogs and to focus upon two blogs (ProBlogger and DPS). In doing so I saw immediate results. The blogs I was able to focus all of my blogging energy upon literally exploded as a result of the improvement in content, the extra time I was able to dedicate to interacting with readers and my extra energy levels which renewed my passion for the topics I was writing about.

Are You Spreading Yourself Too Thinly?

There are a number of areas that I see bloggers (including myself) spreading themselves too thinly including:

  • Multiple Blogs – I find two blogs is enough for me – at b5media we have a few bloggers who handle more than that, but there comes a point where their blogs suffer if they add more.
  • Social Media – it seems that every day a new social networking site starts. If you were to accept every invitation and engage fully on every one of them you could easily spend your whole life on these sites.
  • Reader Interaction – you can never do enough interacting with readers right? Well actually you can. There comes a point where even the very worthwhile task of interacting with your readers can distract you from your core task – the producing of good content.
  • Multiple Income Streams – there comes a point where if you add too many different ad networks, affiliate programs and other income streams to your blog where you can be spending too much time administering them. Optimizing ads, tracking results, chasing up payments etc – it all takes time. Sometimes focussing on just a handful of income streams makes more sense than experimenting with too many at once.

Now before I go any further let me stress that the above activities are all good – but they CAN be responsible for you spreading yourself too thinly. I do think it’s wise to have more than one blog, engage with social media, interact with readers and experiment with new income streams…. but not at the expense of your core blogging activities – particularly the writing of content.

Tips for Overstretched Bloggers

If you are like I have been at different times in my blogging ‘career’ I have a few questions to ask and tips for you:

What is Important to You? – I think it’s crucial to constantly be asking yourself this question. Identify your goals in blogging. What are you trying to achieve? Once you’ve asked this take a look at how you spend your time and identify which things that you’re doing take you closer to your goals and which are not.

Where is the Energy? – Identify where the energy is within your different activities. What is working and what isn’t? What is producing fruit and what is greedily sucking your time and energy without any benefits? I’m a big believer looking for points of ‘energy’ in my life and putting more focus upon them. For example when I realized how I’d spread myself too thinly with 20+ blogs I picked the two or three that worked and killed the rest.

Set Yourself Deadlines - When I start new projects I generally have a deadline in mind when I would want to see results by. If i don’t see at least some signs of life in the project at this point I either kill off the project or work out how to approach it differently so that I’ll see the results I need.

Streamline your Processes - what things do you have to do that you’re inefficient at? I always knew how much time email was sucking out of my day but did nothing about it for years. The extra pressure that my inefficiency in this area of my business cost me was stupid and meant I was stretching myself further than I needed. Reinventing my email processing system gave me extra time.

What other processes suck your time? Perhaps it’s email, perhaps its reading RSS feeds, perhaps its social media, perhaps it is an activity like moderating comments? How can you streamline these important but time consuming processes?

Outsource – There has been a big focus upon outsourcing lately (Tim’s The 4-Hour Workweek might have had something to do with it). I don’t outsource much of my blogging activities but do see the sense in it. I currently have help with comment moderation and have taken on a few writers at DPS which has helped me tremendously. Do keep in mind however that outsourcing means managing others which can take even more time away from you in the short term while you get people set up.

Be Ruthless – My last tip is to echoe the thoughts that I shared in my post on how to be a Ruthless blogger. While it can be hard to let go of blogs that don’t work or to cut out activities that suck our time the fact is that for many bloggers it is these things that stand between success and mediocrity.

Why Being a Better Writer Affects the Performance of your Blog

Better Writer Blog PerformanceAmrit Hallan from Content Blog writes today about how improving your writing can improve the performance of your blog – Image by The Trial.

Why are writers banned and persecuted in undemocratic countries? Because the written word is stronger than the entire governments and the ruthless forces they wield upon their masses. Effective writing can awaken civilizations and trigger unprecedented upheavals. If you’re not using writing as a potent tool for the success of your blog you are missing a big opportunity.

Although people do many things with their blogs like posting pictures and videos, they mostly write on their blogs. Writing is the primary mode of articulation when it comes to blogging; everything happens through writing if you publish written content on your blog. Since the promotion of your blog is as important as the regular updates here too the strength of you writing ability plays a crucial part — we will come to that later on.

By being a “better writer” I don’t mean that you have to give Stephen King, Salman Rushdie and Garcia a run for their money. It also doesn’t mean having good presentation but no substance. Relevance is a factor that is quintessential to the success of your blog but how you present the relevant topic also matters a lot.

You simply need to know how to convey your message compellingly and convincingly. This involves a certain comfort level with the words and the language you use. The comfort level helps you write fast especially when you have to write multiple blog posts or when you have to interact on various forums and comment sections. If you spend hours writing/editing/proofreading just one blog post it is going to be a very laborious task and soon you will run out of steam unless the passion is indefatigable.

Writing is a skill that can be acquired without even having formal training — most best-seller authors never received formal training in writing. I myself have a math background but earn my living writing for others (hope to do it solely for myself in the near future).

How you can learn to write well would be a topic for another blog post, but here I’m briefly discussing the benefits of this quality.

Writing well gives you a unique personality as a blogger

According to Technorati there are million of blogs on the Internet. Among them there are thousands, maybe, that are read by people and not just by the bots. Sometimes you can find scores of blogs dealing with the same subject. For instance, you can find a horde of blogs telling you how to become a better blogger. How do you differentiate one blog from another if they are all trying to make you a better blogger? Consistency is one thing, of course, but the other thing is the writing style. No pyrotechnic words, no surrealistic references; just simple and useful thoughts collated effectively.

Darren, for example, directly talks to his readers and addresses their day-to-day, blogging-related problems, while sticking to the most dominant theme of his blog: how to earn money off your blog. I have noticed that he writes quite well; I don’t know if he has gradually developed the skill or it was inherently there in him. Another blogger whose writing style I admire is Leo of Zen Habits. Talking of Leo, just consider how much writing he does; I am sure he doesn’t have to struggle with the appropriate words and expressions while churning out, maybe, more than 50 blog posts every month for his own blog and for other blogs.

The ability to write well saves you lots of time and consequently makes you more productive as a blogger

This is made amply clear with Leo’s example. He is comfortable writing so he can write so much. Let me reiterate here again that when I talk about writing well I don’t mean an ability to create great literary works; writing well involves talking in the language of your readers so that they find your writing engaging, easy to read and extremely useful. When you know how to write well you don’t have to waste your time trying to write, you can simply focus on the central message and the right words and expressions manifest on their own.

Writing well keeps your readers coming to your blog again and again

Haven’t you often subscribed to a blogger’s RSS feeds simply because you love the way he or she writes? When you write well, when you write in a manner that your readers can relate to, they want to read you whenever they get a chance. When you’re known for writing well your blog posts attract more traffic because your readers don’t want to miss your latest update.

This reminds me, when I used to design websites I generated lots of traffic for my web designing website by writing web designing and web programming tutorials for other website. There was one thing that distinguished my tutorials from other tutorials covering the same topics: an underlying sense of humor. Even the most intricate programming issues I explained in a funny, entertaining manner. I started getting professional writing assignments due to this very quality of my writing. It just came to my mind recently that somewhere while writing content professionally I lost that touch. That used to be my “voice”. I haven’t succeeded yet, but I’m trying to get it back while writing blog posts.

Writing well helps you promote your blog

In the end it all boils down to how well and how fast you can write when it comes to leaving comments on other blogs, writing guest blog posts, generating linkbait content for your blog and interacting on online forums. All these efforts require lots of time and this is the main reason why many bloggers fail to utilize the techniques to promote their blogs. The ability to write well minimizes the time you need to generate content for external sources. When people find your writing engaging they immediately click your link to see what more you have written on your own blog.

Well, inadvertently this has turned out to be a longer post than I had initially planned (sticking to plans is something I really have to work on). If Darren lets me (or if he takes a vacation again), one day I would like to write a post here discussing how you can become a better writer without having to put in a gargantuan effort.

Amrit Hallan blogs at Content Blog. He writes about blogging, content trends and online copywriting.

Becoming Obsessed with Any One Aspect of Your Blog – How to Let Your Blog Go #9

Let-Your-Blog-GoOne of the most common ways that I see a blog ‘go under’ is when the blogger gets distracted from the overall task of blogging by one single aspect of blogging.

Here’s the thing – for a blog to become successful you can’t just work on one aspect of it – there are many tasks to work on as it grows. These include writing content, engaging readers, watching what’s going on in your niche, building networks with other blogs and sites in your niche, working on the design of your blog, moderating comments, promoting your blog/marketing, finding, managing and optimizing income streams, search engine optimization, tracking your blog’s metrics…. and more.

It’s a bit of an overwhelming list isn’t it!?

The problem comes when a blogger becomes obsessed with any one aspect of the list – at the expense of other aspects.

Each of the things I’ve mentioned above are legitimate things to work about on your blog (some more important than others at different stages of a blog’s life) however a blog grows best when you’re working on them all and not just when you do one of them.

Five Types of Obsessed Bloggers

Let me share five common scenarios that I see:

1. The Design Maniac - perhaps one of the most common examples of this is the blogger who becomes so obsessed about how their blog looks that they do little else but tweak it visually by playing with their CSS, touching up logos, trying different layouts, testing new menus and navigation….

Not that there’s anything wrong with any of this – but if it’s all you do when are you going to write content, do some networking and moderate comments?

2. The SEO(bsessed) – I went through a phase where I became obsessed by Search Engine Optimization. Symptoms of this disorder include writing for Search Engines instead of human beings (you know, posts with the same keywords 400 times, all bolded and in heading tags), spending more time tweaking your templates more than you spend time writing content, making every post you write link to your ‘make money online’ page which is filled with affiliate links, checking your page rank every morning before you moderate your comments and sending out hundreds of emails to other bloggers you’ve never heard of before asking them to link to your post….

OK – again, SEO isn’t evil, Search Engines can actually be a rich source of traffic for your blog – however SEO is also enhanced by quality content, well coded sites and the best sites rank well in SE’s because they get linked to for their quality.

3. The Social Media Sell Out – this is something most bloggers go through at one stage or another too. They hear about the masses of traffic that a site like Digg or StumbleUpon can send and they write post after post specifically with the hope of getting on the front page of social bookmarking sites.

You know the posts I’m talking about – 419 Stupid Britney Spears Quotes, 10 Ways to Skin a Cat…. Really!, Ron Paul (insert anything here)….

These types of posts can draw a lot of traffic to your blog, the problem is that it can be a rather empty experience if you’ve not worked on your blog’s design and worked out how to keep the readers. It can also frustrate your regular readers who are wanting posts of substance. Lastly the traffic can be quite destructive (both to your servers and the comment areas on your posts – particularly if you draw 10,000 angry little Digg users into your blog). Sure – write some posts and experiment with social media, but don’t get obsessed.

4. The Money Hungry Blogger - There’s nothing wrong with monetizing your blog but if someone arrives at your blog and there is NOTHING but ads above the fold of your blog you might want to have a think about the first impression you’re creating.

If every post you write contains an affiliate link or is a paid review, welcomes another sponsor, calls for new sponsors or launches your latest ebook – then you also might want to consider the reputation that you’re creating for yourself as a blogger.

5. The Stat-a-holic – if you wake up in the morning and before you have a coffee, head to the bathroom, kiss your wife or pick up your screaming baby from his cot…. you’ve just got to check your blog’s stats – YOU’VE GOT A PROBLEM!

Once again, most bloggers go through a stage when they start out when they seem to check their blog’s stats more times a day than pretty much doing anything else – but for some bloggers they never grow out of it. They spend hour after hour not only checking visitor numbers but have a daily process of checking where every reader arrived from, how many pages they viewed, what links they clicked, how long they took on each page and where they headed to after leaving.

Knowing how people use your blog is good – but…. if you spend more time checking stats then anything else you’ll notice one big stat – no one comes back because you’re not putting enough time into writing content!

The List Could Go On

I could go on describing bloggers who obsess over promoting their blog, networking, building reader community, writing on only one aspect of your niche, exploring new blog tools etc – but you get the picture.

This stuff is all good – but you’ve got to keep some balance!

Tips for Single Minded Bloggers

Do a Time Audit - Take some time out today and think about how you use your time when it comes to blogging. Where is the majority of your time going? List all the tasks in the order that you put time in and ask yourself – am I in danger of obsessing over any one of them? What am I ignoring that I should be doing more of?

Once you know where (if) you’re out of balance it’s time to do something about it.

Give Yourself a Schedule – One thing that I did in the early days of blogging was to set myself a schedule. At the time I was working two jobs and studying part time so only had a couple of hours a day so my schedule included a little time in the mornings for checking emails, an hour before leaving for work to write a post or two and then in the evenings I devoted my time to networking, email and moderating comments. Once a week I also put an hour aside for some SEO and once a month I’d put aside time for design.

Create a Points System - Another system that some bloggers use is to create a ‘points system‘ where they give themselves different ‘points’ for achieving certain goals on their blog.

Get Feedback from Others - I’d also recommend asking someone else for their feedback on this. Sometimes it’s easy to get distracted on one aspect of your blog without realizing it. Ask another blogger or a trusted reader or two for honest feedback on how they think you’re going. You might be surprised with what they come back with.

Have Your Say

What is your obsession (or has been) as a blogger? Are you in danger of getting out of balance? What do you do to keep yourself more balanced?

Whose Blog IS This?

Today Lightening talks us through the process of deciding whether to monetize her blog and how she involved her readers in that process.

I recently went through the process of deciding whether or not to monetize my personal blog Lightening Online. Personal Blogs seem to be a whole different ball game when it comes to monetization.

Some people have VERY strong views about the ethics of earning money from a personal blog. Blogs on various “how to” type topics very clearly offer the reader some kind of benefit. The question is, do personal blogs offer enough to be considered “worthy” of making the blog writer some kind of income? Is entertainment enough? If you truly consider your blog readers to be friends, is there an ethical consideration to earning money this way?

Now we all know how precious and important blog readers are. Without them a blog is very little more than a wind chime tinkling in the breeze with no-one around to hear its melodic sound.

Upsetting, and possibly losing, the small blog readership I had painstakingly and carefully built up was one of my biggest concerns when it came to monetizing my blog. Losing the credibility of my voice was another. Plus of course the worry that people might perceive my motivation for blogging as something akin to personal gain.

So I made what I considered to be a wise move and gave my readers both a say and a vote in whether or not they thought monetization of my blog was a good idea.

During my training to become a Child Care worker, we were taught a very valuable lesson when it came to asking questions. You should NEVER ask a child a question if you are not prepared for a negative answer. For instance, if you want a child to come to lunch, you don’t say to them “would you like to come to lunch”, you say “it’s time to come to lunch now”. By phrasing it in the former way, you are leaving opportunity for them to respond with a “no”.

It’s quite simple really. If you don’t want a “no” for an answer, don’t ask a “yes or no” question. It’s a pity I didn’t consider employing this wisdom when it came to asking my blog readers whether or not they thought I should monetize my blog.

By asking my readers opinions I was giving them the opportunity to vote “no” to monetizing my blog. Was I really prepared to accept “no” as an answer?

While on the whole my readers were supportive of my desire to monetize my blog, some were quite vocal in their dissent. This led me to feel rather uncomfortable about proceeding with monetization. I felt that if I did I would be blatantly doing so against their wishes.

Those of you who are parents will understand that there is a big difference between a child who accidentally stumbles into wrongdoing (okay, maybe not accidentally…) and one who wilfully goes against something you have told them not to do.

I guess in some ways, I felt like the child in this blogging relationship rather than the parent. If I went ahead and monetized my blog, I did so KNOWING that it would upset those readers. If I went ahead, was I committing some mortal blogging sin that would be the death knoll for my precious baby – my blog?

I’m not for a minute suggesting that either myself OR my blog readers are children. I’m just using this analogy to illustrate a balance of power. As a parent, I get to make the decisions that I feel are best for my child. I might take their views into consideration, but ultimately, the balance of power lies with me.

Inadvertently, I had shifted the balance of power in my blog. Instead of ME making the decisions, I had mentally allowed my readers to have the power over those decisions. Partially by offering them the chance to vocally object but also by my own reaction to their opinions.

I needed to remind myself that this is MY blog. I’m the one who gets to make the decisions. I’m all for reader input, considering the readers views and so forth. As I’ve already said, a blog can be a rather lonely and empty place without it’s readers.

BUT, your readers come to hear what YOU have to say.

I realised that I needed to TRUST myself more. To believe in myself. Something had attracted those readers to my blog. That something was ME. If I believed that a small amount of monetization would benefit me without harming my blog then I could follow that belief confidently, trusting that whatever had attracted my readers to my blog in the first place, would encourage them to stick around regardless.

After all, it is MY blog! :)

Lightening’s personal blog, Lightening Online, is a place where she shares her laughter and tears as she journeys through life. She also has a more recent blog discussing blogs and issues related to blogging at Lightening’s Blogworld.

Having a Lack of Original Content on Your Blog – How to Let Your Blog Go #8

Let-Your-Blog-GoThis week we’ve been looking at a variety of ways that bloggers let their blogs degenerate. Today I want to talk about something that has the potential to kill a blog very quickly – the lack of original content or ideas.

This is a mistake that many bloggers fall into to numerous degrees. At one extreme we see bloggers simply scraping and republishing the feeds of others and slapping ads on them (splogs) – however there are a lot more subtle ways of falling into this trap that are easy to fall into.

I chatted to one blogger recently who told me that he’d just realized that without knowing it his blog had become of devoid of originality. Here’s a paragraph from an email that he wrote me (shared with permission but with a request of anonymity – edited slightly to keep the blog and niche not identifiable):

“My blog used to contain daily posts of me sharing my ideas about my niche. I would research topics and the news and their share my own views on the developments happening. But slowly over time I let things slip. It started slowly with me writing a few posts taking quotes from others in my niche and then adding a few thoughts of my own. These posts were actually good and I don’t regret them – but after a while I got lazy and began to add less of my own thoughts and more and more of the thoughts of others. Now I look at my blog and on any given week my readers are lucky to hear any of my own views on our niche. They might as well simply subscribe to the 10 blogs that I quote, they’d get as much value if they did.”

Wow, what an honest and powerful self critique. This blogger has gone on to reinvent their blog. While they still point readers to what others are writing in their niche they do it in a sidebar section on the blog and have started writing 2-3 original opinion pieces on their industry per week as the main focus of their blog.

The problem with having no originality on a blog:

This topic is a little tricky because I know how many bloggers fall into the ‘trap’ of simply reposting the ideas of others on their blogs. To complicate things further different types of blogs can get away with it more than others (for example some of the biggest blogs going around like Engadget and Gizmodo are largely reporting stories that break elsewhere).

However – in general, if you want people to find your blog and keep coming back to it for more you need to have something unique and original on your blog in terms of content. This is particularly true for new blogs (perhaps some of the big ones get away with it because they were early to their niches) who face hundreds and even thousands of competitors in many niches.

If you don’t have something unique to say then it’s unlikely that people will choose your blog to use as their source of information on your topic.

Solution: As with all of the ‘solutions’ to the problems that we’re tackling this week – today’s is pretty obvious, but somewhat difficult to actually do. The solution is to strive to produce unique and original content for your blog. This ‘uniqueness’ can happen in a number of ways including:

  • The topics you cover – finding new and interesting aspects of your niche or industry that others are not covering can set you apart from the rest.
  • The stance you take - one way of being unique on a story that everyone is covering is to take a different stance/opinion on it.
  • The voice that you write in – lastly it’s sometimes good to actually write the post in a different style or voice. For example if everyone else is looking at a story from a serious analytical angle – write about it in a humorous way. If everyone is taking one side of an argument play devils advocate and explore the flip side of the coin.

Tips for Bloggers Attempting to Add Originality to their Blog:

In a previous post titled ‘how to add to blogging conversations‘ I give the following 11 pointers on how to add value to conversations that are happening in the blogosphere without simply replicating what everyone else is saying (I’ve included just the headings of each point below – check out the post for more details on each one):

  1. what did they say well?
  2. what did they miss?
  3. answer questions
  4. what are others saying?
  5. how does it apply to you?
  6. look forward
  7. look backward
  8. extend ideas
  9. take the ‘opposite’ tac
  10. ask what if?
  11. play devil’s advocate

Another quick tip on adding originality to your blog – share an opinion. Blogs that go beyond pointing out breaking news and that share opinions on their topic tend to generate discussion, get the attention of other bloggers and build readership. People want to know what you think and feel about your topic – so tell them.

Further Reading