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Zemanta – First Impress Review

There’s some interesting buzz around the blogosphere today about a tool called Zemanta (found via WebWare) which is a blogging tool that works in your browser as an add-on that suggests content and licensed pictures that relates to content that you are writing at any given time.

Once you’ve got it installed at any point that you start writing a post in your blog’s backend (it supports WordPress.com, Blogger.com, Typepad.com, and self-hosted WordPresses from version 2.0 onwards) it begins to suggest images, related articles, links and tags that relate to what you’ve written.

I am currently using Zemanta as I write this post and here’s the screen shot so far of what it’s suggesting so far (click to enlarge):

Zemanta-Screen-Shot

The suggestions update every 300 characters that you write – so as your article develops, so too do the suggestions that Zemanta comes up with.

When you see something that you like you can add it to your post by clicking them. If it’s a link Zemanta automatically makes the first mention of that word in your post that link (which is what I did with the first mention of ‘Zemanta’ in this post in the first paragraph.

It works similarly with tags, related articles and images. I’ll include some related articles at the bottom of this post as suggested by Zemanta.

You can see a demo of how it works in the video below:


Zemanta Blogger integration from zemanta on Vimeo.

So what do I think of Zemanta?

A few thoughts come to mind:

1. I like the concept – it has the potential to really add depth and interest to blog posts. The idea of adding related links, articles and images is a really good one.
2. I don’t blog in the back end of my blog – I use a blog editor (ecto). So I’d have to change my blogging workflow considerably to use it.
3. It’s a little Buggy – I’ve noticed even when writing this post that every time Zemanta updates my browser freezes a little and my cursor is taken to the bottom of my post, even if I’m not working on that part of the post. This is quite annoying as I jump around in my posts quite a bit. It’s also a pain because once you use Zemanta early in a post it puts a ‘Zemantified’ button at the bottom of your post – and then when it reloads suggestions your cursor gets put down below that (this could just be me, I’ve not seen anyone else complain of it).
4. Related Articles don’t always relate. They do on this article (it’s about Zemanta afterall) but I just tested it on my photography blog and kept getting ‘photo of the day’ suggested related articles that didn’t relate to my specific posts (I tested it with a few different posts).
5. In the preferences of Zemanta you’re able to add your Amazon affiliate id so that when they suggest Amazon links you can make them your affiliate links – nice.

All in all I like the concept – but it’s probably not something that I’ll be using at this point.

Keep in mind that I’ve been testing it for all of 20 minutes – so my observations are premature. I’d love to hear what others think of Zemanta?

Zemanta Pixie

Feed Compare – Feed Comparison Tool

If you’re into comparing stats with your competitors (or friends) then you might like to check out Feed Compare – a tool that lets you compare the numbers of subscribers to a blog with other blogs (as lon as they are all using Feedburner).

Here’s a comparison of my two blogs over 24 months:

Feedcompare

You can also do comparisons based upon different periods of time (1, 3, 6, 12 and 24 months). One cool feature is that you don’t need to know the Feed URL of the blog to use it. You can just put the name in and in most cases it gets it right. I say ‘most’ cases because as I write this if you put ‘ProBlogger’ in you get a blog with 85 subscribers.

You can see that it picks up all fluctuations in subscriber numbers – the real ones as well as glitches (that massive spike was a day that most people had their numbers double). I don’t tend to get into these types of comparisons (I tend to focus on my own numbers more than others) but it’s probably something that we’ll see people enjoy using.

For fun – lets check out three of the big Web 2.0 blogs :

Feedcompare-1

Feedburner and AdSense Integration Coming Soon

Over the weekend Feedburner have announced on their blog that the long awaited integration of AdSense ads into the Feedburner service is about to become a reality.

Google bought Feedburner last year and so this has been talked about for a while now – but in the coming weeks they’ll begin to run AdSense in the feeds of those publishers who are a part of the Feedburner Ad Network. Initially it’ll be with a small group of publishers with a full launch for all Feedburner publishers ‘soon’.

They write:

“Publishers already in the FeedBurner Ad Network will continue to see premium CPM ads directly sold onto their content, but with the added bonus of contextually targeted ads that will fill up the remainder of their inventory.”

“For publishers who are not yet placing ads in their feeds, any publisher who meets the requirements to join the AdSense program will also be able to use AdSense for feeds. You will be able to manage your feed ad units directly from AdSense Setup tab, and track performance right on the AdSense Report tab.”

To be a part of AdSense for Feeds you’ll need to be signed up for AdSense and set up your channels for ‘placement targeting’.

If you’re not an AdSense publishers sign up here:


This is great news because to this point AdSense did have an option for advertising in feeds that was a closed beta test (something that has been closed and not really developed for years) and the Feedburner Ad Network was also not available for all publishers.

ProBlogger’s First Tipping Point

In May I ran a series of one question interviews here on ProBlogger that asked a number of successful bloggers what their blog’s Tipping Points were.

During the series a number of readers asked me what my own blog’s tipping points were. It is a good question to ponder but not always an easy one to come up with something definitive to write about as most blogs have a series of tipping points (as many of those who participated in the series pointed out).

However from the many smaller tipping points there has been one fairly significant one on ProBlogger.

Revealing that I was Earning Six Figures from Blogging

The day I mentioned that I was earning a six figure income from blogging all hell broke loose here on ProBlogger (and around the blogosphere).

To that point (this was back early in 2005) I’d been steadily building a good readership however the day that news broke things really took off. I was linked to from Slashdot and many other blogs and suddenly found myself with an immediate rise in readers. Why the extra readers?

1. Controversy - back in 2005 when this story broke there was quite a bit of controversy around the idea of making money from blogs. Some believed that it was wrong to try to make money blogging, others believed it wasn’t possible and others were beginning to do it. So when a story broke that some guy Down Under was actually making over $100k a year blogging there was a lot of debate.

2. Credibility - writing about how to do something is one thing, but actually showing that you have done it yourself brings a certain level of credibility and perceived expertise. While I’ve never presented myself as the ultimate source of information and knowledge on the topic (there is so much that I don’t know) having some ‘runs on the board’ certainly doesn’t hurt.

3. A Gathering Point for Like Minded Bloggers was born - at the point that this story broke there was a scattered number of bloggers who were experimenting with making money from blogs – but there was no place that they really gathered to learn and share what they were doing. There were many people making money online in other mediums (and forums and discussion groups for them) but nothing with a make money blogging focus.

So when this story broke one of the things that happened was that ProBlogger became a gathering point for other bloggers who had been quietly doing what I was doing. By no means was I the first blogger to make money blogging (or even to make six figures). The day that story broke on Slashdot I heard from 10-20 others who were also doing similar things. A community began to emerge – something that added to the credibility of ProBlogger as a site.

4. A Niche was born - In the wider blogosphere there was a general lack of awareness among bloggers that it was even possible to make money blogging. While there were millions of blogs the vast majority of them had never considered that they could become an income stream – so when the story broke a switch was flicked that triggered many thousands of bloggers to ask whether they might also be able to make money blogging

Luck or Strategy?

As much as I’d like to claim credit for thinking this all through strategically it wasn’t the case. I started ProBlogger more out of a desire to record my journey and to attempt to connect with other bloggers like me rather than for it to be a niche leader – there was definitely an element (a big one) of being in the right place at the right time.

Having said that – once my lucky break happened – I moved quickly to use it as a springboard (writing more content on the topic of how I did it, promoting ways to stay in touch with me, starting Six Figure Blogging etc). I believe that this is a key characteristic of many successful entrepreneurs. The lucky breaks do come most people’s ways at different times (to different degrees) but many simply enjoy the ride and then find that things return to normal.

More Offline Blog Promotion Tips

This week my post at Scribefire continues my examination of offline blog promotion techniques with another 5 tips on the topic (part 1 was here). Looking forward to hearing your tips on how you promote your blog offline.

Point #9 is about allowing offline publications to print your content. I saw the power of this again over the last week when a Danish Photography club emailed me to ask if they could use on of my photography tips posts in their offline newsletter (translated). I agreed and simply asked that they include a link to DPS and then thought nothing more of it – until today when I noticed 50 or so new signups in the forums from Danish members. I wrote a little more on this topic here.

Is it Possible to Earn a Full Time Salary as a Part Time Blogger?

“Is it possible to earn a full-time salary as a part-time blogger? (eg, if you’re student)”

This question has been voted up quite high in my Q&A sidebar widget so I thought I’d attempt an answer today.

It’s one of those questions with two answers:

Yes…. and…. No

Let’s unpack both (and I’d encourage you to read both as they bring balance to the question).

Yes it is POSSIBLE to earn a full-time salary as a part-time blogger

Part of me wants to simply answer this question with a ‘no’ answer and give a long list of answers why it’s not possible (because to answer ‘yes’ will mean some will accuse me of painting an unrealistic picture of blogging for money). However I have met a number of bloggers who make a good living from blogging as part time bloggers (in writing this I don’t have permission to share their stories so I’ll keep this fairly general).

However in every case there are a few observations I’d make about these bloggers. They usually had all of the following characteristics (or at least a few of them):

1. They worked hard – they might not have put full time hours (40 or so hours a week) into their blogging but they certainly did work quite a few hours and worked hard in those hours. Many of them did work full time on their blogs at certain times (summer holidays etc).

2. They were very good at what they did – they had an exceptional knack of being able to write engaging content, build networks and build community on their blogs.

3. They had an element of ‘luck’ to their story – I am thinking of a couple of bloggers particularly who really found themselves in the right place at the right time when they started their blogs.

4. They were able to draw others in to help – one way to overcome an inability to work full time hours is to draw others into your blog to help shoulder some of the load.

5. They made money indirectly ‘because’ of their blog and not just directly ‘from’ their blog – interestingly a number of the bloggers I’m thinking of have developed products (e-books and courses) of their own that they sell from their blog (and other people’s blogs). This means they are not just building a revenue from advertising but have a secondary source of income.

6. They USED to work full time as a blogger – one blogger that I’m thinking about now works about 20 hours a week blogging and make a very good living from his blog – but only because he used to work full time. ie he built up his blog to a point where it really was earning good income which then enabled him to scale back a little and coast a bit (he also hired someone to help him – see point #4).

No it’s not LIKELY that you’ll make a full-time salary from blogging part time

It is possible to make a full time living from blogging part time – but the sad reality is that the bloggers I’m thinking of are not in the majority.

Most bloggers who do get to a level of earning a full time living from their blogs are working full time hours (or above) on their blogs. And even then many that are working full time hours are not able to make a full time living from blogging (time is just one element of many factors that build a successful blog).

When I’m talking to new bloggers wanting to explore blogging as a way of making money I generally encourage them to see it as something to supplement their existing income.

Yes it is possible to make a full time living from the medium but the reality is that most never get to this point. Sure – have it as a goal, but set yourself smaller goals in terms of your earnings and see it as something that progresses over time as you invest more time into blogging.

If you’d like to see a progression of how this unfolded for me I’d encourage you to read my story of becoming a Pro Blogger. It it you’ll see that I gradually stepped up my time put into blogging – but only as the earnings I was receiving allowed me to.

PS: Are You a Part Time Blogger Earning Full Time Income?

If you’re one of those bloggers that I mention in this post that are able to pull in a full time income from blogging part time I’m sure my readers would love to hear from you and learn from some of your wisdom. Feel free to share your own experiences (either with your URL as an example or anonymously if you’re not wanting to go public) – looking forward to your own lessons.

MU vs NING for Community Building

This is a guest post by Roni of GreenLiteBites. Roni has developed a successful online community, BlogToLose, to support her weight loss blog WeightWatchen.

In 2005, I started a blog to track my weight loss progress after joining Weight Watchers. Initially, the site was a very egocentric attempt to be accountable on my weight loss journey. However, as I started to get some regular visitors my blog began to change. In addition to reaching my own goals, my focus turned to helping others reach theirs. I polled my readers, asking if they’d be interesting in connecting with one another if I gave them a space to blog. The response I received was and astounding “YES!”.

My initial solution was WordPress MU. If you don’t know, MU is the multi-user version of the famous WordPress blogging platform. Installing it was a cinch, but customizing it and managing it was a bit of a different story. Despite the problems and time commitment, my idea worked! I built a community of about 1600 people (600 blogs) interesting in communicating, sharing experiences, changing their eating habits and losing weight. Consequently, the traffic and popularity of my blog grew as I now had a community of people supporting it.,

However, after a year of managing the users, the site and the SPAM, I sought out another solution. MU was great and some of my users loved the control they had on their blogs, but overall my novice users felt intimidated and overwhelmed and I was getting burnt out supporting it all on my own.

Then, a few months ago, a friend asked if I heard of NING. NING allows you to easily develop a robust network (community) with minimal or no programming. Unlike MU there is no installation involved. There is absolutely no upfront development to get off the ground. A few clicks of the mouse and you have an online community shell with forums, user blogs, templates, etc.

I successfully launched the NING community 3 weeks ago and with 485 users it’s growing faster then I ever imagined. As suspected, my novice users are ecstatic about the easy to use interface. However, my advanced users are a bit discontent about the loss of control on the new site.

Currently, I’m running and managing both the orignal MU community and the new NING social network. Both have thier pros and cons…

  WordPress MU NING
Installation & Set up Need your own server space, php, mySQL Complete hosted solution with no cost for the basics
User Tools Nothing beyond the base WordPress admin, unless you install or program them yourself Comes with base tool set, RSS feeds, forums, ability to create groups, user profile page with comment wall, etc.
Customization Full access to open source code but must know how to program Drag and drop customization for basics but can request access to code for more advanced control
Message boards Not integrated but can install BBpress and share user database for integration. Included but can not customize unless you request access to code
Chat Not integrated Not integrated without 3rd party widget
User Pages Users have control over blog and can add posts as well as pages Users have no ability to add their own pages
Friends Feature Not integrated Included in basic solution
Community Messaging Not Integrated Included in basic solution
Ad integration Easily include ads in community pages and user templates Must pay monthly fee for ability to include ads
SPAM control Hard to mange without installing plugins for captcha and comment spam control Integrated captcha for new user sign up
Privacy Options Nothing beyond basic flag for "I would like my blog to be visible" Community control over access level for non-members and individual user control for thier own blogs.
Support Large user base and therefore a lot of online support and user generated plug ins. Not as many users but online support is growing.

Overall, both solutions offer a great start for building an online community to support your blog. MU is a great solution for those who have programming knowledge or access to programmers while NING offers a nice base of community features for those with minimal programming experience.

ProBlogger is Testing TypePad AntiSpam

Just a quick note to let readers know that I’ve just switched over to TypePad AntiSpam Comment filtering here at ProBlogger. If you have any issues commenting please do let me know.

What Does Google Say About You?

What does someone searching Google for your name or blog name find?

Earlier in the year I met a blogger at a conference who I had a pretty good conversation with. He had pitched me an idea for something that we might one day work on together. However when I got home, while I could remember his name I couldn’t remember his blog’s URL.

So I did what everyone would do and ‘Googled Him’ (by the way – I can’t believe that ‘Googled’ doesn’t come up in my spell check).

What I found when Googling him was not his blog (or not immediately) but the first three search results for his name were:

  1. a rant about him written by another blogger who complained that that he’d left comment spam on his blog
  2. his Flickr account which had pictures of him with scantily dressed women at an Adult Entertainment convention
  3. another rant from another blogger who he’d had a fight with (ironically over the same idea he’d pitched to me)

When I finally found his blog’s URL (it was 10th for his name) I decided to search Google for the blog’s name and found a similar list of links in the top search results.

This blogger has a reputation management problem – at least when it comes to Google.

Whether there is truth in the allegations made by the other bloggers I’m not sure – but certainly the impression you get of this guy when you type his name and his blog’s name into Google is not a positive one. It’d be enough to put off potential business partners, some potential life partners and potential readers.

There is an element in the search results for your name or blog’s name that is out of your control as a blogger. It depends upon what others write about you and the ranking of their site’s in Google – however there are things that you can do to help get the results that you want to the top of the rankings.

1. Identify Which Pages You Want to Rank Highest For - Obviously you want to rank highest for your blog’s home page when someone searches for your blog’s name but there is more than one search result above the fold that people will see – so what other pages do you want to rank well for? One that I always try to boost are my ‘about pages’. Knowing which pages you’re attempting to rank higher enables you to target them in the strategies outlined below.

2. Link to Key Pages – perhaps one of the best things that you can do is to link to the pages that you want to rank well for your name. Link to them from other sites that you have control over (social media sites and your other blogs), link to them from your own site (for example here at ProBlogger I link to my ‘about page’ from every page on my blog and as a result it ranks highly for my name) and when you have control over how others link to you get them to link to those key pages (for example when you guest blog you might ask them to link to your about page).

3. Use Your Name in Links – this is something I don’t need to do (after years of building up the ranking of my blog) but link to your about page with your name. Search Engines look at the words used in the links pointing at your pages to work out what they are about. If you have a link to your about page that simply says ‘about’ or ‘about me’ then it doesn’t tell Google what the page is really about. Instead use About Darren or About Darren Rowse type links and it’ll add to the power of the links to rank for those terms.

4. Use Your Name on Highlighted Pages – a search engine won’t rank a page for a term that is not used on that page. If you want to rank for your name or blog name on a particular page you need to use that term and use it more than once. This means on an About page that you’ll want to talk about yourself in the third person or at least find some way of incorporating your name into it. Name images on the page with your name, title the page with your name, use your name in headings, make it bold etc. All of these things signal to Google that your page is about the words you’re highlighting.

5. Use Social Media Sites as Secondary Ranking Pages – if you look at the search results for ProBlogger you’ll find that my ProBlogger twitter page, my ProBlogger Stumbleupon page, my ProBlogger Mybloglog page, my facebook page all rank for the term. This means that instead of just coming in at #1 and #2 search results for a page (for your blog’s front page and your about page) you can potentially rank for all of the top results for your name. Some of these social media sites naturally rank very well in search engines as they have so many incoming links but if you link to them (like I do in my footer) you can give them an extra boost. You can also help boost the ranking of all of your pages with some interlinking between them – this particularly helps as they will all be ranking well for your keywords.

own-your-keyword.png

6. Manage negative pages – so what happens when a page that is negative towards you ranks highly? Sometimes it’s difficult to have much control over these pages but there are often opportunities to manage the situation. If it’s a blog post – attempt to leave a comment that balances out the post and answers the concerns in it. If it’s not you might want to try reasoning with the site owner.

7. Remember Everything Online is Permanent and ‘Builds’ Your Brand – keep in mind that everything you put on the web is permanent. Even if content is deleted it is usually recorded somewhere in an internet archive page and it can come back to bite you later. Not only is the content online permanent but it all says something about you and your brand. This doesn’t help you fix poor online reputation – but I guess should serve as a warning as you build content online (whether on your own blog or not).