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Is Writing Great Content Enough to Build a Successful Blog?

Content
At times you could be forgiven for thinking it is – if you read a lot of blogs on ‘how to blog’ that is.

One of the first thing that most of us who write about blogging advise those starting out is to work on writing useful and unique content.

Certainly at the core of most great blogs is useful and unique content that draws readers in and generates links from other blogs, builds the profile and reputation of the blog – however sometimes great content is simply not enough.

The reality is that many bloggers write excellent content – however not all of them break through the clutter and rise to the top of their niche.

This is frustrating – there’s no two ways about it.

I’ve felt the frustration myself and hear the frustration of others on a daily basis via emails and IMs from bloggers wanting to know how to take their blogging to the next level.

  • How do I find readers?
  • How do I get my first “break”?
  • How did you get your first incoming links to my great content if nobody is reading it?

These are the type of questions I see more and more.

Do you want the “right” answer or the “real” answer?

As I sit down to answer some of these questions on how to build a successful blog I’m increasingly feeling that there are certain answers which are “right” and some more that are “real”.

The “Right” Answers

“Write unique and useful content for your readers.” – this has been one of the catch cries at ProBlogger over the last couple of years as I’ve attempted to show bloggers how to build quality blogs. It’s a principle that I strongly believe in – it’s something that does work and I don’t know too many successful bloggers who wouldn’t agree with it and/or apply it. It is ‘right’.

Other “right” answers include things like:

  • Interact with your readers – the more you interact with readers in a genuine way the more likely they are to stay around and spread the word about you.
  • Use Quality Titles – a lot is written about the effectiveness of quality post titles at getting attention and drawing in readers to your blog. In my mind there is little doubt about how important it is to invest time into smart title generation.
  • Promote yourself - while some of us feel a little awkward about self promotion – there’s little doubt in my mind that it is a necessary part of launching a new blog. While it’s also important to let your readers spread the news about you – without some self promotion you may never find those first readers to help you spread the virus.
  • Know and Use basic SEO principles – it is well worth learning the basic principles on how search engines index and rank online content. While some bloggers become a little obsessed by SEO – setting up your blog smartly and keeping some of the basics in mind as you write is a common sense way of building a blog that will bring in significant SE traffic over the long term.
  • Inviting Design – I don’t believe that to be successful a blog needs to have professional designs that cost mega-bucks. However inviting design that communicates what a blog is about, that enables good navigation and that draws readers into the content can really take a blog to the next level.

In my mind – these sorts of tips (and there are many more of them) are “right“. They make sense – they work (to varying degrees) and many bloggers talk about them as keys to successful blogs – because they are.

Much has been written about these “right” answers. ProBlogger’s archives are full of them.

However there’s a problem – as “right” as these tips are – they are quite often not enough for many bloggers.

In fact I’ve talked to many bloggers who have done all the right stuff (they’ve executed everything mentioned above perfectly) yet they still fail to find readers, build community and reach their goals.

The “Real” Answers

In addition to the “right” answers above – I’ve been pondering some other keys to successful blogs that I don’t see many of us writing about. The reason they don’t get spoken about much is that they are hard to define, they are subjective and some might even say that they’re things that might apply to some but not others.

However I think some of it is worth saying – as difficult as it might be to put them into words (just don’t expect a list of tips that you can go away and apply to get these things):

Mojo

MojoAustin Powers has it and so do many successful bloggers. What is it? Well I could define it using a dictionary (magic or some powerful force) – but mojo is one of those indefinable characteristics that some bloggers just seem to have which others don’t. It’s a quality that some bloggers have that intrigues, invites and inspires readers – not because they write grammatically perfect posts, not because they are the smartest people going around – but just because they do.

Perhaps finding your mojo is similar to “finding your voice” or “injecting your personality” into your writing or just “being yourself” – to be honest I’m not sure where it comes from – but for many successful bloggers, they’ve got mojo!

Luck

LuckI’ve written about being lucky on a couple of occasions previously and both times the response from readership was positive. I even tried to talk about “how to be lucky” once (I do like to try to define the undefinable) – however sometimes no matter what you do Lady Luck just comes calling in the most unexpected times and places.

Meeting the right person at the right time to collaborate with – picking up a scoop ahead of the competition – overhearing something in a conversation that triggers a thought process that people respond to – starting your blog on the day before something happens that draws attention to your niche – getting that link from an A-lister out of the blue… the list of ways you can get lucky as a blogger could go on.

Trust

TrustTrust is one of those things that you can do things to build with your readers (and with other bloggers) but in some ways it is something that is not manufacturable or definable (you can’t come up with a list of 10 ways to absolutely guarantee it – as much as I’d like that).

Building Trust with readership takes time, it means putting actions behind your words and it means being a person of authenticity and character – in such a way that others both see and connect with it.

Expertise and Authority

ExpertiseI almost put expertise in the “right” answers list because on some levels it is something you can work on and to some degree define. However expertise can also be slippery thing to nail down also because it’s one of those things where there is a sliding scale and which readers can respond differently to. For example here at ProBlogger I don’t see myself as “the” expert or authority on the topic making money from blogs.

I do have expertise in some areas of blogging (or at least 5-6 years of experience) – but in other areas (like blog design or coding) I’m definitely no expert. However – I attempt to write this blog in a way that is transparent about what I do and don’t know about or have experiences in and for some reason the gaps in my expertise don’t seem to matter to readers.

I do think it’s important that you know something about your topic that you can share and help others with – however, what’s probably more important is the way you convey that expertise.

What seems to happen with some bloggers is that they become perceived as experts and authorities on their topics (whether they feel that they deserve it or not).

Charisma

I find that many successful bloggers seem to have an ability to draw people to them – to connect with their readers and to connect their readers with one another.

Community is one of those trigger points that people are gathering around online at the moment – and they often gather around a key person (or people) that have the gift of connecting with others.

While it’s possible to work on your relational skills the reason I put this in the “real answers” list is because it’s something that many bloggers seem to have without really trying. Everywhere they go they just seem to draw others around them. As I see it these bloggers seem to be able to do the following things:

  • draw people around them (perhaps this is the “mojo” I’m talking about above)
  • connect those people with one another to form community
  • empower that community and it’s members to be self sustaining and not reliant upon that person
  • continue to inspire and champion that community – but not need to continually drive it in a hands on way

These people are often humble and don’t let their egos get caught up in the community they develop. They know when to stand back and let others continue what they start.

What Would You Add?

Mojo, Luck, Trust, Expertise, Charisma – these are just some of the more slippery and hard to define characteristics that I find many successful bloggers have. On some levels they can be ‘worked on’ – but in many cases bloggers just seem to have them.

What other characteristics would you add – either to my ‘right’ or ‘real’ answers?

PS: Can I finish this post by saying that I feel a little weird about publishing it? I actually wrote this 12 months ago and have been coming back to it again and again over that time.

My hesitation comes mainly from this….

I don’t want people to get frustrated by not having some of these more indefinable characteristics.

I don’t think that lacking them disqualifies you from blogging well at all – but wanted to put ‘out there’ that sometimes it’s not just about doing all the ‘right’ things that we blogging advice givers might teach.

All I really want to add is that in my experience a lot of these qualities come with time. Out of experience comes relationships, experience, expertise, finding your voice etc. If you’re still finding your way – hang in there friends.

Blog Hosting – Which Hosts Top Blogs Use

Who is Hosting This has put together a great little study into the blog hosts of the top 100 bloggers (according to Technorati).

On top of the list is Media Temple, Datagram, BlogSpot and Six Apart.

Yes you heard it, 8 of the top 100 blogs use Blogspot and 4 use Six Apart to host their blogs. It goes to show that while most (including me) would advise you set up your blog on your own hosting and with a platform like WordPress that you can actually grow a successful blog on a hosted platform like Blogspot.

Of course keep in mind that many of the blogs in the top 100 are in networks so they just go with who everyone else is with in their network and some of the services that the bigger blogs use are probably out of the range of what most bloggers can afford.

If you’re looking for a blog host you might also want to check out ProBlogger Readers Blog Hosting Recommendations (in the comments of that post).

AdWords Keyword Tool How to Use it to Hone Post Titles and Choose Blog Topics

Today I want to point out a useful tool for bloggers wanting to do a little research into topics to blog about (or even what topic to choose for your next overall new blog). The tool is a free one from Google – their AdWords Keyword Tool.

This tool is one that Google offer their advertisers (looking to work out what keywords to target on Google) but is also useful for bloggers wanting to research how many people are searching for certain keywords. It will also give you information about how many potential advertisers there might be on a topic also.

There are other tools that do similar things and many ways that you can use the AdWords Keyword Tool but let me show you a couple:

1. Using AdWords Keyword Tool to Chose a BLOG Topic

Lets just say I was starting a new blog and am having trouble choosing between topics or want to research specific keywords to use in my blog’s title and or domain.

I’ve narrowed down my interest to ipod accessories but am tossing up whether I should narrow my niche even further and just have a blog about ipod cases.

In the AdWord Keyword Tool I would simply enter in both terms and ask for keyword ideas. The tool will give me this (click to enlarge):

Picture 10.png

What we’re seeing above is a number of things. Firstly the Green bars under ‘advertiser competition’ show us that in the AdWords system there is a lot of advertisers competing for these keywords. This gives me an indication that if I were to use AdSense there would be a healthy amount of advertisements to serve to my blog.

In the ‘search volume’ columns we get an indication approximate search numbers for the term per month in Google. While the numbers are unlikely to be perfect they do show that ‘ipod accessories’ gets searched for on Google more than ‘ipod cases’.

At this point in my topic selection process I’d probably also have a look at Google Trends for the two terms:

Picture 12.png

Here we see the same information (in terms of which term is more popular) but also see whether the topics are trending up or down and whether they have seasonal spikes (all good to know when choosing a topic for a blog).

2. Using AdWord Keyword Tool to Choose a POST Title

In a similar way I regularly use the AdWords Keyword Tool to help me form post titles that have potential to bring in search engine traffic.

Lets say that I’m writing a post on my photography site rating my favorite digital cameras. I’ve written my post and am going to call the post ‘Top Digital Cameras’.

Before I hit publish I decide to go to the AdWords Keyword Tool and type in ‘top digital cameras’ and ‘best digital cameras’.

Picture 13.png

What this shows me is that ‘top digital cameras’ only gets a third as many searches on Google as ‘best digital cameras’. Also, it shows me that ‘best digital camera’ (no plural) gets even more searches than both terms.

This gives me some clues as to what to title my post and what keywords to use throughout my article if I want to optimize it for a term with the most search traffic that I can possibly get.

If I were to look further down the results page for these terms I would also see other suggested search terms and how many searches there are in Google for them. This not only gives me ideas on what keywords to use in my current posts title – but also might give me ideas for future posts to blog about.

A variation on this is to use another helpful feature in the AdWords Keyword Tool – one that lets you submit text and get suggested keywords from it.

Here’s how to do it. Say you’ve already written a blog post and you’re wanting to choose a title for it. Simply choose the ‘Website content’ option and then the ‘enter your own text in the box below’ option. Then copy and paste the text from your post into the field provided and hit ‘Get keyword ideas’.

The tool will then scan the text suggest keywords that match it – highlighting those which have the most searches. You then can use these keywords as the basis for your post title.

Will this Really Have an Impact?

It is worth stating that using the AdWord Keyword Tool to help you choose keywords for your blog will have different impacts upon different blogs – depending upon how well they already rank on Google.

If your blog is new you might not notice much difference in the traffic to your blog no matter what keywords you use (simply because your blog is yet to build a ranking in Google yet) – however in time, as your blog accumulates links from other blogs and sites, it will certainly pay off. This is particularly true if you use the keywords not only in your blog post but the title (which has real power with Google particularly).

The Buzz about Yahoo Buzz

yahoo-buzz.pngI opened my inbox this morning to find quite a bit of mail on the one topic – Yahoo Buzz which today opened up its doors to the public and started allowing other sites outside of it’s initial closed test to submit stories to it. Yahoo Buzz is a social bookmarking/voting site (quite similar to Digg) and some of it’s top stories even get to the front page of Yahoo. Sites that have been to the front page of Yahoo have reported more traffic than they’ve ever seen before – even when they are just on the front page for an hour.

This lure of massive traffic has many bloggers ‘buzzing’ today. But is it worth getting buzzed about (OK, I’ll stop with the buzz talk now)?

Read Write Web today asks some questions about Buzz and muses that Buzz could be a system with more editorial control than Digg (particularly with what gets to the front page of Yahoo).

My advice to publishers is to not become obsessed by Yahoo Buzz but to keep an open mind.

I’m seeing bloggers either proclaiming it as the answer to all their traffic needs or writing it off as something that won’t last – but somewhere between these two extremes will be the truth.

As with all social media sites – Yahoo Buzz will appeal to a certain type of audience and reader and will therefore present different opportunities to different publishers.

You can submit stories to Buzz here and get Buzz Buttons for your Blog here.

Applying for a Blogger Job? Treat it Seriously

Today I received an email from one of the advertisers on the ProBlogger Job Boards. They reflected back to me that they’d had a lot of ‘low quality’ job applications and made some suggestions for those looking to apply for a blogger job.

I’ll include their suggestions below.

Let me say that I get a variety of feedback from advertisers on the job boards. Most tell me that they get great applications and generally quickly fill jobs (some end up hiring more than one blogger because they get so many good applicants) – but mixed in with them are always blogger job applications that they immediately disqualify due to poor quality.

Essential reading for all those applying for blogger jobs should be – how to apply for a blog job where I give 11 tips on applying for job board positions. However let me share with you the three points that the advertiser that I mentioned above made in their feedback about problems that they saw applications having (I’ve put their points in quotations and added a couple of comments of my own:

Grammar and spelling – should go without saying, but we saw way too many applicants with poor grammar and spelling. Get someone to double check before sending.”

It staggers me that bloggers would not work hard to communicate clearly when applying for a job that is all about communicating clearly! While I understand not everyone has an amazing command on the English language – those looking to hire bloggers for commercial positions will take your abilities in your application as a hint as to how well you’ll perform on their blog.

Follow directions – Increase your chances of the job seeker liking you by actually following the directions stated at the bottom of the email. Don’t, in a rush, send off an email with your resume attached when they ask for no attachments. Attention to detail is key to making a good first impression over email.”

Once again – this is common sense but something I saw many applicants fail to follow when I’ve previously advertised for bloggers personally. Failing to follow instructions again signals to your potential employee that you might not be the right person for the job.

Email address – drop the cutesy “xxxxx [email protected]” email address and opt for something more professional. For extra bonus points, register a domain name that is professional and clever, and create a simple “[email protected]” email alias.”

I personally wouldn’t rate this one quite as highly as the others – however it does add to the professionalism of your application and shows that you’ve gone to a little effort in branding yourself as an online worker.

Take it Seriously

Ultimately my main advice to bloggers wanting to get a blogging job is to take the application process seriously. Treat it as though you are applying for any job.

Advertisers are not advertising on the Job Boards simply for fun or looking for sub par bloggers. They are businesses looking to hire professionals. Present yourself this way and you’ll stand out from the crowd and give yourself every chance of landing yourself a blogging job.

How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog

Blog-Post-TitlesTitles change the destiny of your posts.

Those few words at the beginning of your blog post can be the difference between the post being read and spread like a virus through the web like a wild fire and it languishing in your archives, barely noticed.

This month we’ve been talking about how to ‘craft’ blog posts and are looking at key moments in the writing of blog posts that it is important to pause and put a little extra effort into.

While there will usually only be a handful of words in your post title – they are the most powerful words that you’ll write because for most of your readers the decision as to whether to read the rest of your post rests upon them.

Why Blog Post Titles Matter

Blog post titles appear in:

  • Search engine results
  • RSS feeds
  • Links from other bloggers
  • Social media sites
  • On your archive pages (depending upon how you format them)

In each of these occassions the title can be the only thing that people see and the sole thing that people make the decision to visit your post on. Write a boring, complicated or confusing title and it doesn’t matter what you’ve written in the post – very few people will ever read it.

What should a Good Blog Post Title Do?

There are many techniques that copywriters use in crafting titles or headings both online and offline – but there’s generally one common goal behind them all. It can be summed up in the words of David Ogilvy who in Oglivy on Advertising (a great copywriting book) again and again echoes the refrain that:

the purpose of a title is to get potential readers to read the first line of your content.”

This is one of the lessons that has helped me the most in my own blogging and I’ve seen it’s power again and again.

Write a captivating and intruiging title and you’ll draw people into reading it every time.

How to Craft a Blog Post Title – 8 Tips

Titles-1-2How do you craft a blog post title that get people to read your blog posts opening lines?
There are many techniques for crafting blog post titles that will draw readers into them. Below I’ll outline a few (you won’t be able to do all of them in every single post).

Before I share them – let me give one universal tip – Don’t Rush – this is the main point of this whole series on crafting content. If there’s nothing else you come away from today – take away that if you rush your titles you could well be wasting the time that you invest into your actual posts. Invest time into your posts, it’s something that will pay off!

Now that we’re taking our time – here are 8 tips that I use in the creation of blog post titles. Note: you’d not be likely to use all of them in the one post (although for fun I did my best to get quite a few of them into the image title above). Different techniques will work better in different situations.

1. Communicate a Benefit

This is SO IMPORTANT. If a potential reader comes across your post in Google search results or your RSS feed or on a site like Digg and they see a title that promises to meet a need they have – they’ll click that link on almost every occassion. Identify a need in of potential readers (we talked about this in yesterdays post) and communicate that your post will solve this problem or need in your title. This is why posts with titles like ‘How to Hold a Digital Camera’ and ’10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits’ (LINKSSSSSSS) have driven hundreds of thousands of readers to my photography blog in the last year. They are not ‘clever’ or ‘cryptic’ titles – they simply SCREAM at those that see them what they’ll get if they visit the post. These titles don’t draw everyone that see’s them to them, but they’ll certainly draw in people with the needs that you’re aiming the post at.

2. Create Controversy or Debate

Another technique that can be very good at drawing people into a post is to set the scene for controversy, debate or a strong opinion. You need to be willing to back these types of titles up with posts that reflect the title – but controversy is one of those things that tends to pique people’s interest. Keep in mind that when you create controversy you’ll attract strong reactions in people.

3. Ask a Question

When you ask a question those who read it are wired to respond (or to see what the response is). I find that questions at post titles can be very popular at not only drawing in readers – but particularly effective at getting readers to leave comments – particularly if the comment directs a question AT the reader (ie use the word YOU in the question) rather than just being a random question. I’ll write more on personalizing titles below.

4. Personalize Titles

Titles-3When you write blog posts you are potentially writing to vast audiences of many thousands of readers – however readers can feel like the post is laser targetted in on their own specific situation, particularly if you personalize the language that you’re using. One of the easiest ways to do this is simply to use the word ‘you’ in your posts. I wrote a little about this in First Person Blogging about ‘You’ but mainly talked about using the word ‘you’ in the post itself but in the title of your posts it can have an even bigger impact. Example – 21 Ways to Make Your Blog or Website Sticky.

5. Use Keywords

Keywords in titles are good for two main reasons:

  • Firstly they grab the attention of readers who are scanning content – I noticed this recently when I was in a buying mode looking to get an iPhone. Anytime any post in my RSS feeder had the word ‘iPhone’ it was like a flashing light and attracted my attention to it. I could hardly help it but because I was on the look out for information to help me with that purchase the keyword was a great attention grabber.
  • Secondly – keywords are important for the long tail life of your blog post as they tell search engines what your blog post is about and will help it to rank highly for those words. Search engines pay particular attention to titles to assertain what a web page is about – particularly if you use the words in your page ‘title tags’ as well (read more on title tags and SEO).

So use keywords that relate to your post in your titles. This is a particularly useful tip if you write about products, people or companies as these types of ‘names’ are some of the most searched for terms on the web.

One more tip for keywords – if you can include them at the start of your title they can have more impact with SEO than if you include them at the end of a title (particularly if the title is long).

6. Use Power Words

Not all words are created equal – some evoke a powerful response in readers and it can be well worth your while to find out what they are.

It’s difficult to compile a list of these ‘power words’ but a few that I’ve found that can work (although read my disclaimer below):

  • Free – there’s something about the idea of getting something for nothing that triggers a response in most of us.
  • Stunning – I use words like ‘stunning’ on my photography blog a lot. These words are ‘big claim’ words that draw people into the post to see if it matches up (see below for more on ‘big claims’)
  • Discover – everyone likes to make discoveries. Another ther related word is ‘revealed’.
  • Secrets – this triggers a response because it promises to show you something you don’t yet know. Similarly – you could use ‘Little Known Ways to…’ as an alternative to ‘secrets’.
  • Easy – similarly to ‘free’ – we all like ‘easy’ don’t we? – also use ‘quick’. Better still – what about ‘quick and easy’?

Disclaimer – power words can be very beneficial, however they can also trigger negative reactions. Some people get skeptical when they see titles with these types of words and will resist clicking them – others will click them but get angry if the post itself doesn’t live up to the title. Proceed with caution.

7. Big Claims and Promises

I’ve mentioned this technique already but it does deserve a little further exploration as it is a definite way to draw people into a post. Making a bit claim or promise really extends upon my first technique – ‘Communicate a Benefit’ – but takes it to a place where the benefit being shared in the title just cannot be ignored.

These sorts of ‘big claims’ make guarantees that even people without a real need in your topic will want to check out.

The only problem with big claim posts is that if you can’t actually back them up with the post itself, you run the risk of putting readers offside.

8. Humor Titles

Titles-2The humorous title is yet another technique that can be very effective at drawing readers into you blog – that is IF you pull it off.

The risk with humorous posts is that they can also fall flat on their faces and leave you with a post title that not only fails to draw loyal readers in but which is not optimized well for search engines (unless you manage to incorporate some keywords).

Two More Quick Tips on Writing Blog Posts:

Keep it short – while it is possible to actually grab people’s attention with a very long title (the length itself can draw people to it) – in most cases you’ll want to keep it simple and easy to digest. This is good for readers but also search engines (they will only show 65 or so characters so if you go too long your full title doesn’t appear in search results).
Don’t use Periods (full stops) – this one might just be my personal preference and open for debate (although I’ve seen a number of copywriters talk about it) but using full stops or ‘periods’ at the end of titles can stop the flow of your readers. It’s not a big one but something that could have an impact.

Further Reader on Blog Post Titles:

  • Andy Beal wrote a thought provoking post – How to Optimize Blog Post Titles – in which he explores two audiences of blog posts and how he suggests you optimize titles for each at different life stages of a post.
  • Brian Clark has written some fantastics posts on Blog Post Titles in his series Magnetic Headlines. It includes some title templates that are worth experimenting with.

What have you learned about writing blog post titles? Do you use some of the above approaches or have you found other techniques to work for you?

Read the Full Series

This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.

Blog World Expo (Winners of Passes) – I’m Going Too!

Blog-World-ExpoA couple of weeks ago I announced that Blog World Expo had generously decided to give away two free passes to their conference in September to ProBlogger readers. There were a lot of entries so it took us a while to choose the winners but over the weekend Rick emailed me his two favorites.

He’s announced the winners (plus a few runners up who he is offering 50% off passes to) on the BWE blog.

The winners are:

Congratulations!

I’m going to Blog World Expo!

My exciting news is that I’m going to be attending Blog World Expo! I was waiting to see how we adjusted as a family to having a 2nd baby in the house and wanted to give my wife the chance to find her feet before jetting off around the world – but over the weekend we decided that I’ll be making a flying visit (I’ll be there fore 72 hours and on a plane there and back for 48).

I’m booked to be on at least three panels and I’ll be there to meet as many bloggers as possible and to have some fun do some work with the b5media crew.

The panels I’m listed to participate on are ‘Making Money Online with a Blog’ (with other speakers like John Chow, Brian Clark, Zac Johnson and Jim Kukral), ‘Avoiding Disaster: How Not to Use Social Media’ with Jason Falls, Lee LeFever and Patrick O’Keefe and ‘How to Hire a Professional Blogger For Your Business’ (a panel for the Exec and Entrepreneur conference on the 19th) with Jim Turner and Gregory Go. I’ll let you know if Rick decides to use me in any other sessions.

Looking at the BWE site at the moment there does seem to be some discounts available (up to 25%) for those registering before August 22nd so I hope some of you are able to join me there. You can book at Blog World Expo.

If you’d like to meet at BWE I’ll try to post my schedule as it gets closer – I’ll have limited time so try to get to as many of the parties and public gatherings as I can so as to meet as many ProBlogger readers as possible.

The Why and How on Repeating Content on Your Blog

Many bloggers come to a point in their blogging after they’ve been at it for a sustained period of time where they need to make a decision about repeating content and posting on topics they’ve already covered. Here’s a recent question from a reader who wished to remain anonymous:

“I would like to get your opinion about content repetition. When you have an audience that is always changing, it would seem that you would need to cover some content again. I realize that basic information can be linked to static pages but otherwise, what kind of rule do you have to regulate content repetition.”

This is the type of question that many bloggers come up against after they’ve been blogging for a while. It arises out of a number of realizations including:

1. Running out of new things to say – in some niches a blogger gets to a point where they realize that they have begun to exhaust their own expertise on their blog. This is particularly common on ‘how to’ type blogs (it’s easier to keep fresh content coming on a ‘news’ related blog where there is always a breaking story.

2. On blogs with a high rate of attracting new readers – as is mentioned in the question above – when you have a blog that is constantly visited by new readers it can be a challenge to direct them to content that will help them that you’ve already covered.

As a result of these two situations bloggers come to a point where they are faced with the choice of covering topics that they’ve already posted about on their blog.

For some bloggers this is a big hurdle to overcome on a number of levels:

  • guilt – some bloggers feel guilty about it and feel like they’re somehow cheating or short changing readers.
  • boredom – others find that going over ground that they’ve already covered can lead to them as bloggers getting bored and feeling un-stimulated.
  • reader expectations – Some longer term readers will react negatively to these ‘repeated’ topics.

So what’s a blogger to do about Repeating Content?

I am sure that different bloggers will settle on different approaches when it comes to repeating topics on a blog (and I’d love to hear some of these in comments below).

My own approach is that I definitely do go over old ground on my blogs.

The way I justify this (if it needs to be justified) is:

1. As my blogs attract a lot of new readers I feel that repeating some of the basics is actually doing a service to those new readers.

2. I am constantly learning more about the topics that I blog about and as a result my own ideas and knowledge is growing. While I cover the same ground as I have previously I do try to add extra value and updates on what I’ve been learning for longer term readers. In a sense I see repeating topics as a way of updating my blog.

Alternatives for Repeating Topics:

There are a number of ways that a blogger can go about repeating past topics on their blog. Here are a few that I’ve done:

  1. Repost Old Posts as Fresh Posts – this is what I do on Digital Photography School. In these cases I occasionally will go back to old posts and rewrite or update them and then change the date of publishing the post to the current date so that it appears to readers as a new post. This means that any outdated information on the post can be removed and that you can actually get a little extra search engine juice to the old post as it is appearing on your front page again. Important Note: this only really works if you have a permalink structure that doesn’t change depending upon the date that you publish the post on!
  2. Update Old Posts and Announce the Changes in a New Post – if you have an old post that is dated or now inaccurate there’s nothing wrong (in my mind) with going back to that post and reediting it. If you don’t want to republish it as a new post simply write a new post with a link back to the old one saying that you’ve updated it. This drives people back to the old post. When making changes to old posts I would usually highlight where on the post I’ve made updates so that readers are aware that what they are reading is ‘fresh’.
  3. Write a 2nd Post – this is generally what I do here on ProBlogger. My approach with this is to tackle the topic afresh as though I’d not written the first post (in many cases I don’t even look at what I’ve previously written until I’ve finished the new post as I don’t want to simply repeat it word for word). I attempt to find a new way to approach the topic, new insights, new examples and even write it in a different style/voice.

A Few Other Tips on Repeating Content

  • Mix it Up – whichever method you decide to use to repeat topics I would strongly advise that you mix the ‘repeated’ content up with fresh content. Don’t make every post that you do a rehashed version of an old post but give your longer term readers fresh content and topics also.
  • Guest Posts – another way to bring freshness to things that you’ve already covered is to use guest posters to cover the old ground. I’ve done this recently on DPS and it’s worked really well. For starters it means I don’t get bored by covering ground I’ve already covered but it also brings freshness from a reader perspective.
  • Highlight Key Posts for New Readers – one of the reasons some bloggers feel obligated to cover old ground is that new readers keep asking them questions about things they’ve already covered. One way to combat this problem is to create prominent gateways back to key content that you’ve already covered. Link back in your sidebar or navigation area to ‘best posts’ or ‘beginner’ content so that new readers have ways of finding the key things that they need.
  • Acknowledge The Reader Life Cycle – it is a difficult thing to hear that a reader has decided to stop reading your blog because they don’t find it as useful as it once was and that you keep repeating ‘old stuff’. What I’ve come to realize is that most blog readers have a ‘life cycle’ and in many cases will grow out of your blog (particularly if your blog is a ‘how to’ type blog. They come to you as beginners and lap up everything that you write about but in time they learn and grow. They might lose interest in your topic or simply become proficient in it (partly due to your helping them). At some point they realize that they don’t need your blog as much as they used to and begin to ‘move on’. This can be hard to watch as a blogger – but it is actually natural and not worth beating yourself up about. Sure – do keep trying to connect with your long term readers but at some point don’t be surprised if they move on.

Do you repeat content? If so, how do you do it?

AdSense for Feeds Goes Live

Over the last week or two some Feedburner Ad Network publishers have been transitioned over to the new AdSense Feed Advertising system and over the weekend AdSense for Feeds has gone live for everyone. You should now see them in your AdSense setup tab.

AdSense for feeds is similar to most AdSense ads in that the ads served in your feeds are a mixture of CPM and CPC ads.

Publishers setting up AdSense for feeds have a number of options when it comes to ad formats (text alone, text and image and just image ads), design (colors) and how often ads are displayed (you can have ads appear every 1,2,3 posts or only on posts over a certain amount of words).

If you’re a Feedburner Ad Network publisher you now need to set up AdSense for feeds to keep monetizing your feeds.

For more information see the AdSense Blog announcement.