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The Power of Real Life Interactions as a Blogger

Yesterday I announced on Digital Photography School that I was planning on running a short Photowalk while I was Las Vegas for Blog World Expo (you’re welcome to join in). The post was to gauge if any of my readers would be interested in coming along.

To this point over 40 people have responded – almost all of them saying that they’d like to come.

Meetup-2Image by Jeff Bauche

While the majority of a bloggers interaction happens in a virtual sense with readers – the few times that I’ve gone out of my way to set up ‘real life’ meet-ups with readers have been really quite powerful experiments.

The two most vivid examples of this happened last year in New York when I held ProBlogger meet-ups. While they were fairly small events when compared with some of the big tech blog meet-ups that happen – on both occasions the evenings were fruitful on numerous fronts:

1. Deepening Relationships – many of those that I met in these face to face meet ups in New York (as well as some that I’ve met face to face at conferences) have become quite good friends. There’s something about meeting someone in person that seems to firm up a relationship.

2. Fruitful Partnerships – while it’s definitely possible to go into business with someone that you’ve never met (none of the founders of b5media met for a long time after founding) I’ve found that face to face meeting with people seems to increase the likelihood of working relationships emerging. The majority of people that I now work with on different projects are people that I’ve met in real life. It isn’t that I don’t trust virtual relationships – it’s just that the real life interaction makes it easier.

3. Reader Participation and Loyalty – when I think about the bloggers that I’ve met in person, I realize that I’m more avid as a reader of their blog than perhaps I was before we met. As I read their blog I have a face and voice to go with it – and a tangible experience with the person to tie me to their blog.

I know not all bloggers are able to hold their own meet-up just for their readers due to their location, their inability to travel or even just that they don’t have enough readers in the one spot – however meet-ups are not the only way to meet potential blog readers in real life. Local blogging meet-ups, one on one meetings with other bloggers in your area and conferences all present great opportunities for the type of reader interaction that I describe above.

It feels a little odd to step out of your ‘virtual interactions’ at first (and it can be even weirder for your spouse to see these interactions, just ask my wife V who was completely freaked out by how much people knew about me at a meet-up she came to in NYC last year) but it can be a lot of fun and well worthwhile.

I’m selling a New Macbook Air

If you’re in the market for a Macbook Air – I’m running a little auction at the moment here on ProBlogger to sell one that I recently won. Full details on the process and machine are here.

Chris Garrett Pre-Launches Authority Blogger – How to Use Blogs to Build Your Authority

Authority Blogger
Today I’m excited to announce that my co-author of ProBlogger the Book, Chris Garrett, has just pre-launched a new training course for bloggers Authority Blogger.

This is not a ‘how to blog’ course – instead it is a course for people wanting to learn how to use a blog as a way for growing their profile, credibility and influence.

Chis is a guy who has proven he knows how to do this (and I’ve seen him do it with a number of people that I referred to him as a blog consultant.

Chris has just announced a pre-launch special where you get full access to the site (the free forum that is already there plus a private area, plus 1 on 1 consulting with him at a special rate. The consulting consists of 3 half hour calls with Chris plus one on one interaction via email. You also get 12 training modules using ebooks, audio (I’ll be doing an interview with Chris for his students in a few weeks) and video on the following topics:

  1. Determine your goals and strategy
  2. Target your audience and mind read their needs
  3. Plan, build and design your blog
  4. Write your archive, editorial calendar and flagship content
  5. Network and get noticed
  6. Use social media for profile and traffic
  7. Develop your SEO strategy
  8. Build, retain and engage your audience
  9. Attract more authority offline
  10. Create and sell your products and services
  11. Grow your business through advertising
  12. Extend your reach through partnerships

This is a PreLaunch rather than a Launch

Keep in mind that this is a Pre Launch and not a Full Launch.

What’s the difference? Really it’s that the course isn’t yet complete in terms of the content that is currently up. Chris is adding new stuff daily – but basically you’re getting a discounted price plus some extra bonuses if you sign up early because you’re accessing the content as it’s being developed. This is similar to what Brian Clark recently did with his very successful Teaching Sells course.

You can check out more about Authority Blogger and what Chris is offering at Authority Blogger.

How to Polish Posts: Individual Blog Post Design

Much is written about how to ‘design blogs’ (as a whole) but another element of ‘blog design’ that I think is just as important, yet not written about much, is the design of individual blog posts.

How blog posts ‘look’ is so important. I’ve seen the power of ‘polishing’ posts time and time again.

Polish-Blog-PostsImage by Darwin Bell

I still remember the time that I took one of my early posts on my Digital Photography blog and polished it up. The original version of the post was largely text. It had one image in it but it was fairly bland and was more there to illustrate a point than anything.

The content remained almost identical – but I added 5 images to the post (images that still illustrated the point but eye catching ones), added sub headings to each paragraph and reformatted one section into a ‘list’ rather than just a block of text.

I then republished the post at the top of my blog as new.

The result was amazing!

The next day the post had 50+ comments, was on the front page of Digg and it was being linked to by blogs everywhere. The old version had received 2 comments and had previously gone largely unnoticed.

This is the power of paying attention to how your blog posts look.

Why Polishing Blog Posts Works

There are a number of important reasons why polishing blog posts is worth putting a little extra time into:

  • First impressions – in the same way that your overall blog design conveys messages to readers about what your blog is about and whether they should subscribe – the formatting and design of single posts says a lot about you to first time visitors.
  • Grabbing Attention – loyal readers may rarely visit your actual blog if they follow it via RSS so one might not think post design matters – but in actual fact post design has a massive impact in the realm of RSS where there is little to set your posts apart from others. A good picture or clever use of formatting can really grab the attention of someone scanning through their feeds.
  • Reinforce Content – visuals in a post can reinforce points that you’re using within content. Illustrative images, video, charts, graphs, tables etc – all will connect with visual readers in a way that text cannot.
  • Connect with Web Reading Habits – most web users don’t ‘read’ content word for word. They scan content, looking for elements of web pages that draw their eye and for keywords that connect with what they are interested in. As a result the way you design your posts can be the difference between someone actually ‘reading’ your post or just glossing over it.

How to Polish Blog Posts:

Following are a number of areas that I consider when polishing blog posts. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’d add to the list – I’m sure there are plenty more.

  • Images – images on posts are gold! They draw the eye and grab attention, they illustrate points, they inspire, they engage the imagination and they connect with visual learners. In a largely text based medium – the use of good image can set a blog post apart from the crowd – learn to use them!
  • Charts and Diagrams – similarly, good charts, graphs and diagrams add depth to content and give posts a visual point of interest.
  • Formatting – one of the big mistakes that I see guest posters submitting posts to me making is that their posts come to me largely as large slabs of uninteresting looking text. Most people don’t ‘read’ content online – they ‘scan’ it. As a result you need to work hard to break up your text and draw attention to important points. Using lists is one way of doing this, as is using bold, italics, font size and color, blockquotes and other formatting techniques.
  • Sub Headings – I am a fan of sub headings – rarely a post goes by that I don’t put <h3> tags around some important part of my post to draw the eye, start a new section or break up a slab of text. One quick tip I’d give on sub headings is to think about them in similar ways to ‘post titles’. The purpose of a subheading is to get people to read the text under it – so ‘craft’ sub headings using some of the same techniques as we mentioned in our post on crafting titles.
  • White Space – a simple line break or a little extra space around an image can have a big impact upon how your post looks. Let your content breathe.
  • Short Paragraphs – one edit that I often make with posts submitted by others on my blogs is to break up paragraphs into shorter ones. This makes posts seem less overwhelming and more achievable for readers to read.
  • Break Posts Up – at times after writing a post it becomes clear that you’ve written something that is simply too long or covers too much territory. Rather than publishing it – breaking it down into a couple of smaller posts can do wonders for how the post looks to readers. Many readers would much rather read two single posts that are more focused than a longer rambling one that covers too much ground. This is actually what I’ve done with this very post – originally it was the 2nd half of my post on Quality Control but I realized that while related, the topics were perhaps a little too different to cover in the one post.
  • Highlight and Reinforce Main Points - pay attention to using some of the above techniques when it comes to your main point and call to action. If your post is a long one – it can actually be useful to repeat your main point numerous times within your post (in the introduction, main body of the post and then as a closing sentence).

What would you add to this list of ‘post design tips’? How do you ‘polish’ your posts to maximize their impact?

Further Reading on Quality Control and Polishing Your Blog Posts:

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.

ProBlogger Reader Blog Review: Win a Tomtom GPS Unit

This week I’d like to run a ‘reader review’ competition here on ProBlogger. Chitika kindly emailed me last week to ask if I’d be interested in doing a giveaway with them and so instead of just running a ‘comment to enter’ competition we thought we’d do something that gave everyone a chance to win a prize by helping another blogger.

The Prize

tomtom.png

Chitika (the ad network that is my 2nd highest blog income earner – learn more about them below) have put up a Tomtom ONE LE – (Limited Edition) GPS unit (pictured left).

The Competition

To put yourself in the running for the Tomtom all you have to do is review the blog Girls Just Wanna Have Funds by this Friday at 9am my time (in Melbourne Australia).

The winner will be the person who leaves the most helpful comment in the comments section below (as judged by the blog’s owner, Ginger). I should note that this is not a paid review for Ginger – I simply asked my Twitter followers to let me know if they wanted a review and she was one of many who submitted a link.

So don’t just leave a comment ‘great blog’ – actually look over the blog, talk about what you like, talk about what could be improved, share how you’d suggest they work on different aspects of the blog like design, content, SEO, monetization – the more constructive and helpful your comment is the more chance you have of winning.

My hope with this review is that Ginger will get some good advice, that one reader will get a nice prize and that the rest of us will improve our own skills and knowledge on how to build great blogs both by giving advice and reading what others have to say.

About Girls Just Wanna Have Funds

I asked Ginger to share a little information on her blog with us to help those of you participating in this review to give quality feedback that will help her. Here’s what she provided.

girls-just-wanna-have-funds.png

Girls Just Wanna Have Funds is a personal finance website targeting women in the areas of saving, investing, debt reduction and frugality. Our articles aim to be centered around issues that mainly affect women such as balancing career and family within the context of personal finance, education and the glass ceiling, household budgeting and managing finances with a significant other/spouse. Our primary goal is to teach women how to be mindful of their spending and building their net worth by making careful choices around their money. Women are often socialized to use money to create a certain lifestyle, while men are socialized to utilize money to invest for the long term. We’d like to change that by educating women on how to build wealth long term by paying attention to the present state of their finances and the decisions they make. In addition to the blog, we also have a meetup through Meetup.com that meets primarily in DC but also have other meetups nationally in the US that meet in other states through Meetup Alliance where members are able to create state chapters and begin their own meetups centered around women and personal finance.

Areas for Improvement:

  • Content/writing: How can I improve the content to target women in a more efficient manner and increase commenting on posts
  • Ad placement: I am with BlogHer Ad Network which is great as far as revenue but not sure about the optimal placement that doesn’t become obtrusive as some of the ads are animated via Adobe Flash. Also I am aware of the ad at the top of the theme causing the theme not to work properly in IE. I am working on this with BlogHer and my theme designer.
  • Site promotion: Besides commenting on other blogs/forums, guest posting and blog carnivals, how can I increase readership that sticks? Ive been stumbled quite a few times and even featured multiple times this year on local and national media but would like to figure out how to retain the readers that visit the site as a result of the media exposure.

There you have it – if you address some of the needs that Ginger has mentioned above you’re surely putting yourself in a better position to win the prize.

About Chitika Our Sponsor

I’ve been using Chitika for 2-3 years now and in that time they’ve earned me well in excess of six figures – but I’m not alone. In that time they’ve increased their publisher network to a point where they now have over 30,000 publishers using their variety of ad units.

Their ad units traditionally suited publishers with product related blogs – but in more recent times they’ve introduced their ‘premium ad’ units which display a much wider range of ads and help those with less product oriented blogs monetize their blogs. They’ve also relaxed some of their publisher requirements over the last few months so even bloggers with smaller amounts of traffic will now be accepted into the program.

Update: this competition is now over and I’m just waiting for thhe winner to be selected by Ginger before announcing it. Thanks to everyone for entering.

Present a Consistent Brand in Your Blogging

In this video post I reflect upon the one of the downsides of changing your blog’s brand and/or design.

While updating blog design, logos and avatars in social media sites can bring a lot of life to a blog and present you with an up to date and fresh web presence – one of the negatives is that you can actually stop the momentum that you might have already created with your previous branding.

This is a lesson that applies when thinking about blog design but also even the simple avatars you choose for your Twitter and other social media profiles.

I’m interested to hear your experiences of both how changing your online ‘branding’ has led to confusion but also how you would suggest bloggers do it in a way that builds upon previous branding.

This post was brought to you by Business Week Exchange.

PS: sorry for the audio quality on this video. I recorded it in a public space and there was a little too much background noise.

16 Important but Potentially Distracting Blogging Tasks

Have you ever had one of those days where you set aside time to blog and while you spend the whole time that you put aside busily doing ‘stuff’ – you don’t end up actually writing anything?

I had one of those days this last week. After what felt like a busy day of ‘work’ I realized I’d not actually produced a single blog post.

As I looked back over my day and the things that I’d done it struck me that there are a lot of tasks that bloggers do that are important – but that can at times become distracting from… well… writing posts… the core task of any blogger.

16 Important but Potentially Distracting Blogging Tasks

Following are 16 potentially distracting tasks for bloggers (note, I’m not saying that any of these are not important or worthwhile, just that they can actually become a distraction if we allow ourselves to become sidetracked by them):

  1. Social Messaging - Twitter, Plurk, Friendfeed, Pownce…. (add your favorite micro blogging/social messaging service here). Each can suck up your time if you don’t get focused and put some boundaries around them.
  2. Social Bookmarking – many bloggers become somewhat obsessed with writing posts for and then gathering votes on social media sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Yahoo Buzz, Reddit etc
  3. Social Networking - building profiles and interacting upon Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace etc – all useful in building a brand and profile as a blogger, but potentially a distraction.
  4. Blog Design – blog design is important at creating a first impression but when you find yourself tweaking it, reworking it, planning your next one more than actually writing content for your blog you might be in trouble.
  5. SEO – like blog design there always seems to be something you could do a little better when it comes to optimizing a blog for search engines. It can be worth your time to do some of this, but one of the most effective ways of doing SEO is to write content that hits the spot with readers.
  6. Reading other Blogs in Your Niche – yet another great use of time, but many bloggers spend so much time on other people’s blogs connecting, leaving comments and even writing about them that they fail to write anything unique on their own.
  7. Reading about How to Blog – this might seem strange coming from a blogger who writes about blogging, but from time to time a blogger comes to me for advice on how to improve their blog who has done so much learning about blogging that my encouragement to them is simply to stop reading about it and start doing it.
  8. Guest Posting - I am a big fan about using guest posting on other peoples blogs to expand your profile and grow your readership – however the best way to utilize guest posting is to have great content on your own blog for the new readers you engage with to see when they come visit.
  9. Interacting with Readers - this is one that I hesitate to write about because I’m a firm believer in allocating time to spend one on one with readers – however as a blog grows it gets more and more difficult to do. There comes a time where most bloggers need to decide how to strike a balance on this front – boundaries and processes can really help.
  10. Networking with other bloggers – another great way to build brand and traffic to your own blog is to connect with other bloggers in your niche – however there are millions of blogs ‘out there’ and it can be an endless task.
  11. Monetization – finding and testing ad networks and affiliate programs can take a lot of time. Then optimizing them for your blog and tracking the results and extending your earning potential by finding private sponsorships and ad sales can really eat up even more of your time.
  12. Starting New Blogs – diversification is an important and worthwhile part of the journey of many bloggers development, however I come across some bloggers who start too many blogs too quickly and don’t give their early ones time to get going and develop before they branch out.
  13. Analyzing Stats – one of the biggest potential time suckers, that many bloggers become distracted with at different times, is analyzing your stats. Sure, you can learn a great deal from looking at who is coming to your blog, from where they come and what they do when they arrive – but at times, when you do it all day everyday, it can be a habit that takes you away from your blogging.
  14. Projects/Competitions/Memes - many bloggers wanting to run a competition or project on their blog don’t realize just how much work it can be to manage (or how hard it can be to get them working). They can bring a lot of life to a blog, but they can also be suck you (and your readers) attention away from your core blogging.
  15. Dealing with Trolls and Trouble makers – it is SO easy to get drawn into passionate (yet pointless) arguments with other bloggers and readers that can leave you emotionally drained and having wasted hours upon hours of your time. While at the time it seems to important to respond – many times it’s best just learn to hold it in.
  16. Tracking down copyright violations - unfortunately in the medium we operate there are people who scrape the content of others, whack ads on it and call it their own. While it can be important to track down these copyright violations down – the statement ‘how long is a piece of string’ comes to mind and some bloggers spend so much time tracking splogs down, issuing DMCA legal notices and attempting to get the content removed that they have little time for much else.

Let me reiterate – there’s nothing wrong with any of these activities…. BUT….

In fact I at different times I’ve recommended and given tips on all of them on this blog! However – this post is about balance and priorities.

While these are all great activities the danger is in those times when they sidetrack us from other core aspects of our blogging.

In my own blogging I try to guard against becoming distracted by:

  • Having goals (both long term but also daily goals)
  • Being aware how I’m spending time (periodically throughout each day I stop and ask myself if I’m on track
  • Setting time aside for the most important tasks (I put aside three mornings a week specifically for content creation – I block out this time and remove other distractions for these times.

What distracts you most from blogging? How do you keep yourself on track?

What do you get if you put Shoemoney, CopyBlogger, Chow, Johnson, Kukral and ProBlogger in the same Room?

Make-Money-Online-BloggingOK – that heading sounds like a bad joke (and it could be) but I had confirmation this week that Jeremy from ShoeMoney is joining our ‘make money online with a blog‘ panel at Blog World Expo.

This makes the lineup – Brian Clark from CopyBlogger, John Chow, Zac Johnson, Jim Kukral, ShoeMoney and myself. It’s going to be some panel. I’m very excited because while I’ve met Jeremy and Brian before the other four will be first time meetings for me.

The only challenge is going to be that the session is only 60 minutes and with 6 of us it’s going to be hard to fit it all in! Hopefully we can find some time together outside the session to create some more good connecting and learning!

Register with the code PBVIP (or any of the others that are going around at the moment) and you get 20% off. If you’re coming – don’t forget to get there a day early so you can come to b5′s free day of training on the 19th.

How to Live Blog an Event

The subject of live blogging has come up for me three times in the last 24 hours so I thought it might make a good reader discussions.

How would you go about live blogging at a conference?”

That was the question I was just asked – how would you do it? What tools would you use? What strategies would you use to get content online?

PS: as I was about to hit publish on this question an article on this very topic appeared in my RSS feed on Web Worker Daily – Preparing to Live Blog an Event. It’s got some good tips – but what would you add?