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Get 2 Weeks Access to ‘Become a Blogger’ for $1 [Exclusive to ProBlogger Readers]

If you’re looking for some more training in building a blog after our 31 Day challenge I’ve got a special offer for you in this post.

Since finishing 31DBBB yesterday I’ve had a number of participants in the project email me to ask what other training that they can do to keep improving their blogs.

The realization that it seems many have had is that when you invest time and energy into your blog it does improve – our 31 day project has led many people to really step up their blogs and continue to see them improve.

become a blogger.pngAs a result of these reader questions I’ve approached Yaro Starak and Gideon Shalwick from the popular Become a Blogger course to see if they’d be willing to open up their course again to 31DBBB participants (and all ProBlogger readers). I chose Become a Blogger because I think it’s at a level that many 31DBBB participants will find useful.

Get Become a Blogger for $1 for 2 Weeks – Yaro and Gideon didn’t hesitate to agree and then blew me away by offering ProBlogger readers access to their course for just $1 so that people could sample what they offer and see if it’s something that they want to continue with.

The deal is simple – Become a Blogger is normally $77 a month (it goes for 6 months) but if you sign up as a ProBlogger reader you get a trial period of two weeks for $1. If you don’t want to continue just email Yaro and Gideon and canceling your membership.

What is Become a Blogger?

This is a course for those just starting out with blogging or who have started but are struggling to set it up a level. Here are the 8 modules covered in the video training:

  1. Get Your Blog Up And Running Fast And FREE
  2. How To Optimize Your Blog For Maximum Search Engine Performance
  3. How To Create Powerful Content For Your Blog, Consistently and Without Fail
  4. How To Use Images On Your Blog To Make You Stand Out From The Crowd
  5. How To Create A Different Dimension To Your Blog By Adding Audio
  6. How To Breathe Life Into Your Blog Using Online Video
  7. How To Create Multiple Streams of High Quality Traffic To Your Blog
  8. How To Make Money From Your Blog

There are a variety of good bonuses also on the sales page including a forum are and teleconferences to help you step it up.

You can read full details of what is included in the modules and bonuses on the sales page of Become a Blogger. They also have some free videos on that page to give you a feel for what the course is like.

PS – Don’t have a Blog?: if you don’t yet have a blog then this course is relevant for you as it does have a module on setting up blogs from scratch. Others who already have blogs will find modules 2-7 well worth their time.

Enhance and Grow Your Online Community Through Appreciation

Today Patrick O’Keefe from iFroggy Network and the author of the book Managing Online Forums shares how appreciation can help grow the community on your blog.

As online community managers and administrators, bloggers and general social media participants, we sometimes get so caught up in growing our community, that we forget to appreciate what it is that we do have.

Appreciation is a powerful thing. If you manage an online community and are concerned with encouraging a healthy, positive atmosphere and with retaining members, there is one simple, relatively easy thing that you can do to improve your chances of doing both. Appreciate your contributors.

What brought this to mind was a recent message that a member sent me over at PhotoshopForums.com, where he thanked me for thanking members for their contributions because, he felt, it was a part of what made the community great. Now, you may be thinking – “you, Patrick, the administrator, thank people on your community. What’s the big deal?”

Well, it made a big deal to this gentleman, who wrote a really nice message, expressing his love of the community and highlighting my notes of appreciation as a major reason for him loving it. It was a great, kind message that meant a lot to me. Beyond just the personal sentiment, it meant that what I had wanted to be expressed; was expressed. The member received my message of appreciation loud and clear.

When I say messages of appreciation, what am I talking about? Drawing from the forums example at PhotoshopForums.com, primarily I am talking about thanking members for good contributions, in the very thread that they make them in.

For example, let’s say someone joins the community and asks a question, in an effort to find out how Photoshop does something. Then, one of our members replies with the answer, in detail, written in a kind and helpful manner. And then, after the member replies, saying that it has helped them, I also reply – thanking the person who provided the answer and, perhaps, welcoming the member who asked the question, if they are new.

It’s not like I write long posts to do this. “Great stuff, Dave!” “Excellent work, Joe.” “Thanks, Bob.” Basically short messages of appreciation, letting them know that I am reading and that I appreciate what they are doing within the community.

The member who contacted me reasoned that all too often, when people try to help someone, they disappear or they don’t say thanks. That is simply the reality of running a community where support is a large part of what you offer. That’s life and it happens. But, my messages had helped to soften this and offset it and make people feel more at ease and at home, as a valued member of our community.

I know this is a simple concept. I recently gave a talk at South by Southwest Interactive where I discussed responding to feedback. I didn’t consider any of it to be earth shattering. In fact, to many, I believe it was probably common sense.

But, I feel that when something is common sense, sometimes we take it for granted. We must remind ourselves. People want to help. People want to be appreciated and they want to know that someone cares. As the leader of a community, you can help them understand that.

You may say, “well, Patrick, you just say those things like a robot – you don’t mean it.” No, no, no. I do mean it. I mean it deeply. Yes, I may be repetitive in what I say. But, I only say it when I mean it. I don’t randomly pop it into threads without any care or without reading the thread, nor do I say it on every good post I see. But, I try to make an effort to see great contributions and say thank you.

How this helps you retain members should be clear. People like to be in a place where they are welcome, where people notice them, remember them, appreciate them. Remember the line from the “Cheers” TV show theme? “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came.”

As cheesy as I know that sounds, it’s also true. Maybe not everyone knows their name, but some do, and they are appreciated and recognized. That’s the point.

How does it encourage a good environment? If people feel appreciated, that’s instantly a better environment than if the opposite were true.

But, also, members take cues on how to act from staff members. If you and your staff have bad habits, members will pick up those bad habits. If you and your staff have good habits, members will pick them up, as well. You and your staff are an example. Take this power seriously and responsibly.

You can appreciate members in other ways, as well. You appreciate them by listening to their feedback. Not doing what they say, necessarily, but listening openly and considering it.

In addition to public posts, I also like to randomly send a private message to a member who is doing a good job, just to say hey and to let them know that I’ve seen their posts, that I like what they are doing and to please keep it up because we appreciate them. Simple and genuine.

There are many ways to thank people in a more public way, as well. Having a member of the month program or a yearly awards program (where you and/or your community vote and select winners) can be a great way to show appreciation. Make sure that these programs have meaning, though, and are awarded to the truly deserving.

Making someone a member of your staff can be a form of appreciation, but that’s not what it should be about, in and of itself. Staff spots should be reserved for people who set a great example for members to follow, who follow your guidelines and who communicate in a kind and respectful manner consistently for an extended period of time. Don’t hand out staff spots to your top posters without thought. Make sure you pick people that you can work with to accomplish the goals you have set for the community.

Appreciation is a powerful thing. It can open doors, start relationships, give people happiness, bring people back and give them confidence. In the interest of cultivating community, please consider how not just appreciating people – but making sure they know you appreciate them – can enhance your community.

Patrick O’Keefe is the owner of the iFroggy Network and the author of the book “Managing Online Forums,” a practical guide to managing online forums, communities and social spaces. He blogs at ManagingCommunities.com and is on Twitter as @iFroggy.

Plan the Next Steps for Your Blog [Day 31 - 31DBBB]

Today is Day 31 in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge.

Congratulations to those who have made it through to this point – I hope you’ve found it to be a helpful experience.

To those just starting, part way through or who are yet to start (you can sign up at any time) hang in there!

Your Last Task – Plan Your Next Steps

Today for your last task in 31DBBB I’d like to encourage you to take step back from the last month of activity and learning and to plan your next steps.

I’ve said this numerous times over the last month but while most bloggers tend to drift aimlessly along in their blogging I find that those who grow successful blogs often set aside time to think a little strategically about their blogs every now and again.

This doesn’t mean you need a highly developed strategy – it just means putting aside a little time every now and again to think about what you want to achieve and how you want to do it.

Develop a Plan for Your Next Month

If you’re a blogger who is struggling with discipline or routine (you know who you are) I would highly recommend setting aside a little time to develop some kind of a plan for the next month.

Get a calendar (whether it be a real physical one or your computer based one) and map out specific tasks that you want to achieve over the next month.

Let me show you what this might look like with a calendar that I’ve whipped up below in Google Calendars (click to enlarge).

blog-plan.png

The calendar above is based upon some of the activities we’ve covered over the last month. You can see that this plan includes:

  • 6 posts a week (Sundays are a day off from posting)
  • Each Post day has it’s own ‘type/style’ of post
  • Sundays are for determining specifics of what each post will be (topics/titles etc)
  • An Admin type task each Monday
  • A promotional activity on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays
  • A day on Fridays for ‘readers’ (emailing them, answering questions etc)
  • A day on the last day for stats analysis
  • A brainstorming day on the first day of the month

The daily tasks of course will vary from blog to blog and I would not recommend you just adopt this plan.

You might not want to do a weekly cycle of types of posts, you might have a different frequency of posting, you might want to include other activities or or not do others – the key isn’t what you include but rather to layout a plan of the main things you feel are important to your blogging..

Of course the above calendar looks very ‘neat’ – you’ll find that there will be daily tasks to do also (comment moderation, email, social media presence etc) and that other opportunities and challenges arise from day to day that will take you off course – but with a main task or two identified for each day it means you know you’ll achieve a good balance of activity over a month.

With this in set up you don’t have to work out what to do each day when you start blogging – you just have to do the task outlined for the day.

Over the last 31 Days we’ve covered a lot of ground. By no means have I touched on every aspect of blogging but my hope is that out of the 31 days there are at least a few practical things that you can build into your regular blogging routine.

One last thing that I’d recommend that you do at this point is simply look back over the last 31 days of tasks (you can see them all listed in the daily task area of the forum) and identify which of the tasks you might want to take on board as something you regularly do on your blog. The reason that I selected the topics and tasks that I did was simply that these are things that I do regularly myself (most of them on at least a monthly basis). You don’t need to replicate them all for yourself but please don’t simply end 31DBBB today and ‘shelve’ what you’ve learned – pick two or three things you’ve found helpful and plan to do them more and extend them further.

Tell Someone Your Plan

A quick tip once you’ve worked out what you’re doing next with your blog – tell someone.

Plans often remain plans and don’t become reality – but one way to take help them to happen is to share them with others. Share it with your blog buddy, tell us about it in comments below or over in our forum or find another friend or family member to share it with.

31DBBB – Where to from here?

Quite a few readers have asked me what happens now with 31DBBB? Many have enjoyed the tasks, the teaching and the community around this project and it does seem a pity to simply end it here. As a result there are few ways that we’ll extend things in a less intense kind of way:

1. 31DBBB Workbook

Many of you want your own copy of the daily tasks. We’re currently working on putting them together into an e-book/pdf workbook which will enable you to go through the tasks again at your own pace as many times as you like. There will be a small cost associated with this for those who want to grab a copy. I’ll share more on how you can get it in the coming week or so via the email list and here on the blog.

2. More Tasks

Over the coming weeks and months I will continue to use the email list to send the occasional task to participants. By no means will it be daily (I’m suspecting it’ll be every couple of weeks at the most).

3. Special Offer

In the next couple of days I’ll be sending an email out with a special offer to get a great blog training resources at a very reduced price. There’s no pressure to take it up

4. Forums to Remain Open

The 31DBBB forums have been an amazing little community for many of the participants of this challenge. In fact they’ve extended well beyond 31DBBB and there’s great discussion on there relevant to all bloggers. They will remain open indefinitely. In fact stay tuned because my hope is to expand them in the coming month to be an even broader community site for bloggers. ProBlogger.COM is going to be ProBlogger.COMMUNITY (more of this soon).

Lastly – let me thank you all for participating in the last 31 Days. While it has been a lot of work it has been a fun ride for me and I have learned a lot. A special thanks to Lara Kulpa who has helped managed the admin side of things particularly in the forum area and a thanks to all who have given feedback and support along the way.

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

Join over 14,000 other bloggers and Get your Copy Today.

AdSense Announce ‘Google Ad Planner’ – Showcase Your Site

If you run AdSense on your blog and are looking to attract advertisers to target it specific with their ads then you’ll want to check out a new tool that AdSense have just announced on their blog – Google AdPlanner’s Publisher Center.

Ad Planner is a tool that advertisers use to find sites related to their ads and this new publisher center you can have some say over what they see when they’re looking for sites to advertise on.

First you need to claim your site (there are two methods either through Webmaster Tools or if you’re a DoubleClick Directory User) and then you can customize the description for your site, highlight the ad types that you run, share Google Analytics data (if you wish – this will replace the estimated traffic numbers that Ad Planner currently gives advertisers), choose categories for your site etc.

See more about Google’s Ad Planner Publisher Center in this video:

17 Statistics to Monitor on Your Blog [Day 30 - 31DBBB]

blog-statistics.pngToday your task in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge is to spend some time looking at your blog’s statistics/metrics package to see what you can learn from it.

I encouraged participants in 31DBBB to make sure they had a metrics package installed on their blog before they started so I hope you have at least a month’s worth of stats to look at. If you’ve not got a stats package installed yet you should get one on your blog ASAP as it’ll help you track how it is performing.

Take some time out today to do a little analysis of your blog’s statistics. There is a wealth of information in them that can be incredibly useful.

Important Note: this exercise tends to become more useful over time. If this is the first time you do it then hopefully it’ll be illuminating – but the longer you have been collecting metrics on your blog the more useful it can become as you track trends and see patterns over time. As a result – this type of exercise should be something you build into your regular blogging routine (I try to do an in depth review each month).

Some of you will be used to doing this type of analysis so you won’t need a lot of help in doing it – but if you’re new to this here are a few metrics to pay particular attention to:

  1. Overall Visitors – this is the metric most of us probably look at the most so I’ll start with it. Are visitor numbers on the increase or decrease? What might be the reasons for these changes (ie could it be tied to frequency of posting, topics, other sites links etc).
  2. Most Popular Posts – what posts are being read more than other posts? Knowing this is important for a couple of reasons. For starters it gives you a hint of what topics you could write more on – but secondly it gives you some key pages on your site to optimize (ie think about how you can drive people from these posts deeper into your blog).
  3. Referral Stats – what sites are sending you the most traffic? If it’s another blog or site, perhaps you could develop a relationship with them to see this increase. If it’s Search Engines, how can you adapt the posts to see it rise even more using on page SEO techniques).
  4. What Questions are being asked? – what questions are readers typing into search engines to find your blog? These could make great future posts (learn more about how to do this here).
  5. What Keywords are sending traffic? – knowing the keywords that people search for to find your site is very useful. It helps you to know how to optimize your blog for SEO even better and can give hints on what content to write more of.
  6. What seasonal traffic is there? – are there any seasonal trends that you should be aware of and could use to capture more traffic? What caused the bumps in traffic and how can you prepare yourself better for next time those conditions might happen again (read more on seasonal traffic and how to capture it).
  7. Daily/Weekly Trends – another trend to watch is what traffic does over different periods of time. What are the most popular times of day? What days of the week are most popular? Knowing this gives you ammunition in planning when to release new posts.
  8. What’s Your Bounce Rate? – metrics packages like Google Analytics provide you with a ‘bounce rate’ stat which measures how many people arrive at your site and then leave again without viewing any extra pages. I find this a key metric to watch and attempt to change. Set yourself some goals to get this rate down and the page views viewed per visitor up by making your blog sticky.
  9. Page Views Per Visit – Similarly to ‘Bounce Rate’ – This is a good one to watch over time as it shows you whether those coming to your blog are going deep into your blog’s content or simply looking at the page they arrive on. My goal on my blogs is to see this number increase over time. For tips on how to increase page views also check out 4 Quick and Simple Ways to Increase Page Views on Your Blog.
  10. Time on Site – Another stat that can give you a sense on whether readers are engaging with your content is to look at how long they stay on your blog. The longer they are staying the more likely it is that they’re reading, commenting and interacting (or that they forgot to close their browser).
  11. New vs Returning Visitors – This one gives you a sense of whether you’re succeeding in converting people to loyal visitors.
  12. RSS Stats – If you’re using a tool like Feedburner to manage your RSS feeds you’ll have access to more useful information. Feedburner provides you with the number of subscribers but also what posts people are reading most of (again showing you what content people are engaging with most which gives you some good information on what type of content is working best).
  13. Outbound Clicks – Not every metrics package will give you this type of information but if you have access to it knowing what links on your blog people are clicking to leave it can be very useful. It’s not that you want to stop people clicking links – but knowing what links they click on can give you some useful information on what motivates your readers to click a link and what type of information they want more of.
  14. Where are People Clicking on Your Page – not all stats packages track this but some like Google Analytics or packages specifically for it like CrazyEgg will create heatmaps or visual pictures of what people click on when they visit your blog. I find CrazyEgg’s heatmaps better than Google Analytics but you do need to set it up on specific pages of your blog to be able to see them. This is very useful information when thinking about the design and layout of your blog but also can help you test how to layout posts to see where people click.
  15. Exit Pages – A similar metric is knowing what page on your blog people are leaving from. A couple of years ago I checked my stats and noticed that the % of people leaving a particular page on my blog was triple other pages. When I investigated I found that the page had some very bad formatting issues on it that made the page almost unreadable – I was able to fix the problem and keep more readers engaged as a result.
  16. Monetization Stats – many of you are looking to make money from your blogs so it’s also important to pay attention to any stats you have at your disposal on how your blog is performing in this way. The metrics you have at your disposal will vary from income stream to income stream but if possible try to work out where on your blog the income is coming from specifically. For example if you use Google Analytics and AdSense you’ll be able to see what specific pages are earning more than others. Otherwise – use what ever channel or tracking options your ad network or affiliate program gives you to help you work out which posts are performing.
  17. Other Stats – There are plenty of other stats that can be revealing when you dig into them. Knowing the Geographic regions of your readers can be helpful as you think about content but also is useful if you’re dealing with advertisers, knowing the screen resolution and browsers people are using to view your site is good from a design perspective etc. Also worth doing from time to time is looking at other stats like how many posts you’ve done over time (post frequency can help you monitor how you’re performing personally) and how many comments you’ve had on your blog over a period of time and on which posts (which can be a great indicator of what kind of posts are working best on your blog and how reader engagement is going).

What Would You Add?

There are many other types of metrics that most statistics packages will provide you with. Feel free to share the metrics that you check most often and how you use them to improve your blog in comments below. Also let us know what tools you are using to check your blog’s metrics.

Warning: Don’t become a stats addict. Most new bloggers go through a period where they are checking their stats every hour. This is pretty normal but over time can add up to a lot of wasted time.

I personally try to do a quick check of stats throughout the day 2-3 times (just looking at traffic numbers mainly to see if there’s any spike in traffic that I need to know about) and then month put aside an hour or two to go deeper and look at some of the above statistics.

Further Reading: Using Google Analytics to Compare Traffic from Different Periods of Time – in this post I use the ‘compare’ feature on Google Analytics to track how my blog is going over time by comparing it to other periods.

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

Join over 14,000 other bloggers and Get your Copy Today.

Discover How to Make Money with Membership Site Mastermind

Yaro Starak has just launched his new site – the Membership Site Mastermind Coaching Program.

Last week I linked up to a free report that Yaro Starak had released outlining the way that he makes money from setting up membership sites (get the report here if you missed it) – as a follow up to that report Yaro today has just launched a great coaching resource for those wanting to discover more – Membership Site Mastermind.

You can get details of what the program entails on the sales page for MSM. He’s created a special video at the top of the page if you don’t want to read the very long sales page.

membership-site-mastermind.png

The program that Yaro has put together covers a lot of topics over the 6 modules that it runs.

  • Module 1 – Topic Selection and Preeminence
  • Module 2 – Traffic Generation
  • Module 3 – Human Resources and Technology
  • Module 4 – Content and Pricing
  • Module 5 – The Launch Process
  • Module 6 – Post Launch

There are also a variety of great bonuses including videos on the technical aspects of setting up a membership site, interviews with membership site owners, templates, a members only forum area and live coaching calls.

Yaro is a great teacher (most of the teaching in this is done via video/mp3/transcripts) – he produces high quality teaching resources – he shares in a very personal way with simple and easy to understand language.

Best of all – Yaro’s done what he is teaching. He’s built a business around membership sites that earns him a six figure income while traveling the world.

Signups Close on 11 May – you do need to make a decision on whether this is an investment for you in the coming week as doors close on 11th May.

If you’re considering membership sites as a way to build an online business – I’d recommend you get Yaro’s free report and consider this new coaching program.

Fast Action Bonus: Yaro is also offering a special bonus for people who sign up in the next 24 hours. It’s access to some training he’s doing called “How To Live The Two-Hour Work Day”. The training is being done live here in Australia in Brisbane but if you can’t make it to the live session you get access to recordings of the training.

Develop a Plan to Boost Your Blog’s Profile and Readership Online [Day 29 31DBBB]

Today your task in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog is one that should help you think a little strategically about where you spend time online building your online profile.

One of the ways that many successful blogs build a readership and profile is by spending significant time and energy building up a presence on other websites. Whether this be forums, social bookmarking sites (like Digg or StumbleUpon), social messaging sites (like Twitter), other blogs or any other type of site – time invested in other websites can be a great way to build your own brand.

However…. spending time on other sites can also be a complete waste of time.

A trap that I see many bloggers falling into (and have fallen into myself) is sinking significant time into building a presence on sites without having really thought through two things:

  1. Whether it’s the right site to build a presence on
  2. What their strategy and purpose is for being on the site

Perhaps I’m describing myself more than you here – but many of us as bloggers tend to DRIFT around the web from site to site without any real direction or purpose.

20 minutes onTwitter, 5 minutes on MySpace, 20 minutes reading other blogs on Google Reader, 30 minutes checking out photos of friends on Facebook, 20 minutes checking out the latest threads on our favorite forums, back to Twitter for 20 minutes, 15 minutes following links we found on Digg……..

It’s easy to get to the end of the day and wonder what it was that we really achieved. We aimlessly drift around the web and have very little to show for the time we spend.

Can you relate?

It is a pity that so many of us struggle with this problem because spending time on other websites has the potential to really build our blogs…. however for so many people it can end up being largely a waste of time.

Your Task Today

Today your task is to do something that some of us (yes I’m talking to myself here) will find difficult. Depending upon our personality type it could feel a little too rigid – however I ask that you humor me and see where the exercise takes you.

1. How Much Time Do You Have?

Work out how much time you have each day (or week) for spending time on other websites to build the profile of your blog. Remember that you need to also have put aside significant time to spend on your own blog (writing, interacting with readers etc).

2. Describe Your Desired Reader

Spend 10-15 minutes describing the type of person that you want to read your blog. For some of you this will include very specific things like demographics (age, gender, location) but for others of you it will be less specific. Your potential readers might be defined more as ‘beginner photographers’ or ‘people interested in learning the latest patch working techniques’ (ie a description based more upon people’s needs or behaviors).

3. Ask yourself this Question

Where are my potential readers gathering online?” This is a key question be asking yourself regularly. If your goal is to build your blog you need to know what type of people you want to attract and to be on the look out for other sites where this type of people are gathering.

Of course this question is not easy to answer and it can take a lot of time to identify these types of sites. Let me give you some examples of how I’ve answered this question:

  • Flickr – for me a site dedicated to photo sharing was an obvious place for me to have a presence when starting my photography site.
  • Lifehacker – a blog with an audience with a techie interest but that was all about helping people with ‘hacks’ or tips. A logical place for me with all three of my blogs which hare ‘tips’ related blogs.
  • Twitter – until recently Twitter has been mainly used by social media buffs – it’s a logical place for me to have a presence for ProBlogger and especially TwiTip.
  • Forums – when launching ProBlogger I spent a lot of time on webmaster related forums like DigitalPoint and Webmaster World. When starting out with my photography blog I spent time on a lot of photography forums.
  • Blogs – I still hang out on a lot of blogs related to my niches but particularly in the early days of my photography blog I was a daily commenter and occasionally guest poster on quite a few.
  • StumbleUpon - image based posts tend to do really well on StumbleUpon – as a result it was a logical place for me to build a presence for my photography blog.

These were some of the places that related to my own blogs – for your niche/topic it’ll probably look quite different. Perhaps there are other social media sites (for example Facebook often has strong ‘groups’ on different topics or LinkedIn might be a more appropriate place to interact) or other types of sites that seem to attract your kinds of readers.

Keep in mind that you’re not just looking for other sites with your exact same niche/topic. For example, Lifehacker is not a blog about photography but it has a readership that overlaps with the type of people I want to read my photography blog. The Webmaster forums were not forums about blogging specifically – but they had a user group which would have had a % of people who operate blogs.

So don’t just identify sites in your own niche – look at related topics and whether there might be some kind of overlap between the readers that they have and what you’re looking to attract.

As I mention above – learning where your potential readers gather online is a long term search – but try to come up with at least a couple for the purpose of this activity.

4. What Opportunities are there to Build a Presence?

Once you’ve identified at least a couple of places that your potential readers are already gathering spend some time looking at what opportunities you might have on these sites to build your own blog’s profile.

The opportunities will again vary quite a bit from site to site. Some of them we’ve touched on earlier in the 31DBBB challenge and include:

I. Guest Posts – if it is a blog do they accept guest posts? Some blogs actively seek contributors (look for ‘write for us’ pages) while others don’t advertise it but do use reader contributions.

If you’re accepted as a guest poster pay particular attention to what types of posts work well on the site you’re writing for. Look at comment numbers and try to find out what types of articles might have done well previously on social media sites. Quite often the blogger will be willing to help you and give you examples of what has previously worked on their blog.

II. Submit Tips/News – similarly – some blogs rely heavily upon readers for story ideas and will give credit for the source. For example in the early days of my photography blog I was regularly emailing Engadget and Gizmodo when new cameras were released. I’d send them not only the news of new cameras but images that they could use. They didn’t always use my stories and link back but when they did it was a boost both to traffic, profile and SEO.

Quite a few blogs have links in their navigation areas inviting these types of tips and ideas for stories so don’t be afraid to use them.

III. Leaving Super Useful Comments – if there’s no way to share tips or write guest posts the comments section of another blog is a place that you can really build a profile. Don’t just leave quick pointless comments – go to some effort. I was speaking with one blogger recently whose strategy was to leave at least one post length comment on another blog each day.

By ‘post length’ comment they meant that they aimed to write at least one in depth comment of 500 words or more every day on another blog in their niche. The comment would extend the ideas in the posts they were commenting upon, share examples that made the posts deeper, added resources etc (not just with links back to their own blog. The strategy was to add comments that were attention grabbing by their usefulness.

The result was that the blogger was regularly asked by other bloggers to guest blog on their blog and that other readers began to visit their blog even though they rarely linked to it in their comments.

This same strategy can be used in forums. Start a new thread that is a tutorial or highly useful resources – people will want to know more about you if you do (more on this strategy of using Forums to promote your blog here).

IV. Making Connections/Building Your Network – if the site you’ve identified is more of a social networking or social bookmarking site then one strategy you’ll want to work on is making connections with others on the site. Set up an account and start making ‘friends’. Pay particular interest to making friends with other active users and people with shared interests.

It can also be well worth identifying key players or influential members on the site. Watch how they operate and look for opportunities to build relationships with them.

The key is to be a genuine participant on the site. To add value, to become a key member of the community. As you do this opportunities will arise that will allow you to promote yourself and your blog a little more.

V. Profile pages – Does the site have an opportunity to set up a profile page or have any ability to promote yourself in any way? On most social media sites and forums there is the ability to say something about yourself, share a link back to your blog, customize your presence with an avatar and/or background image and nominate some keywords as tags.

Try to keep your brand consistent across the different sites that you are building a presence on where you can. Also think about using a ‘landing page’ as the page that you link to rather than just the front page of your blog (read more on how I do this with a Twitter Landing Page).

VI. Signatures – If it’s a forum (or some other community site) you might have an opportunity to add a signature. My only tip with this is that sometimes less is more. Long, flashing or bright signatures can look quite spammy – so go for something tasteful and descriptive.

Other opportunities to promote your work exist on other sites. For example on Facebook you can promote your blog using a variety of applications that allow you to pull in your latest posts or list your blogs. See what other bloggers are doing and test to see if their strategies work for you too.

VII. Advertising – this won’t be for everyone but many sites will have opportunities to engage their readers with advertising. While this might sound very expensive there are quite a few sites that allow you to start ad campaigns that are quite affordable and with a small budget.

For example social media sites likeMySpace (disclosure: they are currently an advertiser on ProBlogger), StumbleUpon and Facebook all have advertising options that allow you to target specific demographics and even people with certain interests. They all allow you to set up campaigns with quite small budgets too.

Other types of sites might not have quite the same sort of ad opportunities but might be open to other types of advertising. If it’s another blog of a similar size to yours you might even approach the bloggers to do an ad swap – you put an ad on their blog and they put an ad on yours.

Further Reading: Run a StumbleUpon Campaign on your Blog (from the last 31DBBB challenge)

VIII. Volunteer to Help – if it’s a forum site that you’re wanting to spend time on there are often opportunities to help out by becoming a moderator. Most sites won’t take you on as a moderator straight away but contribute genuinely over time and there may be opportunity in this area. While you don’t want to abuse the privilege it – moderation status gives you a certain level of authority and profile on a forum.

5. Plan a Strategy

OK – so you’ve identified some sites where your potential readers are gathering, you’ve assessed some of the opportunities that exist to build your profile on these sites – the task now is to think a little strategically about what you’re going to do on these sites.

Don’t feel you need to have a highly developed plan or strategy – but jot down some of the following:

  • How much time will you spend there? (prioritize which sites you want to spend more time on than others)
  • What times of the week would be best to be active on this site? (sites have their own rhythms and some will be more active on some days/times than others).
  • What types of things am I going to do on this site (which of the opportunities that you’ve identified in step #4 will you pursue?)
  • Set yourself some goals. Again – they need not be highly formal but could include things like getting a guest post published, becoming a moderator, posting X number of comments a week, getting to know the owner of the site etc.

You can extend this step by actually planning out what an average day or week will look like for you as you go about your blogging. I know of a few bloggers who’ve gone as far as setting up a spreadsheet with each day and the hours on that day outlined. They then block out times for each day for certain activities. They fill up their most productive times of day with the most important activities (like writing content on their own blog) and then set aside time each day/week for spending time on other sites.

While this type of schedule might not work for everyone – I personally have used it at times where I’ve felt particularly ‘aimless’ with my time. Even doing it for a week or two can help you to develop more healthy habits online.

6. Analyze Your Current Activity

The last step in this task is to take a little tie to analyze what you’re currently doing with your time online.

  • What sites do you spend time on already?
  • Do these sites actually help to build your profile or could you be more effectively use your time elsewhere?
  • Are you being effective with the time you spend on these sites?

I did some analysis on this 12 or so months ago. At the time I was sinking a lot of time into two main social media sites – Twitter and Plurk. While I enjoyed both I realized that it was Twitter that was a more effective place for me to be interacting. While I’d become a top 10 user on Plurk it wasn’t really as effective use of time for me so I decided to stop interacting there and focus my energies upon Twitter.

Note: I’m not arguing that everything you do online has to be productive and building your profile. Some of you use Twitter more as a social thing than to build your blogs and that is legitimate – however it is worth asking yourself the question and doing a little analysis of your online habits.

Lastly – Keep Balance

My last words of advice are to not become obsessed with building your profile on other people’s sites. I’ve seen a number of bloggers spend so much time building their presence on sites like Twitter that they fail to actually build up and develop their own blogs. Identify key sites to spend time on – but put your own blog at the top of the list and set aside as much (if not more) time for working specifically upon it.

6 Posts for Suggested Further Reading:

Feel free to discuss here in the comments, or over at the forum post for this task.

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Write a ‘Review’ Post [Day 28: 31DBBB]

Today’s task in the 31 Days to Build a Better blog is another writing challenge – I’d like you to write a ‘review post’.

I know that many bloggers already write ‘reviews’ on their blogs but you can never have enough practice on this type of post.

The web is increasingly being used by people to research purchases and help them make decisions.

I’ve not got any stats on this but looking at the types of words and phrases that people type into Google to find my blogs there’s some strong anecdotal evidence that people are actively using the web to seek advice – reviews on your blog position yourself well to meet this need that people have.

The other great thing about review posts is that they show you have opinions on your topic – this makes an impression upon readers and increases the likelihood that they’ll see you as an authority or resource on the topic that you’re writing about.

Reviews Not Relevant for Your Blog?

You might be thinking to yourself right now that your blog isn’t suited to ‘review’ posts. You don’t write about products and can’t think of any books that might relate to your topic?

Fear not – all you need to do is think a little creatively to still be able to do today’s challenge. Here are a few ideas:

  • Review a book
  • Review a movie or TV show relevant to your audience
  • Review another website in your niche
  • Review a restaurant if you’re a food blogger
  • Review an article from a magazine or website
  • Review a hotel, tourist destination or airline if you’re a travel blogger
  • Review an outfit that a celebrity is wearing if you’re a fashion blogger
  • Review a speech given by a politician if you’re a political blogger
  • Review a gadget if you’re a tech blogger
  • Review a tool or piece of equipment relevant to your niche
  • Review an exhibition or gallery if you’re an Art Blogger
  • Review a toy if you’re a Mom or Dad Blogger
  • Review an instrument if you’re a music blogger

Really the list could go on an on – there’s so much scope with this type of post.

Tips on Writing Effective Reviews on your Blog

  1. Give an opinion – people read reviews to help them make a decision. As a result they want opinions – so don’t be afraid to give them. If something that you review is not very good – don’t be afraid to say so. This builds credibility with your audience and shows that you’re willing to give real advice.
  2. Give a Rating – Tied to the ‘opinion’ point above – I find that when you give some kind of concrete rating in a review that readers generally respond well.
  3. Be balanced – giving an opinion doesn’t mean you can’t be balanced. Reviews that give both positives and negatives are more rounded and helpful to readers.
  4. Think about keywords – as you’re writing your review think about the words and phrases that people will be searching for in search engines to find this information. It’ll vary from topic to topic but I find words like ‘price’, ‘problems’, ‘review’ etc are often search for. Also make sure you use the name of the thing you’re reviewing at least a few times (especially in the title). Don’t let your review become dominated by keywords (write for people as your primary audience rather than search engines) but do use your common sense to also optimize your post well for SEO.
  5. Make Comparisons – one thing I find readers respond to well is when you compare a product with another in its class. If you’ve already written a review on the thing you’re comparing to make sure you link between them.
  6. Don’t be Afraid to use an Affiliate Link – if there’s an affiliate program associated with what you’re reviewing don’t be afraid to use it. Different bloggers will have different stances on this one but in terms of pure conversion rates on affiliate links – a well written and balanced review can be very good at driving sales.
  7. Say who it’s good for – ‘is this right for me?’ is a question that many of your readers will be asking. As a result – share who you think a product, service etc is right for. Tied to this – if appropriate talk about how you’d use a product – what reasons would someone need or use it. Also any tips to help those who do buy the product to use it can really lift a review. The more you can tie your review to the real life of your readers the better.
  8. Be Personal – I find that it is often the more personal reviews that tell the story of using something that seem to connect with readers the best when we publish reviews on my photography site. Making a connection with your readers by sharing your story and even showing real life pictures/video (as opposed to or in addition to official product pictures) can really make a difference.
  9. Visuals Count – on that note, anything that can help your readers visualize the product you’re reviewing will help. Use pictures, videos, screen captures, diagrams etc wherever you can to add depth to your review post.
  10. Give Details on How to Get the Item – if your review is about something that people can buy or get for themselves give as much relevant information on how they can get it and how much it’ll cost.

If you have any further tips on writing reviews I’d love to hear them below.

Once you’ve written your review post for today please share a link to it below and tell us how you found the exercise. You can also feel free to share in the forum post dedicated to this task.

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Hunt for Dead Links [Day 27: 31DBBB]

Today your task in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Project is something that most bloggers who have been blogging for a while could probably benefit from doing – go on a dead link hunt.

Blogging is built on the ‘link’. One blog links to another blog who links to another who makes comment on another. This is a wonderful thing – but what happens when one of the blogs that you’re linking to is retired, is deleted, changes it’s link structure, moves etc?

The link is a dead one (also known as Link Rot) and can cost your blog on two fronts:

1. Readability – clicking on a dead link can mean your readers can end up on error pages or being redirected to other irrelevant content to the one they were expected to get to. This can lead to reader frustration or giving the impression that your blog is old and/or out of touch.

2. SEO – I’m not sure of the technicalities of it or what the latest research shows but from what I can tell a dead link is not looked upon favorably by search engines and you run the risk of penalties.

So how do you detect dead links on your blog?

The most obvious ‘solution’ is to surf every page on your blog and manually check all the links. This is something that might be achievable on a new blog – but on older blogs with hundreds or thousands of posts it’s just not feasible.

There are many link checking tools available but to be honest I’m yet to find one that I’m really happy with. I do hear that Xenu’s Link Sleuth is well regarded. I’ve also used the free version of Dead-Links.com (which only checks to a reasonably shallow depth) – but I’d be keen to hear from readers on their suggestions of other options.

Other dead link checking tools:

here are a few that are recommended in the WordPress Codex:

Feel free to suggest others below.

What to Do When You find a Dead Link?

There are a few options for what to do with dead links. They include:

  1. fixing/updating them – if the link is simply wrong or pointing to the wrong place update it so that it works
  2. deleting them – if they are dead and you can’t find a correct one then you can delete the link. I usually add an ‘update’ note to say that I’ve done this. I sometimes also update with new relevant links so that the post is still relevant.
  3. delete the post – on occasion I’ve done this if the whole post’s main point is to link to someone else’s post. A dead link makes this type of post obsolete so I consider deleting them rather than updating.

Whether you use a tool or just tackle the task manually a few posts at a time – finding and fixing dead links can be well worth the effort.

What do you Do

How do you find dead links? What do you do when you find them? Got any cool tools to share? Feel free to discuss here, or share with everyone in the forum post for this task.

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

Join over 14,000 other bloggers and Get your Copy Today.