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The Ultimate Last Minute Christmas Gift for Bloggers

200912241408.jpgIf you’re anything like me you’ve probably left your Christmas shopping to the last minute (as I write this post there are less than 3 hours left til the shops close here in Australia and I still need to get one more gift)!

If you’re still searching for a great gift for that special blogger in your life (or perhaps a treat for yourself) we’re happy to provide you with a solution here at ProBlogger – the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook.

While an e-book is a little hard to wrap I’ve had a lot of readers from both ProBlogger and DPS email me today to tell me that they’ve just bought copies as gifts for family and friends. It’s particularly good because you don’t have to leave your house to get it and there’s no delivery fee – just pay for it and download.

Some are being quite creative in how they give them too with many burning the PDF onto CDs/DVDs so that they’re able to wrap it up. Others are buying them and then forwarding the download link onto the receiver of the gift via an email.

PS: In mid January I’ll be offering a special limited time bonus for all buyers of 31DBBB. I’m not ready to announce it yet but both those who get a copy that week and those who already have at any time in the past will get the bonus. Just a little extra sweetener for buying the e-book – stay tuned.

PS(2): Of course if you’re buying a gift for a photographer – you should look no further than the Essential Guide to Portrait Photography :-)

Blogger Outreach: Center of Cirque’s Social Efforts

Today Reem Abeidoh provides an interesting case study of blogger outreach conducted by Cirque Du Soleil.

The practice of blogger outreach isn’t new. This engagement model continues to be popular mainly because it has proven to effectively build awareness and drive consumer consideration. Cirque Du Soleil realizes the potential blogger outreach has on its prospective and loyal customers. By investing in this practice, Cirque has essentially fostered a community of bloggers who support and evangelize on its behalf!

I first learned about Cirque’s blogger outreach campaign when I was at BlogWorld Expo. Jessica Berlin, Cirque’s Social Media Manager, invited 250 bloggers to attend a show of their choice and share their genuine feedback on their respective blogs. This resulted in significant chatter on blogs and twitter about the “Cirque Experience.” By simply engaging members of the blogger community, Jessica was able to convert them into brand ambassadors. This served as a great case study of a brand leveraging blogger outreach to establish a community.

Diversified Brand, Diversified Approach

Cirque is quickly moving toward delivering the right information to the right audience at the right time in the right place. This hyper-targeted approach allows Cirque to directly connect with its customers during their discovery journey. It is especially important to the brand because Cirque features 20 shows that are unique in character, story line, demographic and appeal. According to Jessica, “Each show has a little bit of a different audience demo so we know what type of content and language would work better. For example, people who are fans of Zumanity, our sexy show, are interested in much different things than Wintuk, our family-oriented production.”

Matchmaking Consumers with Content

Much like the entertainment industry, Cirque is the umbrella brand that features a variety of shows and experiences. So the task is not only to match the right content with bloggers, but also to connect readers with content. Jessica does not only need to think about what the blogger would be interested in, but also: Will the reader be convinced? Will they care? Will it help them decide? Will that show be appropriate for their 5 year old?

Earned content holds credibility and weight in prospective customers’ eyes. When bloggers detail a show’s elements, a customer’s decision-making process is impacted in two core ways: 1- Learn about Cirque as an entertainment option, and 2- Consider attending a show. Jessica says, “Bloggers help us because they really give detailed accounts of their experiences at a show. They help explain the differences between the productions. If they’ve seen more than one Cirque show, bloggers are great at describing what’s different. If they’re new to Cirque, bloggers help explain why Cirque du Soleil is so unique.”

Experience the brand through the Content

Despite the variety of show genres, there is one common element across all Cirque shows. Cirque is about experiencing the entertainment. Attendees are engaged from the moment the theme-clad staff scans their ticket to the moment they exit the theater. Bloggers draw a picture that allows the customers to visualize the experience. Jessica added, “While seeing our shows is entertaining, it can also be an emotional experience and no one tells that story better than a blogger. So many bloggers like to express their feelings and not just report on the “facts”, which is great for describing a Cirque du Soleil performance.”

It was interesting to see how Cirque has essentially come full circle with customers always centered right in the middle. As Jessica said, “Twenty-five years ago, Cirque du Soleil was built on grassroots efforts. In a way, social media is bringing us back to our roots.”

Reem Abeidoh writes on Social Media, Current Affairs, Marketing and More. Subscribe to her blog here and follow her on Twitter.

How to Manage Expectations with Your Blog Readers

Yesterday I watched this mini disaster unfold before me between a couple exchanging Christmas gifts.

Unmet-Expectations

As I watched the repercussions of the exchange of gifts (I’ll tell you what happened below) I found myself thinking about unmet expectations.

Elliot Larson once said – “Anger always comes from frustrated expectations” – as a blogger interacting with readers for 7 years I’d have to say that I agree.

As I think back over the times where I’ve had readers most frustrated and angry with me (and when I’ve been most frustrated with others) – it almost always comes down to there being a difference in expectations between blogger and reader.

Most bloggers who’ve been at this game for a while have had at least a handful of complaint emails/comments from readers:

“You post too often!”
“You don’t post enough!”
“Your posts are too advanced!”
“Your posts are too basic!”
“You do too many promotions!”
“You promised XXX but you never delivered on it!”
“You never replied to my email!”

Sometimes the complaints are legitimate and other times as bloggers we write them off as the reader just not getting us or asking too much.

Whether justifiable or not – in each of the cases above the person making the complaint had some kind of unmet expectation. They signed up for an RSS feed, newsletter, Twitter account or bought a product expecting one thing but getting another.

As bloggers – how do we manage expectations better and minimise these kinds of complaints?

A few thoughts come to mind:

1. Know what your own Goals and Expectations are

As I look back on some of the instances that I’ve had with readers having unmet expectations of me I can honestly say that in some instances the reason was simply that I didn’t have a very clear understanding of what I was trying to do or achieve.

I’m sure many bloggers are similar – we can be an impulsive lot – experimenting, tweaking, changing directions and starting new things at the drop of the hat. While this often leads to great discoveries and creative new directions – it can also leave readers reeling a little and feeling disappointed.

I’m still quite impulsive – but over the years I’ve learned a little more to take my time with new ideas, to test them with small groups of people before launching them publicly and to force myself to plan and think about over arching goals and objectives in order to make the road a little less bumpy for readers.

2. Communicate Your Expectations Clearly

Once you know what your readers will get from you and your blog – communicate it clearly to your readers.

For example – if you have a newsletter and intend to publish it weekly – state that in your subscriber page. If the newsletter is simply an update of what’s happening on your blog – let them know that so they don’t expect completely new content.

If there are strings attached with any aspect of your blog – it can be well worthwhile letting your readers know about them up front.

This particularly applies when you change any aspect of your own expectations or goals.

For example if you’ve been happily posting at a frequency of 4 posts a week but suddenly decide to start publishing at a rate of 10 posts a day – you’ll want to communicate your decision and reasoning to readers. Changes in your own approach might make sense to you but if you have readers who signed up for something completely different you’re setting yourself up for a clash of expectations.

I’ve seen this problem on numerous occasions including about post frequency, changes in topic/niche of a blog and even changes in the way that a blog is monetized (suddenly adding lots of ads, or paid posts, or affiliate promotions).

3. Identify Common Unmet Expectations and Preempt Them

Over time you might find that you constantly get the same complaint from readers. This could be an indication that you need to consider changing your approach – OR it could simply mean you need to work harder to get the reader’s expectations right earlier.

For example I worked with one blogger a few months back who kept getting nasty emails from readers complaining that the blogger didn’t respond to emails quickly enough. The blogger was inundated with emails and found it hard to answer everyone (and it could take a week or more to do so when he did get to it). He was frustrated that readers expected too much and readers were frustrated because they expected more of him.

We added a simple sentence or two to his contact page explaining that the blogger received 100+ emails a day and was not able to respond to everyone. We also added alternative places that people could interact with him (on Twitter) and also added a FAQ section to his blog and linked to it from the contact form to help readers find answers to some of the more common emails requests that he received.

The complaints he received by readers dropped dramatically.

4. Don’t Hype

Many unmet expectations are just simple and understandable misunderstandings between blogger and reader – however at times bloggers could be a little more at fault by falling into the trap of hyping themselves, their blogs and their products up to a point where they’re setting themselves and their readers up for a clash of expectations.

I know this temptation – you slave over what you do, you want it to succeed and you stretch the truth just a little in some of your claims or promise things you probably can’t deliver on in order to convince potential readers that you’re worthy of their readership.

The problem is obvious though – you simply can’t do what you say you’ll do and as a result you end up with a disappointed (at best) or an angry and aggressive (at worst) reader. At the more aggressive end of the spectrum you might also have the reader tell others about how you’ve let them down.

5. Under Promise and Over Deliver

There’s nothing wrong with big promises and claims – IF you deliver on them. However if you’re not sure if you’ll be able to deliver on an element of what you’re tempted to promise – leave it out and add it later.

For example when we launched ProBlogger.com I always wanted to add a featured content area where I would produce extra and exclusive content for paid members. However at the time of launch I didn’t yet have the time allocated in my weekly schedule to be able to commit to delivering regular extra content.

It wasn’t until recently that I was able to do this and I’ve since added the area to the community. The reaction of adding it later was that readers are thanking me for the bonus – something extra to what they signed up for expecting. Perhaps we could have signed up more people earlier by promising this area earlier – but I’d rather a smaller number of happy members than a larger number of angry ones!

What Would You Add?

By no means am I perfect in this area. I still get readers telling me that I’ve not delivered upon what they were expecting from me – I’ve still got work to do. As a result I’d love to hear from you on how you manage reader expectations in comments below?

PS: I promised that I’d tell you how the gift exchange that I witnessed above turned out. Here’s what happened about half an hour later!

Expectations-Met

It’s not quite an ‘under promise and over deliver’ situation – but both went away happy with a story to tell!

PS: just been told by people on Twitter that ‘pearl necklace’ might have a double meaning. It was not my intention to be funny or offensive with this, it’s really what the gift was!

ProBlogger Christmas Eve Party – Save This Date

OK – last year I did an impromptu ProBlogger ‘Christmas office party’ on Christmas Eve. It basically involved me drinking beer and eating some chips sitting in front of a webcam while Twitter followers dropped by to say G’day. We did a bit of Q&A and had some fun for an hour or so.

This year I want to open it up to everyone and give you a little advanced warning.

This year I’m going to do it a little earlier in the day (I’ll swap out beer and chips for coffee and a muffin) and it’ll be on at 9am this coming Thursday Melbourne time.

This will make it:

  • 2pm Wednesday in Los Angeles
  • 5pm Wednesday in New York
  • 10pm Wednesday in London
  • 6am Thursday in Singapore
  • 3.30am in New Delhi (sorry friends!)

I’ll Tweet out a reminder in the lead up and when we start but it’ll be at the ProBlogger Show channel on Ustream.

Feature Content Area Added to ProBlogger.com

This is just a short note to update readers on ProBlogger.com – the ProBlogger Community area.

In the last 24 hours I’ve added a new area to the forum area where I’ll be releasing monthly ‘featured content’.

Each month I’ll be releasing a podcast interview with a successful blogger – looking at how they got started, how they got their break, how they keep creating compelling content, how they monetize their blog and more.

Each of the interviewees will be given a membership of ProBlogger.com and invited to come and interact with our readers in the weeks following the podcast release.

200912221127.jpgThe first interview is now posted – it’s with Gala Darling from Icing.

Gala has built her blog and associated freelance writing into a business over the last couple of years. In the interview we cover all of the topics mentioned above plus we look at a new monthly podcast that she’s successfully started as a way to monetize her blog.

This interview is a little over 30 minutes – others will be around this length/depth and longer.

Future interviews will be with a variety of bloggers from different niches and with different areas of expertise.

ProBlogger.com is a paid subscription area and currently has around 2300 paid up members from a large variety of niches and levels. Join us here.

PS: Members also currently receive 50% off the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook.

Aweber Makes a Statement About Their Data Being Compromised

As a quick update to my post over the weekend about Aweber’s system being compromised and spam emails being sent out to those that subscribe to Aweber lists – Aweber have today released a statement acknowledging the problem and talking about what they have done as a result of it.

A quick summary:

  • They’re putting it down to vulnerabilities in two third party software systems that they use.
  • They’re saying that the hack was limited to areas where subscriber email addresses were stored.
  • They believe that the attack was done but an ‘overseas organised group’.
  • They state that no other information was taken including information about customers accounts or affiliates accounts.
  • They say that Aweber’s system was not used in the spamming and as a result deliverability rates have not been impacted
  • They’ve closed the vulnerabilities.

Of course the reality is that while Aweber customers own details and information have not been compromised (this is a relief) – our lists have. While there’s nothing that Aweber can do about this now – the reality is that we as their customers do have to live with the knowledge that our readers, those who trust us with their details, are now getting spammed and that this spam could continue indefinitely.

While I understand Aweber’s statement, feel sorry that they went through this, am happy that it’s not as bad as it could have been and know this stuff happens – I do have some mixed feelings on this:

  • Firstly I’ve got over 333,000 subscribers who have potentially been receiving spam in the last few days. This makes me feel ill and embarrassed. I’ve fielded many many emails in the last few days from angry and confused readers. While not all will realize why they’re being spammed now some who have set up specific addresses for my newsletters have – and they’re now angry and have a damaged view of my brand (and some have unsubscribed*). If you’re one of these subscribers – I’m truly sorry – I wish there were something that I could do except suggest you mark the spam as spam and/or resubscribe with a new email address.
  • Secondly I’ve been actively recommending Aweber for a year or two here on ProBlogger. I personally want to apologise to my readers who have acted on that recommendation who have been impacted by this. While by no means is it my fault that there was this flaw in Aweber’s system I acknowledge that my genuine recommendation has led to these implications.

I think Aweber has an amazing service. They’ve become an integral part of my own business, have always given me amazing service and I will continue to use them. However I guess I wanted to also acknowledge to others hurt by this that I’m sorry for my part in it (indirect or not).

While Aweber does not apologise in their statement (I guess the lawyers might have had a part in that) I certainly want to express my sorrow for this event to those of you impacted by it.

Update: Aweber have since updated their statement to express that they’re sorry.

There is no perfect system. Over the years my own sites have been hacked (as have many many successful businesses). It is just a pity that this particular instance has impacted so many people.

* as I’m about to hit publish on this I thought I’d check out how many of my subscribers have in fact unsubscribed over the last few days. What I found in the reports section was very odd – for the last 3 days Aweber is reporting that not a single person has unsubscribed from my lists. The blue part of the chart is the unsubscribers – you’ll see in the last three days it is not there at all).

This is bizarre – in the last month of the stats there has not been a single day that I’ve not had someone unsubscribe – in fact I can’t remember a day that there wasn’t at least 10 for much longer than that (it’s just a natural part of having a list of the size that I do) – to have 3 days in a row with no unsubscribers is very very odd. Hopefully it’s just a glitch!

Screen shot 2009-12-22 at 9.55.46 AM.png

How To Increase Traffic 30% in a Week

Screen shot 2009-12-21 at 10.00.35 AM.pngThis morning I glanced down at the Alexa traffic indicator for ProBlogger in my Firefox browser and noticed that in the last week I’ve had a noticeable upswing in traffic to ProBlogger.

At first I couldn’t think of why this might have been. In the last 7 days none of my posts have gone viral around the web – no big site has linked up – nothing much has changed.

I clicked through to Aweber to see if the chart there was any different. It similarly showed an upswing in traffic.

traffic.png

Perhaps it is just one of those Aweber ‘glitches’ that happens every now and again – so I checked my site metrics and the same upswing was reflected there. Traffic was up a bit over 30% on normal over the week.

I dug down further to see which post drew in all the traffic thinking that perhaps one went viral while I slept one night and then returned to normal – but there was nothing abnormal. All of the posts in the last week had normal kind of traffic – hmmmm.

As I continued to ponder I realised that the upswing wasn’t due to any one post – it was simply due to the fact that last week I posted 13 posts instead of my normal 7-8. The increased number of posts wasn’t a strategic move – it was just that there were more stories to cover during the week with a few breaking news stories.

I guess the take home lesson is that an increase in posting frequency can lead to an increase in traffic.

Of course it isn’t quite as simple as just doubling your posts and seeing an automatic increase in traffic. A few things to keep in mind are:

  • This will be more the case for a site with existing subscribers than a new one – increased numbers of posts means your subscribers are being presented with more options for things to read – increasing their chance of finding something that fits their needs.
  • Of course increasing your post frequency too much and too quickly can annoy some of your subscribers. Keep in mind that when I surveyed readers on why they unsubscribe to blogs that the #1 reason given was too many posts.
  • The key is to keep your posts relevant, on topic and useful. If you do want to increase your post levels you probably should also do it a little gradually. I got away with 13 posts last week instead of 8 like the week before but if I’d posted much more than that in the week I’m sure I would have got some push back from readers. Don’t suddenly decide to be like some of the big tech blogs and push out 20 posts in a day unexpectedly!

Rookie Lessons for New Bloggers

Guest Post by Katie Kimball from Kitchen Stewardship.

I know how it feels to know absolutely nothing, and that’s actually a good place to be.

When I hit the six-month mark with my blog, I took time to sit down and digest the experience, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much one can learn about a totally new field in half a year. I wrote down my lessons, some “rookie strategies” if you will, thinking that although the perspective of a seasoned pro is incredibly valuable, there’s something significant about still having the eyes of a newbie.

I learned the basics by reading posts about blogging (at Problogger, of course). Anyone will tell you content is king, you should learn about SEO just a little, be consistent in writing, interact with readers, comment on other blogs, etc. As I forayed into the blogosphere haphazardly, I had to use my own uncanny powers of perception and a hefty dose of common sense to figure out a myriad of little intricacies. Want to know how to enter carnivals effectively? Why you need a gravatar and should learn to play the fool? How about my number one tip that helped me hit 1,000 subscribers in 9 months?

Enter a New Society

-1.jpgWhen I began blogging, someone told me “Welcome to the blogosphere.” I thought it was a nice sentiment, but now I realize that the blogosphere is more than a funny phrase. It’s a society all on its own, complete with traditions, customs and strict standards of behavior that would impress any cultural anthropologist. It even has a unique language that you’ll have to learn if you want to get by. Quick – define these words:

  1. SEO, WP, RSS
  2. carnival, meme
  3. gravatar, Photo Bucket, button
  4. Alexa ranking, Google page rank
  5. permalink, internal link
  6. retweet, DM, hashtag
  7. plug-in, widget
  8. bot, crawl, ping
  9. monetize, affiliate, disclosure
  10. sleep.

I wouldn’t have known what to do with that list at this time last year. In fact, I had to have someone explain to me what a “blog” was. Now I’m intimately familiar with all of them… except that last one. If you’ve mastered the list already, keep reading for some “finer points” that may be new to you.

Making Comments Count, Not Just Numerically

As I learned about blogging, I read everywhere that commenting on other people’s blogs is the best way to get your new blog “out there” and gain readership. However, you can scramble around the blogosphere all day long and leave nothing but a time-consuming anonymous trail if you’re not wise about leaving your mark:

  • You must have a gravatar, preferably a photo, definitely something memorable. On any WordPress blog, your smiling mug will hover next to your well-chosen words. People will “recognize” your face around the blogosphere, and if you leave thoughtful comments, they may visit your blogo-home to see what else you have to say. Don’t change this image too often, if at all. Take care in choosing a great pic that you’re willing to see every day for a few years!
  • Don’t be just you, become your blog. I had people as regular commenters and didn’t realize were coming back over and over because they were just “Sarah” or “Jen”. The photo helps, but also get in the habit of commenting as Name @ Website name so people connect you with your site and notice you more. I’m Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship everywhere I go.
  • Two “don’t” notes:
    • Don’t just say “great post” and think you’ve left a meaningful comment. You can say something significant in one sentence, but that sentence ain’t it.
    • Don’t constantly leave links to your own site. Shameless self-promotion is obvious, no matter how exuberant you are!
  • Of course, there’s already a great post on Problogger to help you learn how to craft quality comments.

Number One Way to get more Comments on YOUR posts?

Play dumb or make mistakes. If you write a fabulous, seamless post, you will likely get comments like “great post.” If you demonstrate that your knowledge is slightly lacking or ask a question of your readers directly or fumble around a bit, you will have people (women especially) clambering to help a poor soul out. There’s a reason women talk a lot… we like to give advice. Open yourself up to be the receiver of some advice, and you’ll get more comments.

By the way, when you respond to comments, try to use the person’s name. This way if your comment is ever separated from the original question, as mine were when I moved to self-hosted WordPress, your readers aren’t confused.

The Importance of Links

Google acknowledges that your site is the real deal when other sites link to yours. Friendly links also help real people find your site. You can obtain links in the following ways:

  • Comment on another blog and leave your URL (on Blogspot you may need to choose the Name/URL option to help yourself out).
  • Write something that another blogger enjoys – they may link to you later. If you’re savvy about it, you can leave a link on one of their posts or send a direct email invitation to a series or the like.
  • Of course, there’s a Problogger post on the subject… but he doesn’t include this next one!
  • Enter carnivals.

Is Entering Carnivals Worth It?

Thou must enter carnivals. At least in the mommy blogger and real food blogger world, my niches (vocab alert!), there’s no easier way to get a link to your site than by entering the ubiquitous carnivals out there on the web. (What’s a carnival, you ask? It has nothing to do with elephants, let me tell you.)

When a blogger hosts a carnival, they choose a theme and generally a day of the week, and on that day you can input your blog’s name, post that applies, and the permalink (URL that goes directly to the post) in a form at their site which will then become a link to yours. Carnivals are also called memes, especially when one includes a list of questions to complete. (Read more about memes here.)

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This is one of my favorite carnivals demonstrating how many blogs do it, with a Mr. Linky system for linking up.

Here are Katie’s tips for carnival success:

  1. At first, enter any carnival you can find. When you’re a nobody, a link is a link. This is how you get people to find your site on the vast Internet.
  2. You can enter a post in more than one carnival.
  3. Always follow proper carnival etiquette: be sure to put a link back to the host’s carnival page somewhere in your post. I usually create a bulleted list at the bottom of my page with this format:

Google likes it when I make the name of the site into a link, and I also link that carnival’s permalink to the carnival name so my readers can find it.

  1. Once your site becomes more well-established, you can become more savvy about being selective with your carnival entries. Check your stats to see which carnivals generate hits. Some will bring in four visitors, some 50-100. Clearly you can prioritize and focus on the carnivals that bring you readers. Also, if you’re running low on time, enter carnivals at sites with better Google page rank or Alexa rankings (for the link recognition).
  2. There’s a fine art to getting genuine clicks from a carnival.
    • Be wise about how you word your entry. Instead of just using your post or blog title like this: cooking from scratch, you’ll get more people interested in clicking to your site if you’re creative or controversial, like this: Should SAHMs cook from scratch?
    • Use caps to draw attention to your entry, but not excessively.
    • Standard entries include your name @ blog name and your subject. If necessary to be more appealing, leave out your name and even your blog name. Draw them in…
  3. I absolutely assumed that getting listed on a well-known site would generate a lot of clicks, but that’s not necessarily so. The sites that have active, strong communities are the ones who have readers interested enough in clicking on their carnival links. I’ve been published at or linked to from all three of these “big” sites: Blissfully Domestic, Tip Junkie, and 5 Minutes for Mom. (Note: Blissfully Domestic as both a contributor in the food niche and in the weekly Tuesday carnival I am Blissfully Domestic; Tip Junkie’s Submit a Tip; 5 Minutes for Mom’s Sunday Around the Blogosphere, twice as a feature and a few times in the giveaway linky.) Only one of them resulted in triple digit hits: publishing a tip at Tip Junkie. The others? Only single digit rewards.
  4. Sometimes the best carnivals to enter are those that are not weekly but a special feature. They often have a theme that readers are interested in, therefore folks are more likely to click around. The only way to find these is to be a regular blog reader. Another favorite blog hosts great carnivals like this one:

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An incredibly comprehensive list of carnivals can be found here and another here (although outdated – I left a bunch of updates in the comments!), and find lots of carnivals at www.blogcarnival.com. This latter style of carnival also gives you an SEO-friendly link to your home page.

Are Some Links Better Than Others?

Quite simply, yes. I can link to your site all day long, but if I’m just a little “write about my kids for grandma to read” website, Google doesn’t care. Here are two things to watch for to tell when you’ve hit upon a site worth linking to:

  1. Google page rank
  2. Alexa ranking

You can install the SearchStatus bar for Firefox here to find out how various websites rank. It shows up at the bottom of your computer screen, and when you see a Google rank higher than your own or an Alexa rank lower than yours, you’ve found a site worth spending time at.

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This is what the SearchStatus bar looks like. Unobtrusive at best.

As you can see, my Google rank is a 3, and Problogger is a 6. Guest posting here is a great idea! You won’t see many non-corporate sites any higher than a 6 (10 is the highest). The higher your Google rank, the higher Google puts your pages when people search.

Alexa rankings work opposite: lower is better. New sites start out in the millions. I’ve taken Kitchen Stewardship from over 400,000 at the end of August to well under 200,000 less than 3 months later. Mr. Rowse is sitting pretty at 2,467. (That’s really low, in case you’re wondering.) Paying attention to these rankings is one reason you still want to link up at the “big” sites I mentioned above, even though direct hits may not be plentiful.

Participate in the Internet Time Warp

Everyone knows that once you get on the Internet, you don’t come out again for two days. I suppose some people can get out of the Internet-suction within hours, but you never do just one thing. If you’re going to blog, you might as well do as the Romans do and try your darndest to draw people in to your site until they feel an overwhelming urge to add you to their reader!

The best way to draw people in is to provide ample opportunity to exercise their mouse finger. That is, give them something to click on. Anytime you can link to your own content within another post, do it. At the end of your posts, it’s not a bad idea to give your reader even more to click on. Keep them at your site reading quality content for 15 minutes, and they’re likely to add you to their reader and come back for more.

I use WP’s Link Within plug-in to help with this, but I also try to provide manual links at the end of most posts that compliment the post itself. I use headings like “Other Fall Recipes” and “More Ways to Save Time in the Kitchen” and list three great posts, using intriguing titles – not necessarily the actual title of the post.

I also have a standard closing to all of my posts. It explains the mission of my site (for the sake of new readers), invites people to click for RSS feed or email subscription (links included), and tells them where to find the latest Monday Mission (a feature at Kitchen Stewardship). You can see it in the screen shot above. I manage this function with my “endnotes” page, explained below.

Finally, use your sidebar to your advantage. Be sure to share your latest 5-10 posts somewhere near the top to capture new readers. You might also consider listing “5 Most Important Posts” or something similar in your sidebar. I keep a list called “Currently Featuring” right at the top for any series, giveaways, carnivals or special posts that I have going on.

Choose interesting tags and categories. One thing I wish I would have done is to be more cognizant about my categories and chosen phrases that would really pique folks’ interest and get them to click. Mine aren’t so hot right now! Put yourself in the shoes (computer chair) of your reader. What might you stumble across and be interested in enough to click?

Sanity Savers for Bloggers

First, realize this:

  • There is always more to do in the blogging world.
  • Sleep is secondary.

Then try to pick up some tips to streamline your time at the computer. Organizing my information has been invaluable. I quickly learned that, although I love composing my text in MS Word, links don’t always copy over well. It’s too easy for a small mistake to happen, and I don’t have time to test all my own links every time I publish. When you want to include internal links (links to your own content) often, use one or both of these two strategies:

  1. Keep all your permalinks in a text doc. Every time you publish a post, view it and copy the URL to the post (from the web address bar) into a Word or notepad document. Mine is titled “000 post links 000″ so that I can see it easily as I Alt+Tab through my open windows. Don’t bullet or number them, just paste the links in.When you need to link to something, use the “Find” function (ctrl+F) in Word and type part of the title of your post. Then you can easily copy and paste the URL into a new post as a link, or into the comments at other blogs when applicable. I promise this is much quicker than finding a past post via your website’s search bar or in your WordPress dashboard. The latter in particular takes such a long time. This is also how I find a post when I need to edit/update it after publishing.
  2. Create a “page” (not a post) and give it a parent page in case you ever accidentally click “publish”. On this page (mine is called “Endnotes”) place anything that you’ll use often: certain graphics, your post closing text, some favorite posts, written for draw-ëem-in purposes and linked to the URL already, and your carnival favorites. If you have this open in another tab while you’re composing a new post, you can easily put your closing and some effective internal links in your new post with a quick copy and paste. For organization’s sake, I always have my dashboard, then comments, then Endnotes page in tabs in that order when I’m working on my blog. List the carnivals you’ve found like this:

You can quickly copy a handful of appropriate links over to your new post and enter those carnivals in a very short amount of time. When you go to the carnival, you should make the words “My Favorite Carnival” a link to that specific post. You can enter many carnivals very efficiently this way if you have a flexible post! I keep a list of my favorite carnivals that generate the most hits organized by day in a text doc as well.

Single Greatest Tip?

You’ve been waiting for that number one subscribers’ tip, haven’t you? I’m hoping the answer is “guest posting at Problogger” myself… Honestly, beyond writing fabulous, amazing content that people care about, you need to believe you’ve got something good, work hard shamelessly promoting your own site, and get lucky sometimes. When a random site that has well-established readership links prominently to a post you’ve written because the author just happened to love it, that can garner more hits and subscribers than anything you can purposely do. You just have to make sure you have a few methods in place in case that happens to draw those readers into the Internet time warp, and you’re well on your way to a readership boost.

Katie Kimball is a former teacher, at-home mom, and newbie blogger at Kitchen Stewardship, which is dedicated to balancing nutrition, environmentalism, time and money through the eyes of faith.

What Are You Doing with Your Blog Over the Holidays?

What are you doing with your blog over the holidays?

As the end of the year draws nearer I’ve been pondering what to do with my blogs over the Christmas/New Years break.

In the past I’ve done a number of things including:

  • Blogging on as normal
  • Getting a Guest in to cover the blog over a week
  • Running a special series of ‘lighter’ posts
  • Running a variety of guest posts

This year I’m going to do something I’ve not done before – take a break from blogging for a whole week.

I will be putting up a few posts over the week that are wrap up posts looking back at the year that has been on different topics – but these will be written in advance and set to go off so that I can have a break from blogging between Christmas and New Years. I won’t be having the week off completely though – I have a couple of other writing commitments that I need to finish off so will use the week to tackle those.

What are you doing with your blog over the holidays?