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Christmas in July Special – Get 25% off 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Today

201007241302.jpgThe 25th July is tomorrow and at our place we’ve invited a group of friends over for a Christmas in July dinner (we do it as an annual thing and exchange gifts and do a full Christmas dinner).

On the spur of the moment today I thought it might be fun to extend the ‘festivities’ to ProBlogger and offer you – our wonderful community – a little gift to celebrate the ‘season’.

For the next week I’m offering 25% off the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog eBook/workbook. To get it just use this discount code in the shopping cart.

chrisjuly25

It will give you 25% off the workbook bringing it down to $14.95 (under 50 cents per day over the 31 days) for some great teaching and activities to improve your blog. Each day in the 31 days gives you a little bit of teaching and a practical and tangible activity for you to do that day to improve your blog.

Get full details of what the workbook includes here OR add it straight to your cart where you can apply the above discount code by hitting the button below.

Add to Cart

I hope you find the workbook to be useful and join the many thousands of bloggers who’ve worked through it already in improving their blogs.

PS: I’m doing the same 25% discount on our 3 best selling photography eBooks over at Digital Photography School – check them out and use the same discount code here.

10 Common Spelling Mistakes That Haunt Bloggers

Whether you like it or not, people will judge your blog by the quality of your writing. The first thing you should do is to avoid the most common spelling mistakes, as they can turn off first-time visitors to your site. Below you’ll find 10 such mistakes to get you started.

1. accept / except

INCORRECT: Please except this gift.
CORRECT: Please accept this gift.

Except, as a verb, means to exclude or leave out. As a preposition it means “with the exception of.” Accept means “to receive willingly.” For example: We visited every landmark except the Eiffel Tower. The school is accepting only those students who have had their shots; all others are excepted.

2. advice / advise

INCORRECT: He refused to take my advise.
CORRECT: He refused to take my advice.

Advise is a verb. The s has the sound of “z.” Advice is a noun. The c has the sound of “s.”

3. all right / alright

INCORRECT: He’s alright after his fall.
CORRECT: He’s all right after his fall.

Although arguments are advanced for the acceptance of the spelling, alright is still widely regarded as nonstandard. Careful writers avoid it.

4. effect / affect

INCORRECT: His death really effected me.
CORRECT: His death really affected me.

The most common use of effect is as a noun meaning “something produced by a cause.” The most common use of affect is as a transitive verb meaning “to act upon.” For example: The disease had a lasting effect on the child. The family’s lack of money affected his plans.

5. every day / everyday

INCORRECT: Dan walks the dog everyday at six p.m.
CORRECT: Dan walks the dog every day at six p.m.

Everyday is an adjective that means “daily.” Every day is a phrase that combines the adjective every with the noun day. For example: Walking the dog is an everyday occurrence. I practice the flute every day.

6. its / it’s

INCORRECT: Put the saw back in it’s place.
CORRECT: Put the saw back in its place.

It’s is a contraction that represents two words: it is. Its is a one-word third-person singular possessive adjective, like his. For example: The man lost his hat. The dog wagged its tail.

7. passed / past

INCORRECT: The car past the train.
CORRECT: The car passed the train.

Past is used as an adverb of place, or as a preposition. Passed is the past tense of the verb to pass. For example: The past few days have been hectic. The deadline has passed. He passed her the biscuits. The boys ran past the gate. As we stood in the doorway, the cat ran past.

8. quiet / quite

INCORRECT: We spent a quite evening reading.
CORRECT: We spent a quiet evening reading.

Quiet is an adjective meaning “marked by little or no activity.” Quite is an adverb meaning “to a considerable extent.” For example: The children are quite amiable today. Quiet can also be used as a noun. For example: We enjoyed the quiet by the lake. (The suffix “ness” should never be added to the abstract nouns quiet and calm.)

9. then / than

INCORRECT: I have more eggs then you.
CORRECT: I have more eggs than you.

Then is an adverb that indicates time. It can go anywhere in a sentence. For example: The man paused by the door and then entered. Then the noise started. As conjunction or preposition, than will always be followed by a noun or a pronoun. For example: I like Melville better than Hawthorne.

10. who’s / whose

INCORRECT: I don’t know who’s dog you’re talking about.
CORRECT: I don’t know whose dog you’re talking about.

Who’s is the contracted form of “who is.” Whose is the possessive adjective form of who. For example: Who’s your daddy? Whose car are we going in?

Maeve Maddox holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Arkansas, and she is the editor of DailyWritingTips.com. The mistakes mentioned in this post come from her latest book, 100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid.

Reach Out and Touch Someone: How the Power of Personal Connection Creates Blogging Success

A guest post by Barrie Davenport.

If you look at recent posts on Problogger, you will find a plethora of practical and useful tools and ideas for creating a blog, growing a blog, and making money from a blog. Like me, you have probably read and absorbed as many of these pearls of blogging wisdom as your brain will allow. However, as bloggers, we sometimes get so immersed in the business of blogging that we lose sight of what should be our primary focus in blogging — serving people.

There are many valid, self-serving reasons to blog. We all want to make money. We want the satisfaction of creating something that others read and having our ideas appreciated by thousands. But if you boil down the motivation for blogging to its essence, you come to understand that we each have a unique gift, and we want to share that gift with others.

There is tremendous emotional and spiritual satisfaction in that act of sharing and serving. If you’ve ever gotten a comment back from a reader remarking, “Your latest post helped me tremendously, and I can’t thank you enough for sharing that,” then you know what I mean. Suddenly, it all becomes personal.

And isn’t that what life is supposed to be anyway — personal? Being connected with others, even in the blogospohere, is what provides the uplifting and rewarding satisfaction that gives life depth and meaning. The truly amazing part about serving others through blogging is that these efforts will propel your blogging into the stratosphere of success. Look at Darren as an example. Or Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, Mary Jaksch of Write to Done, or so many other wildly successful bloggers. They give and give and then give some more. Their ability to give and connect with people has created real relationships that are mutually beneficial and deeply satisfying.

Many people start blogging because they are introverts and may not like interacting with people in a traditional work or social setting. Others (like me) enjoy connecting with people any way we can, and the internet provides a huge pool of potential new friends. Either way, it does take attention, effort, and careful tending of relationships to be a successful blogger.

6 Ways to add a Personal Touch to Your Blogging

Here are some ideas to help you reach out and touch your growing community of readers and fellow bloggers.

1. Be Sincere

Making connections and building relationships is not going to serve you or others if it is just a means to a financial end. You must believe in the inherent value of serving and of what you have to offer. Your sincerity and passion must shine through in everything you do, or people will see through you. You may not make a lot of money in the beginning, but you are building a treasure of trust and respect with your readers and fellow bloggers. That is worth its weight in gold.

2. Always Serve Your Reader

In every idea you develop, in every post you write, in every comment you respond to, serve your reader. Give them something valuable and immediately usable. Give them more than they expect. Awe them with your gifts. Look at all of the free information, ebooks, and advice that Darren gives to you, his valued readers. Here’s an article I wrote for Write to Done on how to serve your reader.

3. Connect with Bigger Bloggers

You already know that this is a way to build your blog. Solicit guest posts, ask them to Twitter something, comment on their blogs. But what about reaching out to them as one human to another? Write them an e-mail congratulating them on a success or letting them know how they inspired you. Make contact with them with no ulterior motive except to reach out. Offer them something useful with no expectation of something in return. Be real and friendly but not gratuitous.

4. Connect with Blogging Peers

Bigger bloggers always started out as smaller bloggers. Treat all bloggers with equal respect, because you never know when someone’s small blog will take off and become the next Problogger! Communicate regularly with other similar-sized or smaller bloggers. Share ideas, frustrations, and resources. Blogging forums are a great way to do that, but one-on-one contact is even better.

5. Arrange Virtual Meet-Ups

If you’ve been communicating on-line with other bloggers or readers, arrange a meet-up through Skype or some other phone or video conferencing software. Hearing someone’s voice and seeing their face immediately makes the relationship more real and personal. It’s the substitute for the business lunch or golf outing! Through these more personal interactions, you are building friendships and networks of people who will support you and you them.

6. Arrange In-Person Meet-Ups

Connect with your readers and other bloggers who live near you and organize a dinner or meeting. If you are traveling, arrange to get together with people you have met through your blog. (Of course, be safe about this. Meet in groups or very public places.) Nothing can beat an in-person, face-to-face meeting for true relationship building. Life-long friendships can be developed with people in wonderful cities all over the world.

7. Attend Blogging Events

Darren has already discussed Blogworld, the social media conference to be held in October in Las Vegas. I plan on attending this event, as do many of my network of blogging friends. This will be my first in-person connection with most of them. Attending these events offers so many opportunities for learning and for networking and socializing with bloggers. These events could be considered Relationship Immersion courses where you have the opportunity to build many great connections in a short span of time. If you haven’t already, please check it out.

8. Always Be Kind and Professional

This is worth repeating though I know it’s intuitive. Communicating through a computer makes it very tempting to say things that we would not say in person. As a blogger, you are still a business person, a real person who has integrity and a reputation. If you receive a snippy e-mail or comment, resist the temptation to lob a snippy response back. Be kind, gracious, ever-professional. Don’t gossip about other bloggers or undermine them on a public forum. It will serve you well in the long run, and you will serve as an example for those who read your blog or who look up to you as a blogger.

9. Share Your Connections

Unlike any other business I know of, blogging is the most mutually supportive and interactive. When bloggers help and support each other, they are creating a larger network of connections and potential readers. Isolating yourself or hoarding your connections doesn’t help you — in fact it undermines your growth. I serve as the editor for The Daily Brainstorm, an aggregate blog that links to a large pool of other blogs (including this one). Every contributor benefits from the readers driven to the blog. It is a great group relationship where everyone benefits.

If you want to build your blog, read everything Darren writes on Problogger about how to do that. But also, take a good look at how he conducts himself, what he gives away, and how he connects to people. Follow his example, not just as a blogger but as a person. Find other blogging mentors to emulate and connect with. Don’t hide your real, flesh and blood self under a bushel. Reach out, connect, make friends, share, be of service. If you do all of these things, blogging success can’t help but find you.

Barrie Davenport is a personal and career coach and founder of Live Bold and Bloom, a blog about bold and fearless living. Download her FREE e-book, How to Live A Meaningful Life.

How to be the Life of the Social Media Party

Being good on social media really has a lot to do with being good in relationships and conversation.

I made this statement in a presentation really and have been pondering it ever since. While there are a lot of great techniques for increasing the effectiveness in your use of blogging or social media – much of it does really come down to relational skills.
[Read more...]

Brainstorming Activity: What Could You Sell from Your Blog?

Today I’d like to suggest an exercise to think about the future of your blog. It’s a brainstorming task to get you thinking about the types of products and services you might one day add to your blog.

I remember doing this for ProBlogger 4 or so years ago and coming up with a long list of potential things I could add to the blog including a job board, membership area, eBooks, ‘real’ book, events and more.

At the time I wasn’t ready to add any of these new products, services or featured – but having that list in the back of my mind enabled me to keep moving my blog forward towards achieving some of them.

The other benefit of identifying these potential income streams that you could one day develop is that others may already be developing them. This might feel a little like you’ve missed the boat but it could also be an opportunity as those with these products might be potential advertisers and/or might have affiliate programs that you could promote.

Once you’ve come up with your list of ideas feel free to share some of them in comments below – it’ll be great to see what everyone is thinking.

PS: stuck for ideas? I don’t blame you – it can be hard to think of how to add a product or service to your blog. Check out the list of products and services that other bloggers have added to their blogs in the results of a poll I ran here on ProBlogger exploring this very topic.

How to Take an Idea to Launch in 4 Steps

“How do you know which projects to go with and which to leave behind?”

This is a question I’ve been asked almost every time I’ve spoken at events recently so I thought I’d jot down a few thought on the process that I find myself going through when looking at opportunities to expand my business with new projects.

Of course I’m over simplifying it a little with this diagram – but it’ll illustrate the basics of how I work.

process.png

I should also say that this isn’t really a process that I specifically take myself through each time I launch a new project – rather its something I’ve noticed myself doing naturally as I look back on previous projects. Let me say a little about each step.

idea.png Idea – For me – idea generation is the easiest part of the process. I have them every day and have a long list of potential projects that I’d one day like to take through this process fully and explore.

I find that the more I start things the more ideas come naturally as you see how readers are using your site, as they ask for advice, as you observe trends in your industry and as you receive and answer questions from others exploring your topic.

The other thing that I find is that as your blog grows you start to get pitched ideas from others. As you become seen as a credible and authoritative source of information and as someone with influence – people want to align themselves with you and explore partnerships.

The keys with this stage is to have a way of capturing the ideas, to not rush in to do every idea that comes along but to be willing to take the best ideas and explore them.

test.png Test – The temptation when you get what you think is a great idea is to just go out and do it. I’ve seen a number of friends move from having a great idea into investing (sometimes quite a bit of money) in developing that idea within hours. In some cases this might pay off – but in my experience most ‘ideas’ could do with some testing before moving into the development stage.

There are many ways to test an idea – here are some that I’ve done:

  • Ask someone – whether it be a trusted friend, your partner, a reader, another blogger – bouncing your ideas off others can be very valuable. Getting another person’s perspective will often help you filter out the crazy ideas and add depth to the good ones.
  • Write a Blog Post – it may not always be appropriate to completely spell out your idea publicly (once they’re out there you never know who might take your idea) but a blog post can be used to test whether there is a need for your idea to fulfil, can be used to gather data from readers responses on how your idea could help them most or could just be a good place for you to think out loud and get a little perspective.
  • Tweet it – I often test ideas with my Twitter followers. Again, you probably don’t want to spell out your idea in too much detail but use your social networks to test the things you’re thinking about.
  • Do a Survey or Poll – this is one of my favourite things to do and something I’ve done regularly over the years. If you’re not sure whether your current readership or network will respond to your idea – test it by running a survey with a small group of them. For example I recently released a travel photography eBook with my photography site. Before commissioning it I did a quick survey with 1000 of my readers to see what topics they’d like more written about. One of the topics I suggested was Travel Photography – the response was that over half my readers said that they wanted more information on that topic – I then went ahead with it.

Testing need not be a long or involved process. A blog post, tweet or survey could all be put together in 24 hours. For us entrepreneurial types 24 hours might seem like an eternity – however the information you gain by doing it could either improve your idea significantly or show you when your idea is not something worth pursuing (which could save you a lot of time and money).

tweak.png Tweak – Once you’ve done a little testing you’re in a position to tweak your idea. This might actually be culling it all together or it could be about making big or small improvements.

Ultimately your ‘testing’ is about putting your idea ‘out there’ to some degree and your ‘tweaking’ is about taking on board the feedback that you get and making improvements to the idea so that if you do take it to a full launch that it is the best it can be.

Sometimes the ‘test’ to ‘tweak’ stage can be a bit of a cycle before you launch and something that you need to do numerous times to get to launch. In fact sometimes the ‘test’ and ‘tweak’ approach continues after launch as well as you continue to try new ideas and gather feedback to continue to improve what you’re doing.

launch.png Launch – With a mixture of fear and excitement you gradually move your idea forward towards launch.

I can’t tell you exactly how to launch a product or service because it’ll vary hugely from situation to situation – however what I have found is that if you’ve gone through the test and tweak process well that you’ll end up launching something that is not only a better quality product or service – but you’ll hopefully have ended up with some ideas on how to market and launch that product.

For example as part of the launch of the travel photography ebook I mentioned earlier a survey I did found that many readers had regrets around previous photography that they’d done when traveling. This gave us a hint as to how to market it (which you’ll see on the sales page).

You’ll also find that if some of your testing/tweaking has been done in public (ie your readers know you’re developing an idea towards launching something) you’ll hopefully have also created some nice pre-launch buzz to assist with your launch.

Some examples

As mentioned earlier – I’m certainly over simplifying things a little here – nothing is quite as simple or easy as I’m making it sound. However I do find that this cycle is pretty typical of the things I’ve done. Let me give some examples.

31 Days to Build a Better Blog

31dbbb.png

The 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook that I currently sell from ProBlogger did not start out as an eBook. In fact it started 3 (or was it 4?) years ago as a series of 31 blog posts. The initial idea was to take my readers through a month of activities to improve their blogs. The first year was very basic.

That first ‘test’ of the idea revealed that people loved the idea of doing a project like this together. It also showed me that some of the activities that I did connected better than others.

I then ran it again two years later with improvements. I added a forum area, started an autoresponder email list to help participants keep on track and changed around some of the activities. Again I learned a lot. I also began to gather feedback from participants that they wanted it as a workbook.

I tested that idea with a survey and found that a good percentage of my readers would be willing to pay for such an eBook so I had it developed (with extra content, design etc).

WIth all this testing and tweaking done I was pretty much certain that I’d not only cover the costs I put into the development of the eBook but make a healthy profit from it on launch (which is how it has happened).

In essences 31DBBB has been through 3-4 different ‘test’ and ‘tweak’ cycles to get it to its current form (and I’m currently testing and tweaking it again and hope to offer a live version of the course later this year).

ProBlogger Live Event

live-event.png

The 31DBBB example above is one that has taken years to go through. Another more recent example is the ProBlogger live training day that I’m running in Melbourne. This is an example of a much speedier process.

The idea came 2 weeks ago.

I tested it with a quick email to two friends (Chris and Shayne) who both added their own ideas into the mix but reacted very positively.

I then tested it with a blog post asking for expressions of interest by inviting people to sign up for more information.

I then followed up those who responded to that call by inviting them to do a survey on their situation and needs as bloggers. Around 50% of people did the survey which gave me some amazing data. The survey revealed the topics we should cover on the day, helped us work out what styles of presentation we should do in the event and also told us that there was much more interest in the event than we’d previously thought (ie we needed a bigger venue).

All of this was before we’d booked a venue, decided on a schedule for the day or even committed to running the event.

Then came the launch – we knew approximately how many would come, what they wanted from such a day and how to cater for them. As a result we’ve had no problem pretty much selling it out.

TwiTip

twitip.png

This same process was how I launched TwiTip (my twitter tips blog).

The idea for a blog about Twitter had been something I’d pondered for a while before launching it. I decided to test whether people would be interested in reading tutorials about Twitter before launching by posting some posts here on ProBlogger – Twitter Tips for Bloggers.

These posts were very popular and got a lot of interaction.

As I began to plan the blog I started surveying my Twitter followers on the type of needs that they had and the questions that they’d asked themselves when they first started. In doing so I began to gather ideas for future posts but also began to see what categories I should have on the new blog.

I launched Twitip with a fairly ‘soft launch’. It was on basic hosting and on a fairly simple theme (I used Thesis). I could have invested into a custom design from day 1 but wanted to test the topic before spending too much on it – so went with a solid premium theme but one that wasn’t going to break the bank.

It was actually around a year before I fully launched the site with a full custom theme.

I could go on and on giving personal examples

The more I think about it the more I realize that virtually every time I’ve launched a new blog, product or service that I’ve been through this type of process. Perhaps it’s partly because I’m something of a cautious person and like to test before I fully commit – but I think it’s also a fairly solid approach.

I’ve seen so many people launch businesses that have not been thought through enough that I just think a little extra time to do some testing would be well spent.

What about you – do you go through similar processes? What would you add or subtract from the process above?

Melbourne Blogger Training Day
3 August 2010 – 12 Seats Left

Just over a week ago I had the crazy idea to run a training day for bloggers while Chris Garrett was in Melbourne. It was a spur of the moment idea and as a result something that I thought would be quite small, informal and relaxed.

I posted about the idea and asked for expressions of interest and was flooded with enquiries. What I thought would be a 20 person event was starting to look like a 50 person one. In conjunction with the team at SitePoint I started to look at venues of that size but as the expressions of interest continued to come in we realised we needed to think bigger.

We have booked a venue – the Jika International – which will seat 100 comfortably (there is a chance we can upgrade to a larger room) and on Friday opened the doors to start selling tickets (via this page on EventBrite).

As I write this – we have sold 88 seats and there are only 12 8 6 2 available. There is no guarantee we’ll get the larger room so if you’re interested – today’s the day to secure your place.

A few details about the event:

  • When: Tuesday 3rd August – 9am-5pm
  • Where: Jika International in Fairfield (it’s not a high end venue but has everything we need including wifi, plenty of food, close to public transport, 6km out of the CBD and some crazy carpet).
  • Cost: $99 AUD – including lunch and morning and afternoon tea (plus some other bonuses/prizes). We’ve tried to keep it as affordable as we can and think for 6 hours of training this represents value.
  • Who: this event is for people with blogs. It’s not at the real beginner end (ie how to start a blog) but will be accessible for those starting out through to more intermediate bloggers who want to take things up a notch. The 88 people signed up already are a fantastic bunch from all around Australia (and New Zealand) (you can see them listed on the ticket sales page). We’ve got people flying in from Perth, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane etc and there will be time during the day for networking and interaction.

Sessions/Topics

The sessions in this event will cover a range of topics identified by a survey of attendees including:

  • Creating Killer Content
  • Finding Readers for Your Blog
  • Building Reader Engagement and Community
  • Monetizing Blogs

We’ll be mixing up the presentation style with some keynote style presentations, case studies, a panel and some workshop/interactive times for looking at some participants blogs (we won’t be able to do everyone).

I still want the day to be informal, relaxed and fun – but we should be able to cover some good solid teaching over the day too.

Speakers

Speakers will include both Chris and myself but we’re also bringing in some other great Melbourne bloggers to do case studies including Collis Taeed from Envato and Pip Lincolne from Meet me at Mikes. There will also be some of the SitePoint team participating.

Prizes/Giveaways

Attendees will also be in the running for some cool giveaways. The team at Haul have put up an iPad folio or sleeve (like the one I have) for one lucky attendee, we’ll give away some ProBlogger books, 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbooks, and the team at Flippa are giving all attendees $20 credit at their site. We’re also talking to a couple of other companies about some giveaways/bonuses to add a little spice into the day (if your company would like to talk about that let me know).

If you’re an Aussie blogger (or you can get to Australia on 3rd August) we’d love to have you join us. Reserve your seat today and if you find that all 100 tickets are taken please do add yourself to the waiting list as we’ll do our best to find a way to add a few more seats or shift to a larger room if it is still available.

Reserve your seat here and join the great group of bloggers attending.

How to Boost your Income and Popularity by Giving Stuff Away

A Guest Post by Johnny B Truant.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re blogging to make money, or to express yourself. So why would you ever give something away? If you’re in this as a business, giving stuff away without charging for it seems counterintuitive. If you’re just out there writing for the sake of writing, then what you want are readers… and how is giving stuff away going to get more eyes on your blog?

The answer is that what goes around comes around. What you give comes back to you. What you sow is what you reap, and all of that. It’s not just platitudes. It works.

I was thinking about this because I’m in the middle of a promotion where I’m setting up self-hosted WordPress blogs for free. (In fact, if you want one, click over and go get one.) This isn’t an experiment. It’s the third time I’ve done it. I continue to do it because each time I do, my statistics go way up, my RSS readership grows, my Twitter followers grow, and I meet a bunch of new people who may end up being customers later. And thanks to the fact that I’m an affiliate for website hosting (which my free blog setup folks would have to buy regardless), I make money too.

All of my best tips come down to giving things away.

  • Want to grow your mailing list? Write a great report or e-book — and then instead of charging for it, give it away to people who sign up for your list.
  • Want to reach a new audience? Write a really good blog post, ideally one that is immediately actionable for people who read it. Reveal your best tip or tips in that post. Then, give it to someone else as a guest post rather than running it on your site.
  • Want more referrals? Give a greater percentage of sales to your affiliates. I’m not quite gutsy enough to do this myself, but Dave Navarro told me once publicly that he gave affiliates 100% of the sale price on a certain product and then paid the transaction fees (which would normally come from the sale price) out of his own pocket. He “lost” money on his own product, but built a list in his shopping cart of people who liked his stuff well enough to buy it — a list he could promote to later.
  • Want more goodwill, better Karma, or more raving fans? Then do something for charity. Twice that I know of, Naomi Dunford of IttyBiz.com has rallied her audience to raise money for a cause. The first time, she raised relocation expenses for a female reader who needed to get out of a physically abusive relationship. The second time, she raised over $12,000 for Cambodia — enough to build a school. The benefit to her? Tons and tons and tons of “good feelings” out in the blogosphere about her, which converted casual fans into die-hards.

I could keep going. There are tons of ways for any blogger at any level to increase either business or readership by trying the experiment of temporarily swapping “what can I get out of this?” thinking for “what can I give that people would really want and love?” thinking.

The really cool thing is that if you plan a little in advance, there’s usually a way that you can benefit too. If you’re smart, “giving it away” can get you a lot more than you’re probably getting right now.

Give it a shot. And if you’ve done it, let’s hear how it worked out in the comments!

P.S: If you’re still trying to figure out how to get your start in blogging in order to try this stuff? Well, now’s the time because I think I mentioned I know a guy who’s doing a mutually beneficial free blog setup promotion right now.

——
Johnny B. Truant blogs at JohnnyBTruant.com and is one of the two guys behind The Charlie and Johnny Jam Sessions.

Blogosphere Trends + Handling High Word Counts

This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren

I’m often asked about the “ideal length” for a blog post. I’ve heard answers ranging from 200 to 800 words, but my answer is always the same: Enough to tell the story and not one word more. Writing short is actually considerably more difficult than writing long because every word has to truly pull its weight. There is no room for filler.

Challenge yourself: Try writing a post, going for a little walk to let it breathe, then coming back and cutting your word count by at least 10 (preferably closer to 15) percent. Impossible? Not at all. Start by ditching unnecessary adjectives and adverbs (why say “really big” when “huge” conveys the same?). Find places where you can replace an adverb and a verb with a stronger verb (e.g., “devoured” or “gobbled” rather than “ate quickly”). These steps alone will strengthen your post by making your writing more concise and your word choice more precise. Once you’ve done that, replace passive constructions with active ones wherever possible (“a pirate rode the unicorn” rather than “the unicorn was ridden by a pirate”) and get rid of wordy phrases (e.g., “can” instead of “is able to,” “before” instead of “prior to,” “about” instead of “with regard to,” etc.). You’ve probably cut quite a few words by this point. Continue looking for places to tighten (e.g., change “the opinion of the blogger” to “the blogger’s opinion”). Wordy constructions are sneaky; there are more of them than you think. I think the best thing about Twitter is that it encourages people to be more concise in their communications…that’s not to say you should start using “b4” and “urself” on your blog.

Let’s say you’ve chopped as much as you can from your post and it’s still long. You have three options: (a) Publish it as is and risk having distractible readers (that’s almost all of them) get click happy and leave your blog (b) Break it up into a series (c) use some of the methods below to make the post more scannable and digestible. We’re going to focus on option (c). Here are the top ten most-blogged-about stories of the week, as provided by Regator, and some examples of well-formatted but lengthy posts about each:

  1. LeBron James ­– “Did LeBron James Really Hurt His Brand?” is 778 words long, but thanks to careful formatting, it reads quickly and is not intimidating to readers. In addition to subheadings and bolded text, which we’ll discuss, SportsBiz uses a large pull quote to break up the text and generate interest. Pull quotes are less common online than they are in the print world, but a good pull quote can pique reader curiosity and serve to break up large blocks of text.
  2. World Cup – Weighing in at 1,241 words, Bleacher Report’s “2010 FIFA World Cup Final: How Spain Won It” would likely send readers running if it weren’t for its effective use of subheads. The title clearly conveys the post’s purpose and the subheads deliver to that end by providing an easy-to-scan list. Subheadings are important for longer posts because they provide the reader with multiple entry points. Not interested in Spain’s passing play? Perhaps the section on Cesc Fabregas will interest you. Subheads give readers that option.
  3. George Steinbrenner ­– Both LAist’s “Dodgers Reaction to Steinbrenner’s Death” and Gothamist’s “Players, Politicians Remember George Steinbrenner” use quotations to break up longer posts but comparing the two shows the importance of formatting. While neither seems overwhelming, The LAist post’s consistent use of bold to introduce the quotes’ sources enhances its readability significantly.
  4. Mel GibsonWorld of Psychology’s 719-word “Mel Gibson, Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol” is broken up into five distinct, numbered points. We’ve talked in the past about the scan-ability of list posts, and this is no exception. The bolded subheads are complete sentences that give a clear indication of what that section will address.
  5. Gulf of MexicoThe First Post’s BP oil spill: the conspiracy theories” was broken into two separate pages to disguise its nearly 1,300-word length. Tricky but effective. This is an example of a post that could have been broken into multiple posts with teasers for future parts and links to previous parts in each post.
  6. Bristol Palin ­– While not excessively long to begin with, at only 500 words, TV Squad’s “Bristol Palin’s Reality Show: If It Happens, Here Are 5 Things We Want to See” seems like an even quicker, easier read thanks to its combination of bolded subheads, a medium-sized photo, and short paragraphs. Keeping each paragraph short helps you avoid large blocks of text that the attention-span-challenged may find off-putting.
  7. Harvey Pekar ­– Comics Alliance’s 937-word “Harvey Pekar: A Timeline of a Comic Book Icon” could have tried to recap Pekar’s life in plain text, but it’s unlikely anyone but the most die-hard fans would’ve made it past his first issue of American Splendor. Instead, the blogger broke the story up using an engaging timeline format. It, along with the images and short paragraphs, makes this long post more palatable.
  8. Roman PolanskiJezebel’s “Roman Polanski Runs Free Once Again” isn’t long enough to require subheads, but does make use (like many of this blog’s posts) of prominent red links that, when scanned, provide a useful glimpse of the story (“not to extradite Roman Polanski,” “where he’s been since December,” etc.) as well as multiple entry points.
  9. Consumer Reports – At 909 words, Mashable’s “What Apple Must Do to Stop the Bleeding” uses many of the aforementioned techniques, including colored links, photos, and short paragraphs but also adds video within the post and oversized subheads with light grey lines around them to further divide the text.
  10. Old Spice – In addition to using video, photos, bold subheads, quotes, and colored links, ReadWriteWeb’s “How the Old Spice Videos Are Being Made” is an excellent example of tight, concise writing that uses all of its 1,065 words to maximum effect.

How do you handle long posts? Please share your techniques in the comments.

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.