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Understanding Blogging Arbitrage

This guest post is by Kevin Muldoon of WordPress Mods.

As I used to run a few poker discussion forums and information websites, a large part of my income over the last several years has come from poker referral commissions. Commissions have dropped every month over the last few years, which is not a big shock since I sold my last gambling related site about five years ago. What was a big shock was the recent poker ban in the USA, resulting in thousands of dollars being taken away from me every month.

Strangely, this has not necessarily been a bad thing for me—quite the opposite. Having a constant stream of income every month for several years was great, though it did make me lazy in many respects. With these commissions gone from my monthly income, I have found myself really focused to get things done and get things done sooner.

The first thing on my agenda was to reduce outgoing costs. Sadly that meant letting two regular writers of my blog go (for the time being) until I can reassess where income can be improved. I enjoy writing so I don’t mind taking on extra writing responsibilities for my blog, though it did make me analyze my own duties more.

What is your time worth?

One of the biggest questions I had to ask myself when my income dropped was, “How much is my time worth?” If you make money from a number of different areas online (e.g. affiliate commissions, blogging, flipping websites and domains, etc.), this isn’t an easy thing to answer, particularly if your schedule changes from day to day.

If you are a blog owner and spend a lot of time writing articles for your own blog, there is a more suitable question to ask: “How much is my time worth as a blogger?” This is something I asked myself when thinking about the long-term posting strategy for my blog. Is some of my time better spent writing for other blogs and websites?

Consider a blog owner who writes one 1,000 word article for his blog every single day but unfortunately has no money to spend on writers. If he were able to find a good writer it would be in his interests to hire him if he was able to secure a writing job for himself at a much higher rate.

For example, if the blog owner got a blogging job that paid him $50 for every 1,000 word article, they would have the funds to hire a blogger at $25 per 1,000 word article. The blog owner would of course expect that the articles were of an equal or higher quality of his own. The outcome being another article being published on his blog plus $25 in profit from his own writing position.

In economics this is known as Arbitrage. Arbitrage is the concept of taking advantage of the difference in price between two markets. If someone can exploit this, their profit will be the difference in prices. Those who have dabbled in PPC marketing will be aware of this concept, as it’s used by many affiliate marketers to make money through Adsense. (In short, they bid low for certain keywords on PPC services and hope to make a profit when the user clicks on an Adsense advertisement which pays out more.)

Therefore, blogging arbitrage could be described as:

The difference in price between the rate you personally charge as a blogger and the rate you can pay to other bloggers to take over your writing responsibilities.

There are some things to bear in mind when applying this strategy:

  • You need to take a note of the time you are spending writing articles for others. Getting paid twice the rate you pay out is irrelevant if the articles are taking you three times as long to write.
  • A little time needs to be set aside when hiring writers for your blog, as it can be time consuming emailing them with advice and guidance, proof reading their posts, and then arranging payment.

Taking advantage of blogging arbitrage

I don’t believe that any blogger should spend more time blogging for others than on their own site. It’s important to have an input into your own blog and not let additional work slow your blog’s progress.

There are benefits of using blogging arbitrage, though. Not only is it an extra way of making money, it also helps promote your own blog. Most blogs have an author bio at the bottom of each article where some information about the author and a link to their website can be found. Therefore, writing for other blogs will bring you some extra money and traffic back to your blog.

The additional income is something that is vital for bloggers who are starting out and are looking for ways to increase their profits, so the benefits of using blogging arbitrage will decrease as your blog becomes more successful.

Nevertheless, I think that it is an important principle to understand. Have you ever used blogging arbitrage? Does it sound like a tactic that could help you make your blog more profitable?

Kevin Muldoon is a webmaster and blogger who lives in Central Scotland. His current project is WordPress Mods; a blog which focuses on WordPress Themes, Plugins, Tutorials, News and Modifications.

The 23 Blogger Breeds—Which Are You?

This guest post was written by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence.

A new blogger is born today! Aw, look at her beautiful blue Twitter and Facebook icon eyes and her cute little RSS nose. This baby blogger does not know the perils of comment moderation, stalkers, low traffic, and spam that await her. I wonder what type of blogger she’ll be.

The blogosphere is populous and it keeps growing. With millions of bloggers out there, there are a certain number of very identifiable qualities that are seen. This blogger aims to cover as many of those qualities, or “breeds,” as possible.

While there may be some purebreds out there, 99.832% of bloggers will be mutts, possessing a combination of these traits. Keep that in mind and don’t blame me for oversimplifying your primary breed! It is highly unlikely that you are a purebred.

You can consider this a tribute to blogging, but it will be educational as well as I’m listing pros and cons for every breed. You will laugh. You will relate. You will (probably not) cry. Enjoy!

1. The Machine

Blogger machines know how to pump out content … like a machine. They post on a daily basis and sometimes multiple times per day. Microbloggers fall into this category as they write very short, frequent posts.

Pros

  1. SEO— the more content you have, the more information Google has to work with.
  2. The readers of a machine blogger know that they can visit every day and still get fresh content—possibly boosting reader engagement and traffic.

Cons

  1. Burnout—I can’t imagine having to post every day (let alone multiple times a day) without getting mentally exhausted. That could be because some of my posts take me 15 hours to write, but I know I’m not alone in this.
  2. Quality could suffer from the obligation to produce content every day and forcing the issue when inspiration is lacking.

2. The Ninja

Ninjas are stealth bloggers and the opposite of machines. While the machines are pumping out blog posts like ipads, the ninjas are sitting back for days or weeks without posting. When the time is right, the ninja strikes with a mind-boggling post and dashes away for another few days … or weeks.

Pros

  1. Every post is special. Like the Summer Olympics and World Cup are special for being held every four years, new blog posts are a rare treat for fans of the blog.
  2. Quality can absolutely be assured if each post is being crafted over several sessions and multiple days.

Cons

  1. The audience might forget you exist if you post once every fortnight.
  2. If a new post fails to impress, there is a high probability of unsubscribes or generally upset readers. The stakes are higher and the consequences are greater when you post less frequently.

3. The Social Engineer

Social engineers are on Twitter and Facebook more than their own blog. They are the masters of the social world. There is something about the way they conduct themselves online that draws people towards them. That something could be that they are connected everywhere with 50 different social accounts—Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Google, Yahoo Buzz, Reddit, Stumbleupon, LinkedIn, etc.

Pros

Social Engineers are very popular. They know what social media platforms to use and how to use them best. Their reach is far and they are always up to date with the latest social gadgets (such as Google’s +1 button).

Cons

Oh, they have blogs too? Social media is notorious for sucking away valuable time for trivial socializing. Social engineers are particularly vulnerable to this as their popularity results in many social interactions.

4. The Name-Dropper

Chris Brogan said that…

Darren Rowse did this…

53 other bloggers in my niche are great because…

Excessive name dropping is not my favorite for a few reasons, but some people thrive on it. Name-droppers mention other bloggers very frequently. If you become very entrenched in the industry and your blog topic is relevant to what other bloggers have said, you might find yourself dropping names everywhere.

Pros

From what I’ve seen, name droppers benefit tremendously from their efforts. They come across as unselfish “community bloggers.” The people that they mention will often be so flattered that they return the favor or at least leave a comment and share.

Cons

If people with my mindset visit your blog and just see you dropping names all over the place in most articles, we’re going to ask, “Okay, but what do you bring to the table?” Sometimes name-droppers will drop names because they know it gets a lot of attention. Skeptical bloggers like me wonder if excessive name droppers actually do it for selfish reasons (i.e. it helps their blog grow).

5. The Soloist

I see Steve Pavlina as a near purebred soloist. I frequent his blog and know that he does not write guest posts, accept guest posts, have a public email address, or allow comments on his blog. He has never spent any money on advertising. When you visit his blog, you’re getting Steve Pavlina and nothing else.

Pros

  1. If you’re very good like Mr. Pavlina, then you can just focus on writing great content and word of mouth will eventually spread everywhere. Steve has said that his blog grew because people wanted to share his content. I have shared his content often.
  2. Not needing to worry about writing for others, moderating comments, editing guest posts, and responding to emails is a HUGE time and energy saver.

Cons

  1. Most blogs will die if they are not connected, advertising and promoting themselves, writing guest posts, allowing comments, etc.
  2. Being out on an island has drawbacks too. You might be perceived as elitist or self-absorbed if you don’t engage with others.

Note: When bloggers reach a certain level of fame, it is very common to develop soloist tendencies. Don’t take it personally, they just want more time to write posts and spend more time with their family. It takes a lot of time to thoughtfully respond to 100 comments, emails, and tweets per day!

6. The Copy Blogger

This one has nothing to do with copyblogger.com, a fantastic copywriting blog. Copy [space] bloggers are actually terrible. Some of them will rip content word-for-word from other blogs’ RSS feeds (some person is doing this to my blog). Others will paraphrase content they read on other blogs without attempting to create their own content.

Pros

It is possible to get better content than you’re capable of creating—for free and without doing any work.

Cons

Oh that’s right, it’s illegal. Darn.

7. The Guest

Guests are always seen writing for other blogs. You’ve seen it—you’ll read two articles on two different blogs only to see they were by the same author of yet another blog! Guests feel at home on other blogs that have more influence than their own. There is something warm and cozy about traffic spikes.

I am one of them. ProBlogger seems to be my favorite host. At time of writing, I’ve written as many guest posts for ProBlogger as the others combined! I write for my own blog sometimes too.

Pros

Seasoned guest bloggers know the pros already—inbound links for SEO, increased traffic, credibility, valuable connections, and many more. Guest blogging is good.

Cons

Guest posting on a relatively dead blog is not fun. You’ll find yourself refreshing the page to see if there is any action—but nothing. You’ll look for incoming traffic on your own blog—but nothing.

I once guest-posted on a blog that buried my post under three other articles in the same day (I won’t be posting there again).

8. The Host

Guests need hosts. The purebred hosts are those blogs who live off of guest posts. They have enough traffic and reputation to consistently attract high quality content.

ProBlogger is the quintessential host of the blogosphere. Darren blogs here every once in a while, but if you’re a regular here, you know that the next post is probably going to be a guest post like this one. Guests like myself are very thankful for the opportunity to contribute!

Pros

Darren doesn’t have to write another article for ProBlogger ever again if he doesn’t want to. There is enough content coming in that he can simply post whenever he feels like it. Premium hosts can ride the wave of success into the sunset if they so choose.

Cons

It does take quite a bit of work to sort through guest posts, edit them, and manage the whole guest-posting process.

9. The Commentator

You see this blogger everywhere. They are not guest posters, they are the commentators. After every blog post you read, you scroll down to the comment section, and sure enough, there is the dude that commented on the last five blogs you visited.

Pros

I love commenting on blogs. It is enjoyable to engage with others who produce quality content. There are also some who believe that commenting is a viable traffic-generating strategy, but that has not been my experience.

Cons

  1. Some comments are better than others. If you leave stereotypical “great post” comments everywhere you go, nobody will like you or visit your blog.
  2. If leaving comments is your main strategy for getting traffic, I doubt it is going to get you very far. Correct me if I’m wrong.

10. The Evil Spammer (Sploggers)

Spam. Did you just shudder when you read that? Recent surveys show that approximately 0% of bloggers enjoy spam (that includes the internet and canned versions). Spam isn’t always in the obvious form of broken English and a shady link—sometimes the commentators will covertly use your comment area as a platform to advertise their blog and products.

Pros

It can work to the tune of a whole lot of money for those who run automated programs. It can also work to get sploggers more traffic. (That link is from a 2005 ProBlogger article and is a fascinating read … a little dated, but still good).

Cons

Everyone will hate you because spam is the worst.

11. The Comedian

The comedian is always out to make us laugh. Some blogs have that as the only goal. Other blogs are about different topics, but have an author that can’t resist to squeeze in a one-liner or share a funny story.

Pros

Who doesn’t like to laugh? Seriously, I’d be interested to know the answer to that. The fact is that laughter is enjoyable and a successfully comedic blogger will be able to gain fans quickly because people love to share funny content.

Cons

If your humor fails to impress, it has the opposite effect of “gaining fans quickly.” There will be some people out there that don’t appreciate your particular style of humor. Humor doesn’t mix well with all niches (sewing?).

12. The Statistician

Statisticians see blogging as a numbers game. They are usually the ones who make the most money because they track what visitors or doing and why. Then they make changes based off of that information.

You’ll hear them talk about “conversions” a lot—which is the number of desired actions divided by the number of visitors. Three advertisement clicks out of 100 visitors is a 3% conversion rate.

Pros

As I said, they tend to be able to make more money by making tweaks and experimenting with their sales pages. Split testing allows them to isolate variables and make definitive conclusions.

Cons

  1. Statisticians could possibly make poor decisions by interpreting data incorrectly.
  2. Analyzing statistics is a time-consuming affair (but the results can make it worthwhile).

13. The Authoritative Guru

Gurus are the unquestioned leaders in their niche—Darren Rowse, Seth Godin, Brian Clark, Stephen Guise, Steve Pavlina, Chris Brogan, Leo Babauta, etc. They have legions of followers and their advice carries a lot of weight. It takes a lot of time, effort, and talent to be in this elite group.

What? You’ve never heard of Stephen Guise? Don’t worry about it.

Pros

Yes, these guys are pros. They do well financially, are the most respected bloggers, and carry an enormous amount of influence in the blogosphere.

Cons

With great exposure comes greater amounts of spam, haters, and hackers to deal with.

14. The Experts

One step below the gurus are the experts. Experts may know their subject inside and out, but they lack the notoriety of the gurus. There are many experts in each niche. It typically takes great content over time to build up an expert reputation in your niche.

Pros

Lots of traffic from people wanting trust-worthy answers, a high degree of respect from peers (including other media outlets), and a very loyal following.

Cons

Increased pressure. When you are considered an expert, the pressure is on to live up to that. If you say something half-witted, you can expect a strong reaction by those who are waiting for you to mess up so they can announce it to the world.

15. The Inspiration

I think of Jon Morrow from Copyblogger as the face of this group. His story is so amazing and inspiring that it has a profound effect on everyone who hears it. He is also a fantastic writer.

Blogging is full of inspiring people and stories. Stories of people quitting the 9-5 job they hated to blog full-time and make more money. Amazing success stories of very young bloggers making five figures a month and traveling the globe. Others like Tim Ferriss that seem to succeed in everything they do.

This is such a broad category because inspiration comes in many different forms from different sources. Sometimes the people inspire us, other times the content inspires us. I’ve come to think that blogging is a communication medium packed full of inspiration—a wonderful thing.

Pros

Everyone loves to be inspired. Much good comes from it—changing lives, changing the world, and success.

Cons

A con about inspiring others? The only possible con would be if you inspired others to live incorrectly.

16. The Grammatical Failure

These bloggers aren’t the best with written language. I feel somewhat bad about including this, but it is what it is. Most readers won’t demand perfect grammar, but we all have our limits of what we will tolerate.

Pros

It is possible to write posts very quickly if no attention is given to grammar.

Cons

If the grammar is bad enough, I and many others won’t revisit a blog. Undoubtedly, many promising blogs have died from grammatical failure. I do, however, remember seeing a blog with disgusting grammar that had over 4,000 subscribers—so it isn’t always fatal.

17. The Disruptor

Disruptors create waves in the still waters of the blogosphere. They call people out. The write controversial posts more often than not. They challenge the status quo.

Pros

Disruptive posts have a greater chance of going viral (something all blogger dream about) than posts that fit neatly into a well-known category. I’ve noticed that disruptors are usually popular because they stand out so much from the crowd. Julien Smith at inoveryourhead is a popular disruptor.

Cons

When disruptors try too hard and aren’t very good at it, it is like watching a middle-aged white man try to dance. (When I’m a middle-aged white man, I will change this stereotype, but I still have 25 years to go.)

18. The Marketing Maven

Marketing mavens know what combination of words will psychologically induce you to buy a product. Scary, huh? These bloggers are often found in the making money online niche and simply know how to promote themselves and products.

Pros

If you are an expert marketer, you stand to make a great deal of money online. In most cases, excellent marketing of an average product exceeds the sales of average marketing of an excellent product. Darren gave a great example of the magic of marketing in this article.

Cons

If you’re constantly marketing (I’m talking to you, Twitter broadcasters) and selling, many people will grow weary of you and you could lose potential business. Once a customer thinks you see them as a sales opportunity, they will be hesitant to purchase from you. Then again, savvy marketers know how to avoid this perception.

19. The Beloved

Everyone loves _____!

These bloggers have the personality and charm to somehow avoid the haters and gain (nearly) universal praise and adoration. My guess is that they use a potent airborne concoction of concentrated love powder that can be dispersed through the internet.

It’s possible that they’re just too amazing to dislike. Still, I think this becomes very difficult as you gain influence and notoriety … unless you’re Barbara Walters.

Pros

We love them. All of us.

Cons

What’s not to love about being loved?

20. The SEO Fanatic

You think you’re reading a post written for you, but sorry, these bloggers are having an affair with Google. Oh the passion … Er, I mean they just want to rank well for particular keywords.

Pros

Search engine optimization done right can result in massive traffic numbers and increased sales.

Cons

  1. SEO fanatics might be tempted to try some “black hat” SEO tactics that Google doesn’t appreciate and get banned or demoted.
  2. Stuffing an article with keywords has a chance of sounding contrived, unoriginal, and repetitive.

21. The Passion Purist

Passion purists refuse to write about anything they wouldn’t lose a kidney for. They aren’t into making money by working the system and using SEO on an untapped niche of little interest. They blog because they have passion for the subject matter. Some make money and some do not.

Pros

Passion is contagious, and humans are attracted to it. If readers sense that a blogger is very passionate about a subject and they share interest in that subject, there is a good chance they will stick around.

Cons

  1. Missed opportunities to gain traffic, money, and sales from writing about something that isn’t inspired.
  2. Only posting when passion is present could mean an erratic and/or infrequent posting schedule – the effect of which is negative (debatable).

22. The Money Purist

These bloggers will blog about anything to make money. Blogging is a job and a business to them and pa$$ions exist to be monetized.

Pros

  1. Money purists are very intentional about making money and therefore will plan from the start how they plan to accomplish that.
  2. They are very likely to make more money than most bloggers as that is their primary focus.

Cons

  1. Possible burnout as a result of not caring what they write about.
  2. Potentially less enjoyment (offset by extra money?)

23. The Conglomerate

These are massive blogs that have an entire team behind the operation and multiple writers. Engadget is a popular tech blog that falls under this category.

Pros

  1. They get traffic numbers that make me nervous.
  2. They can make an enormous amount of money.

Cons

Conglomerate blogs don’t have the personal touch that individual bloggers have. You don’t go to Engadget to engage with their writers—you go there to read about the iPhone 5.

Honorable mentions

The blogosphere is bigger than this article of 3000+ words, and I simply couldn’t cover everything. So here are some honorable mentions (you can guess what they might mean).

The Moral Compass/Preacher, The Emotion Generator, The Mommy Blogger, The Novelist, The Fake, The Mystery, The Lurker…

Which breeds did I miss?

Stephen Guise spent a long time writing this. He blogs at Deep Existence, where deep thinking is deemed appropriate. If you subscribe, you’ll get a free ebook on how to remove stress permanently. Deal?

How to Build Trust by Association

This guest post is by David Edwards of www.asittingduck.com.

When I started my site I had no clue about animation, illustration, or online marketing. It’s almost three years since the site went live, so by now I could have started University again (I quit in the first term at the age of 20) and have an official qualification in one of those fields.

Let’s say I did that, and today I started my website. Would I still have to build trust and gain success by association? Yes! The good news is, if you haven’t got a degree and you want to run a successful website, there is nothing stopping you!

Even to this day people are intrigued to know how I managed to convince a small team of animators to trust me and build a viral series around a few doodles that I did on the back of a house bill. This is how I did it, and how you can do something similar within your own niche.

I started with one contact…

Out of my whole high-school year, as far as I’m aware the only pupil to leave and start a company was a mate of mine, Matthew Adams, who started Webfactore. That was the first rung on the ladder to success—a nice discount on the website!

Then I used the Facebook search box to hunt down an animator in Cardiff. Why animation? I like drawing and I was fascinated by a viral animation from America called “Charlie the Unicorn.” I thought it was amazing that one guy and a couple of mates managed to get millions of people to view their cartoon—it’s even been the topic of a question on “Jeopardy”!

Luke Hyde was the first animator I found and he was happy to meet me. It was luck, really, as he was the first person I asked, and at the time he had no contracts to work on. You can get lucky, but if you don’t, keep searching for someone!

Through Luke, I tapped into a creative world that I’d never been a part of.

I’ve always doodled and sketched—it used to help pass the time away when I worked in a telesales job. But I never knew that people actually made money from it. Through Luke I met Flash animators, illustrators, sound engineers … the list goes on!

When you start to build an online business it can feel overwhelming and you tend to think that everyone seems to be more resourceful than you. If you’re an avid reader and blogger, well, believe it or not, that’s a very powerful skill to have, and you can trade that skill with other people to get what you need.

Also if you have patience and show that you’re not just going to sap someones resources and run, you will have the chance to gain respect from the person and his or her circle of friends.

I never got complacent with networking

If you do gain a bit of success through association, keep going. I cemented links in the creative industry, then set my sights on the marketing industry. Why? Because these guys are crushing it when it comes to work ethic and connections. Five top affiliate marketers can reach out to tens of thousands of potential customers!

I did some more searching and eventually found Alex Jeffreys, who’s well know in the affiliate marketing world, having launched several successful coaching programs. I spoke to Alex on the phone and he was happy to help me. I also attended his seminar in London, which was an awesome opportunity to meet other marketers, and meet Alex in person.

Alex has taught me some key points to rapidly grow my presence online. Here are some of his tips:

  • Leverage each stage you’re at: If you only have five people that are helping you online, that’s not
    just five people! It could be 500 people, if each person has a social network of 100 friends. For instance, if you were friends with me on YouTube, and I liked your video, I have 10,000 friends to share it with. That’s very powerful leverage!
  • Don’t market to the whole world: Alex has built a very profitable business from looking after his confirmed subscribers. He very rarely reaches out to the masses on Twitter or Facebook, as lots of his subscribers do it for him.
  • Consistently add value: You should look to email a useful piece of content once a month and build up trust. Go from a blog post, to an audio podcast, to a video. Once people get a range of content over six months or so, they will absolutely love you!

Building trust by association will help with sales

Many bloggers and site owners try to make and launch products. There is a huge market and there are hungry buyers, but from my experience, you have to concentrate far more on networking and connecting with successful people, than on locking yourself in a room until your ebook is complete.

Once you have established yourself with people in your niche, then interact with your prospects, you’ll have a much better idea of how loudly your till is going to ring!

Have you tried to connect with other website owners face to face? I would love to read your stories.

David Edwards is an internet marketing consultant and the founder of www.asittingduck.com.

Creating Great Content for Today’s Social Web

This guest post is by Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting.

Welcome to an increasingly social landscape on the Web.  Social media started this shift from information to conversation, and now with the search engines increasingly using social signals to determine what to show searchers it’s a trend that, as a publisher, you have to get on top of to write and promote great content.

This post will discuss the movement of Bing and Google towards social search, and how that affects the organic search landscape. Then I’ll provide some tips on how this impacts your writing and promotion of your content.

Search and social integration

The integration of search and social media is already here.  Back in October 2010, Bing and Facebook announced plans for tighter integration. As I learned when I interviewed Bing’s Stefan Weitz, Bing is already using Facebook signals as a ranking factor:

“… if any of my friends anywhere have liked any (relevant) link across the entire world wide web, I am going to inject that link into my results page.”

Stefan refers to the notion of boosting a search result just because one of my friends Liked it.  But that is just the beginning, as we also can see that Bing is making use of the wisdom of the crowd, as per this example search on the New York Post:


Even if none of the 54 people that Liked “15 Best Dresses” are my Facebook friends, Bing thinks the article’s popularity is still noteworthy enough to show it to me.

Google does not have as close a relationship with Facebook, but is making use of other social services such as Twitter, and recently launched Google+

The bottom line is that social signals are a ranking factor in the search engines’ algorithms, and you can’t ignore this.

The social media revolution has much broader implications

We don’t know exactly how the Web will continue to evolve, but we know that more major changes are coming our way.  To get a perspective on why this is, consider the three major stages of the Web’s evolution so far:

  1. the initial failure of the Dot-Com Bubble from 1998-2000: too much focus on a land-grab mentality without understanding how to make money in the process
  2. the combined revolutions of ecommerce (Amazon, EBay, et al) and getting instant access to all the world’s information online (Google): this second stage is still unfolding and the third stage is already underway
  3. the social media revolution: this is driven by instant and continuous access to your friends, and the ability to communicate and engage simply.  Texting, Facebook, Twitter are the current driving forces, but more are to come.  People love these short communications so much that email is becoming passé, and the idea of making a phone call seems unnatural to many teenagers.

What has come with this third wave is a new way of communicating and a whole new emphasis on relationships.  People are beginning to associate online familiarity with your personality and who you are, and with trust. And trust sells, trust engages, trust makes people come back.

The implications of this on how you approach your writing are profound.  And, chances are that the importance of this social approach to writing will only become more important.

Impact on your writing: three critical concepts you must adhere to

1.  Build relationships with your audience

Social networks like a personal approach.  They want to see your personality.  They want you to share. They want you to evoke emotions.  These elements are key to creating engagement not just with your content, but with you.  Social networks make you more accessible to your potential readers and can play a significant role in growing your reach.

I remember when I first began publishing sites on the Web, the approach I used was dry and academic.  This was the strategy I used to communicate authority and trust.  I am beginning to think that this is no longer the right approach.  Do you trust the advice of a university professor that you have never spoken to?  Or does the combined opinions of your friends count for more?

The wisdom of the crowd is very much upon us and it is only going to get stronger.  As a writer, you need to accept the notion that trust comes from familiarity with you, and your ability to be approachable will enable you to communicate your message.

2.  Tell me why I care

The other big factor that emerges from the ability to get all the world’s information online is that there is too much information. We are more impatient than ever.  If I am going to spend the time reading your article, whether or not I trust you, tell me why I should read this article in the first paragraph.  Get to the point.

3.  Strive for uniqueness, not “me too”

Lastly, don’t waste your time writing “me too” content.  To see what I mean, consider this screen shot:

Making French toast is really, really easy.  I have not made it in 20 years, but I can still tell you how in two minutes.  We don’t need 2.54 million web pages on the topic!

For the search engines, showing multiple results with little distinction from one another is a waste of time.  For your average web surfer, reading more than one such article is a complete waste of time.  So even if I trust you, and even if you tell me what the article is about in the first paragraph, don’t waste my time with a useless review of something that tons of other people have already covered. Give me something new!

Mastering these concepts is essential for today’s bloggers.  Those who get there the fastest will be tomorrow’s authorities.

Promoting your writing

This may be the most straightforward part of this post.  You do need to integrate basic social elements into your posts.  This includes elements such as the Facebook Like, Send, and Share buttons, a Tweet This button, and perhaps a Google +1 button.  While the +1 button does not have the same usage level as the other elements yet, one can expect a meaningful integration into Google+ in the near future.

Going a little deeper, consider using Facebook Comments instead of the built-in comments capability of your blog platform. The content from the comments does not show up as search engine-visible text on your web page, but given that you are writing original posts, this is probably not critical.

But what it does do is function like a Facebook Share.  It shows up in the News Feed of the commenter, and the News Feeds of all their friends.  This is a great way to spread the visibility of your posts. It also provides some inherent spam protection, as no one will leave a spammy comment behind unless they have taken the trouble to setup a throwaway Facebook account.

Also, think of ways to entice your reader to engage more with your blog.   Ask a leading question at the end of your post to invite comments.  Install functionality that suggests other related posts they can read next.

The most subtle part of promotion is the way you use the social networks themselves as a direct extension of your blog.  Daily activity on Twitter and Facebook may prove to be a great way to build the personality and trust that people are looking for.  They both offer great platforms for viral spread of ideas you want to communicate.

Use these platforms to communicate the same types of messages as you do on your blog, but in smaller doses of course.  Use them to establish your personality and build the trust.

Is your content social-web-friendly?

Fully embracing the social revolution is key to the blogger’s long term success.  Based on the pace of the evolution of the Web over the past decade, it is reasonable to expect that the next major shift in web behavior is around the corner.

Three years from now, those of us who are centered on Facebook, Twitter, and texting, but have not yet adopted the next new thing that comes after them will be seen as being behind the times.  There will be many more paradigm shifts in our lifetime, and it will be important to stay as current as you can. Use the media that your audiences use to communicate with your audience.  It sounds simple, and yet it is critically important.

The first step though, is to adapt to the changes that have already taken place.  I could call this a requirement for survival, but I always use a positive mindset—I consider it an opportunity to excel.

Eric Enge is the President of Stone Temple Consulting, a 20 person SEO and PPC consulting firm with offices in Boston and Northern California. Eric is a crusty old veteran with 30 years working experience in technology and the Internet. STC provides Internet Marketing Optimization services to companies ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies.

Why Bieber SEO Copywriting Sex Doesn’t iPad Work Minecraft

This guest post is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

Today, I bring you heresy. Not on the scale of Galileo trying to convince Pope Urban VIII that the sun doesn’t revolve around the Earth, but close enough.

Stop believing the lies. SEO is a fool’s errand.

SEO copywriting is the worst invention since the vuvuzela, and does at least as much to drown out coherent thought. I’m not talking merely about the damage SEO does in the hands of independent bloggers like (presumably you) and me. Visit the landing pages of some major corporations and other business entities, and you’ll see particular words and phrases dispersed and repeated through the text so awkwardly that the finished product barely qualifies as English.

Here’s an excerpt from a famous American hotel’s landing page. Discretion forced me to substitute the name of another city for the hotel’s actual city, which will make it .002% more difficult for you to figure out what hotel the passage refers to:

Your Ultimate Cincinnati Experience Begins At Our Cincinnati Hotel Resort.

Elevate your experience at the (5-word phrase describing the hotel). See all the changes that make our Cincinnati hotel new – up down and all around. The best value on the Cincinnati Strip, the (5-word phrase describing the hotel) offers affordable dining, spacious hotel accommodations, exciting Cincinnati hotel casino games, headline entertainment and some of the best thrill rides in the world, all in a central location. Boasting the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States west of the Mississippi, this iconic Cincinnati hotel is recognizable all over the world. Visit the indoor and outdoor observation decks in the (5-word phrase describing the hotel) to see why our panoramic view of Cincinnati was voted the Best of Cincinnati for 2010 and 2011 by the Cincinnati Review-Journal. Dine in the city’s only revolving restaurant, Top of the World, offering 360 degree views of Cincinnati. Grab a drink at one of our many lively bars. Take advantage of our exceptional Cincinnati hotel deals and relax in our spacious rooms.

Wait, where are you located? And what type of establishment is it again? Thanks, I wasn’t sure. The accompanying photos of the hotel and the iconic skyline it inhabits weren’t giving me a clue either.

No one has ever read that preceding dreadful paragraph in its entirety, possibly not even the person who wrote it, ran it through an SEO program and then posted it.

The worst part is that the people responsible know that SEO “copywriting” results in non-syntactical gibberish, yet don’t care.

Why?

SEO devotees got trapped in the minutiae and lost sight of the ultimate objective: getting people to buy. Everything else is secondary, including intermediate and tertiary goals such as moving up in Google rankings.

It’s as if you were to make it your life’s work to keep your car’s license plate as legible as possible. You shampoo it daily, then buffer it with the most reflective wax you can buy, letting the plate serve as a gleaming reminder to the vehicle behind you of who you are and what state you live in. Meanwhile, you never bother to change the oil, check the tire pressure, fix the shattered windshield, or even confirm that you filled the tank and inserted your key in the ignition.

SEO not only shouldn’t be an end in itself, it runs counter to the more basic goal of getting people to hear what you have to say. The above paragraph could have read something like this:

The best value on the Strip boasts affordable dining, enormous rooms, casino games, spectacular entertainment and world-famous thrill rides, capped by the highest observation tower west of the Mississippi. Stand behind the glass, brave the elements, or even enjoy a gourmet meal, 1,149 feet above the ground.

It’s not Shakespeare, nor even Dickens, but it gets the point across. More importantly, it would get read. Perhaps not by Google crawlers, but by eyes connected to heads (and indirectly to wallets.)

If you’re writing for Google crawlers, or anything other than humans, the battle is already lost. Otherwise, who are you writing for? Literally no one. For people who preach SEO as a moral imperative, verbal resonance doesn’t matter as much as strategic keyword placement.

Oh, isn’t Greg being cute and naive. His right-dominant brain thinks that cold science is sullying his precious art.

No. SEO isn’t a hard discipline like chemistry or physics. It’s an attempt to codify a metric that has only a tangential relationship (and occasionally an adversarial one) with the more important one of attracting customers. You remember customers, right? The people who buy your products?

Telling a talented writer to write for SEO is the equivalent of someone having told Mozart, “Those concertos of yours are okay, but you should include at least one diminished seventh chord and a couple of appoggiaturas every ten measures.”

There are even better arguments for the death of SEO, one of which is an insurmountable little mathematical problem. Just as not all children can be above average, not all sites can be optimized. If they could be, then your definition of optimization is wrong. If every blogger in your field intersperses the same select words and phrases throughout her copy, the result is nothing. You can’t have everyone move up in the rankings. If you have 100 competing sites, and they all adopt the latest SEO practices, what remains are … 100 competing sites. When every blogger spends less time creating content and more time trying to please algorithms, the result is that no one benefits and readers now have a more difficult time sifting through everything. It’s the Tragedy of the Common Nouns.

And another thing. No one mentions that every time you Google something, the initial page grossly overstates the number of results. People see an intimidating 7- or 8-digit monstrosity that’s supposed to represent how many instances of the relevant phrase exist online, and then those people panic. 

For instance, entering “control your cash” (with quotes) ostensibly returns 8,410,000 results. (Fortunately, the top six that appear in the screen capture all happen to reference my site.)

Search results

Of course, I indeed searched for that phrase when I was thinking of names for my site. At that time, had I wanted to, I could have thought, “Oh my Lord. Even if I somehow add enough keywords in my copy that I reach the 99th percentile, there will still be 84,100 results ahead of me. Google displays them ten to a page, so unless a searcher is willing to press the arrow labeled “Next” at the bottom of the page 8,410 times, no one will ever see me.”

Try pressing that “Next” arrow anyway and see what happens. Go ahead, I’ll wait and meet you back here 8,410 clicks from now.

More search results

“Control your cash” doesn’t return 8,410,000 usable results. It returns 479 unique results. And that’s for a fairly generic phrase. If you want people to search for something more specific, such as (“heating ventilation and air conditioning” + “Fremantle” + “open Sundays”), you don’t need to season your pages with endless repetition of the same words. You just need to exist and be a little self-aware.

Writing is still the fundamental form of communication among literate people, last I checked. And those same literate people expect other literate people to speak to them as clearly and concisely as possible. That sound you heard was Strunk and White emerging from their graves, bloodied but undead, ready to tap a bony finger on anyone who thinks that doing the opposite of writing something compelling is going to boost business.

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

You MUST Post Every Day on Your Blog [Misconceptions New Bloggers Have #2]

This post continues our Misconceptions New Bloggers Have series and looks at one of the most common questions I’m asked about when speaking about blogging—posting frequency.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard prebloggers dismiss the idea of blogging because they don’t have the time or discipline to produce daily blog posts.

daily-post.jpegThe belief is that to be successful they need to get posts out daily (if not multiple times per day). The reality is that there is no single approach to successful blogging when it comes to how often one must post. There are plenty of examples of highly successful blogs that operate at both ends of the frequency spectrum (I’ll highlight some less frequent posters below).

So what can we say about how often you should post? Let’s take a look at some of the factors we need to consider.

Regular contact builds relationships

The blogger/reader interaction is a lot like any relationship—the more you see one another as friends, the more you begin to know about each other, the more intimacy develops, and the more you get to trust each other (a big generalization, I know).

Regular posting on your blog puts you and your brand in front of people on a regular basis, and this opens up the opportunity for a deepening relationship. Infrequent posting can lead to readers feeling disconnected, and to even forget who you are completely.

This was highlighted to me once at a conference when, after getting off the stage from speaking, I was almost knocked over in a warm embrace from one ProBlogger reader.

Through her tears she stammered, “I … just … feel … sob … like … I … sniff … know … you … so … well!”

Why did she feel that way? Every day she’d received an email from me with advice on how to build her blog.

Over-posting can be annoying

Of course if we look at “real life” relationships we also have to acknowledge that the amount of time you spend with someone can also have the opposite effect. Have you ever had a friendship with someone that became a little too much? You know the relationships … where the other person leaps in so far that you end up feeling a little smothered!

Posting too regularly can get a little like that too.

I once surveyed readers here on ProBlogger about the reasons they unsubscribed to RSS feeds and the number one answer was “posting too much.” Respondents expressed that they developed “burnout” and would unsubscribe if a blog became too “noisy.”

There’s a tipping point for every blog where one more post just becomes too much and readers begin to disengage.

It comes down to usefulness and relevancy

So what’s the tipping point? How many posts will grow the relationship and how many will destroy it?

Unfortunately there isn’t a single number that will work for every blog—instead I suspect it really comes down to the relevancy and usefulness of the content you’re producing. If what you’re writing is going to solve problems and be valuable to them, they will forgive a lot, whether that’s lots of posts or a long period between them.

One question to ask yourself on this front is, “What do my readers need?”

  • On one hand, you might find in answering that question for your readership that they need lots of short, sharp posts because there is a lot of breaking news in your niche that they want.
  • In other cases you might find that your readers actually need thoughtful analysis—longer posts that they have time to chew on before moving onto another topic.

The answers to this question will depend a lot on the type of blog that you’re running, the niche or topic, the style and length of content that you’re producing, and the types of readers you’re hoping to attract.

Other benefits of more frequent posts

There are a few more benefits of more frequent posting that are worth mentioning:

  • More entry points into your blog via the search engines: Daily posting means 365 entry points into your blog for search users every year as opposed to 52 if you’re posting weekly, or 12 if you go with monthly.
  • More entry points into your blog via social media: Similarly, by publishing and promoting your content, you’re also providing more doorways into your blog on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Daily posts give your readers more opportunities to share those links around.
  • More connecting points for RSS subscribers: Similarly again, the more you post, the more alerts or updates those who subscribe to your blog via RSS will get.

Benefits of less frequent posts

On the flip-side, there are benefits of less posts, too:

  • Potentially higher reader engagement: I’ve noticed on my own blogs that if I post once in three or four days, the posts tend to get higher levels of comments and conversation among readers when compared to times when I post two posts in a single day. I guess frequent posting pushes posts off the radar of readers faster, as there’s always something new coming out.
  • Absence can make the heart grow fonder: I know of a couple of bloggers who post quite infrequently, but have built up almost a cult following, and who build a lot of anticipation among readers for the next post. Posts become highly anticipated and valued, and they get shared around the web at a higher rate than if the posts were coming out multiple times a day (I’ll give some examples of this type of blog below).
  • It helps to avoid writer burnout and can lead to higher quality content: After the initial adrenaline rush that often comes with launching a new blog subsides, many bloggers hit a wall when, a few months in, they begin to struggle to find things to write about. The pressure of daily posting can add to this, so a less frequent publishing schedule can give a little more space to write only about the things that they think really matter. They are free to write the most useful content, and to avoid burnout as they do so.

Examples of blogs that post less often than daily

I asked on Twitter for examples of blogs that post less frequently than daily, but which still have been successful. I was inundated with examples. Here are some that were most commonly suggested by my followers:

  • Zen Habits: updated an average of eight times per month over the last few months
  • The Art of Non Conformity: Chris Guillebeau’s blog, which has averaged just under ten posts per month lately
  • SimpleMom: posts more regularly than the above two, but usually has a day or two off per week—a good example of regularity with breaks
  • The Four Hour Work Week: as you’d expect, Tim’s not going to be updating daily on this given his topic (he posts three or four times a month), yet it gets a lot of engagement
  • Unmarketing: Scott Stratten commented on Twitter that “infrequency is my middle name.” However, keep in mind that Scott’s working hard on developing engagement on Twitter—he’s closing in on 75,000 tweets!
  • Social Triggers: Derek Halpern posts two to four times per month, but the quality is high and there’s a lot of reader engagement.
  • Penelope Trunk: Penelope is another great example of someone who has regular posting but doesn’t feel the need to write something every single day.

Check out the other posts in the Misconceptions of Blogging series.

Why You Should Never Comment on Blogs. Ever.

This guest post is by David Hartstein of Wired Impact.

I’m sure you’ve heard well-reasoned, logical arguments for why you should be commenting on blogs:

  • “You can be a part of the conversation happening out there.”
  • “You can build your own authority.”
  • “You can drive traffic to your blog.”

But, while there may be a burned, unpopped kernel of truth in these statements, none of them take into account the many reasons you should never comment on a blog.

Well here are some of those reasons for your consideration.

First of all, you shouldn’t even begin to think about commenting unless you have something really profound to say.  If you merely express agreement, it is likely judgment will rain down upon you.  As, to be fair, it should.  There is no room for mere opinions in the comment section of a blog.  It is a blog after all.  No feelings, just facts.

Plus, there’s a good chance you don’t have the authority to be commenting on a post.  I mean, if someone is writing a post, they are certainly held in high esteem by all of the peers in their field.  The Internet won’t let just anyone publish.  And if you’re not an expert, you likely don’t have much to offer.  Sure, maybe you have some ideas, but are they the kind that are best kept to yourself?  Unless you have a graduate degree in the subject at hand, they should probably be filed away in your journal.

Additionally, if no one else has commented yet, you’re essentially lowering your head onto the chopping block.  You could write the first one, but doing so opens you up to being the minority opinion.  It’s very possible that just after you finish singing the praises of a particular post, a series of users will go on an angry tirade ripping the author apart.  You’d look really dumb.  Who cares what you thought?  Those other commenters probably know more than you anyway.

Also, don’t forget that browser spellcheck leaves something to be desired.  Sure, it will catch a word that you’ve butchered, but what about something more minute?  And forget any kind of oversight on your grammar.  Plus, there’s a very good chance that a misspelled word will leave whatever you have to say incomprehensible, leading to angry comments about the spam you are leaving behind.

Once you’ve waded through the murky waters of actually drafting your comment, you’re still faced with giving away your personal information.  If you’re anything like the average web user, you probably haven’t given out much personal info online before, perhaps with the notable exception of some obscure social networking site.

If you do feel the need to comment, you have the requisite authority to do so, and other people already have commented, consider taking the following action:

  1. Draft the comment in a word processor.
  2. Check the comment for spelling and grammar mistakes, both with the built-in tools and manually.
  3. Re-check.
  4. Send it to a family member or a friend for their thoughts (pick someone smart).
  5. Print it out, sleep on it, and revisit it at breakfast the next day.
  6. If you’re still feeling the urge, go ahead and publish it.
  7. Deal with the ensuing fallout.

If, after reading this, you are still wont to publish a comment from time to time, go ahead.  But consider yourself warned.  It’s a dangerous game. 

And, whatever you do, don’t you dare write a comment on this post!

David Hartstein is a partner at Wired Impact, a web design company that builds websites for nonprofits. You can connect with David on Twitter and the Wired Impact Facebook Page.

Usable Content: a Blogger’s Introduction

You’ve probably heard of usability. Back in the day, when the web was wild(er) and free(r), usability proponents like Jakob Nielsen encouraged site owners to stop doing things like displaying yellow text on black backgrounds, shun the Blink and Marquee tags, and focus on helping users do what they wanted to do on websites.

These days, usability is crucial to the success not just of blogs, but of online businesses—much of the information we read about reducing friction and improving sales pages, for example, is based on usability principles. So are the layouts of popular blog themes, online image albums and video players, and so on.

But we can go further than this, to look at the usability of our content. Content usability isn’t often talked about, but as content creators, bloggers should get their heads around this idea.

What is content usability?

Content usability focuses on making the information we publish as usable a possible to the users our blogs target.

content usability

Copyright Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com

An example: if your blog targets people with dyslexia or other reading and comprehension difficulties, you’ll tailor your content to their needs. That might mean tweaking your layout, avoiding certain color combinations, changing your default fonts, altering your writing style, and so on.

Another example: if you run a blog that’s focused on promoting special offers (like a deal-aggregation blog, for example), you’ll want to make sure that every aspect of your content is targeted to readers achieving the goal of taking up those deals. Maybe you’ll make the deal links stand out through color choice. Perhaps you’ll also provide the details of each deal in a sidebar so that users don’t need to scroll through your content to find the links. Perhaps you’ll pull out the key aspects of each deal into a “vital stats” list that appears at the top of every post, for the same reason.

As you can see, the notion of content usability is closely tied to your audience and your blog’s purpose. That said, there are some general usability principles that you should consider in formulating your content.

Principles of content usability

Aside from the most basic ideas of content usability—accurate spelling, good structure, and so on—there are a few content usability principles that bloggers often ignore.

Use consistent formatting

Darren’s provided some detailed formatting advice for bloggers, and formatting is a big deal for usability.

The real key to formatting usability is to use formatting consistently, so that headings of the same level are given the appropriate markup (second-level headings are all H2s, for example), emphasis is always used in the same way, and so on.

This matters for a range of reasons that aren’t limited to the fact that human beings are reading your blog posts—SEO and screen readers, for example. But at its most basic, formatting tells readers something about the nature of the content you’re presenting, and about its component parts.

If I use italics for emphasis here, and bold here, you may well become confused, even subconsciously. Why are those two items (they could be headings, or titles, or images, or buttons) presented differently? Are they different? Okay, so that formatting might not make my content unusable, but it does reduce its usability. How? By increasing confusion.

Don’t underline online text

Using underlines on web text wasn’t cool in Jakob’s day, and it’s still not—even though web design, and web users, have both come a long way since then.

In the good (or bad, depending on how you see things) old days, underlines on text were reserved for hyperlinks—that was the signal to web users that the text was linked to another resource. It still is on many sites, and many of us still regard an underline as the standard form of web link.

Underline your text without a link—for the sake of emphasis, say—and you’ll confuse more than a few of your readers.

Include links

The web offers us a great benefit over every other communications medium in that when we refer to something or someone, we can show readers what that is without breaking the flow of our engagement with them.

Let’s imagine I’m talking to you about content usability, and I want to mention readability, but I’m not sure if you know what that is. Instead of that nice, subtle link I just included in the previous sentence, I’d probably end up saying something like this:

“So, yeah, content usability includes factors like readability and … oh, so readability’s about how easy it is to read and take in—like, comprehend, really—your stuff. So there are these online tests that let you paste in your content and they’ll tell you how readable it is; they’ll give you a readability score that corresponds to school grades and—what’s that? Oh? You know about readability? Cool. So … what was I saying again? Oh yeah, content usability…”

The web offers us the ability to suggest further reading and deeper insight without breaking the flow of communication, or telling readers things they don’t want or need to know. Links make your content more usable, because they make it more useful. Links help your readers to achieve their goals through your blog. Don’t just mention brand names, individuals, or websites: link to the them. And link to them in a way that helps readers predict what they’ll get if they click on the link.

Use pertinent words and phrases

If your content is going to be useable for your audience, surely speaking to those readers is a big part of the communications picture.

You’ll notice here on ProBlogger that we refer to bloggers a lot. We frequently refer to your blog, your audience, and your niche, as these are all terms that are part of the blogging vocabulary, and we all understand what they mean. As a secondary term, we do refer to your site, but only to avoid repetition. First and foremost, we call ourselves bloggers.

This isn’t about SEO—although of course it helps. This decision is about talking to our audience in the terms you understand—terms that resonate with you. Another example: when I first started with ProBlogger I asked Darren specifically if he (and you) referred to your blog visitors as “readers.” This is standard terminology on this blog, but it wasn’t for other publications I’ve worked on.

This may seem like a minor issue. But imagine you read three articles on ProBlogger, and not one of them contained any mention of blogs or blogging or readers. Imagine if all they referred to was sites and end users. You might start to question whether the content was really suited to you and your needs. You’d probably wonder how applicable—or useful—it was to your situation.

Use the words your readers know, understand, and expect. And use them consistently, so users aren’t jarred by a proliferation of terminology. This will help to make your content more usable, though again your readers may not realize it consciously.

Use the most appropriate content form

Content isn’t just words—we have at our disposal diagrams, photographs, video, sound, and interactivity in various forms. Often, written content should take a supporting role. It’s up to us as bloggers to discern those moments, and to use the tags, captions, and other tools available to us to augment, rather than replace, the appropriate content form.

In all cases, we should make the most of those possibilities, even at a text level. If your blog post doesn’t fit into list format, don’t write it as a list post. If as you’re writing, you find that your post becomes a list, go back and make that clear in the title and opening paragraphs. Telling users what they can expect—and then meeting that expectation—is vital to usability.

Think laterally

I’ll admit that I can be a bit slow on the uptake as a web user. That’s not good, because I use the web a lot, and I get grumpy when things don’t go as I expect. I can think of plenty of examples, off the top of my head, where usability could be better.

Each of these examples arises as a result of the point I made above: that on the web, we, as bloggers, can link to resources. That’s the up-side; the down-side is that we, as readers and users, can get confused about what can be clicked on, and where it will lead. Very confused, in some cases.

Like Darren’s Workbooks page—I really want to be able to click on the book titles there! I was looking for a book there today (ProBlogger’s Guide to Blogging for Your Business). I scrolled down, found the title, clicked! …aaaand nothing. I had to go all the way to the scroll bar again, drag it down, and click on the link.

Can your blog’s users click on the things they expect to?

Or, take Google’s page header (it’s not a blog, but it deserves a mention). When I started using Google+ I had some questions and started looking for Help. I saw that little cog in the top-right corner, but I thought it provided access to my settings, not help. Even the page footer, standard location for Help and Privacy links, lacks a link to Help!

Help-less

I expected to see a Help link in this menu bar. Is that so wrong?

Does your blog clearly indicate what’s what, and what leads to where? You might need to do some user testing to find out the truth on this one.

And what about this shot from Copyblogger? This box appears at the bottom of Copyblogger’s right-hand sidebar. I don’t know about you, but I’m a lazy clicker. The box has one link. So (my whiny-teen-alter-ego whinges), why can’t I click anywhere on that box to access the link?

Why can't I click anywhere?

Copyblogger kudos box: not so clicky

Does your blog make users work harder than they need to?

These kinds of issues may require some lateral thinking—or some user testing—to uncover, but correcting them could make your blog, your newsletter, your sales pages, and your content in general, a whole lot more usable.

Making content usable

Okay, so people don’t talk much about content usability. But people who create content and publish it should have a firm grasp and consciousness of the concept and what it means for their users. We’re not always going to get it right, but we owe it to ourselves and our readers to strive constantly to improve content usability.

How can you do that? You could review some of your content using the ideas I’ve mentioned here, and see where you could make improvements. You could play around with wireframing software like mockingbird to create different presentations for your content. Perhaps you know a usability professional who you can speak to about the principles of usability—or you could just pick up a book on the topic at your local library. Once you get started, you might like to do some user testing to see if you are actually making your content more usable for readers.

If you need a little extra impetus, consider that in many cases, better content usability means better content reusability. Format your posts well, use reader-appropriate language, link wherever you can, and employ the appropriate formats for the message you’re delivering, and you’ll be much more easily able to repackage that content into a saleable format down the track.

How usable is your content? Are you conscious of usability as you write and prepare posts for publication? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

“Most Recommended” by Blogging Geniuses at WordCamp Boston

This guest post is by Marci Reynolds of marcireynolds.com.

The July 2011 WordPress WordCamp Boston rocked!  Hundreds of eager WordPress users gathered to watch more than 40 speakers who presented on topics from social media to themes to shortcodes to security.

WordCamp BostonI took detailed notes as I listened, watched and networked with blogging and WordPress geniuses and have gathered what I consider the most interesting tips and tricks.

Most recommended WordPress plugins

Plugins were a hot topic in every session, but only three rose to the top as the “most recommended”:

  • Yoast SEO: allows you to optimize page titles, meta descriptions, keywords, XML sitemaps
  • HubSpot Plugin: allows you to leverage HubSpot’s lead nurturing, website analytics and “call to action” post types
  • Google Analytics for WordPress: allows you to synch up information with your Google analytics account and allows you to track custom variables and meta data.

Most recommended WordPress SEO tips

In addition to the hearing about the importance of fresh, high quality content (“content, content, content”), a number of experts reinforced these WordPress SEO tips:

  • Change the Permalink default on blog posts to end with your post name, not the post number.
  • Use images to break up your content, engage readers and help with SEO.
    • Be sure you own the image, or choose them from “creative commons”, with appropriate credit (one of my favorites is www.freedigitalphotos.net).
    • Use relevant keywords in the image name and alternate text
  • Add an XML sitemap.
  • Monitor and improve your site loading speed.
    • Google’s Matt Cutts has stated that, “We want the web to be faster, we want sites to load quickly,” so it’s very possible that Google could be looking to encourage and reward this through their ranking of sites.
    • In May 2011, Google added a Site Speed Report in Google Analytics.
    • For more detailed info, check out the recent blog post on Search Engine Watch, Why Marketers Must Care About Site Speed.
  • Build link juice. Not random back links, but high quality links to and from other sites that offer relevant content. (One technique that has worked well on my Sales Operations Blog, is to build a page dedicated to linking to other sites with relevant, high quality content. Check out the Other Sales Ops Articles example. )

Social media … of course

I think it’s required that every 2011 conference, whether it’s about real estate, insurance, or cat food, must include several sessions on how to use social media, and WordCamp (WC) was part of that group.

However, there was an obvious division in the WC audience. Some WC attendees like me, were well versed in social media 101 and 102 and were looking for something new and advanced. The remaining attendees (seemed like 50% of humans) were beginners and were looking for advice on how to get started. One conference attendee was skewered on Twitter, hashtag #wcbos, for asking how to spell “Mashable.” Understandable!

The general themes on how to use social media to support your WordPress efforts were:

  • Make it easy for readers to share your blog content by including sharing buttons within your posts. There are many plugin options to facilitate that.
  • Use social media to share your content. You may only share it with 50 or 100 followers, but you need to consider the power of the retweet.
    • Per HubSpot, blog posts that are shared on Twitter have more page views, while blog posts shared on Facebook have more comments.
    • Try testing three headlines on Twitter and see which one gets the most clickthroughs.

Overall, WordCamp Boston was a great experience, and well worth the time and money investment. I saw some very talented speakers, networked with other WordPress users and learned many new things. I look forward to attending next year’s conference.

Have you attended a WordCamp event? What did you learn?

Marci Reynolds, based in Boston, MA, is an operations leader by day and an active blogger after-hours.

She enjoys writing about sales support, service operations, process improvement and social media best practices. Learn more about Marci.