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Interactive Blog Tools

In the last blog tip we talked about how comments are one way to increase the interactivity of a blog.

Of course not everyone agrees that comments are the way to go. Each to their own.

Having harped on about comments I should also say that there are many other ways to make your blog more interactive.

Interactive Blog Tools

- chat, rooms || Newsletters/mailing Lists || Guest Maps || forums || discussion boards || trackback || Polls (and another) || guest book || Chat Boards

In addition to these tools you might want to consider making yourself contactable by posting your email address – beware of spam if you post it as a link. One way around this is to have a Contact Form. You might also post your instant messenger ID (but again be aware this means you might get anyone messaging you!)

Lastly other people encourage people to comment by featuring ‘recent comments’ or ‘most prolific commenters’ in their side bar. This gives some added incentive to post comments.

A word of warningBe selective in how many of the above tips you implement. A common mistake is to give you readers too many ways to interact with you and have ‘bells and whistles’ just for the sake of having lots of features. This will clutter your page and confuse your reader.

The level and type of interaction of your blog is up to you. It will depend upon your personality, content and willingness to put time into interacting with your readers. In my opinion the benefits are worth the effort.

A last tipDon’t put any of the above tools on your blog unless you yourself are willing to use them in interacting with your readers. If you don’t have the time or energy to talk back – don’t advertise the fact that you do. I know a number of bloggers that get a lot of hits and wonder why they don’t get many comments – I reckon its because they largely ignore their readers. Thats just my theory.

Set Boundaries

I found this great page 47 key tips from the World’s best Bloggers.

It was interesting to see that most of them talked about establishing boundaries for the content of your blog.

Here is what some of them had to say:

Meg from Megnut‘Set boundaries. Think about how much of yourself you’re comfortable sharing. You don’t have to ‘tell all’. Just decide which parts of your life you’re willing to share, and try to find a balance that works for you.’

Fraser from Blogjam‘Don’t write about work, and avoid writing about people you know in general. You’ll end up offending someone.’

Glenn from InstaPundit‘Starting off, pick some topics that you know more about than most other people – your profession, your locality, or whatever – and make those a major part of your blog. ‘

Robyn from Aint too Proud to Blog‘Remember that even though you think you’re writing to just friends and family, your words will have a global audience. You never know just who is reading your blog, and where they may be located when reading it.’

Hash from iMakeContent‘The blog should do what you say it’s going to do. You want people to come back, to become regular readers, so you need to live up to whatever you promise. If you’ve set up a tech blog, your readers might be surprised if you start writing long accounts of why your marriage/team/country is going down the drain. Of course, in the process you might pick up some new readers and decide to relaunch the blog. ‘

Rannie from Photojunkie‘Before you begin blogging, figure out your boundaries. Decide how much or how little you are comfortable with disclosing. It’s easier to change your boundaries once you have started blogging, but harder to put up those boundaries after you have crossed the line and posted something that you didn’t think anyone else would see.

I’m not really hearing any of them say don’t blog about personal things – rather the message is to consider what you will and will not share on your blog.

Its also useful to define your blog to some extent (at least in your own mind) and keep within the boundaries you’ve set yourself.

My last word on the topic is be careful. I’ve heard cases of people loosing jobs because their bosses found their blog – other have had similar experiences of pastors finding comments about sermons. Be prepared for people you know to find what you write.

The Rhythm Method of Blogging

One of the keys to blogging is frequent posting. This is what distinguishes weblogs from from static websites.

The average blogger posts once every 14 days – personally I tend to mainly visit bloggers who update more regularly than that. As a blog reader I get to know the rhythm of the blogs that I read. I don’t mind if they are daily, weekly or even fortnightly bloggers – but whatever their rhythm I find myself loosing interest if they disappear for unexplained periods of time. So get into a rhythm of blogging.

I personally blog daily and dedicate 15 minutes most mornings while I drink my coffee to write something. I also often post last thing at night.

I read somewhere recently that if you write for 15 minutes a day you will have written the equivalent of an average book in a year. Set yourself some sort of goal like that – but don’t fall into the temptation of writing just because you ‘have to’ – your content will suffer.

One way to help each ‘bloggers block’ is to keep a file of ideas to blog about. Rather than posting about everything that interests you in a day, keep a few ideas in reserve so you can post them quickly on a day when you otherwise might have been too busy or unable to post.

Lastly – if you keep forgetting to blog (a common problem) you should check out this amazing new Blogging Reminder System – The NoemicsPad. Its a revolutionary idea that could change the way you blog forever!

Blog Content Tip – Titles are Everything

After slaving away on your latest blog post pause before you hit that ‘publish’ button and consider your title. What does it convey to your potential reader? Titles can be the difference between having your post read or ignored. Of course there are No Rules that will guarantee your post to get noticed, but you might want to consider some of the following.

Simplify – Studies show that blog readers prefer straightforward, short and simple titles to cute or cryptic ones.

Communicate – In a word or three tell your reader what the post is about in your title. Most people will not take the time to read something unless they know what it is about first.

Key Words – Try to incorporate words in your title that are likely to be searched for by readers in search engines. Get into their shoes — what search term would you use if you were wanting information on this topic? If you’re writing about Britney Spears – put her in your title and you’ll increase its ranking in the engines.

Grab Attention – A good title draws your readers into your post. Your post is likely to be one of many on the same topic. Your title is an opportunity to distinguish it from others like it. Imagine yourself searching for articles on a search engine or news aggregator — what would make you click your link? Intrigue your reader, draw them into your post, make them want to read more!

Of course Titles are NOT Everything you still need to post something worthwhile under them. But a title is not just the start of your post, it is an invitation for people to engage with your ideas. Put some effort into developing it and you’ll find people take that all important step into your virtual space.

Blog Designers

My post Where are the Blog Designers? got a bit of interest yesterday and a number of Blog Designers let us know about themselves and gave examples of their work.

I thought I’d give them a little exposure here:

As previously mentioned Cre8d Design is a personal favorite of mine. She produces clean, fresh and stylish blogs and logos and was recommended by a number of commentators in the previous post.

Dydimustk has designed his own great blog and a number of others. (links in previous comments)

Alan Creech also has a growing portfolio of blogs that he’s designed. (links in previous comments). Alan has designed a number of blogs in my own blogroll.

Tim also is offering his services and recommends May Star Designs.

Chad is a web designer who is willing to take on blog designing jobs.

Iggie Krug has been doing blog design and logos for a while now. I’ve seen a lot of Iggie’s work around in my blogroll – good stuff.

Kevin at Sakamuyo is another blogger willing to take on work. He also recommends Sekimori for professional blogs.

Tim from E-Church does freelance design at Turtle + Interactive and is willing to take on blog work.

Jordon Cooper works for a company that does blog design and has developed blogging software. (links to examples of his work in previous comments)

Dan is also happy to do blog design.

So there you have some blog designers – perhaps there are more out there than I thought.

Having read the comments there I have some theories as to why there are so few people specializing in blog design professionally.

- A lot of people feel they can do a reasonable job themselves.
- Most people know someone that knows someone who will do it for free (or very cheap).
- People are not willing to pay much for something that they can get for free and then ‘tinker’ with.

Feel free to add your own ad for your services below.

Get to the Point

The average person reading speed is 200 words per minuteWhat’s Yours? (The speed reading record is 1347 wpm)

In 96 seconds they will read 320 words.

So keep things short and to the point. I know this sounds crazy coming from me – but the stats show my longer posts are often largely are ignored.

EXTENDED ENTRY – If you’re going to write a long post – consider writing a punchy introduction that makes your main points so that when your reader gets the ‘itch to click’ they’ve grasped your message. After the introduction refer your readers via a ‘read more’ link to another page for the rest of your post if they want to know the details. (MT’s Extended Entry feature is handy way to do this automatically).

MULTIPLE POSTS – consider breaking your long post down into multiple entries to be posted over a period of time – be sure to link them to one another.