Reading Blogs for Fun and Profit

This guest post is by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.

How much time do you spend reading blogs? A few hours per week? Maybe even a few hours per day?

I spend at least an hour per day, and sometimes more. You have to, if you want to keep up with the happenings in an online community.

Now let’s do some math.

Let’s say that you spend 90 minutes per day reading blogs. Weekdays only, so that works out to seven and a half hours per week. Thirty hours per month.

Three hundred and sixty hours per year. Yes, that’s right—three hundred and sixty hours per year. That’s fifteen straight days of blog reading.

If you’re spending that much time, shouldn’t you be sure that it isn’t going to waste?

Reading blogs

Copyright Ana Blazic -

The first thing we need to do is figure out why we even read blogs. Putting entertainment value aside (yes, I know it can be fun, but we’re professionals, right?), I think there are two main reasons we do it: to learn, and to build relationships.

Other than entertainment, these are the two reasons that we read blogs. Either we’re trying to learn something, or we’re trying to build a relationship with the blogger or their community. Ideally, we’re trying to do both.

Well, if we’re going to spend this much time trying to learn and connect, maybe we should think about how these processes really work!

How learning works

Learning is one of those things that we all do all the time, but never stop to really think about. There are a few steps to a learning process:

  1. You’re exposed to new ideas and information.
  2. You filter out the information that isn’t relevant to you (this is something like 95% of what’s going on around you at any given time!).
  3. You encode that information in long-term memory, so that you can remember it later.
  4. You integrate that information with your understandings and worldview, so that you can apply it in appropriate situations.
  5. You remember it at the right time, and adapt your behavior based on the new learning.

Reading the blog posts is just Step 1—exposing yourself to new ideas and information.

To really learn something, and get as much as you can out of what you’re reading, you still have to make sure you don’t filter out anything important, encode it in a meaningful way so that you can access it later, learn to apply it in your life, and actually do so.

Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Repetition, association, processing, and meta-cognition

There are a few principles that you can harness to your advantage when you’re trying to learn new things; repetition, association, processing, and meta-cognition:

  1. Repetition. This is what it sounds like—the greater the number of times you hear something, the more likely you are to remember it. I’ll say it again: the greater the number of times you hear something, the more likely you are to remember it. This is how we all learned our multiplication tables as kids.
  2. Association. We learn and remember by drawing associations between the new concepts that we’re trying to learn, and older concepts that we’re already understand. This could mean thinking about how the new idea is like an old idea, or how it’s different, or how it is connected. For example, in what way is Peter Pan like an entrepreneur?
  3. Processing. The more you think about something, the more likely you are to remember it; by turning an idea over and over in your head, you get to know it that much better. Thinking through scenarios and applications of the things you read about is a good way to improve the learning.
  4. Meta-Cognition. Meta-cognition means thinking about thinking. In other words, paying attention to your thinking processes—things like your assumptions and your feelings as you explore the new ideas that you are reading about.

Okay, okay, obviously you aren’t going to spend three hours on every blog post—and you don’t have to. There are simple tricks that you can use to apply these principles, and I’ll share them with you in a little while.

But first, let’s talk about how relationships work.

How relationships work

Relationships… connections… community… These are some of the hottest buzz-words of social media. But do we ever stop to think about how they really work? How do you build a relationship with someone?

I think there are four important things that are required:

  1. Show that you know them. Relationships depend on familiarity and understanding—you have to feel that someone really knows you in order to have a relationship with them. That’s the difficulty in connecting through blog comments—you’re just one in a hundred, and the comments all start blurring together.
  2. Show that you think and care about them. When a relationship is genuine, we care enough about someone to occasionally think about them when they’re not around. By the same token, we like to see that someone else has been thinking about you—that’s why we get such a kick out of a simple @mention on Twitter.
  3. Show that you’re making an effort. Real relationships take effort, because before we emotionally invest, we want to see that someone is in it for the long haul. This means that a single blog comment is not enough to build a connection, and even a dozen might not do the job. It just takes more.
  4. Actually being helpful. As well as we know someone, as much as they care about us, and as hard as they may try, we will quickly get tired of someone who wastes our time without ever being useful (or fun to be around). We may tolerate this sort of thing with family (because we have to), but we won’t do it in the blogosphere.

And now for the 64-million-dollar question: how do we do all these things while reading blog posts, without having to turn it into a full-time job?

Funny you should ask…

How to improve learning and relationships

Now it’s time for the fun part, where I outline the strategies that you can actually use to improve your learning and build relationships while you do your regular blog reading.

I won’t lie and say that this takes no extra time, because it does take some.

Honestly, though, it doesn’t take much more, and it multiplies the benefits that you get from the reading. Try them for a week and see for yourself!

  1. After reading a post, take a moment to think about who might benefit from it, and send it to that person. You’ll remember more, because you took the time to think about how the content was relevant to someone, and you’ll build relationships by showing someone that you thought of them. You can get extra credit by sending it to them on Twitter and @-mentioning the blogger, too.
  2. After reading a post that you like, explain the gist of it to someone else. You can do this via email, over the phone, or in person, and you don’t have to do it right away—you can even do it with your family over dinner. Whoever you talk to will appreciate your sharing, and you will remember much, much more of the post.
  3. Leave a comment explaining how the post was insightful for you, when you’ve seen an example of whatever is being described, and how it relates to your life. You can even write a whole response post. The blogger will appreciate the well-thought-out comment, and you will remember a lot more of the post for having drawn these associations.
  4. Bookmark the best posts that you read. Once every week or two, spend 30-60 minutes re-reading the best posts, and really savor them (I try to do this every other weekend, when I write our Best of the Web posts).
  5. Keep a journal of good ideas that you come across. Just write them down, but don’t rush to implement them. That way you avoid shiny object syndrome, but still have the repetition that helps you remember. For extra credit, you can review the journal every few months and pick out two or three of the best ideas to implement.
  6. Whenever you finish reading a post and take an action based on what you’ve read, take a moment to think about why. What did the blogger do to get you to take an action? What worked for them, and how could you apply it in your own work and writing?

These strategies, when taken together, only add a small amount of reading time to your day, but they will help you learn dramatically more, and build more and better relationships—which is what it’s really all about.

Over to you: if you had to pick just one of these strategies to implement for a week, which one would it be? Do you have a good tip for learning and building relationships while reading? If you do, share it with us in the comments!

Danny Iny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the definitive marketing training program for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-marketers. Visit his site today for a free cheat sheet about Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK… and What Does!, or follow him on Twitter @DannyIny.

How to Optimize Your WordPress Database for Better Performance

This guest post is by Lior Levin.

Optimizing the databases of your WordPress blog sounds like it might be a difficult task, but it’s a lot easier than it sounds. In most situations it can be done in just one or two clicks—no need for complicated steps or terminology.

You’re probably wondering why you would even want to optimize your database tables. Well, that’s easy: it can drastically speed up the load time of your blog. On top of that, it can help you with SEO and improve your rankings because “Google, along with the majority of other search engines, continues to place a high value on user experience.” We have seen this profound impact at a psd to html company I work for. No matter how old your blog is, there is sure to be some clutter in your MySQL database tables. If you’re not cleaning them on a regular basis, the backup can have a huge effect on your blog and slow it down drastically.

So, we’ll briefly look at five simple ways that you can quickly optimize your WordPress database for better performance.


This is a WordPress plugin that helps you clean up your database tables and optimize them within a few clicks. It does all of this without the use of phpMyAdmin (a program used to handle the administration of your MySQL servers). It will show you which tables are already optimized and the ones that need to be optimized.

WP Optimize

WP Optimize

TentBlogger Optimize WordPress Database

With TentBlogger Optimize, you can quickly free up space and optimize your databases for faster loading, with just one click. It will let you know how much space you can free up and you can even view your databases if needed. That’s all there is to it. Additionally, it will also let you know if you ever need a “tune up” with a quick message.

TentBlogger Optimize

TentBlogger Optimize

WP Database Optimizer

This is another plugin similar to WP-Optimize and TentBlogger Optimize, but with the addition of automatic scheduling. You can go in and set WP Database Optimizer to automatically optimize your tables every certain number of days. You’ll be able to see all of your tables and whether or not they have any overhead (in other words, whether or not they need to be optimized).

WordPress Database Optimizer

WordPress Database Optimizer

Via phpMyAdmin

The WordPress Experts has a great tutorial on optimizing your database tables using phpMyAdmin. While the plugins above focus on not using this method, it can be done without having to install any plugins on your blog. You’ll need to sign into phpMyAdmin and check your tables for overhead.

Via WordPress Database Repair

Many users are not aware of this option, but you can repair and optimize your database right from within your blog’s dashboard. This is done by going to /wp-admin/maint/repair.php on your blog and inserting the code shown at that page into your wp-config.php file.

WordPress Database Repair

WordPress Database Repair

Once you do that, you’ll see two options on that page: repair database, repair and optimize database. Simply click the option of your choice and WordPress will do the rest. If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide on this, you can find it on WPveda.

Now that you have five different ways of optimizing your WordPress tables, you’re well on your way to even faster blog. As a reminder, be sure that you always backup your databases before optimizing them. This way if something goes wrong, you can restore your databases back to the way they were before you changed them.

This was a post by Lior Levin who is a marketing advisor to Internet startups and companies. Lior advises to a neon signs store and many other business online.

Talking Funny: What Can Bloggers Learn from Comedians?

This guest post is by Dan Meyers of Your Life, Their Life.

I recently watched Ricky Gervais’ new show on HBO, Talking Funny, with guest comedians Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K. These guys are the top of their field and use the show to discuss their strategies.

If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, you know they didn’t get to where they are by luck. They’ve practiced and performed for more hours than we can imagine.

I picked up some important concepts that are relevant to a comedian’s success as well as a blogger’s success.

Comedy is a relationship

Chris Rock says comedy “is like a relationship. Your woman is with you because you assume she loves you. She’s there every day but you still have to work on her liking you for this to work as a relationship. You have to put out effort. You can’t just come home and say hey, I paid the rent, like me.”

The same is obviously true for blogs. You must continually develop the relationship with your readers and put out effort to keep them around. ProBlogger is full of great examples of relationship building, such as showing your readers you care by responding to their comments.

Comedians who don’t have good material won’t be around for long

Louis CK said comedians that don’t have great material get to a place and stay there. They might have one or two hits but they don’t continue building and they won’t sustain over time.

Chris Rock said, “Anyone can have a hot year but who the hell has sustained a career not being funny”?

Bloggers have the same reality. We must sustainably create good material that will keep users coming back.

Jerry Seinfeld said one thing that bothered him about acting was that a lot of people say they can do it and they actually can. He went back to stand-up comedy because there is no faking it. You’re either good or you’re not.

It’s easy for people to start a new blog as is evident by the total number of blogs doubling every six months.

Blogging is a combination of Seinfeld’s assessment of acting and comedy. You can fake blogging for a while, but if you don’t step up and produce over time, you won’t last.

Stand-up comedy is a great responsibility

This group of comedians all agreed that stand-up comedy is a great responsibility. There are multiple reasons, but one of the biggest is they recognize people give up a chunk of their lives to see them perform.

They had to get a babysitter, get dressed up, find a parking spot, and spend their hard earned money. They feel responsible for leaving with them something lasting. According to Seinfeld, really good bits go deep into your head and keep coming back.

In an example Seinfeld uses, Letterman talks about how he would spit toothpaste into the sink, let it dry, and serve it as after dinner mints.

It’s not the best joke I’ve ever heard, but Seinfeld said there’s something in that joke that has made it stick with him ever since. Are your posts going to stick with people?

People also give up their most valuable commodity to view your blog post. They give up their time. You must make it worth their while or they won’t be back.

You must also ensure you’re not putting bad information out as recommendations. Ricky Gervais said he feels a great responsibility not to hurt an innocent person. The same is true for people dispensing information.

In comedy, talk about what they do, not what they are

Chris Rock said one of his most important principles in comedy is to talk about what people do, not what they are. He said some people do some crazy stuff that you can talk about, but if you think they’re actually crazy, you shouldn’t mention that!

To avoid making too many people angry, remember to talk about what they do and not what they are. Don’t say, “You’re poor because you’re an idiot.” Try, “You’re poor because you wasted your paycheck on hookers and alcohol.” Okay, maybe that’s not quote right either!

Take a subject and don’t leave it alone until you’ve totally covered it

The great comedians have a way of going deeper into an everyday situation than you and I could ever imagine possible. Jerry Seinfeld is a genius at doing this.

Chris Rock takes a somewhat different approach because some of his jokes are ‘richer ideas’ and won’t be funny without the full premise of the story. He explains what he’s talking about because he knows if he sets up the premise right, the joke will always work.

The most successful bloggers take something, break it down, break it down again, and then break it down even more. Most of this is finding your niche. For example, Darren has more information on AdSense than the rest of the Internet put together!

What if people discover they can do comedy themselves?

Ricky Gervais asks the question, “What happens if people discover they can do comedy themselves?” The other comedians don’t view this as a threat because they view themselves as professionals with a level of talent much higher than most people.

Louis CK explains that the guys who make money on the Superbowl aren’t concerned by people who play football in the back yard.

This is even more relevant for bloggers. We live in a world where we aren’t cut throat competitors. Sure, we’re competing over products and content, but for the most part we all benefit as more people get involved in blogging.

These are examples from four of the elite comedians. One thing I observed was how they all have different styles. There is no one way to succeed as a comedian. It would be even harder to succeed if you tried to be the next Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock (or Darren Rowse).

The points they make during the interview are very relevant for comedians as they are for bloggers. Do you agree with any of the points? I would love to see your thoughts in the comments.

Dan Meyers wants to help you take control of your life so you OWN IT.  He started Your Life, Their Life to help you control your money, get out of debt, and find what you really want in life.  Interested?  Check out and follow him on Twitter (@YLTL).

8 Tips for Using Quotes and Dialogue in Your Blog Posts

This guest post is by Aman Basanti of

Quotes and dialogue are one of the most powerful tools in the writer’s toolbox. They bring your writing to life. They give your piece voice and make the words jump off the page. As the famous writer Stephen King once said, “What people say often conveys their character to others in ways of which they—the speakers—are completely unaware.”


Copyright Gino Santa Maria -

While most bloggers understand the power of quotes, they do not know how to format them properly. This post is a crash course in how to use and punctuate quotes in your writing.

Please note that there are exceptions to some of these rules (depending on whether you use the American standard or the UK standard). But for most part if you follow these rules you will be fine.

How to capitalize a quote

All quotes should be capitalized, except for fragments. If your quotes are not capitalised, your readers may think it is a partial quote with the ellipsis omitted.

Even when you quote someone mid-sentence, you should capitalise the quote.

As George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

How to extend a quote over multiple paragraphs

Say you want to break up the following quote into two paragraphs:

“I always say to people,” said Archer in an interview, “don’t write about goblins; don’t write about wizards just because they’re in. Write what you feel at ease with. Always remember Jane Austen. [She] lived in a small village, and wrote about her mother being unable to get rid of four daughters. Then she wrote about her mother being unable to get rid of three daughters. Then she wrote about her mother being unable to get rid of two daughters.”

Most people open and close the quote in each paragraph:

“I always say to people,” said Archer in an interview, “don’t write about goblins; don’t write about wizards just because they’re in. Write what you feel at ease with.”

“Always remember Jane Austen. [She] lived in a small village, and wrote about her mother being unable to get rid of four daughters. Then she wrote about her mother being unable to get rid of three daughters. Then she wrote about her mother being unable to get rid of two daughters.”

The correct way of doing this is not to close the quote at the end of each paragraph, only the last one:

“I always say to people,” said Archer in an interview, “don’t write about goblins; don’t write about wizards just because they’re in. Write what you feel at ease with.

“Always remember Jane Austen. [She] lived in a small village, and wrote about her mother being unable to get rid of four daughters. Then she wrote about her mother being unable to get rid of three daughters. Then she wrote about her mother being unable to get rid of two daughters.”

How to edit a quote

It is amazing how many mistakes we make when speaking. It is only when you transcribe the speech to paper that you see these mistakes. As a writer then, you are allowed to clean up quotes.

For example, consider the following quote:

“There’s a 1000 people in the hall and they all love what I do.”

Clean it up so the verb agrees with the plural “people.”

“There are 1000 people in the hall and they all love what I do.”

The only exception is that if you want to make the author sound uneducated that you leave the quote in its original form.

How to add to a quote

If you need to add to a quote, do not simply include the extra words in the quote. Use the “[ ]” marker to show your additions.

As he said in an interview, “[The prosecution’s case] was weaker than Columbus’s claim that China was 10,000 miles closer than was the accepted wisdom at the time.”

How to include original errors without making yourself look silly

Say you want to insert a quote that is written incorrectly in its original form (whether by design or by mistake) but you do not want your readers to think that you are the source of the mistake.

The poster read, “Old skool remixes are the koolest.”

“Skool” and “koolest” are written incorrectly. To fix this, simply include [sic] after each of the words.

The poster read, “Old skool [sic] remixes are the koolest [sic].”

This lets the reader know that you are not the source of the error.

How to handle a quote within a quote

If you want to insert a quote that has a quote inside of it, use a pair of single quotation marks (‘ ’) to enclose the sub-quote.

“The driver said to me, ‘Where would you like to go today?’”

How to handle commas and periods in your quotes

Do you place commas and periods (full stops) outside or inside of the quotation marks? Answer: It depends. The American standard is that commas and periods go inside the quotation marks, regardless of logic:

As my grandfather used to say, “Better out than an angry tenant.”

The English standard is that commas and periods follow logic:

As my grandfather used to say, “Better out than an angry tenant”.

If you are unsure which standard to follow, include the commas and periods inside the quotation marks.

How to handle question marks and exclamation marks in your quotes

When it comes question marks (?) and exclamation marks (!) both American and English standards follow logic. So if the question is in the quote itself, place it inside of the quotation marks. Otherwise place it outside the quotation marks.

At that point he asked himself, “Is this worth the effort?”
Do you agree with the adage, “Familiarity breeds contempt”?


Follow these rules and your writing will look more professional, helping you establish authority in the mind of your blog readers.

If you know of other mistakes that I have not covered here (I know there are a few more) please share them with us in the comments section.

Aman Basanti writes about the psychology of buying and teaches you how you can use the principles of consumer psychology to boost your sales. Visit to get his new ebook—Marketing to the Pre-Historic Mind: How the Hot New Science of Behavioural Economics Can Help You Boost Your Sales—for FREE.

Influencers Are Real, But they’re Not Always Who You Expect

This guest post is by Dan Zarella of of

I find myself in the quantity of followers versus quality of followers debate quite a bit. And one of the fundamental questions of that argument is the concept of influencers. There are clearly some social media users who have more reach and more influence than others, and it is obviously a good thing to have as many of them following you as possible.

Content sharing frequency

Content sharing frequency


A few years ago, when Twitter had just launched and was used primarily by social media geeks, I did a survey. I asked takers how often then shared content with their friends. I found that people who were on Twitter tended to share content more frequently. Those bleeding edge social media users were clearly more influential. For many mainstream markets, whose customer bases aren’t full of hardcore social media users, the percentage of the audience who is on social media (especially the newer platforms) tends to be more influential and connected.

Great tools like Klout and Twitter Grader exist to help you identify influential users, but it becomes tricky and often expensive in terms of time and resources to scale your reach by targeting individual, high-value users.

Death hoax timeline

Death hoax timeline


On the flip side of the coin is the concept of contextual influence. A few months ago there was a death hoax about Nelson Mandela on Twitter. A few Blackberry messenger spam was sent to a number of South African people one morning informing them that Mandela had died. One user, @lebolukewarm, tweeted the phrase “RIP Nelson Mandela” and got around 70 retweets. The phrase then began to trend worldwide on Twitter and received mainstream media coverage.

Lebolukewarm isn’t traditionally influential. He had less than 1,000 followers when the hoax started. He would never show up on any Klout report. It’s nearly impossible to specifically target this kind of influencer, he was just in the right place at the right time. The same was true for many of the users who got tons of ReTweets about Osama Bin Ladin’s capture.

The only way to optimize for having influencers like Lebo following you is to cast a wide net. Since you can’t target users like him, you can only hope to get a lot of followers, thereby increasing the probability that someone like him is following you.

Dan Zarrella is the award-winning social media scientist at HubSpot and host of the upcoming webinar: The Science of Social Media on August 23rd at 2PM ET.

Getting Started with Webmaster Tools: Fixing 404 Errors

This guest post is by Dave Taylor of

Whether you’re writing about changing diapers, improving your bowling score, finding a job in the travel industry or how you get pictures off your cellphone, I think it’s a universal truth that if you’re writing online, you want better search engine results placement.

Most likely you’ve installed some SEO plugins that promise to improve your results and they might even be working, but if your site’s been up any length of time, it’s quite probable that things have started to break behind the scenes and hurt your results without you ever being notified. A scary prospect, really, and if it’s dramatic enough, you can start to really sink down the search results without any further explanation.

That’s why Google has its Webmaster Tools and while they’re primarily designed for people who have complete control over their Web site it can even be useful if you’re on, or in fact, you don’t need to be a blogger to find it helpful: problems hurt any site, regardless of its structure.

Proving your own site

The first thing you need to do with Google’s Webmaster Tools is verify that the site you want to analyze is your own. This is typically done by adding a special line of HTML to the head of your home page, as I detail here.

If you can’t change your header, there are some alternatives that Google offers, but if you have zero administrative rights on the site, you might well be out of luck. If so, check with your hosting company to see if it offers alternative administrative tools that let you know about broken links, etc.

Key elements of a Webmaster Tools report

Once you have verified ownership of your site, you’ll see on the left side that the major areas are Site configuration, Your site on the web, +1 Metrics, Diagnostics, and Labs. Below it there’s some help that really highlights what you can glean from the Tools: Crawl errors, Search queries, Links to your site and Sitemaps. All good stuff.

Webmaster Tools report

Google Webmaster Tools overview for

There’s good analytic data that appears to be somewhat of an overlap with what you can get from Google Analytics (or your favorite analytics package if that’s not your particular cup of tea) and sometimes it reveals things that perhaps you didn’t want to know, like “sexy girls” is the #1 search for people who get to my Attachment Parenting Blog. Yikes. Not what I write about on my site nor anything I want people to be seeking when they arrive on my blog.

The heart of the Webmaster Tools, however, are the diagnostics because it’s the primary way we can learn what Google’s search spider finds broke on the site. Go to Diagnostics and it further breaks down into Malware, Crawl errors, Crawl stats, Fetch as Googlebot and HTML suggestions.

All good stuff, but let’s go into Crawl errors as it offers great bang for your proverbial buck.

Webmaster Tools crawl errors

Crawl errors Webmaster Tools reports for

Not too bad. This blog has a few hundred pages but I’m only seeing 36 of the hated 404 not found errors. Look closely and you’ll see that the format is bad link, error encountered, linked from and date detected. The first one is illustrative:

Error: 404 (Not found)
Linked From: 10 pages
Detected: Jul 30, 2011

The real value is that if you click on the link that shows how many pages have a link to the bad URL, it’ll show you exactly what pages need to be fixed on your site and, sometimes, on other sites too. Here’s an example:

Webmaster Tools specific crawl errors

Specific crawl errors for

The first link is from another site called but all the other pages that link to this bad URL are on my own site. That’s something I can fix immediately.

Where to go from here

You can see we’ve just touched on the tip of the iceberg with the Google Webmaster Tools. It’s deep, it’s complicated, but even if you just poke around and look at the 404 errors generated for your own blog and fix as many as possible, you’ll be pleased to see how your ranking improves and, perhaps even more importantly, you’ll be happy to know that you’ve just improved your readers experience. And in the end, there’s nothing more important than happy readers, is there?

Dave Taylor has been blogging since the tools first appeared online. This is his 31st year online. His primary blog is the popular Ask Dave Taylor! offering up free tech support on a wide variety of topics including blogging and SEO. You can find him on all the major social networks through

Don’t Let Your Blog Get Caught with its Pants Down

This guest post is by Joseph of Blog Tweaks.

I know a guy who went on a backpacking trip in Ghana.

One leg of his trip stood out—a five hour bus ride from Kumasi to Cape Coast. This particular ride started at 4:30 a.m.

Yes, that’s crazy early, but it wasn’t the worst part of the trip.

The worst part was the rolling bowel cramps that started from mile one and wouldn’t go away. They came back every ten minutes. One minute on, nine minutes off.

The blackness of the West African countryside lulled most of the passengers to sleep as the bus continued down the pock marked semblance of a highway, but not so for this guy. He could think of only one thing—this bus had to stop.

But where?

Looking out the window, all he saw were the pale outlines of mud huts and thatched roofs. Where would the bus stop? Did they have rest stops here?

Regardless, the bus had to stop. And it had to stop now.

Suddenly, out of the morning blackness, a small town appeared. As the bus rolled to a stop at an, my friend made his way to the front of the bus, explained the situation to the driver, and asked if he could get off to take care of the pain.

The driver obliged, pointing helpfully to the backside of a shed that was off the road and in front of a village home. It would have to do. It was the only option.

He quickly made his way behind the structure and … went about his business. Yes, out in the open, in the pre-dawn still of a beautiful African morning.

And then it happened.

As he was awkwardly crouched trying to get through the most surreal bathroom break of his life, the door of the home 25 feet directly in front of him opened. Out stepped a local Ghanaian who found himself face to face with my friend.

What a sight to behold—this man woke up in the home he had lived in for who knows how long, walked outside expecting to see the sunrise, and instead finds a white guy fifteen feet away with his pants around his ankles squatting down behind his shed.

As my friend helplessly looked up, the owner of the house began to yell, “What are you doing! What are you doing!”

How do you respond?

All he could say was, “My bad.” Over and over again.

As the owner continued to yell in disbelief, the helpless traveller finally finished, buttoned up, mumbled “my bad” a couple more times, and then quickly walked back to the bus which couldn’t leave fast enough.

To this day, I’m not sure who has the better story. The one I’m telling here or the one told in the village later that day: “It was 5:30 a.m., and there was an obroni (white man) squatting behind my shed saying, ‘my bad’…” He’s probably still getting mileage from the tale.

Hopefully you’ve been entertained by this story, but what does it have to do with blogging?

The answer is everything.

You don’t ever want your blog to get caught with its pants down.

Here’s what I mean.

The blogging equivalent

For your blog to get caught with its pants down is for you to not be ready for traffic before it arrives.

If Darren Rowse at ProBlogger tweeted one of your posts today, would your blog be ready? Is there enough quality content on your site to convert visitors into subscribers? Does your site have a professional design, or does it look more like kindergartner art than a digital storefront? Do you have any way to make money from the traffic?

If not, you might get caught with your pants down.

The day my blog was caught

It happened to my first blog—

It was an ordinary Saturday morning, and as I finished reading an interview with Warren Buffett in Forbes magazine, I typed up the most salient quotes, which I then published as a post titled “7 Priceless Business Quotes from Warren Buffett.”

Little did I know what would happen next.

I expected this post to be the same as all of my other posts, meaning nobody would notice, so I left the house and went about my ordinary day.

Unknown to me, my blog was not having an ordinary day. Somehow, Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, found and tweeted the post. Let me repeat—Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, read and tweeted the post.

He also has 564,454 followers.

I had no idea.

Later that night, I came home and checked the stats. Then I did a double take. I thought my stat counter was broken.

There had been 3,000 visitors to a blog that I started three months earlier as an experiment. Until that time, the most visitors I’d in one day was twenty.

I had no idea what had happened, so I searched until I discovered Mr. Cuban’s tweet.

The end result was 7,000 people reading the post over the next month with over 400 re-tweeting. It’s still my most popular post of all time.

So what was the problem? Why wasn’t this an awesome day? How did my blog get caught with its pants down?

The problem was this—I wasn’t ready. I was as helpless the guy behind the shed.

Of the 7,000 people that visited, somewhere around ten subscribed by e-mail. I also didn’t have any kind of service or advertising, so there was no way to make money.

Yes, it was the biggest day in my blogging experience, but, unfortunately, I didn’t capitalize on the traffic.

What do do about it

So how do you get ready for traffic like that? How do you make sure your blog doesn’t get caught with its pants down?

Here’s how:

  1. Write quality content: If you write high quality content, people are more likely to subscribe for future posts. Nobody wants average posts taking up space in their inbox.
  2. Pick one topic: Focusing on one topic will convert more readers into subscribers. A marketing guy won’t subscribe to a blog about ten different topics; he’ll subscribe to a blog about marketing. Write for one topic and you’ll automatically convince more readers to subscribe.
  3. Focus on subscribers: There are a lot of things you can focus on for conversions, but until you have a better reason not to focus on subscribers, don’t. Those are the people that will consistently come back to read and will eventually buy. Make subscribing insanely easy by putting the opt-in box at the top of the sidebar. Don’t make people search for the subscription box underneath calendar and archive. Do yourself a favor: put it at the top.
  4. Improve your design: Appearance matters. In a job interview, you dress for success; with a blog, you design for it. The good news is that premium themes from sites like Studiopress make getting a great design easy and affordable. It’s the best blog investment you’ll ever make.
  5. Make an offer: One of the best ways to make money from a blog is to offer something for sale. If you don’t give visitors something to purchase, you have zero chance of making a sale. People can’t buy what you don’t offer to sell them. So what you can offer to sell your blog readers? An ebook? Consulting? Design services? Whatever you decide, make sure to make a clear offer on your site. (An example of this can be seen on the “Hire Me” page at Blog Tweaks.)

So there you have it: a story from Ghana, reasons why you don’t want your blog to get caught with its pants down, and five ways to get prepared so it won’t happen to you.

What do you think? Are you ready to cinch up your blog so it doesn’t get caught with its pants down?

Joseph has a marketing degree from UT Austin. He’s currently looking for a select number of companies interested in hiring a paid blogger to write their posts. If you’re interested, visit Blog Tweaks to find out more.

Have We Reached Blog Overload?

This guest post is by LA Juice, of

Saturated, overloaded, “all full up.” These are the words and phrases I think of when I look at the blogging world. Especially in the context of gaining new followers when you aren’t teaching, selling, or giving valuable books and prizes away.

In my six months as a “humorist” blogger (someone who doesn’t teach, sell or give anything away), I have seen my initial traffic grow very well, only to absolutely stagnate over the past two months. And my commenters have all but disappeared. At this point the only people commenting are (and I am sure of this) blogger friends who feel bad for me.

You know, other bloggers who know “what’s what” (bloggers running sites where I have commented).

I’d love to tell you I’m not trying everything to grow my readership, but short of paying for advertising, I am doing all the things the bazillion SEO/SEM/marketing blogs tell you to do. Oh wait, I am paying for ads. Sure, they’re just cheapo Facebook PPC ads—but they’re ads nonetheless.

Here is my active blog promotion checklist:

  1. Twitter: active, with all appropriate feeds (, comments etc.).
  2. Facebook: active, Networked blogs: active, PPC ads on Facebook, etc.
  3. Post no less than three times a week.
  4. Respond to all comments.
  5. Ask readers questions/trivia/etc.
  6. Write about controversial stuff hoping someone will engage.
  7. Held a couple contests, and gave prizes away.
  8. Regularly comment at between eight and 12 different blogs in the same genre as mine.
  9. Guest blog at three places.
  10. Create topical headlines (SEO/SEM within the confines of WordPress).

I even offered iTunes cards to the first five Facebook followers who got more than five of their friends to “follow this blog.” The silence was deafening. The WB frog would have sung louder at an American Idol audition.

I have first page Google rank for “LA Juice”—in fact, I hold first-page spots three to six, and seven on google for a very common search term, if you ask me, and I have made nice progress moving up the Technorati ranks, so I feel like I’m doing a lot of the right SEO things, too.

Yet, crickets! Pure crickets.

When I am not barraging Twitter with (hopefully) pithy jokes, not responding to people who do comment, not commenting at other sites, not guest blogging, and not offering fabulous prizes to my Facebook followers, I sit and wonder, “What happened to the days of people sending links out: “You have to read this blog, it’s hilarious.”

You know word of mouth? I’d even take hand to hand combat right now!

I fear such days are long gone. I can’t recall the last time anyone sent me an email with a link in it. And Twitter retweets, and #FFs? It’s more like white noise.

No one shares or promotes their favorite websites anymore. Except bloggers, to other bloggers, on Twitter.

In fact, my last (and first) six months of blogging have led me to the conclusion that the only people reading blogs are other bloggers. Is it possible that we bloggers have worn our welcome out? Even before I got into the game? Can it be true that either people no longer read blogs or everyone has become a blogger and so there are no more readers?

These are the questions that keep me awake in the middle of the night.

Of course, its possible I am just not funny, engaging or interesting, however:

  • That never stopped half the bloggers out there with bigger “followerships” and more daily comments than me.
  • People who think they are funny, but aren’t, will draw mean commentors—and I don’t even have any of those!
  • Plus, and most importantly, my mom told me I am the funniest and prettiest girl in the kindergarten class.

So, sure, it’s possible, but—let’s be frank—not likely.

Accordingly, we have to ask: is blogging dead?

It’s a tough suspicion for a new blogger who has no intention of giving up the fight. But it’s a truthiness I am beginning to believe with the sincerity of a guest on The Colbert Report.

That’s why I wrote this post: to find out if you agree and, if not, why not. If you do agree, what do you think we should do about it?

Oh, and if you don’t comment, you’re probably proving me right! …See what I did there?

Aspiring to be the funniest blogstress west of Rodeo, Juice currently writes your wrongs at her website: LA Juice. LA Juice is one escaped Detroiter’s unedited and often inappropriate perspective on all things pop culture, celebrity and LA .

5 Simple Font Changes to Boost Readers, Comments, and Shares on Your Blog

This guest post is by Bnonn of

You may not realize it, but the font settings on your blog can have a huge effect on how many people read your content.

And how many people read your content has a huge effect on whether a post goes viral.

How huge? Well, by some accounts I’ve read, just one common mistake with colors could reduce readership by a factor of five. And if you’re not making that mistake, you’re probably making at least one of four others. So in this article, I’ll give you the five most important best practices for presenting text to keep readers glued to your content, and away from the old back button.

Font size—16px minimum

At the very top of the the pile of legibility problems is font size. Back in 2005, Jakob Nielsen reported that in a survey of web design problems, bad fonts got nearly twice as many votes as the next contender—with two-thirds of voters complaining about small font sizes.

Sadly, nothing has changed since then. A random sampling of new blog designs at SiteInspire (a web design gallery showcasing the best of the best designs) shows that the average font size for body copy is 12 pixels. Some as low as ten pixels. None over 14 pixels. Similarly, if you randomly sample offerings from the popular Elegant Themes or ThemeForest, you’ll find that every single theme sets post content at 12 or 13 pixels.

And of course, other theme creators tend to follow the lead of the bigwigs.

But as usability and typography expert Oliver Reichenstein of Information Architects points out, 16 pixels is the font size that browsers were intended to display by default—and it is not big. 16px text on an average screen looks about the same size as 12-point text in print. That’s the default size for most magazines, as well as all word processors, because it’s the size people find most comfortable to read. Many people—especially those over 40—find it very difficult to read smaller text. As Reichenstein observes:

There is no reason for squeezing so much information onto the screen. It’s just a stupid collective mistake that dates back to a time when screens were really, really small … At first, you’ll be shocked how big the default text is. But after a day, you won’t want to see anything smaller than 100% font-size for the main text. It looks big at first, but once you use it you quickly realize why all browser makers chose this as the default text size.

Use dark on light text—reversed is no good

Fortunately we’ve pretty much moved past the days when content authors thought that fuchsia on blue text was cool. But white on black text, known as reversed type, is still pretty common. As are variants like white on some other dark color.

Reversed type reduces not only the number of people who’ll bother to read your content, but also their comprehension of it. This is because it strains the eyes. Staring at reversed text for an extended period tends to create a kind of “glare” effect, where you feel like the letters are too bright to look at. Depending on what research you consult, studies show that light on dark text reduces your readership between 50% and 400%.

Why risk losing so many readers? Black or very dark gray on white looks clean, and there are plenty of great themes that use those colors.

Line width—45 to 75 characters

Here’s another little-known rule that a lot of blogs break. In order for your eye to easily follow one line to the next, you want no more than 75 characters in each line. This is called the line measure. Beyond a measure of 75 characters, it’s hard to track the end of one line to the beginning of the next without getting lost.

On the other hand, if you have a measure of less than 45 characters your eye will get fatigued quickly, because you’ve barely started to read one line when you have to jump to the next. You feel like you never get a chance to rest.

For this reason, your ideal post content area will have lines of text about 60 characters long. Of course, you do also have to take aesthetics into account. On many blogs, the “ideal” measure leaves a huge gap on the right margin, or makes the text seem squished into a tiny area. I use a measure of around 70 characters on my own website for exactly that reason. But if you’re pushing past 80 characters, you’re reducing your readership—guaranteed.

Line height—130% or more

Fortunately this is a less common mistake. If you’re using a professional theme, you probably don’t need to worry.

To give you an example, I’ve set this paragraph at the default line height (also called leading, after the strips of lead used to separate lines of text on old printing presses). It feels cramped and uninviting to read, and it’s hard to follow the lines from one to the next because they blend into each other.

On the other hand, this paragraph is set with a line height of 200%—equivalent to double spacing in a word processor. I’m sure you’ll agree that the lines here feel way too disconnected from each other, and unless you’re submitting a research paper this is not the way to go.

Finally, this paragraph is set with a line height of 150%. That means that for every pixel of font size, there’s one and a half pixels of distance between the lines. This turns out to be pretty reliable sweet spot for most fonts you’re likely to use on a blog—but feel free to experiment between about 130% and 160% to see what works best for your own content.

The left margin—don’t break it

This last tip isn’t exactly a font issue. But it fits into the same general category. Bloggers routinely include images in their posts. Whether or not that’s really a good idea is a topic for another time—but for now, let me just give you one piece of advice.

The left margin is sacred. It’s how we track text down a page in the Western world. It’s the “ground” out of which the lines grow (often to quite different lengths), and it’s the foundation for our eyepath as we read down the page.

But if you break the left margin, that all goes to hell. Your eye has to scan around to try to pick up the new margin, so you can keep on reading.

In other words, every time you left-align an image, you put a speed-bump in your reader’s path. And you’re compounding the problem by dragging his attention away from the text with your visually dominant image. Needless to say, readers who keep being distracted and having to relocate the left margin often don’t read to the end of a post—so they often don’re share it or comment on it.

Bonus tip: drop caps increase readership

By “drop caps” I mean initial capitals, where the first letter of the first word of your post stands out much bigger than the rest. According to research conducted by Ogilvy & Mather, this increases readership of a piece by an average of 13%.

Drop caps aren’t built into most blog themes, and they can be tricky to do on the web, but if you’re up to a little coding, check out this tutorial on how to create them.

Five mistakes: which ones are you making?

Now is the time to head on back to your own blog and see which of these five important best practices you’re not practicing. Then, fixum! But don’t forget to share the changes you’ve made in the comments below!

Bnonn is the author of 25 free video lessons on how to turn visitors into customers—part of his conversion-optimization course ‘Attention-Thievery 101’. Known in the boroughs as the Information Highwayman, he helps small businesses sell more online by improving both their copy and design. When he’s not knee-deep in the guts of someone’s homepage, he is teaching his kids about steampunk, Nathan Fillion, and how to grapple a zombie without getting bit.