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Cool Little Tool

My last post asked the question of how you build blog and website traffic. Tim left a comment that caught my interest regarding the syndication of one blog’s headlines to other websites he has an interest in – an effort to create stickiness at the website and drive visitors to the originating blog.

I’ve taken Tim’s example to heart and have done the same thing.

I found a cool little tool – free – that converts RSS to JavaScripts. The service name is simply RSS-to-JavaScript.

Have you been noticing the growing popularity of RSS, RDF and ATOM feeds? Would you like to easily add them to your web-site to create sticky content that’s always updated? Then you’ve come to the right place, RSS-to-JavaScript.com was designed to easily convert any valid RSS, RDF or ATOM feed into easy to implement Javascript. No XML or programming experience is necessary.

Use our 100% free tool to easily insert dynamically updated RSS, RDF and ATOM feeds into any web page, blog or content management system.

The way I use RSS-to-JavaScript is to aggregate posts I write on two other blogs and present them on my maim blog, JSLogan. The thought is to make JSLogan readers more aware of posts I write on other blogs and drive more readers to the other sites.

Thanks for the idea Tim!

Are there any other cool little tools like this you use or have seen in the blogosphere?

Strategy for maximizing page views

I was going to call this article tips for maximizing page views. But tips implies that what I suggest is going to work! These are merely thoughts and suggestions. I hope to encourage a bit of experiment and conversation with this post. Please use the comments and trackbacks to let us know if you try something as a result of this.

So, page views. A page view is not a hit, nor is it a visit. Total page views tells you how many individual pages have been seen over a given period. Dividing that total by the number of unique visitors gives you your average page views per visit.

How ever many you have, you want more. Page views are the add-on items of the web world. They’re the rust-proofing on your new car. The guacamole with your nachos. They’re where the profit is made. More page views = more ads seen = greater chance for your visitors to click on an ad.

Of course this is all completely moot if users are clicking on ads on their first or second page view. But if they were doing that we’d all be out shopping for Porshes instead of playing in Darren’s playground while he’s on holiday.

There are two main strategies I want to discuss here. The first is easy, the second requires some creative thinking.
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Pretty pictures :a question of blog aesthetics.

Is a blog that uses pictures in its posts more likely to succeed that a blog that posts identical content but doesn’t use the pictures? Sure, we know that there are many other considerations in the success or otherwise of a blog, but take a pure economists view of a perfect market where both blogs are identical in every other way. We know that the quality of content is important, but I’ve come to a rather interesting conclusion, at least in the field of consumer and general interest blogs (as opposed to political blogs): blog aesthetics matter, and the prettier the pictures in your posts the more likely you are to succeed.

This in itself causes me a great deal of stress, mainly because editing and uploading pictures is slow in comparison to the creation of content. WordPress doesn’t allow you to just paste a picture directly into a post, and I’m presuming that other DIY packages are similar. The case in the free market may be a little different, for memory I believe you can cut and paste using blogger, but at the end of the day as a Problogger you’re more likely to be using a DIY or Paid hosting package as opposed to a freebie. The second point of stress is the extra demands on your site in terms of bandwidth: pictures slow down site loading times and cause bandwidth to be gobbled up at a faster rate. My immediate example is my new Weblog Empire Blog: The Gadget Blog, lots of pictures here, which are necessary and I’ll add are working a treat, but the bandwidth usage is 4 times that of the Blog Herald over similar visitor numbers. In other words pictures can also cost money.

The consideration though is whether the expenditure on pictures is rewarded by increased traffic and repeat visitor numbers. I’m thinking yes at this stage, although I’d welcome everyone’s views.

Does size matter?

No, this isn’t a post involving a dirty subject, Darren has had all of us guest bloggers sign in blood that we will behave ourselves here at Problogger, but it is a serious question. Does size matter in terms of blog layout.

There is any number of different theories on this one, but its something else to think about whether you are starting a new blog or overhauling an existing blog.
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Browser compatibility of your blog

I’ve put up a different version of this post up at The Blog Herald, but knowing that Darren is a Mac user I wanted to share a slightly different version on the theme here at Problogger: professional bloggers are ignoring compatibility issues.

I know from experience that many of the better bloggers in this world are Mac users, and I do honestly envy you. If I had a couple of thousand spare dollars sitting in my account to buy a new computer I’d most likely go with a Mac. The unfortunate reality is, that whilst Weblog Empire is going well, it’s not producing similar figures yet to Darren’s Mac powered network. Mac’s cost more, and while I can still build a new PC from parts for around $500 AUD (a decent one at that) I’m not changing yet. I also know that the chances are that the majority of you reading this use a PC running Windows as I do. Whether Macs are better or not is irrelevant, as Probloggers we specialise in content delivery, not whether one OS is better than another.
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Blog Layout Continued – The Perfect Number of Columns?

Peter Flaschner has a great post on The Perfect Number of Columns which I think bounces off my post on Blog Layout (I say ‘I think’ because he doesn’t link to it – but was part of the discussion here in my post so I’ll take some credit! :-) ). He writes:

‘How many columns is the perfect number? I’ve seen passionate opinions voiced in favor of 1, 2, and 3 columns. People seem to have very definite opinions about which is best. I’m here to tell them they’re all wrong.

There is no perfect solution. The right number of columns is determined by two things: your site’s raison d’etre, and your audience. Asking “what’s the right number of columns” is like asking “what’s the best colour”. The answer in both cases is it depends.’

Peter then goes on to talk about some factors to consider when choosing your blog’s layout, in particular your own needs and those of your audience. It’s a great post if you’re thinking through blog design issues.

Less = More with Adsense

Scrivs gives and insightful update on his decluttered design approach to adsense – the results speak for themselves:

‘Ever since I made the changes to the design of many of my sites to the extra minimalist style I have seen my eCPM increase anywhere from 50%-100%. My CTR has increased over 100%-200%, but this also has to do with the fact that I added an inline ad on FG for extended entries.’

Blog Layout

Jim from Blog Kits shot me an email last week saying that he thought it would be interesting to do a post asking readers what their favorite blog layout was.

So….

What is your favorite blog layout?

Do you prefer 2 columns, 3 columns or some other format? What are the advantages of the different formats that you’ve tried?

I think it depends upon the blog you’re running. Most of mine are a 3 column format mainly because I find 3 columns gives more options for placing advertising, affiliate programs etc. Two columns can make it hard to fit ads, navigation and other blog buttons and features in.

The downside of a 3 column layout is that it can make your blog look quite cluttered.

What do you prefer? Feel free to leave links to blogs that you like (or dislike) the layout of.

Does blog design matter?

One of my favorite new bloggers is Peter Flaschner who today asks the question – Does blog design matter?

I first reviewed the design of Technorati’s top 10 blogs a month or so ago. At the time, I came to the conclusion that design didn’t really matter all that much. I figured that within a couple of months though, with the fantastic growth rate of the blog world, design would start to matter. This is based on the belief that given the choice between two sources of equal quality content, people will choose the better designed site.

In a medium where many argue ‘content is king’ I would argue that its queen is design. This is not just the case in blogging but in many aspects of business. I live in a suburb where there is a local strip of shops. There is a huge variety of stores, cafes, restaurants and offices there but most of them are fairly run down with quite a few old ma and pa stores that probably haven’t changed much in the past 15 – 20 years. But things are changing – the suburb is becoming more popular and gradually new shops and cafes are creeping into the strip of shops.

It is amazing to see the difference between the old and new shops – whilst the old one’s are dark and dusty the new ones are well lit, classy, clean and are very 2005.

Both types of shops sell the same stuff – but given the choice of a fresh and hip place or a dingy musty smelling one – I know where most shoppers are now heading. Aesthetics, sensuality and emotion are key in communication and are all things that a well designed blog can evoke.

Update: Interestingly (and perhaps I’m arguing with myself here) I was also reflecting this morning about how News Aggregators have changed the design equation somewhat.

As I surfed through my bloglines feed this morning I realized how much of an equalizer it was to see virtually all of the content presented to me in black quite and blue. The most amazingly designed blogs going around were reduced to the same level as some of the most appallingly designed blogs that I’ve ever seen. Could the news aggregator be quality content’s saviour!?

Update: Flyte has a great comment on this post – ‘The discussion of content versus design in blogs is like discussing what makes a rectangle bigger: height or width?’