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Email a Blogger that Linked to You to Say Thanks

Building-A-Better-Blog-2One of the lifelines that keeps a blog healthy and growing is the incoming link. When other blogs and websites link to you blog they inject your blog with ‘juice’ that brings it real life in three main ways:

  • Google Juice – incoming links are gold when it comes to climbing the search engines rankings. Every link is like a vote in Google’s eyes – get enough votes from the right sites and your blog will see increases in search engine traffic over time.
  • Reader Juice – incoming links from even small sites will generally mean that people click the link and visit your site. New potential readers!
  • Branding Juice - sometimes the real benefit of an incoming link can be the general branding and reputation enhancing that it can do. A link can be like an endorsement for your blog and on larger sites it can have profound impact not only by what it does with traffic and SEO but the impression that the link creates in the reader’s mind.

There has been a lot written about how to get links to your blog of late – but one thing that can be just as important is how you cultivate the relationships with those linking to you.

One of the things that I’ve learned in the last year particularly is that when a blog or website links to you once there is every chance that they’ll do it again.

As a result it can be very worthwhile to get to know the person who does the writing on the site and to build a working relationship with them.

This generally starts with an email and/or a comment on the post where they link to you.

Today’s task is to send an email to a blogger or webmaster that linked up to you recently. For some of you there will be plenty to choose from, for others just starting out it could be difficult to find any.

Some places to look for who is linking to you:

  • Technorati – type your URL in and hit search and you’ll find any blogs linking to you
  • Google Blog Search – another good tool for real time link tracking
  • Your Blog’s Metrics – any worthwhile stats package will give you a ‘referrals’ stat that shows incoming links. I use Google Analytics but you could also use Sitemeter, Mint, AW Stats or one of many other metrics tools.
  • Search Engines – type in ‘link:http://www.yourblog.com’ at Yahoo or Google and you’ll find incoming links to your blog – note: this isn’t a quick or immediate method of finding recent links.

Once you’ve found another blog or site that’s linked to you – simply drop them an email of thanks. You can do a comment also – but I find an email is a little more personal and often leads into a conversation and perhaps relationship.

Keep the email brief and simple. Don’t pitch the blogger ideas – simply thank them and let them know that you appreciate both the link and their site (if you do). You may also want to make some sort of a comment or ask a simple question that relates to how they linked to you to show you’re engaging with them. If you intend to keep following their blog tell them (eg – let them know if you subscribe to their blog).

If the blogger responds in some way then let the conversation flow. You might find that it leads you to suggest another post that you’ve written, you might find that you can help them in some way or that you can work on something together – however don’t rush this. If nothing more happens than you saying thank you then you’ve lost nothing and made a little impression.

On the other hand you could well find yourself with a new friend and regular incoming links to your blog.

10 Ways to Hurt Your Blog’s Brand by Commenting on Other Blogs

Comments-Blog-1Ask popular bloggers for 10 ways to build traffic to a new blog and I’ll guarantee that almost all of them will mention the importance of commenting on other blogs as part of their answer.

Much has been written about commenting as a strategy to build traffic (because used correctly it is a powerful tool) – but very little has been written on the dangers of it. Over the past few months I’ve noticed some bloggers using comments in increasingly aggressive ways to build their own readership – to the point where I think they are probably doing more harm to their own brand than they are doing good.

I should say that this topic has been one I’ve been a little hesitant to write about – partly because I see some of these tactics used here at ProBlogger. This is not a post written with any particular person (or people) in mind – however I put it out there for your consideration and feedback.

Two notes before I start:

  • I’m not going to include using automated comment spamming techniques – I’m assuming that people will have the brains to work out why this can hurt your brand
  • Some of these techniques will annoy some but not others. Some of them I personally don’t like but some are observations about what I’ve seen annoy others. A lot of this is about the perception that you give off to others. Whether you see them as annoying or not is important – but more important to your brand is what others think of the techniques.

1. Excessive use of Signatures – I ran a poll back in 2005 about whether ProBlogger readers thought that I should allow the practice of leaving a signature in comments (ie a link to your blog at the comment itself in addition to the link that you get as your name). The result at that time was that 56% of readers said the practice should be allowed. As a result I decided to allow them here at ProBlogger. However at the time I also suggested that I didn’t like them as did a significant number of other readers. I still don’t like the practice personally and particularly get turned off when people leave 2-3 (or more) links under their comment (note, I’m not talking about relevant links inside your comment that add to the conversation). While this might not turn off everyone – it’s worth noting that it does get some angry – and even if this is the minority it can hurt your brand.

2. Excessive Self Linking – The practice of leaving links inside posts is not something that bothers me too much – unless it gets excessive. A well placed link back to something you’ve written (or that someone else has written) previously can really add to a conversation – particularly if what you’ve written else where is too long or detailed for the comment thread itself. What does risk annoying others is when you include lots of links to yourself in every comment you make and/or when the links are irrelevant to the topic and/or when you just leave a link without saying anything else. Keep links relevant and in moderation and you’ll find people respond to them well.

3. One or Two word Comments – Some comment leavers seem to be have a ‘quantity over quality’ mentality where they think that the more comments they leave on as many posts as possible the better they’ll be (whether for SEO or direct click visitors). Newsflash – it’s not. One insightful, intriguing and intelligent comment that is relevant and helpful to readers can achieve far more than many two word comments that ultimately mean nothing. All you’ll achieve by leaving loads of useless comments is to annoy bloggers, get yourself listed on comment spam blacklists and to potentially hurt your blog’s reputation as a spammer.

4. Not Reading Posts Before Commenting - I’m sure most of us have been guilty of this from time to time. You see a post title that you want to react to, you read the first line or two and feel strongly moved to comment. You leave the comment without reading the full post and then realize that you’ve made an idiot of yourself by saying something stupid, wrong or poorly thought through. While you might be able to repair the mistake by leaving another comment – it’s hard to get a comment removed on blogs – your words remain for years to come to highlight your opinion. Take a moment before leaving comments to make sure you understand what’s being written about – this means reading the full post first – it can also mean reading what others have written too.

5. Flaming and Personal Attack – While blogging has always been a medium where people don’t mind a little vigorous debate – it’s also got a history of flaring up into personal attack and flaming from time to time. It’s easy to do – you read something that you strongly disagree with and write a comment in the heat of the moment. Your comment is misinterpreted and read by another emotional person who responds – things escalate and suddenly things get personal. No one really wins in these exchanges – in fact more often than not both people come out of it with slightly tattered egos and reputations. Get a reputation for repeated flaming and you can really hurt your credibility.

6.’Anonymous’ Flaming – From time to time I get ‘anonymous’ comments left on this blog which get a little personal or which critique me or my actions. While I try to take these in good spirit (critique is actually an opportunity to improve) I sometimes wish that the person leaving the comment would reveal who they are – not so that I could attack back but so that we could have a good constructive interaction via email. What I do find interesting however is that many ‘anonymous’ comment leaves don’t seem to realize that when they leave a comment their IP address is also included with the comment in the back end of the blog. If you’ve written a non anonymous comment previously under your real name it is very simple to connect the two together. So your attack, jibe or personal swipe might not be so anonymous after all – and this can only hurt your reputation.

7. Always Being First To Comment - This is one of those tricky ones that doesn’t really annoy me personally and which can actually be a good tactic on some levels – but which can get a little excessive and become annoying for some. I’ve done heatmap tracking on comment sections of posts before and it is true that the earlier that you comment on a post the more chance that people will come to visit your blog. As a result – I’ve seen numerous people compete on popular blogs to be the first to leave a comment. While this can generate some traffic – the problem is that if you do it on every post and if in your rush to be first you write junky, quick and irrelevant comments you will begin to annoy both the bloggers who you are commenting on the posts of as well as their readers. Balance is the key if you want to be first – and quality comments count for a lot.

8. Dominating Comment Threads – A couple of years ago I had a blog which had a particular reader who commented multiple times on every post that I wrote. I’m not sure why they did this but while the comments were on topic, relevant and quite often helpful – they were also overwhelming in their quantity. In any given week this person would comment on my blog 50 to 100 times by responding to everything I wrote and most of the comments that other readers wrote. It got to a point where they were more active on my blog than I was and that other readers began to complain that they felt they were being drowned out. I ended up talking to the comment leaver about it and they scaled things down to a more reasonable level. Lots of comments are great – but when comment threads are dominated by any one person the feeling of community and dialogue can be lost and the person dominating the conversation can be seen in a negative light.

9. Keyword Stuffed Names - This is another one that people will have differing opinions on – but it is annoying for some and therefore could be considered as slightly risky. The reason that people leave comments under names that are not their own name but which are other ‘keywords’ are numerous. For some it is an SEO strategy (although it is worth noting that the majority of blogs these days use no-follow tags which stop Google Juice being passed on), for others it’s about communication what your blog is about, for others its about anonymity and for others it’s probably more of a branding decision. I get all of this and as a result it doesn’t worry me that much – however I do know some bloggers and blog readers who can’t stand it and who consider it to look spammy. While I don’t hold such strong views I would say that by not using your real name you could actually be hurting your own personal brand because there’s something about a real person’s name that is… well…. it’s personal. I would much rather chat to someone who has a name like James, Sara or Rahul than someone called ‘Million Dollar Get Rich Quick’ or ‘Free Debt Advice’.

10. Not adding value to the Comments – This is related to other points in this list but is worth saying. Every comment that you leave has the potential to either add value or take value from that other person’s blog. Add value to the conversations that are happening in the wider blogging community and you’ll build yourself a reputation as a wise, insightful and knowledgeable authority figure. Conversely – every comment that you leave that is obviously self serving, that illustrates that you’ve not read the post or that tears down others says something about who you are also and can give you a different kind of reputation.

OK – so there’s 10 ways that you can potentially hurt your brand by the way that you leave comments on others blogs. As I mentioned above – some of these are more black and white in my mind than others (some, like ‘being first’ or commenting a lot can start out as good but tip over into being bad if you get excessive – however all are worth considering.

You may decide to continue to do all or some of the above for good reason – but do so knowing that there is cost and potential for being misunderstood or perceived as doing something that perhaps you’re not intending to do.

Remember – everything you do or say in a public forum like another person’s blog comments have the ability to positively or negatively impact you and your blog’s brand. Not only that – the things you say and do in these spaces are permanent (at least until a person retires and deletes their blog). As a result commenting on blogs should not only be seen as an opportunity – but also as a practice that can be risky if you do it in the wrong way.

Have Your Say

Now it’s time for you to have your say. By no means am I an expert on any of this – so I’m keen to get your input:

  • What practices would you add to the above list?
  • Which would you remove from it (or modify)?
  • What advice would you give bloggers when it comes to commenting on others blogs?
  • As a blogger – do you police any of these types of things? Do you have a comment policy of any kind?

Respond to Comments On Your Blog

Building-A-Better-Blog-2One of the most basic skills that any blogger should spend time working on from the very early days is responding to comments on your blog – and that’s today’s task in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Project.

While this is one of the simplest acts that a blogger can do (I almost didn’t publish this because it’s so basic) it is something that can have a real impact upon your readers.

Despite this – it’s often one of the things that slips for many bloggers over time as a result of a growing blog and/or the busyness of life. I’m as guilty of this as anyone and have been attempting to put more time aside in the last couple of weeks to comment more on my blogs (it’s a daily struggle).

So block out a little time today to scan through the latest comments on your blog. Answer questions, respond to others ideas, leave a welcome message and continue conversations by asking questions of your own.

This acknowledgment goes a long way and is one of the best ways of developing a commenting culture on your blog.

PS: Here’s another quick tip that I found very useful in the early days of my own first blogs. Click the links of those who leave comments on your blog. When you do this you’ll find that some of those who leave comments on your blog who check their own blog’s referral statistics will notice your visit and come back to see if their comments have been responded to.

You can take this another step further by leaving a comment on their blog to further develop the relationship.

This is one of those little 1%er tips that may not send a deluge of traffic to your blog but that can have an impact on a reader by reader basis (you might also find a good blog or two in the process).

More on Advertising on StumbleUpon

StumbleuponA number of readers have questioned whether running a StumbleUpon advertising campaign is the best use of a marketing budget for a blogger. The main point of contention was that 0.05 cents per impression ($50 CPM – or per 1000 impressions) is too much to pay.

I wanted to write a brief response to this on two levels:

1. I wouldn’t claim that any form of advertising is ‘the best’ – however I know of a number of bloggers who have launched successful blogs off the back of StumbleUpon campaigns. I’ll share one below.

2. $50 CPM isn’t ‘cheap’ if all you get for it are 1000 visitors per $50 spend. However the whole point of SU advertising is that it has the capacity to go viral and set off an organic traffic storm. Your CPM for the actual traffic that SU sends will always be $50 – however in effect it becomes a lot less if you manage to do the two things that I mentioned in the last post:

  • Trigger an Organic StumbleUpon Experience
  • Convert SU visitors into loyal readers who come back time and time again

Keep in mind that StumbleUpon can potentially send tens of thousands of visitors to your blog. I wrote a post recently on how it sent me 21,000+ visitors over a 5 week period to one particular post. If you manage to trigger that kind of traffic your effective CPM is alot less than $50. The other thing that many using SU advertising find is that it can trigger traffic from other sources also (like Digg, Delicious and other sites/blogs).

An Example from a Reader

I’m not at liberty to share others stories without their permission – but let me share one that has already been told here in the comments of ProBlogger:

Max Pool from Code Squeeze has commented in the last two StumbleUpon posts by writing:

“On my blog, I wrote a list post titled 101 Ways To Know Your Software Project Is Doomed on the highest traffic day of the week – Monday.

Then I took out $25 of SU ads, which brought me 500 hits. That traffic let to it getting getting on Digg. Getting on Digg, lead it to going viral. 100,000 unique visitors later I was able to capture about 500 subscribed users.

SU is a great ad tool, but be sure that you have great content to back it as Darren implies.”

Thanks for sharing Max. Feel free to share your own positive and negative experiences of SU advertising. I’d also love to know what you’ve found works and doesn’t work in terms of the content on your pages.

Run a StumbleUpon Advertising Campaign For Your Blog

Today’s task in the 31 Day Project is aimed at driving new visitors to your blog by running a mini advertising campaign for your blog using StumbleUpon.

Note – This task will take a small budget (unless you get creative and find another website willing to give you some free advertising – which isn’t just a bad idea, perhaps you could do an ad swap with another blogger) but it need not be much. One of the methods below could drive at least 100 new visitors to your blog with just $5.

One of the things that I do from time to time is set myself a small budget for advertising my blog. I do it as a little bit of a challenge – to see what ad systems work best and more importantly to see what I can learn about branding and promotion. The bonus is that it also drives some new visitors to your blog.

Where can you advertise?

If you’re just starting out with advertising your blog I’d suggest experimenting with different types of advertising to see what works best for your blog – but today I want to suggest an easy and relatively cheap way to get started.

StumbleuponStumbleUpon – StumbleUpon is a growing social bookmarking service that is used by many people around the globe. It is a service that many bloggers target to drive organic traffic to their blog – but one that also offers a means to advertise a website upon it. StumbleUponAds allows you to submit a page on your blog to be shown to StumbleUpon users as they go Stumbling. The cost is 5 cents per impression so for as little as $5 you can have 100 SU users see your page.

The beauty of StumbleUpon is that it is relatively cheap, you don’t actually need to create an ad (just a page to send people to), that you can target your page to be shown to different categories as well as specific demographics (age, location and gender) and that you have the chance of your page being Stumbled up the rankings in SU naturally.

SU lets you set daily budgets and limits to how many impressions you want on any given campaign. The payment is via PayPal or Credit Card.

If you pick the right page to submit in this way and throw a few dollars at the campaign it is not uncommon for organic stumbling to happen and to end up with many more impressions than you paid for. The key is to pick a page that SU users will like and vote for (more on this below).

The StumbleUponAds interface gives you a report on how many people saw your site, how many voted your page up and how many voted it down. This enables you to test different pages that you want to advertise and to adapt those pages to see what different versions of it work best.

Stumbleupon-Advertising

How to Make StumbleUpon Advertising Work Best

The key to making a StumbleUpon advertising campaign work for your blog is to do two main things:

1. Make Your Content Appealing to SU users to get Organic Stumbles – While 5 cents per impression isn’t that expensive (it’s a lot cheaper than some other forms of advertising) it’s more expensive than natural traffic from SU. Your goal should be to start the campaign off with paid visitors and then let the natural voting up of content take over. To do this you need to create content that is appealing to SU users. A couple of days ago I published a guest post here at ProBlogger that talked about some of the principles that draw StumbleUpon users into a site. This would be a useful starting point for designing the page that you want to advertise.

2. Make Your Page Sticky – The other way to get extra value from a StumbleUpon advertising campaign is to get the visitors who come to your blog to come back again and become loyal readers. This is one of the biggest challenges that you’ll face with advertising using any means – but particularly on a service like StumbleUpon where users have their cursor hovering over the Stumble Button ready to surf on to the next site. Of course the best way to hook someone onto your blog is to create compelling content that they can’t live without – but also consider other ways of making them loyal readers by prominently offering subscription methods, driving people deeper into a blog. Most of what I cover in my latest video post on Stickifiying Your Blog applies here.

3. Test and Tweak - The key with StumbleUpon is not to throw big money at a campaign straight away. Get your landing page/post ready and then set a small budget (a few dollars) to see what results you get. Once this is spent – do some analysis of how many people voted the post up and down. If there were more downs than ups you might want to change something about the post (title, add a picture/video, change your opening paragraph etc). Then run another small campaign to see what impact the changes have. Do this until you have a page that is consistently getting voted up and then turn up your budget a little. Keep in mind that you might only need to get a relatively small number of up votes before SU will start sending you organic traffic so be ready to pause your campaign once this starts to happen or you could waste your money.

What NOT to do

While you might think that the front page of your blog is the best page to send traffic from an Advertising campaign to – I would highly recommend that you don’t. Instead – use a single post as the landing page for your campaign. Pick a post that relates closely to the category and demographic of StumbleUpon users that you are targeting and pick a post that you could see becoming viral (whether as a result of it being entertaining, useful, controversial etc).

Give it a Go

So set yourself a budget and give StumbleUpon advertising a go. It’s actually quite fun and if you keep your budget to a reasonable level it’s not that expensive to do. You’ll drive a little traffic and hopefully learn something about the way people interact with your content through the process.

Other places to Advertise Your Blog

There are many places that will sell you advertising space for your blog. Other blogs and sites in your niche can be a good place to start but so can ad networks. Two that I’ve had some success with are BlogAds and Google AdWords. Both are worth experimenting with – but both take the same sort of ‘tweak and test’ approach as outlined above.

– (aff)

Have you tried advertising your blog? Let use know what you’ve learned about it in comments below.

Update – read my follow up to this post at More on Advertising on StumbleUpon.

Stickify Your Blog

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How to Draw StumbleUpon Users Into Your Blog

StumbleuponThis is a guest post on How to Draw StumbleUpon Users Into Your Blog is by Skellie who writes tips and tutorials on creating better content at her blog, Skelliewag.org.

The potential for StumbleUpon to send traffic is often under-estimated, particularly by new bloggers. Unlike digg and del.icio.us, an item doesn’t need to become popular before you see immediate results. One or two votes can bring a hundred or more readers — more than a new blog might see in a day.

StumbleUpon users are, however, notoriously fickle. The service describes itself as allowing you to ‘channel-surf the internet’ and I think it’s a very appropriate description. Users flick through websites like you might flick through channels, often making a decision on whether to stay or leave your site before it has even had time to finish loading.

In this post, I want to suggest some quick tips you can use to draw StumbleUpon users into your site before they stumble away.

Channel-surfing the internet

We’ve all flicked through TV channels back and forth, waiting for something to hold our attention. The decision to stay on a channel or surf elsewhere is usually made in a second or two, and the principle is the same for StumbleUpon users.

With so many other potentially great sites available to them at the click of a mouse, you need to make it immediately clear why your site is worth their time. Here are some tips to help you do just that.

1. Make your blog’s core mission-statement unmissable

A core mission-statement as I define it is a one or two sentence description encapsulating what your blog has to offer. A good core mission-statement describes the kind of content you provide and broadly what your blog is about. It should communicate a lot of information in only a few words.

If a stumbler can see straight away your blog is about something they’re interested in then they’re likely to stick around.

2. Insert powerful visual cues

When channel-surfing the decision to stick with a channel or move on is often largely determined by visual cues. Even with the sound off you can tell a drama from a news program, a travel show from a cartoon, because visual elements provide clues as to what kind of show you’re watching.

The same principle applies to blogs. If your blog’s header contains an image of a pile of cash, we can reasonably assume the blog is about money (or making it). That’s a lot of information communicated instantly by a single image.

3. Push your content above the fold

StumbleUpon users often judge a site by what is offered in the above the fold area — the area of your site which appears on screen before any scrolling occurs.

I think this blog is an example of how to do that well. Not only do headlines and the first few paragraphs of a post appear above the fold, but other content of interest is showcased in the header area. StumbleUpon users immediately see a site packed with value.

You can use the top part of your blog’s sidebar, its header area and the post area to showcase your content. In doing so, you’ll straight away show StumbleUpon visitors why they should stick around.

4. Be unique, be pretty

While it’s difficult to judge the quality of a blog’s content in just a few seconds, people are much more hasty with aesthetic judgments. A gorgeous or interesting blog design encourages a stumbler to stick around and see whether the content is great too.

Of course, a great design is a lot of work (or quite a bit of money). The next-best thing is a unique logo or header image, an interesting color scheme, and so on. There are a number of small changes you can make to create a blog that looks unique and sets you apart from the crowd.

What we’ve done

The emphasis in all the above tips is on instantly showing visitors who’ve stumbled across your blog what it has to offer. This should help you make the most of StumbleUpon traffic and turn more stumblers into readers.

Comment on a Blog that you’ve never Commented on Before

Building-A-Better-Blog-2Today your task in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Project is as simple as they come. In fact it’s a tip that gets included in almost every post ever written on how to grow a blog’s traffic – comment on a blog that you’ve never commented on before.

Sometimes as bloggers it is easy to get in a rut both in your writing and in your reading of others blogs.

Go on a blog hunt today to see how many new blogs you can find in your niche. Add to the conversations on these blogs as you surf by adding useful comments and add to your feed reader with their RSS feeds so you can keep following them.

While this tip is another of those tips that we might classify as pretty basic and not that spectacular – many many successful blogs have been built on the back of it.

How to Use MySpace to Build a Blogging Audience

Myspace
This Guest post on the topic of Using MySpace to Build a Blogging Audience was submitted by Kevin Palmer from Buzz Networker.

The preconceived notions that the blogging community has about MySpace and other social networking sites couldn’t be any more wrong. These social networking sites are valuable resources that allow you to target market to your specific niche. When I talk about MySpace with bloggers, most of them look down on the site with disdain. They feel that MySpace is a site designed for teens, sexual predators and that spending any time on there would be a waste to them.

If you look at MySpace’s demographics , you’ll see that the user base isn’t just a bunch of teenagers, with 36% of users being between the ages of 35-54. Each day there are about 500,000 blog posts published on the site covering diverse topic including politics, entertainment, technology, and a plethora of other topics. There is an audience reading these blogs that you can obtain. With a little effort and an understanding of how to target a market on MySpace, you can create word of mouth about your current blog or build a strong audience that you can transition off of MySpace when you are ready to launch a new blog.

Use Original Content to Build an Audience

I have seen a lot of bloggers post a static page on MySpace that acts as giant link to their blog. After having their page up for a few weeks they will complain that they aren’t generating any traffic from it. There are a couple of reasons for that; users are typically reluctant to leave MySpace when they first encounter profiles with all outbound links. To a lot of users, MySpace is a one stop shop. They don’t even realize (or perhaps equally like, care) that there is a blogging community outside of MySpace. You need to take the time to write original content at least once a week and engage your MySpace readers. By doing this you will create a loyal reader base that will follow you to your blog away from MySpace, creating a quality and consistent source of traffic.

Take Advantage of MySpace’s Powerful Search Features

The other reason why bloggers don’t see a return from their MySpace page is that they don’t take the time to target market. MySpace has search features that allow you to target people based on their location, age, gender, keywords, interests, and numerous other demographic information. These powerful search features aren’t limited to individual profiles – you can also scour the site for groups based on various keywords.

Take the keyword “Photography” for example. When searching for Photography groups, the first three groups have a collective 117,000 members. That is the huge audience that MySpace gives you access to! Right there is a large starting group to which you can offer blog invites and friend invites to, as well as posting within the bulletin board of that group.

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