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Building Your Blog With StumbleUpon

Skellie AvatarThis guest-post on Building Your Blog With StumbleUpon is by Skellie. She gives away big and little ideas like these to bloggers, webmasters and web workers at her blog, Skelliewag.org.

If you think this is another post about voting up your own articles on StumbleUpon, you’re mistaken.

Every blogger should have a StumbleUpon account. Regardless of which social media service you prefer, StumbleUpon is by far the easiest and least time-consuming to use.

How StumbleUpon works

When you come across something you like online you can vote for it with a button on your toolbar. The page is then shared with others who have similar interests.

When you’re bored, or looking for inspiration, click ‘Stumble!’ and great pages others have liked will be shared with you.

It’s really that simple.

As with most things that seem simple, however, there’s much more to it beneath the surface.

This post doesn’t intend to be comprehensive overview of StumbleUpon. What it does intend to do is show you how you can build your blog and your blogger profile by participating in the StumbleUpon community — while having plenty of fun at the same time!

Getting started with StumbleUpon

If you already have an account, great. If not, sign up here. Don’t put it off — the process is worth it.

One tip: make sure your username and profile picture are branded in line with your blog. Use your blogging name for your profile, and a photo or logo your readers will be familiar with.

Once you have your account and StumbleUpon homepage, make sure you customize your interests to suit your tastes. You can ‘manage your interests’ via the sidebar. This is important, as it will effect what kinds of pages you get when you Stumble. It will also change the kinds of people who take an interest in your votes.

There are plenty of other things you can customize, but we’ll stick with the basics for now. Let’s get started building your blog and your blogger profile with your new account.

1. Connect with other bloggers

To start connecting with other bloggers through StumbleUpon, all you need to do is vote up their content (when it’s good). The more traffic you send them, the more likely they are to go and investigate the source, or even add you as a friend. StumbleUpon can be a great networking tool.

On top of that, supporting blogs you like is just good karma. What more could you ask for?

2. Drive traffic back to your blog with great stumbles

When you vote up a site that hasn’t been voted up before, you ‘Discover’ it. This means that you write its first review and your profile information appears in the sidebar of the reviews page for that item.

Great content can drive a lot of (influential) stumblers to the page profiling you, as they rush to vote and review it. Some of them will be drawn into visiting your profile, simply because you have such great taste. But how can we encourage these visitors to check out our blog?

3. Highlight your blog in your StumbleUpon profile

This is easy. Enter your blog URL as your website address, and this will be displayed above your image on the main page of your profile. You can also write a bit about yourself and add a link to your blog in your About blurb.

4. Connect with your readers

When you start to see traffic coming from StumbleUpon, take the time to visit the reviews page for the blog post readers have voted up.

The stumblers on this page have been enthusiastic enough about your content to want to Stumble it. If they’re not already loyal readers, this makes them great candidates for becoming one.

Take the time to thank them for their Stumble, and add them as a friend. Little acts of generosity like these leave an impression and may encourage the Stumbler to see what other types of great content you’re capable of.

5. Make friends for a more powerful profile

The StumbleUpon algorithm is a mysterious thing, but evidence seems to suggest that the most active and popular stumblers are rewarded with the ability to control large traffic-flows. The ‘active’ part is up to you — how much time are you willing to put in? The ‘popular’ part of the equation, however, depends on how many fans you have. Fans are those stumblers who’ve added you as a friend in order to see the pages you stumble.

How do you get fans? Great, properly labeled stumbles will do it. Another successful strategy is to add those who vote up your content. If they took the time to explore your blog they might recognize you as the author of the content they liked and add you in return. The friendship will enhance both of your profiles and you’ll be connecting with another potential reader.

6. To submit or not to submit?

Some bloggers believe that repeatedly stumbling the same domain will see the benefits of your stumbles at that domain peter down to nothing. Others believe it’s absolutely necessary to submit your own articles to ensure they’re placed in the category best-suited to them. I’d be interested to hear which approach you think is best in the comments section of this post.

7. Send great content to your friends

StumbleUpon users have the ability to send pages to specific friends, or all of them. If you’ve written something you’re really confident is worthy of a stumble then you might consider sending it out to your friendship network. They’re much more likely to vote up your content than the strangers who routinely find themselves at your blog.

Moderation is key when using this tool. If you overuse it there is a chance your friends will tire of you. An alternative to a wide-ranging send-out might be to send an article to one or two friends you know will be particularly interested in the content.

8. Create a profile people will visit for its own sake

Treat your profile like another blog. If you make it a place people will want to visit for its own sake, the chance of visitors engaging with it and following the link back to your blog increases.

Take the time to play with the colors, add images to your reviews, and explore the functions on offer to create your ‘blog’ (StumbleUpon actually refers to it as such). Fill your profile with votes and reviews for great content your friends will want to visit, and tell others about. A great profile will naturally attract interested and admiring visitors, and raise your profile in the StumbleUpon community.

9. Use it for inspiration

When StumbleUpon is at its best, it serves up a long line of great content suited to your tastes. A stumbling session can be a great source of inspiration when your well of ideas runs dry.

A tip: don’t stumble only within the topic you blog about. Sometimes the best (and most original) post ideas are found by trying to relate radically different content to your niche.

10. Have fun!

I hope this post has convincingly argued that the secret to building your blog with StumbleUpon is to participate actively, genuinely and enthusiastically in the community there. The rewards are sure to filter back to you and your blog.

What are your BlogRush Statistics Like?

Logo-2It seems that BlogRush (the traffic generating tool released earlier in the week which I gave a first impression review of here) has updated the member dashboard to give publishers statistics on how things are performing.

I’d be interested to collect some data from readers on how it is going for everyone.

My own results have some good and bad things about them.

On the positive side I’ve referred quite a few bloggers to the program which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of credits. I’ve earned a lot more credits so far than they seem to have been able to serve.

On the negative side – while my headlines have been shown around 70,000 times I’ve only had 35 clicks on them. That is an extremely low Click Through Rate of 0.05%! I didn’t expect it to be high but thought it might have got somewhere in the 1% range (which would have brought in 700 clicks from the 70,000 – but this is pretty disappointing.

I know it is still very early days and they’ll find ways to improve things but it’s not a great start in terms of driving actual traffic so far.

Now that could have something to do with my headlines (although I try to write engaging ones) – however I suspect it also has something to do with the positioning that a lot of bloggers are using for the widget. I’ve seen a lot of widgets low on pages where I suspect they’ll rarely be seen by readers – let alone clicked.

It’s easy to look at these results and give up on BlogRush – I personally think it’s too early to jump ship or write it off completely. This is just a few days into launch and the only way is up in terms of performance. I suspect that the BlogRush developers will test and tweak their design and add new categories to make links in the widget more relevant to content on blogs.

I’m going to try to improve the CTR by trying a few of the techniques in my Tips for Using BlogRush post – particularly experimenting with different categories.

PS: I’m looking forward to seeing more detailed reports (still under construction) as I can’t wait to see how my different blogs have performed as compared to one another. Having this information will help bloggers improve their own CTR as they test different categories and watch to see how they convert differently.

Tips for Using BlogRush to Generate Traffic for Your Blog

blog-rush-tipsAs I’ve been pondering the new BlogRush traffic building service (which I did a first impression review of earlier) over the last few hours I am increasingly thinking that it has potential to help bloggers find new traffic.

The bones are there for it to work – but how can you leverage it to increase your chances of converting for you and squeeze out some extra traffic for your blog. A few ideas (all untested at this stage) come to mind:

1. Optimize Your Titles – there are a number of things that will increase the chances of getting someone to click on a link appearing in someone else’s blog – but the title of your post will be most important. You have around 40 characters only to play with (before the widget cuts off your title) so think carefully about what you’re communicating about your post – particular in the first few words.

2. Choose the Right Category for Your Blog – when you sign up you’re given a list of categories to assign your blog to. My hope is that BlogRush will add more (as the more focused they become the more relevant ads will be). If your blog spans a couple of categories run with one for a few days and then swap to the other. I suspect that some categories will out perform others significantly due to the type of readers that they have and their tech savvyness.

3. Promote it Early on – this system is one that will be most beneficial to early adopters. While some are already spamming their referral links out to other bloggers via mass emails – one way to promote it and possibly pick up a few extra referrals is simply to place it in a reasonably prominent position on your blog and even to draw attention to it in a post. If some of your readers have blogs they’re likely to check it out too – which will exponentially increase the benefits for you. Just be aware that if you get spammy with your promotion of this (or any) service you could actually do more harm than good to your blog.

I’m sure there will be more tips – but my suspicion is that titles will be particularly key in the success or failure of BlogRush for many.

Find New Readers for Your Blog – BlogRush First Impression Review

Logo-2Every time I survey bloggers to find out what they’d like help with most the answer always comes back as ‘finding traffic’.

Bloggers like to know that people are reading their blog and so any method that they can find to promote their blog is worth exploring.

In the last 12 hours a new service has been launched to help bloggers find readers. It’s called Blog Rush. If you read many blogs about blogging you’ve probably seen it talked about (they’ve done well at launching with a real buzz). I’ve held off on writing about it because I wanted to check it out for myself before writing).

My initial impressions of the system is that it’s worth exploring.

While I’m not a fan of traffic exchange programs – this one is a little different because it attempts to promote your blog on relevant blogs.

What is BlogRush

There’s a great little video on the front page of Blog Rush that explains the system better than I could on a post – however in short this is a little widget that you put on your sidebar which displays posts that others have written on their blogs (related to your blog’s content).

Here’s how the widget looks (RSS readers might need to click through to see it):


Each time the widget displays you earn a ‘credit’ which means that a recent headline from your own blog will be displayed on someone else’s blog. If your blog gets 100 page views a day your headline will be displayed 100 times on other people’s blogs.

Not only that – they have a referral system so that if another blogger signs up to Blog Rush after clicking through to it from your widget you’ll get credits each time that the referral blog shows the widget. The referral system goes 10 tiers deep – so you can potentially get ALOT of credits.

OK – so this sounds like a bit of a pyramid scheme in some ways and I guess it has elements of that in it – however there’s no money changing hands (it’s free to participate in and you can opt out at any point) and there are a few features in the system that I quite like the look of including:

  • Attempt at Relevancy – they show headlines on your blog that are relevant to your content (I suspect this will get better as more join up – but at present I’ve seen some somewhat irrelevant links showing up)
  • Filters – you can filter out any keyword that you want and any URL that you don’t want to display on your blog
  • Multiple Blogs – you can split the spread of your credits among multiple blogs (ie if you have two blogs you can enroll with both)

Will it bring a lot of traffic to your blog?

The jury is still out on this (despite the hype that many bloggers are using to promote it). The theory is good – although it will depend a lot on where people place the widget on their blog (and there’s not rules on this in BlogRush’s conditions as far as I can see).

I’ve not found that people click through on widgets like this in great numbers in my own previous testing of other things – however even at a small click through rate you could see some nice traffic if you refer a lot of people (and they refer a lot etc).

One key to how well this will work will be how relevant they can make links to content. In a similar way to AdSense increasing CTR when the ads relate strongly to the content – we’ll see the same thing come into play here.

I’m going to give it a go and see what the results are. I’m not sure I’ll put the widget on this actual blog simply because I have space issues in my sidebar – however I’ll be adding it to a few of my others to see how it converts for them.

Sign up for Blog Rush.

PS: one thing I’d like to see added is the ability to customize the design of the widget. While it isn’t ugly – it won’t ‘fit’ with the color scheme of every blog.

Another problem for many ProBlogger readers is that it’s available only to blogs written in English.

Note: links in this post are referral links

Building Blog Readership by Monitoring What Other Bloggers are Writing

Monitor-BloggersToday I want to share a technique that I used when I started my first money making blog to find new readers. It’s one of those tips that probably won’t bring you thousands of new visitors to your blog all at once – but it definitely did help me to grow traffic levels in the early days.

Before I share the tip – let me start with a short illustrative tangent

Regular readers will know that we recently put our house on the market (and sold it). One week after we first began the marketing campaign to sell our house (we advertised in newspapers and online) we began to find that our mail box was filled with letters from a variety of companies including moving services, mortgage brokers and house cleaning services.

Obviously these companies were watching who was advertising in different real estate websites and newspapers and gathering the addresses of advertised properties to send their own marketing material to. In this way they were targeting prospects who were more than likely to be in need of those types of services.

While I found these letters somewhat annoying – they actually did work. We booked a window cleaner through one of them and my wife’s collected all of the removalist companies for when we move home in December.

What does this have to do with promoting a blog?

While checking our mail box this morning and finding another moving company letter I was reminded of something that I used to do when I was starting up one of my early blogs.

The blog was on digital cameras and photography and as most new bloggers do – I was struggling to find readers for it.

One day when I was pondering my lack of readership I went to Technorati and typed the words ‘digital camera’ into the search field there. I was actually looking to see if there were any new cameras being released – but what I found instead were 15 or so blog posts written mainly by personal bloggers talking about different aspects of their use of cameras.

One was complaining about his camera being a piece of junk, another was boasting about her new camera, another was asking for advice on which camera they should buy, another wanted to know how to use their camera better…. etc

I spent half an hour that day leaving helpful and relevant comments on each of those blogs – making suggestions for new cameras, giving tips on how to use them etc. In each case I left the URL of my camera blog in the URL field so that they could find my blog – and in a couple of the posts I even left links in the comments pointing to useful pages on my blog to help the blogger find more information.

What I found was that around half of those that I left these comments for responded to me either with follow up comments or emails. In each case they said they’d check out my blog. Not only did they do this – but I found that many that I helped with comments actually linked up to my blog in days and weeks following me making contact.

As a blogger with just a handful of regular readers I decided that this technique could be quite powerful and I began to monitor a variety of keywords on Technorati with the goal of interacting with other bloggers when they brought up a topic that I was writing about.

Tools for Monitoring Keywords that Bloggers Use

These days there are a variety of tools that you can use to help you to monitor keywords that other bloggers are using in their posts. these include:

  • Technorati Watchlists – you can use these to monitor keywords and/or URLs. You can set them up to report any blog that uses those words.
  • Google Blog Search Blog Alerts – in the same way Google’s Blog Search allows you to track keywords and have them emailed to you either as it happens, daily or weekly.

There are other tools available for this type of monitoring – but I find between these two that you are pretty comprehensive. Feel free to suggest any of your favorite monitoring tools that you use.

Be Useful and Generous

The key with this technique is to not only find when people are talking about topics that relate to your blogs – but to respond to what they’re saying in a genuine and helpful way. Don’t spam their comments with your links but answer questions, make suggestions, share your experience etc. The more useful and generous your comment is the more likely you are to have someone check out who you are and what else you might have to say that is useful.

Building Your Blog One Reader at a Time

I’ve shared this technique with a number of people and around 50% of the time that I have done so I’ve had people write it off as all too hard and not worthwhile. Some bloggers are only interested in building traffic to their blog quickly and any technique that doesn’t have the potential to bring in hundreds and thousands of new readers is ignored.

My own experience is that techniques like this one that build your blog’s readership one reader at a time can be very worthwhile. One new reader who comes back on a daily basis over a number of years because they’ve been genuinely helped by you can have a significant impact upon your blog not only in terms of their own visits and comments – but when they’re a blogger the potential for them to bring their readership with them can be significant.

Image based on one by practicalowl

Driving Traffic to Your New Blog

TrafficGreg Hickman dropped a question in my question box that I think represents the question that many people ask me about finding readers for a blog.

While there are no easy answers for finding readers I think it’s a topic well worth coming back to again and again.

Greg writes:

“I’ve recently started a blog (August) and I’m trying to figure out the best way to drive quality traffic to my site. I’ve been writing at least a post a day if not every other day. I began commenting on 9rules and a few other sites that I enjoy visiting. I was wondering if you could provide some insight for a beginning blogger on getting that initial readers base. Do I just continue commenting on sites I read or digg articles, what can I do to get this jump started.”

OK – there are many answers to this question and I’ve written many posts on the topic of finding readers for a blog (I’ll share a link with loads of resources at the bottom of this post). However let me put forward a few thoughts that come to mind:

1. You’ve Made a Good Start – you’ve already stumbled on one key factor in promoting your blog – interacting on other people’s turf. Keep leaving those comments, getting to know other bloggers and contributing to what others are doing on their blogs. This does have an impact. It may not bring thousands of readers in – it’s more of a ‘one reader at a time’ type strategy – however you never know when that ‘one reader’ will be someone influential.

2. Take it Up a Notch – so you’ve discovered the principle of interacting on other people’s turf – so how about taking it up a notch and doing something more than leaving comments? How about attempting to get a few guest posting spots on key blogs in the niche that you’re trying to make a mark in? I’ve seen a number of bloggers who’ve really built a name for themselves by doing this. Of course your guest posts need to be of a high standard – but if they are you can really make an impression on a blogger and their readers.

3. Communicate What Your Blog Is About – I hope you don’t mind – but I’ve taken a look at your blog Greg (toonice4TV). A few questions that I asked myself when I first arrived at your blog (questions that most readers of a new blog would ask when they first arrive) ‘what’s it about?’, ‘what’s in it for me on this blog?’ In the same way that you’d be unlikely to pick up and buy a magazine that you didn’t know the topic of – readers are not likely to stick around on a blog for long that doesn’t communicate strongly what it is about and how people will benefit from it. There are lots of techniques for getting people to a blog – but the key is to have something that communicates strongly to them when they get there.

4. What Makes You Different? – Another key question that potential readers will ask is ‘what’s different about this blog?’. What’s your blog’s unique selling proposition to a prospective reader? What sets it apart from the other millions of blogs out there (many of which are writing on a similar topic). You need to communicate this clearly – in the design, branding and content. New blogs need to work hard on this.

5. Make it Easy to Connect – another quick observation having taken a quick look at your blog – perhaps make subscribing to your blog via RSS a little easier. While I can see your feed in the URL field in Firefox using auto discovery – it might be worth promoting your feed a little more prominently on the blog in some way. You might use an RSS button or icon of some kind – or even just an ‘RSS’ Text Link. I find that the more prominently you do this the more people will use it and the more likely you are to convert a one off visitor into a loyal one.

6. Content – ultimately it is the content that you write that will be key in growing your readership – unique content that engages with and enhances the lives of people over the long term.

Further Reading

A lot more could be said on the topic of building readership on a blog let me point you to some links instead of regurgitating it all here.

You can find them on my How to Find Readers for Your Blog page which compiles some of my most popular posts on how to build readership and how to leverage it once you’ve got it.

How to Position Yourself for Seasonal Search Engine Traffic and Not Put Your Readers Offside

Leon followed up my recent video post where I talked about anticipating what people will be searching for as a technique for growing your blog’s readership with a question:

“How do you anticipate searches without sacrificing the quality of your posts?”

Good question Leon – I’ve seen a number of bloggers recently who I think this could be relevant for.

Recap – In my video post I spoke about how I discovered the power of anticipating what people are searching for by accident one day when I wrote a post titled ‘Australian Idol Winner?’ on a personal blog that I was writing at the time. Of course in the days before Australian Idol announced it’s winner this post attracted quite a bit of search traffic.

Stay Relevant to Your Blog’s Niche

The key with this type of strategy is really to keep things as relevant to your blog and as useful to your reader as possible.

The technique worked well for me in the example above because I was writing a personal blog that covered a lot of different topics. My original post ‘Australian Idol Winner?’ was a post asking readers who they thought would win and sharing some of my own predictions. It was a topic I’d written about before and something that my readers responded to.

The post worked for me on that blog both in connecting with readers and positioning itself for search engine traffic – however if I were to write the same post on my other blogs (for example ProBlogger or one of my Photography blogs) it would fall flat on it’s face and probably cause a reader backlash.

Perhaps in my video post I should have qualified my comments on this technique by encouraging readers to stick within their niche if they’re trying this topic.

So instead of just thinking in general terms about what the wider population will be searching for in a few weeks – think about the question in terms of your niche. This of course makes things harder for some blogs than others.

Don’t Compromise on Content Quality

The other thing that is worth considering on this topic is the quality of posts. I’ve seen a few bloggers take this idea and write posts that are stuffed with relevant keywords for a topic but which are of no use to their regular readers at all. The key is to create a post that is both well optimized for SEO but which more importantly is useful to readers by providing them with content that means something.

If you sacrifice on quality you’ll not only frustrate your current readers – but you’ll hurt your potential relationship with new ones when they search for information and then arrive at your blog post only to find rubbish. Provide them with great information and they’ll stick around and become loyal readers!

Want some examples?

Let me share a few of my own posts which will hopefully illustrate the point. These photography related posts all provide readers with something of worth – but are also reasonably well optimized for the keywords that search engine users search for at different times of the year. Together these four posts have brought in hundreds of thousands of search engine visitors over the past couple of years.

The key is to anticipate search traffic – but not to compromise on your reader experience.

The ‘Best’ Example of Linkbait (This Week)

Leo has created a great example of linkbait in his post NxE’s Fifty Most Influential Bloggers.

While the validity of the list itself will create debate (and already has in comments) these sorts of lists tend to work well for a number of reasons.

  1. They appeal to the egos of those included – I’ve already seen a number of those in the list linking up
  2. They create controversy – even if this were a 100 person list there would be some who would be left out – at least in the minds of many. The result is an increase in comments and linkups
  3. Lists have Link Appeal – the list is a powerful way to generate traffic – particularly through social media sites (which is where I saw this list (Digg and Delicious).

Creating your own top 50 influential bloggers list is not likely to get the traction that Leo’s gained from his (at least not for a few months until people forget this one) but there’s nothing to stop bloggers creating their own that relate to their own niches.

The 20 Most Influential Pet Blogs – The Definitive list of Top Financial Bloggers…. etc

A word of warning – creating any sort of definitive list that claims to present the ‘most’, ‘best’ or ‘greatest’ of anything will cause debate and often some sort of backlash. This controversy is part of what makes these lists go viral – however it can take a toll on your as a blogger also.

Get 20 More Linkbaiting Techniques

Designing Banner Ads that Get Clicked!

The following guest post was submitted by Shrihari from GotChance – a Geek’s Blog.

Advertising campaigns are undoubtedly one of the best sources of traffics from other high traffic website. Especially on huge blogs like TechCrunch, EnGadget etc.. and even on other big blogs like ProBlogger, John Chow etc.. There are primarily two factors that affect the click through rate of your banners :

  1. Position of the banners
  2. The Look and Feel of the banners

The second factor is what we will be discussing about in this post. So, how to design your banners and how not to design your banners ?

Informative Ads

The ultimate aim of every advertising banner is to tell the readers as much information as possible and get them to visit your website. This works for most banners, but sometimes turn negative. Especially when there is too much information, it maybe a turn off for the users. Consider these two banner :

Informative

The first one is stuffed with information. It looks attractive and people might be interested in clicking it. But, the second one, though it provides more information than the first, looks less attractive. With such a look, i might consider it as a SPAMmy ad.

Attractive Ads

While it is information that should work, what really works is the look of a banner. The more pleasing it is to the users, the more is the probability that he will click-through.

Wordpress

In the above ad, with the 300 x 250 large space offered, the advertiser could have easily included a lot of information about what they offer and also their domain name. But it simple reads “WordPress Themes for Free”. Also the WP logo looks very nice. So, i bet there would have been a lots of clicks on this one. It is always a good practice to hold back some information from displaying on your banner. The content that you should hold back, however, depends on what product you are advertising.

I found the following ad good-looking as well. It doesn’t say anything about what is being advertised, but can encourage a few clicks (though not as much as the above wordpress ad).

Blogger

How & How not to color your Ads

A Banner can be made attractive(?) by two ways. One is by making it look good and the other is by making it ugly. An ugly looking ad would get more attention than a good-looking one. But, what the user feels is more important. While coloring ads, it is best to follow the color scheme of your own website (the one that the banner will be linking too). Also using some contrasting colors would be a nice practice. Not as contrasting as this one though :

Contrast

So, it is always best to keep in mind the above points while designing banners. Also remember that “Success of a Banner = Information + Attraction”.

Have you had experience in designing Banner Ads? – What have you found that works (and doesn’t work)?