Blogging Tips: First Impressions Count

The following is a guest post by and an excerpt from her popular book, Blogging Tips, Tips Bloggers Won’t Tell You About Blogging.

There are several “first impressions” your blog makes as it struggles to attract and hold on to readers. Few of those first impressions come directly from your blog’s design and layout.

Search Engine Results: The first impression most people get of your blog is found within search engine results. They see a post title, blog title, and content excerpts around the keywords of their search terms.

Blog Feed Aggregator: An aggregator is a blog or website which displays titles or post excerpts from various blogs. Aggregators usually list your blog title, post title, and first 100-300 words of your post.

Feed Reader: A feed delivered to a feed reader displays the content as text, with few images, and none of your blog’s design. Depending upon how the feed reader is set, it showcases the blog title, post title, first 100-400 words of your post or the full post content, if the blog owner has set the feeds to full. Typically, the post title and first 100-400 words are the first impression.
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10 Techniques I Used To Go From 0 To 12,000 RSS Subscribers In Seven Months – With No Ads Or Leverage

The following guest post has been submitted by Trent Hamm from The Simple Dollar

Hopefully, that title got your attention a little bit, but it’s true. I launched The Simple Dollar at the very end of October 2006. I had no pre-existing blog that I could use to drive early traffic, nor did I have any personal contacts that I could use. I also had zero advertising budget. But by June 2007, I had 12,000 RSS readers and was generating enough traffic that I had to switch hosting plans twice. How did I do it? Here are a few specific techniques that really helped me build my blog’s traffic over time.

1. Lay some groundwork before starting

By this, I mean plan out your blog. What is going to be your topic area? It should be clearly defined, but not too narrow. Who is your target audience? Look at their age, their ethnicity, their nationality, their cultural awareness. You should also establish some goals – I would focus on having initial goals stated in percentages rather than raw numbers. Something like 10% readership growth per month for the first six months is appropriate. Some people miss the value of laying the groundwork for a blog, but if you’re intending to be successful, you need to be very clear on what you are talking about and who you are speaking to.

2. Listen to

The most valuable content that a blogger can create is the type of content that readers want to come back to time and time again and also that they want to share with others. These pieces will continually provide value to you, and the surest way to identify such content is to know how many people have saved a particular post at I keep track of this by using Feedburner’s site statistics package and enabling the “flare” that shows this information. Posts that have bookmarks are usually the ones I use as guidelines for what works on my blog – if I try something different and no one bookmarks it, I usually realize that it’s a bad idea. I’ve found that time and time again, is the best barometer of good content.

3. Find your community

When you begin blogging, you may feel rather isolated from other bloggers. Try to communicate with other bloggers in your niche just to exchange ideas and build a framework of connections. Don’t initially go for the most popular bloggers in your niche – some of them are often so inundated with contacts that by sheer necessity they have to filter what they respond to. One good way to get started is to find blog carnivals in your topic area and contact the people running these carnivals.

4. Immerse yourself in a social bookmarking site

Many people have a hard time getting their foot in the door with social bookmarking because they just try to use it without giving back. Most social bookmarking sites are a community of people who enjoy interaction and discussion – if you just pop in long enough to toss up some links and then wonder why you’re not successful, you’re simply fooling yourself. If you want to be successful on a social bookmarking site, get involved. I’m involved in several – I post links to both my own articles and to other things and I’m also involved in many discussions on what others submit. Over time, people start checking in on what you submit on those sites and tend to be predisposed to voting them up, which can in the end merit you a lot of legitimate attention.
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What to do with 10 Hours on Your Blog?

reader-questionsRoss asks – What is more important, working on getting more traffic (digg, links from high traffic sites) or working on search engine optimisation? If you had 10 hours to spend on one or the other which would benefit you more?”

I think both strategies can be important for a blog – depending upon it’s life stage. They’re also really linked…

I’m a big believer in getting good SEO principles into play on a new blog from day one so in the very early days I’d work on some SEO above trying to leverage other site’s traffic. However most blog platforms come with fairly decent SEO these days and most of what I’d do on an SEO front after a few basic tweaks is while I’m writing a post (ie good titles, using keywords well etc.

In terms of leveraging traffic from other sites – a lot of this also happens for me in the writing process. Knowing the type of style and topic of posts that people like to link to is a big part of it. I don’t tend to actively promote many of my posts to other sites these days but instead let my readers do a lot of it.

Not sure if I’ve really answered your question Ross. So I’ll say this:

If it was in the first week of a blog’s life I’d work on the SEO of the blog (things like getting title tags right, looking at how it interlinks internally etc). In fact I’d work on this stuff before the blog was launched – but it probably wouldn’t take 10 hours. Once this stuff is set up it’s not something I generally spend a lot of time on – my focus switches to content creation.

In the coming weeks (and months) I’d work hard on developing key content that is useful, unique and attractive to other sites. I’d also promote some of that key content to other key blogs in the niche I was attempting to break into (keep in mind that in doing this you’re also really working on your SEO as incoming links play a big part in helping your Search Engine ranking). 10 hours a week doing this can really have a powerful impact!

What would you say is the most effective use of 10 hours as a blogger?

5 Uncommon Ways to Market Your Blog

The following post has been submitted by Neil Patel from Pronet Advertising and Quick Sprout.

If you are trying to increase the popularity of your blog, chances are you’ve already looked into search engine optimization (seo) or leveraging social media sites. There is nothing wrong with using these methods and you should probably try using them, but if you have already exhausted all the common methods of marketing your blog then here are 5 uncommon methods that work well:

1. Comments – People get lazy when it comes to posting comments on other blog on a regular basis. You may say that you don’t have the time or that you don’t want to post comments on other blogs because the majority are your competitors. It doesn’t matter, if you post comments on other blogs on a regular basis and give valuable advice many of those readers will start looking up to you and start reading your blog. If you do this for months you can get thousands of new readers as well as increase your blogs popularity.

2. Social NetworksMySpace, Facebook, and Bebo and some of the most popular websites on the Internet, so why not leverage them? They get millions of visitors a day and there’s no reason not to create profiles on every one of these sites. When building your profiles you can talk about your blog as well as link to it which will cause more visitors to flood into your website.

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When Was Your Biggest Day of Traffic and How did It Happen?

Reader Questions for the weekend:

  • When was your biggest day of traffic?
  • Where did the traffic come from?
  • What (if anything) did you do in order for it to happen?

Leave your answers in comments below or write a post about it on your blog and leave a comment here with a link to it.

What’s the Lowdown on Digg Bait?

Muhammad Saleem wrote a post over at CopyBlogger this week by the title – ‘Is it OK to Write for Digg’ and makes some really good points on either side of the debate. Here are a few key quotes from his piece with a few of my own thoughts:

“for it to be classified as “Digg bait” it really has to appeal to the community and it has to incite a passionate response from the users, whether the response be good or bad.”

Love them or hate them – but Digg users are a passionate lot (or many of them are). There’s something about their youthful exuberance that can make them either love you or hate them in a way that can send a blogger to ‘cloud nine’ or to the depths of despair.

“But Digg tends to become like crack for many writers and after they get on Digg once, there is an intense desire to try to keep getting on Digg. It is here that writers often start disregarding their loyal readers, start pandering to Digg, and run into trouble.”

I think this (and the following comments that Muhammad makes) is key. I’ve seen numerous bloggers go to the Dark Digg Side – lured by the temptation of tens of thousands of visitors in short spaces of time and writing posts that really don’t fit with their topic or help their current readers in an attempt to make the front page. My approach is that the vast majority of your posts should be written with your current reader in mind. Look after them – provide a community for them – give them useful content. While doing this there will be opportunities to write content with a broader appeal – but even then you will need to keep it on topic and appealing to your readership.

“Writing for Digg is actually less about substance and more about how you present the content – in other words, copywriting.”

This doesn’t mean you can’t have a post with substance that is diggable – but it does mean you need to pay particular attention to the form that you write in, your title and even the layout of the post.

I think some of Muhammad’s other points about a core and peripheral audience are great – use social media sites like Digg to expand your horizons and grow your audience – but keep your core readers right in your focus.

As with any other aspect of a blog – become obsessed with Digg and you’ll get things out of balance (read more on holistic blogging).

ProBlogger Readers Do it Better…. than Digg Users

Wendy writes a great post today in her introduction to Social Media Strategy and Socially Driven Content.

In the post she talks to bloggers about why they should learn about social media, what results they can get and how to start out in it.

What caught my attention was right down the bottom of her post where she did a little comparison to how Digg, StumbleUpon, Netscape and delicious readers interacted on her site over a 7 day period in terms of visitor numbers, page views per visitor and time spent on her site.

She then did a little analysis of ProBlogger readers over the same period (54 visitors). The visitors came simply by writing quality comments on my posts here (and she does write insightful comments).

The results speak for themselves.

While social bookmarking sites can potentially send a lot more traffic:

  • ProBlogger readers stay longer per visit (you stay 18 times longer than Digg users)
  • ProBlogger readers visit more pages over that visit (2.5 times as many pages than Digg users).

Wendy writes:

I’ve grown to really appreciate the Digg crowd (even though they are mean as all hell sometimes), but if I had to pick, I’d take those 54 ProBlogger visitors over a big Digg any day.”

I guess that goes to show what quality readers you all are!

Seriously though (and you are quality readers – but there’s a lesson here) it’s also a good illustration of the power of different types of traffic.

While Digg can send you a heap of visitors in a short period of time they rarely stay long, rarely go deeper within your blog and rarely comment. On the other hand traffic from another blog on a similar topic (even if it’s just a from a comment) can drive a different quality of traffic.

Not only will they stay longer, comment more and view more pages I suspect they’ll also subscribe to your newsletter and RSS feed in higher numbers but they’ll respond more to your income streams (ads and affiliate products).

More reading on different types of traffic:

How to Find Untapped Audiences Offline – By Letting Others Republish Your Content

One of the increasingly common emails that I’m getting from my Digital Photography School blog is along the lines of:

‘can I republish and article from your blog in my periodical/newsletter/magazine?’

It is an interesting question and one that I’ve had a change of heart on over the past few years.

Previously I was much more protective of my content and would rarely allow it to be republished (with or without permission) in any form unless there was some very tangible benefit from doing so (ie either payment or a very large readership of the other publication).

However over the last year I’ve begun to see the benefits of allowing my content to be republished – particularly in offline publications.

My reasoning in this thinking is simply that it opens up new audiences and potential reader relationships that you might previously have not had.

One of the challenges that many bloggers face is that after a year or two of running that they often hit a ceiling in terms of readership. Every other blog in their niche knows about them and has already linked up and as a result most active blog readers in the niche have already made a decision about whether they’ll follow you or not.

The main way that you can then grow traffic is to break into untapped and un-reached audiences. There are a number of ways to do this that include:

  • build your SEO ranking and find new readers searching for information on search engines
  • break into a related niche by expanding the topics that you write about and appealing to other blogs on related topics
  • finding new offline sources of traffic

It is this last point that allowing the republishing content can help you with.

Let me offer just one example (of many from the last months):
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How to List Your Blog in MySpace News

MySpace have recently launched their News service (complete with some very nauseating flashing ads that I’m seeing right now).

Loren from Search Engine Journal posts that blogs and news sites wanting to be considered for this new index can submit their link here.

This is a worthwhile endeavor for any blogger wanting to promote their blog as MySpace is bursting traffic and any new service that they add has every chance of sending the sites that they link to with some significant traffic – especially considering that their news service has a voting/social bookmarking type system attached to it.

Their FAQ doesn’t really outline what requirements your blog needs to meet to be included in the index other than that it should be topical, that it should publish regularly, that it has a a core audience and that other news sources link to the site.