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How to Drastically Increase Subscriber Numbers to Your Email Newsletter

Two weeks ago I was seeing 40 new email subscribers per day to my photography blog email newsletter. This week I’ve been averaging over 350 new subscribers a day. In this post I’ll share the story of how I did it.

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In this months ProBlogger Newsletter I gave subscribers some inside information on how I’ve increased the daily newsletter subscriber rate to my photography blog almost tenfold in the last couple of weeks.

Before using this technique I was averaging around 40 new (and verified) subscribers a day to my email newsletter (I use Aweber to manage my email newsletters). To be honest I was pretty happy with that. 40 a day is over 14,000 per year – who would complain about that!

However last week I decided to experiment with a feature that Aweber offers its publishers that I’d resisted using previously – the ability to collect subscribers using a ‘Pop Over’ subscription form.

Most bloggers with newsletters put their subscriber form in a sidebar like this:

normal-newsletter-subscription-method.jpg

This is a good and prominent position above the fold and in a place that people notice.

The Pop Over on the other hand is a form that appears, hovering over the content on the page, after a certain predetermined time frame. Here is one of the versions that I’ve been testing:

newsletter-subscription-form-pop-over.png

These Pop Over subscription forms are of course much more intrusive to readers than a sidebar form – this is the reason I resisted using them for so long. My fear was that they’d annoy readers, page views per visit would drop and that I’d end up with a lot of angry emails from readers.

Aweber gives different options to limit how many times these Pop Overs appear on your site – you can show them to every visitor, limit them to show once per visitor or have them show every ‘X’ days. You can also use what they call a ‘lightbox’ which allows you to have the rest of your content fade and for the form to fade in, slide in from above, below or a side etc. I’m testing the Lightbox against the PopOver at present and my early tests are incredibly positive and are increasing subscriber rates even further than pop overs!

So what was the result of my testing?

I think this chart of my subscriber numbers says a lot:

newsletter-subsriber-numbers.png

I think it is probably pretty obvious when the test started. The last days results are still incomplete but look like being similar to the day before.

Average confirmed subscribers per day have risen to over 350 per day (over a year this would translate to over 125,000) so at least on that front it has been successful.

But what has the reader feedback been?

To this point I’ve had two readers email me to complain about the Pop Overs. One saw them multiple times (I suspect because the cookies associated with them seem to be associated with different versions of the Pop Overs). The other complaint came from an iPhone user who said that the Pop Over took up the whole screen and was impossible to close (something Aweber might want to do some testing on).

Did Reader Engagement or Page Views Suffer?

One of my concerns with Pop overs was that readers would be annoyed by them and surf away from the page. As a result I’ve paid particular attention to the ‘pages viewed per visit’ statistic on Google. Here’s how it looks (click to enlarge):

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Pages viewed per visitor has remained stable – in fact if anything they are slightly up since I began the experiment!

Considering page views per visitor didn’t go down and I’m adding 350 or so new potential weekly readers to my blog each day I’d say reader engagement has actually significantly been increasing!

Split Test for Better Results

One of the great things about AWeber is that they’ve built in the ability to split test different versions of subscription forms.

This means that you can design two different forms and have them each show 50% of the time to readers of your blog. Over time it becomes clear that one version out performs another enabling you to then test the best performer with another version of the signup form – making incremental improvements as you go along.

I’ve been testing on two levels:

1. Timing – you can test subscription rates on forms that have a short time before appearing versus forms that have a longer time before appearing. I’ve found that forms that take longer periods of time to appear have a slightly higher signup rate. However these forms show to less people as some navigate away from the page.

2. Copy and Design – the copy and design in your signup form impacts signup rates. I’ve found pictures seem to increase signup rates – also giving benefits and strong calls to action seem to increase signup rates also.

As a guide – I’m seeing signup rates of between 4-5.5%, depending upon the forms. I’m still playing with the split testing though – there is lots to learn!

Final Thoughts

Over all I’m pretty happy that I began to experiment with Pop Over signup forms. On DPS they’ve worked very well and are helping me to make first time readers loyal readers.

I don’t think that they’d work with every blog in the same way. For example to this point I’ve resisted using Pop Over subscription forms here on ProBlogger as I think the audience here will be more annoyed by them than on my photography blog as ProBlogger readers tend to be a bit more skeptical of intrusive marketing.

As always – it’s something to test and track. Pay attention to signals of how readers are receiving it and tread carefully. However don’t rule it out completely too quickly – you could be missing out on a significant way to convert first time readers into loyal ones.

One thing that I think would also be good to experiment with is targeting specific types of readers with Pop Overs. I think specifically targeting search engine visitors with these would make more sense than to target those coming from RSS Readers for example (or at least to be able to present different versions of the pop overs to different readers). Aweber didn’t seem to have plans for doing this themselves but suggested that it would be possible to do with a little coding (I’ll need to work out how).

PS: Tomorrow I’d like to follow up this post with the answer to the most common question that I get when I talk about newsletters – why should a blogger consider starting a newsletter? Stay tuned to my RSS feed for this followup post.

Feeling Overwhelmed by Social Media and Web 2.0? – Here Are 5 Tips For You

Last week I spoke with a blogger who had thrown the towel in on his blog. One day he simply stopped posting with no explanation.

I emailed to ask him why he stopped and his response was:

“I can’t keep up with the advances in technology. Every day there is a new tool, widget or social networking site to test out. I can’t keep up. I’m feeling overwhelmed by it. So I gave up.”

This is a sentiment I’m hearing a lot lately. Bloggers are increasingly feeling the pressure to have their fingers in lots of pies at once and are feeling overwhelmed by the choice and effort needed to ‘keep up’.

We look at people like Robert Scoble who manage to keep blogs afloat, produce videos, engage with thousands of people on Twitter, FriendFeed and who knows how many other social accounts – all while having a family and traveling the world speaking at conferences! Our efforts in comparison to people like Robert pale by comparison….

If you’re feeling this pressure I’d like to talk to you today and give you a few words of encouragement.

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Image by danielgebhart

5 Tips for Overwhelmed Bloggers

1. You’re Not Alone

There are days when I look at the things that I do and feel like I’m going backwards. I’m lucky enough to be able to dedicate full time hours (in fact I’m probably doing this 60-70 hours a week) to what I do – and I there are times when I can’t keep up!

You’re not alone. I hear stories of people who can’t ‘keep up’ every day.

2. Focus Upon Your Core Tasks

My Mum isn’t on Facebook, she’s never heard of Twitter, she thinks YouTube is a deodorant stick and things RSS is something most people keep in their boxer shorts.

Sometimes it feels like we’re falling behind in adopting technology but it is good remind ourselves that what we do do online is actually ahead of the curve of the majority of ‘real people’.

What I remind myself on those days when I feel overwhelmed by it all is that 95% of the people who read my main blog don’t really care that much about social media or web 2.0 – they’re coming to my blog to read information on how to use their cameras.

As a result my core task is to develop that content and to distribute it using mediums that they are familiar with. My core task is NOT to have my finger on the pulse of every new technology. While it can be helpful to know about the latest widgets and tools to become distracted by them could actually be taking me further away from my audience.

3. Be Smart, Establish Boundaries and Focus Your Energies

I am not suggesting that we all ignore social media, emerging web technologies or forget about Web 2.0.

There is a lot to like about Web 2.0 and it can bring a lot of life to your blogging. However unless you’re blogging about Technology or have a very Web Savvy audience you’d do well to pick and choose what you do and don’t focus your attention on and to put boundaries around these activities.

I wish I could list the 3 tools and technologies that you should focus upon – but it will differ for each blog and every topic – but rather than focusing upon everything, narrow your focus and pick a few achievable technologies to ‘play’ with at a time. My approach with social media has always be to pick up new technologies one at a time rather than to start with multiple ones at once.

Picking new tools to play with one at a time allows you to fully understand it, work out how it might work for you and to add it to your natural work flow. Do too many new things at once and you’re not likely to be able to integrate them into your life to it’s potential.

Remember my post from last week on Home bases and Outposts and how it relates to Social Media – while spending time on outposts can be useful you also need to spend time on your home base – that needs to be your priority.

On Boundaries – One of the techniques that I use to help me to put boundaries around the things that I do is to use Batch Processing. Put most simply it is about setting aside blocks of time to work on tasks in a focused way instead of flitting from one thing to another all day.

4. They are Tools – Refocus Upon Your Goals

Sometimes the tools and technologies become bigger than they need to be. I am constantly reminding myself to spend less time focusing upon the tools and more time focusing upon my goals.

If you know what you want to achieve you can then decide how to move towards that desired goal. In doing so you can select the best tools for the job. If you start with the medium or the tools and try to fit it to your ‘goals’ and objectives you’ll just get muddled.

Web 2.0 technologies can help you achieve your goals – but they are much more effective if you know what you want to achieve.

5. Have Fun

Sometimes I take things too seriously. Sure – blogging has become a business and a way of sustaining my family so there needs to be some element of taking it seriously – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Social media is a space that is at it’s best when it is fun and playful. Let it bog you down and you’re kind of defeating the purpose of it all.

What would you add as a tip for people feeling overwhelmed by social media and Web 2.0 technologies?

13 Tips to Recession Proof Your Blog

How can I prepare my blog for a recession or economic downturn?

Recession-Proof-BlogImage by Rednuht

Yesterday I asked my Twitter followers what they wanted me to write a post about on ProBlogger and this question (and variations of it) was asked repeatedly.

So today I want to suggest a number of ways that bloggers, particularly bloggers making a living from their blogs, can prepare themselves to ride out the economic downturn that we are having.

I’ve also asked my Twitter Followers and Facebook Friends for their tips on the topic and have included some of their responses (there were too many to use in the end so I’ve used about a third of them).

How to Recession Proof Your Blog

1. Focus Upon Content

Don’t become distracted from building quality content. While it is shaky times in some of the Web 2.0 industries and technologies people continue to go online more and more to find information that will enhance their lives. Your primary activity as a blogger needs to be on creating useful content that will solve problems, enhance lives and fulfil needs. This needs to be your core activity – recession or no recession – don’t become distracted from it.

The last thing I’ll say about content is that I suspect ‘how to’ or ‘advice’ content is particularly important in times like these. There is a general sense of uncertainty in the air at the moment and while people are always searching for ‘tips’ and ‘how to’ type content I suspect in economic downturn that searching for this type of content will only increase.

  • @nathanrice suggests – ‘keep writing. great content doesn’t take a lot of money to produce. It just takes time and patience.’
  • @dcrblogs suggested – ‘Make sure the blog adds value to people’s lives in some way.’
  • @HollyJahangiri suggests ‘offer timeless content for free’ – I think this is a wise move. Don’t just write for the hear and now but write the type of content that people will still be searching for in years to come. This type of content can drive traffic (and build income) for years to come.

2. Build Networks

‘It isn’t what you know but who you know’ – I have a feeling that this mantra will only become more important in times of economic downturn. I think a wise use of time in coming months would be to invest into your existing networks and to work on expanding them. Both online social networking and real life networks can open up great opportunities and provide you with support in tough times.

Perhaps working with another blogger (or a group of bloggers) to support each other and to promote one another’s work could be one way forward through this tough time. Together we know and can achieve so much more than we can individually.

  • @lucio_ribeiro suggests – ‘Cooperation works on recession. Team up with another blogs for promotion of mutual content ‘

3. Don’t Panic

I met a few bloggers at Blog World Expo who within 30 seconds of meeting them had almost worked themselves into a lather of worry, stress and panic as they talked about their blogging future.

I’m not saying the times we live in are not reason to be concerned – but panicking is not going to do you (or those around you) any favours. Do what you can to have a level head and to look logically at the situation – if you can’t, find others who can and give them permission to slap you in the face next time you go into panic mode.

Related to this – don’t panic publicly on your blog. There are plenty of bloggers around whipping their readers into a frenzy about the economic downturn – why not do something different and provide a positive place?

  • @JonSymons suggests – ‘Write posts that focus on feeling good, and are proactive, not negative.’
  • @jonathanmead suggested – ‘Market to people re-gaining power of their lives. Make them feel in control when they powerless.’

On a related note – blog with a little sensitivity and knowing that your readers might be doing it tough.

  • @CraneFactory suggested – ‘humility and sensitivity. in a recession when ppl are doing it tough reading about John Chows $500 dinners might put ppl off.’
  • @juliemarg suggests – ‘Don’t Be Snarky (my tip) remember that sarcastic/cynical personal commentary could alienate potential collaborators’
  • Nicole Ouellette wrote – ‘Be positive in your blogging. People are tired of reading the negative in this economy. Bonus if you can teach them something with your post. Empowerment is an empowering thing!’

4. Build Your Own Products/Services

Finding it harder to find advertisers for your blog? Why not advertise yourself? Bloggers that use their blogs to sell themselves, or a product or service that they sell add another monetization stream to their blog.

5. Build Authority

One of the most powerful things that you can do at any time as a blogger is to work hard on building up your profile and perceived expertise and authority in an industry. This is especially powerful in times of uncertainty where people are looking for leadership, advice and stability. Build relationships and be the most useful person that you can in these times and you’ll position yourself as a leader in your field.

6. Backup

It strikes me that over the coming months we might start seeing companies that we rely upon for services as bloggers go out of business. For example what if your hosting company was to go under – or the company you use to store your video or podcasts online? Might be time to backup – just in case.

  • @adamtaylor suggested – ‘be even more rigorous with backups incase someone goes bust!’

7. Diversify Your Income

If your family’s income and livelihood relies upon your blogging it might be a wise move to think about how you can build multiple income streams rather than just relying upon one. This could happen in a number of ways ranging from not just relying upon Advertising income but using affiliate marketing, having multiple blogs, doing some freelance writing and even getting a 2nd part time job (offline).

  • @EcoAussie suggested – ‘maybe u need another blog or niche to diversify.’
  • @lizzy7577 suggests – ‘Make sure you have a variety of blog income sources to depend on.’
  • @WayneHurlbert suggests – ‘Make sure you have a variety of blog income sources to depend on.’
  • @jonathanfields suggests – ‘Assess whether your readers’ information/entertainment needs have shifted. If so, adapt your content to stay insanely relevant’
  • @deniseoberry suggested – ‘Diversify around your core topic. Watch the 80/20 ratio of interest. As the 20% evolves, your writing should focus on that area.’

8. Look for Opportunities in the Negative

I was given this advice by an older family friend recently. He said – ‘In Recessions some industries boom – position yourself in them’. While many industries shrink in times of economic downturn others grow. I was at a search engine conference recently and one of the presenters said that there had been a sharp increase in search traffic around topics related to financial advice, budgeting, employment advice etc. Starting blogs in these types of topics could be a wise move at this time.

  • @ncheapskate suggested – ‘Write about fugal living. That’s working for me.’
  • @cyberpunkdreams suggests – ‘aiming the blog at freelancers perhaps? Freelancer numbers are expected to go way up.’

9. Find ways to Expand and Improve your Blog

I’m no economist, but from my limited study of economics and entrepreneurship it seems to me that while most companies take defensive positions in times of recession – certain companies and individuals see these sorts of times as opportunities to expand and position themselves for the future so that when the economy expands that they are ahead of their competitors.

I think expansion in times like these needs to be done smartly and responsibly (don’t spend your life savings if your family depends upon them) but I personally am planning on expanding my blogs in the coming months by adding new features, improving design etc.

  • @collegegourmet suggests – ‘Spend some money on ads and PR. Most people blow budget during good econ. but when times are bad is when u need it most.’

10. Track Track Track

I’ve been on a bit of a ‘metrics’ binge lately – examining the statistics that Google Reader (and other stats programs) are giving me on how my blogs are performing. While there is a danger in becoming obsessed by stats (at the expense of other important elements of writing a blog) it is amazing what you can learn about improving your blog by analysing how people are already using it.

Look at what people are searching for to find your blog, what they are searching for while on your blog (a tool like Lijit can give this information), what posts are most popular, what pages are leaking most readers, where people are clicking on your page (a tool like CrazyEgg helps with this) etc – all of this tells you how your blog is being used but can reveal ways that it can be improved.

11. Work Hard and Work Smart

There is no escaping it – building successful blogs takes a lot of work. I’m yet to meet a successful blogger who doesn’t put significant hours into their blogs development. Having said that – many bloggers also waste a lot of time. Identify core activities that you need to do to keep your blog on track and stick to them ruthlessly. Learn how to manage your time, eliminate distractions, identify goals and objectives (both short term and long term) and keep focused.

While doing all of this – take a long term view of your blogging. Blog rarely hit it big overnight – you’ll need to still be building your blog up in 2-3 years if you want it to reach its potential – so have a long term view and settle yourself in for the journey!

  • @GrantGriffiths suggested – ‘recession proof by focusing, focusing, and focusing. Dont try to be everything to everybody. Concentrate on your niche.’

12. Cut Costs

When times get tough another way to get through them is to cut down on unnecessary spending. Go through your expenses (credit card statements and paypal history) and look at what you’re paying for. Often as bloggers we sign up for small recurring services that don’t cost much but which we hardly use – perhaps it is time to eliminate some of these costs that are not important and/or to find ways to cut back.

  • @jonathanfields suggests – ‘analyze recent server loads and see if you might be able to scale down to a more modest hosting plan.’
  • Frerickus Willliford suggests – ‘Use wp-cache to save on bandwidth by reducing server load every bit counts.’

13. Experiment with Income Streams

One of the things I’ve noticed recently is that different income streams are really behaving quite differently on different blogs.

For example I was chatting with a group of bloggers recently who told me that their AdSense earnings had drastically dropped. As we were chatting another blogger came into the conversation and told us that his AdSense eCPM had almost doubled in the last 2 months.

In some industries CPC advertising is on the decline, in others it is on the rise. For some affiliate marketing is just not converting any more (as people have less disposable income) yet on some topics it is doing better than ever.

The key is to experiment and test different income streams, even old ones that you’ve previously written off might now be performing.

  • @degeeked suggests – ‘Up usage of click-based revenue streams (i.e. not affiliate programs) like AdSense. People still click during a recession.’
  • @ncheapskate suggests – ‘Use affiliates that offer freebies. Logical Media is one that does it all the time. It’s win-win for you and your reader.’
  • Dave Konig responded – ‘Don’t rely on one type of affiliate program, diversify not only your programs but your link types.’

What Would You Add?

You’ve heard a lot of opinions in this post about how to recession proof your blog – but what would you add to the opinions and ideas expressed above?

How to Get Search Engine Traffic to Your Blog

“What is the best way to get Search Engine Traffic to Your Blog?”

Last week I spoke at a Search Engine Marketing conference in Sydney about my experience of blogging. As part of the presentation I was asked to talk about my tips on getting traffic from search engines. I thought I’d share a few of the points I made here:

1. Search Traffic has been an important part of my blogging

The amount of traffic that the blogs I’ve worked on get from Search Engines varies considerably from blog to blog but on my two current blogs I get 25-35% of my traffic from Search Engines (largely Google).

Here’s a chart showing how Search Traffic fits into the mix of my photography blog traffic (from a couple of months back):

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You can see that Search Engine Traffic is not the biggest source of traffic (social media takes that award) but it is significant considering the site gets over a million visits a month.

2. Search Traffic isn’t Everything

Looking at the above chart you see that if I was to only ever focus upon Search Engine Traffic that I could potentially be loosing up to 67% of my blog’s traffic.

One of the main points I made yesterday is that people shouldn’t become obsessed by Search. While it has amazing potential – I find that sites grow best when they have a variety of sources of traffic (including from Search Engines).

Here is another chart from the presentation which shows the four main areas that I put effort into when thinking about driving traffic – Search, Social Media, Community and Content.

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Search Engine Optimization, participating in social media, building community and producing content are four important elements of building a site that gets (and keeps) high levels of traffic. When a blogger becomes obsessed by any one of them (to the detriment of others) the site can suffer (or at least not realize its potential). When the four elements come together a blog can grow quite rapidly.

3. SEO is Important

Learning the basics of Search Engine Optimization is important as a blogger. While most blog platforms these days come fairly well optimized for Google there are always tweaks that can be made. For example on WordPress the title tags that are served up by default can be tweaked to not show your blog’s name on each post on your blog (or at least to put it after the post name).

There are also a lot of easy ways to optimize a post for search engine traffic while writing posts. For example formatting images well with SEO in mind and using good keywords in titles.

SEO really does make a difference and bloggers who learn the basics can see significant increases in traffic. It is well worth investing time into learning it.

Learn more SEO techniques in previous posts on ProBlogger:

Highly Recommended – Also check out Aaron Wall’s SEObook for some excellent training on SEO. Consider it an investment in learning how to drive traffic to your blog.

4. Great Content is More Important than SEO

I felt strange saying this at a conference where SEO companies were pitching for clients and talking about the importance of building links to a site – but in my experience the most important thing you can do to build your blog’s search engine traffic is to write the most amazing, useful, authoritative and inspiring content possible.

Here’s the question you need to be asking while writing each post:

How can I make this the type of post that people will want to share with others?

Search Engine authority has a habit of coming to those blogs who consistently produce content that enhances peoples lives, meets needs and solves problems. If you create something that does some of these things it is quite likely that the all important links that your blog needs to build search engine authority will come as people link up on their blogs, share the link on social messaging and bookmarking sites, email their friends etc

While great content doesn’t automatically equal lots of traffic – if you produce it consistently over time and actively participate in social media and within your blog’s niche it has a habit of building your traffic and search engine authority.

I’m not anti using link building strategies (ie asking people for links) but I’ve never really done it (I may have once or twice in the early days of my blogging). I know some bloggers who spend many hours each month ‘building links’ but wonder what would happen if instead they concentrated on using that time to build linkable content?

Perhaps I’m a little naive – but Google is in the business of ranking the best sites highest. They want to rank great content in the #1 position – so, my aim as a blogger is to write that kind of content.

Further Reading on Writing Great Blog Posts – How to Craft a Blog Post – 10 Crucial Points to Pause

How do you Get Search Engine Traffic To Your Blog?

There you have it my philosophy and approach to getting search engine traffic on blogs. What would you add?

Do you do much Search Engine Optimization? Is it something you put much time into or just let look after itself? What SEO techniques have been most effective for you?

Home Bases and Outposts – How I use Social Media in My Blogging

Lately I’ve been pondering the part that social media plays in my blogging business.

This post is an attempt to make some sense of it. I’d value your thoughts in comments to help me take these half thought through ideas to something more concrete.

Those who have been following me for a while know that I not only spend a lot of time on my blogs but also invest significant time on sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn…. (the list could go on).

What’s my strategy? Why invest so much time into sites that I don’t actually own?

To be honest there are days when i wonder if I have a strategy at all. There’s so much I don’t know about social media and how it fits into what I do – some days it just feels messy. However in the midst of it all there are moments of clarity.

Home Bases and Outposts

Home-Base-Outposts
Today I was watching a video of a presentation by Chris Brogan and a short segment of it resonated strongly and put words to the way I use social media. He talked about:

  • Home Bases
  • Outposts
  • Passports

He’s used these concepts numerous times on his blog before (here and here for example) but today it got my attention a little more than previously – particularly the idea of the ‘Home Base’ and that of the ‘Outpost’.

A home base is a place online that you own, that is your online ‘home’. For me I have two home bases – ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. For me my home bases are blogs but for others they will be other types of websites.

Outposts are places that you have an online presence out in other parts of the web that you might not ‘own’. I’d previously being using the word ‘satellites’ to describe this but I think ‘outposts’ works better.

Outposts will mean different things to different people and businesses. Here’s how it looks for me as I think about my home base of ProBlogger.

Problogger-Home-Base-Outposts

As you’ll see, most of my ‘outposts’ are social media sites – however for others an outpost could also include forums, other community sites and even the comments sections of other blogs.

Each of the outposts that you see above are places that I have accounts and am attempting to grow my online presence (some better than others). These ‘outposts’ are sites where I:

  • add content
  • build relationships
  • test ideas
  • grow a profile
  • listen
  • experiment
  • make connections
  • try to be useful
  • play

Out of this combination of activities many things come. Relationships, ideas, traffic, resources, partnerships, community and much more emerge from the outposts – much of it making my home base stronger.

Two Way Streams and Outposts Taking on a Life of Their Own

The outposts do drive some traffic back to the home base, but many of the benefits are less tangible and have more to do with building the brand and influences of my blogs.

Also worth noting is that the outposts don’t just feed the homebase (it isn’t just a one way thing)- but the homebase feeds the outposts and sometimes the outpost seems to take on a life of its own and becomes the real place of action where without really trying a community emerges.

For example this week I discovered that a small (but growing) group of ProBlogger readers had been interacting with my content and one another on my Facebook Profile – despite the fact that I’d not spent more than 20 minutes on Facebook in the previous three months. Just the fact that I link to Facebook and pull in my Twitter activity means that the ‘community’ there has sprung up (now that I’m aware of what’s going on I can participate and feed the community.

This Post is Half Finished

I laugh when people occasionally refer to me as a social media expert.

You see while I’ve managed to grow a reasonable social media presence over the last few years there is still much to learn. As a result I’d love to here your thoughts on what I’ve written and how you see and use social media in your blogging and business. Your comments will take this post a step closer to completion – looking forward to how it ends!

13 Tips on How to Have Great Conversations On Your Blog

Lately I’ve been suggesting 11 points to take a little extra time in the posting process on a blog. We’ve looked at everything from choosing topics, to crafting titles, to calls to action, to promoting your posts.

The point of this series is simply that when you take a little extra time at each of these points in the process you add depth and increase the effectiveness of your blog post.

Today I want to share one last point to ‘pause’ – it is as important as each other point in the process (if not more so) and can take a ‘good post’ into ‘great post’ territory.

It’s all about the Art of Conversation

ConversationImage by b_d_solis

It is easy to see the point of hitting ‘publish’ on your blog post as the ‘end’ of the process of posting – however more often than not the real action and fruit of a blog post happens once it’s ‘live’ and being interacted with by readers and other bloggers. To hit publish and move on to the next post at this point is an opportunity gone begging.

2 Benefits of Fostering Conversation on Your Blog

For me the main two benefits of a blog with great conversation are simply:

  • it adds depth to posts – my belief is that together we know a lot more than any one of us. As wise as you might be as a blogger – when your readership adds their knowledge to your posts in the comments section – it’ll generally become a better resource to future readers.
  • it builds community and reader loyalty – increasingly people are going online not only to find ‘information’ but to find community and places to ‘belong’. A blog which regularly has good conversation where people’s ideas are heard and valued is a place that people will want to return.

13 Tips for Growing the Conversation On Your Blog

Let me start by saying that this post is not about ‘how to get comments on your blog’. I’ve written previously about 10 techniques to get more comments and would recommend that post as a primer for this one.

What I do want to focus on in this post goes beyond getting comments and how to grow ‘conversations’ (something that I think is a little deeper). There is some overlap – but I hope this post goes beyond that previous one.

1. Set Time Aside for Conversation

The biggest conversation killer in my own life is simply that I’m too busy. This is true in ‘real life’ as well as blogging. If you don’t set aside time to have conversation it is highly unlikely to ever happen because it takes time.

Again – I’m not talking here about leaving comments (leaving a comment can take a second or two) – but actually engaging in conversation means listening to what others are saying and thoughtfully responding in a way that goes deeper, adds value and says something meaningful – this takes time and if you don’t prioritize it you’re not likely to fit it in.

2. Ask Questions

As mentioned in my post on how to get comments, ‘asking questions’ is a powerful technique for starting off a conversation. If you want people to respond to your posts include questions within them – it’s key to get the comment thread started, however it’s also a great technique for keeping the conversation going.

One way to add depth to a conversation and to draw out more from those commenting is to take their comments and ask questions of them that elicit a second response. Rather than just responding to someone’s comment with a ‘great point’ type comment – why not go a little deeper with a question that draws them into extending their idea.

3. Answer Questions

Not only is asking questions powerful – but so is answering those that readers ask. This can be challenging when you get a lot of comments on your blog (I’ve had to hire someone to help me manage this lately) but it makes your posts more meaningful and helpful to readers who come away wondering about some aspect of what you’ve written.

4. Track Offshoots of Conversation

The beauty of blogging is that posts that one blogger publishes can inspire other bloggers to write posts on a similar topic on their own blog. While the comments section of your blog might be the place that most of your readers interact with your ideas – a good post might inspire multiple conversations in all kinds of places in the blogosphere.

It is important to be aware of these offshoot conversations and to participate in them. Start a vanity folder in your news aggregator to help track them and when you find them visit the blog and add value to the conversation there. Don’t feel you need to drag people back to your blog – but add value on that blog. In doing so you will build a relationship with the blogger who has posted about your idea but also potentially could find yourself a few new connections (and even new readers) among their readership.

5. Add Value and Depth

I’ve talked many times about writing blog posts that are useful and unique (the secret to great content) – however it struck me recently that the same advice actually applies to comments. If the comments that YOU leave (either on your own blog or others) are not actually useful (if they don’t add value and/or depth to the conversation) and if they are not simply echoes of what others are saying (ie unique) then there is little point in leaving them.

One of the best ways to kill a conversation is to respond to something that someone else has written with a generic comment like ‘great point’. Before you comment, consider what you’re writing. Does it add something to the conversation? Will it elicit a response from others? Is it unique from what others are saying? If the answer to these questions is ‘no’ – work on your comment until it does.

6. Listen, Listen, Listen

As a blogger who has just published a post you’ve been doing most of the talking and your readers have been doing the listening – so when it comes to the comments section of your blog turn the tables and become the listener and let others do the talking.

Conversation is a two way street and if you take the ‘monologue’ approach into comments then you’re unlikely to develop a culture of conversation on your blog.

7. Play Devils Advocate (with Care)

One way to stimulate conversation is to throw into the conversation an unexpected and opposing point of view. Playing Devils Advocate (when done well) can be a powerful tool to draw out responses in your readers and extend a conversation into a place that it might not have naturally gone.

The key with this approach is to do so with care. Writing something controversial just for the sake of it and in a hostile tone can actually kill a conversation (or take it into the realm of a flame war). A better approach might be to make it clear what you’re doing with an ‘I agree with you – however some might argue….’ type comment.

8. Promote the Conversation

I find that when a good conversation emerges on a post it can actually be very effective to promote the ‘conversation’ (as opposed to the post itself) in some way. For example I occasionally will use Twitter to alert readers to a comment thread with a tweet that says ‘there’s a great conversation emerging at www.xxxx….’ – these tweets tend to get a fairly good level of people not only visiting the post but coming over with an openness to respond.

9. Protect Your Comments Section (Moderation)

The comments section on your blog is a really important space on your blog and can both add to and take away from the perception of others towards your blog. If your comments section becomes a comment spammers heaven or always dissolves into a place where trolls flame one another it will not draw genuine readers into conversation.

As a result I advocate that you not be afraid to protect your comments section and set some guidelines in place for people to interact there. Ultimately it is your blog and your rules need to apply. If people step outside of your rules then they need to be willing to have their comments moderated.

10. Model the Behavior you Want

What about trolls and comments sections that get too negative? My theory is that the majority of blogs that have highly snarky comments sections will generally have bloggers posting to them that display their own fair share of snakiness in the blog posts that they write. I’m sure there are a few exceptions but I find that most blog readers take the lead of the blogger on a blog when interacting in comments.

As I’ve previously written on this topic:

“If your blog is written in a positive, optimistic, helpful and inclusive voice then I find that those commenting generally respond with a similar tone. Write in a snarky, negative, rant dominated tone that makes fun of others and you can expect a very similar vibe in your comments.”

11. Bounce off Comments with New Posts

One of the weaknesses of blogs over forums is that conversations can have a limited life simply because the post that they happen on falls off the front page of the blog as new posts are published.

One way to keep a hot conversation going is simply to write a follow up post that extends upon ideas in the first. One approach is simply to elevate some of the comments on the previous post into a new post to stimulate an extension of the conversation. This not only keeps the conversation going but also rewards those who’ve previously participated with a moment in the spot light. This is what I did recently on DPS with this post on video on DSLR cameras.

12. Use Email

Another of the challenges of blogs is that often readers will leave a comment and never return to the post to continue the conversation. You can ask them all the questions in the world but if they don’t come back to the blog they’ll never see them.

There are a variety of commenting tools to help overcome this (I use a ‘subscribe to comments’ plugin which helps a little) but one effective way to keep conversations going is simply to follow up those who’ve commented with an email. For example – if someone asks you a question and you respond – shoot them an email after you answer their questions to let them know. The same technique works if you have asked them a question in comments.

13. Empower Your Community to Lead Conversation

One of the challenges that faces bloggers as their blogs grow and become popular is to genuinely and actively participate in every conversation happening on their blog. I personally struggle with this quite a lot across my two blogs which on any given day can have a total of 150-500+ comments.

One thing that can help is to try to develop a culture on your blog where the conversations are not dependent upon you alone. This takes time to achieve but unless you’re a conversation freak and/or can keep a million balls in the air at the same time (like Gary V, Liz, Scoble – each of whom leaves me shaking my head at the amount of conversations they participate in) you’ll need to do something to help you cope with your comment section as your blog grows.

One way to grow this community driven culture of conversation on your blog is simply to model it yourself and when questions are asked in the comments section on your blog to invite others to answer rather than feel you need to be the only one answering. As I say – this takes time but as you see your readers answering one another’s questions thank them for their comments and even elevate some of their answers to actual posts.

Lets Talk

OK – so this is where I invite you to comment, to add what you’ve learned about having conversations on your blog.

I’d love to hear what you do to foster conversation on your blog?

Do you use any particular techniques? Are there any tools that you use to help manage it? What’s the hardest part about generating great conversation on your blog? What’s worked for you?

PS: Tomorrow I’ll be posting some more tips on this topic from a few bloggers that have runs on the board when it comes to building blogs with great conversation. I’ll include a few of the tips left in comments below also so have your say and some of your ideas might be included in the next post!

13 Ways to Promote Your Next Blog Post

Blog-Promotion-1You’re slaved over your post – crafting titles, opening lines, adding depth, designing the post to be eye catching and more – you select the perfect time for your post to go live and hit ‘publish’!

It’s over – another post ‘released’ into the wild – there’s nothing more you can do except sit back, see how people like it and start on your next post…. or is there?

Instead of seeing the moment of publishing a post as the end point in the posting cycle of a post – I see it as the birthing moment of a post. The work has only just begun and what you do in the minutes and hours after it goes live can exponentially increase the effectiveness of the post!

Original Image by Elephi Pelephi

Today I want to talk about promoting your blog posts.

A lot is written about promoting and marketing blogs (as a whole) but I’ve found looking at ‘promotion’ on a more micro level (at a post by post level) can be a highly effective strategy.

Having hit publish on your post – don’t just leave it to chance that your post will be read by people. Giving it a few strategic ‘nudges’ can increase the exposure it gets exponentially.

Let me describe a few post promotion activities that I engage in.

note: I don’t use all of these techniques on every post but instead see them as a variety of tools that sit in my blog promotion toolbox and pull out different ones on different posts depending how suitable they are.

13 Ways to Promote Your Next Blog Post

1. Pitching Other Bloggers

One of the most effective ways of getting the word out about a new post is to let other bloggers know about it. There isn’t much more powerful a way to find new readers than another blogger recommending something you’ve written to people who trust them.

Getting other bloggers to link to your posts is not always easy though – particularly in the early days of a blog or if you don’t have some sort of profile or pre-existing relationship with the bloggers that you’re pitching. However it isn’t impossible. Here are a few tips on how to pitch your posts to other blogs:

  • Relevancy is key - don’t pitch stories to other bloggers that have little or no relevance to their blog. You’ll just be wasting their time and yours.
  • Only pitch your best posts - you will have a much higher success rate at getting a link if you only do it with your best stuff. I would only ever do this with around 1-2% of my posts.
  • Give them an angle – don’t just shoot the link over – tell the blogger what the story is about and why it might be relevant to their blog. Save them a little work by showing how the post might be interesting to their readers.
  • Keep it brief – if the blogger wants lots of details about your post they’ll click the link. Be to the point, communicate what you need to say and then let the blogger get on with their day.
  • Be polite – don’t assume you’ll get the link or insist that they link to you – make the suggestion and let the blogger decide if it’s relevant for them.
  • Be personal – use their name, their blog’s name and show you are not just spamming thousands of blogs with your email.

Read more tips like these on pitching other bloggers at 13 Tips on Asking other Bloggers for Links.

2. Social Messaging

An increasingly large source of traffic for my own blogs over the last year has been Twitter and other social messaging sites (like Friendfeed and Plurk). I use a mixture of automated tools and personalized tools to drive this traffic. On twitter I use TwitterFeed to tweet items from my blog’s RSS feed.

I find that this works best if your blogs feed is not the only thing that you’re putting up on Twitter. Add your own personal tweets, link to other people’s content, ask readers questions etc – the more you mix it up the more effective your own automated tweets will be accepted and clicked upon by your followers.

Don’t be afraid to use social messaging to promote posts that have good discussion on them also. I find that 12-24 hours after my post goes live can be a good time to shoot out another tweet if there’s a particularly hot conversation going on (in fact this can drive even more traffic than the first TwitterFeed automated tweet as it alerts your followers to a conversation rather than just content).

3. Social Bookmarking

This is something that I only do on selected posts – those that I think could do well on bookmarking sites like Digg or StumbleUpon.

I won’t go into great depth on this topic in this post as I recently wrote on how to get to the front page of Digg and have posted other tips at Using Social Media Sites to Grow Your Blog’s Traffic.

4. Internal Links

A great deal of blog promotion tips focus upon how to promote your blog on other people’s blogs and sites – but a great way to promote your blog post is to do it on your own blog.

One thing that I try to do with my best posts after I publish them is to think about where I could promote it on my own blog.

While it is at the top of my blog’s front page (the primary place to promote it) if you think hard you’re bound to find a few other posts in your archives that you could link to this new post. Find places where you’ve covered similar topics before and add your link as a ‘related reading’ link or even add a link to your new post within the content of an old post.

You might also want to add your new post to previously written ‘sneeze pages‘ or your sidebar if it’s a key post. Every link you add on your own blog to your new post potentially sends your current readers to your new post but also helps your blog with Search Engine Optimization (internal links count too).

5. Newsletters

If you have a newsletter list on your blog and you’ve written what you consider to be a key blog post – include a link to it in your next newsletter. Doing this will drive traffic but also signal to your readers that it’s a pillar post that you feel deserves their attention.

As with each of the points above – only do this with your best and most relevant posts. If you do it with every post reader will become desensitized to your recommended reading.

6. Other Blogs Comments Sections and Forums

NOTE: tread carefully with this one and only do it occasionally and in a way that adds value.

If you’ve got a post that you think relates strongly to something that another blogger has written about or that is the topic of discussion on a forum – leave a link to your own post.

The key to pulling this off without being labled a spammer is to leave a genuinely useful comment on the blog or forum. The comment itself should add value, be right on topic and contribute to the conversation. Then if you include a link introduce it with a ‘I’ve written more about this at….’ type comment rather than just a spammy call to action.

The other option is to email the other blogger first and ask if they’d mind if you leave the link. You might even find that the blogger will add the link to the post itself (don’t assume this).

7. Email Signatures

If you use a service like Feedburner they have a little widget that you can add to your email signature that highlights your latest blog posts. I’m not sure how effective that this is at driving traffic but the principle is a good one.

I know of a couple of bloggers who do the same thing by hand – they pick one or two of their latest key posts and add links to them as ‘featured posts’ in their email signatures. Many of us have links to our blog’s main URL in our email signatures but it strikes me that a link to a recent individual post could actually be more effective as it sends people to your very best content – food for thought.

8. Followup Posts

If you’ve just written a post that you feel is important a great technique to give it a second round of attention is to write a second post extending the first in some way.

This technique is very powerful at adding a sense of momentum to your blog.

‘Treat every post as an introduction to your next’. Here’s an image that describes this process taken from How to Keep Momentum Going by Building on Previous Posts.

Extend-The-Life-Of-An-Idea

Also check out how I use Mind Mapping to extend posts and do followups like this.

9. Advertise Your Post

This one won’t be for everyone and is definitely only for those special posts that you write that you particularly want to drive traffic to – but why not put a little budget aside to promote a post with some advertising.

Key posts that have a high ‘usefulness factor’ to potential readers are a great way to find new loyal readers to a blog. Rather than advertising the front page of your blog a high quality post can actually be the perfect landing page for an advertisement.

There are a variety of ways to advertise a blog but one of my favorites is on StumbleUpon where you can actually start an organic rush of traffic to a good blog post with a relatively small budget. Learn more on how to do it at Run a StumbleUpon Advertising Campaign for your Blog.

4 More Ways to Promote Key Blog Posts

The list could go on – here are a few more quick tips on how to promote individual blog posts:

  • 10. Write a Press Release – some press release services don’t cost anything (or much) and they can be surprisingly effective with a little luck.
  • 11. Pitch Mainstream Media - some posts will have mainstream media appeal. Shoot a paper, magazine, TV or Radio station an email – you might get lucky.
  • 12. Article Marketing – while I’ve never done article marketing I know a few bloggers who swear by writing articles for ‘free article sites’ as a way to promote themselves. While they often include links back to their main blog in these articles I think there’s some strong arguments for doing it to individual posts.
  • 13. Add a Comments Competition – if you want to increase reader interaction on a particular post run a comments competition where you give one commenter a prize. To increase the ‘quality’ and not just ‘quantity’ of comments offer a prize for the ‘best’ comment rather than a random comment.

How do You Promote Blog Posts?

I’ve covered 12 ways to promote an individual blog post above. What would you add?

How have you done it? What success have you had?

Keep in mind I’m not asking about how you promote your blog in a general sense – but how do you drive traffic to individual blog posts?

Read the Full Series

This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.

When to Publish Blog Posts – Timing Considerations

Timing-Blog-PostsOver the last few weeks we’ve been looking at important times to pause in the writing and publishing of a post. Each of these stages in the development of a blog post can contribute to whether a post makes it big around the web or not. Today we’re considering the time that you publish your post.

Image by SunnyUK

What Time Should You Publish Your Blog Post? – Factors to Consider

As I chat with bloggers I find that there are a lot of different opinions on when the best time is to hit publish on a blog post. Some pay a lot of attention to it and have studied what works best with their audience, while others go with a hunch and still others don’t think it really matters at all and just publish posts as they finish them (I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments).

In my own experience and in talking to other bloggers I find that timing issues vary quite a bit from blog to blog depending upon its audience and topic.

Let me explore some of the potential issues to consider:

Weekends

The day of the week that you publish can have a big impact upon how many people read it. While RSS feeds might mean some of your readers will read posts published when they are away from their computer I find that posts that go live on weekends tend to get a lot less traction than weekday posts. The exception to this is of course for blogs with a topic that is weekend specific (sports or certain TV shows for example). The other advantage of weekends is that I find it can be easier to crack the front page on sites like Digg as there seems to be less competition.

Mid Week

If I have a very important post that I want to get as much attention as possible I generally will publish it on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning (my time). This gives a few days after the post is written for it to be found, linked to, bookmarked etc before the weekend arrives (and momentum stops) – but means that those in catchup mode after the weekend have a little more time to digest the post.

Public Holidays

I tend to avoid posting anything important on public holidays days as web readership is lower (I’m thinking mainly of US specific public holidays as that is where my main audience is located on my two blogs). Having said this – I do find that sometimes posts on public holidays can do quite well as some readers have more leisurely type time on their hands.

On DPS I find ‘reader questions’ type posts and posts that have a more ‘fun’ nature do well on both weekends and public holidays. The main exception to the ‘avoid public holidays’ rule is when you have a blog that relates to one of them. For example I know a recipe blogger whose biggest day of the year is Thanksgiving (they have a lot of Turkey cooking tips that do particularly well).

Times of Day

My main advice with thinking about the time of day to publish posts is to test what works with your audience. My own daily posting schedule is to have something new up on my blogs at about midnight my time (which is first thing in the business day in the USA) – I try to make this my main post for the day, something that is teaching focused if possible. This means that those scanning their RSS feeds when they get to work (I know you do it) have something fresh to read and ponder during the day. I then usually have a post that goes live in the afternoon (US time) – but this post is usually a ‘lighter’ newsy post.

The key is to know where your readers are situated and watch how posts at different times of the day (and days of the week) are interacted with (both in terms of traffic but also comments and incoming links).

What I find is that it works best to be a little preemptive with your readers. ie if you have a peak time that readers come to your blog time your posts just before this time so there’s something fresh for when they arrive.

Give Posts Room to Breathe

Another tip that I’d give with regards to timing is to think about the sequence of posts and how often they go live on your blog. I think about this on two main levels:

  • Giving Important posts Room to Breathe – got a post that you really want people to notice? If so, I’d advise that you post it not only at a good time of day, but that you don’t post anything after it for a while. If it’s a really important post you might even want to not post again for a day or two so that it remains at the top of your blog.
  • Topics and Variety - sometimes too many posts on a similar topic too quickly can have a negative impact upon readers. Try to mix up different types of posts.

Social Media Campaigns

One occasion that ‘timing’ can be particularly important is if you want to do some sort of a social media campaign with a post. For example, if you’re looking to have a post do well on Digg it can be important to have the post go live, have it submitted to Digg and for a Digg This button to go up on the post all very quickly. This means that as soon as it’s live and the initial rush of new visitors to the post have the opportunity to Digg it.

Some social media experts that I know also advise you to time these posts that you think will do well on social media sites for early to mid morning (US time) so that the most visitors on Digg can be involved in promoting the post for you (again, I’ve heard a variety of opinions on this).

Less Can Equal More = Except When it = Less

Posting frequency is one of those topics that I get asked about a lot and it’s a tough one to give an ‘definitive’ answer on because like many aspects of blogging, what works for some won’t work for others.

Instead of a long section on the ins and outs of posting frequency – let me point you at a post dedicated to exploring the issues at – What is the Ideal Post Frequency for a Blog?

Further Reading on Post Timing:

When Do You Publish Your Posts?

  • Do you give consideration to the timing of your blog posts?
  • If so – when do you publish them – and why?

I’m looking forward to hearing your experience on this topic.

Read the Full Series

This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.

16 Important but Potentially Distracting Blogging Tasks

Have you ever had one of those days where you set aside time to blog and while you spend the whole time that you put aside busily doing ‘stuff’ – you don’t end up actually writing anything?

I had one of those days this last week. After what felt like a busy day of ‘work’ I realized I’d not actually produced a single blog post.

As I looked back over my day and the things that I’d done it struck me that there are a lot of tasks that bloggers do that are important – but that can at times become distracting from… well… writing posts… the core task of any blogger.

16 Important but Potentially Distracting Blogging Tasks

Following are 16 potentially distracting tasks for bloggers (note, I’m not saying that any of these are not important or worthwhile, just that they can actually become a distraction if we allow ourselves to become sidetracked by them):

  1. Social Messaging - Twitter, Plurk, Friendfeed, Pownce…. (add your favorite micro blogging/social messaging service here). Each can suck up your time if you don’t get focused and put some boundaries around them.
  2. Social Bookmarking – many bloggers become somewhat obsessed with writing posts for and then gathering votes on social media sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Yahoo Buzz, Reddit etc
  3. Social Networking - building profiles and interacting upon Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace etc – all useful in building a brand and profile as a blogger, but potentially a distraction.
  4. Blog Design – blog design is important at creating a first impression but when you find yourself tweaking it, reworking it, planning your next one more than actually writing content for your blog you might be in trouble.
  5. SEO – like blog design there always seems to be something you could do a little better when it comes to optimizing a blog for search engines. It can be worth your time to do some of this, but one of the most effective ways of doing SEO is to write content that hits the spot with readers.
  6. Reading other Blogs in Your Niche – yet another great use of time, but many bloggers spend so much time on other people’s blogs connecting, leaving comments and even writing about them that they fail to write anything unique on their own.
  7. Reading about How to Blog – this might seem strange coming from a blogger who writes about blogging, but from time to time a blogger comes to me for advice on how to improve their blog who has done so much learning about blogging that my encouragement to them is simply to stop reading about it and start doing it.
  8. Guest Posting - I am a big fan about using guest posting on other peoples blogs to expand your profile and grow your readership – however the best way to utilize guest posting is to have great content on your own blog for the new readers you engage with to see when they come visit.
  9. Interacting with Readers - this is one that I hesitate to write about because I’m a firm believer in allocating time to spend one on one with readers – however as a blog grows it gets more and more difficult to do. There comes a time where most bloggers need to decide how to strike a balance on this front – boundaries and processes can really help.
  10. Networking with other bloggers – another great way to build brand and traffic to your own blog is to connect with other bloggers in your niche – however there are millions of blogs ‘out there’ and it can be an endless task.
  11. Monetization – finding and testing ad networks and affiliate programs can take a lot of time. Then optimizing them for your blog and tracking the results and extending your earning potential by finding private sponsorships and ad sales can really eat up even more of your time.
  12. Starting New Blogs – diversification is an important and worthwhile part of the journey of many bloggers development, however I come across some bloggers who start too many blogs too quickly and don’t give their early ones time to get going and develop before they branch out.
  13. Analyzing Stats – one of the biggest potential time suckers, that many bloggers become distracted with at different times, is analyzing your stats. Sure, you can learn a great deal from looking at who is coming to your blog, from where they come and what they do when they arrive – but at times, when you do it all day everyday, it can be a habit that takes you away from your blogging.
  14. Projects/Competitions/Memes - many bloggers wanting to run a competition or project on their blog don’t realize just how much work it can be to manage (or how hard it can be to get them working). They can bring a lot of life to a blog, but they can also be suck you (and your readers) attention away from your core blogging.
  15. Dealing with Trolls and Trouble makers – it is SO easy to get drawn into passionate (yet pointless) arguments with other bloggers and readers that can leave you emotionally drained and having wasted hours upon hours of your time. While at the time it seems to important to respond – many times it’s best just learn to hold it in.
  16. Tracking down copyright violations - unfortunately in the medium we operate there are people who scrape the content of others, whack ads on it and call it their own. While it can be important to track down these copyright violations down – the statement ‘how long is a piece of string’ comes to mind and some bloggers spend so much time tracking splogs down, issuing DMCA legal notices and attempting to get the content removed that they have little time for much else.

Let me reiterate – there’s nothing wrong with any of these activities…. BUT….

In fact I at different times I’ve recommended and given tips on all of them on this blog! However – this post is about balance and priorities.

While these are all great activities the danger is in those times when they sidetrack us from other core aspects of our blogging.

In my own blogging I try to guard against becoming distracted by:

  • Having goals (both long term but also daily goals)
  • Being aware how I’m spending time (periodically throughout each day I stop and ask myself if I’m on track
  • Setting time aside for the most important tasks (I put aside three mornings a week specifically for content creation – I block out this time and remove other distractions for these times.

What distracts you most from blogging? How do you keep yourself on track?