The First Week of My New Blog

1 week ago today I launched a new blog called TwiTip here on ProBlogger. In that launch post I documented some of the setup process that I’d already gone though (hosting, design, content, promotion etc). In a subsequent post I also outlined 10 WordPress plugins that I’d installed.

It has been 7 days since I launched it now and since I’m getting a lot of questions about how it is going and what I’m doing on the blog I thought I’d give a quick update on what I’ve done since and how the blog has performed.

Plugins and Features

While I’d already installed a few plugins over the last week I’ve added a few more including:

  • Outbrain – a post rating plugin. You can see it in operation on single posts (at the end of posts). It allows users to rate posts and also suggests other reading that readers might find relevant (from both your own blog and other blogs). I’m still testing it but so far reader feedback has been good. My only concern with it is that there’s no way to control what other sites it recommends (you can switch that feature off) and it has recommended posts from a site that I didn’t think was that relevant to my readers on at least one occasion. Hopefully this will improve in time. Outbrain also gives a ‘popular post’ widget which I’ve added to the sidebar as well as some useful internal reports on what posts on your blog are connecting most with readers (see below).


  • RSS Footer – a plugin I’ve been wanting to test for a while. This inserts a link (or any html really) into the footer of each post in your RSS feed that allows you to add a link back to your blog. This is useful when scrapers take your feed and put it on their blog without any attribution. While most bloggers try to stop other bloggers doing this it means that at least if they do do it that there’s a good chance you’ll at least get a link back and some attribution.
  • FeedFlares – I’ve added a number of Feeburner ‘Feedflares’ to my RSS feed including a ‘Twit This’ and ‘Stumble it’ feature to help subscribers pass on the content to others.
  • Feedburner Counter – I mentioned in my launch post that i would wait til I hit 1000 subscribers before adding the feedburner counter to the blog. This happened a couple of days back (although I only noticed today) so I’ve added the counter to the sidebar. Hitting this milestone was faster than expected and largely due to my amazing Twitter followers spreading the word about TwiTip.


In my launch post I mentioned that I didn’t think I’d be updating TwiTip more than 2-3 times a week. That has turned out to be wrong – I’ve published 12 already.

This is due to two reasons:

  1. I got excited – there’s something about a new blog that gets your creative juiced flowing.
  2. Reader Submissions – since launching the blog I’ve had 60 or so offers to write posts for TwiTip. I’ve had to say no to 40 or so of them simply because it would take me two months to publish them all if I did one a day. Having said this – some of the submissions I’ve received are great so there’s definitely enough content on hand for a post a day.

One of the things I’ve been working on over the last few days is a editorial calendar of sorts (or at least the beginning of one). One of the temptations when you start getting offers for guest posts is to just accept anything and everything. The problem with this is that you end up with a blog that doesn’t build momentum.

What I’ve been working on in the last day or two is a list of posts that I want to publish. This way I’m setting more of the agenda for where the blog will go rather than just letting guest bloggers do that (as great as they are in the long run I’m the one with the vision for the blog). Once I’ve determined topics I’ve gone in search of people to write them.

I’ve also been thinking through a few regular ‘types’ of posts that I want to feature. For example I want to interview some top Tweeters on how they use Twitter. I also want to try doing to do some user reviews. Having these consistent types of posts will hopefully help readers to know what they’re getting and will help develop a rhythm for the blog.

Polls/Reader Questions


One of the things that has brought real life to the blog are the polls I’ve run so far. I installed WP-Polls early on and I love some of the options it gives to rotate numerous polls in a sidebar (as well as putting them into posts). The polls have been really successful at drawing people into the blog and getting things a bit more interactive.

Similarly I’ve made sure that each post has questions for readers (quite a few of the titles even have questions in them) and even had a post that was purely a chance for readers to have their say (this one on Twitter Tools). It’s important to me to build the most interactive and participatory blog as I can – it seems to be working with some great discussions so far.

Traffic and Promotion

So how’s TwiTip performed so far in terms of traffic?

One of the things that has been quite different for me with this blog is that I’ve spent very little time so far on ‘promotion’. Outside of a few tweets and two posts here at ProBlogger (three now) I’ve not really done anything for promotion.

The reason for this is partly that I’ve been swamped with work and partly because I’m fortunate enough to have a couple of other places of presence to leverage (my Twitter account and ProBlogger). Both of these have crossover with TwiTip topic wise and both are read by others who are willing to pass on news of the new site.

This is of course different to most bloggers starting out but illustrates a principle that is important – ‘leveraging any other online presence you already have‘ to promote your blog (something that gets easier with time of course).

In terms of actual traffic numbers to the blog in its first week Google Analytics reports the following (click to enlarge):


There was obviously a surge on day 1 and 2 when the launch happened and the last day is incomplete (still a few hours to go). Page views per visit should increase a little as more posts get added to the site and ‘new visits’ will obviously fall in time as people subscribe and become regulars.

In terms of where traffic has been coming from – let me give you a screen grab of the top 10 referrals from my WP stats plugin:


As you can see the biggest referrer was Twitter itself, ProBlogger’s launch post has driven some nice traffic, there was a little social bookmarking traffic over the weekend and a growing amount from Google Reader (and other feed readers).

Other Activities

Starting a new blog brings with it a variety of activities. I find that it is a bit of a hectic couple of weeks as you tweak, experiment, remember to do things and see what works. A couple of others things that I’ve done since last time I wrote:

Claimed blog on Technorati – TwiTip was already being indexed on Technorati but I claimed it as my own earlier today and set it up with some tags.

Secured @twitip – one of the things that I had been trying to do since before launching was getting in touch with the owner of the registered but unused @twitip twitter account. It’s hard to get in touch with someone who has registered an account but doesn’t update it. You can’t Direct Message them (as they need to be following you) and there is no real way of finding out who is behind the account (unless you know someone at Twitter). I did try to get in touch with Twitter but had no response but over the weekend I did a public @reply to the account and surprisingly the owner got back to me.

They were willing to do a trade on the user name. I gave them some of my time and they gave me @twitip but also @twittip (double ‘t’) and also a domain (which I had previously tried to get but was already taken). I’m still not sure what to do with the twitter user names and at this point they just point people to @problogger (my main Twitter account). I’ll probably use @twitip to broadcast updates from the blog.

SEO TweaksThesis (the theme I’m using) is great to use and well set up by default – but there have been a few tweaks that I’ve been doing. These are partly around the All-in-One SEO plugin – particularly around how title tags and meta tags are showing up on posts (although nothing too major).

Interestingly there’s already a trickle of Google traffic coming into the blog. I don’t really expect much of this for some time now (and it’ll go up and down as Google works out how to index the site) – I take a long term view of SEO – no rush here and no need to push it faster than will happen naturally as I add content and as others link to the blog.

Next Steps

The next phase of TwiTip is really to knuckle down and keep developing great content. This includes writing a few of my own posts as well as editing and liaising with those doing guest posts. Outside of this not a lot will probably change with the way that the blog is set up in the short term (although I’m toying with the idea of getting a logo designed).

I will probably add RSS to email and email newsletter options at some point (although not for a bit) and will work towards a custom design – but I’m in no rush for these as I have a few other design projects to get done first on DPS. Really the main task for TwiTip now is about content, community and a little promotional work.

Watch Me Launch My New Blog – TwiTip

Yesterday on Twitter I ‘soft launched’ a new blog – TwiTip.

The idea for the blog has been ‘brewing’ in my mind for almost as long as I’ve been experimenting with Twitter but I never had the time to dedicate to starting it up. Late last week I realized that if I was waiting to ‘have time’ to start it that I never would – so I bit the bullet and got it going.

TwiTip is a blog about Twitter. It’s a place that I’ll be posting tips, news and reviews of tools for those wanting to improve their use of Twitter whether it be using it for personal reasons, to expand their personal brand, to promote their business etc.


At this point TwiTip is firmly in ‘beta’ (if not alpha). It has a long way to go in terms of content, design and almost every other aspect of building a blog. I generally would get a blog in a much better state before going public about it (and I wouldn’t launch it on a Sunday night or on US election eve) – but I thought it’d be interesting for readers of ProBlogger to see the development of TwiTip from the ground up.

So far you have not missed much but let me give you a catchup on what I’ve done so far:


I’ve set it up on a very basic hosting package (GoDaddy of all places – I just wanted to get it up quick and as it grows I’ll move it to a more reliable service).


I’m using the Thesis WordPress theme (I’ve long wanted to test it on a live site and I have to say that it’s amazing).

My blog design skills are poor but Thesis is easy to set up and configure – it is also set up really well for SEO which is cool. I plan to give the design more personality in time (I’ll get a designer in to overhaul it) but in the mean time Thesis is a great option and will be a good basis for the design tweaks that will come).

So far I’ve developed a few WordPress ‘pages’ that take the design beyond the default set up. These include an ‘about’ page, contact page and a ‘write for TwiTip’ page.


I usually would have at least 5 posts live on a blog before launching it but in this case have 3 (including one welcome post). I would normally also have a couple of posts in reserve for the next few days. Again – I’ve gone public early as a bit of a case study but will get another post up in the next 24 hours to keep a little momentum building.

My plan with content for TwiTip is for it not to be a daily update initially. I’ll start out with 3 posts a week and work towards more as I find my feet (and perhaps as I bring on other contributers). My focus in the early days will be quality rather than quantity.


So far all I’ve done promotion wise is Tweet that I’ve launched TwiTip. That was a nice start because the audience on Twitter obviously have an interest in the topic and it was retweeted quite widely through the Twittersphere pretty quickly.

Other than the Tweet announcing the new blog (and now this post) my only other strategy for finding new readers has been more about on site ‘hooks’ – highlighting subscription methods and encouraging people to track with me on Twitter and RSS.


I’ve set up Google Analytics on TwiTip. While it is a little slow and not great for analyzing stats as traffic events are happening on your blog in real time it’s such a solid tool that it was a no brainer of a choice.

Setting Up RSS Feed

The only other task that I’ve completed so far is to set up the RSS feed over on Feedburner. So now the feed is not a ‘’ one but a Google/Feedburner one. I find that it is best to do this on day one to keep eveyrone subscribing to the same feed. I’m yet to see how many people have subscribed and don’t plan to add a feedburner counter in the short term (in the past I’ve waited until subscriber numbers hit 1000).

Things Still to Do

I’ve done a few other miscellaneous things including adding a ‘subscribe to comments’ plugin, a ‘tweet this’ plugin and adding a sidebar polling tool. There is still a lot to do to get TwiTip up and running to a point that I’ll be happy with it! These include:

  • RSS to Email Subscription Option
  • Email Newsletter Setup
  • Getting a proper design done (I won’t do a custom one in the short term but it does need a header/logo and some styling etc)
  • Monetization – I’m not going to monetize this straight away but it won’t be far off. I need to consider my options here.
  • Plugins – there are quite a few plugins that I want to get installed, test and use.
  • Writers – I’ve had so many offers for guest posts already that I’m at a point of saying no to more as I can’t process them all. Over the coming weeks I’d like to develop a system for accepting and managing contributions.

This is just the beginning of the list (and I’m sure many of you will come up with other suggestions in comments below). The more I do the more I think of. For this reason I’m going to take my time with this launch. I’ll continue to document my progress here on ProBlogger as I go.

Update – a few people have been asking how readership has been so far. It’s a little difficult to tell at this point, I’m yet to see an update of how many Feedburner subscribers there are. Google Analytics shows around 1600 visitors for day 1 (but that’s not finished updating for the day). The vast majority of readers have come from my tweets (and the retweets of others. There have also been a few visitors from facebook (where my tweets get republished) and a few others from StumbleUpon where there are a few reviews/stumbles already). I’m yet to see full stats yet and will update it at some point.

How To Build a Successful Email Newsletter

Build-A Successful-NewsletterOver the last week I’ve been talking about Newsletters a little. We’ve covered reasons start a newsletter and how I’ve increased my newsletter subscriber numbers 10 fold.

Today I want to finish this informal mini-series on newsletters off with some tips for actually writing a newsletter.

How to Write an Email Newsletter

Let me say up front that much of what I write below could equally be applied to ‘how to write a successful blog’ (or in fact could be applied to many mediums of communication).

1. Define Your Goals for the Newsletter

This is perhaps the most important thing that I’ll say in this post because virtually everything else flows from this.

What do you want to achieve with this email newsletter? Is it about:

  • driving traffic to your blog?
  • developing community among your readers?
  • building a list to ‘sell’ to?
  • reinforcing your brand?
  • making money from advertising sold in the newsletter?
  • Something else?

When you subscribe to a few different bloggers newsletters it becomes quite evident that different bloggers are taking quite different approaches. For example Chris Brogan’s newsletter is much more about providing his subscribers with lots of new original content (it is well worth subscribing to if you’re into social media and building online communities). He explores a theme each week. On the other hand my photography newsletter is more about highlighting key articles and discussions on my blog and forums from the last week.

The reason our newsletters are so different is that we have different goals.

My main goal is simply to drive traffic back to my blog. I find that many of my readers are not using RSS (quite a few do but there is a sizable proportion of them that have never heard of it) and so my newsletter is a way of hooking these readers into ‘subscribing’ and reminding them to check out fresh content each week.

Chris on the other hand seems to be using his newsletter to give his most committed readers something extra. This builds and reinforces his brand, builds community and gives those of us who subscribe a feeling of being on the inside of what he’s thinking (scary as that might sound).

So work hard on defining what you want to achieve with your newsletter. It can have numerous goals (for example I use mine to drive affiliate sales from time to time and to build a sense of community) but keep your primary goal as the main focus.

2. Communicate What Your Newsletter is About to Potential Subscribers

I subscribed to a newsletter a couple of weeks ago because on the subscription page it said that it gave weekly unique, insider tips from the blogger. However in two weeks I’ve had 6 emails and they’ve all been affiliate promotions (with no insider ‘tips’).

There’s nothing wrong with promoting affiliate products in a newsletter but if you promote it as having original content – provide it. If your newsletter is going to be largely updates form your blog and a way for readers to stay in touch with that don’t hide that fact. It is better to get fewer subscribers who are expecting what you’ll deliver than having people subscribe to find out that you’ve tricked them into joining your list.

3. Establish a Voice and Have Consistency

There are no real ‘rules’ when it comes to how to write a newsletter. In the same way that you can write in almost any ‘voice’ on a blog you can write in almost any style in a newsletter. I personally try to keep my newsletter ‘voice’ pretty similar to my blog (personal, as though I’m speaking to someone) and I find this effective (it means that those who enjoy your blog will enjoy your newsletter).

My main advice with developing your voice in a newsletter is not to chop and change it too much. As with a blog – readers come to expect a certain type of communication from you and so when you change things up a lot it can take away from what you might have already built up in terms of connection with readers.

This doesn’t mean you can experiment and/or evolve your voice over time but it does mean that you should try to have some sort of consistency in what you present to readers. This extends to the design and flow of your newsletter also. I try to stick to the one format over time and find that readers enjoy this consistent approach.

A Comment about ‘Hype’ – One important tip to note when it comes to thinking about your ‘voice’ is to avoid the ‘hyped up’ style that has been used for years by a lot of internet marketers. I’m sure a small number of people still get away with this but I find that most users of the web these days are quite suspicious of this style. Use your newsletter to build relationships and speak to people in a personal way and you’ll build a list that will stick with you (and trust you) over the long haul.

4. Build Value

In the same way that people will not stay subscribed to your blogs RSS feed if it doesn’t provide value to them in some way – people won’t stay subscribed to your newsletter if it isn’t meeting a need that they have.

This ‘value’ and meeting of ‘needs’ can take on many forms. It could be writing original content, giving insider information that you don’t publish on the blog, could be pointing out tools or resources and can even be simply pointing out ‘what’s hot’ on your blog. The key is to watch how users interact with the different parts of your newsletter (see what I write about ‘tracking results’ below) and listening to their feedback. When you do this you’ll soon see what they find useful and what they don’t.

An Important Note about Uniqueness of Content From Your Blog – I see some bloggers say that rehashing what is on your blog in your newsletter is not a good strategy. They argue that if it’s not new and unique content in your newsletter that readers won’t subscribe. While I think this applies in some circumstances it has not always been my experience. My biggest newsletter (my photography one) has 45,000+ subscribers and 90% of it is simply pointing readers to new posts on the blog and forum. Again – this comes down to knowing your blog’s goals. Even rehashing your blog’s content can be ‘useful’ for some readers who don’t have any other way to subscribe to that blog!

5. Scannable Content

It is important to have scannable content in almost every online medium including blogging – but when it comes to email I find it even more important.

If you’re using HTML emails you can do this with color, images, bolding, italics, lists, headings etc – but if you’re using Plain text emails you need to get a little more creative. Consider using symbols and characters, CAPS for headings, line breaks etc to draw the eye down the page.

Again – track different techniques and layouts to see what works best.

6. Track Results

Depending upon the newsletter tool that you use to publish your emails you should have access to be able to track how people are engaging with your newsletter. Aweber (the tool I use) gives a large variety of stats but so do many other quality newsletter tools. Some tools give more advanced reports than others but most will at least allow you to track how many people open your newsletters (this can help you to experiment with subject lines) and what links are being clicked on by how many people in your posts.

Note: Aweber is the tool I use – also check out Get Response – a tool that many bloggers are using with real success.

Paying attention to what links get clicked is a fascinating and productive thing to do. It not only helps you to work out how to write an effective newsletter (and how to improve it) but it gives you incredible insight into what topics your readers are interested in reading more about and what types of language they respond to.

I look forward to analyzing these stats each week and have many times written followup posts on topics that I see a lot of people clicking on in my newsletter.

7. Subject Lines and Opening Lines Matter

When it comes to blogging the most important words that you’ll write are your blog’s title (they can mean the differences between your post being read or not).

When it comes to your email newsletter your subject line really acts as your ‘title’.

I’m still working on what subject lines work best. I find that some readers seem to respond best when the subject line is the same each week (they look for the email each week and like consistency) while others become blind to the same thing each week.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on which is best.

Another thing to note is that what you put at the top of your newsletter will almost always get higher ‘conversion’ than what you put at the bottom. The links you have in your opening paragraph will get clicked more, the affiliate campaigns that you have at the top will convert better, the content that you have first will get read more. It’s the same concept as placing content ‘above the fold’ on a web page – what’s up top gets the most eyeballs!

8. Use a Reliable Newsletter Service

This is a lesson I learned the hard way. In my early days of newsletters I used a free newsletter service called Zookoda. I’m not sure how it performs these days while it worked well at the start it slowly deteriorated in terms of how reliable it was. Emails wouldn’t go out on time and the newsletters that were getting through to those who had subscribed was fewer and fewer every week.

Switching to Aweber saw drastic improvements in how many of my emails were being delivered (and I mean drastic). The ‘cost’ of using a free service may not have been monetary (well not directly) – but it was significant because it meant that I was missing out of connecting with thousands of readers each week.

9. Use Double Opt in Newsletter Services

It is very important to only ever start a newsletter that uses Double Opt in techniques to gather subscribers (ie the person needs to subscribe and then confirm that subscription from an email to them). You can do your brand terrible damage by adding people to your newsletter list without permission or by buying lists of email addresses. Having double opt in systems does decrease your actual subscriber numbers and causes some headaches – but it is important.

Similarly – give people a way to opt out of your newsletter and use a service that includes your postal address in the newsletter. These things are the law in many parts of the world and if you don’t adhere to them you run the risk of not only hurting your reputation with potential readers but suffering the consequences of breaking the law.

3 Bonus Newsletter Tips from Chris Brogan

I used Chris Brogan’s newsletter as an example above so thought I’d drop him a note to see what tips he’d give for budding newsletter developers. Here’s what he replied with:

  • Give useful information more than news. People *say* they like news, but what they really want are actionable items.
  • Chunk the text in the newsletter so that it’s VERY easy to read. Make it very lightweight.
  • Write it personably, because this encourages two way interactions, and if your newsletter has a side intent of helping you do business, every two-way touch is a chance for someone to grant you permission to talk business.

If you have a newsletter/s – what tips would you add?

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.


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:


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:


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:


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):


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.

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):


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.


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

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.


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!