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How to Maximize the Benefits of Guest Posting

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Publishing guest posts on popular blogs is a tried and tested way to get inbound links and traffic. There are certain things you can do to make this experience even more rewarding.

In this post, I want to share a number of methods you can use to maximize the rewards of any guest post you publish.

A note: This post will tell you how to get the most out of guest posting once you’ve got a blogger who’s willing to publish you. If you want more information on getting to that point, I’d suggest you read Darren’s tips on pitching to bloggers.

Do your research

A little bit of research is essential before you submit your guest post to be published. It will help make sure you’re properly rewarded for your work and that you produce something that will be well received by the blog’s audience.

Does the blogger give adequate credit to guest posters? If the blog you’re writing for doesn’t allow an in-post byline for its guest-authors, don’t bother. If you write a post including a byline for this kind of blog, the author will most likely remove the byline and publish your work without it. I’ve had this happen to me before — it’s not fun!

What kind of posts work well on the blog? Take a look at some of the blog’s most popular posts to get an idea of what worked well. Could you create something with similar elements?

Are there any gaps waiting to be filled? I wrote my first guest post for ProBlogger on drawing StumbleUpon visitors into your blog because I noticed it was something that hadn’t been covered much before. It went on to become one of this blog’s most popular posts. Ask yourself: how can I use what I know to bring something unique to the blog?

A stunning albino peacock.
The ideal guest post will show off your skills and impress. Photo by lightgazer.

Optimize your post for greater rewards

What you write and how you present it can influence how rewarding your guest posting experience will be. Here are a few tips to help you optimize your posts.

Link to yourself and others. If you’ve written something that relates to the guest post on your own blog, find a way to work in a link. You can link out to other sources as well if you’d like to take a more democratic approach. A note: if you haven’t written something vitally on topic, don’t link out just for the sake of it. This will look like you’re putting self-promotion above relevance.

Put in a real effort. It’s easier to have social media success with your post on a popular blog because there’s a bigger pool of readers to vote for what you write. More traffic to the post means more click-throughs to your site. In other words, it’s not actually worth it to write the minimum required just to get a link back to your blog. Writing a great guest post will drastically increase the rewards.

Participate in the comments section. One of the metrics whereby bloggers judge the success of a post (as you know) is the comment count. You can raise this and make a good impression on those who’ve commented by responding to questions and feedback on your guest post.

Call in favors. Use your connections to bump along the success of your guest post. You can contact social media users you know, link to the post from your own blog, or pitch the link to other bloggers.

Crafting your byline

The byline is where you’re credited for your writing. You can see an example at the bottom of this post. Most bloggers will give you the freedom to put whatever you like in your byline (within reason) — as long as it’s not too long. The byline is the place where people will decide whether or not to click-through to your own blog, so it’s important to get it right.

Create a byline to suit your goals. If you mainly want feed subscribers, include only a link to your feed. If you want feed subscribers and traffic, include a link to your feed and your site. If you only want traffic, drop the link to your feed. If you want to sell a product, mention it instead.

Appeal to your target audience. If you write for a certain type of people (for example: bloggers, dads, Zen Masters), include that information in your byline. It will capture the attention of the kind of people you want reading your blog.

Explain the benefits. If you want people to visit your site or subscribe to your feed, explain what they’ll get in return. Useful advice? Hints and tips? Free stuff? Give people a reason to do what you want.

Points to review

  • Take the time to research the blog you’d like to write for.
  • Write with the blog’s target audience in mind.
  • A quality post can help you just as much as it helps the blog’s owner.
  • Craft your byline to compliment what you want to get out of guest posting.

Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. Subscribe to her feed for more useful blogging advice.

Why You SHOULD use AdSense on Your Blog

AdsenseIn this post I’ll explore some of the reasons why bloggers should consider using AdSense as a way to make money from blogging.

I recently released a video post which explained some of my reasoning for stopping to use AdSense as a means to make money from ProBlogger. The post got a lot of attention – however some readers thought that it meant I was giving up on AdSense altogether on all of my blogs. A couple even called me ‘Anti-AdSense’.

This is not the case – while I don’t use AdSense any more on ProBlogger – I do use it on some of my other blogs and it continues to one of my biggest income earners.

In fact since I started to use AdSense it’s earned me just under $400,000 USD.

That’s not bad considering that I’ve been using it for 4 years and it started out earning me just a dollar or two a day.

With earnings like that I’d be a little silly to be Anti-AdSense.

Like every method of making money for blogs – AdSense isn’t always the best choice – however there are plenty of good reasons to test it out. In the remainder of this post I’m going to explore when it IS a good option. Later in the week I’ll share the other side of the coin – when it ISN’T a good option.

Hopefully between the two posts we’ll have a good balanced look at AdSense:

10 Reasons Why You Should Consider Using AdSense on your Blog

1. International Traffic – if your blog has a considerable amount of traffic that comes from outside of North America it can be difficult to find an advertising network that will allow you to participate (particularly if your traffic is from some parts of Asia). Some ad networks will simply not accept you as a publisher, others will not serve their ads to non US traffic and others will serve other less relevant and lower paying ads to this traffic. AdSense does none of this. The beauty of AdSense is that they have such a large supply of advertisers using them that there is almost always some advertiser who wants traffic from your your reader’s part of the world. Of course there is more competition for some traffic than others (which drives up prices) but I know as someone who has a large Australian readership of some of my blogs that it is one of the best ways that I’ve found to make money from that traffic.

2. Easy Implementation – when I first started experimenting with making money from blogging just over 4 years ago I experimented with a number of options. The reason that I stuck with AdSense was that even as a complete technical idiot I could get an AdSense ad unit up and running on my blogs within minutes. Of course since that time AdSense have made implementing ad units on blogs even easier (particularly in the last couple of weeks with server side ad management). While other ad networks have followed in the footsteps of AdSense in how they let publishers design and add ad units to blogs – I still find AdSense one of the easiest to use. This makes it ideal for the beginner wanting to experiment for the first time with an advertising network.

3. Massive Advertiser Base – AdSense has had years to establish itself in both it’s back end but also it’s presence in the Advertising community. The result is that they’ve managed to build up a very large base of advertising clients. This increases the chances of them being able to serve relevant ads to your blog (see my next point). There’s no way that an individual blogger would be able to have access to such a wide array of potential advertisers.

4. Obscure Topics – one of the issues that some publishers face when starting a blog on a tightly targeted niche is that it can be difficult to find ways to make money from it either through finding a sponsor for the blog, finding an ad network that is relevant to the topic or by finding an affiliate program that relates. While AdSense is better for some topics than others (read on for more on this) I’m constantly amazed by just how targeted ads can be on even obscure topics. The myriad of advertisers using this system are competing by bidding on millions of keywords on virtually every topic that you can think of.

5. Make it Easy For Advertisers to Target Your Blog – AdSense servers ads from advertisers to your blog in a couple of ways. Firstly there’s one that is completely contextual – they look at your content and then serve ads from their system that they think will relate to that content and have a good chance of earning you (and them) money. The second method is where advertisers specifically target your blog to have their ad appear on. This all happens without you really having to do anything – but it’s good because it is often used by advertisers to test your blog – which can lead to other things. Every few weeks I get an email from a potential advertiser who had been testing ads on my photography blog via AdSense and then wanted to further the relationship (whether by going with private ad deals, sponsorships, affiliate programs etc).

6. Set it and Forget it – many bloggers just want to write content. They don’t have the time or expertise to approach, pitch, negotiate with and then collect money from advertisers. AdSense takes a lot of this work away from you and many bloggers simply add the code to their blogs and then forget it. Of course for best results you should pay it a bit more attention than that and experiment with different design and positioning of ads – but it does take a lot of the work out of things.

7. No Minimum Traffic Levels – if you are just starting out and don’t have much traffic yet it can be difficult to find advertisers or an ad network to take you on board. Some networks have minimum traffic levels before they’ll accept you into their program – but not with AdSense. While your blog may not earn you much – even with small amounts of traffic you can begin to make a few dollars over time.

8. Able to be Used with Other Ad Types – when I first started experimenting with AdSense there were fairly strict rules in place as to what other types of advertising you were allowed to have on a page that had an AdSense unit on it. However in more recent times it has become a little more relaxed and you can run many different types of ads on the same site and page as AdSense.

9. Multiple Ad Formats – one good feature of AdSense is that you’re not just restricted to one type of ad with them. Not only do you have many ad unit sizes to choose from – but you have the ability to serve Text Ads, Image Ads, Video Ads, Adlink units, referral ads (CPA) and use their ‘search’ tool which also is monetized. Many other ad networks just major in one or two of these different formats – in a sense AdSense is something of a one stop shop.

10. Reliable Payment – one of the questions that I’m regularly asked about new ad networks coming onto the market to compete with AdSense is ‘how do we know if they’ll pay up?’ The reality is that most ad networks do pay up – but you do occasionally hear stories of publishers who are not satisfied with this aspect of some ad networks. AdSense has had a few problems over the years with individual publishers – but considering the vast numbers of publishers that they must have – they’ve done pretty well. My payments come in like clockwork and the one time that I did have a check go missing it was promptly replaced.


Of course this post has only argued one side of things (and I’m sure others will give more reasons why they love and use AdSense). So to give a well balanced view on whether to use AdSense on your blog – later in the week I’ll take a look at the flipside and explore some reasons why AdSense might not be the best option for making money from your blog.

Where’s the Content? – Positioning Ads on Your Blog

Here’s a quick tip on ad placement that I’d like to pass onto bloggers – particularly those experimenting with AdSense.

Ensure that your content can be seen above the fold.

That is – ensure it’s above the fold if you want readers to keep coming back to your blog.

One of the important choices that faces many bloggers is how to place Ads aggressively enough to get click-throughs but subtly enough that the rest of the page doesn’t suffer as a result.

One of the trends that I’ve seen increasingly on blogs is to place large AdSense ads in the center of pages right above content.

In doing so they content it self is quite often pushed down so far the page that scrolling needs to happen in order to read it.

I totally understand why bloggers do this – in fact it probably comes from the advice of AdSense themselves in two ways.

The advice from AdSense:

Ad Heat Map1. Ad Placement – AdSense have produced a ‘heat map’ which shows where they have found that ads perform best (see left).

The more orange that a spot on the page gets the more attention it will get from readers.

Obviously the best place for an ad on this heat map is right above content – dead centre on the page.

2. Rectangle Ads – The other advice that AdSense gives repeatedly is that rectangle ads (either 300×250 or 336×280) tend to perform best. They do well because of their size but also because they come in text, image and video ads.

ProBlogger Advice:

AdSense is completely right with both of the above piece of advice. Ads close to content work great and rectangle ads do perform really well in comparison to some other ad units.

However – take these two pieces of advice together and put them into place on many blog designs and you set your readers up for a problem.

The result is that quite a few bloggers end up with pages that look a little like the image to the right:

Ad Positioning

I’ve even seen some pages with two (and once three) rectangle ads above the content. Depending upon the size of the screen that your readers are viewing your site on there might be a little content viewable – but the majority of it is generally below the fold.

While this does give you a decent chance at a good CTR it also gives you a decent chance of having a visitor to your site head straight for the back button on their browser and never return.

While I’ve talked numerous times about how placing ads prominently on your blog increases the chances of someone responding to those ads – the same principle applies to content. Hide it away at the bottom of a page and people are unlikely to respond to it which will lead to:

  • few loyal/repeat readers
  • few incoming links from other bloggers who like your content
  • few people bookmarking your site on social bookmarking sites
  • low comment numbers

So what’s a blogger to do?

In the end bloggers need to make a choice. Which is more important to you – high CTR from readers who never come back or high reader satisfaction?

Which comes first and to what extent?

I’m not going to put push my own preferences upon readers – in fact for me on different blogs I have different priorities – however this is an important issue to grapple with if you’re going to run ads on your blog.

Some Alternatives to consider might include:

  • Smaller Ad Units – prominently place but smaller units might allow more room for content
  • Single or No Sidebar – having just one sidebar, or even going without one altogether allows you to have a wider content area and still have a prominent and large ad unit
  • Wrapping Content around Ads – one of the good way to get both ads and content prominent is to inset ads into the content and allow the content to wrap around it

How prominent are your ads? How prominent is your content? Which takes the prime position and how did you make the decision? I’d love to hear how you place your ads.

Are Affiliate Programs with Small Payouts Worth It?

Today this question about affiliate programs landed in my inbox:

“Darren, could you answer a question for me? I notice that a couple of weeks ago you promoted Leo’s Zen to Done ebook with an affiliate link. I was surprised that you did this because the commission from it is just a few dollars – loose change really. Wouldn’t you be better off promoting high value products? Do you really need the few dollars that a sale brings? Doesn’t it all get too bitsy?”

Blogging-For-Loose-Change
Photo by Aytena

This is a good question and one that I’ve seen a number of bloggers arguing over the years when given the opportunity to go with income streams with small dollar values associated with them.

I could probably write a long answer to the question – however I think the best answer is to say that there’s a lot of businesses going around that make a lot of money out of lots of small payments (micro payments).

Micro payments add up over time.

Let me illustrate with some real analysis of part of my online income from the day after I promoted Zen to Done. Here’s some of the income that I earned that day from a few of the affiliate programs that I run:

So the total income from these affiliate programs for that day was $287.78 from 65 sales. That’s just $4.43 per sale.

$4.43 per sale doesn’t sound a lot to be earning – but when you have 65 of them in a day it makes a nice supplementary income for a blogger. I say supplementary because I also run advertising and other larger affiliate programs on my blogs (see below).

Of course to get the 65 sales you need a good volume of traffic and you need to find quality affiliate products that relate to your blog’s topic (read more on how to make money from affiliate programs on a blog) – it’s not just a matter of sticking an affiliate program on your blog with 17 readers and expecting the sales to roll in.

PS: I should point out that I only included in this list some of the smaller affiliate programs that I promote. Not all affiliate programs have small payouts. I work with a few affiliate partners with products that pay out more than the ones in the list above also (for example promoting AdSense through their referrals program can bring in $250 for a full conversion). Why wouldn’t I just promote these? It’s simple, these tend to be fewer in numbers in terms of conversions – but together with a higher number of small affiliate conversions they can add up to a nice income.

How to Keep Your Subscribers Forever

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.One thing you may have noticed is that your blog’s feed count is volatile: it fluctuates on a day to day basis.

While much of that depends on how many people read your feed in a given day, some of that is also people both subscribing and unsubscribing. If you could stop people unsubscribing, your subscriber count would always grow exponentially.

While a lot of emphasis is placed on getting more subscribers, it seems to me that keeping the ones you have is just as important.

What is the key reason why a person might unsubscribe? They’ll do so when your posts become clutter: when they stop reading your posts.

Darren has previously listed 34 reasons why readers unsubscribe from your blog. In fact, each of these reasons causes readers to stop reading your posts, which then causes them to unsubscribe.

The question this post seeks to answer is: how can I get subscribers to keep reading my posts?

As long as your subscribers are reading what you write, they’ll never unsubscribe.

Create a gripping headline

The ugly truth is that many feed readers make the decision to either skip or keep reading a post before their eyes have reached the end of the headline. There are plenty of great articles written about honing the ability to write headlines that draw readers into posts — articles every blogger should read. Here are a few of my favorites from Brian Clark and Leo Babauta:

Headlines are your weapon in the constant battle for attention, so it’s crucial that you use them well. A simple hack I often use is to take the headline formula behind a popular article and adapt it to my own post.

Start with a knock-out opening sentence

Once your headline has done its work the subscriber will start with your first sentence. If you waffle, or go off-topic, or write in a bland way, the reader will drop out of your post.

In my experience, there are seven key routes to a gripping opening sentence:

  • A tempting offer.
  • An irresistible question.
  • A curious connection.
  • A controversial claim.
  • An engaging anecdote.
  • A problem.
  • A tricky question.

I’ve covered each of these methods in detail here: Grip Your Readers With These 7 Knock-Out Opening Sentences.

Use consistent imagery at the beginning of your posts

If you hold a particular blog in very high standing you’ll be likely to stick with a post even if it starts with a fizzle rather than a bang. If readers knew who was behind a particular post they may well be more likely to read it.

I don’t think readers always do know, however. Most of us group feeds by folder or lump new content into one stream of news. If we make the decision to read or skip based on the headline alone, we may end up deciding not to read an article before we even know which blog it originated from.

One incredibly effective way to brand your posts is to use consistent imagery right at the start. Almost every single post at ProBlogger begins with a distinct image in a unique style. Even if you’re focusing on the headline, it’s impossible to miss that the post originates from ProBlogger (because the image is right below the headline).

Using consistent imagery at the top of your posts will instantly let subscribers know where the post originated from. Here are some strategies you can use to make your imagery unique:

  • Use of images of a consistent type or style.
  • If you write on them, try to use similar fonts.
  • You could also use images of the same size and position.

This strategy is also effective in another way: images slow the eye down. We can scan text rapidly, but it’s a lot harder to scan an image.

A table covered with pens and a notebook.
Photo by Lost in Scotland.

Use interesting formatting in your own style

Give your posts texture — Your posts might look fantastic as they appear on your blog, but subscribers see them without any of the bells and whistles. Plain text without any formatting can be visually interesting when laid out on a vibrant page. Not so in a feed reader. If your posts are boring to look at it becomes easier than ever for subscribers to ignore them.

Sub-headings, bolded sentences, box-quotes and in-text links all help to add texture to your posts when they appear in a feed reader. Visually interesting posts will excite the eye and help draw readers into your posts.

Brand your posts with formatting — Developing your own formatting style, in combination with distinct imagery at the beginning of your posts, can ensure that it’s immediately obvious where your posts come from.

If you’re reading this in a feed reader right now, you’d probably agree that you recognize ProBlogger posts straight away. If a reader trusts that your blog provides good content then being recognizable is priceless.

Use short paragraphs

Big chunks of text aren’t inviting to a reader. Your blog might display your posts in a generously-sized and well-spaced font, but feed readers tend towards fonts that are small and narrowly spaced. It’s important to use paragraphs liberally to open up the text in your posts.

If your post is broken up into bite-sized chunks it becomes a lot easier to tackle. If your post looks easy to read a subscriber will be more likely to give it a chance.

Break up your text with images

Feed readers are also lacking when it comes to color and shape. A stream of text can become monotonous. You can help your posts stand out by breaking up the text with relevant images.

Always provide value

If you follow the above steps every post you publish should look unique when it appears in a feed reader. It will be immediately obvious that it came from your blog.

This will only be a positive, however, if the subscriber consistently finds value in everything you write. If that’s the case, she or he will probably stick with your post even if it comes with a snooze-inducing headline and a waffly opening sentence.

The essential point to understand is that, while the above tips will draw feed readers into your posts, the strategy will only be effective if your subscribers consistently feel rewarded when they do so.

A subscriber who is reading and appreciating your posts is more likely to link to you, comment, vote on social media and recommend you to friends. That’s something we all want.

Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. You can subscribe to Skellie’s feed for more useful blogging advice.

6 Steps to Making Money Because of Your Blog

Bloggers make money from blogging in an every increasing array of ways – but in general they can be broken down into:

 Users Darren Library Application-Support Ecto Attachments Make-Money-Blogging

Much has been written about making money directly from blogs – but the opportunity for blogs to be leveraged to make money indirectly is something that I think has great potential and which is largely ignored by most bloggers.

Whether it be by using your profile from a blot to sell yourself as a consultant, author, employee, blogger on other blogs, speaker, business partner or whether you use it to sell a product or service that you or your business has produced – blogs are ideally suited for this type of approach.

So how do you make money BECAUSE of your blog (indirectly)?

Let me suggest a few starting points (note: these six points made up a small part of my WordCamp Melbourne Presentation. You can see the full video here, although it’s a little sketchy on the audio at times):

1. Align Yourself with a Niche – one of the most powerful things that you can do is to pick the right topic to blog about and which is aligned with what you wish to ‘sell’ from the blog. If you want to become an author on a particular topic – you’ll want to blog on the same (or a related topic). If you wish to do consulting in an industry, your blog needs to cover that topic. If you have a product to sell – you’d better pick a topic that naturally fits with that product.

2. Establish Trust, Expertise and Authority – once you have your topic your primary objective needs to be to work hard at becoming a credible and authoritative voice in your niche. Your ultimate goal at this point is to align yourself so much with your niche that you become the first person that people think of when the topic is mentioned. This partly has to do with branding – but is also closely related to the content that you produce.

Perhaps the best example of this that I can give (best because I know it well) is this blog – ProBlogger. I chose the name ProBlogger on a whim one day (I think I was watching golf or tennis and wondered out loud if there could ever be a blogger that goes Pro). It wasn’t a strategic move – but in hindsight it was one of the best things that I ever did because ‘pro blogger’ has become a term that is now widely used to describe people who make money online. Whether the term would have been used if I didn’t start this blog I’m not sure – but the more the term is used the more happy I become as I know my brand is now aligned with the term.

3. Showcase what You Do – I discovered the power of showing people what you can do early in the life of ProBlogger when I decided to write a post about how A-list blogger Jeff Jarvis could better optimize his blog for AdSense. Looking at his blog today I’m not sure that Jeff really took a whole lot of notice of what I said – but that didn’t really matter because others did (and Jeff did link up). The power of showcasing what I could do paid off the next day when I had emails from 10 or so potential consulting clients wanting me to do what I’d done for Jeff – most of whom were willing to pay me for it. The take home lesson is to not only talk about what you can do – but to show how you can do it.

4. Give away the principles and Sell the Personalization – I spoke with an author and business coach recently who does a fair few Media appearances to promote his work and he told me that his strategy is to give away as much general advice as possible when he’s on TV or Radio in the hope that people will buy his books and come to him for coaching when they want to know how to apply it to their own lives. I think that this is a great strategy for bloggers also. A blog is a great place to spread the word of what you have to offer. Teach people the principles of what you know – but make yourself available to those who want to take it further and apply it to their own situation.

5. Sell Yourself Not Someone Else – a common mistake that bloggers make when they want to sell themselves or their own products from their blog is to also run advertising on their blogs. The problem is that those who will want to advertise on your blog are likely to be your competitors and instead of just selling yourself you’ll be selling them too. While it’s possible to do both – I find that it’s much better to choose to either make money directly or indirectly from your blog and not to mix your messages (having said this – I’ve managed to do both here at ProBlogger at different times with different levels of success).

6. Make Yourself Accessible – looking to pick up opportunities that come your way from blogging? You’ve got to make it easy for people to give them to you. While I understand a need for privacy – if you make it too difficult for people to get in touch – they won’t. In the early days of my blog I not only had an email contact form on my blog – but I also published my phone number and Instant Messaging contact details. While this did lead to a lot of disruptions to my days – it also brought in some truly amazing opportunities. Of course there’s a need to be smart on this and as my blog grew in popularity I also stopped publicizing my IM details (there are only so many hours in a day).

One last note

The above 6 steps do not just happen. They take time, they take effort, they take consistent work and they take a little luck. Step 2 is crucial and particularly takes time. Building trust, establishing an audience and being accepted as a credible source of information can take years.

How Much Money Do Bloggers Earn Blogging?

Earlier in the month I asked readers to share their blog earnings for the month of October. As usual this poll was a popular one with 3054 responses. I’ve run this survey previously so will compare the results between this and last time I ran it below.

Of this number 857 said that they did not earn any money blogging (28%). This is either because they don’t try to – or they try but fail (next time I’ll ask for clarification around this).

Of those that do earn some money blogging the breakdown of earnings into different earning ranges was as follows:

Blog-Earnings-2

For those of you interested in the percentages – here’s a pie chart.

Blog-Earnings

Keep in mind that these figures are just for those who earn something from blogging (and don’t include the 28% who don’t).

49% earned under $100
23% earned over $1000
16% earned over $2500
9% earned over $15000

Comparison to last time

So how do these recent results compare with previous times that we’ve carried out this same survey of readers?

In mid 2006 I asked exactly the same question with the same earning ranges and I think you’ll see below that the percentages are remarkably similar:

200605291457

One last note. When I’ve asked readers to respond to how much they earn from different ad networks (AdSense and Chitika) the shape of the graphs has always been the same. While the percentages vary slightly the results are always quite similar.

So – what can we conclude?

For me the most striking ‘lesson’ from these surveys is that while there is significant hype around the idea of bloggers making money – that the vast majority earn very little (or nothing). A quarter of those who earn something make less than 0.33 cents per day. If that’s not a reality check then I don’t know what is.

On the flip side – a smaller group of bloggers are making good to great amounts of money. While I’m sure there are some votes that are put in the highest category falsely – I do believe that there are an increasing number of bloggers who making significant part time income through to full time income from their blogs. That top category is significant and seem to be growing.

How Does Your Comment Policy Affect Your Readership?

Comment-PolicyThis guest post was submitted by Elise Bauer, Publisher of Simply Recipes and Editor-in-Chief of Learning Movable Type

Read blogs long enough and one thing will begin to stand out is the varying tenor and quality of comments on different blogs. When I first started publishing my own blogs and reading others several years ago I wasn’t too surprised by the extraordinarily rude and baiting remarks that would often appear in comment threads. We’d all seen this with Usenet groups way back when, and flame wars were a constant problem on popular email listservs. Any place where you have anonymity of participation with practically zero social repercussions for misbehaving will lead to rude public behavior. Blogs are no exception. People say things in comments that they would never say to someone face-to-face.

What has been surprising to me is that even with the comment moderation tools available to bloggers, extremely rude and obnoxious comments are tolerated, allowed to post on many blogs. My guess is that many bloggers feel that in a democracy, everyone should have the right to be heard.

I disagree. I believe that our democracy gives you the right to publish your own blog, not to spit all over mine.

Who gets priority – your readers or disruptive commenters?

Providing a quality environment for the readers of our blogs is more important than giving a platform for a few people who don’t know how to play well with others. Let’s look at the numbers. Let’s say that your blog gets 1000 visitors a day according to whatever stat package you use. Let’s assume that a quarter of these visitors actually read your posts and the comments to the posts. That’s about 250 readers a day. Let’s say that your blog gets about 10 comments a day. Let’s say that 8 of the comments are okay, or even useful, but a couple of them are rude. They don’t pass the “would you say this to someone’s face, who you knew and respected?” test. By allowing those comments to post, you are letting a couple social nitwits color the experience of your site to your 250 readers. Why do you think bars have bouncers? It’s for the benefit of the rest of us.

Some might argue that flame wars and rude comments are entertaining. And to some, they may be. You need to know your audience. You may also be the kind of blogger who lives off of stirring up controversy and whose commenters are just reflecting the tone that you yourself set.

Some people have a much higher tolerance for rude behavior than others. They’ll call each other the most horrible names online one day and then the next act as if nothing happened. I assert that most people, myself included, do not want to hang out in environments, either online or in the real world, where people are getting away with being extremely obnoxious. Most of us do not want to chance being ridiculed by others if we make a comment on a site. We will steer to where we feel comfortable and safe participating, and stay away from places where we don’t.

You are in charge, you set the tone

How you choose to moderate the comments on your site will affect who feels comfortable to participate on your site, and who will want to come back again and again.

If you let rude, obnoxious, spiteful comments persist on your blog, you are basically telling all of your commenters that it’s okay with you to behave badly on your site. This covert permission can act like a magnet, drawing in hooligans and bullies, making the reading of and participating in your comment section uncomfortable for many. I learned long ago that people will give you as much crap as you are willing to put up with. If you tolerate abusive commenters, they’ll just keep coming back.

Have you posted a comment policy?

After the first couple of years with my blog, I finally got annoyed with dealing with the constant stream of rudeness, and instead put up this comment policy:

Comments are welcome on most of the recipes and articles. I would ask that if you would like to leave a comment that you think of this website as my family’s home and that you wouldn’t say anything on this site that you wouldn’t, as an invited guest, say in someone’s home. Constructive criticism is welcome, as we all benefit from such advice. Rude, mean, or obnoxious comments are not welcome and will not be approved to post (that’s me, gently escorting the misbehaving guest out of the house). Please restrict your comments to the topic at hand, for the benefit of all who may be reading.

Attempts to make obnoxious comments dropped immediately by 80%.

Michael Ruhlman (author, Next Top Chef judge, and blogger) recently posted this request of his readers, some of whom were spouting off a little too much over the judging of the last Top Chef challenge:

It’s my policy not to delete posts unless they are truly harmful in some way, but I urge commenters to post only words that you would say aloud to whomever it is you are addressing. Just ask yourself if you would before hitting the button.

Many bloggers fear that if they restrict commenters in any way, they’ll lose them and lose readership. Frankly, I would prefer to lose the misbehaving ones; it makes it so much more fun for those of us who are left. Simply Recipes has been steadily growing now for over 4 years. Every day more than 70,000 people visit the site. Each new post gets about 20 to 30 comments on average (some much more), which is a perfectly reasonable, manageable number. The comments are constructive, polite, fun, and thoughtful. We share ideas, stories, recipes. We learn from each other. This is a community that I am happy to be part of and proud to host. So, at least from where I’m sitting, it’s working.

What about you? Do you have a comment policy in place? If so, what is it and what has been your experience with the effect of your comment policy on your community of readers and commenters?

How To Be A Happier, Healthier Blogger

158962685 7D88120C2A BCan Blogging Be a Health Hazard? If so, how can you prevent it happening to you? In this guest post Lea Woodward from Location Independent explores how to be a happier and healthier blogger.

Ok, so you might not think that blogging is a health hazard but it’s not so much the act of blogging itself that can cause health problems – it’s more to do with the fact that sitting for hours on end in front of your computer blogging or reading blogs, can play havoc with your health.

Some of the more common problems experienced by bloggers (and anyone who spends hours at a computer) are…

  • Eye strain – from tired eyes to those whose eyesight has deteriorated noticably from spending hours in front of the computer screen (perhaps similar to Darren’s problem a couple of years ago)
  • Structural or muscular problems – such as chronic neck ache, increased back ache and RSI.
  • Energy slumps – from needing several hours and multiple cups of coffee to get you going in the morning to those pesky mid-afternoon dips when all you feel like doing is taking a nap.
  • Disrupted sleep patterns – for bloggers who burn the midnight oil blogging late into the night or can’t get to sleep and spend time surfing the blogosphere into the wee small hours.

Whoever said blogging was good for you, eh?

So, if any of these problems sound familiar, here are some things you can try to help you become a happier and altogether healthier blogger:

  1. Always take time to look away from your computer screen regularly. There is a fantastic exercise from the field of natural vision correction which I personally use, called “palming”. It can help ease the chronic strain in your eyes and is great for relaxing tired eyes. Here’s a guide of how to do it.
  2. Regularly stretch your body if you spend long hours sitting at a desk. When some muscles become stronger and tighter than others from being in one position for hours at a time, this results in the postural imbalances that can cause rounded shoulders, hunch backs, tight hip flexors (the ones used when raising your knees up to your waist) and problems with tight lower back muscles. Aim to stretch any muscles that feel tight on a regular basis at intervals throughout the day – it may well be worth consulting a qualified trainer to design a proper stretching protocol for you, especially if you have back, neck, shoulder or other long term problems and chronic pain.
  3. Energy slumps are usually caused by blood sugar imbalances. Typically, too many carbs (bread, fruit, veg) at lunch in proportion to protein (meat, fish, eggs, dairy) intake can cause a spike in your blood sugar leading to a drop – the energy slump you feel. If you feel drowsy 1-2 hours after your meal, this could the likely cause. Try playing around with the ratio of your meals – so if you normally have a heavily carb-based lunch, try adding a bit more protein and see how you feel. Protein helps slow down the absorption of carbs and can help stabilise your blood sugar. Similarly, if you eat too much protein and feel sluggish, try adding a few more carbs to your meals.
  4. Sleep is crucial to good health. Numerous studies have shown how disruptions to sleep patterns can cause long term health problems – and these include going to bed too late, getting too little sleep and generally any disruption to your natural circadian rhythms (sleep patterns). An ideal rule of thumb is to aim to get to bed by 11pm every night to maximise the time your body has to regenerate and heal itself (typically between 11pm and 2am). Whilst the odd late night won’t hurt you, on a long term basis it can result in niggling health problems that never go away, an inability to lose weight, increased stress levels and impair the body’s ability to heal and recover.

As a former health coach and personal trainer, I can’t say I always follow my own rules (I’m writing this at 11pm!) but health is just one of those things…you don’t miss it until it’s gone; so get into some good habits now and see how much more of a successful blogger it makes you!

Lea Woodward is a location independent business coach & consultant. She runs her businesses whilst traveling the world and can currently be found sunning herself on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Next stop? Party time in Dubai. Read more about Lea on her personal blog, or find out more about her location independent lifestyle here.