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.

Readers vs Visitors – Whose Needs are You Meeting?

Readers-VisitorsThe following post on meeting the needs of Readers and Visitors is a guest post by Lorelle VanFossen of Lorelle on WordPress.

Smashing Magazine asks Who Is Your Visitor?, using some new research into the preferences and characteristics of the average visitor to your blog and website.

However, since you’d like to comfort most of your web users, you need to know their habits and the profile of your average visitor — to adapt the design and layout to your users’ needs.

…Nothing is more valuable than the statistics you’ve collected with an analytics tool installed on your web-site; however particularly in the beginning of a new project it’s nice to have some good idea of what kind of configuration your visitors will probably use.

In this post we’d like to present the results from recent studies of browser market share, used OS and preferred screen resolution worldwide. Please notice that this data is only an approximation; we’ve used a number of different sources to get the average numbers we present below. Besides, statistics always depends on the readership and the topic of your project.

Their conclusion: An average web user browses with Internet Explorer 6.0 on Windows XP with the screen resolution 1024×768.

They go onto offer more facts and figures to help you determine what the “average” visitor to your blog uses to access your blog and more information on their location and browsing tools, but there is a lot of information left out of the equation.

Who Are Your Average Visitors and Readers?

There is a difference between a visitor and reader. Do you know the difference?

A visitor arrives, usually via a search result or from another blog featuring a link to your blog. They may arrive with a preconceived idea, most typically: Is this the place to find the information I want and need?. If not, they are gone. They don’t care how pretty your site is, how much information you have jammed into your blog, or the subjects you cover. If you don’t have what they need, they are gone. Often in seconds. Yet, they left their statistics behind when they arrived and left.

A reader returns. They return because you offer them something of substance. You give them what they want – repeatedly. You give them value. They like visiting. They like reading what you write. They like how your mind works. They enjoy telling others about what you have to offer, bringing more visitors, which will hopefully turn into readers. A visitor-turns-reader becomes a reader. So what are their characteristics?

A reader stays longer on your blog. They use the various links and navigational aids to dig deeper into your content. They know your blog is the source for their specific needs. Many won’t even access your blog directly, but through feed readers, keeping up with your content on a daily or weekly basis.

Do these studies include feed reader statistics in their analysis? That might change some of the numbers.

A reader stays longer on your blog because you continue to serve them a meal they enjoy. Visiting your site becomes a habit. Still, there are the statistics. How do you serve those who become readers, since they are your most important audience, while culling the stats from anyone and everyone who visits your blog for 2 or less seconds?

You Can’t Please Everyone

The old adage applies to your blog: you can’t please everyone.

Living for many years in the Middle East, I had a huge majority of my readership audience living and working within that area. While I still had a huge English-reading segment of my audience from the United States and the UK, the stats for the country were highest in the one I lived in and wrote about.

While my stats said much the same as the “average” information found in the Smashing Magazine report, the reality on the ground was that most of “my readers” were using 800×600 screens with low resolution on Hebrew-enabled Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows ME, even though this was from 1999-2005. A few I personally met, telling me they were computer whizbangs, had monochromatic monitor (shades of the dark ages of computers!), not color. Dial-up Internet was the only choice, though cable Internet did finally arrive in 2003, it was still slow and intermittent for a couple of years. Few jumped on the Windows XP bandwagon as it was very costly, and the bottom dropped out of the economy. What they had worked. Why change it. It’s too much trouble and might not bring improvement.

If I’d jumped on the “average” description based upon millions of web users around the world, I would have ignored my readers.

They couldn’t handle wide screen designs. They couldn’t deal with massive images, Flash, and other “modern” technologies that took ages to process and download. It took time, years in fact, before newer and more affordable computer technologies were embraced by the population that read my blog. They can handle it now, but not at the time others were jumping off the 800×600 ship into wide screens and high speed bandwidth web designs.

My family history blog services an average reader of 60 years old with not the keenest eye-sight. They aren’t looking for fancy graphics. They can’t stand Flash, bells, whistles, or busy web designs. They want words. They want text. They want content. They want easy-to-read text. They want the meat and potatoes of information.

I serve them a simple and clean layout, focusing on the content set in a good-sized and easily resizable font. Nothing flashing and blinking at them. Colors muted. The categories are spelled out specifically, search term specific and leading them to content they want and need. And they are happy.

Pleasing Your Readers Comes First

No matter what the statistics, pleasing your readers come first. But do you know anything about the characteristics of your readers?

Dig through your blog stats, similar to what was done on Smashing Magazine. Gather the information together and find your “averages”.

Look at how many incoming and outgoing visitor stats you have and compare that to the average amount of time they spent on your site. From that, you can get a feel for approximately what percentage of visitors are readers. You can’t tell how much of your average stats apply to readers compared to visitors, as they are all mixed together, unless you have advanced statistical analysis of your blog’s traffic, giving you data on individual visits. If you do, concentrate on those who spent more than two minutes on your blog.

Then look at your blog’s subject and content. What does your content describe about the type of visitor that comes to your blog?

  • Is it only locals as you serve up a local cuisine of content? Or is it everyone and anyone from around the world?
  • What is their main interest?
  • Is the interest high tech or low tech?
  • What keywords bring them from search engines to your blog and what does that tell you about them and their interests?
  • What keywords and search terms do they use to search once they arrive on your blog? What information about them can you cull from that?
  • What can you assume about people interested in that subject? Their age, lifestyle, habits, etc.?

Add this in with the “average” information from your blog stats and you may start to see patterns.

Then look at your blog and ask yourself: Am I meeting my readers’ needs?

You might be meeting your visitors’ needs and not your readers’. Which one is more important to you? And to your blog?

Haiku Blogging

haiku blogging
In this post Leo Babauta from Zen Habits explores the art of minimalistic blogging.

I don’t think there’s a blogger among us — from full-time Pro Bloggers like Darren to the part-time, trying-to-squeeze-in-blogging-around-my-full-time-job-and-my-family bloggers like the rest of us — who have unlimited time for blogging.

And yet, if we want to increase our readership, we have to find time not only for creating amazing content, but for responding to emails and comments, IMing with other bloggers, checking our stats, writing an ebook, monitoring our posts on the social media, trying to monetize our sites, writing guest posts, leaving comments on other sites, keeping up with our dozens of RSS feeds … you get the idea.

Blogging can be 10 full-time jobs, if we let it.

And yet, we should not let it take up all our time. Sure, if we’re passionate about blogging, we want to do it as much as possible … but who among us doesn’t have a life outside blogging? Who among us doesn’t have other things to do, loved ones to spend time with, other commitments?

We can’t let blogging take up all of our time. We have to set limits.

Amazingly, by setting limits, we become more effective and more powerful, not less.

It’s the effect of setting limits: given a finite amount of time or tasks, we are forced to make choices, and choose only the essential. We are forced to eliminate the non-essential, and only do those things that are most effective.

I often write about productivity on my blog, Zen Habits, and I applied this principle in my post on Haiku Productivity: limit your tasks and projects and emails and so forth in order to be more effective, more productive, and do more in less time.

It works for me, tremendously: I’m able to limit what I do, and still get the essential stuff done. As a result, I not only have time for a full-time job, but I run a pretty popular blog, I do freelance writing on the side, I do a lot of guest posts, I exercise, and I have a wife and six kids. All as a result of setting limits.

Today, we’ll look at how to apply these principles to blogging: Haiku Blogging.

What is Haiku Blogging?

Think about the haiku — the Japanese form of poetry of three lines and 14 syllables. It’s an extremely limited form of poetry, and yet it can be among the most powerful. That’s because the haiku poet is forced to choose only the most essential words to the concept or image he’s trying to convey. Only those words that will do the most for his purpose. The essential words.

Sure, any poet could do that in other types of poetry … but the power of the haiku is that its form is extremely limited … forcing the poet to make choices. In other poetry forms, the poet can make those choices if he wants … or can decide to ramble on for pages and pages.

So let’s apply that concept to blogging: limit what you do, to force yourself to make choices, and to choose only the essential. Set limits for everything you do.

This will force you to think about what actions you take that have the most impact. I have some suggestions below.

How Haiku Blogging Works

How you apply the concept of Haiku Blogging will depend on you, your blog, what your goals are, the rest of your life, etc. But here are some suggestions of how to apply the concept of Haiku Blogging to your blogging:

  1. Limit your blogging hours. Probably the most important on this list. What limits you set on yourself depend on your personal situation, but you should set a limit on the hours per day or per week that you blog. You might even limit the number of days you blog. And don’t just limit your writing time, but the time you spend on any blogging task. Effect: This will force you to choose the most important tasks and eliminate the chaff.
  2. Limit communication. If we allow them, email and IM and the phone and Twitter and other forms of communication will take up our entire day. Don’t allow them to do so. Set a number of times you’ll do email (I suggest twice a day), and a specific time when you’ll do IM and phone calls (say, an hour a day?). Effect: this will force you to communicate effectively, and give you distraction-free work time the rest of the day.
  3. Limit promotional activities. This includes commenting on other blogs, promoting your site on social bookmarking sites like Digg, emailing other bloggers, writing guest posts, etc. I suggest you limit yourself to 3 things per day (or fewer). Effect: This will force you to consider what activities will do the most to promote your blog … which will give you the most bang for your time.
  4. Limit stat checking. To a certain time of day. Perhaps once in the morning, for 10 minutes. No more than that! If you want to make it twice a day, fine … but checking your stats (and ad earnings) all day long is not productive, and is a waste of time. I’m guilt of it, just like any of us, but truthfully I know that it doesn’t help at all. Effect: eliminate a lot of useless time, freeing you up to actually write great content.

There are probably more things you can think of, but you get the idea.

The most essential blogging tasks

So this discussion of limiting yourself to the essential brings up the question: so what are the most essential blogging tasks?

There’s no one right answer to this question, as it will vary from blogger to blogger and depending on the blog and your goals. However, I’d like to submit my top 5 essential blogging tasks (in order):

1. Writing great, useful content
Writing content for your blog should always be the top priority. All the rest is extra compared to this. You need to create a reason for people to come to your site — well-written, concise, useful posts.

2. Interacting with readers
I never consider responding to comments or emails a waste of my time. Why? Because by interacting with readers, I am building a relationship with them, one that will last for a long time and keep them coming back. And to be honest, I enjoy this interaction and my relationship with readers very much. It keeps it fun.

3. Writing guest posts
Aside from great, useful content on your own site, having great useful content as a guest post on another blog is the best way to promote your blog and attract new readers. By far. Give away your best stuff to other bloggers, and you’ll see an increase in readership.

4. Networking with bloggers
I’ve developed some friendships with fellow bloggers that are among the most rewarding in my life. Bloggers are amazing people, in general. And your relationship with other bloggers can pay off, in the long run, with some collaborative efforts that can help both your blogs. Get away from thinking of other bloggers as competitors … helping out another blogger only helps you out in the long run.

5. Social bookmarking
Let’s face it … it’s a thrill to have one of your posts make it big on any social bookmarking site (Digg, delicious, StumbleUpon, reddit, Netscape, etc.) … and while there’s a very limited amount we can do to help our posts out, if there is anything we can do, it might be worth the effort. Best thing you can do: start out with a great post with a great headline.

Are there other important blogging tasks? Of course there are. But by identifying the most essential (and they may be different for you), you help ensure that you’re spending your blogging time in the most effective way possible.

How I Make Money Blogging

How I Make Money BloggingBelow you’ll find my latest update on how I make money blogging (this is something I post about every few months – although it’s been a over six months since I last did it ).

Also note – I go into a lot of detail on how I make money blogging in ProBlogger the Book.

How Much Money Do I Make from Blogging?

I get asked how much money my blogging makes me on a regular basis. These days I don’t go into specifics about it – all I will say is that it continues to be well over six figures per year (but less than seven figures). What you’ll find below are my top income streams – ranked from highest earnings to lowest.

Keep in mind that this is a summary of all of my blogs (not just ProBlogger). It does not include any income that I earn from b5media where I’m paid a salary as VP Training.

I hope you find it useful to see the mix and variety of ways that I earn a living from blogging.

1. AdSense

AdsenseDespite not using it here at ProBlogger any more I continue to use AdSense with real effect on my other blogs. While I do use AdSense Referrals and their search feature it is their normal ads that work best for me. I have them all set to show image and text based ads and find that 250×300 pixel ads work best (usually with a blended design).

2. Chitika

ChitikaLast time I did this sort of summary Chitika ranked #1. This time around it has been overtaken by AdSense – not because Chitika slipped in how much it earned but because AdSense went up and because I also replaced a few Chitika ad units with WidgetBucks ones. Chitika offers a range of ad units that I experiment with. I find their eMiniMalls work best and that Related Product Units are also good. Their Shoplincs product isn’t performing as well as it once did for me – mainly because I’ve been promoting it less and have driven less traffic to it. Over the time I’ve been using Chitika they’ve now earned me over a quarter of a million dollars!

3. Amazon Associates

This has been one of my big movers in the last 12 months. I used to make a few odd dollars from it – however in recent times it has become a significant earner for me (as I’ve shared previously). This quarter it overtook TLA as my third biggest earner – largely on the back of me directing traffic to Amazon from my product related sites – mainly digital cameras. While the commission on cameras is only 4% this adds up when those that you refer buy higher ticket items.

4. Private Ad Sales/Sponsorships

private-ad-salesThis includes ad sales of the 125 x 125 ads here at ProBlogger as well as a couple of private ad deals that I did with sponsors on my camera blog (including sponsorships with Canon, Kodak and Adobe). This area has jumped up since last time also as a result of the new design here at ProBlogger and our expanded sales team at b5 who now sell ProBlogger’s ads for me.

5. Text Link Ads

TlaThe income from TLA has dipped slightly over the last few months simply because I took the decision to stop selling them here at ProBlogger and most of my other blogs. This was because I wanted to focus more upon selling the 125 pixel ads instead and felt that the ads I was attracting were not as relevant to this site as they could have been. As it turns out this might have been a good move because it seems Google has been penalizing blogs that run them lately.

6. ProBlogger Job Boards

Jobboardheader The job boards here at ProBlogger continue to grow each month in the number of advertisements that are being bought. This enabled me to invest most of the money that they’d earned a while back into getting a new back end for the boards and to redesign them. It hit me today that the boards are now bringing in around $1000 a month in revenue which is pretty nice considering that they are now so low maintenance to run! I’ve just given a development team a new brief to expand the job boards in the coming month so stay tuned for some new features coming soon which could see this revenue increase and more importantly for it to become an even more useful resource to readers.

7. Miscellaneous Affiliate Programs

miscellaneous affiliate programsI run a variety of affiliate programs on my blogs – most of which bring in smaller amounts of money that don’t really justify a category of their own. These include – – Digital Photography Secrets (a camera technique series), Pro Photo Secrets (a great photoshop product) , Yaro’s Blog Mastermind Mentoring Program, SEO Book (Aaron’s legendary resource). This area is set to continue to grow in the current quarter with me having had reasonable conversions from the promotion of the excellent Teaching Sells course.

8. Miscellaneous Advertising Programs

miscellaneous ad networksI also play with a number of other ad networks. Some I run as tests to see if I should review them here – and some are just advertising that run in the background on some of my smaller blogs. These include AuctionAds, Feedburner RSS ads, Vizu (a poll advertising system), Kontera and Bidvertiser. Together these don’t add up to major earnings for me – not because they are not good, but because I don’t use them heavily (a blog can only run so many ads on it).

I think that that covers most of it. Since last quarter I’ve also been experimenting with WidgetBucks as well as one other ad system that is still in a closed beta test. I’m certain that WidgetBucks will feature in next quarter’s list because I am getting good returns on that so far. In fact at it’s current earnings it’ll debut at at least number 4 on the list and perhaps even at number 3.

How Much do I Spend?

As mentioned last time – I don’t spend a lot of money in order to bring in my income. I do have some basic blogging costs (hosting etc) and play around with a limited amount of advertising (AdWords and StumbleUpon) but rely more heavily upon word of mouth and organic ways of drawing income into my blogs. I also have some costs in paying writers on a couple of blogs – but these don’t make up a massive part of the overall earnings each quarter.

Want to Learn More about How to Make Money Blogging?

Check out these resources that have been written specifically for bloggers wanting to make money blogging.

  • ProBlogger the Book – where I and Chris Garrett sum up all of our basic tips about starting up a profitable blog.
  • Blog Mastermind Blog Mentoring Program – one of the best coaching and training course going around on blogging.
  • Blog Profits Blueprint – a free report on how to build profitable blogs.

How to Transform Readers Into Raving Fans

Keeping You Posted by Skellie

In this post regular contributer Skellie from explains how you can turn readers into fans.

The notion of ‘raving fans’ brings to mind a screaming crowd at a Beatles concert. For bloggers, a more accurate version of a ‘raving fan’ is someone who raves about you — recommending your stuff to anyone who will listen.

In this post I want to explain how you can use your content to create a kind of friendship between you and your readers. As much as they might love your blog, it’s almost impossible to form a meaningful connection with information and writing alone.

As humans, we connect easily and naturally with other people. Put yourself into what you write and readers will connect with you.

Why having fans of your own is important

  • Readers with a personal affection for you will consistently treat you with respect.
  • Readers who like you will stick by you when times are tough.
  • They’re more likely to speak highly of you to others.
  • They’ll be more accepting of your faults.
  • They’ll come with you when you move on to new things.
  • They’re more likely to trust your recommendations or buy from you. This can help you make money blogging.

How to help readers become fans

A useful starting point for us is to look at how we form relationships with new people in face-to-face situations. One thing you might have noticed is that we tend to like or dislike others based on how they make us feel about ourselves.

We can spend a lot of time with someone but feel very little closeness to them if they make us feel a bit stupid, or boring, or as if our views aren’t important. On the other hand, we can feel quite close to someone very quickly if they give us their undivided attention, entertain us and seem to enjoy what we have to say.

Another key in building relationships of any kind is sharing our experiences and personality: probably because both these things are completely unique to us.

These face-to-face guidelines can easily be translated to blogging.

Sign each post with your signature

Some bloggers do this literally, but I’m referring to other things that, like a signature, are unique to you: your experiences and your personality. You can inject these things into anything you write.

Some simple tips to help you do this:

  • Ask yourself: how does what I’m writing about fit in with my own experiences?
  • If you’re sharing advice, how has what you’re recommending benefited you?
  • If you’re sharing news, how does the news influence you or people you know?

If you do this consistently it won’t be long before your readers start to get a sense of who you are.

Write with humanity

Don’t let your readers forget the content on your blog is produced by a person not so different to them. You have friends, family, hobbies, work, loves and hates. You’ve made mistakes and achieved successes. You occupy a specific place in the world. You’re not just a mind plugged into a keyboard.

Let readers know about the unplugged you — who you are when you’re not online. You can maintain your privacy by using pseudonyms for friends and family and by not getting too specific.

People are good at forming relationships with people. Emphasize that you’re no different to your readers and it will be much easier for them to warm to you.

Some tips to help you do this:

  • Share how your offline life has shaped what you’re writing about.
  • Share how your family and friends have influenced what you’re writing.

Create selfless content

If it’s true that people like you based on how you make them feel about themselves, it follows that your content should always be focused on the reader. The content you produce must answer ‘yes’ to at least one of these questions.

  • Does it inform?
  • Does it entertain?
  • Does it help?
  • Does it teach?
  • Is it useful?

Use content to showcase your readers

If a reader’s comment sparks an idea for your next post, why not quote them at the beginning of the article?

If one of your readers writes a great article on their own blog, why not link to it?

If a reader shares a good tip, why not mention it in the next post you write on the topic?

These are a few simple things you can do to acknowledge and draw attention to your readers, which will make them feel good about themselves and you.

Give more than you take

Pure generosity is rare. Bloggers rarely give without expecting something in return, whether it be payment, or a link, or a review. In my experience, bucking that trend can create incredible goodwill among readers. Here are some things you can do to make a fantastic impression:

  • Hold a competition and allow readers to enter by leaving a comment, rather than blogging about it or performing some other task.
  • Offer to perform a service for your readers and expect nothing in return. I’ve done this on two occasions and both times it allowed me to connect with many readers in a very positive way.
  • Give away a free eBook or report.
  • Write a post showcasing your favorite reader comments of the month.

Points to review

The key to helping readers form an attachment to you is by emphasizing the ways you are similar to them and making them feel good about themselves, often by entertaining, informing or helping.

You can also use your posts as a platform to acknowledge and appreciate your readers. This will help communicate your respect for them and, in doing so, increase their respect for you.

There are a number of direct and indirect benefits to transforming readers into personal fans and friends: more links, more comments, more positive recommendations, more trust and an incredibly rewarding blogging experience.

Give it a try: use your next post to implement a few of these strategies and start building your fan-base.

Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. You’ll find more practical blogging advice at her own blog, Skelliewag.

Would You Blog Differently If You Had Money?


Anne Waymen asks a question that’s got me thinking a little today – Would You Still Write If You Had A Million Dollars?

On Saturday night I was at a party and had a fascinating chat with a guy who had his own business. We were swapping stories about our businesses and out of the blue (and simultaneously) both said something to this effect:

“I’d do it even if I couldn’t earn money from it.”

We then went onto to discuss why we thought that that was probably a secret to the fact that we’d both done reasonably well with our work – it wasn’t about the money.

My new friend told me about his motivations for switching careers to start his business – his reason wasn’t because he wanted to make money but because he found it so interesting that he just couldn’t help but learn more about it. His story reminded me a lot about my own experience of blogging.

Five years ago when I started blogging (5 years this month actually) I did so on a whim to see what would happen. The thought that it’d end up being a full time job (and more) was laughable. The reason I continued blogging was that within days I was hooked. Hooked by the relationships I discovered, the community that I became a part of and the learning that I was engaging in.

The money came years later – much later.

So I guess I’d answer Anne’s question with a yes – I’d still write if I had a Million Dollars.

However – her question sparked another one for me – a question I’d like to ask readers.

Would you blog differently if you had a Million Dollars?

The reason I ask this is that a few weeks ago I was listening to a podcast (this one) by the 9Rules team over at 3by9 and it was Thyme that talked about Dave Winer who blogs differently because he is ‘financially secure’ (I am probably misquoting Thyme here as it was a couple of weeks ago that I listened to the podcast).

The gist of her comments was that the blogger could blog more freely because he wasn’t reliant upon advertisers and didn’t need to impress others etc. As a result he has a ‘different mindset’ to other bloggers.

Of course this is just Thyme’s opinion – but her idea has stayed with me this past couple of weeks and I’d love to hear whether others think that they’d blog differently if they had wealth already.

Over to you – what do you think?

Blog Promotion: Are You Preaching to the Converted or Are You Reaching Out to New Readers?

preaching to the convertedToday John Chow just made a post reflecting upon a competition that he ran with Shoemoney to see who could get the most new RSS readers in a month. Over the month both John and Jeremy had some great success at increasing their numbers – both by over 4600 and in the post John explained his strategies.

John and Jeremy’s Competition to find New Subscribers

shoemoney-chowWhen the competition was announced back in October I was quite excited to see how it would pan out. Two very clever blog marketers doing their thing to promote themselves and find new readers. I looked forward to seeing how they’d go about finding their new readers.

However as the month progressed and I watched them work hard at increasing their RSS feed reader numbers something didn’t quite feel right to me about it. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time – but today in reading John’s post outlining his strategies I realized what was behind it.

Both Jeremy and John did a great job at creating buzz among their readers about the competition, both pulled together some great prizes to act as incentives for people to subscribe and both obviously got some great results – but it struck me today that they’d both focussed most of their efforts on their current readers.

John writes in his post that his ‘Ah Ha’ moment was when he realized that if he could get his current readers to subscribe via Email that they’d be counted every day instead of only the days they checked email. So a lot of his efforts centered around getting people to sign up for his daily email updates. He also emailed all of his newsletter recipients to get them to sign up for the daily email also.

His other strategy was around running competitions through the month by offering some cool prizes to those who were subscribed (something Jeremy also did).

Preaching to the Converted

Now I’ve got nothing against either of these methods. Having people sign up for more than one way of subscribing to you isn’t a bad thing (it increases the places that they’ll come across your content) and having competitions is great (I find that it builds loyalty among readers and creates a sense of fun and momentum) but I come away from John’s latest post wondering how many actual new readers his strategy brought in or was it just preaching to the converted?

Don’t get me wrong – a feed counter that is 4600 higher is nice (and I’m sure some of them were actually new readers) – but if the goal is to grow one’s reach, influence and actual readership (rather than just a number on a chicklet) I wonder if it might have been better to have some strategies that were more focussed off the blog and upon new readers than on current ones.

Turning the Spotlight…

OK – so while this might seem like a bit of a dig at John and Jeremy I’d like to turn the spotlight onto the rest of us – because I think we’re all guilty of it from time to time.

Many bloggers (including myself) spend so much time on their current readers that they forget to put themselves out there and into places where people who don’t yet read their blog are gathering. It’s easy to get complacent – I know because I catch myself doing it all of the time.

While you don’t want to go hunting for new readers at the expense of current readers – if all you ever do is promote yourself to those who are already converted then your blog will stagnate.

How to Find NEW Subscribers for Your Blog

So how does a blogger put themselves out there and find these new readers rather than just keep promoting themselves to those who are already loyal to them?

I’m glad you asked…. because next week I’m going to publish a series of posts that I’ve been working on over the last few days that covers this exact topic. Rather than kick it off on a Friday (as it currently is here) I’ll kick it off on Monday to give us plenty of space to explore it. I’ve got a few techniques that I’ve been experimenting with to share and hope that you’ll share your own experiences as we go.

So make sure that you’re subscribed to the ProBlogger feed (I had to do it) and stay tuned.

11 Tips for Getting Your Comments Noticed on a Popular Blog


One of the comments on this week’s post – The Power of Commenting on Blogs – was from The Great Seducer who asked:

“Do you have any suggestions for commenting in a way that will draw interest to you? Obviously an insightful comment is the best plan…. but when there are 100+ comments sometimes they get over looked.”

In this post I’m going to suggest 11 tips for leaving tips on blogs that not only get noticed but that help build your profile and generate traffic.

1. Be the Early Bird

One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is to be get in early. I know numerous bloggers who are great at leaving the first comment on a post and generating some good traffic as a result. Of course being first won’t help you if you don’t have anything worthwhile to say – so read on….. (warning: being first all of the time can be quite annoying both for the blogger whose blog you’re commenting on as well as other readers. I know of a few people who’ve actually hurt their reputation by being too eager to comment on every post without actually adding value to conversations.

2. Share an Example

A great way to add value to a post that someone else has written is to give an example that illustrates their main point. Quite often bloggers writing ‘how to’ or ‘instructional’ posts cover the theory of a topic really well but fail to give practical examples of how it works itself out in reality. I find that readers really love to see examples – so if you can give them in comments they’ll often be grateful and will check out who is behind them. The examples could be to your own work – or that of others.

3. Add a Point

Did the blogger miss a point on their post? Extending the post by adding another argument or point can improve the conversation and show yourself off to be someone who knows what they’re talking about. Some bloggers will even highlight your comment in an update to the post.

4. Disagree

One way to stand out from the crowd is to disagree with the post and/or what others are writing in comments. This isn’t something you will want to do on every comment that you leave (and it could be something that gets you into trouble) but it can be quite refreshing to see someone who dares to put forward a different idea to everyone else. Of course you don’t need to do it in an argumentative or attacking way – but respectfully and politely disagree (where you actually do) and you can actually create a real impressions on others.

5. Write with conviction, passion and personality

Sometimes when I read the comments left on blogs I wonder if there is anyone with personality behind them or whether they’re written by some sort of zombie like half human half robotic bloggers. Inject some feeling, passion, conviction and emotion into your posts. This doesn’t mean you need to write everything in CAPS or use lots of EXPLANATION MARKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! – but when a post excites you, let that feeling enter your comments, when you are happy, let your comment be cheery, when a post evokes anger – don’t be afraid to comment with a little edge.

6. Use Humor

As a blogger who has a blog with posts that can get hundreds of comments I know just how mind numbing it can be to read through them all. One type of comment that snaps me out of this state when I’m in moderation mode is a comment that makes me laugh. Of course humor can also be misinterpreted and cause offense – so be a little careful :-)

7. Ask a Question

I notice here on ProBlogger that it is often comments that ask questions that get the most responses from other commenters. I guess it makes sense – asking a question calls for a response – we’re all wired to answer them – so they do stop people in their tracks a little and cause them to at least stop and think about how they’d answer it (whether they do or not).

8. Formatting Comments

I want to say right up front that this one should be done with caution (and could make you look like a try hard spammer) – but a subtle and clever use of formatting in comments can actually draw the eye to your comment. Scan through the comments left on a highly commented upon post and see what you notice. In most cases it’s only broken up by the names of commenters. Many blogs will allow you to use html in comments – allowing you to bold words, use italics and more (for example here at ProBlogger using ‘blockquotes’ in comments will change the formatting. Do this too much and you can actually find yourself in trouble – but bolding the occasional word for emphasis, using a little white space, using a symbol etc can give those viewing the page a subtle visual cue to look at your comment. Like I say – this should be done with caution.

An example of this is to bullet your comments with different symbols. A number of readers of ProBlogger do this using symbols like ‘**’ or ‘–>’

9. Helpful Links

We’ve debated whether leaving links in posts is good practice previously – but my opinion is that when a link is helpful to those reading and when it adds value to the conversation in some way that it’s OK. I personally don’t like signature links in comments – but links as examples not only will potentially send people to your blog – they actually act as a visual cue (web users are wired to be on the look out for them).

10. Comment Length

Are all the comments on a post long? Leave a short one – it’ll stand out. Are all the other comments short? Leave a long one – again, it’ll stand out.

11. Lists/Break it down

A big turn off with comments can be when someone leaves a long detailed comment that has massive blocks of text. This can often be made to look worse than it is when the comments area is actually narrower than the area given to posts (as in here at ProBlogger). One way to break up the amount of text is to break your comment down into a list of short posts.

Keep in mind that while leaving comments on other people’s blogs can be a great way to draw traffic to your blog – that it can also hurt your reputation/brand. Read more on this in my post – 10 Ways to Hurt Your Blog’s Brand by Commenting on Other Blogs.

PS: I just noticed that Caroline just posted on a similar topic and outlined some suggestions for a blog commenting strategy.