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Make a Reader Famous

FameDo you want to be famous? Do you want to be noticed? Do you want people to know who you are? Do you want to have more influence?

I did an informal survey of bloggers at a workshop and asked them why they blog. The majority of answers had something to do with one of the above questions. While many bloggers also have some desire to make a difference in the world or to help others – to do this they also generally have a goal of being noticed and read by more and more people.

Today’s task in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project is to take a break from building your own fame and influence and to build the fame and influence of someone else – preferably one of your readers.

Pick a reader (and if you’re new and don’t have any yet – pick another blogger in your niche, preferably a less well known one) and make them famous in some way.

Here are a few ideas on how to do it:

  • Promote a comment to a Post - sometimes readers make incredibly insightful and wise observations and tips in the comments of your blog. While they will be read by a handful of people in the comment thread – why not pull it out and use it as the basis for one of your post – highlighting the wisdom in it and the person who made the comment.
  • Write a Post about their Blog – visit the blogs of those leaving comments on your blog and pick one that you resonate with to post about. Write an ‘unpaid review’ of the blog – highlighting the best posts and what you like about it.
  • Send Your Readers to Comment on Someone Else’s Blog – write a post that links to someone else’s great blog post and instead of asking your readers what they think about it on your own blog ask them to head over and comment on it on the other person’s blog. Shutting down the comments in your own post and saying that you’ve left a comment on their blog already can help make this more effective.
  • Give Readers an Opportunity to Promote Themselves – run a project or write a post that gives readers an opportunity to promote themselves in some way. Last week on the spur of the moment at DPS I wrote a post asking readers – do you have a photoblog?‘ As I wrote the post I thought I’d add a line inviting readers to share a link to their photoblogs. I didn’t think much of it until the next morning when I woke up to 250 comments on the post and a whole heap of emails thanking me for giving readers the opportunity to highlight their work.
  • Reader of the WeekSingForHim recently left a comment here at ProBlogger talking how how she runs a weekly post called Readers of the Week where she highlights some of her readers and how they’ve interacted with her blog. Here’s one of her latest examples of this (you can see from the comments that readers appreciate it!).

OK – I can hear some of the comments on this post already.

“Isn’t the real reason that you want to make your readers famous so you become more famous?”

True – one of the side effects of highlighting the great things about another person is that it will often come back to you in some ways that benefit you too. Call it ‘karma’, call it ‘reaping what you sow’ or call it anything you like – it’s a principle that you’ll find to be true.

However try to get away from that more selfish motivation for a moment if you can. The blogosphere was built on principles of promoting others, conversation, celebrating diversity, open source knowledge etc. Some days I wonder if those things still exist – and to be honest somedays I wonder if I’ve played a part in making them endangered species. Lets recapture some of it by making others famous today on our blogs.

Create a Sneeze Page and Propel Readers Deep Within Your Blog

Sneeze-1It’s Day 18 in the 2007 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Project and today your task is to develop a ‘Sneeze Page’ (or pages) for your blog.

One of the challenges that faces blogs that have been around for a while is that they end up with a wonderful collection of posts in their archives that are rarely read by readers.

Write 1 post a day for a year and you’ll have 365 posts in your archives – but if your blog is like the majority of blog it will only be the latest 10 or so posts that readers will see when they arrive on your blog.

The challenge therefore is to work out how to propel readers towards some of the best posts in your archives.

One solution is what I call a ‘Sneeze Page’.

A Sneeze Page is one that simply directs readers in multiple directions at once – back into your archives. Let me explain further by giving a few tips on how to write Sneeze Page and then examining how to strategically position them for maximum impact.

How to Write Sneeze Pages

Writing a Sneeze Page for your blog isn’t that difficult a concept really – in it’s most simple form it is simply a list of links looking back into your archives. However as I think back on how I’ve done it before there are a number of techniques that you might like to use.

1. Themed Sneeze Pages – these are posts or pages on your blog or site that revolve around a single theme. For example – on the front page of the newly designed ProBlogger you’ll now find a section called ‘Best of ProBlogger’ which has a tab in it titled ‘Darren’s Favs’. The five links in this section point to five new pages on ProBlogger which are in effect Themed Sneeze Pages (How to Make Money Blogging, How to Find Readers for Your Blog, How to Write Great Blog Content, Search Engine Optimization for Bloggers and Darren’s Recommendations).

These pages each break down the overarching topic or theme of the page into sub themes and then list off some of the key posts that I’ve written on the topic.

Interestingly – some of the posts that I link to are the central page for a series of posts (which are Sneeze pages in themselves – for example the page on writing content links to the 7 Days to Rediscovering your Blogging Groove series). As a result these pages have the potential to sneeze readers into hundreds of archived posts very quickly.

2. Time Related Sneeze Pages – a Sneeze page that is based around a defined period of time can be very effective. These ‘best of’ posts highlight your key posts from that period to either remind readers of previous posts that they might want to revisit or to highlight posts that they might have missed.

The period of time that you choose can really be anything from a year (here’s my best of 2006 at ProBlogger post) through to a month, week or even a weekend (ie a post that summarizes the posts from a weekend that those readers who don’t read your blog on a weekend might have missed).

3. Hot Comment Thread Sneeze Pages – I haven’t done this for a while but I used to occasionally compile a list of the posts in my archives that had comment threads on them that just wouldn’t die. This drove traffic back to engaging conversations, controversial debates and insightful discussions through my blog. It was actually a great traffic driver that worked quite effectively.

4. Series Sneeze Pages – as mentioned above – the introductory or summary post of a new series of posts can be an effective Sneeze Page. The best current example of this on ProBlogger is the central page for the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog project which will end up being a list of 31 posts from this blog as well as hundreds of reader submitted tips.

Go Beyond The ‘List’

One more quick tip on writing Sneeze Pages – don’t make them just a list of links. Readers will use them a lot more and follow your suggested links into your archives if you take al little time to introduce what the page is about and to describe what they’ll get when they arrive at the page. This little extra effort will mean your page is more useful and useable for readers.

Also resist the temptation just to drive traffic to your money making pages. While you can definitely include pages that contain affiliate links and well converting ads in your Sneeze pages it will be much better received by readers if the posts you highlight are truly your best and most useful work.

How to Strategically Position Your Sneeze Page

The key with Sneeze Pages is to position them in a way that will enable them to be seen and used by the maximum number of readers. On some occasions this will simply been posting them as normal posts on your blog (see discussion below on ‘posts vs pages’ and in other instances it will mean highlighting them throughout your blog in other key positions.

Obviously at ProBlogger I highlight a number of Sneeze Pages from my ‘Best of’ section (something that is working quite well) but in my previous design I had them positioned in my top navigation menus (again – this worked very well).

Another way to highlight these pages is to link to them in posts when you’re talking on an issue. You can do this either within the content itself as you write or at the end of posts as suggested further or related reading.

Posts or Pages?

Those of you who use a blogging platform like WordPress (or now MT 4.0) that have the ability to write pages (as opposed to posts) on your blog will have an interesting choice when it comes to how to present your Sneeze Pages.

I use both posts and pages depending upon their nature. For Sneeze pages that will be linked to prominently for a long time on my blog I tend to go with a page (as they don’t have dates on them that could ‘date’ the page. But for smaller recaps of time periods or hot threads I’ll publish them as posts that will appear on my actual blog.

An Example of a Blog which Sneezes Effectively

Before I send you off to create some pages let me highlight one blog that I see using this technique very effectively – Lifehacker.

Here are four recent examples:

Your Homework

It is time to head back to your blog and create a Sneeze post or page for your blog. Use any of the above methods (themed, dated, hot threads etc) or use one of your own. Head back to this thread afterwards to tell us how you did it (and feel free to link to it so we can see some more examples of what others are doing).

Why does my Feedburner Subscriber Count Fluctuate?

Feedburner-Subscription-Conters-2

  • Why does my Feedburner subscriber count fluctuate so much?
  • Are people unsubscribing and subscribing as much as my Feedburner counter says?
  • I notice your Feedburner counter goes up and down each day – why?
  • My RSS Subscriber Counter Goes Down Every Weekend – Why?

Over the last week I’ve been asked these and similar questions about Feedburner subscriber numbers a total of 7 times. Each time I’ve muddled through an answer to the questioner, thinking I knew the answer but not being sure.

So this morning when I woke to the question twice more in my inbox I thought I’d go straight to the font of all knowledge at Feedburner – Rick Klau (Feedburner’s Vice President of Publisher Services) and ask him for an official explanation of fluctuating Feedburner subscription numbers.

Here’s how Rick answered the question:

When we report a subscriber number, that represents the total number of individuals who had the feed requested on their behalf on that day.

Most of these subscribers fall into one of two groups:

  1. those using a stand-alone feed reader
  2. those using a web-based feed reader

In the case of stand-alone feed readers, that user has an application running on their computer which fetches the feed repeatedly throughout the day. We look at characteristics of those requests, and differentiate between repeated requests from the same person (as indicated by regular polling intervals, consistent IP addresses, and common user agents) and different requests (where one or more of the previous data points vary).

In the case of web-based feed readers (My Yahoo, Google Reader, Bloglines, Pageflakes, etc.), those services retrieve the feed repeatedly throughout the day, but do so on behalf of multiple people. Almost all of these services report to us how many of their users are subscribed to the feed. At the end of the day, we tally up how many stand-alone feed readers are subscribed, and add them to the web-based users. The end result is the total subscriber number we report. (I’m leaving a few details out; see below for a more complete answer.)

The fluctuations are almost always due to people using stand-alone computers who don’t turn their computer on, or don’t load their feed reader on a given day. If their feed reader doesn’t ask for the feed that day, we don’t see them, and consequently don’t include them as a subscriber. (note from Darren – this is why on weekends numbers tend to go down as a result of less people checking their feed reader).

Other explanations are when a site gets Dugg – large spikes in traffic, at least when some of the visitors are using older versions of browsers, may result in us being unable to differentiate between browser accesses of the feed and the browser’s feed reader accessing the feed. A more detailed explanation of this phenomenon is here – look for my answer to the question asking about spikes from getting Dugg.

Finally, for a more comprehensive look at the various components of a subscriber report, we did a case study last year on TechCrunch. It should provide even more context for the hows and whys of subscriber calculations (and fluctuations). It also makes some important comments on “Reach”. Unlike the subscriber number, which may be representative of people who indicated an interest in your content but who do not actually read it, Reach reports on just the items that were viewed in aggregators or the clicks that drove traffic back to the publisher’s site. As a result, it represents a much more accurate picture of the engagement a feed’s audience enjoys, while the subscriber number represents the total audience who’s expressed an interest in the content.

How to Draw StumbleUpon Users Into Your Blog

StumbleuponThis is a guest post on How to Draw StumbleUpon Users Into Your Blog is by Skellie who writes tips and tutorials on creating better content at her blog, Skelliewag.org.

The potential for StumbleUpon to send traffic is often under-estimated, particularly by new bloggers. Unlike digg and del.icio.us, an item doesn’t need to become popular before you see immediate results. One or two votes can bring a hundred or more readers — more than a new blog might see in a day.

StumbleUpon users are, however, notoriously fickle. The service describes itself as allowing you to ‘channel-surf the internet’ and I think it’s a very appropriate description. Users flick through websites like you might flick through channels, often making a decision on whether to stay or leave your site before it has even had time to finish loading.

In this post, I want to suggest some quick tips you can use to draw StumbleUpon users into your site before they stumble away.

Channel-surfing the internet

We’ve all flicked through TV channels back and forth, waiting for something to hold our attention. The decision to stay on a channel or surf elsewhere is usually made in a second or two, and the principle is the same for StumbleUpon users.

With so many other potentially great sites available to them at the click of a mouse, you need to make it immediately clear why your site is worth their time. Here are some tips to help you do just that.

1. Make your blog’s core mission-statement unmissable

A core mission-statement as I define it is a one or two sentence description encapsulating what your blog has to offer. A good core mission-statement describes the kind of content you provide and broadly what your blog is about. It should communicate a lot of information in only a few words.

If a stumbler can see straight away your blog is about something they’re interested in then they’re likely to stick around.

2. Insert powerful visual cues

When channel-surfing the decision to stick with a channel or move on is often largely determined by visual cues. Even with the sound off you can tell a drama from a news program, a travel show from a cartoon, because visual elements provide clues as to what kind of show you’re watching.

The same principle applies to blogs. If your blog’s header contains an image of a pile of cash, we can reasonably assume the blog is about money (or making it). That’s a lot of information communicated instantly by a single image.

3. Push your content above the fold

StumbleUpon users often judge a site by what is offered in the above the fold area — the area of your site which appears on screen before any scrolling occurs.

I think this blog is an example of how to do that well. Not only do headlines and the first few paragraphs of a post appear above the fold, but other content of interest is showcased in the header area. StumbleUpon users immediately see a site packed with value.

You can use the top part of your blog’s sidebar, its header area and the post area to showcase your content. In doing so, you’ll straight away show StumbleUpon visitors why they should stick around.

4. Be unique, be pretty

While it’s difficult to judge the quality of a blog’s content in just a few seconds, people are much more hasty with aesthetic judgments. A gorgeous or interesting blog design encourages a stumbler to stick around and see whether the content is great too.

Of course, a great design is a lot of work (or quite a bit of money). The next-best thing is a unique logo or header image, an interesting color scheme, and so on. There are a number of small changes you can make to create a blog that looks unique and sets you apart from the crowd.

What we’ve done

The emphasis in all the above tips is on instantly showing visitors who’ve stumbled across your blog what it has to offer. This should help you make the most of StumbleUpon traffic and turn more stumblers into readers.

ProBlogger Redesign – Bedding Down for the Night

RedesignAfter a few hours of testing, tweaking, tracking down bugs and fixing up a few small glitches I’m happy to say that the ProBlogger Design Relaunch is looking stable and we’re tucking it into bed for the night.

Ben has also just headed to bed (after pulling a late night) for some well deserved rest.

There are still a few things that we’ll work on over the next 24 hours or so including: [Read more...]

We’re Entering New Design Transition Phase

Just a short note to let readers know that in the next hour or so you’ll begin to see changes to ProBlogger as we launch the new design.

As with all such launches we’re sure there will be a few bumps in the road as the team behind it get things up and running – do checks – find glitches – carry out fixes etc

We ask for your patience and understanding as we do this as it will probably take us a little while to iron out any issues. If you find any issues/bugs/dead links etc please feel free to let us know in comments below. Your help in this will be greatly appreciated.

Once things are stable I’ll write a post outlining some more of the changes and thinking behind them and I’d then love to hear some discussion on what you think. Your constructive feedback will be appreciated and will help make ProBlogger a better resource for all.

Darren nervously backs away from the old orange design….