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How to Get Paid to Double Your Blog Traffic: a Technique 99% of Bloggers Won’t Dare Try

This post is by Shane MeLaugh of imimpact.com.

Imagine if this traffic screenshot was yours:

Analytics

Of course, your traffic levels might be more or less depending on the size of your blog and how long you’ve been blogging, but the purpose of this post is to show you how to double your blog traffic—while getting paid to do it.

The above screenshot reflects traffic to my previous blog two years ago, at its infancy. Then I made a simple change and something significant happened.

Here’s exactly what happened:

  • I doubled my blog traffic almost overnight and it kept growing every month.
  • I was able to build a sizeable mailing list.
  • I made a total of over $100,000 in a two-year period because of this simple change.

Watch this short video to see what the change was, that caused this increase in traffic:

Yes, that’s it. One product resulted in big increase in traffic and a very healthy income, all at the same time.

You’ve probably read several articles on increasing blog traffic, but you’ll rarely hear people tell you to create a product to increase your blog traffic.

Creating a product is often seen as something that’s difficult to do, so many bloggers shy away from even trying.

By creating a product however, you’ll be able to:

  • grow your blog traffic
  • build your expertise
  • build a strong email list
  • make a lot of money.

I’ll be explaining more about how to do this later in this post.

I’m Shane Melaugh from imimpact.com and the result I’m sharing above was from two years ago. Does that mean it doesn’t work anymore? Absolutely not. Product creation continues to be my main method for increasing traffic to my websites and it works better than ever. The reason I’m sharing a case study from two years ago is because:

  • this was my first attempt, with no experience or leverage, so anybody can do it
  • I had a relatively new blog with no email list, few connections and little traffic
  • it works wonders, but it seems no one ever talks about this method.

Why creating a product is the best way to increase your blog traffic

Quote 1If you take a look at the screenshot above you’ll notice that my blog was receiving well below 200 visitors a day before my first product release.

Your blog is never too small to create a product. In fact, if I were to start again from scratch I’d create a product, even with no existing traffic at all.

Here’s why.

1. You give people an incentive to market your business

The best way to grow your blog is by getting support from other bloggers and marketers in your field and the best way to get this support is by creating a product.

No blogger will send an email promoting that awesome blog post you wrote to a list of 10,000 subscribers no matter how great your blog post is. However, many bloggers will happily send one or several emails to their list promoting your product if it’s a good enough product and they know they’ll get affiliate commissions.

Instead of just linking to you out of goodwill, they can promote you, knowing that it helps their audience, it helps you and it also helps them earn some money.

2. You establish your blog with the right readers

What’s better to have: a blog with 1,000 monthly visitors or a blog with 10,000 monthly visitors?

You bet it’s the blog with 10,000 visitors, right?

Wrong (sometimes, at least).

It’s not just about traffic quantity, but also about traffic quality. You can have thousands of visitors who don’t engage with your content, don’t share your content, don’t leave comments—they just eat up your bandwidth. Or you can have a small group of highly engaged fans who give you feedback and spread your message through social media.

The great thing about selling a product and getting affiliate promotions is that it adds customers to your mailing list and to your blog readership. Happy customers are some of the most engaged and helpful readers you’ll ever have.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take 1,000 happy customers over 10,000 anonymous browsers any day of the week.

3. You build a business, not a blog

These are two very different things that are easily confused.

There’s a huge difference between building a blog of 10,000 monthly visitors in two years before creating a product and building a blog with the same 10,000 visitors in the same two years’ time while making $100,000. The difference is that the first one is a blog while the latter is a business.

4. Most bloggers won’t dare to do this

This approach is unlike guest blogging, article marketing, or SEO. It isn’t something you can easily do. To succeed, you have to commit yourself and think long term and this is why most bloggers won’t even dare to create their own products.

Releasing a product was an effective way to grow your blog two years ago, it’s effective today and it will be, for a long time to come. You’re doing something that’s “difficult” and so you have less competition.

As Tim Ferriss said in his book The 4-Hour Work-Week:

“The fishing is best where the fewest go, and the collective insecurity of the world makes it easy for people to hit home runs while everyone else is aiming for base hits. There is just less competition for bigger goals.”

A 4-step plan to creating your own traffic-boosting product

I recently released a free comprehensive one-hour video and case study report that explains the process behind my six-figure launch, but here’s a summary of the steps I took to create my first product.

Step #1: Market and product research

Quote 2Research will make or break your product.

Creating a successful product isn’t about thinking and creating a product based on the first idea that pops into your head; you need to research who your audience is, what kind of product they want, where they hang out, the exact terms they use, and how much they’re willing to pay.

Creating a generic product in a popular niche won’t work. It’ll be more effective to create a solution to a very specific problem rather than trying to cater to all the problems your readers experience.

In my own case, I observed during my research that a major problem my audience face is getting traffic; after further research, I observed that most of them have problems with SEO and that the most challenging problem for them when it comes to SEO was building backlinks.

There was the idea for the product I needed to create!

How to research

Researching what your audience wants can be very complicated if you’re a newbie without a strong audience, but this doesn’t always have to be a problem. Here are a few ways you can research to find out what your audience want:

  1. Try gathering feedback on industry related forums where you’re already active.
  2. Conduct a survey with your existing audience, no matter how small, or get support from fellow bloggers to send the survey to their audience.
  3. Offer free products, in the form of an ebook or multimedia, to gauge response and feedback to see how people will respond to a similar paid offer.
  4. Help people one-on-one, via Skype or email, to find out what their major challenges are; this will also reveal exact terms and key words they use and this can be very powerful marketing material.

Step #2: Create your product

Your product doesn’t have to be high-end or massive for you to get results.

You can create a product in an afternoon, then sell it for a few bucks and grow your audience at the same time. A perfect example of this approach was implemented by Becker and documented in a recent guest post here. One example he cited was creating a $5 product and selling 6,000 copies, gaining 6,000 new subscribers as a result.

While that kind of thing can work, the approach I took was to create a high-end product.

This took me a few weeks of effort and research, but it was well worth it. I focused on making the product of very high quality, and constant updates were added in its lifetime. The focus with this product was to make it so valuable that buyers would become lifetime fans.

Step #3: Create an affiliate program

Getting affiliates to promote your product will be a huge part of making it successful.

Once your product is unique and of great quality, you’ll experience success by getting affiliates to help you sell it; you’ll be able to make money and grow your network at the same time.

Luckily, it’s very easy to set up an affiliate program for your product these days. You can simply list your product on an existing affiliate platform/marketplace and everything else is taken care of.

Step #4: Market your product

Quote 3I can’t emphasize enough that no matter how great your product is, it is bound to fail without marketing.

Creating a product is not a substitute for marketing.

There are various ways to go about marketing your product. Here are some ideas.

1. Viral marketing

The best kind of traffic you can get is viral traffic. In this context, I’m not talking about “going viral” in terms of getting a huge windfall of traffic, but the kind of traffic that self-perpetuates.

You can’t make something go viral, but you can create systems where traffic always leads to more traffic, even if it’s on a very small scale.

For example, I offered a discount on the price of my product. But customers could only access this discount by tweeting a link to my sales page or sharing it on Facebook. This didn’t lead to a massive flood of traffic, but it kept traffic coming in and it lead to extra sales and extra exposure. I explain more about this and another “mini-viral” traffic method in my case study report.

2. Solo ads

I purchased a few solo ads, which are just paid emails to other people’s mailing lists. This helped get some initial momentum for my product launch and contributed to the total sales made, as well.

3. Affiliate traffic

This will be the most powerful aspect of your marketing. The idea is to get other bloggers and marketers with a huge list and audience to promote your product. An affiliate doesn’t need to have a product to promote your product.

There are three very important steps to benefiting from affiliate traffic and they are:

  1. Sell a great product.
  2. Ensure your product is highly specific; very few people will promote generic products since these products are everywhere and they’ll have gotten a lot of offers to promote them but no one can resist promoting a specific, “new” kind of product.
  3. Try to get as many affiliates as possible on board; the more the merrier. You should expect a lot of affiliates not to take you up on your offer but the more people you contact the higher your chances of success. This isn’t about the numbers, though; make sure your affiliates don’t lack in quality and quantity.

Questions?

In almost 2,000 words, I believe this post contains all you need to know about getting paid to double your blog traffic. But if you still have questions, let me know in the comments.

Shane Melaugh is an Irish guy from Switzerland. He owns imimpact.com, a blog about increasing the bottom line for online business owners by creating unique and compelling offers, growing web site traffic and maximising conversions.

The ProBlogger Top 20 of 2012: What YOU Read Most This Year

Welcome to 2013! Are you ready for the year ahead? If you’re like me, and you’re just getting back into the swing of things (or still on break!), you might be scratching your head trying to remember all the important lessons you learned last year.

20

Image courtesy Lore & Guille, licensed under Creative Commons

So to help you out, I’ve compiled this list of our 20 most popular articles from 2012. If you’re a die-hard ProBlogger reader, you might already have read them all—but this might be a good time to refresh your memory.

If not, I hope you’ll find some gems in this list. We do try to cover a range of topics on the blog, and meet the needs of bloggers at all stages of the blogging journey. So if, once you’ve had a look through this list, there’s something you’d like to see more of in the year ahead, be sure to mention it in the comments.

Now, without further ado, here are our top 20 articles from 2012!

20. Quality Vs. Volume: The Traffic Spectrum, and How You as Bloggers Can Harness It

If you’re looking at your blog stats this morning and wondering how you can ramp them up this year, read this post before you start. It might give you the insight you need to work smarter, rather than harder, to attract quality traffic to your blog.

Definitely check out the discussion on that post, too—some really interesting learnings are to be found there.

19. Blogging in Brief: Looking Good, Saving Face, Tags and Lags

My Blogging In Brief column was a bit of a hit last year with readers, and the next instalment comes out later this week.

In the meantime, this post from last year highlights a few interesting trends that readers were particularly interested in: how big blogs save face when they make mistakes, graphical blog headers, letting customers set the price for your next product, how promotions could be slowing your site, and the relevance (or otherwise!) of tag clouds.

18. The Diamond in the Rough System for Gaining Influence

We’ve all heard social media advisors tell us to target the influencers if we want to have an impact on social media. But how can you find the true influencers in your niche?

In this post, Jonathan Goodman shows you how—and his tips and experience are good for all aspects of blog promotion, not just social networking. Have a read!

17. Looking to 2013: A Commitment to Blogging Smarter … With a Little Help

In this post, I included a roundup of a series of posts on contracting out aspects of your blog. From maintenance and development to design and writing, the range of tasks you can outsource—if they’re not your strong suit, or you need to free up time to focus on other blogging jobs—is endless.

While this post is a starting point, I hope it’ll put you in a good position to blog smarter this year.

16. URL Be Sorry: Google Cuts Back on Top-ranking Exact-match Domains

While once, exact-match domains made a big difference to a blog’s search positioning, as Rob Henry explained here, Google’s changed its algorithm so that exact-match domains now carry much less weight.

As Rob reveals, this creates great opportunities for those with quality content hosted on a normal domain (i.e. one that’s not a domain that’s an exact match with a niche keyword).

15. Grow Your Blog Business: The Earn Millions in Your Flipflops Framework [Case Study]

This case study by Stephan Spencer really excited our readers, and it was great to hear from the case study’s subject, Susan Lassiter-Lyons, in the comments.

The post really sets out a solid framework for starting a profit-making blog. It’s a must-read if this is something you’re working on at the moment.

14. 3 Ways Cartoons Can Improve Your Blog

A picture tells a thousand words, as this post by Mark Anderson shows.

If you’re thinking that there’s no way you can possibly communicate your message in under 1,000 words or so, have a look at this thought-provoking, actionable post. You might just rethink your approach to blog content afterward!

13. WordPress Feature Review: New Features You Missed in 2012

If you’re a WP user, you’ll find this two-part series very helpful. In it, Michael Scott steps us through a raft of new features that, bloggers being as busy as we are, we may have missed in 2012 (I know I missed a few!).

Even a quick skim of this series is sure to turn up a few handy enhancements that will make your blogging easier and more enjoyable in 2012.

12. How to Find an SEO Goldmine for Your Blog

In this popular post, Elena Vakhromova presents a simple, clear, effective way to write keyword-relevant, quality blog posts to raise your search rankings.

Bloggers who have been scared to tackle keyword research were very pleased to find this guide, so if your keyword research could do with an overhaul, take a look at this post.

11. The 3 step Guide to Creating Pinterest-friendly Graphics for Your Blog

There’s a lot of heat and light around Pinterest right now, but few know how to harness the platform as well as Jade Craven, who’s helped me develop a strong audience there for dPS.

This post exposes her top advice for creating the types of graphics people love to pin on Pinterest. If you didn’t realise that was part of the battle of getting Pnterest traction, this article is definitely for you!

10. 6 Warning Signs That Your Blog is Deflating

Again, another handy post that provides invaluable pointers that help bloggers recognize a downturn and do something about it before it’s too late!

Ashkan’s advice here is clear and straightforward, and the suggestions offered by readers in the comments make a great addition to this post. Why not make it a monthly checklist for your blog in 2013?

9. WordPress Backups: Don’t Make These 9 Mistakes on Your Blog

We all need backups, but few of us know if we’re doing all we should to protect our online assets.

As Anders Vinther reveals, backups aren’t something that we should be leaving to our blog hosts, or our developers. This is a topic every blogger needs to be on top of, so if you’re not in that camp, check this post out now.

8. 4 WordPress Alternatives: The What, Where, and Why

You’ll have noticed a prevalence of WordPress-related posts on this list. But not everyone is on, or wants to use, that platform. Here, Matt Setter steps us through four handy, functional alternatives, explaining who they’re for, and what they do.

If you’re starting a new blog, or looking to move an existing blog, in 2013, maybe you’ll also look for different functionality and flexibility than WordPress offers. If so, this post is for you!

7. How to Write Emails that Get an Immediate Response

This is one of those topics that many would think is too obvious to get so much attention—but they’d be wrong.

Robert D. Smith shows even the most experienced email writer how to improve their technique in this short, sharp post that combines psychology, etiquette, and good old common sense. Are your emails getting the responses you want? Make sure they do in 2013!

6. Make Money From a Low-traffic Blog [Case Study]

Nathan Barry’s no-holds-barred story of how he build a product, and sold it strongly, from a blog with low traffic is nothing short of inspirational. One of the great things about it is how honest he is, and how clear he makes the path to success.

This is a must-read for anyone who’s put off by the traditional make-money-blogging stories and wants to get a head-start on generating income.

5. 15 Social Media Mistakes That Are Strangling Your Success

This post provides a full tour of social media mistakes that, surprisingly, we’re still making today.

In it, Georgina takes us back to basics in this post, which, again, would make a good checklist for bloggers to assess their social media efforts every so often.

4. Can you REALLY Make Money Blogging? [7 Things I Know About Making Money from Blogging]

Last year marked my tenth anniversary of blogging, and this post encapsulates the key learnings I’ve gained about making money over that time.

As you’ll see in the comments, the post resonated strongly with a broad cross-section of our readers, and provided much-needed inspiration for many. If you want the truth about making money blogging, look no further.

3. How to Set Up an Email Account that Uses Your Domain Name

Kashish hit a nerve with many readers with this post.

As you’ll know if you read post 7 above, having a legitimate email address is critical to being taken seriously online. This post—and the comments that follow—will help you set one up quickly and easily.

2. 10 Popular Affiliate Programs for Small and Medium-sized Blogs

Charles Dearing’s list of his favorite affiliate programs is supplemented in the comments by those of our experienced users.

Any blogger looking to add or ramp up affiliate income in the coming year would do well to look at this list and the advice Charles gives.

1. 40 Cool Things to Do With Your Posts *After* You Hit Publish

Our most popular post this year is one of our most recent! But it seems we all want to find innovative ways to use our quality content to expand our readership and online presence.

Steff Green’s list of 40 cool things isn’t just about promotion—in it, she provides tips for finding new content ideas, researching your audience, and more. Is it another checklist you could print and use in the coming year?

What were your top posts of 2012?

These were the top posts on ProBlogger—but what about elsewhere online? Link us to your favorite post in the comments below, and don’t forget to tell us why you loved it!

15 Bloggers to Watch in 2013

Welcome to the 2013 edition of Bloggers to Watch. My work has changed a lot over the past year—I’ve been focused a lot on the Australian blogger community, and on curators—so this post is very centered on those communities. This is the last time I’ll be writing this yearly round-up. It has been a blast exploring this project over the past four years.

So! Here are the 15 people that I’ll be keeping an eye on this year.

Tina Roth Eisenberg

Tina started swissmiss in 2005 as her “personal visual archive.” It eventually grew into a popular design journal with an average of 1 million unique visitors a month. I love that she was experimenting with visual curation before such a term even existed.

Many of you will argue that Tina shouldn´t be on such a list. She has been around for years and most of her projects don´t concern the blogging industry. Well, I disagree. I believe her archives have a lot to offer beginner bloggers. She is extremely talented at curation, and combines her community-building skills with a keen sense of strategy. She shows what you can achieve with your blog, and your life, if you step outside of the echo-chamber and pursue creative projects.

I also recommend that you check out Creative Mornings.

Jenny Lawson

This is the fourth year I have written this post. Every time, multiple people tell me that I should have included The Bloggess. I had read and devoured her blog, but didn´t know whether posts about taxidermied mice necessarily made someone worth watching. You guys would rather read about a hidden gem, right?

This year, after reading her book, I was able to realize why it is important that her blog gets acknowledged in this list. She helps normalize some of the icky stuff associated with mental illness. I have an anxiety disorder and, at times, it can consume my life. Jenny shows that brilliance can shine through, despite you feeling at your lowest. She shows that you can still leverage your power to amuse or help others despite feeling powerless.

We bloggers have a lot more power then we give ourselves credit for. Especially when convincing actors to post pictures of themselves holding cutlery and/or twine.

Gavin Aung Than

In early 2012, Gavin decided that he wanted to give cartooning a real chance. He quit his job, sold his house, and started “working on Zen Pencils to try to inspire myself and others.” (Source: The Viewspaper.)

Since then, he’s been able to attract the attention of many key influencers and mainstream media. I think he is really talented and that his story shows what you can achieve if you combine quality content with social media outreach.

I was at the ProBlogger Event when he told that story and I swear the room when silent. After six months, he reported that he was getting around 400,000 unique visitors a month, and had nearly 15,000 Facebook fans. I know so many people who would love those statistics. But few would sacrifice as much as Gavin has to achieve them.

Christina Butcher

Christina Butcher started Hair Romance as a side project but, in only 18 months, has turned her blog into her full-time job. She gets over 120, 000 visitors monthly and is very intuitive when it comes to trends. She has had a lot of success with the “31 days” ebook concept, tapping into the trend for her second ebook, too.

She is awesome because she serves as a guide to those who don´t understand the world of hairstyles. She is like a translator. She makes a complicated topic incredibly easy to understand and, frankly, is one of the nicest bloggers I´ve had the pleasure of talking to.

She has recently launched two new sites: Nail romance and Mr and Mrs Romance.

Jennifer Schmidt

Jennifer is another person whose blog started out as a personal project and has grown into a popular resource in her community. She is the blogger behind Beauty and Bedlam, which she describes as an authentic look at intentional living through strengthening family ties,  encouraging meal time memories,  food/meal planning, couponing, personal finance, home decor and frugal fashion. Late in 2012, she launched her food blog 10 Minute Dinners.

I believe that both sites have a lot of potential, and that her profile will be growing a lot in 2013.

Emily Winters

I discovered Emily thanks to a recommendation by Pete Fazio on the 2012 list. He said:

She is a DIY blogger who started a blog a year ago for family and friends, was discovered by DIYNetwork, and is now their featured blogger. Amazing stuff.

I thought it was an awesome suggestion and immediately decided that she would go on this year’s list.

Her blog, Merrypad, started as a personal project that evolved into a source of inspiration for those wanting to embrace a DIY lifestyle. It is another example of someone acting as a translator for a topic that could seem overwhelming. In this case, however, she is differentiating her site by targeting a gender that may not necessarily consider DIY projects.

It´s a really solid case study about how to make it easy for people to connect with your blog. Her before and after page is a really user-friendly way of taking the reader through her DIY journey without manually going through her archives.

If you want to learn more about Emily, I recommend you check out her BlogStar Interview.

Ramit Sethi

Ramit Sethi is one of my favourite people to learn from. He runs the site I Will Teach You To Be Rich and has written a bestselling book of the same name. He is incredibly strategic and practical. I´ve spent hours going through his archives and consistently return for inspiration. I love how usable his site is—look at how his blog headings lead to landing pages instead of categories.

Ramit shows what you can achieve as a result of in-depth research. He doesn´t write posts with the aim to go viral. He researches the heck out of his target audience and writes posts that answer their problems.

Rachel MacDonald

In Spaces Between is a shiny online space for bright sparks seeking inspiration and words on living a big, beautiful life. In little over a year, In Spaces Between has become the go-to blog for juicy inspiration, confidence building, fear fighting, and mindset shifting.

I think Rachel’s blog is pretty cool. What really intrigues me, though, is her attention to detail. Look at this custom graphic that was created for her interview with Nikki Parkinson. Her free ebook,
20 Ways to Create Your Best Life Ever

Antonia Murphy

I’d read anything she writes. She’s hilarious and very, very honest. She has a son who may have global developmental delay. She refers to him as a “tard” and an “alien,” which sounds harsh, but she does it in a way that works. I believe she’s taking the taboo away from these words; she’s making them powerless. She’s what I’d call a fearless writer.

I’ve fallen in love with her writing. She blogged about her sailing adventures at s/v Sereia and now writes about her land-based adventures in New Zealand at AntoniaMurphy.com. Hopefully we’ll see more writing from her in 2013.

Eden Riley

Eden is one of the coolest bloggers that I´ve had the pleasure of reading. She is tenacious and brilliant. Best of all, her logo is based on the mural in her office. She writes at Edenland.com

I admire her because she is a person that has gone through a lot of negative stuff—especially in the past year.  Despite her personal challenges, she continues to try and leverage her blog for good. This has included two overseas trips where she blogged about the food crisis in Niger and the slums of India. She also tries to challenge our perceptions—check out Ladies, It’s Time We Got Real About Being Beautiful.

Jen Gresham

Jen writes about career design at Everyday Bright. She encourages her readers to dare to shine:

…to define success on your own terms, to muster the courage to pursue your happiness, to create a life you love.

I love her blog because she sees career design as a process rather then something that can be solved with a quick fix. She follows the A-listers but doesn’t use the “trendy” techniques unless they are right for her blog. She is incredibly strategic and someone I think will be around for a long time in this community.

Tom Ewer

Tom Ewer got a lot of attention in early 2012 with his article, The 100 Blogs You Need In Your Life. He was able to leverage the momentum to grow Leaving Work Behind to the point where he was making a decent income from freelance writing and ebook sales.

Now, I´m not putting Tom on here because of his list post efforts. I try not to focus on the blogging/marketing niche anymore as it can be incredibly formulaic. I think Tom is worth watching purely because of his networking and outreach efforts. He is incredibly skilled, and I’d love to see what he could accomplish in a different niche or platform.

Alex Beadon

 I discovered Alex Beadon Photography when pinning images for the Digital Photography School Pinterest account. I fell in love with the Pinterest-friendly graphics she had created to promote her post and lost myself for hours checking out her archives.

I love the attention she has put into the branding and design of her blog. Look at the images she created to promote her FAQ page. It´s a great example of how you can infuse your personality into what might otherwise be a boring subject.

Tip: Look at the graphics in the sidebar that link to the categories of her blog. Could you create something like that to spice up your design?

Cheryl Lin

Cheryl runs Business Chic, a fashion blog featuring photos of professionals and their workwear style in Melbourne, Australia. She is a great example of how you can create a quality local niche blog.

I´ve been watching Cheryl grow Business Chic over the past three years. It has been in the past 12 months that she has really hit her stride. She strives to go beyond a fashion/streetstyle blog. In 2012, she experimented with a year-long little black dress project. This year, she´ll be turning that project into a book and an exhibition at a popular fashion festival.

She is an extremely hard worker and attends a lot of events, despite her day job. I know that her dedication will really pay off this year and that it will be an enjoyable journey to watch.  I think that she´ll be enjoying a lot of momentum in 2013.

Sarah Von Bargen

Sarah runs the lifestyle blog Yes and Yes. She couldn’t find a blog “that addressed the many, many aspects of modern life and didn’t pigeon-hole women into different camps” so she created one herself. It’s a really fun blog and one that I enjoy reading.

I’ve become captivated by her recently launched small business blog and I believe that she will make a real impact in her community.

Over to you

I’ve had a lot of fun with this blogging series and always enjoy reading about who you guys are watching. Who do you think is worth watching over the coming you? Who knows—the people you recommend just may get featured on here in the future!

Keep Your New Year’s Resolution: Set up a Social, Search-optimized WordPress Blog … Today

This guest post is by Marcela De Vivo of Gryffin.co.

Recently ProBlogger discussed how to brand your blog, how to find your voice, and how to build your authority.

Mouse

Image courtesy stock.xchng user panoramadi

These articles are powerful, but often I find myself speaking with people who don’t have a blog yet, or are using Blogger or custom made, cumbersome platforms. Just this week alone I went through these steps with four different people who want to jump on the blogging bandwagon.

In this article we will go back to basics for those who haven’t started their blog yet, or who are on platforms that are hindering their progress.

If one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to improve your blogging presence—or start a new one—read on!

We’ll go through a step-by-step process, including tools and resources for each step, to set up a WordPress blog that is optimized for social and search marketing success.

Setting up your WordPress blog

WordPress is currently the most popular content management platform.  It can be used for static pages or as a blog.  You can add plugins for a shopping cart, image galleries, and much more.

Here’s how to set it up.

  1. Register your domain with sites like Register.com, Godaddy.com, or Enom.com
  2. Create a hosting account with sites like BlueHost.com, WPEngine, or HostGator.  If you would like to do more research on hosting companies, check out WhoIsHostingThis.
  3. Select a WordPress theme. I personally love using StudioPress as the themes are clean, functional, and easy to work with. Search for a responsive theme so your blog will be accessible to mobile users.
  4. Is your site running on a different CMS or platform? Consider using a blog migration service, such as BlogWranglers, to move your current site over to WordPress. Hundreds of thousands have done it, with no regrets.
  5. Upload WordPress to your hosting account, and customize with your relevant theme.  If you are not a techie, this is the part where you’ll need some help.  Check out Elance.com, Freelancer.com, or a site like Craiglist.org to find someone who can help you set up and customize your template.
  6. Install WordPress plugins.

Let’s take a deeper look at the plugins you’ll need.

Setting up your plugins

Social media

These are the social media plugins I recommend you consider.

SEO plugins

My favorite SEO plugins include these ones.

Usability

Usability plugins can be a huge help. Consider these:

Doing keyword research

To gain exposure from search engines, you need to have your blog focused on a theme. Select a primary keyword within this general theme for each page of the site.  You can read more about keyword research in this ProBlogger article.

Select keywords by identifying low-competition and high-search terms for your industry from Google’s Keyword tool.

Other tools you can use include:

.

Prepare content for your static pages and images

While a designer/programmer is working on setting up your site, you can start by writing and preparing content for your site.

A well-optimized page includes the primary keywords in the Title of the page, Meta Description tag, H1 tag, once or twice in the body, and in an outbound link.

As you’re preparing your content, remember these elements of an excellent blog post:

        • Post title: creative and compelling
        • Social share icons: make sharing your content easy
        • Image: an image speaks louder than words
        • Opening paragraph: include keywords in a teaser into the introduction
        • Body copy: use headers and bold words
        • Lists: make your content easy to scan
        • Conclusion: include a teaser for your next article
        • Related posts: give them more content to consume
        • Comment section: Always respond to comments

Read Darren’s compilation from earlier this year for more information on each element in The Anatomy of a Better Blog Post.

Connect your site for optimum findability

By this point you should have a WordPress blog with a range of enhancements made possible by plugins and other customizations.  You will have SEO plugins to improve your on-page SEO, page load times, keyword density, site maps, and other relevant SEO features.

You will also have a selection of social plugins so that you can encourage social shares from your site. You will have other features such as contact forms, tracking, reporting, and an email signup box to build your email list.

Incorporating keyword research will help you to deliver the content that people are looking for in a way that lets it be found.  You can write articles based on long-tail terms, answer questions that your audience may have, and target hundreds of keywords by writing articles specific to each one.

So what are you waiting for? Make your New Year’s Resolution a reality and start your new blog today. And if you have any suggestions of plugins, tools, or services to add to this list, please do share!

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer who writes about blogging, SEO and social media at Gryffin.co/blog.

WordPress Feature Review: New Features You Missed in 2012, Part 1

This guest post is by Michael Scott of WPHub.com.

One of the great things about WordPress is that it never stands still. The platform is constantly evolving beyond its blogging roots, with more great features being added every year.

WordPress used to release small updates frequently, but at the end of 2009 they changed this policy. They now aim to release three major updates every year, with small infrequent updates in between to address security issues.

The three major releases in 2011 were 3.1 (February 2011) and 3.2 (July 2011) and 3.3 (December 2011).

Today I’d like to walk you through the new features which were introduced in 2012, in WordPress 3.4 and 3.5.

I’ll be focusing on the features that are most relevant to bloggers and explaining how they can help you.

New features in WordPress 3.4

Released in June, WordPress 3.4 was a solid release that is best remembered for introducing the new theme customizer.

It also included a lot of other great new features such as Twitter embedding, HTML in captions, and flexible header images.

New feature: Live preview

Live preview enables you to preview themes before they are activated on your blog.

Browsing and installing themes and plugins directly from the WordPress admin area is one of WordPress’s greatest strengths. It’s amazing that you can modify your blog so much without even leaving your blog’s Admin area.

In the past, clicking on the Preview link for a theme would load up an overlay which displayed the theme over the current page.

live-preview-old

But the process of browsing WordPress designs changed in WordPress 3.4. In the past, the design was listed with Install and Preview links, and a full description.

Descriptions are now hidden by default, though you can view the description of a theme by clicking on the new Description link. This may seem like a small change, but it made browsing for designs within the Admin area much more user friendly.

live-preview-1

Themes are now previewed on their own dedicated Preview page. The page shows the theme on the right-hand side. On the left side, the theme name, thumbnail, rating and description are shown. To save you from having to click the Back button, themes can now be installed via this new Preview area.

live-preview-2

Once a theme has been installed on your WordPress blog, the Preview option becomes much more useful as it loads up the new theme customizer and lets you see how this design will look on your live website. This enables you to preview the theme using your menus, posts, pages and more.

live-preview-3

Being able to see how themes will look with your existing content has greatly improved the process of installing WordPress designs via your Admin area, and changed the way bloggers choose their themes.

New feature: Theme customizer

This feature allows you to configure your theme via a user-friendly Options area.

The WordPress customizer allows users to configure many different areas of their design, such as the header, background and navigation via a dedicated Options area. Older WordPress themes do not support the customizer but can be modified appropriately with a few simple edits to the theme functions.php file.

The Customize link can be found via the Themes link in the Appearance menu of your WordPress Admin area. Clicking on the link will take you directly to the theme customizer Options area.

theme-customizer-1

The options available to you in the customizer will depend on the theme itself. The default WordPress themes only had five or six different options, however over the last six months we have seen WordPress designers incorporate other options in their designs. Common options include site title and tagline, colors, background image, navigation menus, and whether posts or a static page were displayed on your home page.

theme-customizer-2

One of the reasons the theme customizer was so well received within the WordPress community was because changes can be seen in real time. Whenever you change your site name or adjust some colors, these are reflected in the theme preview. The changes are, however, only applied to your website after you have clicked the Save & Publish button.

theme-customizer-3

The theme customizer has made it possible for beginners to modify how their website looks without editing any templates. It’s very straightforward to use and since the release of WordPress 3.4, many designers have made sure their themes are compatible with it.

New feature: Twitter embedding

Now you can embed Twitter statuses directly into your blog posts and pages by simply entering the Twitter status URL.

Twitter is one of the most powerful tools available to bloggers. In addition to self promotion and networking, many bloggers use Twitter as a source of inspiration for their articles. The new Twitter embedding feature makes quoting Twitter statues simple and removes the need for taking screenshots or installing plugins to display a quote.

For example, simply enter this within your blog post:

https://twitter.com/problogger/status/271764815607898112

The corresponding Twitter status will be displayed:

twitter-embeds

The beauty of this new feature is its simplicity. There are no shortcodes to remember or buttons to click: you simply enter the URL of the Twitter status to embed it.

New feature: HTML in captions

This feature lets you add HTML directly to your image captions.

Captions have always been a great way of describing photographs and images to your readers. Being able to add HTML to captions has improved this considerably as you can now include links to photo credits, relevant articles, and websites directly inside the caption.

html-captions

Those who are using old WordPress themes may find that the new way WordPress adds captions has broken older image captions on your website. Upgrading to a new theme is recommended, though you could fix these issues manually by searching for posts with captions through your WordPress post area and updating the code.

New feature: Improved features for international users

Improved support is now offered for international WordPress users so that many locale-specific configurations can be modified from the core WordPress files.

As a native English speaker, localization is not something I ever have to deal with, so it’s easy to forget that around 44% of all websites are written in a language other than English.

WordPress 3.4 focused heavily on making WordPress more international. Some of the most important new features introduced for non-English users include:

  • Localizing commas: Many Asian and Middle Eastern languages do not use the comma (,). This causes a lot of problems for those users, as WordPress uses the comma as a delimiter for tags, quick edits and bulk edits. From 3.4, the comma can be translated to another character for languages where a comma isn’t used.
  • Translatable spellchecker language: The TinyMCE WYSIWYG editor can now be translated into any language.
  • Specify default time zone: Previously, the default timezone for all WordPress installations was set to GMT. This can now be modified so that the timezone does not have to be adjusted during the installation process.
  • Feed language: The language of your feed can now be set using the bloginfo_rss template tag.
  • Specifying start of week: You can now easily define the day the week starts.

If you don’t blog in English, many of these new features should make it easier for you to use WordPress in your native language.

New feature: Flexible header images

Header images are now responsive.

Custom headers were added to WordPress way back in 2007 (version 2.1). Previously WordPress allowed you to set the width and height of a header image, but all header images which were uploaded had to be cropped to fit these dimensions.

Now all images will resize dynamically to match the width of your header.

With so many people viewing blogs on mobile devices, flexible headers have made it easier for designs to accommodate any resolution. Check out Creating a responsive header in WordPress 3.4 at WebmasterDepot for a complete walkthrough of this new feature.

New feature: Login shortcodes

WordPress now offers more user-friendly login URLs.

WordPress users can log in using www.yoursite.com/wp-login.php and access the Admin area via www.yoursite.com/wp-admin/. Since version 3.4, you can log in using the more user-friendly URL www.yoursite.com/login. The Admin area can also be viewed by entering www.yoursite.com/admin or www.yoursite.com/dashboard.

There’s no denying that this is a small addition to WordPress, but I always welcome small things like this that make daily tasks such as logging in quicker and easier.

New feature: Comment via the post editor

Comments can now be added via the Post and Page editor pages.

For years the Post editing page has shown all the comments that were left on a post or page. In addition to viewing comments, there is now an option to leave a comment directly on a post from the post editor area. This saves you from having to load up the article in order to leave a comment.

add-comment-post-screen

New feature: Improved touch support

WordPress now offers vastly improved touch support in the user interface.

WordPress aimed to improve site usability on tablet devices such as the Apple iPad and Kindle Fire. Specifically, they added support for drag-and-drop functionality. This allows you to more easily customize the mobile user interface simply by moving things around.

New feature: Child themes added to the theme repository

The official WordPress themes directory now accepts child themes of WordPress themes that are already listed within the directory.

Child themes will be accepted within the theme directory if they can demonstrate sufficient difference from the parent theme to warrant inclusion.

I was particularly pleased with this feature, as it allows designers to take existing designs and modify them for different users. For example, designers will now be able to take a magazine-based theme and make it more blog-orientated, or remove features from designs that are too bloated.

child-themes

The theme installer supports child themes too. The great thing about this is that WordPress will automatically install a child theme’s parent theme if it isn’t already installed.

New feature: Scroll to top of Admin bar

Now, we can scroll to the top of the page by simply clicking the Admin bar.

This simple feature was missed by a lot of bloggers but it’s something that I’ve found myself using every day. Since WordPress 3.4, you can scroll to the top of the page by clicking in the empty area in the Admin bar. Simple but effective!

scroll-to-top

Other features added to WordPress 3.4

Since we’re short on space, here are some of the other great features that were added to WordPress 3.4:

  • The dashboard is now ready for high-resolution displays such as Apple’s retina display.
  • Multi-site improvements were made, such as auto-complete for adding new users and an increase in the default upload limit from 10mb to 100mb.
  • The Recent Comments widget had some small improvements.
  • Custom post types can now use the Distraction-free Editing mode (also known as Zen mode).
  • XML-RPC was improved to let WordPress interact with other applications more easily.

A full list of features added to WordPress in version 3.4 can be found in the WordPress codex.

That’s it for WordPress 3.4! Which of these features are you using, and which are your favorites? Let us know in the comments … and don’t miss Part 2 in this series, where I explain the handy new features available in WordPress 3.5.

Michael Scott has been working with WordPress themes and websites in varying capacities since 2007. It was mainly as a project manager where he quickly developed a love for their simplicity and scalability. As a strong advocate of all things WordPress, he enjoys any opportunity to promote its use across the Interweb and on WPHub.com .

Looking to 2013: A Commitment to Blogging Smarter … With a Little Help

Feeling a little run down? At this time of year, many of us are. It’s been a big 12 months, and I think most bloggers are looking forward to some down time over the coming weeks.

If you’re like me, you might be thinking of using this time not just to recharge the batteries, but to give a little thought to the year ahead, and how you want to handle it. Perhaps you’ll make some blogging resolutions for the new year, in addition to those resolutions you might be making in other areas of your life.

Blogging resolution: work smarter … with a little help

If there’s one resolution I could encourage any blogger to make for 2013, it’s to work smarter.

There’s always more to do on a blog—the work never ends!—and as many readers mentioned on our recent post about social media mistakes, time is a critical issue. Working longer hours can’t be the solution.

For me, one of the keys to working smarter has been delegation. I’ve got help with blogging, which has given me more time to focus on the things that really need my attention.

Looking back, I’m sorry I didn’t delegate more earlier in my blogging career.

You don’t have to be on a five- or six-figure income to make the most of someone else’s expertise, and give your blog a boost. Nor does it have to be a long-term arrangement.

Over the last few months, we’ve published a few guides to outsourcing different functions on your site. If you haven’t seen them already, have a look. They might just give you some food for thought over the holiday period.

Working with WordPress contractors

How to choose the right WordPress contractor for your blog, by John Bonello.

If you’re on WordPress, and your blog’s not performing at the level you’d like, it might be time to call in the pros. A good WordPress expert will be able to implement new designs, apply plugins and patches, take care of your backups, and more.

For those who aren’t technical, getting a WordPress contractor to do piecemeal work—or look after your blog on a continuing basis—could be a good way to go.

This post is also worth reading if you have a blog on another platform, as it’ll help you assess any blog platform developer you’re considering working with.

Working with other techies

How to work with technical contractors, by Neil Matthews.

Whatever your blog needs, it seems there’s a developer for every occasion! In this post, you’ll learn what’s needed to find a good developer to implement all kinds of changes on your blog, including things like:

  • adding forums, communities, gamification, social integration, and so on
  • customised backend features that give your blog a competitive advantage or point of difference
  • online store and shopping cart integration
  • specialized tracking or research
  • migration of blogs, mailing lists, etc.
  • security and privacy-related work to protect your blog’s and your customers’ details.

Most of us need help with these kinds of tasks—especially if we’re going to apply them to to our blogs with some degree of depth and reliability. A pro developer may well be the answer.

Working with designers

How to work with designers to design your blog, by Rob Cubbon.

Plenty of blogs use off-the-shelf themes, but those that stand out usually entail some kind of customization, or perhaps have their own unique design.

Of course, you don’t need to be undertaking a complete redesign of your blog to be able to use the expertise of a quality designer. They can also help you with:

  • campaign- or launch-related communications
  • designing the visuals for products, like the cover of an ebook, or an eye-catching branded intro for your video series
  • designing newsletters, ads and other communications like infographics that you’re hoping will go viral
  • illustrating your posts, and more.

…and the rest

Over the last year, we’ve published a few other posts in this area, which I’ve listed here:

Making it pay

Outsourcing aspects of your blogging—even as one-off projects—can be expensive. While the resources above should help you avoid being ripped off, many bloggers will be asking how they can justify the expense in the first place?

I think the answer to that question is to adopt the mindset that the work you outsource will need to pay for itself somehow.

That might mean you set a conversion goal for the new online store you’re having developed. Or it might mean that you spend the time you’re not having to dedicate to redesigning your site on creating and launching a new product, or boosting conversions through your email subscriber list. Whatever you outsource, plan to recoup the costs through the time that’s freed up. Make either the work itself, or the extra time you have, pay for the outsourcing fees.

Put a monetary goal on your work, and a timeframe by which you want to have recouped the cost. This is a great way to make sure you’re not just throwing money at your blog—instead, you’ll be investing it, and you’ll be able to track your return on that investment over time.

How does that sound for a new year’s blogging resolution? And what others do you have in mind? Let us know in the comments.

The Blogger’s Guide to Cutting Your Losses

I don’t know whether it’s a coincidence, but as we near the end of the year, there seem to be a few bloggers talking about what you should do if a past passion no longer inspires you, or your next big idea’s already been done.

Making cuts

Image courtesy stock.xchng user mmagallan

Now is a good time to take stock—I know I’m not the only one who has a look back over the year in December, and makes new plans in January. So I thought it might be valuable to talk today about cutting your losses.

What are losses?

You might be tempted to think of losses in terms of passion (things you no longer have an interest in) or lost opportunities (ideas you want to pursue but can’t, because of other commitments).

But there are other losses. One is dollars. If you’ve monetized your blog, and you are making money from blogging, you might find it difficult to work out the monetary value of lost opportunities, or money you’ve left on the table through poor execution or planning.

The other big consideration is lost opportunities around and beyond your blog. These can play into the question of income—perhaps a project you’re busy working on caused you to forfeit another opportunity that could have stepped up your income this year.

The question we, as bloggers, need to ask ourselves is whether that other thing we were working on is worth that lost opportunity. Are the gains we’re making with that other project worth it?

If not, it might be time to consider cutting your losses.

What should we cut?

Only you will know the parts of your life as blogger that feel like chores, that are overwhelming, or that don’t seem to add to your life no matter what you try.

Importantly, as Yaro’s story points out, sometimes cutting your losses has to be done in advance. You have a great idea, but then you find out the competition is really very tough, or someone’s already done what you’d planned to. That may mean that developing the idea isn’t worth the effort.

But only you can tell if that’s true.

I tend to cut the things that don’t give me energy to keep doing what I’m doing. I always have a lot on the go, so that makes it pretty easy to tell what’s gaining momentum, and what’s not. It’s easy to look at reader stats, or income statements, or even just how I feel about tackling a project, and know if I think it’s worth doing.

But sometimes, ideas that have been very popular can actually be difficult to convert into money-makers. For a pro blogger who’s relying on income to keep a roof over her or his head, those ideas can be the hardest—and the most necessary—to let go of.

If you’ve given everything you have to making a project a success, yet you just can’t make that traffic convert, you might need to think of cutting that project from your schedule and focusing on the areas of your work that are helping to support you.

Is now the time?

It seems obvious that once you’ve worked out that you need to cut a project, you should just do it. But I don’t know that this is always the right approach.

Think about selling a house. You might decide you’d like to move somewhere else, but you might also know that houses in your area sell better in Spring. So perhaps you decide to wait until then before you list and sell your home.

The same goes for blogging. I was in touch with a blogger recently who’s decided to sell a blog, so he’s spending three months building it up to be the strongest he can make it, to maximize his sale price.

So the on-the-spot cut isn’t always the best idea.

That said, there are times when it will be. If it’s an ongoing project (rather than a bright idea you wanted to pursue), it’s important to work out an exit strategy for that project. Simply dropping it might not be the answer.

Abandoning projects you’ve been working on means writing off the time you’ve put into them. By carefully reviewing what you’ve developed, you might be able to find ways to reuse some of that work in a way that gives you the greatest possible benefit.

That might mean backing up a cool WordPress theme you had specially developed before you take a blog offline, or asking contacts you’ve met through an ultimately unproductive project to help you with something else you’re working on.

Whatever you do, try not to just cut something and run. The best endings are the ones where we learn and gain from our experiences.

Looking back over the year, have you got losses you need to cut from your blogging work? I’d love to hear what you’ve been thinking in the comments.

Quality Vs. Volume: The Traffic Spectrum, and How You as Bloggers Can Harness It

As web usage grows, and we all become more connected more of the time, it could seem like getting traffic to your blog should be getting easier.

But as connectedness increases, so does competition. There are only 24 hours in a day, and the blogger’s job is to convince readers to spend a few precious minutes with us.

motorway_traffic_trail

Image courtesy stock.xchng user ansmedia

Attracting more readers to your blog

A lot of the time, it can seem like we have two options for attracting readers to our blogs:

  • entice them in, one at a time
  • “explode” your blog with “viral” content or promotions.

You can imagine these as two extremes on a spectrum; for most of us, traffic growth usually sits somewhere in between. Though for bloggers at the beginning of their careers, the one-at-a-time scenario is very real. And occasionally, any of us might hit on an “explosive growth” moment where our blogs get a massive volume of traffic for a brief moment (comparatively!) in time.

Of the traffic that comes once, only a portion will ever come back, and even fewer will subscribe. No wonder it can seem like an uphill battle to build a tribe around a blog!

I’ve found the best way to make the most of both kinds of readers is to cater to both.

Capturing attention—and holding it

If a blog has strong, targeted content that really gives value to readers, it’s off to a flying start. The design should also be easy to use, and attractive to the target group—that goes without saying.

So what is it that captures and holds the attention of individuals arriving at your site either as one-offs, or as part of a massive stream of traffic that you’ve generated through, say, some viral content, or great search positioning?

Let’s look at some of the tactics that suit each group.

The hard-won, single visitor

Perhaps this person’s found your site using a very specific search phrase, or they were having coffee with a friend who mentioned your blog. They might have seen the column you write for the local paper, and typed in your blog’s URKL out of curiosity, or had a contact share a link to a particular article on your blog that they thought would help this new visitor.

I think of these kinds of visitors as pre-engaged. When they arrive at your blog, they’re open-minded about what it has to offer, but they also have an expectation that it’ll solve a problem or answer a need that they have.

What can we do to capture the attention of these readers? Things like:

  • links to further reading on the same topic
  • signup forms/newsletter subscriptions
  • a contact form for questions they might want to ask
  • a free download targeting their need
  • an active community of commenters or forum members
  • links to social media/rss subscriptions.

The generic, viral visitor

By “viral visitors,” I’m talking about people who arrive at your site as part of a crowd sent by a viral piece of content you’ve published somewhere, or a big-name blog making mention of you.

We know that this traffic traditionally spikes and plummets soon after, and while the traffic can be strong for a short period, the majority of those visitors tends not to come back.

Every blogger wants to capture a larger slice of the viral traffic pie. How can we? I think that the answer here is a little more complicated. When I click a shared link on social media, I’m in either “entertainment” or “intrigue” mode. I’m wanting distraction, or a quick fix of new knowledge in an interest area. I’m not looking for a long-term relationship with a blog!

If I’m coming from a contextual link that’s on another site I’m reading, my motivation is usually a fairly specific kind of curiosity related to the topic in question, and my level of engagement will depend on how much I trust the site that linked to you, and the content I was reading when I came across the link. I’d guess that viral traffic that comes through contextual links is likely to have higher expectations of your blog than that coming through social media—I know this is true for me as a user.

So how can we capture viral readers with such different levels of engagement and motivation?

To be honest, I think that if the landing page for viral traffic convinces them to re-share the link, you’re probably doing a pretty good job. The fact is that a lot viral traffic coming through social media isn’t often strongly targeted.

If you can go one better and entice them to follow you on social media as well, you’re doing very well. To achieve this, you’ll need prominent social media buttons that allow them to follow you on every post. If they can also reshare the content direct from the page, so much the better.

To capture those coming through links from another site in your niche, you might consider extra tactics like:

  • making comments on posts prominent
  • offering a free download or subscription related to the content on the same page
  • following up with the linking site to see if they’ll accept a guest post, so you can further build your profile with the site’s readers
  • offering the linking site an exclusive piece of quality content (e.g. a whitepaper or report that links back to your blog) on the same topic, or one that’s related, that they can share with their readers.

How do you capture different kinds of new visitors?

These are just a few ideas that I’ve used to try to capture different kinds of new visitors to my blogs. Do you target different kinds of new visitors differently, or use specific tactics to try to grab their attention?

I’d love to hear how you’re handling things—and what’s working for you—in the comments.

Blogging in Brief: Looking Good, Saving Face, Tags and Lags

We all make mistakes, but making mistakes in the media can be costly—especially to your authority!

…Or can it? We all know readers appreciate honesty. And our first story this week is all about that.

Saving face online

Last week, I got my regular flippa.com newsletter … and another a few hours later! The new subject line? “Our newsletter, now with functional links!”

Intrigued, I opened it to see this:
Newsletter

Way to save face after a blooper! If you’ve ever had to apologise for an error you’ve made publicly, online—perhaps even on your blog or with your valued subscribers—we’d love to hear how you handled it in the comments.

Big-block headers revisited

I mentioned last time the growing trend toward big-block header on blogs. This week, I found one that acts simply to pull you through to the latest content, on food blog Peas and Thankyou.

Content feature

This screencapture shows the header on rollover—the opening of each post appears as an overlay on the header. This is a great use of imagery I think, and an excellent way to catch the attention of readers, especially those who are arriving for the first time. On dPS, I use a similar carousel for featured content, but it’s not simply for the latest posts. It really brings attention to your current content.

What do you think of this idea? Could this work for your blog?

Name your own price

The battle to find the best price for a blog product—one that maximizes your profit—can be hard to do. So the approach of letting customers choose their own price is an interesting one. Tara Gentile uses it on her blog:

Set your own price

The product is designed to change customers’ relationship with money, so the tactic is in keeping with the concept.

Seriously

It’s an interesting tactic, and not one I’ve tried. Have you? How did it work? I’d love to hear of your experiences in the comments.

Are your promotions slowing your site?

Many blogs show a popup on page load for first-time users—perhaps offering a download, subscription, or other goody.

But this week I’ve stumbled across a few that are really extremely slow to load as a result.

One of them flashed up the homepage before hiding it—so the screen was blank—for what felt like ages (but was probably 5-10 seconds) before displaying the popup. The popup itself didn’t have the usual close button in the right-top-corner, either, which meant that after the long wait, I had to spend more time trying to work out how to close it so I could access the site content. That finally appeared only once I’d found the Close window link.

Every time you add a new widget, plugin, or promotion to your blog, test the load times for different browsers to make sure your blog’s still accessible and usable for everyone who stops by.

Do tag clouds still matter?

Remember tag clouds? They were popular a few years ago, but they seem to have fallen out of favor now—though I notice the Blog World blog still has one:

Tag cloud

Tag clouds can help users drill down to specific content that isn’t represented in your basic blog navigation, and to reach content in your archives that spans topics. In fact, in some cases it’s a great way to provide users with access to your older material. That said, I don’t use tag clouds—basically because screen real estate is so precious, and a tag cloud never really makes the cut onto my sites.

Are you using a tag cloud? How’s it working for you? We’d love to get an idea of whether you think this mechanism is still relevant to the blogs of today.