The blogosphere’s a tough place. And to create a blog that survives and thrives under absolutely Darwinian conditions isn’t easy. Since this business week is coming to a close, I’d like to share a few universal lessons that I’ve learned over the past six months that have allowed me to enjoy a few successes that I’ve had, such as being paid for blogging, getting hired, then promoted, at a blog news magazine, growing a personal blog that cracked the Technorati 5000, and have it be mentioned by major blogs to mainstream sites, and of course, being offered this plum guest blogging spot. Oh, and all the while continuing with my medical residency.
So in your quest to dominate your corner of the blogosphere, you might be wonder about higher order questions. How does one blog? What are the “rules” behind creating a great blog? Is there anything universal that connects the very stuff behind the truly great blogs irrespective of their content? What does a great science blog have in common with a great celebrity blog? And can corporate blogs, be great?
Well, if yesterday’s post was about the habits of being a successful blogger (I seemed to dwell on time management, didn’t I?), today’s post is on what what truly great blogs have in common, and a few exercises that you can do to try and bring your own blog up to par (if it isn’t already at par!).
In the time that I have been blogging, I have noticed that there are a few things that “successful” blogs have in common. And I am defining “success” in every way — monetary terms, absolute traffic, but more importantly, in robust and continued growth. With 2007 here and many New Years Resolutions on the cusp, I thought we would start things off with what I believe are 5 things that are necessary to grow one’s blog.
1. Putting in the Time and Commitment.
One of the things that I didn’t fully appreciate is what a time commitment blogging is. I’m not including all the time it takes to literally set up a WordPress installation, or taking the time to tweak your theme just right, or even answering the buckets of email you may (or may not) have. What I am talking about is the time it takes to actually write.
If you’re a gifted writer, all the best to you. Skip the rest of this tip. For the rest of us who were not born with a pencil in their mouths, it literally takes time to write something really meaty, interesting, and worthy of your blog. The stuff that makes people fascinated and can’t wait to want more. It takes time to research stuff you don’t know about, to find a block of uninterrupted time to actually sit down and write the blasted piece, and then actually get it out in a form that you feel comfortable with.
And for people who have a semblance of a life — husband/wife, kids, a job, other Responsibilities — it can actually come as a bit of a shock, because in the blogging world no one really talks about how long it takes to actually create something you’re proud of.
For the literal minded (who have not yet started to blog), what this means is that at a post a day, it might require one extra hour of your life to produce that single post alone. Are you going to take that hour away from television time? Time with your family? Time to sleep? For most folks, their days are packed to the gills doing Stuff; taking the time to commit to blogging will often mean taking time away form something else.
Last week I surveyed readers on their AdSense earnings for the month of November. I was hoping to run the poll for a full week but due to some problems with the plugin I was using only got around two days of data (732 respondents).
The results were quite similar to last years version of this same poll. Here’s a visual breakdown of numbers of respondents in each of the categories:
As with previous years, the largest group of bloggers using with AdSense earn under $10 a month (28% of of all who use AdSense).
Interestingly – the second largest category wasn’t the $10 – $29 category – but the $100-$499 one (21%).
The top category of over $10,000 in a month was reached by 23 bloggers (4%). 16% are earning over the magical $1000 per month mark.
Here’s a pie chart with all the percentages (note, I’ve taken out the ‘don’t use AdSense’ category).
This reader ‘quick tip’ is from David from Strobist (one of my favorite digital photography blogs that focusses upon the sub-niche of ‘lighting’.
I have gotten so much from your blog that I wanted to pass along a tip that might help your readers.
My primary income streams on Strobist have evolved from the initial typical Adsense structure to about 50:50 CPM banners and Amazon affiliate sales.
My traffic is still in the high growth phase, and shows no signs of levelling off anytime soon.
But even that does not explain the growth I am seeing in the Amazon affiliate sales. My core is a series of specially selected books on the right sidebar – this works far better than the computer-generated ads.
But the best idea I have come up with yet is to feature a monthly “Hot List” of the top ten items purchased by readers. I list it at the beginning of each month, as compiled from the previous month. See the October Hot List here.
The publication of that list has the effect of sending my Amazon sales through the roof for a few days. And it happens each month.
I do some minor commentary on the month’s new list entries and such, and archive the latest on an aggregation page.
It’s a simple thing, but it really works for me.
From Darren: David’s tip is actually something I’ve done from time to time in different ways. For example I recently put together this Digital Camera and Photography Gift Ideas list based upon reader purchases at Amazon.
Chitika have announced a new product today – ShopCloud$
You can see an example of it below – but basically it is a tag cloud that highlights ‘hot products’ as well as a search box with an AJAX option that suggests products as people add letters into the search field.
When readers click on one of the links in the cloud readers are taken to a shoplinc page (if you have one it’ll take readers to yours, if not it’ll go to Chitika’s own shoplinc) where readers are given information on the product and opportunities to click on CPC ads.
There’s nothing actually in this ad unit that directly generates money but it is an interesting way to get people into your Shoplinc and I can see it working well at the bottom of posts/blogs.
Below is an example of a live ShopCloud (hopefully it will fit here on ProBlogger). If it’s not working in your browser (seems to be some issue for some with the way WP displays this) you can see one live in action here.
Previously they were only available for Google Desktop or Homepage but now publishers can add them. In a sense they are widgets which will sit in your side bar and they range from Google Maps, to the Current Moon Phase, to games, translation and time and date.
I’m not about to rush out and add any of them to my blogs but there might be some worth using depening upon the nature of your blog.
found via Duncan
Ever thought of adding a shop to your blog? I know some of you have as you’ve asked me how to do it. There are a few options emerging for bloggers. We’ve seen Chitika launch Shoplinc and Amazon launch aStores – but both don’t really give you a heap of control over how your shop runs and looks.
Another option that does give you more control is to make your own store. There are lots of ways to do this. I’m not expert enough to really outline them all (if there is anyone who is that would like to do a guest post on the options please let me know) however I came across a post today that could be useful for some looking at these options.
It appealed to me because it uses a tool that many of us know and love – WordPress.
Serial Deviant is the one who wrote the post and you can read it at How to turn a normal WordPress installation into a working online shop.
It does assume some knowledge of HTML and CMS but as many of you are more than proficient with them I though I’d share it. Give it a go and let us know what your results are like!
found via Andy
During the Last Group Writing Project (on the topic of Lists) I was quite overwhelmed by the number of entries. The list that we ended up with had a total of 301 lists.
The main problem with the final list of entries was that despite containing a lot of great posts – it was difficult to find posts that would interest you as they were in no way classified.
Here’s how she’s done it (thanks Christina!)