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Why Email Newsletters Can Improve your Blog

One way that I’ve experimented with to build community and loyalty among readers on my blogs is to offer readers a free regular newsletter.

I’ve found that since started using newsletters that it’s added a new dimension of community to my blogs. Newsletter days have higher traffic for starters and there seems to be a growing relationship between many subscribers and myself. The newsletter isn’t the only reason for this but it’s had an impact.

Interestingly the rise of blogging has actually been the death of some newsletter publishers who have moved to blogging as a medium to communicating with readers and making an income – whilst my preferred medium is definitely blogging I see a number of benefits of combining email newsletters and blogs together as part of a wider web strategy. Let me share a few.

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Using Comments on your Blog

Human beings are relational. We like to be acknowledged. We like too participate and contribute. We like to feel that what we have to say is valuable.

Most of your blog’s readers are human beings (well most of mine are). So acknowledge and interact with them.

The most common way for interaction on blogs is through comments. An an old study I once read found that 43% of blogs use comments – I suspect the figure would be much higher today with most blogging platforms now integrating them (remember the days when you had to use a third party comments system!?).

Not everyone likes comments. Some bigger bloggers don’t use them because they get overwhelmed by too much interaction and some smaller blogs don’t use them because they don’t get any comments at all and are embarrassed with the ‘comments (0)’ at the end of each post. Still others gave up on comments because of comment spam.
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Does personal info belong on a business (or entrepreneurial) blog?

Tris has an interesting post asking should bloggers get personal on their business blogs? We could extend the question to commercial/entrepreneurial blogs also.

‘The problem is, I think, that blogs started off as very personal efforts. We knew about peoples’ struggles. We knew about their lives. Then as business blogging grew people started setting up rules for themselves, and others. Is that limiting? Are there rules. What about when something great happens in your life? Or bad? ‘

My opinion is that it’s important to define boundaries for your blog up front. Work out what you will and won’t blog about and stick to it. If you decide up front to inject personal posts, humor, personality etc into your blog because it fits with the overall goals of your blogging then I’m fine with that. On the other hand if you want a more professional, information oriented blog with little of yourself in it then that is cool also (as is anything in between).

Across my blogs I have a variety of approaches. If I want to announce something personal I have spaces to do that. Perhaps this is the beauty of multiple blogs.

Here at ProBlogger I try to inject a little personality into my blogging – but don’t reveal too much of what is happening in my personal life unless it impacts my topic at hand.

I think when bloggers get into trouble is when they start out one way and build a readership around a particular style and then they leave that style.

What do you think about getting personal in your business or entrepreneurial blog? Head over to Tris’s post to let him know.

Declaring War on Blogger Apathy

It’s time to talk about something that has the potential to KILL your blog….

Apathy

A blogger can have the best strategic plan in the world but if they have no motivation, passion or drive for their blogging it will almost always amount to nothing at all. One of the keys to the success I’ve managed to have as a ProBlogger is that I’ve taken a long term approach to my blogging which calls for constant work over 2.5 years (so far).

Whilst there have been times where my spirit has been low and the drudgery of researching, writing, networking and dreaming has threatened to put a stop to what I do – I’ve continually pushed myself to find new and creative ways to beat down the blog killer of Apathy. I’ve seen other bloggers not been able to break through this and as a result their blogs today either don’t exist or have become something like the ghost towns of the Western Movie with breezes blowing around the tumbleweed of comment spam and out of date content.

So I’ve decided it’s time to declare war on Blog Apathy and want to share a number of the things that have helped me keep my motivation up in blogging. Feel free to add your own experience and tips in comments.

• Start a Series – it gets hard to constantly come up with new topics to blog about each day so why not pick a larger topic to break down over a week or so. I find that once I’ve got a topic to work on I often get the creative juices flowing – a series can fast track the process. The past few days have definitely lifted my own interest in ProBlogger (not that it was too low) – simply because I’ve been in ‘series mode’.

• Invite questions from your readers - get your readers involved in your blog by setting the agenda for you to write about over the next few weeks of your blogging. Once again this is about stimulating ideas for topics.

• Revisit old Posts – if your archives are anything like mine they are full of posts and articles that you’ve put hours of work into. Keep in mind that many of your newer readers would not have read your old posts and so from time to time it might be worth either reposting old posts, updating old posts or simply bouncing off old posts and continuing old streams of thought.

• Redesign – I always find a fresh coat of paint can really lift a room, a haircut can improve a mood and a blog redesign can get the creative juices flowing again. Tweak it, adapt it or completely redesign it – either way you might just inject a little more energy into something that’s grown tired and find that you’ve got more energy for your blogging.

• Write Posts Ahead of Time – this won’t help you now if you’re in apathy mode – but if you’re not and currently have some energy consider writing a few extra posts that are non time specific to keep for a rainy/apathetic day. When you’re inspired write more so that when you’re not you don’t have to.

• Keep an Idea Journal – this is similar to the previous point but just involves keeping a list of possible post ideas you could write on at a later uninspired point in time. It might include just titles of posts or even a few points that you could write about. I’m constantly jotting down ideas for posts or series and even new blogs all day everyday. Take your journal with you everywhere you go so that if inspiration strikes you can capture it.

• Develop a Posting Schedule – it’s amazing what you can produce if you give yourself a deadline. Whilst for some people the idea of schedules and plans might have the opposite effect – for many of us they help keep us going. My posting goal is 25-35 posts per day – knowing what I’m aiming for helps keep me on track. Whether you’ve got a goal of 2 daily posts, or 500 monthly posts some goals can help get your blogging into gear.

• Get a Guest Blogger - put a little new blood into your blog by inviting someone else to join you in posting either while you take a short break to rejuvenate or to blog alongside you. I’ve recently added a few bloggers to a handful of my blogs and have really enjoyed both the pressure that it’s taken off me but also the energy and fresh ideas that they’ve brought.

• Read other’s blogs – sometimes its easy to become so focused upon blogging that we forget to interact with other bloggers. I remember a few months ago realizing that I rarely really read other blogs any more (apart from those I scanned each day for useful information to blog about). Get back to basics and actually read other blogs – you might just find that in doing so you rediscover the reason you started your own blog in the first place. In addition to that you’ll probably find yourself stimulated to bounce off their blogs with your own.

• Interact with other bloggers – connected to the last point I also find it very useful to not only read the work of others but to converse with them. I regularly chat via instant messaging or phone with other bloggers – in doing so we encourage and inspire each other to break through the dry times. So leave a comment somewhere, start an IM conversation, send an email – talk to someone. Don’t let blogging become an insular lonely thing – rather take advantage of the relational aspects of blogging.

• Meme it Up – another way to get yourself a little more interested in and energised by your blog is to start some sort of Meme. Run a competition, start a blogging project, add a quiz or survey – do something fun, creative and interactive to get other bloggers involved in what you’re doing. To be honest this is why I started the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project – seeing the wonderful response from readers has definitely lifted my blogging spirits this week.

• Subscribe to a new Source of Information – sometimes it’s easy to get into a rut when you feel like you’re just seeing the same sorts of information on your blogs topic over and over again. So subscribe to some new keywords on Google News Alerts or Topix RSS feeds or find some new blogs to follow. If you put fresh content and ideas into your head hopefully some fresh content will come out.

• Short Posts – if you don’t have much to say – don’t say much. Keep your posts short and to the point. Even if they don’t feel profound to you, just the act of posting something might loosen the blogging creativity within you. Short posts can actually be incredibly effective communication tools also so it might just add something special to your blog.

• New Stimuli - one of the best ways to get your creativity levels up is to expose yourself to new stuff. Buy a book, watch a movie, meet someone new, go for a walk, spend time with your family, listen to some music – get out of your normal daily rhythm and expose yourself to some new sights, sounds, tastes, touches and smells. Remember that what you put into your life has a direct baring on what comes out.

• Just Write – it’s amazing what comes when you just start writing sometimes. Some of my bests posts emerged out of really dry patches when I forced myself to sit and write. The first few paragraphs might end up being scrapped – but if you keep writing you’ll eventually hit gold. [Read more...]

Blogging Goals

Wayne Hurlbert writes a post on Blogging Goals that might be a good follow up for some after my Strategic Blogging series of posts.

Domain Name Suggestion Tool – DomainBot

I’ve been working on some ideas for new blogs over the past 2 weeks and as part of the exercise I’ve been looking at choosing domain names. Of course looking for a domain name can be a frustrating business – you know what you want but the chances are that it’s already taken as a .com and probably most of the other extensions also.

You can spend endless hours typing random names into domain search tools and come up with very little.

Surely there is a better way?

Luckily a year or so back someone pointed me to DomainsBot which is a domain suggestion tool. You simply type in the key word or words that you want to be in your domain and it comes back to you with a variety of combinations of available domains using that combination of words (and if you like synonyms of the words). The results of this come with a suggested ranking.

I know there are other similar tools out there but for some reason I keep coming back to this one. How have you come up with your blog’s name or domain?

The Dangers of Niche Blogging

There is a helpful article over at on Niche Markets the Entrepreneurial Mind where Jeff Cornwall posts about the dangers of Niche strategy. Of course Jeff is writing in a broad sense for all businesses that target Niches but his theories are particularly relevant for those of us working on niche blogs with tightly focused topics. Jeff’s four main points are:

- Entering a niche requires adaptability in your plan.

- Niches Change. Even if you get the market right in the beginning, niche markets (like any market) will change over time.

- Niches Can Go Away. No market is forever. Niches are the type of market that can dry up, sometimes quite suddenly.

- Niches Can Grow. While significant growth in your market may not sound bad, it can attract more competitors.

He concludes by writing:

‘So is a niche a good place to enter the market? Absolutely. However, change is inevitable and even in a niche market an entrepreneur needs to be able to adapt to survive over the longer-term.’

This is so true for blogging. I often look at my successful blogs and wonder how much longer they will be as profitable as they currently are. Whilst I presently do well in many of the niches that I operate in I’m constantly reminding myself to look out for the next project.

It’s tempting to settle down and to just keep the 15 or so active blogs that I currently have ticking over – but whilst this would be comfortable to do I’m aware that within a year or two many of the niches I’m operating will be a different scene to now. The key is adaptability and the ability to change courses quickly as the opportunity arises.

found via Business Opportunities Weblog

Declaring War on Blogger Apathy VI

This is the 6th and final post in a mini series on combatting Blog Apathy

• New Stimuli - one of the best ways to get your creativity levels up is to expose yourself to new stuff. Buy a book, watch a movie, meet someone new, go for a walk, spend time with your family, listen to some music – get out of your normal daily rhythm and expose yourself to some new sights, sounds, tastes, touches and smells. Remember that what you put into your life has a direct baring on what comes out.

• Just Write – it’s amazing what comes when you just start writing sometimes. Some of my bests posts emerged out of really dry patches when I forced myself to sit and write. The first few paragraphs might end up being scrapped – but if you keep writing you’ll eventually hit gold. [Read more...]

Declaring War on Blogger Apathy V

This is post 5 on a mini series on combatting Blog Apathy

• Meme it Up – another way to get yourself a little more interested in and energised by your blog is to start some sort of Meme. Run a competition, start a blogging project, add a quiz or survey – do something fun, creative and interactive to get other bloggers involved in what you’re doing. To be honest this is why I started the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project – seeing the wonderful response from readers has definitely lifted my blogging spirits this week.

• Subscribe to a new Source of Information – sometimes it’s easy to get into a rut when you feel like you’re just seeing the same sorts of information on your blogs topic over and over again. So subscribe to some new keywords on Google News Alerts or Topix RSS feeds or find some new blogs to follow. If you put fresh content and ideas into your head hopefully some fresh content will come out.

• Short Posts – if you don’t have much to say – don’t say much. Keep your posts short and to the point. Even if they don’t feel profound to you, just the act of posting something might loosen the blogging creativity within you. Short posts can actually be incredibly effective communication tools also so it might just add something special to your blog.