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How to Research a Profitable Blog Topic

A while back when I asked you what you’d like to ask professional bloggers in my upcoming interview series MM asked:

‘I want to know what kind of research they did before they jumpstart a new blog. How do they gauge the “marketability” or earning potential of a new topic?’

I’ll ask the question when I start my interview series (first interview will be released this week) – but thought it was worth attempting an answer here also from my own perspective.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. The best research that I’ve ever done on a topic for a potential blog is this…
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The Entrepreneurial Blog Glenn Fleishman

Glenn Fleishman over at GlennLog has just posted a link to an audio (and visuals of his powerpoint) at Business Blogging Summit which currently really enjoying listening to. His main headings were.

  • Obsess
  • Exhaust
  • Report
  • Choose
  • Expand
  • Earn
  • Populate
  • Perform

Let me just mention a few points he makes within these topics that resonate with my experience in Entrepreneurial Blogging over the past 18 months. The following is a combo of Glenn’s thoughts which I’m adding to and giving a few examples of:

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The Benefits of having a country Top Level Domain

Lee Johnson has a good article pointing out some of the Benefits of having a country Top Level Domain ie a .uk, or .au domain name:

‘Most of the large search engines will give you a higher search ranking for a site that has the tld of the searchers country. For example, if someone from the United Kingdom is performing a search for widgets, a search engine will often rank widgets.co.uk higher than other sites selling the same product but only have a .com tld.

Having a country specific tld will also allow you to be included in a lot of great country directories that stipulate that your domain name has a certain tld. Getting your site into these directories can be a great way of improving your search engine website rankings as these are 1 way links from authority sites for your chosen subject. These kind of links are graded much higher than reciprocal linking…’

Lee goes on to share other benefits also. It is an interesting question and one that I’ve often considered. My main livingroom.org.au domain now hosts a number of blogs – and there have been some definite advantages of this approach. i do rank very well on google.com.au but on the other side of things there are some costs worth considering of having a more localized URL.

If you’re blogging about a global topic the .au can cause problems both in search engines but also with ‘the look’ of the URL. I’ve had a number of people write off my blogs because they are not a .com or .net or .org. However overall my approach is that if you write good content, interact with other bloggers and optimize your blog well you should do ok no matter what its URL.

I’m interested in others opinions on why you have or haven’t gone for a more localized domain.

How Personal do you Get on your Business Blog?

There is an interesting dialogue going about how personal you should get on your business blog over at CorporateBlogging.Info and public (MIND). Hans wants to know more about Fredrik – Fredrik doesn’t want his blog to go there.

‘As Hans Henrik says, I try to keep this site focused on blogging and related communication discussions. I’m not doing it primarily to be read, even if that’s fun and stimulating. I’m doing it to learn. I work that way. If I read stuff I forget it. If I read stuff and write about it, I’m able to transform it from information to knowledge. And with a journalistic background no other writing than that in public really counts.

Writing more about my background, my family, views and opinions on other matters — that wouldn’t fill any purpose from that perspective. In my corporate blog (Swedish only) it’s somewhat different, because there I have other purposes.

That’s one part of the answer, the individual part of it. In more general terms I think – as a blog reader – that it’s not very interesting to get too much personal stuff. If I read a blog to, say, find news and discussions about web design I couldn’t care less who the blogger had dinner with the night before. I don’t want to know that.’

He also wonders if it might be a cultural thing that highlights the difference between how Europeans differ from Americans in their business blogs.

It could also be a personality thing I guess. I personally have some boundaries about what I will and won’t blog about on my different blogs – however would probably be a little more open to revealing a little about myself on most of my blogs. I am someone who is drawn to real people and not just information.

I like blogs that have a photo somewhere on them of the person and that give some indication of who they are, where they are, what they do with their time etc. I also like humor in blogs and enjoy a good story every now and again. I guess it is a personal choice – but I wonder what you think? How much do you reveal about yourself on your blog? Do you have boundaries about what you will and won’t post about?

Trend Watching Websites and RSS Feeds

One skill that I think is vitally important for Professional Bloggers is the ability to keep up to date with the latest trends. So much of blogging is being able observe and even anticipate what people are interested in or looking for and providing appropriate content to meet there needs in a timely manner. Trend watching is therefore something we should either be actively doing ourselves or at the very least outsourcing to someone else to do for us.

In many regards almost every blog being tracked on my RSS feed list is a vital part of my trend watching but I also read quite a number of other specific trend sites to help me keep my finger on the pulse. Some of the more recent sites that I watch daily that specifically are looking at the latest trends in a number of industries are as follows (I’ve included RSS feeds of those that have them but unfortunately most dont seem to have caught onto that trend yet!:

- Small Business Trends - which as the name suggests keeps an eye on the latest trends and influences of the global small business market (RSS).

- PSFK - a collaborative trend spotting site run by a number of bloggers from around the globe (RSS).

- Trend Central – Tracking trends across topics of Lifestyle, Style, Entertainment and Technology (no RSS).

- Herman Group – Trend Alert – looking at trends across a number of fields in this weekly column (no RSS).

- Trend Watching – A blog-like site with trends from around the globe across a number of fields (no RSS).

- Google Zeitgeist – Tracking what people search for on Google (RSS)

- Yahoo Buzz Index – Tracking what people are searching for on Yahoo (RSS)

- Trends in Japan – Tracking the latest fads in Japan across different areas (no RSS)

- Trend Report – Mainly Consumer trends (no RSS)

- Trend Mag – Tracking a variety of trends (no RSS)

I’m interested to know what trends you watch for your blogging and what online (and offline) sources you use?

InsideBlogging – The Blog Consulting Company

Leave it Behind has 10 useful tips for building a better blog. Here are the titles of each section:

1. Use Categories

2. Use Titles

3. Publish During High Traffic Times

4. Syndicate Your Entire Post

5. Click Your Own Links

6. Develop an Authentic Voice

7. Tell Us Who You Are and How to Contact You

8. Don’t Be Afraid to Promote

9. Comment on Other Sites and Your Own

10. The More You Write, the More You’ll Have to Write Write About

Found via Inside Blogging

Why Comment Spam is Dangerous to Our Blogs

Comment Spam is a terrible thing. I feel like I’m constantly fighting a battle against the slime that leave unsolicited, irrelevant and often degrading comments filled with links to disreputable sites on my blogs. It comes from the automated bot spammers but also from the small blogger who think that a comment like ‘nice site’ with a link back to their site is any better. I delete them all and add them to a blacklist.

There have been mornings that I’ve logged onto my blogs after peaceful night’s sleep to find thousands of comments on my blogs. It can be down right depressing – especially when you think you’ve finally installed that tool to stop spammers in their tracks only to find that they’ve found a way around it.

However I fight on. You see I believe that if we don’t delete and fight comment spammers then we’ll do ourselves a disservice. Comment spam left unchecked can not only bring your own site into disrepute and degradation, but I believe it can also decrease your site’s standing in Google and other search engines and that in the end we all suffer from it.

This morning I was doing some surfing and I thought I’d stop by Blog Search Engine to see what was happening there. I ended up on their blog and was really disappointed by what I saw. It wasn’t that the blog hasn’t been updated for a few months (that is their prerogative) but it was the 142 comments on the last post – all of which (bar one that I could find) were spam to poker, finance and drug sites. Unfortunately this was the tale to virtually every post on their blog – between 80 and 160 spam comments everywhere you look.

Whilst I can understand the frustration of dealing with spam I worry for Blog Search Engine when I see the way they’ve let their blog go. I worry for them on a number of levels:

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Tips and Suggestions for Launching a Successful Blog from the Evangelical Outpost

The Evangelical Outpost has a great series of posts on How To Start a Successful Blog that might be worth checking out if you’re towards the beginning of your blogging journey. His tips cover the topics of:

Part I – Before You Begin

Part II – The Beginning Bloggers Toolbox

Part III – How to Become an A-List Blogger

Part IV – The Art of Marketing Your Blog

Part V – Owning a Micro-Niche

Part VI – Three Essential Elements of Blog Design

I particularly find part IV useful as he explores the idea of owning a micro niche which is an approach that I myself subscribe to in most of my blogging. Rather than blogging on a wide variety of topics it is much easier (but still not simple) to establish a reputation in a smaller niche with a blog.

Some of his other posts on blogging are also quite insightful including How to become a Higher Being (a look at the top ten blogs on the ecosystem) and How to get linked by Instapundit (a look at who Glenn links to and how to get his attention).

Long Term Blogging Builds Credibility

Holy Weblog Batman! T.L. Pakii Pierce is writing some great articles these days! His recent one on Cracking Credibility & Why Internet Marketing WILL Change is worth the read and talks (as the title suggests) that credibility is an essential element of effective blogging.

Blogging is not a silver bullet solution – it takes time to build an audience, time to build relationships and time to build credibility as a source of information that people will keep coming back to. Its common sense really. T.L says it much better than I do:

‘When you consider the cost of blogging and the return on your investment, the ROI of blogging is phenomenal…BUT…it comes at a price.

But doesn’t everything?

The price is that you must commit to a relationship that will require ongoing attention. Blogs will amplify your message and your reach in a powerful way and at near zero cost when compared to other means of reaching a market with your message. But the price of relationship is the need to continually connect with your market and develop your social network in order to build an authentic and authoritative voice that can be trusted.

This is an extremely important message to receive and digest for newbie marketers and newbie bloggers especially. You cannot approach blogging thinking you will set a up page and sell tons of items. You have to properly prepare a message that helps carry your product to a targeted niche audience….’

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