Earlier this week Google’s “head of web spam”—Matt Cutts—posted on his blog that they’re implementing a change in their algorithm that impacts those that publish content from elsewhere on the Web.
The changes are all about ranking the original sources of content higher than those who scrape/republish/copy it. This has always been Google’s intent but increasingly some have been seeing scraped content ranking higher than original sources.
In Matt’s words:
“The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that scraped or copied the original site’s content.”
This has a couple of implications for bloggers of different types.
For those who produce blogs with original content, it hopefully means not being out-ranked by other sites reproducing your content (with or without permission). As someone who finds his own content appearing on other sites many times a day (many times without credit of the source), for me this is a welcome change.
For those who do use scraping (or syndication) strategies, this news might stimulate a rethink in that approach. I know there are times and places for syndication (particularly if you do so with permission), but this serves as a reminder that in most cases if you’re looking to build a prominent and successful blog, you need to produce something that’s not only relevant and useful, but is also unique.
Happy 2011! How are the ole resolutions holding up so far? Have you stopped biting your nails, started a daily exercise regimen, and organized your closets yet? Me neither. Still, ’tis the season for new starts, and while you’re thinking about improving your health, your home, or your life balance, don’t forget about your blog. Make a resolution today to take your blog to the next level in 2011.
It’s the beginning of the month as well as the year, so, as always, Regator has provided blogosphere trends for the month, and I’ll use posts about these popular stories to inspire you to make a vow to improve your blog in the New Year. (The most-blogged about stories for December 2010, in order, were: Christmas, Wikileaks, Tax Cuts, DADT/Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Tron, New Year’s Eve, Net Neutrality, Elizabeth Edwards, Oprah, and Michael Vick.) Let’s make some resolutions!
1. I resolve to be funnier.
Inspiration: Cracked’s The 12 Most Unintentionally Disturbing Christmas Ads. Obviously, humor isn’t always appropriate, but it certainly has its place and can breathe life into a dry subject if it’s used correctly. If you can handle a bit of rough language, comedy blog Cracked.com provides plenty of inspiration, putting an amusing spin on everything from Christmas to science to pop culture.
2. I resolve to take extra time to write gripping intros to my posts.
Inspiration: The Chronicle Review’s Why WikiLeaks Is Bad for Scholars. The first few lines of your post will determine whether readers will stick around or click around. Don’t save your genius for the third paragraph. Use your first paragraph to make a promise, create intrigue, hit readers with a killer quote, or—as in this example from The Chronicle Review—build suspense with a story.
3. I resolve to help my readers solve more problems.
Inspiration: The Consumerist’s Calculate How Much Of A Raise You’ll Get On January 1 [Tax Cuts]. You’ve read it over and over here at ProBlogger, but it can’t be said enough: Be useful to your readers and they will come back for more. As you sit down to write each post, ask yourself what the reader will get out of it and why he or she should take the time to read it. Even if it’s not a straight-up, service-oriented post, like this example from The Consumerist, all of your posts should provide some benefit: entertainment, knowledge, advice, etc.
4. I resolve to take more time to craft my headlines.
Inspiration: Queerty’s Why Fox News’ Story On Gay Soldiers Living Under DADT Never Got Filed. Your headlines should not be an afterthought and, if they are, this is the resolution for you. They’re all people see when your link is tweeted and the first thing potential readers see in RSS readers and aggregators. A great post with a mediocre headline will lose countless potential readers. This example from Queerty is keyword-heavy, potentially controversial, and seems to promise an intriguing bit of information.
5. I resolve to be more creative and to break out of the echo chamber.
Inspiration: Pushing Pixels’ The colors of “Tron: Legacy”. While many were blogging about Tron’s opening weekend numbers or its (awesome) Daft Punk soundtrack, Kirill Grouchnikov took a different approach and blogged a fascinating breakdown of the color usage in Tron’s computer world. It’s a perfect fit for that blog’s readers and a unique twist on a frequently covered story. If bloggers in your niche are writing about one particular story, find a way to put your own unique twist on it.
6. I resolve to use more photos and/or video.
Inspiration: The Big Picture’s A New Year rolls in. Photos and video add interest and depth and if you aren’t using many, this may be the resolution for you. Just be sure you’re using them legally. This example from The Big Picture shows just how striking the right photo can be.
7. I resolve to be more opinionated.
Inspiration: Tech Talk’s Opinion: Who’ll Really Benefit from Net Neutrality Regulation? Strong opinions have the potential to put some people off and generate controversy, but they also have the potential to establish you as a blogger with interesting things to say and to solidify your blog as a place where healthy debate can happen. This example from Tech Talk is clearly labeled as opinion, presents facts to back up the opinions in the post, and takes a respectful tone.
8. I resolve to develop my blogging voice.
Inspiration: The Atlantic’s Elizabeth Edwards and the Case Against the Political Wife. If you look back at 2010’s posts and find they don’t sound much like you or that they simply lack a bit of personality, resolve to work on your blog’s tone in 2011. This example by Elizabeth Wurtzel is conversational but smart and, quite simply, sounds like Wurtzel. Let that be your goal: sound like you.
9. I resolve to interact with commenters.
Inspiration: TV by the Numbers’ No Matter How Tiny the Ratings for OWN, the Media Will Obsess Over Oprah. It’s easy to get so busy working on your next post that you don’t take time to correspond with readers about your previous post. It happens to us all at times (guilty). There’s certainly no need to respond to every comment left on your blog, but interacting with readers where appropriate can go a long way in building a community and, by extension, fans and advocates for your blog. In this example, blogger Robert Seidman responds to questions and even refers back to one commenter’s previous comment, showing that he pays attention to what’s being said on his posts. It’s a good habit to get into.
10. I resolve to edit my posts after I finish them.
Inspiration: The Phillyist’s White House: Vick’s Crimes Deserve Condemnation. This example is short and sweet. It gets the points across with no more words than are necessary. There’s nothing wrong with longer posts, but chances are, you can take around 15 percent off the word count of most posts without losing anything important. Try it for a month and you’ll find your writing is sharper and more concise.
So what do you say? Will you make a resolution to improve your blog this year? My blogging resolution is pretty simple: I resolve to blog more often. As one of the founders of Regator, it’s all too easy for me to get so distracted by the day-to-day running of an internet startup that my first love, writing, gets pushed aside. 2011 will be the year that changes. How about you? Please share your resolution in the comments!
If you’re looking to start a new blog or redesign a current one, you’ll want to check this out.
Starting today, StudioPress (the creators of some amazing themes) are offering 25% off all of the products that they make if you use the word “BLACK” as a coupon code. It’s part of their Black Friday sale, which ends on Tuesday.
This discount applies to all of their themes and frameworks, including:
- Genesis Framework (the framework behind my ProBlogger and FeelGooder blogs)
- the best-selling Prose theme, which allows you to do a lot of customizations and get your blog looking great
- any of their other 30 themes
- the Pro Plus Package, which includes every single theme that they’ve made
I’ve switched two of my main blogs over to StudioPress themes in the last few weeks, and have been very impressed by the results. They’re fast loading, well optimized for search engines, and simple to use and secure.
The team at StudioPress also tell me that as of Tuesday (when this ends) they won’t be doing any more discounting—this is their last sale.
Make the most of it and secure a StudioPress theme today.
Disclaimer: I’m an affiliate of StudioPress. As a user of StudioPress products I’m more than happy to recommend them. That’s why my face is on the front page of their site telling the world how much I love them!
For those celebrating Halloween, it’s the spooky season, with haunted houses, terrifying costumes, and creepy decorations around every corner. What better time to look at the horrors that plague bloggers? Gruesome typos and grammatical errors, ghastly headlines, confusing echo chambers, dreadfully empty comments sections, and more!
Since it’s the end of the month, it’s also time to unveil October’s most-blogged-about stories, according to Regator.com’s trends. They were, in order: Halloween, Windows Phone, Brett Favre, Chilean Miners, Breast Cancer, ‘The Social Network’, Jon Stewart, World Series, Kanye West, and Nobel Prize. We’ll use posts from Regator about these top stories to illustrate how you can avoid the ten horrors of blogging…
The Horror: Typo terrors
Save Yourself: As The Huffington Post found recently with “The Funniest 2010 Internet Meme Hallowen Costumes,” (a repost of a post by Nerve), not even the largest blogs are immune to the occasional typo or grammatical error. It’s a horror we all succumb to now and then. Take extra time to run a spell check and review your post before hitting publish, especially your headline. Once you’ve hit “publish,” your post takes on a life of its own, appearing in aggregators, RSS feeds, and on social media. Many of these do not reindex your post if it’s altered. If you use a platform that automatically creates permalinks and you fix a headline typo after it has been published, you could end up with a headline that’s spelled correctly, but a URL that is not. If possible, have another person read over your copy before you publish and be aware of words that you consistently misspell.
The Horror: Layouts that scare your users
Save Yourself: Broken RSS feeds, difficult-to-find email subscription boxes, a lack of contact options, or an overly complex layout can send readers fleeing. Boy Genius Report’s “Live from Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 launch!” is an example of a post with clear tags, author information, and date information. And, like ProBlogger, BGR features prominent RSS and email subscription options that encourage readers to stay engaged via feed reader or email. Could you simplify your layout? Have you checked recently to ensure that your RSS feeds are working? Content may be king but the way you present it matters too.
The Horror: Uncannily familiar content
Save Yourself: Though it’s not clear whether SNL’s recent Brett Favre sketch was indeed based on Funny or Die’s sketch, Warming Glow’s “More Plagiarism? SNL Favre Sketch Mirrors Funny Or Die Video” proves that even the suspicion of swiping someone else’s content is enough to get you called out, and nobody wants that. Put simply: Never republish another blog’s post without permission. You wouldn’t want someone to take the content you worked hard on and claim it as their own or monetize it, right? Just apply the Golden Rule.
The Horror: Dreadfully dull headlines
Save Yourself: A good headline needs to stand on its own and scream, “Click me!” in an RSS reader, aggregator, Twitter feed, or email subject line. Headlines that create curiosity and intrigue, such as The First Post’s “Chilean miners ‘not ready for the outside world,’” are effective because they make readers want answers (why aren’t they ready for the outside world?). Using words such as “secret,” “discover,” and “easy” can also make titles more interesting, as can asking a question, creating controversy, and, most of all, conveying a benefit. The best headlines tell readers what they’ll get out of reading a post, whether it’s entertainment, knowledge, or a new skill. Quantifying the benefits by using a list format (e.g., “Four reasons the Chilean miners are not ready for the outside world”) often works even better.
The Horror: Sinister swiping of photos
Save Yourself: Not every photo you find on the internet is yours for the taking, and as a blogger, intellectual property is something you should be familiar with. The Big Picture’s “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” acquires the rights to some truly amazing photos and then provides clear photo credits for each. If you can’t afford or don’t want to spend money on images, there are plenty of free or cheap options.
The Horror: Ghost-town comments sections
Save Yourself: Does your comments section look like Reason’s “Aaron Sorkin’s Facts and Fictions [About ‘The Social Network’]” which has 129 comments and counting—or more like a ghost town? If you said, “ghost town,” don’t lose heart. Start by making it easy to comment. The Reason example above has an inviting, clearly structured comments section that requires nothing more than a name. Forcing users to create an account will reduce the number of comments you receive. It’s also vital to keep spam comments to a minimum so the actual discussion around your content doesn’t get buried in a sea of self-promotion. Consider ending posts by asking readers to give an opinion or add to the conversation. It’s surprisingly effective.
The Horror: Frightfully useless content
Save Yourself: Darren says it again and again: Be useful and solve a problem for your readers. And he says it for a reason. If you aren’t solving a problem, whether it’s giving readers a laugh, information they’re interested in, or a new way of doing something, they won’t have a reason to return to your blog. GigaOm’s “Where to Watch Jon Stewart’s Daily Show Rally Live” is a great example of a post that gives readers something they want. As you write each post, ask yourself what readers will get out of it and have a good answer to that question before hitting “publish.”
The Horror: Eerily silent blogging schedule
Save Yourself: You need not be as prolific as Bleacher Report’s coverage of the World Series (“World Series 2010: Why the Giants Won Game 1” is one of nearly 250 posts on the subject in the last month), but you should maintain a fairly regular posting schedule so that readers know when to expect content. Whether you choose to post twice a day or once a week is up to you and should be determined by how much time you’re willing to devote to your blog and what you ultimately want to get out of it. Going on holiday? Line up posts ahead of time or consider using guest posts to maintain the schedule.
The Horror: Echo chamber of terror
Save Yourself: While 90 percent of blogs covering the story were repeating (almost verbatim…I smell a press release) the news that Kanye West’s new album had a release date, Vulture took the opportunity to get creative with “Ten Album Titles Culled From Kanye’s Twitter That Are Better Than ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,’” a choice that made this post stand out from the crowd. Finding an unconventional way to cover a popular story can be the difference between getting lost in the echo chamber and getting significant traffic. Take the extra time to get an exclusive interview, add your opinion, delve deeper, or explore unanswered questions.
The Horror: Hauntingly boring (generic) voice
Save Yourself: One of the best things, in my opinion, about blogging is that you have the ability to express yourself, not just through your opinions but through your writing voice and style. Wired Science’s “Nobel Worthy: Best Graphene Close-Ups” could have been a dry, boring explanation of graphene, but is, thanks to a humorous and conversational tone, quite engaging. Let your personal voice—whether it’s serious, humorous, conversational, or academic—shine through your posts until your writing sounds like you.
That, brave souls, is the end of our blood-curdling jaunt through the horrors of blogging. We made it out alive. Which of these horrors haunts you most frequently and how do you deal with it? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
See you next month with more blogosphere trends from Regator. In the meantime, you can get your niche’s trends or other free widgets for your blog at Regator’s new widget site.
The make money online segment of the blogosphere has had its fair share of dubious characters selling their wares over the last few years.
However one guy that has consistently produced both valuable and helpful content as well as being a true gentleman and ethical business person is Dave Navaro.
Dave has produced some great resources of late to help people monetize their blogs by launching products and today has launched a new program – the 2010 More Buyers Mastermind.
Dave’s been so helpful to many ProBlogger readers in their journey that when he asked me to be interviewed for his Mastermind course I leapt at the opportunity.
We recorded a hour long call on the topic of ‘Attracting the Right Readers to Your Blog’.
My call is just one of 14 that you get – others include Brian Clark, Naomi Dunford, Laura Roeder, Chris Brogan, Johnny B. Truant and Lynn Terry.
Topics are varied but all revolve around making your online business more profitable including:
- Becoming the Dominant Site in Your Niche
- Getting People to Buy Every Thing You Make
- Selling with Social Media (without being Spammy)
- Creating a Mindset that Grows Your Business
- Becoming the Recognized Leader in Your Field
- Becoming the Trusted Authority in Your Niche
- Selling High Ticket Products
- Building a Personality Based Brand
- Making Every Promotion More Profitable
- Growing Your Business with a Team
- Promoting as an Affiliate (without being Cheesey)
Dave’s also doing 14 followup Q&A/Coaching sessions and has created some great ‘action plans’ that you get as well.
Until this Friday the 2010 More Buyers Mastermind course is $197. After Friday it goes up to $397 so if you think it is for you – you should sign up today. It’s fully guaranteed for 60 days so if you find it isn’t for you you can get your money back – no questions asked.
One of the popular premium plugins that I know many ProBlogger readers use is Scribe. This plugin (for WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal) is designed to help your posts rank well in search engines—without compromising the quality of your posts.
Developed by the team at CopyBlogger, Scribe has gone through a number of updates that have added new features and functionality.
Today it has been updated to version 3.0, and it now covers pretty much all of the fundamentals of SEO—not just some of them.
Search engine-optimized posts—without compromised readability
The great thing about previous versions (and the new one) is that Scribe doesn’t just create search engine-optimized content: it works with your own content, written for your readers. It works to optimize your unique posts.
This leaves you with compelling and useful content that has been optimized for search engines, rather than search engine-optimized content that doesn’t really help anyone.
In the update, we now have:
- an integrated keyword research tool (meaning you no longer have to use a separate tool)
- a new link-building tool.
These features help you get a little more strategic about your relationship building with other bloggers, and cross-linking your content within your own blog.
Try it free
Scribe is a great tool with many features, but in the end you’ll only really understand it once you try it for yourself. The good thing about Scribe is that while it’s a premium/paid plugin, you can try it free by signing up and then, if you decide it’s not for you, canceling your subscription within the first 30 days and asking for a refund (something they honor every time).
They also have a great limited-time ‘STEPUP’ promotion going on. This lets you increase the number of monthly content evaluations you can access. Details of the offer are on this page.
This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren
Once again, we’re taking a look at the stories bloggers have been writing about the most during the last seven days (list provided by Regator). This week, we’ll be using posts about those hot stories to look at one of the toughest forms of writing: humour. It’s difficult because senses of humour vary so much. What you find hilarious, might barely elicit a smirk from me or vice versa. Plus, there’s the added challenge of determining when it’s appropriate to take the amusing route and when a serious approach is best. It’s a challenge, but adding a bit of LOL keeps readers engaged and, in many cases, encourages more sharing. Fortunately, despite the challenges, there are a few tried and true tips to upping the funny factor on your blog. Let’s see how some bloggers have covered this week’s hot topics with humor…
1. Christine O’Donnell
Example: Huffington Post’s “The War on Lust Must Be Won”
Tip: They say sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but sometimes they are wrong. Sarcasm can be an effective form of humour, as shown in this example. It can often come across as sour grapes, so proceed with caution.
2. Lady Gaga
Example: Cracked.com’s “Why It’s Time to Stop Paying Attention to Lady Gaga”
Tip: Sarcasm—humour at someone else’s expense—can be funny, but adding a touch of self-deprecating humour can make it doubly so. In this example, the author writes, “I showed up to the office with shoes that didn’t match. For 11 straight days. One of them was a flip flop and the other was a woman’s hat. I know nothing about fashion, is my point, which is why I’m uniquely qualified to talk about Lady Gaga’s wardrobe choices, because she doesn’t either.” By making fun of yourself, you seem less bitter and judgmental and more…well, funny.
3. American Idol
Example: ROFL Razzi’s “ROFLash: Steven Tyler is Probs the New ‘American Idol’ Judge”
Tip: Some words are intrinsically funny. “Moolah,” used here is a funnier word than “money.” Onomatopoeic amusing words, like “splat” are often amusing. Other words are funnier than their counterparts for reasons that aren’t immediately apparent (but you’ll know them when you see them). For example, what’s funnier, “underpants” or “underwear”? “Spooks” or “phantoms”? “Canoodling” or “hugging”? There’s a theory that words that start with plosive consonants such as b, p, t, d, or k are intrinsically funnier. I’m not convinced this has been confirmed by science, but it seems plausible. Either way, use the funniest words you can find.
4. Pope Benedict XVI
Example: Friendly Atheist’s “Dear Benny…”
Tip: The inappropriate can be hilarious. There’s a reason stand-up comics often write jokes about things that make people a bit uncomfortable, such as the Catholic sexual abuse cases. If you’re not inclined to be overly politically correct, approaching an inappropriate or sensitive topic with a healthy dose of humour can be very effective, as shown in this musical example.
5. Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert
Example: Indecision Blog’s “Here Are the “Rally to Restore Sanity” and “March to Keep Fear Alive” Hastags You Ordered”
Tip: A conversational, informal tone that connects with readers directly is almost always funnier than formal language. This example addresses the readers directly, saying, “Oh my God, America, you were so annoying! Can’t you talk about anything else?!”
6. Katy Perry
Example: Ministry of Gossip’s “In the Katy Perry ‘Sesame Street’ scandal, is Elmo the real villain?”
Tip: The unexpected is funny. While everyone else was analyzing Katy Perry’s culpability in the scandalous Katy/Elmo video, this example focused on Elmo. “That Elmo character was totally naked.” Outrageous! … And hilarious.
7. Joaquin Phoenix
Example: Cracked.com’s “Will Joaquin Phoenix Become The Craziest Celebrity Ever?”
Tip: Find creative alternatives to standard approaches. In this example, Cracked puts its own spin on the omnipresent five-star rating system and determines that Phoenix was (at the time this was written, which was before it came out that the whole insanity thing was a ruse) “officially as crazy as…” three Tom Cruises, six Octomoms, half a Charles Manson, and four point eight barrels of flaming monkey poo. Taking a standard cliché and giving it a unique spin is often funny or, at the very least, interesting.
Example: The Onion’s “Struggling Blockbuster Eliminates Rental Fees”
Tip: Pick a joke and stick with it. This faux news example focuses on the ridiculous lengths the failing video rental chain will go through to draw customers. The joke is the same throughout, but is exaggerated to a greater and greater extent until, toward the end of the piece, fake Blockbuster says, “as a special introductory offer, cancel your membership with Netflix anytime in the next three months and we’ll do literally anything you ask of us.” The exaggeration paired with the commitment to the single joke throughout really works here.
9. OK Go
Example: The Awesomer’s “OK Go vs. The Muppets”
Tip: If you don’t laugh, don’t expect others to laugh. Before you use a video in your post, like the one in this example, or hit publish on a comical (or supposedly comical) post, watch the video or read the post aloud. Sure, your sense of humour is unique, but you shouldn’t expect others to laugh if you don’t even find it funny. The humour in this video relies heavily on good comedic timing—and Muppets. Muppets almost always help.
10. The Social Network
Example: Funny or Die’s “How Did We Spend The Facebook Outage?”
Tip: Actual behaviours and situations are often funnier than anything you can make up. You don’t always need to be overly clever. Next time you’re in an absurd situation, make a note of it. Remember that details often make a story, so be specific. You may be able to incorporate those humourous observations into a post somewhere down the line.
If you use humour on your blog, please share your tips in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. On a side note, the weekly trends will be changing to monthly trends after this post. I’ve had an amazing time connecting with ProBlogger readers and writing this column every week, but busy days are ahead so Darren has been kind enough to let me switch to the less frequent posting schedule to accommodate. Talk to you again soon!