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StudioPress Offer 25% Off Themes – Last Sale Ever

If you’re looking to start a new blog or redesign a current one, you’ll want to check this out.

StudioPress Premium WordPress ThemesStarting 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:

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!

October Trends + The 10 Horrors of Blogging

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.

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com, Regator for iPhone, and the Regator Platform, as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

Join the 2010 More Buyers Mastermind

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’.

201010060943.jpg

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.

Grab Your Copy Today.

Scribe 3.0 Launched Today

SEO Copywriting Made SimpleOne 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.

Get full details on what Scribe is about here and view a video demo here.

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.

Blogosphere Trends + Humour

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.

8.  Blockbuster
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!

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

Join Me at Facebook Success Summit 2010

One of the excellent upcoming conferences that I’m speaking at is the Facebook Success Summit 2010. It’s run by Mike Stelzner of Social Media Examiner. I’ve been involved in Mike’s summits before and they are packed with information.

This conference is a live online conference (so there are no travel costs) that is packed with amazing speakers. All sessions are recorded so you don’t have to be on live calls to participate but can listen to those you miss later.

All up there are 22 experts sharing what they know about how to use Facebook to build their businesses. Speakers include:

  • Brian Solis
  • Mari Smith
  • Michael Stelzner
  • Justin Smith
  • Others from Intel, Xbox and Cisco

Topics are varied and cover everything from the ‘why’ of getting a business on Facebook through to many aspects of how to best do it effectively.

My own session (which I’ll be running with Mike Stelzner) is titled ‘Building Community with Facebook and Blogs’ and the description of the session is:

Are you looking to build a loyal community on Facebook? If so, look no further. In this session, Darren Rowse (founder of Problogger.net) and Michael Stelzner (founder of SocialMediaExaminer.com) reveal how Facebook has enabled them to build a loyal following of tens of thousands of Facebook fans who engage and promote their content and ideas. You’ll learn about the apps, widgets, and blog enhancements they use to keep their readers engaged.

The price for Facebook Success Summit goes up by $200 later this week (on the 22nd) so if you’re thinking of attending make sure you get in at the early bird rate today.

Weekly Trends + Using Polls

This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren

Last week, along with the list of the ten most-blogged-about topics of the week, we talked about how to get more comments on your blog. But the truth is, some readers aren’t going to comment, no matter what you do. If you want them to interact, you need to give them another option. Polls are quicker and easier than comments and many readers who won’t take the time to form a fully thought-out comment are more than happy to hit quick button to share their opinion via poll. When used for the right reasons, polls can increase interaction and participation.

Every week, we look at the ten most blogged-about stories of the previous seven days (trends provided, as always, by Regator) and today, in addition to those, we’ll see how some bloggers made use of polls in their posts…

1.  MTV Video Music Awards/VMAs
Example:
Gold Derby’s “Poll: Will Chelsea Handler flourish or flop as MTV VMAs host?
Lesson: Be sure your polls work with your blog’s topic matter. Occasionally, I’ll run across a blog that is hosting a poll on a question unrelated to its subject matter in the sidebar. I assume that questions about political affiliation or age on a parenting blog, for example, are done for either the sake of marketing research or the blogger’s own curiosity, but they are useless because they aren’t fulfilling a need for your reader. In this example, the blog is about awards shows and the poll is on how a particular celebrity will fare as an awards show host. It’s a great fit.

2.  September 11/9-11
Example:
Gallup’s “Nine Years After 9/11, Few See Terrorism as Top U.S. Problem
Lesson: While not a blog, I have included this example from Gallup because the site can be a good resource for poll results and statistics. You need not run your own poll to make use of a poll on your blog. Seek out results from places such as Gallup, which allows you to search for polls on a variety of topics, then deliver commentary or start a discussion around the results.

3.  Tea Party
Example:
Poll Watch’s “Beyond the Primaries: How Much Impact Will the Tea Party Have Now?
Lesson: People love stats. People love stats twice as much when you present them in some sort of infographic, pie chart, or line graph. I can’t really explain why, but you know it’s true. Present your findings (or the findings of the poll you’re referencing) in a visual way for maximum impact, even if it’s just a very simple pie chart like the one seen in this example.

4.  Lady Gaga
Example:
Ministry of Gossip’s “Lady Gaga wears a meat dress — need we say more?
Lesson: Give voters enough options to accurately portray their feelings on the subject. When you’re selecting the options for your poll, think beyond a simple “yes” and “no” system. In this case, the blogger could’ve asked, “Did you like Lady Gaga’s meat dress?” and provided two simple options. Instead, she broadened the choices to: “A cutting-edge political statement,” “A cutting edge-fashion statement,” “Tasty,” and “Pathetic.” Do note, though, that three of the four available options are positive. Try to provide balanced choices so as not to subconsciously guide voters.

5.  Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell/DADT
Example:
Joe.My.God’s “CBS Poll: 75% Support Gays In Military”
Lesson: Hosting polls can give readers an alternate means of interacting with your site, but posting results from polls—either your own or another source’s—can be a way of starting a discussion in the comments. This example provides results with minimal commentary, but it prompts a conversation in the comments.

6.  Google Instant
Example:
Lifehacker’s “Do You Like Instant Search?
Lesson: When you display results, take caution not to look like a ghost town if your blog is still working on building its readership to a good level. In this example, Lifehacker displays not only percentages, but the actual number of votes cast for each option. Their total is 7,857 votes—pretty darned respectable. If you run a poll for several days with only eleven votes cast, you run the risk of showcasing your lack of traffic. Use percentages instead.

7. Mexico
Example:
Immigration Chronicles“Illegal Immigrants or ‘Illegal Aliens’”
Lesson: Use polls to find ways to improve your blog. In this example, a blog focusing on immigration issues is polling its readers to learn about the specific terminology their readers prefer. If you’re not sure what your readers would like to see more (or less) of, how they feel about a particular issue you cover regularly, or if they’re tired of a certain feature, what better way to find out than to ask?

8.  Pope Benedict XVI
Example: Politics Daily’s “Pope Benedict’s Visit to the U.K. May Be a Flop
Lesson: We’ve all heard the “lies, damned lies, and statistics” warning…and for good reason. You can find numbers to support nearly any hypothesis. You can increase your credibility by citing several sources and, most importantly, clearly indicating where your data came from. This example compares results from a British Social Attitudes poll with a Guardian/ICM poll.

9.  Toronto International Film Festival
Example:
IndieWIRE’s “criticWIRE @ Toronto: Grading All The Films”
Lesson: Consider polling a specific group of people rather than the general public if it will lead to more accurate results. In this example, IndieWIRE started a “criticWIRE poll,” asking critics to indicate how they felt about this year’s TIFF selections. By restricting the poll to critics, many will find the results to be more trustworthy, and it’s likely that the results will be shared on other blogs.

10. Oprah Winfrey
Example:
PopSugar Australia’s “Pop Poll: Is Oprah Worth the $3 Million Bill To Aussie Taxpayers?”
Lesson:
Make your polls easy to interact with (don’t require registration) but not easily gamed. This example shows a clearly laid-out, attractive poll that allows easy voting. And unlike many polls, refreshing the page does not allow you to vote again. Obviously, polls in your posts aren’t highly scientific, but do what you can to avoid having results manipulated.

Please share your experiences with using polls in the comments. Have you found polls to be effective on your blog? What tools do you recommend for creating polls?

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

Blogosphere Trends + Encouraging Comments

This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren

You may have heard the stat that for every 100 people who read your post, only one, on average, will leave a comment. The fact is, most of us are lurkers by nature. I know I am; I read dozens of blogs every day but very rarely comment. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the content, just that I didn’t feel the need—or have the time—to join the conversation. So the next time you’re looking at the vast sea of white pixels below your latest post, don’t beat yourself up over it. Having eyes on your post and having comments aren’t necessarily the same thing, but the silence can be frustrating. After all, interacting with readers and creating a conversation are the aspects of blogging that many people enjoy most. That’s why, as we look at this week’s ten most-blogged-about stories (trends provided, as always, by Regator), we’ll also pick up some tips on how to encourage readers to interact with content:

1.  Google Instant
Example:
Business Insider’s “Microsoft Bing Exec Pees On “Google Instant,” Says Bing Results Still Way Better
Lesson:
As Darren pointed out in his excellent 2006 post on comments, one way to encourage comments is to write open-ended posts that leave room for readers to provide extra information and expertise. This example provides one side of the story, allowing readers to add detail or jump in with opinions and facts that support the other side of the argument. Being thorough but not too thorough tempts readers to fill in the gaps.

2.  Labor Day
Example:
ComicMix’s “Labor Day and the Cost Of Doing Business in Comics
Lesson:
Ask for comments. It sounds elementary but is probably the single best way to get more interaction. The question that ends this example post, “So how would you do it?” manages to create an in-depth discussion that is longer and more detailed than the original post.

3.  Terry Jones
Example:
Mediaite’s “How To Marginalize A Media Whore: Morning Joe Refuses To Interview Pastor
Lesson:
Be controversial. Taking a stance on a hot-button issue such as this one is almost certain to create discussion and debate. This example got 113 passionate comments in just eleven hours.

4.  US Open
Example:
Bleacher Report’s “2010 US Open: Can Robin Soderling Break The Cycle?
Lesson:
Cultivate a relationship with your readers. Author Rob York takes an active role in the conversation in the comments of this example, and it’s clear he has developed relationships with some of his regulars. Your blog almost certainly has commenters who are more active than others. Getting to know them keeps them coming back and their contributions may, in turn, create discussions that prompt others to join in.

5.  Tony Blair
Example:
Spectator’s “Why Tony Blair remains a class act
Lesson:
Be opinionated. This is a great example of a blogger spurring conversation and debate by sharing a strong opinion. Those who disagree will feel the need to explain why you’re wrong. Those who agree will jump in to support your arguments.

6.  Ground Zero
Example:
Gothamist’s “Donald Trump Offers To Buy “Ground Zero” Mosque Site
Lesson:
Have an official policy on comments. Some of the comments on this example are harsh, but Gothamist has laid out some very clear rules regarding comments, namely that “…once you post a comment on one of our sites, it becomes part of the public conversation. Our policy is that we will not remove a user’s comments unless they are in violation of our Terms of Service…We cannot simply remove your comments because you have a change of heart about making them.” You may want a more gentile atmosphere and can alter your policy accordingly, but it can only help to have some sort of policy in place.

7.  Mark Hurd
Example:
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog’s “Can H-P Win Its Suit Against Hurd?
Lesson:
Make it easy to comment. There are far too many log-ins and passwords in our lives, and nothing will reduce the number of comments you receive more than a complicated system that requires users to create yet another account in order to join the discussion. This WSJ blog is a great example of a system that is fast and easy to use.

8.  Fashion’s Night Out
Example:
Jezebel’s “Fashion’s Night Out Sparks Global Fashion Orgasm
Lesson:
Reduce spam. No one wants to wade through dozens of “look at my blog!” and “buy my product!” comments to be part of a discussion. Jezebel’s unusual commenting rules actually contradict the advice I just gave about making comments easy. In their case, commenters must “audition” by showing that they’re capable of enhancing the conversation “because our editors want to spend more time providing new content and less time moderating comment threads.” It’s a bold move, but one that seems to have worked for a blog that, at one point, had a fairly significant spam issue. Deal with spam however you see fit, but do deal with it.

9.  San Bruno
Example:
Karoli’s Blog’s “Infrastructure, you say? Ask the city of San Bruno why we need it
Lesson:
Interact in the comments. This gets harder as your blog becomes more popular, but it’s worth some effort because the more you take part in the conversation, the more likely your readers are to feel a connection to your blog, visit regularly, and help spread the word about your brand.

10. Pakistan
Example:
John Quiggin’s “A slow motion disaster (update)
Lesson:
Tell readers what to do. If you want readers to take an action, give clear instructions, as John Quiggin did here. This post ends with “Please give to your favorite charity and record it in the comments box,” and readers did just that.

If none of these tips work, this bunny has a foolproof tactic.

What do you do to increase interaction on your blog? Please share your experiences in the comments.

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

Blogosphere Trends + Guest Posting

This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren

While Darren and his family are on a well-deserved holiday, he has lined up enough pre-written content and guest posts to keep ProBlogger readers supplied with plenty of quality reading in his absence. So it makes sense that, this week, we’ll be focusing on the art of the guest post. The most important thing to remember is that guest posts are a win-win situation for the host blog and guest blogger. Keeping that in mind as you send pitches (or review incoming pitches) will take you far.

Regator has, as always, provided a list of the ten most blogged-about stories of the last seven days, and we’ll use posts about those hot trends to learn about what makes a great guest post:

1. Iraq
Example:
A Traveler’s Library’s “Baghdad in War Time
Lesson:
Have a strong understanding of the blog you want to write for. What topics are covered? Who is the audience? What tone is used? Preferably, you’ll pitch your idea to a blog you read regularly, but even if you’re trying to expand your niche by writing for a blog that is new to you, take time to skim posts dating back two to three months to ensure that your ideas are in line with the blogger’s vision. Pitching an idea or post that is not in keeping with the blog you’re targeting shows a lack of respect for the host blogger’s time. In this example, the guest poster has a history of writing about topics from health and science to environmental news, but this post shows a clear understanding of the tone, theme, and audience of the host blog.

2. Emmy Awards
Example:
Plus Size Plum’s “Plus Size Beauty Goes to the Emmys
Lesson:
There are several reasons you might solicit guest posts for your blog: They provide fresh voices and content, allow you to take breaks without leaving your readers hanging, and as this post demonstrates, guest posts can be used to provide a unique point of view. This guest poster wrote about the Emmy Awards from the perspective of an attendee whose spouse was nominated for an Emmy—a vantage point that few, including the host blogger, would have been able to provide.

3. Glenn Beck
Example:
Religion in American History’s “Beck Plays Prophet
Lesson:
As a general rule, bloggers do not want recycled content. When you pitch a post or idea, it should be something that has not been published on your blog or any other blog. But as this example demonstrates, there are times when a blog sees fit to use a guest post that has already appeared elsewhere. The important thing is to be honest and up front about the post’s history. Unless you explicitly state that a post has run elsewhere, most host bloggers will assume you are delivering original content.

4. Apple TV/iPod Touch/Ping [It was such an Apple-heavy week, that I’m combining the three so that they don’t take over the trends list. Apple fever is an epidemic.]
Example:
Silicon Alley Insider’s “Apple Just Killed MySpace Even More Dead
Lesson:
When relevant and appropriate, link to other posts on the host blog. It’s good for their SEO, it shows the blogger that you are keeping up with the blog, and it’s helpful for readers.

5. Hurricane
Example:
Sociological Images’ “Racial Violence in the Aftermath of Katrina
Lesson:
Don’t save your best material for your own blog. Put your all into every guest post. After all, the key word is “guest.” When you’re in your own home, it’s fine to put your feet up on the coffee table if you want, but when you’re a guest in someone else’s home, you should be on your best behaviour and respect the rules of their home.

6. Paris Hilton
Example:
Clusterstock’s “Senators Are Pushing To Cut Taxes For Paris Hilton
Lesson:
Once your post is published, your work is not finished. You’ve got two more jobs: 1. Assist with promotion. Share the link so the host blogger receives new visitors from your network. Remember the win-win rule. 2. Check back to answer questions and follow up on comments. This example received several negative comments but when the guest poster didn’t return to address them, they got out of hand. It’s the internet, once the negativity starts, it has a bad habit of snowballing. A simple reply can show that you’re engaged and open to discussion.

7. Afghanistan
Example:
The Best Defense’s “How to get kicked out of Afghanistan without really trying — too hard
Lesson:
Before pitching a post or idea, ask yourself what you’re offering and how you’re adding to the blog. You should, as always, be solving a problem or providing a solution with your post. This post by a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve offers an insider’s perspective.

8. Ground Zero Mosque
Example:
Pagan + Politics’ “Guest Post: Islamophobia
Lesson:
Include a brief bio with your post. If the host blogger wants to write his or her own intro for you, as has been done with this example, he or she will do so, but a brief, well-written bio provided by you may save time on the blogger’s end and will give readers an idea of your expertise and background.

9. Discovery Channel
Example:
Watts Up With That?’s “Stop the Hysteria
Lesson:
Stirring controversy in a guest post is risky business, particularly if the host blogger disagrees or the comments get out of hand. As Chris Garrett said in a ProBlogger guest post from 2008: “If you are going to be snarky, damage your own brand.” This example, however, is opinionated but clearly backs up the host blogger’s opinion. You’ll need a pretty good sense of his or her ideologies before you can do that though, so understand where you stand before you take the plunge. As always, be sure to take the blog’s tone into account. Darren has fostered a positive, helpful vibe here on ProBlogger so my posts are still very “me,” but tend to be a bit less snarky and opinionated than posts I might do elsewhere.

10. Oil Spill
Example:
Naked Capitalism’s “Guest Post: Scientists Say Dispersants May Delay Recovery of the Gulf By Years … Or Decades
Lesson:
In addition to building your reputation and expanding your audience, getting backlinks is one of the main reasons many choose to guest post. This example shows subtle promotion. Don’t go overboard and make the entire guest post about you and your brand. It’s content, not an ad.

Do you accept guest posts? What advice would you give those who wanted to guest on your blog?

For further reading on ProBlogger, check out:

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.