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Opening Paragraphs that Hook Your Readers

Great post (as usual) by Brian over at Copyblogger titled 5 Simple Ways to Open Your Blog Post With a Bang.

While we all agree that the title is the most important element of a blog post in terms of getting it attention – it’s the opening paragraph that hooks people right in. Brian shares 5 techniques for doing this.

The Eternal Quest for Uniqueness

Unique-1What makes your Blog Different?

This is a question I think that most bloggers would do well to ask.

We’re living in a time when ‘content’ is being produced in vast quantities by large numbers of individuals and organizations.

I heard recently on the radio that the internet now contains over 800 billion documents. Whether that number has any truth to it or not I don’t know (I suspect it’s a gross underestimate) – but I do know that there is ALOT of content circulating out there and that while blogging does give individuals a voice – in reality each post is just one in several hundred billion.

So the question is – what makes your blog unique?

I’ve written about this before so won’t go into great depth about it – however it struck me today that this question is not just a one off question – it’s one that should be asked on an ongoing basis.

The problem with producing content on the web is that it’s an ever changing environment with low barriers to entry where your idea can be unique one day and just another page of a genre the next.

One last thought….

Bloggers should probably ask this same question on two levels.

  1. What makes my BLOG unique? - A question to be asked every month or two
  2. What makes this POST unique? – A daily question that focusses upon the micro task of producing a single article.

What makes your blog unique? How do you differentiate it from the masses? What other examples of unique blogs are there?

Using Digg to Improve Your Content

I’ve seen (and written) a lot of posts about how to get posts picked up by social bookmarking sites and what to do when it happens, but one of the things that has struck me recently is that another opportunity often presents itself when a site like Digg links links to a post you’ve written.

Let me use a recent example to illustrate.

Yesterday I posted a post in anticipation of 4th of July celebrations on how to photograph fireworks which was fortunate enough to get picked up by LifeHacker and as a result was Dugg heavily (or maybe it was the other way around – update – it then got BoingBoing’d – what a day – even with a large server allowance I almost went over! It might be time to upgrade that if I have any more days like this).

The most obvious benefit of this was the traffic that followed from Digg (7000 visitors in the first hour alone) as well as the secondary linkups that came as digg users blogged about the post also. It was a nice thing to wake up to.

But as I looked over the comments on the digg thread linking to my post I was reminded of another benefit of having a post exposed to tens of thousands of people. While digg users can be pretty harsh when they don’t like a post there is also an incredibly wealth of knowledge among them.

Amidst the 10,000+ people who viewed my post today – a certain percentage of them know a thing or two about photographing fireworks and a certain percentage of those people left comments on the digg post with their own suggestions, often with points that I hadn’t included on my original post.

This happens every time I’ve had a story high on digg and what I’m doing these days is to include the suggestions and tips of digg users as an update to my original posts.

You’ll see now on my fireworks post that I’ve got an ‘update’ on it with a series of quotes from digg users and a link back to the thread so that people can see who wrote them.

In doing this I not only enjoy the traffic from digg but improve the quality of the posts that I’ve written – which after-all is the ultimate goal of my blog.

10 Things Every Reader Wants from a Writer

Liz at Successful Blog has a good list of 10 Things Every Reader Wants from a Writer.

Does Blog Post Frequency Matter?

Eric Kintz has written an interesting post on Why Blog Post Frequency Does Not Matter Anymore.

I like some of what Eric’s got to say but do not agree with it completely for all types of bloggers. Perhaps it’s a bit too simplistic a statement to make. Below are Eric’s headings in bold and a few of my own thoughts under each outlining where I agree and disagree with his statements:

[Read more...]

A Guide to writing good email…. and blog posts?

There’s a nice post over at blue flavor on how to write good email – an author’s guide which as someone who gets a lot of email I wish everyone would read. It’s got some great common sense tips.

I wonder if there are a few good tips for bloggers writing blog posts buried away within it also? Here’s a few that I’ve tweaked to see if they might apply:

On Brevity

“Short emails blog posts rule. When I get come across an email a blog post that’s several pages long, I have to make some decisions: do I have time to handle this now? Is it important enough to come back to? Can I pass it on to someone else? If I can’t say yes to any of these, I will probably never get back to read it.”

[Read more...]

Schedule Writing Times

200605161802One of the ways that I find helpful to get back into the momentum of writing a blog is to set aside specific times for writing.

I find it is very easy to get distracted by the many different elements of maintaining a blog, to the point where I find it hard to do the core element – writing posts. As a result setting aside time for writing has become increasingly important for me.

I do this by setting aside time each day (usually the same time each day) for writing but also setting aside longer times on a weekly basis (ie at present I’m experimenting with making Mondays ‘writing day’). I’ve also at times taken even longer periods of time to go away for the sole purpose of writing (ie for a weekend).

I find that setting this time aside away from email, away from IM and even away from being online altogether really lifts the quality and style of my writing.

Of course in the midst of the rest of my week I do write posts – but they tend to be more ‘newsy’ and ‘link posty’ in nature.

I guess ultimately this ‘tip’ is common sense. The things you are intentional about putting time aside for are the things which you have a good chance of doing. The same tip could be written in terms of ‘scheduling time for design’, ‘scheduling time for blog promotion’, ‘scheduling time for Ad optimization’ and many other basic blogging tasks – but ultimately it is a blog’s content that is at it’s core and I’d recommend putting aside time for it’s creation as one of the first things a blogger should do each day.

Using Posting Schedules to Maintain Momentum

200605161802Another strategy for planning ahead that many bloggers use is to create a postings schedule for themselves. This can happen on a range of levels (from informal to very structured) but is often a great way to give some level of structure and motivation for posting. Here’s a few quick ways that I’ve seen bloggers do this:

  • Numerical Goals – set a daily/weekly/montly posting level that you want to achieve.
  • Topical Goals – set yourself a number of topics that you want to cover over a period of time. These can be ‘general’ topics (ie you want to write 5 posts this week in a certain category on your blog) or can be quite specific (ie you want to write 1 post on XXX topic, another on YYY topic and another on ZZZ topic).
  • Post Style Goals - set yourself a type of post to write each day. Some bloggers have a weekly rhythm that they stick to (ie on Monday I’ll post an interview with someone, on Tuesday I’ll write a rant, on Wednesday I’ll do a review post, on Thursday I’ll do a link post style wrap up on the news for the week and on Friday I’ll write a tip post) For ideas on different types of blog posts – here’s 20.

Make your goals reasonable enough to be achievable as well as big enough to stretch you a little.

Using posting schedules works brilliantly for some people and gives them a wonderful framework for their blogging, but for others it can squash their passion for blogging. It’s worth experimenting with though and seeing if it fits with your personality.

I tend not to use posting schedules in day to day blogging but do find them very useful in those times when life threatens to get on top of me and I find maintaining momentum most difficult. In these times I attempt to set a goal for each and then on a piece of paper in front of me tick off each post as I write them.

Public Posting Schedules – some bloggers not only have personal or private posting schedules but have public ones and tell their readers what to expect on their blog. This makes the blogger accountable to their goals and can create a sense of anticipation among your readers but is also risky if you don’t meet the expectations that you create in your regular readers minds. I do this if I’m writing a series of posts and I know I’m going to follow through on my goals – but don’t like to set many more expectations that that as my own style of blogging is reasonably spontaneous.

Timing Your Blog Posts for Maximum Impact

TimingIn the last two days I’ve been fortunate enough to have Lifehacker link to two posts (here and here) on my Digital Photography School blog. The results have been two wonderful days of traffic with not only links from Lifehacker but quite a few secondary links from other sites that flow on from such a prominent link.

One of the things I’ve been reflecting upon about the two link ups was the difference in impact between their two posts. The first one sent some very nice traffic but was about half as prolific as the second one.

While there are perhaps a couple of factors at play – the main one was the timing of the two posts.

The first post went up on Lifehacker in the middle of the life hacker day (they tend to post most of their posts during the daytime in the US). It wasn’t the first post of the day but it wasn’t the last either. After they posted it there were numerous other posts that went up to other sites on that day. The post with my link in it remained at the top of the Lifehacker home page for no more than an hour.

The second post went up as the last post for the day. This meant it was the most recent (and therefor first) post on lifehacker for around 10 hours.

While these were probably not the most highly trafficked hours on Lifehacker (who I assume has more readers during the daytime in the US) the traffic that resulted in the extended period at the top of their home page was significantly higher than on the first day when there was a quick initial spike in traffic but then a tapering off.

So what’s the application of this little observation?

Ultimately unless I manage to find a way to bribe the team at Lifehacker to link to me every night as their last post timing the links that others give you is something that is based pretty heavily upon luck.

However while timing the links that others give might be out of a blogger’s control the timing of posts on your own blog are well within your control and perhaps it’s worth considering what posts are left to sit for longer periods of time. I’ve never really given much thought to this myself but have talked to a couple of bloggers today who have and who use a couple of strategies:

1. One blogger told me that if he’s going to post posts with affiliate links in them that he saves them for the last ones of the day to maximize the length of time that the links appear at the top of his blog.

2. Another blogger told me that she is trying to impress another blogger or catch their attention (with a link in her post) that she often attempts to time her posts to maximize the traffic that she sends. She does this by either posting the post in peak viewing time or by making it the last post for the day.

Of course many bloggers also consider timing their posts in other ways – I know of quite a few who make sure a post goes up every morning just as the east coast of the US is waking up to maximize their exposure for the day (this is something I do from time to time myself).

Do you consider the timing of your posts? What factors do you consider and what strategies do you employ?