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Writing Integrity Day

Andy Wibbels is having a writing integrity day.

What is it?

It’s pretty simple really – it’s an attempt to get all that writing you’ve been putting off done by being a little accountable to others. He’s done it before – it goes something like this:

  1. We all get on the phone at 10am Eastern/New York time.
  2. Everyone takes 10 seconds (no more!) to say what they are going to work on for the next hour.
  3. Hang up.
  4. Write like hell.
  5. Get back on the phone the next hour and do it again.
  6. Rinse and repeat until 5pm.

It’s a fun idea to help make the day as productive as possible and which will get us bloggers who sit alone all day staring at the computer interacting with ‘real’ people for once.

Of course it doesn’t quite work for us non US types – I’ll be well and truly asleep for most of the time everyone else is writing with integrity.

Interestingly the date Andy’s chosen is 14 February – Valentines day – the perfect day to connect with other bloggers :-)

Why I don’t use Free Articles on my Blogs

A common question that finds itself into my inbox from readers is with regards to the practice of using ‘Free Articles’ to put on your blog. I quite often talk about how building the quantity of content on your blog is one strategy for building traffic over time but the temptation for those unable to write large quantities of content is to look at other places for it.

Free Article sites like ezine articles (there are many many others) are places where writers submit articles to be used freely by other webmasters in return for the links usually contained in a footer at the end of the article. Such articles can be picked up by thousands of sites which can be good for the writer (see below for another take on this) as a result of the incoming links that the articles bring to their sites.

Long time readers of ProBlogger (and I mean LONG time) will remember that ‘free articles’ were actually something I once used on this blog on occasion. It was only on a handful of times but without really thinking of the implications of them I had posted a number of them.

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Bloggers Block

The following post was submitted by Lyndon from Flockblog

A successful Blogger does one thing above all others.

A blogger writes.

A successful Blogger puts fingers to the keyboard and writes quality blog posts often and regularly. Seems obvious, but one of the biggest potential problems successful bloggers can have is procrastination and no one is more guilty than me. Even writing this post has had me thinking that maybe I should do the washing up, or I must just check my email. Sometimes it‚s the hardest thing to sit down and write. Here are some tips that if followed make things a whole lot easier.

  1. Develop a routine.
  2. Brainstorm topics
  3. Free Associate
  4. Go for a walk.
  5. Set Achievable Goals
  6. Reward Yourself
  7. Minimise Distractions
  8. Discipline Yourself
  9. Give yourself a deadline
  10. Show off your past successes

1. Develop a routine.
If you know that from 2:30pm to 3:30 you must write two posts, it makes things a lot easier. An established routine means you do not have to think what you should be doing, you just do it. Timetable your day, work out a routine that works for you.
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Turning Off-Line Into On-Line Content

Tammy Powley is a weblogger and freelance writer from South Florida.

One of the first content collecting tips most bloggers pick up is signing up for content helpers like google news alerts. I have to admit to doing this myself, and I use a lot of them. News alerts (no matter if they are from google or CNN or wherever) are wonderful tools for automatically gathering content related to your blogging topic. Of course, it takes time to go through all those alerts. For example, much of what I write about is related to jewelry, beading, and jewelry making. So, I would say about half of the alerts I get are about people stealing jewelry, not exactly something my readers want to know about, even think about! But, while these web tools are great, there are other ways to gather content ideas off-line and incorporate them into your on-line blogging needs.

Here are a few tips for finding information related to your content in the off-line world.

  • Subscribe to related magazines. Now, I know some folks are going to say they don’t have time to read all the magazines that deal with their topic, and that’s not exactly what I’m suggesting. However, select a few magazine that are the better-known titles in your industry. I have to admit to being a real sap when it comes to magazines – I truly love them – but I have learned that I just don’t have time to read them all, and they all don’t have information that my readers care to know about. Therefore, I’ve tried to narrow them down to a chosen few. One example is the publication BeadStyle. For me, this is the perfect magazine because it covers jewelry making, beading, and jewelry fashion. By just skimming through the ads and table of contents, I usually come up with at least a half dozen content ideas for my blogs.
  • Read your local newspaper. Again, don’t feel like you have to read the whole thing, but skim read the headlines. The local paper is usually pretty inexpensive, and it has local as well as national news. Even with jewelry, every once in a while, I’ll find a related article, maybe something about a new fashion trend, a celebrity designing jewelry (oh, yes, Paris Hilton comes to mind), or yet another story about a beader turned entrepreneur. Most people read the paper, at least on the weekends any way, so this idea isn’t much of a stretch to consider.
  • Look off and then on line. Most periodicals these days have web sites, especially the larger ones. Once you locate some content ideas in a hard copy, remember that you can also find links on line as well. Look for the URL in the publication’s header or in the first few pages where editors and other contributors may be listed. Look for key words within articles as well. If you are writing about Donald Trump, then google him and see if you can locate his web site. (By the way, it happens to be www.trump.com/main.htm and it’s actually pretty cool.)
  • Find frugality at your library. Hardcopy publications can get pricey, especially if you are writing about topics such as business or finance. Unplug on occasion and make a trip to your local public library. Bring along some change. While many libraries allow you to check out magazines, some will not allow you to check out the most recent issues. They also have some materials that are only available in the reference area in the library rather than circulation, so again, you can’t check them out. However, you can photocopy them.

Once you start looking around in your off-line environment, you’ll be surprised at what you can find to help generate content related to your blog topic. It’s easy to get so caught up in the virtual world of the net that we forget some people still actually read hardcopy publications, and in fact, these publications can be useful to even the most devoted weblogger.

Ten Tips for writing a blog post

The following post on tips for writing a blog was submitted by Lyndon from Flockblog who in his email to me with it described it as a simple ‘back to basics’ kind of post. Thanks Lyndon.

Get more Blog tips from our Blog Tips for Beginners series.

Here are ten tips that help me with my blog writing.

  1. Make your opinion known
  2. Link like crazy
  3. Write less
  4. 250 Words is enough
  5. Make Headlines snappy
  6. Write with passion
  7. Include Bullet point lists
  8. Edit your post
  9. Make your posts easy to scan
  10. Be consistent with your style
  11. Litter the post with keywords

1. Make your opinion known
People like blogs, they like blogs because they are written by people and not corporations. People want to know what people think, crazy as it sounds they want to know what you think. Tell them exactly what you think using the least amount of words possible.
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Overcoming Intimidation Over English Skills in Blogging

 Wp-Content Uploads GaylaThe next tip in the b5media’s 12 Days of Christmas is from Gayla Baer – one of b5′s celebrity bloggers at Celebamour. She’s got 7 blogs (last time I counted) is a stay at home/work at home mom (twin 12 year old boys) and writes also at Single-Again. Her topic is something I’ve actually helped a few bloggers with myself – the fear of blogging when your English skills are lacking. Here’s what Gayla has to say:

The one tip I’d like to submit and hope that many will listen is to forget those fears. I’ve found that so many people are intimidated by their lack of ‘proper English’ skills and let that stand in their way. Rather than allowing it to be a hindrance, they could even turn it into a niche. I’ve seen a few blogs that play on those faults rather than allow them to detour them from fulfilling a dream of writing.

Regardless of a persons education level, I believe everyone has an opinion that’s valuable or a story to share that others would be interested in. It doesn’t take the fame behind those on Pajamas Media to mean their views are valuable.

If they can’t overcome that fear, I recommend creating their entries in a word processing program so they can do spell and grammar check. It may not be 100% full proof, but at least it will ease the intimidating factors enough to open doors for possibility and to never be afraid to ask for help!

I’m helping a girl now who has struggled with her writing skills and let them keep her from writing and blogging. We’ve finally gotten her to the point where she’s ready to take the chance and she’s off to a flying start.

Darren here again – I thought I’d kick off the comments on this one here by saying I think Gayla is onto something that should be talked about more. I am often approached by new or potential bloggers who are very very nervous about their English skills but who wish to write in English. Sometimes their concerns come out of the fact that English is their 2nd language and other times they’ve just struggled with it through the years (like I struggle with arithmetic).

While I have written here from time to time about making your blog as professional as possible and working on issues of spelling and grammar I would advise someone who struggles in this area to not let it stop them. In fact I know of a couple of different bloggers that I’ve encouraged to blog to help them improve their language skills.

While from time to time they do get a hard time about it I think the exercise of blogging in and of itself both gives them new skills and practice in their language but also gives them confidence to have a voice in ways they may never have discovered in other mediums.

I also think the rest of us who sometimes get picky about grammar sometimes need to loosen up a bit and rather than getting too condemning need to remind ourselves that others come at blogging from different backgrounds and perspectives. Anyway – that’s just my two cents worth – nice post Gayla – sorry for hijacking it, didn’t mean to write this much but you triggered something.

Tips for Writing Hardworking Posts – Part 2

JohnevansHere’s part 2 of Tips for Writing Hardworking Posts by b5 blogger John Evans.

I’m John Evans and I write Windows Vista and Microsoft Weblog for b5media. My personal blog is SYNTAGMA.

In Part 1, I looked at how a blogger’s “backlist” could be made to work harder by interlinking posts within a blog archive.

Here I’d like to give some thought to why certain posts become “hardworking” in the first place, and how this quality can be replicated in new posts.

I used the case of a post I did on Blogsmith, Weblogs Inc’s in-house blogging tool, a post that generated a continual stream of search traffic months after it was written. I believe this became a hardworking, much-searched post because it contained unique information.

Remember, I’d actually asked Jason for this info, so all other posts written on it referred back to mine. The post also ranked highly for the keyword “Blogsmith” which apparently interested a lot more people than I’d imagined.

Another “unique” post which generated lots of traffic for months, was one on the mysterious Google browser. Rumours had been going round for ages that they were working on this at the Googleplex. But you know how secretive those guys are … no hard news leaked.

Then one day, my stats (good old SiteMeter) showed a visitor who used a browser called Google 4.0. I wrote a kind of fantasy post about a mythical monster landing on Syntagma’s shores. From that moment until I closed down the Blogspot site, there was constant search traffic to the post. Again, it was unique information, not just commentary on another blogger’s post. So uniqueness makes for hardworking entries. And interlinking within the archive makes them more hardworking still.

What other qualities create hardworking posts? If we look at the way we read our newspapers, we might get a few clues.

Generally, we turn to the hard news first, especially in our interest groups. So it might be the sports section. We’ll skim down looking for our team by name and digest the facts. The same with politics and general news. We’ll look for hard facts and create an image in our minds of the shape of the day.

Then we’ll turn to the op-ed pages and search out our favourite columns, usually written by a big-name journalist. We will, at this stage, be seeking a pre-digested version of the news, with special insights from somebody in the know.

Thus, we want hard facts first, then additional commentary to make sense of them from a trusted source. These are the basic elements of a hardworking post.

1. Hard facts.
2. Unique information, wherever possible. You’ll need to seek this out or it won’t be unique.
3. Your take on the facts. This is your op-ed moment, when you add value to the baseline information you’ve assembled for the post. If readers begin to trust your opinions, they’ll come back for more.

The electronic marketplace is flooded with content, to the extent that the price of it as a raw commodity is next to zero. However, your content will rise in value when it attains a permalink which is indexed by the search engines. Now your post is not just a transient bit of fluff blowing away in the wind. It becomes a stable part of the Internet conversation, accessible by anyone over time, and a store of value for the blogger or blog owner.
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How pictures can sell your post (and your product)

ArieannafoleyNext up in the 12 Days of Christmas Series is a blog tip from Pro Blogger Arieanna Foley – a (blogger who has at last count) involvement in over 16 blogs (actually it’s probably more than that now she’s a channel editor at b5) on a wide range of topics. She blogs for herself at Blogaholics and for b5 at the popular Cooking Gadgets and She Knows Best. She’s also our Entertainment Channel editor. Here’s her tip on using images in posts.

Although I give due credit to the amazing Rhys Alexander on the importance of “Writing Gooder“, but a blog post is not all about what you say or how you say it. Face it, there are hundreds of things that just slip past us, well written or not.

Here’s the problem: your reader has a very very short attention span. You might get just a portion of a second of their attention, in which you need to grab hold of them to keep reading. I have honestly unsubscribed from some blogs not because I was bored of them, but I honestly didn’t have the time to read their posts. They were long and unscannable – I’m sorry – I love them, but I read 400 blogs, and I need shortcuts.

We all know of certain techniques to improve these Attention Techniques. Good blog design, catchy titles, shorter posts, text techniques, and breaking up long paragraphs.

Well, I’m here to tell you another trick that can not only smack your readers across the face to get their attention, but also help you make money. [Read more...]

Tips for Writing Hardworking Posts – Part 1

JohnevansNext in the 12 Days of Christmas Blog Tip Series is a post from hard working blogger (I keep losing track of how many blogs he writes on) John Evans who will write about Writing Hard Working Posts. This will be a 2 part mini-series with his second post coming next week.

Merry Christmas! I’m John Evans and I write Windows Vista and Microsoft Weblog for b5media. My personal blog is SYNTAGMA.

Most book publishers who have been around for a while will tell you that more than half their income comes from the backlist. These are older books no longer found on bookshop shelves but which are listed at the back of every publisher’s catalogue (catalog). It’s classic Long Tail stuff, because buyers usually order by post and sales are typically small and steady rather than spiky, as with new books. The high profit margin comes from the obvious fact that reprinting old titles is much cheaper than setting up a new book.

Bloggers too have their backlists. These are archived posts which have been indexed by the search engines and continue to draw search traffic months and even years after they were written. Many bloggers will have forgotten all about them. Some will be unaware that all manner of folk are still poking around in their archives. These posts cost you nothing in effort, but continue working for you long after they’re done. They are the hardworking posts : the carthorses of your trade.

One example from my own experience was a post I wrote on Blogsmith, which is the in-house blogging software developed by Weblogs Inc for all its blogs. I noticed it was still in beta and asked Jason Calacanis if the blogware would ever be put on the market. He replied that an announcement would be made in the autumn (fall). I wrote a very simple post about this tiny scrap of information.

Months later I was still getting scores of visits each day to this post, particularly from Technorati and Google. I could never quite work out why it was so popular (See Part 2). Then Jason announced that the blogware was being offered to businesses. Naturally, I did a short follow-up post.

But the endless stream of traffic to the old post continued, and one day it occurred to me that if I inserted a link to the new post in the old one, visitors would get two for the price of one. Almost all of the visitors clicked the link onto the new post.

It’s good to have a stats package which gives you this information and allows you to follow the pathways of search traffic to your blog. Sitemeter is particularly good as it includes all the details of a visit on a single page.

So to turn a post into a hardworking one look at the interconnectivity of your old posts and link them in a network of clickables. A good blogger’s backlist could then be as valuable as it is to an established print publisher.

Part 2 will look at why the Blogsmith post was “hardworking” in the first place