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8 Reasons Why Lists are Good for Getting Traffic to your Blog

Here’s a tip for how to get people to link to your blog.

Write lists!

I’ve been reminded by this again today by seeing just how many people are linking up to Piaras Kelly’s list of Tips on writing content for your blog. I must have seen 10 or 15 people link to it in the last few hours (including me). Even though I don’t agree with all of it there is something about a list that bloggers and blog readers love. Here’s a list of reasons why lists can be good for your blog:

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12 Tips on Writing Content for your Blog

Piaras Kelly PR has 12 tips for writing content for your blog which has been linked to by a few people today. I’d actually agree with most of it – but would also recommend a little caution with a few of them. Let me make a comment on each one.

1. Use catchy titles – there is debate over this. I personally prefer titles that say what the post is about. While catching titles might get you some readers – if you’re looking for traffic from Search Engines a title with your keywords in it that says what the post is about might actually be better than a catchy or criptic title. This goes for RSS feed readers also.

2. Be unique – this is a good tip. Think about how many blogs are out there that look, sound and operate the same as millions of others. Standing out from the crowd is important.

3. Make sure to credit your sources – After my last few posts I think I’d better not say any more about this.

4. Think before you post - This is a definite must – however on some blog topics speed can mean the difference of being the ‘go to’ blog on a topic or being just another of many that are followers. If your blog is on a competitive news topic then speed can be important.

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Using Other People’s Content

Here is a free tip.

If you’re going to IM me and ask me to look at your blog – don’t fill it with stolen content.

I’m going to make this as clear as possible.

If you are going to use other people’s content to your site:

- ALWAYS reveal your sources. Give a link to your source if it is an online source. If its not attribute it by giving the author and where it was published.

- NEVER quote full articles from others unless you have obtained their permission.

If you don’t do this you run the risk of being sued, having people report you to the search engines for de-listing, having people report you to your advertisers to be banned from their programs and you’ll end up being a very unpopular blogger and will be exposed and shamed publicly.

If you have grand visions of making masses of money through using other people’s content then you’re delusional. Check out all the top lists of blogs that are doing big traffic and you’ll find that almost all of them are completely original content.

Stealing others content is plain stupid. Doing it and letting me know about it is even stupider. Doing it, letting me know about it and then not changing your ways is completely idiotic.

End of Rant.

further reading – A quick guide to referencing

Tell me a Story

Dave Taylor has written an interesting piece today on story telling and blogs that has resonated with me. It’s at “Don’t sell me a product, tell me a story!”:

‘What stuck in my head, however, was that his background gave him a unique ability to tell an interesting story. After all, isn’t the best marketing and, yes, even public relations, fundamentally all a throwback to our days around the campfire trying to influence and sway people based on our ability to communicate in a more interesting and engaging manner than the next person?’

Dave heads in a slightly different direction with his post than the thought process that I then went of on but it’s worth the read none the less.

What it made me think about was that one of the things that I think has grown ProBlogger.net the most has been this idea of ‘story’.

I am getting daily emails from people around the world who have been drawn into the community here not just because of the tips and information that I write – but because there is something about average people sharing their experiences with other average people that rings true and draws people in.

I may not be the most proficient writer in the world (I know this because of the numbers of proof reading type emails that I get) but I purposely write in a way that attempts to weave together my journey as a blogger with the theory and tips that I’m presenting. I’m telling my story.

The other thing that I’ve been attempting to do here is to create spaces where others can tell their stories. This has happened through the occasional interview but increasingly happens in the comment sections of posts.

I guess what I circling around here is that one way (and it won’t work on every blog) to build a more engaging and interactive blog is to consider not only selling something to your reader but to find ways to engage with them in more of a narrative form.

What do you think?

Writing Blog Content – Make it Scannable

Only 16% of people read web sites word for word. Source

The average person only comprehends 60% of what they read. Source

Knowing this – how should bloggers who want to communicate effectively write?

Is your Blog Scannable ?

Most people read online by scanning the page for individual words or phrases, headings and other visual cues. Studies have shown that reading from a screen is more tiring and therefore about 25% slower than reading from paper – hence scanning becomes a technique that most employ.

Is your Blog Scannable? It’s a pretty simple thing to test. Ask a friend who is not familiar with your site to take a quick look at a few of your recent posts. Give them 15 to 30 seconds on each post, at the end of which you ask them what the post was about. You’ll quickly get a sense of how they’ve interacted with your blog.

Techniques to Make your Blog Scannable

Good bloggers keep this in mind as they write and will employ a variety of techniques to make their posts easier to read. Some of these techniques include:

  • Lists – Anecdotal evidence here at ProBlogger suggests that its my posts with bullet point lists in them that get linked to ALOT more than similar length posts written in of an essay style.
  • Formatting – Use bold, CAPITALS, italics, underlining, teletext and to emphasize points. Don’t go overboard as you run the risk of frustrating your reader. Also consider changing font size, color and style to draw your readers eyes to your main points.
  • Headings and Sub Headings – Large, Bold words that act as visual cues of what is happening in the content are effective ways of drawing readers further into articles.
  • Pictures – Research shows that readers eyes are drawn down the page by pictures. Place them cleverly by your key points (especially when they closely relate to the content) and you have more of a chance of getting readers to read full articles.
  • Borders/Blockquotes – boxes around quotes and key points can similarly get the attention of readers.
  • Space – don’t feel you have to fill up every inch of your screen – rather create spaces because they help readers not to feel overwhelmed and again tend to draw readers eyes to what is inside such space.
  • Get to the Point – try to be succinct with your points.
  • Don’t Bury your Points – one trap many of us fall into is to bury our main points deep within content where it’s unlikely to be noticed. If you have a key point make sure you say it up front. You can expand upon it later but get your message across in the first few sentences if possible.
  • Find creative ways to reinforce your main point throughout your post.
  • Don’t Introduce too many New Ideas in one post – once again this helps to avoid overwhelming readers with information all at once. If you want to cover many ideas that relate to one another consider a series of posts that link to each other.

If your site and its posts are not easily scannable you run the risk of losing your reader to another blog that is.

More on Posting Schedules

Peter at Almost Cool comments on my series on Blog Apathy – particularly picking up on some of the comments on posting goals and schedules. He rightly observes that with RSS subscribers you’re likely to get readers look at your posts whether you post regularly or irregularly and argues against quantity over quality of posts. This has been a common response to my mention of a posting schedule from a number of readers.

I agree with Peter and others – quality posting is essential to good blogging – but I guess want to argue for balance.

Blogging commercially is a traffic game whether we like it or not. If you want to earn more money one good way to get it is to increase your readership. Quality content is essential but so is quantity. You can write one fantastic post per week and get a bit of exposure but the chances are that unless it’s amazing it will never draw enough traffic to sustain you financially until the next post.

Having a posting schedule or goal is like being a journalist with a deadline. It’s not meant to decrease the quality – but gives an end point when the article needs to be finished so that a new one can be started upon and that a paper/magazine can continue its publishing rhythm.

Perhaps one of the things I should have mentioned some of the following in my initial comments on posting schedules:

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The Best Blog Content

Just stumbled upon an article at awesomeblogs.com which looks at Why Blogs Have Become the Search Engine Optimization Equalizer. It’s one of those mass produced ‘free articles’ that I warn bloggers from using too much – but it does make a useful observation about some of the top sites on the internet:

‘The big sites on the internet got to be that way because the consistently add new, original, and exclusive content to their websites.

While you and I may never have as much content on our sites as the big boys do, we can benefit from the lessons they teach to us.

Now that you have also learned this important lesson, it is time to put this knowledge into action. Make it part of your daily or weekly schedule to add fresh, interesting content to your website. ‘

The lesson is a good one. The following are some of the words that describe the best type of content if we subscribe to this theory:

fresh – original – interesting – exclusive – new – daily

This is the type of content that will get you ranking higher in search engines, its the type of content that will get your readers coming back every day and its the type of content that will generate incoming links to it and referral readership.

Of course most bloggers have a mixture of this type of content and other content – links to other sites, quotes from others etc – but in most cases the more you increase the quotient of the fresh and original stuff the more chance you give your blog to grow.

The Long and the Short of Blog Posts

Dave Taylor answers the eternal blogging question of “Are long blog entries better than short ones?” and writes :

‘I’m reminded of a common piece of advice from good development editors in the publishing business about how long a chapter or book should ultimately be: write just enough to cover the material at the appropriate level of detail, then stop….

Personally, I don’t subscribe to weblogs where the typical entry is less than about 250 words, because I’m not interested in discoverability, that is, what other pages on the Web I should be checking out, but in why the blogger thinks the page, article, site, entry, whatever, is worth my attention.’

I’m with Dave in arguing that each blogger needs to work out what length post suits their writing style and blog topic.

Whilst I’d always advise that your posts should be to the point – I find that here at ProBlogger my posts tend to be much longer on average than some of my other blogs – (and you as readers don’t seem to mind) – however on other blogs readers seem to want quick and simple information and the short post works very well.

I also find that on those blogs you choose to post lengthy posts on it’s helpful to use the extended entry field and to mix up the length of your posts. In the middle of your long ones put a few short and simple ones – after all, variety is the spice of life.

What’s the average length of your blog posts?

Quality vs Quantity of Posting?

I was chatting to a soon-to-be-blogger this morning about ProBlogging and he asked me how long he’d have to blog before he could earn a reasonable amount from it.

It’s a common question that is usually on the lips of new bloggers exploring the world of ProBlogging.

Of course there is no real answer to the question as there are just so many factors including:

- traffic levels (which rely upon many other factors)
- value of ads for the topic you’ve chosen
- revenue streams chosen

Another factor I talked with him about was his level of posting. Obviously the larger a blog is the increased chance of earning income it has. Whilst it’s not impossible for a small website or blog to be a good earner – in most cases the number of posts on a blog is a major contributing factor.

This flies a little in the face of the constant catch cry I hear from many bloggers about ‘quality content being the key to successful blogging’ – I agree with this – but want to argue that it’s not just the quality that counts – ProBloggers also need to consider quantity. For me it’s not an ‘either or’ question – it’s about both.

As I often say – the more pages in your blog the more potential entry points you have to it via search engine referrals. Of course it’s not just a matter of creating thousands of useless pages (although some try this) – each page should be a useful page with high quality content – but in general the more pages you’ve got the better.

Out of interest this afternoon I decided it was time to add up how many pages of content I’ve generated since I started blogging in November of 2002….

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