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10 Prolific Bloggers Share Tips on Generating Conversation on Blogs

Yesterday I gave 13 tips for having great conversations on a blog. As a followup to that I shot an email to a number of bloggers that have a habit of having active comment sections to ask them how they make their blogs more conversational.

As expected – their responses were rich and full of goodness! Here are their responses.

Leo Babauta

Leo.jpg

“Conversation on Zen Habits is as important or more important than the posts themselves. The readers on my blog have really formed a positive community and I am deeply grateful for such a great readership.

A few things I’ve done to foster conversation at Zen Habits:

1. Write posts that go beyond the usual and provoke a little thought and some sort of response from readers. If your post doesn’t generate some kind of emotion in your readers — whether that’s inspiration, motivation, anger, laughter, whatever — you need to look at ways of being a bit bolder while still being true to yourself and your readers.

2. Ask for thoughts at the end of the post. Ask them to post their ideas, thoughts, experiences in the comments.

3. Always, always be grateful for comments, and don’t attack commenters. This is huge for me. Even if a commenter is negative or even a bit rude, I thank the commenter. I try to find the nugget of truth or wisdom in the comment and ignore the rudeness. I never reply in anger. I try to be grateful for the feedback, because it helps me to get better. And I try to learn from my readers instead of thinking I have all the answers.

4. Sometimes it’s better to step back and let readers converse. Conversations don’t always have to be between the reader and the blogger. Conversations between readers can be lively and enlightening. Don’t feel you have to respond to every comment — let others handle things sometimes, and only step in when you have something valuable to contribute that others couldn’t contribute themselves.”

Gala Darling

Gala.jpg “People always say that you need to start conversations on your blog in order to foster community, but one of the main problems is that some people try to do it just because they think they should — out of some sense of “blogger obligation” (blogligation?!), rather than an authentic desire.

The most important thing in blogging, I think, is to be genuine. This applies to getting people to comment, too. If you don’t actually care about what your readers have to say on a given topic, that comes through pretty clearly, & you’re not going to get the response you’re hoping for. People can smell your lack of sincerity, & they won’t bother!

All that aside, I find that the best tactics for stimulating conversation are to…
a) talk about something which everyone has an opinion on
b) ask for people’s real life experiences
c) share something personal & invite others to do the same
d) request advice or help — people love to help others!

Of course, the more positive energy you put into your writing, the more likely it is that people will bounce that back at you… So if you make an effort to write with a sense of fun & delight, your readers will respond positively in their own charming, utterly individual way!”

Duncan Riley

Duncan.jpg “By making commenting as easy as possible, and by facilitating conversations where people want to have them. We use the commenting 2.0 service Disqus (although there are a number of players you can use), and the first advantage is that Disqus users can immediately leave a comment without having to enter their personal details, encouraging more spontaneous commenting. Further to that, they can track comments they’ve left on Disqus and easily comment again on the same post in response to other comments left where as in the past, a comment may have been a one off without followup. We’ve found that using a service such as Disqus delivers more comments, and increases the levels of engagement and repeat traffic, and it’s why I’ve been more than happy to evangelize the commenting 2.0 space.

On the broader conversation front, we also incorporate comments from FriendFeed, both in importing FriendFeed comments in, and allowing people to make comments using their FriendFeed account on the site itself. We often see far more discussion on FriendFeed than directly through comments on the site. People are going to have those conversations anyway, so if you can incorporate FriendFeed comments on your site and give people a choice to use their FriendFeed account as well, its a win/win: a win for your site, and a win for your readers.”

Liz Strauss

Liz.jpg “I do a few things to keep the conversation going. I try to write my blog posts complete, but not too thorough so that readers can add something to what I’ve started. I also try to learn rather than teach — that’s a hard one. When I end a blog post with a question, I make sure that it’s one that can be answered and that I’d be able to answer it myself. In the comment box, I look at who’s talking and answer to that individual. I’ll often continue the dialogue by ending my comment with another question. Sometimes it makes sense to stay back and let readers talk with each other. They discover and uncover even more ideas if I’m not in there talking all of the time.

Mostly though, I make sure that everyone knows that their ideas are respected and protected. There’s one rule on my blog, “disagree all you want, but be nice.” Saying “thanks,” doesn’t hurt either. “

Timothy Ferriss

Tim.jpg“-Ask questions at the end of the post — ideally ask for not just facts but opinions. Few people feel qualified to offer facts but everyone has opinions.

-Do not try and be comprehensive on a topic. Offer your strongest position and don’t hedge or steal others’ thunder; let readers add their perspectives.

-Identify and thank commenters on occasion in main blog posts. Make them famous (even for one post) and make it clear that you’re reading the comments, especially to those who have never left one b/c they assume you don’t.”


Jason Falls

Jason.jpg “I foster conversation on my blog by taking a stand on issues. Sure, that can be polarizing, but that’s the point. Nothing gets people either yelling, “Amen,” or, “You S-O-B,” better than drawing a line and saying, you’re either with me or against me. Pick one.

But I would caution you to make sure you’re ready for it. Thick skin, a healthy dose of humility, a sense of humor and the ability to disagree without being disagreeable are required.”

Jeremy Schoemaker

Jeremy.jpg “I try to inspire conversation on my blog by asking a questions throughout the post.”


Chris Garrett

Chris.jpg “There are three types of conversation that I see on blogs.

1) Inter-blogger conversation – Bloggers talking to each other through their blogs

2) Blogger-Reader conversation – Bloggers and their readers discussing topics through posts and comments

3) Reader-Reader conversation – Readers creating conversations in the comment area

The last one is the least common and for those who want to build community, it’s the holy grail.

To foster the first, you have to get into a link bait state of mind. Which approach is going to get a reaction, how can you press topical or emotional hot-buttons? Many bloggers drift into snark territory with those. It could, though, be as simple as linking to other bloggers with an interesting and unusual question that you would like to see answered.

Most people know what to do with the second. Getting readers to comment is about leaving the opening, inviting a response, and creating the appropriate environment. In marketing terms this would be a “call to action”. At the end of your post ask for comments in a way that anyone can answer without fear of looking stupid.

For readers to comment to each other takes that commenting environment to a new level, and also requires that you get out of the way a bit. So while you answering comments encourages more comments, answering too often discourages readers answering each other. You have to balance the need to make commenters feel valued and welcome, with the need to open up the floor for other readers to jump in and respond to another comment.”

John Chow

John.jpg “The best way I’ve found to foster conversation on my blog is to ask for feedback from my readers. If you want something, you have to ask for it. I got a free Macbook Air at IZEA Fest because I asked for it. You’ll be amazed at what you can get if you simply ask.

Once you get the feedback, the next thing you need to do is to reply to it. Fostering conversation is a two way street. If your reader took the time out to make a comment on your blog, please reply to it.”

Lorelle VanFossen

Lorelle.jpg “While I believe conversation and interactivity is the key to the definition of a blog, I find the issue of blog conversations fascinating. Not all blogs need comments. Not all of my blog posts need comments either. The conversation can happen on the blog or in someone’s head and I’m still happy. But when I want to get the conversation rolling, it rolls because of the community created by the blog’s overall theme, content, purpose, history, and historical climate of trust.

While many will tell you the basics of opening up the blog conversation by writing open ended blog posts, asking questions of your readers, and leaving room for them to enter the conversation, I believe that people contribute their thoughts to my blog because they already feel like I’m their friend. They trust me. We’ve created a relationship. They feel like they know me, thus feel safe leaving a comment. We’re family.

Creating a safe space for comments doesn’t happen with your first blog post. It might not even happen with your 1000th. It begins with trust. Your blog showcases your history and expertise in the subject matter. Your blog post publishing history speaks for your passion for the subject, enthusiasm, and consistency – you’ve been there and you will continue to be there. When you show you care about the readers, and you are blogging for them and their needs, they tend to open up the conversation with you more than you open it up for them.

The synergy of like-minds keeps the conversation going. You don’t have to respond to every comment, but you must let your community think that you do. When you show you care, they care back, and together you create the content on your blog.”

Blog Tips from Blog World Expo [VIDEO]

Last week at Blog World Expo I had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of bloggers of all topics, backgrounds and levels of experience. One of the things that quickly became evident as I spoke with these bloggers was that collectively the bloggers who had gathered together in Vegas for those few days had a vast amount of knowledge.

I decided to do my best to capture some of this on video and used my new Flip Mino Series Camcorder to interview 15 or so of them. Here are the first 3 interviews – Chris Brogan, Patsi Krakoff and Denise Wakeman and David Peralty.

Thanks to Business Week Exchange for sponsoring this video.

For a larger version of this video see it on YouTube, MySpace, Revver, Blip.tv, Facebook and Viddler.

Get more tips on blogging in our Blog Tips for Beginners series of post.

13 Tips on How to Have Great Conversations On Your Blog

Lately I’ve been suggesting 11 points to take a little extra time in the posting process on a blog. We’ve looked at everything from choosing topics, to crafting titles, to calls to action, to promoting your posts.

The point of this series is simply that when you take a little extra time at each of these points in the process you add depth and increase the effectiveness of your blog post.

Today I want to share one last point to ‘pause’ – it is as important as each other point in the process (if not more so) and can take a ‘good post’ into ‘great post’ territory.

It’s all about the Art of Conversation

ConversationImage by b_d_solis

It is easy to see the point of hitting ‘publish’ on your blog post as the ‘end’ of the process of posting – however more often than not the real action and fruit of a blog post happens once it’s ‘live’ and being interacted with by readers and other bloggers. To hit publish and move on to the next post at this point is an opportunity gone begging.

2 Benefits of Fostering Conversation on Your Blog

For me the main two benefits of a blog with great conversation are simply:

  • it adds depth to posts – my belief is that together we know a lot more than any one of us. As wise as you might be as a blogger – when your readership adds their knowledge to your posts in the comments section – it’ll generally become a better resource to future readers.
  • it builds community and reader loyalty – increasingly people are going online not only to find ‘information’ but to find community and places to ‘belong’. A blog which regularly has good conversation where people’s ideas are heard and valued is a place that people will want to return.

13 Tips for Growing the Conversation On Your Blog

Let me start by saying that this post is not about ‘how to get comments on your blog’. I’ve written previously about 10 techniques to get more comments and would recommend that post as a primer for this one.

What I do want to focus on in this post goes beyond getting comments and how to grow ‘conversations’ (something that I think is a little deeper). There is some overlap – but I hope this post goes beyond that previous one.

1. Set Time Aside for Conversation

The biggest conversation killer in my own life is simply that I’m too busy. This is true in ‘real life’ as well as blogging. If you don’t set aside time to have conversation it is highly unlikely to ever happen because it takes time.

Again – I’m not talking here about leaving comments (leaving a comment can take a second or two) – but actually engaging in conversation means listening to what others are saying and thoughtfully responding in a way that goes deeper, adds value and says something meaningful – this takes time and if you don’t prioritize it you’re not likely to fit it in.

2. Ask Questions

As mentioned in my post on how to get comments, ‘asking questions’ is a powerful technique for starting off a conversation. If you want people to respond to your posts include questions within them – it’s key to get the comment thread started, however it’s also a great technique for keeping the conversation going.

One way to add depth to a conversation and to draw out more from those commenting is to take their comments and ask questions of them that elicit a second response. Rather than just responding to someone’s comment with a ‘great point’ type comment – why not go a little deeper with a question that draws them into extending their idea.

3. Answer Questions

Not only is asking questions powerful – but so is answering those that readers ask. This can be challenging when you get a lot of comments on your blog (I’ve had to hire someone to help me manage this lately) but it makes your posts more meaningful and helpful to readers who come away wondering about some aspect of what you’ve written.

4. Track Offshoots of Conversation

The beauty of blogging is that posts that one blogger publishes can inspire other bloggers to write posts on a similar topic on their own blog. While the comments section of your blog might be the place that most of your readers interact with your ideas – a good post might inspire multiple conversations in all kinds of places in the blogosphere.

It is important to be aware of these offshoot conversations and to participate in them. Start a vanity folder in your news aggregator to help track them and when you find them visit the blog and add value to the conversation there. Don’t feel you need to drag people back to your blog – but add value on that blog. In doing so you will build a relationship with the blogger who has posted about your idea but also potentially could find yourself a few new connections (and even new readers) among their readership.

5. Add Value and Depth

I’ve talked many times about writing blog posts that are useful and unique (the secret to great content) – however it struck me recently that the same advice actually applies to comments. If the comments that YOU leave (either on your own blog or others) are not actually useful (if they don’t add value and/or depth to the conversation) and if they are not simply echoes of what others are saying (ie unique) then there is little point in leaving them.

One of the best ways to kill a conversation is to respond to something that someone else has written with a generic comment like ‘great point’. Before you comment, consider what you’re writing. Does it add something to the conversation? Will it elicit a response from others? Is it unique from what others are saying? If the answer to these questions is ‘no’ – work on your comment until it does.

6. Listen, Listen, Listen

As a blogger who has just published a post you’ve been doing most of the talking and your readers have been doing the listening – so when it comes to the comments section of your blog turn the tables and become the listener and let others do the talking.

Conversation is a two way street and if you take the ‘monologue’ approach into comments then you’re unlikely to develop a culture of conversation on your blog.

7. Play Devils Advocate (with Care)

One way to stimulate conversation is to throw into the conversation an unexpected and opposing point of view. Playing Devils Advocate (when done well) can be a powerful tool to draw out responses in your readers and extend a conversation into a place that it might not have naturally gone.

The key with this approach is to do so with care. Writing something controversial just for the sake of it and in a hostile tone can actually kill a conversation (or take it into the realm of a flame war). A better approach might be to make it clear what you’re doing with an ‘I agree with you – however some might argue….’ type comment.

8. Promote the Conversation

I find that when a good conversation emerges on a post it can actually be very effective to promote the ‘conversation’ (as opposed to the post itself) in some way. For example I occasionally will use Twitter to alert readers to a comment thread with a tweet that says ‘there’s a great conversation emerging at www.xxxx….’ – these tweets tend to get a fairly good level of people not only visiting the post but coming over with an openness to respond.

9. Protect Your Comments Section (Moderation)

The comments section on your blog is a really important space on your blog and can both add to and take away from the perception of others towards your blog. If your comments section becomes a comment spammers heaven or always dissolves into a place where trolls flame one another it will not draw genuine readers into conversation.

As a result I advocate that you not be afraid to protect your comments section and set some guidelines in place for people to interact there. Ultimately it is your blog and your rules need to apply. If people step outside of your rules then they need to be willing to have their comments moderated.

10. Model the Behavior you Want

What about trolls and comments sections that get too negative? My theory is that the majority of blogs that have highly snarky comments sections will generally have bloggers posting to them that display their own fair share of snakiness in the blog posts that they write. I’m sure there are a few exceptions but I find that most blog readers take the lead of the blogger on a blog when interacting in comments.

As I’ve previously written on this topic:

“If your blog is written in a positive, optimistic, helpful and inclusive voice then I find that those commenting generally respond with a similar tone. Write in a snarky, negative, rant dominated tone that makes fun of others and you can expect a very similar vibe in your comments.”

11. Bounce off Comments with New Posts

One of the weaknesses of blogs over forums is that conversations can have a limited life simply because the post that they happen on falls off the front page of the blog as new posts are published.

One way to keep a hot conversation going is simply to write a follow up post that extends upon ideas in the first. One approach is simply to elevate some of the comments on the previous post into a new post to stimulate an extension of the conversation. This not only keeps the conversation going but also rewards those who’ve previously participated with a moment in the spot light. This is what I did recently on DPS with this post on video on DSLR cameras.

12. Use Email

Another of the challenges of blogs is that often readers will leave a comment and never return to the post to continue the conversation. You can ask them all the questions in the world but if they don’t come back to the blog they’ll never see them.

There are a variety of commenting tools to help overcome this (I use a ‘subscribe to comments’ plugin which helps a little) but one effective way to keep conversations going is simply to follow up those who’ve commented with an email. For example – if someone asks you a question and you respond – shoot them an email after you answer their questions to let them know. The same technique works if you have asked them a question in comments.

13. Empower Your Community to Lead Conversation

One of the challenges that faces bloggers as their blogs grow and become popular is to genuinely and actively participate in every conversation happening on their blog. I personally struggle with this quite a lot across my two blogs which on any given day can have a total of 150-500+ comments.

One thing that can help is to try to develop a culture on your blog where the conversations are not dependent upon you alone. This takes time to achieve but unless you’re a conversation freak and/or can keep a million balls in the air at the same time (like Gary V, Liz, Scoble – each of whom leaves me shaking my head at the amount of conversations they participate in) you’ll need to do something to help you cope with your comment section as your blog grows.

One way to grow this community driven culture of conversation on your blog is simply to model it yourself and when questions are asked in the comments section on your blog to invite others to answer rather than feel you need to be the only one answering. As I say – this takes time but as you see your readers answering one another’s questions thank them for their comments and even elevate some of their answers to actual posts.

Lets Talk

OK – so this is where I invite you to comment, to add what you’ve learned about having conversations on your blog.

I’d love to hear what you do to foster conversation on your blog?

Do you use any particular techniques? Are there any tools that you use to help manage it? What’s the hardest part about generating great conversation on your blog? What’s worked for you?

PS: Tomorrow I’ll be posting some more tips on this topic from a few bloggers that have runs on the board when it comes to building blogs with great conversation. I’ll include a few of the tips left in comments below also so have your say and some of your ideas might be included in the next post!

13 Gary Vaynerchuk Tips on Building a Profitable Blog

One of the sessions that I enjoyed most at Blog World Expo (actually it was one of the few sessions I actually was able to get to) was a keynote by Gary Vaynerchuck.

While I’m sure he rubs some up the wrong way his tips on building a successful blog (and business) were refreshingly honest, entertaining and inspiring. Here are 13 snippets/quotes of his keynote that I thought were ‘tweet worthy’.

  • “answer every single email and every single comment on your blog’ for the rest of your FREAKING life.”
  • “content is king but marketing is queen and the queen runs the household”
  • “you have to go to every meetup you can possible go to”
  • “pump out content – if you don’t produce something every day you’ll be out hustled”
  • “‘Hustle – you have to work your face off.”
  • “you need eyeballs – the easiest way to do this is to become part of the community”
  • “induce conversation at every turn for the rest of your life”
  • “your job is to create a connection”
  • “be you and be every flaw”
  • “it’s about putting up good content, creating conversation and spend 10% of your time working out how to make money”
  • “if you’re not good at monetizing, get a bus partner that can.” do what u do & bring in others who can do the other stuff.”
  • “if you’re a shy guy – become the greatest shy guy on earth”
  • “don’t drink hatorade”

PS: here’s some video of the session courtesy of David Peralty (note: it does contain some language so proceed with caution if you’re easily offended or are in a work environment).


Gary Vaynerchuk Blog World Expo Keynote Speech from David Peralty on Vimeo.

4 Quick and Simple Ways to Increase Page Views on Your Blog

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Skellie wrote this post. For more advanced blogging tips and strategies, visit her blog, Skelliewag.

When selling advertising spots on your blog the metric that advertisers value most is page views, or ‘impressions’. More page views equals higher value advertising spots on your blog. While the obvious solution to increase the value of your ad spots is to increase the amount of traffic your blog receives, you can also do a number of quick and easy things to yield more page views from your existing traffic.

1. Develop the habit of self-linking

I was recently referred by a friend to read a post at Steve Pavlina’s blog. I enjoyed the post immensely, and because it linked out to other relevant posts on the blog, I found myself spending several hours swinging like a monkey from post to post, devouring new ideas voraciously. During that time Steve probably squeezed about 10 – 20 page views out of my single visit.

Most bloggers don’t self-link anywhere near as much as they could. This is a particularly beneficial habit if page views directly correlate with your income. When a reader is deep into your post it means the topic you’re writing on is of keen interest to them and so, related content is also likely to be of keep interest. If you don’t make readers aware of this as you write, it’s a lost opportunity: not only for more page views, but also for a greater level of reader engagement in your blog.

2. End with related posts

Bloggers are increasingly using a WordPress plug-in to link to related posts at the footer of each post. This is a clever move because it gives readers options to continue at the point when they are most likely to be looking for them (when they have just finished reading one of your great posts). You can handle this automatically through the plugin and give up some control over what appears or hand-pick posts to link to, which will of course take more time but gives you maximum control over the links that are chosen.


Photo by nate steiner

3. Use your sidebar to build page-views

Think about the three best blog posts you’ve ever written. Are they on the main page of your blog right now? Chances are that at least one of them isn’t, unless you’ve hit a real purple patch at the moment!

Just because this wonderful post is not on the main page doesn’t mean nobody but the odd wandering search visitor should find it. Highlighting your best posts in your blog sidebar (usually under a ‘Popular Posts’ list) is an excellent way to drive page views while also keeping your best posts evergreen.

4. Create multi-page posts

Have you ever started reading a fun top 100 list at a website only to discover that they’d given each item its own page, forcing you to click 100 times? Most people will find this excessive, but it is a clever tactic if the content is actually worth it. Blog posts also make good candidates to spread long posts over several pages, and there is a WordPress plug-in designed to do this. Of course, it’s important to always be mindful of stopping before the point where it becomes frustrating for your audience.

Here I’ve presented just a few ways to yield a greater number of page views from your existing audience. I’m sure I missed a few good ones, so add your ideas in the comments!

Speedlinking – 17 September 2008

Here are a few links that caught my eye over the last week. I hope something in them inspires, teaches, motivates, informs or connect with you:

How to Polish Posts: Individual Blog Post Design

Much is written about how to ‘design blogs’ (as a whole) but another element of ‘blog design’ that I think is just as important, yet not written about much, is the design of individual blog posts.

How blog posts ‘look’ is so important. I’ve seen the power of ‘polishing’ posts time and time again.

Polish-Blog-PostsImage by Darwin Bell

I still remember the time that I took one of my early posts on my Digital Photography blog and polished it up. The original version of the post was largely text. It had one image in it but it was fairly bland and was more there to illustrate a point than anything.

The content remained almost identical – but I added 5 images to the post (images that still illustrated the point but eye catching ones), added sub headings to each paragraph and reformatted one section into a ‘list’ rather than just a block of text.

I then republished the post at the top of my blog as new.

The result was amazing!

The next day the post had 50+ comments, was on the front page of Digg and it was being linked to by blogs everywhere. The old version had received 2 comments and had previously gone largely unnoticed.

This is the power of paying attention to how your blog posts look.

Why Polishing Blog Posts Works

There are a number of important reasons why polishing blog posts is worth putting a little extra time into:

  • First impressions – in the same way that your overall blog design conveys messages to readers about what your blog is about and whether they should subscribe – the formatting and design of single posts says a lot about you to first time visitors.
  • Grabbing Attention – loyal readers may rarely visit your actual blog if they follow it via RSS so one might not think post design matters – but in actual fact post design has a massive impact in the realm of RSS where there is little to set your posts apart from others. A good picture or clever use of formatting can really grab the attention of someone scanning through their feeds.
  • Reinforce Content – visuals in a post can reinforce points that you’re using within content. Illustrative images, video, charts, graphs, tables etc – all will connect with visual readers in a way that text cannot.
  • Connect with Web Reading Habits – most web users don’t ‘read’ content word for word. They scan content, looking for elements of web pages that draw their eye and for keywords that connect with what they are interested in. As a result the way you design your posts can be the difference between someone actually ‘reading’ your post or just glossing over it.

How to Polish Blog Posts:

Following are a number of areas that I consider when polishing blog posts. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’d add to the list – I’m sure there are plenty more.

  • Images – images on posts are gold! They draw the eye and grab attention, they illustrate points, they inspire, they engage the imagination and they connect with visual learners. In a largely text based medium – the use of good image can set a blog post apart from the crowd – learn to use them!
  • Charts and Diagrams – similarly, good charts, graphs and diagrams add depth to content and give posts a visual point of interest.
  • Formatting – one of the big mistakes that I see guest posters submitting posts to me making is that their posts come to me largely as large slabs of uninteresting looking text. Most people don’t ‘read’ content online – they ‘scan’ it. As a result you need to work hard to break up your text and draw attention to important points. Using lists is one way of doing this, as is using bold, italics, font size and color, blockquotes and other formatting techniques.
  • Sub Headings – I am a fan of sub headings – rarely a post goes by that I don’t put <h3> tags around some important part of my post to draw the eye, start a new section or break up a slab of text. One quick tip I’d give on sub headings is to think about them in similar ways to ‘post titles’. The purpose of a subheading is to get people to read the text under it – so ‘craft’ sub headings using some of the same techniques as we mentioned in our post on crafting titles.
  • White Space – a simple line break or a little extra space around an image can have a big impact upon how your post looks. Let your content breathe.
  • Short Paragraphs – one edit that I often make with posts submitted by others on my blogs is to break up paragraphs into shorter ones. This makes posts seem less overwhelming and more achievable for readers to read.
  • Break Posts Up – at times after writing a post it becomes clear that you’ve written something that is simply too long or covers too much territory. Rather than publishing it – breaking it down into a couple of smaller posts can do wonders for how the post looks to readers. Many readers would much rather read two single posts that are more focused than a longer rambling one that covers too much ground. This is actually what I’ve done with this very post – originally it was the 2nd half of my post on Quality Control but I realized that while related, the topics were perhaps a little too different to cover in the one post.
  • Highlight and Reinforce Main Points - pay attention to using some of the above techniques when it comes to your main point and call to action. If your post is a long one – it can actually be useful to repeat your main point numerous times within your post (in the introduction, main body of the post and then as a closing sentence).

What would you add to this list of ‘post design tips’? How do you ‘polish’ your posts to maximize their impact?

Further Reading on Quality Control and Polishing Your Blog Posts:

Read the Full Series

This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.

13 Ways to Add New Dimensions to Your Next Post

What do you see when you look at this image?

bubble blowingImage by Lord V

OK – so it’s two flies right? Yes it is…. but look a little harder.

Have you ever used one of those crazy eye cross eye 3D multidimensional pictures? This is one of them. Relax, cross your eyes a little and stare (for a more details version of how to see the 3D impact read here). Do it right and the the ‘flies’ become one very 3 dimensional ‘fly’. If you like the effect I’ll show you some more in a link at the bottom of this post.

What does a 3D image have to do with Blogging?

In this post I want to share 13 ways to make your blogs go deeper and become more multi dimensional.

  • How deep do your blog posts go?
  • Do you bang out a post that covers the basics of your topic and then hit publish?
  • What would happen if you just took a few extra minutes once your next post was finished to ask yourself – how could I make this post more useful to readers?

Over the last few weeks we’ve been exploring 10 points in the writing of a blog post where it is important to ‘pause’ and take a little extra time in crafting the blog post.

Today I want to explore a question that you can ask yourself after writing a blog post (and before hitting publish) that I have found can exponentially increase the impact and effectiveness of a the post.

It is a question that I think can help good posts great and help it to stand out from the clutter of millions of posts going around the blogosphere at any given time.

The question is simple:

“How can I add more depth to this post?”

A theme that I continually go on about here at ProBlogger is ‘creating useful content‘ for readers. The question about ‘adding depth’ is all about making your post more useful. An alternative way of asking it would be:

“How can I make this post more useful?”

13 Ways to Add Depth to Your Next Blog Post

Following are 13 of simple techniques that can add a new dimension to your post – techniques to make good posts great:

1. Use Examples

Too many bloggers simply talk in theoretical terms and don’t ground what they are talking about in reality. There’s nothing wrong with ‘theory’ but you can do your reader a real service with two simple words – ‘for example’. Show how the theory can be applied in an actual situation and you’ll make your post much more effective. Readers will not only come away with an idea of how to do something – they’ll have seen it in action – something which takes them a step closer to actually implementing it in their own lives.

Adding examples to posts is something I’ve been doing for years without really thinking about it. I just searched on Google for “for example” on ProBlogger and found it used over 1000 times.

For example (I had to add one here didn’t I) – check out my post on how to find new RSS subscribers to a blog where I give give examples on every 2nd point that I make.

2. Add an Analogy, Story or Metaphor

An example need not just be a ‘link’ – it can be some kind of story or analogy that helps readers to unpack what you’re writing about.

As I’ve discussed earlier in this series – stories are particularly effective ways of opening blog posts – however they are also useful within and at the end of posts. They engage the imaginations of readers, help to reinforce what you’re saying and can be very persuasive tools.

As Brian Clark of CopyBlogger writes – “Stories allow people to persuade themselves, and that’s what it’s really all about.”

Personal stories can also be very effective at establishing common ground between you and your readers – something that makes people be able to relate to you.

Read more on using different types of stories on a blog.

3. Add Your Opinion

If you’re writing about ‘news’ or linking up to something another blogger is saying – don’t just report the news or tell your readers to go read something because ‘it’s good’ – tell your readers what YOU think about what you’re linking to.

Giving your opinion takes your post to a new depth, it stimulates readers to think about their reaction to what they are reading, creates conversation, adds value and helps to make your post unique. Don’t just echo the news around the blogosphere – inject something of yourself into it.

4. Suggest Further Reading

One of the simplest ways to add value to a blog post is to recommend other reading that a reader could do on your topic. This can be done formally at the end of a post with a ‘recommended reading’ type list of links – or informally during a post when you hyperlink relevant articles on key ideas that you write about.

Further reading can be both internal links to other things you’ve written on your topic and/or external links to what others have written previously on the topic you’ve covered. Only do either of these if they do add value and are on topic.

5. Add Quotes

An effective way of adding authority to a blog post is to add the voice of another person using a short quote. Most students know the power of using quotes in the writing of essays (they show you’ve researched and read widely and grasp a topic) – the same thing is try with blog posts.

There are two main ways of using quotes in blog posts:

  1. quote someone talking about your topic (I did this above in the ‘stories’ point with a quote from Brian Clark).
  2. quote someone talking about something unrelated, but still relevant to your topic (something I did in my post – What Thomas Edison Can Teach You about Blogging).

6. Interview Someone

If you can’t find an existing quote to use from someone – create one by approaching them for a quick comment or interview on your topic.

Identify another person who has expertise on the topic you’re covering and then asking them a specific question (or more than one) on that topic so that you can use their answers within your post. Effectively this is what journalists do when they’re working up a story.

While this might sound like a long process – with instant messaging, skype and email it can actually be very quick to get comment from others.

7. Add Reader Comments/Tweets

Another way of adding other ‘voices’ to your blog posts is to actually use the words of those reading your blog by elevating their comments into the post itself.

I’ll share some ways to do this below but first let me say how powerful this is as a technique as it shows your readers that you notice what they say, that you care about them and gives them a moment in the spotlight which can make a lasting impression. It all comes down to making your readers famous.

  • Use Comments from Previous Posts - if you’ve written on the topic you are blogging about before check out the comments section on that post. Hidden away there you might find gems of wisdom that you can pull out an include in future posts.
  • Ask Readers in a Post - this takes a little thinking ahead but if you know you’re going to be writing on a topic a day or two ahead of time – post a question on your blog asking for readers to give feedback on that topic. Then use some of their comments in your next post. For example – I asked readers about how they’d promote a blog here and then used their responses as a post later in the week here.
  • Do a Call for Comments on Social Messaging Sites – I do this regularly on Twitter and Plurk. All it involves is to ask your followers/friends a question as you write your post and then to include some of the best ones within your post. To see this in action – I did this recently in my review of the iPhone as a blogging tool and when I wrote about the benefits of Twitter.
  • LinkedIn Q&ALinkedIn has a great Question and Answer feature that is fantastic for gathering the opinions and ideas of those within your network. I’ve used it on occasions to generate some great discussions which could then be used to add depth to blog posts.
  • Email readers – if you don’t have enough Twitter followers or LinkedIn contacts – why not email a few of your most loyal readers and ask them if they have any thoughts on a topic you’re writing about.

I can’t express to you how much of an impact that using readers comments in blog posts can have. When I do it I get a lot of emails of thanks from those that I use the comments of and also find that it adds a lot of wisdom to my posts.

8. Set Homework

If your post is a ‘teaching’ or ‘how to’ type blog post an effective way of adding depth to your post is to actually set your readers homework or some kind of ‘assignment’.

By finishing a post with a task to go away and do you help your readers to immediately apply what they’ve just learned (most of us learn better by ‘doing’ than just consuming information) and you increase the ‘participation’ levels on your blog (it takes readers out of ‘lurking’ mode).

I discovered the power of homework on my photography site a couple of years back. Our readers there loved the idea so much that we now have a weekly assignment in the forum. Heaven forbid if we miss a week – our readers love it so much that if we do miss one they certainly let us know! Read more on setting readers homework

9. Offer Points of Participation

I’ve touched on this earlier in this series also but it is amazing how much value can be added to a blog post simply by inviting readers to respond and participate in the post. Ask for comments, add a poll, invite readers to blog about the topic on their own blog…. again this is about giving readers an opportunity to bed down what they’re learning and reinforce it in their minds by ‘doing’ something.

Many readers learn best not just by listening to others but by putting their thoughts into their own words.

10. Add Illustrations or Charts

I will talk more about this in the next post in this series of ‘crafting blog posts’ – but it is amazing what a simple image or chart can do to illustrate a point. I’m not just talking about eye catching title images – but those that actually add value to your posts.

This will of course relate more to some types of posts than others but when you do it it is like adding a visual example to your posts. I find this is most effective either when doing a ‘how to’ or tutorial type post (I do it on photoshop tutorials on DPS) or any posts that you quote any kind of statistics in).

11. Look at the Flip Side

A simple technique to add depth to any kind of post that shares an opinion is to explore not only one side of an argument but two. I find it quite amazing how many bloggers write posts that are one dimensional and that argue strongly for one perspective but fail to show that there might be another point of view.

You don’t need to sit on the fence with your posts and can still express your preference strongly for your argument – but at least show that you’re aware of other arguments as it’ll show your readers that you have thought through an issue fully in coming to your point of view. You’ll also find that it doesn’t alienate as many readers who don’t share your opinion and gives a better foundation for constructive dialogue.

12. Look Forward and Create Momentum

One very effective way of adding depth to your post is by telling readers that you’re not done yet and are going to write a followup post in the coming days.

While this doesn’t actually give immediate extra value to a post it creates a sense of momentum and signals to readers that the topic you’re writing about means something to you and is worthy of further exploration.

So before you hit publish on a post consider whether there is any areas within it still not explored that could be the subject of a followup post. A great way to do this is to use mindmapping to plan your next blog posts.

13. Make an Honest Appraisal of Your Post

Before hitting publish on your post ask yourself again – does this post matter?

Is your post useful to readers in some way? Does it inform, entertain, inspire, educate, provide community, motivate or do something else that will enhance the lives of your reader?

Not every post you write will set the world on fire (and that’s ok) but every post should add value to your reader and take you closer to your blogging goals.

If it doesn’t – don’t publish it. Go back to your post and keep adding value.

9 More Thoughts on Adding Depth to Posts from my Twitter Friends

As I was writing this post I decided to put my advice into action by asking my Twitter followers for their experiences on the topic. Here’s just a few of the responses (you’ll see a few new ideas and recurring themese):

  1. @ruraldoctoring – add personal experiences, quotes, open up possibilities for opposing views–>depth. I hope.
  2. @Jonathan_Gunson – How? Try reading your draft posts out loud to someone who cares. Their reaction can produce deep insights you never imagined.
  3. @mark_hayward – give the post some thought while running, write a rough post or outline, do research, and continue to refine over several days.
  4. @ashishmohta – adding some real time example, case studies about 1 hour ago
  5. @DanBlank – To add depth, I add images, and take time between writing sessions, often using ideas that germinated in my head for days.
  6. @johnwroachiii – I have my wife read it and give me her unanwered questions.
  7. @tynansanger – leave it until the morning then look over it again. see if any new news has added to or taken away from the story
  8. @cornerscribe – I let a post “rest” for a while. That helps me see where I need to add detail and depth.
  9. @Arbenting – I usually let a post sit for a day or so before going back to it. Once I re-read it I’ll usually find things that need expanded.

How Have You Added Depth to Your Blog Posts?

There’s lots to digest in this post I know – but I’m certain that among the ProBlogger readership there’s a lot of wisdom and experience that could be added – so what have you tried to add depth and new dimensions to your blog posts?

PS: If you want to see some more 3D Crazy Cross Eye Images – check out 9 more here.

Read the Full Series

This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.

Calls to Action – 12 Tips To SNAP Readers Out of Passivity

The vast majority of visitors to your blog are paralyzed by passivity.

They never comment, they don’t vote in polls, they won’t subscribe to your feed or newsletters, they won’t buy the affiliate products that you recommend, they won’t email a friend about your blog, they won’t vote for you in social bookmarking sites and most of them will never come back.

Call-To-ActionImage by Aaron Jacobs

Depressed? You’re not alone.

Some days it gets me down that readers can be so passive too.

In this post (a part of our crafting blog posts series) I’m going to share how using Calls to Action can significantly increase the interactivity on your blog. I’d also love to hear what you have to say on the topic.

The Problem of Passivity on Blogs

I still remember early in my blogging expressing my frustration to another blogger. At the time my main concern was that while I was getting a lot of visitors, so few of them left a comment.

He responded to me with a question that was like a SMACK to the side of the head with a BRICK – it was so simple yet stupidly I’d never thought of it. He said:

“Do you ever ask for comments?”

He went on to explain to me a ‘secret’ that copywriters have known for ages – ‘Call to Action‘ – if you don’t call your readers to action they are far less likely to take it:

  • If you want people to comment, invite them to do it.
  • If you want people to subscribe, don’t assume that they’ll think to do it themselves, ask them to. If
  • If you want people to buy something – give them a way to do it.
  • If you want people to come back tomorrow, give them some motivation to do so and show them how to remind themselves.
  • If you want a vote on Digg or StumbleUpon – ask.

Call me ‘Captain Obvious’ – but so few of us bloggers have mastered the ‘Call to Action’ in their blogging that it is no wonder that so many of us struggle with passive audiences.

Why Calls to Action are Important

After my friend gave me the above advice I began to experiment with inviting readers to comment on my posts. Here’s what I found:

  • Some People Respond to Invitations - When I invited comments and didn’t assume that people would leave them I noticed a marked increase in comments. While the majority of my readers still ‘lurked’ I’d estimate comments were up by between 50-100% on posts.
  • Action grows Reader Engagement - I began to notice that when people commented once it would open a floodgate of comments from them over future days. When I questioned a few of these readers I found that some had been ‘lurking’ a while, too scared to comment but once they had they felt more ‘ownership’ and ‘confidence’ to do it again.
  • Action brings loyalty – I noticed that first time readers would become loyal readers – they’d often come back to the blog in the days after their comment to see how other people responded to it.
  • Action breeds Action - When you grow the interactivity on your blog it draws others to be interactive. When a first time visitor to your blog sees that you have thousands of subscribers and hundreds of comments they take notice and many will be drawn to do likewise (it is called social proof).

In time I saw similar things as I ‘asked’ readers to do other things (vote in polls, subscribing to feeds etc). I learned that as obvious as it might seem to us as bloggers to do these things – many readers don’t think to do these things unless asked to.

12 Tips for Calls to Action:

So how do you effectively use Calls to Action on your blog?

Let me say that the following Call to Action Tips come out of my own experience of experimenting with this type of thing. I’m by no means a copy writing expert (although am about to start some training in it) and would love to learn from your own experiences of Calls to Action so please do feel free to share you own experience in comments below.

1. Know what Action you want Readers to take

Sounds almost too basic to include in these tips but I think it’s really important to be clear about what you’re trying to achieve with your blog post. This really builds on the last post in this series which talked about making your posts matter and identifying purposes for posts. What’s the purpose of your post? What do you want readers to do as a result of reading the post? Answer these questions before writing your call to action and you’ll be in a great position to write an effective one.

2. One Call to Action Per Post

Early in my own experiments with Calls to Action I wrote a post that was linked to by the uber blog Slashdot. It sent more traffic to my blog than I’d ever seen before and so I decided to update the post with some calls to action. Problem was that I stuffed so many of them into the post that no one did any of them. I asked for comments, pointed to my RSS feed and newsletter, asked for people to link to the post… etc. I find that I have a lot more luck with just one call to action per post – it gives people a simple next step rather than overwhelming them with choices.

3. Make it a Win/Win Call to Action

There’s nothing wrong with benefiting from the actions that your readers take on your blog. Don’t be afraid to ask things of them – but do make sure that what you ask of them will have an upside not only for you but for them.

4. Make the Action Simple and Achievable

I was recently asked by a reader to look at a competition that they were running on their blog and to give my opinion on why no one had entered it. Upon looking at the competition it became clear that while the prize was great and the blog did have readers – that the requirements to entry were too complicated. The blogger was asking readers to leave a 500 word comment, write a post on their own blog linking to their competition AND subscribe to his RSS feed (and to prove it take a screen shot of the subscription confirmation page). Ask your readers to jump through too many hoops to do the thing you want them to do and you’ll get significantly less of them to take that action.

5. In Post Calls to Action Work Best

Positioning is everything in many aspects of your blog and calls to action are no exception. In the same way that click through on ads increase when you put ads near or in content – responses to calls to action will work significantly better for you within posts than if you slap them on your sidebar. This doesn’t mean you can’t have an invitation to action in your sidebar (almost every blog I know does this with RSS subscription invitations for example) however in post invitations will generally work best.

6. Express Clearly what you Want People to do

This really builds upon the ‘simple and achievable action’ point that I’ve made above but comes down to the way you communicate the desired action to readers. In the same way that I’ve suggested taking extra time to craft post titles and opening lines it is important to pause and consider the words that you use in your call to action. If your call to action isn’t a simple thing (and sometimes it is unavoidable) consider outlining what you want readers to do in ‘steps’ or a list of points. This is what I do on my Group Writing Projects and I find it works quite well.

7. Multiple Calls to the Same Action Can Work

While it’s best if you keep the number of actions you call for to a minimum (preferably 1 per post) this doesn’t mean you can’t invite readers to take that action more than once in the post. The most logical place for a call to action is at the end of the post – after all it is where readers stop reading and start thinking about what to do next. However I find that adding a call to action earlier in the post can increase the likelihood that people will take the action. This works for two main reasons – firstly you are sowing the seed of the action in their mind early and secondly some people will never make it to the end of your post but may actually take the action early on. For example – in this post I’ve already invited comments twice – and I’ll do it once more at the end of the post.

8. Draw the Eye to Calls to Action

Why do we make titles bigger and more eye catching on blog posts but leave our invitations to action as plain text languishing at the bottom of our posts? As with any important part to a post it is important that your readers see calls to action. You can ensure this happens in a number of ways including putting a heading above them, using an image near them, making the call to action a striking image itself, using text formatting (bold, italics, capitals), using colored backgrounds and borders around the calls to action etc.

9. Lead your readers to the Action

Your post itself needs to lead people to the action. The call and the topic of the post should strongly relate to one another and you should give reasons why the action would benefit readers. One technique that is worth using with some calls to action (particularly bigger ones) is to paint a picture of what life would be like after the action is taken (or what it’d be like if it is not taken).

10. Give an Incentive

Some calls to action will have an incentive to the reader built into them – but at times you might want to add extra incentive. This can be especially effective if you’re promoting an affiliate product and want to give your readers extra value by offering a bonus.

11. Mix Up Calls to Action from Post to Post

Readers can become a little blind (or numb) to calls to action over time if your calls are always the same (either given in the same way or asking them to do the same thing). Mix things up from post to post. Also don’t feel you need to have a call to action in every post. If you’re constantly asking your readers to do things you could burn them out.

12. Don’t Hard Sell But Call with Confidence

Using Calls to Action can be a bit of a balancing act at times. In talking to bloggers I find that they usually struggle with them in one of two ways. Either they feel awkward asking readers to do anything OR they SELL SELL SELL and lack subtlety. Somewhere between these two extremes is the place you need to dwell. The place you position yourself along the spectrum will differ from blog to blog and probably based upon your personality. Some bloggers get away with the hard sell better than others – the key is to experiment, listen to your readership and how they respond and to try to strike a balance between the two extremes.

What Was Your Most Effective Call to Action?

What I’ve shared above is my experience of Calls to Action but as I’ve said above – I’m still on a learning journey on this topic and would love to hear what you have leaned on the topic? Feel free to give an example of what you’ve done with a link and share your lessons in comments below so we can all improve our call to action technique!

Read the Full Series

This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.