T-Shirt Competition Finalists – It’s Time to Vote


I’m pleased to announce the five finalists for the ProBlogger T-Shirt competition.

You can see them all close up at the ProBlogger shop.

Apologies for the delay but with 60 submissions, a few hiccups with cafepress and with needing to get the entries all up to a printable quality it took a bit longer than I’d hoped for to get things this far.

I wan to extend a massive thank you to all participants. The quality of submissions was great and it was a difficult choice. Thanks also to my two other judges who helped narrow the field. We chose the following five for a variety of reasons including design elements, adaptability for printing, what we thought people would buy and how it fitted with the rest of ProBlogger. Of course this is just our opinion and there will be discussion about what we left out of the mix.

I will also add that a couple of entries withdrew due to lack of time to get their entries up to print quality. I may feature some of these later on as stickers or on mugs.

Vote for your favourite and show ProBlogger a little love in the process by buying your favourite in the ProBlogger shop.

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Search Engine Optimization Tips for Blogs – Using Keywords

Having looked at Offsite Search Engine Optimization Techniques I’ll now turn my attention to examining some of the factors you might like to keep in mind as you develop your blog – (or Onsite techniques). There are many of these and it might take a few days to get through them all – bear with me.

Keyword Rich Content – identify a few keywords for your article that you’re hoping will get indexed highly by Google. Don’t pick too many but consider the question ‘how do I want people to find this post in Search Engines?’ What will they type into Google if they want information on the topic you’re writing. The answer to this question will give you a hint as to what words you’ll want to see repeated throughout your article a number of times.

These keywords will need to be the most common words used in your article. Use them in some or all of the following ways:

  • Keywords in post and page titles (read my post on using keywords in titles
  • Keywords in URL of page (blog herald wrote on this a while back
  • Keywords in outbound links (read this article on the pros and cons of outbound links)
  • Keywords in bold tags (try do it at least once)
  • Keywords in heading tags (there is debate over exactly how to use them but it’s generally accepted that h1 tags are important and that h2, h3, h4 etc tags also have an impact. Having said that I’ve seen some pages rank very well in search engines without using heading tags. There are many tutorials online about heading tags – here’s one.)
  • Keywords in image alt tags (here’s how)
  • Keywords in the general throughout the text of your post – but especially early on in the first few sentences
  • Keywords in meta tags (they seem to be less valuable these days but many still believe they are useful with some search engines – here’s a Guide to meta tags)

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‘Behaviors of the Blogosphere’ Study Results

Rick E. Bruner has pointed to a fascinating report into Blog Reader Behaviour (pdf) that has some very promising findings for those of us exploring blogging in the commercial sphere. The key findings of this study by ComScore are:

  • 50 million U.S. Internet users visited blog sites in the first quarter of 2005. That is roughly 30% of all U.S. Internet users and 1 in 6 of the total U.S. population
  • Five hosting services for blogs each had more than 5 million unique visitors in that period, and four individual blogs had more than 1 million visitors each
  • Of 400 of the biggest blogs observed, segmented by seven (nonexclusive) categories, political blogs were the most popular, followed by “hipster” lifestyle blogs, tech blogs and blogs authored by women
  • Compared to the average Internet user, blog readers are significantly more likely to live in wealthier households, be younger and connect to the Web on high-speed connections
  • Blog readers also visit nearly twice as many web pages as the Internet average, and they are much more likely to shop online

Related article: Gawker’s boss Nick Denton talks about the results as someone who was part of commissioning the report.

Redesigning Blog Templates

I just stumbled across a useful page for those wanting to give their blog a bit of a design overhaul – it’s a blog tutorial on Blog Templates using Photoshop. In it they talk about how to design header banners/logos, give photos borders, make button etc. They also give a lot of useful links to help in the process.

Search Engine Optimization Tips for Blogs – Off Site Techniques

This post belongs to the SEO Tips for Blogs Series

As I mentioned in the previous post, SEO experts tend to divide search engine optimization techniques into off site and on site techniques. Off site techniques are as the name suggests factors from outside the site itself (and usually on other sites) that impact the blog’s ranking in search engines. Many of these factors are outside the blogger’s control – however they are useful to know. The most obvious and probably most powerful offsite factor are Inbound Links.

It is generally agreed that the links that point to a website are one of the most powerful way of climbing Search Engines results pages (in fact many argue it is THE most important factor). – To put it most simply – every link to your site is seen by the search engines as being a vote of confidence in your site.

Ideally Speaking – The best inbound links are those that are from higher ranked sites than your own that are relevant to the topic you are writing about who link to you using relevant keywords. Whilst you may not have complete control over who links to you these are the types of links that you should be dreaming of.

How to generate quality inbound Links? [Read more…]

Reactions to MSN Filter

There has been a bit of a buzz around the blogging community in the past few days with the release of Microsofts blog publishing network – MSN Filter – a network of blogs looking to give the inside scoop on music, sport, TV, style and technology. MSN describe it as:

‘our team of bloggers will filter the best stories, photographs, links and other interesting tidbits that you’ve sent in, as well as items that they’ve dug up.

This is an opportunity to share your insider knowledge with the Filter community and take a chunk out of your 15 minutes of Internet fame.’

It’s reader driven content edited by nameless bloggers.

The response to MSN filter has been varied ranging from the bored (rafat at Paid Content writes ‘my reaction: ho hum’) to the ‘thrilled’ reaction of Jason Calacanis:

‘Now, I’m thrilled MSN is in the game because at some point soon I’m sure they will make these Filter sites and/or the default homepage for tens of millions of MSN/IE users. Tens of millions of folks will reach our blogs via Microsoft’s RSS reader and meta-blogs. The alternative—which we are living with right now—is our blogs are no where to be found on the MSN, Yahoo, Google or AOL home pages. Having these big players move blogs to the top level will be huge for blogging.’

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Search Engine Optimization Tips for Blogs

Search Engine Optimization is something that makes many blogger’s heads spin – I know this because every time I write an SEO article I get comments from bloggers telling me that its too big a topic and that they’d rather just write ‘quality content’.

Whilst I’ll never argue that quality content should be anything but a first priority in blogging, the fact is that there are many millions of pages of great writing languishing around at the bottom of search engines results pages that deserve to be read by many but which rarely see the light of day because their authors have failed to understand that just a few simple tweaks in the writing process could see them ranking considerably higher.

So it’s time for another series – this time on Search Engine Optimization for Blogs!

People often ask me ‘how do I get ranked number one in (((insert favourite search engine here)))?

My answer usually starts with – ‘I don’t really know what I’m talking about….but….’

You see whilst some of my blogs rank very highly on different search engines – I often don’t really know why. Much of what I do is educated guessing and experimentation. I do read a lot of other people’s advice on the topic, but the more I read the more I realize that I’m not alone in my guess work – virtually every article I read is a ‘best guess’ of some kind.
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31 Days to Building a Better Blog – Day 8

Today is day 8 of the 31 days to building a better blog project and I’m about to start posting a series of posts on Search Engine Optimization that I’ve been working on – hold on to your blogging instrument of choice – we’re about to go into overdrive!

Before I kick off the new series I want to highlight some great posts that were submitted by readers in the past 24 hours. Here’s what came in:

Do you have a blog tip (big or small) to share? Don’t keep it to yourself – share the knowledge, write it up on your blog and let me know the URL and I’ll link up tomorrow so we can all learn from your experience. No tip is too small – we’re all on this journey together – we might as well give each other a leg up from time to time because as we do we all win.

Stay tuned for the SEO series.

Scoble – ‘Why I Blog’

Robert Scoble is back after a short break from blogging and has done some thinking about why he blogs. It’s a good read and shows that even top bloggers need to take some time out every now and again to rethink their blog’s direction:

‘See, a good blog is passionate and authoritative. Lately I’ve been going through the motions. Just blogging to keep blogging.

Over the past week I focused on rediscovering myself. What do I like to do? This is my blog. It better be fun. For me. Or else I’ll stop doing it.

So, I went back and made a mental list of why I do this….’

Robert’s reasons for blogging are an interesting read and range from that he likes to talk with smart people to getting things into the search engines. So why do you blog?

Declaring War on Blogger Apathy

It’s time to talk about something that has the potential to KILL your blog….


A blogger can have the best strategic plan in the world but if they have no motivation, passion or drive for their blogging it will almost always amount to nothing at all. One of the keys to the success I’ve managed to have as a ProBlogger is that I’ve taken a long term approach to my blogging which calls for constant work over 2.5 years (so far).

Whilst there have been times where my spirit has been low and the drudgery of researching, writing, networking and dreaming has threatened to put a stop to what I do – I’ve continually pushed myself to find new and creative ways to beat down the blog killer of Apathy. I’ve seen other bloggers not been able to break through this and as a result their blogs today either don’t exist or have become something like the ghost towns of the Western Movie with breezes blowing around the tumbleweed of comment spam and out of date content.

So I’ve decided it’s time to declare war on Blog Apathy and want to share a number of the things that have helped me keep my motivation up in blogging. Feel free to add your own experience and tips in comments.

• Start a Series – it gets hard to constantly come up with new topics to blog about each day so why not pick a larger topic to break down over a week or so. I find that once I’ve got a topic to work on I often get the creative juices flowing – a series can fast track the process. The past few days have definitely lifted my own interest in ProBlogger (not that it was too low) – simply because I’ve been in ‘series mode’.

• Invite questions from your readers – get your readers involved in your blog by setting the agenda for you to write about over the next few weeks of your blogging. Once again this is about stimulating ideas for topics.

• Revisit old Posts – if your archives are anything like mine they are full of posts and articles that you’ve put hours of work into. Keep in mind that many of your newer readers would not have read your old posts and so from time to time it might be worth either reposting old posts, updating old posts or simply bouncing off old posts and continuing old streams of thought.

• Redesign – I always find a fresh coat of paint can really lift a room, a haircut can improve a mood and a blog redesign can get the creative juices flowing again. Tweak it, adapt it or completely redesign it – either way you might just inject a little more energy into something that’s grown tired and find that you’ve got more energy for your blogging.

• Write Posts Ahead of Time – this won’t help you now if you’re in apathy mode – but if you’re not and currently have some energy consider writing a few extra posts that are non time specific to keep for a rainy/apathetic day. When you’re inspired write more so that when you’re not you don’t have to.

• Keep an Idea Journal – this is similar to the previous point but just involves keeping a list of possible post ideas you could write on at a later uninspired point in time. It might include just titles of posts or even a few points that you could write about. I’m constantly jotting down ideas for posts or series and even new blogs all day everyday. Take your journal with you everywhere you go so that if inspiration strikes you can capture it.

• Develop a Posting Schedule – it’s amazing what you can produce if you give yourself a deadline. Whilst for some people the idea of schedules and plans might have the opposite effect – for many of us they help keep us going. My posting goal is 25-35 posts per day – knowing what I’m aiming for helps keep me on track. Whether you’ve got a goal of 2 daily posts, or 500 monthly posts some goals can help get your blogging into gear.

• Get a Guest Blogger – put a little new blood into your blog by inviting someone else to join you in posting either while you take a short break to rejuvenate or to blog alongside you. I’ve recently added a few bloggers to a handful of my blogs and have really enjoyed both the pressure that it’s taken off me but also the energy and fresh ideas that they’ve brought.

• Read other’s blogs – sometimes its easy to become so focused upon blogging that we forget to interact with other bloggers. I remember a few months ago realizing that I rarely really read other blogs any more (apart from those I scanned each day for useful information to blog about). Get back to basics and actually read other blogs – you might just find that in doing so you rediscover the reason you started your own blog in the first place. In addition to that you’ll probably find yourself stimulated to bounce off their blogs with your own.

• Interact with other bloggers – connected to the last point I also find it very useful to not only read the work of others but to converse with them. I regularly chat via instant messaging or phone with other bloggers – in doing so we encourage and inspire each other to break through the dry times. So leave a comment somewhere, start an IM conversation, send an email – talk to someone. Don’t let blogging become an insular lonely thing – rather take advantage of the relational aspects of blogging.

• Meme it Up – another way to get yourself a little more interested in and energised by your blog is to start some sort of Meme. Run a competition, start a blogging project, add a quiz or survey – do something fun, creative and interactive to get other bloggers involved in what you’re doing. To be honest this is why I started the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project – seeing the wonderful response from readers has definitely lifted my blogging spirits this week.

• Subscribe to a new Source of Information – sometimes it’s easy to get into a rut when you feel like you’re just seeing the same sorts of information on your blogs topic over and over again. So subscribe to some new keywords on Google News Alerts or Topix RSS feeds or find some new blogs to follow. If you put fresh content and ideas into your head hopefully some fresh content will come out.

• Short Posts – if you don’t have much to say – don’t say much. Keep your posts short and to the point. Even if they don’t feel profound to you, just the act of posting something might loosen the blogging creativity within you. Short posts can actually be incredibly effective communication tools also so it might just add something special to your blog.

• New Stimuli – one of the best ways to get your creativity levels up is to expose yourself to new stuff. Buy a book, watch a movie, meet someone new, go for a walk, spend time with your family, listen to some music – get out of your normal daily rhythm and expose yourself to some new sights, sounds, tastes, touches and smells. Remember that what you put into your life has a direct baring on what comes out.

• Just Write – it’s amazing what comes when you just start writing sometimes. Some of my bests posts emerged out of really dry patches when I forced myself to sit and write. The first few paragraphs might end up being scrapped – but if you keep writing you’ll eventually hit gold. [Read more…]