July 28, 2008

5 Tips for Finding That Perfect Blog Template

Filed under: Blogging Tips -- Jennifer Slegg @ 11:38am

If you have been blogging on the default blog template, or one of the first free templates you found, chances are good that your current template isn’t doing the job it should to enhance your blog. And unfortunately many blogs are using templates that actually detract from the user experience on your blog, whether due to a mismatch of template to blog theme or simply a theme that isn’t really presenting itself in the best possible way to your readers.

A good blog template will truly enhance what you present rather than detract from it, which a poorly chosen blog template can do. If you are one of those bloggers that put little time and effort into finding that perfect blog template for your blog, it is definitely time to find that killer blog template that is more suited to your style and content.

Where to find

WordPress theme templates seem to be much more prevalent that themes for other blogging platforms, but no matter what type of platform you are using, do a search for “free WordPress templates” changing it to match the platform you are using. There are so many people releasing templates today that you are sure to find something. If you have a particular theme in mind, add a couple keywords about that and see what turns up. The same goes for color. If you have your heart set on a purple template, throw the word purple into your keyword search.

Finding one that fits

If your blog is about white water rafting but the blog template you ended up choosing originally has a picture of a subway station in the header, it is a complete mismatch between design and content. So you want to make sure that what you present visually matches what the content of what people are reading.

Swap images

You might find that perfect template, but it is a mismatch like the subway station one. So instead, look to find an image that you could swap out for the subway picture. Maybe you have a picture from one of your white water rafting trips that would match perfectly or you can find one on Flickr under creative commons. So don’t completely eliminate templates simply because the header image isn’t quite what you have in mind.

Find a few

Sometimes that seemingly perfect template just doesn’t seem to do your blog justice once you actually upload it and install it. So as you find various templates, save them and upload them. Then you have a few different ones to try out and once, so you can easily compare then, check for any odd bugs, and pick the one you think compliments your blog the most. Don’t forget, you can always remove the ones you don’t ultimately end up with if you want, so download all those “maybe” templates too, it wouldn’t be the first time that a “maybe” template actually ends up being the perfect fit after it is tried out on the actual blog, instead of viewing a screenshot of it in action.

Still can’t find the perfect template?

Do what I do, and that is find a template that is “almost” and then go code diving and make the tweaks yourself. Often, you can change the code to make some of the changes yourself. Perhaps you want an ad block in the sidebar or a slightly larger or smaller design width. Or perhaps you just need to add your own custom logo to make it yours. You may discover tweaking it is easier than you realize, or you can call in a favor from a coding friend if the changes will take someone inexperienced just a short amount of time to do.

Many people don’t realize how important having a suitable template for a blog is, especially when the current one you have just seems completely inappropriate for the type of blog entries you are writing. If you are using a blog template, take the time to look closely at it and see if it really is a template that suits your blog, and if not, take the time to search for that perfect blog template that is clean, presentable and most importantly, goes with the theme of your blog.

July 16, 2008

The Power of Personal Contact and Invitations to Action on a Blog

Filed under: Blogging Tips -- Darren Rowse @ 10:09pm

This week I learnt two things about blogging:

  1. Getting your readers to DO something on your blog is a powerful thing.
  2. Personal contact with readers makes a real impact

Last week i ran a quick and small competition on ProBlogger to promote the ProBlogger Book.

The competition was simple – leave a comment on the competition post that told me why you wanted the book in 250 words or less.

The competition ran for 24 hours and at the end of that time there were 193 entries (more than I expected). The entries were so good that I felt bad just giving one book away so selected three submissions to get a copy of it.

At this point in running competitions I usually send the prizes, make a quick post announcing the winners and then do nothing else – but this time I decided to do something different.

I felt bad that so many had missed out on the book after going to the trouble of entering so on the spur of the moment I emailed each of the 190 entrants who didn’t win. It took me a while to pull all their emails into an email but I wanted them to know that I appreciated the effort that they’d gone to.

The email thanked them for their comment and told them that I was said that there couldn’t be more winners. I also pointed out that the book was on special at Amazon and said that I hope they’d be able to get a copy at some point.

I was a little hesitant to mention the book on sale as I didn’t want it to come off as a sales technique (the primary purpose of the email was to thank them) but decided to do it on the spur of the moment.

I sent the email.

What happened next was surprising.

I started getting emails from the 190 that I’d sent my email out to. Over the next 24 hours I had 70 emails!

There were two main themes in the emails:

1. They appreciated and were surprised by the personal contact - quite a few readers emailed that they’d been taken aback by the follow up email.

2. They’d bought the book – most of those who emailed said that they’d just bought the book (or were about to). Whether they all did or not I’m not sure but the book’s ranking on Amazon leapt up that day by 600 spots – so something happened.

In the days since my competition I’ve noticed a third flow-on effect of my email.

3. More Reader Interaction – a number of the people that I’d emailed had never commented before on ProBlogger before the competition – they’d been lurking but never active on the blog. However in the last few days they’ve been commenting like crazy.

Take Home Lessons

I’ve been reflecting upon this experience over the last couple of days and two ‘lessons’ have struck me.

  1. Getting your readers to DO something on your blog is a powerful thing – this hit home on two levels. Firstly the act of getting readers to write why they wanted the book to play a big part in them actually buying it. I guess when you invest a few minutes into thinking about why you want something and then go to the trouble of writing those reasons up you ‘sell’ yourself on actually buying it. Secondly – the act of making a first comment on a blog can often be enough to make a lurking reader an active reader. I’ve noticed this before – people often feel shy about commenting but once they take the step to do so they open the flood gates.

    2. Personal contact with readers makes a real impact – this is something I’ve known for a long time but have had to re-learn many times. It can be difficult to interact with all of your blog’s readers but when you do it can really impact them and help them to become more loyal to your blog.

Read more tips like this from Darren Rowse at ProBlogger Blog Tips

June 26, 2008

Are You Overwhelming Your Readers With A Cluttered Blog?

Filed under: Blogging Tips -- Jennifer Slegg @ 04:38pm

WordPress has become one of the most popular blogging platforms and a large part of that reason is the sheer number of plugins available to add to blogs. But many of these plugins, especially when combined with an obsessive amount of advertisements, tend to overwhelm readers with an abundance of clutter in both the sidebar and at the end of the posts themselves. So it is worth considering if you really need all the extras you have on your blog or if you can do some spring cleaning to provide a cleaner experience for your readers.

Wonderful World of Widgets
Do your readers really need to know what your Alexa rank is, that Akismet has blocked a zillion spam comments or that you only have a Google PageRank of 2? Do they need to see that your blog entry has 627 words and will take about a minute and a half to read? Nope, not really. These things all just add to the cluttered look of your blog. Only add widgets that either benefit you (such as including a Twitter box in the sidebar to increase your Twitter followers) or are useful to your visitors (such as easy submissions to social media sites). Be ruthless and ditch everything else.

Speed
Even more annoying that the overwhelming feeling that a ton of clutter on the sidebar can cause, is when that clutter starts slowing down the load time of your blog, or worse, completely hangs it while waiting for a third party something to load. You absolutely do not want to sacrifice your load speed just to add some widget to your blog. And this is especially true when you have gone overboard adding widgets and plugins and they are all taking up critical load time that results in your readers wondering what is taking so long and leaving your blog for a competitor’s blog instead. So when you are de-cluttering your blog, pay special attention to what slows down the load time, and give those the axe first.

Advertising
First, look and see which ads are actually making you money. If you have AdSense in the sidebar but it has earned you a measly $1.86 in the past three months, odds are pretty good that you won’t miss that money and can remove it from the sidebar. But has it made you $50 in the past two weeks? If so, then you will want to keep it around. Any ads that run for a month without making you a worthwhile amount of money should be removed entirely or replaced with something that could potentially be more profitable. This especially applies to those cheesy super-animated affiliate ads that involve hitting a monkey or that feature a fake Windows alert box or for in-line advertising that shows a pop-up when you mouse over it.

Move around
Do you need to have a link to your privacy policy page linked at the top of your sidebar? Not really, especially when you can easily relocate it well below the fold to your footer. If you absolutely need to have something in the sidebar, add it to the bottom (below the fold) so you can feature the more useful content above.

RSS feed options
Do you offer convenience buttons to multiple different blog subscribing services? Either use one of the plugins that offers an all-in-one version, or add all the various buttons on a separate page, while offering the standard RSS feed on the main page. If you discover a high portion of your subscribers are using one service, consider adding that second button to the main page, but otherwise, relegate all those extra service buttons to a “RSS Subscribe Options” page.

When you declutter your content, it is important to remember that you don’t need to offer everything to everyone. Just because your mom visits your blog doesn’t mean you need to add a weather widget just so she can see what the weather is like in your town at the moment. You want to offer only what the majority of your visitors want and need, and most of them don’t want to see eighteen widgets, plugins and flashing things in your sidebar… most will happily handle a few, since it is a blog, but the goal is to not overwhelm them with so much that they hit the back button for a hasty retreat, which some blogs definitely have done for me!

Is the pack rat in you resisting the need to remove some of your widgets and plugins? Just deactivate the plugins in your WordPress control panel, and if you discover visitors really miss them, you can always reactivate them later. Same with widgets… just save the ones you remove and you can add them again later if you need to. But seriously, chances are pretty good that no one will ever miss them, except maybe you!

June 25, 2008

Creating a Useful Link List Blog Post

Filed under: Blogging Tips -- Jennifer Slegg @ 04:30pm

Every day at least a couple of blog posts hit my RSS reader that consist of nothing but a bunch of links to various blog posts that were published within the past 24 hours. And chances are pretty good that the duplicates between them are pretty high. But some link lists I find far more useful than others, and I actually look forward to reading them because they not only introduce me to blog posts on blogs I don’t subscribe to, but they also alert me to what’s hot and newsworthy in the industry.

However, I most look forward to the useful ones because they present the information differently when compared to most of the other link lists. So if you are tempted to create your own link lists, here’s how to make yours not only more useful, but to also stand out from the crowd of all the other link list posts.

No copycats
Whatever you do, don’t just copy someone else’s link list. To make it useful, you need to create a brand new set of links, not just regurgitate what another blogger already published… and what many of your readers have probably already seen. Because if they are identical, at least some of your readers will recognize it as a copycat.

Categorize them
Don’t just give me a list of blog posts in all shapes and sizes. Split the Google ones into one category, the Blogging ones into another, and the Social Media into a third. Use as many as you need – within reason, of course – so I can easily scan to the sections that interest me most.

Who said what
Don’t just give me a link to the title. Tell me who wrote it too. With Twitter being all the rage, it seems as though everyone has something to say about it. But if I can’t tell who wrote “The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter”, I won’t know if it is one of the ones I have already read, or something new someone else has just published. With the author listed, your link list just became that much more useful to me.

Snippet
Create your own snippet about the article, even including a short bit about why you liked it or why you think others should add it to their must-read list. Don’t just give me the first paragraph of the blog entry, instead give me your unique perspective on it. And as an added bonus, this will help with the duplicate filter content in Google, so your link lists will get indexed and show up in the search results.

Introduce new blogs
Don’t fall into the habit of always linking to the same set of blogs. Make a point of finding new blogs or new perspectives so that you can also introduce your subscribers to those new blogs too. You will likely find that your readers already have many of the blogs you previously included on link lists in the RSS readers already. So try and include new bloggers in your lists whenever you can, even if it means hitting the Google Blog Search to see who else commented on the same topic in the past day or two.

Themed lists
Instead of doing daily link lists, why not go with a daily or weekly theme list of some sort? If it is a search industry blog, you might focus on Twitter related articles one time and the next showcase all blog posts written by women. There are many themes you can find in your market area to chose from. Not only will your readers find it useful, but it also gives a nice concise look at a variety of blog posts that might not have otherwise made a daily link list blog post. Struggling for themes? You can also take reader suggestions for upcoming themed link lists, and if you are lucky, readers will suggest links for the theme too.

If you are overcome with the temptation to make your own links list, follow these tips so you aren’t just publishing the same kind of thing that all the other bloggers are publishing too. You can create a useful and unique link list that just might end up getting link to too!

June 25, 2008

How Long Should Each Blog Entry Be

Filed under: Blogging Tips -- Jennifer Slegg @ 11:43am

How long each blog entry should be is one of those tough questions where you will get a ton of different answers… in fact, everyone you ask will probably have a different answer as to what the ideal post length is. But the reality is that some types of blog posts require more words than others, while some market areas will define how long your blog posts should be, which is why there is such a variety of answers. So when it comes to picking a word count for each of your new blog posts, how should you determine it?

What you need
If you write a fantastic blog post that comes in at 1000 words, the last thing you should do is chop it down to 600 because of what someone says. If it is quality content and perfectly edited, just leave it as is. If there is an easy way to break it into part one and part two, consider that, but otherwise, leave it as the full 1000 and publish it as is. The last thing you want to do is starting chopping out parts and end up with a shell of the original that ends up being mediocre, when your original longer one was Digg-worthy.

Quality
As long as you are posting quality, you can do short blog posts more frequently. But don’t risk losing quality for quantity, regardless of the post length. Ideally, your blog post length should be what is needed to provide the best quality of article, whether than means 200, 300, or 900 words in each post. Just as you want to ensure you are giving the topic the word count it needs, you also want to ensure you are giving it the quality it needs.

Market attention span
The reality is that some market areas can hold he attention of the reader longer than others. Start by checking your analytics and see how long visitors stay on your site per page, with a variety of post sizes. If the average is 30 seconds, you will want to stick primarily with shorter, snappy posts. But if the average is 90 seconds, you could easily handle 1000 word blog entries on a more regular basis, as long as you can consistently provide the quality goods in that length of article.

Reader interaction
You can also look at your visitor interaction. Do your longer blog articles tend to end up with no comments while your short ones have plenty? Or your longer ones end up with dozens of comments while your short quick posts are empty? That could be a tip off as to the length of posts that are best received by your readers, so you can offer more of the same.

Most popular
Are your blog posts with the highest page views consistently the ones where you dove in-depth into a subject, rather than the shorter quick look posts? Or is it the shorter ones that tend to be the most read? This can definitely help you consider not only the length of posts that are most popular, but also the types of posts you readers seem to love.

Both worlds
One of the favorite end result strategies it to mix it up a bit and offer both. Provide the longer 1000 word posts that delve deeply into a topic, but then offer a quickie post of a couple hundred words for the next one. You can give the longer ones the depth it needs while upping your blog’s post quantity by posting shorter (and quicker to write) blog entries too. This way you are providing the best of both worlds for your readers, and satisfying both reading tastes.

The end result? There is no right or wrong answer to the post length question. It is better to focus on what each blog post needs than trying to conform each of those blog posts to a length that you think the readers want. Then watch for what seems to be popular to your readers and try and provide more of those post lengths while still mixing it up enough to suit all reader’s attention spans.

June 22, 2008

Secrets to Good Community and Conversation on Your Blog

Filed under: Blogging Tips -- Darren Rowse @ 10:28pm

Today I’m blogging from a little local cafe that I’ve become a regular at and am watching the barista work her magic not only in making a great coffee but engaging the clientale that drop by for a takeaway coffee. As I write this there are 10 people milling around the counter, chatting, laughing, catching up on their weekends and talking about current events.

The strange thing is that none of these 10 people came in together – they are effectively a bunch of strangers – yet they’ve formed a wonderful little temporary community before my eyes.

I’ve been coming to this cafe for months now and on almost every occasion that I’ve come in there has been a line of people waiting for coffees – much like they are right now. At first I thought that it was just the quality of coffee that drew people in – but after a month or two of coming in I realized that it was the barista herself and her ability to quickly create connections.

So what can my barista friend (her name is ‘Cat’) teach us as bloggers about drawing people in, creating conversation and building community?

Passion about ‘Product’

Lets start with Cat’s core product – her coffee making. Cat can’t stop talking about coffee. Recently the cafe switched brands of coffee and on the day it happened she was so excited and talked about the coffee non stop all day. People are drawn to other passionate people.

Are you passionate about your core business as a blogger? Do you love your topic? Do you love communicating around that topic? If so – you’ll naturally draw people to you.

Quality Product

Cat is not only passionate about her coffee – she’s very good at making it. There are 10 or so cafes in my local area that I could pick a coffee up from – many are closer to my home than this one – but I’m happy to walk the extra distance for one of Cat’s coffees. People are drawn to quality.

As bloggers its important that the quality of your work is as high as possible. Work hard on developing your writing skills, develop a style and voice that connects with people, make your blog as visually pleasing as possible and ensure that what you blog about is more than ‘fluff’. Quality counts.

You-Centric

Cat naturally focusses upon those around her. The moment a new customer walks in the door she greets them, quite often with quite personal language. ‘Hi Darl…’, ‘Good morning beautiful….’, ‘Hi there (insert name)’…

Cat keeps track of what her regular customers are doing week to week and asks about family, holidays, work – she gets people talking about themselves. This happens to a point that people come in and start sharing their stories without her even having to ask.

People love to talk about themselves – they love to feel ‘noticed’ and ‘known’- they like to feel that people are interested in their lives.

Do you engage with your blog’s readers in a personal way? Do you respond to comments and reader emails? Do you make them feel valued? Is your blog more about you or your readers?

Shares Herself

The conversation in this cafe generally revolves around customers – however Cat also is more than happy to share her own stories and life with customers when they ask also. As someone who sits in this cafe for a couple of hours at a time I feel like I know a lot about Cat, her family and her life. I know when she’s had a good weekend and when she’s had a bad one – I know when she’s been sick, I know the movies she’s seen etc.

While I don’t generally advise bloggers to get personal in every post – I do think there are times and places when sharing something a little more personal can be a powerful thing. Be willing to share a little of yourself (with appropriate boundaries) and you’ll find that others are willing to open up to you too.

Fun/Personality

Cat is one of those people that people feel quite comfortable to share a joke with on the first time that they meet her. She teases customers, jokes with her co-workers, laughs a lot and in short is a lot of fun. None of this is forced – she’s naturally this way and she lets it flow out into her work. The result is infectious – customers have a lot of fun here.

As bloggers it’s important to find a voice and style that reflects who you really are. Not every blogger needs to be funny – but if you naturally are, allow this to come out in your blogging. If you’re a thinker, let your blogging reflect that, if you’re a more emotive/feeling type person – inject that into your blogging.

Make Connections

One of the best things that Cat does is that she doesn’t just focus upon one customer at a time – she involves us with one another. Standing in a line can be a boring thing – however Cat has a way of introducing people to one another that is very natural – she gets them talking with each other, not just her.

A good example of this is when I came in earlier in the week and told her that we’d just had a baby – she told 10 or so other customers my news over the next half an hour.

As a blog grows it can be difficult to give personal attention to every reader that comments on your blog – however if you can create a culture on your blog where readers talk to each other, help each other, ask and answer each other’s questions – you can create a community that doesn’t centre just around you.

Want to Learn More about Building Community on Your Blog?

June 16, 2008

Why Your Blog Needs A Great Logo

Filed under: Blogging Tips -- Jennifer Slegg @ 01:53pm

Think of those memorable blog designs, the ones that catch your eye when you visit those blogs or that you can remember long after you have visited it for the first time. And chances are pretty good at least part of why you remember is because I had a great, defining logo on the blog. But many bloggers don’t actually have a logo, or if they do, it is a generic and definitely unbrandable for your purposes. So if you don’t have a logo, or have a poor one, here is why you should definitely get a great brandable logo for your site.

Unique

You can use a blog logo to really set yourself a part from the crowd, especially when you are in a market area where your competitive bloggers aren’t yet using a branded logo for their blogs. It helps make your blog more memorable, especially when all the other similar blogs readers are following do not set themselves apart with logos and designs.

Brand

A great logo also becomes a part of your brand identity, not just your blog identity. You can use your logo on other sites as avatars as well as on advertising and even on business cards. This brand can become your business identity, which makes it that important to have a great logo you can use. And a brand logo is something that can be easily identified and tied across all the various business things you might use it on. That way, just simply handing your business card with your logo on it can result in that person instantly recognizing and associating that logo with your online blog. So when choosing your blog, it should be something that someone can look at and instantly recognize, so keep originality in mind when choosing it.

Long haul

Even a simple logo helps to show that you are serious about your blog and that you are in it for the long haul. What looks more reputable, even with similar content – a blog on a plain WordPress default template or a blog with a custom design and logo? Not surprisingly, the customized one, since someone put time, effort and possible money into making that blog as professional as possible.

Image

Your logo can also help great your image, that being the image you wish to portray to others. Is your blog about movies? Then perhaps your logo might incorporate a movie ticket and popcorn into it. If you blog about gaming, then maybe video game controllers might be a part of your logo. Think about the objects that define your blog’s market, and you can use them to reinforce the blog’s subject to your first-time visitors.

Text or images

Some great logos actually aren’t a picture at all but just use a very specific font, color and effects on the blog’s name. Copyblogger.com is a perfect example of a memorable logo created simply using text and site design. The CNN logo is another one that is simply stylized lettering. So don’t discount the fact that the perfect logo for your site might not be a picture of anything, but created simply through stylized text instead.

A blog’s logo can be a very important part when it comes to portraying your blog’s image. Don’t forget to think that maybe a great logo is worth the monetary investment to get one designed for you, or worth the time to design it yourself. When you consider how logos can quickly become a very integral part of a blog’s brand identity, most blogs cannot afford to be without one.

June 13, 2008

5 Reasons Why Daily Blogging on a New Blog Can Get You Noticed

Filed under: Blogging Tips -- Jennifer Slegg @ 02:17pm

When you start up a brand new blog, unless you are already well known in the industry, it can be hard to gain a large following of subscribers very quickly. And since many people judge a blog’s success based on those crucial subscriber numbers, it makes sense to start off with a bang to get your blog lots of attention.

One of the ways you can do this is by starting off your new blog with a schedule of blogging once a day – or at least once every weekday – until you have hit the point where you have regular readers. Here are the five reasons why you should make daily blogging a part of your blogging routine to ensure your new blog gets the attention it deserves.

Getting noticed

When it is a brand new blog, people are going to land on it and notice just how frequently you are blogging. When they see that you are blogging daily, it will get noticed and you can end up with subscribers who subscribe because they are under the expectation that you will have something new and interesting each day. There are plenty of times I have been on a blog and have decided to subscribe or not subscribe based on whether or not it seems that the blogger is actually blogging frequently. There is no use subscribing to a blog if the last post was in January.

Regularity

Your readers will come to expect to see a new entry every day. They will look forward to reading something new from you each day. And when your readers are anticipating your latest blog post it increases the odds those readers will become subscribers and recommend your blog to others.

Variety

The more you blog, the more variety you offer your readers. One blog entry might not appeal to a particular reader, but the next one might. So keep each blog entry unique to give all your readers the variety that is lacking on many blogs out there. If someone notices that over the past few weeks only two blog posts were actually useful, they might unsubscribe. But when you up your post count, it is that more likely that more of your posts were useful to that person.

Search referrals & Popularity

When you have more blog entries, you have increased the odds that someone will link to you because you have more blog entries for potential readers to find in the search engines as well as increasing the odds that someone will link to it or submit each new one to social media sites. Just like the lottery, the more blog entries you have, the more chances you have that someone will make it popular.

Habit

Just like anything you do daily, blogging daily can become a habit too. So make your daily blogging part of your daily routine, not something outside the routine that you need to remind yourself to do. Whether you decide to blog right after you check your emails in the morning or you do it after getting the kids in bed, try and set aside the same time every day so it becomes a routine habit instead of just a chore.

While daily blogging can start to wear on a blogger, particularly if it is a subject you can’t write about easily off the top of your head, it can be a great marketing tactic for a new blog. Perhaps you start writing blog entries in the few weeks prior to launch so you have plenty of content to publish as a daily post, or you could explore hiring writers or inviting guest bloggers. But if you are starting to grow your blog and want to get noticed, writing quality daily posts is one great way to get the job done.

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June 11, 2008

Increasing your blog productivity with a schedule

Filed under: Blogging Tips -- Jennifer Slegg @ 07:35am

Many bloggers, especially those who aren’t able to blog as a full-time blogger, find that scheduling the time to blog can be difficult. And while often many people have to eke out a tiny bit of time here and there in their schedule, such as forgoing coffee breaks or a favorite television show in order to write, many bloggers can greatly benefit from a blogging schedule.

And not just any blogging schedule will do. This is actually setting aside specific times each week where your priority is blogging, and resisting the temptation to use that time for the unwashed dishes in the sink or the car that needs an oil change. Here is how you can make a blogging schedule, and then make it work for you.

Why?

When you have a regular blog schedule, you can increase your productivity when you know you always have specific time slots in your life that are set aside for nothing but blogging. This will also help you avoid that stressful feeling of “Arghhh, I haven’t blogged in two weeks!” With a schedule, you know you will have that time each week for blogging, so you can avoid that overwhelmed feeling that a much-loved but neglected blog can bring to your life.

How?

The key to creating a blog schedule is prioritizing your time and set aside specific chunks of time that are exclusively to be used for blogging. Many bloggers try to set up a blogging schedule but then allow other things to eat into the time. If you set aside that hour for blogging, don’t do anything else but work on your blog during that time.

Priorities

If you have the time set aside for blogging, consider it like your actual work, and that the time cannot be rescheduled for anything else. This means you don’t schedule dentist appointments during this time or chat with your partner over coffee in the kitchen. Hang a sign on your office door with “do not disturb” and let everyone in the house know you mean it!

Remove online distractions

Shut off your IM. Close your RSS reader. Stop tweeting or checking Facebook. Stop the email auto-checking. Even shut your browser windows of all but your blog page. If the distractions are too great, write in Word and unplug your internet from your computer entirely.

On the go

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, working at home is just too distracting, even for the most devoted bloggers. So think about where else you could work to lessen those eternal home distractions. It could be something as simple as taking your laptop to a coffee shop (and not connecting to WiFi!) that can increase your effectiveness for that short period of time you have to blog. Believe me, coffee shops can actually make you focus much more than you can at home when you have telemarketers phoning, your dog barking at the neighbor’s dog, unfinished chores and even the fridge as a distraction.

Follow up

Make sure that once you set that schedule, you follow it. Consider it a booked appointment and don’t go and book anything else into that same time slot, whether it is doing a favor for a friend or using it to book that dentist appointment. Consider it an unbreakable engagement you are committed to. And if you do fill that time slot with something else, don’t do it unless you have another space that week to move your blogging to. Fall out of your schedule routine? Then get back on it, and make sure you follow up on it if you did stray again.

Specific blogging

Do you have multiple blogs? It can be good to set aside times for each blog, so you don’t end up discovering that you have inadvertently neglected to blog on one of them for a few weeks at a time. Or set up times for specific types of posts. Maybe Monday you want to do a “how to” post while Thursday you might schedule to do a “top ten” post that you want to go viral. Even full-time bloggers can benefit from blogging schedules when they are balancing a high post frequency blog or a network of blogs.

Start now to think about where you can set aside time where blogging will be the main priority. But the most important thing to do when you make that blog schedule is to ensure you follow it. Because a blog schedule that isn’t followed isn’t very effective at all!

June 10, 2008

Offline Blog Promotion Techniques (Part 3 of 3)

Filed under: Blogging Tips -- Darren Rowse @ 07:29am

In this post I’ll be concluding my mini-series on the topic of offline blog promotion. Before you get into this last series of tips you might also want to check out Part 1 and Part 2.

10. Workshops and Teaching Opportunities – this is something I experimented with in the early days of my blog (with some success). I noticed that my local library was advertising free community workshops in the evenings. The topics being covered were very diverse and ranged from a night for people wanting to visit Morocco (I remember that because at the time we were planning a trip), to a night on how to use email for seniors, to a night on parenting skills.

After attending the Moroccan travel evening I asked the librarian if they were looking for other workshops. She said yes and I booked myself in to run a night introducing people to how to use a digital camera. The night was attended by 50 people – all of whom went away with training materials with my blog’s URL all over them.

Similarly, many organizations like to feature speakers with expertise on different topics. Keep an eye open for these opportunities and while they might not always ‘pay’ you anything financially most will be willing to allow you to promote your blog.

11. Advertise – the idea of advertising your blog online is not unfamiliar to many bloggers who dabble with Advertising on AdWords, StumbleUpon, Facebook, BlogAds etc – however I talked to one blogger recently who had been experimenting with advertising offline.

He had been taking out classified ads in local papers. He’d used a unique URL in these ads so he could track the conversion and had found that it had been well worth the time and money that he’d put into these campaigns.

12. Notice boards – another tactic that I saw recently in a local cafe was to put up notices in public places. Many cafes, libraries, shops and community centers allow people to advertise services and events on notice boards – why not put up something about your blog? This of course will probably work best for blogs with a local focus – but if you target the places right you could also appeal to certain demographics.

13. Talk About It – many people like to keep their blog’s private from friends and family. However those that know you best could well be your best evangelists for your blog! Don’t go on about it all of the time but unless you’re giving away family secrets and blogging about the conversations you have with your best friends – let those around you know about your blog!

7 More Offline blog promotion tips from my ‘friends’

I asked my twitter and friendfeed friends to give me their tips on offline blog promotion and heres 7 of the techniques that they came up with which will round our list out to a total of 20:

• smithereensblog suggests – “offer college professors permission to use your content as a course resource”

• Sheamus shares – “put your blog on a blank business card, then go to a bookstore and slip it into the books in your niche!”

• GlendaWH writes – “Back of your laptop when presenting. Magnets. Car signs.” – note from Darren, my friends in New Zealand from idolblog have had their blog’s URL plastered all over their car for a while now, it seemed to work well for them!

• Aaron at Technosailor wrote a post on Guerrilla Marketing Techniques – one of which was to use your blog’s URL as your WiFi network name.

• dogeatdoug says – “I use bookmarks. People keep them more often than business cards. And they use them.”

MyDollarPlan says – “When promoting offline, I refer to my site as a personal finance website. Avoid calling it a blog; you’ll get a wider audience.• ”

andrea_r suggests – Tell people! Many bloggers keep online sperate from offline. ie; friends & fam don’t often know all my online activities.”