Posts Tagged ‘promotion’

Content And Usability Before Blog Promotion

Monday, September 8th, 2008

I occasionally come across new bloggers who are eager to generate traffic to their blog.  They become focused on blog promotion and SEO before their blog is ready. I applaud their efforts, but I think it’s a mistake to promote your blog to prematurely.

Photo by Kelly Asmodee via Flickr

A good web site should serves a purpose.  For instance, a commercial site’s purpose might be selling some sort of products.  Without a well designed site, catalog of products, easy-to-use navigation, and secure eCommerce system, there’s no point in promoting the site because all the effort will be for naught.  Likewise, your blog serves a purpose — may be you want it to tell your story, share your interest or your expertise.  The commonality is that all blogs need some kind of content; as such, you should have at least a few good posts on your blog before you even attempt to promote it. And don’t even worry about SEO until you have sizable number of posts.

In addition to content, you should also design the blog for usability.  In general, blogs are well designed out of the box, but there are a few things you could do to improve it further:

  • Choose a professional looking theme
  • Navigation is clear and consistent
  • Feed subscription button is clearly visible, preferably above the fold
  • Search box is available and easy to find
  • Archive is easily accessible (I prefer a simple link in the navigation bar that links to a full archive page)
  • There is no unfinished posts
  • All links are working

By focusing on your content and usability first, you are giving your visitors good reasons to become readers, and hopefully, they’ll come back in the future.

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How To Start A Blog Network

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Perhaps one of the best decisions I’ve made in my blogging career was to start the M-Network. I was lucky enough to hook up with 9 other great bloggers. Although we are not always like-minded, it makes us a stronger bunch as we bring our own unique perspective to the network. Due to the success of the network, I am occasionally asked by other bloggers about how to start a blog network.

network

In this post, I am going to outline some of the steps and things that we do to support each other. But before I begin, I should explain that there are many types of network. For example, you could be part of a FeedBurner Ad Network, or a Blogroll Network (i.e., Frugal Hacks, Money Hackers, and The Snowflake Revolution). However, I will be talking about the type of network where a closely knitted group of bloggers that act as business partners and intelligence engine.

How To Start A Blog Network

1. Define your goal

What would you like to accomplish with the network? How big do you want to grow the network?

For example, I wanted a handful (some number less than a dozen) of bloggers in similar situation who would collaborate with me and help each other grow our blogs. This includes sharing information about monetization, marketing, traffic generation, SEO, and so forth. I also wanted moral support if it’s ever needed.

2. Define the ground rules

Who makes the decision? What types of blog should be included? What’s the minimum level of activity? What’s the minimum level of participation?

For example, I decided early on that I didn’t want to be the sole decision maker. As a result, our group relies on the majority rule voting, or unanimous decision, depending on the importance of the decision being made. We also decided that we should only include personal finance blogs that post content at least 3 times a week. Members should also participate in conversations and projects when necessary.

3. Establish the primary network communication channel

In order for a group to work effectively, you’ll need a group communication tool — emails will get out of hand very quickly. One of the easiest ways to establish a network communication channel is through services like Yahoo! Groups or Google Groups. Or if you’re a little more web savvy, you could set up a forums using free forums software like phpBB.

This is going to be the backbone of the network where members can collaborate, consult, and support each other.

4. Establish the network identity

This is the banner under which all members will rally. This is no different than your blog’s name. It is something to be known by. You need an identity to build reputation. Once you decided on an identity, be sure to register for your domain name before going public with it.

I didn’t check the availability of our network domain name early on and it caused some issues down the road.

5. Recruit members

When you started a network, you’ll need members to join it. An approach would be to make a public announcement — which I did initially. However, a much better way is to scout out potential members and contact them directly. This way, you have much more control over the blogger’s content quality, writing style, personality, audience reach, etc. This was a method that we later adopted as a group.

6. Launch

At this point you are ready to launch. You could put each other on the blogroll, and mention the network to your readers. If you are familiar with press release site, you could announce your network via these sites as well. One of the best site for announcing a new blog network is called Blog Network Watch.

Note that we didn’t have a dedicated network site or joint RSS feed initially. Members had the option of listing other members in a special M-Network blogroll, or set up a page dedicated for M-Network.

7. Working together

As the network comes together, there are several things you could do to establish the network’s and members’ brand. Here are some of the things we have done in the past:

Externally

  • Group writing projects that are exclusive to network members
  • Group writing projects that are open to other bloggers
  • Promote each other articles through follow up or opposing view articles
  • Round up posts that highlight other members
  • Comment on each other blogs
  • Give each other social networking push

Internally

  • Share monetization ideas and information
  • Discuss post ideas
  • Share SEO ideas and information
  • Share blog design ideas and information

How much you do together and share is up to the group and only limited by your imagination.

8. Other pieces

As the M-Network matured, we have added two components to the network:

  1. Aggregated RSS Feed — This feed allows readers to subscribe to all blogs with one subscription. This is not the biggest feed in the group, but it’s nice to know that there are over 100 extra subscribers reading our blogs.
  2. Network Web Site or Blog — Our network exists over 6 months before we finally took the plunge and started our own centralized blog. The centralized blog is a place where we announce group projects and other network activities. And here are some additional features:
    • Headlines feed with excerpt –Shows the latest posts from the network with short excerpts.
    • Network email updates and RSS feed — Allows you to subscribe to email updates and RSS feed for the entire network. This eliminates the hassle of subscribing to individual feeds.
    • Network-wide search — Allows you to search the entire network.
    • Links to network blogs
    • Headline Feed for individual blog

I hope this post is helpful to those thinking about taking their blogs to the next level, or starting a network.

Photo by kaibara87 via Flickr

Use Blurb Exchange To Promote Your Niche Blog

Friday, April 18th, 2008

With all the rave about niche blogging and linking only to related sites, bloggers are overlooking a powerful marketing tool. Sure, its great to get targeted niche traffic but some niches are universally appealing to most readers. Some of these universal niches include:

  • Personal Finance,
  • Career,
  • Parenting,
  • Education,
  • Health and Fitness,
  • Self-Improvement.
  • etc.

If your blog belong to one of these niches, there’s a technique that I call “blurb exchange” that may be useful to promote your blog traffic.

What’s a blurb?

A blurb is basically a brief promotional statement designed to generate interest.

How does blurb exchange work?

Similar to link exchange, you make an arrangement with another blogger preferably in a different niche than yours. In one of your blog post, you’ll mention something about your blurb exchange partner’s blog and in return your partner will say something about your blog.

For example, let’s say I am working with someone in the education niche, I could start a blog post with something like this:

I was reading about American high school curriculum at The Education Wonks the other day and it made me think about how we should teach our children about money management in high school…

In return, The Education Wonks would write something about my blog. For example:

Recently, I came across a post at Moolanomy about teaching money management in high school, which I thought was an interesting idea…

Well, you get the idea. Essentially, a blog level link exchange with the primary purpose of driving traffic to another blog.

As far as best practice goes, the blogger could make it easier by recommending a few posts that his partner could link to. The blogger could even go as far as recommending the key phrase that should be used.

How is this beneficial?

Since universal niche blogs are appealing to most readers, this technique gives the collaborating bloggers an opportunity to gain new readers and subscribers. It is a good supplementary technique to working within the niche because you are expanding beyond your sphere of influence.

The main problem with this technique is that it takes a lot of work to find someone to work with for several reasons:

  • You are not familiar with the players in other niche
  • You’ll have to explain the concept persuasively to the other person

However, I think both of these could be overcome. First, I recommend using Alltop.com to find potential partners. Then you can explain the concept and point your potential partners to this post on Blogthority.

Give it a try. You won’t regret it.

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