Posts Tagged ‘RSS’

How To Grow A New Blog Efficiently

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

This article contains some information and ideas that I have about how to grow a small or new blog efficiently. Unfortunately writing good content is not enough — there are so many blogs out there that you have to do some extra work in order to get noticed. These ideas are more effective on smaller blogs so as your blog grows then you can modify or omit items.

promote new blog
Photo by Mtchm via Flickr

Content

It’s been said before and I’ll say it again: without reasonably good regular content then your traffic growth will be sluggish at best. Write about topics that interest you and hopefully you know something about.

A few ideas about content:

  • Focussed or not? — Some people say that blogs with a narrow range of topics are more successful. Personally I don’t worry about it — if something interests you then write about it.
  • Length — When I started on a blog and was posting five times a week I decided to try to do posts that were 300-500 words in length. I didn’t want them too short and I didn’t want them too long. Because if they were, I’d rather split them up and post them over two days. Now that I’m sharing a blog I don’t worry about the length as much, but I do think that posts that are too long might be detrimental to growing traffic since most readers don’t really want to read a book when they are browsing their reader. On the other hand it can be a bit annoying when you check out a new post on a blog and they have written a two sentence reminder to themselves or something equally silly which I’ve seen many times.
  • Think up ideas in advance — It amazes me when I hear about bloggers who regularly sit down in the evening and think up an idea and then write a post on it. I suppose this has to do with individual style but I like to think up most of my ideas in advance and I hate writing last minute posts.
  • Avoid burnout – If you post twice a week for a year then you will have a much larger following then if you post seven days a week for three months. If you want to be a blogger for the long term then you have to pace yourself. Even taking a week off now and again (maybe not right in the beginning however) is not a bad idea.

Posting schedule

This is an interesting topic since not everyone agrees about how often a blogger should post. My blog posts five days a week which is facilitated by the fact that there are two writers so we only write every second day. My feeling on this topic is that you don’t have to post five times a week to grow your audience — two or three times a week should be sufficient.

I would however suggest that you follow a schedule — i.e., for twice a week then post the same two days each week. Avoiding burnout is a key goal of a beginning blogger so if posting three times a week feels comfortable then do three times a week. There is nothing gained if you struggle to post five times a week (or more) and then end up quitting the blog after a frustrating few months.

RSS Icon

See that orange square in the upper right side of the screen? That’s a FeedBurner icon and it allows readers to easily subscribe to your feed. This is very important because making it easier for readers to read your posts when they are published will increase your readership. Get one!

Carnivals

Carnivals are one of the best ways for a new blog to get new readers. I’ve found the Carnival of Personal Finance to be the best for my personal finance blog but Festival of Frugality is also quite good. Other PF carnivals to consider are Carnival of Money Stories, Carnival of Financial Goals, and Money Hacks Carnival.

Whatever your blog is about — there are probably carnivals covering that topic. If not then start one of your own at Blog Carnival!

Some suggestions regarding carnivals:

  • Don’t wait — I don’t care if you only have two posts up — start submitting now!
  • Submit often — Especially in the beginning you should be submitting every week.
  • Concentrate on bigger blogs if you don’t submit regularly — The most traffic the blog gets, the better your chances for some referrals.
  • Submit early — Putting in a late submission means the host may not read your post and will probably “bury” it at the bottom of the list. The higher up the page your submission is, the more referrals you will get.
  • Appropriate topic — Try to pick the best posts for the right carnival. If you are really keen you can even try to write posts with a particular carnival in mind but this is not something I do.
  • Match your post to the host — Take a look at the host blog and see what kind of material they are into. If a host looks like they are not into your favorite topic then try to find something else to submit. If you don’t submit regularly then try to submit a post when the host blog has similar topics to yours. If the host really likes your submission then they will often use it in their “editor’s picks” which will be (hopefully) featured at the top of the page where you will get the most referrals.

Hosting carnivals

This is a lot of work but it can really raise the profile of your blog because:

  • You will get a lot of traffic and will get noticed
  • Getting links to your blog raises your profile with Google which will help you in the long run

Try to pick carnivals that are appropriate to your subject manner and look for smaller carnivals in the beginning because the more popular ones tend to choose more established bloggers to be their hosts. I have yet to host a carnival but I’ve signed up to do three in the next few months so I shall see how it goes.

Comments on other blogs

This is a great way to market your blog. Some suggestions for leaving comments:

  • Correct info — Make sure you fill in the name of your blog and the correct URL.
  • Usefulness — Write a meaningful comment on the post. Things like “great post” are not going to get you any traffic.
  • Relevancy — The more relevant the post is to your blog then the more likely it is that a good comment will get some referrals. Someone who is reading the comments is definitely interested in the topic so if you look like you are interested in that topic as well then they might check out your blog. On the same idea — focus on blogs that are similar to your own.
  • Blog size — Comment on medium sized blogs. Commenting on large blogs is often a waste of time since there are too many comments and it seems like nobody reads any of them! By the same token, a small blog will not have enough traffic to make it worthwhile commenting if it’s traffic that you want. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t comment on very small or very big blogs if you want to but the traffic potential will be less.

Link to other blogs

This is a key tool and is part of networking with other bloggers. Bloggers love to get recognized and praised (at least I do) so if you write a post and include a link to one of their posts then they will often come and check out your blog. Ideally if they like your blog and hopefully start reading it, then they will put some links to your blog in one of their posts which can be an excellent source of traffic. As I mentioned with the comments, medium sized blogs will probably provide the best results for this strategy.

Read other blogs

If you want to comment on, link to and network other bloggers then you have to know what they write about so make sure you read at least a few blogs regularly.

Network with other bloggers

This usually takes the form of emailing other bloggers — you can comment on a post, tell them you like their blog, ask for advice etc. This won’t work with every blogger but it can serve as a great learning tool and can also lead to more links — and you might even make some good friends.

Guest posts

This is another area where I will be venturing for the first time in the next few weeks. From discussions with other bloggers this can be a good source of new readers. Guest posts take time so this shouldn’t be done at the expense of your own content. Again, try to match the subject content of the blog you will be guest posting on to your own for maximum benefit.

Here too I would say try to go for medium sized blogs — they are likely to be receptive to a guest post and if their content is similar to your own then this strategy could be quite beneficial.

Advertisement on your blog

I would suggest that you not bother with any advertising when you start a blog for the following reasons:

  • No money — You need traffic to make money with advertisement on your blog, so until your blog has a chance to grow there is no benefit to having advertising.
  • Aesthetics — Advertisement on your blog almost always has a detrimental effect on the way a blog looks. This is an acceptable trade off for an established blog but for a new blog you are better off without ads. It’s kind of like a first date — you want to look as good as possible!

SEO

Search Engine Optimization is a fascinating subject but for a new blog I would completely ignore it. You will have plenty of time later on to get into this topic. Time spent on SEO is time not spent on content or marketing which is a mistake for a new blog.

Social Networks

Social networks are a great way to generate traffic and new readers. StumbleUpon in particular has been pretty effective for me. I would say that this might not be the best route for a brand new blog but keep it in mind and maybe after a few months, start looking into it.

Summary

If you try to do all of the above items in a big way then that would take a lot of time which doesn’t fit with the “efficient” theme of the post. I would concentrate on the following items for maximum benefit:

  • Content — This has to be the top priority.
  • Carnivals — These don’t take much time to enter so this will help grow your blog efficiently.
  • RSS icon — This doesn’t take long to set up.
  • Link to and comment on other bigger blogs.
  • Networking – It’s hard to go wrong with getting know other bloggers.

None of these suggestions are “all or none” propositions. If you want to enter three carnivals a week then go ahead. If you only want to enter one carnival every three weeks then that is fine too. Whether it’s entering a carnival, adding an extra link to to a post or emailing another blogger — every little bit counts.

12 Essential Companion Accounts for a Successful Blog

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Aside from the standard accounts for your blog — i.e., domain name, web hosting, and WordPress — there are several companion accounts that I think are very useful. Below are 12 essential companion accounts, plus two that are worth mentioning.

For Money and Monetization

  • PayPal – This is an online payment web site that allows you to accept money and credit card for products or services that you sell. I have used PayPal to accept payments, pay other online service providers, and even accept donation for my free products.
  • Google AdSense – This is service allows you to display advertisement on your blog and you will get paid for both impression paid and click through. You can see Google AdSense ads everywhere, including the ones on this blog. This is perhaps one of the best monetization tools available for blogger today.
  • Amazon Associates – This program allows you to sell Amazon.com products and earn up to 10% commission. This hasn’t been a big money maker for me, but I heard some people have done really well with it.
  • Commission Junction – This program allows you to pick products and services from hundreds of advertisers. Each advertiser offers different referral plan, so you will have to read each one. Like Amazon Associates, it hasn’t been a big money maker for me, but it’s a decent option.

For Subscribers Count and Management

  • FeedBurner – Their service basically put your RSS feed on steroid. With its companion FeedBurner FeedSmith plug-in for WordPress, it allows you to accurately measure the number of subscribers. I use it to consolidate my subscribers count, accept subscribers via email, monetize my RSS feed, and show off the number of subscribers. However, there are a lot of great capabilities and I haven’t fully explored them all yet.

For Traffic and Networking

  • Stumble Upon – This is probably the best social site at the moment. I enjoy stumbling to find new and interesting sites (note: I choose the topics, so I only look at a blogging and finance sites). To get a network going, gives thumb ups to sites that you like, leave a comment, and add other people who gave thumb up to the same sites as your friend. If you have a group of friends, you can submit each other sites to stumble upon for some traffic — however, don’t over do it and only submit your best work.
  • Technorati – This is a blog search engine and tag search service. When you use tags on your blog (note: tagging is a native feature in WP 2.3.x) and ping Technorati with updates, people who uses Technorati can perform searches and easily find you blog. I occasional use Technorati to find other “on topic” blog articles to link to.

For Search Engines Optimization

  • Google Sitemap – This is part of Google Webmaster Toolkit. The program allows you to check many important aspects about how well search engine spiders (specifically Googlebot) can go through your blog and index it for searches. There are also many interesting tools within this site — e.g., report that track top search queries and top search positions for your blog.

For Statistics and Traffic Analysis

  • Google Analytics – This is a statistic tracking tool that shows many useful information such as the number of visitors from various sources, page views, search terms, most viewed page on your blog, etc. This is a good way to find out which articles your readers like, where your traffic is coming from, etc.
  • Site Meter – Another good and simple statistic and analysis package. I use this concurrently with Google Analytics. I like the hour-by-hour reporting. It’s quite addictive.
  • Crazy Egg – This tool allows you to visualize clicks on any web page on your site. It’s a great tool to help you understand users’ behavior. I use this tool to help me determine how I can move elements on my blog around to maximize usability and revenue potential.

For Spam Protection

  • WordPress.com – You will need to set up an account with them in order to get the WordPress API key needed from plug-ins like Akismet and WordPress.com Stats. And you don’t want to run your blog without Akismet, so the account is essential.

Other

  • MyBlogLog – This is a community that allows you to connect with your readers. If you install their widget on your blog (I don’t do this due to clutter), you can see people with MyBlogLog account that visited your blog recently. A good use of MyBlogLog is to make sure you are logged in so that your avatar shows up when you visit other blogs. You can get small amount of traffic this way.
  • BlogCatalog – This site also provides similar services to MyBlogLog, but with very robust discussion forums where you can meet and network with other bloggers.

If you have other companion accounts that you use to help improve your blog performance, please share it here.

Compelling People To Subscribe

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

I write a blog about personal finance – specifically about my family’s specific and personal approach to how we handle our finances. It isn’t meant to be a blog with the most up-to-date cutting edge personal finance ideas, although my hope is that every reader learns a little something along the way they can apply to their own situation, but it is a blog with a unique hook that anyone can copy yet no one can duplicate.

My blog is honestly and authentically about me and my own approach to personal finance. And that is a topic I have an undying passion for and can speak with absolute authority on. It’s a very simple concept yet a very often overlooked one. The personal engages the reader on an emotional level that straight information simply cannot. In the past seven months, I have grown my blog to just under 1000 RSS subscribers, which is not definitively large by any means but is very solid and rapid growth in a fairly saturated niche. The personal aspect of my blog is what compels people to subscribe, so they won’t miss the next step in our journey.

Now you may read this and think, “Well, that’s nice for you, but my blog isn’t about my story, it’s about x, y, or z, so why am I even reading this post?”. Not every blog is going to tell a story, but I contend that every blog can benefit from injecting a little of the “personal” into their subject matter, no matter how information-focused their topic is.

Here are three key ideas on how to interject relatability and personality into any topic:

1. Why is what you’re blogging about important to you?

If you’re posting about something that you don’t have any interest in and has no relevance in your own life, I invite you to reconsider why you’re posting it. Successful blogging involves commitment, and commitment can be driven by passion. Be passionate about your topic! Care about what you’re saying and who you’re saying it to. Make sure that your own interest in the topic comes across in your writing.

2. Do you have personal experience with the topic at hand?

How does what you’re posting relate to your life and experiences, past or present? Injecting a bit of how this affects you, has affected you, or the ways you see it playing out in your life can bring the driest of information to life and engage your reader. Engaged readers delve deeper and eventually become loyal readers and subsequently subscribers. Expose yourself – write dirty (in a good way)!

3. Can you relate the topic to the average person on their level?

Why should anyone be interested? Know your target audience, and write to them. If your target is off the mark, your words won’t resonate in the way you intend. Relating your content to your audience provides value and translates into repeat visits. Repeat visits translates into loyal readers and – you know the rest.

What makes you unique is your own perspective

Any blog can report news or happenings, your insight and personal spin is what creates compelling content that people want to come back and read again and again. An information-rich finance blog that strikes this balance exceptionally well is The Digerati Life. Her posts are packed with information and value and news to learn from, and she not only interjects personal perspective throughout her posts, at the end of many of her posts, she relates the topic discussed back to her personal experience or explores the common themes that run through the information that can be applicable to anyone.

Don’t neglect the most unique aspect of any blog – the author’s viewpoint. That alone can make you stand out in even the most saturated of niches.