Written on February 28th, surf Active Apparel website 1cecilia151 zone.at 03:02 pm by Darren Rowse

What’s Right with Blogging?

Pro Blogging News 16 comments

Earlier in the month we had an ‘open mike’ discussion on the top of What’s Wrong with Blogging? which brought up some interesting things about blogging that perhaps we don’t talk about too much.

At the time I’d planned on a second post on the topic of ‘What’s Right with Blogging?’ - but in the business of my life at that time I got a little distracted.

But it’s never too late so I thought it’d be a fun discussion to have now.

What do you like about blogging? What makes it something that you invest time into to? What makes it better than other types of websites?

Only positive comments about blogging will be allowed here - if you’ve got something to moan about with regards to blogging you’re welcome to share them here.

Written on February 28th, surf Active Apparel website 1cecilia151 zone.at 02:02 pm by Darren Rowse

Speed Linking - 28 Feb 2006

Pro Blogging News 2 comments

  • Sean has done some in depth analysis of his blog readership’s habits
  • Richard writes a thoughtful post on Full Feeds (and I value his opinion as he’s someone who has a large feed readership if his feedburner button is anything to go by
  • Aaron writes a clever Blogging Parable - A Tale of Three Bloggers

Written on February 28th, surf Active Apparel website 1cecilia151 zone.at 12:02 pm by Darren Rowse

Publisher Uses Multiple AdSense Accounts to Increase Earnings

Adsense 30 comments

A number of months ago it was revealed that if you use AdSense on multiple sites all from one AdSense account that the performance of one blog can impact the way AdSense converts on another blog. Up until this point it was thought that ‘Smart Pricing’ was on a site by site (or even page by page) basis but this news caused quite a stir.

Here were the main points from that previous post (NB: This part of that post was actually a quote from this post by Jen from Jensense):

  • “Smart pricing affects an entire account. It is not on a per page or per site basis.
  • One poorly converting site can result in smart pricing impacting an entire account, even sites completely unrelated to the poorly converting one.
  • Smart pricing is evaluated each week. So removing ads from sites you suspect are converting poorly could result in seeing an adjustment to a higher smart pricing percent in as little as a week.
  • Smart pricing is tracked with a 30 day cookie, so you could be rewarded for new conversions that saw the initial click from your site up to 29 days earlier.”

One of the implications of this news was that a number of bloggers that I have contact with decided to set up multiple AdSense accounts - one to run their more highly converting blogs and others to run their poorer sites.

Today I received an email from a enternetusers reader who did just this. In it he reports the results of this strategy. I’ve republished part of his email below (with permission and removing his name). The results of his experiment are VERY interesting:

Just thought I’d mention a AdSense revenue strategy that I implemented on the first of the month that instantly turned out to be one of those $10,000 hours you’ve posted about before.

Because I’ve got a couple of different company structures set up I thought I’d take advantage of it to get a second Google AdSense account which would allow me to better report which company earns which revenue in case I want to sell one or the other company as a whole in the future. It would also give me the chance to test the AdSense smart pricing system. Note: I did get the ok for this from Google before applying for the second account.

I moved all of my junk sites (what I call my high traffic but low revenue sites) to the second account and in my original account kept solely my high earning premium sites where I devote most of my time and which account for 90% of my earnings.

Anyway after nearly a full four weeks of data the revenue on my premium sites is up 15% and the revenue on my junk sites is down by only 3%. In monetary terms that means the net gain over the year at current levels will be at least $20,000 but if growth continues at the current rate it could be as high as $50,000. Took me about 30 minutes to make the move yet now it looks like I can either double my yearly motage re-payments or buy a second property with the extra funds. Only downside in watching the instant revenue increase has been my regret that I didn’t make the move sooner.

Note: I’ve talked to AdSense reps in the past about whether they allow multiple accounts per publisher and their response has always been that in general it is not allowed. However they do seem to make exceptions to this if you have corresponding company details or have a different person’s name as the one responsible for the account. It’s worth keeping in mind that AdSense do seem to track the IP addresses of people logging into accounts (it’s one way they track click fraud) so it might be worth seeking their permission before going with multiple accounts.

Written on February 28th, surf Active Apparel website 1cecilia151 zone.at 10:02 am by Darren Rowse

Sticky Posts

Miscellaneous Blog Tips 7 comments

Stephan Spencer adds another SEO for blogs tip to his growing collection with his post Make “sticky” posts:

‘Why would you ever want to make a post sticky? Because it’s an easy way to improve the keyword prominence on a category page or tag page. If you’re not familiar with the concept of keyword prominence, it’s simply this: the higher up on the page your targeted keyword is, the better you’ll rank. So, having keyword-rich intro copy that consistently appears at the top of a category page or a tag page will give you good keyword prominence and help you maintain a stable keyword theme for the page even when old posts fall off the page and new posts appear.’

He gives a good example of a sticky post at the top of a category page here.

I’ve not used sticky posts to this point on my blogs but do know of bloggers that use them effectively both as an SEO strategy but also (and more importantly in my mind) as ‘introductory’ type posts. I find that they are most effective when they actually add value to your readership by explaining what readers are looking at or how to use the blog in some way.

This can be especially important on blogs because I’ve long suspected that some readers visiting a blog for the first time could be a little disoriented. For instance if a blogger were to enter a blog on a category page (or any other page for that matter) via a search engine they are in effect entering a conversation at a midway point and (depending upon the last post) could be reading something that might not be the best post for them to read first time up on your blog. A sticky post can help with this by briefly putting a little context around the page and by suggesting better starting points for exploring your blog.

Of course some blogging purists are anti sticky posts as they move away from the chronological ordering - but I’d argue if they make the blog more functional for readers then they are worth considering.

Do you agree?

Written on February 28th, surf Active Apparel website 1cecilia151 zone.at 05:02 am by Darren Rowse

19 (More) Strategies for Finding Readers

Blog Promotion 71 comments


Yaro has already kicked us off on this topic of how to find readers for a new blog but I thought I’d pull together a few ideas on the topic also (with a little overlap with Yaro’s ideas). These points come from a variety of older posts I’ve written on the topic - sort of a ‘best of’ kind of thing. I’ve updated some, others are straight extracts from things I’d said before and a few are new:

1. It takes time - It may not be what you want to hear, but it unless you’re a genius, extremely lucky or have an amazing new idea, it takes time to build a readership. So settle in for the long haul and muscle up some patience.

2. Content Content Content - I’ve said this over and over again so will keep it brief but unless you have ‘good’ content you’re unlike to build a readership. What is good content - start by thinking about it in terms of usefulness and uniqueness and I think you’ll be on the right track. Other words that come to mind when it comes to good content might be ‘fresh’, ‘variety’, ‘up to date’ and ‘well written’.

3. Link to others - Perhaps one of the central features of blogging is that they are linked. The intricate web of links and relationships was one of the first things that attracted me to blogging and it’s part of the reason it’s got real viral properties that allow ideas to spread so quickly. Participate in the linking to other blogs and you’ll find that many benefits come. For a start you’ll be participating in the conversation, you’ll be getting the attention of others and your readers will appreciate that you’re interested in helping them find the best content out there.

Of course you don’t want to be linking randomly to everyone and anyone - be selective and link to quality content that is relevant to your niche topic. As you engage in linking you’ll find that others will link back (assuming you have something worthwhile to say yourself) and you’ll find the traffic begins to flow - both from their sites and as a result of your increased search engine ranking.

4. Get Links from other Bloggers - I can hear the comments already - ‘Easier said than done Darren!’ This is true - but if you’re smart, genuine, helpful and polite there are ways of increasing the chances of getting links from others.

5. Participate in other people’s conversations - I suspect that a number of my first regular blog readers first came to my blog because I left a comment on theirs. It was not a strategy I thought about - I just found myself quite addicted to reading others blogs and giving feedback. When you leave a comment leave your own blog address. Often people like to know who is reading their blog and will come visiting you. Don’t comment just for the sake of it. If someone leaves me a ‘hi’ comment or is obviously spamming my blog I won’t visit them and delete the comment. Make genuine comments on posts that connect with you. You might make a good friend in the process and in the long run will find the flow on effect of this is more interest in you and your own blog.

6. Interact with Readers - When a reader reaches out to you with a comment, email or link from their blog - interact with them. For starters it’s good manners and secondly it’s a good way to increase the chances that they’ll come back again. I get a lot of people telling me that they don’t have enough readers to their blog - while I can related to this frustration I generally encourage them to see what they’ve got as a good starting place. Interact with those who do come to your blog and make it the best experience you can for them and you’ll find that they spread the word for you.

7. Update frequently - With the advent of news aggregators people can be notified of your new post in real time. I noticed that when I publish a new post that my stats nearly always go up slightly just afterwards as those readers with aggregators log in to have a quick look at my latest musings. This works a lot better on some blogs than others (some topics seem to attract more RSS subscribers than others do). Another side benefit of frequent posting is that search engines like it and many believe that the more you post the more often SE’s will send their spiders out to index your blog. Similarly - the more you post the more you’ll get indexed by blog engines like technorati (and numerous others). Of course I’m not encouraging massive amounts of meaningless content - keep it of a high quality.

8. Add a signature to your outgoing email - This is an oldie but a goodie. Many bloggers do this. Simply add the domain name to your outgoing email. Most email programs will allow you to do this automatically via a signature option. However be careful with automatic signatures if you don’t want your blog to be read by everyone that you email.

9. Promote your RSS Feed - Most blog platforms come with a RSS feeds built in but there are ways of increasing your subscriber list. The most obvious of these is to put it in the sight of your readers by putting your RSS button in a more prominent position. There are a variety of different buttons available that you can make available to readers to help them to subscribe to your blog via their news aggregators with one click that might also be worth investigating. Also, if your topic is not one which many readers seem to use RSS in, you might need to do some education on the topic of RSS feeds. Write a post on how to follow your blog via RSS and you might find more do.

10. List your site on Portals, Blog Indexes, Directories and Search Engines - There are MANY places that you can list your blog to help it get more attention. In fact there are too many and you could probably spend all your time submitting your blog to them all. I’d recommend that you don’t become obsessed by this and work on other factors in this list first and then in your spare time add your blog to some of these types of things as you go. Making sure you get listed on some of the bigger sites like Technorati should probably be a priority (here’s how for Technorati) - but don’t make this the first thing you do. In terms of getting into search engines - you can submit yourself (most have ways of doing this) but most people believe that the best and quickest way to get indexed these days is to get a link from another site that is already indexed.

11. Search Engine Optimization - While some bloggers don’t think much of SEO I think it is well worth knowing some basic SEO principles and keeping them in the back of your mind as you blog. After all SE’s are the place that most people go to when they are searching for information on a topic. Don’t become obsessed by SEO, but don’t ignore it either.

12. Participate in others Blogger’s Projects - From time to time other bloggers will invite your participation in a blog project of theirs. Put your hand up, volunteer some time and contribute in some way. Don’t just do it to get a link on their site, but take the opportunity to build a relationship with them and their readers. Not only will you make a friend, but over time you build some credibility as a blogger who is not just thinking about themselves. On the flip side start your own blogging project. Some of the more popular things to get involved with these days are Blog Carnivals.

13. Participate in other web forums - Blogging is not the only vibrant online activity at the moment. I visit a number of other discussion forums and e-zines that explore similar ideas/hobbies/interests to me and my blogs. I’ve found an increasing amount of traffic to my blog is coming as a result of my contributions to these forums as many of them allow you to add your link as a signature to your posts. Don’t spam these forums - but be a genuine contributer that adds useful comments and you’ll find people are drawn to your other projects.

14. Explore other formats of communication - Another of the more effective things that I’ve done over the past year in my blogging is worth hard on email newsletters for a few of my blogs. I don’t do it with all of them (mainly due to the time it takes) but here at enternetusers I’ve grown a list of over 1600 email subscribers who I send weekly information to. These newsletters both are about keeping people in touch with what happened on the blog each week as well as giving extra tips and information to build a sense of community and ownership of the site. Other bloggers use forums similarly.

15. Offline Techniques - Blog Promotion need not only happen online. Consider how you might promote it offline and you could just bring in some new readers also. Such techniques can include putting your URL on business cards, letterhead, using press releases and other assorted methods. Read more on this here.

16. Make it viral - One of the things about infectious diseases that makes them so deadly is that they are very easy to pass on from one person to another. There are a number of things you might want to consider doing to help with this. For instance a lot of bloggers these days are adding links on their posts that allow readers to bookmark the post in social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us and digg. Other bloggers have features that allow bloggers to ‘email a friend’ about a particular post. Others (like enternetusers) allow readers to subscribe to comment threads via email. All of these types of plugins allow your readers to do the work for you in either spreading the word about your site or making it more sticky. Speaking of social bookmarking - there are also ways of writing content that tend to be picked up more in this scene that you might like to explore if that’s a source of traffic that you’re interested in.

17. Advertise - I’ve written a lot over the past year about running advertising on blogs as a form of income - but on the flip side of many advertising platforms that you can run as a publisher are the opportunities to actually advertise your blog in the attempt to find new readers. In the last few months I’ve dabbled a little in this side of things, mainly using AdWords (the advertiser side of AdSense) but also advertising on a few sites using BlogAds. I’ve actually been learning about AdWords using Perry Marshall’s e-book (aff) on the topic and am finding it quite helpful if you’re looking to a good introduction to using it (he has a free 5 day taster too). Of course you’ll need to weigh up the cost of advertising vs the benefits that you think it’ll bring - but I know of quite a few bloggers who run an AdWords campaign in the first month of a new blog to give it a kick start and swear by the method.

18. Link baiting - This is one of the terms that has become quite common among bloggers over the last year. In essence ‘link bait’ is some sort of comment that will attract links to it and in many ways is no different than paragraph 2 above - write good content and people will link up. Of course there are many tactics that many bloggers use to link bait - I’ve explored a few of these here.

19. Take all advice with a grain of salt - Be yourself and have fun! - The web is full of advice like the above - what I’m saying isn’t rocket science. There are no rules of blogging and it seems everyone’s experience of growing a blog (or not growing one) is different.

I’m sure there are a lot of blogs out there that ignore all or most of the above advice that have a bunch of regular readers and healthy hits. So relax, be yourself and have fun with it. Experiment with new tools, styles of design and writing.

My suspicion is that bloggers who obviously enjoy the blogging process and who are themselves are the type of bloggers that people are drawn to. Bloggers that are uptight and who complain constantly about how their blog isn’t achieving what they want it to achieve probably do quite the opposite and turn people away. Traffic is a good thing for a blog but it’s not the ultimate measure of a good blog in my books. Write it for yourself and have some fun and a lot of the rest will end up looking after itself.

Written on February 28th, surf Active Apparel website 1cecilia151 zone.at 12:02 am by Darren Rowse

10 Techniques for Finding Blog Readers

Blog Promotion 73 comments

This post has been submitted by Yaro Starak from two of my daily reads - Entrepreneur’s Journey and Small Business Branding. He’s also working on a new site at Blog Traffic King. I’ve asked Yaro to write an introduction to finding readers for a blog - something which I’ll write more on also in the days ahead.

In every bloggers life comes a special day - the day they first launch a new blog. Now unless you went out and purchased someone else’s blog chances are your blog launched with only one very loyal reader - you. Maybe a few days later you received a few hits when you told your sister, father, girlfriend and best mate about your new blog but that’s about as far you went when it comes to finding readers.

Here are the top 10 techniques new bloggers can use to find readers. These are tips specifically for new bloggers, those people who have next-to-no audience at the moment and want to get the ball rolling.

It helps if you work on this list from top to bottom as each technique builds on the previous step to help you create momentum. Eventually once you establish enough momentum you gain what is called “traction”, which is a large enough audience base (about 500 readers a day is good) that you no longer have to work too hard on finding new readers. Instead your current loyal readers do the work for you through word of mouth.

Top 10 Tips

10. Write at least five major “pillar” articles. A pillar article is usually a tutorial style article aimed to teach your audience something. Generally they are longer than 500 words and have lots of very practical tips or advice. This article you are currently reading could be considered a pillar article since it is very practical and a good “how-to” lesson. This style of article has long term appeal, stays current (it isn’t news or time dependent) and offers real value and insight. The more pillars you have on your blog the better.

9. Write one new blog post per day minimum. Not every post has to be a pillar, but you should work on getting those five pillars done at the same time as you keep your blog fresh with a daily news or short article style post. The important thing here is to demonstrate to first time visitors that your blog is updated all the time so they feel that if they come back tomorrow they will likely find something new. This causes them to bookmark your site or subscribe to your blog feed.

You don’t have to produce one post per day all the time but it is important you do when your blog is brand new. Once you get traction you still need to keep the fresh content coming but your loyal audience will be more forgiving if you slow down to a few per week instead. The first few months are critical so the more content you can produce at this time the better.

8. Use a proper domain name. If you are serious about blogging be series about what you call your blog. In order for people to easily spread the word about your blog you need a easily rememberable domain name. People often talk about blogs they like when they are speaking to friends in the real world (that’s the offline world, you remember that place right?) so you need to make it easy for them to spread the word and pass on your URL. Try and get a.com if you can and focus on small easy to remember domains rather than worry about having the correct keywords (of course if you can get great keywords and easy to remember then you’ve done a good job!).

7. Start commenting on other blogs. Once you have your pillar articles and your daily fresh smaller articles your blog is ready to be exposed to the world. One of the best ways to find the right type of reader for your blog is to comment on other people’s blogs. You should aim to comment on blogs focused on a similar niche topic to yours since the readers there will be more likely to be interested in your blog.

Most blog commenting systems allow you to have your name/title linked to your blog when you leave a comment. This is how people find your blog. If you are a prolific commentor and always have something valuable to say then people will be interested to read more of your work and hence click through to visit your blog.

6. Trackback and link to other blogs in your blog posts. A trackback is sort of like a blog conversation. When you write a new article to your blog and it links or references another blogger’s article you can do a trackback to their entry. What this does is leave a truncated summary of your blog post on their blog entry - it’s sort of like your blog telling someone else’s blog that you wrote an article mentioning them. Trackbacks often appear like comments.

This is a good technique because like leaving comments a trackback leaves a link from another blog back to yours for readers to follow, but it also does something very important - it gets the attention of another blogger. The other blogger will likely come and read your post eager to see what you wrote about them. They may then become a loyal reader of yours or at least monitor you and if you are lucky some time down the road they may do a post linking to your blog bringing in more new readers.

5. Encourage comments on your own blog. One of the most powerful ways to convince someone to become a loyal reader is to show there are other loyal readers already following your work. If they see people commenting on your blog then they infer that your content must be good since you have readers so they should stick around and see what all the fuss is about. To encourage comments you can simply pose a question in a blog post. Be sure to always respond to comments as well so you can keep the conversation going.

4. Submit your latest pillar article to a blog carnival. A blog carnival is a post in a blog that summarizes a collection of articles from many different blogs on a specific topic. The idea is to collect some of the best content on a topic in a given week. Often many other blogs link back to a carnival host and as such the people that have articles featured in the carnival often enjoy a spike in new readers.

This concept can be confusing so I suggest you take a look at the Carnival of the Cats for an example. You can also find a list of all the carnivals and submit your articles at the Carnival Submit Form.

3. Submit your blog to blogtopsites.com. To be honest this tip is not going to bring in a flood of new readers but it’s so easy to do and only takes five minutes so it’s worth the effort. Go to Blog Top Sites, find the appropriate category for your blog and submit it. You have to copy and paste a couple of lines of code on to your blog so you can rank and then sit back and watch the traffic come in. You will probably only get 1-10 incoming readers per day with this technique but over time it can build up as you climb the rankings. It all helps!

2. Submit your articles to EzineArticles.com. This is another tip that doesn’t bring in hundreds of new visitors immediately (although it can if you keep doing it) but it’s worthwhile because you simply leverage what you already have - your pillar articles. Once a week or so take one of your pillar articles and submit it to Ezine Articles. Your article then becomes available to other people who can republish your article on their website or in their newsletter.

How you benefit is through what is called your “Resource Box”. You create your own resource box which is like a signature file where you include one to two sentences and link back to your website (or blog in this case). Anyone who publishes your article has to include your resource box so you get incoming links. If someone with a large newsletter publishes your article you can get a lot of new readers at once.

1. Write more pillar articles. Everything you do above will help you to find blog readers however all of the techniques I’ve listed only work when you have strong pillars in place. Without them if you do everything above you may bring in readers but they won’t stay or bother to come back. Aim for one solid pillar article per week and by the end of the year you will have a database of over 50 fantastic feature articles that will work hard for you to bring in more and more readers.

I hope you enjoyed my list of traffic tips. Everything listed above are techniques I’ve put into place myself for my blogs and have worked for me, however it’s certainly not a comprehensive list. There are many more things you can do. Finding readers is all about testing to see what works best for you and your audience and I have no doubt if you put your mind to it you will find a balance that works for you.

Yaro Starak
Blog Traffic King

Written on February 27th, surf Active Apparel website 1cecilia151 zone.at 03:02 pm by Darren Rowse

Speed Linking - 27 Feb 2006

Pro Blogging News 1 comment

Written on February 27th, surf Active Apparel website 1cecilia151 zone.at 03:02 pm by Darren Rowse

Checking in

enternetusers Site News 0 comments

Just checking in from Coolum where the weather is warm and the company is good. Mark Jones from Filtered has posted a report on the panel session I participated in on the topic of blogging (attended mainly by PR people).

Cameron has been blogging about the conference too and as you can see he’s having a pretty relaxed time.

Written on February 27th, surf Active Apparel website 1cecilia151 zone.at 07:02 am by Darren Rowse

Using Free BlogAds to Promote Affiliate Products

Affiliate Programs 11 comments

Here’s a tip that I shared with enternetusers Newsletter subscribers a couple of weeks back (slightly adapted).

Those of you who use BlogAds.com ads on your blogs will probably notice that the service allows you to offer free ads using a promotional code.

This enables you to offer free ads to advertisers or to run some of your own ads on your blog.

The idea of running your own ads on your own blog might seem a little odd at first, but it has a number of benefits.

Firstly it gives the perception that your blog is in demand for advertisers - this could well entice other advertisers to sign up.

Secondly it gives you an easy way to highlight products that you might want to highlight. Particularly you might like to highlight an affiliate program that has relevance to your blog.

I’ve been doing this a bit lately on one of my blogs with some success. Here’s all you have to do:

  1. Find an Affiliate product/service that relates to the topic of your blog. You might do this on Amazon, Clickbank, Commission Junction etc.
  2. Log into your BlogAds account and in your ‘Manage My Adstrips’ menu click on the ‘Boilerplate’ link. This will allow you to put a password in the ‘offer code’ field.
  3. Go to the Blog you’re running BlogAds on and click the link at the bottom of your ads that takes potential advertisers to the sign up page of your ads.
  4. Make an ad by filling in the fields. Note that pictures work great - but that in these free ads you need to keep them to a small size. Make sure you include the affiliate link to the product you’re advertising in the URL section and in your Text (using thml).
  5. Add the offer code/password that you selected to the ‘offer code’ field.
  6. Preview the ad and if it’s right submit it.
  7. You’ll shortly get an email asking you to approve your own ad (just like you would if a real advertiser submitted an ad). Approve it and you’ll start seeing your own ads on your blog.

Here’s an ad I currently have running on my Digital Camera Blog that I made myself using one of my own images that I selected specifically because it draws the eye to the ad:

Blogad

The conversion on this ad is significantly better than text ads in sidebars I’ve had for the same affiliate product.

Of course you could just make your own ad buttons/banners in photoshop and run them on your blog - but this is another way of doing it that has the side benefit of highlighting to potential advertisers the option to advertise with you using BlogAds.

The other benefit is that you can also track the effectiveness of the ads using the statistics that BlogAds give you. You can always cancel the ad if it’s not working.

PS: I’ve also used these free BlogAds ads to cross promote between blogs. ie if you have more than one blog you can go through the above process and instead of developing an ad that points to an affiliate program, make one that will promote one of your other blogs. This works best when the blog you advertise relates in topic to the one you run the ad on.

Written on February 27th, surf Active Apparel website 1cecilia151 zone.at 12:02 am by Darren Rowse

Tag, You’re It! Leveraging Tagging For Your Blog

Miscellaneous Blog Tips 46 comments

The following post was submitted by for the Blogging for Beginners Series by Aaron Brazell. Aaron is a major contributer over at b5 (he is a major player in keeping our servers in order) and writes on numerous blogs including Emerging Earth and Technosailor.com. I asked Aaron to write an introduction to Tagging. Here’s what he has to say on the topic:

When I was a kid, playing tag was a big thing. Everyone would run around the yard trying to avoid the person who was “it” so they wouldn’t become “it”. Eeny, meeny, miney, mo - who would be tagged next?

If you’ve been around social networking, or many of the next-generation web services out there (such as del.icio.us or digg) then you certainly know what tags are. They are really just labels. This is an article. It is about corn. We will tag it “corn”.

Like these services (and others!), blogs can utilize tags as well. The argument surrounding blog tags usually swirl around the similarity of tags to categories but there are some key conceptual differences that make them different.

Categories are structured; Tags are unstructured

The main difference between categories and tags is the way they organize content. Categories use the “tree” style concept that is probably the easiest to envision. You may have a series of categories such as “News”, “Music”, “Tech” with subcategories nested under those categories. The News category might have subcategories like “Politics”, “Main Stream Media”, and “Iraq” and the Music category might have subcategories like “Melbourne Bands” or “CD Reviews”.

In this way, content is organized in a structural way. Every entry has a bucket to go in and in this way, content can be easily maintained.

However, tagging provides more of a granular way of organizing content and it follows more of a “brain storage” approach. You might ask what I mean by “brain storage”. Let me explain.

If you step away from every day conversation and attempt to take a birds-eye view of normal every-day human interaction, you’ll notice a haphazard flow that tends to jump between topics, conversations, participants, etc. Rarely does a conversation follow a simple linear flow outside of email threads. If a blog is a reflection of the life of the blogger (and it should be, if it is authentic!), then the context of conversation will be non-linear as well.

And while this is a good idea when I write about it here, the application of that concept is far from simple. Blogs are, by nature, linear animals. They string together entries in chronological order with comments left in chronological order and fall into a far-too simplistic model of “this entry is about this, and that entry is about that” when in fact, that is a mischaracterization of how human interaction really is!

Case Study

About six months ago, I started taking a look under the hood of my blog. I noticed I had tons of content that was old and was lost in the shuffle of posting new entries and constant UI changes. I would look at my stats and see Google traffic to older posts but blog readers could not quickly find old content. I wondered how I could keep that quickly accessible to my daily readers as well as the search engines. I began to dive into the concept of tagging.

As I attempted to answer that question for myself, I came up with a couple of common counter-arguments to tagging.

  • I don’t need tags because I have archives. It is true that most blogs, including mine, have archives where older entries were stored for future reference. Most archives, however, follow a date structure that still makes finding an entry difficult unless you know specifically where to look.
  • I don’t need tags because I have categories. This is true as well, but as indicated above, categories often don’t offer enough granularity or flexibility to find a given entry in a category with, perhaps, 300+ entries.

For me, the goal was to have every single entry one to (at most) three clicks away from home. One of the ways (and there were other tricks used as well) I did this was by implementing tags. Instead of finding all of the entries on “politics”, users can now find all entries on politics or, say, “The Patriot Act”.

Forms of Tagging

Tagging on a blog actually takes two forms and both have their benefits and downfalls. Whatever form of tagging you use depend largely on you, your blog and your goals. The decision of which form to use should not be done haphazardly because it is not easy to change later on.

  • Internal Tagging is the form of tagging I chose for my blog. It capitalizes on the content within your own site and provides the internal linking that is good for search engines as well as your readers. Internal tagging, conceptually, uses the flow of conversation approach that I spoke of before. It highlights the fact that your flow of conversation is not simply linear, but is multi-topical and interspersed with other aspects of your conversation. It makes it easy for a user to say, “Let’s go back to what you were saying a few months ago”.
  • External Tagging relies on services like Technorati, Flickr or del.icio.us and adds the benefit of more exposure on the outside. Most bloggers who employ tagging use this method because they already have categories for internal use and tagging allows them to feed the subject du jour to Technorati or other tagging services. The sacrifices that a blogger makes with this method have to do with broad dispersal of content versus the cohesiveness of conversation internally. In other words, they can get a lot of broad exposure on individual entries but at the risk of not being able to glue the many similar conversations together internally.

How Do I Implement Tags on My Blog?

Most blog platforms do not support tagging out of the box, but most provide support for plugins or extensions. Here are some to look at.

  • Ultimate Tag Warrior, WordPress. My favorite and the plugin used on my blog. UTW provides a wide set of options for both internal and external tagging. External tags can link to Technorati, Flickr, del.icio.us, or Wikipedia to name a few. There are at least a dozen ways that UTW allow you to display tags and is thoroughly documented.
  • Jerome’s Keywords, WordPress. Implement tags as keywords and by doing so makes this plugin the easiest to reverse in mid-stride. Not nearly as robust as UTW.
  • SimpleTags, WordPress - This plugin provides basic Technorati tagging capability on a per-post basis. It lacks internal tagging functionality including tag lists, as it is geared specifically for gaining Technorati visitors.
  • TechnoratiTags, Moveable Type - similar to SimpleTags and Jerome’s Keywords, this plugin for Moveable Type feeds an entries keywords to Technorati as tags.

Tagging is not for Everyone!

As a word of caution for established bloggers, implementing tags on existing content is a tedious and cumbersome process that will require your attention. How much attention is required will depend largely on the tagging plugin used, and how much content already exists.

For me, I spent a few hours a day for two weeks going back through every single one of my entries for nearly a year and a half, applying tags. I could have avoided this by using another tag plugin, but I would have done so at the cost of some functionality in the plugin I wanted. Make sure you think it through, understand what is going to happen by implementing tagging and are completely confident that it is what you want to do. I believe it will be worth it for you, but only you as the blogger can make that decision for yourself.

In addition, if you use a tool such as the Performancing Firefox plugin or ecto, chances are good that tagging is not supported so think twice before you jump.

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