Written on August 19th, 2007 at 07:08 am by Darren Rowse

Should You Respond to Comments via Email or in Comments?

Miscellaneous Blog Tips 55 comments

Respond-To-CommentsIn my last post on responding to comments on your blog two readers, john - from fat to fat and Lynnae, both post the question of whether a blogger should respond to comments via email or via comments?

I’d like to throw this open as a reader question - what do you do?

Let me share a few suggestions to kick off the discussion.

I think that either can work - and in some circumstances it can either be worth to respond via comment AND to send an email.

Respond in Comments - The advantage of responding via comments is that it’s a public response that could answer questions of many and that shows the wider reader community that you’re engaging with them. The disadvantage of doing it via comments is that the person may never see it as many people leave comments and don’t keep track of responses.

Respond via Email - The advantage of responding via email is that the person will see the response and that it’s a much more personal thing which can have a real impact upon your reader. Of course the downside is that it’s a private thing and something that your wider reading community can’t participate in.

Both? - The third alternative is to do both which will cover all your bases (although it’s a touch more work).

I guess for me it depends upon what you’re responding to. If it’s an important question I’d do both. If it’s a comment that has more of a personal question in it then I’d respond via email and if it’s a little more general in nature I think just doing it in comments is ok.

Another Option - There’s one more alternative though and it’s something I’m doing right now.

You can respond in a new post.

This has the advantage of continuing the conversation by drawing attention to an older post, highlighting a reader’s comments and getting you another post.

What do you do?

Written on August 19th, 2007 at 12:08 am by Darren Rowse

Respond to Comments On Your Blog

31 Days to Building a Better Blog, Blog Promotion 57 comments

Building-A-Better-Blog-2One of the most basic skills that any blogger should spend time working on from the very early days is responding to comments on your blog - and that’s today’s task in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Project.

While this is one of the simplest acts that a blogger can do (I almost didn’t publish this because it’s so basic) it is something that can have a real impact upon your readers.

Despite this - it’s often one of the things that slips for many bloggers over time as a result of a growing blog and/or the busyness of life. I’m as guilty of this as anyone and have been attempting to put more time aside in the last couple of weeks to comment more on my blogs (it’s a daily struggle).

So block out a little time today to scan through the latest comments on your blog. Answer questions, respond to others ideas, leave a welcome message and continue conversations by asking questions of your own.

This acknowledgment goes a long way and is one of the best ways of developing a commenting culture on your blog.

PS: Here’s another quick tip that I found very useful in the early days of my own first blogs. Click the links of those who leave comments on your blog. When you do this you’ll find that some of those who leave comments on your blog who check their own blog’s referral statistics will notice your visit and come back to see if their comments have been responded to.

You can take this another step further by leaving a comment on their blog to further develop the relationship.

This is one of those little 1%er tips that may not send a deluge of traffic to your blog but that can have an impact on a reader by reader basis (you might also find a good blog or two in the process).

Written on August 18th, 2007 at 12:08 pm by Darren Rowse

The Huffington Post Promotes Top Commenters To Be Featured Bloggers

Pro Blogging News 10 comments

Scott Karp from Publishing 2.0 has a fascinating interview with Arianna Huffington from The Huffington Post on their recent decision to allow their top Commenters to Bloggers on the site.

The idea is pretty simple - Paul Berry explains in the announcement post:

“Reading through the comments on our site, we realized that our commenters are a tremendous — and underutilized — resource. So we’ve created a process whereby we will choose one commenter a month to become part of our group blog.”

Commenters are chosen as a result of the ratings that other readers of the blog give their comments and as a result of moderators preferences.

It’s an interesting system and one I’m sure we’ll see other high profile blogs and news outlets experiment with.

Written on August 18th, 2007 at 10:08 am by Darren Rowse

The Next Internet Millionaire - Episode 1

Miscellaneous Blog Tips 18 comments

Internet-MillionaireWhen Joel Comm emailed me a month or two back to tell me about his new project - a reality show called the Next Internet Millionaire - I have to admit that I was a little skeptical. For starters - I’m not a massive fan of the hype of internet marketing and wondered how they’d keep this out of it. Secondly - I wondered how it would stop from becoming a second rate/cheesey show.

Having just watched episode one of the show I’m now happy to blog about it. Yes it is a little cheesy and yes it is a little cliched (think The Apprentice for Internet Marketers) - however I actually enjoyed it. They managed to have me watch all the way through and wonder when the next episode will go up.

While it’s not got the production levels of a high end reality show I think they did a pretty good job for a first time and I’m looking forward to what they do next. The hype wasn’t there anywhere near as much as it could have been and I found myself getting into it.

Did I learn much from it?

Not a lot - although I have to admit that as I watched I did press pause a few times to jot down a few ideas that came to mind as I watched the teams going about their tasks.

The ‘teaching’ aspect of the show was a little light on but even the snippets that we saw were good. I liked the concept of the ’straight line’ and think I could probably reorganize my days a little to become more productive using that.

Interested to see what you think about Episode 1 of The Next Internet Millionaire (aff).

Written on August 18th, 2007 at 08:08 am by Darren Rowse

How is the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Project Going for You?

enternetusers Site News 23 comments

Building-A-Better-Blog-2We’ve passed the halfway point in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project and so I thought it might be worth taking a few moments out from the daily tasks to ask how readers are finding it.

I’ve been getting some wonderful feedback via email and comments but thought that a little storytelling (both on the positives and negatives) might be good for everyone participating in it.

Which of them have you found most helpful (what are your top ones)? Which had immediate results? What were those results? Which were not as relevant for you?

The way I’ve designed the project is that you can start it at any time. I know many of you are still back in the earlier days of the task but here’s the full list of the first 18 days tasks as a reminder.

The Posts So Far

Day 1 - Email a New Reader
Day 2 - Run a ‘First Time Reader Audit’ on your Blog
Day 3 - Search for and Join a Forum
Day 4 - Interlink Archived Posts
Day 5 - Conduct an ‘About Page Audit’
Day 6 - Email an Old Timer Reader
Day 7 - Plan Your Next Week’s Posting Schedule
Day 8 - Comment on a Blog You’ve Never Commented On Before
Day 9 - Run an Advertising Audit On Your Blog
Day 10 - Declutter Your Sidebar
Day 11 - Dig into Your Blog’s Statistics
Day 12 - Introduce Yourself to another Blogger
Day 13 - Search for an Affiliate Program that Fits Your Blog
Day 14 - Analyze Your Blog’s Competition
Day 15 - Make Your Most Popular Posts Sticky
Day 16 - Create a Heatmap of Where Readers Click on Your Blog
Day 17 - Run a StumbleUpon Campaign for Your Blog
Day 18 - Create a Sneeze Page and Propel Readers Deep Within Your Blog

Also don’t forget the reader submitted tips. You can see the hundreds of those submitted at the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog central page (I’ll be posting the next batch of reader tips over the weekend).

Written on August 18th, 2007 at 04:08 am by Darren Rowse

More on Advertising on StumbleUpon

Social Media, Blog Promotion 22 comments

StumbleuponA number of readers have questioned whether running a StumbleUpon advertising campaign is the best use of a marketing budget for a blogger. The main point of contention was that 0.05 cents per impression ($50 CPM - or per 1000 impressions) is too much to pay.

I wanted to write a brief response to this on two levels:

1. I wouldn’t claim that any form of advertising is ‘the best’ - however I know of a number of bloggers who have launched successful blogs off the back of StumbleUpon campaigns. I’ll share one below.

2. $50 CPM isn’t ‘cheap’ if all you get for it are 1000 visitors per $50 spend. However the whole point of SU advertising is that it has the capacity to go viral and set off an organic traffic storm. Your CPM for the actual traffic that SU sends will always be $50 - however in effect it becomes a lot less if you manage to do the two things that I mentioned in the last post:

  • Trigger an Organic StumbleUpon Experience
  • Convert SU visitors into loyal readers who come back time and time again

Keep in mind that StumbleUpon can potentially send tens of thousands of visitors to your blog. I wrote a post recently on how it sent me 21,000+ visitors over a 5 week period to one particular post. If you manage to trigger that kind of traffic your effective CPM is alot less than $50. The other thing that many using SU advertising find is that it can trigger traffic from other sources also (like Digg, Delicious and other sites/blogs).

An Example from a Reader

I’m not at liberty to share others stories without their permission - but let me share one that has already been told here in the comments of enternetusers:

Max Pool from Code Squeeze has commented in the last two StumbleUpon posts by writing:

“On my blog, I wrote a list post titled 101 Ways To Know Your Software Project Is Doomed on the highest traffic day of the week - Monday.

Then I took out $25 of SU ads, which brought me 500 hits. That traffic let to it getting getting on Digg. Getting on Digg, lead it to going viral. 100,000 unique visitors later I was able to capture about 500 subscribed users.

SU is a great ad tool, but be sure that you have great content to back it as Darren implies.”

Thanks for sharing Max. Feel free to share your own positive and negative experiences of SU advertising. I’d also love to know what you’ve found works and doesn’t work in terms of the content on your pages.

Written on August 18th, 2007 at 12:08 am by Darren Rowse

Create a Sneeze Page and Propel Readers Deep WIthin Your Blog

Featured Posts, 31 Days to Building a Better Blog, Writing Content 46 comments

Sneeze-1It’s Day 18 in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Project and today your task is to develop a ‘Sneeze Page’ (or pages) for your blog.

One of the challenges that faces blogs that have been around for a while is that they end up with a wonderful collection of posts in their archives that are rarely read by readers.

Write 1 post a day for a year and you’ll have 365 posts in your archives - but if your blog is like the majority of blog it will only be the latest 10 or so posts that readers will see when they arrive on your blog.

The challenge therefore is to work out how to propel readers towards some of the best posts in your archives.

One solution is what I call a ‘Sneeze Page’.

A Sneeze Page is one that simply directs readers in multiple directions at once - back into your archives. Let me explain further by giving a few tips on how to write Sneeze Page and then examining how to strategically position them for maximum impact.

How to Write Sneeze Pages

Writing a Sneeze Page for your blog isn’t that difficult a concept really - in it’s most simple form it is simply a list of links looking back into your archives. However as I think back on how I’ve done it before there are a number of techniques that you might like to use.

1. Themed Sneeze Pages - these are posts or pages on your blog or site that revolve around a single theme. For example - on the front page of the newly designed enternetusers you’ll now find a section called ‘Best of enternetusers’ which has a tab in it titled ‘Darren’s Favs’. The five links in this section point to five new pages on enternetusers which are in effect Themed Sneeze Pages (How to Make Money Blogging, How to Find Readers for Your Blog, How to Write Great Blog Content, Search Engine Optimization for Bloggers and Darren’s Recommendations).

These pages each break down the overarching topic or theme of the page into sub themes and then list off some of the key posts that I’ve written on the topic.

Interestingly - some of the posts that I link to are the central page for a series of posts (which are Sneeze pages in themselves - for example the page on writing content links to the 7 Days to Rediscovering your Blogging Groove series). As a result these pages have the potential to sneeze readers into hundreds of archived posts very quickly.

2. Time Related Sneeze Pages - a Sneeze page that is based around a defined period of time can be very effective. These ‘best of’ posts highlight your key posts from that period to either remind readers of previous posts that they might want to revisit or to highlight posts that they might have missed.

The period of time that you choose can really be anything from a year (here’s my best of surf Active Apparel website 1cecilia60 zone.at enternetusers post) through to a month, week or even a weekend (ie a post that summarizes the posts from a weekend that those readers who don’t read your blog on a weekend might have missed).

3. Hot Comment Thread Sneeze Pages - I haven’t done this for a while but I used to occasionally compile a list of the posts in my archives that had comment threads on them that just wouldn’t die. This drove traffic back to engaging conversations, controversial debates and insightful discussions through my blog. It was actually a great traffic driver that worked quite effectively.

4. Series Sneeze Pages - as mentioned above - the introductory or summary post of a new series of posts can be an effective Sneeze Page. The best current example of this on enternetusers is the central page for the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog project which will end up being a list of 31 posts from this blog as well as hundreds of reader submitted tips.

Go Beyond The ‘List’

One more quick tip on writing Sneeze Pages - don’t make them just a list of links. Readers will use them a lot more and follow your suggested links into your archives if you take al little time to introduce what the page is about and to describe what they’ll get when they arrive at the page. This little extra effort will mean your page is more useful and useable for readers.

Also resist the temptation just to drive traffic to your money making pages. While you can definitely include pages that contain affiliate links and well converting ads in your Sneeze pages it will be much better received by readers if the posts you highlight are truly your best and most useful work.

How to Strategically Position Your Sneeze Page

The key with Sneeze Pages is to position them in a way that will enable them to be seen and used by the maximum number of readers. On some occasions this will simply been posting them as normal posts on your blog (see discussion below on ‘posts vs pages’ and in other instances it will mean highlighting them throughout your blog in other key positions.

Obviously at enternetusers I highlight a number of Sneeze Pages from my ‘Best of’ section (something that is working quite well) but in my previous design I had them positioned in my top navigation menus (again - this worked very well).

Another way to highlight these pages is to link to them in posts when you’re talking on an issue. You can do this either within the content itself as you write or at the end of posts as suggested further or related reading.

Posts or Pages?

Those of you who use a blogging platform like WordPress (or now MT 4.0) that have the ability to write pages (as opposed to posts) on your blog will have an interesting choice when it comes to how to present your Sneeze Pages.

I use both posts and pages depending upon their nature. For Sneeze pages that will be linked to prominently for a long time on my blog I tend to go with a page (as they don’t have dates on them that could ‘date’ the page. But for smaller recaps of time periods or hot threads I’ll publish them as posts that will appear on my actual blog.

An Example of a Blog which Sneezes Effectively

Before I send you off to create some pages let me highlight one blog that I see using this technique very effectively - Lifehacker.

Here are four recent examples:

Your Homework

It is time to head back to your blog and create a Sneeze post or page for your blog. Use any of the above methods (themed, dated, hot threads etc) or use one of your own. Head back to this thread afterwards to tell us how you did it (and feel free to link to it so we can see some more examples of what others are doing).

Written on August 17th, 2007 at 05:08 pm by Darren Rowse

Control Who Sees Your Ads With ‘Who Sees Ads?’ WordPress Plugin

Blogging Tools and Services 25 comments

I’ve had a number of people point me to a WordPress plugin by the name of Who Sees Ads? in the last week so thought it might be time to check it out myself.

This great plugin enables you to target certain readers to see your ads - while others don’t. Or, as it’s developer writes:

“Who Sees Ads is an advanced ad management plugin that lets you decide who will see your ads, depending on user defined conditions.”

Rules that you can set include to show (or not show) ads to those coming from search engines, those viewing old posts, those who are regular readers etc. You can also use PHP functions to make your own custom rules.

I’m yet to try it out myself but have heard from a number of readers that it has been well worth experimenting with. I’d be interested to hear how others are using it and what results it is bringing.

Written on August 17th, 2007 at 10:08 am by Darren Rowse

Blog Action Day - October 15 2007

Pro Blogging News 29 comments

Action 125X125There’s a nice project happening in October called Blog Action Day that is attracting a bit of attention today after it’s launch.

The concept is pretty simple - bloggers around the world all committing to post on the one topic on the same day. The first day is October 15 (it’s going to be annual) and the first topic is ‘Environment’.

I’ve signed up to participate with both enternetusers and Digital Photography School, as have many of my favorite blogs. I would encourage readers to consider joining in.

Written on August 17th, 2007 at 05:08 am by Darren Rowse

Be Careful What You Wish For - 5 Lessons to Learn from Robert Scoble

Miscellaneous Blog Tips 27 comments

ScobleToday I read a post over at Robert Scoble’s blog called Things on my mind… which I found myself resonating with quite strongly. I want to share some ‘lessons’ that we can take from his situation at the end of this post - but a few other thoughts first:

In it he talks about his decision to take a break from blogging. His reasons for doing so seem to be a mixture of disillusionment at what he’s building (he talks of how his blog has become negative), a desire to create something of value (and realization that he isn’t in the mindspace to do this), hurt at untruths written about him and a disillusionment at the blogosphere.

I read Robert’s post and had two main reactions (conflicting ones):

On one hand I feel strongly for Robert. By no means have I ever been in the spotlight as a blogger to the degree that he is - but I think anyone who has been written about in a negative light has realized just how tiring it can be to go through the process of being critiqued or attacked, working out how/if to respond, feeling misunderstood and dealing with the emotions of that experience. Building a blog - particularly one that gets public attention - can be a rollercoaster of a ride with some very high highs and very low lows.

On the flip side I hear myself thinking the above thoughts and critique my own words by reminding myself that as bloggers we quite intentionally put ourselves ‘out there’ for public critique. While I doubt Robert ever realized that he’d become the internet celebrity that he’s become when he started blogging - he hasn’t been backward in the process and has allowed himself to be thrust into the spotlight that he’s in. While I don’t know his motivations for blogging, I guess they at least in part had something to do with building his own profile, authority and influence on the topics he writes about (similar motivations to all of us to some extent). I one needs to be careful in what we wish for as bloggers because with the positives come the negatives.

5 Lessons for Bloggers

I’m not really sure what to do with these two thoughts that I’m having about Robert’s situation (and that I’ve had about myself at times). I don’t have an ‘answer’ for Robert or any real wisdom to offer. But I guess there are some lessons to bloggers who have dreams of making it ‘big’ in the blogosphere. Let me attempt to pull together a few pieces of advice that come to mind for the rest of us watching on from the sidelines:

1. Blogging has rewards - but also Costs

While blogging can be a wonderful experience that brings many benefits and rewards - there are costs involved and they are things that need to be weighed up both before you start and along the journey. In a sense I guess this is what Robert is doing now.

2. Sometimes you need to take a step back from your blog to get perspective

I’ve found that every few months I need to step right away from my blog and take at least a few days completely off (if not a week or two). At the ends of these periods I find my blog (or at least the drafts of my posts) get negative, defensive and even a little snarky - these are the warning signs to me that I need to take some sort of a break. Listen to these changes in your own voice and respond accordingly.

3. Don’t react too quickly

One of the things that I’ve found when finding myself feeling down and depressed about my blogging is that sometimes it’s not as bad as I might feel in the heat of a moment. About 18 months ago I wrote a post quite like Roberts announcing that I was quitting blogging after a week where I’d been on the receiving end of some heavy critique (which resulted in a stalking experience). I was advised by two friends to save the post as a draft for 24 hours before publishing it and to ’step away from the blog’ for a day (or more) before making any big decisions. I’m glad that I did and never published the post. While I don’t think I would have done too much damage if I’d published it and then retracted it later - I think that there’s no harm in delaying these sorts of decisions a day or two and bouncing them off friends.

4. We Set the Tone for Others to Follow

I’ve found that in 99% of cases that those who read and comment upon your blog will follow the tone that you yourself write your blog in.

I find that when I write in a positive and constructive way that the comments that I get on the post and the posts that others write about it generally are similarly positive and constructive. When I write a post that is angry, negative, blunt and/or attacking - the responses generally are similar - etc.

Of course there are exceptions to this - but I’m increasingly finding that the culture that a blogger builds on a blog by their own writing is a significant factor in how they will be received by others. I wrote about this a while back in a post about Lifehacker (which ironically had a great quote from Robert Scoble in it - perhaps it’d be a good place for Robert to start reflecting upon in his current dilemma).

5. Build Boundaries into Your Blogging

There are two types of boundaries that I would advise bloggers to consider in the early days of their blogging:

Work/Life Boundaries - Robert writes in his post that he hasn’t been the best parent or husband that he could be. When I read that I reacted strongly (I actually went and gave my wife a hug and played with my boy for half an hour). When blogging (or anything in life) begins to take your attention away from those around you who you hold most dearly then there is a need for serious review. I know the temptation of letting work/blogging take my focus away from family (I wrote about it in a recent interview on what I was learning about Parenting) - blogging can be quite addictive and when you do it full time from home the boundaries can become blurred. When you start getting asked to speak at conferences and traveling the blurring can become even greater.

Content Boundaries - The other type of boundary that I wrote about back in one of my very posts in 2004 is around what you will and won’t write about. This covers things like how much you’ll reveal about your family and personal life - but I think should also extend to thinking ahead of time what voice you’ll write in, how you’ll respond when others critique you and what topics you’ll write in.

One of the traps that I see some bloggers falling into is writing very impulsively. The result is that at times they’ll write out of anger, they’ll make poor judgement calls about how to respond to others and they can stray into areas that are off topic and not really adding value to their blog or their reader’s experience. It’s not easy in the heat of a moment when you feel misunderstood or attacked to respond well (I’ve rushed into these situations with the best of them) - but having some boundaries established in your mind before these situations arise can be helpful.

Thinking ahead of time about the blog you want to develop (not just the topics but the style and voice particularly) gives you a framework to review it by on a day by day basis. It won’t stop you getting distracted or off track but can help you identify when you are early on.



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