Written on September 18th, 2007 at 12:09 am by Darren Rowse

Improve Your Blog By Reading a Magazine - An Exercise for Bloggers

Featured Posts, Miscellaneous Blog Tips 41 comments

Are you looking for some fresh design, marketing and even story ideas for your blog? Today I’ve got an exercise that you might find helpful.

This is an off line activity - all pack of sticky notes, a notebook, pen, a magazine and an hour of time.

Magazine-Analysis

The Exercise

It’s simple really - take some time out to analyze/review the magazine with the view of learning something about how you might improve your own blog.

Which magazine do you need? Really almost any one would do - however if there’s a magazine covering the topic that your blog is on then it’s probably worth choosing it

hint - many public libraries have back copies of magazines so you can do this for free and with lots of magazines at once there

I do this process on a regular basis and find that it helps me in a number of ways:

  • Marketing ideas - the way the magazine markets and pitches itself to readers can teach a lot
  • Design ideas - some magazines do layout better than others and the web is definitely a different medium than print - but you can still learn a lot about design from reading a good magazine
  • Post Ideas - whether I choose a magazine on my blog’s topic or not - I almost always come away from this with a story for a new post
  • Learning about my Niche - if you choose a magazine on your topic it’ll keep you across the latest news and developments in it
  • Writing Tips - a good article on almost any topic can teach you a lot about effective communication
  • Monetization Lessons - mainstream media have been monetizing content for a long time - while the web is different some principles still apply

Why Analyze ‘Old Media’

I can here a few blogging evangelists asking what the point of this exercise is. Isn’t blogging ‘new’ media and why would we look to ‘old’ media like magazines to learn how to do it?

While I agree that blogging is a very different medium to magazine publishing - I don’t think that we need to throw everything that’s been learned by mainstream media out - to me that’s rather arrogant.

Sure we should be innovating and working with the strengths of the medium of blogging - but there are also some lessons to be learned by looking at what others are doing in different mediums also.

The Process that I Use

When I conduct this magazine review exercise I generally do it like this:

Set aside at least an hour and head to a place where you won’t be disturbed (I tend to go to a cafe)

Take with you the magazine (or more than one), a notebook, pen and a pack of sticky notes

Starting with the front cover - quickly skim through the magazine - put a sticky note on any page that catches your attention. Don’t pause to read anything yet - just take a quick flick through it to see what leaps out at you

Once you’ve had a quick flick through - make a note at what grabbed you on this first pass through the magazine. Was it a headline, picture, color, opening line of an article or something else? (attention grabbers are so important in creating an engaging blog)

Take a second slower read of the magazine. Again - start at the front cover and work your way through. As you read - ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Who is the target audience of this publication?
  • What techniques are used on the front page to draw people into the magazine?
  • What makes you pause to read an article?
  • What type of headlines are they using? How effective are they?
  • How are pictures used?
  • What colors are in at the moment?
  • How are articles formatted (use of sub headings, bold, lists etc)?
  • How does the magazine sell itself (looking forward to future issues, subscription pages etc)
  • What can you learn from ad placement and design in the magazine?
  • What level is this magazine pitched at? (beginners, advanced etc)
  • What is the magazine doing well at - what are they not doing well at? How would you improve it?
  • What are the limitations of the medium of magazines that you don’t have with a blog and how could you sell your blog on these things?

As you read through the magazine also make note of story ideas, design techniques, headline structures etc that you might want to try on your blog.

I’m not saying you should copy everything you see happening in the magazine - but rather that you use it as an opportunity to learn and think about your own blog. Some of what you see will naturally lend itself to your blog - other things will not.

The value of this is in stepping away from your own blog for a little while and getting some fresh ideas and perspectives.

I’m keen to hear how you go with this exercise - feel free to share your experiences of it in comments below.

One more Tip

If you choose a magazine on a similar topic to your blog - it can sometimes be worth keeping an eye out for opportunities to directly improve your blog from it. Two come to mind particularly:

1. Guest Posters/Interviews - I wrote a few weeks back about how I’d approached a number of people that I’d come across in magazines to either write guest posts for me or to be interviewed by me on my blogs (read this post at How to Find Fresh Expert Guest Posters for Your Blog).

2. Pitch yourself - I’ve done this a number of times with mixed success - but if the magazine strongly relates to your blog - why not contact the editor to suggest that you do something together? For example you might offer to write an article or even a regular column. I’ve seen a number of bloggers do this with some success. Alternatively you might want to pitch yourself or your blog as a potential subject for an interview or article in their magazine.

Written on September 17th, 2007 at 03:09 pm by Darren Rowse

RSS Issues - We’re on the Case

enternetusers Site News 14 comments

Just a quick post to say that I’m aware of the error with our RSS feed at present and the tech (support) team at b5media are on the case. Sorry for the inconvenience over the last couple of days for those attempting to access it. It seems that most people are still able to read the feed - but that subscribing is an issue.

Thanks for everyone who has been emailing about it - I decided it’d be quicker to post this than respond to you all individually :-)

Update - It’s Fixed. All of you who were waiting to subscribe - can do so by clicking here.

Written on September 17th, 2007 at 06:09 am by Darren Rowse

How Long Have You Been Blogging? - Poll Results

Pro Blogging News 23 comments

Thanks to everyone for responding to last week’s Poll where we asked ‘How Long Have You Been Blogging?‘ There were 2151 responses.

The results showed a lot of readers of this blog have been blogging for less than a year (58% if you include those who don’t yet have a blog). Here’s a pie chart to illustrate it.

How-Long-Blogging

Or if you prefer a bar graph:

Length-Of-Blogging

Don’t forget to vote on the next poll on Full or Partial Feeds.

Written on September 17th, 2007 at 12:09 am by Darren Rowse

Tips for Using BlogRush to Generate Traffic for Your Blog

Blog Promotion 47 comments

blog-rush-tipsAs I’ve been pondering the new BlogRush traffic building service (which I did a first impression review of earlier) over the last few hours I am increasingly thinking that it has potential to help bloggers find new traffic.

The bones are there for it to work - but how can you leverage it to increase your chances of converting for you and squeeze out some extra traffic for your blog. A few ideas (all untested at this stage) come to mind:

1. Optimize Your Titles - there are a number of things that will increase the chances of getting someone to click on a link appearing in someone else’s blog - but the title of your post will be most important. You have around 40 characters only to play with (before the widget cuts off your title) so think carefully about what you’re communicating about your post - particular in the first few words.

2. Choose the Right Category for Your Blog - when you sign up you’re given a list of categories to assign your blog to. My hope is that BlogRush will add more (as the more focused they become the more relevant ads will be). If your blog spans a couple of categories run with one for a few days and then swap to the other. I suspect that some categories will out perform others significantly due to the type of readers that they have and their tech savvyness.

3. Promote it Early on - this system is one that will be most beneficial to early adopters. While some are already spamming their referral links out to other bloggers via mass emails - one way to promote it and possibly pick up a few extra referrals is simply to place it in a reasonably prominent position on your blog and even to draw attention to it in a post. If some of your readers have blogs they’re likely to check it out too - which will exponentially increase the benefits for you. Just be aware that if you get spammy with your promotion of this (or any) service you could actually do more harm than good to your blog.

I’m sure there will be more tips - but my suspicion is that titles will be particularly key in the success or failure of BlogRush for many.

Written on September 16th, 2007 at 09:09 pm by Darren Rowse

Do You Use Full or Partial Feeds on Your Blogs? POLL

RSS 53 comments

I’ve just started a new weekly poll over in the sidebar.

This week we’re going to full up the Great Feed Debate that we ran on the blog this week and are asking:

Do You Use Full or Partial Feeds on Your Blogs? (or do you offer your readers a choice of both)

If you have more blogs than one - answer with what you do on the majority of your blogs.

PS: I’ll post the results of the last Poll shortly.

Do You Use Full or Partial Feeds on Your Blogs?
View Results

Written on September 16th, 2007 at 08:09 am by Darren Rowse

Find New Readers for Your Blog - BlogRush First Impression Review

Blog Promotion 63 comments

Logo-2Every time I survey bloggers to find out what they’d like help with most the answer always comes back as ‘finding traffic’.

Bloggers like to know that people are reading their blog and so any method that they can find to promote their blog is worth exploring.

In the last 12 hours a new service has been launched to help bloggers find readers. It’s called Blog Rush. If you read many blogs about blogging you’ve probably seen it talked about (they’ve done well at launching with a real buzz). I’ve held off on writing about it because I wanted to check it out for myself before writing).

My initial impressions of the system is that it’s worth exploring.

While I’m not a fan of traffic exchange programs - this one is a little different because it attempts to promote your blog on relevant blogs.

What is BlogRush

There’s a great little video on the front page of Blog Rush that explains the system better than I could on a post - however in short this is a little widget that you put on your sidebar which displays posts that others have written on their blogs (related to your blog’s content).

Here’s how the widget looks (RSS readers might need to click through to see it):


Each time the widget displays you earn a ‘credit’ which means that a recent headline from your own blog will be displayed on someone else’s blog. If your blog gets 100 page views a day your headline will be displayed 100 times on other people’s blogs.

Not only that - they have a referral system so that if another blogger signs up to Blog Rush after clicking through to it from your widget you’ll get credits each time that the referral blog shows the widget. The referral system goes 10 tiers deep - so you can potentially get ALOT of credits.

OK - so this sounds like a bit of a pyramid scheme in some ways and I guess it has elements of that in it - however there’s no money changing hands (it’s free to participate in and you can opt out at any point) and there are a few features in the system that I quite like the look of including:

  • Attempt at Relevancy - they show headlines on your blog that are relevant to your content (I suspect this will get better as more join up - but at present I’ve seen some somewhat irrelevant links showing up)
  • Filters - you can filter out any keyword that you want and any URL that you don’t want to display on your blog
  • Multiple Blogs - you can split the spread of your credits among multiple blogs (ie if you have two blogs you can enroll with both)

Will it bring a lot of traffic to your blog?

The jury is still out on this (despite the hype that many bloggers are using to promote it). The theory is good - although it will depend a lot on where people place the widget on their blog (and there’s not rules on this in BlogRush’s conditions as far as I can see).

I’ve not found that people click through on widgets like this in great numbers in my own previous testing of other things - however even at a small click through rate you could see some nice traffic if you refer a lot of people (and they refer a lot etc).

One key to how well this will work will be how relevant they can make links to content. In a similar way to AdSense increasing CTR when the ads relate strongly to the content - we’ll see the same thing come into play here.

I’m going to give it a go and see what the results are. I’m not sure I’ll put the widget on this actual blog simply because I have space issues in my sidebar - however I’ll be adding it to a few of my others to see how it converts for them.

Sign up for Blog Rush.

PS: one thing I’d like to see added is the ability to customize the design of the widget. While it isn’t ugly - it won’t ‘fit’ with the color scheme of every blog.

Another problem for many enternetusers readers is that it’s available only to blogs written in English.

Note: links in this post are referral links

Written on September 16th, 2007 at 12:09 am by Darren Rowse

27 More Blog Workspaces

Miscellaneous Blog Tips 31 comments

A couple of weeks ago I took readers on a video tour of my blogging workspace and invited others to share theirs via video or picture. A few days later I put together a mashup post of 27 reader blogging workspaces. I said at the time that I wasn’t sure if I’d do another mashup - however the submissions continued to come in so I thought I’d do one last one.

Here’s the latest reader blogging workspaces (another 27 of them):

Bob Ostrom shared a fun view of his office:

1339610366 79Ab2740Df

Charity’s is very neat!

Blogging Hq

Ryan Paul blogs mainly from work:

Workstation

Shawn Farner blogs from the kitchen table:

0908071335-Full

SeoVice has some fun stuff around their workstation:

Mydesk1

Michael got a new desk for his birthday

Desk-1

Ryan Caldwell shares a few images of his - here’s one (bonus points for having enternetusers on the screen at the time!):

Dscn2334-1

Mark’s Blogging HQ:

M Ec53Cf3402A98729A65C0Ab4A3313916

Kamal shares theirs:

-

Trendmatcher has done a video tour of his blogging bag - quite the setup - my back hurts just watching it!:

not sure how to embed it - but you can view it here.

Deborah’s Ng showed her blogging set up:

Work-1

Petite Mom (and her little one) shared a video tour of her set up:

Kai shares their blog setup - love the guitar:

The Schreibtisch

Brian shares another video tour:

Dave shared his in picture and video:

My-Office-3

Frank’s is pretty unique - complete with sword collection!

763033861 24300B8003

Andy tidied up for his image (but didn’t we all?):

Andy Merrett Problogging Setup

Jeffro2ptO shares his:

1343625346 C37A1Ed8B8

LiveWorkDream is blogging from the road:

Harstadofice 20070811 01

Blogging Experiment might win the award for most screens on a desk:

Home-Office

Patrick shows off his:

Workspace

Sam has created an amazing panoramic view (well worth clicking to enlarge this one to see the full thing):

P1

Mike’s another blogger on the road blogging from the great outdoors!

Beach-Blogging

John’s another blogger who blogs on the ocean:

Image

Sean blogs here:

Blogging Workspace

Here’s Michael’s blogging HQ (and yes, they are pistols on his desk).

P6050006

Blain rounds out this round of submissions with his blogging setup (lots of screen real estate there!):

My Setup 001

Update

John Cow did submit his video tour earlier but I misplaced it. Here it is:

Written on September 15th, 2007 at 09:09 pm by Darren Rowse

An Update on the Birthday Prize Giveaway

enternetusers Site News 16 comments

PrizesJust a quick update on the enternetusers Birthday Call for Prizes that I put out last week.

I mentioned in that post that the deadline for prize submissions was Friday and that I’d make a decision on which prizes to use over the weekend.

The Prize Submission Period is now over (it just turned midnight in Honolulu which is one of the last places to see Friday) - however my naive prediction of deciding which prizes to use over the weekend was a little too ambitious!

I said that I’d do that before I saw how many prizes would be offered up. To be honest I’m completely blown away by the numbers of prizes offered and the generosity of those offering them (I didn’t realize just how many there were until this afternoon when I scanned through them all.

Last time I counted the offers of prizes there were in excess of 150. These range from some that you’d expect on a blog about blogging (hosting packages, keyboards, blog designs, blog and SEO consulting, voice production work (for podcasts), composition of jingles (for podcasts and vidcasts)), through to fun ones (ipods, cameras), to a lot of unexpected ones (facial treatments, time in holiday apartments, color consultations, slippers, olive oil, ’sexy’ products, baby products) and a lot more.

The value of prizes varies from some at $5 (or so) up to some valued at thousands of dollars. I did a quick add up of the total worth and we’re in excess of $35,000 USD (keep in mind that there are a few consulting packages in the mix valued at thousands of dollars so there’s not 300 ipods or gadgets making that up)!

I’m completely overwhelmed by the numbers of prizes and am going to have to take a little extra time to sort through them all and then to work which to use. I’m tempted to change the idea that I had for the competition and to use them all - however if I do that I’m going to need some help in administering it as it could turn into a logistical nightmare!).

So those of you who have generously offered prizes and those of you wanting to win them please please bear with me as I ponder how to celebrate enternetusers’s birthday in a way that gives something back to the readership but also gives a little love to those who’ve offered prizes.

Written on September 15th, 2007 at 09:09 am by Darren Rowse

If English is your Second Language - Which Language Do You Blog in?

Reader Questions 114 comments

Two weeks back I wrote a post asking whether readers Use American English, British English or do you Swing like the Canadians? - the resulting conversation was a great one with a variety of opinions offered.

It’s time for a new but related question - this time it’s directed at bloggers for whom English is a second language.

Which language do you blog in?

This question is a real one and one that I get asked quite a bit by people looking to start blogs. Here’s one question that arrived in my inbox today from Alonso (no URL as he’s yet to start his blog).

“Hi Darren, thank you for your blog. It has helped me greatly in preparing to launch my own blog. I do have one question thought that I am stuck on. I am from Argentina and speak Spanish as my mother tongue but in researching the topic for my blog have been wondering if I should write it in English to make my potential of greater size. Spanish is spoken by many people but it seems that blogs are read more by those speaking English. What would your advice be Darren?”

Alonso’s question is not isolated - in fact I get asked it every week. I’d be interested to hear what enternetusers readers think and do? I’m particularly looking for the feedback of those who have English as a second language and who have been confronted with this choice.

Written on September 15th, 2007 at 12:09 am by Darren Rowse

Building Blog Readership by Monitoring What Other Bloggers are Writing

Featured Posts, Blog Promotion 44 comments

Monitor-BloggersToday I want to share a technique that I used when I started my first money making blog to find new readers. It’s one of those tips that probably won’t bring you thousands of new visitors to your blog all at once - but it definitely did help me to grow traffic levels in the early days.

Before I share the tip - let me start with a short illustrative tangent

Regular readers will know that we recently put our house on the market (and sold it). One week after we first began the marketing campaign to sell our house (we advertised in newspapers and online) we began to find that our mail box was filled with letters from a variety of companies including moving services, mortgage brokers and house cleaning services.

Obviously these companies were watching who was advertising in different real estate websites and newspapers and gathering the addresses of advertised properties to send their own marketing material to. In this way they were targeting prospects who were more than likely to be in need of those types of services.

While I found these letters somewhat annoying - they actually did work. We booked a window cleaner through one of them and my wife’s collected all of the removalist companies for when we move home in December.

What does this have to do with promoting a blog?

While checking our mail box this morning and finding another moving company letter I was reminded of something that I used to do when I was starting up one of my early blogs.

The blog was on digital cameras and photography and as most new bloggers do - I was struggling to find readers for it.

One day when I was pondering my lack of readership I went to Technorati and typed the words ‘digital camera’ into the search field there. I was actually looking to see if there were any new cameras being released - but what I found instead were 15 or so blog posts written mainly by personal bloggers talking about different aspects of their use of cameras.

One was complaining about his camera being a piece of junk, another was boasting about her new camera, another was asking for advice on which camera they should buy, another wanted to know how to use their camera better…. etc

I spent half an hour that day leaving helpful and relevant comments on each of those blogs - making suggestions for new cameras, giving tips on how to use them etc. In each case I left the URL of my camera blog in the URL field so that they could find my blog - and in a couple of the posts I even left links in the comments pointing to useful pages on my blog to help the blogger find more information.

What I found was that around half of those that I left these comments for responded to me either with follow up comments or emails. In each case they said they’d check out my blog. Not only did they do this - but I found that many that I helped with comments actually linked up to my blog in days and weeks following me making contact.

As a blogger with just a handful of regular readers I decided that this technique could be quite powerful and I began to monitor a variety of keywords on Technorati with the goal of interacting with other bloggers when they brought up a topic that I was writing about.

Tools for Monitoring Keywords that Bloggers Use

These days there are a variety of tools that you can use to help you to monitor keywords that other bloggers are using in their posts. these include:

  • Technorati Watchlists - you can use these to monitor keywords and/or URLs. You can set them up to report any blog that uses those words.
  • Google Blog Search Blog Alerts - in the same way Google’s Blog Search allows you to track keywords and have them emailed to you either as it happens, daily or weekly.

There are other tools available for this type of monitoring - but I find between these two that you are pretty comprehensive. Feel free to suggest any of your favorite monitoring tools that you use.

Be Useful and Generous

The key with this technique is to not only find when people are talking about topics that relate to your blogs - but to respond to what they’re saying in a genuine and helpful way. Don’t spam their comments with your links but answer questions, make suggestions, share your experience etc. The more useful and generous your comment is the more likely you are to have someone check out who you are and what else you might have to say that is useful.

Building Your Blog One Reader at a Time

I’ve shared this technique with a number of people and around 50% of the time that I have done so I’ve had people write it off as all too hard and not worthwhile. Some bloggers are only interested in building traffic to their blog quickly and any technique that doesn’t have the potential to bring in hundreds and thousands of new readers is ignored.

My own experience is that techniques like this one that build your blog’s readership one reader at a time can be very worthwhile. One new reader who comes back on a daily basis over a number of years because they’ve been genuinely helped by you can have a significant impact upon your blog not only in terms of their own visits and comments - but when they’re a blogger the potential for them to bring their readership with them can be significant.

Image based on one by practicalowl



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