Blogging offers writers great rewards. We get to share our words with others. We educate and entertain. If we’re really lucky, our blogs generate income or interest from book agents. To do any of this, however, you need readers, and in the early days of any blog, readers are hard to come by. [Read more…]
Good content still sells and is one of the most effective ways to attract valuable links to your site. It is imperative to understand that most people venture into the cyber world looking for information on a plethora of topics, so when you offer informative articles not only do you please your visitors and get more link backs but also you establish a reputation for yourself as a niche expert.
When writing link bait articles, it is essential to remember that while what you write is important, how you write it will add chutzpah to your content. So, here are some tips on how to write link bait articles that will keep your readers and the other webmasters coming back for more.
What should you do? [Read more…]
As previously noted, it’s practically impossible to break actual breaking news at a blog. Still, if you can find breaking news, and it fits your blog topic, you can still post it. You’ll just need a slant that makes it your own. Before you slant with your own lovely style though you should consider if it’s worth slanting at all.
Should you waste time slanting?
Slanting, in the most general of descriptions means making the news your own. Giving your own opinion on it. Hopefully an opinion that will make the news interesting to your community EVEN though they may have already seen the news elsewhere.
Real slanting that draws traffic takes more time. Real slanting that’s actually interesting to read takes more time. If you don’t want to take the time to slant in a meaningful way then a simple link to news is better in many cases than rehashing the news.
Re-posting news sans slant can work for some blogs: Here’s how some people re-post breaking news… “So and so news source says, “Owners of dogs with diabetes may gain useful health benefit from caring for their pets!” Then these folks proceed to cut and paste the article they just mentioned.
BTW yes, that was a real headline yesterday – and no I didn’t post on it. The example above is not your slant, it’s just re-posting news. Which CAN be useful but not in a traffic draw kind of way. Slanting in a meaningful way takes more time and that means some news isn’t worth your time to slant. It may however still be worth posting. For example at one of my blogs I post recalls on baby products a few times a week. Sometimes there’s even really big recall news but I don’t waste my time slanting it. I share said news but other than, “Wow, lame” I don’t really give my opinion. Recalls happen all the time and it’s rare that me posting one gets me tons of excess traffic. I post the news because I want my all-the-time readers to stay safe.
Your slant won’t matter as much if the news is too old: I don’t try to slant if the news is too old because old news doesn’t usually result in traffic perks for my blog. The best way to make sure breaking news gets you more traffic is to re-break it early and with your own slant but you have to be on top of it. Last year, when it turned out that SIGG bottles had BPA, I happened to be awake when the news broke (late at night) and since I saw it right away I did post it with a slant and that post did get me a lot of traffic because other blogger in my niche didn’t happen to be awake at 3am stalking the news. This year when the news about BPA in canned food first broke, I had other stuff on my plate. By the time I had time to post about it, all my green blogging pals and their dogs had posted it. While it’s interesting news, it was unlikely, at that point, to bring me much traffic. Instead of wasting time posting about it, I just linked to a friend who managed to post on it early.
Before you take the time to slant: Before you re-break breaking news make sure it’ll benefit you and your readers. Consider that if your readers like your blog they also like other blogs in your topic niche and they probably aren’t interested in seeing the same news over and over. It’s a sure bet that other bloggers in your niche are talking about the same issues you are.
For my last post in this breaking news series we’ll look at how to really slant breaking news to make it your own.
How do you decide which breaking news is worth sharing with your readers?
There are all sorts of little ways that email can increase blog traffic for you or for a client you blog for. Following are five good ideas.
Email a new reader; or two or three or twenty! Darren notes that emailing new readers was one of the main strategies he used to build up ProBlogger traffic back in the day, and if it’s good enough for that well… why not give it a shot. Note – some emails to new readers can be annoying. Try to keep track of who you send emails to so that you don’t send off notes to the same readers over and over. I personally hate that and it won’t get me back to your blog. Also keep it short. I did recently get a very nicely written email from a blogger at Green Talk – it was short, promoted the blog and is a good example of an email you can send to your own readers (see below).
“Thank you for your comment on Green Talk I read each and everyone of the comments on my site. Green Talk is all about the conversation, so every comment is valuable to continue helping others to live a greener lifestyle.
To continue the conversation, consider joining the Green Talk Ning, a social network site, for those who wish to live a greener lifestyle or subscribe to Green Talk’s email or feed.”
Email a company: When you blog about a company or product – assuming what you wrote was favorable and well written, shoot said company off an email. Flattery will get you everywhere. Just send a quick note saying something like, “Dear so and so company… I recently blogged/wrote about/reviewed your super cool toy – (include link). Just thought you might enjoy seeing the post.” Also if you have a badge, this would be a good time to send it along. Many companies will place your badge at their site if you’ve reviewed their product.
Q: What if I wrote a bad review about a company? I’d send them an email anyhow. A few times this has worked in my favor, either by a company changing their product or it’ll start a dialogue or the company will say, “Well, you hated our granola bars but let us send you some coffee to review because you might like that.”
Email another blogger: You have lots of choices when emailing another blogger. It could be to say you love their blog, it could be to say thanks for linking to you, it could be to start a conversation, but no matter what you email them for it often results in a link or two back to your blog.
Allow people to subscribe to comments: Comment subscription is not organically an email tactic. In reality it’s a comment/traffic tactic but it does draw people back via email, hence my including it here. When readers are allowed to subscribe to comments they’ll come back to re-comment when someone debates their comment or says something to spark their interest. If you need a plugin for this, I like Subscribe To Comments.
Let people subscribe by email and word it correctly: Most bloggers have RSS set up on their blog; i.e. “Subscribe via RSS.” Fewer bloggers allow for email subscriptions, however many people do like to subscribe by email. You can easily set up email subscriptions if you use Feedburner. You should also make sure reader subscribe by using the correct wording. For example, many people associate “subscription” with money. You usually have to pay to subscribe to stuff. Point out that readers can subscribe for free to make sure they do.
Of course there’s the basics too – include your blog in your email signature line, send professional emails, be nice and so on. The little things add up.
Got any more email tips that can increase blog traffic? Share below.
On Sundays I tend to go over stats for all my blogs – both my own and my client’s blogs too to see how traffic is looking. I’m currently writing for around 9 or so blogs and while they’re all about different topics (or have different slants) all but two of these blogs have one traffic perk in common – images – meaning, an insane bulk of page views at the places I write comes directly from image searches.
With this in mind I thought it would be a good time to remind you to use images wisely. It’s not just any old images that pull in traffic. You need to label your images correctly. Here’s a short how-to…
- Choose a good place to score free images that you won’t get sued for using.
- Find your perfect image – in fact I’ll do this now. I’m going with this tree image.
- Now change the title of the image to fit your post. This is key! When I right click on the image to save it for later use the saved title is 1225136_29655871 – of course no one on earth searches Google (or any other) images for “1225136_29655871” which means if I leave it as is I’m killing off potential traffic.
- How you label your image depends on the post you’re writing. For example I could re-label this image; “sports summer camps” or “how to plant a tree” or “proper tree care” or “best landscaping trees” – it really depends on what you’re writing about. Here for example, none of those titles would work. While I doubt many bloggers search images for tips on blog traffic I’d still label this image something akin to, “Increase blog traffic” or “Free Blog Images.”
People are way more likely to find your post via a label like, “Proper tree care” vs. “1225136_29655871.” As Deb has previously noted, “In addition to saving your images using keywords, use keywords in your image descriptions and, if you can do it without looking spammy, your image captions.”
This one simple step can bring in a lot of new traffic. You also might want to check out common image mistakes that bloggers make – so you won’t make the same mistakes.
Now have you been labeling your images correctly?
Darren had an interesting post up last month at Problogger; maybe you caught it – Dear FaceBook Friends, I’m De-Friending Most of You [It’s Not You, It’s Me]. The post was his public rational as to why soon he’d be deleting all his work contacts from his Facebook account. Darren’s not the only one doing this either. Lately I’ve seen many folks creating their own Facebook fan pages, Twitter accounts and other work-personalized social network accounts that allow them to specifically network with work pals and contacts vs. personal real-life friends and family.
Here’s an example; say your name is Bob and you have a blog called Fantasy Cakes. You might set up a Facebook page for Bob where you only friend actual brick and mortar pals and family. You’d set up another Facebook page for Fantasy Cakes where people can friend (or fan) you. You could do the same for Twitter, ThisNext, or any number of social networking sites. You keep your real-life pals on your name account and all work pals, PR contacts and other bloggers on the Fantasy Cake accounts.
Is this a good idea?
Personally, I think it’s the new hip idea, but as for it being a good one, well, that depends on many different factors – who you are, how well you’re know (or hope to be known), and how much free time you’ve got.
The pros of keeping your real-life separate from your work life:
- Your offline friends and family don’t get bushwhacked with a million work links that you’ve posted.
- Your online work pals and editors aren’t subjected to your offline friend’s off color or bizarre comments – you know we all have that one pal offline who can’t seem to figure out that they shouldn’t give away your weird secrets online.
- As Darren pointed out in his post, Facebook friend accounts have a limit. If you’re a popular online identity your work pals and contacts can quickly overrun your actual offline pals. It’s lame to not friend your dad because you’ve got too many work friends.
- It can look more professional if you have networking set up to reflect your work.
- It can help you brand your work. Fantasy Cakes can be it’s own brand vs. the Bob brand.
The cons of keeping your real-life separate from your work life:
- It’s time intensive – this is one of the major reasons why I don’t have many Jennifer accounts vs. work accounts. I don’t have the time. I already run a ton of Twitter, Facebook and other social network accounts for clients, along with my own. If I had to update loads of other accounts for my personal blogs I’d be 100% spent time wise. Sure you can set up instant feeds to save time, but know that it’s not enough to build a following. For example, you could Twitter feed all your personal blogs, but you won’t get as many follows if you’re not on there interacting at least some of the time.
- It seems sort of presumptuous and a little annoying. Lately because everyone I know is setting up new work related accounts I get a ton of emails saying, “You should become a fan of Bob’s Fantasy Cakes!” Frankly, it’s not that important to me to fan everyone. Maybe it’s the wording, “Fan” that’s off-putting or maybe it’s because I don’t have fan pages of my own so all these accounts end up on my Jennifer page or maybe it’s that I don’t want to wade through more links right now. In any case, I’m just not into fanning people’s sites unless I REALLY like them.
- It’s confusing to offline friends. While social networking is old hat if you’re a blogger, your family and even some co-workers who aren’t as online savvy may not get it. You’ve got your Bob page, your Fantasy Cakes page, and if you launch another blog, that page. It can get confusing for people. Which page do they leave comments on, where’s your contact info for work vs. real-life, and aren’t you the same person?
- It’s a lot of work. Creating a popular Facebook fan page, or brand page is much more work than just placing or feeding links. Building a fan page or setting up a blog on Twitter does not mean people will simply come in hordes. Promotion of this sort is practically a job in itself which brings us back to the time issue.
Who should set up separate accounts…
I don’t think everyone should. If you’re extremely popular, can hire social networking help (like a CM), or are very private with your personal life then yeah, it’s likely a good idea to keep accounts separate. If you’re just doing it to gain quick traffic (um, no) or because you read some post that says it’s a great idea, I’d think carefully about it, because it’ll require a lot of time and effort. If you don’t put that time and effort in, you’ve just created one more mess of an area that people have to wade through online.
One more thing to consider is how many of your real-life pals are actually on social networking. I have offline friends and family who are on Facebook, but not enough to make me want separate pages for my work related stuff. My offline pals just don’t use Facebook as much as my work friends. I have ZERO offline family members on Twitter. My family, and actually many of my offline friends are just not into social networking – most (read 99%) don’t even read my blogs. We hang in person or talk on the phone, but they’re just not online often so making separate pages to make them more comfortable seems excessive.
If you do keep your accounts merged…
Keep it clean. Be extra diligent about deleting comments or photos that might make you look bad. I have one real life pal who will post that lame picture of you when you had one too many at the Halloween party or flipped someone off – you DO NOT want co-workers seeing this stuff.
What, in your opinion, are the pros and cons of setting up separate social networking accounts for family vs. work?
Bounce rate is a measure of how many people visit your blog and continue on to the different pages. For example, if your stats show visitors land on your site and leave without hitting any blog posts beyond the entry page, your bounce rate will be relatively high. If visitors stick around and visit several pages before moving on, your bounce rate will be on the low end. The lower the better. Different blogs and websites have different purposes and therefore will experience differences in bounce rates.
In essence bounce rate is the equivalent of walking into a store. A low bounce rate means the customer is looking around at the different departments and, perhaps buying. A high bounce rate means that a customer might walk in, glance around and leave without further investigation or purchase.
Why is Bounce Rate Important?
Bounce rate is important because you want your readers to stick around and up those page views. You want them to read the current blog posts and more. You might also want them to look around, check out the affiliate links and maybe click on an ad or two. This doesn’t happen if your readers don’t like what they see at first glance. A high bounce rate means folks aren’t liking what they find or finding what they like. If a bounce rate is 30% it means 30% of the people visiting your blog leave right away. A 70% bounce rate means 70% of the people visiting your blog aren’t sticking around. Always shoot for lower.
How to Measure Bounce Rate
A good stats program will measure bounce rate. As mentioned in previous posts, I use both Performancing Metrics and Google Analytics. Each provide current bounce rate and will also compare a day’s bounce rate to previous days, weeks and months. If you notice a downward trend, this is a good thing. Now use your stats to check to the content and see what people are reading. Find the popular pages and use this to gauge your readers preferences.
Is There an Average Bounce Rate?
From what I can gather most blogs experience between 50% and 70%. Also, from what I gather from my research, anything about 50% requires further analysis. Above 70% means folks can’t get away quick enough. (Incidentally, the Freelance Writing Jobs network enjoys a 30% to 40% bounce rate.)
How to Lower Your Bounce Rate
Again, the lower the bounce rate the better. If you want people to stay on your blog, you have to give them a good reason. The best reason for anyone to visit any blog is for the content. Too many bloggers write content around keywords to bring in traffic and this can be a mistake. Don’t write for keywords, write for your community. A mixture of informative content, images, fun stuff, and humor is bound to keep them around. Don’t write content for content’s sake. Make sure it has value. How to’s are the best kind of content. Read your stats, your email and your comments. Combined they will tell you how and why people are coming to your blog. Also, even though you want to write for your community, make sure the content is relevant to the keywords. If readers discovered your blog using a particular search term, but they leave within seconds, it probably means the content wasn’t relative to the search and you need to do some tweaking.
Another way to up your pageviews is do some heavy linking among your articles and offer related reading at the bottom of the post. You can use plugins to recommend posts or add your own. The more your visitors have to read and click on, the better.
Bounce Rate is Important
While it’s not talked about as much as RSS or search traffic numbers, don’t discount bounce rate as a very important metric. Mere numbers aren’t enough. You want to know why people come to your blog, why they stay, and why they go. If readers are only staying for a couple of seconds and leaving, you’ll need to analyze why and take measures to correct it.
Create engaging, entertaining and educational content and they’re sure to sticks around.
What is your blog’s bounce rate – and why do you suppose that is?
No matter if you run your own blog or write a blog for a client, your blog comments at other blogs are a good way to network. I myself will click on the name of someone who leaves a good comment and have found some of my favorite reads this way. That said, your comments can also work against you; it all depends on how you play it.
What kind of comments may entice people to click your link…
- Comments that contain personality. I usually click on comment links if the comment makes me laugh because I assume that person’s blog might make me laugh too.
- Comments that stay on topic.
- Comments that are nice. Nope, nice is not a weak work IMO.
- Comments that offer up a debate in some sensible way. I.e., “I don’t agree and here’s why…” I tend to go check out links related to smart debate comments simply to see what that blogger is up to and maybe learn something new.
- Comments that flatter the blogger – NOT kiss ass comments, but genuine interest-driven flattery. Most bloggers I know can’t resist someone who appears to like them especially if that person also left a well-thought out, smart comment.
Not every comment you leave should be left to inspire someone to click on your link though. Some comments are purely to set you up as a helpful member of that specific blog community. Comments like this include…
- Questions that relate to the topic at hand.
- Responses to other comments.
- Responses to a question posed in the post.
While the sort of comment noted above may not get you a click right away they do set you up as useful and non-annoying plus gets your name and link out there. Basically these comment show that you’re into blogs because you genuinely enjoy them, not just because you think you might get a click.
Will bad comments get you noticed?
You can go the other way. You can leave the world’s worst comments and see what happens or you can take it from me, nothing will happen. Nothing useful anyhow. If you leave lame comments no one will click your link and you may have your comment deleted. Worse you may end up banned entirely from a blog or you might even get to be known as that, “stupid; mean; spammy; pain in the butt” reader.
Still if you’d like to leave bad comments here’s a primer:
Be as mean as humanly possible – “You are the dumbest blogger ever because… [words that make no sense and don’t back up said argument that I am indeed the dumbest blogger ever].” If you’re gonna be rude, back up that attitude with some substance. If you’re just mean, and have zero back-up people will assume you’re a troll – and guess what, you are.
Go off topic – Even better tell me you’re going off topic it makes my job of deleting your comment easy. For example, I get a lot of these, “Hey Jennifer, I know this doesn’t relate at all but you should read this… http://www.linkthatdoesnotrelateatall.com” – you lost me and everyone else at “doesn’t relate” and made it worse by leaving a lame link.
Try to hide your spammy link – So many spammy people leave comments like this, “Wow what a cool idea about solar panels! I totally agree with this. My favorite solar panels are actually http://myspammysolarpanels.com!” You can dress up spam with niceness but bloggers aren’t stupid. You’re still spammy and you’ll still be deleted. Your link MAY survive if beyond nice you left some actual useful information that totally relates to the post at hand, but otherwise you’re toast.
Leave a novel in the making – Bonus points if you don’t press enter. I have left some really long comments at times, but only if I’m really into the topic and I try to limit myself; as in one long comment per post. I don’t keep going back to leave more and more until I take the post over. Some people will come back and leave the world’s longest comments, not once, not twice, but well over many times on the same post. It may not get you deleted but the blogger and other blog readers will probably start to sigh when they see your name, due to how obnoxious you are.
Of course there are all sorts of lame comments you can leave if you try hard enough. Above are just a few of the most annoying.
There is a right way and a wrong way to leave comments and although in the grand scheme of things comments may seem small, they can make a difference in how and if other people click your link.
So after writing yesterday’s post about the woman who wanted to make it as a blogger so quick, she resorted to spamming me with fake testimonials of how great she is, I began to think of the best way to describe what it takes to build up a blog. If you blog for a network, you have a couple of advantages. For instance, the pay is already coming in and you have your network’s good reputation to back you up. Still, to build up traffic, respect and loyalty takes time. For me, blogging is like dieting.
Ups and Downs
If anyone knows about dieting, it’s me. I’ve been battling weight issues for about 20 years now. One thing learned is if you want to lose weight, you have to take it slow and do it right. There’s not quick fix, there’s no cheating, and tactics to lose weight rapidly backfire. It’s the same with blogging. Traffic is best built up on a slow, steady basis. You can have your ups and downs depending on what you wrote that day, but for the most part it’s a slow, steady rise to the top.
You can use linkbait to get your numbers up, but it’s sort of like crash dieting. You have several great days of heavy traffic but pretty soon you’re back down to your average, hungry for more. Hopefully you’ll have a a few more readers (or a few less pounds) to show for it but for the most part this is a quick fix, not a permanent solution.
Taking the Time to Do it Right
The dieters who are successful in their weight loss are the ones who change their habits and steer away from the quick fix. They learn the proper portion size and eat healthier foods. Bloggers who want to build up a good traffic base also know they they have to have good, healthy habits.
Instead of going for the linkbait crowd, or writing for Digg, write good, authoritative content. Get to the top of the search engines by providing the content people want to read. The best way to keep weight off is eat properly and get enough exercise. The best way to keep the traffic flowing and rising is to provide good content and great advice.
Blogging, like dieting, takes time. Do look for ways to provide the most satisfaction, but the quick fix will soon have you back at square one. If you want people to come back everyday, if you want to pounds to come off, you have to have the right portion size, the right balance and the right attitude.
I’m always hesitant to use the word "competition" to describe other bloggers in my niche. I always like to look at them as colleagues in which to share ideas and community rather than the person whose traffic I should be stealing. For the purpose of today’s blog post, we’ll allow it just this one time.
If there’s one thing I learned with Freelance Writing Jobs is that if you have a popular blog, others will want to do the same exact thing. It used to frustrate me, but I decided to use this to my advantage. Rather get frustrated with all the other job listings blogs, I look to them to see how I can do things better or different.
Here are 10 ways I let my competition be my guide.
- I participate in their communities – It would be silly to expect no one else to have the same type of blog, wouldn’t it? My philosophy is, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. The great thing about the blogosphere is that there’s room for everyone. If I’m not going to be the only blog re-listing freelance writing jobs or offering tips for finding said jobs, I’m going to welcome the others into the neighborhood. By participating in the other blog communities I’m offering my insight, learning and gathering new ideas from others, and maybe even gaining a reader or two.
- I look to see what they’re missing – When I look at another blog like mine I wonder what they’re missing. What do their readers have questions about and what topics aren’t they discussing? Offer something your competition doesn’t have and people will respond.
- I define my niches. When I visit other blogs in the same niche I wonder how I can do things differently. For instance, with Freelance Writing Jobs I became more than a "relisting" blog. I began offering advice for finding and getting jobs. At this blog, Jennifer and I target bloggers who work for others rather than the usual make money online blogging blogs. At the List Maven, my beauty blog, I offer all tips and product reviews in list form, and at Simply Thrifty I offer stories from my youth and updates on home DIY projects. Even my celebrity blogs are different – I have one featuring celebrity role models and one featuring celebrity lists. Now when people visit me it won’t be the same old thing they see on other blogs.
- I continue to evolve – This holds hands with point number 3, by continuing to evolve I don’t get stuck in a rut. I don’t have to talk about or do the same things over and over. It’s ok to change your blog’s focus now and then to adapt to your readers’ tastes. Sometimes that’s by widening a narrow niche, other times it’s by changing a blog’s design.
- I look to see what my competitors do right – When I see other blogs in my niche, I want to know what they’re doing right. I’m not going to copy them, but I am going to use them for ideas for bettering myself and my blog.
- I investigate the most and least popular articles – What topics do their communities respond to most and least? This will give you a good indication of what your readers might like to learn about. Don’t copy, but do add your own point of view.
- I investigate their traffic – Knowing how the competition is faring can be a great kick in the ass. How many comments do they get? What is their Alexa, Technorati or Google ranking? Are they at the top of the search engines? Where does a lot of their traffic seem to be coming from? Do they get lots of track backs from other blogs?
- I investigate to see who is linking to them and why – Other other blogs and communities responding to my competitors’ posts? If so why? What makes one post more popular than another? Is controversy or negativity such a good thing? Knowing which posts get the backlinks might give you some good ideas of your own -and might also give you an idea of other communities to target.
- I offer to trade guest posts – By trading guest blogger posts with your competitors or fellow niche bloggers you’ll be sharing ideas and traffic.
- I keep them on my radar – Even the bloggers with the most popular blogs keep their competitors close. Even if you only visit the blogs or feeds once a week, know what others in your niche are talking about as well as the reaction of their readers. This way if they start to all of a sudden gain a lot of traffic or comments you’ll know why…and know what to do to use it to your advantage.