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Build better blog by

  1. 1. 31 daysto builda betteredition blogsecond written by Darren Rowse
  2. 2. 31 days to build a better blogSecond EditionPublication date November 2011Published by: Darren Rowsewww.problogger.netProducer: Jasmin TragasGraphic Design: Naomi Creeknaomi@naomicreek.comVersion 1.0 ©Copyright 2011 Darren RowseNOTICE OF RIGHTSAll rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced,stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form orby any means, without the prior written permission of thepublisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied incritical articles or reviews.NOTICE OF LIABILITYThe author and publisher have made every effort to ensure theaccuracy of the information herein. However, the informationcontained in this book is sold without warranty, either expressor implied.Neither the authors and ProBlogger, nor its dealers ordistributors, will be held liable for any damages caused eitherdirectly or indirectly by the instructions contained in this book,or by the software or hardware products described herein.
  3. 3. ContentsCredits and copyright_______________________ 2 Set up alerts to monitor what’s happening Conduct a policy review_ ___________________ 92 in your niche_______________________________ 46Preface_____________________________________ 4 Pay special attention to a reader___________ 96 Come up with 10 post ideas_ _______________ 50How to use this workbook___________________ 5 Call your readers to action_______________ 100 Develop an editorial calendar for your blog__ 55Bonus tasks________________________________ 6 Use a magazine to improve your blog_____ 104 Take a trip to the mall and improveWrite an elevator pitch for your blog________ 7 your blog _________________________________ 59 Ask a question___________________________ 108Write a list post___________________________ 13 Update a key page on your blog____________ 62 Improve another blog_ ___________________ 113 _Promote a blog post_______________________ 18 Find a blog buddy_ _________________________ 67 Hunt for dead links_ ______________________ 116Analyze a top blog in your niche_ ___________ 23 Solve a problem: 7 ways to identify Write a review post______________________ 119 readers’ problems_ ________________________ 71 _Email a blog reader________________________ 27 Develop a plan to boost your blog’s Watch a first-time reader use your blog____ 77 profile and readership online_ ____________ 123 _Make your blog mobile-friendly_ _____________ 31 Create a sneeze page for your blog_________ 80 Monitor statistics on your blog___________ 131Write a link post___________________________ 35 Write an opinion post on your blog_ ________ 85 Plan the next steps for your blog_________ 135Choose a social media space to focus on_ __ 40 _ Leave comments on other blogs____________ 89 What now?______________________________ 139Join a forum and start participating________ 433
  4. 4. Preface So, you want to improve your blog, but you’ve been putting it in the ”one day” basket? Maybe you just don’t know where to begin. In either case, you’re not alone. You’re also in the right place. A few years ago, when I asked on Twitter whether there were any bloggers interested in a month of concentrated teaching and practical exercises to improve their blogs I was inundated with expressions of interest. Over 13,000 bloggers signed up, and the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge was born. These days, little has changed. All bloggers want to improve their blogs, but many never quite get around to it. I went through this in the early days of my own blogging, but eventually there came a point where I just had to get serious, and put time aside to work on my blog. That’s what this challenge is about. The idea is simple. By the end of this challenge, you’ll have learned 31 aspects of blogging, and put them into practice. This program is designed not only to fill your head with knowledge about blogging, but to give you some concrete ways to actually do something with that knowledge.4
  5. 5. How to use this workbookThis workbook is a collection of the teaching Further readingand tasks that bloggers went through in that This section provides links to further readingchallenge. It is broken into 31 days or tasks, on the day’s task and topic area. I’d hate for Before you starteach with three main sections: you to complete the challenge and not take your learning any further. These pointers will To help us with a couple of the tasksTeaching give you a way to keep learning long after in the challenge, and to help youThis section introduces the area or idea we’ll track the results of your work on the you’ve finished 31 Days to Build a Betterfocus on for the day. challenge, make sure you have some Blog. kind of statistics package installed onTask Example your blog.This section explains the day’s task in step-by- Where it makes sense, I’ve included anstep detail. I use and recommend Google example of someone who’s put the day’s task to good effect on their blog. Hopefully, the Analytics (it’s free andNotes creativity of these bloggers will inspire you comprehensive), but there areIn this section, I’ll give you a few tips and that little bit extra—you might also find some plenty of others on the market.hints from my own experience to help you getthe most out of the day’s task. great blogs you aren’t already following. Note that if you use WordPress or While this workbook has been designed to one of the other hosted bloggingInteract be worked through over 31 days, feel free platforms, you may not be able toThis section gives you the day’s hashtag. to proceed through it at your own pace. You install a hosting package of your own.Use it to mark any tweets, status updates, might tackle a couple of tasks in a single day, Don’t worry, though—each of theand social media messages you post about or take your time with them and do just one platforms has built-in site trackingyour progress on the daily task. Thousands or two a week. It’s totally up to you. functionality, which is fine for theof others like you are taking the 31DBBB purposes of this workbook.challenge, and by connecting with them How ever you use it, I hope you find thisonline, you’ll get to check out each other’s workbook helpful!progress, exchange ideas, and make newfriends.5
  6. 6. Bonus tasks If you find this workbook helpful and want to continue the 31DBBB process further, you can. This is the second edition of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, and in it we’ve replaced some of the tasks from the previous edition. The tasks we removed haven’t been lost, though: they’re included with even more tasks in the downloadable pack that accompanies this edition of 31DBBB. This is, effectively, an extra week of blog–improving tasks. Don’t stop at 31 days—take the challenge as far as you can!6
  7. 7. DAY 1Write an elevator pitch for your blog
  8. 8. Day 1 – Write an elevator pitch for your blog Elevator pitches for Other reasons for TODAY’S TEACHING bloggers developing an elevatorToday, we’ll develop an elevator pitch for your blog. While the idea of an elevator pitch is usually pitchLet me explain why it’s important. encouraged when startup entrepreneurs are Of course, coming up with an elevator pitch will looking for investors, developing an elevator pitch benefit you in many ways. A good elevator pitchWhat is an elevator for your blog is also a smart move. is brilliant for communicating what your blog ispitch? One of the most important reasons to do this about to readers (both the ones you already have, and potential readers), other bloggers, potential exercise is that it forces you as a blogger to think“An elevator pitch is an overview of an idea business partners, media reps and journalists, through what your blog is about, and crystallizefor a product, service, or project. The name advertisers, and even friends and family members that in your mind. If you’re fuzzy on what your blogreflects the fact that an elevator pitch can be who might not understand what you’re doing. is about, it’s unlikely that anyone else will be abledelivered in the time span of an elevator ride to get a clear idea, either. Once you’ve created your blog’s elevator pitch,(for example, thirty seconds, or 100–150 there’s no limit to the places and situations wherewords).”—Wikipedia Knowing what your blog is about helps you to you can use it—either in part, or in its entirety. develop every aspect of it, including:Many business and self-improvement courses Here are a few that spring to mind:teach students to develop an elevator pitch for • writing content Your blog’s tagline: Having a short, sharp, andtheir business (or even for themselves). The • promotion and finding readers descriptive tagline for your blog can be a powerfulidea is to have something short and sharp that technique to quickly communicate to new readersyou can say about yourself when the opportunity • search engine optimization what your blog’s all about. Readers who don’t gainarises, instead of bumbling your way through a a sense of what your blog’s about are in dangervague explanation of what your business does— • networking with other bloggers of leaving quickly—so a tagline that is displayedand missing an opportunity to impress your prominently on your blog can be a great way tolistener. • branding hook them in.The elevator pitch has two goals: • design ... the list goes on. Your About page: New blog visitors tend to flock • to communicate what you do In fact, almost every task that we’ll tackle in the to the About page of a blog. As well as being next 31 days will flow on from this task. the ideal place to communicate what your blog’s • o entice the person receiving your pitch t about, it’s also a good spot to sell to potential to want to know more. readers the reasons why they should subscribe and come back.8
  9. 9. Day 1 – Write an elevator pitch for your blogReal-life conversation: Whether you’re at a Email signature: Many people have links to theirconference, in business interactions, or just in blogs in their emails, but a link can be somewhat TODAY’S TASKan everyday conversation, the topic of your blog meaningless on its own. Why not add youris likely to come up from time to time. These elevator pitch? Similarly, signatures in forums can Take some time out today to develop an elevatoropportunities can be the ideal time to rely on your be a good place to include a short description of pitch for your blog. If you already have one, take aelevator pitch to describe what your blog’s about. what you do, to motivate people to check out your few minutes to review and refine it. blog.Business cards: I receive a lot of business cardsat conferences, and to be honest, at the end of Social media profiles: The same goes for all How to write an elevatorthe day I can’t remember who gave me most of your social media profiles. As well as using themthem. Adding an elevator pitch to your card can to point people to your blog, include your elevator pitch for your bloghelp trigger the memory of who you are and what pitch to give them a reason to visit. Much has been written on this topic online, butyou do in the minds of those you chat with at here are some starting points that I recommend:these busy events. Landing pages: An elevator pitch can make putting together copy for a landing page much 1. Solve a problem or need: I’m a big believerPitching to media: One of the things I’ve noticed easier. That’s true for any kind of landing page, in developing blogs that fulfil real needs, andabout many journalists is that they’re very busy including Twitter and other social media landing solve real problems. The problem need notpeople who are constantly being pitched ideas for pages. be a big one (like world peace) but you shouldstories. Having a thought-through and effective be attempting to create a solution thatpitch can help you get noticed, and give journalists Where else would you use an elevator pitch? people need on some level. Communicatea reason to listen to what you have to say. I’m sure there are plenty more opportunities to this in your elevator pitch. pull them out! Feel free to share the other placesPitching to other bloggers: Similarly, I find that where you’ll be using your pitch using today’s 2. Define your audience: Who is your blog for?if I’m being pitched to as a blogger, I take more hashtag (more on that in a moment). Who are you attempting to attract? If yournotice if the person making the pitch gives me a blog is targeting a certain demographic orbrief insight into who they are and what they do. type of person, mention those people in your pitch. If your blog is for teens, don’t develop a pitch for retirees—target the readers you want. I’m a big believer in developing blogs 3. Be clear: Don’t leave people second-guessing that fulfil real needs. what you mean, or struggling to interpret jargon—make your elevator pitch crystal clear.9
  10. 10. Day 1 – Write an elevator pitch for your blog4. Keep it short: People have limited attention 8. Consider using a question: People are My elevator pitch spans and a low capacity for absorbing lots wired to answer and engage with questions. of information. Get to the point, eliminate Ask questions—even rhetorical ones—in your I have a couple of elevator pitches in my blog at unnecessary words, and make it punchy! pitch, and you’ll hook people in. One’s short (just six words) and one’s a little longer (it takes a minute or so to5. Stand out: Use humor or powerful imagery 9. Be ready to expand upon your pitch: At say). I use one or the other depending upon the to grab the attention of those that hear your a recent conference, someone approached circumstances and opportunity I have to share. elevator pitch. me and gave what seemed like an elevator pitch about their blog. It worked really well, My short one is very simple: ProBlogger helps6. Be intriguing: Your elevator pitch is unlikely and they had me interested—so interested Bloggers Build Exceptional Blogs. I’ve used to convert people into blog readers all on its that I asked them to tell me more. The others over the life of this blog (and continue to own, but it should entice them to learn more. problem was that they had little else to say evolve it) but I’ve settled on this one for the time You don’t need to cover everything in it, but about their blog. See your elevator pitch as being because it’s so simple, to the point, and attempt to write something that stays in the a conversation-opener that’s designed to lead clear. minds of those who hear it. to further interaction with people. You don’t have to say it all in your initial pitch, but you The longer version expands upon this to explain7. Be energetic but not hyped: You provide should be ready to say more if people are some of the ways that the blog helps bloggers more than just dry information when interested. improve their blogs by talking through a few of describing your blog, but you also convey the main topics I cover. what you feel about it. This is important: if These are just the thoughts that come to my you create a pitch using language and a voice mind on elevator pitches. What would you add? that are dry and uninspired, you’re unlikely to Not everyone will be able to incorporate all of the convert anyone into a reader. Show people above points but I hope that some of them will that you love what you’re doing, that you’re help you to develop yours. passionate, and that you care about your topic. But don’t go too far and hype it up beyond what it is, either. Your elevator pitch is unlikely to convert people into blog readers all on its own, but it should entice them to learn more.10
  11. 11. Day 1 – Write an elevator pitch for your blogWrite your elevator pitch TODAY’S NOTES EXAMPLETo get started writing your elevator pitch, notedown these elements: Tips for developing your elevator pitch Heather Solos’s Home-Ec101 is a great example of a blog that uses elevator pitches to great • your audience 1. Start by brainstorming words related to your advantage. blog. What words come to mind as you think • their need or problem about your blog? • the solution your blog provides. 2. Ask two to three friends or family membersThese items form the bare bones for your pitch. to try to describe your blog in a sentence.From here, use your creativity, imagination, and 3. Where will you use the elevator pitch that youpersonal style to develop an elevator pitch of come up with today?100 to 150 words that clearly communicateswhat your blog is about. As I mentioned earlier, my own approach with elevator pitches is to have two. I have a short oneIf you’re on a roll, try developing a short tagline that I use as a tagline on my blog and businessfrom this pitch. Also, try expanding on your pitch When you arrive on the home page, the first thing card, and a longer one that I’m able to share within an imaginary conversation with another blogger. you’ll see is the site’s tagline: Skills for Everyday people in person when time is less of an issue. Living. It’s clear and concise, and gives you aOnce you have an elevator pitch for your blog, strong first impression about the site’s purpose.write or print it out and put it near your computer Try expanding onso that you can be reminded of it as you blog. Look under the Site Info and Disclosure menu item, and you’ll find Heather has both MissionYou might also like to start to incorporate it intoyour blog as a tagline, or include in your About your pitch in an Statement and About pages. Her Mission Statement expands on the tagline—but only apage. imaginary conversation little:You could even write a post about it on your blog with another blogger. “Home Ec 101 is a site dedicated to teachingto communicate to your readers what you’re on. a broad range of life skills to adults in a conversational and entertaining manner.”11
  12. 12. Day 1 – Write an elevator pitch for your blogSo now we know the blog will teach us something,that it’s for adults, and that we can expect to INTERACT FURTHER READINGbe entertained. Perhaps that’s enough for somereaders, but if it’s not, that’s okay: Heather leads Gain feedback on your results and see what A USP or unique selling proposition, is a similar ,you to more information: others are doing by updating your social network idea to an elevator pitch. I really love this status using the hashtag #31DBBBDay1. Copyblogger article on USP development.“Check out the About page for the long-windedversion.” Don’t be shy—we’ll be interested to see what J ade Craven explains how an elevator pitch can you’ve been up to! be used to enhance your blog’s landing page.The About page has the detail: Heather explainswhy she developed the blog, and provides her F or more on putting together a Twitter landinginsights into the audience she serves, as well as page, see my post Develop a Twitter Landingsome background on herself. Page.Although the home page layout has changed, I once asked my readers to send me their blogs’Home-Ec101 still provides a great example of elevator pitches, and wrote up the results. Ifsome of the ways you can adapt your elevator you’re interested in getting a few ideas, checkpitch for use on your blog. them out here.  12
  13. 13. DAY 2Write a list post
  14. 14. Day 2 – Write a list post 3. Lists look neat: I don’t know about you, but 7. Lists go viral: Lists can start epidemics TODAY’S TEACHING when I arrive on a site that’s full of messily of ideas. For the above reasons and more, formatted text, I tend to keep my stay short. bloggers and social media aficionados seem Lists, on the other hand, can be visually to love sharing lists and, as a result, theyUsing lists has always been a popular and pleasing and more likely to stimulate reading. spread quickly around the web (and beyond).effective technique among bloggers wantingto write viral content—posts that are actively 4. Lists can be comprehensive: While some 8. Lists break down the complicated: Onespread from one person to the next. might argue that lists dumb down ideas and reason I find list posts to be powerful is that concepts, when they’re written well, they’re they can break down complex ideas or tasks.Just look at the front page of Digg, TweetMeme, just as comprehensive as any other style of I know that on my photography blog, many ofand Delicious and you’ll see that much of the writing. our Photoshop tutorials work best when ourhottest content on the web at any given time is authors present their instructions as steps.written in this style. 5. Lists are persuasive: If you want to That way, a procedure that can at first seem mount a case quickly, presenting numerous overwhelming becomes accessible as a list of arguments in a list can be quite convincing.8 reasons why list posts Again, it’s about including identifiable points bite-sized tasks.are powerful for bloggers that together form a convincing argument. Warning: Limit your list posts. They can be incredibly powerful, but readers can becomeList posts are popular because: 6. Lists can add to the ease of writing: I like frustrated with them if that’s all you present. writing in lists because they break down my1. Lists are scannable: Online readers are thoughts into bite-sized pieces, which is good notoriously lazy and tend to scan content for my readers. It’s also good for me as a rather than read it word for word. A list writer, as I consider how to express myself. helps communicate a number of points quickly and easily, and helps readers know if a post contains information of interest to them.2. Lists keep posts succinct: There is A list helps communicate a number of points something about a list that keeps a blogger from rambling. Each point has a start and quickly and easily, and helps readers know if end, whereas with an essay style of writing, a post contains information of interest to them. points often bleed into one another.14
  15. 15. Day 2 – Write a list post 3 types of list posts 3. Lists within posts: The content you’re TODAY’S TASK reading right now probably best illustrates There are a variety of ways of incorporating lists this type. In this chapter, there are two lists into your blog. Depending upon the topic and style that present ideas in the midst of otherToday your task is to write a list post on your of blog you’re building, some of these options content. In a sense the list becomes a wayblog. You may not choose to publish it today if might be appropriate for you: of breaking up your text. I find that oftenyou already have something lined up, but aim to these kinds of posts do quite well, as otherpublish it in the next day or two if you can. 1. The post as a list: In this case there’s bloggers looking for a quote to share withTo get started, think about whether your audience nothing in the post except the list. The title their readers will go to your list.would be interested in: of your post introduces the topic, and the list speaks for itself. The list can be quite bare- Some bloggers do, at times, become a little anti- • a step-by-step explanation of a procedure bones—short and to the point. However, list, suggesting it’s an overused technique and a readers often like them because of their lazy way to write, but this need not always be the • a collection of ideas or people bluntness and the way they tell it like it is. case. There’s nothing to stop a blogger developing Example: 21 Ways to Write Posts that an in-depth list post for almost any blog. • ranked or ordered group of items or a are Guaranteed to Grow Your Blog. concepts. List posts will not suit everyone’s style and they’re 2. Extended lists: This is how I generally probably harder to use with some blog topics thanIf you answered “yes”, you’re well on your way to approach list posts. I’ll show you a few others. However, they are a useful style of post towriting a list post. examples below, but in a sense, this type of have in your tool belt when the opportunity arises. post is similar to an essay or article, except the main points are broken down into a numbered list format. Generally, there’s a heading for each section, and a paragraph or The title of your post two under each one. Example: 10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits. introduces the topic, and the list speaks for itself. The list can be quite bare-bones—short and to the point.15
  16. 16. Day 2 – Write a list postExamples of list posts 4. Twitter Tools that Help You Work 10 Smarter: This is a list of resources and TODAY’S NOTESI know some of you will find today’s task easier tools that have turned out to be very popularthan others. Some have successfully written a lot with readers. Note the amount of retweetsof list posts, while others have yet to try. Some this post had on Twitter—lists can go viral! Quick tips for writinghave topics with which these types of posts fit list posts 5. 0 High Fliers on Twitter: Lists of people 1better than others. I hope that in the following are another classic type of post that often 1. you’re stuck for ideas, head to a site like Ifexamples (both from my blogs and others), you’ll does well. They tend to cause debate, Digg or Delicious. Check out their popularfind a little inspiration to discover a type of post discussion and a few vanity link-ins from stories and take note of all the list posts andthat might work with your blog. those on the list. articles.1. Tips for Amateur Wedding 21 6. The Logo Design Process from Start to 2. While you’re on Digg and Delicious, do a Photographers: This is a general post listing Finish: This is an example of a list that really search for keywords related to your blog a lot of tips. The tips are brief but each could is a step-by-step process. and see what others have written that has be expanded into a post of its own at some point. performed well. This could give you some 7. Top 25 fictional ads in sci-fi movies: inspiration. A little different but a good example.2. Popular Digital Cameras and Gear: This is actually a series of four lists of 3. personal approach to writing list posts is My Also: Check out this long list of list posts products that are popular among my to start by brainstorming as many points as I written in a group writing project by readers readers. The lists rank popular products can that are relevant to the topic I’ve chosen. of ProBlogger. This list of posts has many from highest to lowest, which my readers I don’t end up using them all, and some examples (some good and some not so good) on have really appreciated. points merge and become one. However, hundreds of topics. Hopefully some of them will starting with a big list and culling it to reflect give a little inspiration.3. Types of Pages that Every Blogger 20 only the best ideas is often a good way to Should Consider: Note the technique of start. using a small picture for each point on the list in this example. I’ve used this a number of times and it seems to work well at drawing readers’ eyes to points. I first learned the Starting with a big list and culling it to reflect only power of this technique in a post I wrote back in 2005 called 18 Lessons I’ve the best ideas is often a good way to start. Learned about Blogging.16
  17. 17. Day 2 – Write a list post When you look at this post, you notice a few EXAMPLE things about lists: INTERACT 1. The different list styles he’s used here reallyThroughout today’s exercise, I’ve linked to plenty Join the discussion on social media and see help to break up the content and differentiateof list posts. One thing that seems to bother what others have done for this task. Share a each section. Some are straight bullet items,some bloggers about list posts is that they seem link to your own post along with the hashtag others have sub-headings, others containsimple—almost too simple, in some cases. #31DBBBDay2. links, and so on.Sometimes, we want to communicate somethingmore complex than “7 Simple Ways to..” or 2. Matt’s used different list styles, but each“5 Tips to Help You...” list is consistently presented within itself. FURTHER READING Without this kind of consistency, theMatt Gartland is a master of lists—he uses them scannability that the lists are intended to If you’re after a little extra reading on the topicoften within lengthy, complex posts to break up bring to the post would be lost. Under the of writing list posts, check out this excellent andthe content, and make it more scannable. sub-heading “Publications—Magazines”, for practical post: 10 Steps to Writing the PerfectThe Little Black Book of Self-Publishing is a example, each bullet point has: List Post.great example. • its own sub-head, followed by a dash • two paragraphs of text • link to the site mentioned, plus other a links to related information. 3. Formatting is really important with list posts. In simpler list posts, it’s easy enough to make the heading bold, for example, and the body content consistent. But as you can see in this case, the formatting of each list is what makes it easy to see and to use.17
  18. 18. DAY 3Promote a blog post
  19. 19. Day 3 – Promote a blog post 11 ways to promote a 4. Internal links: Rather than just promote TODAY’S TEACHING your post on other people’s sites, think about blog post where you can link to it from within your own site. Perhaps you’ve written on the topicMost bloggers have tried blog promotion in A quick note: do be careful in using these before and can add a link for further reading.various ways. One mistake I see a lot of bloggers techniques. Don’t use them all with every post Maybe adding a section in your sidebar formaking in their attempts to find new readers is you write. Choose your best posts and promote “Latest posts” could work. Internal linkingthat they only ever promote their blog as a whole. them selectively, in ways that are helpful to other won’t drive heaps of new traffic to yourTheir promotion is all about driving traffic to their people. posts, but it can help with SEO, and increaseblog’s home page. 1. Pitching to other bloggers: Ask another page views.While there’s nothing wrong with this, I’ve had blogger to consider linking to your post. 5. Newsletters: If you have an email newslettera lot more success in promoting individual posts There’s a real art to this; read more in list, shoot out an email about your latestthan my blog’s front page. That’s what we’re going 11 Ways to Increase Your Chances of do today. Being Linked to by a Blogger. 6. Other blogs’ comments sections andHaving hit Publish on your list post yesterday, 2. Social networking: Which social networks, forums: Leaving helpful and insightfuldon’t just leave it to chance that your post will be like Twitter and Facebook, do you use? Use comments on forums or other blogs canread. Be proactive and spend a little time today them to promote your post. The key is not to be great at driving traffic if your commentgiving it some nudges to help it on its way. incessantly spam your followers and friends is genuine, relevant and sensitive to the with your link. Instead, use your network toLet’s find some ways to promote your post. discussion. Leaving a link is sometimes seed the link and let your followers spread appropriate provided it is highly relevant. the word for you. This won’t happen every time but as your network grows, it can 7. Email signatures: Including links to become more and more powerful. your blog in your outgoing emails is fairly I’ve had a lot more commonplace, but include links to recent 3. Social bookmarking: Promoting selective success in promoting links on sites like Digg or StumbleUpon can posts instead of just your blog’s home page URL. individual posts than my lead to amazing results. Further reading is available on this topic at How to Get to 8. Follow-up posts: Write a new post on your blog’s front page. the Front Page of Digg and Using Social blog that picks up where your last one left Media Sites to Grow Your Blog’s Traffic. off. This builds momentum and if you inter- link the posts, drives more page views.19
  20. 20. Day 3 – Promote a blog post9. Advertise your post: For posts that you’re Feeling timid? particularly proud of, and that have been well TODAY’S TASK received by readers, you might even consider I know that many new bloggers often feel quite a mini ad campaign with a small budget using timid and wary of promoting themselves. Don’t Take a little time to look at yesterday’s post and a service like AdWords or StumbleUpon worry: you’re not alone. I have felt that myself ask yourself where it might be appropriate to advertising. There’s further reading on this many times, and sometimes I haven’t put my work promote it. If you think the post is not really idea in Run a StumbleUpon advertising forward where perhaps I should have. However, worthy of promotion, feel free to choose a more campaign on your blog. the times when I’ve been willing to push myself out relevant post. If you don’t have one, spend some time today writing a link-worthy post and then try of my comfort zone have usually paid off.10. itch to mainstream media: Occasionally P promoting that. your posts may be relevant to the While there’s been a few instances in my blogging mainstream media. You’d want to pick life where I’ve gained traffic from a lucky break, In most cases, I’d start with point #1 above: a really interesting post for this; it’s not traffic in big numbers has mainly been a direct Pitching to other bloggers. Choose another blog advisable for everyday content. result of me doing some promotional work. Don’t with similar content to your post, and politely submit it to that blog as a suggested link. Again, just leave it to chance—put yourself out there and11. Article marketing: I wouldn’t recommend check out 11 Ways to Increase Your Chances see what comes as a result. submitting exactly the same article you’ve of Being Linked to by a Blogger for tips that will posted on your blog to article marketing sites help increase the likelihood of success. (this can get you into trouble with Google— you could face penalties for duplicate content) but I know of a few bloggers who rewrite their key articles for article marketing purposes.I repeat, don’t do all of the above suggestions for The times when I’ve been willing toevery single post on your blog. I tend to pick oneor two posts a week to push, and let the others push myself out of my comfort zonegrow organically. have usually paid off.20
  21. 21. Day 3 – Promote a blog post TODAY’S NOTES EXAMPLE This is the Brain Pickings bot – daily blog posts, automated. For the real thing, follow @brainpicker.Final tips on promoting Brain Pickings blog owner Maria Popova promotes posts widely online, but the way she approachesyour post social media is slightly unusual. Followers know that if they follow this feed, all they’ll see are the articles published on the blog—1. List all of the places where you have a nothing else. The second Twitter account, presence online, and look into the possibility @brainpicker!/ of promoting a post through them (for brainpicker is the feed of Popova herself, example, social media, email signatures, and includes links to blog posts, as well as forums, blogs, etc.). commentary, retweets, and other information.2. List people that you have connections with Each time this blogger publishes a post, it’s who might be open to helping you promote automatically promoted through Twitter and the a post. Brain Pickings RSS feed, and pushed to Facebook. Popova has a Facebook page http:// These are automatic channels—good ones toIt won’t be appropriate to promote your post in consider if you’re a little shy about self-promotion,all of these places, or to ask everyone on your list Pickings/55555550744?ref=mf as well as or you’re strapped for help promote each post you write. However, two Twitter accounts. The first, @brainpickingshaving this list handy will help you each time you!/brainpickings has this Popova also promotes the post through hercome to promote a post—you can scan down it for its bio: own Twitter account, and, if it’s really great, inand see which outlet might be the best fit for the her weekly email newsletter. These channelspost. are comparatively easy to add to an automaticThe key is relevance. Match the post you’re promotional approach once you’re comfortablepromoting with the right place and people, and with how things are have a much greater chance of it beingsuccessful. Also, make sure you only do this withyour very best content.21
  22. 22. Day 3 – Promote a blog post INTERACT FURTHER READINGOnce you’ve done it, I’d love to hear how you went Stephen Guise’s time-saving bloggingabout promoting your post and what the result technique helps you automatically promote yourwas. Update your blog or social media accounts posts in social media and other locations.with the hashtag #31DBBBDay3 so we can findout how you’re doing. O nibalusi Bamidele’s post on getting traffic to your blog also has some sound advice for article promotion. These ideas should keep you going for a while to come.22
  23. 23. DAY 4Analyze a top blog in your niche
  24. 24. Day 4 – Analyze a top blog in your niche 2. Take 15 minutes to TODAY’S TEACHING TODAY’S TASK analyze the blogToday, we’ll spend some time on a successful blog Here’s how I suggest you go about today’s task. Take a little time to analyze the blog on these your niche. Rather than promoting yourself onthat blog, we’ll spend time watching, listening, 1. Identify a successful Contentand observing how the blog operates. The goalis to let what you learn help shape your own blog in your niche • What topics are they covering?blogging strategy. You might already know of these sorts of blogs, • What topics are they ignoring?A blogger can learn a lot by spending time on or you might need to do a little research. • What voice or style do they post in?other blogs—particularly those that are doing well. If you’re not sure which one to choose, head toYou can pick up all manner of ideas, strategies, • How often are they posting? Technorati’s Top 100 Blogs or Google Blogand tips. You’ll note things that the blogger does Search and attempt to find a blog on your topicwell, which you might like to emulate, as well as • hat level are they pitching their posts at W that’s performing well. If you’re unable to find oneelements that they’re missing that could help you (for example, beginners, advanced, etc.)? that covers exactly the same topic, don’t worryto differentiate yourself. too much—choosing a blog on a related topic will Reader engagement work too. • hat topics generate the most W conversation? • hat styles of post seem to connect with W readers best? A blogger can learn a lot by spending time • hat questions are readers asking in the W on other blogs—particularly those that comments? are doing well. You can pick up all manner • hat complaints do you see readers W of ideas, strategies, and tips. making in the comments? • hat tools or media is the site using W (for example, are they using Twitter, forums, etc.)?24
  25. 25. Day 4 – Analyze a top blog in your nicheDesign SEO Two quick words of • hat’s your first impression from their W If you have some competence in SEO, you might warning design? like to check out how the blog’s doing in some of these areas. 1. Maintain the focus on your own blog • hat have they done well? What have they W done poorly? • ho is linking to this blog? (You can use W A trap some bloggers fall into is that they spend the “link:” command in so much time watching their “competitors” that • hat options do they give readers to W Google to find out.) they reduce the time they dedicate to building subscribe? their own blog. This analysis is useful to do • hat does their source code reveal about W every now and again, but don’t let it occur at theMonetization how they’ve set up their site? expense of other core activities on your own blog.This will give you hints as to how you might make • f they have an open or unlocked stats I 2. Be uniquemoney from your blog. package, what can you learn from their stats? Which pages are popular? Where Another trap I see some bloggers fall into is • hat advertisers are targeting this blog? W virtually replicating every aspect of another blog. does their incoming traffic come from? It’s true that there’s a lot we can learn from • hat type of affiliate programs are they W Really, the number of questions you could be others, and lessons we can take from what promoting? asking is limitless. What you’re attempting to do others are doing. But if you simply copy everythingTraffic with this exercise is identify what’s working well on another blog does, you’ll fail to differentiate the other blog, and establish what opportunities yourself, and potential readers will have no realYou might like to head to a site like Alexa or there might be to position your blog in the “gaps” reason to read your blog instead of others.Compete to do some analysis of the blog’s traffic that this blog is leaving open.level. Is it growing or shrinking, or has it reacheda plateau? Alexa also provides stats on page When you do this type of analysis with a numberviews, time spent on the site, sites that link in, of blogs in your niche, you should begin to seebounce rates, audience location, where people go some patterns emerging—tactics that consistentlyon the site, and more. However, I’ve found that work well for blogs in your niche, and things thatthis information isn’t always accurate. perhaps you could do that nobody else is doing.25
  26. 26. Day 4 – Analyze a top blog in your niche TODAY’S NOTES INTERACT FURTHER READINGOne more tip for You can also share, discuss, and explore this task I’ve never really considered other bloggers to be on social media. We’d be interested to hear which my “competition”, and this article explains why.analyzing successful blog you reviewed. Remember to use the hashtagblogs #31DBBBDay4.Perhaps the best way to really analyze anotherblog in your niche is to be an active reader of it.Make a list of all of the blogs that you can findin your niche. As you do this, set up an RSS Build some time into your regular bloggingsubscription to each of them so you can monitorwhat they’re writing over time. schedule to read and digest the contentBuild some time into your regular blogging that others are producing in your niche.schedule to read and digest the content thatothers are producing in your niche. As you dothis, you’ll begin to see what others are focusingon, what their readers are responding to, whattrends are emerging in your niche, and who theauthoritative voices are.You’ll learn even more about other blogs by beingan active commenter (but that’s another day inthis challenge).26
  27. 27. DAY 5Email a blog reader
  28. 28. Day 5 – Email a blog reader Take it further and make TODAY’S TEACHING TODAY’S TASK a bigger impressionToday’s task is all about building a community on The task is simply to email one new reader … This technique can really be worth investing timeyour blog and making an impression on readers or more. into each day, and there are two easy ways thatby giving them some personal attention. you can extend it to make it even more engaging: While the tip sounds simple—too simple perhaps—it’s actually a technique that I used in 1. the person has left a link to their own If the early days of ProBlogger and it really helped blog in the comment, leave a comment on to build up reader engagement. their blog. Again, this is another technique I used in my early days of blogging, and it was What I found is that when you pay personal When you pay attention to a reader it significantly increases the certainly paramount in building readership. personal attention chances of them not only returning to your blog, but also spreading the news of your blog through 2. Respond to the comment on your blog. Sending the email is great for making an to a reader it their network. impression on the commenter themselves, significantly increases So look over the most recent comments left on but leaving a comment in your own comment section shows other readers that you’re the chances of them your blog, and identify a reader who you don’t recognize. Shoot them a quick email thanking happy to engage in conversation. It also helps build comment numbers, which can build not only returning to them for their comment. social proof and show your blog is active. your blog, but also Make sure you include a link back to your blog spreading the news so they know who you are, and make the email relevant to their comment (that is, answer a of your blog through question they asked, or add to their comment in some way). You might also like to point them to their network. your RSS feed in the email, possibly converting them into a loyal reader. While there are some tools out there that can email “new comment” leavers automatically for you, the more personal you can make it, the better.28
  29. 29. Day 5 – Email a blog readerRinse and repeat Note: Is this tip not spectacular TIP: No comments on your blog yet? enough for you? If you’re a very new blogger, you might notIf you have a few extra minutes today, do this witha handful of new readers—the more the better. Last time I shared this tip with a fellow blogger, have people leaving comments on your blogI’d also highly recommend adding this task to they rolled their eyes at me and said that they yet. If this is your situation, don’t worry; I haveyour daily routine. Commit to spending ten to didn’t want to find just one more reader for another mini task for you to do today.15 minutes a day emailing readers, and you could their blog—they wanted hundreds or thousands. Spend 10 minutes visiting other blogs onend up making an impression on thousands of your topic and leave relevant, helpful, genuine This blogger failed to realize two things:people each year. comments on these blogs. The more helpful 1. Loyal readers spread the word. I’ve found your comments, the better; making anThis simple tip takes just a moment to do, but that in many cases a single reader quickly impression with quality comments raises yourcan create a loyal, long-term reader for your blog. grows to become numerous loyal readers profile and can potentially drive traffic back toDo it at least once a day (or set yourself a higher because, when you make an impression your and you’ll build your blog consistently over on people, it’s likely that they’ll spreadtime. the word about you. They do this through their own blogs, word-of-mouth, social networking sites, and so on. Commit to spending 2. Loyal readers build page views, One loyal reader can potentially view your blog 10 to 15 minutes a day hundreds (if not thousands) of times. A daily visit from that reader for a year brings an emailing readers, and extra 365 page views to your blog. Gain an you could end up extra loyal reader every day for a full year and the numbers start to add up. making an impression While there’s nothing wrong with attracting on thousands of people thousands of new readers to your blog quickly, each year. the majority will leave just as quickly as they arrived. Building loyal readers one by one on a daily basis can be a lot more fruitful in the long run.29
  30. 30. Day 5 – Email a blog reader TODAY’S NOTES EXAMPLE INTERACTAs I already mentioned, it’s important to make What should you say to a blog reader? That’s How are you going with building a loyal readershipyour email as personal as possible. Show the up to you! But here’s one example of an actual through engagement? Discuss your approachreader that you’re not just sending automated email that I sent to one of my Digital Photography with others on social media using the hashtagspam emails—refer to their comments, comment School readers. I emailed him because he’s been #31DBBBDay5.on their blog (if they have one), contribute to an active commenter on our blog in the last fewa point they made in their comment, or ask a months, and I wanted him to know his commentsrelevant question. have been noticed and appreciated. FURTHER READINGOne other quick tip: if the person has left a It took me a few moments to write, but hopefully 13 Types of Posts that Always Get Lots ofparticularly insightful comment or demonstrates tells one of our readers that they’re a valued part Comments is good reading for those who are stillthat they know what they’re talking about, ask of the site. trying to entice readers to comment.if they’d be interested in expanding upon theircomment with a guest post on your blog. Hi Paul—it’s Darren from Digital Photography Should You Respond to Comments via Email School here. I noticed your comment today on or in Comments? provides two options forI’ve done this more than a few times, and the my recent sunset photography tutorial and just interacting with readers and both have theirresults have always been fantastic. As well as wanted to say thanks for leaving the comment place.engaging with a reader, it also brings a fresh voice and the encouragement.and perspective to your blog, and builds uponthe ideas presented in previous posts, creating I also took a look at the links of the photos onmomentum. Flickr that you mentioned—nice work. Great to see some good examples on the topic—it really adds to the post to have them shared. Thanks for reading dPS and for being such a regular commenter—it means a lot to me. Darren Rowse30
  31. 31. DAY 6Make your blog mobile-friendly
  32. 32. Day 6 – Make your blog mobile-friendly TODAY’S TEACHING TODAY’S TASK Make notes as you go. What do you like? What makes it difficult to move around a blog on your mobile? How easy is it to access comments,It’s easy to pretend we don’t really need to worry Today’s task is to make your blog mobile-friendly. share a post, and find other posts on each blog?about making our blogs mobile-friendly. After all, If it’s already mobile-friendly, use this opportunitymobile devices come with browsers installed, so to investigate mobile-site plugins or functionality How does your mobile-neutral blog stack upit’s not as if our readers can’t access our blogs that you could use to enhance your readers’ against the others you’ve seen? If you’re eager toon the go. experience of your blog through mobile devices. take advantage of the possibilities that mobile can offer to you—and your readers—you’ll be pleasedIt’s also tempting to rely on the blogging platform to hear that it’s not’ve chosen when it comes to mobile. “I’m sure Don’t have a mobileWordPress has that stuff all under control” is a Back on your computer, head to the supportcommon thought in blogging circles. version of your blog? forums for the blog platform you use. Search for “mobile blog” or “mobile version” and look throughTo be fair, your readers probably can access your The best place to get a feel for mobile blog the conversations to see what other users areblog without too much difficulty through their options is … on your phone! Grab your phone saying, and what tools they’re recommending.browsers. But is that the best experience you can and navigate to your blog. Don’t just land on theprovide for them? homepage—try navigating to a story, make a From here, the world’s your oyster, but if you need comment, and so on. extra help, speak to a designer, blogging buddies,There are also other benefits to be gained from or ask around your social networks for help andcreating a mobile version of your blog—including TIP: Don’t forget your tablet advertising revenue. Doing this kind of research on a tablet is alsoLet’s look more closely at mobile blogs. handy, but it’s probably a good idea to make TIP: My recommendation phone research your priority, since the interface The ProBlogger and Digital Photography is so much smaller: if a blog works well on a School blogs use the WPTouch Pro plugin, phone, it’s likely to work well on a tablet, too. and has since 2009. It’s definitely a plugin I’d recommend for those running WordPress blogs. Next, check out the blogs of some of your competitors. This research will give you a snapshot of the offerings that other bloggers are using—and an idea of the kinds of interfaces your readers are interacting with.32