Introduce Regular Features

published on July 20, 2007

Whether it’s a Weekend Wrap Up, Free Shirt Fridays, or Top 10 Tuesday, I’ve found it’s often very helpful to introduce a regular feature on your blog. Now, a lot of people use the quick link posts as their regular feature and that’s fine, but in my opinion that’s selling yourself short and I’ll tell you why. A regular feature or “column” type post will do few different things for your blog. It will create anticipation amongst your readers, help develop accountability in your blogging, and, if done well, become something your blog is known for. It doesn’t take a genius to realize those are all things you want, the question is, how do you make sure your regular feature accomplishes all those things?

Obviously if you want to achieve anticipation among your audience, your regular feature needs to be either very entertaining, very controversial, or extraordinarily informative. A perfect example of this is NBC’s Must See TV. In the mid 90’s NBC ruled supreme as the top network on TV. Much of their success was driven by their fantastic lineup on Thursday nights which was dubbed, Must See TV. Propelled by Friends, Seinfeld, and ER, the lineup created a night of TV that many in fact felt they must see. Now, with Friends and Seinfeld both gone and ER on its 153rd new cast member, Thursdays on NBC, while still called Must See TV, don’t even approach their former success. So how does this all pertain to blogging? My point is, it doesn’t matter how regular your feature or column is, if it’s not of the highest quality, it won’t be something your readers look forward to. On the other hand, if you succeed in making it something your readers just can’t wait for, it can propel your entire site to success.

Continuing to use the TV analogy, whether it’s a good one or not, can you imagine if in the middle of sweeps week, NBC just couldn’t get a show on the air? Maybe they were busy, maybe the shows didn’t come together just the way they had hoped, or maybe somebody had gone on strike. Whatever the cause, it would have been a disaster, and even more importantly, everyone at NBC knew it would have been a disaster. They did whatever it took to get those shows on the air. Now of course they film TV shows well in advance of actually airing them but that’s not really my point here. If you establish a regular feature that your readers are looking forward to, you’d better deliver. Tying your feature to a day such as White Board Fridays, gives you a clear deadline. Your readers know when it should be posted, and you know they know it. That kind of back up against a wall, gotta get this post out no matter what, is exactly what creates the accountability factor. It’s one thing to set goals for yourself or deadlines for yourself and then miss them. No one else but you knows you blew it. There’s just something about other people (namely your readers) knowing that you blew a deadline, or didn’t deliver on a promise, or missed your goal that will help propel you forward and make you work that much harder to come through in the clutch.

David Letterman's Top 10Last but certainly not least, is the branding opportunity a regular feature presents. For whatever reason I’ve apparently got television on my mind (I don’t even watch that much TV, so I’m not sure what this is about) but it presents another great example. How many people can tell me who does the nightly Top 10 List? If you have any sense of humor at all you’ll immediately smile as David Letterman comes to mind. For online examples, anyone in the SEO industry automatically knows White Board Fridays are a feature of SEOmoz. The same with affiliates and Free T-Shirt Friday… Shoemoney and his big bald head immediately come to mind.

So, whether your regular feature is something fun, entertaining, or just more informative than usual, just make sure it’s something that your readers will look forward to. Not only will you have a preset topic to write about but you’ll be developing your accountability in terms of your blog, and hopefully improve and expand your blogging efforts, all by simply introducing a regular feature to your blog.

Now get to work!


Getting in the Groove

published on July 19, 2007

After three days of reading brilliant posts in the Rediscover Your Blogging Groove series over at Problogger.net, I finally decided to join in. I don’t really feel like I’ve lost my groove, but I wanted to highlight this series and I figured actually participating would be a great way to do so. I’ll go back and hit the first three assignments over the next day or two but today’s assignment is to write a link post. As I mentioned in my post on How to Cure Bloggers’ Block, link posts are great ways to pass along useful information to your readers. No blogger will cover every angle or every topic in their niche so linking out to other blogs often helps provide your readers with more complete information. Another great use of link posts is to reward you readers. For my assignment today, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

As of this writing, this blog is only about 16 days old, however, there has already been 36 comments! Granted, several of those were me, but I’d like to take a minute and thank everyone who’s taken the time to comment on the blog so far. More importantly for this assignment, I’m going to link to their site. If you have a minute or two, I highly encourage you to drop in and see what they’re up to.

Thanks again everyone for taking the time to contribute to this blog! If you’d like to contribute to the conversation on this blog, I’d encourage you to leave a comment on any post letting me know what your thoughts on the issue.


Checking out Chicklets

published on July 19, 2007

I promised you this post probably a week ago but simply haven’t gotten to it until now. However, if I’m to keep to my mission of sharing each and every step I take with this blog, I can’t ignore the chicklets!

Feedburner:
The first you’ll notice over there in the right hand column is actually the newest, it’s the Feedburner chicklet which displays the number of people subscribing to this blog. This is probably one of the more popular chicklets you’ll see across the web, however, most people don’t display their feed count until later in the game. The reasoning is that while your subscriber count is still fairly low, you don’t want to be publicizing your lack of loyal followers. While I don’t necessarily disagree, I figured the feed count chicklet would be one more way people could follow the progress of my little experiment.

Technorati: Add to Technorati Favorites
The next chicklet you’ll see is another popular button across the web. The signature bright green Technorati chicklet makes it a snap for you to add this blog to the list of your favorites in Technorati. While we’re at it, if you enjoy this blog, I’d love for you to favorite the blog. As more people favorite your blog, your technorati “authority” increases. Sites and services across the web, such as ReviewMe etc, use that ranking to calculate the value of your blog so obviously the more visitors you can get to favorite your blog, the better. This chicklet is one of the easiest ways to do just that.

BlogTopList: Top Blogs
Last but not least is a chicklet I’ve decided to use on this site that you might not have seen before. The BlogTopList “Vote for me” button allows visitors to your site to vote for your site in the directory over at blogtoplist.com. The directory ranks sites based on traffic, however, each vote for your site is the equivalent to 100 visitors so needless to say, you’d like you visitors to vote for you. If that wasn’t enough of an incentive, the higher your site ranks, the more traffic you’ll receive. While there are several sites similar to this across the web, this directory allows one person a day from each IP to vote for a site. What this means is you can encourage your visitors to vote for your site not just once, but once a day.

Personally I prefer to use only a few buttons as I think having too many just make things look cluttered and too busy. Not only that, but depending on the chicklet it could cause your site to load slower. Now I’ve seen lots of other options out there but I haven’t tried many of them. I’d be VERY interested in hearing about any other chicklets or buttons you’ve used and whether or not you’ve had any success with them.


Brilliant Use of Auction Ads

published on July 18, 2007

Every now and then I come across something on a site that makes me sit back and say “now that was a really good idea.” It doesn’t happen all that often but you’d better believe I’ll share them with you when it does. Now as you know, I’ve been using AuctionAds for a while now. The ads feature items being sold on ebay and if someone visits eBay via my site and purchases something, I earn a percentage of the profits. Take a look at this method of integrating the affiliate link in with the content of the site.

Great use of AuctionAds

Not only does the post cover a topic that is likely interesting to the blog’s audience, but it entices you to click through to eBay. Not only that, the image is an affiliate link as well. While I’m not an expert, I’m far from a newbie when it comes to affiliate marketing and I almost always spot affiliate links from a mile a way. Not this time. The only reason I figured out what was going on in this post was because I did exactly what I was led to do, I clicked over.

When trying to monetize your blog, or any site for that matter, always remember to spend a few moments thinking a bit outside the box. Who knows what you’ll come up with.


JohnChow.com has Jumped the Shark

published on July 18, 2007

Jump the SharkA couple of days ago as I read through my RSS feeds, I came across a post about ExoClick on JohnChow.com that really surprised me. You see, it was actually about a way for bloggers to make money. It was then that it struck me, JohnChow.com, the much talked about website of a dot com mogul has in fact jumped the shark. For any of you who are unfamiliar with the phrase, jumptheshark.com defines it as “A moment. A defining moment when you know that your favorite television program (or in this case blog) has reached its peak. That instant that you know from now on… it’s all downhill.”

I realize John’s RSS numbers are at an all time high and he seems to have more and more loyal readers that hang on his every word. Unfortunately, the quality is just no longer there. I’m not sure whether John hasn’t been putting in the effort, opting to rest on his laurels, or whether he has just blogged himself out but either way, the posts have been less than helpful lately. Don’t get me wrong, no blog should be 100% business, and you simply can’t argue with the success John has had, but the signal to noise ratio has gotten out of hand.

Look for yourself! Looking back through the last 40 posts on the site, only a handful (I found 5 in a quick scan) have been about ways to monetize your site. For a site titled “Make Money Online with John Chow dot Com” I’m expecting a hell of a lot more. If I expand my search to include posts about blogging in general that takes the count up to around 10. The rest are all either off topic (about cars or food), posts bragging about his success, reviews, or posts pissing and moaning about Google and Technorati being so unfair to poor old John (who, by the way, openly engages in schemes to trick both sites mentioned). Basically, 3 out of every 4 posts on the site are a waste of time.

To make matters worse, most of the useful posts lately have come from the guest bloggers! I certainly have nothing against guest blogging or sites that allow guest posts, however, when you build your blog around your personal success, your readers are going to be looking for suggestions and advice from you. I personally enjoy Michael Kwan’s posts (in fact I’m subscribed to his blog), but from what I can gather, he’s not made a bunch of money online and certainly not as much as John has. Along the same lines, neither have the 13 year old, nor the cow (If you haven’t yet been to this site, stop reading right now and go. I don’t mind.) that John has had post for him recently. Really though, if it weren’t for those posts, there would have been hardly ANY posts about blogging OR making money online. Bottom line, when a parody site based around cows is more entertaining and much more informative than your site, something is wrong. In the spirit of the new bovine phenomenon, it’s a sign that JohnChow.com has jumped not only the shark, but the mooooon as well (sorry, I had to…).

Fortunately, blogs, unlike TV shows, can easily be saved. If John get’s back into his groove and spends some time cranking out more content like the stuff he shared towards the beginning of the blog (note, this is also the content that led to his success) it will once again be a site worth reading. Unfortunately, I’ve seen no indication things are headed in that direction.


Comment Relish Back in Action

published on July 17, 2007

Well, after a day of errors and asking for some help, I’ve finally been able to activate Comment Relish once again. Apparently the original plugin was called every time a page loaded. Not only would that put a pretty decent load on the server, but once it hit an error, it would return the “Email not sent” error message every time any page tried to load. Before you start being impressed with me, you should know I don’t deserve any of the credit. Patchlog.com figured out the fix and has in fact released a new optimized version. If you’ve had any problems with the plugin or just want to be safe rather than sorry, I’d suggest using this new version.

Thanks Patchlog!

P.S. For those of you who have had problems with the original version of Comment Relish, here’s the fix for it. I hope it helps!


Draft Drafts Not Failed Posts

published on July 17, 2007

If you’re like me, you don’t come up with one or two good topics to blog on each day. Despite the fact that readers like to have a regular source of information (anyone know someone who reads a daily newspaper?) writing, at least for me, doesn’t quite work like that. I’ll see an article or be asked a question and the blogging bug will bite me. I’ll sit down and crank out as many posts as I can until I run out of ideas. Unfortunately, the blogging bug doesn’t bite nearly as often as I need it to and I actually have to *gasp* work on a blog post. As I and countless others have said, blogging takes a lot of hard work and dedication and a lot of times that means sitting down and muscling out a post even when you’re not quite inspired. I’ve already written one post about how to beat “Blogger’s Block” but today I’d like to highlight a feature of WordPress and most other blogging platforms: Drafts.

Drafts are of course unfinished posts that have been saved for later. Previously drafts were posts I’d given up on or abandoned mid-way through the post. The only time I’d go back through the drafts was to clean out the clutter. However, before long I realized that I had been miss using one of the most powerful features in blogging. Rather than just a repository for failed posts that didn’t work out as I had hoped, I began using the draft bin as a storage space for post ideas. Once or twice a week I sit down to brainstorm topics and ideas and store them as drafts. I write up a quick sentence or two describing the idea and then move on to the next. The next time the blogging bug bites me, I’ve got a list of ideas to plow through until I’m all blogged out. If I find myself struggling to turn out a post, I scroll through the list of ideas until one jumps out at me. On the occasions I get halfway through the post and decide it’s just not working I’ll strip it down to the main idea or point and save it as yet another draft. I might not have gotten a post out of my efforts but at least I’m left with an idea to come back to later.

Now, when I log in and see a whole host of drafts, I don’t see a bunch of posts that didn’t turn out right. Instead I now see potential posts and sources of inspiration. If over the next week you find yourself looking for something to write about I’d challenge you to start change the way you view drafts. Take an hour or so and do nothing but brainstorm post ideas. Write down any ideas that you come up with and save them each as drafts. Then the next time you’re needing some inspiration, scroll through your drafts and see what’s there.

Please feel free to share your experiences or ideas on using drafts. It’s worked well for me (in fact this post was one such post) but I’d love to hear you’re comments on the topic.


I Relish My Comments

published on July 16, 2007

Relish Your CommentsUpdate: A fix has been found and Comment Relish is Back in Action!

Update: It appears that the Comment Relish plugin is having some issues. I have been using the plugin for the past couple of days with no problems and then bam, thi morning my site is down. I clicked over to the creator’s blog and discovered someone else having the same problem and getting the same error:

(The e-mail could not be sent.
Possible reason: your host may have disabled the mail() function…)

Have any of my readers encountered this problem? If so, have you figured out any other solution than to disable the plugin?

————————–

For some reason, every time I heard about this plugin I couldn’t help thinking about hotdogs and hamburgers… As it turns out, it’s pretty stinkin cool and I’m willing to bet it’s going to help increase the number of subscribers to this blog. The plugin is called Comment Relish and it’s one of the easiest plugins I’ve encountered in terms of installation (just upload it to the plugins folder). Better yet, the concept and use is nearly as simple as the install! Whenever a new person comments on your blog, it sends them an automated email with your customized message. I’ve set it up to thank the commenter for visiting and to ask them to consider subscribing to the blog. The email will only go out once per person (I’m not a fan of filling readers’ inboxes with useless crap) and will provide yet another personal touch to your website.

As I mentioned, customizing the options and using the plugin is pretty simple as well. You enter the name and email address you’d like the message to go out from and then just enter your subject line and message. For example, I set mine to have a subject line of “Thanks for Commenting on BloggingExperiment.com” and the following body text:

Thanks for stopping by the Blogging Experiment (http://bloggingexperiment.com) and thanks even more for your comment! If you enjoyed the site please consider subscribing to the blog by either email (http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/emailverifySubmit?feedId=902597&loc=en_US) or our RSS feed (http://feeds.feedburner.com/Bloggingexperiment). It\’s a quick and easy way to keep tabs on the experiment without having to remember to check back on a daily basis.

Also, if you have any questions or feedback on the site please don\’t hesitate to let me know.

Thanks!

Ben
http://bloggingexperiment.com

I’ve not tried using html or anything fancy in the email just yet. I figured I’d try it out as plain text for a while and see what kind of results it produces. If it works out as well as I expect, I’ll start tweaking and testing different aspects such as including images etc in the message.

Have you used the Comment Relish or a similar plugin? If so, what kind of results have you seen from it? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below. Besides… you know you want to see this new plugin in action.


Guest Posting on HMTK.com and Down Time

published on July 16, 2007

I’ve got a guest post about, what else… guest blogging up over on Ramblings from the Marginalized. Go check it out and let me know what you think.

Also, sorry for the down time today. It seems the Comment Relish plugin is not playing nicely with my server or something. I’m looking into it and will try not to crash the site anymore.