Improving Your Blog Stickiness

It’s relatively easy to get your blog set up and start updating it with great articles. It’s also straightforward to market it, let people know it is out there, and do what you can to encourage people to come and visit your site. With the right tools and support, you can get a great blog up and running in a small space of time.

What can prove to be a little more difficult is getting people to stick around. We’ve all visited new blogs and checked them out, and then clicked away from them, never to return again.

So. What is the ‘stickiness’ factor, and how do you make sure you have it on your blog? Here are a few ideas…

The soap opera technique

Do you ever watch soap operas? Some people live by them. They have an ongoing story to tell, and they retain maximum ‘stickiness’ in a number of ways. These include:

  • Running plot lines that don’t ever truly conclude (ever watched Lost?!).
  • Leaving you hanging with unanswered questions.
  • Dealing with relevant topics that people can identify with.
  • Letting you get to know the characters, so you care about how they’re getting on.

All these factors can apply equally well to blogging, and you can take inspiration from soap techniques for your own writing. By using open writing styles, you can make sure that people come back to your blog regularly to see how you’re getting on, and develop relationships with people that mean they are eager to get your next installment!

Keep abreast of leading-edge developments in your field

If you can tap in to news as it breaks in your industry, you stand a good chance of retaining your readership for good. Make your blog the first port of call for updates and information, and people will come back again and again, using you as a primary resource for finding things out. The best way to do this is to look online for relevant RSS feeds and subscribe to them, then comment on useful or interesting things which apply to your field of expertise.

Try providing useful widgets

If you make your blog useful, the likelihood is people will come back to the site as a matter of course, as part of their daily routine. Widgets such as weather updates, news items on a particular subject, or essential information such as share prices, promotions or offers (depending upon your area of industry) can be a great – and easy – way of making your blog site indispensable to your readers. Make it easy for people to bookmark you, and then make them want to visit you time and again.

Remind people through other means to visit your blog

Sometimes, we forget about even the best things in life. Have you ever discovered a great new recipe for a meal, only to kind of forget about it again? Blogs can be like that. Even the best ones can slip the net if people aren’t given a reminder to go back and check in with them. Keep your blog at the forefront of your readers’ minds, by linking to it from your other resources. Make it a prominent part of your company web site, and try sending out monthly e-mail newsletters that link people straight back to your blog. Make it even easier for people to return, by offering a prompt to add your blog to their ‘Favorites’ list.

Harness the power of storytelling

Storytelling is a skill which every single person responds to. Structure your blog posts with a clear beginning, a great middle and a decisive ending. These techniques tap in to our inherent response to stories which has been developed in us since we were children. By making your posts clear, well-structured and readable, you’ll give people a sense of ease when they read your posts, and encourage them to return to your site for another dose of storytelling, every day. As busy adults, we don’t often get the chance to take time out and lose ourselves in a great story. Your blog can be one of the places where people pop in to tune out for a while!

Build up long-term online relationships

This is the most simple, and most effective, way of building your readership and making your blog stickier than a fly caught in treacle (mmmm…). If people who visit feel that they are getting to know you, and you are reliable when it comes to providing help and support, they’ll come to view you as a valued colleague and friend. This is achieved by:

  • Making regular (and I mean REGULAR) updates on your blog.
  • Answering all comments and queries quickly and efficiently.
  • Being helpful, supportive and proactive when it comes to dealing with comments.
  • Visiting other blogs, and offering them the readership that you yourself are seeking to gain.

…Simple!

If you have a ‘sticky’ blog, get in touch in the comments and share your expertise with me!

Blogging For Small Businesses – What Should We Write About?

OK. You’ve set your blog up. You understand that it’s a great tool for telling people about your business. You’re on board with the technical side of things and know how to maintain your new site.

There’s another problem. What the heck do you write about? How do you know what your customers are looking for, and what subjects will bring people back again and again to your site? Here are my thoughts:

Write about what you know
You set up your blog for a reason – to share your expertise and knowledge with other people. Therefore, it makes sense to stick to subjects you are really familiar with. A gardening blog isn’t going to have articles about cooking, and a technical blog isn’t going to be discussing the intricacies of crochet skills. Your main aim is to enhance your customer proposition by speaking knowledgeably about subjects related to your business, so do that. If the thought of writing about a particular subject terrifies you, the chances are it’s not the right subject in the first place!

Bring in current research and ideas

Every industry is constantly evolving, as people discover new tools, processes and innovations to improve it. Regardless of whether you are blogging about networking or needlework, there are going to be resources online that cover the front line when it comes to your particular subjects. Do some careful online research to find out the lowdown on your industry specialism, and keep your readers updated with news and new ideas.

Ask your customers
The best way to find out the kind of thing your readers want to see on your blog is to ask them! Why not elicit feedback from your existing users, and get ideas from people you network with? This has a double purpose, as it also lets people know about your blog, and invites people to take an active interest in it.

Let your hits do the talking
Some days we get loads of comments and views on our blogs, and other days it can feel as if your writing has disappeared in a puff of smoke. Get to know what works and what doesn’t for your entries. If an entry on knitting generates four thousand views, and an update on casseroles gives you one, you’re not going to blog about Hotpot, right? Work out the right topics to please your readers… and stick to them.

Look at other successful blogs for ideas
We all have ‘favorite’ blogs that we log in to religiously each day to get updates, learn something new or keep in touch with some of the great writers out there. Take a look at some of the most successful blogs on the web at the moment, and work out what they may have, that you don’t. That way, you can learn from the experts, and have fun finding new blogs at the same time!

Take inspiration from your day-to-day experiences
Every day, something will happen to you in your job or at home that can be thought about, and put to good use. Whether you are writing for other small businesses or the general public, your experiences can be really valuable to blog about. We like to hear about what other people have been up to, and there are very few events that can’t be turned in to a great story for your blog, and be used to promote your business.

What do you reckon? Let me know the kind of things you think small businesses should focus on when writing their blog updates…

Feedback on Income Blogging Guide

At the start of the year I was proud to co-create the free multi-media Income Blogging Guide along with Andrew from We Build Your Blog.

Each day we have a double figure number of people who download the guide is easily in double figures and the feedback has been fantastic.

We receive unsolicited comments about the guide all the time, and we also ask for feedback, so a mixture of the two are below.

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Elie Kochman (owner of Optimal Upgrades) said “So check it out, it can help you get up and running as fast as you can read!”

You can read Elie’s full blog post about our free guide here: http://blog.optimalupgrades.ca/2010/01/blogging-guide/

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Stephanie Jewett (owner of Nursing Comments) said, “I highly recommend this study packet to ease the frustration of starting your own blog!”

You can read Stephanie’s full blog post about our free guide here:

http://nursingcomments.com/want-to-set-up-a-blog/

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Monique Hrebeniuk (owner of  moniqueschlosser) said, “I have never found a better resource material for understanding how to set up a blog successful than this one.  I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to start a blog or for people like me who figured it out on her own but was missing a few things.”

You can read Monique’s full blog post about our free guide here:

http://moniqueschlosser.com/blogging/free-income-blogging-guide-review/

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Kenny Loh (owner of im2financialfreedom) said, “You can find instructions on how to choose your niche, how to do keyword analysis, how to get a domain and hosting, how to install a blogging platform, how to post a content and also learn how to make money from blogging.”

You can read Kenny’s full blog post about our free guide here:

http://im2financialfreedom.com/blog/product-review/income-blogging-guide-review/

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Debbie Bills (owner of Happy Maker) said, “Other courses just give you the basics then you get to read between the lines and figure out the rest. You have included the stuff most people miss and I am very grateful. Your course makes me actually feel smarter. It is like having GPS that tells you exactly when to turn and which way to turn.”

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Income Blogging Guide

Kevin Pavilonis (owner of vinfit90) said, “they get right into the meat of things such as blogging platforms, keyword analysis, getting a domain, hosting. Oh and they even go through setting up your own wordpress – step by step with multiple screen shots which makes it really nice especially if your new to this sort of thing. The list goes on and on but hey I’m not going to retype the whole report here, go get your own!

You can read Kevin’s full blog post about our free guide here:

http://vinfit90.com/a-great-wordpressblogging-website-to-check-out/

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John (owner of http://atozemporium.com/) said, “You go into great detail on some of those tricky points, especially around downloading and installing WordPress, and with plugins.”

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There are, of course, some, er, stranger comments that we receive, and Andrew goes into details about those on his blogging guide post.

The guide is available from Income Blogging Guide for free.

How To Keep Motivated To Write Your Blog

I write for a number of different blogs, and getting motivated to write can sometimes be a chore or the motivational is not there.

So why do we do it?

We all know that a successful blog depends on a number of factors. For a site to succeed it needs to be informative, engaging, and most importantly, updated regularly. There’s nothing worse than going to a blog you like, only to discover there’s been no activity for a few weeks. It makes us feel let down, as if the person behind the blog has given up on it and can’t find the interest to maintain it. We leave, and don’t bother going back.

It’s all very well knowing this, but the fact remains that updating your blog can be a trial sometimes. After a hard day at work the last thing we sometimes feel like doing is posting up a sparkly message. It’s easy to allow a blog to get stale, but this is fatal for business.

So, how do we find the motivation to keep going? Here are a few ideas…

Think of your audience

It can really help the blogging process if you take some time to consider who you are writing for. Somewhere, someone right now is reading your blog. What do you want to do for them? Whether your goal is to inspire, teach, share or just talk to your online audience, it’s worth remembering that your blog is actually being read, and enjoyed, by people. Don’t let your fans down by forgetting to update!

Encourage feedback and open up communications channels
Nothing creates motivation for the humble blogger like being acknowledged. Whether you are getting praise or criticism, either form of feedback will provide you with motivation to carry on. Just knowing that your words are having an impact will give you a kick start to update more regularly. Invite people to comment on what you’ve said, and engage in dialogue with them – it’s one of the most rewarding things we can do as bloggers.

Blog on subjects close to your heart
What really gets you going? What are you passionate about? Are there any subjects which you really enjoy learning about, and sharing what you have learned? Keep your blogging lively and enthusiastic by choosing subjects you care about. Your passion will shine through in your words.

Keep remembering why you started blogging in the first place
If things are becoming a little stale on your blog, it’s worth going back to the beginning and remembering what prompted you to start writing in the first place. Was it to promote your business? Speak passionately about something that interests you? Help people? Whatever your initial motivation was, it won’t be hard to get it back once you start thinking about what your objectives are. Sometimes, we just need a reminder about what we want to achieve, before we can find the motivation to get out there and do it.

Build blogging in to your daily routine
Blogging can be a bit like cleaning your teeth and making the bed – you don’t always feel like doing it, but it always gets done. Because it has to. Instead of thinking of writing updates as a chore, it’s worth incorporating it in to your daily schedule, alongside all the other things you usually do. If you can look after yourself and your home, you can look after your blog in exactly the same way.

Visit other people for inspiration
One of the principal motivators for writers is seeing the way other people approach it. Have you ever watched a good film, and been inspired to be creative, or read a book that got you to thinking how you could do something similar? Reading other bloggers can provide you with new ideas and get the creative juices flowing. Who knows – you may be inspiring someone with your writing, right now!

What techniques do you use to keep your blog up to date? Let me know!

50% Off WordPress Training Videos!

It’s not an April Fools joke, honest! I’m offering a new low price of $47 (actually over 50% off) for over five hours of WordPress training videos! There are over 50 training videos to take you through everything you need to know to get started with WordPress today!

BTG WordPress Training Videos

Why the reduced price?
There are a few reasons I’ve reduced the price permanently. First, I have sold a lot of these videos and now they’ve been out for a while I would like to share them with others who perhaps could not have afforded them.

Also I don’t have the time to keep them up to date, and with the release of WordPress 3.0 in a couple of months, there will be more features that will be missing from the videos. The videos will still all be relevant and useful (check out the full list here), but there will be too much to keep up with.

What versions of WordPress are these videos for?
The videos will work for WordPress 2.7, 2.8 and 2.9.

Go here to see a complete list of WordPress Training Videos, what you get, testimonials for the videos, and my guarantee. You can buy on the training videos page, or using the enormous button below!





How To “Grow” Your Blog

How to prioritize your workload as a business blogger.

Admit it, it’s a bit mind-boggling to try and keep ahead of all the things you have to do when you first start blogging. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and working out how best to approach the daunting task of keeping up to date with everything. There are so many things to consider – designing your blog, keeping it current, adding plug-ins, commenting, and driving traffic to it from other areas.

I’ve had some ideas…

Think about running a successful blog in the same way as maintaining a garden. This might seem a weird analogy, but the principles are the same. The successful gardener doesn’t jump in and plant everything all at once – they step back and consider how to keep the space current all year round, and work accordingly. So, using this analogy, here’s how to prioritize your workload and keep your blog fresh and current…

Landscaping

You can save time and effort in the long run by planning the design of your blog carefully. Scope out what you want to achieve with it. Think about things like who your readers are likely to be, what they might want to see, and what will prove to be eye-catching and interesting to your potential audience. Just like a landscape designer, you need to keep the purpose of your blog in mind throughout the planning process. By establishing these simple elements from the outset, you can reduce time and effort later as your blog takes shape.

Planting seeds

Sprout

Just like gardening, blogging takes careful preparation. Ideas that you sow early on may take time to flourish and ‘take root’. Sowing seeds such as customer engagement, good communication and great service may seem fruitless initially, but these are the cornerstones of great blogging. The work you put in at the beginning will reap rewards in the end. Don’t forget these softer elements when it comes to running your blog.

Manage your time, manage your workload

Like a gardener has a diary, so you need a set routine to commit to blogging well. Think about the times of day you are most creative, and when you produce your best work. Keep this time separate, dedicated to your posts. From there, you can work out a schedule that suits you. For example, set down half an hour a day for posting comments to other sites, half an hour for networking and driving traffic to your blog, and half an hour for design and optimization. If you were working in a garden, you’d pick afternoons for easier tasks, and tackle the more onerous jobs first. Blogging is the same – you know your own work rhythm, and can work around this to make the most of your time.

Bring in the experts

The online world is full of brilliant people who know more than you do about specific parts of your new business. Just as a gardener outsources some elements of their work (such as bricklaying, design and architecture), so a blogger needn’t be afraid of leaning on other people.

If you’re not keen on writing, get a reputable person or company to undertake that part for you. If the thought of doing technical enhancements makes you run for cover, bring in an expert to do it for you. You’re not expected to be brilliant at everything in the blogging mix – so, be brilliant at delegating, instead!

Have you found anything that helps you to stay ahead of the competition, and use your time wisely? Let me know!

What Can Bloggers Learn From Amazon?

Amazon blows my mind. I buy almost everything through it, downloadable (DRM-free) music, ebooks on the Kindle, gifts and lots (and lots) of household items.

What really blew my mind was that when looking for batteries, there are nearly 1,000 reviews of a rechargeable AA battery. Yes, not nearly 100, but nearly 1,000 reviews! Of a battery. One you’ve probably never even heard of. These batteries to be precise.

Who would have thought that 10, 5 or even a couple of years ago that people, for no reward, would willing write a review of batteries for someone else’s website? Not me, probably not even Amazon.

My mind is boggled!

So what lessons can you learn from that? A few ideas:

  • People love to give their opinion.
  • Make it easy for people to leave their thoughts and comments (see my blog comment systems post).
  • Actively solicit opinions, and respond to them. Make them feel valued.
  • Being perceived as an expert is important to a lot of people. Check out the different battery tests people have written about in the battery reviews!
  • People can surprise you and do something you may have not thought they would.
  • Predicting the future based on what people do today is not the best idea.

What other lessons can be learned from this? Any ideas?

Blog Comment Tools For The Talkative Blogger

Blog comments are often described as the life-blood of a blog. After all, a discussion is half the point of having a blog and interacting with people is one of the most enjoyable parts (see my post on Why You Should Leave Blog Comments to read more about this part of commenting).

Blog Comment Systems

These systems essentially take over the whole commenting section of WordPress, replacing it with their own features and style. Often they can be a little tricky to get looking the way you want them but offer features and enhancements that you can’t get through the standard WordPress system.

Disqus

Disqus

Probably the best known and most widely used (including on this site) blog comments system, Disqus allows your readers to login to your site using Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, OpenID or just leave a comment the usual way. If they sign up for a Disqus account, the beauty is that they will be logged in to any website that uses Disqus. So it saves the pain of having to type your name, email and URL each time you comment on a new site, as your login details are carried over.

You can even set it to update the comments list in real-time, though I don’t have that feature at the moment.

I love how you can set it to auto-tweet out your comment with a link back, so people who are not part of the conversation can join in. It can also send to your Facebook updates, and you get email notifications when someone replies. I like how I can manage them like normal inside my WordPress dashboard, without going to another site (though it technically is loading an external site, it saves me going elsewhere). You can also customize it pretty easily if you know CSS.

That’s not to say it’s perfect. Some people have had problems with it loading correctly, often people can be confused by the new system, and I had problems of my own regarding email notifications when there was a system wide problem with Disqus.

Intense Debate

Intense Debate

Intense Debate is similar to Disqus but it is run by the folks who created WordPress. I used it for a short time but found that not many other sites used it. As it also allows you to be automatically logged in to other sites using the same system, like Disqus, I only found one other site I commented on that used Intense Debate. This massively negated the benefit of the system, and one Disqus has a big advantage with from the sheer number of sites using it.

It actually works very nicely and is easy-ish to customize and integrates very nicely with WordPress. But it won’t get more users until it has more users to make it worthwhile. If that makes sense.
[Just announced: Intense Debate users will be automatically logged in to comment on WordPress.com blogs. That’s one way to suddenly get logged into 10 million blogs…]

Echo

Echo

I actually had Echo (formerly called JS Kit Echo) installed for a while. At first I liked it and then I wrote a post about the ways I thought Echo could be improved. The system has many advantages, it pulls in blog comments and mentions from Twitter and Facebook (so do Disqus and Intense Debate), though it does this in real time without refreshing the page. You can include HTML, photos and even video in comments which is very nice, however it has some major flaws.

– Converting your old comments to the system is not quick, easy or perfect.
– You cannot manage them inside WordPress.
– You cannot edit them. Not even your own!
– You cannot separate trackbacks.
– You cannot have more than one level of threading.
– You cannot disable comments on an individual post or page.

These are hardly earth shattering features and most are ones already built into WordPress so it seems odd to take that functionality away. So it’s not recommended for the lack of basic features.

Overall
Disqus is my favorite choice and has some great improvements over the standard WordPress commenting system. However there are ways to “pimp” that system using plugins, that I’ll take a look at below.

Blog Comment Plugins

While the above are also plugins, they take over the whole commenting system of WordPress. If you’re using the in-built WordPress system then there are some plugins that will enhance your commentators experience. Akismet is the default anti-spam plugin that comes with WordPress, but below I’ll concentrate on functionality changes.

Action Comments

The first option in the image above is a great paid-for plugin called Action Comments (affiliate link so be wary of “upsell” offers on the page to try to bundle in other products you may not need). It’s pretty cheap and easy to install and set up. If the box is checked it will sign the person up for your email list (usually AWeber) and, if you have your list autoresponder set up, send them your free guide. This makes it easy for people to be added to your list, and provides a thank you to first time commentators.

Comment Luv

You may have seen the second item in the above image on many sites, where a Comment Luv check box and logo appears. It will automatically display the latest post from the URL you enter in the Website field of the comment form for other readers to see and potentially click on. There are even versions for Intense Debate and Echo (but not Disqus as far as I could tell).

Subscribe to Comments

One of the best plugins ever, Subscribe to Comments adds a checkbox underneath the comment box that allows the commentator to get emails when new comments are added (the bottom box on the above image). Bear in mind that if you’re logged in to your blog as the admin, you will not see this checkbox on your single post pages, more likely a message saying “You are the author of this entry. Manage Subscriptions”. Brilliant and indispensable.

Do Follow

If you want commentators to receive a backlink from your site as a thank you for leaving a comment, then the Sem DoFollow plugin will remove the default NoFollow attribute applied to links in comments. This may increase the number of messages you get, but also possibly increase the number of spam messages you get too as people comment only in order to gain a backlink.

AJAX Comments

If you feel your visitors will benefit from previewing their comment before submitting, then AJAX Comments Preview is a nice way of doing it without reloading the page. There is also AJAX Edit Comments, that goes even further, adding lots of inline editing options, but the latest version is paid-for.

Comment Timeout

One way of preventing spam on older posts is to close comments after a certain amount of time. Comment Timeout allows you to close them on old posts, but keep them open if they have had recently approved comments and are still popular with readers.

Extended Comment Options

If you feel you need more options for comments, such as editing settings for posts in bulk or automating closure of comments (similar to Comment Timeout), then try Extended Comment Options. It may not work on the latest version of WordPress. It did for me when testing but it’s not officially compatible yet.

Comment Rating

If you would like your readers to rate comments and help moderate them by flagging inappropriate messages, then Comment Rating allows you to allow them to do just that.

Simple CAPTCHA

Some people like to add a CAPTCHA verification form to the bottom of their comments form if they’re having trouble with spam that other plugins aren’t catching. The Simple CAPTCHA plugin easily adds one of these to your site, though beware, it could put people off from commenting. Again, it worked for me when testing but is not officially working for the latest WordPress version.

Blog Comment Hacks

Sometimes plugins aren’t enough, and you need to get dirty with the code to make the comments do what you would like. Don’t worry though, some of these are much easier than you would think!

Change Your Blog Comment Wording

Are you sick of seeing “0 Comments” and want to change it to be something more encouraging? Then follow my guide to changing default WordPress comment wording.

php code

Threaded Comments

Previously a plugin, now it is built in to WordPress (check it’s enabled under Settings > Discussion). Some themes still don’t support this, but you can easily add it with some know how. Kim has a great guide for how to add threaded comments to a theme here.

Change Author Comment Appearance

Often bloggers want to change how their own comments appear on their own blog so they stand out and can be noticed easily. This is now very simple in WordPress, just add a new CSS class and color for the author style. See this short guide on highlighting author comments.

Separate Comments and Trackbacks

I don’t like those nice trackbacks appearing as if they were a normal comment. To separate simply follow this guide to separating trackbacks from comments. Not for those who feel faint when viewing code, but it’s very easy.

Should I bother changing my blog comments?

It’s entirely up to you of course. Check our other people’s blogs, see what they do and see if you like it. Read Antti’s great post on how to get more blog comments and discussion, and then decide if you need to do something that makes it better and easier for you and your readers to get to know each other.

Have I missed any systems? Any other great blog plugins you know of? Are there any other useful hacks I haven’t mentioned?

SEO Plugin for WordPress – A Look At ScribeSEO

There’s a new SEO plugin for WordPress called ScribeSEO by Brian Clark from Copyblogger. There are still a few bugs but looks like it could be brilliant and is already very useful. A free trial is available as the plugin is based on the number of times you use it, and at the moment you can get the first ten uses for free.

If you want more info on the factors that go into search rankings, take a look at the search engine ranking factors for 2009 from SEOmoz. I bet you’ll be surprised with what you read on there, and how little actual page content is thought to have to do with it.

Get the free trial from ScribeSEO and take it for a test run. It attempts to make SEO copywriting much more simple than it is now, and while you still need to pay attention to creating good headlines and interesting content, it may help with the final optimization steps that you’ve been missing.