Monday, November 28, 2011

Blog Posts vs. Blog Pages

As you explore your blog's dashboard, you've probably noticed the option to make "pages."  If you're new to blogging, I feel it's important to understand the difference between a "post" and a "page" and what they can each be used for.

A blog by nature is not a static site.  In other words, it's designed to constantly change have fresh content.  When you open up any blog the first thing you come across is the text column on the home page.  The blog home page is what features your blog posts.  Usually the posts are displayed chronologically with the newest post being at the very top.

Which leads us to blog pages.  All blogs have one default page: the home page.  But you do have the option to add more pages.  A "page" is static content.  So a good example of a page you might want to have is an "about this blog" page.  If you add an "about" page, it will add a permanent tab for people to click on your blog.

Pages are an extremely useful tool.  Having pages such as an "about" will allow any new visitors to instantly see a summary of what you generally blog about and why.  This helps to reduce confusion if your home page happens a few posts up that are seemingly unconnected.

Pages are also a good way to answer questions you are frequently asked.  For example, if you run a book review blog, the submission guidelines would be a really good page to have.  That way you don't have to tell every person that emails you what they are.

While pages are extremely useful, I recommend being extremely selective when adding them.  I've seen blogs with 10 or more pages to click on and, personally, I find this to be a bit overwhelming.  Most of the focus should be on the posts on your home page.  The pages are just there as a tool.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Posting on Forums

Online chat forums are a great way to help attract attention to your blog.  However, in order for this to be effective, you have to be prepared to make a long-term commitment.

The first instinct for a lot of new bloggers is to think "Hey! I have this great new book review blog!  I'm going to sign up for every single book/reading forum and post my link!  Then everyone will click on the link and I'll have the most popular blog ever!"  Save yourself some effort:  don't do this.  For several reasons:

1.  You are not the first person to think this.  It's been done before.  When it's done in excess it's called spam.

2.  Even if you have good intentions, your post will be written off as spam since the veteran forum members will only register that you're a brand new poster and trying to make a sales pitch.  They'll ignore you.

3.  In doing this, you risk alienating people and you lose the true, long-term (and much more valuable) benefits of posting on forums.

Ok, so let's get into those long-term benefits.

The first step is to find forums that interest you.  Don't feel like you have to join forums that are directly related to your blog.  What makes online forums fun is that they attract people that share a single interest but those same people also have other interests.  It's how you learn.

Once you sign up for a forum or two that looks like you could actively participate in, it's important that you set up your profile and signature.  Your profile is what people on the forum see when they click on your name.  Most forums give you the option to list your name and a website.  This is a really good opportunity to post the link to your blog.  The signature (not every forum allows them) appears underneath every single forum post that you make.  This is an even better way to share you blog link.  The profile and the signature will do the sales-pitch for you.  That's the beauty of forums.

The final step is just to interact with the other forum members actively.  That means you need to post at least once a day.  You have to make a concerted initial effort to become a regular member on the forum.

Why put all this work into a forum?

1.  Once you become a regular member, people will be more open to you sharing links to your blog.  They know you're not just a one-hit spammer and could be interested enough in you to see what your blog has to say.

2.  As you become online friends with the other members, there is a really, really good chance that they will start to recommend your blog to other people; especially if your blog targets a niche audience.  Word of mouth recommendations are everything if you're a blogger.

So go out there and get social!

Monday, November 14, 2011

What Are Backlinks?

As a blogger, backlinks are a really important concept to understand.  A backlink is anytime someone posts a link to your blog somewhere else online.  So if someone sees your blog, likes what they see, and then copy/pastes the link in an email or forum that's a backlink.

Why is this important?  Backlinks play a big part in how search engines (especially Google) rank your blog.  The logic is that your site must have some decent content in order to make someone post the link and then, in turn, make someone else want to click on the link.  The internet is not perfect.  But the backlinks work better than just judging a site by the number of clicks that it has (easily faked).

This is partially why it takes so long for a blog to get steady traffic because you are literally just waiting for a healthy number of backlinks.  Consistently posting high quality, engaging content is the best way to ensure backlinks.  

Basically, you want one of your blogs to become one of those email forwards that everyone passes around.  This doesn't mean spam people.  It means you should make content that people would want to share with others.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pinging Your Blog

"Pinging" your blog basically means that you have notified blog search engines that your blog has new content.  Most how-to blogs will recommend this as a good way to get traffic.  I have mixed feelings about pinging.

In order to ping your blog, I would recommend using a pinging service.  Ping-o-Matic is a good one. All the available ping sites pretty much do the same thing and recommend your blog to the same list of blog search engines.  You type in your blog's name and web address and then check off which places you would like to ping (or "notify").

In theory, you could ping as much as you want.  But it would be a waste of time.  It won't generate that much more traffic for you.  Only ping when you have fresh content up on your blog.

Pinging does "work" in that it generates views for your blog.  There's no question there.  If you've had a blog for a few months and then you start to ping, you'll notice a traffic spike minutes later.  While this is very exciting to see the first time you do it, most of the traffic is not good traffic.

Every time I ping I look at the referring site addresses sending traffic to my blog and it will usually be some spam site.  Which tells me that hundreds of views I just got weren't really humans interested in reading my content and were probably just some automated data mining computer software.  So the views are totally meaningless.

What pinging has helped with is keywords.  After I started pinging, I noticed that places like Google have been picking up more and more on the keywords in my blog post rather than just what's in the title.

So, ping if you will.  But I don't feel it's really crucial.  Back in the early days of the internet I think it was much more effective which is probably why the pinging advice persists.  These days there are just too many automated spam sites in place.