Monday, December 3, 2012

Slow Load Time = Less Readers

Blogs with slow loading times are a pet peeve of mine but with good reason.  First, consider why people read blogs: they want to be momentarily entertained/informed by someone's opinion.  This means that the most important content is the blog post itself.  Everything else is extra.

Slow loading times happen when there is an excess of widgets/gadgets on the blog.  Honestly, I'm not going to be looking at someone's tag cloud or scroll through all the latest movies they've seen and then later play a cute mini fish game while reading about their latest posts on Twitter.  I want to read the friggin' blog.  All the extra stuff looks fun but it is preventing readers from reading the content that could make them come back for more.

When adjusting the layout of your blog, always keep in mind the reader, not you.  Your blog should load quickly and the main content should be easy to find and prominent.  Any extra features added should only be there to help the reader more easily navigate or follow your blog.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Contact Information Should Be Easy to Find

This is such a no-brainer but is so easily overlooked.  If you would like or even think you would like for people to contact you, make your contact information easy to find.  This means that it should not go at the bottom of your blog after scrolling for three minutes through old posts.  Your contact information should be a separate, prominent page at the top of your blog or in an easy-to-see area in your sidebar.

Do keep in mind that a blog is public and on the internet.  I would not recommend adding any information that would not be comfortable having the entire world know.  I usually just add my email and then go from there once people contact me.

While privacy issues are a concern, having your contact information available makes you appear approachable and friendly.  It's also a good way to stay on top of blogging opportunities such as exchanging guest blogs with those that write about similar topics.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Using Google Adwords to Find Keywords

Monday, September 3, 2012

Make Your Blog Posts Skim Friendly

Always keep in mind that when blogging you are writing for an online audience.  This is different from the curl-up-with-a-good-book audience.  Your online audience is going to have a shorter attention span as they are looking for entertainment to pass a few minutes rather than a few hours.

Your blog will eventually attract regular readers.  But you have to create posts that could appeal to the casual passerby.  Therefore, it is important that your blog is skim friendly.  A reader should be able to get the gist of your post after one quick read-through.

This means that the post should have one main point, contains smaller paragraphs and you should italicize or boldface the really important points.  Your post should also jump straight into your topic; avoid long, flowery introductions.  If your topic is interesting, people will want to keep reading. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Blog Posts Should be Easy to Read

Part of what makes a blog easy to read is the actual writing style.  You're writing a blog, not an essay.  In terms of actual content, you should aim for one main point per post.

But another facet to this is actually how your blog post looks.  Having large paragraphs with no breaks is visually daunting for most people for two reasons:

1) It makes your blog post look more intellectually intensive.  Like reading a textbook.  Sad as it is, people don't want this in a blog.  They want fast, easy and entertaining or they are going to move on to another site.

2)  Reading large paragraphs is actually more difficult on a computer screen.  It's not the same as a book.  Computer screens have what's called a "refresh rate."  This means that it's not a still image but rather a series of super fast images that are constantly changing.  Therefore, it makes it much easier for the eyes to lose track of where they were.

So make a point of going through your post before your publish.  If you notice large paragraphs of text, add some breaks.  It's such an easy fix and it makes a huge difference for your blog readers.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pay Attention to Your Writing

Attention to things like grammar and spelling are a crucial part to having a successful blog.  By its very nature, a blog is going to be less formal than, say, a magazine or newspaper.  The blog author is totally free to change point of view or type of content offered.

But do put effort into making sure that each piece you write looks professional.  Havi g thgs lk dis may look gr8t in a txt but are annoying in a blog post.  Don't use text abbreviations or tons of slang.  Make a point to go back and read through every post to check for spelling errors.

If you want people to take your blog content seriously, you must show that you care about your work.  Remember that your most popular posts are not always going to be the most recent ones.  Often times it will be the posts that have been around for awhile and have had time to filter into the internet.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Make Your Posts Shareable

Many free blog hosts have sharing options as a default setting.  By "sharing options" I mean quick buttons that allow readers to tweet or email or share your post on Facebook.  If your blog host doesn't have these automatically added as a default, make a point of doing so.  Usually these buttons can be added in your blog's layout settings.

Even if you don't use Twitter or Facebook, it is extremely important to make your blog shareable if you wish to generate more traffic.  Don't make your readers work more than they have to in order to share your blog with their friends.  

This type of word of mouth advertising is one of the most effective methods of spreading your blog around.  Again, we go back to how you would react to things.  Are you more likely to click on an ad link or a link your friend shared with you?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

It's a Blog, Not an Essay

Believe it or not, a pitfall many bloggers succumb to is trying to write "an essay."  Paragraphs and paragraphs of well thought out content will be presented before the readers.

"Why not?" you may ask.  "Shouldn't good writing have a solid beginning, middle and end?"

Well, if you were exploring a thesis topic, yes.  But this is a blog.  On the internet.  Your readers are generally going to be people who want light reading that entertains them for a few minutes.  They are not a professor you are trying to impress for a good grade.

Most readers only want a few simple paragraphs.  They want a single point rather than a fully expressed idea.  Ideas can have many facets to them and will, therefore, lead to more content.  While it's not taboo to delve into complex ideas, break things up into multiple posts rather than trying to cram it all together in one post.

The length of your blogs will, of course, vary depending on the topic.  Just remember to think about how you would react to your blog post if you came across it on the internet.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Grab Your Reader's Attention

Your blog post is not a novel.  You have one, maybe two, sentences to grab a reader's attention.

A blog reader is not in it for the long haul.  They don't want a clearly developed thesis that is developed from approaching the topic from multiple angles.  They want one point.  One interesting point.

If you want to develop that point, use multiple blog posts.  But pretty much everything you want to say should be covered in the first two sentences.  You want to pull them in and get them to read the rest of the post.

The internet is not the same thing as a newspaper or book.  It's extremely fast paced and subjects change with the click of a button.  So catering to that type of audience does not diminish your skill as a writer.  It's merely accepting who will be reading your blog and what type of mood they are in.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Your Reader's First Impression... your post title.

I've talked before about choosing keyword savvy titles.  Keyword oriented titles are important for search engine purposes.  They help people to find your blog on the internet.

But it's also important to keep those readers once they do find your blog.  Your blog title is your reader's first impression.  Much of what makes someone decide to continue reading is how a title is phrased.  Think of newspaper headlines; which article would you rather read?

Man buried himself alive!


An interesting thing that someone did.

Regardless of content, you are automatically going to be attracted to the more interesting title.  So, yes, this takes practice.  But the title of each post is incredibly important.  Make an effort to include one or two keywords.  Then work with rearranging them in a way that would make you want to click on your article.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Google AdSense for Blogs: Is it worthwhile?

Let's first start out with what Google AdSense is...

Google AdSense is Google's way of giving blog authors the opportunity to make money on their blog.  Essentially, you put advertisements up on your blog and when people click on the advertisement, you get a small percentage of the money Google made from that one click.

There are many types of similar services out there if you want to make advertising money but AdSense is definitely one of the larger ones.  It's also one of the most user-friendly ones because Google does most of the work for you.  You decide which spaces you want to allot to advertising and then Google will scan the content of your site to place applicable ads.  So if you have a car blog, you will probably see a lot of car-related ads.

What's the other shoe, right?

The most obvious thing is that you have to have advertisements on your blog.  You can choose how many and where these advertisements are placed.  However, if you totally coat your blog with "flashing neon" it might be a turn off for readers.

But does it generate money?  Yes and no.  I have AdSense on most of my blogs and I get the occasional click here and there which amounts to a few cents to a couple of dollars a month.  But all of my blogs tend to be very niche.  So compared to, say, a gossip blog that follows Snooki's latest scandals, I'm going to have much lower traffic overall.

At the risk of sounding like a Debbie Downer, I feel like the age where you could make hundreds of thousands of dollars from blog ads has come and gone.  The ads have actually become better and more targeted.  But that just can't keep up with the fact that most of the USA's population has become internet savvy.  Going back to my go-to reality check: when was the last time I ever clicked on an ad to find something?

Monday, March 5, 2012

How To Get Blog Traffic: Backlinks

I've already gone over before what a backlink is.  So the focus of this post will be how to help increase the number of backlinks which will, in turn, increase your blog traffic.

So, bad news first: there is no quick and easy way to make your blog instantly popular.  It takes work and, unfortunately, time.  The top blogs in any category are  usually several years old and have accumulated a following from natural growth.

But there are ways to "plant the seed" as it were.  The first thing you should try is emailing the link for your blog to close family and friends.  Don't pester them.  But it is totally reasonable to announce to people you know "hey, I started a blog."  The key here is to email the link.  If you tell people, they will probably forget.  But an email can be sent around.

The second thing to do is communicate with other bloggers in your genre.  If you write about food, check out other food blogs.  If you blog about computers games, check out gaming blogs.  See if any of these bloggers/sites have areas where they list other websites.  Those are the lists you need to be on.  Even if the link never gets clicked on, it's important your link got listed somewhere else online.

Twitter and Facebook are also good tools.  Oddly enough, a link on either of those mediums doesn't count as a backlink.  But you can have people find your blog through those mediums and, in turn, possibly post the backlink somewhere else.

Online forums are also an extremely effective tool.  If you become a regular forum member, you will have numerous opportunities to share blog links.  Additionally, if people like you on the forum, they will be inclined to share your blog link all all the forums they visit.

Again, all of these suggestions are merely seeds you can plant.  True blog audience growth will only happen with time.

Monday, February 27, 2012

How To Get Blog Traffic: Using Twitter wisely

Twitter is perhaps one of the most effective tools a blogger can have if used correctly.  "If" being the operative word here.

To start: how is Twitter different from all those other social platforms?  Why not just have Facebook?  Someone once explained the difference to me and I feel it's  quite apt: Facebook is for keeping track of people you know but don't really want to talk to.  Twitter is for talking to people you really should know.

On Twitter it's not taboo at all to start up a conversation with a total stranger.  In fact, you quickly will gain a following if you do do that.  That's the entire purpose of Twitter.

What Twitter is not good for is selling stuff.  Those who go on there and do nothing but try and hawk stuff on others will quickly get ignored.  It may have worked in early Twitter days... but not anymore.

But Twitter can be used to share blog links.  It's one of the best ways to initially get random people to check out your blog since the entire idea of Twitter is "random encounters."

Use Twitter as a person.  Make a point to interact with others.  People often appreciate it when someone takes the time to reply to their "tweet."  Then when you have a new blog post, announce the title of the post and share the link.  If people you have talked to in the past have found you interesting, there's a really good chance that they will click on the blog link out of curiosity.

How is that not hawking stuff?  There's a thin line.  But really it comes down to the fact that you're not selling anything.  A blog is, essentially, an opinion column.  So it gives those that have found your opinions interesting a chance to further explore "you."

Monday, February 20, 2012

What Are Keywords?

Keywords are an important concept to understand as a blogger.  If used appropriately in your blog title and blog content, they can have a huge impact in the type of readers you are attracting.

A keyword is any term that is directly related to the subject you are talking about.  So as an example:

Subject - Board Games

Keywords - board games, monopoly, monopoly strategy, monopoly rules, how to play monopoly, where to buy monopoly, board game blog

Words that are not keywords - rules, strategy, how to play, playing, Alain's blog

 Now this is a very basic example.  But notice how the keywords are both specific but at the same time broad enough that someone might type it in on the internet.  The words that are not keywords are broad.  "rules" or "strategy" could apply to anything in life that has either/or.  Also, no one will type in my name plus blog unless they already know my blog exists.

There is a chance if you blog becomes popular enough that if someone were to type in a broad term, your blog could come up as relavant.  However, there's no guarantee that the person will click on your blog.  And there's an even slimmer chance that they will become a blog regular.

You have to think about what the purpose of your blog is.  What interests should the ideal reader have?  Title each and every post with this in mind.  It also doesn't hurt to have some keywords in your actual content.

You want to make it so when someone types in one of these keywords online, your blog is the one that pops up as the most relavant site.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Blog Themes

Blog themes are the "skin" or visual style to your blog.  When you change your blog's theme it generally does not change any of your blog's functions.  You still have your basic posts, pages and widgets.  Usually a theme package will change the way your header, footer and font colors look.  Again, it changes the way they look not the way they function.

Most blog hosts will have a variety of standard theme you can choose from.  You can also search on the internet for free or paid themes if you want to get fancier.  Be sure you to check if the third party source is credible.  You don't want to permanently mess up your blog by adding a virus-ridden theme.

Monday, February 6, 2012

How to Find and Upload RSS/Atom Feed on Blogger

Another short tutorial video that I made about how to find and upload your RSS/Atom feed.  Very important to know if you want to share your blog on other sites.

Monday, January 30, 2012

How to Add Gadgets/Widgets to Blogger

The latest tutorial video.  I've included instructions on how to add html gadgets.  It sounds more complex than it is!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Blog Footer

The blog footer is way down at the bottom of your blog and should not be confused with the area below each blog post.  The blog footer is below your main text column.  So if you're on the home page, you have to scroll all the way down through all the latest blog posts to see the footer.

The footer can be customized.  How much it can be customized depends on what type of blogging platform you are using.  Essentially, you can put anything in the footer that you can put in the sidebars or header.

I have several blogs and I almost never use my footer area.  The primary reason being visibility.  Not many people are going to scroll all the way down and then take a peek at whatever widget you have down there.  So any important widget (following the blog, blog stats, etc...) should go in the bar if you actually want people to see it.

The second reason why I don't use the footer area is because I find it distracting.  Depending on how long the post is, the footer may be somewhat visible if the reader has clicked on an individual post title to read.  In other words, they are not looking at a single post and not your entire text column.  To me, it's overwhelming to have lots of content in the header, lots of content in the sidebar and lots of content in the footer.  I want the focus to always be on the blog post itself.

I'm not saying you shouldn't use the blog footer.  I'm just listing off reasons for why I don't use that space.  Depending on the type of blog you are writing, you have have a really good need for using that lower area.  Just remember to keep things clean and focused. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Kindle Publishing for Blogs

Amazon has a little heard of feature called Kindle Publishing for Blogs.  You can check out the site here.  When you first click on the site it says that you can only view it using certain internet browsers.  It's a lie.  I have used several "non-supported" browsers to access it and it works perfectly.

Here's how it works in a nutshell:

You upload your blog's RSS feed to Amazon.  People can then subscribe to your blog through Amazon by paying a monthly fee decided by Amazon (usually between $.99-2.99).  The idea is that they could read your blog on their Kindle device rather than on the computer.  You get a percentage of the monthly fee paid.

The reality?  This idea sounds nice on paper.  But why pay money for something you can read for free?  3 of my 5 blogs are "published" on Amazon and I've only ever had one subscriber that lasted for a few months.  With most Kindle devices having internet connections and most blogs offering an email option, there's really no reason to be paying money for a blog subscription.

I keep my three blogs up on Amazon just for the heck of it.  I figure it can't hurt and if nothing else it could maybe redirect a potential new reader to my actual blog site.

Monday, January 9, 2012

What is an RSS Feed?

RSS feed is a term you will come across constantly as a blogger.  It's an extremely important concept to understand if you wish to expand your blog's audience.

RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication.  Don't ask why it's the term used.  What's important is what it's used for.  Basically, your blog generates a feed when you publish your content.  Think of it like a magazine.  One blog post is a single issue of a magazine.

The RSS feed is how people can subscribe to your blog.  By subscribing to your blog's feed, they are telling the blog to send posts ("issues") to them on a regular basis.  The most common methods of receiving a subscription are through email (the blog sends the post as an email) or through an RSS reader (a program that can read RSS feeds).

So why is this useful?

First of all, it's very convenient for readers.  Ideally, you want 100% of your readers to read 100% of your blog posts.  Unless a blog is part of a person's usual internet browsing routine, it's easy to forget to check back on a regular basis.  Having a blog post sent to an email increases the likelihood that it will be read.

The other big reason is that it helps you, the blog author, to expand your audience potential.  Many places such as (but certainly not limited to) Facebook allow you to upload your blog's RSS feed.  This means that people could view your posts on Facebook.  You use the more popular site's broader appeal to help attract attention to your blog.

But before you go upload your blog everywhere do keep something in mind:

If you upload your RSS feed to every site you come across it means that people are reading the post on the third party site and not your blog.  The number of people you actually have visiting your blog greatly affects your SEO.

So to sum up: find the careful balance between attracting new readers but at the same time keeping people on your blog.

Monday, January 2, 2012