Wednesday, December 31, 2003

RSS Can Help You to Reach New Users

Continuing the RSS theme, here is one more use for RSS that can benefit your blog. One of the best ways to increase link popularity and reach as many surfers as possible, is to register your blog on as many directories as possible. There are some search engines and directories that only accept RSS feeds. There are also sites that aggregate RSS feeds to create a News or Buzz site. Once your RSS feed is set up, you can submit the URL to these sites to help increase visibility amongst surfers. Unless the URL for your RSS feed contains your blog domain name (if you used blogstreet or another site to create your RSS feed, then it won't include this), it won't help your page rank in Google, but it puts your RSS feed in front of more eyeballs and thus help boost traffic. Here are some RSS search engines and aggregated sites you can submit to:

All Headline News
RDF Ticker
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Newsletters vs RSS

I have advocated RSS in my last posts, however newsletters are still worth looking into. Not everyone has an RSS reader or even knows what this is. Until mainstream applications like MS Outlook support RSS, it will still be smaller than email. Newsletters still have their uses, even though you run the risk of being treated as spam or ignored. You could set up a periodical email with links to your key posts, or much more effectively, you could create an email discussion list to generate debates around the topic of your blog - this can provide you with items to mention in your main blog as well. The easiest way to set up a newsletter or discussion list is to create a group in Yahoo! This will cost you nothing and you don't have to maintain subscriptions yourself. Sending a mail to the list is simple, just send it to the group's email address and its done - hey presto you have a newsletter or discussion forum!
Once the mailing list gets bigger and bigger you should look at options to manage your own list, which you can then use to create content on your site by publishing the archives.

More on RSS - the flipside of the coin

RSS can be used in another way that helps your blog. RSS Feeds can be used to automatically add content to your site. If you have a blog or news site that you feel is relevant to your own blog, then you can have thier headlines added to your blog. This can also be used to have other bloggers post to your blog if you have a multi-user blog and users have their own blog as well - it saves them time by not having to cut and paste their posts from their own blog. You can use the RSS Panel feature on Blogstreet to create an RSS generated section on your page.

RSS - How it can Help your Blog

RSS feeds can be beneficial to your blog. What is RSS? RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is a method pioneered by to deliver news headlines to it's portal. If a site has an RSS feed, any user with an RSS Reader can subscribe to that feed. The feed then delivers headlines and short excerpts of each article posted on that website with a direct link to the article to read more. Many news sites offer RSS feeds. News sites have found this useful as there is no schedule to follow - you report on news as it happens. Thus users do not need to browse the site periodically for new stories, instead they are alerted to them as they are published. Because the user is using a special tool to read the updates, then it is not clogging up their mailbox or distracting them from other tasks - the user is in the mindset of wanting to read new posts or articles. Apply this to Blogs which are often updated on an ad-hoc basis, it prevents users from visiting your blog several times only to discover there are no new posts - chances are that they won't return to your site, and you have lost a user. Even the most dilligent of bloggers that post on a daily basis will have some kind of hiatus - illness, vacation, birth of a new child, etc. Thus RSS Feeds are a great benefit to bloggers. If you want to see how RSS works, try installing this free RSS reader and subscribe to Yahoo's RSS Feed for its news channel. If you want to subscribe to other sites, look out for small buttons labeled "xml" or "rss" - it's a good idea to use a similar design on your own blog.

If your next question is "sounds great - how do I create an RSS feed for my blog?", then read on:
Chek if your blog service offers RSS feeds, if so, then they should have a guide to explain how to create one. Once it is set up, it is automatically populated each time you create a new post. Unfortunately some blog platforms do not offer RSS feeds, including the platform this blog is hosted on, blogger. Don't worry if this is the case for you - Blogstreet offers a service that generates the code for an RSS feed - however you need to manually update this feed yourself each time you publish a new post.
If this is too much work for you, there are services that send an email each time you post to subscribers, unfortunately these do not give the subscriber any info about your posts. A couple to check out are: Blogarithm and Botablog. These do not require any setting up on the blogger's end and users are free to use any email update service for any blog, however you may want to put a link to such a service on your blog. I think RSS is more effective than email updates as it wont get lost in a sea of other messages, and provides a taste of the content so users only visit if they are really interested.
Monday, December 29, 2003

Weblog vs Newsletter

The traditional method of providing fresh content and building relationships with users of one's website was newsletters. Why choose a blog over a newsletter? Ripples blog offers some good reasons for using a blog over newsletters. The conclusion is that newsletters are "push" technology and web-logs are "pull". He believes that weblogs are essentially less intrusive and can offer some mini-immortality for articles as users can read them when they want. Newsletters will only live as long as they stay in the recipient's mailbox. Think about - how many times have you deleted newsletters simply because you don't have the time to read them due to having too much other personal email? Your chance to read that story is gone, but with a weblog you can discover it any time. If readers want to have your articles posted to them, you can provide this using RSS feeds - these will not be construed as spam. My next post will cover the topic of RSS feeds on weblogs.

Make a Blog for your Affiliate Site

Following on from the last topic of adding affiliate links to your blog, owners of affiliate sites (sites primarily promoting affiliate partnerships with select companies) can get significant help from creating a complimentary web-log. There are thousands of shopping sites, and just as many affiliate sites, so getting noticed amongst the crowd can be very hard. However, if you set up a blog which you can use to mention the products you are pushing for affiliate partners, you can find your search results dramatically improving on Google and other search engines. Good use of keywords can get your site more highly ranked for products you are promoting, and search engines like site that are regularly updated. Adding fresh content can bring users back to your site and it doesn't require much work. Due to the interlinked nature of blogs, your page rank will increase and thus improve your search ranking on Google. Following the same steps as below, building reciprocal links will help improve your Page Rank - the fact that your blog is linked to your main affiliate site will have a knoc-on effect tand improve rankings for these pages. So, if you have an affiliate site and are disappointed with your traffic, give it a go - it won't cost much and wont take up much time.
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Make money from your Blog pt2 - Affiliate Links

Apart from random advertising, there is another way to make money from your blog using partners: affiliate links. The Ad Networks described in my last post will normally pay for clicks - when a user clicks on the banner you get a few cents. With affiliate links you are paid by your partner when the user makes a purchase. This may sound like a worse idea than regular ads, but you can find some very relevant affiliate links, with advertising you cannot control the content of the ad or product supplied. For example, almost every blog will have some books covering similar subject matter. Amazon will pay you a percentage of what the user purchases when transferred from your blog - you can just put their logo on your site for users to click on but you can also put a direct link to books specific to your subject matter. Similarly you could put links to specific CDs, DVDs, Videos or anything else on their site. If your site mentions any media, then you can put hyperlinks in your posts to their product pages on Amazon too. A good example is this post here on the Booklinker blog.
I have used Amazon as an example, but they are not the only ones, here are some others you can also use, including Amazon:

Amazon Associates Program
Ebay Affiliate Program - offers payments for new registrations and bids
BOL Partnership Programme - note that BOL has no US site.
Barnes & Affiliate Network affiliate Connection - US site only
Best Buy affiliate Program - US site only
BlackStar - UK site only
Quelle - Germany site only

Apart from those mentioned as being based in just one market, there may also be programs for your country too, so it's worth checking out the local site. The list above is just a starter and these are retailers of a wide range of media and goods. There are many specific affiliate programs, even one that pays commissions when you refer users to a service that helps retrieve their FBI files! Simply search on Google for affiliate programs and you will find many directories pointing you to more specialized programs.
Monday, December 22, 2003

Even Santa Claus has a Blog Now

This will be my last post before Xmas; so merry Christmas to all, and if you need a blog fix why not see what Santa is up to.
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Make money from your Blog

If you have been following the steps in my previous posts on boosting link popularity and are now satisfied with your page rank (6/10 is a good target) and traffic, you can start trying to make money form your site. Please don't expect to make fortunes, but it could supply enough to pay for your phone bills. There are two ways to make money from your site, and both involve nothing more than referring your users to someone else's site.

Firstly, you can have advertising on your site. I suggest not using one of the banner exchanges as these will take up a lot of real estate on your page and will add up to 20Kb extra filesize to your pages making it slower to load. Instead use only suppliers of text based advertising. Of these there are two types: contextual and standard. The Contextual advertising networks will parse your page for keywords and deliver ads that are relevant to the content of your page (an example is at the top of this page) - there are two main suppliers of this service: Google AdSense and Overture ContentMatch. Both of these are very selective about which sites can be included in their network, so you may not be approved to enter their program. If you are using the free version of blogger, then you will not be able to enter Google's program as they already run these ads on your site, but you don't make any money from this. Users of Blogger can pay to have these ads removed.
If your site isn't up to scratch for Google or Overture, all is not lost you can sign up to one of the many standard advertising networks, although these ads will not be so finely targeted. You can also sign up to other Contextual Ad Networks, but most of these will not pay you money instead they just give you credits to buy advertising for your own site on the network. There is a new network targeted to bloggers which you may like to check out but as it is just starting out I cannot say how successful it may be. The service is called and this will pay you you real $$$.
Standard Advertising - there are many networks to sign up to here, but most will either only work with larger portals or not pay you money. These are mostly banner networks and as I already mentioned will only be a hindrance to your site. I do not suggest you pursue entry to one of these networks. Instead look for ad networks that use only text ads. Again these are largely represented by networks that do not pay you money, however by and large you can advertise on these sites regardless of the performance of the ads on your site - these are good for driving traffic to your site so are worth looking at to acheive that goal. Make sure the networks you sign up to have an approval process as you may end up with nothing but links to porn sites on your blog. Two unpaid networks I recommend are: Site Mojo and Blogsnob. Of those that pay you $$$ I do not know which ones to recommend, its best to look around and try a few - supplies a service and would be a good starting point, as well as Blogads which caters specifically for blog owners.

The second method of driving revenue from your site is using Affiliate links. My next post will cover this topic.
Monday, December 08, 2003

Using the power of blogs to get close to customers

Here is a good article from newmediazero on the business benefits of using a blog. In particular it highlights the way a blog can help enrich customer relationships.