Friday, January 30, 2004

What if Google didn't like Blogs?

Google likes Blogs. Blogs do well in Search Results Listings on Google. This is because Blogs contain fresh content and are richly interlinked, despite their relatively small audiences. Some would go so far as to say that Google over-represents Blogs. I personally don't think Google over-represents blogs, blogs just happen to adhere to the formula for a popular webpage. Regardless, Blogs are a great way to increase search rankings for your site on Google, and thus Google is a great tool for increasing the reach and visibility of your blog.

What if Google didn't like Blogs?

Imagine if Google gave less weight to blogs. They could tweak their algorithms to place less importance on content found in blogs as a reflection of their small audiences. They could even relegate blogs to a separate search engine option, like they have done with newsgroups.
If Google did not give such favorable results to blogs would they still be useful commercial tools?

Yes, they would still be useful tools. Blogs would still accrue traffic from other blogs, and as many blog readers go from blog to blog via links your blog will still benefit from the grapevine marketing effect that blogs have. Blogs can also give surfers reasons to visit your site other than an interest in your products. If you were to write a blog that provided a commentary on your industry, you will attract other surfers and your image will also be boosted in the resulting perception that you are an expert in your field. Your blog also gives you a method for improving customer communications - take the Macromedia example, where the corporation actively encourages employees to blog about their products so they can help customers out with any queries they may have. Another advantage is that Blogs allow you to add regularly updated content to an otherwise static site. If you have a fairly static site you would be foolish to invest in a costly Content Management System (CMS). The available CMSs for blogs are all relatively inexpensive and provide a polished layout for your content with minimal maintenance.

In conclusion, there are many reasons other than increased visibility in Google Search Results that a blog can benefit your business. Google is highly unlikely to add any handicaps to blogs in their algorithms. If they did it is likely results on Google will just be full of commercial websites, devaluing Google as a useful research tool. This is how Search Engines looked before Google came along and revolutionized the way Search Engines function. Google will continue to be a strong provider of traffic to your blog, however just doing well in results will not get users to your site. Google provides a small taste of your blog in the results listing - if this doesn't taste good to the web surfer then they won't come to your site at all. You need to make sure that you write good meaningful and original content with quality headlines or titles.
Thursday, January 29, 2004

Can your Blog Posts become a Valued Commodity?

Many mainstream websites are feeling the pinch from a depressed advertising market, and are looking to diversify their revenue streams. Many sites are turning to the paid access model. It has been often predicted that blogs could turn to such a model as a means of making money.

This doesn't work for Blogs.

The Blog format is not yet a mainstream publishing model, and is mostly used a means to create regularly updated content with minimum effort, thus enabling the blog author to spend more time thinking about what they write than on page layouts. You could argue that blogs are like fanzines or college magazines, and despite their less polished look and feel (in comparison to mainstream magazines) do appeal to an audience and that audience is willing to pay for this. However, the web has provided for many a relatively cost-free method of publishing; fanzines do have production costs. This lowering of production costs has also developed in web users an expectancy that content is mostly free on the web. If one blog charges for access, it is likely there are other similar blogs that could be read for free instead. As blogs often comment about each other, or are simply news clipping services, it is also very likely that another blogger will have paid for access to the premium blog and you can read about the content there instead.

Another reason why blogs cannot charge for access is due to the relatively small audiences. The general rule of thumb for publishers taking their websites from free access to paid access is that, at best, only 10% of their current audience will subscribe to the premium site. At least 90% of the audience will be lost, and this is for sites that have a well known brand and often have an offline presence too.

It would also be difficult to attract new subscribers if the site does not have a strong brand or an offline presence. You will also have your referrals from search engines cut down to zero as they cannot index pages hidden behind a subscription wall. Blogs benefit a lot from their high visibility on search results.

That said, one can argue that if a blog has a faithful readership then there is a clear demand for the content. I cannot disagree but for the reasons above there seems to be no business sense in making blogs subscription sites only. What you can do is use the "free sample" model. Each of your posts are not going to be extensive essays, and are mostly just small insights into a blogger's thinking. If you go into a supermarket and try a small sample of cheese at the deli counter, you will likely buy a larger piece, rather than just going for a free sample each time you visit the store. So you have the bait to hook your readers into your blog and appreciate where you come from. Why not offer them a more in-depth view of what you blog about? Marketing Wonk currently offers in-depth reports on various aspects of web marketing, from their free access blog. Seth Godin often writes about the content of his books without giving too much away - wanna find out more? Buy his book. This is the commodity that can be sold - however in order to get to this stage you need to have been publishing quality content to a niche audience that cannot find these reports elsewhere for free. Alternatively existing Authors and Analysts can use the blog as a means to create a dialog with existing customers and spread the word to new customers.
Sunday, January 25, 2004

Why should my Business Have a Blog?

Search engines crave timely and fresh information that is frequently updated. Blogs provide this type of content, and as a result, they are often indexed more frequently than other sites. This means that any of your business data that lies in your blog will be tracked and indexed often by Google et al and your site will have higher visibility in search results listings. If you are looking to improve your search rankings, are unhappy with the ROI you get from internet advertising and have timely information to provide to your customers and prospects, then business blogging could provide a solution. Consider the following benefits of having a business blog:

  • Higher search rankings on Google with no paid-submission

  • Other search engines will most likely position you higher too

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) is great but free marketing has infinite ROI

  • Create visibility with information by sharing with your customers and prospects

  • Fresh information appears on Google in only a few days, not weeks

  • Other business bloggers will point prospects towards you for free

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Blogger Releases RSS feed capability

Blogger has now made it possible for users of their free blogging service to create XML feeds similar to RSS. These feeds are in the Atom format and can be read by most newsreaders or RSS aggregators. I am not sure if this feed is better than my blogmatrix feed, especially as the Atom feed contains this lovely little header:

I will add a neat little link to this feed shortly, but in the meantime, you can subscribe to it by using this URL: Compare it to the blogmatrix feed and let me know what you think by adding a comment below.

Blog Promotion 101

Here is a summary of the steps I go through to promote my blogs. Most of this information is already in the blog, but this is a step by step guide to help you make sense of it all.

1) Make your Site Visible to Search Engines

- Work out what the most relevant keywords are for your site. Use these keywords to create meta tags and your page titles.
- Submit your site to as many search engines or directories as possible.

2) Exchange Links with Other Bloggers

3) Create an RSS Feed

- Submit your RSS Feed URL to RSS Directories.

4) Promote your Blog amongst your own Friends and Contacts

5) Join a Webring and/or text ad network

6) Guest Blogging

- Ask other bloggers if they will publish your articles.

7) Get your Users to talk to each other and you by enabling Comments

8) Check your Visitor log to find other Bloggers to exchange Links or Guest Blogging requests with

9) Find out who is linking to other similar Blogs to yours to find more sites to exchange Links or Guest Blogging requests with

10) Use Trackback and enable on your Blog if Possible

Steps 2, 6, 8, and 9 should be repeated as often as possible as you will always find new sites to link to. You should also submit your blog to any new directories you come across and tweak your keywords if you find that users have other more popular keywords to find your site. If Yahoo! or DMOZ did not accept your site in the early stages then try submitting again when you have more content.
The tips given above are all free of any overhead costs. If you want to start buying advertising to promote your blog, here is an article to help you start planning your campaign.
The best tip of all, of course, is to keep reading this blog to learn about new ways to promote your blog.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Where is my Muse?

Everyone suffers from Writer's Block from time to time. Even the most prolific authors suffer from this. The Blogosphere is not sympathetic of bloggers with writer's block. The worst sin in writing blogs is not to update your blog regularly with quality content. If you don't then traffic will drop off as visitors get the false impression that the blog is dead, like so many others. I suffered from this last week, when I was moving house and had little time to surf. When I did get a few brief moments on the web I had no idea what to write. As a result traffic dropped by about 50%.

What can one do to prevent this? Wayne Hurlbert wrote a good article about this, encouraging bloggers to look back at what they wrote in the past and use this as a source of inspiration. Wayne makes the very apt point that "In journalism, the editors are constantly seeking new angles and twists on older stories. " This is one solution. I would go further and suggest you look at the sites you are linking to, or any other sites with relevant content. You can make comments about their posts on your own blog, which is how a lot of blogs draw inspiration for all their posts. You may find some news that is interesting to blog about. If you find you don't have the time to blog due to vacation or other pressing engagement, then you can get other bloggers to write posts for you. All in all, there are many ways to find new material for your blog - you could even sink to the level of writing about not having anything to blog about or even write about how to get out of this predicament.
Monday, January 19, 2004

Free Domain Names

Once you have found a great idea for a blog, its a good idea to get your own domain name and server. I am in the process of setting this up for this blog.

And now, you can even get your domain name for free. What is the catch?

Well, you will have the domain extension TK, not COM, ORG or even BUS. That is because the island nation of Tokelau is offering free domain names.

The catch is that you don't get the license for your domain name, and if you want to own the name it will cost you $9.95 a year. However for those of you that want to keep blog costs to a bare minimum can use this offer in conjunction with a free hosting package and pay nothing to have your own domain name and hosting.

Get into Yahoo while you can

I got my blog accepted into the Yahoo Directory late last week. From time of submission, this took just 3 days. I am still waiting for my entry into the ODP, but this entry into the Yahoo Directory is generating 5% of traffic to this blog currently. However as Yahoo begins to develop their own search engine and ditch Google as their search provider this listing should become much more valuable. Submitting to directories is a great way to promote your site and reach new users, and the Yahoo directory is a great place to start. If you haven't submitted yet, I urge you to do so now. They may be changing the way they add entries to their directory in the future, which may no longer be free to submit to, so take advantage now.
Friday, January 16, 2004

"Links" is Yesterday's Name

Many of you will have a list of relevant links on your blog. I have one too - and I use it for adding links to sites that I have agreed to swap links with, as I am sure is the same with you. However I recently changed the title of my links list to "Resources" - why did I do this? The reason is simple, Google recently change their algorithms for deciding Page Rank because so many people use link lists to increase their Page Rank, rather than actually beng popular sites. Google is ignoring anything titled as links or other similar words. I am also featuring many of the blogs and sites I have swapped links with in the text of my posts as well, as this will help increase page rank regardless of what Google considers to be link-lists. I encourage you to do the same, and as more and more people realise this, the sites that link to you will do the same.
Monday, January 12, 2004

Trackback - what it is and how it can help you

You blog about other blogger's posts. We all do it, its what makes Blogging tick. I am sure you agree with me that its really flattering to discover that someone has blogged about one of your posts. That first time you discover someone giving you props on their website can make it all feel worthwhile - you are making an impact people are actually reading and enjoying your blog. Even if you don't get so excited about it, you sure get excited at the prospect of the quality traffic this can bring. The only downside to all this is that you have to seek out these posts, either by trawling through your site statistics, or going through the backward links to your site. Likewise it is difficult for readers of the posts you have blogged about to know about your continuation of the topic, unless you leave a comment on the post referring back to your own blog.

There is a solution to help bridge this gap: Trackback. Trackback enables you let other blogs know you have posted about them and for readers of that blog to know you have blogged about the post. The same system allows you to do the same for your posts, giving your own audience links to blogs that have blogged about your post. You can see an example of trackback in action by reading my previous post Time to get Personal - click on the link to the post I refer to at the start and at that page click on the trackback link. Anyone reading this post can see that I have continued the discussion on my blog.

Sounds great doesn't it? Well, there is a drawback - not all blog services provide trackback functionality including Blogger. Movable Type (the guys that dreamt up the trackback system) does support this, and I urge you to use this feature if you are using Movable Type to run your blog. If you are one of the unfortunate users of a service that doesn't use Trackback (like this blog), there is a solution for the more technically inclined although you need to be running your own server. On the other hand, it is simple to send notes to blogs to let them know you have blogged about one of their posts (a "trackback ping"). Go fill out the form at Simpletracks, a utility provided by Kalsey Consulting Group. In order to fill out the form you need to know the ping URL for the other blog this is normally shown the page displayed after clicking on the trackback link - each post has a unique ping URL. The fields marked "entry xxx" refer to your own post. This is the form I used to ping in my previous post, and it is simple to use.

Use Trackback, get more visitors to your site. Use Trackback, get your visitors to more similar sites. What could be more simple?

Time to get Personal

Should business bloggers get personal on their site? This is a question I asked myself after reading the post "Where Personal and Business Blogs Collide?" on I find myself agreeing with Darren's comment: "I've read a lot of business blogs lately and to be honest I find many of them to be quite boring and sterile.". Its all too easy to make your commercial blog feel like a marketing textbook with no character if you are trying to separate the personal from your business blog.

I agree that all business bloggers need to show some character in their writing, however I feel it shouldn't be taken too far.
If you are writing a blog on say, computer software, people come to your blog expecting to read about software, not to read about an amazing thing that happened to you today. Try to show personality in your posts, that way your blog on computer software will stand out from other computer software blogs. So far I haven't been able to add much character to my writing in this blog as I have written a lot of to-dos, but I will certainly make an effort to do so. My other blog Noo Meeja is often referred to by linking blogs as a humorous take on internet marketing news. I never meant it to be that way, but in doing so I have unconsciously given my blog a personality to stand out from other internet marketing news blogs. However if you feel the need to tell the world about what your cat did today, try and save this for another blog, your own personal blog.

There is also another good reason for this if you are interested in running advertising on your blog. Google will not accept any personal sites into AdSense, and no-one will ever buy a sponsorship on a section of your site, if they feel the theme is not consistent. Add personality to your blog, but remain consistent to your theme. Don't be afraid to have the odd humorous post, but make it topical.
Sunday, January 11, 2004

Tell your Audience who Refers to You

I just found this great piece of javascript that allows you to display on your blog all the websites that have referred traffic to your blog in the last 24 hrs. Its called the referrer system.

Why is having a list of referrers on your blog useful?

This is handy to have as it will provide links to other sites for your readers to go to and read similar content to your blog. It also means that you are providing reciprocal links back to those who have mentioned your blog in their website without any extra effort. This all helps to boost your link popularity and provide more reasons for surfers to visit your site. No surfer likes to visit sites that do not provide them a good launch platform for browsing. No surfer wants to get stranded on an island. If readers feel your blog is providing a good launch into browsing the web in their particular area of interest, then many will come to your site for the links as well as your great content. It doesn't matter if users come to your site for a reason other than the content, but if you write great content with great headlines, then visitors cannot ignore it.
Saturday, January 10, 2004

Finding more Information about Your Competitors

In my previous post, "Who is referring to you?", I recommended looking at the log files of similar or competitor's blogs as a good way to find new blogs or sites to exchange links with. If these sites are sending traffic to similar blogs as your own then they will send traffic to your site as well. Not everyone publishes their log files, however there is another way to find out who links to these blogs:

Do a search on Technorati or Truth Laid Bear to find out which blogs are linking to the chosen blog. These are by no means definitive lists as they only list blogs the site is aware of. The Truth Laid Bear site is also quite amusing, as it gives you a score in the ecosystem of blogging. Here's my score:

You can also use Google to do this, type the URL into the search box and click search. Google will then give you some options to choose from - click on "Find web pages that link to xxxxx " and it will list all sites linking to the blog that have a Page Rank of at least 4.

Format of a small business advertising campaign: Part 1 - Brand Awareness

If you wish to further your blog promotion strategy and look into advertising or other means to increase awareness of your blog, here are some good tips on increasing brand awareness from Startup Skills:

After optimizing your website, product, and other points of contact with your customers, you must engage in a campaign designed to build brand awareness. This campaign will favor reach over frequency and is designed to get your name “out there”. During this stage, focus on building the association between your company name and the service you provide. Don’t make the common mistake of emphasizing competitive comparisons or putting detailed information about your offerings in ad copy. Until the market knows who you are, a competitive comparison is neither memorable nor credible.

Modest amounts of advertising will have a huge impact on brand awareness for the startup. Brand awareness has been known to increase over 20% after consumers are exposed to a single online ad. That’s without click-through – online advertising is effective at building brand awareness even if people aren’t actively visiting your site. This is why your initial efforts should focus on reach – you’ll get a much bigger bang for your buck because you aren’t spending money showing multiple ads to the same group of people.

Google AdWords is a perfect medium for this type of campaign. By putting in a low-bid among many different keywords, you can get your ad shown on a variety of search result pages without having to pay for click-through. Tip: aim for an average placement of 4 or less to ensure that users with 800x600 screen resolution will see your ad when they search on Google. However, keep in mind that if your CTR rate doesn’t exceed .5%, Google will eventually disable your campaign.

Pursuing this campaign over a period of 6-12 weeks should result in small to moderate increases in website traffic and perhaps modest sales increases. Although you probably won’t realize a positive ROI from this effort, it is important not to skip this step or try to shortcut it by combining it with a top-of-mind campaign. Pursuing advertising in a phased manner is critical to gaining meaningful, long-term exposure for your startup.

Techniques for building brand awareness

1. AdWords and Overture advertising
2. Develop incoming links
3. Blogging
4. Usenet posts
5. Newsletter advertising
6. Banner Ads

How to measure brand awareness

The success or failure of a brand awareness campaign is measured using two types of metrics: behavioral and branding. Behavioral metrics include click-through rate and sales conversion rates. Branding metrics include the following:

1. Advertising impressions (the number of times your ad was shown)
2. Number of incoming links to your site (Google provides this information)
3. Google ranking (should increase with #2)
4. Unique visitors to your site
5. Web Surveys

It is important to distinguish between these two types of metrics. A successful brand awareness campaign may or may not result in behavioral improvements (ie: website traffic or sales). This type of campaign is rather intended to establish familiarity within the target market and form the foundation for a healthy long-term brand.

Web Surveys

The most accurate way to measure brand awareness is through the use of surveying techniques. These techniques specialized knowledge and can be expensive so one has to decide on a case-by-case basis if their use is warranted.

Brand awareness is typically measured using an experimental and control group. The experimental group is exposed to an ad for the brand and then both groups are surveyed to determine if they recall seeing the ad, what the company does, and so forth. Statistical tests are then run on the results to determine how significant the results are and conclusions are drawn from the study.

Another technique is to randomly survey a single group of consumers before the campaign, and another random group after. The first technique more accurately gauges the effect of a particular advertisement on the target audience, while the second technique takes into account “real world” variables, such as unintended multiple exposures to prospects, impact of the website, the effect of incoming links, and so forth. Which one to use? If you are trying to determine which of several ads to run, the first method should be used. If you are simply trying to gauge brand awareness over time, use the second.

What technique you use or combination of metrics you choose to monitor, after you see some substantial improvements you should move on to a top-of-mind awareness campaign.

Building Brand Awareness links

Marketing Ideas for Entrepreneurs: Promotional Channels

An overview of online branding from Dynamic Logic

This is a guest post by Richard Stokes from For more on creating succesfull advertising campaigns for your small business, and to read parts 2+3 of this series check out this great blog.
Friday, January 09, 2004

Email is a great tool for Viral Marketing your Blog

This is so simple it's often overlooked by a lot of people, so simple I almost forgot to add this as a promotional tip for your blog.

You have an email account, you send lots of emails - why not add a link to your blog in your email signature? That way you are getting your URL in front of lots of extra eyeballs without any extra effort.

Who is referring to you?

You may already be checking your log statistics for the number of hits you get to your blog. Have you ever had a look at the referrers to your site? Most Site statistics programs give you a listing of the sites that users came to your blog from.
Have a look at these sites, sometimes the sites may be singing your praises, you may find sites that would be useful to link back to.
You can also learn a lot about what users are looking for when they discover your site - perhaps the topic is underrepresented on your blog.
Also check what keywords are being used when the referral comes from a search engine - clicking on the link will show you were you are listed in the rankings for that keyword. If someone has came to your site via that keyword even though your blog is way down the rankings, then that indicates you could get an awful lot more traffic if you move higher up the rankings for that keyword - try and mention this keyword or topic more often in posts.

Another useful exercise is to check the site statistics of similar blogs to your own, either ones that you discover by browsing, those that link to you or those you link to. More often than not, blogs use free statistics programs, such as extreme tracking or, and these will often have buttons on the blog (I have both at the bottom of this page) that you can click on to see their statistics. Click on these and look at their referrers - you will find many new blogs to create link exchanges with, new directories to submit to, or new forums to post to. If these sites are sending traffic to similar blogs as your own then they will send traffic to your site as well. This is a great way to find new sites and blogs to exchange links with.

Creating link exchanges is a great way to increase the reach of your site, and also introduces you to new friends or potential business partners. Don't just leave it at that once you create a link exchange, visit the sites you link to regularly and participate in discussion on their site if possible, send them articles to post on their site if they are interested in guest blogging. Keep in touch with them and build a large network of fellow bloggers or site-owners. This is the number one rule in blog promotion in my opinion.
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Blogging Vocabulary

Just started out blogging, and you go to other blogs only to discover they are speaking a new language?

Have no fear, the blog glossary is here.

Why Companies should Encourage Employees to blog, not fire them

Everyone has heard the stories of employees being fired for their blogs. However some companies have a more tolerant attitude. What is really good to hear is that Macromedia actually encourages employees to blog so they can answer questions from customers. In fact it is a core part of Macromedia's marketing plan.

''We needed a mechanism to communicate incredibly quickly,'' said Tom Hale, Macromedia's senior vice president of business strategy. ''We hit upon the blog strategy as a mechanism to do that....People really liked hearing directly from Macromedia experts, and getting really fast response,''. Currently there are at least 16 blogs run by employees at Macromedia assisting customers with their questions.

This is an excellent practice by a company that doesn't need the extra exposure that blogs can offer. Instead it is using blogs to make the company more approachable. Something that larger corporations are often criticized for not being. This is probably why Microsoft is so tolerant towards employee blogs, including John Porcaro, a group manager for Microsoft's Home and Entertainment Division who makes no secret of his Microsoft employment.

Microsoft jumps on the Blogging Bandwagon

It's official: Microsoft announced on Wednesday the new MSN Service, MSN Premium, will have a blogging feature. Will this help to make blogging more mainstream? Yes, but it will only reinforce the view that blogging is for people to keep an online diary, not as a business tool.

Why Blogs Perform Better than Regular Websites in Google Rankings

Blogs perform better in search rankings than commercial websites. Why is this so? Blogs have stayed true to the early pages on the web. They are text based and link to others sites.

Commercial sites often contain no external links due to short-sightedness by the people paying the bills, and as a result other sites do not link to them. Commercial sites often contain lots of graphics, or have flash intros. Search engines cannot index these - they can't search a graphic or a flash movie for keywords. This means these sites have become islands - and the owners of these sites hope that users get stranded on these islands, once they have found their way their by clicking on an ad, or from seeing the URL on a package. There are many isolated islands like this on the web - think about it, how many times have you been surfing and found yourself on a site and the only way you have browsed away is to type in a new URL or click the "back" button?
Is this what the web is about? The word "web" conjures up an image of interconnection. Blogs are not afraid to connect to each other which is what makes them so interesting. Google values this interconnection and ranks sites with high link popularity higher than others.

This is why a blog can help your business.

You may see no value in having links to other sites on your main commercial website. However if you have a complimentary blog you should link to other sites. You should aim to make your blog the expert of your field. This will make your blog popular and people will link to your site. It is very difficult to get sites to link to your main commercial site unless they are advocates of your product, conversely it is much easier to make people advocates of your blog. Once your blog gains high link popularity and thus high page rank, people searching the web for your product will find you more easily either via your blog or because the resultant lift in page rank for your blog will also lift your main website. Often users will find your site instead of a competitor - wouldn't that be great?
The Oklahoma Wine News blog is a good example of this practice. The blog is about the Oklahoma wine industry as a whole, but is a complimentary blog to the Nuyaka Creek Winery website. When one searches for Oklahoma Wine on Google, the blog is ranked number 1 above 412,000 relevant sites and above their local competitors.

So remember, don't be afraid to link to other sites in your blog, even competitors - your business will gain by doing so. Blog readers value this interconnection, and this is what they want to see. If I wanted to read isolated pockets of information, then I could go to the public library and save all those ISP bills. That said, don't just link for the sake of linking - you need original content as well as links. If you just point to other sites and say "look at this, isn't this cool?" in every post then what is the value of your site?
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Stemming - what is that all about then?

Wayne Hurlbert has written an interesting article on the recent changes to Google's algorithms. Apparently they are now using a feature called stemming to organize search results. What is stemming? Stemming is the practice of searching for other forms of a word or it's synonyms. This means that Google no longer searches for only web pages containing the words you searched on.

In the past, many website owners were able to trick Google into making their sites look the most relevant by planting keywords in their site strategically. As Wayne quite rightly remarks, this caused a big problem: "Website copywriting became bland and keyword laden, as the search word was targeted (some say saturated). The result spewed out was copy that was not pleasant to read."

This change means business bloggers no longer need to worry about adding keywords to your posts and making the text look clumsy. Surfers will find our site because they are getting results based on the topic they are looking for, not just sites with their keywords. Stay true to your chosen theme and write often and your blog will benefit from this change. For details, read the original post on Blog Business World

Webrings can help new Users find your Blog and Increase Link Popularity

As mentioned in a previous post, one can use text ad networks to get links on other sites, to get more traffic to your blog. Webrings can also be used in a similar manner. Webrings have been around for a long time on the web, and are a means by which a group of similar websites can put themselves together as a group and provide links to each other's sites.
Look to the right of this page, underneath the archive links, you will see a webring link for Blogphiles. You will notice there are no details about the sites this links to in the ring, merely "next site" or "previous site" in the ring. However one can be assured that these sites will be of a similar nature to the site one is reading. There is also a link to see a list of all the sites in the webring - this will take you to a directory of the sites in the ring. This is interesting as it also gives your blog a new directory to be found in, which of course means links to your site that search engines can find as well as surfers. Also, your blog will be linked to by other blogs in the webring, and that will be clicked on by new users or search engine spiders too.

There are many webrings available, and a growing number of webrings devoted to blogs. Check out the list of blog webrings at ODP, or look at sites that are similar in content to your blog and blogs you are already linking to. Blog readers like to browse the web via links for other blogs, so joining a webring gives them more opportunity and gives you more opportunity to be found. The secret is in finding a webring that is relevant for your blog - if there are none, you can use some of the generic blog rings, such as Blogphiles.
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Can you Really Make Money from Blogging?

It's been real flattering to discover that this blog has been mentioned on several other blogs and forums, however the surrounding comments have contained some skepticism on whether one can really make money from blogging.

Can you make money from Blogging?

Can you make money from creating a great website that offers content or news appealing to a niche audience?

Does Blogging make it easier to build and promote such a website?

For the remaining skeptics, here are some sites that are making substantial money from advertising on their blogs: paidcontent, pvrblog (as mentioned in my previous post) and IWantMedia.
There are several others making money by using their Blog as a launch-pad for selling their books or publications: Marketing Wonk, blogroots,,,, Mark Stevens and Seth Godin to name but a few.
What do all these blogs have in common? Good quality and regularly updated content that stays true to a particular theme. Yes, these blogs were planned to be of a certain type, not just a dumping ground for ones thoughts. Don't get me wrong I have nothing against weblogs of a personal nature, I am just pointing out that these blogs are not money-making and there is no simple method of just starting a blog, putting ads on the site and getting rich overnight. Creating a good commercial blog is all about planning and finding a community to plug into that is appealing to advertisers or would be willing to buy your products. In the long term you need to build sustainable revenue from advertising, and that comes from long-term advertising agreements or sponsorships - none of which are possible unless the partner is uncertain about what content will appear adjacent to their advertising messages.

There is however another kind of blog that can be used for commercial gain, albeit indirectly, and this is what I term the complimentary blog - a blog that exists as part of a larger site. These are blogs that help to promote or provide freshness for an existing commercial site, which will result in attracting new users or increasing traffic who are either drawn by an interest in the blog's content or are able to find the blog easily through the search engines. Examples of these are: Dan Gillmor, The NBA's Blog Squad, Gary Stein and Guardian Unlimited.
Some complimentary blogs do not have an associated website, and are complimentary instead to one's PR efforts. Politicians and writers fall into this category and have a lot to gain from blogging. Both types of people have to invest large amounts of time and money to garner support or interest in their work. Blogging enables them to get their message out and their name known without going further than the desk in their home. Good examples of these are:, white screen of despair, Tom Watson, Clive Soley, Howard Dean and Wesley Clark.

Can you make money from blogging?
In some cases, yes.

Can blogging help your marketing/PR plan?
Monday, January 05, 2004

Blogging for AdSense

My last post covered the issue of quality content. Often you can have quality content and strong traffic but hardly make a dime from Google's AdSense program, yet other sites with less traffic can make more. Why is this so? Pricing for advertising on Google uses a bidding system - if you pay a higher CPC than the rest of the advertisers, your ad is seen more often and placed higher in the priority queue (priority is also based on click performance). Therefore the most sought after or most highly valued keywords often yield Google a higher price for their ads, this higher price is passed on to website owners that have AdSense ads on their pages.

This means that if you are intending on creating a Blog that will make money through AdSense, you need to think carefully about the content of your site. Unfortunately this site is't going to make much money fro AdSense as keywords relating to blogs are not very valuable. PVRblog is a great example of a blog using AdSense successfully. The topic of the blog is DVR technology (think TiVo) which is popular, keywords relating to DVR technology and TiVo specifically are sought after keywords for advertisers on Google. This combination of good traffic and valuable keywords is yielding great rewards for the owner, Matt Haughy.

He has written a few tips on how to make a succeful AdSense site, which I have republished here:

1. Pick a topic

Blogs are about anything and everything and it isn't every day that you find a good blog focused on a topic. In order to have any remote chance of success gaining an interested audience and getting good on-topic ads showing up, pick a
narrow topic you are passionate about and run with it. I would guess that I do just as good or better than Gizmodo on textads (Gizmodo certainly covers the same area of PVRblog, just not as in-depth) even though I probably have 1/10th the traffic because my site is more tightly focused.

If there's anything in this list that requires a drastic change on the part of website authors, this is it. Focused blogging isn't that popular but I'm convinced it's the only way to have a chance to carve out a niche on the web. If you want to proclaim yourself as an expert on a topic to both an audience and search engines so that people will know you're the one site to go to for information, you'll have to focus. Focus and be as specific as you can.

2. Consider your topic as it relates to the web

If what you are aiming for is ad revenue, it helps if your topic is something you can buy products related to it. It also helps if those products can be bought online and people are comfortable with it. One of my favorite topic sites (arguably slightly blog-like) is Kicksology. Professor K knows everything and anything about basketball shoes and about once a week I drop into the site to see what's new in cutting edge shoe design. Often when I see a rave review on a cool looking shoe, I want to know how much it costs and if I can buy them. It's an impulse buying thing, but if you notice Kicksology recently added Google's ads to the site, but they're not super-focused. Ideally, if I was reading about a new shoe, I'd want ads offering the same shoe for purchase right now. I've checked out a few dozen of the reviews, but the new air jordan review is the only one that carries with it targetted ads. Generally speaking, Kicksology is about something not normally ordered or sold online and the ads are often a poor fit for the content (no one's fault really, people just don't buy that many shoes online).

TiVos are very close to the web. People buy them online, they look up tips and hacks for them, and resellers have tons of TiVos to move. I didn't really think about it when I started the site, but thanks to the mass availability and customers looking for deals on them, the web's a natural place to shop for a new TiVo.

If you're really interested in knowing how well a topic might work out, try going through the process of placing a Google Adwords ad. During the process they'll tell you how much a keyword will cost you, and you can use that to determine if writing a blog about goldfish is going to be more lucrative than the one you could be writing about golden retrievers.

3. Be passionate and write your ass off

Don't start a blog just to turn a buck, because it's going to be clear to your audience that you don't really care about the topic if you don't offer much beyond press releases from companies. If you want to have a site that ranks highly at Google, write how-to article after how-to article and offer content no one could find anywhere else. I love this guide to ranking higher in google because it doesn't focus exclusively on HTML tricks or stoop to tips on gaming the system, it simply says: write the most useful website on earth and everyone will link to you, which will make you #1.

I started PVRblog because I've been following the space for the past three years and I have dozens of in-depth tutorials I've written and want to write about the subject. I'm enthusiastic about the topic and I look forward to spending a few downtime hours writing articles, conducting interviews, or reviewing books and hardware for the site.

4. Designing for Google and your audience

Don't underestimate the power of Google and google-ability of your site. About half of all the traffic to PVRblog is from a Google search. If people are looking for information on how to upgrade a tivo, they might find my articles about it, and alongside every article are four links to upgrade kits at various prices. I wouldn't be surprised if the click-thrus are crazy high on those links, for those users. I do the same thing myself, often looking up reviews on cellphones and following ad links to help find the best prices I can.

On the technical side of things, having an accessible, valid XHTML site, with good semantics, good page titles, and good filenames helps Google index your site. Typepad does all these things extremely well right out of the box. After I launched PVRblog, Google indexed the entire site within hours and reindexes it often. The site shows up in the top ten for many common TiVo hacking or TiVo feature searches. Searchers are often looking for info to help a purchase, and are likely to click an ad, so it's worth thinking about them.

Nick Denton recently wrote about the design of a weblog may change based on Adsense, and I'd say he's got a lot of good points, but be careful that you don't go too far, forcing people to make extra clicks just so you can stream more ads at them. Your audience will pick up on this eventually and bail.

What not to do

Of course now that I've given you a few tips, it's important to reiterate what you shouldn't do. Don't just slap ads on your blog and expect to get rich the next day. If every blog about anything on earth is going to carry adsense boxes, their utility is going to go down and people won't be likely to click on them. Don't be disappointed if you're not pulling down big bucks on your topic-focused, well-googled site. It takes time to build an audience and gain links from people that find your content useful. If you follow these guidelines, it's quite possible you'll be able to pay for your own hosting. Eventually, you might make more.

Text republished from in accordance with the Creative Commons attribution noncommercial sharealike license

Content is King - Quality Content is the King of Kings

A lot of blogs are self-indulgent, and are really just online diaries. Business bloggers are different - business bloggers need good content, that is regularly updated. You can do all the blog promotion work you can, but what you really need is readers to return or refer you to others. Better yet you is when other bloggers mention your own blog in one of their posts. When a respected blogger mentions your blog that is recognition that you are producing good quality content and is very positive PR. You need to carry on producing great content and do it on a regular basis. Don't worry if you have a writer's block, just blog about something interesting you have seen in another blog or website that is relevant to yours. Blogging regularly also gets your site indexed more frequently by Google, if you have a lull in updating then Google may index your blog less frequently and it can take some time to get it back to the same frequency.

Having said that, the self-titled dullest blog in the world is one of the picks of the year by Yahoo. Quality is not just what you perceive to be quality, its what your readers perceive to be quality, or more importantly what an existing community on the web perceives to be quality. The dullest blog in the world tapped into a community that appreciates quirky and spoof humour.
Once you have established a dialog with your readership's community and begin to understand what interests them then you will know what quality content means to your readers.
Sunday, January 04, 2004

Establishing Dialog With and Amongst your Blog Readership

One of the great things about having a forum or bulletin board as part of a website is that it provides extra content for readers and a chance for the audience to interact with each other and sometimes the website author.

Blogs can also achieve this level of interaction - simply by setting up a commenting system. Some blog platforms such as Movable Type have this feature, but if you are using a platform that doesn't then there are third party providers. This blog uses a free Blogger commenting system, and you can see how it works by clicking on the comments link below. The disadvantage of using a third party commenting tool is that the pages the comments are published to are not part of your site, and someone searching the web may not get to your site via search results relating to the comments. If your comments are on the same site as your blog, then this is additional text for the search engines to index.

Once you have a comments feature enabled on your blog, follow these two simple rules to ensure your blog gets the most benefit:

1) Write thought provoking posts that encourage readers to challenge or add further comments. In such posts, invite your readers to leave a comment at the end.

2) Regularly check all comments left on your blog; this gives you an idea of how your blog audience thinks, what they like to read about, and often gives you an opportunity to answer questions they may have. Secondly, check to make sure your comments feature is not being used by spammers, who are just posting to get a link back to their own site from your blog and delete if you can.

If you follow these two rules, then you will ensure that a healthy dialog is established between and with your readers.
Saturday, January 03, 2004

Getting the free RSS feed Generators to Work with Blogger

I have had several bloggers ask me how I got the RSS generators to work with Blogger, as they have had problems. I had problems when I first started, the following workaround should work for you:

If you are using certain templates supplied by (including the one this blog is based on) you may behaving problems getting the RSS feed to include your titles. This is because the the permalink anchor (the code that allows you to make a URL for each post) for your posts is placed after the title. The permalink anchor is what the RSS generator considers to be the start of the post.

You need to change it to go before the title in your template.

Look for the <BlogItemTitle> tag in your template. The code that reads:

<a name="<$BlogItemNumber$>">&nbsp;</a>

needs to come after this tag or at least before the <$BlogItemTitle$> tag. This tag tells the RSS feed generator that this is the start of a new post and creates each feed item from this point. Previously I had the following code from the original template:

<BlogItemTitle><h2><$BlogItemTitle$><br></h2><a name="<$BlogItemNumber$>">&nbsp;</a></BlogItemTitle>

To fix the problem I changed the code to look like this:

<BlogItemTitle><a name="<$BlogItemNumber$>">&nbsp;</a><h2><$BlogItemTitle$><br></h2></BlogItemTitle>

Note that my other blog, Noo Meeja Ads didn't have this problem and worked immediately with the RSS generators, and this one uses one of the blogger supplied templates. Some of the templates out there have the permalink anchor in the right place - don't bother with my workaround unless your RSS feed is missing the titles.

More RSS Feed Creators

In my posts about creating RSS feeds for your blog readers, I recommended Blogstreet, however I have started using Blogmatrix as the creator of my feeds. Each of these two has their own merits, but I find Blogmatrix preferable as it doesn't need to be manually updated, although it doesn't display as much detail as the Blogstreet feed. There is also a utility to create RSS feeds on - I haven't tried this one myself so I can't comment further.
Thursday, January 01, 2004

Guest Blogging on other Blogs

Having links on other blogs is good for your link popularity, and helps improve your ranking on Google, but does it bring traffic to your site? Sometimes, yes, but wouldn't it be better to have a mention in a post on someone else's blog? It is flattering when someone mentions your blog in a post, however this is out of your control. Ensuring you have good content will help this, but there is another way to achieve this: guest blogging. You already have a list of people who exchanged links with you, why not ask them if you can have one of your posts on their site? At the end of the post you can have a link back to your site so if their readers like what you write they can see more. This helps you to reach into the audience of their blogs more deeply than just being in a list of links in their sidebar. Choose carefully who you ask to guest blog - make sure you have a post that is relevant to their site. Send the entire post to them and let them decide whether or not they will publish it. Be prepared to accept guest posts from others yourself and invite the people you contact to do so. You will be surprised how many will say yes. I have had several blogs publish my posts, and in return I have published theirs on my Noo Meeja blog. Some blogs may even give you an account to blog directly to their site, so you can add posts regularly. Try also finding candidates for guest blogging in one of the several blogging forums - Blogger Talk is a good place to start and this topic is often discussed. Forums are also great places to swap links with other blogs. When using forums don't forget to create a signature with links back to your blog(s) - this is an easy way to build up links back to your site for search engines, and other forum users.

So far I haven't had any guest blogs on this site, but I am open to suggestions - send me a mail if you are interested.