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Archives for July 2008

Why Email Subscribers?

A couple of people emailed me to ask why my big birthday competition was only open to email subscribers, why did I want email subscribers in particular?

Well first of all I love all my subscribers :) There are just things you can do for email subscribers that you can not for RSS (currently).

As many guessed, the first advantage of email over RSS is email subscribers are not anonymous. Being able to personalize and identify who you are talking to is very useful.

The other advantages are:

  1. You can send attachments to email lists more easily. With RSS you post a download link and the link gets shared around (even now people are linking directly to my free PDF)
  2. It is possible to email subscriber-only alerts outside of your regular blog posting schedule
  3. Email lists can be segmented so you only communicate your message to people who want to hear it

Now you know this you might be forming guesses as to what my special email subscriber treats are going to be, but you will only find out for sure if you subscribe by email :)

How to Create a Blog that People Want to Read

Bee an attractive blogger

What is the difference between a popular blog and an ignored one?

This is a surprisingly complicated question to answer.

Great content is a given.

No, that’s not where it ends. It is not as simple as “content is king”, no matter how many times that nugget is repeated. There are thousands of well written blogs out there with little or no traffic.

So promotion needs to be added to the mix.

Sometimes it is seemingly small things. On occasion tips and tweaks I suggest in my blog critiques make for big differences.

Structure, usability and architecture come into play. A good foundation to allow the content to shine and breathe.

I have a theory though. All of the vital ingredients are not the cause of the popularity, but the key symptoms.

Popular blogs are powerfully tailored to their audience.

Think of the flowers that attract bees to pollinate them. They take advantage of the bees own selfish motivations and needs to get something they need. To have the best chance of success they create a compelling environment, the right visual, attractive scent. It’s the perfect win-win. Bee and flower go away happy.

How are you getting to know the particular needs and desires of your audience so that you can create the perfect experience for your bees?

Happy Birthday to Me, You and Them

sponsored by performancing ads
It’s my birthday today :)

As you might have seen on Twitter and my personal blog, I was in a bit of a quandary what to do to celebrate. What do you give the man who has everything?

So I came up with a plan that meant you get a chance at some cool stuff, you get to help others if you feel inclined in lieu of a gift, and if you still want to help me out you can :)

The plan?

I will be making a random selection from my email subscribers.

If you are selected you will win one of:

Bliss - for babies born too soon, too small, too sickObviously by being a subscriber to my blog that is gift enough for me, but if you still feel like you want to say happy birthday or thanks or whatever, instead of buying me a beverage,  a small donation to Bliss, the UK premature baby charity would be very cool.

Yes this is a blatant attempt to get you onto my email list but I figure it’s my birthday so I should be allowed! (if you are already subscribed, just stay subscribed!) :) If you are already an RSS subscriber you will still need to sign up to the daily email list, but feel free to unsubscribe after the draw. Obviously I would love for you to hang around and I have more very cool stuff planned that will only be broadcast to daily email subscribers so you might want to put a filter rule rather than unsubscribe. That’s all I am saying for now ;)

The draw will take place on Monday 4th 12:00 BST.

So all you need to do is sign up via email. Remember as well as a chance of winning these very excellent prizes, every subscriber gets a free copy of my flagship content ebook, so what are you waiting for? Subscribe already! :)

Special thanks to my very generous blogging buddies for donating the prizes :)

Thanks also to the people who made suggestions for how I should celebrate

Twitter:

Personal Blog:

Performancing Ads Launched

PerformancingAdsPerformancing Ads has launched! You might have already seen the announcement over at Performancing or my post at the Blog Herald, or the official SplashPress launch here.

Performancing Ads is a blog advertising service developed to make it easy for you to buy, manage and sell 125×125  pixel banners.

  • Open to all publishers big and small – Many blog advertising networks are difficult to just get accepted to
  • Book your own ads easily and for free – Great for people who have their own paying advertising customers. You keep 100% of the money you make when you book your own ads, some ad management systems are very technical to implement, this is a breeze
  • Gain free traffic through the “exchange” program – Even if you don’t buy or sell advertising you can benefit from the traffic and awareness generated by the automatic banner exchange.
  • Recurring commission from affiliate referral program – Make 5% for the lifetime of your referrals, could be a nice additional income
  • and of course buy and sell ads! – Performancing Ads has a growing marketplace to advertise with, and has hired Luis, an experienced ad sales guy who previously worked for Federated Media. His job is to sell your ads space.

Some of you will remember I was involved in an ad network called “Performancing Partners” with a previous incarnation of Performancing. This is not “Partners 2: the Return”, it has been completely built fresh from the ground up. I was brought in to help out with strategy, promotion and project management, but really what you see is the product of many long late nights from Ryan and Sean.

If you are interested in selling ad space on your blog, do not want to drive your visitors away by shoving adsense in their face, then Performancing Ads might be for you. Take a look now.

A Walk Around Old Broadcasting House

25072008217Jamie and I just visited the old BBC “Broadcasting House” in Leeds as a potential venue for regular Northern UK Blogging meetups.

Now I have been there and seen if for myself I am stunned that this place existed and I hadn’t been there. It’s a fantastic venue and I am definitely behind using it for meetups, and I am even considering seeing how much interest there would be in using it to run internet marketing, social media and blogging courses.

25072008218

 

25072008219

They have everything, projection screens, smart boards, video conferencing and a fantastic co-working area with nice huge Mac geeky loveliness *drool*.

25072008216

More Qik video here

Imran AliWe will be calling on the experience of Imran who has arranged quite a few geeky events in the area, which from what I hear seem to mostly consist of Nintendo Wii and/or beer, regardless of agenda … hmmm ;)

If you live in traveling distance of Northern UK then sign up to the discussion list :)

WordPress Infiltrating Business

WordCamp UK 2008 was an interesting mixture of blogging (as you would expect) and developer conference. It was like two familiar worlds had collided.

WordPress as CMS

One of the development issues raised was the growing use of WordPress as a platform rather than as a blog. Many people are now looking to WordPress as a CMS or as a framework. Notably, one of the big announcements from the weekend was that our Prime Ministers home, Number 10 Downing Street, new website is going to be 100% WordPress.

Number10.gov.uk - Home

If that doesn’t give some credibility to WordPress in larger corporations I don’t know what will. Good work Simon!

Economic Downturn?

A couple of people expressed confusion that we are meant to be in an economic slump but there is more and more WordPress work coming through the pipeline.

I have an answer, or at least a theory!

They know with a WordPress site they can be up and running, fast, and making sales in weeks rather than months

The reason we are seeing more WordPress work is precisely because we are in a tough economic place right now. Companies are looking for a lower cost tactical solution. Rather than a long, drawn out, expensive project, they want something quick, nimble, efficient and effective. They know with a WordPress site they can be up and running, fast, and making sales in weeks rather than months.

Think about it, consider how these things used to work. I used to be as guilty as any, building 7-figure monster bespoke content management systems over months that didn’t turn out much more capable than WordPress 2.6 is right out of the box.

Also you will find the charge is being led by sales and marketing functions, conciously avoiding official channels and especially the IT dept.

Yes, they are looking for tactical “right now” solutions, but as most of us have seen, tactical quick fixes tend to stick around, especially when the solution is found to be proven and beats other more complicated ones. I have seen departments running 20-year old COBOL reports, stealthily cobbled together Access databases, and even one company who seemed to run the whole business off Excel!

WordPress isn’t just being used because it is cheap, it is growing in favor because it works.

Teaching Sells Closing Doors

Teaching Sells is Closing the DoorsTeaching Sells is closing its doors! If you have been thinking about joining, now is the time to do it.

Brian has announced the course is going to evolve, and the price is going up. You have until the end of this month to get in at $97 a month, after that the doors shut to new members and will not open again in the current form or price. Click here for full details.

In my talk on making a living from blogging over the weekend I told the attendees that one of the best ways of making money was to create a member site, and the best education for creating member sites is Teaching Sells.  Online courses like these are attractive to members because they get education not available anywhere else, and attractive to you as a publisher because you get a recurring income.

Teaching Sells was a big part of the inspiration for my Authority Blogger online course. While, being the rebellious type that I am, I haven’t followed Brian’s model to the letter, I have taken a lot away from his strategy.

If you really want to help a large number of people while being healthily rewarded, then you need to get in to Teaching Sells before the doors close.

WordCamp UK 2008

WordCampUK 2008 pics at flickr

I got back from WordCamp UK last night, tired but happy.

If you missed the event you don’t need to miss out as I took quite a few Qik clips of various sessions and there will be video provided by Benjamin and Sam.  Unfortunately I could not film the whole thing in real time as the conference wifi while perfectly fine on my laptop didn’t like my phone very much.

As I look around the various comments and write-ups that are appearing I am remembering different bits of the weekend, one of the great advantages of blogging conferences is you get it recorded, sliced, diced, processed and critiqued from all angles :)

The weekend in my view was a great success, not least because it actually happened. Tony and the other organisers did a fantastic job and chose an excellent location. I would be very happy if next years is same time and same place.

In terms of presentations there was something for everybody, and the audience was very diverse so that in particular was a tough trick to pull off. If I would make one suggestion about content, perhaps next year less organised and more Q&A based?

For my own talk I kinda picked the short straw, late Sunday where everyone was full of beer and burgers, and I saw at least a third of the attendees yawning before I even got up to walk to the podium.

Chris Garrett WordCampUK 2008

The Twitter back-channel was in full snarky force, I seem to have gotten off comparatively lightly ;)

For those who were concerned, both Chris Garretts met and the world did not implode.

Chris Garretts

As I said in my previous WordCamp post, there are ProBlogger book prizes for whoever does the best writeup as voted by list members and WordCampUK blog readers, so make sure you write up your own thoughts or nominate the best that you find. Let me know in the comments any links.

Credits: Main photographs by Benjamin Ellis , thumbs from the Flickr WordCampUK tag stream

Is Social Media a Waste of Time?

What do you think about Social Media and all the buzz around these services?

Last night I was on a Six Apart telephone conference with Andy Wibbels and Darren Rowse and the topic of how much time and effort social media takes up was raised. Andy made the good point that the people who discuss social media most are the people who need to, people like me who make our living being on top of these things so we can advise others.

If you follow all the advice on blogs and forums, took part in every social media venue, then you would very quickly have no time to do anything else.

You have to think in terms of ROI. What is your return on social media investment? (ROSMI?)

I can talk all day about the benefits of social media, especially around making contacts and networking, but if these come at the expense of your work or business then the picture does not look so rosy.

It’s quite clear a lot of the time spent in social media is for leisure, so right there it is a matter of your priorities and mindset if you regard it as a waste of time. I stopped using FaceBook completely because it had zero return for me, while my Twitter usage if anything has increased from when I first joined (even if I have been quiet on that front lately).

While FaceBook, with its spam and trivialities, did not provide me anything but annoying messages in my inbox, I have found Twitter a great source of connections and news. StumbleUpon and Reddit send me nice bursts of traffic, so partaking in and researching those is worth the time. LinkedIn I am still figuring out.

I parcel out my time over various activities. While it is tempting, I do not have Twitter open all day in a desktop application, I dip in a couple of times and treat it as a break from work. For the others I experiment and have fixed goals. Plurk for example I have placed on the back burner, but am keeping an eye on it as people tell me to give it another try.

Experimentation is what I recommend.  See what works for you while keeping an open mind.

For most people I would recommend at least trying out Twitter, just because networking is so important, but do not pressure yourself with any of this stuff and keep your priorities in check. Social Media is just one of many things to spend your time on, unless you see a good return on your activity you probably are better off doing something else.

Pick your battles and closely monitor where your time goes and what results you get, and if you have fun, well there is no harm in that is there? :)

As If, Yeah Right

When we write we are talking to our reader. While your reader is going through your content they will be responding. They might think “Interesting, I didn’t know that”, or they might think “So? What’s in it for me?” and they might think “So what?“. One response I don’t think many marketing copywriters are prepared […]