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Archives for July 2008

Who SHOULD Blog?

In my last post I took the unusual step of suggesting there are people who should avoid blogging.

While I am complete card-carrying, t-shirt wearing, tattooed on my brain blogging advocate, even I realize there are people who would be best off being blog readers than blog writers. It just is not for everybody, and that is fine.

That said, who should blog?

  • Have a passion? Something that you would stay interested in through bad and good times? Regardless of profit?
  • Enjoy creating, building content, sharing what you know?
  • Most important, enjoy discussing your passion?

If you answer yes to one of more of those questions then I think you would make a good blogger. While there is a high frequency of abandoned blogs, passion and the will (or need) to communicate that passion can overcome a lot of the reasons why people give up blogging.

Gareth CrewWhile I don’t want to embarrass him (other than the bad photo), the other day I met someone who meets the profile.

Gareth Crew runs a site with his friend Stuart Carter, called MotoGPNews and it is a community for motor sport enthusiasts. Before he had to give up due to injuries, Gareth raced motorbikes, so he is not just an armchair critic or someone who thinks this is a big-money niche. In fact, his site barely approaches any kind of monetization at all. Just look around the site, there is not a trace of ego.

I can see right away a whole bunch of ways I would improve the site but having the passion and the knowledge is a far better foundation than ticking technical and marketing boxes while missing that vital ingredient!

You can learn to write well. Marketing is a matter of having the right strategy and implementing the best tactics. Information can be researched, knowledge can be learned. Experience is a matter of sticking with it. I can help with anything blogging or webmastering, but the one thing you have to find within yourself is passion and motivation.

Challenge – Win a Copy of the ProBlogger Book

Right here I would normally launch into a blog critique, but I am taking the day off :) The person who, in Gareth’s opinion, gives the best advice or critique will win a copy of the ProBlogger book!

Write your tips, criticism or suggestions on your own blog, on the MotoGPNews contact form, or right here in the comments before Wednesday July 23rd.

Go take a look at the site and start making notes now! Good luck :)

Why You Should Not Blog

Yes, you read that right. Why you should NOT blog. Blogging is not for everyone. There are some good reasons I have seen suggested why you should not blog: You don’t have the time to do it justice. Blogging would add nothing to your business or life. Writing is too difficult or unpleasant. Your company […]

Meet Me at WordCamp UK

WordCamp UKAs you might have seen over at BlogHerald, I am speaking at WordCamp UK this Sunday.

My talk is titled “Making a Living From Your Blog“. If you want to hear it, buy a ticket :)

I want to meet you, so if you are able to make it to Birmingham on the 2oth of July, and you spot me, make yourself known :)

Please note there will be two Chris Garretts attending. I am the older and chubbier one.

Twitter

I will try to get him to wear a t-shirt saying “the OTHER Chris Garrett” but for some reason I don’t think he is all that keen ;)

To make things doubly interesting, whoever does the best write-up about the weekend on their blog, judged by vote, will win one of three copies of the ProBlogger book.

If you are going to attend, tell me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn.

See you there :)

Humbled Eyes Photography Blog Critique

This blog critique is for Rob Nicholson of Humbled Eyes Photography.

Photographers have the following main goals with their blog if they are going to be effective in attracting paying customers:

  1. Draw in visitors
  2. Generate interest
  3. Demonstrate professional ability
  4. Communicate personality
  5. Build towards action

As you can tell from this list, it’s not as simple as slapping a blog onto your site and watching the search juice kick in.

Rob has done a good job of putting his photography front and center, and his photographic ability shines out of his work. That said, there are a number of ways he can make his site work harder for him.

Design and Usability

When a visitor arrives you need to tell them where they are, why they should care, and what they can look at. You want them to know certain things, such as that you are a “Destination Wedding Photographer” (according to your keywords) and so on.

Make sure that you actually explain what those phrases mean. Not only will explaining help you with searchers, but you need to describe the benefits. Why should a visitor care? Is there any reason to pick you, or your category of photographer, over any other?

I think you need to select a theme that better shows off your photographs. As they are currently displayed your beautiful pictures practically need a magnifying glass to appreciate them. Remember blog readers will initially skim, make an impact. Even better, get a custom design that really prioritizes and displays your work. You might want to consider incorporating some sort of gallery + post combination so your most recent work is always displayed, magazine style.

Content

There are some important pages you really need to have at a minimum, either create them or pull them out and put in your navigation:

  • About – Right now your about isn’t about much at all. Who are you? What do you do? Is that important? Necessary? Valuable? Why would someone choose you over someone else? What do you have to offer and why should we believe you?
  • Contact – Your current about is more like a contact, but I prefer to provide a contact form rather than an email address. If you are going to show your telephone number, have a think about what it is you have missed off. I will give you a clue. I live in the UK, how do I call your number? When should I call you? You might think you are only looking for local business, and that is fine … until a journalist from the BBC tries to get in touch and gives up in favor of your friend down the road who lists his country code and time zone ;) List your country code and say what times and timezone you are available in.
  • Services – Where do you describe what you do? How much does it cost? How do you go about booking you? Remember many people are going to land deep in your blog, they are not going to even see your flash based site because there is no way to get there, especially if they have clicked a link or arrived via a search engine.

As I always always say, allow your readers to subscribe with email along with RSS and explain why someone would want to! Right now you have tucked away an RSS button, while 90% of your visitors won’t know what that represents.

Use categories sparingly, in fact both for your users and your search rankings you are normally better off one category per post. Make them meaningful to visitors, don’t prioritize search phrases over usability.

SEO Tweaks

First SEO tweak is the old favorite, www and non-www URLs both work. Redirect one to the other.

Next, because the commercial site is flash and popups, neither of which are particularly search friendly (I will leave the discussion for if those tactics are human-friendly), the SEO last-resort has been brought into play …

Destination Wedding Photographer - Jamaica wedding photographer - Delaware wedding photographer

Instead of a block of keyword-laden copy, instead create actual content intended for humans on that page. Search engines are designed to do a good job of promoting good stuff and downgrading the less useful stuff, so if you build for human beings you don’t need this kind of thing.

While we are on the topic, don’t let others do the same thing and leach off your comment area either!

When embedding photographs, describe them well. Think like a stock photographer, what could you tag your photographs with that both explains the picture for non-sighted users and search engines, but would also attract people in using, say, Google Image search. Currently Prince Charles is called “wedding photography”. Now, I am not a monarchist, but even I see the celebrity value in these pictures. Be proud of them, show them off, you don’t often get credibility building content like this!

Finally on the SEO side, and also thinking about usability, connect your site and your blog with links. Right now to both search engines and people the two are separate sites. I recommend putting a link in your main navigation, but don’t hesitate to deep link to important content both ways.

Summary

Rob has a talent, and the blog is an excellent start. I think the main thing to take away from this critique is that the emphasis has to come back to the human needs, what will most please, benefit and assist human visitors. How can you meet their needs and encourage a deeper connection? Right now the bias seems to be on SEO?

Find some friendly non-webby people, print off the blog and site homepages, and ask your volunteers to describe what they see, how they would navigate, and what they would do if they were interested in your services. You might gain some insights into the sorts of welcoming content and navigation you need.

Why Reddit is Better than Digg

I have come to a realisation recently that I wanted to check with you.

I’m starting to think Reddit has overtaken Digg.

It doesn’t look as nice, doesn’t have the big name, nor does it have the famous Kevin Rose, but as a user and as a Social Media type, Reddit seems to have edged out Digg, and I am not the only one who thinks so.

Why is Reddit better than Digg?

  1. It Works – Breaking news really is breaking news on Reddit, not 2 day old news reheated. What is the point of this sort of system when every other site on the web has 4 variations of a story before Digg even acknowledges it?
  2. Content Mix – There is more variety and fewer favored domains. Of course you still see the same old domains but not to the degree that happens over at Digg. Yeah XKCD can be funny, but you know, it gets a bit much when it seems every single frikkin post gets to the front page. If I wanted to subscribe I wouldn’t use Digg to do it! (Slight exaggeration but you know what I mean)
  3. Democratic – It’s easier for ordinary users to get a front page story, which adds to the mix (see #2) but also means it is not as elitist as Digg in terms of submitters.
  4. See Down Votes – Reddit is far more transparent, you can see when your story is not going to make it as you can see the users voting it down. Now this is annoying, especially when you don’t know why you are getting down votes, but not as annoying as being left in the dark.
  5. Digg Conspiracy – On Digg getting lots of votes doesn’t always mean your story goes front page, leading to conspiracy theories at one end and disenchantment at the other. Neither good.

Digg used to be my favorite but lately, not so much.  Now Reddit has gone open source it should only get better as the community piles on with fixes and improvements. What is your response Mr Rose?

What do you think? Has Digg lost its way or has Reddit still some way to go? Please share in the comments …

What Are You Saying Between the Lines?

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All of us have an inner dialog. When you blog, that inner message can be revealed between the lines of your articles, social media messages and forum posts.

If you are sitting there doubting what I just said, think about it for a second. That inner voice might be quiet, but it will be there. When someone compliments you, what do you think? Do you say to yourself “You are so right!” or do you think “This is embarrassing, change the subject”. When faces with an opportunity do you think “Go for it!” or do you think “This will probably go wrong. Again.”.

The things we tell ourselves are like our mental programming, the subconscious software that manages our behavior. This inner view of the world is revealed in our writing.

The things we tell ourselves are like our mental programming, the subconscious software that manages our behavior. This inner view of the world is revealed in our writing.

My inner dialog has often been “If I managed it then it can’t have been that difficult”, which translates to an outer dialog in the form of “Anyone can do this, here is how”. While my inner thoughts are not particularly healthy, in a way it has worked for me as I break things down into systems and processes then teach other people what I have learned.

When you meet someone and start talking to them, through the stories they tell you can often get an idea of what their inner story is. They leak their imagined plot-line of their life.

Here are some examples:

  • “Despite what everyone else thought, I was proved right in the end.”
  • “Life is hard, and we are powerless, don’t ever believe otherwise.”
  • “Self-promotion is evil, people should recognize my true value without being told.”
  • “People are basically good if you would only give them a chance.”
  • “Anyone with money must have cheated or worse to get it.”
  • “You are either with me or against me.”
  • “My life is a constant test.”
  • “I am in this situation because of all of them.”
  • “Everyone else is a fraud, mine is the only authentic way.”
  • “I was put here to do great things.”
  • “People always let me down leaving me to carry the burden alone.”
  • “If it wasn’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have any luck at all.”

Listen and read, try to work out what the message behind the message is. I am sure while you think on it you can come up with more examples.

So what is the point of all this?

Measured

I am not a psychologist, I don’t even play one on television, but I am interested in people. Just looking out for these things can give you a better insight into the stories we tell ourselves and the games people play, but for anyone who works online where everything we do is pretty much on permanent record, there are a couple of important ramifications:

what we say between the lines can have a profound effect on our relationships and our success (or lack of)

First of all, be aware that we all leak our inner dialog out into the world and what we say between the lines can have a profound effect on our relationships and our success (or lack of).

For example, if you are constantly complaining about people for example, don’t be surprised if friends stop helping or partnering with you. Another example would be the person who has to tell everyone he or she has a secret (between the lines “I’m in the loop, people confide in me and I am important”), but suddenly nobody shares secrets with them any longer. It might be you think you are only sharing in private, but these impressions build up over time, get shared in other channels, and are surprisingly stubborn to break.

The second part of this message is to be aware when listening to others. Listen to the intentional message along with the unintentional. Forums, conversations, twitter messages, all form a larger thread over time.

Is someone constantly sharing conspiracy links? (sense of powerlessness?) , do they start projects then quit blaming others? (no shared responsibility?). On the other hand, do they boost others? Do they share in a positive way?

These signs collected over time can give you a sense of who is a good person to team with and who might be better left to their own projects. As I have no-doubt said many times before, collaborations are a big part of any progress online and you need to make sure you are not going to be hampered before you even start.

Finally, it is possible to have a conscious between the lines message. Decide the overall theme of your blog and make each individual article reinforce that theme. As I said before, the underlying theme of everything I do is “anyone can do this”, what do you want people to take away as your lasting message?

Bottom line is awareness:

  1. Read through what you write and make your intended message clear, and be conscious of unintended messages
  2. While reading and listening, watch out to see if you can pick up any underlying themes, what are they really saying?

Do you recognize this or think I have lost my marbles? Got any examples? Think you might be leaking? How can we plug these leaks? Please share your thoughts in the comments …

Got 100k Page Views? Want More Money?

Ryan from Performancing wanted me to tell you about a new deal that could make you more money if you have a blog with more than 100k page views a month:

  • We go direct to the advertiser and you get more money
  • High quality, big brand advertisers
  • We optimize the ads you run to get you more money from your traffic
  • Non-exclusive: you are free to run ads from any network you’d like

More details here

If you have not got to the point where you are seeing 100k page views a month, but are interested in selling advertising, don’t despair. First of all, using social media and SEO it is possible to increase your page views significantly. Secondly, Performancing are working on a solution for all sizes of blogs.

Making Plans for the Summer

As I have written before, we are now heading into the blogging summer slump time when the intertubes slow down, people go on vacation, some businesses put off projects, readers spend more time outside and not so much in front of the computer. Of course the first thing most of us think of when things […]