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Overheard on #Blogchat: Your Story (@shanleyknox)

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Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: creating a strategy for your blog

As bloggers, we spend a lot of time looking at ourselves. We want to connect with a community through telling our story. We want to learn new things to make our blogs successful. We want to share. It isn’t a malicious thing, but many bloggers, myself included, can be pretty egotistical, at least some of the time.

@shanleyknox: remembering that ur telling a story, but just right amount of personal so it stays focused on the story, not YOU.

This week, while talking about blog strategy, @shanleyknox made a really great point. Connecting with readers through telling your story is awesome…but don’t lose the lesson in talking about yourself.

Point in case: earlier this week, I gave you all a snippet of my childhood when writing a post called The Blog Sneetches. I rewrote that post four or five times before getting to the point where I felt comfortable posting it. Each one was missing something, but I couldn’t place my finger on that crucial missing element.

Finally, I figured it out. I was spending 75% of the post reminiscing about something from my childhood and only 25% of the post actually relating to the reader.

Now, sometimes, a long story can be a good thing, but if you spend most of your post talking about a personal story, you better have a really strong point at the end. When you do tell a story in your post, I recommend scrutinizing every single sentence. Is it necessary in making your overall point or are you just having fun talking about yourself? If it’s the former, edit it out. As @shanleyknox points out, you want to focus on the story, not on yourself.

If you can do that, your readers will get to know you as a blogger, but you also won’t drive off people by being too self-serving. It’s a fine line to walk and I certainly don’t always get it right!

I’d like to invite you all to share a post as a link in the comments before where you told a story about yourself to make a point to your readers, but in an edited way that was all about the reader’s needs, not about just liking to talk about yourself. If you don’t have a post like that on your blog, I hope you’ll take this opportunity to write one, and then come back here to share it with us all!

Overheard on #Blogchat: The Next Level (@tc_geeks)

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Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: taking your blog to the next level

This week’s #blogchat theme was an interesting one, since “taking your blog to the next level” can mean different things to different people. For some, it means more traffic. For others, it means more subscribers. For others still, it means more money. But whatever your goals, one chatter tonight hit the nail on the head:

tc_geeks: How to take your blog to the next level????? Start coming to #blogchat for starters 😉

Some shameless #blogchat promotion? Perhaps, but also a good lesson. Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in our own blogs that we forget about the rest of the community out there. As a professional blogger, you essentially have two communities:

  1. The community of bloggers, like you’ll find at #blogchat, who can help you learn more about making your blog better
  2. The community of readers, who are highly interested in your nice and want to connect with you outside of just commenting on your blog posts

Spending too much time inside your own blog closes you off to both of these communities, which is definitely a bad thing.

First, if you ignore the blogging community, its hard to grow as a blogger. Sure, you can stumble into building an awesome blog, but bloggers of all experience levels with really awesome ideas are out there…and they want to help you. #Blogchat is a prime example of that. No one pays anyone to show up or answer questions. We just all do – and we all learn something in the process. It’s a beautiful thing. If you’re ignoring that community, it will be infinitely harder to take your blog to the next level.

But secondly, what you can take away from tc_geeks’ tweet is that you need to connect with your community outside of your blog. Find Twitter chats where they participate. Find them on Facebook. Find them on forums. Find them so you can connect and be “one of the people.” On your blog, you’re an expert. Outside of that, you may still be an expert, but you’re also a member of the community. Step down from your blogging throne and understand your readers by being one of them.

One of the best decisions I’ve made as a blogger was to start participating in #blogchat. It helps me learn about blogging, and my target audience (at least here at BlogWorld) happens to be bloggers, so I’m killing two birds with one stone. Sometimes, getting away from your blog is the very best thing you can do to improve your content and create a better community.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Writing Well (@mkrigsman)

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Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Monetizaton with Darren Rowse (@problogger)

I’m a writer, so blogging was something that I fell into naturally. Originally, this was a field that was only filled with people who enjoyed writing, simply because blogs weren’t monetized so the only reason to do it was for the love of writing. As more and more people begin to see blogging as a way to make money or build a brand, however, writers aren’t the only ones starting blogs. Monetization means that blogs are being run by people who don’t have a background in writing and, in many cases, don’t even like writing. Someone at #blogchat brought up an interesting point in regards to this:

@mkrigsman: If you don’t write well, then you cannot blog expertly. Great content requires skill created by devotion. No shortcuts.

First, let me talk about what I think people will take away from this tweet – then why I wholeheartedly believe it’s wrong.

When most people read this tweet, what they’ll read is, “if you aren’t a writer, your blog is going to suck.” I actually know quite a few people who have told me that they have a great blog idea, but they don’t like to write or don’t think they can write well, so they never do anything with their ideas. That makes me sad.

Frankly, you don’ t have to be good writer to be a good blogger in most cases. If you are blogging for entertainment purposes (such as posting short stories or creative non-fiction), being a good writer is necessary. But really, if you don’t like to write, why the heck would you start a blog using your writing to entertain others? That doesn’t make a lot of sense. No, most bloggers blog to share information about their niche. To do that, you don’t have to be a good writer.

To be a blogger, you have to learn to share you ideas clearly in a way that connects with your readers. Those are skills you can learn, not inherent talents. Becoming a good blogger is all about perfecting your craft, just like you do with any other job tasks. Someone working at Subway doesn’t have to enjoy making sandwiches to create a really taste lunch for me! You can’t teach talent, but you don’t need to be a talented writer to be an amazing blogger. I think that’s what @mkrigsman was trying to say, and what people should take away from this tweet.

If you aren’t a good writer or hate writing, you do have other choices. For example, you could record a weekly (or even daily) podcast to post on your blog or become a video blogger. You could also create a photo-centric blog if it fits your niche. Not everyone needs 500-word posts every single day. You have other options! You can even hire a virtual worker who is a good writer and do interviews with them so they can create your blog posts (or have them rewrite your work so it is easier to read).

Writing does get easier as you work on improving your skills. While a blog post may take you three hours now, in the future, you’ll start to learn how to write faster in a way that better connects to your audience. Even if you aren’t a writer, don’t give up! Your blog can be awesome.

I’m curious, readers/bloggers – were you a writer in any way before you started blogging? If not, what are your biggest writing-related challenges?

Overheard on #Blogchat: Haters (@EGlue)

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Open mic night!

As many of you may already know, in addition to working here at the BlogWorld blog and running my freelance writing blog, I also serve as site manager for Binge Gamer, a video game blog I founded with my best friend a few years ago. The video game community is not…nice. And that’s an understatement. Even if you write a post that is straight news, containing no opinion at all, you’ll likely get called an idiot by someone in the comments, or two+ of the commenters will start attacking one another. That’s just the nature of this niche.

But that’s not every niche. In fact, that’s not most niches. Most communities are inherently positive, so it can feel jarring when you get a negative comment on  your site. I actually feel kind of lucky that one of my first major blog projects taught me to have a thick skin.

One of the participants at this week’s #blogchat spoke a bit about this topic:

@EGlue: Whatever you do, you can’t make everyone happy. If you got a hater or two, you’re probably doing something right.

Easy enough to say, but I also definitely understand why some people get upset when a hater starts leaving comments. We put a lot of work into our blogs, to the point where they feel like our children. If someone doesn’t like our child, that’s anger-inducing…but when someone makes fun of our child? Well, I don’t know about you, but it makes me want to lash out right back.

It pays to remember what @EGlue mentioned – if someone is hating on you for some reason, it’s probably an indication that you’re doing a good job with your blog in general. People may not like a certain post you write or a certain decision you make for your blog, but they feel connected enough that they have to leave a comment. You want your community to feel so invested in your blog that they leave emotional comments when they don’t like someone. If you’re community’s reaction is, “Meh,” that’s probably an indication that you’re not doing a very good job connecting with them.

And remember too, there’s a difference between a hater and a troll. A hater might hate you, but they make valid points or actually have something to say, even though it might come out in a not-so-nice way. A troll, on the other hand, is just trying to piss you off (or piss off another commenter). They don’t actually care about your blog, your community, or even, in many cases, the topic. Haters warrant a response, though do so tactfully. Trolls rarely warrant a response and sometimes even warrant being deleted, depending on their comments and your blog’s policies.

The bottom line? Although negativity often hurts, try to find the constructive criticism in it and remember that just because someone has a different opinion doesn’t mean that you’re doing something wrong as a blogger. Work on building up that thick skin and keep moving forward.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Conscious Keyword Strategy (@grtaylor2)

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Open mic night!

Whenever there’s an open mic night at #blogchat, you never know where the conversations will go. I didn’t get to participate myself tonight, but one of the tweets that stood out in the transcript was this one:

@grtaylor2: I go into every post w/ a conscious keyword strategy. Then, I write the content for the audience.

My first instinct is to want to argue. No! Do not write for search engines! You have to write for your readers! What are you doing?!? WRONG!

But in reflecting a bit, I think grtaylor2’s tweet is spot on the money because he used one word: conscious.

Keyword use in blog posts can be downright horrible. I’ve seen posts where not only were keywords stuffed into the text unnaturally, but the overall information in the post just didn’t make sense. If you’re writing for search engines, you’re never going to build a viable blog, unless you can also offer something of value. And because so many people make the mistake of using keywords in a crappy way, I think many bloggers have the natural reaction of wanting to argue anyone who says they write with keyword strategy in mind.

But this approach can make sense. In actuality, if you don’t consider keywords at all, you probably are doing a disservice to readers.

Why?

Because frankly, if certain keywords are popular, that means that people are interested in those topics. That doesn’t mean that you need to stuff your blog posts with keywords to pull in traffic, but if you’re ignoring your readers’ concerns, you’re missing out the opportunity to really help your community.

Check out your stats. What keywords are bringing people to your blog? These are topics where you can expand with more posts. Check out search engine reports. What keywords are popular in your topic area? These are topics you should cover if you haven’t already.

Yes, you should focus on awesome content, but the conscious addition of keywords can also help you reach out to people who don’t yet know about your blog. Good keyword strategy can help you build your community, not just drive up your traffic numbers. Don’t ignore this way of connecting with your readers.

Overheard on #Blogchat: “Nichify” (@CatsEyeWriter)

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With all the BlogWorld Expo work I’ve been doing, I haven’t had time for Overheard on #Blogchat for a few weeks. Glad to be back this week!

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night, I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Generating interest in your NEW blog

One of the most interesting #blogchat quotes I’ve read this week was from @CatsEye Writer about the topic of your blog, which plays a big part in building your online community.

CatsEyeWriter: New blog? Don’t be afraid to “nichify.” Your right people will find you.

I love this tweet in part because I make up words all the time and in part because it’s really solid advice that I feel like most bloggers get wrong.

A few months ago, I offered free freelance writing consulting on my blog, After Graduation. Of the people who signed up, 90% of them wanted to talk about their blog ideas, either for existing blogs or blogs they were thinking about creating. I found myself saying one thing more than anything else:

FOCUS!

Let’s say you start out with a personal blog where you just talk about whatever topic pops into your head. It’s about as far from “nichified” as possible. Unless you’re a celebrity or there’s some other force bringing your readers together to like you, how can you market that blog? You don’t have an average reader. You aren’t solving a problem. Chances are that you aren’t even being entertaining – at least not to every reader with every post. Reader A might like Post #1 but not Post #2. Reader B might like Post #2 but not Post #1. Because only the occasional post is relevant, no one subscribes or makes an effort to support your blog in any way.

So let’s say you “nichify” a bit by deciding that you’re going to write about parenting. That’s a huge niche. Again, you don’t really have an average reader. Because you’re so general, your posts are going to initially attract all kinds of parents. But Reader A is a young, new mother from the Midwest who is interested in your budget tips for parents, while Reader B is an experienced father from New York City who wants tips on helping his child choose a college and Reader C is a couple dealing with a child with autism. If you’re trying to write to all of them, your posts are going to be watered down and not convert. You can’t build a community if there’s nothing to bring them together.

Don’t be afraid to really find your niche. While there are more general parents than parents with children who have autism, if you write for Reader C specifically, your people will find you – and they’ll stick around.

So, as @CatsEyeWriter says, don’t be afraid to “nichify.” It’s better to have a small, dedicated readership than it is to have a million hits a day with no community. A dedicated readership that becomes a community is the key to building traffic and making sales, and that starts with defining your niche.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Advice from @copyblogger

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night, I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: How to Create Compelling Content For Your Blog

The #blogchat community got a real treat this week, as the discussion was co-hosted with Mack by Brian Clark (@copyblogger) from Copyblogger. As is usually the case, tweets hit on a huge spectrum of topics, this week including things like using keywords for SEO purposes, writing headlines, and the best blogger tools and themes.

Straight from the horse’s mouth*, though, this was by far the best advice of the evening:

@copyblogger: First, what are you trying to accomplish ultimately? What business are you trying to build, who are you trying to influence?

@copyblogger: Never lose site of your ultimate goals.

@copyblogger: From there, focus on 3 things relentlessly – 1. Links. 2. Subscribers. 3. Action (what do you want people to do?)

What I want to touch on tonight with my own commentary is the first point that before you even start focusing on links, subscribers, and action (and anything else dealing with monetizing your blog), you need to sit down and determine your blog’s ultimate goal.

I feel like this is where so many bloggers fall short. It’s not hard to gain a following, no matter what your niche, as long as you’re helpful and engaging. But I see so many bloggers struggling with how to build up readership after they’ve plateaued and how to make money once they have the community. Often, an inability to do so comes from the lack of an ultimate goal.

Start with a broad understand of your blog’s goal. For many of us, that goal is to make money. For some, it may be simply to express a certain point of few and gain followers, and money doesn’t matter, as might be the case with a non-profit blog. For others, it may be to raise brand awareness for a product that you don’t actually sell on the blog. I talked last week about another common blog goal – the blog resume, and you can also have the goal of just enjoying writing online, having a place to rant and rave and journal about your life.

All of these goals are fine. The problem comes when you say, “Oh, I don’t really know. I’ll just start writing and see what happens.”

If you do that, you almost certainly will have a hobby blog that essentially becomes your online journal. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you’re OK with not making money, gaining a huge following, or promoting a specific brand. I find many bloggers are not OK with that, which is where the problem lies.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You cannot inconsistently post about a mish mosh of topics that interest you and expect to make money.

That would be like opening a store at the mall and instead of selling items that fit into a certain category, just selling whatever you personally like. If I walked into a store that sold bicycles, peanut brittle, portable air conditioners, high-heel shoes, car batteries, clipboards, scarves, and toasters, I’d think the owner was nuts! Yet, that’s how many people treat their blogs – as a catch all that they expect to magically start making money.

Unless you have an ultimate goal, your blog can’t succeed as a business. Well, I’m sure some blogs have accidentally succeeded that way, but in general, you need to have a clear target in your mind. Even if you love a myriad of things in life, pick one to cover on  your blog or, if you have time, start multiple blogs. Set goals, and then put Brian’s plan into effect – start building your readership and making money.

*Erm. Not that Brian Clark is a horse!

Overheard on #Blogchat: Wordcount (@gallaghermeg)

Author:

Yep, I’m a day late with Overheard on #Blogchat this week. I was at an 80s-themed bachelorette party, so I had a good reason!

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night, I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Open mic!

My friends all make fun of me because my emails are usually super long. I’m a wordy person, mostly because I like to explain myself clearly so as not to cause too many questions. Because I’m rarely brief, this #blogchat comment caught my eye:

@gallaghermeg: is there word count that you try to keep your blog posts limited to? I worry that too long = less reading.

I worry about that too at times. My posts are typically long, often times between 700 – 900 words and rarely less than 500 words here at the BlogWorld blog. On After Graduation and Binge Gamer, I’m also not the briefest person in the world. Could that actually be causing me to lose readers? And, if so, why the heck am I still posting uber-long blog posts?

First, I would like to note that yes, I think that long blog posts can deter readers. It depends on a number of factors:

  • Does your target audience have time to read a long post?
  • Is the post well organized with headings?
  • Is it necessary for all the info to be in one post, or could it have been split into multiple posts?
  • Do you use pictures to break up the text?
  • Do you use short paragraphs, blockquotes, bullet points, numbered lists, etc. to break up the text?
  • Are there shorts posts on your blog too, or do you only write long posts?
  • How often do you update your blog?

If you post walls of text, you’ll drive readers away no matter what your demographic. It’s about formatting as much as it is about wordcount.

It’s also about saying what you have to say as concisely as possible. Whenever I hit 800 words or more, I reread the entire thing with an eye on every sentence. Do I really need that sentence to convey my point? Self-editing is never more important than when you’re writing a long post.

Remember, every niche is different, and beyond that, every blogger is different. If longer posts work for your style and readership, there’s no reason you have to stop writing. Good content will drive readers, even if you’re long-winded like I am.

What do you think – do long posts scare off readers? How long is your average post?

Overheard on #Blogchat: The Squeaky Wheel (@BillBoorman)

Author:

Yep, I’m a day late with Overheard on #Blogchat this week. I was at an 80s-themed bachelorette party, so I had a good reason!

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night, I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Open mic!

Mama Boyer has a saying: ” The squeaky wheel gets the grease!” She usually says this in regards to complaining about something. If you don’t speak up, no one will fix your problem. My mom is someone you can count on tell you if service is bad.

Reading over the #blogchat transcript, since I wasn’t able to attend last night, this stood out to me, making my think of my mom’s saying:

@BillBoorman: 95% of your audience will never interact. Dont be swayed by only the noisy ones

Not every reader on your blog is going to be a squeaky wheel. Usually, people are outspoken when they’re feeling an emotional extreme – like anger from disagreeing with what you have to say. Of course, emotions can be positive as well, but every time you write a blog post, only a small percentage of people will actually comment.

That doesn’t mean you should listen to them, necessarily. You want to help your readers as much as possible, but at the same time, it is important to keep in mind that the readers giving you feedback only make up a small percentage of all the readers visiting your blog. If you want to create the best blog with the most active community possible, you have to consider the needs of all of your readers.

That’s the tricky part. If someone isn’t a squeaky wheel, how can you give them the grease?

  1. Consider polling your readers. Often, people aren’t enticed enough to leave a comment, but they will click on a poll choice to help make their voice heard.
  2. Check out what pages are most visited. Don’t just look at entry pages, since the top pages on this list are likely optimized for search engines well or were linked by people to drive traffic. Instead, look at which other posts people are visiting an how long they’re spending on these specific posts.
  3. Run some tests. See if your traffic numbers spike or dip with a new theme, for example. Even though readers aren’t talking, they’re voting with their visits.

The squeaky wheel may get the grease, but a blogger knows that all of the wheels on the cart deserve some attention. Don’t ignore the huge number of readers you have who are lurking in the shadows.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Stat Discouragement (@tsudo)

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night, I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Understanding your blog’s analytics and using that info to grow your blog’s readership

As I’ve already said once tonight, stats are not my favorite. I don’t like analyzing them. Heck, I don’t even like checking them. I think one tweeter tonight especially touched on why stats are hard for me:

@tsudo: Measuring audience is important but don’t allow it to be a discouragement to creating useful content.

No matter how well my blogs are doing, I always have higher aspirations. I’m one of those annoying people who is never satisfied, even when I reach my goals. So, stats always seem like a bit of a let down to me. The doubt starts to creep in.

I’m not growing fast enough.

My reader bounce rate is super high. I must not be writing engaging content that encourages people to stick around.

Most of my referrals are from Google. I’m not doing enough to promote by blog through social networking sites, and no one feels compelled to retweet my links.

I had a bad stats day. All is lost.

I know in my heart that even a horrible stats day doesn’t mean that all is lost, yet it if easy to look at stats and wonder why you aren’t doing better. I bet some of the most popular bloggers in the world look at their stats some days and feel discouraged that they only have one million readers instead of two million readers.

The key is to be productive when you look at your stats, rather than letting it paralyze you and prevent you from creating good content.

Take a good look at your last two weeks of posts. Are they high quality? Are they original? Are they focused to be relevant for your target market? Are they consistent? If you truly believe in what you’re doing, keep doing it. Don’t stop just because you see a day of bad stats or aren’t growing as quickly as you wish you could be.

Of course, on the flip side, it is also important to not ignore bad stats. If your readership hasn’t grown for months, you have to ask yourself: why? Maybe you need to reevaluate your niche, your market focus, or your style approach. Don’t blindly continue to post for months or even years if you have no readers. Figure out why.

The point is, take any stat number with a grain of salt. It’s easy to get down on yourself if you think you could be doing better, but rather than simply not posting, continue producing high-quality content and take steps to discover why you aren’t doing as well as you’d like to be doing.

Check out “Overheard on #Blogchat” here every Sunday to read about some of the most interesting tweets from participating bloggers.

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