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Acting as Your Community’s Referee


No matter what your niche, you’re always going to have community members who don’t agree with one another. Sometimes, it can get personal and nasty. I see this most often in forums, but if you don’t have forums on your website, you may see disputes popping up in your comments section, or even on social networking sites. Too often, bloggers are asked to serve as a community referee.

The trick is that you want to make all readers feel welcome and able to express their opinions while still diffusing a volatile situation. When two members (or groups) of a community are hashing it out, other members, especially new people who are coming to your site for the first time, may feel like outsiders. They don’t comment because they don’t want to be attacked or take sides in any way. Being a community ref is essential to building readership. Otherwise, you’re fostering a really negative atmosphere on your blog.

At the same time, too much moderation can also be a problem. If you delete comments or forum posts from your more vocal members, you run the risk of killing your community fairly quickly. No one wants to be part of a website where they can’t speak their mind. That’s part of what blogging is all about – interaction and opinion.

Keeping all of that in mind, here are a few tips you can use to successfully ref your community:

  • Have a clear comment/forum policy. Readers should be aware if you’re going to delete or edit their comments because they’re inappropriate. Your policy could include things like “no name calling” and “no using the f-word.” Make sure your policy fits in the spirit of the site.
  • Talk to community members before a ban. Banning someone from commenting or posting in the forums might be for the best if they’re disrupting the entire community. Before you do so, however, reach out to that individual with your concerns. Make sure you explain what they’re doing that you don’t like (for example, calling another member an idiot), and ask them to clean up their act. Give them a chance to do so.
  • Close comments if the debate gets too heated. Sometimes, two sides just talk in circles, which just wastes everyone’s time. Consider closing comments if things start to get nasty, but make sure you update your post with a note about why you’ve done so. This should be a last resort!
  • Invite the two members to a debate. When the whole Thesis vs. WordPress crap was going on a few months ago, the leaders of both sides were invited to a one-on-one debate. It definitely diffused the situation a little and allowed both sides to give clear statements on their opinions without name-calling.
  • Avoid taking sides. It’s your blog, so you should make your opinion known, but avoid taking sides in an us-vs-them type of way. Make every effort so understand and acknowledge the other person’s point of view, even if you don’t agree. Don’t lose readers because you get caught up in the drama of having to be right.
  • Be consistent with your policies. If you’re going to delete/edit comments, posts, etc. or go as far as to ban people, make sure you’re doing it to everyone who breaks the rules. Be fair, not playing favorites because you agree with someone’s position or they are a long-time reader.

Luckily, most communities are pretty self-regulated. In the vast majority of niches, you don’t often have to act as a ref simply because communities won’t engage sometime who is antagonizing everyone else. If you need to, though, don’t back own. You’ll build a strong community by serving as a ref, not by ignoring the problem.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Peak Days (@abbisiler)


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

Stats are the bane of my existence. I don’t like tracking them. I don’t like studying them. I just like to blog about topics that I find interesting and see what happens. I know that this is a total cop-ou and a disservice to readers, so I track stats anyway. But I don’t have to like it.

When talking about stats, what I find most helpful are real ways to take the numbers I’m seeing and apply them to be a better blogger. Something that I haven’t thought about:

@abbisiler If you blog daily, you can monitor which days are your peak days– post your ‘best’ or most ‘shareable’ content on those days!

This is one of the best blogging tips I’ve read in a long time, and I read a lot about blogging, so that’s not something I take lightly. I do that that applying this tip is not necessarily as easy as just looking for peaks and traffic spikes, but it is something that you can definitely apply to be a better blogger.

If you do any kind of research on “best days to post” at all, you’ll find that the overwhelming number of people who speak about the topic tell you that Tuesday morning is a golden time. There’s a number of reasons why they’re right in many respects – on Mondays, people are bogged down answering work-related emails, by Wednesday and Thursdays, there’s so much new info for the week online that stuff gets lost in the shuffle, and by Friday, a lot of people have checked out for the weekend or are desperately trying to finish work so they can leave their computer until Monday. Tuesday makes sense.

Well, for some bloggers. See, your target market might be different. Let’s say, for example, that your audience is comprised mostly of stay-at-home parents. For a mom or dad on the go, Tuesday morning isn’t necessarily a point that sticks out. They aren’t sitting at work, bored and looking for a way to entertain time between meetings or job tasks. They’re running after their kids because, presumably, the other parent is at work. For the stay-at-home parent, peak times might be at night, after the kids have gone to bed or on weekend when two parents are home and they get some free time away from the kids to read blog posts.

It’s all about analyzing your market, and I think that’s where @abbisiler‘s top comes in most handy. Your audience is represented by your stats, so it’s like getting information straight from the horse’s mouth.

Be careful, though, because peak times may be driven by outside influences. For example, let’s say that you only post once a week – on Wednesday afternoons. You can’t look at your stats and say, “Oh, hey, it is best to post most on Wednesday afternoons because that’s when I get the most hits.” No, you’re creating a situation to get the most hits at that specific time. If you posted every single day, the peak time would likely drastically change.

Be careful also to look at the big picture, not a single week. If a post you wrote is tweeted by someone influential, for example, you’re going to see a stats spike at that time. So, make sure you understand why stats spikes are happening when they’re happening. There could be a reason outside of just “audience preference.”

When you do find that sweet spot, make the most of it. Schedule posts to go up at that time, especially if you think the post has the potential to go viral. Make site announcements at that time. Email your list at that time. Launch a product at that time. you get the picture. When people are visiting your site most, make it shine.

I want to say a personal thanks to @abbisiler for this stats tip! It’s something I haven’t really considered, but am now going to give some thought.

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

Improve Your Blog in One Easy Step


Thank goodness online polls are much easier!

I’ve been doing some free consulting on my own website, specifically for people interested in freelance writing. Although I started with the goal of helping people learn to work with clients, I’ve found that a lot of people have questions specifically about blogging. Mostly, it isn’t any one question…people just want me to look at their blogs and give them some pointers they can use to improve. Even outside of my consulting, it’s rare that someone approaches me with a specific question. People just send a URL and want a brain dump on how to improve as a blogger.

I’m not the smartest, best blogger in the world, but I can tell you right now how to improve your blog in a single step. Write this one down:

Ask your readers what they like and dislike.

I have a problem giving people advice sometimes, simply because I’m not their target market. I can give general blog pointers, but there’s no way I can give specific advice to someone writing a motorcycle blog, for example. I’ve never even been on a motorcycle, and I have no intentions of ever owning one. Asking me what your blog is missing or what you could do better isn’t going to end well. Or, at least not as well as it could.

You can go about asking your readers what they want in a number of ways. If you have a mailing list, I recommend that you start there, by emailing either a survey or a general question. You can also write a blog post asking people to leave comments or, if you’re struggling with a specific aspect, post a poll on your site, asking people to vote.

If you don’t have a huge readership yet, you can still look to your readers for advice. Connect with people on Twitter or Facebook and approach specific people who are vocal in your niche. Ask if you can pick their brains for a few minutes – most will agree – and meet on Skype for a half hour or so to talk about your blog. You can even meet with people one-on-one either over Skype or through email.

Don’t be afraid to approach people who aren’t gurus or experts in your niche. Let’s face it – they big names in any industry would love to help you, but they simply don’t have time to do a blog review for every reader. If they did, they wouldn’t have any time to actually blog! Plus…is that person really your target audience? They might be who you aspire to be as a blogger, but your average reader is going to be different in terms of knowledge and skill. You want your blog to be optimized for your readers, not for the experts in your field.

Be discerning when your readers give you advice. Remember, what is perfect design for one person looks horrible to another. The things that interest one person might bore another. You get the idea. Look for overall trends in what people are telling you. If 10 people in a row all say that your font is too small to read comfortably or that they want to read more about a specific subject, that’s probably advice you want to note.

The bottom line? Your readers are a great resource. Don’t be afraid to use their opinions to make your blog better for everyone.

Tips For Getting Your Blog Listed in Google News!


Want more readers? Doesn’t everyone! One solution that can pay off immensely is getting your blog listed in Google News. Google news is constantly updated with latest stories that have a news hook. If you get your blog listed, it will provide you with good exposure and coverage, and will also boost targeted traffic to your site.

Here are the top tips for getting your blog picked up by Google News:

  • Create an About Us Page:
    This is a must for Google News. Talk about the organization of your company and the goal of your site. You need to have at LEAST two bloggers on your site, who blog frequently.

  • Create a Contact Us Page;
    Another must. Provide clear and concise (and legitimate) contacct information!

  • Create Original/Fresh Content:
    Google News likes to new original and new content, along with news related posts.

  • Define Your Industry:
    Your Homepage/Logo should clearly state what industry segment you cover (enterainment, sports, finance, etc.).

  • Format Your Posts Properly:
    Your post must include author name, date of publication, and should be well-categorized (easy for a blog!) The title should not exceed the limit of 25 words. Article URL’s should be unique and look static.

  • Post Frequently:
    You want to shoot for three updates a day, minimum. The whole point of being in Google News is to have timely information and this requires frequent posts!

  • Don’t Write Too Short:
    Too short of posts (less than 200 characters) seem to be filtered out.

Once you’re ready, submit your blog for inclusion!

Nikki Katz is the Managing Editor for the BlogWorld Blog. Feel free to follow her Twitter @nikki_blogworld and @katzni

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