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I haven’t written about blogging for a while. Since I follow quite a few blogs every day, not to mention, monitor the activity of my own blogs, it’s interesting to see what works and what doesn’t work – sometimes it’s just plain obvious, other times I had to learn certain lessons the hard way. Here are six suggestions that may be useful to anyone who’s blogging.

 

  1. Avoid ads (at first, at least): when you just start a blog and even when it’s quite a bit more established, it’s best to avoid putting ads. First, you’re not going to make any serious amount of money: if you place AdSense code, you may get the occasional click which would probably amount to ~10 cents. However, you will cause – and this is particularly important at the beginning – your potential audience to reconsider visiting your blog.

     
    Here is a personal example: I have a niche site which provies book and movie reviews. When it first launched I got quite a few people very involved because it’s dealing with a specific topic that apparently many people find interesting. About a month after I launched it I added ads: this drove my two most loyal readers away – they never came back! I even wrote one emails and she never responded. After two months during which I made a whopping $4 I took the ads off. I think these people’s response was extreme but some people are turned off by ads or anything that can be viewed as trying to make money (if you’ve been on Twitter for a while, you know that people on Twitter – tweeps – are very hostile to ads). Note that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with placing ads – you spend time and effort, get a domain, a hosting account – why not get compensated, at least a bit, for your efforts?

     
    Another consideration is that a blog is a personal thing and ads take away from that intimacy. I think when you have an established audience, most (if not all) will understand it if you put ads, but at first it will turn people off.

     
    If and when you do place ads, it’s a good idea to put them in a place that doesn’t ruin the “visitor experience”. Some blogs are so crammed with ads it’s just a turn off even for me.

     

  2. Give your posts proper titles – the search engine perspective: Try to incorporate phrases that people search for in your titles. It’s not really hard to do, a quick visit to the Google keyword tool will show that. For example: Six Blogging Tips and Tricks (the title of this post).

     

  3. Give your posts proper titles – aim to go viral. If you can come up with a good catchy title it will certainly draw attention. And if it’s a good post, people will want to share it, retweet it and send it to their friends. My recent blog post “Gaining A Million Followers In Less Than 30 Days” – got the fastest numbers of visitors from the moment I tweeted a link to it from all of my other blog posts.

     

  4. Use video properly: using video is a great idea which is highly recommended. Search engines love it and people respond better to videos than to text – after all, it’s easier to listen than to read. However, videos can’t replace your blog post completely.

     
    There are blogs that only rely on a video to convey their message. No description of the content nor a meaningful title. Not only this is bad from an SEO perspective since there is no way for the search engines to figure what the post is all about, and so, index it properly, but this is also true for people too. Often I can’t turn on my speakers from various reasons and consequently, can’t listen to the video – so there are some blog posts I literally have no clue what they are about as much as I’d like to know.

     

  5. Use a correct permalink structure: meaning, the path to the post should not use Wordpress’ default structure (which looks something like this: www.domain.com/?p=1234. Instead, use /%category%/%postname%. This is good for three reasons.

     
    First, it helps with search engine optimization, as the path has a definite impact on SEO.

     
    Second, it helps humans know what the post is about if they just see the link. For example, even without reading this blog post, by looking at the link (which is: http://www.industryreview.org/search-engines/six-blogging-tips-and-tricks), people can get a pretty good idea what the post is about.

     
    Finally, it helps you when you check for rankings. One of my oldest sites – coincidentally, the one I mentioned in #1 – has multiple pages that rank well in Google (and Bing and Yahoo) for various phrases. However, I made the mistake of using the default permalink structure – so unless I manually check, I have no idea which pages rank! All I see is a www.domain.com/?p=1237.

     

  6. Beware of spammer comments: Although I’ve written a post about this before, some comments are really quite devious in the sense you may be tricked into approving them.

     
    Not only they may have hidden links – and this has happened to me – a space between two words had a link to some nasty site, and I couldn’t see it until I actually viewed the code. But additionally, even if they are harmless, and you approve them, they make your site look amateurish to anyone who has seen these comments a million times before.

     
    In other words: avoid any comment that sounds generic – like they could fit any post – particularly if they sound flattering, i.e. “Thank you for the great post”, “Can I use parts of your post in my own blog?”, “Darn, I left a comment but it didn’t work.. do you see it?”, “Your design is fantastic – can I ask where you got that theme from?” and that sort of thing. All these are similar to comments I get every single day.

 
That’s it for now. I hope this has been useful.

 

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How to quit an addiction


 
Let’s face it. At one point or another we all found ourselves visiting a website/application much more than we wanted to. It could’ve been MSN messenger or AIM. It could’ve been Facebook or Twitter. It could’ve been a favorite blog. It could’ve been an online game (such as World of Warcraft). However, one day we realized that it’s become a detrimental habit: it has started affecting our personal lives and even work. So we decided to take our distance or maybe even quit.

 
..and then we found out it’s not so easy..

 
Sounds familiar? I’m sure it does to many.

 
In one previous post I mentioned I used to have a very successful blog in one community blogging site, and that I eventually I left for various reasons. But even after I left I used to visit quite often. There were fewer and fewer reasons for me to do so, and yet I still found myself going for a quick peek. Some people have addictive personalities, I actually don’t (when I decide I need to diet, I do – I lost 40 pounds this way), but it was extremely hard for me to break from that site – way harder than dieting – though eventually I managed to do so.

 
So if you ever want to retire from a website or internet application from various reasons, these are my guidelines:

 
First, think about why you want to do this, and whether you truly want to. Do you have a hidden agenda, one you may not even be aware of (finding that it provides escape from real life? drawing attention to yourself? etc) then it might not work. You need to really want to do this for the process to be successful.

 
It’s quite possible that after doing some thinking you’ll realize that you don’t want to stop. A friend of mine faced a very unusual dilemma (which unfortunately I can’t share, though it would make a fascinating story), and struggled with withdrawal for a long time (and talked to me about this a lot). Eventually she just said “I know it’s bad for me, but I can’t stop doing it. I guess it’s not important enough for me to quit. If it ever does, then I will”. Although I think she made the wrong choice (and told her), I respect the fact she took responsibility for this decision.

 
Second, if you are certain you want to go ahead with this, simply make a decision. Decide that things are going to change from now on. It might sound corny, but you need to make this decision consciously to be mentally prepared.

 
Third, decide on a time frame. I find that people often fail with such decisions because they give themselves leeway. “I’ll start my diet tomorrow”. “I’ll quit smoking after the new year”. No! Decide on a time frame, which could be now, tomorrow or next week, and stick to it. Until that point you are free to do whatever you want, even overdo it. If it were smoking, I’d say, smoke 10 packs of cigarettes, but smoke them before the deadline.

 
Fourth, and I find that for me this is the most important element: remove the physical cause of the habit. I found out that regarding addiction, at least for me many times it’s hard to break simply because it became a habit, something I’d do without thinking about it. Just turn on the application. Just open the website.

 
So if this were smoking, I’d say, get rid of all cigarettes in your home, all the ashtrays, and all the lighters. However, in the case of internet applications or sites, I’d say uninstall the relevant applications and clear your browser cache. If you really suspect you may waver in this decision, change your password to gibberish and store it somewhere (could be a physical printout). This will make going to the website/application a much harder thing to do, as you’ll actively struggle with your commitment with it (so it won’t be a 2-second thing but breaking this process would have to be done consciously). The moment I realized that my attempts fail because they became a habit is the moment I learned to beat these things permanently.

 
Fifth, expect withdrawal symptoms. If it’s a social website, are people talking about you? If it’s a chat application: what’s going on around there? If it’s a MMORPG (yes, I quit that habit too, years ago), are there new areas? Has the last raid been successful?

 
Every time you have these thoughts think of the reason you decided to leave. Why leaving is good for you and how it will improve your life. If necessary, even note it down for yourself. In case of smoking, this would be physical withdrawal symptoms, but then you’d have to think about your health. About your child who is exposed to your smoke. Et cetera.

 
Sixth, DO NOT TEMPT YOURSELF. This is where the success stories end. You could be successful for months, and one day just say “Hey, I’m over this, I’ll just do this one time”. No, not even once. From what I hear, this is how many ex-drug addicts and ex-alcoholics resume their old habit.

 
Finally, Start and don’t look back. Be strong. This will work if you’re committed.

 
How amusing. I wrote this with regards to internet applications/websites, but this really can be applied to any addiction.

 
When I decided to do my diet (which was a very specialized no-sweet diet), I took things to an extreme: I avoided all things with sugar, milk, fruit, carbohydrates and a couple more things. People who know me well understand how much this was a sacrifice for me (I have a sweet tooth and am a very hungry person by nature), but I decided I need to do this for health reasons. So I completely avoided these foods. For 3 months, I haven’t made even a single slip-up. At the same time, I lost a lot of weight very quickly without doing any extra exercise (or ever hearing a diet lecture or reading a diet book). This simply worked. Not that it wasn’t hard, it was very hard – but it worked. I’ve done this multiple times so far.

 
Just to finish this anecdote, I eventually stopped. After 3 months, my boss at the time brought high quality chocolates to an office party. He kept pushing me “come on, take one – it’s not going to be bad to eat just one”. I ended eating 3, and then more at home, and within the following week I was back to my old habits. Clearly this broke my diet.

 
In hindsight, I don’t regret it – 3 months were plenty for what I was trying to accomplish and I really didn’t need to continue. However, in other circumstances this would be really baaaaaaaaaad. This is exacty what would make me fail. As I said, from what I know, people who have quit really dangerous addictions for long periods of time (such as drugs or alcohol) fail in precisely these circumstances.

 
It’s important to also realize what your temptation boundaries are: for me it’s OK to see my temptation as long as I don’t do it myself (i.e. I can see my wife eating ice cream, and it would be hard, but it would not cause me to break). For other people it might be necessary to completely avoid it. Whatever works for you.

 
I don’t know how many people who read this are actually considering breaking a habit, but if you are, then this will work. Since I intend for this blog to stay here for a while, I hope this may end up actually helping someone. If it does (or I can help with anything), please do let me know. I’d really like to hear your story.

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Rewarding people who visit your blog

A quick recap of the previous post, Enticing People to Visit Your Blog: Part 1 of 2: new blogs and websites often suffer from a malady – no matter how hard the creator may work, and how talented he may be, no one visits his site. In the previous post I suggested ways of overcoming this using common sense and attitude. In this post I will cover technical methods of drawing people to your blog.

 
In general, these methods can be loosely categorized in two ways: one by allowing your blog to be more noticeable, the other is by giving your visitors a reward.

 
Although allowing your blog to be better noticed is clearly a way to attract visitors, what are the things your blog can potentially give its visitors? I can think of two major things: Link Juice (or more formally phrased: “Inbound Links”) and Publicity. So how does one enable his or her blog to do that?

 
Ok, let’s begin:

  1. DoFollow links: as I mentioned in an earlier post about DoFollow links, many users feel that commenting in a blog is an action worthy of a reward. Now, I don’t mean for this to sound like a criticism, it just that we, the users, don’t have to leave comments, so if we do make the effort and leave a comment, should we not get at least a reward (in the form of an inbound link)? I’m deliberately speaking from the users’ perspective since I am one as well (I visit other blogs). Unfortunately, Wordpress settings automatically define all comments as NoFollow links and this discourages many people from commenting at all.

     
    My recommendation: install the NoFollow Free plugin: it’ll allow you to set your commentators’ links to be DoFollow and have a lot of control in the process of doing so. This way, users are more likely to visit your blog. Yes, some will only come for the link, but it will get them to look at the blog as well, and they may like what they see. Besides, if they leave a good comment, it’s not a problem – and if they don’t, well, then just remove it – it is your blog after all.

     
    Note that in my previous post, Stephan (@ThatSwissIMGuy), raised a good question: what do we gain by getting comments? After all, they helps ‘bleed’ link juice from the site (so effectively weaken its Page Rank). Although that is true, Google really favors blogs with plenty of comments, and if you write a post that becomes popular, you’ll notice that it really helps that post’s rankings. Of course, Google hates fake comments, and I would not be surprised if it knows how to detect those (and I’m sure it knows how to detect spam comments). Interestingly, I recently read an article about a guy whose site was banned (deindexed) for using a fake comment generator. So I would strongly advise not even attempting to go down that route!

     

  2. Controlling anchor text: one problem with leaving comments on blogs is that they are associated with the name of the person who left them. Go to a typical blog, and see that every name that has a hyperlink points to a website. Although the link is useful, it would be far more effective in terms of search engine optimization if it used a good anchor text, since anchor text is hugely important when doing SEO. For example: in most blogs, if I leave a comment, the link to my site will be associated with my name, Udi Schlessinger. Although this will help me better rank for “Udi Schlessinger” when doing a Bing or a Google search, it would be so much better if I could control this anchor text, let’s say, have it be “Best Computer Games” for my computer game website (which is a site I have).

     
    KeywordLuv is a fantastic plugin that enables users to do just that – determine their anchor text. Furthermore, by searching for the text “Enter YourName@YourKeywords in the Name field to take advantage” with a keyword, users are able to find blogs/websites that use this plugin and are associated with their chosen keyword. Again, this may get your blog visited only to get a link, but if they like what they see, they’ll keep on coming – which is the goal, no?

     

  3. Advertising your blog: another very useful plugin is CommentLuv. Blogs that have this plugin installed show the name of the last post the poster has created and a link to it next to the actual comment that he left. Therefore, if you have a catchy title and leave interesting comments on other blogs, they are very likely to draw attention and consequently, visitors.

     
    Similarly to KeywordLuv, there is a search string that users can use to locate this plugin (it is not always active, but if active, it is “CommentLuv Enabled”). See below.

     

  4. Top Commentators: this is slightly more subtle but very much powerful. Some sites have a ‘Top Commentators’ bar (look to the right, this one does). Although there are several such plugins, my favorite is the ‘Top Commentators’ plugin. I used to think this is only for show, to ‘award’ individuals who leave the most comments per week/month/year with sort of a title. My opinion immediately changed when I found out one day I’m getting about 70 inbound links from a site because I was a top commentator, and my name/link appeared in every one of the blog’s pages. At first I couldn’t understand how this could be the case, but then I realized: since the ‘Top Commentators’ widget appears on every page, I got as many links as there were pages! Although some blogs disable the linking function, many do not. And even if you don’t get any link juice, the publicity alone is worth it.

     
    It is possible to find such blogs by simply searching for “Top Commentators” and your keyword of choice.

     

  5. Social media: sharing your posts in various social media sites is a sure way of getting them noticed. Digg, StumbleUpon, Facebook, Twitter – you can share your posts in all of them. The good thing is that there are plugins that make this a very easy task. Better yet, your visitors can do that as well if they like your post. Again, there are many plugins that do that, but my favorite is the Add to Any: Share/Bookmark/Email Button plugin.

 
The next three suggestions are also technically based, but are not plugins:

  1. Signature: many forums allow you to place a link in your profile or in a signature that appears on every post you make. Regardless of the potential for link juice this may get you, if you are an active member of the forum other users are bound to notice this and visit your website at some point. This is, obviously, true for email as well: if every email you write ends with your site’s address, then quite often you’ll notice in your site’s logs that visitors have arrived through that link.

     

  2. Videos: one sure way of getting attention is making interesting videos that advertise your site, either by actually showing its usage (through capturing the screen while you use it), by actually talking to the camera about it, or by simply including a link at the end the video. Either is a good way to advertise your blog.

     
    In addition, if you upload a video to YouTube (or other video sites) some users will look at your profile (a statistic I read said that 0.5% of the visitors do so) which can include a link to your website. Although 0.5% is not a lot, if your video becomes very popular, this becomes significant. In fact, some people offer to buy or rent popular videos for this very reason (there’s a whole online course dedicated to this method).

     

  3. Incentives: this is something I have not personally done, and most affiliate networks/individual publishers do not allow that. However, some publishers and networks are fine with it. If you give an incentive (i.e. free iPod to the 100th commentator on a specific post) and just mention it on a public forum or use Digg, you will very quickly get traffic. Of course, you’ll also need to shell out an iPod for the winner, so hopefully the post will pay for itself (using an appropriate affiliate offer that allows incentives).

 
Ok, that’s it for now. Although I can think of a few more methods, I think I’ll stop, as it is becoming a long post. Hope you find this information useful! Please let me know if you do.

 
Quick edit: I knew that installing KeywordLuv and CommentLuv would draw attention from people just looking for links. However, it seems posting this article made my site 5 times more visible. I am going to include comments as long as they contribute to the discussion, and will reject all others. I advise readers to do the same.

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Enticing People to Visit Your Blog

Here’s a common scenario: It took a few months where you kept telling yourself “I’m going to start a blog soon, I promise” and you finally have. You put some effort and created several state of the art posts. But no one visits. You look at the traffic logs, and there are two visitors, one is Google (spidering your website) and the second is you.

 
This is a common problem for new blogs: no one knows you or your blog, and they don’t have any reason or interest in visiting your carefully crafted blog. How do you get them to give you a chance?

 
I’ll classify my answer to this issue into two categories: the technical way and the non-technical way. I’ll begin with the non-technical way which will be covered shortly. The second part will be posted tomorrow.

 
In many ways, the non-technical way can also be called the ‘common sense’ way, though some aspects are quite subtle, particularly if you’re very new to the world of blogging.

  1. Quality: write good content. As I wrote in an earlier post (which actually does not even reside on my blog but rather in Murray Newlands’ interview of me… I should copy some parts into my own blog!), you should not be blogging if you don’t find this activity at least somewhat enjoyable. If you enjoy the process, then you are more likely to produce quality content. If you produce quality content, you are more likely to attract people who enjoy it. If you attract people – well, that’s the goal, isn’t it?

     
    A necessary condition, in my opinion, is being passionate (as well as knowledgeable) about what you’re writing about. Don’t try to write about something that you don’t like – as it will be apparent in your writing. If you’re using blogging as way to reach a goal and don’t find the subject matter interesting, then there is probably a better way to achieve what you want other than blogging. Although this may seem obvious, some people just blog for the sake of blogging. Perhaps so they could also say “I have a blog”. It’s very easy to identify these blogs. They’re simply boring. Dull as hell. Sometimes you can even sense the suffering that went into producing a specific post.

     

  2. Consistency: write consistently. Suppose you wrote three very good posts in the span of a week and have started getting a group of people who show interest in your blog, but then stopped for two weeks. Don’t be surprised if these people figure you’ve abandoned blogging and go away (as this happens more often than not – just visit the random blog on blogspot). Particularly at first, it’s crucial that you maintain consistency. Even if it means posting only once a week.

     

  3. Show interest in other blogs. In the past, I’ve participated in blog networks where people visited your blog because the framework was a vast network of blogs and you couldn’t avoid other blogs even if you wanted to. Once you started getting visitors, you felt compelled, sometimes out of curiosity, other times out of politeness, to visit their blogs. It was considered very impolite not to at least express some interest in the blogs of people who used to visit your blog (though there were a few people who never did). These days since most professional blogs are located on their own domains it’s a bit different. Yet when we think about it, it’s not that different. If you consistently visit other blogs, leave interesting and insightful comments with your blog address, you are much more likely to get the blog owner to visit your blog, as well as his own visitors. This is particularly true when using the ‘CommentLuv’ plugin, but I will discuss this tomorrow.

     

  4. Differentiate yourself: find the aspect you’re good at, or particularly interested in, and focus on it. Not only it’s very educational to see what other bloggers in your field are writing about, but you also don’t want to write articles such as “introduction to PPC”, “Introduction to Affiliate Marketing”, “Introduction to CPA” when every single blogger in your field (assuming, in this case, is affiliate marketing) has written a similar post.

     

  5. Know your audience: some people are targeting a very specific audience they aren’t familiar with. This is a recipe for disaster. For example, it would be very difficult for me to write a blog about makeup, as I literally know nothing about it. Even if I use a woman’s name, even if I try and somehow succeed at emulating a certain writing style (assuming one exists – I genuinely don’t know), I believe it will be very obvious to the readers at some point that (a) I have no idea what I’m talking about and (b) I am not even a woman.

     
    If you do this, slip-ups are bound to occur, and then you’ll lose the faith of your bloggers. Once you lose that, it’s over – they won’t give you a second chance. You’re dishonest and can’t be trusted.

     
    Note that – in case you don’t remember – I am an ex-academic. Often I’d read papers of people who would try to write a professional article about a certain subject, and within 5 minutes I’d spot a slip-up. For example, they’d use the wrong terminology. Or treat a fundamental aspect as a novel discovery of their own. Whenever I spotted something like this I immediately stopped taking anything he or she wrote seriously. If one does his research properly, this can’t happen. My conclusion: it’s better to stick with what you know even if you don’t know certain things, than claim to be an expert on something and be caught. I advise you, the kind reader, not to do that.

     
    On the other hand, it’s important to mention that some fields really don’t require a lot of effort to master. Perhaps makeup is a bad example, but I’m sure if I spent 2 hours reading about dog grooming, I can easily write a blog that will at convey enough expertise to be convincing. I have a website about auto insurance, and when I started, I really didn’t know much about it. However, I’ve done so much research when writing articles than now I’m really somewhat of an expert on the topic. It’s not rocket science, after all. However, not all fields like that, particularly fields that require passion (i.e. makeup) or professional knowledge (i.e. health issues). Keep this in mind.

     
    Of course, you can have a wide range of topics you’re willing to cover (i.e. a very wide audience), and – in my humble opinion – that is fine too. This blog, the Industry Review, is about Affiliate Marketing, Social Media, Technology in general, and all that is related. It covers quite a lot of fields, but at least so far, hasn’t really focused on any of those (i.e. I haven’t written a post about “How to use PPV effectively” until now. I could if I wanted to, and maybe I will, but there’s so many other things I want to write about, at least now I haven’t gotten to this point yet.

 
In the second part of this post, I will cover the technical aspects of enticing people to visit your blog. Check this blog tomorrow! Please leave comments of things I have forgotten or omitted.

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