The Power of the Blog

I love blogs… WordPress self hosted blogs in particular. Like any great love affair, there are ups and downs.

The down side…Wordpress has announced version 2.6 is released today. UGH! I’m currently installing 2.6 on my “test” blog EZ Marketing Tool. I’ll soon know what works and what doesn’t in WordPress 2.6. The frequent updates are a downer for me because I not only have to bring my blogs up to speed but also roughly 100 other blogs as well.

On the up side though, there are several blogging stories out there to make the minor inconvenience of frequent updates seem minor in comparison.

Isn’t that the way a great love affair works? Sure there’s a pinch of G&A (grief and aggravation), but that pinch of G&A just adds a level of texture and flavor to the 101 things that are great about the relationship. (I’ll have been been married for 24 years this December 1, so my G&A thresh hold is obviously very, very high!)

Micheal Martine begins the singing the praises of blogging hit parade with his post How I Brought My Business Back from the Dead with Blogging.

I’m quote Ben Yoskotiz so often, I don’t have to check on how to spell his name lately (grin). Yet, here he is again with his story of how he was Quoted in The New York Times – The Power of Blogging.

To that I’ll add the story of my own client.  Janet Simpson is an AMAZING woman who has truly “been there, done that.”   She’s a lifestyle coach who survived a car crash against the odds.  Her tale of survival is documented in Junkyard Janet.  About six months ago, Janet decided to convert her static website Nourish Your Life to a self hosted WordPress blog. This week, film crews are visiting Janet at her home to document her tale of survival against the odds.

One of the things that fuels my love affair with blogs is how search engine friendly they can be.  Ben found that an article he posted over a year ago was the source of his claim to fame in the NY Times article.  The title of the post probably matched the exact search terms the NY Times reporter was using to find information.

Janet’s blog includes this line on her about pager which probably included the keywords A&E researchers were using to find stories for their series:

Life took an unexpected turn when a car accident/miracle changed everything.

What story do you have to share?   Share your story here.

Increasing Blog Traffic: Trolls and Drive By Readers

attracing blog readersThere’s a new “increasing blog traffic” tactic being touted (I wish I could remember where I read this now) where leaving troll like comments is being encouraged as a way to increase blog traffic.

When I use the word “troll“, I’m not talking about a fictitious, mythological creature who is obnoxious, hideous and dedicated to achieving evil ends.

Instead, I’m talking about someone who fits this description of a troll at Wikipedia

An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial and usually irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the intention of baiting other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.

In essence, an internet troll does share the mythical creatures bent for evil, but it’s important to remember that a troll is not offering his/her authentic opinions, which may or may not offend someone. Instead of commenting to share an opinion, the troll offers comments with one intention – to stir the emotions of other readers.

While troll like behavior is being touted as a great way to increase blog traffic, I’d have to guess that instead, this kind of post just merely creates Toxic Conversation.

The quality of readers you attract with troll like comments are what I call “Drive By Readers”.  They may subscribe to your RSS, but they provide little value to your blog other than boosting your RSS subscriber count.  If they came as the result of your troll comment, they’re seeking emotional juice.  They’re at your blog to see more of what you delivered via the comment section they just read.  They’re at your blog with the purpose of seeing who you shredding now.

If your goal is to be a Blog Shock Jock, then leaving troll like comments will be a great investment of your time.

trollHowever, the other side of that coin is the blog owner where you’re making those disruptive comments.  As a blog owner, it’s hard to know what to do about Trolls. Defining troll like activity is the first step and sometimes that’s the hardest step of all.   Wikipedia has an explicit DNFTT (Do Not Fee The Trolls) policy.

Trolling is a deliberate, bad faith attempt to disrupt the editing of Wikipedia. Ignorance is not trolling. Genuine dissent is not trolling. … They are only trolling when they are motivated by a program of malice rather than ignorance or bias. This requires a judgment of the personal motivation for another’s action.

And that my friend is the problem with defining a troll.  A troll is defined by his/her INTENTIONS and usually it’s hard to determine those intentions with a single comment.    Is the person leaving frequent comments really a troll, or just someone who needs educated?

The advice I frequently share with clients is this: your blog is YOUR playground.  You provide the playground so you can make the rules.  If you think someone’s comments are troll like, then it’s your right and privilege to enforce a strict DNFTT policy.  In other  words, if you think it’s a troll, then it’s a troll.

Have you had problems with trolls on your blog yet?   If so, how have you handled it?

Alexa’s New Ranking System Hurts Some and Helps Some

Alexa is a “traffic spying tool” used almost exclusively by web savvy tech professionals to see how much traffic a particular site is receiving.  Until recently, Alexa gathered their data exclusively from an optional toolbar which at first could only be installed in Microsoft’s Browser, Internet Explorer.

So, when a web savvy tech professional would visit a web site, the firs thing they would do is look in their Alexa toolbar to see how the web site was doing.  The problem with this is that the toolbar would only measure traffic to the site with toolbar installed.     So, if your audience wasn’t tech savvy and didn’t have the toolbar installed, your Alexa ranking suffered… sometimes greatly.

So this morning, Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger announced the change in the way Alexa computes  its rankings. You can read the Alexa Press Release here.

Amit Bhawani did some research to find out how the change has affected some of the big blogs on the internet and found many blogs rankings dropped dramatically.  According to ShaMoneyMaker, the impact will be felt most by those who do paid reviews.

For those of us who write for a non-technical audience, we have seen a drop (which is good) in our Alexa rankings.   For those whose focus is on the technical web audience, there is no joy in this anouncement.

I have to wonder what the REAL reason is behind the switch at Alexa.  Could it be that is putting pressure on Alexa?  Then again, Alexa is an Amazon creation… and things have been pretty messed up over at Amazon.

Maybe this is evidence that things aren’t going well inside the hallowed halls at Amazon….

To Blog or Not to Blog…. Which is Better for your Business

When Darren Rouse of Pro-Blogger posts, bloggers listen. So when I saw that he had post “Should I Change My Website Into a Blog” I felt compelled to share my experience.

Darren points out 6 reasos why you might want a blog and 5 reasons why you might not want a blog for your business. It’s a great post and I heartily recommend it to you.

Darren states that one reason you may not want to use a blog to promote your business is that blogs take time to mature. A HEARTY AMEN TO THAT!!!! Nothing frustrates me more than to have a blogging client contact me 6 weeks after the launch of their blog and complain that they aren’t ranked #1 on a highly competitive search term which they haven’t used ONCE in any of their 6 posts. However, it takes time for ANY web presence to “mature”… even traditional ones which are launched with all their content “in tact” and ready to roll.

Darren also recommends blogging daily. If your blog is the foundation of your business, then by all means, you’ll be posting at LEAST once daily to generate the kind of content you need to generate. If you want to blog for blogging’s sake… then think of it as launching your own independent newspaper. Fresh content and breaking news are truly king.

However, most of my clients don’t aspire to full time blogging. My clients want a powerful marketing tool they can use to promote their business.

I’ve played it both ways. I had a “conventional” web site parked here for YEARS!!! When my web site was “just a web site”, when a potential client would contact me, the conversations would begin with “so and so says you’re wonderful.” After launching the blog, my phone began to right with people saying, “I read your post on [insert topic here] and I thought you might be able to help me. I can’t say I ever had ANYONE who wasn’t a referral contact me without an article being picked up by a newsletter prior to launching the blog.

Darren is MUCH more “balanced” on this issue than I am. Read his 23 Questions for Prospective Bloggers… despite earning a comfortable income from his blog, he still doesn’t think it’s for everyone.

However, Darren blog is his business. My clients are encouraged to see their blogs as COMMUNICATION TOOLS for their businesses.

My favorite word picture is as follows and I use it with clients who have a web site they love and they are considering whether to add a blog.  Read that post here: Using Your Blog to go Fishing (warning, it’s targeting authors, but it works for any business!)

Why Your Blog Isn’t Getting As Many Comments As You’d Like …

One of the most common “laments” I hear from my clients (the ones who are actually adding content regularly) is “HELP!!! Very few people are commenting on my blog posts!!!”

My standard response to them is as follows:

It’s been my experience that most people who leave comments on blogs are other bloggers. With a blog of their own to promote, these people are trying to build a “bread crumb trail” to their own blog via their comments. “Regular” people will have to be moved to great extremes of either passion or anger (usually the latter) to be motivated to actually post a comment.

It’s interesting to note that I have a few clients who have NO DESIRE to allow people to comment on their blogs! As I was researching a blog post for another blog, I came across a post from Steve Rubel over at Micro Persuasion titled The Participation Ladder and Its Impact on Marketing and PR.

Forrester segmented the online audience into several different stratas – what they call a ladder of participation. They found that “Inactives” are by far the dominant group (52%). They’re followed by spectators, joiners, critics, collectors and last but not least creators. This last cluster, according to the analyst firm, dabbles in lots of different activities but few do all of them. See the chart for more.

The numbers on the graphic pan out as follows:

Creators: 13 %
Critics: 19 %
Collectors: 15 %
Joiners: 19 %
Spectators: 33 %
Inactives: 52 %

Keep in mind, according to the report, people enter at the bottom of the ladder and move UPWARDS. Inactives don’t usually jump into blogging at the “creators” level. They move slowly up the ladder… becoming spectators… then joiners.. then collectors… then critics.

Now, take a look at YOUR blog’s audience. Where do THEY fall on this ladder?

My clients are definitely fall on the lower spectrum of the ladder. Most of them are trying to soar to the top and as a result, they need my services to guide them. That’s what I do. As a result, my clients (and potential clients) don’t comment on my blog posts, my colleagues do.

While my clients and potential client’s won’t post a comment, they will email me if they feel particularly moved by a post. For example, when I was complaining about my cat and his OCD issues in the post “Are Google Adwords the Answer?” I got several emails from concerned clients who wanted to help my demented self mutilating kitty.

Niche Blog Marketing also offers great advice regarding playing the comments game with your blog:

Focus on building your lists while building rapport with your visitors. Track your progress and study your numbers. Treat social networking like attending your local Chamber of Commerce meeting. Be approachable……..

In other words, ASK for participation if you want comments.

There’s no one who does this better than Liz Strauss over at Successful Notice how she ends her post “Wendy Wouldn’t Wait. Will you?

What are you doing to build the business of your dreams now?

She got 23 comments on this blog post just by ending it by asking a question. She does that a lot and as a result, her blog is an active hub.

By the way, Liz leads that post with the most brilliant insight I’ve seen on the web:

A blog isn’t a business any more than a building is a company.


Does the Blog Skinny widget do to more harm than good?

Blogs are hot… there’s no doubt about it. I’m such a fan of blogs, that I’m actually a “blog pusher and dealer.” They are a GREAT communication tool for independent service professionals who need to build trust with potential clients.

However, in response to the popularity of blogs, several services have emerged which claim to offering help driving to your blog. Some of these resources, like Technorati, MyBlog Log, Blog Catalog are legitimate blog traffic building tools. Others like Blog Rush are of questionable value, but I don’t think it HARMS your blog to include their widget…. unlike a service I stumbled upon the other day.

It’s called “Blog Skinny”and I decided to test the service with one of my “experimental” blogs.

Step 1: Fill in the form and submit your blog to the database.

I fill in the required information. No red flags yet… so I use a REAL email address that I actually check because some tools, like Blog Catalog, have social networking type features, participation in which helps to improve the tool’s effectiveness at driving blog traffic.

Step 2: Authenticate your blog by displaying not one but 2 widgets. Once the widgets are displaying on your blog, you then hit the “submit” button to authenticate.

TWO WIDGETS?!?! I mean, the rest is standard operating procedure, but requiring 2 widgets is asing a lot. (The fact that they offer another 8-10 “optional” widgets should have sent up a red flag, but it didn’t alarm me enough to stop.)

I don’t have a problem with the display preview that they show for each button. The first one is shown as displaying a tiny button and the second is a larger button. I notice as I copy the code that these the kind of URLs that would warrant a quick in person visit before approving a trackback or comment…. that red flag is starting to wave faster and closer in front of me.

Yet, I blaze on and add the code to the test blog. I click “view site” and am HORRIFIED by what I see. I’m not seeing the discreet image displayed in the display but rather a “word at home” text link in place of the discreet first button. Following the link confirms my worst fears: that Blog Skinny widget is going to link my blog with one that apparently lives in a “bad” neighborhood!

WHOA!!! A quick delete of the text widget and I take pleasure in the admonition from Blog Skinny that failure to complete the process will mean my information will be deleted from the database. I’m hating the fact that I used a real email address with them at this point and will have to wait and see if I’ve opened up a pandora’s box of email there.

I frequently tell my clients, “I’m covered with the scars from my experimentation so you don’t have to get burned.” While I initially hoped that I dropped the match before it burned my flesh… using my real email has already resulted in spam emails coming in to me pristine and well protected account.