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Blogger Conference

Well, I just returned from the blogger conference, and I have to say that it went real well. It wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, but that is okay. First, I was able to put some faces to blogs that I read on Planet Utah. Steve Dibb and Scott Morris, there's some Google juice for you.

Next, I want to discuss a few things that came up during the conference that I don't think the panel either answered too well or even at all. For those who didn't attend, there was panel setup to take questions from the audience about blogging. While the panel was very knowledgable on the subject, they all spoke with a lot buzzwords and tech-talk that may have been unfamiliar with many of the people who attended. Also, they all spoke from the angle of business, marketing, and corporatations. Nothing at all really about personal blogs, how to set them up or what to blog about.

The questions seemed to be following a recurring theme:

  • How do I drive traffic to my site?
  • How do I increase my Google ranking?
  • What do you blog about?

And on and on. I feel that the panel, as qualified as they were, did not answer these questions well enough. So, I will here, with a few extras.

How do I drive traffic to my site and how do I increase my Google ranking?

This is probably the most difficult aspect of a blog: increasing traffic. First, you need to ask yourself if you really want more traffic to your site. You will undoubtedly become more recognized, and wich such press comes both good and bad press. This means that you will have people who violently disagree, and will either put their argument in a comment beneath your post, or put a post up on their own site referring to yours. You have to have the thick skin to handle it. Believe me, I have been there.

Increased traffic also means the duty to satisfy your readers. This will need to come through frequent updates and tailoring your posts more to what your readers want to read. In other words, if a post about Ubuntu brings more traffic than a post about Gentoo, then you need to keep you posts targeted in that direction. This can be difficult, because the post your readers want to read may not be the post that you want to put up. Plus, taking the time to make sure that your readers are satisfied can be very exhausting. Spending 30 minutes to an hour minimum per post is common, and posting at least 3-4 times a week should be manditory. In other words, make sure it fits in your schedule.

So now that you are aware a little what comes with increased traffic, how do you get it? Well, this is where Google and other search engines come into play. Stop and think for a second, do you use email? Do you visit forums? Are you a member of any online groups or mailing lists? Reason I ask, is because putting a link in your email, group or forum signature is a great way to drive traffic. People do click on the links, if nothing but curiosity.

Next, one word: Technorati. That site literally tripled my traffic overnight. Here's how it works. Technorati is the Google of blog searching. When someone is looking for a blog to read, they turn to Technorati. Technorati literally serves up posts from anything under the sun, and chances are good that someone will search for something that is on your blog and stumble on it. You claim your blog on Technorati, assign some tags to it so others can find it and then just start posting. Your blog will send pings to Technorati at every post, and pretty soon, traffic begins to show up. Also, the more that other blogs link to yours, the higher your ranking will be and the more traffic you will receive.

Lastly, you need a tool at which you can monitor your blogs traffic. I recommend highly Statcounter. Statcounter is a great page counter that just sits quietly on your page with a little JavaScript. Statcounter monitors traffic that can be broken down by day, week, month, quarter and year. It keeps track of page loads, unique visitors and returning visitors. It keeps track of what the most popular pages are, where visits came from, how they found your site, what search engine they used, where they physically live, how long they visited, their browser and system stats and much much more. The service is free for basic features including the ones that I mentioned and a log size of 100. They have subscription options for increasing your log size, and a few other features. What is so great about Statcounter is you can see exactly what sort of traffic is visiting your site and how to modify your blog or it's content accordingly to increase that traffic. Because it gives you such an extensive breakdown of your visitors, you will begin to see exactly what sort of readership you have and what interests them.

What do you blog about?

This can be as equally frustrating as trying to increase your traffic. Keeping a commitment of posting regularly can be exhausting and draining. You will quickly see that you are running out of ideas and things to post about. Before you know it, you are only posting once a week at best, and even you realize that the content sucks.

First, and foremost, when you set up a blog for the first time, you need to identify what interests you on a daily basis and you need to be passionate about it. Try blogging about anything else, and it just won't last. Ask anyone. You need to create some sort of "theme", for lack of a better word, for your blog and most if not all of your posts need to fall under that theme. Find a theme that you are passionate about and that is popular with others, say like politics or technology, and it won't be long before you have a decent readership.

When putting up posts, blog about things that you interact with on a daily basis (again, keeping inline with your theme). This will help you with your posts. Avoid the journal/timeline routine, such as "At 10:00 I did this, then at 1:30 I did this, then at 3pm I did this..." and so on. Keep that in your journal, put the influence and activity on your blog. It's just more interesting that way and more people will read. I often relate blog content with family photo albums. What pictures in the album are the best? Aren't they the pictures with activity in them rather than poses? Who wants to see you in a shirt and tie sitting in a chair with a silly grin posing? Not me. I would rather see you at the lake, or at a birthday party, or at the park with your family. Your blog is the same. Keep the content active with detail, vibrance and passion. We could care less at what time you did what during what day. Get the idea? Avoid daily routine stuff that everyone does and blog about what is unique to you or your business.

Lastly, you don't have to be an eloquent writer to blog and get decent traffic. I'm not, and I receive anywhere between 40-60 unique visits per day with a consistent readership of around 20. All you need to do is write. You will find, however, that it is very difficult to show humor and sarcasm when writing. Eventually, your readers will begin to see how you use your humor, so until then, don't get offended if someone else takes offense to a post of yours because you used sarcasm in the post. Just write. Have fun with it. Be opinionated and passionate. Don't take things too seriously. Let who you are come out through the blog.

Summary

In conclusion, just post. Post post post! Your blog should be a reflection of who you are or who your company is. Blogging does takes commitment and time, so set aside some time in your schedule for it and don't deviate. Adverise your blog and encourage collegues to visit it. Make your blog part of who you are and take it with you everywhere. I heard a stat at the meeting that 80% of bloggers quit blogging after only 3 months. Whether that is true or not, your blog should become a part of who you are.

For me, this is my 4th domain that I have blogged under (Blogspot, Toponcefamily.com and now Pthree in conjunction with IAmLDS.org) and I have been at it for nearly 3 years. At one point, I had over 3,000 daily hits on my blog with an average of 20-30 comments per post. I know what it takes to drive traffic and readership. Althogh I am certainly no proffessianal or expert on the subject, I think most of the ideas I have brought forth are universal and will work under any circumstance. So at this point, I say good luck and have fun.

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