I’m often contacted by companies who tell me they need a blog. “So how do I get a blog?”
“Why do you think you need a blog?”
“Everyone’s got a blog. I need a blog.”
No, you don’t. Not everyone nor every business needs a blog. Should they? Maybe? But do they need one? Absolutely not.
If a static website, a billboard on the web, is enough for their customers’ needs, giving them basic information about the company, its employees, location, driving direction, and products and services, that’s good enough. Why blog?
If the business has a strong customer service base that is Internet savvy, and it wants to improve its online identity and reputation, then maybe a blog is worth considering.
How easy is your blog to use? Can the visitor move around quickly and easily between posts? Between categories, archives, and other multi-post pages with more than one web page? Can they immediately identify the About, Contact, and other key Pages which will give them more information about you and the blog?
Are the blog posts clearly identifiable from other content on the blog, such as graphics and ads. Or do the graphics and ads interfere with the post content?
When viewing multi-post pageviews, is each post title clearly defined, separated from the post above and below it? Is it obvious it is clickable, taking the visitor to the post?
Are the categories clearly defined so the visitor sees them and knows there is more content that might hold the answer if this post doesn’t? Are there only a few, specific categories, or dozens? Do they complement each other, or are each disparately different?
Is there a list of recent and/or related posts that will help them find more sources for the information they need?
I’m the first to admit that I, too, was sucked into the Google Game, the game of playing with my blog to ensure the success of my blog’s participation in Google world domination control of all things searchable. As part of my ongoing series on improving your blog tips, one of the redundant bits of advice I give to my clients is how to play the Google Game while not playing the Google Game.
Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Playing the Google Games means understanding how Google’s PageRank algorithm works, which is much like predicting the stock market in relationship to the weather. Sometimes the weather cooperates, as does the stock market, but other times, both are unpredictable and based upon factors that twist and turn in the wind.
Gawd, I’m bored. Aren’t you? There’s nothing new on lately? Everything is the same old same old. I’ve seen it all, haven’t you? There’s nothing new.
No, I’m not talking about television. Okay, I could be, but I’m talking about blogs.
Come on! Aren’t you getting bored reading post after post of “how to succeed in blogging”, “the top 25 SEO tips”, “make money with blogging”, “get-rich-quick with blogs”, and “my top web traffic tips” that litter the web?
As part of my ongoing series on improving your blog tips, a look at the redundant tips I give to many of my clients, I’ve covered clarity, cleanliness, consistency, and it’s turn for some creativity tips.
The most critical factors in building relationships with your readers is getting them to read and getting them to link. So how do you make your blog posts linkable?
Spreading the Word
Personally, I don’t believe in “spreading the word” about a blog post I’ve written. I like them to be naturally found, discovered – if you will – as part of the magic of the peer-driven, social aspect of the web. I want people to find my blog posts and want to write about them because they meet a personal need. Not because they were thrown in people’s faces.
Unfortunately, most bloggers want that “thrown” effect.
I recently stumbled upon ScratchBack, one of the latest projects by Jim Kukral. ScratchBack presents itself as an online tipping system that lets your readers send you small payments for a link and several lines of text on your blog or website.
ScratchBack is an online “tipping” system. It allows you, the publisher, to accept tips and “give back” links* or images* in return.
You name your price on your tips, and you earn money from every interaction through our easy-to-use automated system. It’s free to sign-up, and you can have a TopSpot widget on your website or blog in minutes.
Think of it as a mix between text link ads and a tagboard. Readers get to post messages, but unlike a free-for-all tagboard, anyone who would like to leave a link and a message would have to pay for the space. Rates can range from anywhere as small as $1 (or less?) per link, to as high as you want. And the duration of each “message” can last for as short as a day, to a week, to a month, or until newer messages bump off the older ones.
This made me think about the viability of this as a model for blog monetization. Then it came to me. Aggregating the small stuff can lead to bigger stuff. Most of you would know of this concept already as one of the oft-used (and over-used) concepts of new media: the long tail.
More of the small stuff results in big stuff
Having dinner out yesterday evening, the family came across a small store that sells stuff for 50 cents apiece (or the equivalent in my local currency). You have all sorts of simple kids’ toys, household implements, hairbands, pens, notepads, notebooks, folders–name any cheap stuff, they have it. One would tend to think these things are so inexpensive it’s probably worth grabbing a few. And at these prices, our minds would be conditioned to think these are mostly necessities anyway, or at least stuff convenient to have around (my desk is constantly running out of good pens and notepads, for instance).
Our purchases totaled about $10, I think. So much for cheap 50-cent items.
What I mean is that if the price is low enough, consumers or buyers would consider it negligible enough that a purchase decision shouldn’t be too hard. In terms of link advertising, I would carefully weigh my options and choices, were I to pay for links or ad space somewhere in the tune of hundreds of dollars. However, I wouldn’t think twice about tipping a good blog with a buck for a few lines of text.
Sure, I can get a free link by writing a comment on a post. But if it’s convenient enough (meaning I wouldn’t have to go through ten sign-up steps just to send that one measly dollar), then I’d probably be happy to part with a small sum. And I get that warm, fuzzy feeling of having made a fellow blogger one dollar richer.
And for a blogger, having a handful of micro-tips per day could add up to good money each month. Probably enough to pay for hosting, bandwidth, DSL bills, or perhaps a spiffy new blog theme. Hmm, micropatronage campaigns might be a good idea after all.
Of course, there are arguments against blogging for tips, which can be a hit-or miss thing (remember this experiment way back?). But then this system isn’t exactly for donations per se, since tippers get something in return. I’ve seen a lot of “tip this blogger” PayPal buttons out there and I tend to ignore them. Yes, some ask for regular subscriptions, but unless I get added value out of my tip or subscription, I probably won’t bite. So this ScratchBack system seems to be more interesting than plain ol’ tipping.
Would you try out ScratchBack? And would you think such a system would prove to be a viable means of monetizing blogs? And would you agree with me that feeling warm and fuzzy all over makes blogging worth it?
Eager for my expertise, a company recently hired me to improve their web traffic by reviewing their web design, content, and structure.
I don’t do “web traffic” work. Traffic isn’t important. The numbers aren’t important. The ones who stick around, and pay for the privilege, aren’t on a normal score card. To influence me to take them on, they told me that they wanted to improve their online presence, visibility, and really connect to their customers, expanding their reputation to a global market, as well as be more attractive to modern shoppers and web users.
Basically, their site was six months old and not working for them. They wanted an expert to tell them why. With misgivings, I decided to take them on. In the end, I gave them their money back. Here’s why.
I write and photograph, and play on the web. Okay, it’s more serious than that, but many think of these things as hobbies. I’ve never thought there were hobbies. They are jobs. My career. My business. I’ve been selling my writing and photography since I was 15. Blogging and web publishing was a natural career move as technology developed along with my skills and business. Writing and photography aren’t hobbies. They paid the rent.
Along with my work, I have hobbies, too. A hobby is something you do for fun, relaxation, and enjoyment. It’s a change from the day-to-day grind of your job, whatever your job is. Luckily, most of us live in a society that allows us hours away from a paid job to do something other than work.
For most, their hobby brings creativity and fun into their lives. It stretches the mind and body, actually making them a better worker for the time away from the job. Hobbies are wonderful things and they need to be honored.
The moment you make money with your hobby, your hobby becomes a business. Things change. You change. The hobby changes.
Recently, people have a new attitude about hobbies. I learned how to knit last year and I’m having some fun with it, making mistakes as one does when they are learning. I sit waiting in airports and offices, knitting away mindlessly, enjoying this new hobby that allows my mind to wander while my hands are busy and I’m accomplishing something. I like hobbies which make things.
Someone notices and they start chatting, eventually leading up to:
You Can Make Money Selling That
I cannot count how many people have admired whatever I was working on with these words, “You could make money selling that.”
Mohsin of Blogging Bits writes in 5 Sources That Brought Me Tons Of Visitors about the different methods that have brought him success from outside of his blog to his blog.
At the end of the post, he shares this great summary of the lessons learned:
Again, the best part of the traffic coming from related blogs is that those visitors are interested in my content. It’s up to me if I can retain their interest long enough to convert them into regular readers.
…Every new visitor on a new blog brings with him tons of new hopes for the blogger, and helps shape the future of the blog.
…Don’t be afraid to link out to others, participate in contests, volunteer to post on other blogs, and make contacts in the social media world. You have to do all this to survive, if not to succeed.
Sometimes we are so concerned about linking to sources to help further educate and enlighten our readers that we forget that links are communication, connections between the blogs, and those links are a two way street.