WordCamp Richmond: Strategery!

presenter: Bradley Robb

“A couple of tips for improving your blog’s readership and like 26 pictures of kittens”

A comprehensive digital strategy is what you are going to use when you build anything online. When you start a blog, you are committing yourself to putting out content forever.

The field of dreams fallacy: just because you blog it doesn’t mean anyone will read it. Knowing your visitors means knowing your visitor types. Referral traffic is your goal. Blog readership is not a zero-sum game; your fellow bloggers are your peers.

Quantitative analysis like page ranks compares apples to apples. But if you want to compare apples to oranges, you need to look at different things. Post frequency will increase popularity, particularly for those who do not read via RSS. Comment frequency is an indicator of post frequency. You also want to pay attention to whether the commenters are responding to the post or responding to each other (i.e. creating a community).

Amass, prioritize, track, repeat: Find all of the people who are talking about your niche in a full-time manner. Evaluate your own blog, then develop a rubric to compare your site to peers. Create a list of blogs where you’d like to guest post. Track your successes and failures – Robb suggests using a spreadsheet (blogs tracked, comments, linkbacks, etc.). Keep adding to your amassed list, keep evaluating your standing, and keep tracking.

You need to be reading the blogs in your community, but that can take a lot of time. Following their Twitter feeds might be faster. And if you’re not using RSS, you should be.

“Commenting on blogs is like working a room at a party with one major exception: nobody knows if you’re wearing pants.”

Make your comment relevant, short, interesting, but don’t steal the show. Make sure you put your blog anchor page in the URL field of the comment form. You want people to track back to your blog, right? If there is an option to track the comments, do it. It’s okay to disagree, but be intelligent about it. Be yourself, but better (and sign with your name, not your blog/book/etc.). Count to ten before you hit send, not just for keeping a cool head, but also for correcting grammatical errors.

Guest posting: write the post before you pitch it. It indicates that you understand the blog and it’s content, and that you can write. Plus, they won’t be waiting on you for a deadline.

Measure twice, cut once: If your commenting strategy isn’t working, then figure out how to change it up. Are you getting traffic? Are your comments being responded to?

Give them something to talk about. If you’re doing all this strategy, make sure you have something worth reading.

Questions:

Recommended features & widgets? Robb doesn’t use many widgets. Trackbacks is a big backend feature. Disqus can aggregate reactions, which you can publish with the post.

What are easy ways to get people to comment on your blog? There are several methods. One is to be wrong, because the internet will tell you that you’re wrong, and that can drive comment traffic. Another is to publish a list.

How do you know what to write about? By following the niche/industry, you can get a feel for hot topics and trends.

Do you have any specific strategies for using Facebook for publicizing your blog? Robb hates Facebook and it’s personal data-stealing soul. He recommends the same strategy as Twitter: for every ten posts about something else, post one promoting your blog.

What about communities like Digg or Reddit? Unless you hit the front page, you don’t really get enough traffic to warrant the time.

How many ads are too many? Depends on how big of a boat you want. If you build your theme to incorporate ads smartly, you don’t need as many of them to be successful with them. In print journalism, the page is designed for the ads with the news filling the rest.

perception & censorship

I’ve been thinking a bit about perception recently, both in the context of starting a new job in a new town, and in the context of online personas. I am rarely truly aware of how I am perceived by others, and often I move through life oblivious to how my words or actions might come across to someone who does not know me well.

New situations make me nervous, and when I’m nervous, I often find myself babbling inanely until someone more sociable is able to skillfully maneuver the conversation to something more suitable. I’m hyper-aware of this now that nearly every day presents a new situation, which makes me even more worried that I’ll say or do something stupid.

The thing is, I’m generally a good person. I try hard to find common ground with those around me, and I’m fairly open to criticism or “learning experiences.” I can also be cranky and a bit mouthy, but usually only when I’m frustrated or pushed over my tolerance limit. Long-time readers of this blog may have picked up on all of this, but there’s no way for me to know for sure. I just have to hope that as I have grown as a person over the past five years, so has the representation of me through my writing.

This brings me to the topic of censorship. I would like to state clearly, for the record, that I do not censor comments on my blog, unless they are spam or trackbacks from splogs. Those things are evil and should be destroyed. Comments that are not spam are freely posted, regardless of their content.

One of the reasons why I moved from the MovabeType blog software to WordPress was because I was getting 50+ spam comments an hour caught in the clunky spam filter used by MT. This made it a nightmare to check, and often I just deleted them all without making sure that no legitimate comments were accidentally marked as spam. Since I rarely get comments, I wasn’t too concerned with that, anyway.

However, several people have indicated that they thought I was censoring comments on this blog because I didn’t want anyone who disagrees with me to comment here. The folks who told me this are friends whom I trust, and it surprised me that they would make that sort of assumption. Again, this is a problem with perception verses reality.

Do I come across as someone who does not want criticism? I hope not. Sure, like anyone, I prefer to have constructive criticism, but that is a difficult thing to get in the virtual world where it’s much easier to make snarky comments or flame someone than to have a real conversation where everyone feels like their perspective is heard.

All this is to say, please, do comment here. If there is an old post that you’d like to comment on and you discover that commenting has been disabled for it (an old setting I used to limit spam), send me a note and I’ll open it up.

MT 3.2

For those reading this via RSS, I appologize for the repeat entries that went through today. I just upgraded to MovableType 3.2, which refreshed my index pages, including the feed. I must say, I’m quite impressed with the snazzy new look for the admin interface, as well as the relatively simple upgrade installation. I’m also looking forward to reducing the trackback spam via the new plugin integrated into version 3.2.