How to Use Giveaways to Grow Your Blog

This article is contributed by Heather Green.

Giveaways are a great way to generate excitement around your blog and to drive more traffic to it. Everyone loves getting something for free, and giveaways are fun and exciting. You can leverage this enthusiasm to create awareness about your blog, pick up some additional traffic, and grow your subscribers. Continue reading “How to Use Giveaways to Grow Your Blog”

Professional Writers Blog

Professional writers blog: that is my short and emphatic answer to the implied question in a guest post by Larry Brooks on the Problogger blog.  His cryptic title, as he described it was, Why Professional Writers Need a Blog. Or Not.  His article raised some interesting questions and on some of these I profoundly disagree with what he said.

What Is A Professional Writer?

To avoid any unnecessary debate over terms, we should clarify what we mean by a professional writer.  In my book it is someone who writes for an audience and enjoys a success in so doing.  Success can be measured in monetary terms or perhaps merely in the number of readers that the writer draws to his writings.  Some successful professional writers are so well known that anything they write will attract a large audience.  For them is the luxury of doing what ever comes naturally and the audience will be there.

Should Professional Writers Blog?

Leaving aside the highly visible and well-known writers, what is the answer to our question for the average professional writer who may be unknown to his first time readers.  Larry Brooks divided such writers into two groups and felt different rules applied.  His groups were

  • Non-Fiction Professional Writers
  • Fiction Writers

If we examine what a blog really does, I think you will see that really the same answer applies to both. 

Blogs Versus Websites

A blog is really one type of website so in fact the comparison here is between blogs and websites which are not blogs.  Non-blog websites contain static web pages and normally little new content is added from one period to another.

A blog on the other hand has continuing new content added on a time sequence basis.  Very often it has an associated news feed, which is a file that automatically alerts aggregators of news that a new item has been added.  This double-up visibility is one of the key reasons why blogs are much more effective in bringing in visitors to the online property.

Blogs Have Heightened Online Visibility

An even bigger leveraging factor on blog visibility is that Google, the dominant search engine, in some ways overvalues blog post web pages relative to static web pages.  Google does not make public why its behavior should be like this, but one element in this is that the Google search engine values recent new web pages above more established and older web pages, at least for a few days.

This means that if someone wishes to have an online presence, a blog is far superior to a regular non-blog website.

Who Should Blog?

Given this heightened visibility for blogs, who then should be blogging?  A better way of opening up this topic is to ask, Who should not be blogging?  If you are aiming to communicate with the world via an online presence, then this online presence should be a blog.  It may be appropriate to add other more static website components such as a forum or a wiki, but their content will be slightly less visible through the search engines.

Some will question whether they have sufficient ongoing content to be able to create new blog posts with some regularity.  The answer to that is perhaps best illustrated by discussing the group that Larry Brooks suggested should have a static website.

Should Fiction Writers Blog?

Larry Brooks had the following advice for fiction writers:

Why doesn’t a blog work to promote a novel?

Because you can only blog about your book for so long.  And blog readers are almost completely intolerant of self-serving, thinly disguised promotional agendas.

You have to earn every single moment of personal mindshare from a prospective buyer through the delivery of content they can put to work in their lives.

Blogging also comes with another type of risk.

Even if you have valid to offer.

Blogging can be addictive and hungry, it can eat up energy, time and mindspace like no other intellectual pursuit you’ve ever been tempted to give in to.

If you dive in, you need to be all in.   And that’s a huge commitment.

Given that line of thinking, Larry Brooks pushed for a static website for each novel.  However he ignores the fact that blogs are several times more visible than static websites in search engine results.  The blog can be very effective during the buildup to the book launch and following the launch. 

Indeed even thereafter, devout readers may be interested in whatever further developments have occurred about the novel and any sequels. Such content may be less hot with human readers but it serves to maintain visibility among those search engines.  The importance of this is such that a blog is always worth the effort even though these blogs will require only limited extra content as time passes.  Nevertheless they create a much larger impression on the search engine radar screen around the static website that is specifically for the novel.  In this way, the visitor traffic to the novel website will be maximized on an ongoing basis.  That should lead to higher book sales, which is after all the key objective.

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Marketing Right Now For Winners

marketing right now for winners cover

There is a new book available that every entrepreneur and SoHo (Small office home office) owner should read.    It is called Marketing Right Now.

You should not confuse it with the book featured on the right.  That book may never be on the shelves of your local bookstore, although there is an undoubted need for such a book.  What we are talking about here is an e-book.

The correct title does not include that last For Winners phrase, but be assured that what is included can make your business a winner.  The e-book is available as a free download. 

Although it naturally deals with how to do business on the Internet, the most interesting sections deal with the important steps you should take before you get close to creating a Web page.  If you are to succeed, then you must have a clear strategy.

Some people treat the concept of strategy in a somewhat cavalier fashion. Perhaps without realizing it, you are one of these people.  You can easily check whether you have a clear strategy by answering the following three questions:

  1. What marketing niche will my product or service target?  (What does a typical prospect of look like?)
  2. Who are the strongest competitors going after these same prospects?
  3. How will my product or service offer a superior experience to my target prospects?

Do not feel bad if any of these three questions stump you.  There are a significant number of businesses owners who would be similarly stumped.

Oprah Winfrey Recommends Marketing Right Now

As you may note, the concepts discussed here seem to be getting attention from some very important commentators.  Strategy is challenging because it defines what you will put efforts and resources into and what you will not allow yourself to be diverted by.  This single-minded focus is not easy to achieve and many people almost goof-off in doing whatever comes to mind as they try to grow their business.

This e-book puts the emphasis on this first step of strategy.  That starts with the potential customers you feel your business might serve.  You must be capable of creating a product or service that they will find superior to what the competition is offering.

You can of course sometimes make a reasonable living by having a me-too product or service.  However the Internet is a real threat to such merely adequate suppliers.  Buyers can explore what is available and they will undoubtedly go for the best they can find.

Two important operational details are also emphasized.  If you put Time as Job One, then this can give you an almost instant competitive advantage.  You must also have good communications with your prospects and clients on a continuing basis.  That implies an effective blog.  Without it your business will be hard pressed to grow as it should.

free download of marketing right now

Since the e-book is a free download, it is almost a no-brainer to check it out for yourself.  The e-book itself is a one megabyte PDF file so please be patient when you get to that step.

We welcome feedback on the e-book since this would allow a revision of the contents at some time in the future.  Please add your comments here.  They will be most welcome.

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Three Tips For Choosing Great Blog Topics

Writers Block
Image by bornazombie via Flickr

I noted this morning a blog post by Dean Rieck on 7 Easy Ways to Energize Your Creative Writing Powers.

His key message is that if you’re feeling like you’re in a creative daze, take a new path. Do something different. That’s one way to discover fresh ideas and energize your creative powers. He then suggests 7 others:

  1. Learn your craft.
  2. Get off auto pilot.
  3. Stop avoiding failure.
  4. Focus on important problems.
  5. Find new uses for old ideas.
  6. Break down false barriers.
  7. Set the conditions you need to create.

If you are bereft of ideas on what to write about, Google has a huge store of other places to find how What To Write About. Two that caught my eye were:

I must admit that I think they are all approaching this from the wrong end.  So much has been written already, why add to the mountain.  They all seem to be approaching this in the way an artist might decide to create a work of art, whether there is an audience or not.  It is what is sometimes called the product-driven way of doing business.

A much more productive way of doing business is to be customer-centric.  Let us see how that concept can be applied.

What are three great tips for choosing great blog topics.  Remember the problem is not lack of choice, but rather too many possible topics you might cover.  The solution is the same as the advice in running a successful business.  Focus, focus, focus.  The three tips to focus on are:

  • Picture your ideal reader and what they will be doing at the time they consider reading your fine prose.
  • Try to home in on something you know about that will really take their fancy and may even be a bit of a surprise and a delight to them.  Remember you bring your own unique perspective to what you will write about.  Make sure this will shine through your writing.
  • Now that you have your topic, think of the 3 most important aspects of that topic around which you can create the best blog post you have ever written.

Of course the fourth unwritten tip is if you are not happy with the result of this process today, then don’t do it today.  Instead make sure that, as you live your life today, you are keenly aware of your surroundings.  Smelling the roses or the coffee or watching how a young child delights in unexpected findings may just be the trigger that suggests what the topic should be when you go through the three tips  again tomorrow.

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Google Is Killing Its Golden Goose

Since this blog post is somewhat long and controversial, we offer the highlights of the arguments in this summary below.

Executive Summary

1.  The Internet is about two-way communication (Clue-Train Manifesto, etc.)
2.  Blogging is a perfect vehicle to support that communication.
3.  To support its PageRank-based algorithm given spamming, Google insists blog comments must only have ‘no-followed’ URLs.
4.  This removes incentive for people to add comments to blogs
5.  Twitter (micro-blogging) gives more immediate communication gratification.
6.  Blogging, a major profit-generator for Google, is thus throttled


Internet Evolution has an interesting thread by Andrew Keen asking Did I Just See Eric Schmidt Blink?   Schmidt was asked a question about Twitter’s usefulness. Here’s how he answered:

Speaking as a computer scientist, I view all of these as sort of poor man’s email systems. In other words, they have aspects of an email system, but they don’t have a full offering. To me, the question about companies like Twitter is: Do they fundamentally evolve as sort of a note phenomenon, or do they fundamentally evolve to have storage, revocation, identity, and all the other aspects that traditional email systems have? Or do email systems themselves broaden what they do to take on some of that characteristic?

That may be the technocrat’s putdown of a competitor, but Twitter is more about sociology than about technology. Twitter has created a form of social interaction that clearly is extremely well received by a majority of Internet habitués.

Back in 1999, the Cluetrain Manifesto prophetically suggested this was the strength of the Internet.  Twitter is leveraging that strength.  Google is not on the same playing field.

The nearest Google has got to this is its support of the blogosphere.  Google’s Blogsearch attempts to help bloggers find others  they may be interested in, although of late it has operated somewhat weakly.  That may be because Google now integrates blog posts with all other web pages in its main Web search.  However bloggers usually wish to communicate with their readers as we will show in the next two sections.  Google is less helpful here.

Bloggers want comments

Effective blogs encourage dialogue. Here are some relevant posts that discuss that topic.

No Comment – Chris Brogan
If your blog gets no comments, or only a few from time to time, I know how that feels. It’s hard to keep writing when you feel like no one’s watching, or that they’re not engaged. There are lots of blogs that deserve much more attention. Comment elsewhere to build relationships. And don’t give up. Blogging is more fun when there are comments, but your ideas are still just as valuable just being out there.
Measuring Student Blog Success – Shelby Thayer
The goal for most blogs is interaction (on every single page, usually) – not so with traditional websites like your university website (again, usually). Most blogs (whether they’re student blogs or not) want engagement … interaction … discussions.
Enrich the web with comments – Ross Bruniges
To ensure that the good stuff gets the credit and exposure that it deserves and likewise so that the bad stuff gets highlighted as bad I believe that we must all comment on the bad that we see so that less experienced people don’t just blindly copy, paste and use it in their projects. This is even more of a necessity if the article is being promoted as a good one to read either through a good Google ranking or being linked to from a large magazine site or mailing list.
Rewarding Blog Commenters – Charles
Comments add a huge amount to articles and help to differentiate blogs from normal websites. The comments section is the place that you look to first for a second opinion or confirmation about whether what you’ve read also works for others.  This feedback is helpful, interesting and this interaction really helps to engage your audience. People don’t want to feel that they’re alone… comments help to build a buzzing community around your blog.

If you need any confirmation, just look at the statistics on that most successful blogger, Darren Rowse.   Here are the comment counts for the Best Problogger posts.

Best of Problogger
How to Write Your “About Me” Page
How Bloggers Make Money from Blogs
What is a Blog?
Blogging Tips for Beginners
Free Blogger Templates 
Introduction to Trackbacks 
How I Make Money Blogging 
Three simple actions that doubled my website traffic in 30 days
Choosing a Blog Platform 
Adsense Tips for Bloggers 1
How to Get Guest Blogging Jobs

Newspapers want comments

The same theme is now being taken up by the professional journalists who are active on the blogosphere.  Here is how Mathew Ingram sees it in his piece on Fred Wilson and the power of comments.

Comments are an integral part of a fully-functioning blog.  I’ve been encouraging writers at the newspaper to not just read the comments but also respond to them. It helps to improve the tone of the comments, since it helps to make it obvious that a) someone is reading them and b) someone actually cares what is being said.

Comments can help to trigger not just an interesting conversation, but one that actually expands and advances the issue in question. Fred Wilson’s blog post on the future of newspapers is an excellent example.  It’s actually a follow-up to a previous post about his use of media, but it has sparked a fascinating debate about the efficacy of blogs as a reporting medium, the utility of editors, and many other topics. And Fred is right there, as he always is, responding and interjecting alongside them.

What finer explanation could you have for the power of comments on blogs.  Which raises the question, Should comments be the key blog post quality metric? Just check out the UK Guardian’s section, Comment Is Free, and look at the numbers of comments.  Here is what it shows at the time of writing.


  1. How we all lost when Thatcher won (463)
  2. The return of morality (321)
  3. Never mind the evidence – a drug-free world is nigh (256)
  4. We do things differently in Norfolk (460)
  5. Climate change creationists (232)
  6. Crank up the presses (170)
  7. Opening eyes in Israel (289)
  8. The greening of Mandelson (150)
  9. A vicious reflection of society (149)
  10. Let’s wipe out toilet paper (352)

Google wants comments ‘no-followed

Despite this natural dynamic of blogs and conversations with their readers, Google has taken a different stance.  It is partially forced on them by the nature of their search algorithms and the continuing insistence that PageRank (the number of inlinks to a web page) is an important factor in determining relevance.  Google suggests that the fail-safe approach is to apply the ‘nofollow’ tag to all comments.

A few bloggers disregard this

If you are willing to exercise human discretion in reviewing all blog comments and rooting out those that are clearly spam links, then Google would accept that comment links need not be ‘nofollowed’.  Some brave bloggers are taking Google at its word.  That is the way all SMM blogs are being managed.

Another high profile example is Daily SEO Tip with posts such as 7 Ways to Turn Your Site into a Link Magnet.  This allows links to commenters’ blogs and they do not carry the ‘nofollow’ tag.

Twitter beats out blogs

Twitter is currently adopting a ‘nofollow’ policy on all links added to Tweets.  This should be a policy that Google could hardly object to.  However if Google really is following the dictates of the tag it has recommended, then a large part of the Web activity is not being crawled by Google.  Since Google has set as its mission to catalogue all information accessible via the Web, they are now on the horns of a dilemma.

Will Google Blink?

Marketing Pilgrim has correctly posed the question that Google, or is it Twitter, should resolve.

Google and/or Twitter Need to Ditch “Nofollow” for All Our Sakes! 

Which will it be?

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