4 Places to Find Blogging Inspiration

r2d2-300x240If you have been blogging for any length of time you’re bound to have hit that virtual brick wall at some point. Writers block is something all bloggers will run into at one point or another. So how do you overcome the roadblock? Here are just a few ideas for inspiration: 1. Watch TV or a movie. Let something creative inspire you. If you writing a technology blog post it doesn’t mean always watching Hackers for inspiration. 2. Solve a problem you’ve personally encountered. Chances are if you have encountered a problem with something you won’t be alone. People are always searching the internet for answers to questions and if you can answer one of those questions and create useful content, chances are your post will be found. 3. Read other blogs. Blogs in your own niche are a no brainer, but be careful not to copy content. It’s called inspiration, not cheating! You’ll harm your credibility if you copy content and it will do nothing for your search ranking either. Search engines are smart enough to notice plagiarized content. Blogs outside of your niche can also provide inspiration. Use an RSS reader (Google Reader for instance) to make reading other blogs an easier task. 4. Browse social networks. Check Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, SpringPad….or any of the other gazillion smaller social networks. If you’re following the right people inspiration will come to you.

Introduction to Blogging Web Class Launched

I am pleased to announce we are ready to launch our Introduction to Blogging web class. Classes currently have a special introductory price of only $15.00. Each class is a 90 minute instructor-led web class (including web demonstration and phone) covering:

  • Domain Name Purchase
  • Hosting Purchase
  • DNS Setup
  • WordPress Installation
  • WordPress Setup
  • FTP Usage
  • Q&A

You can register over at our training page for any of the available classes. I will be adding more in the near future (based on demand), so if you have a request for a certain date/time, please drop me a message – Kevin.Doyle@BloggingInstructor.com and I will accomodate your needs.

I look forward to seeing you in class!

Diversify Your Blog Traffic Sources

diversityWhen it comes to blog traffic sources the old saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is quite fitting. You may start getting good results from promoting at one source and begin to pay less attention to others. But what if that traffic drops or ceases? Diversifying your traffic sources can help. If one source drops off you will still have others to work with. A good example of this was Digg. Only a few years ago a front page story on Digg.com was a sure fire way to get thousands of hits, these days, not so much.

Here are some examples of ways to diversify your blog traffic sources:

Organic Search

Organic search is the best long term traffic source. It takes the longest to build up, but if you can get on the first page of Google for your search terms you’ll be driving traffic to your site for a long time into the future.  Look into SEO to build your organic search sources. There are SO many methods, tools and services to help with SEO. We’ll be discussing some of these in future posts.

Social Platforms

Facebook, Google+, Twitter, MySpace to name just a few of the social traffic sources available in a massive social space thats booming! You can post to Facebook and Twitter automatically using your RSS feed and TwitterFeed.com. Every time you post a new article it will automatically tweet and posts links to Facebook. Simple to set up, easy to use and maintain. Other networks might take a little bit more work, but it’s worth it for the extra traffic if you can get the followers on the networks.

Advertising

AKA the paid option. If you dont mind investing a few $$, paid ads can be a great way to gain some traffic. The obvious downside = $$$. But used wisely against the correct keywords it can be another great way to diversify.

Forum Comments

Set up your forum signature to contain a link back to your site or specific post. Visiting and commenting in the right forums is also important. If your posting in a technology forum but your site relates to knitting, your not likely to get much traffic or repeat visitors. So keep it specific to your niche.

LinkShare/Backlinks

Exchange links with other blogs or comment on other blogs in your niche. Look for blogs that include the DoFollow or CommentLuv plugins. That way you will get the “Google link juice” along with the traffic that may come directly from the other site.

I’ll expand on each of these options in future posts, but for now it gives you some ideas to diversify your blog traffic sources.

4 Tips to Gain More Comments

quietHaving a blog and writing content is great. If you get hundreds or thousands or readers, that’s great too. But how do you know what your readers really think of your content? You need engaged readers who’ll stick around and not only consume content but add to it. Here are 4 easy tips to encourage your readers to leave comments.

1. Ask a Question

Form your post around a question. Make the question the central point of your post.  We often see the “What’s your opinion?” type endings to many posts, and this is OK and is one way to engage readers across broad topics. But try making the entire post about your question. This can also lead to a followup post based on readers feedback.

2. Hold a contest/giveaway

People LOVE contests. If it’s free and all it takes is leaving a comment on a post to enter, trust me, your going to get plenty of comments. Make it a little more interesting and instead of just leaving any old comment, make it relevant to your blog or post. For instance if you have a technology blog you could ask your readers to leave a comment with their favorite piece of consumer technology from the last 20 years.

3. Be Controversial

It’s good if your point of view is a little out there. A little off the norm. Being controversial will always drive comments, but I suggest not being controversial just to outrage your readers.  After all you do want them to come back right?

4. Use Lists

Lists are a great way to present information and it’s a guarantee that someone will always have a difference of opinion as to what should and should not be included. If a read has an opinion on an item they’ll be sure to let you know their thoughts. You could also create a followup list based on readers recommendations.

Essential Plugin: Akismet

There are a handful of plugins that I believe every active blog should be using. I plan on covering each of these plugins in a series of “Essential Plugin” posts over the coming weeks.

Firstly let’s start out with the basics. What’s a plugin? A plugin is a small piece of code installed on your blog to extend it’s capabilities. There are hundreds, if not thousands of plugins that extend your blogs functionality from integrating Flickr or Facebook to stat tracking and spam blocking.

One of these essential plugins already comes with your freshly installed WordPress blog and all you have to do is to active it in the settings. Akismet is a comment spam blocking tool that does an amazing job.  Akismet claims to date to have protected WordPress blogs from almost 46 billion spam comments. Thats a pretty big number!

Akismet takes a one time registration for an API key then it’s a set it and forget it solution to stopping your blog from becoming filled with comment spam. We all love comments, but the bad ones will bring down your site’s reputation. It’s important to filter them out and Akismet does a good job with most saving you time to concentrate on the real work of blogging.

 

Akismet

 

Akismet comes preinstalled on your blog so there is no need to download anything additional.

Firefox Add-on: FireFTP

Working with blogs and websites eventually requires you get your hands dirty with an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client to move files to and from your server. Whether it be installing a custom design or a new plugin, FTP is the way to go.

You could use a stand-alone FTP client like FileZilla or CyberDuck, but FireFTP is a simple client that does the job and runs in a Firefox tab. Easy to setup, simple to use and free! I plan on including a basic tutorial in our upcoming Introduction to Blogging class and may also include a quick screencast tutorial in the near future.

Download FireFTP

Choosing A Blog Platform

This post will discuss choosing a blogging platform. Let’s talk a little about hosted versus self-hosted/stand alone and which of these services I recommend based on your situation.

If you’ve already decided you want to start blogging, one of the first things you need to decide is which platform you would like to work with. It’s fairly easy to move your content around these days so it’s not too big of a deal if you decide to switch platforms at a later date. So just jump right in and see what works for you.

The first decision in choosing a platform is wether you want to go hosted or self-hosted/stand alone. A hosted blog is one that does not require a separate hosting account and requires very little technical skill in order to get going. The best example of a hosted blog provider is Blogger.com (A Google property – just incase you’re anti Google). Blogger.com’s service continues to evolve and allow many of the benefits of a hosted blog including a custom domain (i.e. www.myblog.com), adsense integration and custom templates/CSS. It’s by far the easiest way to get your feet wet in the world of blogging.

For those who are a little more technical, a self-hosted/stand alone blog platform is a far more dynamic and customizable choice.  The best example of a self hosted platform is WordPress.org. The WordPress platform is a fully featured CMS that’s extremely customizable. WordPress can basically be used to create almost any kind of website, not just blogs. Through the use of plugin’s the customization opportunities are boundless. The downsides to a self hosted blog include the need for your own hosting (we recommend HostGator), domain name (we recommend GoDaddy) and a good understanding of how DNS and hosting works definitely helps.

So in the end your choice comes down to a few basic things. If you want simple, low/no cost but with less customization options a hosted blog like blogger.com is the way to go. If you want complete control over your design, the ability to adapt your site to more than just a blog and are willing to spend a little money (generally less than $100 per year) a self-hosted/stand alone platform like WordPress is your better choice.

Whichever way you decide to go, let us know in the comments and share your blog link. Happy Blogging!

5 Tips for Writing Better Blog Posts

A blog is only as good as it’s content.  No matter how good your blog looks and how much you spent on a great design, if the content is bad people will quit visiting (or not even find you in the first place). You’ll hear bloggers talk over and over again about content being King. The reason you hear this so much? Because content is King! This post has five simple tips for writing a better blog post.

1. Engage the reader. Get your readers opinions on things by asking questions. Readers love to comment on something when they have an opinion. Especially if it’s a controversial subject.

2. Keep it to a reasonable length. We could all probably keep going on and on about some subjects, but try to make your points and move on. Once a post is written go back over the content and remove and unnecessary words/paragraphs/ideas.

3. Use lists or bullet points. People are more likely to read a list of items or ideas than one lengthy paragraph. As a general rule try to keep your items to 7 (+/-2). This is proven to be a good number that readers will comfortably read and comprehend.

4. Write something of value. Ensure your adding value to your reader. Are you giving advice? Answering a question? Passing along a coupon? Whatever it may be, make sure it adds value.

5. Reread your post at least once before posting. Not only to check for spelling and grammar, but that your post makes sense. Are you consistent in terminology? Do the order of paragraphs make sense? Do you need to change some words? I always try to read a post at least twice before posting to ensure it flows the way I like and makes logical sense.