blog tips

31 Days to Build a Better Blog

I can only begin by sharing my Blogging Journey with you….

All the blogging tips I can give you, I learnt from the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog – 2007. The finding of which are listed below.

You’ll need to scroll right to the bottom for Blog Tip #1 (it’s worth it!)

This challenge started from the Darren Rowse – 31 Day Build a Better Blog Challenge. Darren’s daily tasks offer great advice on improving your blog.

See my original blog post about this challenge.The 31 Day blogger group has moved to the Building a Better Blog community space -View my profile on Building a Better Blog

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Day 31 Challenge – Run a SWOT Analysis on your blog

Ah! The old SWOT is back…

A SWOT analysis is a strategic tool that looks at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that that business might have or be facing. This challenge is about doing this on your blog!

So look at your blog mission statement from the day 28 task and determine your blog’s;

1. Strengths

What attributes does your blog have that will help you to achieve your blog’s goals? What does your blog have going for it? What are you good at as a blogger? What resources and assets do you have at your disposal? What do you do better than anyone else?

2. Weaknesses

What attributes does your blog that are holding you back from achieving it’s goals? What skills do you not have as a blogger? What is ‘broken’ on your blog or in your workflow? What could or should you improve about your blog? What should you probably avoid in your blogging? What is distracting you from your goals?

3. Opportunities

What external things could/are helping you achieve your blog’s goals? What trends are their in your blog’s niche that you could explore on your blog? What tools and technologies could you use to improve your blog?

4. Threats

What external things could or area hindering you achieving your blog’s goals? What are other blogs in your niche doing that could be hindrance to your own blog’s growth?

note – Think of Strengths and Weaknesses as internal factors while Opportunities and Threats are external factors.

Then

Analyze Your Reflections and Generate Strategies

How can you utilize your Strengths? How can you bring your Weaknesses to an end? How can you make the most of your Opportunities? how can you fend off the Threats?

Plan to Do Something and Do It

Translate your findings into an Action Plan and begin to implement it.

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Day 30 Challenge – Explore a Social Media Site

Explore a Social networking site of your choice. These popular sites have enormous potential for bloggers wanting to improve their blogs, and their branding…

I have been networking and branding myself along with other educators and educational groups in a few social networking spaces recently. I have found this very useful and the knowledge and resource sharing has been amazing.

I have also found it exhausting. There are so many spaces and everyone is in different or many of these spaces.

Find me here;

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Day 29 Challenge – Email a Blogger that Linked to You to Say Thanks

Incoming links create traffic, improve search engine rankings and help your branding. Find out who the people are behind the links and develop your relationships with them.

Email them and briefly thank them, you could be surprised as to where it leads.

I try to do this on a regular basis and made the effort to do another one today – Thanks Michelle.

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Day 28 Challenge – What is your Blog’s Mission statement?

Get some direction if you haven’t already. Whay are you blogging? Use this to measure your success.

So what’s your blog’s Mission Statement?

I blog to connect with others, to raise my profile, to network, collaborate, share and learn. I blog to learn about the technology I teach with. I blog for fun, to engage learners by being transparent about who I am. I am building my virtual identity.

Do you think this is working?

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Day 27 Challenge – Find a Sponsor for Your Blog

Okay, this is for bloggers looking to make money from their blog. That’s not me!

If you’re interested, it’s about where to start, who to target, attracting sponsors, who to target, who to approach, and what to do next!

Task Complete! :)

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Day 26 Challenge – Link Up to a Competitor

Not sure about this one. I don’t consider anyone blogging in my niche a ‘competitor’ because we are all working toward the same cause.

I link to lots of people in my niche. You’ll fin these in my sidebar (‘blog-roll’) and also throughout my posts. What I have noticed is that we all compliment each other nicely and have different skills and focus in different areas.

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Day 25 Challenge – Go Shopping and Improve Your blog

I like this challenge, as if I need an excuse to go shopping. This challenge is about getting out more, this means, it’s 4pm, leave your blog alone, get out of your pyjamas and hit the town!

Observations;

  • People who shop alone, like to find a space to take stock, make a phone call, write something down or simple, to breathe
  • People who shop together are like tour & tour guide
  • People are generally very tactile, sensual, they touch, smell and feel product
  • People flock to areas that look busy and popular
  • People are attracted to beauty and colour
  • People are attracted to marketing and good signage
  • Retailers who put themselves ‘out there’ get people’s attention and stand out
  • Messages: Simplicity, style, got to have the latest gadget, ‘cool factor’
  • Colors: Red, white and black is always in… fluro is coming back (god help us all!)
  • Apple products are ‘hot’
  • The new look is a cross between 80’s and futuristic clothing (I call it cyber-wear).
  • What are retail outlets doing well? Presentation seems to be the focus, displays and labels.
  • What are they doing poorly? Service, there’s just too much attitude!

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Day 24 Challenge – Do a Search Engine Optimization Audit

How does a Search Engines Rank sites? As a blogger, you should do some investigating, there are some good books on the subject. Darren recommends – Aaron Wall’s SEO Book.

Google Search Engine LogoOne of the biggest sources of traffic on the web is Google. so take some time to find out how to optimise your blog for Google. I have found it very useful to activate the “All in One SEO” plug-in for this WordPress blog. It has increased my blog rating on Google. Although most of my traffic seems to come from direct referrals by colleagues, which is kind of the nature of this blog anyway.

Some Quick tips;

  • Keywords – what would you type into a search engine? What would you be looking for? Ask a search engine a question
  • Titles & Tags – Use titles and tag’s for your posts that are actual post titles. Use relevant, obvious tags and categories.
  • AltTags & Descriptions – write good descriptions for images, external and internal links
  • Put some links to the posts you want your blog to be associated with in your sidebar.

This is a huge topic. There are some great links and resources on Darrens Problogger site.

Have you found yourself lately?

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Day 23 Challenge – Go on a Dead Link Hunt

Dead links (broken links/ “Link Rot”) to other bloggers and websites from your blog, can cost you. They can lead to Search Engine penalties, reader frustration as they encounter error pages (error pages can be fun) and assume your blog is old or ‘out of touch’.

Tools;

If your blog is fairly new, you can go to every page on your blog and manually check all the links. If you have an older blog with hundreds or thousands of posts this could be a somewhat more difficult.

I used the W3C Link checker and ran through the list quickly. I got a few broken links this way. I also got some links that weren’t broken when I clicked on them from my site.

I found it just as easy to do it manually, a little more time consuming, but I trust it more.

I hope my readers will advise me of any broken links on this blog, as they have done in the past.

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Day 22 Challenge – Catch New Readers Up on the Basics of your Blog

This challenge present several tips on how to successfully catch new readers up on what your blog is all about and how to use it most effectively.

The simple way is to write a post telling them about it.

Here are a few ideas;

  • Why Did You Start Your Blog? - the story of how, when and why you started the blog can help readers connect with and own your blog.
  • How is it designed to be Used? – while more and more people understand what a blog is and how it operates – some readers may not – particularly non tech savvy audiences. Explain concepts like comments, categories and any features that you’ve installed that might take a little explanation.
  • How Can Users Connect/Subscribe? – explain how to use RSS or subscribe via email. It’s amazing how many people don’t understand this – educate them.
  • How Can Readers Get More Involved? - if you have forums or a reader community area for readers to get more involved highlight them.

I haven’t completed this task as yet, although I have put a lot of this info on my ‘About‘ page.. I’m finding a lot of my readers are finding it hard to keep up with all the posts as it is. I’m going to save this one for later.

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Day 21 Challenge – Make a Reader Famous

Fame - Use your blog to get famousAre you in this for money or fame?

This challenge discusses people’s reasons for blogging. A common reason is fame, to be noticed, to have more influence… to achieve this, you need to get noticed and read by more people.

This task is about Karma. Promote a reader of your blog or someone new and try one of the following tips;

  • Promote a comment to a Post - Pull out an insightful comment from a reader of your blog and use it as the basis for one of your post – highlighting the wisdom in it and the person who made the comment. Here’s a Post I wrote in response to a post made by Sue Waters about the challenges we face with department policies that stifle innovation.
  • Write a Post about their Blog – Choose a post that resonates with you from one of your readers and use their blog to write your own post. Highlighting the best posts and what you like about it. Here’s mine on the blog of Sue Waters.
  • Send Your Readers to Comment on Someone Else’s Blog – write a post that links to someone else’s great blog post and ask your readers to head over and comment on it on the other person’s blog. Here’s mine on the blog of Sue Waters.
  • Give Readers an Opportunity to Promote Themselves – run a project or write a post that gives readers an opportunity to promote themselves in some way. You could ask readers if they have a moblog, Del.icio.us or a Flickr site.
  • Reader of the Week – Write a post that promotes a “Reader of the Week”, highlights a reader and how they may have interacted with your blog.

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Day 20 Challenge – Run a Reader Survey on Your Blog

This is a great idea. I have set an alarm in my iCal to do a reader survey on December the 3rd. The survey should give me an idea of what readers think of certain areas of my blog.

  • Content (topics covered, post length, types of posts, post frequency, depth of exploration of topics etc)
  • Design (navigation, colors, fonts etc)
  • Blog Features (RSS feed, blog tools etc)
  • Community (how it could be enhanced)

It would be great if the group of BlogChoc Challengers would all do this with me around this time. We could all commit to helping each other by completing each others survey after a few more months of networking and collaborating. What do you think guys?

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Day 19 Challenge – Respond to Comments on Your Blog

Responding to comments on your blog has a great impact on readers, creates a commenting culture and this is the task for today.

I have to say that I think it’s actually rude not to respond, mind you I’m hardly inundated with comments!

One of the good tips within the day 19 challenge, is to respond to the comment and make a comment on your readers blog. I think this is a great tip and one that I have started using and guess what? It works!

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Day 18 Challenge – Create a Sneeze Page and Propel Readers Deep Within Your Blog

A sneeze page? This is a page that captures all of your best posts, of which there will be many after a year or two, and readers may not ever delve into your archives…

This could be like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ page that offer’s readers a ‘Best of Flairandsquare’, ‘Alex’s Fav’s’ that sort of thing. This are lists of links that lead to lots of other posts.

This could be broken up several ways;

  • Themes – hot topics
  • Times – by year, by season, etc
  • Hot Comments – posts with great/interesting comments
  • Series – like the 31 day blog challenge that creates a post for every day and loads of reader links within.

Don’t just provide lists of links, a short description also helps.

Position is also important. You could use a post for this, or place them on a separate page.

You’ll have to wait for my ‘Best of’, I’ve only just begun!

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Day 17 Challenge – Run a StumbleUpon Campaign for Your Blog

This challenge involves a small budget that I don’t have… to advertise your blog as cheaply as possible, using StumbleUpon.

StumbleUpon

I’d love to do this, but my budget doesn’t stretch that far. I adore the StumbleUpon tool and it gets a pretty good workout on my firefox toolbar.

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Day 16 Challenge: Create a Heatmap of Where Readers Click on Your Blog

Darren has recommended the tool CrazyEgg and it’s accompanying tool Confetti. The free version of CrazyEgg allows you to track no more that 6,000 visits a month on 4 pages.

CrazyEgg shows you a heatmap of where your readers click to help you position things better, including advertisements;

Darren Rowse shows a heatmap of where readers click on his blog using CrazyEgg

Confetti shows you a where your readers click, where they come from and the operating system the use;

Darren Rowse shows a ap of where readers click and where they came from using Confetti

So I have signed up to see what happens…

If you want an example, check out the screen captures on Laura’s Blog post.

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Day 15 Challenge: Make Your Most Popular Posts Sticky

Find the posts that drive visitors to your site, via a search engine and hook them by offering RSS subscriptions.

Make sure you write a good ‘About Me’ page and offer RSS – How to Write and About Me page

What do you think of mine? Please let me know

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Day 14 Challenge: Analyze Your Blog’s Competition

There has been a few of the ‘31 day challengers‘ setting up pages with netvibes, pageflakes and Google Reader. These pages are full of feeds from blogs of the ‘31 day challengers‘. It’s how we keep up (and I use that term lightly because clearly, I’m not) with each other.

Here’s mine.

Add to Netvibes

One thing I have noticed looking at everyone else’s blogs, I am attracted to nice designs. I like short, personal blog posts, I like examples, interactivity, simple language, I’m very visual, have little time, so I like pictures – they say a thousand words, right?

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Day 13 Challenge: Search for an Affiliate Program that Fits Your Blog

Pass – not in it for money!

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Day 12 Challenge: Introduce Yourself to Another Blogger

Okay, so I have introduced myself to a couple of bloggers I haven’t spoken to before, one by email and one in a post comment.

Stay tuned…

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Day 11 Challenge: Dig into your Blog Stats

Okay, so first, let me start by going away and counting all the blog stat services I am using, subscribing to and shoving on my blog and then I will come back an update this task.

Yes, I am obsessive!!!!

  • Most Popular Posts
    My post encouraging discussion on the restrictions placed on educators in the workplace, has been pretty provocative. In addition, a post praising a colleague, Linda Johnston, for her work with technology in teaching and learning and supporting other members of her faculty with the use of technology in the classroom.
  • Referral Stats
    HitTail is great for to find out what sites are sending you the most traffic, but Google Analytics offerred it up on a plate! I seem to get a lot of referrals from other websites. Digging further, I get lots of hits from Twitter, Problogger, Michele Martin and Google.
    Google Analytics Traffic Sources
  • What Questions are being asked?
    Searches seem to be for ‘Alex Miller’ (the author??), my primary school, a recipe for flour-less chocolate orange cake and
  • What Keywords are sending traffic?
    Adobe Cptivate, Alex Miller TAFE NSW, Netvibes, Twitter, Flickr…
  • What seasonal traffic is there?
    I have noticed there were hits on my blog because I mention AFL every now and then!
  • What’s Your Bounce Rate?
    A term used in website traffic analysis. A Bounce occurs when a website visitor leaves a page or a site without visiting any other pages. My bounce rate is 64.4%. This sounds bad! I wonder if this is because my content is very specific?

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Day 10 Challenge: Declutter your sidebar

Spring clean your blog. We all collect clutter right? Well your blog is no exception!

  1. Can I live without the Widgets – twitter, lastfm, deli.icio.us, and my blog reader community?
    Maybe, no – I don’t think so! They are my toys, my community…
  2. What about the links?
    No, the links are blogs I read and I know people click on them because I have had comments about them, particularly if someone isn’t listed on there!
  3. The buttons that add to the clutter?
    Maybe they do add to the clutter, but I love my buttons. The ‘Share’ link at the bottom of each post provides quite a bit of that functionality, but I think the separate boxes on the sidebar are neat and keeps it all together, seems less cluttered…. anyone got any feedback on that?
  4. What could I move into the footer?
    Maybe the site stats/counter? Should I get rid of the Spam Karma stuff?
  5. What could you redesign or feature in a different way?
    I often think about a redesign, but all my readers seem to love the theme I use and often ask me about it. It’s also fairly new, so I don’t think it’s ready for a change. After reading the post from Darren Rowse about StumbleUpon (which I use and love – can be a HUGE time waster though), I think I should stick with this theme for a bit.

I’d be interested in any feedback on my sidebar and if you think my blog is cluttered. You can contact me through my Contact page.

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Day 9 Challenge: Advertising Audit

This particular task is about analysing and optimising the advertising on your blog. As I’m not in this for the money and I’m behind in these challenges, I think I’ll skip this one…

Although. Darren’s post does have some interesting things to think strategically about, including the design and placement of your ads.

Questions:

  • What could you do differently?
  • Would using a different size ad make them perform better?
  • Would changing the colors have an impact?
  • Could a different position increase CTR?

It’s about changing one thing and watching what happens.

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Day 8 Challenge: Comment on a New Blog

This challenge is about getting out of your blogging rut and going on a blog hunt to find likeminded blogs. It’s about adding comments and using RSS feeds to keep following these bloggers.

This is something I do regularly. It’s part of my job, to look for educators using blogs. Although in true Taurus form, I can get stuck in a rut every now and them!

Day 8 Tip: RSS Aggregator…

Can’t imagine life before netvibes; Managing all those blogs through an RSS Aggregator makes life so much easier. Check this out;

http://www.screencast.com/t/o2dypTvgWQr

You can find out more on previous blog posts about RSS and netvibes.

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Day 7 Challenge: Plan Your weeks Blog Posts

Yes I’m an impulsive blogger. I sit down to write a blog post whenever it takes my fancy. Planning is going to be hard, but may help me manage my time better.

So, not only do I need to plan when and what I am going to blog about, within that, according to Darren Rowse – Problogger I need to brainstorm topics, titles and main points and then list them in order of priority.

Hopefully this will improve post consistency, productivity and momentum.

Day 7 Tip: Plan ahead, be realistic, develop a checklist…

My ‘working’ plan for next week; Note: I have now gone from impulsive blogging to impulsive planning ;)

Brainstorming Topics

  • Does Social Networking Boost Productivity?
  • Second Life/ Virtual Worlds
  • Post on ICVET Powerhouse Conference
  • Ask readers what they would like me to write a post on?
  • Twitter in the classroom
  • Working within the constraints of bureaucracy
  • Teacher exemplar
  • Guest Post from Regan Harding – Youth Project Officer
  • Guest Post from Julie Board – Statistics from research into male/ female study patterns

Plans

  • Weekend -
  • Monday/ Tuesday -
  • Wednesday -
  • Thursday -
  • Friday -

My planning checklist;

  1. Brainstorm topics
  2. Pick one topic to develop further
  3. Develop ‘working’ post title
  4. Post description in a sentence
  5. Brainstorm the main/ obvious points
  6. Think back to previous posts that I might have written on similar topics for interlinking posts
  7. Select another of the posts developed in step #1 – brainstorm and then go through steps #2 – 6 again.
  8. Once a weeks posts are developed, determine order and map out a posting schedule

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Day 6 Challenge: Email and Old Time Reader

After a mad two days of catching up since I started this challenge, perhaps this is the day where I get to sit back take stock.

This challenge is about thanking blog commentors and contributors from way back. Something I will take on board and adhere to in the future. I am enjoying the (Blog & Twitter) community that is developing as part of this challenge, particular thanks to Kate, Sue and Frances.

I hope you’ll all stay part of my blog and online networks for years to come!

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Day 5 Challenge: Conduct an About Page Audit

The About Page of your blog is a VERY important part of your blog. Readers go here to see who you are before they decide whether they want to subscribe to your blog.

Rework it regularly. Visit Darren Rowse’s post on some of the aspects to include in an About Me Page.

This Blog Post I made has more details.

Day 5 Tip: Explain everything, don’t make your reader work for it!

Tips from top Readers on my About Page – (prior to reworking on the weekend)

  • Talk about yourself before your role – Sue Waters
  • Don’t use acronym’s and ‘techie’ words and phrases – like “new and emerging technologies” and “pedagogy”, “Also what is The Hub?” – Sue Waters
  • Spell it out – “other spaces”, what might that mean? – Sue Waters
  • Interested to hear what others have to say regarding musics, books etc. I am reading Wikinomics at the moment – you should also read the World is Flat. – Sue Waters
  • Really liked your picture at the top. – Sue Waters
  • Love the Now Listening LsatFM widget – Kate Quinn
  • Love the colours and theme – Frances McLean
  • Spell out subscription options – me
  • Contact Forms at the bottom of each ‘page’ – me

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Day 4 Challenge: Interlink Archived Posts

Link back to old blog posts new posts, include a link at the bottom of a post that says, “click for more”, or “related posts”. Good practice for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

You can see this in couple of places throughout my blog, but I need to do it more, I could only find two!!! They are as follows:

Day 4 Tip: Link wherever you can

Link to relevant Blog posts Wherever you can. I have provided links to my blog posts (relevant ones of course) in forums and emails and it works, it drives people to your blog and inevitably they comment or send you an email. Not always, but it’s happened for me!

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Day 3 Challenge: Search for and Join a Forum

Join content specific forums to increase relationships, profile/branding, learning and readership. Watch how it works, get to know the culture, make strategic links and relationships, link to blog posts that relate to questions, break news and private message people.

I am a member of a few forums, mostly through edna groups. I’ll keep you posted on how these tips have worked.

Day 3 Tip: Be smart with your email notifications…

Check forum options for subscription options. If you can find an option to receive daily or even weekly summaries, do it! Forums generate a lot of emails if you don’t change the way you get forum notifications.

Filters and Folders. Set your email up with specific folders for the forums you subscribe to, then set filters so the mail goes directly into these folders instead of your inbox! You wont regret it.

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Day 2 Challenge: First Time Reader Audit

This challenge involves getting a first time reader to surf your blog, watching them and asking some revealing questions. Results of my audit will be posted here.

Day 2 Tip: Attract readers…

Use Humour, links and Images. My “First Time Reader” stopped to look at anything funny, or anything with an image…Links to other fun sites were of interest, offer interesting distractions to get them coming back….

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Day 1 Challenge: Email a new reader…

If you read this blog, please comment on this post and let me know who you are and why you are reading. I would like to email you and maybe even find out how I can improve my blog for you.

Day 1 Tip: Don’t hide your light under a bushel…

Make sure readers can see where to add a comment. I have had a reader tell me that wanted to make a comment on my blog, but couldn’t see where. So now, my chellenge is to make that clearer without affecting my design too much. Can you find where to comment on this post? Email me if you can’t – Alexandra.Miller[at]tafensw.edu.au

One Comment

  1. [...] To follow my findings from these challenges and tips, visit this page of my blog. [...]

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