Building a better blog
This begins as First Person Action Research project, then moves on to encompass a group based at betterblog.ning.com
initial goal is stated as "to increase RSS subscriptions"
1) Add Feedburner stats to RSS - let stats run for a week or more, then work out a daily average as a baseline
2) Visit Better blog group on Ning http://betterblog.ning.com/ Post goal, look for clues, collect links.
3) Reflect on blog direction and readership
4) Design a research plan
Emergent Opportunity - 31 day challenge
Serendipitously, a small group of people have arrived at 31daychallenge to begin the "31 Days to Building a Better Blog" course together. I plan to join them, expanding from out of my my First Person AR into a participatory group. This brings an instant structure into the plan, that of following the 31 tasks at a rate of 1 per day starting on Tuesday 15th January.
These are the other blogs involved:
- http://sarah-stewart.blogspot.com/ Sarah
- http://jessmc.edublogs.org/ Jess
- http://distributedresearch.net/blog Andy
- http://basementviews.blogspot.com/ Michelle
- http://randomthoughtsofateacher.blogspot.com/ Justine
- http://arts.typepad.com / Rebecca
- http://www.joneschris.com/blog/ Chris Jones
- http://aquaculturepda.wikispaces.com/blogs1 Sue Waters wiki having completed the 31 tasks
One email sent and one reply to a comment as well. If a comment reply is posted and emailed, does this give the same first impression?
Tricky. Working from home I can't see an opportunity to grab somebody to do this, so I'll make it my goal to complete this task some time during the 31 days. If I fail even to do that, then I'll run a crazy egg experiment for a week as a poor substitute. http://crazyegg.com/
One opportunity to do the f2f observation might be at ceative coffee on a Wednesday
Other suggestions are to twitter for a volunteer to give a critique.
My blog critique
I asked for and received a review in the Ning group
join a forum - Day 3
Day 3’s challenge - join a forum.
Joining relevant forums is my current strategy for increasing RSS subscriptions so I'm well on track with this. I added one today s a by product of joining a blogroll, but that's for different blog. I'll run another search. Music forum added to list.
ten tips for bloggers taking part in forums
I use a 'related posts' to do this automatically, but it doesn't always work the most intelligent way, and I could do with adding more interlinking inside the posts manually, including forward linking.
Conduct an About Page Audit Day 5
I last did this back in August here: http://distributedresearch.net/blog/2007/08/08/writing-an-about-page so revision is not too much work. I took onboard this suggestion from Darren: Highlighting Key Pages which also helps add to Day 4's objective to increase interlinking.
Email an old reader Day 6
I seem to have skipped this one. Do I have an old reader? I'm planning a delurk invitation post which may flush some out if they are in there. Feedburner stats says 135 readers but who are they? I don't anything about them apart from a handful.
Day 7 Plan Next Week’s Posting Schedule
Q Are You a Planner or an Impulsive Blogger?
OK I'm not really sold on this but I will try making a one-week plan as a starting point. That doesn't mean I have to stick with it, oh no.
Day 8 comment on a new blog
I notice that some people question the effectiveness of commenting as a strategy but it's a good thing to do anyway.
Run an Advertising Audit on Your Blog Day 9
Not just adsense, but any ads.
Hmm, again? It's looking like blogcatalog needs to go - gone. I also found an unecessary script left behind in my footer, so I decluttered that as well. Replaced two "subscibe" widgets with a single one with a larger icon. Now wondering if technorati link in footer ought to go as well.
Day 11 - Dig into Your Blog’s Statistics
I probably already spend too much time on Google Analytics thankyou very much!
Day 12 - Introduce Yourself to another Blogger
Oooh a toughie. Seems like a good idea but who? On the other hand I did this F2F by attenting the London bloggers meet and following up with a wiki page
Search for an Affiliate Program that fits your Blog - day 13
It's worth researching again from time to time because I found one that has changed network recently.
Day 14 - Analyze Your Blog’s Competition
No idea how to do this and problogger's site is unavailable at present.
Well this is going to have to involve re-organising my RSS subscription categories. So I've wiped out all category tags in my reader, and I'll start off all over again creating more relevent folders for each niche, including so called 'competitors' gathered together.
There is a second part to this task, which is to understand how Technorati and SEOBlogsearch retrieve my posts.
Day 15 - Make Your Most Popular Posts Sticky
After watching Darren's video and thinking about my category dilemma I decided to take one of my recent posts which is getting some traffic about "Wiki" and invite readers of that article to subscribe to the blog category for "wiki". Here's the feed coming from feedburner"
Day 16 - create a heatmap
Create a Heatmap of Where Readers Click on Your Blog
Using crazyegg no doubt. But how do you install the crazyegg script on just one page? Ok got it, just install in the blog footer then tell crazyegg which page to test.
Day 17 Stumbleupon
It seems best to me to combine the tasks for days 15 16 and 17 into one operation that fits together nicely. Choose a popular post, optimise it for stickiness, set up a crazyegg test and drive extra traffic with stumbleupon - all to the same post.
Day 18 - Sneeze page
Day 19 Respond to comments
Bin doing that too.
Day 20 run a reader survey
It may be too soon after the critique and open thread posts.
Day 21 Make a reader famous
Day 22 Catch New Readers Up On The Basics of Your Blog
This is a template for another sneeze page, a bit like "my blog story"
- 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.
- Where Should Readers Start? - point new readers to some starting points to read (use the Sneeze Page idea that we talked about a few days ago).
Day 23 Go on a Dead Link Hunt
online link checker: http://www.elsop.com/quick/quick.cgi
1) Needed to disable Google Analytics plugin because the outbound link tracking generates lots of errors 2) Only checks one page per request, so it's a painfully slow process.
No link checker client for Mac found so far but Jof Arnold on twitter suggest: @aroberts - I wonder whether command-line wget would be able to hunt out and log the dead links for you? asitis.org/installing-wget-for-mac-os-x
curl: option --spider: is unknown
Also mentioned: RightWebPage - found the Mac version but it crashes
Day 24 Do a Search Engine Optimization Audit
- Make the Titles of Your Posts the Title Tags of Your Post Pages (Aaron shares how to optimize your title tags for SEO in this post. Also check out Title Tags and SEO).*
- Use Good Anchor Text for internal links - hunt back through your old posts for poor anchor text to replace.
- Pick a few posts to do some analysis of your use of Keywords as outlined in the SEO for Blogs post. You might like to rewrite some older posts to make the most of this knowledge.
- Use good keywords in images in your posts - if you are optimizing particular posts that contain images renaming them and using good Alt Tags with the keywords you’re chasing can give you a boost.
- Think about head tags in your posts.
- Pick some key posts that you want to grow the SEO ranking for. Link to them from your sidebar/menus.