Selected highlights from the “Promoting your blog” session at Northern Voice:

  • Jeremy Wright says there are advantages in having highly topic-focused blogs. Mixing information can mean you lose the kind of focus that attracts both visitors and potential linkers. Multiple specialized blogs don’t dilute your brand; they allow you to target your brand to various audiences.
  • Suw Charman agrees in part, but also says the blog is a reflection of personality in all its dimensions. Brands are engineered deliberately; most blogs are about self-expression instead. If you are interesting, people won’t stop reading you just because you’ve posted on a topic that’s new to them.
  • Chris Pirillo has multiple blogs, many driven by a business idea… for example, rentmychest.com. (He also has buttons at the conference with a big red “RSS” on them, and his lockergnome.com url underneath.)
  • Derek Miller points out the power of usefulness as a traffic driver, for instance an article about the Aerolatte milk foamer in Canada; it was the only one on the net. Not only did it drive traffic, but the manufacturer sent him a free one. Darren Barefoot created a Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness for fun… and became the flavour of the week.
  • What to do when you’re Slashdotted (getting way too much traffic)? Jeremy said look at it as a way to get people to know who you are. Darren says Slashdotting cost him $300 in excess bandwidth. Suw suggests you tell your host as soon as you know it’s happening, and discuss a new package. You can also try to get your site mirrored, so you don’t bear the brunt — for instance, if you’re hosting something like a popular MP3, as happened to her. (There were a few gigs inside of a few hours.)
  • Be careful about mirroring. Jeremy actually moved several terabytes hosting an Eminem video before he pulled it from his site. Still, Slashdotting rarely happens.
  • A spike in traffic can mean a spike in Google Ad traffic, too. But Jeremy points out you want visitors to come back; having more to see over and above the one thing visitors are coming for is critical.
  • Should you use separate hosts, domain names and services for separate blogs? Jeremy argues it both ways. Users may not care about the rest of your sites, and the material may not be compatible (e.g. if you have an adult fiction blog). On the other hand, search engines love interlinking.
  • What statistics packages do you use? Chris doesn’t watch web stats. He prefers Technorati and Waypath feeds. What matters are the stats that make this a viable job… for instance, from Google Ads. Suw uses the stats package on her Blogware service, but also uses a service called Stats Counter. Javascript packages underreport substantially. The free packages are much of a muchness; see which one has an interface you like. They can give you trends and referrer links, but they aren’t gospel because they rely on the visitor using Javascript. Also use RSS stats, for example through Feedburner, but don’t treat them as precise either: caveat emptor. Derek says it’s easy to get caught up in stats, but they aren’t accurate for anything but raw bandwidth. Look for the useful info in your stats, e.g. that most people are looking for Aerolatte milk foamers.
  • How do you market to a local community? Chris suggests Meetup.com; he suggests going to local Meetups. Someone in the audience mentions Local Vancouver as a good resource. Suw suggests you look at sites that blog locally, leave comments and communicate with them, but don’t forget offline promotion. Local media and traditional marketing strategies can be useful, because the world is not entirely online. An URL on the letters to the editor page can be just as useful as any other link.
  • Derek picks up on this, referring to the questioner’s STV for BC web site. (Comments about splash screens briefly ensue.) PR for this site should be done in coordination with others working on the same issue. Darren seconds the value of Meetups.
  • Chris says personality sells. His first time on radio, he was told not to do anything about his voice; it’s part of his personality. Building a trust circle with your community trains them to click on links you offer them; that trust circle continued to grow as he went offline.
  • Suw referred to “stickiness”… but she says blogs aren’t about that. (It’s so five years ago.) It’s about getting people in, and then sending them off to other interesting sites; they’ll keep coming back to you for more. Derek adds that Google is one of the most popular sites in the world, yet all it does is send people elsewhere.
  • Jeremy mentions that Adsense, BlogAds and Google Ads are very strong with geographical targeting.
  • Suw mentions your blog URL is your currency; put it everywhere — business cards, e-mail sig, letterhead, etc. People will click through; she gets a lot from a static portfolio site she has.
  • Questioner asks about non-personal blogs. How do you get non-profits to harness the personal power of blogging? Chris suggests you show people, e.g. about RSS. Look at what this person is doing, and how simple it is; then they get it. Suw agrees; you can see the light going on. Derek adds that blogging can extend beyond the personal, e.g. as a way of creating an intranet. An audience member adds that search engines love blogs. And Chris says blogs give you freshness, which search engines also love. Derek: Tim Berners-Lees’ first site was basically a blog. Suw did blogging boot camps with journalists last year to educate them about blogs; before the sessions, they were given their own blogs, and they got it instantly.
    Note: Thanks to Derek for IDing the audience member: Tim Bray.
  • Is blogging popular outside North America? Jeremy mentions there are more than 30 million blogs in Asia alone — massive compared to the U.S. Huge in Brazil too. Talking to those communities can tap tremendous power. Chris underlines the importance of an URL you can use for the long haul (as opposed to a Geocities-style URL).
  • What are the demographics of bloggers? Jeremy says the surveys aren’t that useful; your problem isn’t finding people in your demographic, but finding the right ones. Suw mentions there’s a stereotypical teenage user with LiveJournal, but a BlogAds survey showed most users were professional middle-aged folks. Different demographics head to different services. Darren refers to knitting blogs — an unexpected demographic that has just exploded. Derek says the demographics are constantly shifting. A few years ago, the main users were overwhelmingly young males; that’s shifted. Chris thinks gender is 50-50.
  • An audience member asks about the politics of blogging, and why her Xanga site doesn’t show up in Google. A brief flurry of confusion over how public the site is. Darren suggests it’s a question of number of links; if the only links are from the inside, Google won’t necessarily find the site, or will at least rank it lower. Jeremy mentions the technical issue of a question mark in the URL; Google used to have an issue with those.
  • An audience member suggests sticking with a topic for a long time. You will ultimately rise to the top of the Google rankings. Suw says getting in early gives you a powerful advantage; the more readers and links you have, the easier it is to get new ones.
  • Derek suggests if you have some old unpublished material kicking around, you can publish it to your site if it’s useful to potential visitors.

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