Blogging Idol?

It’s an interesting concept.  I have to wonder about copyright infringement and how long it will be before Fox puts the DMCA smack down on.

Basic concept is you take a bunch of blogs that sign up for the contest, and see which one becomes the blogging idol by increasing their feed reader count the most.  So far, they’ve got about $1500 in prizes and only 50 blogs that are competing.  A 1/50th chance to pull in $1500?  Pretty good deal if you ask me.

In keeping with the “amateur” bit that their namesake uses, all entrants must have a beginning feedcount of less than 1000.  It seems like a pretty well thought out contest (aside from the name), so go check it out.

7 Blogs You Should be Reading

In the course of writing a blog, you’ve likely discovered that it helps to have a nice list of fellow bloggers in your niche to read.  You read them to keep up to date on what they are up to (spying) and also as a way to participate in the community (sucking up).  My reading list is a lot longer than 7 blogs, but these seven are an essential 7.  If you aren’t reading them already, you should be.  In no apparent order:

  • 45n5.com – Mark has really risen through the ranks to become one of the better online entrepreneur bloggers around.  He works hard to produce great content, and even though I don’t watch video, he still has plenty of stuff for me to read.  He also seems to be in a very similar place as I am and so it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who isn’t carrying around a 6 figure check.
  • Blogging Experiment – This blog was up in the air not too long ago when it’s founder, Ben Cook, decided to sell it.  The new owner, Max, has exceeded expectations and really has added a whole new dimension to the blog.  Well worth the time to read.
  • CopyBlogger – If you’re going to be successful as a blogger, you’ll most likely have to know how to write good copy.  That’s where Brian comes in.  He’s quickly become a go-to expert on copywriting.  Read CopyBlogger, you’ll learn something.
  • Graywolf’s SEO Blog – Michael Gray might not be a name you’re too familiar with.  He’s a top tier SEO blogger with a great eye for ways to improve your SEO practices.  He doesn’t hold any punches and likes to tell it like it is.  I like that.
  • Problogger – If you aren’t reading Darren, there may not be any hope for you.  Problogger is the resource for anyone who wants to become the best blogger they can be.  You’ll find lots of imitators, but there is no one that I’ve found that comes close to the expertise that Darren has.
  • ShoeMoney – Jeremy is one of the premier affiliate bloggers.  He’s earned his chops as an affiliate webmaster and is kind enough to share with us on his blog.  He’s another blogger that isn’t going to hold any punches.  At the same time, he comes across as a pretty decent guy.
  • The Net Fool – Jim is new to the scene, but already is making big waves.  He’s got a great writing style and is another blogger to keep an eye one.  He’s also another that I see as being close to the same tier as I am, so I read for that purpose as well.

That’s the list.  I’m sure that someone will find a few that they think should be on the list.  I’m always open to suggestions.  As you can see, some of the bloggers are experts and others are getting there.  I read each for a little bit different reason.

Subscribe to their feeds.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Posting on Weekends and Holidays

It seems we see this meme float around about every 6 months or so. “Should you post on the weekends and on holidays?”

Well, here’s the answer. Yes and no. And, it depends.

How’s that for a vague answer?

The problem is that, just like the people writing them, each and every website and blog is different. Some blogs will require posting on a more regular basis. Blogs with topics like news, politics, and sports will need to post much more regularly than those with topics in the Make money online (MMO), tech, relationships, and mommy/daddy realms. That doesn’t mean that the first set needs to write daily or that the second set shouldn’t. What it means is that, on average, their posting needs will be somewhat different.

Some will say that your topic is a pretty weak way to define your writing schedule. I agree somewhat. If you’re passionate about a topic, you might find ways to write about it each and every day. Maybe multiple times.

You might remember that I maintained a post-a-day schedule back in March. You might also have noticed that I don’t do that anymore. I have a few reasons for that.

  • I’d rather not make myself come up with content.  When I do that, I get crap about 50% of the time.  I’d rather you had 100% good content to read 2-3 times a week instead of 50% good content every day.
  • It’s a hectic schedule.  I have other sites and other obligations to attend to.  Sometimes I don’t have the 30 minutes or more that a quality post can take.
  • I need a break.  I have a regular job and I’m not considered a bad employee, or less ambitious, or less productive, if I don’t come in on the weekends and holidays.  I understand that there are times when I will have to, but I’m not expected to every time.  The same should be true of my blog if I really am going to treat it as a job.

Of course, your reasons for posting every day (or not) will most likely be different.  That’s ok.  I won’t look down on you. 😉

Where do you Start? A Beginners Simple Guide to Blogging

I’ve been asked a few times how all this started. And invariably, I have to admit that it was (or seemed to be) all luck. There’s been plenty of work along the way too, but sometimes you have to just give credit where credit is due.

So, what if you want to start blogging? Well, I’d suggest you don’t count on luck, but on hard work instead.

First things first. What’s your Niche?

Do you really have anything to talk about? And is your subject something that you can see yourself talking and learning about for quite some time? If not, find another topic until you can answer yes to that question. I’ve made the mistake of misjudging that question and have ended up with blogs that withered because I got tired of talking about the subject or just didn’t have that much to say in the first place.

Domains and Hosting.

You’ll hear a lot of talk about a lot of different hosting options. But for a beginner there are really only three options.

  1. Self Hosted (Own Equipment): If you’re technically inclined, you can host your own. One thing to remember here though is that when your site goes down, it’s always your problem. (and usually your fault as well.)
  2. Free Hosting: There are several of these, but the most popular are blogger and wordpress. Both take care of the hosting for you and the maintenance of the platform. It can be very nice as a beginner to have this all done for you. As you get more advanced, you may begin to regret it however. But it is fairly easy to make the switch to a self run site so if you want you can give these a go.
  3. Self Run, Hosting Account: This is the way I currently do it. Basically, you purchase a hosting account from a host, load the files and do the set up. You gain quite a bit of control of the actual site and the infrastructure of the site. A caveat is that you still have limited control of the server unless you go to a dedicated server hosting account($$$). I currently use 1and1 hosting. I’ve found them to be reliable, and the server response time is much faster than GoDaddy. That is probably attributed to their only having about 20 sites per shared server vs. over 200 at GoDaddy. Your options for software here are also doubled. There are the standards of WordPress.org and MovableType, along with many CMS options and even a fair amount of custom code solutions. I currently run most everything on WordPress. All the blogs anyways.

Options 1 and 3 will require that you have a domain name. In most cases your host will also be a domain registrar. Most likely, you’ll be looking into buying a .com or a .net address. If you pay more than $8 a year, you’ve been robbed. I believe that Godaddy is currently at $6.99/w a coupon and 1and1 is at $6.99 all the time (sometimes less). Somethings to keep in mind while looking for your domain:

  1. Length: The shorter the better.
  2. Keywords: If you can find a domain that has your keywords in it, that is better. Not required, but will help with SEO.
  3. Applicability: If you can’t get a domain with your keywords in it, make it applicable to the subject. e.g. don’t use a domain like whydonkeysarecool.com for a site on the subject of chess strategy. You’ll be better off with something like knighttakesrook.com (this is assuming that chessstrategy.com is taken)

Design

Every base software will have a default template that you can use. Don’t. Do a little recon and find a custom template. If you have it in the budget, buy one that will have limited production. The more unique your site looks, the more unique it will be perceived. There are plenty of resources for free templates and designs that there really is no good excuse for using the default template.

Promotion

What good does your site do if nobody knows it exists? There are two types of promotion for your site. Free and Paid. You can buy banners, text links, and search ads. But for most of the beginners, that just isn’t in the budget. And really, unless you have a real rockstar site from the beginning, it’s likely a waste of time and money. The best method of promotion for a beginner is word of mouth. Join some forums that are centered on your niche. Read and comment on other blogs in your niche. Participate in social sites like facebook, digg, stumbleupon and the like. The more your name is out there with quality comments and content, the more people will come to see what you have to say.

Continuity & Consistency

None of the above things will make a darn bit of difference if you don’t have continuity and consistency. Your readers will come to expect a certain style of content and a certain quality of content. You must keep the those things consistent. You can afford to stray every now and again, but not very often. Also, if you don’t meet the style and quality markers, you still will need to keep a continuity about the site. In other words; don’t disappear for weeks at a time. A few days here and there is probably ok. Again, this will depend on your schedule that you have set up. If you start out only posting once a week, then your readers will come to expect a post each week. Miss a week, and it’s not a big deal. But if they are expecting a post every day and you miss a week, it’s likely that many will leave the site and not come back.

Through a careful selection of your subject matter (niche), domain, hosting, and design paired with ample amounts of promotion and writing that is consistent and continued, you can have a site/blog that is among the top in it’s niche. And while failure in any one of those areas doesn’t necessarily mean that the site will fail, failure in several can. In the end, if you pick a niche that you love to participate in and love to write about, it doesn’t matter all that much how successful you are. (However, success usually does come to those that love their subject) Oh, and a little luck doesn’t hurt either. 😉