Category Archives: Blogging

Review: ProBlogger by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett

Book review of ProBlogger by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett

ProBlogger by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett

While not a book covering strictly web design or development, ProBlogger is relevant in many ways.  Authors Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett walk the reader through the very basics of blogging, right through more advanced topics like blog promotion, advertising and blog “flipping”, the digital version of TLC’s Flip that House.  The fact that they detail the various blog publishing platforms, but express their tendency to lean toward WordPress for all their personal sites was appealing to me.  Also, just about every designer or developer comes across the issues of having to drive traffic, monetize pages, and analyze site performance at one point or another in their career.

I took some rather lengthy notes while reading the book, to make implementation on my personal sites a bit easier after completion of the book, and I’ll share some of those notes with you here.

1. Websites You Should Investigate

These are a few tools that I realized I should be using while reading the book.  These cover the main bases that every web site should be using to monitor or enhance their site:

  • Alexa – for researching hot topics and competitor sites
  • Technorati – add your blogs to the Technorati index, and monitor popular tags
  • Quantcast – track your site’s performance and compare to competitor site performance
  • Google Webmaster Tools – discover keywords that people are already using to find your site through Google

2. Tools to Target Hot Topics

Staying on top of industry news is an important task for a lot of web sites, from newspaper sites, to sporting sites, to the latest Hollywood gossip.  Here are some of the best:

3. Content Tips

For bloggers that are just starting out, Rowse and Garrett offer a fantastic intro to formatting blog posts so that they will rank well in search engines.  This happens to coincide with HTML standards and best practices, so this section is doubly worth your time:

  • Post regularly (1x/day or 1x/week)
  • Titles are important!
  • Vary long posts (reviews), with shorter posts (news)
  • Use h2 and h3 tags
  • Number paragraphs (helps with web audiences that typically scan pages)
  • Break longer posts into series
  • Write your entire post first, then go back and edit

4. Types of Blog Posts

ProBlogger contains a wealth of ideas.  Here are some of their recommendations for varying the style of your posts, so as not to become repetitive and stale:

  • Tutorials
  • Reviews
  • Lists
  • Profiles (pick an idol of yours or industry mogul and write a review of their life)
  • Links (microblogging)
  • Rants
  • Memes (idea virus, further explanation)

5. Link Bait Ideas

Further depth on content ideas is detailed in ProBlogger, and the issue of link baiting is discussed.  My thoughts on link baiting are that if the content is original, helpful, or insightful, its a good practice.  The content really has to come first.  Here are some ideas that you could potentially build content around:

  • Tools
  • Quizzes
  • Competitions
  • Awards
  • Freebies
  • Interviews

6. Blog Valuation Factors

Rowse and Garrett even get into the topic of buying existing blogs, and “flipping” them, or turning around and selling them for a profit.  The main benefit of blog flipping is that domain age is a major factor in Google’s evaluation of web sites.  Most of the most popular blog sites on Technorati have a domain age of three years or more.  If you purchase an existing domain, with an existing audience, you skip the work involved in starting from scratch.  Here are some factors to use while evaluating a blog purchase or sale:

  • Audience
  • Content
  • Search Rankings
  • Traffic
  • Inbound Links
  • Brand
  • Profit
  • Design
  • Domain

7. Blog Promotion & Marketing

After you’ve got your blog up and running, and feel that your content is good enough and regular enough to warrant an audience, you’ll want to promote or market it in some fashion.  The Field of Dreams mentality does not apply in the blogosphere.  Here are some of the promotion ideas I found in ProBlogger:

  • Build “content magnets”
  • Comment on other niche blogs (1x/day)
  • Encourage comments through questions in your posts
  • Add “blog carnival” posts that link to many other industry/niche blogs
  • Promote subscription via RSS
  • Join a blogging community or forum in your industry, and participate regularly
  • Request links from relevant industry blogs

I’m not going to get into further detail on any of the ideas here, to do that you’ll have to purchase ProBlogger.  I’ve only listed a sampling of the ideas Rowse and Garrett reveal in their book.  There are many more topics and ideas within, as well as much more detail and explanation.

Overall ProBlogger is a invaluable book for anyone with their own website.  Its an idea starter, and that’s a huge part of running your own website.  The other is finding time to actually do everything.  Then again, that’s where Brickwork could help you out.

You can purchase ProBlogger over at Amazon.com.

Rating

  • Overall: 9 out of 10
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Blogs with Balls, June 13, NYC

I was in New York on June 13 with NESN, visiting the Blogs With Balls conference, which is a conference for people involved in both blogging and sports.  The conference is still in its infancy, with an attendance of around 250, and it was held in the basement of Stout, which wasn’t all bad, since the Guinness 250 lunch started around 11:30. Rockin’ good times.

The conference was an eclectic mix ranging from CEO’s of blog networks like YardBarker and SBNation to individual bloggers who have taken the leap from corporate life to the risky world of independent blogging.  Conference topics ranged from leveraging social media and working with content networks, to getting down to business with making money with your blog.  I especially enjoyed Kathleen Hessert‘s discussion about how Sports Media Challenge proposed Twitter to Shaq, and not only did he embrace the technology, but his Tweets now have a circulation larger than the daily circulation of the New York Times.  Simply astounding.

Three Things You Need to Know

My largest takeaways from the conference:

  • Become a portal.  If your site can be the start of a discussion, you can increase users and traffic exponentially.
  • Join a blog network.  If you haven’t considered it, joining a blog network can be a tremendous benefit to your traffic.  I’m going to get into more detail on this in a future post (I’m reading “ProBlogger” right now…)
  • Integrate related industry content gracefully.

Become a Content Ninja

I’d like to get into a bit more detail on that last one.  It seems to me that there are a lot of large blog sites out there that do one of the two following items, and do them well, and lead their category or niche because of it:

  1. Offer original content.
  2. Offer aggregate content.

It also seems that the tendency of companies that already do one is to stick with that one, and not designate much focus to the other.  What I heard resoundingly at this conference is that if you can master both, and do it with a little flair, you can likely top your niche or category.  The trick is finding enough original content to come up with, and being tech-savvy enough to incorporate the aggregate content.  Of course, there are new web services like Yahoo! Pipes that are making this easier to accomplish practically daily.

Definitely Check it Out

Overall, this was an extremely beneficial experience, and I would recommend it to anyone in the New York area who has an interest in sports on the web.  Definitely check it out next time around.  They’re supposedly going to post video from the show on the BWB site, so keep an eye on it over the coming weeks.