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Task #12: Your Blogging Bread and Butter

October 20, 2010

This week’s Blog Improvement Project task is based on an exercise I did with my blog back in July 2009. At the time, I was wondering about the ratio of book reviews to other posts on my blog, and how come discussion posts seemed to get more response than book reviews.

About that time I came across a post at ProBlogger that asked, “What’s Your Bread and Butter? The post suggested that every business has something that is the core, the bread and butter, that makes it what it is:

In the case of blogs posts your Bread & Butter are usually posts which are regular features that tie-in to the core topic of the blog. By identifying these posts you can make your work as a blogger a lot easier as well as making your blog’s appeal to readers much more consistent.

Later in the article, the author suggests finding bread and butter posts by looking at which posts are the most popular, what categories you have with the most content, and identifying topics you already post about frequently.

At the time, I thought that popularity wasn’t a good measure, but that looking at categories and popular topics could be a good way to see what my blog’s bread and butter was and whether that matched up with what I though it should be.

The basic idea with this task is to do a content analysis of sorts with your blog. Look at your categories and tags to see which posts types are most common, and which tags you use most frequently. Does this match up with what you expected?

If you don’t use categories and tags frequently, I suggest making a list of all the posts you’ve made in say, the last 30 days, then assess whether that breakdown of posts works for you.

If you’re not happy with the balance of post types and themes, what action steps can you take to change that?

There is no right or wrong answer to what your bread and butter should be — the point of the exercise is to just start thinking about the idea.

If this seems a little abstract, check out the post I wrote in July 2009 to see how I analyzed my blog back then. When you’re finished, leave a comment and let us know how it went and leave a link to your post in the comment.

I hope this exercise will be helpful for others. Good luck!

Task #11: Using Social Media to Improve Your Blog

October 4, 2010

Social media is a great way to interact with people from around the world. Twitter and Facebook are often talked about, but sites like DeliciousDigg and Stumble Upon are especially good for finding quality blog articles in your area of interest. Each has its own quirks and specialities so it is a good idea to read a few posts explaining each site before signing up.




Here are a few useful guides to each site:


A Comprehensive Guide to New Digg

Guide for beginners to use digg and become popular


The Ultimate Social Media Bookmarking Content Guide

Delicious Toolbox: 80+ Updated Tools and Resources

Stumble Upon

The Ultimate Social Media Bookmarking Content Guide

Stumble Upon: An Overview

Your task this week is to pick a social media site that you are unfamiliar with and investigate it. Highlighting quality blog posts from your peers makes others more likely to highlight you and if you have links in your sidebar it can be helpful for readers of your blog too.

For example, Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness highlights delicious links in her sidebar. This means that her blog is always an interesting source of different blog posts to investigate. If you have WordPress this can be done automatically using the Delicious Social Bookmarking plugin. If you are feeling especially conscientious then you could add links to your social media accounts in a similar way, or why not create a link post highlighting the best posts you’ve discovered in the last week?

Once you’ve completed your task come back and leave us a comment to tell us how it has gone.

Good Luck!

Task #10: Highlighting your Old Posts

August 2, 2010

Once you’ve been blogging for a while you will find that you have a database packed with wonderful posts that no one ever looks at. This is sad because you put a lot of effort into creating those posts. Most will still be useful today and so they shouldn’t remain hidden in your archives.

Your task this week is to write a post highlighting the best posts in your archive. This is often called a sneeze page and it is useful not only for showing people the best posts on your blog, but also for Search Engine Optimisation.

There are many different ways in which you can highlight your old posts.

  • Old Posts Don’t Die is a great example of a post showing the numerous different ways that older posts can be highlighted on your blog.
  • 5 Ways To Bring Old Posts Back To Life gives a few other suggestions, but I’d be careful about reposting and retweeting old articles too much. I get annoyed when I discover I keep getting directed back to posts I’ve already read.
  • If you fancy a big change then it is possible to make every post a link post.
  • You can also create fun challenges to highlight older posts. Pro-blogger recently launched the 7 Link Challenge, which was a successful way to get lots of people talking about older posts.

Whatever you decide to do please come back and add show us what you’ve done by leaving a link in Mr Linky below.

If you have any questions, just ask in the comment section.
Good luck, and happy blogging!

Task #9: Let’s Get Visual!

July 14, 2010

This week’s task for the Blog Improvement Project (delayed a week due to the 4th of July in the United States and a few days because I’m pokey) is to do a visual post.

Pictures are a huge part of blogging. A great visual can draw people into your posts and excite new readers. But in addition to being a highlight for written pieces, sometimes pictures or other visuals can be a post in and of themselves.

Smashing Magazine did a great post sharing some places online that do awesome data visualizations – sharing information in a new way. They’re quite complex, but if you need some ideas, I found that post pretty inspiring.

One other example I want to highlight is a Weekly Geeks post written by Kerrie and Mysteries in Paradise. The prompt was to talk about the process a book goes through for a reader. Instead of just writing her answers, Kerrie made some cool flow charts to illustrate her post – the visuals spice up the post a lot.

Your task this week is to create a visual post. There are lots of ways to do this. Here are just a few suggestions (but be creative!):

  • Create a Wordle
  • Use other Data Visualization
  • Grab a cool photo from Flickr (but make sure to search Creative Commons, and LINK BACK to the photo you’re using. This post from Problogger talks more about using images with Creative Commons.)
  • Compare book covers
  • Creates graphs or charts
  • Make a comic
  • Do a vlog (video blog!)

Note: If you already do a photo post like Wordless Wednesday, you’re encouraged to step out of the box and try something new.

Once you’ve created your visual post, pop back over and leave a link in Mr. Linky. If you have other suggestions for how to complete this task, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Good luck!

Task #8: Branding your Blog with a Consistent Online Presence

June 21, 2010

Creating a recognisable brand for your blog is important. There are so many blogs out there that it is easy to get lost in the crowd. Creating a consistent online presence helps others to recognise you and your blog. It gives a more professional image and as many people share the same name it avoids confusion. A visual cue is a quick, easy way for everyone to know who is leaving all those wonderful comments in the blogosphere!

Choosing an Image

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on fancy graphics, but you do need a unique image that can be instantly associated with you. This can be as simple as a photograph of yourself, but if other people’s facial recognition skills are as good as mine then I’d advise finding a simple graphic that reflects your blog.

Try to think about how you’d like other people to perceive your blog. If you want to write about serious issues then there is no point choosing a picture of a fluffy duckling on a skateboard, whereas if you are writing about children’s’ books a picture of a wine bottle probably wouldn’t be a good choice.

As a good test try writing a list of five words that describe your blog. Do these words fit the image too?


Consistency is important when building up a brand and so you should use this graphic whenever you write on the Internet. Ensure that this image is loaded onto your Twitter and Facebook accounts, along with any forums or other social networking sites that you use.Even if you don’t use other social media sites it is important to create a strong visual brand. Every time you comment on someones blog (or even on your own!) having an immediately recognisable image alongside your comment is a big benefit. You can ensure this occurs by assigning a Gravatar to the email address you use for commenting.

Other Resources

There  are lots of other sites giving helpful advice on branding, here are a few of the best ones I found:

10 Step Beginners Guide to Blogging Your Personal Brand

How to Shape Your Blogs Brand

A Blogger’s Guide to Branding with Social Media

10 Personal Branding Predictions for 2010

This Week’s Task

This Week’s Task is to find an appropriate image to represent your blog, then ensure that this image is loaded onto all your social networking sites.

Come back to this post and comment, so we can all see your lovely new Gravatar!!

Good luck!!

P.S. Just a quick note — the idea of branding and a personal brand is a lot bigger that just having a name and image, so we don’t want that to be confusing. The point of this task is just to make sure that you have a consistent blog image across various sites so that other bloggers always recognize you as you and can start to associate your presence on other social networking sites with your blog.

Task #7: Building a Consistent Blog Identity

June 14, 2010

Hello BIP participants! We’re finally back on track with two tasks that will focus on personal blog branding. This week we’ll look at having a consistent message across your blog, and next week we’ll look at external branding with social media, etc.

I know that branding can sometimes be a dirty word because it sounds corporate or disingenuous, but I want to just say that’s not the idea of this task. The idea is that when people come to your blog they want to be able to know who you are, and in order to do that you have to give them some information. You also should be able to explain your blog quickly to new people, so building a message about it can help to do that. Branding is just an ways word to use to describe that process.

When I think about building a consistent message within a blog, I think of four things: elevator pitch, blog name, blog subhead, and about me page. This task will look at each one in turn and ask that you update them to create consistency across your blog.

Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is just a fancy name for a succinct idea of what your blog is. It gets the name because of the idea that your elevator pitch could be given in the time of an elevator ride. Check out this post from ProBlogger — Write an Elevator Pitch for Your Blog — to learn more about it.

The elevator pitch is something you are able to share with other people on places like your About Me page, a business card, or just when you’re chatting about your blog to people you meet. It’s the one sentence summary of who you are and what you do in the blogging world.

Blog Name and Blog Subhead

If you’ve got a blog, then you’ve almost certainly got a title and I wouldn’t recommend changing that. But what you should think about is whether your blog needs a subhead — a second line of text that clarifies and expands on the title. Think of it like a newspaper headline and subheadline.

Take for example, my blog, Sophisticated Dorkiness. It’s a decent blog title, but doesn’t tell what my blog is about. That’s why I added a subtitle — “A bookworm journalist muses on literature and life.”  Now when people stop by they see a memorable title and a more explanatory subtitle.

About Me Page

I’m of the opinion that every blog should have an About Me page. The point of blogs is that they’re personal, but without an About Me page, no one knows who you are. You don’t need to include everything about yourself, but your About Me page should reflect soemthing about your blog name and subhead, and be consistent with your elevator pitch.

This ProBlogger article called How to Write Your “About Me” Page give a simple formula for getting started if you feel stumped about what to include.

So What’s the Task Anyway?

The task this week is to assess these four parts of your blog — title, subtitle, about me page, and elevator pitch — to make sure they’re up-to-date and create a consistent image about your blog. When someone comes to your site for the first time and sees these main things, does it create a coherent picture or is it messy and confusing?

Please come back and share your blog elevator pitch in the comments, as well as links to any relevant updates to About Me pages or titles or subtitles. If you want feedback, leave questions in the comments and hopefully other participants can help out.

Next week, we’ll take the branding we’ve worked on internally and move it externally to create a consistent and understandable presence online.

Good luck!

Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Write Your Blogging To-Do List

June 11, 2010

Welcome to the Blog Improvement Project blog, Bloggiesta participants! The Blog Improvement Project is a year-long series of tasks working on specific items to make blogs better. If you find this Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge helpful, consider coming back to participate .

With that little advertisement out of the way, this mini-challenge is all about blog goal setting and creating a blogging to-do list. During this challenge, we’ve used “goals” and “to do items” interchangeably, and both basically mean both short- and long-term lists of things you hope to do or achieve with your blog.

First, we’ll cover some resources that might be helpful for this task. Then, we’ll give you a list of specific things to do in order to complete this challenge and be eligible for a Bloggiesta prize.

The first place to start before setting goals or making a list is to do a blog assessment. One great resource for blog assessment (which helps set goals) is ProBlogger’s 69 Questions to Ask to Review Your Blog. This post covers a bunch of important blog topics including:

  • General Questions
  • Traffic
  • Content
  • Community
  • Your Niche
  • Design
  • Monetization
  • Technical

If you’re still stumped about writing a list or not sure what might make a good “to do” items, Chris Brogan suggests 50 Ways to Take Your Blog to the Next Level. This is very comprehensive list of simple blog improvement tasks that you could add to your list.

The final thing  to keep in mind is how to write an effective list of goals/”to do” items. Harvard Business Review explains How to Write To-Do Lists That Work, and suggests that items on a to-do list should be single, specific actions. For example, “improve site navigation” is a vague goal, which is intimidating to tackle, while “add search box to blog” is a simple two minute task.

Now that those things are out of the way, here’s what you need to do to be eligible for a Bloggiesta prize (note which steps are required to be eligible, and which are just guidance for how to go about this process):

  • OPTIONAL: Do a blog assessment. This can be as in-depth as the 69 questions or as simple as sitting down and thinking about what you like and dislike about your blog.
  • OPTIONAL: Use the assessment to write a list of blogging goals. It is NOT REQUIRED to post about this – you can do it on your own however you’re comfortable. It’s basically on an honor system that you’ve done it.
  • REQUIRED: Comment ON THIS POST with one short-term blogging goal, and one long-term blogging goal.
  • OPTIONAL: Implement your goals! We can’t really check this, it’s just what you should do🙂 .

Good luck, Participants, and have a great Bloggiesta!


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