Blogging

Maine Blog Network Update Part 1

Maineblognetwork You may remember a month or so ago when I first proposed a Maine Blog Network. I thank those of you who helped pass the word around and those who wrote me to send me links. Some people even stepped forward to offer to work on it.

I have been working on this a little. I changed the DNS on www.maineblognetwork.com to my hosting company so I'll have hosting on the site in 24-48 hours. Until that happens, there isn't a whole lot I can do (plus I'm still deciding with those working with me what software to use). I have, however, started two sub-projects that I'd like feedback on. Today, logo, tomorrow the first draft list of Maine bloggers (this is taking me waaaay longer then I thought, holy cow are there a lot of Maine bloggers!).

Logo

Don't worry, I don't think that just because I have Photoshop means that I'm a graphic designer. But I think a symbol of the network that's simple, easy to reproduce, and looks good small or large is key. I was thinking key elements would be the state of Maine itself, symbols of conversation, maybe something that implies the internet or blogs or computers.

Since I had a little insomnia this morning, I finally tried to do something in really simple as a jumping off point. I'm putting it in this post at 500 pixels not because I think it's fabulous but I figured you artistic types could play with a higher resolution image (an art credit on the site for your trouble). But even if you just have verbal ideas, please comment below. All I know is this needs to look less lame.

So come back tomorrow for the list of bloggers I have so far and make sure I have your name or the names of your favorite Maine blogs. I've spent most of today compiling around one hundred blogs and I'll put them in a nice format for tomorrow.

I'll be emailing those of you on my email list about all this too so if you want to be on that list, email me so I have your contact info. Thanks!

Blogging Related Injuries

So most of you by now know I have a newspaper job full time, I do some writing part time for other people, and I maintain this blog. I probably spend about ten hours a day typing on average. (Though I do make myself do something outside everyday too to balance this out!)


I’ve stepped up my typing this weekend to prepare for this blog for my being away the latter part of this week.


Finally all this has caught up to me. My right wrist is in some major pain.


I’ve made an appointment with a specialist for next week and I’m put out a call that will hopefully be answered for some guest posting for the next week until I get this straightened out. So give me the week and I’ll be back though in the meantime, I’ll have some good reading for you. Promise!

Blog Carnivals: Why Do Them?

If you are a regular blog reader, you take for granted the phrases “link roundup” and “blog carnival”. I assume everyone knows what I mean when actually, why would you unless you were blogging yourself? Since I explained these to Sean, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to write up why bloggers like myself take part in these bizarre rituals. (Yesterday’s post was about link roundups.)


Blog Carnival
What is it? A blog carnival is like a link roundup managed by someone else. The difference is you can submit a link you want to be a part of it before a deadline. You have no control, however, over how your link will be displayed. It may be an editor’s pick and featured prominently, it may be low on the list and no one clicks on it. Established bloggers take turns hosting them usually. Carnivals are around a common idea like “Carnival or Money Stories” or “Living The Good Life”. You can search carnivals (to either look at or participate in) at www.blogcarnival.com.


Why do bloggers participate?


1. It’s a way to be collegial. A blogger you like hosts a carnival and you participate as a way to put more links on their site (you know, even if it is a link to your site). People see your name on blog carnivals enough and they are more likely to recognize you as a fellow serious blogger.


2. It drives traffic to your site, directly and indirectly. One submission guarantees an outgoing link to the host’s website and an incoming link to your website. And since other bloggers participate and link to it, that is more potential links back to you. The more links, the better your SEO.


3. The possibility of getting new readers. By submitting a good article you’ve written to a link roundup in your niche, you have an increased chance of getting regular readers. People who look at carnivals are usually interested in the topic at hand, so they’ll hopefully like your related material, too.


Rules To Live By With A Blog Carnival:


1. Submit your link on time. Like a late paper, a late email to the carnival host is not appreciated, especially since they are aggregating a gazillion links to get them on their site ASAP.


2. Link back to the carnival. If you don’t link back, you’re considered a bad sport and probably won’t make it on the next blog carnival list.


3. If the host links prominently to you, send a thank you email. Madison at Counting My Pennies listed my post first when she hosted the carnival, doubling traffic to my site. I sent her a thank you email and linked her the next time I shamelessly promoted. She ended up writing me back, telling me to send her posts anytime. A little kindness goes a long way. 


4. Find a balance that works for you. Sometimes participating in too many carnivals can take away from your blog, some people can participate in four a week and do fine. Try them out, monitor your traffic, and find what works for you. As you get to know other bloggers in your niche, you’ll learn whose carnivals will drive traffic your way and which ones don’t do much for you.


There is of course more to it then this and you can check out the blog carnival’s FAQ for more information.

Link Roundups: Why Do Them?

Linkroundupshorpy If you are a regular blog reader, you take for granted the phrases “link roundup” and “blog carnival”. I assume everyone knows what I mean when actually, why would you unless you were blogging yourself? Since I explained these to Sean last night, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to write up why bloggers like myself take part in these bizarre rituals. (I’ll explain link roundups today and blog carnivals tomorrow.)


Link Roundup
What Is It? A collection of links (usually related in some way, legitimately or a little bizarrely. They are links the blogger picks themselves, usually with some commentary to go along. I call mine “Shameless Promotion” because I think it sounds more interesting and that’s kind of what it is.

Why do bloggers do this? Yes, bloggers are hard ones but we’ve got our reasons. . .


1. Sometimes there’s a little “desparado” involved. When you get a little writers block, a link round up can give you something to talk about, even if it is mostly other people’s stuff to talk about.


2. It’s a way to be collegial. You link back to bloggers you like as a way of saying, hey, your stuff is cool. Here’s me supporting your work.


3. It shows you know your stuff. You could be the most amazing person on earth but if you spend your time closed in a little room with your computer, not reading what else is out there, it shows. You get stale, you aren’t learning from others. Citing sources of things you’ve read shows that 1) you read and 2) you understand. People look for blogs as a fun way to get information and link roundups can be a fun way to aggregate and edit it for your blog readers.


4. It drives traffic to your site, directly and indirectly. Sometimes it’s a mention on another blog (a sort of mutual back scratch situation), sometimes it’s just a higher number of outgoing links increasing your search engine optimization (SEO). (If you’re wanting to learn more about this SEO idea, check out the blogging and web/tech sections of this site.)


Rules To Live By With A Link Roundup:

1. Don’t promote your own stuff all the time. Those people are annoying. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with a little self love but there is some awesome stuff out there besides yours. Might as well admit it!



2. If you link a blogger, don’t expect anything in return. The links I include just happen to be posts I like (and by bloggers I like) related to a topic I want to address. I don’t expect them to link back to me. People can smell an ulterrior motive from a mile away so don’t be that guy. Some people like me haven’t yet figured out how to search out links back to their blog.



3. Try to make the link round up fun. If you’re going to do it, include some commentary. Make things tie together in a logical way. Otherwise, it becomes a little boring for your readers (and yourself) to have this  list of seemingly unrelated stuff. My “shamless promotion” posts always take longer then my usual ones, which seems perfectly normal. I want it to be an easy read that’s not at all boring.


A well written article about these ideas can be seen here. (via BlogBusinessWorld)


Photo: Rounding up some help to build a Buick circa 1924. Via www.shorpy.com.

Maine Blog Network

I know more and more bloggers who live in Maine or blog about Maine (or both). I’ve also noticed a trend online toward blog networks lately, especially in my own personal finance niche. They make sense; there is a lot of crap out there in terms of blogs and some very short-lived blogs that just disappear. A blog network can help motivate people, boost traffic, and serve as a great resource in whatever niche you blog about.


I subscribe to Google blog searches for the word “Maine” and I’ve learned a few things reading a variety of posts about Maine by residents or visitors:
1) People think Maine is relaxing. Tourists talk about heading to Maine like they are headed to a Caribbean island. Whether it’s the coast or a lake or a woods hike, people are excited about getting to and being in Maine.
2) People enjoy the Maine lifestyle. It seems as if the slogan “The Way Life Should Be” has been collectively agreed upon. Full and part-time residents talk about this culture in concious and subconcious ways on their blogs.
3) People love reading online information about Maine. Whether we grew up here and moved away or have never left a day in our lives, ears perk up with news about Maine if you have any connection to it.
4) Maine is a that is small enough to feel very interconnected and big enough to be quite diverse.
 
I’ve been wondering lately: why isn’t there a Maine blog network that people can join? There certainly seem to be enough community for it. So I’ve decided to create The Maine Blog Network.


I don’t want to make something exclusive so much as a place were people can come to find quality content (links to great Maine blogs). They’ll be some minimum criteria to join (like being in Maine or blogging about Maine as well as having a blog of a certain age) but overall will serve as a showcase for good content and a way for Maine bloggers to band together.
 
I’ve just purchased the domain name maineblognetwork.com but before I get really excited about this, I’m wondering, are other people interested in this? Does anyone want to work with me on setting this up, probably after summer winds down and it gets a little colder?
 
Anyway, you can email me or comment on this post and let me know:
1) if you’re interested in being kept in the loop and want to be a part of it when it’s launched
or 2) If you’re interested in investing some time in developing this.
 
And I ask you to forward this to all your Maine blogging friends. I want people to feel included in this process!


I’ll start an email list of those of you interested in updates and those of you interested in becoming involved in a more hands-on way and update you accordingly.

An All-Business Approach To Blogging- Part 2 of 2

This peice was originally published in the Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce newsletter.


The first post in this series outlined blogging as a general trend and discussed examples of how a blog could be used on a business web site. Blogs increase web traffic by adding the content customers are searching for to your site (mainly solutions to their problems). Blogs also increase web traffic by giving a reason for customers to visit your web site more often. More importantly than increasing traffic to your web site, blogs can enhance relationships with customers for minimal effort on the blogger’s part. 


A blog allows for commenting, which gives a customer a chance to ask questions and give feedback to a business. By being honest with customers, listening to their concerns, and responding timely in a public forum, bloggers can not only reach the one customer who commented but hundreds of potential customers as well. For example, if your blog discussed your business’s current renovations and apologized for order delays, a customer is more likely to be understanding. A blog puts a human face on your business in a way that’s hard to do online or even at a storefront. Customer comments also allow you to understand what the public likes and doesn’t like about your business, giving you a chance to improve.


Besides learning more from customers, blogs can help you promote what is going on in your business. You can use your business blog to talk about upcoming special events and promotions. A guest author coming to visit your bookstore, for example, may give the opportunity to not only talk about the upcoming visit but to review the author’s books or to talk about other recommended authors that you carry in your store.


The best thing about a blog is that whether you are techno savvy or not, you can maintain it. You don’t have to know about web design to have a blog; there are many free blogging services like Blogger and Wordpress or you can have your webmaster design a blog to go with your business site. A blog is as easy as writing an email and you can add pictures and links like with email. The difference is you only have to write a blog once for many people to see it.


So consider blogging as a way to personalize your online presence and build relationships with customers. Check out the web sites of other businesses and see how they are using blogging. Talk to your webmaster about setting up a blog. If you decide to try one, commit to setting aside time at least once or twice a week to update it and do so religiously. The content you post should be easy to skim and free of grammar and spelling errors. Bold important words for easy skimming, include helpful links or ideas in bulleted lists, and write in an honest and polite manner. Take time to respond to comments personally. Tell everyone about your new blog. Over the course of six months, did your blog increase overall traffic to your web site? Did your sales increase? Have people been talking about it? These are all signs that blogging is working. You’ll only know if blogging is effective for your business if you try it. Whether you decide to continue it after the trial period or not, you’ll have learned a lot about the internet, your customers, and your business.

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