March 31st, 2010

Do You Need to Go on a Content Diet?

Take a few minutes to think about this. How much time are you spending reading other people’s content?

Now how much time are you spending on creating your own?

It’s amazingly easy to fall into the trap of reading, reading, reading, and not working enough on your own websites. After all, you’re trying to keep up with your niche, right?

This is something I got to thinking about after reading Lynn Terry’s Finding Balance Between Consuming Content …and Creating Content article recently.

I’m generally satisfied with the way I manage my balance, which is by doing most my consuming of content when I know or suspect the kids won’t give me enough quiet time to really get into creating content. Kids are a great distraction, but so much fun!

It’s something you really should think about for yourself. Do you have a good balance too, or is it content diet time?

The simple truth is that both matter. You need to keep up with your niche and you need to keep working on your own sites. When do you do each?

Consuming Content

The best time to consume content is when you aren’t likely to be as productive in creating content. This can be when you’re distracted. When you are short of ideas. At the times of day that you know from experience you just don’t create as well as you would like.

The challenge is keeping these from flowing into the times when you should be creating. Sometimes you want to read one more blog post, follow one more link, visit just one more forum, read a few more Tweets aaaand then your time to work is gone!

If you’re finding that you tend to overdo the consumption of content, it’s time for a diet. Cold turkey isn’t too bad a way to go in most niches.

Take a week off, or even a month. Unless your niche is very fast moving, you can afford to take a break. Use the time to focus on your own content.

This includes shutting down whatever Twitter application you may prefer, and closing that window into Facebook. They’re both wonderful for networking and for promoting your own content in their own ways, but a break can be a very good thing.

Don’t worry about getting behind on your feed reader. I hit the “Mark all as read” button on my Google Reader quite often. It works great for not feeling as though I’m running behind on reading. It means I’ve made the conscious decision to not read the unread stuff.

Pick Times to Create Content

What are your most productive times for writing? Early morning? When the kids are at school? In the evenings when they’re in bed?

These are the times you need to focus as exclusively as possible on content creation. Shut off the distractions and get to work.

Now Lynn suggested in her article linked above that you try a Time Log. Track the time you spend on everything, not just the internet. This is a great idea, especially if you’re having trouble finding time to write at all. You might just discover where you’re wasting time you could put to better use.

Remember that your success isn’t going to come from reading what other people are doing. It’s going to come from what you are doing. It’s time to stop being passive, reading other people’s content and get active creating your own content. Just think of it as diet and exercise for your blog.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

March 30th, 2010

How Do You Get Ideas from Other People’s Content Without Plagiarizing?

Some days one of the hardest things to get is an idea. It doesn’t matter how much you love your site, your topic or anything, sometimes that first idea is just really hard to get.

A favorite way of mine to get ideas is to read what others have written. But there’s something you have to be careful of. You do not want to plagiarize anyone. But there are a few simple ways you can avoid this problem.

Discuss Their Article and Link to Them

If you really like what someone else has written, there’s nothing stopping you in most cases from linking to the article, crediting a few key points and adding in your own thoughts. It’s a great way to share quality information.

You may get some attention from the original author when they note the link to their site. This makes for not only great inspirations, but a pretty good networking tool. It can also be good for search engines to note that you link out, sharing good information, rather than hiding away on your own site. I read that some time ago on Daily Blog Tips, and I agree with how they explain it.

Disagree with Their Article

Disagreeing with what someone else wrote can be fun. If you’re going to link to their article and explain why you disagree, you might just get some conversation going. Or a bit of anger, whatever. It depends on how you write your own article and on the personality of the person you’re disagreeing with.

You’ll note however, that I said if. Linking isn’t something I always do.

There’s good reason for that. Sometimes what I’m disagreeing with is when I feel someone is promoting a scam or something mighty close to one. If I feel the article is promoting something I don’t care to link to, I won’t.

In that case, my own article is likely more general. It doesn’t need to go from point to point countering everything.

It may also not even appear to be disagreeing with anything in particular. When I’ve read something I’ve disagreed with, sometimes the resultant article is strictly about my point of view.

Sadly, some people will write anything for a chance to earn money. While you may not agree with what they’re saying, you can take it as inspiration to discuss your perspective.

An example of this would be the scads of  “Google Money” and similar splogs that were all over the place in 2009. I disagreed plenty with them, but I wasn’t about to link to any. Much better to link to the resources that explained why they should be avoided.

Read Only the Titles

You can get a lot of ideas just from the titles of other articles. Read the title and create one of your own.

When I do this, sometimes it won’t even be on the same topic as the title I read. The other title just gets me thinking on a topic of my own. It might be the type of the title, it might be just one word that makes me sit up and say “hey, that’s an idea!”

Read the Articles and Note Individual Ideas

This is one you have to be very careful with, as it can reach into plagiarism if you aren’t careful. It can pay to take just one or two concepts from an article and note them for a future article.

Generally speaking, if I get an idea from someone else’s article I’m either going to write it up immediately with crediting links, or I’m going to take just one concept and develop things in my own direction in a few days.

I don’t like to write the second kind of article there immediately. My mind is likely too full of ideas from the other author’s article, and I don’t want to accidentally imitate them. Giving it a couple days and reading other things gives me time to develop it into something unique.

If you really want to make the idea your own, take things a step farther and don’t use it directly. Instead, brainstorm on related ideas. You can write it out on paper, type them into your word processor, use Google’s Wonder Wheel or even use a keyword tool to see what comes out.

Read Forums

Reading on forums is a great way to find out what questions people are asking about your niche. If someone is asking the question on a forum, you have a good chance that someone else is asking it on the search engines.

You’ll notice that a lot of these ideas I use are for generating ideas to write about another day. Many times when I can’t think of a topic to write about, even with a topic I’ll struggle more than usual with the writing. Taking a day to generate ideas rather than articles means that the days I’m more into writing are more productive because the ideas are all there.

You can do many of these tips with articles you’ve previously written for your own site too. You can disagree with something you previously wrote because you’ve learned something new. You can go into more detail on topics you’ve written before. You can take a new angle on an old topic.

Just do your best to keep from rehashing the same information over and over again on your site.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

March 14th, 2010

The New York Times vs. Mom Bloggers

This is shaping up to be quite the interesting battle. The New York times printed an article called Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand, and it has many mom bloggers furious.

I can’t say I blame them. Much of the article is condescending. Little mommy bloggers making money. How cute.

A part of the problem is that it appears in the Fashion and Style section. Considering the effect mom bloggers are having on marketing, the business section strikes me as far more appropriate.

The comparison to a Tupperware party or a kaffeeklatsch is no doubt intended to be cute, but many mom bloggers find it to be more condescending. They clearly don’t like that mom bloggers are including earning money in what for some reason ought to be a purely social hobby.

It’s a common problem for moms. Work outside the home, you’re neglecting your children. Stay at home, you’re lazy. Find a way to do both, well you’re just terrible! Negligent, lazy, and how dare you make a living doing something you enjoy.

Moms blogging goes beyond parenting and gossip. Sure there’s talk about diapers, parenting skills and rough days. But there’s also work on our favorite causes. With our highly personal voices, there’s great connection with readers, and marketers love that.

Are there legitimate concerns about honesty when some bloggers review products? Absolutely. But that goes for all kinds of blogs. It’s just that you hear about it when they talk about mom blogs. It’s why disclosure is so important.

We’re very fortunate that it is so possible for moms to have such a voice online these days. I’d just like to see it taken more seriously by others in the media.

So far that’s not happening. You just have to take a look at the articles the New York Times has posted about mom bloggers  to see what I mean. Kelby Carr has a great list in her post, Newspaper Bias Against Mom Bloggers, and it’s not just a problem with the New York Times.

There’s a lot of great reading available out there about this article. Here are a few I’ve found. Share your favorites in the comments if you like.

New York Times Biased Against Mommy Bloggers?

Honey, Don’t Bother Me. I’m Too Busy Writing With a Toddler In My Lap

Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Writing a Mildly Annoyed Letter to the New York Times.

Why did you start blogging? My views on the New York Times article

and of course Kelby Carr’s article linked above in my post.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

March 10th, 2010

Beating the Content Blues

Creating content for your online business is challenging. It’s hard to come up with new ideas day after day. But have you thought about repurposing content you’ve already created?

I don’t mean rewriting the same article over and over again. It’s already hard enough to avoid that trap when you’ve been working on a topic for a while. You can easily forget some of what you’ve written in the past and write something new that is very similar.

But writing content isn’t the only game in town. You can repurpose content you’ve already created for use in marketing your site.

Podcasting/Audio

Some people love to learn by listening. It’s how they learn the best. You’ll need a microphone for your computer and some software such as Audacity to create it. There are many sites you can use to distribute your podcast. You can even share it on iTunes.

The tricky part is coming up with information that’s long enough to be interesting. That’s a rather different length from most articles written for websites. You may have to combine a couple to come up with a good length.

Video

Sites such as YouTube are incredibly popular. They get millions of visitors looking for videos on all kinds of subjects. This is great since some people are very visual learners.

If you have Windows, you probably have Movie Maker already installed. Macs also have tools to help you make videos, and are generally better at dealing with high definition.

You will need either a good webcam or a small digital camcorder if you want to be in your videos. The Flip video camera is very popular.

You can in essence read your articles to make your videos. I suggest having visual aids when possible. If you’d rather not star in the video, you can make them be a sort of slide presentation, or do a product demonstration without showing your face. You have plenty of options.

Brainstorming New Content

If you’re struggling with new content ideas, repurposing what you already have is only going to take you so far. Eventually you’re going to have to come up with something new.

Brainstorming can be a big help. There are many ways to do this, and hopefully you’ve learned one in the past.

An easy way to go is to write down one idea. Then start expanding on it. This can generate several individual articles or even an article series. Just see where it takes you.

Reading other people’s content can also help. I don’t suggest copying, but see what it makes you think up. I recommend sitting on ideas generated this way for a few days so that your writing is not much influenced by whatever you were reading at the time. You want to be original.

Carrying a notepad and pen everywhere you go is also a help. This lets you be ready any time an idea strikes. You may not be able to write the whole thing at the time, but you can get main concepts down.

This one particularly helps if you sell a physical product that you can look at in local stores. Take a look at who’s buying what you’d like to sell. How is it presented. I wouldn’t take notes in the store, of course, but use your eyes.

A little repurposing, a little creativity, and bit by bit you can get past even a bad case of writer’s block and start creating content again. It’s a lot more fun than being stuck.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

January 6th, 2010

How Do You Find Blogs to Comment On?

I mentioned yesterday that I am trying to do a lot of blog commenting. One of the biggest challenges can be finding blogs to comment on. Here’s how I do it.

Follow or No Follow?

I honestly don’t stress that much about follow versus no follow blogs. I focus on providing good comments so that people reading my comment might want to come on over. At the very least there’s a chance of attracting the blog owner, and that can have more benefits than just the traffic. It might be someone to develop an online relationship with, trade posts or comments with, for example.

Finding Blogs

I often start with some of the big, heavily commented blogs in the niche. Comments on these blogs may or may not get you a lot of traffic, depending on what you say and if people tend to follow your links there anyhow.

But I do follow the links other people leave. You see, these are people interested in the niche. They comment on blogs. If they have a link to their own, that’s a blog to comment on.

The chain can sometimes be followed through many blogs.

The advantage to this is that I can then comment on a range of blogs, not just the same few every time. Nothing wrong with building a reputation with your comments on a blog, it can be a big help in building your own reputation, but spreading things out is good also.

Comment Early, Comment Often

If you want to comment regularly on a particular blog, make sure it makes it into your feed reader. I’m currently using Google Reader, but there are many choices out there.

To catch posts early you may want to consider a tool I use – Comment Sniper. It’s from Duncan Carver, and it’s free.

Comment Sniper checks the feeds that you want to read at set intervals and pops up in the corner of your monitor every time that feed shows a new post. This makes it easier for you to get in on the commenting earlier.

The bad part is that it’s really easy to tune it out after a time. I can go most of the day without noticing it if I’m working hard. Of course, that’s also a good thing when you’re focused on a project.

Promote the Blog

I forget this a lot of the time, but one thing I like to do is tweet the blog posts that I comment on. It’s something I’ve found interesting enough to have something to say, and bringing them traffic brings my comment traffic which may just give me a little too. If not, I’ve still shared something I found interesting with my Twitter audience. That’s not a bad thing.

Giving the site a quick thumbs up on StumbleUpon can also work. Not necessarily well, as SU traffic isn’t always the best for clicking around, so don’t use up a lot of your valuable time. Similarly, if you have quick links for it you could add it to your delicious bookmarks, and so forth.

Any promotion you do of someone else’s site should be brief. It’s hard enough to promote your own site, but remember that those views of your comment on other sites can help you out too.

Will All This Bring Tons of Traffic?

Pfft! No. Probably not.

So why bother focusing on the people instead of the search engine value?

Because you don’t want to look like a comment spamming idiot, of course. Focus on the people and your comments last. Those who do click through to your site are more likely to stick around. And you’ll have a better chance of building a relationship with the blogger whose blog you’re commenting on, which can lead to links in posts or guest posting opportunities, and those can lead to more traffic.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.