August 4th, 2010

What Matters More – A Great Article Title or Great Keywords in the Title?

When you’re writing for your site, whether it’s an article, blog post or article to be distributed, the title matters. It’s what readers see first and what interests them enough to give the rest of the article a chance, even when they don’t know if your site is a great one or auto generated dreck.

But without great keywords, in the title and the article itself, who’s going to find any of your articles?

Which Way to Go?

Article titles can get a bit of debate going. Some like to write them first. Others write them last. Some focus more on keywords, others on making it interesting.

I like to have a title ready, but changing it isn’t unheard of. I don’t think I’m one of the great title writers around, although I come up with a few I enjoy. A good title helps to set the tone of an article for me. I may change midway because the dratted thing no longer fits, but I like having a working title.

The important thing is to craft your titles in the way that plays to your own strengths. If you write best with a general idea, and then pull a title from that, go for it. If you need that title to guide your article writing, work that way.

There’s nothing wrong with either way. The only wrong way is the one that inhibits your ability to write in the first place.

What About Search Engines?

It’s certainly true that search engines care more about keywords than about an interesting title. Keywords are a part of what will bring search engine rankings on the keywords you’re after.

Keywords shouldn’t be your entire title in all cases, however. You should do your best to use your keywords, not only in the title of your article, but in the title attribute in the meta tags, and used appropriately throughout the article.

Your title will often be used by people linking to the page on your site. This helps your article position when your article is linked to with your keywords. Not everyone will use your title or keywords, but you want it easy for them to use your keywords when linking by using a good title.

What About People?

When people click on links to visit your pages, a good title draws them in. Humans do like keywords, so long as they’re used naturally and are relevant. If the title is clever or funny or otherwise interesting to a human reader, that helps to draw their attention.

A plain title can work, especially when people are looking for something specific. There’s rarely a need to get silly about that Canon PowerShot SD780IS 12.1 MP Digital Camera review page title. Relevance matters quite a bit when people are searching for something specific.

In the above example, you can still make the title interesting. It could imply problems with the camera. It could rave about the camera. When you’re being that specific however, the keywords in the title need that relevance to buyers, not people casually looking for information.

People looking more for information, on the other hand, will probably enjoy a title that stands out and promises a good read. A dry, keyword filled title shows that the article is probably about what they’re looking for, but doesn’t promise to be written in an interesting manner. Keywords used in an interesting way can be a big help in getting readers to your informational articles.

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.

July 19th, 2010

Here’s Why You Don’t Rely on Free Hosting

A lot of bloggers got a harsh lesson on not relying on free hosting this weekend. More than 73,000 blogs were shut down with no warning by law enforcement officials. It’s not clear what happened to cause them to shut down Blogtery, but it’s a good lesson on not trusting free hosting… or any hosting, really. You have to protect your business yourself.

If you want what details are available, try the discussion on WebHostingTalk, this story on CNet, and this one on Read Write Web.

What’s the Lesson?

The big lesson here is to always, always have backups of your site. Shut downs can happen for much less reason than law enforcement ordering them down. Free hosts can take your site down just because, if that’s what they want to do.

Sites get taken down from Blogger for spamming, DMCA violations and sometimes for reasons that are hard to understand. Sites get shut down on WordPress.com because the owner was caught using affiliate links, even when they almost never did it. These are things that can happen to you on any free host at any time.

But even with paid hosting you should be taking regular backups of your data. After all, the owners of Blogtery were paying for their hosting, then suddenly lost it, and they’re saying they don’t have it all backed up.

There’s a simple WordPress plugin that will do it for you on whatever schedule you set. You don’t have to do a thing, just tell it where to email the backup.

When your site disappears, for whatever the reason, and you don’t have backups, your work is gone. You can try to use Google’s cache to retrieve some of it, or Archive.org, but you can’t be certain of getting it all back.

Your backups are your one defense from complete disaster if something happens with your hosting.

Don’t Just Backup Your Site

So long as we’re on the subject, don’t just backup your site. Backup your computer, more than one way.

I keep an external hard drive on my desk that backs up my computer regularly. But in case of a natural disaster that really isn’t enough.

Look into offsite backup options. There are a lot out there. Find one that fits your budget. Some, such as SafeCopy Backup offer a limited amount of space for free. You can also use Amazon’s S3 service to backup your computer. MozyPro is another alternative for businesses.

Another option is to store a backup at a trusted friend or relative’s home, and update it periodically. This isn’t easy, but it’s a good option if you don’t want to trust an online company with your data.

However you do it, protect all of your data, both the online parts of your business and the data you keep at home. Minimizing the chances for trouble always makes sense.

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 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.

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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.