One of the best returns on the investment of time and effort in a blog post is when a reader leaves a meaningful comment.

For the most part, legitimate commentors fall into either one of two categories:

  • Grateful reader: A grateful reader will often leave a short comment stating that they really enjoyed a point you made somewhere along the line, or the overall tone of your site. Some folks have left comments on the layout, or the photographs, you name it – anything they liked, they may leave a positive, thoughtful comment. These “feel good” comments shouldn’t be overlooked. If the person took a moment to thank you for your hard work, why would you dismiss the comment as being unimportant?
  • Stimulated reader: Readers may find something in a blog post that really spurs them to think in new directions, or perhaps to disagree with your ideas. Most serious writers find this type of reader stimulating as well, stirring additional ideas and approaches to a subject, and at times, reinforcing the points being made by your post.

There of course is a third type: the “troll” – a person who visits a site with the specific purpose of being negative about anything you have to say. In my experience this is fairly rare; but that is in large part because I don’t write about religion and politics (rarely, anyway) :) . For the most part, I generally dismiss this category of commentors, only because they really aren’t looking for meaningful interaction, or to bring something of value to the table.

Rather, I focus my energy on building a rapport with readers, one at a time.

How do you take care of your Commentors?

The key to building regular commentors is simple: Engage them. There are two approaches that I’ve found to work best. The first is to reply to each commentor in the comment thread, for everyone to see. Often when you leave a comment on a site, you have the option to subscribe to replies. The reason that is there is obvious – it’s very common for commentors to follow a conversation thread, or look for a response.

So your best move? Recognize that fact, and give them what they’re looking for – a reply in the comments. I try to reply to nearly every comment I receive, even if only to be grateful for the comment. Granted, there are some who might find this annoying, but I view it from the same angle as common courtesy. Some might be irritated that you say please and thank you repeatedly, but I would rather err on the side of being overly courteous than callous. The same applies with replying to comments.

The second requires a little more effort, but really pays off: email each commentor who leaves a meaningful comment. This added personal touch really sets you apart from the vast majority of writers and bloggers who barely acknowledge their readers. This basic, personal service will build loyalty and connections that you couldn’t buy with any SEO product. Personal contact is unusual in the world today – use that knowledge to your advantage.

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Random Blogging Tip #4: Write short paragraphs

by Metroknow on April 27, 2009

Writing short paragraphs is an art – and for a successful blog, it is a necessity.

When a reader visits a blog for a solution, they are usually visiting specifically because no longterm commitment to the piece they’re reading, or the site they’re visiting, is required. The reader can pop in, skim the contents or search for a keyword or two, and pop out. However, if they arrive at your site and visually see large paragraphs, it signals that there is a greater degree of involvement. It looks like a novel, because it is written like one.

Long paragraphs often make a subject feel more complicated that it actually is. If you have a series of long paragraphs in a piece, it might even be worth asking whether you’re making this feel more complicated than it is for slightly narcissistic reasons. Maybe not, but it couldn’t hurt to ask. :)

For a novel, this rule certainly doesn’t apply (though novelists and narcissists are probably closely related). But for a blog, it’s essential. Your paragraphs don’t need to be artificially short; they should still conform to the basic rules for paragraphs, and they should flow together logically. However, each paragraph should get to the point, discuss the specifics quickly, and move on.

In William Zinser’s book, On Writing Well, with regard to short paragraphs he says:

“Keep your paragraphs short. Writing is visual – it catches the eye before it has a chance to catch the brain. Short paragraphs put an air around  what you write and make it look inviting, whereas a long chunk of type can discourage a reader from even starting to read.”

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“Any authentic work of art must start an argument between the artist and his audience.” -  Rebecca West

A common misconception for non-bloggers and those new to the format is that somehow the rules of human intuition do not apply to blogs. This may have something to do with the message that you get from blog marketers who imply (of flat out state) that starting a blog will create an instant audience who hangs on your every word, waiting for new posts.

This couldn’t be more wrong.

People sense authenticity intuitively, and the same applies in blogs. Your online presence has to have the ring of authenticity, which is closely related of course to honesty (though they are different). It also connects with “transparency” as a principle. This doesn’t mean that you don’t need to protect your privacy (it should be a significant consideration before you post anything publically), but it does mean that everything you say must resonate as being a true representation of your opinion, even if your opinion turns out to need correction based on the comments of your readers, or further research.

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There are a million theories on when, how often, etc. to post, but the truth is simple: none of that matters if you don’t post regularly; in fact, none of that matters period. It can be once a week, 5 times a week, 4 times a day, whatever you can squeeze out – but the key is posting regularly. And equally important, the quality of each regular post should stay the same.

Ultimately it’s a human nature thing – people in general intuitively want predictability and consistency from anyone who presents themselves as an authority on a subject. The same rule applies to blogs.

Don’t worry so much about the minutia of when or how often to post; focus more on the bigger principles, of which posting regularly is at the top of the list. One great example of this is Chris Guillebeau, at http://www.chrisguillebeau.com. Chris is absolutely religious about posting 3 times a week, and it’s paying off.

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Random Blogging Tips: A New Series

by Metroknow on April 17, 2009

Earlier this evening a friend of mine asked a group of her friends, including me, for advice on her blog. After writing an overly verbose (but hopefully helpful) email in response, I realized something: I actually have an opinion about this subject.

Over the last few years I’ve spent a considerable amount of time researching how to create a successful blog – not for the purpose of sharing that information specifically, but primarily as a means of advancing my own sites. As a result, I’ve been studying this business more or less full-time for the last few years, and while I am far from being a master of all things marketing, writing, or otherwise, I do have an opinion or two on what works.

With that in mind, I’m going to start a series of posts on the subject right here on Too Many Projects. Take them or leave them; It’s what I’ve found has worked for me, and more than a few things that haven’t.

Tip #1: Make every post insanely useful.

I am sure that this is a common subject among the many resources I’ve read, but I definitely have to attribute this to Leo at ZenHabits. Each post you write should offer a significant benefit to your reader for bothering to read it. And that is why people return – no matter how witty, sarcastic, or engaging you are, ultimately the vast majority of people reading blogs are looking for solid, recommendable (and free) resources. Before you hit “Publish”, ask yourself the question, “Is this article Insanely useful?” If not, reconsider publishing just yet.

Watch for Tip 2, and thanks for reading.

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Wordcamp PDX was here

by Metroknow on September 30, 2008

WordCamp Portland has come and gone, and what a fine time it was. I wrote about it on OurPDXNetwork – Here’s the link: WordCamp Portland was Waaaaay better than WordCamp [Insert your lame city here].

The article was my first post on OurPDXNetwork, and I must say I am really excited about the opportunity to write with such a great group. OurPDXNetwork is a relatively new site in Portland, but they are really making a decent splash. I’ve been following a number of writers who contribute to OurPDXNetwork for quite some time now, including PAgent, who is one of my long time favorites.

One of the highlights from WordCamp has to be Betsy Richter’s 10 Commandments for Group Bloggers, a list which really does distill the principles of blog collaboration into 10 easily digestible bites. I highly recommend it if you have aspirations of working as a team on a blog project.

I took a handful of classically mundane photos, but here’s one that I love, not for the content, but for the tape:

That is Badass. That is Portland.

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WordCamp PDX is here

by Metroknow on September 27, 2008

I’ll be at WordCamp all day Saturday – should be a blast. I’ll be the one who looks all nervous because I will be in a room of people I don’t know.

Hopefully they have beer with the donuts.

See you there?

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What’s next on Too Many Projects?

by Metroknow on September 27, 2008

In the coming weeks I’ll be including a complete set of tutorials on the following:

  • WordPress template construction from the ground up
  • Thesis theme customization basics and advanced hacks
  • The basics of hosting a WordPress blog
  • Using custom fields to your advantage
  • Understanding traffic statistics
  • Building traffic through forums with WordPress

And much more.

Have suggestions or questions on WordPress subjects you’d like to know more about? Leave a comment and I’ll reply promptly.

You can also sign up for news from Too Many Projects, using the following form at the bottom of this post.

Thanks!


For Email Marketing you can trust

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TooManyProjects.com Thesis Theme Demonstration

by Metroknow on September 24, 2008

Thesis WordPress ThemeWelcome to TooManyProjects.com. Too Many Projects evolved out of a problem that many of us have, particularly if you are working in a creative field (or want to make that leap):

Too Many Projects.

My biggest challenge over the last several years has been exactly that – I simply have too many projects. Too many things that keep me up at night, writing down notes and drawing symbols, searching for days for just the right font, signing up for the latest social media experiments in an effort to connect with others, and trying to figure out this whole “getting paid for my ideas” thing.

In this process, I’ve discovered a platform that I’ve really fallen in love with from a rapid writing and content management perspective: WordPress. I’ve worked on CMS solutions ranging from low budget Joomla to $100,000 high end corporate CMS systems – but none as easy to get from zero to Live in so few steps as WordPress.

If you want a rapid, stable, customizable solution, WordPress is the place to be.

I am currently demonstrating one of my favorite WordPress themes with this site: The Thesis Theme by Chris Pearson. I’ve purposely done very little customization to the theme other than inserting information in the standard fields to make it more personalized – In fact, I haven’t even swapped out the default blogroll or photos. This is a sample of Thesis straight out of the box – and it took me all of three minutes to go live, from upload to configuration.

Over the next few weeks, TooManyProjects.com will be evolving to demonstrate the power of WordPress through theme customization, backend tweaks and plugins, and extending WordPress using the power of the MySQL database.

But before I get to all of that, I’m starting with this template to prove one thing:

Even when you use a template with no customization, WordPress can be an incredibly powerful platform for getting your message out there.

And if you think the front end of Thesis in particular is good, you’ll be blown away by the backend.

If you are interested in Thesis, swing over to DIYThemes and check it out. You won’t be disappointed. The Thesis community is also a very tightly woven group, all of us helping each other to get the most out of a great design.

And one more thing – if you are comfortable with code, Thesis is your friend – primarily because Chris does a really good job of commenting what he’s done and personally helping people to customize the theme to meet their needs – all free of charge.

If you can’t tell, I highly recommend it. I am personally using the Thesis theme on several projects, and have yet to find an obstacle that has changed my mind. At every turn, Thesis delivers.

Check it out today.

Thesis WordPress Theme

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Too Many Projects is just getting started

by Metroknow on September 18, 2008

I am launching Too Many Projects (TMP), knowing that I’m not ready, but sometimes you just have to jump in feet first and go for it. Head first might be a little bit much, but feet first I can do.

Too Many Projects is focused on helping people to solve their content management dilemmas with WordPress. Plain and simple, I am a WordPress advocate, as I think it is rapidly becoming a full-fledged CMS system without the gigantic software bloat of most CMS systems.

More to come.

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