November 2006


I really liked Brian Clark’s post The Five Essential Elements of an Influential Blog over at Copyblogger. In fact, that is generally my reaction to a great many of his excellent posts so I’d certainly encourage you to get him in your RSS Reader if you haven’t already.

In this post, he proposes that, to be truly influential and by implication gain the level of readers and traffic we are looking to, a blog should have 5 key components:

  • Simple - so that the core elements behind it can be easily communicated which will help your message to spread

  • Unexpected – so that it stands out above the others in its field either because of its different ideas or the way in which it expresses them

  • Concrete – so that the information the blog contains is directly useful to your readers

  • Credible – because your readers need to trust you and what you are communicating for the blog to be valuable to them

  • Story – which brings together and helps to communicate all of the other elements of the blog in a way which triggers not only an intellectual response but also an emotional one

I think that from a Business Blog perspective, I would probably also add Focus to this list – while it may already be implicitly bound up as part of some of the others, I believe it worthy of its own mention.

In some blogs, this focus can result in a blog with a relatively narrow field of content, but with a real depth of comment which makes it worth reading and hence influential. In others, the focus is more of a central theme around which other ideas gravitate and spark off from. In both cases, the focus is a key factor in the blog’s success and ultimately its longevity.

Brian also concludes the post by stating:


How you say it is important.

But what you say is critical.

Absolutely, but it is the combination of the two that makes certain blogs really stand out – Copyblogger among them, in my opinion.

Business Blogs, whether run by large corporates or individual professionals like myself, should certainly aim for this. However, we need to remember that it is an ongoing process so making any change, no matter how small, will be a step in the right direction.

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An analogy that I use when I talk about emarketing is the idea of making mats, specifically Welcome Mats, which you then spread around the internet. The more individual mats that you make and strategically place, the more chance you have of being found in an increasingly competitive online market.

What am I on about? Well, these Welcome Mats are places where you essentially introduce yourself and then invite people to learn more about you, your business and what you offer. Generally this means “inviting” them back to your website or to your blog.

What form can these take? Well, for example:

  • Pages which appear as Search Engines results

  • AdWords (PPC) Adverts

  • Links on other sites or blogs

  • Directory entries

  • Articles with a link in your signature

  • Forum / Bulletin Board signatures

These are all what I would call Welcome Mats each will ideally be individually crafted, give a short introduction to you and your business and then invite people to find out more through a hyperlink through to your site.

So, as people use the internet for research or information gathering, they cross the internet in many different ways – how they go about it is totally out of our control. In fact, each time will be different and so the route that they take will be different too.


They might use a search engine and then follow links in some directories, or head straight for the blogosphere and check Technorati or maybe start with some Press Releases via Yahoo News. Whichever they choose, our goal as online marketers is to make sure that we appear in as many relevant places as possible and so cover all options – creating multiple and specific Welcome Mats allows us to do this.

And why do I consider blogs to be Mat Making machines? Well as I write a post which I hope will first and foremost be of interest to people who read my blog, I know that it will also automatically:

  • create 5 or 6 new pages (individual post, home page, archive page, 2 category pages) 5 potential Welcome Mats on the main Search Engines;

  • ping a number of blog search engines, directories and RSS directories – let’s say 10 Welcome Mats;

  • if it is well written, it may be fortunate in having 2 people reference it in addition from their blogs giving another 2 Welcome Mats;

  • add to Feedburners Headline Animator which I use when I post on Business Networking sites like ecademy which displays links to my RSS feed on average another 5 Welcome Mats.

So, by posting on my blog and focusing purely on my key aim of writing something which will prove useful and interesting, it is also likely that I will automatically create over 20 new Welcome Mats. That for me is a bonus rather than the reason that I write … but is also the reason that I encourage businesses I work with to get their own Mat Making Machine.

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I have been intrigued to read a couple of interviews over the past week with Tim Berners Lee, the father of the World Wide Web, and in particular his reported stance on blogging.

In an interview with the BBC entitled Web Inventor fears for the future, Berners Lee was talking about setting up a web science research project to look at the possible implications at a social level of the web’s development. This was also reported in the Guardian Unlimited where the article had a subtitle of “blogging one of biggest perils, says innovator“.

This has been widely reported around the blogosphere as you might imagine, particularly coming from someone as influential as Tim Berners Lee. As I read the pieces, I wondered why blogs were being singled out for particular blame, especially when I felt so encouraged by the self-regulating efforts I saw in operation after the Edelman / Walmart fake blog episode.

I was therefore pleased to see this week on Berners Lee’s own blog, a post entitled Blogging is Great where he comments:

In a recent interview with the Guardian, alas, my attempt to explain this was turned upside down into a “blogging is one of the biggest perils” message. Sigh. I think they took their lead from an unfortunate BBC article, which for some reason stressed concerns about the web rather than excitement, failure modes rather than opportunities.

Feeling rather relieved at this, I looked back over the other articles and noticed that Bobbie Johnson, the author of The Guardian’s article, had rather ironically highlighted that “... he (Tim Berners-Lee) warns that ‘there is a great danger that it becomes a place where untruths start to spread more than truths, or it becomes a place which becomes increasingly unfair in some way’”. And who is to blame for that exactly?

However, as TBL concludes in his own post:

And, fortunately, we have blogs. We can publish what we actually think, even when misreported.

Touch! And an appropriate way to sum it up in my opinion.

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As I suggested in the Green Cross Code of Blogging, an important initial step before you start a blog yourself is to stop and check the blogs that are already in existence – preferable ones which are talking about your own market or subject area – to see what is being said, how they are being used and how they are approaching blogging as a business tool.

It is equally important, whether you have a Business Blog or not, to track what is being said either about you and your company, or about developments in your market. At least you can then join the conversations where they are taking place even if you are are still deciding how best to put together your own blog. But first of all, you need to find out who is taking about this, and where.

So the question is where the best place to find out what blogs exist in a certain industry or cover certain topics. For me, I always turn to Technorati, which is one of the two main blog sites that I recommend anyone intending to use blogs bookmarks immediately. If you want to find out what blogs exist and what is being said in them, then this is the place to start your search.

As you hit Technorati’s homepage, there seems to be a lot going on but, for now, let’s just focus on the main search function. So the main area that you want to concentrate on is the Search Bar:

You can see that you can search through 3 different sets of information: Blog posts, Tags and the Blog Directory.

  • Blog posts: this is the widest search and it looks through all of the information contained in the posts of the blogs on Technorati.

  • Tags: these are like categories that an author can assign to an individual post (or indeed to pictures or links) and gives the best idea of how the author would describe the content.

  • Blog Directory: the directory looks at the individual Blogs as a whole and assigns them to subsections of the directory. When a blogger “claims” a blog on Technorati (we’ll come to that in a later post), then they can add the categories they wish to appear in as well.

I always advise starting with the “Blog Posts” search as it gives you a wide search but the “Tags” are an excellent second bet and are becoming ever more widely used and hence useful.

Once you have your first set of results, Technorati then allows you to refine them. I have used the example of a search on “RSS Marketing” below.

You have 3 options to help you refine the results, each with its own pull down menu – you can use just one or all three of them.

  • The first allows you to choose the “additional search terms” that Technorati has suggested which also appear in blue just below and gives you posts which contain both “RSS marketing” and, for example, “Business Blogging”. This helps to narrow your search.

  • The second allows you to set a level of authority which Technorati determines by the number of blogs which link to the blog you are looking at – “any authority” will give you all blogs which fit your search terms.

  • And the third, allows you to select blogs only in a certain language.

So now we have a set of results which hopefully reflects the posts that contain the information that we are looking for. An example from the excellent Problogger is given below as an example.

However, this gives us more than just this post to use in our research. For example:

  • By clicking on the Post Title, we go through to the blog where we can see if there are additional posts which interest us. There is also likely to be a “blogroll” or “recommended sites” section on the blog which will often link to other sites which will be of interest. Blogs often become the hub of a network in their own right so start with one that interests you and follow their recommendations

  • By clicking on the Blog Name, you will get additional information about the blog and other posts that as well as an overview of the main areas that it covers

  • By clicking on the Blogger’s name, you can see if they write other Blogs which might be of interest to you

  • By clicking on the Linked Sites, you can see which blogs have linked to the one you are interested in and also which sites it has linked to in turn. By following these links, you can quickly get a list of blogs to read and return to.

So using Technorati, we can quickly gain an list of blogs which will be of interest to us and also of use in developing our own Business Blog. To save time, make sure you add them to your RSS Reader (you can always delete them later) so that you can follow them easily and keep up to date.

[Adapted from a post on my other blog, The Blog Coach]

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The post was inspired by some of the commentary that followed Jason Calacanis’s keynote speech at Blog Business Summit where he effectively had said that if you were not an A-list blogger (and ideally in the Technorati Top 100) then your blog is rubbish.

In fact, effective business blogs should never even try to achieve so called A-list status – if they do, then the focus of the blog will undoubtedly be too broad to achieve its real business goals. The most successful type of business blogs should be focused on a market sector or niche and designed to attract a specific audience interested in that area. Lose that focus and you lose your audience.

In fact, as I think about it, the title of this post is itself misleading – trying to become an A-list blogger in your niche is also totally pointless.

What you want to do is become the recognised expert in your niche. Now this you can achieve with your business blog – through your posts, you can build credibility and gain both recognition and trust from the market and customers that you work with. Being considered as an A-list blogger in your area may come about as a result of your blog but it shouldnt be its aim.

So are there any special steps to follow to achieve this? Not really. Just follow the key principles of blogging mixed with some business and marketing common sense:

  • Know your subject area inside out you probably do already – and communicate that through what you write and how you write it

  • Keep up to date with what is happening in your industry (RSS really helps here) and then put it in context on your blog together with your views on it

  • Write passionately and intelligently about subjects which will be of interest and of use to your readers within your niche

  • Build your credibility and demonstrate your expertise through the information and knowledge that you share in your blog

  • Link and reference to others as well as your own work so that you become the key information source for your market – if your readers don’t need to go elsewhere for the information, they won’t

  • Promote and market your blog to help people find you – hopefully your posts will then keep them coming back

It’s impossible to be all things to all people. So by picking a subject area or market niche which we can focus on, we have a much better chance to establish a reputation in that area and so attract people to our blog who are really interested in what we do. Exactly the people that we want to talk to and do business with!

(Oh, and in case I forgot to mention, the Search Engines will love you for it too!)

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WordPress has been busy again with an additional upgrade to its main open source blogging platform and also the announcement of the formal release of two additional products over the past 10 days.

WordPress MU (multi-user) and bbPress have both had their proper releases with WordPress MU 1.0 and bbPress 0.72. WordPress MU is in fact a version which allows you to run and manage multiple blogs off a single system, hence users in that sense – you can of course have many users in the “authors” sense on a normal WordPress installation. This is the software that powers the hosted version of WordPress at WordPress.com and is likely to see its initial markets coming from the worlds of journalism and education where multiple individual blogs held under one roof are common.

bbPress is forum software which has focused on being “lean and mean” and has all the features and speed that you would expect, coming as it does from the writers of WordPress. It can be run independently but will also be a great addition to those looking to include a Forum within their own Blogs. If you want to see it in action then the WordPress support forums uses it so that would be a good place to start.

Last, but by no means least, the new version of WordPress itself – WordPress 2.0.5 codename Ronan – is mainly a bug fix of some security elements and custom fields rather than a major upgrade although 2.1 is expected to be coming out sooner rather than later with some additional functionality. What more can they add?

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