Categories
hmm... thoughts

Turning the spigot back on

It’s been a long time coming.

It’s time to get back into writing on a more regular basis. I miss it. And I think maybe you, dear reader, maybe miss me too?

Categories
social media

Blogging 201: Generating Content They’ll Love

March 6th at 11:00 AM Pacific

Building off of the success of Blogging 101, I’ve scheduled the next logical step… Blogging 201!

Blogging 101 was all about getting started, having an initial plan to make blogging a habit, getting your blog set-up, and stuff like that.

Blogging 201 is about writing, editing, and publishing the content that’ll actually go on your blog. (aka The hard part.)

What Blogging 201 Will Cover

Categories
Christian Living

What Posture Do You Take?

Posture impacts perspective
My posture sure impacts your perspective, doesn’t it? How big is this fish?

Beginning Again After Reflection

Having just taken a 2-week break from my daily blogging routine, I’m coming back at the task fresh from some time of reflection.

Ultimately, my reasons for writing this blog haven’t changed from when I started it in 2004. Back then I said I was starting this blog, “Mostly as a way to share with myself, just what is going on.”

Historically, my blog is at it’s best when I’m writing about my journey. And, speaking just for myself, I feel worst about it when I try to use it for some other purpose.

Categories
Web/Tech

5 Things to Do With a Brand New WordPress Site

So, you want to get started in blogging? Awesome. If your intended audience is over the age of 18 you are going to want to use WordPress. (Under 18? Use Tumblr.) Also, if you are just getting started I’d recommend spending the first 12 months of blogging on a WordPress.com blog. You’ll have way less flexibility but spend way more time actually writing than fiddling with your site settings. Don’t spend money until you know you like blogging.

It starts with a foundation: If you are going the self-hosted route, I am currently recommending Hostgator’s baby plan. I put all my non-commerce clients there and have never had a problem with uptime or customer service. 100% recommend them.

Now, assuming you have your site all set-up. Here are the first 5 things I do with a brand new site.

  1. Get rid of stuff. In the upper right hand corner you’ll see a tab called “Screen Options.” Play with that on the dashboard and the post page. That will get lots of distracting, confusing options out of the way. If my client is a total newbie, I also install a plugin which actually disables everything they’ll never need called Selfish Fresh Start.
  2. Buy a theme. Yeah, I could spend hours looking for a free theme that will work. But I’m kind of over that. These days I’m buying very nice themes at Themeforest. Pick a popular one, one with lots of sales, you won’t go wrong.
  3. Get your free Google juice. Google juice is a weird term which implies that if you do things right, Google will bring search traffic to you. Set your site up on Google Webmaster tools so you can tell Google your new site is there and how frequently you update posts. It’ll look intimidating when you go there, but all you really need to do are the basic settings. Next, set up Feedburner to handle your RSS feed. It’s takes a couple of minutes but will pay dividends down the road. (Don’t worry about the other search engines. Google is 90%+ of all of my sites search referrals.)
  4. Add some plugins. Here’s what I add to all of my sites. I actually have these in a folder on my computer and just upload them all in bulk when setting up a new site. Google XML Sitemaps, (You’ll need this for #3) Jetpack, Askimet, (Comes installed automatically) Login Logo, Password Protected, and Gravity Forms. (Premium – Contact Form 7 is a decent, free alternative)
  5. Set-up 2 basic pages. Every blog should have these 2 pages. A Contact page (see the 2 form plugins above) and an About page. Why? Because as people come to your blog they might want to know more about you and / or might want to contact you. I look at a lot of blogs and you’d be surprised how hard it is to figure out how to contact the blogger or even to find a full name or where a person lives. Why write if people can’t connect with you? I don’t get it.
Full disclosure: There are 3 affiliate links in this post. Hostgator, Themeforest, and Gravity Forms. All are products I use every day. If you buy something after clicking on my links I will make a couple bucks. Upside? I’m giving you free advice.
Categories
social media

Fall in love with your content

Every day I read all sorts of blogs. I follow hundreds of blogs with Google Reader and I’m constantly following links on Twitter and Facebook to various people’s blogs.

And I’ve gotten used to the mediocrity of most stuff out there.

There are very few people writing about what they love. But there are a whole pile of people writing about what they think will make them money.

You see, blogging is hot. Trendy even. Just about every company, church, start-up, and author I meet will quickly tell me… “I need to have a blog.” So the first thing people see is that blogging can somehow make them money. (Build a tribe, generate leads, sell product, sell ads) And in every marketing meeting in every corner of every market someone is in charge of getting bloggers to talk about their product. “User-generated content is what we need.” (aka free advertising!)

But they are missing the point. And their metrics always come back emptier than they’d hoped.

Why?

The reason people read a blog is because they connect with the content. A reader can tell the difference between a crappy post to promote a product or service and something they genuinely care about.

There are a lot of people, many of them my friends, who will sell you a big bag of tricks about how to make money with a blog. They will tell you it’s about design and whistles and SEO and mixed media. Most developers care more about the functionality of a site than they do the one thing that will actually work. (And make unlimited money.) Really, really good content. 

But the truth is that all that matters is that you love your content. You have to love it or no one else will. 

Categories
social media

Learn from me next Saturday in Chicago

Here’s the deal. I am scheduled to teach two classes next Saturday in Chicago. But as of right now… no one has signed up! I’ve got plenty of people interested as watchers on Skillshare but no one has ponied up the money to attend the class. If I don’t get 4-5 people by Monday at midnight Pacific I’m going to cancel the classes and watch football instead.

I’ve actually just lowered the cost of the class from $25 to $20 to make it a bit easier.

Growing Your Business with MailChimp

Mailchimp is an amazingly powerful tool. Whether you are a small start-up, a restaurant, a band, or a non-profit– Mailchimp can help you grow your business. In this 2-hour class we’ll quickly cover the basics of the service and quickly dive into unleashing the power of this amazing email marketing webapp. We’ll talk about lists & groups, templates, integrations with tools like Eventbrite, Facebook, and Salesforce, and email marketing strategy.

Register here

Blogging 101

This class will be laid back but full of experience, practical application, and practice. As a full-time blogger and blog coach I’ve helped countless bloggers get going for their own blogs and even launch small businesses. Topics covered: (But not limited to) – Getting started for free – Choosing the right platform – Customizing your blog – What to write about – How to write for response – How to build a tribe – Intro to analytics and other measurement tools – Principles of social media interaction The class will be two hours. But the format is loose and I won’t leave until I’ve answered all of your questions. My goal is that you walk away with a firm understanding of what to do AND ready to get started.

Register here

Categories
social media Weblogs

Just Write

So, you want to blog? And you’d like to build a following. Great. I’m here to help.

Here’s a quick reality check:

  • Success has nothing to do with a fancy blog design.
  • Success has nothing to do with learning the latest SEO tricks.
  • Success has nothing to do with finding advertisers to fund you.

So save your money. And don’t waste your brain cells.

Success as a blogger is so much simpler than that.

Just start writing. That’s 99% of the battle. Write, write, and write some more.

Success will find you when you are satisfied with who you are and how you write.

Start at the beginning

Chances are, as a reader of my blog, you’ve read something I’ve written and thought… “I could have said that, just better. I am smarter and a better writer than Adam McLane.” And you might be.

So what is the difference between you and I? Experience.

Go ahead and look at a tab on the right sidebar called, Archives. Then drop down all the way to the beginning. Go all the way back to May 2004 and read a few posts. I was horrible. But I was consistent, I was trying, and I was listening. And over time I wrote less about things that were interesting to only me and more about things that might be interesting to both me and you.

2004 was my beginning. Next, skip up to 2006, then 2008, then 2010. You’ll see a progression. I got better. I’d like to think that the progression continues.

If you are starting, just write. It doesn’t even matter what you write. Or if anyone reads it. Just write and write and write. You’ll figure it out.

You don’t have a reputation to protect

The biggest block to most people getting going (and later, to you growing) is a fear of embarrassment. Get over yourself. Stop it. You aren’t famous and you don’t have a reputation to protect. And if you can’t stop worrying about your reputation… write under a pen name and don’t tell anyone you are doing it. All that matters is that you start writing.

I wrote for two years on a blogger account not tied to my name directly. Then for the next two years I wrote on a Typepad blog… I didn’t move to adammclane.com until I’d been at it for a few years. I didn’t have a reputation to protect. But I probably thought I did.

Don’t make an announcement

I think letting people know that you are going to start blogging is the worst thing you can possibly do. Telling people seems to mount pressure. Pressure to perform steals the joy of expressing yourself. And once the joy is gone– you will convince yourself that you don’t have time or that it isn’t a priority.

Just write. Don’t promote. Forget about Twitter or Facebook or anything else. Just write. If it’s good, people will find it.

Measure the right things

I’m 7 years into this. I measure some pretty sophisticated things. If you are just starting out the only thing worth measuring is, “Did I write today?” Get a year into it… then add to that, “What kinds of posts draw comments?” Once you have enough confidence… then worry about things like, “What’s my niche`, who is my audience, and is my blog growing?

But for now… just write.

Categories
social media Weblogs

Blog economics of hate

The easiest way to draw traffic to your site all you have to do is hate on people.

My definition of flaming content online: To bad mouth purely for the sake of creating traffic, link baiting, retweeting, Facebooking, and otherwise bad-mouthing a person, organization, company, or news item for a purely selfish reason. (Read here to see what it is like to receive these criticisms)

Why does this work? When someone reads something that you write, they are left with a number of choices. Do nothing, comment, talk about it, share it, tweet it, email it, or bookmark it.

Over time, you learn that people are more likely to link to or forward something that is salacious than they are something that is benign, informative, or encouraging. That’s just the nature of consuming new media. The result is that some people write purely to draw traffic and since “flaming sells” they know that flaming people/organizations will draw more notoriety, traffic, and the hope for… income.

Here’s a formula that I’ve seen play out for the past several years.

  • Normal content = x1
  • Flaming content = x5

That’s pretty much what it looks like. If your Twitter account, Facebook profile, or blog flames someone you’ll get more traffic. Why? People love to read rants.

So are you saying that all blog traffic is drawn to flame speech? Not at all. And here is why:

  • Remarkable content = x10 (or more)

Which leads to my point: Most people write hate/flame based content because they don’t have the time/guts/brains/skills to write something remarkable in the first place. In other words, it is easier for them to draw traffic with flame-worthy content than it is to draw traffic with remarkable content.

Adam’s Law of Traffic: Write something remarkable and everyone will talk about it. Write about something you hate about someone and some people will talk about it. Write about normal stuff and only your mama will talk about it.

Bonus math: Since mountains of people like to copy the thoughts of others… sometimes giving credit and other times not.

Copied content + traffic = x5

Categories
hmm... thoughts social media Weblogs

From RSS to Today

Is RSS dying? Quick answer: No

But RSS (Really Simple Syndication) has a lot more to compete with in 2010 than it did in 2005 when it took off.

In 2005, the advent of aggregators like Bloglines, Google reader, and even the über popularity of my.yahoo.com made RSS the best way to grow your reach as a blogger. If you could just get them to click that orange button– they’d get your blog post every time you published automatically!

RSS was king.

For a few years RSS was one of the easy measurement tools of blog power. As people visited a site for the first time they were more likely to subscribe to a blog if they knew say… 1034 other people already did. (And yes, tons of the names in the Christian blogosphere you know today got known simply because they figured out how to manipulate the Feedburner subscriber chicklet. They made it seems like they had tens of thousands when they really had about a hundred. Tricky, tricky. It was dirty but you bought their books. Sorry.)

In 2006, the apple cart began to get upset with the popularity of sites which sifted through thousands of relevant RSS feeds within a niche` and curated the niche` into a website. Power wasn’t just measured in your ability to have thousands of RSS subscribers… it became measured in your ability to get your conent brought to the front page. Sites like Boing Boing, TechCrunch, Huffington Post, and Mashable exploded simply by curating their respective niche`. (Imagine editors looking through tens of thousands of RSS feeds and choosing 10-12 things a day to link bait.) Interestingly, since that’s essentially what newspapers and television news folks do, these curators became recognized as legitimate news outlets within their sector. All because they subscribed to thousands of RSS feeds and started to bring the best stuff to the top. Along the way they earned more than your RSS subscription– they earned your trust.

In 2008 and gaining strength through today RSS has become less important. Why? We don’t need to have tons of content automatically sent to us via an aggregator. Nor do we need the big niche` sites to curate the conversation generally. Instead of subscribing to Mashable or Boing Boing or the New York Times, I monitor my friends feed on Facebook or Twitter. I allow them to go through their aggregators and allow them to be my curator. In other words… I read what my friends tell me to read because they thought enough of it to retweet it or recommend it to me on Facebook.

Here’s the new reality bloggers, news agencies, and marketers are wrestling with every day: We’ve gone from RSS to FFS.

What is FFS? I just made it up.

Friends and Fans Syndication: Delivering your content through relationship-based platforms.

Learn how to manipulate FFS and you will be king in 2011.

Categories
management social media Weblogs

How to write consistently for your blog

I’ve written a series of articles for Immerse Journal describing a digital ministry philosophy for youth workers. The first article, called “Be Consistent” brought a lot of questions because I spent all 800 words talking about “why” to be consistent and it left many struggling readers with a burning question, “How can I be more consistent in this area?”

Here’s my process for daily blogging

  1. I’ve made it a daily habit. To put it in Christian terms I’ve added it to my daily devotions. I consider writing a major discipline of my spiritual life. It’s a daily exercise for my brain. I belive it’s one of the ways the Gospel works its way both into my life and into the lives of the people around me. Since its part of my daily routine I don’t find the time to blog. The time to blog has found me.
  2. I constantly capture ideas for blog posts. I have two distinctly different methods for doing that. Everywhere I go I have a journal and my iPhone. If something comes to mind, a sentence or thought or paragraph, I capture it. (If you spend time with me you may have seen me do it, though you may have thought I was just checking my email.) Sometimes its a visual sketch that I draw out or write out. But typically, its any idea that pops into my head or flows from a conversation and I capture it. (I use Evernote for that. Synchs from my phone to the cloud to my laptop.)
  3. I have a list of blog posts for future writing. Periods of inspiration come and go. So I maintain a list on Evernote called “blog posts” — Just a raw list of things I want to blog about at some point. Right now, that list has 11 posts titles/concepts. Sometimes it has as many as 30 and sometimes it has as few as 5. Each morning, as I sit down to write, I open up Evernote and decide if I want to write about one of the things on my list or something else that just came to mind. (It’s about 50/50)
  4. I write on a timer. Since I ride public transportation to work I have a firm departure time from my house. If you could see  the time stamp of most of my blog entries you’d see it is right around 8:00 am Pacific. DING! That’s when I have to leave for work. So my blog post has to be done even if it’s not perfect. I start at around 7:00 am and I have to press “publish” by 8:00 am. That means I have to write, edit, do artwork, publish, and push the links out to Facebook & Twitter in that hour.
  5. I process concepts in outline form. That may sound weird but it is how my brain is trained to work. If you were to look the concepts I capture on Evernote you’d see a formula: Concept; list of supporting items. That’s why so many posts are often lists or bullet points. I’m starting with that and wrapping an intro and a conclusion. If I have more time each supporting item may be a paragraph. But typically, like this post, those supporting items are bullet points or numbered points.
  6. I allow myself to slip in other posts. Each day I have my “main blog post.” This is the one I get up and write in the morning. But if something pops up and I want to post it later in the day, I do it. Typically, that drop-in post takes me a few minutes instead of an hour. It’s a thought or image or video or life nugget or reaction to something I read. But I’ve found allowing that to flow allows me to have still have that consistency of one thing I’m writing each day.
  7. I don’t punish myself for days off. I don’t have a scheduled day off from the blog. But sometimes, typically a weekend, I just don’t post and I don’t worry about it or force myself to write two on one day to catch up. Or sometimes I’ll skip the morning ritual to take the dog for a walk and in the process of walking him I will generate 3 new ideas. It’s also typical on weekends that I don’t have a “main post” but I’ll just push out two drop-in posts of quick thoughts, videos, family updates, etc.
  8. Blogging isn’t really always on my mind. I’m not sitting there, having coffee with a friend, and thinking… I’m so blogging this. This process actually allows me to NOT do that. It frees my writers mind to be fully present in my daily life. That’s hard to explain– but I think I’m just wired to write and writing in the morning kind of gets it out of my system so I can be productive in my day without thinking about things to write.

So, that’s how I do it right now.

My process is one-part analytical, one part self-discipline, and a pinch of artistic desire. You could even call it a little bit manic.

And if I’m really honest with myself. Part of the reason this process works for me is that it brings order, control, and discipline to my scattered mind– writing a blog is more for my benefit than yours.