Friday, 29 June 2012

Featured Blogger: David Airey

Designer David Airey has top notch credentials and works with clients from all over the world. His blog is actually his website and the number of readers has grown from zero to 174,000 subscribers in under six years.

Clearly there's a lot we can all learn from David, and quick delve into his blog reveals plenty of gems, such as this post in which he gives his top ten tips for how to grow your blog readership.

The blog's look is very clean and deceptively simple looking. David has pulled out some key information and put it into the top menu bar - 'Advice for design students' and 'FAQs' - I get the feeling he's trying to filter out unwanted messages or questions, and when your blog gets really popular that's something you need to think about. To begin with, answering questions and getting new readers is fun. But when you're successful you will invariably keep getting asked the same things, it makes sense to direct people to the answers before they take up your hard-earned time.

It goes to show that you don't need gizmos, gimmicks, bright colours or a ton of 'share this' buttons to make a compelling blog with hundreds of thousands of readers.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Wednesday Tech Tip: Check out Google Analytics

If you haven't yet looked at Google Analytics I would recommend at least checking it out. The information you get from it will help you see what is your most popular blog content, where your blog readers come from, what search terms they used to find your blog, and more.

Hosted blogging platforms generally come with a statistics feature built in, but they're sometimes a bit basic. If you're interested in knowing more, it's usually a simple process to install Google Analytics.

In the book, I explain step-by-step how to sign up for Google Analytics and install it on to your Blogger, Typepad, WordPress or Tumblr blog.

But remember, it's easy to get bogged down with stats - decide how often you will check them (weekly should be plenty) and stick to it. Otherwise you'll be logging in every five minutes to see what your readers are up to, and it can get addictive! Don't let the stats distract from your main job of posting great stuff and building your blog community.

To give you an idea of the scope of Google Analytics, here's a great post from Gregory Clotti about Top 5 Google Analytics Reports for Bloggers.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Promoting your blog on Facebook

For many bloggers, just keeping a blog going takes up all of their time. But if you want to build your blog readership, you'll need to draw people's attention to it. There are loads of ways to do this, but for today I want to talk about Facebook.

With something like half the population (in the UK and US) on Facebook, it's obvious that people are hanging out there. And the first rule of marketing is 'go where your audience is.'
Jaime Derringer of Design Milk
has a vibrant Facebook Page
If you're already on Facebook, you're probably already mentioning your blog to your friends. But if you want to take it a step further, you could create a Page for your blog. A Facebook Page is not the same as a Profile (your personal page). A Page is for businesses and other types of entity other than individuals and interest groups. There are many advantages to having a Page for your blog: you can post, like and comment in the name of your Blog (rather than your own name), you can promote your Page with Facebook Ads (if you wish) and see detailed statistics about your page (once you get a minimum number of Likes).

A Facebook Page cannot befriend individuals, but it can Like other pages. This means that when people like your Page you can't start a dialogue with them. But the more interesting stuff you post on your Page, the more likely you are to get likes and comments, and your posts will start appearing in the news feeds of both your fans and their friends. Over time, your Facebook Page will become a community in its own right and a complement to your blog. Nurturing a Facebook Page does take time and energy, though. Don't jump into it unless you're confident you'll be able to keep it going.

For inspiration, take a look at these bloggers' Facebook Pages:  Lisa Lam's U-Handbag, Kristan Roland's Confessions of a Cookbook Queen, Anna Hrachovec's MochiMochi Land, Chris Zawada's Lovely Package.

I'm currently experimenting with a Facebook Page for this blog, which you may have already seen. At the moment I mostly re-post links to my blog posts, but I'm also trying to spend a little time each day posting other interesting stuff from inspirational bloggers, exploring useful resources to do with blogging and posting links to it, and reaching out to comment and like other Pages. There's been a small amount of interaction with people and I'm hoping for more as time goes on. I also 'kickstarted' the Page by placing a Facebook Ad for the first month. Facebook offers ad credit for new advertisers, and if you target your ads carefully you can get some good exposure. There's no need to spend very much at all, and it can get you beyond the awkward initial stage when you don't have many 'likes' or activity on the Page.

Are you using Facebook to promote your blog? Let me know in the comments if you have any great examples of Facebook Pages for blogs!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Featured Blogger: Fern Richardson

This week's featured blogger is someone with a name that really suits her job - Fern Richardson. Her blog Life on the Balcony is all about container gardening (something I need to know about, as our patio garden is the size of one small table and 2 chairs...)

The blog has a real magazine feel about it - partly due to it being built on the WordPress Thesis theme, well loved by many pro bloggers. Fern makes great use of videos - there's an introductory one on the home page and a whole page of vids which really bring her expert tips to life. Here's an example of one of them:

Another great feature promoted on the blog is Flower Chat - as Fern explains on the blog: "Fleur chat is a topic-based discussion that gets started every other Thursday at 6pm PST on Twitter (#FleurChat) and Facebook (Fleur Chat group). There is always a theme (such a wildlife-friendly flowers, aromatic flowers, edible flowers, etc) and usually an expert cohost." When the Chats are done, Ferns archives the transcripts on her blog, so if you missed the live event you can still see what was said later.

An extract from a Flower Chat session, archived on Life on the Balcony

Twitter or Facebook chats are a fantastic use of social media to connect with fans, readers and the wider online community. (You can run a Chat simultaneously across both platforms by syncing the two feeds.)

There are so many things I like about Life on the Balcony - do take a look and see for yourself, you are bound to take away some great ideas!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Featured Blogger: James Kicinski-McCoy

'Hello, I'm a girl names james married to a boy named aubrey...' So starts the introduction to one of my favourite blogs, Bleubird.

'What We Wore' is one of the feature sections
of the blog

At one time James ran a vintage store, but now she concentrates on her blog which she runs for profit. James blogs about vintage style, family life, favourite finds and her children's lunch boxes, amongst over things!

They are a very cute family and one of the real charms of Bleubird is the beautiful photography. No wonder James has such a strong following - on the blog, on Pinterest and on Instagram.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Connect your blog feed to Feedburner

Feedburner, owned by Google, is a very useful tool. If you redirect your blog feed through Feedburner you will have access to detailed stats about your feed subscribers, plus there are many tools within Feedburner to help promote your blog.

First of all you'll need to find your blog feed. This varies from one blog platform to another. In Blogger, for example, it will be in the format 

(be sure to substitute "blogname" with your blog's name, for example this is the feed for this site - - not very pretty, right? But it won't be - the feed is simply a representation of your blog's posts (or other element, such as comments) which can be read by other blogs and by 'feed readers'.

For example, I subscribe to blogs in Google Reader, and I read them in Feedly (which is powered by Google Reader but with a more user-friendly interface.)

If you have a hosted WordPress blog on, the format of your feed will be

and if it is hosted on another server the feed address should be

Remember, your blog's feed is not the same as its web address or URL.

Once you know the address of your feed, get it redirected via Feedburner.

Go to  if you have a Google Account you can sign in here. If not, hit 'Sign up'.

Once you're into Feedburner, you'll be prompted to 'Burn a feed right this instant.'  Just paste in your feed address and burn your feed.

You will be presented with your Feedburner feed address, which in the case of this blog is

Then you need to go to your blog dashboard and enter this as your new blog feed address. In Blogger, go to Settings - Other, and click on 'Post Feed Redirect URL'.  In Typepad, go to 'Settings - Feeds'. With a hosted blog you'll generally find it under 'Settings'.

If you have a self-hosted WordPress blog, there is a Feedburner plugin you can install for easy configuration with Feedburner.

Once you're all set up, go back to Feedburner and start exploring all its functionality! More about Feedburner features in another post.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Why it's worth asking for guest contributions

My husband, who is a musician, was recently contacted by a classical music blogger to ask if he wanted to take part in a series of guest posts/mini interviews about 'the first classical music recording that got me fired up.'

Great idea - a simple question, a simple request, aimed at someone who is not only likely to have something interesting to say to readers of a classical music blog, but who also may be (or become) one of the blog readers.

Blogging blurs the boundaries between the publisher and the reader - bloggers are kind of both, or at least they are potentially both.

Why not make guest posts or guest interviews a permanent part of your blog content plan? You could try asking for an entire guest post on a subject your guest specialises in, or a lighter request might be the single question/quick answer approach. Don't ask for much - 50 to 100 words max - that way you're more likely to get a 'yes', since busy bloggers may not have time for an entire post. Pull together three or four entertaining answers or quotes from people and you have an interesting blog post. You could even make it into a regular series.

Your 'guests' are highly likely to promote the post to their own blog readers, so providing handy exposure (and possibly new readers) for your blog.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Featured Blogger: Lisa Lam

This week's featured blogger, Lisa Lam, has run her own online business U-Handbag for the last six years,  and a busy blog in parallel called the U-Handblog. She describes U-Handbag as "an online bag making supplies shop for bag making fanatics (and fanatics to be!)" The blog is where Lisa can promote her products, give customers an insight to who she is, provide tutorials and showcase the bag making skills of others.

Lisa considers her blog to be a more informal, more casual place than her online shop, which is more geared towards e-commerce, but having said that, both main site and blog are presented and written in a really friendly style. It's on the blog that we learn Lisa has recently had a baby, for example (congratulations!), and it's a forum for conversation with likeminded handbag-making fans.

Lisa's blog is a rich resource of information and
she has a number of free patterns for download, like this one.
Typepad is Lisa's blog platform of choice. Although it's not free, Typepad hosting starts at $8.95 a month, which Lisa considers to be a bargain, given the functionality and support it offers.

And her number one tip? "If you have a craft business a blog is essential" -  Lisa describes her own blog as "invaluable" to her business and the perfect platform to introduce current projects she's working on, talk about the craft process and engage with her customers.

As well as having authored The Bag Making Bible - a detailed guide to making your own bags, Lisa has a new book hot off the press, called A Bag for All Reasons  - here's a sneak preview on Lisa's blog!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Building connections in the blogosphere - blog rolls

This is my fourth week of this blog and I'm still setting up my stall... today I have started to create a  'blog roll' - in other words, a list of related blogs that I enjoy and that you may find useful.

A blog roll sits usually in the side bar and can be called whatever you like, and organised how you wish. At the moment, I have started listing all the lovely bloggers who contributed to my book, under the heading 'Get inspired by these blogs!' They're not in any order, nor have I categorised them in any way. That will be my next step, and then after that I would like to say a few words about each - why I like them, or what they offer in terms of ideas and inspiration for the newbie blogger. That way you will have more of an inkling what you will find if you click on each link.

The standard format for a blog roll is a list of links, but it could also be a feed of latest posts from other blogs. There are widgets that will do this for you - do a search to find one compatible with the blog platform you are using and that you like the look of.
An extract from the blog roll
at A Perfect Gray, which is actually
a widget displaying the latest posts
from each in a feed. Neat!
Look at how other bloggers organise their blog rolls to get ideas what would work for you. Some list hundreds of sites, other stick to a handful of favourites and keep it more focused. Some show screenshots of the blogs, some have specially designed buttons to introduce the list. The choice is yours.

But the main point of the blog roll, other than to tell your visitors about other web content they may love, is to connect with others. Let bloggers know when you put them on your blog roll - don't be offended if they don't reciprocate, some large, successful blogs are inundated by requests for links! When you're starting out, it's a good idea to find other bloggers who are at a similar stage, and link to each other to get the ball rolling.

Part of Dianne Jacob's blogroll at Will Write for Food,
where she lists Blogs and Resources
Over time, aim to deepen the connections by commenting on those blogs, subscribing to their feeds, sharing their content on your own blog or via social media or inviting them to contribute a guest blog post. The blogosphere wants you - join me in starting to get connected!

Monday, 4 June 2012

A great example of why blog post titles matter

Today my eye was caught on Twitter by a blog post entitled "6 reasons why you should quit blogging" by Daniel Tynski on the Blue Grass blog and retweeted by We Grow Media.

I'm telling you about this for two reasons - number one, the blog post title is a great example of how to get people's attention. Everyone's time and attention is limited, and on media like Twitter, when tweets pass in the blinking of an eye, your blog post title may be your one chance to be noticed. 

This isn't as easy as it sounds - you could make your title something outrageous, or that promises something that it then fails to deliver. I don't advocate that - who wants to be let down or feel they've been hoodwinked into reading an article, only to find it wasn't at all what it claimed to be about? This tactic is sometimes referred to as 'linkbait'. Not great for building your audience long term.

No, the beauty of this title was that it set out to be controversial (reasons why you should quit blogging?? Aren't we usually being told the opposite?) and thereby attracted several groups of readers - those who really are doubtful about the value of blogging and may even be looking for reassurance that they needn't do it, those who believe in blogging but seeing this title puts a little doubt in their mind which they need to address (is there some new research?), and those who feel indignant at the suggestion of blogging being a waste of time and are keen to refute the suggestion. By attracting people with diverse opinions and interests, there's a good chance the post will generate comments and maybe even discussion. Brilliant - achieve this and you're on your way to building your blog community.

The second reason I enjoyed this post is that instead of the usual 'why you should blog' arguments, we get a list of perverse reasons why you should not blog - so that of course if you 'don't want improved rankings' or if you 'want to be limited by someone else's rules', then you should certainly not blog. The post title isn't misleading, but does turn out to be ironic. The blogger makes his points very clearly, but in an original way that gets people thinking.

What do you think about 'controversial' blog post titles? Do they catch your eye? Do you know what kinds of blog post titles will work for the readers you want to attract to your blog?

Friday, 1 June 2012

Featured blogger: Tara Hogan

Illustrator, designer and yoga teacher Tara Hogan was expecting a baby when I was pestering her with emails about 'Blogging for Creatives' - sorry about that, Tara! Baby John was born in March this year and has already appeared on Tara's blog, Ink+Wit...

Ink+Wit is both a blog and a business, and Tara is a great example of how a blog doesn't exist in a vacuum - far from it! Take a look at the side bar of her blog and you will find links to dozens, if not hundreds of blogs: Illustration, Yoga, Vegan, Interior Spaces, Inspiration and more. This gal is well connected to the blogosphere, and has been featured and interviewed on many other sites about how she got into blogging, her motivations and inspirations. Read a 2008 interview with her here on Decor8.

Tara's main site is the shop at As well as the blog (which incidentally is a Blogger blog like this one), Ink+Wit can be found in many other social places including Pinterest (Tara has some gorgeous boards, take a look!) and various blog directories. Tara is also on Twitter.

Tara Hogan of Ink + Wit on Pinterest

Staying connected to other blogs and around the social web is important for getting your blog known and read. This blog is only a couple of weeks old, so I have plenty to do to get it better connected. Experienced bloggers like Tara can teach us all a lot about what it takes to create and maintain a great blog!