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Thursday, October 28, 2010

If a blog falls in a forest?

This is a live blogging transcript from the Blissdom Canada session If a blog falls in the forest? How to get your blog to make a sound

Annie @PHDinParenting
Heather Greenwood Davis @greenwooddavis
Aidan Morgan @palinode

Amy Urquhart @heartstohome
Emma Waverman @emmawaverman

Annie: Will share the secrets of blogging. It is a s simple as this: like encountering a mountain lion in forest, there is no guarantee. We can give you tips. Advantage with blogging you can try things out. It is okay to fail.

Will go through the anatomy of the blog post. Titles, comments, etc.

Titles. Should I be clever or literal? People want to be cleaver, don't know if it will work with SEO. Different titles will work with different situations. She gives examples of her posts about co-sleeping. How to title it depends on what you are trying to do. First post about co-sleeping used title in response to news. First time people found her blog other then her sister because Annie used same words as news. It was top 4 search on Google.

Also wanted a longer-term post, not news specif search so wrote more general, short title. Did key word research first with Google trends. Her post now top ranked for co-sleeping safety. Above Dr. Sears. Because of words in title, not necessarily content in post.

Post with numbers was great for Twitter. A post got a lot of traffic because numbers caught people's attention.

Body of post, If you are a gifted writer, just go and write. If you struggle with writing, keep it under 500 words. It will force you to stay on point, keep people interested. Structure it and use subtitles. Annie's posts are long. She used subtitles and structure. Helps keep people engaged. For SEO use key words in first paragraph and bold them.

A picture tells a thousand words. Didn't use pictures at first. Annie now tries to add pictures to every post. Make sit more visually appealing. She shares posts to Facebook and it grabs pictures. She loves to grab pictures from Flicker.

Internet loves lists. Two top posts are lists. Highest ranked posts, people share. Other post may be better written but people love lists.

Different styles for posts, storytellers (non-fiction and fiction), prose or poetry. Sometimes telling a story to tell a story, sometimes to get a point across. Advocates will blog to get a point across (Annie's blog). Artists use video, writing, drawing. There are comedians (ex the Bloggess). Informative posts are presenting info on a topics, lists of links or sharing other posts.

Regardless of style, you want to make people think. Annie loves to go away and think about a post. Making people think generates discussions.

Tags or categories. Categories are lists of main things you write about. People can search topics. Tags are keywords are individual posts. LinkWithin is a fun plug in that shows users related posts that they might be interested in on similar topics.

If you want comments on your blog, don't just hope they come. Invite people to comment. Ask a question or their experience. People love to share their own experiences. Ask for advice on something. This is going to get comments from own community. Annie also likes to respond to comments in post. Comment in on what they said. If it is someone new you want to engage them, invite them into community. Comment on other people's blogs. Seek out new blogs and leave comments. When Annie started she left comments on other people's blogs. the more real your comment the more people will engage.

Thread your comments. Annie won't comment if she can't engage an earlier comment, she doesn't want to be lost later in the comments. Have the conversation keep going.

Don't poke the trolls. Sometimes it is fun. Annie will sometimes poke the trolls. If she doesn't reply other readers will, so Annie will comment but not engage.

Q: would you delete the comment
A: No. I would leave it but not engage it. Never know who comment is from.
Emma: a professional troll will repost if you take comment down. They will come back
Aidan: A troll said he will never come back to post again. I deleted comment and asked if he was still there and he came back. Kept doing it!

Annie: I like to track IP address of trolls. :)

Trackbacks are links from someone else's blog to your site. They are great. Annie likes to link to other people's stuff too. Try to link to her readers to build community. Sometimes blog will catch trackback, but also use alters or other tools. Radian6 is $500 a month so use it professionally.

Some people put them after comments, some before. Some people don't approve trackbacks because they are linkbait, the post against you but you are giving it prominence.

For SEO - write good stuff. Write often. Scott (@unmarketing) said only write when you are passionate, but you may want to write more if you are only passionate 2 a year.
Use words that people search for at beginning on post.

Sharing the love. Get words out once you have a blog. People won't read it if you don't tell them. RSS readers will know, but they might not get around to reading it. Annie reads most stuff from Twitter. Use Facebook because lots of people on Facebook hat not on Twitter. Link to older posts on Facebook for new followers. Use Digg, Stuble and Reddit to share your content and others. Have a share button. Use blog carnivals to get blog out based on interest, they write post about same topic.

Don't spam others that have written posts on same topic or @ people on Twitter with lots of followers. Don't steal other people's contents - take a snippet and link back, but don't take a whole post. Don't be a jerk. Be civil. Be authentic and transparent. Be yourself. Have fun!

That is the presentation. Now panel discussion around content.

Q: What is your best post? Lots of different ways of defining best post.
Heather : I like post What matters most. Got a call from child's school and worried something terrible had happened. Everything was fine but in that moment realized I would drop everything to go. Wrote it for me. A moment of realizing what was important to me. Posts like that get tremendous reaction.
Aidan: Different criteria. Know which post is most popular because Dooce linked to it. Wife called me because of stats. My 10 am stats were at 10,000 already. Post was about direct mail that said for 57 cents you can feed an old Jew. Wrote about it because I thought it was bazaar. People start coming and telling me how evil I am. I wasn't nasty in post, I just thought it was strange. Most popular but not best post. My favorite post was Insulting the Elements. Insulted all elements in period table. It took awhile. Hard to find characteristics about all elements. in doing this post, realized it was what I wanted to do with blog: tell stories in unorthodox way.
Amy: Post that most spoke to readers was a satire of Martha Stuart. Had magazine on coffee table and on cover Martha looked like a picture of me on couch in pjs. Post was satire on Martha magazine cover. Made up own magazine. Struck a note with people. Other post was called Breast was Best about switching son to formula. Proud of post because she was afraid to publish it but she did.
Emma: Best not always most popular. Top number posts are about sex or mom against mom. Some favorite posts don't get comments. One post was about how hard it is for kids to understand difference between reality and fiction. Bets posts are often written about you. Most popular post is We are a Naked Family.
Annie: 10 reasons we don't do cry it out most popular post. Best posts are ones about feelings, moms, passion. They are the ones that just flow out.

Annie: Want to talk about where people get ideas for posts.
Emma: I am a content whore. 260 posts in last year. (laughs) Don't remember them all. Get my ideas Best ideas are looking around universe, avoiding momesphere because someone else will already have written it better. I find topics, editors send me stuff.
Amy: I get ideas from comments readers have left. Jumping off point for another post. Get posts from photographs, the story around photo.
Aidan: I get my ideas from direct mail. Also blog professionally at With deadlines, trending topics on Twitter give good ideas. Hard work is finding something interesting to say about topic. Ideas come and find me and don't leave me alone.
Heather: Ideas from all other the place. Kids. Questions about how to deal with something.
Annie: A post asking for questions was a great way to generate ideas. A series about quotes from books or other posts and write around that.

Q: How much personal info to share?
Annie: I use different names for the kids, do use their pictures. Don't want it to be really easy for people to find us. Different names for professional and personal blogging.
Heather: Have been writing family travel for awhile, son is in Toronto Star today. Did backs of heads, kept them out there, but getting more comfortable with it. Don't blog personal things about relationship with husband. Do do photos.
Emma: Do use pseudonyms. Son is 11. A lot of mommy bloggers stop blogging about kids once they hit 10 or so because it is there stories not mine.
Annie: Protecting them from what might happen in future
Amy: Decided to assume everyone is reading me. With new URL used real name and it was a conscious choice. I am accountable for my words. Know what what I say is acceptable to people in my life. Do post photos of son, real name. There is potential to use image as way for parents to teach children about responsible online presence. If you start process with images in responsible way, maybe kids can pick up on that.

Q: Any experience with something in personal life move over to professional life.
Annie: Experience of an ex-client following her on Twitter. DMed her once she figured they were on same page and now great friends.
Amy: Have had supervisor come across blog. Would rather know that people are reading it by having them leave comments.
Annie: One person had a picture of her wearing nothing but a quaker box, and maybe she didn't get jobs because of it but the job she had knew about it and they were fine with it.
Aidan: No matter how much personal info you share on blog, someone will call you a monster one day. You will have arrived.
Heather: Be aware of protecting the rest of your family too, not just kids.

Annie: What do you need to consider about blogging professionally vs personally? With a client she is more cautious writing for someone else.
Emma: My distinctive voice is my strength. Don't have a personally blog, let it all out on msl blog. Sometimes I can't mention other companies. Keep in mind who you are writing for. Sometimes I don't have juice left over for guest post.
Aidan: For professional blog you are sometimes asked because the person like your personal blog. Ironing out voice for a professional blog is a mistake. They wanted me talking about them (client). What they want is your voice, your unique style. Look carefully at writing in professional blog (links work, editing. I got all links wrong and client not happy.
Annie: Can be hard if you don't get to edit professional posts.
Aidan: Check the post after it is published. Check links.

Q: Video.
Aidan: Don't know anything about video but I do it. Writing blogs can be hard but reading blogs can be hard. My reader is full. Sometimes I don't want to read, I want to look at images, video. The cheaper and easier it becomes, the easier it is to make and consume video. I do video for I started doing it because no one was doing it. Became biweekly. When I started I was terrible but it was practice. Can use a flip. Most cameras have good video. Don't be afraid to use own face. We all have interesting and beautiful faces, even the AV guy in the back.

Annie: My only word of caution is that not everyone has broadband high speed Internet in Canada. There is huge demand. Video this morning I would watching, Nummies Bras video.
Aidan: Not everyone has access. Still on ground floor of content. In 10 years see increase in video.
Heather: Don't do video now, will use it on trip. Would prefer not too. There is a reason I did print and not tv.

Q: Any post you wish you have never written?
Emma: I don't think so. Every day there is something I want to say. Sometimes I wish I had been more or less judgemental.
Amy: If feeling uncertain about a post I leave it in draft and then come back to it. No posts, but maybe some tweets. But you would have to dig to find those tweets. Stick it in draft and come back.
Aidan: One post I regretted. I made fun of a name, like nails on chalkboard. Kyle. Wrote about it. And 3rd comment was "Not funny, Kyle". Felt like it wasn't funny.
Heather: No regrets, but once I wrote about son Kyle (laughing) I don't hit publish until I am really certain.
Annie: No posts, but parts of post. Those bits where the comments focus on that. I wish I could take them off.

End of panel. Questions open to floor.

Q: Do any of you have secret blog?
Emma: I can't keep secrets.
Aidan: I have a blog that no one reads.
Annie: Someone told me I should. Have thought about a secret password protected blog for input of community that isn't open to public.
Heather: Will have a password protected blog for trip so kids can post too.
Amy: I don't but maybe it is something worth pursuing. I can do that with a pen and paper.
Aidan: Don't count on a secret blog staying secret.

Q: How do you think Twitter had impacted blogging
Annie: Twitter is essential to my blog. On day absent from Twitter, my traffic is way down. Not because I'm not linking, people see your presence and more likely to go visit your blog. Twitter is essential to community.
Emma: Friend said blogging is dead. Without twitter you don't know what is out there. If you want to blog you need to be on Twitter.
Amy: it is a vital tool to maintaining community. I don't link to myself, because can seem spamming. New posts will be tweeted once.
Aidan: Twitter a valuable tool. Have to tweet professional blog. Hurt personally blog because I can get joke out right away. Don't want to rewrite it on blog.
Annie: I have written posts to explain tweets.
Heather: I love Twitter. I wouldn't have started blogging if not for Twitter.

Aidan: Question for Heather. You have a recent blog. What made you decide to start blogging when you wonder how relevant they are.
Heather: My blog designed around trip. I hope people are interested in this too. I wanted to share with others.

Annie: Forgot question. Why did you decide to blog?
Aidan: Boredom in my job. Stated a blog after reading others. Use it to keep writing.

Q: How to get people to comment on blog and not Twitter.
Annie: Do you ask questions on posts?
Amy: Keep leaving comments on other people's blogs and then make it easy to leave a comment. It can take time to build relationships.

Q: Did anyone had issues with families and friends about your blogging?
Annie: Don't write about family or friends unless I have permission. I don't share stories of others. Maybe sure other person ok with that. Have asked permission to share stories of friends.
Emma: I take poetic licence. I sometimes change relationships. Your family has to know that when you write a personal blog your family become characters. My husband has become with that.
Amy: Could vent about certain people, but I don't do that online. Not willing to take that risk. I assume family reads my blog so I don't tell those stories.
Heather: Husband is but of joke on blog today, but if he is in post he gets to read it and veto it. Same with parents. Once wrote post my mother was horrified with, so she gets to read about it.
Aidan: As far as the Internet is concerned my wife and I are just characters on each other's blogs. Relationship is based on making fun of each other. When writing personal blog you are a storyteller first, you can make a little but up and still tell the truth.
Annie: Don't ever say anything online you wouldn't say in person with your mother standing next to you.

Question about growing professional blog.
Annie: Don't ask bloggers to write for your blog for free. Bloggers starting to get upset being asked to write for free. Talk to people and engage them in conversation.

Emma: If you are starting a blog Twitter is your best friend. Personalise who you are and people will come to you.
Heather: Write in print media and have gotten lots of stories from Twitter.
Annie: Have to wrap things up. Thank you.

Thank you to the speakers. Any errors are mine.


  1. Great job! Thanks for live-blogging us.

  2. Thank you for capturing everything in the session today! Great to meet you! I look forward to tweeting with you as well. @suehallsworth

  3. Thanks for sharing that - makes some of us (well, me anyway) feel a bit better about not having time for blissdom. Great job.

  4. Thanks. That was really interesting to read and get a taste of what the session was like!

  5. Thank you so much for live blogging the session today Brie.

  6. Fantastic. Now I feel like I was kind of there and I actually learned some things too - yay!

  7. Wow, thank you for live blogging. You did a fantastic job! Also, thanks for the updates on was fun and full of great information. :) Laura