6 Serious Questions for Serious Bloggers

While it’s a hobby for a lot of people, for more and more people, blogging is serious business too. Are you serious about your blog(s) and blogging? Maybe you’re even making a good income out of it? If so, you’d better make sure you can answer yes to all of the following questions:

1. Do you know first when your blog is down?

I’ve had this happen to me in the past quite often, people emailing me or calling me telling me my site was down. A few months ago, when I decided that my blog was one of my most important business ventures, I started making moves to make sure I was the first to know when my blog went down.

That’s why I’ve started using Pingdom. Pingdom checks my site every minute, and will tell me by email and SMS if it hasn’t gotten a signal for 2 times in a row (you can configure that very easily) and on top of that, it gives me graphs like the one below, which measure my site’s response time.

Pingdom

You can add checks for 5 sites in a normal account, so you can either share it with some other people, or use it for a couple of blogs. Of course you can add more sites, you’ll have to pay more though.

2. Do you use reliable hosting?

When I wrote my last post on WordPress hosting, I was surprised by some of the reactions. The “yeah they’re not that good but they’re cheap” kind of comments made me wonder whether these people are really serious about what they do with their blog. Whether you’re blogging for a profit, or to build a name for yourself, a lot of downtime will reflect badly on you.

It really is better to pay a bit more for hosting to prevent those 10 downtimes a year, and trust me, you’ll sleep better too!

3. How do you treat your regulars?

Any business that can have the benefit of regular customers should be working hard to turn normal customers into regular customers and then treat those people well. For me there are three kinds of very important regular customers / visitors to this site:

  1. Feed subscribers, through RSS or e-mail
  2. Mailing List subscribers
  3. “Normal” Regular visitors

Are you making sure these people get what they expect from you? Or, even better, are you giving them a special treat sometimes? For instance, my last plugin, a plugin that improves your posts slugs, is only available for subscribers to my mailing list. That turned out to work very well!

Another thing I do is thanking first time commenters, by using my comment-redirect plugin, and asking them to subscribe to my feed. This is both because I love the fact that they commented and gave their opinion or shared their wisdom (as should you when you’ve finished reading this post!), and because if someone is engaged enough to comment, that’s also the perfect moment to ask them to sign up for your RSS or mailing list.

4. Do you know what people love you for?

The most important thing to know when you have recurring visitors, is to know why these people are coming back. Why? Well if for instance, you write a lot about cats and do the occasional post about dogs, but most people read your blog because they like your dog posts so much, maybe you should be doing a bit more of that, right?

How you know what people like you for? Use vanity searches everywhere. For instance, I have a vanity search on Twitter, that recently showed me this tweet:

Tweet saying: Anyone know of any other WordPress tip blogs like Yoast.com?

Now that tells me that this person likes my WordPress tips, good, I’ve got loads of them! Now you should be making sure you know stuff like this too by using searches like this on Twitter and Google Alerts on your own name and your blogs name. You’ll always know what people feel about you and your blog!

5. Is your blog well kept?

When your blog gets older, pages and posts will sometimes move, or other things may occur that lead to search engines having listings for pages on your blog that no longer exist. Or other sites might be linking to pages that no longer exist. Do you know if that’s the case on your blog? Do you keep track of your 404 (aka “page not found) errors?

If you don’t, now is the time to start doing that. If you use WordPress, my way of doing that is installing the 404 notifier plugin, and adding the RSS feed that provides to my feed reader. Any 404 that should be fixed I then fix immediately with Redirection.

Another question to ask yourself about your blog:

6. Is your sidebar there for your readers?

I see so many cluttered side bars these days that I’m getting sick of them. There’s a couple of things I might be slightly interested in, like your FeedBurner stats, your Twitter followers and your Technorati authority, or your ranking on any major blog list, but you have to keep asking yourself: do I add yet another button because I like it, or because I think it will benefit my readers?

If your answer is “it’s only for me”, consider making a small page on your blog for yourself that keeps track of those things, and don’t annoy your readers with it!

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14 Responses

  1. andymurdBy andymurd on 9 October, 2008

    Tip #4 is very important for beginner bloggers. I have Google Alerts coupled with Twitter, FriendFeed, Technorati, Digg, del.icio.us, and Reddit searches all mashed up into a single RSS feed that get’s Twittered to me as soon as there’s any update. That way I can join in the conversation as it’s happening, wherever it’s happening.

    I have no problems with the conversation being distributed across several sites because my RSS feed makes me look omnipresent!

  2. Inge JanseBy Inge Janse on 9 October, 2008

    Nice one.

    Reliable hosting is a bliss. We got the friendly guys from Freshheads taking care of that for us. Downtime is dreadful, because every second you think ‘oh my, which visitor that could mean something to us will never return again?’

    404 redirect is something I’m going to install right now. I’ve recently implemented something similar in my 404 page, but this only tells me which 404′s are made, not a way of solving this automatically.

    The sidebar is something we talk a lot about internally on our blog. It’s a great way to bind readers – and indeed to reject them. I try to reconsider this bar every month atleast once.

  3. OggyBy Oggy on 9 October, 2008

    Haha my tweet on your post is too funny! But seriously, thanks for your blog it’s really helped me a lot.

    Out of all the blogs I subscribe to, this one is the cleanest looking. Congrats!

  4. EdwinBy Edwin on 9 October, 2008

    1. No I don’t, because my blog isn’t supplying an income I don’t feel the need to stay alert…
    2. Yes
    3. No special treatment, due to lack of time and the kind of people that visit my blog on a regular bases. ( non-professionals )
    4. Yes..everybody loves free stuff…
    5. I usually know very well when a page is removed…can’t imagine why it could happen without my knowledge.
    6. Yes and No.. I do use a small section for linkbuilding projects I’m working on
    Nice tips for intense bloggers, some are a little bit fanatic. I would consider a down alert if I would have an ecommerce website, but for a blog…

  5. MichaelBy Michael on 9 October, 2008

    Good article. Thank you. It’s made me think a little about my ‘customers’ and I will look to implement your suggestions. Happy to have any feedback on my site if you get a moment.
    Mike

  6. Michael MartinBy Michael Martin on 9 October, 2008

    I didn’t know you could get a service like that for free with Pingdom. I’m definitely going to sign up for it, thanks for the tip! :D

  7. nadenBy naden on 14 October, 2008

    I use http://mon.itor.us for Website surveillance. You can add as many servers as you want. It’s not limited to http(s). You can monitor DNS, POP, SMTP, you name it. Unfortunately the server get only checked every 30 minutes.

  8. RebeccaBy Rebecca on 15 October, 2008

    I appreciate all the info provided in this post. I was not aware of such things like the comment redirect and the 404 redirection. I will get those installed on my blog tonight.

    The hosting is a biggie and I realized that recently when I tried a new host that seemed to constantly been slow or down. So I’ve moved to another new host that is much quicker and has been performing well for me.

  9. AshBy Ash on 9 March, 2009

    Excellent list and very nice questions. I didn’t knew few of them and i am thankful that you have posted here.

    I have one question
    How do you show “First time vistor, subscribe now” box ? Does that help in getting more subscribers ? Are you using any plugin?

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 9 March, 2009

      That’s the WP Greetbox plugin.

      • DemoGeekBy DemoGeek on 3 June, 2009

        I noticed an issue (or a feature if you want to call it that way) with WP-GreetBox that it won’t show up instantly but rather have a little JavaScript effect that let’s it fade open with a little delay time. And mostly by that time the reader must have scrolled past that section to read about the content.

        Is there a way to turn this effect off?

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