First, let me say that today I'm feeling a little better about the whole challenge. Maybe it's because it's Saturday and we're having gorgeous weather. Who knows? At least I'm less crabby than I've been about it.
Day 18--Create a "Sneeze Page" to Propel Readers Deeper into Your Blog--I can see that two key lessons in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project are to:
- Drive your readers deeper into your blog so that they become more interested and, thus, likelier to subscribe to your feed.
- Make it easy for them to find useful content
Today's task, to create "Sneeze Pages", accomplishes both goals.
Sneeze pages are groups of archived posts. If you're at all active as a blogger, you're going to create a lot of content in a year. Once it leaves the front page, people are less likely to see or visit it. So Sneeze Pages help bring that content back to the front.
Sneeze pages come in several varieties:
- Themed pages
- Time-frame (like the best of 2007)
- Hot Comments--those that generated a lot of discussion
- Series pages that list all of the posts from a series (like 31 Days to Building a Better Blog)
They should include links to the old posts, but also commentary that links those posts together in a way that makes sense for the reader. You want the Sneeze page to add value for the reader.
This is something I had actually started to do with my Best of the Bamboo Project Wiki, although I can see now that it makes little sense to drive people away from my blog when that content could be here. In fact, some of my individual Best of the Bamboo Project posts would probably make more sense in a sneeze page version that links several posts.
As a start, I put together a Sneeze Page on Exploring Personal Learning Environments. There are others I'm sure I can pull together too, so this is an exercise I intend to come back to--any ideas on the themes you that would be useful to you?
Day 19--Respond to Reader Comments
Finally! A task that I already do exactly as Darren suggests. I live for reader comments, so I always try to respond, usually in the comments thread as well as via email. I also try to visit other people's blogs if they're new readers and will often add a comment if I feel like I can. When I don't it's because I don't have anything useful to add at that point, although sometimes I'll at least say hi.
Most/Least Useful Exercises So Far
At about the halfway point, Darren is asking for feedback on the most/least useful activities and what we've achieved so far.
For me the least useful tasks have been those related to using ads on my site and joining affiliate programs.
The most useful exercises have been:
- Running a First Time Reader Audit--an eye-opening experience that made me realize I shouldn't assume that readers see my blog the way that I do.
- Auditing My About Page--Led me to be more sensitive to newbies on the site. I included much more information about reading and using blogs and on subscribing with RSS.
- Decluttering My Sidebar--A major site redesign resulted from what some might have seen as a fairly simple activity.
THE most useful task, which wasn't on Darren's list (although emails with new readers also fed into this), was my decision to invite others to join me in going through the activities and blogging about the experience. I've met met several great bloggers and learned a lot about how others approach their own sites. It's been tremendously helpful and has helped me feel a real sense of community. That community has further expanded my learning and I've had some excellent feedback and support in this process.