Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I'm an ex-introverted extrovert turned introvert. Blogopolis told me so.

In my defense, it could well have been the copious amounts of alcohol that passed across my unimpressed liver the previous night that prevented me from going up to more people and introducing myself like I normally would. Or the <3 hours sleep I managed to put under my belt because I just could not stop talking. Or listening. Hey, I had a compelling roomie! Cut me some slack, Jack.

Whatever it was, I felt pretty darn ordinary sitting in the conference room as the first speakers got up to kick us off. But within the first twenty minutes, I had gone from sitting self-consciously thinking "why am I here? Me and my little blog are not monetized, won't be anytime soon, I've got a different purpose, I'm inferior because I'm not thinking big 'enough'..." yada yada yada, to being so grateful I had purchased my ticket on a whim. In fact, I bought the ticket to Blogopolis only because it was in my home city and I thought it'd be cool to only have to catch a train this time.

You know. All the big reasons.

Before the day was out, I had taken over eight pages of notes and picked up so many tips I was surprised my brain kept up. Okay, by 4pm it probably wasn't so much.

The official round-up of the day can be found here at Nuffnang - I won't list it all again, there are plenty enough posts floating around from attendees that are doing it. The following is by no means comprehensive and does not even mention all who spoke. But here are a few little tips and links from the day that I particularly noted, so I thought it would be more personal if I transfer my scrawl onto my blog here for those who didn't attend and/or who are interested to know what captured my attention most:

Nicole Avery from Planning With Kids is super-impressive. If you already knew this, okay fair enough.... but did you know she also has a new website:  Blog Coaching Boost? Well, get over there! It contains slides from her presentation on the day.

• I was introduced for the first time to the informative Michael Aulia from Craving Tech. He was so good, in fact, that he almost snapped me out of my hangover.... His slides and some information from the day can be found in this post. He successfully tackled the sensitive Google Blogger vs Wordpress topic and made a very convincing argument for self-hosted WP blogs. You can read more about it in his post. I will certainly be dipping into his blog at leisure, he was fantastic and I feel grateful to have been introduced to him by way of his involvement in the line-up.

Image compression tool (reduces the loading size of your images): use Smush.It to remove unnecessary bytes while retaining the quality of your photos. A "lossless" image compression tool. Awesome!

Arnold Aranez from Mr Gadget likes to use visual tools. He also has a great sense of humour while managing to keep content extremely informative and useful. Clever lad. By the time he made his presentation, I was fully captivated by the speakers who were front and centre.

• Try picnik.com for photo editing and watermarking your images.

SEO (search engine optimization) is not as boring - or scary - as it may seem. I usually see the term and my mind glazes over just like it used to during R&D maths in high school. But boring or not, I need to address it for my blog. The key points I came away with were:

  • Establish your blog's keywords (five words that describe your blog)
  • Be consistent with including these in your posts
  • Add keywords into your blog's meta data (it'll be in the code somewhere, I've yet to track mine down)
  • Add them into title, content, tags
  • Share your blog posts - via Twitter, Facebook, email and now Google +
  • Trickle your posts for sharing through your stream - timing is everything - and be considerate of your followers and friends. Don't blast them with posts!
  • Bookmark your posts on Stumbleupon
  • Review your blog's performance at least once per week (Darren Rowse likes to experiment, tweak, repeat often)
  • Understand where your traffic is coming from
  • Automate - install plug-ins like All In One SEO, install sharing options so readers/followers can do some of the work for you, establish a network of sharers (this was a particularly interesting tip that I am going to pursue further)

• I want to bottle Susan Thye's zest for life. Seriously. Her rainbows and unicorns presentation was hilarious, very attention-grabbing and unassuming. She told us, "You need to look for new ways to blog about what you love." How nice and simple and unique that would be! Very clever young woman indeed. You need to go check out her blog, chocolatesuze. Off you go.

Christie from Childhood 101 has become a personal favourite of mine in the past twelve months, particularly since having the pleasure to meet her unassuming self in Sydney in March. I love her blog and visit it often. What a great soul she is. She spoke admirably and with guts. The Twitter feed went ballistic when she was up at the mic and rightfully so. She was captivating. Thank you, Christie, for your openness and ability to share in your inimitable, personable and knowledgeable way.

• Don't discount e-newsletters. An invaluable tool. Check out MailChimp vs AWeber, via Nicole Avery's presentation - click here and scroll down to the part where she comprehensively describes blog newsletters.

Some basic, tried-and-true, but often overlooked blogging rules:
• Be consistent with when you post (day and time). I used to do this but have become slack and haphazard. Some better regularity is coming. Soon.....
• Anything in the news relating to your niche (think back to your SEO keywords), blog about it straight away.
• Mix it up! Categorize (and reduce your number of categories) - how many categories do you have and how often are you blogging about each of them? Use them all consistently, improve and organise them regularly.

Sponsored posts: General tips
• Know your style - be able to succinctly articulate who you are and what your blog is about.
• Know your audience - and when they visit your blog (helps to target brands).
• Brands don't necessarily go for blogs with the biggest number of followers, but whether your audience wants to listen to you.
• Make your statement: "If you want my content, you have to pay for it." Don't sell yourself short.
• Ensure your post title is correct (and appropriate)
• Be sure you have improved your site speed
• Categorize your post effectively

Problogger gets a bit all his own - so much good stuff, here's most of what I wrote (find more at problogger.net):
• Content is key - more central to your brand than your logo or blog design
• Aim for consistent long-term grown (10% per month)
• Look after the readers you already have - love your readers, make them feel noticed and spoiled, they will do the promoting for you
• Your brand is, basically, what people say about your blog when you're not in the room
• Set the agenda about your brand yourself
• Who do you want to read your blog? This will inform the way you build your content and marketing
• Educate your readers about sharing (on social networks)
• Run projects and challenges on your blog, relevant to your niche
• Reward good sharing - affirm and thank people directly, either privately or publicly
• Create useful and shareable content
• Share of other people - be generous
• What kind of content draws new readers in? Look at its:
  - usefulness - inform, sense of belonging, teaching, enhancing someone's life
  - how it informs, inspires, interacts (add depth, invite readers to engage)?
• Mix serving current readers with New Events content to draw new readers in
• List posts are good - try to put links to other posts of yours to draw them further in to your blog (these are called "sneeze pages")
• Link to newsletter signup/email subscription on your sneeze page/s
• Build anticipation - mention future topics

New to follow on Twitter:
@JaciEly - Jaci is a born natural speaker. Fantastic to hear her talk
@y0z2a - Andrew Hughes (or was it really Louis Theroux? LOVE him...) from Reprise Media
@HardieGrant - Hardie Grant is an Australian independent publisher of quality non-fiction books
@problogger - if you're not already, Darren Rowse is a brilliant mentor and all-round affable Mr Nice-Guy

It was a simply brilliant day.

All thanks to NuffnangAU and also Wavelink for their unwavering wifi at the event - the live Twitter stream on three big screens around the conference room really made for a fantastic, dynamic atmosphere.
Lots of fodder for the serious, or those wanting to get serious, or even the bloggers (like me) who didn't realise they could probably do more to help themselves to make it a better, more fruitful experience - both blogger and reader. Not so much networking for me this time as there was at the Aussie Bloggers Conference in March, but scintillating relevant content and speakers who were engaging and exceedingly knowledgeable about their domains. Heh.... see what I did there?

And all in my gorgeous city of Melbourne. Perfect!

Now, before I go, don't forget to watch 6.30 with George Negus the week commencing 8th August. We have it on good authority (direct from the phenomenal blogger herself) that our very own Eden Riley from Edenland and Mrs Woog are going to be on the show. Hanging out for that one. I can't think of two better representatives of the personal-mum-blogging scene Down Under than those two women. They're off in LA-LA Land this week for BlogHer and get this: Eden is giving a keynote address! WHAAAT!!!????? Balls of steel, that chick. Love her to pieces and wishing her all the fabulous luck I can muster. If ever there was a blogger who deserved to have her Universe and world-community heart messages broadcast widely, it's her - as a taste, her recent post "Glint of gold" encourages us "don't wait for yourself".

We could all do with a dose of that realism Eden naturally exudes. And, just as an aside, what a bloody hottie to boot!

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