Social Proof – The Masses Can’t Be Wrong

Photo by Kevin BriodyWe all want our blogs to be a success, we toil day after day to create unique content, participate in social media to help drive traffic to our sites, and do our best to make the RSS feed subscription button easy to see and click. Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that helps people determine if their behaviour is appropriate. It is sometimes also know as the bandwagon effect. Little did you know that social proof might be playing a larger part in the success of your blog than you might realize.

Look at your blog, what forms of social proof do you use to show people that they should continue to visit and subscribe to your blog? One of the most noticeable items of social proof is the feed count. We love to display the number of loyal readers that we have reading our blog. Here at Epiblogger we choose not to display our feed count, but as of this writing our feed count sits at 86 subscribers. It has gone as high as 96. Displaying your feed count is a form of social proof. The theory goes if you have 20,000 subscribers certainly your blog must be worth reading and people are more likely to subscribe to your blog. The reverse is also true, if you only have 10 readers why would people bother to subscribe to your blog. There are many people that will argue that they don’t subscribe to blogs if they don’t like the content, but once you have a decent RSS subscriber count it can be worthwhile to display the number. It can lead to more subscribers on a regular basis.

Another form of social proof on a blog is the comments. Blogs that get more comments appear more lively and are more interesting to other readers. It encourages new readers to take part and creates more of a sense of community. As of writing this post Epiblogger has 97 posts and 382 comments. that is a comment to post ratio of 3.94 comments per post. Find ways to highlight your comments. Those conversations and activity help people to feel they have a place on your blog and can help draw people into your blog. Trackbacks and pingbacks are also an important part of the comments. It shows people what kind of conversations have been going on around the web because of your post.

MyBlogLog and BlogCatelog widgets and others like them are great social proof widgets on blogs. They should you the faces and sometimes the names of the people that have visited your blog. they also provide a way for people to join your blog community on those websites where people can see even more social proof of how popular your blog is. I think it is great that Epiblogger has 30 members at MyBlogLog. If that helps people to find us and keeps people reading then great.

Social media can provide another form of social proof on your blog. If you are active on Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg or another social media community let people know on your blog. If you have hundreds of followers and take part in the communities it can help boost your blog profile. Many people don’t subscribe to RSS feeds but will follow you on the social media websites you participate in and come back again and again to read your posts.

What other forms of social proof do you use and see on blogs that help to draw people to be regular readers and visitors to your blog?

Photo by Kevin Briody

A Beginners Guide to Blogging – Choosing a Topic

Rhett ShavedYou have been doing lots of reading, and you are now at the point where you know you want to start a blog. The next step to start blogging is to decide what you want to blog about. What will your blog focus on?

Personal Blogs

If you want to start a personal blog this step can be very easy. Personal blogs allow you a great deal of flexibility to talk about what ever you wish. You can talk about your family, experiences, your hobbies. While I do not currently have a personal blog, Rhett is currently running a personal blog at Bailing Bucket. I think Rhett’s blog is a great personal blog. It allows people a chance to get to know the “real” Rhett. His blog is a part of who he is. Don’t be fooled into thinking that personal blogs do not have a focus, it is still important for a personal blog to have a focus. For example on Rhett’s blog you will rarely see him talk about work. Rhett’s focus is to talk about who he is, not what he does for a living.

Topic Blogs

If you want to start a topic blog that is more focused than a personal blog you might have more research to do before moving on to the next step. To start a topic blog the first place to look to focus your topic is inside you. Find a topic that you enjoy it will make writing for your blog much easier otherwise you will be nothing more than a botox blogger. You need to find your character and bring you to the blog. Without adding your unique perspective and story to your blog you are not going to add anything new or interesting.

Once you have narrowed down your topic to a few do some research on your topic. Search Google for other blogs that are on your topic. Do some keyword research using the Keyword Research Tool and Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool to determine if there is enough people interested in your topic. You might find there is already a lot of competition on a particular topic, but if you narrow it down you might find it easier to write. Perhaps focusing your topic on a more local level or on a specific area like families. Even if you are interested in a competitive topic don’t give up hope. Find what it is that you have that is unique and you can still be a success.

If you want to make money from your blog (don’t we all want to make a living from our blog) you will want to look at some ways that you can monetize your blog. When a blog is new it can be best to look at using some affiliate networks. Look for products and services that you use on your topic, and consider placing those ads and maybe writing a post or two about the products or services and why you use them and recommend them. Be genuine. For example here on Epiblogger, Rhett and I have placed two ads. Rhett purchases t-shirts on a regular basis from and I use MozyHome as an online backup solution for my personal computer. We did not choose those ads lightly. We only wanted to recommend products and services that we personally use. Being genuine in your recommendation will help a great deal in your blog monetization. I will talk more about how to monetize your blog later in the series as well.

What are some ways that you focus your blog topic when you start a new blog?

A Beginners Guide to Blogging – The Starting Point

Infinite StaircaseBetween Rhett and I we have been blogging for just over four years. That might not sound like a long time, but consider that the first post you can find on Problogger is September 30, 2004 which is just over four years ago and the amount of experience that Rhett and I have as bloggers combined is not that different from Darren Rowse. I have also been involved in creating websites and other web projects since 1994 so I have been working on the Internet for 14 years. I do not say that to brag, but rather to make the point that it can be hard for me to step back and look at blogging from the eyes of a beginner. Rhett gives me a rough time occasionally that my posts are to “technical”, and that might be true but there is a place for the more technical blogging posts. Sometimes you just want to know how to do something. The problem with being technical is we forget that not everyone is at that level. With that in mind this is the first of a series of posts where I will try and give you a non-technical explanation about how to start blogging.

The Starting Point

I tend to jump in to web projects feet first. Meaning I jump right in and start installing WordPress, start writing and just start going. When Rhett came to be with the idea of Epiblogger the first thing I did was read, and I read a lot. Why should we start another blog about blogging? There are so many out there. I read through a Problogger, I read through Copyblogger, I read DailyBlogTips, I read Lorelle on WordPress, I read, I read and I read. In the end we decided to go ahead with Epiblogger because in all the reading we did we decided we have a unique perspective on blogging to give to people.

The point is if you think you might be interested in starting a blog, the first thing I would suggest you do is read. Read other blogs, take part in those in those communities and start to explore what it is you would like to blog about. While you are exploring other blogs, reading and taking part in the discussions you can explore what it is that you really want to blog about. I have talked about this before, and if you are a regular reader of Epiblogger you might be getting sick of me saying it, but you need to find your passion! Great blogs are not created by keyword research, they are created because the people that write for them are passionate about their topic.

What are some blogs that you spent time reading before you started your blog? What advice would you give a new blogger about where to start blogging?

Photo Infinite staircase by fdecomite

Closed for Holidays!

As it turns out Rhett and I both ended up scheduling holidays for the same week here in July. If you read most of the tops bloggers on blogging they will tell you that you should keep a consistent post schedule and if you go on holidays you should arrange for guest posts or have several posts written and ready to publish while you are gone. It is sound advice, and very easy to do with most blogging software. That being said Epiblogger is going to break those “rules” not because they are not good rules to follow, but because there is something to be said for taking a vacation.

It can be difficult to constantly be creating new and creative posts for your blog. To be creative and a better writer you need to take a break occasionally. Your mind will relax, your body will relax and most importantly you will return in a better state of mind to continue pouring your heart and soul into your blog.

I think we have some great posts coming up in the next little while when Rhett and I return from our holidays. Rhett, I believe, is going to continue his series on “Being Sold (Out)”. I have also started a series of posts specifically for new bloggers. Posts that will help people get started blogging. It will be great to come back full of energy and ideas.

What do you think should bloggers take vacations from blogging?

Blogging is About Relationships

Helping hands. Found at: of the things I like best about blogging is the connections and relationships that you make by participating in blogs. That is one of the main reasons I started blogging to begin with, I wanted to make connections and learn from others. It can be easy to become discouraged when you run a blog, to continually pour your heart and soul into your blog and then you look at the numbers and your RSS subscriptions have only increased a couple from the week before, and your traffic statistics don’t show any significant jumps. Ultimately blogging is not about the statistics or the RSS subscribers, it is about the relationships and that is what people need to focus on if you want to have a successful blog.

Rhett and I appreciate everyone that has linked to us but I wanted to say a special thank you to a couple of people that have been kind enough to give us advertising space on their blogs.

First is Simonne over at All Tips and Tricks. I have been a regular reader of All Tips and Tricks for a while and enjoy Simonne’s writing and can often find something interesting and new to think or write about myself. Simonne offered to place Epibloggers 125×125 ad several months ago and I really appreciate her support of Epiblogger.

Next is Ronald over at The Reader Appreciation Project. The Reader Appreciation Project blog has many things in common with Epiblogger and I think our blogs compliment each other very well. The Reader Appreciation Project focuses on why the readers of blogs are the greatest asset a blog can have.

Thank you very much to everyone that links to us. We appreciate that you take the time to read, comment and link. It is a great show of support for Epiblogger and I have been enjoying getting to know you all through comments and reading your blogs.

Reasons Not to Blog

Don't BlogHere at Epiblogger I hope we encourage you to blog. We want you to share your stories, your interests, your unique point of view. I spent a lot of time reading blogs over the last weekend and I realized that there are times when we all have to admit that perhaps we should not start a new blog. A reality check is important before any of us step off the edge of the cliff. Here are some of the reasons why you should not blog.

  • You read all the “top” bloggers and really can’t say anything that they have not already said.
  • You really just want to make money online and not do any work.
  • You don’t really like people and don’t want to hear what others have to say.
  • You have no time already, how are you going to keep up with a blog and write posts that people will actually want to read.
  • You don’t really understand the whole Internet thing and have never actually read another blog.
  • You want to spend time with your family/friends/kids/dog/cat/boyfriend/girlfriend/etc instead of blogging.
  • You just want to make the front page of Digg or some other social news website.
  • You are just a negative person and just want to rant about how everything sucks.
  • You dnot konw how to selpl.
  • You can’t think of anything good or original to write about so you only make up lists. (opps)

If you are guilty of blogging for the majority of those reasons, maybe you should consider why you are blogging? What do you have that is unique that you can offer to people on your blog? Is it your passion for crafts, sports, accounting? Find your unique perspective and your blog will be a huge success!

Blogger Cards are Here

Blogger CardI talked about the free blogger cards that ooprint was offering in May and thought I would give an update that the cards I had ordered showed up in the mail today. They are not bad, the paper stock is a standard business card paper stock and they look pretty sharp. Overall they are nice but there are a couple cards that were damaged in shipping. Not badly, but enough that I might not hand them out. It probably had to do with the fact that the envelope they were mailed in was large enough that they could move around and the corners caught on the envelope and bent. I took the few bent ones out and gave them to my son to look at. Three cards out of 100 is not bad I suppose, but it is something that they could easily stop from happening by using a better packaging. If you are looking for some business cards to help promote your blog you might want to take a look at the ooprint offer. I will use the 100 97 I have left to help promote Epiblogger, and I will think abut ordering some more for myself later on in the summer.

Blogging with Google Maps

Sunset Directions found at: am a big fan of Google Maps and use it regularly for finding directions, finding addresses for places and just for fun. I also like to add Google Maps to websites. There are so many uses for them from showing people the location of a business to highlighting your trip and photos. Perhaps that is why Google Maps are seen in so many mashups all around the web. The only problem with them is unless you are a hard core Javascript programmer Google Maps can be hard to create a custom Google Map with. Here are two ways I have found that are easy to add Google Maps to your blog.

Google Maps My Maps
The Google My Maps feature let’s people create their own maps. You can add placemarks, create lines and shapes over top of the map. They have alos made it easy to embed the maps now using an iframe. Simply click the “Link to the page” link and you are given a link to the page and an embed code. Below is a simple map I made with some placemarks of the Town of Rosthern where I live.

View Larger Map

Google Maps Plugin for WordPress
As great as the Google Maps My Maps features are, I still like to get under the hood a little bit. The Google Maps Plugin for WordPress lets you do just that. While you can use it to create simple maps and with one point, or use it to add a Google Maps My Map into your blog, the real benefit of using the Google Maps Plugin for WordPress is the ability to map blog. The content for the map is not stored in an inline frame on some other server, it is stored right on your blog post so it is able to be indexed by the search engines as content.

To use the Google Maps Plugin for WordPress you need to install in like most other WordPress plugins by uploading it to your plugins folder. You will also need a Google Maps API key for your domain. I entered to get the API key for Epiblogger. Once you have the plugin installed and the API key entered you can start creating maps from simple single marker maps to complex multi-marker maps. You can also use the Google Maps Plugin for WordPress to add your own custom Google My Maps that you made above instead of using the Google inline frame embed code.

Here is the same map I embedded above except I embedded it using the Google Maps Plugin for WordPress. It is a simple link. The default is to add a marker at the center of the map with the content of the link showing on that marker. You can easily turn that off with some of the parameters that are available to customize the map.

This is the same map I added above but it is added using the Google Maps Plugin for WordPress. This content shows in the center marker, but it is also indexable by the search engines.

I would encourage you to read through the great documentation that is available for the Google Maps Plugin for WordPress. It can walk you through how to create all types of maps to add to your blog with easy to follow instructions.

There are other mapping solutions you can use to add maps to your blog, but these are the two I prefer to use because they are easy for anyone to use. For the most basic maps the Google My Maps feature you can have a map embedded on your blog in under five minutes. If you want more control and are concerned about the content of the maps being indexed by search engines then the Google Maps Plugin for WordPress offers you several options to add maps to your blog.

Just think of the possibilities that are open to you now. You could map and blog about your last vacation and add photos/videos to each point. You can create a contact page with your exact location for customers to find you, along with a form to get directions to your office. You can create a custom map to your next blog meet up so no one gets lost. What are some ways you could use maps on your blog?

Jott Blogging

Phone girl. Found at:’t it be great if you could update your blog or Twitter or any number of web services you use everyday simply by talking into your phone. Well, now you can with Jott not only can you update sites like Twitter and your blog you can use Jott to send e-mails and reminders to yourself. Send e-mails and text messages to other individuals or even groups of people. But there are many interesting ways to use Jott the fact that you can use Jott to transcribe your voice to text and have it posted to your blog automatically is an exciting service.

It does take a little while to get the hang of Jott but it is very easy to use. Simply sign up for the service at only calls coming from your phone numbers you have registered will work. You can add multiple phone numbers to the service so you can Jott from your home phone, your cell phone and your work phone. Once you sign up I would experiment with this service a little by calling and then sending a Jott to yourself to get the hang of the service. If you need a hand they have a number of tutorials on how to use the service to send Jotts to individuals, groups and other web services like Twitter and of course most importantly your blog!

Jotts can only be approximately 30 seconds long. For creating a blog post it is best to actually Jott to yourself and put them together later instead of posting directly to your blog. That is how this post was created. I Jotted to myself several times and put the post together afterwards.

Jott can be used to not only help you post to your blog but also help you keep up with the great many ideas you have for your blog. Update Twitter, Google Calendar, send e-mails and a wide range of other web services. Jott could become your virtual assistant, helping you do many other tasks you do right now in front of your computer.

What are some ways you think you could use Jott in relation to blogging?

Note: The body of this post was created using Jott. The links and some punctuation were added and or corrected in under 10 minutes when I copied the text to Epiblogger.

Free Blogger Cards

I am cheap, I fully admit that I don’t like to spend money if I don’t have too. Some people might call it frugal, but I like to call things what they really are, in this case I am cheap. Being cheap means that I am always on the lookout for a good deal and occasionally I find one. If you are looking for some nice looking business cards to help promote your blog in the offline world take a look at this offer by ooprint. You can get 100 free blogger business cards for free! See I told you I was cheap.

They offer several pages of free designs for you to start with. The designs might not be stunning but there are is probably one there that will appeal to most people. You can edit the text and font sizes and colours of the card but I could not find a way to change the placement of the text. I edited some of the fields, since people that work online don’t always have a phone or fax, so I added my MSN and Skype addresses instead of the traditional phone and fax.

Of course the free cards are a hook to get you to buy more cards and to get the opportunity to up sell you to more options. Things like adding your own custom logo, removing the ooprint logo from the back of the card will cost you a little more, getting thicker paper will cost you. There is also the pitch of selling you options such as a business card case and and carrying case. If you can resist the up sell the cards will not cost you very much, only the cost of shipping, which to me in Canada was only $5.90. It would be nice if they had the option to accept PayPal for payment, but they do take Visa and Mastercard.

There are a lot of online printing companies that offer free business cards but this is the first company that I have come across that has targeted bloggers specifically with free business cards. While business cards might not be essential for bloggers they could come in handy, especially if you are just starting out or if your blog is your hobby and you would just like some cards occasionally to hand out. Eventually I will order some Epiblogger business cards, but until I get around to doing that I will enjoy my free cards from ooprint.