kinds of drugs and its side effects

Weekend Win-a-Book Contest: Blog 911

Life lessons are sometimes ambiguous. Yes, my failed foray into bells-and-whistles SEO/SEM technology taught me that there’s no substitute for solid writing and communication with readers. A blog is only as good as its content and its bond with a like-minded audience.

But it also made me aware that it’s tough to reach that like-minded audience without user-friendly blog technology. I definitely need to update Will My Dog Hate Me.

Thus this new contest, which will run for the weekend: The morning of December 12 through the evening of December 13. Go to the comments section and tell me what works for you on this blog — literally and figuratively — and what doesn’t. How I can improve the format — social media buttons? page length and post length? feeds? — and the content. Tell me what you’d like to see more of, what could go (except for Frankie). Share features from your favorite blogs, including your own, that I might consider adding to mine.

Amazon copyThe person that sends the most thoughtful/useful comment(s) — there’s no need to stop at one — who makes it clear that he or she has given this some real thought,  wins a copy of Am I Boring My Dog. Just in time for the holidays. I’ll inscribe it to the people — and dogs — of your choice, and send it directly to you or to its intended recipient.  If you’re in the U.S. or Canada, I’ll send it first class, not book rate. (Sorry my UK and Aussie pals; in your case it’s slow boat!)

Of course I reserve the right not to publish anything nasty. Mean comments about Frankie are immediate disqualifiers.

Is this a way to get people to read my blog? You bet — and an easy, low tech way at that. But consider the bonus, if you’re a blogger. It’s a good exercise in considering what you like on your own blog, what does or doesn’t work for you.

Incidentally, I was going to call this contest “Pimp My Blog,” but thought I might be pushing my luck, given my recent “What Would Frankie Do?” post. So there’s another topic to consider commenting on: Where do you  — that is me — draw the line between being interesting and opinionated and being offensive enough to put off people who might benefit from your opinions if they were presented differently?

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16 Comments

  1. Posted December 12, 2009 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    I found your post via twitter and thought I’d chime in – as a blogger myself I can relate to what you’re going through. First, I think your content is fabulous – your writing is funny and the reader gets the sense that he/she knows you and your pup. I think June was your best month so far for content. One thing that I would do is, as you’ve already acknowleged, is add more. So easy for me to say this, but try doing daily posts. The shorter posts left me wanting for more.
    I also use WordPress, and I think that there are better templates than the one you are using. It’s just too bare and makes your site look like there is less to it – it’s almost too bare bones. More pictures of Frankie would be nice – the best part about your site is stories involving Frankie applied to the real world. Maybe picking a template like Thesis where you can really customize the sidebars and add widgets/pictures and even embed video. Adding a little more color would make it a little flashier, too.
    Like I said, your content is great. Other ideas for content could be interviewing other authors, focusing on local/national events, featuring shelter dogs up for adoption. Or, see if other bloggers will guest post or do a post exchange. On my site I try to tie in a contest/giveaway (like what you are doing here) to a particular post every now and then. That always makes the analytics jump and usually I’ll retain a few new visitors from it.

  2. Posted December 12, 2009 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Hi, I agree with Rebecca more PICTURES . At least one per post even if they are just of your pup hanging out at home. Also you may want to try out more video, utube and other applications have made it easy, easy enough even I can do it. ( I blog about my dog, but less in a professional sense and more of way to contain my dog obsession so my friends don’t have to hear me go on… and on.. and on, some more. Oh and keep track of my dog biscuit recipes. I’m pretty sure the only people who read it regularly are my parents.)

    I’m really taken in by great pictures and they can break up the text making it more appealing. I also like the funny anecdotes and personal stories, it makes me (and maybe other people) feel less like the virtual observer and more like a friend.

    I wish was more technically savvy, as to offer more advice on that front.

  3. your favorite niece
    Posted December 12, 2009 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    WWFD is one of my favorite posts. I think it’s mostly because it’s just a post, not a promotion. I tend to think that when people get to know you as a funny person/good writer/dog lover that they will naturally gravitate to finding out more about your book.

    xoxoxoxo

  4. Posted December 12, 2009 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I look forward to receiving your blog posts in my email, I don’t feel they need to be more frequent, I just look at them when they arrive, I’m not thinking, where is it today?
    And, since I often read them on my cellphone, I can’t see the photos, so a visually rich site is also not important to me. some help, hunh? I think one of the most important things that I’ve learned from being an Examiner is to get picked up by Google News if I have something timely, which has happened, like once, but I got a lot more traffic and when you google the topic it show up nicely. Now I don’t know how you get picked up by Google News with a blog, so, my only suggestion is to reproduce your blog on the Examiner site and maybe another one that may be pet-specific. That way you’re reaching more audience without having to create more content or necessarily getting too deeply into the whole gearing it towards the wider audience biz. Then of course there’s getting a regular print column, syndicating it, recording your blog as a radio show, and making those millions on internet traffic…there’s some books out there I’ve been trolling. I guess for SEO (search engine optimization) all you really have to do is be real blatant and direct with your news topic, so you might have to have led off your last blog with a more descriptive title such as “Breast music for dogs”…I actually got a whole slew of ideas on this on my Super-Examiner Ethics committee group I am now in, except apparently I got a little over-enthusiastic on the topic of photo usage as I was quoting ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) ethics about how to protect your photos, when all anybody else, wanted to know was where they could get free photos that aren’t copyright protected. (When I quoted case law things got real quiet.) Another thing I’m a little unclear of but I guess is maybe you want ALL the traffic to go to your blog, and have some way of gauging the traffic, then you can entice a sponsor.

  5. Posted December 12, 2009 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I definitely agree that more color and more photos would make your blog seem “lively”. You could also link your Twitter feed to your blog, that way you could draw those in that found you via the blog onto your feed. I don’t mind the shorter posts, sometimes they leave the reader wanting more, but I think blogs are short bites by nature, if you want a long story then go find a book! I like when you spin a personal tale, it reads quicker and gives the reader a “warm & fuzzy”.
    Of course, only you can decide what you want your blog to be. I intended for my blog to be a variety of things about me & my life, but I find myself writing more & more about what I encounter at my job (I’m a veterinary technician). Sometimes I wonder if my readers like the variety or if they just want to read my tech stories over & over again.
    Blogspot is very easy to use, you can format your templates quite easily and there are quick links to add feeds, advertising, etc.
    I’m not sure about adding video unless you felt it absolutely, positively had to be in there. I”m from the old school and prefer to keep my reading and my viewing separately.

  6. Posted December 12, 2009 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Edie (may I call you Edie?), I’ve going through my own blog migrations and revamps (times 3 – one new domain for each! What was I *thinking* ?!? First, I think calling this post (or any other one) “Pimp my blog” is pretty inspired. I belong to the Problogger forum, and commenting on/offering critiques to others’ blogs are some of the most interesting threads. I might have to borrow ‘Pimp my blog’ when I post my own on that forum for critiques. 😉
    – I agree that there are some simple things you can do here – this theme is just too stark for this niche. You’re not writing about tech stuff; you’re writing to and for and about pet-owning, and pet owners respond to human touches. So reach out, touch them. The content does that. But the background and theme aren’t helping with the human feeling I know is behind your posts. No need to go too far in the opposite direction – but more warmth would be good.
    – A post a day may be something you can do, but if not, try posting three times/week, and putting your Twitter feed into the sidebar. The Twitter feed will update your site every day (because you tweet every day) and it can be a huge help to those of use who can’t post daily (I’m in that club, too!)
    – It can be tough to walk the line between interesting/opinionated and offensive. That said, have you ever read Kelly Diehl’s blog ‘Cleaveage’? Kelly dances on that line, and does it well. And I’m magically drawn to read her stuff because, even though it doesn’t all directly relate to me, her prose is poetic and hypnotic and compelling…and because I want to see if she ever mis-steps or misjudges where her feet are on the line between opinionated and overdone. She may not be your blogging style, but take a look to see how close I think someone can come, and do it elegantly (she’d be rolling over that I called her elegant…)
    – Definitely take a look at some of the how-to-make-my-blog stuff that’s out there. I know you’re working with a web guru, but there are some basic things you should make sure get done. You need to nickname your admin account, create an admin gravatar that always displays with your WordPress comments – those things will give your comments/replies your personal feel/stamp instead of the impersonal ‘admin’ slug that’s on them right now.
    – While you’re visiting blogs, take a look at Kelly Diehls’ post in the archives at problogger.net called ‘Luck is a Curse.’ The url is silly-long, so I shortened it w/preview: http://preview.tinyurl.com/y96r6kt
    It is all about the (mis)adventures of moving, re-branding and re-launching a blog. When you stop laughing (and crying, and nodding your head in sad commiseration) with Diehls, read it again and take notes. Her advice answers many of your WWFD questions. I pinned up her bullet points to the board about my desk – they’re that good, and that relevant.
    Good thoughts, and take care. I’m going back to editing the CSS on my blog templates to tweak them a bit more. And it scares me that I know what that means!

  7. Posted December 12, 2009 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Ok, more.
    – justified text might work in the blog (although personally, I really don’t like it) but it’s out of place in the comments. I just saw my own on preview, with the expanded line in front of the link. Eeew. Go with flush left (ragged right). Easier on the eyes in text of this width.
    – way too many ‘About’ pages! If you want a page for each thing, you could nest them under one main title (About | Edie | the book | the blog) where when a user clicks on the main ‘About’ page, s/he’ll see info about you first, with links to pages for the book and the blog’s name/purpose. I do think if it were me, I’d combine your about me and about your blog name pages into one, and either keep that page on the same level as a separate page about the book, or make the book page a ‘child’ page of the ‘parent’ About Edie page. For an example, take a look at Kairol Rosenthal’s ‘Everything Changes’ blog – a blog she started about and to promote her book. Across the top, there’s a menu bar for the blog, the book and Kairol — and none of them is called ‘About’ because people will figure that out! It’s at everythingchangesbook.com
    – you might want to make your archive list a drop-down by month. Then it only takes up two lines (the title ‘Archives’ and the drop-down box.) More room for other things – like to make your book title/name larger in the Amazon ad.
    That’s all for now – those things just struck me as I poked around. Good luck again!

  8. Posted December 12, 2009 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Edie, I agree about more pictures! Your writing is witty and funny, but we need to see more of Frankie! 😉

  9. Posted December 12, 2009 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I. LOVE. THIS. POST. I may have to borrow (ahem … steal) it for my blog! I hope you get lots of great feedback.

    CONTENT.
    I like your conversational style of writing – it’s something I aim for on my blog. I imagine a stream of conscious writing lets readers better understand why you’re writing what you’re writing. For me, writing a travel-with-your-pets blog, I want readers to feel like they are really there with me … so they can see how fun and easy it is to travel with pets … so more people will take pets on errands, short trips, and vacations.

    As others have suggested – more pix. People want to see what you’re doing with Frankie. I use a lot of pictures in my travel posts with a lot of snarky comments by the dogs – almost like a comic strip.

    I like interesting and opinionated (but that’s me). If you have something to say, have the guts to say it. Sometimes people need to be grabbed and shaken … dogs not so much 🙂

    Agree with Pat – too many About pages, but I did learn a lot about you!

    Don’t know if you need a Categories archive? I like that you don’t have a counter in your monthly archives.

    TECHNOLOGY.
    MY wife and I are recovering accountants. We started GoPetFriendly.com with little concept about html, CSS, website hosting, WordPress themes, etc. While I am climbing the learning curve, I have relied on a consultant help me implement what I consider to be “best practices” for my blog. And I think that’s really important for you to consider … how do you want to engage your readers and how do you imagine they want to engage with you. So that said, here are some things I noted about your layout.

    I will have a new blog layout launching, hopefully, next week. As Rebecca recommended, I will be using the Thesis theme from WordPress. I am a big fan of Zen Habits minimalist style, and that’s why I chose thesis. Paraphrasing a quote I read: Perfection is not achieve when you can’t add any more. It’s achieved when you can’t take away any more. But again, what do your readers want/expect.

    Why is your RSS feed buttons all the way at the bottom? On this post, with all these comments, look how far you have to scroll down to find the feed button. I am talking to my guru about having a separate feed button for posts and comments … I don’t get it since it extends my list in Google Reader.

    Some people still like to get posts via email – don’t see an option for that.

    Did not see a Twitter button – did I miss it.

    Do you have a Facebook fan page? You should. I put a note out on FB when I post, and a lot of my blog traffic comes from that. Then put a button on your blog so people can automatically become a fan of WMDHM.

    I am considering putting that last few tweets on my blog.

    How about a reader poll/survey module?

  10. kimhalligan1
    Posted December 12, 2009 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I always read your blogs. not being a writer and having no blog, all i can say is i like how funny you are and how you post interesting stuff. Your not long winded,you keep it short and simple. I would like to see more pictures and like someone said,maybe a daily blog,doesnt have to be long. I fnd it might be difficult not to offend some ppl sometimes but i think that as long as ppl know its just in fun,its ok. We all have to laugh at ourselves & our quirkiness. Otherwise we would be ,”am i BORING MY DOG.

  11. Bo
    Posted December 12, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Edie, I agree about more pitctures too. Your writing is great! Favorite one is WWFD!

  12. Posted December 12, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    First off, I’m new to blogging myself, so there’s that.

    I’m a writer, so I’m partial to content. I’ll leave the techie stuff to those more technologically inclined.
    Your blog is fun, funny, simple to navigate, concise, all pluses in my book. I can get frustrated when I’m sent hither, thither, and yon.

    If I was to want anything more, it would be a bit more Frankie,who is so friggin’ cute that he’s almost as cute as my Ellie (shameless plug). Better yet-you and Frankie. I know it’s hard to get that kind of picture. I have a friend with whom I share ‘photoshoots’ and we make an hour or two of it and snap away. She takes hundreds of pics, and then I have them on a cd for later use.

    Heh. I think we live not too far, maybe we ought to set up a playdate/photoshoot sometime.

    Be well, be not boring,
    j

  13. Posted December 13, 2009 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    This is probably a cheat, as I do websites/blogs professionally. It’s been a steep learning curve mastering SEO but I now do it quite successfully, according to my clients. So I just thought I’d add a few ideas.

    First, contrary to what many of your other readers have said, I would always counsel to keep it short, keep it simple. Nothing puts the modern reader off more than a great slab of text with no paragraphs.

    I was taught copywriting by a man who once published a book in which no sentence was longer than seven words, to make his point!

    Second, I agree on the photos. People love to see something, especially the adorable Frankie, with which they can identify. It immediately gives authority to what you are writing about.

    Third, plenty of humour. Ask any teacher, they will tell you if you can make your pupils laugh, they’ll remember the lesson.

    Finally, I don’t blog with my work hat on, too busy doing it for other people. But my current and previous dog both had/have their own blogs, which seem to be well received. If anyone’s interested, they are welcome to have a look.

    http://meicsblog.blogspot.com/

    http://theworldaccordingtoci.blogspot.com/

    Best wishes and good luck with future blogs and remember – KISS! (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

  14. Posted December 13, 2009 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Oy. Well, I guess I’m the black sheep here. Even though I’m a photographer by trade, to me this blog doesn’t require photos, maybe this is because I receive it as an email subscriber, so my perspective is specifically as a cellphone subscriber with a simple (not Blackberry) web-browser that can’t download attachments or photos. I do revisit the site later in the day, if I want to comment.

    Similarly, I often read the NYT on my cell phone if I awake at 3 a.m., and if I happen to see it in on sale somewhere later, I’ll marvel at the photos I hadn’t realized I’d missed.

    So, if photos are important to the story, then by all means they have a place, but pictures that have no informational value don’t seem to be what this blog is really about, (it seems to me), so the main thing is, I wouldn’t drive myself nuts trying to provide new ones if they weren’t at hand. The main strength of the blog is the word content, so that’s where I’d put my time and energy. I don’t have a problem with the visual appearance of this site either, it’s nice and clean with plenty of white space, and easy to read.

    Posts where you have asked people to send in photos seem to be well-received, though. Maybe I am missing the point here. Is the underlying question, how do I increase traffic, or how do I keep my loyal base coming back for more, or both?

    All I know is that in my limited experience starting this year, I send 100 contacts my word posts copied and pasted into the body of an email, with no attachment, and then also provide a link to click on in the hopes that they will go to my website and see the related photos I’ve posted there. I will get 60 or more responses by email, and maybe 10 comments on the site.

    So, I just wanted to supply a differing opinion here. But everyone’s comments have been very informative.

  15. Posted December 13, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Hi Edie:

    Seems that you have received many great and useful comments thus far! I agree that humor in blogs is so necessary; dry technical material rarely gets too far. There has to be a hook. You have it with Frankie and with your flair for the humorous. Being able to poke fun without being horribly offensive is another talent you have; keep using that. I would advise erring on the side of not being so opinionated as to become offensive; anyone can do that. Yes to more color in the set-up, more Frankie (pics from his day to day activities with humorous captions would be good) , the more links you make available to everywhere the better. The buttons for sharing need to be large and strategically placed too. Yes, I am learning all these things too as I go along with a blog still in it`s infancy. Identifying what readers really want to hear about is important too. Can you look at your stats from blog topics to get a sense of what posts have garnered the most activity? I think it is important to review stats and use them. From my perspective, people seem to keep returning to my face book training page and commenting on the pics and stories I post about goofy Bridget! The personal touches are nice. People feel like they are included.
    Good luck and keep up the great work.

  16. Posted December 13, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know that I’m a typical blog reader so I don’t know how helpful this is.

    First, all the blogs I do frequent are dog related, either directly or indirectly. And in truth I don’t read very many blogs. Partly it’s just a lack of time. I don’t know that I have ever searched for blogs, about dogs or any other subject. I have searched for forums when a particular concern arises, like a border collie forum and a dog behavior forum.

    Usually, I wind up at a blog just like I wound up here – a link from another blog.

    For me, content and photos are the main attractions. I check everything from a computer rather than a cell phone so I love pictures and if there is one thing that will make me browse a site even if the content isn’t at the top of my list, it is photos.

    Content is extremely important to me though. And humor is nice but not required. I frequent Coyote Crossing for example (http://www.faultline.org/) where the content is often quite serious but the writing is exceptional. What might not be obvious about that blog is that it was a dog who brought me there (Zeke).

    Compelling writing about a subject that interests me and/or compelling images will bring me back to a blog.

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