2012 in Review: A Few Favorite Reader Comments

blogger

Today marks my 230th post since taking up residency on WordPress in late January. Lots of great discussion. The posts will be fewer and farther between for the remainder of the year as we take on some new business opportunities thousands of miles away. The interaction with readers has been my highest honor during 2012. Here are some of my favorite reader comments from the year.

And special thanks to the blogging buddies represented in the three visuals below for their steadfast encouragement throughout the year:

www.project-40.com

www.ourcrowdedheart.wordpress.com

www.writingstraight.com

1. Very inspirational post. This is why you’re on my blogroll – in response to this post.project-40-logo12

2. If there were a way to better put this into words, I would, but can’t. So I’ll simply say thank you for writing this and making it available to a somewhat lost soul who’s often given up on healing and who so desperately needed to hear these words today – in response to this post.

3. Unpatriotic, left-wing, democratic garbage – in response to this post.

4. Steve, this is not funny. Obviously, you’re not the man I thought you were – also in response to the post cited in #3 above.

holly michael5. Your bucket list is not just a list. It’s a framework for how you’ll live your life. You’ve inspired me to create my own bucket list – in response to this post.

6. You’re a very blessed man, but I can see that you already know that – in response to this post.

7. Love your boldness,  Steve, but wasn’t the reader whose comment offended you also within his First Amendment rights? Don’t people have the right to say they don’t want to hear what you have to say? – in response to this post.

8. Thanks for this post. It really helped me understand SEO strategies – in response to this post.

9. Thanks for putting into writing what most of us are thinking – in response to this post.rhonda hardisty

10. I don’t like it. I love it. Best blogging advice I’ve seen on the web – in response to this post.

11. Your dad looks like a young Paul Newman in this photo – blues eyes and all – in response to this post.

Tomorrow:

12.21.2012 – What Time Does the World End Because I Have a Plane to Catch That Day. Seriously.

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I Don’t Always Read Blogs, But When I Do…

Dos aquis man

“I don’t always read blogs, but when I do, I prefer the blogroll at http://www.stevenwwatkins.com” ~ Dos Aquis Man

The best bloggers I’ve come across know The Great Blogging Truth.

They know it takes more than good writing; and more than a good tech-savvy knowledge to get noticed.

The best bloggers know getting noticed requires a delicate blend of art and science. Good writing’s not enough. Techno-wisdom’s not enough. It requires a good bit of both.

I’ve always been a decent writer. But I’ve never been tech-savvy. Fortunately, WordPress is user-friendly enough, that over time, I’ve learned how to do things that better balance the blogging requirement of art and science.

Until recently, I thought a blog was the place where I went mudding in my 4-wheel drive.

Until recently, I thought a dashboard was the thing that collected dust in my truck.

Until recently, I thought a widget was one of those things the government made at $3,000 a pop.

And so it was just recently, I learned how to create a blogroll. It’s something I’ve wanted to add to my page from the beginning. There are so many great blogs out there, but a few always make me stop and take notice. The blogs on my blogroll are the ones that I’ll read beginning to end 100 percent of the time.

Thanks to these bloggers, and their good work for giving me pleasure, inspiration and knowledge I never had before – in no particular order:

***

Bucket List Publications – A great site by Lesley Carter who challenges us to embracelesley carter bucket list adventure with no regrets. Periodically, she also has great advice about how to get better noticed in the blogging world. www.lesleycarter.wordpress.com

Catherine, Caffeinated – Catherine is an indie author with some of the best advice I’ve found to help weave your way through the world of self-publishing. Check out this post for her latest work affordably priced at $2.99. www.catherineryanhoward.com

Holly Michael’s Writing Straight – I got to know Holly after she nominated me for a undserved award, and immediately took notice of her work. She’s a published author, missionary, philanthropist and writes with a transparent style I really enjoy. Since our virtual introduction, Holly and I have even considered collaborating on some projects. www.writingstraight.com

Las Palmas Ecuador – Admittedly self-serving. I write periodically for this business blog. It’s aPuerto Cayo Ecuador developing beachside expatriate community in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. Dana and I are now building a home near this community. Working with this blog is one of the ways we live out our own personal adventures. Las Palmas has a great and informative website here. www.laspalmasecuador.wordpress.com

Let’s Go Digital – A blogsite by David Gaughran with terrific advice on self-publishing. I first became aware of David’s work through a book review post from Cristian Mihai. After reading the review, I immediately bought the book and it’s quite good. www.davidgaughran.wordpress.com

Let’s Overthink This – The title itself captured me from day one. I’m guilty. A diverse blog that challenges us to know when to go with our gut, or think things through. www.letsoverthinkthis.com

Los Rodriguez Life – Freshly pressed on a number of occasions, Javier and Leslie have a special talent for drawing attention to the things they do every day. Great photography, and their blog is enhanced with bi-lingual text, both English and Spanish. Their blog makes me feel like a voyeur. www.losrodriguezlife.com

Moment Matters – A great site encouraging us to pause and take in life’s simplest, and most pleasurable moments. Life doesn’t necessarily have to be that complicated. www.momentmatters.wordpress.com

blogsite of dana watkins

My Window 2 The World – Yes, this is my wife’s blogsite. Dana’s always had a special flair for photography. The photos on this site that chronicle her 2005 mission trip through Greece and Morocco show her real talent. www.mywindow2theworld.wordpress.com

Project 40

Project 40 – Suave, cool, sophisticated and cosmopolitan. I really like this guy. www.project-40.com

Hilary Billings

The Nomad Grad – Hilary Billings travels the world as a professional adventurer. She’s currently in Australia. Hilary uses her blog how to demonstrate some creative ways to travel and explore on a shoestring budget. If I could go back in time, I’d model many of the thing’s she’s now doing. www.nomadgrad.com

Truth and Cake – This site is hosted by an American, now living in Canada who’s married to a guy from South Africa. It’s the cleanest, classiest blog I’ve come across. Well designed, good writing, always a pleasure to read. www.truthandcake.com

Vocus Blog – These guys may now be the world’s leaders in social media marketing. They’re very good. How do I know? Recently, I was scouring the internet for advice on how to create an electronic newsletter for a client. I came across their site, made a few clicks, and within 30 minutes, they called me. Yesterday, I did an online-demo with a Vocus sales rep. They’re expensive, but very good. www.vocus.com

Latitude One – Again, self-serving. This is where I strictly focus on the adventures Dana and I enjoy in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. www.latitudeone.wordpress.com

Thanks to all the author-entrepreneurs of these sites who give me pleasure, encouragement and the inspiration to be more like them.

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How to Tangle a Blog Reader in a Carefully Woven Web: A Case Study in Thinking Like a Search Engine

Perhaps you’re a blogger who’s in this game for the purity of great writing. It’s admirable, and I love you for it, but if so, this post may not be your particular brand of vodka.

If you’re all-in for platform building, growing your readership, and if you get a thrill from every “hit” like me, this may be helpful.

You can strategically design your posts to tangle a reader within your blog for multiple page hits, but it takes a good bit of study and experimentation. This is more about the science of blogging than the art.

To pull this off, there are certain things you must know, and it’s knowledge that comes only with time, so keep the faith. But once learned, certain strategies can help you create a daily post that snares a reader for multiple page hits on your site.

It all begins with an intimate knowledge of your followers’ reading habits.

After 150 posts in four months, here’s the most important thing I’ve learned to help build a strategy for maximizing hits – and it’s simple: Certain days are better than others for getting your reader’s attention.

The metrics prove (in order of best to worst) that these are my best days (not necessarily yours) for strategic posting: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Friday, Monday, Sunday.

As a fundamental strategy for blogging, there’s power in that knowledge.

And so, with that knowledge, I rarely miss the opportunity for a Tuesday blog post and a strategy to manipulate entice the reader to surf my blog for at least more than one hit.

Here’s a world-view look at yesterday’s results, and this is a pretty average Tuesday for me.

stevenwwatkins blogThere were 146 hits on every continent except Africa. Darn it! For the time being, I’m satisfied with that daily hit count. It’s going to require a Freshly Pressed breakthrough or a RT from Justin Bieber to make a significant jump, so I’ll wait patiently.

Now, here’s breakdown of post hits and the strategy that went into making this happen, this particular way. If it sounds a bit convoluted, message me later and we can talk it through.

steven w watkins

Fifteen of my 150 posts were viewed yesterday. That’s not bad, and it’s only possible after an extended period of blogging with frequent posts – so again – be patient and keep the faith.

Because Tuesday is a strategic day designed for “hits,” I usually think carefully about what I’ll write. I tend to write serious, objective-type posts, but also enjoy taking a stab at the humor category now and again. And so that was the focus of yesterday’s foundation post … because people like to laugh and smile.

I chose to write about 15 things I’m “so over.” Among them was the health food candy Nutella. The Nutella people have done a great job at marketing their hazelnut product, but it’s time to get real.

Out of the 15 things I’m “so over” I chose to include Nutella in the headline because I figured it would have the highest SEO ranking.

Now, here’s where the math starts to get a little fuzzy, but stay with me on this, because it works.

***

Monday night, I drafted a post for my secondary blog at www.latitudeone.wordpress.com The strategy was to publish the post there Tuesday morning, and re-blog it immediately to the primary blog. There are HUGE benefits to a secondary blog, but that’s for another time.

And here’s the third prong of the web-entanglement strategy, and it’s something I love about being part of the WordPress community.

Each Tuesday, I’ll surf my reader for a really good post. Yesterday morning I found a particularly interesting post from www.momentmatters.wordpress.com. Its topic was the history of bathing, and I thought it was really neat, so I pressed that to my  primary blog as well.

There are multiple benefits to pressing a fellow blogger: it’s a nice courtesy, a high compliment, a way to build relationships/strategic partnerships, and ultimately, brings more hits to your site.

The result of all this madness is three posts on my primary blog on my highest reading day. The posts were complete by 5:30 a.m., and from that point, you can only wait to measure the results.

Another tip about multiple posts on a single day: Include short links to every other post you’ve made that day. Readers will inevitably click and click again, and you, fellow blogger, get more bang for your buck.

Now, about those clicks. Here’s a visual of what happened in yesterday’s three-post web.

steven w watkins blog

All the short links included in yesterday’s three posts resulted in 10 additional clicks, and who knows where it went beyond that? That’s good for my blog, and for other sites as well.

There were clicks to my secondary blog, certain photos I’d tagged in previous posts, the blogger I reposted, a related article and the site of an Ecuadorian land developer with whom I have a business relationship at http://www.latitudeone.wordpress.com

All that intertwined linkage is good for everyone and maximizes SEO potential for us all.

Now about those search engines and the power of SEO referral. This is always interesting to study.

steven w watkins blog

The vast majority of my hits came from FaceBook posts. But there were also results from Google image and term searches, as well as Yahoo, Bing, email and from my secondary blog. This doesn’t necessarily mean each search was directed specifically to yesterday’s posts. Many of them were aimed at previous posts. Again, this is process that’s built over time.

Don’t forget the huge benefit of “thinking” like a search engine. Look at these terms searched in the 24 hour period.

blog steven w watkins

You never know who’s gonna search what, or where they’ll end up. Creative tagging is important and a learned skill, but you also have to think like a search engine. The searches above are pretty random, but they did get readers to previous posts I’ve written.

You may have the greatest prose and the snappiest title on the blogosphere on a given day, but if you don’t include some frequently used search terms, your results will be diminished. Note the key words in the title of this blog: “blog,” “web,” “case study” and “search engine.” More than likely, those terms will result in a few extra hits.

Did you know “Justin Bieber” is one of the highest ranking Google search terms? It’s the ONLY reason I included his name in this post.

Hope this helps. Blog on, baby.

(Steve Watkins is a journalist and author of the developing non-fiction series: The Trilogy of Light. For information about writing or blog coaching, and a free 45-minute consultation contact him at: stevewatkins71@yahoo.com)

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How to Kill Blogger’s Block: Just Live Your Life, Man.

Over time, I’ve seen a number of bloggers, authors, etc., talk about their challenges with writer’s block.

It’s a rare thing for me, but I have experienced it. From my desk, the bigger challenge is finding the time to write all there is to say.

Lately, it’s been a huge challenge. Not the block, but the block of time I need.

And the challenge has manifested itself from the simple approach of not caring too much about it and just living my life.

When I quit caring and just live, the writing possibilities become almost endless.

The life experience really is the writer’s palette (that sounds way more sophisticated than I really am) and living life well allows us to paint some beautiful pictures.

Living my life a couple of years ago during a bucket-list check in Yellowstone National Park, Montana.

Just recently…

Finding it hard to put things in words?

Writer’s block got you pinned to the mat?

Go live your life, man. Go live your life.

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How to Write Copy That Kills: Part 4: Write

(Bloggers Note: This is the fourth in a series of six posts: How to Write Copy That Kills. Today’s post is the fourth element: Writing.)

***

I recall the first personal meeting with my editor last February. We met for breakfast in Memphis. What I expected to be an hourlong meeting lasted four and a half hours. The waitress thought we were waiting for lunch.

At the time, I’d yet to put a single word on paper. Light Wins was only an idea. It was a fairly well-organized idea in my mind, yet it was just an idea.

Bradley Harris is not easily impressed. We took our seats and he said, “What have you got?”

So I went through the background, concepts, and the book’s “meat” if you will. And I shared the peripheral possibilities, marketing opportunities etc., etc.

As we bounced back and forth, more ideas developed, and I could see in his eyes he knew we were on to something. Brad was actually a little excited.

Then he said something I’ll never forget.

“May I be blatantly direct with you, Steve?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said.

“This is all wonderful, but you don’t have **** until you have text. I need text, and I need a lot of it.”

And I took a deep breath.

The long road started there. You don’t have **** until you have text.

***

The headline on this post is admittedly misleading. I can tell you how to observe, think, plan, pursue and execute, but I can’t tell you how to write killer copy any more than I can tell you how to travel to the moon.

At best, I can share with you a few things that work for me:

  • First, you must have text. Just write. Whatever your preferred style, whatever time of day or whatever place you prefer, just get there and write. Short spurts, long binges. It doesn’t matter. Just write. No excuses.

  • Get objective opinions. Pay someone if you have to. Your friends’ opinions are no good. They’ll tell you what you want to hear. Toss something out there. Test and tease a nugget here and there in your blog. Zero comments may mean you have some tweaking to do. Let’s be honest. If you have zero comments, you may want to think about living in a van down by the river.
  • Get into character. I’m a different person when I write. Nobody knows that person but me. Whoever you are when you write, be that person. Put on your writing clothes, your hat, special glasses, sip hot tea, whatever you have to do to be your inner writer, become that person at the moment you sit before the keyboard and let nobody take you away from who you are at the moment.
  • If you’re a binge writer, go on a media fast before the binge. The world will distract you. It will raise your blood pressure. A few days prior, pretend newspapers, magazines, television and internet news posts don’t exist. Clear your mind. I’ve been able to do this to the point where I can literally think when I sleep. When the stars line up, my subconscious can write copy when I’m in certain stages of sleep. You may not believe that, but it’s true. And that makes for some exciting times when I take my first cup of coffee to the keyboard in the early-morning hours.
  • Don’t push yourself into a pattern. This is the anti-thesis of what many will tell you. You may be going along well on a focused chapter, then have another idea that kills. Stop, and write what just came to your mind. Stay there for hours if you must, then come back. Ideas have a way of vanishing if they aren’t written down. I regularly take 15-minute breaks just to get up and walk around, but continue to think. Inevitably I come up with two to three ideas, then I can go back to the keyboard and keep the momentum going.
  • Gauge your gut. When I write something that’s killer good, I literally tingle – and honestly, I’m not impressed with my work most of the time. But once in a while a phrase goes on paper and I’m forced to take a breath. I’m my own worst critic, so if it moves me, it will probably move a reader. Check your gut.
  • Think about Boris. Boris is the fictional character my editor uses to let me know how a reader is reacting. Boris is conservative, grumpy, overweight and set in his own ways.

When Boris grumbles, I’m losing him. If he gets up to pour a scotch rocks and comes back to read more, I’ve got him. Think about YOUR Boris.

  • Stop trying to be perfect. The copy will not be perfect on first draft. It may have grammatical issues, and may not have the perfect flow. It doesn’t matter right now. Get the ideas down. Move on. Perfect later. Injure it first, then kill it.
  • Come back later with a scalpel. Days ago you used a rusty dagger to cut out a rough form. Give yourself time, then come back with a scalpel to make your precision cuts and additions. This may be the hardest part of the entire process.
  • Reward yourself at whatever intervals you choose. Maybe at 10,000 words you go out for a steak. Do something you love for yourself. I don’t set specific intervals for rewards, but I know instinctively when I should reward myself. Walk away and go party, whatever that means to you.

Just remember, you don’t have **** until you have text.

For the previous posts in this series see:

OBSERVE @ http://wp.me/p2bjEC-kf

THINK @ http://wp.me/p2bjEC-kE

PLAN @ http://wp.me/p2bjEC-m2

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100 Posts: So Throw Me a Bone

 

Four months into the WordPress experience, I’m now 100 posts deep.

So first, help me celebrate the milestone experience; if you occasionally enjoy the blog, ever learned anything, or if it made you think for but a moment, make my day and hit the “follow” button and I’ll celebrate all day long.

Even though I’m in the midst of a series of posts, I wanted to break stride and mention a few of my favorite things about the 100 milestone mark.

Here are a few of my favorite reader comments over the last four months:

  • I’ve just been thinking about how unbalanced my life is lately and also pushing back against the philosophy that excellence requires us to win at all costs. You’ve just flipped my switch with the entry about living life generously and fully with the intention to succeed together in the best way we know how. http://wp.me/p2bjEC-7v
  • Agree. Disagree. Agree…good post. Made me think about where I stand on three issues. I like people who make me think. http://wp.me/p2bjEC-7d
  • Steve: most of the time I agree with your blog, but not today. http://wp.me/p2bjEC-7d
  • When dark seems all-encompassing, the Light is still there. Thanks for making your readers think. http://wp.me/p2bjEC-66
  • I wept when I read this. Hold on to the beautiful memories. http://wp.me/p2bjEC-5r
  • It’s beautiful, Steve. I’m sure your dad was (and is) proud of the man you’ve become. http://wp.me/p2bjEC-hH
  • Simple, yet packed with power. Thanks for this wonderful reminder. http://wp.me/p2bjEC-hm
  • Good words. Words I’ve had to listen to myself before. Thankful for grace. http://wp.me/p2bjEC-dY
  • Your title intrigued me … and I was not disappointed after I read it. I love it when I am challenged regarding how I act, react and think. That is what this post did. http://wp.me/p2bjEC-9z
  • Good thing you put the disclaimer at the end. I was about to tell you: Dream on Dude! http://wp.me/p2bjEC-9g
  • Thank God for Dana (my wife) because if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have my best friend back in my life. Love you both. http://wp.me/p2bjEC-7N
  • I’m learning a lot about God and Light through your blog. http://wp.me/p2bjEC-2l

These are just a couple of my favorite photos from the past 100 posts:

Mom, me and my Dad in 1991. One of our best cotton crops ever.

Sunset on the Pacific coast of Puerto Cayo, Ecuador.

My wife, Dana, one of the ways I love her best.

Another great shot of Dana on the Pacific Beach. Smokin.

My beautiful girls. Emma and Sophie.

But this is the image that probably inspires me most. After 100 posts; 6,324 hits in 47 countries. I love this.

For a related post on my secondary blog you can go here: http://wp.me/p2wzTk-1o

Just a Few Quick Shots from Ecuador

Dana and Me

Time has been too valuable to blog since our arrival in Ecuador six days ago now. Every minute is exploration. Wanted to post a few quick pics, though, and will recap all when we return home.

We have some great stories.

Tomorrow, driving from Puerto Cayo to Manta and taking the early flight into Quito to stand on the equator for a bucket-list check.

Good night, from the middle of the World.

Playing tourista in Montanita!!!

Sunset on the Pacific: Latitude Zero.