Best blogging moves of 2006

As the year ends, Mitch looks back on what he did to build blog traffic and revenue. 2007 will be a time to start breaking some rules.

From Amazon's AStore to MyBlogLog's community-building widgets, some things have worked very well for my personal blog and here at ZD Net. But there is also a trend toward hard-and-fast rules of blogging being declared that needs a firm rejection if the medium is going to continue to evolve.  So here are my best blogging moves of 2006:

  • Best revenue enhancer: RatcliffeBlog Store, supported by Amazon's aStore program, which creates a virtual retail environment for any site, and that has produced a 4,565 percent increase in referral revenue compared to the second quarter of 2006. I wrote about my initial experience here, but the program continues to surprise me. To date, my blog has generated $216.16 in revenue this quarter—by the end of the year, it appears, revenue will near $300. By contrast, I made $5.72 in the second quarter and, running an aStore for only month in the third quarter, saw $44.22 in revenue after the program was introduced. The reason is that people are now using my aStore to shop in order to support my site rather than going to Amazon. The products I link to directly account for less than 10 percent of the referral fees generated. Instead, people are browsing and adding products completely unrelated to the topics I write about. For example, people have ordered clothing, a wet/dry shop vaccuum, coffee and the complete works of Bach on CD through my aStore—Amazon doesn't tell me who bought this stuff, but thanks for thinking of me when you did. I strongly recommend aStore to anyone looking for a community-friendly (that is, without simply resorting to intrusive advertising) way to build blog revenue. At the current rate of growth, I'll be able to cover my annual book-buying through Amazon in about two more quarters.

  • Best community tool. MyBlogLog has introduced a new dimension of insight into my blog traffic. The Web service tracks inbound hits on my blog pages, giving me information about which pages, specifically, are driving traffic to my site, along with information about the actions of those users on the site, including where they left my site. MyBlogLog also enhances my site with some drop-in code that displays a list of recent readers and highlights, on mouse-over, the links people are following, so there is a kind of social intelligence being built into my site by visitors, telling others where they went. MyBlogLog, however, has some limitations. Its statistics cover only those pages that are linked from another page, not visits directly to my site or from an RSS reader, and it doesn't tell me anything about RSS readership. I like the service' community aspects (click to see who has "joined" my blog community), but it also focuses so much on blogger-to-blogger relationships that I feel it blinds me to most readers' interests. And it cannot be easily dropped into a group blog, like ZD Net's, to provide tracking and community.

  • Best browsing tool for building postings. I have a spatial memory, requiring me to put stuff someplace in particular to find it later. Blue Organizer from Adaptive Blue, has been a very handy plug-in to use as I surf the Web, because it allows me to catalog rather than simply pile up my bookmarks. It is a Firefox plug-in available here. By setting the applet to create a Blue Mark (an enhanced bookmark) for any page I visit three times, it also gives me the opportunity to look back at my browsing to find out what has been capturing my attention that I may not have noticed the first few times. Three is a tendency for Blue Organizer to get a little like Fibber McGee's closet, with a lot of junk tumbling out if you don't spend some time managing the collection when the plug-in is set to add Blue Marks automatically.

  • Best advice for bloggers. Ignore most, if not all, advice about blogging. I've had this conversation with a lot of folks, from Dan Farber about how to blog for ZD Net to blog-based discussions, but my advice to bloggers is not to take the flood of advice about how and when to blog without a lot of skepticism. Rules for blogging, such as "Successful bloggers blog several times every day" are like the counsel of a business guru whose own skill and luck produced a unique product or company. It's not likely to produce the same for anyone else. I mean, for instance, that as many times as occasionally bankrupted Donald Trump writes a business how-to book, not a lot of people are going to replicate his results. You can be a successful blogger with one posting a month, maybe even one great posting, or it may take frequent posting. As they say in the 12-step world, "take what works and leave the rest."

That's what I learned this year. What did you figure out about blogging? Join the discussion in comments!