Feeding the (feed)Reader

Yesterday was odd. I had pretty good readership according to FeedStats, but MyBlogLog, Google Analytics and the stat thingy that comes with my server told me I had two visitors on January 12th, aside from myself. Two! Not kidding! Also yesterday, one person added themselves to this blog’s MyBlogLog Community, and two others went to my MyBlogLog member page and added me as a contact. Someone must have thought I was doing something right! Thank you, especially for doing it yesterday!

Let the Full-Text Hoopla Begin

For those who prefer to access me via feed, I’m going to switch to full text. I’ve done excerpts up until now because I wanted to cut down on vulnerability to scrapers until this site is better established. If 70-95 percent of you are seeing this via feed, am I doing myself any favors? Let’s consider some statistics:

  • Referring Sites 81.62%
  • Direct Traffic 15.62%
  • Search Engines 2.76%

70-95 percent from feeds trumps just under three percent from search engines, hands down, no matter what the search terms are. Besides, paying attention to my stats is paying attention to my users is a branding statement. Thar ye be.

Falling For FeedBurner

I’ve resisted FeedBurner. Some of my past experience has been with email based newsletters, and I didn’t want to use a service that took over management of email-based subscription. FeedBurner doesn’t do Customer Relationship Management (CRM) type list management stuff. Asking users to register separately seemed like a pain in the patoo for the user.

That was before considering yesterday’s stats led me to a new attitude.

Since I am in a surrendering to enlightenment sort of mood, I, well, surrender. Point blank and with abandon. There are now feed reader generated “Subscribe” links in my sidebar, but I didn’t stop there.

Surrendering came with some seductive benefits. In the options of my brand spankin’ new account on FeedBurner’s site, over and over again, I said “yes!” I was expecting stats and chicklets, but I got a lot more. I found a configurable bonus linky thing to paste into my WordPress theme. The end of each post will now contain links for subscribing, Stumbling, Emailing one’s self a copy, sharing on Facebook and saving to del.icio.us. Handy. I found a way to have Feedburner automatically add my affiliate code to any links I make here to Amazon. Also handy – I’m likely to link to books, and also likely to forget to add the code.

To top it off, FeedBurner can export a list of subscribers into a CSV file that I can then import into CRM software. If I do ever decide I need to add permission-based email newsletter, I could send out a round of emails that offer an option to subscribe. My privacy policy already covers me with this text: We may infrequently pass links and information about other services on to you, but we will never share information about you with others.

It took a while to get through FeedBurner’s many options, and I’m still fixing things. All the various tabs and options are a lot to get through! Their FAQ are pretty good, and I’m determined; I’ll live.

FeedBurner Resources

FeedBurner FeedSmith Plugin

Helps to set up Feedburner.
By FeedBurner
Set up at Options > FeedBurner

Originally authored by Steve Smith, this plugin detects all ways to access your original WordPress feeds and redirects them to your FeedBurner feed so you can track every possible subscriber.

A Ritual of Incubation

I went to sleep last night wondering what on God’s green earth I am going to blog about today, and woke up with ideas for three niche sites. One is web design related and may not be practical, but is worth looking at for several reasons. One has to do with literature and would be rewarding, though it could involve some serious work. One would be a whole lot of fun to get started – it’s one of those “like being a kid again” projects, without the air guitar.

I slept like a baby and woke up with three site maps and a couple link building strategies dancing in my head. If only a small slice of these ideas becomes part of something I make and enjoy, I’m still ahead. Not bad for a good night’s sleep.

How did I get from “what in the world am I going to blog about,” to two and a half new ideas for niche sites? Methinks it was ritual. Readiness plus ritual can stack the decks in our favor.

Often, when I go to bed at night, I review achievements and feel-goods of that day, then reflect on what is still on the to-do list, and drift towards picking one or two things to promise myself I’ll work on the following day. I fall asleep envisioning success with some specific thing or other.

I got into that habit out of desperation: I am an insomniac par excellence. Using some sort of positive focus helps me limit what my mind is doing and get to sleep. Herb tea doesn’t do it. An extra glass of wine works only as long as my head is fuzzy. Identifying something I am bugged about getting done and imagining steps towards achieving it with a positive and yet passive focus is the magic key. It works.

More often than not the result is no more spectacular than a peaceful night’s sleep, and my dreams don’t usually have a direct application to the practical world. Once in a while the dream experience is like taking a tour through real world possibilities. Problems get solved, or ideas are born.

I promised to write about whatever would help me develop a foundation of my brand. What’s the relationship between waking up with ideas and what I want for my brand?

Faith? Encouragement? Making problems simple, letting go of the big picture, concentrating on the achievement of small and positive steps? Giving one’s self credit for setting the stage?

I’ll be dreaming on it.

To Be or To Do Be Do Be Do and Spam Control

There’s nothing like a search for meaning to plump up one’s to-do list. I committed to making 100 posts in 100 days, as I feel out the values behind how I want to brand this site. Four posts in and my to-do list is about a mile long. The basic run down on where the initial list-o-stuff is coming from looks like this:

  • Personalization
  • Productivity
  • Pick some stuff I like

But, you see, everything has lots and lots of homework, housekeeping and backstory. Intelligible backstory may end up being a challenge, or at least that’s what it looks like now. How can I write 100 posts even loosely centered around the meaning of meaning without slipping into self indulgent chaos?

Failure often stems from lack of a coherent game plan, inviting the wrong team members onto the bus, & not facing brutal truths. Tactic or trap, writing from the self-center person can be an intentional grammatical style book decision.

Arrogance & Writing in Self-Center Person

So be it. LOL. Right now, here I am at intentional style book decision, and this is what there is, and for now I’m tunneling into homework and housekeeping, one chunk at a time. At the very least, I will have learned a few things about what it is like to write on a schedule.

Yesterday I blogged about plugins that add author Gravatars and MyBlogLog avatars to comments. Looking into them got to be a higher priority when I was writing out my thoughts about what my personal brand may be. You see, I look at links and think of the people behind them or in front of them. Putting a face on comments is a natural extension of who I am as a brand. Besides, I like seeing them.

Doing that didn’t seem right without also talking about today’s subject – spam. To communicate through them ya gotta enable them, use them, and trust them. As soon as there is a way in there will be spam.

Spam Moderation

This is how I deal with comments, from the admin setup side of WordPress.

Users must be registered and logged in to comment is left unchecked at Options > General. Because I want interaction to be easily available I do not require registration.

Everything else non-plugin happens at Options > Discussion, where I have all boxes checked.

The first three are communication related. I ping others (Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article,) allow others to ping me (Allow link notifications from other blogs,) and allow people to post comments.

The rest have to do with how much moderation I want, and how much communication I’d like about moderation. For the most part, I like to be e-mailed whenever anyone posts a comment, or a comment is held in moderation. I’m not a fan of having yet more emails stacking up in my inbox, but this is a worthy cause.

To keep a leash on what gets out there, before a comment appears an administrator must always approve the comment, and the comment author must fill out name and e-mail.

I also use Simple Trackback Validation to control trackback spam. Here are the basics on Simple Trackback Validation and two other anti spam plugins that most practiced bloggers will be familiar with.

Plugins that Filter Out the Un-person

Simple Trackback Validation

Does just what it says. I use it here. I have it set up so that all trackbacks go into a moderation que: something I find comforting.
By Michael Woehrer.
Configuration available at Options > Simple TB Validation

Eliminates spam trackbacks by (1) checking if the IP address of the trackback sender is equal to the IP address of the webserver the trackback URL is referring to and (2) by retrieving the web page located at the URL used in the trackback and checking if the page contains a link to your blog.


The gold standard. Remember to check the spam bin for false positives.
By Matt Mullenweg.
Configuration and API key entry at Plugins > Akismet Configuration

Akismet checks your comments against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not. You need a WordPress.com API key to use it. You can review the spam it catches under “Comments.” See also: WP Stats plugin.

Math Comment Spam Protection

Some people like to add Math to Akismet. Using Math will cut down on the number of spam that get to Akismet’s spam bin, making it much easier to sift out false positives.

By Michael Woehrer.
Configuration at Options > Math Comment Spam

Asks the visitor making the comment to answer a simple math question. This is intended to prove that the visitor is a human being and not a spam robot. Example of such question: What is the sum of 2 and 9?

Avatars: Putting the Person in Personalization

People are what makes the Internet sing. People. Not search engines, not spiders, not even money, and especially not infomercials that promise easy money from “free” Internet businesses that rake in the cash and run themselves without personal attention.

Underneath the tech and the design, or the lack of it, there are honest to goodness humans who are absorbing, rejecting or reacting to a site or a page, or the need to do yet another redesign. Most of the time, a relationship to the human presence is inferred, calculated or taken on faith. Web site owners make a play for traffic, and use analytics and server logs to try and figure out what users care about. Users could be thinking anything at all.

And the Blog Said: Talk to Me

Humans don’t do well in isolation. We care about trust. We are curious and opinionated – essentially social. Put the power to tweak a web site in our hands and it’s only a matter of time until we figure out how to do two things: promote something, and have a conversation. Because of our natural attraction to both of these things, the birth of blogs was inevitable.

Blogs with their comment spam can be sticky business if not moderated. Fortunately, the longer blogs are around, the better tools we have.

To control promotion, blogs can use plugins for spam control and trackback validation. To encourage conversation and add more “human” to the touch of a comment, I like to put a face on the commenters through some form of avatar. To get the most possible avatar action, with the least hassle for users, my ideal comment avatar plugin would use both gravatars and MyBlogLog avatars.

Tomorrow I will review plugins for enhancing comments, especially comment avatars.

Because I’m taking 100 dedicated days to grow a site that reflects my values, and the human relationship aspect of the Internet is big with me, the adding of commenter avatars is a good fit.

Identity Groundwork

Today I am making a commitment to 100 posts in 100 days. I’ll be using those 100 posts to explore how my personality and my values can be a foundation for my “brand,” as reflected in my blog and what I do on the Internet.


For the journey. To backtrack, here’s a quote from yesterday’s post:

Symbolic expressions of values: what are they and where do they come from?

Here, I could postulate. I could make knowledgeable-sounding lists and generalizations. I’m not going to do that because what I really want to know is what the process of exploring meaning is like, for me, blogging and in my flesh and blood life. After exploring I’d feel more genuine about defining, though getting to finite definitions wouldn’t be the point: I want the broadening experience of a journey.

I have a slightly crazy idea.

What if I committed to making 100 meaning-of life posts?

Ritual, Manners, Branding, Identity

Ok, Ok, there are also practical applications to consider.

Here’s my acid test for if a dream (or a slightly crazy idea) should become a goal, or be backed by a specific plan.

The dream is:

  1. Reachable – logistically possible.
  2. Peaceable – a purely subjective gut level judgment.
  3. Wise – practical, productive and in line with my other goals.

Let’s start with Wise

Branding is a good thing. Under the skin, branding is more than colors and shapes for a logo or a business card. Branding is all about values. Branding is how a company communicates their personality. Branding is like body language in that it demonstrates what can be expected. Trust and engagement are more possible if the personality of the entity and that of the target market are in sync.

If I were developing this site for a client, I would start with a study of the brand (personality, culture) of the client’s business and how that can connect with the client’s goals and target audience.

Since this is my site, I am free to choose to develop it for myself. As a business, starting with the me-me-me isn’t a hot idea. There has to be a connection to a purpose, a way to demonstrate understanding and fulfillment of brand promise. There again, I am at an advantage: putting my “me” where my mouth is can become part of my brand.

One of my pet peeves is sites that try to look like somebody, in order to fit in or impress somebody else. The result is superficial, untrustworthy and disappointing. By starting out this way I’m doing the opposite. I am choosing to share how I’d encourage any small business to develop their brand identity: focus on what a target audience cares about is more effective while also knowing your own “wow” values, your identity. This can lead to the most productive and genuine ways to connect with a target audience.

Moving on to Housekeeping

Part of turning a dream into a goal, and a goal into a plan, is taking it seriously, and part of that is doing the housekeeping. Cleanup time.

The seasonal icons are now gone. I chose not to update them because I don’t want to be limited to one image per category. I want more art in my everyday life, and making images for that space could be part of that, if I leave that space open.

This blog is now my home page. There are three reasons why that makes sense.

First, the blog is where the action is. The home page should be a focus of action, not a place to get through on one’s way to the action.

Second, there is no compelling reason to separate the blog from the home page. Because I am self-hosted and have design skills, I can tweak the home page to make a space for more than one kind of action, when I want this site to do more in the future.

Third, Technorati has me listed under both ablereach.com and ablereach.com/blog, and those two are reacting to each other. Googling around revealed multiple tales of woe from others dealing with the same situation. Technorati can combine accounts, but that’s no guarantee of a long term fix. The same general issues apply to link juice. By combining “home” and “blog,” I take control of my own solution.

Until Tomorrow!

There is more I could write about tonight, but it’s after midnight here and I have arrived at my personal “enough.”

Bullet Point Challenge

Today I’d like to propose a little game of pin the bullet point on the blog.

Each of the lines at left below appeared in one of the lists that are so popular this time of year. Some are from full blown articles with much substance for thought and inspiration. Others are less serious.

If you read Search Marketing related feeds you’ll see some that have been much blogged about. All are from articles published within about a month, most from the last few days.

All made me smile or nod in agreement, or both.

How many of these points do you recognize? Can you match them up with their origin?

1. Topical Linking vs Strategic Linking

a. Ladies Who Launch

2. Be clear with errors

b. SEM Clubhouse

3. How to read minds

c. Stoney deGeyter

4. Follow Your Followers

d. Jessica Hupp

5. Always wear pants.

e. Seth Godin’s Blog

6. Choose your best you!

f. SEOmoz

7. Good for spiders, good for people

g. Collective Thoughts

8. This is just the beginning.

h. Lip Sticking

No peeking!

Scroll down for the answers.


1. Topical Linking vs Strategic Linking

g. 10 Reasons Why Social Media Marketing Sucks…
by Andy Beard for Collective Thoughts.

2. Be clear with errors
d. Holiday Cash: 50+ Ways to Optimize Your Website for Christmas Conversions
by Jessica Hupp

3. How to read minds
f. SEOmoz’s Unusual SearchTerms from the Month of November

a bit of fun from the SEOmoz blog

4. Follow Your Followers
b. 5 Quick Ways To Utilize Twitter in Your Online Marketing Strategies
from SEM Clubhouse

5. Always wear pants.
Let them focus on business – not your legs.

h. Jade Raymond is My Hero

on Lip-Sticking, by Guest Blogger Lena West

6. Choose your best you!
a. Have your best holiday yet!:Your 5 step plan to “go for the joy” and lose the stress this holiday season.
on Ladies Who Launch, by Coach Joelle

7. Good for spiders, good for people
c. 9 Paths of SEO Enlightenment, Part III
on Search Engine Guide, By Stoney deGeyter

8. This is just the beginning.
e. Learning From Flirting
from Seth Godin’s Blog


Real content posted regularly on a blog can get good exposure through feed readers, because in a feed reader the most recent posts move right to the head of the class. Are you a new site that bites badly at the heels of search result 101? That doesn’t matter to RSS readers like Google Reader, because their world is sorted in reverse chronological order. Once you’re in there, all it takes to get the top spot is fresh content.

Of course it’s not that simple. I’m not talking about search traffic, and I am convinced that over 90% of the world does not use feed readers or even know what they are. However, the 10% that does subscribe to feeds is potentially a very dedicated audience, the kind of people who would consider reading fresh material from something they like every single day. Think about that. Every single day. Every single day at spot numero uno, and all you need is good, fresh content for willing eyes.

Those willing eyeballs are the same kind of audience that won’t consider subscribing to a blog lacking some sort of original content, especially if it is not updated regularly. Without something good to read it doesn’t matter how on top of the Google/Yahoo/Ask heap you are. No results. Nada.

This is completely upside down from the old school SEO ideal of search ranking leading to return on investment, or even that ROI comes from search ranking plus a site that has the usability to convert. Once you make contact with real people via your feeds, for those people search engine rankings are virtually out of the loop.

Communication is personal. Day in, day out, the relationship-building and audience-considering that builds feed subscriptions is personal. Down the line, statistics may show big numbers, but no matter how big they are those numbers reflect one person at a time tuning in.

Seven Things Scraped Spamblogs Can’t Do

  • Get subscribers
  • Build trust
  • Inspire loyalty
  • Hold interest
  • Make friends
  • Hold a real conversation
  • Succeed at Value Blogging

Seven of the Reasons Real People Rock

Real people behind quality blogs, that is!

  • Smiling at 2am when seeing a repeat hit from Rimouski (you know who you are)
  • Their blogs can stir cravings for roasted mushrooms and improving the web in one fell swoop
  • A 14 word post can become a 47 comment conversation
  • You can tell that they think
  • And they make you think, about everything from getting return visits (from Rimouski) to ritual and beer
  • “They” becomes “we” as people come together around causes
  • They do the work, over and over again, to offer readers something good to dive into

Tips for Nonprofits Meme

I’m starting a round of blog tag in support of nonprofits that have an online presence. The idea is to write up one tip for how nonprofits can benefit from an online presence, and challenge others to do the same. Don’t worry about having the same tip as someone else, as long as your take on the tip adds something to the original idea.

This meme comes with four guidelines:

  1. Offer one tip
  2. Tag three people. Bonus points for including blogs that support or represent nonprofits.
  3. Please link back to this page. If you link, I will contact you about including your tip in a compilation of tips generated by this meme.
  4. Remember to pass on the guidelines

Here’s my tip:

Actions are Local, Content is Global

Let’s say your nonprofit weather proofs housing for low income people in Ruralville County, and only in Ruralville County. Your clients are primarily the elderly, single moms with newborns and disabled people who are living independently. Your locally focused content creation strategy may be very specific to your clients, your nonprofit and your county, but don’t stop there.

Weather proofing for low income groups is an international issue, and weather proofing in general has financial and environmental benefits world wide. Your nonprofit may be a small local enterprise, but it has expertise in weather proofing: why not try to rank for terms related to weather proofing?

Develop a resource, and use that resource to bring in traffic. Traffic can lead to donations and other kinds of support.

Be Creative

A section about weather proofing windows could feature a comprehensive guide that is offered as a for-donation download. The download could be co-branded between your nonprofit and a sponsor that markets windows.

Multiply by however many ideas you can come up with and repeat.

Here are my tags:

My first tag goes to Skitzzo of SEO Refuge, in honor of the nonprofits meme he started at the Refuge last April.

I’m also tagging Joe Dolson, accessibility ace, with a salute to our mothers, both of whom work in the nonprofit sector.

My last tag goes to Nancy Schwartz’s Nonprofit Marketing: Getting Attention. Nancy’s blog was a find via my own mom, a brand new blogger, and her quest to learn about using the Internet to help the Louis Braille School.

My last, last tag goes to the ever-generous Kim Krause Berg. I know, I know, that makes four tags, but I couldn’t start my first meme without tagging my friend and role model Miz Cre8pc.

Powerful Taglines

Why are you and why should I care?
Will I remember you tomorrow?

Strong branding can help on both counts, and brand is all about identity. Business name and tagline are a powerful pair that can help to plant an entity’s identity into the memories and imaginations of readers.

From Nancy Schwartz’s Getting Attention blog:

Does your organization’s tagline complement your org’s name, convey the unique value you deliver your community, and differentiate you from the competition?

Some Favorite Blog Taglines

Getting Attention
Helping nonprofits succeed through effective marketing

Getting Attention’s tagline says in a very straight forward way what the blog aims to do.

Google Blogoscoped
Contains 80% Google

The tagline says what the blog is about, conveying focus, while adding 20% wiggle room for the rumors and hints that abound in our industry. The “scope” in “Blogoscoped” is an inspired play on words: to scope out, put under a microscope, to examine trends on the horizon with a telescope…

Making sense of contextual advertising

This one just makes sense, pun intended. It says what the blog is about, while repeating Jennifer Slegg’s personal name and the blog title.

putting the rarin back in librarian since 1999

Librarian.net’s tagline tells you that the author’s personality is wrapped up in how she lives her librarianship. Plus, you know there’s commitment behind the rarin: 1999 is an eon in Internet years. For more on Jessamyn West, check out her Wired profile: Don’t Mess With Librarians.

A new chapter every day

“A new chapter every day” infers that there is a book, while telling you it is constantly updated, growing, and current. Notice how he doesn’t say “there will be” a new chapter, use or any sort of fuzzy future promise words. The SEObook tagline is a statement of fact.


Never Mess With a Woman Who Can Pull Rank
I like Sugarrae’s tagline because it uses spice and humor to flaunt a little girl power.

Hat tip to Nancy Schwartz. If you are a nonprofit you may participate in her Nonprofit Tagline Survey. She’ll share guidance on best practices, and tips for improving your tagline when the Getting Attention Tagline Report is published in early 2008.