Tim Ferriss' tips to how to blog without killing yourself

by David Spark on May 30, 2009

Tim Ferriss, photo by Laughing SquidI attended Wordcamp in San Francisco today with my wife and more than 700 other nerds. Tim Ferriss, author of the insanely successful book, “The Four Hour Work Week” opened the conference with some advice on “How to Blog Without Killing Yourself.”

Ferriss truly had some great advice for the room of very seasoned bloggers. Here are some highlights of things he’s done to successfully grow his blog about experiments in lifestyle design.

Choose labels wisely and test them: Ferriss changed his “categories” label to “topic” and it dramatically increased click density of his most popular area of his site. Also, he added a label for “gear” on the top menu of his site to see the public’s interest in this term and whether he’ll eventually sell stuff behind it.

Have the popular stuff rotate: The default display of most popular posts is “Current hits” instead of “All time popular.” That’s because “Current hits” always change. They rotate every 30 days. If he kept it to “All time popular” it would never change because people would still click on the same posts.

Remove the Twitter status from the top of your blog page: He used to have his Twitter status at the top of his page, but then realized he was driving first time visitors away from his site. And first time visitors are so hard to get and so easy to lose. He didn’t want to lose them so quickly, he wanted to invite them to explore. Ferriss replaced the Twitter status link with a link labeled “7 reasons to subscribe to my RSS feed.” Although, Ferriss admits that RSS readers are not the strongest traffic. They come and go.

Remove dates from old blog posts: Blog readers are extremely biased to new blog posts. For visitors that come to his site via a permalink to an old post, Ferriss moved the date from the top of the post to the bottom.

Put “total read time” on top of blog posts: To let the person know what they’re getting into, Ferriss will sometimes put a “total read time” of a blog post at the top of the post. The average read time for most users is 120 words per minute. So simply divide that number into your total word count for “total read time.” For really long posts, Ferriss will bold certain sections and add a “total read time” for just the bolded parts, so not to scare people off from reading.

Don’t write to optimize for search…initially: A site that’s written for search engine optimization (SEO) is ugly and obvious. Just write. When you’re done, it’s OK to change a few words to optimize the post for search.

There is no correlation between time and money on videos and success: Remember that sometimes the simplest video will deliver high traffic. Don’t think just because it was highly produced it will generate traffic. Plus, don’t focus so much on video. You want traffic to your site rather than YouTube. Nothing travels faster than text. Text sticks around and text gets indexed.

Bold your most important rules, and people will follow: Ferriss wanted to curb spamming in his comments section. He to made a comment rules that appeared at the top, just before a user left a comment. To make it very clear what he wanted, which was no links within the post, he bolded that line. Ferriss said that one move removed 90% of the comment spam.

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