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Blogging Idol 2: Show Time

blogging idol

All right guys, it is show time!

The competitors have until November 30th to gain as many RSS subscribers as they manage to, using all sorts of strategies and techniques. The just can’t use blackhat methods (i.e. spamming, faking stats) or spend money on the promotion. I have set a single page to host the live scoreboard.

Click here to see the live scoreboard

You will notice that on the bottom of the right sidebar has the Blogging Idol logo now too. It will remain there during the whole competition, and you can click on it to go to the live scoreboard.

Problems with applications

Around 30 people who sent an application failed to meet the only requirement we had: to have the feedburner feed count enabled.

If you had the problem, you can still fix it and re-email me your application. Just head to Feedburner.com, register an account with your feed, and activate the “Feed Count” feature under the “Publicize” tab.

Also, if somehow you sent an application, had the feed count enabled but are not listed on the live scoreboard, let me know as well and I will add you.

The Rules

1. Any blog or website with 2,000 RSS readers or fewer can participate. One blog per competitor only. (participant blogs must have the Feedburner feed count enabled)

2. The competition runs from November 1st until November 30th. During that period, 7 points will be awarded to the competitors, on the following way:

  • 1 point to the competitor with the highest increase on the number of RSS subscribers
  • 3 points to the competitors (one for each) with the highest number of votes on the open voting session
  • 3 points awarded by a panel of judges

3. The criteria for the voting session and for the judge points will be: the most clever and effective strategy for gaining RSS subscribers and for promoting the blog. Paid and blackhat promotional methods are not allowed.

4. On November 30th, the blogger with more points (it will probably be 3 or 2 points) will be declared the winner and receive the prizes. The second and third places will also receive prizes.

Other Information

The open voting session will take take during the 2nd or 3rd week of the competition, so stay tuned for that.

I will be posting weekly updates on the competition, and the competitors that want to showcase their strategies or techniques to our readers can do so by sending me an email. Make it between 100 and 200 words please. I will then include it on the following report.

Finally, competitors that have already migrated their feed to Google (feedproxy.google.com) might see a slow delay on their numbers, because I will need to update those manually, since Google does not support the Feedburner API. I will try to update them every 2 or 3 days though.

That is pretty much it. If you have any questions let me know.

Good luck to everyone!


Copyright by Daily Blog Tips.

Blogging Idol 2: Show Time

Social Media Charity(This story has been updated with a newer idea here: A Plan for Social Media Sites (and users) to Give Back)

Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Slashdot, Newsvine, NowPublic, Yahoo! Buzz.  Between these seven sites, traffic to a particular website can easily exceed 100,000, potentially much higher.

With so much power to drive people to various websites across the Internet, why are none of them greatly involved with charity?  I’m not talking about donating – I’m sure that the companies or their executives donate.  I’m talking about making a difference.  I’m talking about using their power to drive traffic and applying it to charity websites.


The reason that they don’t is that they (other than Slashdot) are strictly driven by the actions, likes, and intentions of the users.  You could argue that there is a human hand or two manipulating the system from time to time, but that’s an entirely different post. (more…)

The Winner’s Curse is a term used to describe auctions whereby the winner will overpay because he/she overestimates the item’s actual market value. This tendency to overbid is due to factors like incomplete information or other market participants. Recent research show that people also overbid because of the fear of losing in a social competition. 

A team of NYU neuroscientists and economists conducted brain imaging studies and discovered that the striatum, a part of the brain’s reward circuitry showed an exaggerated response to losses during an auction game. When a group was told that they would lose $15 if they failed to win an auction, they consistently bid higher than others who were told they would win $15.

The difference lies in way the auction was framed. When simply reminded of what they had to lose instead of what they stand to gain, participants responded with higher bids.

While there have been investigations of overbidding which have attributed the phenomenon to either risk aversion or the ‘joy of winning,’ it was the use of imaging data which allowed us to distinguish between these conflicting explanations and actually arrive at a new and different one, the ‘fear of losing.’…We were able to use neuroimaging results to highlight the importance of framing, and specifically the contemplated loss, as an explanation for overbidding during experimental auctions.”

This ‘fear of losing’ seems to be triggered by competition with others and perhaps, attachment to the value of the item. A interesting takeaway point: instead of only highlighting the benefits or promise for a product/service, it would be beneficial to indicate what the buyer might potentially lose by not making a purchase or taking action.

People implicitly understand that they’re  dealing with other consumers because of factors like exclusivity and scarcity. The one who acts swiftly will get to purchase and enjoy the benefits of the product, while others may not. The call-to-action is much intense in an auction, because the actions of others occur in noticeable real-time. Competition is in the forefront of the mind.

This study reminds me of how much competition is almost intrinsic to human society. You see competition between individuals, groups and countries in business or sports. It is perhaps, both an evolutionary necessity and a learned behavior that one develops in order to survive or thrive within a social environment.

We are all familiar with the pleasure of competition. Many of you have bought items from Ebay, an online auction marketplace.  Often, your decision to make or abandon a purchase is rushed along on a subtle but tangible undercurrent of excitement during the process and a feeling of minor elation for having won an item at a favorable price.

Could there be a way to transplant the fear of losing and the pleasure of winning into a non-auction scenario? Perhaps the use of a competition as a backdrop where each consumer’s individual drive can play out against others. Make them interact and challenge one another within a superstructure that helps YOU fulfill specific end goals.

Let the Competitive Instinct Flourish Within a Social Environment

CompetitionImage Credit: Swamibu

Businesses or marketers should think about how to create a social environment which encourages the natural competitive instincts of their audience. Interaction within this sphere motivates each individual consumer/participant. This helps to increase the level of audience engagement and automatically enhances the value of the product/service/site.

Social news sites like Mixx.com proudly highlight their top users by displaying them on a leaderboard or giving them specific awards/badges. This symbolic segregation of a group of users from others and the conferring of exclusive emblems of acknowledgment enhances the visibility/reputation of these individuals. This becomes something others can strive towards.

Not everyone will lust after awards or a higher user ranking. In fact, most casual users won’t care or bother to go after greater recognition. But owners of these communities know that there will always be a segment of hardcore users (the more competitive or goal-oriented ones) that will work extra hard so they can improve their score or rank higher on the leaderboard.

This addicted 1% of users enjoy a sense of achievement and are often enough to generate enough activity to make your site grow. This effect is even more prominent when the community itself is the main attraction. Take the example of video games with online features: players will gladly pay for a monthly Xbox Live subscription or WOW account so they virtually cooperate or compete with other individuals. Inter-user competition becomes an value add-on.

Such a social environment is not very difficult to create: there are a few fundamental elements involved. For starters, users should be able to interact freely with one another, through the site’s main features or separately in an standalone environment. Also, bind user profiles and on-site activity to awards, rankings, points, recognition, rewards and achievements.

Allow people to form sub-groups to pursue a diverse level of interests. Facilitate inter-user contact and interaction by organizing open competitions or one-off events that everyone can join. These special events can be plotted on an established calendar of regular activities which involve the community or its sub-groups.

The general theory is simple enough: Think about creating social environments that are conducive for your overall business objectives. Apart from simply marketing your site, we should look at giving our audience the ability to connect (and compete) with each other.

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Fear of Losing: Using Competitive Instincts to Your Advantage

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The decline of newspaper popularity has been attributed to the rise of the internet and the proliferation of web-based content. With an extremely low barrier of entry and variable cost, the web allows anyone with a computer to become an independent publisher: As a result, the amount and variety of content online far exceeds print publications in most fields.

So how can newspapers survive and do well as a business in the future? Perhaps by cutting back and going more niche to provide content that features deeper analysis and investigative reporting. In an article entitled ‘The Elite Newspaper of the Future’, Philip Meyer suggests that the money and audience comes from specialized, not general media.

This particular quote explains in greater detail:

I still believe that a newspaper’s most important product, the product least vulnerable to substitution, is community influence. It gains this influence by being the trusted source for locally produced news, analysis and investigative reporting about public affairs. This influence makes it more attractive to advertisers.

By news, I don’t mean stenographic coverage of public meetings, channeling press releases or listing unanalyzed collections of facts. The old hunter-gatherer model of journalism is no longer sufficient. Now that information is so plentiful, we don’t need new information so much as help in processing what’s already available.

Just as the development of modern agriculture led to a demand for varieties of processed food, the information age has created a demand for processed information. We need someone to put it into context, give it theoretical framing and suggest ways to act on it.

Scaling back on the all-you-can-eat content buffet in favor of more exclusive material does not just appeal to a hardcore audience.  People get their information from one another, not just through the direct consumption of media. Catering to the leadership audience, the well-educated news junkies and opinion leaders, will help spread your content in the long run.

Will this topical specialization make newspapers profitable? Maybe. If newspapers can’t compete with blogs and online news sites in terms of speed and variety, perhaps they can trump them in terms of depth or trust. After all, feature-length content with solid, investigative reporting is not something you’ll often find on most blogs or personal sites on the web.

Daily newspapers will always be around, although they will be read less as more people come to have persistent access to the internet. A newspaper gives you the opinion of the journalist, but a blog throws in the comments of other readers. The web also gives you instant social interactivity, which is appealing for people who want to connect over what they’ve read.

To be able to share an opinion on what you’ve just read is enormously satisfying. Good content can be one-way but I think its increasingly important to socialize information and make it a facilitator for communal interaction. Print publications of the future would do well to consider developing some form of an online component to complement their offline product.

On the other hand, the problem of information overload is very real. Just think about it. More and more online/print publications are created everyday: to track and read many of them is very time consuming. People will be forced to pick and choose what to read. Some blogs will get dropped from a feed reader, others will remain. It’s easy to predict who survives.

Blogs that just repeat information already published elsewhere are providing value that can be substituted. To put it another way, these sites are completely dispensable. They lose out when a choice has to be made due to time/attention scarcity. These sites are usually the ones that just regurgitate content released on mainstream media or other larger blogs. Their identity is virtually unrecognizable. A great logo and design won’t save them.

Sites that serve as a comprehensive and reliable filter of information on a topic will be read, but they’ll always have to compete with other fast-paced news publishers. To aggregate information is incredibly easy. To process, analyze and situate it within a big picture context while offering an intriguing/unique perspective is considerably more difficult.

Those who can do so will be trusted: they are a valuable knowledge asset for any reader.

Detailed, unique content immediately stands out on its own, even without extensive  marketing efforts. People don’t just want to be informed, they want to better grasp a topic in all its nuances. The joy of consumption lies not only in the skimming of a news story but the processing of new perspectives to enrich a personal worldview or professional need.

Publications that provide such content will always have an audience. In the end, it’s just a natural consequence that results from the consumer’s problem of information overload.

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The Future of Content in the Age of Information Overload

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Search engines are an excellent source of high quality web traffic. They don’t send visitors who ’stumble upon’ your website or accidently clicked on an ad banner. Instead, they send you interested visitors who type in a query while fully expecting to find what they need. They are engaged right from the start and ready to buy, browse or read.

If their desire is well fulfilled by your webpage, you may end up getting a bookmark, customer or repeat reader. Added bonus: search engine traffic is consistent and usually cost-free. Ranking well for several relevant keywords or phrases could get you a steady stream of visitors everyday. That’s why some businesses choose to hire SEO firms/consultants.

There are many factors involved in the actual ranking of a site on a search engine results page, one of them being the use of keywords in the domain name. While the use of a keyword or key phrase does not alone promise a high ranking, it does seem to be a factor to some extent, partially because the domain name is often used as the anchor text for links.

Why do I talk about this? Because one way to get more search engine traffic is to build many of what I call ‘mini-funnel’ websites for specific keyword phrase/search queries. All of these slave websites could be designed as pointers to funnel traffic to your master site. Alternatively, they could be used as a stand-alone site to build exposure/accumulate leads.

Let’s do an example. I recently came across ’Is Barack Obama a Muslim‘ a one-page website created by someone to answer that one specific search query. The domain name and title tag consists of the keyword phrase (isbarackobamaamuslim) and the word ‘No’ links to the U.S democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama’s campaign website. Screenshot:

is barack obama a muslim

Just in case the user misspells his/her query there’s also ‘Is Barack Obama Muslin‘, a one-page website created specifically for possible incorrect search terms (the usefulness of this is offset by search engine auto-correction). In any case, this page contains 3 links, one to the Wikipedia page for ‘Muslin’, one to Obama’s campaign site and the other to the site mentioned above.

is barack obama muslin

And then there’s the ‘Is Barack Obama Muslim‘ version of the site with the ‘a’ alphabet dropped. This particular one ranks the highest on both Yahoo and Google for the ‘is barack obama muslim‘ phrase, taking the no. 1 spot and even outranking Obama’s own official website. This appears to be the most established version of the three; Yahoo site explorer shows that it has 10,762 incoming links compared to the hundreds for the two other sites.

is barack obama muslim

These mini-sites were created to provide answers to a specific question, one that is rather popular because rumors of Barack Obama being a Muslim have been circulating through viral emails or blogs. The goal of these two sites is to debunk the rumors by funneling traffic to Obama’s official site, which provides a clear explanation on the topic.

So the strategy is pretty clear-cut here. Create websites to answer specific search queries or deal with specific topics. Then use them to generate leads or send traffic to your home base.

Here are some elements which I think would really make these mini-sites work:

  1. Single-issue. Deal with too many topics or questions and your webpage will lose its immediacy. It also makes sense, especially if you’re using a keyphrase domain name.

  2. Reference-friendly. People link to Wikipedia pages because they provide an overview or in-depth info on a specific topic. A way to make your site more linkable is to make sure that it covers the issue in full, through original content and external links.

  3. Novelty/Simplicity. A single-page website is easily digestible. Two or three more pages may be fine. Use up too many pages and you’ll end up losing the novelty factor and becoming a full site. You don’t have to just use black text on a white background. Clean, unique and topically relevant site designs will always help.

  4. Viral components. To make people spread the word, encourage them by providing sharing options like an email-a-friend feature or link-to-me banners. Favorite tools that marketers have used include quizzes, videos and polls. Anything interactive.

  5. Sell elsewhere. The funnel-site is not the place to make money. The injection of a commercial motive might make it less linkable, novel and appealing. Remove or obscure commercial intent by not putting up ads and selling elsewhere (email list or master site).

The Obama examples given above use the exact keyword search query as the domain name/title tag, which encourages people to link using the same words. You don’t have to stick to keyphrases; brandable non-keyword domain names are OK too, although I think its best to at least have some keywords in the title tag, since you’re going after visitors from search.

But then again, search engine algorithms can be unpredictable. Such a site might fall out of favor for some reason and lose its rankings. That’s why its important to give it a good push at the start by promoting it on social media channels to make sure that it serves its purpose as a lead generator/traffic funnel. The resulting links might also help your site develop trust.

So, what do you think of these mini-funnel websites?

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How ‘Mini-Funnel’ Websites Can Help You Increase Traffic, Generate Leads and Build Exposure

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