TECHmunch Austin (part 2)
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Quick recap: On Saturday I attended TECHmunch Austin, a fantastic one-day event for food bloggers. We spent the day listening to engaging speakers, eating yummy snacks, and getting to know other bloggers.
I’ll dive right into where I left off on Monday’s post.
Selecting Content, Building Buzz, and Growing Readership
Jaden Hair moderated this panel featuring Nichelle Stephens of Cupcakes Take the Cake, Emily Farris of Casserole Crazy, and Cathy Erway of Not Eating Out in New York. The three discussed blogging on a theme, and stressed the importance of being consistent in your chosen theme while also looking for variations on those themes. It wouldn’t make sense for Cupcakes Take the Cake to have a post about steak, for instance.
They also reminded us not to let the readers form the content too much. Feedback is important, but in the end it’s still our blog, not theirs. As Cathy said, “There’s no glass ceiling when it comes to talking about food.”
Making Your Blog Go Viral and Building Community
This interaction with the readers was also stressed during the next panel featuring Ben Huh of I Can Haz Cheezburger Networks. (Side note: They have people who curate the LOLspeak dictionary. Best job ever!) Ben reminded us that “going viral” is just a buzz term.
“Before it was called going viral it was called word of mouth. Before that it was called telling someone. How to make fire? Ooh, I show,” Ben joked. But he’s right.
Ben told us that it’s more important to have consistent slow growth rather than explosive bursts. After all, you never know how long you can be king of the mountain. Once you have begun gathering an audience, understand what those users want and deliver it, all the while sustaining your quality.
Bloggers need to remember that community is greater than the number of people who leave comments, Ben says. Most sites have three types of vistors: the Power Users, who comment on everything and follow on Twitter/Facebook/etc; the Commenters; and the Invisibles – those who never leave comments, and you only know they are there by looking at your traffic data.
Another key is to be reliable in your content and not “waste people’s time … We tend to take food very personally.” When asked what he thought about food blogging and if it was worthwhile, Ben said, “Food is definitely hot. It’s like air.” This is one reason why Ben’s network has Epicute, a site of cute food, and just started My Food Looks Funny.
Blogger SEO Tips
The addition of this panel raised the number of men in the room exponentially. Tony Adam of BillShrink, Sean Percival of MySpace, and John Shiple of Ultralivetv.com, moderated by Serena Ehrlich of Startup Army, chatted a bit about their thoughts on SEO – that’s Search Engine Optimization, something that is important for every more-than-casual blogger.
For the most part they discussed sites and plugins to help with SEO, such as XML sitemaps, Hubspot, Google crawl rate, and KnowEm. There were quite a few completely confused people, although that’s not the fault of anyone, really. SEO is confusing until you dig into it, and even then it’s kind of weird.
One thing they mentioned was that you might be diluting your value with the amount of linkage you have on your front page that is not going back to you – e.g. a blogroll. Blogrolls aren’t necessarily bad but it’s important to consider a link exchange instead of just a listing. That way you’ll be linking to each other, and you’re getting something back for your effort.
To help link to yourself they recommend plugins like Related/LinkWithin and widgets that can list your most popular posts. The key is to get readers to stay at your site (and return), and by having top content featured prominently it can increase your overall statistics.
And don’t forget – Google yourself! “Ego SEO” is important to help you understand what obstacles might be bringing you down.
Stay tuned for part 3!
Some more invaluable tips – thanks so much for sharing what you’ve learned for those of us who couldn’t be there in person!