However, I have been trying to look at each of the tasks, if not getting time to consistently blog about how they are going.
Firstly, I should note my attempts to plan my posts for the week ahead (task 7 from last week) have woefully failed – as you will notice from the lack of posts this week. This can, however, be attribed in part to exciting work-related developments which mean I shall hopefully have more time to spend on reflective learning and it's blog-post-related spin-offs in September. More on that soon – and, Saturday's train journey permitting, more blog posts coming up next week.
Now, onto the tasks:
On day 11, challenge-setter Daren suggested digging into your blogs statistics. I run google analytics on most of the sites I maintain, which provides incredibly useful and detailed stats. Tim's Blog is still just starting out, so the 'sample size' to base any full analysis on is relatively small, but I'm watching use and search engine statistics with interest.
Daren suggests digging into statistics to see which keywords are sending traffic towards my blog. I've found checking up on search engine arrivals at both this blog and other sites to be invaluable not only for seeing which key words lead people to this site, but for discovering which key words people just don't search on.
In the past I've been working to optimise sites for search engines, and have found other sites I run turning up high (first result or first page of google) in the rankings for the key words I'm optimising against. And yet when I've checked the logs for those existings high-ranking sites, I've found not much traffic from those particular keywords. Implication: those key words are not the right ones to be optimising for, as they're not the most used by those searching. The search phrases that seemed obvious to me are not the same as those being used 'in the field'.
Day 12's challenge was to introduce myself to another blogger. Since starting this challenge, I've become a lot more willing to leave comments, drop e-mail and generally interact with other bloggers. It has really helped me to understand that the social web only works when the social is brought to the fore. As day 3 of the challenge (search for an join a forum) has seen me aiming to interact more in a variety of forum and Community of Practice spaces I've also been reflecting on the value of introductions.
An introductions thread in a discussion forum or on a mailing list can be key to building community. Yet I often find it tricky to offer the right sort of introduction – preferring to wait until I see the style of introduction set by others before jumping in (Does this forum like informal introductions? Should I provide a bio? Should I talk only about work related content? Or should I just wait and see what others do?). Would examples of introductions offered through the community welcome e-mail / welcome web-page help here? Or would these be too restrictive. I'm tempted to explore when working on some community building later this year.
On affiliate programs
The challenge from day 13 is to Search for an Affiliate Program that Fits Your Blog. An affiliate program allows a blogger to take a commission on purchases made through links to specific e-commerce sites provided in blog posts. In my younger days of web development, I found the idea of 10% commission just for providing a link very appealing – but wasn't going in for spending my time on lots of little links – so tried a bit of niche marketting with this tounge-in-cheek site (note, embarassing online presence from an earlier age circa 15 years old approaching…). Alas I never made a sale, and have never since dabbled much in affiliate programs. So I've skipped this day of the challenge for now…
On blogging competition
For day 14 Daren suggests looking at 'competing' blogs to learn from them. I'm still trying to work out exactly what the focus of this blog, and thus who is companion/competitor bloggers are. However, I'm going to take a good look through the questions Daren suggests asking of other blogs – to see what I can learn from others and I'll be reporting back soon.
On other non-31-day-challenges
Hopefully this blog post will make it onto the web. Right now I'm battling against spam-generating-computers which appear to have picked on the server hosting Tims Blog and turned it from relatively-nippy to treacle-speed. I've taken the web-server down for the moment whilst I try and up the defences, and I'll hopefully have things playing again properly in the morning.
Update: relatively-nippy server has returned for now. However, if you find you're having difficulty getting to this blog anytime during August, I'd be really grateful if you could drop me a note (twitter / e-mail) – as I won't always be at the computer and it'll help me diagnose what exactly is going on…