Friday, February 5, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: BlogCatalog

One of my readers has requested that I post about blogging.  So for this week's Hotlist, I'm going to be talking about BlogCatalog.  This will be the first in a series of posts about blogging - make sure to subscribe so you won't miss anything!

BlogCatalog is both an online directory of blogs and a social networking site for blog writers.  Unlike some resources which are artisan only, this site includes blogs from all different areas of interest.  This is one of its strengths though, not its weaknesses.  I follow and have been followed by bloggers that write about completely different subject matter than I do because of networking on this site.  If you use that to your advantage, you may find you're able to bring in traffic and potential customers from unexpected sources.

BlogCatalog offers both paid and free accounts.  As of now, I've only taken advantage of the free options so that's what I'm going to focus on in this review.  With a free account you're able to set up a profile and (once approved) link to your blog.  My profile is in the process of updating now, so it won't jump out at you, but your blog description and a screenshot of what the blog looks like are showcased on your profile page.  You're also able to add a blurb about yourself and links to your other social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  On the side of your profile is a "shoutbox," which is similar to a bulletin board where people can post messages for you.

The whole reason that people are here on this site is to get more traffic to their blogs.  They'll attempt to do this with link exchanges, private requests in the shoutbox, etc.  Just like with any other site, some people are able to get traffic from here and some aren't based on the way they interact with others.  The two main keys are participation and reciprocation - and they apply to all social networking sites, not just BlogCatalog.  You must participate in the community and if others follow you or comment on your blog, you generally should do the same in return.

BlogCatalog has a few ways in which you're able to find other people with similar interests and their blogs.  One way is through groups.  There's a directory which can be accessed from any page on the website that will allow you to browse user-created groups under certain categories.  Business, Hobbies and Crafts, Search Engine Optimization - the list of categories and groups that may be applicable to your online business is pretty extensive.  I'm in handmade/homemade, Etsy, Twitter, Blogspot, Google Friend Connect, Traffic, and RSS groups.  Each group features a list of members, a discussion board, and a shoutbox.  The last time I was in the discussion boards there was a comment spam problem so be forewarned.  There are plenty of opportunities though within these boards to leave your blog and shop links, participate in exchanges (i.e.  I'll comment on your blog if you read an entry and leave a comment on mine), and find feature opportunities.  Business-specific groups may even give you some valuable information on how to improve the way you run your online shop.  The groups do have their flaws and the boards are not the most pleasing on the eyes, but something can be gained from them if they're used correctly.

The second easy and obvious way to network on BlogCatalog is by browsing through the directory.  This can be a little more time consuming, but it's a good way to find other blogs you should be reading.  Right now there are 795 blogs in the Jewelry category and 644 under Knitting, so don't expect to hit every blog on the site in one sitting!  Each person that submits their blog to the directory has an opportunity to write a short description of their blog.  This allows you to quickly scan through the directory to find the handmade blogs with the focus you're looking for.  Click on a few of the blogs and do some research - after all, these people are your competition!  Compare blogs to find out which ones are more successful in getting followers and carefully observe the popular ones to find out what you can improve in your own blog.  For example, you'll notice that blogs that essentially just post listings of the jewelry they've made are nowhere near as successful as the blogs that provide useful information like tutorials or business tips.  If you find a blog you're interested in, you can follow it via RSS, Google Friend Connect, or whatever options that blogger has available.  Don't stop there though.  Go ahead and add the blogger as a friend on BlogCatalog by clicking on the author's name and then clicking the link in the top right corner of the page that says "Add as a Friend."  Like on Twitter, most people will add you back  This is a way to build up your social network and keep a list of people at your fingertips who you can learn from and who may provide you with opportunities to be featured, exchange comments, etc.  Now for a monthly fee you can be listed at the top of the category results, but otherwise it's free to list your blog and I highly recommend using the free option.

In addition to paying for a directory listing, you can also have a paid membership.  This would entail spending $6/month and in exchange ads would be removed from the site for you and you'd get some other features I'm not all that impressed with.  To me the best other feature listed is statistics, which I'm already getting from Google Analytics for free.  Really I think you get a considerable amount of BlogCatalog's benefit just by having a free account.  I'm not recommending paid membership at this time but if you're interested, check out the features here:

In short, I have seeen BlogCatalog help my site by bringing in a modest number of subscribers I would not have otherwise found.  I'm not very active in the community at all so I assume that if one wanted to put time and effort into it, a free account and directory listing could pay off in a huge way.  If you join, be sure to add me as a friend!

Do you belong to any blog directories you'd like to recommend?  Let us know in the comments!


Patrice-The Soap Seduction said...

Wow, you've really done your research! Are we friends there? If not, we will be soon:)

Elle said...

We weren't but we definitely are now! I'm following both of your blogs for now - trying to lose weight too! Thanks so much for reading and I hope we'll exchange comments in the future.