blogging

Join Us and Become a Better Blogger in 31 Days

As I mentioned last week when I first mentioned this project, I believe blogging is one of the best avenues to achieve success.  If your dreams involve leading, helping others, or earning a living, blogging can go a long way towards making your dreams reality.

But blogging can only do that if you blog well.

So, I want to get better as a blogger, and I want to help you become a better blogger too.

That’s why I’m excited to announce that on May 3 we are going to start a project to help bloggers take their blogs and their blogging skills to whole new levels.

31 Days to Build a Better Blog

Darren Rowse is one of the most successful bloggers on the planet.  He authors the ProBlogger blog which boasts 136,000 RSS subscribers and has helped thousands of people earn a living blogging.

Several years ago Darren did a 31 Days to Build a Better Blog project.  Thousands of bloggers participated as each day for 31 days Darren posted a blogging lesson & gave a homework assignment.

I bought a copy of 31DBBB for $20.  I skimmed it, and it’s fantastic.  I could go through it and do it on my own, but what would be the fun in that?

I want to do 31DBBB with a group of people who are as passionate about blogging and self-improvement as I am.  Experience is irrelevant.  I hope the group includes some people who have been blogging for years as well as some who are just starting their first blog.  Far more important than experience is passion and a willingness to commit to about an hour a day for 31 straight weekdays.

Yes, that’s a big commitment.  But I wouldn’t make that commitment myself if I didn’t believe it was worth it.

The Format

31DBBB Curriculum. 31 Days to Build a Better Blog has a lesson and some homework for each of the 31 days.  31DBBB was originally done on 31 consecutive days.  I don’t blog on the weekends.  I prefer to spend that time with family, friends, and my church.  I want this to be an enjoyable rather than stressful experience & I want to include as many people as possible.  So, we’re going to stretch it out over 6 weeks and only do it on weekdays.  This also gives the opportunity to catch up on the weekend if you miss a day or two during the week.

The Blog

Blog Posts. Each of the 31 days, we will publish a post about that day’s lesson/assignment.  I will write as many posts as necessary, but I want to give each participant the opportunity to do a guest post.  Guest posting will give you an opportunity to introduce yourself & your blog to other participants.

Blog Comments. Each participant is expected to post at least one comment each day.  First, it will give us an idea of who is really participating.  Second, it’s a form of accountability.  I know when I have to contribute I read and think about a topic more thoroughly.  Third, it reinforces the value that none of us are  just takers but we’re all givers in this project as well.  We all contribute insight in addition to receiving others insight.

Link Love. As a little bonus, participants will be allowed to include a link to a blog post they’ve published that day.  So, if you publish a post to your blog on a Monday, you can include a link at the end of any comments you post here on Monday.  If you don’t post to your blog on Tuesday, when you comment here on Tuesday no link.  This creates an incentive to not only participate in the discussion on this blog, but also post consistently to your own blog.

The Forums

Q & A. If you have general questions about blogging that don’t have to do with a specific day’s lesson/homework, those can be posted in OurChurch.Com’s General Internet, Computer, and Communication Discussion forum.  You will have to register an OCC username to post.  And the forums have a separate user database from this blog.

One restriction. I have one request regarding the forums – don’t post asking people to go to your blog and give you feedback.  Hear me out.  I know everyone wants feedback on their blog.  My concern is that without this restriction on Day 1 everyone posts to the forum asking for a review.  Nobody is going to review dozens of blogs in one day, and so the end result would be a lot unresponded to forum topics and a lot of frustration and disappointment.

The Reviews

I do think honest feedback can be very helpful to a blogger, and so I do want to help make that happen for as many people as possible.  This is the best way I could come up with.

  • Starting on Day 11, I’ll select 1 blog each day for all of us to review and provide feedback on.
  • I’ll select the blog that’s up for review based on participation.  The blogger who has been the biggest contributor will be selected on Day 11.  Each day after that I’ll select the biggest contributor who hasn’t yet received a review.  Selection will be based on:
    • Comments to the blog posts
    • Answering other bloggers questions in the forums
    • Providing reviews/feedback to other blogs
    • Twittering about the blog posts
    • Quality and quantity are both important.
  • I think the best way to do the reviews is to have the blogger whose blog is being reviewed to publish a post to their own blog about the review.  Include useful info like the purpose of the blog and the target audience.  Then ask the questions you’d like feedback on.
  • I’ll notify you 2 days in advance of when you’re blog is to be reviewed.  I’d like you to publish your review post the night before & then send me the URL so I can include it in the next day’s post.  Then other participants will be able to post their feedback in the comments of your post immediately.

The end result should be that the 21 bloggers who are the most serious about improving and contribute the most to others in this project will receive the benefit of a review.  Fair enough?

The Rewards

  • OurChurch.Com is going to give a year of our Silver hosting package (a $199 value) to every blogger who completes all 31 days and posts a comment to all 31 day’s posts.
  • OurChurch.Com will also give away to one lucky winner both our Christian Search Registration and Major Search Registration services (a $158 winner).  Each day a blogger participates will give them an entry in this drawing, so the more days you participate the better your chances to win.
  • Sorry, no iPods, iPads, or trips to Hawaii.

The Real Benefits – Measurable Results

The benefits of becoming a better blogger and building relationships with other bloggers through this project will far exceed the rewards mentioned above.

However, we also expect real, tangible improvements in your blog.  When you sign-up we are going to ask you for a few statistics about your blog.  Then when the project is complete, we’ll ask you for those same statistics again.  That will enable you to see how much your blog specifically has improved.  It will also give all of us the opportunity to see on average how far we’ve come as a group.
These are the things we’ll be asking for:

  • RSS subscribers
  • Average pageviews per day
  • Average visits per day
  • Average unique visitors per day
  • Average # comments
  • Rate your blogging expertise on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being a total newbie and 10 meaning you should be writing books on blogging.

If you don’t know how to find these statistics, ask about them here in the comments or in the forum.

The Sign-Up

To sign-up, complete this Google Docs form.

I contacted Mr. Darren Rowse, aka ProBlogger, author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, and he has generously offered to give everyone who participates in this project 25% off the 31DBBB e-book.  You’ll be able to purchase it for $14.95 instead of $19.95.  After you complete the sign-up form, I’ll send you a link with a coupon code to get the discount.  You must purchase the 31DBBB e-book to participate.

You will also need to have a blog set-up, before you sign up.

If you don’t know your blogs stats, sign-up and skip those parts of the form.  We’ll help you find them & then re-input them into the form later.

EDIT 4/28/10: Partnering with HighCallingBlogs.com

I’m also excited to add that we’re going to be doing this project in partnership with HighCallingBlogs.com.  Their network includes more than 700 bloggers.  The thought of having many of them both contributing to and growing from this project has me even more amped up.

Any questions or comments?

Whew!  That was long.  But did I miss anything?  Got any questions?  Comments?  Anything you think really ought to be done differently?

What do you think?  Are you excited about the prospects of becoming a better blogger?

About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

171 Comments

    • I'm gonna do each day's assignment for both Christian Web Trends and my personal blog LiveIntentionally.org, plus moderate blog comments & the forums, so yeah, a lot of work. I'll be honest that that's part of the reason why I hope lots of people who participate take advantage of the opportunity to guest post.

      Looking forward to doing this with you, Chris.

  • This sounds like something I need to take my blog skills to the next level…that would be from crawling to standing up!

  • Hey! This is just the right opportunity for me to start blogging. I have been wanting to and thinking about it. This seems to be the perfect opportunity to go ahead and actually start doing it.

    A few questions:
    Each of the 31 days, we post on our own blogs or your blog?

    • I'm asking that each of the 31 days everyone contribute a comment to the blog post published here.

      You don't have to write a blog post for your own blog every one of the 31 days. For some of the days, the assignment is to write a particular type of blog post, so on those days you will have to write a post if you're going to participate. Other days the assignment will be something else, but I am still encouraging you to post to your blog as well. If you do, you can post a link to your post in the comments you post here.

      Does that answer your question?

  • As someone who aspires to write and reach an audience, whether or not I ever monetize the process, I'm really looking forward to doing this. Thank you for extending the opportunity.

  • very tempting.
    I did the series when Darren first did it on his blog, my thought that it was a bit too fast paced.
    But so much to learn, so many didbits of wisdom and practical stuff – if you take it seriously.

  • Phill, that's cool. I'm hoping that by taking the weekends off it will make it a little more manageable for everyone. Would be great to have someone with your blogging experience as a part of this project.

  • We've got 19 bloggers signed up so far. This is going to be great!

    Keep spreading the word through your blogs, Twitter, Facebook, email, etc. The more bloggers who participate the better the experience for everyone!

  • I have a couple of questions — 1. I would love to be a part of this project, but I'm moving in the middle of it. Is it possible to be a part while knowing it's possible I might miss a day or three while loading the truck or traveling or unloading the truck?

    2. Blog reviews. Some of us have blogs that are targeted to niche audiences. To post something about the review would be out of context for our current readers. And, I would like a review based on what I already do there. Is there some other way to answer the questions posed?

  • Good questions, Susan.

    1) People are welcome to be a part of the project and participate to whatever extent they like. While we're encouraging and have added incentives for doing all 31 days, we're not requiring it. So, if you miss a day or three during the move, that's fine. You may choose to make those days up afterwards or on a weekend in order to benefit from the lessons/assignments from those days, stay eligible for the free year of hosting, and increase the likelihood your blog is one of those that gets reviewed, but that's up to you.

    2) Are you talking about the reviews of other blogs? If so, you won't post that to your blog. You'll post it in the comments of the blog being reviewed.

    If you're talking about the review of your own blog, I think it would be beneficial to publish that post asking for feedback about your blog on your blog. That way, you could get the input of your readers in addition to the input from everyone participating in this project. If you really don't want the review of your own blog done on your blog, is suppose we could do it in a forum post.

  • 1. Can I just take over our ministry blog for the 31 days, or do I need to start a new one?

    2. What about the use of video for blogging? (We usually v-log once a week.)

    Thanks! I am looking forward to the challenge!

    • Hi Wendy,

      1) The purpose of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog is to take an existing blog to the next level. So, you definitely don't want to start a new, temporary blog just for this project. If you have vision for a new blog/ministry, then this would be a good time to start it, though.

      You also won't have to "take over" your ministry blog. It sounds like you're assuming doing the 31 days with your ministry blog would require blogging about the 31 days project and thus take your ministry blog "off message." That is not the case at all. While you're certainly welcome to blog about the project itself if you like, any of the project assignments that involve posting to your blog will be writing posts that are for your readers and "on message."

      2) I don't remember offhand if there are any lessons/assignments specifically about the use of video on blogs, but I think using video on a blog is a great idea. Darren Rowse, author of 31DBBB, actually does a weekly video blog on ProBlogger.net.

      It'll be great having you as a part of this project. From the guest posts you've written here, I think you have good blogging insight and instincts other participants will benefit from.

  • This sounds very interesting. Like Susan K. Stewart, though, my blog is geared more for Bible study; I don't post to it daily (or even frequently, I'm sorry to say), but only when I have something to say. Then again, maybe that's the problem.

    I will pray about this, to see if God wants me to make the time commitment. I'll also need some help getting the stats from Blogger/Blogspot. I know how to get some of them, but not page views etc.

    • Hey Joe, glad to hear you're thinking about it. Consistency is a very important part of having great blog, even one that's geared towards Bible study. Imagine what would happen if a real-world Bible study only met when the leader decided he had something to say?

      Definitely pray about it. If God isn't calling you to step up your blogging, you don't want to commit to something that would take time away from what He has called you to.

      • Thanks. Considering I'm only now getting back to this, I'll have to pass for now. I'd love to do it, but I just can't make the time commitment right now.

        I hear what you're saying about consistency. I must admit, I need to be more consistent in study before I can be more consistent with writing of any sort. My idea here is that I don't want to blog what *I* think, but what *God* says. Sometimes I don't hear him … actually, lately, that's been true more often than not, but that's another story.

  • One of your sign up question is the number of unique visits per day. I have been using sitemeter.com at my blogger.com blog, and it does not seem to have unique visits per day as a stat.

    What other stats sites do you use?

  • Hi Jennifer, do you use the WordPress service at WordPress.com or do you use the WordPress software installed in a web hosting account?

    What stats do you have? What stats do you need assistance getting?

  • Re: PaulSteinbrueck replied to your comment on Join Us and Become a Better Blogger in 31 Days I’ve actually forgotten that I’ve set up my blog with Google Analytics, and I’ve now seen what my average unique visitors are per day. Thanks for that reminder!

    • Paul and William,

      I use Google Analytics with my Blogger serviced blog. The form asks for Average Unique Visitors per Day. I can find "absolute unique visitors" within my analytics stats, but no "average". Any help you can offer?

      Thanks!
      Deana

  • We're up to 30 bloggers now. Woohoo!

    And, we have developed an awesome partnership for this project which I will be announcing a little bit later.

    Keep tweeting and inviting your blogging friends to join us.

  • I use sitemeter as well. By clicking the sitemeter badge on my blog it directs me to a page that has all of those stats categorized by visits and page views. They are listed in the center of the page in order. I am using the free version.

  • Google Analytics is great if you have the ability to add the necessary Javascript into your blog. (I'm not sure if you can do that with free blogging services like wordpress.com, blogspot, blogger.com) I also use AWStats which is installed on the server where this blog and my personal blog are hosted.

    By the way, if you don't have all of the statistics available to you – pageviews, visits, unique visitors – don't sweat it. Ideally, I'd love to get that data from every participant, but at the end of the project we'll probably be interested in the biggest increase and average increase for each of those stats, so even if some bloggers don't submit some of that data we should still be fairly accurate.

  • I see "views per day" on my admin page. How do I figure out "visits" vs. "unique visitors" vs. "pageviews". I'm also not sure about how to "average" my comments for a week. I can do that manually, probably, because there aren't tons.

    Also, I put "average posts per week" based on how many since I became active on my blog. I haven't been very active for a lot of the time it's been up.

    Thanks, Jennifer

  • Scott Ayres emailed me a question I think a lot of bloggers have…

    >>How do you see on any blog how many people are subscribing to a blog?

    Generally speaking, it's nearly impossible to tell how many people have subscribed to read a blog in an RSS reader. The best way to do it is to sign-up with a service called Feedburner (which is now owned by Google):
    http://feedburner.google.com

    After you set-up your RSS feed with FeedBurner, you have to make a change to your blog so that the links to subscribe go to the FeedBurner URL they give you rather than the RSS URL built into your blog. Doing this is different for every blogging platform, but FeedBurner provides instructions for most of the major ones.

    I highly recommend FeedBurner to all bloggers, especially those who participate in our 31 Days project.

  • Hi everyone,
    I am signed up to go through the 31 Days journey with you all, but I have a question: is it ok if my blog is not church related? I blog about bath and beauty products – my passion. Can I still participate?

  • Well, sounds cool. I would like to semi-participate (since I'm the Managing Editor at HighCallingBlogs I'd like to be involved). I don't see an option for semi-participation, but that's what I'd like to do in any case. 🙂

  • Hi L.L. we're challenging people to do all 31 days because, IMO, one of the most important aspects to creating a great blog is consistency. However, we'd rather see someone semi-participate than not at all.

    It's nice to meet you, L.L. I look forward to getting to know you better through this project and your blog.

    • Hi Nathalie, great question! I don't see any issue with that. As long as you can also read and write English well (which it seems pretty clear from your question that you can) you'll have no problem reading the 31 Days ebook, doing the assignments, and reading & commenting on the 31 Days posts here.

      The only thing that probably won't work is to have others in the group review your blog.

  • Well, sounds cool. I would like to semi-participate (since I'm the Managing Editor at HighCallingBlogs I'd like to be involved). I don't see an option for semi-participation, but that's what I'd like to do in any case. 🙂

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