Example

As you will probably notice, things look a little different around RobbSutton.com. As a matter of fact…I have gone against a lot of the advice I have given and the look at RobbSutton.com has changed a lot recently. Don’t worry…I still believe that not obsessing about design and just generating content is the only way a blog will survive. You can really get caught in a one pixel mentality that will make you into a web designer with yourself as the only client instead of a blogger.

But I digress…

I really wanted to go with something different this time around. While the colors are simple, the header is thin and everything else seems to be pretty straight forward…I wanted to do something with this blog that I have dreamed of doing for awhile.

Completely drop the sidebar!

Let’s be honest. How many times you do actually interact with the information in a 350px block roughly on the right. Rarely right? Maybe the first time you visit a site? It is already proven that ads convert the lowest there. I started looking at analytics and that was the least used portion on the site. In most cases, even the footer was used more often. The sad part….that is a third of your content space!

So what did I do? 

I designed the new look of RobbSutton.com to have no sidebar. It is officially a full width, one column setup site wide. You will not see any narrow column to the right or left anywhere on this site anymore.

Am I saying to go drop all of your sidebars? No. This might not be for everyone and it might not be for every subject matter. interactiveAs an example, I will be keeping the sidebar over at Bike198.com for now. Ultimately, I would like to do the same over there but at this point in time it doesn’t make sense. For a pure content blog like here…it is perfect and I already feel like I have room to breathe. It also allows for a lot more interactive, eye catching content due to the increased width.

Have you ever had one of those times where you wished you could wrap a wide picture or video within the content? How about embedded music or another bit of interactive content? With the increased content width (in this case 940px), there is a lot more flexibility to do what I want with my content.

While all of that is great, there is one real reason (outside of low conversion on sidebar content) that I decided to go with a single column setup. The web is in a state of change and I believe we are going to start seeing web design for content sites roll in this direction in the near future. My bet is that you already know without knowing it…so here it goes…

Why would all of these sites opt to drop a sidebar and go to single column?

Most of the time, you are reading in a single column already…

Responsive design has done incredible things for websites and designers. For the first time ever, you are able to keep your same look, feel and branding across multiple mediums. Now, when your readers go to your website, they are not hit with a difference experience than they would be on the web. They see the same design…it is just tweaked a little to fit their screen automatically. What does this mean for your content website? The content is then centered and the sidebar is dropped below the content so you are not reading extremely small text.

So what are you really doing?

Reading a single column website on your mobile phone or tablet when the main site might have sidebars (which you might be already doing for this article). Mobile web traffic is on the rise. It will be the majority of web traffic in the very near future which will make sidebar content even less visible. All I did here, was give you that same experience on the web as well so now my branding and feel really doesn’t change across any medium. When you go from your phone…to a tablet…to a computer…you are hit with the exact same experience.

What was the cost? Really nothing. I can still run advertising in the highest converting spaces. I still have a footer for some content and navigation hasn’t changed. The only thing I lost was the lowest converting section of my website. Damn. I’ll be staying up late at night losing sleep over that one.

As a general rule, I am pretty bad about launching things early for myself (another thing I tell clients not to do), so there are still a couple more things I will be adding like a search bar and newsletter signup form at the bottom of posts. I also have a dedicated homepage in the works that will be rolled out sometime in the near future.

So what do you think? Is this the future of the web as we know it? Does your sidebar convert or are you ready to drop it as well? Let me know!

Example

Over the past couple of weeks, I rolled out my latest product release on Bike198.com…the “Live the Ride” wristbands.

Backing up – awhile back (about 6 months ago), I was trying to figure out another physical product I could release that would increase brand recognition and be easy to put together. After some thought, the idea of the wristband came up so I asked our Facebook followers what they thought…and they loved the idea.

Continue reading Physical Product Sales on Blog Case Study: Live the Ride Wristbands

Example

This morning, I was getting for the day when I came to a realization…

I hate blogging about blogging.

What started off as trying to help people has turned into the vicious cycling that I had dreaded from day one.

So what exactly happens?

The more I post useful tips that actually work…the more people just want another list post about “how to get more comments” or “how to make more money” that they can tweet without reading or use on their own “make money online talking about making money online” blog. It is less and less about building a business out of something unique and more about copying the success of others in the hope that money can be made off of the same blueprint.

As this cycle continued to show itself…I was finding myself thinking about creating training course, more eBooks and other related materials that would basically just become more of the noise. I wasn’t happy about it and I was dreading every second of it.

Why I Initially Got Into Blogging

I got into blogging to connect and help other people in the biking industry with Bike198. Luckily, that site is still doing that. However, when I tried to apply that same theory to Blogging Labs, I was getting stuck in the rut that most blogs about blogging head in…and it is time to stop the madness.

I want to connect with people again and I do not care if that costs me money in the long run. That is not why I started writing about online publishing in the first place…but that is what it turned into. Bike198 is still doing incredibly well on the income side of things without having to sacrifice the connection and sharing within the industry. That audience could care less about the blogging and make money online world…all they want to do is share their passion online.

If I have to take an income hit to get back that connect here…it is worth the tradeoff to not be another “blog about blogging” or “make money online by talking about making money online” place on the web. There are enough people doing that already and 99.9% of them are all saying the same thing. Saying that, there are very few (ie. DavidRisley.com and some others) that are still publishing content that I will even read.

So things are going to change rapidly. I am going to get back to connecting with people by publishing everything here on RobbSutton.com and I am completely dropping Blogging Labs. The old content will stay live, but now you are going to be connecting with me…not some brand…not what the industry wants…just me. The about pages, categories and other items will shift into the direction that I want this site to take.

I have a lot going on now that I do believe can help people and I want to share, but I do not want it to be list posts about rehashed crap in an attempt for pageviews. If you want to connect with me…the guy behind the scenes…then you will love this change. If you want more list posts and how to posts that will “get you 100 more subscribers today”, you are not on the right site anymore.

It’s time for a change.

To start…I am going to give everything I used to charge for away for free. Ramped Blogging and Ramped Reviews are now yours to have whether or not you subscribe to a newsletter or purchase them. Here are the download links…

Ramped Reviews

Ramped Blogging

They will continue to be free for anyone who wants to download them. If you sign up for the newsletter or rss feed…great! I am glad to have you as a part of the site. But…I will no longer be offering a free incentive on this site as part of the signup process as the blogging about blogging world is full of people that purely signup for the free stuff and aren’t interested in staying connected. They are just interested in that next “magic bullet”.

Blogging needs to get back to its roots…

I have this fundamental belief that blogging needs to get back to its roots. What started off as making that one on one connection has now become almost solely focused on money and becoming another “get rich quick” scheme. What many people fail to realize is that the money came after the connection…not before. It is only when these connections got in such high numbers that bloggers began to gain respect for the amount of income they were producing that was a byproduct of the connections…it wasn’t the initial goal.

So here is RobbSutton.com…it will be about me. My successes, failures and life laid out  in the attempt to connect with people on the other side of the screen. I am going to keep this site as far away from MMO as possible and focus my life, what I enjoy and the principles that create successful ventures.

Example

I’m going to share a little secret: the process I go through when writing a new blog post isn’t usually this: “Idea = Blog Post”

Instead, my equation looks a little more like this:

“Problem > Research > Solution > Blog Post > Feedback > Better Solution”

You see, I’m entirely sold on the concept that a blog shouldn’t be looked at a one-way information vortex. Instead, it should be more like a hurricane or tornado (or some other turbulent force of nature) that stirs up information and ideas from a group of people. In the same way most people read a recipe and adjust it based on the reviews, I believe most readers find blog comments as rich in information as the blog itself. So, now you’re asking: how do I get more comments on my blog?

I’ll share a few ideas I’ve learned over my blogging experience:

1. Interact with other blogs

Find blogs that are related to yours, and join the discussion on their articles. In addition to learning more about your field of interest, you can share your expertise and get to know like-minded readers. You can often find appropriate places to add a link to an article you have written on your blog, but only do so if it adds to the discussion and benefits the other readers. Keep at it, and over time, thoughtful blog interaction could increase comment-giving traffic to your own blog.

2. Submit guest articles to other industry blogs

Why would you put time into an article that someone else gets to run without paying you? Well, in essence, you are getting paid; provided that the blog provides your author bio at the bottom. In one fell swoop, you’re getting your name out to a wider audience, a link to your page that could help search engine rankings (especially if the blog has a higher page rank), and you’re establishing credibility by positioning yourself as an industry expert. Anyone can create a blog and publish articles on it; however, having a reputable blog publish your articles speaks volumes to readers.

3. Keep it casual

This isn’t English 101 anymore – you can speak in first person, use contractions, and have a sense of humor. If your blog comes off too textbook-y, readers may be uncomfortable commenting for fear of getting slapped by a ruler after neglecting MLA format. That isn’t to say you should neglect spelling and grammar, or be unprofessional. But your goal here is to engage in conversation, and conversations don’t sound like term papers. Think of it like talking to colleagues over coffee. Oh, and in case you didn’t notice back there: I started a sentence with “but.” Yes, I’m a rebel.

4. Keep stirring the pot

The directions mean it when they say “stir constantly over low heat.” If you stick your blog post on the burner and abandon it, you’ll end up getting burned in the end. People who took the time to comment on your blog should be recognized and responded to, especially when they have questions or criticisms. The rest of your audience is watching how you respond to these comments, and the impression you make could be the difference between repeat visitors (and commenters) and a dwindling audience.

5. Be diplomatic in your comment responses

A reality you must accept about blogging is that your ideas are out there, open for praise or attack. If you get a criticizing comment, you should always take the high road in your response: thank them for contributing their thoughts, apologize and clarify if they misunderstood (or misconstrued) something you said, and maybe even ask them how they would do things differently. If the comment is non-constructive, mean spirited, or downright wrong, resist the urge to puff your chest and tell that person off. Respectfully disagree, or politely comment that you would appreciate more constructive feedback. You can’t win a war of opinion against an ill-mannered person, so don’t lose your professional image over a nasty comment.

6. Ask for what you want

Would you like more responses? Ask for them. In the footer of every article, ask the reader if they enjoyed the article, and tell them to add their two cents in the comments section. It sounds unnecessary, but if marketing has taught me anything, it’s that people respond better to calls of action. Many non-bloggers may not realize how much time and resources goes into writing articles, and that comments are what make it worthwhile for many writers. If you’re still not getting responses, consider whether you’re asking the right (or any) questions.

Now it’s your turn:

Remember the equation: Problem > Research > Solution > Blog Post > Feedback > Better Solution? This is part where you help solve a problem many bloggers (including myself) have. What advice would you give to a blogger seeking more comments?

Mandy Barrington is the lead web designer and blog author at RYP Marketing, an online marketing company whose name describes their objective – to “Raise Your Profits.” Take a stroll by the RYP blog to read more of her ramblings. When she isn’t busting out articles or websites, she’s probably cooking sinfully delicious food or planning her next getaway.