"The fastest and easiest way to instantly drive a flood of targeted visitors to your blog... absolutely free". That was the promise from Blogrush when they launched their new service a month ago and a lot of bloggers beat an early path to their door - partly I guess because of the hype that's created when the pro bloggers talk about what's new, and partly because Blogrush works on a pyramid system. (The more people you refer the more credits you build up - so the earlier you signed up the better it was going to be for you.)
I have to confess I wasn't one of those quick-off-the-mark people. So when Claire asked me to do an early post on Blogrush I felt more than a little unsure of my ground. 1. I'm not using the service 2. It's still 'in beta' and the jury still seems to be out on how it's working 3. I'm not qualified to offer an expert opinion on its strengths (or otherwise) in driving a flood of targeted visitors to your blog.
So I shifted my focus to what I do know about Blogrush, what I've learned from the opposite end of the lens: the perspective of a blog reader. How this widget looks, how it feels, and what it says to me about you - and your brand.
A reader's view of Blogrush
1. The widget just doesn't look that great. I know this is subjective - and I know there have been some adjustments for different colours (and size is coming) - but I still don't think they look that appealing. And I don't think I'm alone in that
2. They need to be visible to work. It looks as if members are going to have to make their widgets highly visible (to generate enough click throughs). This will inevitably change the look and feel of your blog.
3. I haven't clicked a single Blogrush link - before researching this piece. I have more than enough links to click already - and I don't like the look of these ones. I'd be curious to know if you find them a helpful resource (as a reader) - are you clicking the links?
4. The widgets aren't serving me. It's a double whammy - the widgets take up a lot of space, and I'm not making use of them in any way. If I was looking for new links - I'd be reading your blog posts and following your recommendations there, or exploring your blogroll - not clicking this widget.
5. The links are not great. Really. Not great. Throwing caution to the wind in the interest of Business Blog Angel readers I have been making an 'effort' to click on Blogrush links from a range of sites. I'd say 20% were to legitimate blogs. The rest were to pure advertising sites, blogs with pop-up promo adverts for free downloads, cheap and nasty blogs that I wanted to back away from, fast, and a foreign language site (from the Blogrush owner's site, which I thought was funny as they're supposed to be weeding them out).
The links point is the clincher for me. Links to dodgy sites don't just tell me something about the places I've inadvertently gone - they tell me something about the person who sent me there. Which takes me back to the blogging lessons that we can learn from the Blogrush experience.
Experimenting: lots of reviews just means there's a new product out, not that you have to sign up for it. You need more time to get the considered opinion - especially when products are tested 'live' and producers learn from the feedback and results (including some painful lessons in this case). If you want to be at the forefront - great! You'll be ahead of the game. But be ready to learn, adapt, and accept that some things will go wrong
Watching: keep an eye on your widgets - how they look on your site, what the overall impact is, whether they slow your page down. Look out for widgets with a reader's eye - which ones do you like on other sites? Which ones do you avoid? And watch the links on your widgets like a hawk. They speak volumes about you. Do you know where you're pointing your readers? Are you happy with where you're sending them? And what those links are saying about you?
Branding: widgets are part of your online brand - a statement of what you're about. The widgets you choose are just that - your choice - but make sure it's a conscious one. Think about look, feel, impact and reader experience as well as benefits for traffic.
When was the last time you browsed through your widgets? Do you like what you see? Do you click your own links? And do you know where they take you?
Joanna Young was reviewing Blogrush for the Blog Angel Team. For more on blog widgets and the blog 'experience' check out previous offerings from Blog Angel Claire on:
music on your blog, Snap preview widget and audio comments on your blog
If there are other widgets you'd like us to talk about here - just leave a comment in the box and we'll see what we can do!