26 Essentials for Blogging Success: What You Need to Know

social media how toDo you want to be a more successful blogger?

Are you keeping up with the newest developments in blogging?

Whether you are new to blogging or you have been blogging for years, you will find insight in this article.

It covers 26 blogging essentials, in an A–Z tour of the blogosphere.

Each one has a full explanation, along with a link to further reading in case you want to know more.

Note: For simplicity’s sake, I assume you’re using WordPress as your blogging platform. Many of these essentials, though, apply to other blogging platforms as well.

#1: Akismet: Anti-Spam Plugin

One problem that every blog faces is spam. Shady Internet marketers will attempt to promote their products through spam comments and trackbacks, which create a poor impression for your readers. (Imagine seeing a building covered in graffiti and scrappy posters: it wouldn’t give you much confidence in the company that owns the building.)

Some hapless bloggers spend hours every month deleting a never-ending stream of spam. But Akismet, a powerful anti-spam plugin, will do all the hard work for you. By stopping spam comments and trackbacks, Akismet ensures that your blog comments section always looks attractive and welcoming to readers. As they explain:

Akismet monitors millions of blogs and forums, watching the methods and tricks used by spammers in real time. We know all about their spambots, comment factories, buffer sites and social engineering tricks.

Akismet: How it works.

If you run a personal blog, Akismet is free to use. If you have a business blog (one where you’re making or aiming to make money), it costs $5/month.

akismet spam comments

Here are just a few of the many spam comments caught by Akismet.

Further reading: How to Identify and Control Blog Comment Spam.

#2: Bloggers: Build Relationships

One of the most powerful factors influencing your online success is whether you have support from other bloggers. Instead of seeing other blogs in your niche as competitors, see them as potential allies.

Fellow bloggers can help you by:

  • Linking to, retweeting or sharing your posts
  • Providing advice when you’re stuck (ask around on Twitter, Facebook or blogging-related forums if you have a problem you can’t solve)
  • Being supportive and encouraging – this can make a huge difference when you’re having a bad blogging day

Social networks are often a great place to begin building a relationship with fellow bloggers, and virtually all bloggers will have a presence on Twitter or Facebook. You may also want to reach out by leaving thoughtful, valuable comments on their posts.

Further reading: 14 Ways to Build Strategic Relationships With the Who’s Who of Social Media.

#3: Comments: Cultivate Relationships

Your blog’s comments section is a great place to foster strong relationships with your readers, and to receive crucial feedback. If you receive lots of in-depth, positive comments, that’s a good sign your content is resonating well with your audience.

Jeff Goins of GoinsWriter says in his post, Six Easy Ways to Get More Comments on Your Blog Now:

“Eventually, I learned that if I wanted to get responses to my blog posts that I was going to have to shift my focus. I was going to have to write first for other people. I was going to have to add value. And you will, too, if you want to maximize your potential for blog responses.”

To encourage comments, get into the habit of asking a question at the end of every blog post. Something as simple as “What do you think?” or “Do you agree?” is a great way to invite readers to join in a conversation.

Further reading: 19 Ways to Build Relationships With Blog Comments.

#4: Design Elements

You might think that the only thing that matters in blogging is the content: the words on the screen. Strong, engaging content is hugely important, of course – but if your post looks hard to read, or if your blog’s design screams “amateur,” then visitors may not even get to the first line.

Even if, like me, you have the design ability of a stone, you can still do a lot to improve the look of your blog.

For instance:

  • Bump the font size up to make your text easier to read. (Tip of the hat to Daniel Scocco for this advice, in Reduce Your Bounce Rate in One Second.)
  • Get rid of the clutter in your sidebar. Only keep widgets that are really offering value, not ones that you installed way back because you thought they looked cool.
  • Consider paying a designer to create a header for your blog – that’s the big image along the top. Many themes will let you install your own header, and this is a simple, easy way to customize your blog’s look.
  • Stick with a clean, simple design, rather than running the risk of creating something garish. Your blog doesn’t need to look super-slick to impress: it just needs to look professional and easy to engage with.
design what not to do

If your blog ends up looking anything like this, you definitely need to work on your design. Screen shot from ronoslund.com.

Further reading: 7 Essential Design Elements for Great Business Blogs.

#5: Email and Social Media

Unless you’re blogging in a techie niche, your readers will probably prefer to subscribe to your posts by email instead of by RSS. After all, email is a familiar technology and readers will almost certainly have an email address already.

email sign up

The Social Media Examiner email sign-up box.

You can use FeedBurner to allow readers to receive your blog posts by email. Once you’ve got your FeedBurner account up and running, log in, then:

  • Click on the name of your feed
  • Click the Publicize tab
  • Click Email Subscriptions
  • Click Activate
  • Copy and paste the Subscription Form Code (or Subscription Link Code, if you prefer) into a text widget on your blog

As well as offering your blog posts by email, you may want to create a weekly or monthly email newsletter (or a series of auto-generated emails) to further engage with your blog readers. AWeber and MailChimp are both great services for this.

Further reading: Email and Social Media Marketing Integration: What You Need to Know.

#6: Formatting Your Posts

Good formatting helps readers follow your posts easily. Reading on-screen is more tiring than reading print, and most people will skim through posts to find the information they want. You can help them by using:

  • Subheadings (Header 2) to break up your content and provide signposts so readers can jump to the section that’s most relevant to them.
  • Bold text to highlight key sentences. Don’t overdo it, and avoid using bold text to highlight individual words, as this can look choppy.
  • Add bullet points for lists, rather than putting the whole list in one paragraph. The extra white space that this creates helps readability, and bullet points are easy for the reader to take in at a glance.
  • Use blockquote formatting for any quotes (e.g., if you’re discussing a post by another blogger). In addition to making your post more visually interesting, this formatting clearly indicates that a piece of text is a quote, not your own words.

Further reading: A Comprehensive Guide to Formatting Your WordPress Posts and Pages.

#7: Gravatar Image

WordPress (like many other blog and forum platforms) uses Gravatar to display avatars alongside readers’ comments.

You can sign up for a Gravatar account for free; then, whenever you leave a comment, your Gravatar photo, logo or icon will appear alongside. (You need to comment using your Gravatar email address for this to work.)

gravatar comments with images

Gravatar images showing up alongside comments on Social Media Examiner.

By attaching your face (or logo) to your comments, you help other bloggers – and blog readers – to make a connection with you. You also look like an established blogger, rather than a newbie, which will encourage people to click on the name alongside your comment to find out more about you.

Further reading: What Is Gravatar and Why You Should Start Using it Right Away.

#8: Headlines Are Critical

The headline, or title, of your blog post is critical to that post’s success. Often, the only thing that people will see before deciding whether to read your post is the headline – in a retweet, for instance.

In How to Write Magnetic Headlines, Brian Clark of Copyblogger says,

“On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.”

Great headlines need to grab attention. That means you should:

  • Use numbers where possible – “7 Social Media Tips” is more compelling than “Social Media Tips” as it makes a specific promise. To see numbers in action, take a look at the headlines on the front cover of magazines.
  • Use adjectives to add interest – “7 Easy Social Media Tips.” Words like easy, simple, quick and straightforward appeal to our desire for instant wins. You can also try words like powerful, or ones that hint at something new – perhaps secret or little-known.

It’s often worth coming up with several possible titles for a post, so that you can choose the strongest. You may even want to ask blogger friends for some feedback before you settle on one.

powerful headlines

Four powerful headlines on Social Media Examiner.

Further reading: How to Create Headlines That Go Viral With Social Media.

#9: Images to Enhance Your Posts

Good images – whether photos, screenshots, illustrations or cartoons – will enhance your posts. You can use them to:

  • Draw the reader’s eye (and attention) – usually at the beginning of a post.
  • Set the tone for the post – this can work especially well for humorous or inspiring pieces.
  • Break up long posts – placing images either between or alongside paragraphs.
  • Add extra information – screenshots and photos can really enhance “how-to” style posts. You can add arrows, circles, text or underlining to help your readers, too.
screenshot with callouts

A screenshot with key areas highlighted, by Stephanie Sammons.

It’s important that you have permission to post any images you use on your blog. Never simply search through Google to find a photo or illustration that you want – instead, use Flickr to find images that are licensed for “Creative Commons” use.

If your blog makes money, or if you intend to make money, you need to find images that are licensed for commercial use too. Normally, you’ll need to attribute the image – this means providing a link back to the image’s creator.

Of course, you can use photos that you’ve taken yourself, or illustrations you’ve drawn. You can also buy stock photos from sites like iStockPhoto and Fotolia. You’ll need to pay for these images, but you don’t need to provide any attribution to the image’s creator. See their terms of use for full details.

Further reading: 26 Tips for Using Images to Engage Fans and Followers.

#10: Jetpack Plugin

Jetpack is a plugin for self-hosted WordPress blogs that gives access to the features that hosted WordPress blogs have automatically. It’s currently free, so even if you only want one or two of its features, it’s worth installing. Note that you’ll need a WordPress account (which is free) in order to use the plugin.

jetpack features

Just some of Jetpack's many features.

As Jerod Morris puts it:

“What makes Jetpack such a powerful and essential plugin is that there are multiple features that every WordPress user can take advantage of. Think about how many plugins or file customizations it would take to perform all of the functions of Jetpack.”

Jetpack includes After the Deadline (previously available as a stand-alone plugin), which offers spelling, grammar and style checking for your posts. You can see all the Jetpack features here.

Further reading: 6 Reasons You Should Install the Jetpack Plugin for WordPress Today.

#11: Keywords to Reach More Customers

A keyword is a word or phrase that people use when searching the web, such as “social media tips” or “best blogging advice.”

When a search engine, such as Google, returns a list of results, the ones that come top of the list will be those that use the keyword in question. Google puts the keyword phrase in bold (or each word from the phrase, if it’s split up), and when readers are deciding which link to click, these bold words are a visual cue to them.

keywords google search result

The top Google search result for "social media tips."

When you’re planning your posts, it’s a good idea to have a particular keyword in mind that you want to optimize for. You’ll use this keyword in the headline (title), and perhaps in subheadings too, as well as in the content of the post. Google Adwords’ Keyword Tool is a great place to explore possible keywords related to your core topics.

Don’t overdo it with keywords, though; you no longer need a particular keyword density, and using keywords too repetitively will start to look unnatural to your readers.

Further reading: 6 Ways to Optimize Your Blog for Search Engines.

#12: Links for SEO

Along with keywords, links are a powerful tool for search engine optimization (SEO). Essentially, the more links you have coming into your site, the more important your site will appear to Google. Links from big sites like Social Media Examiner count for more than links from your friend’s blog about his cat.

You can get links from other sites when you:

  • Ask for them! Be polite and respectful with this, though. Don’t pester a major blogger to link to your posts. Before requesting links, make sure that (a) your post really is link-worthy and (b) you’ve already established a relationship with the blogger in question.
  • Write a guest post. Many large sites won’t respond to link requests, but they will be glad to publish excellent content – and they’ll give you a bio, with at least one link, in return. You get to choose the link text and URL.
  • Produce great content consistently. Natural, spontaneous links will come from people who read and enjoy your posts – and the better those posts are, the more likely it is that your readers will be motivated to link to them.

Keep in mind that some links will be harmful rather than helpful for your blog. Google has cracked down on spammy links, such as those from dodgy directory sites.

Further reading: The Professional Guide to Link Building.

#13: Mobile-Friendly

reading blog on mobile

Reading blog content on a mobile phone. Image credit: byrion

More and more readers are consuming blog content on their phones (or tablets) rather than on a full-size computer screen. If they have to wait ages while your header and sidebar images download, or fiddle around to zoom in on your teeny-tiny text, they may well surf elsewhere.

To make your blog mobile-friendly, you can use a plugin like WPtouch to create a fast mobile theme without affecting your site’s regular theme.

You’ll also want to ensure your writing style is clear and concise. Readers using mobile devices can’t scan straight down through three boring paragraphs to get to the meat of your post, and may well click away without scrolling their screen.

Further reading: Writing for Mobile Blog Readers.

#14: Name Your Blog

What do you call your blog? There is the potential for several different names:

  • Your domain name, such as “www.socialmediaexaminer.com”
  • The site name in your header, such as “Social Media Examiner”
  • The name you use to refer to the blog, which might simply be the site name in your header, the word “blog,” or something like “online magazine”

It’s a good idea to make your domain name as similar as possible to the site name in your header, otherwise readers can get confused.

If your domain name is your own name, but your blog is called something completely different, readers may struggle to remember where to find you.

When you refer to your blog, you might prefer not to use the word “blog,” as that can come across as a little techie or geeky for many audiences. Think about what will resonate best with your customers.

If you need to differentiate between your site as a whole and the blog, you might use a word or phrase like “the updates section” or “the articles” – or even just “the home page.”

Further reading: How to Choose a Blog Name.

#15: Opening Introduction

The opening (or start, or introduction) of your blog post is almost as crucial as the headline. A great opening will seize the readers’ attention, setting up their expectations for a valuable post. A poor opening will have readers yawning and clicking away.

Some good ways to open your post are:

  • Ask a question – this gets readers engaged instantly. It also helps your blog sound friendly and inviting, as though you’re talking directly to the reader.
  • Write a powerful fact or statement – this excites the reader’s curiosity.
  • Ask “why” – if you’re writing a tutorial or how-to, readers may need to know why this is important, so that they have an incentive to read on.

Further reading: 11 Ways to Write an Irresistible Intro to Your Blog Post.

#16: Plugins for Your Blog

Plugins allow you to add new features to your WordPress blog. Some work behind the scenes (think of Akismet, tackling spam). Others change the look and feel of your site for readers – for instance, the CommentLuv plugin adds a link to each commenter’s most recent blog post.

Many plugins are free. Others cost money, but offer extensive new functionality: the Premise plugin from Copyblogger, for instance, allows you to create slick landing pages and even turn your blog into a membership site.

Plugins do have a couple of drawbacks, though. Outdated or badly coded ones can cause security problems for your blog, potentially letting hackers get in. Also, the more plugins you install (however reputable they are), the slower your blog will become. For both of these reasons, it’s important to deactivate and delete plugins that you’re not using, and to regularly update those you do use.

plugins that need updating

Two plugins that need updating.

Further reading: 11 Essential WordPress Plugins to Get Your Blog in Motion.

#17: Quotes from Experts

When you include quotes from established experts (or up-and-coming ones), you add authority, value and interest to your blog posts. Sometimes, you may well find that a blogger or author has given a concise summary of something you wanted to explain to your readers. Quoting from them is more efficient than attempting to rewrite their words as your own.

You can also use inspirational, provocative or funny quotes to get readers’ attention. These can work well at the start of blog posts or on Twitter and Facebook.

When you include a quote that’s longer than a sentence, it’s usually a good idea to use blockquote formatting to make it stand out:

quotes blockquote formatting

Blockquote formatting in use on Copyblogger, in a post by Melissa Ng.

Further reading: Elevate Your Writing by Using Well-Positioned Quotes.

#18: Reputation Matters

In any form of business, your reputation matters. If you ran a local store and ripped off customers or provided shoddy goods, your community would quickly learn about it, and avoid you. Hopefully, of course, you’d offer quality products at a good price, with a smile – and customers would tell their friends.

Online, the word-of-mouth effect is massively amplified, which can make or break a business. Even a whiff of a poor reputation can turn potential customers away.

Google your company name (or your own name) and see what comes up on the first few pages. If you get links to your blog, Twitter profile, Facebook Page or positive articles about you, you’re fine. It could also be a good idea to establish a presence on several social media sites, as these typically rank highly for your company name on Google.

If there’s anything negative showing up prominently, you’ll want to take action. Depending on the situation, that could mean:

  • Leaving a comment to explain, or apologize, to a person who’s had a bad experience with your company.
  • Emailing someone (politely) to offer to make amends.
  • Contacting a review site like TripAdvisor to ask for a false negative review to be removed, if you suspect it’s been placed by a competitor.

Further reading: 3 Tips to Manage Your Social Media Reputation.

#19: Sales for New and Existing Customers

We all love bargains – blog readers are definitely no exception! Whatever line of business you have, running a sale on a particular product or service can be a great way to tempt prospective customers to make their first purchase from you. It’s also a powerful technique for prompting existing customers to buy again.

When you run a sale through your blog:

  • Make sure you advertise the sale through all of your social media channels, including your newsletter or mailing list (if applicable). Not all readers will follow your blog on a regular basis.
  • Consider making a special landing page just for the sale. This page can be separate from the rest of your blog, and you may want to design it without the navigation, sidebar and footer, so that readers aren’t distracted. (Premise is a great way to create landing pages like this.)
  • Create a sense of urgency. Don’t do this in an artificial way, though. It looks silly to say that you only have 100 ebooks to sell, as readers will know that an extra copy of an ebook takes no time to produce. In almost every case, a time limit will be appropriate – people are used to sales only lasting a few days.

If you don’t want to discount your product or service, think about other promotions you could run. For instance, you might sell your usual service at the usual price, but bundle it with something extra like an ebook or a series of videos.

Further reading: How to Convert Blog Readers Into Customers.

#20: Theme for Your Blog

Your blog’s theme – sometimes called a template – is what makes it look the way it does. You can change the theme and keep all of your content (your posts, pages and comments) intact, though they might end up looking very different.

theme by chris pearson

The Copyblogger Theme by Chris Pearson, shown in a WordPress blog's Manage Themes page.

Many themes are free. Premium themes are ones that you pay for – typically around $50–$100. These have extra features, and may well allow for quite a bit of customization without you needing to touch any CSS code. You can also pay a WordPress designer to create a unique theme for you, or modify your existing one.

If your blog is still using the default theme that it came with, or if you picked a theme more-or-less at random, you might want to look for something that’s suited to your brand or your blogging needs.

Further reading: How to Select the Perfect WordPress Theme for Your Blog.

#21: Unique Content

The content that you post on your blog should be unique. That means that you shouldn’t reuse your posts elsewhere – for instance, as guest posts or on article marketing sites.

Why? Because Google frowns upon “duplicate content” – the same text repeated on multiple sites, or even in multiple places on the same site. When it comes to guest posting, big blogs will almost invariably ask for your content to be 100% unique and never-before-published.

Rae Hoffman explains that unique content doesn’t just mean rewriting someone else’s post in your own words. Instead, it should be:

“Something that either no other site has, something that you’ve written to be better than the current information that is available or something that uses what is already available, but with a twist to make your version either more interesting or add value to the original concept or topic of the ‘article’.”

Most bloggers are aware that they shouldn’t repost other people’s content, but just to be clear: it’s not okay to republish someone’s post on your blog without consent, even if you attribute it to them and link back to the original. It’s fine to quote a short passage from their post, though, if you want to discuss it on your blog.

Further reading: When Unique Content is Not “Unique.”

#22: Value to Readers

In the blogging world, you’ll often hear people talk about giving “value” to readers. This means providing content that offers something genuinely useful for your audience – not just content that exists to boost your SEO or promote your products.

To deliver more value, you could:

  • Run a survey to find out exactly what your readers are struggling with.
  • Spend time and discover who your readers are by engaging with them in the comments, or even emailing them individually.
  • Write an in-depth tutorial on a beginner-friendly topic – this is pretty much guaranteed to go down well with your audience.
  • Look for ways to help readers implement your advice with action steps, learning points or even “homework” at the end of your posts.

Further reading: Why No One Is Reading Your Company Blog.

#23: Widgets for Your Blog

In WordPress, a “widget” is a little block that sits in your sidebar. It might be a Facebook Like box, a Twitter Follow button, a list of your five most popular posts, a snippet of information about you… or almost anything else you can imagine.

There are plenty of handy widgets built into WordPress, and you can install plugins to extend the basic widget functionality. You can also use the Text widget to add any HTML code you want (for instance, you could use this to add your Feedburner email subscription code).

available widgets wordpress

Some of the available widgets in the WordPress dashboard.

Further reading: WordPress Tips: Exploring the WordPress Text Widget.

#24: eXamine Your Metrics

It’s important in blogging to regularly assess how things are going. Instead of continuing on with the same routine that’s suited you for months or years, look at what’s really working and what isn’t. Some of the metrics you might consider are:

  • How many comments you’re getting – and whether certain types of posts tend to attract more comments.
  • How many tweets, likes and +1s you’re getting on your posts – again, think about which types of posts are receiving these.
  • How many new customers you’ve gotten as a result of your blog.
  • How your traffic is growing and which posts are bringing in the most traffic.
  • Whether your bounce rate is especially high on particular posts or pages. (Darren Rowse has a great post on finding and fixing this: Bounce Rates High? Why?)

Aim to get into a regular routine of examining how your blog is performing. By regularly making small tweaks, you can see a dramatic difference over time.

Further reading: 5 Simple Metrics to Track Your Social Media Efforts.

#25: YouTube Video

Many people prefer to watch a video instead of reading a blog post, and video content is also a great way to build stronger connections with your existing readers. It can be tricky to get video files onto your blog (they’re too big to upload with the media uploader, so you need to use FTP). This is where YouTube comes in handy.

You can easily embed a link to your YouTube video – or anyone else’s video that you want to share – in WordPress. Simply start a new line in your post editor and paste in the link to the video’s page on YouTube, such as:


The video will automatically appear in your post.

Another advantage to this is that some people use YouTube as a search engine: they may find your video of great tips on YouTube and subscribe to your channel.

It’s definitely worth having a link to your blog in the notes for your video (and perhaps in the video itself) so you can encourage people to connect with you outside YouTube too.

Further reading: 8 Ways to Track YouTube Video Performance.

#26: Zeitgeist

The word zeitgeist means “the spirit of the times” – what are people concerned with, talking about or taking an interest in at present?

In 2012, topics like the Olympic games in London, Hurricane Sandy hitting New York and the Mayan Apocalypse – not to mention Gangnam Style – all had people’s attention.

While it can get gimmicky to tie every post on your blog into a current event or talking point, posts that link with what people are already interested in do have an instant advantage. You might want to think beyond news stories or major world events to look at points of local interest, or at what’s being talked about among a particular online community that relates to your business topic or niche.

Further reading: Google Zeitgeist (explore what was popular in previous years).


If this list of essentials seems a little overwhelming to you right now, don’t worry. If you focus on coming to grips with just one of these each week, you’d cover them all within the next six months – and you’d begin to see the benefits very quickly.

What do you think? Did you find this post useful? Please share it with other bloggers so they can benefit too, by clicking the Retweet button at the top of this page. Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

Images from ronoslund, flickrbyrion

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About the Author, Ali Luke

Ali Luke runs small group blogging and social media day courses in London, with a practical, hands-on and interactive approach to help you take your business further online. Other posts by »

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  • http://www.robv.net Rob V

    Plenty of helpful advice, will definitely be sharing this post and implementing #5 on my own blog!

  • Pingback: 26 Essentials for Blogging Success: What You Need to Know | digitalnews2000

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks so much, Rob! Really appreciate the sharing … and I hope that #5 brings you lots of lovely new subscribers. :-)

  • Greg Narayan

    Nice stuff Allie, Gravatars really add weight to a comment. Workin’ on that tricky #25 now.

  • http://twitter.com/passionfuelbiz Drew Woronka

    A good “checklist” to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck from your blog. Thank you!

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks Greg! Good luck with #25. :-)

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks Drew — the list was a lot of fun to put together! Glad it’s useful for you. :-)

  • Nigel Boldero

    Thanks for this- my daughter sent me the link as I’m just embarking on a gardening blog ‘old school garden’. asa reltive newcomer I’ll be looking further into all your suggestions, ali- thanks again!

  • http://www.facebook.com/rameshkkru Ramesh Kru

    One post covered everything. Really great :)

  • http://www.KrishnaDe.com/ Krishna De

    What a great post for anyone starting to thinking of blogging this year and as a helpful checklist for anyone who has recently started to use a blog to build their platform.

  • House Jacqueline

     This article is full of helpful tips! Thank you!

  • http://ImpartialGeek.com David Foster

    Wow Ali! Ton of great tips here and VERY thorough. It really is important that you set things up correctly from the beginning. There is nothing worse than building something…getting a ton of traffic and THEN rebuilding. We had to do this on our blog and it was no easy task. We are focused on “Fresh” in 2013…focused on making things easier for our readers and authors to connect to our readers. Tis going to be the year for mobile! Thanks again!

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks Nigel — and very best of luck with your gardening blog, hope it goes really well.

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks Krishna! Yes, I hope this will be equally useful to brand new bloggers and to bloggers with a bit of experience.

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks so much, David! I think “fresh” sounds like a great word to focus on in 2013 — it’s so very easy to let a blog become a bit complex and a bit stale over time, and that’s not great for readers.

  • Tiffany

    This is a helpful post. It’s interesting, though, because the blog intro suggestions mentioned here and in the additional reading linked to go against everything I learned about writing as a journalist and would be considered poor leads that a desker would readily change or an editor would happily tell you to take another shot at. Questions, may buts, quotes, the ‘When I started ___, I had no idea ___” were all frowned up. I still go out of my way to avoid such leads in every blog post I write because as a writer and especially a reader, I find myself rolling my eyes at them. Not writing this to be critical. Just sharing my experience.

  • Dara Khajavi

    This is a great post to help me improve my blogging in the new year. There were many suggestions that I did not think of. I am always looking for ways to take my blogging to the next level, and these will definitely help me.

  • http://www.Marketing4Traffic.com/ Devani Anjali Alderson

    Very helpful! Sharing this with my clients and readers! 

  • http://www.birthofanovel.wordpress.com/ Sandycody

    There’s a lot of useful information here, coming at a time when I need it. Thanks.

  • Terry Rayburn


    I think #5 (Email) is more and more critical.

    I fell in love with Google Reader a couple of years ago, and started adding my favorite blogs until there were so many that I either wasted enormous time going through them, or skipping through vast quantities of posts I had delayed looking at because I didn’t want to block out the time.

    So I started deleting them from RSS and subscribing to email update notices instead, and my life significantly changed for the better. I now read them one-at-a-time, or simply store the email for a later time.

    I would almost suggest not even offering a simple RSS button, and only offering the email subscription option, to keep my readers from subscribing RSS, only to later stop reading me because they got bogged down.

    (Of course, they can still subscribe RSS if they really want to, and know how to without a RSS-button)

  • Mohamed El Saadany


  • http://twitter.com/CXthecloud CX

    Great article, Ali! Love the plug-in’s you mentioned–thanks for sharing!

  • Hermes

    Very interesting but I’d like your input about security.
    You could one day discover that your blog is not yours anymore.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  • http://www.neuro-sculpting.com/brain-fitness-blog T. Lavon Lawrence

    As they used to say in ancient Rome, “Dude!  That was totally awesome!”  Thanks for some fresh ideas and a number of great reminders to integrate into my blog!

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  • http://thehowtomakemoneyonlinemom.com/ Julie

    Love this list!  I do some of these things but will go back through and make sure I am doing them all.  Will also be sharing this too.  

  • Henry Bolden

    Nice list Ali. You’ve given me some great ideas I can implement on my blog.

  • http://www.realtyweber.com/ Matt

    Hi there Ali. Great content.Given i’m very new to the whole blogging concept you have provided a great insight. 1 to 2 each week and we’ll see how i go. Cheers

  • http://www.unlimitedmarkets.com/ Asif Khan

    Great Post, lots of things to think about. Still need to carry out some of them.

  • Rachel

    Thanks for such a comprehensive, beautifully written post Ali! I’ve been wanting to start my own blog for some time and your article has helped remind me of some things to consider, as well as pointing me in the right direction for others I had no idea how to approach. I really appreciate the time you took to prepare and publish this :)

  • Netayoffe

    This is great info!  I’m starting a new personal blog about inspiring others to act kindly to others- do you suggest using wordpress, etc. as a platform or build my own site/domain?  I don’t know too much about getting started, so any details would help!  Thanks!

  • MAC Design Inc.

    Thank you very much for sharing such a useful checklist. Will definitely implement some of them in my blog.

  • Sam@Valentine Day’s package

    Here are all those things which will be prove good for your blog in less time and this is good number of series if you will lack in one then you can try another try one steps..

  • stephjhelle

    #5 – Isn’t Feedburner on its last leg, at risk of being discontinued completely by Google?  Can anyone recommend a free or very low cost alternative?

  • Nick Messenger

    Hi Ali,
    Your 26 points post is a real Ultimate Guide to Blogging for any newbie !  I really liked the way, in each section, you provided a source of more research with the Further Reading link.  I found myself clicking on a few of those!
    Each part was explained for any of us to be able to fully understand & was laid out in an easy to read format.
    The overall message I thought was write your own unique content, promote it by e-mail & video bothof which I want to improve on this year.
    Thanks Ali,
    Look forward to more of your articles.

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Tiffany, thanks for sharing this! And I agree with you — a lot of the writing rules that apply in journalism (or academia) are being broken online. I’ve certainly nothing against the old rules, but I’ve also found that my blog posts connect with readers better when I take an informal approach to introductions (rather than following the pyramid structure of news journalism). 

    If what you’re doing works for you, do keep going though: different blog audiences like different styles — and I agree that sometimes bloggers can overdo it (I’m sure I’ve rolled my eyes at a fair few posts in the past too!)

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks Dara — glad I could give you some new ideas. :-) Best of luck for 2013!

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Terry, that’s an intriguing idea! I’ve noticed that, over the past 2 – 3 years, most major blogs have made their email subscription option *far* more prominent than their RSS. I think I’d personally be wary of removing my RSS button / link entirely (though you’re right that readers who do use RSS can figure out how to subscribe) — I still find Google Reader a very handy way to keep up with blogs, as my inbox gets a bit inundated!

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    One simple, but important tip, that I’ve come across is to avoid using “admin” as your default login (as if you do, hackers only need to guess your password, not your username too). Basic, I know, but worth doing!

    Another is to keep all your plugins up-to-date (I learned this the hard way, after a malware attack got in through an outdated plugin). 

    Also, for peace of mind, I use Sucuri (www.sucuri.net) to monitor my blogs — I get an instant alert if there’s a problem, and they clean up malware for me. It’s a paid for service ($29.99/month) but I’ve found it well worth it.

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Aww, cheers, T! Glad you enjoyed it — and all the best with your blogging. :-)

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks Julie, I really appreciate the sharing!

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Best of luck, Matt — I found my first few weeks / months of blogging were very exciting and rewarding, with lots of new things to learn. Hope you too find that it’s a wonderful adventure!

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks so much, Rachel! I had a great time putting this together (and am very grateful to the wonderful team at Social Media Examiner, who did a brilliant job editing and refining the piece). I’m so pleased this was a useful resource for you, and I hope you’ll have your blog up and running soon. Best of luck! :-)

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    The very best option is to buy your own domain and hosting, and install WordPress there — that way, you have full control over your blog. You’ll need a web host that can handle WordPress (I use Dreamhost, who offer a simple one-click install of WordPress).

    If that sounds a bit too complex, though, the nearly-as-good option is to use WordPress.com (“hosted WordPress”, which will host your blog for you. You can get a free domain name with “wordpress” in it (e.g. “netayoffe.wordpress.com”) or you can buy a domain to use through them. You won’t have quite the control that you’d have if you hosted the site elsewhere … but if your blog is mainly a personal one, you might find that WordPress.com is perfectly adequate for you.

    Whatever you go with, best of luck! :-)

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Steph, I’d love to hear about any really good alternatives too! We (me & the folks at Social Media Examiner) did consider whether or not Feedburner should be on this list, due to the possibility of Google discontinuing it in the future … but I’ve not come across any strong alternatives, and many of the large blogs I know of are still using Feedburner. 

    Anyone got good suggestions?

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Nick, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! And I think the overall message you’ve taken from it is a great one — well-written content is the key foundation of blogging success, but promotion is also crucially important.

    I hope you have a wonderful blogging year. :-)

  • VitalyVolodchenko

    Thanks for post!!! I get some tips for me from it! Hope alot people do same)

  • http://www.lemongrassplanning.com/ Clovia Hamilton

    Excellent comprehensive post! I love social media examiner’s advice!

  • http://www.submitinme.com/seo-packages/ Geno Thampi

     This is a comprehensive post, but I would like to add to the list, the practice of implementing authorship to all your blog posts. Author rank is gonna be the next big think and attributing all the content is indispensable

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  • http://www.tesswittler.com Tess Wittler

    I tried to set up Feedburner to send out emails this summer and learned that Google does not support this option anymore. I thought about using Feedblitz (which is a paid service). Do you have any other suggestions?

  • http://www.prasanthonline.com/ Prasanth V

    Nice Post..really helped me to know more about the blogging..I am having a blog but didn’t know how to monetize … I am glad that this post would really help me out to make some changes to my blog and come out with new ideas.. Would you mind answering my queries..
    I just want to ask you about…What themes are you using …?Is there any Good looking Free Themes that can be used for blogging ?Is there any Free alternative for comment Luv plugin..?Is PLR Articles worth posting in our blogs ..?

  • John McGrann

    Great stuff Ali and shared on our Facebook page – Drive Social Media.

  • Minaxi

    This is really great Ali and made me realise the potential a blog can go so thank you!

  • http://zapdesigns.co.uk/ Zap

    Great post, very detailed and I also like the further reading articles too. I liked it that much I have shared this on our weekly 10 of the best articles this week. Thanks again, Steven

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    That’s a fantastic addition, Geno — thanks! I often recommend that people get a G+ profile simply to implement authorship on their content — as you say, it looks set to be the next big thing. :-)

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Prasanth, glad this post helped! And to answer your questions:

    1. On my own blog, I use a modified version of Thesis from DIY Themes. The SEO Training blog (see my bio) uses a custom-built theme.

    2. If you’re using WordPress, there are lots of free themes available — some look better than others! You can view them under Appearance –> Themes, you can easily select one.

    3. The basic CommentLuv plugin is free, it’s only the premium version that costs money.

    4. Google’s cracked down on duplicate content, so I’d advise avoiding PLR articles — much better to write your own unique content.

    Best of luck with your blogging. :-)

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks for sharing, John! :-)

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Hmm… you could use MailChimp, which will send the contents of an RSS feed by email. As far as I know, this is available on their free plan.

    Anyone else got suggestions? (I’ve not had any problems with Feedburner’s email service myself, so have never needed to seek out an alternative!)

  • http://www.teechworld.com/ Shivkumar

    Thanks Luke, your collection is really useful for a beginner
    Thanks for sharing..

  • AnnMullen

    If you left something out in this article, I can’t find it. I liked the way of using quotes from wise people as a good intro to a post. Some of the other things you covered, I can’t use since we aren’t using WordPress any more. Hubspot has a lot to say for it, but they are behind in the blog post business. Thanks again, Ali, for a great post.

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  • http://mypixieblog.com/ Charlotte

    AMAZING and incredibly useful. There are a lot of tips here that I’d really like to implement/follow in the new year for my own blog. I have theme/content down, but I really need to work on familiarizing myself with some of the plug-ins and fun stuff you mention here (I’ve heard a few people mention Jetpack to me; really need to give that one a try). Thanks! 

  • warsenis

    Thank you for this excellent article.

    I noticed you seem to favor wordpress over blogger. Any particular reason?

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  • http://www.howtomakemyblog.com/ Marko Saric

    Good overview for beginner bloggers and even more advanced bloggers. If you follow all these tips, your blog will be pretty powerful and ready for you to start creating great content and attracting visitors.

  • Flamingobrill

    Terrific list Ali and will be a great step by step outline for me to learn the ropes.  carol

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks Steven, really appreciate you sharing the post. :-)

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks Ann, I tried to make this as comprehensive as possible — and I’m glad that picked up some useful tips from it, even though you’re not using WordPress. :-)

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thank you! I hope you have a wonderful 2013 with your blog — it sounds like you’ve got a really solid base to build on. :-)

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Several! WordPress is a lot more feature-rich, it’s used by almost all major blogs, and it’s the platform most widely recommended by experts. 

    I used Blogger when I was starting out, and still have a soft spot for it, but I feel it’s more suited to hobbyist / personal bloggers than people who are using blogging as part of their business. (Of course, there’s nothing at all wrong with having a blog that’s a hobby or a personal outlet — so if that applies to you, by all means go with Blogger if you prefer it.)

  • willowvalleygurl22

    thank you so much for posting this article!  I love Social Media Examiner.  I recommend you to others often and I appreciate the time/energy you put into giving me great information.  

  • willowvalleygurl22

    I did make a Gravatar…why didn’t it show up in my post? 

  • http://blog.tianakai.com/ Tiana Kai

    So many great points! I have been thinking about conducting a survey before switching to a new blog and slightly changing my topic… or basically adding on to what I currently write about, but include more day-to-day struggles and enjoyments between different cultures. It’s a topic that fascinates me and I have noticed that people love to share their own experiences quite freely, so I think it would be a lot of fun and very interesting to me and my readers. I have also wanted to start doing videos, but need to focus on what it would specifically be about (out of my few ideas) before I jump on it. Thanks again for another really great post! It’s nice to pull out REAL pointers!

  • http://roarmkting.com Ryan Rosado

    Great takeaway for me was the reminder to establish relationships with other bloggers via leaving comments. It’s easy to forget it’s important to do that when you get caught up with your own blog. Wonderful tips, thanks :) !

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    You might want to double-check that you’re using the same email address when you post comments that you used when you signed up for Gravatar. (If you’re logging in via Disqus, for instance, your Gravatar email address will need to match your Disqus one.)

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks so much, really glad you enjoyed it! I think a survey is always a good idea if you’re considering a slight shift in direction — it can help clarify that you’re on the right path, and may throw up a few new ideas too. Best of luck with the blogging — and with the videos if you do start down that route. :-)

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks Ryan! Enjoy your commenting… :-)

  • donnaamos

    This is a great list.  I will implement #5 immediately.  I am always surprised when something so simply that can make an impact gets overlooked.  Thanks heaps

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  • Annabelle Drumm

    Mailchimp works for me. You can feed out daily or weekly and ask people to nominate what types of info they want fed to them (ie – put them in sub-groups). Free for the first 2000 subscribers. Excellent article Ali!

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  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks Donna! Often the simple tips are the best… :-)

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks, Annabelle! Good to hear that MailChimp works well for this — I didn’t realise you could do sub-groups too. :-)

  • http://jackidilleycoaching.com/ Jacki Dilley

    Wow! What a great resource. The ideas for SEO and building relationships were especially helpful for me.

    I really like the way you also linked to other helpful articles in each tip.

    I’ll be bookmarking this post and referring back to it.

  • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

    Excellent list! And you’re spot on with #2. I think so many people (myself included) have at times just ignored other blogs in our niche or that are direct “competitors”. When the reality is we each appeal to different people and there is no reason you shouldn’t comment on their blogs and even share them. Good stuff.

  • Caroline

    All the most helpful hints and tricks I could possibly need – now just need to implement them myself!  Wish me luck!

  • http://blog.tianakai.com/ Tiana Kai

    Thank you Ali!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/shannonjhernandez1 Shannon Hernandez

    Gret post! I was just telling someone about most of these tips you have shared!  I don’t think people realize that having a website and blog is far more involved that what they “think” it is.  :)

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  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks Jacki, really glad you found the extra links helpful.

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks Scott! One of the things I love about the blogosphere is that it can be a very collaborative space — lots of win/win rather than direct competition. Glad that point came across well. :-)

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Good luck, Caroline!

  • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

    Thanks for spreading the word. :-)

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  • http://spatrail.blogspot.com/ Kathy Gabriel

    Great ideas … I’m  new to blogging and juggling two blogs.  Still in the Blogging 101 stage, learning as I go !
    A whole new education path for me!  Looking forward to more good and useful information l

  • http://www.rightmixmarketing.com Tom Treanor

    Ali – great post. I really like #21, unique content, and the way Reid Hoffman describes it. Having something no other blog does is the best way to really grow your blog. Thank you for including a link to my Who’s Who post as well for #2! Keep up the great work!

  • sheefusera

    I liked #19. Blogging is a great way to give vent to your suppressed feelings and connect to the world, especially with the people of similar interests. Though, I don’t mind a little bit of SEO and adding a relevant link here and there for the crawlers. Happy Blogging!

  • http://www.blurbpoint.com/forum-link-building.php Sanket Patel

    Slideshare is a world’s largest community from where you can share and upload the slides. Slideshare is very good community that you can get your slides on the web. It is a very big opportunity that your ideas will be cover up wide audience. I am glad that I am a part of it.

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  • http://www.wisestep.com/ WiseStep

    You caught my attention again, and I’m looking forward watching this since I’m going to add a blog to my store. I already decided not to chose one of the free web blogs sites.

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  • Razan M.

    Great article Ali, I ma starting my new blog today and this is very helpful.

  • Malcolm Peters

    Great, just found this on the net and it really going to help me.. Thank you from the UK. Malcolm

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  • http://twitter.com/AmaranthBee AmaranthBee

    Hi Ali. Thanks for sharing this useful information.

  • donald cash

    Great ideas … I’m new to blogging and juggling two blogs. Still in the Blogging 101 stage, learning as I go !

  • ritik

    There is a world beyond friends and it’s very big. Much bigger than anyone can imagine. Each person on this planet is unique and each one has something going on in his/her upper story. The brain is a very powerful machine thus if you share the stuff from your upper story then the world can become a much better place.

  • http://YourPinkFriend.com dalekathryn

    Lots of great content… thank you! Relationships are the one key area for me. I have been meeting some really fabulous people that I would not have met if not for blogging. I find it interesting to see the growth of some of the bloggers I follow. Styles and personalities really develop over time!

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  • Matthew Bamberg

    Very helpful tips. Thank you.

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  • Jay Wren

    Great job, Ali! I am going back and rewriting my blog posts. I am adding numbers, questions, and humility! Jay Wren

  • Denzil D D Craddock

    Thanks for these essentials. I’m still to wrap my head around SEO, but, it’s all a learning cycle.

  • http://www.quittingthe9to5.blogspot.co.uk/ Nova Woodrow

    Thanks for this! I will be looking at implementing as many of these as possible – I’m not the most techie person…soon to become one though after reading this! Thanks again!

  • Brandon Grimes

    this definitely helped me out a lot!

  • http://www.it-sales-leads.com/ Barbara Mckinney

    An interesting aspect of blog comments is the fact that people who leave comments on your blog can also leave links to other blogs or websites or their own blogs to further the conversation.

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  • Marius Sam

    All your advices are justified. And I`m trying to respect each of these tips. These guarantees the way to online success. Thank you.

  • David

    Great article Ali and well laid out. Lots of useful info.
    I never realised how much time it took to write these articles until I started blogging.

  • http://lifeofaveragemind.com/ Averagemindlife

    some great points- I appreciate the advice, and will be implementing this on a blog I just started/moved from a different domain.

  • MIke Martinez

    Great post. I especially liked the building and cultivating relationships. A lot of bloggers forget it’s all about relationships. I also liked the Youtube section. I like to use videos on all my post. Thanks for sharing good information.

  • vinma

    Great information! I am getting close to my one year blogging anniversary next month and on looking back, I realize I have learned a lot about blogging. And I keep learning each day. Great list! Thanks for putting it together :)

  • vinma

    Great information! I am getting close to my one year blogging anniversary next month and on looking back, I realize I have learned a lot about blogging. And I keep learning each day. Great list! Thanks for putting it together :)

  • http://www.empowernetwork.com/paul-and-maddy Maddison

    you had lots of helpful hints but i want to if you can blog as many times as you want or is there a limit?

  • http://www.empowernetwork.com/paul-and-maddy Maddison

    you had lots of helpful hints but i want to if you can blog as many times as you want or is there a limit?

  • Tovah

    Not sure I really know what a gravatar is. lol. Love all the great advice, though.

  • alexandria scott

    Your blog states so many relevant tips and insights that we need to know regarding social media and blog posting. You have given us ample information on how we can be able to utilize social media for blogging. There’s a lot of things that needs to be considered and you tackled enough information that is very useful and timely.

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  • @carol_pokerart

    I’m always writing something…. content on my site, press releases, media kits, newsletters, slideshows and now, finally, my first business blog. I always find content but I did need to know more of ‘the rules of the game’ so Thank You Ali for putting it out there so straightforward and concise in each essential. I will refer to this for my first few blogs at least. I’m not as young as most of you so I’m also only now tweeting… slow and steady wins the race as they say ;) .

  • http://www.chlorinesupplier.com/ Chlorine Supplier

    Interesting blog. It would be great if you’re able to provide additional information regarding it. Thanks lots!

  • kamal

    Great Post

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  • http://www.njmarketingnerd.com/ Marilyn Moran

    Great tips for sure. Also – install an SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO for WordPress, All in One SEO Pack or Squirrly SEO.

  • Jessica Cushing

    This is a wonderful post. I have been browsing the Internet for tips like these and this is one of the best articles I’ve found! :)

  • Kristen Hill

    Thanks for the great advice !

  • http://www.heartspoken.com/ Elizabeth H. Cottrell

    Ali, somehow I’m just finding this terrific article. Thank you for such a comprehensive batch of information for bloggers.

    I have a question: Sometimes bloggers have a note at the bottom of each post that a reader may re-post their article as long as they use certain credit/bio information with it. Is this a practice you recommend or does it have some pitfalls? Thanks.

  • Felix Brown

    A great share!! These tips are like the word of wisdom for the people who are new in the arena of blogging. Standing out in the vast population of the blogs is indeed needed.

  • http://upconnect.bloombiz.com khaliqsharif

    Ali Luke:You are really a source for inspiration.Sharing this post will be fantastic.#5 om my own blog

  • Maniruddin Mansuri

    many many thanks… really grate to you..

  • Pravin S

    Nice article.. I learnt something new today.. I am new here.. I have just Akismet, Gravatar and Jetpack on my wordpress.. The mentioned plugins are applicable only to WordPress Blogs or these can be linked or installed in other blogs too? I am planning to leave wordpress.. because its too hard for me to understand.. And I have another question.. Blog posts are considered as Individual pages with non-wordpress web hosting providers? I am pretty confused.. Someone kindly clarify my doubts :(

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