Welcome to The Blog Report

I'm so glad you stopped by and hope you find this blog an interesting read. I've been blogging since April of 2006, currently the author of six public and two private blogs. In the beginning I knew absolutely nothing about blogging. Over the years through trial and error, frustration and elation, and a few tears I've learned a lot. However, the learning process when it comes to blogging continues to evolve. Here you will find a hodge podge of my blogging experiences, useful codes and how-tos, sprinkled liberally with my opinions. Enjoy!

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Content is King

Just about all blogging resources agree that content is king. Technically everything on your blog is content but all content is not the same. For example a blog comprised of YouTube video posts will not gain the page ranking that a blog comprised of YouTube video posts with a commentary. That is because the YouTube videos are viewed by Google as duplicate content while adding the commentary is seen as original content. Many bloggers rely on using their own photographs on their blogs but the search engine bots don't see images so if you don't take advantage of the alt"" tag in the image description a post consisting of only a picture or two will not be viewed as original content.

Even though content is king you still need to choose keywords and use them appropriately in context with what your article is about. Whatever you do, do not keyword pad a post as that will get you quickly de-indexed from search engines. Another huge no no is to blog about what you don't know. This is most obvious in the thinly veiled paid per post (more on that to come) posts on some blogs. It is immediately apparent they haven't even used the product but somehow they have to work the paid link in hoping they will earn a little money off the post. Well they might end up getting a bit of money if they are lucky EXCEPT Google hates paid posts so will penalize you and you don't want to be penalized by Google! They are the largest search engine so if they stop sending you traffic or blacklist you any revenue from paid per post or revenue based of traffic is going to dry up.

The main things I quickly learned about content are:

  • content does matter
  • duplicate content should be avoided at all costs
  • content needs to be regularly updated
  • some content becomes anchor content

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Header

The header for your blog is the most important feature of your blog. It really is the welcoming mat. If it is not designed to be welcoming it will turn readers off of your blog. It seriously irritates me to no end to visit a very nicely presented blog, well designed with nice colours yet the header is off. The header is either too large or too small and it is off centre throwing the design of the entire blog off.

I like the Rounders template in Blogger and used it as the basis for 5 of my blogs. This blog uses the Minima template. To find the sizes of the outer wrapper where the header goes, go to "edit HTML" and scroll down to:

#outer-wrapper {
margin:0 auto;
font: $bodyFont;

In Rounders the width of the header is 740 pixels. If you want to keep the same size then the header image you create should not exceed 740 pixels in width. I like using an image 700px x 300px for my headers on the blogs using the Rounders template.

If you decide you want to change the width of the outer wrapper you can quite easily by increasing or decreasing the width pixels. Before you do this, back-up your template! Always back-up your template before making any changes to it. You can also change the widths of the main body (posts) and side bar. I recommend you write down the original widths so if you want to revert to the original you can easily do so. Change the width then click preview to see how you like the new width. If you like it then go ahead and save the template. You have now created a customized look simply by changing the widths.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Be a Squeaky Wheel

I'm sure most people have heard the adage that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. What this really means is the more noise you make the more attention you get. This is so very true when it comes to blogging. You really need to make the noise to get your blog noticed. Essentially you need to drive traffic to your blog using good blog promotion techniques. Here are some of the ways I have found that work for me:

  • ping services - Use an online ping service to send a ping to search engines each time you make a new blog post. This keeps your blog in their face, saying here I am and I have new content, come index me.
  • comments - Interact with your readers through comments. Encourage comments on your blog and respond. Visit other blogs and leave quality comments relating to their post.
  • social networking - Engage in social networking (eg. Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon). Add content to the community, interact with other bloggers and promote your blog(s). Be careful to not make the interaction all about you.
  • branding - Establish a brand for your blog before your blog goes live. Each time someone sees your brand they will know it is you so don't mess with brand design after you present it. Each of my blogs has a unique look and feel to match their niche. Each is a reflection of me which is very important when blogging. Each has a custom made header, 480 x 60 banner and 125 x 125 badge. These all become sub-brands of my main brand of Garden Gnome. Every forum, group, advertising site and social networking site I participate in I am known as the Garden Gnome or GG for short. I use the same avatar on all of these sites as well so that has become my brand.
  • signature tag - Most forums and groups will allow a 3 or 4 line signature tag. Take advantage of this by adding your name or nym and a link to your blog(s). Add a signature tag that includes your blog(s) link to your email correspondence. Omit the signature tag only if it would be inappropriate to include.
  • advertise - Use your banner, badge and text link to advertise. I recommend CMFads, Adgitze, Project Wonderful and Blog Explosion. I don't recommend Entrecard, Spottt or 125 Banner exchange because they force you to place their widget on your blog. Entrecard is surrounded by horrendous controversy surrounding their service and the fact they are now taking 15% of the advertising time to run ads you can't control. It's also a huge time waster that increases your bounce rate something Google does not like. I also do not recommend Spottt and 125 Banner Exchange because you have no control over what ads run on your blog and especially with Spottt some of those ads are borderline pornography. Some sites sell private advertising as well. Even with advertising always choose a method that keeps you in control of the content being displayed on your blog and where your advertising is displayed.
  • link exchange - Once your blog gets a bit of recognition you will get requests for a link exchange. This is one area where you do need to be careful because by adding that link you are saying you approve of what's on their blog or site. If something inappropriate appears on that blog or site you could be penalized by losing readers and/or page rank. Don't feel obligated to exchange links.
  • niche communities - A niche community goes beyond a forum or group. There are other activities such at rating other blogs, promoting your blog, friending other members, choosing favourites and some host real life events and get togethers.
  • directories - As soon as your blog goes live start promoting it through directory submissions. Use a manual process where you can control what directories your blog(s) is submitted to. Avoid services that will submit to multiple directories where you don't have any control.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blogging is Hard Work

I read somewhere on line that most blogs fail in the first three months. The reason they fail is because the blogger realizes that blogging is not always fun. In reality blogging is hard work! There is more to blogging then writing posts. You can be an excellent writer but if your blog doesn't have good design it will not be as interesting to readers. The wrong combination of colours can affect whether or not a reader stays to read your blog. A popular trend for awhile was a black background with neon coloured font that seriously hurt the eyes when reading. I see that is becoming less popular. If your blog uses any graphics or pictures there is photo editing or creating images or finding appropriate clip art to use. Just the amount of time spent creating graphics and to stand out from the rest you really need to create your own can take a considerable amount of time. Photo editing can also take a considerable amount of time but photos should be as clear and close to perfect as they can be because they tell more than you can write.

Regular writing is a must! This is a bit more difficult than it appears. Some days I can sit down and write several blog posts while other days I can think of nothing to write. To compensate for this I take advantage of scheduled posts and special day posts like Wordless Wednesday. The first of the month I can create all of my Wordless Wednesday posts and schedule them to post each Wednesday. When I hit a day where I really feel like writing a lot even if it is for one blog only, I write several posts then schedule them to run. That way if I don't feel like writing one day, a blog post is still posted. So scheduling really takes a lot of pressure off. Regular writing is crucial for creating content and content is king but content isn't good enough if no one is reading. That means a blogger must pay attention to SEO (search engine optimization), do so form of blog advertising and spend a considerable amount of time submitting their blog to directories/search engines, sending pings, creating backlinks as well as interacting with other bloggers. It is becoming more important for bloggers to become active in social networking. In short creating a successful blog is hard work!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Comment Issue

One of the first problems I discovered with blogging was the comment issue. Essentially the comment issue is two fold. First the concern is whether or not to allow comments. Blogging is not just about writing an article and posting it. Blogging is very much about communication so interaction with your blog readers becomes very important. Quite often a reader's comment can lead to further post topics and it's a way to expand the topic being commented on. Not allowing comments is, in my opinion, a sure fire way to discourage readers from visiting your blog. So my recommendation is to always allow comments on your blog. However, always allowing comments on your blog can have it's problems as well. Some readers like to leave nasty comments usually sprinkled with profanity just because they can I guess. I have had no problems with nasty comments but some bloggers writing about more controversial topics often do. Always allowing comments on your blog will at some point result in comment spam. Comment spam can be as complicated as a 15 page cut and paste religious article that has nothing to do with your blog or your article but in most cases it is a cheap attempt at promoting the commenter's blog or website. The best way to deal with nasty comments and comment spam is to always use comment moderation. With this option checked you can control what comments appear on your blog by simply rejecting any comment that doesn't meet your requirements. In this way you keep the communication door open to readers interested in your content while shutting the door to those who insist on being nasty or spamming.

With comment moderation there comes a certain amount of responsibility. Rejecting a comment just because the reader presents a different opinion or corrects an error he or she found in your post will in the long run end up costing you readers. So unless the comment is nasty, a personal attack, full of profanity or is spam I allow the comment to be posted. Creating a bit of controversy in the comments can be an excellent traffic building strategy and way to increase your readership. Allowing comments is useless if you do not respond back to the comment. That's the whole point and some of the resulting conversations through the comments can be quite good. If at anytime during the comment exchanges if it looks like things are turning nasty don't respond back in a manner that will cause this to escalate but rather let the conversation die. It's important too that you don't take comments too personally. If you have decided to reject a comment, reject it and move on.

Comments are extremely important to your blog. When used properly they will gain you readership and increase your traffic. As a blogger you are ultimately responsible for the content on your blog and that includes comments. So have fun with comments but keep control of all comments posted.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


When I first started blogging it really was flying by the seat of my pants. So it wasn't long before I made the same mistake many new bloggers make. That mistake is over using widgets. Widgets are small pieces of script that give 3rd party functionality to your blog. Some widgets are extremely useful in that they allow you to display ads where you can earn a little money. Some widgets are designed to add content such as 'the animal of the day' or 'the quote of the day' to your blog. There are a few problems with widgets so use them judiciously. In Blogger simply copy the widget code and add it to your template layout by clicking 'add a gadget' then choose 'HTML' and paste the code in and save.

Widgets can make your blog quite interesting and many are quite useful, however:

  • too many widgets can slow your blog loading time
  • some widgets can cause a coding conflict causing your blog to have loading issues
  • you have no control over what is shown on some widgets
  • if the widget site goes down there is usually a large chunk on your blog that is bland or sometimes it will say 'service unavailable' something that is not very attractive
  • widgets need to be checked from time to time to ensure the code is up to date and working properly
  • some widgets are cute when you first see them but end up being very annoying to your regular readers

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Choosing a Template

Once I had my topic and blog host chose I was amazed at how quick and easy it was to get a blog up an running. Most blog hosts have one or more styles of templates. A template is the overall design the final blog will look like. Blogger has several basic templates so finding one I liked wasn't difficult. I settled on 'Rounders' created by Douglas Bowman for the first blog because I liked the rounded corners on the sections and it was available in green tones that would go well with my first niche - gardening.

Choosing a template for the blog was very simple as the available templates were listed during the initial set-up. Changing the template later is rather easy as well. Just go to Layout > Pick New Template. Now your template is what makes your blog. So before making any changes to your template, back it up! That is the number one rule for blogging. Back-up everything!

This blog is using 'Minima' created by Douglas Bowman. This is one of the easiest templates to customize later but with blogger essentially all of the templates can be customized which will be the topic of discussion in another post.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What's in a Name?

This is my sixth active blog and like the other active blogs coming up with a blog title can be a challenge.  Since four of my blogs are niche blogs coming up with a name for them had to reflect the content.  The personal blog was harder to name.  I finally settled on My Journey to signify my journey through life and sharing what is important to me.  This blog's name came to me in a dream about all things blogging.

Now I should point out that while I currently have six active blogs all updated on a very regular basis they were not all created at the same time.  My gardening blog went live on 25 Apr 2006.  Impressed with the ease of setting up this blog I created my cooking blog that went live on 29 Apr 2006.  These were the two blogs I basically cut my blogging teeth on.  My personal blog went live on 19 Sep 2006; the homemaking blog on 12 Oct 2006; the Canadian blog on 4 Dec 2008 and this blog on 17 Oct 2009.  So I actually had a fair amount of time to gnash around ideas for titles.  I did a fair amount of blog hopping to get a feel for what others were doing as far as naming their blogs.

What I quickly realized is I was attracted to those blogs that had interesting names but not 'way out there' names and I definitely liked something more interesting than 'Dave's Blog'.  I also noticed that some had names that were borderline offensive something that definitely would not fit my style.  Some titles are meant to convey the contents while other to purposely stir controversy.  The titles for my blogs reflect me  and they came about with a good deal of thought.

What I learned about blog titles:

  • your blog title is the first thing your readers see so make it something interesting to catch their attention and make them want to read more
  • a blog title can make or break your blog
  • the title should reflect something about you the author as well as your blog
  • offensive blog titles will spell the demise of your blog

Monday, October 19, 2009

Choosing a Blog Host

I set up my first blog I used the now defunct Yahoo 360. When I decided to get a bit more serious about blogging I started looking at some of the blog host options.  At that time I looked at Blogger, Typepad and WordPress.  I decided to use Blogger because I liked the easy tweaking features.  Blogger allows you to tweak the HTML as well so I thought that would be a nice feature for later customization.  I started off using a free Blogger blog template that made getting each blog up and running quick and painless.  You can also use the Blogger format if your blog is hosted on your own domain.  Blogger is a free service that gives you the option at anytime to migrate over to your own domain.

There are a couple of considerations when choosing a blog host.  The first recommendation is to have your blog hosted on your own domain.  This is supposed to be better for Google's Page Rank (PR).  Page Rank refers to search results or how often your blog appears in search results.  The closer to the first few links your blog is when someone searches the better.  The second consideration is how easy the blogging platform is to use.  If the platform will not allow you to tweak the HTML or use certain widgets then it restricts your creativity as a blogger.  If you can't customized your blog template then readers get a bit bored as well seeing the same templates over and over.

What I learned about blog hosts:

  • the blog host must work for you and your blogging needs
  • the ability to tweak HTML is a huge plus
  • the easier it is to add content to your blog the better
  • your own domain may or may not give you higher ranking but it will cost you money

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Niche Blogging

Blogging has become a very popular online activity.  There are many reason for blogging.  I like blogging as a way of sharing information.  For that reason four of my five blogs are niche blogs with each having a specific topic of interest to me.  My personal blog is not really a niche blog because anything that strikes my interest at that time is fair game.  Once I decided on the topics creating the blogs was easier because they were focused.  The niche keeps them on topic as well making them easier to write.  More importantly the niche helped to focus the design of each blog.

Niche blogging simply means narrowing in on one topic which forms the basis of the blog.  For example my cooking blog Mom's Cafe Home Cooking focuses on cooking and food related topics so the niche for this blog is food.  It's important when creating a niche blog to not make the topic so restrictive as to run out of new blog material.  The food niche is much easier to come up with things to blog about than it would be if the niche was restricted to a narrower niche such as salads.  Now that is not to say that a narrower niche blog can't be successful and in fact many are.  However, the author has to do a bit more work for their blog fodder.  It is also a bit chancy to base an entire blog topic on something like an online service or business that could easily fold leaving you with nothing to blog about.

Benefits of niche blogging:

  • focuses the blog 
  • determines the design of the blog 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Welcome to the Blog Report

Welcome to "the Blog report"

Way back in early 2006 I ventured into the wonderful world of blogging. I actually started out using Yahoo 360 but quickly wanted a format that I could tweak and customize as my own. Armed with a bit of HTML knowledge and a couple of topics I launched my first two blogs, Mom's Cafe Home Cooking and Garden Gnome Wanderings. That summer I launched my personal blog My Journey followed by my homemaking blog by request, Garden Gnome at Home. My youngest blog Canadian Perspective was launched near the end of 2008.

Over the years I've learned a bit about blogging as to what works and what doesn't. I've made some mistakes and yet for the most part blogging has remained a very enjoyable activity. This blog will reflect what I've learned but will differ significantly from my other blogs where each post has one or more images. I'm not even sure I will tinker with the background yet. I will add a customized header but right now I think a plain layout will be best.

So welcome and I hope you enjoy reading this blog.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Privacy Policy

The Blog Report


Welcome to The Blog Report (the "Site").

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This statement governs our privacy policies with respect to those users of the Site ("Visitors") who visit without
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Disclosure of Personally Identifiable Information to comply with law. We will disclose Personally Identifiable Information in order to comply with a court order or subpoena or a request from a law enforcement agency to release information. We will also disclose Personally Identifiable Information when reasonably necessary to protect the safety of our Visitors and Authorized Customers.

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