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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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Images and Site Loading Speed

There have been recent rumours throughout the blogosphere that Google might start taking site loading speed into consideration for page rank. If your blog is graphic intensive as five of my blogs are this is a bit of a concern. However, it is site loading speed is of concern to your readers. The reality is the longer your blog takes to load the quicker that reader may click to go somewhere else. Those with high speed internet services forget that a vast majority of those online still are on dial-up so images at the very least need to be optimized in size for the fastes loading times at 56K while keeping the highest degree of quality for the image. In addition to loading times most blog hosts and free photo hosting services set a cap on the amount of space you can use before you have to start paying. Shaving a bit off the size of each image uploaded will mean you can upload more before reaching this point.

You have a few choices as far as file types for images depending on your blog host: jpg, gif, bmp, png. There is a great article on the differences between jpeg, gif and png that explains when to use each format. In general use jpg/jpeg for photographs and gif for those images with few colours. The formats I use the most are jpg which are bigger files than gif but have a higher degree of detail and gifs for cartoon type and animation images.

Jpg compress is lossy in that some detail is lost when you save. This means you can use jpeg to your advantage for images that will be shown on the web and not meant for printing. When saving a file as a jpeg in Photoshop® a window will come up to name the file. Hit save then another window will open jpeg options. Here you can set the image and format options while seeing how they affect the file size. Be sure to have Preview checked so you can see what the file will look like. In general set quality to medium or high or somewhere in between. Don't use maximum as the file will be too large. Click baseline optimized under format options to shave off a few more seconds of load time. Once you are satisfied with the results click ok. Even if you only shave 10 seconds load time per image using this method overall it will make a difference on your blog load time. For example if I save an image in jpeg at setting 8, baseline optimized it will take 18.495 seconds to load at 56.6 bps but if I save at setting 6, baseline optimized it takes 15.81 seconds at 56.6 bps shaving off almost 3 seconds in load time yet there is no noticable difference in quality. At 3 images per post that would shave off 9 seconds load time per post so overall this starts having an effect on the entire load time for the blog.

If you use custom made images for your backgrounds and headers be sure to use this method as these tend to be larger files by default. Adjusting the quality level and baseline will shave seconds off of loading yet you won't notice it. I was able to shave 12 seconds load time off my background and 3 off my header on one blog so have gone ahead to adjust all of my blogs for their next update. I plan to optimize any custom images such as titles and other sidebar components as well. In most cases those on high speed likely won't notice much of a difference in load time but those without high speed will notice faster loading times across these 5 blogs.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Blog Traffic

As a blogger one of my main concerns is getting traffic for my blogs. This is not as easy as it sounds and over the years I have come to realize there are two types of traffic, generated traffic and natural traffic. Of the two natural traffic is more valuable because the reader found your blog through a keyword search using a search engine or they found you through your social networking presence. That tells you four things.

  1. The reader is already interested in your content if they arrived on your blog through a search engine. That means they will more than likely stay on your blog longer and if they like what they see will bookmark your blog to visit again or may even subscribe to your blog.
  2. Any reader that arrives at your blog through a keyword search means your keywords are doing what they were meant to do. I like to go through my stats and check the keywords that are bringing me visitors. It is surprising some of the variations used so I try to use these variations to attract more readers.
  3. Any search engine traffic means you have caught the attention of that search engine. They have indexed your blog so all you really need to do is keep writing good content and ping after each new post. I manually submit my blogs to search engines as well to help get them indexed.
  4. Any traffic generated through social networking (eg. Facebook, Twitter, Digg, groups, forums, word of mouth) are likely there because they are interested in you, how you interact and what you write. You already have their attention so all you have to do is keep them happy.
Traffic can also be generated through blog advertising, exchanging links or banners with another blogger, participating in traffic generating sites, listings in directories or participating in a blogroll. These are very much dependent on the design of your blog ad if graphic and blog name if link only. This type of traffic presents
  1. The reader is coming to your blog through a cold click so you only have seconds to grab their attention. If you don't you stand the chance to loose a potential reader. That means your site needs to load fast with no auto-play music or videos and perhaps taking the approach of fewer widgets.
  2. A poorly designed ad usually 125 x 125 pixels or a banner usually 480 x 60 pixels can do more damage than good with the worst being a possible reader not clicking on the ad or banner because they find it distastful or unappealing or too ambigious. It's surprising how much information you can pack into these small spaces so be sure to use that to your advantage
  3. Cold clicks especially those coming from blog advertising sytems encouraging clicks only tend to increase your bounce rate. A high bounce rate will affect your page rank (PR).


Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Couple of Comment Backlink Problems

I recently posted on creating backlinks and the problem of exchanging links. In short the biggest problem with agreeing to exchange links is the other blogger reneging on their obligation. I recently had this happen to me by someone on Twitter who asked several times to exchange links. As soon as I did, he removed the backlink to my blog. When questioned about this he gave a flim flam excuse that he forgot to add the link back during an update. Funny thing is I noticed he forgot to add back the links to others he likely made the same deal with. Why does this matter? Essentially the blogger who does this is feeding off of you giving you nothing in return other than a lowered PR. Rather than argue with this blogger, I simply removed the link to his blog and because I have a long memory any comment this blogger leaves in future will have all links stripped if not just rejected.

There are other problems with backlinks though. If the backlink is through a comment, two things can happen. First if comment spam is suspected then the author may strip the backlink and rightly so. Second any blog you comment on can be set to no follow meaning the search engines won't follow the backlink. The best policy when using comments for backlinks is to leave a good quality comment, one that indicates you have actually read the post you are commenting on. Another thing I have noticed when leaving comments is some bloggers do not allow you to leave a direct backlink to your blog if on Blogger but rather the link goes to your Blogger profile instead. Now aside of you not getting a backlink the blogger is actually hurting themselves by creating a hole in their PR bucket that can't give anything back. So this really is more of a problem for the blogger than the commenter but for the commenter trying to create backlinks, realize this method just doesn't work.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Merry Christmas 2009 snow globe ornament on The Blog Report
The Blog Report wishes each
and everyone a very Merry Christmas
and Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Few Things I've Discovered About Photos

I previously wrote about using photos on my blogs. With the exception of this blog, most posts on my other blogs have one or more photos included. Over the years I have learned a lot about using photos online so I thought I would share some of that with you in today's post. None of these tips are hard or fast rules but rather methods that have worked for me.

  • I always take multiple pictures of anything that I may want to include on my blogs. Quite often the picture looks fine on the camera viewer but may be slightly blurry or the flash created to much of a glare.
  • I like using some type of frame on pictures. These tend to range from a plain black or white 100 pixel stroke around the picture to a fancier frame depending on the picture subject and the blog. I also like using a 25 pixel bevel on some pictures.
  • I have found food pictures present their own set of problems. Things like patterned plates or table settings especially at restaurants tend to detract from the food itself so I often remove the background and replace it with a plain background to put the emphasis on the food. Salt tends to look like flakes of dandruff on the plate. Melted butter, gravy and some salad dressings play havoc with the flash giving odd glare points. Sour cream and yogurt are not very photogenic either.
  • Some pictures simply look better cropped which is a good way to remove elements of a picture that distract from the subject.
  • I take a lot of sunset pictures and have found they are more appealing with the sun slightly off centre almost at the quarter mark of the picture.
  • Photoshop® is my most used photo editing tool.
  • Unless you have permission to use the photograph of any recognizable person in the photo it cannot be published. There are several work-around methods for this problem. First you can get permission at the time you take the picture or you can blur their face or even with a bit of work remove them entirely from the picture. The last method can be quite useful when you want to use a great picture where someone got in the way. I even blurred the background crowd at one event to solve the permission problem keeping the focus on just the subject.
  • Pictures like any other element on your blog can draw negative comments. I've only experienced this a couple of times so for me it hasn't been a huge problem but it was a surprise. Who would know a picture of a perfectly grilled steak could result in a negative comment especially since my cooking blog has never been portrayed as a vegetarian blog. I simply shrugged it off and continued on.
  • I've found that the size and positioning of the picture does make a difference. I like the 640 x 480 pixels size then uploaded to Blogger on medium size. In general this gives a large enough picture to see the details but not too large as to cause slow uploading. What I am playing with in 2010 is optimizing for web in the hopes of increasing loading speed so I'll report back on how effective that is in the new year. I like the centre position for images on a couple of my blogs because the posts tend to have only one picture. However on the blogs where multiple pictures are used I like using the right, left, right placement that gives the post a bit of movement.
  • I like using multiple pictures (collage) in one picture especially if it something explaining steps in the method or 2 - 4 similar items. For example if I'm showing pictures of 4 pizzas rather than show 4 individual images of each one, I combine them into one image. This makes the write-up a bit easier and helps increase loading speed.
Garden Gnome
©2009


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Using Digital Images on Blogs

Most bloggers have some type of digital camera and many at some point and time will use their own images on their blog. Digital images are great because they can actually be an incentive to blog about that image. They really enhance blogs, giving them a more personal feel. Five of my blogs are digital image intensive with the majority of the posts having one or more digital images that I took myself. A beginning blogger will be tempted to share digital images just as they appear but that really is one of the worst things you can do. Without some type of photo editing your digital images may not be the right size or there may be digital artifacts that should be removed as well as other slights (hue, brightness, saturation, etc.) that need correcting. You also need to add a copyright to each and every digital image you upload to your blog.

You will need some type of photo editing software. I use Photoshop CS® but there are other photo editing software available including but not limited to Adobe Photoshop Elements®, Paintshop Pro®, GraphicConverter and several free photo editing software downloads. Realize that some photo editing software has more functions than others but even going with a free version you should with a bit of work be able to get some rather decent results. Once your software is installed you can easily edit your digital image. Some of the things you will want to edit on your digital image are:

  • photo adjustments - This includes brightness, hue and saturation. In some cases you may have an absolutely gorgeous picture of a certain building that you want to blog about. Everything is perfect but the sky looks washed out. With a bit of calculated adjustment you can make that sky look better for a more appealing result.
  • elimination - There are many reasons for eliminating something from a picture ranging from privacy issues if a person appears in the digital image and you want to use the picture but don't have their permission (very important if you don't want to be sued). Elimination methods include deleting or blurring the background, using a clone tool effectively to remove the offending portion of the digital image or cropping. One of my favourite methods with my food pictures is to remove the background and replace it with black because it accents the plates I'm using and puts the focus on the food where it belongs.
  • additions - When it comes to digital images there may be times you want to add something to them. For example one year every post I made to my cooking blog had a bow added to the image during the holiday season. This just gave a feastive feeling to the images.
  • sizing - Sizing becomes quite important online and surprisingly aesthetics is not the main concern. The concern is loading speed! There are rumours that Google is going to start taking blog load speed into consideration meaning if you have large digital images that take a long time to load your PR may suffer. I prefer the 640 x 480 pixel size digital image optimized uploaded to Blogger on the medium size. This is working well for me however, you will have to tinker to see what works best for you.
  • optimized for web - Optimizing a digital image takes away all those unnessary pixels not needed for your image to display properly online. This means it looks good on computer screens but not that good if you print it out. The plus side is optimization means your images load quicker because they are smaller.
  • copyright mark - Any digital image you upload to your blog should contain your copyright mark.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Blog, My Rules

The mantra for any blogger should be my blog, my rules. Your blog really has to be a reflection of you. If it isn't the blog is going to end up being short lived because you will lose interest in it. There are so many things that you as a blogger must consider. This includes but is not limited to blog design, content, copyright protection, tone, advertising, promotion, dealing with comments, page rank and SEO. All of these components must work in harmony under the matra my blog, my rules. If any one component is given too much emphasis you will not only hinder the other components you will hinder your own spirit thus hurting your effectiveness at blogging.

When I first started blogging my focus really was on blog design and content. So it was about getting the basics in order and I had a lot of fun doing that. I had no idea how to promote my blog so I just followed what I saw others doing by adding my blog to directories. I never submitted to any search engines but as some point Google discovered me. As I got a bit more interested as I saw my traffic increase I researched other ways to improve that traffic. It wasn't long before all of the aforementioned components became a concern with working on one or more per blog per day became part of my blogging routine. None of this would matter if I did not subscribe to the my blog, my rule mantra.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Recognizing Borderline Comment Spam

Sometimes it is difficult to recognize comment spam and part of the reason for this is there is a fine line between sincere comments and comments that appear to be sincere but there is some doubt as to whether they are or not. So these comments are considered borderline, possible comment spam. Remember always moderate any comment so you can catch any problems before they happen. If in doubt, reject the comment or strip the comment of any links.

I have a person that comments daily on one of my blogs. Now most of the comments left relate to the post being commented on and most show that they have actually read the post. However, some are rather generic comments and what I've noticed is this particular person stays on my blog an average of 0 seconds making these comments getting closer to the borderline, possible comment spam category. What I am going to be doing is leaving the good comments with link to the blogger's profile as is to encourage better comments but stripping the link to the profile/blog for comments such as the following as received via email notification of a comment left. This is a good example of borderline, possible comment spam:

[commenter's name/link] has left a new comment on your post [post name]:

great tips... I have got to work on this

[Publish link] this comment.

[Reject link] this comment.

[Moderate comments for this blog link].

Here are a couple of examples of blatant comment spam:

  • Thanks for that. See http://spammedblog.link for some more info...
In this case I checked out the spammed blog link that basically led to nothing of interest or even related to the topic. Note how there is no real indication the commenter had even read the post.

  • looks divine! come see my blog leave a comment spammedblog.link
The difference between the blatant comment spam and the borderline, possible comment spam is the actual commenter relationship to your blog. In the first case the commenter has been a regular commenter for quite some time and the link only leads to his blogger profile not even his blog. In the second and third case a generic the commenters left a link in their name as well as a link in the reply. In both of these cases the commenter was only concerned with a backlink to their blog/site with no regard to the actual post made. In the case of the borderline, possible comment spam the comment may or may not be sincere that when combined with the stats may be an indication that this commenter is migrating away from sincere comments towards comment spam. Removing the links in the borderline comments will discourage this by giving a subtle but effective indication I'm not going to tolerate comment spam without making a huge deal over the issue, without encouraging the trend towards comment spam and while still encouraging the non-spammish comments.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Replying to Comments

You have a few choices when you get a comment on your blog. Assuming you have comment moderation activated on your blog you either allow the comment to be posted or rejected. If rejected it goes off into no man's land so to be forgotten by you. So let's say you allow the comment to be posted then what? Any blogger who wants to build their readership will respond to that comment. Why? Someone who has read at least one post on your blog has taken the time to comment so that in itself deserves a response from you the blogger. That is the way that you establish rapport with your readers and start a dialogue something very important for a two way communication necessary in blogging. There are some rules that I use when responding to comments on my blogs:

  • I keep the tone of the comment the same tone as on the blogs. You simply can't write an well toned, friendly atmosphere blog encouraging communication then come back with a stiff, sarcastic reply.
  • If I ask a question as part of the post I expect to be able to answer it to the best of my ability.
  • If someone asks me a question via a comment I give the fullest answer possible which often includes additional information that may be of use to them.
  • If someone asks me a question that I don't know the answer to I reply that I don't know but will do some checking for them and post a second reply to their question so please check back.
  • If a comment is just almost borderline comment spam but I'm not sure so allowed the comment perhaps with the backlink removed I still respond in a positive manner. This allows the commenter to see their comment along with the response with the hopes it will establish some type of communication. In short this is giving the suspected comment spammer the benefit of a doubt. If they return with another comment that leads to a good dialogue both of you win as do the rest of your readers. If they don't return chances are your first suspicions were correct but at least you gave them the benefit of a doubt.
  • From time to time especially on an controversial topics you blog about you will get one or more commenters that disagree with what you are saying. Opposition and disagreement is normal and should be addressed in a calm manner in the same tone as your blog. However, both opposition and disagreement can at times lead to nasty and/or hostile comments or even your blog being bombarded with a multitude of such comments. Always remember you are the blogger, it is your blog, your rules! Do not allow opposition or disagreement lead to an online fight. Just don't do. Reject any post as soon as it crosses the line to become a personal attack or any post that becomes hostile. You may have to do this a few times but the commenter will move on rather quickly when they don't have an audience.
  • An odd one you may encounter after blogging for awhile is someone who displays a bit of stalkish behaviour. There's nothing threatening that sticks out about their posts although sometimes there may just a bit of a feeling regarding the wording. The most obvious sign of this is they will comment on each and every post. Unless the post is threatening, hostile or comment spam allow it to be posted remembering you can strip the backlink to their blog or profile if need be. Removing their backlink is a nice, subtle way of saying hey, I'm on to you so knock it off. If at anytime you feel threatened or feel the comments are hostile or in any other way negative, reject them and continue to reject all comments from that commenter from that point onwards. Eventually they will move on to an easier mark.
  • Finally at some point you will get a commenter asking for personal information. The rule of thumb here is reject the comment and move on. If you don't have the information out there they really don't need to know it.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Comment Control

Sometimes you will get a comment on your blog that is not definite comment spam but could be considered something that could lead to comment spam. If you recall my position on all comments is to always have comment moderation turned on so that you can catch any nasty or comment spam comments before they are posted. Yesterday I had a comment on one of my blogs that on the surface looked quite benign but something about it just kept saying this is a comment spam tester message. So after pondering the message for awhile I checked out the link attached to the poster's name. What I found was a new blog started the same day, no posts but a few ads so clearly under construction. Now in theory this could be just a new blogger starting out but that doesn't explain immediate advertising so it is rather indicative of a spam blog set up except the comment itself wasn't spam. Two things happen in this case. First if you approve the message with the link it provides a whole in your PR bucket. Second this could easily be a spammer just trying to get their name/link trusted before they start a spamming run. There were two ways to deal with this situation. I could have just approved the message, left the link and know that even if the commenter planned on spamming later it would not affect me because of comment moderation. The problem with this method is the commenter is not discouraged so will go onto to comment spam on other blogs. The method I chose to use was strip the comment of all html then allow it to be posted. In this way the comment is legitimate was posted without any backlink but at the same time if it was the start of comment spam it would discourage any further spamming because of the lack of backlinks. This tactic gives the commenter the benefit of a doubt while discouraging comment spamming. This also allows you time to decide whether or not this commenter is going to be a problem commenter based of further comments. Until you are sure, strip the html for any backlinks in the comment.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Copyright Infringement

This morning I checked my stats for all my blogs as I normally do. I noticed an url I had never seen before for my cooking blogs so as with all urls pointing to another blog or forum I checked it out. Despite a very clearly lined out copyright policy on all my blogs someone in this forum had copied and pasted a picture from my cooking blog to the forum. I had no choice to to act. The reason being if you let one copyright infringement such as this slip through the problem will escalate. Had the person contacted me and asked for permission to use my content that would have been a whole different story. Instead I find out about the blatant theft of content through my stats. This type of thing is something every blogger has to face at some point and time.

To help counteract content theft, you need to be proactive! Make sure you have a clearly outlined copyright policy on your blog. In addition to that each and every post should be marked with your signature followed by the copyright symbol and copyright date(s). Each and every image as is digital photograph or any graphic you make should also have the the copyright symbol with your name or online nym. Once you have done that there are a few ways to prevent this through coding and several ways to track copyright infringement. The important thing is you really do have to act when you see anyone stealing your content and despite the nonchalance attitude regarding cut & paste combined with everything online is fair game. When you find any copyright infringement act and act right that moment!

Contact the site or blog owner with a copyright infringement notice stating the facts and that this is copyright infringement contrary to the DMCA (Digital Media Copyright Act). Be sure to include the url where the stolen copyrighted material is on their site or blog. Ask them to remove your copyrighted material immediately. Go back to your original content and add in bold red font an update indicating the stolen material should be removed from the offending site or blog immediately. If after 24 hours your content has not been removed it is time to contact their host and/or upstream provider repeating the request to have your copyright protected material removed from the offending site or blog. Continue with these cease and desist notices until your content is removed.

A particularly effective way to deal with image theft is to change the name of the original image then upload the newly named image to replace the original image. Then replace the original image with the same name but with something that says image stolen from and your url. Guaranteed that image will be down in a flash! Be sure to tweet out this nice change.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Following Trends

When I first started blogging I used a very basic Blogger template and in fact my current blogging templates are all based on modifications of this template. Each blog host will have basic templates that depending on the host can be modified as desired. Once the novelty of blogging wore off I began noticing certain trends with respect to design and colours.

Very much on the forefront was a scrapbooking style layout. This is very much a stylish, cutesy, well co-ordinated layout design. Everything must match. This allows for considerable customization! You will need Photoshop® or Photo Shop® or other graphic editing software to do this. Essentially what you do and really there is no order is create one graphic you really like say for the background then go about creating co-ordinating graphics. Everything is based on using scrapbooking elements to add layer and texture to your blog. That means a fair amount of Photoshop® work but the end results are well worth it.

There are pluses and minuses for following blogging trends. In general if all blogs are going for a lighter design your design could stick out from the rest if your design is heavy and dark. Now standing out from the rest will get you noticed but necessarily get you readers but sometimes it's a good thing so don't be afraid to go against the flow. At the same time following trends will only be a huge help if you are in certain niches. Some niches dictate that cutesy just doesn't work. But that doesn't mean you can't follow the under lying principle of co-ordination. All of the elements on your blog needs to flow together. It doesn't matter whether the page design is plain or cutesy or in between. It seriously needs to flow so follow that basic unspoken trend.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Redundancy

Redundancy is quite common when you author more than one blog. This differs somewhat from duplicate content in that you may use the same image you created on two of your blogs and by default some images such as your profile image will be the same over all of your blogs. Redundancy will also be found in the overall design layout and organization of content through all your blogs. That is because as a blogger certain elements simply appeal to you so you tend to use them fairly consistently. The problem with redundancy is it can seen as duplicate content if all you do is use the same image over all your blogs. This is extremely easy to do when creating holiday greetings posts. For example as my Christmas message I created an animated snow globe using Photoshop®. I used it for 2008 and decided to use it for 2009 so essentially even though I changed the date on the globe it is essentially the same animated graphic. I could of course and may yet change each graphic slightly to make each slightly different. This graphic will appear on all 6 of my blogs but to prevent this from becoming duplicate content I have named each alt="" tag slightly different and added a customized message in keeping with each blog them to appeal to the readers of each blog. By adding these extras I prevent the content from being seen as being duplicate even though the graphic is the same. This type of redundancy can also occur through digital images. Sometimes I find a picture I have take would be equally effective on two of my blogs so I will use the same image but vastly different write-ups and a backlink to the main article.

I have found that a bit of redundancy is fine if:

  1. it is restricted to seasonal redundancy as is the same graphic and/or message across the blogs you author. I keep mine to the major holidays - New Year's, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  2. it is an element of your blog. If for example you have 2 blogs and you want a consistency between the two it is fine to use the same font and graphics for things like side bar titles.
  3. it is the overall design and layout. If you like a particular layout (eg. Blogger's Rounders) then use it just customize it so each blog has their own feel and presence. Customization can be as simple as colours to using graphics for backgrounds and creating unique graphics for each blog.
  4. a critical in the news topic such as an amber alert, death of a well known celebrity or dignitary (can only be worked into some blog niches), or catastrophic event worthy of taking up niche blog space.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Controversy

I once read a blogging tip that said one of the best ways to get traffic to your blog was to create controversy. Essentially what you do for this type of post is to take the opposing position on some hot topic. Now this does work well but only if you don't over use it. The problem with hot topics is they tend to go cold and they can change at the drop of a hat. As soon as today's hot news wanes traffic due to that topic will drop significantly. The second problem which may or may not be a problem depending on your mood or personality is controversial topics tend to attract those who will try to shoot you down so to speak. This can quickly end up in a fighting match between you and one or more readers. The end result is you are getting traffic from those disagreeing with you but at the same time you run the risk of regular readers leaving if they don't like your tone when doing your rebuttal. The third problem is using controversy too much ends up being overkill. If you have a rather mild manner blog that is quite consistent in the style of posting then all of a sudden post something controversial your readers will pay attention because this gives them the message that hey, this is something that really bothers you. It bothers you enough you made a post about it even though it would not normally be something you would post about. In this respect the controversy becomes an effective traffic driving strategy.

Now I have seen a few successful blogs that use controversial posts on a daily or very regular basis. In fact all their posts are controversial. I honestly do not recommend this method. First you run the risk of blogger burn-out. There's only so many controversial topics you can come up with before the argument gets old which runs the risk of reader burn-out. So when it comes to using controversy and yes it does work in any blogging niche, use it sparingly but do use it. In this way controversial posts become a useful blogging tool.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Blogging Should Be Fun

I can remember when I set up my first blog. It was new and in many ways quite amazing. As time went on the true meaning of blogging set in but each time I set up another new blog that feeling came blazing back. And that is what it is all about! Blogging should be fun! You should have fun playing with the design, the layout and the content. If you reach a point where your blog is not fun or an enjoyable activity to spend your time on, walk away. The alternative is to try to recapture the spirit and fun that went into your blog in the first place. If you can't, walk away.

The average lifespan of a blog is 3 months. By that time the blogger is either tired, bored or disillusioned about what blogging entails. For that reason you will find a fair number of abandoned blogs. Sometimes the author comes back to try to re-start the blog but quite often they simply delete the entire blog. Avoid this by making your blogging experience fun first and foremost.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

If In Doubt

There comes a time in every blogger's life where you come across something that would be great blogfodder. Here's where it can get tricky. If you have established yourself as a family oriented blog and you come across say a joke that is close to being off colour or at least something that might not be considered family oriented then the rule of thumb is if in doubt leave it out. Anytime the question should I arises regarding of a post idea comes up refer to the rule of thumb. If at any time any content whether it be a joke or a graphic or a cartoon or a post ever gives you reason to question it even if only briefly refer to the rule of thumb. This gives you a chance to really consider the content before it gets onto your blog.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Focus on Content

Blogs are all about form and function. That means a blogger needs to take all the aesthetics of the blog design into consideration while providing content. Content is king when it comes to blogging. You can have a cutesy layout and great colours but without content your blog is just fluff. If push comes to shove, content is what really gets you noticed by the search engines too. Content is what gets you readers and keeps them coming back for more.

So your traffic numbers are low? You are frustrated because they are low and the knee jerk reaction is to start messing with your template or enrolling in a traffic exchange (seriously don't do this) or anything else that will help your traffic increase. STOP! Take a deep breath. Now focus on content and only on content. Step away from your traffic counter. Take at least one week to focus on writing anchor posts. If you recall anchor posts are those posts that will consistently pull in traffic. Be sure to use good keywords when writing your articles. Now these articles can all be posted in succession or schedule them to appear over the period of a month. Write a few extra posts to pad out your anchor posts even providing a link to them if it fits into the post. Add a few elements of interest for your readers such as a poll or a few picture posts maybe a few jokes or something that brings you as a person into your blog. This develops rapport with your readers. Ask your readers questions or perhaps run a contest on your blog. See where I'm going here? This is all adding content that will gain you traffic, keep readers coming back for more and get the attention of the search engines without you doing anything else.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Monetizing Your Blog

One misconception a new blogger has is blogging can make a lot of money. As a result they try to monetize their blog too early before they have learned the ins and outs of blogging. Unfortunately one of the most enticing ways to monetize a blog is to write paid per post posts. Yes you get paid for the post you make regarding product X but Google specifically and other search engines penalize you for writing paid posts which ultimately means you get little to no traffic from them. This will directly affect how well other types of advertising such as Adsense performs on your blog. So right off the bat you have hurt your earning potential for that blog. The rule of thumb is unless you are an experienced blogger you should not try monetizing your blog until it is at least 6 months old with good, consistent and quality content.

By that time you should have a better idea of what it takes to write a successful blog. You have a better idea of what content you want to present and how to present it. You've had a chance to understand and use a bit of SEO. Most importantly you have had a change to interact with other bloggers. In the first few weeks of establishing a blog everything revolves around you, the blogger. You blog for yourself without considering others. You design your blog layout for yourself and you choose your blog colours for yourself. However blogging is not about blogging for yourself. It is very much about becoming a part of the blogging community known as the blogosphere. The sooner you interact with other bloggers the better and only after you have established yourself as a blogger should you consider monetizing your blog.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Backlinks

Backlinks are those links originating from another site into your blog. A high number of good quality backlinks is desirable to increase both traffic and page rank. The problem is you cannot control who links back to you but you can influence it to some degree. You can encourage backlinks by continuously adding new content to your blog which will make others want to link to your content. Being active in the blogosphere by leaving quality comments on other blogs also encourages backlinks. In some cases blog comments are rel="nofollow" so while you don't get an actual backlink you will get your name out there so even that will give a bit of traffic.


Friday, December 4, 2009

The Problem With Reciprocal Link Exchanges

From time to time you will more than likely be asked for a reciprocal link exchange. Now exchanging links has both pros and cons. If you exchange with a high PR site it will help with your page rank but if you exchange with a low PR site it can hurt your page rank. The second problem is quite often the blogger you exchange links with will remove your link once they are sure you have put up their link. I just had this happen to me and while you can't prevent this from happening you can monitor all reciprocal link exchanges and remove all links that don't link back to you. Why? Essentially what is happening in this case in your PR is going to them but you aren't getting anything from them including traffic. These links form a hole in your bucket letting your PR out. So your best bet is to keep on top of any reciprocal links and remove any not linking back to you.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Duplicate Content

This issue of duplicate content is two fold. At certain times it seems like every blog you visit is talking about the same thing and quite often the content is almost identical. This is a sure fire way to spot paid posts and a good way to lose readers. Search engines especially Google will penalize you for using duplicate content on a regular basis. Duplicate content should be avoid for both reasons.

Most bloggers at some point and time want to include a video clip, cartoon or picture especially on those days where bloggers block comes into play. If you find something interesting online such as a picture, cartoon or video that you want to use on your blog the way to get around the duplicate content issue is to add new content such as a commentary. In this way you are still able to use what by itself would be considered duplicate content yet the commentary adds new content.