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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Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Blogging Day of 2010

Today is the last blogging day of 2010.  I find myself needing posts across all six of my blogs!  The reason for this is despite careful planning and pre-scheduling a large number of posts to run during the holiday season, I did not have enough posts to get through the entire holiday season.  Back to the drawing board for planning on how to deal with extended vacations...

One of the most common questions this time of year is 'what are your new year's resolutions'.  I normally don't write hard, fast resolutions but rather more generic ones like I'm going to spend more time enjoying sunsets.  When it comes to blogging I do have a few ideas for 2011.  I've set the following goals for my blogs:

  • increase to daily posts across four blogs (currently achieved across 3 of them)
  • increase traffic 
  • increase advertising my blogs
  • stick to a set advertising budget
  • more blog promotion for my other blogs that aren't promoted as much as my popular blog
  • increase commenting on other blogs

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Look Back at Blogging in 2010

My gosh I think blogging in 2010 has been such an interesting but challenging year for me.  As a blogger I gained perspective and the knowledge that I was no longer an inexperienced, new blogger.  I have been blogging since 2006 gradually adding blogs until I now author 6 public and 2 private blogs so blogging is no longer a hobby.  The first part of the year saw me striving to take my blogs a bit further in terms of monetizing.  That meant increasing content across all my blogs so I focused on getting daily content on my 6 blogs.  I was quite successful at this until summer hit then struggled the rest of the year to get back on track.  I managed to maintain daily posts on three of them with fairly regular posts on the other three.  Obviously that will be something I work harder at in 2011. 

Mid-year my most popular blog began taking a slightly different direction in terms of advertising.  I started accepting my first private ads and in October accepted a long term exclusive, advertising contract.  As a result I no longer run Adsense on that blog which in many respects opened up a lot more options for me with that blog.  I'm still enjoying that aspect.  I continue to run Adsense on my other blogs.

I tried a lot of different things to help my blogs over the past year.  Some worked, while others did not.  Overall though, I am pleased with how well my blogs performed over 2010.  I have a lot of ideas for 2011 so am looking forward to another productive blogging year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blogging Through the Holidays

Blogging through the holiday season is a bit more challenging as other demands on our time increases resulting in the amount of time available for blogging to decrease.  At the same time there is the preconceived notion that others are also busy during the holiday season so adding new content to your blog is almost a waste of time.  This really is not the case.  While traffic can and does decrease from some sources over the holiday season, it is a good time to attract readers who find themselves with extra time to your blog.  It's important to realize that not everyone celebrates the holiday season.  A simple holiday greeting on your blog is nice for your regular readers but one that extends that greeting by adding content is better. 

Many bloggers will post a holiday greeting near the start of the busy holiday season then post nothing during the holidays at all.  This can result in a posting gap of 12 or more days which is fine for some blogs but not others.  Writing a series of pre-scheduling posts to run during the holiday season is one way to keep the content coming that will attract new readers.  Taking 15 minutes daily to write a blog post is also effective and can provide a little down time from the hectic holiday season.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Beauty of Blogging

The beauty of blogging is you can blog about anything under the sun!  I'm serious!  There really are no topic restrictions when it comes to blogging providing of course you are not going against the TOU of your blog host.  Basically as long as you are promoting anything illegal or insinuating hatred you can talk about what you want.  Note that you can talk about hate crimes or things that are illegal as long as you are promoting them.  That leaves you a whole lot to blog about.  Even if you niche blog you can still come up with a lot of topics in that niche.  When it comes to blogging, the world is your oyster.  All you need to do is find the pearl!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blogging & Privacy Issues

Many say that privacy is nothing more than a myth in current times.  That may be to some degree but privacy within our homes and what we reveal about ourselves for the most part still exists.  In many ways we live in troubling times with higher crime rates.  Just as we are cautioned to be aware of our surroundings at all times, we really need to be aware of our online activities especially blogging.  Blogging has become increasingly complex even since I started blogging in 2006.  As our privacy continues to erode it is important to take a few common sense measures to protect ourselves and our family when blogging. 

Consider some bloggers who blog about their families.  It is astonishing as to how much they reveal about themselves and other family members.  Some routinely post current pictures of themselves, their spouses, their children, other family members and their friends.  They post where their kids go to school, the name of their church and where they like to shop.  They post their names, the names of their spouse and kids as well as other family and friends.  They post the name of town or city they live in and what hospital they go to.  All this makes every family member and friend mentioned a sitting duck for online predation.  Heck any internet predator could easily track down the family and/or kids armed simply with the information the blogger freely gave on their blog.  As if that isn't bad enough they blog in real time about being away from their home opening themselves up to potential break-ins or worse.  Geo-targeting is very real with information as to exact location even being uploaded via images uploaded by some digital cameras. 

Here are a couple of my safety tips for blogging:

  • no current pictures of family members including yourself -  For the most part I refuse to use any identifiable picture of myself, my spouse, my children or my friends.  At most I have used very early baby pictures and body parts (eg. hands only) but that is it.  Legally the picture of anyone else including those in public should not be posted online without their consent.  I either blur the image of anyone so it is not identifiable or use another picture.
  • don't reveal too much - No one needs to know if I am home alone or where I'm blogging from.  If I feel it necessary to add to the blog post it is always done well after the fact, never before or during.  I'm sorry but real names are not necessary when blogging and definitely never, ever include your surname on any post, greetings and in fact I don't reveal my real name online at all. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I'm Loving Real High Speed Internet

A few years ago just after getting DSL we bought a house where the only internet service available was dial-up.  Now that was a real bummer!  Then we bought this house that had two internet service choices, dial-up or satellite.  The satellite is faster than dial-up but you are subject to mosquitos flying through the beam, meandering clouds and FAPing so at best you end up with slight faster than dial-up service.  At worst you have nothing and you pay through the nose for that nothing! 

Our vacation home has real high speed internet!  I'm not kidding.  This connection is amazing!  I can easily do a good portion of my traffic building strategies for my blogs in well under a half hour at our vacation home while at home it would take me the best part of a day, easily to accomplish the same.  I'm amazed at how much more productive I can be just at blogging!  It does make a huge difference.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

YouTube's New Video Format

I love using YouTube videos as blog fodder.  Some of the videos are those I took myself and others are good videos that I use to make my point.  Now YouTube has changed their display format a bit.  If you notice there are still the two tone colour choices but the video no longer displays with a frame around the entire video.  I liked the full frame as it created a mini television display with a nice finished touch.  Now only the bottom portion of the frame displays making it look somewhat unfinished if you ask me.  YouTube it would be really nice if you just brought back that one nice feature I really liked, please?

Friday, December 24, 2010


A few months ago I noticed a new widget appearing on blogs called LinkShowOff.  I clicked the link and signed up.  The premise is you buy a link on someone's blog displaying the widget.   Up to 20 links are shown on the widget.  As a new link is added the oldest link rolls off the widget.  The blogger displaying the widget determines the price they want for displaying the link.  In return LinkShowOff keeps a small commission.  Essentially the widget is a limited blog roll except you pay for a link.

The widget is somewhat customizable but colours are limited.  The number of characters for the link are limited as well so this is not the ideal solution for those with longer blog titles.  Given the way the widget works $1 could buy you a long term bit of advertising especially if the widget is not very busy.

I initally had a LinkShowOff widget on each of my blogs although I did not sell any advertising on them.  I also advertised one of my blogs on another blogger's LinkShowOff widget.  The LinkShowOff widget raises a few concerns for me.  First, I'm not sure whether Google will view this as being a link farm even though the links are nofollow and according to the site you will not be penalized for selling nofollow links.  It's hard to say though and with LinkShowOff having a PR 0 it is definitely cause for using caution.  I'm also not sure how Google views paid links but quite frankly you could have tons of paid links on a blog with no indication they are paid links.  This widget makes it very clear they are paid links so whether Google views the links as advertising or paid links is anyone's guess.  Second the widget sitting empty takes up valuable blog real estate that could be put to better use.  Third, while the concept is good, running a paid link or links on your blog is easy enough without involving a third party to get part of the cut. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blog Advertising

When it comes to blog advertising I've noticed that there are 4 main blog advertising networks - CMFAds, Adgitize, Project Wonderful and Entrecard.  I have used all four and continue to use all but Entrecard.  This actually gives the impression that there are only 4 ways to advertise your blog but that is so wrong!  If you do a quick Google search of 'free blog advertising' comes up with 294,000,000 hits and surprisingly the four main blog advertising networks aren't even on the first page of the search.  In addition to all of these possible blog advertising sources there are email campaigns and private advertising.  The possiblities for blog advertising are practically endless so don't restrict yourself to using only 4.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Making an Income From Your Blog

I have noticed a growing trend in bloggers wanting to make money off of their blogs.  Well really in some respects it is a reasonable expectation.  However, a real life  (for lack of a better term) will take a good 3 years to make a profit and likely about 10 years or more to make enough to live off of if ever.  Many bloggers don't understand that the same business principles apply to blogging.  It is an unreasonable expectation to set up a blot expecting to make income enough to retire on.  I should clarify this though, if the blog is part of an actual business as one of my private blogs is, it can bring in a substantial amount of monthly income.  For the purposes of this discussion though, I'm talking about the regular, run of the mill blog looking to make money online.

Blogs can earn two types of income:

  • passive income - Passive income is earned by placing a piece of code on your blog usually advertising like Adsense or a blog advertising widget like Adgitize then leaving it alone and doing nothing further.  Essentially you end up earning a few cents here or there to even a few dollars every month simply by having that code on your blog.
  • active income - Active income is earned by doing something active like clicking on widgets to earn a bit of income from your blog or in direct relationship to your blog.  
Active income strategies such as building traffic to your blog affect not only active income but also passive income.  However, passive income will not affect active income.  In reality if you want to make money from your blogs you really need to generate both forms of income.  As time goes on you may have to rely less on active income but in most cases from what I can see generating income from blogs requires using some type of active measures.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Decorating Your Blog for the Holidays

I started blogging in the spring of 2006.  At that time it was the rage to decorate your blog for the holiday season.  There were all kinds of widget and Christmas animations for decorating your blog.  I see some still decorate their blog changing the theme completely however, this may not be in the best interest with respect to your Page Rank.  Instead it may be better to make a few seasonal changes without doing a complete theme change only to change the theme back after the holidays.  What do you think?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Niche Blogging

In my experience, for most intents and purposes it is better to narrow your blog down to a particular niche.  Niche blogging helps to keep the blog itself focused making it easier to write articles.  However, some nice blogging is not without problems.  For example when I started my cooking blog little did I know that coming up with post topics can become difficult because once I've posted about a recipe unless I change it somehow there really isn't more to say without being redundant.  So even though it looks like an easy niche it is a bit more difficult that it appears.  Another example is my gardening blog.  Essentially from spring to late fall there is lots to talk about then after late fall nothing!  The topics just dry up. 

I think for me recognizing that sometimes there are problems with niche blogging was a real positive step into understanding the realities of blogging.  If you want your blog to do well it means regular content but understanding that sometimes that isn't as easy as it sounds helped me to focus a bit on solutions to those nice blogging problems.  Part of the solution I came up with was to establish 'special day' posts like Frugal Kitchens 101 (Mondays) and Kitchen Quick Tips (Thursdays) on my cooking blog and I have just recently started a new monthly feature to run on the last day of the month with my 2 picks for the best dish or recipe made.  So out of a 30 day month I already have 9 posts!  The garden blog has been a little more problematic to solve in the sense a regular feature wouldn't work well through the busy gardening season.  It's still a challenge that I'm working on trying to get regular posts out without going from November to March with no posts.  I will help a bit that we will be at our vacation home at some point during this time frame so that will give me a bit of gardening blog fodder. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Blog Advertising Outside of the Blogosphere

When it comes to blog advertising a lot of bloggers really narrow themselves to just the blogosphere.  In reality a blog is a website like any other just constructed a bit differently and usually updated on a regular basis.  I really don't think there is any reason to restrict blog advertising in such a fashion.  I am taking the approach with blog advertising for my blogs to maximize my exposure while gaining readers and subscribers.  Here is what I've discovered:

In short there are two main types of blog advertising:

  • free - may not be entirely free as there may be a time commitment involved to earn credits to exchange for advertising
  • paid - a monetary value is paid for the advertising that can range from 1¢ per day to $20 or more per month
At the bare minimum you will need:
  • a blog - make sure it is a blog not a make money website or simply a collection of videos or photos
  • an advertising budget - trust me at $10 per month advertising in one location you really need a realistic advertising budget; if you are using free advertising that requires a time commitment then that becomes part of your time management budget
  • a different perspective - advertising to other bloggers is great and by all means should be part of your marketing strategy but if you want to drive you blog further you need to think outside of the box
  • advertisements - you will need a 125 x 125 badge and a 480 x 60 banner that are reflective of your blog's content including your blog's name, in some cases you will need to make a custom made size based on the requirements of the site you want to advertise on
  • value for your dollar - every single site where you want to display your ad should be checked out using Page Rank Checker, while some sites with a lower PR than your blog are fine to get the exposure you need to aim to get your advertising on sites that have a higher PR than your blog
  • patience - in many cases you will be dealing one on one with the owner of the site you want to display your advertising on which means it make take a few days to get the advertising in place

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Comment Policy

I have noticed while blog hopping that some bloggers have comment policies in place while others do not.  Some are rather detailed policies while others are simple statements like "your comment will be posted after owner approval" on the comment form.  Do you need a comment policy?

The short answer to this question is no, a comment policy is not necessary unless your blog is part of a commercial endeavor.  So if you are blogging on behalf of a magazine or restaurant or similar than a comment policy would be appropriate.  If you are writing paid posts including a comment policy may be part of the TOS for that particular program.  If you have a popular blog or a problem with comment spam you may want to spell out your comment policy but really there is no need to. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Getting Tough on Comment Spammers

I have decided to get a bit tougher on comment spammers across all of my blogs.  I don't know if there is a correlation with the holiday season but I have noticed comment spam increasing somewhat.  In the past if the comment was borderline it would be allowed quite often with any link, with the link stripped only if really on the border.  What I have decided to do is to strip the link from any borderline comment and delete comments that just say 'nice post' or 'good information' with nothing further to indicate the post was even read.  I am especially going to be paying attention to the somewhat questionable spammish comments where the link leads back to the author's Blogger profile stripping that url as well.  I'm not kidding, on one of my blogs I have at least one reader that leaves borderline comment with each comment pointing back to the Blogger profile.  One or two comments wouldn't be so bad but one each day really ads up to a huge hole with respect to Page Rank!  In fact I may even go back and strip the urls from the comments already posted.  Somehow I have to make it quite clear that these kind of comments just will not be tolerated!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Meta Tags Revisited

According to some sources meta tags are not all that important but my experience was accidently deleting them off of one of my blogs resulted in an immediate drop of traffic.  Since that happened I've been paying attention to the meta tags on my blogs.  Even if Google doesn't acknowledge meta tags, other search engines likely do.  So it is a good idea to have meta tags on your blog just to help get the attention of other search engines. 

Meta tags are a bit more complicated than they appear especially the keyword meta tags.  These tags in particular need to be updated on a regular basis.  The reason being is keyword search terms change so you want to keep you main tags up to date.  Even just changing out these tags to better reflect your blog is a good idea from time to time.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Lot of Little Things Add Up

A few days ago I'm going through my blogs checking for any problems that would get in the way of search engine optimization.  What I quickly realized is it really is the little things that add up rather than one big thing when it comes to getting traffic from the search engines.  Something as simple as a couple of dead links can cause problems but the occasional link that looks quite benign to you actually can trigger the occasional problem as well.  So I spent a bit of doing a fair amount of behind the scenes tweaking across all six of my blogs.  It seriously is all those little things that go into SEO that really makes the difference.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Should You Care About Where Your Traffic Comes From?

When it comes to blogging the more traffic you can generate the better.  More traffic means a better prospect of increasing readership and subscribers.  If you have monetized your blog it may mean an increase in revenue as well.  So as a blogger it is a good idea to generate traffic to your blog in any way that you can.  In my opinion part of good traffic generation is to use a variety of methods, never relying on one method only for generating blog traffic.  I also think that making an effort to generate traffic should be a daily activity if at all possible.  Notice I said daily not time consuming.  Ten minutes per day working on some type of traffic generation method can have a huge payoff in the end.

I came across a question in one of the forums regarding where traffic comes from.  Should you care about where your traffic comes from?  The simple answer is no.  Traffic is traffic so each and every visit to your blog is a potential loyal reader or subscriber.  The more complex answer is yes.  If any of the following apply to you then yes you will want to know where your traffic is coming from:

  • You are conducting a directed (eg. geo targeted) ad campaign.
  • Blog revenue is based on hits from one particular country.
  • You've picked up a comment spammer or blog stalker.
  • You've started a new traffic generating method so want to track the effectiveness.
  • You are trying to target your blog content to a particular geographical audience.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Find and Make Dynamic Web Widgets

Even though I use generic templates as the basis for my blogs I like to customize them with graphics and backgrounds I have made.  Making customized widgets is easy with the online resource Widgetbox.  You do have to join the site in order to be able to create and save widgets.  You can choose from basic or pro with basic being free (limited features) and pro being paid subscription (full featured).  Widgets include slide show, forms, YouTube and more plus you can search for already created widgets.  You can also develop a widget from scratch in a few different formats including The widgets you create can be saved in your widget folder for easy use later.  This is just a handy little tool for those wanting to add more customization to their blogs. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dropping Via Blog Advertising Networks

The three main blog advertising networks (Entrecard, CMFAds, Adgitize) involve 'dropping' on other blogs.  Essentially this is a traffic building strategy via advertising using blog badges.  There are a couple of things to consider when dropping though.  If you want to drop effectively to give long term, lasting traffic results you need to leave comments on blogs as possible that you drop on.  This is not always feasible in the sense if you drop 300 on Entrecard, 100/51 on Adgitize and whatever number of spikes there are on CMFAds, you cannot possibly leave upwards of 400 plus quality comments daily.  If you can more power to you.

My goal is to leave 5 quality comments daily.  By quality I mean a comment that actually relates to the post not something like 'nice blog, please visit my blog".  I seriously hate those types of comments!  I don't do Entrecard so that frees up a lot of time and 5 comments across 6 blogs is not really a lot.  Some days I make more comments sometimes less but that is my daily goal.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

15 Ways to Promote Your Blog

When I first started blogging I did not worry about blog promotion simply because I was naive when it came to blogging.  Blog promotion is important if you want to get traffic which in turn leads to readers and subscribers.  Here are 15 ways I've found to promote my blogs:

  1. blog advertising networks (eg. Entrecard, Adgitize, CMFAds)
  2. banner advertising
  3. text link advertising
  4. email campaign
  5. signature file for forum or group participation 
  6. niche forums
  7. traffic exchanges
  8. directory submissions
  9. pinging search engines
  10. word of mouth (eg. family, friends, co-workers)
  11. reciprocal links
  12. RSS feed
  13. social networking (eg. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter)
  14. article submissions with link back to your blog
  15. guest blogging

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Low Maintenance Blog

As the author of six public blogs I am the first one to say that no blog is maintenance free.  The reason being in order for a blog to be successful there is always a bit of behind the scene maintenance that is necessary.  What really is nice when authoring multiple blogs is to have one such as this blog that really is lower maintenance.  There aren't a lot of custom graphics other than the header.  The design is clean and basic.  I haven't done a lot of tweaking so the only real maintenance is to check for dead links, adding links and keep the content coming. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How Important is Page Rank?

So many bloggers put Page Rank (PR) on a pedestal as if it is the only measurement of a successful blog.  The reality is PR is only one measurement of a successful blog.  When it comes to a blog if you are able to get any PR even a PR0 you are doing good.  So relax and just keep doing what you are doing and things will be fine.  Here's a few things to know about PR:

  • PR has nothing to do with your popularity as a blogger, your blogs popularity or anything else other than Googles ranking of where your blog is on search results.
  • PR applies only to how Google sees your blog's placement in search results and nothing else.  The higher the page rank the higher up your blog will be in the search results.
  • Google often changes the algorithm than calculates PR so depending on the change your PR may fluctuate up or down by 1.  Don't worry!
  • An algorithm change may result in all of a sudden your blog has no PR.  DO NOT PANIC!  As long as you haven't changed anything you are doing, carry on as normal.  DO NOT CHANGE ANYTHING!  This happens from time to time when Google is testing a new algorithm and it is a pain but as long as you are not using any black hat methods your PR will be right back up there the next algorithm change.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Downside to Selling Advertising on Your Blog Yourself

I posted about selling advertising direct to the advertiser on blogs a couple of months ago.  This method can be quite financially rewarding but it is not without a few problems.  Essentially selling directly means knocking out the middleman so you do end up making more money.  You can use OIOPublisher to help organize and control your adspace or you can do it all manually yourself.  OIOPublisher will cost you a one time fee and you need somewhere to host it whereas the manually approach only costs you time.  As mentioned there is a downside to selling ads directly to advertisers.  Here a few cons:

  • direct interaction - In most cases the advertiser will contact you directly regarding buying advertising space on your blog.  This will likely be in the form of a link request but may include a graphic.  You need to be available to respond to these requests so this may not be the ideal set-up if you blog once or twice a month without checking your blog throughout the month.  It also means if you reject an ad offer for whatever reason you will have to deal with the advertiser if they don't like your decision. 
  • organization - Organization is key so you know when to contact the advertiser for renewal if they desire.  If the link is buried within your blog archives then you need to be able to remove the link upon expiry if the link is not renewed.  I find using a spreadsheet works nicely.
  • the waiting game - Sometimes an advertiser will contact you requesting an ad spot.   The emails may go back and forth several days then the advertiser will tell you payment is on the way but it never arrives.  By the way, payment should always be in advance and via Pay Pal.  Before you know it a week's worth of effort has gone into selling the ad spot but you don't hear from the advertiser for another week asking if they can still place an ad.  Another round of emails ensues.  This pattern may repeat itself a couple of time until the advertiser actually pays for the ad or you get tired of dealing with them.  At any rate it becomes a waiting game.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Ping Effect

Back in September we were on vacation.   While had blissful real high speed internet so I could keep blogging in addition to scheduled posting, I neglected to ping my blogs for that three week period.  The simple reason for this is I simply forgot.   The effect of not pinging became apparent about a week into our vacation. 

Pinging is a very important component in blog promotion.  It is a way of letting blog directories and search engines know that you are still there adding new content to your blog.  Pinging helps to get your blog indexed that in return increases your traffic.  If you ping on a regular basis as I had been doing, the effects of not pinging is not noticeable immediately.  Rather the effects are gradual.  Unless you monitor your traffic trends it will take upwards of a month to start noticing a slight downward trend in your traffic.  Resuming pinging will not have immediate effects either so the effects of not pinging will likely last a month or more.

I learned a valuable lesson in blog promotion.  The good thing is in retrospect the decrease in traffic across all my blogs was minimum and recoverable likely because I had been making a point of regular pinging.  Resuming pinging solved the problem in a shorter period of time than anticipated so that was rather nice.  In future I will continue pinging even when on vacation.  Even pinging once a week during a vacation will take less than 10 minutes for all of my blogs while keeping the directories and search engines happy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bad Neighbourhood Link Detection Tool

I've been doing a lot of blog analysis lately.  I found this handy tool for helping to detect if you are linked to any bad neighbourhoods via text links.  It's called the Bad Neighbourhood Link Detection Tool.  Hovering over the icons beside the analyzed links will tell you what that icon means.  If you are a blogger expect to see the blog spam icon to appear which they said is normal.  If you get a caution symbol for a link it is an indication of a possible link to a bad neighbourhood.  However, it will tell you the link and why it was flagged.  On my cooking blog a link using 'food porn' was flagged which in the foodie world is a normal term but not so for search engines, I guess.  Removing any confirmed bad neighbourhood links is a good idea and it likely isn't a bad idea to scan your blog from time to time just in case.

Garden Gnome

Sunday, December 5, 2010


I have been racking my brain out as to why this blog has not gained Page Rank.  It's not like it doesn't have daily unique content and I've used basically the same technique getting it established as I have my other blogs.  So I wandered over to Google's Webmaster Tools.  I had been having a dickens of a time with the meta tag for my cooking blog so out of frustration I set it aside to work on later which really is always a bad thing to do when it comes to behind the scenes blogging issues.  After a bit of fiddling I got the meta tag to work then decided to tackle sitemaps.  A sitemap allows the bots to crawl your blog discovering pages they might not have found.  So I decided to add a sitemap to my cooking blog.  This is a bit more difficult in blogger but the easiest way to do it is to log into Webmaster Tools then click on add sitemap and add your atom or rss feed.  When you click add site map a popup will show http://yoururl.com/----- with the ----- being a space to add either atom.xml or rss.xml depending on your feed.  Ideally in place of the ----- use rss.xml?max-results=500&start-index=1 increasing the 500 if you have more than 500 posts in your blog.  Simply type that in and hit enter and presto you have added a sitemap for Google.  Pretty nifty, eh?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bad Neighbourhoods

If you care about your Page Rank, Google warns to stay away from 'bad neighbourhoods'.  Essentially what this means is don't link to websites that don't meet Google's Webmaster Guidelines.  Don't link to websites that spam, link farms or those hosting malware, trojans, viruses and other malicious content.  If in doubt before linking to a site check their PR.  A PR of 0 or more means Google has indexed them so they should be fine to link to.  A PR of NA can mean a variety of things from the site being relatively new to it being considered part of a sub-domain to it being in a bad neighbourhood to linking to a banned site..  If the PR comes up as NA use caution and check out the site well for anything that is contrary to Google's Webmaster Guidelines before linking to it.  If at some time you realize a site you linked to through a comment or otherwise is now considered to be a bad neighbour, remove the link immediately.

Be sure to check what a PR NA can be caused by.  If a site comes up as PR NA run a Google search of that site name.  If it shows up on the first page of the search the site is fine.  For example this blog has a PR NA but shows as third on page 1 of a search for "the blog report" meaning this blog hasn't been fully indexed yet aka I need to do a bit more pinging and likely promotion.  So don't discount a site because it has PR NA, simple check it over more carefully before adding a link to it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Google and Links Schemes

I've posted before about using Mr. Linky, a rather spammish link widget directed at supposedly increasing backlinks to improve your Page Rank (PR).  Recently a website calling itself NYSILLY Link Farm has appeared in at least one blog advertising network I participate in.  The owner of this site actually left a message on this blog inviting me to advertise.  I let the comment go through but after reading Google's Webmaster Tools went back and deleted it.  Yes the site is currently a PR 3 but when Google realizes it is a link farm they will be penalized affecting everyone linked to them.  Directly from Google's Webmaster Tools:

Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links1.
The real problem with the NYSILLY site is it does say that Google will index you faster because it is a PR3 site.  What happens when Google penalizes this site?  Your PR is going to drop like a ton of bricks!  The second problem is because the ad is being shown within a trusted blog advertising network other bloggers trust it so they are displaying the ad.  That's not a good thing!

If you care about your PR, stay away from any link schemes including Mr. Linky, NYSILLY and anything similar.  If comments have been left on your blog from any link scheme site, delete them.  It is better for your PR to have nothing to do with any link schemes and that includes running their advertising or widgets!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Rule Breakers

I do a lot of daily blog hopping and for the most part enjoy it but I'm telling you there are some days I just get so fed up dealing with the rule breakers.  For example while bloghopping today I saw:

  • alcohol and gaming advertising on blogs showing Adsense
  • three ad units on a blog in a blog advertising network that only allows two ad units
  • two redirects contrary to one blog advertising network's TOS
  • three popup and two pop-under ads contrary to one blog advertising network's TOS
  • blatant soft porn blog badges contrary to one blog advertising network's TOS
  • several using Adsense and traffic exchanges
And the list goes on.   What is it with the rule breakers?  They end up ruining it for the rest of us and yet they insist on breaking the rules?  Why?  Because they are the only blogger in the blogosphere trying to make a go out of blogging, don't you know!  They are above the rules so they can doe exactly as they please so it seems.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Google Verses Traffic Exchanges

Traffic exchanges can be extremely effective at bringing traffic to your blog.  The often mentioned warning is do not use a traffic exchange if you are running Adsense ads as it is against their TOS.  By definition the popular blog advertising network Entrecard is a traffic exchange.   So that brings up a few issues. 

Google is not against traffic exchanges.  In fact out of seven of the most popular traffic exchanges I checked, all had a PR with the lowest being PR 0 due to being new and the highest a PR 4 for two of the older traffic exchanges.  With respect to using traffic exchanges and PR the only caveat if you are not using Adsense is to make sure the traffic exchange conforms to Google's Webmaster Guidelines.  Don't use a traffic exchange that is in a 'bad neighbourhood' site and don't use a traffic exchange if you use Adsense. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blog Aggregators

Somewhere between a blog directory and a link farm there is a beast called a blog aggregator.  A blog aggregator is generally quite niche focused.  It's larger than a blog roll, smaller than a blog directory and not just a collection of links.  To get your blog listed in a blog aggregator it has to be approved by admin and a badge with link to the aggregator needs to be added to your blog.  There's usually a set criteria your blog must meet in order to be accepted into the blog aggregator.  There may or may not be a fee for membership.  Unlike a blog directory (aka blog version of a phone book), blog roll or link farm, a blog aggregator is set up in such a manner that it offers members other activities such as forums, it's own blog, contests and so much more.  So a blog aggregator in essence becomes a niche community within the blogosphere.  It can be an excellent method for blog promotion and meeting other bloggers.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Breaking Out of iFrames

Unless you are participating in a traffic exchange that uses a surf bar, chances are good you don't want your blog(s) in someone's iFrame. The reason for this is they are essentially making money off of your content.   You will usually notice iFrame users in your stats so unless it is one you have given permission to use your content then prevent them from using it.  There are a couple of ways to prevent your blog from being in an iFrame:

  • Blogger hosted blogs - Set your comments to in line which breaks frames.  This is the simplest and easiest solution.
  • iFrame breaker script -  Put the following script in your header.  Substitute the url javascript.about.com with your url.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Expose Your Blog

For quite some time BlogExplosion was a nice blogging community to participate in to get a bit of extra traffic for your blog while getting to know other bloggers.  Unfortunately BlogExplosion is dying a slow and painful death.  A new community that does the same thing called Expose Your Blog is now up and running.  It is a traffic generating site where you can earn exposure for your blog while surfing so in that respect that portion of the site is a traffic exchange.  You can also buy traffic at a low cost of $1.97 for 500 hits and upwards so it that respect that portion of the site is a blog advertising network.  You can advertise your blog via their email systems so it is an email marketing tool.  There are contests, forums and chat to participate as well so it really is a blogging community.

I tested Expose Your Blog using one of my blogs that is currently not running Adsense.  I'm not sure how Adsense would view this site but using a traffic exchange is against their TOS.  I did see several blogs in their system that do have Adsense but before putting your blog into the system get clarification from Adsense first rather than risk losing your account.  The site is quite nice to use and fairly straight forward.  It does not work with Safari and there are problems using their surf bar with Camino.  They recommend using Google Chrome or Firefox for problem free surfing.  Be warned that well surfing there are verifiers that must be completed.  If you fail to complete too many verifiers your account will be suspended.  They are rather strict on this to prevent cheating.  Other than that it does seem to be a good replacement for BlogExplosion.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Quality Comments

Like many bloggers I love getting comments on my blogs.  I view comments as being one indicator as to how successful my blogs are.  If someone can take their time and trouble to leave a comment then I am quite appreciative EXCEPT when the comments are blatant spam or lack quality.  So what do I consider a quality comment?  A quality comment:

  • shows the reader actually read the post - I'm sorry but leaving a comment that clearly shows the reader did not read the post doesn't get much interest from me other than perhaps stripping the url.
  • attempts to interact - I love comments where the reader relates directly to the post then asks a question to keep the conversation going.
  • adds to the content - I always appreciate it when a reader adds a little content like a tip or suggestion to the post.
  • is sincere - A quality comment is sincere.  Most bloggers can see right through phoney with many simply treating them as comment spam.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Ever Changing Blog Badge

The blog badge (button) is a 125 x 125 graphic used to advertise your blog.  Any blogger involved in a blog advertising network has one, either generic or custom made.  What I have noticed is some bloggers change their badges more oven than the majority of folks change their underwear.  What is with that?  You badge becomes part of your blog brand so while running a special temporary promo badge in addition to your normal badge may be a good idea especially if you are running a contest or have just done a major overhaul of your blog.  However, I feel that other than that the blog badge really shouldn't be changed significantly.  The reason for this is if you've participated in one blog advertising network then quit that one and move onto another one, members from the first one will still recognize your badge giving you a bit of traffic.  If the blog badge is kept the same or very close there is a better chance of getting traffic across the blogosphere as well because it is recognizable out of familiarity.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

By Invitation Only Blogs

I do a fair amount of daily blog hopping via various methods.  What I have found is a growing number of blogs coming up as 404 - not found or 'blog does not exist' in some blog advertising networks.  This happens when bloggers delete their blogs but the blog advertising network hasn't purged blogs in rotation that no longer exist.  This is unavoidable even in the best run blog advertising networks.  Another growing group of blogs in blog advertising networks is 'by invite only blogs'.  Now it is just ridiculous for a blogger to put their by invite only blog into any blog advertising network!  It's a waste of time for all involved and it is against the TOS for most blog advertising networks.  The blogger doesn't get any traffic, the blog hopper gets a bit annoyed and it reflects poorly on the blog advertising network.  The blogger putting their by invite only blog into a blog advertising network clearly cannot follow simple rules.  At the same time those running blog advertising networks should be looking for this type of nonsense and remove these blogs from the system.

A Benefit to Authoring Multiple Blogs

Quite often the topic of multiple blogs comes up on other blogs and in the forums.  There seems to be two schools of thought.  The first is to have one large blog and focus on it.  The second is to have multiple blogs to help compartmentalize and focus your thoughts.  I decided right from day one that my blogging would take the second approach and I'm glad I did.  I have not seen many 'catch-all' style blogs succeed.  After awhile they tend to meander to the same topic or they end up being confusing mish mash.  If you think about it the second approach makes a lot of sense.  We have different buildings to organize and compartmentalize our daily social lives.  We have different rooms in our homes to organize and compartmentalize our home lives and within those rooms we have further organization through cupboards, closets and furniture.  Aside of helping to organize your thoughts for blogging I find multiple blogs pretty much guarantees I have something to blog about at least one of my blog topics at any given time.  So while I might not feel much like talking about gardening when there isn't much gardening to talk about I can switch gears to talk about another topic like blogging.  The dry times for one blog ends up being the times I can get ahead a bit ahead with another blog.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Directing Targeted Traffic to Your Blog

For the most part I have always felt that traffic to my blogs is traffic.  My main goal has been getting traffic and increasing that traffic.  At times though I've learned it is desirable to drive directed traffic from one country or one particular source to one or more of my blogs.  The main way to do this is through targeted blog promotion.  For example if I want to increase traffic to my blogs coming from Canadian sources then it makes little sense to focus my efforts on world wide traffic.  Don't get me wrong as the world wide traffic is still good but to get that extra boost from Canada then I realized my blog promotion had to be targeted towards Canadian blog resources.  In this particular case what I would do is:

  • geo-target any advertising possible to Canada (eg. Project Wonderful, Adgitize)
  • increase Canadian content on the blog(s)
  • add some type of interactive Canadian content on the blog(s) like a poll
  • ping Canadian blog directories and search engines
  • increase submissions to Canadian blog directories
  • write a letter to the editor of a Canadian newspaper including my blog url
  • leave more comments on Canadian blogs
  • join a Canadian blogroll
  • form a Canadian group on Twitter to target tweets to
Any of these methods will help bring in targeted traffic from the desired country.   While they won't give dramatic, overnight results when done consistently these methods will boost the desired targeted traffic and improve readership from that particular country.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Blogger in Hot Water

The issue of copyright infringement seems to be a constant battle for bloggers trying to protect their own intellectual property. However, sometimes the shoe is on the other foot so to speak. Some bloggers are guilty of copyright infringement themselves. When this happens there can be legal action taken against the blogger as Gawker Media has recently found out. Apparently the Gawker published images of the dedication page and 21 pages of Sarah Palin's America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag to be released Nov. 23, published by HarperCollins/Associated Press, ahead of it's release1 .  The Gawker was ordered by a federal judge in Manhatten to remove the pages and to cease distributing, publishing or otherwise transmitting pages from the book.   The Gawker has be ordered to "deliver the material it used to the publisher so it can be destroyed"1.  The Gawker is defending their actions under fair use.  A hearing is scheduled for November 30.  An undisclosed amount of monetary damages are being sought by the publisher.

This situation brings up a number of issues ranging from where they got the leaked material in the first place and whether they had the right to use it under fair use.  Really what they did is no different than the gossip rags but that still doesn't make it right.  Gawker Media based in New York City is one of the most visible and successful blog-oriented media companies2.  The company was founded and is owned by Nick Denton.  Since all Gawker articles are licensed on a Creative Commons attribution-NonCommercial license they are well aware of the meaning of copyright and copyright infringement.  Images of pages in a book that has not even been released yet are not fair use!  This ought to be a rather interesting lawsuit with the deck stacked against the Gawker. 

Monday, November 22, 2010


I was online years and years before I started blogging.  I think one of the first things that was reinforced was being a bit diplomatic.  It wasn't a difficult conception for me being a professional.  All it meant was from the beginning certain topics were not to be discussed, certain boundaries were not to be crossed and subtly putting someone in their place could easily be done with grace and style.  Blogging is a bit different in that in introduces a bit of laissez-faire attitude.  Bloggers are a bit more inclined to reveal more about themselves and some often have not heard of the concept of diplomacy. 'Tis a shame because if anything diplomacy is one thing needed as a blogger!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Sidetracked Blogger

I have been looking for other ways to promote my blogs and we have the house up for sale which means a lot of chaos all the way around going on.  Now that I have removed Adsense from one of my blogs I have been tinkering with traffic exchanges.  Oh my gosh if you want a mindless click frenzy, there you go!  The neat thing is though not only do you get some surprisingly descent traffic as in staying on the blog for over 20 minutes you get to earn a bit of money (usually 30¢ per 1,000 sites visited).  Well that was just enough to throw me into sidetracked blogger mode!

Sidetracked blogger mode is different than procrastinating or blogger's block.  I actually was doing a lot of thinking about blogging while I was somewhat preoccupied.  I was thinking how to get more traffic to my blogs, blogging about some of the downright beyond believable promises I saw while doing all this clicking and quite frankly I was just all over the place with little focus.  I did manage to get 4 posts scheduled but that was a fluke really.  Ah, such is the life of a sidetracked blogger when the mood hits.  From my perspective it is a good thing the mood is rare!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Where Have All the Bloggers Gone?

Back when I started blogging in early 2006 I joined BlogExplosion where I met a lot of great bloggers.  One of my first blogroll requests was to join the Blog Your Blessings Sunday (BYBS) blogroll organized by Blue Panther.  I put the blogroll on my personal blog, My Journey and even created a custom made graphic to introduce each post.  I make a BYBS faithfully each Sunday but it has been ages since I've seen or read anything from the other bloggers that were also on the blogroll.  It was with a great deal of sadness that I had to make the decision to remove the BYBS blogroll from my blog.  It was hosted through rpc.blogrolling.com which is now defunct so wasn't working anyway but now I have lost touch with the other BYBS bloggers even though many of them are no longer blogging.  I've found a few via a Google search but that's it.

The sad reality is bloggers come and go as does the means to keep bloggers in touch.  For whatever reason bloggers move on.  They may find blogging wasn't really their thing or life simple puts more demands on them.  I am very fortunate to have met some wonderful bloggers so I will always have those great memories. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Targeted Advertising

Of the blog advertising networks, Adgitize is the only one to offer geo targeting that I know of.  There is an extra charge for this service but if you use it your ads will be targeted to blogs displaying the widget in the country of choice.  Many traffic exchanges allow you to geo target as well without paying extra.  Until now I have not had a need for geo targeting however with recent changes geo targeting for one of my blogs is definitely a valid option.  My personal feeling is that in order for geo targeting advertising to be effective a larger advertising audience is needed.  I'm currently working on a couple of geo targeting blog promotion ideas so will report back as to their effectiveness.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Taming Bounce Rate

Many bloggers are concerned over their bounce rate.  The bounce rate refers to a visitor landing on your blog then leaving without clicking any links or staying long enough to read.  In short visitors are mearly hitting and running.  The greater number of visitors to your blog that stay under 30 seconds the higher your bounce rate.  As a blogger I care about my bounce rate for a couple of reasons.  A high bounce rate is a negative thing when it comes to Page Rank (PR) and other blog ranking systems.  To me a high bounce rate also means a high loss of potential readers and subscribers.  I have found the following tricks to help reduce my bounce rate:

  • blog ad networks - Some methods of blog promotion such as Entrecard where members are encouraged to click a large number of sites daily will increase bounce rate.  As soon as I stopped participating in Entrecard my bounce rate decreased across all of my blogs I had in their system.  Blog advertising networks like Adgitize and CMFAds that put more emphasis on other type of participation with lower clicking rates have less of a negative impact on bounce rate.
  • traffic exchanges - A good manual traffic exchange can actually lower your bounce rate.  The reason for this is three fold.  Interesting content catches the member's attention so they stop to read a bit.  Second members tend to do their traffic exchange clicks in small chunks of time pausing on the last clicked site until they have the next chunk of time to do more clicking.  That means they could have your blog open for several hours at a time.  Finally a traffic exchange take your blog promotion to a larger audience than just the blogosphere.  Reaching a broader audience increases the chance of getting attention from others interested in reading what you have to say. [Note: Do not use a traffic exchange if using Adsense!]
  • interactive content - Adding interactive content (eg. polls, games, contests, live chat, comments) to your blog is an effective way to reduce bounce rate. 
  • FYI section - I added an FYI section to my cooking blog right under the welcome message.  Basically what I do is as I find a tid bit of information I think my readers will find interesting or if I want to point out something I did to improve my blog I put it in point form with the date in this section.  I usually have three or less points in the section at a time.  Not only has this decreased my bounce rate it has resulted in an increase in return visitors.
  • most popular posts - I added a most popular posts section on my cooking blog.  This gives readers a chance to check out these posts if they are interested.
  • LinkWithin - This script adds a thumnail and link to three other similar posts to the bottom of each post you make.  This is an effect way to reduce bounce rate but giving the reader a visual of other posts they may find interesting.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Of Course You Would Like My Blog Optimized to Your Click Program

I logged into one of my blog advertising networks the other day then headed over to the forum to check out the new.  Here was someone complaining about blog loading speed because slow loading blogs slowed down his clicking.  Umm, excuse me?  I pay for advertising on this particular network and I don't pay for my bounce rate to increase just because another member only wants to click and run to earn points.  Seriously and I'm not kidding I can use a free traffic exchange where I can make a little money that has a lower bounce rate than some of the blog advertising networks that I pay a fairly decent price each month to advertise in. 

When I created my blogs I did so with my readers in mind not someone who wants to mindless click on my ad to stay on my blog(s) for less than 30 seconds just to get a point.  I optimize my blogs to my readers needs.  I find it rather insulting that someone essentially making a few pennies off of the advertising dollars that I pay has the audacity to tell me or anyone else to speed up the loading time of my/their blog.  Personally I think you should go stuff yourself and be happy that people like me do pay for advertising so people like you can make a couple of pennies by mindlessly clicking.  All I can say is thank God you do not represent the majority of people on this blog advertising network because if you did I would quickly be taking my advertising dollars elsewhere!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Groups, Forums and Copyright Infringement

One of the recommendations as far as networking goes is to participate in groups and forums.  However there is a danger in participating and that is of copyright infringement.  I recently joined a group never thought much more of it.  A couple of days later there was a picture with my copyright and an entire post from my blog posted to the group.  I voiced my concern over this and asked that this not be repeated.  This really does concern me though that there is a good portion of folks out there reading groups and forums that feel my hard work (or the work of any blogger) is free for the taking.  What do you do if this happens to you?

  • First off address the issue right up front and tell them this is copyright infringement.  Ask that they remove the copyright protected material.  In most cases this should take care of the problem.
  • If the problem persists issue a cease and desist under the DMCA.  If the material is not removed from their group or forum email the host of the forum or group within 24 hours contact the group host.  If it is Google or Yahoo the content will be removed immediately since both take a very dim view on copyright infringement.  If the group or forum is hosted by someone else send a complaint to their abuse department.  The content should be removed within 24 hours.  If it isn't complain to the host's upstream provider.  Use Sam Spade or do a Whois to get the complaint emails.
  • Chances are good if you have to escalate a complaint you will be removed from the forum or group.  Use a site like My Free Copyright to register your intellectual property as soon as it is posted and use Copyscape to find any sites that may have used your content without your permission.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Traffic Exchanges

Traffic exchanges are a rather easy way to gain traffic to your blog.  One of the most popular amongst bloggers is the slowly dying BlogExplosion.  Make no never mind though one of the most popular so called blog advertising networks, Entrecard is in reality a traffic exchange.  Traffic exchanges work under the premise that for every visit you make to another site your site gets a visit back.  That is a 1:1 exchange but a 2:1 also common means for every two visits to other sites you get a visit in return.  Traffic exchanges can and do bring some rather impressive traffic to your blog depending on how active you are.  Traffic can be targeted if desired and traffic is usually based on your involvement.  The only thing to keep in mind is if your blog is using Adsense, using a traffic exchange is against the TOS and can get your account terminated so if you want to try a traffic exchange suspend any Adsense ads on that particular blog.  Using a traffic exchange may be against the TOS for other ad networks but unless specified a traffic exchange is one more way to get traffic to your blog.

Now before you poo poo a traffic exchange, you really do need to try one out.  I honestly thought that using one would gravely increase my bounce rate.  While traffic exchanges can increase your bounce rate that is not always the case. Well they can depending on the one you choose to try but that is not always the case.   In some cases because a blog is so different from the sites normally seen on traffic exchanges the opposite actually happens.  I removed Adsense from one of my blogs and started experimenting with traffic exchanges.  Surprisingly of 25 visits on one traffic exchange showed a visit length of over an hour for 18 of those visits!   Also some traffic exchanges allow you to target traffic so if for some reason you need to increase traffic from a particular country then this may be the way to do it.  Most traffic exchanges also allow you to run banner and text ads so those help get a bit of exposure for your blog as well.  Both of these will bring in trickle traffic and in many ways bring considerably better traffic than Entrecard with a lot less effort.  I'm just saying, if you want a bit of easy traffic that actually has a lower bounce rate than Entrecard a traffic exchange might just be what you are interested in.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Three Things That Can Make or Break Your Blog

According to Blogging Hints there are three things that can make or break your blog.  They are comments or lack there of, theme and posting frequency.  According to them a lot of comments is desirable because that helps to keep readers on your blog whereas a lack of comments will cause  a reader to move on.  Theme is important providing it is attractive with easy navigation to give a pleasant blogging experience.  Finally daily posting or posting every other day is a must.  This post will extend some of the initial ideas presented in the original short post.  Quite frankly I disagree that these three things can make or break your blog although they can have an effect.

  • comments - I disagree with the author that the number of comments is important but I do agree that comments are important.  Comments are important on two levels.  First they show interest in your posts but the most important thing they show when a reader goes through the comment section is interaction.  The reader should see responses from the blogger ideally with a two way dialogue that goes into greater detail.  This tells the reader that the blogger is interested in engaging in interaction so the reader is more apt to read further and possibly comment. 
  • theme - The author mentions that it is better to create a theme with a plain white background avoiding dark backgrounds that can be hard to read as well as avoiding large files with longer loading times.  I personally think that any blog theme with respect to colour can work as long well as it is tastefully done.  Theme colours do make a difference and some do feel that plainer background are more attractive than extremely busy backgrounds but I see no reason to be confined to a white background only.  I author 6 blogs and this is the only one I use a plain white background on.  I've seen some blogs with dark backgrounds that are quite pleasant as well.  I do agree with the author that large files should be avoided.  Large files (eg. images) really is nothing to do with blog theme but more of a blog's elements.  Larger files should be optimized for use on blogs.  The reason for this is two fold.  First it makes larger files load faster for those on slow connections.  Second, search engines are now ranking the loading speed of your blog so faster loading blogs will rank higher in search results.  I also agree that easy navigation is a must.
  • daily posting - The author specified daily or at least every other day which I think really means regular posting.  I agree with the author and actually lean towards a daily posting if at all possible.  However, my reason for recommending daily posting goes well beyond the reader.  While readers want and expect regularly updated posting, daily posting gets your blog indexed by the search engines.  More importantly regular posting with pinging gets your blog indexed.  So it is very important if you want your blog to succeed to keep the posts aka content coming on a regular basis but some bloggers have been able to establish successful blogs with only weekly posting.  If you go to weekly posting only it is extremely important to ping after each update.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Problem of Non-Performance

I have been dealing with a situation off line for a few months now.  Essentially I have paid for a service so expect a certain level of service for which I paid.  Almost daily phone calls leaving a message on the answering machine go unanswered.  If I am very lucky a daily phone call will get through to an actual person of which I am given excuses or a promise that never comes to pass.  And so I am stuck in this perpetual never ending cycle that I paid for and yet am getting nowhere.  What does this have to do with blogging?

In many ways a reader is paying for the privilege of visiting your blog through bandwidth charges or at the very least their time.  In return they expect a certain return and that is a blog with current content as well as enough content worth reading through.  Comments left can be likened to messages left on an answering machine.  Those commenting expect some type of answer or at the very least that you the blogger have acknowledged their comment.  Readers do not want excuses for not following though on something you have told them you will do.  If you tell your readers you will post information on subject X on Monday then either do it or don't tell them you will do it.  Readers do not want false promises either.  One of the worst things you can do as a blogger is to say "I promise to make a daily post" then don't follow through.  You can bet your bottom dollar that your readers will remember promises made that haven't been fulfilled by moving onwards.  Don't let your blog become a perpetual never ending cycle of broken promises and unfulfilled intentions.  Otherwise your readers will be left frustrated, angry and move on.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Make $1,000 Per Day From Your Blog

I thought that catchy title would get your attention.  Don't you just love those great keywords?  Oh my gosh!  It is true or so a blogger that I stumbled upon would have you believe.  I'm not sure exactly what this blogger is promoting and didn't read long enough to find out.  To set the stage:

  • The blogger is using a very generic Blogger template in fact the same as this one without any customization at all, obviously keeping his overhead low.  
  • I actually found the blog through a traffic exchange.  Using a traffic exchange is against the TOS for Adsense so I suspect they will catch-up with him at some point.
  • I've never seen this blog on any of the normal blogging networks like CMFAds, Adgitize, Project Wonderful.  I don't know whether he's on Entrecard because I don't do Entrecard.
Seriously though, if it were that easy to make $1,000 per day from your blog don't you think every blogger out there would be doing so?  And why stop at $1,000 per day?  Honestly, if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true!  Either this guy is doing something on the shady side or something downright illegal or a bit of BSing but whatever it is there is no way he is making $1,000 per day from this particular blog!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Setting Goals for Making Money With My Blogs

The first blog advertising network that I decided to advertise my blogs on BlogExplosion.  BlogExplosion was quite effective.  It used a credit system in which you could earn credits through different onsite activities then use the credits to display banner ads within the system and participate in onsite activities like Battle of the Blogs.  While the site remains open it has been dying a very slow and painful death but there are still a few loyal members including myself that participate.  The next was Entrecard.  At that time paid advertising was not available so it was brute force, mindless click until you drop type of advertising in order to earn enough credits to exchange for advertising.  It was adequate but a huge time waster that while it brought in traffic, it did not bring quality traffic.  In the end I decided Entrecard was not for me and moved onto other methods of blog advertising.  Buying advertising made a lot of sense to me because it would free up my time to concentrate on actual blogging.

It takes money to buy advertising so I decided on a plan of attack.  By this time my blogs were making a bit of trickle in money from advertising networks.  It wasn't much just enough to wet the whistle so to speak.  I joined CMFAds and Adgitize.  Both of these blog advertising networks offer opportunities to earn money as a publisher by displaying the widget on your blog as well as participating.  Both offer opportunities as an advertiser to purchase ads.  So the goal was simple, make enough money online to pay for the advertising I wanted to do.   Here's a few ways I'm paying for my blog advertising:

  • CMFAds - CMFAds allows advertisers to set their own price for displaying campaign ads on their blog.  Blogs with higher traffic tend to charge a bit more than blogs with lower traffic.  At the same time members can earn $0.002 for each spike clicked and for displaying network ads.  In general I don't make much money off of CMFAds because what I earn tends to go back into onsite advertising.   I actually end up spending an additional $5 to $10 each month advertising on CMFAds but that is because I have 6 blogs to promote.  It would not cost this much if I were only promoting one blog.  Campaign ad prices are determined by the publisher so range anywhere from 1¢ to $2.00 per 30 day ad on the publisher's blog.  Network ads give a set number of impressions with the lowest being $1.50 for 50,000 impressions.  Spikes give a guaranteed number of hits to your blog with the lowest being 20¢ for 50 visits.
  • Adgitize - Adgitize uses a credit system that is then converted into actual money.  It pays out usually around the 7th of each month.  You can earn credits for posting daily to your blog, clicking 100 blog ads for publishers or 51 for advertisers, participating daily in the forum and you get advertiser points for advertising.  A one month ad costs $14 although you can get a one week.  Currently I am running one ad, earning 510 points per day which works out to 70¢ per day.  At this rate I stand to make $21 this month for a net of $7 once I pay for my next month's advertising.
  • Project Wonderful - I use Project Wonderful mainly to earn a little money rather than advertise although I do advertise occasionally.  I don't make much money off of Project Wonderful but it is a little extra.  So far I've cashed out $19 this year.
  • Miscellaneous - Combined income from other online sources (Adsense, Foodbuzz, Epionions, private ad sales, CafePress) works out to $111.20 per month with that covering my ISP costs and the rest banked.  I'm trying out a few new online money making sites that at the moment should bring in about $30 per month but I want to be sure they pay out before mentioning them.  In fairness Epinions is loosely affiliated with my blogs in that I give a link to my epinions review if the review is of interest to the blog topic and my blogs are listed on Epinions so I get a little traffic from them.  Also, at least one of the new sites I'm testing has nothing to do with my blogs but if it pays off there will be a referral link on my blogs.  For the most part the blogs become involved in some respect as far as earning that income.
I have my blogs to the point where they are paying for advertising and my ISP while still padding the bank account.  I think setting the goal of the blogs paying for any advertising by earning a bit was a good one.  It snowballed enough to pay for my ISP which is really nice since it is expensive.  Padding the bank account was unexpected but welcomed.  So I have set a new target of doubling my blog income in the next 6 months.  I don't think that is an unreason goal and I already have an interesting spin on how to do this.  I'll go into greater detail once I've implemented that plan.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Blogging and Blogging Related Injuries

Can blogging cause physical injuries?  The answer is a resounding yes!  The issue of repetitive stress injury is seldom discussed when it comes to blogging but if you think about it bloggers are very much prone to suffering repetitive stress injuries affecting their wrists and hands.  The repetitive movement of typing alone can trigger or worsen carpel tunnel syndrome.  Bloggers are also prone to other blogging related injuries such as eye fatigue and/or strain from spending so much time in front of a computer screen, neck and back aches and pains due to extended periods of sitting quite of with poor posture, as well as leg problems from sitting too long.  Surprisingly, blogging can really increase your stress level resulting in stress related problems such as poor digestion, irritability, and stress headaches.  In addition to these potential health problems, blogging is a sedentary activity that promotes a sedentary lifestyle through prolonged periods of physical activity.  A sedentary lifestyle is fraught with all kinds of health related problems including obesity and heart disease.  With this in mind there are several things you can do as a blogger to minimize the risk of blogging related injuries:

  • repetitive stress injuries - Any time you are repeating the same movement over and over again, you run the risk of incurring a repetitive stress injury.  Blogging by default uses a lot of repetitive motions through the use of keyboard and mouse.  The key is to minimize possible strain while using both keyboard and mouse.  There are special keyboard pads to support your wrists to minimize strain.  Of particular concern is if you are a blogger participating in any ad networking requiring a large number of clicks per day (eg. Entrecard) the muscles and tendons in your wrist and most likely pointer finger depending on how you click your mouse is going to get a real work-out that can result in soreness, redness from inflammation and possibly a tingling feeling signalling this activity is irritating nerves as well.  At the risk of permanent damage, you are further off to stop the clicking activity entirely however, there are ways to do this type of clicking activity while minimizing the problem.  Use a brace on your wrist and keyboard support.  Don't try clicking all 300 at one time.  Break it up throughout the day so as to give your hand and wrist a rest.  Try using your other hand for some of the clicks.  Take frequent breaks from typing and clicking as well.
  • eye strain - Use an anti-glare shield on your computer screen.  Adjust your computer screen to reduce glare.  Take frequent breaks.
  • back and neck strain - Reduce both back and neck strain while at the computer by using good posture.  Take frequent breaks.  The human body was designed for movement!  I take a break every 15 minutes and quite often an extended break where I'm away from the computer for several hours at a time doing other activities.  I also do stretching exercises throughout the day to help prevent muscle strain.
  • stress -  Stress when blogging is going to come from a few sources all of it manageable.  For example you sit down to blog knowing you need a blog post that day and your blog host is down.  The bottom line is you can't do anything about it and while it is annoying move onto something else blog related like editing pictures or do something entirely different.  Another example of stress is when you've been doing a fair amount of work on your blog design and you just can't get it right.  Stop what you are doing and walk away.  A fresh set of eyes in the morning will likely help and if you are still having problems do a Google or ask another blogger for help.  The third type of stress will come from others leaving comments.  First always moderate your comments to prevent spam or any nasty comments from being posted.  If the comment is hurtful, nasty or in anyway stressful to you, hit the reject comment and move on.  Finally coming up with blog fodder can be stressful itself but if you just relax and don't force it the blog fodder will come to you.
  • sedentary lifestyle - While blogging is a sedentary activity it does not mean you have to live a sedentary lifestyle.  For example, you could blog for a couple of hours in the morning then go for a 30 minute walk as well as doing a lot of other activities throughout the day that do not involve sitting for long periods of time.  Again, break up your blogging sessions so you aren't sitting for more than 15 minutes at a time.
A special note on pain killers:  The tendency for many including bloggers is if pain starts take a pain killer.  This is the wrong approach!  Pain is your body's signal that there is something wrong.  Pain killers mask the pain causing you to continue what you are doing actually causing more harm.  The best strategy is to stop what you are doing.   Rest awhile or do a different activity and relieve the pain using non-medicated means.  When the pain has diminished resume what you were originally doing prior to the onset of the pain.  If the pain returns, troubleshoot to get to the source of the pain.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Obnoxious Blogging Techniques

I have done and continue to do a fair amount of blog hopping on any given day ever since I started blogging in early 2006.  Over the years I have seen some fair obnoxious blogging techniques being used.  I've talked about some of them here already.  The worst part is some of these blogger belong to Entrecard, Adgitize and CMFAds where many of these techniques are against the TOS for that network.  Why they are being allowed to continue using these techniques is beyond me!  It's not like other members haven't complained about them.  Here are a few that I find particularly onoxious:

  • popups - I really don't like popups and I detest the ones where I have to click to make it go away before I can read the blog.  An ad popup is bad enough but I actually came across a blogger with a survey popup and the only way you could view the blog was to complete the survey.  Now that is obnoxious!
  • autoplay music or video or slideshow - Thankfully, many bloggers are getting the hint that these are annoying especially to those not on high speed connections.  While there are a lot less bloggers using these, I still run across anywhere from 5 to 10 blogs in any given day using one of more of these.  
  • forcing cookies - I'm sorry but if you tell me I have to accept your cookie before I can read your blog, I blacklist your blog and will never visit again!
  • forcing anything - I came across a blog a couple of days ago that told me I had to update flash before I could read it.  That blog is now blacklisted.  I also occasionally come across a blog that tells me to use a different browser as apparently it doesn't like Camino so unless I use a different browser I can't read their blog.  Hello, there are other browsers out there besides Internet Explorer.  Your job as a blogger is to make your blog compatible with as many browsers as possible not just one!
  • comments disabled - Some blogger's in an effort to control spam or negative comments, disable comments entirely.  If you do this you no longer have a blog, you have a website.  While your website might be interesting it is a website so don't call it a blog.  Don't put it in a blog advertising promoting it as a blog when it is a website.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Guest Blogging

One recommendation for building traffic is to do a guest blog on another blog.  That means you write a post with a linkback to your blog.  This is one way to get traffic to your blog.  A couple of years back I did a reciprocated guest blog post where I wrote a blog post for that blogger's post and in return they wrote one for mine.  I've also had one straight up guest post on one of my blogs.  I haven't done a guest post since and really have no desire to do so.  How effective is guest blogging.  Well, the simple answer is it depends on a lot of factors. There's no guarantees!

  • Ideally a guest post will bring traffic to both the blogger and the guest poster.  That doesn't always happen so it is best to know that may or may not happen.
  • Guest posting like multiple author blogging takes blogging away from the person realm.  Blogging is a personal almost intimate activity.  A lot of my feelings and ideas go into my blog posts so the bottom line is I really don't want to share when it comes to writing posts.
  • Guest bloggers will not do things the same way you would so this may become an issue if they want to include one or more images with their post. 
  • Guests posts like your own blog posts drop into the archives.  Once burried you may or may not get any further traffic.  Worse yet if that particular blogger stops blogging or deletes their blog the link becomes a hole in your PR bucket. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Traffic Troubleshooting

My observation over the last 4 years of blogging is in general traffic across all 6 of my blogs show monthly increases.  I'm stressing monthly because I think it is normal to see daily fluctuations in traffic.  One of the consistent patterns I've noticed is Thursdays are always my slow traffic days.  At any rate if comparing monthly traffic and I notice a medium to large dip in traffic it's time to do a bit of troubleshooting.  Here's a few things I look for that may explain a dip in traffic that are easily correctable:

  • regular content - Did I post daily or at minimum weekly?  If yes, great.  If no, increase posting.
  • pinging - Did I ping daily after each posts?  If yes, great.  If no, what the heck was I thinking - get pinging!
  • comments - Were comments left on my blogs that I didn't respond to?  If no, great.  If yes, get my but in gear and respond.  Did I leave comments on other blogs?  If yes, great.  If no, get leaving comments.
  • forums - Did I participate in at least one forum daily?  If yes, great.  If no, start participating more.
  • sig file - Did I include a sig file to at least one of my blogs each time I sent an email?  If yes, great.  If no, set up an auto sig file to be modified as required.
  • advertising networks - Did I reduce advertising or change the way I do advertising?  In click based advertising networks it is common to see traffic drop of if you quit clicking.  The only three choices here are buck it up and work on other forms of generating traffic or go back to clicking or pay more for advertising

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Blogging Fallacy

When I first started blogging I was elated at the ease of which I could set up and design blogs using basic templates.  At some point I started tweaking basic templates and I still do.  I don't use custom made templates for a couple of reasons.  First even though I could sit down and design a custom made template myself why reinvent the wheel?  Designing a custom made template is time consuming taking away from what I felt was more important, blogging.  Custom made templates are available free of charge with a link back but you are restricted to their design and colours as well as their image hosting site.  The down side to this is if their image hosting site becomes too popular your background may easily become a series of bandwidth exceeded graphics which is rather ugly to say the least.  The next alternative is to buy a custom made template design.  This is quite feasible but for many bloggers it just ads an additional cost not only for the first design but each time you decide to change your design. 

Blog design in many ways becomes a blogging fallacy.  Some bloggers are so intent on having the best design without realizing the design is just window dressing.  Search engines do not see the pretty graphics you so lovingly designed, tweaking the colours to perfection.  Search engines see your blog as text which is one reason every single picture appearing on your blog needs the alt="" tag.  Without search engine traffic you can have the prettiest blog design out there but what does it matter if no one sees it?

I don't think there is anything wrong with using a basic, generic blogging template at all.  Sure it may have the same layout as other blogs that's as far as it needs to go.  You can tweak to your heart's content to get your own unique look and feel then move on to what is really important, content.  Too many bloggers spend way too much time making their blogs look gorgeous but their content is nothing but fluff if even that.  Readers aren't looking for pretty they are looking for information and content.  As a blogger, I try to focus on content first and design second.  I realized a long time ago that content is king!

Friday, November 5, 2010

In the Grey Zone SEO Techniques to Avoid

Search engines draw a hard line at using black hat SEO techniques like hidden text and keyword spamming.  Some SEO techniques are just down right wrong so if you use these black hat methods your blog will eventually be penalized.  In fairness though most bloggers stay away from black hat SEO techniques.  The vast majority of bloggers use white hat, acceptable methods of getting the attention of search engines via use of regular content and pinging.  I've noticed that some blogger though are indulging in a bit of a grey zone for getting search engine traffic.  That means if you use these techniques the search engine may or may not flag your blog.  If they flag it your blog at some point may be penalized.    I don't know about you but that is something I don't want happening.

Here's a few grey zone SEO techniques to avoid:

  • buying links - This is a grey area because if you use some blog advertising networks you are essentially buying a link to your blog via your ad.  The technicality is you are buying an ad not a link.  However, there are sites out there that will sell you x number of links for a very low price of say $5.  Do not be tempted to do this!
  • link exchanges - This really needs to be clarified.  If a link exchange occurs naturally as in you link to another blog, they notice it and give a link back that is fine and you won't be penalized.  If another blogger contacts you asking for a link exchange meaning you both display reciprocal links that is fine.  What is not fine are link exchanges like the popular Mr. Linky.  Whatever you do do not put your link into any Mr. Linky!  The search engines are penalizing this one. 
  • blog rolling - Link exchanges bring into question whether search engines will penalize a blogger using a blog roll (third party widget).  Recently a blog rolling host that hosted a multitude of blog rolls was flagged as having having components of malware.  Anyone displaying that widget had a problem and believe me it did affect traffic.  At the same time anything that flags malware will not gain you any favour with the search engines.  Unless the blog roll is bringing you traffic it might be best to just get rid of it.  If you think about it the blog roll host and those being shown on the blog roll are getting free advertising but without any traffic coming your way, you are getting nothing.  You may even be hurting your blog if search engines view that particular blog roll as a grey zone technique.
A special case:
  • automation - Some have suggested that automation of any kind is grey zone SEO.  How so?  Technically automation involves pre-scheduling posts however I doubt any search engine will penalize a blogger for scheduling posts in advance providing they have good content.  Writing a post then scheduling it to run at a later date is no different than writing the post that day.  Providing you use all appropriate, white hat SEO and pay attention to content the search engines have no idea when the post was written only that it was posted on a certain date.  The search engines themselves are bots, reading via text only on your blog with an algorithm to control the indexing.  The search engine algorithms are created by some of the best multi-taskers there are so they understand just because a post comes live on your blog on a given day it easily could have been written days or months ago.  Some say that using automation on Twitter in particular is unethical but since Twitter is meant to be an as it happens type of thing I can see why.  Other tweeple are expecting you to be there to interact to tweets.  Blogging is not meant to be that and it is quite reasonable that a blogger will use some type of scheduling to keep content being posted on their blog on a regular basis.  I see absolutely nothing wrong with using scheduling for blog posts or anything in doing so that could remotely be construed as even being grey hat.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sometimes Networking is Almost Too Time Consuming

When I first started blogging the only real networking I did was within the BlogExplosion network.  Within a very short period of time blog networking and rather extensive networking using a wide range of mediums is the norm.  The premise is the more networking you do the more traffic you will get to your blog.  Well in theory this should work quite nicely if you don't take into consideration of maintaining more than one network. 

Let's say for example that you are active in Entrecard, CMFAds and Adgitize as many bloggers are.  That can easily give you a daily time commitment of 2 hours or more depending on your connection speed.  Add in Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Digg, Yahoo groups and perhaps a couple of niche forums then what?  Well the end result is you spend wo much time networking there is little time to do anything else including blogging.  As the time commitment for networking increases blogging itself becomes more work than pleasure.  At this point if you aren't careful it spells the end of a blog as the networking that was supposed to help your blog takes over.  There really is a fine line between social and advertising networking and actual blogging.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Choose Your Ad Placement Carefully

The first experience I had with blog advertising was running banner ads on BlogExplosion.  The banners were shown within their system as part of the frame for surfing.  In this respect I had no real control other than knowing that only one banner was being shown to a viewer at a time.  My next real experience with blog advertising was Entrecard followed quickly by Project Wonderful.  When Entrecard started having problems there were two major break-off groups that formed their own blog advertising netword.  They were CMFAds and Adgitize.  Since I had got to know Ben (CMFAds) and Ken (Adgitize) through Entrecard and because I was at that time thoroughly disgusted with Entrecard I left it and joined both CMFAds and Adgitize.  About the same time if not slightly before the then owner of Entrecard posted a way for bloggers to sell their own advertising space using OIOPublisher.  As a direct result of extra widgets, OIO, Project Wonderful and private sales (non-OIO) many blogs became more of a collection of a multitude of 125 x 125 ads sometimes with actual content being difficult to find.  This really presented a problem for bloggers wanting to advertise.

The problem of having too much advertising on a blog is very real.  It means that if you decide to buy any form of advertising on a blog with a lot of advertising the chances of your ad being noticed becomes significantly less given the competition.  I realized this so sought out advertising on blogs with good PR yet not filled with too much advertising.  I think that is one reason that I get fairly consistent and relatively good advertising results.  CMFAds has introduced a way to target higher traffic ads which is quite nice.  As of yet Adgitize has not followed suit but they likely will.  It's a lot easier with Project Wonderful because you can check out the ad prior to placing an ad.  OIO and private advertising is even easier as you have full control over where your ads will run.  I think this is important when it comes to advertising.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Advertising Timing

As with any advertising campaign, blog ads may perform differently than expected depending on the timing.  Some bloggers have noticed that timing does play a difference in the ad performance.  It stands to reason that timing could definitely be a factor but that has not been my experience.  I routinely run blog ads for one or more of my blogs on CMFAds and Adgitize as well as occasionally on Project Wonderful.  For the most part they perform as expected but occasionally doing a bit better or worse than expected.  I really have not noticed any significant difference in performance for ads that I run monthly.  That is monthly ads tend to consistently bring me close to the same amount of traffic regardless of the month other than February which is a short month but if averaged out to daily traffic it's fairly consistent.  The exceptions to this is ads for my gardening blog tend to get more traffic outside of the main growing season likely because this is the time home gardeners are looking for ideas for next year's garden and my cooking blog ads consistently do better just before the start of the main canning season with folks looking fro home canning recipes.  In fairness though, hits from search engines especially Google tend to increase during both of the mentioned time frames.  Even on shorter run ads I haven't noticed much of a difference in traffic with the exception of those ads run on Project Wonderful. 

Garden Gnome

Monday, November 1, 2010

Blogging Buffet Style

Almost from the get go of my early blogging days I decided the only way I could effectively blog was to compartmentalize my blogs.  That ended up meaning I author 6 public blogs but each have a different topic and feel to them.  Some bloggers don't do this.  Instead they opt to blog buffet style.  In short there is a bit of this, a bit of that and no real focus on any one topic.  I would find this type of blogging style very difficult to master.  The reason being compartmentalization gives a focus to the blog and provides a niche for that particular blog.  Otherwise the blog simply becomes a catch-all for anything you want to blog about which makes it a bit more difficult to follow.   In this case a reader who is interested in gardening may end up passing the generic blog by even though it may have a few gardening posts on it.

There are very few blogs I've seen that have pulled off being a mish mash, buffet style blog.  The main reason is without a lot of very hard work, the blog eventually loses any resemblance of even the loosest structure.  Readers get frustrated because the blog is all over the place lacking any focus.  I think the best way to prevent this is to divide interests into niches then create separate blogs for that niche.