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!

Search this blog:

Friday, April 30, 2010

Why Are You Apologizing?

I do a fair amount of blog hopping on a daily basis. What I have noticed is a blogger for whatever reason hasn't blogged for awhile and then feels the need to apologize for not blogging. The reality is life does get in the way sometimes meaning there may be periods of time where a blogger simply can't blog. There is no need to apologize for not blogging but I think it is more of akin to I haven't seen you in awhile, sorry about that.  Still most readers really aren't all that interested in apologies.  All they care about is you are back posting.  Seriously, make no apologies for not being able to blog.  Apologizing means you feel an obligation aka pressure to blog and that's not what blogging is all about.  Friends and family who read your blog will know why and others can always contact you directly via your email contact.  

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Combining Twitter with Blogging

Twitter is a wonderful social network that allows you to send micro blogs (140 characters or less) whenever you want and communicate with others some who may blog in real life time. Twitter is an ideal way to promote your blog each time a new post is made manually or through a scheduled feed that will send a tweet when the post appears. In addition to that you can send twitpic pictures of something you blogged about or just something you found interesting as a way of encouraging interest in your blog. However, unless you are active in Twitter such as interacting with your followers and re-tweeting (RT) simply sending blog promotion tweets will not be as effective. 

With Twitter the big thing is not just collecting followers.  What you want are the followers who actually follow you because they are interested in what you have to say.  They are the ones you are most likely to interact with and the ones who will be most interested in reading your blogs.  So get rid of the Twitter spammers and dead weight then focus on the followers who are following you for what you are saying.  

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Conducting a Blogging Experiment

One of the benefits to authoring multiple blogs is I have the opportunity to test certain blogging elements across all six blogs.  Quite often I will test an element like a particular widget across all of the blogs but sometimes I will test only on one blog before adding to the others.  It's funny what works with one blog just doesn't work well with another but the only way I can be sure is to do a bit of experimentation. 

For the past few months I have had my Twitter feed on two of my blogs.  I noticed that there is a new Twitter widget so decided to do a bit of tweaking to customize it to each of my blogs.  Now, I'm not 100% convinced having my Twitter feed on all of my blogs is appropriate but then there is no reason it shouldn't be.  I guess I'm just not interested in adding content for the sake of content.  I know Twitter feed works well for my cooking and personal blog so it is worth checking out on the other blogs.  During the experimental stage I will watch for any comments and stats changes while tweaking colours.  When I'm finished experimenting (28th of May) I will report back on my findings.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Proof of Payment Posts

In my blogging journeys  I have come across several blogs that post proof of their payments from running ads or doing reviews.  While any topic is fair game when it comes to blogging providing it does not go against the TOS of your blogging host and ISP provider, I do question the value of posting proof of payments.  I understand it is a way of saying hey I got paid but it serves no purpose.  You wouldn't post a copy of your pay stub to say the company you work for actually paid you.  It's a reasonable expectation to be paid for the work you do.  The same thing applies to earning online.  If you run ads for Adsense then you expect to be paid for them.  They aren't in the business of ripping off  those who run their ads.  Any ad network that fails to pay the bloggers running their ads won't stay in business long.  Rather than posting proof of payment from ad networks it would considerably more useful to blog about and ad network that failed to pay out. 

As long as you stick with the tried and true ad networks when monetizing your blog, you will likely have no trouble being paid.  My only negative experience with ad networks was Commission Junction.  I had earnings of $10.40 towards the $50 cashout.  They took $10 of those earnings as an administration fee for failing to log in even though their ads were still running on my blogs.  With 40¢ left in earnings I pulled their ads and walked away.  At the same time several of their advertisers were walking away as well because every time one left I would get an email to join them at their new ad network.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Comparing Yourself to Other Bloggers

One of the first things I learned about blogging is that you cannot compare yourself to other bloggers.    I know this is difficult to not do especially when you first start out blogging.  When you read someone else's blog and look through their design, you have no way of knowing how many hours the commit to blogging each week, whether they hired someone to do their design, or quite frankly even their true gender.  In some cases the blog posts may even be written by different authors.  In addition to that never, ever, ever compare your blog stats to a similar blog.  Traffic stats can easily be over inflated for any blog and just because a blog is getting a lot of traffic it doesn't mean it is quality traffic and it doesn't mean that you will get the same amount of traffic if you mimic that blogger.  Comparing yourself to other bloggers simply sets you up for failure as a blogger.  Each blogger brings their own personality and skills to their blogs that are ultimately influenced by internal and external pressures.  Each blog is unique because each blogger is unique.  You have to be you!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Using a Blogging Pseudonym

Recently I had one of my Twitter followers make a tweet that said "Why do people blog under an assumed name - it's just wrong - learned that today."  Well there were other issues with this follower so apparently she isn't following me anymore not by her choice but that is another story.  Anyway, her comment could not be more wrong if she tried.  There is absolutely nothing wrong or immoral or unethical about blogging using a pseudonym.  A large number of bloggers blog under an assumed name.  There are many, many reasons one may want to write using a pseudonym.  When done properly the pseudonym (assumed name) becomes as much part of the blog as the blog itself. 

The concept of writing under an alias or pseudonym is definitely not a new concept.  It has been a widely accepted practice in the literary world likely dating back as far as writing on scrolls.  Pseudonyms were used to hide gender and/or station when writing.  So the precedence was set well before blogging came to be.  I read about a female blogger who wasn't achieving the success she wanted so she took on a male persona and her blog took off.  The reality of blogging is the only one who knows your real name is your blogging host providing you gave them your real name and not a generic John Doe name.  The copyright remains with the author whether or not they are writing under a pseudonym providing there is an established link between the author's name and pseudonym but that can all be done behind the scenes. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Should You Inform Readers About Blog Construction

Years ago when I created my first website it was vogue to have banners or animated graphics to tell visitors when your website was under construction.  Basically what this meant is you were working on the website so some things might not work as expected or content that was there might not be there now.  While the intentions of these warnings were good what ended up happening is they were overused.  In fact occasionally a website can still be found with the ubiquitous under construction warning.  Some websites honestly were always under construction.  The warnings never came off them!

Blogs by their very nature are always under construction.   As a blogger I know this so really don't like coming across a blog with a huge banner announcing it is under construction.  This raises the question whether you should inform your readers about blog construction.  The answer to this from my perspective is yes and no.  Here's why:

  • no - A post or multiple posts telling your readers that you are do this or that with your blog ads no actual content to your blog.  I think most blog readers have become accustomed to seeing minor changes on the blogs they read on a fairly regular basis.  Aside of those visible changes there is a lot of tweaking and optimization that I do on my blogs behind the scenes.  The reader may notice my blogs load faster because of the changes but other than that nothing really is a visible noticeable change.  In addition to these on going changes I usually do a bit of decorating for the Christmas season so my readers expect this meaning there's really no reason for me to say I making those changes.  My rule of thumb is as long as the changes are not disruptive to the reader I don't feel there is any reason to inform the readers about what I'm doing.  
  • yes - From time to time I will do a complete overhaul of my blogs that includes a new custom made theme with custom made graphics.  This means elements are added and tested one at a time so especially when first starting my blogs can look a tad odd.  I have found that this can be disruptive for my readers so I will make a temporary post to let them know they will more than likely see a few odd things going and to not worry it's just me doing a larger update.  Once the update is completed, I replace the temporary construction notice with a post thanking my readers for their patience during the upgrades.  I usually leave the thank-you notice up for a couple of hours then I take it down.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Unexpected Traffic Spikes

I check my blog traffic stats almost daily.  This a good way to keep up to date with my blogs but it is also an excellent way to catch any problems before they become problems.  In order to analyze abnormal traffic it is important for you to know your normal traffic patterns and average daily traffic.  For example I know that Thursdays are typically lower traffic days.  I've had 3 abnormal traffic spikes in 2 of my blogs over the last couple of months.  Here's how they played out:

  • cooking blog spike 1 - My normal daily traffic for my cooking blog averages about 330.  One day it reached 720!  So I checked it out and apparently my blog was featured on a site that sent a lot of traffic my way so that was a very pleasant surprise.
  • homemaking blog spike - My normal daily traffic for my homemaking blog is about 50 visits per day.  One day I noticed it was up to 130 mid afternoon so decided to check out why.  Apparently another blogger decided to lift one of my images quite contrary to my copyright notice but in return they did give me a link.  I did request the blogger to remove my image despite the nice traffic increase.  This brings up the issue that if you are going to fight copyright infringement you have to fight it consistently even if there is a small benefit to you as a result of the copyright infringement.
  • cooking blog spike 2 - A couple of days ago I checked my cooking blog stats at 9:30 AM.  I just about fell off my chair when it said 220 visits!  As I said my cooking blog averages about 330 visits per day.  I immediately started checking through the logs.  There was absolutely no reason for such a jump in traffic - no abnormal referring urls, no anything to indicate why my traffic jumped.  The only thing I noticed was a bit more search engine traffic but even that wasn't abnormally high.  I watched as the number of visits climbed to 418 by 7:00 PM with still no indication as to why the traffic jumped.
In the first spike the traffic could be explained through a transient gain through a website.  The second traffic spike was explained by a link on a website that never should have been.  In short this spike warned of a problem that needed acting on.  The third spike is the most welcomed spike of all.  It appears the spike is from increased search engine traffic.  Hopefully this is a sign of a good traffic increase to my cooking blog.  I will be keeping a close eye on the stats to see what happens.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blogging and Special Causes

Today we celebrate Earth Day 2010, a special day meant to bring awareness to environmental issues and living in a eco-friendly manner.  All of my blogs will have some mention of this very special cause.  When I first started surfing blogs I noticed a lot of bloggers used their blog to spread the word about causes that were important to them.  I thought this was an excellent idea not only for getting coverage about a cause important to you but also a way to show your readers you are more than just fluff.  Special causes reflect who you are as a person and what you value.  I think it is very important to work in special causes any way you can into your blog(s).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Authoring Multiple Blogs

I started blogging in late April of 2006.  Within a couple of days the second blog was born and now I'm up to 6 blogs, well technically 7 but one is private.  Anyway my blogs just sort of grew in number as the need arose.  I didn't start off saying I want to author X number of blogs or even have a definitive reason prior to the idea popping into my head that I wanted more than one blog.  To me the blogs are somewhat like having babies where you start of with ideals but over time those ideals are modified to suit the growing child and child/parent relationship.  As with any parent who has more that one child, each child is treated similarly while recognizing their uniqueness.  What works well for one child does not work well for another and that is the same way it is with multiple blogs.  I think too just like parenting while the basic values remain the same there is always little modifications that don't affect the basic values to suit the current situation.

What I did right from the start of blogging was to establish a brand much the same as a new parent says I'm the parent, you're the child.  I've used the same avatar for all my online activities so if someone is browsing buy and sees an avatar they recognize they are more likely to visit my younger blogs.  While each blog is different there are similarities and I think that it is only fitting that my personality as a blogger comes through on each blog.  In reality my personality is going to come through because it is me doing the writing.  I design each blog to what I like and present what interests me so of course there are going to be similarities.  I think that is one of the striking features of authoring multiple blogs.  Writing multiple blogs is very much like an author who writes multiple books.  Their personality does come through and there are certain similarities.  This is a type of branding that gains the author readership.  If a reader enjoyed one of the author's books there is a greater chance that they will read the next book out by that author.  So it is with blogging.  Readers end up reading your other blogs because they like what they saw on one of them.

A benefit to authoring multiple blogs aside of the creativity is each blog already has a niche so the topic is already decided.  In many ways it is easier to write multiple blogs than it is to write one blog.  There's already a focus so when I sit down to write this blog I know I will be talking about some aspect of blogging not gardening, cooking or the cute Mallard ducks sitting on my dock.  There can be a bit of overlap as in using the same image on a couple of your blogs.  For example my food blog readers get to see all the great foods we eat so occasionally I will share a food picture with my personal blog readers or I may share the same custom made graphic for a holiday greeting across all my blogs.  In general the overlap tends to quite minimal though reserved mainly for holidays.

I have read many great blog posts from several bloggers who write multiple blogs.  The general theme of similarity yet uniqueness especially with respect to content is always apparent.  I've also come across a few bloggers who were authoring multiple blogs then decided to consolidate them into one blog.  In my opinion consolidating multiple blogs into one blog does not work well especially if the blogs were in well defined niches.  As a reader is is annoying to go to a food blog expecting posts on food related topics to find the author has combined their religious and cat blogs in with the food blog yet their title gives the indication it is a food blog.  However, if the blog has a less defined title (eg. My Life Experiences) combining a religious and cat blog with it would be a bit more successful.  One thing I have noticed is those bloggers who combine multiple blogs into one blog quite often give up blogging entirely so it's almost like combining them is a last ditched effort.  This is not always the case but rather just an observation.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Can You Make Money Online?

A couple of days ago I wrote about the topic of whether you could make money blogging.  The short answer is yes you can make money blogging but it is doubtful if you can make enough money to support your lifestyle.  So let's extend the question to can you make money online?  The answer to this question is a resounding yes.  Whether you can make enough money online to support your lifestyle and give up your day job is another issue.  Here are a few ways to make money online along with my experience and  comments:

  •  online auctions - We joined eBay back in the late 1990's.  Within a couple of months we were generating an income of $400 per month for a net profit of about $150.  That amount is hardly enough to live off of but it was a nice bit of extra income.  We were quite active sellers for a year or so then backed it down because in all honesty selling on eBay is quite a bit of work and it is time consuming.  Canadian postage rates are horrendous so we shipped from the US as much as possible meaning extra costs and 9/11 created more hassles for taking items over to ship.  We still do occasionally sell on eBay usually going in spurts.  In my opinion eBay is one of the best ways to earn online.
  • online sales or services businesses - Years ago I ran a small online only business (sales).  Like any online website getting traffic is critical.  The success of an online business depends on the traffic so promotion is key.  The nice thing about running this type of business is the overhead is low and your audience is huge so if it clicks the results can be quite good.  If it doesn't click you are out mainly time and effort.  As with any business you need to establish whether or not there is a market for the business prior to starting it and you have to be willing to let the business grow rather than expect success overnight.
  • blogging - Blogging income is generated through affiliate networks, advertising income from other bloggers and paid posts or reviews.  Unless you get extremely lucky a well established blog can be expected to generate enough income to cover your ISP, domain costs and blog promotion costs.  So essentially you are making enough to cover your basics.
  • authoring eBooks - eBooks are growing in popularity so the potential for making money is there.  Some have been quite successful with selling their eBooks while others haven't.  I have no experience with selling eBooks so can't advise any further. 
  • free advertising networks (eg. Kijji) - It is possible to generate income through sites like Kijji usually through sales of used items or through services offered.  I have limited experience with Kijji

Garden Gnome

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tax Implications of Blogging

I came across a blog post discussing the tax implications of food blogging.  Well of course I was interested enough to read it since one of my blogs is a food blog.  The post was from an American perspective.  I honestly had to laugh to think that the raw ingredients, travel to and from restaurants to take pictures of food, and similar expenses could be written off against any income a blog has.  This may be true for established food magazines and other related food businesses but for the average food blogger who blogs for a hobby it isn't.  On the other hand I recall a year or so ago reading how someone in New York was denied unemployment benefits because they earned a few dollars from Adsense.  So when it comes to tax and financial implications of blogging, it is always advisable to do a bit of research as it applies to you where you live.

I live in Ontario, Canada.  In essence there are no tax implication of blogging for non-business related blogs.  A non-business (personal) blog is a blog that is not part of an existing business.   Blogging is considered as a hobby much the same as making crafts or selling a few extra vegetables at a roadside stand.  For example many crafters will rent a table at craft fairs to sell their crafts.  The proceeds cover the immediate expenses with enough left over to buy more craft supplies but there is no annual net gain but rather a loss.  Hobby losses cannot be used against other income and time spent doing the craft has no monetary value so cannot be factored in either.  If my blogs' income reaches a point where there is a net income, something that is very difficult to do with many hobbies and even more so with blogging, then it would be declarable income.  However, since I do not have another income and the personal tax exemption is $8881 meaning I would have to make a net income over that amount before paying tax.  Trust me if I ever get to the point of making that much net income from my blogs you and everyone else is going to hear about it!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Can You Make Money Blogging?

Can you make money from blogging is a common question.  Quite often when a new blogger starts blogging they are under the misconception they can make a lot of money blogging.  Somehow this new found money source is going to support their lifestyle.  After a month or two of blogging reality sets in.  Here they have done all this work and haven't even earned enough money to cash out on one of their advertising networks.  Why?  Well the reason is actually a lot simpler than you would think because quite simply an unsuccessful blog, one that does not get traffic and loyal readership Let's put this in perspective with an example.

John Q. Public had this great widget he wants to sell.  He rents a nice store front and puts his widgets in the store front waiting for someone to come along and buy it.  Money is a bit tight so he buys just a small ad and only runs it once.  As rent becomes due for the second month money gets tighter because he made no money the first month selling his widgets.  He reduces advertising and is forced to use his time to find a part time job to support his store.  In a desperate attempt he agrees to allow Jack Spratt to use some of his store space for his gadgets in return for a commission on any gadgets sold.  At the end of 6 months he has sold one widget, earned no commissions, is now working full time and considerably in debt.  He has no choice but to close his store.  What did he do wrong?  The short answer is John Q. Public jumped the gun without knowing his market.  He invested time and money on an idea that might have no potential and he failed to advertise it.  Very few people even know his business exists because in addition to not advertising he failed to network.  Then because he went too big to fast he didn't have the means to fund his project so the project failed.  As a business owner he failed to recognize one of the fundamental principles of business - it takes a lot of hard work!  Finally he failed to realize that success does not happen over night.

The example can be extrapolated to blogging.  The widget represents your blog and the store front represents your blog host.  A surprising number of bloggers are paying for their blog hosting site and domain.  Advertising in both cases is advertising and can be free or paid advertising in both.  Ideally it should be a combination of both.  Blog advertising in more than one format needs to be done on a continuous basis.  The gadget space represents advertising on your blog that will bring you revenue.  You are giving up some of your blog real estate with the expectation you will be compensated for it through commissions. 

In the real world the average business takes 3 years just to turn a profit.  During that time the business owner will need some type of alternative income to support their lifestyle as well as diverting some of that income into their business.  Once a business starts making a profit is can easily be a few more years before it can support the business owner's lifestyle to the point he or she can quite their other income source.  In the blogging world, the average blog lasts 3 months before the blogger abandons it.  A three month period is not long enough to establish good traffic that would bring in any substantial amount of money from advertising affiliates or even paid posts and/or reviews.  If the blogger continues with the blog, constantly tweaking and promoting as well as adding regular new content then the earning potential goes up.  Unless you have a blog such as Julie Powell, author of Julie & Julia who took her year long blogging experience then turned it into a lucrative career, it is not a reasonable expectation to be able to make enough money from your blog(s) to support your lifestyle.  It is a reasonable expectation that you can make enough money to cover the cost of your ISP, domain and any paid advertising used to promote your blog.  It is also reasonable to expect that providing you do all the hard work of writing and promoting your blog as it ages the earning potential of your blog will increase.  In the meantime, have fun blogging, forget the get rich quick from blogging hype and keep you day job.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Question Asked Does Not Always Deserve An Answer

I had a fair amount of online experience prior to starting my blogs.  One thing I realized quite sometime ago is a question asked does not always deserve an answer.  This applies to all online activities such as forums, newsgoups, private groups and blogs.  Some people online will try to goad you into revealing more about yourself than you want to while others simply ask questions that are none of their business.  One aim of these questions is to cause a bit of an uproar so they get a attention.  This is often referred to as trolling.  This type of behaviour can be seen in blog comments as well but remember just because a reader asks a question it does not mean you have to allow their comment let alone answer the question.  A reasonable question related directly to the blog post, then yes do your best to answer it.  If the question is simply a troll question decide whether or not you will allow the comment then either skirt the question or simply don't give a reply.  If you have an email contact link on your blog don't feel like you have to respond to blatant troll questioning either.  If a question makes you uncomfortable file it under G for garbage and move one :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bashing Other Bloggers

A few days ago I came across a blog post that I took a bit of offense too.  Now there aren't a lot of times that I will bad mouth another blogger because I feel you have to blog to your own style.  However when a whole post is made up of snide  to down right nasty comments seriously bashing other bloggers I do take offense.  The worst part was this blog actually included links to the blogs they were ripping apart.  I honestly felt sorry for the other bloggers!

The blogosphere is filled with all kinds of blogger with their own unique personalities that shine through to their blogs.  Fault can be found with any blogging style or design or topic.  The important thing to remember when reading another blogger blog is they are blogging for themselves not as an example for critiquing unless they have asked to be critiqued.  A fair critique is never 100% negative either.  Using an example of something you don't like reading (eg. bashing other bloggers) or seeing on a blog (eg. IP trackers telling you your IP) without disclosing the name, personally attacking the blogger and link to that blog is one thing BUT to publicly humiliate another blogger is just not acceptable.  This is a sure fire way to not only make yourself look bad hurting your reputation as a blogger but also gain enemies in the blogosphere.  In severe cases it is also a good way to lose your blog hosting services especially if your blog bashing was contrary to their TOS.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Adding Email Code to Let Readers Contact You

I decided to allow readers to be able to email directly from each blog without having to go to my profile page.  This just makes it easier for them to communicate with me.  The main reason for not adding an email link to a blog is to help reduce spam and in some cases personal attack emails as a result of a controversial topic.  I seldom write anything on my blogs that would result in a personal attack and if a person wanted to email me the link is already in my profile so they easily could email anyway.  My email has been on my profile page since each blog was created.  I have not had a problem with anyone abusing it and really haven't seen a huge spike in spam either.  Blogger does offer a warning when you try to add an email link.

To add an email link in the old editor in Blogger:

  • Go to dashboard then post editor.  Create new post.  Upload graphic or just type email me.  Highlight the word or graphic you want to add the email hyperlink to.  Click on link then type in mailto:your email address.  Click ok and you now have the HTML code.  Save your post as draft.  Go to edit HTML.  Copy the HTML.  Go to layout and select Add Element then click on HTML and paste you code in the window.  Click save.  Drag the element to the desired location.  Click save.
To add an email link in the updated editor in Blogger:
  • Go to dashboard then post editor.  Create new post.  Upload graphic or just type email me.  Highlight the word or graphic you want to add the email hyperlink to.  Select add email.  Fill in just your email address.  Click ok.  Save your post as draft.  Go to edit HTML.  Copy the HTML.  Go to layout and select Add Element then click on HTML and paste you code in the window.  Click save.  Drag the element to the desired location.  Click save.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Label Display on Blogs in Blogger

As mentioned in yesterday's post I did not start using labels until I had been blogging for awhile.  In hind site that was not a wise decision but as a new blogger it was only one of many mistakes I made.  Blogger offers three ways to display labels on your blog:

  1. one each post
  2. as a label list
  3. as a label cloud
There is also an option to show the number of posts under each label.  I have found that my readers like the labels on each post.  For many blogs this may be more than sufficient.  However for some niche blogs where there are several labels, a label list or cloud may encourage readers to explore the blog a bit more by clicking on the desired label.  Readers might not realize that for example you have a lot of 15 minute meals if all they see are the two or three labels on a post that have nothing to do with that topic and you haven't blogged about 15 minute meals for awhile.  I'm like the idea of giving my readers one more way to find the information they are looking for on my blogs so will be adding a cloud label to all of them.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Modifying Labels in Blogger Hosted Blogs

When I first started blogging I did not use post labels.  A kind reader mentioned that if I used labels it would make it easier to find related posts on that topic.  That made sense to me so I started using labels.  The problem that I immediately had is a couple of meaningless labels getting through because I would start typing the label then get distracted and in the meantime Blogger automatically saved the draft including the meaningless label.  I wasn't really worried about this as I wasn't using a label cloud so the labels were only on individual posts.  Yes, that is a poor excuse!  Anyway, it is possible to modify labels in Blogger.  You can add a new label or delete a label.  There is no easy way to simply edit a label to correct a spelling mistake but there is a work-around for this.  Here are the steps:

  1. Go to your Blogger dashboard.
  2. Click edit posts.  
  3. On the left hand side there is a listing of your labels.  Click on the one you want to remove.  This will bring up all posts with that label.
  4. Click select all to select all the posts with that label.
  5. If you want to add an existing label to the highlighted posts, click on the apply label in the label drop down menu before removing the label you want to remove. 
  6. If you want to add new label scroll down to new label in the label drop down menu before removing the desired label.  A small text box will appear to type in the name of the new label.  The new label will be applied to all selected posts.
  7. Scroll down to remove on the label drop down menu and click on the label you want to remove.  Blogger works automatically to remove the label so wait.  You will get a confirmation that the label has been removed.
  8. If you want to correct a spelling error or edit a label, click on that label then select all.  Scroll down to the apply label if a correctly spelled version already exists or new label if one does not.  Blogger will automatically apply this label to all selected posts.  Then scroll down to the remove label and click on the label you want removed.

Monday, April 12, 2010

As a Blogger Are You Listening to Your Readers?

Right from the time I started blogging I have been of the mindset that you have to listen to your readers.  I can remember the first time I viewed my stats for my first blog and saw that someone actually stayed on my blog longer than 30 seconds.  That meant I had a reader, one interested enough in what I had to say to at least glance through my blog.  Blogging is very much about the blogger but if the blogger does not find some way to engage the reader the reader will move on.  So the key question becomes are you listening to your readers with the secondary question being why listen to them?

I have found that listening to my readers pays off on so many levels, from blog design to what they are interested in (aka blog fodder), to what function they would like to see, and even into exchanging knowledge and that's what it is all about.  Last year on my gardening blog I posted a picture of a plant that despite extensive research I could not find the answer as to whether the plant was a tulip or a lily.  The kicker was this plant was in with the lilies and looked like a lily but thanks to an observant, helpful reader it was identified as a tulip.   I routinely poll my readers to see if there is any interest in a particular topic especially on my cooking blog.  This saves me going off on a tangent that will draw little interest.  I think it was early in 2009 I got to know a rather nice reader who emailed me rather than commenting on my cooking blog.  I listened to the suggestion to tone down the pink a bit which I decided to try.  The suggestion worked and I gained a reader!  A couple of days ago I had a reply to a comment made on one of the forums I frequent.  The member wanted to know how to find recipes on my blog other than going through the archives so before answering I opened up my blog to take a good look.  I had a search this blog site box and below that was the WWW search box and the archives in the sidebar.  I decided to do a bit to tinkering by adding a text explaining what each search box was for.  Then I added a label cloud in the sidebar under the archives.  Now when someone wants to know how to find a recipe on my cooking blog it is a lot clearer!  After doing this I replied back, told her what I had done and asked her opinion.  Basically what I did was listen to the reader, address the issue, act on the concern, report back and engaged the member by asking her opinion.  More importantly I made a reader happy which means I've likely gained a reader just by the simple act of listening.  In addition to that because of listening to one member on this forum the changes made will make it clearer to other readers how to find the recipes on my blog meaning they will likely stay longer.  All around listening to readers is a win:win situation!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Issue of Paid Links

In yesterday's post I talked about some of the reasons Google doesn't like paid links.  However, in some respects this is a bit of an oxymoron as Google's Adwords are paid links as are their text links in their ads.  Google owns Blogger which is now allowing their users to insert Amazon.com links and/or images into their blog posts quite easily right in the post editing window.  You have to be an Amazon.com associate meaning you do get paid so once again these are paid links.  So to my way of thinking Google has two issues against paid links:

  1. They don't like paid links they don't get a cut from but they may tolerate the occasional paid post for a blog.  Paid post links add a multitude of duplicate content to Google's database yet Google gets nothing from it.  
  2. Many paid links are nothing more than link spam.  The post is made solely for the purpose of the link but it adds no new content.  Worse than the paid post links some websites and blogs have resorted to blatant link spam where most of the content is paid links.  Like many others Google is taking a firm stand on spam of any kind so it is not surprising that there are indications that they may be setting up a link spam reporting system in the near future.
With that in mind paid links can be used effectively while not getting you into hot water with Google if you simply follow the rules.  Here's are a few things I think are important when using paid links:
  1. Have a disclosure policy in place.  This basically tells your readers that there is advertising on your blog and that if they click the link you will receive a monetary compensation.  This is usually a TOS for any advertising system you use.
  2. Have a privacy policy in place.  This tells your readers that as a result of the advertising on your blog a certain amount of their information is being collected.  In most cases the privacy policy is part of the disclosure policy.
  3. Use additional paid links sparingly.  If you already have advertising on your page use addition paid links in your posts sparingly.  The main reason for this is your readers will feel that selling them something is your ownly interest.  What you really want to sell them is yourself not push consumer goods and services down their throats.  If using text ads or Amazon.com ads refrain from using more than one or two in a post otherwise it will be seen as link spam and don't use them in every post.  
  4. Put information and content first!  My theory is that my readers are looking for information and content so advertising is second to that.  Advertising is a norm everywhere we go so I try to use how I feel about it when I'm using advertising on my blogs.  I don't like a lot of flashy, in your face advertising and while I'm rather partial to the neon lights of Las Vegas advertising, I think that style is sensory overkill for any blog.   Some of the advertising styles you won't find on my blog simply because I don't like them include: flashy click here banners, advertising after every post, advertising scattered in so many directions you can't find the content, adult content advertising, or any other advertising that I would find offensive myself.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Another Google Heads Up

During my blog hopping I try to visit those bloggers who visit and comment here. The other day I stopped by Eli's blog Business Sphere to read his article How To Get High Ranking For Your Blog in Google Search Engine. He has some great tips so do stop by to check out the article and say hi. In this post I would like to extend Eli's last point that Google does not like paid links. Why?

Google is in the business of indexing all possible information, essentially an electronic form of the precursor encyclopedias. At one time publishers of encyclopedias would hire door-to-door salesmen to sell the information they had gathered. They had taken their resources to create the publications so in return felt justified selling back the information to those interested. Fast forward to Google that is essentially doing the exact same thing except it is making the information freely available to all despite using its resources to collect that information. One way Google funds its enterprise is selling advertising to advertisers then having webmasters and bloggers voluntarily display those ads on their sites or blogs for a small amount of compensation. Of course Google doesn't like any other paid links other than the ones they can control. However, there is another very important reason why Google does not like paid links aka paid posts.

In order for Google to be effective, duplicate content needs to be minimized and ideally eliminated. Why? Well let's say you buy a magazine and read it. You buy a second magazine and virtually 80% of the articles are identical to the first magazine. Then you buy a third magazine that is 90% the content of the second. How impressed would you be paying 3 times for the same information. That is what happens with paid posts. The advertiser puts out a paid post request to which 100 bloggers write virtually identical articles meaning no new content for Google but at the same time it deflates the value of what Google might already have on that topic.

In addition to these two considerations Google does not like the fake selling by those who have no experience with the product or service and who do not reveal they are being somehow compensated. These types of posts are link spam.  There is some indication that Google will be making reporting these types of posts available in the near future.  There is also indication that those using paid posts will be penalized by Google by removing the blog from their index.

Now one thing that I have noticed is while Google does not like paid posts, paid links seems to be an entirely different issue providing they are done correctly.  I will address the issue of paid links in tomorrow's post as in some ways Google's position appears to be a bit of an oxymoron.

Friday, April 9, 2010

What Happens on a Slow Blogging Day

I'm sure everyone reading this blog thinks I sit writing blog posts daily. Well sorry but I don't. I woke early in the morning a few days ago with an awesome idea for a blog template design. So I made my coffee then sat down to check my stats as I do most mornings that I'm home. I immediately noticed a traffic anomaly on one of my blots with the day before's traffic at almost triple but for no apparent reason. So I dug a bit further and found that another blogger has scraped one of my images despite a very clear copyright warning. What really ticked me off about this is the blogger was a former teacher so I'm sure had some comprehension that copyright infringement was wrong. At the same time she did give a link back to my blog that for the day gave me quite good traffic. Now I was faced with the dilemma as to let this copyright infringement slide in favour of increased traffic or to act. I chose to act for the simple reason that if you want to be taken seriously about copyright infringement you have to act on every one you find otherwise you will get the reputation of not standing behind your word. Besides I would have known that without saying anything I would have condoned stealing someone's content.

I edited my blog post to indicate the image had been used without my permission so anyone coming from her blog would see this. Yes all my images do have a copyright on them but how do they know who I am so I'm now considering adding the blog link to each image along with copyright. I went to the blogger's blog and left a comment issuing a cease and desist as per the DMCA and indicating that copyright infringement was also against Blogger's (her blog host) TOS. Then I waited fully prepared to file a complaint with Blogger if necessary. Less than an hour and my image along with the comment were removed from her blog. In place was another scraped image but at least it wasn't mine. Nothing was said, no comments let so problem was solved.

In the meantime I played in Photoshop designing what I think I want to use for an updated template for one of my blogs. I can't believe how the idea came to even be. I just woke up with let's do this, this and this and see what happens yet had the finished version already in mind before I started. I have to say I like the results and it will be a nice change but I will likely wait until after Easter to try them on. I did have a lot of fun creating the template so perhaps will spend a bit of time customizing title headers as well.

So went the day. I did no actual writing. I dealt with a problem and worked behind the scenes and so it goes most days of the week :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Check for Dead Links

I found that adding links to my sidebar was quite easy. In my opinion this adds a bit of that extra for my readers. From time to time I check for dead links for two reasons. Readers understand that occasionally links either temporarily or permanently do not work. They understand that you cannot be checking links 24/7 so most of them will be quite tolerant. What I don't like as a reader and what I suspect most readers do not like is finding several dead links on a blog.

At the same time I realized the search engines don't like dead links either. In some cases the link will redirect to a search result or similar which means for every blogger who doesn't check their links this search result owner is getting free traffic. It helps them but does nothing for me. It adds no potential for traffic, readers or even a backlink to me. In short it just becomes a dead end leakage like a hole in a bucket constantly losing water with no way to shut it off. I try to go through and check the links in my side bar monthly so this minimizes any leakages. I think sealing off these leaks help to improve the overall ratings of my blogs but most importantly it keeps my readers happy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Heads Up - Blogsoldiers and BlogExplosion

Blogging networks tend to come an go. Blogging networks essentially provide a way for bloggers to interact with each other. Usually there are games or forums or other ways to interact. When blogging networks work properly they can form the basis for great communication between bloggers but when they go south, they tend to go south quickly. I used to participate in Blog Rush that had a widget for your blog to share your favourite members. One day I had a comment from one of my readers about the huge empty space in my sidebar. Upon investigation I found that Blog Rush had closed up shop without notifying members leaving a huge gaping space where the widget had been.

Today I decided to check in on the blogging network Blogsoldiers to find it gone as well. I was a bit disappointed but had expected this to happen. This is a good reminder to keep an eye on all those little banners linking to various directories and blogging networks. Remove any dead ones as leaving them can hurt your numbers. If you have a link on your blog linking to them it is time to remove it as the link now points to a generic search result.

Shortly after I started blogging one of the first blog networks I joined was BlogExplosion. At that time it was a great way to meet other bloggers some who I continue to remain online friends with. Unfortunately this wonderful network started having serious problems in 2009 but then appeared to be coming back to life after being being bought by Live Universe. Since October of 2009 BlogExplosion has been having increasing problems with currently many of the features not working amidst rumours that they have not been paying staff. Those trying to save BlogExplosion have had no luck trying to reach the owners and there are no admins to correct the existing problems. If you are using BlogExplosion this is the time to keep a close eye on it as many are predicting its demise. Users are still supporting this blogging network but those numbers are dwindling.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Rule of Threes

I watch a lot of the home improvement and decorating shows. One of the fundamental rules of decorating is the rule of threes. What this rule means is when decorating like items should be grouped together in threes because that is more pleasing to the eye. Imagine my surprise when I saw this rule being applied to blogs!

The premise is and I cannot attest as to whether or not this is effective when it comes to effectiveness but it does appear to behind the theory of the linked within widget that shows three related posts at the end of each post. The recommendation is if you aren't using this widget to include links to three related posts and somewhere on your blog you should have the links to your 3 most popular posts. I would think the links to the most popular posts would be most effective if they appear in the space before the current posts occur.

My experience with the linked within widget has been favourable giving an average of 2 hits per day. I do like the idea of links to the 3 most popular posts especially on my cooking blog but this tends to be season specific so while somewhat effective I don't feel it is the best strategy especially when those posts show up in searching via keywords. I like the idea of using the rule of threes but I'm just not sure how effective it is for blogging.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Learning from the Founders

Blogging has got quite complicated since Justin Hall, the pioneer of blogging started his first blog in 1994. Blogging complications have even grown since I started blogging in the spring of 2006. When I started I was satisfied with a generic blog template, wasn't worried about SEO or keywords or traffic or advertising or even promoting. I was blogging simply because I could blog and that's what made it such a novel experience. I went back to visit Justin's blog which is still quite active to take a look at how the pioneer of blogging actually blogs. I noted a few things:

  • Justin has no fancy header, no fancy design, no real use of colour and in short uses little of what most bloggers consider necessary in a modern blog.
  • His background is plain white, with black font. The most notable addition colour is the multiple links in every post.
  • Pictures are kept to a minimum both is size and number.
  • There is no indication his blog is listed in any directory or blogging network at all.
  • There is no advertising at all.
Other than that his blog is mainly written without benefit of colour, embellishment, or widgets. Justin appears to update his blog at least a couple times of month which is fine to keep the search engines happy and since he isn't using advertising obviously is not worried about traffic. I couldn't find an Alexa ranking for Justin's blog but it is coming in with an impressive PR 6. You can bet I will be checking out some of his technique! Now his blog has been around since 1994 or 16 years so that in itself gains PR and definitely that is something to consider with your own blog. The longer you go beyond that magic 3 month period the better Google is going to like you providing of course you are consistently adding new content.

This is one resource that many new bloggers overlook. If you aren't checking out successful bloggers blogs then you are wasting an incredible resource! It works in your favour to anaylize what it is they are doing to make their blog successful. You will not be able to analize what goes on behind the scenes but you can make an educated guess. Should you mimic them? NO! However, you can borrow from them those ideas that you find appealing. It could be the layout or colours or theme or the general theme. Don't worry about their posting frequency as newer blogs need more posts until they get established whereas a 16 year old blog has stood the test of time so can get away with one or two posts per month. In particular pay attention to what successful bloggers do not do.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Daily Blogging

A log of bloggers including myself hold the view that you should not blog (write) daily. The main reason for this is to avoid blogger's block. Now this doesn't mean your blog cannot have new daily content via scheduling, it just means most bloggers should not force themselves to write a daily blog post. Well this is all good in theory however the modern blog evolved from the online diary which was a digital way of keeping a running account of their personal lives much like a pen and paper diary. Justin Hall (blogging 1994, Justin's Links), Jerry Pournells and Dave Winer are credited with being the first bloggers.

Most females are well aware of what a pen and paper diary is. This was a place a young girl could reveal her most private thoughts and secrets safe from the world. Daily entries of just about anything were carefully entered and kept under lock and key from prying eyes. Some diary keepers entered only the important events in their lives so sometimes there may only have been a couple of entries a week. An online diary aka blog should be treated much the same. If you have something you want to share daily then do so. If you don't then share as you feel necessary. Treat your blog like you would a personal diary remembering some things are best left not said.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

My Evolution in Blogging

Back in the late 1980's I started my first very first website, teaching myself the html necessary to do what it was I wanted to do. It was very much a trial and error thing with me getting a cheap thrill when things works the way they should. Granted my coding likely wasn't as clean as what it could have been but given I was teaching myself, learning as I went I thought I did a pretty good job. Looking back on that experience it is uncanny to see that website was very much blog-like with very regular updates all painfully done in HTML. I still have the entire website design and elements safely tucked away as a memento. Fast forward to four years ago.

I was bored with usenet so looked to various forums to engage with others online. At the same time I was interested in creating another website. What's rather funny about this is I seriously stumbled upon Yahoo looking for a disposable email for online use so if it became spam laden I could simply shut it down. At that time Yahoo 360 was being offered so I thought what the heck. I met a few online friends through Yahoo 360, still have my original Yahoo email address and the rest is history. Yahoo 360 got me interested in blogging but I wanted to do more since I knew the HTML to do so. A couple of weeks later my first blog (gardening) went live on Blogger. From that one blog I've grown to authoring 6 blogs all hosted on Blogger. Yes I know your own domain is better and I do own 2 domains but have never worked up the nerve to move my two most popular blogs to them.

As the fourth anniversary of my first and second blog approaches I can't believe how much they have evolved and how they have provided the incentive for more blogs. What is still amazing to me is blogging continues to be interesting and it continues to change as I learn more. The whole blogosphere continues to evolve itself, demanding more of bloggers. Readers demand more of bloggers so it means bloggers have to constantly be one step ahead in blogging. At any rate my first four years of blogging have been wonderful!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Getting Your Blog Listed in Yahoo!

Getting your blog noticed by Yahoo is a bit more complicated than simply submitting your blog url to their search engine. What I found out about Yahoo is you need to sign into your Yahoo account then go to My Yahoo and add the RSS feed. That will get you into the Yahoo Feed Database. Once your feed is in the database you can apply to have it included in the topic directory. From there you can add subscription functions. Here is a link for the full step-by-step instructions http://publisher.yahoo.com/rss_guide/submit.php

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Is Your Blog Indexed?

Search engine traffic is extremely important because it is targeted traffic. A reader lands at your blog based on a topic of interest they searched for so they are already interested enough to read your blog. If they like what they see they might even become repeat visitors or subscribe to your blog. Once I started getting interested in search engine traffic I wanted to see if what I was doing was effective at getting traffic from search engines. Essentially my question was how do I know my blog is indexed by a search engine?.

The main method I use to determine search engine indexing is my stats. I watch my stats for signs of the search engine bots crawling (aka indexing) my blogs as well as actual traffic from them. The stats I use also has a search engines wars feature so I can compare the amount of traffic from a few search engines. What is very interesting about this feature is when I first started tracking search engine traffic, my most popular blog (cooking) was getting traffic mainly from Google and minor traffic from 3 other search engines. Now it is getting traffic from 16 search engines. In other words whatever I am doing is working since I've gone from getting traffic from 4 search engines to 16. I'm rather pleased about this. I'm seeing similar results in the stats for my other blogs so that is very encouraging.