Welcome to The Blog Report

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

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Last Day of Twitter Experiment

Today is the final day of June's Twitter experiment.  It has been an interesting month to say the least.  The contest officially ends at midnight tonight.  I will tally the results as soon as possible but it will be after the 2nd before they are posted since we are celebrating Canada Day on July 1.  So watch for the results and my interpretation of them. 

Authoring Private Blog

I've mentioned that I author 8 blogs.  Six of those blogs are public blogs and two are private, by invite only blogs.  There are several reasons for authoring a private blog and for the most part the same rules that apply to public blogs apply to private blogs.  The biggest advantage to writing a private, by invite only blog is you have all the benefits of blogging but only to invited members.  How is this beneficial? 

Many families want to keep in touch with other family members but posting family updates complete with pictures.  A private blog allows you to do this without having to worry about some of the privacy issues of other social networks.  A group or organization or even employer may want to use a private blog to be able to quickly keep their members updated.  Posts can easily be added as many times as desired in any given day with very little effort.   In many ways private blogging can be less demanding than a public blog.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why Include The Numbers on Your Blog

Many bloggers including myself have one or more ranking numbers on their blogs. For example I have Alexa, Page Rank and visitor numbers on my blogs.  The reality is to the average non-blogging reader these have no meaning.  The numbers have little bearing on affiliate advertisers because they have their own method for determining your traffic and how they pay.  The numbers take up blog real estate that could be used for other content.  So what is the purpose for putting the numbers on your blog? 

The numbers are symbolic of your blog's success to other bloggers and reader who know what they mean.  From a blogger's perspective it is a way of telling others how well your blog is doing while reminding you that there is room for improvement.  In some cases the numbers mean something to other bloggers when it comes to exchanging links or deciding whether to advertise on your blog.  When it comes to link exchange requests PR does matter.  If your blog is a PR 0 and you ask someone with a PR 4 to exchange links they may decline because your blog acts a hole in their PR bucket.  The traffic number may determine whether or not another blogger will advertise on your blog.  Having these numbers on your blog makes it easy for another blogger checking out your blog for the purpose of link exchange or advertising to make their decision without having to do the checking themselves.  In this respect the numbers become a courtesy for those interested in your blog. 

While the numbers aren't mandatory blog elements I think they do serve a useful purpose.  The numbers don't take up a lot of blog real estate.  All three numbers can be added in less space than a 125 x 125 ad.  The traffic number is generally added at the bottom of the blog well out of prime blog real estate.  For these reasons I put the number on most of my blogs.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Problem When Authoring Multiple Blogs

As an author of 8 blogs, 6 of which are public blogs a problem quickly emerges. It becomes more evident with public blogs because these are the blogs that are being actively promoted.  The problem is usually one blog becomes more popular than the others.  That can be a result of a wide range of factors including the blog niche.  At any rate as that blog become more popular there is the tendency to perhaps update more often and promote in more which adds to it's popularity encouraging you to continue doing this.  At some point I simply recognized this was what was happening with my cooking blog.  It is promoted more but at the same time it does bring traffic to my other blogs so the extra work spent on it is not wasted.  I think it becomes almost impossible to treat each blog identically or equally because they have a way of taking on their own life.  I really don't have a solution for this problem.  I think there will always be some inequality in popularity between the blogs so the important thing is recognizing this is normal when authoring multiple blogs.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blog Fodder Overkill

This past few days I have realized that too much blog fodder can end up as overkill. My garden is providing ample blog fodder for my garden blog, much more than I can keep up with. Then the G8/G20 Summits hit bringing more than ample blog fodder for my Canadian blog. The problem with all this to blog about it quickly became an issue of breaking down how and what to blog about and in what order. Sometimes too much of a good thing is just that. Off to get a few blog posts ready with all this blog fodder.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Blog Contests

I have noticed that there are two types of blog contests. Both types of contests are a form of promotion will drive traffic to the blog. The first one is where the author of the blog gives a prize to one or more of their readers. For example the top commenter for that month gets free advertising for a month. Some bloggers get quite creative with their prize give-aways. The second type of contest is where a blogger enters their blog to win a prize and recognition. There may or may not be some type qualifying event prior to the actual contest. In this case the blogger must complete one or more tasks and blog about them. These tasks are awarded points from a panel of judges who eventually determine the winner and runner-up. There may even be a third place winner and honourable mention.

I have run a contest on any of my blogs however I am considering running one for my cooking blog shortly. I also have not up to now competed in any blog competitions. However, that changed with entering my cooking blog into one contest. My cooking blog is also being considered for a second contest. Just in case you are wondering whether entering your blog in contests is worth your while, the contest I am already entered in has a first prize of $10,000. This should be an interesting experience so stay tuned!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Copyright Mark

I have been using a copyright mark on all of my blog posts. My blogs tend to be graphic intensive using digital images I have personally taken or graphics I have personally made.  I used a custom make brush in Photoshop® to stamp © Garden Gnome on all of my images and graphics.  During my latest overhaul of my cooking blog I decided to get a bit more specific with my copyright stamp by creating new brushes for each of my blogs that say © url of my blog.  It means changing brushes when getting several images ready at one time but in the end I think it will look a bit more professional.  This seems to be a growing blogging trend as well.  The marking is prominent enough to reduce copyright infringement.  Another growing trend is more prominent © markings that span a good portion of the image.  I personally don't like this method even though it is likely rather more effective at helping to curb copyright infringement.  At any rate I've discovered that there are many ways of dealing with the copyright mark.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Where to Put the Copyright

The copyright mark (©) should be on your blog to help protect your intellectual property. Your posts and images are technically copyright protected from the moment you make them but in this day and age of cut & paste with many thinking anything they find online is free it is increasing more important to protect your intellectual property.  Online content is protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  In order to protect your work register it with a third party source such as MyFreeCopyright and mark your work.  Your copyright mark should appear on:

  • the blog as a whole - Place a copyright notice on your blog that encompasses the blog as a whole.  It should be readily visible on the main page of your blog and clearly outline your copyright policy.  Draw attention to the copyright to remind readers of your copyright policy.
  • each blog post - Each blog post should have © your name, date on it as part of your signature.
  • each graphic you make - Every image or graphic you have made should have your © name or © blog url on it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Major Overhaul on One of My Blogs (2)

Change is always difficult but I find major changes to my blogs are a bit more difficult mainly because I get used to their look and feel.  Overhauling my cooking blog created more than a few doubts, a bit of nostalgia and more than a healthy dose of frustration.  I like Blogger's Rounders template so used that for 5 of my then six blogs.  I modified and tweaked that template by using backgrounds, headers and title graphics that I made myself.  This time I decided to go with a new template called Picture Window by Josh Peterson.  So here is how the overhaul went.

  • template - The new template is sleeker and more streamlined than Rounders while keeping a couple of elements like the rounded corners.  I liked that the new template has a scrolling main panel simply because I like that type of movement on blogs.
  • colours - I kept the pink and grey theme. The pink has been a trademark of my cooking blog since it began because at that time my kitchen actually was pink.  When we moved here in 2007 the kitchen was green so I tried to update my cooking blog colours to reflect the new kitchen.  That was met with an outcry from my readers who wanted the pink.  The new background is the same background used in the pink and grey polkadot background just stripped down to colour and texture only.  The grey just compliments pink nicely reminding me of a favourite pink and grey jumper I had as a child. 
  • title header - I've have had my own titles headers almost since the start of this blog.  A title header was one of the first graphics I made for my cooking blog.  The name of the blog came from an actual wooden hanging decoration building that stands about 10 - inches tall.  It graced the top of the bulkhead of my then pink kitchen so despite not having a lot of experience at that time with Photoshop® I decided to take a picture of the building then worked painfully to remove the background.  After much frustration I finally had the building sans background so worked on making my first header.  That building has remained part of my title ever since.  When I tried to update the header to show the graphic there was a a bit of a blogger glitch so it wouldn't upload but it did leave the title of the blog in plain font.  So I changed the colour then increased the size as a temporary fix but I actually liked the way it looked so created a new title graphic using Apple Chancery font complete with drop shadow and background to fit the existing background without the building graphic.  The next day I tried uploading the finished graphic and finally got it to work.  I liked the looks of the new header so decided for the first time to go with a simpler header. 
  • graphics - I removed a lot of graphics like the sub-title headers.  Even though the existing ones were optimized they no longer fit the new design.  At the moment I am liking the sleeker, cleaner design without the sub-title graphics but I may make a set of new ones using Apple Chancery front. 
  • page tabs - I added page tabs for some of the information such as copyright policy to make it easier to find.  The tabs highlight this information as a link to load only when a reader is interested so I like that idea.
  • lower sidebar split - I liked that the sidebar allows the splitting of the lower sidebar.  I used that feature to shorten the length of the sidebar while keeping most of the same content.
  • a clean-up - I went through widgets and sidebar links eliminating all that no longer suited the blog. 
  • a new information area - I added an area above posts as a for your information zone.  I'll use this space for important information, polls, contests and that type of thing.
  • So far the major problem I'm having is changing my blog background using CSS editor in the advanced tab of template designer.  I've tried several times but it hasn't worked.  The current background is in place using javascript so if a reader has JS turned off they don't see the blog as it should be seen.  Every time I turn off the JS to see how the CSS background works it reverts to the original background by the auther.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Major Overhaul on One of My Blogs (1)

We've had a lot of changes this year ranging from buying a vacation home to putting our house on the market to my husband moving his office from it's long term location to a brand new, just finished being constructed office. He has been quite nostalgic about the move especially the change in decor. With all the changes I've been at a spot where familiar is a good place to be especially with my blogs. Last week I started set up an invite only blog for our vacation home. All of a sudden the blog renovation bug hit me! I had been thinking about it for awhile but right then and there I made the decision that my cooking blog had to be updated.

The last major update was in January of 2009 whern I adopted a pale pink textured background with grey polkadots, grey ric rac and grey lace using a scrolling background. By the end of the year the lace was gone and the ric rac had been replaced with raised textured grey borders. Through-out 2009 I did minor changes adding custom made graphics then finally optimized them. I think the blog design as it was before I started the major overhaul would have been fine to leave as it was but something was just telling me it was time for a change. Tomorrow's post will highlight some of the changes I made to this blog.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Blogger's Pages

A couple of months ago I noticed that Blogger introduced pages but I didn't check it out because quite frankly I was too busy blogging.  Well a few days ago I was setting up a new blog for our vacation home.  This blog is by invite only and since I was starting from scratch I decided to try the pages feature.  Now this really is slick!  What it allows you to do is create a page with whatever content you want that is separate from posts and shows as links above your posts or in your sidebar wherever you choose to put it.  On first look this doesn't seem like a lot but what it has the potential to do is take a fair amount of information on your blog main loading page, put it onto individual pages with separate links to that information ultimately reducing the main blog landing page loading time.  That means that information such as your privacy policy does not have to load when your page loads. 

I seriously had a lot of fun setting up the new blog.  It is up and running but still needs a fair amount of work.  The pages feature allowed me to set up a couple of photo gallery style pages where the tab can be clicked on if desired but because they don't automatically load the load time for this blog will be greatly reduced.  I was so impressed with the pages feature I started using it on my cooking blog.  From what I have seen so far though the pages features works better with some blog designs/niches than others so at the moment it won't be a feature I will be applying to all of my blogs. That's not to say you can't use it only that I won't be using it on some of my blogs.

Using the pages feature is as simple as clicking on the tab in the editor.  Click edit pages then either add new or edit an existing page.  Each page can have text, graphics, html and java script.  It can be edited and re-edited as you choose simply by clicking the publish button.  Now I did notice that it takes a bit longer to publish pages as opposed to normal posts but that could be my internet connection.   Other than that it is like writing a souped up blog post!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

How Do I Migrate My Blog From Blogger to Own Domain?

Shortly after I started blogging I bought 2 domain names but have never used them. Since I'm mulling around about changing the name of my cooking blog it might be a good time to put it onto it's own domain. The problem is I don't know how to do this without messing things up. So I'm putting the question out to you how to do this? Is it as simple as telling Blogger to use my domain url to publish to? If anyone knows how to migrate my blog over to its own domain or knows of a good tutorial could you please let me know?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Can You Change the Name of Your Blog?

When I started my cooking blog I set the url to momskitchencooking.blogspot.com but actually named the blog Mom's Cafe Home Cooking.  This blog is a little over 4 years old so the majority of my readers refer to it as Mom's Cafe.  I have noticed that some are referring to it as Mom's Kitchen Cooking when linking to this blog thinking the name in the URL is the name of the blog.  In hindsight I created a bit of confusion.  So the question has become can I change the name of my blog to Mom's Kitchen Cooking?  More importantly will this cause more confusion than it solves?

In the real world of business name changes do happen.  For example Kentucky Fried Chicken officially changed their name to KFC.  In fact even the actual branding is often modified to give a fresher updated look.  Whether or not this costs them customers is seldom mentioned.  I have noticed though that companies changing either name or branding tend to do a lot more advertising to assure customers it is the same great place or product just with a new name and/or look.  On this basis then changing a blog name is quite possible.  I doubt loyal readers would mind as long as they were getting the same great content.  New readers and those coming in through search engines would likely never know that the blog was renamed.  In this respect changing a blog name has the potential to be a lot less damaging than in the real world of business where your name and branding is everything.  I will have to ponder on the name change.  What is your opinion on this one?

Friday, June 18, 2010

How Often Should You Change Your Blog Design?

I have changed 5 of my 6 blogs designs since their inception but all are based on Blogger's template 'Rounders'.  The key question becomes is how often should you dramatically change your blog design?  In some respects your design is part of your branding so dramatic changes to your design can actually be detrimental.  However, small tweaks done heading towards the end design in mind can be effective providing you don't make too many changes in rapid succession.  These types of changes do affect your Page Rank.

I am constantly tweaking my blogs but some of those changes aren't apparent.  About every six months I get the urge to do a complete overhaul of one or more of my blogs designs.  It's about time for a good overhaul on some elements of some of my blogs so I'll see where it goes from there.  I don't know whether I will follow through with a complete overhaul for a couple of them and perhaps it is best if I didn't but that thinking might change.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Blogger's New Design Template

Blogger rolled out it's new design template on June 11.  This new feature allows you to try out new templates from the comforts of your dashboard giving you a preview of what your blog will look like in the new theme.  Once you decide on the them to try just click and it will show how your blog will look in the new theme.  Then you can customize from there.  Be warned if you have customized your original blog template as I have on five of my blogs then there is a button to remove the customization.  If you want to do this be sure to backup your existing theme first!  Of course if you are using any custom made graphics such a title headers, labels, or backgrounds those you want to keep will have to be adjusted for your new template design.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How Not to Promote Your Blog On Twitter

Twitter is an amazing social network that has the potential to bring traffic to your blog if used properly.  Blog promotion on Twitter is perfectly acceptable.  I use twitterfeed.com to automatically send a post through Twitter each time I make a new post.  I use scheduled tweets in TweetDeck to post previous blog posts of interest throughout the day.  Both of these are perfectly acceptable methods of blog promotion on Twitter.  What is not acceptable aka how not to promote your blog on Twitter is:

  • using only your feed or scheduled tweets - Both of these are very useful features but you cannot and should not use these alone as this defeats the 'social' aspect of Twitter.  It is very important that you interact with others aside of promoting your own blog(s).
  • posting only links to your own blogs - There is such a thing as tooting your own horn too much.  Every blogger using Twitter wants to promote their blogs but Twitter is not about only blog promotion.  For every link to your blog you should be tweeting 2 - 3 tweets with no links as well as re-tweeting other tweets.
  • posting multiple tweets to the same blog post - Some are under the impression that posting the same tweet with link to a certain blog post will get them more traffic.  Quite the opposite happens.  It annoys your followers to the point they will unfollow and in fact that is one of my top reasons to unfollow and block another user.  It is acceptable to post a second or even third tweet to the same post in a 1 month span so any new followers can check out the post if they are interested but definitely never in the same day!  If you are going to post a second tweet to the same blog post at least change the wording so the tweet is not a duplicate.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Could You Be an A-List Blogger in the Making?

I recently came across a blog post on Problogger.com that discussed the 7 Signs of an A-List Blogger in the Making, a guest post by Annabel Candy from Get In the Hot Spot.  This post was a very interesting read so I thought I would share some ideas on the 7 signs of an A-list blogger in the making.  According to the post the 7 signs are:

  1. professional blog design
  2. a well defined topic and regular updates
  3. consistent branding across all social media
  4. high visibility
  5. friendly
  6. writing style
  7. blogging connections
Annabel Candy ends her excellent, thought provoking post with the question "Do you show the signs of being an A-list blogger in the making or do you know another blogger who is?"  Any blogger quickly realizes that blogging is a lot more work than it first appears.  Like many new bloggers my original goal with blogging was simply blogging.  It was an inexpensive way to share my thoughts, feelings, knowledge and creativity with others.  My views towards blogging have changed somewhat over the years.  In many respects I think I do show some signs of becoming an A-list blogger but I'm not sure that is what I really want.  What I want to achieve with my blogs is good blogs that others enjoy reading. 

I was surprised though that of the 7 signs listed I was doing all of them to some degree.  While I own two domains (cooking, gardening) I have not migrated my blogs over to them because quite frankly I am not sure how to do it without causing problems.  I noticed to that Annabel said most A-list bloggers have their own domains implying that some do not.  I also don't have professionally designed blogs but I do use my own custom made graphics (backgrounds, titles, etc).  I think I'm excelling at well defined topics and regular updates.  Since the first of the year I have been aiming for a new post daily on each of my six blogs and for the most part that is happening with the exception of two of my blogs (home, Canadian) where blog fodder can be a bit more challenging.  I'm also fairly visible across a variety of online forums, groups, communities and some social networking always using the same branding "Garden Gnome" for name and the same avatar image.  I had actually thought of changing my avatar for Twitter but then there wouldn't be consistent branding.  Anyone seeing that avatar recognizes it as me.  I'd like to think I come across as friendly for the most part and that my writing style doesn't irritate too much.  More important though is I come across as me not as something I'm not.  I have made a lot of good blogger connections as well so all in all I am showing the signs of an A-list blogger.  However I'm quite comfortable being a B, C or D-list blogger.  As long as I stay out of the F-list for blogging I'll be a happy camper.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Importance of an RSS Feed

I participate in a couple of blog ad networks that offer the opportunity to add an RSS feed. I've noticed that many don't use this feature meaning their latest post title blurb does not show on the site effectively costing them readers. See have a post title blurb can draw interest in that someone may click the link simply because the topic interests them. So in short these bloggers are losing potential traffic but the reality is at one time I was one of those bloggers. I honestly did not know what an asset an RSS feed could be. Now what is even funnier is each of my blogs have had an RSS feed within a week or two of them going live. I simply didn't use the RSS feed much. I had the link on a couple of my blogs then basically forgot about it. Then I joined a couple of advertising networks that asked for my RSS feed so I added it. Within a short period of time I noticed the occasional visit to my blogs through the RSS feed. Several of the online communities I joined also asked for my RSS feed. I also use twitterfeed.com that used my RSS feeds to post to Twitter each time I make a new blog post. All of these uses of my feeds are generating traffic! What I have come to realize is that getting my RSS feed out there is an easy, pain free method of generating traffic.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Use Your Stats to Effectively Define How Readers Find Your Blog

Right from the beginning of blogging I've used a counter that gives me stats on my visitors.  Looking back on it I find it rather funny that I honestly did not know how to use some of the stats data to help bring new visitors to my blogs.  When it comes to stats counter data there is actually a lot of information there that can help you improve your blog traffic. 

One of the first things I noticed is some of the seemingly funny ways that readers were landing on my blog.  Then as the blogs got older I recognized some terms came up over and over making those effective keywords for use in blog posts and in meta tags.  Essentially those visiting the blogs were telling me what keywords I should be using.  Some of the odder combinations to have proved to be well worth using as well.  Another thing about the search terms used to get to my blogs is they provide an amazing source of blog fodder!  A simple term like home canned green beans one of my popular keyword strings actually draws up search results for those wanting to home can green beans using non-approved or unsafe methods.  This immediately gives me the opportunity to write a blog post regarding the unsafe methods, why they are unsafe and how to properly can the green beans.  So those questions posed in searches to get to the blog are very, very useful.

The stats analyzer I use  gives me detailed information on users, time on site, referring url, entrance page, exit page and that type of thing.  This allows me to narrow down on where I need to do a bit more work.  For example if the time spent on my blog is low meaning my bounce rate is high it means I need to focus on doing things that will keep readers on my blog longer.  Now this data does have to be taken with a grain of salt since blogs by default tend to have a higher bounce rate than regular websites.  That may mean adding a poll or more interlinks in my posts as well as posting a bit more interesting content is needed to help keep readers on my blogs longer.  Quite often I will go through my stats visiting referring urls of blogs and leaving a comment on their blogs as a way of thanking them for sending me traffic.  It is a great way to discover who is actually linking to your blog as well.  Entrance and exit pages give a good clue as to popular pages.  I also use Google Analytics in addition to my basic stats analyzer taking advantage of anything I can use to help make my blogs better.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Keeping Google's Attention

I can't recall when I actually knew that somehow my pithy little blogs had gained Google's attention. Even then I know that was big. I see so many saying not to worry about getting Google's attention but let's face it they are the biggest and most powerful search engine out there. In many cases traffic from Google will provide a healthy chunk of your daily traffic. So quite frankly those saying this attention and traffic doesn't matter are deluding themselves! It is imperative you pay attention to what Google wants if you want to get traffic from them.

Once I got into blogging more there have been a few things I have followed to get and keep Google's attention. Here are the things that I'm doing that work for me:

  • submit  - No search engine is going to know you exist if you do submit your site to them.
  • ping - Once a blog has been submitted to a search engine it is very important that the blog is pinged every time if at all possible each and every time a new blog post is made.  This can be difficult when on vacation or with daily posts but at the very least I try to make sure my blogs are pinged at least once a week.
  • regular new content - Content is king when it comes to search engines.  I realized quite quickly the more content the quicker a blog gets indexed.  I also found that daily content especially for new blogs is the way to go.  c.
  • using graphic alt tags - Using the alt on graphics is quite important because that is seen by the bots as content since the bots can't see the actual graphics.  The alt tag tells the bots that this is content to index as well.
  • keywords -  I've pretty much given up on cutesy blog post titles choosing instead to use appropriate keywords in the title and lightly through the post itself.
  • Twitter - Tweets are now being indexed by Google which means each and every link you tweet to your blog gets indexed.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Stretch Out Events and Break Down Blog Posts

When I first started blogging in 2006 the whole concept of blog fodder was rather foreign to me.  I basically blogged as things happen and usually the entire event.  In my earlier blog post on my cooking and gardening blogs it was quite common to see several pictures covering more than one topic.  For example if I had made bread, did a bit of canning then grilled something for dinner it would all appear in that one post.  In short I was making blogging more difficult than I needed to especially since even in the early days I recognized the importance of regular posting.  I quickly realized it is difficult to have consistently regular posts if I used up all of my blog fodder on one post but it was a hard lesson learned.

Stretching out events and breaking down larger topics into shorter blog post allows you to keep those regular posts coming without running out of blog fodder.  Now if I do a fair amount of cooking in a day with perhaps three or four dishes I post each dish as an individual post.  A good example of how I use this method is how I stretched out a visit to the flea market while on vacation from one large post to four smaller posts scheduled to run on separate days on my personal blog.  What is interesting is an 11 day vacation will actually be stretched out in the blogosphere for a much as a month or more on at least one or more of my blogs.

Breaking down larger topics not only extends your blog fodder staying power the shorter posts makes it easier to handle.  Now with scheduling it's easy to break on large topic into several shorter posts then have them scheduled in succession so the larger story still has good cohesion and flow.   Sometimes I leave a comment to let my readers know the next post in the series is coming and in other cases I include a link to a previous post in the series.  This invites my readers to read both future and past posts in the series.  Breaking down larger topics has worked well for me to keep my actual blog writing at a manageable scale.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Despite the Best Intentions Blog Traffic Generating Social Networks Can Have Problems

Over the last few of months Twitter has been gaining as a way to generate traffic to blogs. Yes Twitter takes a bit of work but the rewards include interaction with other bloggers and increased traffic to your blog. The problem is as we've seen with any social media network that will ultimately bring traffic to your blog is despite the best intentions they can and do have problems. So you can't rely on any one social media network and the reality is you have to expect problems. In most cases these networks are free so there are no guarantees.

In the past couple of weeks Facebook has had a lot of issues but since I don't use Facebook to promote my blogs I don't know what the impact has been on blog traffic. Twitter seems to be having it's own glitches with a healthy dose of growing pains causing the Fail Whale and API issues. While these social networks help to bring traffic when up and running they do nothing when they aren't working. When these networks have problems the best thing you can do is relax and go with the flow. The network will come back up once they get the problem solved. If you have done your blog traffic building properly your blog will weather this little glitch as well.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lights, Camera, Action!

Blogging is very much like a movie production if you think about it.  You are the writer, comic relief and director.  Unlike publishing a book or writing in a personal diary once you hit that publish post button your blog post is in front of a live audience.  There's no turning back.  At best you can do a bit of impromptu in the post's comment section but other than editing the post that has already been seen by readers that's it.  Like any opening day you need to have all of your ducks in a row meaning everything must be functioning flawlessly. 

In terms of a blog each time you make a post check to be sure all your elements are working as they should prior to making the post.  I check for any loading issues or anything else that isn't working properly.  This can be difficult when relying heavily on scheduled posts.  In most cases as long as the blog is loading properly when you write the scheduled post it should technically be loading properly when the scheduled post appears.  However, third party widgets, third party java script and links can sometimes cause problems so check how your blog loads as often as possible to show your blog posts in their best light.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Life Can and Does Get in the Way of Blogging Sometimes

As a new blogger I was rather flexible in blogging.  If I had something to blog about I would and if I didn't then I didn't blog.  There was none of this trying to keep a blogging schedule or even blog daily.  The main reason was at my age I know that life can and does get in the way of the best laid plans even when it comes to blogging.  Some days despite the best of intentions there simply was not time to blog especially for multiple blogs. When Blogger came out with a new featured called scheduled posts I knew that was part of my solution.  Even with scheduling there are only so many posts you can have ready in advance scheduled to run but at least scheduling can give the appearance of regular content even though life dictates no time for blogging. 

I think as a blogger it is important to realize that life is going to get in the way of your blogging.  You may even be forced to take an extended leave from blogging.  At any rate blog when you can, using blogging tools like scheduling to help keep your content fresh then relax and wait until things settle down to allow you a bit more blogging time.  Rely on pre-scheduled posts such as Wordless Wednesday where you can take a few minutes to schedule all the photos to appear for the month on the Wednesday so at worst for the month your blog gets 4 new posts.  YouTube is an excellent resource for quick post material if you only have a few minutes.  Just be sure to add a line or two of your own for original content.  I also use a couple of cartoon sites for the occasional quick post.  These types of posts will usually take less than 5 minutes to pull together but will keep fresh content coming to your blog.  If you are going to be away and know you will not have internet service for the whole or partial period you can still continue writing blog posts in your spare time, save them as text documents then use cut and paste along with any pictures to add to your scheduled posts at a later date.

Monday, June 7, 2010

At the Mercy of Your Blogging Host

Most blogs are hosted by a blog host or they may be published to your own domain using the blog host service.  Unless you own your own domain the cost of blogging is free whether you are hosting it on their domain (eg. Blogger, Wordpress) or using their services to ftp to your domain.  The service is free.  Like all computer related activities, blog hosts are subject to unexpected and expected down time because let's face it the unexpected in computing happens and the expected happens to help prevent the unexpected.  Yet despite the fact that these services are all free the number of bloggers that complain about any glitches or downtime astounds me. 

I've been with Blogger since I started blogging in 2006.  One deciding factor for going with Blogger is it is owned by Google so the chances of it simply disappearing is pretty low.  Besides I liked the user friendly features it offered.  My only problem with Blogger occurred the first year of blogging when a glitch in the spam software branded at that time 3 of my blogs as being spam blogs but at the same time a lot of other blogs were flagged by the same glitch.  It took about 4 days to get my blogs unlocked and there have been no major problems since then.  Occasionally Blogger has a little hiccup where one feature may not be working properly but for the most part these only result in a posting delay of a few minutes to an hour which has almost no effect if you are using scheduling. 

The reality is you are at the mercy of your blogging host.  If they go down for any reason your blog will more than likely be down at some level ranging from ability to post to blog not loading.  These things happen.  As a blogger you have to realize that.  Yes it is annoying when they happen but it is even more annoying for those working on fixing the problem.  So take a deep breath then continue blogging offline lining up posts to schedule when your blog host comes back up or take a complete break from the computer to gain a new perspective while your blog host is down.  At any rate know that any down time will likely be relatively short and you will be back blogging in no time.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Traffic Exchanges

Traffic exchanges are sites with the sole purpose of helping you get traffic to your blog.  They generally work on the premise of for every 2 blogs you visit you earn one visit to your blog or similar.  On the surface traffic exchanges sound like a relatively good idea but in reality they aren't.  Traffic exchanges:

  • inflate your visitor numbers without giving you quality traffic.  For that reason they are against the TOS for Adsense and some other affiliate programs. 
  • increase your bounce rate that effectively decrease your Page Rank (PR)
  • do not give you lasting traffic.  If you quit using the traffic exchange your traffic will plummet like a 10 ton weight and then some.
  • do not give you readers or subscribers.  It is the very rare occasion that a traffic exchange will give you loyal readers or subscribers.
  • often do not allow you to control content.  Inappropriate content (eg. ads on widgets for gaming or alcohol) can cost you your affiliate account(s) because they are against the TOS and they can cost you readers who want family friendly sites.  If you cannot control content to reject inappropriate content then do not use the widget on your blog.
  • given you a false sense of how well your blog is doing.  The reality is if you are using a traffic exchange your blog is never performing up to what the numbers are saying.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Online Communities

Over the recent months I've noticed an increase in online communities.  An online community offers you the opportunity to interact with other members, visit their blogs and promote your blog(s).  Basically an online community takes several components of individual online activities then combines them into one large interactive site.  Each offers various activities that you can participate in and some allow you to tweet from within the community.  They also offer extras like recipe of the week, video and picture uploads and other resources.  Some offer more interaction than others.  Some are fairly specific focusing on one niche such as food while others are a bit broader (eg. Canadian).  Some offer advertising opportunities and some but not all have widgets to promote the community.  Like any community, online communities should not be viewed solely for the purpose of blog promotion.  Rather your blog naturally gets promoted through your participation and interaction within the community. 

I belong to a few online communities: 2 food, 2 garden, 2 generic, and 1 Canadian.  Each community has it's own way of working so it does take a bit of time to get to know how best to interact within the community.   Now ideally I would spend time in each of my communities daily but this little thing called life keeps getting in the way so I visit as often as possible.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Links in Posts

One thing I started doing in my early days of blogging was using links within a post to point back to another post I had made earlier. In many ways this reduces redundancy overall but at the same time gives a reason for readers to continue reading. It is an especially effective technique for both my cooking and gardening blogs. For example I can green beans so often mention home canned green beans as part an ingredient in other recipes or as a side dish. Rather than go into the details of how to can green beans I simple turn the term home canned green beans into a link to the original post of how to can them.  So in any given blog post on my cooking blog there may be one or more links to an earlier blog post.  This type of interweaving links between new posts and older posts helps to keep the older posts from getting stale and forgotten.  I also occasionally link between my blogs as well.  For example if I'm talking about a using a particular variety of tomato I grow in my garden on my cooking blog then I will link to the how to grow information on my gardening blog. 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Trying Too Hard

Have you ever had something you wanted so bad you would seriously do just about anything to get?  But the more you try to get that 'thing' the further it gets from you.  Well sometimes that happen with blogging.  Sometimes from what I've noticed is a blogger gets so hung up on the carrot that they forget how to get to the carrot.  A lot of bloggers will get so tied up in getting traffic to their blog they actually forget about blogging.  My rule of thumb is spending more that 15 minutes per day actively trying to generate traffic to my blogs is the maximum amount of time I'm willing to invest.  I do a fair amount of passive traffic generation via backlinks and I find that is a lot more effective that doing the click method.  I also find that continuously adding new content helps me get a lot more traffic than the click networks.  My theory when it comes to blogs is to quit trying so hard to generate traffic.  Keep the content coming and the rest will fall into place.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Why the "Quit Facebook Day" Was a Dud

I posted earlier about the planned Facebook exodus on May 31.  Many bloggers use Facebook as a way to promote their blogs.  I personally do not use Facebook to promote my blogs so I cannot comment as to it's effective.  What I will comment on is the planned exodus of some 30,000 Facebook users and why it was a dud.  Why?

Well over a year ago I was quite active on Entrecard and while this traffic network does not have the same privacy issues hounding Facebook the underlying problems of a mass exodus remain the same.  They just don't work.  I went through 2 mass exoduses on Entrecard with a lot of very talented, experienced bloggers leaving the network in the fall followed by a lot more leaving the next spring.  Yet despite dire predictions this network continues on boosted by the negative attention it received.

A mass exodus actually brings attention to the site everyone is complaining about resulting in negative attention which ultimately brings the site traffic from those wanting to see what the problem is.  Sure 30,000 Facebook users might have closed their account but leading up to that with all the hype even though it was negative likely saw 40,000 users join giving Facebook a net gain of 10,000 users and a whole lot of traffic.  In short Facebook actually benefitted from all the negative publicity.  Had the exodus been kept quiet then sudden dropped an exodus on Facebook it might have been effective.  Think about it had this exodus happened all at once without any prior warning where Facebook all of a sudden lost 30,000 users that would have perhaps got their attention. 

If Facebook's privacy issues are of such a concern some countries will ban it making that a heck of a lot more effective than a planned exodus.  What really strikes me is Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg made some very unflattering public remarks about how trusting Facebook users are dumb f---s.  That comment in itself should serve as a huge red flag.  Based on that I would not use their service because if the CEO is not concerned about privacy issues and feels it is his right to allow all information given by users to be used by third parties, well that's time to not get involved in what that company has to offer.  It definitely is not a company that I would want associated with my blogs.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Question of the Month - Will Increased Twitter Participation Increase Traffic to My Blogs?

Last month I looked at whether having the Twitter widget on my blogs helped to increase traffic to my blogs and between the blogs. So this month's questions is whether increased participation on Twitter will lead to increased traffic on my blogs.  My hypothesis is that increased participation will lead to increased traffic to at least my cooking blog.  This is the blog listed on my Twitter profile.  For the month of June I will keep track of all traffic from Twitter across all of my blogs and report back.  To increase my Twitter participation I will be:

  • using tweetfeed to ensure each new blog post is tweeted 
  • actively using Twitter daily for interacting with others as well as promoting my blogs
  • change my tweeting style from mainly early morning only to throughout the entire day
  • working at picking up a few more followers, nothing major and none of those shady sites but just finding some I'm interested in following and perhaps they may follow back