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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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Blogger on Vacation

From time to time everyone takes a vacation. This may range from a week to several weeks so the issue as a blogger is how to deal with blogging while on vacation. There are four ways to deal with blogging while on vacation. They are:

  • Take a complete break from blogging. A good, established blog can handle a week or two without any new posts. You come back from vacation refreshed, full of blog fodder and ready to blog up a storm.
  • Schedule several posts to run on a regular basis while you are on vacation. This makes your blog appear to be consistently updated while you are away.
  • For extended vacations, blogging while away is always an option providing you have a laptop or a handheld with internet access. Along route there are free WiFi hotspots so you can take a few minutes to keep your readers up to day. Many motels and resorts now offer free or low cost WiFi and with wireless technology chances are good you can connect into a family member's wireless connection if staying with family. While your internet access may be limited depending on your travel plans en route most days you should be able to get a short period of time of online access.
I don't like leaving my blogs without new posts for an extended period of time but that is very much dependent on the blog. For example during the winter months I can leave home not worrying about my gardening blog because my readers know nothing is going on in the garden. On the other hand this would not work with my cooking blog because my readers are used to almost daily posts. At the same time if I went a week without posting other than my two featured weekly posts I'm sure they wouldn't have a problem. I like using a combination of scheduling and blogging while away. That allows me the flexibility of knowing my blogs are being updated on a regular basis without tying me to the internet while away. At the same time if something happens while traveling it gives me the option of spontaneously blogging about it.
I have found that blogging while on vacation is more enjoyable for many reasons. First I'm looking at things through a new light and because I'm relaxed the thoughts and words come easier. I'm not torn in several different directions by multi-tasking like I am at home. I'll take my laptop out and sit by the pool or in the park or wherever I can get a connection then do a bit of people watching while doing a few online things including blogging usually with a self-imposed time limit of an hour simply because while I'm on vacation online activity is not a high priority. When we stop en route I'll bring out the hand held or laptop to do a bit of online housekeeping and sometimes blogging.

What is really neat about blogging while on vacation is the events are fresh in your mind. I often will write a few blog posts with details along with a picture marker. When I get home all I have to do is upload my pictures to the computer, edit them then upload to Blogger. Once the final post editing is finished the post is ready to go. If I'm on a good roll I will have 3 to 5 posts lined up to finish with pictured and brief editing by the time I get home from a week's vacation that will take me mainly picture editing time to get them ready for scheduled posting. It is a win:win situation all the way around.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Long vs Short Posts

Are long posts better than short posts or visa versa?  Are there times you should use one length over another?  I think there are pros and cons to both lengths.  Some bloggers can get away with consistently publishing short posts pretty much on a daily basis while others post the occasional lengthly post.  Both these methods can be effective.


What is not effective is consistently posting a series of short paid posts.  Other than that I think it really depends on the topic at hand.  Some topics lend themselves to longer posts than others.  Using a variety of long and short posts is a more natural way of conversing.  If you are posting daily or even weekly too long of posts may overwhelm your readers while too short of posts may not be enough to keep their interest especially if your posts are not regular.  My posting style is I try to make posts of various lengths on a regular basis.  This method seems to be working for me across all six blogs. 


Friday, January 29, 2010

The Scoop on Italics and Bold

My family and friends are a huge inspiration and source of support for my blogs.  It is little wonder that various blogging topics come up during conversations.  A few days ago I had an interesting conversation with one of my kids regarding the issue of SEO (search engine optimization) and how it applies to blogging.  The opinions were greatly appreciated as they were coming from some who knows what they are talking about when it comes to websites and SEO.  


I had found a recommendation on line to use both italics and bold on a regular basis in blog posts.  The premise was search engines pay attention to the use of both.  On the surface this sounded like solid advice so I tried using it and I think for some applications it does work.  However according to my kid this is a technique that should be used sparingly.  The reason is two fold in that the appearance is you are writing to the search engines not your intended audience something both will recognize and neither like and second your writing does not appear natural. 
What did I learn from our conversation?  First and foremost you must write with your audience in mind and in a normal manner much the same way as you would carry on a normal conversation.  You wouldn't normally emphasize keywords or keyword phrases in a normal conversation yet the person you are conversing with picks up on the keywords anyway.  It is the same thing with writing.  I learned using italics or bold font too often in a post visually acts as a stop sign so the rest of your message doesn't get across.  I also learned that the search engine spiders will pick up on excessive use of either and recognize it as a SEO technique that could end up being penalized.  The key point in writing whether it be for a blog or website is to always keep the focus on your intended audience.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Sources for Blog Fodder

As a blogger I quickly found I needed sources for topics to write about aka blog fodder. It quickly became apparent that it wouldn't be a one size fits all with blogs in different niches. For example poking a bit of fun at Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Canadian politics) is ideal for my Canadian and personal blog but not suitable for my cooking or gardening blogs. However, I also discovered that occasional a source I use for one blog can give me a bit of fodder for another blog. An example of this was taking advantage of all the political debates surround banning lawn pesticides in Ontario that became great blog fodder for my gardening blog. For the most part I find I turn to the same sources of blog fodder on a fair consistent basis. My sources for blog fodder are:

  • family/friends
  • Canadian comedy (eg. This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Rick Mercer Report)
  • Canadian politics
  • in the news
  • travel/vacation
  • cooking shows/chefs
  • restaurants
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • other bloggers
  • weather
  • wildlife/waterfowl
  • groups/forums
  • other bloggers


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Above the Fold

One term I quickly learned after becoming involved in various blogging programs was above the fold. Essentially anything that loads when you first load a page without scrolling is above the fold. When it comes to advertisers this is prime real estate on your blog so some programs will actually demand you have their advertising above the fold. This can be a problem sometimes depending on the design of your blog especially if you have a deeper header. I'm a firm believer in that my blog design comes ahead of any program demands and there are only so many elements you can fit in above the fold. In general if the program's widget cannot fit within the design of my blog it becomes an oh well so it ends up getting left behind. This really becomes an issue since above the fold is prime real estate yet needs to give all the pertinent information about your blog.

Your above the fold elements should include:

  • your header
  • your welcoming message
  • any important messages
  • your 125 x 125 card (branding)
  • your profile
  • your copyright notice
  • your RSS feed link
  • the start of at least one post although that may change with a very deep header
  • possible advertising only if other elements are not compromised


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is There A Benefit To Posting Daily

I have made a few posts regarding blog posting frequency. The general consensus is pressure to post daily will lead to blog burnout, a much more severe case of blogger's block. One way around this if you want posts to appear daily without blogging daily is to use scheduling. With scheduling you could sit down on a Saturday, write several posts then schedule them to run on the desired dates. So essentially your blog could look like it is being updated daily even though you are not blogging daily. Why would you do this? Is there a benefit to posting daily?

The short answer to this question is yes! Daily posts whether made daily or through scheduling:

  • get the attention of search engines through consistently adding new content
  • can get a new blog indexed quicker
  • can gain you readers especially through the holiday season
Increase the effectiveness of these posts by pinging your blog after each new post as often as possible but don't worry if you miss a day or two.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Are You Feeling The Pressure To Blog?

Are you feeling the pressure to blog? If so is the pressure coming from within yourself or from an external source?

If it is coming from within then chances are it is because you want to post on a level your readers are accustomed to. Other reasons may be that you are pushing the monetization aspect of the blog or trying to boost your PR. Step back and realize that sometimes a break from blogging gives you a better perspective making you a more effective blogger. Blog if and when you choose to not because you feel obligated to blog. If it is important to you to have regular content on your blog without blogging daily take advantage of blog scheduling.

If you are blogging because someone else as advertisers want you to make X number of paid posts in a month well, that really does become an issue. Why? The reason is you are basically blogging for someone else for their agenda not to please yourself or your readers. That is never a good thing! Never let anyone for any reason make you feel like you have to blog. One only needs to look at the failed attempt of Today.com blogs where bloggers were encouraged to post enough to make $50 per month. The problem is if and when life got in the way and it does, the company did not understand but rather started closing accounts. Then to add insult to injury pay-out problems started sot all those blogger who had felt pressure to blog because of their rules ended up with nothing. No program, affiliate or advertising site should dictate to you how often to blog. It is within your own best interests to update more than once a month but if you are getting the traffic you want with once a month updates, then go for it. Set your posting frequency based on your needs without being pressured by others.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Should You Delete Blog Posts?

A recent comment by Turnip of Power got me thinking. He said he went back and deleted certain posts from his blog. The first question that comes to mind is why? Deleting posts is a strategy used to:

  • eliminate the fluff that doesn't really count towards content. That means posts like memes, recognizing those who supported you, and trivial things like awards.
  • concentrate your great content by eliminating the not so great content.
  • increase PR
As a blogger I don't agree with deleting posts even though I understand where Turnip is coming from. I will note his blog is significantly different than mine so culling out those not so great posts is what he feels he has to do to make his blog work and there is the key. You have to do what is right for your blog! Despite having 6 blogs I think I have done one meme, accepted a few awards and have never run a top visitor for the month. I don't use Mr. Linky something that has been rumoured to be bad for PR so basically my fluff posts would end up being holiday greeting posts that would make little difference if I deleted them or not.

Some bloggers though have made a point of posting their monthly top visitors, participating in just about every meme around sprinkled throughout their paid posts. In my case deleting any post serves no purpose. In Turnip's case deleting a few posts that don't add to his content to make his good content shine through is a wise decision. In the case of those who blogs fall into the first sentence if they delete all the fluff they are left with a cutsy layout without the fluff and no content. You definitely don't want to be in this category!

Blogs are not written in stone. If for some reason you decide an earlier post no longer represents the spirit of your blog then delete it. If a controversial post is hurting your blog and you no longer feel like fighting that particular battle either delete it or close the comments. If you have a few fluff posts and goodness knows every blog needs a few of those that really are just fluff by all means delete them if you really want to. The big question remains does Google recognize that you have concentrated your content by deleting the fluff? From what I've read so far there is no indication either way but it stands to reason that concentrating your quality content can help your PR.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Multiple Blogs

If you author more than one blog there is the problem of how to deal with the design a feel of each blog. The bottom line is even if you author more than one blog each blog should have a unique feel to it even if you use a similar layout. It should portrait a bit of familarity because you are the author so your personality should shine through yet it should give enough uniqueness to say that this is a my blog on this topic and it is worth reading. I honestly don't think you can author 6 blogs as I do without some design overlap. Some elements like your profile will be the same. Whether you like 2 or 3 column layouts will remain fairly consistent. You signature and branding will be the same although each blog will introduce a sub-branding. I designed my blogs to be similiar enough to know that's my style yet different enough to know they are in different niches. Blogs are like your kids. There is enough resemblance to know they are yours but you don't want them to be identical otherwise you would lose a little of the spice of life!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Censorship

The past couple of weeks I have been following a rather nasty Twitter conversation that has spilled over into the respective blogs then into the blogsphere. Now in fairness the one person responsible for the death of her 2 yr old is wrong on so many levels starting with Twittering at the time of the accident. Ok so despite all this a lot of the mommy bloggers are taking sides with one of the most vocal not allowing comments on her blog that is serving to stir the pot with accusations of censorship. The reality is this person from the conception of their blog has never allowed comments so this is nothing new. It is however drawing a lot of comments elsewhere because as a blogger you should allow comments and not allowing comments is censorship.

What many readers don't understand is they do not have the right to leave comments on blogs. Most bloggers welcome and encourage comments but some don't. All bloggers at some point censor comments to control comment spam. This is an active process so in a real sense comment moderation is censorship. What some commentators don't understand is the rule of my blog my rules which means you are welcomed to come, read and comment but if you want to comment spam then no that isn't ok so your comment won't get posted. Again this is very much an active process involving the blogger to read, moderate, allow or modify or reject the post.

When it comes to not allowing comments on blogs it really is an inactive process. The blogger simply sets their blog to no comments and never sees anything else. A commentator cannot leave a comment period. This is not really censorship. It is merely means the author has written their opinion with no option of commentating much like an author would write a book. How many books have been written throughout time with no expectation of their readers making any kind of commentary? No different!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Blog Fodder

Blog fodder refers to anything that stimulates a blog post. Now this literally does mean anything. Let's consider an average day in the life of a blogger. A family member says one of the sweetest things ever - possible blog fodder. Your kid does something hilarious - possible blog fodder. Breaking news is occurring and it gets more interesting as the day goes by - blog fodder. Twitter is jumping with the latest news - blog fodder. Your MIL smiled at you, the dog rolled over and the baby slept in - not really blog fodder unless you are desperate but with a good spin could be. As you go through your daily life if you are a blogger everything becomes fair game for a blog post. Granted some are going to be a lot more interesting than others but it is those little life things that really make for good blog fodder.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Should You Avoid Paid Posts?

Should I do paid to post entries? If you want to make money with your blog this is always a question. If you value your blog and your time then the short answer is to not do any paid posts. Why? One of the biggest factors against paid post is Google simply doesn’t like them. In fact you may be able to get the occasional paid post through without being penalized but the reality is in the end you will be penalized by the biggest search engine and likely some of the smaller ones. This will cost you in terms of traffic meaning those paid posts will never make what they could have because you aren’t getting natural traffic. Worse than being penalized by the search engines is being penalized by your readers. There seriously is nothing more irritating than doing a bit of blog hopping only to read the same or very similar worded post tooting the latest, greatest tooth whitening technique all with links to the e-book you have to pay for. Or you come across a post on someone’s blog who clearly is not from the US telling you all about Chicago lawyers. Readers see through these thinly veiled paid posts causing you to lose credibility. Honestly this just shouts out to your reader that you think they are stupid! So ultimately you have ticked off two valuable sources of your traffic but you get paid a couple of dollars for that post. The next paid post will pay less because you have less traffic and the more paid posts you do the less traffic you will have. You have already set in motion everything it takes for the failure of your blog all in the name of making a couple of dollars if that off of a post. If you want to monetize your blog do so in a manner that does not involve paid posts if you want your blog to survive the long term.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Google Dropped Me, Is it Time to Panic?

Here’s a good question. If you log into whatever blog stat program you are using and suddenly see a drop in traffic what do you do? If you are like most bloggers you will investigate to see if there is a logical explanation for the traffic drop usually coinciding with a holiday. You give a sigh of relief thinking everything is going to be fine and it usually is. Now what happens if you notice your traffic remains consistently low for a week and upon further investigation you see you are getting no traffic from Google or your PR has gone from 3 to 0. Is it time to panic?

You do have to pay attention to Google since it is the biggest search engine and most influential. If you have been consistently adding new content, pinging your blogs after new content is added, are not using any black hat SEO methods and have changed nothing about your blogging style then do not panic. Google is constantly changing their algorithm that determines PR, which in turn determines traffic from Google. This will ultimately affect your PR. The game plan should be to do exactly what you have been doing without making any drastic changes. Keep adding new content, keep pinging and keep commenting. Chances are it is just a slight glitch that will correct itself the next time they update the PR.

If for some reason you don’t regain PR at the next updating then go back and make sure you are not doing any black hat SEO. Make sure you aren’t linking or participating in known link farms or making paid posts, two things Google doesn’t like and will penalize you for. Providing you aren’t doing either of these you can contact Google to ask what the problem is or resubmit your blog. Carry on as normal while you are waiting for your blog to come back up on Google. Again do not make any drastic changes to your blog.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Encouraging Comments

You have written a good blog post but now you would like to see some comments on that post. Remember comments usually mean someone has taken the time to read your post. Comments then become an indicator of blog traffic. A reader who has taken the time to comment on your blog also is a good indicator they may return to read more of you blog. They also haven’t contributed to your bounce rate but rather have spent some time on your blog perhaps clicking some of your other links.

You can actually encourage readers to leave a comment by simply asking a question regarding the post. Although this approach sounds very simple it is quite effective. When a reader is faced with a question (e.g. What do you think?) they likely will have an opinion they are willing to share with you.

Do you think actively encouraging your readers to leave comments on your blog is an effective blogging strategy?


Sunday, January 17, 2010

How Often Should You Post to Your Blog

Some bloggers like to post several shorter entries throughout the day while other bloggers like to post daily or weekly or even less. I came across an article the other day that indicated you should not blog daily otherwise you run the risk of burnout. The article, 100 Tips for Improving Your Blog in 2010 was written by Ben Barden a blogger I highly respect. I got to know Ben shortly after I started blogging when I joined entrecard. Ben branched out on his own to establish CMF Ads, an excellent blog advertising program that is very effective without all of the problems of entrecard. Ben has a lot of excellent advice so his blog is well worth reading!

The issue of blogging burnout not to be confused with blogger’s block is a very real one. Blogger’s block is usually a short-term period in which you can’t come up with an idea to blog about. At best this may interrupt your posting frequency for a brief period of time (e.g. under a month) and at worst you may lose a subscriber or two but is reversible. Blogging burnout on the other hand can result in you losing interest in your blog to the point you abandon it. Trying to bring an abandoned blog back takes a lot of work perhaps more work than establishing the original blog simply because you have already demonstrated you can walk away from your blog. Readers don’t like that and it will take a lot of work to regain their trust.

Blogging is in many respects the same as work. Employers have recognized that their employees are more productive when they have regular breaks during the workday and a longer beak (vacation) from work entirely. The same can be said of blogging. If you are trying to consistently pumping out blog posts each and every day you will eventually suffer from blogger’s block that can lead to blogger’s burnout. There is a way around this though!

Most of the blog host platforms offer a scheduling function that is very useful if you want your blog to have daily posts without posting daily. When you are in the mood sit down and write a few blog posts then schedule them to run when you want them to. Once you have 5 or 6 posts lined up to be posted at their scheduled time relax for a day or two knowing your blog will have the posts you want on a daily basis without you actually writing blog posts on a daily basis. Repeat this process to keep a steady supply of posts coming while enjoying a bit of free time. Take the time you might have spent writing a blog post to get a bit of fresh air or take a few pictures or even do a bit of blog hopping. If you effectively utilize the scheduling feature you can easily have a couple of week’s worth of posts in advance ready to run when you want. Even if you have daily posts scheduled and something comes up you really want to blog about it’s easy to change the scheduled times. Essentially what you are getting is your cake and eating it too.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Are You Following Blogging Trends?

The whole world of blogging is one big learning lesson. There are some basics that don’t change but for the most part blogging trends evolve on almost a daily basis. Just take a look at blogging templates. At one time everyone setting up their blog used the basic templates offered. However, using the basic templates now can cost you readers. After visiting several blogs all using the same template, same colour and same layout readers find it a bit boring. Even if you are using one of the basic templates it has to be tweaked to something that doesn’t look like every other blog out there although once in awhile you can get away using a basic template.

I have found that regularly visiting a wide variety of blogs especially in my niche helps guide me in the upcoming blogging trends and topics. I try to be particularly observant of what successful bloggers are blogging about, how they have designed their blog and what is working for them. If I come across a blog that really appeals to me I try to analyze what it is about this particular blog that I find appealing while also noting elements I don’t like. No blog is perfect so there are always elements that appeal while other elements don’t. In this way I can incorporate some of those ideas or things I like into my own blogs. At the same time this forces me to be a bit more critical of my blogs.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Blog Writing Tools

I mentioned in an earlier post that proofreading your blog posts is quite important. Proofreading helps to catch those silly typos, duplications, omissions and most times grammatical errors. Catching all of these little things can be quite difficult for many. Even those with post secondary education do not always use proper grammar. Those who are English as a second language can have quite a few writing. There are useful tools available to bloggers to help them with proofreading. They are a spell checker, a ggrammar checker and a thesaurus.

Most of the blog hosting platforms offer some type of spell checker on the "create postt" page. A spell checker is great for catching many spelling errors so it should always be used. The problem with spell checkers is they do not distinguish between words that are spelled correctly but used improperly (e.g. their, there). They also will not catch omissions and silly typos if the resulting word is spelled correctly (e.g. of, off). Despite these limitations using a spell checker is still a good idea.

Blogger does not offer a grammar checker or thesaurus as part of their editing tools. In this case a simple cut and paste of my post into my word processor is what I've decided to utilize. I use Microsoft® Word X for Mac® so could easily write the entire post in Word then cut and past into the Blogger create post screen. It really doesn't matter which way you do it but I find using the editor in Blogger easier when working with images in the post. I may try using writing in Word then just cut and paste into Blogger. Word offers both a grammar checker and thesaurus as editing tools. A grammar checker will find any glaringly obvious grammar problems then present you with options as to how to correct the mistake. A thesaurus is a useful tool for finding alternative word choices to any particular word so it can help you spice up your posts a bit. Don't over do it with the thesaurus though as your readers will lose interest if they have to turn to a dictionary several times just to be able to read your post.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Comment Etiquette

When it comes to comments there is an unspoken comment etiquette that is nice to follow. A comment left on your blog is akin to someone saying something to you in person. Unless it is a rude or offensive comment the polite thing to do is make some type of response in return. Sometimes this will lead to a nice exchange of ideas that will add to your blog's content. It may even lead to a different opinion that also adds to your blog's content. When someone makes a comment on your blog it is also nice if you visit his or her blog and leave a comment if possible. Look at commenting both on your blog and on other blogs as a great way to meet other bloggers!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Your Mission Should You Choose To Accept It

The last few posts have been about the importance of comments on your blog and the importance of commenting on other blogs. If you participate in a 125 x 125 advertising program (eg. CMF Ads, Adgitize) where members visit other members blogs you get to know those blog and the blogger behind the blog. You may even get to know them a bit better if you follow their postings in the program's forum. At some point you have likely left a comment or two on their blog. It is important to realize that those participating in one program often participate in multiple 125 x 125 advertising programs so there is a lot of overlap in members. If you restrict yourself to just visiting the blogs of members in the programs you participate in you are greatly hindering your exposure in the blogosphere! There are so many bloggers out there that participate in no type of blog advertising at all. The only way you find these bloggers is through word of mouth or perhaps a link in their sig on a group or forum or in the sidebar of another blog. Other ways to find these bloggers is when they show up when you do a search or to do a bit of blog hopping.

Today, I want to show you exactly how commenting on other blogs can help increase your blog exposure which ultimately brings subscribers to you blog and increases traffic. Your mission should you choose to accept it:

  • Visit 5 blogs in your niche that you have not visited before and are not part of any advertising program you participate in.
  • Choose 1 of those 5 blogs to leave a comment on. Remember the comment must be sincere, relate to the post and not be something like "nice blog" or "thanks for the info". Construct your comment as carefully as you would your blog post. Do not put any links in the body of the post. If the backlink points to your profile rather than your blog don't worry because if people reading your comment like it they will go to your profile then on to your blog anyway. If there is the opportunity to use you name and URL then always take advantage of that. Also remember some bloggers use comment moderation so expect a delay before your comment appears. If there is an option to be notified by email when there are more comments, check the box to allow. Don't be afraid to leave another comment on the same blog if someone asks you a question or comments on your comment.
  • Repeat this process for 5 days. At the end of the 5 days you should have visited 25 new blogs and left 5 comments on.
  • Keep an eye on your stats over that 5 day period. You should see 1 or more visits from 1 or more of the blogs you visited and commented on. Don't worry if you don't as the comment is still there allowing others to click on your link which they will from time to time. In some cases one good comment can bring in traffic for quite some time.
  • Keep an eye on comments coming into your blog over the 5 day period. You should receive one or more comments on your blog directly as a result of your commenting.
  • Keep an eye on your subscribers. With any luck you will pick up a new subscriber to your blog.
  • Report back here how successful your mission was.
  • Good Luck!


Monday, January 11, 2010

Proofreading

Shortly after I started blogging I realized that I am my own worst enemy when it comes to writing. Why? I neglect to carefully proofread my writing that results in it not being the best it could be. There are many reasons for this happening with the two most prominent ones being a cluttered brain and forgetfulness. I have so many thoughts always racing that it is quite common for me to get up in the middle of the night to turn those thoughts into blog posts. The problem with this even though my mind is quite active I'm physically tired which increases the forgetfulness. Another bad blogging habit I developed was starting a post then setting it aside until morning because of a bit of blogger's block part way through writing the post. Then I finish up the post and hit publish post forgetting I haven't re-read my work. What this ultimately means is a few typos and grammatical mistakes get through. How am I going to correct this problem?

  • I am going to pay particular attention to proofreading each post. This will mean reading each post not just skimming for noticeable errors.
  • I will be spell checking each post something I should have been doing anyway. It gets a bit interesting as some Canadian words use the British spelling not the American spelling but all of my blogs are marked as being Canadian and since I'm Canadian that is the spelling I will be using.
  • After using spell check I'm going to re-read the post before publishing just to see if anything needs to be changed or could be re-worded a bit better.
  • I now have a bright yellow post-it note with these three points on it as a reminder to do this bit of proofreading prior to posting.
I'm sure a few errors will still get through however, I hope to improve my writing quality by using the mentioned techniques. Oh sure I know there will still be a few slip ups but hey, I'm human :)


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Branding

Branding is essentially that 'thing', 'mark' or 'notable element' you and your blog(s) will be recognized by. When it comes to blogs your brand is composed of 3 element that tells people who you are and that's your blog. They are your profile image/avatar, writing nym and your 125 x 125 card. These will be used across all blogs with the exception of your 125 x 125 card that will be customized for each of your blogs if you have multiple blogs. These elements will be echoed in your blog design and layout.

The first thing to do when establishing a blog is to determine your profile image. This can be an actual picture of yourself or an avatar. Once you have uploaded this image that's it, leave it alone. Yes at some point you may be tempted change it but don't! Use this same image/avatar on all of your blogs, any forums you participate in and any social networking sites such as Digg and Twitter. After awhile you will end up getting traffic to your blog simply on the basis of this image because other bloggers recognize that image as your.

One of the most important elements of your brand is your writing nym. This is the name you use to write your blog. It can be your real name or pseudonym. For example my writing nym is Garden Gnome. If you are using a writing nym choose wisely. Do not use a celebrity's name or anything offensive. It should be unique enough that you will stand out from the crowd. Your nym should appear on every blog post you make. It should also be used as your name when participating in groups, forums and social networking. It's very important that you do not change you nym! When you use your blogging nym consistently it will bring you traffic as well.

Your 125 x 125 card is part of your brand however if you have more than one blog each should be designed specifically for that blog. Your 125 x 125 is used as advertising on sites such as Adgitize and CMF Ads. While some bloggers can get away without having their nym or blog name on their 125 x 125 card, I think it is best that at least your blog name appears on your card. For example my cooking blog has a background of a pasta dish I created. By itself it could mean almost anything associated with food but with my blog name on it anyone seeing the card knows what site they are going to. Another thing to not do is Your 125 x 125 should appear on your blog as well so readers associate it with your blog. You can use it as a badge with coding so interested readers can display your 125 x 125 on their blog if they want. This is great, free advertising that will bring traffic to your blog. You can do a 125 x 125 card exchange but be careful with this as the same problems that happen with link exchanges also apply to card excanges.

I cannot stress this enough. Once you have created these 3 elements for your brand do not change them. The next step is to market these 3 elements every chance you get. The more you market these elements the more your brand becomes known throughout the blogosphere. Effective marketing will bring more traffic to your blog.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why is Commenting So Important?

I have discussed the importance of encouraging commenting on your blog. Commenting is how your reader interacts with you. Disallowing or discouraging comments on your blog is a good way to lessen interest in your blog. Today I want to discuss the importance of commenting on other blogs. Inexperienced and uninformed bloggers think that commenting on other blogs is a way to build backlinks to their blog. It's true that in some cases a comment will create a backlink to your blog but in other cases the backlink is only to your blogger profile not your blog. It is important to realize that commenting on other blogs is so much more than just creating a backlink.

Commenting on other blogs:

  • is your calling card. A comment tells the other blogger you visited their blog. At the same time it tells everyone who reads your comment that you visited.
  • is a form of advertising. Everytime you leave a link to your blog or your blogger profile you are essentially advertising your blog and yourself. Therefore it is important to leave quality comments that reflect you as a blogger. Always relate your comment to the post showing that you read that post.
  • is a great way to meet other bloggers. It is important to get your name out there in the blogosphere. One way to do this is through comment on other blogs.
  • extends your content. You name or blogging nym goes onto every comment you make unless use comment anonymously which gains nothing. The more comments you make the more you extend your content.
  • is one of the best ways to generate traffic to your blog. Once your comment goes live on another blog there is a very good chance you will have visitors from that blog to your blog. If you visit that blog again and become a regular commenter you are almost guaranteed vistors from that blog.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Widgets

Anyone wanting to dress up their blogs at some point will turn to using widgets. A widget is a piece of code that gives third party functionality to your blog through the use of scripts. Some widgets are specifically for advertising while others add content such as "quote of the day" while others are just for fun such as countdowns to special events and that type of thing.

Widgets are beneficial in that they:

  • provide content to your blog
  • provide eye candy and interest
  • allow for advertising on your blog
Widgets are not always beneficial in that they:
  • are controlled by a third party so you may in some cases lose control over what is being shown on your blog
  • can create scripting and conflict errors that result in your blog loading to be extremely slow or crash entirely
  • if you have too many widget they can overwhelm your reader
If you want to have your blog load without problems, try to minimize the widgets you use. In this case less ends up being more. My rule of thumb is unless the widget is necessary for advertising as in Adsense or something like CMFads or Adgitize for ad exchange, then it doesn't go on my blogs with the exception of one widget on one of my blogs that runs a quote of the day. Again, less is more!


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Blog Animation

Animation can be a huge part of any blog but animation means more than just moving graphics. It's rather funny but looking back on it when I started my first blogs blinkies were huge things. Blinkies are small little graphics with short sayings like I [heart] New York with animation that looks like the perimeter is blinking. I so wanted to make a custom blinkie for one of my blogs that I spent an entire couple of days working very painfully with Photoshop® and ImageReady® to create my very own blinkie. I quickly found I was more interested in animation outside of blinkies.

I think blinkies rather hit their peak a couple of years ago and while you still see them on some blogs for the most part they are few and far between. This is likely a good thing because when you came across a blog with a lot of blinkies it definitely was sensory overload. When it comes to animation there are two types for blogs, active and passive. Active animation involves any image that actually shows movement like falling snow background or images that appear to dance around. I use gif format for my animation files. Passive animation involves using a scrapbooking technique to create movement in the page with out physical movement. Achieving passive animation can be as simple as using images on your blog that are rotated slightly, stacking images, creating mosaics and a very simple technique of staggering pictures. There are pros and cons to using either technique and ideally they should be combined to achieve maximal animation.

Pros - Active animation adds immediate interest through actual movement while passive animation is subtle. Both types of animation make your blog come alive and make it stick out above the crowd.

Cons - Active animation requires additional software to create the actual animation whereas passive animation can be achieved using simple transormation techniques in any photo editing software program. Active animation can be very distracting for some readers whereas passive animation adds interest without the distracting movement.


Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year Blog Tweaking

Once the New Year's celebrations were over I sat down to do a bit of blog housecleaning. Even though I work on my blogs on almost a daily basis getting down to the nitty gritty of working behind the scenes is something I generally reserve for when I want a bit of quiet time without thinking about actual writing blog posts. There are two elements to the behind the scenes blog maintenance. The first is design and the second is function. You really can't do one without the other but in most cases function supersedes design. The reason for this is you can have great design but if the design doesn't function properly it becomes an element that can be detrimental to your blog.

Over the past couple of months I've been reading that at some point Google is going to start factoring in loading time when calculating page rank. At the same time I know if a blog takes a long time to load readers move on without waiting for it to load. Each of my blogs with the exception of this blog have custom made scrolling backgrounds and custom made graphics for main section and sidebar titles. All of my blogs have custom made headers and 125 pixel buttons. So I decided it was time to pare down any graphic I have control of on my blogs to improve the loading time. While this was a bit time consuming it wasn't a lot of work other than opening the original image, saving in an optimized format, uploading the backgrounds to Photobucket and replacing the other images on Blogger. In most cases anyone visiting the blogs likely didn't notice the tweaking other than perhaps an image can up broken for a very brief period of time. The only thing return visitors likely noticed was the faster loading time.

I won't be adjusting all the extisting photos in each blog post but I will be using optimized photos in all new blog posts. I spent a couple of hours checking links in the sidebar as the next step in function. Unfortunately even the best of links can become dead links so I remove these as I find them but for this type of tweaking I decided to check them all again just in case. While this is something that should be done on a very regular basis it is easy for me to overlook as I get caught-up in the actual blogging and even though I do check how each post looks after posting it, I don't always check all the elements on my blogs after making each post.

I was quite surprised to see how easy this bit of blogging maintenance progressed. It was about as close to painless and seamless for not only me but also my readers. What made it easier was having the files I was modifying all in one folder then automatically saving all the new files into a new folder. Overall I'm rather pleased with results.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Rants

Bloggers have quickly discovered that rants and ranting posts can bring them traffic. I've used rants myself on mainly on my personal blog but also on my other blogs on a very, very limited basis. Rants can be an extremely effective blogging style but only if not over used. Do you recall the stories of Chicken Little or the Boy Who Cried Wolf? If you do then that should give you a good clue as to why constant rants as blog entries don't work.

Readers surprising come to your blog to read what you have to say. If they like what you say they will visit again and maybe even subscribe to your feed. However, coming across as a wet nilly with nothing but rants is sure to turn them off. Why? Everyone knows a constant complainer and trust me after awhile you just tune them out. Well the same thing happens with bloggers who only rant. A vast majority of the readers visiting your blog are either looking for information or entertainment. While ranting gives little in the way of information and can for a short period of time provide a bit of entertainment, no reader consistently wants to read your huffy fits on an ongoing basis. A blog that is only comprised of rants is destined to fail. I've seen some that looked like they would survive but in the end the average lifespan of rants only blogs was just shy of 3 months. Why? From a blogger perspective it is very difficult to maintain a rant mode for every single post on your blog. From a reader's perspective a blog of only rants becomes tedious at best.

My approach to rants is to use them very sparingly and then usually on my personal blog but really only when I don't feel there is another way. Rants seriously do not fit in with some niche blogs at all. When doing a rant, I like to note the post is a rant in some fashion usually by [rant] body of rant [/rant]. Once the rant is over then I let is go.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Can a Blogger be too Opinionated?

During the holiday season I came across a blog that asked the question whether a blogger can be too opinionated. I honestly think the short answer to this question is yes, a blogger can be too opinionated. Just as in off line communications there are times that your opinion should be kept to yourself when blogging.

For the most part I have found that blogging is about me, my opinions and sharing my knowledge. I like to keep my opinions on the tempered side as well without going into overkill mode. . It serves no purpose for me to say on my cooking blog to share each and every opinion I have of the fast food industry when a simple statement that I am not fond of fast food suffices. This also allows me to blog about the rare times we enjoyed fast food without being hypocritical. On most blogs the whole issue of being too opinionated really isn't an issue but on other blogs it can be. I have found too that using a bit of humour either my own or through cartoons and video clips is a great way to get my point across without constantly beating the same drum. Any cartoon or video clip I use on my blogs ultimately means I agree with that viewpoint so nothing further is needed.

Being opinionated is a good thing in that it means you are a thinker. As a blogger being too opinionated can cost you readers if you are too strong. Remember honey attracts more flies than vinegar! Being too opinionated can draw a lot of criticism and create controversy. While both will bring you traffic that traffic may end up giving you a lot of headaches as well. I'm not particularly interested in this type of traffic. I think too that once you establish that tone of being overly opinionated it is a difficult tone to consistently use so I think it is one of those tactics that can work well but only used sparingly.


Friday, January 1, 2010