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, February 28, 2010

Life Gets in the Way

My gosh, I think I was blogging for all of a week when I realized real life demands get in the way of blogging. Real life demands of course can have a wide range from those small little things that pop up to extended illness and everything in between. When I first started out blogging the idea of actually authoring a successful blog or blogs was not even on my mind. That changed when I realized that blogs can become quite popular, taking on a life of their own and one that doesn't always mesh with real life demands.

I think every blogger has to come to some decision as to how they will handle these disruptions. I am a huge fan of scheduled posts in that I can make several posts when I'm able to then schedule them to post on future dates as desired. This works well for me because of my general blogging style in that some days I'm pretty chatty so can get a few posts ready but other days I don't feel like writing at all. Another thing that works well for me is blogging when on vacation. It does sound strange but at the end of a great, relaxing day I can write a post or two to keep my blogs updated fairly regularly while on vacation. Since I started blogging I have experienced periods where illness has made it so I don't want to blog. This is the time that I don't push trying to blog. Other bloggers who have experienced extended periods of illness have taken a couple of approaches. They either try blogging through it and there is some benefit to that is blogging takes your mind off of health problems or they simply stop blogging which is also fine. Either way as a blogger these are the things you will end up coming up against since life does get in the way :)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Where to Find Blog Directories

In a recent post I wrote about submitting your blog to directories as a way of gaining exposure for your blog and creating backlinks. The question that comes to mind is where to find these directories. In short there are two ways to find blog directories. The first way is to do a simple Google search then pick and choose what directories you would like to submit your blog to. The second way is to keep an eye on other blogs. Usually there is a blog directory section on a blog because many blog directories want you to include a small graphic with a link back to your listing. Some bloggers will but these under a subheading called directories or similar while others will just group them all together.

The important things to remember is to check out the directory before submitting your blog and to always manually submit your blog(s) yourself to the directory. By all means do a bit of research on the directory before submitting your blog (s). This ensures you don't submit your blog to any bad neighbourhoods, one of the primary reasons for not using a multiple directory submission service. Don't feel you have to make a lot of submissions either. Gradually build up your submissions over time to get the results you want.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Official Link Exchanges

If you have been doing any blog hopping you will likely have come across official link exchanges. Two of the biggest ones are Comment Luv and Mr Linky. These link exchanges work under two different principals. One is a great way to advertise your blog to help increase traffic. The other is borderline blackhat.

With Comment Luv if you leave a comment on a blog there will be a link back to your most recent post. This is a good thing! It leaves not only a backlink but a quality backlink, one that will not get you into any trouble with the search engines. So by all means if someone has Comment Luv activated for comments make sure you leave a quality comment. It is also a nice thing to offer Comment Luv on your blog if you are so inclined.

Mr Linky is a beast of a totally different nature. Mr Linky is a widget that allows a certain number of visitors to leave links to their blogs. On the surface this sounds like a great way to get a backlink or two and in fact when I first saw this on Wordless Wednesday posts I would leave my link as a way of saying I visited your blog. However, rumour has it and I can't confirm this, Google views Mr Linky as a [blackhat] link exchange. Now I only left my url for one of my blogs on some blogs with the Mr Linky widget. During that time my PR for that blog did decrease but there are many reasons why PR can decrease so that could mean anything. At any rate the rumours are Google does not like Mr Linky because it is a link exchange. If you use Mr Linky on too many posts it could get your blog banned from Google meaning your search engine traffic will decrease. My advice until an official word from Google or other search engines is to not offer Mr Linky on your blog and do not leave your link on any Mr Linky widget.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Shortly after starting to blog I came across the idea that blogs need to be listed in directories. One of the main reasons for this is many still use blog directories to find blogs rather than search engines. The second reason is directories give you a valuable backlink. It does take time to get your blog into various directories. Avoid any site that says it will submit your blog to multiple sites. Instead, visit the directory then if you like what you see, submit your blog. This way you have some control where your backlinks are coming from. You also ensure your blog will not be listed in a directory that is inappropriate.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I think you would have to be living in a bubble to not have heard of Twitter. Twitter is a real time, micro blogging messaging social medium. Messages can be a maximum of 140 characters. Now in reality Twitter can be anything you want it to be. It can be a way to chit chat with others, keep in touch with family and friends, and a way of letting others know what is going on. It is a social medium and by that it means you share information with your followers, receive information from your followers and widen your social network. In order for Twitter to be beneficial to you, it is in your best interest to engage in a bit of socialization. Talk to others, retweet their tweets and interact.

Twitter is perfect for promoting your blog but there are a few things to consider. First make sure you are interacting with your followers. Strike up a conversation. You don't want every tweet to be about your blog. Give some quality tweets back that have nothing to do with your blog. Retweet especially those tweets that fit in with your blog niche. Keep in mind that you are the spokesperson for your blog(s). How you present yourself and what you say does matter! Do not engage in heated disagreements or trollish behaviour. If someone says something that just makes your blood boil, walk away from the computer, sit on your hands or do whatever it takes to not respond even if that means blocking that person so you can't see their posts and they can't see yours. Do not engage in spammish behaviour either. Yes, promote you blot especially after each new post but once you've sent out a tweet don't send out multiple tweets promoting that post. Other than that, have fun with twitter. It a great tool for promoting your blog, meeting other bloggers and building your traffic.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stay True to Your Blog Niche

I have been a blog hopper right from the time I started my first blog. What I noticed almost immediately is some bloggers do not stay true to their blog niche. I find it quite irritating to stumble on a blog that according to the name and description is a cooking blog only to find the posts have absolutely nothing to do with food let alone cooking. It's even more irritating to stumble onto a 'family' blog to only find paid posts. I'll bet this is a pet peeve for many visiting blogs. When you visit a blog you expect posts that match at least the main blog niche. In short it is the same thing as shopping. You go into a store that advertises food yet find nothing edible in there but you find instead sporting equipment. Chances are very good you will not visit that store again if you are looking to purchase food. It is the same thing with blogs. So keep your readers happy and coming back for more by staying true to your niche.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Take a New Spin on a Hot Topic

When you are looking for blog fodder take a new spin on a hot topic. For example the hot topic of the day is the Olympics but if you do a bit of analyzing there is a lot more to blog about than just the sports. Just for a bit of fun I decided to look at some ways the Olympics can provide blog fodder aside of the sports. Here's a few ideas I came up with that you could get a lot of blog fodder out of:

  • environmental impact
  • public opposition
  • role of the fast food industry (controversy)
  • security issues
  • individual participants
  • medal design
  • opening ceremony
  • limited supply of red mittens
  • culinary choices of participants
  • Canadian chefs cooking for the participants
  • Canadian entertainment
And that is just skimming a few headlines with respect to the Olympics. There are so many spins you could take just on this one hot topic!

Garden Gnome

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What's in the News

If you are looking for good blog fodder you really only need to look as far as current events aka what's in the news. Depending on you blog niche you should be able to find an abundance of things to blog about. In the news topics can range from bizarre to women's issues to politics and everything in between. You can even check the daily comics for blog fodder! If you don't get a daily or weekly newspaper check online news sites where you should find at least one or more headlines worth blogging about.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Blogging Trends Heads Up

A couple of days ago I took the opportunity to do a bit of blog hopping. I was actually a bit surprised at what I saw. Now I don't know if it is the effect of end of winter blues heading into spring but what I saw was definitely lighter and brighter colours. White backgrounds and predominantly white backgrounds are really becoming quite popular if the blogs I saw are any indication. This may be something to keep an eye on especially if looking to update your blog design.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Your Stats

I quickly learned that the easy way to see what was going on with my blogs was to look at my blog stats. I also learned there were a lot of ways to do this. Most bloggers add some type of traffic counter to their blogs. It can be visible or invisible but either way checking the stats can reveal some rather interesting information. Another way to get stats is to use online resources like Google Analytics, Alexa, Technorati and some of the blog exchanges that will show traffic patterns.

Why I pay attention to my stats:

  • Stats give a good indication to your bounce rate. The goal should always be towards lowering your bounce rate. If I do something that increases my bounce rate I know that isn't good so immediately eliminate that before it has a chance to affect my PR.
  • Checking my stats I can see where visitors come from which tells me what sites I should visit and leave a comment as well as revealing any potential problems.
  • Stats reveal traffic trends. For example Thursdays tend to be lower traffic days for my blogs. I'm not sure why but they are. This has been quite consistent across all my blogs.
  • Stats reveal your popular (anchor) posts. Once I see a post come up over and over in your stats that's my clue to reinforce that post by using back links and social networking.
  • Finally stats can tell you if all of a sudden your blog has dropped out of the search engines' radar. I take immediate action if this happens.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Photo Editing Software

One of my most used tools for blogging is Photoshop®. This is photo editing software and while I prefer Photoshop® there is a lot of other photo editing software available ranging in price from free to a couple of hundred dollars or more. What I like about Photoshop® is that it gives me the ability to not only edit my photos but also create custom made graphics as well as animations. I think my readers appreciate the fact that I do take the time to edit my photos so they present nicely. I've also had some feedback on some of the animations I've made. I think just the fact that I am controlling the images makes it a bit more personal for my blogs. I'm able to get the exact look and feel I want so that makes a huge difference. What is really interesting is because of blogging I am learning more about photo editing and creating custom graphic. So blogging is not always all about blogging.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Blogging in the Wee Hours of the Morning

Here I am, it's 2:58 am and I'm blogging. This is a bit of the norm for me if I wake-up and can't get back to sleep. I refuse to stay in bed and just toss and turn. Blogging is a quiet activity and unlike cooking, my preferred stress buster, it doesn't fill the house with yummy smells to wake everyone up. The house is quiet, the water is peaceful with lights dancing across the open portions and floating ice creating odd shadows. Yet this is one of my favourite times to blog :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Blogger's Block

From time to time every blogger experiences blogger's block. This simply means mentally not being able to blog. You sit at the computer and nothing comes. Your mind is blank as far as coming up with something to blog about. Blogger's block can last anywhere from a few minutes to days or even months. Like many bloggers I have been in that position. Here are a few ways I deal with blogger's block.

  • avoiding pressure to blog - When you feel pressured to do anything including blogging the mind always rebels in some fashion. The only pressure I have to blog comes from within and my personal drive to keep adding to my content. Blogging is a hobby for me and I don't do paid posts and never have so that eliminates a lot of pressure right there.
  • taking breaks - If I sit down to blog and it just doesn't feel or the thoughts won't come I take a break. Sometimes a break is as simple of working in Photoshop® or on genealogy but other times it will be a walk outside to enjoy the outdoors and take pictures. At other times it will be into the kitchen to do a bit of cooking because cooking relaxes me. There are very few times that I will sit down to write a blog post in one sitting without taking multiple breaks.
  • blogging schedule - Some bloggers set a certain time to blog each day or writing time each week. I don't do that. I blog when I feel like it even if that means 3 AM.
  • blog hop - I visit a several blogs when I have blogger's block. Enjoying the hard work of other bloggers is often enough to snap me out of blogger's block.
  • blog maintenance - Quite often when I have blogger's block I'll open up one of my blogs and take a good critical look or check for dead links or even look for elements to add or remove. It's surprising how spending a little time tweaking serves as inspiration for a blog post.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dealing With Trolls

In the internet world there are some who simply exist to cause problems because they can or so they think they can hide behind the cloak of anonymity. These irritating individuals are affectionately known as trolls. An internet troll has two aspects - visual and actions. A troll is a hideous, somewhat deformed, stooped over creature with a bad attitude who lives under a bridge and terrorizes anyone trying to cross the bridge. In this respect an internet troll fits this image with the only goal in their pea sized brain is to create chaos anyway they can. The second aspect involves fishing. Trolling is a common form of fishing in which the hook with bait is tossed out then slowly reeled in attracting any fish to take the bait. That is exactly what internet trolls do. I have found that when it comes to internet trolls and blogging they take 2 forms. The first is the comment troll and the second is the troll that will send email messages.

The comment troll is easier to deal with. Yes, they are trolling and trying to get you to take the bait but it is done only through the blog comments. The email troll is a bit more worrisome because they have taken it from the blog to a more personal level, to you directly as the author. The most important thing is to stop a troll from escalating. If you pick up a comment troll just reject each and every message using comment moderation. The beauty of comment moderation is they don't know if you even read the comment. Don't say anything about it just reject. What you are doing is removing the troll's reward. Once they see no mention of them and none of their comments on your blog they will get bored and move on. In some cases a comment troll may become an email troll. One of the worst things you can do with an email troll is responding to them. Do not engage with them directly or indirectly regardless of what buttons they push. Create a file then put the message in it. It's important to keep the message in case it escalates. If you get multiple emails from the troll do a whois on their IP then send a complaint to their IPS. If that is the only message after a month or so just delete it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Creating Your Own Special Awards

A great blogging tactic is to create your own special awards. Note the word special? I have for years had a serious hatred for telemarketers. I know they are doing their job but interrupting my peace and quiet on a phone line that I'm paying for is like stealing from me. Besides they just rub me the wrong way unless I'm in the mood to toy with them then that can get rather interesting. In a normal course of action the phone will ring to which a telemarketer will start their line to which I say I'm not interested which effectively ends the call. BUT! Some telemarketers are not that smart. Until we got our new 'zap any telemarketer in sight' phones I decided to use them for a bit of blog fodder. Do you know you can wander on over to whocallsme.com to identify callers? Actually just type in the number and do a Google for what company the telemarketer is working for.

What I did was create a very special 'donkey award' for telemarketers that totally tick me off. That means they have called our house on several occasions and have irritated the living snot out of me. If they get to this point they might get the 'donkey award' but only if and I will stress if I am extremely irritated by them. That means a lovely award, their name and phone number being the total topic of an entire post on my personal blog. Then the next time they call and they do, I give them the URL with their award that they can pick up which can take a bit of time because I insist on talking to a supervisor but what the heck if you are in for a pound you might as well go the whole way. It's quite effective :) Oh and my readers love it!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Email Incentive

This little trick won't work for all blogs but it does work for my personal blog from time to time. One day I was sitting thinking about something to write for this blog that I usually have oodles of ideas for but suddenly had nothing so I took a break to check my email. Oh my gosh there was one of the best pieces of spam emails I have ever seen so I blogged about it. I love blogging about spammers so my Canadian sense of humour come out big time. It was a hit. From that moment I started to keep an eye on my email folder for things like the "pass this on to 10 friends or else" and the "internet hoaxes". All of these make excellent blog fodder for a personal blog. I think one of the best ones was an email I received about a Bristol zoo keeper. So I posted the story thinking nothing of it. That one post is still bringing me a couple of hits daily! I also like the actual blatant spam messages for blog fodder as well. Some of them are just priceless for poking a little fun at! So check your email. You never know what you will find.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Thin Line

Sometimes you can have a blogging problem without realizing it. I participate in a few forums and groups. What has happened is on two of my groups a member will go over to my blog (link in sig) then come back to the group and question that post. This is a bit of a tick off because first it is impolite to the group and to me it feels like this person is second guessing me but in front of a huge audience. It actually happened twice this week with my cooking blog! I encourage comments and in fact the one person who did the questioning left a comment on my blog to which I answered within a couple of minutes of approving the comment. Then within 5 minutes this person started questioning on the group. Hello!

I spend a certain amount of time on line which means there are times I am not online. I am not sitting there on my blog awaiting your question nor am I sitting on a group waiting for someone to say something to which I can reply. Give it a rest already! I participate on a group that has nothing to do with my blog and what happens on my blog has nothing to do with the group so why do people insist on doing this? It's not like they can't email me because that information is in my blog profile and it's not like I don't answer comments. The groups act as a break from blogging and aside of having a link in my sig that is as far as the intermingling should go.

Thus ends a minor rant. What would you do in this situation?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blogging is Like Fine Dining

Today I am going to use the analogy that blogging is like fine dining. Think back to the last time you ate out at a sit down restaurant that wasn't fast food. The first thing that you notice is the atmosphere. If the atmosphere is comfortable and welcoming you start relaxing then glance around your area where you may notice other elements such as decorations, artwork, and anything else that adds to the atmosphere. You may make a mental note of some detail you would like to recreate or if you are like me, take a picture. When the server arrives at your table you will immediately pick up on their demeanor. If they are friendly and welcoming you relax a bit more but if they are brisk or unfriendly you tense up a bit. Reading through the menu you quickly assess what is available, what you want, and pricing but only if the menu itself is well designed. If the menu design appeals to you, you may even take a picture or ask for a copy to take home. The true test of any restaurant is the food. How fast the food comes out is not as important as the eye appeal and taste. You will linger over good food, savoring every bite! Finally, at the end of the meal there is the cost of the food. Yes you pay for everything it took to get that meal for you to enjoy so if you enjoyed it the price is worth it. On the other hand if you didn't enjoy it the price is going to bother you.

Let's see how blogging is very much like fine dining:

  • atmosphere - The blog design, layout and colour creates atmosphere. If the overall design is warm and welcoming the reader will feel comfortable then notice other elements (images, widgets, extra details). The blog header is likely one of the most influential factors in determining atmosphere. It acts as your signage and your maĆ®tre d' welcoming your readers and ushering them in. If the header is poorly designed or off centre it conveys the message that you don't care enough to fix the problem. Much like a restaurant would not intentionally design their signage to discourage people from coming in, a blogger should not design their header to discourage readers.
  • service - Two important elements of any blog are the blogger's profile and their welcoming message. These are your servers. If they are friendly and welcoming the reader is encouraged to read further. If they aren't the reader may decide to leave.
  • menu - If you look at any restaurant menu it is divided into categories. A blog should also be clearly divided into categories. Each category should be labeled to help your readers find what they want on your blog. Make the choices and navigation easy for your reader too. Hundreds of links on your sidebar are confusing for most readers. Reduce the number to a few well chosen links. If there is something of interest or something of importance you want to highlight create a short notation along with a link then put it right up near your welcome message.
  • food - A restaurant can have all the amenities possible but if their food is lousy they won't stay in business long. The food of a blog is its content. Content is King! That is what your readers come for so make content your highest priority. Keep your blog updated on a regular basis. While an older, well established blog can get away with updating less often a newer blog needs to be updated more often. I recommend at least once a week if not more often. If a newer blog adds a post only once a month readers will move on because what is the point of visiting again if they have already read the content. It is important to realize that no blog can survive without new content being added on a regular basis.
  • price - There is a cost to everything you do although not always monetary. When it comes to blogging your reader pays a price with respect to time. If your blog takes too long to load then the reader may feel the price to wait is too long so will move on. If your blog is unorganized or has too many ads then the reader may feel your blog is not worth their time. On the other hand if they enjoy their stay on your blog they are likely to visit again, bookmark your blog and maybe even subscribe.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Get Your Blog Feed Out There

When I started blogging I seriously had no idea what a blog feed was. As I learned more about blogging I discovered some people will subscribe to your blog feed to read it that way. So I decided to learn more about feeds. I headed over to feedburner.com to create a feed for my 3 blogs at that time. It wasn't difficult and I managed to figure out how to add the chicklet to my blogs. Then I promptly forgot about feeds. However with social media especially Twitter and mobile, feeds are becoming increasing more important. The new rule is get that blog feed out there wherever you can. Make sure you have some type of feed chicklet on your blog to make it easy for anyone wanting to subscribe to your blog easy. Some pinging services have your RSS feed as optional. Use your feed URL in this field if at all possible anytime you send a ping. If a site you sign up to like an advertising network asks for your feed, make sure you fill in that information. I have discovered the feed URL is every bit as important as the blog URL!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Blog Scheduling

I've talked about using Blogger's feature to schedule posts but today's topic is on actual scheduling as to when posts are written. For the purposes of this post I'm only considering the writing component of blogging not all the other aspects that go along with blogging. Some bloggers have a system where a certain number of hours or a certain time frame is set aside for blogging while others have no system at all. Other blogger fall somewhere in between. When I first started blogging the when and how wasn't much of a consideration. Like all new hobbies I somehow found the time. As time progressed and my blogs grew I found myself needing to establish some type of schedule for writing.

First and foremost any writing schedule has to work for you. That is critical! I knew right away that trying to schedule writing posts from say 9 to 11 am daily wasn't going to work for me. I analyzed when I was writing blog posts over a period of 2 months to see what my natural writing pattern was. What I found interesting was Mondays are always a good blog writing day for me. Mid day any day is a bad time for me to focus on writing. One of my best writing times is late evening and a lot of blog posts tend to get started about 4 AM then finished up later. So I really tend to go with the flow blogging when the mood strikes without any set schedule when it comes to writing. This works well for me.

My blogs tend to be graphic intensive with most of my blog posts including one or more images either photographed or created by me. What this means is I have to find the time to edit and create images. I have found that taking a chunk of time to do several images at one time works better for me than editing just before writing each blog post. Again this is what works for me.

Monday, February 8, 2010


When I was growing up saying dang would get a very stern look from my Mom. There was absolutely no way I was ever going to use the damn if there was even a remote chance beyond a shadow of a doubt that my Mom would ever find out I said that word. At some point and I really don't recall when the eff word came onto the scene. Now the eff word is extremely versatile. It can be used as a verb, adverb, adjective, noun, and pronoun. It can be used to describe extreme pleasure and displeasure. As if that isn't enough the eff word can be combined creatively with other words to form a whole brand new word. If you would like to learn more about this great the eff word hop on over to YouTube to watch this educational video of the 'F' word usage (not for kids). So tell me why wouldn't a blogger worth their salt want to take advantage of this wonderful word?

At one time the eff word demanded immediate attention but now it has become so common place no one pays attention to it at all. We have become so desensitized to the eff word so even in written print such as blogs it really has little effect. Our eyes just skim over that word barely noticing it yet most adults will discourage the usage of the word by youth. At the same time this word can and still may offend some readers, something that is best not done. The second problem is search engines recognize this and may penalize you especially if using this type of language is part of most of the posts you make. In a lot of ways too, I think the eff word makes you lose credibility with other bloggers especially if this word is used frequently throughout your blog. All of these are quite valid reasons why you should refrain from using the eff word on your blog.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Problem With Any Blogging Network

Once I got the hang of blogging I signed up my first blog to a blogging network. The premise was by showing my 125 x 125 card on other blogger's blogs in exchange for having the widget on my blog I would in return receive traffic. Of course this particular blogging network involved clicking 300 cards/ads per day in order to receive the maximum benefit. The immediate problem to do this is while it did bring me traffic it blew my bounce sky high. The worst part of this is as soon as I stopped participating those who dropped on me daily just stopped. So what that really showed me is they weren't visiting my blogs to read or because they were interested in what I had to say rather they wanted the credit for visiting. I left that particular blogging network. Although the high bounce rate and the fact other bloggers are clicking on your blog just to get a credit is a problem with any blogging network. It really does end up being a huge waste of time and effort if you don't retain any readership from that network should you decided to not participate any longer.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Best of Intentions But Sidetracked

A couple of days ago I sat down to blog with the best of intentions. I had plenty of blog fodder and pictures to update at least 4 of my blogs. There was no reason why I couldn't have edited a few pictures and written a few posts to schedule for those days I don't have time to write posts. Heck it was a great day; I was in a great mood and had lots to say. Then it happened!

My husband was home for the day so I stopped to chitchat with him, discussing mainly home repairs and solar plans. The kitchen called so I made a wonderful pot of soup well worthy of blogging about later. I stopped to watch a couple of television programs while working on CMF and Adgitize. TweetDeck beckoned and I had to check out the new Rick Mercer videos on YouTube. Apparently last week's community paper held some fascination as I had to check it out from cover to cover while editing pictures. Then I decided this would be a great time to start getting the bedroom destined for my craft room ready for its makeover which actually saw a lot of progress today given the short bursts of working on it. I had to recheck the colour scheme for the craft room having second doubts. The sun danced on the water causing the ice to glitter to I had to stop and take a few pictures. I managed to spend over an hour on the phone with one of our kids while doing a bit of knitting. I seriously multi-tasked the entire day so the day went. Despite having enough for 7 posts I managed to write one! Tsk! Tsk! Such is the life of a sidetracked blogger :)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Should You Use Imaging Hosting Sites

At some point you will want or need to use outside imaging hosting sites. The real question is should you use them. Any time you can keep the image on the same hosting site as your blog the image will load faster. Images uploaded to Blogger go into Picasso and there is a 1024 MB limit for the free album. Videos can also be uploaded to Blogger with a 100 MB limit per video. With proper image size management (optimization) this will allow you a lot of images before you have to pay extra charges. If you want to avoid additional image hosting charges then most bloggers use one or more free image hosting sites. Two of the most common image hosting sites are Photobucket and YouTube.

The big plus with both of these venues is they fall into the category of social networking. If you upload your video to Blogger it works well but if you upload it to either Photobucket or YouTube you stand a chance for higher recognition. The downside that I've seen is if you rely to heavily on Photobucket or you get too many hits it the images are replaced with an image that says you need to upgrade. This can be a problem if a lot of your images are hosted at Photobucket and all of a sudden one of your posts is rather popular. Another problem is sometimes Photobucket can be slow to load so that affects your blog loading speed.

What I do:

  • Most images are hosted at Picasso, Blogger's image hosting site. They are optimized for web so smaller files that take up less space.
  • Some images are hosted at Photobucket. Some of that came about from the way Blogger handles gif by eliminating the transparent backgrounds but I now have a work-around for that but Blogger handles animation a bit different as well. Photobucket allows these images to be displayed properly.
  • The real place for any video right now is YouTube. It may easily get a lot of traffic so take advantage of that. Upload your video to YouTube then embed it into your blog post.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Using Polls on Your Blog

I quickly found out in the early years of blogging is that engaging my readers and encouraging them to participate increased my traffic. Remember that traffic is key so you should always be thinking of ways to drive traffic to your blog. Three effective ways I found that worked for me were:

  • encourage comments
  • design an attractive 125 x 125 ad
  • poll your readers
There is a fourth method an that is to run some type of contest that accents your blog niche. I have not tried this method as far as awarding prizes but my husband and I ran a cooking contest with each of us having to come up with 6 recipes that ended up being very popular with readers who voted for the recipe the liked best. My readership that month was up considerably.

Polls can be a very effective way of driving traffic to you blog as they encourage reader participation. Readers love having some type of input. I like polls in that I can ask a question and get valuable reader feedback. The main problem I have seen with polls is a blogger will have a great poll on their blog then absolutely no discussion on the poll when it ends. While a poll is a great way to discover what your readers want it is an even better way to generate traffic by talking about the poll. Readers tend to be interested in your interpretation of the poll results. They want to know if you are going to take the poll results and turn them into post topics. I try to always post some type of follow-up to any poll I run. It can be a simple as a statement that says according to the recent poll most readers are interested in this topic or it can be and in most cases is an entire posts analyzing the poll.

I will note that in my experience with authoring 6 blogs, polls are more effective in some blog niches than others. I also think that when it comes to polls less is more. I think they are more effective if you use them once a month or less but often enough to gain your readers' attention. I also think that follow-up after the poll ends is very important otherwise readers won't vote.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bloggers Can Be Brutal

When I first started blogging I thought all bloggers were a rather nice bunch of people and for the most part they are. I can still remember my first non-spam but nasty comment from another blogger and I can still remember the time I took my time to leave a nice comment on a blog in my niche only to have a somewhat nasty comment left as if she thought I was infringing on her space. Hey if you don't want comments then disallow them but don't be snarky about it. The side effect to her come back was I don't visit her blog period ever even though she is part of some of the networks I participate in. Sometimes I really just don't that bloggers can and will be snarky to those who leave comments and I don't get where they feel it is ok to leave snarky comments on other blogs. Both reflect poorly on the blogger doing so.

Snarky comments aside I have also learned that some bloggers can be brutally honest. If they don't like the design of your blog or your colours or your template they will leave a comment letting you know that. At the same time some of these comments really are constructive criticism and need to be viewed as such whether they are sugar coated or not. These comments can actually help you fine tune your blog so do take them into consideration but at the same time remember they are only opinions. Some may be quite helpful while others will go against your overall plan for your blog. Stay true to yourself using what you can from constructive criticism and leave the rest.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Blog vs Advertising Networking

One of the first things I started to notice on other blogs once the novelty of blogging wore off were the various widgets on other blogs. I didn't know they were called widgets but quickly found that out as well. Over the years that I have been blogging I have tried a lot of them. They tend to fall under the category of blog networking or advertising networking and while there is some overlap these are two different things.

  • Blog networking involves using your link, blog thumbprint or 125 x 125 card as a way to meet other bloggers. These networks are based on credits earned along with your card being shown based on the number of cards shown on your blog. There is no opportunity to earn any money using a blog networking system. As long as your are active you will earn traffic but if your aren't active you will see little traffic from them. Some of the most common blog networking 125 x 125 systems are: spottt, site hopping, 125exchange and entrecard. The two most common blog thumbprint networking systems are blogexplosion and linkexchange where you can participate in various activities to earn credits and traffic. I think the only remaining blog link program is trafficsoldiers but I could be wrong on this. The two main problems with blog exchanges are the high bounce rate click-through to earn credits generates and lack of control of the ads displayed on your blog.
  • Advertising networks use your link or 125 x 125 card, usually your 125 x 125 card. In general your card is displayed on a publishers blog and the publisher is paid for displaying your ad for a certain period of time. Advertising costs you the advertiser and pays the publisher. Examples of advertising networks are Adgitize, CMF Ads and Project Wonderful. Each offer pros and cons depending on what you are looking for. For example if you are actively daily in Adgitize you will pay $14 for a month ad but get a pay out of about $16 so you are $2 ahead. CMF Ads has just introduced spikes that guarantee you 50 unique visits and Project Wonderful just introduced geotargetting. Your ad will cost money to run that can be earned from within the system by running ads for other bloggers or you can add to your funds via other means. The downside to all of these networks is you really need to check almost daily to approve or reject ads. Other than that both Adgitize and CMF Ads offer an opportunity to earn via clicking but the time commitment is minimal. What I have noticed using these three advertising networks is my bounce rate decreased and comments increased so they have been good for my blogs.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Does Theme Colour Matter?

Right from the moment I started blogging I had very definite colour schemes in mind for each blog.  I noticed that certain colours naturally reinforce the blog theme.  For example the natural colours of green combined with earth tones are perfect for gardening blogs.  I naturally chose a Blogger template with green tones then modified from there for my gardening blog.  If you visit a lot of gardening blogs the colour green comes up over and over.  It signifies life and grow so is a natural fit for gardening which also signifies life and grow.  To me the colour theme of a blog does matter.  Colour influences our mood and how we perceive a blog.  Some other trends I've noticed are:

  • pastel colours (mainly pink, blue or purple) - These are extremely popular with the mommy bloggers.  Even if their kids are teeny boppers well past the infant stage those pastel colours are their choice for their colour theme.
  • black - Black seems to be a rebel almost anti-social colour, deep and dark when used as a theme colour.  
  • white - This seems to be the no nonsense colour chosen when a blogger wants to get their message across with the focus on the message and nothing else.
  • blue - Blue is often the dominant colour theme of personal blogs and anything to do with water.
  • green - Green is the dominant colour for gardening, organic and eco-friendly blogs.
  • shades of red - Red is the cooking colour but not always an in your face but rather more of the main accent colour in cooking blogs.
  • shades of yellow - A muted mustard yellow is quite popular amongst some back to nature blogs and those dealing with homesteading.
These colour theme trends are just those that I've noticed while blog hopping.  I personally use a blue theme for my personal blog, a green theme for my gardening blog, pale pink/grey for my cooking blog, deeper pink for my homemaking blog, red/white for my Canadian blog and white for this blog.  Each of my colour choices were directly influenced by the blog topic.

What is important to point out when I say the dominant colour is blue it does not necessary mean the background is plain blue and everything else is in shades of blue.  Rather what it means is there can be a lot of other colours involved but if you look at the blog theme then blur your eyes one dominant colour will stand out.  This is very much an interior decorator technique when co-ordinating various patterns.  As long as the dominant colour matches the rest will fall together.