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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Saturday, July 31, 2010

A New Way to

Linkshowoff


LinkShowOff is a new program that allows you to earn a little money from displaying their widget on your blog or by referring others to the program.  What is different about these links is you control both the price of the link and who's links can show on the widget.  The links are nofollow and static changing only when a new link has been purchased to knock the longest running link off of the widget.  So a widget displaying 5 links could get your link out there for a considerable amount of time depending on the turn-over.  The widgets are somewhat customizable for colour and number of links to show.  I am seeing some of the widgets with link pricing set to $2 but $1 seems to be the going rate.  The minumum cashout is $10 and they charge $3 to cashout. 

I put the widget on three of my blogs (cooking, gardening, homemaking).  I currently have no links on any of the widgets but it is still early yet.  As with any type of program like this, I like that I can control both content and price.  I will give this program a trial period of a month then decide whether or not to continue with it. 

In reality there is no need for a widget to sell links on your blog.  Simply add a notation like Buy A 30 Day Link for $ (set price) with a link pointing to your email address.  You deal directly with the advertiser and keep all the profits without paying a middleman.  What this type of widget does is broaden the audience that may be interested in advertising on your blog but at a price to the middleman.  Either way purchased links should be kept out of blog posts and designed as stand-alone links away from blog posts.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Blocking an IP with PHP

At some point you may have the need to block one or more persons from reading your blog but the problem isn't severe enough to warrant making your blog private.  This is particularly desirable if you end up with a persistent comment spammer.  Blogger does not make this easy because there is no access to the .htaccess file and to date despite requests Blogger has not made an IP blocker available.  The block can be in javascript (JS) or PHP format.  You can add a JS gadget in your element layout that will effectively block one or more IP addresses.  The problem with using JS is a user can simply diable JS to circumvent the script so they can still get through to your blog.  I found the PHP code at Perishable Press (How to Block IP Addresses with PHP) and JS IP block code through Javascript Kit.  The nice thing about the PHP code is it will work even if JS is turned off.  You can modify the code in either to send the unwanted visitor to any site of your choice. 

Quite frankly it really doesn't matter where you send them but the generic send to Google won't give them any idea of what you did if you use the PHP code.  If you use the JS code you can give them a flip off message that they have been banned from your site..  If the unwanted visitor tries to access through an IP anonymizer then simply add the IP of the anonymizer as well.  Now if a comment spammer is really persistent they can still get around this by using a computer at a different IP.  In this case resort to tracking in your stats to identify the IP then add that IP to the block as well.  Essentially what you are doing is setting up call block but instead of for your phone you are doing it to your blog.  Once the comment spammer realizes s/h/it can't get through they will move onto greener pastures.  You can leave the IP block on and modify as needed.  Chances are good that you may only need to take this step once because persistent comment spammers are thankfully few and far between.  I think it is a handy bit of coding to save just in case it is needed.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Pitch

I was reading a blog a couple days ago where the topic was the pitch.  The pitch is essentially spam sent directly to you.  The spam is worded in such a fashion to flatter you in the hopes you will give a free plug to their site.  Here is an example of a pitch I received yesterday:

Hi,

We would love to share with you an article that we just posted on our own blog! “10 Tips for Finding a Lawn Care Service” (http://www.spammedurl) would be an interesting story for your readers to check out and discuss on your blog, so we hope you will consider sharing it!

Thanks so much for your time, and have a wonderful day!
Sheryl Owen
The problem with is type of contact is it is spam.  The person doing the contact can't be bothered to call me by name and for some reason they think I am somehow remotely interested in their article enough to tell me it would be an interesting topic for my blog.  Chances are very good they haven't even read my gardening blog otherwise they would know as a gardener we don't use a lawn service.  I usually get 2 or 3 of these a week but treat all of these types of pitches as spam.  There's no point replying to them as that will likely make the situation worse. 


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pushing the Bar

When I started blogging I was content with just getting things going but within a couple of weeks I noticed a personal trend in my blogging.  That trend is to always push the bar a bit higher.  It seems I'm always tweaking and looking for ways to improve my blogs.  There is almost a competition between the blogs.  Once I started customizing one blog it forced customizing the other blogs but as I customized the next blog I'd discover something else that resulted in more tweaking of the previous blog.  And so it goes with changes on one blog spurring on changes on another.  In many ways this is a great motivator for blogging. 


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Short Twitter Experiment

I recently posted about a Twitter rumour that the best time to tweet was between 10 AM and 1 PM.  So I did a brief experiment running scheduled tweets daily for one of my blogs about ever 30 minutes between that time period for a week.  I also did regular tweeting during that time period.  I did not notice a significant increase in traffic although there a few more retweets so that gave a bit more exposure that may result in a bit more traffic later.  Since Twitter is on a 24 hour clock I think there is a possibility of getting a few more RTs and blog traffic duing that time period in your time zone.  This likely is more of a rumour than a fact but you never know.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Identifying Spammers Using Stats

I've found that most comment spammers come and go.  Sometimes a comment spammer becomes persistent it becomes necessary to identify when to forward complaints to.  In Blogger under settings to be notified by email when a new comment has been made on your blog.  This email allows you to publish or reject the comment from the enclosed links.  The email also gives you the name of the post the comment was made on and the time it was made.  This information is useful when checking your stats.  Scroll down in your stats until you find a corresponding entry for that particular post and time.  Label the IP with something ? spammer or anything that makes sense to you. 

I recently posted about a comment spammer who left the same message on 4 posts on my cooking blog.  I labeled the IP and have been tracking visits from this person.  Since the person is in one of the same advertising networks that I participate in I would expect to occasionally see a visit from him.  This type of visit would show as a visit directly to the blog not an actual blog post.  That is not what I'm seeing in my stats.  This person has visited one specific post where he attempted comment spam on multiple occasions over the past few days.  The day after the comment spam was attempted he visited all 4 posts.  Obviously he is checking these specific posts to see if his comment was posted. 

In these types of cases tracking the visits can be beneficial if the person continues with comment spam.  If they make no further attemps at comment spam it simply shows the comment spam was intentional, done by a person not a bot.  Comment spam by a bot tends to be hit and run without checking back to see if the comment was posted.  If comment spam continues from an identified spammer then you have the choice to keep rejecting or reporting.  Rejecting is likely the best course of action.  It's quick, easy and effective while sending a clear message that their comments won't get posted.  Once they realize this they will move on. 

There are very few times that a comment spammer needs to be reported.  At one time reporting spammers was all the rage but now it seems like reporting gives them the attention they want.  If the comment spammer is a bot that hits your blog several times or a real person who persists or it turns personal then reporting might be necessary.  The IP comes in handy for this.   Run the IP through a Whois to get the contact information where to send an abuse complaint.  Send an email to the abuse address including a log of entries of their customer's visit to your blog and attempted spam comments.  Since spamming is against the TOS and AUP of most ISPs the comment spammer will be warned or lose his account.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Not Allowing Comments

Blogger offers the option whether or not to allow comments with each and very post you make.  I've been blogging for over 4 years now and have never used this feature.  That is because for the most part I don't make a lot of controversial posts and that is over 6 blogs.  At the moment my most controversial ongoing topic is the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in Ontario.  That topic is running across 2 of my blogs.  So I really for most of the things I blog about don't have a reason for not allowing comment on my blogs since all comments are moderated for spam and/or personal attack. 

However, there are times that checking that no comment radial button might be prudent.  This way you can carry on as normal with regular posts with posts allowed but the controversial post has no commenting allowed.  I can see turning off comments even for one post not sitting well with some readers though so that is something to take into consideration.  I honestly think this is a great option for those who do want or need to use it.  It's nice to know that this feature is available for those who want to use it.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Comment Spammers Are Indeed an Interesting Breed

Comment spammers on blogs tend to be an interesting breed.  They basically fall into 3 categories: spam bots, blatant spammers and borderline spammers.  For example:

Hello
visit http://spammedlink.com
This is either a sam bot or a blatant spammer.  Then you get the borderline spammers that really are looking for a backlink.  Then just when you think you have comment spammers all figured out there is the sneaky, I'm going to spam you but test out your defenses first comment spammer.  These potential comment spammers can actually be quite entertaining as well as providing blog fodder.  What I have noticed is they always start out the same way.  First there are those little great post with at least some reference to the post.  This will continue on and off for a few days always commenting on each new post but some will continue for a few months.  This really is testing out to see if you really do have comment moderation in place.  If you don't then things can get rather spammish for you quite quickly once their testing stage is over.  Some will make a comment with a link in their name to their blog then in the body of the  comment leave another url usually not to their blog.  This almost seems like a confidence building thing.  If you allow this comment to go through they will likely try a few more times in the hopes of establishing that they are trying to help you by posting supporting links to your content.  Once you trust this type of comment spammer their true colours rise up. 

If you are using Blogger keep comment moderation activated.  It is a sure fire way to deal with any comment spammer who thinks once they gain your trust they can post what they want.  This way you are ahead of the game before any problems start on your blog.  As aways I use my judgement when moderating.  There's always that grey area but chances are good if a comment spammer other that a bot knows you are onto them they will move on to greener pastures.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Affiliate Program Request for Participation

It is always interesting opening my inbox each morning!  Quite often there is a request from some company asking for my participation in their affiliate program.  Here is one that I recently received:

Hello,

I was looking at your website, and I thought it might be a good candidate for our affiliate program. We'll pay you 50% of each payment we receive from any customer you send our way. Our software helps couples struggling with infertility to get pregnant using natural methods.
[links and contact info removed]
Here is the problem.  I author 6 public blogs so anyone wanting to have be join their affiliate program who has obviously visited one of my blogs would know this.  Which blog do they think would be a good fit for their affiliate program?  I highly doubt it would be this blog!  I would certainly make the assumption they would have at least checked out my blog of interest then at the very least mentioned the name of the blog.  This may or may not have been a legitimate request.  I will never know.  I feel if the person requesting participation in their affiliate program (aka advertise) can't be bothered to include the name of my blog of interest then I'm not wasting my time replying to them.  I treat this type of solicitation as spam, delete it and move on. 


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Comment Spam From Advertising Networks

I belong to an am active in a few advertising networks.  These networks over time become  a community where you do get to know other bloggers.  Quite often commenting is a part of the experience using these networks.  For the most part my experience with receiving comments as a direct result from the advertising networks has been rather good.  A few days ago I was hit with comment spam directly from one of the advertising networks.  Comments on my blogs are set to moderation because I feel that until something is done to eliminate comment spam, moderation is the sure fire way to nip it in the bud.  I'm not going to name the blog that was doing the comment spam but if you were in that particular network you likely got hit with it as well.  This blogger targeted 4 of cooking blog posts all with almost identical messages regarding a summer giveaway.  Since I pay for advertising on that network and participate in the network I could easily have complained about this type of comment spam.  I didn't.  Rather I rejected the comments then rejected this blogger's ads so in the end the blogger hurt themselves by spamming me because now there are a few less blogs that their ad is going to get out on.  Moreover, that blogger's blog has hit my blackball list so should it appear on any other advertising network which I'm sure it will, their ad will immediately be rejected.  It is really annoying when a member of an advertising network thinks it is ok to leave comment spam on other member's blogs. 


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Making Things Difficult Without Realizing It

Awhile ago I got the brainy idea that I would like to turn a couple of my blogs into ebooks.  That idea was put on the back burner until a few days ago when I decided to revisit that idea.  I found BlogBooker that will painlessly turn your blog into an ebook.  What it does is take the xml file of your downloaded blog then turn it into a pdf file.  From there you have to do a bit of editing of the pdf file to add things like cover, dedication, and any extras that you want.  I reasoned I needed to get a pdf editor since neither Preview or Acrobat Reader allow editing so off I went on a Google search.  About the fourth link down and without even clicking on the link I discovered my much beloved Photoshop® is quite capable of pdf editing as well as editing pdf files.  Alrighty then!  Talk about making things a bit more difficult without realizing it.

In fairness I had Photoshop® on my laptop then transferred it to this computer and aside of occasionally resizing a photo did not use it.  Then one day back in 2006 I wanted to make a blinkie for one of my blogs so decided to start learning how to use Photoshop®.  Honestly I now use Photoshop® on a daily basis and it only gets shut down if the computer is off.  Not once did I realize I could use Photoshop® to make and edit pdf files and I can even make pdf presentations!  I learn something new about this program every time I use it but I certainly did not realize that it had pdf capabilities.  I'm amazed!  As a blogging tool Photoshop® can't be beat.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Draft Mode

I quickly learned within the first few days of blogging is that a post in Blogger can be saved in draft mode or published.  Furthermore a post that was previously posted could be saved as draft to effectively remove it from the blog.  It can then be edited and re-published, deleted or sit in draft mode.  Draft mode is ideal for setting up certain codes such as pictures that you want to turn into clickable links or trying out other code.  At the same time draft mode is a great way to set up a series of posts that you return to later to finish and publish.  I often write a series of posts in draft mode with markers where I want the pictures once I get the pictures ready.  This is a great help when I'm on vacation where I may feel like writing a post or two but don't feel like editing pictures.  So the draft posts can sit in draft mode until I get home and get the pictures ready.  The downside to draft mode is when you download your back-up in xml the drafts are included.  From a blogger's perspective this is a good thing.  However if you are using the xml file to create a pdf for an ebook that is a bad thing as you don't want the drafts showing there.  The Blogger work-around is to download the back-up complete with drafts into xml.  Then go back and delete all the drafts and download a second xml.  Use the second xml for the pdf creation and the first one to restore your drafts.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Don't Make Promises You Can't Keep

Back in my early blogging days and getting used to the blogsphere I did a fair amount of blog hopping.  Well I still do a fair amount of daily blog hopping but one thing I've noted is many of the bloggers that made bold face promises to their readers are no more.  The promises can through the naming of their blogs (eg. A Blog A Day or Recipe a Day) usually combined with claims that a blog post would appear daily fitting that particular theme.  On the surface and in the glow of starting a new blog it is very easy to make promises that you simply cannot keep because at some point life gets in the way.

The simple piece of advice I have learned is don't promise your readers something may not be able to deliver on.  If there is any remote chance that you many not be able to follow through on what you tell your readers you will do don't tell them!  For example I aim for new daily posts posted at 7:00 AM yet I've never told my readers that I will post daily or new posts will appear daily at 7:00 AM.  The reason is I know that life gets in the way.  I know my readers are used to seeing new posts early in the morning but they also know that occasionally a post is late or sometimes on one or more of my blogs there isn't a new post that day. 


Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Issue of Blog Stats

The issue of blog stats has to be one of the most confusing topics there is.  I use StatCounter which involves placing code in my blog to track traffic and a wide range of traffic behaviour such as length of time on my blog, entry url and exit url.  I also use Google Analytics, Alexa and am now keeping an eye on Blogger's stats.   In addition to that on one of my blogs one of my main advertisers uses tracking code that tells me the number of impressions each month.  Other advertisers have their own form of blog stats.  Here's the kicker, each of these sources measure your traffic differently.  Each of them give different details as well, some more in depth than others.  All these numbers are enough to make any blogger's head spin!

When I'm looking at my blogs' stats I am looking for an upward trend in traffic and downward trend in bounce rate.  Now those trends are fairly easy to see from most stats.  What is interesting though is finding out what browser is the most popular for view your blog.  That is a clue that you had best make sure your blog loads and looks good in that browser.  Each of the stat services add one or more clues as to where you need to improve your blog, how readers are finding you and so much more.  The numbers are beneficial but what is behind those number is what is really important.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blogger Stats

As a number cruncher I like using a variety of tools to see how well my blogs are doing.  I was quite happy to see that Blogger has added a stats for each blog on the dashboard.  In order to see your blog stats you must be in draft mode. This is quite a nice feature if you ask me and just one more way of being able to assess blog performance all from the comforts of your dashboard.

Also of note, draft mode also offers a translator and add location feature.  Both of these features might prove to be quite useful as well!


Friday, July 16, 2010

A Twitter Rumour

I recently hear a rumour on Twitter then saw it repeated on a couple of blogs so thought I would pass it along.  Apparently the best time to tweet is between 10 AM and 1 PM.  I can't substantiate this and setting up an experiment to prove or disprove this theory would take a bit more effort than I feel like making at the moment.   However, this time frame does sound quite plausible to me.  I know during last month's Twitter experiment there was a definite increase in blog visits from Twitter to my cooking blog when I posted links between 9 AM and 3 PM but that time period focuses on meal preps anyway.  Anyway if the rumour is true posting links to your blogs on Twitter may be more effective between 10 AM and 1 PM.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Stats Opportunity or Should I Say Blog Fodder?

I just have to share this with you.  I'm used to seeing a few oddities in my stats like when I blog about HydroOne they show up in the stats and there have been other similar entries related to usually a more controversial topic.  Yesterday I was checking my stats and came across a very interesting entry.  It would seem a couple of my anti-HST posts on my personal blog caught the attention of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.  Well now there is absolutely no way in H E double hockey sticks I could let this perfect opportunity pass me by.  Heck I wrote and phoned them figuring that since I as a taxpayer in Ontario who pays their over inflated salaries would get their attention but that didn't work.  So I blog about them and guess what?  They are actually visiting my blog!  I even included the info from my stats as proof.  So now that I have their attention another anti-HST/anti-McGuinty post will be on My Journey today and the following day a semi-humour from my email anti-HST post.  It just amazes me that something as simple as checking my stats can provide such amusement!  I am keeping an eye out for the black helicopters circling the house...


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Focus on What You Do Have Not on What You Don't Have

I seldom blog chronologically even though it appears that way.   As an author of six public blogs with a goal of daily posts for each or at least regular content for each I do have a bit of a system going for keeping track of what blog posts I need.   It is rather hard to explain in words but if I took a snap shot of one day's entry in my blogging journal you would quickly see what I mean.  What immediately becomes apparent is that I always focus on what I have.  One day it may end up being that the majority of new posts go to one blog where other days they are spread evenly across the blogs and yet other days there isn't anything because I didn't blog at all. 

My gut feeling is to always focus on the material I have.  For example, I always post a Wordless Wednesday post on my personal blog.  Usually by the first Sunday of the month I know what pictures I'm using for those posts so that's what I do as far as blogging for that day.  I may also sit on material like jokes, cartoons or videos just waiting for the right time to use them.  So my style of blogging is a very much in the moment type of blogging.  That's why scheduling a certain day or making a blogging time schedule simply does not work for me.  That also explains why some days I don't blog.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's Quality Not Quantity When it Comes to Commenting

From time to time every blogger will run across an extremely enthusiastic commentator who feels the need to leave a comment on each and every one of your posts.  They may even go back into your archives and leave comments there as well.  This is all great providing they are leaving quality comments.  A comment that simply says "Great post." is not a quality comment by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact if the blog author allows these types of comments they might actually work against the commentator because they serve as a flag to possible comment spam for other bloggers.  From a blogger's perspective you have the choice whether to allow them or not.

However when you are commenting on someone else's blog always make sure it is a quality comment.  Your comment should acknowledge the contents of that particular post.  It should in some way add to the post or knowledge base of that blog.  This means that you may not be able to leave 20 comments in a day but my experience has been if you leave one or two quality comments each day the end result is better.  Chances are good you will generate traffic from just one quality comment but at the same time you may pick up a subscriber or two and more importantly you might make friends with another blogger :)


Monday, July 12, 2010

Private Advertising

Well over a year ago when I was into Entrecard a new advertising scheme came onto the scene.  Essentially this was advertising that you the blogger control every detail about the advertising.  It required you to host the script somewhere then use that script to run ads.  The idea seemed simple enough but at the time it seemed a lot more headaches than it was worth.  As my cooking blog got a bit more popular though I started getting requests inquiring as to how much it would cost to run a link ad on my blog.  Most of these went into the spam folder.  A few days ago I got another similar request.  The writer wanted to know how much I would charge to run a link ad for one year. 

The real problem is here I had no idea for pricing but for some reason I replied asking what they had in mind.  They wanted to run an link on my Canadian blog for $100 for the year and because their attention was drawn to my cooking blog thanks to my sig the offered another $100 for a link there.  I figured why not as I have nothing to lose and if they don't pay me I can strip the links.  I added the links, sent them a reply saying so and that afternoon there was $200 deposited to my PayPal account.  They asked me if I had any more blogs or recommendation to which I gave them the urls of the remaining 4 public blogs of which they bought 3 more links which totaled $300.  In the span of less than 2 days and the time it took me to add those links I made $500.  In the blogging world that is a rather good return if you ask me especially when compared to other blogging sources of income.

As a result I have decided to directly sell shorter term advertising on my cooking blog.  The ads will go in the top portion of the blog and there will only be 4 spots for a 125 x 125 ad.  The ad does have to be family friendly, approved and paid for before running.  I'm starting off at 30 day ad spots at a price of $10 per month.  For a graphic ad that is rather cheap.  If I like how things are progressing I will offer similar ad spots on my other blogs but in a very limited capacity.  For example I'd likely offer only one or two ad spots on my other blogs.  I am liking that selling private ad space on your blogs is quite doable.  It is a bit more work but at least you get the full amount.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Experience with Widget Advertising

It didn't take long to discover blog widget advertising shortly after starting to blog.  Essentially what blog widget advertising does is use your 125 x 125 or 480 x 60 ad that is displayed over that particular blog network.  In order for your ad to display you either have to buy ads using their credit system or pay for the ads using actual cash.  In order to use the credit system for advertising you have to earn credits whereas with the cash system you simply pay for your advertising.  There are pros and cons to both systems with the biggest con against both is you are advertising your blog mainly to other bloggers.  Here's my experience with blog advertising:

Credit Based Advertising

  • Entrecard - This is the biggest credit based blog advertising system.  You earn credits for visiting other blogs by dropping your card aka clicking on other blogger's advertising card.  Despite the many problems this advertising program remains popular with some bloggers interested only in their traffic numbers.  Despite what Entrecard tells you this is a glorified traffic exchange.  Unless you pay a fee their ads will run on the widget 20% of the time which means you can't control what ads are run.  This may be a problem if you are using Adsense or simply don't want certain ads running on your blog.  The biggest problem with Entrecard is the bounce rate that will sky rocket if using this advertising widget.  The second biggest problem is time commitment.  In order for Entrecard to be effective you need to be  a top dropper meaning you need to consistently drop 300 cards per day that from experience takes a considerable amount of time each day.  While you aren't paying for the advertising in terms of cash you are paying for it in terms of cash by mindlessly clicking on 300 blogs each day.  In my opinion, this is one program to avoid!
  • Spottt - Spottt is getting less popular but I still see it out there occasionally.  Essentially what you do is place their widget on your blog.  For every 2 ads shown on your blog you get your ad shown on another blog.  While it is called an ad exchange it really is a traffic exchange and in my experience not a very effective one.  The biggest con with this widget is you have no control over what ads are being shown so your nice, prim and proper family oriented blog may end up showing a questionable porn ad.  In my opinion this is a program to not even consider.
Paid Advertising Widgets
  • Adgetize - Adegetize is an actually advertising program where your paid 125 x 125 ad shows on the widget other bloggers have on their blog.  There are various price ranges and ad running lengths with a regular ad priced at $14 for a 30 period.  Traffic is good from these ads.  Members are rewarded points for each daily post they make and visiting other blogs (100 for publishers, 50 for advertisers).  The points are then converted into cash so at the end of the month you have paid for your advertising and come ahead by a couple of dollars.  As an advertiser clicking on 50 blog ads will take under an hour depending on your connection and how much commenting you do.  An added bonus is members on Adgetize like to leave comments.  My only complaint with Adgetize is an ad will run without your approval so it is very important to check your account daily to reject any ads you don't want running.  Once rejected the ad remains rejected so you only have to worry about new ads.
  • CMF - CMF is an advertising program that displays your 125 x 125 ad on their widget located on other blogs.  They offer a wide range of advertising options including one of their more popular options CMF Spikes.  A spike is a guarateed visit to your blog at a cost of 20¢ per 50 unique visits or .004¢ per visit.  In return for every blog spike you visit you earn .002¢ and you earn money for displaying ads that is dependent on the price you set to display ads on your blog.  The number of blog spikes you can click on depends on the number of blogs with active  spikes so there is no set number of blogs to visit.  Spike advertising if done consistently costs about $6 per month if you buy 20 spikes per day with a guaranteed traffic of 1,500 visitors many of which comment.  CMF also offers the flexibility of running a network ads and campaigns.
In my opinion the paid advertising programs are considerably better than the credit based systems.  They are extremely effective for blog promotion without inflating your bounce rate or costing you valuable time.  Pay for the advertising, participate on the site to earn a bit of money back and use your time to pump more content into your blogs.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Every Day is a New Day When Blogging

The other day I was being rather nostalgic as I was going through the original graphics I had created for my cooking blog in the early days of it's being.  Oh my how the look has changed!  It went from using a plain Blogger's Rounder Theme to a modified theme using graphics I made myself.  The colour went from a deep fuchsia almost rose with pink highlight.  That was toned down to a lighter pink tone and yet I was always tweaking a bit.  I really did like the final look of my old theme before updating to to my new look.  Don't get me wrong as I love the look of my new theme but the old theme with all it's tweaks got me through the growing  period of this blog. 

In the recesses of my mind I recall all the details of how all of my blogs have evolved over their life.  All of their changes are reflected in the ever growing blog folder file.  When you change a template or add a custom graphic like a header image or sub-title image on your blog it is immediately reflected on your blog.  So someone who visited your blog when you used the old background gets a whole new experience when you change something as simple as the background.  In some respects this gives you a second chance with the reader who just did not like your blog design but liked your content.  Any reader stumbling upon your blog sees it as the way it is today not as what it was.  So essentially with blogging every day is a new day, a chance to put on a good face to greet your readers.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Oh That Scrambling Feeling

Oh my gosh!  Have you ever realized that you inadvertently set yourself up for failure?  Three days after announcing July's blogging experiment and in full holiday mode celebrating Canada Day, I found myself in that scrambling position of having no blog posts for my Canadian blog.  Now I could have just admitted that attempting a daily blog post across all 6 of my public blogs was a bit too much.  However, with good scheduling and hitting a couple of days in the month were I really feel like posting a lot, I reasoned that a blog post a day wouldn't be all that much work.  It isn't really except when that scrambling feeling hits!  I managed to save the day and get a blog post out for that blog so all is well.  Once things settled down after the long weekend I will have a chance to get ahead a bit. 


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Comment Policy

One of the first things I learned about blogging back in the very early days of blogging was not all comments are created equal.  It quickly became apparent that a comment policy was in order.  As a blogger I decided how I would handle certain types of comments.  Essentially there are several types of commentators each leaving rather unique style of comments and it seemed to me that each had to be dealt with differently.  First there is the blatant comment spammer so the reject button works well.  Then there is the borderline comment spammer who really is just trying to get a backlink so the comment isn't really sincere but has something to do with the post so stripping their link yet allowing the post seems reasonable.  This sends them a clear message to the commentator that you are onto their game and you do consider it borderline comment spam.  Occasionally one of these commentators will get upset over stripping the link so will email you which can be a very good insight as to whether to allow any future comments from them.  Some commentators will leave a comment that is a personal attack or one trying to engage you in a fight.  Personal attacks simply should not be tolerated for any reason.  The nettling type of comment is almost on the fence but in most cases shouldn't be allowed either. 

The next question regarding a comment policy is whether you need to post it on your blog.  The simple answer is no and in fact on 5 of my 6 public blogs there is no comment policy.  I have just recently with the overhaul added a comment policy to my cooking blog as part of the new design.  I'm still not 100% convinced it is needed.  The comment policy can be hinted at in the comment section with a couple of simple statements like "Thank-you for your comment.  Your comment will appear once approved." or something similar.  The bottom line is and the view I take is it's my blog so if I don't like your comment I'm under no obligation to post it.  Essentially it's my blog so my rules.  At some point I really do think it is important to take this harder line.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Captcha

In an effort to curb comment spam Blogger allows you to set word verification aka captcha.  If you've been doing any blog hopping to the point of wanting to leave a comment you will have come across this already.  Essentially the commenter has to type in the nonsensical word into a box to prove they are a person not a bot.  There is no doubt that using a captcha curbs comment spam.  The problem is many readers don't like captcha so in some ways this reduces the number of comments you get since some will pass on commenting if a captcha is involved.  I personally don't like using captcha but it does serve a purpose.  From a blogging point of view the captcha combined with comment moderation will essentially keep comment spam in check. 


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Custom Made Graphic Basic

I use a fair number of custom made graphics across all of my blogs.  These range from my title header to sub-titles to backgrounds and anywhere else that I want a specific graphic to meet the current needs including some posts.  For example I made a graphic to use for Blog Your Blessings Sunday and another one for Kitchen Quick Tips and yet another for Frugal Kitchens 101.  These images serve to form a bit of a trademark within the blog as they always start those particular posts.  I also make custom made animations that usually are included for special occasions like Christmas.  I work exclusively in Photoshop® for all of my photo editing and custom made graphics.  It is rather funny because when I started blogging even though I had Photoshop® for ages the most I had used it for was to resize a photo.  Then one day I wanted a blinkie for one of my blogs and oh my gosh the rest is history.  Anyway, one of the fundamental basics of making any custom graphic is to save it in a format that can be changed later if needed.  In this case I save custom made graphics as a .psd file.

Quite some time ago I made a custom 125 x 125 for my cooking blog.  This particular image involved at least 4 layers so when I decided to update the font for the new blog look I immediately looked for the .psd file.  Apparently in my ultimate wisdom back in 2008 I failed to save the .psd file.  I had the ,jpg file but not the .psd for easy editing.  Now this was a bit annoying as I basically had to start all over where what I should have been able to do was open the .psd change the font then save in both formats.  When it comes to something with only a few layers this is not so much of a problem but some of my graphics have over 20 layers so re-creating from scratch would be a pain.  I learned a valuable lesson to make sure I save in the raw, edit ready format as well as the web ready format!


Monday, July 5, 2010

Using Polls on Blogs

Right from the early days of blogging I have used polls on my blogs. I use them as a way of getting input from my readers.  The benefit to this is sometimes I may spend a considerable amount of time tweaking one element of my blog but the reality is after getting reader feedback that element is not where I should be spending the time.  I also use polls to give me a bit of direction.  For example readers might be interested in one topic that I haven't covered the way I should.  So polls help to get me focused sometimes.  I honestly don't use polls as much as I should but in reality they really are only suited to certain types of blogs. 

Polls can be a very valuable input as to what readers want to see on your blog.  Yes, readers do matter so I like getting their input and quite often a poll will bring a better picture than comments alone.  The reason ends up being simplicity.  All the reader has to do is click on the appropriate answer then click vote.  That takes them all of about 2 seconds compared to leaving a comment that can take 5 minutes or more.  So polls are a very convenient way for readers to have their input without taking up a lot of their time.  They are a way of engaging the reader to see what the reader is looking for.  I find that using polls can add a bit of a spark to my blogs where I use them because the bottom line is the poll results give a bit of focus and blogfodder.  More importantly by incorporating some of what the reader is looking for in my blogs, I feel it makes for better, more effective blogs.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Scheduled Blog Post Timing

I've been using scheduled posts ever since Blogger started offering them to one degree or another.  They are quite useful for those regularly occurring posts like Wordless Wednesday and an ideal way to keep new content appearing on my blogs even when I can't blog on a particular day.  I normally set the scheduled blog post to go live on my blogs at 7:00 AM.  My reasoning for this time is readers can enjoy a cup of coffee while reading my blogs before they go off to enjoy their day.  For the most part based on the feedback I've received this time seems to be good.  On the days where I don't have a scheduled post so have to write one I either have to get up early to have the post live by 7:00 AM or post it late.  Surprisingly I do get emails asking where the new post is on days it is posted late. 

My blog feeds are automatically posted to Twitter shortly after posting using Twitterfeed.  The recent Twitter experiment with how  activity level on Twitter affects blog traffic has me wondering if 7:00 AM is the best timing for my scheduled blog posts especially for my cooking blog.  Results showed that links posted on Twitter mid-morning and mid-afternoon got more clicks for my cooking blog but in fairness those links were very specific recipe links whereas not every post I make on my cooking blog is recipe specific.  I will be keeping the normal schedule for the time being since the majority of my readers expect new posts at that time but in hind sight perhaps setting a later scheduled post time would have been better. 


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Results from June's Twitter Experiment

The end of May I announced that I would be conducting a Twitter experiment to see if increased activity on Twitter would increase traffic to my blogs.  If you recall May's Twitter experiment ran from April 28 to May 28 and resulted in 27 visits across all 6 blogs or about 1 visit daily from Twitter over the 6 blogs.  I was curious if increasing my activity on Twitter would affect traffic to my blogs.  All new blog posts are tweeted on Twitter through twitterfeed so that did not change for the purposes of this experiment. 

What I did - I had a daily presence on Twitter for the month of June posting not only additional links to my blogs but simply just interacting and posting little tidbits about what was going on that day.  I also posted 5 to 10 extra links to my blogs daily.

Results - The overall traffic results were quite promising!  Traffic from Twitter over the 6 blogs increased to 83 or and average of almost 3 visits per day across the 6 blogs from Twitter.  It was likely a bit higher because I missed some on the cooking blog where traffic spiked due to increased advertising.  Essentially by being more active on Twitter traffic increased from 1 to 3 visits per day across the 6 blogs.  By far the bulk of the traffic went to my cooking blog that was promoted more than the others.

Observations - Being more active on Twitter while watching my stats at the same time allowed me to make a few observations and be a bit analytical:

  • post feed timing does matter - I have my scheduled posts set to post at 7:00 AM and while the feed does bring traffic I noticed that on days where I did not have a scheduled post so wrote one later that day, I actually got a bit more traffic that day.
  • extra link posting - This really was hit and miss.  I found the cooking links did better posted in the morning or early afternoon which makes sense given followers are looking for something to make for dinner.  Extra links to the other blogs seemed to be just interest clicks with no real timing pattern.
  • retweets - This was sporadic and definitely hit and miss.  I did not track how many hits came from retweets which would be rather difficult anyway since it is still the same link originally posted coming through the retweet.
  • followers - There is no doubt over the one month period that I did pick up a few new followers.
  • being active takes work - Like any other blog traffic generating method being active on Twitter takes work.  For it to work seamlessly there should be your RSS feed going to Twitter and  interaction on Twitter.  On a daily basis this does take work because not only are you promoting yourself and your blog you are involved in conversations, retweeting and posting other interesting content.  Having constant or fairly constant internet connection is a real plus and being able to tweet from mobile devices is almost a must!  This is a case where ideally a lot of tweets are made on a daily basis.  The reality is life does get in the way so making daily non-scheduled tweets is not always as easy as it seems.
Conclusions -  Clearly being more active on Twitter can bring traffic to your blogs.  It can also increase your followers with a greater potential to increasing traffic.  It is very important to mix blog promotion with other Twitter interaction though.  I will continue being quite active on Twitter as time permits.  I feel that while this experiment shows that simply by being active on Twitter blog traffic will increase, the more active on a consistent and longer time frame the traffic can only increase.


Friday, July 2, 2010

July's Blogging Experiment

As you know I have been conducting a variety of blogging experiments over the past few months.  The first was using the Twitter feed widget on blogs followed by last month's Twitter activity experiment that will be reported on tomorrow.  For the month of July the blogging experiment will be a daily post across all 6 of my blogs.  While I aim for this normally there are a couple of my blogs that don't always see a daily post.  The reason usually ends up being that there isn't much to blog about and the two blogs that tend to end up getting left behind are my homemaking and Canadian blogs.    My goal is to increase both content and traffic to these two blogs.  So wish me luck.  I will post my results the first week of August.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Half Way Mark

Happy Canada Day!

This year my blogging has taken a turn towards being a bit more on the serious side of blogging. Yesterday marked the half way mark of 2010. Today is Canada Day so that is reflected on a couple of my blogs. One blog may even have a rare two posts in one day! Looking back on the first six months of this year I think in many ways I have grown considerably as a blogger. I find myself questioning more and looking to learn more about the behind the scenes workings of blogging. So it has been a very interesting and exciting first half of the year. Now if the second half is as good with respect to blogging I am going to be a very happy blogger!