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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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Doing Paid Reviews

Paid reviews have become a norm for some bloggers.  The problem with paid reviews is that many of them sound all the same so I find that quite irritating.  I seriously do not do paid reviews on my blogs but occasionally I will do somewhat of a review on a product I like or don't like that I/we bought without any compensation.  The reason for this is if I like a product I am happy to recommend it but if I don't like a product I don't want to feel pressured to say something nice about it or the manufacturers.  Any opinion I express is completely my own so I reserve the right to be brutally honest since I feel my readers deserve that.  I don't feel that I can be brutally honest about a product unless I have bought and used the product which is something quite often you don't see on paid reviews.  The bloggers doing paid reviews tend to be reviewing products they received free in return for their review so they have already received compensation before doing the review which may cloud their final review.  I think this type of review is somewhat unfair to readers.

Recently I have been testing a particular brand of reusable canning lids so I will be doing a rather extensive review of them on my cooking blog.  These are lids that are considerably more expensive so represent an initial investment on my part and a substantial time commitment on my part to put these lids through their paces.  Since this is a topic of interest on my cooking blog I will certainly be sharing the results - good, bad and neutral.  I am able to do this simply because I am not being paid by the company to do the review.  It will be an interesting but honest review not skewed by being paid.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Check the Referring Urls in Your Stats

I make a regular habit of checking the referring urls in my stats for a couple of reasons.  First, referring urls can elude to any potential problems like content scraping (copyright infringement) and identifying persistent comment spammers.  This helps me nip any problems in the bud before they become a huge problem.  Second, referring urls tell you where traffic is coming from so a lot of times I if I see a new referring url in my stats I will check it out.  If they have been kind enough to link to my blog I will leave a comment on theirs thanking them for doing so.  Chances are good if I like what I see on their blog I may even become a subscriber.  This tells those linking to me that I am paying attention and appreciate the link.  In my opinion this is a great way to do a bit of traffic generating while meeting other bloggers.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

My Stats Read Like a Who's Who

My gosh, somedays I check the IP addresses in my blogs stats and it honestly reads like a who's who.  Most days it is the regular search engine traffic combined with traffic from Twitter, subscribers and those who have been generous enough to give be a backlink.  But other days it really is a who's who!  It's amazing the referring urls when you start talking about a few controversial topics like Canadian politics that occasionally happens on a couple of my blogs.  I've noticed that a few keywords in a post are very effective at getting the who's who to visit too :) 


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gardening, Canning and Blogging

Relating blogging in terms of other normal activities I'm involved in makes it easier for me to blog some days.  This is the time of year that I am extremely busy between gardening and canning.  Over the bulk of the busy canning season I will process have processed at least 10 hampers of tomatoes, fruits and vegetables from my garden, local orchards and farmers.  I process upwards of 1,200 jars of food each year with about 800 canned during the busiest time and the rest throughout the year.   During this time the canner will quite often run 3 or more times a day.   I prefer to can at night when it is cooler which means quite often I will be finishing up a canner load at 3 or 4 in the morning, crawl into bed until about 8 AM then go at it again. 

I tend to be very sporadic with blogging as in I don't have any type of a schedule.  What I do it sit down and do a bit of blogging while something is cooking or while the canner is running if I don't have more prep work to do.  So blogging is done in little bits of time that I can siphon off thoughout the day.  Blogging very much reminds me of both gardening and canning.  On one of the forums I follow someone made the comment that gardening is always a crap shoot.  While it is true that you can't reap what you haven't sown you can't control certain events that can wipe out a garden in a few minutes.  All you can do despite all your effort is pick up the pieces and start again.  Canning is a a bit more precise and you do have more control but you can't can without the pre-existing knowledge combined with the willingness to keep up to date with the newest recommendations.  Both gardening and canning take a good deal of prep work and maintenance much the same as blogging. 

Much like gardening and canning if you don't stay up to date with what is happening in the blogospere, be willing to make blog changes, do all the blogging prep work and put in the effort then you are destined to fail.  At the same time you can do all this and still fail.  Blogging is still very much a crap shoot.  What makes one blog highly successful over another sometimes might just boil down to a little old fashioned luck in addition to the work.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Thursday Traffic

What is it about Thurday?  Ever since I started paying attention to my blogs stats I have notice there is always a dip in traffic on Thursdays.  It has become a persistent trend.  I haven't figured out what is causing it and it doesn't bother me enough to investigate.  I post a weekly feature on my cooking blog called Kitchen Quick Tips every Thursday so I could understand a bit lower traffic simply because so readers know that and they are interested in visiting for those types of posts.  However, I noticed the Thursday slump well before I started writing that weekly feature and the reduced traffic is across all of my blogs not just the cooking blog. 

In pondering the issue slightly just for the heck of it I would have expected Mondays to be the blog traffic slump day.  People are back to work or school after the weekend with all the responsibilities and demands of starting a fresh week.  Perhaps Thursday is the day that many spend making sure the demands have been made so they don't have to work harder on Fridays?  Or perhaps there are a lot of interesting television shows on Thursdays?  At any rate is is interesting to briefly ponder :)


Thursday, August 26, 2010

More on the Importance of Regular Backing Up

My gosh! A couple of days ago I wrote about how a fellow blogger had basically lost their entire blog and was working on using cached versions to rebuild it.  That same day I was tinkering around on Twitter as I do most days when a tweet came down that Blogertery operated by Toronto-resident Alexander Yusupov, a Wordpress platform that supported 73,000 was being reinstated.  Apparently on July 9, 2010 their Pennsylvania-based web host, BurstNET shut down Blogertey due to FBI allegations that the terrorist group al-Qaeda used the blogs to distribute terrorist activities.  Well the good news is Blogerty is back but I can't imagine what bloggers went through during that experience.

  • First their blogs simply vanished so if they did not make some type of regular off of Blogerty's site to backup their blogs then all their hard word could have been gone. 
  • Second the bloggers on this network were considered guilty before being proved to be guilty.  Let's say that 10% of the bloggers in that system were terrorists to some degree or other.  That means 90% had absolutely nothing to do with terrorism and were simply using a blogging host they were comfortable with.  
  • Third and this is very important is in reality this type of thing could happen to any blog host.
  • Fourth, you cannot rely on others to backup your blog in the way of cached versions.  You must do it yourself!
I honestly feel sorry for all those on Blogertery who had their blogging activities interrupted because of these allegations.  Just the shear stress of waking up to find your blog no longer existed would be horrible!  They lost over a month of readership and traffic that would have cost them money as well if they were running paid advertising on their blogs.

My backup system is likely not fool proof but here are a few things I do:
  • Every image used on my blog is saved on my home computer.
  • Every post I make is emailed to me as soon as it is published.
  • Every comment is emailed to me for moderation.
  • I make regular backups through Blogger for both template and blog content. 
  • Every extra script on my blog is backed up with a copy on my computer.
At least this way I could restore most of my blogs without relying on cached copies.  Even comments on my blogs are downloaded through Blogger's system both via email and backups.  So while it would be a bit of a pain restoring any of my blogs would be quite doable to the point they would look pretty much the way they do now.  At any rate it pays in terms of peace of mind to keep several backups of your blog just in case.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Is Blogging Addictive?

I came across a blog post the other day that said blogging was addictive.  The author actually described symptoms they had if they didn't blog every day.  In many ways to me it didn't sound like addictive behaviour but perhaps borderline OCD or boredom or just a bad habit.  I've never really thought about it.  I guess at some level blogging could be addictive but then most activities could become addictive.  I think it is all about maintaining perspective.

When I started blogging it was all about a new experience sharing what I know with others.  Now it is more about the sharing and keeping my readers happy.  My experience has been that blogging is an enjoyable experience and one I look forward to doing but certainly not addictive.  I have no problem not blogging for days at a time and when it comes to extended vacation periods I will work extra to make sure the blogs are tended to while I'm gone.  So for me blogging is just one of those things that I do at this point in my life when I have the time to do so.  At some time I will bid a fond fairwell to blogging with my mind full of good memories of my blogging days :)


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Just a Step Behind

My gosh, when I started blogging four years ago keeping the content coming on a daily basis was not a huge issue.  That is because in some respect I did not realize that content was king.  This year I decided to take my blogs to a bit different level so have strived for daily content.  That has proved to be a bit more difficult than it would appear.  I was doing quite nicely as far as adding daily content across all five of my blogs.  One has proved to be a bit more difficult but it was getting there then July and August hit.  I honestly have been behind the whole month of July and most of August.  Well August is almost to the end so basically I've been behind on blogging the last two months.  What has helped is a stash of previously scheduled posts but those only went so far.  It doesn't help knowing that we are going into vacation mode shortly so the pressure is on to get caught up and get a bit ahead.  Such is the life of a blogger :)


Monday, August 23, 2010

Blatant Blog Promotion

Sometimes it pays to blatantly promote your blog directly to the source.  I'm not really good at it but have used this technique a few times.  For example, for the past couple of weeks I have been testing reusable canning lids.  They are not paying me to test the lids but rather like many canners I am looking for a reusable solution to cut down my costs as well as reduce waste.  After I used the lids a few times and noticed that they had added my homemaking blog to their blog page, I emailed them telling them what I'm doing.  Testing a product is something that costs me both time and money so sometimes it is nice to let the manufacturer of the product know and if you're lucky they will give a nice link back.  I will email them again with a link to my full review.  On my cooking blog my husband and I are running the 2nd annual He Said/She Said contest and this year we are focusing on a Canadian cookbook author so I sent an email out to the author announcing the contest and then will send a second email announcing the results.  We recently discovered a wonderful organic farm nearby so I talked to the owners after our lovely visit then emailed them the link to my gardening blog.   This type of blatant blog promotion does work.  It isn't difficult but you do have to be careful that it doesn't cross the line into spamming. 


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Those Meta Tags

Those meta tags do make a difference!  I think it was a couple of months ago that Google said they are ignoring meta tags.  Well I mentioned earlier that I did a bit of a mess up with my gardening template.  When I finally got things back running as they should I noticed my traffic was down a bit.  Then I got the big slap a couple of days ago by having my PR on that blog reduced from 3 to 2 so decided to do a bit of investigating.  The only real change I could find is I somehow forgot to put the meta tags back into the template!  After putting the meta tags back into the template the traffic Google as well as other search engines returned.  So Google is paying attention to the meta tags! 

It looks like I need to go back and edit my keywords for the meta tags on my blogs.  This is always a bit of basic blog housekeeping that needs to be done from time to time.  Some keywords get a bit stagnate while other keywords gain higher ranking.  So I'm off to do a bit of tinkering!


Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Reminder to Do Regular Back-ups

Oh my gosh! I was just reading √ėyvind's blog post about him losing his blog database crash.  That is a blogger's worst nightmare!  He lost his template and all content so is relying on cached versions to help him bring his blog back up.  Talk about a frustrating experience!  This is a reminder to make regular back-ups of both your content and template.  I'm so sorry he has to go through all this.  I honestly try to stay on top of backing-up but in all honesty life gets in the way sometimes.  I think I will head over to Blogger right now and do a bit of back-up myself! 


Friday, August 20, 2010

Is Blog Advertising Network Going By the Wayside?

When I first got into blogging it wasn't long before I discovered the 480 X 60 and 125 x 125 blog advertising networks.  This really was a nice concept.  Essentially your banner or badge was displayed on other blogs for a low advertising fee and/or active participation.  As someone who was very active in Entrecard but not longer am in any way, shape or form but am still active in CMF Ads, Adgitize, and Project Wonderful I can't help but wonder if the advertising networks are going by the wayside.  Some have already gone like 125exchange and the beer widget.  Spottt was quite popular for awhile but I seldom see it anymore when blog hopping.  The last three mentioned were more of traffic exchange networks rather than ad networks.  The first one is a glorified traffic exchange while CMF Ads, Adgitize and Project Wonderful are ad networks.

Ad networks offer exposure across their network so essentially you are advertising to other bloggers but if you have a nicely designed badge a visitor to someone's blog in that network might click on it to visit your blog.  It costs money to use an advertising network although with active participation you can recoup some of that cost there is then a cost in terms of time.  You can get excellent exposure via other methods like social networking that reaches a much broader audience without having to pay a penny and at the same time you get a bit of entertainment out of the process.  

Any blogger can sell private ad space on their blog in any shape, size desired or design at any price desired without  paying anything to the middle man (advertising network) and not only is  there coding to aid in this but you can easily set it up yourself.   An example of this is OIO Publisher that costs $47 but you have full control of your advertising space without paying anything extra (eg. fees, commissions) afterwards.  Direct advertising means you deal directly with those wanting to advertise on your blog and with bloggers on whose blog you want to advertise on so there is  bit more involved but it is more profitable.  Each of the advertising networks make some type of commission either by a form of taxation and/or charging you to cash out.  If you put things in perspective I can sell an ad privately on one of my blogs for $5 or more for a month.  If I go through Project Wonderful I have to pay $1 to cash out.  I can/have sold a link on my blogs for $100 per year.  If I sell through LinkShowOff I have to pay $3 each time I want to cash out.  So these companies are getting money for something I can do myself but more importantly I can control entirely.  Another problem with ad networks is if their widget goes down and they do from time to time although some have less down time than others you are left with a blank spot or service unavailable spot on your blog.  

Despite the fact that selling private ad space on your blog is always an option and buying advertising on other blogs the same way I don't see the demise of blog advertising networks anytime soon.  As long as these networks continue to perform as expected bloggers will continue to use them along with other available methods for gaining exposure to their blogs.  I think though that if they do not perform as expected I like many other bloggers would not hesitate to move on to something else.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Adgitize Announces Tougher Blog Guidelines

Adgitize indicated earlier this summer that they were going to implement a few changes in the blog guidelines that could result in your blog being pulled as a publisher for not meeting the requirements.  The premise is they are paying publishers to blog so they want quality blogs.  They don't want blogs without original or inconsistent content.  On August 15, 2010 Ken Brown clarified some to the criteria they will be looking for as they go through the blogs in their system.  Those blogs not meeting the criteria will be suspended but the authour will be notified and given the opportunity to correct the problems or argue their case. 

I don't think I will have a problem with my blogs meeting Adgitize's criteria but still I worry.  Quite clearly on one of my blogs I participate in Wordless Wednesday that by definition is wordless.  Those posts consist of a picture I took with a caption and date the image was taken so while it is original work with my © on the image there is no description other than the caption.  On my cooking blog I run one weekly feature called Kitchen Quick Tips where it is a graphic I made that is used for all of the KQT posts followed by a short one or two sentence tip.  Both of these fall under the "Not Enough Content - Images or videos plus one line sentences or no sentences."1   I'm hoping that the Adgitize team will be reasonable with these types of post especially since my readers when polled love KQTs and Wordless Wednesday is part a particular community of bloggers!  Another concern I have is I do use YouTube videos from time to time but never just the video itself.  I always include some type of commentary so I'm hoping those kind of posts won't be a problem.  In the meantime I will keep on blogging while worrying :(


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blogger Adds Easy Language Drop Down Menu for Dashboard

My goodness the fine folks at Blogger have been quite busy lately adding feature after feature.  There is now a drop down menu on the dashboard so you can easily switch to your language of choice.  I'm looking forward to seeing more new features.  One of the best ways to try out new features Blogger is considering is to go draft mode.  That is where Blogger tests its new features before unleashing them to the general Blogger population.  To go to draft mode sign into draft.blogger.com where you will be able to access your blogs through the draft dashboard.  Since it is in draft mode some of the newer features may occasionally have a glitch or two.  Older features are usually fine.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Alexa Widget Isn't Updating

A few days ago I noticed my Alexa widgets weren't updating so went to their site to check my account.  Apparently the rankings are updating but they have been having a few problems with the updating since August 4.  They are working on resolving the problem.  You can get current ranking through your account though if you like to keep track of the general trend.


Monday, August 16, 2010

IP Blocking in Blogger

Blogger has been adding more features to give those using their service more control over their blogs.  I especially like the new spam filter feature which  was a long time coming.  That means those using blogger will no longer have to use a third party script to control spam comments.  What Blogger really needs to add is an IP Blocker.  At the moment those using Blogger have a couple of ways to block someone from reading their blog while leaving it public for those readers who do not cause any problems.  Both of these require third party scripting.  In researching the topic I discovered that despite the opinion that IP blocking isn't all that effective there is also the opinion that in some cases it is enough to make a problem commenter move on to green pastures.  Other blog hosts offer the option of IP blocking so it can't be that difficult for Blogger to offer it as well.  I also discovered that there has been requests from Blogger to offer this feature and at one time it was available through draft mode a couple of years ago.  Hopefully we will see the ability to IP block in the near future.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Blogger Now Has Automatic Spam Detection

Blogger has now enabled automatic spam detection for comments on some blogs!  Under the comment tab there is now a spam inbox.  Suspected spam comments are filtered into the spam inbox similar to filtering in your email inbox.  Those who have comment moderation won't notice much of a difference as notices whether to publish or reject will stay the same.  Those without comment moderation should check their spam inbox in the comments tab.

The way the comments are now being handled makes it a lot easier to strip the html if the comment is borderline spam.  For example, under the old system any link for the sender did not show up in the comment moderation email unless the sender was from Blogger.  So you had no way of knowing if there was a link or not until you published the comment.  Then if desired you could go back and strip the html by deleting the comment then republishing sans link.  Now the link if there is one shows on the comment under the comment tab (still not in the email notice) making it easier to decide whether or not to leave the link in place without the publish then delete step. 

Another nice feature is the published under the comment tab.  All the comments published on your blog appear with a box that can be checked if you want to delete, mark as spam or remove content.  Instead of having to wade through your blog posts going back to check for spam that might have got through, it is now quite easy to scroll down and check any comments you may want to delete.  This feature will certainly help plug a few holes in the PR bucket!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Clicking Fallacy

Early in my blogging days I came across various sites where you could earn credits via a variety of means that could then be used to generate traffic to your blog.  Most of these sites are now gone because they involved active participation on a regular basis to get any type of payback.  Of these types of sites three remain rather prominent in the blogosphere so here is my opinion of both.

  • Entrecard - This site allows you to display your 125 x 125 on other sites either by paying for advertising or earning credits.  To earn credits you have to drop on others displaying their widget.  That sounds nice and easy.  The maximum you can drop is 300 per day per blog or in other words you click on 300 sites within their system per day.  I participated in this program of almost 2 years and near the end was consistently at the 300 mark for my cooking blog and most days 50 to 75 for my other blogs.  Entrecard has got to be the biggest and I do mean biggest time waster as far as blogging.  Despite claims that credits would eventually be able to be cashed out for real money, I never saw it.  Dropping on 300 blogs alone was extremely time consuming and the worst part was all I saw was my bounce rate go through the roof.  I seriously doubt whether I retained anymore that at best 1% readership from participating in Entrecard.  So in terms of advertising the program only worked when actively participating.  Now in perspective if I were making $10 per hour which is rather low but lets just say to do 300 drops cost me on average $40 per day! There there's the irritation of dropping causing browser crashers and a higher incidence of picking up trojans and viruses from their site.  In my opinion Entrecard is a huge loser in the blogosphere, one not worth wasting time or effort on. 
  • Adgitize - This site offers paid advertising and a credit system that is converted to cash.  When done properly as an advertiser paying $14 per month which works out to 47¢ per day.  Minimal active participation will give you $14.57 in return so you are 57¢ ahead.  Oh sure that isn't a lot of money but your advertising ends up being free and what I've noticed is those using Adgitize like to comment on your blogs.  If you are a publisher you can still make money by displaying the widget and clicking on 100 blogs in the system daily.  If you are an advertiser the number of blogs to click on goes down to 50.  I have had very good results with Adgitize as an advertiser.  I don't always get 50 clicks in a day and I don't worry if I don't.  Clicking on other blogs is not really the primary focus of this site.  At the moment this is one of my favourite blog advertising sites and I try to actively participate as I have time.
  • CMF Ads - This site originally was straight low cost 125 x 125 advertising.  Then they added CMF Spikes.  You earn actual money for running ads on their widget and clicking on spikes.  You set the price you want for someone to advertise on your blog.  A spike is paid advertising that guarantees you a minimal number of hits depending on the number of spikes you buy.  Twenty cents buys 50 guaranteed hits but more importantly those participating in CMF Ads love to leave comments so you end up will some rather quality traffic using this site will more than likely gain a few subscribers.  This really is good use of your advertising dollar.  You can buy a fair number of ads at 1¢ for 30 days or buy a spike.  Either way it takes very little money or time and it costs only pennies a day.  It seriously is a no muse, no fuse way to advertise your blog without clicking on any sites.  If you want to earn a bit of extra money then by all means click on a few spikes.  CMF Ads is my other favourite site.  I don't make money off the site but I guess I could.  Basically what I do is any money I make is reinvesting into blog advertising so it ends up being a break even type of advertising.


Friday, August 13, 2010

What is in a Post Title?

When I first started blogging I made the very same mistake as many new bloggers do.  The tendency is to come up with some type of cutesy title for a blog post.  The problem is cutesy titles seldom contain any keywords so the post doesn't get noticed by the search engines.  You can have an awesome post but because the title doesn't reflect that awesomeness it simply doesn't get noticed by the seaarch engines. There are a couple of ways to deal with this problem.

  1. Write the blog post first then create the title.  This method increases the chance you will use one or more pertinent keywords in the title.
  2. Formulate the title using keywords before you write the post.  This is a bit more difficult but can be equally effective.  Key here is sprinkling the title keywords through the post as well.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

So You Finally Got the Attention of the Search Engines...

I can remember the first website I made and the thrill I got when that website actually caught the attention of the search engines.  Fast forwarding to my blogs and I have to tell you I still got a thrill each time one of my blogs got the attention of the search engines, especially Google.  The thing is search engines can bring a considerable amount of traffic to a blog.  Getting the attention of search engines is one thing.  Keeping that attention is another thing.  The reason being search engines change their algorithms all the time so while you were on page one of their search results and simple change could put you on page 10.  From my own searching habits I seldom check further that page 2 and usually stop at page 1 for any search so someone down on page 10 is never going to get a visit from me.  If you don't pander to the search engines you are destined to have a very low traffic blog. 

SEO is simply not something you can do and forget about!  It is imperative that keywords for your blog are constantly updated.  Use some type of keyword generator for this one so you can choose the best keywords to draw attention to your blog.  It is very important that you ping the search engines preferably after each new post but at minimum once a week.  Pinging tells search engins that your blog is indeed live and active so they should be indexing it.  Google is the largest and most influential search engines but smaller search engines can send a fair amount of traffic your way.  Regardless of your feelings about Google you really do need to pander to them to some degree if you want traffic from them.  And don't just cater to Google on this one. Bing is sending some rather good traffic as is Yahoo.  Ideally what you want to do is to formulate your blog so it gets the attention of as many search engines as possible.  This is where effective keywords used in your posts makes a big huge difference and don't forget to ping!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Fine Line Between to Professional Blogging

When I first started blogging in 2006 the very last thing on my mind was taking any of my blogs professional.  The medium was new and I was very much wet behind the ears using the medium.  For at least one of my blogs the idea now is definitely taking it to the professional level.  The traffic is excellent and it is earning a tidy monthly income quite nicely.  There really is a fine line in taking a blog to the professional level. 

I'd love to sit here and tell you how I got this blog to that level but the reality is I have 8 blogs, 2 of which are private.  Of my six blogs the cooking blog has become quite successful.  I heavily promote this blog so the success has not come without a lot of hard work.  Here are a few things I did to make this blog successful and what I continue to work on for my other blogs:

  • content - Without the content this blog would not exist.  Content got me the attention of the search engines and content keeps their attention.  Seriously without the attention of the search engines a blog is about as good as dead.  The primary focus of all of my blogs has been content.
  • promotion - I use a wide range of promotion methods for all of my blogs but this particular blog tends to get promoted a bit more.  Promotion involves more than just online sources or at least it does for me.  I have family, friends and neighbours follow my blogs.  I use a combination of online advertising and social networking to help promote my blogs.  Promotion also includes regular pinging
  • listen to my readers - I use a variety of methods to get my reader's input.  It is easy for them to click a link to email me directly and other than comment moderation easy to leave comments.  While I draw the line at comment spam and personal attacks other comments are allowed and I try very hard to at the very least respond to those comments.  
  • listen to the search engines - I'm sorry but if you aren't going to listen to what the search engines want or are looking for the traffic from them will dry up.  I use a variety of techniques to get and keep the attention of the search engines. 
  • experimentation - I am seriously not scared to do a bit of experimenting on my blogs.  I'm always tinkering with my blogs.  From time to time I come across recommendations from other bloggers so occasionally I will try one of their tips.  The bottom line is they are really sharing what works for them because when it comes to blogging no one is an expert.  If it works great but if it doesn't I'm not scared to try something else.  I take the same approach to advertising and promotion.  Experimenting is a huge part of blog promotion because you never know what is going to work or if it will work but if it does work you have to be prepared to run with it. 
I really question whether professional blogging even exists.  I'm not talking about blogs that are part of companies that in essence are another form of their promotion.  I'm talking about blogs where a person only blogs, makes a living solely off of their blog(s) and that's it.  Can it happen, certainly it is possible but not very likely and especially without using tactics such as selling your ebooks on your blog(s).  The donation button is certainly not going to do it and a lot of times the ebooks being sold are pimping a glorified MLM type of deal.  Advertising can certainly bring in a tidy profit definitely enough to supplement your income but not enough to say your blog is professional.

Is income the deciding factor as to whether a blog is professional or not.   I really don't think so!  If a blogger is sincere and honest about what they are doing then my feeling is they are every bit as professional as a blogger who was hired to do a blog for some type of commercial site.  Both can be equally professional but with different motivators.  At any rate there is a fine line that once crossed takes you over to professional blogging.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tolerance

Years ago when I first got online I joined newsgroups and participated in a lot of message boards.  I was green so I took everything to heart, got easily offended and in many ways despite being a learning curve it was not a pleasant one.  I worked my butt off learning html so that I could get my own website up and running.  I was very proud of that accomplishment!  One day I opened up my email to find an extremely nasty email seriously ragging on any negative that could be found on my website.  I was absolutely devastated!  Moving on from that horrible experience I am now at the point where I successfully author eight blogs, 2 of which are by invite only as well as owning 4 Yahoo groups.  I have a very different viewpoint than when I first started online. 

I am no longer willing to tolerate certain online activity and when it comes to my blogs I am even less tolerant.  Years ago dealing with a troll would leave me in tears.  Now dealing with a troll means rejecting the comment on my blog(s) or banning the troll on my groups then moving on.  I don't lose any sleep or shed any tears.  This really becomes part of having an online presence.  It doesn't matter whether you are sweeter than sugar on you blogs there is always going to be that odd nutcase working on bursting your bubble.  I work very hard on my blogs so I'm not going to give some troll the opportunity to affect anything.  At one time I would have fussed over comment moderation.  Now I hit either publish or reject and never look back.  Occasionally a persistent troll and this really doesn't happen very often but on my HST rants on my personal blog it has where the troll will actually take their time to email me personally.  In this case they get the exact same level of tolerance I have for telemarketers which is less than zero.

I think especially when it comes to blogging you have to at some point draw a clear line as to what you will and will not tolerate.  Blogging is considerably different than participating in forums or newsgroups.  I feel that I do the hard work of blogging that by default I get to decide what I will or will not tolerate.  Maybe this sounds a bit selfish but I enjoy blogging so I'm not going to waste my time or efforts on a comment spammer, blog troll or someone who decides emailing their nasty comments is the way to go.  Tolerance is a wonderful quality but when it comes to blogs sometimes it needs to go out the window!


Monday, August 9, 2010

A Nice Blogger Tool Site

Blogger is an amazing blog host site and in many ways there are a lot of great tools available through Blogger.  However, once you have been blogging long enough you may want to investigate other Blogger specific tools.  I came across Blogspot Tutorial while searching for scripts for my blogs.  This looks like it will be a rather useful site.  In addition to tutorials they also offer a few rather nice blog templates.  If you are using Blogger for blog hosting this is definitely a site to check out.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Downside to Social Networking

If you are a parent you can relate to why I equate social networking to extracurricular activities for children.  The problem is as a parent you can have your child into so many extracurricular activities that it ends up affecting your child's academic performance and costs you a lot in terms of time, energy and gasoline just getting your child to each extracurricular activity.  In some cases especially if you have more than one child extracurricular activities can actually undermine the family dynamics affecting family relationships.  Essentially this is not putting first things first, a fundamental principle of personal leadership by Stephen R. Covey.  Extracurricular activities are very important for children but if they overshadow the fundament, life guiding values such as education and family values then they end up being detrimental.  The same can be said of social networking in relationship to blogging.

Social networking includes groups, forums and sites like Twitter, Digg, and Facebook.  These sites are wonderful for promoting your blog(s) and they can result in a lot of traffic however, they can take your focus off of what is important, your blog(s).  If your blog(s) does not get regular tweaking, frequent posts and the attention it really deserves no amount of promoting it is going to help.  Social networking takes a lot of time and energy.  As a result they take away from the time you could spend blogging, adding quality content to your blog(s).  Social networks should be used to accent your blogging experience but never to hinder it.  If your spending too much time on social networks and not enough time blogging then at some point one of them is going to give and chances are very good it will be blogging.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

80 Useful PSD Templates

I use Adobe Photoshop CS to edit photos and create images for my blogs.  I'm constantly looking for filters, fonts, brushes and tutorials for this program.  A few days ago a tweet came down my stream about 80 useful psd templates so I immediately clicked the link.  A psd file is a Photoshop file complete with the working layers so you can customize as you want.  Some psd files can have a multitude of layers that can easily be edited.  For example a simple button can have a background layer, a gradient layer, a beveling layer and a text layer all of which can be modified.  In fact a psd file can be so manipulated that it no longer resembles the original file.  Once the file is customized you can save as a psd file (highly recommended for future editing) or as a jpg file that cannot be easily edited. 


Friday, August 6, 2010

Do What I Say Not What I Do!

I my gosh!  The other day excited about installing backgrounds via Blogger upload rather than having images hosted on Photobucket I made a huge mistake!  Pay attention!  Apparently this feature is only available in draft blogger and not using classic templates.  I decided to change my gardening blog.  No problem, so it seemed since I've been changing blogs since I started blogging. 

Rule #1 - Always backup your template.  So I'm off to play with my template and as normal I backed up my template.  Wrong!  For some reason I hit to backup my blog not my template except that wouldn't become apparent until after the damage was done.  The good news is I at least when put into perspective backed up the most important part of my blog, the posts and comments. 

Rule #2 - Do not panic.  I played around a bit, changing to a new updated template and tried adding the background.  No problem except despite having the background set to 1800 x 1600 it still didn't work properly.  That's when I decided to revert to my old tried and true Rounders template and reality hit the proverbial fan so to speak.  After a bit of serious hyperventilating to the point I had to walk away from the computer for a couple of hours, I realized there was no need to panic.  Since I had designed the previous layout it shouldn't be all that difficult to put it back together.  Luckily when I went to Blogger's Page Elements most of my elements were still there just not where they were supposed to be.

Rule #3 - Be Systematic.   I realized I did a huge and I do mean huge screw up but once I saw most of the elements were there I started to slowly but systematically restore my gardening blog to what it was.  With each change to the template I did the preview then save.  Slowly things started getting back to normal but there was a lot of switching between page elements and edit html.  And you can bet your bottom line when I finished I applied Rule #1!


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blogger Makes it Easier to Add Your Own Blog Backgrounds

Several months ago I came across a method for creating a custom scrolling background for my blogs. Adding the background to the blogs was messy if using script but it could be added by editing html if comfortable with that. The main problem was either method required hosting the background image somewhere else because Blogger did not allow you to upload your own background.

Six of my blogs (1 private) had their background images hosted on Photobucket. A couple of days ago I got an email saying I had used 70% of my bandwidth on Photobucket so that meant once I hit 100% my images would not display until the bandwidth reset or I could pay them $24.95 to get unlimited bandwidth. The problem is my cooking blog is taking off quite nicely averaging about 560 visitors daily. If this blog continues to grow the way it is I am not in the position to have some of my images especially the background suddenly disabled. The very same day just by fluke I was reading my Twitter stream and saw a post that Blogger now makes it easy to add your own images for your blog background.  This method is designed so that a blogger knowing very little about editing the html can still easily add their own background.

In order to used this feature go to draft.blogger.com and sign in.  If you are already signed into blogger.com you won't have to sign in again.  You will need your desired image that can be tiled if small or set to 1800 x 1600 and no larger than 300 KB.  Go to Design | Design Template | Background.  Click on the upload image feature and choose your file.  If you are using a full screen picture choose no tile and alignment centre.  If using a smaller picture choose whether to tile or not.  Your changes will appear in the preview window.  Once satisfied click Apply to Blog and you are finished.  If you want to change the background at any point just repeat the process.  Note that this great feature only works in draft mode and it doesn't work if you are using an older classic template.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blogging is a Learning Experience

One of the things I love about blogging is most days it is very much a learning experience.  The lessons learned are quite varied ranging from the how-tos to the what-nots.  They spill over into other computer programs like Photoshop® when additional skills are needed.  I honestly used Photoshop® occasionally to resize an image in my pre-blogging days and now it is one of my most used programs for blogging.  The desire for custom made graphics for my blogs forced me to learn how to make them in Photoshop® then it esculated from there.  At the same time simply talking to other bloggers is a learning experience of what works for them and what doesn't.  Sometimes a blog post requires a bit of research which is always interesting but at the same time learning more about a topic.  Each blogging day brings something new which becomes part of the overall enjoyment of blogging.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Keyword Generator

It is important to generate good keywords for your blogs based on your content.  There are several online sources to help you do that.  I just found  Keyword Eye, a keyword generating site.  It generates keywords for the your url or term of choice so you can generate keywords for each post or the blog itself.  The keywords generated are rated as far as how much competition there is that particular keyword.  The resulting cloud tag can be toggled from 2D to 3D.  Clicking the desired keywords creates a list that can be downloaded as a text, CSV or excel file.


Monday, August 2, 2010

July's Blogging Experiment Results

At the start of July I had a goal of daily posts on all 6 of my public blogs.  While 4 of them normally do have daily posts my homemaking and Canadian blogs don't.  Despite my best attempts the experiment failed although the homemaking blog did have an increase in the number of posts.  I don't know whether it is me or the fact it is a bit harder to find blog fodder or what but the thing is it is likely going to take a bit more work to get these blogs to having daily posts.  In the meantime, I will be content to get as much content as possible on them without worrying if I miss a day or two in posting.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Backlink Checker

It seems like one of the first rules of increasing traffic is to build backlinks to your blog.  I came across a useful site called Backlink Watch.  What is a bit interesting about this site is they flag anything abnormal like the nofollow tag used on your link.  What is even more surprising is some of the sites aimed at generating a bit of blog traffic and at least one of them I pay to advertise on uses the nofollow tag.  I find that a just a tad interesting.  At any rate this is one more tool to use to see where your links are most effective.

Garden Gnome
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