Welcome to The Blog Report

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

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Blog Backgrounds

I love blog hopping not only to read interesting posts but to see how other bloggers present their blogs.  Blog backgrounds in particular interest me.  The popular colour of choice for the centre panel if a centre panel is used is white with the next colour of choice being a pale neutral (eg. grey, beige).  The reason for this is white or pale neutral with dark text is easier to read.  I've seen very few blogs with dark backgrounds with light text.  Some blogs don't use the centre panel design but rather a simple solid background again white or pale neutral.  Now here's where it gets interesting.

Bloggers using the centre panel design can get rather creative with the background the centre panel is on.  The scrapbooking trend has really affected the choice of the main background.  Now it is common to see some bloggers using actual photographs as the main background.  I took this approach with one of my blogs.  The effect can be quite striking depending on the picture chosen.  I like main backgrounds that reflect a bit about the blog without overpowering it.  Those using the Blogger platform can easily change the main background using 'layout' or 'design'.  With the exception of this blog, I made the main backgrounds for my blogs.  It is surprising quite easy to do using image editing software. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Blog Advertising Networks

I started blogging back in April of 2006.  The first blog advertising network I came across was through visiting other blogs.  It was the now defunct BlogExplosion.  I knew little of how blog advertising worked but I reasoned getting more traffic to my blogs couldn't be a bad thing.  Later I found out it could depending where the traffic was coming from.  You see BlogExplosion was considered a traffic exchange, something not allowed if using Google Adsense.  I've seen a lot of blog advertising networks come and go over the years.  Then a new class of blog advertising networks appeared.  Essentially you uploaded your 125 x 125 ad that would appear on their widget being displayed across their members blogs.  It was bloggers helping bloggers, sort of. 

A couple of years ago there were several of these types of networks.  There was the beer widget, Entrecard, and a couple of others (eg. Spottt, 125Exchange) based on a 2:1 ratio so very close to a traffic exchange.  Then CMF Ads and Adgitize popped up as off shoots of a major disruption at Entrecard.  I knew both Ben Barden (CMF Ads) and Ken Brown (Adgitize) from Entrecard who went off to create their own blog successful advertizing networks during the huge blow out.  I left Entrecard during that time, never to return as publisher and ran one ad spot for less than a month but won't go back.   Mars Mattius Darian created a bit different blog advertising network call Along for the Ride.  It's a widget that displays a generic ad for AFTR with a pop-up rather than displaying actual ads.  A couple others from that time period, broke away from Entrecard to start their own blog advertising networks (eg. Tribal Blogs).  The new blog advertising networks all have one thing in common and that was to not be deemed as being a traffic exchange.  CMF Ads recently removed the bar at the bottom of the ads to make them stand out from Adgitize and Entrecard.  Ads displayed through CMF Ads are on a widget that doesn't look like a widget, something I thing Ben Barden was wise to do.  And Ben has remained a very active blogger so he not only is working for bloggers he is a blogger himself so understands what bloggers need.  Adgitize recently added a 4 pixel bar at the top of their widget to distinguish them from other ads. 

Blog advertising networks are hurting by a recession brought about folks not having time to or losing interest in blogging.  The recent trend of a certain subset of bloggers,  blogging merely as a way to make money in particular is hurting the blog advertising networks.  We are seeing that with Adgitize.  We just saw BlogExplosion close up shop even though there was not earning potential.  Both Spottt and 125Exchange are gone as is the beer widget.  These businesses cost money to run so they can't just keep giving out the money to those who don't want to pay back into the system. 

The biggest problem facing blog advertising networks is attracting advertisers.  Advertisers are needed to pay the bills.  Despite the large number of bloggers in the blogosphere with that number growing daily, only a small number of those bloggers will pay for advertising.  The reality is unless a blog is earning enough money to support itself, many bloggers simply don't want to put money into advertising their blog.  Many bloggers pay for design templates, their own domains as well as blog hosting.  All of that ads up meaning unless a blog is established and making enough money to cover these expenses, the money comes out of their pocket making paying for advertising less attractive.  This explains why the free blog advertising networks (eg. Entrecard, Exposure Your Blog) are more popular than paid blog advertising networks (eg. CMF Ads, Adgitize, Project Wonderful).   As a result the paid blog advertising networks are smaller and while they are effective in gaining traffic, the traffic is lower than the free blog advertising but it is a higher quality traffic. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Forum Points at Adgitize

For the past few months it has been possible to earn up to 100 points per day writing a 200 or equivalent word forum post at Adgitize.  That all changes on July 1 when forum points will be eliminated.  I was dead set against it when the forum points were first announced but they went ahead.  So I said what the heck, use this to your advantage.  I decided to run a second ad and pump the snot out of the forum points to help recoup the costs.  The bottom line in two ads cost me $28 per month.  At my level I was able to make almost $24 back so my advertising ended up costing me $4.  I was essentially paying $4 or more back into Adgitize each month.  The problem is on Adgitize there are some members not interesting in advertising their blogs, only making money with their blogs.  They are draining money from Adgitize because they never pay into it.  Loyal advertisers such as myself and I've been very active since December of 2008 are seeing a decrease in advertisers and less return in our advertising dollars. 

I honestly like Ken Brown and his team at Adgitize.  They do a top notch job, always ready to solve any problem and keep members happy.  For whatever reason though the publishers who are only taking from the system and not giving back really end up getting the break, not the advertisers who are supporting Adgitize.  Now don't get me wrong because a blog advertising network needs publishers and publishers should be compensated, but I think publishers should be compensated in such a manner that it does not drain the system.  I have watched [while still supporting a blog advertising system I believe in] my traffic decrease from Adgitize even though I was running 2 ads.  I've watched the number of advertisers decrease as well.  Because I have confidence Adgitize will perform as expected I took out a third ad today so current three of my blogs are being advertized over Adgitize.  That was a good faith decision.  At the moment it almost feels to me like the shark is in the water.  I certainly hope not but I don't have a good feeling about what the changes will bring.  As an advertiser this of course concerns me so I will be keeping a close eye on what develops over the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Spam Control Leads to More Spammig

Yesterday I posted about a disturbing trend I've noticed in the blogosphere.  Not even ten minutes of that post going live, Aisha was wonderful enough to leave me the following comment"

It was very interesting for me to read that blog. Thanks the author for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. I would like to read more soon.
1992 Volkswagen Eurovan AC Compressor 

Isn't that just so thoughtful of her?  My gosh, I was so impressed with her comment as it clinked into the spam bucket.  What I find rather interesting is writing about a subtle spam trend meant to lower PR actually brings out the real spammers.  Isn't that just priceless? 

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Disturbing Trend in the Blogosphere

I've noticed a rather disturbing trend recently in the blogosphere.  Well, maybe it isn't so recent but it is a bit more apparent.  For whatever reason, some bloggers view blogging as a competition.  As a result they actually try to take down another blogger.  They purposely try to lower another blogger's PR.  The most common method used is via veiled comment spam.  Now the comment itself may be borderline and in most cases appears to be a simple reply related to the post.  Where the catch is instead of using their name/url to gain some backlink love, they use their Blogger profile link.  This creates a black hole that if effectively done can certainly lower another blogger's PR.  The sign that someone is doing this is a comment left daily on a very consistent basis over an extended period of time.  Over that time the hole in your PR grows.  It usually starts out with them leaving what appears to be genuine comments.  This builds a bit of trust.  Then they move on to somewhat borderline comments and finally comments like "nice post" or they may relate it to the post with a "looks yummy". 

The problem is it really is a subtle way of sabotaging another blog.  The blogger tends to let the boarderline comments through because they have had several comments from the person before.  The person doing the commenting usually reigns their comments in if there is any sign the blogger is on to them and may even start the whole process over again to build a little trust.  Over my years of blogging I have encountered this three times.  The first time it took me a couple of months before getting suspicious and the second time I recongnized what was going on within a couple of weeks.  Recently this was happening on one of my blog but I let it slide for awhile before deciding what to do.  When I turned off comments on my blogs this person was the first to complain.  When I turned comment back on, the person resumed commenting daily.  When I changed the HTML code to strip the url from a commenter's profile, the comments from this person abrubtly stopped.  I think the person realized that I was on to what they were trying to do.

What I don't understand is why anyone would do this.  If I'm leaving a comment on another blog it is because I have something constructive to say.  The backlink is a bonus and I always leave the name and url of one of my blogs, closest related to the blog I'm commenting on.  I don't why anyone would try affecting another blogger's PR.  It is a very childish thing to do.  The reality is aside of affecting a blogger's PR it serves no purpose at all.  It is not like the commenter gains PR or even traffic to their blog.  It could get them labeled or reported as a comment spammer and it could cost them their Google account of which Blogger owned by.  So my question is, why are they doing it?  There is no real benefit to them at all.  Go figure!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cleaning Up Comment Links

Yesterday I posted about cleaning up comment links in Blogger that lead only to the blogger's profile.  The reason why you want to do this is to reduce the holes in your PR.  To explain the hole further, if you have one person that comments on your blog daily using their Blogger profile link, over the year you have 365 holes unless you have at least the equal number of comments you left with backlinks.  If you reply to each of those comments using your Blogger ID which points to your Blogger ID, creating 365 more holes.  So to combat this you would have to leave 730 comments with backlinks on blogs that are using dofollow.

When edited the HTML then checked it on my first blog, the code change worked perfectly stripping all links to Blogger profiles while retaining their avatar picture.  However,  I realized I had inadvertently always replied to comments using my Google ID of Garden Gnome which of course points to my Blogger profile.  The HTML change removed all of these links so I really tightened up holes from my blogs that can create a drain in PR.

What I also noticed is it stripped the name/url links that should have been left untouched so I need to find out how to remedy this problem.  This is not necessarily a bad thing though as you get the comments while providing an effective deterrent for comment spamming.  It gives readers what they want with an easy way to ask question and continue the communication without having to resort to email.  However, it does not reward the loyal readers with a backlink when they comment but my experience has been a good portion of readers are not concerned with building backlinks, they just want an easy way to communicate.  The link does remain if post a comment is set to open a new page,  just not on the main post page.  It does not show if the post a comment is set to embed below post. 

If you recall, earlier this year I turned off comments entirely due to comment spam.  The problem was this drastic method punished the loyal readers by not giving them an easy way to comment.  Some asked that I reconsider turning comments on again so I did.  Now this HTML edit should solve any problems but as with all major changing like this I will do a trial period.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to Remove Links to Commenter's Profiles in Blogger

If you are signed into your Google account, each time you leave a message on a Blogger blog the link will point to your Blogger profile unless the blogger has enabled name/url.  From a blogger's perspective each time a link is left in this manner link love goes to the Blogger profile page with no link love going to the commenter's blog.  This creates a hole in your PR and if you have a large number of them can create a rather large hole in your PR.  An workaround solution was to manually strip the url which does work nicely unless you have a lot of commenters.  An easier solution is to change the template HTML by removing a small piece of code.  How to remove the links to commenter's profiles was gratiously shared in the Blogger Help forum.  This is a nice solution because it removes the work of having manually remove these types of links. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Can You???

I have a seriously wicked sense of humour even though it does not always come across on my blog posts.  So I'm doing my blog hops and came across a blog post about taking the highroad.  My husband and I are big into taking the highroad so I stopped to read the post.  Now here is my question.  Can you take the highroad while calling the object of your anger a douchebag?  This honestly was a post by a very respectable blogger so I was quite surprise by the post itself.  Obviously the blogger was a tad ticked, a position I have found myself in on more than one occasion.  I could even use that term for a few people I know although my current favourite term for them is 'dumbass' but I have no problem using the term 'fucknugget' and they are but they don't know, I don't want to tell them they are and don't blog about the fact they are but they are.  Somehow dumbass sounds nicer than douchebag  and more refined than fucknugget but that could just be my perception.  At any rate I do find it funny when someone blogs about the dumbasses in their life while taking the 'highroad'.  See if you are going to blog about the dumbass there seriously is no highroad to take although pictures might be a nice touch.  My dumbasses aren't all that photogenic and I don't want to waste space on my camera card or photo editing time so I don't do that and aside of this post I haven't blogged about them.  They are precious though :)  Some things are better off not blogged about even if it is good blog fodder but honestly if you are going to rant, rave or accuse others of being a douchebag or dumbass don't pretent to take the hightroad.  Be honest!  BTW. I firmly believe that Dalaton McGuinty (Premier of Ontario) is both a douchebag and dumbass as well as being a fucknugget but I would never take the highroad when talking about him.  I'm just saying...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Adgitize Worries

A few days ago Ken Brown, owner of Adgitize a blog advertising network announced they were going to go back to their old model which essentially would see active advertisers if they were lucky earn enough money to pay for their ad. At that time he said the summer promotion wasn't working, the extra points awarded for posting in the forums wasn't getting the results and they needed 200 advertisers in the system to stay afloat. He indicated there was 160 something members. A couple of days later another member posted that there were only 134 advertisers in the system then that dropped to 127 yesterday. When I checked the reports today I didn't see anything further about reduced advertisers but rather a contest offering free advertising to the winner. Let me tell you why this worries me:

  • Adgitize is showing decrease effectiveness and one only has to turn to their stats to see that.  I am currently paying $28 for two ads but not getting the traffic two ads should bring.  My second ad is up for renewal on June 17 but I won't be renewing it.  I refuse to pay for advertising that is not working.
  • Members are leaving Adgitize and whether or not it is because of the recent changes the fact is the membership is decreasing which translates into reduced traffic for my money spent in advertising.
  • The contest itself is biased.  Sorry to Ken and his team but it is and while I don't think it was intentionally biased it still is biased.  The contest is going to drive a few more advertisers away as a result of the bias.  More importantly the contest is sending a 'last ditch effort to save the fort' message.  A contest is not going to bring new advertisers to Adgitize.  It is not going to do anything other than tick off a few of the remaining advertisers.  It's not like the bias wasn't happening to begin with, it was the bias was overlooked and now with this contest it is smack right in your face!  It is not a good sigh of what is happening at Adgitize.  It does not build confidence in the members that have remained loyal to Adgitize and in some ways it feels like a down right sell out.
In the real world children pick up their ball and go home when they get tired of dealing with playground antics.  Adults do the same thing.  Advertisers take their hard earned dollars elsewhere.  I'm just saying the way things are going there are better, more effective sources for my $14 to to towards than renewing that ad....

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Goodbye Yahoo Groups

I have been a long time and somewhat active user of Yahoo Groups to the point that I even own four groups.  Some bloggers use the groups to promote their blogs and as free advertising goes at times you can get a bit of traffic from them.  The thing is most of these groups have no problem infringing on copyright to blatantly breaking it then getting pissy if you call them up on it.  They are fickle as well.  So knowing we were going on vacation on May 8 I decided to just lurk on the groups.  During our vacation I actually unsubscribed from a few of the groups I was on.  When we returned my husband was hospitalized so I had no desire to do more that lurk on the groups.  It's been over a month since I have actively participated on any Yahoo group and haven't missed them so I'm saying goodbye to Yahoo groups.  It's one less online activity I need to do so that's not a bad thing.  At one time the groups would bring a bit of traffic to the blogs but now they are simply work with no payback. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I Am, I Am Canadian!

'I Am, I Am Canadian' and the words to that song echo through my head.  I have never, ever hidden the fact that I am a Canadian blogger.  Call me selfish but I will promote Canada 100% ever single chance I get so that means I will not run "marry a [insert country of choice]" ads on my blogs.  I will not run ads promoting travel in other countries when there is so much to see and do in Canada.  Now the funny thing is we bought property in the US as a vacation home but I am still Canadian and I don't care, I'm about as Canadian as you can get even when traveling outside of Canada.  I will however talk about non-Canadian products, culinary and gardening adventures.  So, that brings me to today's topic.  I got an email while on vacation from someone wanting to advertise on my cooking blog.  Clearly they had not read my blog so I let that email slide.  They emailed again but I was in the midst of my husband's health crisis so did not respond but again it was clear they did not know I was a Canadian blog.  They emailed again.  Tonight, I took the time to sit down and reply.  See, it clearly states in my blog profile that I am from Ontario, Canada.  Guess what?  Advertising a product that is not Canadian made is not going to happen on my blogs unless it is a product I use and stand behind 100%.  Nowhere does it state that I am going to advertise anything just because although my comment policy does state that I reserve the right to remove any links in comments should I actually approve them.  So I politely replied indicating that they must have missed that 'I Am Canadian' and will not endorse their product or website but thanked them for their interest in my blog.  At this point it should have been the end of matters but it wasn't.  Of course it wasn't the end of this issue just because I had things like a health crisis with my husband to deal with.  Two more emails arrived both going to the trash folder.  The third email had me launching LARTS and I've yet to get a fourth likely because the offending party is now looking for a new ISP...AND I AM CANADIAN!  I'm polite but don't piss me off!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Blogging Mojo

My gosh my blogging mojo has been off really since returning home from our winter vacation in January.  A series of life events has not helped but I've been able to maintain my blogs somewhat.  First there was the leg injury that took me off my feet for two weeks and then a rather prolonged and continuing recovery.  Then there was our spring vacation disrupted with my husband's medical problems followed by the remainder of our spring vacation followed by his hospitalization.  He is now undergoing a lot of medical tests and complicating the issue is we are still trying to sell our house.  So try as I may, my blogging mojo just isn't there.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Niche Blogs Dilemna

We recently spent from May 8 to 25 on vacation with one week of that time doing no cooking and the rest reduced cooking.  When we returned home my husband was hospitalized so I've spent the past almost two weeks in reduced cooking mode.  Now you would think that isn't that big of a deal but when you are authoring a cooking blog it is a huge deal!  While I have great food blog fodder it certainly is not enough to keep me blogging much longer if I don't get back into cooking.  It does help that I run a couple of regular features each week so I only need to come up with actual cooking posts four times a week.  At the same time I managed to gather blog fodder for my gardening blog but not enough to keep posts going until my home gardening blog with daily posts.  Oiy, there are days that keeping narrower niche blogs going are a real challenge!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

In Catch-up Mode

We spent most of May on vacation, returning home to my husband becoming ill enough to be hospitalized.  Needless to say I am behind on a lot of my online activities but you know life has a way of doing that every once in awhile.  Athough there are still medical tests to come, my husband is slowly on the mend.  This will be the second day he's gone into the office for a couple of hours so things are slowly returning somewhat to normal.  It will take me a bit to get back up to speed but so far so good.

Monday, June 6, 2011

BlogExplosion Demise?

I posted earlier about the slow death of BlogExplosion.  I for one am sorry to see this site go down because it was where I first started meeting other bloggers.  About a month ago, I assigned my last 100 credits then didn't think much more about it.  We were on vacation so it was not a high priority.  Yesterday I tried going to the site but got a 'document contains no data'.  I got the same message after multiple tries today.  We all knew that BlogExplosion was dying and it was just a matter of time.  Still it would have been nice if they had posted a fairwell message or something.  At any rate it appears BlogExplosion is no more.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Statcounter Update

Statcounter has been updated. When you log in, instead of going to statcounter.com you get logged into beta.statcounter.com. There are a lot of neat new features and you can always opt out to go back to the classic statcounter.com site. The dashboard is sleeker and once you click on one blog you can easily go to another of your blogs using the new drop down menu. One new feature I like is when your blog gets a hit from a search engine it will tell you what position you are in for that search result. Obviously the more times you are in the #1 position the better but honestly as long as you are in the top ten that's still a good thing. It's a nice visual. You can now see the actual search the user made to get to your blog so that is another nice feature that will help with key word optimization. I like the changes!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Adgitize Changes Effective July 1, 2011

Adgitize has decided to go back to their original business plan effective July 1, 2011.  The 2010 Summer Promotion will end reducing revenue earning potential.  Forum points, something I did take advantage of but never agreed with are ending.  Advertisers placing a second or third ad will earn 100 points each so that is a positive change.  Adgitize is citing the number of ads in the system diminishing as the reason for the changes.

The changes are going to result in a few things.  First off there were some members in Adgitize there solely for earning money.  At best you might have been able to earn $7 per month as advertiser and somewhere around $4 per month as publisher only.  In the big picture neither amount is worth much, not even enough to pay a utility bill.  Yet there was continued pressure on Adgitize to increase the earning potential which really was impossible with decreasing advertisers.  The number of advertisers likely decreased due to a combination of current economic times mixed with basic economics.  Now if I run one ad and am active daily I can get a payout of $21 which nets $7 after paying for advertising.  The problem is many of the publishers don't pay for the advertising but rather they simply take from the system.  A system cannot exist if the takers exceed the contributors.  That is what is happeing with Adgitize, a system that was never designed to be a money making machine.

How will this change my advertising with Adgitize? - I currently run two ads on Adgitize at a cost of $28 per month.  Through active participation I get back about $22 per month meaning my advertising costs me $6.  Monetarily Adgitize costs me money each month.  The problem is the announced changes are bound to reduce membership which translates into less traffic that I'm paying for.  I really like Adgitize so I don't want to see them struggling.  I will continue to support them to see where these changes lead but I'm already looking for alternatives should performance lessen.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Connection Speed

I started blogging in early 2006 on a dial-up connection.  Being semi-rural that was the only internet connection available to us.  We moved to fully rural in the late spring of 2007.  We had the choice of dial-up which meant two phone lines or satellite internet.  Now satellite internet is a who beast of it's own.  It is faster than dial-up but in no way compares to DSL or cable internet with respect to speed.  If a mosquito flies through the beam, the service goes down.  I'm not kidding!  Our beam comes out of the Toronto area so a cloud flitting through anywhere from here to there will make the service go down.  Now as if that isn't bad enough considering we are paying $65 per month for this fickle service, if you manage to go over some magical bandwidth amount at any given time you get FAPed meaning your service is slowed down to less than dial-up speed until it resets.  Our service is good in that the reset time is on the top of the hour unlike a couple of companies that will FAP you for 24 hours.

With this in mind and having had no choice but to use dial-up or satellite I am very conscious of my blog loading times.  The reality is many readers simply do not have access to high speed internet services.  There are many areas in Canada and even in North America where the only internet service you can get is dial-up.  Blog loading time can be decreased by optimizing graphics, hosting graphic with your blog host, lessening the number of posts appearing on your landing page and minimizing the number of widgets.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Check How Your Blog Looks on Different Browsers

When I first started blogging I used Mozilla for my browser.  It honestly did not dawn on me to check what my blogs looked like on different browsers.  Then I switched over to using Mac and Camino.  My blogs looked slightly different so I started checking how they looked on different browsers.  Sometimes a script that loads perfectly fine on one or more browsers creates a problem with another.  From time to time I see notations on blogs like 'this site is best viewed using Netscape' or similar.  Now, my opinion is these notations are not necessary as your blog should be optimized to load on any browser although some browsers may do a bit better job than others.  There are a number of browsers available now so it is not feasible to have an updated copy of every browser on your computer.  Still from time to time, I check to see how my blogs are loading using other browsers through friends and family.  If I notice a problem I can correct it if possible.  I try to keep my blogs coded so that they load problem free on as many browsers as possible.