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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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Building Traffic Without Blog Advertising Networks

With the news of Adgitize closing I had a bit of a panic moment.  I have already seen my blog traffic decrease with CMFAds closing and have no desire to go back to Entrecard.  So I am left with a bit of old school traffic building to do for my blogs.  Surprisingly there are many ways to build traffic that do not rely of blog advertising networks.  Some are better than others and all take a bit of work but so did the blog advertising networks.

I've been blogging for over six years and now author six fairly successful blogs.  Here are a few ways I build traffic for my blogs:

  • traffic exchanges - BlogExplosion, Expose Your Blog and other traffic exchanges can get you some rather descent blog traffic.  They can open the door to a large audience beyond the blogosphere giving you a good increase in readership.  The only caveat is do NOT use a traffic exchange if you are using Adsense as that is against their TOS.
  • social networking - Facebook, Twitter, Digg and StumbleUpon are wonderful ways to meet other bloggers while promoting your own blog(s).  Add your RSS feed to Twitter and Facebook so your friends will see each time you update your blog.
  • directories - Submit your blog(s) to every directory possible.   The only caveat here is do NOT submit your blog url to a directory that has a lower PR rating than your blog.
  • magazines/newspapers - Anytime you get a chance to share your blog url with a magazine or newspaper, do so.  I submitted one of my blog urls to our local radio station and saw an increase in traffic immediately because local folk tend to support local folks.
  • business cards - It is quite easy and inexpensive to make business cards using nothing more than your computer and printer.  Be sure to put the url of your blog(s) on your card.  Hand out your business card as well as place it on business bulletin boards.  Some establishments hold a monthly business card draw so it is a good way to get a bit of traffic to your blog using an old fashioned business building method.
  • ping your blog(s) -  With the demise of two of the best blog advertising networks it is very important to ping you blog each time you add content.  This will ensure that the search engines continue sending organic traffic your way.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blog Advertising Networks Going By the Wayside

This has been a bad year for blog advertising networks.  BlogExplosion has been dying a very slow and painful death with the site down more than up sometimes.  CMFAds closed down in October and Adgitize just announced it was closing with no new advertising being accepted after December 27 and a final closing date of January 31.  Reports have been coming out that there are problems with Entrecard as well.  I personally had expected Entrecard to close down three years ago when the incompetent Graham was still running the show but it was sold and for a while looked rather promising but now it is taking months to get a blog approved.  Word has it the site is running itself with problems going unattended and no response from the owners so it is just a matter of time before that blog advertising network folds as well.    That leaves two lesser (in numbers) networks to use for blog advertising.  They are Along for the Ride and Expose Your Blog.  Expose Your Blog really is a traffic exchange so should not be used if using Adsense.  So 2012 is looking like it will be a year of changes for many bloggers looking to promote their blogs without the tried and true of blog advertising networks.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Adgitize to Close Down

On the heels of CMFAds closing down in October of this year, I was once again saddened to get the email from Adgitize saying they were closing down effective December 27.   Ads will no longer be accepted after that date.  Publishers expecting a payout will receive it on the normal schedule (about Jan 7) and those using the credit system will receive a payout as well.  There is a $5 processing fee for those requesting a cheque but no charge for using PayPal.  Those running advertising that expires after January 15 will receive a prorated refund.  All services through Adgitize will cease as of January 31.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Decorating Blogs For The Holidays

I started blogging in early 2006 and by the end of the year had four blogs up and running.  At that time it was a blogging trend to change the entire blog template to a holiday theme for the Christmas holiday season.  Some even changed their theme for Easter and Thanksgiving as well as special days like St. Patrick's Day.  I went with the trend creating special holiday templates.  Then a couple of years ago I stopped.  Creating and changing templates can be a considerable amount of work but the main reason I stopped massively decorating for the holidays on my blogs is the same reason I now say Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas - political correctness. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Downward Trend on Adgitize

I have noticed a bit of a downward trend on Adgitize.  The total points in the system is an indicator as to how many advertisers there are.  The points usually range in the high 90,000 into the 100,000.  The start of the December the total points were 93,951 and two days later dropped to 85,535.  Yesterday morning they were down to 79,767.  This downward trend surprises me especially after CMFAds closed down.  I certainly hope this is temporary, due to the busy holiday season and perhaps a bit tighter funds for blog advertising.

I do the opposite during the holiday season by increasing my advertising, running two ads for my cooking blog and two other ads for a total of four ads.  During the week between Christmas and New Years a lot of folk have a bit more downtime to spend online so increasing advertising for that period makes sense.  It's also a time of year I have a bit less time for active traffic building so keeping my ads out there for the exposure makes a lot of sense.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sit On Your Hands

A few nights ago we went out with another couple.  During the conversation the main complaint with Facebook was rather inappropriate comments being made.  I made the comment that you should sit on your hands.   If there has ever been anything I have learned over my internet experience it is sit on your hands.  What this really means is think before you post and quite frankly if you can't make a post that won't get you in to trouble in some fashion the sit on the hands.  Don't reply, don't comment and definitely don't write a post.  This is very important when it comes to Twitter or Facebook where posts can easily be made in the heat of the moment without really thinking it through.

I honestly can't count the number of times I have been so ticked off, wrote a blog post then saved it in draft mode rather than allowing it to go live.  Nine times out of ten the post never goes live.  The thing is writing the problem out is a good way to get rid of all the negativity but clicking the button to make the post go live is a good way to get a lot more negativity so sit on the hands.  Write the post then let it sit in draft mode for awhile.  Ponder on it then only post if you are really sure that is what you want to say in public.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blogging Income

Bloggers seem to fall into three main categories with respect to monetizing.  The first group does not monetize at all.  They have no interest in blogging for financial gain of any kind.  They may advertise but they don't display any ads or paid posts on their blogs.  The second group monetizes enough to cover their costs like ISP and advertising.  They display a minimal amount of advertising, seldom if ever do paid posts, and may accept the occasional paid link.  The third group monetizes with the pie in the sky ideal that they are going to make a living via blogging.  They display a heavy amount of advertising including pop-up and peel-back ads.  A good portion of their posts are paid posts and they have a large number of paid links.

The bottom line is blogging does cost money in terms of ISP costs, advertising, design and time.  The reality is the only bloggers that make money from their blogs are those in the second group.  Those in the first group aren't interested in making money and those in the third group run the risk of being labelled a splog (spam blog) or even being banned by Google and other search engines.  The bloggers that will stand the test of time will be those in group two.  Their basic blogging expenses are being met and yet blogging still remains somewhat of a hobby, an enjoyable activity to indulge in as they see fit.

Garden Gnome

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Blogging Year is Winding Down

The year is quickly coming to an end.  Looking back on the year is has been a fairly decent blogging year.  It has not been as productive as I would have liked but a lot of life events including an injury, my husband being quite sick, moving and three vacations lessened the time I had for blogging.  I started of with a bang, managing to get a new post each day for all six blogs. I was able to keep up that pace for a few months but after that I have just been trying to keep regular not necessarily daily posts.

I have a lot of plans for the upcoming year with respect to blogging.  Now that the house is settled and we are moved, I plan to set up a blogging routine.  It was impossible to set up a routine with the house on the market due to the showings.  Since moving I've been trying to blog during the mornings, freeing up my afternoons and evenings for other activities.  What I am planning on doing is scheduling a one hour period in the morning for blogging only.  During that time I plan to focus only on blogging, as in the actual writing only.  Most blog posts can be written in 15 minutes but the shorter posts like Kitchen Quick Tips and Wordless Wednesday only take about 5 minutes.  In the period of one hour I could get a lot of the short posts scheduled to go live at a later date, taking a bit of the pressure off while reducing my online time.  I also plan on scheduling a half hour period each morning to work on building traffic.  On a good day, focusing on Adgitize I can finish up in about 10 minutes which will leave me 20 minutes to utilize other traffic building methods.  I'm looking forward to the new year!  If all goes according to plan 2012 will be an excellent blogging year :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Using Facebook to Promote Your Blog

Some bloggers are using Facebook to promote their blogs.  There are three ways to do this.  First, set an RSS feed into your Facebook news feed.  Each time you update your blog and notice goes into your news feed for your friends to see.  I do this but my Facebook is set to only friends and family.  They tend to stop by my blogs anyways so for me Facebook isn't really promoting my blogs much.  The second way to promote your blog on Facebook is to create a page.  The link is at the bottom of the news feed page.  They do move the link around though so you may have to look for it.   The third way to promote your blog is advertise through them.  It does cost money but you can determine how much you want to spend daily.  You can do a full campaign with a set budget, pay for impressions (CPM) or pay for clicks (CPC) as well as target your audience.  I have not advertised with Facebook so I cannot say how effective it is.  It does appear to be less expensive than advertising though Adwords though and given Facebook has a large following it would be reasonable to speculate that a well orchestrated advertising campaign would give rather decent results.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Blog Advertising Networks Skew Traffic Stats

Shortly after I started blogging I discovered BlogExplosion where I met several very nice bloggers.  Then I joined Entrecard, Adgitize, CMFAds and Exposure Your Blog.  It didn't take long to realize that some of the bloggers from BlogExplosion also participated in the other blog advertising networks.  Herein lies the problem of blog advertising networks.

A blogger who actively used all five blog advertising networks could technically send five hits to your blog each day.  Looking at the stats it would show five unique hits, one from each of the networks but in reality it was only one visitor.  Multiply this by 50 bloggers doing this and your traffic could be inflated by 200 hits per day or more!  Your stats show those extra visits by the same person with different referral urls depending based on which advertising network they enter through.  I know a lot of bloggers combine Entrecard and Adgitize.  CMFAds is no more, BlogExplosion has been slowly dying and Exposure Your Blog hasn't gained much in popularity yet.

If you advertise in only one blog advertising network then there will be no skewing of visitors.  If you participate in more than one blog advertising network, there is no way to circumvent this from happening.  It is a catch 22 though because the more you advertise, the more exposure you get for your blog which ultimately means you need to advertise on more than one blog advertising network.  At the same time, you do need to keep in mind that with the click redundancy, the hits recorded in your stats is not a true reflection of actual traffic.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Responsibility As a Blogger

Do bloggers have a responsibility as a blogger?  The simple answer is YES!   I think when bloggers start blogging they really don't think of the responsibility that comes with blogging.  There is actually a blogger's code of ethics.  Many new bloggers don't realize this.  It does tick me off sometimes when I see paid posts that are only about making the money without any regard to the ethics at all.  They don't care whether they are blatantly lying or thinly veiling the fact that they know anything about the product they are blogging about.

As a blogger, you do have a responsibility to your readers.  If you are doing a paid post or being paid in any manner, you have the responsibility to include full disclosure as well as write the post in a truthful manner.  If you don't have experience with the product, don't write about it!  While you can basically write anything you want, you should not slander as that could get you into hot water.  You have a responsibility to not promote hatred or promote illegal activity of any kind.  In fact, the latter two are part of the TOS for all blogging platforms.  You have a responsibility to not interfere with the rights of others to enjoy the internet.  Doing so is against the AUP of all ISPs.  This means you should not use your blog to stalk, harass, attack or otherwise negatively affect another person via your blog(s).  You have a responsibility to ensure your blog remains free of malware, viruses, and harmful scripts.  If you find any of this type of thing on your blog you have a responsibility to disable the blog and fix the problem before allowing it to go live again.  If you accept advertising on your blog you have a responsibility to both your advertisers and readers.  Be sure to include a disclaimer notifying your readers that you are being paid in some fashion by displaying the ads.  You have a responsibility to your advertisers to promote your blog in such a fashion as to get them the best possible exposure for their ads without inflating traffic.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Be Very Careful What You Blog About

Crystal Cox of Oregon authors several blogs. When she decided to critically blog about The Obsidian Financial Group, they sued her and an Oregon judge ruled she is not a journalist so is not protected as a journalist would be thus she was fined $2.5 million (full story here).  Essentially the court ruled she was a blogger, not a journalist so media shield laws did not apply.  What is interesting is had the case been tried in Washington, she would have been protected.  This should be a warning to all bloggers to be careful what you blog about and how you blog about it.  It pays to know what the rules are in the province or state as well as country from whence you are blogging.

I know I have been very critical in some blog posts.  My understanding that unless it was slanderous or malicious, it was your personal opinion.  Perhaps when writing a post that has the potential to get you into hot water, a disclaimer is in order but even that may not be enough as it could be viewed as an admission of guilt.  In most cases, I think the courts would be reasonable.  If it was one rant, and providing it was clear it was your own personal opinion, I doubt there would be a problem.  However, if there were a series of posts as in the case of Ms. Cox bashing the company/person then there could easily be cause for a lawsuit.

Now, just because you are sued as a blogger doesn't mean you will lose but consider the hassle of it all.  If you bash a firm for making telemarketing calls to you even though you are on the DNC list, and the facts are that firm was calling you, well they have no case.  Just be careful about what and how you blog about certain things.  If in doubt, do a bit of research before blogging about it.  Get your facts straight.  If you go with facts combined with your opinion without bashing (eg. let the reader get the point subtly), there should never be a problem.  Just realize that freedom of the press and not revealing your sources does not apply to blogging in some jurisdictions.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Setting Up a Laptop

My husband bought a new laptop on our last visit to our vacation home so I get his old laptop to use mainly at the vacation home.  It is an older Toshiba that is a bit sluggish but still suitable for blogging and doing any online activity I need to do when there.  That will eliminate having to cart a laptop when we fly.

He removed anything he did not need on the old laptop then I set about cleaning it up a bit removing programs no longer needed.  I updated AVG then ran a full computer scan, ran a few updates and installed Google Chrome.  I really like using Camino at home on my Mac but also use Safari so was using Safari on the old laptop but Chrome is quickly becoming my browser of choice.  I bought a copy of Photoshop Elements 9 and installed it for editing my photos.  It is not as advanced as the Photoshop CS I'm used to working with but will be fine for what I need for blogging.  So far so good.  The old laptop is running smooth all be it a little slower than the new one but that's to be expected.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Free Wi-Fi

I have heard of a disturbing trend that spells the end to free Wi-Fi at US airports.  Apparently you have to create an account on the new Wi-Fi Boingo system that costs as low as $1.99 for 15 minutes to $7.95 for one 24 hour period of access or setting up a monthly subscription for $9.95.  It used to be totally free meaning the time spent waiting for delayed plans could be put to good use by blogging and doing other online activities at the airport.  I think it is ridiculous for them to charge for Wi-Fi service in the airports.  It isn't like you are there long enough to use enough bandwidth for any charge.  Even though what time package you buy through can be used at any airport using the Boingo system as well as on any airline using the system during flight, it is not worth the price for the average, vacation style traveler.  Is this a sign of what Wi-Fi hotspots are migrating to?

The truckstops all have Wi-Fi but there has been and $8.95 daily charge for quite some time.  Marinas in our area charge the same daily rate for Wi-Fi but many of the local restaurants surrounding the marinas remain free.  The going daily rate for internet access in your motel room in Las Vegas is $12.95 which is expensive but there are still places like Krispy Kreme and Starbucks that offer free Wi-Fi.

Free Wi-Fi was a courtesy businesses extended to their customers as an incentive to get them to linger a bit longer, translating into buying more of their product.  The airports don't have to worry about this though because let's face it you are captive like it or not until your plane boards.  Whether you are happy about a delay or not is not really their concern.  If you don't buy internet access of which they likely make a bit of money if you do, you will likely buy something at one of the restaurants or stores in the terminal.  The airport has no incentive to attract you to fly into or out of their terminals because that is conveniently determined by your proximity to their location.  In short, the airports have absolutely no reason to offer free Wi-Fi, much to the dismay of the regular, vacation type of traveler.  

However, according I did do a bit of research to find that even though the pay as you go Wi-Fi is becoming the norm in airports, even in major airports using Boingo, there is still free Wi-Fi available.  Our past year's experience being in five major airports does not support this as we were only able to get free Wi-Fi in one of them earlier in the year so by not that has likely changed as well.  This means that my blogging while waiting to board planes when traveling to and from our vacation home are pretty much over.  If we were delayed, we would sit in one of the airport pubs enjoying a snack or two as well as a couple of drinks while watching the free television.  We would check for free Wi-Fi but if it wasn't available I would simply wait to find a free Wi-Fi en route or until we arrived at our destination where I know I would have high speed internet.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Attracting Spam Comments

Today, I opened my email to find five spam comments.  Well, really that isn't bad if you think about it.  I have noticed that my personal blog seldom attracts spam comment, my cooking blog sometimes but my gardening, homemaking and Canadian blogs attract at least one or more spam comments every couple of days.  The bottom line is these blogs likely attract a bit more spam because the spammer is trying to sell something through the links included in their comment.  Needless to say I don't approve these comments but it is interesting to see the different angles someone trying to sell their product or services can take.  Of course there is occasionally another blogger spamming their blog but that tends to new bloggers not realizing this is frowned up.  Some of the comments are rather creative though, down right humorous at times.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Blog Traffic is Down

I can't believe it is December already!  Where did 2011 go?  The holiday season is upon us resulting in a decrease in traffic since the American Thanksgiving.  I didn't notice a decrease after the Canadian Thanksgiving (October 10) or Hallowe'en but definitely have noticed a decrease since last week.  It doesn't help that CMFAds closed the end of October either but I had not been using it since the first part of October.  This trend likely means folks are out shopping which is good for the economy or they are busy getting ready for Christmas and New Year's Eve.  At any rate traffic is down.  I'm sure it will pick up once folks have a bit more spare time.  I'm not too worried about traffic building at the moment but rather focusing on writing blog posts.