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, March 31, 2011

Editing Photos for Blogs

Almost twenty-two years ago I was fairly new to the web starting out designing my first website.  Back then it was all HTML with none of this WYSISYG web editing.  Even back then I realized what an asset photos are for websites, something that has served me well for blogging.  I use photos for most posts on four of my six blogs and one of my private blogs is very photo extensive.  Here's a few tricks I've learned with respect to using photos on blogs:

  • size - Size does matter when it comes to loading speeds.  All photos used for online purposes should be optimized for web for faster loading.
  • copyright - All photos should be marked with copyright, preferably with the url of your blog.  The notice can be discretely in the corner or it can take a more prominent location in the picture.  Some stamp their copyright notice in bright red or yellow across the centre of the picture or in a location to hinder its removal.  While this may be effective in preventing copyright infringement, it does distract from the photo.
  • presentation - Presentation does matter.  Align your photos to give them a good advantage in your post.  Wrap text around them so they become part of the post or if only using one picture, highlight it at the beginning of the post with journalling underneath.
  • caption - Unless the photo is part of the post with text wrapping so it is clear the photo is being discussed, use a caption that includes a title for the photo and date taken.  This adds interest for the reader as well.
  • journalling - Unless the photo is part of a specific meme where the picture tells the story (eg. Wordless Wednesday, Mellow Yellow, Ruby Tuesday) all photos should have some type of journalling explaining a bit about the picture. 


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Photos Presentation on Blogs

It was apparent right from my early days of blogging that one of the goals I had in mind was finding a way to share some of the pictures I take.  Pictures add a personal element to blogs on several levels.  Something interested me enough to take one or more pictures of it, showing my readers what I'm interested in without having to write it all out.  With respect to pictures, they can add a considerable amount of content so it is important how you present them. 

A couple of weeks ago I was doing a bit of blog hopping when I came across a cooking blog that I stopped to check out in further detail.  First off the colour scheme of yellow, black and white reminded me of the New York yellow cabs.  I'm not sure if that is good thing.  What really got my attention was how the pictures were presented, and not in a good way.  Each picture was staggered left, right, left something I do myself when using more than one picture on a post.   This is a scrapbooking technique to give movement to the page or in this case the post.  What the blogger had done in addition to staggering was turn each picture on a 45ยบ angle with the first oriented left and angled left then the next oriented right and angled right and so on for about ten pictures.  Well that certain did give movement as in my head constantly tilting back and forth to get a good look at the picture to the point of getting a bit of motion sickness.  It didn't help that each picture had a drop shadow and was painfully slow loading.  I doubt this result is what the blogger intended!

The debate is out as to whether or not to add some type of edging (eg. bevel) or a frame.  I personally use a bevel edge on pictures on my cooking blog but frames on my other blogs.  The reason being this adds a finished look to the picture.  However, I have also use pictures without an edge or frame.  This really is a matter of personal preference.  I think the biggest issue is, if you use a finished edge don't allow it to over power the pictures.

I seldom use more than four photos on a blog post because aside of my Wordless Wednesday posts on my personal blog, there is always a fair amount of journaling on each post.  I have used a mosaic method with and without frames for incorporating more than one photo into a final image.  Two to four pictures presented mosaic style works nicely for some of my cooking posts but more can be used if desired.  I created one framed mosaic using nine photos and another with eight photos to demonstrate how easy it was to set up mosaics for digital scrapbooking on my homemaking blog.  I used the same technique to display several of my spring flowers on my gardening blog.  It can be a nice way to get more content in one image rather than using several single photos.  Mosaics do make for a lovely photo presentation simply because they are a bit different!


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Once Again on the Comment Front

I established quite early in my blogging days of how I would deal with comments.  Yesterday a reader left a comment on one of my blogs along with an in post link to his supporting argument against my post.  Being open minded I went to read his post and lo and behold within the first paragraph of his argument was a lovely rant over online newspapers and bloggers not posting his comments.  Now this person is articulate and presents a rather interesting side to the issue BUT it is executed poorly.  What he failed to follow is the old adage don't bite the hand that feeds you.  In this case he wants his voice heard through online newspapers and blogs but has no problem ranting against both.  Here's how I see it.

  • newspapers - The custom has been that readers can send in letters to the editor.  The editor can at his or her discretion post the letter as is, edit then publish the letter or simply ignore the letter.  The editor is under no legal obligation to print any letter they receive.  They do not have to give you a reason as to why they did not publish your letter.  In fact, if they post a letter it is to their advantage.  They are either using the letter to strengthen their viewpoint or strike up a bit of controversy which it turn may increase their readership.  The letters really become fodder for the editors because they may give leads as to what to focus on or where to look for their next story.  The same rules apply to online versions of any newspaper including their blogs or comment sections below articles.  They can and will remove any comment they deem unfit without further explanation.  That is their right!
  • blogs - Blog is short form for weblog which is what blogs in their true form as conceived were.   They are a way of sharing your thoughts and sharing information in a chronological output.  There were no comments then but commenting has become a huge aspect of blogging now.  For the most part comments help to add content to your blog but they are not without problems.  The bottom line is a blogger is not legally obligated to publish any comment they receive on their blog.  In fact, as a result of recent changes to Googles algorithm some SEO experts are recommending not allowing comments on blogs.  Comments may or may not whether or not they are publish become blog fodder for the blogger.  Those bloggers not using comment moderation have every right to remove any comment they deem unfit for their blogs without further explanation.  That is their right!
Readers of both newspapers and blogs need to understand that just because you comment doesn't mean that comment is going to show up.  Publishing comments for either is not a legal obligation or right.  If you leave a comment of either to find it wasn't published perhaps the editor or blogger took offense to it in some fashion.  Realize this and move on.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Oh the Things Bloggers Do

My gosh, yesterday I spent a considerable amount of time going through my pantry looking specifically for certain logos and other information on food labels.  Now this is not as easy as it sounds given that we buy little in the way of commercially prepared anything.  Why would I do this and more importantly what does it have to do with blogging?

Like many blogging ideas this one actually started out rather innocently.  In conversation with one of my kids, I learned that the number under the Cor symbol on food products was the group of farmers for that producer.  So all farmers producing for a particular food processing plant within the company will have the same number.  It's really a way of being able to trace the product back to the factory it was processed.  Well this struck me as something many of my readers may not know so I was off to see what other informational tidbits I could glean from food labels.  In short I was on a goose chase for blog fodder.

This is the type of thing bloggers do for blog fodder.  An idea pops up and they run with it.  Sometimes the idea doesn't pan out but often there is enough to get a post or two out of it.  I'm honestly surprises me sometimes the tangents I'm capable of going off on all in the name of blogging!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Few Ways to Decrease Blog Loading Time

Yesterday I wrote about how a long loading time can affect traffic to your blog.  The unfortunate thing is as bloggers we cannot control all aspects of our blog loading time because we are dependent on blog hosts.  There are however a number of things we can do to improve loading speed.  These include:

  1. images - All images used on your blogs should be optimized for web.  In Photoshop choose file\save for web then choose jpeg and set the quality to 30 to 60 and check progressive and save.  Name your file.  This compresses the file and reduces the size for a 640 px X 480 px (my preferred uploading size) from 900 K to under 50 K.  Don't forget to optimize even the small graphics like title images and your badge.
  2. image hosting - If at all possible load images to your own blog host rather than using a third party image hosting site like Photobucket.  There are some cases where you have no choice but only use these sites if absolutely necessary.  Two things happen with third party image hosting sites.  First they can cause slow loading times for those images.  The second problem is with free accounts you are only allowed so many hits per month.  Once you hit the maximum your images are turned off resulting in an ugly 'maximum exceeded' graphic.
  3. widgets - The general tendency for some bloggers seems to be filling their blog with every widget under the sun.  The problem with widgets is you rely on their host to load the widget so any time you do that you run the risk of loading issues.  The second problem is one widget script may cause conflicts with other scripts on your blog.  When it comes to widgets the mantra should be less is more.  Only use those widgets that are going to add value to your blog (eg. blog advertising networks, LinkWithin) or widgets that are part of blogging networks (eg. BlogUp, BlogFrog).  Even these should be kept to a minimum.  Avoid those widgets that are only fillers (eg. country visited from, blog followers, current weather) as they can slow down your blog loading and most readers aren't interested in them anyway.  Besides they take up valuable blog real estate that would be better used in other ways.
  4. advertising - Many bloggers give the impression that when it comes to displaying advertising, the more the merrier.  This really is the wrong approach.  Too many advertisements from or several advertisements from different sources can really slow down a blog's loading time.  Again you are dependent on third party script so if they are having problems or their servers busy your blog loading time will be affected.  As with all third party scripts any advertising script can cause conflicts with other scripts as well.  It is better and more effective to use a maximum of three different advertisement sources.
  5. autoplay anything - Autoplay music, videos and slideshows can really affect a blog's loading time.  These are all elements that should not appear on your blog for any reason.
  6. number of posts - Reducing the number of posts on your blog's landing page can reduce blog loading time.  Instead of a whole week's worth of posts having to load reduce it to a couple of posts just to peak the reader's interest and use LinkWithin that will give them a reason to check your blog out. 


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blog Loading Speed

A couple of days ago I came across a blog post that said Google was going to start penalizing slower loading blogs.  Even if they do make it official by using loading speed as part of their algorithm, the fact is slow loading blogs are already penalized in search results.  This applies to all search engines and not only that slow loading blogs are penalized by members of any blogging network you may belong to.  Let's face it, I have crappy satellite internet service which means from time to time I get FAPed.  It is nowhere as fast a high speed broadband which means slow loading blogs can take 5 minutes or more to load.  Now you might have the best blog around but I am not going to wait that long for it to load.  The same is true of anyone clicking on your link that appears in a search engine result.  It it doesn't load up reasonably fast they go back and click on one that does load.  There, you have just lost a reader and potential subscriber. 


Friday, March 25, 2011

I've Come to the Realization I Do Know What I'm Doing

My gosh it seems like only yesterday that I was a wet behind the ear noobie blogger.  In many respects that is still how I see myself.  I started blogging almost 5 years ago today, actually my oldest blog will be 5 years old on the 25th of April.  In that 5 years I went from knowing nothing about blogging to gradually adding blogs to where I now author six blogs, three of which are updated daily.  I went from knowing nothing about Photoshop to using it on a daily basis.  Blog design and SEO were foreign concepts that I now flit around with easily.  Over the five years I have become comfortable in my skin as a blogger.  I know what I'm doing, how to execute it best and yet I feel like I am still learning and growing as a blogger.  Perhaps that is best to keep me on my toes without getting to comfortable in my blogging knowledge so as to not embrace change.  If anywhere that change is a constant it is in the blogosphere :)


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pay Attention to the Warnings

Right from the time I started blogging almost 5 years ago I got involved with blog hopping, meaning I visit a lot of blogs on a daily basis.  There are a multitude of ways to discover new blogs with the simplest being finding a blog then spring boarding from there by clicking a link to another blog that looks interesting.  One thing I have noticed is some bloggers act like children.  I'm not kidding!  Considering that most bloggers are over the age of 13 and the majority of those blogger over the age of 18 (aka adults) this is rather discerning.  All you need to do is read some of their blog posts or better yet read their posts in forums.

Parents will warn a child to not touch the stove because it is hot and may burn them.  Most children will listen to that warning and won't get burnt.  Some will touch the stove, find it is hot then will be more prone to listen to their parent the next time they are warned not to do something.  Others simply do not learn their lesson so they keep getting burned.  This analogy applies quite nicely to the tug-of-war between bloggers and Google.

Google clearly spells out certain warnings in its Webmaster Guidelines.  Whether a blogger thinks of him or herself as a webmaster, they are so these very same rules apply as well.  Some bloggers thumb their nose at these rules especially the link rules then wonder why their Page Rank suffers.  Other bloggers don't care or at least appear not to care that Google does not paid posts and duplicate content yet can't figure out why Google penalizes them for using both.  Google doesn't care about intent either.  So even though your intent is to build a community of followers through your blog, Google says bull.  What it sees is you punching a nice fat hole in your Page Rank and rewards you with lower PR.  SEO expert (aka those who really know what they are doing and are paid to do it) have been sounding the warnings over how comments are handles, links and content. 

Last year Matt Cutts who work's in Google's Search Quality group and the very person responsible for enforcing Google's Webmaster Guidelines clearly explained how the rel=nofollow tag would affect Page Rank.  At the same time it was clearly implicated that making comments do follow by removing the nofollow tag would also have an effect on PR.  We saw quite vividly the effects of Google's recent algorithm update (Panda) and its effects on content farms.  This change affected many bloggers as well.  There are now ripplings link farms are the next topic but there are still changes to come as far as comments and content.  And yet, some bloggers fail to pay attention to these warnings!

Let's put things in perspective.  Google owns it's search engine and has rules as to what sites will be indexed for use in its search engine.  Google owes you nothing.  They do not have to index your blog and they do not have to show your blog in their search results.  If you don't like their rules and refuse to follow them they can and will peanalize you and there is not a thing you can do about it.  The bottom line is follow the rules and pay attention to the warnings otherwise like the child who fails to listen to the warning the stove is hot, you may find yourself burned by Google.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another Page Rank Update

I was doing my blog hopping for Adgitize yesterday when I came across a blog that mentioned Google had updated for the second time this month.  Well the major algorithm update that sent everyone into a tither didn't affect my blogs.  Their Page Rank remained the same.  So I mosied on over to check my Page Rank again just for the heck of it.  One of my blogs (this one) had been showing a PR NA but now shows PR 2 and my Canadian blog that was PR 0 went to PR 3.  My other blogs remained the same so while that is not exciting news it isn't bad news.

When the rumours were abound about the upcoming Google algorithm changes combined with the detailed analysis of the rel=nofollow implication with even greater implications of comments creating a drain, I had set about a bit of work well before the recent algorithm changes took effect.  Without revealing everything I've done, it looks like I might be on to something.  From what I have read, comments and all their associated problems are one key area to focus on because they can create a huge hole in your PR.  Some SEO experts are saying it is time to eliminate comments or at the very least strip comments of the links.  Comments though are only one part of the whole equation.  Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be fine tuning what I see is working.  I love getting that organic traffic and knowing that reason is because of what I've done!  The higher PR is just icing on the cake :)


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What the Heck are You Thinking?

As a blogger, I love to visit other blogs in my niche particulary cooking and gardening blogs.  There is one particular blog that for awhile I visited daily until I finally got fed up.  It has a three column layout with a white centre panel on a gawdy rusty orange background.  Ok, I can overlook the colour scheme.  What I can't overlook is the 7 minutes or more on a good day loading time.  Why is the loading time so long?  First off this blogger and I kid you not has every widget known to the blogosphere stuffed on their blog.  As if that is not bad enough the longish posts have several images including LinkWithin showing 3 graphics so the overall effect of the blog is sensory overkill.  To add good measure there is a nice, deep footer filled to the hilt with every directory possible.   And then there's the memes that go on forever.  I hadn't visited her blog in quite some time so popped over to see what she was up to.  It's the same old, same old.  Someone needs to sit this blogger down and tell her that sometimes less is more!  What the heck is she thinking?


Monday, March 21, 2011

The Urge to Tweak

Spring has sprung here and while it will be a couple of weeks before we can get outdoors to work on the yards and house, the itch to spruce things up has hit.  The itch has extended to my blogs.  What better excuse to do a bit of spring cleaning on the blogs?  This will be a good time to check for any dead links and do a bit of tweaking.  I'm tempted to do a major overhaul perhaps on this blog but that is still up for debate.  I like the clean, simple lines of this older Blogger template.  Maybe I'll check out some of the new designer templates that are similar.  We shall see.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Looking Forward to Blogger's Update

It's been about a week since Blogger announced the update that will change the appearance and feel of both the dashboard and post editor.  So far I haven't seen any changes although some have reported transient appearances of them.  I'm hoping the technology they are incorporating into the changes will decrease blog loading speeds.  That would be nice!


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Not Heeding Advice

It's funny sometimes that people are their own worst enemies.  They fail to heed advice based on facts, ignoring the potential consequences then get upset when one or more negative consequence happens as a result of their actions.  So it is with blogging.  If you don't follow the sage advice of those in the know like Matt Cutts (Google) and from other bloggers with more experience then don't be surprised when your blog has its PR penalized or worse yet banned by Google.  You may get lucky with things appearing to be all well and good, then it happens.  And it will happen!  When it does happen, look back at the words of wisdom you failed to follow...


Friday, March 18, 2011

Blog Host Troubleshooting

I play three Zynga games on Facebook - FrontierVille, CityVille and FarmVille.  Last night I tried loading CityVille only to get a message "CityVille has been upgraded, please refresh browser.".  After several attempts, I went against the number one rule when there are loading problems to make sure the problem is on your end before changing anything on your end.  I cleared the cache but the problem persisted.  Then checking the other two games I found loading issues as well so I went to Zynga's forums where I found a rather lively discussion of the current problem.  This reminded me of how I deal with any Blogger issues but because it has become a habit I don't often think about it, I just do it.

Blogger as with all websites from time to time experiences minor glitches, loading problems and sometimes but very rarely unexpected outages.  For example, uploading pictures to Blogger was a problem for a couple of hours one day.  As annoying as this is because it always tends to happen when I'm in a hurry and wanting to get a post out quickly,  I have discovered that doing a bit of troubleshooting is easier than getting upset about it.  There are two major sources for information when it comes to Blogger or other blog host problems and the same applies to blog advertising networks.  The first source is their forums where known issues are posted.  Usually the forums are on a different server so even though the site may be down the forums are still accessible.  Here you can find out what the problem is, how widespread it is and get a bit of comic relief as others chat about the problem.  Quite often someone from their support team will post something to the effect that they are aware of the problem and working on fixing it, then post updates until the problem is fixed.  The second source for troubleshooting is Twitter.  As soon as a problem occurs it's on Twitter!  I'm not kidding.  This is a good thing especially in the very rare event the site's forums are down as well.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Search Engine Rumour

A few days ago I was doing a bit of SEO reading and came across an article that said one of the best ways to get noticed by the top three search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo) is to link to them.  Apparently they will reward you with a little search results and quicker indexing if you do.  Like many bloggers I have a Google search box on all of my blogs and my blog feeds go into My Yahoo.  Whether these two measures constitutes linking to the search engines is rather doubtful.  It is linking to them but they are rather weak links, in my opinion.  What I got from this article was the same conclusion that linking to their search engine is good but linking to an actual search engine result from them is better especially if it is worked into your post.   For example, on one of my blogs I was writing about arnica cream.  I had to search myself to get all the details so what I should have done was use arnica cream as the anchor text for the actual search engine results.  I honestly do not know if this method works but as long as you don't over do it then it does seem reasonable that a bit of traffic love would come back.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blogging Persona

I have always blogged in my own persona meaning that I blog as if I were speaking not someone else.  This blogging style works best for me.  However, I have noticed that some bloggers do not blog as themselves.  Rather they blog as:

  • their pet - A surprising number of bloggers write blog posts as if they were their cat, dog, bird or any other pet they may have.  Cat bloggers seem to win hands down at this style.  While this is cute at first I think it would be hard to write this way consistently.  From a reader's perspective, this style does wear a bit thin after awhile or at least it does for me.  Besides the cat, dog or whatever is likely totally convinced that you are officially bonkers and will be dialing 911 to arrange a visit from the men in white coats for you.
  • their infant or young child - Writing through the eyes of a child can be charming but difficult to write consistently.  What is even worse is trying to convince readers it is your five year old writing the blog.  Honestly, I found one where that is the case.  So their 5 year old is taking all the pictured, doing the design and writing the content?  Each post is even signed by the kid.  Now what I don't understand is how a 5 year old got an Adsense account.  Would making your kid blog to earn money be considered child labour?  Just curious.
  • the happy, happy, joy, joy I'm so full of sunshine - I'm sorry, no one in real life is like this 100% of the time.  Readers are real people who will see through this phony writing style quicker than you can blink an eye and they will move on.  It wears thin very quickly.  It's not that readers don't want to read positive and up beat posts, it's they want to read posts that show you are human.  They want to be able to relate in some way as to what you are writing about.  Sometimes that means the world is not just one great big bundle of joy.  
  • the insufferable know-it all - There is a sub-population in the blogosphere that for whatever reason are know-it-alls.  This goes well beyond arrogance though and in fact has little to do with actual knowledge.  What drives it is the all mighty dollar in the form of paid posts and/or reviews.  One day you read theri blog and they know everything about personal injury lawyers in the US even though it is clear they have never been to the US then the next day they are recommending HVAC repairmen in Chicago followed by well saged parental advice even though they aren't parents.   They are the leading expert in any topic that anyone will give them a few pennies to blog about.   Bless their little hearts!   The blogosphere is certainly a much better place given their extensive knowledge base.
  • the enterprising entrepreneur - A large number of bloggers monetize their blogs to some degree, some more than others.  There are some bloggers that despite all evidence insist they are making a good living from their blog(s).  They tend to be the "I'm setting the world on fire and you can too" mixed with a healthy dose of "pie in the sky" type.  Their blogs are filled with ads and affiliate links.  Quality content is pretty much non-existent although they do like to show proof of payment from their affiliates.  I'm sorry but proof an affiliate paid out $2.50 is not going to convince me I can make a living doing what you're doing.  Again readers tire very quickly of this persona.  It takes all of about a week to realize you aren't going to get rich blogging. 


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Announced Changes for Blogger

According to Blogger Buzz there a big changes underway for Blogger's user interface.  The changes will affect both the function and appearance of the dashboard and post editor.  The look is very streamlined with a bright, airy feel to it.  Gone are the familiar royal blue and beige tones.  In its place is a sleek pale grey and white colour scheme.  The Blogger orange still appears as an accent.  The editor is set up as a WYSIWYG white centre page on a pale grey background.  The preview function remains so you can see what the post actually will look like on your blog prior to publishing.  All of the post details (eg. labels, location, post options, and etc. have been moved to the top of the page in the post editor toolbar.  The tabs (eg. comments, settings and etc.) no longer appear and while nothing was said about them these functions are likely part of the expandable post editor toolbar.  Along with the design change comes added function with the inclusion of Google Web Toolkit (GWT) into the interface. 

So far I like what I see with the new design and function.  Some have already reported that the changes have already taken effect for them but this appears to be transient with going to the new design then reverting back to the old.  Blogger has indicated to expect more changes from this throughout 2011 so this should be a rather exciting year for those bloggers using the Blogger platform.  Here is a video clip of some of the current features with a peak preview of the new look.




Monday, March 14, 2011

Hit By the Blogging Bug

I've been laid up since February 18, with two of those weeks spent on crutches.  Needless to say I found myself with a lot of free time for blogging yet I didn't feel like writing.  I am definitely in some type of funk.  The only glimmer of hope that I'm coming out of blogger's block is the other day when I was playing Frontierville and Cityville on Facebook, it dawned on me this would be excellent fodder for a new blog.  As if I need to start another blog when I'm barely keeping up with the six I have now not to mention the two private blogs I write.  Isn't that just the way though?


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Traffic Building

One of the primary goals after setting up a blog and creating regular traffic for it is building traffic.  Ideally the traffic will be organic, meaning readers will find your blog through a search engine or via advertising.  Organic traffic may or may not be geo-targeted but in some cases geo-targeting may be quite desirable.  That means your traffic arrives at your blog because your have targeted your advertising in such a fashion to attract readers from one particular continent, country or even city.  There are many, many, many ways to build traffic for blogs.  Some are more effective than others and each have their own unique pros and cons.  Some methods may or may not be used with affiliate programs such as Adsense.  Here are a few that I've found but I'm sure there are a lot more:

  • advertising - banner, badges, text links, offline resources (newspapers, magazines, and etc.)
  • purchased traffic -  guarantees a certain number of hits to your blog for a set price
  • blog networks - a wide range here
  • link exchanges - formal or informal (stay away from Mr. Linky and similar link farms)
  • blog rolls - an organized form of directory/link exchange hybrid
  • blog hops - this is a newer, more active form of blog rolls but with better traffic, a hybrid between memes and blog rolls
  • blog directories - manually submit to as many blog directories as possible for exposure and traffic
  • memes - participating in a weekly established meme can bring traffic
  • social networking - Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Digg, Stumbleupon
  • word of mouth - friends, family, and etc.
  • traffic exchanges - directly with blogs not using Adsense, indirectly (advertising only) with blogs using Adsense
  • banner exchanges - increases exposure which may help increase traffic (stay away from banner farms)
  • blog review sites - review a blog and one or more members will review yours in return
  • blog directories - submission can improve your blog traffic
  • pinging - very much under rated and poorly used by most bloggers but very effective at building traffic
  • SEO optimization - if you want search engine traffic then this is a must!
  • signature files (sig) - add a tag line with your blog url in all your email
  • forum/group participation - may or may not increase traffic but will help with exposure
  • commenting - leaving comments that include your url on other blogs and websites can result in nice traffic


Saturday, March 12, 2011

In The News

It didn't take me long to realize that current events could provide rather good blog fodder for a couple of my blogs.  Only certain types of blogs lend themselves well to this type of blog fodder with the most apparent one being a personal blog where any topic is fair game.  I also find that current events come in handy on my Canadian blog where I can blog about current Canadian events or other topics of interest in the news.  Current events are not as useful to certain niche blogs like food or gardening blogs but from time to time there may be a bit of useful blog fodder like the Ontario pesticide ban that was a perfect topic for my gardening blog.  Using current events as blog fodder can be a bit tricky at times.  The reason being is the news breaks, interest peaks then that news is quickly replaced by the next breaking news.  So as blog fodder current events can be very transient.  The second reason is certain current events (eg. OJ Simpson, Tiger Woods, Princess Di, Charlie Sheen, 9/11 and etc.) are covered so extensively over an extended period of time the general public becomes saturated and loses interest.  As a result blogging about these types of current events may get a lot less traffic than expected.  Some current events though have staying power.  Those are the ones that will bring good, consistent traffic to your blog.  The problem is hitting one of these really is a fluke.

One good example of this is the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) that went into effect July 1, 2010 in Ontario and Quebec.  The whole issue was and continues to be a hot bed.  I made a couple of posts on my personal and Canadian blogs.  That single topic continues to bring in regular daily traffic.  Still it was a fluke that it happened that way.  The bottom line is if you use current events as blog fodder don't expect miracles but enjoy the extra traffic if and when you hit that fluke topic that keeps readers coming to your blog.


Friday, March 11, 2011

The Charlie Sheen Effect

You would have to be a hermit with no access to media to not have heard of Charlie Sheen and his antics.  When the producers of Two and a Half Men, Charlie's hit sitcom, cancelled the remainder of the season due to his recent legal and personal problems, Charlie went into over drive mode.  His media blitz certain got him the attention he wanted but now it is getting rather old and boring.  The end result is that despite his media blitz, he has not gained what he wanted.  So, what does this have to do with blogging?  Well, yesterday morning I opened an email that said "Don't Charlie Sheen Your SEO".  In essence using any black hat method including link exchanges will result in the Charlie Sheen Effect for your blog.  In the short term you may gain traffic and even attention but in the long run you end up alienating readers and the powers that be, in this case the search engines in particular Google.  In the end your blog will end up with the same results Charlie has achieved - a big, fat nothing.  Except, you won't be living high on the hog with ample money in a huge mansion like Charlie does, you will just have a big, fat nothing blog with no traffic or earning potential.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lists - The Under Used Post Format

Quite some time ago in searching for ways to improve my blogs I came across an article stressing the importance of using lists in blog posts.  Most bloggers use lists in their side bar or in memes.  These take the form of link lists.  However, many bloggers do not use non-link lists as part of their blog post.  A non-link list is just that.  It is a way of breaking the post into sections or points for easier reading so readers like this format.  Equally important is search engines like this format.  In many ways a listed post is easier to write as well.  Here are a few examples of lists:

Bulleted:

  • point one
  • point two
  • point three
Numbered:
  1. point one
  2. point two
  3. point three
 Nested Bulleted:
  • point one
    • point one expanded
    • point one expanded
  • point two
    • point two expanded
  • point three
    • point three expanded
Nested Numbered:
  1. point one
    1. point one expanded
    2. point one expanded
  2. point two
    1. point two expanded
  3. point three
    1. point three expanded
]


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How to Handle Copyright Infringement

Last night I received an email from a distraught blogger who was the victim of copyright infringement asking if the copyright page on one of my blogs was effective.  There are two aspects to copyright.  First establish your copyright and second protect it.  How?

  • establish copyright - Technically copyright is established the moment you write your post.  It is yours, you're intellectual property.  In the event of copyright infringement you may want to strengthen your proof of copyright.  Go to MyFreeCopyright.com and sign your blog RSS feed up.  Each time you post, a time stamped registered copy of your post will be emailed to you.  You now have registered proof of when your post was made.
  • mark your work - At the very least your blog as a whole should be marked with your copyright and/or a brief blurb to the effect no content can be used without your permission.  Place the copyright notice on the landing page of your blog.  You can add an additional copyright policy page and/or copyright mark on each post.
  • prevention -  You cannot stop copyright infringement online but you can deter it.  Add the no right click script to your blog.  This disables the cut & paste via right click.  This tactic really only keeps the honest folk honest because there are ways around it but the person lifting your content has to use extra steps to do so.  Unless you are using some type of traffic building site that uses iframes (eg. BlogExplosion) place the script to prevent using your blog in frames.
  • check regularly for copyright infringement - Copyright infringement often happens without your knowledge.  Use Copyscape to check for where your content may be posted without your permission.  Check your stats as well to reveal where content may be posted without your permission.
If you find your content has been used without your permission there are several ways of dealing with the situation:
  • contact the person - Contact the person who took your content.  Ask them to cease and desist as well as issue a take-down notice under the DMCA.  Chances are this is all you will need to do as most people don't want the hassle of complaints that they have stolen someone's content.
  • if your content is not removed:
    •  complain to their blog host - Blog hosts take a very dim view on copyright infringement so are very quick to act.  They will notify their user to remove your content and they may even shut down the blog.  
    • complain to their ISP - Aside of a blog host the person needs an ISP.  Copyright infringement is against the AUP and TOS of most ISPs. Use your stats logs to determine the offender's ISP then send them a letter of complaint.  Most content thieves will remove the content in question rather than risk having to find a new ISP.
    • check for any advertising on the blog - Advertisers especially Adsense have strict rules against using copyright content without permission of the copyright holder.  Click on the bar that says the name of the advertiser (eg. Ads by Google).  That will take you to a form where you can file a complaint against the blog or site that has your unauthorized content displayed.  Click on copyright infringement.  Adsense will take it from there and chances are excellent their Adsense account will be history.
    • report the blog/site to Google - Google's recent algorithm change was directed at content farms.  If the blog or site has taken your content without your permission chances are very good they have done the same with other content.  Google can easily check to see which is the original content and act accordingly.  A complaint to Google can result in the blog or site being penalized by reduced Page Rank or being banned by Google.  Both of these actions dramatically reduces traffic to the blog or site reducing any earning potention that might have been.
    • be persistent - Complain, complain, complain!

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Online Distractions

This past couple of weeks of being out of commission with my leg has made me realize exactly how easy it is to get distracted by online content in general.  I honestly couldn't do much so had no excuse not to blog except I kept going off on online tangents. I didn't help that I had suddenly developed blogger's block as well.   At first it started out innocently enough with doing a few searches to clarify points I wanted to blog about then moved along to searching for blog fodder.  The searches turn to surfing then I decided to get Facebook going.  That led to finding a few friends and family.  And then it happened...I discovered games on Facebook.  Talk about the ultimate distraction from blogging!

Garden Gnome
©2009-2011


Monday, March 7, 2011

Continued Success With Adgitize

My gosh how time flies!  It does not seem possible that I've been with Adgitize for over two years but it's true.  I joined Adgitize in mid-December of 2008 as a publisher.   A few months later I started advertising my cooking blog with them and occasionally my gardening blog.  The rest has been history.  A one month ad costs me $14 per month.  With active participation I'm averaging a payout of $21 per month so a net of $7 which really is not bad.  In addition to that I'm getting nice, consistent daily traffic from Adgitize so for me it is a win, win all the way around!


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Don't Be Tempted to Use Autogenerated Content

I've been blogging almost five years now.  Well in about 6 weeks time my oldest blog will be five years.  I thought I had seen a lot of things when it comes to blogging but yesterday while doing a bit of searching I stumbled upon an autoblogging site.  What the heck is autoblogging?  I had never heard of it before so just had to check it out.

Apparently some enterprising people have figured out that they can offer a service (onsite or program) that uses specific terms you give them for your blog to autogenerate content then post it on a regular basis to your blog.  They charge for the service but once set up the blog basically looks after itself courtesy of the autogenerate content site or program.  The blogger need do nothing more other than "watch the dollars roll in".  Sounds good, doesn't it?

Well it isn't! The problem with this type of thing is the autogenerated content is scrapped (aka copyright infringement) from honest, hard working bloggers who blog the good old fashioned way, one post at a time with original content.  The one site I checked out even went so far as to say Google hates autoblogs but their program is so good Google likes them even though by their own admission it is autogenerated content.  Sorry, but the bottom line is if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck!  The bottom line is and I can't stress this enough Google hates autoblogs and autogenerated content.  This is precisely one of the things Google is trying to penalize with their recent algorithm change.  Do not for one smidgen of a minute be tempted to fall for using one of these sites or programs.  Otherwise you may find your blog banned from Google and your Adsense account closed.  This is considered a black hat method by Google that could get you into more trouble than it's worth. 


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Be Careful What Widgets You Use

I was doing a bit of digging around on a Blogger issue then got sidetracked reading some of the other rather interesting information in the help files.  Be very, very careful about what widgets you use on your blog.    Some of those cute widgets might not be as cute as you think!  There are reports of malicious redirects via widgets as well as malware.   As with any third party script be sure you trust the source before adding a widget to your blog.  If you are using the Blogger platform for blogging take a few minutes to browse through the help forum.  Some of the threads are real eye openers!


Friday, March 4, 2011

The Page Rank Frenzy

Google's algorithm change was announce the last week of February and already it is the buzz across the blogosphere.  Even though the greatest impact was and still will be felt amongst the content farms, some bloggers have seen their Page Rank decrease.    Well, every one is in a blogging tizzy about PR so I might as well follow suit. 

Too many bloggers are putting too much emphasis on PR rather than blogging.  I cannot believe what a big deal this is for some.  If you are doing everything right and your blog is still showing in Google search results, then relax and blog.  Forget about PR.  If your content is good, you will get noticed by search engines.  Follow the rules for webmasters as set by Google and you shouldn't have any problems.  In perspective, the algorithm change was meant to give lower ratings to content farms not bloggers who are simply doing their own thing.  Just make sure the content is original and if you use something like a video from YouTube write a meaningful commentary on it.  In this case content really is king so make it count.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Blog Hosting Glitches

I just love sitting down to write a blog post to find I can't get onto my Blogger dashboard.  It just throws my train of thought off! At any rate every blog host is going to have some type of glitch from time to time.  I think that is to be expected given that computers are involved.  If you think about all the behind the scenes programming that goes on to make the blogging platforms easy to use even for those who don't know HTML, something is bound to go wrong from time to time.  When I started my first website years ago and was just learning HTML there were many, many times I couldn't get something to work simply because I had written the closing tag incorrectly or omitted it entirely.  It was usually a simple, easy to fix problem but still a problem none the less.  At any rate the glitch was short lived so now I have to remember what it was I was going to blog about.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Technorati Affected By Google's New Algorithm

According to WebProNews, Google's updated algorithm last week designed to go after content farms by reducing Page Rank for sites containing low quality content.  The result of this change is a lot of casualties that are not content farms including Technorati having their PR reduced resulting a drop in traffic from the search engine.  Up to this point Technorati ranking was faily important in the blogosphere.  I checked their PR which is an 8 but that may change once the algorithm is applied to other countries.  Time will tell.  It may be something to keep an eye on just in case.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Still Have Blogger's Block

My gosh here I have all this time on my hands with being laid up yet seem to have developed a hefty case of blogger's block.  Not only that it is hard to use the keyboard with one leg elevated sitting sideways at my desk.  On the bright side I have managed to attract some attention from anonymous readers making me second guess whether I should continue to allow anonymous comments.  Several of them were comment spam with one of the most interest a bunch of urls and some html to unlock cell phones.  I even had one from an anonymous reader who thought they could say whatever they wanted about the post which wasn't very nice.  So the marking as spam on Blogger has been getting extra use as is my delete button.  Thank goodness for comment moderation!