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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Monday, December 31, 2012

A Look Back at Blogging in 2012

Oh wow!  If someone had told me when I started blogging back in 2006 that I would still be at it in 2012, I would have told them they were nuts.  Blogging for me really started as a means of self expression.  The fact that it evolved into make a little money in many ways still doesn't mean a lot to me.  It is and continues to be about self expression and sharing my experiences with others.

For me, 2012 was a bad blogging year.  Early in 2012 the last of best of the blog advertising networks folded.  I was so used to writing an article for each blog (I have six blogs) on a daily basis that even that news was unsettling.  Then I had a nasty slip and fall, was still trying to adjust to our new home, spending time at our vacation home (15 weeks total), volunteering and really just life in general plus my husband was hospitalized the end of August with an unknown gastrointestinal disorder for five days.  The exclusive advertising network my one blog had been with for four years not really folded but changed hands meaning I can now put other advertising on that blog.  I guess that's a good thing and I can always add Adsense back onto it but that's something for the new year.  I was a very active participant on a couple of Yahoo groups that ended up bringing me a bit of blog traffic.  Back in October while at our vacation home after a group upset (I wasn't actively involved but man can they ever get nasty), I went into lurk mode on the groups.  I'm not sure whether not being active on the groups has cost me blog traffic and I don't really care as it has given me a bit more peace of mind.   Like, the whole year was in many ways a blogging nightmare.

I was disoriented, dealing with way too much and when I did have time to write, I really didn't feel like it.  I started several blog posts for my personal blog as drafts but when I went to re-read them the anger and frustration was clearly showing through so I never did post them.  I had not enough blog fodder for one of my blogs, way too much blog fodder for another and then there's the blog that likely doesn't even know what blog fodder is.  Any resemblance of a blogging routine went out the window and the more I didn't blot the easier it got to not blog, if that make sense.

They say that in a marriage, there is the seven year itch.  If you make it past the seven years without being unfaithful, the chances are considerably better the marriage will last.  My husband are past the 35 year mark which really has nothing to do with blogging other than this year he was a huge distraction but in a good way.  I think blogging is almost like a marriage or maybe more like a kid or having a pet or, I'm not really sure.  Blogging is part of me.  I want my feelings, my ideas and my creativity out there.  It is my form of self expression.  Believe me blogging is a lot easier than trying to dance with two left feet or sing with a tone deaf ear.

As 2012 draws to a close, I know I'm not happy with how my blogging was but I think I have learned something.  May 2013 bring a better blogging year :)


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Discussing the Forbidden

As most of you know, I author six blogs.  Five of those six blogs run Adsense who is rather particular about what you can and can't blog about.  In particular, you cannot promote alcohol or alcoholic products with Adsense.  Now, that it just a bit difficult when you author a cooking blog where alcohol is used from time to time in recipes.  I don't use it a lot and in fact over the course of almost seven years of that blog, there are likely three or four posts that even mention it.  However, under Adsense rules if taken to the letter, these recipes would not be allowed because they do in fact promote the use of alcohol.  I'm sure Adsense would make an exception but it could still be a problem if their bots caught any discussion of alcohol before a human did.

I would like to know where the line is.  It isn't like cooking with alcohol is promoting under age or illegal use of alcohol.  It isn't like I'm telling anyone how to make alcohol but on a cooking blog, making homemade wine or beer, both of which are quite legal is still against Adsense rules or at least the way I interpret the rules.  And another thing, why is it Google who owns Adsense can set these rules over the legitimate discussion of the legal use of alcoholic products yet turn around and force custom ads at me promoting the use of alcohol?  If they don't want Adsense members promoting alcohol then they shouldn't be forcing those ads on us either!

There are a few other taboos when using Adsense.  The bottom line is, if you use Adsense you can't discuss the taboos BUT make no never mind, Google can definitely feed ads with that type of content to you via your browsing history BECAUSE they set tracking cookies.  Well they used to be able to do that until I got smart and set up measures to prevent that.  At any rate, it does appear to be a double standard when members can't do something but the company itself can do the same thing if not worse ad nauseum!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Backlinking Dilemna

My gosh, now you have spammers asking not to add a backlink while others ask for a backlink.  What is a poor blogger to do?  When I started blogging in 2006, giving a link to another blogger's blog was just a friendly thing to do.  A couple of years later give or take, Google announced that linking to a blog that had a lower PR than your's would help the lower ranking blog while hurting yours. All of a sudden, a lot of blogs started removing links in their sidebar.  Then Google announced that linking to a blog or site that perhaps had a bit of bad SEO would affect your blog so more backlinks dried up.  Last year it was to the point many bloggers were scared to share any links but then Blogger added the 'no follow' tag but Google said it was following anyway then  announced about mid-year that they were once again honouring the tag.  I don't use the 'no follow' tag but I do keep any links from my blogs to other sites at a bare minimum.  Then Google announced that is say Joe Blow linked to your site 'without your permission' and his site was blackhat or porno, you would get penalized.  Not that really is unfair because how can you possibly control who links to you?  Now, Google has just announced that they will no longer penalize for these types of backlinks.

The bottom line is, if you author a good blog, you will at some point backlink to another blog or website.  If you have a great blog you will attract the attention of others who may put a link on their website or blog leading to yours and really, quite frankly you can't do much about this.  However, being penalized by Google was beyond being fair.  How could Google ever justify penalizing a blogger who had no control over the backlink?  I don't know and it never made sense to me but apparently their algorithm, their rules.



Friday, December 28, 2012

A New Form of Blog Spam

Yesterday, I opened my email to find this:

Ref: :  http://theblogreport2.blogspot.in/
Hi
My name is Ryan Cook and I represent  http://www.spammed site It has come to our attention that your site may be linking to our own in a manner which we believe may be mutually harmful in SEO terms. For this reason, I would be very grateful if you would please remove all links to this site at your earliest convenience, letting me know that you have done so.
It may be that a third party has maliciously or abusively added our details at some point in the past, and I apologise for inconveniencing you in this way. However, as my email address shows, I represent  http://www.spammed site  directly and it is our express wish that all such links be removed as soon as possible. If you represent any affiliate websites which are also linking to us in this way, would you also be so kind as to remove our details from those sites, also?I am really very grateful for your cooperation in this matter.
Many thanksRyan Cookhttp://www.spammed site

Now, my blog url is http://theblogreport2.blogspot.com but Blogger is now adding country specific tags instead of the .com to circumvent country specific censorship so that part isn't a problem.  However, the email says it is from Ryan Cook and yet the short headers say it is from Jess White.  The email address is a yahoo address rather than the actual contact email address of the spammed site.  I just had to check it out.  The originating IP is 127.0.0.1 meaning the spammer used a proxy to mask the actual IP.  The spammed site appears three times in the email something that is a red flag to begin with.  A legitimate email from the spammed site would not need to use two different names or hide their IP nor would it have to give a link to their site three times.  This is a novel spoof to gain traffic to the spammed site although there is no real gain for the spammer.  So the spammer is either a disgruntled employee of the spammed site or someone trying to discredit the spammed site via a spam campaign.  

This type of spoof is becoming increasingly popular.  It is important to not respond by a knee jerk reaction.  If is remotely looks a bit suspicious, chances are good it is not legit.  Do not reply in any fashion to the email.  You can notify the spammed site via their actual contact information providing the complete headers and content of the spoof email but this type of thing is very difficult to stop.  However, they may have resources to help track the origin of the spoof and at least they would be aware of the spoof campaign that could end up negatively affecting them.  In this case, I moved the message to my 'somewhat suspicious' email folder and blogged about it.  No further action is necessary unless it persists.


Monday, December 10, 2012

I'm So Flattered!

This morning, in the wee hours of the morning because I couldn't sleep and didn't want to disturb my husband who was sleeping peacefully, I decided to do a bit of online work.  I checked my Yahoo mail first.  Oh my!  I am beyond flattered!  Not only did Oprah email me but Beyonce and Brittany Spears emailed as well.  Now I knew my blogs were getting a bit of attention, but really this is a bit surprising.  Quite frankly, I was a bit more impressed over the Ontario government reading my blogs because apparently I caught their attention but Oprah, Brittany Spears and Beyonce?  Like I should really be impressed!  Can't spammers get a bit more creative?  Honestly, how stupid do they think folks are?  Besides, if Oprah wants to get a hold of me, she has my direct line so no need to email .


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Be Careful When Doing Reviews

Oh my!  I do a lot of online reviews mainly on Epinion but also on my blogs.  Now Epinion pays me but I get no compensation from reviews on my blogs.  My opinion is just that, my opinion based on my experience with the product, restaurant or service.  So when I'm blogging about it, it's not like I take a different approach.  I'm sorry, but if we go into a restaurant and the service was cruddy, I have no problem talking about it on my blogs.  Well, apparently Jane Perez wrote a review on Yelp and Angie's List about her negative experience with a home contractor, Dietz Development.  He sued for $750,000 claiming he lost $300,000 because of her reviews.  A Virginia judge ordered Jane Perez to change her reviews because she actually accused them of stealing jewellery and they were the only ones with the key to her home when the jewellery went missing.  Now this is problematic for bloggers as the judge has already set the precedence.  However, he really only ordered her to change the part about the missing jewellery but she was able to keep her opinions in tack.  In her case, she could have omitted the fact of the missing jewellery or included it as suspicion rather than fact.  Seriously, how difficult would it have been to say in the review, they were in my home, had a key to my home and items went missing then letting the reader decide as to whether someone from the contractor's crew took the

As a blogger, I feel it is my right to speak my mind PROVIDING that I am not making false accusations, making libellous statements, resorting to name calling, promoting hatred or condoning illegal acts.   I'm usually fairly classy about any review to begin with because it can never be 100% good or 100% bad so I like to point out both the positives and negatives.  I also know I would not make an accusation unless I could prove it 100% so even if I had a strong suspicion that a contractor stole something from my home, unless charges were laid by the police and the firm found guilty, and likely not even then, I still would omit that from my review.

Bloggers do have to realize they have a great deal with respect to freedom of speech but they should not abuse this right.  As long as they are blogging under the TOS and AUP of their blog host provider and ISP, they really are free to discuss pretty much everything under the sun.  At the same time, bloggers do have to realize they can be held accountable for their words.  They can be sued and while in most cases it won't get far, it is just a hassle to go through.  Anything that can get you sued is more than likely against the TOS of your blogging platform as well.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Blogger Spammer

Blogger, owned by Google, offers an amazing free blog hosting platform.  Unfortunately, by its very nature it has also become a comment spammer paradise.  What happens is the comment spammer sets up a free account.  The tell tale sign they are a comment spammer is there is only a profile, no picture or information and very seldom a blog, just a bare minimum profile.  If there is a blog, it is more of a splog (spam blog).  The next tell tale sign is their date of becoming a member on Blogger.  Usually it is only a few days before the spamming starts but can be within the month and quite often they start with a test message.  If their test message appears, a bombardment of spam messages will follow and continue depending on how many complaints before Blogger pulls their plug.  If a blog within the Blogger system displays the blog hopping bar, it makes it more susceptible to comment spam from those joining Blogger for that purpose.  If the blogger hasn't set their comments to moderation, they can quickly find a number of comment spam on their blog.

There really isn't a lot you can do about this situation if you use Blogger.  It is going to happen from time to time because even Blogger itself does not know if someone is going to be a comment spammer when they sign up for the services.  The best course of action is to always have comments set to moderation.  That way you can nip any comment spam in the bud before your readers have to see it.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Online Privacy

The whole concept of privacy is a myth, even in our own homes.  Telephone lines can be bugged and at one time it was possible to listen in on conversations on cell phones.  If your mail is delivered to your home, it is possible for some of it to go missing and while it is illegal to tamper with mail, it doesn't stop mail theft from happening.  If you have curbside waste collection and put anything of a personal nature (eg. empty prescription bottles, personal papers, etc) in the garbage.  Even items like clothing tags, food wrappers, magazines, and etc. provide information about your lifestyle.   Someone looking for information on you only needs to take your garbage.  If someone really wants information on you, they can gain a fair amount just from surveillance of your residence.  Taking garbage and house/property surveillance is most common if the person is being investigated for a crime or lawsuits usually involving injury.  In public, privacy is pretty much non-existent thanks to security, traffic, digital and cell phone cameras.  Now the biggest myth with respect to privacy is online privacy.

The nature of the internet is a connection does not go simply from your house to the site you are browsing (eg. point A to point B).  Rather it goes through a series of hops that in some cases can be quite long.  So to get to that particular site, the connection may go through 20 different points.  As the connection goes through a point it leaves a footprint that can be traced.  It is possible to use a traceroute to see all of these points using the full email headers or site IP.  Circumventing this is partially possible by using an anonymizing service (online or software) but there will still be a footprint from your IP to the anonymous service that routes you through various proxy servers.  So, if for some reason your IP log was checked it would show you connected to an anonymous server or connected directly to a proxy service.  Some proxy servers are more secure than others.  The most secure proxy servers dump their logs daily or more often.  Others keep the logs for a week or more and some only mask your IP keeping it from the site you are visiting but they maintain a log of your visit and what site you went to using their service.  That is only one way you are being tracked through your browsing history.

Cookies are little pieces of text put onto your computer by various sites.  They may or may not collect personal information that they may share with others specifically advertisers and/or their affiliates.  This allows advertisers to serve ads to you while you are browsing tailored to your interests but also based on your previous browsing history.  To circumvent this, you can turn cookies off completely but then some sites won't work.  A better solution is to clean out your cookies keeping only those necessary ones (eg. Blogger cookies for using your Blogger account).  Run a scan to show any tracking cookies and remove them as well.  Then in settings, toggle to keep local data only until the browser is closed (Google Chrome/advanced settings) or accept only cookies from the site visited (Safari) and in both block third party cookies and site data.  Next, in Google Chrome/advanced settings toggle off pop-ups and toggle location to disallow sites from tracking your physical location.  Save your settings and close your browser then re-open it.  If don't properly you should notice advertising that is not based on your interests.  Your generic location may still be shown but it is really the location of the closest hub of your ISP so not your physical location.  So if your ISP is in Ontario, you will still see ads targeted to Ontario but not those targeted to where you actually live.  Location services, on the other hand is quite different and in many respects if it points directly to your residence, an invasion of privacy.

Location services uses crowd-sourced WiFi hotspot locations to determine your approximate location BUT can actually pinpoint your current physical location.  That is rather scary!  I had the location service toggled on, on my iPad to see what it would do.  I went to Google Earth and within seconds there was a marker directly over our house on the map.  I immediately turned off location services.  Location services can be turned on for specific sites if you are using your mobile device or laptop as a GPS when traveling but be aware, it can give your current location which can be dangerous in the hands of someone wishing to do harm.

From a blogging perspective, the take-home message is persistent or obnoxious or threatening comment spammer can be traced a lot easier than they think even if they comment under Anonymous.  Go into your stats log and pinpoint the comment based on the time it was made combined with the title of the post.  Copy that information and forward it to your blog hosting site who will do the rest of the work for you.  This can be done even if you have comments set to moderation that were rejected for publication.  Only do this for the persistent, pain in the butt comment spam although you could if desired do it for almost all comment spam.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Cyber Trolls

Cyber trolls are online bullies who like to taunt others, goading them into fights while causing chaos all under the cloak of anonymity.  They can be down right vicious to the point of spilling over into stalking and real life threats.  If you have your blog comments moderated, a cyber troll stands no chance because their comments are not automatically posted so they have no idea if you even saw them and you basically have removed any attention they would have got if the comment had been posted.  Once again, this is another reason for comment moderation.

As a victim of online bullying and stalking, I turned to blogging so in reality had it not been for that experience none of my blogs would exist.  However, that experience taught me to always keep comments moderated and if they even hint at being spam or a bullying attempt to put them in the trash where the belong and ignore.  I also keep a suspicious folder so if I get someone who is persistent their comments along with their IP goes in that folder.  If it persists, I have evidence to make a few behind the scenes complaints.

First and foremost, these cyber bullies aka trolls want a reaction.  They are mean, vindictive people living on hatred with their only goal of inflicting pain so the rule is 'never let them get to you'.  If you say nothing on your blog and their comment doesn't get posted, they are left wondering if you even saw it in the first place so they will escalate but if each comment goes into the trash or flagged whatever way you want to deal with it, without being posted and without anything being said on your blog, they quickly tire of the game because they aren't getting a reaction aka attention.  Unless it becomes a direct threat, just keep ignoring them and they will go away.  You can always block their IP from accessing your blog but I only recommend that as a last resort even though it is a very effective way to deal with cyber bullying.  If they can't access your blog, they can't very well carry on bullying you.  Basically act quietly behind the scenes giving no indication you even know someone is trying to cyber bully or troll you.  Sent a few LARTs if necessary but other than that ignore.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Blogging Mojo

Oh my gosh, last year was about as bad as it could get for me with blogging.  I was out of my element and the more I pushed the worse it got.  So hubby is sick and took a med and being paranoid I wanted to make sure he stayed breathing because not breathing is not a good thing.  I brought the laptop into the bedroom.  We don't have a tv in our room but I often bring the iPad or laptop if I'm working on something.  Anyway, he is semi-comatose and all of a sudden my blogging mojo reappeared.  I'm not sure what happened but all I know is the mojo is back.  I am so pleased!!!!!!!!!!!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pandering to Google

Yesterday, I posted about how comment quality can affect your PR.  Google is now taking comment quality into consideration and the only way you can control this is to have your blog set to comment moderation.  Now, I am a bit on the paranoid side so a lot of comments simply don't get through to begin with.  If there is any doubt in my mind, any flags raised or I just don't like the comment, it doesn't get posted.  That's what comment moderation is all about.

When I first read about Google holding comment quality against bloggers, I was a little ticked.  Then I thought about it.  You as the blogger, are responsible for each and everything that appears on your blog including comments.  That ultimately means Google holds you, the blogger responsible for what appears on your blog and if Google doesn't like it, it will penalize you, the blogger.  And so it should be.  There should be nothing on your blog that you, yourself has not approved of, period.  In this case, Google is right!

So, in this light it raises the issue of pandering to Google.  Umm, Google is the biggest search engine and it basically writes it's own rules so if you want traffic from Google you will do a bit of pandering.  Sorry, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.  Make no never mind, Google keeps changing its algorithm and tightening the rules for webmasters BECAUSE it wants quality search results for its users.  In doing so, Google is forcing bloggers and webmasters to become more accountable for the content they put out.  Now, they don't say if you put out crappy content, we won't show your site in the results but they certainly do imply it.  And if you have consistently poor content, they may de-list your site, something that is pretty much akin to death if you are trying to make any money off of your site/blog.  It would be blog suicide to not pander to Google but at the same time Google's demands are not all that unreasonable.

Let's put things into perspective.  The internet has been called the superhighway.  You are the lowly driver and Google is law enforcement on the superhighway.  You can go along with the rules or you can break the rules until you get caught.  If caught, Google like any law enforcement agency can give you a warning or a ticket or slap your butt in jail.  The choice is ultimately up to you whether you as a blogger want to follow Google's rules.  Personally, I don't pander to Google in that I refrain from talking about anything that strikes my fancy but I do follow their rules for webmasters.  If you follow those rules, you can't get into trouble.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Comments Add Content

Comments are a whole blogging issue in and of themselves.  They can be problematic, they can be spam and they can add content.  Now, Google is taking into consideration the content added via comments which is all the more reason to be sure comment moderation is turned on.  That means the comment content is counting towards your PR so bad or spammish content has the potential to lower your PR.  If for any reason and seriously that really means if the comment even remotely smells of spam, reject it.  If the comment is borderline spam or you have any doubt, reject it.  Keep the good comments that are adding to the discussion and content of your blog and reject everything else.

This is a good time to go back through any previously published comments looking for quality.  If you have been monitoring comments correctly you should not have any comment spam buy any borderline spammish comment should be deleted.  In the grand scheme of things, a reader if they even notice the comment is missing may question you or stop reading your blog BUT Google bots will pick-up on the somewhat spammish comment and may penalize you to the point your PR drops where you are getting no traffic from Google.  In short, view your comments the way the Google bots view them.  Remove any shallow or spammish comments, leaving only those comments that add value to your blog.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Contact or No Contact Information on Blogs

I started blogging over six years ago and I never added any contact information until about three years ago.  At that time, adding contact information was viewed as a positive way of letting your readers correspond with you.  Now I didn't understand this one as readers can easily leave comments to which you can respond but I went with the trend.  Even though adding contact information, it can get you on a spammer's hit list so you are seriously going to get bugged for a few months.  While I did buy into the adding the contact information, I seriously after three years do not feel it is a good idea any longer.  The thing is spammers are getting more persistent so take away any control they have.  Seriously, for every legitimate email request I get from a reader I get 15 from spammers so that is beyond being discouraging.  I've decided to remove the contact information from all my blogs.  Yes, it makes me a bit less accessible but readers not bent on spamming can always go through the comment option to get the answers they want.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A New Spin on Blog Spam

At one time comment spam was that, comment spam.  If you had comments set to moderation then the only one who saw it besides the comment spammer was you the blogger providing you use comment moderation.  Now, I have noticed a dramatic reduction in this type of spam which is nice BUT it has been replaced by a direct solicitation using the email address you provide in your contact information.  This type of spam is a bit more work for the spammer who has to harvest your email address then send you an email but in many ways it is a lot easier to deal with.  There are ways to munge your email to prevent these types of spammers harvesting your email.  You can set up a white list of allowed folks to contact you with any email list not on your white list immediately being sent to your spam or trash folder or you can simply do the check mark method to delete and you can add them to your spam list which does report them  OR if you really want you can prevent the spammer from accessing your blog with a bit of coding.  The whole thing is, you the blogger, does not have to deal with this type of spam of any other type of spam.  Take control!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Gave Up Yahoo Groups

Years ago I was rather active on usenet, a type of unmoderated newsgroup aka forum and before that very active on ICQ, mIRC and those types of early social media.  I gave up on usenet because of the trolls, moving over to Yahoo groups and even establishing four of my own groups.  BUT, in recent times I have become very discouraged with Yahoo groups and forums in general.  Even thought they have owners and possibly moderators to control any problems, they seriously are vicious with cliques and the wolf pack mentality.  So I walked away at least as far as actively participating but the way I'm feeling will likely unsubscribe from the very few Yahoo groups I am a member of within the next couple of weeks.

At one time, the Yahoo groups served a function by giving me a voice an a bit of external communication.  Now they are pretty much irritating to the point of being nauseous at times filled with narcissistic folks that if they are lucky have one brain cell between them.  Ok, so I exaggerate just a tad but in all honesty, Yahoo groups have become about one step away from usenet run by overbearing, control freak owners and troll posts.  I think the Yahoo groups filled a need when we were in the country and I was quite isolated but now being in town they don't.  Now, the pettiness of Yahoo group owners and members has become quite blatant but I no longer feel the need to put up with the nonsense.  Oh and it wasn't like Yahoo groups was bringing much in the way of blog traffic because the owners would strip the sig anyway.    

Bye, bye Yahoo groups...it was nice while it lasted but now it is time to let you go.  


Friday, November 16, 2012

Why Sure I Will Give a Link to Your Site - Snort!

Some mornings, I simply get a good chuckle out of email requests for my blogs.  Take this morning, for example.  I'm sitting in front of the computer with a lovely cup of coffee and decided to check my email.  There is an email from down under asking me to write a blog post on one of my blogs with a link to their site.  There was no offer of any kind of compensation, not even a linkback!  I was so tempted to reply with a 'sure I will give a link to your site' for one year at $100 or 'a permanent link to my blog' or 'how about a nice package of the product they were trying to promote'.  Heck, they could even have offered to send me a free cookbook or at the very least to write their own article.  BUT no!  They just wanted me to write a blog post using my time and give them a link to their website.  That is akin to walking into a competitor's business asking them to print off a flyer to advertise your business.  You just have to wonder how dumb they think bloggers are?  Snort!  Needless to say, that email went right where it belonged.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Google Backgounds

Well, apparently Google backgounds are gong away and some aren't happy.  Do I really care?  Not really.  I will be concerned if Google announces that their image service Picasa is being discontinued and would even pay to keep this service but an image on my search engine website is a never mind.  Apparently others are which actually may mean them switching to another search engine than Google.  Personally, I don't use Google search but that's just me although I do use other Google products.  The problem is Google is shutting down products which is ticking off users.

I use Blogger which is owned by Google which uses Picasa for image hosting which is also owned by Google.  I have from the start had confidence in Google but now I'm not so sure.  I'm wondering if it is prudent to be thinking about other blogging platforms.  Let's face it, blogging is on the downslide so it is only a matter of time before Google puts Blogger on it's chopping block..  That is one reason to keep up to date back-ups of any of your blogs.  I'm seriously getting to the end of the rope about paying any attention to what Google does.

Google displays ads on some of my blogs.  They pay me for it but not very much.  If I am lucky I get about $200 a year.  They do give me rather nice traffic which helps for other ads I display.  But the end all be all is Google has issues and that may spell problems for users.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

The End of Yahoo Groups

I moved from usenet to Yahoo groups a few years ago.  I really like Yahoo groups because they are moderated and you can add a sig tag so you get a bit of traffic.    In reality, the Yahoo groups are a bit more anal to the point there are cliques and a huge problem is getting stirred up in the heat of the moment.  These folks will seriously needle you to the point you will react because that's what they like to do.  So, I decided I will lurk on a couple of the Yahoo groups and give up the rest.  I no longer participate actively in any Yahoo group.  I have better things to do with my time than give it away to some troll on a Yahoo group!

Yahoo groups are really all about the owner and moderators to begin with.  It doesn't matter how you feel, what you know or what information you can share, it is all about the owners and moderators.  I'm tired of their BS.  Why should I share when they are being anal?  So I decided my time was better spent on blogging. Sharing on my blogs is nice.  It is a relaxing activity that gives me pleasure.  That's all that matters :)


Content Controllers

Everyone agrees that content is king with respect to blogging.  Everyone harps on free speech but the reality is some things do not fall under the category of free speech.  Certain content is not allowed under your ISP's AUP which means you can't post content on your blog that promotes hatred, racial intolerance, illegal activities or harasses another person.  That's is fairly easy for most bloggers who will never get close to those topics in the first place.  If your blogging platform is Blogger, you are allowed to have adult content (eg. alcohol, sexual nature) providing it is not child pornography and meets Blogger's TOS but it must be identified as having adult content.   Again, this does not apply to the majority of bloggers.  However, content can get you into trouble with certain advertisers who specify you can't promote alcohol although I think including alcohol in a recipe is fine.  You just can't actively promote the use of alcohol.  The use of tobacco and illicit drugs are also not allowed to be discussed in certain contexts under the TOS of affiliate advertising.  So a blogger would be fine to discuss the problems someone using tobacco could encounter but they could not promote using tobacco.

Regardless of your viewpoints, the discussion of certain topics on your blog are regulated by anyone running advertising on your blog.  Now, if you aren't running advertising (eg. Adsense, Pepperjam) and you are only blogging for the heck of it to make money, you would think any topic is fair game but it still isn't.  Just ask the Quebec blogger who has got himself into a bit of hot water over his Antisemitism blog.  He just recently has been charged so it will be interesting to see how is case resolves but guaranteed his blogger platform is going to drop his blog like a ton of bricks.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Effects of Facebook

I really wasn't into Facebook even though I had long had an account.  When we bought our vacation home in Florida in 2010, I quickly realized that Facebook tightened down (beyond tightened) was a great way to stay in touch with family and friends. What this really means is unless you have a close relationship with me you will never find me on Facebook.

So, about six months ago I am looking at some of the features and decided to add a page for one of my blogs.  This has actually proved to be a smart move as it has increased readership and followers.  I think it was a good move but not one that is necessarily good for all blogs.  Check it out as it may work for you.


Friday, November 9, 2012

The 'Villes Lessons

I am seriously a huge fan of the 'Villes games by Zynga on Facebook.  I play on a daily basis and follow the forums.  I have even paid money to play these games.  Now, from Zynga's perspective I am a good player who has no problem paying money for my entertainment BUT Zynga has missed the boat.  Apparently, Zynga does not listen to their paying customers any more than they listen to their free customers and this will ultimately result in their demise.  I'm at the point I will no longer spend another dime on a Zynga game.  Coming from a once loyal customer that really is a slam towards the company but I am not the only one who feels this way.  Folks do not want to pay for something then feel they got ripped off.  They want customer service who will listen and take action.  Well, the same is true of blogging.

A reader comes to your blog and leaves a comment.  Unless the comment is spammish to which it should be rejected, you the blogger should respond to that comment.  That validates the reader's opinion encouraging them to visit again.  Zynga is huge into 'selling' you stuff which means even during game play you get bombarded with ways to part with your money.  'Tis most annoying to say the least.  Don't do this to your readers.  Never use pop-up or peel-back ads as tempting as the financial gain may be.  It is a sure fire way to tick readers off and make them go looking for greener pastures.  If you are running advertising on your blog, keep it low keyed and definitely none of this advertising between posts which in my opinion should be banned.  When it comes to advertising on blog 'less is more'.  

The take home message from how Zynga is dealing with the 'Villes and what could have been a very good thing for them is they are way too cocky to listen.  That is why I like many others will be taking my gaming money elsewhere.   Do I as a gamer like how Zynga treats us - NO!  That means Zynga has lost my business as far as paying anything to play their games.  If you as a blogger get too cocky, your readers will be letting you know by moving on.  Oh sure, they may once in awhile visit your blog much the way I do with the Zynga games but they are not going to be loyal followers.  What you really want to do is encourage loyal followers and those who will subscribe to your blog.  Take a page from Zynga as to how not to run your blog!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Is Content King?

Ever since I started blogging the mantra has been 'content is king'.  Well, on the surface it does make sense.  If you don't have content you won't catch the eye of the search engine bots meaning you won't get traffic from them to which some may say 'so what'.  The 'so what' only really matters if you are looking to make a bit of money from your blogs in the first place.  It really isn't that big of a deal in the broad picture of blogging which is really a way to get your ideas and thoughts out there where others can use them.  So is content king?

Yes and no.  Search engines love content and why?  That's because your content that they link to is earning them money through advertising.  In essence, they are getting rich off of webmasters and bloggers by using their content WITHOUT permission AND they are selling 'their' content which really is a bunch of links to advertisers who think it will get them a sale or two.  The reality is, I have no issue if they use a link to my blogs in the search engine and they get that link through keywords in the content.  I do however, have an issue with any site that takes my content without giving me credit.

Still this skirts the issue of content.  Honestly, you could make a few posts using just keywords and get the same traffic.  Well, until the search engines catch on that is.  If content is not interesting, refreshed or updated on a regular basis it doesn't matter how much traffic search engines bring to your blog because those visitors are more than likely not to return.  The bottom line is to get the attention of search engines you need quality content that will at some point bring a reader to you through the search engines.  At that time, you need interesting and quality content to keep that reader coming back for more.  So I would say, content is still king regardless of how you slice it!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Does Comment Moderation Work?

I have all my blogs set to comment moderation mainly to prevent comment spam.  Certain words just trigger their little spambots!  A couple of days ago I woke to find nine comments all identical, eight from "Anonymous" and one from a new Blogger member who had just signed up in November.  The comment was not actual spam as in trying to get a link in but rather a way to change one of my recipes.  Had the person made one comment then waited until the message was approved, I likely would have approved it with a reply as to why the modifications would not work.    However, after seeing how persistent this person had been to get their point across I rejected all nine of the comments.  It dawned on me that this person could have been testing the waters to see if I really did have comment moderation turned on or if the comment moderation was turned off if he or she had a Blogger ID.  If one of their comments got through then I suspect that the spamming would be in full force.  It is fairly common for a spammer to sign up to Blogger then spam blogs until Blogger shuts them down.

Comment moderation does work for the purpose intended.  Had I not had comment moderation turned on I would have had nine identical comments likely followed by a lot of spam to delete.  In the end, comment moderation saves the time it takes to check through published comments and delete the spammish ones.  This is just one more reason I keep comment moderation turned on for all my blogs.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Problem With Linking to an Image on Another Site

As I was going through my personal blog, I noticed a couple of posts with image problems. The images weren't displaying and yet I had used the code for these images directly from their sites. Both were in support of annual causes like Blog Action Day. I had cut and pasted the code they said to for the image but at some point they removed that image resulting in a broken image on my end. I did a Google search for the images which dated back to 2007 and downloaded the images. Then I uploaded to Blogger and replaced the broken images. This is a good reminder to check any image you are linked to on another site. Chances are an older image may have been removed or the site itself may no longer exist. Avoid this problem by downloading the image, saving it then uploading it to your blog hosting site. That way even if the site it originally was from goes down, your copy of the image still works.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Content Adding Opportunity

I was working on adding my signature image to my personal blog when I hit a bit of a snag. It is a larger blog consisting of 1550 posts which means a lot of posts to go through. As I worked, I was correcting spelling, adding image alt tags, adding labels and even titles for earlier posts. Needless to say, this slowed my progress of updating my blogs to a crawl. Needless to say, this didn't exactly thrill me but then I looked at the issue from a different perspective. By adding the alt tags, labels and titles, I am actually adding new content to this blog without a lot of effort. Now, that's not a bad thing especially in the eyes of the search engines. Oh sure, it's been tedious almost boring and yet at the same time rather interesting to see how I have evolved as a blogger. I'm still working on that blog but hope to get to get through updating the other three shortly.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Exclusive Adveritising

I have been with a certain blog advertising network on one of my blogs for quite some time, almost 4 years now.  It is exclusive because aside of Project Wonderful, the terms of my contract is I don't display other advertising widgets (eg. Adsense).  Initially I was not really keen on this but they pay well.  I suppose I could accept a paid link but I don't do that or paid posts.

Signing a contract with an exclusive advertising network can be a very good thing for a blog.  It eliminates using ad networks that pay peanuts in favour of an advertising network that pays well consistently.  It doesn't mean I can't have a sponsor or take advantage of an opportunity or accept free gifts or blog about products that interest me or write about what I want to, it means that I can only display their advertising widget.  They are really good about it too in that let's say I wanted to display a certain advertising widget that did not conflict with theirs, they would consider it.  So far, I haven't asked.  In return, I earn a certain amount of money paid monthly, I get a bit of free traffic and my blog is clutter-free of a lot of advertising so it is a win/win all the way around.  I have been very happy being under contract for exclusive advertising.   Mind you, it is a legally binding contract.  So this type of advertising is not for everyone.  



Monday, September 17, 2012

Draft Posts

As I was going through my blogs removing the old text signature in favour of the new signature image, I did a fair amount of correcting.  The corrections included spelling, grammar, adding labels and adding alt tags.  I discovered that each of my blogs had a number of draft posts.  It would be easy in Blogger dashboard to hit draft then check to delete all draft posts but that is not the best course of action.  These essentially are blog posts that I started but didn't finish or publish so they have sat in limbo, or they are part of blog maintenance like specific code for certain directories or images used for my blog design so those can't be deleted.  It dawned on me that I could build on some of these draft posts, finish them up then publish.  After all, the thought and theme is still the same even though I might have a different viewpoint than I did when the original draft post was made.  So I've pulled the draft posts to the top of the posts and am working my way through using some of them.  This should help me get back on track blogging a bit quicker.


Where's My Traffic?

Here it is mid-September. For many, Labour Day weekend signifies the end of summer. The kids are back to school, home canning is in high gear and thoughts are turning towards the quickly approach cold weather. It's been almost a year since CMFAds announced they were closing and 8 months since Adgitize closed. Both affected my blog traffic but what became fairly obvious is that I didn't retain traffic from either source despite being very active in both. My blog traffic has been fairly good even though it has been a bad blogging year. My posting has decreased and that is reflected in my blog traffic. Yet, blogging life and traffic continue without the blog advertising networks. Traffic continues to increase over all of my blogs mainly because of content that has been indexed in the search engines. I've also picked up a bit of traffic on one of my blogs by creating a Facebook page for it. Overall, the best way to draw traffic that I've found is to keep the new content coming. Each and every time I have reduced posting, traffic declines a bit. So I'm back to working towards daily posts if at all possible.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Spelling Counts

Google announced a couple of months ago that spelling will be a consideration in their search engine results. The reason for this is two fold. First Google is insisting on quality content which means free of spelling errors. Second, common spelling mistakes were being used by some webmasters as part of borderline blackhat SEO methods. Since keyword stuffing is definitely a blackhat SEO method, these webmasters would use variations in spelling of the keyword(s). Now, I'm not talking about the difference in spelling between words like color (American) and colour (Canadian). I'm sure Google will take this type of difference into consideration. I'm talking about common spelling mistakes made for keywords not the supporting words. For example, if you were blogging about Brandywine Tomatoes, the keywords are Brandywine and tomato. A very common spelling mistake for tomato is tomatoe. So if you have both spellings in the post there is a better chance of it showing in the search results especially if someone performs the search using the incorrect spelling. An easy way to see some of these spelling mistakes is to go through your stats to see the search referrers. Some of the variations are as simple as reversing ie to become ei in a word but others are a bit more blatant. I don't thing Google is going to penalize for the occasional spelling mistake. What I do think will happen is a post that is riddled with spelling errors will be flagged as possibly using borderline blackhat SEO methods. The algorithm may even be set to something like a tolerance of two spelling errors in a post providing the errors are not related. I don't know but suspect that is how it will work. Penalizing purely on the basis of spelling likely won't be a problem for most bloggers. It will be a problem for comment spammers so do keep comment moderation in place to prevent a comment filled with nonsensical and mis-spelled words. It will be a problem for splogs (spam blogs) but then they already have enough problems to deal with. At any rate, it is prudent to pay attention to the fact that spelling mistakes may affect your page rank.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Share Button Problem Solved

Earlier this year I wrote about a share button problem I was having on some of my blogs. Blogger makes it very easy to add the share button code simply by toggling the code on. I did that but then noticed over writing on the buttons that said 'This!istrock' or similar. I searched through the code on the affected blogs only to come up empty handed. Yet the code was behaving perfectly on one of my blogs. Still, it appeared the code had somehow been hacked. After a scare that caused me to change my passwords, I decided to take action on the share buttons. The thing is there was a problem with them and for all I know could have been some back entry method to get into my Blogger account. Who knows. All I knew is that code had to go! After a bit of work and troubleshooting, I finally managed to get the old code off my blogs and replaced it with new code from ShareThis. Social networking and sharing is becoming increasing important. The ShareThis buttons make it easy to customize where you want your content shared including to the newest social network, Pinterest. The code is customizable with respect to button size and alignment as well. In the end, I like the design of the new share buttons. So the problem is solved but I still don't know how it happened.


Improving Blog Loading Time

Google recently announced with its algorithm changes that site loading speed would be factored into the search engine results. While it may be difficult to significantly increase the loading speed of your blog as it is dependent on the blog host, there are several small things you can do help improve the loading speed. Here are a few things I've done to improve the loading time for my blogs:

  • removed third party widgets - Some third party widgets can slow down your blog loading time.  I removed  any unnecessary widgets like calendars, clocks and that type of thing.
  • image optimization - All images including the background and design elements on my blogs have been optimized for web.  This keeps the image size small for faster loading.  I like to keep the size between 35 KB and 100 KB.
  • on site image hosting - I try to upload any images to be used on my blogs to my blog host platform, Blogger.  This keeps them on Blogger servers for faster loading.  I do occasionally use Photobucket as well.  You have to be careful using Photobucket though to not exceed the allotted bandwidth otherwise the image won't display until the next reset.  This can be a real problem if one of your blog posts with a Photobucket hosted image goes viral, effectively causing all images hosted by Photobucket to not display without upgrading to a paid account.
  • number of posts displayed - One way to decrease blog loading time is to set the number of posts that load to a lower number.  A blog set to display 4 posts on load will load faster than one set to display 7.  I have mine set to display 4 posts on load and may consider reducing it further as I use linkwithin on some of my blogs.  This is easy to adjust under Blogger settings. 
  • truncated posts - I tried truncated posts where the reader has to click read more to see the entire post.  I don't particularly care for this but it is an effective way to decrease blog load time while displaying a larger number of posts to peak the reader's interest.
  • reduced advertising - When I first monetized my blogs, I used a variety of affiliate programs (eg. Bidvertize, Adsense, Pepperjam)  and blog networks (eg. Project Wonderful, Adgitize, CMFAds).  I greatly reduced advertising on all my blogs.  Some of the ads were just taking up valuable blog real estate without paying a cent and some of the widgets created java script conflicts that caused slower loading.  I now use Adsense and Project Wonderful on five of my blogs as well as exclusive advertising (one banner ad) and Project Wonderful on the sixth.  I reduced the size of the Adsense ads and refuse to put ads after each post. 


Friday, September 14, 2012

Content is King Revisited

Never before has the phrase content is king become so important in the blogosphere. Content has always been important with respect to blogs but with the announced changes to Google's algorithm, content take on a whole new meaning. Google wants quality so your blog content meet that demand. A blog post riddled with spelling and grammatical errors may not even get into the search results under the new guidelines especially if there is another source of information on that search that has no spelling or grammatical errors. Google is demanding freshness as well so even though you wrote an excellent article on a given topic, it might not appear in the search results if there is a newer source for that information. It is now very important to go back to review your older posts, correcting spelling and grammatical errors. A follow-up post or posts with additional information and a link back to the original post may help with respect to freshness. For example, if you have five blog posts on the topic content, you are five time more likely to have one of them appear in the search results than if you only have one post on content. At any rate, it is increasing more important to keep good content coming into your blog especially in the form of posts. At the same time, some content like informational widgets, event tickers, and blogrolls should be replaced with fresh content or revamped. Make sure there are no dead links in your blogroll. Don't forget that removing content can be as effective as adding content especially content that is not post specific. Freshen up some of your design content. Change out that calendar widget you've had for the past five years with a new, spiffy one or eliminate it entirely. Let's face it, calendar and clock widgets really don't add much in the way of content and most readers don't use them anyway. If you really want a widget, choose something like a word of the day or this day in history widget. Make sure images on your blog have an alt tag. Images add content for your readers but without the alt tag add no content as far as the search engine bot is concerned. A little more detail to content is sure to catch the attention of the search engines.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Death of Guest Posting?

Shortly after starting to blog in early 2006, I learned that guest posting was a good way to generate traffic to your blog. The premise was simple. Write a good article for another blogger who would post the article with a link back to your blog. The only caveat later when Google started announcing algorithm changes was to be sure not to do a guest post on a blog with a lower page rank (PR) than your own. A few days ago, I read a SEO article stating that bloggers are shying away from guest posts, both writing and hosting them. The reason is quite simple and that's the backlink. Google has made it quite clear that it will penalize blogs with links to bad neighbourhoods. Now, say I make a guest post on Blog A with a link back to my blog. Blog A makes a guest post on Blog B with a link back to Blog A. If there is an inappropriate link on Blog B it could actually affect me even though the only connection between Blog B and me is Blog A. This is rather unfair but that is the way Google is doing it. What this means is the death of guest posting. Bloggers are concerned they will be penalized for links down the line. One work-around if you want to accept a guest post is to set the link to rel='nofollow'. Readers interested in the link could still visit but it won't be crawled by the Google bot. That way you shouldn't be penalized for any links coming from the blog hosting your post and you still should get a bit of traffic back to your blog from that post. My only concern with this method is Google has been a bit ambiguous over the nofollow tag. First they were honouring it, then ignoring it and last I heard are honouring it again. At any rate, guest posting is losing favour in the blogosphere as a way to generate traffic.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Search Engine Transparency

Google announced awhile ago that it is moving towards transparency which really means they want webmasters to know what the changes made to their algorithms are and how it will affect them. In reality, these changes really only affect commercial websites but they can have an impact on smaller personal websites and blogs. For example, many bloggers were negatively affected when Google delisted a couple of blogging networks. At the same time, Google is being quite clear as to what it will no longer tolerate as far as SEO. In fact, SEO is basically going by the wayside.

Google is looking for quality (no spelling errors, good grammar, good articles/information, no duplicate content) and  freshness (current content, continuously adding new content).  It is important to realize that while Google is not the only search engine, it is the largest one with the most influence so it would be foolish to not pay attention to what they are disclosing.  At the same time, there are a number of smaller search engines (eg. Bing, Ask, Yahoo) as well as site specific search engines.   As important as Google's announcements is what the other search engines are not saying.

While Google has recently announced that keywords will play less of a role in their search engine results, keywords will still play a role in the search results of other search engines.  We don't know for sure though because the smaller search engines are not making any algorithm change announcements.  They don't announce that they have de-listed a network or website although I am certain that they do.  From a blogging point of view, any traffic from any search engine is a good thing because it is organic traffic.  The person doing the searching is looking for that particular bit of information.  It is very important to listen to what Google is saying while using good SEO methods to get traffic from the smaller search engines. 


Monday, September 10, 2012

Renewed Blogging Interest Sparked by New Signature Images

A few days ago, I came across a way to add a signature image to all the posts in my blogs. I immediately saw the value of this method over using the Blogger settings for a text signature. What this has meant is creating a psd and jpg for each signature image for each blog. Then the image is added to the html of the blog and I set about removing all of the old text signatures. At the same time, I have been doing a bit of tweaking on various posts. Surprisingly, this has sparked a bit of a renewed interest in blogging. It has been a bad blogging year, feeling very much out of the blogging loop. Many external factors have influenced this problem. It's not that I don't have blog fodder, it is more like I have too much blog fodder. When this happened in the past I would simply do a bit of tweaking on the blog design but now I have my blogs pretty much set up the way I want them. There's little to do in the way of creating graphics for my blogs either. As life became increasing busy, it was easy to set aside blogging or blog tweaking. I'm actually excited to be doing something a bit different on my blogs that has in turn sparked a few blog posts.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Bad Blogging Year

We moved to our new house in September of 2011. Now, a year later I must admit it has been a bad blogging year. I was tired from having the house on the market for eighteen months before it finally sold and the move took a bit more out of me than I thought it would. We have spent almost three months of the past year at our vacation home in Florida. While I can blog there, it is not a high priority. The demise of Adgitize and CMFAds has left a void combined with a lack of belonging in the blogosphere. It is back to being a solitary blogger occasionally bumping into an old blogging friend. I went from visiting as many as a hundred blogs in a day to only a few of my favourites. Some of my blogging friends have given up blogging. I seldom blog hop the way I used to either. I went from daily posts across all my blogs to sporadic posts on five of them and almost daily on one. All in all, it has been a bad blogging year. I'm going to try to get things back in order so the last quarter of 2012 is a bit better. Time will tell.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Nip Blog Problems in the Bud

When it comes to any problem, most often it is best to nip it in the bud.  What this really means is to deal with the problem before it becomes a huge issue.  This philosophy applies to blogs as well.  Any problem a blog experiences whether design, comment spam or even hacking needs to be dealt with immediately. 


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.


My Blogging Start

Prior to blogging, I was active on a few Usenet newsgroups. I'm telling you these newsgroups are filled with spiteful, nasty folks who really delight in trollish behaviour. They absolutely love picking fights in the newsgroup so you either have to develop thick skin or move on. Tiring of the nastiness, I turned to Yahoo groups in early 2006, never looking back on the newsgroups. Yahoo groups have group owners and moderators so there is considerably less nastiness. The owner or moderators can remove a problem member and even ban them. I quickly found a couple of Yahoo groups I liked and even started a few of my own. Shortly after joining Yahoo I discovered their now defunct Yahoo 360. This was my introduction into blogging. Yahoo 360 was a nice blogging platform but I quickly realized I wanted something with a bit more versatility. I discovered Blogger and have remained with Blogger since. I started my gardening blog first, followed by my cooking blog a few days later and now in 2012 author six blogs.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Blog Promotion

Content is always king when it comes to blogging but with that comes blog promotion if you want to get your blog read.  When I started blogging I reall wasn't worried about blog promotion.  By default Blogger blogs are promoted throughout the Blogger system via the surf bar and notifying Google each time a new post is made.  Essentially if you are using Blogger as I am your blog will get noticed without you doing a lot of SEO or promotion.  Anything extra you do for blog promotion ends up being gravy. 


Opinions

Yesterday I was on one of the forums I frequent when a member asked the opinion of others regarding his blog. When others started giving their opinion the person asking for the opinion turned downright pissy.  Now see I just don't understand this.  You ask for an opinion, you don't like the answer but that doesn't mean you can get pissy and cop an attitude.  I'm sorry but the rule is if you don't want the opinion DON'T ASK FOR IT!  The worst part is in this particular case the person asking about the change they made is so far off base it really is pathetic.  The end result is this person is seriously hurting their own traffic which is fine if that is what they are intending to do.  What isn't fine is to ask for opinions then lashing out because he didn't like the opinion.  When it comes to blogging if I want to make a significant change I go ahead and do so without asking any opinions of anyone then I wait to see what the results of that change are and may tweak from there.


Pinging Your Blog

After you make a new post to your blog it is customary to ping your blog. Sending a ping tell search engines and other directories that you've made a new post so essentially it is like sending out a beacon to say here I am. The bottom line question is does this help? Honestly I can't say one way or the other as to whether pinging will help other than it might get you noticed in the smaller search engines and directories. Now recently Technorati, one of the biggest blog directories announced they would not longer be accepting pings but rather let their spiders crawl blogs in their system. That means that you have to have your blog set to allow their spiders to crawl your blog and you have to be registered in their system.


Working on New Signature Images

I decided to go with a signature image rather than a signature added via Blogger template. I really do like the look of the new signature images that while slightly different for each blog are in the same script to help strengthen my brand. While it is a fair amount of work manually removing the old text signature and it is slow going, in the end a signature image will make updating the © in the signature rather easy each year. I have spent the last two days systematically going through each post on my cooking blog manually removing the text signatures which was no easy feat given there are 1639 live posts! However, this actually proved to be a good thing. I added labels, tweaked titles and corrected spelling errors as I removed the text signatures. Google has said that spelling errors will result in a penalty and even if there wasn't, this was a perfect time to correct those spelling errors that slipped through for a nicer reading experience for my readers. Google has also said that there will be less reliance on keywords for search results but I'm sure keywords will still play a role so tweaking titles by adding keywords should help. I didn't go over board in this respect, rather tweaking mainly on the oldest posts before I knew how important keywords were. Adding labels to older posts and those posts I forgot to add labels to can only help readers find those posts easier. I added the new signature image to this blog this morning. So begins another day of systematically going through all the posts here to remove the old text signatures. I'll do the same tweaking as I did for my cooking blog. It will go faster as there are less posts. Hopefully, I can get the tweaking finished today so I can start working on another of my blogs.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Doing a Bit of Blog Revamping

Authoring six blogs is a challenge and one thing that has always been a challenge for me has been how to deal with the blog signature. I like adding a copyright under my sig but that needs to be changed yearly. The problem is if you go through Blogger template to add the sig it only adds to new posts not existing ones. So I found a tutorial on how to add an signature image. It is placed right below:


in the form of:
or align to left if desired.

The image will appear on all posts both existing and new.  Updating to the new year is as simple as modifying the image, uploading it and changing the link to the current image at which time all existing posts will now have the new image.  Incorporating this change is a bit time consuming after it is in place as you do have to manually remove any existing sigs on posts if desired.  On a larger blog it is a bit time consuming but is a perfect time to check existing posts for appropriate labels.

I am making the change to an image signature across all my blogs.  Once done, it will greatly simplify things when the new year rolls around.  I have a psd image of each blog sig so only have to change the 2012 to 2013, save for web then upload the image.  Once uploaded I can go into the html and change the image source so updating will take me less than 20 minutes for all my blogs.  Surprisingly, the current changes are going rather well.  I just open the post, remove the existing sig and hit update.  I expect the other blogs to go a lot quicker as there are a lot less posts than the cooking one that I'm focusing on right now.  Hopefully, I will have all my blogs updated to my new sig system by the end of the week.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Anti-Google Movement?

When I started blogging back in the spring of 2006, the main advice was to get the attention of the search engines especially Google.  This was done by using good SEO methods.  Google has been slowly eroding away at using SEO and with their last few algorithm changes, many have seen their websites or blogs get delisted from Google.  That isn't a good thing and in fact can be the death of some businesses as well as a substantial loss of income.  From a blogging point, it really doesn't matter all that much unless you are trying to make a good income blogging.  The end result of the struggle between Google and SEO experts has been a growing anti-Google movement which is gaining momentum since the recent announcement that keywords are no longer going to be of high importance for Google searches as well as minimizing the number of search results on the first page.

Some SEO experts have gone as far as to make their websites anti-Google even blocking Google bots from crawling their websites.  Some are very vocal writing long articles about it while others are just quietly protesting behind the scenes, making their sites inaccessible to Google and using other search engines.  As a blogger, I personally think this is tossing the baby out with the bath water.

My blogger platform, Blogger is owned by Google and I have no intention of changing that.  All of my blogs get traffic from Google.   To me, any traffic from search engines is good traffic because it is organic.  I use good SEO methods (eg. image alt tags, meta tags, keywords) but I'm not a real fanatic about it.  I honestly don't see how keywords will no longer play a role in Google's search results even if they use a tracking cookie.  It's not like Google can guess what you are searching for.  I'm sure other search engines will still use keywords anyway.


Monday, August 27, 2012

I Have a New Comment Spammer :)

Normally I don't give comment spammers much attention other than hitting the 'spam' button and not publishing the comment.   I have a new comment spammer that is just too cute.  S/H/it is going by the name SEO Marketing.  Now, I should be very flattered as obviously my blogs are showing up on search engine results otherwise how would such an esteemed spammer be able to find them?  The funny thing is the commenter is actually using a Blogger account to spam from.  This one is just too easy :) 


Monday, August 6, 2012

The Ultimate in Mobile Blogging

When I first started blogging back in early 2006, it was on a Windows based desktop.  That has so changed in just such a short time! Mobile blogging has become the vogue and while you do need the necessary equipment, it does free you from the old desktop computer.  I went to an Mac and still love Mac!  My main blogging is done from an iMac desktop but I now use and iPod Touch, iPhone and hubby's Windows laptop when on the road.  Then earlier this year indulged in a nice Windows based laptop.  A week ago my husband gifted me with with an iPad.  Oh good gosh, the iPad is like the ultimate in mobile blogging.  You get all the benefits of a laptop without the bulk.  My iPad can fit right in my purse ready to blog wherever I have Wi-Fi access.  There's no cables, large cases, attachments, or anything else.  It fits right in my purse quite nicely. There is just the iPad and it works like a dream!  The battery battery lasts a lot longer than it does even on the newest laptop.  So far it is the ultimate in blogging!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

External Factors

Some blogs are very much geared towards external factors.  This includes but is not limited to gardening blogs, cooking blogs, and blogs relying on current events.  Well, the problem is this doesn't always work well in the big scheme of things.  For example, I author a rather successful cooking blog but if for whatever reason I don't cook for a couple of weeks my blog fodder can quickly dry up.  Another example is my gardening blog that has taken a bit of a hit due to pre-moving and moving events combined with adverse weather.  In some ways it is a lot easier to blog without having to factor those external influences in.  Keeping a blog generic, not dependent on external factors is a great idea except then it become depersonalized and boring.  Just saying...


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Looking Back on Over Six Years of Blogging

I started blogging back in early April of 2006.    It wasn't like I had just fell of the 'computer turnip truck' when I started blogging.  I had authored a successful website that started with HTML and uploading via FTP that was updated at least once a week.  I participated in newsgroups, ICQ and chat rooms.    I became quite interested in computer security so learned about firewalls, malware and spyware detectors, anonymous proxies and antiviral software.  With the exception of learning touch typing in high school many moons ago, all of my computer skills have been self taught.

Back in early 2006 I was getting bored with dealing with a lot of Windows problems and having to load up several security programs just to go online so I switched to Mac.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How Often Should You Change Your Passwords

How often should you change your password?  Well a lot depends on the type of account, what you use it for, if you have been compromised and your comfort level.  Let's face it, we all have oodles of passwords.  Changing them all the time can be time consuming but it gives peace of mind.  Seriously, I have changed my Blogger (Google) password twice tlast week.  The first time was due to a suspected compromise.  It was a good, strong password.  Then I changed it again to make it a butt a$$ ugly but stronger password.  Trust me it is about as ugly as it can get!  I change my passwords when:

  1. I remember - Ideally passwords should be changed at least twice a year so think spring and fall.  Some recommend changing them more often.
  2. I think one or more accounts have been compromised - If I feel an account has been compromised in any way I change the password then work my way through changing the passwords for any accounts the compromised account could lead to.
  3. something is amiss - Sometimes something in an account goes amiss.  There isn't the panic that someone has hacked into or hijacked my account, but more of something just not working as it should.  This can be a sign the site is having problems or someone hacked in and is just doing a bit of toying.  I change the password anytime I notice this type of thing.
  4. a script goes awry - Like many bloggers I do use javascript based widgets on my blogs.   For the most part they are fine but sometimes they go awry even though you used them for years.  I had a widget on one of my blogs that performed nicely then suddenly I was getting reports my blog was flagging anti-virus software as a possible dangerous site.  What happened was the script contained a line that pointed to a bad neighbourhood.  I removed the widget then immediately changed my password.  
  5. I revoke access - This mainly applies to Twitter and Facebook that can be used to sign into other accounts.  If I revoke access as in Facebook can no longer access Site A, I change Site A's password. 


Monday, July 30, 2012

What Makes a Good Password

With my recent scare over the possibility that my Blogger (Google) account had been compromised, I set about changing passwords on several accounts.  In all honesty, I should have done so earlier this year but like many had become a bit lax.  What I noticed when changing my passwords is some sites have a rating to tell you how strong your password is.  This is a great idea!  So what makes a good password?  Here's a few tips:

  • don't use the same password for all accounts -  This is a disaster waiting to happen as that would gain the hacker access to every account you have.  Choose unique passwords for each account.
  • use a mixture of capitals, lower case, numbers and characters -  Strong passwords contain a mixture of all 4 in random order.  
  • don't use a pattern - It is easy to fall into a pattern when creating a password which means if someone cracks one password the others will be rather easy to crack. 
  • length - The longer a password, the harder it is to crack.  Many sites stipulate the password should be between 8 and 10 characters in length.  Don't use the minimum but rather use the maximum or close to the maximum number of characters allowed and make sure you mix them up.  As my husband says, it's a butt a$$ ugly password but at least it is secure.
  • don't use words - Don't use words in your password.  Your password can make sense to you without using words that would make it easier to crack your password.
  • don't use anything from your profile - This is especially important if your account has ever been hacked and someone has gained access to your personal information.  When creating a strong password don't use your initials, you postal code, your street numbers, the site name, your date of birth or anything else from your profile that would make your password easier to crack.  Anything used from your profile if used should be written in code.  For example, say you want to use 'cat' in your password.  Instead transform it into '3aT'.  See where I'm going? 


    Sunday, July 29, 2012

    Doing a Bit of Blog Cleaning

    I first noticed the share button problem last February and while I didn't think my Blogger account had been compromised, I did change the password.  Then I noticed the login message that I had to login again because I had logged out from another location.  Well, once thinking about it, I decided to get aggressive and make a few changes.  Here's what I've done so far across all of my blogs:

    • changed password
    • eliminated old share button code problem
    • removed old share button codes and replaced with new social networking codes
    • cleaned up directory sections
    • removed selected advertising from sidebars
    • added updated My Free Copyright code
    • changed password again


    Saturday, July 28, 2012

    New Social Networking Buttons

    I posted earlier this year about a share button problem I was having.  Blogger calls them share buttons and makes it easy to add to your blog simply by toggling on the option in template/post/edit of the template.  These buttons make it easy to share the blog posts you like via email and Facebook but Blogger didn't have options for Digg, Stumbleupon, Twitter and now the new Pintrest.  I used individual button code for all but Pinterest.   My share buttons worked great on three of my blogs but on the other three there was writing over top of them something to the effect of This7is!:tenok and This7is!tterook.  Again, when I first saw this, I changed my Google (also Blogger) password then thought no more of it.  As one commenter said, it was likely something hidden in javascript.  What was interesting is the problem was only showing on three of my blogs.  When I toggled off the share buttons on those blogs, they reappeared on the far left hand side with the writing over top of them.  I removed share buttons from one of the blogs but with my recent little scare, I decided to get aggressive and replace all share buttons with new social networking buttons.

    This is where the fun started!  I toggled off the option in Blogger for share buttons then removed the individual Stumbleupon, Digg and Twitter buttons.  Checking preview the share buttons were back on the far right side.  Again, only three blogs showed the over writing so  I continued on.  I installed the custom designed social button widget from ShareThis then check preview.  The old share buttons were still there right beside comment but the new social buttons loaded fine.  So I went into edit the template, did a back-up then removed all coding related to 'sharebuttons'.  There were two blocks of it.  Once removed the old share buttons then checked preview.  The old share buttons were completely gone and in their place my nice new social networking buttons. 

    I am still stumped at what was happening with the old share button code.  I've gone through the code several times so perhaps it was a conflict with other javascript on those codes.  At any rate the problem is solved.  The buttons look nice and they offer a few more options for social networking.  I like that you can pick and choose which buttons to include on your widget. 


    Friday, July 27, 2012

    Spelling

    I am not a professional writer and while I am published, blogging is more a laid back thing for me which means spelling errors do get through from time to time even though I do use a spell checker.  Apparently, some search engines and specifically Google, are going to start penalizing for spelling mistakes.  We can all thank those bloggers using black hat SEO methods.  Some of these bloggers are intentionally using common spelling mistakes to attract attention to their blogs.  Well, that is likely going to give me a few and hopefully minor infractions as I tend to use Canadian spelling for certain words and I do know a few typos get through but hopefully it shouldn't affect me too much.


    Thursday, July 26, 2012

    Any Idiot Can Blog

    It doesn't seem possible that I have been blogging for over six years now.  Honestly that is pretty good considering the average lifespan of a new blog is 3 months.  The reality is any idiot can blog!  There are no special skills involved other than perhaps coming up with something to blog about.  You don't have to use proper grammar or spelling.  You don't need to know HTML or web design.  You don't need to have a digital camera or upload any pictures to your blog.  It doesn't matter what you are wearing, where you are or what time it is when you blog.  If you miss a day blogging, you won't get a pay cut or your boss yelling at you either.  You can blog about any topic imaginable providing it doesn't promote hatred or illegal activities or it's criminal.  In fact, blogging is one of the least restrictive hobbies there is.  So there you go, the world is anyone's oyster with respect to blogging. 

    Ok, that all sounds fairly easy and it is but quite frankly there are some rules that should be followed when blogging.  Here are a few that I feel are important:

    • content is king - Keep adding content every chance you get.  Make the content unique and fresh.
    • updating - Updating includes blog templates, layouts, backgrounds and all those little extras.  Change them from time to time to brighten up your blog much the same way as you change decor in your home from time to time.  Widgets are an interesting way of adding certain kinds of content to your blog like a blogroll or word of the day.  Change them occasionally to keep content fresh. 
    • alt tags - If you are using images it is imperative to use alt tags as search engines do not see images only code.
    • keywords - Keywords are very important for attracting search engines.  Choose them wisely and don't abuse them.  Never engage in keyword stuffing!
    • links - It is very important to check any outgoing links from your blog.  Dead or broken links will cost you in page rank.  Make any links on your blogs are not pointing to bad neighbourhoods as that could get your blog delisted from search engines.


    Wednesday, July 25, 2012

    So You've Been Hacked

    Yesterday, I wrote about a few of the things you can do if your blogging platform account has been hacked.  In reality these are all things you should be doing anyway.  Seriously though the chances of your blogging platform account being hacked is minimal unless you have ticked off someone online, picked up an online stalker or you are blogging about controversial issues.  You can easily tick some off or pick up an online stalker without even knowing about it.  Here's a few more tips on how to deal with the situation should your blogging platform account be compromised.

    • don't panic - It is natural to panic when you realize your blogging platform account has been hacked.  It is important to stay calm.  As soon as you change your password the hacker can't access your account.  This is your number one line of defense.  Simply change the password then calmly work on damage control.  If you stay calm, you are less likely to miss any content changes that might have happened.
    • be methodical - Damage control should be very methodical and thorough.  Check out each area of your blog from one end to the other.  When satisfied, more on to the next section.
    • stay proactive - As you check through your blog and make any necessary corrections, watch for problems and potential problems.  Tweak your blog settings to prevent security breaches.  Check your stats as you might notice a problem IP.  If so, set up an IP blocker to prevent that IP from accessing your blog.  Continuously check outgoing links, removing any dead links.  Check widgets from time to time.  Change your password often and get into the habit of backing up your blog.
    • stay low keyed - Hackers like to get recognition and attention for what they have done.  Refrain from saying anything about your account being hacked on your blog, groups or social media.  Simply make any necessary changes, tighten your security and move on.  This is especially effective for dealing with hackers who want into your account while still giving you access to your account.  The only way they will know you are on to them is when they try to log in but can't.  This also allows you to act without tipping your hand which could cause this type of hacker to lock you out of your own blog or delete your content.
    • file complaints - Check through your stats as well as contact your blogging platform provider who can see what IPs were accessing your account. Now a hacker trying to hide their tracks will use a proxy service but kids fooling around or an amateur hacker likely won't.  Illegally accessing someone else's account is a sure fire way to lose your ISP!


    Tuesday, July 24, 2012

    What to Do if Your Account is Hacked

    I wrote about a suspected security breach in my Blogger account which falls under Google products.  What this meant is if someone hacked into my account they would have access to any of the Google products I use.  If someone hacks into your account, always assume malicious intent.  They certainly are not gaining access to your account to help you out.  Gaining access to your blogging platform account is done to alter or delete your content as well as get any private information you may have on your account.  Some information on your account that is not made public (eg. home address, phone number, Pay Pal account ID, etc) has the potential of personal threat or harm to yourself or family as well a potential financial harm.  A hacker could hijack your account denying you access by changing your password.  They could delete content or the entire blog!  If you suspect your blogging platform account has accessed without your permission, there are a few steps to take.

    • immediately change your password - Make your new password stronger by using a combination of letters, numbers, capitols, and characters.  Don't use anything that was in your profile as part of your new password as whoever got into your account may have that information giving them clues to your new password.
    • immediately change your email password -  Most sites send a confirmation notice to your registered email address.  Ensure that whoever got into your blogging platform account does not have access to your email account.
    • check your blogging platform settings - If someone gained unauthorized access to your blogger platform, chances are very good they will change some of your settings especially those that lessen your security and/or privacy or they may have turned off comment moderation.
    • back-up your content - Unless your blog has been completely deleted or your content completely deleted, back it up even though it may contain any changes the hacker made.
    • check through your content -  Look for any alterations to your content including posts, links, advertising, coding and images for any changes. Pay attention to the coding of any protective measures like Copyscape.
    • make any necessary corrections - This is fairly straight forward and while tedious it is very important to do.  
    • restoring your blog - In the event you content was deleted and/or replaced by a message from the hacker, upload your last back-up copy of your blog.  If you have been doing regular back-ups at most you may lose a week's worth of blog posts but those can easily be restored if you.  Restore any missing blog posts from your email copies. 
    • back-up your content - This back-up copy will have all the corrections you made if any.
    • change your password - Once someone has breached your security to gain access to your blogging platform account, there is a good chance they will try again especially if they realize you know what is going on.  First and foremost, they are doing so for a reason whether to steal your content, cause you problems, do a bit of online stalking or worse.  Remember, they do have malicious intent.  Second, folks tend to use certain patterns or words as passwords making them rather easy to crack.  Step away from your pattern for creating passwords.  Although the initial password change should solve the immediate problem, changing your password again gives one more level of security.  It's a good idea to change your password a few times until you are sure any threat is over then regularly after that.


    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

    Don't Forget to Change Passwords Occasionally

    The other day I had a couple of Blogger windows open.  When I switched back to one of them there was a message that I had been logged out from another location.  I didn't think anything of it as I use several Google products so I could have logged out of one of them not realizing it would log me out of Blogger.  At the same time Blogger was showing a warning messaging saying I was using an unsupported browser so parts of Blogger might not work properly.  I thought it could be due to my browser.  However, it happened again yesterday and I was sure the only Google product I was using at that time was Blogger.   Still I didn't change my password until this morning when I just had a nagging feeling.  I did notice when I opened Blogger the warning message was gone on all pages except the dashboard but I still don't think my account was compromised.  Chances are good that no one had hacked into my account as my password was fairly strong but why take the chance especially after passwords were recently stolen when someone hacked into part of Yahoo's services.  If at anytime you get that little nagging "what if" feeling it is a good time to change your password simple for ease of mind.  It's a good idea to change your passwords on a regular basis just to prevent unauthorized access to any of your accounts.


    Friday, July 13, 2012

    Traffic Building Using Cold Calls

    Brick and mortar stores as well as salesmen learned a long time ago that if they made cold calls there would be a percentage of sales resulting from it.  Well the same thing can happen with blogs.   You may not be selling a product but you are selling a blog aka yourself.  Essentially, if you make 200 cold calls meaning you send out a request to do a blog post for the party you are contacting or if you send them a few links from your blog they might be interested you can expect a return of 1% to 10% (2 to 20) visitors.  Now, out of that you may pick up one or two folks interested enough in following or subscribing to your blog.

    By default, a cold call means you have not had a previous relationship with the person you are contacting.  That means a cold call can easily be viewed as spam and you definitely do not want your blog labeled as being a SPLOG.  Yet cold calls can be very effective if used properly.  This is not a method I use very often, perhaps four or five times a year and then only if I really feel the person being contacted would be interested.  Here are a few things I do when making a cold call for one of my blogs.

    • contact information - I feel it is very important to address anyone I'm making a cold call to via email by name.  They are much more likely to respond favourably.
    • brevity - I keep cold calls brief and to the point.  I include the salutation, a two or three sentence intro including how I found them, one or two links and a thank-you for their time as well as my contact information should they require further information.
    • sporadic - Any of the cold calls I make for my blogs are sporadic.  They are very much an opportunity that presents itself.  
    • unique - All of my cold calls for my blogs are unique.  I don't use a form or cut and paste.  Both of these methods will get your blog labeled as a SPLOG and really just tick anyone who receives the off.  
    • no follow-up -  As tempting as it is, I do not do follow-ups for any cold call.  The person contacted may be quite busy, out of the office, not interested or may have set my email aside until they have the right opportunity.  A follow-up even one as simple as asking if they got your email can make them think you are a spammer, get you complaints to your ISP or get you labeled as a SPLOG.  Seriously, I have had responses from cold calls I put out over six months ago!  I just put them out there then hope for the best even if it takes months for a response.