Welcome to The Blog Report

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

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Blogger Retires Blogger in Draft Blog

Blogger recently announced that they have retired the Blogger in Draft Blog.  In it's place, Blogger has launched its Google+ page and official blog where they will keep users up to date with new Blogger features.  Blogger in Draft is not affected, only the associated blog.  So while the draft blog will no longer be updated, the information on new features will still be available.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

But Everyone's Doing It!

When I was knee high to a grass hopper, I would tell my Mom, but everyone's doing it when I wanted to do some forbidden activity.  Her comment was always 'if everyone jumped off a bridge would you?'.  Now the beauty of this come back was it made me think.  That simple comment stopped me from becoming a lemming aka follower.  The reality is just because everyone is doing it, doesn't make 'it' right.  That philosophy is so true when it comes to blogging.

Shortly after starting blogging in early 2006, I noticed that just about every blogger was doing paid posts and a good portion of those were also displaying paid links.   Well, in fairness I was using blog networks so that really just gave a very small view on the blogosphere doing this.  The reality is even back then Google and other search engines didn't like it.  They took particular aim against the paid posts, something I have never done using the strict definition of paid posts.  Normally a paid post is some topic dictated by whoever is paying you for X amount of dollars.  I haven't done that.  On the other hand I have gained credits via the defunct Adgitize for writing posts which technically were eventually turned into money for advertising but Adgitize never dictated what had to be written.  In this respect, Adgitize was very much a grey area.  Google in particular took aim against link farms but for awhile there just about every blogger was using Mr Linky and similar link building even though they were being penalized by Google.  You seldom see the huge link lists on blogs any more so perhaps bloggers have got the message that the search engines don't like it.

The thing is you simply can't do what other bloggers are doing even if it looks like they are successful.  It can seriously get you into trouble with the search engines, especially Google.  Oh, don't get me wrong copying some of the successful blogging techniques can really help a new blogger but in general it is best to develop your own style.  Don't do paid posts or links as that will affect your page rank.  Pay attention to the Webmaster Guidelines set out by Google.  Never, ever, ever use blackhat SEO methods.

Monday, May 14, 2012

What Makes a Good Blog Post?

Isn't that a good title?  Seriously, what makes a good blog post?  In many ways it is so much easier to define what a bad blog post it but it is a bit more difficult to define a good blog post.   I aim but don't always succeed at writing good blog posts.  Note I am saying good as in what meets the following criteria, not excellent or brilliant, just good.  My criteria for a good blog post are:

  • interesting title - The title captures the interest of the reader.  For that reason, it should reflect the content in such a manner that it draws the reader's attention.  At the same time, the title plays a very important role in SEO so it must include some of the keywords reflecting the content. 
  • content - Those in the know say that content is king.  Interesting content will capture the interest of the reader who may comment on the content, become a subscriber of your blog, or pass it on via social media.  Content also plays an important role in SEO so keywords must be used effectively and in a manner that would not be considered black hat SEO.  I think content is enhanced using one or more images as well.  An image can say so much!  While this blog seldom uses images in posts, my other five blogs do.
  • cohesiveness - In general blog posts should follow a cohesive thought that develops into a topic in a longer blog post.  The key word is cohesive.  A good blog posts needs a beginning, a middle and an end all tied together in a way that makes sense.
  • grammar - In general, readers expect a resemblance of good grammar, something they can comfortably read.  The reality is many bloggers' first language is not English so writing in English using good grammar can be difficult.  There are online sites or you can use MS Word to help with grammatical problems. 
  • spelling -  Readers typically don't want to read a post riddled with spelling errors.  My spelling is atrocious, my proof reading skills are on the lazy side and I'm dyslexic which means spelling errors do get through occasionally.  I use auto-correct  as I'm writing a post then do a final spell check prior to published.  While this does help catch the majority of spelling errors, it does not catch all of them. It doesn't help that I use Canadian spelling (eg. colour not color) and some of my readers don't like it but I'm Canadian so that's the spelling I use.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Wordpress Theme Creator Problem

Wordpress is a very popular blogging platform that gives more control over your blog.  It is easy to block certain IPs from accessing your blog which is rather helpful if spam comments is a problem.  Google's penguin update is punishing Wordpress Theme creators because of spam blogs link to Wordpress Theme Creator.  Some of these spam blogs were spogs while others were pirated sites using negative SEO techniques.  In turn this has ruined it for the bloggers that used good SEO methods.  I don't use Wordpress as a blogging platform but I do use it as an online back-up system in addition to downloading my xml back-up to my computers. It's a shame that a lot of good bloggers will be affected by a few bad eggs!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Non-constructive and Abrasive Comments

There are days I really don't look forward to opening my email.  The reason being, I put my contact information on my blogs.  What this translates into is some readers feel they can send me any non-constructive or abrasive emails any time they desire.  The problem is, even though the email goes into the trash exactly where it belongs, and even though I get only as far as the first sentence to send the email to the trash, it throws me off just enough  to throw my blogging thought process off.  The good thing is, it doesn't throw me off long but I do wish those doing this would simply refrain.

The bottom line is, no amount of ranting or raving is going to make me change my blogging policies.  Those policies are in place for a reason and they they have been fine tuned over the years to meet the needs of my blogging style.  These types of emails cannot be taken seriously either.  I'm just saying...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Blogging on the Fly

Some days it is hard pressed to get any time for blogging.  In the end, the blogging gets done in bits and pieces in between everything else so it feels rather disjointed.   Not that it is a bad thing only that there are more blogging distractions than time to actually blog.  Today is one of those days!  It could be worse though.  Dealing with blogging distractions is just part of the blogging game. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

That Blog Comment Spam Annoyance

When it comes to blog spam, I don't get a lot but rather just enough to be an annoyance.  It seems like it always comes in clusters too.  I'm not sure why, just something I noticed.  I can seriously go for a couple of months with no blog comment spam then all of a sudden I will several comment spams in a row.  It must be because my post picks up something of interest in the spammers spiders.  For example, I recently posted about our new home security system.  Gosh, I got a good 10 comment spams from that one!  Yet other posts don't trigger their spiders which makes me wonder if they trigger Google's spiders.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

My System Has Been Kaputz!

For the past six years I have had an informal system.  I check my stats in the morning and record them along with the day before's ending stats.  Then below that across the line, I have my six blogs listed to form columns where I mark down what posts I need.   I use my own short forms but I know what they mean.  For example, under my cooking blog I would have: need FK101 2 9 12 23; need 3 4 6 7.  Each number refers to a date in that month.  Under the needs I wrote any short form post (eg. sc. eggs) with the last three digits of the image that needed editing.  As I wrote the post, I would cross out the date so I basically always knew which blog needed what.  I did this on a daily basis in a spiral bound notebook.  Each page contained two sets of the data so I only had to write the needs on the top set of data.  It was a simple little system that took about 5 minutes each day to keep me on track with my blogging.  My system has been kaputz for the past couple of months with only sporadic entries.  The reason being...life. 

To be honest, checking my stats daily was more important when I was paying for blog advertising and participating in the blog networks.  Now that those are gone, I check my stats a couple of times a week or if I get comment spam that indicates there may be a problem.  In an effort to get my blogs back on track, I'm going back to my little system even if I don't have time to blog that day.  I don't expect miracles overnight but at least it is a start at getting back into blogging mode before the summer distractions take away more of my blogging time.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Current Blog Network Model

The blog network model we has seen thus far is basically a traffic exchange although Entrecard refers to themselves as a blog advertising network.  BlogExplosion was a straight up traffic exchange as is Expose Your Blog.  CMFAds was a blog advertising network with guaranteed number of hits if you bought the spikes.  Adgitize was furthest from being a traffic exchange.  The problem with current blog network model and its tweaks is lack of traffic retainership.

If you drop 300 cards daily through Entrecard you will move towards the top of your category and get increased traffic BUT you also get an increased bounce rate.  If you stop dropping cards, your traffic will drop faster than a ton of bricks.  So the traffic from these types of networks is only there when you are actively participating.  The only way you keep any traffic from these networks is if you participated in their forums and happened to make a few friends.  Those friends may continue to visit your blog and visa versa but essentially if you stop participating, 98% of your traffic from other members there is gone as well.

Yet the story of the current blog network model gets worse when you consider some bloggers dropped 300 cards with Entrecard, 50 to 100 with Adgitize and 50 with CMFAds along with whatever they may have visited through Blog Explosion and Expose Your Blog.  It was quite possible to see the same blog five times in a day going through each network because many bloggers participated in more than one blog network.  This inherent redundancy really was a waste of time for all members and grossly inflated blog traffic.  While it looked like you got five hits each from one of the blog networks, it was five hits from the same person viewing your blog through the different blog networks.  In fairness none of the blog networks told their members to join other blog networks but the redundancy was encouraged by payment in the form of traffic, credits and money.  From the blogger's perspective, the more blog networks they joined the money they could make and hopefully get traffic as well.

When it comes to the full fledged blog traffic exchanges like BlogExplosion and Expose Your Blog the traffic is transient at best.  These networks are designed simply to drive traffic to your blog.  For every two sites you visit in the system, you receive one visit in return.  Members are not there to discover new blogs or even read them.  They are there to click as many sites possible in order to receive half the number of visits back to their blog.  This type of model simply inflates your traffic and gives a little exposure if that for the 30 seconds the member has to stay on your blog before moving to the next blog.  The mindlessly clicking to exhaustion blog network model simply isn't working in the long run for most bloggers. 

The whole blog network model needs to be rethought.  Bloggers do need promotional networks but ones that are going to help them build and retain traffic.  Perhaps a blog support network would work, one by bloggers, for bloggers without the underlying goal of making money.  It could be a network of volunteers providing a place where bloggers could come for help and support as well as to promote their blog.  It's just an idea but it might just work.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

How Many Quit Blogging With the Demise of Three Popular Blog Networks?

The other day, I was plugging along trying to get my blogging back on track when my mind wandered back to my early blogging days.  The best thing I ever did was get involved in a few blogging networks.  BlogExplosion had been dying a slow, painful death the both Adgitize and CMFAds closed down.  There were a fair number of bloggers participating in these blog networks because they brought blog traffic.  I wonder how many gave up on blogging after the demise of these blogging networks?  Afterall, it is a bit discouraging to put time and effort into a blog without blog networks to help promote it.

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Missing Blog Hopping

Within a couple of weeks of starting blogging, I joined BlogExplosion where I did a fair amount of blog hopping.  Entrecard, Adgitize and CMFAds quickly joined my list of blog advertising networks and while Entrecard went by the wayside I continued with the other three and eventually added Expose Your Blog.  All but the latter are gone now, so I do very little blog hopping these days.  I went from visiting a hundred or more blogs a day to now visiting at best ten blogs a day.  I visit a few of my favourites and occasionally click on blog links of members in some of the forums and groups I read.  While not blog hopping has freed up a lot of online time it has increased that feeling of blogging alone.  There is definitely less of a blogging support system now with fewer places to ask blogging questions as well as getting blogging advice. 

I'm lucky in that I had the opportunity to experience the blog hopping through these blog advertising networks.  After six years of blogging, I know where to find the help I need.  I do feel sorry for new bloggers though.  There really is not a lot of support available.  Even Blogger support and forums are less than helpful.  It takes ages to get a response if you get one at all! 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

That Darn Close Button!

Blogger is phasing out it's old editor so I switched to the new editor a couple of months ago.  For the most part I like the cleaner look and performance of the new editor.  I don't like where the post title is.  It took a bit of getting used to so for awhile I kept forgetting to put a title on the post meaning I had to go back and add one.  The nice thing is if you make a correction after the post has been published (live or scheduled) all you have to do is hit the update button for the correction to take effect. 

When writing a blog post, there are four buttons to the right of the title field.  They are: publish, save, preview and close.  I hate that close button!  I can't tell you how many times I have accidentally hit it when I intended to hit one of the editor buttons below it.   Blogger does automatically save posts on a regular basis and it does seem to be more frequently than the old editor but hitting close can cause you to lose what hasn't been saved since the last save.  Usually it is only a sentence or two but it is still annoying.