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, January 26, 2012

The Non-Reciprocal Link Request

From time to time I do use links to another website or blog without expecting a reciprocal link.  I do so when I feel it is of benefit to my readers.  What really gets me is the requests to please link to us but you get nothing in return requests.  They usually take the tone:

Hi, I really like your blog.  I have good information <spam site> so would really appreciate it you would give a link back to our site. 
Hello, do I look like a moron?  I am supposed to give a link to a site or blog I know nothing of, I get nothing in return but you, the spammer appreciates it?  Too funny...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Blogs Mimic Real Life or Visa Versa

Back in 2006 when I started blogging I chose gardening as my first blog and a few days later my cooking blog.  We were living on waterfront property that very much lended itself towards the whimsy.  I could do things with that house that would so have been out of place anywhere else.  My kitchen was painted in a Behr colour called "Samanta's Love".  It was a beautiful, purply pink with a touch of iridescence that very few kitchens could ever pull off and yet it worked wonderfully for that kitchen.  When I created my kitchen blog I went with the pink tones and while the blog has undergone a lot of changes the basic pink remains. 

Fast forward to our new home purchased in September of 2011.  I didn't go back to the pink but rather the kitchen is in the process of being painted a deep burgundy, colour matched to my plates.  The room handles the bold colour well with the taupes, blacks and marble floor.  What struck me interesting is the colour is very close to my original blog header that was modified several times to become what it is today.   It's not that I'm a pink kind of gal either so somewhere that repressed pink is coming out in my one blog and it is spilling over into my homelife or visa versa. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Revamping a Blog Theme

I have started my major winter project of painting every room in our new house.  It is a large house but I think the project is quite achievable.  With the help of our youngest' significant other, the upper level (main) bathroom is 99% finished.  The walls and ceiling are completely repainted.  There is a little caulking to do and we are waiting for our friend to install the custom made trim he is making for us.  Other than that the room will be fully ready to suport it's new solar tube in the spring.

I am very much a detailed oriented person.  As I was working in the bathroom, I couldn't help but wonder if I should do a bit of revamping of my blog themes.  It has been awhile since I have done this.  While five of my blogs have custom designed by me themes, this one does not.  Perhaps it is time to create a custom theme for this one as well.  The creative juices are flowing and the more painting I do in the house the more ideas I'm getting for my blogs.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Too Many Ads

Oh my, we've all seen blogs with so many ads it is difficult to find the content.  Well Google has announced with their new Page Layout algorithm than sites with too many ads especially ads above the fold are now going to be penalized.  While Google is not saying exactly how many is too many it is quite clear that websites/blogs with a lot of ads are going to be penalized.  Quite frankly I have mixed feelings over this announcement,

First off, like many I am getting tired of being bombarded with more advertising than content on blogs.  That may be just me but some bloggers really need to give it a rest with pushing the advertising.  I don't use a lot of advertising on my blogs simply because I just don't like being bombarded with advertising myself.  The bottom line is, there is very little money to be made by displaying advertisements on blogs because blogs do not get enough traffic.  Realizing this, as a blogger the choice is to monetize a little and be happy if you make any money or don't monetize.  One thing is for certain, no one likes splogs!

Second, my personal opinion is Google has just a bit too much power.  While they are well within their rights to not show websites/blogs that have too many ads in their search results, they really aren't playing fair by giving an acceptable number.  If Google said, no more than 5 ads on a blog well then everyone would know not to go over that number otherwise they are going to be penalized.  As it stands, no one knows how many is too many.  It's hard to play by the rules if the rules aren't spelled out!  Unfortunately this has been a pattern with Google setting up penalties without clarifying the rules leaving the average blogger at best treading water hoping they won't get slapped by Google's next round of penalties.  And the worst part of this is even if you follow Google's rules to a T you can still end up getting penalized because Google changes the rules!  What is wrong with setting the rules and letting folks know exactly what the rules are so everyone has a level playing fied?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why Make Comment Spam in the First Place?

I have noticed an increase in blog comment spam lately and what I really don't understand is why anyone would leave a comment, knowing it is going to be moderated before posting and still do it.  Hello?  Talk about a waste of time.  You know it takes me all of 2 seconds to click spam effectively rejecting the comment and yet some of these spammers have spent 5 minutes or more to leave their comment spam.  It's not like they can say they weren't warned about the comment moderation either as I clearly have that set-up in Blogger.  I kid you not, I got one comment spam this morning with three links in it!  Honestly do they not have anything better to do?  I'm just saying...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Slow Blogging in January

January has thus far been fairly slow for blogging.  There are many factors affecting my blogging time including volunteering at our local school's breakfast club.  I have to admit I am really missing Adgitize as well.  It's funny but there was always that incentive to make at least one blog post daily.  In reality as soon as I made one blog post the ideas would spark other posts so making four or five posts a day was the norm.  It doesn't help that although we moved here starting September 1 of 2011, almost six weeks divided into two intervals were spent at our vacation home so I'm still trying to get things unpacked and organized.  Complicating that is I just started my major winter project of painting all the rooms in the house.  So blogging is sort of taking a back seat.  I just need to find my blogging mojo again!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Quick! How Do You Know You are on Google?

The answer du jour for that question is you get comment spam!  Spammers would not find your blog without the aid of search engines and in perspective they found your blog because you effectively used good SEO.  Comment spammers are very much the same as indicator pests (eg. centipedes) in your home but in a good way.  You see indicator pests warn you of potential problems like moisture whereas comment spammers give a clear sign your SEO is working properly.  So kudos if you get the comment spammers on a job well done with your SEO!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Oh Good Gawd!

The recent closing of two major players in the blog advertising networks (CMFAds, October 2011; Adgitize. December 2001) has created a bit of a backlash in comment spam.  I guess everyone is trying to make up the traffic they lost via comments but I'm telling you comment spam is not the way to go about it.  I take a very hardline against comment spam!  First, all comments across my six blogs are moderated meaning they will not go live unless I approve them.  Second, if you make a comment and it does not get posted that is one heck of a clear indication to you that it was comment spam.  That is also a good indication that if I were in a pissy mood your would have been reported for comment spam.  Third, if you make a comment and it appears on my blog(s) sans links that means I considered your comment borderline comment spam but gave you the benefit of a doubt so left the comment without links.  Finally if your comment appears on my blog(s) with no modification that means you are commenting appropriately and I welcome communication with you.  Which category would you like to be in?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Credits for Posting

There are distinct paid to post services that will pay you a set amount of money to make a post on your blog.  As blog advertising networks go, the only one that I am aware of that rewarded you for posting and it did not matter what you posted, was Adgitize.  Essentially, regardless of how many blogs you had, as long as you made one post daily you received 100 credits per day.  Those credits were later translated in real money so effectively Adgitize was paying bloggers to blog.  Unlike paid to post services, no disclaimer that you were being paid was required with Adgitize.  Any time any form of payment is made for an actual blog post there it is problematic.

Paid posts are problematic from the get go because you have someone blogging about a product or service they more than likely have no experience with.  The posts come across as phoney and they cheapen the blog reducing the credibility of the author.  However, with Adgitize this was very much hush, hush.  Blog and you get paid.  There was no obvious topic to blog about, no selling of goods, just a simple reward for blogging.  How would this hurt the blogosphere?  Well, the bottom line is some of the members in Adgitize blogged simply to get that 100 points or about 10¢ per day.  The quality wasn't there and those interested in only making money posted daily just to be able to get that money with no regard to what they were posting.  In many ways, Adgitize contributed towards a downward trend in the quality of posts throughout the blogosphere even though it was short term and limited to members only.  At the same time they were a top notch, stellar service that will be sorely missed but I really do think part of their downfall was rewarding bloggers for doing something they were going to do anyway, blog.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Effectiveness of Blog Advertising Networks

I have participated in several blog advertising networks since I started blogging in 2006.  I've used blog advertising networks and quite frankly have not been impressed with the retainership of readers.  Once the blog advertising network ceases operations, there goes your traffic and readership from them.  Here is a brief run down of my experiences:

  • BlogExplosion - This was my first blog advertising network that was basically a traffic exchange.  I was active in BE until last year.  I met many bloggers there and while I saw a few participating in other blog advertising networks, retainership of readers was basically nil.
  • BlogRush - This was a nice little blog advertising network that brought me a bit of traffic but then it suddenly closed so the traffic dried up.
  • Spottt - This blog advertising network was based on a 125 x 125 widget.  It fizzled out early in the game of blog advertising widgets but I did get the occasional hit from it.
  • The Beer Widget - Sorry, I can't even remember what the beer widget was called and it fizzled out so fast it really isn't worth mentioning.  I got no traffic from it.
  • 125Exchange - This was another blog advertising network based on the 125 x 125 ad widget.  I had a really bad experience with this one as suddenly I wasn't getting hits to find my info had accidently been deleted then the owner messed it up putting the information back in which explains why the service is now defunct!
  • Entrecard - I was very active in Entrecard up to the point of the Graham fiasco when it was finally sold, about 3 years.  At that time, I did get nice traffic but only because I was dropping 300 cards plus per day.  I walked away from EC in 2009, returned once as advertiser only for one months and have not been back.  The quality of traffic was always poor with a high bounce rate and retainership of readers even after all that daily work was pretty much nil.
  • CMFAds - This was a very nice, widget based blog advertising network that closed in October of 2011.  It offered a variety of advertising including spikes (guaranteed number of hits).  It was quite an effective blog advertising network, with a retainership of readers at about .5%.
  • Adgitize - This was another nice widget based blog advertising network that suddenly closed in December of 2011.  Time will tell what the retainership of readers will be but I suspect it to be about .5% as well.  I was averaging about 60 readers per day through Adgitize.
  • Project Wonderful - Surprisingly I don't talk about PW as much as I should.  It has been a rather good blog advertising network that while I run ads for others, I seldom run ads for my own blogs.  I have ran a few advertising campaigns there without a lot of success.  With the loss of CMFAds and Adgitize, I will likely try doing a bit of advertising on PW.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Should You Buy Blog Traffic?

The now defunct CMFAds offered spikes that guaranteed a certain number of hits to your blog for a certain price.  Essentially anyone using spikes was buying guaranteed amount of traffic.  There are a number of services where you can buy X amount of traffic for a set price.  This begs the question as to whether or not you should buy traffic for your blog.  The answer is not as simple as it would appear.

Only you can decide whether or not buying blog traffic will work for you.  There are pros and cons to buying blog traffic: 

  • pros
    • increased exposure - Paying for traffic is a legitimate form of advertising.  It can be quite effective when done properly. The more you get the link for your blog out there the more readers you are going to get. 
    • increased readership - Let's say you buy 1,000 hits to your blog.  Out of that you can expect to retain at least 1% if not more of the readers so out of that 1,000 hits you should increase your readership by 10.  If you run two successful paid traffic campaigns you may see an increase in residual traffic of 20 readers which isn't bad.
    • effortless - Once you pay for a certain number of hits to your blog, simply sit back and continue blogging while your traffic increases.
    • increased earning potential - Increased traffic means increased earning potential.  Any reader regardless of how they find your blog will count as a visit so if you are being paid based on number of page views your income will increase.  Each visitor may click one or more ads on your blog so if you are being paid per click your income will increase. 
  • cons
    • not Adsense friendly - Do not buy traffic if using Adsense or any other affiliate program where doing so would be contrary to their TOS.
    • increase bounce rate - Depending on where you buy traffic hits there may or may not be an increased bounce rate.  For the most part, expect an increase.
    • cost - There is no doubt about it, buying traffic will cost you actual cash.  You will need to set a budget as some services can be rather pricey.  
    • inconsistencies - Each service is different and while you will get the traffic you bought, there will be inconsistencies in bounce rate and retainership of readers between services and even between campaigns within the same service.
    • unique hits - Always choose a service that provided unique hits.  You can confirm this through your stats.  A service that provides 1,000 unique hits is considerably better than a service that provides 1,000 hits all from the same referrer. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Blog Advertising

There are two main forms of blog advertising, paid or free falling under the categories of graphic (eg. banners, badges) and text (eg. backlinks, text ads).  Have you ever heard the adage don't put all your eggs in one basket?  Well that adage applies to advertising as well.  We have had a successful family owned and operated business for 30 years as of this coming February.  From experience I know that it is imperative to use a combination of advertising methods while building good will by providing a top notch, professional service.  The same is true when it comes to blog advertising.  You cannot use only one blog advertising method and expect to build good traffic.  Instead you should use a multitude of blog advertising methods (eg. banners, badges, text) across a variety of mediums (eg. directories, social media, blog advertising networks, forums, newsgroups, newsletters).  It is the only effective way to consistently build good quality traffic for your blog.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Organic Traffic

Organic traffic is a concept that many bloggers fail to realize the importance of.  However, organic traffic can be the kind of traffic that determines the success of a blog.  Organic traffic arises through search engines and advertising but of these traffic coming from search engines is the most important.  When a person types the query into a search engine, they already have an interest in that particular topic.  If you have blogged about that topic and your blog article appears in the search results, there is a greater chance of that person visiting your blog.  If the article is interesting and your blog is nicely presented, there is a very good chance that visitor will bookmark your blog to visit again.  From one simple search result you may easily gain a loyal reader and if they really enjoy your blog they will share your blog url with their friends or even link to your blog.  That is why organic traffic from search engines is so important.

Organic traffic can also come from using banners and badges to advertise your blog.  This is not the same as traffic that comes from using banners and badges on blog advertising networks where members are expected to view other members' blogs.  Rather this is traffic that comes from a reader seeing your badge or banner on another blog then clicking to visit simply because the banner or badge appeals to them.  This is why a well designed banner and badge is very important in building organic traffic.

Finally, organic traffic can come from backlinks.  If you leave a comment on another blog and a reader likes what you had to say, there is a good chance they will visit your blog.  If another blogger lists your blog under blogs they enjoy or better still, blogs about your blog there is a good chance you will get a bit of organic traffic.  When building traffic always focus on the organic traffic first!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thoughts on Alexa

Alexa has gone from a free service that gave a nice way to measure traffic to a paid service of a minimum of $9.99 per month per blog or website.  It would essentially cost me $$69.94 per month to have all of my blogs certified via Alexa!  The free service is virtually useless other than having claimed your blog(s) but the traffic any widget used with the free service does not give an accurate depiction of your traffic.  Alexa has really become an ineffective blogging tool for the average blogger.

The Alexa widget creates a bit of a problem.  According to some resources, if you do not have an Alexa widget of your blog it does hinder what little information they collect even if you have claimed your blog.  I doubt it really matters as Alexa is not interested in offering a free service although it is wise to claim your blog so someone else doesn't try to at some point.  At the same time the Alexa widget takes up valuable blog real estate that might be better used in another manner.  If using the Alexa widget on your blog, opt for the smallest one possible.  Personally, I am considering removing the widget as it really serves no purpose. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Turning a New Blogging Leaf

Back in early 2006 when I first started blogging, I was not concerned about anything other than the enjoyment at finding another creative outlet.  It was so exciting because I was able to use digital format.  Fast forward to 2012, and looking where I am at blogging, I'm am saying to heck with the numbers, the rules and regulations.  See I played the game of using blog advertising networks and adhering to their rules even posting daily when some days I really didn't feel like it yet here I am still going strong with traffic building daily while they have folded up shop.  I've listened to the SEO, made sure my blogs were regularly updated with new content and still seen the wrath of PR penalties and Alexa rankings plummeting even though traffic continues to increase.  I refuse to pay Alexa $9.99 per month to monitor my traffic and quite frankly it doesn't matter what I do with respect to PR because Google keeps changing the rules.  So I have made up my mind that I'm turning a new blogging leaf for 2012

I am going back to blogging for the fun of it.  I don't really care what these powers that be think, I'm doing things my way from now on.  It's my time and my creative outlet, not theirs so :P on them! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The PR Slap

It is a brand new year so I decided to check on the page rank for my blogs.  Well imagine my surprise when one of them dropped to 0!  I'm not kidding.  The thing is I have done nothing different.  The blog gets good traffic, is still showing in search results and gets fairly regular updates so there should be no reason for the PR to drop.  What many don't realize that at any given time you check your PR it is a snap shot at that time not really a true overall picture of what is really happening.  You could easily check it again in a day or even less to get a different result.  So I'm looking at that nice big fat zero and even then it still irritated me.  Here I go busting my butt putting out good content, displaying Adsense ads only to get a slap.  Even if only temporary it doesn't look good.

On the heels of Alexa widgets going funky I am considering removing both Alexa and Page Rank from my blogs.  Not that I'm hiding anything as anyone can easily check them out for themselves, just that neither widget adds any value or content to my blogs.  Both are really only a visual for advertisers and since I'm not actively seeking advertisers these numbers have no meaning to the average reader.  In the meantime, I suspect if I check the PR of this blog in a couple of days it will be right back up there.  As to what the heck Alexa is doing that is another story.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Adgitize and Duplicate Content

Duplicate content for the most part is frowned on by Google and for good reason.  Google defines duplicate content as being pretty much the exact same content whether it is on one or more or your blogs or on someone else's blog.  There are concession though for using YouTube videos, free graphics and that type of thing but for the most part the actual commentary should be your own.  Adgitize took this concept a bit further in that no duplicate content should be used.  This was a problem for me as I author six blogs so tend to use the same tone and verbage  AND I tend to connect my blogs so if Im talking about cooking I may mention something in my gardening blog and visa versa.  For the most part this was not a huge problem and I managed to adjust.  What was a problem is duplicate content such as the custom created graphics I use for holidays where simply using the same graphic would be desirable without any commentary necessary.  I suppose I could have changed the alt tag each time.  Why should this have mattered to Adgitize?

Adgitize actually gave 100 credits for one blog post daily that were converted to a cash value.  In short, they saw this as paying the blogger for the post so quality was demanded and they had a right to warn the blogger if necessary.  Google does not pay bloggers for their posts directly so really doesn't care what you post providing it is not duplicate content as in cutting and pasting from one source to your blog.  What I found interesting is although Adgitize was against duplicate content, there was no disclaimer that the blogger was being paid for the post was required because it was not classified as a paid to post site.

Adgitize taught me that it is acceptable to use duplicate content in the form of YouTube videos and graphics providing I wrote unique commentaries each time I used the duplicate content on my blogs.  This actually was a valuable lesson.  The search engines will see the image or video as duplicate but the commentary (bulk of the post) is considered new content.  That's a good thing, one that will keep your blog(s) being noticed by the search engines.  I still occasionally use the same video or graphic across one or more of my blogs but I am careful to write a unique commentary for each blog when I do so.  Adgitize was right in that any slight duplicate content is offset by adding unique content.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Happy New Year and may it be a wonderful blogging year! 

I suspect there will be a few blogging hurdles to overcome in 2012.  In October of 2011 the blogosphere lost CMFAds and in December it lost Adgitize leaving only Entrecard and Expose Your Blog as blog advertising resources for higher traffic.  There are other advertising resources for bloggers but they are not geared towards mainly bloggers.  The blogosphere is changing and so it should.  Those coming into blogging thinking it would be a cash cow are quickly realizing .  I think 2012 will be almost a weeder year with respect to blogging much like the second year of university.  Those who have established good blogging habits who have put in the time and effort necessary for successful blog(s) likely won't notice much of an effect from losing these two blog advertising networks.  However, those not using good blogging habits and new bloggers are going to have a tougher go of it. 

I'm looking forward to blogging in 2012.  Sure it will be more challenging especially with respect to building traffic but I don't think it will be as difficult as it appears.  In the end, the traffic gained without these blog advertising networks may be higher quality traffic (eg. lower bounce rate, longer visit time).  And so a new blogging year begins...