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, 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.