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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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.