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, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas 2013


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Facebook Hashtags

Facebook started using hashtags for better search results.  If you make a post about something the keyword(s) may or may not be caught by the search engine but if you use the hashtag #keyword it will be picked up by the search engine.  Hashtags are not all that important for personal posts, in my opinion.  The reason being, personal posts are usually not made public but rather targeted to friends or friends not acquaintances.  That means at best the post reaches a narrow audience but hashtags add a clickable link that will display other posts with that hashtag.  Hashtags are one more way to effectively promote your blog posts on your blog's Facebook page because the posts usually are public to begin with.  If you add a hashtag to a post on your blog's Facebook page, other Facebook members can find your post via hashtags.  Unlike promoting a post which costs money, using hashtags is free!  If at all possible, use a hashtag on any post on your blog's Facebook page.  That will bring a bit of traffic via the hashtag to your blog's Facebook page which in turn may bring traffic to your blog.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Promoting Your Blog With Facebook

Facebook is all the rage so like many, I created a page for one of my blogs and am in the process of creating one for another.  The beauty of Facebook is that it encourages communication between the blog author and readers that is not hindered by comment moderation.  In most cases this can be a real asset.  Should a problem arise where a reader insists on leaving negative, derogatory or other nuisance comments on your blog's Facebook page, you can easily report the user for harassment, block them and remove the comments.  In short, a Facebook page greatly enhances the communication for readers without hindering the control over content for the blogger.  There are several ways to promote your blog with Facebook.

First, be sure you have a Facebook button on your blog so readers can easily click like to follow you on the Facebook page you created.  Encourage readers to ask questions and comment on your Facebook page.  This is as easy as adding a short blurb on your blog or even a post.  While your Facebook page should be about your blog, it does not need to be exclusively about your blog.  It is fine to share other information that relates to your blog.  If you write a blog post you want to get a bit more attention, post the URL to your Facebook page.  This will give a thumbnail and link to your post.  That will draw immediate attention to the post from those who like your Facebook page.  Next, if you really want to promote your blog in general or a specific post, you can do paid targeted advertising within your budget.  My experience with this method has been quite positive gaining not only likes for my blog's Facebook page but also traffic to the blog.  Likes tend to spread amongst friends as well, something to keep in mind. 

When you sign on to Facebook, you have the option of using the site as yourself or as one of your pages.  Click to use Facebook as your blog's page.  Now, do a search to find a few pages that mesh with your page.  In most cases, these will be the Facebook pages of sites you have mentioned on your blog.  Like their page.  Be careful with this one as you want to keep the likes to only pages that mesh with your blog meaning some Facebook pages while as funny as all get out may not be the best places to promote your blog.  As you read through their page, you can like posts or leave comments.  Both actions will done as your page so if another reader clicks the like it will take them to your Facebook page.  From there, the reader may or may not like your Facebook page if what they see interests them and most will check out your blog so you might gain a few new readers that way along with an increase in traffic.  When liking posts or comments and commenting on another Facebook page be sure not to spam!  You can also share posts of interest from other Facebook pages on your page which will get the attention of the owner of the page you are sharing leading to more traffic.

All the way around, Facebook is one of the few blog promotion tools that actually does work.  It's basically free promotion as well unless you use paid ads to promote with are optional.  I have had excellent results promoting using an occasional $5 promotional ad that reaches 700+ based on their likes.  You only pay per post engagement so the $5 can last awhile while gaining a bit of exposure for your page.  At first I was skeptical but I am quite impressed with the traffic I am getting from Facebook!


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Whatever Happened to the Blog Directories?

Seven years ago when I started blogging, blog directories were all the rage.  It seemed like they were a dime a dozen.  The now defunct blog advertising networks encouraged their members to get their blogs listed in as many directories as possible.  The premise was that these directories would not only give a backlink to your blog but drive traffic to it as well.  At the time, getting into blog directories was just one more task for bloggers to do that in the end would prove futile.   The reality is, the blog directories didn't bring the promised traffic and ended up hurting bloggers who left links to them once they went under.  [Note to self, check any remaining blog directory links.]

In all honesty, if someone were searching for a particular blog or topic discussed on a blog, it was then and still is today a lot quicker to simply do a search.  Even then, the blog directories were of little use to bloggers.  Some of them made ridiculous demands as part of allowing your blog into their elite directory which really was only a bunch of hype.  The blog directories simply cashed in on the blogging boom.  The more bloggers they had in their directories the more powerful they appeared but in reality these directories were making money off of bloggers.  More bloggers in their directory made them more appealing to advertisers.  They got paid by the advertisers thinking that they would see results for their advertising dollars.  In the end, both bloggers and advertisers were left high and dry while the owner of the directory walked away with at best a bit of pocket change.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Does Allowing Comments Increase Blog Readership?

Back when I first started blogging, I knew enough that if I wanted to allow comments to turn comment moderation on.  Fast forward to the heyday (2007 to 2010) of blogging when the blog advertising networks were all the rage, allowing comments on blogs was stressed.  Comments were viewed as a way to engage the reader.  Some felt that comment moderation stifled the course of this natural interaction even though this made blogs not using comment moderation a mecca for spam comments.  The real question is, does allowing comments increase blog readership?  In my opinion, the answer is no.

I had comments turned on with comment moderation and I've had comments turned off.  The traffic remained the same regardless of the comments.  Comments really are just a touchy, goody feel thing for the readers.  As long as your blog(s) gets the attention of the search engines, you will get readers.  They may not stop and read for long and they may not visit often, but the readers will come.  The fact is the majority of readers don't care about whether or not they can leave comments, only that they get the information they are after.  These are the readers that will continue to visit whether or not comments are allowed providing they can find good, well presented information they are looking for.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Is Blogging Dead?

I came across a recent post by Rebecca Mecomber, author of The Older Geek asking 'Is the Blog Dead?'  She brings up a couple of good points especially the decline of blogs after the blogging networks folded.  Rebecca is quite correct that blogging seems to be on the downward spiral.  Like Rebecca, I have been blogging for quite some time.  She started blogging in 2007 while I started in early 2006.  I used to visit Rebecca's blogs on a regular basis when I was a member of the blog advertising networks but now I follow her on Twitter, visiting only when a topic of interest catches my eye. 

Blogging started out as an individual activity that grew to a social one via the blog advertising networks.  These networks were a wonderful way to get exposure for your blog, meet new bloggers and earn a bit of income.  The problem is, by design the blog advertising networks quickly took the fun out of blogging.  It was no longer simply about blogging.  It became more about how many clicks you could make in a day, how many posts you could pump out, consistently participating in social networks like Digg, Stumbleupon and Twitter, and networking.  The networks took blogging from fun to work.  In a world where little money was being made via blogging this quickly led to blogger burnout as bloggers tried to juggle jobs with the non-paid demands of blogging just in the hopes that at sometime their blog would make enough money they could give up their real jobs. 

I don't think blogging is dead but rather evolving.  Blogging has been evolving since its inception of basically an online diary of sorts.  If fact, many blogs bear little resemblance to what blogs started out as.  Design is very much a part of blogs today as much as the writing is.  I'm not even sure if the original blog ideal featured comments although most blogs allow comments of some type now.  Those like myself who have been blogging for a number of years making little if any income off their blogs are more than likely going to continue blogging until if and when they lose interest.  Twitter and Facebook have their benefits but don't offer the creativity that blogging affords.  Blogging has also become rather fashionable for businesses to touch base with their customers.  Main stream media is using blogging as a way to extend what they already offer to their subscribers likely as a way to drawn in new subscribers.  So, I don't see blogging drying up any time soon... 


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Updating Blog Labels

This morning I did a quick search through my blog posts on one of my blogs looking for a particular post.  After finding the desired post, it dawned on me that adding a couple of new labels might be beneficial.  Folks interests change and a post that fit one label when originally written, could easily fit one to two more labels.  Adding a label may increase the chances of that post being read while making it easier for readers searching your blog for a certain term.  Come to think about it, adding new labels or modifying existing labels is a part of blog maintenance that is easily overlooked.  This is not something I have done on a regular basis but I think I will go through all my blog posts adding additional labels if necessary. 


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Shutting Down A Blog

No, I'm not shutting down any of my blogs although the thought does cross my mind from time to time.  There are numerous reasons why a blogger may want to shut down a blog as well as several ways to do so.  I'm not sure whether any one method is better than another.  Most experts agree that simply leaving a blog as is in limbo and still assessable to search engines is the best policy.   A blog that has been monetized then left in limbo can still generate a small income although eventually that will likely dwindle to almost nothing but you never know.  Some bloggers simply delete the blog in its entirety.  This method is permanent with respect to losing the former blog url and guarantees no possibility of earning an income.  If there is a chance you want to keep the blog url, then simply setting the blog to private or password access only works well allowing you to resume the blog with its same url at a later date if desired.  A private blog can still generate money and it will show in search results but only those with the password will be able to view the actual blog.  So if you have 40 loyal readers that you have perhaps developed a friendship with, you could give them the password for them to still enjoy your blog even though it is not being updated on a regular basis.  Another method that was popular for awhile for bloggers with several blogs was to amalgamate them into one large blog.  This really only worked well if the blogs were along the same general themes but not so well if they were different themes.  For example, I could merge my cooking, gardening and homemaking blogs into one large blog but my other three blogs really wouldn't fit in well with that general theme. 

So there you have it.  Regardless of the method you choose to shut down your blog(s), I highly recommend keeping a back-up copy (XML) file or you can keep the HTML of parts of your blog(s).  I still have all the HTML for each page of my first website which could easily be used to create a new blog.  You never know when it will come in handy.  Of course, it goes without saying that any images you used on your blog should be kept as well in the event you want to restore the blog or use the pictures for other purposes.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

No Explanation Needed!

I've been blogging now for over seven years and in the blogosphere, that is a fairly long time.  From the beginning with the exception of a brief period of time where I turned off comments, the comments have been moderated for all of my blogs.  This has been a challenging year for my blogging so perhaps I am just noticing the comments more or perhaps the fact that spammers aside some folk are just plain rude. 

My blogs are an extension of me.  They are my creation and I will do with them as I choose.  My philosophy is my blog, my rules.  I do not feel a need to explain to anyone why I have a particular policy in place or why I did not approve their comment.  That should be a fairly easy concept but apparently it is not one some demanding readers understand.  Seriously, who do these folks think they are? 


Thursday, August 22, 2013

On a Roll

Over the past four days, I have written more blog posts than I have in the past month or so it seems.  I have seriously been struggling to get blog posts written.  The more I didn't blog the harder it was to pick up the pieces and blog.  I forced myself to continue writing for my cooking blog but even then missed a day or two here and there.  Honestly, the motivation to blog just wasn't there.  At the moment the motivation appears to be in full force with posts just rolling out.  I do hope it keeps up at least long enough to get my blogs back on track!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Elliptical Spammer

Oh my gosh!  There is a comment spammer who uses a different name with link to an elliptical trainer on the name.  The content is always 'one word exclamation point' (eg. Fantastic!).  It would be funny if it wasn't happening at such a high rate across all my blogs.  Lucky me and thank goodness for comment moderation!  Oh and if perchance the spammer is reading this blog, we do have a elliptical trainer.  It's a really nice one that looks purdy in the corner of den off the games room.  Someday I might actually try it out.  Wouldn't that be 'Fantastic!"


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Renewed Interest?

I have to admit my thoughts haven't been on blogging.  Well they have to some degree but more on feeling guilty over not blogging as much.  Without going into great detail, I've been on a journey of discovery leaving me considerably less time to blog.  Sunday we decided to upgrade the Mac and in the process I ended up going through numerous old pictures.  All of a sudden the urge to blog was very strong.  I'm not sure how long it will last but for now it is like I am right back where I was in blogging with post after post rolling out.  That has to be a good sign :)


Monday, August 19, 2013

Hit or Miss Blogging

...umm, it has been more like a miss with respect to blogging lately.  I tend to blog in spurts meaning that so far this has been a rather bad year for blogging.  Ah well, I'll just keep plugging along and hope things pick up a bit.


Monday, July 22, 2013

An Over Zealous Commentor

There are days I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I open up the comments awaiting moderation on my blogs.  Today was priceless.  A reader had left a comment on one of my blogs, actually more of a question to which I had given the appropriate response.  The blog post, comment and response are about five years old so I was surprised to even get another comment on it.  At any rate this commentor went to great lengths to compose a response that in all honesty could have been used as an actual blog post itself.  The person used their Blogger ID so the link went to their profile that was established in 2011.  The only oddity was he or she did not author a blog and only followed one blog but really neither surprise me.  Quite often someone will start a Blogger account, set up a blog and later set the blog to private or delete it for whatever reason.  They still have the account but no associated blog until if and when they set up another blog.  At any rate it was a good effort on the part of the commentor even though I did not allow it to be posted.  My main concern was the comment was actually lifted from someone's blog and with copyright infringement issues you can't be too careful these days.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Oh That Sinking Feeling!

Since I have been blogging less, I have not been as attentive to my blogs' stats.  I was applying for a sponsorship today that asked for the number of unique visitors per month on that particular blog.  I opened Statcounter and my heart dropped!  There was an unbelievable dip in traffic on my most popular blog that is still seeing for the most part daily posts.  I immediately panicked thinking that perhaps my blog had been dropped from one or more search engines.  After I started breathing again, I started checking.  I opened Google Analytics.   My traffic was right where it should be.  In fact, according to Google Analytics, my traffic is increasing.  What a relief!  So, I went back to Statcounter and noticed a couple of changes.  There is now an 'i' in a blue circle by the browser if it is a search engine bot which means they were doing a bit of tweaking at Statcounter.  You can click on the 'i' to block these visits from showing in your stats now.  This is a new feature.  I'll leave it so I can see when the search engine bots visit to give me a quick visual and reassurance they are still indexing my blog.  Now that I've had my bit of excitement, back to blogging...


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Creativity Run Amuck

Back in the hay day of my blog hopping, I would visit over three hundred blogs a day.  That meant I had the great pleasure to see a lot of different blogging designs and styles.  Most blogs were utilitarian to cutesy with easy to read font.  Then there were the for lack of a better word, borderline bizarre.  These blogs featured dark in colour and/or meaning backdrops often with neon colour fonts and then some.  Some of these blogs liberally used the eff bomb as a form of expression, pretty much in every sentences and you really had to give them credit for some of the creative derivatives of the eff bomb they were capable of coming up with.  Others displayed graphic images or videos, while others yet made a point of telling in graphic detail every aspect of their bodily functions sprinkled with their somewhat strange but almost non-existent lifestyle.  In short, these blogs were not pleasing on the eye or calming to the soul, and they certainly were not a pleasure to read.  There is a fine line between freedom of expression and being obnoxious.  These blogs were downright obnoxious. 

I don't do near the blog hopping I used to.  Still, it has been a couple of years since I ran into one of the obnoxious blogs.  Perhaps they realized their style was turning away readers or it became too much of a burden to continue in that style.  Perhaps they changed their style in the hope of attracting more advertisers.  At any rate, I've noticed their absence. 


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Regularly Featured Posts

Shortly after starting my blogs, I began running regularly featured posts (eg. Wordless Wednesday, Blog Your Blessings Sunday, Frugal Kitchens 101, Kitchen Quick Tips).  These posts are scheduled to run on the same day of the week, each week.  For example, Wordless Wednesday appears each Wednesday on my personal blog.  Both Wordless Wednesday and Blog Your Blessings Sunday were regularly featured posts started by other bloggers and at one time bloggers participating would visit others to see their posts.  I started the Frugal Kitchens 101 and Kitchen Quick Tips as two regularly featured posts unique to my cooking blog. 

To me, regularly featured posts make a lot of sense.  If you notice most magazines and newspapers have regularly appearing articles or columns in each publication (eg. editorial, letters to the editor, lifestyle, and etc).  Quite often a reader will buy a magazine or newspaper just for that particular article or knowing that feature will appear each week, can make them a loyal reader.  So it is with blogging.  I know some of my readers only visit on the days they know a particular featured post is scheduled but other readers went from visiting only on those days to becoming daily or almost daily readers.  Using regularly featured posts can, in my experience, increase the number of subscribers to your blog.

The biggest thing I have found with regularly featured posts is readers expect them.  So if they come to my cooking blog on Monday they know the topic will be Frugal Kitchens 101 - [sub-topic].  I have a FYI section before the posts so make any special announcements there.  This is where I announced the begining of this particular regularly featured post.  I've been doing the Frugal Kitchens 101 posts for quite some time every Monday so now I want to inject a bit of freshness into that particular blog by reducing the Frugal Kitchen 101 posts to run only on the first Monday of each month and introduce one, possibly two new regularly featured posts.  I will make the appropriate announcement in the FYI section.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Changing...

Shortly after starting to blog I came across memes.  They were kind of cute so I started participating in Wordless Wednesday and Blog Your Blessings Sunday on my personal blog.  I started two regular features on my cooking blog, Frugal Kitchens 101(Mondays) and Kitchen Quick Tips (Thursdays).  These types of regular features really helped to organize my blogging and ensure that new content appeared on two of my blogs each week without much effort.  The reason being, the topics were very focused so writing posts were fairly easy.  If I was on a roll, I could easily write a couple months worth of the Kitchen Quick Tips or Wordless Wednesday posts in an afternoon then schedule them to go live on the desired days.  The nice thing about using these types of posts is I could easily keep new content appearing on my blogs on a regular basis without a lot of effort.

I have been in a funk mentally and physically since the end of 2012 which really has affected the amount of blogging I have been doing.  However, I think a big part of the blogging funk has been blogging burn-out combined with a bit of disillusionment.  I greatly reduced posting on my personal blog including the regular posts and it became a struggle to even keep up with the regular featured posts on my cooking blog.  Yesterday, I realized part of the problem was getting into a rut with the regular featured posts.  I've been doing the same themed featured posts for so long that they have become almost boring to write and a challenge to find a new spin on the same topic.  So, it's time to make a few changes!

First, I am going to bring back the Wordless Wednesday posts on my personal blog.  I'm going to reduce the Frugal Kitchens 101 to the first Monday of each month on my cooking blog.  I'll keep the Kitchen Quick Tips on Thursdays.  The challenge now is to come up with a couple of ideas for regular features for my cooking blog to cover the three Mondays that would have had Frugal Kitchens 101 posts and I may possibly introduce another regular featured post, something like Sunday Delights or On the Grill.  I'm excited at the prospect of change.  I think it will be a bit of a boost for my cooking blog.  At the same time, hopefully I can get back into more routine posting on my personal blog.  Then there are the other blogs to consider...


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Duplicate Content

Right from my beginning blogging days, I knew that duplicate content was frowned up.  In fact, the now defunct blog advertising networks that I participated in warned against duplicate content in their forums.  Other bloggers blogged about not using duplicate content.  However, it quickly became apparent that not all duplicate content is viewed in the same light by the search engines.  Duplicate content is detrimental to search engines because it is the same and that redundancy does not make for a successful search engine.  The three main areas of concern with respect to duplicate content and blogs and their relationship with search engines  are: text, images, and videos.  Duplicate content such as design, layout, widgets and even advertising is not so much of a problem with search engines but rather more of a problem for readers who really don't enjoy reading ten blogs all with the same design, colours and layout even though the content differs.  Any blogger needs to be aware of the ramifications of duplicate content, especially that content that could have an effect on search engine results.

In the past couple of weeks there has been a bit of buzz with how stock photos are perceived by search engines especially Google and whether Google was penalizing those using stock photos.  A stock photo is one in which you a license to use it.  I haven't used stock photos and I don't think they are popular with bloggers due to the cost of the license.  Let's say 10 licenses are sold for one particular photograph.  If that photograph is displayed on ten blogs with no further content regarding the photograph, then it is duplicate content.  If however, it is displayed on ten blogs with each adding unique text and/or different alt tags then the stock photograph while the same is not viewed as duplicate content.  In reality, this applies to any free graphic or video that you have on your blog that you do not own the copyright to. 


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Beneficial Spam

I'm not a huge fan of spam of any kind.  With respect to blogging, spam is usually comment spam or some type of solicitation like trying to get me to blog about whatever they are selling, selling being them wanting me to blog about their latest, greatest topic or promote them in some fashion.  Well, yesterday I received a rather interesting piece of spam.  This spam 'technically' was an offer for me to join their services to gain organic traffic to one of my blogs.  In this case, it was a simple piece of spam surprisingly addressed to my blog team that ended up turning out to be rather informative.  What they did is include five points that they felt my blog was lacking that was affecting the organic traffic I was receiving from search engines.  I don't know if they actually analyzed my blog or it was just a generic five points that would be applicable to most blogs. 

Some of the major factors which can be overcome for your website to rank well in SERP organically and increase your social media presence are:
1.       Seems like your website carries a lot of technical errors which prevents search engine to crawl and index your website properly.
2.       Your website needs a proper keyword selection and optimization.
3.       Your website is not well furnished with enough quality and theme based back links.
4.       Your website should be more inclined towards Social media promotion and a regular updates in major social networks.
5.       Missing quality web and promotion contents (Article, Blogs etc.) which is preventing your website to gain more authority and ranking in Web Market.
The five points were gave me a something to ponder.  I'm not sure what the technical errors are as I have meta tags and Blogger is rather good at providing the necessary ground work to allow search engines to crawl and index blogs within their system.  Keywords are based on the content of each blog post and while I do pay attention to keywords, I don't write blog posts around keywords.  Rather, I use keywords naturally as I would in discussing that topic.  The quality and theme based back links may be something to work on.  However, back links are not something I tend to solicit.  I let them happen naturally.  Occasionally I leave a link back one of my blogs when commenting but even that is almost a waste of time since many bloggers have these types of links set to rel='no follow'.  Most of the back links I get to my blogs is from other bloggers liking what they have read enough to share with their readers.  I have social media buttons on my blog and promote them on social media as well so without spamming via social media I can't really do much more.  The last point is just a bit insulting because let's face it any blogger who is trying to make it in the blogosphere including myself is writing what they consider quality content.  Furthermore, I include quality content such as quotes and other interesting tidbits.

In all, this was likely a generic list aimed to get me to sign up to their services and part with a bit of hard earned cash.  Well, their marketing ploy didn't work but it did get me thinking a bit.  As always, there is room for improvement in my blogging so perhaps it's  time to formulate a new strategy and try a few new things.  After all, becoming stagnant in the world of blogging is never good!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Google May Penalize For Cross Linking Between Your Own Blogs

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article that started out saying that Google may penalize if you cross link between your own blogs.  While this may be the case, what Google really is saying is if you have a couple of blogs and occasionally do a natural link from one to another, there isn't a problem.  What they don't want is someone who has twenty blogs, consistently cross linking between them.  So, in my case where I author six blogs, it would be fine for me to link to one of them if blogging about a topic related to the that blog.  For example, a link to a tomato sauce recipe on my cooking blog from my gardening blog if I were discussing tomatoes on my gardening blog and mentioned a particular variety was ideal for making a sauce would be acceptable.  Also acceptable is something to the effect 'I also author' or 'Author of' and links to your other blogs in the sidebar which would by search engine standards result in one link to each of your other blogs similar to a blog roll.  What is not unacceptable is excessive cross linking especially those cross links that are not natural.

Back when I first started blogging a little over seven years ago, it was a common practice for those bloggers interested in making money from their blogs to set up a number of blogs.  Excessive cross linking was widely done even though it likely wasn't acceptable back then either.  My youngest blog is almost five years old and yet despite authoring six blogs, I seldom link between them.  I have links to each in the sidebar but other than than there are very few times I will make a link from one of my blogs to another.  So, for me excessive cross linking between my blogs is a non-issue but for those who do, they may find themselves penalized.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Promoting a Blog with Contests

A couple of years ago when I was active in the now defunct blog advertising networks and visiting a multitude of blogs on a daily basis, I noticed some bloggers used contests as a way to promote their blogs.  I'm not sure how this method of promotion worked for them but at the time I set the notion aside.  Back in March I was offered an opportunity to run a sponsored contest on one of my blogs.  The sponsor supplied the giveaway and was responsible for sending the gift to the winner.  All I had to do was blog about the contest and determine a winner.  I was rather impressed at the results with 60 comments on that one post.  Oh sure, it's not near as many comments as some bloggers get but I thought it was rather good.  That post brought me rather good traffic as well as a few Facebook likes.  So the results were good!

I'm running another contest on the same blog this month.  This time I am sponsoring the giveaway myself.  It isn't an expensive giveaway at a value of $10 but it is on topic for the blog.  So far, that post has 6 comments and it is only a couple of days old with the contest ending on May 29 giving plenty of time for more comments. 

I think contests or giveaways may be a good promotional tool for certain niche blogs. It is an excellent way to advertise if used correctly.  The only way to determine if they are beneficial for your blog is to try running a couple.  In order to run a successful contest, here are a few things I consider:

  • the prize - The prize should fit the blog niche (eg. cookbook for cooking blog).  Keep the prize small for ease and cost of shipping or have the item shipped directly to the winner from where you buy it online.
  • sponsorship - You can buy the gift yourself and take care of all the details.  An alternative is to find a sponsor to supply the gift for the giveaway.  Both will take time and effort on your part however, getting a sponsor may actually gain you more in the terms of future sponsorships and support for your blog.  These sponsorships can lead to future opportunities with the sponsors.
  • the details - Clearly outline the details of the contest like who is eligible, contest end date and what the reader has to do to have a chance to win.
  • length of time- Allow enough time for the actual contest.  Two to three weeks is sufficient.  Then allow time for the winner to reply once contacted.  Forty-eight hours should be sufficient.  At that time, if you don't hear from the winner, choose another and notify them.  
  • promote the contest - Promote the contest via social media.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Blog Advertising

With the demise of several smaller blog advertising networks (eg. Adgitize, CMFAds, Entrecard) there are very few avenues for advertising a blog.  There are of course a few free sites where you can advertise your blog or promote a blog post, mainly social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.  There are paid sites like Project Wonderful and BlogAds as well as blog networks like BlogHer and BlogFrog.  There is also the option of running paid ads on Google, Facebook, Twitter, and traffic exchanges as well as private ads.  So, with a limited budget for advertising, what is the best way to advertise your blog?  Here are some methods I have used:

  • Facebook (low to high cost) -  Paid advertising on Facebook starts at $5 for promoting a post, getting traffic to your blog's Facebook page, or getting more likes for your Facebook page.  For blog advertising, this is low priced but can quickly get expensive depending on what type of campaign you are running.  I have had good luck with the Boost Post option to promote a post and am now just trying out a campaign to get more likes for my Facebook page which hopefully will bring more traffic.  I will be reserving the Boost Post option for promoting anchor posts.
  • Twitter (no cost) - Advertising your blog and/or specific posts on Twitter is as simple as making a tweet.  It costs nothing but time.  You can even use a service like Tweetfeed to use your RSS feed so each post made to your blog appears on your Twitter timeline.  Be warned, some followers don't like those who only try to promote their blog.  I have found that active participation gets me more traffic from Twitter than just using Tweetfeed.
  • Pinterest (no cost) - Promoting a blog post on Pinterest is as simple as pinning it and the best part is you don't even have to pin it yourself!  Just have the Pinterest button somewhere on each post and readers who like it will pin the post for you.  In fact, that is how I discovered Pinterest myself.  I noticed traffic from Pinterest in my stats, checked it out then joined myself.  It really is a great way to get exposure for individual blog posts with little effort.  
  • Project Wonderful (no to low cost) - Members of Project Wonderful are paid to display advertising graphics (banner, button, square, half banner, rectangle, leaderboard, skyscrapper) on their blogs by the winning bidder.  A member bids on that ad spot then if successful the ad is shown so you can earn a little, and I do mean little money running ads.  Members can also bid to advertise their blog on other sites in the system.  Bidding is from $0.00 to winning bid over whatever is maximum at that time.  Now it does get a bit confusing until you catch on.  If the max bid is $0.00 you have to bid $0.01 to win but the ad will display at no cost unless someone outbids you.  They would have to bid $0.02 to become winning bidder.  If their ad time is less than yours and time or their funds run out you become winning bidder again.  You will get a lot of notices as to you are high bidder, you have been out bid, you are now high bidder.  I tend to just ignore them because on any given day it can really bounce around.  The payout threshold for any money earned from running ads is $10 which I have cashed out several times but I do keep around $5 in my account just to do a bit of low cost advertising.  Project Wonderful can help get a bit of exposure for your 125 x 125 or if you decide, larger size ad.  My experience has been that while it gets exposure with folks seeing the same graphic on different blogs or sites, it does not necessarily bring you any traffic.
  • traffic exchanges - Traffic exchanges can be used for advertising purposes only.  Advertising includes text and banner ads.  In general, you buy a given number of impressions so your ad is shown that number of times.  It does not mean you will get any traffic from either type of ad.  It will gain you exposure for your banner ads which can help build traffic especially since I have noticed a lot of familiar faces in the traffic exchanges that used to frequent Entrecard. 


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Promoting a Blog Post on Facebook

There are three ways to promote an individual blog post on Facebook.  The first is putting a link which automatically ads a thumbnail on your personal Facebook page.  This is free and goes out to your friends as a Facebook comment.  You can also do the same thing on Facebook pages you like but this may be perceived as spamming so I don't encourage that.  The second is to put the link on your blog's Facebook page.  That will go to anyone who has liked your blog's Facebook page.  The third option is to use the post promotion option [Boost Post] below each post on your blog's Facebook page.

The Boost Post option opens a drop down menu where you can choose the desired audience, advertising budget and payment method.  Now this is a very nice feature but unlike the blog advertising bloggers were used to using with the now defunct blog advertising networks, this advertising is pricey.  It is however, reaching a much broader audience.  Unlike the blog advertising networks where advertising was done only on blogs within that network which was a rather small audience, advertising on Facebook is reaching out to thousands of people who tend to like sharing what they find with their friends who in turn share with their friends and so on.  Another huge difference between the blog advertising networks and Facebook Boost Post, is you aren't promoting your blog only one post on that blog.  So, for $5 you can promote a blog post on Facebook for a reach of 790 to 1,500 Facebook users.  That doesn't look like much.  But consider if 10% of the 790 share a link to your blog, then 10% of those share the link, well it does snowball.  In fact, if you are really lucky, a link to one of your blog posts could go viral.

The down side to the Boost Post option is of course the price.  Most bloggers are not making a lot of money with their blogs.  If they make enough to cover their costs, they are happy.  This certainly is not going to be an option most bloggers use for just any post.  Instead, I feel the Boost Post option is a good way to get readers to your blog via the extra special interest posts on your blog.   That may mean a blog post that is already a rather popular one on search engine results which means anchor posts.  For this reason, if using the Boost Post option, I think it is prudent to do a bit of blog analysis before buying a Boost Post option.

Here are my recommendations on how to use the Boost Post option on Facebook:

  • use your stats - Your blog stats will help to determine which posts you should use the Boost Post option.  Pay attention to the search referral for key words used to find posts on your blog.  The visit page will help you determine the anchor posts on your blog manually.  If you are using Statcounter, click on Popular Pages in the left hand column of your stats.  This brings up a list of blog posts according to number of hits over the last 18 hours or period of your blog log.  While this list will change certain blog posts will remain within the top 10 posts on your blog.  Those are the posts best used for the Boost Post option.
  • use an anchor post - An anchor post is one that has good content with information that readers are looking for so it consistently brings traffic to your blog via organic searches.  A blog may only have a few anchor posts even if it has a large number of posts.  The anchor post may be seasonal or event specific.
  • seasonal posts - If an anchor post is seasonal (eg. Christmas recipes, bbq recipes, canning tips) promote this post close to the start of that season.  Occasionally you may want to promote that anchor post again mid-season.  For example, one of my most popular posts during the busy canning season (mid-May to mid-October) is how to home can green beans.  This would be a post I would promote on Facebook using a Boost Post option about a week before beans are ready to start harvesting and since beans continue for awhile I would likely promote it again in 2 to 3 weeks time.
  • targeting - There are two Boost Post targeting options.  The first is to those who like your page and their friends.  The second is to Facebook at large.  I think Facebook at large is a better value for your dollar.  Those who like your page have likely already shared one or more of your blog posts with their friends.  Their friends and anyone checking out their profile providing it is public can also see their likes so your page will show that way as well.  In other words, this is free advertising via Facebook.  Targeting to Facebook at large will expose your blog's Facebook page to those who may otherwise not see it.  
  • thumbnails - If a blog post has one or more images, Facebook automatically creates an image for the url when the initial post is made.  Prior to posting, you have the option to choose whether or not to use an image and if so which image to use as the thumbnail.  Always choose the best image.  For example, if a blog post has five pictures showing various stages of the process with the final image showing it completed, choose the completed one as the thumbnail.  The reason being, it has more eye appeal and is more likely to get more interest.  
  • set a budget - Set a budget for your entire advertising costs for a month for your blog.  Advertising on Facebook using the Boost Post option will use up at least $5 or more of your budget.  The menu starts at $15 but you can change that.  
  • start small and go slow - See what you get for that $5.  If you don't like the results, then you can try again with another post or move on to something else without being out a lot of money.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Promoting Your Blog With Facebook

I had a Facebook account for a few years before ever actually using it.  However, when we started traveling between our vacation home in Florida and here in beautiful Ontario, Canada, I quickly realized that Facebook was an ideal way to keep in touch with our family and friends especially during the travel period.  There are numerous free Wi-Fi spots en route and it's free access at the airports we use.  One airport I think has now gone to pay per day but if you sit in one of their bars, it is still free access.  Anyway, we can keep the kids up to date as to where we are so they know we have safely arrived at that point in our destination.  Then when we arrive at our vacation home we have full internet service and free long distance in North America but Facebook is still a lot easier for certain things.  On that note, about a year ago, I set up a Facebook page for my most popular blog. 

You do not need a Facebook page for your blog in order to get your blog noticed on Facebook.  As long as you have a Facebook 'like' button on your blog, preferably after each post, a reader can like that post to share with their Facebook friends.  So, the simplest way to promote your blog with Facebook is to include the Facebook 'like' button.  A Facebook page takes blog promotion a step further.  You must have a personal Facebook account whether or not you are active to create a Facebook page.  This makes you the admin of your Facebook page.  From there, you can set up you page which is laid out Facebook style.  You can add your blog badge (125 x 125) as your Facebook page profile picture which differs from your personal profile picture.  You can add a cover photo as well.  The cover photo cannot have permanent words or encroach on anyone's copyright.  You can change the cover photo as often as desired either by uploading a new image or using one you have already uploaded.  Once your page is set-up you can invite friends who may invite their friends and so on.  At the same time, the Facebook 'like' button on your blog allows readers to follow you Facebook page as well. 

I only have 143 likes for my Facebook page but that is 143 folks that keep up to date with my blog via Facebook.  Just as with your personal account, you can post to your Facebook page including links to specific blog posts.  It is a great way to interact with your readers as well. 

Now it gets interesting and this is where Facebook can help.  You can promote a blog post simply by clicking on the promote and choosing the amount of money you want to spend.  I spent $5 to promote one post that resulted in 903 impressions and 39 clicks.  At 13 cents per click this is a bit pricey as far as advertising BUT out of those 39 clicks, I got two new followers to the page and I know they shared the link to both my blog and Facebook page because there is increased traffic coming from Facebook in my stats.  In addition to paying for blog post promotion there are other advertising options like bidding for clicks and getting more page likes.  Note that the bidding per clicks is clicks to your Facebook page not your blog so it is perfectly fine to use if you have Adsense on your blog.  By advertising your Blog's Facebook page, you are in essence advertising your blog so each advertising campaign should bring traffic to your blog which may increase readers to your blog.



Friday, April 26, 2013

Page Rank & Adsense

Yesterday, I checked my Adsense account to be greeted with the updated Terms & Conditions which I agreed to.  So I decided to do a bit of checking to see what else had changed.  Under Adsense Program Policies I found:

"Do not include deceptive or manipulative content or construction to improve your site's search engine ranking (e.g. your site's PageRank)."
I know I did not see this before!  Every blogger has been displaying PageRank and Technorati rating badges for years.  Not once did I ever consider having either badge as being deceptive or manipulative or in fact in any way anything to do with search engine ranking.  To me, the badges served two purposes.  First, like the McD's billions served on their sign, the badges were a way of advertising to readers that hey, this blog is doing ok.  Second, the badges were a quick way to assess another blog if I wanted to buy advertising on it. 

I'm going ahead and removing both PageRank and Technorati badges not because of Adsense but because Adsense gave me the excuse to remove them.  I never liked the badges in the first place.  Most readers don't care about the numbers to begin with and they take up valuable blog real estate that could be used for much more interesting content.  At any rate, if you are displaying either badge or anything similar and using Adsense, you may want to consider removing it before you are forced to.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Traffic Exhanges & Adsense

Traffic exchanges work on the principle that for every 2 sites you visit you receive one visit to your site in return.  There are variations to this but in general that is how they work.  If used in this manner, a webmaster or blogger can easily inflate the visits to their website or blog which is clearly against the TOS for Adsense.  One reason why BlogExplosion, ExposeYourBlog, Entrecard, CMFAds and Adgitize were destined for failure is all had elements of being a traffic exchange, a couple more so than others.  However, traffic exchanges can still be used by bloggers without violating the TOS for Adsense.

First, let's consider a traffic exchange.  As mentioned, it can be used to get traffic via mindless surfing which is time consuming, increases your bounce rate and has very poor reader retainership.  I'm not saying you can't gain a few loyal readers from using a traffic exchange but if you participated in any of the blog advertising networks mentioned above, how many readers do you still have from those networks?  An actual traffic exchange is not just about getting traffic.  It is about networking in order to make money.  To that end, traffic exchanges offer advertising opportunities that can be used without violating the TOS for Adsense.  They also allow you to buy traffic (against TOS for Adsense) and buy advertising (not against TOS for Adsense).

Be warned, if you use a traffic exchange as 2:1 for gaining visitors to your blog, it can be detected and Adsense may give a warning or suspend your account.  Do not use a traffic exchange for traffic from surfing!  Buying traffic may also get you into trouble with Adsense because you are artificially inflating your traffic.  Some traffic exchanges actually pay members to click on sites which is also against Adsense TOS.  At this point, you may decide that using a traffic exchange is more trouble than it is worth. 

Traffic exchanges offer banner and text ads as well as splash pages.  You can earn or buy credits to use for advertising with is not against Adsense TOS because there is no guarantee you will get any traffic at all from those ads.  If you do, chances are very good if the reader liked what they saw they will bookmark your blog then visit again through your link rather than through the traffic exchange.  If you choose to use advertising resources on a traffic exchange and use Adsense make sure it is one that does not pay members to surf.  Now, if you want to use a traffic exchange to build exposure and traffic for your blog without any possibility of violating Adsense TOS, here's what you do:

  • set up a page for your blog on Facebook
  • set up an account on Pinterest, Twitter, etc.
  • set up an account on the traffic exchange of your choice with you page link pointing to your Facebook blog page
  • Once a reader lands on your Facebook blog page, they can like that page which has a direct link to your blog if they so choose.  While the initial traffic comes from the traffic exchange the actual traffic to your blog comes from Facebook.  This is all perfectly legal so no problem with Adsense.  You can do the same with Pinterest and Twitter.  Make sure your blog url is in your profile then use a traffic exchange to point to your profile where the reader can click on it if desired.  Again the reader is finding your profile via the traffic exchange but traffic to your site comes from the url in your respective profile.
  • One of the easiest ways to do this is to set up a splash page.  This can be done for free on some traffic exchanges.  On the splash page, have your blog title or logo and some interesting text to get their interest, blog url but no clickable link to your blog.  Include any desired social media button with direct links to your profile.  This same splash page can be used across a number of traffic exchanges all bringing traffic to your respective profile which may get you traffic to your blog.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Changes for Updating HTML in Blogger Template

I haven't had the need to update any of my Blogger templates lately. Yesterday, I realized I hadn't updated the copyright notice on a couple of my blogs which means uploading a new graphic then changing the HTML in the template from the old sig graphic to the new. It's an easy way to update the sig on all the posts in the blog with one minor update. So, I clicked on Blogger>template>html and what did I find? Previously, there was a button to click that would expand all the widgets. Now, instead of that button, the html with line numbers appear. There is a black arrow just after the line number that you can click to expand just that widget. The nice thing is, you don't have to wade through a lot of html just to make one minor change to one widget. I really like this new feature!


Friday, April 19, 2013

Updating Copyright Notice on Blogs

Blogging has taking a bit of a back seat this year because I have been rather busy with real life demands. My gosh, here it is the third week of April and I just realized I had not updated my copyright notices on a couple of my blogs. It really was an oversight simply because I was not blogging as much on these blogs. Adding a copyright notice isn't mandatory and some bloggers don't. The reality is, a blog is copyright protected whether it displays a copyright notice or not. A copyright notice just reminds readers, keeping the honest folk honest. Off to finish updating the rest of my blogs...


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Anonymous Commentors

Blogger settings allows you to be able to set it so someone who doesn't have a Google ID to respond anonymously.  For the most part this works rather well and most readers who want to comment do not abuse the privilege.  Then there are the jerks (a polite way to address them) who seem to think they can say whatever they want but the lovely commentor from Blanchard, Oklahoma likely didn't realize they weren't as anonymous as they thought they were.  The comment ended up in the trash right where it belonged.  It almost makes me want to take away the option of being able to comment anonymously.  The problem with this approach is some folks do not want to sign up to any service just to be able to leave a comment.  Now, if a commentor is that determined to leave a comment to the point they would sign up for Open ID just to leave a vial comment, well then there is a bit more of a trail to block them out from future comments.  The second option is to eliminate being able to leave comments entirely and something totally possible on the blog I'm talking about.  I went to no comments on all my blogs for about 2 months and didn't like it.  The third solution is to simply delete the obnoxious comments and ignore.  The final option is to report the 'anonymous' sender to their ISP.  Even if they use a proxy that ISP can trace it back to them.  Again, this problem reinforces the fact that all blog comments should be moderated.  At no point should comments be allowed through without your approval!


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fair Compensation

I get a lot of requests for paid links (eg. just the bare link, something I don't do) but lately I have had an increase in paid post requests.  It's not the type of paid post that some bloggers were into where you would see almost the exact same post, word for word appearing on a multitude of blogs.  This is paid in the sense of writing a unique blog post on a very specific topic with a link so it is more than a paid link (link only) but not a generic paid post.  I don't see the harm in accepting these types of offers if it is something that works with which ever of my blogs they are interested.  For example, I wouldn't accept an offer to write about home insurance on my cooking blog but might consider it for my homemaking blog.  It is a legitimate form of advertising.  It's no different than the affiliate I have been with for over three years where I'm paid to promote their site with a clear disclosure.  I am under contract with them which works well for me.  I use links to their site when blogging however, they do not choose the anchor words, I do and I can link to any part of their site I choose.  I also promote them via Facebook, Twitter and word of mouth.  I really should add a sig on my email promoting them as well since I have had a wonderful experience with them.  So back to the paid post requests...

What is fair compensation?  I know what I get compensated through my affiliate, which is quite generous but there is more work to it than just writing one blog post.  If the average blog post takes 15 minutes to write with a compensation of $15 then it works out to $60 per hour which isn't a bad wage.  If the post takes an hour to write, then it is only $15 per hour and while that is not a good wage, some would be quite happy with it.  At the same time, this type of post remains in the archives which is rather inexpensive advertising for them.  The only time I would remove the link is if it is dead.  So what is fair compensation for this type of monetizing?


Friday, March 8, 2013

Nickle and Diming It

Shortly after getting into blogging their appeared all of these blogs hell bent on making a living blogging.  Well, you can't blame them really because some were unemployed so working from home blogging and making money sounded like a great thing to do, so many bought into that concept.  The reality is any money earned via blogging is basically nickle and dime stuff.  I've had days where I have made $300 but other days where I made nothing.  If I average enough to pay my blog advertising and internet costs with a bit of money left over to splurge on eBay or the Zynga game of the day with a bit left over in PayPal at the the end of the month, I'm pretty content.  I have no aspirations that my blogs are ever going to support my lifestyle or make me a multimillionaire but you never know especially if one of them goes viral. 


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Browsers

One of the often heard recommendations for bloggers is to test out their blog, how it looks and functions on other browsers.  Well, back when I used a PC desktop, I used mainly Netscape (Mozzilla) then I went to Mac so really liked the clean functioning of Safari.  Once again I find myself between the Windows and Mac debate when it comes to browsers.  I use an iMac (dual core) desktop at home, but when traveling I use an iPad and Toshiba laptop.  So I am still very actively using both Windows and Mac.  The only thing for certain is I do not trust Internet Explorer, period.  I really liked Google Chrome until I caught it turning off part of my Norton security.  There is no way a browser should ever do this with out your permission!  That means Chrome is history. 

When I first started blogging I had three browsers to check how my blogs looked.  Now, there is the concern how it looks on mobile but really when using Blogger, I have very seldom had a problem with my blogs displaying properly using any browser including mobile.  I honestly don't know if it is still the problem it once was or if the industry has solved that issued.  I do know there is no longer a need to have three or more browsers on your computer simply to test your blog.  Still it is not a bad idea to check out how your blog looks and functions on mobile devices even though Blogger has made this rather seamless as well.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Google Chrome Misbehavior

Wow!  When I bought this new laptop last year I decided to use Google Chrome.  I'm sorry, I just don't like Internet Explorer due to their poor security issues.  I like Safari for my Mac.  Google Chrome was working fine then it decided to have issues with Adobe Flash.  I fixed that then updated Flash but after a week or so, it started acting up again refusing to work or forcing reboots.  Well, today was the final straw.  I use Norton, not because I want to but because it is part of our multi-license.  I get a warning from both Google and Norton that Google Chrome had turned off the extension for Norton Identity Suit.  There is no way, no how, for any reason that any browser should shut down any security program you have on your computer without your permission EVER!  I downloaded Firefox to test out which worked perfectly with no crashes, stalls or problems.  Until Google Chrome gets its act together I'm uninstalling it as well.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Does SEO Really Matter to Bloggers

SEO (search engine optimization) is something Google has been fighting for years.  The premise is if you use good SEO techniques, you will rank higher in their search engine results which ultimately brings you more traffic.  Notice how the numerous other search engines say nothing and yet I get rather good traffic from Yahoo and Bing.  They are giving no hint as to how their algorithms work.

As a blogger, I have pretty much given up on stressing out over SEO.  As long as I'm getting traffic from any search engine, I'm happy.  If I were selling a product ... well actually I am selling my ideas through blogging ... I would be more concerned.  I'm not trying to make a living off of blogging.  I blog because I can and because I enjoy it.  In the end SEO really doesn't matter all that much to me as long as my blogs are read by someone, somewhere.


Panda and Ads Above the Fold

Some affiliates want ads above the fold and in fact Google Adsense encourages it but according to SiteReference ads above the fold can hurt your ranking.  Ok, so you listen to Adsense and put the ad above the fold then get penalized by Google for doing so.  Does anyone see anything wrong with this?


New Language Feature on Dashboard From Blogger

Blogger just added a nice feature with a drop down menu for language on the dashboard.  I'm not sure how helpful it be but it looks pretty good.  Being Canadian and using Canadian spelling, I switched my preferred spelling to UK English that should save a bit of headaches using their spell check.  Other than that, I don't have a use but it is a nice feature.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I'm Seriously Nuts!

Ok, it is official!  I am serious nuts.  I just started another blog and actually have another one in the grand scheme of things.  I know I can handle the extra blogs and the timing is right but honestly, I must be nuts to try doing it!  I do have to say, starting a new blog is like a burst of energy.  I have so many ideas to share, directions to take and you know it is just exciting!


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ask Jeeves

Anyone remember Ask Jeeves?  I'm serious. as he was a bit better than even ask.com.  I have not seen Jeeves in about three maybe four years which is a pity because he was a rather likable bloke.  Anyways apparently Jeeves was fired.  Can't say those in the know knew what the heck they were doing but Jeeves is no more...pity as he was rather cute :)


Monday, January 28, 2013

Stat Counter Adds Google Ranking on Google Searches

I've been a long time user of Stat Counter.  Today I noticed a new feature on visits from Google searches.  There is a small icon that displays =number (eg. =4).  This tells you where your page ranked in the Google search results.  Ideally the number should be 1 meaning you have written a good blog post that comes up as number 1 in the search results.  Realistically, as long as your blog post shows on the first page of the search results, you are doing good.  Even if blog post shows as a 15 in the search results, it still means you have either used keywords or written a blog post that the search engine brings up for those searching on that topic.  I'm not exactly sure how to use this information.

I suppose if a blog post consistently comes up with a high search ranking meaning it is not on the first page of the search results, then the post could be tweaked in terms of keyword or key phrases in the hopes of gaining a better ranking.  However, the fact that someone still visited your blog regardless of the fact it didn't show on the first page of the search results really is still rather good.  Whether that post ranks number one or number fifteen doesn't matter in the big picture because you still got traffic from it.

Bloggers aren't mind readers and while most keep the importance of keywords in mind, good blog writers don't write a post around keywords.  Rather, keywords occur naturally as you write the post.  Guessing what keywords or phrases someone looking for information is almost impossible although you can make an educated guess.  Part of the problem is linguistics.  Terminology varies from country to country, and within regions in countries.  For example, one person may say hat while a Canadian will say toque and others may say cap or beanie.  So if I write a blog post about the toque I just knit, it wouldn't come up if the searcher used the keyword hat.  I often ask myself what term or keyword I would use if I were searching for information on that topic but that in no way guarantees that is the same term or keyword someone else would use when searching for information on the same topic.

That's one reason why I don't like Google's new encrypted searches that give no information on what the search term was or what the reader was looking for.  The unencrypted search terms at least give you an idea of what the reader was looking for and perhaps even provide information on how you could expand that topic if so inclined.  The search ranking is a touchy, goodie, congrats you made the first page of the search results that doesn't help you improve your blogging.  I don't see it of much use to bloggers.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

And Life Happens

I am sick, seriously sick and have been sick for the past two weeks.  Somehow, in between puking, snotting, sneezing and coughing AND providing I'm awake, I'm fitting in a bit of blogging.  That does not mean I am making long or drawn out posts or even making sense when I'm posting but at least I'm posting.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Internet Security

I originally started online activities with an old, custom built PC so at that time got to know a lot about internet security and safe browsing.  By the time I switched to Mac, I had AtGuard, Zone Alarm, Trauscan, the Windows firewall, McAfee and some other spyware program all running before I would go online.  Well, Mac made it easy so I didn't need all those programs.  Then I bought a new iMac partitioned for Windows and Mac with the Windows partition never allowed online.  The only reason I still needed Windows was for my genealogy software that I really like but they refuse to make a Mac version and so far I have found nothing that compares to the function of Legacy.  It was the best of two worlds and still is for the most part although according to Apple my iMac is getting a bit old at a ripe old age of 6.  Our cell phones and tablet are Mac as well which makes worrying about viruses minimal.  However, when we bought laptops we bought Toshibas (Windows).  The fact is, we bought my husband's 17" and my 15" laptops for a total cost less than what it would have cost for a new MacBook or iMac.  Mac is certainly an excellent product but along with that comes price.  We needed the laptops for the office and travel purposes.

About three years ago, I was using my husband's old Toshiba at our vacation home when suddenly things went to a very slow crawl.  I was doing my drops for Entrecard so thought it was just overtaxing the system.  I shut down and rebooted but for some reason something told me to run the virus scanner.  Well it was running all the time anyway so I thought why not.  I ran the virus scanner and sure enough had picked up a virus.  It was quickly cleaned and things returned to normal but still served as a firm reminder.  About a week later, reports of viruses coming through sites in the Entrecard system started emerging.  I was doing my drops and suddenly my AV went off.  That basically was the last straw for me in addition to the other on going issues so I quit.  At any rate, I'm back learning all about internet security once again.

Back when I was using all the security programs, I think all of them were free except Trauscan.  Of the top ones were AVG, Norton and McAfee.  There were free and paid versions.  Well, unless I'm looking in the wrong spot, all the AV are now free for a trial period of 30 days then you have to pay. Norton came with my laptop but I did try our McAfee and AVG before settling on Norton because that's what my husband uses at the office so I can go under his license.   I really liked AVG for being user friendly.  Both Norton and AVG offer safe surfing which is really a nice feature, something that wasn't there before and Norton makes it quite visible so you can easily tell what a site is doing by toggling the drop down menu.  They also offer antiphishing, another nice feature that reports any problems with phishing on a site.  Norton has a set-up vault and a login assistant to safely store your passwords online in a vault called Norton Identity Safe.

I really don't feel we need much more protection given the way we use the computers.  Gone are the days of dropping over 300 cards in a day and let's face it, that was risky at best to begin with.  True the sites had been checked by admin when they first entered the system but there was a lot of shady things going on by some members who were only out to make a buck.  In addition to using Norton, Google Chrome offers a heighten security through the settings but then most new browsers allow you to tweak the settings to ensure safe surfing.

If you want to test you computer, try Shield's Up by Gibson Research Corporation, the makers of Zone Alarm.  On my old PC, I had to manually close a few ports but this computer test results are full stealth mode meaning my computer gives no reply to pings or probes, remaining silent even when prodded so there is no sign my computer is even online!  There's no open ports or other security holes which is a really nice thing.  If you find an open port, the site will tell you how to deal with the problem.  There is a lot of good security information there as well including a password haystack to determine the strength of your desired password.

It is rather interesting to see how internet security has evolved in such a short period of time.  In many ways, online security is getting easier and more sophisticated.  That's likely a good thing given the ever growing need to be connected and the use of free Wi-Fi.  Still, it is a good idea to keep your computer and data protected!


Friday, January 25, 2013

Facebook

Honestly, I had a Facebook account for a couple of years before I actually started using it.  The only reason I started using it was to keep up to date with our kids.  When travelling, Facebook is just so easy if you have free Wi-Fi, even easier than email and a lot less expensive than using cell phones.  We get to the airport and leave a message for the kids on Facebook then another when we arrive at out destination.  The nice thing about Facebook is you can send private messages as well.  So after we got used to using Facebook, I discovered Pages.

Anyone with a Facebook account can create a Facebook page.  It is connected to your main account but goes under the name of the page, not your account name.  So I created a page for my one blog.  Then I put the Facebook 'like' button on my blog.  I have to tell you, I am impressed!  Readers are not only 'liking' my blog meaning an increase in readership, they are also connecting with me through the Facebook page.  Some readers actually like connecting through Facebook rather than leave comments on my blog.  Facebook is actually increasing my traffic, something I did not think would happen but it is.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pinterest Revisited

I joined Pinterest in the summer of 2012.  It was a new social thing that looked interesting and what I really liked was Pinterest spans all age groups.  All it really is, is a way to bookmark where others can see what you like.  They can like the bookmark, repin it or comment on it.  So it is another level of social networking.

When Pinterest first came out the complaint was the backlinks were set to rel=no follow and to my understanding they still are.  However, if someone clicks on one of your pins, it does bring them directly to your blog meaning a good Pinterest following can gain you a fair amount of traffic.  I am actually getting some rather good traffic from Pinterest.  So while the original pin on Pinterest is rel=no follow you still get good traffic if you have interesting content.

This really is a good thing to get into bloggers.  Seriously!   It will bring traffic if you have the type of content others are interested in for re-pinning.  It is better than Digg or Stumpleupon and it does have a huge following so get in on it if you can.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Splogs

Back when I started blogging in 2006, all I had a vague idea about was blogging.  To me, blogging was a creative outlet to share ideas, thoughts, pictures and just have fun.  Blogs are essentially a souped up version of homepages that many ISP offered their customers but blogging platforms made is so easy that you really didn't have to worry about FTP or HTML.  What this really meant is the regular Joe Friday could blog using a nice WYSIWYG format without any of the behinds the scenes details.  Not that it didn't help to know at least HTML, it just meant you didn't have to.  I'm not sure if that was the time of the growth spurt for blogs but I suspect it was.

Shortly after I started blogging I joined a blog network so got to know a few bloggers.  Then I joined one of the most popular widget blog advertising networks where I quickly learned about splogs.  A splog is a blog that has been set up for the sole purpose of making money via spamming other bloggers.  It can be identified by copious amounts of advertising, very short fluff posts in between paid posts, and essentially no content.  The biggest give away is the comment spam.  The sploggers are so intent on making money from their splogs, they will seriously leave hundreds of comments daily on other blogs with backlinks to their blog.  This is precisely how I learned very early in my blogging career that comment moderation is a must.

The sploggers were a breed onto themselves.  They were very active in the forums bordering on being abusive to other bloggers and if you so much as looked sideways they would complain about you.  Not only that, they complained constantly if they missed making a penny through the network.  They honestly had the opinion they could quit their day jobs and earn enough money to support their lifestyle simply by blogging.  Well, if they hit it very lucky they might possibly be able to earn a couple hundred dollars a month but really even that especially then was pretty far fetched and I don't know many that can live on that!

Now, I know for a brief period of time that particular blog network started deleting splogs from the system but that somehow changed so the splogs continued there.  Other blog advertising networks nipped the problem of splogs in the bud so it was mainly a non-issue with them.  Splogs weren't welcomed.  Then, and I can't be 100% because I didn't see an actual announcement from Google, it appears splogs were being de-listed from the search engines.

I honestly have not seen a true splog in awhile although I suspect some attempting to leave comments on my blogs may be.  Comment spam is usually fairly obvious so I don't check out their sites anyway.  I also suspect splogs are not quite as popular now all the widget based blog advertising networks are gone.  Seriously, a splog can't make money without traffic.  Essentially, all of the easy ways of generating blog traffic have been cut off so the sploggers are now forced to generate traffic the old fashioned way just like the rest of us.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Exclusive Advertising Rights

A little over three years ago, I went to exclusive advertising rights on one of my blogs.  What this means is by entering into the contract, no other advertising other than the ads through that affiliate can be shown.  There are pros and cons to doing this.  First, you are guaranteed to earn a certain amount of money depending on traffic.  In this case, I was paid only for traffic from the US.  Second, by going to exclusive advertising it really de-clutters your blog.  There's only one or two ad spots running rather than several as you see on some blogs trying to maximize their earning potential.  At the same time, there was a bit more freedom meaning I could discuss topics that are not allowed if using Adsense.  There was no minimum amount to earn for payment.  Payment was made the end of each month regardless of the amount.  It was steady income, considerable more than I would have made by running a few affiliate ad blocks.  On the con side was a reduced earning potential especially since I could not run ads from Adsense or some of the other affiliates.

Last October, I received a letter from them indicating that at the end of October, they were switching their advertising model to non-exclusive.  I had the choice to continue on with them under the new model but as of November 1 could begin using other affiliate programs if desired.  I agreed to continue with them because quite frankly they have been very good to me.  I still haven't added any additional affiliate programs back on to that blog.  I likely will at some point but only minimal.  For now, I like the uncluttered feeling without a lot of advertising!

I had a very positive experience using exclusive advertising on one of my blogs.  If given the opportunity again, I would certainly consider it.  Only you will know if an exclusive advertising offer is good for you.  In most cases, you will have to sign a legal and binding contract.  Be very sure you understand every detail of that contract before signing it!  Do some homework and check out the company making the offer.  At any rate, if done properly an exclusive advertising contract can be quite lucrative!


Monday, January 21, 2013

Organized Blogging

Within a few days of starting my first blog in 2006, I had the second blog up and running.  Posts were fairly regular but not daily because I was more concerned with design and learning the ropes.  As I started more blogs, I quickly realized I needed some type of system to help keep my blogging organized but it really wasn't until after joining a blog advertising network that encouraged daily posts.  My system was rather simple.

I had a notebook where I wrote the date, title of blogs across the page and under each title, the stats and 'need'.  So, if this blog tbr had need 1, 2, 3, 4 it meant I needed a post for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th.  If I was working ahead on scheduled posts for times I knew we'd be away, I just added a second need and dates as necessary.  If I had an idea for a post, I'd jot it down.  As I finished a post, I just put a line through that number and kept going, adding and crossing out as needed.  The system worked rather well to keep me focused.  There were days where I could easily write eight or more blog posts and other days I could omit writing to do a bit of behind the scenes work.

Over the past nine months or so, my system went by the wayside.  In general, 2012 was a bad blogging year for me.  It was hard to get motivated to blog despite the fact that I had too much blog fodder.  Blog advertising networks I had been with for a few years folded up and suddenly I was back in my little blogging bubble not interacting with other bloggers.  It didn't help that we were still trying to adjust to our new home, doing a lot of renovations which cut into my blogging time, and spending more time at our vacation home.  In addition to that, life decided to throw a couple of curve balls with my husband being hospitalized with an unknown gastrointestinal disorder and me having an injury accident.

It's time to get back on track so I started back on a modified version of my system.  There is no real need for me to track my stats so I'm just going to do the 'need' portion.  This will give me a quick visual of where I am at and which blog needs attention.  Hopefully, 2013 will end up being a better blogging year than 2012 by going back to my old system of organizing my blogging.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Blog Traffic Building in 2013

I started blogging in 2006 and quite frankly building traffic was the furthest thing from my mind.  By the time I discovered BlogExplosion as a way to meet other bloggers and build traffic, new blogs were popping up everywhere.  The primary goal for some of these bloggers was making money so between 2008 through 2010 there were sites aimed at helping bloggers reach that goal.  They ranged from paid to post sites, blog rolls, directories, link exchanges, blog advertising networks, forums and basically anywhere the blogger could get their link out even if it was borderline to blatant spamming.  They were actually encouraged by some blog advertising networks spam, especially comment spam but it was never put that way.  Many of the sploggers (spam bloggers) and those into blogging simply for the money have moved on realizing that making their fortune blogging wasn't going to happen especially in their allotted three month period before boredom set in.  Many more have left the blogosphere when the free traffic sources from the blog advertising networks folded.  Bloggers are once again isolated in their own world of blogging, perhaps doing a bit of blog hopping and finding blogs via the search engines.  So where does that leave bloggers with respect to building traffic in 2013?  Here's a few of my ideas:

  • Focus on your writing and adding regular content.  The only way you are going to get readers and the attention of the search engines is through content.
  • Forget the notion of leaving as many comments as possible with a link to your blog.  First it is spammish, second aside of annoying other bloggers, it is seldom effective and third many bloggers have set comment links to rel="no follow".  Instead, when you come across a blog post you like, leave a comment that adds to the discussion or in somehow ads to the content of the post.  Do not leave an url in the body of a comment on someone's blog as that just tells them you are trying to circumvent any type of link control you have in place.
  • If leaving a comment that adds content to the post, you have two choices with respect to including your url.  First, you can leave a direct link to your blog or you can leave an indirect link that points to your Blogger profile.  Surprisingly, the indirect link can be rather effective as it's not viewed so much as spamming.
  • Let traffic build naturally.  If you have good content and show in the search engines then the traffic will come.  


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Why Blog Widget Advertising was Doomed

A method of blog advertising using site specific widgets that displayed a 125 x 125 ad (aka card) became rather popular with bloggers .  Each blog advertising network (eg. Spottt, Entrecard, Adgitize, CMFAds and there were others) had it own widget design that showed the card and a bar to click to visit that blog, although some went to showing only the card.  The all operated in the same fashion.  You signed up for the site, added your blog then waited for approval.  Once approved you uploaded your blog card and it would be place in rotation with other ads being shown of other members' blogs.  The requirement was of course that you used the widget on your blog so other members' cards would show in rotation.  From the get go, this advertising model was destined for failure.  In short, the sites failed to follow a good business plan that would keep a good balance between income and expenses while planning for growth.

In the brick and mortar world, a business takes years to grow and establish good will.  Most start-up businesses fail within the first year simply because they do not know their market or whether there is a demand for the business.  They fail to consider the importance of repeat customers, word of mouth, many don't take overhead costs into consideration and they aren't ready for growth when it happens.  All of this can be seen with the blog advertising networks.

All of these networks were based on free membership.  A new blog is lucky to last 3 months before the blogger realizes it is hard work and moves on to something else.  Now, if you were to walk into a bank and tell them you had a plan to start a business with no perceived income and a 3 month lifespan for each customer, they would think you are totally bonkers.  You certainly would not get any money from them.  So, these networks were started with an investment from the founder which would include the costs of the domain, software and servers or storage.  Then the founder would be faced with equipment costs, routine maintenance costs, and all costs associated with running that network (aka business).  All of these funds came from their own pockets or perhaps via loans or donations but essentially with no income, the founder had to find some source of revenue.

The option to switch over to a paid only service was never really there.  The members themselves were not a good source of revenue.  Only a small percentage of the membership would pay for advertising while the remainder were more interested in making money from the system, some who would even cheat the system to do so.  Attracting outside advertisers was difficult because the model was based on bloggers who have low traffic, not necessarily the best use of their advertising dollars.  While that could have been compensated for with a large membership, the widget networks were too small to attract big spending advertisers or backers.

The admin faced the problem of keeping these networks up and running 24/7 which is a huge demand on one person. Enlisting friends and family likely helped initially but the reality is with growth comes the need for support staff.  Members want their problems addressed quickly otherwise they will move their free membership elsewhere.

Finally, the admin faced the problem of disgruntled members and believe me there were a multitude of problems.  If the problem was big enough, there was a mass exodus of members some who would go on to start their own widget based blog advertising networks creating competition.  While the admin could censor comments on their forums, they could not control what other bloggers wrote about them on their blogs, forums, Facebook or Twitter.  In that respect, they failed to realized the power of bloggers, especially bloggers who felt they had been wronged by the system.  The problems came not only through the lack of PR skills and narcissistic behaviour from some of the admin but from outside forces in the form of malware and viruses on blogs within the system.

As members encountered more problems with the widget based networks, saw their bounce rate increase and realized that at some point they could be penalized by other advertising affiliates, they stopped using the networks.  The smarter admins gave their members notice they were closing and left on good terms which means if they were to ever start up again, some of their loyal followers would return.  Others simply left their members high and dry, shutting down without notice.

Back in the hey day of widget based networks, about 2008 to 2010 and dwindling after that really was a different time for bloggers.  Blogrolls, memes and link farms (via Mr. Linky et al) became very popular.  The focus for a lot was on making money via their blog rather than blogging.  Social interaction was encouraged by the widget based networks by dropping cards, participating on their forums, actively leaving comments on other blogs and even supporting other members on Twitter, Digg and Stumbleupon.

In the end, all I can say is it was interesting while it lasted even though it was an incredible waste of time that would have been better spent on building blog traffic via other methods.  Of all the time and effort I spent on a daily basis on some of these networks, there is very little to show for it.  Readers and visitors dried up within a week of not using the network.  I don't miss the daily dropping but I do miss visiting some of my favourite bloggers that were in the system.  The mind numbing dropping combined with little if any lasting results will likely serve as a reminder that these types of systems were doomed before they even got started.




Friday, January 18, 2013

ExposeYourBlog Closing Down

ExposeYourBlog was the brainchild of Don and Anji, two bloggers who had been active in the now defunct BlogExplosion and several of the other blog advertising networks.  The site was set up similar to BlogExplosion with a surfing ratio of 2:1 with a timer so for every two sites you visited, you would get a visit in return.  In that respect, it was a traffic exchange.  You could earn credits or buy credits then exchange them for traffic or banner advertising.  Don sent out an email on January 13, 3013 announcing the closing of ExposeYourBlog on February 13, 2013.  He cites the reason for closing down is other time commitments for both himself and Anji, so they will no longer have time to run the site properly.  There is an offer to sell the domain name, software and site to any interested party in the hopes of keeping it going.  Despite having a small number of members, Don and Anji did a nice job.  I wish them the best on their future endeavours.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Entrecard is No More

Well, those in the loop likely already knew Entrecard ceased operations in September of 2012.  I'm surprised that I hadn't heard of it's demise but am surprised it lasted as long as it did.  Entrecard, founded and operated by a very narcisistic individual had be plagued with problems well before I left it back in early 2009.  About 6 months before I left as the continued implosion of the owner escalated, there was a mass exodus of formerly loyal Entrecard supporters.  The problems got worse with forum censorship and personal attacks.  Well, it was finally announced the business was sold but many of us felt is was a cloak for the owner to remain in control of Entrecard just under different financial backing while calming some of the negativity.

To my understanding, Entrecard continued to decline even after the sale.  One comment I read said it had been pretty much abandoned for the past three years I heard bits and pieces about it throughout the blogosphere but really didn't keep up on what was going on.  Unlike other blog advertising networks who gave their members notice that they were closing down,  Entrecard did not.   They just closed down.  Bloggers attempting to do their drops found the widget empty and drop button missing.  Checking the site just confirmed it was gone.  This type of thing really re-enforces what many of us thought back when Entrecard was sold.  

At any rate, simply shutting down the site without any notice was rude.  Like any other website, Entrecard did go down from time to time so bloggers checking their site to see the widget not working likely suspected nothing until they went to sign-in to do their drops only to find the site gone.  Some likely had blank widgets on their blogs for a week or more if they didn't check them daily which is too bad.  What a way to find out!  That just goes to show what Entrecard really thought of their members and supporters.



Saturday, January 12, 2013

Comment Backlinks

When I started blogging almost seven years ago, backlinking wasn't a huge concern.  However, when I joined blog advertising networks (eg. Entrecard, Adgitize, CMFAds), there was a big emphasis on leaving comments on other blogs with a backlink to your blog.  In the ideal world, this may have worked but in the blogosphere, it promoted a lot of comment spam as bloggers tried to get their link out there.  Sploggers (blogs set up specifically to make money via spamming) were all over the concept of leaving their link in the comment section of other bloggers who were really just trying to blog and hopefully get a little attention by blogging.  Those most hurt were bloggers who did not have their comments set to moderation.  A splogger could stumble upon one of the blogs then send out hundreds of the same spam comment with same spam link before the blogger actually realized it was happening.  Some of these bloggers lost PR and were even delisted by Google while the sploggers went on their merry way to attack another innocent blogger.

In fairness, bloggers were told comment moderation was a form of censorship and shouldn't be used because it hindered two-way communication on the blog.  I'm sorry but I think this ideal was wrong from the start.  I also think it was bad advice for bloggers to get their link out there anyway they could especially via comments.  There are a multitude of valid reasons why a link to your blog should not be on certain websites or blogs.  Besides, you can still leave a comment on the website or blog just without a link back to your blog.

I am very, very picky about where I leave backlinks to my blogs.  Unlike some bloggers, I'm not a huge backlink builder which likely is a good thing now that Google is a bit more stringent with respect to links, both outgoing in incoming.  The reality is, I leave very few comments and even then fewer links to my blogs in those comments.  I prefer to let my backlinks grow naturally.  If another blogger really likes my blog(s) they will leave a backlink without me forcing it onto them via a comment or asking for a link exchange.  I think it is a more natural approach as well that will help build good backlinks.