A bit of writers block……..

I once wrote an article about writers block and I fear that at the moment I – myself – may be suffering a little from this phenomenon.  It seems that my trip to Europe has inspired me to do other things and it looks as if I am keener to explore those further. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to write. In fact I have some very exciting ideas however maybe not so much about blogging itself. There is even an idea for a book but that is future talk.

A bit of self-analysis

In my post about writers block I suggested various solutions and one of them is to take a ‘blogging break’. Well I had my break so that can’t be it. Another thing was that blogging could have become a chore. Not really either as I still like to write and am eager to start every day.

Is it the content or the topic? Does it still inspire me? As a matter of fact it does and I am looking forward to listen to another webinar of Darren Rowse of Problogger that was presented last week. I do feel that there is heaps more to learn about blogging and more importantly ‘to be successful’ at blogging. And whatever I learn I can pass on to other bloggers.

Recap may be the answer!

My last suggestion was to recap and maybe that is what I need to do. I have written 65 articles and it could be that I have lost overview of my topics and content. I feel a bit of an outsider of my own blog. I suppose it is all part of the experience. I keep on forgetting that the purpose of my blog is to explore ‘the road to professional blogging’. That counts just as much for me as for my audience.

Okay then, my next task is to ‘evaluate’ blogexercise, to look at what I have covered and what is left to explore. How can I get more readers and followers? As a matter of fact that is what Rowse’ webinar is about. That is surely the most difficult task for any blogger and website – to achieve visibility. You need visitor to your sites otherwise nothing happens – neither comments nor sales.

I have covered a fair bit on that subject but I am certainly no expert. I wonder who is in the end. On occasions when people with a web page around me hear about my blog, one of the questions that always come up is ‘how to increase your traffic’.

To finalise this train of thoughts I have just come across an interesting way of looking at evaluating my blog. I figure that I have to create a ‘mind map’ of all my posts, a schedule that shows me what I have covered so far. Rowse suggests ‘Blog granularity’ – breaking down your blog niche into grains (Problogger, Darren Rowse & Chris Garrett, 2nd edition) with the aim to keep your blog simple, easier to analyse and consequently more effective.

I may have a go at that and hopefully it will have some benefits – one of them being that blogexercise can be easier read and scanned for both me and my readers.

I feel some inspiration coming my way……………..

My blog holiday is over!

Nothing ever goes to plan and so didn’t my blogging schedule that I had carefully crafted for my 5 week trip to Europe. Initially I managed to write a couple of posts but the last one I published was on July 25th. Shame on me!  Or maybe not?

I am currently trying to analyse how and why this happened. I have to admit that the moment I genuinely allowed myself to quit writing I felt no more urgency to write about blogging. Had I at that stage come to ‘real’ relaxation? Were there so many more interesting things to do or could I just not be bothered anymore?  Will I ever know and furthermore does it matter?

Funnily after having returned home for less than a week, having caught up with friends and after fighting my way through mountains of washing and sorting, I now feel that old urgency coming back. I even feel inspiration to report on this chain of events….

Guilt versus acceptance

Maybe that is how it should be – after all I was on holiday. If you are an accountant and you are off to some exotic place, you won’t take a pile of business statements to analyse. So I assume the same counts for us bloggers. Somehow it feels different though. Blogging does not feel like work so therefore there does not seem to be a reason to stop when on holiday. At least that is what I thought but reality has shown me a different story.

After a couple of weeks into my holiday I felt I no longer wanted to research and write about blogging. I basically did not feel like doing anything at all on my computer. Admittedly what did not help was the fact that internet connections were on occasions very basic or pretty much non-existent with the result that researching and publishing blog posts were not without hiccups.

Usually when I write about a certain aspect of blogging I research books, articles and other blogs and so on. I like to explore what others write  and what kind of issues people come across when blogging. Having no internet access makes that side of the process rather difficult. I could have just reflected on experiencing this but instead I opted for doing nothing.

This is almost a month ago. The first week of my break was with a sense of guilt and I almost felt obliged to do something. The longer I did nothing the easier it became. I suppose that is what generally happens when people go on holiday. It takes a while to relax and to totally ‘let go’ and indulge in doing nothing. Most of us find this hard to do and find that their mind remains busy. It is bizarre but the hardest thing  is to rid ourselves from that annoying feeling of accountability. The best relaxation for me is to feeling that I don’t need to do anything. But it seems that not being needed to do things is also the hardest to accept.

Hard to keep going

I don’t if it is good or bad but I find it hard to find inspiration and motivation to blog about blogging at the moment. I am on holiday and enjoying myself thoroughly. One of the things that I am very good at is letting go – something I have found out over the years. When I am on holidays I always think that I will keep on doing things such as exercise, eating healthy and maintaining habits such as writing my blog. I take magazines that have been waiting for my attention for a while or little jobs that I want to do when I have more time. I really intend to do those things…..

Well reality is that as soon as I am out of my usual routine I am capable of letting go and don’t do any of those things I intended to do. There is a little bit of guilt lingering far, far away but deep down I do not really care. It may be my way of relaxation and I am very willing to be subservient to that method.

At least I have been honest about it and have not made any promises that I am not going to keep. I have not made any deadlines and I don’t intend either. To be honest my drive and source of inspiration is on the back burner – I am on holiday at the moment and I feel rather laid back.

Maybe I should have prepared myself a little better and have several posts in draft form written, only waiting for revision. There are bloggers who do that – they have dozens of articles waiting to be published. I wish I was that organised myself but I suffer from a light case of ‘excusitis’ and blame lack of time. It takes me quite a bit of time to write the articles I publish so the luxury of preparing posts in advance seems unrealistic.

I actually did brainstorm some ideas but all I have done is written the titles. The rest of the page is empty and I feel like leaving these topics until I am back and they get the attention they deserve. It is not like when I am at home when I am waking up in the middle of the night with all kind of ideas for my blog. Here I am not waking at all at least not with ideas for blogging!

Is this bad or it this break good? I am not entirely sure about it. I am sure it may be beneficial to take a break of a week or so and give myself the chance to rest and refresh. Looking at my intention to explore ‘the road to professional blogging’ I can only say that it is part of it. This blog is about all aspects of this journey and even ‘professionals’ go on holiday.

A blogger on holiday

Being connected

In my last post I did mention that I was going to be on holiday and that I did not expect to be able to publish more than one post per week. At least I was realistic as that is how it turns out to be. Even one post per week seems to be hard. One of the reasons being lack of internet service although that is not the main reason.

As the blogger in the family we decided to only take my laptop as it is a necessary tool for writing and publishing posts. My kids were horrified with the prospects of having reduced access to a computer for 5 weeks. However the persistent look on their faces indicated that they were already visualising using my laptop. So it turns out that the main reason for my lack of blogging is that the computer is being used by others. When ‘my time’ finally has come it either is 2 am, I am too tired, the computer is flat or the adaptor is in use for a mobile phone.

As a result my last post dates from July 12th and today it is already July 18th. I really feel like a blogger on holiday and usually when you are on holiday you don’t have to work. Still I feel a little apprehensive to let it go. I suppose it is a bit like having your own business. It is harder to leave that behind.

Getting inspired……….

The thing I have been doing is getting more inspiration for the design of my ‘gourmet and style’ blog. I have been taking heaps of pictures that I can pass on to my designer to give her a better idea of what I have in mind. Her proposals so far were very professional and attractive but not what I have in mind. Too much glossy magazine style. What I am after is a touch more natural and organic. It appears it is hard to get such feelings or moods across.

It has been a tricky journey so far and I am still not sure whether I should just start with a hosted blog or a self-hosted design that is not entirely to my satisfaction. The ‘blogging opinions’ regarding that vary. I like to quote Jung as he kind of hits the nail on the head:

‘Perfection is for the Gods’.

He reckons that it is not about perfection but you should try to be as good as you can. At the moment that is what I am trying to achieve and I will remain persistent a little longer in getting it right. Not perfect just a bit more right!

After all my blog will be like ‘my office’. I want it to be a place where I like to go and love to be. As simple as that. What remains now is to go a couple of floors lower to be able to connect to the internet and publish this post.

Salut et à la prochaine!

Genuine comments or SPAM?

Enough said about the editing of comments. I got the impression that most people would not do it and some even may frown upon the idea. Let’s leave it to that.

Something else has sprung upon me and it has made me feel a bit silly and naïve. The reason I started looking into the option of editing comments is due to the following. Many comments I received were in the kind of English that either shows that the writer is not fluent in English or that they used a bad Google translation. Almost all of them go directly to SPAM – something WordPress does, I say thankfully!

SPAM in different shapes and forms

As I am researching the ‘art’ of blogging I started tracking the comments on my blog posts. As a result I have discovered something interesting or rather something annoying and a touch disappointing. Some days I had up to 10 comments – of course all in Spam to start off with. Some of them appeared familiar and after going over older posts I discovered that I had received the same or similar remarks before. They happen to be of a positive nature much to my liking but they seem to be templates. As I have seen exactly the same on other blogs I am drawing the conclusion that I am not the only one getting them.

This is only part of what I discovered. As I read the comments, un-spammed them and contemplated to react on them I hovered over the websites and email addresses of the writers. Only to find out that they all seem to come from websites with the same topics despite the fact that the email addresses are all different. You’ll never believe it but the content of most of those websites is about the apparently ‘highly sought’ after topic of pool cleaners. Must be! –  as the amount of promoters is abundant.

My first reaction was amazement, than disbelief followed by this uncomfortable feeling that I had been so naïve to believe that those comments came from genuine writers. They obviously did not – pool cleaners of all things!  Their websites and URL’s are different but they all seem to go back to the same source. Do I miss something here? Is there a secret society of these products that post spamming comments on blogs as a sideline?

Nice comments’ to lure you in….

Digging consequently even a bit more and looking at reactions on a larger number of my older posts similar comments have been posted coming from different sites. It didn’t take long to realise that most of them originate from sites with the same source  – the good old pool cleaner.

It really annoyed me and for a couple of days I was put off to write another article. I concluded however that it is just one of those things that happen when you expose yourself publicly. Apparently some people have nothing better to do. What I do wonder is what they think they can achieve with it. I am certainly not motivated to buy a pool cleaner nor would I recommend any of those sites. I am much more inclined to Booo them off the stage to be honest!  Anyway let them be. They have had their little moment on my site but from now on my ‘spam detectors’ will be on an even higher alert.

Then on a different note altogether – I am on holiday in Europe and think I am realistic by saying that I will reduce my blog activity to one post per week.

More on editing of comments….

EDIT – Should you or should you not?

I am still a bit puzzled about the editing of comments you get on your blog posts. I have asked several people and most of them seem to be slightly amazed that this is possible. I have enquired about this with a law student but she did not know anything regarding this matter.

My previous blog post is partly about the above topic and one of the comments I got as a result was that I should not waste my time on the correcting or editing of other’s comments on my blog. I personally don’t see it as wasting time but more as clarifying what a commenter is trying to express especially when the English is not too good. After all blog post comments contribute to the social aspect of blogging – it helps to create a sense of community. With that in mind I feel that it helps when the English is good enough to be understood by all readers.

Bad English versus bad intent

As my mother tongue is not English I can relate to the difficulties you can experience when you need to express yourself in a different language. There is always Google translate but too often the translation is not correct or out of context. Google tends to translate word by word and this can have funny results when you translate a sentence. Out of experience I know how easy it is to choose the wrong word from a Thesaurus although much to the pleasure of others.

When I refer to editing comments I am not indicating ‘changing’ comments in such a way that the meaning has a total different impact. A comment is meant to be an expression of someone’s opinion and a blog is offering the opportunity to leave comments. Whether such comments are positive or negative is in this context irrelevant unless they are rude and/or have nothing to do with the content that is witten. Nobody needs comments like that and they should not be approved in the first place. Thankfully most blog hosts will pick them up as spam.

It seems an interesting problem. What I would like to know is whether editing a comment is considered acceptable? We live in a world where Privacy Laws are a growing phenomenon and we have to be careful nowadays what we say, write or disclose when it comes to others. Should commenting on blogs and the editing of such comments be part of this trend?

The general consensus so far seems to be that it is questionable but then why does WordPress give bloggers the option?

The protocol of blog comments

Should you edit comments on your blog?

The other day I was talking about some of the comment I have been getting on my blog. I told my daughter that the English in some of them was not very good and needed correcting before I would want to publish them. She was somehow surprised and replied that other social media don’t allow you to do this. And indeed a site such as Facebook does not allow you to alter comments even if they are grammatically incorrect.

My immediate reaction to this is that my blog is in English – grammatically correct English without spelling mistakes to be precise.  If a comment gets published on my blog I like it to have the same standards. Point blank! Is that arrogant? Maybe some of you will think so but I happen to consider correct English as one of my minimum standards.

What are exactly the rules regarding this? I work occasionally with a law student who currently prepares an exam on Privacy Law and I will consult her the next time I see her. She is quite obsessed with the subject at the moment and I bet I get a bit of information out of her. Let’s hope it is objective and not a reflection of her opinion. I’ll keep you posted on that.

Ulterior motives for commenting on blogs

Why do people comment on blogs? Many reasons come to mind – appreciation, support, questioning, criticising. All legitimate reactions on a blogpost. There are some more reasons and they tend to be less ‘legitimate’. I have been blogging since November 2011, have written almost 60 posts and have received 167 comments. Almost all comments were considered spam by WordPress but fortunately only 12 were real spam.

This leaves me with 153 comments which were mostly positive and I am very proud of that. However as I check my site every day, read, edit and reply to all comments I have started to notice something interesting. To explain this further I will quote some of the comments.

“An interesting dialogue is price comment. I feel that you must write extra on this topic, it may not be a taboo subject however typically people are not enough to talk on such topics. To the next. Cheers” (published in ‘Where to place your keywords?’)

“An attention-grabbing discussion is value comment. I feel that you should write something about this subject, it won’t be a taboo subject but typically people are not confident enough to speak out about such topics. Until next time. Cheer” (published in ’The first steps towards keyword research”)

Both these comments are by the same author and I am interested in his or her motive to place these comments. Is there really an interest to get more information about the above topics or is this a way to promote their own website.

This is not the only time this has happened. It seems there are ‘template’ comments out there and people use them on different posts. They could well be genuine and then I apologise sincerely but they seem only one step away from planting ‘a link as a comment‘ for the sake of exposure.

I am interested to hear if this has happened to other bloggers and what your opinions are. So please keep your genuine comments coming and let’s crack this nut!

More monetisation tips from the professionals

I finished my previous post with the promise to elaborate a bit more on the information Darren Rowse of Problogger disclosed during his webinar on ‘Monetisation of a blog’. I had the chance to be part of this last week and there was a lot of information that was worthwhile to pass on.

I really urge anyone who is interested to make money from their blog to subscribe to his site ‘Problogger’.  Darren Rowse has been very successful in making money out of his blogs about ‘blogging’ and ‘photography’ and has first-hand experience to support his tips. There were dozens of questions at the end of the webinar and I like to share some of his countless tips.

Timing of monetisation?

Several people were asking when to introduce monetisation in to your blog. This can be regarded in several ways.

  • Wait with monetisation until ………

Some people may start a blog and will not consider making money out of their blog until the blog is popular. There is something to say for this way of thinking however there are some disadvantages with this approach. Your readers and subscribers are following your blog as it is and they may not appreciate the commercialisation of your blog.

  • Monetisation from day 1

By doing this you set the right expectations for your readers and you create awareness that you see your blog as a business. You can start with subtle advertising or create your page in such a way that the ads integrate well in your pages.

Number of monetisation streams?

Darren Rowse recommended considering 1-3 different streams. The first step is to identify your readers and their ‘needs’, find out what they are asking for and then match this with the promotion of a product or service. The type of monetisation depends therefore on the type of audience and their needs rather than choosing a random way of making money. Again just as with a ‘normal’ business, creating an income with your blog requires business planning and taking all factors into consideration.

Amazon affiliate programs?

Affiliate programs offer a way of making money online by promoting some one else’s product or service. Rowse has been using the Amazon Affiliate Program in his blogs for a number of years and supports this method of creating an income. First of all, Amazon is a trusted brand and it is a familiar site to many readers. The good thing about Amazon is that people may browse and buy more products when they are on the website. All the sales based on your link will give you a commission.

WordPress.com versus WordPress.org?

WordPress.com offers a full package including blog name and hosting. It is possible to start a blog within 5 minutes and have a reasonable amount of freedom regarding the appearance and the functions of the blog. There are restrictions though and one of them is that you can’t monetise your blog. They don’t allow any form of advertising. The only thing you can do is publish an e-book that you have written yourself.

WordPress.org on the other hand allows you to monetise your blog in any way you want. In order to set up a blog within this website you will have to buy a domain and hosting. Furthermore you may need some technical skills as it is not as easy to start up a blog through WordPress.org as with the hosted variety. However if you do have intention to make money from your blog you should consider this option.

More than one blog?

Another popular question was about the amount of blogs you can have. In principle you can have as many as you like but the danger is that you run out of time to write good quality posts. The trick is to get a good balance, not to spread yourself too thin and rather than maintaining several blogs about different topics Rowse recommended to diversify your niche.

Hopefully this will give you something to ponder!


Learning from an experienced blogger

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be part of a Webinar organised by Problogger. Problogger is a website about all aspects of blogging launched by Australian Darren Browse in 2004. The theme of the webinar was ‘monetization’ of a blog. If you are interested in making money from your blog it might be an idea to subscribe to his website and receive notifications of his upcoming webinars. He is one of the earlier bloggers and talks out of experience – and I mean a lot of real life experience!  He is also the founder of a blog called ‘Digital Photography Blog – now called Digital Photography School.

I found the information he shared during this webinar very interesting and worthwhile for anybody who intends to make money out of their blog. Because of this I like to recap some of the content of his webinar.

Treat your blog as a business!

Darren Rowse first tip was to ‘treat your blog as a business’.  If you want your blog to be an income earning entity, you’ll have to start treating it that way. Just as with any other business you’ll have to strategically think on how to increase your traffic and get more advertisers.

He talked about the three foundations of profitable blogging – useful and unique content, effective promotion and an engaging blogging community. Once you have all those in place you are on the road to profitable blogging.

How to make money out of your blog

Apparently Rowse uses 37 ways, at least!  But not every way is suitable for everybody and it takes skill to decide what works best for you. Rowse introduces 7 groups of methods to make money being advertising, affiliate marketing, selling your blog, continuity programs, products, services and other indirect methods.

Currently his blog income derives from over 40% from e-books, 19 % through AdSense, 18% from affiliate programs and around 5% each from direct ad sales, continuity programs and speaking events. This may change on a monthly base depending on the launch of products and services. He uses a combination of monetization methods based on what his readers’ needs and wants. The first rule when deciding on ways to monetize your blog is to get to know what your readers want. You then match the method to these needs.

A bit of history

Darren Rowse first blog ‘Digital Photography Blog’ started out as a photo blog for beginners posting 2-3 articles per week. He remembers thinking that his articles were too simple but reader comments were showing him that he was spot on with his content. Over time he has educated his readers and now he is writing more advanced material and has increased the number of posts to 4-5 per week.

The importance of subscribers

Rowse’ readership grew enormously when he decided to set up an email newsletter.  80% of his subscribers come from this newsletter and only 20% via his RSS feed. He mentioned that a lot of bloggers focus on their RSS feeds to increase the number of subscribers however Rowse found that the real growth of capturing contacts came after he introduced his email newsletter.

When his blog grew he changed his approach. He expanded the type of topics and started hiring writers for very advanced content. He also upgrades his site on a regular base and optimises social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

The Webinar was useful and full of tips. It was presented from the heart and partly as a case study of a successful blog. Rowse ended the session with answering questions from bloggers who attempt to make money out of their blogs.

There were literally hundreds of questions – too much to handle here however I will filter some of the information and publish that in a future post.

The first steps towards keyword research

I have been writing a fair bit about keywords lately – the process of choosing them, their relevance, their placement and their effectiveness. Still it remains a bit of a mystery as it seems a subjective process –there are so many ways of looking at it. Therefore the next topic I like to elaborate on is keyword research.

What is keyword research?

It has been called a practice to find and research actual search terms people enter into the search engines when conducting a search. Search engine optimisation professionals research keywords in order to achieve better rankings in their desired keyword.

A lot can be said about keyword research and as with everything there are some myths to deal with. I have mentioned this before but we all perceive things in different ways and therefore we all search for answers in a different way. Every problem or issue has a number of angles it can be dealt with. The myth I like to demystify, is the fact that we as bloggers think we know what our readers are looking for. We don’t! We assume we do but we don’t.

Just stand still for a moment and try to recall that moment when your partner or your best friend disagrees with you. When that happens you can be quite stunned as you thought you would be on the same wavelength. But you are not – you are looking at the same issue and have a total different idea on how to deal with it. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Who can tell? And are you the one to make that decision anyway?

A counsellor needs to be able to ‘step’ into the clients shoes and attempt to see their point of view. It does not matter what the counsellor thinks – what matters is how the client sees the issue. That is your starting point.

The same goes for keywords. If web site owners could predict what words people use to put in Google, they would be on their way to riches. Unfortunately the majority doesn’t know and they may guess, assume and estimate search terms based on success of others, their own expectations or do the necessary research themselves.

Myth number 2 is the fact that you have to choose keywords that are generic or general and may catch a high amount of traffic. When someone finds your website through such a word only to find out that there is nothing about that word written in your site, you may find that you are not getting many followers! The words you choose have to be relevant and actually ‘deliver the goods’.

How to research your keywords?

The first step is to analyse your site or blog and see what you are actually offering and ‘promising’. Then imagine all the words, phrases and questions your potential readers could enter into the search engines in order to get to your site. Be hard on yourself because after all you are after ‘qualified’ readers and not just anyone.

What is a qualified reader? You may ask. A qualified reader is someone that comes to your site to be informed. In my case I want to attract readers that like to learn something about blogging or readers who are interested in setting up a blog themselves or maybe even someone who is interested in following my “road to professional blogging”. Who knows, but at this point in time I am not interested in visitors who want to learn about upholstery or wine.

With this in mind I like to invite you to create a list of relevant words, phrases and questions for your blog – be specific, not too generic and cover every aspect. If you find this hard, ask your partner, friends – anyone who could give you a point of view. Also check out the competition to see what words they use to attract visitors.

Just create that list without too much judgment as we leave the judging over to the research tools. And that is what my next blog post will be about!