Monthly Archives: March 2012

Don’t TARGET my Blog!

Looking at my latest blog posts I realise I have not written much about blogging itself but more about related topics. Things that you may come across when you are blogging but maybe not have anticipated before starting.

I have mentioned negative comments and spam. This is something that will happen to you when you have a blog. Online presence makes you vulnerable and gives others the opportunity to target you – positive or negative. By now I have seen that some people are excellent marketers and grab every opportunity to plant links and get rid of their wares – without asking by the way.

Fortunately such comments end up in spam and I love WordPress for that. I can screen rubbish like that before I allow it on my blog. This is important as we, bloggers, spend time and effort on the content and appearance of our posts. The last thing I need is a comment that looks more like a mathematical equation than a piece of text.

Selling or being a pain….

You know what – you hard–sell-core out there….. If you would read up on the psychology behind marketing and selling, you would understand this. You would write a comment, ideally a nice one to get your foot in the door, create the necessary rapport and then cleverly introduce why you are there in the first place. Most of the time you may get my attention and I may even be enticed to follow your link to see what you have on offer.

I am aware that being online puts you in a position of being a constant target. Everybody who has something to sell sees in social media a great outlet but be aware! A friend of mine on Face Book published an outcry of frustration on his status the other day.  He was so annoyed with the amount of friends trying to flog something that he threatened to un-befriend them straight away as soon as the next sales ad would appear.

Being lured in!

To be honest Face book is a great marketing tool. I recently saw a Webinar about Face book marketing and it was mind-boggling. It is more user-friendly though to create a Face book business page in the case you like to sell or promote a product. I have signed up or liked a number of blogs and they turn out to be a daily (or more) stream of advertising for whatever.

One group I joined is creating so much stuff that twice per day I received at least 5-10 emails. The unfortunate thing is that the ads are not even appealing and I can’t figure out what this particular lady is actually promoting.  It did overwhelm me, it cluttered up my news feed and as a result I have removed the link!

I don’t consider it  fair to use a news feed that allows people to express their ‘daily stuff’ for hard sell. Neither is my blog an opportunity for others to market products or services. The name social media in itself says what it is for. It is an opportunity for people to connect, react and interact.

The issue here is where to draw the line. When does offering help and giving advice become ‘marketing? Brain food for another post I suppose…..

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Writing for income…

Wouldn’t it be nice?

I wonder how many aspiring writers are out there.  Due to the internet the dream of being able to express your ‘voice’ has come a lot closer to many people. After all the internet allows anyone to publish without the consent of a publishing company.  It’s that easy!

As a result millions of people will have a go at this, the competition will be fierce and the ultimate trick is ‘how to stand out’.  The entrepreneurial amongst you very likely have already tapped in to this world of online writing. You will have written material on ‘how to’ go about this online writing phenomena as soon as it was out there.

‘How to’ information

Apparently some of the most popular non-fiction is ‘how to’ information. Quite amazing that even in a world where information is abundant, there seems to be a shortage of organised facts, knowledge and wisdom. People crave for ‘how to do’ articles, step by step guidance and ‘the ten best things’ lists.

Let’s have a closer look at this. Imagine you need information about how to prune a plant. The first thing you do is a Google search and you’ll find that there are countless sites to choose from. You sift through some of them but find that nothing is totally relevant to your specific problem or question. You rephrase your request and some more sites appear. Again not exactly the answer you are looking for.

Frustration levels are rising because you did not want to spend too much time looking this up as you really want to spend your energy on pruning your plant. Now imagine if there was this little concise guide that told you exactly ‘how to’ prune your plant, what tool to use, how to get cuttings and even what to do with your garden waste.

Anybody can do it!

There are many blogs that have become big businesses because they are doing just that – compiling and re-creating information. Short and to the point advice for people that are not that savvy in a particular area. It’s a simple concept and readily available to everybody who owns a computer and has access to the internet.

The bottom line is the following. If you love writing and you have an analytical mind, you can make money out of organising information and offering it in a more accessible form to your readers. Just imagine – blogs, eBooks, tutorials, pod casts and what else the trend is at the moment. Again it’s as easy as that!

I personally love writing! By writing this ‘blog about blogging’ I have realised that more than anything. In fact I have always been attracted to it. I have a big pile of diaries that reflect on my life, my travelling, emigrating, having kids and much more. About a year ago I indulged in reading some of those stories and I have to admit that I had the feeling on many occasions that I was reading about someone else’s life! I have never contemplated to publish any of them but if I wanted the opportunities are within my reach.

So if there is the slightest ambition in you to write a book or a blog and you feel you have something to offer, there has never been a better time to do it. To say it metaphorically – the ‘world wide web’ is your oyster. 

Blog speak……

LOL – OMG – C U L8R – MOL – ROTF!!??

Do you understand this language? Am I supposed to get this? I feel I should as I see it used on a regular base in various social media. As most professions or specialised activities have developed their own jargon there is a special language for bloggers called ‘web speak’.

Call me ‘old fashioned’ but I am not keen on this new language. The same as I have an issue with the lack of grammar I am not an advocate of ‘web speak’ and I am pleased to see that some critics call it a sign of ‘our moral and aesthetic decline’.

However as many words and expressions are more and more established and widely used by people from all walks of life I feel ‘blog speak’ should be part of a blog about blogging.

Blog speak

First of all here are some words that have been introduced as a result of blogging but are now ‘insiders’ language.

  • The word ‘blog’ is jargon itself as it stands for ‘web log’
  • Jargon of a blog is called ‘blargon
  • Spam is jargon and was first used in the early nineties. Since then it has become a verb (spamming)and has been combined with other words  – e.g. spambot and spam comment
  • Then there is ‘blogerati’ – those amongst us who are experienced and sophisticated bloggers

There is much more and it is funny to see that also in ‘blog speak’ certain things have acquired a sexual under-tone. So believe it or not, in ‘blargon’ you can find ‘linky love’, ‘link slut’ and even ‘blogasm’!

Someone in Sydney has gone so far to develop a dictionary for bloggers. It is called ‘blogosary’ and in it you can find many words used in and for blogs and their meanings.

Blog acronyms

Here are some fun abbreviations that you may have seen or use yourself.

BFF      best friends forever

TTYL     talk to you later

AFAIK   as far as I know

LOL       laughing out loud

OTOH   on the other hand

JK         just kidding

L8TR     later

WTG     way to go

ROFL    rolling around on the floor laughing

BRB      be right back

PITA     pain in the ass

NAA     not another acronym!

I suppose using acronyms and other types of blog jargon is a matter of taste and new abbreviations will come and go. It is at your disposal but it is not something I will adapt to very easily.

ILITT!  See who can figure that one out….

Who likes SPAM?

Just as you receive spam in your email account you also will get it as comments on your blog. Such comments can come from bloggers who have nothing better to do than leaving nasty remarks on your work or it can be generated by software programs known as ‘spambots’.

What on earth is a ‘spambot’ – you may ask! To be honest that was my reaction as well. Wikipedia defines a spambot as the following:

“A spambot is an automated computer program designed to assist in the sending of spam”.

A spambot should not be confused with a so-called regular robot or a web crawler. Web crawling or spidering is used by search engines and many other websites to obtain up-to-date information. A spambot can be considered a web crawler ‘gone wrong’ that surfs the net looking for blogs and forums to submit spam to the comment fields of those sites.

How to reduce spam!

Very irritating but apparently reasonable harmless apart from the fact that spam comments can affect your appeal to search engines. It is quite simple to prevent such comments on your blog and blogging package such as WordPress and TypePad offer a good screening solution.

        CAPTCHA

You all have seen or used the ‘letters and numbers’ you may have to copy before being taking serious when you order something, leave a comment or subscribe to website. This is called CAPTCHA verification and it works because it lets humans pass a test that computers can’t!  It may be a bit frustrating but it does reduce spam.

        Signing in

Although this is an option to help preventing spam it is to my opinion also a way to get fewer comments. I usually leave as soon as I see that I have to sign on because I always get the feeling that I am subscribing to the site. It is too much trouble for the spammer but also for the genuine blog reader!

        Filtering Software

Software that can be installed easily and that will run all the time. Hosted blog sites such as WordPress, TypePad and BlogSpot offer such a program. It filters all comments and grades them before they are visible. You as a blogger have the opportunity to allow a comment or not. If your blog provider does not offer this service you can download a package quite easily. Akismet  is free to download and will do the job.

Spammers use many different tactics to get their ‘message’ across and the more methods you as a blogger use to prevent spamming comments the better. Sometimes a spammer can be compared to a bacteria or a virus – you may stop them in one way but they have the ability to come back in a mutated form for the next attack.

How to deal with unwanted comments

It is interesting to get comments, it is even better to get nice comments but it is a thrill to get a comment that shows that someone just ‘got’ your post the way you meant it. It gives you the feeling you are on the right track and it reinforces what you have to say.

There are occasions though that you get comments that are not nice. They can be negative, putting you down and even be insulting. Then there are comments that should not be allowed to be called ‘comments’ as they are reactions to your post to promote something.

I have had a couple of such comments lately. Some were actually quite nice or full of praise and they left a link to their website. I explored their link only to find out that they were on a mission to market their products – some were the kind of products I might not want to be associated with!

I have had others that did not have the courtesy to actually comment on my blog post. They just left a link hoping that I would explore that link. And just yesterday I had a comment with an invite to check out their link.

Quite often these comments are worded in such a way to lure you in as they offer a service that you may benefit off. My daughter told me that companies hire people who do nothing else than targeting blogs and websites to promote services and products and plants links. What a job to have I can only say!

What to do with a negative comment?

You are in control! So what do you do when you get negative comments? Many hosted websites make it easy for you because they act as a filter for all comments. Most of my comments actually end up in spam. When that happens I have various options of dealing with the comment before I allow it to be visible to all. Usually there is an email address and if you feel you need to react the option is there.

In principle you want people to comment on your blog as they give you the opportunity to engage in discussions. Not everyone will agree with what you say but that’s life and it makes it more interesting.

Get a thicker skin! When the comments are negative or insulting one way of dealing with it is to get a ‘thicker skin’! Not everyone will agree with what you write but disagreement does not mean that you are disliked. As adults we should be able to deal with the difference between ‘disliking you’ and ‘disliking your behaviour’. Two completely different although related things. In generally it is children who don’t understand the difference but by the age of 10 they should have sussed it out. Some adults will never learn it though!

Use them to your advantage! If you do allow comments no matter of what nature, you can make sure they are legitimate by checking out whether their email address is a real one. If they are real but disagree with you, then it is up to you whether you like to include the comment in your blog. You could use the comments as inspiration to write new blog posts or alternatively invite more readers to comment to promote a discussion. One way to increase your traffic – a tip I should use more myself!

Do bloggers get writers block?

I wonder if bloggers ever run out of something to say. I have mentioned before that my inspiration comes and goes. It is in general the most fruitful when I have just finished a blog post. Exploring certain topics opens up the road to other content. Many bloggers get inspiration from reading other blogs or their comments. And offcourse when you have heaps of traffic yourself there will be many comments and the ideas will just flow.

When your blog becomes a chore

What should you do when writing becomes a chore? There may be times in your life that blogging is not your first priority and other things take over. Depending on the type of blog you have, it may be appropriate to admit that. If you speak the truth – your truth – you may find that the words come easily even when you have got a lot of other things on your mind.

In fact when you are honest it could well be that your readers can better connect with you. You could tell them that you did not feel coming out of bed and spent the day in your pyjamas. I bet there will be many who wish they had the courage to do the same! Just take a break and let your readers know when you will be back.

Blogging should always come from the heart. When it becomes something you feel you ought to do, it is not optional anymore. I bet that whatever you write about won’t be that captivating, could be repetitive or lacks originality.

When to have a break

Another thing that could stop you from blogging is when you get ill. Can you imagine writing something worthwhile when the only thing you like to do is cuddling up in bed with a hot water bottle and a box of tissues? My suggestion in that case would be – give it a break!

There are a couple of things that you can do when you suffer from writers block, are sick or just want a break. Being sick or a having a holiday may grant a real break!  Writers block on the other hand may be a good opportunity to do some reviewing, do a recap or dig up those old posts you have written but never published.

It may also be a chance to evaluate the success of your blog or look at ways to improve the amount of readers or how you market your blog. Stepping back, evaluate and reflect may well get the juices going again!

Finally progress…

I started Blogexercise in November 2011 as an experiment and I have written over 25 posts so far. I wanted to explore the blogging world or better blogosphere before I ventured into having a blog. Sounds bizarre but so be it.

I like to call it research and preparation for the real stuff. Anybody who wants to set up a business will have to do market research and acquire some expertise about what they are about to do. Just open up a random business book and you’ll find that one of the biggest cause of failure is lack of preparation.

My market research started with a blog. A blog is of such a nature that you can ‘explore’ while you are doing it. Imagine setting up a business and being able to have a practice run without it costing you a cent.

What’s next in line?

Digging deeper into the blogging world has taught me heaps and I feel very comfortable to explain blogging to someone and believe me there are many people out there who would not be able to tell you what a blog is!  Also I have the expertise now to guide someone in making important decisions that I feel need to be made before starting.

In sum Blogexercise exists because I needed an outlet to help me make decisions about a blog about my passion. There are many things that fall into this category but a couple of things jump out being ‘styling of homes and gardens’ and anything to do with ‘food, wine and entertaining’. I have been dabbling at it through various small business ventures, some more successful than others.

Suddenly last year the idea of a blog hit me and it all began. And here I am blogging away and now with the confirmation that I love blogging and have in fact lots of to say.

The first baby steps!

Last week I have had a meeting with a young computer techie who is going to develop my blog. I have decided to have my own domain and buy hosting and will continue with WordPress. I have looked at BlogSpot, TypePad and others but feel comfortable enough with WordPress. So why change?

My ‘techie’ and I have discussed the concept and the appearance and after I have submitted a couple of mock posts she can have a go at it. I was asked to deliver some great pictures as well.  I like to use my own pictures and I have a love relationship with my camera already for decades. I even ventured in to studying the topic at art school a long time ago. So here I am shooting ‘great’ pictures from various food items, plants and interiors. Good fun and I have been able to create some suitable footage.

It’s all part of the game!

When reflecting on this post I realise it is not about anything new or something that can educate you about another facet of blogging. It has turned out to be an evaluation and explanation of the purpose of Blogexercise. Such thought processes are relevant though when you want to start blogging unless you don’t care about things like planning and making the right decisions.

Anything you start can be changed at a later stage – very likely with some more effort or costs but it can be done. No need for panic but for me personally ‘taking my time’ has helped to step back, look at the various options I have, ask for opinions, read up on it and then let myself be guided by all these ‘bits’. Quite often the final choice just appears as it did with my blog about homes and food.

I have decided I will continue with Blogexercise as there is a lot more to say – maybe not as frequent when the next blog is alive. It can take a bit of time to prepare a good post – at least if you aim for relevance, novelty, truth and entertainment.  Happy blogging!

Attention span of your audience

When I read through my blog post ‘Number Crunching’ I feel that I should complete the topic by having a look at who reads you blog – in other words your blog audience. With the enormous growth of social media and increasing numbers of blogs written I am getting curious about the attention span of the average online reader.

When researching human attention span I found that it is a mine field out there. That could mean that nobody really knows the answer and/ or that it depends on ‘context’. When you read about a subject that is relevant to something in your life you will very likely take it in better than a topic you can’t relate to. You will have all the time in the world for something interesting and but you may drift asleep after seconds when being exposed to boring stuff. Kind of logic, isn’t it?

Age may have something to do with it. Anyone who has children knows that the attention span of a toddler can’t possibly be more than 2 seconds and teenagers… well, who knows what makes them tick! Some figures show that the average attention span in kids varies from 3-5 minutes and adults may be able to give you 20 minutes max! www.reference.com

When I see figures like that I am again amazed that blogs are being read and the internet is being explored at all. It must have to do with people’s focus. The latest way the human mind has developed and adapted must be that we have learned to become better ‘skimmers’ and can sift with ease through the enormous mountain of information that is thrown at us. Some call it scanning  and there are websites that teach you how to scan in the most effective way. Scanning can be defined as quickly looking over some information and selecting what is important to you www.webdesignerdepot.com.

How can you facilitate scanning?

Not all information is suitable for scanning. When blogging it is important to keep that in mind. If you write a blog post and there is a fair of ‘waffle’ at the start while the most important bit are further down you might lose your reader. There are ways of avoiding that by using some of the following:

  • Lists, bold text, underline, Italics, headings and sub headings
  • Combining text with pictures and illustrations  
  • Make your first sentence and last sentence ‘to the point’

By using the above you can highlight and emphasise what you consider important and your readers will be able to pick up better what is relevant to them. Off course  – as bloggers we don’t want readers to scan or skim over our pages. We like them to read whatever we write from beginning to end and love it.

Unfortunately that is not going to happen all the time and people will skim and dismiss. There is just too much stuff to choose from. By producing ‘scannable’ content you may be able to capture your audience in such a way that they will come back for more.

After all you can’t deny that it is a nice feeling to find out that another reader has subscribed to your blog!