Monthly Archives: April 2012

Start, nurture and grow your blog!

I have been lying low since my attempt to claim my blog on Technorati. It is April 29th today and I submitted my claim on the 24th of April. The following is the message I got: ‘Unfortunately, Technorati encountered a problem reading your blog. Our engineers are investigating and we will update your claim status as soon as we are able’.

This is bizarre as I can read my blog and so can many of you out there! More surprising is the fact that this update was sent to me 5 days ago and nothing has happened since then. There appears to be no way to communicate with Technorati and I can only wait. Maybe I have done something wrong or have overseen a detail. Well this shouldn’t stop me from blogging. So here we go.

Growing the traffic to your blog

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I would like to generate more traffic to my blog. It is something I have not spent a lot of time on although I am aware what is required. I even dedicated a post to it a couple of months ago. Interesting content, regular posting, inviting other bloggers and being creative and thinking outside the square are all part of the process.

This is only one side of the equation as there is also the aspect of being ‘found’ by the search engines. In order for this to be effective you have to use the right keywords or alternatively buy your way into the ranks.

Whatever you do to promote your online presence the most important factor is likely to be persistence. My partner calls it exponential growth – nothing much happens for a while until suddenly the numbers will go up. In order to generate traffic you and I will have to keep at it and put in effort on an ongoing basis. Have I actually done that so far?

Apparently many bloggers who aim for revenue admit that they spend the majority of time attempting to increase their traffic rather than creating interesting articles. This is surprising as it is the quality of the articles that will get you the traffic. If this does not make sense compare this statement to a hands-on business. Imagine you have a cafe and that you want to build a reputation for making the best coffee. What exactly is selling your coffee – the coffee or the marketing? This almost like the chicken-egg dilemma – what came first?

Product and marketing

Blogging is about writing content for a public. People read your blog, like it, return, sign up – whatever. To increase the size of that public you need to market your blog but you will have to keep on writing good posts to make people come back. Otherwise you end up getting new readers as a result of your marketing but in the meantime lose the existing ones because there is nothing new to read. Compare this to your cafe and ask yourself whether you would come back after a couple of bad coffees or if the shop was closed at times you want a coffee?

It looks like the best formula should be a combination of both product and marketing. However I like to point out that your content is your product and it is the product that will attract a readership. The modes of marketing are the ways you will get, maintain and increase that readership. It will all take time, effort, persistence, belief and maybe even some financial investment.

An additional factor to look at is how to define your target audience. If you have sussed that one out you can start writing accordingly. Once you know exactly what expectations your target audience has, you can tailor every post to suit their needs.

In the end it comes back to remaining realistic about the speed and the size of your growth. It could be a slow process and it may cost some money but remember Rome wasn’t built in one day – in fact Rome is built on 7 hills so imagine how tedious and laborious that process must have been at the time!

Finalising my Technorati claim

So far I have written 42 posts for blogexercise. The average word count for the articles was 400-500 words. This means that I have written just a bit under 20.000 words. Quite impressive as we all can remember these assignments of 5000 words that appeared to be impossible to achieve. And here I am – having managed to write almost 20,000 words for fun.

It was fun and easy because I enjoyed doing it. But I am facing a slight problem at the moment. Although I have written that many words and researched a large amount of topics, I have lost track of what I have covered. I have created 7 categories being appearance, audience, content, purpose, statistics, structure and recap and nominated 188 tags.

In order for me to continue I feel I need to re-assess everything I have published so far. I like to look at all topics, tags and categories before I start repeating stuff or waffling nonsense. A challenge maybe but also a chance to get organised – which is my middle name by the way!

This will take some time. I will therefore finish this post as I have to publish something so that Technorati is able to verify that I am really the author of this blog. In order to claim my status I have to publish a unique code with my post that enables them to see whether I am genuine.

So there we go. Voila my code

YZ5ZS45353ZU

Wish me luck!

Claiming your blog on Technorati

A while back I wrote an article about some numbers and statistics related to blogging. If you are interested look up my post ‘Number Crunching’ from 28th Feb this year. In that post I wrote about Technorati, an internet search engine for searching blogs. It focuses primarily on blogs and it will pick up anything with an RSS feed that has been claimed by Technorati.

Apparently you can ‘claim’ your blog on Technorati. By doing this you will add your blog to the so-called Technorati ‘blog directory’. Claiming your blog allows you to attach your Technorati profile to your blog to give yourself more online promotion And it allows you to add keywords and descriptions to your blog to make it easier for other people to find your blog. In other words if you like others to find your blog, this is an excellent way to get more traffic.

How to sign up for Technorati?

Technorati says the following: ‘Claiming your blog establishes that you are its author and enables Technorati services that will increase your blog’s visibility’.

First of all you need to create an account with Technorati. This is easy and should not take more than 5 minutes. After signing up you will receive an email to activate your account. It really is as simple as I say as I have just done it while I am writing this article!

My next step will be to claim ‘Blogexercise’. This will take a little more time as apart from answering the usual questions I will have to write a small ‘bio’ and add a picture. Furthermore I have to come up with a site description and choose categories in which Blogexercise will be listed in the blog directory.

All done! Although I did not add a picture yet. They have given me a claim status number and there is a waiting period for them to verify everything I have filled in and if I am really the author of Blogexercise. I suppose that is all I can do so far. I am not sure how long it will take for them to finalise my claim.

The next step is also easy. It does not require any effort on your behalf. If you’ve claimed your blog and it is accepted, it should automatically update to Technorati.

So what’s next?

What I do have to learn is how to tag my posts. I have been receiving some comments regarding that – mainly that I was doing it wrong. My next step is therefore to check out what this tagging is all about.

During the sign up process I had to fill in a section that was asking for tags and I have filled in the words that I feel are the most relevant to finding my blog. Hey but who knows whether that is the way to go. I’ll keep you posted.

If you have not claimed your blog on Technorati but would like to do so, follow the link and have a go! http://technorati.com/

When is selling acceptable?

Offcourse there is a fine line between creating awareness for a certain service or product and hard sell. I have not really figured out what I find appropriate myself.

When you post something on your blog it is out there for everyone to read. In principle anyone can comment on what I write, express their opinion and I suppose flog their wares. One could even debate that – when I am publishing the message, I may need some help regarding the topic I am writing about.

That is where the crucial point is to my opinion. I am not inquiring to get advice – I am only elaborating about something on my own blog. Maybe it is the nature of the game. After all when I am watching a film on TV I am not asking for dozens of ad breaks and yet I get them presented on a platter, over and over again. It doesn’t stop me from watching the film. Although I hate the ads and will very likely utilise the breaks to get a drink or have a toilet stop.

Another one is going to the cinema where you are the target of its sponsors. The other day I discovered that you even get bombarded with messages enticing you to come to the cinema – while you are already sitting there waiting to watch a film. Now that is what I call wasting resources! What about promoting refreshments after the program has started? Do they really want people to get up, go and buy popcorn and disturb fellow film lovers?  I don’t get that!

Advertising and blogging

For some they go together and for many others it may raise their hairs. The general consensus seems to be that bloggers need to take care not to alienate followers by suddenly adding ads to their blogs. It is recommended starting with advertising if that is what you have in mind. You can debate this and as the blogger you could have the attitude – you lose some, you gain some! After all when your blog is popular, it would be silly not to benefit from sponsors and AdSense.

I am planning to use various types of advertising on my blog in the making ‘EasyDone Gourmet & Style’. I am not making a secret of that as my aim is to make it a source of income. But as the type of person I am, I want to make sure that the blog looks attractive even with ads. That is one of the reasons that I start a blog with my own domain and hosting. You have more control over what the end product looks like.

At the time being I am consulting a techie to build my blog and a designer to make it look nice because I can’t do that myself. It is an investment as one has to do when starting a business. I find it very important that I have input where the ads are being placed and even what they look like. I certainly don’t want flashing ads and pop-up boxes which are hard to close. My blog is partly about style and that includes the advertising. It all needs to be attractive – it’s the whole package!

The preparation process may take a bit more time than I intended to but when the blog finally looks the way I want it, it will be out there. And I will have a beautiful, stylish office to go every day!

I am in therapy – I blog!

The other day I stumbled upon a blog post about ‘blogging as therapy’. This particular lady had started blogging as an outlet for certain emotional issues. She had found great support in expressing herself through the medium of a blog. What helped her even more was the fact that many other people were reading what she was writing about. Her statistics were impressive and she must have inspired many others to start blogging or at least take in what she writes about.

A group of researchers in Israel have conducted a study amongst teenagers who were struggling with issues such as social- and emotional well-being. None of the teenagers were bloggers before. Half of the teenagers were asked to blog regularly about their problems while the other half did not. And again half of these bloggers were allowed to receive comments while the other half was not.  All of them were tested regarding their self -esteem and interaction with other peers before and after the blogging period. The results showed that those participants who wrote the blog significantly improved on all measures. And the teenagers, whose blogs were open to comments, gained the most.

Blogs, diaries and therapy…

Blogging can indeed be a great way of getting rid of baggage if that is what you need. It somehow feels more ‘real’ that it is being published although you don’t know who will read it. It is an exciting awareness that anyone could read your words. A diary on the other hand is just written by and for you and probably never read by anyone. That‘s what it is supposed to be at least.

Blogging is different. You initially write for yourself but deep down you are aware that someone might read about your issues and even come up with a comment. While blogging you may think about the way you phrase whatever you like to say because you don’t want to come across as dumb or short-sighted. To come to the point writing a blog is an effective way to reflect on your issues and that is essentially what you do. You express, write, edit and correct and then you publish it – almost as if it is someone else’s stuff.

‘Therapeutic value’ of a blog

From a psychological point of view this is indeed therapeutic, because while you are writing you take distance and reflect on whatever is in your mind. In a nutshell that is what a therapist wants you to achieve. That you are able to ‘step back’, look at your issues and hopefully see the path to a solution. Therapists are not supposed to do that for you – you’ll have to do this yourself. They are only supposed to guide you in the process! If you are made to believe differently, consider changing your therapist!

Blogs can attract comments and those comments can be eye openers. They can act as a mirror, be critical or supportive. Sometimes they are insulting but if indeed such remarks are enticing you to explore a different avenue than you are used to – listen and explore. Who knows where it might lead you.

Albert Einstein had a great view on that:

You cannot solve the problem with the same level of thinking that created it!

You can blog anywhere!

The fun of being a blogger is that you really can do it anywhere. I was on my way to Sydney for a training course. My flight was delayed but why should I be annoyed. When I arrived at the terminal I found a desk, chairs, sockets and even internet connection. I installed my notebook and started writing this post.

My time is utilised perfectly and by the time the flight is ready to leave I have another post to my name. And without this delay I would not have had the inspiration to blog about this topic. Am I an optimist, an opportunist or just realistic? You may call it what you like but I was not going to waste my time.

Blogging as an outlet for frustration

Another thing comes to mind. Imagine this delay would have really ‘screwed’ up my schedule for the day. Instead of heading to the bar and indulge in some kind of beverage to let of steam I could get rid of my frustration by writing it all down. I bet you that many people could relate to this as so many things in life are delayed, postponed or even cancelled.

You see – that is the ‘therapeutic value’ of blogging. Write it all down, reflect on the issue. Once you have expressed your frustration and have accepted your fate I suggest you read your own post again and laugh about the whole matter. I am guaranteed that you see the funny side of it and remember this instance with a smile, even if it is only a faint one!

Being ‘connected’ at all times

I must say that I am impressed with these public facilities for computer users. I am aware of internet cafes and heard about public places that offer Wi-Fi. All very handy when you need to have access to the internet during meetings or when you are blogging away from home. Who could have thought that 20 years ago? I certainly would not have believed that one day I would be equipped to be ‘connected’ wherever I am. And here I was on my way to Sydney with my notebook and my smart phone and I was able to reach out while I am on the go. It is wonderful addictive to say the least.

And so is blogging by the way – it is fun, rather addictive and very, very rewarding in many ways. Many people have been able to realise one or more ways to create an income with a blog, full time or part time. I am sure it is very hard work just as any other successful enterprise is but it must be a wonderful feeling to get paid for something you are passionate about.

 The secret is to uncover how it can be done…

Help, my ranking is low!

Obviously my ranking is low because I get targeted by all kind of miracle workers who are willing to boost my popularity for a price. It is interesting and intriguing as I really do not know much about it – the so-called SEO or Search Engine Optimisation.

It must be every site owner’s worst nightmare – this phenomenon of ranking. How does one go about it and what makes your page go to the top? To be realistic there is only one space at the top and there is only one first page. Usually the sites that are at the top of page 1 ‘buy’ their space. At the moment I am not interested in that so I’ll leave that option.

What is SEO?

Let’s step back and explore SEO a bit further. “The process of improving webpages so they rank higher in search engines for your targeted key words”, are the words Shimon Chandler uses when he introduces his PowerPoint about SEO. He is one of the many links to SEO on the first page. It is hard for novices to know which one to read, believe and try. As with many sources of information nowadays, it is not easy to educate yourself – there is just too much information available.

Another specialist on the first page presented his daughter who, after hearing about monetisation of blogs, decided to create her own blog, put AdSense on it and managed to make $1000 per month in no time. When you are 16 this is no doubt a much better income earner than dog walking, babysitting or selling fast food. But I don’t believe it is that easy, although for her it might have been as her father is a SEO specialist.

Unfortunately I do not have SEO gurus in my circle of friends so I have to figure it out myself or pay for it. “Pay for what?” I say immediately as I don’t know what needs to be done. I heard that the majority of people who browse the web do not go past the first page. That is tough, the first page! To be one of the ‘chosen’ ones on page one of all those ‘wannabees’ must come with a huge price – excuse me for being cynical!

SEO marketing…..

I bet this article will attract a large number of SEO specialists which may be good for me. I will be able to have a look at their offerings before I decide what it is that I need to do to get to that coveted number 1 spot. The unfortunate thing is though that I do not really understand their technical jargon, too specialised for me. As always the same issue – unless you are computer savvy it is beyond my ‘technical’ comprehension!

In one of my previous post I wrote about ‘simplifying’ information. That is my aim with this blog – to simplify the blogging phenomenon for the less technical savvy user. I am one of them myself but I take the effort to learn, sift through the available material and act somehow as a filter. Regarding SEO I need to find someone who can be the filter I need. All these sites about SEO offer the best results and claim that your blog can’t exist without their latest Plug-in or Widget.

Unfortunately I don’t know what they are talking about and I never spend money on something I do not understand. It’s a vicious circle, I am afraid!

Me – a writer!

The other day I had lunch with a friend who mentioned that I had really got into this ‘blogging thing’. It felt good to know that she noticed. Then she said something that made my day. She told me that my English was really good – she even looked to be impressed. She seemed surprised that my writing English was of a high standard.  I suppose my speaking English must be of a lesser standard!

You have to know that I am not a native English speaker. I am from the Netherlands and only started to speak English fulltime in my twenties when I left Holland to live in London. I speak English fluently but I do have an accent – over time less than when I first went to live abroad. I very likely have picked up some Aussie slang, a bit of London jargon and before that Swiss German influences may have tainted my way of speaking, so who knows what it sounds like…..

But – when I write, nobody knows, as I have the time to think about whatever I am going to write. I do take my time to review, re-read and rephrase my articles. I actually spend a lot of time on getting it right. Certainly after I took the effort to blog about grammar in one of my earlier posts I make sure I use it correctly. I prefer to genuinely ‘walk the talk’- at least I try!

When I read other blogs I usually can pick up when the writer is not from an English speaking background. Most people write in English but the way they express themselves gives away that they may not be native English speakers. This also counts for comments I get on my blog. Some are unfortunately so cryptic that I can’t post them as I honestly do not understand what they mean. Sometimes I don’t even know whether they are genuine or whether they are attempts to ridicule.

Same letters – different pronunciation!

Hopefully I am not insulting anybody but this is the way it is. I have developed a rather thick skin when it comes to languages as on many occasions I get to hear that people do not understand what I say. It has to do with the way we, Dutch people pronounce certain letters. We apparently have an issue with the ‘a’s and the‘s’s. My name is also a good example – Marijke. I know it’s not an easy name for Anglophiles. In general people are thrown by the ‘ij’ but I pronounce it the way English people tend to pronounce it and not the Dutch way. So what I don’t understand is why half of the people seem to hear that I say Veronica when I answer the phone! It must be me but it does make me frown.

To be honest I have given up on being annoyed a long time ago. Actually the whole thing justifies me pronouncing names wrongly as well. Not that hard in a country where it is possible to have 20 nationalities in one gathering!

So hearing the other day that I surprised one of my friends with my writing ability makes me smile and gives me confidence. It confirms my choice to ‘indulge’ in writing about things that matter to me and publish it for anyone to read. It’s a wonderful feeling and it shows me I am on the right path.

A belated Happy Easter to all who read and enjoy what I write!

Time for a summary

If you like to become a blogebrity, a problogger or a blogstar and aspire to be on the A-list of bloggers you will have to enter the blogosphere and start blogging yourself.

Before you start…

You start with creating a blog. You need to choose a hosting service and decide whether you like to get a hosted platform or use a multi-user platform and self-host. Beginners usually start with a hosted service such as WordPress, Blogger and TypePadall examples of hosted platforms. Just go into any of them, create an account and follow their instructions.

If you like to self-host, you need to register a domain and buy a hosting service. The next step is to point your registered domain name to your blog, a process called domain mapping. Unless you are a bit of a computer whizz you may need help with this!

Start blogging…

A blog usually has a main column where you write your story and sidebar(s) where you can put links and ads, also called blog verts or blogvertising. Apart from the page where your blog will appear there is usually a profile page that tells something about yourself and your reasons for blogging. Your readers like to know who you are so don’t under-estimate this.

Once you have decided on your topic you can post content on your site. Most bloggers publish posts on a regular base, ideally 3 times per week or more. Many bloggers are niche bloggers and they focus on a specialised topic. When giving your blog a name, keep it simple and broad enough to expand your topic!

When blogging you have to make sure you abide by copyright rules and give credit to other blogger or websites when you refer to them. Someone who plagiarises the content of another blogger is sometimes called a doppelblogger. If you like to uses pictures in your blog you can subscribe to sites such as Flickr where you can find countless pictures that are free to use. Alternatively you can take them yourself if you want to stay clear of copyright.

Posts are added in chronological order and stored in archives on the side bar of your blog. You can allocate categories and tags to your blog. This makes it easier for your readers to find posts written on specific topics. As a blogger you have access to the dash board or admin side of your blog. This is where you find all the controls and functions to manage your blog.

Your readers..

People who read your blog are your audience. They can leave comments on what you have posted. Unfortunately they can also leave comment spam but there are ways to minimise this evil. You can add filtering software and verification images such as CAPTCHA that pick up spamming comments and stop them from being published. Hosted services do this for you but when you choose to self host, you will have to install this yourself.

Your readers can follow or subscribe to your blog. By clicking on the RSS feed link, usually on the side bar, they can get automated notification from additional posts. You can create reciprocal links to other bloggers and ways to get notification are link backs such as refbacks, trackbacks and pingbacks all with their own specific functions. Don’t worry too much about this as you can blog without knowing what they are. They can be helpful once you get more serious and you’ll learn to use them when you are ready!

How to find you…

A search engine allows people to find information on the web. Popular search engines are Google and Yahoo and you may find web pages, blogs, images and other types of files on there. If you like people to find your blog you have to make sure that you optimise it with SEO or Search Engine optimisation. Your content ideally contains keywords that are relevant to search engines and the HTML code of your site should be optimised for that purpose as well. Savvy IT friends or in general young people seem to understand this innately!

A blog can consist of text but also of a mixture of pictures, videos, music, pod casts and many other things. Such media files are accessible through web feeds and can make you blog more interesting and interactive.

If you manage to read through the above and I haven’t lost you, you will have all the ingredients to successfully start up a blog.

Have fun blogging! 

Food for Thought!

A friend came over the other night and she told me that she followed my blog, ‘blogexercise’. She said she also followed a blog that diarises the life of one of her friends. She kind of wondered why my blog was not like that. My response was that her friend wrote an online diary of whatever subject came in her mind and elaborated on that – with pictures and all.  A different type of blog than ‘blogexercise’ is.

My blog is more of an educational nature. It is a project, in first instance for me, to explore the world of blogging and for others who find the subject interesting and like to learn. Her next question was why I did not post pictures because that made the other blog so attractive. Good question I suppose and it made me think for a while. I am a keen photographer and seem to take pictures daily. But what kind of pictures can I take that reflect the content of my posts about blogging? I will get the creative juices flowing and see if I can come up with a couple.

Pictures on a blog look indeed nice. A picture says a thousand words. Maybe we could make a lot of mundane topics a lot more interesting by adding pictures. Just imagine law and economy books… I can imagine little drawings or cartoons added to the posts but I can’t draw very well. I know there are enough resources where I could find such things. I am not sure if I want to go that way. I wouldn’t mind finding someone who could draw and make a range of little drawings for me.

No internet! Shock! Horror!

At the moment however I can’t do much. I am finding myself in the in-imaginable state of not having internet. A bizarre thought and I would have not believed ‘ever’ to think of that as a problem. The situation is that we are changing service providers, things went ‘wrong’ with the result that we are finding ourselves in that above mentioned state. We have purchased a number of dongles but they seem to go fast especially with children who think that Face book and down loading ‘stuff’ is absolute essential to their wellbeing.

I have only had the absolute necessary web exposure and the consequence is that my number of posts is down. I have written 8 posts in March, just under two per week. I suppose still not that bad as the internet has been down since the beginning of the month! My friend mentioned another blog she follows and the last post of that writer was the 16th of February. That is indeed a ‘break’ and who knows for what reason. Having no internet sounds a feeble excuse but it has been a major frustration for all of us.

Today is the lucky day that we are going to be connected!  Between 7 and 12 we are expecting a technician. Hooray…. but so were we last Saturday – we waited until 4 to find out that due to an emergency elsewhere we were put forward to the next available day – today! The hopes are high as this is the 4th attempt of this particular provider to connect us. Why are we with them, you may ask…..

If we are lucky today we will have cable connection, fast and reliable. I hope it will be worth it. It would be very welcome as I just received news that my next blog is almost ready to go life. For the newcomers amongst you – Blogexercise is my practice blog on a hosted platform, to learn and to research the world of blogging and I am not done yet!

My new blog Easydone Gourmet and Style is the result of many passions in my life. It will be self hosted on WordPress –  full of yummy food, good wines, attractive homes and lush gardens with gorgeous pictures, easy to follow recipes and inspiring ‘how-to-do’s’. All done by myself by the way!

So if you are inspired and curious, follow my steps!