Monthly Archives: June 2012

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!

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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!

Where to place your keywords?

A number of well researched keywords can be used all over your article but it is effective to place them where search engines and your readers can detect them easily. People tend to scan pages, usually only the first page, for the information they are looking for. They are not prepared to read everything you write but only the stuff they need and scanning is one way to do that. If you write about keywords I suppose it is logical to put it your blog post title. If you describe a process or explain something, let your readers know this perspective and the title is a great place for that.

Blog title and blog post tile

The main purpose of a title is to get attention and make your readers want more. Your title should not be so concise that it is not inviting readers to read the whole article neither do you want to trick people by writing about something that has got nothing to do with the title.

If it is appropriate place a keyword in the title and use it at the beginning rather than the end. Also keep in mind not to make the title too long otherwise you end up with only half of it in the search results in Google. In that case it is better to opt for a sub title or a head line.

Headers and sub headings

Headlines are another effective facilitator for scanning. They give readers a quick overview of what is in the article. Placing a keyword in a header is effective but again keep in mind that it should be appropriate. Don’t become a so-called keyword bomber or – stuffer.  Google does not like this and your blog may be blocked rather than climb the search engine ladder. As long as your article reads natural and creates a great user experience, include a keyword.

Content, ‘About Me ‘and links

Keywords can be placed in the rest of your content, the ‘About me’ page and in links to your other posts. It is very likely that several posts have the same keywords as some of your previous posts and it is logical to refer to them. There are ratios in place on the amount and frequency of keywords in an article but I will have to dig a little deeper before I understand what the full impact is of those.

Apparently emotional terms in your titles and headers appeal more than a functional description of an article’s content.  This is based on the fundamental desires that drive our behaviour. It does not matter what you call them or how many there are but some core desires include love, security, change, contribution, curiosity and achievement to name a view. Such words or values in your content attract more attention as they appeal to our needs and wants. From a search point of view, your readers may put such words into search engines to find what they are looking for.

Another interesting factor is that you can use synonyms for your keywords. Search engines have algorithms that take synonyms into consideration and rank them accordingly. This applies more to English sites than to other languages. This is interesting as you have more creative freedom to write a great post while optimising SEO tactics.

And THAT is to my opinion still the best achievement – optimising SEO while at the same time keeping the user experience to an optimum.

Rethinking blog audience and design

I am currently having another go at my future blog about ‘Gourmet and Style‘. And it drives me crazy to have to make important decisions on it appearance and structure. My graphic designer and in the meantime good friend, is in charge of the looks and one of my daughter’s friends is the mind behind the structure.

It has not been easy so far and the two times I have been presented with a new design it has thrown me even more. It is hard to get across how you want your blog to look if you don’t really know yourself if that is structurally possible. Also it is hard to imagine in advance what all the different elements look together when they put on one page.

In my case the first attempt looked like a supermarket recipe card and the second was compared to a “Better Homes and Gardens” article. Both smart and attractive enough but not what I have in mind. The question is now ‘what do I have in mind?’ I was recommended to create my own blog page design with ‘cut and paste’, like children do.  In that way I can create a composition that I like and works.

I actually really like the ‘time-line’ of Facebook and the reason I find it attractive is because of its lay-out. It is the little picture set in the large header and the different columns over the page. It breaks up the monotony of rectangular blocks and lines. Both designs that were offered to me were too blocky and had no little quirky items that break up that sequence.

Who am I writing for?

This is only one of the issues as yesterday I had an interesting exchange regarding target audience with a male from a different age group.  He was the one who compared the design to a “Better Homes and Gardens page. He did ask me why I did not write for his generation. My answer was that he was not my target audience and he replied’ why not?

Really!!! Thorough and pedantic as I may seem I have to admit that this threw me quite a bit and I feel that I need to step back and review my goals for this blog. With the result that my ideas about the design may change.

The pro’s and con’ of creating

It is great to start your own business or website because you are in charge, you can make decisions and you are able to create your own conditions. But this is not as easy as it sounds and you have to be very confident that you make the right decisions. Or you just have to choose which way you go and run with it.

I have decided to do the following: I really hoped my blog would be finished by the end of June 2012. I am planning a trip to Europe and wanted to kick-start my blog with articles about gourmet and style from a European perspective.  I will still do that but I will start with a hosted site and template just like ‘Blogexercise’. When I get back from Europe in August I will re-assess the self-hosted version.

Not much new today however common issues for other bloggers as well!

How is your search engine visibility?

If you are blogging for success and want your blog to be found you will need to increase your search engine visibility. Search engines provide web browsers with relevant information based on the keywords that were used for the search. You will attract genuine readers but unfortunately also spammers. The way to deal with the latter is to ensure that your blog has some kind of spam tracking software that filters unwanted comments before they are published.

One of the ways to increasing your search engine visibility is the use of keywords. The trick is to select a small number of keywords and place them in your article in such a way that it enhances the natural flow of your content. You don’t want to sacrifice the experience of your users for the sake of SEO. Search engine optimisation is a means to an end and it should not be your sole goal!

What is exactly quality content?

Most articles about SEO will tell you that one of the most important factors is your content. Google likes quality content. My first question is ‘how to define quality? It could be a matter of opinion. Let’s be honest there are websites  that look classy and offer great information and can be found on page 3 while others are full of ads, appear less user friendly but they are on page 1.

As an exercise I Googled “quality content” and read the first post on page 1. It says the following:

“The key to website success is quality content. Quality content is something that your visitors will enjoy reading, watching or listening to and will refer their friends, colleagues, family members and others to it”.

Nice sentence but how does it make you any wiser? I may think that something is quality content but you may not agree. I think my blog “Blogexercise’ looks nice, classy and offers good information. Still my audience is small, growing but nevertheless small. So who decides what ‘quality content’ is?

Apparently Google does, but on what is that based? Google has a tool called ‘Google Webmaster Tool” and as long as content stays within the guidelines of this tool, it is technically not considered spam even if it is so-called ‘shallow content’.

In whatever way it is said, it is so subjective to my opinion. And opinions and perceptions changes over time. With the increasing knowledge of the effects of SEO, new technologies, faster computers it becomes more complicated to define something although I do like the way Google describes the following.  According to Google, “high quality content” is content that you can send to your child to learn something”.

Just think for a moment of the implications of that statement…..

How to select keywords for your blog

Since I started having a closer look at SEO I have found myself checking my blog a lot more. Every time when I publish a post I keep an eye on the amount of views and comments I get. Quite exciting to be honest to see the figures and as a result I have become more interested in getting up in the rankings.

Also interesting is that I have received a lot more comments since I explore SEO and it seems that this topic is close to many readers’ heart. Some comments have been bizarre but most of them are useful and give me the feeling that I am adding value to people’s websites and blogs.

So thanks for all the positive and inspiring comments!

How to choose effective key words?

‘Is there a magic formula to ‘find out’ what keywords to use?

This is how I ended my last post. I have been trying to get an answer to this question and have again found out that there is a lot written about keywords. I am trying to simplify it and have picked some of the main points to work with. Let’s start at the beginning.

  • You have a blog and write content for it. Your aim is for people to find you, to read and ideally subscribe to your blog
  • You have an idea who your target audience is and you write your posts accordingly
  • You want this audience to find your blog when they search for information. In other words you need to anticipate what words they put in search engines such as Google and Yahoo
  • If you can anticipate such words you can use them as keywords in your blog
  • Search engine spiders depend on keywords to find your site therefore a lack of keywords in your blog prevents the spiders from finding you and consequently your readers as well

Keyword selection is an important part of your marketing strategy and is vital for your search engine optimisation. The words in your blog are indexed by search engine spiders who classify your blog content.

To my opinion one of the main objectives of your site is to provide a satisfying user experience. If you have been capable of selecting appropriate keywords and place them in your blog content, you will attract more searches and your readers will be able to find your information. It is as simple as that!

The process of keyword selection

Brainstorm keywords:

Once you have defined your target audience, anticipated what words they search, you can start brainstorming possible keywords. No need to be too hard on yourself at this stage as the main aim is to get a list with keywords. Be creative, persistent and stay clear from words that are too competitive.

For example if you want to write about ‘organic herbs’ don’t use the word ‘herbs’ as a keyword. It is too general and you will compete with every other site that has anything with herbs on it. Use a keyword phrase instead that indicates that you write about ‘organic herbs’.

Research keywords:

The next step is to research the effect of your selected keywords. There are a number of specific tools for this purpose but before I go further into this topic I like to widen my research. Examples of keyword search tools are ‘Google Trends’, Word tracker and Trellian Keyword Discovery.

Placing keywords in your content:

Place keywords in the content of your blog ensuring to maintain a natural flow. You have to use them where they make sense and where they facilitate a better search result for your target audience. Ideally each page should have 1-3 related keywords.

Once you have placed well researched keywords in your content, search engine spiders can find your site and you will be able to offer your readers a better experience. The result may be that they come back for more, talk about your site and become one of your followers.