Category Archives: Content

What is good content? Who am I writing for? Content and expertise

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……………..

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?

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.

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…..

Titles and keywords

It has become obvious to me that I need to write an article about the importance of keywords in blog post titles. Two day ago I elaborated about the general use of key words in blog posts. While doing that I came across the fact that keywords in the title of your blog post have an important function.

Well guess what! After that bit of information I have changed the title of that particular article three times while it was already published. It even woke me up in the middle of the night. The final title is ‘Keywords, SEO and competence’ because that is what the article is about.

The importance of blog post titles

There are a couple of rules when it comes to post titles. I have touched some basics  in a previous blog post, but there is lot more to it. I mentioned the relevance of the title to the article, the use of keywords in your title and its length. Pretty straightforward stuff. This time I like to explore the issue a little further and look into the importance of your title when it comes to search engines. In other words what are the best title and keywords to use in order to be found?

If you write about a certain topic it seems logical to let the title reflect the content of your article – either literally or metaphorically. Even more so it is desirable to choose keywords for your post title that not only reflect your content but at the same time are terms that people put in search engines to find information. Anticipating what words your readers and followers use for their search and using those words in your title and blog post is crucial for your post to be ‘visible’ and consequently climb the rankings.

Keywords, anticipation and perception

This is not as easy as it sounds. We all perceive things in different ways and use different ways to describe experiences. That’s why languages can be so rich in their vocabulary. For any word you can find several others that describe in similar ways the issue you read or write about – let alone all the words that come into existence with the emergence of new trends and technologies.

So how to know what to put in search engines if there are so many ways to describe the same thing. Furthermore how to know what words your target audience would use to search the net. And we should not forget to mention what words Google likes to search for. It’s a science in itself!

In sum,  you want to write a blog post. Your aim and purpose is to express yourself and to get an audience. Your main goal is to please the reader and not the search engine. But in order for your reader to find you, you’ll have to use words that are ‘liked’ by the search engines.  The perfect blog post title should therefore have it all! It should ideally be interesting, original, being full of inspiration and creating different perspectives while containing those keywords that actually will be ‘Googled’ by your readers in order to find you.

My immediate question is the following:

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

Keywords, SEO and competence

As I am now well and truly on the road to SEO ‘perfection’ I feel that something has shifted. It is a little bit as the psychological Learning Model of Competence. There are four stages for learning a new skill being:

  1. Unconscious incompetence
  2. Conscious incompetence
  3. Conscious competence
  4. Unconscious competence

The state of ‘Conscious Incompetence’

Before I started blogging I was more or less unaware of search engine optimisation and was blissfully ‘unconsciously incompetent’. After dabbling a bit with websites and my current blog I became aware that SEO is a factor to consider and I became ‘consciously incompetent’. After establishing a need for SEO mastery I am now attempting to become ‘consciously competent’ and hopefully will achieve in the near future the level of ‘unconscious competence’.

A quick recap regarding SEO. In some of my previous posts I have talked about the important of the quality of your content is and the use of social media to spread the word. So what’s the next important thing?

Keywords and their use

What is exactly a keyword? A keyword is a word that helps you find information about a topic. It opens the door to useful resources. Keywords have been around long before the age of the internet. They are an essential part of any language and were originally used to support the writer’s reasoning, the composition of an article and the readers’ comprehension of a topic.

The use of keywords for the purpose of SEO has diffused this meaning somehow and many online writers use keywords for the sake of being found. This is largely due to search engines such as Google who identifies certain words in a text and compares them to a larger list of words – a so-called reference corpus. The result may be that an article can be found but not that it necessarily is of a high standard.

The trick is to use key words in your articles and blogs in such a way that they appear to be a natural part of the flow while functionally supporting the meaning of your text. The latter is important as they should describe your topic in such a way that your potential readers can ‘anticipate’ them and use them in search engines to find your article.

To turn this around, you as a writer will have to ‘anticipate’ what people may be looking for. You will have to be able to come up with words that people put in search engines to find the information that is useful to them – in other words, to find your article! You will have to assess your readers’ needs, tailor your information including keywords to those needs and position yourself in such a way that you and your blog can be found.

Sounds easy? Well it’s not! And the proof is the amount of sites that are not on the first page. It is a competitive business out there and only the best get to the top. Furthermore I am still not convinced that it is possible to be at the top without paying for it, but I’ll keep on searching for answers.

Great information you may think, but how do I decide what keywords to choose? Well my next article will be exactly about that!

SEO tactics, tips and guides

When you Google Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and blogging you can choose from the ‘Most Effective 21 Tactics’, the ‘Best 8 First Steps” or the 6 Hottest SEO Tips’ and offcourse there is the ‘Guide to’ ….

Which one to choose? Or should I go for all of them? I suppose I will have to sift through everything to find the most effective but also the easiest to understand and the most accessible techniques. I am looking forward to the challenge. I will say upfront that I am not researching the methods that cost money at this stage. That will be my last resort when nothing else works.

It’s all about content!

When scanning over the articles I am attracted to an article of Problogger and its writer Darren Browse. I have read his blog and his book Problogger and I think it is a great help for serious bloggers. Darren Rowse reckons that the most important factor for SEO is writing great content. As a fact this may be debatable but looking at his personal experience he states that this factor has contributed hugely to his online success.

This one appeals to me because I believe that great articles will attract readers. It won’t happen overnight but bit by bit. Readers who like your article hopefully pass it on, like it or share it. The good old snow ball effect!

Rowse has several other tips but he finishes his article with his ‘hunch’ regarding content. He suggests ‘writing the best information that you can come up with’. According to him that is what Google appreciates the most and searches for. Most tips for SEO optimisation that can be found on line are considered the minimum effort that every blogger should put in in order to climb the rankings. Bottom line is still the quality of your content.

What to do with great content?

Okay, you have written a great article and published it on your blog. The following questions come to mind ‘How can someone find you?’ and ‘What do you need to do so Google and your readers knows that you are there?’

Social networks are great tools to spread the word. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are perfect for sharing your content. Once you have written and published your post, seed it to the social networks so your readers, friends and contacts can pass it on. The more readers you have the more it can be passed on through their networks. Logical but effective. Not fast but a gradual growth with a potential snowball effect.

So far this is all relatively logical – yet there may be many blogs that do not take the above into consideration. The point is to create interest for your blog because of your content and not only because of your skilled application of keywords, h-tags and meta-links. They have a purpose but will eventually lose their effect if your content is not up to scratch.

There is not much new to this but it is important enough to emphasise and dedicate a post to. More to come!

Discovering, writing and believing!

Every time when you publish an article in WordPress, there is a little saying in the side column. This one below took my fancy:

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe” (Gustave Flaubert).

I like writing, I like researching a topic and I like sharing my enthusiasm about something with others. I would make a good reviewer because I like to spread the news about good things. Unfortunately I can’t keep quiet about bad things either – I am therefore also a great whinger – a quality that may annoy some, but I feel that certain things need to be said and known so there is scope for improvement.

I generally believe in good standards and I honestly feel that people should not be able to get away with shoddy methods. Many do though! I don’t like it and I will very likely object. In the past I may have objected too harsh but I am practising the art of more gentle criticism and I get good results. And I am not the only one! Apparently an unhappy customer will tell between 9 and 15 people about their experience and 13% dissatisfied customers will tell more than 20 people! Only 4-6 people get to hear about a positive experience.

Social media have impacted these figures more than anything and word of mouth has been called ‘world of mouth’ as about a third of people who have experienced bad service will share it on the internet. The average reach of social media is 45 people. Pretty powerful stuff!

What do I believe in?

Aiming for high standards has to do with what I believe in. I believe that you have to give it your best otherwise do not bother. I try to write my blog posts in such a way that it is a pleasure to read them. I aim for interesting content that is new and not repeating itself and I attempt to achieve a professional image.

Since I have been blogging I have learned many new things but I also feel that the boundaries of the ‘blogosphere’ expand with every little bit of knowledge I acquire. A couple of weeks ago I almost felt overwhelmed by the extent of things I did not know. Is that what Flaubert means by his saying? Am I on the way to discovery when it comes to blogging? Is it more than sheer knowledge that makes a believable writer?

I suppose I am discovering what there is to know about blogging but more importantly I am finding out what are my beliefs regarding this topic. According to Flaubert I will have acquired the art of writing once I have become aware of my discoveries and know how to internalise them.

Complicated stuff? Surely, but also intriguing and I will continue to have a go at it. The topic that is ‘hot’ for me at the moment is SEO as mentioned in my most recent post. I need to learn about SEO in order to believe in it and consequently write about it. A worthy goal and I think my confidence may sky rocket after I know enough about SEO to feel confident enough to start educating others.

What a vicious circle and catch 22!

 


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!