Quantity and Quality for Traffic and Readers

Originally posted to HubPages, March, 2013.

It seems I’m going to be one of those HubPages writers who does things the long, hard way. The way that takes it’s own, sweet time getting here.

I don’t know why I like giving myself hard goals to reach. But, it seems that I do. I set myself the HubPages writing goal to have my traffic badge for the 100K by (or closely after) the end of this year, 2012. But, I’m not getting any flash in the pan wonder traffic posts. So, it seems I am just going to have to keep making my own steady, slow progress.

I might not get 100K by the end of the year and that will be ok too. As long as I feel I am still making progress I will stick with it. It’s only when something seems to have stalled out completely that I begin to think I should be reconsidering the plan. I do tend to stick with things long after the flogging a dead horse idea though.

Don’t think I’m some doddering newbie type. I have paid attention to SEO schemes and even the scams. Most of them are not for me. I have a line drawn where my ethics kick in. If I cross it I just don’t see the point of continuing on. Once you cross your boundaries you’ve lost your original feeling of value in the project and accomplishing your original goal loses it’s worth too.

You Can’t Write for Traffic

What you may not know; there is a difference between traffic and readers.

Readers are the real people who visit your posts, sometimes read right to the end and occasionally leave a comment. Real readers are the people who want you to know they were there. Then there are general readers who maybe didn’t find what they were looking for, thought you could have had a better post or just didn’t quite catch on and stick with you through to the end of your topic.

All kinds of readers are good. Even those who just lurk and don’t let you know they are out there.

Then there is traffic. Traffic is just a number. That’s how I see it. Traffic doesn’t have a face, it may not have a home with a family and goldfish named Henry. Traffic can be something less than human, more likely traffic is a machine, or software and does not have a face at all.

By now you may have realized that traffic doesn’t read your content. Traffic doesn’t care that you spent extra time to pick just the right word. Traffic doesn’t care that your photo illustration was your own photo or that you waited all day for conditions to be just right for that photo. Traffic doesn’t care that you checked all your spelling, grammar and then proofread your post again.

Traffic just cares about keywords and how they can use yours.Traffic is Google, traffic is people looking for content to claim, traffic is a feed reader that no one may actually read… and so on.

You can’t write for traffic. Or, you shouldn’t be writing for traffic.

Build Your Readership by Finding Readers

If you want to build readers you need to go looking for them. Don’t wait and hope Google will come to you. Google is big, like a mountain. The mountain is not likely to come to you.

Today, while writing a post about women and friendship, I found a very interesting site, Finding Dulcinea. It calls itself an online library. Why is this interesting? Look at the site yourself. Chances are you will find something there to read, to find out more about, to spark your interest in some way. It’s a site with information and ideas. Not a web directory, like the ODP, but a gathering of ideas and information, like HubPages itself.

At Finding Dulcinea you can find articles to link to in your own posts. You can find new ideas to write about. You can find more information to add to posts you are writing, plan to write or have already published on HubPages. You can also find the people who wrote those posts!

Finding the person who wrote a post that interests you is a start to finding readers for your own posts. People tend to be interested in the same things, related ideas and information. Follow your writer, track down other sites he or she writes for. Can you find them on Twitter, Facebook or do they have their own blog? Who do they follow? Chances are you will find a lot of great resources.

Keep track of the resources you find. Use them for your own posts. Use them to continue on and find more resources and people. All of the people you find are perspective readers. You just have to help them find you.

Look at the list of resources you have created.

How many are Twitter accounts you could follow?

Don’t just quietly follow someone on Twitter. Announce yourself! This is so important and yet almost no one actually does it! Why not? I get a lot of new Twitter followers and I have to spend my own time to find out who they are and decide if I want to follow them back. How silly. How often do you really think I spend time doing this? Not too often.

If you decide to follow someone on Twitter send them a Twitter post and tell them how you found them, why you are following them, etc. Announce yourself, tell them who you are and give them a reason to choose to follow you back.

How simple was that?!

You can use the Twitter example for any of the social networks. Just adjust as necessary. The concept is the same.

Don’t be spammy. Make sure the note you send is catered to the person you are sending it to. See it from their side/ angle. Why should THEY want to follow YOU? What do you have to offer them?

Be a Realistic Joiner

It’s a good idea to give yourself an established Internet presence. Join things. Join the main social networks like Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and StumbleUpon. Even Facebook, though it’s lost a lot of it’s usefulness due to overtraffic (too much useless stuff).

Try a few others. Try Scoop.it where you build collections of content and share them with other people on the site and through your Twitter feed. Snip.it, and sites like it, let you branch out. You need the original account on Twitter and etc but you can post through Snip.it. It saves some steps and keeps your other social accounts from running dry. Less maintenance is a good thing.

Don’t be a joiner on sites that require a lot of participation, unless you really can give that kind of time and energy. Pace yourself. Don’t become just another dead account. If you can’t be active at least weekly, or a few times a month, don’t keep the account. Or, leave a note in your profile with links people can follow. You may be back some day.

Don’t Forget the Less Than Virtual and Digital World

Con’t forget, the Internet isn’t everything. It’s not the world.

Look around you offline, in the less virtual world. Are there local groups you can join right in your own town? Or, could you be bold, brave and daring… offer a workshop, start a group yourself and bring people together (in the real world) yourself?

People who have actually met you are very likely to take an interest in your work online. They are more likely to go to read your stuff and they are more likely to want you to know they were there. So, you will get readers who comment.

What can you do in a real, local way to find readers?

Sell your arts or goodies at a flea market, a farmer’s market and have business cards available? Hold a garage sale one weekend and put up a display about your topics and see how many people will take away a sheet with information they can read at home? Talk about your hobby/ interest at the local library and offer people a bookmark with your link printed on it?

Find out more about marketing your content offline. Also look up the phrase guerrilla marketing. Keep in mind your own ethics when you read about how far others have gone. But, you can get a lot of ideas that just might work from the crazy ideas of others.

How to Reach Beyond HubPages

Note: This was originally posted to HubPages, February 2012. I’m no longer writing at HubPages but the advice to people who write for network sites is still true and worth knowing. 

To my fellow HubPages writers,

I’ve been writing with HubPages for a few months. I had joined years ago, but I wasn’t writing Hub posts until recently.

My writing experience online comes from other sites, other writing networks and my own sites which I create, maintain and promote. I have moderated forums, email lists and newsletters. I have guest posted and I have accepted guest posts. I have begun working as a content curator. In the past I have been a web directory editor for The Open Directory Project and a less well known directory, BOTW. I have written for known and unknown sites like LockerGnome, Suite101, BackWash, have any Hub writers heard of these? Chances are you have not.

HubPages has become it’s own little microcosm, it’s own little closed in and sheltered world. The traffic here is mainly from inside the network or Google. This is not really a good thing.

Google is like a bird, picking at bits of food in a huge log on the forest floor. The Google bird just snips up one snack at a time. It doesn’t dive in and find more or tell anyone else to come and see what great snacks there are in this tree. Everything Google finds becomes part of its database and someone has to search for it in order to find you. In Google, your content is just a little bug waiting for another bird to dig for it, with the right words.

There are so many other sources for traffic! Most Hub writers are not using Twitter, for instance. Twitter is simple to use. It would also let Hub writers talk outside of HubPages which is a good thing because it promotes HubPages – outside of HubPages. Twitter is only a beginning… StumbleUponTumblrPinterest, Snip.it, Flickr… Are these foreign lands to you? Then it’s time to set your eye on the horizon and explore them.

You can promote your Hub posts in so many fresh, new places. Places you will enjoy exploring, places you will find new ideas to write about, meet new people with your interests and interesting sidelines to your interests.

Start your own blog on WordPress.com or Blogspot. It’s free in those places. Link to your Hubpages account, post links to your latest Hub article and invite discussion. Yes, you want people to comment on your Hub, but they have to get there first. Post the best Hub comments on your blog, as a way to lure readers from the blog onto your Hub post where they can add to that discussion. However, don’t use your blog or any social media as just a way to promote your HubPages account. That is a slippery slope.

It takes time to use social media or a blog well. They should never be used as just a feed for your Hub content. Why would someone read a carbon copy? Have original content, things you don’t post at HubPages. Post ideas you find and may write about. Post updates to old Hubs you have written and, of course, link back to the original Hub content. Post about a bad day, post about your new achievements and goals you are setting for yourself.

Each place you land in, establish a presence in, will bring you new readers and give HubPages new life outside of itself. This will bring traffic from outside of HubPages, those places where most people have never heard of HubPages or think it’s not worth visiting. Reach out there and change their minds.

My Hub Traffic Comes From…

hubtraffic

I like to see where my traffic came from, more than the actual numbers. This is my Hub traffic. Image captured mid day, January 20th.

I don’t know if there are rules about posting traffic stats on HubPages. I don’t mind to share mine, to show my work.

My Hub traffic reaches out past Google. I get traffic from my own blog where I have added a link to my HubPages account right along with my Twitter, StumbleUpon and etc. accounts. I put in time on Scoop.it, content curating for topics which relate to the Hubs I write. While I do link to my own posts there, I also link to some of yours on HubPages and other sites.

On my blog you will see a wider variety of traffic sources. Some of these come from comments I have left on other sites and blogs. Some are networks I have joined. I also exchange links with other bloggers, web writers and friends online. I even get a little traffic from a writer’s network which is now abandoned by the owner.

So you can get traffic from a lot of places, even those which aren’t especially active. The key is in the focus of the site, especially in the case of a small or inactive site. People wind up there, with the focus of whatever the topic or niche is. If they find your link, chances are you will get clicked on because they came looking for your kind of content.

My Blog Traffic Comes From…

blogtraffic

This is taken from my main blog, Word Grrls. Also, mid day, January 20th.

 

I’m Applying for Suite101, Again

I’d like to be part of bringing Suite into the new social media age. I’m active on Twitter, I’m a content curator on Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Scoop.it and Snip.it. I’ve been a web publisher, doing it all myself, since 1998. My oldest, still active blog is now 8 years old. I have a lot of experience to bring to Suite; some of it from Suite itself!

I was accepted as the Writing Community Manager at Suite101 in 2004. I also wrote a regular topic, The Internet Unplugged. At some point I became a copy editor and felt quite pleased to be entrusted with extra responsibility to maintain standards in the Religion topic.

The site is doing some new stuff, making big changes. I’d like to see what they do with it. I used to write there but quit when they put the ad content over all the writer’s content, blocking it from being seen at all. They still run a lot of ads on the front page of the site but, once you get in there they are developing a lot of new areas (it seems to me). It should be an interesting time to be writing there again.

My old profile is still there and yet it comes up 404 if you click the direct link. Interesting in an odd way. All my old content seems to be gone too. I wish I had kept copies of it all at the time.

Blog Smarter, Not Harder

Make Yourself a Content Curator

Too many bloggers use content the wrong way. I see so many blogs where the blogger is regurgitating content over and over in one way or another. It’s not working. They may make some money by pulling in readers but most people won’t be that interested in reading something rehashed when they could go to the original source. At the original source they will find fresh information, more resources and opinions from someone who really knows the subject. Rehashing content just makes a middleman, not a blogger.

Instead, become a content curator. Not unlike a museum curator, the content curator finds the rare, the original and the truly great content from other blogs and sites then displays and promotes the content. Copycat bloggers are already doing those steps. They just have not been using the content they find in the right way.

Don’t claim ownership of the content. Don’t rewrite the content and pretend it’s yours. Don’t post tired, washed out content and hope people will want to read the same stuff they can read on a thousand other blogs.

A content curator does not need to pose as the originator of the content. The content curator links back to the original source. First, make sure you go back to the source. Follow links back to the original blog when they are available.

There are three things a content curator needs from the original site.

First, you need an excerpt of the content. Pick the most interesting, stimulating or resourceful paragraph. If there is a short list of bullet points you might use that. You will have to build your own theory of what to use and your own discretion about how much content to use. Think of it as a lead in an article, you just want enough to give readers information which will make them click the link to the original source.

Second thing the content curator needs is the link, of course. Simple right? Make sure you get the right link. You want the link to the post. Not the link to the whole site. If you leave a comment (which you should!) make sure you are not copying the link to the comments instead of the direct link to the post itself.

Third, you need an image file to go with your post. You may choose the image which the original site uses. In some cases that may be the lead/ excerpt you use instead of text. You don’t want a massive image if you are also using text. Scale it down to thumbnail size or something close to that. Make the image clickable, another link back to the original site. At times there will be no image to use with the post. Or, the image will not be usable. If the blogger has stuck in a random image from a third person there isn’t much point in dragging it along. In this case you can use the blogger’s own link image (if they have a link back image in their sidebar) or take a screenshot of the blog or a section of the blog’s header. There will usually be something you can do to bring an image along to your post.

That’s about it for the original blog. Don’t close the window too soon, however. The odd time you may decide to change something, make a mistake in cut and pasting the content you wanted, or realize the link isn’t right, and then you will want to refer back to the source.

Also, it is a very great plan to leave a comment with the original post. Not only are you letting the blogger know you have given them a lead in your blog but any readers will also see your link and follow it to see what other content you have found on the subject. You can’t go wrong in leaving a comment. Take the time to do it right. Make a real comment, offer an opinion on the subject, input some personal experience, something that isn’t just dropping a link like a comment spammer. Your link is the comment with your name. Don’t repost it inside the comment itself.

When you have the post set up on your blog you still need to add something of your own. You could post whatever you left on the original blog as a comment. Make a comment on the content, explain why you liked it, why you found it useful, original, why you wanted to repost it.

Make sure the link to the original blog is highlighted either by having it stand out alone in the post or add HTML to bold it if it is inside the text of the post. You are promoting the original source, not hiding it.

Use blockquote around the excerpted content from the original blog. You want to clearly mark the content you have excerpted/ quoted from the original site. You could even post a lead in to your own comment on the post so readers plainly see where your comment ends and the original content begins.

Your comment, your lead in, should come first. Keep it short and to the point mainly because people won’t read a lengthy lead in anyway.

Write a simple, decent, plain, honest title for your post. Don’t sound like a spammer. Yes, you will want to use a keyword. No, you don’t want to flood your title with them. One title is not going to make or break you. But, a simple title is more likely to be read and found. Think about your own blogging habits. How do you feel about a post with a direct, short title compared to one which tries to use every keyword possible? Which are you more likely to click?

Don’t EVER forget to link back to the source. Don’t be a content thief, be a content curator. Find great content and display it. Let it shine. Don’t just copy and paste content. Any idiot can do that. Discriminate, use your common sense about how much content to display (take less, not more) and bring your own perspective into the post, add something original of your own experience, opinions, ideas. Your blog is a gallery, a museum for great content in your niche. you don’t need to own the content but you do need to give the original artist, the original source full credit for their work. That’s your job as a curator.

Be picky about the content you display. Make sure it fits your niche, make sure it really does have something to say and brings a new point, a fresh fact or creative idea to your niche topic. Don’t post often rehashed content as if you are just filling in space.

Plan your niche well. Know the limits and the focus you want to keep. Make sure you draft a well written About page and a subheading for the title of your blog. This is going to be how people know your site and what they can expect to find there. This is going to be what makes or breaks you. Treat it with the seriousness of a business plan, a contract. Use keywords in your description not to engage for SEO but for your possible readers. Rewrite your description, your About page and your blog subheader when you get a clearer, refined view on what your niche is. Don’t be afraid of a change in order to make your point clearer. Use your subheader as a short, quick and simple description of your blog when you create a social profile.

Be careful how you promote your blog. You are a content curator. Be proud. Be distinguished, at least a little. Be wise about how you promote yourself, create your authority on the subject, the niche you are creating with your blog. You have taken on an important job as a content curator, if you are a good one. You’re responsible for creating and swaying public opinion based on the content you choose to display. If you promote yourself as a sincere person, a responsible content curator you will find yourself taken seriously and being displayed as part of your content gallery/ museum will be an honour, something very worth while. Something worth attaining.

Make Yourself a Content Curator on WordPress

Get to know the Press This bookmarklet which comes with WordPress.

Press This Reloaded will add features to the WordPress bookmarklet. But, I found this was more than I wanted. I prefer the simpler bookmarklet.

Apps for posting to WordPress and WordPress.com without being on the site, includes mobile apps. I like Shareaholic but mainly I use it to post to Tumblr, StumbleUpon and Twitter.

30 Days to a Better Blog from SITS Girls

I’m posting all the steps here cause the Challenge is done but I’m not. This way I can keep working through all the steps even if I only get one each week. See The SITS Girls site for more and future events.

  • Day 01 – Write an Elevator Speech
  • Day 02 – Write a List Post -You could use this as a brainstorming session for ideas to write about related to your niche.
  • Day 03 – Promote a Blog Post -Use Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon… or ask another blogger to link to one of your individual posts.
  • Day 04 – Analyze a Top Blog in your Niche -Don’t copy another blogger. Be unique, but let them inspire you.
  • Day 05 – Email a Blog Reader –Have you ever interacted with blog commenters outside of blog comments?
  • Day 06 – 27 Must Read Tips and Tutorials for Bloggers -Pick your own tutorials rather than those on the list. You know which areas you want to know more about.
  • Day 07 – Write a Link Post -Think of it as creating a mini web directory of links for your niche.
  • Day 08 – Interlink your Old Posts -If you’ve written about a topic before (or one similar) bring your old post back as a reference.
  • Day 09 – Join a Forum and Start Participating -Keep involved with others in your niche. See what resources they use and what they write about.
  • Day 10 – Set Up Alerts to Monitor What is Happening in your Niche -It may be a good plan but I’ve never found time to use alerts, or found them very reliable.
  • Day 11 – Come Up with Ten Post Ideas -Be creative but consider gaps you may be leaving in building a resource for your niche. Look at it from the angle of someone just starting to research the topic.
  • Day 12 – Develop an Editorial Calendar for your Blog -A good idea to try. I haven’t used anything like this but will try running one of the WordPress plugins and see how it goes.
  • Day 13 – Take a Trip to the Mall -Don’t get stuck in the online world. Study how businesses/ associations do things off the Internet and how they merge online and offline.
  • Day 14 – Update a Key Page on your Blog -Your About page is the obvious one to keep updated. Consider others you have and give them a dusting off too.
  • Day 15 – Find a Blog Buddy -I have a few blog buddies. People I have known online for years both socially and as writers working on a site.
  • Day 16 – Solve a Problem: 7 Ways to Identify a Reader’s Problems -Use statistics to see how people find your site. Also, look up other sites and read their categories and tags. Is your niche missing anything? Consider your niche as a resource for your readers. Fill it up.
  • Day 17 –  Watch a First Time Reader Use your Blog -Take an objective look at your blog. Test it, check navigation, loading time, readability. Ask for reviews of your site and listen to the feedback, don’t spoil honest feedback by getting defensive.
  • Day 18 – Create a Sneeze Page -A chance to show off your archived posts and highlight some of our best information.
  • Day 19 – Write an Opinion Post for your Blog – By giving an opinion you invite people to agree or debate with you in comments.
  • Day 20 – Leave Comments on Other Blogs – Spend some time writing relevant comments in other blogs. Give the kind of comments you would like to see yourself.
  • Day 21 – Breathe Life into an Old Post – Rewrite it as a new post and link back to the original. Don’t lose old comments and give yourself a chance to see what you’ve learned, how you have improved.
  • Day 22 – Pay Special Attention to a Reader – You want special attention from your readers so start by giving some first.
  • Day 23 – Call your Readers to Action – Interact with readers and ask for what you want. Read about calls to action and how that works.
  • Day 24 – How to Use a Magazine to Improve your Blog – Take ideas from magazine layouts, how they present their pages, their content and market themselves. Do the same with any other publication such as books, ebooks and newsletters too.
  • Day 25 – Ask a Question – Asking a question gears readers into giving an answer.
  • Day 26 – Improve Another Blog – You don’t have to be a web guru to do a good deed for another blogger. Give them an honest opinion in a constructive way.
  • Day 27 – Hunt for Dead Links – When a link can’t be fixed/ updated remove the HTML and leave a note to let readers know the site is gone or missing.
  • Day 28 – Write a Review Post – A review doesn’t have to sell anything. You can review something you love or do as a hobby. Keep the review balanced with objectivity.
  • Day 29 –  Develop a Plan to Boost your Blog’s Profile and Readership Online – Basically decide who you want to be reading your blog and then go out and find them.
  • Day 30 – 17 Statistics to Monitor your Blog – Don’t become a stats whore. Rank, statistics, popularity should be something you check to mark progress. Don’t cater your writing/ blogging to raising your numbers in this way. For one thing, none of them are that reliable.
  • Day 31 – Plan the Next Steps for your Blog – Be aware of other blogs and anything you like about them. Make plans for your own site, where do you want it to be as it grows. What do you want to improve. What could be changed. Do you want to take part in ad exchanges… more social media… split your blog into subsections or sub-blogs…

How to Write a Blog Review

If you’re ready to go forth and fearlessly give an honest review of another blog… you need a list to guide you along the way. It helps to have a plan with points which can guide you through the review. You don’t have to mention each point in your final written review but they keep you on track during the actual review.

Do you want a blog reviewed? Go to UP to the D.L. for a review of your blog by experienced blogging women.

Design

  • Is site navigation simple and natural? Do you have to search for buttons, links or archives?
  • Is there any kind of error, script or advertising that makes the site drag while it loads?
  • Does the site use pop up windows, flash, sound or video files which cause the site to load slowly or freeze up?
  • Is the site cluttered in the posting area, the sidebar or the surrounding space?
  • Is there some whitespace to let the reader’s eye have a break from text and images?
  • If the blog uses a premade theme/ template is it obvious or has the blogger made a few customizations so that it feels unique and interesting?
  • Does the site make use of the footer, include links back to the top of the site, contact information, links to other posts which may be of interest, etc.?
  • Were the comments easy to find and easy to use?
  • Is the overall blog design current (versus outdated looking) engaging, energizing or inviting?
  • Is the title of the site clear and easily read, is it located at the top of the site where people would expect to find it?
  • Is the CSS on the site working or do you see any images or text which are cut off or do not otherwise fit on the screen space or space which they are placed?
  • Do all the links in the navigation bar work and does the blog make good use of a navigation bar under the header or places elsewhere easy found and workable?
  • How many times do you scroll down to reach the bottom of the blog? Is there enough to read or too much?
  • Is there something about the design, the overall look of the blog that you especially like and would comment on in the review?

Navigation

  • Does the blog use breadcrumbs so you can select the category to see related posts or skip to the home page, etc.?
  • Can you get from one post to the next without returning to the home page each time?
  • Do the links, on at least the most recent posts, all work?
  • Does the blog redirect to another site?
  • Is there a link back to the home page in the footer and at the top of the blog which is easily found on any page being viewed?
  • Are categories and/ or tags used well?

Focus

  • Is the focus/ purpose of the site easily understood before you go looking for more information or even read a post?
  • Does the site seem to reach it’s intended audience, is it appealing to the target readers?
  • Does it have relevant and current posts and information on the topic?
  • Does the blog use a subtitle and does it make sense with the content and style of the blog.

Content

  • Do the blog posts attract comments/ reader response?
  • Does the content of the site stand out enough from the rest of the site?
  • Is it easy to read the blog posts, do the colours and fonts work?
  • As you begin reading posts is there a post that you especially enjoy or find useful?
  • Does the writer have a voice or style?
  • How is the site for standard spelling, grammar and punctuation?
  • Does the writer need to spend more time proofreading to catch typos?
  • Are the blog posts proactive, give the reader something to think about or come back for?
  • Does the site bring old posts up or related posts which can be read by readers once they finish the current post?
  • Does the site have any broken image files?
  • When graphics are used in a post are they effective, do they go with the post, make sense in their use?
  • Does the blogger tackle a large topic or idea and push it all into one post? Could they use this as a series or a post continued instead?
  • Does the blogger have enough space between paragraphs and ideas in their posts or when you look at a post is it a solid wall of text and not reader friendly?
  • Is the blog sticking to it’s focus or wandering too far off? Are there niche areas which could be used or have been underexplored so far?
  • Knowing many readers will skim posts, are the posts written in the pyramid/ news format?
  • Does the site mix up the format of posts, do they have some lists, some bullet points, some quotes, a bold line to highlight a point or a subheader, maybe even some coloured text or highlighted text in a post?
  • Do the headlines grab reader attention while also letting the reader know what the post will be about?

Site Admin.

  • Is there an About page which clearly explains the purpose and/ or niche of the site?
  • Does the About page explain why the blogger is an authority on the topic with their experience and interests listed?
  • Can you find the site archive and is it easy to navigate?
  • Is there at least one way to contact the blogger, other than leaving a comment on a blog post?
  • Is the blog software up to date or a security risk?
  • Does the site use Creative Commons or some form of copyrights on the blog?
  • Is there too much comment moderation, possibly limiting comments being made?
  • Is there a way to search the site for specific content, using a Search or through categories, tags or an index of content?
  • Does the site use meta tags for title, keywords, description, etc.?
  • When images are used do they belong to the blogger or is credit given when they belong to someone else?
  • Does the blogger give link backs/ proper credit to content they cut and paste from other sites/ sources?
  • If guest posts are used or if the site is looking for writers to contribute are there clear guidelines to what is expected and what the writer will get back from it?
  • Does the blogger have an author resource box at the end of each post, introducing the blogger and the site (a good thing when a post is linked from another blog)?
  • Does the blogger have a posting schedule and is it one which they are able to stick to?
  • Is there a blogroll (list of links), if so, is there some order to the links so readers could know what to expect when they click them?

Social Media/ Networking

  • Are you able to connect to the blogger through social media links like Facebook, StumbleUpon and Twitter?
  • Does the site syndicate, use an RSS feed?
  • Does the writer interact with readers in the blog comments?
  • Does the site use other media to interact or connect with readers: forum, podcast, etc.?
  • If the blogger has other sites, activities like contests or regular events like a weekly podcast are these links and promotions found on the site? Do the links work?

Branding

  • Is there a theme with the blog that carries through to different elements and any social media sites the blogger uses?
  • Would you know this was the same blogger if you found them on Twitter or another social media site or network? Does the site use an avatar in comments or elsewhere?

Finally…

  • Did you learn anything while doing the review?
  • Maybe you found a new site, a new plugin or social media?
  • Would you recommend this blog, link to them or follow them on Twitter?
  • Does the blog feel fresh, like it is still growing and evolving or does it fall a bit flat or feel stagnant even?

Fix Your Site’s Image for Social Network Sharing

Why are you pushing people to share your link on social networks if your link looks like garbage when it gets shared?

Try a little test of your site. Go to your front page and add your site to StumbleUpon, or some other social network – or just bookmark your own site. Now go look at the listing in your bookmarks or on StumbleUpon. How does it look?

What does the title say? Is it your site name or some promotional blurb? Does your site name show up at all? If not, read about meta tags and start using them!

Does an image show up with your site listing? Not everything will use an image, StumbleUpon does. Do you like the image that shows up for your site? Does it represent your site well? Will people want to read more? Does it give the impression of a good, well run site or does it look like splog?

Now, does a description show up with the site title? In bookmarks you aren’t going to have a description but the odd place will take the description from your meta tags and add it to your site listing. When I was an editor at the Dmoz web directory I did see site descriptions come up with any site I reviewed to list.

If your site title, image and description come up with just a sales pitch do you think you are going to get new readers?

When someone (like myself) clicks your site to list it with their bookmarks, to share it on a social network, favourites or sites they found interesting what does that listing look like?

Are you giving yourself a spammy impression without meaning to? You can’t change how your site appears when someone lists you on their own StumbleUpon account. But, you can be proactive and make sure your meta tags are not spammy.

I recently found a site I liked. I added it to my sites on StumbleUpon, thinking I was doing a good thing to share a good site with others and give the site itself some extra promotion. How do you think I felt when I looked at my StumbleUpon account and saw the site listed as “FREE ebook… blah blah blah…” Even the site image was an amateurish text ad for this FREE ebook. It looked like garbage. No one is likely to click on that link. I wouldn’t. So now I have this garbage looking thing in my list of sites on StumbleUpon. Possibly I will just delete it. I don’t want trash in my Stumbled sites. How would you feel if this were your site I am now deleting? Wouldn’t you rather go in and fix your meta tags?

Why are you pushing people to share your link on social networks if your link looks like garbage when it gets shared? Why waste my time and your own?

7 WordPress Plugins I Don’t Really Need but Must Have Anyway

WordPress plugins that I love but don’t really need. (Why limit yourself to plugins you need?)

  • Drop Caps Plugin – Add a drop cap to the first letter of each blog post. (Makes me think of fairy tale books of old).
  • Personal Favicon – I had wanted an icon for awhile but could not find something to make it appear faithfully. Now I do. It’s cosmetic but a nice touch.
  • Sideblog – Possibly my favourite and most used of them all! Have a mini bog within your blog. I use it for quick notes, sticky notes or just call them extra bits of stuff.
  • Tagline Rotator Plugin – You can have a tagline to go with your blog title. This plugin lets you set up a bunch of them and have them rotate. I’m using several taglines and add more when I think of something good.
  • WP Lifestream – Another miniblog idea but more like links and commentary. You just add the code and don’t have to post to this one, it comes in as a feed from sites you use: StumbleUpon, Tumblr, etc.
  • Tumblr Widget – The sweetest miniblog I have found. This plugin lets me have my posts to Tumblr appear in the sidebar of my  blog.
  • WP Change Template – The newest and not yet fully given a trial run. Lets you set a timer on your WP themes. For instance, when you want one to run the week of Halloween and then go back to your regularly scheduled theme.

When Your Employer Wants your Twitter Account

Maybe I’m just being picky but, I don’t feel my Twitter account is open for business to my employer. The following comes from an ad looking for blog writers, part of what they expect in addition to passion and experience (experience wasn’t essential):

Bloggers who actively engage within their online communities and promote the content they write. 1 blog post + 3 twitter posts limited to 1 blog post + 3 twitter posts per day depending on length.

If you are being paid to write posts should you get paid extra for being their online marketer, taking care of promotions as well as the content? If you have your own blog you know promoting/ marketing takes up even more time than writing for the blog.  I find I spend masses of time looking at other blogs so I can leave comments and ideas, finding forums and groups I might join, then making an effort to be active in forums and groups I have joined and a hundred or so other things which I do every day. (Or try to!)

Should it be expected that you would use your own Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon and other social media accounts this way? On one hand I understand, they want you to help promote yourself and your work (on their site). On the other hand… I consider my Twitter account personal, I don’t really want to have someone else tell me what to post or how often to post.

What do you think? Would you take the job knowing this is expected or would you change your mind about applying because of this? Of course, if you already use your Twitter account for blog promotion this may not make any difference to you.

  • Is it possible to open a new Twitter account just for stuff like this?
  • Would it be worth having a second account if no one signed up to read your Twitter ads?
  • Have you unsubscribed from a feed or Twitter account due to too many posts? Too much clutter?
  • Will you keep your friends and followers if your personal Twitter account runs more ads than personal chat?

I think it’s an issue that needs to be looked at. Most of the ads I read on the blog job boards had this expectation included. If you are a web writer be prepared and decide where you stand on the issue of letting your employer have a share of your Twitter account.

Luv Your Blog Lately?

Have you visited Blogs We Luv? I was interviewed at Blogs We Luv for my personal blog, back in 2008.

Put together your own answers to the ten questions and send it in for your own interview. Here are the questions so you can get thinking right away:

  • Describe your blog in five sentences or less.
  • Link us to one post from your blog that best defines who you are.
  • What sets you apart from other bloggers?
  • When and how did you first discover blogging?
  • What is your biggest pet peeve related to blogging or the internet?
  • Name one plugin, blogging widget, or service that you can’t live without.
  • If you could choose anyone, living or dead, to write a guest post for your blog, who would it be and why?
  • How has blogging made you a better person?
  • What are your tips for becoming a better blogger?
  • Name one great blog that you read on a regular basis. What makes it unique?

Here are my answers:

Ten Questions with Laura of That Grrl

1. Describe your blog in five sentences or less.
A scrapbook/ junk drawer of things I create, write, think or just find interesting. Rural exploration photos when I have been out taking photos. Cartoon drawings to illustrate the blog mostly every day. Basically it is things I think of when I’m in the shower. Conversations I have with myself. Ideas I find somewhere else and want to keep track of to explore further. It’s made of stuff I love, stuff that bothers me and just stuff in general. Kind of like life.

2. Link us to one post from your blog that best defines who you are.
Love the World – Doesn’t define who I am. There is no one post that does that. But it has some of the elements of who I am. I think there is too much in my head for any one post to contain it all.

3. What sets you apart from other bloggers?
I don’t especially want to be set apart from other bloggers. With all the other bloggers out there I’m sure there are several doing the same stuff I am. I post for myself. I still feel the passion for web publishing that I first did over ten years ago when I began my first weblog. I like the ideas of diy web publishing, free journalism, creative CSS and HTML and having the freedom to do it all my way.

4. When and how did you first discover blogging?
Over ten years ago. I almost remember some of the first blogs I read. They were still new in 1996, most people had a webpage up if anything. Blogs were software which made keeping a site updated easier as your newest work would show up on top of the older work. They weren’t all journal-like then either. People who knew code were doing wonders. The rest were trying to learn from the best of them. I remember being awed and amazed by those who created blogs back then, they really were feats of artistic and geeky genius. I was working more on ASCII art, newsgroups and IRC than blogging. My first blog was on Blogger though, I liked it even way back then.

5. What is your biggest pet peeve related to blogging or the internet?
Biggest peeve are the ads (and splogs which followed the ads). If anything is killing blogs it is monetizing and seo obsessed people who don’t really create anything. All too often it is recycled, stolen or mass contributed content which lacks anything personal at that point. Splogs are like a huge clog in the drain of the kitchen sink and they spoil blogging by making it harder to find real blogs that would awe and amaze as they did once upon a time.

6. Name one plugin, blogging widget, or service that you can’t live without.
Nothing is coming to mind. But it’s always the widget that you don’t even think about which is most essential and taken for granted. I couldn’t live without Blogger itself. I love finding good avatar making sites, Blessthischick.com is my favourite at the moment. I like Firefox though lately it hasn’t been keeping me logged in anywhere as it used to do. I like StumbleUpon and Flickr too, both services.

7. If you could choose anyone, living or dead, to write a guest post for your blog, who would it be and why?
No one. What would be the point of having someone else write a post? It’s a personal blog, a way for me to hear myself think as much as a way to create something for others to view. To have someone else post would turn it into something else and then it wouldn’t be me writing for me any more. I’d have to start another new one. 🙂

8. How has blogging made you a better person?
That’s easy. Blogging kept me from going insane when I was alone in a foreign country and getting divorced. Not sure if it really made me a better person but it really did keep me from feeling completely alone and isolated with just all kinds of thoughts and feelings spinning in my head. It gave me focus and a place to put my feelings out there and get feedback from a few blog friends so that I felt someone was listening to me even if I was still in a room all by myself.

9. What are your tips for becoming a better blogger?
That depends if you really are a blogger or someone using blog software. If you really have the genuine interest in creating something go for it. Try new things and don’t worry about the opinions of others. You should be doing this for yourself. Making your own footsteps into the virtual world. Don’t go too far into the idea of writing for an audience, write for yourself or it soon becomes meaningless. You get burnt out when you really don’t have anything of yourself there any more. If you focus on traffic and link backs to your blog instead of adding colour, ideas and thoughts you won’t have anything of your real self invested in it any more. Readers won’t find that interesting either.

Work on keeping your blog easy to navigate, organized, not too cluttered and keep it to a simple, clean layout. Also, make sure your colours and the font size don’t strain your reader’s eyeballs right out of their sockets. If you want to post every day but feel stuck a few days try a new way of expressing yourself: draw something, post a photo, a poem, write about a new hobby you are interested in, take a day off and do something new to write about, anything else you can think of that will fit into a blog post. Just like the old days when I wrote penpal letters and would think of new things you could fit into an envelope and mail acros the oceans, a blog is a format you can fit a lot of things into if you put your mind to it.

10. Name one great blog that you read on a regular basis. What makes it unique?
Had to think about it for a bit. It’s a tie between The Useless Men and Blog U now. The Useless Men are fun to read but Blog U has been a great source for blog innovations especially when there was something specific I wanted to change or fix.