Using Your Own Images And Niche Imaging

When I wrote my post in March talking about 31 mistakes people make in blogging and social media, one of my points about blogging was that a lot of people still aren’t using images on their posts. I don’t fully understand the science of it all, but for some reason not only will more people read your posts but they’re more inclined to share them on other social media sites.

oldcar136

It’s something I wish I’d started earlier than 2011, but them’s the breaks. I mentioned that in another post I did in July, along with saying that I should have been using my own images more often. One of the comments that post received was that images should fit the content for maximum effect.

I responded that the statement was true, but that there were so many topics, like blogging, where finding images that fit becomes a tasking proposition. After all, how many pictures of someone sitting at a computer, or someone with their hand poised to write something, or even hands on a keyboard are out there, let alone all that compelling? He agreed with me that it’s probably better to have an image than not having one at all.

Let’s talk about this concept of niche imaging. Truth be told, if you’re talking about fishing and you have pictures of people fishing or even of fish that’s probably a strong relationship for your visitors. Talking about baking and having a picture of a cake is probably going to grab my attention.

Yet, for all the talk about finding images that match up with the content, have you paid much attention to the large content curation sites and news sites? Have you noticed that quite often what they’re sharing is either an image that they think their visitors will find attractive or compelling, or a stock image that they pull up every time they have a related story, and that quite often the image has nothing to do with the content at all? The items most visited and shared online contain either babies, puppies or kittens or pretty women (which makes my buddy Peter happy lol).

Back in 2010 my friend Scott wrote a guest post here about copyright and images, and a lot of people (myself included) have at one time or another received something from one of those photo copyright sites saying we’ve used something we didn’t know was copywritten, even if it came from a site like Flickr (which has tightened up its rules since then). When you have the whole world of images in your pocket it makes things easier when you’re looking for something you think might fit your content well. When you realize you don’t, that crate of images becomes the size of a book of wooden matches.

That is… unless you feel confident enough to use some of your own images, even if they don’t always fit the content. Truthfully, for mobile speed purposes, using your own images gives you the ability to shrink the size of your images, something the search engines might hold against you. Whenever I use images via the Compfight plugin, even though I love the images I use, there’s nothing I can do to compress them since they’re coming from elsewhere.

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Me & Nanci

Check out the image above? That’s not such a bad picture is it? Doesn’t it draw the eyes, no matter what the topic or niche might be? What about the image here, which features myself and one of my best friends from college? For people who know me they get to see another side of me, and for people who don’t they’ll probably figure out it’s a picture of the writer (even if they might guess wrong lol) and someone else if they miss the pictures of me above. Even if neither picture was all that compelling (you’d better think they’re compelling lol), isn’t it better having them here than having nothing but words in the post?

I’m not sure if you’re like me or not, but I have nearly 5,000 of my own images on my computer, and even more in photo books all over the house and at Mom’s house. They may not all be spectacular shots, but they meant something to me or my family at the time they were taken, and some of them can certainly be considered vintage. Many of them are even funny; who doesn’t like funny?

From my perspective, using your own images is a nice place to start. Using images from other sources that can match up with your niche topic are even better when you’re discussing specific business issues or points. As you’ve seen in posts of mine like when I talked about blocking newsletter popups I took a screen print of the setting page of the browser add-on I use to show people how to set it up, which in essence became one of my images instead of something I found online. That type of thing is always helpful also.

Or just go with the babies, puppies or kittens or pretty women; at least you know your articles will be seen, even if your visitors don’t stay long afterwards. 🙂
 

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5 Things I’d Do Differently If I Was Starting Blogging Today

Guess what; I’m part of another blogging roundup. This time, I got to be one of 37 people who was asked what our biggest blogging mistakes were. Check that out because there’s some pretty big names on that list; that I got to be a part of it is pretty cool.

Picture 35

Actually, my little contribution led me to looking at some of the things other people had written on that post. It got me thinking more about what I would have done differently if I were starting a new blog today and had someone like those folks, or myself, to give some guidance on the process that would help me to get off to a good start.

Today y’all are lucky because you not only have that link to go to but you have me writing this particular post; you can thank me after you’ve looked at it… and I hope I don’t scare anyone off. Here are 5 things I’d do differently, or at least recommend to anyone thinking about starting a new blog.

1. Write 10 articles

It seems I mentioned this on my post giving 55 tips on blogging but not with much context to it. There’s more than one reason to do this.

First, most people forget that they hated writing in high school and college. If they couldn’t write 500 word papers then, why should they think it’s easy to do now? That’s why they should sit down and try to write 10 articles on their topic.

It might take a week; it might take 3 months. It’s a great learning curve to see if you have what it takes to not only write articles, but you can evaluate yourself to see if you want to continue writing.

Second, this is a great way to have ready made content when you’re ready to launch your blog. You end up having one article you can post immediately and 9 articles you can schedule over time. This gives you more time to write more articles or you can wait until those articles are live before writing some more.

2. Find your writing voice

When I started my first blog I’d already been writing two newsletters for 2 years. When I went back to work on my 2nd book on leadership, which is a compilation of newsletters and blog posts I’d written up to the end of 2008, I realized how rough it was to read those early articles. I was all over the place, trying to stuff as much stuff into an article as I could without any direction.

At some point I seemed to have found my writing voice. If you read my posts over the last 7 or 8 years you’ll see that my style has been pretty consistent. That helps your visitors get used to how you write and what your words will sound like in their ears. Everyone might not like it but if you’re authentic you’ll reach the people you want to reach.

3. Set something up for email subscribers

@-Symbol in Glass Light Orange
Creative Commons License www.elbpresse.de via Compfight

I hate popups with a passion; everyone knows that by now. I’ve never signed up for any type of autoresponder. In retrospect I probably should have thought about it, which I’m still thinking about now, because there’s more than one way to get it done.

I still use Feedburner for my RSS feed, and I always thought that would be enough. Yet, when I launched my last book, it wouldn’t have hurt to have a real mailing list to send notice to the readers of my business blog.

4. Copyright protection

If you look at the bottom of this article you’ll notice a copyright notification. That helps to protect me from content thieves, which unfortunately can be fairly comprehensive from time to time. There was a time period when a lot of my content was being scraped.

I made it hard on myself to find it, and though I found them all, one was hard to get rid of because it was located on some offshore island whose ISP I couldn’t reach. That’s when I decided to start using the plugin called Digiprove, also known as Coyright Proof. It makes it easier to prove that you own the content, because in the day you had to fill out all this paperwork to get your stuff removed and then they took time to verify it before they’d do something about it. Check that site out; it might be valuable long term.

5. Figuring out how to use more of my own images

For some reason it helps to have at least one image in a blog post, no matter how short or long that post is. Turns out we’re all pretty visual people. The hard part is trying to find images that fit every topic, or a topic you happen to be writing on at the time.

For instance, blogging; what do you put up for blogging? There are some images I’m able to get from Compfight, which searches for Creative Commons images you can use via Flickr, that work nicely. But sometimes you just can’t find the right image for everything.

I have at least a few thousand images of things I’ve taken on my own. True, many of them might not fit a specific topic, and “experts” say that one should try to fit images to whatever you’re writing about. But as I read tons of blogs and news stories and I see images that skim the edges of a topic at best (let’s face it, when all else fails a lot of these websites with articles just throw up pictures of beautiful women) I’m thinking that there might be a place for more of my own shots.

This is one reason I’ve been putting up more of my own images on my posts this year. I figure putting a picture of myself, either alone or with someone else, works well since I’m the writer. If I had the talent I could caption many of the images I have to make them fit; that’s something some of you could learn. There are few images from the early years of this blog or my business blog, and I think I could make those articles more appealing with an image or two.

There you go; 5 things I wish I’d started doing when I started my blog, that I’d do if starting a new blog. What do you think?
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mitch Mitchell

Don’t Get Caught Looking Like Your Business Is Unethical

Imagine you’re searching the internet looking for someone to provide services for you. Imagine that you come across a website that looks pretty neat and professional. It not only offers the services you’re looking for but many others. And look, there are lots of testimonials on the site, and even pictures of the people who gave those testimonials, just like this one:

contentproz

Looks pretty good, right? Now imagine you’re someone going about your business, and you find out about a site like this, go to take a look, and lo and behold, there’s your image clear as day, supposedly advocating for a site you’ve never heard of, with a totally different name and in a business that’s not your own.

In this case the lady’s name is Kristi Hines of Kikolani, not Pamela, and she’s one of the top internet writers in the country. She knows a lot about SEO, but that’s not her primary focus. She was stunned to find out that this company had someone obtained her image and used it in their advertising.

I’m not going to mention the website because I don’t want to give them the publicity; she might be trying to do something about removing her image as we speak. It’s possible that the company hired someone else to do the work and that company scarfed up the image from somewhere, figured no one would ever find out, and, well, it’s a super cute face with a great smile, so why not.

As you can imagine, within her circles this is getting a lot of buzz. And since these people profess to do something among their multitude of services that she does, and I’d have to say does better than them, word will be getting out all over the internet & social media circles (that’s where I learned about it), and it will put this company into a compromised situation because this is someone a lot of people like.

The point is that it shouldn’t have come to this. Most of us know that the people shown on many websites, especially in the header area, don’t really work for the company. We’re used to stock images and the like; we get it, because no one stands around posing like they do in some of these pictures.

There are so many sources for finding images that one can use for free that it’s amazing whoever decided to grab this image for its use didn’t go that route. It makes them look bad and, online, once word spreads that you’ve possibly done something unethical, even if it wasn’t specifically you, it’s hard to regain any momentum you or your business might have gained.

Remember, your website is your business, not the business of the person who created it. Don’t get caught up like this, and if you’re thinking about doing it don’t do it. I might say who this is one day… let’s see if someone comes along to identify them so I don’t have to.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mitch Mitchell

4 Ways To Reduce Spam On Your Blog

Most of the time I talk about spam it’s commentary more than anything else. In one post back in September, I told you how to identify spam on your blog.

SPAM!
Luc De Leeuw via Compfight

This time I’m going to give you some actionable steps to reducing spam, or at least have it going into the spam filter so it’s not showing up in your comments area.

Unfortunately, there’s little to be done to eliminate spam totally. You can moderate your blog, but anyone who reads this blog knows how much I hate that (and yet so many of you still do it purposely; oh well…). You also know that sometimes there’s false spam, such as when I talked about certain browsers sending comments into the spam filter for some goofy reason.

So, we’re going to take on the next big thing, which is reducing it. Based on settings, you can probably reduce it more than mine, or you might decide you don’t want to go as far as me. I give you the steps; the settings are all yours. Here we go.

1. If you’re using a WordPress blog, in your Admin area go to Settings, then down to Other Settings. The 3rd item down says “Automatically close comments on articles older than”, and there’s a box next to it. You can check the box on the left, then put a number of days in the box and at that point in history comments will turn off.

The beauty of this is the majority of spam that comes in goes after older posts that you’ve pretty much moved on from and this takes care of that issue. The negative of this is people might read some of your older posts, especially if you link to them like I did above, but they can’t comment on it. You get to decide which of these is more important to you but truthfully, you’re always going to have more activity on your newer posts unless you’ve posted something very constructive that people can use… like this post. 🙂

By the way, though I mentioned the biggie, there are plenty of other things here that you can alter that will help block some spam. I have anything that has links in a post go to the spam filter, and I also use the comment blacklist option to block certain words and sometimes certain IP addresses, which is shown to you next to all comments, blocked or not.

2. Turn off comments on select posts. Most people won’t like this for their WordPress blogs but sometimes you might have a post that’s more of an announcement or maybe a sales post or, I’ve noticed from some bloggers, a post that’s so personal you can’t bear someone intruding their own thoughts into it.

In this case, instead of limiting it for every post, when you’re writing your post there’s something at the very bottom of the page where you’re writing your post under Discussion that’s automatically checked saying Allow Comments. If you uncheck it then that post won’t get any comments at all.

This can also be used if you decide not to use what I gave you in #1 because you want some of your posts to always be live. This way, you can pick and choose; that’s pretty neat.

3. Add images to your blog a different way. I’ve also noticed that much of the spam that seems to make its way through does so through the image area, which is really weird. I mean, what program is it that’s addressing the image on a blog post instead of the post itself?

This can be defeated in two ways. One, you can decide to upload an image you want to use to your server, then when it’s time to add an image add it via a link instead of uploading it from your computer. I picked up on that trick on a fluke and it works pretty well. The downside to that might be if you don’t have unlimited storage or little storage via your hosting company. Overall that shouldn’t be an issue.

No SPAM
K. Latham via Compfight

Something else you can do is add a plugin that’s connected to a website that supplies images. I heard of one the other day called, I believe, Pix 500, but I use one called Compfight. It’s tied into Flickr’s Creative Commons images, which means it’s done the work to determine which images bloggers are allowed to use ahead of time, thus no copyright issues. It has its own settings that you can alter within the Admin panel so that if you like a certain size of images each time you can make it so. Ah, I love when my inner Captain Picard comes out. 🙂

4. Use the GASP plug-in. By now, if you haven’t heard of this plugin you’re years out of the loop. It not only helps reduce spam to the point that you can alter settings to block certain types of spam from ever getting to your blog in the first place, but you have multiple selections you can make such as determining whether someone has to stay on your post for a certain length, determine if they have to write so many words, or even verify trackback links to see if those sites are legitimate.

I’m not going to get too deep into the settings on this one because there’s a ton. Instead, I will say there are good and bad things about this one as well. The good is obviously eliminating as much spam as you want to from ever getting onto your blog, which means you don’t have to moderate anything… well, almost.

That’s part of the bad. Sometimes it’s so strong that it starts blocking people who’ve come to your blog for years, who you sometimes give a free pass to a short comment or maybe they’re responding to your response to their comment. Sometimes having these things go to your spam filter isn’t a bad thing at all. After all, blogs are supposed to be about engagement, so there should be some allowances here and there; don’t you agree?

I think this has gotten long enough so I’m going to stop there. These tips should drastically reduce your spam on their own, and if you tweak some of the other settings you can reduce it even further. Good luck with it all and let me know how it works for you.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mitch Mitchell

5 Reasons You Need To Have A Gravatar

Funny how time flies. Turns out it was 4 1/2 years ago that I actually wrote my last piece on gravatars, how to create them, how to set your blog up to show them, etc. What I missed in that piece all those years ago was why anyone should have them. I guess I thought that would be obvious, but time has proven that no, most people still don’t get it. So, let’s look at 5 reasons why you need to have a gravatar.

Dad Me Uncle Morris
Which one is me? 🙂

1. Identity – Having a gravatar gives you an identity and helps you stand out from all those people people who comment on blogs and don’t have an image of any kind. People are more trusting of you and your comments if there’s an image associated with it.

2. Brand – Although your face should probably be your strongest brand, you can also use a logo of your business for your gravatar image. Truth be told, I have multiple gravatars and each one is associated with a different email address. Each one also uses a picture of me, which allows me to change up from time to time when I’m commenting because people always recognize the face sooner than the website or blog it’s attached to.

3. Protection – I’ve seen times when comments are somewhere that don’t read like the person who’s purported to have written them, if you know that person. Sneaky weasels do that to promote spam, and it can ruin the name or reputation of the person whose information they’re using. However, if you have a gravatar associated with your email address and no image shows up, that could vindicate you. Spammers aren’t as smart as we all think they are; they don’t always know your email address when writing spam comments.

4. Looking good in your own space – You write a blog others comment and have pictures next to their names, and you’re responding with nothing except one of those default gravatar things showing up; how professional does that look?

5. Influence – If you comment often and you have an image associated with your image eventually you start getting better known, and that helps your influence spread on the internet, even if it’s only within your relatively small sphere of influence. People love seeing my face (so they say lol) on their blogs along with a comment or two.

There you are. Now, having a gravatar won’t help you with blog sites like Typepad, but for pretty much everywhere else a gravatar will help you stand out. Come on, what are you waiting for? Check out the first post I linked to if you want to know how to do it, or just go to gravatar.com and follow the very easy instructions. Go now… okay, go after you comment. 🙂
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Mitch Mitchell