Category Archives: Blogging

Is Grammar Powerful Enough To Ruin Your Blog Rankings?

I can’t believe how many blog posts I’ve read in the last week on reasons that many of us bloggers, and a heck of a lot of websites, lost ranking over the last month due to Google’s Penguin update, and then the Panda 3.5 update as well. Most people didn’t know there were two updates; well, there were, and they were within days of each other.


I’m sure this guy’s
suffering greatly

There’s one thing that’s come up time and time again, and I feel that someone has to actually write about it to dispel it as a reason, so it might as well be me. That one thing is that grammar can be used as a reason why many people took a hit.

Come on folks, really? Actually, let’s break this down because when most people are thinking “grammar”, they’re not really thinking grammar at all. Per my Webster’s New World College Dictionary, grammar means:

that part of the study of language which deals with the forms and structure of words, with their customary arrangement in phrases and sentences

Is that what most of you using the word have been thinking? Nope. You’ve been thinking about misspellings, capitalization, and typos for the most part. That’s a part of grammar but it’s not grammar. But we’ll let that one go for now.

Grammar is terrible these days. Forget that people can’t figure out which “your” or “their” they should be using. There are phrases like “these ones”, which grates my nerves, and things like “I ‘heart’ you”, which I just learned what it means (yeah, I’m slow sometimes) that people use, to the point that some kids actually write these things in papers in school, and teachers are allowing it; I’m shocked! Okay, no I’m not, but I am greatly disappointed.

Still, let’s be reasonable here. If Google was going to penalize people for grammar, just whose grammar would they be penalizing people with? Folks in the south use a different grammar than folks up north, and I’m betting out west people say some things differently than we do. What about people in other countries that know English as a second language? Wouldn’t an overwhelming majority of their sites be penalized drastically?

Let’s go back to misspellings, capitalization, and typos. There’s so much of all of these, even on prominent news sites like CNN and MSNBC, definitely on my local newspaper, that one would expect these site would take a much bigger hit than those of us writing our little personal blogs because it’s much more pervasive there, yet they’re not suffering at all.

Does this mean one shouldn’t try to work on those things so they minimize errors? Absolutely not. Does it mean that one’s traffic might not drop if there’s so many errors people can’t understand the content? Nope; it most certainly will drop. But it’s not because of any updates by Google, or any other search engine.

So allay your fears; you will not be tested any time soon on your grammar, spelling, or anything else. That is, unless you’re still in school, in which case study! πŸ™‚
 

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Back Up Your Blog; Another Lesson

Sometimes I think my reason for being on this earth is to mess things up so I can warn you not to do it. In this case it’s specific to blogs, at least WordPress self hosted blogs, although I think it’s a general lesson for everyone.

Yesterday I was checking in on this blog I write for an accounting firm. I went into the Admin panel and went to posts, where I discovered that two posts didn’t publish when they were supposed to. That was bothersome because, as I do with my own blogs, I tend to write posts ahead of time and if I wasn’t going to be able to do that there it was going to really complicate things.

The first thing I did was publish both posts. I actually had to “fake” change the date by changing the time a few minutes, then the Publish button came up and I was able to publish them for the dates they were supposed to show up.

Then I went online to do some research into the issue; y’all know how I like to research. I came across something that recommended adding something to the WP-Config.php file, as it stated that some themes were missing this particular code. I added the code, then went back to write a new post.

Only when I clicked on the link to the blog, it had reset itself back to the beginning. I was horrified; I hoped that maybe when I typed in the username and password and went back to the theme I had selected for the blog that everything would be as it was; nope. Oh the horror (some of you know that line)!

Now I was stuck. The lucky thing is that this is still a relatively new blog; the unlucky thing is that I’d never gotten around to backing it up. What to do, what to do, what to do?

I went to Google to pull up the cache of older blog posts. Only Google doesn’t seem to have that link anymore that gives you the cache of old posts or pages; what the hey? I looked everywhere, even did some research on that, but nothing worked. I then tried Bing, and they didn’t have anything either.

Yahoo did the trick. I put the blog’d address link into the search and it pulled up the one entry, but it also had “cache”. Through that link I was able to recover all the older posts, but not the two posts I’d done earlier in the day. Hey, I took what I could get, and that was a lot. I was able to post all those articles back for the same date that they originally were posted, then three posts, one to replace a post that was supposed to be for next month, then two more that are supposed to go this month.

I’ve scheduled one to go live today, but it’ll be after this post so I don’t know yet if it’s working or not. Either way, it’s reminded me of the importance of backing things up before making radical changes, even though I hadn’t thought that was a radical change. I’m just glad that I can write fairly fast; I’d have hated to spend a long time having to rewrite those articles.

Yes, please learn from my mistakes; don’t do them. πŸ˜‰
 

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My Irritation With WordPress.com And What I Recently Learned

Yeah, I know, there’s a bunch of you using WordPress.com as your platform for free blogging. Whereas I always preferred it over Blogger if someone had to have a free blog, now I’m not so sure anymore.


via Flickr

The comment system used to look exactly like the one we employ, for the most part, on WordPress software oriented blogs. The issue was that we had to subscribe to comments by responding to that immediate email we received after each and every post if we wanted to know that someone had gotten back to us. Since I’m not a subscribing kind of guy, especially not every single time, I wasn’t doing it.

Then within the last few months, WordPress.com changed up some things. One, they changed the look, which wasn’t so bad since it kept everything we were used to. But two, they also changed the ability to just leave a comment and go on with your life.

I just had it happen to me again; tried to leave a comment on a WordPress.com blog only to run into this:

Please log in to post your comment.

mitch@ttmitchellconsulting.com belongs to an account you are not currently logged into.

WordPress.com or Gravatar.com credentials work.

For the first time last week, I noticed the Gravatar connection and wondered about it. So I did some checking and realized that WordPress.com had purchased Gravatar back in 2008; nope, never knew that before. They had never connected the two services, and other than a press release there was no notification on the Gravatar site, so it wasn’t something commonly known to a lot of people, since I’d never seen anyone else write about it.

So I decided to try a different email address; nope, not happening. It seems that if I have a Gravatar account hooked up I’m not going to be able to leave any messages on any WordPress.com sites without signing in. Frankly, I know it’s a minor thing to a lot of people, but I’ve kind of stuck by this mantra since the beginning of blog commenting way back when and I’m not suddenly changing over now.

Just to verify this by the way, I finally left a comment with an email address that doesn’t have a Gravatar, and it accepted the comment just fine. I did get the standard email saying I had to subscribe to receive comments, but that’s okay because at least I got my comment through.

This is irritating, and I don’t know if WordPress.com users can change that setting, even if they know it’s happening. Overall, it looks like it’s another blog platform that I probably won’t be commenting on all that often, and that’s unfortunate. Why are these things so keen on restricting the ability to comment? Yeah, I know, worried about spam; bah!
 

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Blog Maintenance – Broken Links

The last couple of days have been interesting with this blog. Some of you might notice I’ve created a new header. Yeah, not fancy, but I like it. It’s an expansion of the one I created for my Facebook page. Nothing fancy, but I think it’s me, and I hope you like it at least a little bit.


by Gord Webster
via Flickr

The other thing I’ve been doing is fixing broken links. Well, that’s not quite accurate. What I’ve been doing most of the time is killing links and every once in awhile fixing a link. I have the plugin Broken Link Checker, but I had turned it off some time ago because it can slow your blog down if you’re doing things in it and that was irritating me. I also really hadn’t paid all that much attention to broken links, figuring it was all stuff in the past; seems that’s not quite true.

As I was griping last week about the loss of traffic I started looking around for answers. Two were actually provided by a comment on that post by Lisa, who mentioned two things. One was the sitemaps thing, another plugin that I’d deleted from this blog, and the idea of broken links. Although I didn’t see a lot out on the search engines talking about sitemaps and traffic, I did find a lot of people have written about broken links and traffic, especially search engine traffic.

I decided that I did want to clean up the blog, so I turned on the plugin and let it do its thing. I was hoping it wouldn’t do what going online and doing a search did for someone else, which was to alert him to over 18,000 broken links on his blog; ouch! I got lucky; I came up with just over 750, and I didn’t think it was that bad.

What was surprising is just how many of those links actually came from people who had left comments on the blog, and now those blogs or websites don’t exist anymore. Initially I was looking at a bunch of them, and that was time consuming and frustrating so I decided I wasn’t going to waste that much time.

However, there were still some I did decide to look at, and those are the ones I’m going to talk about more because I still talk to some of you. What I found is that you either changed your permalink structure or the location of where you put your blog or blog posts, or you’ve changed websites or blog locations and either didn’t remember or decided against bringing some of your old content with you. In one case one of you has started a new blog space and left more than 3 years of content elsewhere that can’t be accessed anymore; that’s a shame because it was great stuff.

Any time you change how your information has been put out there, if anyone has linked to you it suddenly becomes a bad link. If you’re keeping your content, at the very least you need to make sure there’s a way for people to find the new link if they care to try. For my purposes if a few people were using the Archives widget I could have easily found what I was looking for. However, so many people decide to use either that one or Categories and not both, as I do, and thus I had no chance to find the posts I wanted and just gave up.

In any case, it points out the importance of doing maintenance every once in awhile and in making sure people can find your content in whatever way they deem easiest. And look, my traffic has gone up; whoopee!!!
 

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Comparing Chess To Blogging In 5 Moves

I’ve been playing chess in some fashion since I was 12 years old. I’m not going to say I’m good, but I will say that there are good players I’ve beaten every once in awhile and bad players I’ve lost to every once in awhile but, like pool, I did win a chess tournament when I was a kid, though nothing sanctioned or anything like that.

I guess that qualifies me to write a post comparing some aspects of chess to some aspects of blogging. After all, I’ve compared blogging to poker, a toaster oven, and Harry Potter. So why not, right? That and Sire dared me to. πŸ™‚ Here goes:

1. A big part of chess and blogging is about consistency.

With chess, there are moves you develop as your beginning that you’ll almost always do unless you’re very proficient at the game. You do that because what happens if you don’t is you end up losing to someone who’s been hoping you’ll do something stupid early so they can crush you.

In blogging, consistency means you establish how often you’re going to write and then you try to stick to it as much as possible. If you decide to alter things, you do so with both a practiced hand and by running your own version of analytics to see how it’s going. If you change up either by suddenly writing drastically less or a heck of a lot more your audience might not know how to react to it and thus your game isn’t as tight as you’d like it to be.

2. Every once in awhile you have to shake things up.

Whereas consistency is a good thing for you, if you’re practiced shaking things up here and there could work to your benefit. Back when Bobby Fischer beat Boris Spassky in 1972, one of the turning points early on was Fischer changing from what everyone knew was his opening move. Spassky was so thrown that he never made a move in the game and resigned.

In blogging, safe is nice and comfortable but people need to be inspired to want to come to see what you have to say next, and that doesn’t happen unless you shake things up from time to time. I wonder how many people thought I was going to write a 2,800 word post on being happy a few days ago, or knew I was going to tell a story about my battle with a wasp, which I won. πŸ™‚

3. Both chess and blogging are predicated on the concept of a good beginning, middle and end.

There are thousands of chess books dedicated only to opening moves; experts consider it that important. There are also thousands of books dedicated to what they call the “end game”. The middle offers millions of possible combinations, yet it’s those middles that result from the beginnings and lead to those ends.

In blogging, at least for me, the best posts are told like stories, and every good story has a great beginning, middle and end. The introduction usually tells people what’s coming, or in some fashion brings them into play. The middle is the really interesting part, the meat if you will, because hopefully the writer gets you engrossed in some fashion such that you can’t wait to get to the end. The end… well, often it’s kind of anticlimactic in blogging, but many will tell you that if you’re trying to make money then how you close is really important, the “call to action” if you will.

4. Going for the draw or storming the fortress.

Two months ago Mitch Allen and myself wrote a joint guest post on one of Vernessa Taylor’s properties titled This IS a Game. It’s Your Move, a look at small business from the perspective of chess, which is probably why I thought I’d already written a post here on chess. We were asked to talk about what we saw was our most important business lesson as related to chess. I stated that sometimes one has to go for the draw when one needs to find balance in what they’re doing if they’re not already on top of things. Mitch wrote that a player can’t go after their goal without some kind of plan as to how they’re going to win in attacking the fortress the other player sets up.

Blogging is kind of like that. Unless it’s a blog like this one that doesn’t have a niche, you almost can’t afford to blog without having some idea of what it is you’re planning. Now to be truthful, I have set myself up so I can write about anything I want to, but I do also have plans. For instance, you know about Black Web Friday; that is planned. You know I write mainly about blogging and social media; that’s planned. Almost every subject I write about on a consistent basis is part of a plan. I don’t deviate all that often from the plans for this blog. I expect that’s why people come back; even though they don’t know what I’m going to talk about next, they do know that there are places I’m not going to go; this is a safe zone, no matter what topic I address.

5. If you play enough chess or blog enough, you’ll get better and find your rhythm.

When I started playing chess against people who knew what they were doing, I was losing a lot of games in about 10 moves. That was embarrassing to say the least. These days I’m not so easy to beat, even if I still don’t win them all (or even most of them against Mitch; Sire and I are pretty much equal). Yet I’m not a pushover; I have my set number of moves I want to get to, and I usually get there if I play someone more than once.

With blogging, I don’t have a set number of words, but I do have a style I like to maintain. This blog is more than 4 years old now, and if you have the nerve to look at the early posts and compare them to the newer posts, you’ll see that I got better at it. The same goes for my business blog and my newsletter; time and practice makes you better at everything. And with both chess and blogging, you get to do it over and over, so you can’t help but get better.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Mitch Mitchell