Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Is your blog a Rolls or a Trabant?

Much as we might laugh at the Trabants that East Germany used to turn out as being unreliable and prone to break down, sadly that’s what many blogs seem to look like these days.

Oh, they don’t break down, but the quality of the workmanship that you see in some of the posts is really deplorable. What’s perhaps worse is that a lot of those low quality blogs are taking sponsored posts and if anything the quality of the posts that they get paid for is even worse than the norm for them.

Why do the advertisers put up with it? OK, they might just want the link from the blog but do they really want their product to be associated with shoddy workmanship? After all, the authors of these posts are numbered amongst their suppliers ultimately. Surely they can’t be so uncritical to accept what are often very shoddy posts indeed?

How bad are they? How about “you must visit this site. i think there products are really great. visit this site they have great products.”? I’ve paraphrased the real example so you can’t search for the actual blog entry that was based on (which was worse than that).

Good quality writing doesn’t mean that it can’t be about trashy subjects. Whilst many would call The Sun a trashy paper, every one of their articles is well written. Sure the writing style is laid back but it suits the content just as the relatively dense writing style of The Times suits it’s content and readership.

Just as there’s a range of writing styles in newspapers, so too one would expect there to be a range of writing styles in blogs. That doesn’t mean that the spelling, grammar and repetitiveness of my example is acceptable though because it isn’t and especially so since the advertiser paid $50 for it (quite why they approved payment is beyond me).

I’m not saying that you need perfection from day one but you should at least aim for that.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

How DO you measure the effectiveness in attracting traffic of a change in your website?

The number of hits that myself and Wendy have been picking up on our main blogs has gone up quite dramatically over the last month or two and, ideally, we’d like to know why that is but, of course, the problem is that we’ve not just done one thing with the blogs over that time.

First off, we moved the blogs from a UK based host to one based in America. Since both blogs are targeted at a UK market (if one could call a 40/30 traffic split targeting) one would have expected that this would reduce the number of hits thanks to the geo-targeting that the search engines get up to. Having said that when I say we target the blogs what’s actually happening is that we’re writing in British English rather than American English and we’re writing about topics that arise in the UK rather than those that arise in the US. That said, the differences in British and American English are so small and so little used within the blogs (I’ve not used one word so far in this post that is in country-specific English) that I can’t see it affecting the search engine hits to any substantial degree. Also, many of the topics that we write about are international in scope which presumably explains the almost equal split between British and American readers. Thus, on balance, the change in ISP shouldn’t have made a difference.

Next, we changed how the titles come out on the blogs. Previously they would have been listed as, for example, “Foreign Perspectives » Blog Archive » Title of the post” whereas now they come out as “Title of the post | Foreign Perspectives”. Now on a really top ranking blog it might well be to the advantage of the blog to have the blog name coming first but Foreign Perspectives isn’t, yet, in the top ranks of the blogging world so perhaps it’s best to have the post title coming first? I suspect that’s contributed to the rise but I don’t know how great the contribution has been.

Then we thought we’d have a go at promoting the blogs on social networking sites. You might think that this would have a very large and noticeable effect but whilst it is noticeable in the stats it’s not, usually, that large. Some posts do pick up a bit of a following in Twitter but most don’t. I suspect that I could work on this is a promising area to develop but I’ve not done so as yet. The other social networking sites rarely pick up on the posts or at least people reading it elsewhere aren’t clicking on the link to the post. So chalk up some rise to this one.

Finally, we compared note as regards topics we were writing about. In my case I’ve written a little more stuff in the entertainment category and that’s certainly had a bit of an impact on hits but, again, not an overly substantial one.

So overall, there are a couple of things that would seem to be contributing to a rise in readership but none that seem to be sufficient to produce the doubling of hits that we’ve noticed over recent months.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Wouldn’t you like to be able to work just sitting on the beach?

Let’s face it, many people would love a job where they could sit out on the beach and claim that they were working.

Whilst it’s clearly not an option for everyone, there’s getting to be quite a growth in information jobs which would let you do exactly that. Well, in principle anyway: as always, it’s rarely so simple as it might appear.

If you consider the very popular route of blogging, you’ll find that the vast majority of blogs don’t make any sizeable amount of money. Why? Well, the normal route of using adsense doesn’t work particularly well with sites with dynamic content as it usually takes adsense a couple of days to get the keyword targeting right by which time your blog will have moved on and a different set of keywords would be relevant. Secondly, you need major traffic or very well targeted traffic for affiliate schemes to work.

However, there is the option of doing sponsored posts which can be profitable even with relatively low traffic volumes. Typically you can make around $20 per day on a site with PR2 or above by writing three or four articles each day of, usually, 50 to 200 words each. If your blog gets to PR5 or over you can do really well with this option.

Other potential options are selling e-books or charging for subscriptions which are popular with some making money online blogs. There’s even SubHub which might eventually evolve into a worthwhile venture for the participants although at the moment it’s mainly an article repository for Internet business articles with a sideline in running up and hosting custom blog templates (at a rather exorbitant price).

Naturally, you don’t need to choose one single route to making money online. Personally, I do sponsored posts on blogs and also have a range of adsense funded sites with subscription options.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Would you, should you or can you advertise on Twitter?

Although you might not think there was a whole lot of scope for advertising in a medium that only gives you 140 characters to play with, there are a growing number of ways to advertise through Twitter although whether or not they’re actually effective is an entirely different question.

The means for handling the advertising varies quite a bit as you’d expect for a fairly new type of media. For instance, since the tweets themselves are rather fleeting affairs on the tweet streams of the more prolific twitterers, Twittad takes the approach of using the background image to place the main advert and uses the tweet stream to announce that the twitter account is sponsored. The system works in a similar way to blog sponsorship platforms which is to say that you write up a little profile of your twitter account and advertisers can choose you based on that or alternatively you can choose some advertisers. Payout seems to be around the $2.50 a week level which is OK in that you don’t need to do much for that.

Another service that’s possibly more interesting to the advertisers than the twitterers is Twtad which works on the pay per click model. The problem with this one is that the payment is typically 5 cents or less which would be alright for a system that was entirely automated but this system isn’t. Since click-through is typically quite low this system isn’t really worthwhile unless you have LOT of followers (10,000 or more perhaps) and if you have then you should be able to pick up more money elsewhere.

A more comprehensive version of this is Be a Magpie which is an automated service offering pay per view, pay per click, pay per lead and pay per sale. You can set it so that you have to pre-approve tweets but leaving it on automatic seems best and will put a Magpie tweet every 5 ot 10 (you set the interval) of your tweets. All else being equal this one seems by far the best bet for the twitterers in that once it’s set up it can be fully automated. It’s good from the advertisers point of view too in that it offers the four different payment methods.

The latest entrant seems to be Betweeted which I gather operates on the basis of the twitterer choosing advertisers to tweet about so is quite similar to the usual blog sponsorship services. So far it’s only for US bloggers and nobody else can even register to look at how it works.

So, you can advertise via Twitter, but the question is: should you? If you followed the original principles of Twitter ie that it’s a service for “friends, family members and co-workers to stay connected” then the answer is probably not. After all, you wouldn’t hand out advertising leaflets to these people, would you? However, the service has moved a long way from that and most people have followers who are complete strangers and lots of others are tweeting to promote themselves or their business, in which case the answer is: why not? Aside from advertising third parties, more and more companies are moving on to Twitter to promote their products and, of course, there’s always been the self-promotion of bloggers tweeting their posts (some cross-promote their tweets on their blog) so advertising is very much a feature of Twitter that seems here to stay.

Finally, there’s the question of effectiveness of Twitter advertising ie does it actually work? Well, I’ve been tweeting my own blog posts for a while now and it would appear that it’s quite an effective way of gathering new readers for the blog so presumably it would be equally effective for advertising tweets, or at least those that fit in with the general interest of the followers.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Logistics of moving the blog to the new host

Many people stay with their original hosting company regardless of the ongoing level of service, facilities on offer or even price simply because it seems like a nightmare to even contemplate moving to another hosting company. However, it’s not nearly so difficult as many people think.

For HTML only sites it’s a doddle and for the majority of people complications only appear when they’re trying to move a blog which means that they need to move a database. Since that’s the most complex situation that most people encounter I’ll go through that here.

First off you need to set up an account with a new hosting provider. There are oodles of these around the world with prices ranging from free to around $10/month and levels of service ranging from dreadful to excellent. Which is best depends a lot on your requirements in terms of physical location of the hosting, amount of storage space, bandwidth and pricing and it’s generally best to spend some time going through reviews of the services before you make your final selection.

If possible, it’s handy to have a similar cpanel setup on both old and new services as this makes the move a whole lot more seamless. In my case the cpanel setup on EUKHost and HostGator are almost identical which made this move considerably easier.

Once you’ve the new account setup the easiest way to move the site is by running the cpanel backup utility which’ll copy your entire site onto your PC (“download home directory”); if no backup utility is available to you, you can use FTP instead though it’ll take longer as it doesn’t compress the information. Next step is to restore this backup on your new host which you can do via the backup utility in cpanel (“restore home directory”) or by FTP.

That’s sufficient for non-database sites although you’ll still need to redirect the domain (see later).

For blogs or other database driven sites you need go back to the backup utility and  “Download a MySQL Database Backup”, selecting the appropriate database then do the reverse on your new host.

That’s pretty much the move completed or at least it’s the part that’ll take the longest amount of time for you. Next up is to point the domain to the new host and then you need to wait a bit because it can take quite a while for the domain change to be reflected right across the Internet (anything up to about 48 hours). Finally, you need to add the domain as an add-on domain on the new host.

If you’ve been clever you’ll have used the same username for the account on the new host as this’ll mean that the site is ready to go. If you haven’t you’ll need (on WordPress) to edit the file wp-config.php to reflect the new usernames and passwords.

Incidently, the site will remain operational during the domain transfer so long as you don’t remove the domain from the original host (it can be listed in both hosts). Since the move should be seamless, you should create a small file called something like where.htm and upload this to both old and new servers with a little text message saying “this is hosted on X” or “this is hosted on Y” so that you’ll know the move has been made.

And that’s it. It’s generally best to leave the old hosting account running for a week or two just in case you’ve missed something although if you’re pretty close to the renewal date you could cut this short (just make sure you checkout the whole website though!).

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.