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March 25, 2008

Blogging is About Writing – and Not

Blogging is about writing. That is a fact. You can video blog, podcast, and do all kinds of fun things with your blog, but it is the writing that makes or breaks a blog. What you say in the blog posts, descriptions of visual and audio elements, and what words you offer search engines for their indexing to help people find your blog.

However, blogging is not just about the writing, albeit it is a large part. Blogging today is about so much more. Are you ready? Do you know all the things you have to know about blogging before you start blogging? Or after?

Whether you are a new blogger or long time blogger, these are the things you are going to have to learn about in order to blog in today’s world.
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March 17, 2008

Blogs Are Public Documents – Bloggers and Commenters Beware

you think you’re so smart - graphic copyright Lorelle VanFossenAmber of Lamb and Frog is covering Monday Mayhem, specifically the mayhem that erupts when a commenter cross the lines.

I’m not sure how many of these commenters have ever written anything for public consumption other than their inane comments. A blog? A magazine article? Anything that you actually got paid for? Do you know anything about writing at all? Let me fill you in…

Blogs are public documents. The best bloggers with the most popular blogs know this. They choose and edit the material they post to reflect their blog’s message or style. That doesn’t mean that the content can’t be personal, it just means that it rarely reflects the entirety of the blogger’s existence. Why? Because even if your daily life is freakishly entertaining (what…now you’re Paris Hilton?) hearing nothing but unedited lists of exploits day after day makes for boring reading in short order.

She cites some recent blog posts by friends who are frustrated with stupid and ignorant commenters, including:
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How Spam-Friendly is Your Niche?

No one wants to attract spammers to their site. They scrape content, post junk comments and turn search engines off to your site.

Unfortunately, the bitter truth is that all blogs, regardless of age, topic and readership, will attract at least some attention from the purveyors of junk. That is a simple byproduct of having a blog and publishing an RSS feed.

However, to spammers, all blogs are not created equal and some sites are going to attract far more attention from spammers than others. But while many of the elements that will attract spammers may be unpredictable and outside of our control, others are not.

One of the biggest indicators of how much trouble a blog will have with spam is the niche that it is operating in. This is because, by in large, the niche a blog is in will determine the keywords most commonly associated with it and those keywords, in turn, determine which sites the spammers latch on to.

The question then becomes, which niches suffer the most at the hands of spammers.

The Usual Suspects

If you want to know whether your niche is a popular target for spammers, you need to look no farther than the spam folder in your email box.

Whether or not Web spammers and email spammers are often the same, it is clear that they share many of the same targets. Keywords and topics that are popular targets for email spammers will, often times, be targets for Web ones as well.

As such, blogs in known spam niches such as gambling, prescription drugs, contests, travel, adult content and financing, are going to be frequent targets for spam blogs.

Of course, the catch is that it is not necessarily a matter of your blog promoting the same products or services as spam blogs, it is a matter of it being within the same broad topic. Spam bots, much like search engines, can not inherently tell the difference between favorable and unfavorable posts. As such, a news report about a crackdown on online gambling is just as likely to be scraped as a blog offering tips for for winning at poker.

In short, if your site routinely has keywords that are familiar to email spam, odds are you’ve already seen more than your fair share of trouble from dark side of the Web. But even if you don’t meet those criteria, there is still a good chance you could, unwittingly, be attracting the attention of spammers.

Unexpected Surprises

Of course, not all Web spam deals with the same topics as email spam. Since Web spam is driven by many different factors, it is inevitable some categories will show up on the Web that don’t in our inboxes.

One such factor is the amount of money a spammer can hope to make off of a single click. When one takes a look at the most expensive Adsense keywords, they find that the list is top-heavy not with traditional spam topics, but legal searches.

Since many spam blogs only earn a few clicks before being shut down, having a keyword that generates a decent amount of revenue is critical. As such, spammers are drawn to topics such a Mesothelioma, dwi/dui, personal injury and insurance simply because they are terms they can hope to make approximately fifty dollars a click from. Though these terms are not as heavily targeted by spammers since they are less likely to be searched for than the traditional spam workhorses, cost definitely plays a factor.

On the flip side, search frequency also plays a role. Looking at the top search terms gives you an idea of what people are searching for and where the spammers are likely to follow. In that regard, celebrity news is a frequent topic of interest with technology and television shows also making an appearance.

Though these terms might not be as valuable per click, they can make up for that in sheer quantity. Simply put, spammers are guaranteed not just a constant stream of potential viewers, but a ready supply of sites to latch onto. This approach may be better for spam sites less focused on earning clicks on ads and more interested in using spam to pump the rankings of another site.

Still, of all the potential indicators, it appears that search volume is the least helpful. The amount of Britney Spears spam, for example, remains remarkably low for the term and seems likely to stay that way.

But like the other factors, it is worth being aware of as it can give you a clue as to the problems that may be coming down the road.

What It Is Bad

None of this is to say that you should change your niche simply because it is targeted by spammers, just that having a topic targeted by them can create additional problems for your site. All in all, there are at least three reasons you should take note if your site does happen to fall in a spam-friendly niche:

  1. 1. Increased Scraping: Perhaps the first repercussion of having a spam-friendly niche is that your content will be scraped much more heavily than it would otherwise. This can even be the result of just sending out one post on a targeted keyword and is only amplified the more often such posts are made.
  2. 2. Increased Comment Spam: Though comment spam is more random in nature than scraping, there is an element of it that is keyword based. Posts and sites with popular spam keywords are more frequent targets for comment spam and sites that routinely deal with such topics may want to take extra anti-spam measures. Also note, in conjunction with the increased scraping, there will also be a rise in the amount of trackback/pingback spam.
  3. 3. Increased Confusion: If your site is in a spammy niche and users are likely to have seen many spam blogs in that area, you are going to have to work harder to ensure that users realize your blog is genuine. Likewise, there is an increase in the likelihood that search engines will confuse your product with spam or that your site will be dealing with strong search engine competition from its spam counterparts. All in all, setting your site apart from the spammers will be a much greater challenge.

The good news is that, with work and awareness, most of the problems that come from being in a spam-friendly zone can be overcome. by using known anti-scraping tools, taking anti-comment spam measures and clearly distinguishing yourself from the spammers, it is possible to thrive in these niches, as many blogs do.

Conclusions

It is far more important to write what you know and what you love than it is to avoid being in a spam-friendly niche. Spam attacks can be overcome, but there is no overcoming a lack of ambition or love for one’s topic.

But it is still important to be aware if your selected niche is a likely target for spammers. Doing so gives you the chance to take counter-measures and prevent the spammers from latching in too deep. It also gives you the chance to proactively search for and protect your content, block comment spam and work to separate yourself from the junk.

In short, being aware of the spamminess of your niche is the first, and most important, step in overcoming the drawbacks it brings. Fortunately, that is easy information to obtain.

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February 28, 2008

Instant Messaging Makes Move On Commenting

Is the Google Talk chatback widget/badge/gizmo a taste of things to come? Commenting is something that lots of people think is necessary on a blog, for it to be a blog. However, IM is something everybody understands, and isn’t that a preferred way to communicate with the blogger who’s post you just read and find widely entertaining/offensive, or just easy to react to?

– IM him then. Tell him off.
– He’s not on my list!
– Do it on his blog.
– How?
– With the Google Talk badge, stupid!

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February 8, 2008

Fighting Bloggers Take the Heat

In Do You Avoid a Fight by Chris Garrett here on the , he talks about bloggers picking fights or avoiding them, explaining how you can learn from those who disagree with you:

Those people, once calmed down, are extremely valuable to you. They are a chance to see another side, to improve what you do, to clarify your thinking. This is why you must always mean what you say and say what you mean.

If you really believe in what you write then you can welcome the chance of debating your point. That is not to say you should go looking for a fight, but if a fight finds you then you can be prepared for it.

I love criticism, when it is helpful. If you challenges me on an issue, I may not like what you have to say, but you have a point and you are welcome to it. I will listen, sifting it through my personal value sifter, and maybe you make sense. Maybe I can learn from the criticism. I’ll thank you one way or the other because I value my readers input that much.
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February 4, 2008

Where Do You Leave Your Comments?

When bloggers are quoting other bloggers and you want to comment on the issue, where do you leave your comment?

There are three different options:

  1. Comment on the the original post
  2. Comment on the post that quoted the original post
  3. Start a new post and use trackback/pingback to notify the other two posts

Which one do you choose?

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January 21, 2008

Encouraging your readers to comment, or not.

Filed as Features with 2 comments

I’ve never been much of a person to attempt to develop community. In fact if you look at my posts this week I think most people didnt want to comment on my posts possibly because I write in a tone that discourages comments. Maybe I don’t ask enough questions. Maybe because people ping me via AIM and Twitter and give me feedback. You know what I decided on a few of my sites. To just hang it up. To flat out remove the ability to comment. And on others I installed a WordPress plugin to encourage regular readers to comment more.

It’s called the Comment Prompt

This is a very simple plugin for wordpress 2.0+
The idea is to encourage lurkers and long term visitors to take the plunge and comment on your blog. Often people just need a little encouragement so this plugin will nag I mean encourage the user by posting a message to encourage them to post. Once they have posted their first comment it stops.

Either way blogs can be a platform for community or a platform for publishing or some sort of hybrid in between.

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January 17, 2008

Black Hat Commenting

When I brought up the subject of whether or not journalists should be required to comment on their team bloggers’ posts, I had a problem writing about it and I’m so glad that readers helped me think this issue through. I agree with most of the commenters. Journalists should not be forced to comment when there is nothing to say, but they should also support their team bloggers when and where they can. Forcing comments is so ugly.

Still, this issue plagues my spirit. Trying to understand this issue more, I was delighted to find an interesting twist on the subject from Mihaela Lica of Pamil Visions’ eWritings in the article, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde:
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January 15, 2008

Does Your Blog Comments Strip HTML and Links?

If your blog comments strip HTML and links when published, you are missing out on a meaningful part of the blog conversation.

I am always getting comments with links in them on my blogs. They direct the readers and myself to similar or related information, often information I need and have requested. I love links such as tips on how to do it better, answers to questions, or instructions on how to fix what’s broken, or links to their post so they can show off what they wrote, inspired by my work.

Unfortunately, comment spam is stuffed with links, making bloggers wary of comments, and many are taking drastic measures to exclude links from blog comments.

With HTML turned off or stripped away, all they can do is paste the link as part of the text. Long, unwieldy links that stretch across the comment form box, often breaking your blog’s web design. Long URL addresses can push your design’s containers and columns around, pushing your sidebar down below the content or overlapping the sidebar, making it difficult to read and see. By allowing links to be wrapped inside of HTML anchor tags, you can protect your blog’s design and make it look better, too. read more

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January 14, 2008

Being Safe When Allowing Guest Posts

For the busy blogger, accepting the occasional guest post can be a real win-win. They get a break from their normal writing routine and the guest blogger gets exposure to a new audience and some great promotion.

But while guest blogging can be mutually beneficial, it also comes with a new set of risks. Unlike comments, which are posted without any editorial control or initial oversight, bloggers who accept guest posts also accept both legal and professional risks.

So, before pushing a guest post live on your site, it is worthwhile to take a few moments to check and see if there are any potential problems with the work. After all, it only takes a few seconds to check a work for flaws but the headaches caused by unwittingly publishing something dubious can last the life of your site.

All one has to do is know what to look for.

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