August 16, 2017

Does Google disfavor blogger blogs?

On a Facebook Group on blogging, someone created doubt recently whether Google gives low value to blogs hosted on its own Blogger platform just to prove a point before enforcement authorities that it does not favor people using its services.

It looks logical, going by numerous court cases and questioning from national IT authorities such companies have to face globally, relating to anti-trust, monopolistic or restrictive practices. Or is it illogical?

Specifically, we saw the following arguments during discussion on that group:
  • Google deprecates Blogger blogs when it comes to its search preferences.
  • Blogger blogs that retain .blogspot ending are thought of as not too authoritative sites.
  • Google favors Wordpress blogs over Blogger blogs, for some curious reason.
  • In any case, search engines think low of blogs unless the blogs are maintained as regular websites.
I, or my colleagues here at ITB, have no clue about Google deprecating .blogspot blogs. And we believe, it won't do so. In fact, we have sometimes felt that good articles on Google Plus get higher prominence on Google search pages than what they would perhaps got if they were on other platforms.

If Wordpress blogs seem to get a higher SERP position than a Blogger blog with similar standing and content, that could be due to inbuilt SEO tweaks that the Wordpress blog might have. It is often reported that many free/ paid Wordpress themes have good SEO practices built in. Some SEO plugins available to Wordpress blogs might also be behind these pages getting higher search positions.

So, what Google can do on its Blogger platform is to make the themes/ templates SEO friendly in most ethical sense: make the blogs discoverable.

Blogger blogs are free, good.

Coming to blogs per se, blogs with .blogspot or .wordpress ending will definitely be taken less seriously because 
(i) the blogger has not invested money for maintaining the blog, and so does not display as much commitment towards the blog as one who pays for that; 
(ii) blogs with such endings share resources with millions of other blogs and may not be as efficient as independently hosted ones (in terms of speed, other technical qualities); 
(iii) such blogs are not efficient (and not search-robot friendly) because of too much coding that the free blogging platforms have to include so as to make the CMS with thousands of options suiting all types of users; and 
(iv) intrinsically pages as part of big domain (e.g. is part of a big domain, are seen to have less authority than independent domains.

But we don't agree that blogs get a greater visibility when maintained as regular websites. Regular updation, widgets and latest posts coming on top are qualities of blogs that make them far more search-friendly than regular, static, websites. If you find that a website with similar content comes on top of a SERP listing while the blog comes down, there could be other reasons such as age, content quality, quality of coding and site structure and effective search engine optimization.

In all, bloggers on Blogger platform need not shift to other platform just because of this apprehension. Some more quality consciousness, discipline in updation and a bit of SEO would more than compensate for whatever you had been missing.

August 12, 2017

3 types of comments can hurt your blog, and what should you do?

By default, blogs have the facility to invite comments. Some blog, especially those maintained by newspapers or big media houses, avoid comments. Some bloggers by design want no reactions to what they write. But their number is small. Most blogs allow comments.

Comments, indeed, are an integral part of blogging. In earlier days, when social networking sites were either not there or were not too popular, comments led to good social dialogue. However, now the role of comments on blogs has diminished. Yet, some blogs receive huge number of valuable comments. Personal blogs usually get comments of  'I comment on your blog, so you comment on mine' type, but don't we human beings love appreciation? So, such comments too have utility in boosting our morale or maintaining a minimum level of interaction on a particular subject.

When comments hurt the blog

In the following situations, comment do no good but hurt the blog, mostly in terms of reputation of the blog or blogger.

1. When comments have been made with the intent to hurt. 
These are the most damaging. They are made by trolls and online abusers, by people who hate you and want to fill your comment box with harmful content, by your competitors, by hackers out to spoil your party...These comments damage your reputation and blog's SEO, demoralize you, provoke you into stating things that you should not, and even steal your blog's private information with the intention to hack your blog and blackmail you.

2. When comments have been made with the intent of selfish gain. 
These are comments that look either absurd or innocent, but have been made by spammers to gain backlinks to their own sites. You can recognize them with non-human type names (e.g. 'great-insurance'), linked websites and content (that mostly talks of their business) and sometimes a link inside the comment. In many cases, such comments are generated automatically, using bots. These people are not particularly interested in harming you but gaining traffic points from your blog so that their sites get higher on search engines. However, they end up hurting your SEO and reputation and clog your comment stream. If you do not remove them, genuine commenters would not take you seriously.

3. When comments are made with no bad intent but still are bad.
There are comments that happen to hurt because of extreme opinions, undue criticism, inappropriate wordings and so on. The commenter - due to his cultural background, poor language skills, lack of etiquette, bad temper or just the tendency to over-react - hurts your blog.

Comment moderation helps in keeping all such comments in check. 

Before you can moderate comments, you need to stop them from directly appearing on the blog. For that, you need to change comment settings (Blogger and Wordpress have it inbuilt). Then you need to check the usefulness of each comment and approve comments that you want to appear on the blog.

On ITB, we often do experiments on ourselves. So, we stopped taking comments, changed over to Google Plus comments, and had a comment box in the sidebar. For a short while we also had Disqus-based  comment facility on ITB. Finally (as of now), we are back with regular comments, but with comment moderation before we allow them to appear on ITB. 
Say NO to bad comments!

If you have opened your blog recently, please follow this advice from the beginning: have full control over comments and not think that initially you need to have as many comments as possible and would start moderating them once the blog is popular. In any case, in this era of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, you cannot expect many comments on the blog, isn't it?

Relevant links from ITB on the topic:

How to avoid spammers putting links on comments
Pros and cons of different types of blog commenting
Discussion on whether comments have relevance on blogs in 2017
An old post on comment spam

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