October 25, 2016

Short blog posts are bad, long posts are better, series is the best!

You might have come across advice to go for long posts as Google likes them. Or that writing one post a day or near-about that frequency helps you dominate your niche. Such advice often emerges from experts, who give the advice in a context, and copy-pasting experts spread them all around as stand-alone tips with fail-proof results.

But why this bashing of fake-experts was required here, you might ask.

Yes, there is a purpose. If you go for a fixed length or frequency of blog posts after getting convinced of a tip and without applying your mind, the tip is going to hurt the blog.

Should I have long articles on my blog? Google loves them, isn't that a fact?

Yes. Google loves in-depth articles and long articles. Some sites doing research on what search engines love have found that longer articles are generally better placed on search pages.

But the importance of length needs to be judged in many terms: whether it is liked by readers, whether readers read all that is written in long articles, to what extent do search engines prefer long articles over short ones?

Nothing describes the readers' response to the length of articles on the web than this data analysis by Medium on 'optimum post size'. It was found that most readers prefer articles that can be read in 7 minutes (that comes to about 1600 words), which is way too high as compared to normal blog articles. However, at the end, Medium concluded thus: Great posts perform well regardless of length, and bad posts certainly don’t get better when you stretch them out. https://medium.com/data-lab/the-optimal-post-is-7-minutes-74b9f41509b#.xe3t367ii

Such long articles or blog posts, when written by experts and after due research, are gems and are referred by readers and shared on their own web-spaces. These add to the reputation of the blogger and the website/blog itself. Google has advised on its own blogs and webmaster guidelines that longer articles with quality content are likely to rank higher on search pages. Google's in-depth articles are a class by itself, and Google wants them to be...

Different search engine experts have found different optimal lengths for blog posts, ranging from 1500 words to over 2000 words.

As for SEO, long posts are more amenable to keyword management. They would also get more back-links when referred to by readers. If their content is ever-green, which is more likely with long posts, they keep getting traffic for a long time without any additional effort.

Before we answer the question whether you should, therefore, have very long articles on the blog, let's consider other factors.

Are short articles really bad for reputation and SEO?

Short articles are, by their very nature, small takes on something. They cannot analyze a subject deeply. Serious readers looking for information or advice would find them superficial.

Short articles also take very little time to read. So, readers are likely to quickly browse them and go away.

Short articles lose badly against long articles especially when they are churned carelessly at a high frequency as they are seen by search algorithms as without much value. In extreme cases, they look spammy.

On a short article, you can apply keywords only once or twice, as any more would be seen as 'keyword stuffing'. which is hated by search engines.

But short articles also have their good points. In this age of short attention span and competition with Facebook and Twitter, short posts are what are likely to be fully read, shared and commented upon. Short articles can also be full of value when they are focused on a narrow subject, and this suits internet searchers very well when they look for specific information.

Short posts are mobile-friendly. As more and more people are accessing the web on their smartphones, short posts are naturally the winner.

Some types of posts are better written in short. News snippets, gossips, quotes, daily prayers, quick DIY tips, etc are more effective when served in small dozes. Photo essays, posts with info-graphics and static pages (e.g. about me, landing pages) also are better with just a small reading passage.

The best part of short posts and articles is that they can be written fast. This could be a virtue for busy bloggers who would not be able to write at all if they were to write only long posts.

Should I write a few long posts or many short posts on my blog?

Let's come to the decision point now. The ideal or optimal numbers prescribed here are an average; you should adjust them according to your blog platform (standard blog? Medium/ LinkedIn/ Facebook? blog as part of website?), goal (how-to? book review? local sale? hobby blog?), niche, type of readers (young? urban? highly educated?) etc.

Have a mix of length and frequency. Many short posts followed by a long one. Internally link short posts to the long one (only if it is relevant). If you have a serious blog (we consider this blog, ITB, in that category), have majority or all posts of long type.

Maintain a very high quality of long posts. They must serve value by analyzing a topic from many angles, giving wide information and links to reputed resources,

Break the long post with photographs, illustrations, headlines, etc.

If new to blogging and did not have time to build resources before launching the blog, write many short posts in quick succession but sprinkle the blog with one or two long posts at least once in a month.

Don't ever inflate the post by repeating the same thing again and again.

If you have a lot of matter that is going a bit too long (beyond 2000 words), think of breaking the post into a series. Series suits especially when individual articles can stand on their own. When read together, they act like a compendium on the subject. We'd discuss this aspect in the next post.

October 20, 2016

Is Internet in peril after US cedes control of ICANN?

Imagine an internet run like many Middle Eastern countries, that punish what they deem to be blasphemy... Or imagine an internet run like China or Russia, that punish and incarcerate those that engage in political dissent. says Ted Cruz.

Internet freedom is now at risk with the president's intent to cede control to international interests, including countries like China and Russia, which have a long track record of trying to impose online censorship, says Stephen Miller, Trump's policy director.

Are these apprehensions valid? What happens to internet when the internet body called ICANN goes out of a binding agreement with the US government?

ICANN and the management of Internet addresses

The internet addresses presently are assigned by a non-profit organization called Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is governed by an agreement with the US government.

After the expiry of the agreement, that happened on 30th September, 2016, the oversight of the US government - though indirect and rarely used - has ended.

Opposition politicians in the US were agitated over this abandonment of control. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and others took Obama to task for this. Four Republican state attorneys sought a restraining order from a federal judge but failed.

In the past 47 years of Internet's existence, the job of assigning and closely implementing the operation of IP addresses has grown tremendously as the technology has grown beyond anybody's expectations. Initially, the Ministry of Defense of the US did the job and when ICANN was created in 1998, the responsibility was taken over by this body. 

Though ICANN's working was has not been free from criticism, it has rather appreciably handled the job in the face of numerous challenges. 

The supporters of US control feel that now the organization might lose control and play in the hands of authoritarian nations and private players. Much of their protest is political, as instead of being the sole supervisor, the US now becomes one of nearly 165 nations in the Governmental Advisory Committee.

More details on the transition and Internet governance

The governance of internet has been a matter of debate since inception of ICANN. A large number of social organizations wanted it to be free from US control, even if technical, and it being governed by the global community. Some nations had mooted the idea to give control of ICANN's functions to an international body such as ITU.

In March 2014, the US Department of Commerce asked ICANN to convene the global community of Internet stakeholders and produce a plan for placing the internet addressing system in the hands of ICANN, with no binding agreement with the US government. This transition plan, the Department directed, must meet a series of strict criteria.

Till the transition plan was accepted, ICANN was to remain bound by its agreement with the US Department of Commerce. An agency within the Department, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) did the actual oversight over the Internet's addressing system.

In March this year, ICANN submitted 'IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal' to NTIA. (IANA stands for Internet’s addressing system, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.) 

The period just before March and after that has been very hectic. A large number of US industries and other organizations supported the move while a number of politicians and organizations opposed it. Internationally too, a big debate ensued in which global internet organizations, UN bodies, governments, social groups... all had their say. ICANN itself and people behind it had to carry out a large number of transitional works and lobbying with stakeholders all over the world.

In June, the offer was accepted by the Department and it was decided to free ICANN from NTIA stewardship from 1st October, 2016.

On 30th September, ICANN’s contract with NTIA was allowed to expire. As a result, the coordination and management of the Internet’s unique identifiers becomes fully privatized and in the hands of the multi-stakeholder community.

Interesting though it may sound in the midst of the hype created by Trump and others, ICANN does not control the internet; it controls only the matters relating to internet addresses. In fact, most of technological aspects of internet are governed by a society called the Internet Society (ISOC). Founded in 1992, ISOC now has over a hundred organizations and thousands of individuals as its members. Its aim is to foster global cooperation and coordination on Internet technologies. It also serves as a global clearinghouse for Internet related information.  A number of international bodies work under the oversight of ISOC and ICANN to administer and oversee networking, technology, standards, addresses and names, and various other aspects. A number of UN bodies too have a role in coordinating different matters.

What happens now to Internet addresses?

Rest assured, nothing changes as far as governance of Internet or even internet addresses is concerned. 

There are likely changes in the naming system but these will be to accommodate new demands. ICANN is not going to be in the hands of rogue nations or ugly commercial interests the way some US politicians forewarned.