July 21, 2017

Why is my blog not succeeding? Topic revisited in mid-2017

On Quora, bloggers have been asking this question in different ways. On Twitter chats, when it is blogging open house, this is a common refrain. The question has been answered perhaps a million times in a hundred different ways, and yet we need to answer it comprehensively, periodically.

Let's go step by step in 5 steps. It won't take much time.

Traffic, relevance, action, success

For a blog's success, irrespective of whether the final goal is earning or something else, you need a lot of traffic - so that your voice is heard far and wide. And the traffic needs to be relevant traffic - because it doesn't help if only such people visit your blog who are not interested in the information/ advice.

The message must do its job - because it doesn't help if interested people visit your blog but  immediately click away. People should read the article and then appreciate it/ make comments on it/ share it/ bookmark it/ take action on the advice given/ try or buy the product if the article seeks that/ and so on. You cannot expect every visitor to take action, and on an average only a small percent of visitors take action, but this percent is what matters. If engagement or clicks go from 2.5% to 5% or 10%, it matters significantly.

Why many people do not visit your blog

You opened the blog, have been writing great content, but getting only a few visits a day, why?

A. Have you ignored promotion?

People will not discover your blog or will not visit it often if you do not promote the blog well. Some content marketers say, you have to write 20%, promote 80%. That might be an extreme, but do promote your blog online and offline, through social media, bookmarking sites, email, etc. Do some sensible SEO too.

B. Have you chosen a niche that has too much competition, or no competition but no readers?

If you write on a very broad niche such as 'blogging', people will not discover you and will not take you as an authority till you are established. There are hundreds of thousands blogs and websites on this subject already. On the other hand, if you write on '10 inch heels in Thimpu', perhaps you won't find many takers. Most fashionable ladies in this hilly and tradition-bound city in Bhutan will seldom look for such shoes. 

C. Have you been writing on everything on earth?

If you are not focused on a closely-related group of topics, search engines will not rank you high for that topic. People will also not return to your blog (other problems with being un-focused is discussed later) and you will lose re-visits.

Why visitors do not stay on your website or blog for long enough

A. Have you promoted the blog wrongly?

When you give a misleading headline or optimize the site/ blog for keywords that are not relevant to the subject of blog posts, or send emails about it with deliberately wrong introduction, people might come to the blog but will feel cheated and leave immediately.

B. Does your blog lack focus?

Celebrities can afford to write at will, not a common blogger. Unless you have a fan following, people will not be interested in your stuff if it is not authoritative and focused. So, focus on closely-related topics.

C. Does your content sound fake, without value or superficial?

I do not want too many points so I have put all these points together. If your posts look a copy-paste job or give erroneous/ superficial information, people will will desert them even if they visit the blog by chance. 

right and wrong actions in blogging
Taking the right path is the key to success.

If the posts do not add value, visitors will leave you immediately. Value comes when articles are written by experts, when they analyze the topic well, when they give practical tips borne out of long experience. This applies to podcasts, videos and images as much as to articles.

D. Is your writing style too boring?

When you write long sentences and long paragraphs or write without a logical flow, visitors will leave you even if you talk sense. Does it need elaboration? 

In most cases, informal style helps. Breaking the big topic into segments that make sense helps too.

E. Do you write too causally or use inappropriate language?

Many web surfers are very sensitive when it comes to propriety. They will shun a blog, even complain about it to authorities or at least in their forums, when they find swear words, abuses, racial remarks, too much self-promotion/ bragging or too much criticism of others. 

F. Is your blog/ site's design at fault?

I will include webdesign as well as text formatting here. The design has to suit the subject of the blog and should appeal to the age and professional background of the target audience. Generally speaking, sober themes are liked more than too gaudy ones. 

Navigation is very important in design. There should be proper menus, buttons, widgets and links to guide the visitor to the content or he will leave you after reading one article. 

The blog should not look cluttered and should not have elements that annoy him (more on this aspect in a point below). 

The blog should generally avoid features that annoy people. These include immediately flashing popup, self-playing music or video, text animations, etc. These may have their place in blogging (e.g. popups) but you should choose them with care and not make them annoying.

Text formatting should be such that it aids reading: You should have sub-headings where needed, quotes in italics, small paragraphs, long passages broken by images, and proper font type and size.
Why is that people visit you but you get hardly any interaction or shares

A. Do you ignore interacting with others? 

Starting a website or blog is one thing, creating a community around it is another. Unless you proactively work on engagement, it does not come automatically. Visiting others' blog, forums and communities/ groups and commenting there also invites others' responses to your own blog.

B. Do you forget social networking and bookmarking?

In the age of social media, you cannot ignore it and think that people will visit you on their own. It does not happen that way, since most web surfers spend most of their time on social networks, be it Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, Twitter or others. More than that, they are active on chat apps such as WhatsApp.

Bookmarking is not as natural as social networking, but if you are active on StumpleUpon, Digg or Reditt, chances are that your content is shared by more people. 

Social media interactions do get traffic to blogs but the reason I have put social sites here is that essentially social networking and bookmarking is for interaction.
Why do people not take action, e.g. visiting the 'call to action' page or clicking on advertisements

A. Are there too many or irrelevant or wrongly placed ads on the blog?

Well, experts on earning from blogs would tell you that you must place ads in most visible places and big enough for people to take action. Yes, that might happen if the ad is relevant and has been served exactly when the visitor wanted to check the subject of the ad (Google can be very good at it, at times.) At the same time, people are likely to go away on finding an irrelevant and big ad staring in their faces. Even if visitors stay on the blog, there are chances that they will be put off by the ad and not take action you like them to take. Why should small blogs take chance? 

B. Is there a 'call to action' at all? If yes, it may not be rightly stretegised.

Most personal blogs do not have a clear 'call to action' or a prompt to the visitor to take some action. Some bloggers are shameless about their call: buy this, tweet this, If you comment on my blog, I will comment on yours. Very few professional bloggers think about this important aspect of blogging, and not all do it professionally.

In the case of professional blogs, the call to action can be a subtle prompt to try something that you advise or to join a cause or to buy something from you or your affiliate partner... 

This space is not enough to tell how to goad people into doing something that you want them to do. However, let me emphasize that if people are not acting on your advice, you might not have applied mind on how to mold your blog's design, static pages, widgets and language towards that.

C. Do people feel that your recommendations are not worth taking any action?

If the blog does not look resourceful enough, people might not be convinced about your authority on the subject. This would include number of posts and pages and also their quality. For example, if your gadget review site has just a few reviews and those too very old, a visitor will not value your advice; however, he will be hooked if those few posts are exceptionally brilliant.  

Go ahead friend, take some little actions towards quality and promotion. All the best from ITB!

July 15, 2017

Should I crop image before resizing it for blog and social media, or the other way round?

For some reason, all social websites want us to post images of a particular size, which is not common between any two of them. I don't know if they want to test our knowledge or get fun out of our discomfort. Anyway, let's leave it to them. 

The fact, seriously, is that you need to resize photos taken from digital camera or mobile phone, so as to suit them to different social media accounts or other websites. Sometimes you need photos in a particular dimension or size for other purposes.

A few quick theoretical points before we discuss how to do things the right way.

Talking of photo dimensions and image size

Though photos and drawings are always rectangular, the relative measurements of width and height can lead to a variety of shapes, like a very tall but narrow one, a very wide one, a square, and so on. (By the way, with some exceptions, even round or oval pictures have corresponding rectangular dimensions.)

Talking of size, photos can be very large or small - the sizes are usually measured in cm x cm / inch x inch / pixel x pixel multiplications. Pixels,  which are the smallest pieces of pictures, something like tiny dots, are often used to describe a photo's size: A picture of 1000 px height and 1000 px width will be composed of 1000 x 1000= 1 million pixels and thus will be of 1mp or 1 megapixel size. A 5mp camera picture will have around 2580x2048 pixels if it the camera takes pictures in 5:4 (or 5 wide by 4 tall) ratio.

What is image cropping and how it differs from resizing 

When you cut portions of an image, it is called cropping. On the other hand, you can resize the image into a bigger or smaller size - that is resizing.

When you crop an image, its quality remains the same. Cropping is done to make the picture more compact, better framed and smaller. When you resize a photo, its quality suffers because the software either adds more pixels to it or removes pixels from it here and there.


Look at the image above and examine photos 1,2 and 3 inside it.

The first one is the original photo of sunset over sea. The photographer perhaps wanted to show the play of colors in a sky captured wide. The layered clouds and vastness of sky give a feel of calm though it is full of 'warm' colors, isn't it? 

In the second pic, I have cropped the sides of the picture. Suddenly the sun is in focus, and you get the feel of a hot sun which has colored the clouds orange. You can crop pictures to remove extra background so that the main object comes in focus.

In the third one, I have resized the original picture. It has the same elements as the first one, but it is now too small to show details of clouds. If I made it smaller, you'd miss the layering of clouds. If the sea had playful waves, they would be completely lost.

Now have a look at pics 5 to 8. The challenge is to fit the picture on top to the rectangle below. If I crop  the pic from all sides, leaving the face so that it fits into the rectangle (pic 6), it removes all the surroundings. The picture could have been shot inside a room or anywhere else. The face has also not come full.

Ok, lets squeeze the pic into the given space by resizing it. Since the ratio of width x height of the rectangle is not the same as of the original pic, the face has got distorted (pic 7).

What I did to achieve pic 8 is that I first removed some surroundings by cropping it from two sides. (There is nothing to remove from top and I do not want to remove the scarf around the child's neck as it frames her face so well.) When I was sure that the pic is in the same ratio as the orange rectangle, but slightly bigger, I resized it to perfectly match the rectangle.

So, my advice for reducing the size of picture is:
  1. Crop the pic as much as you can to bring it to the same ratio as the required size. Remove only the things that do not add good value to the picture.
  2. Resize it without changing the ratios. 

Look at pic 4. Suppose you have to crop the given picture to fit into the smallest rectangle. By looking at this pic, you know that it has more width than height when compared to the target size. So the best way to fit it into the smallest rectangle is to first crop it to the middle rectangle's size and then resize it. 

Now let's see how the sequence changes when we need to enlarge a picture. If you are to fit the picture in pic 4 into the biggest rectangle, you will again need to bring it to the same ratio. So, you have two options: (i) Crop it to first make it to middle rectangle size and then resize it to the big rectangle size or (ii) resize it to cover the biggest rectangle and then crop the extra width. In the first option, once you have cropped the pic, you don't have a choice to adjust it later. In the second option, you will have a big pic, which you can adjust left or right before cropping the width.

Let me close the discussion with what we learned and something extra:
  • Resize pictures in the same ratio as the original picture, unless you deliberately want some distortion. 
  • If you want to check ratios of pictures but pixels confuse you, pick up a scale and place it on the computer screen and measure sizes. The scale measurement of screen has no other value, but it will give you the ratios quickly.  
  • Too much resizing reduces the quality of picture. If you need to resize too much, do it in steps, about 20% at a time. 
  • Generally speaking, crop and then resize when reducing size; resize and then crop when increasing size. 
  • Most free software and apps are good enough for cropping and resizing but every time you edit and save the picture, its quality is likely to go down. Only the professional software (Photoshop, free Gimp) can do lossless editing.  
Like to see our earlier posts relating to image quality, putting images on blogs, social media image sizes, infographics, starting a video blog, etc? Image articles on ITB

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