May 30, 2016

Directory of Best Indian Blogs 2015-16 edition is out!

The 2015-16 edition of the Directory of Best Indian Blogs is in your hands.  

best-indian-blogs-directory
This sixth edition of the Directory has 306 blogs. Out of the previous edition, as many as 52 blogs have gone out but an equal number of new blogs have checked in. If something has remained constant, it is the minimum standards of content quality, design (including navigation) and updation. 

As before, we have winked at the look & feel aspects when we found the blog doing a good service to the blogosphere by way of good information, debate and advice.
Blogs have arranged according to the operative part of the blog's URL. The category-wise version of the Directory will come out later.

You can visit the Directory at the following link:

=========
For bloggers whose blogs are listed in the blog directory:
You may consider putting the badge as seen above on your blog. This is purely voluntary. For putting the badge on your blog, copy the html code given in blue text below and paste it somewhere in a post (if you can edit the post in html view) or in an html gadget/ widget.
<a href="http://www.indiantopblogs.com/p/the-directory-of-best-indian-blogs.html"><img src="https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-kaNUzR4dkdc/V0mucQhMkaI/AAAAAAAADmk/P0jpKOBtLZM9gV9JPfCjRzVQUoIWtmdLgCLcB/s1600/Indian-top-blogs.png" style="border: 1;" /></a>
=========
DISCLAIMER
Inclusion of a blog in this Directory is no certificate from ITB. We cannot be held responsible for any harm due to a blog’s inclusion in this Directory. We also do not take responsibility for any inappropriate content of any type including defamation, plagiarism, use of inappropriate text and audio-visual material, etc carried by any blog listed in the Directory, though at the time of Directory compilation, we took due care not to include blogs with inappropriate content in the Directory.

If your blog is in the Directory and you don’t want it here for any reason, do tell us and we will immediately unburden you of the listing.

May 25, 2016

Have Indian blogs changed in the last one year? For better?

The compilation of the 2015-16 edition of the Directory of Best Indian Blogs is in full swing. The directory will come out on 30th May, as in the past.

Some observations on Indian blogosphere, now that we have passed the stage of scouring it to find the best blogs.

  • The Indian English blogosphere remains as active as before, only slightly more. This despite the onslaught of Facebook and WhatsApp in the Indian social scene.  Blogs are also more linked with social network accounts.
  • Technology blogs are coming up in large numbers but not many go beyond the experimentation stage of about six months. Out of those remaining active for longer periods, most give quick posts on gadgets or shell out routine tips. Only a few quality tech blogs seem to be doing well.
  • Majority of good blogs keep updating at a steady pace; but only a few change their look and feel.
  • The trend of making money from blogs continues, though not as professionally as blogs in the western countries. AdSense remains the most popular means of monetization.
  • Blogs in some categories such as food, tech and beauty & fashion seem to be doing well. People open blogs in these niches with the intent to make money, as against personal blogs: that seems to be keeping them motivated to generate good content, constantly improve design, optimize the blog and socialize. 
  • Like we have seen in the last 6 years, a number of established blogs also turn dull or go out of circulation. Most such blogs are personal blogs or those commenting on all things political / social. 
  • Blogs that are not active in terms of content updation and engagement are losing to social networks (Facebook etc) fast.
  • A few blogs have evolved into websites and the blog is now part of that. Some bloggers have, perhaps to make their blog look sleek and modern, removed their bloggy look altogether. We get a feeling that the 'evolution' is retrograde, unwise, in most such cases. That reminds us of an earlier post of ours on whether it is advisable to give website-like look to the blog.
  • We'd be able to give exact number of new entries into and exclusions from 2014-15 edition, when we announce the new edition. Many of those being dropped have not been updated regularly; some no longer act like blogs but websites; a few have fallen prey to harmful widgets from the web; some have been removed or have become private; at least one has got mingled up during change from Blogger to Wordpress; one blog in the previous edition of the directory has been hacked. A few good blogs that had gone out of the directory in 2014-15 after being in it in the previous years have come back. 

That's all for now. Do visit us on 30th May to find which were the best Indian blogs in the last one year.

You might like to visit some of our earlier posts on Indian blogosphere, which are still relevant, in this series: Blogging habits of Indian bloggers, their levels of activity and influence, their future.

May 21, 2016

Allo, Duo, are you up-to-date on Google technology?

Update: Allo has been launched, with Google Assistant, in September 2016.   

What is Google going to offer us in 2016 and beyond?


daydream-by-Google-Indian-blogsGoogle's annual event I/O 2016 has just ended. If you have not been following the event closely, we bring you the summary of what the tech giant showcased at the event and what's its vision for the years to come.

The range of technology discussed and displayed included 
Google-assistant-Indian-blogs - web assistance (Google Assistant),
- voice-command and speaker device (Google Home - like Amazon Echo),
- messaging app (Allo - like Facebook Messenger),
- video calling app (Duo),
- virtual reality platform (Daydream),
- next version of wearable technology (Android Wear 2.0),
- instant app installation on mobiles (Android Instant App),
- next version of Android (Android N - preview 3),
- more for developers at Google Play,
and some more.

Most of the stuff was for geeks and developers, not for people like us - non-techies. Yet, we got a glimpse of what Google would offer us users in the coming days.

  • Had a chance to use Google's Cardboard yet? You are going to get virtual reality (VR) functionalities on your phone now, but only on new phones. "By next year, most new smartphones will have VR in-built," Google feels. Together with it, you will have much more VR content on YouTube.
  • On your Android phone, you are going to see multiple windows that can be easily slid, and also picture-in-picture.
  • You will have a wireless assistant, called Google Assistant, that would carry out your commands that you speak out. The small white-grey wi-fi speaker sitting in a corner of your house is likely to give Amazon's echo some tough competition. Maybe, by the end of 2016.
  • You will have another chatting app, competing with Facebook Messenger and Snapchat in different ways. As it will be integrated with Google's virtual assistant, it would make instant suggestions based on your chat history and so on. Called Allo, it should be out soon.
  • Have you been using Hangouts, the video  conferencing app? Now Google offers Duo, a one-to-one video chat app. Google claims, Duo will come with high reliability and many features.
  • Your Android phone would now not need to download a whole app when you need it in the middle of browsing. It will download a module required for your very purpose instantly and play it for you.
  • We have moved from physical to laptop first to mobile first. Now comes AI first. AI (artificial intelligence) is one of the core areas in which Google is spending a lot of energy. It envisions a scenario, to arrive rather soon, in which you ask the virtual assistant to do whatever you have been doing on computers and mobile phones now. We saw a glimpse of it in the I/O conference, and Google promised to bring it into our lives fast.

May 19, 2016

How do brands engage with consumers, respond to queries?

Long back, we came across a quote something like this: If it is not engaging, it is not social media. 

Yet, for brands, it seems that social media is just another place where they should publicize their brand. Full stop. 

We would come to broad social engagement a bit later. First, a recent study on how brands take customers for granted on social media.
 
The study by Sprout tells us, brands are poor in responding to customer messages, in many ways.

Brands are also choosy in whom to reply. In spite of the high volume of messages that require a response, brands reply to just 11% of people (a number that’s been stuck in neutral since 2015), the study says.

As if that was not enough, brands take an average of 10 hours to respond, far too late for social media. Sprout says, the average time should not be more than 4 hours, and that if a brand does not respond in time, the customer is likely to move away - possibly to a competitor.
 
Brands also over-promote themselves. As per this study, the ratio is 23 promotional messages to one response!

Brands beware: engage actively and fast on social media 


Take a leaf from the findings of the study quoted above. The study says,
  • 73% of people have had a negative experience with a brand on social.
  • 36% of people have used social to shame a company for poor customer service.
  • 30% of people will go to competitor if a brand doesn’t respond.

Are brands even telling their stories well?


Responding poorlyis the second part of their indifference. The first one is: brands are not even telling what should be told and in a way that the audience listens.

Most brands just broadcast what they want to. The tone usually is: my product is fantastic... you are lucky to have seen it... look at the photo / video... click here to buy it...

Some of the brands utilize the services of big marketing and advertising companies who tell them how to create interest... play with emotions... induce worry and then give solution... tell stories... share the good words others are saying about your product...

But hardly any brand is seen on the web unselfishly helping people to solve their little problems. Seldom is a brand seen holding a hand needing help, using the so powerful tool called social media. If there are offers or discounts, these come only to lure you

In this money chase, customer is a 'use and throw' guy whom they treat with the contempt, 'get away if you ain't buying'. 

There are brands that care. These are the brands who engage through different means of communication. They have you in mind not only as a potential or real customer, but also a well-wisher, a friend. Social media offers a highly effective tool to them for such engagement. 

What is social engagement, by the way?


Hubspot carried an article sometime back in which it talked of responses of Chief Marketing Officers of 45 companies. They found that 9 out of 10 of them didn't know how to engage with customers. 

The following statement of Hubspot resonates with what we said above. It says, The biggest barrier to engagement is the lack of trust. Building trust involves unselfishness, which means 'delivering what is in the best interest of the other person in the relationship.'  
 
"Ah!" You might say, "What help do the top web brands such as Wikipedia and National Geographic do to customers?" We need not elaborate but just request you to look what their product is and who their customers are. You will agree that they are helping more than most mediocre brands. An great brand of yester-years, Encyclopedia Britannica, lost badly when it acted small-hearted and asked people to shell out money for information (info that was getting fast curated on the web); now it offers lots of information for free, but is not among the top brands as it could not recoup its earlier reputation.  

By the way, giving one's products free is not always the best way to help others. You can help with genuine information on how to choose the best product, comparisons, ideas that people can use, fast and excellent customer service, answering queries and offering solutions, and perhaps some free stuff too.

Brands, we pray to you to engage with customers on social media and help them solve their problems. If not, your brand will turn a dodo in no time.

May 14, 2016

Facebook trending controversy, tax on blogging and other social media updates

Does Facebook manipulate its 'trending topics' list?

    
The 'Trending Topics' that you see on Facebook is not based solely on popularity and user action as the social network has been claiming. Last week, an ex-employee spilled the beans that human intervention is indeed there in selection of the trending list. 

Reports say, Facebook is seen suppressing conservative news. Following such reports of politically biased editing of the trending list, Facebook has made their review guidelines public. Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has offered to meet conservative leaders to explain the matter.
 
In response to the controversy, the trending review process has now been explained thus on Facebook blog, we have a series of checks and balances in place to help surface the most important popular stories, regardless of where they fall on the ideological spectrum. Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to discriminate against sources of any political origin, period. 
   

Videos are the new social media language, any doubt?


Snapchat says, it has 10 billion video views a day; sometime back Facebook confirmed 8 billion videos are watched on this platform in a day. The numbers are not comparable, since they count videos differently, but the numbers are humongous, aren't they?

Add to that a recent prediction that by the end of next year (2017), 74% of all internet traffic will be video-based. As video ads are reported to be more effective than others, these are growing fast; an industry study says, video ad industry is growing at nearly 20% a year as compared to display ads by about 3%. An industry watcher says, online video ad spend will total $23.7 billion by 2017.


Blogging income liable to self-employment tax, rules US tax court      

  
In a case involving a video blog, the US tax court at Washington DC has held that blogging is 'trade or business' if intended to earn profit, and that the income made by the blogger is subject to self-employment tax. 

Seen Instagram's new logo?

   
If you are not regular on Instagram, you might have missed its new clean and colorful logo. On its blog, Instagram has shown some mashups created
around the logo by people.

Checked the Twitter 'connect' tab on the app on mobile?

   
Have you discovered the new connect tab on the right hand top of Twitter mobile app? It is the latest feature on this social network, meant for easily discovering people to follow. Based on people you already follow, you’ll see a detailed list of people and accounts we think you’ll enjoy following, all easily accessible in one place, says Twitter.

May 11, 2016

travelseewrite


travel-blog"The objective of this blog is to inspire and empower people to explore new and offbeat places across the world without spending a fortune. 


I am a solo traveler and have been managing to see the world on my own, in spite of having a full-time high-pressure corporate job.

Who says you can't have best of both the worlds. Travel See Write is the proof of my conviction. As Jon Krakauer said, "Happiness (is) only real when shared." This blog is my tool for sharing my happiness with others."


- Archana

May 4, 2016

How to start a beauty blog and take it to great heights

A beauty blog is a regularly updating website in which beauty-related topics are discussed, products are reviewed, advice on traditional and new beauty concepts is given, latest offers and trends are brought to readers' notice. 
As beauty and fashion are closely related, fashion trends or matching fashion advice are expected too.
 

What makes a beauty blog 'great'?

A search on Google for 'beauty blog' gives 157 million results and that for 'fashion blog' 211 million! but if we evaluate these on high standards of content quality, regularity and blogging craft, only a few thousand blogs would remain in our list. Well, if you evaluate all these million on their earning, you'll get a few thousand blogs, many of which will be  mediocre in one or the other aspect but well-monetized. 
  
What we mean to say is that if money is your primary concern, yours need not be a GREAT BLOG. On the other hand, if yours is an INTRINSICALLY GREAT BLOG, it will not only earn reputation and goodwill it will also have a very high potential for earning.

A great blog in this genre has all or most of these qualities:
  • Detailed posts.
  • High quality content that is originally crafted and that shows expertise in one or more aspects of human beauty and fashion.
  • Content that is useful and informative. A variety of content.
  • Content that is without bias, and not based on hearsay or unscientific belief.
  • Reviews that are unbiased, and with a clear disclosure if these are sponsored.
  • Regular updation.
  • Good blog design and looks; fine use of colors,  spaces. 
  • Good navigation, labeling of posts, archives.
  • Use of formatting, font styles and contrast for better readability. 
  • Good use of images and videos on posts.
  • Engagement with commenters, and outreach through social networking sites such as Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter; also presence on photo and video sharing networks such as Instagram and Vimeo.      

    How to make a beauty blog? What if I want it free?

    First comes starting the blog. Creating a blog on Blogger is a child's play. Same goes for Wordpress. Both these platforms have tools enough to craft a good beauty blog, that too free!

    If you open a free Blogger blog, its name would be something like this: beautyxyz.blogspot.com. On Wordpress, like this: beautyxyz.wordpress.com. You can later map the blog to an independent domain name (e.g. beautyxyz.com) so that it looks professional. If you are already a well-known industry expert or a personality, you can have the blog's name and title in your name (e.g. Lisa EldridgeMichellePhan); if you are a newbie, choose a name that has to do something with your main area of interest but don't make it too narrow (e.g. if your blog is www.haircoloring.com, it will look odd when you later decide to have bridal makeup as your main theme). When it grows big and resources of free platforms no longer serve your purpose, you can decide to host it independently on a web host.

    We generally advise opening a Blogger blog as it is very easy to set up and is totally free. It can later be converted into type ii blog, i.e. with an independent domain name, with just domain charges to be paid per year. A Wordpress.com blog too is free but Wordpress charges dollars if you upgrade some features. You also have to pay if you want to map it with an independent domain name.
     
    Hosting a blog independently (no link with Blogger or Wordpress) costs you money
      
    Top established bloggers and companies directly go for independent domain name and hosting option. If you have all the resources, start with that. Otherwise, go for the free option and then upgrade in stages.

    Video beauty blog  

     

    One great way to blog on beauty and fashion matters is to open a YouTube channel and keep adding videos on it. If you do not have time for that, you can occasionally put a video on YouTube and link it well on the blog and other social network accounts. 

    You don't need sophisticated video equipment or expertise on video editing; just shooting yourself at home with a mobile phone would do initially. Videos can be on how to do make up, manicure, prepare a facepack, color hair and so on. These will be small videos that you can shoot in your bedroom. Try to teach something new or doing old things in an easier way or what not to do. As there will already be thousands of videos already on YouTube on the same subject, being fresh and imaginative is important. 

    Videos get you relevant traffic. These are evergreen and visitors keep viewing them and coming back to you. If even one video is liked by people, it will pave way for your success, and fast. Once you have some small videos, you can run a series of tutorials and 'how-to's. 
      
    We have published a detailed article on different aspects of video blogging.  

    Any limits, investment required, pre-conditions?


    If you apply your mind on different aspects of blogging, you can have all the qualities that are listed above even in a free blog. You hardly need knowledge of web technology. Yes, if you want traffic and money, you would need to know tricks of content marketing and SEO.
          
    There are no pre-conditions for having a beauty blog.
    None, other than your passion for and expertise on the subject. There are advantages of having your blog an independent domain name and its hosting on a less-crowded server. But these are not pre-conditions. You can, after some time, migrate your free blog to a new name and host.  
    Brush:free photo from StockSnap


    Remember, successful blogging requires regular work on the blog and lots of patience. That also means reading fashion blogs and magazines and being up-to-date. Closely following celebrity and movie makeup and fashion trends. Maybe, investing some money on a good camera if you want to publish your own photos. Perhaps spending a little on buying a domain name. And when you have grown, definitely some investment on professional design, mail management and e-commerce facilities on the blog. If you are not blogging just as a hobby but want to earn money, you must take blogging as a business, no less.
        

    How do I set up a dashing beauty blog that makes money?

    Once you have at least a few dozen posts, some standalone pages and the blog has run for 8-9 months, think of earning from it.
     
    Beauty blogs can be easily monetized, though there is much competition. For that, you must have a plan.

    Do you have all that is needed of a beauty blogger who earns big money?


    Analyze your strengths first. Ask yourself all relevant questions, some peripheral ones too. Do you have a boutique? Have you done a beautician course? Do you have good knowledge of human biology, especially skin? Do you have  some appreciation about diet, chemistry of beauty products, etc? Do you keep yourself up-to-date on latest developments in this field? Are you in a location where women go for beauty treatments? Do you attend beauty classes, workshops etc in your area? Do you have mastery over the language in which you will blog? Can you visualize writing long posts with very useful advice that other blogs don't have? Can you take photos with your camera or mobile phone, which suit the blog? How much time can you spare for blogging? Do you understand the craft of blogging - some style, some placement of widgets, some navigation tweaks...? Do you know a bit of html, SEO, social media management? Do you have a good friendship circle? Do you have a buzzing social media circle on Facebook, WhatsApp, Google Plus, Twitter, etc? Do you know some top beauty queens and socialites or are you one of them? Are you in beauty business or are associated with companies doing beauty business?  ... and the final question: Are you really deeply interested in being beautiful and making others beautiful OR you want to do beauty blogging just to earn quick money?
       
    Based on this analysis, make a list of topics on which you will write and how you will compose your posts. On some permanent topics, think of making static pages and placing them prominently on the blog

    A pretty face: StockSnap
    Think of your target audience and decide how you will approach them using the blog.

    The actual task of making money from the beauty blog is not that difficult but needs systemic approach and patience.

    What content is great for making money?


    Product review is one important stream for earning dollars from beauty and fashion blogsIf you regularly do good product reviews on the blog, beauty product makers and sellers will themselves approach you for paid reviews. They will also send you samples and background information on products. 

    You can review services of beauticians, spas, boutiques, massage parlors etc also, but such reviews are best done with their permission so that they do not object to use of their photographs etc

    In all cases, you should be unbiased in your reviews; if a product or service is too bad, avoid reviewing it. 

    Why just reviews, carry comparisons among similar products. Comparisons get more visits and you'd also see more relevant PPC ads (see below) on the blog.

    Affiliate advertising is another paying stream. In this system, you put ads of affiliates (=partners) and when someone buys their product through your websites, you get paid. The payment is much more as compared to pay per click (PPC) ads described below. 

    For affiliation, you have to register yourself as a publisher by going to affiliate sites/ networks, and then they guide you how to select ads etc. Some big merchants will not put ads on your website unless you have a minimum number of page-views and when your content is relevant to their product.

    The common affiliate networks and aggregators include CJ, Amazon, Clickbank, Rewardstyle, Linkshare, Skimlinks and Chitika. Some of these might not be working in your location, some might have products not suitable for your blog (as these are not available in your country, etc) and some might not suit you for other reasons. Your country might have some other retailer chains or networks that offer affiliation. Take some time checking them to find the best suited affiliate for your blog; it is not desirable to have more than one affiliate's links on the same blog.

    Pay per click (PPC) advertising is the most common way to monetize a beauty or fashion blog. You have to put advertisements provided by the PPC ad provider (e.g. Google, for AdSense) and whenever somebody clicks on these ads, you are paid a small sum. AdSense is the best and biggest PPC advertisement service. However, for handsome earning from PPC, your blog must get good and relevant traffic.

    We'll mention direct ads here but unless one is very well established, such advertisements do not come easily. As a small blogger, you can forget them unless you know someone in a cosmetics company or a home-made cosmetics seller.

    Look at successful blogs around and see what ads they are running and what else they are doing to earn from the blog.

    Once you have run your blog systematically for about a year, you would get offers to cover promotional campaigns of beauty products. There might also be invitations to participate in beauty / fashion events. Mind it, these are not free; you have to write about them on your blog. Depending upon how well you write (that does not mean praising/ recommending the undeserving product or event), you'd keep getting more such offers and will also get offers to write sponsored posts. A few established bloggers have also got offers to write a book based on their posts.
       
    Don't underestimate the importance of social networking. It works great for this type of blogs. So, have a buzzing Facebook page (A page is different from timeline.), Google Plus page, Twitter handle, Instagram account (But only as many accounts on social networks as you can handle). Make friends; give advice; engage friends on beauty-related talk; link blog posts on the Facebook page. 

    Sky is the limit for beauty and fashion bloggers because of women's unending (but growing) urge to look better and chase good product and services. Unlike many other niches, visitors like to look at ads and thus help in fast monetization. Despite crowding of this niche, there is good scope for hard-working, talented and determined bloggers. This is true for bloggers sitting in New York and also for those in developing countries (very poor, conflict-ridden countries are obvious exceptions). We have many examples of people who had beauty-talk as their hobby and then became hobby bloggers and are now big beauty bloggers. We also have examples of bloggers who later branched out to beauty business and now have their own product lines. 

    So, work seriously and take your beauty blog as a business; enjoy it as a hobby and have fun; make friends; contribute your knowledge and expertise in making the world a bit more beautiful. All the best!