October 18, 2017

Social media and blogging updates: Yahoo account hack, Twitter's going 280 characters, social media and democracy...

Yahoo! admits to all its accounts getting hacked in 2013

In one of the worst hacking attacks in history, the world first learned that 500 million Yahoo accounts had been compromised. Yahoo then admitted that hackers had in fact stolen data from a billion accounts. Now, it is reported that some 3 billion accounts had indeed been hacked - all the accounts that were is use at the time of the attack.

Facebook and other IT giants a silent threat to democracy?

An interesting debate is going on these days on the role of Facebook and other social media in political discourse and advertising. I give a glimpse of the major threads here; if you are interested in points and counter-points in detail, do check the links.

Jon Snow, Channel 4 newscaster, blames Facebook for not doing enough to check 'fake news' and rues that Google and Facebook together control majority of world news flow and their algorithms decide what people should know. Telegraph story on Jon Snow's views on Facebook

Bloomberg reports that there is growing perception in Europe about American social media giants that their targeted advertising can be a threat to democracy. EU antitrust official, Margrethe Vestager has been quoted in the report as having argued thus: If political ads only appear on the timelines of certain voters, then how can we all debate the issues that they raise? How can other parties and the media do their job of challenging those claims? How can we even know what mandate an election has given, if the promises that voters relied on were made in private? You can read the report here: Democracy never faced a threat like Facebook

In the US itself, starting with the role of social media in the 2016 Presidential elections, there has been a lot criticism, and some of it was reported by ITB earlier. Now, the 'misdirection of public opinion' and fake news on Facebook and its peers have come for heavy criticism. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has his own explanations on the matter. You can read a good New Yorker piece on it here: The failure of Facebook democracy; and this one in Gadgets Now, on use and abuse of social media for political purposes.  

This one gets punished for milking sympathy and identity theft on social media

On social media, emails and chat groups, you often get messages asking you to help people in distress. You resist, as you feel that it could be a fake. But some persons - gullible, very sensitive or  burdened with guilt - open their purse-string. 

Kati Ringer, a woman in the UK, did just that and made money before she caught up with the law. She stole photos of babies from at least two Instagram accounts, called them her own and approached people saying she needed money for one's treatment and the other's funeral.

Worse, when confronted by real mothers, she threatened the worst for the babies.

She has been served a severe punishment of  a suspended jail term, legal costs, a community work order and a ban on her using any social media account.

Twitter's little birdie to become fat?

Twitter has already rolled out its 280-character format to a few chosen ones. The facility is going to be given to more people in the coming weeks before Twitter decides about its universal use. 

People wrote a script and found a workaround to make their own 280 character tweets but that has been fixed by Twitter.

Twitter says, its data shows that about 9% tweets in English face the 140-character limit - which can be frustrating while trying to express oneself on Twitter, so this experiment. Interestingly, Chinese, Korean and Japanese tweets hardly ever go to even 140-character length!

October 14, 2017

GST on blogging income in India: Doubts cleared about income limit

This article is on applicability of Goods and Services Tax on blogging income, and relates to bloggers in India or advertisers / ad networks/ affiliates selling ads to Indian bloggers.
We carried this article earlier on applicability of Goods and Services Tax on bloggers in India. The information given in the article is still valid to the extent it has not been edited there, and some new clarifications have come from taxation experts and government. 

Many bloggers have petitioned CBEC and we at ITB have given them written representations and requested them on their Twitter handle to clear bloggers' doubts, but they seem to be busy in bigger things and have not given convincing answers except some that I have quoted in this post. Some taxation experts have interpreted the law in detail as it applies to bloggers. But after the GST Council meeting on 6.10.2017, there is great relief to bloggers. 

No GST for blogging income up to Rs. 20 lakh

Before the latest decision of GST Council, all  bloggers who earned anything by selling their services attracted GST. There was no exemption  regarding applicability of the limit of Rs. 20 lakh for bloggers because they traded in inter-state services.

The good news is that all service providers of any kind are now exempt from registration and payment of GST if their turnover is less than Rs. 20 lakh. Pl look at the factoid issued by CBEC on 6th October:

GST for bloggers

 This was followed by a tweet on FAQs, issued on 12th October:

No GST for bloggers in India

So, this clears all doubt that small bloggers with turnover below Rs. 20 lakh (=2 million)do not require to register for GST or pay this tax.

October 10, 2017

7 proven SEO best practices for new blogs

When you create a blog for the first time, the thrill of it being there is immense, isn't it? You preview it, make changes in color/ design/ layout/ whatever else the theme allows, write something, publish it and again view it...

That happens, whether it is a hobby blog or a professional blog. In the second case, when you start the blog with the aim to earn money, worries start when it does not get the projected number of visitors because traffic is the basic requirement for the blog's earnings, isn't it.

SEO or search engine optimization is a set of techniques that make the blog come high on search pages when people search for something on the web. What we observe is that in a hurry to get lots of traffic, new bloggers adopt SEO practices that are either not effective or are not really necessary for new blogs or are harmful in the long run because they are unethical. 

Let's go straight to what are the SEO best practices for new blogs.


1. Give the blog a memorable and relevant identity.

Since yours is a new blog, the world needs to know it. So, give it a small and memorable URL, an apt title and a crisp description. 

While humans are influenced by a good identity, search engines get good inputs for indexing the blog when the URL, title and description point towards the topic of the blog. 

Google likes 'relevant' identities. It also says, it thinks websites in which there is an 'About us' page are likely to be more real and genuine.  

Relevant identity helps in SEO.

2. Promote the blog, especially when it is new.

A new blog must be shared so that people know that it exists. All good writing will fail if the blog is not discovered, and it will take years for it to get discovered on the strength of quality. So, promotion is very important to give the first push to the blog, and sharing it on different platforms is the easiest and cleanest way of promotion. 

Promote the blog as well as individual posts. Share them on social media, write about a new post to other bloggers/ influencers/ friends, share it on bookmarking sites (e.g. StumbleUpon).  

Do not look cheap while promoting it, don't over-promote. 

When your blog is shared on different platforms, and other websites refer to it, search engines take note and use this feature to rank the blog for search. 

Share blog for more traffic, good SEO.

3. Engage, participate on social media.

Bloggers need to be active on social media so that people discover the blog and know about its updates. But engaging is much more than self-promotion; it requires that you discuss topics, comment on others' writings, offer help if needed, join (and participate in) communities/ groups/ forums, and so on - and not ask others to favor you, like your post, put a link of your blog on theirs, etc.  

Engagement is not directly a signal for search engines, but when others share and talk about the blog in a natural, appreciative way, that is a great signal!

Engage on social media for more traffic, good SEO signals.

4. Gain authority by maintaining high quality.

A professional blog needs to gain reputation of being very informative, highly resourceful, having expert opinion, genuine, and with high-quality content.

Authority needs quality, which in turn comes from hard work, research, good quality of language and originality. 

Do not copy-paste others' content. Do not fake yourself as expert in areas where you really are not expert.

A website's authority is the topmost parameter that Google is reported to be looking when deciding the ranking of websites for search.

Authority and genuineness is what Google likes the most on websites.

5. Write regularly.

Blogs are liked by search engines more than static websites because blogs keep producing fresh content. People are likely to soon desert a blog if they don't find it updating itself. 

Make a schedule of posting and stick to it.

Google insiders have often been writing that Google likes fresh, updated, content.

Blogs must be updated regularly.

6. Proactive link-building is a must for SEO.

When other websites link to your blog, Google and other search engines get a signal that your blog has content relevant to the subject for which it has been linked. If you get such a link from a highly reputed and popular site, you get that much better ranking for search. 

Links come naturally when your blog and its posts have authority but you need to work to get links - and you should get links mostly from authoritative site.

For natural link-building, link your URL when making comments on others' blogs or websites; even request well-placed bloggers to consider a link yo your blog if your blog supplements the information given by them in their blog.

You must link your older posts on new posts when talking about the same topic. That not only leads to re-discovery of old content but also increases the relevance of your blog post to that topic, in the eyes of Google.

However, avoid link farms, link exchanges, links from bad sites and links in return for link back.

Link-building still is very important for search optimization.

7. Keyword optimization is very important for professional blogs/ websites. 

Well, some experts might tell you that keyword optimization comes on top of SEO. I have kept it as the last SEO technique because it is so obvious but is prone to over-doing. It is also the last as I will like to discuss some more about it from a newbie blogger's point of view.

Search engines regularly look at websites all over the world wide web, and then they index web-pages topic wise. When someone makes a search, they do not search the whole web but look for the search expression in this index

The best way for search engines to know the search expressions for which your blog should be indexed, is to look at your blog's identity (URL etc) and the content. 

If your blog is on 'climate patters in north Europe', Google will likely index it for 'climate' and 'Europe' if it finds the blog full of content in these topics. Google and other modern search engines apply syntax and related connotations of the exact words in the query to decide what to serve to the searcher. Now, if somebody searches for 'climate in Germany' and your blog is a great resource on climate in north Europe, it is likely to come high on the search page.

Therefore, it is of paramount importance that you not only write great stuff on the topic of your blog, you must also optimize your posts (and URL, title and description of the blog) for the expressions (=keywords) people are likely to search for.

In the above example, your blog URL could be europeclimate.com (If it is not already taken!), its title may be 'All that you know about the climate and weather patterns in northern Europe', its description could answer what/ how/ where and other questions about north Europe's climate. In individual posts, you will definitely be writing about all aspects of Europe's climate, will be giving impactful headings to each post, placing good photos and illustrations on most posts, composing some static pages on the broader topic 'climate', and putting the keywords here and there in the post but in a natural way.  

Do not stuff posts or identities with keywords. Use variations. In the above example, if you talk about wind patterns, heat maps, seasons, individual country's climate etc - they all will count towards 'climate patterns' and you need not (and should not) overly use the specific expression 'climate patterns' in the copy.  

Keywords tell search engines whether the website is relevant for a topic.

If you find the post useful, would you like to share it on Twitter?  >>>

October 6, 2017

Bias against Blogger platform: doctored by Wordpress users?

On any discussion on blogging, you come across a debate whether Blogger is better or Wordpress. In most cases, the winner is Wordpress.  But in nine out of ten cases, the debate itself is flawed because you cannot compare apples with oranges.

I feel, and most Blogger users will agree, that most of this bias is deliberate, though in some part it could be due to ignorance. Perhaps because the Wordpress users' loyalty and their sense of superiority over Blogger users does not allow them to remain unbiased. Perhaps there are commercial reason (which I'd explain later).

Let's see the facts. 

How Blogger and Wordpress really compare

  • Blogger is a free blogging platform, which you can reach through blogger.com. Similarly Wordpress has a free blogging platform - which you reach through wordpress.com.
  • Blogger and Wordpress free platforms have many similar features that make it very easy for bloggers to open blogs with a few clicks and further customize them using free tools.
  • Millions of blogs are created using these free platforms.
  • Blogger is just one entity - the blogging platform.  Wordpress has two similar looking products. Besides the free blogging platform, it also has Wordpress Content Management System (CMS), which can by reached through wordpress.org. 
  • A CMS is something like a website builder. Millions of blogs and websites are built using Wordpress CMS. The CMS is very user friendly, customizable, stable and secure.

Myths around Wordpress superiority over Blogger

  • "Wordpress runs 25% of the web." It is not a myth if you consider Wordpress CMS because among all available CMSs, Wordpress is supposed to be the most popular, especially for blogs. But it is a myth when it is touted in favor of the free Wordpress platform.
  • "Wordpress is so customizable while Blogger is just dumb." This is not only a myth but its opposite is true when you compare the free platforms. A blogger on Wordpress.com cannot customize the blog without paying money for every additional feature beyond the basics: he cannot monetize it, put videos on it, put widgets and plugins beyond what is allowed by the platform, change the code of the blog and so on. Even mapping the free blog to an independent domain costs you. [On the other hand, Wordpress CMS is fully customizable - but everything is to be paid for and the CMS is just a software that is available free.] On Blogger platform, you can customize almost everything including the code of the blog!
  • "Wordpress blogs look professional while Blogger blogs don't." Well, there are themes available for Wordpress blogs (the free blog can use only one of the few approved ones) and can be applied on the blog on payment. Blogger's inbuilt themes too have limitations - but, you can apply themes available free or on payment - and Blogger doen't charge for that, unlike Wordpress! In addition, if you are a coder (or have some HTML knowledge and want to experiment), you can yourself customize the available theme in zillion ways.
  • "Forget Blogger if you want to be a professional blogger." This is preposterous when you compare the free platforms. Blogger allows you customization, monetization and mapping to an independent domain - the three requirements of professional blogging. Wordpress.com allows none of these for free. [Yes, if you are talking about Wordpress CMS, there is no doubt that with its range of tools and options, it is a great platform for professional blogging (but then, you pay for everything except the CMS).]

The truth, therefore, is that diehard Wordpress fans force people to compare Blogger free platform with Wordpress CMS and Wordpress free blogging platform together. What do they get out of this, you might ask. This is what I reckon:
  • Like all fans, Wordpress fans too are highly biased in favor of their muse. Like other fans they too are blind. Just so that Wordpress is liked by all, they let the mix up happen between the CMS and free Wordpress platform.
  • Users of Wordpress CMS, even when they are not its fans, love it. And because they use the  product, they tend to be proud of it and turn its brand ambassadors. This form of praising Wordpress over other CMSs and blogging platforms is natural and mostly not with any bad intent towards competitors of Wordpress.
  • The all-pervasive anti-Google feeling. Geeks and nerds of IT world are a sentimental type. They love and hate IT biggies. They do not like arrogance, they don't like exploitation, they also don't like monopolies. You will find thousands of them hating Microsoft for its proprietary products; they worship Steve Jobs for his creativity; they hack government sites; when they compare Wordpress with Google's Blogger, they favor the former. Well, if they come to read this, they will find it absurd, nonsense. But that is how it works!
  • People who have a commercial intent in promoting Wordpress obviously praise it and deprecate all others. Since almost everything around Wordpress (themes, integration/ migration, web hosting, site design...)
    needs payment, thousands of techies and intermediaries earn by recommending Wordpress and then offering products and services related to Wordpress.  
  • The worst form of conduct in this game/ debate comes from those who have commercial intent but hide it behind myths and distorted information. They show themselves as great votaries of quality websites... they claim to be great experts... they present false or exaggerated or out-of-context quotes from supposedly great bloggers... Somewhere in their great 'unbiased' advice, they hide the 'call to action' so that gullible folks are trapped. 

Please do not misunderstand me, Wordpress fans. I am not saying Wordpress is bad; in fact, I love Wordpress CMS. I am against wrong opinions. Let people be shown the pros and cons of all available options, in a dispassionate manner, so that they choose the product that suits them the best.

    If you liked the discussion, you may like to share it on Twitter:

    September 30, 2017

    Releasing the 2017 edition of Best Hindi Blog' Directory

    The Directory of Best Hindi Blogs for 2017 is before you. The Directory has about 140 blogs that we found to be the best among those we have examined over months. And, as you'd know, we try to locate good blogs from every nook and corner of the Hindi blogosphere.

    We'd talk about our observations on the Hindi blog-world sometime later. Right now, let's repeat what we have been saying about the Directory on earlier occasions: All blogs in this Directory are outstanding in their own ways. If you find some blogs not that good in terms of design, they must be good in terms of content, overall resources and the blogger's commitment to blogging.

    This year onward, we are dispensing with the badge as we find the badge also on blogs that were never in the Directory or that have been in the Directory earlier but have turned bad now. 

    We are proud to announce that we are the ONLY people who survey the Hindi blogosphere so carefully, manually, year after year. We are also the only people who do not bring extraneous factors such as registration, fee, use of badge or any type of reciprocation in selecting blogs for the Directory.

    topmost  in 2017Hindi blogs

    हमें आपके सामने हिंदी के उत्कृष्ट ब्लॉग्स की डायरेक्टरी पेश करते हुए बहुत ख़ुशी हो रही है. इसमें क़रीब 140 ब्लॉग हैं जो हिंदी के सर्वोत्तम ब्लॉग कहे जा सकते हैं. जैसा कि आप जानते होंगे, हम कई महीनों तक हिंदी के ब्लॉग संसार के कोने कोने में जाकर अच्छे ब्लॉगों को ढूँढने का प्रयास करते हैं और यह डायरेक्टरी उसी का परिणाम है. 

    हमें इस बात पर गर्व है कि केवल हम ही हिंदी ब्लॉग-संसार को इस तरह साल-दर-साल काफ़ी मेहनत से खंगालते हैं और बिना बाहरी कारकों के प्रभाव में (जैसे कि ज़रूरी रजिस्ट्रेशन करवाना, बैज लगाने की शर्त लगाना, पैसे लेना), हम अच्छे ब्लॉगों को डायरेक्टरी में स्थान देते हैं. 

    डायरेक्टरी के संकलन के दौरान हमने क्या पाया, इसपर चर्चा बाद में कभी होगी. अभी केवल अपनी इस बात को दुहरा दें कि इस डायरेक्टरी का हर ब्लॉग अपने आप में एक उत्कृष्ट ब्लॉग है. अगर आपको किसी ब्लॉग का डिज़ाइन कुछ कमतर लगे तो भी पठन सामग्री की गुणवत्ता और इसका समग्र आकार, तथा ब्लॉगिंग के प्रति ब्लॉगर के समर्पण के मामले में आप उस ब्लॉग को उच्च कोटि का पाएंगे.

    September 26, 2017

    How to write a long post? When not to do so?

    Yesterday, I was sent a question by a friend on Quora asking how can he write a 3000-word post. I wrote an answer about what techniques he could use, and then sat thinking more about the intent of the question and what can a well meaning blogger do if she/ he is struggling with 'writer's block'. So, this post.

    bloggers also get writers block
    A painting by Leonid Pasternak

    Why write long posts on blogs?

    Long posts are seen to be valuable, because they are likely to contain information on different aspects of the issue. Therefore, visitors are more likely to refer them to others and visit the page again and again.

    Long posts are also liked by search engines. Google has said, it likes long, well-researched, blog posts and articles. So, they are good from SEO point of view too.

    So, a long article is likely to get more readers, better search placement, more links, more social shares and more engagement, and more traffic.

    How big a blog post is considered long enough?

    Blogging platform Medium says, its posts of 1600 words that can be read in 7 minutes are the ideal length. SerpIQ has found that from SEO point of view, about 2500 word long articles are the best as they are likely to come on top of search pages. Moz has reported that 1800 to 3000 word long articles attract many more links than shorter posts. Popular blogger Neil Patel says, he finds 1500 word long articles performing the best.

    The length would depend on the subject. If your blog is on daily environment news, you might initially not have much to write on individual events, e.g. sudden appearance of dead fish in a lake. In a few days, when public protests have taken place, government agencies have taken some action and so on, you can write a full-fledged article on the larger issue of water pollution, also telling about such other recent events, the worst such reported event, why it happens and what are the remedies.

    Hard-core scientific papers might intrinsically be lengthy and needing technical illustrations and bibliography - and if your blog is on basic science and technologies, you have limitations of minimum and maximum wordage. Other blog have no limits and if the article reads well even after 2000 words, keep going. At that stage, however, think of a series rather than a single post. 

    How to write long blog posts?

    • Some people, though wanting to write long articles, find that it is not their cup of tea. Some get 'writer's block' when trying to write a long article or post. You can overcome this problem by following these tips:
    • Choose a topic in which you have sufficient knowledge. Better if you have expertise and experience too.
    • Make an outline of the topic on which you propose to write. Break it into sections and then expand each section. This will also make you more focused and you will cover the topic from all angles.
    • Research the topic. Even if you are an expert, you might not be able to recall everything when you write; there might have been some new developments that you don't know; you might get a view counter to your own view. 
    • For research, you need not go to a library. Search the web. But don't take all facts on face value, because all types of half-baked or false information floats round. 
    • Use imagination. Not all types of topics are amenable to research; some need imagination. Some need sharing of your and others' experiences. Fictional topics would need sheer imagination that is presented in an absorbing story. 

    How many lengthy posts are 'a bit too much'?

    Generally speaking, one long post after 4-5 short posts should be the ideal ratio. Of course, that depends on many factors.

    Why I recommend one long post after 4-5 shorter posts is that if you write long posts too often, your frequency of posting is likely to suffer; on the other hand if you insist on writing long posts one after the other, you might soon feel exhausted. 

    One more reason for that. Your regular visitors need breathing space. If they like your content, they should eagerly wait for your next 'epic' post. 

    I'd also recommend that you write a line about the coming big post in your short posts between two long posts. You can pre-publicize it in other ways, e.g. through email.

    When not to write long posts?

    I will not recommend long posts of the following types:

    • Bloated posts: posts that have been unnecessarily expanded.
    • Copy-pasted posts: posts in which others' content has been pasted so that the post becomes bigger.
    • Not on the right platform: You should not write too long posts on Facebook and other social networking sites.
    • Not the right type of posts: Do not write too much on posts where visitors expect to see/ watch. Photo-blogs, vblogs and blogs on leisure usually do not require long posts. In some cases, extra text only spoils the post/ blog.
    • Do not have long posts when the audience might  dislike such posts. For example, long, didactic, posts on kid blogs and long political commentary on personal blogs are sure to put off visitors.

    September 22, 2017

    7 best ways to bring traffic to a website or blog

    An eternal question, asked all the time and on almost all social media platforms! We bring you here the distilled wisdom which is current and effective in 2017 and will remain so in 2018.

    Before we go to the techniques, let's hurriedly remember that what we need on our blog or website is relevant traffic, not any type of traffic. Whether for spreading your messages among people who will appreciate them or for earning money from blogging, relevance of the traffic is of paramount importance.

    What relevance of traffic means is: Are the people who are visiting your blog interested in your content? When the traffic comes from bots and spammers, people who landed on your page due to presence of your website on search engine pages for wrong search terms, people landing there due to your email or someone's reference or a link but finding your website not what they were expecting, traffic from link farms, traffic for which you made payment, or your own traffic - this is poor quality traffic.

    We often get frustrated because even after following all the advice that we get from experts, the number of visitors to our blog does not rise significantly. If your blog suffers from this, please read on. 

    Many times, it so happens that we concentrate on one good thing (e.g. quality) but ignore some key areas. I have said it before and allow me to repeat that if you set up a shop in a busy street full of buyers but do not show up your product to people by display and advertisements, you will not be able to sell it, however great the product might be. 

    Conversely, if you spend too much energy on selling the product but the product is bad, potential buyers will come to know of its poor quality and you will lose buyers.

    So, the key is to have a blend of good product and good promotion.

    I am presenting below, the 7 best tips for getting relevant traffic to a blog on long term basis. I have grouped very similar tips in one point. Please note that all tips do not work on all websites. You need to choose what you think are the best suited to your website, analyze the results after a few weeks, experiment again and then stick with what works best for you.

    These are the 7 best techniques for getting tons of traffic to your blog:


    1. High quality of content and relevance to target audience


    Though this look obvious, it is also the most ignored mantra of getting targeted audience. Quality of content matters the most not only to keep getting regular stream of visitors but also for retaining them. At the same time, it is necessary that the content must be relevant to the people you are targeting. 

    Quality content that gets attention and is shared/ referenced has one or more of these attributes:
    • Has well-researched information
    • Has actionable advice that is based on experience
    • Has information that helps the users, better if told with the help of illustrations or a video
    • Is grammatically correct and the language used is of high standard  

    Google says, it likes long posts as these are likely to be better researched.

    Presentation of posts matters too. It has been found that well-formed headings and titles get more readership. It helps in two ways: on the blog, the visitor gets hooked and reads more of the article; and whenever the title appears as a hyperlink (in search results, others' websites...), the surfer is prompted to click on them. 

    Putting of visual content is found to be more shared on social media and clicked. 

    2. Regularity of updation

    Freshness of content and its regular updation are essential for long-term success of blogs. Being regular helps by coming on search pages. It also makes people bookmark/ subscribe to the blog so that they get their dose of information regularly. 

    3. Social media engagement

    Earlier, blogs themselves used be magnets of social media, but no more. If you want people to discover and come back to your blog, you need to be active on social media. 

    Social media engagement includes being active on the most popular platforms of the day (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), placing content on social bookmarking sites (e.g. Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit), sharing content on chat apps (e.g. WhatsApp), being active on forums/ communities/ social groups, commenting on others' blogs and so on.

    Do choose the social activity that is best suited to your type of blog. Also consider whether you feel happy socializing on a particular platform so that you don't get bored of it after some time. 

    I find Twitter chats and Google Plus communities a good way to attract attention. However, the Google Plus communities and Facebook Groups stop helping when they become too big and most members are interested only in posting their stuff and not engaging meaningfully. 

    If you are a new blogger, guest posting on popular blogs can result in traffic coming to you from that blog. However, be careful about posting on websites that sell or aggregate articles.

    Posting interviews of celebrities and other popular figures is seen to draw traffic to blogs. That also leads to healthy long-term interaction with these crowd pullers. If new, you can start with popular bloggers, local heroes and achievers and artistes.

    You should give social buttons next to your posts so that if a reader likes your post, he instantly shares it with others on bookmarking platforms such as StumbleUpon or social sites such as Google Plus.

    Please also remember that social media engagement needs reciprocity and willingness to spare time for others. You should not all the time promote your stuff, nor should you directly ask others to 'like' your post or follow you. 

    Social media is a big time sucker, and so be choosy.

    4. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

    You cannot afford to leave SEO altogether. However, you need not be too obsessed with it, because unethical and overly done optimization can invite penalties from modern search engines.

    Very simple yet effective SEO techniques include:
    • Giving the blog a relevant title and each post a relevant headline
    • Giving a meaningful description to the blog
    • Putting long-tail keywords in the content in a natural fashion
    • Linking other posts on the same blog when the content is related
    • Optimizing images with alt tag

    5. Subscription building

    This works quite well for all types of blogs. You can offer an ebook or something similar that your potential audience will find useful, when people subscribe to your blog. You can also think of an embedded or pop-up subscription form on the blog, so that when people like your content, they opt to get email updates from you. Over a period, you develop a big email list of people who love to get emails from you.

    6. offline promotion

    Publicize your blog and its important posts by sending emails to friends. Add your blog URL on your visiting card. Attend blogging meets and workshops. Such type of publicity might not give you big traffic but it adds to your brand building and recall among people.

    7. Paid advertisements

    If you want to grow the blog fast, you can think of paid advertisement as one of the main activities for its promotion. Though you end up spending money, you get almost assured traffic which may earn you more than you spend on advertisments.

    Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube - all have their own advertising plans, starting from a few bucks a week. You need to choose the best platform and then target the advertisement well so that the ads are served to the potential buyers/ readers. My experience is that Google (through AdWords) and YouTube are very effective for blogs.

    What not to do in trying to get traffic to the blog:

    Let me quickly list some techniques that have become less effective in drawing traffic or are a waste of time or can result in penalties from Google etc:
    • Blog comments are now quite ineffective unless you make highly pertinent questions or share experiences. Commenting on others' blogs just for getting reciprocal comments is a waste of time. 
    • Do not comment just for getting backlinks; most good sites now have 'nofollow' linking to URLs that come from unknown people.
    • Directories are useless, except when they list good blogs. Moreover the listing should be transparent, and with no obligation to put their badge or code on the blog or payment.
    • Avoid at all costs link farms or link exchanges in which people link one another's site to make them artificially popular.
    • Do not fall for offers of thousands of likes/ links/ backlinks. They are often a sham. There are also such people on websites such as Fiverr. Beware of such offers!
    • Don't guest post on blogs that have no standing.
    • You might get advice to make your posts controversial or gossipy so that people get interested. Agreed that such posts can go viral, but do that only if you are sure of your standing; otherwise such adventures may badly backfire.
    • Some people suggest writing small posts in big numbers. If your blog is on daily news or something like that, fine. However, serious blogs are better off with well-researched posts, some of which should be exceptionally good and long.

    September 15, 2017

    trawellblogging : a fine travel blog by Rajat


    "A travel planning blog focused on self-planning your trips, both
    domestic and international. It deals with using travel maps, public transportation systems, airline miles and hacks, accommodation reviews and travel insiders. The blog lets travel bloggers and other travelers
    learn 'how to convert their travel expenses into investments'."

    September 11, 2017

    Social media and tech updates: Google Drive down, ultra rights up, privacy a fundamental right in India

    Google Drive shuts down, breaking many hearts

    If you thought, Google is invincible, at least in the internet world, Google gave you evidence that it is not. When it went down for some time on 7th September, those who depend on Drive for various purposes including collaboration though Google Docs suite of online tools and online sharing of files and pictures were a worried lot. Not only were their resources not available, their trust that Google would keep their resources intact even if their laptops might fail them due to a malware attack or hardware glitch, was shattered.

    Luckily, the service breakdown was not worldwide and it was resolved for most users within two hours.

    Just for record, Google Drive also went down in January this year for about two hours.

    The way ultra right websites are creating storm on the web

    Stormfront, the hyper-nationalist/ neo-Nazi website that was in operation since 1990, has been pulled down by its registrar. The site, its owners and members have been linked with many hate crimes including murder of about a hundred people. Under local laws, Google had removed the site from many country indexes.

    Stormfront had over 300000 registered users who used to spread white supremacist hatred and violence wherever they could. It is reported to have experienced huge traffic spikes all through the Presidential debate in the US in which Donald Trump often gave pro-white and rightist statements.

    Another such website, The Daily Stormer, has also been removed last month following racist rally and violence in Charlottesville, USA. The site owner wanted to host the site it on other web hosts who either refused or removed after investigation into the site's credentials. This led to another site, PunishedStormer, which too has been renedered inaccessible. However, the founder- editor of the sites, Andrew Anglin, recently tweeted a series of Tweets saying he is not a neo-Nazi and is fighting for freedom of expression!

    Interestingly, Anglin's free speech bogey got a shot in the arm when his article was taken down by Gab, a social network promoting right ideas, and it stoked debate around free speech.

    It is reported that finding hosts against him, Anglin has hosted the site on the dark web.

    The less privileged do adopt social media but late?

    A recent study by Pew Research Center on use of social media for news among Americans shows that about two-thirds of them get at least some news from the social media. One-fifth of Americans are reported to be using social media very often to get news.

    What is more relevant is that the use of social media for news has not risen among the youth and whites and has gone down among the well-educated lot; on the other hand, it has grown significantly among the older (50 years plus), non-whites and less-educated people. Let me add that one year's change does not make a trend.

    Just for record, Facebook happens to be the biggest source of news, followed by YouTube. Not Twitter! But wait, this is because of a very large user base of Facebook. Otherwise, among those who use a particular social media, the percentage of users using it for news is the highest in the case of Twitter.

    Indian supreme court gives citizens the fundamental right to privacy

    The debate around privacy has been raging in India over the last many years in the face of points and counter-points for controlling social media and chat apps, the IT Act and the regulatory authority TRAI seeking public views on its sections and so on.

    India is one of the few nations in the world to have introduced a unique identity for its citizens. When this was made mandatory for getting welfare funds and services, and then for banking and tax purposes, concerned citizen groups raised alarm and took the government to the apex court.

    In its historic judgement on August 24, the Constitutional Bench of the court ruled that privacy was a fundamental right though not written in the constitution. Though the unique identity (called Aadhar) is/ was in question, the privacy ruling will now have a huge bearing on cases relating to online content and social media control.

    September 5, 2017

    How can you change the registrar of your blog's domain?

    Domain name registration is done only through registrars registered with ICANN, the international body for internet naming. So, all domain name registrars have to abide by the norms set by ICANN.

    Generally speaking, you are free to change your registrar. However, in certain cases, you may be denied such a transfer, e.g. if some fee payment is pending or someone else has represented to them to be the real domain name holder.

    The present registrar might even charge you for the transfer, and that is supposed to be legal!

    Domain transfers are allowed only after 60 days of purchase of domain or its earlier transfer.

    The process is slightly procedure-bound. Registrars generally have a facility for domain transfer, which once clicked guides you till you agree to their terms, and then it generates a code for unlocking the domain for transfer. You then apply to the new registrar for accepting the transfer through such a link on their website, and supply the code. The new registrar usually charges a fee for transfer that includes registration for one year from the original expiry date. The transfer materializes in a few days. 

    In some cases (e.g. country level domains), sometimes the code is not required; you can check this up with the new registrar.

    There might be some variation to the standard procedure given above. Both the old and new registrars will likely have their terms on their websites.

    Why at all will I need to change the domain registrar?

    There can be situations - good or bad - in which you will need such a change. For example,
    • You might be shifting to a new web host and he might give you a domain name of your choice free.
    • You might want the convenience of having the same host and domain registrar so that billing, customer service etc are seamless.
    • You might find the present registrar costlier than others.
    • Some other registrar might have options for automatic renewal or multi-year plans that the present one does not have.
    • You have run into a dispute with the present one, for whatever reason.
    • You have sold your domain and have to transfer it to the buyer.

    ICANN has this FAQ page on domain name transfer between registrars.

    August 30, 2017

    Should you avoid plugins on the blog?

    This article applies to Wordpress free/ personal/ premium/ business blogs as well as blogs created with wordpress.org CMS.

    Wordpress bloggers are fascinated with plugins because these little bits of software can add great functionality to the blog, ranging from improving SEO to installing a beautiful comment box to what not. And in most cases, you don't need to know coding at all.

    Wordpress plugins add functionality but might hurt the blog.
    Yes, plugins are a wonderful way to add great things to the blog, which you cannot do without knowing a lot of PHP - the computer language used by Wordpress. Moreover, a number of plugins are free. Wordpress offers more plugins and allows you to install third-party plugins as you go for paid plans. On Wordpress-created self-hosted blogs, you can install plugins by dozens.

    For self-hosted blogs on Wordpress CMS, the number of plugins available is growing by the day. Its depository already has around 52,000 plugins!

    In all, plugins are such an important part of Wordpress ecosystem that without plugins, Wordpress blogs would be all plain and similar looking.

    But plugins can harm your blog if...

    Let's start with numbers: would you stop at a few or can install a large number without hurting the blog/ website? At any rate, free Wordpress blogs do not have much choice; there are some available and you need to choose from them. In paid plans or self-hosted Wordpress blogs, you can put a large number of plugins.

    Techies from Wordpress community tell us that number does not matter as long as they are good plugins. Some say that even  a hundred plugins won't slow down or create any perceptible loss in performance if they are properly coded. But these users are coders themselves and tweak the code in such a way that the plugins work fine, without interfering with other code and delivering results fast.

    Coming to quality of plugins, one must be sure on many counts before putting a plugin.
    For example, 'Is the plugin really required and will add value to the blog?' It is very important that we look at the need for and value of the plugin on the blog. Most plugins, like widgets, fascinate bloggers but do not add real value to the blog. Some plugins are useful but are either not relevant or do not go well with the subject of the blog.

    'Is the plugin trustworthy?' There are millions of app, widget and plugin makers and all of them might not be trustworthy. Some have malicious code included in it.

    'Is the code good enough?'  Some plugin makers have good intention but their coding is bad, which makes the site slow down, even crash. Some plugins are created and then forgotten; these might have been good at one time but may not be fully compatible with the updated Wordpress code or new browsers.

    It is often said that paid plugins are better than free ones. I won't vouch for that, but yes, if a plugin is selling well, it could be an indicator that people are buying it for its quality. It is good to search Wordpress community for what people are talking about a particular plugin.

    Even good plugins can slow down the website

    Plugins of some types require additional HTTP requests and database queries, and they load scripts and style code, and that should not slow down the speed much. But if they call a number of resources not located on the site, there could be a problem. Also, if they need to perform complex tasks, load scripts from faulty websites or call heavy resources from busy servers, they might lead to slow loading time and even the site crashing.

    The best advice in case you feel a particular plugin is really needed on your blog/ website but know that it involves calling external resources or a bit of complex computing, test the site speed with and without the plugin, and then take a decision.

    Still, some plugins may be greatly useful

    Having cautioned you about use of plugins on Wordpress blogs, let me hasten to add that some types of plugins are almost a must for any blog. These would include plugins for
    • backing up the blog
    • social sharing
    • SEO
    • security

    I won't be able to recommend specific good plugins of these categories, but you could look at the ones recommended by Wordpress itself and those recommended most by Wordpress community members.